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against his life; and at Peter when chained in an inner prison in order to be brought forth the next day for execution: how seasonably, and in what an unlooked for manner, did God interpose for their deliverance."> Thus will he exert his almighty power on behalf of all who serve him faithfully, unless indeed the hour is come for them to receive their full reward. We never need to fear the face of man: for God has "put a hook in the nose, and a bridle in the jaws," of every man; "nor can any have even the smallest power against us, except it be given him from above."
But notwithstanding our assurance of divine protection, we ought to take all prudent precautions to avoid the fury of our enemies, and to avail ourselves of those methods of escape -which God in his providence has opened to us. "If they persecute us in one city, we should flee to another," and like Paul, when "let down by the wall in a basket," elude the resentment which we cannot pacify. We must not indeed deny Christ, or decline any duty, even though death should be the inevitable and immediate consequence of our fidelity: but we must never court death, if we have an opportunity of saving our lives by privacy or flight.]
1. What need have all Christ's followers to count the cost before they take up a profession of religion!
[Ministers indeed, for the most part, are called to stand foremost in the post of danger, and to bear the brunt of the battle: but every soldier of Christ is called to "endure hardness," and to " fight a good fight." If by our life and conversation wexondemn the world, though the reproof be tacit, and rather intimated than expressed, the world will be filled with wrath against us; and, if suffered by God, will persecute us unto death. Let us then know what we are to expect, and stand at all times prepared for the worst.]
2. What a ground of thankfulness should we esteem it, if we are in any measure divested of carnal prejudice!
[All of us, if not restrained by God, should, like the Nazarenes, be ready to vent our indignation even against Christ himself if he uttered any truths offensive to our ears. What a mercy then is it if we can hear our sins condemned, and have our indignation turned against them, rather than against our faithful Monitor! Let us cultivate this disposition, whether it respects the public preaching of the word, or private admonition. Against our sins we cannot manifest too much displeasure. Happy would it be for us, if by one act of zeal we could dispatch them utterly. Let us at least set ourselves against them without delay, and prosecute them from henceforth without intermission, and without mercy.] —-— —
fc Acts xxiii. 12, 13,16—24. Acts xii. 5—8.
CCLXXXII. THE DRAUGHT OF TISHES.
Luke v. 8—11. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus'> knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of fishes which they had taken: and sowas also fames and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not: from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, andfollowed him.
THE miracles of our Lord were such as did not admit of intrigue or collusion—Not only men on eanh, hut even the fishes of the sea were subject to his power—Of this we have abundant evidence in the preceding context—We shall make some observations on
I. The miracle
The occasion of the miracle is worthy of notice [The people had attended on a week day to hear our Lord—And Peter, after toiling all the preceding night, had preferred instruction before his necessary rest—Thus will all who. are concerned about their souls, rather strain a point to attend the house of God, than invent excuses for neglecting divine worship—Nor will they find reason, in the issue, to regret their labour—Sooner would Jesus work a miracle in their favour, than suffer his faithful followers to wait upon him in vain—]
The miracle itself was both seasonable and instructive [Peter little thought why he had been suffered to labour all night in vain—But his ill success tended greatly to illustrate the power of Jesus*—The draught of fishes shewed, that Jesus had the whole creation under his control—that in seasons of darkness and despondency we may obtain help from him— that they who follow his directions may expect his support— and that he should ever be the supreme object of* our love and confidence—]
II. The conduct of Peter on the occasion
Peter on this occasion shewed a mixture of humility and ignorance
[Our Lord's display of his glory excited astonishment in all—But Peter was more occupied about his soul than about
» See John xi. 4, 6, 15,39, 43.
his unexpected acquisitions—Thus, if the heart be upright, prosperity will not turn the soul from God any more than adversity—Peter however was apprehensive that his unworthiness might provoke this heavenly messenger to destroy him— On this account he intreated Jesus to depart from him—But he should rather have intreated his continuance with him; that through his instruction and assistance he might obtain the pardon of his sins, and victory over his corruptions—]
Our Lord overlooked his ignorance and rewarded his humility
[God has often turned away from men on account of their pride—But never on account of their self-loathing and self-abhorrence—Nothing is more pleasing to God than un-. feigned humility—Our Lord therefore would not take Peter at his word—On the contrary he now called Peter to become his constant attendant—]
III. The application which our Lord made of the miracle The draught of fishes was intended as a figurative representation of what should be done by the gospel
[It is not judicious to look for a spiritual meaning where none was intended—But our Lord himself suggests the application of this miracle—He elsewhere compares the gospel to a net cast into the seab—And here intimates, that though his servants, if left to themselves, might in vain cast the gospel net, he would surely crown their labours with success—
And an express promise of success was now given to Peter
[Peter's fears were dissipated by our Lord's exhortation-— Indeed, by every dispensation, Jesus speaks in the same encouraging terms to contrite souls—None who bewail their own sinfulness have aught to fear from him—The promise of success in catching men could not but rejoice the soul of Peter— Who that knows the value of one soul would not labour night and day to secure it?—And.how much more should we labour in hopes of saving many!—The promise was gloriously verified in Peter's first sermonc—And shall be verified to all whom Jesus has commissioned to preach his gospel—]
IV. The effect produced on Peter and his associates
TVv gladly left all to follow Christ
[They knew that the power now exercised by Jesus could provide for their wants—And felt that the goodness manifested
i> Matt. xiii. 47. » Acts ii. 41.
by him demanded their services—They willingly therefore relinquished their all to attend on him—Nor was their sacrifice the less because it is small in our eyes—Being their "all," it was as much as any man could part with—They never found reason to regret this sacrificed—Nor will any others who follow their example—]
Such is the effect which the miracles of Jesus should produce on us
[We have not indeed been called to part with our worldly possessions, and perhaps may never be—But we must be willing to do it, whenever the honour of Jesus requires the sacrifice—Surely his miracles of mercy demand this at our hands —We must devote ourselves wholly to his service—And if we obey his call in this respect, we shall assuredly dwell with him for ever*—]
d See Luke xxii. 35. * John xii. 26.
CCLXXXIII. AN UNCLEAN SPIRIT CAST OUT.
Luke iv. 53, 34. And in the synagogue there was a man which had a spirit of an unclean devil; and cried out with a lovd voice, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?
IF any doubt the existence and agency of devils, the history before us is well calculated to satisfy them upon that head—It is evident that though Satan spake by the mouth of the man whom he possessed, he spake in his own person, and in the name of those other spirits hat were leagued with him—To represent this man as disordered with an epilepsy or falling sickness is to confound things which the evangelist was most careful to distinguish' —Besides, we cannot conceive that a physican (for such was St. Luke) should mention it as a remarkable circumstance that a disorder " did not hurt" a man by leaving him;b whereas, if we suppose this to have been a dsmoniacal possession, the observation is just and proper; for wc may be sure that when Satan threw down his poor vassal, he would have hurt, yea, killed him too, if Jesus,
•Ver. 40, 41. fcVer.35.
by an invisible but almighty agency, had not interposed to prevent it—There being many accounts of evil spirits cast out by our Lord, we shall not advert to every circumstance of this miracle, but endeavour to improve that particular incident mentioned in the text; viz. the request of Satan that Jesus would let him alone—In order to this we shall I. State the ground of Satan's request
In acknowledging Jesus to be "the Holy One of God" Satan might be actuated by a desire to bring the character of Jesus into suspicion, as though they were in confederacy with each other; or perhaps he wished to impress the people with an idea that none but madmen and demoniacs would make such an acknowledgment—But in requesting Jesus to let him alone he was instigated rather by his own fears— P .. ...... .... .,
1. He knew Jesus
[Jesus was like any other poor man; his own disciples, except on some extraordinary occasions, did not appear acquainted with his real character—But Satan knew him, notwithstanding the lowly habit in which be sojourned among men—He knew Jesus to be the Son of God, who had left the bosom of his Father, that he might take our nature, and dwell amongst us—He was well aware that this Holy One must of necessity feel an irreconcileable aversion to such an "unclean spirit," such a wicked fiend as he was; while at the same time there was no hope of prevailing against him either by fraud or violence—Hence he wished to be left to himself, and to be freed as much as possible from his interposition—]
2. He dreaded Jesus
[It is not impossible but that Satan's expulsion from heaven might have arisen from his refusal to do homage to the Son of God—However this be, he well knew that Jesus was "the promised seed," who should ultimately " bruise his head" —He had already been foiled in a conflict with this despised Nazarene, and had learned by experience the impossibility of resisting his command—Nor could he be ignorant that Jesus was to be his Judge in the last day, when the full measure of his sins should be meted out to him, and his present miseries be greatly augmented—Hence, while he "believed, he trem.bled"— Hence those requests which he offered on other .occasions, "Torment me not;" "send me not into the deep'/' that . iff, the depths of belt—Hence also that question, in the passage before us, " Art thou come to destroy us?"—No wonder that, trader such circumstances, he should be filled with terror, and