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as thinking himself unworthy to address him in his own person; and when at our Saviour's approach to his house he himself came out to meet him, it was only to entreat him not to trouble himself any further; for that he was not worthy that Jesus should enter under his roof.
This lowliness of mind in the centurion is the more remarkable, because humility, in the Gospel sense of the word, is a virtue with which the ancients, and more particularly the Romans, were totally unacquainted. They had not even a word in their language to describe it by. The only word that seems to express it, humilitas, signifies baseness, servility, and meanness of spirit, a thing very different from true Christian humility; and in- , deed this was the only idea they entertained of that virtue. Every thing that we call meek and humble, they considered as mean and contemptible. A haughty, imperious, overbearing temper, ' high opinion of their own virtue and wisdom, a contempt of all other nations but their own, a quick sense and a keen resentment, not only of injuries, but even of the slightest affronts, this was the fa
vourite and predominant character among the Romans; and that gentleness of disposition, that low estimation of our own merits, that ready preference of others to ourselves, that fearfulness of giving offence, that abasement of ourselves in the sight of God which we call humility, they considered as the mark of a tame, abject, and unmanly mind.' When therefore we see this virtuous centurion differing so widely from his countrymen in this respect, we may certainly conclude that his notions of morality were of a much higher standard than theirs, and that his disposition peculiarly fitted him for the reception of the Gospel. For humility is that virtue, which, more than any other, disposes the mind to yield to the evidences, and embrace the doctrines of the Christian revelation. It is that virtue which the Gospel was peculiarly meant to produce, on which it lays the greatest stress, and in which perhaps, more than any other, consists the true essence and vital principle of the Christian temper. We therefore find the strongest exhortations to it in almost every page of the Gospel. “I say to every man that is among you,” says St. Paul, “ not to
LECTURE VIII. think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think soberly. Mind not high things : be not wise in your own conceits, but condescend to men of low estate. Stretch not yourselves beyond your measure. Blessed are the poor in spirit, says our Lord, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever shall humble himself as a little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect to the lowly. As for the proud, he beholdeth them afar off. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Learn of me, says our Saviour, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls *.”
I come now lastly to consider that remarkable part of the centurion's character, more particularly noticed by our Lord, I mean his FAITH. “ I say unto you I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Now the reason of the high encomiums bestowed on him by
* Rom. xii. 3. 6. 2 Cor. x. 14. Matth. v. 3. xviii. 4. Psalm cxxxviii, 6. James, iv. 6. 10. Matth. xi. 29. .
our Saviour on this account was, because he reasoned himself into a belief of our Lord's power to work miracles, even at a distance ; because he who had been bred up in the principles of heathenism, and whose only guide was the light of nature, did notwithstanding frankly submit himself to sufficient evidence, and was induced by the accounts he had received of our Saviour's doctrines and miracles, to acknowledge that he was a divine person. Whereas the Jews, to whom he was first and principally sent, who from their infancy were instructer in the Holy Scriptures, in which were such plain and express promises of the Messiah, and who actually did expect his coming about that time, suffered themselves to be so blinded by their prejudices and passions, that neither the unspotted sanctity of his life, the excellence of his doctrine, nor the repeated and astonishing miracles which he wrought, could make the slightest impression on the greater part of that stubborn people. Hence we may see how impossible it is for any degree of evidence to convince those who are determined not to be convinced ; and what Jittle hopes there are of ever satisfying mo
dern infidels, if they will not be content with the proofs they already have. They are continually complaining for want of evidence; and so were the Jews always calling out for new signs and new wonders, even when miracles were daily wrought before their eyes. We may therefore say of the former what our Saviour said of the latter, “ if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead*.” It is possible, we find, for incredulity to resist even ocular demonstration; and when obstinacy, vanity, and vice have got thorough possession of the heart, they will not only subdge reason and enslave the understanding, but even bar up all the senses, and shut out conviction at every inlet to the mind. This was most eminently the case with some of the principal Jews. Because our Saviour's appearance did not correspond to their erroneous and preconceived idea of the Messiah, because he was not a triumphant prince, a temporal hero and deliverer, but, above all, because he upbraided them with their vices, and preached