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Under the Old Testament, God raised one by Elijah, another by Elisha living, a third by Elisha dead: by the hand of the Mediator of the New Testament, he raised here the son of the Widow, the daughter of Jairus, Lazarus ; and in attendance of his own Resurrection, he made a gaol-delivery of holy prisoners at Jerusalem. He raises the daughter of Jairus from her bed, this Widow's son from his coffin, Lazarus from his grave, the dead saints of Jerusalem from their rottenness; that it might appear no degree of death can hinder the efficacy of his overruling command. He, that keeps the keys of death, cannot only make way for himself through the common hall and outer rooms, but through the inwardest and most reserved closets of darkness.
Methinks, I see this young man, who was thus miraculously awaked from his deadly sleep, wiping and rubbing those eyes, that had been shut up in death; and, descending from the bier, wrapping his winding-sheet about his loins, cast himself down in a passionate thankfulness at the feet of his Almighty Restorer ; adoring that Divine power, which had commanded his soul back again to her forsaken lodging: and though I hear not what he said, yet I dare say they were words of praise and wonder, which his returned soul first uttered.
It was the mother, whom our Saviour pitied in this act, not the son; who, now forced from his quiet rest, must twice pass through the gates of death. As for her sake therefore he was raised, so to her hands was he delivered ; that she might acknowledge that soul given to her, not to the possessor. Who cannot feel the amazement and ecstasy of joy, that was in this revived mother, when her son now salutes her from out of another world, and both receives and gives gratulations of his new life?
How suddenly were all the tears of that mournful train dried up with a joyful astonishment! How soon is that funeral banquet turned into a new birth-day feast ! What striving was here, to salute the late carcase of their returned neighbour ! What awful and admiring looks were cast upon that Lord of Life, who, seeming homely, was approved Omnipotent! How gladly did every tongue celebrate both the work and the Author! A great prophet is raised up amongst us, and God hath visited his people. A Prophet was the highest name they could find for him, whom they saw like themselves in shape, above themselves in power. They were not yet acquainted with God manifested in the flesh. This miracle might well have assured them of more than a prophet; but he, that raised the dead man from the bier, would not suddenly raise these dead hearts from the grave of infidelity. They shall see reason enough to know, that the prophet, who was raised up to them, was the God, that now visited them; and at last should do as much for them, as he had done for the young man, raise them from death to life, from dust to glory.
CONTEMPLATION II.-THE RULER'S SON CURED.
The bounty of God so exceedeth man's, that there is a contrariety in the exercise of it. We shut our hands, because we opened them; God therefore opens his, because he hath opened them. God's mercies are as comfortable in their issue, as in themselves,
Seldom ever do blessings go alone. Where our Saviour supplied the Bridegroom's wine, there he heals the Ruler's son. He had not, in all these coasts of Galilee, done any miracle but here. To him that hath shall be given.
We do not find Christ oft attended with nobility : here, he is. It was some great peer, or some noted courtier, that was now a suitor to him, for his dying son. Earthly greatness is no defence against afflictions. We men forbear the mighty: disease and death know no faces of lords or monarchs. Could these be bribed, they would be too rich. Why should we grudge, not to be privileged, when we see there is no spare of the greatest ?
This noble Ruler listens after Christ's return into Galilee. The most eminent amongst men will be glad to hearken after Christ in their necessity. Happy was it for him, that his son was sick; he had not else been acquainted with his Saviour; his soul had continued sick of ignorance and unbelief. Why else doth our good God send us pain, losses, opposition, but that he may be sought to? Are we afflicted? whither should we go, but to Cana, to seek Christ? whither, but to the Cana of Heaven, where our water of sorrow is turned to the wine of gladness, to that omnipotent Physician who healeth all our infirmities; that we may once say, It is good for me, that I was afflicted ?
It was about a day's journey from Capernaum to Cana. Thence hither did this courtier come, for the cure of his son's fever. What pains even the greatest can be content to take for bodily health! No way is long, no labour tedious, to the desi
Our souls are sick of a spiritual fever, labouring under the cold fit of infidelity, and the hot fit of self-love; and we sit still at home, and see them languish unto death.
This Ruler was neither faithless, nor faithful. Had he been quite faithless, he had not taken such pains to come to Christ: had he been faithful, he had not made this suit to Christ when he was come; Come down, and heal my son, ere he die.
Come down ? as if Christ could not have cured him absent: Ere he die ? as if that power could not have raised him being dead.
How much difference was here, betwixt the Centurion and
the Ruler! That came for his servant ; this, for his son. This son was not more above the servant, than the faith which sued for the servant surpassed that which sued for the son. can say, Master, come not under my roof, for I am not worthy; only speak the word, and my servant shall be whole ; the other can say,
Master, either come under my roof, or my son cannot be whole.” Heal my son, had been a good suit; for Christ is the only Physician for all diseases : but, Come down and heal him, was to teach God how to work.
It is good reason, that he should challenge the right of prescribing to us, who are every way his own: it is presumption in us, to stint him unto our forms. An expert workman cannot abide to be taught by a novice ; how much less shall the all-wise God endure to be directed by his creature! This is more, than if the patient should take upon him, to give a recipe to the physician. That God would give us grace, is a beseeming suit: but to say, “Give it me by prosperity," is a saucy motion.
As there is faithfulness in desiring the end ; so modesty and patience, in referring the means to the author. In spiritual things, God hath acquainted us with the means, whereby he will work, even his own sacred ordinances. Upon these, because they have his own promise, we may call absolutely for a blessing: in all others, there is no reason, that beggars should be choosers. He, who doth whatsoever he will, must do it how he will. It is for us to receive, not to appoint.
He, who came to complain of his son's sickness, hears of his own; Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. This nobleman was, as is like, of Capernaum. There had Christ often preached; there was one of his chief residences. Either this man had heard our Saviour oft, or might have done: yet, because Christ's miracles came to him only by hearsay, for as yet we find none at all wrought where he preached most, therefore the man believes not enough; but so speaks to Christ as to some ordinary physician, Come down and heal.
It was the common disease of the Jews, incredulity; which no receipt could heal, but wonders. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks signs. Had they not been wilfully graceless, there was already proof enough of the Messiah: the miraculous conception and life of the fore-runner, Zachary's dumbness, the attestation of angels, the apparition of the star, the journey of the sages, the vision of the shepherds, the testimonies of Anna and Simeon, the prophecies fulfilled, the voice from heaven at his baptism, the divine words that he spake; and yet they must have all made up with miracles: which, though he be not unwilling to give at his own times, yet he thinks much to be tied unto theirs. Not to believe without signs, was a sign of stubborn hearts.
It was a foul fault, and a dangerous one, Ye will not believe.
What is it, that shall condemn the world, but unbelief? What can condemn us, without it? No sin can condemn the repentant. Repentance is a fruit of faith: where true faith is then, there can be no condemnation ; as there can be nothing but condemnation, without it. How much more foul in a noble Capernaite, that had heard the sermons of so Divine a Teacher ! The greater light we have, the more shame it is for us to stumble. Oh, what shall become of us, that reel and fall in the clearest sunshine, that ever looked forth upon any church? merciful to our sins, O God; and say any thing of us, rather than, Ye will not believe.
Our Saviour tells him of his unbelief. He feels not himself sick of that disease. All his mind is on his dying son. As easily do we complain of bodily griefs, as we are hardly affected with spiritual.
Oh the meekness and mercy of this Lamb of God! When we would have looked, that he should have punished this suitor for not believing, he condescends to him, that he may believe : Go thy way, thy son liveth. If we should measure our hopes by our own worthiness, there were no expectation of blessings; but if we shall measure them by his bounty and compassion, there can be no doubt of prevailing. As some tender mother, that gives the breast to her unquiet child instead of the rod, so deals he with our perversenesses.
How God differences men according to no other conditions, than of their faith! The Centurion's servant was sick; the Ruler's son.
The Centurion doth not sue unto Christ to come ; only says, My servant is sick of a palsy : Christ answers him, I will come and heal him. The Ruler sues unto Christ, that he would come and heal his son: Christ will not go ; only says, Go thy way, thy son lives. Outward things carry no respect with God. The image of that Divine Majesty, shining inwardly in the graces of the soul, is that, which wins love from him, in the meanest estate. The Centurion's faith, therefore, could do more than the Ruler's greatness; and that faithful man's servant hath more regard, than this great man's son.
The Ruler's request was, Come and heal: Christ's answer was, Go thy way, thy son lives. Our merciful Saviour meets those in the end, whom he crosses in the way. How sweetly doth he correct our prayers; and, while he doth not give us what we ask, gives us better than we asked !
Justly doth he forbear to go down with this Ruler, lest he should confirm him in an opinion, of measuring his power by conceits of locality and distance; but he doth that, in absence, for which his presence was required with a repulse, Thy son liveth ; giving a greater demonstration of his omnipotency, than was craved. How oft doth he not hear to our will, that he may hear us to
our advantage ! The chosen vessel would be rid of temptations, he hears of a supply of grace : the sick man asks release, receives patience ; life, and receives glory. Let us ask, what we think best: let him give, what he knows best.
With one word doth Christ heal two patients, the son and the father; the son's fever, the father's unbelief. That operative word of our Saviour was not without the intention of a trial. Had not the Ruler gone home satisfied with that intimation of his son's life and recovery, neither of them had been blessed with success.
Now, the news of performance meets him one half of the way; and he, that believed somewhat ere he came, and more when he went, grew to more faith in the way; and, when he came home, enlarged his faith to all the skirts of his family. A weak faith may be true; but a true faith is growing. He, that boasts of a full stature in the first moment of his ascent, may presume, but doth not believe.
Great men cannot want clients. Their example sways some; their authority, more. They cannot go to either of the other worlds, alone.
In vain do they pretend power over others, who labour not to draw their families unto God.
CONTEMPLATION III.-THE DUMB DEVIL
That the Prince of our Peace might approve his victories perfect, wheresoever he met with the Prince of Darkness he foiled him, he ejected him. He found him in Heaven; thence did he throw him headlong; and verified his prophet, I have cast thee out of mine holy mountain. And if the devils left their first habitation, it was because, being devils, they could not keep it. Their estate indeed they might have kept, and did not ; their habitation they would have kept, and might not. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer!' He found him in the heart of man; for in that closet of God did the Evil Spirit, after his exile from Heaven, shroud himself: sin gave him possession, which he kept with a willing violence: thence he casts him, by his Word and Spirit. He found him tyrannizing in the bodies of some possessed men; and with power commands the unclean spirits to depart.
This act is for no hand, but his. When a strong man keeps possession, none but a stronger can remove him. In voluntary things, the strongest may yield to the weakest, Sampson to a Dalilah ; but in violent, ever the mightiest carries it. A spi