« AnteriorContinuar »
PREACHED NOVEMBER 27, 1774.
MATTHEW Xiii. 58.
And he did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
THERE were two things, I observed, very remarkable in the conduct of our blessed Saviour towards the Jews. One was, that he chose to instruct the more ignorant and uninformed of them, in the obscure way of parable: The other, that he wrought but few miracles for the conviction of such of them as were incredulous and unbelieving.
These two circumstances may be thought strange; because the less informed the people
were to whom he addressed himself, the more need there seems to have been of the plainesl instruction; and the less disposed they were to believe in him, the greater necessity we may think there was for subduing their unbelief by the force of miracles. Yet the conduct of Jesus was not according to these expectations, in either instance; and has accordingly furnished the occasion of Two corresponding objections to his divine character and mission.
To the former of these objections, that which respects his way of speaking by parables, I have already replied in a distinct discourse on that subject. The latter, which respects his way of working miracles, I now propose to consider.
The text, you see, points out the subject, and confines me to it. Jesus, in discharge of his general office, and from a principle, as we may suppose, of private affection, went into his own country, that is, to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, with the intention of preaching the Gospel there, and of giving the people of that place the proper proofs of his authority and mission. Accordingly, the sacred historian tells us, he taught them in their synagogue; And we know, besides, that he
wrought some miracles; for the people were astonished and said, Whence hath this man this WISDOM, and these MIGHTY WORKS?
They were the more astonished, because Jesus was no stranger to them; and the rest of his family, people of an obscure condition, then lived among them. They knew him only under the idea of a Carpenter's Son, and they had observed perhaps nothing extraordinary in him; or, if they had, this very circumstance, as is not uncommon among neighbours and countrymen, might have infused some jealousy and dislike of him. Be that as it will, their prejudices against him were extreme, and they expressed them in the most contemptuous manner. Is not this, say they, the Carpenter's Son? Is not his Mother called Mary? and his Brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
are they not all with us?
And his Sisters, Whence then hath
this man all these things? And they were offended in him. To these disparaging questions, which easily overpowered the evidence of conviction even from their own senses, Jesus only replied, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And then the text follows, which says, And he did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
This is the FACT: And the question upon it, is, Why Jesus forebore to work miracles among these people, because they did not believe in him?
Before I reply distinctly to this question, permit me to premise two general observations; one, on the use of miracles, considered in themselves; and the other, on the use of miracles, as applied to the Christian dispensation.
First, then, I observe, that, a miracle being, for the time, an alteration or suspension of the laws of nature, our best ideas of the divine attributes lead us to conclude, that this violence on his own plan of government is only exerted for some very important end, and will be exerted no farther, nor oftener, than is necessary to that end. It is true, it may be difficult for us to judge, in many cases, of that importance, and of that necessity; but unless both be very apparent to us, in no case, can we be authorized to require or even expect, a continuance or repetition, much less a multiplication of these miraculous exertions. To judge otherwise on this subject, would be to charge God foolishly, and, in effect, to blaspheme his wisdom.
Secondly, I observe, that the use of miracles, as applied to the Christian dispensation, is to give credit to the character and pretensions of Jesus. It is supposed in this argument that miracles, duly circumstanced and fully attested, are sufficient to this purpose; but there is no reason to suppose that more or greater will be wrought, than that purpose requires.
These things being premised, to the question, Why Jesus did not many miracles, before the unbelieving Jews of Nazareth, I reply directly by saying
I. In the first place, because such a display of his power was not necessary to their conviction. I mean not to say at present, that more or greater miracles would not have convinced them (though it be very unlikely, that they would), but that they were not necessary to the end proposed by them, which was to afford such an attestation to the character of Jesus as might be a reasonable and, in itself, a sufficient ground of their conviction. More than this the Jews had no right to expect. And less than this was not offered: For when it is said, that Jesus did not many miracles at Nazareth, it is implied that he did some; and thus much they confess themselves in asking, whence hath this man these mighty works?