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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 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 prejudices and passions, that neither the unspotted sanctity of his life, the excellency 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 t." It is
* Rom. xii, 3, 6; 2 Cor. x, 14; Matt. v, 3; xviii, 4; Psalm cxxxviii, 6; James iv, 6, 10; Matt. xi, 29.
+ Luke xvi, 31.
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 divine authority and power was rejected with scorn. In vain 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 showing 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.
* Matt. ix, 11; xiii, 55; Luke xi, 38; John v, 18.
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 conviction, and receives, without resistance, the sacred impressions of truth. It is the want of this, not of evidence, that still makes infidels in Europe, as it did at first in Asia. It is this principle, operating in different ways, which now imputes to fraud and collusion those miracles which the Jews ascribed to Beelzebub; which now rejects all human testimony, as it formerly did even the perceptions of sense.
Such were the distinguished virtues of this excellent centurion; the contemplation of whose character suggests to us a variety of important remarks.
The first is, that the miracles of our Lord had the fullest credit given to them, not only (as is sometimes asserted) by low, obscure, ignorant, and illiterate men, but by men of rank and character, by men of the world, by men perfectly competent to ascertain the truth of any facts presented to their observation, and not likely to be imposed upon by false pretences. Of this description were the centurion here mentioned; the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus; Dionysius, a member of the supreme court of Areopagus at Athens; and several others of equal dignity and consequence.
Secondly, the history of the centurion teaches us, that there is no situation of life, no occupation, no profession, however unfavourable it may appear to the cultivation of religion, which precludes the possibility or exempts us from the obligation of acquiring those good dispositions, and exercising those Christian virtues, which the Gospel requires. Men of the world are apt to imagine that religion was not made for them; that it was intended only for those who pass their days in obscurity, retirement, and solitude, where they meet with nothing to interrupt their devout contemplations, no allurements to divert their attention, and seduce their affections from heaven and heavenly things. But as to those, whose lot is cast in the busy and the tumultuous scenes of life, who are engaged in various occupations and professions, or surrounded with gaieties, with pleasures and temptations, it cannot be expected, that, amidst all these impediments, interruptions, and attractions, they can give up much of their time and thoughts to another and a distant world,
when they have so many things that press upon them and arrest their attention in this.
These, I am persuaded, are the real sentiments, and they are perfectly conformable to the actual practice, of a large part of mankind. But to all these pretences the instance of the centurion is a direct, complete, and satisfactory answer. He was, by his situation in life, a man of the world. His profession was that which of all others is generally considered as most adverse to religious sentiments and habits, most contrary to the peaceful, humane, and gentle spirit of the Gospel, and most exposed to the fascination of gaiety, pleasure, thoughtlessness, and dissipation. Yet amidst all these obstructions to purity of heart, to mildness of disposition, and sanctity of manners, we see this illustrious CENTURION rising above all the disadvantages of his situation, and, instead of sinking into vice and irreligion, becoming a model of piety and humility, and of all those virtues which necessarily spring from such principles. This is an unanswerable proof, that whenever men abandon themselves to impiety, infidelity, and profligacy, the fault is not in the situation, but in the heart; and that there is no mode of life, no employment or profession, which may not, if we please, be made consistent with a sincere belief in the Gospel, and with the practice of every duty we owe to our Maker, our Redeemer, our fellow-creatures, and ourselves.
Nor is this the only instance in point; for it is extremely remarkable, and well worthy our attention, that among all the various characters we meet with in the New Testament, there are few represented in a more amiable light, or spoken of in stronger terms of approbation, than those of certain military men. Beside the centurion, who is the subject of this Lecture, it was a centurion, who, at our Saviour's crucifixion, gave that voluntary, honest, and unprejudiced testimony in his favour, "Truly this was the Son of God." It was a centurion, who generously preserved the life of St. Paul, when a proposition was made to destroy him after his shipwreck on the island of Melitat. It was a centurion to whom St. Peter was sent by the express appointment of God, to make him the first convert among the Gentiles; a distinction of which he seemed, in every respect, + Acts xxvii, 43,
* Matt. xxvii, 54.
worthy: being, as we are told, a just and a devout man, one that feared God with all his house, that gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway
We see, then, that our centurion was not the only military man celebrated in the Gospel for his piety and virtue; nor are there wanting, thank God, distinguished instances of the same kind in our own age, in our own nation, among our own commanders, and in the recent memory of every one here present. All which examples tend to confirm the observation already made, of the perfect consistency of a military, and every other mode of life, with a firm belief in the doctrines and a conscientious obedience to the precepts of religion.
Thirdly, there is still another reflection arising from this circumstance, with which I shall conclude the present Lecture; and this is, that when we observe men bred up in arms repeatedly spoken of in Scripture in such strong terins of commendation as those we have mentioned, we are authorized to conclude, that the profession they are engaged in is not, as a mistaken sect of Christians amongst us professes to think, an unlawful one. On the contrary, it seems to be studiously placed by the sacred writers in a favourable and an honourable light; and in this light it always has been and always ought to be considered. He, who undertakes an occupation of great toil and great danger, for the purpose of serving, defending, and protecting his country, is a most valuable and respectable member of society; and if he conducts himself with valour, fidelity, and humanity, and amidst the horrors of war cultivates the gentle manners of peace, and the virtues of a devout and holy life, he most amply deserves, and will assuredly receive, the esteem, the admiration, and the applause of his grateful country, and, what is of still greater importance, the approbation of his God.
* Acts x, 2.