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have heard him ourselves; and know that entirely under the power of the devil (though this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the perhaps they vainly boast of freedom,) that world."
no arguments, no motives, no resolutions, can To a few the first impulses of divine grace restrain them within bounds; but they break come suddenly and unthought of, when their through every tie of nature, conscience, and hearts and hands are engaged quite another reason, and are restless drudges in the serway; as Saul, who was seeking his father's vice of sin, though they feel themselves asses, received the unexpected news of a miserable at present, and see inevitable ruin kingilom. A ray of truth pierces their minds before their eyes. Yet even this case is not like lightning, and disposes them to leave too hard for him on whom the sinner's help their schemes unfinished, to seek the king- is laid. He can dispossess the legion with a dom of God and his righteousness only. word; he can take the prey from the mighty, This our Lord passed by the sons of Zebe- and deliver the lawful captive, bind the dee when mending their nets (Mark i. 16. strong one armed, and divide his spoil. Happy 19,) and Matthew while busied at the receipt change! when the power of grace not only of custom, Mark ii. 14. He only said, Fol- sets the soul at liberty from sin and Satan, low me ; he used no arguments, he proposed but puts it in possession of what were lately no rewards; but he spoke to their hearts, the instruments of its slavery! when all the and, by the constraining power of his love, powers and faculties of body and mind are engaged them to a cheerful and immediate redeemed to the Lord's use, and the experiobedience.
ence of past evil is made conducive to future Afflictions likewise are now, no less than comfort and advantage! Such an instance formerly, a happy means to bring many to was that great sinner, that penitent, believJesus. He prepares them for heavenly bless- ing, happy soul, of whom it is emphatically ings, by embittering or removing their crea- remarked, “She loved much, because much ture-comforts. Had they continued in pros- had been forgiven her," Luke vii. 47. Someperity, they would not have thought of him; times the deliverance is deferred till near but the loss of health, or friends, or sub- the period of life. The poor wretch, labourstance, disappointments in life, or a nearing under the pangs or dread of death, and prospect of death, constrain them in good trembling at the apprehension of falling into earnest to seek for one able to deliver them. the hands of the living God, is snatched as a In the time of their distress, they say, Arise, brand out of the fire; he receives faith in a and save us; not that afflictions in them- suffering Saviour, and feels the power of selves can produce this turn of thought. atoning blood; his terrors cease, and joy sucToo many, in such circumstances, toss like ceeds, a joy unspeakable and full of glory. a wild bull in a net; but when he sends af- Thus the expiring malefactor was converted fictions for this purpose, they accomplish upon the cross (Luke xxiii. 43,) and received that which he pleases. Thus, when he was an infallible assurance of salvation. upon earth, many who came, or were brought 3. The characters of our Lord's disciples, Mark ii. 9) to him for the relief of bodily with the account we have of their defects disorders, experienced a double cure. He and failings, may farther illustrate the history healed (John ix. 7. 36. 38) their diseases, of his church and gospel, and afford an apology and pardoned their sins. At the same time for the blemishes, which, through human inthat he restored the blind to sight (John iv. firmity, do more or less attend the prevalence 53,) he opened the eyes of their minds. He of his doctrines. sometimes made the afflictions of one the The grace of God has a real influence upon means to bring a whole family to the know- the whole man. It enlightens the underledge of his grace. A considerable part of standing, directs the will, purifies the affechis followers were such as these, whom he tions, regulates the passions, and corrects the had graciously relieved from distresses in different excesses to which different persons curable by any hand but his. Some had been are by constitution or habit inclined, yet it long and grievously tormented; had assayed seldom wholly changes the complexion or every means, but found themselves worse temper of the animal frame. It does not imand worse, till they applied to him; and hav- part any new natural powers, though it ing known the happy effects of his power and teaches the use and improvement of those compassion, they would leave him no more. we have received. It will dispose us to seek
Lastly, We sometimes meet with instances instruction, make us open to conviction, and of his mercy and ability to save even to the willing to part with our prejudices, so far uttermost, in the unhoped-for conversion of and so soon as we discover them, but it will desperate and hardened sinners, who have not totally and instantaneously remove them. gone on with a high hand, regardless of mer- Hence there are a great variety of characters cies, warnings, and judgments, till they in the christian life; and the several graces seemed past conviction, and given up to a of the Spirit, as zeal, love, meekness, faith, reprobate mind. Their state resembles that appear with peculiar advantage in different of the demoniac, Luke viii. They are so I subjects, yet so that every commendable
perty is subject to its particular inconve- | his motive was undoubtedly praise-worthy. nience. Perfection cannot be found in fallen His heart flamed with zeal and love, and man. The best are sometimes blameable, and therefore he was always forward to distinthe wisest often mistaken. Warm and active guish himself. tempers, though influenced in the main by But the warmth of Peter's temper often the noble ambition of pleasing God in all betrayed him into great difficulties, and things, are apt to overshoot themselves, and to showed that the grace he had received was discover a resentment and keenness of spirit consistent with many imperfections. Though which cannot be wholly justified. Others of he sincerely loved Christ, and had forsaken a more fixed and sedate temper, though less all for him, he was at one time so ignorant subject to this extreme, are prone to its op- of the true design of his incarnation, that he posite; their gentleness degenerates into in- was angry and impatient to hear him speak dolence, their caution into cowardice. The of his sufferings, and brought upon himself a principle of self, likewise, which, though sub- most severe rebuke. Not content with the dued, is not eradicated, will in some instances ordinary services allotted to him, he offered appear. Add to this the unknown access and himself to unnecessary trials, as in the above influence which the evil spirits have upon instance, when he pressed to walk upon the our minds, the sudden and new emergencies water. The event showed him his own which surprise us into action before we have weakness and insufficiency, yet his self-conhad time to deliberate, with many other con- fidence revived and continued. When our siderations of a like nature; and it will be no Lord warned him again and again of his apwonder that some things are always amiss* proaching fall, he thought, and boldly affirmed in the best and most successful attempts to that it was impossible. He was sincere in his promote the glory of God and the good of protestation; but the actual experiment was souls. And it is farther to be noted, that some necessary to convince and humble him. Acindividuals will be found who, though seem-cordingly, when left to himself, he fell before ingly engaged in the same good work, and the first temptation. And here the imfor a time pretending to much zeal, are es- petuosity of his temper was still manifest. sentially defective in their hearts and views; He did not stop at a simple denial of Jesus, and when at length their true characters are he confirmed it by an oath, f and at length exposed, the world, who either cannot, or proceeded to utter bitter imprecations against will not distinguish, charge the faults of a himself, if he so much as knew him, whom few upon a whole profession, as, in the former he had seen transfigured in glory upon the case, they wound the character of a good mount, and prostrate in an agony in the garman for unavoidable and involuntary mis- den. Such was the weakness and incontakes. We shall therefore show, that either sistency of this prince of the apostles. the exceptions made, and so loudly rever None of these excesses appeared in the berated in our ears, against the gospel doc- conduct of the traitor Judas. He was so cirtrine, on these accounts, are unjust, or that cumspect and reserved, that we do not find there was sufficient cause to reject and con- any of the disciples had the least suspicion demn our Lord and his apostles for the same of him. But, whilst his heart was full of
wickedness, he could find fault with others, The character of Peter is marked with ad- and charge their best expressions of love mirab propriety and consistency by he with indiscretion. W Mary anointed our evangelists. He every where appears like Lord's feet with ointment (John xii. 5, 6,) he himself. Earnestly devoted to his Master's was displeased at the waste, and professed a person, and breathing an honest warmth for warm concern for the poor; but we are told his service, he was in a manner the eye, the the true reason of his economy: It was not hand, the mouth of the apostles: he was the because he cared for the poor, but because he first to ask, to answer, to propose, and to was a thief, and had the bag which contained execute: he made a noble confession, for the common stock entrusted to him. The which our Lord honoured him with a peculiar charge of the bag is an office full of temptacommendation: he waited but for a command tion, and an attachment to the bag has been to walk to him upon the water: he was not often at the bottom of many censures and afraid to expose himself in his Lord's defence, misrepresentations which have been thrown when he was surrounded and apprehended out against the people of God. It has been, by his enemies: and though, in this last in- and it will be so; but the Lord has appointed stance, his affection was ill expressed, yet that wherever the gospel should be preached,
to the end of the world, this action of Mary, * A lukewarm, cautious spirit can easily avoid, and with the observation of Judas upon it, and readily censure the mistakes and faults of those who, fired with an honest warmth for the honour of God and the good of souls, are sometimes transported beyond the To imprecate the most dreadful curses upon himself, bounds of strict prudence. But though the best inten. and call solemnly on God to execute them. This was tion cannot make that right which is wrong in itself, indeed the most probable method to free himself from yet the zeal, diligence, and disinterested aim of such the suspicion of being a disciple of Jesus, for no such persons are worthy of our esteem.
language had been till then heard among bis followers.
Mark xiv. 71.
"He began to curse and swear."
the motive from which he made it, should be repeated falsehoods, and studied provocahanded down together, that we may not be tions do sometimes, in an unguarded modiscouraged at things of the same kind. With- ment, extort from the disciples of Christ out doubt, the treason of Judas, and his un- such expressions and marks of displeasure happy end, after having maintained a fair as in their cooler hours they willingly retract character so long, and shared with the rest in and sincerely repent of before God, this the honours of the apostleship, were to them ought not to be exaggerated beyond bounds, an occasion of grief, and afforded their ene- as an offence inconsistent with their profesmies a subject of reproach and triumph. But sion, at least not by any who would be afraid we may believe one reason why our Lord to speak dishonourably of the apostles James chose Judas, and continued him so long with and John, who once went so far in their anhis disciples, to have been, that we might ger* as to demand that fire might be sent learn by this awful instance not to be sur- from heaven to devour their adversaries, prised if some, who have made a show in the Luke ix. 54. ch'irch, been chosen to important offices, and We might proceed to other particulars; furnished with excellent gifts, do in the end but enough has been said to show the geneprove hypocrites and traitors: "Let him that ral resemblance which the preaching of the thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." gospel in latter times bears to our Lord's
A desire of pre-eminence and distinction is personal ministry: the doctrine is the same, very unsuitable to the followers of Jesus, the effects the same. It was, and it is to many, who made himself the servant of all; very "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.' unbecoming the best of the children of men, The opposition it has met with has been alwho owe their breath to the mercy of God, ways owing to the same evil principle of have nothing that they can call their own, pride, and the love of sin, which are latent in and have been unfaithful in the improvement every unrenewed heart: though the preof every talent. We allow that every ap- texts are various, they may be reduced to a' pearance of this is a blemish in the christian few leading motives which are always at character, and especially in a christian mi- work. The professors of this gospel have at pister; but if, on some occasions, and in some no time been very numerous, if compared degree, human infirmity has wrought this with those who have rejected it; and of way, though no example can justify it, yet these, too many have dishonoured or forsaken those who, through ignorance of their own it. Neither have those who have received hearts, are too rigid censurers of others, may it most cordially, and been most desirous to be reminded that this evil frequently dis- adorn and promote it, been wholly exempt covered itself in the apostles. They often from mistakes and imperfections. The tenor disputed who should be the greatest; and, of their conduct has proved them partakers when our Lord was speaking of his approach- of a more excellent spirit than others; their ing sufferings, two of them chose that un- faith in Jesus has not been an empty notion, seasonable time to preclude the rest, and but fruitful of good works, such as no man petitioned that they might have the chief could do except God was with him. They seats in his kingdom. The first offence was have been governed by higher motives, and theirs; but when the ten heard it, they were devoted to nobler aims, than the world can all moved with indignation, and showed either understand or bear;-yet they are themselves equally desirous of superiority. deeply conscious of inherent infirmity, and It is plain, therefore, that unless the apostles sometimes (to their great griet) they give were hypocrites and mercenaries, some tran- too visible proofs of it, which their watchful sient escapes of this sort (though confessediy adversaries are glad to aggravate and charge criminal and indecent) are no sure proofs upon them as consequences of their doctrine. that such a person is not in the main sincere, This should induce all who love the Lord disinterested, and truly devoted to the ser- Jesus to redouble their guard, and to pray vice of God and his gospel.
with David that they may be led in the right No less contrary to the meek and gracious way because of their observers. If the ques. spirit of Jesus is an angry zeal, expressing tion is concerning the infirmities, or even itself in terms of ill-will and bitterness to those who oppose or injure us. One of the * They thought they were influenced by a commend. highest attainments and brightest evidences able zeal for their Master, and that their proposal was of true grace, is, from a sense of the love that they ever wished for fire to consume the scribes and example of Christ, to show bowels of and Pharisees, who were Christ's most inveterate ene. Inercy and long-suffering to all men, and by mies. But when the Samaritans rejected him, the vile perseverance in well-doing to overcome evil been accustomed to hate, then their hearts deceived with good. And a contrary behaviour (if them, and they indulged their own corrupt passions, frequent and notorious) will, like a dead fly while they supposed they were animated by a zeal for in precious ointment, destroy the savour, if can we not silently bear, or ingenuously extenuate the not the efficacy of all we can attempt for the faults and mistakes of our own party, while we are all
zeal and emotion to expose, censure, and condemn service of God in the world. However, if what is amiss in others.
the vices of others, almost every one is ready, they saw him weep over his bitterest eneto plead in their behalf; allowances are mies, and heard him pray for his actual murfreely and largely made for human frailty, derers. and none are willing to be thought harsh or Thus they gradually advanced in faith, censorious. But the believer in Jesus must love, and holiness, as the experience of every look for no abatement or extenuation; even day disclosed to them some new discovery of the professed admirers of candour and cha- the treasures of wisdom, grace, and power, rity will not hesitate to put the worst con- residing in their Lord and Saviour: he exstruction upon all he says or does; for they plained to them in private the difficulties are seeking occasion to wound the gospel which occurred in his more public discourses; through his misconduct. They are sensible by his observations on the common occurthat he is generally above them; and there-rences of life he opened to them the mystefore rejoice to find or pretend a flaw, on rious volumes of creation and providence, which they may expatiate, to reduce him as which none but those whom he vouchsafes near as possible to their own level; though, to teach can understand aright: he prayed if their censures are extended to their just for them, and with them, and taught them to consequence, they will (as we have seen) pray for themselves : he revealed unto them fall hard upon the apostles themselves. the unseen realities of the eternal world, and
I hope, that what I have said upon this supported them under the prospect of apsubject will neither be misunderstood nor proaching trials; particularly of his deparperverted. We do not defend even the in- ture from them, by assuring them that he firmities of the best men; much less would was going on their behalf to prepare them a we provide a plea for persecution or ambi- place in his kingdom, and that in a little tion. Let not the man, who supposes gain to time he would return to receive them to be godliness, who makes the gospel a ladder, himself, that they might dwell with him for whereby to climb the heights of worldly pre- ever. ferment, whose heart, like the insatiable fire, What he personally spoke to them, and is craving more, and practising every art to acted in their presence, was recorded by his accumulate wealth and honour in the church; direction, and has been preserved by his let not the proud man, who would lord it over providence for the use and comfort of his conscience, and though unable to command church. Though his enemies have raged fire from heaven, would gladly prepare fire horribly, they have not been able to supand slaughter upon earth for all who will press the divine volume; and, though invisinot venture their souls upon his faith ; let ble to mortal eyes, he is still near to all that not these avail themselves of the examples seek him; and so supplies the want of his of James and John: but rather let them bodily presence by the secret communicatremble at the reflection, that while they tions of his Spirit, that his people have no manifest no part of the apostles' graces, they reason to complain of any disadvantage: are entirely possessed of those tempers, the though they see him not, they believe, love, smallest traces of which our Lord so severely rejoice, and obey; their attention and derebuked in his disciples.
pendence are fixed upon him; they intrust The first believers, though not faultless, him with all their concerns; they rely upon were sincere: the natural disposition of their his promises; they behold him as their Highhearts was changed; they believed in Jesus; priest, Advocate, and Shepherd; they live they loved him ; they devoted themselves to upon his fulness, and plead his righteous his service; they submitted to his instruc- ness; and they find and feel that their reliance tions, shared in his reproach, and could not is not in vain. be either enticed or intimidated to leave him. The disciples were content for his sake to Their gracious Master was their guide and bear the scorn and injurious treatment of the guard, their advocate and counsellor; when world: they expected no better usage, nor they were in want, in danger, in trouble, or desired a higher honour, than to be fellowin doubt, they applied to him, and found re- sufferers with their Lord. When he propos lief; hence they learned by degrees to cast ed returning to Judea, at a time they thought all their care upon him. He corrected every dangerous, and they could not alter his purwrong disposition; he pardoned their fail- pose, they did not wish to be left behind : ings, and enabled them to do better. His “Let us go (says one of them to the rest) precepts taught them true wisdom; and his that we may die with him." own example, which, to those who loved him, when he was actually apprehended, the first had the force of a thousand precepts, was at shock of the trial was too strong: they foronce the model and the motive of their obe- sook him and fled. He permitted this, both dience. To make them ashamed of aspiring to exempt them from danger, and to let them to be chief, he himself, though Lord of all, con- know that of themselves they could do noversed among them as a servant, and conde- thing. But it seems they did not go far, scended to wash their feet; to teach them When Thomas afterwards said, Except I forbearance and gentleness to their opposers, I shall see in his hands the prigl of the naile,
and put my finger into the print of the nails, thread of the gospel history from that glorious and thrust my hand into his side, I will not day of divine power. The contents of this believe,” he spoke like one who had been an first book, namely, a brief view of the neceseye-witness to his sufferings, and expresses sity and nature of the gospel-dispensation,an earnestness as if he still saw him wounded the causes why it is and has been opposed, and bleeding. This catastrophe indeed al- and the circumstances of the first believers, most disconcerted them; they had trusted it - I have premised, as general principles, for was he that should deliver Israel ; but they my own and the reader's assistance in the saw him oppressed and slain by wicked men. progress of the work. From that time to his resurrection was a It is much to be wished, that every reader a mournful interval, the darkest and most might be impressed with the importance of distressing period his church ever knew. our subject. It is not a point of curiosity, but
But the third day dispelled their grief: he of universal concern, and that in the highest returned victorious from the grave, proclaim- and most interesting sense. Most of the ing peace by the blood of the cross; he de- researches and disquisitions which employ clared, and his appearance proved it, that the the time and talents of men, are of a trivial ransom was paid and accepted ; and that hav- or indifferent nature. We may range on difing now overcome the sharpness of death, he ferent sides concerning them; we may give had opened the kingdom of heaven to all be- or refuse, or retract our assent, when and as lievers. Then he spoke peace to their hearts: often as we please; we may be totally igno he opened their understandings to know the rant of them without loss, or be skilled in scriptures, and breathed upon them his Holy them all without deriving any solid comfort Spirit: he conversed frequently with them or advantage from them: but the gospel of during forty days; gave them a large com- Christ is not like the dry uninteresting theo mission to preach his gospel, and an invalu- ries of human wisdom; it will either wound able promise of his presence with them to the or heal, be a savour of life or of death, a end of the world.
source of endless comfort, or the occasion of When he had thus confirmed them by aggravated condemnation, to all that hear of those instructions and assurances, which his it. To receive it, is to receive the earnest wisdom saw necessary, he was received up and assurance of eternal happiness; to reject to heaven. They followed him with their it, or remain wilfully ignorant of its charachearts and eyes a while, and then returned ters and properties, will leave the soul opto Jerusalem rejoicing. They were not pressed with guilt, and exposed to the wrath ashamed of their crucified Lord, or unwilling of God for ever. It highly concerns us, there to bear the contemptuous names of Galileans fore, to inquire, Whether we believe the or Nazarenes for his sake. They were not gospel or no, whether what we call the gosafraid, as if left like sheep without a shep-pel is the same that Christ and his apostles herd in the midst of their enemies: they taught, and whether it has had the same or knew, that though they could see him no similar effects upon our hearts? We live more, his eye would be always upon them, where the gospel is generally professed, and and his ear open to their prayer: they wait- we are reputed christians from our cradles; ed, according to his command, for a farther but the word of God cautions us to take heeds supply of his Spirit, to qualify them for the lest we be deceived. We see christianity important and difficult services which were divided into innumerable sects and parties, before them. Nor did they wait long; a few each supported by names, arguments, and days after his ascension, while they were books, and fighting for the credit of a depraying with one heart and mind, the place nomination: but how many forget, that in a where they were assembled was shaken as little time all these divisions and subdivisions with a mighty wind; the Spirit of power will be reduced to two; the only real and and wisdom was abundantly communicated proper distribution by which mankind, as to to them; they spoke with new tongues, and their religious character, ever was or will be immediately began to preach boldly, in the distinguished, and according to which their name of the Lord Jesus.
final states will be speedily decided,—The With this solemn and memorable event, I children of God, and the children of the shall open the second book, and take up the wicked one.