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Ere many minutes, they shall be ashamed of their error and incredulity.
There were witnesses enough of her death; there shall not be many of her restoring. Three choice disciples and the two parents are only admitted, to the view and testimony of this miraculous work. The eyes of those incredulous scoffers were not worthy of this honour. Our infidelity makes us incapable of the secret favours and the highest counsels of the Almighty.
What did these scorners think and say, when they saw him putting the minstrels and people out of doors ? " Doubtless, the maid is but asleep; the man fears lest the noise shall awake her; we must speak and tread softly, that we disquiet her not: What will he and his disciples do the while? Is it not to be feared, they will startle her out of her rest ?" Those, that are shut out from the participation of God's counsels, think all his words and projects no better than foolishness.
But art thou, O Saviour, ever the more discouraged, by the derision and censure of these scornful unbelievers ? Because fools jeer thee, dost thou forbear thy work ? Surely, I do not perceive, that thou heedest them, save for contempt; or carest more for their words, than their silence. It is enough, that thine act shall soon honour thee, and convince them. He took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise ; and her spirit came again, and she arose straightway.
How could that touch, that call, be other than effectual? He, who made that hand, touched it; and he, who shall once say, Arise, ye dead, said now, Maid, arise. Death cannot but obey him, who is the Lord of Life. The soul is ever equally in his hand, who is the God of Spirits : it cannot but go and come at his command. When he says, Maid, arise, the now-dissolved spirit knows his office, his place; and instantly reassumes that room, which by his appointment it had left.
O Saviour, if thou do but bid my soul to arise from the death of sin, it cannot lie still; if thou bid my body to arise from the grave, my soul cannot but glance down from her heaven, and animate it. In vain, shall my sin or my grave offer to withhold me from thee.
The maid revives: not now to languish for a time upon her sickbed, and by some faint degrees to gather an insensible strength; but, at once, she arises from her death and from her couch ; at once, she puts off her fever with her dissolution; she finds her life and her feet, at once; at once, she finds her feet and her stomach: He commanded to give her mcat. Omnipotency doth not use to go the pace of nature. All God's immediate works are, like himself, perfect. He, that raised her supernaturally, could have so fed her. It was never the purpose of his power, to put ordinary means out of office.
THE MOTION OF THE TWO FIERY DISCIPLES
REPELLED. The time drew on, wherein Jesus must be received up. He must take death in his way. Calvary is in his passage to mount Olivet. He must be lift up to the cross, thence to climb into his heaven. Yet this comes not into mention; as if all the thought of death were swallowed up in this victory over death. Neither, O Saviour, is it otherwise with us, the weak members of thy mystical body. We must die; we shall be glorified. What if death stand before us ? we look beyond him, at that transcendent glory. How should we be dismayed with that pain, which is attended with a blessed immortality?
The strongest receipt against death is the happy estate that fol. lows it; next to that, is the fore-expectation of it and resolution against it: He stedfastly set his face, to go to Jerusalem ; Jerusalem, the nest of his enemies, the amphitheatre of his conflicts, the fatal place of his death. Well did he know the plots and ambushes, that were laid for him, and the bloody issue of those designs : yet, he will go; and goes, resolved for the worst. It is a sure and wise way, to send our thoughts before us, to grapple with those evils, which we know must be encountered. The enemy is half overcome, that is well prepared for. The strongest mischief may be outfaced, with a seasonable fore-resolution. There can be no greater disadvantage, than the suddenness of a surprisal. O God, what I have not the power to avoid, let me have the wisdom to expect.
The way from Galilee to Judea lay through the region of Samaria, if not the city. Christ now, towards the end of bis preaching, could not but be attended with a multitude of followers. It was necessary there should be purveyors and harbingers, to procure lodgings and provision for so large a troop. Some of his own retinue are addressed to this service. They seek not for palaces and delicacies, but for house-room and victuals. It was he, wbose the earth was and the fulness thereof, whose the heavens are and the mansions therein ; yet he, who could have commanded angels, sues to Samaritans: he, that filled and comprehended heaven, sends for shelter in a Samaritan cottage. It was thy choice, O Saviour, to take upon thee the shape, not of a prince, but of a servant. How can we either neglect means or despise homeliness, when thou, the God of all the World, wouldst stoop to the suit of so poor a provision ? * We know well, in what terms the Samaritans stood with the Jews; so much more hostile, as they did more symbolize in matter of religion. No nations were mutually so hateful to each other. A Samaritan's bread was no better than swine's-fesh. Their very fire, and water, was not more grudged, than infectious. The looking towards Jerusalem was here cause enough of repulse. No enmity is so desperate, as that, which arises from matter of rehgion. Agreement in some points, when there are differences in the main, doth but advance hatred the more.
It is not more strange, to hear the Son of God sue for a lodging, than to hear him repelled.
Upon so charlish a denial, the two angry disciples return to their Master, on a fiery errand; Lord, wilt thou, that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, as Elias did?
The sons of thunder would be lightning straight. Their zeal, whether as kinsmen or disciples, could not brook so harsh a refusal. As they were naturally more hot than their fellows, so now they thought their piety bade them be impatient.
Yet they dare not but begin with leave; Master, wilt thou ? His will must lead theirs; their choler cannot drive their wills before his : all their motion is from him only. True disciples are like those artificial engines, which go no otherwise, than they are set; or, like little children, that speak nothing, but what they are taught. O Saviour, if we have wills of our own, we are not thine. Do thou set me, as thou wouldst have me go; do thou teach me, what thou wouldst have me say or do.
A mannerly preface leads in a faulty suit; Master, wilt thou, that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them? Faulty, both in presumption, and in desire of private revenge. I do not hear them say, “ Master, will it please thee, who art the sole Lord of the Heavens and the Elements, to command fire from heaven upon these men ?" but, Wilt thou, that we command? As if, because they had power given them over diseases and unclean spirits, therefore heaven and earth were in their managing. How easily might they be mistaken! Their large commission had the just limits. Subjects, that have munificent grants from their princes, can challenge nothing, beyond the words of their patent. And, if the fetching down fire from heaven were less than the dispossessing of devils, (since the Devil shall enable the beast to do thus much,) yet how possible is it, to do the greater and stick at the less, where both depend upon a delegated power ! The magicians of Egypt could bring forth frogs and blood; they could not bring lice: ordinary corruption can do that, which they could not.
It is the fashion of our bold nature, upon an inch given, to chala lenge an ell; and, where we find ourselves graced with some abilities, to flatter ourselves with the faculty of more.
I grant, faith hath done as great things as ever presumption undertook; but there is great difference in the enterprises of both. The one hath a warrant, either by instinct or express command; the other none at all. Indeed, had these two disciples either meant, or said, “ Master, if it be thy pleasure, to command us to call down fire from heaven, we know thy word shall enable us to do what thou requirest; if the words be ours, the power shall be thine;"> this had been but holy, modest, faithful: but, if they supposed there needed nothing, save a leave only; and that, might they be but let loose, they could go alone; they presumed, they offended.
Yet, had they thus overshot themselves in some pious and charitable motion, the fault had been the less ; now, the act had in it, both cruelty and private revenge.
Their zeal was not worthy of more praise, than their fury of censure. That fire should fall down from heaven upon men, is a fearful thing to think of, and that which hath not been often done. It was done, in the case of Sodom; when those five unclean cities burned with the unnatural fire of hellish lust: it was done, two several times, at the suit of Elijah: it was done, in a height of trial, to that great pattern of patience. I find it no more, and tremble at these I find. But, besides the dreadfulness of the judgment itself, who can but quake at the thought of the suddenness of this destruction, which sweeps away both body and soul in a state of unpreparation, of unrepentance; so as this fire should but begin a worse, this heavenly flame should but kindle that of hell?
Thus unconceivably heavy was the revenge: but what was the offence? We have learned, not to think any indignity light, that is offered to the Son of God; but we know these spiritual affronts are capable of degrees. Had these Samaritans reviled Christ and his train, had they violently assaulted him, had they followed him with stones in their hands and blasphemies in their mouths, it had been a just provocation of so horrible a vengeance: now, the wrong was only negative; they received him not: and that, not out of any particular quarrel or dislike of his person, but of his nation only; the men had been welcome, had not their country distasted. All the charge, that I hear our Saviour give to his disciples, in case of their rejection, is, If they receive you not, shake off the dust of your feet. Yet this was amongst their own, and when they went on that sacred errand of publishing the Gospel of Peace. These were strangers from the commonwealth of Israel. This measure was not to preachers, but to travellers ; only a mere inhospitality to misliked guests. Yet no less revenge will serve them, than fire from heaven.
I dare say for you, ye holy sons of Zebedee, it was not your spleen, but your zeal, that was guilty of so bloody a suggestion. Your indignation could not but be stirred, to see the great Prophet and Saviour of the World so unkindly repelled ; yet all this will ņot excuse you from a rash cruelty, from an inordinate rage.
Even the best heart may easily be miscarried with a well-meant zeal. No affection is either more necessary or better accepted. Love to any object cannot be severed from hatred of the contrary: whence it is, that all creatures, which have the concupiscible part, have also the irascible adjoined unto it. Anger, and displeasure, is not so much an enemy, as a guardian and champion of love. Whoever, therefore, is rightly affected to his Saviour, cannot but find much regret at his wrongs.
O gracious and divine zeal, the kindly warmth and vital temper of piety, whither hast thou withdrawn thyself from the cold hearts of men? Or, is this according to the just constitution of the old and decrepit age of the world, into which we are fallen? How
many are there, that think there is no wisdom, but in a dull indif. ferency; and choose rather to freeze than burn! How quick and apprehensive are men, in cases of their own indignities ! how insensible of their Saviour's!
But there is nothing so ill, as the corruption of the best. Rectified zeal is not more commendable and useful, than inordinate and misguided is hateful and dangerous. Fire is a necessary and beneficial element; but if it be once misplaced, and have caught upon the beams of our houses or stacks of our corn, nothing can be more direful.
Thus, sometimes, zeal turns murder, (They, that kill you, shall think they do God service); sometimes, phrenzy; sometimes, rude indiscretion. Wholesome and blessed is that zeal, that is well grounded and well governed: grounded upon the word of truth, not upon unstable fancies; governed by wisdom and charity : wisdom, to avoid rashness and excess; charity, to avoid just offence.
No motion can want a pretence. « Elias did so; why not we? He was a holy prophet. The occasion, the place abludes not much. There, wrong was offered to a servant; here, to his master : there, to a man; here, to a God and man. If Elias then did it, why not we?" There is nothing more perilous, than to draw all the actions of holy men into examples : for, as the best men have their weaknesses, so they are not privileged from letting fall unjustifiable actions. Besides that, they may have had perhaps peculiar warrants signed from heaven, whether by instinct or special command, which we shall expect in vain. There must be much caution used, in our imitation of the best patterns, whether in respect of the persons or things; else we shall make ourselves apes, and our acts sinful absurdities.
It is a rare thing, for our Saviour to find fault with the errors of zeal, even where have appeared sensible weaknesses. If Moses, in a sacred rage and indignation, brake the tables written with God's own hand, I find him not checked. Here, our meek Saviour turns back, and frowns upon his furious suitors, and takes them up roundly ; Ye know not of what spirit ye are. The faults of uncharitableness cannot be swallowed up in zeal. If there were any colour to hide the blemishes of this misdisposition, it should be this crimson die. But he, that needs not our lie, will let us know, he needs not our injury; and hates to have a good cause supported by the violation of our charity. We have no reason to disclaim our passions. Even the Son of God chides sometimes; yea, where he loves. It offends not, that our affections are moved ; but that they are inordinate.
It was a sharp word, Ye know not of what spirit ye are. Another man would not perhaps have felt it; a disciple doth. Tender hearts are galled with that, which the carnal mind slighteth. The spirit of Elias was that, which they meant to assume and imitate : they shall now know their mark was mistaken. How would they have hated to think, that any other but God's Spirit had stirred them up to this passionate motion! now they shall know it was wrought by that Ill Spirit, whom they professed to hate.