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we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and stran
and exclusions, but from the selfishness of an | saying one to another, behold, are not all individual, or of a few, to appropriate to these which speak Galileans? and how hear themselves what belongs to many? Were the operation of this spirit confined to the things of time, it might be accounted for. The desires of the human mind are unbounded, and the objects of pursuits are few and small. What another acquires seems to be so much taken away from me. Though ingers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes"-" and truth there is provision sufficiently ample for the same day there was added unto them about all; bread enough and to spare, room enough three thousand souls." Since that period what and to spare, were the real wants and the have been the triumphs of the Prince of reasonable wishes of nature to settle the dis- Peace! What myriads are now prostrate betribution. But that the kingdom of heaven fore Him who sitteth upon the throne, and should be subjected to a monopoly; that its before the Lamb, adoring the wonders of rekeys should be seized by the bold hand of an deeming grace, looking, with angels, into usurping individual or of an arrogant party, the great mystery of godliness, if haply they would exceed belief, did not the history even "may be able to comprehend with all saints, of the Christian Church establish the fact. what is the breadth, and length, and depth, The disciples of Christ themselves brought and height; and to know the love of Christ, into his school all the contractedness of their which passeth knowledge!" And what still Jewish education. Even the mild and affec-more glorous triumphs remain to be displaytionate John was tainted with it. "Master," ed, when "the fulness of the Gentiles shall said he, "we saw one casting out devils inbe come in, and all Israel shall be saved," thy name: and we forbade him, because he followeth not with us." They are for calling down fire from heaven to consume a whole village of Samaritans, in resentment of a mere piece of incivility. They must have The multitudes who shall thus flock to the the highest places when their Master should Saviour, as doves to their windows, from the come to the throne. The kingdom must be east and from the west, from the south and restored to Israel, whatever might become from the north, as they are partakers of the of the rest of the world. This spirit, though faith of the patriarchs, so they shall at length frequently and severely reprobated by their be made partakers of their joy: "they shall benevolent Master has unhappily been trans-sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in mitted, and mutual anathemas and excommunications have been thundered by furious sectaries, who have one after another desolated the earth, to secure to themselves the undivided possession of a heaven which they are incapable of enjoying. If the Saviour of men says, "many shall come," who dares to limit the Holy One of Israel, and to say, "few shall be saved?"
when "great voices in heaven" shall say, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever!"
the kingdom of God." What an assemblage of delicious images! What prospects has the Gospel opened to the children of men! Those travellers into a far country have returned to their Father's house. They pursued various tracks, but all led homeward. They were strangers to each other in a strange land, but the prevailing family likeness now lets them see that they are brothers. They sometimes fell out by the way, but now there is perfect love. They had heard of the names of their venerable ancestors and respectable kindred, now they see, and know, and rejoice in them. Their pilgrimage is ended, their "warfare is accomplished."
Many shall come from the east and west." The other two cardinal points are specified in a corresponding passage of the gospel according to St. Luke, chap. xiii. 29. The import of the expression is obvious. It denotes the attractive influence of Christianity over men of every region under heaven, "They shall sit down." They were laid and the universal paternal care and love of in the grave, they fell asleep, they saw corHim who "hath made of one blood all na- ruption. Now they are children of the tions of men, for to dwell on all the face of resurrection; refreshed by the sleep of death, the earth." The day of Pentecost exhibited they have acquired immortal vigour, they the first fruits of this glorious harvest. When have put on incorruption. Sitting is the the apostles, "filled with the Holy Ghost, spake posture assumed for the enjoyment of social with other tongues as the spirit gave them intercourse, and that is the idea here conutterance," "there were dwelling at Jeru-veyed. The family is assembled, the banquet salem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now, when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed, and marvelled,
is prepared, perfect harmony reigns. When men return to the bosom of their friends from tedious and painful journeys, from perilous voyages, from destructive warfare, affection suggests many an inquiry, many a communication. Alas, how often do we fondly anti
cipate the communications of distant friends preparation for the inheritance of saints in who are never to return! But of the expect-light, for the kingdom which cannot be moved. ed guests, of the innumerable company in- Let us not presume to "darken counsel by vited to "the marriage of the Lamb," not words without knowledge." Let us not preone shall be missing, no bitter recollection sume to draw aside the veil which separates shall intrude, no painful apprehension shall a material world from the world of spirits, arise. And with what subjects of conversa- which interposes between time and eternity. tion are they eternally supplied! With Scripture itself, after exhausting every image, what enlarged views of those subjects do every idea of negative and of positive glory they discourse! The glories of nature are and felicity, as descriptive of "the kingdom contemplated with new eyes, and excite of heaven," refers us to a future revelation emotions before unfelt. The mystery of Pro- of that glory. Paul, "caught up to the vidence, once so intricate and inscrutable is third heaven, caught up into paradise," adunravelled; the mighty plan, the minute mitted to the intercourse of celestial beings, parts, the universal and the individual inte- and sent back to earth, finds himself incaparest are found in perfect unison. The won- ble of describing the heavenly vision. The ders of redeeming love, intermingling with words which he heard were unspeakable, the glories of creation and the mystery of which it is not lawful, which it is not possiProvidence, communicating to them all their ble for a man to utter. In this blessed, unbeauty, all their importance. What a theme defined, undescribed state we leave it: "It for the whole company of the redeemed, for is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, interchange of personal experience, for mu- neither have entered into the heart of man, tual congratulation and delight! What ex- the things which God hath prepared for them alted employment, what inexhaustible source that love him." of joy for the endless days of eternity !
The contrast is dreadful: "But the chil"They shall sit down with Abraham, and dren of the kingdom shall be cast out into Isaac, and Jacob." There is a natural desire outer darkness, there shall be weeping and in man to be in the company of the eminent- gnashing of teeth." By "the children of ly great, and wise, and good. But this de- the kingdom," our Lord undoubtedly means sire is tempered by a consciousness of our to denote the posterity of Abraham after the own inferiority. We shrink from the pene- flesh, the original heirs of the promises, the trating eye of wisdom, we feel "how awful depositaries of the covenants, who, with all goodness is," we blush inwardly at the thought the advantages of birth, of education, of a of our own littleness. But those ingathered revelation which they acknowledged to be outcasts from the east and west feel no un- divine, and of which they made their boast, easy apprehensions on being introduced to obstinately rejected the promised Messiah, to society so dignified, for "there is no fear in whom all their prophets give witness; who, love." They indeed feel their inferiority, valuing themselves upon, and vainly resting but it excites no mortification. They are in in a mere natural descent from illustrious their proper place, and they have their pro-ancestors, without inheriting a particle of per measure of glory. While time was they pronounced those venerable names with awe, they accounted those persons happy who could claim kindred to men so highly distinguished, admission to the court of the Gentiles terminated their ambition, birth had excluded them for ever from the commonwealth of Israel. Now they find that they are the real posterity of Abraham, "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." If any man hath not the spirit of Abraham, he is none of his. By the spirit they are related to the father of the faithful, and he joyfully acknowledges them as his children, and heirs with him of the promises.
They shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." This implies a participation of all the privileges of saints on earth, communion and fellowship with one another, as members together of that body whereof Christ is the head, and joint "fellowship with the Father, and with the Son Jesus Christ." Such is the kingdom of God in this world, and such the
their spirit, wilfully excluded themselves from the kingdom of heaven. Their means of knowledge, their peculiar privileges were a horrid aggravation of their guilt, and a full justification of their tremendous punishment. The blessedness of the righteous in the hea venly world, is, in the preceding verse, represented under the well-known and familiar image of the banquet, or marriage feast, and various passages of the gospel history throw light upon the allusion, particularly the parable of the ten virgins. Those solemnities were usually celebrated in the night season. The apartments destined to the entertainment of the guests were superbly illuminated. The bridegroom and his train came to the banqueting house in magnificent procession, by lamp or torch light. The invited guests were admitted through the wicket, to prevent promiscuous intrusion. As soon as the nuptial band had entered the doors were shut. The careless and the tardy were of course excluded, and no after expostulation or entreaty could procure admittance; they were left in outer darkness,
rendered more hideous by comparison with the splendour which reigned within; left, in the cold and damps of the night, to their own bitter reflections, dreadfully aggravated by the idea of a felicity to them for ever inaccessible. By a representation so powerfully impressive, so easily understood, so awfully alarming, were the elders of the Jews admonished of the guilt, danger, and misery of rejecting the counsel of God against themselves, of refusing the testimony which God had given to his Son Christ Jesus.
After this very solemn digression, Jesus returns to the subject which had given rise to it, the servant's malady, and the master's marvellous faith. He bestows a present reward on the one, by instantly relieving the other. "And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour." Here the Saviour condescends to be dictated to. He yields to the prayer of a faith so very extraordinary, he proceeds no farther on his way to the centurion's house. The petition runs, "speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed;" he speaks the word, he wills the cure, and virtue goes out of him to perform it. Neither of the evangelists pursue the history of the centurion farther. But we have every thing to hope, every thing to believe of a man who so eminently distinguished himself as an excellent soldier, a kind master, a moderate ruler, a pious worshipper of God, and an humble but firm believer in Jesus Christ. In his history the Christian world has to boast of another of the triumphs of the Captain of salvation, of another successful invasion of Satan's kingdom, of another display of divine perfection in the person of Jesus Christ. It is not unworthy of remark, that various persons of the same rank and profession, that of centurion, stand with high marks of approbation on the sacred page. Next to this most respectable character, we find another employed on a very trying occasion. He, with the company under his command, was appointed to see the sentence of crucifixion executed, for soldiers are put upon many a painful service, and he was not an unconcerned spectator of that awful scene. "Now when the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, truly this was the Son of God." The name of Cornelius of Cesarea, the centurion of the Italian band, is renowned in all the churches of Christ, as "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway." He is further honourably reported of by those of his own household, as a "just man, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews." The centurion who had charge of Paul and the
other prisoners, on the disastrous voyage which terminated in shipwreck on the island of Melita, paid singular attention to the apostle, followed his advice, and spared the rest of the prisoners, that he might preserve Paul's life. And upon their arrival at Rome, when this generous officer delivered over the rest of his charge to the captain of the guard, he had sufficient credit and ability to express his friendship for our apostle, by procuring for him a greater enlargement of liberty: "Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him."
From this interesting story let us learn, 1. To despise no man's person, feelings, opinions, profession, or country. His person is what God made it, and he makes nothing that is in itself contemptible. You are bound in equity to respect the feelings of another, for you wish that your own should not be handled rudely. It ill becomes one who has himself formed so many erroneous opinions, and veered about so frequently with the flit ting gale, to prescribe a standard of opinion to other men. Unless a profession be radically, and in its own nature sinful, those who follow it ought not to be condemned in the lump: if it expose to peculiar temptations to act amiss, he who resists the temptation and overcomes himself is the more estimable. Over the place of his birth a man had no more power than over the height of his stature, or the colour of his skin. It is an object of neither praise nor blame. The apostle Peter received a severe and just rebuke on this head by a vision from heaven. He was prepared, and he needed to be prepared, for the exercise of his ministry at Cesarea, and to the family and friends of the excellent Roman centurion already mentioned, and whom his Jewish pride had taught him to hold in contempt, by a thrice repeated mandate which he dared not to disobey: "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." Let us consider it as addressed to ourselves. Why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ."
2. The fearful doom denounced against unbelieving Jews ought to operate as a warning to still more highly privileged Christians, lest any man "fall after the same example of unbelief." "For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him?” We sometimes express contempt for the pagan world, sometimes affect to pity the blinded nations, and without hesitation presume to pass a sentence of final condennation upon them. The unhappy tribes of
Africa, in particular, Christian Europe calmly minded, but fear: for if God spared not the reduces to the condition of beasts of burden natural branches, take heed lest he also spare in this world, with hardly an effort to amelio- not thee." I conclude with the solemn derate it in the next. And yet they are men, nunciation of Christ himself, respecting the they possess many virtues which ought to men of his generation, and which is still in put their tyrants to the blush, and which will equal force. "The men of Nineveh shall one day rise up in judgment against them. rise in judgment with this generation, and We despise the miserable Jews, and stigma- shall condemn it: because they repented at tize them as infidels, as if all those who bear the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater the name of Christ actually believed in him. than Jonas is here. The queen of the south "Boast not against the broken-off branches;" shall rise up in the judgment with this gene-thou wilt say: The "branches were bro- ration, and shall condemn it: for she came ken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear because of unbelief, they were broken off, the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greatand thou standest by faith. Be not high-er than Solomon is here."
HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? (and this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.) Philip answered him, Two hundred penny-worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes, but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.-JOHN vi. 1-14.
THE course of nature is a standing miracle. To be an atheist is to cease from being a man. To think of arguing with such a one is to undertake a labour as fruitless as attempting to reason the lunatic into a sound mind. A case like this ought to excite no emotion but compassion, mixed with gratitude to God that he has not reduced us to a condition so deplorable. Refinement in reasoning is, in general, both unprofitable and inconclusive. The man of plain common sense may advantageously observe and devoutly acknowledge the wisdom and goodness of the Great Supreme in the regular ebbing and flowing of the tide, though he cannot trace the process of the sun's action on the waters of the ocean; or of the wind, in conveying the fluid to the mountain's top; or of gravity, sending it down to water the plains beneath; or the supposed influence of the moon, or of the melting of the polar ices, producing an alternate and regular flux and reflux on our shores, or in our rivers. Of what importance is the theory of vegetation, compared to the simple but valuable labour and experience of the gardener and husband
man? The same observation applies to the religion of the Gospel. Here the learned have no advantage whatever over the illiterate. It consists of a few plain, unadorned facts, authenticated by the testimony of a cloud of unsuspected witnesses; of a few simple, practical truths, level to the most ordinary capacity; and of a few precepts of self-evident importance, which it highly concerns every man to observe. Should it be alleged that these are blended with things hard to be understood, it is admitted. And here again the wise and prudent have no superiority over the vulgar, but both meet the God of grace as well as the God of nature exercising his divine prerogative, in ministering to the necessities, while he checks the pride and presumption of man.
The miracles of our blessed Lord which have hitherto passed in review, had a more limited object. Their design was to relieve individual, or domestic distress; they were an appeal, public indeed, to the understanding and senses of all who witnessed them, but slightly felt, imperfectly understood, and little improved, except by the parties more
immediately interested in them. They were granted to importunity, and as a reward to the prayer of faith. That which is the subject of the passage now read, embraces a much wider range than any of these, and is the spontaneous effusion of his own divine benevolence and compassion. Ten thousand persons, at a moderate calculation, were at once the witnesses and the subjects of the miracle, and in a case wherein it was impossible they should be mistaken, for they had every sense, every faculty exercised in ascertaining the truth. And here he waits not, as in other cases, till the cry of misery reaches his ear, but advances to meet it, to prevent it; he outruns expectation, and has a supply in readiness, before the pressure of want is felt.
The duration of Christ's public ministry, from his baptism to his passion, has been calculated from the number of passovers which he frequented. This, as may be supposed, has occasioned considerable variety of opinion. The attentive reader will probably adopt that of our illustrious countryman, Sir Isaac Newton, who reckons five of these annual festivals within the period. The first, that recorded in the 2d chapter of St. John's Gospel, at which he purged the temple, predicted his own death and resurrection, and performed sundry miracles. The second, according to that great chronologist, took place a few months after our Lord's conversation with the woman of Samaria, which he founds on that text, John iv. 35-"Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." The third, a few days prior to the sabbath, on which the disciples walked out into the fields, and plucked the ears of corn, when he cured the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda. The fourth, that which was now approaching at the era of this miracle; and the fifth, that at which he suffered. The people were now therefore flocking from all parts of Galilee, on their way to Jerusalem to keep the passover: and this accounts for the very extraordinary number who at this time attended his preaching and miracles.
"After these things," says John. The other three evangelists connect this scene, in respect of time, with a most memorable event in the history of Christianity, the decapitation of John Baptist in the prison. When these melancholy tidings were told to Jesus, Matthew informs us, that " he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick;" and then immediately follows the miracle of feeding
the multitude, recorded with exactly the same circumstances in all the four evange lists. Mark affixes an additional date. It was at the time when the disciples returned from the execution of their first commission, with an account of their success: "And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught." On this Jesus proposed a temporary retirement from the public eye, for the conveniency of private conversation, of repose, and of the necessary refreshment of the body: "And he said unto them, come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately;" and this, as before, prepared for the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The self-same circumstances are minutely narrated in Luke's gospel. These mark the precise epoch when Christ went over the sea of Galilee, and retired with the twelve to a mountain in the desert of Bethsaida. But though he went by water, to escape for a season the multitudes which thronged after him, the place of his destination is discovered, and thousands, filled with impatience, admiration, gratitude, hope, outstrip the speed of the vessel, by a circuitous journey along the shore of the lake. Their motives were various. powerful principle of curiosity attracted many. A thirst of the word of life impelled others. "A great multitude followed him, because they saw the miracles which he did on them that were diseased," and many had themselves "need of healing." An affecting view is exhibited of Christ's benevolent character. As from the elevation of the mountain he beheld the people pressing forward by thousands to the spot where he was, all thoughts of food, of rest, of accommoda tion lost in an appetite more dignified and pure, his bowels melted: And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things." The sight of a great assembly of men, women, and children, must ever create a lively interest in every bosom alive to the feelings of humanity. The view of his mighty host melted Xerxes into tears, merely from reflection on their natural mortality. What then are the "bowels and mercies" of the compassionate friend of mankind, on surveying innumerable myriads ready to perish everlastingly for lack of knowledge, dying in their sins! He feels even for their bodily wants, which, in the ardour of their spirits, they seem to have themselves forgotten, and a supply is provided before the cravings of nature have found out that it was necessary. And thus a gracious Providence, in things