« AnteriorContinuar »
themselves, by how much longer they afflict us. So it is in the soul, so in the state; vices, which are the sicknesses of both, when they grow inveterate, have a strong plea for their abode and uncontrolableness.
Yet more, to mend the matter, poverty, which is another disease, has superadded to her sickness; “ she had spent all she had upon physicians." While she had wherewith to make much of herself, and to procure good tendance, choice diet, and all the succours of a distressing languishment, she could not but find some mitigation of her sorrow : but now want began to pinch her no less than her distemper, and helped to make her perfectly miserable.
Yet could she have parted from her substance with ease, her complaint had been the less. Could the physicians have given her, if not health, yet relaxation and painlessness, her means had not been misbestowed: but now, “she suffered many things from them;" many an unpleasing potion, many tormenting incisions and divulsions did she endure from their hands; the remedy was equal in trouble to the disease.
Yet, had the cost and pain been never so great, could she have thereby purchased health, the match had been happy; all the world were no price for this commodity; but alas, her estate was the worse, her body not the better; her money was wasted, not her disease. Art could give her neither cure nor hope. It were injurious to blame that noble science, for that it always speeds not. Notwithstanding all those sovereign remedies, men must, in their times, sicken and die. Even the miraculous gifts of healing could not preserve the owners from disease and dissolution.
It were pity but that this woman should have been thus sick; the nature, the durableness, cost, pain, incurableness of her disease, both sent her to seek Christ, and moved Christ to her cure. Our extremities drive us to our Saviour, his love draws him to be most present and helpful to our extremities. When we are forsaken of all succours and hopes, we are fittest for his redress. Never are we nearer to help, than when we despair of help. There is no fear, no danger, but in our own insensibleness.
This woman was a stranger to Christ; it seems she had never seen him. The report of his miracles had lifted her up to such a confidence of his power and mercy, as that she said in herself , “ If I may but touch the hem of his garment
shall be whole." The shame of her disease stopt her mouth from any verbal suit. Had her infirinity been known, she had been shunned and abhorred, and disdainfully put back of all the beholders, as doubtless, where she was known, the law forced her to live apart. Now she conceals both her grief and her desire and her faith ; and only speaks where she may be bold, within herself, “ If I may but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be whole."
I seek not mysteries in the virtue of the hem, rather than of the garinent. Indeed, it was God's command to Israel, that they should be marked, not only in their skin, but in their clothes too: those fringes and ribbands upon the borders of their garments were for holy memorials of their duty, and God's law. But that hence she supposed to find more virtue and sanctity in the touch of the hem than of the coat, I neither dispute nor believe; it was the sight, not the signification that she intimated ; not as of the best part, but the utmost. In all likelihood, if there could have been virtue in the garment, the nearer to the body, the more. then the praise of this woman's faith, that she promiseth her: self cure from the touch of the utmost hem. Whosoever would look to receive any benefit from Christ, must come in faith : it is that only which makes us capable of any favour. Satan, the common ape of the Almighty, imitates bim also in this point: all his charms and spells are ineffectual without the faith of the user, of the receiver.
Yea, the endeavour and issue of all, both human and spiritual things, depends upon our faith. Who would commit a plant or seed to the earth, if he did not believe to have it nursed in that kindly bosom ? What merchant would put himself upon the guard of an inch-board in a furious sea, if he did not trust to the faithful custody of that plank? Who would trade, or travel, or war, or marry, if he did not therein surely trust he should speed well? What benefit can we look to carry from a divine exhortation, if we do not believe it will edify us? from a sacramental banquet, the food of angels, if we do not believe it will nourish our souls ? from our best devotions, if we do not persuade ourselves they will fetch down blessings ? O our vain and heartless services ! if we do not say, may I drink but one drop of that heavenly nectar, may I taste but one crumb of that bread of life, may I hear but one word from the mouth of Christ, may I send up but one hearty sigh or ejaculation of an holy desire to my God, I shall be whole.
According to her resolution is her practice. She touched, but she came behind to touch ; whether for humility, or her secrecy rather, as desiring to steal a cure unseen, unnoted. She was a Jewess, and therefore well knew that her touch was, in this case, no better than a pollution, as her’s, perhaps, but not of him. For on the one side, necessity is under no positive law; on the other, the Son of God was not capable of impurity. Those may be defiled with a touch, that cannot heal with a touch; he, that was above law, is not comprised in the law: be we never so unclean, he may heal us, we cannot infect him. O Saviour, my soul is sick and foul enough with the spiritual impurities of sin; let me, by the hand of faith, lay hold but upon the hem of thy garment (thy righteousness is thy garment), it shall be both clean and whole.
Who would not think but a man might lade up a dish of water out of the sea unmissed? Yet that water, though inuch, is finite; those drops are within number: that art, which hath reckoned how many corns of sand would make up a world, could more easily compute how many drops of water would make up an ocean; whereas the mercies of God are absolutely infinite, and beyond all possibility of proportion : and yet this bashful soul cannot steal one drop of mercy from this endless, boundless, bottomless sea of divine bounty, but it is felt and questioned; “And Jesus said, Who touched
Who can now say that he is a poor man that reckons his store, when that God, who is rich in mercy, doth so? He knows all his own blessings, and keeps just tallies of our receipts ; delivereth so much honour to this man, to that so much wealth; so much knowledge to one, to another so much strength. How carefully frugal should we be in the notice, account, usage of God's several favours, since his bounty sets all his gifts upon the file! Even the worst servant in the gospel confessed his talents, though he employed them not. We are worse than the worst, if either we misknow, or dissemble, or forget them.
Who now can forbear the disciple's reply? Who touched thee, O Lord? the multitude. Dost thou ask of one, when thou art pressed by many? In the midst of a throng, dost thou ask, “Who touched me?"
Yea, but yet, some one touched me:” all thronged me; but one touched me. How riddle-like soever it may seem to sound, they that thronged me touched me not; she only touched me that thronged me not, yea, that touched me not. Even so, O Saviour, others touched thy body with theirs, she touched thy hem with her hand, thy divine power with her soul.
Those two parts whereof we consist, the bodily, the spiritual, do in a sort partake of each other. The soul is the man, and hath those parts, senses, actions which are challenged as proper to the body. This spiritual part hath both an hand, and a touch ; it is by the hand of faith that the soul toucheth; yea, this alone both is, and acts all the spiritual senses of that immaterial and divine part ; this sees, hears, tasteth, toucheth God; and without this, the soul doth none of these. All the multitude then pressed Christ: he took not that for a touch, since faith was away; only she touched him that believed to receive virtue by his touch. Outward fasbionableness comes into no account with God; that is only done which the soul doth. It is no hoping that virtue should go forth from Christ to us, when no hearty desires go forth from us to him. He that is a Spirit, looks to the deportment of that part wbich resembleth himself: as, without it
, the body is dead; so, without the actions thereof, bodily devotions are but carcasses.
What reason had our Saviour to challenge this touch? “Somebody touched me.' The multitude, in one extreme, denied any touch at all : Peter, in another extreme, affirmed an over-touching of the multitude. Betwixt both, he who felt it can say, “Somebody touched me.” Not all, as Peter; not none, as the multitude; but somebody. How then, O Saviour, how doth it appear that somebody touched thce? "For I perceive virtue is gone out from me.” The effect proves the act; virtue gone out evinces the touch. These two are in thee convertible; virtue cannot go out of thee but by a touch, and no touch can be of thee, without virtue going out from thee. That which is a rule in nature, that' every agent works by a contract, holds spiritually too: then dost thou, O God, work upon our souls, when thou touchest our hearts by the Spirit; then do we re-act upon thee, when we touch thee by the hand of our faith and confidence in thee; and, in both these, virtue goes out from thee to us; yet goes not so out, as that there is less in thee. In all
bodily emanations, whose powers are but finite, it must needs follow, that, the more is sent forth, the less is reserved : but as it is in the sun, which gives us light, yet loseth none ever the more, the luminosity of it being no whit impaired by that perpetual emission of lightsome beams, so much more is it in thee, the Father of lights. Virtue could not go out of thee without thy knowledge, without thy sending. Neither was it in a dislike, or in a grudging exprobration, that thou saidst, “Virtue is gone out from me.” Nothing could please thee better, than to feel virtue fetched out from thee by the faith of the receiver. It is the nature and praise of good to be communicative: none of us would be other than liberal of our little, if we did not fear it would be lessened by imparting. Thou, that knowst thy store so infinite, that participation doth only glorify and not diminish it, canst not but be more willing to give, than we to receive. If we take but one drop of water from the sea, or one corn of sand from the shore, there is so much, though insensibly, less : but were we capable of worlds of virtue and benediction from that munificent hand, our enriching could no whit impoverish thee. Thou, which were wont to hold it much“ better to give than to receive,” canst not but give gladly. Fear not, O my soul, to lade plentifully at this well, this ocean of mercy, which, the more thou takest, overflow's the more.
But why then, O Saviour, why didst thou thus inquire, thus expostulate? was it for thy own sake, that the glory of the miracle might thus come to light, which otherways had been smothered in silence? was it for Jairus's sake, that his depressed heart might be raised to a confidence in thee, whose mighty power he saw proved by this cure, whose omniscience he saw proved by the knowledge of the cure? or, was it chiefly for the woman's sake, for the praise of her faith, for the securing of her conscience ?
It was within herself that she said, “If I may but touch :" none could hear this voice of the heart, but he that made it. It was within herself that the cure was wrought: none of the beholders knew her complaint, much less her recovery; none noted her touch, none knew the occasion of her touch. What a pattern of powerful faith had we lost, if our Saviour had not called this act to trial! as her modesty hid her disease, so it would have hid ber virtue. Christ will not suffer this secrecy. O the marvellous, but free dispensation