« PreviousContinue »
fold that "great mystery of Godliness” which angels desire to kook into : who was set apart from everlasting to this highi dertination, who was gradually revealed, and in the fulness of time, sent to be the falvation of God to all the ends of the earth. Who was anointed, not as Aaron to the priesthood, and David to the sovereignty by a material oil of exquisite odour and costly price, but by the effusion of the Spirit, the Spirit of power, of wisdom, of holiness, which rested upon him without mealtire ; and which was beftowed upon him for what purpose ? with Mofes to humble the pride, and crush the power of Egypt? or with Cyrus, " to fubdue nations, to loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates, to make the crooked places straight, to break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron ;' to execute the righteous judgment of the Eternal on' rebellion, prefumiption and disobe. dience; to condemn and to destroy ? No, when this mighty One cometh, armed with power, anointed with the Spirit, it is to dispense grace, to diffufe happiness, to relieve the miferable.
"He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.'' The poor are, with the great of the earth, the objects of negleat, and contempt, and oppression. In the dictionary of the world, rich mean's respectable, powerful and important : and poverty is equivalent to wretchedness, meanness, despicability. But the dispensation of grace by the gospel inverts this order ; it affixes a different, indeed an opposite meaning to words, it raises into consequence what was lightly esteemed, and it hurls pride down to the ground. It" puts down the mighty from their seats, and exalteth them of low degree." Is it poverty of condition ? That is no bar againt the admiffion of the consolations of Christianity ; that is no disqualification for enjoying the rights of citizenship of the kingdom of heaven; that implies no exclusion from tħe glorious "privileges of the fons of God;" that'implies neither fin nor: shame. Is it poverty of spirit ? It is the creature's highest glory ; it is the Redeemer's brightest and most perfeet image ; it is the soul's preparation for the kingdom of heaven. To the one and to the other is the. anointed of the Lord sent to preach the gospel.; to the poor in this world, that they may learn to be sober minded, patient and content ; not envying nor grieving attie gööd of others, bu laying up for themfelves "treafures in heaven;" looking for “another country," for "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God :"-to the poor in spirit, that' they may “grow in grace," that they may contemplate and follow their pattern more closely, learning of him daily to be
"meek and lowly in heart, that they may find rest to their fouls.”
He hath sent me to heal the broken hearted." Gracious office ! divine Physician ! Thou only art equal to the task, “ The heart knoweth its own bitterness ;” The ill admits of no cure ; the officious consolation of the creature only irritates the wound ; time itlelt brings no relief. But behold, here, not a temporary relief, but a lasting cure ; not the transient fpirit and calm of a stupifying opiate, but the solid fupport of wholelome food, and the retreshing balm of wholesome reit. An infnaring, perlecuting world, mourner in Zion, disturbs thy peace, and breaks thy heart; but He hath said " be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” “In the world ye thall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace." In the bitterness of thy foul thou criest out, O wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?"Trembling, finking creature, fpeak peace to thy foul, “ return to thy rest," " there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; it is God that justifieth : who is he that condemneth ?
To preach deliverance to the captives, Bondage, slavery, captivity are happily known to us only by the name, or in idea. We are more than Abraham's children ; our fathers contended for liberty, Heaven granted it, and we enjoy it. But ah ! our country is but a speck on :he globe ; our popula. tion is but a handful of men. And alas, even in our own country there is captivity. How many among us “ wax poor and fall into decay," and that not from profligacy and prodie gality alone ? The creditor cometh, and there is nothing 10 give him. The loss of liberty is the consequence : the evil becomes worse and worse. He who entered within the walls of a prison untortunate only, continues there under a total in, capacity of shaking off calamity. What was at first the pref. sure of debt, imperceptibly changes into an intol.rable load of vice, from which a miracle of grace alone can deliver. How many thoulands of our fellow subjects are in this, unhappy. this almoft hopeless condition ! But liberty may exist even in a dungeon. If the prisoner carries with him into confinement the spirit of adoption," he is already delivered from bondage. No bolts, nor bars, nor tetters of iron can restrain the heaven-born minit: he can look up and
çry, Abba, Father !" "He that is called in the Lord, being a flave, is the Lord's freeman." “ It the Son shall make you free, ye shall be tree indeed." Paul in bonds, a prisoner in the cause of Jesus Chrift, poľenes a nobly free and independent spirit. Galles
with many stripes ;" "thruft into the inner prison" at Phil. ippi, with Silas his coin panion in tribulation, " their feet made fast in the Atocks," they enjoy liberty of access to the throne of Grace. fast in the topidnight they prayed, and lang praises unto God.". Thus the Lord loofeth the prifoners," and thus the Anointed iş " sent to preach, and to give" deliverance to the captives."
But what, in respect either of multitude or of misery, are imprisoned debtors, or even telons lying under the rod of the law, compared to the voluntarily en Naved ?." Whosoever committeth lin is the flave of fin... And what blindness is like wiltul blindness, and what servitude so hopeless, so inglorious as that into which a man degrades himself?. It is some alleviation of the depreslicn of a servile estate, that the master is honourable, and that the service required is neither humiliating nor severe : bụt O how mortifying the refletion of being in fubjection to an unfeeling monster, to a capricious tyrant, to a contemptible groundling! And such is every slave to irregular appetite, whether it be the luft of the flesh, or the luft of the eyes, or the pride of life.". Such dream that they are following their own will, but in truth they “are led captive by Sagan at his will :" and " the wages of fin is death." To deliver from this moft inglorious, this fatal thraldom, then, is the object of Christ's mission. What, Britons, glory, and well you may, in your civil liberties ! and willingly assume the yoke of a paliry interest, of a grovelling propensity' which you are a. shamed to avow ! What, m ke it your boast that the moment the ill-fated African breathes British air he becomes free! and continue deliberately to fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind," which war against the soul !" Great Deliverer, exert thy power, display thy grace ; "open their eyes, turn them from darkness to lighi, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forg:veness of ans, and inheritance among them which are fan&tified."
"He hath sent me--for the recovering of fight to the blind.” On what numberless, and what delicate hinges does human comfort turn! Who can describe " the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to ?" Were the kindnels of Nature or the care of Providence to be suspended but for a day, into what a l'azarhouse would the world be instantly transformed ! The defeat ot a nail of a little finger" is a blemish in organization, but a blemish which nature feldom permits ; how much less a deficiency of one of the nobler parts, or a disarrangement of the whole fyftem ! But that the works of God should be made manite!i," a "man is blind from his birth;' and another loses
" the precious treasure of his eye-light.” Of the two, the latter surely is the greater evil. We cannot regret what we have hardly an idea ot, what we never possessed, and to which we become perfectly reconciled before we are conscious of exift. ence. But to recollect the pleatures of vision after the organ is destroyed; but to be reduced to mourn with the Poet in these affecting strains :
With the year
Seasons return; but not to me returns
PARAD. LOST, III. 40, &c. This is" darkness which may be felt." In representing, accordingly, the deplorable state of the world under the image of blindness, a state of ignorance, guilt and wretchedness; and in representing the correspondent office and work of the Re. deemer, that blindness is not described as an original and radi. cal detect at light, but as the casual deprivation of a blessing once in posseffion : and he is considered as lent not 10 confer a benefit unknown, unenjoyed before, but to restore that which was loft, to relumine the extinguished orb. The truth is, men had wiltully ihut their eyes, because they could not bear the light. This was the condemnation of the unbelieving Jews, with all their superior advantages : " Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world ; that they which fee no might see, and that they which see might be made blind. And fome of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto bim, Are we blind also ? Jesus said unto them, It ye were blind, ye should have no fin : but now ye say, We lee; there. tore your fin remaineth." And this was the condemnation of the self-conceited Gentiles, with all their affectation of wil. dom: "professing themselves to be wise, they became fools :" " they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." They are in another place thus defcribod, and under the same image ; " lhe Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of.God through the ignorance that As in them, because of the blindness of their heart:" And this
mental darkness is represented as necessarily blended with mor, al corruption of the grossest kind. Thus are both Jews and Gentiles involved in thick darkness, and both under the dominion of fin; “ God hath concluded them all in unbeliet, that he might have mercy upon all.” The promifes of Meffiabi are of equal extent ; as “a falvation prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel."
“He is sent, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” We have here a representation of human misery in every circumstance of aggravation ; poverty, mental depreflion, captivity. blindness, letters of iron. There is in this gradation, perhaps, an allusion to the horrid treatment of unhappy prisoners on talling into the hands of their enemies. They were shut up in prison, their eyes were thrust out, they were loaded with chains. Thus was Samson treated, the moment hış strength tailed, and his cruel adversaries had obtained power over him : The Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison-house." And the light of his wretched ness they called /port. In this manner could one king act by another. “So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him. And they flew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon." Such are the dreadful abuses which a man commits againft his brother! such is the dreadtul malignity of the human heart ; suck the detestable working of "the carnal mind," which " is enmity against God," and an unrelenting foe to man !
This enumeration of human woes, is equivalent to a declara. tior., that whatever may be the nalure, and whatever the extent of the malady, the promised Deliverer should come provided with a suitable remedy.. And when he did come, he not only exercited this gracious power himself ; for" they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the pally; and he healed them;" but he communicated the fame laiutary vir, tue to his disciples allo ; "He gave them power against unclean spirits, to call them out, and to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease." And thus was the Scripture tulblled. The prophecy contains one important article more:
The Anoinied is sent to preach the acceptable year of ihe Lord, * The Law had a shadow.ot good things to come." With its