Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

swered, and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel :" and thus another respectable disciple is added to the School of Christ.

Lei not this be considered as foreign to the subject of the present Lecture. Nathanael was, of course, one of the invited guests to celebrate the marriage at Cana of Galilee. He was there, within three days, to behold another species of demonstration of his Master's divinity, that he might bear witness to it. And it was fit that a man so candid and upright should be furnished with every kind of evidence, which could remove prejudice or subdue infidelity. He is not indeed hereafter mentioned in the gospel history, but it seems highly probable that a person of his description, was specially called to take an active part in propagating the truth as it is in Jesus. Some commentators have supposed him to be the same with Barıholomew, one of the Twelve.

The place, where the miracle exhibited the glory of the Redeemer, was Cana of Galilee," perhaps to distinguish it from another city of that name in Celosyria, mentioned by Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities. It was situated in that part of the Holy Land, which in the partition under Joshua, fes by lot to the tribe of Asher; and stood on a river of the same name, which flowed through part of the inheritance of the tribe of Ephraim, into the Great Sea. It was hitherto a mere name, or a speck which might casually catch the eye as it wandered over the map of Palestine ; but Cana bow acquired a celebrity which makes her to rank with the proudest of capitals, from an event which will transmit her name to the latest posterity.

The oulasion was a marriage solemnity. It is an institution of Heaven, nearly as old as the creation : it was first celebrated in Paradise; God himself formed the union, presided over and witnessed the contract, and pronounced the nuptial benediction. This stamps a purity, a dignity, a permanency on the ordinance, which man is bound highly to respect. T'he great Interpreter and Restorer of the Law, accordingly, puts honour upon the institution by his presence and countenance, and hy contributing to the comfort of the assembly convened on this happy occasion, by the charms of his conversation, and by a seasonable supply of oue ingredient in a feast : and he afterwards sindicated the primitive sanctity of marriage from the irregularity and impurity which the hardness of the human heart had constrained even a Moses to permit, at least to connive at. “ Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning, made them male and female ; and said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh ?

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”

John the Baptist incurred the imputation of being possessed with a devil, because he was a man of more austere manners, and of a more sequestered mode of living ; because he " came neither eating bread nor drinking wine." His divine Master, more gentle in deportment, more affable, accessible, and condescending, because he mixed with society, because he " came eating and drinking," is by the self-saine persons represented as "a gluttonous man, and à wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." Where there is a disposition to censure, no purity nor prudence can escape. Nothing can please the peevish children in the market place. If their fellows excite them to dance by the sound of the pipe, they are disposed to look grave and mourn: if their companions are in a serious mood, it is with them a time to dance. You cannot tell where to find them. It is not, at the same time, a mark of wisdom to brave the opinion of the world ; but wo be to that man whose conduct has no better regulator than either popular opinion, or the decisions of a self-constituted censor. Christ has by example taught his disciples to seek,

and to take opportunities of being useful, whatever construction may be put upon it by malignant observers.

" The mother of Jesus was there," apparently, as one of the family, who took an interest in the credit of her relations, and to assist in attending to the comfort and accommodation of the guests; for we find her watching over the expenditure of the provision, and devising the means of supply when it should fail. But Jesus and his disciples were among the persons specially invited. As the aim of the Evangelist is simply to detail the circumstances relating to the miracle, every thing foreign to this is suppressed. This remark is applicable to the sacred writers in general. They present the leading object in its strongest features, leave it to inake its native impression, and pass from it without exclaiming, without parade, without a commentary. On the other händ, where minuteness of description and enumeration is necessary or of importance, all is examined with a microscopic eye, and beauties disclose. themselves to closeness of investigation which the careless glance had overlooked.

Whether the company had proved more numerous than was expected, or whether a provision too scanty had been made, but in the middle of the banquet wine failed. Things which are in themselves, and as far as man is concerned, merely contingent, are predisposed and produced by a special interposition of divine Providence, to fulfil some valuable purpose. This little awkwardness of domestic arrangement furnished occasion for a grand display of almighty power. The deficiency was observed by the mother of Jesus, who communicated it to him as simply a reinark of her own. But did not the communication partake of the nature of request, of expectation, of suggestion ?." They have no wine :” Is not this saying, can nothing be done to save the credit of the family? They will suffer in the estimation of their friends, as too parsimonious at a season of festivity like the present. Canst thou find no supply? There must, undoubtedly, have been something offensive in her meaning or mode of expression, for she meets with a reproof. And the mildest censure from such lips is a mark of displeasure. As to Nathanael before, so to Mary now he gives proof that he could read in the heart, what had not yet fallen from the longue : “ Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.”

" Woman :" we are not to estimate the spirit and import of this term of address by the refinement of our modern ideas and manners. A British female of very riddling rank would consider herself as very highly insulted to be thus abruptly accosted by an equal, from an inferiour it would be intolerable, and even in a superi our it would be resented. But it was the appellation by which princes addressed themselves to ladies of the highest rank, and which even slaves employed in speaking to their mistresses, for it marks respect not familiarity. And we have a demonstration, in the present case, that it could imply nothing harsh or unkind, for it is Jesus who uses the word in speaking to his mother. On an occasion still more tender and interesting, when sovereign love was in its triumph, and dictated every expression ; when his cross was surrounded by some of the persons who witnessed the miracle of Cana of Galilee; this conversation took place: “ When Jesus, therefore, saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” Here was the dying effusion of filial affection : “ Woman, behold thy son.

• What have I to do with thee.” This has an air of severity, and probably was intended to check encroachment. There is a point beyond which parental authority itself must not presume to go. At the age of twelve, excess of maternal solicitude received a mild rebuke: "How is it that ye sought

me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" Nevertheless “ he went down with them” from the temple, "and came to Nazareth, and was subject upto them.” But to the man of thirty even a mother must not presume to dictate, or so much as insinuate. The words of the original have by some been differently translated ; and Jesus is made to say, in reply to his mother's observation, “ they have no wine,” “What is that to me and thee ?” What does it concern us whether there be wine or not?

Such a question is little in the spirit of Christ, who took a condescending and an affectionate interest in all ihe infirmities and distresses incident to humanity, and to whom nothing could be indifferent which tended 10 promote the comfort of others; and the sequel plainly shews, that he actually cherished those kind affections, and expressed them in a manner peculiar to himself. It is more natural to adopt our common version, consistent as it is with the same sense of the phrase in a variety of other passages. “ The devils coming out of the tombs exceeding fierce,” in the country of the Gergesenes, exclaim, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God ?” Meaning evi. dently; “ We are afraid of thee; let us alone; we desire no acquaintance with thee; art thou come bither to torment us before the time? The sep. enty interpreters translate the Hebrew idiom in the same phraseology and spirit, in a great many passages. Thus Jephthah addressed the king of Ammon, “What hast thou to do with me ?” saying plainly, “I wish no intercourse; we can have nothing in common; Wherefore should we go to war together ?” And thus, not to multiply instances, David said to Abisha, when he proposed to go over, and, in cold blood, to cut off Shimei's head,

" What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah ?" “ I like not your spirit; I want no such triumph ; let God's will be done : you are taking his work out of his hand, and are deciding bastily when you ought to wait patiently." This is entirely in the spirit of the passage before us. “ Woman, what have I to do with thee?” “Intrude not; prescribe not; I know what is fit for me to do; all my movements are already settled.” In this view all is of a piece; all breathes the spirit of meekness; there is the majesty of Deity, and there is the united firmness and mildness of the man.

If there be any thing like sternness in the question, - What have I to do with thee?” it is sunk in the solemn asseveration concerning himself: “mine hour is not yet come.” The hour of a man's birth, of his baptism, of his majority, of his marriage, of his death, is an epoch of singular importance both to himself and others. We measure time, we know its value, and we trifle with it. With an experience of its necessary lapse, and with the certain knowledge that no moment can be responsible for the debt of its predecessor, having enough to do with itself, the thoughtless sons of men will be drawing on a day which they are never to see, and they sport with borrowed property as if it were their own. The wise man, in the face of this reckoning of folly and madness, states the just account of the expenditure and use of time: “ There is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." But we look up to Him who is wiser than the wisest, that we may learn to measure time, to understand the value of a day, and to improve the flying hour, which is gone before we are sensible that it has come.

“ Mine hour is not yet come. It is an expression applied to various events of Christ's life and ministry. When his unbelieving brethren urged him, by way of defiance, to go up to Jerusalem at the feast of tabernacles, and there make an open display of his miraculous powers, this was his reply: time is not yet come--Go ye up unto ihis feast : I go not up unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come;" intimating that all his movements and opestations were regulated to a moment, and therefore could neither be hurried forward nor retarded. When he did go up to Jerusalem, and taught openly

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in the temple, though his plainness and fidelity gave much offence, it is remarked that “no man laid hands on him ; for his hour was not yet come :" that is, the hour of his apprehension, trial and condemnation. When the devout Greeks who had come to worship in the temple, desired an interview with him, Jesus said to his disciples ; " The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified ;" meaning the dawn of the gospel day upon the gentile world. But while he rejoiced in spirit, as he contemplated that auspicious hour, he saw it leading to another and a darker hour, the hour of suffering and death. The prospect spreads a transient cloud over the serenity of his mind, and he said : "Now is my soul troubled : and what shall I say ? Father, save me from this hour.” Thus far the man of sinless infirmity. But the cloud passes away, serenity is restored and the hour of sorrow is lost in contemplating the glory that should follow, the accomplishment of his heavenly Father's purpose of mercy, in the redemption of a lost world : " but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. When his “time was full come” that he should glorify God by his death, with heavenly composure " Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” Thus every step of the Redeemer's

progress was weighed, measured, established by an antecedent counsel incapable of being overthrown or of failing.

His mother, though reproved, is not wholly discouraged. She perceives that whatsoever he did must be done at his own time and in his own way, and therefore enjoins the servants carefully to attend to whatever he should say unto them.

The ablutions, at this period, practised among the Jews, were carried to an absurd and superstitious excess. The law had indeed prescribed certain washings, which nature herself points out as conducive to health, cleanliness and comfort; but tradition had multiplied these without end ; they had acquired an authority paramount to that of law, and the primary duties of life were sunk in an affected attention to external purity. « The Pharisees,” says St. Mark, " and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the inarket, except they wash they eat not. And many other things there be which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.” This drew upon them a severe censure from the lips of Jesus Christ. He charges them with the vilest hypocrisy, in " teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." For," says he, “laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups : and many other such like things ye do.” “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” He then produces, as an instance, their open and avowed violation of the fifth precept of the decalogue, engraven by nature on the heart of man, and proclaimed from Sinai by the mouth of God. The unnatural child had but by a vow to devote his substance to a pretendedly sacred purpose, in order to be for ever released from all obligation to assist aged or decayed parents. Thus a punctilious attention to washing the body could be reconciled to a deliberate purpose of hardening the heart. These copious and frequent ablutions account for the large provision of water made for the marriage feast. “There were set six water-pots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.” To pretend to ascertain the quantity, by the names of ancient measurement, would be nugatory and absurd. If the thing could be done, what profit would arise from it? Is it not well known that all the wisdom of the British legislature, though frequently exerted, has hitherto been unable to establish a standard of weights and measures for the southern division of this little island ? The precise quantity is left in intentional obscurity,

17

Vol, vir:

[ocr errors]

by the use of the indefinite expression two or three, it is sufficient for us to know that the supply was very considerable. The expenditure of water, at this advanced period of the feast, must have been great. Jesus determined to make those partially exhausted vessels the medium of his intended miracle. To have replenished the empty wine vessels might excite suspicion of collusion; but into water-cisterns for purifying, wine never entered, and therefore no doubt could arise. He, then, who conld have transformed the bottom of a dry cistern into a fountain of water, or of wine, at his pleasure, commands the servants to “ fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim."

The miracle is already performed. By an unseen, unperceived energy; without a word spoken, without a gesture, by a simple act of the will, plain water is instantaneously converted into wine of the finest quality. What dignified simplicity! what unaffected majesty! A fact so very extraordinary is narrated with no more pomp of language than the most common process of nature. He now desires the attendants, hitherto the only witnesses of this wonderful change, to draw off some of the wine, and bear it to the governor of the feast, at the moment when the defictency began to be felt. Thus every supply which comes immediately from the hand of Providence is at once seasonable, salutary, and excellent in its kind. What comes through the channel of men like ourselves must of necessity have a mixture of their impurity and imperfection.

With us the master of the house is also the governor of the feast. It is his concern to see that his friends be properly accommodated and supplied. But among the Jews an officer of this description was appointed to preside, whether elected by the company, named by the bridegroom, or constituted by public authority, whose business it was to pronounce a benediction on what was provided, and who, when the cup was blessed, first drank of it himself, and then passed it round the table. In compliance with this custom, Jesus directed the first-fruits of this miracle to be carried to him to pass judgement. He instantly perceives the difference, though ignorant of the process; and in surprise addresses himself to the bridegroom, whose it was to prepare the entertainment, and to defray the expense, in these words ; “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” Though this too may not perfectly coincide with modern manners, it exbibits a picture of the common practice in that country and in that age ; and it led to a discorery of the whole mystery, and Jesus stood confessed the Son of God, the Lord of universal nature, the searcher of hearts, the ruler of elements, the friend and brother of mankind. “ This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him."

Many and useful are the practical reflections which flow from this subject. Permit me to suggest some of them.

1. The religion of Jesus Christ embraces the whole circle of duty. Duties are of various orders and importance. Some are essential and indispensable, others are agreeable and ornamental; as in a well-constructed edifice there are parts absolutely necessary to its existence, and there are parts which might be removed indeed without affecting the solidity and durableness of the fabric, but the removal would greatly impair its elegance and beauty. So in the scale of morals there are the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy and faith ; and there are obligations of an inferiour order ; though highly important in the commerce of human life; such as gentleness, courtesy, affability, sympathy. Of both ranks of duty our blessed Lord set the happiest example. He mixed with mankind, he partook of their griefs and their joys.

« ElőzőTovább »