Page images

of Heaven they instructed and admonished the people *

So uncommon an exertion could not but excite the public notice. His disciples beheld it with surprise, but they saw in it the completion of an ancient fcripture, which they confidered as descriptive of that very spirit, by which he was then actuated: “ The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up t." For, regardless of his own safety, he was concerned only for the glory of God in the due administration of his fer

Must we not perceive and admire the power, as well as the zeal, of our Icord in this extraordinary occurrence? For whence was it, that those, who were occupied in the nerchandise, submitted without opposition to one, of so low a rank and estimation in life? They muft, doubtless, have felt not merely a consciousness of guilt, but a secret and awful dread of their reprover: and this effect we cannot but alcribe to a supernatural impression upon their minds. By the very fame influence, the persons, who afterwards came to apprehend him, notwithstanding their malice and their fierceness, were ftruck to the ground before him.

Some however among the Jews called him to account for this proceeding, and demanded a proof of his divine commiffion. The very action, which he had performed, was a strong evidence; but probably they wished to find fault, rather than know the truth. Inftead therefore of giving them any direct anfwer, he replied, as he usually did to cavillers, in a parabolical manner. “Dettroy this temple,” said be, « and in three days I will raise it up.” This they understood not; but afterwards, in a perverted senfe, they made it the ground of a charge against him I. It was meant as a prophecy of his own refurrection, which

See Jer. xi. xix. xxvii. Ezek. iv. xii. Zech. xie + Pfal. lis. So

1 Mark xiv. 58.



[ocr errors]

is * an infallible proof” of his divine character; and in that view it was recollected by his disciples, to the increase and confirmation of their faith. Thus it frequently happens, that the very fame scriptures, and

very fame doctrines, which are an offence and a ftuinbling block to fome, are to others the fource of joy and confolation. Let us look weil, in all our refearches, to the difpofitions of our hearts.

While we profefs to be satisfied, that Jesus should purge the temple at Jerusalem from profane attendants, let us afk, Are we fuch worshippers, as he will approve? Is there no violation of the houfe of God among ourselves; no irreverence, which requires reformation? Is that holy place never turned into“ a house of merchandise?" Are our minds never employed there, in settling temporal accounts, and in various schemes of trade, as if we were in the midit of a market? What, then, would Jesus say, if ne were to appear amongst us? And let us remember, that * all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him, with whom we have to do *. We ihould endeavour, therefore, to leave the cares of the world at a distance, “ that we may attend upon the Lord without distraction 1.” “ Take these things herceg"? for they are most unsuitable to his facred courts.

Jefus, we have seen, publicly asserted his high charadter' at Jerusalem, and he had many adversaries : but did he gain no converts? He spake with an efficacy, which filenced at least, if it did not convince, his opposers: but did any truly receive him? Many were to struck with his miracles, (though these are not recorded) that they acknowledged him to be the Messiah, and professed to believe in his name. But they were fuch, as our Lord perceived were not to be depended on. There was something unfound, or shamefully defective in them.

Either they were

* Heb. iv. 13

f 1 Cor. vii. 35.

false-hearted, with declarations of faith, love, and zeal,
waiting only for an opportunity to betray him to his
cnemies; or else, if sincere, they possessed not a proper
firmness and courage, and dared not to stand forth in
defence of his cause. Even a friend, who is afraid or
ashamed to espouse your interests, is not entitled to
your confidence. You will not think yourselves fafe
in his hands; and therefore, from a proper regard to
your own welfare and security, you will be backward
to trust him. Such prudence is indispensably necef-
fary, in religious as well as in temporal concerns.
A little experience will teach you not implicitly to
rely on every professor. You ought not, indeed, to
suspect hypocrisy in all, because you may have found
it in some; for a jealous temper is inconsistent with
Christian love. But a cautious reserve and circum-
fpection towards many of those, who discover an at-
tachment to the gospel, are highly expedient to pro-

from various snares. This you will learn from Jesus, when“ he did not commit himself unto them,” who are said to have believed in his name.”

We must not overlook the reason affigned for his conduct: “ he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man."

Bút is it not the exclusive prerogative of Almighty God, to " search the heart and try the reins?" Yet this is afferted of Jesus: he perceived all the secret purposes and hidden motives of thöfe, who would have joined themselves to him; and at once he detected the base hypocrify, which lurked within them. Let us stand in awe, and fear for ourselves. Known unto him are our various states, principles, and desires. Let each one ask himself, Of what fort is my profession of love to Jesus? What was it which first induced me to declare myself his disciple? Am I unfeignedly devoted to him and may his cause be fafely committed to me?


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

There is no creature " that is not manifest in his fight." If there be a Judas, a mere pretender to fanctity, “a ravening wolf coming in Theep's clothing," let him tremble at the thought, that the eye of Jesus penetrates through all his disguises. Or, if you want courage publicly to avow your real sentiments of regard for the Gospel, so that you might easily be tempted to betray it;' is not this a meanness and inconlistency, of which you ought to be alhamed before hin?

The general cafe is; many among ourselves are called Christians, and say that they believe the scriptures, because by the favour of Providence they were born and educated in a Christian land, and they are content to take up with the religion of their fathers. and their country. Is not this the sole reason, why some are not Pagans or Mahometans? But is this the faith, which Jefus will approve? No: 'he will not be imposed upon by an empty form of words, with which the heart does not accord. We pray, therefore, not only that we may “have a name to live, but possess “ the faith of the operation of God,” whereby, being vitally united to Christ, and abiding in him, we shall produce the fruits of righteousness, to the glory and praise of God. Amen.


[ocr errors][merged small]


SECT. 5.

Jesus, consulted by Nicodemus, declared to him the na

ture and necessity of regeneration--the operation of the Holy Spirit--the appointed method of deliverance from condemnation--and the different states and charafters of those to wbom the gospel is sent.

We have not yet seen any promising appearances of success, upon the first opening of our Lord's miniftry at Jerusalem. His ftrenuous exertions in purging the temple could not but excite a commotion through the city; and, though his claims were not generally regarded, many were at least convinced of his divine miffion by the miracles which he wrought. Very few of higher station gave any serious attention to him; as that contemptuous question implied, “ Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him *?" But we are here introduced to one of that very rank, who fought after Jesus, with an earneft desire to be acquainted with his doctrine.

Nicodemus, a person of consequence, as a magiftrate, and a member of the great council, the Sanhedrim, probably a man of learning, and as a Pharisee exact in all religious obfervances, paid him a visit: but it is remarked, that " he came by night t." He might be afraid or ashamed to have it known, aware that a free and open intercourse with Jesus would bring upon him reproach and opposition; and there* Joba vii. 48.

+ John iït. 1, &c.


« PreviousContinue »