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ruder way, that our Lord had no business to destroy a tree, which was either private property, or belonged to the public.
Now, in reply to this, and with regard to exertions of a miraculous power which are hurtful in their consequences, it may be observed that Almighty God, the Lord of life and author and giver of all things, the wise and good governor of the world, may surely resume his gifts in what manner he pleases, either in the way of natural causes, as we speak, by earthquakes, lightning, storms, and the like, or by his chosen servants invested with an extraordinary commission and power, and acting from him.
However, all our Saviour's miracles were acts of goodness, at the same time that they were marks of his power and authority from God; always to the benefit and never to the hurt of any one, except in this instance of a barren tree withered and destroyed, and that other of demons being permitted to enter into an herd of swine to the number of about two thousand, as our evangelist relates, (ver. 13.) or, as we should now express ourselves, who believe and are persuaded that there are no demons
demons or evil spirits that have any power over or any thing to do with us, but that every thing is from God and all power his alone,
The madness of those two afflicted men, whom Christ cured by the divine permission, passed into the swine, by which they ran headlong into the sea and were drowned.
In these two instances only, it pleased God that Christ should deviate from his constant uniform beneficent method of working mira-· cles, perhaps to strike the minds of men with awe, and impress them with sensible tokens of the divine displeasure against sin; or for other reasons unknown to us.
The loss of the tree was trifling; that of the swine more considerable; but probably not very much to any single person, as it was a common herd that belonged to many; and to the Jews, who were the owners, it was no more than a just mulct or punishment, which Christ, as a prophet of God, i. e. a magistrate in their commonwealth, had a right to inflict for disobedience to the law of Moses; not to mention other purposes of divine Providence for the furtherance of the gospel, to which such an act of severity might serve at that time.
It may be of use here to observe concerning miracles, that though an important, they were not the principal part of Christ's errand and office.
This was to draw men out of vice and ignorance, and teach them piety and virtue, and how to become happy for ever.
But as this was a hard lesson to learn in such a world as this, where men have so many evil habits to correct, which make them averse to the truth; so many fascinating allurements before them to withdraw their attention to other objects;-to awaken their minds to their duty and true happiness, and to work effectually upon them, it was necessary to prove his authority from God in what he proposed to them. For this, miraculous powers were required to attest his mission, that it was not a man that spake of his own accord only to do them the greatest good, but God who spoke to them by him.
So that miracles are to be regarded as instruments only to forward the designs of the gospel, and bring men to virtue and their true happiness.
If any object to these from any thing they
think improper in them, as not at all needed, and wrought on too trifling occasions, they should consider whether they are judges, and can take in the whole of the case, of time, place, and persons; and whether it be not too much to undertake, and too presuming to say, Such an exertion of a divine power was wrong; could answer no good end; might better have been omitted.
Had our Lord ever displayed his extraordinary power to be gazed at, to gain esteem and applause, or to promote any selfish worldly purposes, objections might arise: but when it was exerted for no views of this kind, and purely to relieve men's miseries and heal their bodily diseases, except in the two instances above mentioned, at the same time that it proved his commission from God; and he shunned fame and all regards of men for it to a degree that is astonishing, and creates our admiration; it would seem that every fair unprejudiced mind would say, that here was an interposition worthy of God!
I would further observe on this subject, that our Lord's miracles were, in general, wrought upon subjects and occasions unsought for by him, chiefly on persons that came in his way and
and applied to him themselves or by their friends, and in the course of his public ministry.
But he appears to have had a discretional power given him, whenever he thought it might be useful to exert an extraordinary power; in which respect his apostles were probably more limited.
It does not seem that he had before meditated upon doing the miracle we have now been considering; but going to Jerusalem with his twelve chosen disciples near the end of his life, at such a momentous crisis as we have above described, it struck him immediately, on seeing the fig-tree, that (in causing it by the divine power to wither away,) he might thereby read a lesson that might be most use ful to his followers, and make a more lasting impression upon them than mere words, as well as convince them of his divine power, and of the like extraordinary assistance they themselves, in the same cause, might hereafter expect from God. And who can say, on any just grounds, that he did not employ this power, in this instance, on a fit occasion and for a good end?