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vince, subdue and melt the obstinate, to cure prejudice, and to instruct indocility. Their uncivil, invidious inquiry excites in him no resentment ; it can do him no hurt; but grieved at the hardness of their heart, and at the same time, compassionating their weakness, he at once, reproves the one, and makes an apology for the other. The apology he draws from the common, and well known, principles of human nature. No prophet is accepted in his own country. Among strangers, a man is esteemed according to his talents and virtues. His ancestry and kindred are a matter of no moment. It is even a degree of merit to have emerged out of obscurity; but at home, among kindred and acquaintance, eminent qualities are regarded with a jealous eye. The reputation, ability and wisdom of exalted goodness are considered by the less deserving as a reproach to themselves : What is every day within our reach we every day neglect. What costs us little we lightly esteem. Difficulty, and danger, and distance enhance the value of every object of pursuit. But the very apology implies a censure of human nature, as wickel, unjust and ab. surd, in undervaluing worth merely because it is allied to us, and neglecting good for no better reason than that it is known.
Our blessed Lord, accordingly, blends mild and gentle reproof with the excuse which he makes for the unkind return that his countrymen and kinsfolk had made to his affectionate endeavours to serve and to instruct them. And this seems to be the force of his reasoning—“You have heard, mydear friends, of my going about doing good, at Capernaum and elsewhere; and you will naturally and with justice say to me, in the language of the common proverb, Physician, heal thyself: look at home; in attention to objects more remote, overlook not such as are equally pressing, and still more nearly interesting; let thy own country,
if not in preference, at least in common with strangers, VOL. IV.
the benefit of these thy extraordinary, supernatural powers. Well, my beloved countrymen, here I am for this very purpose : ready to instruct you in the way of salvation, ready to heal all your plagues, to perform all the offices of mercy and loving kindness which the prophet, in the passage which I now read, predicted concerning me: but I know the meaning of these ungracious looks, of these malignant whispers, of that envious inquiry into my pedigree, and occupation, and connections in life. You are under the
prejudice, you are too well acquainted with me to reap benefit from my ministrations: my labours will be more acceptable where I am less known.”
It happeneth to me as it did to the prophets of old ; they were neglected, hated, persecuted of their own countrymen ; and you inherit the spirit of your fathers, whom no calamity could subdue, no arguments convince, no goodness charm. I appeal to the history of our own nation. The times of Elijah's prophecy were marked with many signal interpositions of Divine Providence, particularly with a grievous famine, occasioned by a drought of uncommon duration, three ycars and six months. It was universally felt, particularly by the poorer and more unprotected part of the community, the widow, and the fatherless ; and the extraordinary powers of the prophet were equally well known and acknowledged. But what is the fact ? Was the prophet sought unto ? Did the general distress drive the sufferers to seek relief in the piety and miraculous powers of the man of God ? No, he was the Tishbite, the son of somebody whom they knew, he was at home, among his own and therefore his person was despised, his office slighted, and even the widow and the fatherless, unsubdued by the strong hand of necessity, perished from want, because they scorned the humane and compassionate interposition of a neighbour and kinsman." But O how acceptable was his visit to a stranger, a pagan, a wo
man of Sidon? She felt with others the pressure of the common calamity ; the law of self-preservation, and compassion for the son of her womb, were strong in her, as in any widow or mother in Israel ; but more faithful and believing than they, she cheerfully made the sacrifice of her last earthly provision ; at the word of the prophet, she gave up her own and her son's substance ; she reposed confidence in heaven, she acknowledged the ensigns of Deity, she cast herself upon a miracle, and her hope made her not ashamed.”
“ Take another example, my friends, from your own history, and let it admonish and reprove you. Elisha inherited a double portion of the spirit of his master Elijah: he performed many notable miracles, he divided the waters of the river, he made iron to swim, he raised the dead to life, he employed the su. pernatural powers which were conferred upon him, in removing the miseries of his fellow creatures. Among these the leprosy was one, a disease which baffles the skill of the physician, which not medicine, but the immediate power of God alone can cure. Now, what saith the record ? What Israelitish lepers applied to the prophet, of the multitudes who were affected with this loathsome distemper? Not so much as one. He was at home, among those of his own house ; the wretched patient, loathsome to himself, and a burden offensive to every one about him, chooses rather to continue an abomination, than to be beholden to an acquaintance, to an equal, to a prophet of his own country, for the miracle of cleansing. Not so the son of the stranger : Naaman, the Syrian, the commander of armies, the favourite of a prince, a worshipper of strange gods. He believes the report, he flies to the physician, he follows the prescription, he washes in Jordan, and becomes clean.
The conscience of his audience makes the application of our Saviour's doctrine; and What ensues ? What always did, and always will, when the principle
of conscience is awakened, either humble and contrite submission to the reproof, and an honest endeavour to profit by it; or else a rancorous animosity against the reprover, the conformation of prejudice, a wilful exclusion of light, or a determined perseverance in what is known to be wrong. Unhappily the frequenters of the synagogue at Nazareth were of this last description. Their indignation falls, not as it ought to have done, on their own mean, unworthy, ungenerous, unmanly spirit, but on their kind, affectionate, gentle monitor. And what follows? Is it the cynical representation of some surly traducer of mankind ; or is it truth and history ? Merciful Father of mankind! must I believe that the very persons who just now gazed with delight on that super-angelic face, who listened with rapture to the accents of that celestial voice, who justly gloried in their townsmanı, companion and friend, are instantaneously converted into demons of hell ? What, meditate, digest murder! the murder of innocence, truth and wisdom! What all of them! not one calm, moderate spirit to suggest milder counsels, to plead the cause of goodness, to arrest the hand of violence! No, not one. O human nature, what wert thou ; and what art thou become! I tremble to think that I am a partaker of thee ; of a “ heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” They rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill, whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
And shall not fire come down from heaven, as it did once, and a second time, to avenge a slighter insult offered to a much inferior prophet? Ono! “the Son of man came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” Behold a more glorious triumph, a miracle of grace and condescension, a triumph worthy of the Son of God, and the Saviour of men. “He, passing through the midst of them, went his way.” Behold power and mercy united. Where they like the inen of Sodom, stricken
with blindness? Were their hands, like Jeroboam's, dried up and rendered immovable? Were their eyes, like the disciples going to Emmaus, holden, that they should not know him? I stop to inquire. Suffice it to say, his “hour was not yet come,” and they had no power at all over him but what was permitted of God. And vain is the contention of man against God : it is hard for thee, O persecutor, to“ kick against the pricks.”
In the history referred to by our Lord, and the instance of a miraculous supply of food to the widow of Serepta, in a season of extreme scarcity, as well as in the other equally noted instance of a miraculous cure of leprosy performed on the body of Naaman the Syrian, we perceive the dawning of the gospel day upon the Gentile world. They believed and obeyed the word of the prophet, and they obtained relief, while “ the seed of Abraham after the flesh” remained unbelieving and impenitent. “Of a truth, God is no respecter of persons : but in every nation, he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every
where to repent: because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained ; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." How God will deal in the judgment with those who never enjoyed the benefit of either the law or the gospel, it is not for us to determine. “ Shall not the judge of all the earth do right ?” “But we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward ; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ; which, at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by