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neither hath he thought good to allow us only the bread of sufficiency, but sometimes of pleasure. One while that is but necessary, which some other time were superfluous. It is a scrupulous injustice to scant ourselves where God hath been liberal.
To whom should we complain of any want, but to the Maker and Giver of all things? The blessed Virgin knew to whom she sued: she had good reason to know the divine nature and power of her Son. Perhaps the bridegroom was not so needy, but, if not by his purse, yet by his credit, he might have supplied that want; or it were hard, if some of the neighbour guests, had they been duly solicited, might not have furnished him with so much wine as might suffice for the last service of a dinner. But blessed Mary knew a nearer way: she did not think best to lade at the shallow channel, but runs rather to the well-head, where she may dip and fill the firkins at once with ease. It may be, she saw that the train of Christ, which, unbidden, followed unto that feast, and unexpectedly added to the number of the guests, might help forward that defect, and therefore she justly solicits her Son Jesus for a supply. Whether we want bread, or water, or wine, necessaries or comforts, whither should we run, O Saviour, but to that infinite munificence of thine, which neither denieth nor upbraideth any thing? we cannot want, we cannot abound, but from thee. Give us what thou wilt, so thou give us contentment with what thou givest.
But what is this I hear? a sharp answer to the suit of a mother: "O woman, what have I to do with thee?" He, whose sweet mildness and mercy never sent away any supplicant discontented, doth he only frown upon her that bare him? he, that commands us to honour father and mother, doth he disdain her whose flesh he took? God forbid: Love and duty doth not exempt parents from due admonition. She solicited Christ as a mother, he answers her as a woman. she were the mother of his flesh, his deity was eternal. She might not so remember herself to be a mother, that she should forget she was a woman; nor so look upon him as a son, that she should not regard him as a God. He was so obedient to her as a mother, that withal she must obey him as her God. That part which he took from her shall observe her; she must observe that nature which came from above, and made her both a woman and a mother. Matter of
miracle concerned the Godhead only; supernatural things were above the sphere of fleshly relation. If now the blessed Virgin will be prescribing either time or form unto divine acts, "O woman, what have I to do with thee? my hour is not come." In all bodily actions his style was, "O mother:" in spiritual and heavenly, "O woman.' Neither is it for us, in the holy affairs of God, to know any faces; yea, "If we have known Christ heretofore according to the flesh, henceforth know we him so no more."
O blessed Virgin, if, in that heavenly glory wherein thou art, thou canst take notice of these earthly things, with what indignation dost thou look upon the presumptuous superstition of vain men, whose suits make thee, more than a solicitor of divine favours! thy humanity is not lost in thy motherhood, nor in thy glory: the respects of nature reach not so high as heaven. It is far from thee to abide that honour which is stolen from thy Redeemer.
There is a marriage whereto we are invited, yea, wherein we are already interested, not as the guests only, but as the bride, in which there shall be no want of the wine of gladness. It is marvel, if in these earthly banquets there be not some lack. "In thy presence, O Saviour, there is fulness of joy, and at thy right-hand are pleasures for evermore. Blessed are they that are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb.
Even in that rough answer doth the blessed Virgin descry cause of hope. If his hour were not yet come it was therefore coming: when the expectation of the guests, and the necessity of the occasion, had made fit room for the miracle, it shall come forth and challenge their wonder. Faithfully therefore, and observantly, doth she turn her speech from her son to the waiters; "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." How well doth it beseem the mother of Christ to agree with his Father in heaven, whose voice from heaven said, "This is my well-beloved Son, hear him!" She that said of herself, "Be it unto me according to thy word," says unto others, "Whatsoever he saith to you, do it." This is the way to have miracles wrought in us, obedience to his word. The power of Christ did not stand upon their officiousness: he could have wrought wonders in spite of them; but their perverse refusal of his commands might have made them incapable of the favour of a miraculous action. He that can, when he will, convince the obstinate, will not grace the
[BOOK II. disobedient. He that could work without us, or against us, will not work for us, but by us.
This very poor house was furnished with many and large vessels for outward purification; as if sin had dwelt upon the skin, that superstitious people sought holiness in frequent washings. Even this rinsing fouled them with the uncleanness of a traditional will-worship. It is the soul which needs scouring; and nothing can wash that but the blood which they desperately wished upon themselves and their children, for guilt, not for expiation. "Purge thou us, O Lord, with hyssop, and we shall be clean; wash us, and we shall be whiter than snow.'
The waiters could not but think strange of so unseasonable a command, "Fill the water-pots." It is wine that we want, what do we go to fetch water? doth this holy man mean thus to quench our feast, and cool our stomachs? if there be no remedy, we could have sought this supply unbidden. Yet so far hath the charge of Christ's mother prevailed, that, instead of carrying flagons of wine to the table, they go to fetch pailfuls of water from the cisterns. It is no pleading of unlikelihoods against the command of an Almighty power.
He, that could have created wine immediately in those vessels, will rather turn water into wine. In all the course of his miracles, I do never find him making ought of nothing; all his great works are grounded upon former existencies. He multiplied the bread, he changed the water, he restored the withered limbs, he raised the dead, and still wrought upon that which was, and did not make that which was not. What doth he in the ordinary way of nature, but turn the watery juice that arises up from the root into wine? he will only do this now suddenly, and at once, which he doth usually by sensible degrees. It is ever duly observed by the Son of God, not to do more miracle than he needs.
How liberal are the provisions of Christ! if he had turned but one of these vessels, it had been a just proof of his power, and perhaps that quantity had served the present necessity: now he furnisheth them with so much wine as would have served an hundred and fifty guests for an entire feast. Even the measure magnifies at once both his power and mercy. The munificent hand of God regards not our need only, but our honest affluence. It is our sin and our shame, if we turn his favour into wantonness. There must be first a filling, ere
there be a drawing out. Thus, in our vessels, the first care must be of our receipt; the next of our expense. God would have us cisterns, not channels. Our Saviour would not be his own taster, but he sends the first draught to the governor of the feast. He knew his own power, they did not: neither would he bear witness of himself, but fetch it out of others' mouths. They that knew not the original of that wine, yet praised the taste, "Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now." The same bounty that expressed itself in the quantity of the wine, shews itself no less in the excellence. Nothing can fall from that divine hand not exquisite: that liberality hated to provide crab-wine for his guests. It was fit that the miraculous effects of Christ, which came from his immediate hand, should be more perfect than the natural. O blessed Saviour, how delicate is that new wine which we shall one day drink with thee in thy Father's kingdom! Thou shalt turn this water of our earthly affliction into that wine of gladness, wherewith our souls shall be satiate for ever. "Make haste, O my beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young the mountains of spices."
The good Centurion.
EVEN the bloody trade of war yielded worthy clients to Christ. This Roman captain had learned to believe in that Jesus whom many Jews despised. No nation, no trade can shut out a good heart from God. If he were a foreigner for birth, yet he was a domestic in heart. He could not change his blood, he could overrule his affections. He loved that nation which was chosen of God; and if he were not of the synagogue, yet he built a synagogue; where he might not be a party, he would be a benefactor. Next to being good, is a favouring of goodness. We could not love religion, if we utterly want it. How many true Jews were not so zealous! either will or ability lacked in them, whom duty more obliged. Good affections do many times more than supply nature. Neither doth God regard whence, but what we are. I do not see this centurion come to Christ, as the Israelitish captain came to Elias in Carmel, but with his cap in his hand,
with much suit, much submission, by others, by himself: he sends first the elders of the Jews, whom he might hope that their nation and place might make gracious; then, lest the employment of others might argue neglect, he seconds them in person. Cold and fruitless are the motions of friends, where we do wilfully shut up our own lips. Importunity cannot but speed well in both. Could we but speak for ourselves, as this captain did for his servant, what could we possibly want? What marvel is it, if God be not forward to give, where we care not to ask, or ask as if we cared not to receive? shall we yet call this a suit, or a complaint? I hear no one word of entreaty. The less is said, the more is concealed: it is enough to lay open his want. He knew well that he had to deal with so wise and merciful a physician, as that the opening of the malady was a craving of cure. If our spiritual miseries be but confessed, they cannot fail of redress.
Great variety of suitors resorted to Christ; one comes to him for a son, another for a daughter, a third for himself: I see none come for his servant, but this one centurion. Neither was he a better man than a master. His servant is sick : he doth not drive him out of doors, but lays him at home; neither doth he stand gazing by his bed-side, but seeks forth: he seeks forth, not to witches or charmers, but to Christ: he seeks to Christ, not with a fashionable relation, but with a vehement aggravation of the disease. Had the master been sick, the faithfullest servant could have done no more. He is unworthy to be well served, that will not sometimes wait upon his followers. Conceits of inferiority may not breed in us a neglect of charitable offices. So must we look down upon our servants here on earth, as that we must still look up to our Master which is in heaven.
But why didst thou not, O centurion, rather bring thy servant to Christ for cure, than sue for him absent? there was a paralytic, whom faith and charity brought to our Saviour, and let down through the uncovered roof in his bed: why was not thine so carried, so presented? was it out of the strength of thy faith, which assured thee thou needest not shew thy servant to him that saw all things? One and the same grace may yield contrary effects. They, because they believed, brought the patient to Christ; thou broughtst not thine to him, because thou believedst: their act argues no less desire, than more confidence; thy labour was less, because thy faith