« PreviousContinue »
to place, he restored friends to the bereaved, and health to the diseased. He raised the dead. He made the lame to leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb to sing. He gave ears to the deaf, and eyes to the blind. These things, even in a temporal view, cannot fail of exciting in us a sympathetic joy with the poor wretches who received relief, and adoring praise to the Author of their deliverance; but as intended to convey spiritual instruction, they acquire additional importance. For if these miracles are not to be considered as types, they furnish us with illustrations in explaining the disorders and cure of the mind.
Let us therefore review the circumstances of the history before us and endeavour to derive some useful admonitions from it.
The subject of the miracle was "a blind man." We are not informed whether he was born blind, or whether the calamity had befallen him by disease or accident. This however was his melancholy condition; and a more pitiable one perhaps cannot be found. It is worthy of compassion even when found in circumstances of affluence and ease-but how much more so when it is attended with indigence and want! And this was the additional affliction of blind Bartimeus-"He sat by the way-side begging.' Poor people should be thankful to God for the preservation of their limbs and senses. If they have no patrimony nor independence, they can labour; and while they have hands and eyes, they should scorn habits of beggary. But the helpless are not to starve; nor are we indiscriminately to reject every application we meet with upon the road.-Though, blessed be God, there is less need of this in our highly-favoured land than in most other countries, owing to the legal provision made in all our parishes for the poor and needy who are unable to gain a subsistence by labour.
One of the characters of our Saviour's miracles was publicity. Impostors require secresy and darkness. There have been miracles designed to delude the ignorant and credulous but where have they been manufactured? In cells, convents, and deserts. Before whom have they been performed? A few selected, interested witnesses. But says our Saviour, In secret have I done nothing. He wrought his miracles in the face of day; in the most open and exposed situations; before crowds of spectators; and among whom were found not only the curious, but malicious. Thus he recovered this man before a multitude in the high way, and close to the city of Jericho.
Several of our Saviour's miracles seem to have been unintentional. Thus it is said, “As he entered a certain village, there met him ten men, that were lepers, who stood afar off." Thus again we read, that "when he came nigh to the gate of the city of Nain,
behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow." And so here: "It came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way-side begging." Was then, you may ask, was his finding these objects accidental or designed? Unquestionably designed. He was not taken by surprise. He saw the end from the beginning. His plan was formed; and he was "working all things after the counsel of his own will." But he would show us that he is master not only of events, but of occasions, and of circumstances; and that though these circumstances appear loose, irregular, and contingent to us, they subserve his pleasure, and all occur in their proper time and place. Thus the bow "drawn at a venture," carried the arrow which fulfilled the purpose and the word of God in the death of the king of Israel.
The occurrence, however, was casual to Bartimeus himself; and when he rose in the morning, and was led forth by some friendly hand to the place where he was accustomed to beg, little did he imagine that before the evening he should obtain his sight, and be walking at the distance of some miles from home without a guide! This was the most successful of all his begging days. Boast not; despair not-of to-morrow, for thou knowest not, either as to evil or good, what a day may bring forth.
Imagine him then sitting under the shadow of some hedge or tree, against the side of the road-listening to apprehend if any travellers were approaching, of whom he might ask a small pittance of alms. For though he could not see, he could hear-this was an allevia tion of his distress; and it has been remarked, that scarcely ever was there an instance of a man being naturally both blind and deaf. And in many cases we find the loss of one sense in some measure made up by the greater perfection of another. Blind people are generally very quick of hearing; as may be observed by those who visit their asylums. Well, while musing-a noise strikes him, and the sound draws nearer and nearer. He asks what it means-and being told that “Jesus of Nazareth was passing by"-he cried, saying, "Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me? Though I am not deserving, my case is distressing. O pity me. O help me!"
But whenever was it known that a poor suppliant met with no hinderance in coming to the Deliverer for mercy? "They which went before rebuked him that he should hold his peace." From what principle could this proceed? Knowing that silver and gold the master had none, did they suppose that he was clamorous for alms? Did they conclude that his entreaties would be deemed noisy and troublesome? Did they deem him beneath the Saviour's notice, and suppose that the Son of David would have nothing to do
receiver, the agent and the subject, the physician and the patient. It is in this way that so much is ascribed in the Scriptures to the influence of faith.
And what would be the feelings of this man as soon as he received sight! O what joy, what ecstasy, what gratitude, would he discover! How would he look, and gazeall things are become new!-But the first object upon which he would fasten his eyes would be his Benefactor and Deliverer. He would admire-and weep-and adore-and
with him? Alas! they discovered too little tenderness themselves, and were too little acquainted with their Lord and Saviour, who never did and never will consider such importunity unreasonable or presumptuous; never did and never will break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. Nor was Bartimeus to be discouraged. He felt wisely. "This is my opportunity, and it may never return. I have addressed thousands who could give me bread-but never did I meet with one before who could give me eyes. And, oh! in a moment he will be out of hear-kneel-and arise and resolve never to leave ing-and when may he pass by again? He cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me!'"
Such a cry arrests our Lord in his journey; he cannot take another step-" He stood." What cannot prayer do? Once the sun of nature stood still at the desire of Joshua, who was eager to complete his victory. And, lo! now, "the Sun of righteousness" stands still, with "healing under his wings," at the desire of Bartimeus, who begs a cure. "He stood." And has thereby taught us never to think it a hinderance in our journey to pause to do good. To do good is our chief business; and to this every thing else is to be rendered subordinate and subservient. "And commanded him to be brought." By this circumstance he administered reproof and instruction. Reproof-by ordering those to help the poor man who had endeavoured to check him; instruction by teaching us that though he does not stand in need of our help, he will not dispense with our services; that we are to aid each other; that though we cannot recover our fellow-creatures, we may frequently bring them to the place and means of cure.
Our Saviour is acquainted with all our sins, but he requires us to confess them; he understands all our wants, but he commands us to acknowledge them; he is always graciously affected towards our case, but he would have us properly affected with it ourselves. He knew the desire of this man-the case was too plain to be mistaken-but he would know it from himself; and therefore when he was come near, he asked him, saying, "What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee!--And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee." Wherein did this man's faith appear? I answer, in his confession-calling him the Messiah, and Jesus, the son of David: and also in his application -for had he not believed in his power as able, and in his goodness as willing, to succour and relieve him he would not have addressed himself so earnestly to him. Thus his faith honoured Christ, and Christ honoured his faith. Thus his faith excited prayer, and prayer brought him relief. Thus his faith produced a unity of design and a correspondence of disposition between the giver and the
him. Thus the man lame from his mother's womb no sooner received strength in his feet and ancle-bones than he, "leaping up, stood and walked, and entered" with his deliverer "into the temple-walking-and leapingand praising God:" how exquisitely natural is all this! But what follows is no less so: it is said-"The lame man which was healed held Peter and John, while all the people ran together unto them, in Solomon's porch:" he held them, grasping their hands or their garments-it was a grasp of affection-of gratitude-perhaps also of fear, lest the malady should return, and he should not be near those who alone could cure him.
So here: as soon as Bartimeus received sight from the Lord Jesus, "he followed him in the way, glorifying God." We may view this two ways. It was first an evidence of the reality and perfection of the cure. In other cases where human skill has removed blindness by couching-the restored orbs cannot be immediately used; light is admitted into them by degrees; the man cannot measure distances, nor judge with accuracy; and he is not fit to be left to himself. But it is said, our Lord, "did all things well." His manner distinguished him-the man saw at once clearly and was able to conduct himself. Secondly, it was an improvement of the greatness of the mercy. "I can never," says he, "discharge my obligations to such a gracious and almighty friend. But let me devote myself to his service-let me continually ask, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
From the narrative thus explained, I would take occasion to bring forward FOUR ADMONITIONS.
And the First is this. BE PERSUADED THAT YOU ARE ALL SPIRITUALLY IN THE CONDITION OF BARTIMEUS-and that without divine illumination, you are no more qualified for the concerns of the moral world than a blind man is for those of the natural world. It may be as difficult as it is important to convince persons of this truth. For "vain man would be wise, though he be born like a wild ass's colt ;" and inany, like the offended Pharisees, ask-"Are we blind also?" But to the law and to the testimony. There is no image under which the Scripture more commonly holds forth our natural condition than blind
ness. We read of our being "alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in us, because of the blindness of our hearts;" and we are told that "the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not." Our Saviour sends Paul "to open their eyes;" the Apostle prays for the Ephesians, "that the eyes of their understanding may be enlightened;" and David prays for himself, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wonderous things out of thy law."
If a blind person were to say, "I see," we should be disposed to censure or pity him; we should suspect that he was influenced either by pride or insanity; and be satisfied that if a trial were made, the result of it would prove that what he affirmed was false. “Let him work—see where he seeks for his instruments, and how he uses them. Let him walk-see whether he can escape that stumblingblock or that pitfall. Desire him to pull a mote out of a brother's eye. Show him a fine painting, and ask him to mark its beauties." Men may deny their ignorance; but their lives and actions prove it. For instance: "He that loveth not, knoweth not God." And do men love God? Is he in all their thoughts? Is their meditation of him sweet? Are they inclined to speak of him? The Saviour is "fairer than the children of men; yea, he is altogether lovely"-but they see "no form nor comeliness in him; no beauty that they should desire him." Though destruction and misery are in their paths," they see them not; " and the way of truth, though revealed in the Scripture, have they not known." Is not this blindness?
Though Bartimeus was surrounded with landscapes, they were nothing to him. Though the sun shone upon his head, he saw nothing of its lustre. He saw not the guide that led him to and fro he never saw his own features; and had he been possessed of the finest mirror in the world, it could not have shown him what manner of man he was. Thus blind is man; thus unacquainted is he even with himself: thus ignorant is he, under all the advantages of external helps, and even of the Bible too-without divine teaching. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things; yet he himself is judged of no man."
Secondly. BE PERSUADED THAT, WITH REGARD TO THE REMOVAL OF THIS BLINDNESS,
YOU ARE IN AS HOPEFUL A CONDITION AS THIS POOR MAN. In all these miracles our blessed Lord holds himself forth as the all-sufficient helper of sinners. By the cures which he wrought on the body, he shows how able he is to save the soul; and they were performed and recorded on purpose to lead us to
him for spiritual and everlasting deliverance. Hence, says the Evangelist, speaking of the signs which Jesus did truly in the presence of his disciples-"These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through his name." Rejoice, therefore, that He who raised the dead can quicken those who are dead in trespasses and sins— that He who healed the leper can cleanse the soul from all unrighteousness, and that He who opened the eyes of the blind can lead inquirers into all truth.
Did he refuse this man? Did he ever refuse any who applied to him in distress? Had he rejected but one suppliant, it would have been the means of discouraging some to the end of the world; they would have feared that there was something similar in their own case. But what can we say now? We see that his actions spoke the same language with his gracious lip-"Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.”—“Come unto me, ALL ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This is to characterize him in every age: he is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." He is therefore equally willing.
"But I am so poor and mean. Many of my fellow-creatures, who are only raised a little above me in circumstances, despise me. And will the King of glory concern himself in my affairs?" Yes; he condescends to men of low estate. He preached the Gospel himself principally to the poor-and to show you that your mean condition is no disadvantage in applying to him-behold him pausing, and listening to a beggar in the road. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his trouble."
But you say, he is no longer here. Oh! were he now on earth, dwelling among us, how happy should we be to betake ourselves to him in all our difficulties and distresses! but the heavens have received him until the restitution of all things. Yet though no longer visible, he is still accessible; though not to be seen, he is to be found-to be found in his word, and upon his throne, and in his house: we read of "the goings of our God and King in the sanctuary;" he is now passing by, "full of pity, joined with power;" address him. Bartimeus only heard that he was passing by; he did not see him when he addressed him. Address him, then, in the same circumstances, and you will soon find that he "is nigh unto them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth."
Take therefore a Third admonition. BE PERSUADED TO IMITATE THE IMPORTUNITY OF THIS BLIND BEGGAR, IN CRYING FOR MERCY. For this purpose reflect upon the sadness of your present condition. Think what a degraded, uncomfortable, unsafe state you are in, and how certainly, unless you are deli
vered from it, you will soon pass from the darkness of sin into the darkness of hell. And then consider the happiness of those who have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness. "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted; for thou art the glory of their strength, and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted." Pray therefore that you may be made a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.
the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." Follow him, then, as an imitator of his example. Follow him as a servant, to obey his orders and to bear his reproach. Follow him, to spread his fame and to be a witness of his power and his goodness.
What an affecting sight must it have been in the days of his flesh, to have seen him moving about, followed by a number of persons whose complaints he had removed, and who acknowledged that to him they owed all the happiness they enjoyed-to hear one saying, He restored my son-another, He unstopped my deaf ears-and a third, He opened my blind eyes! He is not alone now in our world. There are some who are following him in the regeneration. They are the trophies of his free and almighty grace. They were once sinners, but are now renewed in the spirit of their mind. They were once darkness, but they are now light in the Lord, and are all looking to him and saying, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake!"
And especially let your importunity, like this poor man's, appear with regard to two things. First, like him, seize the present moment. Let not the opportunity afforded you be lost by delay. You know not whether you will have another. Your indifference may provoke him to withdraw in anger, resolving to return no more. Your heart may be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. You may be deprived of reason. This very night your souls may be required of you! How many are falling around you in the bloom of life! How many are called away without warning! And are you secure? "Seek ye But what will it be, when he will be seen the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon in company with all his people on the heahim while he is near.' Secondly, like him, venly plains! What a day when the Rebe not silenced by discouragement and oppo- deemer will be seen with all his captives; sition. Many may try to check you. Infi- the Physician of souls with all his patients; dels may tell you to hold your peace-and and all of them acknowledging that by his say, "It is all delusion." Philosophers may grace they are what they are! What a multell you to hold your peace and say, "It is titude! How full of joy, and how full of all enthusiasm." Physicians may tell you to praise! And on his head will be many hold your peace and say, "It is all nervous crowns! He will inhabit all the praises of depression-away to company and the thea- Israel! "Then he shall come to be glori tre." Even divines may warn you to be sober-fied in his saints, and to be admired in all minded, and to avoid being righteous over-them that believe !"
much. Formalists may tell you, "It is needless to be so warm.' Companions, friends, relations, may surround you with objections, entreaties, insults, threatenings-And youwhat will you do under all this? Do!-why say, "This is a case in which another is not to judge for me. It is a personal concernand it is an affair infinitely, everlastingly important. I must succeed or perish. Lord, help me!"
Fourthly, If he has healed you! If you can say, "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see"-LIKE BARTIMEUS, BE
CAREFUL TO FOLLOW THE SAVIOUR.
Thou hast made winter.—Psalm lxxiv. 17.
AND he makes nothing in vain. Winter therefore is as worthy of our attention, as either of the former seasons which have passed under our review.
The scenes indeed all around us, which we lately beheld, have assumed a new and This is the best way to evidence your cure. chilling appearance. The trees are shorn of None follow him blind: but those whose eyes their foliage. The hedges are laid bare. he has opened, see so much to admire and so The fields and favourite walks have lost their much to desire in him; they feel such a de-attractions: and the garden, now it yields no pendence upon him, and such an attachment to him; that they are willing to forsake all, in order to follow him whithersoever he goeth. And every proof of your conversion, separate from this adherence to the Saviour, is fallacious and ruinous.
This is also the best way to improve your deliverance. Thus you will "show forth
perfumes and offers no fruits, like a friend in adversity, is forsaken. The vegetable creation looks dead. The tuneful tribes are dumb. The cattle are grave, and no longer play in the meadows. The north wind blows. "He sendeth abroad his ice like morsels; who can stand before his cold?"-We rush in for shelter.
But let us take some particular views of this subject.
And First, Winter belongs to the plan of heaven, and is a season indispensably necessary. It aids the system of life and vegetation; it kills the seeds of infection, and destroys pestilential damps; it refines the blood; it gives us vigour and courage; it confirms the nerves, and braces up the relaxed solids.
Snow is a warm covering for the corn; and while it defends the tender blades from nipping frosts, it also nourishes their growth. Isaiah remarked this long ago; and speaks of "the snow-coming down from heaven, and watering the earth, to make it bring forth and bud." The case is this. When the snow thaws, it melts into genial moisture; sinks down into the soil, and leaves the nitrous particles with which it is charged in the pores. Thus the glebe is replenished with that vegetable nutriment which will produce the bloom of spring and the fertility of autumn. Winter therefore is only the needful repose of Nature, after her labours for the welfare of the creation. But even this pause is only to acquire new strength; or rather it is a silent and secret energy of preparation to surprise and charm us again with fresh abundance. Nor has the Creator forgotten our well-being and comfort during this period: For Winter is, Secondly, a season which has its pleasures. I love to hear the roaring of the wind. I love to see the figures which the frost has painted on the glass. I love to watch the redbreast with his slender legs, standing at the window, and knocking with his bill to ask for the crumbs which fall from the table. I love to observe the husbandman carrying forth the provender for his harmless charge while the creatures of his care, not with boisterous impatience, but with waiting eyes turned towards the place of their supplies, ask for their "meat in due season"and I here see one of the many ways in which "HE openeth his hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing."
Is it not pleasant to view a landscape whitened with snow? To gaze upon the trees and hedges dressed in such pure and sparkling lustre? To behold the rising sun labouring to pierce a fog which had enveloped the heaven and the earth, and gradually successful in dispersing these vapours-so that objects by little and little emerge from their obscurity, and appear in their own forms, while the mist rolls up the side of the hill and is seen no more?
A few things also brave the rigour of the season and remain evergreen. The box, the laurel, the yew-tree, the laurustinus, are grateful exemptions from the law of desolation. Nor should we forget the curling ivy, nor the crimson berries of the wild hawthorn. Winter affords recreation for the understanding, as well as for the senses. If we
are less abroad, we have more intercourse within. If rural pleasures are diminished, social ones are increased.
I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem'st, And dreaded as thou art!" "Compensating his loss with added hours Of social converse and instructive ease, And gathering, at short notice, in one group The family dispersed, and fixing thought, Not less dispers'd by daylight and its cares-I crown thee king of intimate delights, Fire-side enjoyments, home-born happiness, And all the comforts that the lowly roof Of undisturb'd retirement, and the hours Of long uninterrupted evening know." without having recourse to noisy, public dis Yes, there are amusements to be found, sipations, in which health, innocency, and peace, are frequently sacrificed; where virendered incapable of relishing genuine pleacious passions are cherished, and persons are
"-Cards are superfluous here, with all the trichts
To fill the void of an unfurnished brain,
Thirdly. Winter is a season in which we should peculiarly feel gratitude for our residence, accommodations, and conveniences. Things strike us more forcibly by comparison. Let us remember how much more temperate our climate is than that of many other countries. Our winter is nothing, when we turn to the Frigid Zone. Think of those who live within the Polar Circle: dispersed; exposed to beasts of prey; their poor huts furnishing only a miserable refuge; where linger months of perpetual night and frost; and, by the absence of heat, almost absolute barrenness reigns around.
When the French mathematicians wintered at Tornea, in Lapland, the external air suddenly admitted into their rooms, seizing the moisture, became whirls of snow; their breasts were rent when they breathed it; and the contact of it with their bodies was intolerable. We read of seven thousand Swedes who perished at once, in attempting to pass the mountains which divide Norway from Sweden.
And while our Winter reigns here with great comparative mildness, how many blessings distinguish our portion from that of others around us, and demand our praise! We have a house to defend us; we have clothes to cover us; we have fire to warm us; we have beds to comfort us; we have provisions to nourish us;-"What shall we render? Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."
Fourthly. This season calls upon us to exercise Benevolence. Sympathy is now