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likewise the reward with which fortitude and courage will be attended. You will be acknowledged by Christ, before angels and men, as a disciple worthy of a crucified master; you will be rewarded, in company with your
fellow-Christians, with eternal life, and with the most honourable station which that life affords.
5. Let us remember that the evils produced by preaching the gospel of Christ in the world, are very inconsiderable when compared with the good which it has done. When we reflect upon the private dissensions and animosities, upon the public wars and dreadful incidents, to which religious differences and religious disputes have given occasion, some of us may be tempted to think that the Christian religion itself has been a calamity to the world; that we ought ourselves to avoid all discussion of those religious topics about which men entertain opposite opinions; and that we ought, as far as possible, to prevent others from engaging in them: but this would be a hasty and rash conclusion: the evils occasioned to society and individuals by erroneous systems of faith, are infinitely greater than the temporary mischief arising from attempts to remove them; and Providence has left us no other way of spreading just sentiments of religion in the world, than by discussion; which may inflame some minds to anger and violence; but, if the truth is to be abandoned in order to avoid these evils, we ought, upon the same principle, to quarrel with all the comforts of life, which all produce a greater or less degree of mischief. How many evils arise from the grand instrument of domestic convenience, fire: yet, shall we use no fire, because it may sometimes burn our houses or our persons? How many evils have been brought upon the world by contests for national liberty and independence: but are these blessings to be resigned, because much blood must be shed to obtain or preserve them?
4. We may observe how acceptable to God are acts of kindness done to his disciples when in a state of persecution. The kindness which is shewn to them,
is shewn to Christ and to God: the more we do for them, the greater and more honourable will be our reward; nor will the smallest instance of benevolence pass unnoticed.
Matthew xi. 1----15.
1. And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence, to teach and to preach in their cities, i, e. in the cities of the Jews.
2. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples;
3. And said unto him, Art thou he that should come; rather, “ Art thou he that is to come;" or do we look for another? “ or are we to look for another?”
We read, in Matt. iv. 12. that as soon as Jesus heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee, and began his public ministry. From that time to the present, John had lain in prison. The reason of his confinement is told in another place, where we learn that Herod having been guilty of incest and adultery, in taking his brother Philip's wife; John, with a boldness and courage which distinguished the former prophets, who frequently reproved kings for their faults, ventured to tell him that it was not lawful for him to have her. This instance of integrity could not be borne by Herodias, against whose licentiousness and advancement it was directed; and at her instigation, he was thrown into prison; but no further violence was offered to his person, either from a fear of the people, who accounted him a prophet, or out of respect to his character: from the one or the other of these motives, likewise, his confinement was not very rigorous: for it appears, from this account, that his disciples had free access to him in prison, and that he sent by them messages to whom he pleased. While he was in this situation, he had repeated accounts brought to him of the miracles which Jesus performed: these at length appeared so numerous and so extraordinary, and followed one another in such quick succession, that he began to entertain a strong suspicion that he was the promised Messiah; a notion which he was prevented from embracing before, by the mean appearance of the Saviour, and the total want of that worldly grandeur so commonly expected by the Jews. As there still, however, remained some doubts in his mind upon this subject, he sent two of his disciples to Jesus, to ask him the plain question, Whether he were the great prophet or deliverer whom they expected under the character of the Messiah; or whether he was only his forerunner, and was to be followed by that great personage?
This scems to be the natural and obvious meaning of the account which is here given us of the conduct of John; but how came John, who is universally acknowledged to be the forerunner of Jesus, not to know him to be the Messiah, or to entertain any doubt upon that subject? Did he not see the Spirit descending upon him at his baptism, and hear a voice from heaven, declaring, “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased"? Was he not informed that the person who should be honoured with these distinguished testimonials, should baptize with the Holy Ghost? In answer to these questions, and many others of a similar nature which might be suggested, I shall only reply, that nothing more seems to be conveyed to John by these mitaculous appearances, than an intimation that Jesus was a very extraordinary personage; that he was to work miracles, anci to be his successor.
were the Messiah or not, he was to learn, like other persons, from the miracles which he performed, and from the correspondence of his character with the prophecies which predicted his appearance.
Had John been clearly informed, by divine inspiration, that Jesus was the promised Messiah, it would have been impossible for so good a man to have entertained any doubts upon the subject afterwards; which, however, we find that he did entertain, and sent to Jesus to have them removed. For can we suppose that he would receive greater satisfaction from the testimony of Jesus, in regard to his own character, than from that of God himself?
There are other circumstances which render it highly improbable that John the Baptist knew Jesus to be the Messiah, and had announced him in that character to the Jews; for John still continued to have disciples of his own; which would not have been the case if he had pointed out to them the Messiah. If he had not urged it upon them himself, their own feelings would have induced them to forsake him, in order to follow so distinguished a personage.
Had Jesus been publicly announced to be the Messiah, by one whom all regarded as a prophet, the people would immediately have received him in that character, in consequence of his testimony. They would have assembled together to make him a king, and Herod must soon have been alarmed at their proceedings: for he would have apprehended nothing less than the loss of his own power. John would have been cast into prison, not for telling him that it was unlawful for him to have his brother's wife, but for supporting a claimant to the throne, in the place of the present possessor, and would have been confined there with the utmost rigour; none of his disciples being allowed to visit him. But as we find none of these things men-' tioned in the history, we may safely conclude that no such declaration was made by John the Baptist, and that his office was confined to calling the people to repentance, and to proclaiming Jesus Christ to be his superior and successor.
I have dwelt the longer upon this subject, because the interpretation which I have given differs from that which is generally received, and appears to me necessary to relieve the gospel history from several difficult, ies with which it will otherwise be embarrassed.
Jesus answered and said unto them, Go, and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see.
5. The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear: the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
These miracles contain the precise character given by the prophet Isaiah of the times of the Messiah, xxxv. 5. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped: then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.” Ixi. 1. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;" so we translate this passage in Isaiah; but the Greek translation of the Old Testament has, as Matthew has given it, “ to preach the gospel to the poor.” Our Lord refers to this prophecy as characteristic of himself; his own method of icaching differing much from that of the doctors of that age: for the lawyers taught scarcely any man, unless at a great price, and held the common people in great contempt, calling them worldly people.--Formerly, prophets were seht to kings and to great men; but Christ shewed himself first to fishermen.
There is a circumstance mentioned by Luke, vii. 21. which throws some light upon this narrative: for he tells us that in the same hour, when the disciples of Jolin were present with him, he took occasion to cure many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and that to many who were blind he gave sight. It