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CHRIST Converses with the woman of Samaria, and revealeth himself unto her: he heals the nobleman's son at Cana, while he lay sick at Capernaum. He repairs to Capernaum, and having called more disciples, he preaches in Galilee, and delivers his sermon on the mount.
THE feast of the passover being ended, JESUS de
parted from Jerusalem, and went to some of the obscurer parts of Judea; probably he might retire to the bank of the river Jordan, where he had been baptized, and had received the honour of the divine approbation, and testimony of a voice from heaven, that he was the Son of God. The holy Jesus, remained a considerable time, and his disciples baptized great numbers of people, while his fame was spread through several parts of the country.
John the Baptist was not yet cast into prison, but continued preaching and baptizing, probably at Bethabara, the place of his former residence. Some of the Jews, hence took occasion to dispute with the disciples of John, about the propriety of this, and wanted to be informed, whether the baptism of JESUS was not superior to that of their master. Not being willing themselves to decide this controversy, or answer so important a question, they applied to the Baptist himself. The prophet took occasion to remind them, how often he had declared, that the person they mentioned, was the Messiah, whom God had sent into the world, to accomplish the designs of his grace, in the salvation of sinners; and that himself was no more than a messenger to prepare the way before this illustrious person. He likewise proceeded to inform them, that his own ministry now was on the decline, and would soon be at an end; He must increase, said he, but I must decrease. The holy man
continued his testimony concerning CHRIST, by giving his inquiring disciples to understand that he was above all; and as much superior to him, as the heavens were above the earth; and though, comparatively speaking, no man received his testimony, though he was low and despicable in the eyes of mankind, yet he was in the highest estimation in the heavenly world; that he was the well-beloved of his Father, and the heir of all things, both in heaven and earth; that the fulness of the divine Spirit dwelt in him, and it was of the utmost importance to mankind to hear, believe in, and obey him. And then the holy man concluded his ministry with these remarkable words, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Soon after this, the holy Baptist departed from the banks of Jordan, and leaving the wilderness of Judea, repaired to Galilee, and often visited the court of Herod, who seemed to attend to his precepts, and take delight in his company and conversation: but as the Baptist was too strictly virtuous to flatter that prince, he took occasion severely to reprimand him, on account of his cohabiting with the princess Herodias. This roused the rage of that haughty woman, who, on that account, procured his imprisonment and death, as before related.
In the mean time, the blessed JESUS continued in the wilderness of Judea; great multitudes resorted to him, attended on his divine instructions, beheld the miracles he wrought, and were baptized by his disciples. His popularity daily increasing, it excited the envy of the Pharisees, on which account, our Lord thought proper to retire into Galilee, and there continue that great work which he had so successfully begun.
In this journey he passed through Samaria, and being fatigued with travelling, and overpowered with the heat of the day, he sat down to rest by the side of a noted well, near the city of Sychar (which was reported to be given by the patriarch Jacob to his son Joseph) while his disciples repaired to the city to purchase provisions.
Before their return, a woman came from the city to draw water at the well, and JESUS being thirsty, asked her to give him to drink. The woman, knowing him to be a Jew, was very much surprised at this request; for the hatred between the Jews and Samaritans, which had commenced four hundred years before this time, still continued, and was, on all occasions carried on by each party: How is it, said she, that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Little did the woman think, that no less a person than the Son of God, requested this small favour at her hands: had she been acquainted with his high dignity, she would certainly, without hesitation, have granted his request. But JESUS, perceiving her delay, proceeded to let her know, that he was well able to make her the most noble and beneficial return for the favour he asked. If thou, said he, knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, give me to drink: thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman surprised to hear such a declaration, and no doubt, perceiving something awfully majestic, and divinely amiable in the countenance of our Lord, without attending to his first request was touched with a curiosity to know who this stranger was, and how he could come at the water he spoke of: Sir, said, she, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus replied to this question, Whosocger drinketh of this
water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him, a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. Thus this divine teacher, from the circumstances of the sitting by the side of a well, and the woman preparing to draw water, described the most beautiful allegory, the efficacy and effects of divine grace, and at the same time represented the plenitude and perpetuity of its happy consequences, which remain to an eternal duration. But the woman, still understanding the words of our Lord in their plain literal sense, requested to give her a draught of the water he spoke of, that she might thirst no more, nor have occasion to come daily to that well to draw. Our Redeemer then turned the discourse in such a manner, as gave him an opportunity of letting the woman understand, that he was acquainted with her former and present way of life, and all her circumstances and affairs.— Sir, says she, I perceive that thou art a prophet: and being convinced of his superior knowledge, she desired his opinion of a question which was a matter of contention between the Jews and Samaritans, whether the temple at Jerusalem, or mount Gerizim was the place were God would be worshipped: Our Fathers, said she, worshipped in this mountain: but ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place were men ought to worship. Our Lord, in answer to her inquiry, informed her, that the time would soon approach, when the worship of God would not be confined, either to that mountain or Jerusalem; but the great King of the universe, would be willing to accept all true spiritual worshippers, without any regard to the place were they worshipped. God, said he, is a Spirit; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth. The woman replied to this, that she supposed this point would be settled by the Messiah, who was shortly expected to come, both by the Jews and the Samaritans. I know, said she, that the Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell
us all things. To this JESUS directly replied, I that speak unto thee am he.
Just at the moment when JESUS had told the woman that he was the Messiah, the disciples returned; and finding their master in close conversation with one that was a native of Samaria, and of consequence an enemy to the Jews, and to the temple worship at Jerusalem, they were very much surprised: but the woman, having heard JESUS call himself the Messiah, left her pitcher at the well, and ran to the city, to publish the glad-tidings, that the Redeemer was then sitting at Jacob's well, and had told her all the secret transactions of her life. This declaration filled the listening Samaritans with the highest astonishment, and at the same time raised their curiosity to see this extraordinary person, whom Moses and the prophets had foretold, and of whose appearance, there was at that time, so universal an expectation.
During this interval, the disciples set before their Lord the provisions which they had been procuring, and requested him to eat; but he seemed little to regard their intreaties, having turned his thoughts to divine meditations: but being further urged, he replied, that he had meat to eat which they knew not of; and gave them to understand, that it was meat and drink to him to do the will, and proceed in the work of his heavenly Father: then looking about him, and seeing the Samaritans coming in crowds from their city, he said to his disciples, Say ye not that there are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest; and he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit into life eternal, that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. By this our Lord instructed his wondering disciples, and let them know that the conversion of these Samaritans, who were now in great crowds surrounding him, was a greater satisfaction to