« AnteriorContinuar »
other men. We are charged, not with supplications only, but with intercessions. Herein is both the largest improvement of our love, and most effectual. No distance can hinder this fruit of our devotion. Thus, we may oblige those, that we shall never see; those, that can never thank us. This beneficence cannot impoverish us: the more we give, we have still the more. It is a safe and happy store, that cannot be impaired by our bounty.
Wbat was their suit, but that Cbrist would put his hand upon the patient? Not that they would prescribe the means, or imply a necessity of his touch; but for that they saw this was the ordi. nary course both of Christ and his disciples, by touching to heal. Our prayers must be directed to the usual proceedings of God. His actions must be the rule of our prayers; our prayers may not prescribe his actions.
That gracious Saviour, who is wont to exceed our desires, does more than they sue for. Not only doth he touch the party, but takes him by the hand, and leads him from the multitude.
He, that would be healed of his spiritual infirmities, must be sequestered from the throng of the world. There is a good use, in due times, of solitariness. That soul can never enjoy God, that is not sometimes retired. The modest Bridegroom of the Church will not impart himself to his Spouse, before company. Or, perhaps, this secession was for our example, of a willing and careful avoidance of vainglory in our actions. Whence also it is, that our Saviour gives an aftercharge of secresy. He, that could say, He, that doth evil, hateth the light, escheweth the light even in good. To seek our own glory is not glory. Although, besides this bashful desire of obscurity, here is a meet regard of opportunity, in the carriage of our actions. The envy of the Scribes and Pharisees might trouble the passage of his Divine ministry: their exasperation is wisely declined by his retiring. He, in whose hands time is, knows how to make his best choice of seasons. Neither was it our Saviour's meaning, to have this miracle buried, but hid. Wisdom hath no better improvement, than in distinguishing times, and discreetly marshalling the circumstances of our actions, which whosoever neglects, shall be sure to shaine his work, and mar his hopes.
Is there a spiritual patient to be cured? Aside with him. To undertake him before the face of the multitude, is to wound, not to heal him. Reproof and good counsel must be, like our alms, in secret; so as, if possible, one ear or hand might not be conscious to the other. As, in some cases, confession; so our reprehension must be auricular. The discreet chirurgeon, that would cure a modest patient, whose secret complaint hath in it more shame than pain, shuts out all eyes, save his own. It is enough, for the God of Justice to say, Thou didst it secretly, but I will do it before all Israel, and before this sun. Our limited and imperfect wisdom must teach us, to apply private redresses to private maladies. It is the best remedy, that is least seen, and most felt.
What means this variety of ceremony? O Saviour, how many parts of thee are here active! Thy finger is put into the ear; thy spittle toucheth the tongue; thine eyes look up; thy lungs sigh ; thy lips move to an ephphatha. Thy word alone, thy beck alone, thy wish alone, yea, the least act of velleity from thee, might have wrought this cure. Why wouldst thou employ so much of thyself in this work? Was it to shew thy liberty, in not always equally exercising the power of thy Deity ? in that, one while, thine only command shall raise the dead, and eject devils; another while, thou wouldest accommodate thyself to the mean and homely fashions of natural agents, and, condescending to our senses and customs, take those
which may carry some more near respect to the cure intended? Or, was it to teach us, how well thou likest, that there should be a ceremonious carriage of thy solemn actions; which thou pleasest to produce clothed with such circumstantial forms?
It did not content thee, to put one finger into one ear; but into either ear wouldest thou put a finger. Both ears equally needed cure; thou wouldest apply the means of cure to both. The Spirit of God is the Finger of God. Then dost thou, O Saviour, put thy finger into our ear, when thy Spirit enables us to hear effectually. If we thrust our own fingers into our ears, using such human persuasions to ourselves as arise from worldly grounds, we labour in vain ; yea, these stoppels must needs hinder our hearing the voice of God. Hence, the great philosophers of the ancient world, the learned rabbins of the synagogue, the great doctors of a false faith, are deaf to spiritual things. It is only that finger of thy Spirit, 0 Blessed Jesu, that can open our ears, and make passage through our ears into our hearts. Let that finger of thine be put into our ears; iso shall our deafiress be removed, and we shall hear, not the loud thunders of the Law, but the gentle whisperings of thy gracious motions to our souls.
We hear for ourselves, but we speak for others. Our Saviour was not content to open the cars only, but to untie the tongue. With the ear we hear; with the mouth we confess. The same hand is applied to the tongue; not with a dry touch, but with spittle : in allusion, doubtless, to the removal of the natural impediment of speech. Moisture, we know, glibs the tongue, and makes it apt to motion; how much more from that Sacred mouth!
There are those, whose ears are open, but their mouths are still shut to God. They understand, but do not utter the wonderful things of God. There is but half a cure wrought upon these men: their ear is but open to hear their own judgment, except their mouth be open to confess their Maker and Redeemer. O God, do thou so moisten my tongue with thy graces, that it may run smoothly, as the pen of a ready writer, to the praise of thy Name.
While the finger of our Saviour was on the tongue, in the ear of the patient, his eye was in heaven. Never man had so much cause to look up to heaven, as he : there was his home; there was his throne. He only was from heaven, heavenly. Each of us hath a good mind homeward, though we meet with better sights abroad: how much more, when our home is so glorious, above the region of our peregrination! But thou, O Saviour, hadst not only thy dwelling there, but thy seat of Majesty. There, the greatest angels adored thee : it is a wonder that thine eye could be ever any where but there. What doth thine eye in this, but teach ours where to be fixed ? Every good gift and every perfect gift coming down from above, how can we look off from that place, whence we receive all good? Thou didst not teach us to say, " Infinite God, which art every where;" but, 0 our Father, which art in heaven. There, let us look up to thee. Oh let not our eyes or hearts grovel upon this earth; but let us fasten them above the hills, whence cometh our salvation. Thence, let us acknowledge all the good we receive ; thence, let us expect all the good we want.
Why our Saviour looked up to heaven, though he had heaven in himself, we can see reason enough. But why did he sigh? Surely not for need: the least motion of a thought was in him impetratory. How could He choose but be heard of his Father, who was one with the Father? Not for any fear of distrust; but partly for compassion, partly for example: for compassion of those manifold infirmities, into which sin had plunged mankind; a pitiful instance whereof was here presented unto him : for example, to fetch sighs from us for the miseries of others; sigbs of sorrow for them, sighs of desire for their redress. This is not the first time, that our Saviour spent sighs, yea tears, upon human distresses. We are not bone of his bone and flesh of his fesh, if we so feel not the smart of our brethren, that the fire of our passion break forth into the smoke of sighs. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not ?
Christ was not silent, while be cured the dumb. His ephphatha gave life to all these his other actions. His sighing, his spitting, his looking up to heaven, were the acts of a man'; but his command of the ear and mouth to open, was the act of God. He could not command that, which he made not. His word is imperative; ours, supplicatory. He doth what he will with us; we do by him what he thinks good to impart.
In this mouth, the word cannot be severed from the success. Our Saviour's lips are no sooner opened in his ephphatha, than the mouth of the dumb and the ears of the deaf are opened. At once, behold here celerity and perfection. Natural agents work by leisure, by degrees; nothing is done in an instant: by many steps is every thing carried from the entrance to the consummation. Omnipotency knows no rules. No imperfect work can proceed from a cause absolutely perfect. The man hears now more lightly, than if he had never been deaf; and speaks more plainly, than if he had never been tongue-tied.
And can we blame him, if he bestowed the handsel of his speech, upon the power that restored it? if the first improvement of his tongue were the praise of the Giver, of the Maker of it? Or can we expect other, than that our Saviour should say, “ Thy tongue is free; use it to the praise of him that made it so: thy
ears are open ; hear him, that bids thee proclaim thy cure upon the house-top?” But now, behold contrarily, he, that opens this man's mouth by his powerful word, by the same word shuts it again ; charging silence by the same breath, wherewith he gave speech; Tell no man.
Those tongues, which interceded for his cure, are charged for the concealment of it. O Saviour, thou knowest the grounds of thine own commands. It is not for us to inquire, but to obey : we may not honour thee, with a forbidden celebration.
Good meanings have ofttimes proved injurious. Those men whose charity employed their tongues to speak for the dumb man, do now employ the same tongues to speak of his cure, when they should have been dumb. This charge, they imagine, proceeds from an humble modesty in Cbrist; which the respect to his honour bids them violate. I know not how we itch after those forbidden acts, which, if left to our liberty, we willingly neglect. This prohibition increaseth the rumour. Every tongue is busied about this one. What can we make of this, but a well-meant disobedience?
O God, I should more gladly publish thy Name at thy command. I know thou canst not bid me to dishonour thee; there is no danger of such an injunction : but if thou shouldest bid me to hide the profession of thy Name and wondrous works, I should fulfil thy words, and not examine thine intentions. Thou knowest how to win more honour by our silence, than by our promulgation. A forbidden good differs little from evil. What makes our actions to be sin, but thy prohibitions ? Our judgment avails nothing. If thou forbid us that, which we think good, it becomes as faulty to thee-ward, as that, which is originally evil. Take thou charge of thy glory; give me grace to take charge of thy precepts.
ZACCHEUS. Now, was our Saviour walking towards his Passion. His last journey had most wonders.
Jericho was in his way, from Galilee to Jerusalem. He balks it not, though it were outwardly cursed; but, as the first Joshua saved a Rahab there, so there the second saves a Zaccheus: that, a harlot; this, a publican. The traveller was wounded, as he was going from Jerusalem to Jericho: this man was taken from his Jericho to the true Jerusalem, and was healed.
Not as a passenger, did Christ walk this way; but as a visitor: not to punish ; but to heal. With us, the sick man is glad to send far for the physician ; here, the Physician comes to seek patients, and calls at our door for work. Had not this Good Shepherd left the ninety-nine, and searched the desert, the lost sheep had never recovered the fold. Had not his gracious frugality sought the lost groat, it had been swept up with the rushes, and thrown out in the dust. Still, o Saviour, dost thou walk through our Jericho. What would become of us, if thou shouldst stay till we seek thee alone?
Even when thou hast found us, how hardly do we follow thee! The work must be all thine: we shall not seek thee, if thou find us not; we shall not follow thee, if thou draw us not.
Never didst thou, O Saviour, set one step in vain. Wheresoever thou art walking, there is some Zaccheus to be won: as in a drought, when we see some weighty cloud hovering over us, we say there is rain for some grounds, wheresoever it falls. The ordinances of God bode good to some souls; and happy are they, on whom it lights.
How justly is Zaccheus brought in with a note of wonder! It is both great and good news, to hear of a convert. To see men perverted from God to the world, from truth to heresy, from piety to prophaneness, is as common as lamentable; every night such stars fall but to see a sinner come home to God, is both happy and wondrous, to men and angels. I cannot blame that philosopher, who, undertaking to write of the hidden miracles of nature, spends most of his discourse upon the generation and formation of man: surely we are fearfully and wonderfully made : but how much greater is the miracle of our spiritual regeneration ; that a son of wrath, a child of Satan, should be transformed into the son and heir of the ever-living God! O God, thou workest both: but in the one, our spirit animates us; in the other, thine own.
Yet, some things, which have wonder in them for their worth, lose it for their frequence: this hath no less rarity in it, than escellence. How many painful Peters have complained, to fish all night, and catch nothing! Many professors and few converts hath been ever the lot of the Gospel. God's house, as the streets of Jericho, may be thronged, and yet but one Zaccheus. As therefore in the lottery, when the great prize comes, the trumpet sounds before it; so the news of a convert is proclaimed with, Behold Zaccheus. Any penitent had been worthy of a shout; but this man, by an eminence; a publican, a chief of the publicans, rich.
No name under heaven was so odious, as this of a publican; especially to this nation, that stood so high upon their freedom, that every impeachment of it seemed no less than damnable: much as they ask not, “ Is it fit, or needful?" but, Is it lawful, to pay tribute unto Cæsar? Any office of exaction must needs be beinous to a people, so impatient of the yoke. And yet, not so much the trade, as the extortion, drew hatred upon this profession. Out of both they are deeply infamous. One while, they are matched with heathens; another while, with harlots ; always, with sinners: And behold, Zaccheus, a publican.
We are all naturally strangers from God; the best is indisposed to grace: yet some there are, whose very calling gives them better advantages. But this catchpole-ship of Zaccheus carried extortion in the face; and, in a sort, bade defiance to his conversion : yet behold, from this toll-booth is called, both Zaccheus to be a disciple, and Matthew to be an apostle. We are in the hand of a cunning workman; that, of the knottiest and crookedest timber, can make rafters and ceiling for his own house : that can square