« PreviousContinue »
capital of Galilee, and, from being built on. It will prove acceptable here, it is prethe borders of the lake of Genesareth, a sumed, to give a short description of this ceplace highly convenient for his designs: for, lebrated lake, called in the Old Testament, besides the numerous inhabitants of that city, the Sea of Chinnereth ; but in the New it the trading towns on the lake were crowded has three different appellations, being called with strangers, who, after hearing the doc the Sea of Galilee, from the province of Gatrine of the gospel preached by Jesus, would lilee in general; the Sea of Tiberias, from a pot fail to spread, in their respective coun city of that name on its western shore; and tries, the happy tidings of salvation.
the Lake of Genesareth, from a particular
tract of Galilee, extending a considerable Though it was expedient that he should way along its western side, spend a considerable time in preaching and working miracles, to confirm his mission, According to Josephus, it is an hundred and instruct his disciples in the doctrine they furlongs in length, and forty in breadth. were afterwards to publish to the whole The bottom is of gravel, which renders the world, this could not be done at Jerusalem, waters both of a good colour and taste. It the residence of the Scribes and Pharisees, is softer than either fountain or river water; whose ambition would never have suffered and at the same time so cold, that it will not so celebrated a teacher as Jesus to reside warm, though exposed to the rays of the among them : these countries were, there sun, in the very hottest season of the year. fore, the only places where he could, for any | The river Jordan runs through the midst of time, take up his residence, and instruct the it, which stocks it with a great variety of people in such a manner, as to answer the fish, of a peculiar form and flavour, not to great intention of his coming into the be found in any other place. world.
The countries surrounding this lake vere If any should enquire why he chose Ca large, fertile, and populous, especially the peroaum in preference to all the other places two Galilees, which had a great many towns, situated on the lake of Genesa reth, we re and a multitude of villages, the least of which ply, because he was certain of being favour contained fifteen hundred souls. On the ably received by the inhabitants of that city. east side were the cities of Chorasin, BethHe had gained the friendship of the princi saida, Gadara, and Hippon ; on the west, pal family by restoring to health a favourite Capernaum, Tiberias, and Taricheā. And child, who, to all human appearance, was | from all these advantages, it was a common just stepping into the bosom of the grave. saying among the Jews, that God loved the Nor was this family the only friends he had sea of Galilee above all other seas. An obin that city; so stupendous a miracle could servation strictly just, if to these we add its not fail of procuring the love and esteem of greatest advantage, namely, that this sea, all the relations of that noble family; besides, above all others, was frequently honoured so benevolent and surprizing a miracle must with the divine presence of the great Re. have conciliated the respect of all the inba, deemer of mankind, wbile be dwelt at Cabitants of Capernaum ; who could not be ig. pernaum, and even once after he arose from norant of so remarkable an event. And ac the dead. cordingly our Saviour spent here, and in other places bordering on the lake, two or While Jesus tarried at Capernaum, he three years of his public life ; so that the in usually taught in the synagogues on the sab. habitants of these parts enjoyed a consider bath-day, preaebing with such energy of able sbare of the blessed company, and di power as greatly astonished the whole convine instructions of the Son of God. . gregation - Hedid not, however, constantly
confine himself to that city, the adjacent For this good purpose he ascended a country was ofteu blessed with his presence, mountain in that neighbourhood ; and placand cheared with the heavenly words of his ing himself on an eminence, from whence he mouth.
could be heard by the throngs of people at
tending him, he inculcated, in an amazingly In one of the neighbouring villages he pathetic manner, the most important points called Simon and Andrew, who were follow of religion. But, alas! they were coldly reing their occupation of fishing on the lake, ceived, because many of them were directly to accompany himn. These disciples, who opposite to the standing precepts delivered had before been acquainted with him, rea by the Scribes and Pharisees. 'Surely these dily obeyed the heavenly mandate, and fol people who had seen the blessed Jesus perlowed the Saviour of the world. Soon after form so many benevolent actions to the poor, he saw James and Jolin, who were also fish the diseased, and the maimed, might have ing on the lake, and called them also. Nor entertained a more favourable opinion of his did they hesitate to follow the great Re doctrine, and known that so compassionate deemed of mankind; and, from their ready and powerful a person must have been actucompliance, there is reason to believe that ated by the spirit of God; and, consequently, they, as well as Simon and Andrew, were that the doctrine he taught was really divine. acquainted with Jesus at Jordan ; unless we suppose, which is far from being improbable, He opened his excellent sermon with the that their readiness proceeded from the se doctrine of happiness, a subject which the cret energy of his power upon their minds. teachers of wisdom have always considered But however this may be, the four disciples as the principal object in morals, and emaccompanied our Lord to Capernaum, and ployed their utmost abilities to convey a soon after to different parts of Galilee. clear idea of it to their disciples, but differed
very remarkably with regard to the particuHow long our Saviour was on this jour
lars in which it consisted. The Jews were ney cannot be determined. All the evange. in general persuaded, that the enjoyments of lists have mentioned is, that he wrought a sense were the sovereign good. Riches, great number of miracles on diseased per conquest, liberty, mirth, women, fame, resons ; and that the fame of these wonderful venge, and other things of the same kind, works drew people from Galilee, Jerusalem, afforded them such pleasures, that they wishJudea, and beyond Jordan. Nor was the ed for no better in the Messiah's kingdom, knowledge of these miracles concealed from which they all considered as a secular one; the heathens, particularly in the inhabitants and that a golden, instead of a “sceptre of of Syria; for they also brought their sick to righteousness,” would have been the "scepGalilee to be healed by him. Consequently, tre of his kingdom.” Nay, the very discithe time our blessed Redeemer spent in these ples themselves long retained this notion, tours must have been considerable, though and first followed him with a view of obtainthe evangelists have said very little concern ing honours, profits, and pleasures, in their
posts under bim.
But whatever time was spent in these be Our Lord and Master, therefore, to shew nevolent actions, the prodigious multitudes bis bearers in general, and his disciples in which flocked to him from every quarter, particular, the grossness of their error, demoved his compassion towards those who clared that the highest happiness of men were bewildered in the darkness of igno- consists in the graces of the spirit; because, rance, and determined him to preach to from the possession and exercise of them, them the words of eternal life.”
the purest pleasure results ; pleasures which
satisfy even the Almighty himself, and con the danger of departing from God, the stitute his ineffable felicity. The rich, the source and centre of all its joys. great, the proud, said our Lord, in whom the wisdom of God was fully displayed, are not Nor are the passionate happy: but, on the happy as you imagine ; they are always contrary, the meek. Those who have subwishing for what they cannot obtain, and dued their tempers can patiently bear protheir disappointments are poisoned arrows vocation, and are strangers to that destrucfestering in their bosoms. On the contrary, tive passion, envy. The meek shall inherit the poor in spirit are the truly happy, who the choicest blessings of the preseut life; for, discharge the duty of their station, whatever indeed, they principally flow from that beit be, with virtue and integrity ; and bless nevolent and beavenly temper of mind, the omnipotent hand who fashioned them in Meekness consists in the moderation of our the womb, and guards them from alldanger in passions, which renders a person lovely and this humble vale of sorrow and distress; and venerable in the eyes of his fellow-mortals ; though they are excluded from enjoying an and thence he possesses their sincere esteem, earthly kingdom, yet they have a much bet while the passionate and envious man is ter reserved for them, eternal in the heavens. considered as despicable, though adorned " Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is with the robe of honour, and dignified with the kingdom of heaven.”
the most ample professions. “Blessed are
the meek : for they shall inherit the earth." The jocose and flighty are not the happy race of mortals : but, on the contrary, the Men through vanity and blindness, conafflicted, provided they rightly improve their sider those as happy, who enjoy the pleaafflictions that is, if they are excited by sures of this life, by rioting in luxury and them to mourn for their sins, forsake their excess. But this is far from being the case ; wicked courses, and seek a better country. on the contrary, those are the truly happy For they shall here enjoy the consolation, who have the most vehement desire of treadthat their sins may be forgiven ; and, after ing the paths of virtue and religion. For :passing through the valley of the shadow of they, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, death, the fruition of eternal joys. “Bles shall obtain every thing they desire; shall be sed are they that mourn: for they shall be happy here in the practice of righteousness ; comforted."
and after this transitory life is ended, shall :
be received into the blissful mansions of the The truth of this heavenly aphorism is very heavenly Canaan. “ Blessed are they that evident ; for what has so great a power to hunger and thirst after righteousness ; for. turn the feet of the sons of men into the path they shall be filled.”. of virtue, as affliction ? Has not a flliction a natural tendency to give mankind a distaste Resentment of injuries is not a spring of to the pleasures of the world, and convince happiness, but forgiveness of them ; and bethem they are nothing more than vanity and ing of a humane and beneficent disposition, vexation of spirit; and, consequently, to de rejoice when they can perform a benevolent monstrate that they must seek for happiness action, especially to their fellow-mortals in in things more solid and permanent than any distress. The merciful shall see themselves in this vale of tears? Affliction a wakens the
recompensed even in this life: for they shall most serious thoughts in the mind ; composes find, after many days, the bread they have it into a grave and settled frame, very diffe. cast upon the waters of affliction, returned rent from the levity inspired by prosperity ; tenfold into their bosom. And surely nogives it a fellow feeling of the sorrows of thing can surpass the pleasure felt by a ge. others; and makes it thoroughly sensible of nerous mind, at having relieved a brother,
when pressed beneath a load of misfortunes; shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall the pleasure is divine ; it is god-like! say all manner of evil against you falsely for “ Blessed are the merciful : for they shall my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad : obtain mercy.”
for great is your reward in heaven: for so
persecuted they the prophets which were beFrom indulgences in sensuality, no com fore you.” Matt. v. 11, 12. fort can arise : it is the lot of those who have mortified their carnal appetites, to enjoy an These are the declarations, with regard to juward purity of mind. With what delight | happiness, made by the Son of God; and do we behold the glories of the sun, and surely we ought to confide in the words of contemplate the beautiful scenes of nature him who came down from heaven for the that surround us ! But what proportion has express purpose of reclaiming the wicked, this to the ineffable delights that must fill and gaining for them an inheritance in the the minds of those who behold the great heavenly kingdom by preaching the doctrine Creator himself, who called the whole upi of repentance, and the absolute necessity, verse from nothing, and still supports it with they were under to practise every moral the word of his power?--' Blessed are duty. the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
Having shewn in what true bappiness The tyrants and conquerors of the earth, consisted, our Saviour addressed himself to who disturb the peace of mankind, are far his disciples, and explained their duty as the from happy. It falls to the share of those teachers appointed to conduct others in the who love their fellow creatures, and do all paths that led to eternal felicity: excited in their power to promote peace and har them to diligence in dispensing the salutary mony among the children of men. For they influences of their doctrine and example, imitate the greatest perfection of their that their hearers might honour and praise Maker; and thereforeshall be acknowledged the great Creator of heaven and earth, who by him for his children, and participate of his had been so kind to the children of men. happiness. “Blessed are the peace-makers : for they shall be called the children of God.” As his definition of happiness was very
different from what the Jews were accus. Nor does happiness consist in liberty and tomed to hear from the Scribes and Phari, ease, if those privileges are purchased at the sees, he thought proper to declare, that he expence of virtue ; it is the consequence of was not come to destroy the moral precepts a persecution for conseience sake ; for those contained in the law of the Prophets, but to who have suffered the severest trial that hu fulfil or confirm them. man nature is capable of sustaining, shallbe' honoured with the highest rewards in the Nothing is so steadfast as the eternal truths blissful mansions of eternity. “ Blessed are of morality; the heavens may pass away,and they who are persecuted for righteousness' the whole frame of nature be dissolved, but sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” the rules of righteousness shall remain immu
table and immortal. And therefore, he orContentment is not to be expected from dered his disciples, on the severest penalties, the applause of the world ; but will be the both to enforce by preaching and example, portion of those who are falsely reviled for the strict observation of all the moral pretheir righteousness, and share in the affronts cepts contained in the sacred writings; and offered to God himself ; for by these perse that in a much greater latitude than they cutions the prophets of all ages have been were taken by the teachers of Israel. And, distinguished. Blessed are ye when men in consideration of the frailties of human na.
ture, taught them that excellent form of sincerity, as we pray, not for ourselves only,
Who art in heaven. These words do not Our Father who art in heaven, d'c. If suppose the presence of God confined ; he earthly parents are called fathers, the Al is present every where ; about our paths, mighty has the best title from every creature,
and about our bed, and narrowly inspecteth and particularly from men, being the father | every action of the sons of men. of their spirits, the maker of their bodies, express his majesty and power, and distin. and the continual preserver of both. guish him from those we call fathers upon
earth, and from false gods which are not in Father is the most magnificent title in heaven, the happy mansions of bliss and vented by philosophers or poets, in honour felicity, where the Almighty, who is essenof their gods. It conveys the most lovely tially present in every part of the universe, idea possible to be conveyed by the human gives more especial manifestations of his prebreast. As it is used by mankind in gene sence to such of his creatures as he hath exral, it marks the essential character of the alted to share with him in the eternal felicitrue God, namely, that he is the first cause ties of the heavenly Jerusalem. of all things, or the Author of their being; and, at the same time, conveys a strong Hallowed be thy name. By the name of idea of the tender love he bears to his crea God, the Hebrews understood God himself, tures, whom he nourishes with an affection, bis attributes and his works ; and therefore, and protects with a watchfulness, infinitely the meaning of the petition is, May thy exsuperior to that of any earthly parent. The istence be universally believed, thy prename of Father also teaches us, that we sence loved and imitated, thy works adowe our being to God, points out his good-mired, thy supremacy over all things ness and mercy in upholding us, and ex acknowledged, thy providence reverenced presses his power in giving us the things we and confided in ! May all the sons of men ask s; none of which are more difficult than think so highly of his divine Majesty, of bis creation. Nor is this all. We are likewise attributes, of his works; and may we so extaught to give the great God the title of press our veneration of God, that his glory Father, that our sense of the tender relation
may be manifested in every corner of the in which he stands to us may be confirmed, world ! our faith in his power and goodness strengthened, our hopes of obtaining wbat we ask Thy kingdom come. Let the kingdom of in prayer cherished, and our desire of obey- the Messiah, or the gospel dispensation be ing and imitating him quickened ; for the extended to the utmost parts of the earth, light of nature teaches us, that it is disgrace- that all the children of men, “ may
become ful in children to degenerate from their one folil under one shepherd, Jesus Christ parents, and that they cannot commit a
Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
May thy will, O thou great Father of the Lastly, We are commanded to call him Universe, he done upon us, that by the Father in the plural number, and that even light of thy glorious gospel we may be enin our secret addresses to the throne of abled to imitate the angels of light, by givgrace, to put us in mind that we are all bre- ing as sincere, universal, and constant thren, the children of one common parent; obedience to thy divine commands, as the and that we ought to love one another with imperfection of human nature will permit.