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ask, as the consummation of his highest wishes, to have a respite granted him—]
Thai such desires were not peculiar to Satan will appear, while we
II. Enquire whether similar requests be not offered by many amongst us
It is certain that many hate the declarations of Christ in his gospel
[Men will endure to hear those sins, from which they themselves are free, exposed and condemned; but when the light is brought to discover their besetting sins, they hate it, and wish to have it removed from them—This is found to be the case even in the public ministration of the word—But it obtains in a still higher degree in private and personal admonition—Let a servant of Christ come in his master's name to a man that is proud or covetous, lewd or dissipated, or under the dominion of any particular lust, and let him set before that man the enormity of his besetting sin, and the judgments denounced against it; will he find a welcome? will not the sinner wish to change the conversation? will he not say in his heart, perhaps too with his lips, Let me alone; what hast thou to do with me?—Will not he regard such a monitor as arr enemy to his peace, and be ready to ask, " Art thou come to destroy" all my hope and comfort?—Yes; nor is this aversion to the light peculiar to the sensual and profane: it is rather found to be more inveterate among those, whose regularity in outward things has afforded them a ground for self-admiration and self-complacency—]
Such persons accord with Satan both in sentiment and inclination
[To hate the authority of Christ in his word is exactly the same as to hate his personal authority when he was upon earth: and to wish to have the light of his truth withheld from us, is the same as to desire the restraint of his personal interposition—Nor is this a mere fallible deduction of man's reason; it is the express declaration of God—They, who would not hear the law of the Lord, are represented by the prophet as saying to him, " Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us"*—Job speaks yet more plainly to the same effect: he represents those, who spent their days in wealth and pleasure, as saying to the Almighty, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways: what is the Almighty that we should serve him? and
c Isai. xxx. 9—11.
what profit should we have if we pray unto him.'d—It is evident that not only the sentiments or these sinners, but also their very expressions are almost the same with those of Satan in the text—]
To evince the folly of harbouring such dispositions we shall
III. Shew the inefficacy of such requests, by whomsoever they may be offered
It was in vain that Satan pleaded for a temporary liberty to indulge his malice
[Jesus would not even receive his acknowledgments, but peremptorily enjoined him silence—Nor would he suffer Satan to retain possession of his wretched slave—He would not even permit this cruel enemy to "hurt" him—So little were the wishes of Satan consulted by our Lord and Saviour—]
In vain also will be all our wishes to retain with impunity our beloved lusts
[God may indeed forbear to counteract us for a season, and say, Let him alone.e—When he sees that we "will none of him," he may justly give us up to our own hearts lusts'— But this would be the heaviest curse that he could inflict upon us—It would be even worse than immediate death, and immediate damnation; because it would afford us further opportunities of " treasuring up wrath" without any hope of obtaining deliverance from it—Besides, it would be only for a little time, and then "wrath would come upon us to the uttermost"—When we stand before the judgment-seat we shall in vain say, Let us alone; What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?—Our doom will then be fixed, and our sentence executed with irresistible power and inexorable firmness—When once we are "fallen into the hands of the living God," all hope of impunity or compassion will have ceased for ever—]
This subject affords us occasion to suggest a word or two
1. Rest not in a speculative knowledge of Christ [We observe that Satan was well acquainted with the person and offices of Christ—But,notwithstanding all he knew, he was a devil still—To what purpose then will be all our knowledge, if we be not sanctified by it?—It will only aggravate our guilt, and consequently enhance our condemnation also—We never know Jesus aright till we love his presence, and delight in an unreserved compliance with his will—]
2. Endeavour to improve his presence for the good of
[He comes to us in the preaching of his gospel—He has promised to be with us whenever wc are assembled in his name—Shall we then either by our aversion or indifference say to him, Let us alone?—Let us rather say, Lord, expel this evil spirit from my heart; take me under thy care; and "fulfil in me all thy good pleasure"—Thus shall "the prince of this world be cast out;" and we, his poor vassals, be "brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God"—]
CCLXXXIV. Peteu's Wife's Mother Cured.
Luke iv. 38, 39. And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken rvith a fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose, and ministered unto them.
HOWEVER much we may be beloved of God, we are not to expect an exemption from those troubles which are the common lot of humanity—Peter was one of the peculiar favourites of our Lord, and privileged to have more intimate access to him than almost any of the apostles—Yet we find severe affliction in his family— This affliction however tended in the issue (as all the trials of God's children will) to the glory of God and to his own personal benefit—This observation naturally arises from the account which we have just read respecting the miraculous recovery of his wife's mother through the interposition of our Lord—In discoursing upon it wc may notice
I. The service which Jesus rendered her
She- was seized with a very dangerous disorder [Peter, an utter stranger to the doctrine since established in the church of Rome respecting the celibacy of the clergy, was a married man, and an eminent pattern both of filial piety and conjugal affection—The aged mother of his wife was permitted to spend her declining years with him—But her near connexion with this eminent servant of God could noc preserve her from the common calamities of life—Nor could her son-in-law restore her by a miracle without an express commission from God himself*—The circumstance of her being detained from the ordinances of God must doubtless have been a great additional trial to her mind, especially at a season, when he, who "spake as never man spake," had come thither to instruct the peopleb—Peter however saw no necessity for staying from the synagogue when his mother was properly attended at home—He the rather went; and availed himself of his access to Jesus to intercede for his afflicted relative—]
Jesus restored her to perfect health
[Jesus paid the same attention to the intercessions of friends as he did to men's personal applications—It was the delight of his soul to relieve misery wherever he found it— Nor did he think his work finished, when he had exercised his ministry in the house of God—He would not cease from labour while the continuance of his labours could be of any essential service—He could indeed have healed her by a word without going to her in person—But he delighted to visit the chambers of affliction—And behold! with what condescension he acted towards her, " he took her by the hand and lifted her up;" he, the maker and governor of the universe, ad- , ministered unto her as if he had been her menial servant!Yet with what authority did he rebuke and dispel the fever!— Who could act thus but God?—Instantly did the disease vanish, and her former strength return—And universal joy succeeded to the tears of sympathy and compassion—]
In what manner she endeavoured to requite this favour we shall see by considering II. The service she rendered him
We do not estimate services by the intrinsic worth of them so much as by the affection manifested in them— In this view her services were as acceptable as any that could be rendered; "she arose and ministered unto thera" —By this conduct she unwittingly discovered
1. The reality of the miracle [Had she merely joined her family, the departure of her fever might have been imputed to a fortunate coincidence
* Perhaps the gift of miracles was not yet bestowed upon the church But after it was, the apostles could only exercise that gift when they were moved by God to do so. Why else did Paul leave Trophimus at Miletum sick (2 Tim. iv. 20.) or suffer the sickness of his dear fellow-labourer Epaphroditus to proceed to such extremity? (Phil. u. 7.)
k The loss of divine ordinances was that which David chiefly regretted when he fled from Absalom, Ps. lxxxiv. 1—-3.
of circumstances—Nor would they, who ascribed the expulsion of devils to the agency of Beelzebub, have been ashamed, to adopt such a sentiment—But, if this had been the case, her body must have still continued in a state of debility— Whereas she was able to exert herself as much as before her , sickness—This then was an unquestionable proof of the reality of the miracle0—And she became a witness for Jesus while she intended nothing more than to testify her love towards him—]
2. The goodness of her own heart
[The hearts of all are, strictly speaking, most " desperately wicked''—But our Lord tells us that "a good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things'"—. In this sense she discovered much goodness of heart—So far from being puffed up with the favour conferred upon her, she was glad to execute the meanest offices—Her heart glowed with a desire to honour her benefactor—Nor was she unmindful of the obligations she owed to those who had assisted her, or interceded for her—She ministered not to him only, but to u themn—She rejoiced in an opportunity to testify her gratitude to all—How different was this from the conduct of the nine lepers!d—Who does not reprobate them as the basest of mankind?—Whereas she did not delay one moment to testify her sense of the mercy vouchsafed to her—The one thought of her heart was, " What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits he hath done unto me?"e—O that all were likeminded with her in performing a duty which is so "lovely and of 6uch good report!"—]
3. The duty of all who have received mercies from God
[God is to be acknowledged as much in the blessing given to our food or medicine, as in the more visible effects of his miraculous interpositions—Have we then been preserved in health, or restored from sickness? Surely we stand indebted to God as much as if a miracle had been wrought in our behalf—And shall we be satisfied with making a few cold acknowledgments, and not render any active services to our benefactor?—Or shall we pretend that there is nothing that we can do for him?—Let us do what our capacity and situation enable us to do—However mean the service, it shall be accepted of him—But if we be too proud to stoop, or too idle to exert ourselves, we violate the plainest law of our nature, and render ourselves unworthy of the Christian name*—]
» Matt. ix. 6—8. * Luke xvii. 17. e Ps. cxvi. 12.
f Unthankfulness to God is specified as the summit of wickedness even in the heathen world, Rom. i. 21.