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CHRIST begins his Public Ministry. His first miracle at Cana. He goes to Jerusalem, at the Passover ; performs several Miracles; clears the Temple of the Traders; and holds a conference with Nicodemus.
T was during the retreat of our great Redeemer into the desert, and his abode there, that the Jewish Sanhedrim sent the deputation of priests and Levites to John the Baptist, as before related; and he having openly and honestly informed them, that he was not the Messiah, they returned to Jerusalem.
The next day after their departure, the Son of God, having defeated the cunning, and disappointed the wiles of the great enemy of mankind, returned from the wilderness, after an abode there of forty days, and came to Bethabara, where John was baptising. The holy Baptist, knowing that the great design of his coming into the world, was to prepare the way for, and lead the people to the Messiah; no sooner saw the exalted Saviour of mankind, than he pointed him out to the people as the object of their highest regard and reverence: Behold, he cried, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! And that it might not be supposed, that he declared him to be such a dignified person, without sufficient grounds, he proceeded to inform the attentive multitude, that he had received a full assurance of this truth at the time when he baptized him, by the appearance of the Holy Spirit, in the shape of a dove, visibly resting on his head, John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending lik a dove, and it abode upon him, and I knew him not; but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost; and I saw and bare record, that this is the Son of God. After this
public declaration of his great forerunner JESUS departed; but returning the next day to the banks of Jordan, the Baptist being there with two of his disciples, he no sooner beheld the holy JESUS, than he repeated and confirmed his former declaration, which was made to the multitude, Behold the Lamb of God. It is probable these disciples were absent when JESUS was baptized, and the Spirit descended on him, while a voice from heaven declared him the Son of God. This plain and positive declaration of their master, excited their curiosity, and filled them with a strong desire to be further informed. To this end, they followed JESUS, no doubt desiring to be acquainted with this extraordinary person. Our great Redeemer, knowing their intentions, turned towards them, and, with that condescending kindness and complacency so natural to him, took them with him to his house. We are informed, by the evangelist John, that one of these disciples was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter; the name of the other is not mentioned, some suppose it was the evangelist himselt. They by this invitation, gained an opportunity of conversing with the Saviour of mankind, and that conversation, joined with the declaration of their master, the Baptist, fully convinced them of the truth of his mission, and they esteemed and reverenced him as the great Messiah, the long-expected Redeemer of Israel.
Soon after this, Andrew found his brother Peter, and with the utmost joy and elevation of heart, brought him to JESUS. The Lord immediately called him by his name, and informed him, that he should hereafter be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a stone, or rock. The day following, Philip, an inhabitant of the town of Bethsaida, was so happy as to come in company with the great Redeemer; JESUS commanded him to follow him, which that disciple immediately obeyed: perhaps he might not be unacquainted with the character of the Son of God; or if he was, the call of the great Saviour of sinners was accompanied
with such manifestations of divine power, that he gladly obeyed.
Soon after this, Philip came in company with Nathaniel, an inhabitant of the town of Cana in Galilee: Nathaniel is thought by some to be the same person who was afterwards called Bartholomew.Philip told him that they had found the Messiah, that great person foretold by Moses and the prophets; and that his name was JESUS of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Nathaniel well knew that, according to the ancient prophecies, the Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem and that he was to belong to the family of David; and as Nazareth was a very low and vulgar place, he could not believe that so exalted a person should dwell in such a contemptible city, and expressed his surprise, by inquiring, can any good thing come out of Nazareth! In answer to this, Philip referred him to the person he had mentioned, and desired him to go with him, and see whether what he had reported was not evident from the plain marks of his superior greatness and divinity which appeared in this extraordinary man. Nathaniel, however nean and despicable his opinion of Nazareth might be, would not give way to his prejudice so much, as to be prevented from embracing so happy an opportunity, and therefore accompanied by Philip, went to visit the Saviour of Israel. His ingenious and candid disposition, would not permit him to reject the pretentions of JESUS without examination and trial; and, being introduced by his friend, and presented to the Lord, the stranger immediately heard his heavenly lips pronounce this honorable character, applied by our great Redeemer to Nathaniel; Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile. The good man was very much surprised to hear a person he had never seen before, address him in this manner, and for his satisfaction in this mysterious point, inquired of our Redeemer, how he came to know him so well, as to be able to give such a description of his character? JESUS, with a conde
scending smile replied, that, before Philip called him, he saw him under the fig-tree. It is reasonable to suppose, that Nathaniel had been under the fig-tree, at his private devotions; and doubtless, had expressed such sentiments, in the effusions of his pious heart, as entitled him to the noble character which our Redeemer had given him; and it is plain that he perceived, from CHRIST's answer to his inquiry, that he knew what was done, where he was not present, and was fully acquainted with the thoughts of the heart; therefore, with the fullest conviction of mind, and the utmost surprise and joy, he cried out, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel. Our Redeemer, approving his faith, proceeded to inform him, that he should hereafter see fuller and clearer proofs of his divinity; Because I said, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these. I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
Our Lord having thus given manifest proofs of his divinity, and called five disciples, was the third day after, with his mother and them, invited to a marriage feast at Cana, a small town, not far distant from Nazareth. His mother, it may reasonably be supposed, was either a relation, or intimate friend, of the married pair; and it happened, at the supper, that they were scarce of wine: she had often, no doubt, been witness of the supernatural power that attended her son, and as she would willingly have every thing so conducted, that there might be no reproach fall on her new-married friends, she applied to him, perhaps, expecting that he would work a miracle for their supply. JESUS, upon receiving the information from his mother, replied, with a kind of gentle rebuke, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come intimating by this, that the time for his working miracles in Galilee was not yet approached, but his business lay in other parts of the kingdom.
His mother does not seem by this reply, to have given up her hopes of his doing something for her friends in this necessity; and, therefore, she ordered the servants punctually to perform whatever he commanded: nor was she mistaken in her supposition; for our Lord kindly condescended, by his miraculous power, to relieve his friends, and to convince his new disciples of the divinity of their master. He ordered the servants to fill six water-pots, each containing about twenty gallons, with water; the servants obeyed, and filled them up to the brim. The whole, in a moment, was changed into the most excellent wine; Bear, said our exalted Redeemer, to the governor of the feast: the governor, ignorant of the miracle, and highly pleased with the delicious flavour and richness of the wine, which was much superior to what they had drank before, applied to the bridegroom, and, in the hearing of the company, informed him, that he had acted contrary to the common custom of feasts. Every man at the beginning, said he, doth set forth good wine; and, when men have well drank, than that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now. The bridegroom, doubtless, was much surprised at this account, and upon inquiry, found that this excellent wine was produced by JESUS, in a miraculous manner. This miracle was the first which our blessed Saviour performed; by it he honored the institution of marriage, convinced his disciples that he, in reality, was the Son of God, and the Saviour of Israel, and spread his fame over all the country around.
It must be acknowledged, that the enemies of our religion, who diligently watch for every opportunity to cast contempt on the great Author of it, have presumed to censure and ridicule this first miracle of our Lord. They represent the affair, as though the evangeliet had reported our Saviour to have miraculously produced this wine, after the company had plentifully drank, and hence would insinuate, that he was a friend to drunkenness. They might, however,