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The faith of this nobleman, as in every case, was blendid with much infirmity. He reposed confidence in the goodness of Christ, in the power of Christ to heal the sick; but he weakly imagined that this power could operate only on the spot. Under this impression he travels from Capernaum to Cana in hope of being able to persuade Jesus to accompany him to the former city, and stand over the patient, and rebuke the fever, and restore him to health: "he besought him 'that he would come down, and heal his son, for he was at the point of death." He urges the importance of despatch, lest death should interpose and extinguish hope for ever; for his faith carried him no farther than to the brink of the grave, and there gave up all for lost. It was meet that one who thought, who felt, who acted so well, should be taught to think, to feel, to act better. It was meet he should be taught not to dictate to divine sovereignty, but to adore, and submit to it; taught to enlarge his ideas of the power and grace of the redeemer, as extending to universal space, and to every possible state of things. This seems to be the only rational interpretation which can be given of the apparent coldness of the reception given him by our Lord. Instead of his usual promptitude to fly to the relief of distress, the importunate and solicitous father meets, from the lips of Christ, with a seemingly ungracious reflection which had nearly chilled his heart.
Then said Jesus unto him, except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe." In his progress through Samaria Christ had found greater faith than in Judea. The Samaritans exacted no sign, expressed no suspicion, insisted on no condition. "Many more believed because of his own word, and said unto the woman, now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." But his countrymen of Galilee, though they had been witnesses
of his miracles, were "slow of heart to believe." They demand farther evidence, and in the true spirit of Thomas, one of the twelve, who, after all the signs and wonders of which he had been a spectator, resisted the clearest testimony: "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." The nobleman of Capernaum had probably expressed himself in similar terms, and thereby incurred this reproof of his incredulity which seemed to convey a denial of his suit.
Parental affection perseveres in following up quest. He tacitly admits the justice of Christ's censure, but waves discussion, and in the anguish of his soul renews his supplication to him, to whom misery never applied in vain: "Sir, come down ere my child die." Where the heart is deeply interested the "words are few," but O how forcible! The feelings of a parent are seen with approbation by the friend of mankind, who knows what is in man, and to whom nothing that affects humanity can be a matter of indifference. "Jesus saith unto him, Go, thy way; thy son liveth." That word, that one little word, has in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, reached Capernaum, has expelled a mortal distemper, has relieved, a wretched father from a pressure under which he was sinking, and has inspired him with a confidence never more to be shaken. He receives his son as one alive from the dead, he learns to correct his false ideas of the power of Christ, and to submit implicitly to his decisions. "And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way."
The sequel unfolds an amiable, interesting and instructive view of domestic life. When the master left his home to go in quest of relief to his child, the servants of the family, some of them actually slaves, entering into their lord's feelings, tend the sick bed of
the young man with all the attention and solicitude of humble friends, not with the eye-service of mercenary or compelled drudges. They observe every symptom of the disorder, they watch over every motion of the patient, they outrun his wants and wishes, they tremble for the issue, they mark with transport the moment of convalescence, and to spare the tender parent every unnecessary pang of painful apprehension, instead of waiting for his return, they send off a deputation of their number, the instant that the fever came to a crisis, to announce the welcome tidings to their beloved master. What honour does this reflect on all the parties! Human life consists of reciprocation of kind affections, expressions and actions, or their contraries. In vain does the unfeeling, insolent, tyrannical despot expect dutiful, cheerful, cordial attachment and submission from domestics and dependants. By failure in his own duty, he has set them the example of harshness, want of sympathy, and disrespect. The inferiour almost always takes the tone from his superiour. If you see obsequious, faithful, diligent servants, or attentive, dutiful, affectionate children, rest assured that the master and mistress of the family, that the parents of the children are wise, gentle and good. Most families in the metropolis, especially those of high rank, are uncomfortable, because mutual attachment subsists not between the rulers and the ruled. It is a mere intercourse of accommodation and interest, in which neither the heart nor conscience hath any part. The paltry consideration of a month's wages settles the account on either side. In the remoter parts of the king. dom, the relation of master and servant is a tacit compact of unlimited duration. The servant is adopted into the family, and looks up to the heads of it with filial respect, gratitude and confidence. No separate interest, no divided or contradictory views and pursuits disturb domestic tranquillity. The family of this nobleman was not far from the kingdom of God, for the
spirit of love was its governing principle, and God is love. "And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, thy son liveth. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, yesterday at the seventh hour
the fever left him."
One of our highest mental pleasures consists in comparing object with object, in order to discover coincidence, similitude, difference or contrast. This pleasure must have been enjoyed in singular purity on this joyful occasion. The distance of the two cities was well known. It employed a whole day, and the exertions of a man of rank and fortune, furnished with all the means of expeditious travelling, and under the stimulus of paternal affection, to go from Capernaum to Cana. How pleasant was it to compare that distance, and the usual rate of journeying, with the inconceivable rapid transition of the word of Christ! what a contrast! Here then was a demonstration of the controlling power of Christ over space; it was not needful that he should go up or come down, that he should be on the same spot with the object of his beneficence, for the purpose of effecting a cure. The divine attribute of omnipresence was accordingly displayed. The measurements of time are equally well known and understood; and there was a peculiarly powerful motive on both sides to mark the precise moment. Here an opportunity was afforded of instituting a second comparison, and lo, what a coincidence between the time of the father's observation and that of the servants, that is, when Jesus spake the word to the one, and when the others perceived a sensible change to the better, in their young master's health! If ever the relation of cause and effect existed, it was in this case. And here was a display of another divine attribute, time as well as space subdued to the will of him who fil
leth all space; whose existence was before time began to flow, and runneth through the whole extent of its duration; with whom a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years; who measureth the lapse of moments and of ages by a standard unalterable as the ordinances of heaven, and by a standard still more intelligible, sensible, interesting and endearing, uninterrupted, unwearied acts of loving kindness and tender mercies."
It would be ungenerous and unjust to ascribe the nobleman's minuteness of inquiry to doubt, or slowness of belief, for the history expressly saith, "the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and went his way," confiding entirely in the truth and faithfulness of that word, long before the evidence of it met him on the road. But that Jesus in whom he trusted, graciously gave him this confirmation of his faith, that he might feel the solidity of the rock on which all his hope rested. Faith is faith though but as a grain of mustard seed; for that grain contains an immortal germ, pregnant with all the beauty and rich. ness of a future harvest. The apostles themselves were sometimes weak, at other times strong in the faith; sensible of this they prayed unto the Lord that he would "increase" it. The principle is sound, it is vital it may lie dormant, it may suffer depression, but it cannot expire. "So the father knew that it was at the same hour in the which Jesus said unto him, thy son liveth; and himself believed, and his whole house "
The miracles of Christ always look farther than to their immediate object. Application is made for the removal of a bodily infirmity; the diseases of the mind are at the same time reached by the healing power of the redeemer, and the spectators are made sensible of a divine energy. The blind man comes in hope of having his sight restored, he goes away seeing, and VOL. IV. 2 Q