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The stability or perpetuity of good, adds much to the praise of it. Martha's part was soon gone; the thank and use of a little outward hospitality cannot long last: “but Mary's shall not be taken away from her.” The act of her hearing was transient, the fruit permanent: she now hears that which shall stick by her for ever.
What couldst thou hear, O holy Mary, from those sacred lips, which we hear not still ? that heavenly doctrine is never but the same, not more subject to change than the Author of it. It is not impossible that the exercise of the gospel should be taken from us; but the benefit and virtue of it is as inseparable from our souls as their being. In the hardest times that shall stick closest to us, and till death, in death, after death, shall make us happy.
The Beggar that was born Blind, cured. The man was born blind. This cure requires not art, but power ; a power no less than infinite and divine. Nature presupposeth a matter, though formless ; art looks for matter formed to our hands ; God stands not upon either. Where there was not an eye to be healed, what could an oculist do? It is only a God that can create. Such are we, O God, to all spiritual things ; we want not sight but eyes; it must be thou only that canst make us capable of illumination.
The blind man sat begging. Those that have eyes, and hands, and feet of their own, may be able to help themselves; those that want these helps must be beholden to the eyes, hands, feet of others. The impotent are cast upon our mercy; happy are we, if we can lend limbs and senses to the needy. Affected beggary is odious; that which is of God's inaking, justly challengeth relief.
Where should this blind man sit begging but near the temple? At one gate sits a cripple, a blind man at another. Well might these miserable souls suppose that piety and charity dwelt close together : the two tables were both of one quarry. Then are we best disposed to mercy towards our brethren, when we have either craved or acknowledged God's mercy towards ourselves. If we go thither to bey of God, how can we deny mites, when we hope for talents ?
Never did Jesus move one foot but to purpose. He passed by, but so as that his virtue stayed ; so did he pass by that his eye was fixed. The blind man could not see him, he sees the blind man.
His goodness prevents us, and yields better supplies to our wants. He saw compassionately, not shutting his eyes, not turning them aside, but bending them upon that dark and disconsolate object. That which was said of the sun, is much more true of him that made it. “ Nothing is hid from his light:” but of all other things, miseries, especially of his own, are most intentively eyed of him. Could we be miserable unseen, we had reason to be heartless. O Saviour, why should we not imitate thee in this merciful improvement of our senses ! Woe be to those eyes that care only to gaze upon their own beauty, bravery, wealth ; not abiding to glance upon the sores of Lazarus, the sorrows of Joseph, the dungeon of Jeremy, the blind beggar at the gate of the temple.
The disciples see the blind man too, but with different eyes: our Saviour for pity and cure, they for expostulation; “ Master, who did sin; this man or his parents, that he is born blind?" I like well that whatsoever doubt troubled them, they straight vent it into the ear of their Master. O Saviour, while thou art in heaven, thy school is upon earth. Wherefore serve thy“ priests' lips” but to " preserve knowledge?” What use is there of the tongue of the learned but to speak a word in season?. Thou teachest us still, and still we doubt, and ask, and learn.
In one short question I find two truths, and two falsehoods; the truths implied, the falsehoods expressed. It is true, that commonly man's suffering is for sin; that we may justly, and do, often suffer even for the sins of our parents; it is false, that there is no other reason of our suffering but sin, that a man could sin actually before he was, or was before his being, or could beforehand suffer for his after sins. In all likelihood, that absurd conceit of the transmigration of souls possessed the very disciples. How easily, and how far may the best be miscarried with a common error! We are not thankful for our own illumination, if we do not look with charity and pity upon the gross mis-opinions of our brethren.
Our Saviour sees, and yet will wink at so foul a misprision of his disciples. I hear neither chiding nor conviction. He that could have enlightened their minds, as he did the world,
at once, will do it by due leisure ; and only contents himself here with a mild solution ; “ Neither this man nor his parents. We learn nothing of thee, O Saviour, if not meekness. What a sweet temper should be in our carriage towards the weaknesses of others' judgment! how should we instruct them without bitterness, and, without violence of passion, expect the meet seasons of their better information? The tender mother or nurse doth not rate her little one for that he goes not well, but gives him ber hand that he may go better. It is the spirit of lenity that must restore and confirm the lapsed.
The answer is direct and punctual ; neither the sin of the man nor of his parents bereaved him of his eyes : there was
higher cause of this privation, the glory that God meant to win to himself by redressing it. The parents had sinned in themselves, the man had sinned in his first parents; it is not the guilt of either that is guilty of this blindness. All God's afflictive acts are not punishments : some are for the benefit of the creature, whether for probation, or prevention, or reformation : all are for the praise, whether of his divine power, or justice, or mercy.
It was fit that so great a work should be ushered in with a preface. A sudden and abrupt appearance would not have beseemed so glorious a demonstration of onnipotence. The way is made; our Saviour addresses himself to the miracle ; a miracle not more in the thing done, than in the form of doing it.
The matter used was clay. Could there be a meaner? could there be ought more unfit! O Saviour, how oft hadst thou cured blindnesses by thy word alone! how oft by tby touch ! how easily couldst thou have done so here! Was this to shew thy liberty, or thy power? liberty, in that thou canst at pleasure use variety of means, not being tied to any; power, in that thou couldst make use of contraries. Hadst thou pulled out a box, and applied sone medicinal ointment to the eyes, something had been ascribed to thy skill, more to the natural power of thy receipt; now thou madest use of clay, which had been enough to stop up the eye of the seeing; the virtue must be all in thee, none in the means. The utter disproportion of this help to the cure, adds glory to the worker.
How clearly didst thou hence evince to the world, that thou, who of clay couldst make eyes, wert the same who of clay hadst made man! Since there is no part of the body that hath so little analogy to clay as the eye; this clearness is contrary to that darkness. Had not the Jews been more blind than the man whoin thou curedst, and more hard and still than the clay which thou mollifiedst, they had, in this one work, both seen and acknowledged thy deity.
What could the clay have done without thy tempering? It was thy spittle that made the clay effectual; it was that sacred mouth of thine that made the spittle medicinal : the water of Siloam shall but wash off that clay which this inward moisture made powerful. The clay, thus tempered, must be applied by the hand that made it, else it avails nothing
What must the blind man needs think, when he felt the cold clay upon the holes of his eyes? or, since he could not conceive what an eye was, what must the beholders needs think, to see that hollowness thus filled up? Is this the way to give either eyes or sight? why did not the earth see with this clay as well as the man? what is there to hinder the sight, if this make it.
Yet with these contrarieties must faith be exercised, where God intends the blessing of a cure.
It was never meant that this clay should dwell upon those pits of the eyes : it is only put on to be washed off; and that not by every water ; none shall do it but that Siloam, which signifies Sent; and if the man had not been sent to Siloam, he had been still blind. All things receive their virtue from divine institution. How else should a piece of wheaten bread nourish the soul? how should spring-water wash off spiritual filthiness ? how should the foolishness of preaching save souls ? how should the absolution of God's minister be more effectual than the breath of an ordinary Christian ? Thou, O God, hast set apart these ordinances, thy blessing is annexed to them; hence is the ground of all our use, and their efficacy. Hadst thou so instituted, Jordan would as well have healed blindness, and Siloam leprosy.
That the man might be capable of such a miracle, his faith is set on work; he must be led, with his eyes to the pool of Siloam. He washes and sees. Lord, what did this man think when his eyes were now first given him? what a new world did he find himself come into ? how did he wonder at heaven and earth, and the faces and shapes of all
daubed up, creatures, the goodly varieties of colours, the cheerfulness of the light, the lively beams of the sun, the vast expansion of the air, the pleasant transparence of the water ; at the glorious piles of the temple, and stately palaces of Jerusalem? every thing did not more please than astonish him. Lo, thus shall we be affected, and more, when the scales of our mortality being done away, we shall see as we are seen ; when we shall behold the blessedness of that other world, the glory of the saints and angels, the infinite majesty of the Son of God, the incomprehensible brightness of the all-glorious deity. O my soul, that thou couldst be taken up beforehand with the admiration of that which thou canst not as yet be capable of foreseeing
It could not be but that many eyes had been witnesses of this man's want of eyes. He sat begging at one of the temple gates : not only all the city, but all the country must needs know him; thrice a year did they come up to Jerusalem; neither could they come to the temple and not see him: his very blindness made him noted. Defortnities and infirmities of body do more easily both draw and fix the eye, than an ordinary symmetry of parts.
Besides his blindness, his trade made him remarkable; the importunity of his begging drew the eyes of the passengers; but, of all other, the place most notified him. Had he sat in some obscure village of Judea, or in some blind lane of Jerusalem, perhaps he had not been heeded of many ; but now, that he took up his seat in the heart, in the head of the chief city, whither all resorted from all parts, what Jew can there be that knows not the blind beggar at the temple gate? Purposely did our Saviour make choice of such a subject for his miracle; a man so poor, so public : the glory of the work could not have reached so far, if it had been done to the wealthiest citizen of Jerusalem. Neither was it for nothing that the act and the man is doubted of, and inquired into by the beholders; “ Is not this he that sat begging? some said, It is he; others said, It is like him.” No truths have received so full proofs as those that have been questioned. The want, or the sudden presence of an eye, much inore of both, must needs make a great change in the face; those little balls of light, which no doubt were more clear than nature could have made them, could not but give a new life to the countenance. I marvel not if the neighbours, who had wont to see this dark