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read is a persect contrast to the indifference with which they are treated on the second or the third day. Let a man sit down to write the history of his own life; let him be the busiest and most important of personages, and what has he got to relate 2 A meagre account of the miles he travelled, of the bargains he drove, of the spectacles he beheld, of the viands which covered his table, and of the guests who surrounded it. Into this little measure shrink the achievements of the great, the splendour, pomp and pride of kings, as well as the short and “simple annals of the poor.” When the pageant has passed by, it is as a vision of the night, it vanishes into air, it leaves no track behind. In vain is the monumental column reared. The hand of time erases the inscription, shakes the fabrick, crumbles it into dust. In vain does history promise to save from oblivion, and to confer immortality. The author, his work, his subject, the very language in which he wrote, all perish. Nevertheless there are illustrious exceptions. There have been persons whose names are dear to every succeeding generation, and who shall be had in everlasting remembrance; who were engaged in pursuits of endless utility, and producing events which shall never spend their force. And there is a record which survives the lapse of ages, the ravages of barbarism, the revolutions of empire, and which shall outlive the dissolution of worlds. There we contemplate the deathless glory of the venerable benefactors of mankind, who “being dead, yet speak,” who were and are the light of the world. All those scattered rays of light are collected into one focal point, in the person of Jesus Christ. “To him give all the prophets witness;” “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God ;”—“the nations of them which are saved walk in his light, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.”
In the busiest and most active life there are long and frequent intervals of repose. Much must be allowed to human infirmity both of body and mind; the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak. One life alone displays an incessant progress in doing good; no word idly spoken, no moment unprofitably spent, no step unnecessarily taken. The night itself is made a season of devotion, the hour of social refreshment becomes an occasion of communicating useful knowledge; a walk into the corn-fields or by the shore of the sea, a journey from city to city, an ascent into the mountain, all are sacred to one commanding object, the glory of God and the good of mankind, the instruction of the ignorant, the pardon of the guilty, the relief of the miserable.
The solemnities of the passover being finished, Jesus, according to the wisdom which directed all his proceedings, thought it proper to retire from Jerusalem, and to return into Galilee. The road lay through Samaria. The inhabitants of that country, though descended from the same stock with the Jews, and once members together with them of the commonwealth of Israel, were now cordially hated and despised by them. But they possessed the same “lively oracles of God,” they looked for the same Messiah promised to their common fathers, and they gladly received the word when it came unto them. The great Prophet whom they expected, takes this opportunity of paying them a visit; they acknowledge him, and believe on his name. Having continued with them two days, sowing the precious seed, expounding from Moses and all the prophets, in all the Scriptures, the things con: cerning himself, and thus extending the boundaries of the kingdom of God, he pursued his journey to Galilee, and returned “ to Cana, where he made the water wine.” . Beside his general and leading object, to preach the gospel of the kingdom, he might intend,
by to: that city, to express the affection of a kind Vo L. I 2 P s:
relation to the new-married pair, who resided there, to strengthen their union by his benediction, by his counsel, by participating in their domestic cares and comforts, and to confirm them and the other inhabitants of the place in the faith which they had professed. It was so ordered of Providence, that at the time of his return, a distinguished family in the neighbouring town of Capernaum, was visisted with a sore affliction. “There was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.” The word translated nobleman, signifies courtier, one employed near the person, or in the service of a king. Herod was but a delegated and limited sovereign: “Tetrarch of Galilee,” that is governor, under the Roman emperor, of the fourth part of a province. But he was permitted to assume the title and state of king, because it swelled the pride of the imperial despot to lord it over many subordinate and dependant thrones. Capernaum being within the limits of Herod’s government, he no doubt occasionally resided in that city, and there probably at this time held his court; and the nobleman in question might either o, or from affection be in attendance upon his master. But the vicinity of a court, and the rank of nobility are no security against the inroads of disease and death, for they too are tainted with sin. The danger of losing a child excites a thousand anxieties in the bosom of a parent, whatever be the station or condition. There are innumerable circumstances which level all distinctions. The honourable feelings of humanity are of this description, parental and filial affection, with the kindred charities of the human heart, sympathy with the distressed, and a desire to assist and relieve them: these constitute a dignity, a nobility which God alone can bestow, and which the air of a court tends rather to blight than to cherish. This good man however has not sunk the father in the courtier. Anxiety about the life of his child suspends the pride of rank, the duties of office, the etiquette of nobility. “When
he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.” “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” The fame of Jesus was now spread over the whole land. When he came back from Jerusalem to Galilee, “the Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.” The report which they made at home, of his mighty works, as well as of his condescension and benevolence, had reached the ears of the great, and excited attention. We fondly listen to what promises ease; we grasp the very shadows of probability, and frequently make experinents with little hope of success. All that medical skill could effect had, in this case, undoubtedly been attempted, but attempted in vain. It is one, and not the least of the evils attendant on poverty, to know of a remedy without the means of procuring it. The rich have at least this consolation in extremity, that every thing was done which influence could command, or money purchase. But the nobleman of Capernaum is not to be taxed with credulity for believing the report concerning Christ, or for building upon it the hope of a cure which medicine had been unable to effect. Instead of sending for him, as in the case of ordinary physicians, “he went to him.” The distance between Capernaum and Cana was about a day's journey, as we may gather from verse 52. He was met on his way homeward, rejoicing in the belief of the power and grace of Christ, the day after he had received the assurance: “Yesterday,” said the servants, “ at the seventh hour the fever left him.” Here then we have nobility descending from its stateliness, waving ceremony, assuming the form of a supplicant. Was it thereby degraded? No, to follow the honest impulse of nature, to submit to the obligations of propriety and decorum, to employ fair means to obtain a desirable end, is no degradation, even to a prince. Vice alone degrades, and exposes a man to shame, and lowers his dignity in the eyes of God, and of his fellow creatures.
Calamity brings down the loftiness of the human spirit. We have a noted instance of this in the history of Ben-hadad the king of Syria. In the pride of his heart, in girding on his harness, in the confidence of superiority, he sends this insulting message to the king of Israel; “Thus saith Ben-hadad, thy silver and thy gold is mine, thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest are mine.” Unmollified by submission, he assumes a still haughtier tone, and proceeds to take by violence what had been quietly yielded to him. But brought to himself by a total defeat of his formidable army, he lowers his tone and humbles himself to the man whom he had insulted: servants with sackcloth girded on their loins, and ropes upon their heads, “came to the king of Israel, and said, Thy servant Ben-hadad saith, I pray thee, let me live,” a confirmation of the truth of the wise man’s observation: “Pride goeth before destruction : and a haughty spirit before a fall.” We would not be thought to insinuate that pride is an inseparable concomitant of greatness, or insolence, of a prosperous condition. But the flattery of inferiours, and the constant means of selfgratification, acting habitually on a principle radically corrupt, have, without doubt, a very dangerous tendancy to mislead the understanding, and to corrupt the heart: adversity dispels the illusion, and tells a man feelingly what he is. But for the indisposition of his son, the father might have remained a slave to the world, and died a martyr to the pride of life, and a stranger to the Saviour of mankind. Blessed is that dispensation, be it ever so severe, which loosens a man from the things of time, which empties him of self. which leads him to God.