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who ministered to him of their substance.” Luke viii. 1—3. And it seems, that they made great proficiency by their attendance on Jesus. They must have heard many of his public discourses, and seen many of his miracles. id: they were not present, at any time, when our Lord ate the paschal supper with the disciples.' Nor did they hear his affecting discourses at those seasons. And they must have been absent upon many other occasions, when he discoursed and conferred with the disciples. In this respect it may be said, that they “ partook of the crumbs . that fell from the disciples’ table.” Their improvements therefore are surprising. For they appear not to have fallen short of the apostles themselves in understanding, faith, zeal, and affection for Jesus. And St. Mark, relating the conclusion of our Lord's sufferings on the cross, says: “There were also women looking on afar off. Among whom was Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James the less, and of Joses, and Salome. Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him; and many other women, who came up with him unto Jerusalem,” Mark xv. 40, 41. Those women, therefore, who had before attended upon our Lord, persevered in their faith to the end. They attended his crucifixion, standing afar off, bewailing him. They afterwards observed where they laid him. And early on the first day of the week came to the sepulchre, with rich spices to embalm him. And they had the honour to be the first, who saw the Lord after he was risen from the dead. Permit me to add a thought or two more. The persons named by St. Luke and St. Mark, as following our Lord, and ministering to him, were chiefly women of distinction, and of advanced age. Such were those, who, together with our Lord’s mother, showed him that respect. Among these I do not reckon the two sisters of Lazarus. They appear not to have attended upon our Lord any where, but at their own home, and, in the company of their brother, at the house of Simon the leper, a neighbour in the village of Bethany, where they dwelt. The reason we do not certainly know. But it may have been owing to their age. If they were still in the days of youth, it might not be fit that they should expose themselves abroad. Hence we can infer, that the number of women, who believed in Jesus as the Christ, and professed faith in him, was not inconsiderable. Many of these there were, who had so good understanding, and so much virtue, as to overcome the common and prevailing prejudice. Without any bias of passion, or worldly interests, and contrary to the judgments and menaces of men in power, they judged rightly in a controverted point, of as much importance as ever was debated on this earth. I have touched upon all these particulars, by way of encouragement to others. Despair to excel, and attain to eminence, enervates the powers of action, and obstructs those advances in knowledge and piety which otherwise might be made. High stations and public employments are not needful. Eminent virtue may be in any station. Wherever, it is, it is discerned by the penetrating eye of Jesus, and is beheld with approbation, and will be rewarded by him in due time. 6. This text gives no encouragement to those honours, approaching to idolatry, or altogether idolatrous, which some have since given to departed saints, both men and WOInnen. Our Lord, in this place, speaks not of any such thing. And it is inconsistent with the tenour of his, and his apostles' doctrine. But I need not enlarge upon this, in an assembly of persons, who think freely, and exercise their highest power of reason and understanding in things of religion, as well as about matters of less moment. 7. We have in this history, an instance of the favour of our Lord for virtue. A person having performed an action, which proceeded from laudable dispositions, he expresseth his approbation of it, and declares, that it should be celebrated. We may be assured therefore, that when our Lord shall come again, ot judgment, this benevolent, this remunerative property of his all-knowing and perfect mind, will be gratified, and displayed to the full. He will then bestow rewards, answerable to the riches, the honours, the delights, and entertainments of this world; but greatly surpassing them, and the ideas, which we have formed from what now appears to us most splendid and magnificent. 8. And lastly, This text teacheth us to think, and judge for ourselves, and to act according to the light of our own judgment and understanding, after having taken due care to be well informed, without paying too great deference to the favourable, or the unfavourable sentences of others. This woman met with checks and rebukes in her testimony of respect to Jesus. But he approved of it. Some acts of charity, some works of goodness, which appear reasonable and expedient to ourselves, may be preferred by us before some others, which are in more general esteem. Those we should perform, without discouraging these others, or entirely omitting them, if our ability can reach them all. But every man is the best judge of his own abilities, and what is most proper to be done by him, in the circumstances in which he is placed, and the relation he bears to others. If we perform what appears to ourselves best and most expedient, with a sincere regard to the glory of God; and upon all occasions strive to excel in what is laudable; we need not doubt the approbation of our Lord, whose judgment is the most impartial, and the most equitable, and will secure such rewards, as are most valuable and desirable.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN TAKEN BY FORCE.
..And from the days of John the Baptist, until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Matt. xi. 12.
JOHN the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus with that question: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” Our Lord having wrought some miracles in the sight of those two persons, as well as taught the people in their hearing, sends them back again to John in rison, saying, “Go, and show John the things, which ye do ear and see.” When they were departed, our Lord took that opportunity to speak to the multitudes concerning John, the better to remove their prejudices against himself, and the gospel-dispensation. He enlargeth upon John's character, whom they generally owned for a prophet. He tells them, that they therein judged very rightly. He was a prophet indeed, and superior to most, or any of the prophets, that had been sent to them, upon account of the doctrine taught by him; which was pure religion, recommended upon forcible inotives and considerations. “Nevertheless,” adds our Lord, “he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” He that shall receive my doctrine, and be a subject of the gospel-dispensation, fully revealed and established, will excel him in the knowledge of religion in some respects. As much was intimated by ..". It follows in the words of the text: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” As if he said: ‘However after all, it is not every one that will attain “to this excellence and dignity. Such are the prejudices “that obtain, and such are the worldly and self-interested “views of many, that it is not without considerable diffi“culty, that the blessings of this dispensation will be se“cured. And they may be said to be a sort of violent men, “that enter into the kingdom of God, now setting up in the • world.” “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” Hitherto, you have had the teaching of the law and the prophets. But the genuine and sublime principles of true religion are now more clearly taught. And more selfdenial is requisite to embrace them, than many are willing to #. and submit to. here is a parallel place in St. Luke, which is in these words. “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that the kingdom of God is preached. And every man,” who enters into that kingdom, “presseth into it,” Luke xvi. 16. that is, forceth his way into it, by breaking through many obstacles. It is added in the fore-cited place from St. Matthew, where our Lord is discoursing to the people concerning John : “And, if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was to come. He that has ears to hear let him hear.” Which expressions we never find used by our Lord, but when he says somewhat of great importance, or which men were prejudiced against, and therefore it required more than ordinary attention and honesty of mind, to admit and embrace. For though John was really very eminent, and at his first appearance raised the regard of the whole Jewish nation, they did not now so generally consider him in his proper character of the fore-runner of the Messiah as they had done. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” Our Lord, by violent men, does not intend such as are injurious to others, in their rights and rivileges. Nor does he design to intimate, that any vioence is necessary to be used against the will and disposals * Matt. iii. 11. and other places.
of God; as if hinderances were laid in the way of men's salvation by determinations of the Divine Being, secret or open. For God is ready, graciously to receive all who repent. And Jesus Christ calls and invites all in general, saying: “Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden ; and I will give you rest.” But the force here spoken of is that resolution, which is exerted in denying ourselves, and overcoming prejudices, or acting contrary to some obstructions laid in our way by other men. Not to enlarge any farther in a general way concerning the meaning of this observation of our Lord, I shall endeavour to explain it by representing, in several particulars, the nature of that force, which is here spoken of, and mention divers instances of the violent people here intended. After which I may add some reflections, and conclude. I. I shall mention some particulars, which may show the nature of the force here spoken of 1. One kind of force here intended is a resolution of mind to receive the doctrine and precents of strict holiness and virtue, though contrary to | ordinary bias of men's appetites and inclinations. If religion consisted only in some ritual observances, or bodily mortifications, at some certain seasons; it would not be so difficult a thing, nor very contrary to any bad habits and dispositions. But true religion, such as was taught by John the Baptist, and by our Saviour, is a doctrine hard to be received, and complied with, cordially and fully. The general strain and tenour of their preaching is, “ repent:” forsake all sin; return to God, and serve him in the practice of real holiness. “When the people came to John, and asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answered and said unto them ; He that has two coats, let him impart to him that has none. And he that has meat, let him do likewise,” Luke iii. 11. Hard doctrine ! And it re|. a good deal of resolution of mind, and much selfenial, to determine to put it in practice, by parting with our all upon special occasions, or our superfluous abundance, from time to time, as the wants and exigencies of men may demand. The same may be said of his other admonitions to publicans and soldiers, that they should perform the duties, particularly suited to their employments, and forbear the exactions, or other offences, . their wav of life more especially inclined them to. Luke iii. 12–14. Such was John's doctrine. And certainly our Lord's was of the same kind, and an improvement of it—declar