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any combination to discredit the miracle. It would make the priests themselves to attest its reality, and might lead them to receive him as the promised Messiah. In obedience to his command, the lepers went, expecting a cure: nor were any of them disappointed of their hope. In going, they were restored by the almighty power of Jesus; and they felt in themselves infallible tokens of perfect health.]
The effects however produced upon them were not alike in all
[Nine of them prosecuted their journey mindful only of their own comfort. Having obtained all that they wished, they forgat their Benefactor, nor ever thought of paying the debt which gratitude demanded. One, however, was more sensible of the obligations conferred upon him, and burned with a desire to acknowledge the mercies he had received. Returning instantly, he prostrated himself at the feet of Jesus. With heartfelt gratitude he glorified God as the author of his mercy, and gave thanks to Jesus, as the instrument by whom it was sent. Nor was he less ardent in his thanksgivings, than he had before been importunate in his prayers.]
To open these more minutely, we shall,
II. Make some reflections on the text in particular— The first reflection which naturally arises from the text is,
1. What ingratitude is there in the human heart!
[We are amazed at the conduct of the ungrateful lepers. We are ready to suppose that nothing could induce us to act like them. Yet we may see in them a true picture of the world at large. How many temporal mercies have we experienced through our whole lives! What continuance of health, or deliverances from sickness! What freedom from want, or relief in the midst of it! What comfort in the society of our friends and relatives! Yet how little have we thought of him, who bestowed these blessings! How many spiritual mercies too have we received from God! What provision has been made for the healing of our souls! The Son of God himself has suffered, that he might "heal us by his stripes": and offers of pardon and salvation have been proclaimed to us in his name; Yea, we have been promised a deliverance from the leprosy of sin, and have been entreated to become children and heirs of God. Are not these mercies which demand our gratitude? Yet what returns have we made to our adorable Benefactor? May not God complain of us as he did of the d Rom. vi. 14.
c ver. 13, 15.
ungrateful Jews? Let us then abase ourselves before God under a sense of our vileness; nor let us justify our conduct from the example of the world. Who does not commend the singularity of the grateful leper? Who does not admire the singularity of Noah among the antediluvians, and of Lot in Sodom? Let us then dare to be singular in loving and adoring our Benefactor. Let a sense of gratitude far outweigh the fear of man. Then, though the world despise us, we shall have the testimony of a good conscience; and "our record shall be on high" in the day of the Lord Jesus.]
2. How often do they, who enjoy the greatest advantages, make the least improvement of them!
[The nine ungrateful lepers were, by profession, the Lord's people. They had been instructed out of the law by God's appointed ministers. The wonderful works which had been wrought for their nation could not be unknown to them. The examples of David and other eminent saints had been set before them they therefore could not but know much of God's will respecting them. The poor "Samaritan," on the contrary, was a "stranger" to God's covenant. The prejudices. of his nation forbad all intercourse with the Jews. By this means he was cut off from all opportunities of instruction: yet he returned to glorify his God, while all the Jews overlooked the mercy vouchsafed unto them. And are there not many amongst ourselves, who are far from improving their spiritual advantages? Are we not surpassed in virtue by many who never enjoyed our privileges? Are there not many illiterate and obscure persons whose hearts overflow with gratitude, while ours are as insensible as a stone? Let us remember that God expects from us according to the means of improvement he has afforded us1; and let us labour to yield fruit suited to the culture bestowed upon us1.]
3. How plain is our duty both under a need, and after the receipt, of divine mercies!
[The lepers could not possibly have adopted a wiser measure than they did: they were persuaded of Christ's power to help: and they sought help at his hands. And is not Jesus as mighty now as in the days of his flesh? Will not the diseases of the soul, as well as of the body, yield to his commands? Has he not encouraged us by many express promises of mercy? Let us then, like the lepers, cry, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us"; nor let us cease from our importunity till we have prevailed: but, if we have received answers of peace,
e Isai. i. 2, 3.
h Luke xii. 48.
f Job xlii. 6.
g Job xvi. 19.
let us be thankful for them. Justly did Jesus express his wonder at not seeing the other nine; much more will he if we should forget to pay him our tribute of praise. Waiting for our approaches, he says, "Where are they?" Let him then see us daily prostrating ourselves before him. Let us be earnest in our thanksgivings, as well as in our prayers. Let us often consider how we may best express our sense of his goodness'. In his strength let us go and shew ourselves to the world. Let us compel his very enemies to acknowledge his work, and constrain them by our lives to confess the efficacy of his grace. Thus shall we most acceptably honour him on earth, and ere long be exalted to magnify his name in heaven.] 1 Ps. cxvi. 12. m Ps. cxxvi. 2.
k Ps. xxx. 2—4.
SUDDENNESS OF CHRIST'S SECOND COMING.
Luke xvii. 26-30. As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
WE cannot be too often reminded, that religion is not a matter of speculation, but of practice. The replies which our Lord constantly made to speculative or curious inquiries, leads us to this remark. He always endeavoured to turn the mind inwards, and to make every question that was put to him subservient to the spiritual welfare of his hearers. The Pharisees, ever deceiving themselves with the expectation of a temporal Messiah, asked him, " When the kingdom of God should come?" He told them, that the Messiah's kingdom was not to be an outward and temporal one, such as they looked for, but an inward and spiritual kingdom, such as he himself was now establishing in the hearts of men. But as the nation at large would reject him, he warned his hearers,
that the Son of Man should again come, even before that present generation should have passed away; that, when he did come, he would find them as supine and careless as they were at that moment; and that, unless they repented, his coming would issue in their utter destruction.
This seems to be the obvious import of the words. But, as the same expressions are used in a subsequent discourse, where they are blended with others relating to the day of judgment, we shall not confine them to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, but take them as declaring in general,
I. The state of mankind at large
We are here told what was their state in the days of old
[In the days of Noah and of Lot the great mass of mankind were in a state of carnal enjoyment, of criminal security, and of contemptuous unbelief.
Their business and their pleasures altogether engrossed their minds: they ate and drank, and formed connexions, and got fortunes, and built houses, and planted grounds, and consulted their own happiness and comfort in the way they liked best.' This was their entire employment, and the great object of their lives: if they could but make themselves happy and comfortable in their respective stations, it was all they cared for.
Had they pursued these things in subserviency to higher and better things, there would have been no blame imputed to them: for, the eating, and drinking, and marrying, and buying, and selling, and planting, and building, were not wrong in themselves: but the evil of this state consisted in its being their chief, if not their only, occupation. Had we been told, that, in addition to these things, they wept, they fasted, they prayed, they turned to God, and served the Lord with their whole hearts, we should not have grudged them one atom of their enjoyments, or have thought the worse of them for their worldly occupations. But God was not in all their thoughts; eternity was hid from their view; the things of time and sense engaged their whole attention: they took for granted that they had nothing to fear from the hands of God, and therefore they were under no anxiety to obtain his favour. In a word, they regarded their bodily welfare, but had no concern at all about their souls.
But this security of theirs did not proceed from ignorance: the antediluvians were taught by Noah, for one hundred and twenty years together, that God would punish their supineness,
that he would punish it too by a deluge that should overwhelm the whole earth. Moreover, the ark was gradually prepared in their sight; so that at least they must see that the preacher believed his own declarations. In like manner, the inhabitants of Sodom were warned by Lot, who "vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds." But, as Noah was doubtless regarded as little better than a maniac, so, Lot's words, we are told, appeared, even to his own relatives, as idle tales; "he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law." This it was that chiefly aggravated the guilt of the persons referred to: they were called, but they would not answer; they were warned, but they would not hear: they cast God's words behind them, and set at nought all his threatenings, and poured contempt upon all his messages of love and mercy. Such was their state in the days of old.]
And similar to it will be the state of the world at the last day
[Should we attempt to describe the state of the world at this hour, where could we find words more proper to represent it than those in the text? We may appeal to all, whether the great mass of Christians, no less than of heathens, be not divided between the two pursuits of business and pleasure? Into how many companies may you go, before you will find a person that seriously inquires, "Where is God my Maker?" "We might here speak of the open sins which are every where committed without shame and without remorse: but we purposely omit the mention of any gross sin whatever, and confine ourselves to the things specified in our text as characterizing the most inoffensive part of the antediluvian world, and of the inhabitants of Sodom; because it is to the more inoffensive part of the community that we now more especially address ourselves : and we ask whether the text be not a faithful picture of them? In particular, is not serious religion held up to scorn? and are not the promoters of it considered as "the troublers of Israel?" Blessed be God, the ark is rearing in the midst of you; and there are a few who boldly protest against the impiety that prevails: but how few improve the warnings that they hear, or set themselves in earnest to flee from the wrath to come!
Nor is this picture less descriptive of those who will be alive at the day of judgment. The same carnal enjoyments will be sought then as now; the same criminal security will obtain ; and the same contemptuous unbelief will decry all need of vital godliness. The people of that generation will be warned, even as you have been; and they will regard the messages of God as the dreams of gloomy superstition, or the reveries of enthusiastic folly. This state of things will continue even to the very moment that Christ shall come to judgment, precisely