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it. It was considered by the Jews as a disease sent by God, and to be cured only by his interposition. There could not therefore be a stronger proof of our Saviour's divine power, than his curing this most loathsome disease, of which many instances beside this occur in the Gospels. The manner, too, in which he performed this cure was equally an evidence, that all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him*; it was instantaneous, with a touch, and a few words, and those words the most sublime and dignified that can be imagined: "I WILL BE THOU CLEAN: and immediately the leprosy departed from him." This was plainly the language as well as the act of a God. I WILL BE THOU CLEAN.
Yet with all this supernatural power there was no ostentation or parade, no arrogant contempt of ancient ceremonies and institutions (which an enthusiast always tramples under foot); but, on the contrary, a perfect submission to the established laws and usages of his country. He said to the man, who was healed, "See thou tell no man; but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them." Here he gave at once a striking example both of humility and obedience. He ined the man to keep secret the astonishing miracle he had wrought, and he commanded him to comply with the injunctions of Moses; to show himself to the priest, to undergo the examination, and to offer the sacrifice prescribed by the lawt; which, at the same time that it showed his disposition to fulfil all righteousness, established the truth of the miracle beyond all controversy, by making the priest himself the judge of the reality of the cure. This was not the mode which an impostor would have chosen.
After this miracle, the next incident that occurs is the remarkable and interesting story of the centurion, whose servant was cured of the palsy by our Saviour. The relation of this miracle is as follows: "When Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented‡."
Coloss. ii, 9.
+ Lev. xiv.
+ In the parallel passage of St. Luke, chap. vii, it is said, that the centurion sent messengers to Jesus; but no mention is made of his coming to him in person. This difficulty may be cleared up by observing, that in Scripture what any person does by his messengers
And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me; and I say unto this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to a third, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed him, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee; and his servant was healed in the self-same hour."
This is the short and edifying history of the Roman centurion; and the reason of its being recorded by the sacred writers was, in the first place, to give a most striking evidence of our Saviour's divine power, which enabled him to restore the centurion's servant to health at a distance, and without so much as seeing him; and, in the next place, to set before us, in the character of the centurion, an illustrious example of those eminent Christian virtues, humanity and charity, piety and generosity, humility and faith.
Of the former of these virtues, humanity and charity, he gave a very convincing proof in the solicitude he showed for the welfare of his servant, and the strong interest he took in the recovery of his health. And this is the more remarkable, and the more honourable to the centurion, because, in general, the treatment which the servants of the Romans experienced from their masters was very different indeed from what we see in the present instance. These servants were almost all of them slaves, and were too commonly treated with extreme rigour and cruelty. They were often strained to labour
he is frequently represented as doing by himself. Thus Christ, who preached to the Ephesians by his apostles, is said to have preached to them himself, Eph. ii, 17. But it seems to me not at all improbable, that the centurion may both have sent mesengers to Jesus, and afterwards gone to him in person. "Not thinking himself worthy" (as he himself expresses it), to go to Christ in the first instance, he sent probably the elders of the Jews, and then some of his friends, to implore our Lord to heal his servant, not meaning to give him the trouble of coming to his house. But when he found that Jesus was actually on his way to him, what was more natural for him than to hasten out of his house to meet him, and to make his acknowledgments to him in person?
beyond their strength, were confined to loathsome dungeons, were loaded with chains, were scourged and tortured without reason, were deserted in sickness and old age, and put to death for trivial faults and slight suspicions, and sometimes out of mere wantonness and cruelty, without any reason at all. Such barbarity as this, which was at that time by no means uncommon, which indeed has in a greater or less degree universally prevailed in every country where slavery has been established, and which shows in the strongest light the danger of trusting absolute power of any kind, political or personal, in the hands of such a creature as man; this barbarity, I say, forms a most striking contrast to the kindness and compassion of the centurion, who, though he had so much power over his slaves, and so many instances of its severest exertion before his eyes, yet made use of it, as we here see, not for their oppression and destruction, but their happiness, comfort, and pre
The next virtues which attract our notice in the centurion's character are his piety and generosity. These were eminently displayed in the affection he manifested towards the Jewish people, and his building them a place of worship at his own expense; for the elders of the Jews informed Jesus, "that he loved their nation, and had built them a synagogue *""
The Jews, it is well known, were at this time under the dominion of the Romans. Their country was a 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
⚫ Luke vii, 5.
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 without religion; into what excesses of barbarity, ferocity, impiety, and every species of profligacy, they quickly plunge, we have too plainly seen; God grant that we may never feel!
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 approach
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 Marylebone church inclusive, a space containing perhaps 200,000 souls, there are only five parish churches, St. Martin's, St. Anne's Soho, St. James's, St. George's Hanover Square, and the very small church at Marylebone. There are, it is true, a few chapels inter spersed in this place; 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 honourable an example. It is, I am sure, in every point of view, political, moral, and religious, 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.
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 lowness 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 among 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