« AnteriorContinuar »
Christ in the wilderness? Or would not your consciences have rather told you, that now the time was come to show forth the progress which you had made in His lessons ; that as you hoped for His future preaching, it became you to prove that you had profited by that help which you had already received, and that it would have been better never to have consulted the Heavenly Physician, than, having affected outwardly to do so, to act contrary to all the directions which He gave.
My Christian friends, you have this day attended the worship of Christ, and have heard His Gospel read, and, so far as His ministers have been able, sincerely and faithfully expounded to you. You have heard the solemn commandment of the Most High, and joined in prayer for strength to keep His laws. And I am persuaded that such as have asked faithfully and humbly for that merciful support and guidance, have obtained as really, though not so perceivably, the help and nourishment and comfort of God's grace, as the multitude, of whom you have heard this day, had their bodily wants assisted. All this has been done for you by Christ Himself, who, according to His promise, has been no less truly present in the midst of us, than if we had beheld Him seated on His rocky throne, dispensing, as to this multitude in the wilderness, the precious manna of the Gospel. We shall shortly, as His ministers, and in His name, pronounce His blessing on you, and “send you away.' But is this all ? does your duty end here?
Oh no! We send you away that you may ponder in your hearts the truths which you have heard, and improve, by daily prayer and watchfulness, the grace which
have received. We send you away that you may show forth in your lives those principles which we have endeavoured to impress on your memory; we send you away as it were soldiers from their review, prepare yourselves for actual service, and for a vigorous and victorious battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We send you away, but in the hope that you may return again, after a week spent in the upright and persevering discharge of your different duties of parents, masters, children, servants, friends, neighbours, husbands,
and wives; that you may return again with joy to renew your spiritual strength at the fountain of all power and godliness; and to bless that God who hath preserved you from a lost captivity to the power of sin, and hath covered your head in the day, when you sustained the assaults of your ghostly enemies. We send you away, that by a daily practice of every good gift you may improve your principles and confirm your habits of holiness, that the work of salvation which you now begin in much weakness and trembling, may be brought to perfection by Him who mightily worketh in our infirmity, and who knoweth, even from the mouth of babes and sucklings to still the enemy and the avenger. Depart then in peace, and in the favour of the Lord, and that these our hopes may be realized, return not at once into the bustle and burden of life till, either publicly or privately, you have renewed your vows and your petitions. Give up some little space of this sabbath afternoon to the serious consideration of your condition, your hopes, your fears, your duties; into the examination of what sins they are to which you are most inclined, and against which you should, therefore, be on your guard more particularly; what company, what pursuits you have found most injurious to your souls, and how best they may be avoided or rendered harmless, giving up, in earnest prayer, yourselves, your interests, and affections to the service of God, and entreating Him that this coming week, at least, may be spent without offending Him. So shall the dawn of each returning day bring increase of knowledge; so, when another Sabbath shall call you to these holy walls, you shall return in the increased favour of God and the clearer light of His countenance ; and so, at length, when the last great Sabbath of nature is arrived, and He, who once fed the poor of the flock in the wilderness, shall return in His Father's glory to rule over Heaven and earth, He shall " send you away” no more, but cause you, world without end, to dwell in His Tabernacle, and before His face, that where He is, you may be also!
CHRIST PREACHING TO SINNERS.
[Preached at Dacca, July 4, 1824.]
St. LUKE xv. 10. I sdy unto you, that there is joy in the presence of the angels
of God over one sinner that repenteth.
It was an accusation very frequently brought against our Saviour by the ruling party of the Jewish nation, that He showed in His preaching and daily habits an undue indulgence to sinners; that many of His disciples were taken from among men of this description; and that in meals and in conversation, He did not disdain the society of those whom the more rigid Pharisees condemned as impure and unholy. It does not indeed, appear, however they might by loose and injurious revilings, attempt to stigmatize His character, that they ever brought against Him any definite charge of having partaken with sinners in their evil ways. The practice to which they objected was the simple intercourse, the act of conversing and breaking bread with sinners; and, in order to understand the force and nature of their objection, it is necessary to take into account some of the peculiar prejudices of the Jews as to the touch or society of particular persons, as also who those persons were against whom these prejudices were directed.
In this country, I need scarcely mention, that it is a custom with those who pretend to any degree of holiness, to shrink from the touch of persons of a different religion, or of a character less devoted to the practice of contemplation and piety. Among the Mahommedan fakirs there are few who will willingly suffer their hands or their garments to be approached by a Christian, while the institution of castes is, with the Hindoos, carried to the height of absurdity, superstition, and inhumanity. Even the Jews, oppressed and degraded as they are in outward circumstances, show still, in all parts of the east, a considerable anxiety to withdraw from such contact or salutation.
The generality of this prejudice forbids our ascribing its origin to a source so circumscribed as the ceremonial law of Moses; nor, indeed, with all the precision of that law in declaring certain objects unclean, and prescribing a certain form of purification as necessary to every one who came in contact with them, is there any hint in the Pentateuch of such rules being applicable to opinions or moral habits: nor any justification of that intolerant fancy which led Simon the Pharisee to doubt' our Lord's prophetic character because He suffered a penitent sinner to embrace His feet and moisten His garment with her tears.* The name of unclean is applied in Leviticus exclusively to objects in themselves disgusting, or which, for the sake of health, it was convenient to esteem so; the practice of the ancient Israelites, as displayed in the books of Kings and Chronicles, was very far from erring on the side of too great aversion from their idolatrous neighbours; and the custom of which I speak may be suspected to be of a later and far less holy origin; to have returned with the Jews from their captivity, and to have been strengthened during the Macedonian persecution ; to have been borrowed from the semi-Indian creed of their Persian and Chaldean sove. reigns, or to have been a natural consequence of that gloomy period of their history when, under the rod of Antiochus, and ill-treated by all mankind, the names of enemy and foreigner became to them, in the strictest sense of the word, synonymous. It is evident, however, that with persons who boasted their abhorrence of sin, it was
• St. Luke vii. 38.
by no means unnatural to apply to moral those rules which had been given for cases of physical pollution; to cry out to their fellow-creatures, come not near, I holier than thou," and to apprehend that the approach of a wicked, like that of a leprous person, made them unfit, for a time, to enter into a place of worship, or to offer up, even in private, acceptable devotions to the God of purity. Nor need we wonder that the Pharisees, in a traditionary precept quoted by Drusius, are said not to have allowed the people of the world to touch them,” or that the disciples of the wise are forbidden in the Mechilta, to enter into the company of a sinner, even in order to pray with him or to study the Scriptures together. *
Nor was it only to persons of notoriously immoral lives that this name of sinner was appropriated. The Heathen, the Samaritan, partook in the same opprobrium, and any transgression either of the law or of the traditions of the elders, which drew down on the individual so transgressing the penalty of being excommunicated, drew down on him at the same time the name of sinner, and an exclusion from the touch and fellowship of the godly. The publicans too, or collectors of the Roman taxes, were not only hated as the agents of a foreign tyrant, but accounted unclean from their habits of intercourse with the Heathen ; and every Israelite who had not joined himself to some particular sect or religious party, who had not, to use their own expressions, wallowed in the dust of the schools, and been initiated into those refinements on the Mosaic religion which the Essenes or the Pharisees inculcated, was regarded by both these sects with an intolerant pride, as “the people of the earth," and, as in the present instance, 66 sinners.”
It followed as a necessary consequence, that, as other causes besides immorality might produce ecclesiastical censures, as though many of the publicans were unjust and impious, that character did not necessarily or universally belong to them; and as the simplicity of the secular and unlearned Jew might be perfectly compatible with the
• Drusius de iii. sectis. L. ii. p. 83. Mecbilta, f. 37.2.