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lest some scrupulous soul might fear to reckon himself among that number, and so imagine the promise not meant for him,--but to them that ask. This is the plainest promise of the Scripture. Whatever else may be obscure or doubtful, this at least is clear. On this we may stay our souls. Every one can ask, and to everyone that asketh will God give that which includes all that is needful for the soul.

CCCLVIII.

HE HEALETH AN INFIRM WOMAN ON THE

SABBATH DAY.

St. Luke xiii. 10-17.

And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her : and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the subbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a duughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

This poor woman's disorder was produced by an evil spirit. It was the work of the enemy of mankind. This is not in

V. 10 above,

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deed always the case; but if diseases are sometimes the result of what we call natural causes, sometimes the effect of our own folly, and so our own fault, yet sometimes they may have a spiritual source and be the direct doing of the Evil one, the effect of “the fraud and malice of the devil.” 1 As here, Satan had tied and bound this poor woman as it were with a chain. St. Luke, who as a physician could distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary forms of infirmity, graphically describes her condition, and draws a picture of this sufferer, so that we seem to see her with our eyes. Yet her infirmity was not made an excuse by her for absenting herself from public worship. She came, difficult as it doubtless was for her. She seems too to have come hoping to be healed.” Infirm in body, she was strong in faith, giving glory to God. He saw her all along. He takes notice of her from the first, and by and by He acts upon this know

, ledge which He had before. He perceived that she had faith to be healed. First He addresses her, and bids her take notice that she is no longer bound; as one might inform a prisoner that the chain which has hitherto held him fast has been unrivetted. Then He laid His hands upon her, as one might help such a released prisoner to rise. On the Ruler of the Synagogue, the narrow-minded minister of that place of worship, the miracle has a contrary effect to that which it should have had. Instead of rejoicing at the release of this sufferer, instead of acknowledging the Lord who had given such proof of His power, instead of being grateful that his Synagogue had been honoured as the scene of such a miracle, he is irritated and annoyed that what was a mere traditional observance of the Sabbath, which had no foundation in law or reason, should have been set aside. He dares not address his objection to our Lord. He aims at Him however through the people. What is after all but a reception of a Divine gift, he describes as a servile work. The Lord unmasks the hypocrisy which lies hidden behind this

| The Order for the Visitation of the Sick,

2 V. 14.
3 Acts xiv. 9.

$ Acts iii. 7.

5 Such is the force of the original word. Indignation would imply a less unworthy emotion.

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apparent zeal for the Sabbath."

He faces the objector. But after one word of righteous indignation addressed to him, He turns to the people, reminding them of their constant practice in the matter of their own property, with which no groundless scruple was allowed to interfere. If they are justified in that, much more is He in this. If a beast may be loosed even on a Sabbath-day from a short captivity, may not a fellow-creature from the bondage of years? Thus He “makes them umpires between Himself and the Ruler of the Synagogue,” 3 who, “like Judas Iscariot, when he complained of the waste of the precious ointment, had carried others along with him." 3 It is an appeal not only to common practice, but to common sense.*

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CCCLIX.

THE STRAIT GATE.

St. Luke xiii. 22-30.

And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to

1 “Religion often serves to cover irreligion and profaneness. This is, envy and avarice. We cannot be too in the judgment of Christ Himself, much on our guard against this sort of the vice of hypocrites, as well as 10 imposture. Ye great pretenders to have two different measures, and to zeal for the sanctification of the Sab- object, as a crime to others, that bath, blind judges of the works of which they practise every day themGod, unjust accusers of His elect, and selves . . . Nothing is more proper ignorant interpreters of His law, learn for the Lord's Day than the work of not to confound the servile works of the Lord, which is to destroy the men with the Works of God, mercenary

works of Satan.”—Quesnel. employments with acts of charity, and 2 Compare a remarkable passage in common labour with necessary assis- Vir. Geor. i. 268-27i. tance and relief . . . Men are always

3 A Plain Commentary. ready, either out of interest or envy,

• St. Luke here introduces the to condemn everything in those whom Parables of The Mustard Seed and The they do not love. When the essence Leaven, which the Lord now seems to of religion is made to consist in cere- have repeated, and for an exposition monies and external usages, every

of which see Lectt. ccxv., ccxvi. seeming violation of them passes for

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enter in at the strait gate : for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is rison up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us ; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are : then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are ; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

This question, which savoured of needless curiosity, was asked Him by one whom He encountered at one of the towns or villages through which He passed on His way to Jerusalem; and at each of which He stayed for a longer or a shorter time to teach the people. The question betokens that our Lord's teaching was beginning to be understood; that the idea of the Kingdom He was ever proclaiming, and into which He invited men to enter as into a fold, that they might be safe,' was now become familiar. The Lord, however, according to His custom of never replying to merely curious questions, turns the attention of the people generally, thereby tacitly reproving this questioner, to what alone was important for them to know. It concerns us to know not the number, but the character of the saved. Therefore He bids them strive earnestly, as one who contends for a prize in any contest, to enter in at that gate or doorway

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i St. John X. 9.

2 St. John xiv. 22, 23; xxi. 21, 22; Acts i. 7.

3 " There are more inclined to ask curious questions, than to desire necessary instructions."--Quespel.

+ Grotius. It seems to have been a

subject of debate among the Jews whether the saved be few or many, whether any of Israel could fail. Rom. ix. 6-8; xi. 26.

5 Such is the force of the original word.

which is so narrow that one cannot enter without an earnest effort. This figure also had by this time become familiar to the people by His teaching. He solemnly assures them that a time is coming when many, who are now called upon in vain, will at length, thoroughly aroused, seek in vain to enter.' They would not when they could, and now they cannot when they would. He gives a brief parable in which the day of salvation is likened to the time during which the master of a house waits to receive his guests. By and by he rises and bars the door.” Then at last they begin to do what they should have thought of long before.

With some confidence they seem to come, and, standing without, demand admission. But He answers from within, refusing to recognize or acknowledge them. In vain, with the usual presumption of the wicked, seeking to justify themselves, they endeavour to recall themselves to His recollection, as having been familiar with Him aforetime. He repeats His refusal. What avail then these privileges they plead, but to render them inexcusable, if they are workers of iniquity ? Such He will never know. And He depicts their idle tears and vexation when they find what, through their own fault, they have missed. Not only are they ejected from that society of Patriarchs and Prophets of which they made too sure, but they, children of Abraham, children of the Kingdom, find the place they might have occupied possessed by the Gentiles they despised. For there are last in privilege, and opportunity, and offer of salvation, who shall yet be found first.

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1 The “ when i noe, &c." of v. 25 may perhaps be connected with the verse preceding.

2 “ Then shall it be too late to knock when the door shall be shut, and too late to cry for mercy when it

is the time of justice.”—Commination.

3 St. Matt. xxv. 41.
4 St. Matt. vii. 23 ; xxv. 12.
3 St. Matt. iii. 9; St. John viji. 39.
6 St. Matt. viii. 11, 12.

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