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public ministry; and he manifested the same indulgent spirit, after his time was come, and he openly showed himself as the Messiah. The solemn and hypocritical Pharisees, who disfigured their faces, for a pretence made long prayers, and appeared outwardly religious, objected against him a conduct, which was such a severe censure, on their own. They charged him with being a glutton and drunkard, and a friend of publicans and sinners ; but the purity of his character defeated these insinuations. As they dealt only in general invectives, and could not allege against him any act of intemperance, the slander fell on the head of its authors. It is true, that he was a friend of publicans and sinners ; he conversed with them, however, not for the sake of authorizing their corrupt practices, but of reforming and saving them. His benignity was diffused on all; but it resembled the
pure element of light, which is not contaminated by the objects on which it shines.
If we compare the unaffected and indulgent conduct of Jesus with the part performed by some of the ancient heathen philosophers, who by their rigid maxims and savage austerity of manners endeavored to gain admirers, the character of the author of our religion will rise exceedingly in our estimation. The founders of the Cynic sect of philosophers clothed themselves in vile and ragged garments ; in summer they rolled themselves on the burning sand; in winter they walked with naked feet on the ice, and at all seasons ate the most unpalatable food. They taught their disciples to despise, not merely luxury, but everything which adorns human society, such as poetry, eloquence, architecture, and in general all the elegant sciences and ornamental arts. Whilst we justly
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view with contempt their affected austerity, we may tri-
Apollonius Tyanæus, who lived in the first century,
Such are the acts, which in the opinion of the heathen raised him above the sublime Messiah.
Not only among the heathen, but even among Christians, there have been men, who have hoped to attract admiration, and become leaders of parties, by a rigid opposition to lawful pleasure. From this cause principally arose the monasteries, which during many ages proved so heavy a burden on society. The Christian religion however is not chargeable with any of these abuses; and Jesus, its founder, has condemned them, not only by his doctrine, but, in the most pointed manner, by his example.
This part of Saint John's Gospel then is valuable ; because it exhibits our Saviour as indulgent to the innocent pleasures of men ; and consequently proves that the founder of our religion was exempt from fanaticism, affectation and hypocrisy. But this is not the only instruction, which we can derive from it: it also displays another, and still more important feature in his character. It shows that he was the great teacher sent from God, and that he employed every opportunity to communi
cate his heavenly lessons, and to confirm his divine mige sion. The miracle which he wrought on this occasion, as the Evangelist says, manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him. It demonstrated that he was the Messiah foretold by the prophets, that God was with him and assisted bim, and that he had received a commission, which authorized him to become the instructer of the world : and the faith of his disciples was confirmed by the supernatural argument.
Thus in the midst of a joyful company, when mirth and wine were flowing round, was the soul of the great Messiah occupied with serious objects. He did not lose sight a moment, of the important business, which his Father had committed to him; but all his actions directly tended to advance the glory of God, to confirm his divine religion, and to promote the salvation of men.
The presence of Jesus at the marriage in Cana conveys important lessons to several different classes of persons. It teaches the instructers of religion to avoid an affected gravity and hypocritical austerity of manners. It convinces them, that, like their great Master, they may lawfully join in social parties and innocent festivals. But it solemnly warns them not to give way to ungodly mirth, not to violate the sanctity of the Christian character, and to lose no proper opportunity which presents itself of communicating moral and religious instruction to their associates.
The history imparts a similar lesson to parents, who are charged by God with the education of their children. They should be cheerful and indulgent; they should partake of the innocent sports of their offspring; and smile on all their lawful pleasures. But they should not
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for a moment forget, that the tender mind stands in perpetual need of cultivation ; that if it is not constantly attended to, either the soil will be barren, or weeds will spring up, and choke every useful plant. They therefore should be continually inculcating a regard to truth, diligence in lawful pursuits, obedience to their parents, love to their brothers, and piety to God; and these lessons should be delivered, not in long and formal lectures, which are always tedious to the young; but in short hints, agreeable allusions to the visible objects of nature, entertaining narratives, and above all by their own correct example.
Finally, to men in general this history affords useful information. It teaches you all, my brethren, to yield your faith, obedience, and homage to the Christian religion, the author of which was so unaffected and wise a character, so indulgent to the innocent pleasures of society, and so exempt from austerity of manners. It proves to you, that the religion, which was introduced with such a splendid miracle, must be from God. It instructs you to love your Saviour with the same ardent love, with which be loved his friends; and to let gratitude flow from your swelling hearts, in a stream as rich, as generous, as delicious, as the wine which flowed at the marriage in Cana.
presence of Jesus at the marriage in Cana conrejs sont lessons to several different classes of persons
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2d S. after Epiph.
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history imparts a similar lesson to parents
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GOD PARDONS PENITENT SINNERS.
LET THE WICKED FORSAKE HIS WAY, AND THE UNRIGHTEOUS MAN HIS THOUGHTS; AND LET HIM RETURN UNTO THE LORD, AND HE WILL HAVE MERCY UPON HIM, AND TO OUR GOD, FOR HE WILL ABUNDANTLY PARDON,
Such passages of the sacred oracles as the words, which I have now read, are most attended to by the humble Christian, whose anxious inquiry is, how he shall obtain the favor of the Supreme Being. In the Scriptures there are difficulties, which an unenlightened believer cannot easily solve; there are texts, which are dark, and hard to be understood. Critical skill in the dead languages, a knowledge of ancient customs, and, in a word, comprehensive learning, are necessary for their explanation. But happily these passages have little connexion with practice. A Christian can find his way to heaven, although he cannot determine what they mean; for he has, for the direction of his steps, such lights as the text, in which his duty is plainly pointed out.
In the prophecy of Isaiah there are many obscurities. It cannot always be decided, whether the Prophet is speaking of the state of the Jews, or of the Christian church under the reign of the Messiah : but this text is