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1. Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.
A good pastor, of whom Christ is the model, proceeds continually from instruction to action, and from action to instruction. Words speak only to the understanding, works speak to the heart.
2. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
In sickness and necessity masters ought to act like fathers toward their servants. That which heathens can do upon mere human motives of compassion, honour, interest, or friendship, a Christian master ought to perform upon Christian motives, having respect to Christ in the person of his servant. Death may perhaps in a very little time make the master and the servant equal; and God may place the servant above the master. We must by charity anticipate this equality; and honour beforehand this superiority by the spirit of humility.
3. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.
It is a good presage, and a favourable omen that a man will obtain the favour which he asks, when he does not think himself worthy to obtain it by himself. He has already obtained something better than what he desires, in having received sufficient light to know himself, and humility not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.
4. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: 5. For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
The centurion is praised by men upon the account only of his external works, which interest caused them chiefly to consider. Christ reserves to himself the commending of his heart, and the discovering to us the riches of it.
6. Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under
It is unprofitable for a man to receive the sacramental representation of Christ, if he does not receive him into his heart as the centurion did. Let us, after his example, endeavour earnestly to attract him into ours by a prayer full of faith, humility, simplicity, and confidence. It is this which draws Christ into the house of this pious Gentile, while he seems to go thither as following the Jews, and only upon their recommendation. Thus it very often happens, that the blessing which God sheds upon a family, a parish, a community, or a church, is occasioned by some devout soul whose heart is known only to God, though men may attribute it all to others.
7. Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
We can no way render ourselves worthy of Jesus Christ and his grace, but by acknowledging ourselves unworthy of them. The just idea which the centurion has of the almighty power of God, and of Christ, in healing bodies by the sole motion of his will, is the pattern of that which we ought to frame concerning the almighty power of his grace, in healing souls of concupiscence. He does what he pleases with the heart, as well as with the body; being equally the creator of both. It is Christ himself who, in the cure of the paralytic, teaches us to judge thus of the one by the other.
8. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers,
and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
The pride of the synagogue, which attributed all to the merit and virtue of the works of the law, is figured by the Jews, the friends of the centurion: the faith of the church, which ascribes all to the pure mercy of God, and to the almighty operation of his will upon ours, is represented by the faith of the centurion, who is the first-fruits of the Gentiles. He shall rise up in judgment at the last day against those who, after the experience of so many ages, and the instructions of so many saints and doctors, dare yet dispute with God his omnipotent power over the heart of man.
9. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
Christ praises the virtue of men boldly and plainly, because he praises his own gifts in them, and gives them the grace not to grow vain upon them. The preference of the Gentiles before the Jews is here lightly intimated by Christ, as founded upon the too mean idea which the Jews had of his grace. Our blessed Lord's sincerity is equal, both when he praises and when he blames: but he blames the Jews when they are present, and praises the centurion only in his absence; because he does not praise him for his own sake, but for the benefit and advantage of others.
10. And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
This cure is the reward and effect of faith, prayer, and humility: the goodness of God toward men being so great, that he is pleased that the very virtues and graces which he confers upon them should be counted unto them instead of merit. It is God himself who, by the gifts of his mercy, disposes and prepares the sinner for his cure; and nothing can contribute to the reception of his grace but what is the effect of his
SECT. II.THE WIDOW OF NAIN.
11. | And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
This dead man of Nain is the emblem of a sinner dead in sin. Happy the sinner when mercy comes to meet him, at least before he is buried in his evil habits, and has filled up the measure of his sins; after which he is, as it were, buried in oblivion before God! Let us admire this meeting of Christ and the sinner, of life and death,—a meeting accidental in appearance, but appointed in the eternal order of the divine predestination. The church, whom Christ at his ascension left a widow, bewails the spiritual death of every one of her children as that of an only son; since the whole body may be considered as comprised in some manner under every one of its members. It is almost the whole employment of this widow to follow sinners, and in this life to lament their death, until they have all either found Jesus Christ, or, by being buried, have lost all hopes of finding him. Let us bear her company, by joining our tears and prayers to hers in behalf of sinners.
13. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
Christ is moved only by the tears of his church; that is, by the repentance which is performed in her bosom by his Spirit. He hearkens only to her charity, which is continually intent on the salvation of her children, whom she every day brings forth anew to life. He regards only her prayers for the conversion of those sinners for whom she prays, while they do not pray at all for themselves. Happy is that person who is in the bosom of this mother, and for whom she prays continually! Happy will this mother, at present disconsolate, be, when her Lord going forth to meet her, and she him, he shall say to her, “Weep not,”—because there will then be no longer any occasion to weep, after the sanctification of all the elect. Nothing comforts her in her widowhood but the conversion of sinners, and the hopes of seeing all tears one day wiped
from her eyes.
14. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
It is a very great mercy that God does not abandon us under the death of sin, but vouchsafes to come to meet us. Whenever he strikes a sinner's body with some disease, his senses with some objects, and his ears with some words, which, by the means of his grace, prove instrumental to his conversion, he may then be said to touch the living coffin of a dead soul. Men are not sensible that these strokes proceed from a hand of grace and mercy while they are yet under the death of sin; and they very frequently never reflect upon them, even when they are risen again. What acknowledgment is not due to God from a young man who is carried out by his passions to the grave of a sinful habit, wherein he would be buried forever; but grace stops them betimes, raises him again, and gives him a new life !
15. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
He whom God teaches effectually, (1.) Rises or sits up, by forsaking his sins; (2.) Begins to speak, in confessing them; (3.) Puts himself into the hands of his mother, in submitting himself to the power and discipline of the church, resigning himself up to the conduct of her ministers, and living by her spirit. When Christ delivers us into the hands of our mother he does not thereby leave us, because she herself is in the hands of her Lord. Since the sinner is restored to the church, it is plain that he had been torn from her, that he was no longer a living member of this body of Christ, and that he was joined to it only by a dead faith. Happy the sinner who is restored to it forever, to live to all eternity in this immortal body of the only Son of God !
16. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.
The conversion of sinners is an undoubted proof of the incarnation of the Son of God, which is the great visit he