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that at length their number was ingreased, and their commission enlarged; so that instead of their being thus confined to the lost sheen of the house of Israel, their instructive line is gone out through all the earth, and their words have resounded even to the end of the world. May the purport of their message be seriously attended to! since it will so certainly be a savour of life or of death, of eternal salvation or aggravated condemnation and ruin. Let us tremble to think, that it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for those by whone the gospel is rejected : and let us earnestly pray that divine grace may enable us to receive it in the love of it, and to obey the truth, that we may be saved.
They who have the honour in this respect to succeed the apostles as ministers of this gospel, may learn most useful instructions from this discourse of our divine Master. Let them speak and act as the messengers of peace and the friends of mankind, who cordially wish well to all around them; and gratefully acknowledge the kindness which, as faithful labourers, they have justly deserved. 'Let them shew a true greatness of mind in an apparent superiority to tempo. ral interests and present gratifications ; easy in whatever accommodations they find where Providence leads them; and forgetting themselves, to remember their Master, and the souls he has committed to their care.-Let them faithfully warn ail around them of the impor. tance of their eternal concerns, and of the unutterable danger of re. ceiving the grace of God in vain, that, whether men will hear or forbear, they may be clean from their blood. And, while we preserve such a temper and conduct, we may cheerfully hope that God will be with us in the way that we go, and, how precarious soever our circumstances may seem, will give us food to eat, and raiment to put on. May we all have this token for good, that God will take care of our interests ; even the consciousness of our being faithfully engaged to promote his glory, and our joyful readiness to spend and be spent for the service of souls!
Our Lord warns his apostles of the danger and opposition they might
expect in his service. Matt. X. 16–28.
16 D EHOLD I send you out as sheep, in the midst of wolves ; be
D ye therefore prudent as serpents, and harmless as doves. 17 But be upon your guard against men ; for they will betray you to 18 the councils, and will scourge you in the synagogues. And you
shall be brought before governors and kings on my account, for a 19 witness to them, and to the heathen. But when they shall deli
ver you up, be not solicitous how or what you shall speak : for
it shall be given you in that very hour what you shall speak. 20 For it is not so much you that speak, as the spirit of your Father
that speaketh in you. 21 Nevertheless, the malice of your enemies shall prevail over natural
affection : and one brother shall betray another to death ; and the
father the son ; and children shall rise up against their parents, 22 and cause them to be put to death. And you shall be hated of all
men for the sake of my name, but he that endureth to the end 23 shall be saved. But when they persecute you in one city, flee to
another : for verily I say unto you, You shall not finish your progress through the cities of Israel, until the Son of man shall come
to take vengeance on your cruel persecutors*. 24 You have no reason to be surprised at this ill usage; for the dis25 çiple is not above his teacher, nor the servant above his lord : It
is sufficient if the disciple be as his teacher, and the servant as his
lord. If they have called the Master of the family Beelzebub, 26 how much more his domestics? Therefore fear them not : for
there is nothing hid which shall not be revealed; nor secret which 27 shall not be made known. What I say to you in darkness, speak
it in the light ; and what you hear in the ear, proclaim from the 28 house-tops. And be not afraid of them who kill the body, and
cannot kill the soul ; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.'
REFLECTIONS. How apparently fit is it that this eternal and almighty Gud should be the object of our humble fear, and that in comparison with him we should fear nothing else! All the terrors of the world are disarmed by this ; and by this are its flatteries also disarmed. In whatever stations of life we are fixed, let this engage us to be faithful to God in them : so shall we be most truly faithful to ourselves !—The apostles were exposed to peculiar dangers and trials ; but all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must expect some degree of persecution. Let us therefore arm ourselves with the same mind, that we may bear it with a truly Christian fortitude. May divine grace teach us to mingle the wisdom of the serpent with the innocence of the dove, and to sheiter ourselves from the ill usage of a perverse and sinful generation, so far only as we can do it without offering any violation to our consciences ! • It is indeed matter of great lamentation, that the sentiments of benevolence and goodness, which seem so natural to the human mind, and are always so ornamental and delightful, should prevail no more : and it is shameful that the name of religion, so well calculated to cule tivate these sentiments, should be made use of as an engine to destroy them; and instead of cementing kingdoms and families in closer and more affectionate bonds, should inspire them even with mortal animosity. Let us bless God for our public liberties ; and earnestly pray, that where persecution reigns in its utmost terror, the wrath of man may praise him, and the remainder of that wrath be restrained !
The ill usage which the blessed Jesus endured from an ungrateful world, may surely prevent our being surprised or offended if we meet with some share of it too. May we be willing to suffer with him, that we may at length reign with him! And if by unexpected revolutions
* The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is often called the coming of the Son of man.
in providence we should be called ont to the severest trials, may the spirit of glory and of God rest upon us ! and may we not account even our lives dear unto us, that, approving our fidelity to him, we may finish our course with joy!
Our Lord assures liis apostles of God's providential care ; and promises
future rewards to all that faithfully serve him. They go to different parts to fireach the gospel. MATT. X. 29, &c. xi. 1. MARK vi. 12, 13. LUKE ix. 6.
29 O UR Lord, for the encouragement of the apostles, amidst these
U dangers, thus addressed them : Are not two sparrows sold
for a farthing? yet not one of them shall fall to the ground with30 out your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all num31 bered. Fear not therefore ; you are more valuable than many 32 sparrows. Whosoever, therefore, shal confess me before men, 33 I also will confess him before my Father in heaven : But whoso
ever shall renounce me before men, I also will renounce him before my Father in heaven.
Do not suppose that I am come to send peace on the land ; for though my gospel has a tendency to promote it, yet the prejudices
and lusts of men will so oppose it, that it will rather seem, from the 35 event, that I came not to send peace but a sword. For they will be
so persecuted even by their nearest relations, that I may say, I am come to set a man at variance against his own father, and the
daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her 36 mother-in-law. And a man's enemies shall be those of his own 37 family. Prepare yourselves then for such severe trials, remember.
ing, that he who loves father or mother more than me, is not wor: thy of me ; and he that loves son or daughter more than me, is 38 not worthy of me. And he that does not take his cross, and fol39 low after me, is not worthy of me. He that finds and saves his
life, by deserting my cause shall lose it; but he that loses his life.
for my sake, shall find it in a far nobler state of being. 40 He that entertains you, does in effect entertain me; and he that 41 entertains me, does also entertain him that sent me. He that en
tertains a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive the reward of a prophet; and he that entertains any righteous man in
the name of a righteous man, siall receive the reward of a right42 eous man. And whosoever shall give to drink, unto one of these
little ones, a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall by no means lose his reward. And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of giving instructions to his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach the Jews,
and to preach in their cities. 12 Mark vi. And they (the twelve apostles) departed, and went
through the towns of Galilee and preached the gospel, that men
13 should repent. And they expelled many demons, and anointed
many sick persons with oil, as a signal of healing, and cured them a every where.
REFLECTIONS. Justly may the blessed Jesus set so high a value on himself, and on the blessings of his grace : justly may he insist upon our readiness to abandon all for him, who is so just an equivalent for all. May his grace teach us to love him more than the dearest of our relations, and even to be ready for his sake to sacrifice our lives! May it make us wilJing to take up and bear any cross for him, who bore his cross and expired upon it for us!
The gospel has indeed been the occasion of much contention and persecution, not only in Judea but elsewhere : yet let us not charge it upon any malignity, or any deficiency in that, but on the lusts and - corruptions of men, who have either directly opposed or grossly perverted it. Let us endeavour to arm ourselves with courage to encounter, and resolution to endure, whatever persecutions or injuries our adherence to it may cost us ; ever confiding in that gracious Providence which extends itself even to the meanest creatures : reposing ourselves on the support of divine consolations, and esteeming ourselves happy, even in losing our lives in this world, if we may find ihem in that which is everlasting.
In the mean time, may this excellent discourse of our blessed Redeemer animate us to every work of faith, and every labour of love ! Let not the poorest be discouraged from some charitable attempt for the good of others ; since the munificence of our heavenly Master will remember even a cup of cold water given to the least of his servants under that character. Yet since there will be such a variety of rewards proportionable to different degrees of liberality and zeal, let us indulge a generous ambition of abounding in the work of the Lord, that we may shine with distinguished glory in the day of retribution, and have an abundant entrance into his kingdom.
Herod hears of Jesus, and suspects him to be John the Baptist, whom he had lately murdered. Mart. xiv. 1, 2, 6-12. LUKE ix. 7-9. A more particular account of John's death. MARK vi. 16-29.
A T that time king Herod (the tetrarch) heard of the fame of Je. A sus, and of all the things that were done by him and his apostles ; for his name was spread abroad. And he said to his servants, This is John the Baptist ; he is risen from the dead, and for this reason extraordinary powers operate in him. And he was exceedingly anxious ; for it was said by some others, that John was risen from the dead. And by some, that Elijah had appeared ; and by others, that one of the ancient prophets was risen again ; and others said, It is a prophet of former ages or a person like one of the prophets.
MARK vi. 16. But when Herod heard what was discoursed of. Jesus, he said with great anxiety, John I have beheaded ; but who is this, of whom I hear such things ? I cannot but suspect that it is John, that venerable holy man, whom I beheaded, and greatly
fear he is risen from the dead. And he desired to see him. His 17 guiliy mind was thus tormented not without reason ; for (as before
observed) Herod had seized John, and bound him in prison, on 18 account of Herodias ; because John had said, It is not lawful for 19 thee to have thy brother's wife. And Herodias would have put 20 him to death ; but for a long time she could not ; for Herod had
80 great a reverence for John* that he would not yield to her 80
licitations. 21 At length, however, she succeeded. And a convénient day hap
pened, of preferring her petition with unexpected advantage, when
Herod on his birth-day made a supper for his lords, and chief of22 ficers, and other persons of distinguished rank in Galilée. And
Salome the daughter of the above-mentioned Herodias by Philip her former husband, coming in, and dancing in the midst, and pleasing Herod and his guests, the king said to the maiden, in a
kind of transport, Ask of me whatever thou wilt, and I will give 23 it thee. And when she scomed surprised, he promised her with
an oath, and profanely sware unto her more than oncest I will give
thee whatsoever thou wilt ask of me, even to the value of half 24 my kingdom. And she went out, and said to her mother, What
shall I ask ? And she replied, The head of John the Baptist. : 25 And being to urged by her mother, she immediately came unto
the king with eagerness, and made her demand, saying, I desire that thou wouldst give me, presently, the head of John the Bap:
tist, here in a chargerti. 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry ; nevertheless, for the
sake of his oaths, and his guests, he would not deny her, but or27 dered that it should be given her. And immediately the king sent
one of his guards, and commanded his head to be brought: and 28 he went, and beheaded John in the prison, and brought his head
in a charger, and gave it to the maiden ; and the maiden with her 29 own hands, brought it and delivered it to her mother. And his
disciples hearing of it came to the prison, and took up his corpse, and laid it in a sepulchre, and went and told Jesus. *
REFLECTIONS. How dreadful a thing is it to have a guilty and accusing conscience ! and how remarkable was the force of it in the instance before us !
* A few clauses are here repeated from Mark († 28.) to introduce the account of John's death.
+ This clause, with a few others, is inserted from Matthew. That Herod repeated his oath, see v. 26.
# MATT. “ before.” This word in the above connexion seemed redundant. Ed.
U A large dish. It was customary for Eastern princes to require the heads of those whom they ordered to be executed to be brought to them, that they might be assured of their death.