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SERMON LII.

FOR

THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER

TRINITY.

THE GUESTS AT THE WEDDING FEAST.

Luke xiv. 11.

FOR WHOSOEVER EXALTETH HIMSELF SHALL BE ABASED; AND HE THAT HUMBLETH HIMSELF SHALL BE EXALTED.

THESE Words were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ, in consequence of observing the conduct of the Pharisees in their intercourse among themselves, as well as on all other occasions. Their own advancement was the object at which they were continually aiming. The gratification of their pride and self-importance was never lost sight of by them at any time. This was not the only occasion on which our Saviour made the

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same remark in reference to them. St. Matthew mentions that He made the same observation, when He warned His disciples against adopting the practices of the Pharisees, and severely reprehended their proud and oppressive behaviour to all around them.95 And our Evangelist records His repeating the sentiment, when He had contrasted the conduct of the Pharisee and the publican, who went up together into the temple to pray.96 At this time it appears that our blessed Lord was asked by a Pharisee to come into his house, professedly in a friendly manner, but in reality with an insidious design; that if He should do any thing which they might think to be a breach of the sabbath, there might be competent witnesses at hand, who could accuse Him before the council, and disgrace Him in the sight of the people.

It

The Evangelist states, in the Gospel for this day, that it came to pass, as Jesus went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath-day, that they watched Him. seems extraordinary that a person of any rank, a ruler, should lend himself to such a purpose. But the envy which the Pharisees bore towards our Lord Jesus Christ, on account of His credit with the people, was so great, that they were ready to adopt any means whatever to lower Him in the

95 Matthew xxiii. 12.

96 Luke xviii. 10, 14.

estimation of the multitude, if not to destroy Him. They had been accustomed to carry every thing with a high hand, before He exposed their vain pretences, and stripped off the mask of hypocrisy which they were accustomed to wear in the presence of the people." And therefore they thought that it would be impossible for them to regain the high character which they had previously maintained, unless they could ruin His credit, or put Him out of the way. But our blessed Lord always showed His vast superiority to His enemies, when He seemed to be placed in circumstances of difficulty and danger so that their watching Him was to

little purpose.

At this time it is stated, Behold, there was a certain man before Him, which had the dropsy. Whether he was introduced purposely or not, does not appear. This poor man's presence in the Pharisee's house, or at the door, afforded an opportunity to His enemies of watching to see what the compassionate Saviour would do. The poor man, no doubt, earnestly besought Jesus to extend His accustomed compassion towards him, and to heal him of his distressing disorder. Instead of doing this at once, He appealed to the company present; as if He were desirous of obtaining their opinion with regard to the manner

97 Matthew xxiii. 28.

in which He should act. Jesus answering, spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? The lawyers being persons who were accustomed to expound to the people the law of Moses, He applied to them to give an authoritative opinion whether it would be a violation of the day of holy rest to heal a person who was afflicted with a grievous disorder. And they held their peace. They could not produce from the law of Moses any prohibition to do good, or to confer a benefit, or to show an act of kindness and compassion, on the Sabbath-day; and therefore they were silent. Jesus then took the man, and healed him, and let him go; sent him away perfectly freed from the disease with which he had been afflicted.

Having done this, as He knew what their sentiments were,98 though they would not express them, He defended His conduct. He answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath-day? This was an argument that came home to their feelings; the Pharisees being described as a covetous set of people. If they were careful for the preservation of their cattle, under the pretence of relieving them from a perilous situation; how much

98 John ii. 25.

more must the Lord Jesus have been justified, on the common principle of humanity, in healing a sick person of a grievous disease. It is therefore said, that they could not answer Him again to these things. They could not make such an act of benevolence a matter of accusation against Him. But how surprising does it seem to us that our blessed Lord should have had any occasion to justify Himself for performing a miracle which could not be wrought by any other person.99 One would naturally suppose that the miracle would of itself have excited the utmost admiration of His power and goodness, in those who saw Him perform it. But instead of glorifying God that they were permitted to witness such wonderful acts of Divine power and beneficence, these men were continually murmuring that such mighty works should be displayed in their sight.

When Jesus had thus put them to silence, He proceeded to make some observations on that part of their conduct, which He had an opportunity of witnessing on this occasion. He put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when He marked how they chose out the chief rooms or places at the table. He had noticed. that various individuals of the company, having each the highest opinion of himself, had thought that he was entitled to the most honourable

99 John xv. 21.

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