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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 man celebrated in the Gospel for * Matth. xxvii. 54. + Acts, xxvii. 43. I 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 strong terms 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 his country, is a most valuable and respectable member of society; and if he conducts himself with valour, fidelity, and humanity, and amidst the horrors of war cultivates the gentle manners of peace, and the virtues of a devout and holy life, he most amply deserves, and will assuredly receive, the esteem, the admiration, and the applause of his grateful country, and, what is of still greater importance, the approbation of his God.
T NOW proceed to the consideration of the 1 10th Chapter of St. Matthew.
In the preceding chapter we find our Saviour working a great variety of miracles. He healed the man that was sick of the palsy, and forgave his sins; a plain proof of his divinity, because none but God has the power and the prerogative of forgiving sins; and therefore the Jews accused him of blasphemy for pretending to this power. He also cured the woman who touched the hem of his garment. He raised to life the deceased daughter of the ruler of the synagogue. He restored to sight the two blind men that followed him; and he cast out from a dunib man the devil with which he was possessed, and restored him to his speech. These miracles are particularly re
corded: but besides these, there must have been a prodigious number wrought by him, of which no distinct mention is made; for we are informed in the 35th verse that he went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. .
These continued miracles must necessarily have produced a great number of converts. And accordingly we find, the multitude of his followers was now so great, that he found it necessary to appoint some coadjutors to himself in this great work. “ The harvest truly is plenteous, says he to his disciples, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest*.”
These labourers he now determined to send forth; and in pursuance of this resolution, we find him in the beginning of this chapter calling together his disciples, out of whom he selected twelve, called by St. Matthew apostles, or messengers; whom he sent forth to preach the Gospel, and furnished them with * Matth. ix. 37, 38.