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L ECTURE XII.
LUKE, IV, 16-22.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the dynagogue on the jabbath. day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias : and when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, the /pirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor ; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to let at liberty them that are bruijed ; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were faslened on him. And he began to say unto them, this day is this scripture fulfilled in your cars. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
WE read, in the history of the patriarchal ages, of an illuf
trious personage who exercised at once the functions of a priest and of a sovereign; Melchizedee, “King of Salem, and priest of the Most High God." He, whom this venerable perlon thus early represented to the world, united to these two characters, a third, less splendid indeed, but not less important, ibai of a teacher and instructor of mankind; and thus He became all that a guilty, enslaved, ignorant world stood in need of. In the blessed Jesus, O wretched man, thou beholdest the great High Psiest of thy profession, who hath, by one offering, one victim, one blood, procured the remiffion of all thy offences; the Prince of the kings of the earth, who has broken alunder the bands of thy yoke, and asserted thee into the "glorisus liberty of the sons of God;" and the great, the unerring Teacher sent froin God, who ipake as never man spake, whose lessons make men wife unto salvation.
As the Sovereign and Lord of Nature we have seen him ex. ercising dominion over the powers of the worlds visible and inviable, puiting, Saran to flight by a word, receiving the homage and mmiltrations of angels. As an High Priest, “after the order of Melchizedec," we dhall in the progress of this history behold him offering himself, once for all, “a facrifice of a sweet Imelling favour unio God." We are this evening to sit at his feet, and to listen to him in his humbler and more familiar .charaćier of the meek, patient, and condescending instructor of the weak, the ignorant, and the prejudiced. And, O may the gracious words which proceed from his mouth not only excite our wonder, but penetrate and melt our hearts, kindle our repentings together, and put all that remains of our existence under the dominion of love.
His first labours of affection were bestowed upon his kin. dred and acquaintance, they were confecrated to the improveInent of the companions and friends of early life. He had hitherto taught them by example, he now teaches them out of the written word. Had he been covetous of tame or of hon. our, he would surely have chosen another theatre on which to display his superior powers, for he well knew that no prophet is accepted in his own country. He well knew that eminent excellency excites envy, that envy produces malignity, and that malice prompts to evil speaking. But regard to his own interest and ease is lost in compassion to others, and the love of reputation with men reverently bends to zeal for the glory of God. Every circumstance of the scene before us is interesting and instructive.
We have in the preceding Leĉiure adverted to thoseof place, it was“ in Galilee at Nazareth where He had been brought up," and " in the synagogue.” Attend now to the season, it was on the fabbath-day. As to the pure all places, so all times are pure, yet to man, weak and in perfe&t as he is, distinction of both time and place is important and necessary. Shew me a man who is habitually and uniformly that in the world, which decency obliges him to appear to be in the house of God, and I shall not presume to condemn him, though he frequent not the temple ; although such an one is of all others the least likely to delert it. Shew me the man whole every day is a day of order, of piety, of mercy, and of good works, and such an one shall, for me, spend the seventh day in what manner he will; though such an one is of all others the mo& likely to put respect on the ordinance of God. Who of all those, who are born of a woman, stood least in need of the influence and af. sistance of sacred edifices and seasons ? He whose conversation was continually in heaven, whose “ meat and drink it was to do the will of his heavenly Father," who never loft fight, for a moment, of the great end of his mission. And who was so jegular in his attendanceon the exercises of religious worship;
who was so exaêt in the observance of every institution that was ftamped with marks of divine authority ?
The fabbath is an ordinance of mercy, designed by Him who ri
preferveth inan and beast,” to be an interruption of painful toil, a restorer of exhausted nature, a season of repose ; but in perfect con Giftency with this, it is a season of mental exertion of beneficence ; of devout contemplation, of virtuous, socials intercourse. But the observance of the fabbath had, when our Saviour came into the world : degenerated into a 'narrow and grovelling superstition, which leparated from it every idea of mercy and good will to men, and the spirit was funk in the letter. It therefore became this great Teacher, to restore the institution to its primitive design and use, and to guard mankind equally against the extremes of superstition,' on the one hand, and of profanity on the other ; and this he does wiih a wisdom, a delicacy, and a dignity peculiar to himselt, Who can think flightly of what he treated with respect ? Who dares tò violate what he observed as the holy of the Lord and honourable ?” And who again can think he is doing honour to God by expresling indifference, unkindness, and want of sympathy to nien ? He who attended the synagogue, who read and expounded the Scriptures on the fabbath ; on the fabbath also restored the withered hand, detended his disciples from the charge of profanation displayed the character of the sovereiga Lord of the fabbath, as preferring mercy to sacrifice, and as having instituted" the fabbath for man, and not man for the fabbath."
Observe farther, the Evangelist:takes care to inform us that Christ's attendance on the services of the synagogue and the fabbath was not merely accidental or occasional, but habitual and stated : as his custom was. What we do according to no fixed rule, we do feebly and contuledly. What we do feldom we do with reluctance and dislike ; and from diflike the nat. ural tranGtion is to total omission. On the corresary; what is fubjected to rule is done accurately and efficiently; what we do habitually, we do with ease and deligh: ; for custom, says the proverb, and with much truth, is a second nature. The Saviour of the world, accordingly, vouchfated to become an example here also, as ot every thing else that is wise and good; He was a pattern of regular, orderly conduct; from his child: hood, and upward, He was a silent instructor of the fucceffive ftages of rising existence, in docility, in contentment, in submission, in regularity.
Let no one tell me that it is useless to habituate children be. times to the forms of devotion; to the observance of inftitu.
tions whose meaning and intention they do not fully compres hend: to restraints which to them appear harsh and unreasonable. It is a great thing, indeed it is every thing, to be under the government of innocent or praise-worthy customs : to be inured to the laws of order ; to be prepared for thinking for themselves, and for having their lentiments heard and attended to, by learning to pay respect to the understanding, to the opinions, and to the experience of others. Think with what holy indignation, He, whose name we bear; would have liftened to a proposal to violate his custom, and to make the hour of the devotions of the synagogue, the hour of walking into the corn. fields !
The historian is here singularly minute, and gives wonderful vivacity to his representation by going into a detail of particulars. Among these, we must advert to his pofture and attitude, when employed in reading to the people the word of God. He stood up for to read. Nature seems to point this out as an attitude of reverence and respect. Since the days of Abraham, who stood up and bowed himself before the people of the land wherein he dwelt, the wise, the benevolent, and the courteous have employed it as an expression of regard to lur perior fanctity, power, majesty or multitude. Posture is, in its felf, ftill more indifferent than time or place ; but nothing is indifferent in the eyes of true wisdom by which the interestis of either human virtue or felicity can be affected. Truth is the fame whether delivered in an erect or a recumbent posture. But in matters of this fort, What says common practice? Will my compliance conciliate affection, procure attention, give force to what is said ? Then I will cheerfully conform. Will my fingularity give offence, will it awaken prejudice, will it injure the caufe I mean to promote ? Then I will not affect fingularity ; I will not be uncomplying nor ankind; and I will dissent only where conscience is concerned, and where compliance would be criminal.
How melancholy it is to reflect, on the talents which have been perverted, on the time which has been waited, but that is comparatively nothing, on the angry spirits which have been excited, on the oceans of blood which have been spilt, in dem termining whether standing, sitting or kneeling ; whether this or the other uneffential circumstance were most adapted to the nature of things, or most conformable to the will, or conducive to the glory, of the Creator. In this too, therefore, I consider the example of Christ as intelligible, decided and in structive. He" stood up to read." Happily for the world, its infor
mation and instruction in matters of everlasting moment were not entrusted to the uncertainty, the changeableness and the corruptibility of oral tradition. He who bestowed on man the gift of speech, for the mutual communication of thought, gave likewise the pattern of permanent Ipeech, by means of writing; by which thought is transmitted from region to region, from generation 10 generation, un sophisticated, unim. paired. Hence the events which Mofes recorded, and which Isaiah predicted, the precepts of the Law and the promises of the Gospel, descend from age to age in equal purity, weight and measure : and the son lees, reads and apprehends the self. fame truth which was the light and joy of his progenitors. And what must it have been to hear the sublime and pathetic strains of Isaiah pronounced by the tongue of Him who formed the ear for the perception of melodious sounds, the mouth 10 ulter them, and the heart to receive the impression of sacred and interesting truth! We may judge of it from the inute: ato tention with which he was heard, and from the wonder expreffed, after he had finished, " at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth."
It would appear that it was riot only " his custom” to attend the synagogue, but to perform the office of public reader to the assembly. For the proper minister delivers to Him, as to the acknowledged conductor of this part of the service, that portion of the Sacred Code which either order prescribed, or which his selection called for, or to which Providence speciale lý, directed ; and be received it from Him again to be deposita. ed in its place. And whether indeed did Providence, indes pendent of human design or forelight, by a special interpofia tion unfold the particular passage from ancient prophecy ; or did his own choice select it as peculiarly applicable to the occafion ? In either case, what portion of the Old Testament Scrip. tures is more emphatically descriptive of his person, character, and divine mission ? And what can be so worthy of our most deep and serious attention, whether we consider the infinite and everlasting moment of the subject, the interest which we have in it. or the affecting correspondence of the event with the prediction, of the prophet with his object.
The prophecy holds up to view a person of the most disa tinguished eminence, confecrated in the most extraordinary manner, to the execution of the most generous, mercitul and benevolent purposes, and in language the most po* erful and pathetic. It is the anointed of the Lord God, his Holy One, who alone could without presumption undertake, and triumphantly accomplish, the work of redemption, and could un