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who reads these words of Christ, solemnly ask, and truthfully answer, this question, how long, how much, and how clearly have I been taught the truths in God's words ? Was not the Bible placed in my hands from my childhood ? From its pages have not the warning voices of all the prophets called to me? Has not the wisdom of Solomon been offered to me as a guide ? (Prov. viii. Eccles. xii.) above all, have not the words of tender kindness of my blessed Lord been spoken unto me? And how have I heard ? Have I listened as to my hope of life ? or have I turned away as from a tale so often told, that I no longer cared to hear ? This is the great danger of those born and brought up in a Christian land. Because our blessings are always within our reach, we care the less for them. But will they always remain within our reach ? Ah, no; our days are hastening on, the hour is at hand when the word of God will still be preached, but we shall no longer be able to listen. The words of the prophets, of Solomon, and of Christ himself, shall still be open to us in the Bible, but our failing eyes shall no longer be able to read, nor our ears to hear. Then shall our fainting hearts tremble to think of that awful judgment-day so near at hand: and well may we tremble at the thought. Not only the ancient people of long buried and forgotten cities shall rise up in the judgment to witness against us, but many a poor outcast who wandered in our streets, untaught, uncared for, shall rise in the judgment to condemn us. Not only the queen of the South shall lift up her voice from that awful assembly of the risen dead to condemn us, but shall we not hear our sentence spoken when some poor, neglected one shall pour forth her words of praise for the mercy that reached to her through the scorn and forgetfulness of man. • No man cared for my soul, none thought it worth their while to teach me, the poor sinful outcast, but the voice of my Saviour did reach even to me. I did, though I scarce know how, catch these blessed words of his, “ Come unto me and I will give you rest.”
O how I needed rest! I came, I sought him as best I could; I was the outcast of men, but He did not reject me, and lo I am here!” (Luke vii. 47, 48, 50.)
How shall our own hearts condemn us ! While the angels rejoice over the salvation of the penitent sinner who gladly caught at the offer of mercy, and of deliverance from the yoke of sin, shall they not mourn for us, if we have lived in the constant hearing of God's word and heeded it not ? if outwardly belonging to the Church of Christ, we have been contented with the name, and have passed into eternity loaded with the burthen of unforgiven sin !
Blessed be God, there is yet time, O let not one of us delay another hour. He who is greater than the prophets, wiser than Solomon, calls us to repentance and to newness of life. Jesus, the Son of God invites us. Let us not stay till the door is shut. (Matt. xxv. 10.)
Prayer. O my Saviour, I fall down before thee in shame and sorrow, while I confess how often I have listened to thy words of warning, and heeded them not. I have seen the saving change they have wrought in others. I have known some who, in truth, have passed from death into life, and shall they not rise up
in the judgment against me to condemn me, if I remain cold and careless ? O how awful is the trust we have received from thee, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Ogrant to us that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of eternal life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ." *
See Collect for the second Sunday in Advent.
MATTHEW XII. 43--45.
It was "when the people were gathered thick together," that the Lord Jesus gave the answer we have read, to the Scribes and Pharisees, who asked of him a sign from heaven; and now, in the hearing of the people, be shewed by a parable, full of awful meaning, the hardened state to which, as a nation, the Jews had brought themselves by their obstinacy and pride.
MATTHEW xii. 43–-45. “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry (or desert) places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return unto my house from whence I came out ; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there : and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be unto this wicked generation.”
God bad, very early in the history of the world, chosen the Jews to be his own people. He had given them blessings of every sort; he had defended them against their enemies; and when they disobeyed him, he had taught them, by leaving them to themselves, what it was to sin against Him.
In spite of all God's dealings with them, the Jews were sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity," they forsook the Lord, they “provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger.” (Isaiah i. 4.) They gave themselves up to idolatry, so that the land was full of idols, and they worshipped the work of their own hands, (Isaiah ii. 8,) therefore God brought upon them a terrible punishment, He gave up the people into the hands of
their enemies; the voice of gladness ceased from the cities of Judah, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the land made desolate. (Jer. vii. 34.) Israel was led away captive into Babylon. For three-score and ten years the Jews were prisoners in that far foreign land, and the time of this punishment seemed to work in them a cure the demon of idolatry seemed to have been cast out, and, at the time God appointed, they returned to their own land much purer than before. They never again fell into idolatry; but the very same evil spirit of pride, and of obstinately setting up their own will against the will of God, by degrees took possession of them again ; and in a more dangerous shape and manner; for open idolatry carried with it its own name of sin and wickedness ; but the hypocritical, proud, and self-deceiving spirit of the Pharisees, which, by degrees, took possession of the Jews, pretended to give God honour, in the very act of dishonouring Him. The Pharisees made His religion a pretence for their evil deeds, they turned His very laws into sin ; and, using His own name for their authority, struggled against his power. Thus was their last state worse than their first, and in this state the Lord Jesus found them, resisting the will of God till they were no longer able to see or understand what was His will.
This their fearful condition He shewed to them in a parable under the figure of a man who had been delivered from the power of the devil, and being again possessed by him was in a far worse, and more hopeless state, than at first.*
So was it, and so should it more fully be. Though the Lord Jesus was speaking immediately to the * St. Chrysostom, who lived in the fourth century after Christ, and Olshausen, who is only lately dead, have left in their writings the same explanation of this parable of our Lord, which they both apply to the history of the Jewish nation,
presented under the figure of a man possessed by a devil. Thus it appears that the interpretation here given is that which was held by the learned men, both of the old and of the present times. See Homily of Chrysostom, XLIII., and Olshausen on the Gospels, Vol. II., p. 122.
Scribes and Pharisees, through them He spoke to the whole Jewish nation, for they ruled men's opinions; and, as we shall see, the people followed them blindly, even to their destruction. The last state of the Jewish nation was worse than the first. In the old time, they had humbled themselves, at least for a time, when they felt the weight of God's anger. Affliction had seemed to rouse them up to a better spirit, but their goodness had been like the morning dew, it passed away in the sunshine, and no sooner was peace and happiness given back to them, than they again hardened themselves in rebellious pride.
And so, though they knew it not, their last state was come, and it was worse than their first, for now they would not suffer themselves to be redeemed. The nation was like a maniac who had once been partly cured, but had sunk back again into a state of madness, and was so completely overpowered by his disease, that he would submit to no means of cure, and must therefore be given up to his hopeless state. The Jewish nation was at this fearful point. They showed it by rejecting Christ the Redeemer, the only hope of man; and the hour was at hand when they would be rejected by Him; and then, when that hour was fully come, ruin, so fearful that it freezes our blood but to read of it, fell upon the nation of the Jews. The last state of Jerusalem was worse a thousand times than the first. The siege by Nebuchadnezzar, the long captivity in Babylon, are forgotten in the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, and in the fearful vengeance that overtook the wretched Jews, tortured, massacred, sold into slavery, yet carrying with them, as a people, the same unbending pride that has still, in misery and in banishment, shut their hearts against the humbling but life-giving truths of the gospel of Christ the Lord. Yes, fearfully were these words of Jesus made true: “Even so shall it be unto this wicked generation.” They madly hardened their hearts against him till all feeling was lost in one, and the cry of “Crucify him, Crucify him,” went up