Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

her misery, and become suitors for her, unrequested. It is our duty, in case of necessity, to intercede for each other; and, by how much more familiar we are with Christ, so much more to improve our interest for the relief of the distressed. We are bidden to say, Our Father, not “ mine;" yea, being members of one body, we pray for ourselves in others. If the foot be pricked, the back bends, the head bows down, the eyes look, the hands stir, the tongue calls for aid, the whole man is in pain, and labours for redress. He cannot pray or be heard for himself, that is no man's friend but his own. No prayer, without faith; no faith, without charity ; no charity, without mutual intercession.

That, which urged them to speak for her, is urged to Christ by them for her obtaining ; She cries after us. Prayer is as an arrow: if it be drawn up but a little, it goes not far; but if it be pulled up to the head, it flies strongly, and pierces deep : if it be but dribbled forth of careless lips, it falls down at our foot ; the strength of our ejaculation sends it up into heaven, and fetches down a blessing. The child hath escaped many a stripe, by his loud crying ; and the very unjust judge cannot endure the widow's clamour. Heartless motions do but teach us to deny : fervent suits offer violence, both to earth and heaven.

Christ would not answer the woman, but doth answer the disciples. Those, that have a familiarity with God, shall receive answers, when strangers shall stand out. Yea, even of domestics, some are more entire: he, that lay in Jesus's bosom, could receive that intelligence, which was concealed from the rest.

But who can tell, whether that silence or this answer be more grievous? I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Isruel. What is this answer, but a defence of that silence and seeming neglect? While he said nothing, his forbearance might have been supposed to proceed from the necessity of some greater thoughts; but now, his answer professeth that silence to have proceeded from a willing resolution not to answer: and therefore he doth not vouchsafe so much as to give to her the answer, but to her solicitors; that they might return his denial from him to her, who had undertaken to derive her suit to him; I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Like a faithful ambassador, Christ hath an eye to his commis, sion. That may not be violated, though to an apparent advantage. Whither he is not sent, he may not go. . As he, so all his have their fixed marks set : at these they aim, and think it not safe to shoot at rovers. In matter of morality, it is not for us to stand only upon inhibitions, avoiding what is forbidden; but upon commands, endeavouring only what is enjoined. We need no other rule of our life, than the intention of our several stations. And if he, that was God, would take no further scope to himself, than the limits of his commission, how much doth it concern us frail men to keep within compass!. Or what shall become of our lawlessness, that live in a direct contrariety to the will of him that sent us?

[ocr errors]

Israel was Jacob's name; from him derived to his posterity. Till the division of the tribes under Jeroboam, all that nation was Israel : then, the father's name went to the most, which were ten tribes; the name of the son Judah to the best, which were two. Christ takes no notice of this unhappy division. He remembers the ancient name, which he gave to that faithful wrestler. It was this Christ, with whom Jacob strove; it was he, that wrencht his hip, and changed his name, and dismissed him with a blessing; and now he cannot forget his old mercy to the house of Israel. To that only, doth he profess himself sent. Their first brood were shepherds; now, they are sheep; and those not guarded, not empastured, but strayed and lost. O Saviour, we see thy charge ; the house of Israel, not of Esau ; sheep, not goats, not wolves; Jost sheep, not securely impaled in the confidence of their safe condition. Woe were to us, if thou wert not sent to us. He is not a Jew, which is one without. Every Israelite is not a true one. We are not of thy fold, if we be not sheep. Thou wilt not reduce us to thy fold, if we be not lost in our own apprehensions. O Lord, thou hast put a fleece upon our backs; we have lost ourselves enough: make us so sensible of our own wanderings, that we may find thee sent unto us, and may be happily found of thee.

Hath not this poor woman yet done? Can neither the silence of Christ, nor his denial, silence her? Is it possible she should have any glimpse of hope, after so resolute repulses? yet still, as if she saw no argument of discouragement, she comes, and worships, and cries, Lord, help me. She, which could not in the house get a word of Christ; she, that saw her solicitors, though Christ's own disciples, repelled; yet she comes. Before, she followed; now, she overtakes him : before, she sued aloof; now, she comes close to him: no contempt can cast her off. Faith is an undaunted grace: it hath a strong heart, and a bold forehead: even very denials cannot dismay it, much less delays. She came not to face, not to expostulate, but to prostrate herself at his feet. Her tongue worshipped him before; now, her knee. The eve of her faith saw that Divinity in Christ, which bowed her to his earth. There cannot be a fitter gesture of man to God, than adoration.

Her first suit was for mercy; now, for help. There is no use of mercy, but in helpfulness. To be pitied without aid, is but an addition to misery. Who can blame us, if we care not for an unprofitable compassion?

The very suit was gracious. She saith not, Lord, if thou canst, help me, as the father of the lunatic ; but professes the power, while she begs the act; and gives glory, where she would have relief.

Who now can expect other than a fair and yielding answer to so humble, so faithful, so patient a suppliant? What can speed well, if a prayer of faith from the knees of humility succeeds not? And yet behold, the further she goes, the worse she fares: her discouragement is doubled with her suit ; It is not good, to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. First, his silence im

plied a contempt; then, his answer defended his silence; now, his speech expresses and defends his contempt. Lo, he hath turned her from a woman to a dog ; and, as it were, spurns her from his feet, with a harsh repulse. What shall we say? is the Lamb of God turned Lion? Doth that clear Fountain of Mercy run blood ? O Saviour, did ever so hard a word fall from those mild lips? Thou calledst Herod, Fox; most worthily, he was crafty and wicked: the Scribes and Pharisees, a generation of Vipers; they were venomous and cruel : Judas, a Devil; he was both covetous and treacherous. But here was a woman in distress, and distress challenges mercy; a good woman, a faithful suppliant, a Canaanitish disciple, a Christian Canaanite; yet rated and whipt out for a Dog by thee, who wert all goodness and mercy! How different are thy ways from ours! Even thy severity argues favour. The trial had not been so sharp, if thou hadst not found the faith so strong; if thou hadst not meant the issue so happy. Thou hadst not driven her away as a dog, if thou hadst not intended to admit her for a saint; and to advance her as much for a pattern of faith, as thou depressedst her for a spectacle of contempt.

The time was, when the Jews were children, and the Gentiles dogs: now the case is happily altered; the Jews are the dogs, (so their dear and divine countryman calls the concision,) we Gentiles are the children. What certainty is there in an external profession, that gives us only to seem, not to be; at least, the being that it gives is doubtful and temporary? We may be children to-day, and dogs to-morrow. The true assurance of our condition is in the decree and covenant of God on his part, in our faith and obedience on ours. How they of children became dogs, it is not hard to say: their presumption, their unbelief transformed them; and, to perfect their brutishness, they set their fangs upon the Lord of Life. How we of dogs become children, I know no reason but, O the depth! Rom. xi. rxxij. That, which, at the first, singled them out from the nations of the world, bath, at last, singled us out from the world and them. It is not in him that willeth, nor in him that runneth, but in God that hath mercy. Lord, how should we bless thy goodness, that we of dogs are children! how should we fear thy justice, since they of children are dogs! Oh let us not be highminded, but tremble. If they were cut off, who crucified thee in thine humbled estate, what may we expect, who crucify thee daily in thy glory?

Now, what ordinary patience would not have been overstrained, with so contemptuous a repulse? How few, but would have fallen into intemperate passions, into passionate expostulations! “ Art thou the prophet of God, that so disdainfully entertainest poor suppliants? Is this the comfort, that thou dealest to the distressed ? Is this the fruit of my humble adoration, of my faithful profession? Did I snarl or bark at thee, when I called thee the Son of David? Did I fly upon thee otherwise than with my prayers and tears? And if this term were fit for my vileness, yet doth it become thy lips? Is it not sorrow enough to me, that I am afflicted

with my daughter's misery, but that thou, of whom I hoped for relief, must add to mine affliction in an unkind reproach?” But here is none of all this. Contrarily, her humility grants all; her patience overcomes all; and she meekly answers, Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table.

The reply is not more witty, than faithful.“ O Lord, thou art truth itself. Thy words can be no other than truth. Thou hast called me a dog, and a dog I am: give me therefore the favour and privilege of a dog, that I may gather up some crumbs of mercy from under that table, whereat thy children sit. This blessing, though great to me, yet to the infiniteness of thy power and mercy is but as a crumb to a feast. I presume not to press to the board, but to creep under it. Deny me not those small offals, which else would be swept away in the dust. After this stripe, give me but a crumb, and'I shall fawn upon thee, and depart satisfied.”

O woman, say I, great is thy humility, great is thy patience; but, О woman, saith my Saviour, great is thy faith. He sees the root; we, the stock. Nothing but faith could thus temper the heart, thus strengthen the soul, thus charm the tongue.

O precious faith! O acceptable perseverance! It is no marvel, if that chiding end in favour: Be it to thee, even as thou wilt. Never did such grace go away uncrowned. The beneficence had been strait, if thou hadst not carried away more than thou suedst for. Lo, thou, that camest a dog, goest away a child; thou, that wouldst but creep under the children's feet, art set at their elbow; thou, that wouldst have taken up a crumb, art feasted with full dishes. The way to speed well at God's hand is, to be humbled in his eyes and in our own.

It is quite otherwise with God, and with mien. With men, we are so accounted of, as we account of ourselves : he shall be sure to be accounted vile in the sight of others, which is vile in bis own. With God, nothing is got by vain ostentation ; nothing is lost by abasement. O God, when we look down to our own weakness, and cast up our eyes to thine infiniteness, thine omnipotence, what poor things we are! but when we look down upon our sins and wickedness, how shall we express our shame? None of all thy creatures, except devils, are capable of so foul a quality. As we have thus made ourselves worse than beasts, so let us, in a sincere humbleness of mind, acknowledge it to thee, who canst pity, forgive, redress it. So setting ourselves down at the lower end of the table of thy creatures, thou, the great Master of the Feast, mayst be pleased to advance us to the height of glory.

Matthew rv.

THE DEAF AND DUMB MAN CURED. OUR Saviour's entrance into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon was not without a miracle; neither was his regress: as the sun neither rises nor sets without light. In his entrance, he delivers the daughter of the Syrophænician ; in his egress, he cures the Deaf and Dumb, He can no more want work, than that work can want success.

Whether the patient were naturally deaf and perfectly dumb, or imperfectly dumb and accidentally deaf, I labour not. Sure I am, that he was so deaf, that he could not hear of Christ ; so dumb, that he could not speak for himself. Good neighbours supply his ears, his tongue; they bring him to Christ. Behold a miracle led in by charity, acted by power, led out by modesty.

It was a true office of love, to speak thus in the cause of the dumb; to lend senses to him that wanted. Poor man! he had nothing to entreat for him, but his impotence: here was neither ear to inform, nor tongue to crave. His friends are sensible of his infirmity, and, unasked, bring him to cure. This spiritual service we owe to each other. It is true, we should be quick of hearing to the things of God and of our peace, quick of tongue to call for our helps; but, alas ! we are naturally deaf and dumb to good. We have ear and tongue enough for the world: if that do but whisper, we hear it; if that do but draw back, we cry after it: we have neither for God. Ever since our ear was lent to the Serpent in Paradise, it hath been spiritually deaf; ever since we set our tooth in the forbidden fruit, our tongue bath been speechless to God; and that, which was faulty in the root, is worse in the branches. Every soul is more deafened and bedumbed by increasing corruptions, by actual sins. Some ears the infinite mercy of God hath bored; some tongues he hath untied by the

power of regeneration : these are wanting to their holy faculties, if they do not improve themselves, in bringing the deaf and dumb unto Christ.

There are some deaf and dumb, upon necessity ; some others, upon affectation. Those, such as live either out of the pale of the Church, or under a spiritual tyranny within the Church, we have no help for them but our prayers; our pity can reach further than our aid: these, such as may hear of a Christ, and sue to him, but will not; a condition so much more fearful, as it is more voluntary. This kind is full of woeful variety: while some are deaf by an outward obturation, whether by the prejudice of the Teacher, or by secular occasions and distractions; others, by the inwardlyaposthuming tumours of pride, by the ill vapours of carnal affections, of froward resolutions. All of them, like the deaf adder, have their ears shut to the Divine Charmer. ( miserable condition of foolish men, so peevishly averse from their own salvation ; so much more worthy of our commiseration, as it is more incapable of their own! These are the men, whose cure we must labour; whom we must bring to Christ, by admonition, by threats, by authority, and, if need be, by wholesome compulsions.

They do not only lend their hand to the deaf and dumb, but their tongue also: they say for him that, which he could not but wish to say for himself. Doubtless, they had made signs to him, of what they intended; and, finding him forward in his desires, now they speak to Christ for him. Every man lightly hath a tongue to speak for himself; happy is he, that keps a tongue for

« AnteriorContinuar »