Obrazy na stronie

God, and of his providential dealings with his creatures. If they were Gentiles, it illuminated their minds upon those awful subjects, of which till then they had remained in total darkness. To the former it superadded to their belief of the unity of God, that of his mysterious junction with the Son and the Holy Ghost, in whose name they were thenceforth to be baptized. It instructed them in the doctrine of the Atonement of our Saviour, for that guilt and depravity which they had derived from Adam, or had personally incurred and committed; and thereby laid a clear foundation for that repentance, which they were called upon to testify as preliminary to their reception of the Gospel. It confirmed them in that expectation of a future state of retribution, which from the writings of their latter prophets, was then dawning upon them, but had not yet attained its meridian splendour. These things, which to the Jews were additions to their stock of religious knowledge, were to the Gentiles absolute novelties; the very wisest of whom had hitherto been in complete ignorance upon these points. Yet it was found to be an easier task to eradicate their inveterate prejudices, than to engraft

upon the truth of the Mosaic dispensation, the more perfect fruit of the Gospel Revelation. Nor is this at all surprising. On the contrary, it consists with our uniform experience, that the more palpable an error is, the more readily it may be detected and cured: whilst in proportion as it approaches to truth, the more difficult it becomes to mark with precision, the point of its deviation from it. These leading doctrines, as they were delivered both to the Jews and the Gentiles, were common to the rich and the poor, and equally concerned both those descriptions of persons.

But the Gospel had other points of great moment, which were peculiarly adapted to each of them. The latter, as by far the more numerous portion of mankind, seem to be the especial objects of its care. To reconcile them to the apparent hardships of their present condition, to point out to them in what way they may turn them to their future advantage, to console them with the assurance of being rewarded hereafter for whatever sufferings they may endure here, provided they endure them with patience, and practise such other virtues as their circumstances will enable them to do; these appear to be the great ends of our

Saviour's preaching as to them. Nor were these ends unworthy of being accomplished even by Divine interposition. For what is the language of him to whom I have so often alluded? “It is incumbent on us diligently to remember, that the kingdom of heaven was promised to the poor in spirit, and that minds afflicted by calamity and the contempt of mankind, cheerfully listen to the Divine promise of future happiness; while, on the contrary, the fortunate are satisfied with the possession of this world; and the wise abuse in doubt and dispute their vain superiority of reason and knowledge'." It is not for us to say, whether more is meant here than is expressed. I would charitably hope that he does not intend to include himself amongst those fortunate and wise persons, to whom he ascribes such cold, unfeeling, and irrational sentiments and conduct as these. But if such are to be considered the general, or the frequent attendants upon wealth and wisdom, then indeed have the poor and the simple reason to rejoice in their lot, then indeed is it evident that the Gospel is preached to them

[blocks in formation]

under peculiar advantages, then is it demonstrated that the kingdom of heaven is of easier acquisition to them, than to their more opulent and intellectual brethren.

The last object of our Lord's preaching, as it especially regarded the poor, which remains to be noticed, was to secure them an interest in the hearts of the affluent, for the mitigation of the various sufferings to which they are exposed. This he has done, by appealing in the most irresistible manner to their feelings of compassion for others, and to their most lively sensations of hope or fear for themselves. Who can forget these affecting words? When, at the last day, the Son of Man shall have set the good on his right hand, and the wicked on his left, then shall he say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee?

or thirsty, and gave thee drink? when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? Then shall he answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.-Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

I will not weaken the impression, which this passage is so well calculated to make, by

« PoprzedniaDalej »