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flict-r--We shall be ready to dictate to Jesus both the time and manner of his interference, and to limit his powers according to our own narrow apprehensions of them—When our faith is strengthened, we shall rest more simply on his declarations and promises—We shall not, like Zachafias, want a sign to confirm, them, or, like Rebekah, use sinful means of hastening their accomplishment*—We shall be willing to let him work in his own way—Though we see not his word yet accomplished, nor know in what way it shall be fulfilled, yet we shall be satisfied, and content to wait till he shall clear up to us what is dark and intricateb—Our expectation will be patient, and our confidence in him assured—Like Abraham, we shall not stagger at his promises, but give him the glory of his faithfulness and omnipotence0—]
Nor does God fail to distinguish these different degrees of faith by different tokens of his approbation—This will' appear while we observe
II. The more we exercise faith, the more evidence of its efficacy and acceptance will God vouchsafe unto us
The experience of" the nobleman well illustrates this truth
[His faith while it was yet weak, prevailed for the obtaining of the mercy he desired—Jesus kindly overlooked his impatience, and granted him even more than he had asked— This was a rich reward of faith—But when the nobleman returned home in full expectation of finding every thing true which Jesus had declared, his faith received a yet stronger confirmation from the account which the servants gave him—> And the more minutely he enquired into the circumstances of his son's recovery, the more fully was he convinced that it had been effected by the invisible agency of the Lord Jesus—By this was his faith yet more abundantly confirmed, insomuch that both he and all his family became disciples of Jesusd—]
The same may be traced in the experience of all believers
[The smallest degree of true faith will surely bring them the pardon of their sins, and whatever is absolutely needful for their salvation—" If their faith be only as a grain of mustard-seed, it shall remove mountains"—But, if they be strong in faith, they shall see the glory of God in a far more conspicuous manner'—They may not indeed immediately see God, as it were, in the act of working; but they shall see frequent
» Luke i. 18. Compare Gen. xxv. 23. and xxvii. 8—10.
» Isai. xxviii. 16. » Rom. iv. 20. * Ver. 52, 53.
e John xi. 40. ,
reason to exclaim, "What hath God wrought!"—When they come to compare events with the promises of God, they will be constrained to acknowledge and adore his good providence —They will see how indebted they have been to his gracious interposition fo.* many deliverances from danger, supports in trouble, and victories in their spiritual warfare—They may indeed, like Joshua himself, be so stumbled for a,moment by some dark dispensation, that they shall almost doubt whether they have not been under a delusionf—But like him, they shall be enabled to look back for a series of years, to recount the mercies of the Lord, and to, bear testimony to his unalterable truth and faithfulness1?—Upon a review of their lives, they shall have as clear evidences of a divine interposition in their favour, as if they had seen a miracle wrought before their eyes—Nor shall they hesitate to declare with the holy apostle, "He that hath wrought us to the self-same thing is God"b—]
To Improve this subject, we would suggest some suitable advice
1. Let all personal or domestic troubles lead us to Jesus
[" We are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward"— None are exempt from it in this vale of tears—The nobleman is as much exposed to it as the beggar—But God sends it for good—He sends us adversity that we may be led to consideration—And many have found cause to bless him for their troubles—Many must say, "Before I was afflicted I went astray;" " It is good for me that I have been afflicted"—" Hear then the rod, and him that hath appointed it"—-Its voice to us is, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found;" "turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die"—Improve afflictions thus, and you will be thankful for them to all eternity—What a mercy in the issue did the sickness of the nobleman's son prove both to the nobleman and all his family!—And most assuredly, if your troubles should prove the means of bringing you to an acquaintance with Jesus, and an experience of his grace, you will never regret the means by which the mercy was conferred upon you—]
2. Let us never prescribe to Jesus, or limit the power of his grace
[The Lord knows best how to deal with his people—He went to the Centurion's house because he was both humble and believing; but refused to go to the nobleman's, that he might more effectually correct his pride and unbelief—Thus he may pursue various methods with us—But he will act in all things with'consummate wisdom—He will "abound towards us in
f Jo9h. vii. 6—9. e Josh, xxiii. 14. '2 Cor. v. 5.
all wisdom and prudence"—Let us then commit ourselves to him, saying, When thou wilt, and what thou wilt, and as thou wilt—In this way we shall have our minds composed, and our thoughts established—And though he may lead us, as he did the Israelites, by a very tedious and circuitous path, yet we shall find at last that it was the M right way"*—]
3. Let every fresh discovery of.his mercy make us more solicitous to bring others to him
[The nobleman doubtless related to his family all that Jesus had spoken to him; and was instrumental in bringing nil his family to believe in him—And shall not we make this improvement of his mercies vouchsafed to us?—Shall we not exhort those, over whom we have influence, to trust in his word?—Surely if we express a concern for their bodily welfare, we should be no less solicitous for the salvation of their souls—And if we have found the benefit of believing in him ourselves, we should labour that all around us may be partakers of that benefit—By telling of his goodness we shall pay him that trihute which he expects at our hands, and anticipate that employment in which we hope to be occupied to all eternity—i]
CCLXXXI. CHRIST ESCAPES FROM HIS BLOOD-THIRSTY PERSECUTORS.
Luke iv. 28—30. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filted with wrath, and rose up, and thrust htm out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill (whereon their city was built) that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them, .went his way.
NOTHING is more uncertain or transient than popular applause. However just may be the grounds of any praise that is bestowed, the smallest circumstance is sufficient to obliterate all remembrance of a person's merits, and to render him an object of general indignation. At the close of his life our Lord experienced this in a most astonishing degree: for the very people, who but three days before had followed him vvi h acclamations and hosannas, were instigated by their rulers to cry out with equal fervour, Crucify him, crucify hmi. Scarcely inferior to this was the instance that occurred to him the very first time he preached at Nazareth. When his sermon was but half finished, his auditors were filled with admiration at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth: but before the close of it, they rose up in murderous rage in order to destroy him.
We shall consider
Our blessed Lord had preached to them in a kind but faithful manner
[He had opened to them a passage from the prophet Isaiah, and informed them, that it was accomplished in him. This on the whole afforded general satisfaction: but yet he saw that there were some objections lurking in their minds, relative to his parentage and education; and that they were displeased because he had not given a preference to his own townsmen, and wrought his miracles there rather than at other places. These objections he anticipated, and proceeded to return an answer to them. He observed, first, that prophets in general were not received in the place where they had been educated, because the people who had known them as equals or inferiors, did not like to submit to them in their prophetic character. Secondly, he shewed them from different instances in the scriptures, that God had always dispensed his favours in a sovereign manner, and had sometimes imparted them to the despised Gentiles in preference to hi*, own peculiar people.
This was the immediate purport of what he spake: but doubtless there Was much more insinuated, than what was plainly expressed. His answer was intended to bring conviction upon their minds, and to shew them, that they were indulging prejudices against him in spite of all they had heard respecting him; and that, if they yielded to their unbelief, they would constrain him to withhold his blessings from them, and even to send them to the Gentile world in preference to them.]
This was t!ie true ground of all their rage
[They saw the drift of his discourse: but they hated the light; and therefore sought immediately to extinguish it. They were not disposed to contend with him in a way of argument; for they saw that the truth was against them. They resorted therefore to clamour and persecution, the usual substitutes for truth and reason. But to reject him merely, was not sufficient: nor could they be contented even with expelling him from the citv: no; nothing but his blood would
Vol. III. I i
satisfy them; and therefore, forgetting the sanctity both of the synagogue and of the sabbath, they rose up with one consent, and thrust him out of the city to an eminence, that they might dispatch him in a moment. Probably in executing thus, what they would have calied, the judgment of zeal,1 they thought they were doing an acceptable service to their God; so blinded were they by their own passions, and "captivated by the devil at his will."]
The inspired historian has declared to us II. The manner in which our Lord escaped its effects
Our blessed Lord on different occasions withdrew himself from those who loved, and from those who hated him.b His escape from thtm at this time may be considered
1. As it respected them
[His withdrawment from them was miraculous, as much as if he had beaten them all down with his word,c or smitten them with blindness,d or struck them dead upon the spot.e The precise mode of his withdrawment is not specified; but it seems that he rendered himself invisible, and thus escaped from their hands.
It was also merciful, both as it tended to convince them of his miraculous power, and especially as it prevented them from executing their murderous purposes. What a mercy did David esteem it, when by the interposition of Abigail he was kept from destroying Nabal!f Much more, if they ever received grace to repent of their wickedness, was it a mercy to those infatuated zealots, that they had not been suffered to imbrue their hands in the blood of God's only Son.
But it was also judicial: for, by means of his departure, the people of Nazareth were deprived of many temporal benefits, which, if they had received him more worthily, he would have imparted to them: they were deprived also of his spiritual instructions, which, if duly improved, would have converted and saved their souls.]
2. As it respects us
[In this escape of his we see, what care he will take of us, and what care we ought to take of ourselves.
Every faithful servant of God must expect persecution. But he is immortal till his work is done. God will screen him from his enemies, how numerous, potent, or inveterate soever they may be.* Look at Paul when a conspiracy was formed
.» Numb, xxv 7—13. i> Luke xxiv. 31 John viii. 59.
» Jciin xviii. 6. d Gen. xix. 11.2 Kings vi. 18.
e 2 Kings i. 10, 12. f 1 Sam. xxv. 32, 33.
« Zech. ii. 5. Isai. xxxiii. 21, 22. 2 Kings vi. 16, if.,