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Roman province, where this centurion had a military command; and they who are acquainted with the Roman history know well with what cruelty, rapacity, and oppression, the governors and commanding officers in the conquered provinces too commonly behaved towards the people whom they were sent to keep in awe. So far were they from building them temples or synagogues, that they frequently invaded even those sacred retreats, and laid their sacrilegious hands on every thing that was valuable in them. Of this we have abundant proofs in the history of Verres, when governor of Sicily; and Verres was in many respects a faithful representative of too large a part of the Roman governors. In the midst of this brutality and insolence of power does this gallant soldier stand up to patronize and assist a distressed and an injured people; and it is a testimony as glorious to his memory as it is singular and almost unexampled in his circumstances, that he loved the Jewish nation, and that he gave a very decisive and magnificent proof of it, by building them a synagogue; for there cannot be a stronger indication both of love to mankind and love towards God, than erecting places of worship where they are wanted.* Without buildings to assemble in, there can be no public worship. Without public worship there can be no religion; and what kind of creatures men become.

*There is a most dreadful want of this nature in the western part of this great metropolis. From St. Martin's-in-the-Fields to Mary bone church inclusive, a space containing perhaps 200,000 souls, there are only five parish. churches, St. Martin's, St. Ann's Soho, St. Jame's, St. George's Hanover Square, and the very small church of Marybone. There are, it is true, a few chapels interspersed in this space; but what they can contain is a mere trifle, compared to the whole number of inhabitants in those parts, and the lowest classes are almost entirely excluded from them. The only measure that can be of any essential service, is the erection of several spacious parish churches, capable of receiving very large congregations, and affording decent accommodations for the lower and inferior, as well as the higher orders of the people. In the reign of Queen Anne, a considerable sum of money was voted by Parliament for fifty new churches. It is most devoutly to be wished that the present Parliament would, to a certain extent at least, follow so honorable an example. It is, I am sure, in every point of view, political, moral, and reiigious, well worthy the attention of the British legislature. A sufficient number of new parish churches, erected both in the capital and in other parts of the kingdom where they are wanted, for the use of the members of the church of England of all conditions, would very essentially conduce to the interests. of religion, and the security and welfare of the established Church.

without religion; into what excesses of barbarity, fes rocity, impiety and every species of profligacy they quickly plunge, we have too plainly seen; God grant that we may never feel.

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The next remarkable feature in the character of the centurion is his humility. How completely this most amiable of human virtues had taken possession of his soul, is evident from the manner in which he solicited our Saviour for the cure of his servant: how cautious, how modest, how diffident, how timid, how fearful of offending, even whilst he was only begging an act of kindness for another! Twice did he send messengers to our Lord, as thinking himself unworthy to address him in his own person; and when at our Saviour's ap proach to his house he himself came out to meet him, it was only to entreat him not to trouble himself any further; for that he was not worthy that Jesus should enter under his roof.

This lowliness of mind in the centurion is the more remarkable, because humility, in the gospel sense of the word, is a virtue with which the ancients, and more particularly the Romans, were totally unacquainted. They had not even a word in their language to describe it by. The only word that seems to express it, humilitas, signifies baseness, servility, and meanness of spirit, a thing very different from true Christian humility; and indeed this was the only idea they entertained of that virtue. Every thing that we call meek and humble, they considered as mean and contemptible. A haughty imperious overbearing temper, a high opinion of their own virtue and wisdom, a contempt of all other nations but their own, a quick sense and a keen resentment, not only of injuries, but even of the slightest affronts, this was the favourite and predominant character of the Romans; and that gentleness of disposition, that low estimation of our own merits, that ready preference of others to ourselves, that fearfulness of giving offence, that abasement of ourselves in the sight of God which we call humility, they considered as the mark of a tame, abject, and unmanly mind. When, therefore, we see

this virtuous centurion differing so widely from his countrymen in this respect, we may certainly conclude that his notions of morality were of a much higher standard than theirs, and that his disposition peculiarly fitted him for the reception of the Gospel. For humility is that virtue, which, more than any other, disposes the mind to yield to the evidences, and embrace the doctrines of the Christian revelation. It is that virtue which the Gospel was peculiarly meant to produce, on which it lays the greatest stress, and in which perhaps, more than any other, consists the true essence and vital principle of the Christian temper. We, therefore, find the strongest exhortations to it in almost every page of the Gospel.." I say to every man that is among you," says St. Paul, "not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think soberly. Mind not high things: be not wise in your own conceits, but condescend to men of low estate. Stretch not yourselves beyond your measure. Blessed are the poor in spirit, says our Lord, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever shall humble himself as a little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect to the lowly. As for the proud, he beholdeth them afar off. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Learn of me, says our Saviour, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls."*

I come now, lastly, to consider that remarkable part of the centurion's character, more particularly noticed by our Lord, I mean his FAITH. "I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Now the reason of the high encomiums bestowed on him by our Saviour on this account was, because he reasoned himself into a belief of our Lord's power to work miracles, even at a distance; because he who had been bred up in the principles of heathenism, and whose only

* Rom. xii. 3. 6. 2 Cor. x. 14. Matth. v. 3. xviii. 4. Psalm cxxxviii. 6. James iv. 6. 10. Matth. xi. 29.

guide was the light of nature, did notwithstanding frankly submit himself to sufficient evidence, and was induced by the accounts he had received of our Saviour's doctrines and miracles, to acknowledge that he was a divine person. Whereas the Jews to whom he was first and principally sent, who from their infancy were instructed in the Holy Scriptures, in which were such plain and express promises of the Messiah, and who actually did expect his coming about that time, suffered themselves to be so blinded by their prejudi ces and passions, that neither the unspotted sanctity of his life, the excellence of his doctrine, nor the repeated and astonishing miracles which he wrought, could make the slightest impression on the greater part of that stubborn people. Hence we may see how impossible it is for any degree of evidence to convince those who are determined not to be convinced; and what little hopes there are of ever satisfying modern infidels, if they will not be content with the proofs they already have. They are continually complaining for want of evidence; and so were the Jews always calling out for new signs and new wonders, even when miracles were daily wrought before their eyes. We may, therefore, say of the former what our Saviour said of the latter, "if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”* It is possible, we find, for incredulity to resist even ocular demonstration; and when obstinacy, vanity, and vice have got thorough possession of the heart, they will not only subdue reason and enslave the understanding, but even bar up all the senses, and shut out conviction at every inlet to the mind. This was most eminently the case with some of the principal Jews. Because our Saviour's appearance did not correspond to their erroneous and preconceived idea of the Messiah, because he was not a triumphant prince, a temporal hero and deliverer; but above all, because he upbraided them with their vices, and preached up repentance and reformation, every testimony that he could give of his di

* Luke xvi. 31.

vine authority and power was rejected with scorn. Invain did he feed thousands with a handful of provisions; in vain did he send away diseases with a word; in vain did he make the graves give back their dead, rebuke the winds and waves, and evil spirits still more unruly and obstinate than they. In answer to all this they could say, "Is not this the carpenter's son? Does he not eat and drink with publicans and sinners, and with unwashen hands? Does he not even break the sabbath, by commanding sick men to carry their beds on that sacred day?" These, doubtless, were unanswerable arguments against miracles, signs, and prophecies, against the evidence of sense itself, against the universal voice of nature, bearing testimony to Christ..


The honest centurion, on the contrary, without any Judaical prejudices to distort his understanding, without asking any ill-timed and impertinent questions about the birth or family of Christ, attends only to the facts before him. He had heard of Jesus, had heard of his unblemished life, his heavenly doctrines, his numerous and astonishing miracles, had heard them confirmed by such testimony as no ingenuous mind could resist. He immediately surrenders himself up to such convincing evidence; and so far from requiring (as the Jews continually did, and as modern sceptics still do) more and stronger proofs, he seems afraid of shewing the slightest distrust of our Saviour's power. He declares his belief of his being able to perform a miracle at any distance; and entreats him not to give himself the trouble of coming to his house in person, but to speak the word only and his servant should be healed.

This then, is the disposition of mind we ought more particularly to cultivate; that freedom from self-sufficiency and pride and prejudice of every kind, that simplicity and singleness of heart which is open to convic tion, and receives, without resistance, the sacred im pressions of truth. It is the want of this, not of evi dence, that still makes infidels in Europe as it did at first in Asia. It is this principle operating in different


Matth. ix. 11. xiii. 55. Luke xi. 38. John v. 18.

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