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I Now proceed to the consideration of the tenth chapter of St. Matthew.
In the preceding chapter we find our Saviour working a great variety of miracles. He healed the man that was sick of the palsy, and forgave his sins; a plain proof of his divinity, because none but God has the power and the prerogative of forgiving sins: and therefore the Jews accused him of blasphemy for pretending to this power He also cured the woman who touched the hem of his garment. He raised to life the deceased daughter of the ruler of the synagogue. He restored to sight the two blind men that followed him; and he cast out from a dumb man the devil with which he was possessed, and restored him to his speech. These miracles are particularly recorded: but, beside these, there must have been a prodigious number wrought by him, of which no distinct mention is made; for we are informed, in the thirtyfifth verse, that he went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
These continued miracles must necessarily have produced a great number of converts. And accordingly we find, the multitude of his followers was now so great, that he found it necessary to appoint some coadjutors to himself in this great work. "The harvest truly is plenteous," says he to his disciples, "but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest."
* Matt. ix, 37, 38.
These labourers he now determined to send forth; and in pursuance of this resolution we find him, in the be ginning of this chapter, calling together his disciples, out of whom he selected twelve, called by St. Matthew apostles, or messengers; whom he sent forth to preach the Gospel, and furnished them with ample powers for that purpose; powers such as nothing less than omnipotence could bestow. The names of these apostles were as follow: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, another James, Thaddeus or Jude, Simon, Judas Iscariot. These twelve persons, St. Matthew tells us, Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any cities of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and as ye go preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand This was the business which they were sent to accomplish; they were to go about the country of Judæa, and to preach to the Jews, in the first place, the holy religion, which their Divine Master had just began to teach. Then follow their powers; "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils."
After this come their instructions, and a variety of directions how to conduct themselves in the discharge of their arduous and important mission, of which shall take notice hereafter; but must first offer to your consideration a few remarks on this extraordinary designation of the apostles to their important office.
And, in the first place, who were the men singled out by our blessed Lord for the purpose of diffusing his religion through the world; that is, for the very singular purpose of persuading men to relinquish the religion of their ancestors, the principles they had imbibed from their infancy, the customs, the prejudices, the habits, the ways of thinking, which they had for a long course of years indulged, and to adopt in their room a system of thinking and acting in many respects directly opposite to them; a religion exposing them to many present hardships and severe trials, and referring them for their reward to a distant period of time, and an invisible world? Was it to be expected, that such a change as this, such a sudden and violent revolution in the minds of men,
* Matt, x, 2, 3.
could be brought about by common and ordinary instruments? Would it not require agents of a very superior order, of considerable influence from their birth, and wealth, and situation in life; men of the profoundest erudition, of the brightest talents, of the most consummate knowledge of the world and the human heart, of the most insinuating manners, of the most commanding and fascinating eloquence? Were, then, the apostles of this description? Quite the contrary. They were plain, humble, unpretending men, of low birth and low occupations, without learning, without education, without any extraordinary endowments natural or acquired, without any thing, in short, to recommend them but their simplicity, integrity, and purity of manners. With what hopes of success could men such as these set about the most difficult of all enterprises, the reformation of a corrupt world, and the conversion of it to a new faith? Yet we all know, that they actually did accomplish these two most arduous things; and that, on the foundations they laid, the whole superstructure of the Christian church has been raised, and the divine truths of the Gospel spread through all parts of the civilized world. How, then, is this to be accounted for? It is utterly impossible to account for it in any way, but that which Christ himself points out, in this very charge to his apostles: "Heal the sick," says he to them, in the eighth verse, "cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils." Here is the explanation of the whole mystery. It was the powers with which they were invested, the miracles they were enabled to perform, which procured such multitudes of converts. The people saw that God was with them, and that, therefore, every thing they taught must be true.
Here is at once a sufficient cause assigned for the effect produced by agents, apparently so unequal to the production of it. We challenge all the infidels in the world to assign any other adequate cause. They have never yet done it; and we assert with confidence, that they never can.
These, then, were the powers the apostles carried along with them; and where shall we find the sovereign that could ever furnish his ambassadors with such qualifications as these? If they were asked with what authority they were invested, and what proofs they could
give, that they were actually commissioned to instruct mankind in the principles of true religion, by that great personage, the Son of God, whose servants and ministers they pretended to be, their answer was short and decisive; Bring us your sick, and we will heal them; show us your lepers, and we will cleanse them; produce your dead, and we will restore them to life. It would not be very easy to dispute the authenticity of such credentials as these.
It is farther to be observed on this head, that the circumstance of our Saviour not only working miracles himself, but also enabling others to perform them, is an instance of divine power, to which no other prophet or teacher before him, true or false, ever pretended. In this, as in many other respects, he stands unrivalled and alone.
After this follow some directions, no less singular and "Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; nor scrip for your journey; neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves*.'
That is, they were to take a long journey, without making any other provision for it than the staff in their hand, and the clothes they had on; for, says Jesus, "the workman is worthy of his meat;' an intimation, that the providence of God would watch over and supply their wants. This required some confidence in their Master; and unless they had good grounds for thinking, that it was in his power to engage Providence on their side (or, in other words, that he was actually the Son of God), they would scarce have run the risk of so unpromising an expedition. But this conclusion grows infinitely stronger, when we come to the declaration in the next and following verses: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye, therefore, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the councils; and they will scourge you in the synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my name's sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles; and the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death; and ye shall be hated of all men for my name's saket."
Matt. x, 9, 10.
+ Matt. x, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22.
What now shall we say to this extraordinary and unexampled declaration?
When a sovereign sends his ambassadors to a foreign country, he makes an ample provision for their journey, he assigns them a liberal allowance for their support, and generally holds out, at the same time, the prospect of a future reward for their labours and their services to their country on their return from their embassy. And without this, few men would be disposed to undertake the commission.
But here every thing is the reverse: instead of support, they were to meet with persecution; instead of an honourable reception, they were to experience universal hatred and detestation; instead of reward, they were to be exposed to certain ruin and destruction, and to be let loose like so many sheep among wolves.
Can we now conceive it possible, that any men, in their senses, should, without some very powerful and extraordinary motive, voluntarily undertake such a commission as this, in which their only recompense was to be affliction, misery, pain, and death; in which, all the natural affections of the human heart were to be extinguished or inverted, and their nearest relations, their parents, children, or brethren, were to be their persecutors and executioners? Is it usual for human beings wantonly and needlessly to expose themselves to such evils as these, without the least prospect of any advantage to themselves or their families? You may say, perhaps, that simple, ignorant, uneducated men, like the apostles, might easily be deluded by an artful leader, and betrayed into very dreadful calamities, and that we see multitudes thus deceived and ruined every day. It is true but where, in this case, is the art of the leader, or the delusion of the followers? In the cases alluded to, men are induced to embark in perilous undertakings, and to run headlong into destruction, by fair promises and tempting offers, by promises of liberty, of wealth, of honour, of popularity, of glory. But here, instead of employing any art, or making any attempt to deceive his followers, our Saviour plainly tells them they are to expect nothing but what is most dreadful to human nature. Whatever they suffered, therefore, they suffered with their eyes open, and with their own free choice and consent. It is true they were plain, ignorant men; but they could feel pain, and they could have no more fond