صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

As this cure was performed hard by the city gate, which, antiently, in those countries, was the place of public resort, the youth must have been raised from the dead in presence of many witnesses, particularly the multitude which came with Jesus, the people who accompanied the corpse, and all who, on business, happened to be, at that instant, in the gate. Wherefore, being so publicly performed, this great miracle became, also, a noble confirmation of our Lord's mission. And there came a fear upon all and they glorified God, saying, that a great prophet is risen up among us; and that God hath visited his people. As this is the expression which Zacharias, the father of the Baptist, applied to the coming of the Messiah, we have reason to suppose the meaning of the inhabitants of Nain to be, that God had visited his people, by raising up, amongst them, the great prophet promised to Moses in the law. This miracle appears to have been so conspicuous, that the fame of it spread through all the neighbouring country, and tended greatly to establish the reputation of Jesus.

We have already noticed the call of Matthew, and given some slight view of his character, in the enumeration of the twelve apostles. We have now to observe, that this converted publican took an early opportunity to make a splendid entertainment for his Master, who did not refuse to partake of it. On this occasion, he invited as many of his brother publicans as he could, hoping that Christ's conversation might bring them to repent. In this feast, therefore, Matthew shewed both gratitude and charity; gratitude to Christ, who had now called him; and charity to his acquaintance, in labouring to bring about their conversion. This was quite different to the conduct of the Pharisees, who had such an high idea of their own purity, as to refuse to cat with any other Jews, even though both of them might be subject to a legal defilement Therefore, such of them as dwelt in Capernaum, and knew both Tatthew's occupation, and the character of his guests, were highly offended that Jesus, who pretended to be a prophet, should have deigned to go into the company of such; so offended, that they could not forbear condemning his conduct openly, by asking his disciples, with an air of insolence, in the hearing of the whole company, why he sat with publicans and sinners. The Pharisees, indeed, had not directed their discourse to Jesus; but, having spoken so loud as to let all the guests hear their censure, he could not avoid meekly putting them in mind, that it is sick people only who have need of a physician; to intimate, that since the Pharisees thought themselves righteous persons, they had no need of his company; whereas, the publicans, whom they called 'sinners, being sick, had the best title to it. And that, as nobody ever blamed a physician for going into the company of the patients whose cure he had undertaken, so they could not blame him for conversing with sinners, since he did it, not as their companion, but as their physician, and, therefore, with a view to reclaim them. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice; as if he had said, in bringing sinners to repentance, I certainly please God; because it is the highest exercise of benevolence, a virtue which he has expressly declared to be more acceptable to him than sacrifice, the greatest of the ceremonial duties so unreasonably magnified by the men of your sect, who observe them, on many occasions, at the expence of charity. For I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. I am not come to convert those who are already converted, or to preach repentance unto those who have already repented unto life; but to enlarge the borders of the kingdom of God, by inviting those to embrace his blessed salvation, who were, before that, practising every abomination.

While Jesus was in Levi's house, some of John Baptist's followers came and asked him why his disciples wholly neglected to fast; a duty which they and the Pharisees frequently performed. [Mat. ix. 14. Then came to him the disciples of John, (Mark,


and of the Pharisees,) saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft; (Luke, and make prayers,) but thy disciples fast not? (Luke, but thine eat and drink?) In the law, we find only one fast day enjoined, namely, the tenth of the seventh month, on which the national atonement was made. But the Jews, of their own accord, observed many other days of fasting. [see Isa. Iviii. 3.] In our Lord's time, days of this kind were more frequent than ever, especially among the Pharisees; who, according to the practice of their sect, fasted, probably, twice a week [Luke xviii. 12.]; and, therefore, as Jesus did not pretend to teach his disciples a more lax kind of doctrine than John and the Pharisees, the disciples of the latter were surprised to find them overlooking so essential a duty. [Mat. ix. 15.] And Jesus said unto them, Can (Luke, ye make) the children of the bride-chamber mourn, (Mark, Luke, fast,) as long as the bridegroom is with them? There was a great propriety in this allusion of our Lord; because the Pharisees themselves admitted, that the bridegroom and his attendants were exempted from the duty of fasting, and that all fasts should cease in the days of the Messiah, when there should be only good days, and days of joy and rejoicing. No man, saith he, putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles, and both are preserved. No man, also, having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new: for he saith, the old is better. To understand these comparisons, let it be observed, that the bottles here referred to were leathern bottles, such as are now used in the East; that the new cloth was such as was rough, and had not passed through the hands of the fuller; and that new wine is not considered as having arrived at that mellowness of flavour which distinguishes the old. The general import, therefore, of these passages appears to be, that the gospel dispensation was of a kind, perfectly different from the traditions of the Pharisees, or even the ceremonial institutions of Moses; and that, therefore, they could not, with propriety, be blended together.

While Jesus, at Matthew's entertainment, was reasoning in defence of his disciples, Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, probably, that was in Capernaum, came in the utmost perplexity, fell down upon the ground before him, in the presence of all the company, and humbly entreated that he would go with him and cure his only daughter, a child of twelve years of age, who lay at the point of death. Generally speaking, the rulers were Christ's bitterest enemies; yet there were some of them of a different character. [John xii. 42.] In particular, this ruler must have had a very favourable opinion of Jesus, and an high notion of his power; else he would not have applied to him for help in the present extremity; and, by publicly acknowledging his power, have done him so much honour. His faith may have been built on the miracles which he knew Jesus had performed; for our Lord had, by this time, resided in Capernaum several months. No sooner had Jairus made this supplication, than Jesus, ever ready to assist the afflicted, rose from the table, and went along with him. But, as he passed through the street, surrounded with his disciples, and a crowd that went along with him, in hopes of seeing the miracle, a woman, who had been afflicted with a flux of blood for twelve years, and had applied to many physicians without success, came behind him, laid hold of the hem of his garment, and was cured. This incidental miracle appears very grand, when the relation it bears to the principal one is considered. Jesus is going to give a specimen of that almighty power, by which the resurrection of all men to immortality shall be effected at the last day, and, behold, virtue, little inferior to that which is capable of raising the dead to life, issues from

him, through his garment, and heals a very obstinate disease; which, having baffled the powers of medicine for twelve years, had remained absolutely incurable, till the presence of Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, chased it away. The cure, though complete, was performed in an instant, and the woman knew it, by the immediate ease which she felt, by the return of her strength, by the cheerfulness of her spirits, and by all the other agreeable sensations which accompany sudden changes from painful diseases to perfect health.

In the mean time, a messenger came and acquainted the ruler that his daughter was dead. This was afflicting news to the tender-hearted parent, and, no doubt, moved him greatly. But Jesus, pitying his grief, bade him take comfort, and promised that his daughter should be made whole. He did not say she should be raised from the dead; for, as he was infinitely above praise, he never courted it. On the contrary, he oftentimes refused those honours which, as it were, obtruded themselves upon. him, particularly in the present case, where he adapted his words rather to the request of the ruler than to the reality of the thing. She shall be made whole; as if she had not been dead, but only sick. Moreover, though he came to the house, where a great many friends and others accompanied him, he suffered none of them to go in with him, except his three disciples, Peter, James, and John, with the father and mother of the maiden and even these he admitted for no other reason but that the miracle might have proper witnesses, who should publish it, in due time, for the benefit of the world. It seems, the mother of the damsel, on hearing that Jesus was nigh, had gone out to the street to conduct him in, or waited for him in the porch of her house to receive him. With these attendants, Jesus went up stairs where the damsel was laying; for they used to lay their dead in upper rooms. [See Acts ix. 37.] Here he found a number of people, in an outer apartment, making lamentation for ner, according to the custom of the Jews, with music. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. The company at the ruler's house, when Jesus came in, being employed in making such lamentation for the damsel as they used to make for the dead, it is evident they all believed she was actually departed. Wherefore, when Jesus told them she was not dead, he did not mean that her soul was not separated from her body, but that it was not to continue so, which was the idea the mourners affixed to the word death. Her state he expressed by saying, that she slept, using the word in a sense somewhat analogous to that which the Jews put upon it; when, in speaking of a person's death, they called it sleep, to intimate their belief of his existence and happiness in the other world, together with their hope of his future resurrection to a new life. On this occasion, the phrase was made use of with singular propriety, to insinuate that, notwithstanding the maid was really dead, she should not long continue so. After clearing the anti-chamber, He entered where the corpse was lying, accompanied by none but the three disciples above-mentioned, and the father and mother of the damsel, they being, of all persons, the most proper witnesses of the miracle, which, in reality, suffered nothing by the absence of the rest. For, as they were all sensible that the child was dead, they could not but be certain of the miracle when they saw her alive again, though they might not know to whom the honour of her resurrection was due. It seems, Jesus was not solicitous of appropriating it to himself. Probably, also, he went in thus slenderly attended, that the witnesses might have opportunity to examine the whole transaction narrowly, and so be able to report it afterwards upon the fullest assurance, and with every circumstance of credibility. All things, therefore, being properly disposed, he went up to the bed, and took the damsel by the head, as if he had been going to awake her out of sleep, and, with a gentle voice, but such as the persons in

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the chamber could easily hear, bade her arise. In an instant, she revived and sat up, just like a person who, being called, awakes out of a soft sleep. Luke says, [chap. viii. 55.] her spirit came again; an expression which implies that she was really dead, and that the soul exists separately after the body dies, a truth very necessary to be asserted in those days, when it was denied by many. Withal, her flesh, her colour, and her strength, returning in the twinkling of an eye, she was not in the weak and languishing condition of one who, being worn out with a disease, had given up the ghost; for she walked through the room with vigour. She was not even in the languishing condition of those who come to life after having fainted away, but was in a state of confirmed good health, being hungry. This circumstance effectually shewing the greatness and perfection of the miracle, Jesus brought it to pass on purpose, in her resurrection. To make the witnesses sensible of it likewise, he ordered some meat to be given her, which she took, probably, in presence of the company. And her parents were astonished; and he charged them that they should tell no man what was done. It was well known to all the people in the house that the maid was dead. The women who were hired to make lamentation for her, according to the custom of the country, knew it. Even the multitude had reason to believe it, after the ruler's servant came and told him publicly in the street, that his daughter was dead. Moreover, that she was restored to life again could not be hid from the domestics, nor from the relations of the family, nor from any having communication with them. Wherefore, our Lord's injunction to tell no man what was done, could not mean that the parents were to keep the miracle a secret: that was impossible to be done. But they were not officiously to blaze it abroad, nor eyen to indulge the inclination which they might feel to speak of a matter so astonishing. The reason was, the miracle spake sufliciently for itself. Accordingly, Matthew tells us, it made a great noise, chap. ix. 26. And the fame thereof went abroad into all the land. As Jesus' miracles were done in public, they could not fail to be much spoken of. Wherefore, when the fame of any of them in particular is mentioned, it implies, that the reports concerning it spread far abroad, that the truth of it was enquired into by many, and that, upon enquiry, the reality of the miracle was universally acknowledged. This being the proper meaning of the observation, the evangelist, by thus openly and frequently appealing to the notoriety of the facts, have given us all the assurance possible of the reality of the miracles which they have recorded.

"The assembling together of multitudes," Mr. Harmer observes, "at the place where persons have lately expired, and bewailing them in a noisy manner, is a custom still retained in the East, and seems to be considered as an honour done to the deceased.

"The most distinct account of the Eastern lamentations that sir J. Chardin has given, is in the sixth volume of his MS.; by which we learn that their emotions of jay as well as of sorrow, are expressed by loud cries. The passage is extremely curious, and the purport of it is as follows: [Gen. xlv. 2.] And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. "This is exactly the genius of the people of Asia, especially of the women. Their sentiments of joy or of grief are, properly, transports; and their transports are ungoverned, excessive, and truly outrageous. When any one returns from a long journey, or dies, his family burst into cries that may be heard twenty doors off; and this is renewed at different times, and continues many days, according to the vigour of the passion. Especially are these cries long in the case of death, and frightful; for their mourning is right down despair, and an image of hell. I was lodged, in the year 1676, at Ispahan, near the Royal Square: the mistress of the next house to ruine died at that time. The moment she

expired, all the family, to the number of twenty-five or thirty people, set up such a furious cry, that I was quite startled, and was above two hours before I could recover myself. These cries continue a long time, then cease all at once: they begin again, as suddenly, at day-break, and in concert. It is this suddenness which is so terrifying, together with a greater shrillness and loudness than one would easily imagine. This enraged kind of mourning, if I may call it so, continued forty days; not equally violent, but with diminution from day to day. The longest and most violent acts were when they washed the body, when they perfumed it, when they carried it out to be interred, at making the inventory, and when they divided the effects. You are not to suppose that those who were ready to split their throats with crying out, wept as much; the greatest part of them did not shed a single tear through the whole tragedy."

Immediately after that Jesus had left the ruler's house, he gave sight to two blind men, that had been induced to believe on him from the accounts they had heard of his numerous and astonishing miracles; and, not yet wearied with well-doing, soon after his arrival at his house, he recovered a dumb demoniac to the use of his speech; and thus exposed himself to the malice of the Pharisees, who said that he cast out devils by means of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.

All this time John Baptist was in prison, Herod having confined him for the freedom which he took in reproving his adulterous commerce with Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. But his confinement was not of the closest kind; for his disciples had' access to see him frequently. In one of those visits they gave him an account of the clection of the twelve apostles to preach the gospel, and of Christ's miracles, particularly that he had lately raised from the dead Jairus's daughter, and the widow of Nain's son; as is plain from Luke, who brings in the history of John's message immediately after these miracles, in the following manner: Luke vii. 18.] And the disciples of John shewed him all these things. [Mat. xi. 2.] Now when John had heard, in prison, the works of Christ, he sent, &c. [Luke vii. 19.] And John, calling unto him two of his disciples, sent them unto Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come, the appellation given to Messiah, Hab. ii. 3, or look we for another? Various reasons have been assigned for this conduct of John; but the most probable are, either that this message was sent to confirm the faith of his disciples, or in consequence of his discontent from his long imprisonment, and to intimate to Christ, that, if he were the Messiah, he ought surely to display his power in the deliverance of his faithful forerunner. When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come, or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities, and plagues, and of evil spirits, and unto many that were blind he gave sight. It happened that, at the time the Baptist's disciples came to Jesus, a vast number of diseased, blind, and possessed people, were waiting on him in order to be cured. Wherefore, Jesus embraced the opportunity and, in presence of the Baptist's messengers, instantly cured them all. Then Jesus answering, said unto them, Go your way, and tell John (Mat. again) what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, plainly claiming the powers ascribed, by Isaiah, to Messiah. For that prophet, [chap. xxxv.] had expressly foretold, that, at the coming of God to save his people, verse 5, "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6, Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing. Where fore, by his miracles, Jesus clearly proved himself to be Messiah, only he left it to the Baptist and his disciples to draw the conclusion themselves :-to the poor the gospel

C c

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »