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LECT. fold like Joseph, hath like him received
favour and dominion; that he who hath been affronted and refused and thrust away by us as Moses was, is the true lawgiver, whom we have thus conformed in all things to the example of our prophet; even of that Mofes, who faid, a prophet fhall the Lord your God raise up like unto me; and we have done all that was wanting on our part to make the likeness complete.”
Thus must they have reasoned, on whom St. Stephen's argument had the proper effect; and thus would the Jews reason at this day, who know the Old Testament, and have heard the history of Jesus Christ, if they were not under a judicial infatuation, which God can remove when it is just and fit. We who are not under the like blindness can see how plainly and irresistibly these figures of the Old Testament shew the certainty of those things wherein we have been instructed. When Stephen disputed with the Jews, he took advantage of this evidence, and they were not able to refif the wisdom and the spirit with which he Spake.
When we hear of the effect of this dispu- Lect. tation, and find nothing in his speech but a modern merè narrative of facts compiled from the scripture, we wonder how the Jews could be so provoked by it, more than by reading the bible according to their daily custom : but when we fee how all this is pointed as a testimony to the sufferings and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth, the wonder ceases ; and it is no longer strange, that they whose hearts were not turned to good by it, should be provoked to rage and persecution.
This subject will suggest some important reflections, which I must beg of you to take into your serious consideration, and lay them up in your hearts as long as you livė.
1. From the cafes of Joseph and Mofes, and more particularly from that of Christ himself, we are to learn, that the qualifications which recommend a person to God, will not make him acceptable or respectable with men, but often the contrary; for amongst men, innocence is envied, godliness is despised, zeal discouraged, and R2
LECT. justice hated. Whence it has been estab
lished by wise and virtuous men as a maxim founded on experience, that the voice of the multitude is never to be regarded as a test of truth or merit. Fashionable error is a dreadful enemy to the advocates of truth : and there never was an age or country in which error did not get into fashion, and take the direction of men's minds; so that truth has but a poor chance without an overruling Providence to second and enforce it. We have a famous passage to this effect from the greatest moral philosopher of the Greeks, who declared with a kind of prescience, that if a man perfectly just were to come upon earth, he would be impoverished, and scourged, and bound as a criminal, and, when be had suffered all manner of indignities, would be put to the mameful death of suspension or crucifixion *. There is not a more spotless character in LECT. the scripture than that of Joseph: yet his San brethren hated him, and their envy had no rest till they had sent him out of their fight as a slave. Moses was a pattern of meekness, and with a struggle of diffidence undertook his commission ; a commission, with which he should have been received by a poor oppressed people, like, what he was in fact, a messenger from heaven. But they railed at him, as if he had only made that condition worse which was bad enough before; so had provoked those who were already enraged, and had put a sword into their bands to say them. Thus the fearful and unbelieving (who are sometimes found amongst the wise ones of this world) are always disposed to discourage and condemn a zeal for the cause of God and the rights of his religion, as indiscreet, unseasonable and dangerous. Whence it follows, that if we are called upon to act in any public character, we must do people good against their will, and take the chance of being ungratefully or even despitefully treated for it. None but the mean-spirited, or the ambiR 3
* Several of the fathers have taken notice of this extraordinary passage in Plato ; looking upon it as a prediction of the sufferings of the Just one Jesus Christ; and after them it is noted by Grotius de verit. Lib. 4. sect. 12. Casaubon (Merick) has a learned and excellent Criticism upon it, in his Treatise Of Credulity and Inuredulity, p. 135, &c.
LECT. ţious, or the infipid, or the hypocritical,
are spoken well of by all men ; and popular applause is the grand object of a vain or knayish disposition. Therefore the Christian is wisely admonished, to seek that praise which cometh only from God; which is never bestowed upon false merit, and will never be wanting to the true.
2. From the example of the Jews, who were only irritated by St. Stephen's arguments, when they ought to have been converted; we see what a dreadful țhing it is to have our reasons for hating and rejecting the truth. It is of infinite conse, quence that we should enquire what that meaneth-they received not the love of the truth, that they might be fuved. What can be plainer phan truth? And what is more anviable? And if it saves us, what in all the world is half so valuable ? Yet that saving truth is the only truth men cannot of themselves understand: and if they do not understand it, what fearful commotions are raised by it! It is a powe erful drug, which will either embitter and