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blessings and privileges. “ She cried unto him, saying ; Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David, my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” Our Lord was pleased to try her faith, that the truth and eminence of it might be unquestioned. “ But he answered her not a word. His disciples came, and besought him, saying ; Send her away, for she crieth after us. But he answered and said ; I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Yet she is not discouraged. " Then came she, and worshipped him, saying ; Lord, help me. But he answered, and said; It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs. And she said ; Truth, Lord. Yet the dog's eat of tbe crumbs, which fall from the children's table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her; 0 woman, great is thy faith. Be it unto thee, as thou wilt,” Matt. xv, 22–28.
And so it was also afterwards. When the kingdom of heaven was more fully manifested to men, upon the ascension of Christ, and the publication of the gospel to the Gentiles, there were more of these who believed, and came into the kingdom of God, than of the Jews; though the gospel was first preached to them, and though the unbelieving Jews, every where, did all that lay in their power to obstruct the reception of the gentiles, and forbad the apostles to preach to them, “ that they might be saved," 1 Thess. ii. 16.
I do not stay to allege proofs, or instances of this, out of the Acts, or the Epistles, where they inay be easily found. I shall only refer to Acts xiii. 42—48; where is the account of the preaching of Paul and Barnabas in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia. “ And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought, that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. And the next sabbath-day came almost the whole city to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting, and blaspheming. But the Gentiles rejoiced, and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as were ordained,” or disposed, or prepared, “ for eternal life, believed.”
All which was often prophetically represented beforehand by our Lord in divers of his beautiful parables. With regard to this event, he also said : “ The first will be last, and the last first.” And after the commendation of the centurion's faith : " I say unto you, That many shall come from the east, and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But
the children of the kingdom,” who had so many superior advantages, “ shall be cast out into outer darkness.”
Thus I have endeavoured to explain the nature of the violence, which our Lord here speaks of, and have mentioned some instances of it.
To use the words of a pious and pathetic writer, upon this subject: • Now it was, that multitudes should throng • and crowd to enter in at the strait gate, and press into the
kingdom; and the younger brother should snatch the in• heritance from the elder ; the unlikely from the more • likely; the Gentiles from the Jews, the strangers from the • natives, and publicans and sinners from the scribes and • pharisees. Who like violent men shall by their importu• nity, obedience, watchfulness and diligence, snatch the • kingdom of heaven from those to whom it was first offered.'
APPLICATION. I shall now conclude with a few remarks, tending to illustrate this argument, and to confirm the explication which has been given of the text.
1. From what has been said, we may perceive, that when our Lord says, the kingdom of heaven" suffers violence, and the violent take it by force ;" the primary meaning of “ the kingdom of heaven” is “ the kingdom of God” under the Messiah, or the gospel-dispensation. But as enibracing the doctrine of the gospel, and obeying its rules and precepts, is the sure way to obtain the happiness of heaven; it is also true, that the future happiness is likely to be the portion of those who practise the zeal and resolution here intended.
2. True christians are the most unlikely of any men, to do any wrong, or violence to others, for the sake of the honours, riches, or other advantages of this world. For they are men, who take the kingdom of heaven by violence. Truth, the principles of religion, improvement in virtue, and the future everlasting bappiness, are the things they are most intent upon; for the promoting, and securing of which, they are willing to part with all earthly advantages, if the circumstances of things should require it.
3. It may be observed that the several kinds of violence which have been mentioned, as intended in these expressions, may be all found united in one and the same person. He may resolve to deny irregular appetites and affections, and bring them into conformity to the strictest rules of virtue. He may embrace the principles of religion, contrary to former prejudices, and notwithstanding external difficulties and discouragements. The same person may do
6 Dr. Jer. Taylor, in his Life of Christ.
all this, and likewise be one of those, who are of low condition, and who had but a mean education; and who also once was involved in a bad course of life.
4. The violence, of which our Lord speaks, may be, and still is often practised in the world. Still some may forsake errors, which bad been for a while entertained, and may overcome the prejudices of early age, and gain more generous sentiments, ihan had been first instilled into them.
Whenever great corruptions are brought into the church of Christ, and the profession of religion, truth is not to be recovered without a great deal of resolution. The glorious reformation made in these parts of the world from the numerous and gross corruptions of the church of Rome, was a work of this kind. The violent then took the kingdom of heaven, and seized truth by force. They improved their sentiments by serious, diligent, and impartial inquiries after knowledge; when their superiors would have kept them in ignorance and error; by exerting themselves in the cause of liberty, and in favour of an open profession of truth; when princes and priests, and the majority of every religious and civil community, to the utmost of their power, supported those errors and corruptions, which had been long before introduced into the profession of christianity.
5. Once more, for illustrating this point, it may be observed, that the violence, which our Lord here speaks of, is the same thing wbich is recommended in some precepts, and represented likewise in figurative expressions. For it is the same, as “ striving to enter in at the strait gate,” and “ seeking the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness in the first place." It is also represented in such parables as these : “ The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field -the which when a man has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman, seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he bad, and bought it,” Matt. xiii. 44, 45, 46.
Let the same laudable disposition of mind be in us. Let the saine just estimation of things be the principle of our action. Let us “ buy the truth," at any rate, but not part with it,” Prov. xxiii. 23, for any worldly consideration whatever. And let us hold fast our integrity, and be steady to the interests of truth, and the rules of virtue, unmoved either by the frowns or the smiles of this deceitful world. So shall we secure the true riches, and that honour, which will never be sullied.
VIRTUE RECOMMENDED UNDER THE SIMILITUDE OF
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou
mayest be rich : and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear : and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou may
Rev. jj. 18.
VIRTUE is in itself reasonable and excellent; and, impartially beheld in its native beauty, might attract and charm every rational being. But in this imperfect state of the human nature, thoughtless and unattentive, or engaged by mean and worthless objects, or biassed and prejudiced by some sordid affection, or the appearance of present interest; abundance of care and labour, repeated applications, and a variety of methods, are needful to excite their attention to the greatest excellence, and to enlighten and direct them, lest they mistake the truth, and pursue vanity and misery, instead of laying hold of substantial and durable happiness.
Virtues are the habits and dispositions of the mind. But invisible and spiritual things are often represented by expressions horrowed from things corporeal and sensible. There is a kind of necessity of it in the present condition. Such descriptions are of special use to affect the mind, and excite in it a regard to the loveliness of virtue; which, as it is valuable, is represented by riches; as it is ornamental, by a white or splendid garment. And because the practice of it is extremely reasonable, and is founded upon the justest notions and principles, and is therefore the truest wisdom ; it is compared to what helps the sight, and enables men to discern things in a clear and proper light. These several representations do all occur in this text.
And, as the practice of virtue is in this world attended with difficulties, and good men are liable to opposition from others; their life is also represented by a warfare, and those dispositions, that are helpful to secure their success and perseverance, are recommended under the notion of armour; as in the well-known passage of St. Paul in the sixth chapter to the Ephesians.
The words of the text are a part of the message of our
exalted Lord to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans, and in him to the wbole church; ver. 17, " Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." There is a graduation. It is a great thing to be rich. It is still more, to be increased or abound with goods. But it is the height of prosperity, to have need of nothing. This was their opinion of their state. And so many are apt to think of themselves, who embrace the principles of religion, and profess christianity. They suppose, that they want nothing necessary to salvation, and that they are high in the favour of God.
“ And knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” But notwithstanding that high conceit of your circumstances, you are indeed “ wretched, and miserable:” and so unhappy, as to be the greatest objects of compassion. You are “poor," quite destitute of true riches: " and blind," not having a just discernment of things, and of your own case :
“ and naked," wanting that righteousness, which is the proper and best clothing of men and christians, without which you cannot appear before God with acceptance.
“I counsel thee.” He might command as a master. But he rather adviseth as a friend, concerned for their welfare.
“ I counsel thee, to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” To buy is to secure and obtain by prayer and entreaty, serious care and endeavour, diligent Jabour and pains. The sceking of wisdom is often compared to merchandize; Says Solomon : “ Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandize thereof is better than the merchandize of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold,” Prov. iii. 13, 14. And he directs men to “ buy the truth, and sell it not,” ch. xxiii. 23. And says our Lord himself: “ The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman, seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went, and sold all that be bad, and bought it,” Matt. xiii. 45, 46,
“ Gold tried in the fire:” that is, the purest gold; true virtue, that true holiness, which is of the highest value; that “thou mayest be rich” indeed, not in opinion and thought only; and "mayest" also abound, or be increased with goods.
Other texts of scripture will confirm this interpretation. “ Now ye are full," says St. Paul to the Corinthians, “now ye are rich. Ye have reigned as kings without is. And