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Jesus Christ were most fitly manifested in this way, as introductive to the great deliverance from sin and death, he came to effect for us, by bearing them himself, in our stead, and so taking them away. And so, in cures afterwards, as you find in the next chapter, he began to let out somewhat of that, as the main: Thy sins are forgiven thee. And without this, what is health itself, though in its kind very precious, especially when so speedily and easily restored after sickness by a word or a touch? Yet, what had this been but a little reprieval, while the sentence of death, yea, eternal death, was still standing, and shortly to fall on? Oh! the lifting of that desperate sinking burden, our sins, and taking them upon himself for us! How far do all words, and what is larger, all thoughts, fall short of the height of that love! Oh, boundless, immense love! It will take up eternity to consider it.
Ver. 18. Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.] Other reasons may be imagined for his withdrawing from these, but it appears that his work now lay elsewhere, and he was to go through it. And the other Evangelists are express in this: I must preach also to other cities, for for this came I forth. He had much work, and a short time to perform it in; so he follows it diligently. Thus his servants ought to go or stay, indifferently, for all places and services, as they are called, and not to please others and themselves, but Him who sends them.
Ver. 19, 20. And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, Foxes have holes, &c.] Strange! Our Saviour seems to turn off the very ready and full offer of one, and to put forward another who drew back. He is, indeed, absolutely free in his choice, and may without control do this, let pass high temporary fits and offers, and lay hold on what hath far less appearance. And the truth is, he is privy to the secret actions of men's hearts, and can discern in some of a very plausible zeal and forwardness, some false principles within, whence it is kindled; and in others more slow and inactive,
sees under that, more sincerity at the bottom. This scribe, possibly, taken with the splendour of Christ's miracles, and the flocking of multitudes unto him, perceived not his present poverty and meanness, and after disgraces and sufferings. Many make lavish offers to religion at a time when it is in request, or possibly upon some discernment of its own worth and beauty, but do not count the cost; consider not the enmity of the world, the outward meanness, the reproachings and despisings that usually attend it. It is indeed by far the best bargain with all those who count the cost, if men would understand it right, and think it so ere they engage in it.
Now we see what condition Christ, who was Lord of all, chose for our sakes, amidst his own to live as a stranger, having no property, not so much as the beasts and the birds. He became poor to make us rich, 2 Cor. viii. 9.; not rich in those things he was poor in, but in things infinitely better. In that, he calls his followers, most commonly, to a conformity with himself: he forbids not, indeed, property and possessions, but surely we should learn amidst all to walk, in affection at least, like him, as strangers here, not glued to any thing, using the world, as though we used it not. And they who are really thus as he was, Oh, what comfort have they in this! How is it sweetened to them, if in that condition they indeed follow him! Hast thou no dwelling of thy own, no possession, and little for present supply? Look up to Him who passed through here in that very same way, and cleave the closer to Him; so much the more eye Him as thy riches and portion, and thou needest not envy kings in their best days. And whatsoever be thy estate, how soon shall it be past! And all that live, have much a like space of earth to lie down in at last. But Oh, the rich inheritance above, for all that lay hold on it, and follow our Lord Jesus Christ by the way!
Ver. 21. Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.] Now the other craves a delay. And a world of such excuses there are. They that will not give Christ an absolute refusal, yet, have somewhat first to be done. This match, or bargain, VOL. IIL F
or purchase, or at least a time civilly to take farewell of friends; and thus the most shift it off. But as to those whom he resolves to have, he will not take their refusal. Let the dead, says he, bury their dead. There are enough of common persons, who have no share of life in me, they may do that; Follow thou me. Oh! happy they whom he will not loose; whom he powerfully, yet sweetly constrains to break from all and follow him! Sure I am, it shall never repent them.
Ver. 23-27. And being entered into a ship, there arose a great tempest.] Still new occasions, and accordingly, new evidence, of the Divine power of Jesus Christ. Upon the ship wherein He is, there may, and usually does, arise a storm; yet, happy is it to be embarked with Him upon all hazards! His ship may be tost, but perish it cannot. His counsels are deep and wise, and we cannot find them out. He knows what He is about to do, when we can least understand Him. When we think that He leads out His people to be swallowed up in the sea, or destroyed in the wilderness, He is only raising a mount for Himself to be seen on, and bringing them into the view of dangers, yea, of apparent ruin, to be more glorious in their deliverance. His way is in the deep, and His footsteps Canst thou by searching find out God?
are not known.
says He in Job. Which is not, I conceive, so much meant of His essence, as of His operations and ways; which are so profound and untraceable. We are at a stand often to think what He means to do; whether He has given up His Church and cause to the winds and waves, when His enemies rage and roar, and He is silent, as if He cared not what became of all. The seas swell, the ship is tost, and He sleeps.
Not to speak here of Christ putting on our natural frailties, or of this sleep, whether it was natural or voluntary; it might be and likely was both: wearied with the concourse of the multitude on the land, he falls asleep in the ship; yet, doubtess, he had the command of those natural inclinations in himself, and chooses now to sleep, to increase the appearance of the danger, and add horror to the visage of it. So no doubt
it did: not all the blustering of the winds, nor the rising of the waves, was so frightful and sad to the disciples, as that their Master slept so sound in the midst of them; so sound as if rocked asleep by them, and either wholly insensible, or very regardless of their danger; as St. Luke expresses their feelings, Carest thou not that we perish? Now, in this man who slept, dwelt God who sleeps not, The Watchman of Israel, who does not so much as slumber. But they, either not so clearly understanding, or, in the fright, not so duly remembering and considering this, were eyeing only the posture wherein he was visible to them; therefore, the sounder he slept, it awaked and increased their fear the more. And as Jesus Christ here really did, even so God seems sometimes to His own to do; and they express it so. Thus the Psalmist : Awake, arise, why sleepest Thou, O Lord? This He seems to do, when the ungodly prosper, and when His people lie trodden under foot, and He seems to take no notice of their pressure, nor stirs for their deliverance. And this is the saddest part of their affliction: they have no hope nor stay, but in the favour and protection of their God; now when that is retired, and the curtain drawn, and He asleep, their prayers not heard, and no appearance of His help, I say, it is a grand trial of faith, which shakes and disquiets more than all other things, how terrible soever. No rage or noise of the enemy is so grievous, as the silence and sleeping of God. Thus, in a soul, when lusts and temptations are swelling and raging, and God is retired, and as asleep to it, says nothing, controls them not, but suffers them to take their course; this is that which breeds the highest anguish, and brings a soul to the mouth of the pit, to the brink of desperation. Then it is forced to cry for a word from his mouth: Lord Jesus, speak but a word; keep not silence to me, or I am undone; there is no recovery for me; if thou keep silence, I am dead: I shall be like them that go down to the pit; or, as it is here, Save, Master, or we perish.
And this is one main end for which he does sleep, to awake
us, to rouse and stir our prayers, which commonly are in times of ease, heavy, drowsy, lifeless things, as a man's speech in sleep, dreaming, incoherent, senseless stuff. This they may be to God, who hearkens to what the heart says in them, though to man's ears, the words may be fit and good sense. But by the straining of a sharp affliction, or near pressing danger, the heart is awaked and speaks itself. Such a word seems to sound in its ears, as that of the mariners to Jonah, Arise, thou sluggard, and call upon thy God. Men do but trifle in fair weather, but in the storm they are more in earnest. Especially, a soul acquainted with God, that follows and relies upon Him, will take this course and no other: it runs straight to Him, and if He be asleep, awakes Him. And in this, they are to be approved and commended, that, as here, their course is to Jesus Christ, as confident of his power and willingness to deliver them. This the disciples did believe; otherways they had not left working for themselves, to go to awake him.
Yet was there with their faith, a mixture of distempered, distrustful fear, which Jesus well knew, and which he would not otherwise have charged them with. He doth not altogether deny that there was faith in them, but checks the deficiency of it: O ye of little faith, why did ye doubt? Apprehend danger and fear, they might; yea, if they had not, they would not have come to Christ in that manner. Without a living sense of distress or danger, there can be neither faith nor prayer. These are stirred up and raised to act, by the knowledge and feeling of our need of help. But the misery is, we scarcely in any thing know our bounds: our passions raised, do usually overflow and pass the banks. A little fear does but awake faith, but much fear weakens it, and in the awakening gives it too great a blow, such a one as astonishes it, and makes it stagger. That they were afraid, was tolerable; but their hearts, it seems, were not so established in the persuasion of Christ's Divine power and care of them, as became them; and this he plainly, yet gently, checks. And there is this alloy of distrust with believing, not only in the weaker,