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God, the standard of truth, the foundation of faith, the rule of life.
The second mode of instruction employed by our Lord, was " preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” This seems to have been something more than a simple reading of the Scriptures, followed by an equally simple application of the word read to its appropriate object, as in the instance which has already been under review : “ This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your
The word translated to preach is derived from a noun which signifies herald, public crier, the messenger of prince to prince, of nation to nation. Thus the prophet Isaiah might be said to preach to the men of his day, when, by the command of God, he executed the office of a herald; “ Cry aloud, spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their
And thus, in strictness of speech, Christ himself might be said to preach, when“ in the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." In a greater latitude, to preach is, from a given topic, to argue, to exhort, to reprove, to encourage; to assail the heart, in the view of producing conviction, and of regulating the life through every avenue of the soul, the intellect, the passions, the very senses. Thus Paul on Mars-hill at Athens,“ preached Jesus and the resurrection.” Thus also at Troas, after breaking of bread, “he preached, and continued his speech until midnight.” And as Christ himself thus preached, “ he sent out his twelve disciples to preach, saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand ;” and with this solemn charge he left them, when he ascended into heaven: “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost : teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you : and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." And thus until now, through the operation of his mighty power, “the foolishness of preaching,” the preaching of “Christ crucified” is
to them that are called, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
Teaching and preaching were accompanied and supported by the display of miraculous powers, all employed in doing good. “He healed all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease, among the people.” This general description of human wretchedness, to which the promised Messiah was to apply a remedy, is followed by a sad enumeration of the several particulars which compose this depressing aggregate ; some of them were more common, and in many cases removable by human skill and the use of ordinary means; some were more obstinate and hopeless, as the palsy, lunacy, which in general bid defiance to the healing art
, and terminate at length, the one in the dissolution of the body, the other in a total derangement of the mental powers. This catalogue is closed by an extraordinary malady, seemingly peculiar to that period and spot of the world, diabolical possession. Attempts have been made to explain away this terrible affliction into a species of madness or epilepsy to which the human frame has in all ages been deplorably subjected, but which can with no propriety be ascribed to the operation of malignant spirits. The instances, however, both of the existence of the disease, and of the cure, are too numerous, and too specific, to be confounded with mental disorder or bodily infirmity; and every attempt of the kind ought to be resisted, as a blow aimed at all historical evidence, as an insidious design to limit the agency of spiritual beings, and to measure all existing powers by those of man. The influence of “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" has no need to be
demonstrated. And wherefore should it be thought a thing incredible that, for a season, and for purposes by us inscrutable, this evil spirit inight be permitted to harass and convulse the bodies of men, that the superior power of the Son of God might be manifested in recovering, both in body and in spirit, “out of the snare of the devil, them who are taken captive by him at his will ?”
The whole taken together, the teaching, the preaching and the miraculous cures performed by Christ, in their combined effect, amount to this: There is not an evil which man is liable to, in his body, his mind, his estate, of yesterday or of many years standing, but what must yield to the wisdom, the power, the grace of Christ. It was the union of those several methods of conducting his divine mission that gave weight to each separately, and to the combined whole. Miracles without instruction might have amused, might have excited admiration and astonishment. But we know how very transient and inefficient impressions of this sort are. The wonder ceases, it is driven out by a new prodigy, and this, in its turn, gives place to a third, and so on in succession, till extraordinary become mere common things, and no salutary effect is produced. But when the person who has been trying to instruct me, and whose lessons I found wearisome, and treated with neglect, takes a kindly interest in me and my concerns, makes my health and c&mfort his own ; when he interposes seasonably, condescendingly, in behalf of myself
, my child, my friend, my neighbour; and not only seasonably, but powerfully, effectually, in a way that far transcends the usual course of things; when I behold my teacher and my
benefactor to be one and the same, the same man who vouchsafed to point out truth and tell me my duty, giving sight to a man that was born blind, and raising the dead to life, then the lesson comes with force to the heart and conscience. Nicodemus,
the Jewish ruler, felt and acknowledged the irresistible power
of this combination. He said to Jesus, “ Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God : for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” Thus the simplicity of doctrine is dignified and impressed by the lustre of miracle, and the effect of miracle, on the other hand, acquires permanency, from the stability, importance and usefulness of the doctrine.
The preaching of the gospel is no longer supported and confirmed by miracles. Granted. It is no longer necessary that it should. While supernatural, external aid was necessary, such aid was communicated. In Jesus Christ, and in what he did, taught and suffered, the Scriptures were fulfilled. He authenticated his commission by the seal of miracles. Under that seal he executed it; and that seal he transmitted to his immediate disciples. Under it they acted, and the world was christianized. Miracles have effected all that they were intended to effect, and the gospel now rests on its own unmovable basis. What need of the formality of a seal to a writing which bears the impress of Deity on every line, on every letter? You call for miraculous proof of its divine original. That very call, in the nineteenth century from its first establishment, is the proof. Had it not been the cause of God and truth, it must long ere now have ceased to be a subject of discussion. When the opposition of avowed enemies, and the treachery of pretended friends, are taken into the account, that christianity should at all exist, is the greatest wonder that ever was presented to the world. You call for proof; it is at hand. What political, philosophical, moral system ever lasted so long, or could boast so many proselytes? What system is so favourable to science, to intellectual, civil
, moral improvement ? Introduce the spirit of Christ, and despotism and slavery expire together; man is settled on a basis of equality which dis
turbs not the order of society, and a prospect is opened of a state of being in which all the disorders now prevolent shall be completely rectified. You call for proof; it is at hand. Go to hamlets and huts; look to empty scrips and exhausted penury, to the field of painful unproductive toil, and to the bed of languish. ing: see Rachel weeping for her children, because they are not, and David mourning over living, ungracious children. The sufferers repine not, they charge not God foolishly; they commit themselves to him who clotheth the lilly and feedeth the raven; labour makes rest sweet, and hope puts a pillow under the drooping head ; the heart is poured out before God, and the countenance is no more sad. Is this no miracle? In what schoolof the philosophers are such lessons taught? And let it be observed that these, and such as these, are not the glaring, splendid triumphs of christianity, but its daily, noiseless, unobtruding, unostentations operation.
“Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not be. lieve.” Is miraculous proof of the divinity of the gospel still demanded ? It is at hand. By what instruments does the great Jehovah still support and extend the Mediator's kingdom? By men themselves feeble, ignorant, forlorn, like those to whom they minister; men standing in need of the self-same instruction, consolation, and support which they are called to administer to others : men, in general, as little qualified by natural endowments, or by the acquisitions of literature, to subvert the kingdom of Satan and to build up that of Messiah, as the fisherman of Galilee were to shake the throne of the Cæsars, and to restore that of David, which was fallen down. It is in every age the same. " Where is the wise ? where is the scribe ? where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made fool. ish the wisdom of this world ? For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save Vol. IV.