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troubles are sanctified will remember the vows that are upon them—They will repair as soon as possible, not to houses of dissipation or amusement, but to " the temple" of God—And, while others are only hardened by their mercies, these will be favoured with fresh manifestations of God's love—The man whom our Lord addressed in the text, experienced this—When he was returning thanks for the cure he had received in his body, Jesus instructed him for the good of his soul—We shall consider I. The cure wrought for him
Bethesda was a pool that possessed very singular qualities
[The name Bethesda signifies an house of mercy—The pool so called had the property of healing all manner of disorders—Its healing operations, however, were confined to certain seasons—They depended also on the agency of a superior power"—And were limited to the first person that went into it after its waters were agitated by an angel—Multitudes of diseased persons constantly attended there—And five porches were built for their accommodation—When that healing power was first given to it cannot be ascertained—Probably God had buta few years before endued it with those qualities, in order to prepare the people for their Messiah, and to typify his works—]
In the porches around this pool an impotent man had long waited in vain
[He had laboured under an infirmity thirty-eight years— And had long attended there in hopes of a cure—But he had no friend to help him with sufficient speed—Nor had the people charity enough to let him take his turn—Every one consulted his own good in preference to his—And thus his efforts were daily frustrated, and his hopes continually deferred—]
But Jesus seeing him, wrought a miracle iri his favour [Jesus needed no solicitations to excite his pity—Though unasked, he tendered the man effectual relief—Little indeed did the man understand the import of our .Lord's question">—.. But Jesus uttered the irresistible command—And instantly was health restored to his diseased body—Yea, he, who but the moment before could not get into the pool for want of help,
* To ascribe them to the blood of the sacrifices stirred up in the water by a messenger from the temple, only shews to what wretched shifts infidelity is often driven by its desire to explain away the miracles of Christ. b Ver. 6, 7.
now easily took up his bed and walked—Nor was he intimidated by those who accused him of violating the sabbath-* Jrle rightly judged that the person who had power to heal him thus miraculously, had also authority to direct his conduct—]
For a short season the man knew not the name of his benefactor—But soon after enjoyed an interview with liim in the temple—On this occasion the Evangelist relates II. The advice given to him
It was sin which had brought this infirmity upon him [God often punishes transgressors even in this life*—Thii was extremely common under the Jewish economy—Nor are there wanting instances under the Christian dispensation'i—If we could dive into the secrets of God it is probable we should trace many of our troubles to sin as their proper source—]
Nevertheless this did not preclude the exercise of mercy towards him
f Jesus was full of compassion even' to the most unworthy-r-He often selected such to be the chief objects of his mercy*—Indeed, the displaying of his sovereignty, and grace, ii a principal end of all his dispensations'—]
But he solemnly cautioned him against sin in future [Though Jesus pities sinners, he abhors their sin—Nor will he accept the persons of those who live in if—He reminded the man of the deliverance he had experienced— And guarded him against the cause of his past calamities— This admonition too he enforced with a most weighty argument—The years of misery that the cripple had endured were nothing in comparison of hell torments—-These will hereafter be the recompence of sin—Nor will any feel them so bitterly as backsliders and apostatesb—<-]
1. Those who are under the pressure of bodily or spiritual infirmities
[Jesus possesses the same power still over bodily diseases •—And will render (he skill of earthly physicians subservient to the welfare of those who call upon him—liut the infirmities of our souls are incomparably more grievous—Yet these also can he heal by the word of his mouth—If he only speak the word, we shall become new creatures—His ordinances shaS
be to us as Bethesda's pool—Nor is it the most active, but the most humble that shall obtain the cure—Let us then tarry his leisure with meekness and patience—T.e< ... nevi-r needlessly absent ourselves from his house—Wt ;. .■. not the time that he will come to our help—But his * ... very one of us is, "Wilt thou be made whole?"—H > r. nts are ready to render us all needful assistance—And \ •< ■.,? not utterly our own fault, we may all become monuments yi his healing mercy—] „
2. Those who have experienced any signal deliverance [Temporal deliverances should be remembered by us with gratitude—And we should be glad to acknowledge them in the house of God'—If we have received spiritual mercies, we have still more abundant cause for thankfulness—Let our renewed faculties then be ever devoted to God's service—Let us remember also that we are in danger of turning back from God—And how terrible must our state be if we should do so!k —Let the mercies of God then allure us, and his terrors persuade us—Let us endeavour to resemble him whom the apostles healedi—And soon we shall dwell where we shall know infirmity no more'"—]
i How many desire the prayers of their friends and of the congregation, who never afterwards desire them to render thanks for mercies received! k 2 Pet. ii. 20—22.
i Acts iii. 8. ln Isai. xxxiii. 24.
CCLXXXVIII. THE MAN WITH THE WITHERED HAND.
Mark iii. 5—7. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out:* and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea.
THE exercise of benevolence is, in itself, calculated to excite universal admiration—But it is far from producing that effect on those who are blinded by prejudice or passion—Xney whose conduct is reproved by it will rather take occasion from it to vent their spleen the more—This our Lord uniformly experienced from the Pharisees—A remarkable instance of it is recorded in the text—Let us
Vol. III. M m
1. Consider the circumstances of the miracle
The Pharisees, observing our Lord's intention to heal a man who ',. ■'• vtthered hand, questioned his right to do so on tl th day.
[Wish cuse him of inconsistency, or a contempt
of the law, ':"'.ed him whether it were lawful to heal on the sabbath . Lord shewed them that it wasb—He then
asked them, ''■'<■■ r, while they condemned him for doing so benevolent ai. u-.«o.. on the sabbath, they were more justified in indulging murderous purposes against him on the sabbath?5—They, unable to answer except to their own confusion, * held their peace"—Though convinced of their unreasonableness and impiety they would not confess it—J
Oti Lord beheld their obstinacy with indignation and grief [Meek as our Lord was, he was susceptible of anger— Yet that anger was not like the passion that too often agitates us—It was perfectly just and righteous—Sin was the object against which it was directed—And, while he was angry with the sin, he mourned over the sinner—Hereafter indeed his anger will be unmixed with any pity—But now it is, as ours also should ever be, tempered with compassion towards the offending person—]
Not intimidated by their malice he proceeded to Ik i the withered hand
[He bade the man stand forth in the midst of all—Surely such a pitiable object should have engaged all to interest themselves with Christ on his behalf—He then ordered him to stretch forth his hand'—The man, notwithstanding he knew his inability to do it of himself, attempted to obey—And in the attempt received an instantaneous and perfect cure—J
Having thus more than ever exasperated his enemies, Jesus retired from their rage
[One would have thought that all should have adored the uuthor of such a benefit—But, instead of this, the Pharisees were •4 filled with madness"d—Alas! what wickedness is there in the human heart!—They joined immediately with the Herodians in a conspiracy against his lifec—But our Lord's hour was not yet come—He withdrew therefore from their power —And thus defeated, for the present at least, their efforts against him—]
« Matt. xii. 10. b lb. rer. 11, 13. « Ver. 4. This
seems the true import of his question. * Luke vi II.
• The llcrudians and Pharisees differed so widely both in their political and religious sentiments, that they bated each other exceedingly. But what enemies will not unite against Jesus? Luke ..\mi. 12.
Having thus touched upon the principal incidents in the miracle, we shall proceed to
II. Deduce some practical observations from it
1. We should never be diverted from the path of duty by the fear of man
[Our Lord never desisted from his work through fear of giving offence—Nor should any of his followers ever regard the threats of their persecutors—They may .safely commit themselves to God—It' they fear Him, they have no reason to fear any otherf—Duty is theirs; events are his—And if he permit their enemies to prevail, he will compensate all their sufferings with present consolations and everlasting rewards'—Let all then suffer hardship as good soldiers—And be willing to follow Christ to imprisonment or death—]
2. We should never decline our duty from an apprehension of our inability to perform it
[If the man had refused to put forth his hand, it is probable he would have been left without the cure—But he saw that it was his duty to attempt whatever Christ commanded —And in endeavouring to comply he received strength sufficient—Thus when called to repent and believe, we must not be satisfied with saying, I am not able—Ministers cannot convert souls, yet they must preach the wordb—And others must expect to obtain grace, not in idle complainings, but in diligent exertions—Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee lighti—]
3. If persecuted for doing the will of God, we may avoid the storm which we cannot avert
[Jesus himself frequently hid himself when they sought to kill him—He directed his disciples to flee from their persecutorsi1—And his apostles, however willing to die, avoided, when they could, the fury of their enemiesi—Thus we also may shun the violence of persecution—Though we must be willing to die for him, we must not court death—Life is a precious gift to be improved for him—Let us preserve it therefore, while we can do so with a good conscience—And cheerfully lay it down when called to sacrifice it for his sake—]
[Some may ask, Who is sufficient for these things?m— "We answer, No man is, of himself".—But let those, whose powers are withered, apply to Christ—In endeavouring to do his will, we shall be enabled to do it—We shall do all things through him who strengtheneth us0—]
f Matt. x.28. Isai. li. 7, 8, 12, 13. g 1 Pet. iv. 13, 14.
b Ezek. xxxvii. 3, 4. 'Eph. v. 14. k Matt. x. 23.
» Acts ix. 25. m 2 Cor. ii. 16. » 2 Cor. iii. 5. 0 Phil. iv. 13.