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had received the attentions and kindnesses of kinsfolks and neighbours, who were met togeth-er, and attending to him with eager expectations, than such a repulse, as that they must not ex-pect the physician should heal himself; or that the things they had heard done in Capernaum, should be done also in his own country! But, on the contrary, to be told "of a truth, Many widows were in "Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven "was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land: But "unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto "Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that " was a widow. And many lepers were in Isra-"el in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and “none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman "the Syrian!" This subject, no doubt, will befully explained in the day of retribution. In the mean while we ought to be silent, knowing that the Lord may do what he will with his own.
The opposition, of the sons of Jacob to their brother Joseph, was of the same malignant kind, excepting Reubin, who, though he felt the cause of strife, yet did not design his brother an inju ry. His temper may be classed under the first character. This opposition existed here in a much higher degree than in the cases we have noticed; though, among these brethren, it might not be, in every instance, equally murderous. The cause which excited this hatred was, doubtless, of the most trying nature. Their father loved Joseph more than all his brethren. He wore a coat indicative of supremacy among them; and it was suggested, that they should bow down to him; yea, that his father, and mother, and brethren, should come to bow down themselves to him, to the earth. I do not mention the greatness of this trial for their apology, but to shew, merely, that it was a cause adequate to explain the effects produced in their minds.
The opposition which existed among the peo ple of the Jews against Jesus Christ, was also of the same nature, and malignant in the highest possible degree; for the cause, though the same in nature, in degree was the most trying that ever existed on earth. Jesus of Nazareth, under an assemblage of every possible circumstance of abasement, set up claims infinitely too high for any man on earth, or even for the highest angel in heaven; and whilst he treated their most respectable men, even their scribes and pharisees, who had seats among princes, in the most abasing manner, and made them as nothing, he took others from the dust and dunghill, and called them his friends, and treated them as though they were even more than princes. In a word, his whole manner accorded with his doctrine, that every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be bro't low. This, however, is not mentioned to excuse their opposition; but, merely, to shew the nature and extremity of the cause which produced it.
But even in these most melancholy and criminal cases, something does exist which may be called an apology. Joseph, when he made himself known to his brethren in Egypt, said, "Now "therefore be not grieved, nor angry with your "selves, that ye sold me hither: for God did "send me before you to preserve life." And Peter, addressing the men who killed the Prince of Life, said, "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your "rulers. But those things which God before "had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, "that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.' And the apostle Paul, in the view of his being before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious, says, "But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief."
Could Sarah have foreseen, that her first plan
would finally go into effect, and far beyond her most pleasant fancy; that she should have a son even without bearing or travelling; that she should be the mother of us all, i. e. of both churches, the whole of Abraham's family; or, that she should be that holy city, the new Jerusalem, which will take in the whole ground both of the sanctuary and court of the Lord's house, and in which there will not exist a distinction of bond and free. I say, could Sarah have foreseen this, she would have felt no disquiet at the prosperity of her hand-maid: Or, could Hagar have foreseen that all her pain and labor, even the bearing of her son, would finally issue in the emolument of Sarah, her mistress would not have been despised in her eyes.....Could Ishmael have known that he was to be a child of Abraham, not as by a bond-woman, but as Sarah's son, by an adoption thro' the door of Isaac, infinitely to his advantage; and that one day his numerous offspring should come in through the door of faith, or the seed of promise, and in a true and most glorious sense, be Saracens, he would not have mocked at the joy and festivity of a day given to Isaac. It is remarkable that, in Isai. ix. 7. The two eldest sons of Ishmael, Kedar and Nebaioth are mentioned by name, as ministering to the church in the day of glory......Or could the elder brother have well considered, that all the patrimony and weighty establish-. ments of the house remained whole to him, and that the present scene was passing with the day, he would not have grudged to his poor brother the transient enjoyment of a feast.
Had the brethren of Joseph known the long and painful suffering to precede his glory, and that the whole scene was designed to save them and their families alive, they would not have been displeased at his being made the darling, nor at his wearing a coat of divers colours; nor would
they have hated him for his dreams. And had the people of the Jews, and the princes of this world, known the wisdom of God, hidden in Christ Jesus, which shall be revealed when that people, by him, shall be made an eternal excellence, and the nations saved shall walk in their light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their honor and glory unto them; "they would not have crucified the Lord " of Glory.'
As this opposition exists through ignorance and unbelief, it is plain that in this case there is a remedy; let the ignorance and unbelief be removed, and the spirit and work of hostility will subside in a moment. This was the case with them who were converted on the day of Pentecost; it was the case of Paul, and it has been the case with thousands of others. Cases of this kind call for the most tender and compassionate treatment, even from them who suffer their severity.....The apostle Paul, after enduring long and mortal opposition from the Jews, bare the most feeling and respectful testimony in their favour; he says,
My heart's desire and prayer to God for Is"rael is, that they might be saved. For I bear "them record, that they have a zeal for God, "but not according to knowledge.” Enemies of this character have a claim for our most earnest prayers. Thus Stephen prayed for his murderers: And our Saviour upon the cross, cried, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!
In the third character, this opposition, though not more malignant, for more it cannot be, is yet without excuse.......This was the case of Ahithophe......he was a man enlightened into the sweet counsel of the Lord, and had taken a part in the fellowship of David.....The same was the case of Judas.....he lacked for no instruction in the doctrine of Christ, and had shared in the fellowship of the Gospel. How different are these from the
cases of Abner and Saul of Tarsus, they both, like heroes, fought against the Lord, and against his anointed; but they did it in the sincerity of their heart.......They were always honest men; and when the error of their understanding was removed, and the scales had fallen from their eyes, they conferred not with flesh and blood, but came over immediately to the support of the cause which once they destroyed.......But the part that Ahithophel and Judas acted was traitorous; it was not done through ignorance in unbelief, but through the basest motives of corruption; it was all the rogue, the part of the Devil....... Hence, in the Scriptures, in the darkness of one case, an immediate divine agency is admitted; but, in the other, it is immediately ascribed to the Devil..... For not distinguishing these several cases, there has existed, in relation to them, in the minds of many, a very grievous darkness.
This case being such, it is beyond the reach of the remedy; for the sacrifice of Christ, which, in the other cases, is a sovereign remedy, as it takes away the wall of partition, and rends asunder the vail; in this, it is all without effect..... Hence, not on account of the degree of malignity, but of its peculiar nature, this sin is unpardonable....... And, for the same reason, it may be seen why Devils cannot be saved. Such a thing in its nature is impossible; for, as they have sinned wilfully against the knowledge of Christ, the effect of the blood of the Lamb in removing the partition wall and vail, under which, for a long time, they had covered themselves in heaven, and concealed their treachery, instead of reconciling them, it can only enflame their opposition, as thereby they are cast out of heaven to the earth, and so, with greater wrath, they are seen to come down among the inhabitants of the earth, and of the sea. Therefore, we are not allowed to pray for them