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laughter was an unpardonable levity ; but they must have been some of the audience who came to gratify their curiosity, and to kill time.
We may reasonably suppose that they were Epicureans ;--and the supposition is grounded upon the principles and temper of that sect. Their principles they pretended to have derived from Epicurus. He had taught that pleasure is the supreme good. They presumed so too ; and, therefore, called themselves by his name, as if they were observers of his philosophy. But the pleasure that Epicurus asserted to be the greatest good of man, was that noble and refined pleasure which proceeds from innocency of manners, from temperate habits, and from the uniform practice of virtue. From his notions of pleasure he quite excluded the animal sense ; but his pretended followers allowed nothing to be pleasure that was not sensual. From such a perversion of his sentiments and principles it was, that dissolute manners and levity of mind became the distinguishing marks of the sect, who, some ages after his time, styled themselves his followers. Their principles suited their licentious manners ; and those manners gave them no time nor inclination seriously to examine the weight of their own principles, or to compare them candidly with those of other men. Death, which they regarded in no other light than as an utter extinction of being, would soon overtake them ; and, therefore, they eat, and drank, and enjoyed the short space of life that was in their power. The notion of futurity was to slowness of capacity, —and the gradual, but often obstructed enlightenment of their minds. This should recommend their writings to every honest reader ;-and it should especially recommend the frequent perusal and the devout study of them to every Christian. This remarkably distinguishes their love of truth, and illustrates their candour and impartiality. The parables and figures that our Saviour used, are not at all mysterious or obscure to us. We are enabled, at first reading to view their comprehensive meanings further and more clearly than his newly-called disciples could. They contain a fund of the most useful learning, to adorn and polish every understanding ;-and what is better,---to amend and purify every heart. “ Unto us it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God,” —and thus to “ make our calling and election sure.”
If the general and particular reasons for our Saviour's frequent use of parables are sufficient, -as it is presumed they are-- to satisfy every mind, it may seem needless here to add, that this method of instruction bad been in long-established vogue in the Jewish schools, as best calculated to open, in a just measure and by gentle degrees, the young, unprejudiced, and tender minds of their pupils. It was used also by the philosophers and best teachers, among the Gentiles ; -- though with them it was called, not parable, but fable, allegory, or apologue. Our Saviour took up this method, improved it, and carried it to the highest perfection. He taught with
superior authority and grace. The scribes and professed teachers among the Jews were soon deserted ;—and the people, in great numbers, flocked to hear this Divine Instructor. They were astonished at his doctrine,” --confessing, in the first emotion of their hearts, and in spite of obstinacy, incredulity, and faction, that he “spake as never man spake.” “ Whence had he this wisdom ?” was the question which those who would not effectually hearken, were compelled, by the force of truth and conviction, to ask respecting him.
“ Blessed,” therefore, “ are the eyes” of all faithful and sincere Christians, " for they see” and enjoy the light of the holy gospel.
66 Blessed are their ears, for they hear” the salutary truths that it contains. Happy are they in their knowledge; but incomparably more happy if they exemplify that knowledge in their practice! Then “that wicked one” can never “ catch away the word” of truth and righteousness ”
66 which is sown in their hearts.” Firm to their principles of duty, and fitted for perseverance, they will not be overcome by the temptations of sin ; neither “the cares of this world,” por “the deceitfulness of riches,” will, “choke the word,” or defeat its fertility. They will bring forth in abundance the fruits of holiness and of the Spirit,-each person in proportion to his capacity and means,—“ some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundred fold.”
When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked.
St. Paul, during his stay at Athens, had been invited by some of the learned and inquisitive inhabitants of that city, to explain to them the nature of the Christian doctrine, as something “new” and “strange.” He complied with their request, and entered upon topics more sublime and important than any others with which the human mind can be engaged. Those topics were, the existence of one only Supreme Being, the duty which man, as his creature, owes to that Being,—and the necessity of worshipping him, not in the ignorant belief that he can be represented by any thing of man's workmanship, but in the perception and acknowledgment, that he is far above all creatures, and that he must, therefore, be regarded with the purest devotion. To
these, the Apostle added the great Christian doctrine of a future judgment,--making it a motive to repentance. “God,” he told them, “now commandeth all men every where to repent :-because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained ;-whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." On all the other points, his audience listened to him attentively ; but when he came to speak of “the resurrection of the dead, some of them mocked :”— they ridiculed him, as if his notions were whimsical and absurd.
We may fairly presume, that the persons who, in so indecorous a manner, received the Apostle's doctrine, were guilty of no little absurdity themselves ;for every one must admit, that the resurrection of man from the dead, is, to say the least of it, a serious subject; and that it accordingly deserves a serious examination.
Let us consider, then, what sort of persons they were, to whom this momentous doctrine was matter of ridicule.
And here it will be proper to examine the account, which St. Luke, the writer of the Acts of the Apostles, has given us of this remarkable incident : because whatever reception hitherto, and in other places, St. Paul's doctrine had met with, it had never been made the subject of jesting and derision ;-and, of all the places in the known world, Athens, the seat