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like miracles, though the subjects on which they were wrought are long since mouldering in the dust! But let us further recollect that our divine Leader has other yet more noble and more permanent trophies ; those immortal spirits, which he has redeemed, and sanctified, and saved ! So may our transported souls, O blessed Jesus, in the consciousness of health, vigour, and salvation, behold thee as our Deliverer ! So mayest thou view us with satisfaction, as the travail of thy soul, in that mountain of God where we hope to offer thee nobler praises, and for ever to consecrate to thy service those powers which thou hast recovered from weakness, dishonour, and ruin !
The Pharisees again demanding a sign, Christ upbraids their hypocrisy, and cautions his disciples against their leaven, and that of the Sadducees. Matt. xvi. 1-12. MARK viii. 11-21.
A ND when Jesus was landed in the coasts of Magdala, the Phari
sees and Sadducees came, and began to examine him; and to try him yet further, desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. But he answering said unto them, You ask this out of a desire to cavil ; for in other cases you take up with degrecs of evidence far short of those which you here reject : for instance, you say in an evening, It will be fair weather to-morrow, because the sky is of a fiery red; and in the morning, it will be tempestuous weather to-day, for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, you know how to distinguish the face of the heavens, and can you not distinguish the signs of the times*? And, sighing deeply in his spirit, he said, Why does this generation seek after a further sign? Verily, as I said before, I say again to you, This is an evil and adulterous generation which demands a sign, and no sign shall be given it, unless it be the sign of the prophet Jonah,to which a remarkable resemblance will be quickly manifested in the resurrection of the Messiah on the third day. And having said this, he left them; and, entering again into the ship, departed to the other side.
And when his disciples were come to the other side of the sea, they had forgotten to take any bread ; and had no more than one loaf with them in the ship. And Jesus gave them a charge, saying, Be very cautiously on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the leaven of Herod : And they debated among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread with us. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, () ye of little faith, why do you reason with yourselves because you have brought no bread ? Do you not yet consider, nor understand ? and have you still your hearts hardened ? Having eyes, do you not see? and having cars, do you not hear ? and do you not remember what you were witnesses to but a few days ago ? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say un
* Grotius has well observed, what a variety of signs marked out the time for the arrival of the Messiah.
to him twelve. And when I divided the seven loaves among the four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up ? And they said, seven. And he said to them, How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread, but meant that you should be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Then they were sensible of their mistake, and understood that he did not charge them to beware of the leaven of bread; but of the evil doctrine and example of the Pharisees and Sadducees, against which so many of his discourses were most justly levelled.
REFLECTIONS. So evident is it that the circumstances of a scripture story may be remembered, where the design of it is overlooked or forgot ! It is much to be wished, that those which we have been surveying may not increase the number of such instances. In all those cases wherein the arm of the Lord has been [displayed] in our favour, let us seriously reflect on the divine power and goodness, and learn from past experience to trust it for time to come. Never let us fall into the perverse suspicions of the Israelites, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? But let us be strong in faith, giving glory to God, and cheerfully repose ourselves on his care, who can never want wisdom to judge aright of the necessities of his people, or power to relieve them, even in the greatest extremities.
- We see a new instance of the perverseness of these Scribes and Pharisees. They tempted Christ by unreasonable demands; and he justly suffered them to go away without the additional demonstration they so!ight. It is not for us to prescribe to God what degrees of evidence he shall give us. Let us impartially pursue and improve what we have ; and be very careful that our sagacity, and openness to conviction, in other matters of much less importance, may not condemn our stupidity or obstinacy, where the truths of God and the salvation of our souls are concerned.
It is our concern to beware of erroneous principles in religion, and of every corrupt leaven which might be ready to insinuate itself into our minds ; especially of that, which, like the leaven of the Pharisees, would exalt our confidence in ourselves; or, like that of the Sadducees, would impair our persuasion of a future judgment, and our solicitous concern to live as in the views of it. May the oracles of divine truth ever appear to our minds as the rule by which all doctrines are to be tried ! and let us, in the spirit of love, contend earnestly for that faith which we believe to have been once delivered to the saints ; that both our sentiments and actions may finally be found blameless, unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the anpearing of Jesus Christ ! Amen.
Christ heals the blind man at Bethsaida; owns to his disciples that he is
the Messiah, and applauds Peter for acknowledging him as such, MARK viii. 22—30. MATT. xvi. 13–20. LUKE ix. 18–21.
AND when our Lord had crossed the sea he came to Bethsaida, and
A they brought to him a blind man, and entreated him that he would touch him, being assured this would be sufficient. And he took hold of the blind man's hand, and led him out of the town, choosing to work this miracle in private ; and having spit upon his eyes, and laid his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw any thing? And looking up he said, I see men walking as trees*. Then he laid his hands again upon his eyes, and caused him to look up, and he found his sight was restored, so that he saw every man clearly. And he sent him away to his own house (in a neighbouring village and said, Enter not into the town of Bethsaida to proclaim what has now been done ; neither tell it to any in the town, for they are unworthy the knowledge of such a miracle. And Jesus, with his disciples, went out from thenee, into the towns of Cæsarea Philippi.
And it came to pass by the way, when Jesus was come into those parts, he retired for devotion. And when he had been praying with his disciples apart, he inquired of them, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am? And they replying, said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist; but others that thou art Elijah; and others, Jeremiah ; and others, that one of the ancient prophets is risen again. And, he then said to them, But whom do you yourselves say that I am? And Simon Peter answered, and said to him, Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living Goo. And Jesus, replying, said unto him, Blessed art thou, O Simon Bar-Jonas (i. e. the son of Jonas ;) for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to thee, Thou art indeed Peter; thou art (as thy name signifies) a rock'; and as thou hast shewn it in this good confession, I assure thee, that upon this rock I will build my churcht; and the gates of hell (or the unseen world) shall not finally prevail against it. And I will give unto thee, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and make thee the instrument of opening it both to Jews and Gentiles : and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven ; that is, thou shalt have authority to declare what precepts of the Mosaic religion are superseded, and what are continued, and what things are allowed or forbidden to my disciples; and I will myself confirm those decisions. And he strictly charged and commanded his disciples that they should tell no man this thing concerning him, that he was Jesus the Messiah.
*g.d. I can hardly distingaish men from trees but b; their motion.
† Faith in me as the Son of God shall be its great support, and I will use thee as a glorious instrument in raising it.
REFLECTIONS. We here behold the great Foundation of our faith and hope, even Jesus, the Rock of ages, the same yesterday, to day, and for ever, who is Christ the Son of the living God. Other foundation can no man lay. On him may our souls rest, and the fiercest tempests shall rage in vain ! Our Lord foretold that the gates of hell should not be able to prevail against his church as thus founded ; and we behold, even to this day, the accomplishment of the prediction. As Christians of one age have sunk into their graves, a new harvest has sprung up in the next; and, in spite of all the artifices of Satan to pervert young minds, and all the advantages with which he attacks them, instead of the Fathers have been the children, to be accounted to the Lord for a generation,
Let us thankfully adore the divine goodness herein; and be very sensible how much we are indebted to that goodness in those power's communicated to the apostles, on whom, as subordinate foundations, we are built. As they received so ample a commission, and obtained grace from the Lord to be faithful to it, let us pay the humblest regard to their teachings ; as well knowing, that what they have bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what they have inculcated, was solemnly confirmed by a divine authority. .
If we have listened with attention to those immortal writings of theirs, by which being dead they yet speak; and have found them the effectual means of revealing Christ in our hearts, in all his divine glories and saving powers ; let us remember that we owe it not to flesh and blood, or the most excellent human instruments alone, but to the influences of our Father in heaven. That efficacious grace is freely exa ercised, and operates in various methods; on some, in a more instantaneous way ; on others, like the power of Christ on the blind man of whom we have been reading, by more gradual advances. Let us be thankful for whatever light we receive, and press on to brighter discoveries ; and join with them proportionable degrees of gratitude to Christ, and veneration for his gospel. į
Christ prophesies of his approaching sufferings, rebukes Peter for being
offended at them; and exhorts his disciples to self-denial, and a readiness for martyrdom in his cause. MATT. xvi. 21, &c. MARK viii. 31, &c. ix. 1. LUKE ix. 22-27.
N OW when Jesus had expressly declared that he was the Messiah,
I he from that time began more plainly than ever to teach, and shew to his disciples, that he, the Son of man, must go to Jerusalem; and suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed : and that he should o be raised again on the third day.
And as he now spake that saying plainly, they were exceedingly surprised and troubled : and Peter took him by the hand, and began to chide him, saying, God forbid, O Lord ! This shall not be unto thee,
But Jesus, when he had turned, and looked on his disciples, rebuked Peter, and said to him, Get thee behind mie, Satan*, thou art a scandal to me ; for thou dost not regard the things of God, but those of men.
Then having called the multitude, with his disciples to him, he said unto them all, If any one is willing to come after me, let him deny. himself, and daily take up his cross, and follow me, even to crucifixion itself ; for whosoever will save his life, shall lose it : but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's shall find and save it. For what would it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and be punished with the loss of his life? and so lose himself, or be cast away? Or what shall a man give as a ransom for his life? For whosoever is ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also will the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in his own glory, and the glory of his Father, with the holy angels. For you may certainly depend upon it that the Son of man shall thus come in his Father's glory, with his angels ; and then shall he recompense every man according to his actions. And he said further to them, Verily I tell it you as a truth, that there are some of them who stand here, that shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power: and the Son of man coming in his kingdomt: leading on his victorious armies against those who would not admit him to reign over them.
REFLECTIONS. Alas, how prone are our foolish souls to relish and regard the things of men rather than those of God! How justly do we deserve the rebuke of our Lord, who, while he speaks to Peter with such abhorrence, after all the encomiums he had just been giving him, shews us with what indignation we should reject every motion that would lead us to prefer our own ease or temporal interest, to the glory of God and the happiness of nian. We shall never act so mean a part, if we cordially digest the lessons which Christ hath here taught us, and consider of how much greater importance the salvation of the soul is, than the gain of the whole world when opposed to it. Let us steadily pursue this maxim of divine wisdom, and with cheerfulness sacrifice every other interest to the views of an eternal felicity. .
Does Jesus call us to deny ourselves for him? What difficulties should we not be ready to submit to, what pleasures should we not renounce for him, who pleased not himself, that he might shew his love to us ; and took upon him the form of a servant, that he might make us kings and priests unto God!-Does he require us to to take up our cross and follow him? What sufferings should we not be willing to en
* This word cannot appear too harsh when it is considered, that the tendency of Peter's saying was to obstruct the great design for which Christ came into the world, which none but Satan could desire.
+ The expression may include a reference to the giving the Spirit, and the propagation of the gospel ; but chiefly refers to that providential appearance of Christ for the destruction of Jerusalem, so often called the coming of the Son of man, and the day in which he shall be revealed.