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and astonished at the preference of this wine to that which had been served up at the beginning of the feast, addressed himself to the bridegroom in the hearing of the whole company, telling him that, contrary to the usual custom, he had reserved the best wine to the last, at the same time commending so judicious a practice, it being a plain proof of the approbation he entertained of his friends who were present at the entertainment. Every man (said he) 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. The bridegroom was not less astonished at the address of the governor, than he was at the occasion of it, and all were struck with amazement at a matter which they knew could only have been effected by the most wonderful and supernatural means.
This was the first miracle wrought by our Blessed Saviour in any public manner, and which proved both a manifestation of his own divinity, and a confirmation of the faith of his disciples.
Our Blessed Saviour goes to Capernaum, and from thence to
Jerusalem. Removes the public abuse and profanation of the temple. Discourses with Nicodemus, a principal person of the Sanhedrim. Baptizes in Juded. John the Baptist is thrown into prison. Our Saviour instructs a poor woman of Samaria. Miraculously cures the son of a Nobleman. Goes to Nazareth, but being ill-treated by the people, removes to Capernaum. The wonderful draught of fishes. Our Saviour performs many astonishing cures in Galilee and other parts. He calls Matthew, a rich publican, to be one of his disciples, who immediately leaves his employment, and afterwards becomes an Apostle and Evangelist.
AFTER our Blessed Lord had performed his first miracle at Cana, he went to Capernaum, the place where he afterwards usually resided; but his stay there at this
time was not long, because his purpose was to go to Je. rusalem, in order to attend the celebration of the Feast of the Passover.
As soon as our Blessed Saviour arrived at Jerusalem, the first thing he did was, to reform the public abuse and profanation that had crept into the temple, occasioned by the shops which money-changers had set up, and the beasts, which the dealers used to bring into the court of the Gentiles. This our Lord's zeal for bis heavenly Father's honor could not brook; and therefore, with a scourge made of cords, he drove all the sellers and barterers from the sacred ground, overturned the tables of the money-changers, and commanded all those, who dealt in doves and pigeons, to take them immediately away.
Take these things hence, (said he) Make not my Father's house an house of merchandize.
This extraordinary procedure greatly incensed the Jews, and a council being assembled, they immediately went to our Saviour, and demanded of him by what authority he did these things, and to give them some evi. dence of his having a commission so to do. But to this our Blessed Saviour made no other reply than by foretelling his own resurrection, which he expressed in the metaphor of the temple. Destroy, says he, (laying his hand on his breast) this temple, and I will raise it up in three days. The rulers, mistaking his meaning, imagined that he referred to the superb and lofty temple finished by Herod, and therefore told bim such a relation was bighly improbable, nor bad they the least reason to think he could possibly rebuild, in three days, that magnificent structure which had been finished at an immense expense, and was the labor of many years.
Our Blessed Saviour did not think proper to explain his meaning to these mighty men among the inhabitants of Jerusalem; upon which, without asking any farther questions, they immediately departed, though far from being satisfied at what they had heard.
During the time of the Passover our Saviour wrought several miracles in the presence of the common people, in order to confirm the doctrines he delivered, and prove the divinity of bis mission. As there had not been any
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miracles wrought among them for a considerable time, though many were recorded in their sacred books, they beheld our Blessed Lord with amazement and veneration; and great numbers were satisfied that he was the long promised Messial, so often foretold by the ancient prophets. He did not, however, publicly discover himself to be the Great Prophet, as he knew that the faith of numbers was yet but weak, and that it was likely many would desert his cause when they found he was opposed by the Sanhedrim, or great council of the nation, and did not set up a worldly kingdom, as they thought the expected Messiah was to do.
But the miracles wrought by the Blessed Jesus during bis stay at Jerusalem did not excite the wonder and astonishment of the common people alone. One Nicodemus (a considerable man in the Sanhedrim, and of the sect of the Pharisees) reflecting on our Saviour's wondrous works, so astonishing in their nature, so demonstrative in their proof, so salutary in their effect, so happily adapted to the confirmation of his doctrines, and so perfectly agreeable to the attributes of the Deity, as well as the predictions of the ancient prophets concerning the Messiah, thought that nothing less than Omnipotence itself could produce such wonders, and that Jesus was, of a truth, the Son of God. But still some scruples arose in his mind when, on the other hand, he considered the obscurity of his birth, and the meanness of his appearance, so different from the exalted notions the Jews always entertained concerning this powerful prince, who (as they thought) was to erect his throne in the mighty city of Jerusalem, and make subject to his dominion all the states and kingdoms of the earth.
Nicodemus, in order to obviate these scruples, and remove these perplexing doubts, resolved on an interview with the Blessed Jesus; but chusing to conceal his visit from the other members of the Sanhedrim, who were greatly averse both to his person and doctrine, he chose the night as being most convenient for answering his purpose. As soon as he beheld the mighty Redeemer of Israel, he saluted him in these words: Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can
do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Which was as much as to say, “ Rabbi, I am sufficient. ly convinced that thou art immediately sent as a teacher from on high; for nothing less than power divine could enable thee to perform the miracles which thou hast wrought in the presence of multitudes."
Our Blessed Saviour told Nicodemus that his belief was not the only qualification requisite for bim to becoma his disciple; and then proceeded to instruct him in the
said he) canon of our Land space and cere
I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Which was as much as to say, Verily, verily, I declare unto thee, as a truth of the last importance, that unless a man be regenerated in the spirit of his mind, have his will and affections transferred from earthly to spiritual objects, he cannot see the kingdom of God, which is holy and spiritual, both in its nature and enjoyments.
This was a mysterious system to Nicodemus, whose religious views extended no farther than rites and ceremonies, and were bounded by time and space: besides, he thought the very position of our Lord an absurdity in terms: How (said he) can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born.
To these questions our Blessed Redeemer replied, Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The regeneration which I preach unto you is not of a natural, but of a spiritual, nature. Unless a man embraces the religion and doctrine I preach (whose initiating ordinance is baptism and Divine Grace) he cannot be the subject of Divine glory, which consists not in earthly splendor, and the gratification of the meaner passions, but in an exemption from whatever is earthly, sensual and devilish, and the prosecution of whatever is heavenly, holy and spiritual. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. The doctrine I preach is designed to inform you, first, that you derive no excellence from your boasted descent from Abraham, being as such subject to sins and infirmities of cvery kind; and secondly, to shew that you must undergo a spiritual moral regeneration, a renovation of the heart, which changes the whole man, and fits him for the participation of heavenly blessedness. This important work is likewise spiritual in its operation, unseen by mortal eyes, being wrought on. the mind or heart of man by the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, which changes its nature, and, with respect to things eternal, makes him another, a new creature. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
Having said this, our Blessed Saviour proceeds to tell Nicodemus that the doctrine of Regeneration was no more, in respect of other mysteries of the Gospel, than the earth is in comparison of the heavens, and then acquaints him with several matters of the most sublime nature, but particularly the blessing of that Redemption which he came into the world to accomplish. He instructs him in the Love of the Father, the Mission of the Son, the Rewards of Faith, and the Glories of Eternity. He upbraids the unbelieving and impenitent, and declares the difference between a pure and corrupt conscience, the shame and fears of the one, and the confidence and serenity of the other.
This is the substance of our Blessed Saviour's discourse to Nicodemus, who, in consequence thereof, became a convert, and ever after constantly espoused his cause in the great council of the nation. '
As soon as the Feast of the Passover was ended, our Blessed Lord, accompanied by his disciples, left Jerusalem, and retired into the remote parts of Judea, where he continued a considerable time, preaching the kingdom of God. In every place where he went he made many proselytes, whom he principally caused to be baptized by the bands of his disciples, his own time being chiefly taken up in teaching the people, and relieving their necessities.
At this time John the Baptist had removed his station from Bethabara to Ænon, a place remarkable for springs