« VorigeDoorgaan »
“ Go,” said he to the disciples of John, who were sent to him by their master to inquire whether or no he were the promised Messiah, " Go and shew John
again those things which ye do hear “ and see: the blind receive their sight, “ and the lame walk; the lepers are “ cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead
are' raised up,' and the poor have the
Gospel preached to them !” He seems to consider the last of these circumstances as a more important evidence than
any of the preceding; and, in some respects, it certainly is so. The others were directed to the senses, this is more particularly addressed to the uniderstanding and to the heart. The mairaculous proofs were chiefly valuable to those who witnessed them; this proof accompanies the Gospel through every stage of its progress ; and, at the present hour, as in the first moment of its origin,
proclaims the benevolence of him from whom it proceeded.
On this day, my brethren, when, in the true spirit of that Gospel, we are called upon to contribute our assistance to the instruction of the poorer classes of our people, a few observations on this great characteristic of our religion will not, I trust, be altogether unprofitable.
In considering this subject, let us inquire, first, into the benevolence of the design, which our Lord here professes to have in view ;--we shall find no parallel to it in the history of any
other teacher of moral or religious wisdom. It is the professed object, indeed, of all moral instructors, to do good to mankind; but they have ever been too ready to look upon men through the medium of those adventitious distinctions into which society is divided ; and, while they resign the multitude to the seemingly necessary thraldom of error and superstition, they direct all their efforts to the improvement of those who have received the advantages of education, or who occupy a prominent station in the theatre of the world. Thus, even the greatest benefactors of mankind have rather widened than contracted the invidious bounds of separation between the higher and the lower orders of society ; and by aiming chiefly at the instruc. tion of the one, they have contributed somewhat to the increase of the prejudice which represents the other as an inferior race of beings.
In this state of human sentiment and opinion, was there no peculiarity in that wisdom, which, looking through these illusions, could discern under the depression of ignorance and the vices of poverty, the secret vestiges of an im mortal soul ? And was there no divine benevolence displayed in the design of elevating this neglected part of mankind to a true feeling of their moral dignity, by supplying them with a few plain principles of faith and of virtue ; by assuring them that they too are under the superintendence of one equal Providence; that one Father looks down with the
eye of love
upon all the family of mankind; that one Saviour came to teach and to die for all; and that the same promises of immortal life are offered to the lowest, as to the most distinguished condition of human fortune ?
In the second place, let us consider how much the benevolence of the design was increased, by the manner in which it was carried into execution; and how admirably “the wisdom of God,” however it might be accounted “ foolishness" by men, adapted the means to the end. We know that the humble station in which our Saviour appeared, and his entire dis
regard of all worldly distinction or applause, was the leading objection of the Jews to the truth of his pretensions and even among ourselves, objections of a similar nature may perhaps, imperceptibly, insinuate themselves into our minds. The rich and the powerful may find some difficulty in acknowledging, as a master, one to whom wealth and ambition were without charms; those who are distinguished for learning or genius, may sometimes be inclined to doubt the superiority of one, whose wisdom was quite unassuming, and was never exhibited for the purposes of display. To such classes of men the humble condition of our Saviour, and his unaffected character, are, indeed, “ stumbling-blocks,” which it requires some effort of recollection to overcome ;--but how beautifully were these very circumstances adapted to that mighty tabject, which he here declares he had