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SERMON XXXVI.

SANCTITY OF THE APOSTLES.

MATTHEW XI. 6.

Blessed is he that shall not be offended in me.

The general prejudices of the Jewish nation concerning the royal state and condition of the Saviour, who to come into the world, was stone of “stumbling, and a rock of offence," to the greatest part of that unhappy and prepossessed people, when the promise was actually fulfilled. Whether it was altogether the traditions of their fathers,mor that the l'apturous expressions of their prophets, which represented the Messiah's spiritual kingdom in such extent of power and dominion, misled them into it ; mor that their own carnal expectations turned wil. ful interpreters upon them, inclining them to look for nothing but the 'wealth and worldly grandeur which were to be acquired under their deliverer ;whether these,-or that the system of temporal blessings helped to cherish them in this gross and covetous expectation, it was one of the great causes for their rejecting him.-" This fellow, we “know not whence he is,”-was the popular cry of one part :- and they who seemed to know whence he was, scornfully turned it against him, by the repeated quere Is not this the carpenter, the son " of Mary, the brother of James and Joses, and of

VOL. V.

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“ Juda and Simeon ?--and are not his sisters here “ with us?”-And they were offended at him : so that, though he was prepared by God to be the glory of his people Israel, yet the circumstances of humility, in which he was manifested, were thought a scandal to them.-Strange !-that he who was born their king-should be born of no other virgin than Mary,--the meanest of their people ;_" for he hath “ regarded the low estate of his hand-maiden," and of one of the poorest too ; for she had not a lamb to offer,--but was purified, as Moses directed in such a case, by the oblation of a turtle-dove : that the Saviour of their nation, whom they expected to be ushered amidst them with all the ensigns and apparatus of royalty, should be brought forth in a stable, and answerable to distress ;-subjected all his life to the lowest conditions of humanity :- that whilst he lived, he should not have a hole to put his head in, nor his corpse in when he died ;-but his grave too must be the gift of charity :-these were thwarting considerations to those who waited for the redemption of Israel, and looked for it in no other shape than the accomplishment of those golden dreams of temporal power and sovereignty which had filled their imaginations. The ideas were not to be reconciled ;-and so insuperable an obstacle was the prejudice on one side, to their belief on the other, that it literally fell out, as Simeon prophetically declared of the Messiah,—that he was set forth for the fall, as well as the rising again, of many in Israel.

This, though it was the cause of their infidelity was however no excuse for it ;-for whatever their mistakes were, the miracles which were wrought in contradiction to them, brought conviction enough to leave them without excuse ;-and besides, it was natural for them to have concluded, had their prepossessions given them leave, that he who fed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, could not want power to be great ;-and therefore needed not to appear in the condition of poverty and meanness, had it not, on other scores, been more needful to confront the pride and vanity of the world,--and to shew his followers what the temper of christianity was, by the temper.of its first institutor; who, though they were offered, and he could have commanded them, despised the glories of the world ;-took upon him the form of a servant ;-and, though equal with God, yet made himself of no reputation, that he might settle and be the example of so holy and humble a religion, and thereby convince his disciples forever, that neither his kingdom nor their happiness were to be of this world. Thus the Jews might have easily argued ;-but when there was nothing but reason to do it with on one side, and strong prejudices, backed with interest, to maintain the dispute, upon the other, we do not find the point is always so easily determined. Although the purity of our Saviour's doctrine, and the mighty works he wrought in its support, were demonstratively stronger arguments for his divinity than the unre. spected lowliness of his condition could be against it, --yet, the prejudice continued strong ;-they had been accustomed to temporal promises ;--so bribed to do their duty, they could not endure to think of a religion that would not promise, as much as Moses did, to fill their basket, and set them high above all nations :--a religion whose appearance

was not great and splendid, but looked thin and meagre; and whose principles and promises, like the curses of their law, called for sufferings, and promised persecutions.

If we take this key along with us through the New Testament, it will let us into the spirit and meaning of many of our Saviour's replies in his conferences with his disciples, and others of the Jews; --so particularly in this place, Matthew xi. when John had sent two of his disciples to enquire, whether it was he that should come, or that they were to look for another?-our Saviour, with a particular eye to this prejudice, and the general scandal he knew had risen against his religion upon this worldly account, after a recital to the messengers of the many miracles he had wrought; as that the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the dead raised ; all which characters, with their benevolent ends, fully demonstrated him to be the Messiah that was promised them, he closes up his answer to them with the words of the text, “ 'And blessed is he that shall not be of« fended in me.”-Blessed is the man whose upright and honest heart will not be blinded by worldly considerations, or hearken to his lusts and prepossessions in a truth of this moment. The like benediction is recorded in the seventh chapter of St. Luke, and in the sixth of St. John ; when Peter broke out in that warm confession of their belief:

Lord, we believe : we are sure that thou art « Christ, the Son of the living God.”—The same benediction is uttered,--though couched in different words in " Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona ; * for flesh and blood has not revealed it, but my

Father which is in heaven.”--Flesh and blood, -the natural workings of this carnal desire ;--the lust and love of the world, have had no hand in this conviction of thine ;-but my Father, and the works which I have wrought in his name --in vindication of this faith,--have established thee in it, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.-

This universal ruling principle, and almost invincible attachment to the interests and glories of the world, which we see first made so powerful a stand. against the belief of Christianity,-has continued to have as ill an effect, at least, upon the practice of it ever since ;-and therefore there is no one point of wisdom that is of nearer importance to us, than to purify this gross appetite, and restrain it within bounds, by lowering our high conceit of the things of this life, and our concern for those advantages which misled the Jews. To judge justly of the world, we must stand at a due distance from it ; which will discover to us the vanity of its riches and honours in such true dimensions, as will engage us to behave ourselves towards them with modere ation.--This is all that is wanting to make us wise and good ;-that we may be left to the full influence of religion ;-to which Christianity so far conduces, that it is the great blessing, the peculiar advantage we enjoy under its institution, that it affords us not only the most excellent precepts of this kind, but also it shews us those precepts confirmed by most excellent examples.-A heathen philosopher may, talk very elegantly about despising the world, and, like Seneca, may prescribe very ingenious rules to teach us an art he never exercised himself :for all the while he was writing in praise of poverty,

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