صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

of his speech upon the Power that restored it; if the first improvement of his tongue were the praise of the Giver, of the Maker of it? or can we expect other than that our Saviour should say, Thy tongue is free, use it to the praise of him that made it so; thy ears are open, hear him that bids thee proclaim thy cure upon the house-top? But now, behold, contrarily, he that opens this man's mouth by his powerful word, by the same word shuts it again, charging silence by the same breath wherewith he gave speech; “Tell no man.'

Those tongues, which interceded for his cure, are charmed for the concealment of it. O Saviour, thou knowest the grounds of thine own commands; it is not for us to enquire, but to obey; we may not bonour thee with a forbidden celebration. Good meanings have ofttimes proved injurious : those men, whose charity employed their tongues to speak for the dumb man, do now employ the same tongues to speak of his cure, when they should have been dumb. This charge, they imagine, proceeds from an humble modesty in Christ, which the respect to his honour bids them violate. I know not how we itch after those forbidden acts, which, if left to our liberty, we willingly neglect. This prohibition increaseth the rumour ; every tongue is busied about this one : what can we make of this, but a well-meant disobedience? O God, I should more gladly publish thy name at thy command. I know thou canst not bid me to dishonour thee; there is danger of such an injunction : but if thou shouldst bid me to hide the profession of thy name and wondrous works, I should fulfil thy words, and not examine thine intentions. Thou knowest how to win more honour by our silence, than by our promulgation. A forbidden good differs little froin evil. What makes our actions to be sin but thy prohibitions ? our judgment avails nothing. If thou forbid us that which we think good, it becomes as faulty to theeward, as that which is originally evil. Take thou charge of thy glory; give me grace to take charge of thy precepts.

CONTEMPLATION III.

Zaccheus. Now was our Saviour walking towards his passion : his last journey had most wonders. Jericho was in his way

from

[merged small][ocr errors]

Galilee to Jerusalem : he baulks it not, though it were outwardly cursed; but, as the first Joshua saved a Rahab there, so there the second saves a Zaccheus; that an harlot, this a publican. The traveller was wounded as he was going from Jerusalem to Jericho; this man was taken from his Jericho to the true Jerusalem, and was healed. Not as a passenger did Christ walk this way, but as a visitor; not to punish, but to heal. With us, the sick man is glad to send far for the physician; here the physician comes to seek patients, and calls at our door for work. Had not this good shepherd left the ninety-nine, and searched the desart, the lost sheep had never recovered the fold; had not his gracious frugality sought the lost goat, it had been swept up with the rushes, and thrown out in the dust. Still, O Saviour, dost thou walk through our Jericho: what would become of us, if thou shouldst stay till we seek thee alone? Even when thou hast found us, how hardly do we follow thee? the work must be all thine : we shall not seek thee, if thou find us not; we shall not follow thee, if thou draw us not.

Never didst thou, O Saviour, set one step in vain : wheresoever thou art walking, there is some Zaccheus to be won. As in a drought, when we see some weighty cloud bovering over us, we say there is rain for some grounds, wheresoever it falls: the ordinances of God bode good to some souls, and happy are they on whom it lights.

How justly is Zaccheus brought in with a note of wonder! it is both great and good news to hear of a convert. To see men perverted from God to the world, from truth to heresy, from piety to profaneness, is as common as lamentable; every night such stars fall : but to see a sinner come home to God, is both happy and wondrous to men and angels. I cannot blame that philosopher, who undertaking to write of the hidden miracles of nature, spends most of his discourse upon the generation and formation of man: surely we are fearfully and wonderfully made !" But how much greater is the miracle of our spiritual regeneration, that a son of wrath, a child of Satan, should be transformed into the son and heir of the ever-living God! O God, thou workest both; but in the one our spirit animates us, in the other thine own.

Yet some things, which have wonder in them for their worth, lose it for their frequence; this hath no less rarity in it than excellence. How many painful Peters have complained to fish all night, and catch nothing? Many professors, and few converts, hath been ever the lot of the gospel. God's house, as the streets of Jericho, may be thronged, and yet but one Zaccheus. As therefore in the lottery, when the great prize comes, the trumpet sounds before it; so the news of a convert is proclaimed with “Behold Zaccheus." Any penitent had been worthy of a shout; but this man, by an eminence, a publican, a chief of the publicans, rich.

No name under heaven was so odious as this of a publican; especially to this nation, that stood so high upon their freedom, that every impeachment of it seemed no less than damnable ; insomuch as they ask not, Is it fit, or needful, but, “ Is it lawful to pay tribute unto Cæsar ?” Any office of exaction must needs be heinous to a people so impatient of the yoke : and yet not so much the trade, as the extortion, drew hatred upon this profession; out of both they are deeply infamous. One while they are matched with heathens, another while with harlots, always with sinners ; " And behold Zaccheus, a publican.”. We are all naturally strangers from God; the best is indisposed to grace : yet some there are, whose very calling gives them better advantages. But this catch-poleship of Zaccheus carried extortion in the face, and, in a sort, bade defiance to his conversion; yet behold, from this tolbooth is called both Zaccheus to be a disciple, and Matthew to be an apostle. We are in the hand of a cunning workman, that, of the knottiest and crookedst timber, can make rafts and ceiling for his own house ; that can square the marble or fint, as well as the freest stone. Who can now, plead the disadvantage of his place, when he sees a publican come to Christ?

No calling can prejudice God's gracious election.

To excel in evil must needs be worse. If to be a publican be ill, surely to be an arch publican is more. What talk we of the chief of publicans, when he, that professed himself the chief of sinners, is now among the chief of saints? who can despair of mercy, when he sees one Jericho send both an barlot and a publican to heaven?

The trade of Zaccheus was not a greater rub in his way, than bis wealth. He that sent word to Johin for great news, that “ The poor receive the gospel,” said also, “ How hard is it for a rich man to enter into heaven !" This bunch of the camel keeps him from passing the needle's eye; although not by any malignity that is in the creature itself, (riches are the gift of God) but by reason of these three pernicious bang-byes, cares, pleasures, pride, which too commonly attend upon wealth: separate these, riches are a blessing. If we can so possess them, that they possess not us, there can be no danger, much benefit in abundance: all the good or ill of wealth or poverty, is in the mind, in the use. He, that hath a free and lowly heart in riches is poor; he, that hath a proud heart under rags, is rich. If the rich man do good and distribute, and the poor man steal, the rich hath put off his woe to the poor. Zaccheus had never been so famous a convert, if he had been poor; nor so liberal a convert, if he had not been rich. If more difficulty, yet more glory, was in the conversion of rich Zaccheus.

It is well that rich Zaccheus was desirous to see Christ. Little do too many rich men care to see that sight; the face of Cæsar on their coin is more pleasing. This man leaves his bags, to bless his eyes with this prospect; yet can I not praise him for this too much: it was not, I fear, out of faith, but curiosity: he that had heard great fame of the man, of bis miracles, would gladly see his face; even an Herod longed for this, and was never the better. Only this I find, that this curiosity of the eye, through the mercy of God, gave occasion to the belief of the heart. He that desires to see Jesus, is in the way to enjoy him; there is not so much as a reinote possibility in the man that cares not to behold him. The eye were ill bestowed, if it were only to betray our souls; there are no less beneficial glances of it. We are not worthy of this useful casement of the heart, if we do not thence send forth beams of holy desires, and thereby reconvey profitable and saving objects.

I cannot marvel if Zaccheus were desirous to see Jesus; all the world was not worth this sight. Old Simeon thought it best to have his eyes closed up with this spectacle, as if he held it pity and disparageinent to see ought after it. The father of the faithful rejoiced to see him, though at nineteen hundred years' distance; and the great doctor of the Gentiles stands upon this as his highest stair ; “ Have I not seen the Lord Jesus?” and yet, O Saviour, many a one saw thee here, that shall never see thy face above; yea, that shall call to the hills to hide them from thy sight: and, " If we had once known thee according to the flesh, henceforth know we thee so no more.” What an happiness shall it be, so to see thee glorious, that in seeing thee we shall partake of thy glory! o blessed vision, to which all others are but penal and despicable! Let me go into the mint-house, and see heaps of gold, I am never the richer; let me go to the pictures, and see goodly faces, I am never the fairer; let me go to the court, I see state and magnificence, and an never the greater : but, O Saviour, I cannot see thee, and not be blessed. I can see thee here, though in a glass ; if the eye of my faith be dim, yet it is sure. O let me be unquiet, till I do now see thee through the veil of heaven, ere I shall see thee as I am seen!

Fain would Zaccheus see Jesus, but he could not : it were strange, if a man should not find some let in good desires ; somewhat will be still in the way betwixt us and Christ. Here are two hinderances met, the one internal, the other external ; the stature of the man, the press of the multitude; the greatness of the press, the smallness of the stature. There was great thronging in the strects of Jericho to see Jesus ; the doors, the windows, the bulks were all full. Here are many beholders, few disciples. If gazing, if profession were godliness, Christ would not want clients ; now, amongst all these wonderers, there is but one Zaccheus. In vain should we boast of our forwardness to see and hear Christ in our streets, if we receive him not into our hearts.

This crowd hides Christ from Zaccheus. Alas! how common a thing it is, by the interposition of the throng of the world, to be kept from the sight of our Jesus ! Here a carnal fashionist says, Away with this austere scrupulousness; let me do as the most. The throng keeps this man from Christ : there a superstitious misbeliever says, What tell ye gie of an handful of reformed? the whole world is ours : this man is kept from Christ by the throng. The covetous mammonist says, Let them that have leisure be devout; my employments are many, my affairs great. This man cannot see Christ for the throng: there is no perfect view of Christ but in an holy secession. The spouse found not her beloved, till she was passed the company; then she found bim whom her soul loved. Whoso never seeks Christ but in the crowd, shall never find comfort in finding him ; the benefit of our public view must be enjoyed in retiredness. If in a press we see a man's face, that is all; when we have him alone, every limb

« السابقةمتابعة »