Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

of inquiry to doubt, or slowness of belief, for the history expressly saith, “the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and went his way,” confiding entirely in the truth and faithfulness of that word, long before the evidence of it met him on the road. But that Jesus in whom he trusted graciously, gave him this confirmation of his faith, that he might feel the solidity of the rock on which all his hope rested. Faith is faith, though but as a grain of mustard-seed; for that grain contains an immortal germ, pregnant with all the beauty and richness of a future harvest. The apostles themselves were sometimes weak, at other times strong in the faith : sensible of this, they prayed unto the Lord that he would “increase” it. The principle is sound, it is vital; it may lie dormant, it may suffer depression, but it cannot expire. " So the father knew that it was at the same hour in the which Jesus said unto him, thy son liveth; and himself believed, and his whole house."

The miracles of Christ always look farther than to their immediate object. Application is made for the removal of a bodily infirmity; the diseases of the mind are at the same time reached by the healing power of the Redeemer, and the spectators are made sensible of a divine energy. The blind man comes in hope of having his sight restored, he goes away seeing, and with the unspeakably greater blessing, the eyes of his understanding are opened. Behold that helpless paralytic, "borne of four,” stretched motionless on his couch. At the word of Christ he recovers strength, arises, takes up his bed, goes forth before them all, and departs to his house, not only with a body every whit whole, but with a soul relieved from the dreadful pressure of the guilt of sin : “ Jesus said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." Mark these ten lepers, outcasts from society, loathsome to themselves, an abomination to others, labouring under a malady which medicine could not reach; they stand afar off, they lift up their voices, they cry for mercy. As they went, at the command of Christ, to shew themselves to the priests, they were cleansed. To nine of the ten it proved a mere temporary relief, a corporal purgation; the fatal leprosy of sin remained to defile the conscience. To the tenth, a stranger, a Samaritan, it proved at once the cure of bodily disease, and of mental pollution : " and one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks : and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering, said, were there not ten cleansed ? but where are the nine ? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole."

Illustrious to the same purpose is the history of the miracle under review. The nearer and more immediate object is a sick child at Capernaum, restored instantaneously from threatening indisposition to perfect soundness. But consider how many momentous circumstances are involved in that one object. The father was a person of the very first distinction, connected with the higher powers of this world, at the head of a numerous and well-ordered household, a man of urbanity, understanding and address. Converted himself to the faith of the gospel, behold him disposed to employ the whole weight of his influence, of his authority, of his example, in promoting the cause which he himself had from conviction embraced. Incalculable is the effect which one man of character, talents and virtue may produce in a court, a city, a kingdom, a world. No one can be solitarily either good or wicked. The contagion whether of virtue or vice is quickly caught and communicated, with this difference, that in the one case there is a repulsive faculty that guards the system against the admission of the gracious principle, and which therefore needs to be corrected, whereas in the other there is a predisposition to absorb the poison, which it requires no common skill and attention to prevent.

Whatever might be the more remote, or more extensive influence of this good man's faith and piety, the Evangelist informs us that it embraced at least the whole of his own family : “and himself believed and his whole house." Here was another province, by a strong hand rent from the empire of Satan, and added to the kingdom of the Messiah ; "for he must reign till he hath put all his enemies under his feet."

We conclude with a few practical reflections suggested by this portion of our blessed Lord's history.

1. Events, to our apprehension, casual, ordinary, merely things of course, are, in the purpose of the Eternal Mind, order, connection, mutual dependence. Our eyes are too feeble to discern how delicately fine the hinges are on which the mighty machinery of heaven moves. The enterprizes of man exhibit the noise and bustle of preparation, and violence of exertion, and lo, they coine to nothing; they commence in a blaze, and presently issue in smoke. The designs of the Most High have, from imperceptible beginnings, made a silent, unnoticed progress, and have acquired strength irresistible before attention was excited; they issue from a dark cloud, and advance with growing lustre unto the perfect day. What more common than sickness in a numerous family ? Uniform health, not occasional disease, is the wonder. The malady of a beloved child spreads a sable veil over an honourable house; it threatens to embitter the future days of survivors; the hand of death is lifted up to strike the decisive blow. It is a critical moment. The Lord gives the word. The child lives, the parent believes, the whole house is converted unto the Lord, an impression favourable to christianity is made on the public mind, the dominion of grace is extended, and the kingdom of glory opens to view. From such a hidden source, inaccessible as that of the Nile, issues the majestic river, destined to adorn and fertilize distant regions and the nations which inhabit them. This day salvation came to the house of that nobleman. It wore a lowering aspect, but it brightened as it went.

2. Mark the impartial regards of the great Lord of all to his creatures of every order and condition. With some men there is a strong prejudice in favour of nobility and affluence, as if they implied greatness, generosity, capacity. Others are actuated by a prejudice equally violent and unreasonable against them. Wisdom says, look to the man, and not to his circumstan

Goodness is the object of commendation and esteem, whether in the high or the low, the rich or the poor; and vice is odious whatever be the condition of life. A righteous judge considereth the cause, not the rank and character of the parties. And lest there should be an improper bias to the side of poverty, as there sometimes is to the side of wealth, the law very wisely throws in this caution : " Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in bis cause." Our Lord sets the example of this impartiality. Nobility could be no recommendation to his favour, neither was it any bar in the way. The distress, the importunity, the parental affection of the man moved his compassion, the current of which could not be impeded by the consideration of his being a courtier. It is a melancholy reflection, " that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called ;" but it is pleasing to reflect that the rule is not absolute and universal. The history of the Christian church and the state of the world at this day, exhibit many glorious instances of the triumph of divine grace over the fascination of high rank, the deceitfulness of riches, and the pride of life. As such persons had more to combat and to evercome than others, the combat and the conquest redound the more to the glory of God, in whose strength they overcome.

3. We have before us an example of high moral virtue, existing without principle of saving faith. This nobleman adorned his exalted station by qualities estimable in whatever rank. He ruled well his own house. Ho

ces.

a

was an affectionate parent, and a kind master. And when we behold a man fulfilling the duties of one relation reputably to himself and usefully to others, we are bound in charity to believe, that he acts worthily in the other relations of life. When an instance of this kind presents itself, it excites regret, that such a one, though “not far from the kingdom of God,” should nevertheless come short. It is religion that confers dignity on high birth, and that gives energy to virtue.

If then this man were respectable and exemplary by his virtuous conduct, how much more so is he, when faith is added to virtue, now that a divine principle sanctifies, animates, ennobles every action, and renders ordinary employments not only a reasonable but a religious service. Morality, then, may exist without religion, but there can be no religion without morality. “Faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone :" " for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” If in his mere civil and moral capacity the nobleman of Capernaum administered his affairs so wisely and so well, what must have been the ardour of natural affection, his discretion in the management of his household, the propriety of his personal deportment, now that his understanding is illuminated, and his heart warmed, and the path of his feet guided, by the sacred flame of religion ! now that “the grace of God, that bringeth salvation had appeared to him teaching" him, as it does all its subjects, “that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."

4. Do we feel parental solicitude about the bodily health, and the mental improvement, and the worldly prosperity of our children? What then ought to be the fervour of our spirits at a throne of grace, to obtain for them an interest in the favour of God, the knowledge that maketh wise unto salvation, the spirit of sanctification, a right to "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away ?" From their relation to us they derive pollution, guilt, condemnation and death ; and shall we not be stimulated to repair the injury we have done them; and, by nurture, by example, by prayer and supplication, become the instruments of making them “partakers of the divine nature," and of raising them to the rank of " heirs of God, and jointheirs with Christ." Wo unto them, and unto us, unless they are adopted into a nobler family, and exalted to higher privileges, than those to which the birth of nature entitles them; and unless they "receive the spirit of adoption, whereby they may cry, Abba, Father.” What will it be to present ourselves, at length, and our offspring, whether after the flesh, or afier the spirit, or both in one, with joy unspeakable and full of glory, saying, “Behold, I, and the children which God hath given me!" Let this prospect direct our wishes, dictate our prayers, animate our exertions, till, with Israel, we have power with God and with men, and prevail.

5. Finally, In the presence of that God with whom we have to do, and of Jesus, “who is God over all, and blessed forever," all space shrinks into a span, all duration into a moment. “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord ?” Realize that awful omnipresence as a guard upon the heart, upon the tongue, upon the life ; as a ground of hope and a source of joy in every dark and trying hour. “God is a very present help in trouble." "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” He is faithful who hath promised, to his Israel whom he hath created, whom he hath formed, whom he bath redeemed, whom he hath called by name,

6. When thou passest

through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Are" a thousand years in his sight but as yesterday, when it is past and as a watch in the night ?" And do “we spend our years as a tale that is told ?” “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because ihe days are evil.” There is no commodity which men trifle with so sadly, when they have it at command, as time; and no one the loss of which they so bitterly deplore, when it is in their power no longer. Account every instant critical and decisive, for undoubtedly many are so. Remember that you are the disciples of him who saith of himself; “I must work the work of him that sent me while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work."

HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.

LECTURE XXII. .

MATTHEW VIII. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, AND LUKE VII. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a Centurion, beseeching him, and

saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented, and Jesus saith unto him, I will come and beal him. The Centuriou answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this man, go, and he goeth, and to another, come, and he cometh ; and to my servant, do this, and he doeth it. Wheu Jesus heard it he marvelled, and said to them that followed, verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no pot in Israel. And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the Centurion, go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.-Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. And a certain Centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, be sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and beal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, that he was worthy for whom he should do this: for he loveth our nation, and he 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 root: 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 sei under authority, having under me soldiers; and I say unto one, go, and he goeth : and to another, coine, and he cometh ; and to my servant, do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things he marvelled at him, and wrned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unle you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel. And ihey that were sent returning to the house, found the servant whole thai had been sick.

The various orders of men which exist in society are a demonstration that society is in a very imperfect and corrupt state. Restore everlasting and universal peace to a troubled world, and the profession of a soldier is at an end. There were then no " battle of the warrior with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood.While injustice, violence and cruelty are in the world, there must be tribunals, and prisons, and scaffolds. The ravages of discase, and the thousand accidents to which human life is exposed, render necessary the interposition of the healing art. When the time of the restitution of all things shall come, the office of public instructer shall cease. “ They shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every ma his brother, saying, know the Lord : for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest." To this blessed consummation we are encouraged to look forward, when the spirit of love shall absorb the flame of discord, and make the sword drop from the hand of the man of war; when the courts shall be shut and the prisondoors thrown open, because fraud and violence are no more; when, in the beautifully figurative language of the prophet, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid ; and the calf, and the

« ElőzőTovább »