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plaint, and the perfection and value of her cure, and ascribing heartfelt praise to the Lord, to whose kindness and power she was so deeply indebted. From her conduct in this respect, as well as from her being found in the synagogue at all, in the midst of such infirmity, we are led to conclude that she received spiritual benefit, as well as bodily relief, at this time, and now, if not before, was led to believe in Christ to the saving of her soul. Her conduct, in thus glorifying God, should remind us of the duty of giving him the praise of every temporal and spiritual deliverance we receive. Whatever means he may employ, the glory is still due to himself of all that is beneficial to us in his ordinary providential and spiritual dealings. "Call upon me in the day of trouble," says he; "I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." Let us glorify him for such love, in the language of praise, and in a life of obedience, saying, each of us, "I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart; and I will glorify thy name for evermore: for great is thy mercy toward me, and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell."- "Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living."
Let us now consider how this miracle was received by "the ruler of the synagogue." We had formerly occasion * to speak of this office in the synagogue, as consisting in a right of directing in its worship and discipline. Sometimes there seem to have been several who bore the title of rulers, one of whom was the principal. Jairus was called " one of the rulers of the synagogue;" and Crispus "the chief ruler of the synagogue."+ When Paul and Barnabas were in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, "the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on." On the occasion before us, the ruler of the synagogue, instead of being delighted, as he ought to have been, was filled with indignation"-was in a rage, as if a holy anger would burn because Christ had violated the Sabbath in curing the woman. He did not directly attack Christ himself, but he addressed himself, in a very artful and malicious manner, to the people, not only finding fault with them, but insinuating that Jesus could not be a holy person, or a * See Lecture xliii. on chap. viii. 40, &c.
Mark v. 22; Acts xviii. 8.
teacher of true religion, else he would not have profaned the Sabbath. Filled with indignation, he "answered," or spoke out in a way suggested by the existing circumstances (for, this is one of the many places in which the expression does not signify an exact reply to a question put, or to arguments used before), "he answered,” “and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them, therefore, come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath-day." The ruler here referred to the fourth commandment, "Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work." In referring to this commandment, he referred to what ever did, and ever must, at once command the conscientious reverence of every one that fears the Lord. But here lay the sophistry and the danger of the ruler's mode of arguing-while he laid hold on a principle of mighty weight with the conscience, he totally misapplied it. Something of the same kind is often attempted still, and that not always from hypocrisy, but often from the extreme of sensibility preventing the full scriptural exercise of the understanding. We ought all to be on our guard against this, lest, under the garb of uncommon sanctity, or from a sincere but mistaken view of some Christian doctrine, or precept, any turn us aside from the path of true piety and benevolence.
As for this ruler, the real cause of his indignation was not a regard for the observance of the Sabbath, but a dislike to Christ himself, and to his gospel, in whatever manner, and at whatever time, it might be advanced. The truth was, that the ruler would have been displeased with the people for coming to Christ, and with him for teaching and working miracles, on any day of the week, and laid hold on the circumstance of the miracle being performed on the Sabbath, merely because it furnished the most plausible objection that occurred to him. He would not have wanted something to object, we may be sure, however different the time and circumstances of the miracle might have been.
In the same manner, those who, disliking vital religion itself, are displeased with every instance of its success, always have something to find fault with in the circumstances in which that success is effected, whether there be any thing really objectionable or not. Whereas, for example, this ruler was indignant that a cure was performed
on the body on the Sabbath, some are indignant when any good is done, or endeavoured to be done, to the soul on a week-day, or in any way not exactly according to their own confined ideas; and, instead of rejoicing at the deliverance of a soul from the thraldom of Satan, it is their study and gratification to find some shadow of a reason for throwing discredit on it: and all this they do, protesting that they have a high respect for religion notwithstanding. Let such unworthy feelings and conduct be far from us.
Our Lord openly charged the ruler with hypocrisy, and made a triumphant defence of his own conduct. Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite! doth not each one of you, on the Sabbath, loose his ox, or his ass, from the stall, and lead him away to watering; and ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath-day?" Though we cannot pass this point without a few observations, it is the less necessary to enlarge on it here, as we had an opportunity of considering our Lord's answer to the same objection in the beginning of the 6th chapter, on the occasion of his disciples plucking and eating the ears of corn, and of his own miracle of healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath-day. The circumstance here mentioned was happily chosen by our Lord for the object he had in view. Such care of cattle was universally taken, and acknowledged to be right even by the most rigid Pharisees.* But much more was our Lord's conduct agreeable to the law of God in this case. Were irrational animals to be attended to, and was any human being to be neglected? Besides, this was a daughter of Abraham-a Jewess, and probably, not only a descendant of the father of the faithful, but a partaker of the same faith; and therefore, though Christ's regards were not confined, he might have been particularly expected to have pity on her, according to his usual rule, and according to the direction afterwards given by his apostles, that we should be ready to do good to all as we have opportunity, but especially to those who are of the household of faith. She was one, too, whom Satan had bound; so that to inter
* Wotton's Miscell. ii. 41; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. These lines of Virgil naturally occur here, though they are far from being a parallel to the sacred text:
"Quippe etiam festis quædam exercere diebus
Fas et jura sinunt:
Balantumque gregem fluvio mersare salubri."
Georg,, i., 268.
fere to set her at liberty, was a work peculiarly befitting Him who was manifested for the very purpose of destroying the works of the devil. Her affliction had already been of very long duration, which was a reason for his not delaying for a single day to relieve her. Besides, while the watering of cattle required considerable time and labour, especially where the water was to draw for them, or where the watering-place was at a distance, this miracle could not be ranked among laborious works, but was performed with a touch, and in a moment.
So triumphant was this defence of our Lord's, that neither the ruler, nor any other person, had the effrontery to attempt any reply to it. "When he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed; and all the people," as they well might, "rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him." And so it is often that solid argument and exemplary conduct silence those whom they do not convert. We may rest assured, too, that whoever may misrepresent and oppose the Redeemer, his adversaries shall all be confounded at last, and his triumph shall be complete; for, the gracious things which he did, and said, and suffered, shall be published and believed wider and wider, till his glory fill the earth.
After what has been already said in the way of application to ourselves in going along, one point only needs now to be noticed, and that briefly, namely, the instruction which this passage furnishes as to the way in which the Sabbath should be observed. Neither in this, nor in any other part of his conduct, does our Lord give any encouragement to laxity in the observance of the fourth commandment. With the change from the last to the first day of the week, the institution continues in force, and will continue in force while the world lasts. No unnecessary work can innocently be done on it, nor any amusement whatever engaged in. No part of the time can innocently be abstracted from its duties. So far, however, from thinking it necessary to prove at greater length that works of necessity and mercy are not inconsistent with its due observance, we ought rather, at once, to maintain that these works rank among its positive duties. The whole passage shows the hypocrisy, or the folly, of objecting to such works on the ground of a regard to the Sabbath. When such works cannot be attended to without absence from the public worship of God, they are to have the preference; for, in such cases, God himself says,
"I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." It is proper, at the same time, to observe, that in many cases of this kind, a part of the Sabbath is all that is required, and that sufficient time remains for attending public worship once, or perhaps twice, as well as for other expressly religious engagements; so that, in such cases, Christians never should, and it is to be hoped never will, make the necessity of partially engaging in works of mercy an excuse for the total neglect of those exercises which are peculiarly appropriate to the Sabbath. We shall best acquit our consciences, and most exactly do what will please and honour God, by attending to these different, though not opposite considerations, with discrimination and faithfulness, according to the circumstances in which we are providentially placed. May we be enabled so to employ ourselves on this sacred day, that the blessing promised to those who keep it aright may descend on us. Thus saith the Lord, "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for, the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."