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CHAPTER XVII. '
The Multitudes, after having been miraculously fed in the Wilderness, attempt to take CHR1st by Force, and make him King: He shuns their importunity, by withdrawing himself from them: He walketh on the Sea to his Disciples: He saves Peter, who desired to accompany him, but was sinking for want of Faith. CHRIST disputes with the Jews in the Synagogue of Capernaum, and declareth himself to be the Bread of life: He goes to Jerusalem at the Passover; then returns to Galilee, and reproves the Pharisees for their Superstition.
W HEN the wondering multitudes had partook of the miraculous banquet, prepared for them by our great Redeemer, a sudden flow of gladness * elevation of mind ran through the desert; every eye was fixed on the great Founder of the feast; every heart was glad, and every tongue resounded his praise.
And now, being thoroughly convinced, that he was their promised Messiah, and having no notion of the reign of the Messiah, but that of his setting up a temporal kingdom, they reverenced him as the great deliver of their nation, and stood determined, immediately to make him King, whether he consented to it or not. Loud acclamations resounded through the woods and wilds, and the voice of exultation and triumph ran along the side of the mountain where the miracle had been performed: the disciples seemed to join with the multitude in their desires, and every thing was preparing to proclaim him King.
Jesus, to prevent the execution of their design, without their perceiving his intention, sent his disciples away in a boat, with orders to sail to BethshidaThe multitude were very willing to let the disciples depart, when they saw that Jesus did not go with
them; perhaps, they imagined, that the disciples were sent to provide such things as were necessary against he assumed the kingdom: nor did they resuse to disperse when our Lord dismissed them, no doubt, designing to return in the morning; which, we find, was really the case.
Having thus sent the disciples, and the multitude away, Jesus ascended to the summit of the mountain alone, spending the night in heavenly contemplation, and ardent prayers to his almighty Father.
But the disciples meeting with a contrary wind, could not continue their course to Bethsaida, which lay about two leagues northward of the desert mountain, where the multitude had been miraculously fed. They, however, did all in their power to land as near the city as possible: but a tempest arising they were tossed all night on the tumultuous sea, without being able to make the desired port. At the conclusion of the fourth watch, which was about five o'clock in the morning, they were advanced no further than about a league from the shore; they were tossed by the foaming waves, and opposed in their course by the stormy wind; and, though they toiled hard, had no prospect of reaching the place where they desired to land.
Our Lord had, from the mountain, beheld the distress of his disciples, and was now coming to their relief, though they had not the least expectation of his presence. Thus the Christian, when storms and tempests of trouble and affliction overtake him, is too prone to forget his almighty support, and overlook the promise of his great deliverer: but, it would be well for him to remember, that the blessed Jesus beholds every particular of his distress, and hath not forgotten to be gracious, but in his own time and way, will cer. tainly appear in all his mightiness to save and work out his deliverance. Norought it to be forgotten, that the time when human wisdom fails, when our distresses
and trouble arises to its highest pitch, when there appears no refuge, no help, no deliverer, then is the time for a God to manifest his divine power; and, at such a time, he hath often been found to be nigh at hand, and hath brought deliverance to his people in the most wonderful and unexpected manner.
Thus the disciples, when tossed by the mighty tenpest, and in danger of being swallowed up by the foaming seas, saw their divine master at a distance, walking upon the frothy surface of the mighty waters; they saw, but they knew him not: nor were they convinced by his nearer approach, but thinking they had seen an apparition, shrieked with fear. Their terrors, however, were soon at an end; with kind compassion, and condescending goodness, in his well known voice, the blessed JESUs dispelled their fears with these words, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. No sooner had our great Redeemer uttered these words, than every fear vanished, and satisfaction and joy filled every heart. Peter was so elated with the sight of his Master, and so overjoyed to see him walking on the sea, that he felt in his mind a strong desire to accompany him; and, accordingly, begged his master to permit him to come upon the water.
Our great Redeemer having, with condescending goodness granted his request, he left the boat, and walked on the surface of the sea; and some time continued the miraculous course, wondering at himself, and rejoicing in the power of his master. But the storm increased, the whistling winds roared around him, and the wild surges tossed their raging heads on high, and dashed about their foam; so that it was with the utmost difficulty that he kept on his feet. Peter was not so strong as he imagined; his presence of mind forsook him ; his faith failed; he forgot the presence of his divine master, and he began to sink in the mighty waters. In this extremity, he looked earnestly for his divine supporter, and upon the brink of being swal
ed up, he cried, Lord save me! His kind, compassionate master, immediately relieved him; he stretched out his hand and caught him; at the same time, gently rebuking his staggering resolution and wavering faith, he said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt 2
The case of Peter should be a standing warning to the Christian, and excite him to be very cautious of putting a vain confidence in his own strength. Peter thought that he could endure all things in the company of his master, and while he felt his heart warm, he supposed that his resolution and courage would bear him above every fear. But on this, as well as on a future occasion, which will hereafter be remarked, he found himself mistaken. When he perceived the storm to increase, and foaming billows rage more horribly than before, his fears suggested, that either his master would be unable or unwilling to support him amidst the furious blasts of the tempest. He had, on various occasions, beheld the divine power and goodness of his master, and his fears were unreasonable, and he was justly to be blamed; because the same power which had before been so fully manifested, and which now had enabled him to walk on the sea, was able to support him there, notwithstanding all the horrors of the storm.
, Peter might have reasoned thus, had he been in his right mind; but his fear prevailed, his courage and resolution, which he depended so much upon, forsook him, and he began to sink. Thus the Christian, when he enjoys the presence of his Saviour, thinks that he can endure all things; and concludes, that his mountain stands strong, and he shall never be moved: but, when affliction and trouble arise, he has a very different view of things; when great dangers are before him, and the boisterous waves of disappointment, vexation, and distress, roar around him, he is very prone to be disheartened, and to think, that he shall certain
ly be swallowed up, that God hath forsaken him, and will be favourable no more. Such are too often his sentiments, and, if the divine hand of his Saviour did not hold him out, he would, like Peter, sink in the mighty water.
This miracle of our exalted Redeemer's walking on the sea, seems to have astonished the disciples more than any which had been before it; for though they had so lately seen the miracle of feeding the multitude with five loaves, it did not appear to have such an effect on their minds, as this last manifestation of his divine power; for now, with the utmost veneration, gratitude, and joy, they came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
Nor was walking on the sea, the only miracle which our Redeemer wrought at this time; for we are informed by the evangelists, , that as soon as their almighty master, and his relieved disciple, were received into the ship, the vessel was instantaneously transported to its intended port. Then they willingly received him into the ship; and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.
It was in the country adjacent to Capernaum, that our great Redeemer landed; and, as he had not been in that neighbourhood since his visiting Nazareth, the country people, flocked about him in great numbers, bringing their sick and diseased, which the divine physician immediately healed: and, as it had been a considerable time since he had been in that country, they crowded around him in such numbers, that he could not pay a particular attention to every object of distress; but they had so great an opinion of the healing virtue, which he so eminently possessed, that they besought him, that they might only touch the hem of his garment ; and as many as touched were made perJectly whole.