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most profane, yea abominable.
There comes another report, and the news flies about like lightning, that this new preacher pretends to be the Messiah promised, and that he works miracles in confirmation of his divine mission? This is vexation indeed.
My friends, can you conceive of any thing that could have been a greater vexation to a religious people, to a people, who really believed that they were heaven's favourites; and were conscious to themselves that they had served God in a most perfect manner, than to be told by one, who could heal the sick with a word, cast out demons by a command, open the eyes of the blind, and call the dead to life, that publicans and harlots should go into the kingdom of heaven before them? If the man who made this declaration, had been an ordipary character, or if he had been a person of no note among the people, it might not have occasioned them any trouble; they might have suffered it to pass like the unstable wind, which might the next hour blow the other way. But what must have been their astonishment, vexation, and confusion on hearing this report from the lips of Jesus, whose fame had already extended through all the country, whose wonderful miracles had already set the people all in motion, after whom thousands and thousands were flocking, carrying their sick, their lame, their blind and dumb, and who rejoiced in the manifestations of the divine power in healing all infirmities among the people ?
“Publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." What a vexation! The chief priests and elders of the people, who were in expectation of the Messiah, and who had made every preparation for his reception, which they thought necessary were now informed that publicans and harlots were to go into the kingdom of God before them.
Never were people more vexed than were the pharisees in the affair of the man who was born blind. In the first place they would not believe that he was born blind; but after they had called bis parents, and were certified that this was the case, they then asked him how he had received his sight. He assured them that Jesus bad opened his eyes. They finally concluded that even if he did open his eyes, yet he was a sinner because he had done it on the sabbath day. But others said ; “ how can a man that is a sinner do such miracles, and there was a division among
them." Such was the vexation occasioned by this astonishing miracle, and by the testimony of him on whom it was performed, that they cast him out of the Synagogue.
The raising of Lazarus, and the report of this fact caused great vexation among the pharisees, who on this account, together with the chief priests, gathered a council, and said, what do we? for this man doeth iany miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on hiin.” And they took counsel to put him to death. Nor did they think that this would be sufficient to prevent the evil; they thought it expedient also to put Lazarus to death, because many of the Jews believed on Jesus on account of going to see Lazarus, and being made acquainted with the fact of his having been dead, but raised up by the power of Jesus.
This divine teacher gave his enemies unspeakable vexation by charging them with hypocrisy to their faces, by calling them serpents, and a generation of vipers, and pronouncing on them woes and the dampation of hell.
But nothing caused greater vexation to the selfrighteous, than the language of Jesus to sinners.
Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee ; daughter, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” For this they charged him with blasphemy. This forgiveness of sins, placed the sinner on the same footing with the righteous, which was a vexation to those who had been at an incalculable expense and trouble to become righteous.
The parable of the labourers was designed to set forth the impartial goodness of God, and the vexation that the self-righteous would feel on hearing the report. All the day long did the labourers who were first hired, make their calculations how much better they were to fare at evening, than those who were idle in the markets. And when they saw them come into the vineyard at the eleventh hour, they were persuaded that they would receive little, or nothing for what they did; but when they saw them paid off, and knew that they received every man a penny, they were in hopes of receiving more, but what was their vexation when they received their
penny also ?
They murmured, they complained, they accused the good man of the house of unjust conduct; but he told them that he would give unto the last even as unto them.
The parable of the prodigal and the elder brother is another representation of the vexation which the doctrine of divine grace caused in the minds of the pharisees. When the elder brother was coming from the field at evening, he heard music and dancing in the house and great merriment and rejoicing. He sent a servant to know the occasion, who returned and informed him that his brother had come home, and that his father had killed the fatted calf, because he had received him safe and sound.
O the vexation that this report occasioned! He now looked back on the tedious labours which he for a long time, “ lo many years," had faithfully performed in the service of his father, without even a kid to make merry with his friends. All this he compared with the case, and pleasure in which his prodigal brother had passed his time, and wasted his father's property, and the expensive entertainment and sumptuous feasting with which his father had welcomed him on his return. Such was the vexation of this toil-worn labourer, on hearing this report, that “ he was angry and would not go in. No, he would not go into his own house, he would not refresh himself on his own provisions, he would not return to his own rest. His father came out and entreated him, but to no effect, of which we are informed.
My friends, what was the matter which caused this anger and vexation? It was simply this, the father's compassion, his mercy and grace to the sinner, was like an overflowing scourge, was like a storm of hail to the malevolent, unmerciful sentiments of this self-righteous bigot, who felt as if he could have rejoiced to see his brother excluded from all mercy.
It seems next to impossible, that any should not understand this case, and see the difference between the doctrine of the self-righteous, and that doctrine of divine grace, which gave such offence to the enemies of Jesus.
Such was their offence, such their vexation, that they finally procured the death of the Lord of Glory. But by this means they were preparing for still greater vexation.
“ God moves in a mysterious way,
“ His purpose to perform.” After they had crucified the merciful Jusus, they made careful exertions to prevent his disciples imposing on the people a report of his resurrection. A stone was set at the mouth of the sepulcher, and a guard of soldiers to watch,
How hush, how still is the world! Every thing is now secure. No multitudes now flocking in crowds to hear the preaching of Jesus, no poor blind pne grouping after him who could give sight to the
blind, none rushing along the streets with their sick, lame, and possessed of devils, to find him who controled all maladies, no little children in the streets, crying hosannah to the son of David, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Where are the disciples of the crucified Jesus? They have fled, like timorous lambs from prowling wolves. None dare show themselves. The powers of darkness seem to triumph.
The scene changes, all Jerusalem is in astonishment. The disciples are publicly preaching the resurrection of Jesus; are endowed with the holy ghost and the gift of tongues, so that men of all nations hear them speak in their own language, the wonderful works of God.
The report of these things must have vexed the chief priests, the elders, the scribes and the pharisees beyond all description. They now saw all their efforts fail, and their hopes blasted. The Apostles accused them of having murdered Jesus, whom God had annointed; they performed most astonishing miracles in confirmation of their testimony. When Peter and John restored the lame man in the temple before all the people, and declared that this miracle was wrought through faith in the name of Jesus, whom God had raised from the dead, these enemies of the gospel were “ grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead.”
After this manner the word of God prospered, the gospel spread; and though it was the rain of righteousness and the gentle dew of peace divine to those who had professed no religion, had formed no covenant with death, nor agreement with hell, yet to the pharisees, to the scribes, to the chief priests, and to ihe elders it was an overflowing scourge, it was as a storm of hail that beats the tender herb to the earth.