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LECTURE XXIII.

A CENTURION'S SERVANT HEALED. - A WIDOW'S

SON RESTORED TO LIFE.

LUKE vii. 1-17.

(Matt. viii. 1-13.)

1. Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum,

2. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.

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.

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.

6. Then Jesus went with him. 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 my roof:

7. Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee ; but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

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.

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.

10. And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

Thus “ the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth,” noticing the faith of men, noticing their want of faith, noticing the proportion which their faith bears to their knowledge or opportunities.

And this centurion is an example of those who “shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” For “God is no respecter of persons; and in every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him.” 1 The centurion had done this. He had been sent by the duties of his profession, as a soldier, into Judea. That is, he had been led by the foreknowledge of God within the influence of his word; and being led thither, he had not “rejected the counsel of God against himself;" he had not shut his eyes against the light which shone around him, but had learnt to serve the living and true God, and had proved his sincerity by building a synagogue. And this man, thus “prepared for the Lord,” is brought in the way of Jesus, has reason to beseech his mercy, witnesses his power, confesses his divinity, and gives to unbelieving Israel an example of that faith which is precious in itself, and precious in the sight of God.

The incarnation of Christ, and the doctrines of his gospel, were “unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” They are so 6 the

1 Acts x. 35.

still to many. But "unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks,” these truths are power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 2

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.

13. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.

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.

15. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.

We are first reminded, by this history, of the uncertainty of all earthly treasures. Here is a woman who was a widow; and her only son is carried out to burial. The relief which this mourner so unexpectedly received is without parallel : but misfortunes like hers are not uncommon; and we are warned by them, “ to possess, as though we possessed not;" that is, to be ready to part with our possessions: to “rejoice, as though we rejoiced not;" that is, so to enjoy, that we may be able to resign our treasures. Some heathen moralists, knowing by experience the corruption of human nature, though ignorant of its cause, advised every one who formed a friendship, to bear in mind, that he who was now the friend might hereafter become the enemy. This would be no Christian sentiment: but we may

? 1 Cor. i. 23.

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illustrate from it what is Christian wisdom; namely, so to use any present gratifications, as to remember that they are lent us of the Lord, who very probably may see fit to recall them.

When Jesus was near to the procession, and saw the case of this unhappy widow, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier, and said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.

So likewise, now that he sits on the right hand of the majesty on high, he sees many of his people grievously afflicted.

And he has compassion on them. He does not say unto them, Weep not; he does not take away the cause of weeping, as he did by this miracle. There were many widows in the land of Israel: and the son of this widow of Nain alone was restored to life. For often the sorrow is sent in mercy, and is intended to withdraw the heart from some earthly attachment which has too strong hold, and to recall it to its one important concern: and in any case, sorrow gives occasion to the exercise of graces which are pleasing to God in his people. It displays faith, and patience, and resignation, and makes them active principles. Sorrow showed Eli, judge of Israel, to be a man of God. Some parts of his character were blameably defective; but he was manifestly under the power of divine grace when he submitted to his affliction, and said, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. And we can discover no reason in the character of Job for the remarkable trials to which he was called, except that in that character a new feature might be formed and perfected, which had otherwise no

opportunity of exercise. It was a grace, and a most valuable grace, to be thankful, and humble, and moderate in prosperity. And all this Job had been. It was another and a different grace to say, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.” And this grace was manifested in affliction.

There may be reasons such as these why Jesus does not exempt his people from suffering. Yet certainly he has compassion on them : and this is evident from the support which they receive; from the inward comfort which cheers their outward sorrow: their tears are noted in his book, their losses compensated by his presence, their minds made tranquil by his consolations. He does not, indeed, restore the dead. The present still remains bereft; the widow does not hear the surprising words, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise: her son is not delivered to ber arms again. But he bids them “sorrow not as those without hope;" for “ blessed are the dead which die in the Lord ;” and though they rise not again, like this widow's son, to the mixed scene of this world, to its labours, its cares, its dangers, they shall rise in glory. shall change their vile body, and make it like unto his glorious body.” And with these thoughts they are comforted, and enabled to possess their souls in patience.

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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.

17. And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about.

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