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blushing at the door, not daring to appear, like to some baffled suit, conscious to its own unworthiness and just repulse. Our inordinate desires are worthy of a check: when we know that our requests are holy, we cannot come with too much confidence to the throne of grace.
He that knew all their thoughts afar off, yet, as if he had been a stranger to their purposes, asks,“ What wouldst thou?”. Our infirmities do then best shame us, when they are fetched out of our own mouths; like as our prayers also serve not to acquaint God with our wants, but to make us the more capable of his mercies.
The suit is drawn from her, now she must speak: that these my two sons may sit, one on thy right hand, the other on thy left, in thy kingdom. It is hard to say, whether out of more pride or ignorance. It was as received as erroneous a conceit among the disciples of Christ, that he should raise up a temporal kingdom over the now tributary and enslaved people of Israel. The Romans were now their masters; their fancy was, that their Messias should shake off this yoke, and reduce them to their former liberty. So grounded was this opinion, that the two disciples, in their walk to Emmaus, could say, “We trusted it had been he that should have delivered Israel ;” and when, after his resurrection, he was walking up Mount Olivet towards heaven, his very apostles could ask hiin, if he would now restore that long-expected kingdom. How should we mitigate our censures of our christian brethren, if either they mistake, or know not soine secondary truths of religion, when the domestic attendants of Christ, who heard him every day till the very point of his ascension, misapprehended the chief cause of his coming into the world, and the state of his kingdom! If our charity may not bear with small faults, what do we under his name that connived at greater? Truth is, as the sun, bright in itself, yet there are many close corners into which it never shined. O God, if thou open our hearts, we shall take in those beams: till thou do so, teach us to attend patiently for ourselves, charitably for others.
These fishermen had so much courtship to know, that the right hand and the left of any prince were the chief places of honour. Our Saviour' had said, that his twelve followers should sit upon twelve thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. This good woman would have her two sons next to his person, the prime peers of his kingdom. Every one is apt to wish the best to his own. Worldly honour is neither worth our suit, nor unworthy our acceptance. Yea, Salome, had thy mind been in heaven, hadst thou intended this desired pre-eminence of that celestial state of glory, yet I know not how to justify thine ambition. Wouldst thou have thy sons preferred to the “ father of the faithful,” to the blessed mother of thy Saviour? that very wish were presumptuous. For me, O God, my ambition shall go so high as to be a saint in heaven, and to live as holily on earth as the best ; but for precedency of heavenly honour, I do not, I dare not affect it. It is enough for me, if I may lift up my head amongst the heels of thy blessed ones.
The mother asks, the sons have the answer. She was but their tongue, they shall be her ears. God ever imputes the acts to the first mover, rather than to the instrument.
It was a sore check, “Ye know not what ye ask.” In our ordinary communication, to speak idly is sin; but, in our suits to Christ, to be so inconsiderate as not to understand our own petitions, must needs be a foul offence. As faith is the ground of our prayers, so knowledge is the ground of our faith. If we come with indigested requests, we profane that name we invoke.
To convince their unfitness for glory, they are sent to their impotency in suffering ; " Are ye able to drink of the cup whereof I shall drink, and to be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized ?” O Saviour, even thou, who wert one with thy Father, hast a cup of thine own: never potion was so bitter as that which was mixed for thee. Yea, even thy draught is stinted; it is not enough for thee to sip of this cup, thou must drink it up to the very dregs. When the vinegar and gall were tendered to thee by inen, thou didst but kiss the cup : but when thy Father gave into thine hands a potion infinitely more distasteful, thou, for our health, didst drink deep of it, even to the bottom, and saidst, “It is finished.” . And can we repine at those unpleasing draughts of affliction that are tempered for us sinful men, when we see thee, the Son of thy Father's love, thus dieted? We pledge thee, O blessed Saviour, we pledge thee, according to our weakness, who hast begun to us in thy powerful sufferings. Only do thou enable us, after some sour faces made in our
reluctation, yet at last willingly to pledge thee in our constant sufferings for thee.
As thou must be drenched within, so must thou be baptized without. Thy baptism is not of water, but of blood; both these came from thee in thy passion: we cannot be thine, if we partake not of both. If thou hast not grudged thy precious blood to us, well mayst thou challenge some worthless drops from us.
When they talk of thy kingdom, thou speakest of thy bitter cup, of thy bloody baptism. Suffering is the way to reigniny. “Through many tribulations must we enter into the kingdom of heaven." There was never wedge of gold that did not first pass the fire ; there was never pure grain that did not undergo the flail. In vain shall we dream of our immediate passage, from the pleasures and jollity of earth, to the glory of heaven. Let who will hope to walk upon roses and violets to the throne of heaven, O Saviour, let me trace thee by the track of thy blood, and by thy red steps follow thee to thine eternal rest and happiness.
I know this is no easy task, else thou hadst never said, . " Are ye able?” Who should be able, if not they that had been so long blessed with thy presence, informed by thy doctrinė, and, as it were, beforehand possessed of their beaven in thee? Thou hadst never made them judges of their power, if thou couldst not have convinced them of their weakness. Alas, how full of feebleness is our body, and our mind of impatience! If but a bee sting our flesh, it swells; and if but a tooth ache, the head and heart complain. How small trifles make us weary of ourselves! What can we do without thee? without thee, what can we suffer? If thou be not, O Lord, strong in weakness, I cannot be so much as weak, I cannot so much as be. O do thou prepare me for my day, and enable me to my trials :: “I can do all things through thee that strengthenest me.”
The motion of the two disciples was not more full of infirmity than their answer, “ We are able :” out of an eager desire of the honour, they are apt to undertake the condition. The best men may be mistaken in their own powers. Alas, poor men! when it came to the issue, they ran away, and I know not whither, one without his coat. It is one thing to suffer in speculation, another in practice. There cannot be a worsé sigu, than for a man, in a carnal presumption, to vaunt of his own abilities. How justly doth God suffer that man to be foiled purposely, that he may be ashamed of his own self-confidence. O God, let me ever be humbly dejected in the sense of mine own insufficiency; let me give all glory to thee, and take nothing to myself but my infirmities.
O the wonderful mildness of the Son of God! he doth not rate the two disciples, either for their ambition in suing, or presumption in undertaking : but, leaving the worst, he takes the best of their answer; and omitting their errors, encourages their good intentions-“ Ye shall drink indeed of my *cup, and be baptized with my baptism; but to sit on iny
right hand and my left, is not mine to give, but to them for whom it is prepared' of my Father.”. I know not whether there be more mercy in the concession, or satisfaction in the denial. Were it not an high honour to drink of thy cup, O Saviour, thou hadst' not fore-promised it as a favour. I am deceived, if what thou grantest were much less than that which
thou deniest. To pledge thee in thine own cup, is not much less dignity and familiarity than to sit by thee.
" If we suffer with thee, we shall also reign"together with thee." What greater promotion can flesh and blood be capable of, than a conformity to the Lord of glory? Enable thou me to drink of thy cup, and then 'set me where thou wilt.
But, O Saviour, while thou dignifiest them in thy grant, dost thou disparage thyself in thy denial ? " Not mine to give ?” whose is it, if not thine? If it be thy Father's, it is thine. Thou, who art truth, hath said, “ I and my Father are one. Yea, because thou art one with the Father, it is not thine to give to any save those for whom it is prepared of the Father. The Father's preparation was thine, his gift is thine : the decree of both is one. That eternal counsel is not alterable upon our vain desires. The Father gives these heavenly honours to none but by thee: thou givest them to none but according to the decree of thy father. Many degrees there are of celestial happiness. Those supernal mansions are not all of an height. That Providence, which hath varied our stations upon earth, hath pre-ordered our seats above. O God, admit me within the walls of thy new Jerusalem, and place me wherèsoever thou pleasest.
The Tribute-Money paid.
All these other histories report the power of Christ, this shews both his power and obedience; his power over the creature, his obedience to civil powers. Capernaum was one of his own cities, there he made his chief abode in Peter's house : to that host of his, therefore, do the toll-gatherers repair for the tribute. When that great disciple said, We have left all,” he did not say, We have abandoned all, or sold, or given away all; but we have left, in respect of managing, not of possession ; not in respect of right, but of use and present fruition; so left, that, upon just occasion, we may resume; so left, that it is our due, though not our business. Doubtless, he was too wise to give away his own, that he might borrow of a stranger. His own roof gave him shelter for the time, and his Master with him. Of him, as the householder, is the tribute required; and by and for him is it also paid. I enquire not either into the occasion, or the
What need we make this exaction sacrilegious ? as if that half-shekel, which was appointed by God to be paid by every Israelite to the use of the tabernacle and temple, were now diverted to the Roman exchequer. There was no necessity that the Roman lords should be tied to the Jewish reckonings; it was free for them to iinpose what payments they pleased upon a subdued people: when great Augustus commanded the world to be taxed, this rate was set. The mannerly collectors demand it first of him with whom they might be more bold: “ Doth not your Master
tribute?" All Capernaum knew Christ for a great Prophet; his doctrine had ravished them ; his miracles had astonished them; yet when it comes to a money matter, his share is as deep as the rest. Questions of profit admit no difference. Still the sacred tribe challengeth reverence :: who cares how little they receive, how much they pay ? yet no man knows with what mind this demand was made; whether in a churlish grudging at Christ's immunity, or in an awful compellation of the servant rather than the master. Peter had it ready what to answer.
I hear him not require their stay till he should go in and know his Master's