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ardently expected and desired. Had the Pharisecs duly attended to the evidences which our Lord produced to prove his divine mission, and examined them with the same care as they did the face of the sky, when they predicted the fairness or foulness of the weather, they would doubtless have been convinced of the truth : but their obstinate and inveterate prejudices, prevented their receiving the Redeemer of Israel, and filled their hearts with so much pride and envy, that our divine Instructor would not attempt their information and conviction ; but fetching a deep sigh, because of the hardness of their hearts, he declared, that their expected sign should never be given them; and further observed, that the only sign which Divine Providence would allow them, was that of his own resurrection from the cold regions of the dead, in which dark abodes he should be no longer held, than the prophet Jonah was in the belly of the whale. This miracle of our Lord's resurrection, was a sign greater than any which had formerly been shewn by the ancient prophets, and was justly insisted on by our great Redeemer, to prove that he excelled and was far superior to them all : A wicked and adulterous generation, said he, sceketh after a sign ; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jo
Having given this answer to the Pharisees, our Lord departed with his disciples, and went by sea to Bethsaida. During this short voyage, he cautioned his disciples to beware of the doctrine of the Scribes and Pharisees, which he introduced under the metaphor of leaven, described its wide-spreading contagion, and pernicious influence on the minds and actions of men. These hypocrites, valued themselves for their zealous attachment to a religion, which consisted in the scrupulous observance of frivolous tradition, while they neglected the immutable duties of natural religion, as well as the weightier and more important precepts of the law: but the disciples, having forgotten to take
bread with them in their voyage, thought our Lord introduced the discourse of leaven, to caution them against procuring it of the Ileathens, or Samaritanss for, though their Master had so lately fed the multitude in the desert, they had forgotten his miraculous power, and seemed not to be sensible, that he who had fed ten thousand persons with five loaves, was able, at all times, to provide for their necessities.
Having crossed the lake, and landed at Bethsaida, there was brought to our Lord a blind man, and he was earnestly entreated to restore him to sight. He received the petition with his usual kindness, and taking the man by the hand, he led him out of the city; then he spit in his eyes, and laid his hands upon him, and asked him, if he saw any thing: to which the man replied, I see men as trees walking : which words very properly express the indistinctness of his sight : JEsus then laid his hands on him a second time, and he was immediately restored to clear, distinct, and perfect sight.
It is proper in this place to be temarked, that the inhabitants of Bethsaida had, by their ingratitude, impenitence, and unbelief, greatly provoked our great Redeemer; and it may be said of this city, as it was of another, he would not do many mighty ziorks there, because of their unbelief : and this, no doubt, was the reason why he would not perform this miraculous cure in the city, but led the blind man into the fields; and soon after departed into the territory of Cæsarea-Philippi.
Being retired into this country, our Lord thought proper to try the faith of the apostles; not that he did it for his own information, but that it might be mani. fest to themselves that they believed in the Lord. With this view, he asked them, Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am? I answer to this question, the disciples replied, Some say thut thou art John the
Baptist ; some, Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the prophels. The people in general, were convinced that Jesus was a great prophet; but though they were convinced of this, they did not acknowledge him as the Messiah. The reason of their mistake is very ap
. parent: they expected that the Messiah, when he appeared, would assume the honors, grandeur, and power of a temporal kingdom; but, as Jesus disclaimed and declined all earthly honors, they could not receive him under that character. Jesus, therefore, gave the disciples an opportunity of declaring what their conceptions were of his person and character; and, with this view, he asked them, But whom say ye that I am ? To this question, Peter immediately replied, Thou art Christ the Son of the living God. With a condescending smile, our Lord accepted the title, and, to testify his approbation of Peter's faith, immediately replied, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonah : for flesh and blood hath not rerealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Our great Redeemer, then alluding to the name of Peter, which signifies a rock, led him, and the rest of the disciples, to a view of that eternal Rock, on the faith he had before expressed, and the whole church of CHRIST rests, as on a sure foundation. And I say unto thee, said he, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock 1 will build my church;
ጎግ and the gates of hell shall not prevail against il.
It cannot, without great absurdity, be concluded, that Peter was the rock on which CHRIST declared he would build his church : weak indeed, and easily assaulted and overcome by the powers of hell, would the noble fabric be, if it rested on any creature; and much more so, was it supported by a weak, mutable and fallible man : it is therefore manifest, that Christ himself is the Rock, on which his universal church, containing the whole number of his redeemed, is erected; and this is a foundation which will stand for ever: not all the powers of earth and hell, can shake the immovable basis of this rock : and whoso
ever is so happy as to be fixed on this foundation, need not fear the dreadful earthquake, the rushing inundation, the raging tempest, or the devouring flame : not all the rage and confusion of a tumultuous world, can hurt such a person as this: but he may stand secure amidst the last convulsions of expiring nature, and behold, without fear, “ the wrecks of matter and the crush of worlds."
But our Lord proceeded to shew the favourable regard which he had for his disciples, and the gifts which he would bestow upon them ; and, therefore, he adds, And I will give unto thee the keys of the king. dom of heaven: and whatsoerer thou shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven : and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, Matth. xvi. 19. As Peter had spoken in behalf of himself and the rest of the apostles, so our Lord lays down these gifts which were common to all: for the same words, with very little variation, are applied to the whole number, in Matt. xviii. .18, and in John xx, 23. They cannot be supposed to contain a declaration of any superiority assigned to Peter over the rest of the apostles; for, it is evident, that, when they afterwards disputed on this head, and held any contention amongst theniselves, who should be greatest, they were always reproved by their Master: nor can we find, that the rest of the apostles ever confessed any such superiority, or that Peter ever claimed it.
The keys of the kingdom of heaven being given to the apostles, by a very easy and beautiful figure, represents the success of their ministry. The kingdom of heaven, in the language of the evangelist, is the king. dom of grace, or the dispensation of the glorious gospel: and what can be more natural, than to say, that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are given to them who open those noble truths to the sons of men. And when it is said, that whatsoever the apostles bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; it evidently relates
to the divine approbation of those regulations and restrictions, which the apostles should establish in the church ; for binding and loosing, are frequently used in the talmudical language, to represent the allowing or forbidding particular sentiments and practices; so that, from the whole, we may conclude, that however our Lord approved or applauded Peter's faith and zeal, he did not, by these declarations, intend to give him any pre-eminence or authority over the rest of the apostles.