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On our Lord's Directions to his Disciples
when he sent them to preach and to perform Miracles.
MY DEAR NIECES,
There are, in the tenth chapter of Matthew, which contains the commission of our Lord to his disciples, whom he sent to preach and to perform miracles, several allusions to Jewish opinions, and to natural history. These allusions I will endeavour to point out.
The belief of the Jewish nation, that their Messiah would appear to deliver them from subjection to the Romans, and establish a temporal kingdom, was deeply rooted in their minds. But the kingdom of Christ was not of this world. He chose for his immediate companions and apostles, twelve persons, natives of Galilee, a part of the Holy Land despised by the Jews in general. They were chosen out of the lowest stations, were either
publicans or fishermen, or in some of the obscurer occupations of life. They were not versed in the literature of the age in which they lived, nor acquainted with the arts of popular address. Such associates were ill suited to promote the views of a prince or conqueror, and perhaps our Saviour could not have opposed, more clearly, the erroneous opinion which was generally entertained respecting the Messiah, than by the choice of such men.
Our Lord directs his disciples, when they should enter on their apostolic mission, to give the salutation customary in the east, of “Peace be unto you,” to the houses into which they went, and he adds, “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of the house, or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” The Jews supposed that there was such a peculiar holiness, in the land of Israel, that, when they came from a heathen country, they stopped at its borders, and wiped the dust from their feet, that the sacred inheritance might not be polluted with it, nor would they permit herbs to be brought
to them from the neighbouring countries, lest they should bring any of the dust of their land with them. Hence, this action was a lively intimation, that when the Jews had rejected the Gospel, they were no longer to be regarded as the people of God, but were on a level with the heathens.
When our Lord had given his apostles general directions respecting their conduct, he proceeds to point out the peculiar difficulties and trials to which they, in the execution of their office, would be exposed. • Behold,” said he, “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves ; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Subtlety, circumspection, and prudence, have been regarded as characteristics of the serpent: for to be as sharp-sighted as a serpent, was a proverb both among the Greeks and Romans. On the contrary, gentleness, simplicity, and timidity, are thought to belong to the dove. The wisdom of the serpent degenerates into cunning, and the simplicity of the dove into weakness or folly, when existing single. But unitted, the one corrects the excess, and supplies
the deficiencies of the other. The character, therefore, which is compounded of wisdom and circumspection, with innocense and unoffending simplicity, is what Christ commended to his disciples, and what Paul wished the Romans to possess, when he said, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”
Our Lord, in order to animate the courage and pious zeal of his disciples, assures them that they could not meet with any treatment more cruel and injurious, than what he had previously endured. To caution them against that timid spirit, which seeks to escape suffering by concealment, he gives them the following injunction : “ What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that proclaim upon the housetops." This passage of scripture is supposed to refer to a custom of the Jews, mentioned by the Rabbis, who affirin, that the masters among them used to have their interpreters, who received their dictates whispered softly in the ear, and then publicly proposed them to all.
upon the roofs.
The houses in the East are, in many parts, so constructed, that the inhabitants can walk
From these eminences, it was convenient to announce any thing new, or address the crowd passing below. In the East, at the present day, proclamation is made from the tops of their mosques or temples, that “God is great, and Mahomet is his prophet,” as a signal for the people to offer their stated prayers.
Our Lord also encouraged his disciples, by reminding them of the universal extent of divine providence. “ Are not,” said he, “ two sparrows sold for a farthing ? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father." Our Saviour here teaches us, that, low as this bird is placed in the scale of being, it is the object of its Maker's care. What a striking lesson of trust in our heavenly Father, are we here taught ! “ Are ye not,” says our Saviour, “ of more value than many sparrows ?"
Our Saviour cautions his disciples against entertaining the idea, that a state of rest and ease would be the immediate result of his ad