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wherewith to charge and accufe him. Indeed, fome Mens Talk and Conversation are no better than Gins and Traps, design'd not fo much to pleafe or inform, as to ensnare and entangle those they converse with. And such was that of the Pharisee in the Text, who upon Christ's coming to him on the Sabbath-day, hop'd to find him faying or doing something in Dérogation of the Honour of that Day, which they held in great Estimation : Accordingly an Object being then presented before him, of a certain Man who had the Dropsy, they concluded that that might adminifter fome Matter of Accusation against him, which our Saviour wisely forefaw and prevented. - And that will lead us to the next thing here to be consider'd, viz.
Thirdly, Christ's great Wifdom in putting them to filence, and thereby defeating their wicked Designs - The Advantage they thought to take against him, was about his curing this siek Man on the Sabbath-day: for the Jews, and especially the Pharisees, were strict and superstitious Oba servers of that Day, in which they would do no manner of Work, no not the common Offices of Humanity and Charity; yea, they abstain'd from the ordinary and necessary Actions of human Life: for they would scarce eat or drink, or defend themselves, if set upon on that day, which made them twice a Prey to their Enemies; once to Antiochus, and another time to Pompey. They blam’d the Disciples for.plucking a few Ears of Corn on the Sabbath-day, tho warranted by Neceflity, and the Exigence of a great Hun. ger, as we read, Mat. 12. They accus'd our Saviour for curing one that had a wither'd Hand on that Day, and fought to destroy him, as: we read in the fame Chapter. St. Luke tells us, that the Ruler of the Synagogue was moy'd with great Indignation against hin for healing a Wonian on that Day, who labour d under a Spirit of Infirmity eighteen Years; saying to the People, There are fix Days in which Men ought to work, on them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath-day ; Luke 13. 11, &c.
And here the chief Pharisee in the Text watched whether he would heal this fick Man of his Dropsy on that day, that they might have wherewith to accuse him. But Chrift knew their Hearts, and was able to frustrate their Design, and therefore he began with them, putting the Question to hini, Is it lapful to heal on the Sabbath-day? St. Mark puts the Question farther, Is it lawful to do Good on the Sabbath
day, or to do Evil ;, to save Life, or to kill ? Mark 3: 4 tháč is, Is it not much better to do Good, and to fave Life by healing, than to do Evil, and to kill, by neglecting it on that day? To which they answer'd nothing, but held their peace, and finding that they had nothing to say against it, He took him, and healed him, and let him go.
But for their farther Satisfaction, he mov'd another Quef tion to them, saying, Which of you shall have an Ass, or an Ox fallen into a Pit, and will not Araitway pull him out on the Sabbath-day? St. Martheto puts the Cafe even in the smalleft Matters, saying, What Man is there among you, that jhall have one Sheep, and if it fall into a Pit on the Sabbathi day, will be not lay hold of it, and lift it out ? How much then is a Man better than a Sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath-day, Mát. 12. To which St. Luke here adds; And they could not answer him again to these things.
Thus did our Saviour put these Lawyers and Pharisees to fhane and silence, as he did him who merely to tempt him, ask'd which was the great Commandment in the Law; and those, that to entangle him would know whether it were lawful to pay Tribute to Cefat: to all which he gave such Answers as ftruck them dümb, and made them ask no more Questions. For, as St. Luke' tells us, All bis Adversaries were amamed, and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him. Luke 13. 17.
Moreover, our Saviour being at a Feast in this chief Phas risee's House, and observing how desirous the Lawyers and Pharisees were to take place, and to have the Precedence at the Feast, he put forth a Parable to them: which brings nie to the last thing propounded, vizi
Fourthly, Our Saviour's checking their Pride and Vanity, in affecting Precedence and Preheminence above others. This Vanity he chastiseth here by a Parable, which he put forth to them that were bidden, when he mark'd how they chose out the chief Rooms; saying unto them, When thote art bidden of any Man to a Wedding, fit not down in the higheft Room, left a more honourable Man than thou be bidden of him, 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 Room : But when thou art bidden, go and fit down in the lowest Room, that when be that bade thee cometb, be may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher, then shalt thou have Wor
. Thip with them ibat fit at Meat with thee. In which Parable
he reprehends the Ambition and Folly of such as strive for Preheminence, and seek to exalt themselves above their Brethren; fhewing it to be much more decent and honourable for á Man to set himself below, than above his Place; that Humility was the best Step to Honour, and that Pride leads only to Debasement, Christ had obfervid before of the Scribe's and Pharisees, that they loved the upper
moft Rooms at Feafts, and the chief Seats in the Synagogues ; that they affected Greetings in the Markets, and to be called of Men, Rabbi, Rabbi : Mat. 23.6,7: which made him upon all occasions seek to humble their Pride, and to check their Vanity. And we may observe fome in our days, much like the Pharisees in this respect, affecting to be somebody this way, and too much courting Preheminence ; endeavouring to depress others to advance themselves, and to raise their own Reputation upon the Ruin of their Betters. Yea, we find something of this among Christ's own Disciples; for we read, that there was a Strife among them, which of them should be the greatest : To put a stop to this vain Contention, our Saviour tells them, that though such Contests may be found among the Kings and great Men of the Earth, yet it shall not be so among you, but let him that is greates among you, be to the Tounger, and be that
is chief, as be that doth serve : urging upon them his own Example ; For whether is greater (făith he) be that fitteth at Meat, or he that serva
etb? Is not be that fitteth at Meat ? But I am among you as E
be that serveth. Luke 22. 24, 25, &c. And if he was fo far from courting Greatness, that he chose and prefer'd Meanness before it, can it become us to strive who shall be greateft? When he took upon him the Form of a Servant, and did the meanest Offices of fuch, shall we take upon us, and covet to be callid Masters? This is not to learn of our Saviour, to be meek and lowly in Heart, but to learn of Lacifer, to be proud and lofty in Spirit.
In short, this Haughtiness of Spirit is here sharply rea prehended, and the contrary Vertue of Humility as highly recommended to us in this Parable ; both which are back’d with two strong Arguments in the Close : For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself mall be exalted; that is, he that affecteth the higher Rooms shall be brought low, and he that taketh the lower Seats shall be advanc'd higher. An assuming Boldness and Arrogance in Talk or Behaviour is commonly odious and
fullom in the light of all Men, and none rife higher in the Opinion of God and Man, than they who are lowest in their own.
. This is briefly the Sum of the Gospel for this Day, which may serve to inttruct us in the following Lessons. As,
if, From our Saviour's Freedom of Conversation we may learn to be affable, courteous and condescending to all Men': This Christ's Command and Example plainly teach us; Learn of me (faith he) for I am meek and lowly in Heart. 'Tis no part of his Religion to be four, morose or cynical; for he convers’d familiarly with all forts of Men, and hath will'd his Disciples to do fo too. The Pharisees indeed were supercilious and austere, keeping a distance from others as unworthy of their Company, and saying, Stand off, come not nigh me, for I am bolier than thou; and their modern Followers have fomething of the fame Morofenefs, fepa. rating from others as Sinners, and fearing to be defild by their unholy Conversation: But our Saviour's Practice and Advice was quite otherwise; for he freely ate and drank with Publicans and Sinners, and hath will d as to be cour teous and kindly affectioned to all Men. We are indeed to fhun the Vices, but not the Perfons of bad Men; we are to avoid the Contagion of their Example, but not to deny them the Civility of our Society. Nabal, for his Churlishness, was stild one of the Sons of Belial: and to stand at a morose distance from other Men, is rather the Guife of a proud Pharisee, than the Practice of algaod Christian.
2dly, From the Pharisee's watching our Saviour to enfnare and eñtrap him, we learn the evil Effects of Malice and Hypocrisy, what a pernicious Influence they have upon Conversation, and how they poison and imbitter all so ciety. We read of fome that watch for our Halting, and seek occasion against us; yea, lay Traps in our way on purpose to catch or make us fall. Our Saviour found this Deals ing from the World, and the Disciple is not above his Lord : Marvel not (faith he) if the World hate you, for they hated me before they hated you. Malice studies to undermine and to do harm, and will not suffer Men to sleep till they have done mischief: Hypocrisy seeks to cover such malicious De. figns with flattering Speeches, and to put fair Colours upon the fouleft Actions. The World abounds with such treache. rous and dangerous Enemies; which may teach us to be as watchful to avoid, as they are to do mischief.
3dly, From Christ's defeating the malicious Designs of the Pharisee, in watching of him, we may learn to walk warily and circumspectly, not as Fools, but as wise, and to arm our felves against the Wiles of the Wicked. When Christ fent his Disciples abroad into the World, he told them, Behold I send you forth as Sheep among Wolves; that is, aniong wicked and ungodly Men, who will be apt to worry and lie in wait for you, as the ravening Wolves do for the innocent Sheep: therefore (faith he) be ye wise as Serpents, and harmless as Doves. À Serpent, you know, hath many Ways to secure and defend himself from Danger; it hath many Windings and Turnings to that purpose, and can incircle it self into a narrow Compass, the better to avoid being hit or receiving Harn. Which things may teach us to use all good Means to escape the Treachery and Malice of designing Men : but yet to the Wisdom of the Serpent we are to add the Harmlessness of the Dove; io e. to use nothing but good and lawful Means to that end, and not betake our felves to finister and indirect Courses to promote our Safety. The Dove, you know, is an innocent Creature, void of Gall, that often takes, but never does any harm; which we should therefore imitate in the Innocence of our Ways and Behaviour. Our Saviour silenc'd and secur'd himself from those that watch'd him, and fought by tempting to bring him into Danger: In like manner we should cut off all occasion from then, that seek occasion against us, that they who watch for our halting may be asham’d, having no evil thing to say against us.
Lastly, From our Saviour's checking the Pharisees for their affecting Precedence and Preheminence, we may learn to cast off all Pride, and to be cloth'd with Humility : for God and Man resist the Proud, and pull down such as are lifted up; but both conspire to give Grace and Favour to the Humble. He putteth down the Mighty from their Seats (faith the Blessed Virgin) that is, from those upper Rooms, and higher Seats, to which their Pride had mounted them; and exalteth the Humble and Meek, that is, such as they feek to depress and despise. Wherefore let us strive not so much to be Great as Good, and labour more for Lowliness than Haughtiness of Mind; and by thus humbling our selves, God shall exalt us in due time: Which God grant, for the sake of Jesus Christ, óc. Amen.
Vol. IV. Part 20