JOHN IV. 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54.

So Jesus came again into Capa of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain

nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum, when he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee he went onto him, and besought him that he would come down and heal his son : for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith onto him, go thy way, thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken apto him, and he went his way. And as be was now going down his servanis met bion, and told him, saying, thy son liveth. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, yesterday, at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour in the which Jesus said unto hiin, thy son livetb; and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judea into Galilee.

The most serious business of human life make but a sorry figure when they come to be recorded. Interesting to the individual, and for the moment, they awaken no general concern, and become to the parties themselves, when the moment is past, “ trifles light as air.” The avidity with which fresh journals are read is a perfect contrast to the indifference with which they are treated on the second or the third day. Let a man sit down to write the history of his own life ; let him be the busiest and most important of personages, and what has he got to relate ? A meagre account of the miles he travelled, of the bargains he drove, of the spectacles he beheld, of the viands which covered his table, and of the guests who surrounded it. Into this little measure shrink the achievements of the great, the splendour, pomp and pride of kings, as well as the short and “ simple annals of the poor.” When the pageant has passed by, it is as a vision of the night, it vanishes into air, it leaves no track behind. In vain is the monumental column reared. The hand of time erases the inscription, shakes the fabric, crumbles it into dust. In vain does History promise to save from oblivion, and to confer immortality. The author, his work, his subject, the very language in which he wrote, all perish.

Nevertheless there are illustrious exceptions. There have been persons whose names are dear to every succeeding generation, and who shall be had in everlasting remembrance; who were engaged in pursuits of endless utility, and producing events which shall never spend their force. And there is a record which survives the lapse of ages, the ravages of barbarism, the revolutions of empire, and which shall outlive the dissolution of worlds. There we contemplate the deathless glory of the venerable benefactors of mankind, who “ being dead, yet speak,” who were and are the light of the world. All those scattered rays of light are collected into one focal point, in the person of Jesus Christ. “'To him give all the prophets witness ;” “all the promises

[ocr errors]

of God in him are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God;"_" the nations of them which are saved' walk in his light, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.”

In the busiest and most active life there are long and frequent intervals of repose. Much must be allowed to human infirmity both of body and inind ; the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak. One life alone displays an incessant progress in doing good; no word idly spoken, no moment unprofitably spent, no step unnecessarily taken. The night itself is made a season of devotion, the hour of social refreshment becomes an occasion of communicating useful knowledge, a walk into the corn-fields or by the shore of the sea, a journey from city to city, an ascent into the mountain, all are sacred to one coinmanding object, the glory of God and the good of mankind, the instruction of the ignorant, the pardon of the guilty, the relief of the miserable.

The solemnities of the passover being finished, Jesus, according to the wisdom which directed all his proceedings, thought it proper to retire from Jerusalem, and to return into Galilee. The road lay through Samaria. The inhabitants of that country, though descended from the same stock with the Jews, and once members together with them of the commonwealth of Israel, were now cordially hated and despised by them. But they possessed the same “lively oracles of God," they looked for the same Messiah promised to their common fathers, and they gladly received the word when it came unto them. The great Prophet whom they expected takes this opportunity of paying them a visit; they acknowledge him, and believe on his name. Having continued with them two days, sowing the precious seed, expounding from Moses and all the prophets, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself, and thus extending the boundaries of the kingdom of God, he pursued his journey to Galilee, and returned “to Cana, where he made the water wine.” Beside his general and leading object, to preach the gospel of the kingdom, he might intend, by revisiting that city, to express the affection of a kind relation to the new-married pair who resided there, to strengthen their union by his benediction, by his counsel, by participating in their domestic cares and comforts, and to confirm them and the other inhabitants of the place in the faith which they had professed.

It was so ordered of Providence that at the time of bis return a distinguished family in the neighbouring town of Capernaum was visited with a sore affliction. “ There was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum." The word translated nobleman signifies courtier, one employed near the person, or in the ser of a king. Herod was but a delegated and limited sovereign : “ Tetrarch of Galilee,” that is governor, under the Roman emperor, of the fourth part of a province. But he was permitted to assume the title and state of king, because it swelled the pride of the imperial despot to lord it over many subordinate and dependant thrones. Capernaum being within the limits of Herod's government, he no doubt occasionally resided in that city, and there probably at this time held his court; and the nobleman in question might either officially or from affection be in attendance upon his master. But the vicinity of a court, and the rank of nobility, are no security against the inroads of disease and death, for they too are tainted with sin. The danger of losing a child excites a thousand anxieties in the bosom of a parent, whatever be the station or condition. There are innumerable circumstances which level all distinctions. The honourable feelings of humanity are of this description, parental and filial affection, with the kindred charities of the human heart, sympathy with the distressed, and a desire to assist and relieve them : these constitute a dignity, a nobility which God alone can bestow, and which the air of a court tends rather to blight than to cherish. This good man however has not sunk the father in the courtier.

Anxiety about the life of his child suspends the pride of rank, the duties of office, the etiquette of nobility. “When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down and heal his son: for he was at the point of death."

“ A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” The fame of Jesus was now spread over the whole land. When he came back from Jerusalem to Galilee, sithe Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast : for they also went unto the feast.” The report which they made at home, of his mighty works, as well as of his condescension and benevolence, had reached the ears of the great, and excited attention. We fondly listen to what promises ease; we grasp the very shadows of probability, and frequently make experiments with little hope of success. All that medical skill could effect had, in this case, undoubtedly been attempted, but attempted in vain. It is one, and not the least of the evils attendant on poverty, to know of a remedy without the means of procuring it. The rich have at least this consolation in extremity, that every thing was done which influence could command or money purchase. But the nobleman of Capernaum is not to be taxed with credulity for believing the report concerning Christ, or for building upon it the hope of a cure which medicine had been unable to effect. Instead of sending for him, as in the case of ordinary physicians," he went to him.” The distance between Capernaum and Cana was about a day's journey, as we may gather from verse 52. He was met on his way homeward, rejoicing in the belief of the power and grace of Christ, the day after he had received the assurance: Yesterday,” said the servants, " at the seventh hour the fever left him.” Here then we have nobility descending from its stateliness, waving ceremony, assuming the form of a supplicant. Was it thereby degraded? No, to follow the honest impulse of nature, to submit to the obligations of propriety and decorum, to employ fair means to obtain a desirable end, is no degradation, even to a prince. Vice alone degrades, and exposes a man to shame, and lowers his dignity in the eyes of God, and of his fellow-creatures.

Calamity brings down the loftiness of the human spirit. We have a noted instance of this in the history of Ben-hadad the king of Syria. In the pride of his heart, in girding on his harness, in the confidence of superiority, he sends this insulting message to the king of Israel ; - Thus saith Ben-hadad, thy silver and thy gold is mine, thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest are mine." Unmollified by submission, he assumes a still haughtier cone, and proceeds to take by violence what had been quietly yielded to him. But brought to himself by a total defeat of his formidable army, he lowers his tone and humbles himself to the man whom he had insulted : servants with sackcloth girded on their loins, and ropes upon their heads, “came to the king of Israel, and said, Thy servant Ben-hadad saith, I pray thee, let me live," a confirmation of the truth of the wise man's observation : Pride goeth before destruction : and an haughty spirit before a fall.” We would not be thought to insinuate that pride is an inseparable concomitant of greatness, or insolence, of a prosperous condition. But the flattery of inferiours, and the constant means of self-gratification, acting habitually on a principle radically corrupt, have, without doubt, a very dangerous tendency to mislead the understanding, and to corrupt the heart : Adversity dispels the illusion, and tells a man feelingly what he is. But for the indisposition of his son, the father might have remained a slave to the world, and died a martyr to the pride of life, and a stranger to the Saviour of mankind. Blessed is that dispensation, be it ever so severe, which loosens a man from the things of time, which empties him of self, which leads him to God.

The faith of this nobleman, as in every case, was blended with much infir

mity. He reposed confidence in the goodness of Christ, in the power of Christ to heal the sick; but he weakly imagined that this power could operate only on the spot. Under this impression he travels from Capernaum to Cana in hope of being able to persuade Jesus to accompany him to the former city, and stand over the patient, and rebuke the fever, and restore him to health: "he besought him that he would come down, and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” He urges the importance of dispatch, lest death should interpose and extinguish hope for ever; for his faith carried him no farther than to the brink of the grave, and there gave up all for lost. It was meet that one who thought, who felt, who acted so well, should be taught to think, to feel, to act better. It was meet he should be taught not to dictate to divine sovereignty, but to adore, and submit to it; taught to enlarge his ideas of the power and grace of the Redeemer, as extending to universal space, and to every possible state of things. This seems to be the only rational interpretation which can be given of the apparent coldness of the reception given him by our Lord. Instead of his usual, promptitude to fly to the relief of distress, the importunate and solicitous father meets, from the lips of Christ, with a seemingly ungracious reflection which had nearly chilled his heart. “ Then said Jesus unto him, except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe.” In his progress through Samaria Christ had found greater faith than in Judea. The Samaritans exacted no sign, expressed no suspicion, insisted on no condition. Many more believed because of his own word, and said unto the woman, now we believe, not because of thy saying : for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” But his countrymen of Galilee, though they had been witnesses of his miracles, were “slow of heart to believe.". They demand farther evidence, and in the true spirit of Thomas, one of the twelve, who, after all the signs and wonders of which he had been a spectator, resisted the clearest testimony; “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." The nobleman of Capernaum had probably expressed himself in similar terms, and thereby incurred this reproof of his incredulity, which seemed to convey a denial of his suit.

Parental affection perseveres in following up his request. He tacitly admits the justice of Christ's censure, but waves discussion, and in the anguish of his soul renews his supplication to him, to whom misery never applied in vain : “ Sir, come down ere my child die.” Where the heart is deeply interested, the “ words are few," but O how forcible! The feelings of a parent are : seen with approbation by the friend of mankind, who knows what is in man, and to whom nothing that affects humanity can be a matter of indifference. “ Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way: thy son liveth.” That word, that one little word, has in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, reached Capernaum, has expelled a mortal distemper, has relieved a wretched father from a pressure under which he was sinking, and has inspired him with a confidence never more to be shaken. He receives his son as one alive from the dead; he learns to correct his false ideas of the power of Christ, and to submit implicitly to his decisions. “ And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.”

The sequel unfolds an amiable, interesting and instructive view of domesiic life. When the master left his home to go in quest of relief to his child, the servants of the family, some of them actually slaves, entering into their Jord's feelings, tend the sick bed of the young man with all the attention and solicitude, of humble friends, not with the eyeservice of mercenary or compelled drudges. They observe every symptom of the disorder, they watch over every motion of the patient, they outrun his wants and wishes, they


Vol. vii.

tremble for the issue, they mark with transport the moment of convalescence, and, to spare the tender parent every unnecessary pang of painful apprehension, instead of waiting for his return, they send off a deputation of their number, the instant that the fever came to a crisis, to announce the welcome tidings to their beloved master. What honour does this reflect on all the parties ! Human life consists of a reciprocation of kind affections, expressions, and actions, or their contraries. In vain does the unfeeling, insolent, tyrannical despot expect dutiful, cheerful, cordial attachment and submission from domestics and dependants. By failure in his own duty, he has set them the example of harshness, want of sympathy, and disrespect. The inferiour almost always takes the tone from his superiour. If you see obsequious, faithful, diligent servants, or attentive, dutiful, affectionate children, rest assured that the master and mistress of the family, that the parents of the children are wise, gentle and good. Most families in the metropolis, especially those of high rank, are uncomfortable, because mutual attachment subsists not between the rulers and the ruled. It is a mere intercourse of accommodation and interest, in which neither the heart nor conscience hath any part. The paltry consideration of a month's wages settles the account on either side. In the remoter parts of the kingdom, the relation of master and servant is a tacit compact of unlimited duration. The servant is adopted into the family, and looks up to the heads of it with filial respect, gratitude and confidence. No separate interest, no divided or contradictory views and pursuits disturb domestic tranquillity. The family of this nobleman was not far from the kingdom of God, for the spirit of love was its governing principle, and God is love. “And as he was now going down his servants met him, and told him, saying, thy son liveth. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”

One of our highest mental pleasures consists in comparing object with object, in order to discover coincidence, similitude, difference or contrast. This pleasure must have been enjoyed in singular purity on this joyful occasion. The distance of the two cities was well known. It employed a whole day, and the exertions of a man of rank and fortune, furnished with all the means of expeditious travelling, and under the stimulus of patertal affection, to go from Capernaum to Cana. How pleasant was it to compare that distance, and the usual rate of journeying, with the inconceivably rapid transition of the word of Christ ! what a contrast! Here then was a demonstration of the controling power of Christ over space; it was not needful that he should go up or come down, that he should be on the same spot with the object of his beneficence, for the purpose of effecting a cure. The divine attribute of omnipresence was accordingly displayed. The measurements of time are equally well-known and understood, and there was a peculiarly powerful motive on both sides to mark the precise moment. Here an opportunity was afforded of instituting a second comparison, and lo, what a coincidence between the time of the father's observation and that of the servants, that is, when Jesus spake the word to the one, and when the others perceived a sensible change to the better, in their young master's health! If ever the relation of cause and effect existed, it was in this case. And here was a display of another divine attribute, time as well as space subdued to the will of him who filleth all space; whose existence was before time began to flow, and runneth through the whole extent of its duration ; with whom a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years; who measureth the lapse of moments and of ages by a standard unalterable as the ordinances of heaven, and by a standard still more intelligible, sensible, interesting and endearing, uninterrupted, unwearied acts of loving-kindness and tender mercy.

It would be ungenerous and unjust to ascribe the uobleman's minuteness

« ElőzőTovább »