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that so many of them should be present, and asked our Saviour's disciples, how it came to pass that their master, who set himself up for a preacher of righteousness, and a reformer of others, came to be so intimate with those lewd and lost wretches, as to sit and eat with them at the same table? Our Saviour, hearing this artful question, told the Scribes and Pharisees that the sick only had need of a physician, and desired them to reflect seriously on the prophet Hosea's declaration : I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. The turning sinners into the paths of righteousness is far more acceptable to God than all the ceremonies of the law of Moses, so highly magnified by your fraternity, who, on many occasions, observe them at the expense of charity; adding, I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. · However satisfactory this answer might have been to an unprejudiced person, it was far from being so to the Scribes and Pharisees, who demanded of our Saviour, why his disciples wholly neglected to fast, a duty often performed both by the rulers of Israel, and the disciples of John? In reply to this the Blessed Jesus told them, it was not a proper season for the friends of the bridegroom to fast and aflict themselves while they enjoyed his company: but (said he) the days shall come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast. As if he had said, "I am the Bridegroom, and my church is my Bride: as long as I am here the marriagefeast continues, and my disciples are the children or friends of the bridegroom, and therefore are not to mourn, but to rejoice with me, while the time lasts: But, at my death and departure, this bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then it will be time for them to fast and to mourn." Our Lord farther told them that it would be as imprudent and preposterous a thing to impose rigorous austerities on his disciples (at a time when he was employing them to preach the gospel) as it would be to sew a piece of new cloth upon a rotten garment, which, upon any stress, would make the rent worse: or to put new wine into old leather bottles, which, upon the least fermentation, would both burst the bottles, and destroy the liquor. He then concluded his reply with an observation on the great
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prevalence of custom: None (said he) having drank old wine desireth new; for he saith, the old is better.
These arguments, however, were far from being satisfactory to the Scribes and Pharisees, who, not thinking
Their leave and departed.
Our Blessed Lord goes to Jerusalem, and performs a miracu
lous cure at the pool of Bethesda. He reproves the Jews for their superstition, in condemning the performance of neces. sary works on the Sabbath-day. Vindicates his disciples for eating ears of corn on the Sabbath, and himself for curing a man on the same day, of a withered hand. The Pharisees conspire against his life; upon which he retires with his disciples towards the sea-side, and, in his way, cures a great number of diseased people. He chuses his troelve apostles, and preaches to a numerous audience his excellent and wellknown serion on the Mount.
THE feast of the Passover being near at hand, our Blessed Saviour repaired to Jerusalem, wbither he had no sooner arrived than he went to the public bath or pool, called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, that is, the house of mercy, on account of the miracles wrought there, by the salutary effects of the water, at certain seasons. This bath was surrounded with five porches, or cloisters, in which those who frequented the place were sheltered both from the heat and the cold; and were particularly serviceable to the diseased and infirm, who crowded thither to find relief in their afflictions. These porches were at this time filled with “ a great number of impotent “ folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving “ of the water; and whosoever then first after the troub“ ling of the water stepped in was made whole of what66 soever disease he had." John v. 3, 4.
At wbat period of time this miraculous effect of the water took place cannot be determined; but it is almost universally agreed that it could not be long before the coming of our Saviour. The gift of prophecy and of miracles had ceased among the Jews for many years; and therefore to raise in them a more ardent desire for the coming of the Messiah, and to induce them to be more circumspect in observing the signs of his coming, God was pleased to favor them with this remarkable sign at Bethesda.
· The pool was situated near the gate of victims, which were figures of the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, that they might be conviuced God had yet a regard for the posterity of Abraham, and the worship which he himself had established; and might thus support themselves with the pleasing hope of the coming of the Messiah, the great fulfiller of the covenant, to his temple. And as this miracle of the angel descending from heaven began when the coming of the Messiah was at hand, to advise them of the speedy and near approach of that promised salvation; so Christ entered these porches, which were situated without the temple, and performed a most astonishing miracle, to indicate what was the true intent of this gift of healing, namely, to lead men to himself, who was the fountain opened for the removal of all sin and unclean. ness.
Among the wretched objects that filled the porches of Bethesda at the time our Blessed Saviour visited it, (which was on the sabbath-day) was a poor paralytic, who had labored under his infirmity thirty-eight years. The length and greatness of this man's affliction, which were well known to the Son of God, were sufficient to excite his tender compassion, and make this long-wretched being the happy object to demonstrate that his power of healing was infinitely superior to the salutary virtue of the water. Our Blessed Lord, approaching the man whom he had singled out as the person on whom to manifest his power, asked him whether he was desirous of being made whole? A question, which must induce the man to declare publicly his melancholy case in the hearing of the multitude, and, consequently, render the miracle more conspicuous. The wretched mortal, looking, with a sorrowfūl countenance, up to the Blessed Redeem.
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er, and understanding that he meant his being healed by the virtue of the water, answered, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool; but while I am coming down, another steppeth down before me. The compassionate Jesus, however, soon convinced him that he was not to owe bis cure to the salutary na. ture of the waters, but to the unbounded power of the Son of God; and accordingly he said unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. Nor was the heavenly man. date any sooner uttered, than it took effect: the impotent man, to the astonishment of the whole multitude, was made whole, and took up his bed and walked.
This astonishing miracle could not fail of having a proper effect on the minds of the spectators; and the poor man carrying his bed on the sabbath-day, which the Jews considered as a profanation of that day of rest, tended greatly to spread the fame of the miracle over the whole city. Nor did the man hesitate obeying the commands of his Divine physician: he was conscious in himself that the person who had the power of working such miracles must be a prophet, and, consequently, that his injunctions could not be sinful. When, therefore, many of the Jews told him it was not lawful to carry his bed on the sabbath-day, the answer he made was, He that made me 'whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed and walk. He that restored my strength in an instant, and removed, with a single word, a disease that had many years afflict. ed me, commanded me at the same time, to take up my bed and walk; and surely a person possessed of such power would not have ordered me to do any thing but what was strictly right.
A short time after our Blessed Saviour had performed this miracle, he was met in the temple by the very man he had healed; and thereupon took the opportunity of reminding him, that as he was now freed from an infirmity he had brought on himself by irregular courses, he should be careful to abstain from them for the future, lest an affliction should fall on him of a more dreadful nature. The man, overjoyed at having found the Divine physi. cian, who had relieved him from his wretched and mel. ancholy state, ran to the Scribes and Pharisees, and,
with a heart overflowing with gratitude, told them it was Jesus who had performed on him so astonishing a cure, imagining, no doubt, that they would rejoice at beholding the person who had performed so great a miracle. But, alas! this was far from being the case: instead of being pleased with the account they received of his wondrous mercy and kindness, they tumultuously seized him in the temple, and immediately took him before the Sanhedrim, with a design to take away his life as an open prophaner of the Sabbath.
After the Scribes and Pharisees had laid their accusa. tion before the Sanhedrim, our Blessed Saviour vindi: cated himself in words to this effect: “ That, since God 6 (from whose rest they took the observation of the Sab6 bath) did, on that day, and all others, exercise the “ works of Providence, Preservation, and Mercy, there 66 could be no reason why he, who was his son, and in66 vested with full authority from him, might not employ “ himself on the Sabbath, as well as any other day, in " actions of the like nature.”
But the Jewish prejudice could not be overcome by argument. Instead thereof it only increased their malice, and they now accused him not only of being a Sabbathbreaker, but likewise a blasphemer, in having asserted that he was the Son of God, and co-equal with him. In answer to this, our Blessed Saviour told them that he acted agreeable to the will of God, and did whatsoever he saw done by his Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father.do; for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise, For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth; and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. John v. 19, 20.
'Though nothing could more fully evince the character of our Lord than these assertions, yet he did not require his hearers to believe them merely on his own testimony: he appealed to that of John, who was a burning and a shining light, and in whom, for a time, they greatly rejoiced, because the prophetic spirit, which had so long ceased in Israel, was revived in that holy man. Nay, he