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Herod was a king, yet it addressed him in language of terror, and made itself heard and felt amidst all the hurries and flatteries of a court. Vain was the power of a prince ; vain the caresses of a favourite mistress, basely gratified with the blood of a prophet; and vain the yet more besotting tenets of a Sadducee. In one instance at least a resurrection shall be believed ; and if a prophet arise in Israel, Herod shall be among the first to say, It is John the Baptist, risen from the dead ; and shall be ready to forebode the sad effects of his recovered life, and to prognosticate evil to himself from the mighty works he performed. Let us make it our care to preserve a conscience void of offence, that instead of a continual iorment, it may be to us a contiñual feast! And if we really desire to preserve it, let us take heed that we be not excessively transported with the entertainments of life, or rashly enter ourselves into engagements which perhaps máy plunge us into some degree of guilt, whether they be performed oř violated.
We see, in this dreadful instance of Herodias, what an implacable degree of malice may arise in the hearts of sinners on being reproved for the most scandalous and mischievous vices. Instead of owning the obligation to one that would have plucked her as a brand out of the burning, she thirsts insatiably for his blood; and chooses rather to indulge her cruelty and revenge in taking away his life, than to gratify her avarice and ambition in demanding a gift that might have been equal to the half of a kingdom.-But how mysterious was that provi. dence which left the life of so holy a man in such infamous hands, and permitted it to be sacrificed to the malice of an abandoned harlot, to the petulancy of a vain girl, and to the rashness of a foolish and perhaps an intoxicated prince, who made the prophet's head the reward of a dance! The ways of God are unsearchable ! but we are sure he can never be at a loss to repay his servants in another world for the greatest sufferings they endure in this, and even for life itself, when given up in his cause.
We may reasonably conclude that death could never be an unseasonable surprise to this excellent saint. When the executioner came into the prison by night, perhaps breaking in upon his slumbers, and executed his bloody commisson almost as soon as he declared it, a soul like his might welcome the stroke, as the means of liberty and glory; assured that the transient agony of a moment would transmit it to a kingdom where the least of its inhabitants would be in holiness, honour, and felicity, superior to John in his most prosperous and successful state on earth. His enemies might a while insult over him, while his disciples were mingling their tears with his dust, and lanıenting the residue of his days cut off in the midst. His death was precious in the sight of the Lord, and the triumphing of the wicked was short. So will he ere long plead the cause of all his injured people, and give a cup of trembling and astonishment to those that have made themselves drunk with their blood. Let cruelty and tyranny do their worst, verily there is a reward for the righteous, verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth.
SECTION LXXVIII. .
The apostles being returned, our Lord passes over the sea of Tiberias;
miraculously feeds above five thousand, and retires to pray. Matt. xiv. 13-23. Mark vi. 30–46. LUKE ix. 10-17. John yi. 1-15.
AND the apostles, when they were returned, gathered together
A unto Jesus, and told him all the occurrences of their journey ; both what they had done, and what they had taught. And when Jesus heard of it, he said to them, Come ye yourselves privately into a solitary place and repose a while ; for there were many coming and going, so that they had no opportunity even to eat. And accordingly, after these things, he took them, and retired ; and they departed from thence in a ship privately, and retired into a desart belonging to the city called Bethsaida. And Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And when the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and others heard of it, a great multitude followed him; because they had seen his miracles, which he performed on them that were diseased. And they ran thither on foot out of all the cities, and outwent them, and came together to him. "And Jesus, when he came out, and saw a great multitude, was moved with compassion for thein; because they were as sheep haring no shepherd : and he received them, and began to teach them many things'; and spake to them concerning the kingdom of God, and healed their sick, even all those that had need of healing. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there sat down with his disciples and the multitude about him. (And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was near).
And when the day now began to decline*, and evening came on, then some of his disciples, particularly the twelve apostles, came to him, and said, This is a desart place, and the time is now far advanced ; dismiss the multitude, that they may go into the towns and countryplaces round about, and lodge, and may buy themselves breadt, for they have nothing to eat. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes, and seeing a great company come to him, he says to Philip, whence shall they buy bread that they may eat. (And this he said to try himn ; for he himself knew what he was about to do). Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. But Jesus said to them, They have no need to go away, give ye them [something] to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and bly two hundred pennyworth of bread and meat for all this people, and give it them to eat ? He says to them, How many loaves have you ? go and see. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, says unto him, There is a lad here, that has five barley loaves, and two small fishes; but we have no more ; and what are they among so many ? And he said, bring them hither to me. [Now there was much grass in the placet.] And he
* Mark.“ And was far spent.” + LUKE. “ and get food.” # This clause seems better transposed. Ed..
commanded the multitude to sit down upon the green grass ; and he said to his disciples, cause them all to sit down by companies. And they did sot. The men therefore sat down in rows, by hundreds and fifties, about five thousand in number. And Jesus, taking the five loaves and the two fishes, looked up to heaven, and, having given thanks, he blessed them, and brake the loaves and distributed them to his disciples, that they might set them before the multitude who were set down ; and the disciples gave them to the multitude : and he likewise divided the two fishes among them all, as much as they would take. And they did all eat, and were satisfied. And when they were filled, he says to his disciples, gather up the broken pieces that remain, that nothing may be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, and of the fishes, which remained over and above to them that had eaten. And they who had eaten of the loaves, were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
The men therefore, having seen the miracle which Jesus wrought, said, Truly this is the prophet who was to come into the world. Jesus therefore, knowing that they were ready to come and seize him by force to make him king, immediately obliged his disciples to get into the ship, and to go before him to the other side of the creek, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the multitude. - And, when he had dismissed them, and the evening was come, he again withdrew, and ascended up by himself alone to a mountain to pray.
REFLECTIONS. So evidently true is it that man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God! How wonderful did the power of Christ appear in thus multiplying the food ! and how amiable his compassion, in his affectionate concern for the relief of his necessitous followers ! It is to be esteemed a great happiness when the ministers of the gospel have it in their power to assist men in their temporal as well as spiritual necessities; and it is peculiarly incumbent upon them thus to do good and communicate; for with such sacrifices from their hands God is peculiarly well pleased, and the success of their ministry may be greatly promoted by them.
The disciples received from the hand of Christ the food they delivered to the people : and so should ministers be concerned that they may receive from Christ what they dispense to others as the bread of life, and that they also at the same time may live upon it as the support of their own souls. How great an honour is it to be employed as stewards of the mysteries of God! Let not immoderate secular cares, let not the desire of worldly riches or greatness interrupt us in this blessed work ! Christ withdrew from those who would have made him king : ill therefore does it become his disciples to pursue earthly grandeur ; and most unworthy is it of his ministers to act as if his kingdom were of this world. May we learn in every state to be content ! In want may we cheerfully trust Providence !
| LUKE, “and caused them all to sit down.”
In plenty, may we not wantonly abuse it ! but learn, by his command of gathering up the fragments even of this miraculous feast, a wise frugality in the use of our enjoyments; that nothing may be lo8t, nor a reserve be wanting by which the streams of future liberality may be fed!
When the day had been thus employed, Christ retired to a moun. tain to pray. Thus must secret devotion attend our public labours for the instruction and salvation of men, if we would secure that di. yine blessing, without which, neither the most eloquent preaching, nor the most engaging and benevolent conduct, can command or promise success.
The disciples are overtaken by a storm ; and Christ, walking on the sea,
stills the tempest. MATT. xiv. 24, &c. MARK vi. 47, &c. JOHN vi. 16--21.
AND when the evening was come, his disciples went down to the
A sea-side. And having entered into the ship, they were going to the other side of the sea towards Capernaum: and it was now dark, and the ship was in the midst of the sea. Now Jesus was not come to them, but was alone on the land. And the sea arose, by reason of a violent wind which blew; and the vessel was tossed by the waves; for the wind was contrary to them. So when they had rowed about twenty-five or thirty furlongs, in the fourth watch of the night, or about three o'clock in the morning, Jesus, perceiving they were weary with rowing, came to them, walking on the sea, and he seemed as if he would have passed by them. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, and passing near the ship, they were terrified, saying, It is an apparition; and they cried out for fear. For they all saw him; and were troubled. And he immediately spoke to them, and said, Take courage; for it is I, be not afraid.
And Peter answering, said unto him, Lord, if it be thou, command me to come to thee upon the water. And he said, come; and Peter came down from the ship, and walked on the water to come unto Jesus: but perceiving the wind strong, he was afraid, and he began to sink, and cried out, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretching out his hand, laid hold on him; and said to him, O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt? And he ascended to them into the bark; and, when they were come aboard, they received him with pleasure. And the wind ceased; and the ship was immediately at the land to which they were going. And they were exceedingly amazed in themselves, and astonished heyond measure. For their heart was hardened, and they considered not the [miracle of the] loaves. Then they that were in the ship, came and worsipped him, saying, thou art indeed the Son of God.
And, when they had passed over the lake, they came to the land of Gennesareth, and put to shore. And when they came out of the vessel, they immediately knew him. And the men of that place who knew him sent out, and ran to all that country round about: and they began to carry about the sick in beds, and brought unto him all that were diseased, to the place where they heard he was. And whereyer he entered into towns, or cities, or country villages, they laid the sick in the public streets, and entreated him that they might at least touch the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched him, were perfectly recovered.
REFLECTIONS. Thus it still pleases Christ to exercise the faith of his people, that he may strengthen their dependence on him, and demonstrate at once his compassion and his power. Thus are storms permitted oftentimes to rise around them, and for a while they are left in darkness, and are tossed with tempests : but he is near at hand, even when they think him at the remotest distance; and when he seems to be passing by them, as regardless of their danger and distress, he has designs of grace and mercy to them, and acts in such a way on purpose to quicken and excite them to a greater earnestness and fervour in their ap. plication to him. Happy would the Christian be, could he always discern his Lord, and always conceive of him aright! but alas, how often does he appear to the disordered mind as the object of terror rather than of confidence! and, in a day of darkness, while he may seem to treat his suffering people with neglect, instead of seeking him with a more earnest importunity, how are they ready to be overwhelmed with fears, and to conclude he has forgotten them! . At the command of Jesus, Peter ventured to go to him on the sea. And through what storms and dangers may we not safely venture, if we are sure that our Lord calls us! Yet the rebuke which he suffered may warn us not rashly to throw ourselves on unnecessary trials, lest our excess of confidence end in fear and disgrace. Modesty and caution will adorn our other virtues, and render us amiable in the eyes of the humble Jesus.-In how many circumstances of life does the Christian appear to his own imagination, like Peter, beginning to sink in the waves! But in the time of our distress, like him, let us cry to Jesus for help; and, while we are lifting up the hands of faith and prayer, we may humbly hope that Christ will stretch forth his omnipotent arm for our rescue. Let every experience of this kind, and all the seasonable aid he is from time to time imparting to us, establish our dependence on him, and enforce our obedience to him, as the Son of God. May divine grace deliver us from that hardness of heart, that stupidity and insensibility of mind, which sometimes remains unconyinced in the midst of evidence, and unaffected under the most moving illustrations of his abilities and willingness to help us!