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have souls committed to their charge: in a word, make mention in your prayers, widely and particularly, of all sorts and conditions of your fellow men.
Who can put a limit to the good which, did we pray thus widely and heartily for one another, we might hope to accomplish? We cannot come now, as was done at Capernaum, on behalf of our brethren into the actual presence of Christ: we cannot, like those four zealous men we read of in the Gospel, carry our sick on our shoulders and lay them down in the midst before Jesusbut we can do what may avail as much, we can carry them on the words of fervent prayer to where the great Healer sits, and place them, in all their misery and weakness, at His blessed feet. Nor will they lie there unnoticed or unrelieved. If that which we have asked for them be really for their good, we shall receive it for them. The prayer of faith, it is expressly promised, shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
And when He was come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works Is not this the carpenter's son f is not His mother called Mary 2 and His brethren James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas And his sisters, are they not all with us Whence then hath this man these things And they were offended at Him.
IN the verses I have just read, we have a sad but instructive picture of the treatment of our Lord by His own townsmen. We have also a glimpse—though only a glimpse of Him—in His home life, surrounded by brothers and sisters, in the carpenter's house at Nazareth. There is abundant matter here for our meditation. May we be enabled to pursue it with profit ! And first let us consider our Lord's treatment by the men of Nazareth. After a short absence from it—during which great things had happened to Him—His Baptism by John in the river Jordan, His Temptation in the wilderness—He had returned into His own country—to Nazareth, where He had been brought up—where He had lived from a child—and when the Sabbath day was come, He went into the synagogue and stood up for to read. We know from St. Luke the very passage of the Old Testament which He chose—it was part of the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah's prophecy, the place where it is written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
So did Christ preach to His countrymen the Gospel. He told them that the acceptable year had arrived—that He was there to act among them the part of the Great Physician—that all who had any sickness, any infirmity, of mind or body—all who had any burden—all who were tied and bound by their sins, might now find relief. Might come unto Him, and He would deliver themThis day (He said) is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.
And how did they receive His message? Why, they wondered at it—they were in astonishment at the power with which He spoke—astonished at the miracles which accompanied, it would seem, His teaching—but that was all. They did not open their hearts to Him—they did not make proof of His power; they did not go unto Him to be healed—they were simply astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?
What folly, we say, what infatuation! Jesus Himself was in their town to win them to God, and they would not be won! He preached to them the glad tidings of redemption, but they had no ears to hearken! He was present to lay His healing hand on all who had any sickness or infirmity, but few cared to be healed! There was a power there that could have made every soul in Nazareth every whit whole, but it was restrained—He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief!
We wonder at such blindness—we think if we had lived in those days, we should have acted very differently -We should not have turned a deaf ear to Christ preaching—we should not have straitened His merciful intentions by our unbelief—we should not have been offended in Him.
Alas! the wonder may be turned against ourselvesfor how is Christ treated now? what reception do we give His message ?' Are there not times when He stands amongst us, and would, if we were minded, open to us the Scriptures, but our heart is closed, and our ears are inattentive ? Are there not yet more solemn times when He bids us by His minister to a feastma feast at which He Himself is the heavenly food—and we think it no disrespect to Him not to attend? Do those most comfortable words of His, Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you, always find, as they should, an instant echo in our hearts ? Have we proved the power of them ? Have we tested them, each in his own case? Have we ever gone at Christ's call, and laid our burden at His feet, and taken up His easy yoke ? And are we now, at this very time, following Jesus in the way-following Him as our
true Lord and Master, in all virtue and godliness of living ?
Let us, I beseech you, press these questions home. It may be, brethren,—God grant it turn out otherwise ! —but it may be that the men of Nazareth are neither more nor less to blame than ourselves. It may be that, in the day of judgment, out of many a village and town in Christian England, souls will be condemned for the same sin as theirs—because, when they had the means the nearest and greatest means of grace, they used them not—because, instead of closing heartily with the Gospel invitation, they looked out for excuses to decline it, because, in a word, they were offended in Jesus !
But again. Observe the cause of the offence in the case of the men of Nazareth. It was simply this because Christ, who taught so wisely, and did such mighty works, was one of their own townsmen—of a family that lived amongst them—a man who had no outward advantages beyond their own, whom they had known from his boyhood-poor, and the son of a poor house —Is not this the carpenter's son-is not His mother called Mary, and His brethren James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas ? And His sisters, are they not all with us?
That was the cause of their stumbling—and a very common cause it is still. People will often hear gladly enough from a stranger counsel, which, if it came to them from their own minister—whom they see every day, who lives at their own door—they would pay no heed to at all. Our Lord gave utterance to a truth, which has since passed into a familiar proverb, when He said, A