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up repentance and reformation, every testimony that he could give of his divine authority and power was rejected with scorn. In vain did he feed thousands with a handful of provisions; in vain did he send away diseases with a word; in vain did he make the graves give back their dead, rebuke the winds and waves, and evil spirits still more unruly and obstinate than they. In answer to all this they could say, “ Is not this the carpenter's son? Does he not eat and drink with publicans and sinners, and with unwashen hands? Does he not even break the sabbath, by commanding sick men to carry their beds on that sacred day*?" These, doubtless, were unanswerable arguments against miracles, signs, and prophecies, against the evidence of sense itself, against the universal voice of nature, bearing testimony to Christ.
The honest centurion, on the contrary, without any Judaical prejudices to distort his understanding, without asking any ill-timed and impertinent questions about the birth or family of Christ, attends only to the facts before him. * Matth. ix. 11. xiii. 55. Luke, xi. 38. John, v. 18.
He had heard of Jesus, had heard of his unblemished life, his heavenly doctrines, his numerous and astonishing miracles, had heard them confirmed by such testimony as no ingenuous mind could resist. He immediately surrenders himself up to such convincing evidence; and so far from requiring (as the Jews continually did, and as modern sceptics still do,) more and stronger proofs, he seems afraid of shewing the slightest distrust of our Saviour's power. He declares his belief of his being able to perform a miracle at any distance; and entreats him not to give himself the trouble of coming to his house in person, but to speak the word only and his servant should be healed..
This, then, is the disposition of mind we ought more particularly to cultivate; that freedom from self-sufficiency and pride and prejudice of every kind, that simplicity and singleness of heart which is open to conviction, and receives, without resistance, the sacred impressions of truth. It is the want of this, not of evidence, that still makes infidels in Europe as it did at first in Asia. It is this principle operating in different ways which now imputes
to fraud and collusion those miracles which the Jews ascribed to Beel-zebub; which now rejects all human testimony, as it formerly did even the perceptions of sense.
Such were the distinguished virtues of this excellent centurion ; the contemplation of whose character suggests to us a variety of important remarks.
The first is, that the miracles of our Lord had the fullest credit given to them, not only (as is sometimes asserted) by low, obscure, ignorant, and illiterate men, but by men of rank and character, by men of the world, by men perfectly competent to ascertain the truth-of any facts presented to their observation, and not likely to be imposed upon by false pretences. Of this description were the centurion here mentioned, the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus, Dionysius a member of the supreme court of Areopagus at Athens, and several others of equal dignity and consequence.
Secondly, the history of the centurion teaches us, that there is no situation of life, no occupation, no profession, however unfayourable it may appear to the cultivation of
religion, religion, which precludes the possibility or exempts us from the obligation of acquiring those good dispositions, and exercising those Christian virtues which the Gospel requires. Men of the world are apt to imagine that religion was not made for them; that it was intended only for those who pass their days in obscurity, retirement, and solitude, where they meet with nothing to interrupt their devout contemplations, no allurements to divert their attention, and seduce their affections from heaven and heavenly things. But as to those whose lot is cast in the busy and the tumultuous 'scenes of life, who are engaged in various occupations and professions, or surrounded with gaieties, with pleasures and temptations, it cannot be expected that amidst all these impediments, interruptions, and attractions, they can give up much of their time and thoughts to another and a distant world, when they have so many things that press upon them and arrest their attention in this.
These, I am persuaded, are the real sentiments, and they are perfectly conformable to the actual practice, of a large part of mankind. But to all these pretences, the instance of the
centurion is a direct, complete, and satisfactory answer. He was by his situation in life a man of the world. His profession was that which of all others is generally considered as most adverse to religious sentiments and habits, most contrary to the peaceful, humane, and gentle spirit of the Gospel, and most exposed to the fascination of gaiety, pleasure, thoughtlessness, and dissipation. Yet amidst all these obstructions to purity of heart, to mildness of disposition and sanctity of manners, we see this illustrious CENTURION rising above all the disadvantages of his situation, and, instead of sinking into vice and irreligion, becoming a model of piety and humility, and of all those virtues which necessarily spring from such principles. This is an unanswerable proof, that. whenever men abandon themselves to impiety, infidelity, and profligacy, the fault is not in the situation, but in the heart; and that there is no mode of life, no employment or profession, which may not, if we please, be made consistent with a sincere belief in the Gospel, and with the practice of every duty we owe to our Maker, our Redeemer, our fellowcreatures, and ourselves.