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disciples, being of thy robe, might justly seem interested in the liberties of their Master? Surely, no otherwise were they children, no otherwise free. Away with that fanatical conceit, which challenges an immunity from secular commands and taxes, to a spiritual and adoptative sonship. No earthly saintship can exempt us from tribute to whom tribute belongeth. There is a freedom, O Saviour, which our Christianity calls us to affect; a freedom from the yoke of sin and Satan, from the servitude of our corrupt affections: we cannot be sons, if we be not thus free. Oh free thou us, by thy Free Spirit, from the miserable bondage of our nature, so shall the children be free; but as to these secular duties, no man is less free than the children.
O Saviour, thou wert free, and wouldst not be so; thou wert free by natural right, wouldst not be free by voluntary dispensation, Lest an offence might be taken. Surely, had there followed an offence, it had been taken only, and not given. Woe be to the man, by whom the offence cometh it cometh by him, that gives it; it cometh by him, that takes it, when it is not given: no part of this blame could have cleaved unto thee, either way.
Yet such was thy goodness, that thou wouldst not suffer an offence unjustly taken at that, which thou mightest justly have denied. How jealous should we be even of others' perils! How careful, so to moderate our power in the use of lawful things, that our charity may prevent others' scandals! to remit of our own right, for another's safety! Oh the deplorable condition of those wilful men, who care not what blocks they lay in the way to heaven; not forbearing, by a known lewdness, to draw others into their own damnation !
To avoid the unjust offence even of very publicans, Jesus will work a miracle. Peter is sent to the sea; and that, not with a net, but with a hook. The disciple was now in his own trade. He knew a net might enclose many fishes, a hook could take but one with that hook must he go angle for the tribute-money. A fish shall bring him a stater in her mouth; and that fish, that bites first. What an unusual bearer is here! What an unlikely element, to yield a piece of ready coin!
Oh that Omnipotent power, which could command the fish, to be both his treasurer to keep his silver, and his purveyor to bring it! Now whether, O Saviour, thou causedst this fish to take up that shekel out of the bottom of the sea, or whether by thine Almighty word thou madest it in an instant in the mouth of that fish, it is neither possible to determine, nor necessary to inquire. I rather adore thine infinite knowledge and power, that couldst make use of unlikeliest means; that couldst serve thyself of the very fishes of the sea, in a business of earthly and civil employment.
It was not out of need, that thou didst this; though I do not find, that thou ever affectedst a full purse; what veins of gold
or mines of silver did not lie open to thy command! but out of a desire to teach Peter, that, while he would be tributary to Cæsar, the very fish of the sea was tributary to him. How should this encourage our dependance upon that Omnipotent hand of thine, which hath heaven, earth, sea, at thy disposing! Still thou art the same for thy members, which thou wert for thyself the Head. Rather than offence shall be given to the world, by a seeming neglect of thy dear children, thou wilt cause the very fowls of heaven to bring them meat, and the fish of the sea to bring them money. Oh let us look up ever to thee, by the eye of our faith; and not be wanting in our dependance upon thee, who canst not be wanting in thy Providence
CONTEMPLATION XXIII. LAZARUS DEAD.
OH the wisdom of God, in penning his own story! The disciple, whom Jesus loved, comes after his fellow Evangelists, that he might glean up those rich ears of history, which the rest had passed over.
That eagle soars high, and towers up by degrees. It was much, to turn water into wine; but it was more, to feed five thousand with five loaves. It was much, to restore the Ruler's son: it was more, to cure him, that had been thirty-eight years a Cripple. It was much, to cure him, that was born Blind: it was more, to raise up Lazarus, that had been so long dead. As a stream runs still the stronger and wider, the nearer it comes to the ocean whence it was derived; so didst thou, O Saviour, work the more powerfully, the nearer thou drewest to thy glory. This was, as one of thy last, so of thy greatest miracles. When thou wert ready to die thyself, thou raisedst him to life, who smelt strong of the grave. None of all the Sacred Histories is so full and punctual as this, in the report of all circumstances. Other miracles do not more transcend Nature, than this transcends other miracles.
This alone was a sufficient eviction of thy Godhead, O Blessed Saviour. None but an infinite power could so far go beyond nature, as to recal a man four days dead from, not a mere privation, but a settled corruption. Earth must needs be thine, from which thou raisest his body; heaven must needs be thine, from whence thou fetchest his spirit. None but he, that created man, could thus make him new.
Sickness is the common preface to death. No mortal nature is exempted from this complaint. Even Lazarus, whom Jesus loved, is sick. What can strength of grace or dearness of respect prevail, against disease, against dissolution?
It was a stirring message, that Mary sent to Jesus, He, whom thou lovest, is sick as if she would imply, that his part was no less deep in Lazarus, than hers. Neither doth she say, "He, that loves thee, is sick;" but, He, whom thou lovest: not pleading the merit of Lazarus's affection to Christ, but the mercy and favour of Christ to him. Even that other reflection of love had been no weak motive; for, O Lord, thou hast said, Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him. Thy goodness will not be behind us for love, who professest to love them, that love thee. But yet the argument is more forcible from thy love to us; since thou hast just reason to respect every thing of thine own, more than ought that can proceed from us. Even we weak men, what can we stick at where we love? Thou, O Infinite God, art love itself. Whatever thou hast done for us is out of thy love. The ground and motive of all thy mercies is within thyself, not in us; and if there be ought in us worthy of thy love, it is thine own, not ours: thou givest what thou acceptest.
Jesus well heard the first groan of his dear Lazarus. Every short breath that he drew, every sigh that he gave, was upon account yet this Lord of Life lets his Lazarus sicken, and languish, and die; not out of neglect or impotence, but out of power and resolution. This sickness is not to death. He, to whom the issues of death belong, knows the way both into it and out of it. He meant that sickness should be to death in respect of the present condition, not to death in respect of the event; to death in the process of nature, not to death in the success of his Divine power, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
O Saviour, thy usual style is, the Son of Man; thou, that wouldst take up our infirmities, wert willing thus to hide thy Godhead under the coarse weeds of our humanity: but here thou sayest, that the Son of God might be glorified. Though thou wouldst hide thy Divine glory, yet thou wouldst not smother it. Sometimes thou wouldst have thy Sun break forth in bright gleams, to shew that it hath no less light, even while it seems kept in by the clouds. Thou wert now near thy passion. It was most seasonable for thee at this time to set forth thy just title. Neither was this an act, that thy Humanity could challenge to itself; but far transcending all finite powers. To die, was an act of the Son of Man; to raise from death, was an act of the Son of God.
Neither didst thou say merely, that God, but, that the Son of God might be glorified. God cannot be glorified, unless the Son In very natural relations, the wrong or disrespect offered to the child reflects upon the father; as, contrarily, the parent's upon the child how much more, where the love and respect is infinite! Where the whole essence is communicated, with the intireness of relation! O God, in vain shall we tender our de
votions to thee indefinitely, as to a glorious and incomprehensible Majesty, if we kiss not the Son, who hath most justly said, Ye believe in the Father, believe also in Me.
What a happy family was this! I find none upon earth so much honoured; Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. It is no standing upon terms of precedency. The Spirit of God is not curious in marshalling of places. Time was, when Mary was confessed to have chosen the better part; here Martha is named first, as most interested in Christ's love: for ought appears, all of them were equally dear. Christ had familiarly lodged under their roof. How fit was that to receive him, whose indwellers were hospitable, pious, unanimous! Hospitable, in the glad entertainment of Jesus and his train; pious, in their devotions; unanimous, in their mutual concord. As, contrarily, he balks and hates that house, which is taken up with uncharitableness, profaneness, contention.
But, O Saviour, how doth this agree? Thou lovedst this family; yet, hearing of their distress, thou heldest off two days more from them. Canst thou love those, thou regardest not! Canst thou regard them, from whom thou willingly absentest thyself in their necessity? Behold, thy love as it is above ours, so it is oft against ours. Even out of very affection art thou not seldom absent. None of thine, but have sometimes cried, How long Lord? What need we instance, when thine Eternal Father did purposely estrange his face from Thee, so as thou criedst out of forsaking?
Here thou wouldst knowingly delay; whether for the greatening of the miracle, or for the strengthening of thy disciples' faith.
Hadst thou gone sooner and prevented the death, who had known, whether strength of nature, and not thy miraculous power, had done it? Hadst thou overtaken his death by this quickening visitation, who had known, whether this had been only some qualm or ecstasy, and not a perfect dissolution? Now this large gap of time makes thy work both certain and glorious.
And what a clear proof was this, beforehand, to thy disciples, that thou wert able to accomplish thine own Resurrection on the third day, who wert able to raise up Lazarus on the fourth! The more difficult the work should be, the more need it had of an omnipotent confirmation.
He, that was Lord of our times and his own, can now, when he found it seasonable, say, Let us go into Judea again. Why left he it before? Was it not upon the heady violence of his enemies? (Vide chap. x. ver. 31, 39.) Lo, the stones of the Jews drove him thence: the love of Lazarus and the care of his Divine glory drew him back thither. We may, we must be wise as serpents, for our own preservation: we must be careless of danger, when God calls us to the hazard. It is far from God's
purpose, to give us leave so far to respect ourselves, as that we should neglect him. Let Judea be all snares, all crosses; O Saviour, when thou callest us, we must put our lives into our hands, and follow thee thither.
This journey thou hast purposed and contrived; but what needest thou to acquaint thy disciples with thine intent? Where didst thou ever, besides here, make them of counsel with thy voyages? Neither didst thou say, "How think you, if I go?" but, Let us go. Was it, for that thou, who knewest thine own strength, knewest also their weakness? Thou wert resolute; they were timorous: they were sensible enough of their late peril, and fearful of more; there was need to fore-arm them, with an expectation of the worst, and preparation for it. Surprisal with evils may endanger the best constancy. The heart is apt to fail, when it finds itself intrapped in a sudden mischief.
The disciples were dearly affected to Lazarus; they had learned to love, where their Master loved; yet now, when our Saviour speaks of returning to that region of peril, they pull him by the sleeve, and put him in mind of the violence offered unto him Master, the Jews sought of late to stone thee, and goest thou thither again?
No less than thrice in the foregoing chapter, did the Jews lift up their hands to murder him by a cruel lapidation. Whence was this rage and bloody attempt of theirs? Only for that he taught them the truth concerning his Divine nature, and gave himself the just style of the Son of God. How subject carnal hearts are, to be impatient of heavenly verities! Nothing can so much fret that Malignant Spirit, which rules in those breasts, as that Christ should have his own. If we be persecuted for his truth, we do but suffer with him, with whom we shall once reign.
However the disciples pleaded for their Master's safety, yet they aimed at their own. They well knew their danger was inwrapped in his. It is but a cleanly colour, that they put upon their own fear. This is held but a weak and base passion. Each one would be glad to put off the opinion of it from himself, and to set the best face upon his own impotency. Thus, whitelivered men, that shrink and shift from the Cross, will not want fair pretences to evade it. One pleads the peril of many dependants; another, the disfurnishing the Church of succeeding abettors: each will have some plausible excuse for his sound skin.
What error did not our Saviour rectify in his followers? Even that fear, which they would have dissembled, is graciously dispelled, by the just consideration of a sure and inevitable Providence. "Are there not twelve hours in the day, which are duly set and proceed regularly, for the direction of all the motions and actions of men? So in this course of mine, which I must run on earth, there is a set and determined time, wherein I must work,