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S E R M O N XLV..
PREACHED JUNE 23, 1776.
St. MATTH. xiii. 55, 56.
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 not they all with us ? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him.
We have, in these words, a striking picture of Envy; which makes us unwilling to see, or to acknowledge, any pre-eminence in those, whom we have familiarly known and conversed with, and whom we have been long used to regard as our inferiors, or, at most, but on a level with ourselves. Our Lord's neighbours and countrymen, who had been acquainted with him from his youth, could repeat the names of his whole family, and knew the ordinary condition, in which they lived, were out of patience to think that, so descended and so circumstanced, he should be grown at once into distinction among them, and should be taken notice of for abilities and
powers, which they, none of them, possessed.
This temper of mind, I say, is here very graphically expressed; and it operated among the Jews with a more than common malignity, shedding its venom on those, whom not their own industry, but the special favour of Heaven had raised above their fellows, and had commissioned to go forth with extraordinary powers (of which they had frequent instances in their history) for the common benefit of themselves and of mankind. Whence it acquired even the authority of a proverbial sentence, — that a prophet hath no honour in his own country, und in his owri house à.
But, I mean not to enlarge, at present, on this moral topick. There is another, and very
a Matth: xiii. 57.
important use to be made of these words, which is, to let us see, “ how very small a matter will serve to overpower the strongest evidence of our religion, though proposed with all imaginable advantage to us, when we hate to be reformed, or, for any other reason, have no mind to be convinced of its truth."
This strange power of prejudice is exemplified in the text, and will deserve our serious consideration.
Our blessed Lord had now given many proofs of the divine virtue, that was lodged in him; and was, therefore, moved, not only by the duty of his office, but, as we may suppose, by that regard which every good man bears to his country, to make a tender of his mercies to those persons, especially, among whom he had been brought up. Accordingly, we are töld, that he came to his own city of Nazareth, and preached in their Synagogue, insomuch that the people of that place were astonished, and said, whence hath this man this wisdom, which appears in his doctrine, and these mighty works, which we have seen him perform ? And then, calling to mind the mean circumstances of his birth and family, before repeated, they expressed their dissatisfaction, or, as the text says, were offended in him.
But, were those circumstances a reason for rejecting a doctrine, which astonished them with its wisdom; and works, which they owned to be mighty, and above the common power of man? 'Rather, sure, the opposite conduct was to be expected; and, because they knew certainly, from the mean extraction and education of him who taught and did these things, that he had no means of acquiring his abilities (if they were at all to be acquired) in an ordinary way, they ought, methinks, to have had their minds impressed with a full assurance, that they were owing, as they were by himself ascribed, to the power of God.
But, no: rather than admit a conclusion, which hurt their pride, and crossed their, foolish prejudices, they stifle the strongest conviction of their own minds; and resolve not to receive a prophet, whom they had long desired and expected, who came to them with all the credentials of a prophet, and with the offer of what they most wanted, the remission of their sins, and the inestimable gift of eternal life. And all this, because the prophet was the son
of a carpenter, in their own town, and beeause his brethren and sisters, persons of a mean condition, were all with them.
When we contemplate such a conduct, as this, we are ready to say, that it a more than common perverseness of character, and that the people of Nazareth were more unreasonable and sottish, as the common proverb made them to be, than the rest of Israelb.
Yet, if we turn our thoughts on the other tribes and cities of that nation, on the inhabitants of Judæa, and even of Jerusalem, we shall find, that they reasoned no better than the men of Nazareth had done; and discovered equal, indeed, much the same prejudices as those, by which our Lord's own countrymen had been misled.
For, what else was it to say, as they commonly did, that no prophet could come out of Galileec; that he could not be the Messiah, because his disciples were illiterate fishermen d, and not Scribes and Pharisees; because none
• Acts: iv. 13. See Whitby on the place. VOL. VII.