תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

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 unfavourable 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 terriptations, 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

P 4 centurion 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, arid 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 whenevermen 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,

Nor

Nor is this the only instance in point: for it is extremely remarkable, and well worthy our attention, that among all the various characters we meet with in the New Testament, there are few represented in a more amiable light, or spoken of in stronger terms of approbation, than those of certain military men. Beside the centurion who is the subject of this Lecture, it was a centurion who at our Saviour's crucifixion gave that voluntary, honest, and unprejudiced testimony in his favour, "Truly this was the Son of God*." It was a centurion who generously preserved the life of St. Paul, when a proposition was made to destroy him after his shipwreck on the island of Melita-f". It was a centurion to whom Saint Peter was sent by the express appointment of God, to make him the first convert among the Gentiles; a distinction of which* he seemed, in every respect, worthy: being, as we are told, "a just and a devout man, one that feared God with all his house, that gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway*.."

We see then that our centurion was not the only military mancelebrated in the Gospel for * Matth. xxvii. 54. f Acts, xxvii. 43. J Acts, x- 2.

his his piety and virtue; nor are there wanting, thank God, distinguished instances of the same kind in our own age, in our own nation, among our own commanders, and in the recent memory of every one here present. All which examples tend to confirm the observation already made, of the perfect consistency of a military, and every other mode of life, with a firm belief in the doctrines and a conscientious obedience to the precepts of religion. Thirdly, there is still another reflection arising from this circumstance, with which I shall conclude the present Lecture; and this is,that when we observe men bred up in arms repeatedly spoken of in Scripture in such strongterms of commendation as those we have mentioned, we are authorized to conclude, that the profession they are engaged in is not, as a mistaken sect of Christians amongst us professes to think, an unlawful one. On the contrary, it seems to be studiously placed by the sacred writers in a favourable and an honourable light; and in this light it always has been and always ought to be considered. He who undertakes an occupation of great toil and great danger, for the purpose of serving, defending, and pro

tecting

« הקודםהמשך »