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flict with your passions will grow less irksome every day. A few years (with some of you perhaps a very few) will put an entire end to it; and you will then, to your unspeakable comfort, be enabled to cry out with St. Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day."*

* 2 Tim. iv, 7, 8.

LECTURE V.

MATTH. iv. Latter Part.

The former part of the fourth chapter of St. Matthew, which contains the history of our Saviour's temptation, having been explained to you in the preceding Lecture, I shall now proceed to the latter part of the chapter, in which an account is given of the first opening of our blessed Lord's ministry, by his preaching, by his choosing a few companions to attend him, and by his beginning to work miracles; all which things are stated very briefly, without any attempt to expatiate on the importance and magnitude of the subject, which was nevertheless the noblest and most interesting that is to be found in history; an enterprise the most stupendous and astonishing that ever before entered into the mind of man, nothing less than the conversion of a whole world from wickedness and idolatry to virtue and true religion.

On this vast undertaking our Lord now entered ; and we are informed by St. Matthew, in the 17th verse of this chapter, in what manner he first announced himself and his religion to the world. His first address to the people was similar to that of the Baptist, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The very first qualification he required of those who aspired to be his disciples, was repentance, a sincere contrition for all past offences, and a resolution to renounce in future every species of sin; for sin, he well knew, would be the grand obstacle to the reception of his Gospel.

What a noble idea does this present to us of the dignity and sanctity of our divine religion! It cannot even be approached by the unhallowed and the profane. Before they can be admitted even into the outward courts of its sanctuary, they must leave their corrupt appetite and their sinful practices behind them. “ Put off thy shoes from off thy feet,” said God to Moses from the burning bush, “ for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."* Put off all thy vicious habits, says Christ to every one that aspires to be his disciple, for the religion thou art to embrace is a holy religion, and the God thou

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* Exod. iii. 5.

art to serve is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot even look upon iniquity. In some of the ancient sects of philosophy, before any one could be admitted into their schools, or initiated in their mysteries, he was obliged to undergo a certain course of preparation, a certain term of trial and probation, which however consisted of little more than a few superstitious ceremonies, or some acts of external discipline and purification. But the preparation for receiving the Christian religion is the preparation of the heart. The discipline required for a participation of its privileges, is the mortification of sin, the sacrifice of every guilty propensity and desire.

This sacrifice however the great founder of our religion did not require for nothing. He promised his followers a recompence infinitely beyond the indulgences they were to renounce ; he promised them a place in his kingdom, a kingdom of which he was the sovereign ; a kingdom of righteousness here, and of glory hereafter. Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. *

He then proceeds to select and associate to himself a certain number of persons, who were to be his assistants and coadjutors in the establishment and the administration of his heavenly kingdom.

And here it was natural to expect, that in making this choice, he should look to men of influence, authority, and weight; that being himself destitute of all the advantages of rank, power, wealth, and learning, he should endeavour to compensate for those defects in his own person by the contrary qualities of his associates, by connecting himself with some of the most powerful, most opulent, most learned, and most eloquent men of his time.

And this most undoubtedly would have been his mode of proceeding, had his object been to establish his religion by mere human means, by influence or by force, by the charms of eloquence, by the powers of reason, by the example, by the authority, by the fashion of the great. But these were not the instruments which Christ meant to make use of. He meant to show that he was above them all ; that he had far other resources, far different auxiliaries, to call in to his support, in comparison of which all the wealth and magnificence, and power and wisdom of the world, were trivial and contemptible things. We find, therefore, that not the wise, not the mighty, not the noble were calledt to co-operate with him ; but men of the meanest birth, of the lowest occu

* Matth. iv. 17.

† 1 Cor. i. 26.

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pations, of the humblest talents, and most uncultivated minds. “ As he was walking by the sea of Galilee, St. Matthew tells us, he saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men; and they straightway left their nets (that is in fact all their subsistence, all the little property they had in the world) and followed him. And going from thence he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father mending their nets; and he called them, and they immediately left the ship, and their father, and followed him."* These were the men whom he selected for his companions and assistants. These fishermen of Galilee were to be, under him, the instruments of overthrowing the stupendous and magnificent system of paganism and idolatry throughout the world, and producing the greatest change, the most general and most important revolution in principles, in morals, and in religion, that ever took place on this globe. For this astonishing work, these simple, illiterate, humble men, were singled out by our Lord. He chose, as the apostle expresses it, " the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty ;t that his religion might not be established by the enticing words of man's wisdom, but by demonstration of the spirit and of power ; that our faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”I

Such were the associates chosen by him, who was the delegate of heaven, and whose help was from above. We may expect therefore that an impostor, who meant to rely on human means for success, would take a directly contrary course. And this we find in fact to be the case. Who were the companions and assistants selected by the grand impostor Mahomet? They were men of the most weight and authority, and rank and influence, among his countrymen. The reason is obvious; he wanted such supports ; Christ did not; and hence the marked difference of their conduct in this instance. It is the natural difference between truth and imposture. That the power of God and not of man was the foundation on which our Lord meant to erect his new system, very soon appeared ; for the next thing we hear of him is, that he “ went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people.”'ll

* Matth. iv. 18–22.

+ 1 Cor. i. 27. || Matth. iv. 23.

| 1 Cor. ii. 4, 5.

Here then began that demonstration of the spirit and of power, which was to be the grand basis of his new kingdom, the great evidence of his heavenly mission. It is indeed probable that the wisdom and the authority with which he spake, and the weight and importance of the doctrines he taught, would of themselves make a deep impression on the minds of his hearers, and produce him some followers. But had he stopt here, had he giren his new disciples nothing but words, their zeal and attachment to him would soon have abated. For it was natural for these converts to say to him, 6 You have called upon us to repent and to reform ; you have commanded us to renounce our vices, to relinquish our favourite pleasures and pursuits, to give up the world and its enjoyments, and to take up our cross and follow you ; and in return for this you promise us distinguished happiness and honour in your spiritual kingdom. You spake, it is true, most forcibly to our consciences and to our hearts; and we feel strongly disposed to obey your injunctions, and to credit your promises ; but still the sacrifice we are required to make is a great one, and the conflict we have to go through is a bitter one.

We find it a most painful struggle to subdue confirmed habits, and to part at once with all our accustomed pleasures and indulgences. Before then we can entirely relinquish these, and make a complete change in the temper of our souls and the conduct of our lives, we must have some convincing proof that you have a right to require this compliance at our hands; that what you enjoin us is in reality the command of God himself; that you are actually sent from heaven, and commissioned by him to teach us his will, and to instruct us in our duty ; that the kingdom you hold out to us in another world is something more than mere imagination : that you are in short what you pretend to be, the Son of God ; and that you are able to make good the punishment you denounce against sin, and the rewards you promise to virtue.”

Our Lord well knew that this sort of reasoning must occur to every man's mind. He knew that it was highly proper and indispensably necessary to give some evidence of his divine commission, to do something which should satisfy the world that he was the Son of God, and the delegate of heaven. And how could he do this so effectually as by performing works which it utterly exeeded all the strength and ability of man to accomplish, and which nothing less than the hand of God himself could possibly bring to pass ? In other words, the proofs he gave of his mission were those astonishing miracles which are recorded in the Gospel, and which are here for the first

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