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requesting that the tree might be spared for another year, is represented Christ's interceding with God, in the character of mediator, for the Jews; yet .°s Christ was sent by God to that people, and every thing he did was by his direction, there seems to be no ground for a reference to any supposed intercession of his. We are not to expect that every particular circumstance introduced into a parable, should have something corresponding to it in the interpretation: for many things are mentioned in order to render the story complete.
10. And lie was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath;
11. And behold there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years; a Hebrew idiom for being troubled with an infirmity; and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
12. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.
13. And he laid his hands on her; and immediately she was made strait, and glorified God.
She considered God as the real author of her cure, and Jesus as only the instrument of performing it; she ascribes, therefore, the honour of the work to God.
14. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, or, "spoke with indignationfor there was no previous address, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath-day; and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work; in them, therefore, come and be healed, and not on the sabbath-day.
By blaming the people he secretly accused Jesus, who encouraged them; he therefore took up the matter.
15. The Lord then answered him and said, Thou hypocrite! doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
Jesus calls the ruler by this name, because he placed religion in outward ceremonies only, and seemed to be entirely destitute of benevolence; and appeals to their own conduct in letting out their cattle for water on the sabbath; which they justified upon the principle that it was necessary for their comfort; and argues that what he had done in this instance was right; motives of compassion applying much more strongly to the one case than to the other.
10. And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbathday?
In the one case there is a brute to demand compassion, in the other, a human being, which is much more worthy of attention; and that not of an ordinary class, but a descendent of Abraham, who is allowed to be of much more worth than the rest of mankind; and she has been bound, not for a few hours only, like the ox, but for eighteen years, and is therefore much more deserving of compassion. The weakness with which this woman was afflicted is here attributed to Satan, who does not signify a real being, but is an allegorical personage, whom the eastern nations considered as the enemy of God and the source of all evil. We have several traces of this opinion in the sacred writings. Thus the affliction of Joh is represented as coming from the hand of Satan, although it really proceeded from God, and Job always speaks of it in that light. And Paul calls the thom in the flesh with which he was afflicted, by which is generally understood some bodily infirmity, the messenger of Satan, or a satanic messenger; and in another place he speaks of delivering over some persons to Satan, that is, punishing them with some bodily distemper. Agreeably to this language, the woman whom Jesus cured of her infirmity is said to be bound by Satan.
17. And when he had said these things all his adversaries were ashamed.
He had so completely answered their objections, that they were quite confounded, and had nothing to reply.
And all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.
Persons of rank and power among the Jews were filled with envy at the popularity which Jesus acquired by his miracles, because they imagined their own authority weakened thereby: but the common people, who had no such motive for jealousy, were greatly delighted with them.
1. Let us endeavour to guard against those rash and uncharitable conclusions against which Jesus here cautions the Jews, who supposed that where there are extraordinary sufferings there must be extraordinary guilt- When applied to others, they tend to fill the mind with pride and self-conceit, as if we were the favourites of heaven, because we are exempted from troubles which others experience; and to harden our hearts against the miseries of the sufferers, by representing them as only enduring the punishment of their sins.— When applied to ourselves, they are the sources of terror, dejection, and dismay. Mankind seem in all ages to have been inclined to this error. It was the fault of Job's friends, who drew unfavourable conclusions respecting his character, when they saw him overwhelmed with calamity. It was the fault of these Jews respecting their countrymen; and it is what many Christians, notwithstanding the warning of their master, are strongly inclined to at the present day.
When we see men bringing evil upon themselves by their vices; when the intemperate man appears to have ruined his health by indulging his appetites to excess; when men of blood meet with others, who deal the same measure of cruelty to them which they have given to their brethren; when conscience renders life an intolerable burden to an offender against the laws of justice and humanity; here we need not scruple to say, "This is the finger of God, this marks the displeasure of heaven, and is a punishment inflicted upon the sinner for his crimes:" for here is an obvious connection between the calamity and the offence, and it was the intention of Providence to point out the one by the other. But where there is no such connection manifest, we are not justified in making such a conclusion. In regard to temporal calamities, one event happeneth to the righteous and to the wicked, and there is no knowing good or evil from all that passeth under the sun.
2. The parable of the fig-tree furnishes matter of serious alarm to those who have long enjoyed religious privileges, and neglected to improve them, whether they be nations or individuals: for it appears that God expects them to bear fruit by works of righteousnessand piety; that he watches their behaviour with an attentive eye, and that there is a period beyond which his patience will not wait. Let not communities of men, who have long been distinguished by their advantages, and who have had them continued after many threaten
ings to take them away, imagine that they will never be removed. From what happened to the Jews they may learn what will happen to them. A day of punishment is certainly coming, and will only be the more dreadful for being long delayed. Let them now, therefore, by timely repentance, endeavour to avert impending ruin. Let every sinner also remember, that although God may sometimes restore his health after being visited with threatening illness, and appear hence unwilling to give the fatal blow; yet the time will come when he will wait no longer, and when the tree must be cut down. Let every one of us fear lest the account given of the fig-tree be applicable to himself; and lest God should be provoked to issue the same order respecting him, as was issued by the master of the vineyard; Cut him down, why cumbereth he the ground?
3. We see the malignant nature of superstition, in the objections made by the ruler of the synagogue to Christ's healing diseases on the sabbath-day. It prefers the observance of ceremonies to the most important duties of life; to acts of charity and mercy. It not only darkens the understanding, but hardens the heart against compassion, and eradicates every humane feeling from the breast. Such was the baleful effect of superstition among the Jews; and such has been its effect in every place where it has acquired an ascendency, whether among heathens or christians; it is always accompanied with cruelty, and its footsteps may be traced by blood. Let us never forget that the design of religion is to make societies of men and individuals more excellent and happy; and that outward observances are of no further value, than as they tend to promote that end; that mercy, therefore, is to be preferred to sacrifice.
4. Let us join this woman and ^he rest of the people, in rejoicing in the miracles of Christ, and in glorifying God for them. They are striking instances of his almighty power, and illustrious evidences of goodness and condescension to the human race, the .benefits of which are felt to the present day. Let us not cease to