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on ecclesiastical history, has very ably illustrated the fitness with which our Lord's miracles were adapted both to prove the truth of his religion, and to impress upon his followers the characteristical doctrines of the gospel. This view of the subject is also prose
cuted by Ogden in his sermons. Campbell's Dissertation on Miracles. Douglas's Criterion.
ILLUSTRATION OF THE EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.
THOSE lectures upon Scripture are properly called critical, which are intended to elucidate the meaning of a difficult passage, and to bring out from the words of an author the sense which is not obvious to an ordinary reader. The sources of this elucidation are, such emendations upon the reading or the punctuation as may warrantably be made, an analysis of the particular words, a close attention to the manner of the author, to the scope of his reasoning, and to the circumstances of those for whom he writes; and, lastly, a comparison of the passage, which is the subject of the criticism, with other passages in which the same matters are treated. There is great room for critical lectures of this kind, and my theological course abounds with specimens of them. Much has been done in this way since the beginning of the last century, by the application of sound criticism to the Holy Scriptures; and one great advantage to be derived from an intimate acquaintance with the learned languages, and from the habit of analyzing the authors who wrote in them, is, that you are thereby prepared for receiving that rational exposition of the word of God, which is the true foundation of theological knowledge.
There is another kind of critical lecture, which professes by a general comprehensive view of a passage of scripture, to illustrate some important points in the evidence or genius of our religion. This kind of lecture is applicable to those passages where there is not any obscurity in the expression, any recondite meaning, or any controverted doctrine, but where there is a number of circumstances scattered throughout, the force of which may be missed by a careless or ignorant reader, but which by be
ing arranged and placed clearly in view, may be made to bear upon one point, so as to bring conviction to the understanding, at the same time that they minister to the improvement of the heart. The inimitable manner of Scripture, so natural and artless, yet so pregnant with circumstances the most delicate and the most instructive, affords numberless subjects of this kind of lecture; and I do not know any method so well calculated to give a person of taste and sensibility a deep impression of the excellency and the divinity of the Scriptures. One is tempted, by the peculiar fitness of the passages which occur to him, to adopt this mode of lecturing occasionally in speaking to an assembly of Christians, although it cannot be denied that the ordinary method of lecturing, by suggesting remarks from particular verses, is more adapted to that measure of understanding, of attention, and of memory, which is found in the generality of hearers.
But such a mode may here be followed with advantage; and I am led to give you now a specimen of this criticism upon the sense, rather than upon the words of an evangelist, because the eleventh chapter of John's Gospel may be stated in such a light as to illustrate much of what has been said with regard both to the internal evidence of Christianity, and to that branch of the external evidence which arises from miracles.
The eleventh chapter of John is the history of the resurrection of Lazarus, the greatest miracle which Jesus performed. Upon such a general view of the chapter as a critical lecture of this kind is meant to give, we are led to attend to that exhibition of character which the chapter contains to the nature and circumstances of the miracle—and to the effects which the miracle produced.
I. The exhibition of character which this chapter contains is various, and our attention is directed to several very pleasing objects.
It is natural to speak first of the exhibition given of the character of the historian. The other evangelists have not mentioned this miracle, perhaps out of delicacy to Lazarus, who was alive when they wrote. They did not choose to expose the friend of their master to the fury of the Jews, by holding him forth in writings that were to go
through the world, as a monument of his power. But John, who lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem, probably survived Lazarus; and there was every reason why this evangelist, who has preserved other miracles and discourses which the former historians had omitted, should record this event. It is a subject suited to the pen of John the beloved disciple seems to delight in spreading it out; for he has coloured his narration with many beau tiful circumstances, which unfold the characters of the other persons, and discover his intimate acquaintance with his master's heart. It is a striking instance of that strict propriety which pervades all the books of the New Testament, and which marks them to every discerning eye to be authentic writings, that the tenderest scenes in our Lord's life, those in which the warmth of his private affections is conspicuous, are recorded by this evangelist. From the others we learn his public life, the grace, the condescension, the benevolence which appeared in all his intercourse with those that had access to him. It was reserved to "the disciple whom Jesus loved" to present to succeeding ages this divine person in his family, and amongst his friends. In his Gospel we see Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the last supper that he ate with them. It is John, the disciple that leaned on the bosom of Jesus while he sat at meat, who relates the long discourse in which, with the most delicate sensibility for their condition, he soothes the troubled heart of his disciples, spares their feelings, while he tells them the truth, and gives them his parting blessing. It is John, whom Jesus judged worthy of the charge, who records the filial piety with which, in the hour of his agony, he provided for the comfort of his mother; and it is John, whose soul was congenial to that of his Master, tender, affectionate, and feeling like his, who dwells upon all the particulars of the resurrection of Lazarus, brings forward to our view the sympathy and attention with which Jesus took part in the sorrows of those whom he loved, and making us intimately acquainted with them and with him, presents a picture at once delightful and instructive.
The next object in this exhibition of character is the friendship which Jesus entertained for the family of Lazarus. Bethany was a small village upon the mount of
Olives, within two miles of Jerusalem, in the road from Galilee. Jesus, who resided in Galilee, and went only occasionally to Jerusalem, was accustomed to lodge with Lazarus in his way to the public festivals: and we are led to suppose, from an incidental expression in Luke,* that during the festivals he went out to Bethany in the evening, and returned to Jerusalem in the morning. To this little family he retired from the fatigues of his busy life, from the disputations of the Jewish doctors, and the bitterness of his enemies; and being, like his brethren, compassed with infirmity, like his brethren also he found refreshment to his soul in the intercourse of those whom he loved. "Now Jesus," says John, "loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." He loved the world; he loved the chief of sinners. That was a love of pity, the compassion which a superior being feels for the wretched. This was the love of kindness, the complacency which kindred spirits take in the society of one another. Of the brother he says to his apostles, with the same cordiality with which you would speak of one like yourselves, " Our friend Lazarus." And although we shall find the character of the two sisters widely different, yet he discerned in both a mind worthy of his friendship.
It appears strange to me, that any person who ever read this chapter can blame the Gospel, as some deistical writers in the last century were accustomed to do, for not recommending private friendship. Can there be a stronger recommendation than this picture of the Author of the Gospel, drawn by the hand of his beloved disciple? When you follow Jesus to Jerusalem, you may learn, from his public life, fortitude, diligence, wisdom. When you retire with him to Bethany, you may learn tenderness, confidence, and fellow-feeling, with those whom you choose as your friends. The servants of Jesus may not in every situation find persons so worthy of their friendship as this family; and there is neither duty nor satisfaction in making an improper choice. Many circumstances may appoint for individuals days of solitude, and therefore the universal religion of Jesus has wisely refrained from delivering a precept which it may often be impossible to
*Luke xxi. 37, 38.