« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
of the universal Lord. The dogs, though not children, have, however, their proper share in the care and kindness of the good man of the house : they are not regaled with the first and choicest of the food provided for the children's nourishment; but they are never suffered to be famished with hunger, they are often fed by the master's hand with the fragments of his own table. Am I a dog ?
Am I a dog ? — It is well: I murmur not at the preference justly shown to the dearer and the worthier children: give me but my portion of the scraps and offal.”
O rare example, in a heathen, of resignation to the will of God, of complacency and satisfaction in the general arrangements of his providence, which he is the best Christian who best imitates! The faithful Canaanite thankfully accepts what God is pleased to give, because he gives it : she is contented to fill the place which he assigns to her, because he assigns it; and repines not that another fills a higher station : she is contented to be what God ordains,— to receive what he bestows, in the pious persuasion that every one is “ fed with the food that is convenient for him,” - that every being endued with sense and reason is placed in the condition suited to his natural endowments, and furnished with means of happiness fitly proportioned to his capacities of enjoyment.
We have yet another circumstance to remark in our Syrophænician's faith ; which is less indeed a part of its merit than of the blessing which attended it but it is extraordinary, and deserves notice. I speak of the quick discernment and penetration which she discovers in religious subjects, and that, too, upon certain points upon which even now, in the full sunshine of the Gospel, it is easy for the unwary to go
wrong, and at that time it was hardly to be expected that the wisest should form a right judgment. Surely with truth the prophet said, “ The secret of the Lord is among them that fear him.” Whence, but from that secret illumination which is the blessing of the pure in heart in every clime and every age, could this daughter of the Canaanites have drawn her information, that among the various benefits which the Redeemer came to bestow upon the children of God's love, the mercy which she solicited was but of a secondary value? She ventures to ask for it as no part of the children's food, but a portion only of the crumbs which fell from their richly furnished table. We are apt to imagine that the Christians of the first age, among whom our Lord and the apostles lived and worked their miracles, were objects of a partial favour not equally extended to believers in these later ages : and it must be confessed their privilege was great, to receive counsel and instruction from the First Source of life and knowledge, and from the lips of his inspired messengers ; but it was a privilege, in the nature of the thing, confined to a certain time, and, like all temporary privileges, conferred on a few for the general good: the clear knowledge of our duty, — the promise of immortal life to the obedient,
the expiation of our sins by a sufficient meritorious sacrifice, — the pardon secured to the penitent by that atonement, the assistance promised to the well disposed, - in a word, the full remission of our sins, and the other benefits of our Saviour's life and death, of his doctrine and example, — these things are the bread which Christ brought down from heaven for the nourishment of the faithful ; - in these benefits believers in all ages are equal sharers with
the first converts, our Lord's own contemporaries, provided they be equally good Christians. The
particular benefits which the first Christians received from the miraculous powers, in the cure of their diseases and the occasional relief of their worldly afflictions, and even in the power of performing those cures and of giving that relief, - these things in themselves, without respect to their use in promoting the salvation of men by the propagation of the Gospel, were, as we are taught by our Syrophænician sister, but the fragments and the refuse of the bridegroom's supper.
We have now traced the motives of our Lord's unusual but merciful austerity in the first reception of his suppliant. What wonder that so bright an example of an active faith was put to a trial which might render it conspicuous ? It had been injustice to the merit of the character to suffer it to lie concealed. What wonder, when this faith was tried to the uttermost, that our merciful Lord should condescend to pronounce its encomium, and crown it with a peculiar blessing ? — “O woman! great is thy faith! Be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.” The mercy shown to this deserving woman, by the edification which is conveyed in the manner in which the favour was conferred, was rendered a blessing to the whole church ; inasmuch as it was the seal of the merit of the righteousness of faith, — not of “ faith separable from good works,” consisting in a mere assent to facts; but of that faith which is the root of every good work, of that faith which consists in a trust in God, and a reliance on his mercy, founded on a just sense of his perfections. It was a seal of the acceptance of the penitent, and of the efficacy of their prayers; and a seal of this important truth, that the afflictions of the righteous are certain signs of God's favour, — the more certain in proportion as they are more severe. Whenever, therefore, the memory of this fact occurs, let every heart and every tongue join in praise and thanksgiving to the merciful Lord, for the cure of the young demoniac on the Tyrian border ; and never be the circumstance forgotten which gives life and spirit to the great moral of the story, — that the mother, whose prayers and faith obtained the blessing, “ was a Greek, a Syrophænician by nation.”
ECCLESIASTES, xii. 7.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was ; and
the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.*
Nothing hath been more detrimental to the dearest interests of man, — to his present and his future interests, – to his present interests, by obstructing the progress of scientific discovery, and retarding that gradual improvement of his present condition which Providence hath left it to his own industry to make to his future interest, by lessening the credit of Revelation in the esteem of those who will ever lead the opinions of mankind, — nothing hath been more contrary to man's interests both in this world and in the next, than what hath too often happened, that a spirit of piety and devotion, more animated with zeal than enlightened by knowledge in subjects of physical enquiry, hath blindly taken the side of popular error and vulgar prejudice : the consequence of which must ever be an unnatural war between Faith and Reason, – between human science and divine. Religion and Philosophy, through the indiscretion of their votaries, in appearance set at variance, form, as it were, their
* Preached for the Humane Society, March 22. 1789.