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" And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever, and it left her.” The miracle of turning water into wine was effected by a simple act of the will, without either gesture or speech, and the evidence of it rested, in part, on the testimony of the servants who had filled the pots with water. Here we have both gesture and speech, and the immediate and personal conviction of all who were in the house. In nothing is the sovereignty of Deity more conspicuously displayed than in the manner of his acting. It is so unlike human conjecture, that the pride of man is apt to be offended that Providence did not observe the mode which his sagacity had prescribed. Naaman the Syrian had settled, in his own mind, the whole process of the cure of his own leprosy: “Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper." Not one iota of his conjecture was realized. The prophet did not come out, nor assume the supposed attitude, nor pronounce the supposed invocation, but “sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times :" and pride is hurrying him away in a rage, to think that the rivers of Damascus should be postponed to the waters of Israel. Thus while prophecy has been successively fulfilling, the event so ill accorded with prevailing opinion and expectation, that while the prediction was admitted, the accomplishment, however coincident and exact, has been rejected.
This divine sovereignty our blessed Lord exercises in performing all his mighty works. He wills water into wine. Now he rebukes the disease, and now speaks to the patient. He heals the feverous son of the nobleman, at the distance of Cana from Capernaum, and the feverous mother of Simon's wife standing by her bed-side. He anoints the blind man's eyes with clay, and sends him to wash in the pool of Siloam; he cries with a loud voice over the grave of his departed friend, “ Lazarus, come forth.” All demonstrates the underived-and independent, as well as the almighty power of God, whose will is the sole and the supreme law, as to the time, the manner and the matter of the work.
There is a wonderful vivacity in the unaffected conciseness and simplicity of the narration. He stood, he spake, he prevailed. “He rebuked the fever.” Disease is here personified, as susceptible of reprehension, and of voluntary subjection to authority," and it left her," as one who has encroached and intruded, and who feels and acknowledges the power of a superiour repelling and casting him out.
The transitions of nature are gradual, slow, imperceptible in their progress. When the ocean is roused into fury by the raging wind, it continues in a state of agitation long after the tempest has ceased to roar ; but when Christ speaks the word, the effect is instantaneous and complete. “Ile arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” When the fever has spent its force, and the crisis of convalescence has taken place, it leaves the patient feeble and languid, and it frequently requires a considerable length of time to restore both the body and the mind to the full exercise of their several functions ; but when Jesus rebukes the fever, it not only in a moment departs, but the sufferer is at the same moment made perfectly whole: “ And immediately she arose, and ministered unto them.” As in creation so in Providence, He speaks and it is done, he gives commandment and it stands fast. “ He is the Rock, his works is perfect."
The circumstance of her ministering to her physician and the family, is striking and instructive. It teaches us the proper use of prolonged life, of restored faculties. They are to be devoted to the honour of God, and to the service of our fellow-creatures. They were deeply affected by her danger, they looked in anxious expectation to the return of her health, and they
besought the Lord for it; she employs that precious gift in contributing her best endeavours to promote their ease and comfort. What debt is so sacred as that of gratitude ? and what benefactor has laid us under so many and such unspeakable obligations as He who gave us life, and who sustains it, as He who died to redeem us! We have here a beautiful and interesting view of human life. Every relation has its corresponding sphere of duty. The happiness of domestic society consists not in the interchange of great benefits, on sigoal occasions, but in the hourly reciprocation of the little offices of love, in kind looks, in kind affections, in mutual forbearance and forgiveness, in the balm of sympathy whether we sorrow or rejoice ; in a word, according to the apostolic injunction, in being of the same mind one towards another.
The religion of the Gospel wears an aspect peculiarly favourable to families. The infancy and childhood of Jesus Christ were passed in the bosom of his family. His first public miracle was performed in putting honour upon a family party, at Cana of Galilee. He made one in the family of Simon, at Capernaum. The house of Lazarus and his sisters at Bethany, he made his home, and there he cultivated all the endearing charities of exalted friendship. To find a home for his mother was bis last earthly care ; and, as the head of his own family, he presided at the Paschal solemnity, and instituted the memorial of his dying love. Thus are domestic relations strengthened, sweetened, sanctified, ennobled. A Christian kingdom or state never existed. But a family of Christians, all of one heart and of one soul, we trust, is not a rarity. And to christianize families is the direct road to the christianizing of nations. In the contracted sphere of a family, however numerous, every one knows every one; every one cares for every one. The master's influence is felt and acknowledged by all. A commou interest, both temporal and eternal, unites the individuals to each other, and heaven descends to dwell with men upon earth. So propitious is Christianity to the dearest and best interests of civil society.
The scene which we have been reviewing passed on the evening of the sabbath. Nor could the sanctity of the day be profaned by a work of mercy, or by the pious and friendly intercourse of kindred spirits, whose religiouz was seated in the heart, not chilled into lifeless forms. But the superstitious observance of the sabbath operated powerfully on the multitude. Though prompted by natural affection to apply for relief to their afflicted friends, they defer it till the going down of the sun, that is till the sabbath was over ; for they had yet to learn “ what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice ;” and “ the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day;" and “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." “ Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them
A sepse of the weakness of those good people is lost in respect for their humanity. They are not chidden away from Peter's door as unseasonable intruders; they are not referred to another day. It is the cry of misery entering into the ear of mercy, and it cries not in vain : “and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them." Here the mode of cure is the imposition of hands. Even so, blessed Jesus, for so it seemed good in thy sight. Let me be the subject of thy miraculous grace, and convey thou the healing power through whatsoever channel thou wilt.
The service of the synagogue, in the morning of the sabbath, had been disturbed by a wretched demoniac, who " cried out with a loud voice, saying, let us alone : what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth ? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the holy One of God." Jesus, by a word, dispossessed the impure spirit, and restored the unhappy man to himself, in the presence of the whole assembly, who were justly filled with astonishment at such a display of power and goodness. It is affecting Vol. vii.
to think that this dreadful species of malady was far from being uncommon at that period; for we find ihe fame of the morning's miracle spread abroad, and it aitracts to the place where Jesus was, in the evening, many persons in the same deplorable condition. One of the depths of Satan, in these cases, was to pay affected homage to Jesus of Nazareth, in the view of infusing a suspicion that there might be a secret combination and collusion between him and them, and of thereby diminishing his dignity and authority in the eyes of the people. To be praised by the wicked, is offensive and dishonourable to the good ; and the adversary is never more dangerous than when he “is transformed into an angel of light.” But when the prince of this world came, he found nothing in Christ ; no weak part to attack, no foundation whereon to erect his engines; but wisdom ever prepared to meet cunning, purity to resist every evil suggestion, and authority to silence the templer whenever his encroachment became too daring. He disdained the testimony of a demon in his favour, and rejected the insidious praise of an enemy. “And he, rebuking them, suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ :” That is, he permitted them not to declare, though they spake the truth, that they knew him to be the Christ.
Having thus fulfilled the public duties of the sanctuary, and the more private offices of friendship; having employed the greater part of the night in receiving and relieving the numerous ohjects who came, or who were brought to him, he withdrew, toward the dawning of the day, into a still closer retirement; and, for a season, shut the world entirely out. • And when it was day he departed, and went into a desert place.” Sacred were those hours of solitude to heavenly meditation, to devotional intercourse with Him that sent Him, whose glory he ever sought, and whose will it was his delight to execute. “ Ye shall leave me alone ;” says he to his disciples, “and yet," adds he, " I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” When some great arrangement is to be made toward the establishment and extension of his kingdom, preparation for it passes in solemn abstraction from all sublunary things. Thus his own public ministry was preceded by a forty days retreat into the wilderness.” “ And it came to pass in those days,” when he was about to consecrate the twelve to the office of apostleship, “that he went up into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God;" thus also was the glorious scene of his transfiguration introduced ; and thus he exemplified the practice which he so powerfully recommends to his disciples : " But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."
The admiring and delighted multitude trace him into his place of retirement, and, sensible of the value of such a visit, they entreat him to prolong it. Various motives might suggest this request. In some, it might be the attraction of novelty, in, others the love of the truth : here the sense of gratitude for benefits received, there the principle of curiosity gaping after a farther display of wonders. In one it might be the full conviction of an honest and enlightened mind, and in another a malignant disposition to discover a blemish. We know from the sequel that the success of our Lord's miracles and preaching at Capernaum, was wofully similar to what it had been at Nazareth, for this is the dismal account which he himself gives of it, “ And thou, Capernaun, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgement than for thee." Whatever were their motives for wishing his longer continuance among them, they are for the present resisted, and a reason is assigned. “I must preach
the kingdom of God to other cities also, for therefore am I sent.” Every word here is significant and powerful. “I must preach." What imposed the necessity? The commission which he had undertaken to execute ; his own sovereign will and pleasure; his own unerring understanding; his own unbounded benevolence; the extensive demands of perishing humanity. "I must preach the kingdom of God:” its descent to earth; its adaptation to the nature and condition of ignorant and guilty men ; its divine object, to raise fallen man from earth, from hell, to heaven; its present operation and effect, "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" its stability, " a kingdom that cannot be moved;" the sovereign grace which confers it, "fear not little flock: for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Such was the glorious subject of Christ's preaching; a subject, compared to which the pursuits of avarice, of ambition, and the pride of kings are less than nothing and vanity: a subject that interests not Nazareth, and Capernaum, and the cities of Galilee only, where it was first proclaimed, but the men, the cities, the nations of all ages and generations. On such a narrow and seemingly slender foundation, what a fabric has arisen ? - This is the Lord's doing, it is marvelous in our eyes.” Let the great object of Christ's mission direct and control our pursuit of every object. He was sent to bring men under the dominion of the kingdom of God; and he has taught us when we pray to say : “ Thy kingdom come.” If we enter into the spirit of that petition, it will be our concern that the empire of sin and Satan in our own hearts be completely subverted; that peace on earth, and good will anong men be promoted ; that the kingdoms of this world, become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and that he may reign for ever and ever.
Let us review this portion of our blessed Lord's bistory, and thus reflect:
1. The duties of religion, then, and those of ordinary life are intimately united and interwoven ; they are perfectly consistent, and yield mutual support. The service of the sanctuary must not be unnecessarily protracted, to the wearying of the flesh, and to become an encroachment on the just, prudent or necessary concerns of the family, and no domestic regards must preclude works of charity and mercy, even to strangers. On the other hand, no attention to civil and domestic affairs, except in cases of urgent necessity, and no works of mercy must plead a dispensation for the non-observance of the ordinance of God. Under the governance of a well regulated spirit, daily lawful employments become not only a reasonable but a religious service, and the functions necessary to the support of mere animal life, may be performed to the glory of God. And neither the public offices of the temple, nor family order and devotion must be alleged as an exemption from the obligations of private and personal religion. Indeed all must begin here. For families are composed of individuals, and the churches of Chirst of families. To the perfect health of the natural body, the soundness of every member is essential : a perfection, however, rarely to be found, and seldom of long continuance. But the present feebleness, imperfection and disorder of the particular members of that body whereof Christ is the head, are relieved by the prospect of “the perfecting of the saints, of the edifying of the body of Christ,” when " we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
2. Can the father of lies speak truth? Yes, when it promises to answer his purpose ; and truth itself partakes of the nature of a lie, when it is employed for the purpose of deception. Do devils believe ? Yes, to their sorrow ; "they believe and tremble.” Does Satan give a just testimony to the Son of God? Yes, in hope of bringing it into discredit. Let no one, then, value himself on the mere truth and soundness of his principles, on the
exact orthodoxy of his faith. A principle, however excellent, that remains inactive, is of no value, like a mathematical proposition, demonstrably certain, but applied to do use ; or a wholesome stream frozen up and stagnating at the very source. “ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." “ This is the victory that overcometh the world even our faith: Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.”
3. Who has not known disease, and danger, and manifold affliction ? And who has 'not experienced frequent and merciful deliverance ? The distress came from an unseen hand, and so did the relief. The agent, the instrument was human, was sensible. It was the skill of the physician, it was the power of medicine, it was the sympathy of friendship. But who taught the physician to comprehend my malady, and to reach it? Who gave virtue to the prescribed medicine? Who excited compassion in the bosom of my friend? He who rebuked the fever, and it fled; he who laid his hands on the sick, and they were made whole ; he who took the dead daughter of the ruler of the synagogue by the hand, and said, “Damsel arise ;” and “straightway she arose and walked.” Whether, therefore, health remain unimpaired, or be restored, by natural or extraordinary means; whether deliverance come immediately from God, or be wrought through the instrumentality of second causes, the hand of Deity is equally to be acknowledged ; and prolonged life, and renewed strength are to be devoted to Him who“ giveth to all life and breath, and all things; for in Him we live, and move, and have our being."