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the Jews used the word, as a malignant accusation of the man whose eyes the Saviour had opened ;-"Thou art his disciple, but we are Moses' disciples.” It is natural, however, to suppose that the disciples who came to him as soon as he was seated, were those whom he had already selected as his particular friends, and that their example in drawing round him, was immediately followed by the multitude in general.
It follows in the text, “And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying.” This phrase is often used in the Scriptures to denote the beginning of a grave discourse, that demands more than ordinary attention. Never was the expression more aptly employed than in reference to this sermon. Contemplate the scene. Here is a teacher come from God, and who is none other than his only begotten son. He appears as a divine prophet, sent on an errand of infinite benevolence, and fraught with messages of mercy to miserable man. He is, therefore, about to point the weary to his rest,—the guilty to his hope,—the wanderer to his home,—and the prodigal to his father's house. Ah! never was there such a missionary meeting, never such a missionary sermon, or missionary preacher, as this. The discourse is an inspired exposition of the divine law which man had broken, and which the Jewish doctors had never fully understood. It contains, in the fewest words, all that belongs respectively to our depraved and our renewed nature; to which are appended the most affecting motives to rouse us to repent and believe the gospel, while it guards the divine privileges of grace and love which it unfolds to the guilty, against perversion to licentious purposes, by the heart of
“Never man spake like this man.”
II. WE WILL NOW PROCEED TO OFFER A FEW REFLECTIONS UPON THE WHOLE.
First. The Saviour does nothing in vain. If we see him assuming the character and discharging the work of a prophet, it is to accomplish some important purpose. And what is that purpose? To answer the question in detail, in the limits of one or of several discourses, would be impossible. It was important that the judgment of the people, which had been long abused by their teachers, should be disabused. It was, likewise, infinitely merciful to deliver a system of gracious instruction for the benefit of the generations following, and for the infallible guidance of mankind at large to the regions of everlasting bliss.
But there is one reason, to which I particularly call your attention.—The fact of our Lord's preaching disarms infidelity of one of its favourite weapons. If the promulgation of the gospel had been entirely left to the Apostles, the unbelievers in the doctrines, of which the epistles are so full, would have found some plausible excuse for their scepticism. It is probable in that case, that the silence of the great founder of Christianity himself would have been made a stepping-stone to the rejection of Christianity altogether. The Jews would have had some shadow for their unbelief; for as Jehovah himself first gave the law, with all its numerous ceremonies, it was desirable, not to say necessary, that both its abrogation, and the bringing in of a better hope in its stead, should be equally the act of Deity. The sudden destruction of all the rites and usages, which had obtained in the worship of the true God for upwards of four thousand years, and which were originally of divine ordination, required more than human wisdom and human power.
In the same proportion, also, as the marks of divinity were visible in Jesus Christ, were the Jews bound to receive from him the termination of their ritual, and the introduction of the new economy. It is on this principle that they are so justly chargeable with wilful and deliberate rejection; and on this very ground the Saviour rests the aggravation of their guilt.—“If I had not come, and have spoken unto you, ye had not had sin, but now ye have no cloke for your sin.”* Thus the ministry of the Redeemer condemns both the unbelief of the Jew, and the scepticism of the Greek, while the judicial blindness of the former loudly proclaims the danger of turning away" from him that speaketh from heaven.”
Secondly. Let us seek the possession of the mind that was in Christ. When he saw the multitude, untaught, and wholly neglected, “wandering as sheep having no shepherd,” his bowels yearned over them, with the tenderest compassion. He immediately condescended to become their pastor. Ah! if our spirit were more like his, how should we be affected at the sight of thousands around us, sunk in ignorance, and enslaved by vice! With what unwearied zeal, and persevering ardour, should we seek their salvation. Instead of having the ambition to be of Paul or of Apollos, or spending our fire on the maintenance of angry controversy about comparative trifles, we should remember our relative responsibility to all the human family; and with the deepest conciousness of obligation for what we have freely received, we should freely give. Oh! for more of this Christian charity in every breast! It was this spirit that actuated the Apostles.—“ For the love of Christ constraineth us ; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”+
Finally. Let it be your constant endeavour to derive spiritual improvement from attendance on the ministry of the word. In the case before us, many of the assembled multitude came to the Saviour to be healed of some distemper that affected them, having heard of his fame for curing diseases. Alas! under what dreadful maladies does the never dying spirit of some who hear me this morning, fearfully labour ! Like the house of the leper, under the law, every part is infected, and the whole must eventually come down. There is a deep and festering wound in every sinner's breast, which no balm can heal but the balm of Gilead, and which no skilful practitioner can cure, but the Physician there. The leprosy lies too deep in the moral constitution to be subdued and expelled by human power. Come, then, with prayer, with humility, and with a teachable mind, to the sacred means which the merciful compassion of the blessed God has provided for the recovery of spiritual health, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened and their faces were not ashamed. 0, taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the aflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones, not one of them is broken."* “ Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me, findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”+
* John xv. 22.
† 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.
" BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, FOR THEIRS IS THE
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN."
HAVING considered the circumstantials of our Lord's sermon, in the preceding lecture, we shall now pass from the view of its beautiful exterior, to the contemplation of the first compartment. We shall doubtless find it, on serious examination, richly furnished with every divine good which the most anxious and longing spirit can desire. But if, at any time, the illuminations solicited by the Apostle on behalf of the Ephesians be necessary for us in the investigation of the words of life, it is peculiarly so when we enter on the consideration of such sublime morality, and heavenly doctrine, as form the subjects of of this and the following beatitudes :-“ That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened ; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power."*
Eph. 1. 17, 18, 19.