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by miraculously procuring from a fish, caught by Peter at his direction, the half-shekel to pay the tax for the temple service; intimating, at the same time, his own freedom from it, as the Son of the Lord of the temple. You will likewise find him teaching, by a parable, the absolute necessity of a forgiving temper. He also sends forth the seventy, two by two, to preach the Gospel of the kingdom; goes to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernacles; and when the Jews sought to entrap him by bringing before him an adulteress, he at once put her accusers to shame, and dismissed her with a most solemn admonition. Several interviews occurred between himself and the Jews, in one of which he so provoked them by a distinct declaration of his own divinity, that they took up stones to put him to death; but he avoided their fury, and left them. Not long after the seventy returned with joy, giving an account of their successful mission; but he reminded them that their real blessedness consisted, not in the "subjection of evil spirits to them, but in their own personal acceptance with God. His teaching becomes now increasingly solemn. He shows that religion, considered in its essence, consisted in love; and illustrated, by the parable of the good Samaritan, the too little understood subject of love to our neighbour. We find him, likewise, at Bethany, at the house of Martha, where he pointed out what was the one thing needful; and on other occasions, rebuked the Pharisees, cautioned his disciples against hypocrisy, and the people at large against worldly-mindedness. He spoke, too, of his own approaching baptism of blood; and while deeply engaged as Prophet, plainly declared that his great work in the world was, as Priest, to make atonement for sin. In this period you will likewise find that he warned his hearers against uncharitable opinions resting on providential calamities, and pressed on them the necessity of personal repentance; enforcing this by one of his most solemn parables, that of the barren fig-tree, preserved through successive periods of unfruitfulness only at the intercession of the vinedresser; a parable, left, as it were, in an unfinished state, to teach those who heard, that sentence of excision was rather suspended than removed, and that continued obduracy would at length, as was ultimately the case, bring down its full execution. No part of our Lord's history is so full of the most important instruction as is the one we have thus rapidly reviewed. Man never spake as he spake.
George. I thank you, Sir, for this general notice. It will enable me to examine the particular portions of it.
Minister. We come now to a remarkable occurrence. Turn to Luke xiii., from verse 10 to verse 18.
George. It is not said, I think, where it happened.
Minister. No. Probably our Lord was on a tour, in the remote parts at least of Judea, as in verse 22 we find that "he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem,” to be present there at the Feast of Dedication. In one place where he was on the Sabbath, he, who never neglected the public worship of Almighty God, went into one of the synagogues, and himself taught there. And now tell me what he found there.
George. "A woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.”
Minister. The bodily disease appears to have been a state of complete weakness, general loss of power to support herself upright; in consequence of which the muscles would be now completely contracted and rigid, so that she would not be able to relax them, and, as it were, straighten herself. Literally, as well as in our own idiom, she was bent double, and had not the power of unbending herself.
George. Was the disease a natural one, Sir?
Minister. Natural, no doubt, in that it actually existed in the body. But our Lord's words, as well as those of the inspired historian, explicitly refer it to a supernatural cause : “Whom Satan hath bound.” I have told you before, that an honest consistency of interpretation requires us to take these expressions as we find them. What know we of the laws of the invisible world? Access to us Satan has, or he could not tempt us. And when permitted, effects may be produced on the body by him, as well as suggestions made to the mind. In this case, the contracted muscles would indeed be a bond to her whole frame.
George. Walking would be difficult and painful, Sir ; and yet, here she is at the synagogue.
Minister. Yes; and I think our Lord meant to refer to her piety in calling her a “ daughter of Abraham.” Affliction separated her not from God. And her case proves that the pious may be afflicted; that where Satan cannot rule the soul, he may grievously trouble the body. Happy was it for her that, weak as she was, she had thus dragged herself to the house of prayer. She had often found spiritual support; now she found physical deliverance.
George. I cannot but admire the solemn calmness with which our Lord performs these cures, Sir. “When he saw her, he called her to him,”—
Minister. Yes; even in her weakness, there was to be obedient attention.
George. “And said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.”
Minister. The expression is beautifully correct. She was bound as by the chain of rigid muscles, over which she had no power, and he loosened the chain.
George. It is wonderful. The effect follows at once.
Minister. Yes. The rigidity of the muscles was removed, and they became obedient to her volitions as in former health. It seems that as soon as Christ spoke, and laid his hands on her, she willed to be erect. It is not said that she received, what she had not before, power to unbend herself, but that “she was made straight.” Another word is thus introduced, expressive of the actually upright posture in which she manifested the benevolent power of the Son of God.
George. And her feelings were religious ones. “She glorified God.”
Minister. And when natural disorders are removed by natural agents, the same feelings should exist. God could withhold the blessing which renders them effectual.
George. How lamentable that the ruler of the synagogue should turn all this good into evil!
Minister. Men judge according to the rules they have laid down; and the religion of the Pharisees was ritual and external. They understood not the true use of the Sabbath,
though they so often referred to it, as if they were meritoriously careful in maintaining its sanctity.
George. Why does our Lord call this objecting man a hypocrite? Was it because he pretended a regard that he did not feel?
Minister. Not exactly that; but if he had been honest, he would have applied his own rule to all cases.
His cattle could not be kept in health if they were not loosened from their stall, and led to the watering-place; and therefore he did that on the Sabbath as on other days. Honesty, even if mistaken, applies the rule uniformly. He who himself does in one form what, as done by his neighbour in another he condemns, the principle being in both cases the same, has no real reverence for the rule. He is a hypocrite.
George. I see, Sir, that this pointed reference carried conviction. His adversaries were ashamed, and the people rejoiced.
Minister. Had his adversaries been honest, they would have seen their mistake, and acknowledged it, and rejoiced too. I fear that whilst they felt they were beaten, their temper and will were unsubdued. It is most important to have the mind always disposed to yield to truth, even when its light shows us we have been mistaken. Guard against lightness. Trifle not even with your own opinions. But obey the truth. Give them not up except upon conviction; but oppose not self-love to the evidences of truth. Beware equally of carelessness and obstinacy.
And who can tell what power evil spirits may be permitted to exert? We have too much unbelief on the subject. We believe just what we see,—that is, properly, we do not believe at all; for sight gives knowledge. Here is your safety. By sincere prayer, let God become your Protector. Satan then cannot hurt your soul. If permitted to distress the body, retain your confidence in God. After eighteen years of suffering, this daughter of affliction, retaining her position as a daughter of Abraham, is honoured by being made the instrument of bringing glory to the God of Israel, and a witness to all generations of the almighty goodness of the Lord's Christ. Let us put ourselves into the hands of our heavenly Father, and whatever may be the path by which his providence leads us, let us walk in the way of humble and obedient love. He doeth all things well; and the time will assuredly come when our sufferings shall pass away, and in the raptures of adoring gratitude, we shall glorify God, and bless him for all that he has done with us.
SCRIPTURE ILLUSTRATIONS. Gen. xlii. 34. “ Benjamin's mess was five times 80 much as any of theirs.”—This seems best explained by an allusion to existing Persian customs. The dishes are not brought in successively during the course of an entertainment, but are placed at once upon the table, or rather floor. A tray containing a variety of dishes is placed between every two, or at most three, guests, from which they help themselves, without attending, in any degree, to the party at the next tray. The number of dishes on the tray is proportioned to the rank of the guest or guests before whom it is set, or to the degree of preference and attention which the entertainer desires to manifest towards them. The trays, when they are brought in, contain only five or six different dishes and bowls, and they thus remain in ordinary circumstances; but when the guest is a person of much consideration, other dishes are introduced between, or even piled upon the former, until at last there may be fifteen or more dishes upon the same tray. It is not, therefore, to be supposed that Benjamin ate five times as much as his brethren, who were all no doubt amply and variously supplied; but his distinction consisted in the greater variety offered for his selection, and in the palpable mark of preference, on the part of his entertainer, which it indicated. A Persian feast seems to illustrate other particulars in this Egyptian entertainment. The plan of setting a tray between every two persons forms them into distinct groups in the act of eating; as will be understood by recollecting that the Orientals make no use of plates, but transfer their food immediately from the dishes or bowls to their mouths, unless they may occasionally find it convenient intermediately to rest the morsel they have detached upon the cake of bread