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committed, and out of weakness they are made strong.-The lenity of our blessed Lord was truly admirable, that he should bear with such stupidity in his disciples with so much gentleness and patience, and should, with so much earnestness, go on to renew his instructions to them. Let us, however, learn to be upon our guard against the prejudices of worldly interest, since, as we see, they may take such strong hold of minds, in the main, upright and pious. And therefore let us earnestly pray, that God would give us a greater relish for spiritual and eternal blessings.
SECTION XI. MARK IX. 33–50. LUKE 46-50. And being in the house, he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace : for by the way there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And they had disputed among themselves. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him by him in the midst of them : and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. For he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.
And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and he followeth not us; and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.
For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come: but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, and to be cast into everlasting fire that never shall be quenched : where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into everlasting fire that never shall be quenched : where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee : it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eye to be cast into hell-fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good : but if the salt has lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.
How deeply is pride rooted in the heart of fallen man ; when neither the daily instructions, nor edifying example of the humble Jesus could prevent it from appearing, even among the apostles themselves, in so mean and unworthy a manner! Still did worldly interest and grandeur so intoxicate their minds, that they seemed even against hope to have hoped for it, and to have found out a strange kind of method of grafting these expectations, even on the very cross of Christ, which was intended to destroy them.
How edifying and affecting are these lessons, which the meek and lowly Redeemer gave us, with this little child in his arms, whose example we are required to copy! Lord, give us of thy regenerating grace, that we may do it; that we may be converted, and become as little children, free from avarice and ambition, malice, and prejudice! How melancholy is it to think, that many, who have by their office been emnloved to read and explain this lesson to others, and who ! been children in understanding, seem to have ler
of it themselves; as if it had never been at all intended for that order of men, to whom indeed it was immediately addressed! If there be any such yet remaining in the Christian ministry, let them seriously weigh the woe denounced on that man by whom the offence cometh. May the infinite mercies of God be extended to all professing Christians, who give themselves up to worldly pursuits and projects: and especially to those who make the church of Christ only a kind of porch to the temple of mammon, and the sacred office itself merely a convenient vehicle for swallowing down riches and honours! May Divine grace deliver us from such fatal snares, and form us to that self-denial and mortification, without which we cannot be the true disciples of Christ ; but, after having pierced ourselves through with many unnecessary sorrows here shall plunge ourselves deep into eternal perdition !
May these repeated and dreadful representations of future misery, which we have now been reading, impress our souls in a becoming manner ! Blessed Jesus! thou bringest good tidings ; yet which of the prophets under the legal dispensation ever represented the terrors of the Lord in so awful a light, as that in which thou hast placed them! Let none of thy ministers be afraid to imitate thee herein l nor let any of thy followers presume to censure them for it! May we all be effectually warned to flee from the wrath to come ; and, as we would not another day be salted with fire, may our hearts now be seasoned with thy grace! and may we, by a modest and peaceful, a benevolent and useful life, be daily bearing a testimony to it, and, as the salt of the earth, may we be labouring to cure the growing corruption of the world about us !
MATTHEW XVIII. 1—20. At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged abont his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences ! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire.
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone : if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church : but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father, which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Thus happy are the meanest servants of Christ, in the care and favour of their heavenly Master, and in the angelic guard, which, by his high command, are continually attending even the lambs of his flock. So condescending are the blessed spirits above, that even the greatest of them do not disdain to minister unto the heirs of salvation ! (Heb. i. 14.) Let not the wisest and greatest men despise those, whom angels honour with their guardianship and care ; especially since the Son of man, that merciful Shepherd, has come forth into this wilderness to save that which was lost, and even to seek and recover us when we were gone astray, and should otherwise have wandered on to our eternal ruin.
What could have been more happy for the church of Christ than the observation of this plain and easy rule, which he has given for ending disputes among his followers! And yet who, that sees the conduct of the generality of Christians, would imagine they had ever heard of such a rule? Instead of this private expostulation, which might often bring a debate to a speedy and amicable conclusion, what public charges ! what passionate complaints! what frequent and laboured attempts to take, if the least scandalous, yet not the least pernicious kind of revenge, by wounding the characters of those, whom we imagine to have injured us !
As for church.censures, how lamentable is it, that they have been so little conformable to this rule, and in many instances so contrary to it, in almost every Christian nation under heaven! Is this the form in which ecclesiastical judgments do appear in the Popish, or even in the Protestant world? Are these the maxims by which they have been, or by which they are determined, even by those who claim the largest share in the promises made to the apostles, and boast with the greatest confidence of the presence and authority of Christ with them, to confirm their sentences, and to sanctify perhaps rapine and murder ? Vain wretched confidence ! Let us earnestly pray that this dishonour to the Christian name may every where be wiped away; and that true religion, and even common humanity, may not with such solemn mockery be destroyed in the name of the Lord.
Let humble submission be always paid to apostolical decisions in every difficulty; and let the promises made to these