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serm. But whatever was the company with IX. whom he conversed, or the occasion
on which he associated with them, he never relaxed in his attention to the object of his mission; he still supported the character which he takes to himself, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work By this readiness of intercourse he shewed the interest that he took in the welfare of mankind; while at the same time he procured more extensive opportunities of accomplishing that work for which he came into the world.
We read in the opening of this chapter, that he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day. The company on this occasion consisted of Lawyers and Pharisees, who did not look with any friendly regard; for though they received him with the exteriors of civility, yet they kept a watch upon him in his conversation and demeanour. And behold a Man who had the dropsy came before him, with the hope of being healed of his complaint. " Our Lord, observing that the eyes of the
* John iv. 34.
company were upon him, and aware SERM. how strict and scrupulous they were in the observance of the sabbath, put this question to the Lawyers and Pharisees; Is it lawful to heal on the subbath day? According to our natural sense of what is right we might conclude, that an act of essential good to man could not be rendered evil from its being performed on a day set apart for the service of God. Nor could any just objection lie against it from the positive injunctions of the Law of Moses, if they had understood the spirit of these injunctions as declared by the Prophet, I will have mercy and not sucrifice b. For what doss this imply, but that God preferred the exercise of charity to a strict observance of any ritual institution ? Indeed an act, which was evidently wrought by the finger of God, bore intrinsic evidence that it was agreeable to the will of God. But the company were less disposed to receive instruction than to find an occasion of cavil against the Teacher. Instead of giving any answer they held their peace. Hereupon
Hos. vi. 6.
SERM. our Saviour took the sick man and healed IX. him and let him go.
Though they continued silent while he performed this act of benevolence, yet he would not let the occasion pass without making one appeal to their customary practice. Which of you shall have an ox or an ass fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? The inference -was evident. If they had no scruple to relieve an óx or an ass on the sabbath, they could have no reasonable objection to what he had now done in relieving a man of their stock and lineage from his infirmities. The argument was not to be controverted : and even if they had been disposed, they could not answer him again to any of these things.
This behaviour of his fellow-guests was by no means a favourable instance of their disposition toward him: yet he did not hesitate on that account to make a moral and religious improvement of every occurrence that arose, and of every sentiment that was uttered. When he marked how they chose out the chief rooms or places at the table, he put forth this parable to them; When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit
not down in the highest room, lest a more sERM, honourable man than thou be bidden of him; IX. and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place ;' and thou begin with shame to take the lowest
But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room ; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say, Friend, go up higher. Then shalt thou have worship with them that sit at meat with thee.
If we understand this admonition lite, rally, it recommends a respectful deference to others in society: but there is reason to accept it rather in a figurative sense. It is probable that the Pharisees, who attended more to the ceremonials than the essentials of duty, had taken their places according to the established forms of precedence. And though our Lord on another occasion was severe in his reproofs, because they loved the uppermost rooms at feasts and greetings in the market and to be called of men Rabbio; yet it seems to have been his design, not to set aside the gradations and orders of social and civil life, but only to reprehend an assumption of
SERM, superior anerit from their office or station ix. in society. That this admonition is to
he taken in a figurative sense may in. deed. be inferred from the words by which it is introduced, He put forth a parable to them that were bidden. By a mode of speech, that seemed to recommend humility of demeanour at the table of another man, he enjoined humility of heart toward God,
Hence we see the spirit of this, admonition was, that instead of arrogating to themselves a superior degree of merit in their moral character, and expecting on that account a superior favour and regard of God, they should humble themselves in the sight of heaven, should examine their own hearts, confess their infirmities, and be thankful to God for his unmerited mercies and benefits. By such a change in their demeanour towards God and man they would render themselves more acceptable in the sight of heaven, and God would advance them higher in his favour and regard, Agreeable to this is that proverbial phrase, with which our Lord repeatedly closes his instructions to the same et fect: For whosoever eralteth himself shall