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The Widow's Son raised.
THE favours of our beneficent Saviour were at the least contiguous. No sooner hath he raised the centurion's servant from his bed, than he raises the widow's son from his bier.
The fruitful clouds are not ordained to fall all in one field. Nain must partake of the bounty of Christ, as well as Cana or Capernaum. And if this sun were fixed in one orb, yet it diffuseth heat and light to all the world. It is not for any place to engross the messengers of the gospel, whose errand is universal. This immortal seed may not fall all in one
The little city of Nain stood under the hill of Hermon, near unto Tabor; but now it is watered with better dews from above, the doctrine and miracles of a Saviour.
Not for state, but for the more evidence of the work, is our Saviour attended with a large train, so entering into the gate of that walled city, as if he meant to besiege their faith by his power, and to take it. His providence hath so contrived his journey, that he meets with the sad pomp of a funeral. A woeful widow, attended with her weeping neighbours, is following her only son to the grave. There was nothing in this spectacle that did not command compassion.
A young man, in the flower, in the strength of his age, swallowed up in death. Our decrepid age both expects death and solicits it; but vigorous youth looks strangely upon that grim serjeant of God. Those mellow apples that fall alone from the tree we gather up with contentment; we chide to have the unripe unseasonably beaten down with cudgels.
But more, a young man, the only son, the only child of his mother. No condition can make it other than grievous, for a well-natured mother to part with her own bowels: yet surely store is some mitigation of loss. Amongst many children one
may be more easily missed; for still we hope the surviving may supply the comforts of the dead: but when all our hopes and joys must live or die in one, the loss of that one admits of no consolation.
When God would describe the most passionate expression of sorrow that can fall into the miserable, he can but say, "O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in the ashes, make lamentation and bitter mourning as for thine only son." Such was the loss, such was the sorrow of this disconsolate mother; neither words nor tears can suffice to discover it.
Yet more, had she been aided by the counsel and supportation of a loving yoke-fellow, this burden might have seemed less intolerable. A good husband may make amends for the loss of a son; had the root been left to her entire, she might better have spared the branch; now both are cut up; all the stay of her life is gone, and she seems abandoned to a perfect misery. And now, when she gave up herself for a forlorn mourner, past all capacity of redress, the God of comfort meets her, pities her, relieves her. Here was no solicitor but his own compassion. In other occasions he was sought and sued to. The centurion comes to him for a servant, the ruler for a son, Jairus for a daughter, the neighbours for the paralytic; here he seeks up the patient, and offers the cure unrequested. While we have to do with the Father of mercies, our afflictions are the most powerful suitors. No tears, no prayers can move him so much as his own commiseration. O God, none of our secret sorrows can be either hid from thine eyes or kept from thine heart; and when we are past all our hopes, all possibilities of help, then art thou nearest to us for deliverance.
Here was a conspiration of all parts to mercy; the heart had compassion; the mouth said, "Weep not;" the feet went to the bier, the hand touched the coffin, the power of the Deity raised the dead. What the heart felt was secret to itself; the tongue therefore expresses it in words of comfort, "Weep not." Alas! what are words to so strong and just passions? To bid her not to weep, that had lost her only son, was to persuade her to be miserable, and not feel it; to feel, and not regard it; to regard, and yet to smother it. Concealment doth not remedy, but aggravate sorrow. That, with the council of not weeping therefore, she might see cause of
not weeping, his hand seconds his tongue.
He arrests the
coffin, and frees the prisoner! "Young man, I say unto thee, arise." The Lord of life and death speaks with command. No finite power could have said so without presumption, or with success. That is the voice that shall one day call up our vanished bodies from those elements into which they are resolved, and raise them out of their dust. Neither sea, nor death, nor hell can offer to detain their dead, when he charges them to be delivered. Incredulous nature! what, dost thou shrink at the possibility of a resurrection, when the God of nature undertakes it! It is no more hard for that Almighty word, which gave being unto all things, to say, "Let them be repaired," than, "Let them be made."
I do not see our Saviour stretching himself upon the dead corpse, as Elias and Elisha upon the sons of the Shunamite and Sareptan, nor kneeling down and praying by the bier, as Peter did to Dorcas; but I hear him so speaking to the dead, as if he were alive, and so speaking to the dead, that by the word he makes him alive; "I say unto thee, arise." Death hath no power to bid that man lie still, whom the Son of God bids arise. Immediately he that was dead sat up; so, at the sound of the last trumpet, by the power of the same voice, we shall arise out of the dust, and stand up glorious; "This mortal shall put on immortality, this corruptible incorruption." This body shall not be buried but sown, and at our day shall therefore spring up with a plentiful increase of glory. How comfortless, how desperate should be our lying down, if it were not for this assurance of rising! And now, behold, lest our weak faith should stagger at the assent to so great a difficulty, he hath already, by what he hath done, given us tastes of what he will do. The Power that can raise one man, can raise a thousand, a million, a world: no power can raise one man but that which is infinite, and that which is infinite admits of no limitation. Under the Old Testament God raised one by Elias, another by Elisha living, a third by Elisha dead: by the hand of the Mediator of the New Testament, he raised here the son of the widow, the daughter of Jairus, Lazarus; and, in attendance of his own resurrection, he made a gaol-delivery of holy prisoners at Jerusalem. He raises the daughter of Jairus from her bed, this widow's son from his coffin, Lazarus from his grave, the dead saints of Jerusalem from their rottenness; that it might appear no degree of death can hinder the efficacy of his over
ruling command. He, that keeps the keys of death, can not only make way for himself through the common hall and outer-rooms, but through the inwardest and most reserved closets of darkness.
Methinks I see this young man, who was thus miraculously awaked from his deadly sleep, wiping and rubbing those eyes that had been shut up in death, and descending from the bier, wrapping his winding-sheet about his loins, casting himself down in a passionate thankfulness at the feet of his Almighty Restorer, adoring that divine power which had commanded his soul back again to her forsaken lodging; and though I hear not what he said, yet, I dare say, they were words of praise and wonder which his returned soul first uttered. It was the mother whom our Saviour first pitied in this act, not the son, who now, forced from his quiet rest, must twice pass through the gates of death. As for her sake therefore he was raised, so to her hands was he delivered, that she might acknowledge that soul given to her, not to the possessor. Who cannot feel the amazement and ecstasy of joy that was in this revived mother, when her son now salutes her from out of another world, and both receives and gives gratulations of his new life! how suddenly were all the tears of that mournful train dried up with a joyful astonishment! how soon is that funeral banquet turned into a new birth-day feast! what striving was here to salute the late carcass of their returned neighbour! what awful and admiring looks were cast upon that Lord of life, who, seeming homely, was approved omnipotent! how gladly did every tongue celebrate both the work and the Author! "A great prophet is raised up amongst us, and God hath visited his people." A prophet was the highest name they could find for him, whom they saw like themselves in shape, above themselves in power. They were not yet acquainted with God manifested in the flesh. This miracle might well have assured them of more than a prophet; but he, that raised the dead man from the bier, would not suddenly raise these dead hearts from the grave of infidelity. They shall see reason enough to know, that the Prophet who was raised up to them, was the God that now visited them, and at last should do as much for them, as he had done for the young man, raise them from death to life, from dust to glory.
The Ruler's Son cured.
THE bounty of God so exceedeth man's, that there is a contrariety in the exercise of it: we shut our hands, because we opened them. God therefore opens his, because he hath opened them. God's mercies are as comfortable in their issue as in themselves. Seldom ever do blessings go alone: where our Saviour supplied the bridegroom's wine, there he heals the ruler's son. He had not, in all these coasts of Galilee, done any miracle, but here. "To him that hath shall be given."
We do not find Christ oft attended with nobility, here he is. It was some great peer, or some noted courtier, that was now a suitor to him for his dying son. Earthly greatness is no defence against afflictions. We men forbear the mighty; disease and death know no faces of lords or monarchs: could these be bribed, they would be too rich. Why should we grudge not to be privileged, when we see there is no spare of the greatest!
This noble ruler listens after Christ's return into Galilee. The most eminent amongst men will be glad to hearken after Christ in their necessity. Happy was it for him that his son was sick; he had not else been acquainted with his Saviour, his soul had continued sick of ignorance and unbelief. Why else doth our good God send us pain, losses, opposition, but that he may be sought to? Are we afflicted, whither should go but to Cana to seek Christ? whither but to the Cana of heaven, where our water of sorrow is turned to the wine of gladness, to that omnipotent Physician who healeth all our infirmities, that we may once say, "It is good for me that I was afflicted!"
It was but a day's journey from Capernaum to Cana; thence hither did this courtier come for the cure of his son's fever. What pains even the greatest can be content to take for bodily health! no way is long, no labour tedious to the desirous. Our souls are sick of a spiritual fever, labouring under the cold fit of infidelity, and the hot fit of self-love, and we sit still at home, and see them languish unto death.
This ruler was neither faithless nor faithful: had he been