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do we go to fetch water? Doth this holy man mean thus to quench our feast, and cool our stomachs? If there be no remedy, we could have sought this supply unbidden." Yet, so far hath the charge of Christ's mother prevailed, that, instead of carrying flagons of wine to the table, they go to fetch pails full of water from the cisterns. It is no pleading of unlikelihoods, against the command of an Almighty power.
He, that could have created wine immediately in those vessels, will rather turn water into wine. In all the course of his miracles, I do never find him making ought of nothing: all his great works are grounded upon former existencies. He multiplied the bread, he changed the water, he restored the withered limbs, he raised the dead; and still wrought upon that which was, and did not make that which was not. What doth he, in the ordinary way of nature, but turn the watery juice, that arises up from the root, into wine? He will only do this now suddenly and at once, which he doth usually by sensible degrees. It is ever duly observed by the Son of God, not to do more miracle than he needs.
How liberal are the provisions of Christ ! If he had turned but one of those vessels, it had been a just proof of his power; and perhaps that quantity had served the present necessity : now, he furnisheth them with so much wine, as would have served a hundred and fifty guests, for an entire feast. Even the measure magnifies at once both his power and mercy. The munificent band of God regards not our need only, but our honest affluence. It is our sin and our shame, if we turn his favour into wantonness. · There must be first a filling, ere there be a drawing out. Thus, in our vessels, the first care must be of our receipt; the next, of our expence. God would have us cisterns, not channels.
Our Saviour would not be his own taster, but he sends the first draught to the Governor of the Feast. He knew his own power ; they did not. Neither would he bear witness of himself, but fetch it out of others' mouths.
They, that knew not the original of that wine, yet praised the taste; Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine ; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse ; but thou hast kept the good wine until now. The same bounty, that expressed it. self in the quantity of the wine, shews itself no less in the excellence. Nothing can fall from that Divine hand, not exquisite. That liberality hated to provide crab-wine for his guests. It was fit, that the miraculous effects of Christ, which came from his immediate hand, should be more perfect than the natural. O Blessed Saviour, how delicate is that new wine, which we shall one day drink with thee, in thy Father's kingdom! Thou shalt turn this water of onr earthly affliction into that wine of gladness, wherewith our souls shall be satiate for ever. Make haste, O my Beloved, and be thors like to a roe, or to a young hart, upon the mountains of spices.
Even the bloody trade of war yielded worthy clients to Christ. This Roman captain had learned to believe in that Jesus, whom many Jews despised. No nation, no trade, can shut out a good heart from God. If he were a foreigner for birth, yet he was a domestic in heart. He could not change his blood; he could overrule his affections. He loved that nation, which was chosen of God; and, if he were not of the synagogue, yet he built a synagogue: where he might not be a party, he would be a benefactor. Next to being good, is a favouring of goodness. We could not love reliligion, if we utterly want it.
How many true Jews were not so zealous! Either will or ability lacked in them, whom duty more obliged. Good affections do many times more than supply nature. Neither doth God regard whence, but what, we are.
I do not see this Centurion come to Christ, as the Israelitish captain came to Elijah in Carmel ; but with his cap in his hand, with much suit, much submission ; by others, by himself. He sends first the elders of the Jews, whom he might hope that their nation and place might make gracious; then, lest the employment of others might argue neglect, he seconds them in person. Cold and fruitless are the motions of friends, where we do wilfully shut up our own lips. Importunity cannot but speed well in both. Could we but speak for ourselves, as this captain did for his servant, what could we possibly want? What marvel is it, if God be not forward to give, where we care not to ask; or ask, as if we cared not to receive?
Shall we yet call this a suit, or a complaint? I hear no one word of entreaty. The less is said, the more is concealed : it is enough, to lay open his want. He knew well, that he had to deal with so wise and merciful a physician, as that the opening of the malady was a craving of cure. If our spiritual miseries be but confessed, they cannot fail of redress.
Great variety of suitors resorted to Christ. One comes to him for a son; another, for a daughter ; a third, for himself: I see none come for his servant, but this one Centurion. Neither was he a better man, than a master. His servant is sick : he doth not drive him out of doors, but lays him at home ; neither doth he stand gazing by his bed's side, but seeks forth : he seeks forth, not to witches or charmers, but to Christ: he seeks to Christ, not with a fashionable relation, but with a vehement aggravation, of the disease. Had the master been sick, the faithfullest servant could have done no more. He is unworthy to be well served, that will not sometimes wait upon his followers. Conceits of inferiority may not breed in us a neglect of charitable offices. So must we look down upon our servants here on earth, as that we must still look up to our Master which is in Heaven.
But why didst thou not, O Centurion, rather bring thy servant to Christ for cure, than sue for him absent? There was a paralytic, whom faith and charity brought to our Saviour, and let down through the uncovered roof in his bed: why was not thine so carried, so presented ? Was it out of the strength of thy faith, which assured thee, thou neededst not shew thy servant to him, that saw all things ? One and the same grace may yield contrary effects. They, because they believed, brought the patient to Christ; thou broughtest not thine to him, because thou believedst. Their act ar. gued no less desire ; thine, more confidence. Thy labour was less, because thy faith was more.
Oh that I could come thus to my Saviour ; and make such moan to him for myself, “ Lord, my soul is sick of unbelief, sick of selflove, sick of inordinate desires." I should not need to say more. Thy mercy, O Saviour, would not then stay by for my suit, but would prevent me, as here, with a gracious engagement, I will come and heal thee.
I did not hear the Centurion say, either, “ Come," or, “ Heal him :" the one, he meant, though he said not; the other, he neither said nor meant. Christ overgives both his words and intentions. It is the manner of that Divine munificence, where he meets with a faithful suitor, to give more than is requested ; to give, when he is not requested. The very insinuations of our necessities are no less violent than successful. We think the measure of human bounty runs over, when we obtain but what we ask with importunity: that infinite goodness keeps within bounds, when it overflows the desires of our hearts.
As he said, so he did. The word of Christ either is his act, or concurs with it. He did not stand still when he said, I will come ; but he went, as he spake. When the Ruler entreated him for his son, Come down ere he die, our Saviour stirred not a foot : the Centurion did but complain of the sickness of his servant, and Christ unasked says, I will come and heal him. That he might be far from so much as seeming to honour wealth and despise mean. ness, he, that came in the shape of a servant, would go down to the sick servant's pallet, would not go to the bed of the rich ruler's son. It is the basest motive of respect, that ariseth merely from outward greatness. Either more grace or more need may justly challenge our favourable regards, no less than private obligations.
Even so, O Saviour, that, which thou offeredst to do for the Centurion's servant, hast thou done for us. We were sick upto death; so far had the dead palsy of sin overtaken us, that there was no Jife of grace left in us: when thou wert not content to sit still in heaven, and say, “I will cure them ;" but addedst also, “I will come and cure them.” Thyself camest down accordingly to this miserable world, and hast personally healed us; so as now we shall not de but live, and declare thy works, O Lord. And oh, that we could enough praise that love, and mercy, which hath so gracious. ly abased thee; and could be but so low dejected before thee, as thou hast stooped low unto us ; that we could be but as lowly subjects of thy goodness, as we are unworthy.
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Oh admirable return of humility! Christ will go down to visit the sick servant. The master of that servant says, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: the Jewish Elders, that went before to mediate for him, could say, “ He is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him ;” but the Centurion, when he comes to speak for himself, I am not worthy. They said, he was worthy of Christ's miracle ; he says, he is unworthy of Christ's presence. There is great difference, betwixt others' valuations and our own. Sometimes, the world underrates him, that finds reason to set a high price upon himself: sometimes again, it overvalues a man, that knows just cause of his own bumiliation. If others mistake us, this can be no warrant for our error. We cannot be wise, unless we receive the knowledge of ourselves by direct beams, not by reflection ; unless we have learned to contemn unjust applauses, and, scorning the Aattery of the world, to frown upon our own vileness : Lord, I am not worthy.
Many a one, if he had been in the Centurion's coat, would have thought well of it; a captain, a man of good ability and command, a founder of a synagogue, a patron of religion : yet he overlooks all these, and, when he casts his eye upon the Divine worth of Christ and his own weakness, he says, “I am not worthy : Alas! Lord, I am a gentile, an alien, a man of blood; thou art holy, thou art omnipotent." True humility will teach us, to find out the best of another, and the worst piece of ourselves : pride contrarily shews us nothing but matter of admiration in ourselves; in others, of contempt. While he confessed himself unworthy of any favour, he approved himself worthy of all. Had not Christ been before in his heart, he could not have thought himself unworthy to enterrain that guest within his house. Under the low roof of an humble breast, doth God ever delight to dwell. The state of his palace may not be measured by the height, but by the depth. Brags and bold faces do ofttimes carry it away with men : nothing prevails with God, but our voluntary dejections.
It is fit the foundations should be laid deep, where the building is high. The Centurion's humility was not more low, than his faith was lofty : that reaches up into Heaven; and, in the face of human weakness, descries Omnipotence: Only say the word, and my servant shall be whole.
Had the Centurion's roof been Heaven itself, it could not have been worthy to be come under of him, whose word was Almighty, and who was the Almighty Word of his Father. Such is Christ confessed by him, that says, Only say the word. None but a Divine power is unlimited : neither hath faith any other bounds, than God himself. There needs no footing to remove mountains or devils, but a word. Do but say the word, O Saviour, my sin shall be remitted, my soul shall be healed, my body shall be raised from dust, both soul and body shall be glorious.
Whereupon then was the steady confidence of the good Centurion? He saw how powerful his own word was with those, thx 'were under his command, (though himself were under the con
mand of another,) the force whereof extended even to absent performances; well therefore might he argue, that a free and unbounded power might give infallible commands, and that the most obstinate disease must therefore needs yield to the beck of the God of Nature. Weakness may shew us what is in strength. By one drop of water we may see what is in the main ocean.
I marvel not, if the Centurion were kind to his servants, for they were dutiful to him. He can but say, Do this, and it is done. These mutual respects draw on each other. Cheerful and diligent service in the one calls for a due and favourable care in the other. They, that neglect to please, cannot complain to be neglected.
Oh, that I could be but such a servant to my Heavenly Master! Alas! every of his commands says, Do this, and I do it not : every of his inhibitions says, Do it not, and I do it. He says, “ Go from the world ;" I run to it: he says, “ Come to me;" I run from him. Woe is me! this is not service, but enmity. How can I look for favour, while I return rebellion ? It is a Gracious Master, whom we serve: there can be no duty of ours, that he sees not, that he acknowledges not, that he crowns not. We could not but be happy, if we could be officious.
What can be more marvellous, than to see Christ marvel ? All marvelling supposes an ignorance going before, and a knowledge following, some accident unexpected: now, who wrought this faith in the Centurion, but he, that wondered at it? He knew weh what he wrought, because he wrought what he would ; yet he wondered at what he both wrought and knew, to teach us, much more to admire that, which he at once knows and holds admirable. He wrought this faith as God; he wondered at it as man. God wrought, and man admired. He, that was both, did both, to teach us were to bestow our wonder. I never find Christ wondering at gold or silver, at the costly and curious works of human skill or industry ; yea, when the disciples wondered at the magnificence of the Temple, he rebuked them rather. I find him not wondering at the frame of heaven and earth, nor at the orderly disposition of all creatures and events: the familiarity of these things intercepts the admiration. But, when he sees the grace or acts of faith, he so approves them, that he is rayished with wonder. He, that rejoiced in the view of his creation, to see that of nothing he had made all things good, rejoices no less in the reformation of his creature, to see that he had made good of evil. Behold, thou art fair, my love ; behold, thou art fair ; and there is no spot in thee. My sister, my spouse, thou hast wounded my heart, thou hast wounded my heart with one of thine eyes.
Our wealth, beauty, wit, learning, honour, may make us accepted of men; but it is our faith only, that shall make God in love with us. And why are we of any other save God's diet, to be more affected with the least measure of grace in any man, than with all the outward glories of the world? There are great men, whom we justly pity; we can admire none, but the gracious.
Neither was that plant more worthy of wonder in itself, than that