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liberty, or thy power ? Liberty, in that thou canst at pleasure use variety of means, not being tied to any; power, in that thou couldst make use of contraries? Hadst thou pulled out a box, and applied some medicinal ointment to the eyes, something had been ascribed to thy skill, more to the natural power of thy receipt ; now thou madest use of clay, which had been enough to stop up the eyes of the seeing, the virtue must be all in thee, none in the means. The utter disproportion of this help to the cure adds glory to the worker.
How clearly didst thou hence evince to the world, that thou, who of clay couldst make eyes, wert the same, who of clay hadst made man ; since there is no part of the body, that hath so little analogy to clay as the eye! This clearness is contrary to that opacity. Had not the Jews been more blind than the man whom thou curedst, and more hard and stiff than the clay which thou mollifiedst, they had, in this one work, both seen and acknowledged thy Deity.
What could the clay have done, without thy tempering? It was thy spittle that made the clay effectual; it was that Sacred Mouth of thine, that made the spittle medicinal. The water of Siloam shall but wash off that clay, which this inward moisture made powerful. The clay thus tempered, must be applied by the hand that made it, else it avails nothing.
What must the blind man needs think, when he felt the cold clay upon the holes of his eyes? Or, since he could not conceive what an eye was, what must the beholders needs think, to see that hollowness thus filled up? Is this the way, to give either eyes or sight? Why did not the earth see with this clay, as well as the man? What is there to hinder the sight, if this make it? Yet, with these contrarieties must the faith be exercised, where God intends the blessing of a cure.
It was never meant, that this clay should dwell upon those pits of the eyes ; it is only put on to be washed off; and that not by every water; none shall do it but that of Siloam, which signifies Sent ; and if the man had not been sent to Siloam, he had been still blind. All things receive their virtue from Divine institution. How else should a piece of wheaten bread nourish the soul? How should spring water wash off spiritual filthiness? How should the foolishness of preaching save souls? How should the absolution of God's minister be more effectual than the breath of an ordinary Christian? Thou, O God, hast set apart these ordinances ; thy blessing is annexed to them : hence is the ground of all our use, and their efficacy. Hadst thou so instituted, Jordan would as well have healed blindness, and Siloam leprosy.
That the man might be capable of such a miracle, his faith is set on work. He must be led, with his eyes daubed, up to the pool of Siloam. He washes, and sees. Lord, what did this man
think, when his eyes were now first given him?
What a new world, did he find himself now come into! How did he wonder at heaven and earth, and the faces and shapes of all creatures, the goodly varieties of colours, the cheerfulness of the light, the lively beams of the sun, the vast expansion of the air, the pleasant transparence of the water ; at the glorious piles of the Temple, and the stately palaces of Jerusalem ! Every thing did not more please, than astonish him. Lo, thus shall we be affected, and more, when, the scales of our mortality being done away, we shall see as we are seen ; when we shall behold the blessedness of that other world, the glory of the saints and angels, the infinite Majesty of the Son of God, the incomprehensible brightness of the all-glorious Deity. Omy soul, that thou couldst be taken up beforehand with the admiration of that, which thou canst not as yet be capable of foreseeing !
It could not be, but that many eyes had been witnesses of this man's want of eyes. He sat begging at one of the temple gates. Not only all the city but all the country, must needs know him. Thrice a year did they come up to Jerusalem ; neither could they come to the temple, and not see him. His
very blindness made him noted. Deformities and infirmities of body do more easily both draw and fix the eye, than an ordinary symmetry of parts.
Besides his blindness, his trade made him remarkable. The importunity of his begging drew the eyes of the passengers.
But, of all other, the place most notified him. Had he sat in some obscure village of Judea, or in some blind lane of Jerusalem, perhaps he had not been heeded of many; but now, that he took
his seat in the heart, in the head, of the chief city, whither all resorted from all parts, what Jew can there be, that knows not the blind beggar, at the temple gate?
Purposely, did our Saviour make choice of such a subject for his miracle : a man so poor, so public. The glory of the work could not have reached so far, if it had been done to the wealthiest citizen of Jerusalem.
Neither was it for nothing, that the act, and the man, is doubted of, and inquired into, by the beholders ; Is not this he, that sat begging? Some said, It is he ; others said, It is like him. No truths have received so full proofs, as those, that have been questioned.
The want or the sudden presence of an eye, much more of both, must needs make a great change in the face. Those little balls of light, which no doubt were more clear than nature could have made them, could not but give a new life to the counte
I marvel not, if the neighbours, which had wont to see this dark visage led by a guide and guided by a staff, seeing him now walking confidently alone out of his own inward light, and looking them cheerfully in the face, doubted whether this were he. The miraculous cures of God work a sensible alteration in
men, not more in their own apprehension, than in the judgment of others.
Thus, in the redress of the spiritual blindness, the whole habit of the man is changed. Where, before, his face looked dull and earthly; now, there is a sprightful cheerfulness in it, through the comfortable knowledge of God and heavenly things : whereas, before, his heart was set upon worldly things; now, he uses them, but enjoys them not; and that use is, because he must, not because he would: where, before, his fears and griefs were only for pains of body, or loss of estate or reputation ; now, they are only spent upon the displeasure of his God, and the peril of his soul. So as now the neighbours can say, Is this the man ? others, It is like him ; it is not he.
The late-blind man hears, and now sees himself questioned ; and soon resolves the doubt, I am he. He, that now saw the light of the sun, would not hide the light of truth from others. It is an unthankful silence, to smother the works of God in an affected
secresy. To make God a loser by his bounty to us, were a shameful injustice.
We ourselves abide not those sponges, that suck up good turns unknown. O God, we are not worthy of our spiritual eyesight, if we do not publish thy mercies on the house-top, and praise thee in the great congregation.
Man is naturally inquisitive. We search studiously into the secret works of nature; we pry into the reasons of the witty inventions of art : but if there be any thing that transcends art and nature, the more high and abstruse it is, the more busy we are to seek into it. This thirst after hidden, yea forbidden knowledge did once cost us dear: but where it is good and lawful to know, inquiry is commendable; as here, in these Jews, How were thine eyes opened? The first improvement of human reason is inquisition; the next is information and resolution : and if the meanest events pass us not without a question, how much less those, that carry in them wonder and advantage !
He, that was so ready to profess himself the subject of the cure, is no niggard of proclaiming the Author of it ; A man that is called Jesus, made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and sent me to Siloam to wash, and now I see. The blind man knew no more than he said, and he said what he apprehended, A man. He heard Jesus speak, he felt his hand; as yet he could look no further : upon his next meeting he saw God in this man. In matter of knowledge, we must be content to creep ere we can go. As that other recovered blind man saw, first men walk like trees, after like men; so no marvel if this man saw, first this God only as a man, after this man as God also. Onwards he thinks him a wonderful man, a mighty prophet. In vain, shall we either expect a sudden perfection in the understanding of Divine matters, or censure those that want it.
How did this man know what Jesus did? He was then stone
blind : what distinction could he yet make of persons, of actions ? True, but yet the blind man never wanted the assistance of others' eyes ; their relation hath assured him of the manner of his cure.
Besides the contribution of his other senses, his ear might perceive the spittle to fall, and hear the enjoined command ; his feeling perceived the cold and moist clay upon his lids. All these conjoined gave sufficient warrant thus to believe, thus to report. Our ear is our best guide to a full apprehension of the works of Christ. The works of God the Father, his ereation and government, are best known by the eye : the works of God the Son, his redemption and mediation, are best known by
O Saviour, we cannot personally see what thou hast done here. What are the monuments of thine Apostles and Evangelists, but the relations of the blind man's guide, what and how thou hast wrought for us? On these we strongly rely. These we do no less confidently believe, than if our very eyes had been witnesses, of what thou didst and sufferedst upon earth. There were no place for faith, if the ear were not worthy of as much credit, as the
eye, How could the neighbours do less, than ask where he was, that had done so strange a cure? I doubt yet with what mind; I fear, not out of favour. Had they been but indifferent, they could not but have been full of silent wonder, and inclined to believe in so Omnipotent an Agent. Now, as prejudiced to Christ, and partial to the Pharisees, they bring the late blind man before those professed enemies unto Christ. It is the preposterous religion of the vulgar sort, to claw and adore those, which have tyrannically usurped upon their souls ; though with neglect, yea, with contempt, of God in his word, in his works. Even unjust authority will never want soothing up, in whatsoever courses ; though with disgrace and opposition to the truth. Base minds, where they find possession, never look after right.
Our Saviour had picked out the Sabbath for his cure. It is hard to find out any time, wherein charity is unseasonable. As mercy is an excellent grace, so the works of it are fittest for the best day. We are all born blind; the font is our Siloam : no day can come amiss ; but yet God's day is the properest for our washing and recovery. This alone is quarrel enough to these scrupulous wranglers, that an act of mercy was done on that day, wherein their envy was but seasonable.
I do not see the man beg any more, when he once had his eyes: no burgher in Jerusalem was richer than he : I hear him stoutly defending that gracious Author of his cure, against the cavils of the malicious Pharisees : I see him, as a resolute confessor, suffering excommunication for the name of Christ, and maintaining the innocence and honour of so blessed a Bene factor : I hear him read a divinity lecture to them, that sat in Moses's chair ; and convincing them of blindness, who punished him for seeing.
How can I but envy thee, O happy man, who, of a patient, provest an advocate for thy Saviour; whose gain of bodily sight made way for thy spiritual eyes; who hast lost a synagogue, and hast found heaven; who, being abandoned of sinners, art received of the Lord of Glory?
CONTEMPLATION XIX.-THE STUBBORN DEVIL
MATTHEW XVII. ; MARK IX. How different, how contrary, are our conditions here upon earth! While our Saviour is transfigured on the mount, his disciples are perplexed in the valley. Three of his choice followers were with him above, ravished with the miraculous proofs of his Godhead; nine other were troubled with the business of a stubborn devil below.
Much people was met, to attend Christ : and there they will stay, till he come down from Tabor. Their zeal and devotion brought them thither; their patient perseverance held them there. We are not worthy the name of his clients, if we cannot painfully seek him, and submissively wait his leisure.
He, that was now awhile retired into the mount, to confer with his Father, and to receive the attendance of Moses and Elias, returns into the valley to the multitude. He was singled out awhile, for prayer and contemplation: now he was joined with the multitude, for their miraculous cure and heavenly instruction. We, that are his spiritual agents, must be either preparing in the mount, or exercising in the valley ; one while in the mount of meditation, in the valley of action another; alone to study, in the assembly to preach : here is much variety, but all is work.
Moses, when he came down from the hill, heard music in the valley: Christ, when he came down from the hill, heard discord. The Scribes, it seems, were setting hard upon the disciples. They saw Christ absent; nine of his train left in the valley ; those they fly upon. As the Devil, so his Imps, watch close for all advantages. No subtle enemy, but will be sure to attempt that part, where is likelihood of least defenco, most weakness. When the Spouse misses Him, whom her soul loveth, every watchman hath a buffet for her. O Saviour, if thou be never so little stepped aside, we are sure to be assaulted with powerful temptations.
They, that durst say nothing to the Master, so soon as his back is turned fall foul upon his weakest disciples. Even at the first hatching, the Serpent was thus crafty, to begin at the