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Let it be remembered, then, that nothing was more familiar with the Jews, than to convey an information to others, especially if that information was of importance, by natural, rather than artificial signs, I mean by deeds, rather than words ; as every one knows, who has but dipped into the history and writings of the Old and New Testament. The transaction before us, if understood only as a lesson of humility, is a lesson conveyed to the Disciples in this formu

Now, this way of information by action was occasionally made to serve two contrary purposes: either to give more force and emphasis to an instruction; or, to cloathe it with some degree of obscurity, or even ambiguity. For actions, speaking to the eye, when the purpose of them is by any means clearly ascertained, convey the most lively and expressive information: on the other hand, when it is not, they are somewhat obscure, one thing being to be collected by us from another; or the information is even ambiguous, as the action may signify more things than one.

u See more on this subject in the DISCOURSE on Christ's driring the merchants out of the temple, at the end of the next volume.

Sometimes, the primary sense is declared, or easily understood; while, yet, a secondary sense, a less apparent one, but more momentous, is, also, intended.

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This, upon inquiry, may be the case before

Christ's washing the feet of his Disciples obviously conveys this instruction, which is asserted, too, in express words--that, as he, their lord and master, washed their feet, so they ought also to wash one another's feet *. But another, and far more important, instruction may be conveyed in this action, though it be not so 'fully and explicitly declared. It may,

I

say, be conveyed: from laying all circumstances together, we shall be able to form a judgment, whether it were, indeed, in the Agent's intention to convey it.

First, as I said, the narrative of this transaction (which, take it as you will, was clearly designed to be an information by action) is prefaced in a very extraordinary manner. Jesus, knowing that his hour was come --knowing too that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God, proceeded into

x Ver. 14.

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do what? Why, to give his disciples a lesson of humility and charity, in washing their feet. The Lesson, no doubt, was important; and becoming the character of their divine master. But does it rise up to those ideas of importance, which we are prepared to entertain of an action, performed at such a time, and so awfully introduced? His hour was come-the Father had given all things into his hands-he came from God, and was now going to God. All this announces something beyond and above a common lecture of morality; something, which might be a suitable close to the instructions of such a teacher,

Let us see, next, how the action is received. One of the disciples, Peter, surprized at his Lord's condescension, says very naturally, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus, to remove his scruples, replies, What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. The words are ambiguous, and may mean,

« Thou shalt know, immediately, from the explication I am about to give of this action;" or, -- thou shalt know hereafter, in due time, and by other means," what the purport of it is. Still Peter, not satisfied with this answer, but confounded at the apparent indignity of Christ's condescension, replies resolutely, Thou shalt never wash my feet. This resistance was to be overcome, that the information, whatever it was, might take place, by the performance of that which was the vehicle of it. Jesus answers, therefore, more directly and solemnly, JF I WASH THEE NOT, THOU HAST NO PART WITH ME—Which words, whether understood by Peter or not, were clearly seen to have some meaning of the last concern to him; and, struck with this apprehension, he submits.

But what! taking these oracular words, in the sense only in which Jesus thought fit to explain them, we hardly see the force and propriety of them. For, had Peter no part with Jesus, that is, was he incapable of receiving any benefit from him, unless he had this ceremuny of washing, performed upon him, when that ceremony had no further use or meaning, than to convey a moral lesson? If he had not learnt this lesson from Christ, he might have

many others : or, he might have learnt this, some other way: and taking it in either light, he might still be said to have some part with Jesus, though he had not been washed

learnt many

by him.

The true import, then, of these enigmatic words, and of the whole transaction which is here recorded, begins to appear, and is further opened by the sequel of Peter's conversation with Jesus. For, understanding, that this ablution was, some way so necessary to him, Peter subjoins, Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed, needeth not, save to wash his feet, and is clean every whit ; and ye are clean, but not all; for he knew who should betray him : therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

It was, we see, the uncleanness of sin, or the filth of an evil conscience, which was to be taken away by this washing. More than a single moral lesson, how excellent soever, was, therefore, couched in this act; indeed, the necessity and efficacy of CERTAIN MEANS, by which mankind were, in general, to be cleansed from sin, was that which was ultimately and mainly signified by it. He that was thus washed, was clean every whit ; and the information of this benefit being the end of the washing, it was enough if that was conveyed by washing any one part.

You see at length to what all this tends. Jesus, knowing the secret treachery of Judas, and, by the divine spirit which was in him, foreseeing the destined effect of that treachery';

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