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unto him, was sick and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, (that is, pressingly and urgently,) saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: for he loveth our nation, and hath built us a synagogue. Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: wherefore, neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but
say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh ; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick."
It is worthy of remark, that the circumstance here alluded to occurred at an early period of our Lord's ministry, before he had incurred the hostility and hatred of the great men among the Jews, the chief priest and elders of the people. It is not,
, therefore, difficult to conceive why, at such a time, the “ elders of the Jews," alluded to in the two
verses of our text, were induced to ask a favour of our Divine Lord. The centurion being an idolater by birth, was undoubtedly such when he arrived in the land of Canaan; but after having resided a certain time among the Jews, in all probability, degenerate as the Jewish faith had become, he had seen enough to induce him to transfer his conceptions from a belief in a number of false gods to a belief in the God of Israel. However such a supposition might seem to bear the semblance of truth; certain it is that the heathen centurion evinced his friendly disposition to the Jews by building them a synagogue, and they, in return, displayed their gratitude towards him by interesting themselves in his behalf on the occasion before us, and requesting our Lord that he would add one to his numerous other wonderful works, by healing his servant, who, being sick of the palsy, was at the point of death! Of the most wonderful faith, (for wonderful it was when we consider the circumstances of the case, and the peculiar situation of the Roman centurion,) of the wonderful faith of this exemplary individual, and of the success which attended the application of the Jewish elders in his behalf, enough has been said in the sequel of our text to convey to us a correct idea. And by reversing the order of the facts, as it is narrated in the portion of the gospel already recited, we shall perceive that a miraculous act of mercy and favour was conferred on the centurion because he had such unshaken faith in the God of Israel as induced him equally to believe
in the divine mission of his Son, and at his own cost to erect a synagogue or place of worship, which accorded with the new faith, which if not openly, yet at least secretly, he had adopted. It must not be forgotten, that the Jewish faith continued to be the true faith from the moment of its first establishment until that of the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, after which the true faith consisted in the belief that the Lamb of God had been actually slain, which, in a manner, had been previously slain from the foundation of the world, inasmuch as it had been typified or represented not only by the paschal lambs which had been offered in sacrifice by the Jews, but like. wise, on different occasions, in retrograde direction up
to the time of the fall, of which the ram slain by Abraham in the place of his son Isaac, and the firstlings of his flock offered by Abel, are instances, Therefore was it that our Lord was not only born a Jew, but continued in the Jewish faith and practice from the moment of his circumcision up to that which immediately preceded his crucifixion, when he partook of the passover with his disciples.
If, therefore, and the supposition seems indisputable, one who had been an idolater was induced, by what he had seen and heard when resident among the Jews, to believe in the God of Israel, such an one must have possessed as perfect a belief as it was possible to possess at the period in which he lived, and there can be no doubt that the miracles and doctrines of our Lord would have been sufficient to convince such an one of the truth of
that new and more complete faith which was effectually developed after the death and resurrection of the Redeemer. In the portion of Scripture which has already been recited, we have seen that the centurion believed in the miracles of Jesus, and hence we can only infer that he was ready to receive as true every thing which Jesus taught, or was about to teach, to the world.
To all intents and purposes, therefore, we regard the centurion as equal to the most perfect Christian, for he believed in the word of God, and in the divine mission of Jesus Christ. More than this, he erected a place for the worship of God, in conformity with the new faith which he had embraced. When we consider these facts, coupled with the declaration of our Lord himself, that he had not even found so great faith in Israel, we may be assured that the centurion's faith was of that practical and perfect kind through which, by the grace of God, he may be saved; through which, by such means, he may be rendered everlastingly happy in heaven!
My object in selecting the words which have been placed at the head of this discourse, has been to propose the conduct of the heathen centurion, of one who was at least born and educated a heathen, as an example to yourselves; and this I do at a moment, when I am called upon to exhort you, by such arguments as may appear just, and based upon the sacred word of God, to lend your aid towards a society which has been established for the purpose
promoting the erection and repairs of churches of
those sanctuaries which, according to the rites and doctrines of the catholic and apostolic church of our country, are dedicated to the honour and service of the Most High. If, brethren, you
If, brethren, you reflect upon the conduct of the heathen centurion, you will most assuredly do this to your shame, unless you come forward on the present occasion to contribute, each one according to your several abilities, to the purpose of the most excellent and pious institution above named.
Contrast only the situation in which you stand, and the many advantages you possess, and have always possessed, with those of the individual who has been so highly extolled by our Lord, and you must at once perceive that any unwillingness on the present occasion can only redound to your condemnation ; can only produce against you the just censure of one who seeth not as man seeth, who is acquainted with the inmost recesses of the heart, and by whom every one, every individual among you, is already condemned, who shall refuse to give some. thing of his abundance in furtherance of an object, on the success of which may depend the everlasting happiness of millions who are yet unborn!
In addition to the magnificent temple of Jerusalem, many of the materials of which were provided by king David, which was actually founded by Solomon, and which, at the expiration of one thousand years, existed in its restored state in the time of our Saviour, there were various other places of worship, scattered throughout the country, termed