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THE GOSPEL TO BE PREACHED TO THE POOR.
MATTHEW xi. 4, 5.
ş« Go and shew John again those things which ye
do hear and see : The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached unto them.”
It has been doubted by commentators, whether John sent his disciples to Christ for his own satisfaction, or theirs. Most probably his intention was, as he expected he himself would soon disappear, to give his disciples an opportunity of being fully convinced that Christ was the Messiah, that, on his decease, they might become followers of the true Light.
However, it may also be conjectured, that John labored under the common prejudice of his nation, that the Messiah was to be a temporal prince, and would place not only the nation in general, but
every individual Jew, in a state of prosperity. This appears to have been the mistake of his most intimate disciples to the very last. John there. fore not fully instructed in the mission of Christ, might from the difficulties of his own situation, be led into doubt, and hesitation on the subject. Christ therefore says, 66 blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me;" that is, who shall not be prejudiced against me,
may attend the profession of my doctrines, or the followers of me, as the promised Messiah. John, though “ more than a prophet,” felt as a man; and the seclusion, and sufferings of a jail, might have operated with unfavorable influence, on the faith he had before exercised.
This was afterwards, according to Christ's prediction, the case with many who had seen his miracles, and followed him for a time. Though John may
have doubted, we may confidently believe that he died in the faith.
The message of Christ expressed those important facts which Isaiah had predicted, as characteristic of the time of the Messiah. " Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf be unstopped, the lame shall leap as an hart, the tongue of the dumb shall sing, and the poor shall rejoice with mirth because of the Lord.” Correspondent to these last words, and as an accomplishment of the prediction, Christ says—" to the poor the Gospel is preached.” The Latin vulgate is more correct; it says, “ the poor are evangelized— The old English translation is still more accurate,
“ the poor receive the Gospel.” They not only hear it, but embrace it—they believe it, and are saved.
As this discourse commemorates an Institution for the benevolent purpose of sending the Gospel to the poor, who have not the means of supporting a stated ministration, I propose to shew 1.- That instructing the poor in the Gospel, is the
highest act of beneficence that can be per
formed to mankind. II.—The peculiar encouragements of sending the
Gospel to the poor.
1.—That instructing the poor in the Gospel, is the highest act of beneficence that can be performed to mankind.
1. The doctrines of the Gospel give true elevation to the mind. The poor want the means of cultivation; and their minds, like the barren lands which they inhabit, are incapable of maturity of thought. Their ideas are all depressed, and cannot rise, from the impediments of their situation, to the true dignity of their soul. This is generally the case; but there are instances of genius breaking through all difficulties, and taking a sta
tion in the highest ranks of cultivation The Gospel is the school of the sublimest science. The disciple of Jesus Christ is daily conversant with the highest objects which can be presented to the mind. The contemplation of God, the doctrines and miracles of Christ, the general resurrection, the last judgment, and a state of immortal duration, however imperfectly conceived of, give, from their own naturt, an elevation of thought, beyond all that can be excited by natural objectsa
An astronomer contemplating the Heavens enjoys an ampler and more dignified range of
speculations than can be afforded by any other branch of natural science. Yet the most unlettered Christian goes far beyond him. He daily contemplates uncreated light; and anticipates an everlasting residence, where there is no need of the sun, or the moon to shine, seeing God himself enlightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
Mary, sitting with devout solicitude at the feet of Jesus, to hear his word, gained no doubt in one hour, more sublime ideas, than the best improved system of philosophy could teach its votaries in an age.
The Christian under the tuition of the Gospel, learns the literature and science of Heaven, and regains something of that strength of thought which man enjoyed, before sin had debilitated the power of reason. This is a partial recovery of one of the lost honors of humanity; and
and is the more desirable, as it places the soul in that direct course to obtain that supreme good it was originally formed to enjoy.
It is a remarkable circumstance, that no one of the most cultivated nations of antiquity had any institutions for the instruction of the common. alty. Their most respectable philosophers do not seem to have thought this a matter of any importance. They thought it a profanation of philosophy to disclose its mysteries to any but their select disciples. In their writings they consulted only men of cultivation. The Gospel shews its superior benignity, by disclosing the means of happiness to men of all conditions, and accommodating its language to all capacities—The untractable alone are unqualified to understand it.
2. The poor are in peculiar need of cultivated affections and manners.
The heart is the seat of happiness; and in proportion as that is governed by those laws which are proper to the relative connections of man, he is happy. His first regards are due to God, in veneration and love-These are the highest affections of the human soul, as directed to the supreme excellence.
Next to these, are those benevolent attentions which serve to attach men to one another, and render the intercourse of social life most favorable to happi.
The Gospel is peculiarly favorable to this purpose-enjoining on every disciple of Christ the