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The Miracles Of Our Lord
AUTHOR: Macdonald, George
PUBLISHED ON: March 31, 2003
DOC SOURCE: CCN

Etext of The Miracles Of Our Lord
BY GEORGE MACDONALD

To F.D. Maurice
Honoured of God
I humbly offer this book

INTRODUCTION.

I HAVE been requested to write some papers on our Lord’s
miracles. I venture the attempt in the belief that, seeing they are
one of the modes in which his unseen life found expression, we are
bound through them to arrive at some knowledge of that life. For
he has come, The Word of God, that we may know God: every
word of his then, as needful to the knowing of himself, is needful
to the knowing of God, and we must understand, as far as we may,
every one of his words and every one of his actions, which, with
him, were only another form of word. I believe this the immediate
end of our creation. And I believe that this will at length result in
the unravelling for us of what must now, more or less, appear to
every man the knotted and twisted coil of the universe.

It seems to me that it needs no great power of faith to believe in
the miracles-for true faith is a power, not a mere yielding. There
are far harder things to believe than the miracles. For a man is not
required to believe in them save as believing in Jesus. If a man can
believe that there is a God, he may well believe that, having made
creatures capable of hungering and thirsting for him, he must be
capable of speaking a word to guide them in their feeling after
him. And if he is a grand God, a God worthy of being God, yea
(his metaphysics even may show the seeker), if he is a God capable
of being God, he will speak the clearest grandest word of guidance
which he can utter intelligible to his creatures. For us, that word
must simply be the gathering of all the expressions of his visible
works into an infinite human face, lighted up by an infinite human
soul behind it, namely, that potential essence of man, if I may use
a word of my own, which was in the beginning with God. If God
should thus hear the cry of the noblest of his creatures, for such are
all they who do cry after him, and in very deed show them his face,
it is but natural to expect that the deeds of the great messenger
should be just the works of the Father done in little. If he came to
reveal his Father in miniature, as it were (for in these unspeakable
things we can but use figures, and the homeliest may be the
holiest), to tone down his great voice, which, too loud for men to
hear it aright, could but sound to them as an inarticulate
thundering, into such a still small voice as might enter their human
ears in welcome human speech, then the works that his Father does
so widely, so grandly that they transcend the vision of men, the
Son must do briefly and sharply before their very eyes.

This, I think, is the true nature of the miracles, an epitome of God’s
processes in nature beheld in immediate connection with their
source-a source as yet lost to the eyes and too often to the hearts of
men in the far-receding gradations of continuous law. That men
might see the will of God at work, Jesus did the works of his
Father thus.

Here I will suppose some honest, and therefore honourable, reader
objecting: But do you not thus place the miracles in dignity below
the ordinary processes of nature? I answer: The miracles are
mightier far than any goings on of nature as beheld by common
eyes, dissociating them from a living Will; but the miracles are
surely less than those mighty goings on of nature with God beheld
at their heart. In the name of him who delighted to say “My Father
is greater than I,” I will say that his miracles in bread and in wine
were far less grand and less beautiful than the works of the Father
they represented, in making the corn to grow in the valleys, and the
grapes to drink the sunlight on the hill-sides of the world, with all
their infinitudes of tender gradation and delicate mystery of birth.
But the Son of the Father be praised, who, as it were, condensed
these mysteries before us, and let us see the precious gifts coming
at once from gracious hands-hands that love could kiss and nails
could wound.

There are some, I think, who would perhaps find it more possible
to accept the New Testament story if the miracles did not stand in
the way. But perhaps, again, it would be easier for them, to accept
both if they could once look into the true heart of these miracles.
So long as they regard only the surface of them, they will, most
likely, see in them only a violation of the laws of nature: when
they behold the heart of them, they will recognize there at least a
possible fulfilment of her deepest laws.

With such, however, is not my main business now, any more than
with those who cannot believe in a God at all, and therefore to
whom a miracle is an absurdity. I may, however, just make this
one remark with respect to the latter-that perhaps it is better they
should believe in no God than believe in such a God as they have
yet been able to imagine. Perhaps thus they are nearer to a true
faith-except indeed they prefer the notion of the Unconscious
generating the Conscious, to that of a self-existent Love, creative
in virtue of its being love. Such have never loved woman or child
save after a fashion which has left them content that death should
seize on the beloved and bear them back to the maternal dust. But I
doubt if there can be any who thus would choose a sleep-walking
Pan before a wakeful Father. At least, they cannot know the Father
and choose the Pan.

Let us then recognize the works of the Father as epitomized in the
miracles of the Son. What in the hands of the Father are the mighty
motions and progresses and conquests of life, in the hands of the
Son are miracles. I do not myself believe that he valued the
working of these miracles as he valued the utterance of the truth in
words; but all that he did had the one root, obedience, in which
alone can any son be free. And what is the highest obedience?
Simply a following of the Father-a doing of what the Father does.
Every true father wills that his child should be as he is in his
deepest love, in his highest hope. All that Jesus does is of his
Father. What we see in the Son is of the Father. What his works
mean concerning him, they mean concerning the Father.

Much as I shrink from the notion of a formal shaping out of design
in any great life, so unlike the endless freedom and spontaneity of
nature (and He is the Nature of nature), I cannot help observing
that his first miracle was one of creation-at least, is to our eyes
more like creation than almost any other-for who can say that it
was creation, not knowing in the least what creation is, or what
was the process in this miracle?

Chapter II. THE BEGINNING OF MIRACLES.

ALREADY Jesus had his disciples, although as yet he had done no
mighty works. They followed him for himself and for his mighty
words. With his mother they accompanied him to a merry-making
at a wedding. With no retiring regard, with no introverted look of
self-consciousness or self-withdrawal, but more human than any of
the company, he regarded their rejoicings with perfect sympathy,
for, whatever suffering might follow, none knew so well as he
that-

“there is one
Who makes the joy the last in every song.”

The assertion in the old legendary description of his person and
habits, that he was never known to smile, I regard as an utter
falsehood, for to me it is incredible-almost as a geometrical
absurdity. In that glad company the eyes of a divine artist,
following the spiritual lines of the group, would have soon settled
on his face as the centre whence radiated all the gladness, where,
as I seem to see him, he sat in the background beside his mother.
Even the sunny face of the bridegroom would appear less full of
light than his. But something is at hand which will change his
mood. For no true man had he been if his mood had never
changed. His high, holy, obedient will, his tender, pure, strong
heart never changed, but his mood, his feeling did change. For the
mood must often, and in many cases ought to be the human reflex
of changing circumstance. The change comes from his mother.
She whispers to him that they have no more wine. The
bridegroom’s liberality had reached the limit of his means, for, like
his guests, he was, most probably, of a humble calling, a
craftsman, say, or a fisherman. It must have been a painful little
trial to him if he knew the fact; but I doubt if he heard of the want
before it was supplied.

There was nothing in this however to cause the change in our
Lord’s mood of which I have spoken. It was no serious catastrophe,
at least to him, that the wine should fail. His mother had but told
him the fact; only there is more than words in every commonest
speech that passes. It was not his mother’s words, but the tone and
the look with which they were interwoven that wrought the
change. She knew that her son was no common man, and she
believed in him, with an unripe, unfeatured faith. This faith,
working with her ignorance and her fancy, led her to expect the
great things of the world from him. This was a faith which must
fail that it might grow. Imperfection must fail that strength may
come in its place. It is well for the weak that their faith should fail
them, for it may at the moment be resting its wings upon the twig
of some brittle fancy, instead of on a branch of the tree of life.

But, again, what was it in his mother’s look and tone that should
work the change in our Lord’s mood? The request implied in her
words could give him no offence, for he granted that request; and
he never would have done a thing he did not approve, should his
very mother ask him. The thoughts of the mother lay not in her
words, but in the expression that accompanied them, and it was to
those thoughts that our Lord replied. Hence his answer, which has
little to do with her spoken request, is the key both to her thoughts
and to his. If we do not understand his reply, we may
misunderstand the miracle-certainly we are in danger of grievously
misunderstanding him-a far worse evil. How many children are
troubled in heart that Jesus should have spoken to his mother as
our translation compels them to suppose he did speak! “Woman,
what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” His hour
for working the miracle had come, for he wrought it; and if he had
to do with one human soul at all, that soul must be his mother. The
“woman,” too, sounds strange in our ears. This last, however, is
our fault: we allow words to sink from their high rank, and then
put them to degraded uses. What word so full of grace and tender
imagings to any true man as that one word! The Saviour did use it
to his mother; and when he called her woman, the good custom of
the country and the time was glorified in the word as it came from
his lips fulfilled of humanity; for those lips were the open gates of
a heart full of infinite meanings. Hence whatever word he used had
more of the human in it than that word had ever held before.

What he did say was this-“Woman, what is there common to thee
and me? My hour is not yet come.” What! was not their humanity
common to them? Had she not been fit, therefore chosen, to bear
him? Was she not his mother? But his words had no reference to
the relation between them; they only referred to the present
condition of her mind, or rather the nature of the thought and
expectation which now occupied it. Her hope and his intent were
at variance; there was no harmony between his thought and hers;
and it was to that thought and that hope of hers that his words were
now addressed. To paraphrase the words-and if I do so with
reverence and for the sake of the spirit which is higher than the
word, I think I am allowed to do so-“Woman, what is there in your
thoughts now that is in sympathy with mine? Also the hour that
you are expecting is not come yet.”

What, then, was in our Lord’s thoughts? and what was in his
mother’s thoughts to call forth his words? She was thinking the
time had come for making a show of his power-for revealing what
a great man he was-for beginning to let that glory shine, which
was, in her notion, to culminate in the grandeur of a righteous
monarch-a second Solomon, forsooth, who should set down the
mighty in the dust, and exalt them of low degree. Here was the
opportunity for working like a prophet of old, and revealing of
what a mighty son she was the favoured mother.

And of what did the glow of her face, the light in her eyes, and the
tone with which she uttered the words, “They have no wine,” make
Jesus think? Perhaps of the decease which he must accomplish at
Jerusalem; perhaps of a throne of glory betwixt the two thieves;
certainly of a kingdom of heaven not such as filled her
imagination, even although her heaven-descended Son was the
king thereof. A kingdom of exulting obedience, not of
acquiescence, still less of compulsion, lay germed in his bosom,
and he must be laid in the grave ere that germ could send up its
first green lobes into the air of the human world. No throne,
therefore, of earthly grandeur for him! no triumph for his blessed
mother such as she dreamed! There was nothing common in their
visioned ends. Hence came the change of mood to Jesus, and
hence the words that sound at first so strange, seeming to have so
little to do with the words of his mother.

But no change of mood could change a feeling towards mother or
friends. The former, although she could ill understand what he
meant, never fancied in his words any unkindness to her. She, too,
had the face of the speaker to read; and from that face came such
answer to her prayer for her friends, that she awaited no
confirming words, but in the confidence of a mother who knew her
child, said at once to the servants, “Whatsoever he saith unto you,
do it.”

If any one object that I have here imagined too much, I would
remark, first, that the records in the Gospel are very brief and
condensed; second, that the germs of a true intelligence must lie in
this small seed, and our hearts are the soil in which it must unfold
itself; third, that we are bound to understand the story, and that the
foregoing are the suppositions on which I am able to understand it
in a manner worthy of what I have learned concerning Him. I am
bound to refuse every interpretation that seems to me unworthy of
Him, for to accept such would be to sin against the Holy Ghost. If I
am wrong in my idea either of that which I receive or of that which
I reject, as soon as the fact is revealed to me I must cast the one
away and do justice to the other. Meantime this interpretation
seems to me to account for our Lord’s words in a manner he will
not be displeased with even if it fail to reach the mark of the fact.
That St John saw, and might expect such an interpretation to be
found in the story, barely as he has told it, will be rendered the
more probable if we remember his own similar condition and
experience when he and his brother James prayed the Lord for the
highest rank in his kingdom, and received an answer which
evidently flowed from the same feeling to which I have attributed
that given on this occasion to his mother.

” ‘Fill the water-pots with water.’ And they filled them up to the
brim. ‘Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast.’ And
they bare it. ‘Thou hast kept the good wine until now.’ ” It is such a
thing of course that, when our Lord gave them wine, it would be of
the best, that it seems almost absurd to remark upon it. What the
Father would make and will make, and that towards which he is
ever working, is the Best; and when our Lord turns the water into
wine it must be very good.

It is like his Father, too, not to withhold good wine because men
abuse it. Enforced virtue is unworthy of the name. That men may
rise above temptation, it is needful that they should have
temptation. It is the will of him who makes the grapes and the
wine. Men will even call Jesus himself a wine-bibber. What
matters it, so long as he works as the Father works, and lives as the
Father wills?

I dare not here be misunderstood. God chooses that men should be
tried, but let a man beware of tempting his neighbour. God knows
how and how much, and where and when: man is his brother’s
keeper, and must keep him according to his knowledge. A man
may work the will of God for others, and be condemned therein
because he sought his own will and not God’s. That our Lord gave
this company wine, does not prove that he would have given any
company wine. To some he refused even the bread they requested
at his hands. Because he gave wine to the wedding-guests, shall
man dig a pit at the corner of every street, that the poor may fall
therein, spending their money for that which is not bread, and their
labour for that which satisfieth not? Let the poor man be tempted
as God wills, for the end of God is victory; let not man tempt him,
for his end is his neighbour’s fall, or at best he heeds it not for the
sake of gain, and he shall receive according to his works.

To him who can thank God with free heart for his good wine, there
is a glad significance in the fact that our Lord’s first miracle was
this turning of water into wine. It is a true symbol of what he has
done for the world in glorifying all things. With his divine alchemy
he turns not only water into wine, but common things into radiant
mysteries, yea, every meal into a eucharist, and the jaws of the
sepulchre into an outgoing gate. I do not mean that he makes any
change in the things or ways of God, but a mighty change in the
hearts and eyes of men, so that God’s facts and God’s meanings
become their faiths and their hopes. The destroying spirit, who
works in the commonplace, is ever covering the deep and clouding
the high. For those who listen to that spirit great things cannot be.
Such are there, but they cannot see them, for in themselves they do
not aspire. They believe, perhaps, in the truth and grace of their
first child: when they have spoiled him, they laugh at the praises of
childhood. From all that is thus low and wretched, incapable and
fearful, he who made the water into wine delivers men, revealing
heaven around them, God in all things, truth in every instinct, evil
withering and hope springing even in the path of the destroyer.

That the wine should be his first miracle, and that the feeding of
the multitudes should be the only other creative miracle, will also
suggest many thoughts in connection with the symbol he has left
us of his relation to his brethren. In the wine and the bread of the
eucharist, he reminds us how utterly he has given, is giving,
himself for the gladness and the strength of his Father’s children.
Yea more; for in that he is the radiation of the Father’s glory, this
bread and wine is the symbol of how utterly the Father gives
himself to his children, how earnestly he would have them
partakers of his own being. If Jesus was the son of the Father, is it
hard to believe that he should give men bread and wine?

It was not his power, however, but his glory, that Jesus showed
forth in the miracle. His power could not be hidden, but it was a
poor thing beside his glory. Yea, power in itself is a poor thing. If
it could stand alone, which it cannot, it would be a horror. No
amount of lonely power could create. It is the love that is at the
root of power, the power of power, which alone can create. What
then was this his glory? What was it that made him glorious? It
was that, like his Father, he ministered to the wants of men. Had
they not needed the wine, not for the sake of whatever show of his
power would he have made it. The concurrence of man’s need and
his love made it possible for that glory to shine forth. It is for this
glory most that we worship him. But power is no object of
adoration, and they who try to worship it are slaves. Their worship
is no real worship. Those who trembled at the thunder from the
mountain went and worshipped a golden calf; but Moses went into
the thick darkness to find his God.

How far the expectation of the mother Mary that her son would, by
majesty of might, appeal to the wedding guests, and arouse their
enthusiasm for himself, was from our Lord’s thoughts, may be well
seen in the fact that the miracle was not beheld even by the ruler of
the feast; while the report of it would probably receive little credit
from at least many of those who partook of the good wine. So
quietly was it done, so entirely without pre-intimation of his intent,
so stolenly, as it were, in the two simple ordered acts, the filling of
the water-pots with water, and the drawing of it out again, as to
make it manifest that it was done for the ministration. He did not
do it even for the show of his goodness, but to be good. This alone
could show his Father’s goodness. It was done because here was an
opportunity in which all circumstances combined with the bodily
presence of the powerful and the prayer of his mother, to render it
fit that the love of his heart should go forth in giving his
merry-making brothers and sisters more and better wine to drink.

And herein we find another point in which this miracle of Jesus
resembles the working of his Father. For God ministers to us so
gently, so stolenly, as it were, with such a quiet, tender, loving
absence of display, that men often drink of his wine, as these
wedding guests drank, without knowing whence it comes-without
thinking that the giver is beside them, yea, in their very hearts. For
God will not compel the adoration of men: it would be but a pagan
worship that would bring to his altars. He will rouse in men a
sense of need, which shall grow at length into a longing; he will
make them feel after him, until by their search becoming able to
behold him, he may at length reveal to them the glory of their
Father. He works silently-keeps quiet behind his works, as it were,
that he may truly reveal himself in the right time. With this intent
also, when men find his wine good and yet do not rise and search
for the giver, he will plague them with sore plagues, that the good
wine of life may not be to them, and therefore to him and the
universe, an evil thing. It would seem that the correlative of
creation is search; that as God has made us, we must find him; that
thus our action must reflect his; that thus he glorifies us with a
share in the end of all things, which is that the Father and his
children may be one in thought, judgment, feeling, and intent, in a
word, that they may mean the same thing. St John says that Jesus
thus “manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on
him.” I doubt if any but his disciples knew of the miracle; or of
those others who might see or hear of it, if any believed on him
because of it. It is possible to see a miracle, and not believe in it;
while many of those who saw a miracle of our Lord believed in the
miracle, and yet did not believe in him.

I wonder how many Christians there are who so thoroughly believe
God made them that they can laugh in God’s name; who
understand that God invented laughter and gave it to his children.
Such belief would add a keenness to the zest in their enjoyment,
and slay that sneering laughter of which a man grimaces to the
fiends, as well as that feeble laughter in which neither heart nor
intellect has a share. It would help them also to understand the
depth of this miracle. The Lord of gladness delights in the laughter
of a merry heart. These wedding guests could have done without
wine, surely without more wine and better wine. But the Father
looks with no esteem upon a bare existence, and is ever working,
even by suffering, to render life more rich and plentiful. His gifts
are to the overflowing of the cup; but when the cup would
overflow, he deepens its hollow, and widens its brim. Our Lord is
profuse like his Father, yea, will, at his own sternest cost, be lavish
to his brethren. He will give them wine indeed.

But even they who know whence the good wine comes, and
joyously thank the giver, shall one day cry out, like the praiseful
ruler of the feast to him who gave it not, “Thou hast kept the good
wine until now.”

Chapter III. THE CURE OF SIMON’S WIFE’S MOTHER.

IN respect of the purpose I have in view, it is of little consequence
in what order I take the miracles. I choose for my second chapter
the story of the cure of St Peter’s mother-in-law. Bare as the
narrative is, the event it records has elements which might have
been moulded with artistic effect-on the one side the woman
tossing in the folds of the fever, on the other the entering Life. But
it is not from this side that I care to view it.

Neither do I wish to look at it from the point of view of the
bystanders, although it would appear that we had the testimony of
three of them in the three Gospels which contain the story. We
might almost determine the position in the group about the bed
occupied by each of the three, from the differences between their
testimonies. One says Jesus stood over her; another, he touched
her hand; the third, he lifted her up: they agree that the fever left
her, and she ministered to them.-In the present case, as in others
behind, I mean to regard the miracle from the point of view of the
person healed.

Pain, sickness, delirium, madness, as great infringements of the
laws of nature as the miracles themselves, are such veritable
presences to the human experience, that what bears no relation to
their existence, cannot be the God of the human race. And the man
who cannot find his God in the fog of suffering, no less than he
who forgets his God in the sunshine of health, has learned little
either of St Paul or St John. The religion whose light renders no
dimmest glow across this evil air, cannot be more than a dim
reflex of the true. And who will mourn to find this out? There are,
perhaps, some so anxious about themselves that, rather than say, “I
have it not: it is a better thing than I have ever possessed,” they
would say, “I have the precious thing, but in the hour of trial it is
of little avail.” Let us rejoice that the glory is great, even if we dare
not say, It is mine. Then shall we try the more earnestly to lay hold
upon it.

So long as men must toss in weary fancies all the dark night,
crying, “Would God it were morning,” to find, it may be, when it
arrives, but little comfort in the grey dawn, so long must we regard
God as one to be seen or believed in-cried unto at least-across all
the dreary flats of distress or dark mountains of pain, and therefore
those who would help their fellows must sometimes look for him,
as it were, through the eyes of those who suffer, and try to help
them to think, not from ours, but from their own point of vision. I
shall therefore now write almost entirely for those to whom
suffering is familiar, or at least well known. And first I would
remind them that all suffering is against the ideal order of things.
No man can love pain. It is an unlovely, an ugly, abhorrent thing.
The more true and delicate the bodily and mental constitution, the
more must it recoil from pain. No one, I think, could dislike pain
so much as the Saviour must have disliked it. God dislikes it. He is
then on our side in the matter. He knows it is grievous to be borne,
a thing he would cast out of his blessed universe, save for reasons.

But one will say-How can this help me when the agony racks me,
and the weariness rests on me like a gravestone?-Is it nothing, I
answer, to be reminded that suffering is in its nature transitory-that
it is against the first and final will of God-that it is a means only,
not an end? Is it nothing to be told that it will pass away? Is not
that what you would? God made man for lordly skies, great
sunshine, gay colours, free winds, and delicate odours; and
however the fogs may be needful for the soul, right gladly does he
send them away, and cause the dayspring from on high to revisit
his children. While they suffer he is brooding over them an eternal
day, suffering with them but rejoicing in their future. He is the God
of the individual man, or he could be no God of the race.

I believe it is possible-and that some have achieved it-so to believe
in and rest upon the immutable Health-so to regard one’s own
sickness as a kind of passing aberration, that the soul is thereby
sustained, even as sometimes in a weary dream the man is
comforted by telling himself it is but a dream, and that waking is
sure. God would have us reasonable and strong. Every effort of his
children to rise above the invasion of evil in body or in mind is a
pleasure to him. Few, I suppose, attain to this; but there is a better
thing which to many, I trust, is easier-to say, Thy will be done.

But now let us look at the miracle as received by the woman.

She had “a great fever.” She was tossing from side to side in vain
attempts to ease a nameless misery. Her head ached, and forms
dreary, even in their terror, kept rising before her in miserable and
aimless dreams; senseless words went on repeating themselves ill
her very brain was sick of them; she was destitute, afflicted,
tormented; now the centre for the convergence of innumerable
atoms, now driven along in an uproar of hideous globes; faces
grinned and mocked at her; her mind ever strove to recover itself,
and was ever borne away in the rush of invading fancies; but
through it all was the nameless unrest, not an aching, nor a
burning, nor a stinging, but a bodily grief, dark, drear, and
nameless. How could they have borne such before He had come?

A sudden ceasing of motions uncontrolled; a coolness gliding
through the burning skin; a sense of waking into repose; a
consciousness of all-pervading well-being, of strength conquering
weakness, of light displacing darkness, of urging life at the heart;
and behold! she is sitting up in her bed, a hand clasping hers, a
face looking in hers. He has judged the evil thing, and it is gone.
He has saved her out of her distresses. They fold away from off her
like the cerements of death. She is new-born-new-made-all things
are new-born with her-and he who makes all things new is there.
From him, she knows, has the healing flowed. He has given of his
life to her. Away, afar behind her floats the cloud of her suffering.
She almost forgets it in her grateful joy. She is herself now. She
rises. The sun is shining. It had been shining all the time-waiting
for her. The lake of Galilee is glittering joyously. That too sets
forth the law of life. But the fulfilling of the law is love: she rises
and ministers.

I am tempted to remark in passing, although I shall have better
opportunity of dealing with the matter involved, that there is no
sign of those whom our Lord cures desiring to retain the privileges
of the invalid. The joy of health is labour. He who is restored must
be fellow-worker with God. This woman, lifted out of the
whelming sand of the fever and set upon her feet, hastens to her
ministrations. She has been used to hard work. It is all right now;
she must to it again.

But who was he who had thus lifted her up? She saw a young man
by her side. Is it the young man, Jesus, of whom she has heard? for
Capernaum is not far from Nazareth, and the report of his wisdom
and goodness must have spread, for he had grown in favour with
man as well as with God. Is it he, to whom God has given such
power, or is it John, of whom she has also heard? Whether he was
a prophet or a son of the prophets, whether he was Jesus or John,
she waits not to question; for here are guests; here is something to
be done. Questions will keep; work must be despatched. It is the
day, and the night is at hand. She rose and ministered unto them.

But if we ask who he is, this is the answer: He is the Son of God
come to do the works of his Father. Where, then, is the healing of
the Father? All the world over, in every man’s life and knowledge,
almost in every man’s personal experience, although it may be
unrecognized as such. For just as in certain moods of selfishness
our hearts are insensible to the tenderest love of our surrounding
families, so the degrading spirit of the commonplace enables us to
live in the midst of ministrations, so far from knowing them as
such, that it is hard for us to believe that the very heart of God
would care to do that which his hand alone can do and is doing
every moment. I remind my reader that I have taken it for granted
that he confesses there is a God, or at least hopes there may be a
God. If any one interposes, saying that science nowadays will not
permit him to believe in such a being, I answer it is not for him I
am now writing, but for such as have gone through a different
course of thought and experience from his. To him I may be
honoured to say a word some day. I do not think of him now. But
to the reader of my choice I do say that I see no middle course
between believing that every alleviation of pain, every dawning of
hope across the troubled atmosphere of the spirit, every case of
growing well again, is the doing of God, or that there is no God at
all-none at least in whom I could believe. Had Christians been
believing in God better, more grandly, the present phase of
unbelief, which no doubt is needful, and must appear some time in
the world’s history, would not have appeared in our day. No doubt
it has come when it must, and will vanish when it must; but those
who do believe are more to blame for it, I think, than those who do
not believe. The common kind of belief in God is rationally
untenable. Half to an insensate nature, half to a living God, is a
worship that cannot stand. God is all in all, or no God at all. The
man who goes to church every Sunday, and yet trembles before
chance, is a Christian only because Christ has claimed him; is not
a Christian as having believed in Him. I would not be hard. There
are so many degrees in faith! A man may be on the right track,
may be learning of Christ, and be very poor and weak. But I say
there is no standing room, no reality of reason, between absolute
faith and absolute unbelief. Either not a sparrow falls to the ground
without Him, or there is no God, and we are fatherless children.
Those who attempt to live in such a limbo as lies between the two,
are only driven of the wind and tossed.

Has my reader ever known the weariness of suffering, the clouding
of the inner sky, the haunting of spectral shapes, the misery of
disordered laws, when nature is wrong within him, and her music
is out of tune and harsh, when he is shot through with varied griefs
and pains, and it seems as there were no life more in the world,
save of misery-“pain, pain ever, for ever”? Then, surely, he has
also known the turn of the tide, when the pain begins to abate,
when the sweet sleep falls upon soul and body, when a faint hope
doubtfully glimmers across the gloom! Or has he known the
sudden waking from sleep and from fever at once, the
consciousness that life is life, that life is the law of things, the
coolness and the gladness, when the garments of pain which, like
that fabled garment of Dejanira, enwrapped and ate into his being,
have folded back from head and heart, and he looks out again once
more new-born? It is God. This is his will, his law of life
conquering the law of death Tell me not of natural laws, as if I
were ignorant of them, or meant to deny them. The question is
whether these laws go wheeling on of themselves in a symmetry of
mathematical shapes, or whether their perfect order, their
unbroken certainty of movement, is not the expression of a perfect
intellect informed by a perfect heart. Law is truth: has it a soul of
thought, or has it not? If not, then farewell hope and love and
possible perfection. But for me, I will hope on, strive on, fight with
the invading unbelief; for the horror of being the sport of insensate
law, the more perfect the more terrible, is hell and utter perdition.
If a man tells me that science says God is not a likely being, I
answer, Probably not-such as you, who have given your keen,
admirable, enviable powers to the observation of outer things only,
are capable of supposing him; but that the God I mean may not be
the very heart of the lovely order you see so much better than I,
you have given me no reason to fear. My God may be above and
beyond and in all that.

In this matter of healing, then, as in all the miracles, we find Jesus
doing the works of the Father. God is our Saviour: the Son of God
comes healing the sick-doing that, I repeat, before our eyes, which
the Father, for his own reasons, some of which I think I can see
well enough, does from behind the veil of his creation and its laws.
The cure comes by law, comes by the physician who brings the
law to bear upon us; we awake, and lo! I it is God the Saviour.
Every recovery is as much his work as the birth of a child; as much
the work of the Father as if it had been wrought by the word of the
Son before the eyes of the multitude.

Need I, to combat again the vulgar notion that the essence of the
miracles lies in their power, dwell upon this miracle further?
Surely, no one who honours the Saviour will for a moment
imagine him, as he entered the chamber where the woman lay
tormented, saying to himself, “Here is an opportunity of showing
how mighty my Father is!” No. There was suffering; here was
healing. What I could imagine him saying to himself would be,
“Here I can help! Here my Father will let me put forth my healing,
and give her back to her people.” What should we think of a rich
man, who, suddenly brought into contact with the starving upon
his own estate, should think within himself, “Here is a chance for
me! Now I can let them see how rich I am!” and so plunge his
hands in his pockets and lay gold upon the bare table? The
receivers might well be grateful; but the arm of the poor neighbour
put under the head of the dying man, would gather a deeper
gratitude, a return of tenderer love. It is heart alone that can satisfy
heart. It is the love of God alone that can gather to itself the love of
his children. To believe in an almighty being is hardly to believe in
a God at all. To believe in a being who, in his weakness and
poverty, if such could be, would die for his creatures, would be to
believe in a God indeed.

Chapter IV. MIRACLES OF HEALING UNSOLICITED.

IN my last chapter I took the healing of Simon’s wife’s mother as a
type of all such miracles, viewed from the consciousness of the
person healed. In the multitude of cases-for it must not be
forgotten that there was a multitude of which we have no
individual record-the experience must have been very similar. The
evil thing, the antagonist of their life, departed; they knew in
themselves that they were healed; they beheld before them the face
and form whence the healing power had gone forth, and they
believed in the man. What they believed about him, farther than
that he had healed them and was good, I cannot pretend to say.
Some said he was one thing, some another, but they believed in the
man himself. They felt henceforth the strongest of ties binding his
life to their life. He was now the central thought of their being.
Their minds lay open to all his influences, operating in time and by
holy gradations. The well of life was henceforth to them an
unsealed fountain, and endless currents of essential life began to
flow from it through their existence. High love urging gratitude
awoke the conscience to intenser life; and the healed began to
recoil from evil deeds and vile thoughts as jarring with the new
friendship. Mere acquaintance with a good man is a powerful
antidote to evil; but the knowledge of such a man, as those healed
by him knew him, was the mightiest of divine influences.

In these miracles of healing our Lord must have laid one of the
largest of the foundation-stones of his church. The healed knew
him henceforth, not by comprehension, but with their whole being.
Their very life acknowledged him. They returned to their homes to
recall and love afresh. I wonder what their talk about him was like.
What an insight it would give into our common nature, to know
how these men and women thought and spoke concerning him!
But the time soon arrived when they had to be public martyrs-that
is, witnesses to what they knew, come of it what might. After our
Lord’s departure came the necessity for those who loved him to
gather together, thus bearing their testimony at once. Next to his
immediate disciples, those whom he had cured must have been the
very heart of the young church. Imagine the living strength of such
a heart-personal love to the personal helper the very core of it. The
church had begun with the first gush of affection in the heart of the
mother Mary, and now “great was the company of those that
published” the good news to the world. The works of the Father
had drawn the hearts of the children, and they spake of the Elder
Brother who had brought those works to their doors. The
thoughtful remembrances of those who had heard him speak; the
grateful convictions of those whom he had healed; the tender
memories of those whom he had taken in his arms and
blessed-these were the fine fibrous multitudinous roots which were
to the church existence, growth, and continuance, for these were
they which sucked in the dews and rains of that descending Spirit
which was the life of the tree. Individual life is the life of the
church.

But one may say: Why then did he not cure all the sick in Jud a?
Simply because all were not ready to be cured. Many would not
have believed in him if he had cured them. Their illness had not
yet wrought its work, had not yet ripened them to the possibility of
faith; his cure would have left them deeper in evil than before. “He
did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” God
will cure a man, will give him a fresh start of health and hope, and
the man will be the better for it, even without having yet learned to
thank him; but to behold the healer and acknowledge the
outstretched hand of help, yet not to believe in the healer, is a
terrible thing for the man; and I think the Lord kept his personal
healing for such as it would bring at once into some relation of
heart and will with himself; whence arose his frequent demand of
faith-a demand apparently always responded to: at the word, the
flickering belief, the smoking flax, burst into a flame. Evil, that is,
physical evil, is a moral good-a mighty means to a lofty end. Pain
is an evil; but a good as well, which it would be a great injury to
take from the man before it had wrought its end. Then it becomes
all evil, and must pass.

I now proceed to a group of individual cases in which, as far as we
can judge from the narratives, our Lord gave the gift of restoration
unsolicited. There are other instances of the same, but they fall
into other groups, gathered because of other features.

The first is that, recorded by St Luke alone, of the “woman which
had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together,
and could in no wise lift up herself.” It may be that this belongs to
the class of demoniacal possession as well, but I prefer to take it
here; for I am very doubtful whether the expression in the
narrative-“a spirit of infirmity,” even coupled with that of our Lord
in defending her and himself from the hypocritical attack of the
ruler of the synagogue, “this woman-whom Satan hath bound,”
renders it necessary to regard it as one of the latter kind. This is,
however, a matter of small importance-at least from our present
point of view.

Bowed earthwards, the necessary blank of her eye the ground and
not the horizon, the form divine deformed towards that of the
four-footed animals, this woman had been in bondage eighteen
years. Necessary as it is to one’s faith to believe every trouble fitted
for the being who has to bear it, every physical evil not merely the
result of moral evil, but antidotal thereto, no one ought to dare
judge of the relation between moral condition and physical
suffering in individual cases. Our Lord has warned us from that.
But in proportion as love and truth prevail in the hearts of men,
physical evil will vanish from the earth. The righteousness of his
descendants will destroy the disease which the unrighteousness of
their ancestor has transmitted to them. But, I repeat, to destroy this
physical evil save by the destruction of its cause, by the
redemption of the human nature from moral evil, would be to ruin
the world. What in this woman it was that made it right she should
bear these bonds for eighteen years, who can tell? Certainly it was
not that God had forgotten her. What it may have preserved her
from, one may perhaps conjecture, but can hardly have a right to
utter. Neither can we tell how she had borne the sad affliction;
whether in the lovely patience common amongst the daughters of
affliction, or with the natural repining of one made to behold the
sun, and doomed ever to regard the ground upon which she trod.
While patience would have its glorious reward in the cure, it is
possible that even the repinings of prideful pain might be
destroyed by the grand deliverance, that gratitude might beget
sorrow for vanished impatience. Anyhow the right hour had come
when the darkness must fly away.

Supported, I presume, by the staff which yet more assimilated her
to the lower animals, she had crept to the synagogue-a good sign
surely, for the synagogue was not its ruler. There is no appearance
from the story, that she had come there to seek Jesus, or even that
when in his presence she saw him before the word of her
deliverance had gone forth. Most likely, being bowed together, she
heard him before she saw him.

But he saw her. Our translation says he called her to him. I do not
think this is correct. I think the word, although it might mean that,
does mean simply that he addressed her. Going to her, I think, and
saying, “Woman, thou art loosed from thy infirmity,” “he laid his
hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and
glorified God.” What an uplifting!-a type of all that God works in
his human beings. The head, down-bent with sin, care, sorrow,
pain, is uplifted; the grovelling will sends its gaze heavenward; the
earth is no more the one object of the aspiring spirit; we lift our
eyes to God; we bend no longer even to his will, but raise
ourselves up towards his will, for his will has become our will, and
that will is our sanctification.

Although the woman did not beg the Son to cure her, she may have
prayed the Father much. Anyhow proof that she was ready for the
miracle is not wanting. She glorified God. It is enough. She not
merely thanked the man who had wrought the cure, for of this we
cannot doubt; but she glorified the known Saviour, God, from
whom cometh down every good gift and every perfect gift.

She had her share in the miracle I think too, as, in his perfect
bounty, God gives a share to every one in what work He does for
him. I mean, that, with the given power, she had to lift herself up.
Such active faith is the needful response in order that a man may
be a child of God, and not the mere instrument upon which his
power plays a soulless tune.

In this preventing of prayer, in this answering before the call, in
this bringing of the blessing to the door, according to which I have
grouped this with the following miracles, Jesus did as his Father is
doing every day. He was doing the works of his Father. If men had
no help, no deliverance from the ills which come upon them, even
those which they bring upon themselves, except such as came at
their cry; if no salvation descended from God, except such as they
prayed for, where would the world be? in what case would the
generations of men find themselves? But the help of God is ever
coming, ever setting them free whom Satan hath bound; ever
giving them a fresh occasion and a fresh impulse to glorify the
God of their salvation. For with every such recovery the child in
the man is new-born-for some precious moments at least; a
gentleness of spirit, a wonder at the world, a sense of the
blessedness of being, an openness to calm yet rousing influences,
appear in the man. These are the descending angels of God. The
passion that had blotted out the child will revive; the strife of the
world will renew wrath and hate; ambition and greed will blot out
the beauty of the earth; envy of others will blind the man to his
own blessedness; and self-conceit will revive in him all those
prejudices whose very strength lies in his weakness; but the man
has had a glimpse of the peace to gain which he must fight with
himself; he has for one moment felt what he might be if he trusted
in God; and the memory of it may return in the hour of temptation.
As the commonest things in nature are the most lovely, so the
commonest agencies in humanity are the most powerful. Sickness
and recovery therefrom have a larger share in the divine order of
things for the deliverance of men than can show itself to the
keenest eyes. Isolated in individuals, the facts are unknown; or,
slow and obscure in their operation, are forgotten by the time their
effects appear. Many things combine to render an enlarged view of
the moral influences of sickness and recovery impossible. The
kingdom cometh not with observation, and the working of the
leaven of its approach must be chiefly unseen. Like the creative
energy itself, it works “in secret shadow, far from all men’s sight.”

The teaching of our Lord which immediately follows concerning
the small beginnings of his kingdom, symbolized in the grain of
mustard seed and the leaven, may, I think, have immediate
reference to the cure of this woman, and show that he regarded her
glorifying of God for her recovery as one of those beginnings of a
mighty growth. We do find the same similes in a different
connection in St Matthew and St Mark; but even if we had no
instances of fact, it would be rational to suppose that the Lord, in
the varieties of place, audience, and occasion, in the dullness
likewise of his disciples, and the perfection of the similes he
chose, would again and again make use of the same.

I now come to the second miracle of the group, namely that,
recorded by all the Evangelists except St John, of the cure of the
man with the withered hand. This, like the preceding, was done in
the synagogue. And I may remark, in passing, that all of this group,
with the exception of the last-one of very peculiar
circumstance-were performed upon the Sabbath, and each gave
rise to discussion concerning the lawfulness of the deed. St Mark
says they watched Jesus to see whether he would heal the man on
the Sabbath-day; St Luke adds that he knew their thoughts, and
therefore met them with the question of its lawfulness; St Matthew
says they challenged him to the deed by asking him whether it was
lawful. The mere watching could hardly have taken place without
the man’s perceiving something in motion which had to do with
him. But there is no indication of a request.

There cannot surely be many who have reached half the average
life of man without at some time having felt the body a burden in
some way, and regarded a possible deliverance from it as an
enfranchisement. If the spirit of man were fulfilled of the Spirit of
God, the body would simply be a living house, an obedient
servant-yes, a humble mediator, by the senses, between his
thoughts and God’s thoughts; but when every breath has, as it were,
to be sent for and brought hither with much labour and small
consolation-when pain turns faith into a mere shadow of
hope-when the withered limb hangs irresponsive, lost and
cumbersome, an inert simulacrum of power, swinging lifeless to
and fro;-then even the physical man understands his share in the
groaning of the creation after the sonship. When, at a word issuing
from such a mouth as that of Jesus of Nazareth, the poor, withered,
distorted, contemptible hand obeyed and, responsive to the spirit
within, spread forth its fingers, filled with its old human might,
became capable once more of the grasp of friendship, of the caress
of love, of the labour for the bread that sustains the life, little
would the man care that other men-even rulers of synagogues,
even Scribes and Pharisees, should question the rectitude of him
who had healed him. The power which restored the gift of God and
completed humanity, must be of God. Argument upon argument
might follow from old books and old customs and learned
interpretations, wherein man set forth the will of God as different
from the laws of his world, but the man whose hand was restored
whole as the other, knew it fitting that his hands should match.
They might talk; he would thank God for the crooked made
straight. Bewilder his judgment they might with their glosses upon
commandment and observance; but they could not keep his heart
from gladness; and, being glad, whom should he praise but God? If
there was another giver of good things he knew nothing of him.
The hand was now as God had meant it to be. Nor could he behold
the face of Jesus, and doubt that such a man would do only that
which was right. It was not Satan, but God that had set him free.

Here, plainly by the record, our Lord gave the man his share, not of
mere acquiescence, but of active will, in the miracle. If man is the
child of God, he must have a share in the works of the Father.
Without such share in the work as faith gives, cure will be of little
avail. “Stretch forth thine hand,” said the Healer; and the man
made the effort; and the withered hand obeyed, and was no more
withered. In the act came the cure, without which the act had been
confined to the will, and had never taken form in the outstretching.
It is the same in all spiritual redemption.

Think for a moment with what delight the man would employ his
new hand. This right hand would henceforth be God’s hand. But
was not the other hand God’s too?-God’s as much as this? Had not
the power of God been always present in that left hand, whose
unwithered life had ministered to him all these years? Was it not
the life of God that inspired his whole frame? By the loss and
restoration in one part, he would understand possession in the
whole.

But as the withered and restored limb to the man, so is the maimed
and healed man to his brethren. In every man the power by which
he does the commonest things is the power of God. The power is
not of us. Our power does it; but we do not make the power. This,
plain as it is, remains, however, the hardest lesson for a man to
learn with conviction and thanksgiving. For God has, as it were,
put us just so far away from Him that we can exercise the divine
thing in us, our own will, in returning towards our source. Then we
shall learn the fact that we are infinitely more great and blessed in
being the outcome of a perfect self-constituting will, than we could
be by the conversion of any imagined independence of origin into
fact for us-a truth no man can understand, feel, or truly
acknowledge, save in proportion as he has become one with his
perfect origin, the will of God. While opposition exists between
the thing made and the maker, there can be but discord and
confusion in the judgment of the creature. No true felicitous vision
of the facts of the relation between his God and him; no perception
of the mighty liberty constituted by the holy dependence wherein
the will of God is the absolutely free choice of the man; no
perception of a unity such as cannot exist between independent
wills, but only in unspeakable love and tenderness between the
causing Will and the caused will, can yet have place. Those who
cannot see how the human will should be free in dependence upon
the will of God, have not realized that the will of God made the
will of man; that, when most it pants for freedom, the will of man
is the child of the will of God, and therefore that there can be no
natural opposition or strife between them. Nay, more, the whole
labour of God is that the will of man should be free as his will is
free-in the same way that his will is free-by the perfect love of the
man for that which is true, harmonious, lawful, creative. If a man
say, “But might not the will of God make my will with the intent of
over-riding and enslaving it?” I answer, such a Will could not
create, could not be God, for it involves the false and contrarious.
That would be to make a will in order that it might be no will. To
create in order to uncreate is something else than divine. But a free
will is not the liberty to do whatever one likes, but the power of
doing whatever one sees ought to be done, even in the very face of
otherwise overwhelming impulse. There lies freedom indeed.

I come now to the case of the man who had been paralysed for
eight-and-thirty years. There is great pathos in the story. For many,
at least, of these years, the man had haunted the borders of
legendary magic, for I regard the statement about the angel
troubling the pool as only the expression of a current superstition.
Oh, how different from the healing of our Lord! What he had to
bestow was free to all. The cure of no man by his hand weakened
that hand for the cure of the rest. None were poorer that one was
made rich. But this legend of the troubling of the pool fostered the
evil passion of emulation, and that in a most selfish kind. Nowhere
in the divine arrangements is my gain another’s loss. If it be said
that this was the mode in which God determined which was to be
healed, I answer that the effort necessary was contrary to all we
admire most in humanity. According to this rule, Sir Philip Sidney
ought to have drunk the water which he handed to the soldier
instead. Does the doctrine of Christ, and by that I insist we must
interpret the ways of God, countenance a man’s hurrying to be
before the rest, and gain the boon in virtue of having the least need
of it, inasmuch as he was the ablest to run and plunge first into the
eddies left by the fantastic angel? Or if the triumph were to be
gained by the help of friends, surely he was in most need of the
cure who like this man-a man such as we hope there are few-had
no friends either to plunge him in the waters of fabled hope, or to
comfort him in the seasons of disappointment which alone divided
the weary months of a life passed in empty expectation.

But the Master comes near. In him the power of life rests as in “its
own calm home, its crystal shrine,” and he that believeth in him
shall not need to make haste. He knew it was time this man should
be healed, and did not wait to be asked. Indeed the man did not
know him; did not even know his name. “Wilt thou be made
whole?” “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me
into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down
before me.” “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”

Our Lord delays the cure in this case with no further speech. The
man knows nothing about him, and he makes no demand upon his
faith, except that of obedience. He gives him something to do at
once. He will find him again by and by. The man obeys, takes up
his bed, and walks.

He sets an open path before us; we must walk in it. More, we must
be willing to believe that the path is open, that we have strength to
walk in it. God’s gift glides into man’s choice. It is needful that we
should follow with our effort in the track of his foregoing power.
To refuse is to destroy the gift. His cure is not for such as choose
to be invalids. They must be willing to be made whole, even if it
should involve the carrying of their beds and walking. Some keep
in bed who have strength enough to get up and walk. There is a
self-care and a self-pity, a laziness and conceit of incapacity,
which are as unhealing for the body as they are unhealthy in the
mind, corrupting all dignity and destroying all sympathy. Who but
invalids need like miracles wrought in them? Yet some invalids
are not cured because they will not be healed. They will not stretch
out the hand; they will not rise; they will not walk; above all
things, they will not work. Yet for their illness it may be that the
work so detested is the only cure, or if no cure yet the best
amelioration. Labour is not in itself an evil like the sickness, but
often a divine, a blissful remedy. Nor is the duty or the advantage
confined to those who ought to labour for their own support. No
amount of wealth sets one free from the obligation to work-in a
world the God of which is ever working. He who works not has not
yet discovered what God made him for, and is a false note in the
orchestra of the universe. The possession of wealth is as it were
pre-payment, and involves an obligation of honour to the doing of
correspondent work. He who does not know what to do has never
seriously asked himself what he ought to do.

But there is a class of persons, the very opposite of these, who, as
extremes meet, fall into a similar fault. They will not be healed
either. They will not take the repose in which God giveth to his
beloved. Some sicknesses are to be cured with rest, others with
labour. The right way is all-to meet the sickness as God would
have it met, to submit or to resist according to the conditions of
cure. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin; and she who will not go to
her couch and rest in the Lord, is to blame even as she who will
not rise and go to her work.

There is reason to suppose that this man had brought his infirmity
upon himself-I do not mean by the mere neglect of physical laws,
but by the doing of what he knew to be wrong. For the Lord,
although he allowed the gladness of the deliverance full sway at
first, when he found him afterwards did not leave him without the
lesson that all health and well-being depend upon purity of life:
“Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more lest a worse thing come
unto thee.” It is the only case of recorded cure in which Jesus gives
a warning of the kind. Therefore I think the probability is as I have
stated it. Hence, the fact that we may be ourselves to blame for our
sufferings is no reason why we should not go to God to deliver us
from them. David the king knew this, and set it forth in that grand
poem, the 107th Psalm.

In the very next case we find that Jesus will not admit the cause of
the man’s condition, blindness from his birth, to be the sin either of
the man himself, or of his parents. The probability seems, to judge
from their behaviour in the persecution that followed, that both the
man and his parents were people of character, thought, and
honourable prudence. He was born blind, Jesus said, “that the
works of God should be made manifest in him.” What works,
then? The work of creation for one, rather than the work of
healing. The man had suffered nothing in being born blind. God
had made him only not so blessed as his fellows, with the intent of
giving him equal faculty and even greater enjoyment afterwards,
with the honour of being employed for the revelation of his works
to men. In him Jesus created sight before men’s eyes. For, as at the
first God said, “Let there be light,” so the work of God is still to
give light to the world, and Jesus must work his work, and be the
light of the world-light in all its degrees and kinds, reaching into
every corner where work may be done, arousing sleepy hearts, and
opening blind eyes.

Jesus saw the man, the disciples asked their question, and he had
no sooner answered it, than “he spat on the ground, made clay of
the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the
clay.”-Why this mediating clay? Why the spittle and the
touch?-Because the man who could not see him must yet be
brought into sensible contact with him-must know that the healing
came from the man who touched him. Our Lord took pains about it
because the man was blind. And for the man’s share in the miracle,
having blinded him a second time as it were with clay, he sends
him to the pool to wash it away: clay and blindness should depart
together by the act of the man’s faith. It was as if the Lord said, “I
blinded thee: now, go and see.” Here, then, are the links of the
chain by which the Lord bound the man to himself. The voice, if
heard by the man, which defended him and his parents from the
judgment of his disciples; the assertion that he was the light of the
world-a something which others had and the blind man only knew
as not possessed by him; the sound of the spitting on the ground;
the touch of the speaker’s fingers; the clay on his eyes; the
command to wash; the journey to the pool; the laving water; the
astonished sight. “He went his way, therefore, and washed, and
came seeing.”

But who can imagine, save in a conception only less dim than the
man’s blindness, the glory which burst upon him when, as the
restoring clay left his eyes, the light of the world invaded his
astonished soul? The very idea may well make one tremble.
Blackness of darkness-not an invading stranger, but the
home-companion always there-the negation never understood
because the assertion was unknown-creation not erased and
treasured in the memory, but to his eyes uncreated!-Blackness of
darkness! …. The glory of the celestial blue! The towers of the
great Jerusalem dwelling in the awful space! The room! The life!
The tenfold-glorified being! Any wonder might follow on such a
wonder. And the whole vision was as fresh as if he had that
moment been created, the first of men.

But the best remained behind. A man had said, “I am the light of
the world,” and lo! here was the light of the world. The words had
been vague as a dark form in darkness, but now the thing itself had
invaded his innermost soul. But the face of the man who was this
light of the world he had not seen. The creator of his vision he had
not yet beheld. But he believed in him, for he defended him from
the same charge of wickedness from which Jesus had defended
him. “Give God the praise,” they said; “we know that this man is a
sinner.” “God heareth not sinners,” he replied; “and this man hath
opened my eyes.” It is no wonder that when Jesus found him and
asked him, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” he should
reply, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” He was
ready. He had only to know which was he, that he might worship
him. Here at length was the Light of the world before him-the man
who had said, “I am the light of the world,” and straightway the
world burst upon him in light! Would this man ever need further
proof that there was indeed a God of men? I suspect he had a
grander idea of the Son of God than any of his disciples as yet. The
would-be refutations of experience, for “since the world began was
it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born
blind;” the objections of the religious authorities, “This man is not
of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day;” endless possible
perplexities of the understanding, and questions of the how and the
why, could never touch that man to the shaking of his confidence:
“One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” The man
could not convince the Jews that Jesus must be a good man;
neither could he doubt it himself, whose very being, body and soul
and spirit, had been enlightened and glorified by him. With light in
the eyes, in the brain, in the heart, light permeating and unifying
his physical and moral nature, asserting itself in showing the man
to himself one whole-how could he doubt!

The miracles were for the persons on whom they passed. To the
spectators they were something, it is true; but they were of
unspeakable value to, and of endless influence upon their subjects.
The true mode in which they reached others was through the
healed themselves. And the testimony of their lives would go far
beyond the testimony of their tongues. Their tongues could but
witness to a fact; their lives could witness to a truth.

In this miracle as in all the rest, Jesus did in little the great work of
the Father; for how many more are they to whom God has given
the marvel of vision than those blind whom the Lord enlightened!
The remark will sound feeble and far-fetched to the man whose
familiar spirit is that Mephistopheles of the commonplace. He who
uses his vision only for the care of his body or the indulgence of
his mind-how should he understand the gift of God in its marvel?
But the man upon whose soul the grandeur and glory of the
heavens and the earth and the sea and the fountains of waters have
once arisen will understand what a divine invention, what a mighty
gift of God is this very common thing-these eyes to see with-that
light which enlightens the world, this sight which is the result of
both. He will understand what a believer the man born blind must
have become, yea, how the mighty inburst of splendour might
render him so capable of believing that nothing should be too
grand and good for him to believe thereafter-not even the doctrine
hardest to commonplace humanity, though the most natural and
reasonable to those who have beheld it-that the God of the light is
a faithful, loving, upright, honest, and self-denying being, yea
utterly devoted to the uttermost good of those whom he has made.

Such is the Father of lights who enlightens the world and every
man that cometh into it. Every pulsation of light on every brain is
from him. Every feeling of law and order is from him. Every hint
of right, every desire after the true, whatever we call aspiration, all
longing for the light, every perception that this is true, that that
ought to be done, is from the Father of lights. His infinite and
varied light gathered into one point-for how shall we speak at all
of these things if we do not speak in figures?-concentrated and
embodied in Jesus, became the light of the world. For the light is
no longer only diffused, but in him man “beholds the light and
whence it flows.” Not merely is our chamber enlightened, but we
see the lamp. And so we turn again to God, the Father of lights,
yea even of The Light of the World. Henceforth we know that all
the light wherever diffused has its centre in God, as the light that
enlightened the blind man flowed from its centre in Jesus. In other
words, we have a glimmering, faint, human perception of the
absolute glory. We know what God is in recognizing him as our
God.

Jesus did the works of the Father.

The next miracle-recorded by St Luke alone-is the cure of the man
with the dropsy, wrought also upon the Sabbath, but in the house
of one of the chief of the Pharisees. Thither our Lord had gone to
an entertainment, apparently large, for the following parable is
spoken “to those which were bidden, when he marked how they
chose out the chief rooms.”1 Hence the possibility at least is
suggested, that the man was one of the guests. No doubt their
houses were more accessible than ours, and it was not difficult for
one uninvited to make his way in, especially upon occasion of such
a gathering. But I think the word translated before him means
opposite to him at the table; and that the man was not too ill to
appear as a guest. The “took him and healed him and let him go,”
of our translation, is against the notion rather, but merely from its
indefiniteness being capable of meaning that he sent him away; but
such is not the meaning of the original. That merely implies that he
took him, went to him and laid his hands upon him, thus
connecting the cure with

1 Not rooms, but reclining places at the table.

himself, and then released him, set him free, took his hands off
him, turning at once to the other guests and justifying himself by
appealing to their own righteous conduct towards the ass and the
ox. I think the man remained reclining at the table, to enjoy the
appetite of health at a good meal; if, indeed, the gladness of the
relieved breath, the sense of lightness and strength, the
consciousness of a restored obedience of body, not to speak of the
presence of him who had cured him, did not make him too happy
to care about his dinner.

I come now to the last of the group, exceptional in its nature,
inasmuch as it was not the curing of a disease or natural defect, but
the reparation of an injury, or hurt at least, inflicted by one of his
own followers. This miracle also is recorded by St Luke alone. The
other evangelists relate the occasion of the miracle, but not the
miracle itself; they record the blow, but not the touch. I shall not,
therefore, compare their accounts, which have considerable
variety, but no inconsistency. I shall confine myself to the story as
told by St Luke.

Peter, intending, doubtless, to cleave the head of a servant of the
high priest who had come out to take Jesus, with unaccustomed
hand, probably trembling with rage and perhaps with fear, missed
his well-meant aim, and only cut off the man’s ear. Jesus said,
“Suffer ye thus far.” I think the words should have a point of
interrogation after them, to mean, “Is it thus far ye suffer?” “Is this
the limit of your patience?” but I do not know. With the words, “he
touched his ear and healed him.” Hardly had the wound reached
the true sting of its pain, before the gentle hand of him whom the
servant had come to drag to the torture, dismissed the agony as if it
had never been. Whether he restored the ear, or left the loss of it
for a reminder to the man of the part he had taken against his Lord,
and the return the Lord had made him, we do not know. Neither do
we know whether he turned back ashamed and contrite, now that
in his own person he had felt the life that dwelt in Jesus, or
followed out the capture to the end. Possibly the blow of Peter was
the form which the favour of God took, preparing the way, like the
blindness from the birth, for the glory that was to be manifested in
him. But the Lord would countenance no violence done in his
defence. They might do to him as they would. If his Father would
not defend him, neither would he defend himself.

Within sight of the fearful death that awaited him, his heart was no
whit hardened to the pain of another. Neither did it make any
difference that it was the pain of an enemy-even an enemy who
was taking him to the cross. There was suffering; here was healing.
He came to do the works of him that sent him. He did good to
them that hated him, for his Father is the Saviour of men, saving
“them out of their distresses.”

Chaper V. MIRACLES OF HEALING SOLICITED BY THE
SUFFERERS.

I COME now to the second group of miracles, those granted to the
prayers of the sufferers. But before I make any general remarks on
the speciality of these, I must speak of one case which appears to
lie between the preceding group and this. It is that of the woman
who came behind Jesus in the crowd; and involves peculiar
difficulties, in connection with the facts which render its
classification uncertain.

At Capernaum, apparently, our Lord was upon his way with Jairus
to visit his daughter, accompanied by a crowd of people who had
heard the request of the ruler of the synagogue. A woman who had
been ill for twelve years, came behind him and touched the hem of
his garment. This we may regard as a prayer in so far as she came
to him, saying “within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I
shall be whole.” But, on the other hand, it was no true prayer in as
far as she expected to be healed without the knowledge and will of
the healer. Although she came to him, she did not ask him to heal
her. She thought with innocent theft to steal from him a cure.

What follows according to St Matthew’s account, occasions me no
difficulty. He does not say that the woman was cured by the touch;
he says nothing of her cure until Jesus had turned and seen her,
and spoken the word to her, whereupon he adds: “And the woman
was made whole from that hour.” But St Mark and St Luke
represent that the woman was cured upon the touch, and that the
cure was only confirmed afterwards by the words of our Lord.
They likewise represent Jesus as ignorant of what had taken place,
except in so far as he knew that, without his volition, some cure
had been wrought by contact with his person, of which he was
aware by the passing from him of a saving influence. By this, in
the heart of a crowd which pressed upon him so that many must
have come into bodily contact with him, he knew that some one
had touched him with special intent. No perplexity arises from the
difference between the accounts, for there is only difference, not
incongruity: the two tell more than the one; it is from the nature of
the added circumstances that it springs, for those circumstances
necessarily involve inquiries of the most difficult nature. Nor can I
in the least pretend to have satisfied myself concerning them. In
the first place comes the mode of the cure, which seems at first
sight (dissociated, observe, from the will of the healer) to partake
of the nature of magic-an influence without a sufficient origin. Not
for a moment would I therefore yield to an inclination to reject the
testimony. I have no right to do so, for it deals with circumstances
concerning which my ignorance is all but complete. I cannot rest,
however, without seeking to come into some spiritual relation with
the narrative, that is, to find some credible supposition upon
which, without derogating from the lustre of the object of the
whole history, the thing might take place. The difficulty, I repeat,
is, that the woman could be cured by the garment of Jesus, without
(not against) the will of Jesus. I think that the whole difficulty
arises from our ignorance-a helpless ignorance-of the relations of
thought and matter. I use the word thought rather than spirit,
because in reflecting upon spirit (which is thought), people
generally represent to themselves a vague form of matter. All
religion is founded on the belief or instinct-call it what we
will-that matter is the result of mind, spirit, thought. The relation
between them is therefore simply too close, too near for us to
understand. Here is what I am able to suggest concerning the
account of the miracle as given by St Mark and St Luke.

If even in what we call inanimate things there lies a healing power
in various kinds; if, as is not absurd, there may lie in the world
absolute cure existing in analysis, that is parted into a thousand
kinds and forms, who can tell what cure may lie in a perfect body,
informed, yea, caused, by a perfect spirit? If stones and plants can
heal by the will of God in them, might there not dwell in the
perfect health of a body, in which dwelt the Son of God, a
necessarily healing power? It may seem that in the fact of the
many crowding about him, concerning whom we have no
testimony of influence received, there lies a refutation of his
supposition. But who can tell what he may have done even for
them without their recognizing it save in conscious well-being?
Besides, those who crowded nearest him would mostly be of the
strongest who were least in need of a physician, and in whose
being consequently there lay not that bare open channel hungering
for the precious life-current. And who can tell how the faith of the
heart, calming or arousing the whole nature, may have rendered
the very person of the woman more fit than the persons of others in
the crowd to receive the sacred influence? For although she did not
pray, she had the faith as alive though as small as the mustard
seed. Why might not health from the fountain of health flow then
into the empty channel of the woman’s weakness? It may have
been so. I shrink from the subject, I confess, because of the vulgar
forms such speculations have assumed in our days, especially in
the hands of those who savour unspeakably more of the charlatan
than the prophet. Still, one must be honest and truthful even in
regard to what he has to distinguish, as he can, into probable and
impossible. Fact is not the sole legitimate object of human inquiry.
If it were, farewell to all that elevates and glorifies human
nature-farewell to God, to religion, to hope! It is that which lies at
the root of fact, yea, at the root of law, after which the human soul
hungers and longs.

In the preceding remarks I have anticipated a chapter to follow-a
chapter of speculation, which may God make humble and right.
But some remark was needful here. What must be to some a far
greater difficulty has yet to be considered. It is the representation
of the Lord’s ignorance of the cure, save from the reaction upon his
own person of the influence which went out from him to fill that
vacuum of suffering which the divine nature abhors: he did not
know that his body was about to radiate health. But this gives me
no concern. Our Lord himself tells us in one case, at least, that he
did not know, that only his Father knew. He could discern a
necessary result in the future, but not the day or the hour thereof.
Omniscience is a consequence, not an essential of the divine
nature. God knows because he creates. The Father knows because
he orders. The Son knows because he obeys. The knowledge of the
Father must be perfect; such knowledge the Son neither needs nor
desires. His sole care is to do the will of the Father. Herein lies his
essential divinity. Although he knew that one of his apostles
should betray him, I doubt much whether, when he chose Judas, he
knew that he was that one. We must take his own words as true.
Not only does he not claim perfect knowledge, but he disclaims it.
He speaks once, at least, to his Father with an if it be possible.
Those who believe omniscience essential to divinity, will therefore
be driven to say that Christ was not divine. This will be their
punishment for placing knowledge on a level with love. No one
who does so can worship in spirit and in truth, can lift up his heart
in pure adoration. He will suppose he does, but his heaven will be
in the clouds, not in the sky.

But now we come to the holy of holies of the story-the divinest of
its divinity. Jesus could not leave the woman with the half of a
gift. He could not let her away so poor. She had stolen the half: she
must fetch the other half-come and take it from his hand. That is,
she must know who had healed her. Her will and his must come
together; and for this her eyes and his, her voice and his ears, her
ears and his voice must meet. It is the only case recorded in which
he says Daughter. It could not have been because she was younger
than himself; there could not have been much difference between
their ages in that direction. Let us see what lies in the word.

With the modesty belonging to her as a woman, intensified by the
painful shrinking which had its origin in the peculiar nature of her
suffering, she dared not present herself to the eyes of the Lord, but
thought merely to gather from under his table a crumb unseen. And
I do not believe that our Lord in calling her had any desire to make
her tell her tale of grief, and, in her eyes, of shame. It would have
been enough to him if she had come and stood before him, and
said nothing. Nor had she to appear before his face with only that
poor remnant of strength which had sufficed to bring her to the
hem of his garment behind him; for now she knew in herself that
she was healed of her plague, and the consciousness must have
been strength. Yet she trembled when she came. Filled with awe
and gratitude, she could not stand before him; she fell down at his
feet. There, hiding her face in her hands, I presume, she forgot the
surrounding multitude, and was alone in the chamber of her
consciousness with the Son of Man. Her love, her gratitude, her
holy awe unite in an impulse to tell him all. When the lower
approaches the higher in love, even between men, the longing is to
be known; the prayer is “Know me.” This was David’s prayer to
God, “Search me and know me.” There should be no more
concealment. Besides, painful as it was to her to speak, he had a
right to know all, and know it he should. It was her sacrifice
offered unto the Lord. She told him all the truth. To conceal
anything from him now would be greater pain than to tell all, for
the thing concealed would be as a barrier between him and her;
she would be simple-onefold; her whole being should lie open
before him. I do not for a moment mean that such thoughts, not to
say words, took shape in her mind; but sometimes we can
represent a single consciousness only by analysing it into twenty
thoughts. And he accepted the offering. He let her speak, and tell
all.

But it was painful. He understood it well. His heart yearned
towards the woman to shield her from her own innocent shame, to
make as it were a heaven about her whose radiance should render
it “by clarity invisible.” Her story appealed to all that was tenderest
in humanity; for the secret which her modesty had hidden, her
conscience had spoken aloud. Therefore the tenderest word that
the language could afford must be hers. “Daughter,” he said. It was
the fullest reward, the richest acknowledgment he could find of the
honour in which he held her, his satisfaction with her conduct, and
the perfect love he bore her. The degrading spirit of which I have
spoken, the spirit of the commonplace, which lowers everything to
the level of its own capacity of belief, will say that the word was
an eastern mode in more common use than with us. I say that
whatever Jesus did or said, he did and said like other men-he did
and said as no other man did or said. If he said Daughter, it meant
what any man would mean by it; it meant what no man could mean
by it-what no man was good enough, great enough, loving enough
to mean by it. In him the Father spoke to this one the eternal truth
of his relation to all his daughters, to all the women he has made,
though individually it can be heard only by those who lift up the
filial eyes, lay bare the filial heart. He did the works, he spoke the
words of him that sent him. Well might this woman, if she dared
not lift the downcast eye before the men present, yet depart in
shameless peace: he who had healed her had called her Daughter.
Everything on earth is paltry before such a word. It was the deepest
gift of the divine nature-the recognition of the eternal in her by
him who had made it. Between the true father and the true
daughter nothing is painful. I think also that very possibly some
compunction arose in her mind, the moment she knew herself
healed, at the mode in which she had gained her cure. Hence when
the Lord called her she may have thought he was offended with her
because of it. Possibly her contrition for the little fault, if fault
indeed it was, may have increased the agony of feeling with which
she forced rather than poured out her confession. But he soothes
her with gentle, consoling, restoring words: “Be of good comfort.”
He heals the shy suffering spirit, “wherein old dints of deep
wounds did remain.” He confirms the cure she feared perhaps
might be taken from her again. “Go in peace, and be whole of thy
plague.” Nay, more, he attributes her cure to her own faith. “Thy
faith hath made thee whole.” What wealth of tenderness! She must
not be left in her ignorance to the danger of associating power with
the mere garment of the divine. She must be brought face to face
with her healer. She must not be left kneeling on the outer
threshold of the temple. She must be taken to the heart of the
Saviour, and so redeemed, then only redeemed utterly. There is no
word, no backward look of reproach upon the thing she had
condemned. If it was evil it was gone from between them for ever.
Confessed, it vanished. Her faith was an ignorant faith, but,
however obscured in her consciousness, it was a true faith. She
believed in the man, and our Lord loved the modesty that kept her
from pressing into his presence. It may indeed have been the very
strength of her faith working in her ignorance that caused her to
extend his power even to the skirts of his garments. And there he
met the ignorance, not with rebuke, but with the more grace. If
even her ignorance was so full of faith, of what mighty confidence
was she not capable! Even the skirt of his garment would minister
to such a faith. It should be as she would. Through the garment of
his Son, the Father would cure her who believed enough to put
forth her hand and touch it. The kernel-faith was none the worse
that it was closed in the uncomely shell of ignorance and mistake.
The Lord was satisfied with it. When did he ever quench the
smoking flax? See how he praises her. He is never slow to
commend. The first quiver of the upturning eyelid is to him faith.
He welcomes the sign, and acknowledges it; commends the
feeblest faith in the ignorant soul, rebukes it as little only in
apostolic souls where it ought to be greater. “Thy faith hath saved
thee.” However poor it was, it was enough for that. Between death
and the least movement of life there is a gulf wider than that fixed
between the gates of heaven and the depths of hell. He said
“Daughter.”

I come now to the first instance of plain request-that of the leper
who fell down before him, saying, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst
make me clean”-a prayer lovely in the simplicity of its human
pleading-appeal to the power which lay in the man to whom he
spoke: his power was the man’s claim; the relation between them
was of the strongest-that between plenty and need, between
strength and weakness, between health and disease-poor bonds
comparatively between man and man, for man’s plenty, strength,
and health can only supplement, not satisfy the need; support the
weakness, not change it into strength; mitigate the disease of his
fellow, not slay it with invading life; but in regard to God, all
whose power is creative, any necessity of his creatures is a perfect
bond between them and him; his magnificence must flow into the
channels of the indigence he has created.

Observe how Jesus responds in the terms of the man’s request. The
woman found the healing where she sought it-in the hem of his
garment. One man says, “Come with me;” the Lord goes. Another
says, “Come not under my roof, I am not worthy;” the Lord
remains. Here the man says, “If thou wilt;” the Lord answers, “I
will.” But he goes far beyond the man’s request.

I need say nothing of the grievous complaint under which he
laboured. It was sore to the mind as well as the body, for it made
of the man an outcast and ashamed. No one would come near him
lest he should share his condemnation. Physical evil had, as it
were, come to the surface in him. He was “full of leprosy.” Men
shrink more from skin-diseases than from any other.2 Jesus could
have cured him with a word. There was no need he should touch
him. No need did I say? There was every need. For no one else
would touch him. The healthy human hand, always more or less
healing, was never laid on him; he was despised and rejected. It
was a poor thing for the Lord to cure his body; he must comfort
and cure his sore heart. Of all men a leper, I say, needed to be
touched with the hand of love. Spenser says, “Entire affection
hateth nicer hands.” It was not for our master, our brother, our
ideal man, to draw

2 And they are amongst the hardest to cure; just as the
skin-diseases of the soul linger long after the heart is greatly cured.
Witness the petulance, fastidiousness, censoriousness, social
self-assertion, general disagreeableness of so many good people-all
in the moral skin-repulsive exceedingly. I say good people; I do
not say very good, nor do I say Christ-like, for that they are not.

around him the skirts of his garments and speak a lofty word of
healing, that the man might at least be clean before he touched
him. The man was his brother, and an evil disease cleaved fast
unto him. Out went the loving hand to the ugly skin, and there was
his brother as he should be-with the flesh of a child. I thank God
that the touch went before the word. Nor do I think it was the
touch of a finger, or of the finger-tips. It was a kindly healing
touch in its nature as in its power. Oh blessed leper! thou knowest
henceforth what kind of a God there is in the earth-not the God of
the priests, but a God such as himself only can reveal to the hearts
of his own. That touch was more than the healing. It was to the
leper what the word Daughter was to the woman in the crowd,
what the Neither do I was to the woman in the temple-the sign of
the perfect presence. Outer and inner are one with him: the
outermost sign is the revelation of the innermost heart.

Let me linger one moment upon this coming together of creative
health and destroying disease. The health must flow forth; the
disease could not enter: Jesus was not defiled by the touch. Not
that even if he would have been, he would have shrunk and
refrained; he respected the human body in most evil case, and thus
he acknowledged it his own. But my reader must call up for
himself the analogies-only I cannot admit that they are mere
analogies-between the cure of the body and the cure of the soul:
here they were combined in one act, for that touch went to the
man’s heart. I can only hint at them here. Hand to hand is enough
for the cure of the bodily disease; but heart to heart will Jesus visit
the man who in deepest defilement of evil habits, yet lifts to him a
despairing cry. The healthful heart of the Lord will cure the heart
spotted with the plague: it will come again as the heart of a child.
Only this kind goeth not out save by prayer and abstinence.

The Lord gave him something to do at once, and something not to
do. He was to go to the priest, and to hold his tongue. It is easier to
do than to abstain; he went to the priest; he did not hold his
tongue.

That the Lord should send him to the priest requires no
explanation. The sacred customs of his country our Lord in his
own person constantly recognized. That he saw in them more than
the priests themselves was no reason for passing them by. The
testimony which he wished the man to bear concerning him lay in
the offering of the gift which Moses had commanded. His healing
was in harmony with all the forms of the ancient law; for it came
from the same source, and would in the lapse of ages complete
what the law had but begun. This the man was to manifest for him.
The only other thing he required of him-silence-the man would
not, at least did not, yield. The probability is that he needed the
injunction for his own sake more than for the master’s sake; that he
was a talkative, demonstrative man, whose better life was ever in
danger of evaporating in words; and that the Lord required silence
of him, that he might think, and give the seed time to root itself
well before it shot its leaves out into the world. Are there not some
in our own day, who, having had a glimpse of truth across the
darkness of a moral leprosy, instantly begin to blaze abroad the
matter, as if it were their part at once to call to their fellows, and
teach them out of an intellectual twilight, in which they can as yet
see men only as trees walking, instead of retiring into the
wilderness, for a time at least, to commune with their own hearts,
and be still? But he meant well, nor is it any wonder that such a
man should be incapable of such a sacrifice. The Lord had touched
him. His nature was all in commotion with gratitude. His
self-conceit swelled high. His tongue would not be still. Perhaps he
judged himself a leper favoured above his fellow-lepers. Nothing
would more tend to talkativeness than such a selfish mistake. He
would be grateful. He would befriend his healer against his will.
He would work for him-alas! only to impede the labours of the
Wise; for the Lord found his popularity a great obstacle to the only
success he sought. “He went out and began to blaze abroad the
matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the
city.” His nature could not yet understand the kingdom that cometh
not with observation, and from presumption mingled with
affection, he would serve the Lord after a better fashion than that
of doing his will. And he had his reward. He had his share in
bringing his healer to the cross.

Obedience is the only service.

I take now the cure of the ten lepers, done apparently in a village
of Galilee towards Samaria. They stood afar off in a group,
probably afraid of offending him by any nearer approach, and cried
aloud, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Instead of at once
uttering their cure, he desired them to go and show themselves to
the priests. This may have been partly for the sake of the priests,
partly perhaps for the justification of his own mission, but more
certainly for the sake of the men themselves, that he might, in
accordance with his frequent practice, give them something
wherein to be obedient. It served also, as the sequel shows, to
individualize their relation to him. The relation as a group was not
sufficient for the men. Between him and them it must be the
relation of man to man. Individual faith must, as it were, break up
the group-to favour a far deeper reunion. Its bond was now a
common suffering; it must be changed to a common faith in the
healer of it. His intention wrought in them-at first with but small
apparent result. They obeyed, and went to go to the priests,
probably wondering whether they would be healed or not, for the
beginnings of faith are so small that they can hardly be recognized
as such. Going, they found themselves cured. Nine of them held on
their way, obedient; while the tenth, forgetting for the moment in
his gratitude the word of the Master, turned back and fell at his
feet. A moral martinet, a scribe, or a Pharisee, might have said
“The nine were right, the tenth was wrong: he ought to have kept
to the letter of the command.” Not so the Master: he accepted the
gratitude as the germ of an infinite obedience. Real love is
obedience and all things beside. The Lord’s own devotion was that
which burns up the letter with the consuming fire of love, fulfilling
and setting it aside. High love needs no letter to guide it. Doubtless
the letter is all that weak faith is capable of, and it is well for those
who keep it! But it is ill for those who do not outgrow and forget
it! Forget it, I say, by outgrowing it. The Lord cared little for the
letter of his own commands; he cared all for the spirit, for that was
life.

This man was a stranger, as the Jews called him, a Samaritan.
Therefore the Lord praised him to his followers. It was as if he had
said, “See, Jews, who think yourselves the great praisers of God!
here are ten lepers cleansed: where are the nine? One comes back
to glorify God-a Samaritan!” To the man himself he says, “Arise,
go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.” Again this
commending of individual faith! “Was it not the faith of the others
too that had healed them?” Doubtless. If they had had enough to
bring them back, he would have told them that their faith had
saved them. But they were content to be healed, and until their
love, which is the deeper faith, brought them to the Master’s feet,
their faith was not ripe for praise. But it was not for their blame, it
was for the Samaritan’s praise that he spoke. Probably this man’s
faith had caused the cry of all the ten; probably he was the salt of
the little group of outcasts-the tenth, the righteous man. Hence
they were contented, for the time, with their cure: he forgot the
cure itself in his gratitude. A moment more, and with obedient feet
he would overtake them on their way to the priest.

I may not find a better place for remarking on the variety of our
Lord’s treatment of those whom he cured; that is, the variety of the
form in which he conveyed the cure. In the record I do not think
we find two cases treated in the same manner. There is no massing
of the people with him. In his behaviour to men, just as in their
relation to his Father, every man is alone with him. In this case of
the ten, as I have said, I think he sent them away, partly, that this
individuality might have an opportunity of asserting itself. They
had stood afar off, therefore he could not lay the hand of love on
each. But now one left the group and brought his gratitude to the
Master’s feet, and with a loud voice glorified God the Healer.

In reflecting then on the details of the various cures we must seek
the causes of their diversity mainly in the individual differences of
the persons cured, not forgetting, at the same time, that all the
accounts are brief, and that our capacity is poor for the task. The
whole divine treatment of man is that of a father to his
children-only a father infinitely more a father than any man can be.
Before him stands each, as much an individual child as if there
were no one but him. The relation is awful in its singleness. Even
when God deals with a nation as a nation, it is only as by this
dealing the individual is aroused to a sense of his own wrong, that
he can understand how the nation has sinned, or can turn himself
to work a change. The nation cannot change save as its members
change; and the few who begin the change are the elect of that
nation. Ten righteous individuals would have been just enough to
restore life to the festering masses of Sodom-festering masses
because individual life had ceased, and the nation or community
was nowhere. Even nine could not do it: Sodom must perish. The
individuals must perish now; the nation had perished long since.
All communities are for the divine sake of individual life, for the
sake of the love and truth that is in each heart, and is not
cumulative-cannot be in two as one result. But all that is precious
in the individual heart depends for existence on the relation the
individual bears to other individuals: alone-how can he love?
alone-where is his truth? It is for and by the individuals that the
individual lives. A community is the true development of
individual relations. Its very possibility lies in the conscience of its
men and women. No setting right can be done in the mass. There
are no masses save in corruption. Vital organizations result alone
from individualities and consequent necessities, which fitting the
one into the other, and working for each other, make combination
not only possible but unavoidable. Then the truth which has
informed in the community reacts on the individual to perfect his
individuality. In a word, the man, in virtue of standing alone in
God, stands with his fellows, and receives from them divine
influences without which he cannot be made perfect. It is in virtue
of the living consciences of its individuals that a common
conscience is possible to a nation.

I cannot work this out here, but I would avoid being
misunderstood. Although I say, every man stands alone in God, I
yet say two or many can meet in God as they cannot meet save in
God; nay, that only in God can two or many truly meet; only as
they recognize their oneness with God can they become one with
each other.

In the variety then of his individual treatment of the sick, Jesus did
the works of his Father as his Father does them. For the Spirit of
God speaks to the spirit of the man, and the Providence of God
arranges everything for the best good of the individual-counting
the very hairs of his head. Every man had a cure of his own; every
woman had a cure of her own-all one and the same in principle,
each individual in the application of the principle. This was the
foundation of the true church. And yet the members of that church
will try to separate upon individual and unavoidable differences!

But once more the question recurs: Why say so often that this and
that one’s faith had saved him? Was it not enough that he had
saved them?-Our Lord would knit the bond between him and each
man by arousing the man’s individuality, which is, in deepest fact,
his conscience. The cure of a man depended upon no uncertain or
arbitrary movement of the feelings of Jesus. He was always ready
to heal. No one was ever refused who asked him. It rested with the
man: the healing could not have its way and enter in, save the man
would open his door. It was there for him if he would take it, or
rather when he would allow him to bestow it. Hence the question
and the praise of the patient’s faith. There was no danger then of
that diseased self-consciousness which nowadays is always asking,
“Have I faith? Have I faith?” searching, in fact, for grounds of
self-confidence, and turning away the eyes in the search from the
only source whence confidence can flow-the natal home of power
and love. How shall faith be born but of the beholding of the
faithful? This diseased self-contemplation was not indeed a Jewish
complaint at all, nor possible in the bodily presence of the Master.
Hence the praise given to a man’s faith could not hurt him; it only
made him glad and more faithful still. This disease itself is in more
need of his curing hand than all the leprosies of Jud a and
Samaria.

The cases which remain of this group are of blind men-the first,
that recorded by St Matthew of the two who followed Jesus,
crying, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.” He asked them if
they believed that he was able to do the thing for them, drawing, I
say, the bond between them closer thereby. They said they did
believe it, and at once he touched their eyes-again the bodily
contact, as in the case of the blind man already
considered-especially needful in the case of the blind, to associate
the healing with the healer. But there are differences between the
cases. The man who had not asked to be healed was as it were put
through a longer process of cure-I think that his faith and his will
might be called into exercise; and the bodily contact was made
closer to help the development of his faith and will: he made clay
and put it on his eyes, and the man had to go and wash. Where the
prayer and the confession of faith reveal the spiritual contact
already effected, the cure is immediate. “According to your faith,”
the Lord said, “be it unto you.”

On these men, as on the leper, he laid the charge of silence, by
them, as by him, sadly disregarded. The fact that he went into the
house, and allowed them to follow him there before he cured
them, also shows that he desired in their case, doubtless because of
circumstances, to avoid publicity, a desire which they foiled. Their
gladness overcame, if not their gratitude, yet the higher faith that is
one with obedience. When the other leper turned back to speak his
gratitude, it was but the delay of a moment in the fulfilling of the
command. But the gratitude that disobeys an injunction, that does
what the man is told not to do, and so plunges into the
irretrievable, is a virtue that needs a development amounting
almost to a metamorphosis.

In the one remaining case there is a slight confusion in the records.
St Luke says that it was performed as Jesus entered into Jericho; St
Mark says it was as he went out of Jericho, and gives the name and
parentage of the blind beggar; indeed his account is considerably
more minute than that of the others. St Matthew agrees with St
Mark as to the occasion, but says there were two blind men. We
shall follow the account of St Mark.

Bartim us, having learned the cause of the tumultuous passing of
feet, calls, like those former two blind men, upon the Son of David
to have mercy on him.3 The multitude finds fault with his crying
and calling. I presume he was noisy in his eagerness after his
vanished vision, and the multitude considered it indecorous. Or
perhaps the rebuke arose from that common resentment

3 In these two cases, the cry is upon the Son of David: I wonder if
this had come to be considered by the blind the correct formula of
address to the new prophet. But the cases are almost too few to
justify even a passing conjecture at generalization.

of a crowd against any one who makes himself what they consider
unreasonably conspicuous, claiming a share in the attention of the
potentate to which they cannot themselves pretend. But the Lord
stops, and tells them to call the man; and some of them, either
being his friends, or changing their tone when the great man takes
notice of him, begin to congratulate and comfort him. He, casting
away his garment in his eagerness, rises, and is led through the
yielding crowd to the presence of the Lord. To enter in some
degree into the personal knowledge of the man before curing him,
and to consolidate his faith, Jesus, the tones of whose voice, full of
the life of God, the cultivated hearing of a blind man would be best
able to interpret, began to talk a little with him.

“What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?”
“Lord, that I might receive my sight.”
“Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.”

Immediately he saw; and the first use he made of his sight was to
follow him who had given it.

Neither St Mark nor St Luke, whose accounts are almost exactly
the same, says that he touched the man’s eyes. St Matthew says he
touched the eyes of the two blind men whom his account places in
otherwise identical circumstances. With a surrounding crowd who
knew them, I think the touching was less necessary than in private;
but there is no need to inquire which is the more correct account.
The former two may have omitted a fact, or St Matthew may have
combined the story with that of the two blind men already noticed,
of which he is the sole narrator. But in any case there are, I think,
but two recorded instances of the blind praying for cure. Most
likely there were more, perhaps there were many such.

I have now to consider, as suggested by the idea of this group, the
question of prayer generally; for Jesus did the works of him who
sent him: as Jesus did so God does.

I have not seen an argument against what is called the efficacy of
prayer which appears to me to have any force but what is derived
from some narrow conception of the divine nature. If there be a
God at all, it is absurd to suppose that his ways of working should
be such as to destroy his side of the highest relation that can exist
between him and those whom he has cared to make-to destroy, I
mean, the relation of the will of the creator to the individual will
of his creature. That God should bind himself in an iron net of his
own laws-that his laws should bind him in any way, seeing they are
just his nature in action-is sufficiently absurd; but that such laws
should interfere with his deepest relation to his creatures, should
be inconsistent with the highest consequences of that creation
which alone gives occasion for those laws-that, in fact, the will of
God should be at strife with the foregoing action of God, not to say
with the very nature of God-that he should, with an unchangeable
order of material causes and effects, cage in for ever the winged
aspirations of the human will which he has made in the image of
his own will, towards its natural air of freedom in His will, would
be pronounced inconceivable, were it not that it has been
conceived and uttered-conceived and uttered, however, only by
minds to which the fact of this relation was, if at all present, then
only in the vaguest and most incomplete form. That he should not
leave himself any willing room towards those to whom he gave
need, room to go wrong, will to turn and look up and pray and
hope, is to me grotesquely absurd. It is far easier to believe that as
both-the laws of nature, namely, and the human will-proceed from
the same eternally harmonious thought, they too are so in
harmony, that for the perfect operation of either no infringement
upon the other is needful; and that what seems to be such
infringement would show itself to a deeper knowledge of both as a
perfectly harmonious co-operation. Nor would it matter that we
know so little, were it not that with each fresh discovery we are so
ready to fancy anew that now, at last, we know all about it. We
have neither humility enough to be faithful, nor faith enough to be
humble. Unfit to grasp any whole, yet with an inborn idea of
wholeness which ought to be our safety in urging us ever on
towards the Unity, we are constantly calling each new part the
whole, saying we have found the idea, and casting ourselves on the
couch of self-glorification. Thus the very need of unity is by our
pride perverted to our ruin. We say we have found it, when we
have it not. Hence, also, it becomes easy to refuse certain
considerations, yea, certain facts, a place in our system-for the
system will cease to be a system at all the moment they are
acknowledged. They may have in them the very germ of life and
truth; but what is that, if they destroy this Babylon that we have
built? Are not its forms stately and fair? Yea, can there be statelier
and fairer?

The main point is simply this, that what it would not be well for
God to give before a man had asked for it, it may be not only well,
but best, to give when he has asked.4 I believe that the first half of
our training is up to the asking point; after that the treatment has a
grand new element in it. For God can give when a man is in the fit
condition to receive it, what he cannot give before because the
man cannot receive it. How give instruction in the harmony of
colours or tones to a man who cannot yet distinguish between
shade and shade or tone and tone, upon which distinction all
harmony depends? A man cannot receive except another will give;
no more can a man give if another will not receive; he can only
offer. Doubtless, God works on every man, else he could have no
divine tendency at all; there would

4 Well and Best must be the same thing with God when he acts.

be no thither for him to turn his face towards; there could be at
best but a sense of want. But the moment the man has given in to
God-to use a homely phrase-the spirit for which he prays can work
in him all with him, not now (as it appeared then) against him.
Every parent at all worthy of the relation must know that occasions
occur in which the asking of the child makes the giving of the
parent the natural correlative. In a way infinitely higher, yet the
same at the root, for all is of God, He can give when the man asks
what he could not give without, because in the latter case the man
would take only the husk of the gift, and cast the kernel away-a
husk poisonous without the kernel, although wholesome and
comforting with it.

But some will say, “We may ask, but it is certain we shall not have
everything we ask for.”

No, thank God, certainly not; we shall have nothing which we
ourselves, when capable of judging and choosing with open eyes to
its true relation to ourselves, would not wish and choose to have. If
God should give otherwise, it must be as a healing punishment of
inordinate and hurtful desire. The parable of the father dividing his
living at the prayer of the younger son, must be true of God’s
individual sons, else it could not have been true of the Jews on the
one hand and the Gentiles on the other. He will grant some such
prayers because he knows that the swine and their husks will send
back his son with quite another prayer on his lips. If my supposed
interlocutor answers, “What then is the good of praying, if it is not
to go by what I want?” I can only answer, “You have to learn, and
it may be by a hard road.” In the kinds of things which men desire,
there are essential differences. In physical well-being, there is a
divine good. In sufficient food and raiment, there is a divine
fitness. In wealth, as such, there is none. A man may pray for
money to pay his debts, for healing of the sickness which
incapacitates him for labour or good work, for just judgment in the
eyes of his fellow-men, with an altogether different confidence
from that with which he could pray for wealth, or for bodily might
to surpass his fellows, or for vengeance upon those whose
judgment of his merits differed from his own; although even then
the divine soul will with his Saviour say, “If it be possible: Not my
will but thine.” For he will know that God gives only the best.

“But God does not even cure every one who asks him. And so with
the other things you say are good to pray for.”

Jesus did not cure all the ills in Jud a. But those he did cure were
at least real ills and real needs. There was a fitness in the condition
of some, a fitness favoured by his own bodily presence amongst
them, which met the virtue ready to go out from him. But God is
ever present, and I have yet to learn that any man prayed for
money to be honest with and to meet the necessities of his family,
and did the work of him who had called him from the
market-place of the nation, who did not receive his penny a-day. If
to any one it seems otherwise, I believe the apparent contradiction
will one day be cleared up to his satisfaction. God has not to
satisfy the judgment of men as they are, but as they will be and
must be, having learned the high and perfectly honest and grand
way of things which is his will. For God to give men just what they
want would often be the same as for a man to give gin to the
night-wanderer whom he had it in his power to take home and set
to work for wages. But I must believe that many of the ills of
which men complain would be speedily cured if they would work
in the strength of prayer. If the man had not taken up his bed when
Christ bade him, he would have been a great authority with the
scribes and chief priests against the divine mission of Jesus. The
power to work is a diviner gift than a great legacy. But these are
individual affairs to be settled individually between God and his
child. They cannot be pronounced upon generally because of
individual differences. But here as there, now as then, the lack is
faith. A man may say, “How can I have faith?” I answer, “How can
you indeed, who do the thing you know you ought not to do, and
have not begun to do the thing you know you ought to do? How
should you have faith? It is not well that you should be cured yet. It
would have hurt these men to cure them if they would not ask. And
you do not pray.” The man who has prayed most is, I suspect, the
least doubtful whether God hears prayer now as Jesus heard it
then. That we doubt is well, for we are not yet in the empyrean of
simple faith. But I think the man who believes and prays now, has
answers to his prayers even better than those which came to the
sick in Jud a; for although the bodily presence of Jesus made a
difference in their favour, I do believe that the Spirit of God, after
widening its channels for nearly nineteen hundred years, can flow
in greater plenty and richness now. Hence the answers to prayer
must not only not be of quite the same character as then, but they
must be better, coming yet closer to the heart of the need, whether
known as such by him who prays, or not. But the change lies in
man’s power of reception, for God is always the same to his
children. Only, being infinite, he must speak to them and act for
them in the endless diversity which their growth and change render
necessary. Thus only they can receive of his fulness who is all in
all and unchangeable.

In our imperfect condition both of faith and of understanding, the
whole question of asking and receiving must necessarily be
surrounded with mist and the possibility of mistake. It can be
successfully encountered only by the man who for himself asks
and hopes. It lies in too lofty regions and involves too many
unknown conditions to be reduced to formulas of ours; for God
must do only the best, and man is greater and more needy than
himself can know.

Yet he who asks shall receive-of the very best. One promise
without reserve, and only one, because it includes all, remains: the
promise of the Holy Spirit to them who ask it. He who has the
Spirit of God, God himself, in him, has the Life in him, possesses
the final cure of all ill, has in himself the answer to all possible
prayer.

Chapter VI. MIRACLES GRANTED TO THE PRAYER OF
FRIENDS.

IF we allow that prayer may in any case be heard for the man
himself, it almost follows that it must be heard for others. It cannot
well be in accordance with the spirit of Christianity, whose
essential expression lies in the sacrifice of its founder, that a man
should be heard only when he prays for himself. The fact that in
cases of the preceding group faith was required on the part of the
person healed as essential to his cure, represents no different
principle from that which operates in the cases of the present
group. True, in these the condition is not faith on the part of the
person cured, but faith on the part of him who asks for his cure.
But the possession of faith by the patient was not in the least
essential, as tar as the power of Jesus was concerned, to his bodily
cure, although no doubt favourable thereto; it was necessary only
to that spiritual healing, that higher cure, for the sake of which
chiefly the Master brought about the lower. In both cases, the
requisition of faith is for the sake of those who ask-whether for
themselves or for their friends, it matters not. It is a breath to blow
the smoking flax into a flame-a word to draw into closer contact
with himself. He cured many without such demand, as his Father is
ever curing without prayer. Cure itself shall sometimes generate
prayer and faith. Well, therefore, might the cure of others be
sometimes granted to prayer.

Beyond this, however, there is a great fitness in the thing. For so
are men bound together, that no good can come to one but all must
share in it. The children suffer for the father, the father suffers for
the children, and they are also blessed together. If a spiritual good
descend upon the heart of a leader of the nation, the whole people
might rejoice for themselves, for they must be partakers of the
unspeakable gift. To increase the faith of the father may be more
for the faith of the child, healed in answer to his prayer, than
anything done for the child himself. It is an enlarging of one of the
many channels in which the divinest gifts flow. For those gifts
chiefly, at first, flow to men through the hearts and souls of those
of their fellows who are nearer the Father than they, until at length
they are thus brought themselves to speak to God face to face.

Lonely as every man in his highest moments of spiritual vision,
yea in his simplest consciousness of duty, turns his face towards
the one Father, his own individual maker and necessity of his life;
painfully as he may then feel that the best beloved understands not
as he understands, feels not as he feels; he is yet, in his most
isolated adoration of the Father of his spirit, nearer every one of
the beloved than when eye meets eye, heart beats responsive to
heart, and the poor dumb hand seeks by varied pressure to tell the
emotion within. Often then the soul, with its many organs of
utterance, feels itself but a songless bird, whose broken twitter
hardens into a cage around it; but even with all those organs of
utterance in full play, he is yet farther from his fellow-man than
when he is praying to the Father in a desert place apart. The man
who prays, in proportion to the purity of his prayer, becomes a
spiritual power, a nerve from the divine brain, yea, perhaps a
ganglion as we call it, whence power anew goes forth upon his
fellows. He is a redistributor, as it were, of the divine blessing; not
in the exercise of his own will-that is the cesspool towards which
all notions of priestly mediation naturally sink-but as the
self-forgetting, God-loving brother of his kind, who would be in
the world as Christ was in the world. When a man prays for his
fellow-man, for wife or child, mother or father, sister or brother or
friend, the connection between the two is so close in God, that the
blessing begged may well flow to the end of the prayer. Such a one
then is, in his poor, far-off way, an advocate with the Father, like
his master, Jesus Christ, The Righteous. He takes his friend into
the presence with him, or if not into the presence, he leaves him
with but the veil between them, and they touch through the veil.

The first instance we have in this kind, occurred at Cana, in the
centre of Galilee, where the first miracle was wrought. It is the
second miracle in St John’s record, and is recorded by him only.
Doubtless these two had especially attracted his nature-the turning
of water into wine, and the restoration of a son to his father. The
Fatherhood of God created the fatherhood in man; God’s love
man’s love. And what shall he do to whom a son is given whom yet
he cannot keep? The divine love in his heart cleaves to the child,
and the child is vanishing! What can this nobleman do but seek the
man of whom such wondrous rumours have reached his ears?

Between Cana and Tiberias, from which came the father with his
prayer, was somewhere about twenty miles.

“He is at the point of death,” said the father.
“Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe,” said Jesus.
“Sir, come down ere my child die.”
“Go thy way, thy son liveth.”

If the nobleman might have understood the remark the Lord made,
he was in no mood for principles, and respectfully he expostulates
with our Lord for spending time in words when the need was so
urgent. The sun of his life was going down into the darkness. He
might deserve reproof, but even reproof has its season. “Sir, come
down ere my child die.” Whatever the Lord meant by the words he
urged it no farther. He sends him home with the assurance of the
boy’s recovery, showing him none of the signs or wonders of which
he had spoken. Had the man been of unbelieving kind he would,
when he returned and found that all had occurred in the most
natural fashion, that neither here had there been sign or wonder,
have gradually reverted to his old carelessness as to a higher will
and its ordering of things below. But instead of this, when he heard
that the boy began to get better the very hour when Jesus spoke the
word-a fact quite easy to set down as a remarkable coincidence-he
believed, and all his people with him. Probably he was in ideal
reality the head of his house, the main source of household
influences-if such, then a man of faith, for, where a man does not
himself look up to the higher, the lower will hardly look faithfully
up to him-surely a fit man to intercede for his son, with all his
house ready to believe with him. It may be said they too shared in
the evidence-such as it was-not much of a sign or wonder to them.
True; but people are not ready to believe the best evidence except
they are predisposed in the direction of that evidence. If it be said,
“they should have thought for themselves,” I answer-To think with
their head was no bad sign that they did think for themselves. A
great deal of what is called freedom of thought is merely the
self-assertion which would persuade itself of a freedom it would
possess but cannot without an effort too painful for ignorance and
self-indulgence. The man would feel free without being free. To
assert one’s individuality is not necessarily to be free: it may
indeed be but the outcome of absolute slavery.

But if this nobleman was a faithful man, whence our Lord’s word,
“Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe”? I am not
sure. It may have been as a rebuke to those about him. This
man-perhaps, as is said, a nobleman of Herod’s court-may not have
been a pure-bred Jew, and hence our Lord’s remark would bear an
import such as he uttered more plainly in the two cases following,
that of the Greek woman, and that of the Roman centurion:
“Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe; but this
man-.” With this meaning I should probably have been content,
were it not that the words were plainly addressed to the man. I do
not think this would destroy the interpretation, for the Lord may
have wished to draw the man out, and make him, a Gentile or
doubtful kind of Jew, rebuke the disciples; only the man’s love for
his son stood in the way: he could think of nothing, speak of
nothing save his son; but it makes it unsatisfactory. And indeed I
prefer the following interpretation, because we have the other
meaning in other places; also because this is of universal
application, and to us of these days appears to me of special
significance and value, applying to the men of science on the one
hand, and the men of superstition on the other.

My impression is, that our Lord, seeing the great faith of the
nobleman, grounded on what he had heard of the Master from
others, chiefly of his signs and wonders, did in this remark require
of him a higher faith still. It sounds to me an expostulation with
him. To express in the best way my feeling concerning it, I would
dare to imagine our Lord speaking in this fashion:-

“Why did you not pray the Father? Why do you want always to
see? The door of prayer has been open since ever God made man
in his own image: why are signs and wonders necessary to your
faith? But I will do just as my Father would have done if you had
asked him. Only when I do it, it is a sign and a wonder that you
may believe; and I wish you could believe without it. But believe
then for the very work’s sake, if you cannot believe for the word
and the truth’s sake. Go thy way, thy son liveth.”

I would not be understood to say that the Lord blamed him, or
others in him, for needing signs and wonders: it was rather, I think,
that the Lord spoke out of the fulness of his knowledge to awake in
them some infant sense of what constituted all his life-the presence
of God; just as the fingers of the light go searching in the dark
mould for the sleeping seeds, to touch and awake them. The order
of creation, the goings on of life, were ceaselessly flowing from
the very heart of the Father: why should they seek signs and
wonders differing from common things only in being uncommon?
In essence there was no difference. Uncommonness is not
excellence, even as commonness is not inferiority. The sign, the
wonder is, in fact, the lower thing, granted only because of men’s
hardness of heart and slowness to believe-in itself of inferior
nature to God’s chosen way. Yet, if signs and wonders could help
them, have them they should, for neither were they at variance
with the holy laws of life and faithfulness: they were but less usual
utterances of the same. “Go thy way: thy son liveth.” The man,
noble-man certainly in this, obeyed, and found his obedience
justify his faith.

But his son would have to work out his belief upon grounds
differing from those his father had. In himself he could but
recognize the resumption of the natural sway of life. He would not
necessarily know that it was God working in him. For the cause of
his cure, he would only hear the story of it from his father-good
evidence-but he himself had not seen the face of the Holy One as
his father had. In one sense or another, he must seek and find him.
Every generation must do its own seeking and its own finding. The
fault of the fathers often is that they expect their finding to stand in
place of their children’s seeking-expect the children to receive that
which has satisfied the need of their fathers upon their testimony;
whereas rightly, their testimony is not ground for their children’s
belief, only for their children’s search. That search is faith in the
bud. No man can be sure till he has found for himself. All that is
required of the faithful nature is a willingness to seek. He cannot
even know the true nature of the thing he wants until he has found
it; he has but a dim notion of it, a faint star to guide him eastward
to the sunrise. Hopefully, the belief of the father has the heart in it
which will satisfy the need of the child; but the doubt of this in the
child, is the father’s first ground for hoping that the child with his
new needs will find for himself the same well of life-to draw from
it with a new bucket, it may be, because the old will hold water no
longer: its staves may be good, but its hoops are worn asunder; or,
rather, it will be but a new rope it needs, which he has to twist
from the hemp growing in his own garden. The son who was
healed might have many questions to ask which the father could
not answer, had never thought of. He had heard of the miracle of
Cana; he had heard of many things done since: he believed that the
man could cure his son, and he had cured him. “Yes,” the son
might say, “but I must know more of him; for, if what I hear now
be true, I must cast all at his feet. He cannot be a healer only; he
must be the very Lord of Life-it may be of the Universe.” His
simple human presence had in it something against the
supposition-contained in it what must have appeared reason for
doubting this conclusion from his deeds, especially to one who had
not seen his divine countenance. But to one at length enlightened
of the great Spirit, his humanity would contain the highest ground
for believing in his divinity, for what it meant would come out
ever and ever loftier and grander. The Lord who had made the
Universe-how should he show it but as the Healer did? He could
not make the universe over again in the eyes of every man. If he
did, the heart of the man could not hold the sight. He must reveal
himself as the curing God-the God who set things which had gone
wrong, right again: that could be done in the eyes of each
individual man. This man may be he-the Messiah-Immanuel, God
with-us.

We can imagine such the further thoughts of the son-possibly of
the father first-only he had been so full of the answer to his prayer,
of the cure of his son, that he could not all at once follow things
towards their grand conclusions.

In this case, as in the two which follow, the Lord heals from a
distance. I have not much to remark upon this. There were reasons
for it; one perhaps the necessity of an immediate answer to the
prayer; another probably lay in its fitness to the faith of the
supplicants. For to heal thus, although less of a sign or a wonder to
the unbelieving, had in it an element of finer power upon the faith
of such as came not for the sign or the wonder, but for the cure of
the beloved; for he who loves can believe what he who loves not
cannot believe; and he who loves most can believe most. In this
respect, these cures were like the healing granted to prayer in all
ages-not that God is afar off, for he is closer to every man than his
own conscious being is to his unconscious being-but that we
receive the aid from the Unseen. Though there be no distance with
God, it looks like it to men; and when Jesus cured thus, he cured
with the same appearances which attended God’s ordinary healing.

The next case I take up is similar. It belongs to another of my
classes, but as a case of possession there is little distinctive about
it, while as the record of the devotion of a mother to her daughter-a
devotion quickening in her faith so rare and lovely as to delight the
very heart of Jesus with its humble intensity-it is one of the most
beautiful of all the stories of healing.

The woman was a Greek, and had not had the training of the Jew
for a belief in the Messiah. Her misconceptions concerning the
healer of whom she had heard must have been full of fancies
derived from the legends of her race. But she had yet been trained
to believe, for her mighty love of her own child was the best power
for the development of the child-like in herself.

No woman can understand the possible depths of her own
affection for her daughter. I say daughter, not child, because
although love is the same everywhere, it is nowhere the same. No
two loves of individuals in the same correlation are the same.
Much more the love of a woman for her daughter differs from the
love of a father for his son-differs as the woman differs from the
man. There is in it a peculiar tenderness from the sense of the
same womanly consciousness in both of undefendedness and
self-accountable modesty-a modesty, in this case, how terribly
tortured in the mother by the wild behaviour of the daughter under
the impulses of the unclean spirit! Surely if ever there was a
misery to drive a woman to the Healer in an agony of rightful
claim and prostrate entreaty, it was the misery of a mother whose
daughter was thus possessed. The divine nature of her motherhood,
of her womanhood, drew her back to its source to find help for one
who shared in the same, but in whom its waters were sorely
troubled and grievously defiled.

She came crying to him. About him stood his disciples, proud of
being Jews. For their sakes this chosen Gentile must be pained a
little further, must bear with her Saviour her part of suffering for
the redemption even of his chosen apostles. They counted
themselves the children, and such as she the dogs. He must show
them the divine nature dwelling in her. For the sake of this
revelation he must try her sorely, but not for long.

“Have mercy on me,” she cried, “O Lord, thou son of David; my
daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.”

But not a word of reply came from the lips of the Healer. His
disciples must speak first. They must supplicate for their Gentile
sister. He would arouse in them the disapproval of their own
exclusiveness, by putting it on for a moment that they might see it
apart from themselves.

Their hearts were moved for the woman.

“Send her away,” they said, meaning, “Give her what she wants;”
but to move the heart of love to grant the prayer, they-poor
intercessors-added a selfish reason to justify the deed of goodness,
either that they would avoid being supposed to acknowledge her
claim on a level with that of a Jewess, and would make of it what
both Puritans and priests would call “an uncovenanted mercy,” or
that they actually thought it would help to overcome the scruples
of the Master. Possibly it was both. “She crieth after us,” they
said-meaning, “She is troublesome.” They would have him give as
the ungenerous and the unjust give to the importunate.

But no healing could be granted on such a ground-not even to the
prayer of an apostle. The woman herself must give a better.

“I am not sent,” he said, “but unto the lost sheep of the house of
Israel.”

They understood the words falsely. We know that he did come for
the Gentiles, and he was training them to see what they were so
slow to understand, that he had other sheep which were not of this
fold. He had need to begin with them thus early. Most of the
troubles of his latest, perhaps greatest apostle, came from the
indignation of Jewish Christians that he preached the good news to
the Gentiles as if it had been originally meant for them. They
would have had them enter into its privileges by the gates of
Judaism.

What they did at length understand by these words is expressed in
the additional word of our Lord given by St Mark: “Let the
children first be filled.” But even this they could not understand
until afterwards. They could not see that it was for the sake of the
Gentiles as much as the Jews that Jesus came to the Jews first. For
whatever glorious exceptions there were amongst the Gentiles,
surpassing even similar amongst the Jews; and whatever the
wide-spread refusal of the Jewish nation, he could not have been
received amongst the Gentiles as amongst the Jews. In Jud a
alone could the leaven work; there alone could the mustard-seed
take fitting root. Once rooted and up, it would become a great tree,
and the birds of the world would nestle in its branches. It was not
that God loved the Jews more than the Gentiles that he chose them
first, but that he must begin somewhere: why, God himself knows,
and perhaps has given us glimmerings.

Upheld by her God-given love, not yet would the woman turn
away. Even such hard words as these could not repulse her.

She came now and fell at his feet. It is as the Master would have it:
she presses only the nearer, she insists only the more; for the devil
has a hold of her daughter.

“Lord, help me,” is her cry; for the trouble of her daughter is her
own. The “Help me” is far more profound and pathetic than the
most vivid blazon of the daughter’s sufferings.

But he answered and said,-

“It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.”

Terrible words! more dreadful far than any he ever spoke besides!
Surely now she will depart in despair! But the Lord did not mean
in them to speak his mind concerning the relation of Jew and
Gentile; for not only do the future of his church and the teaching of
his Spirit contradict it: but if he did mean what he said, then he
acted as was unmeet, for he did cast a child’s bread to a dog. No.
He spoke as a Jew felt, that the elect Jews about him might begin
to understand that in him is neither Jew nor Gentile, but all are
brethren.

And he has gained his point. The spirit in the woman has been
divinely goaded into utterance, and out come the glorious words of
her love and faith, casting aside even insult itself as if it had never
been-all for the sake of a daughter. Now, indeed, it is as he would
have it.

“Yes, Lord; yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s
crumbs.”

Or, as St Matthew gives it:

“Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their
masters’ table.”

A retort quite Greek in its readiness, its symmetry, and its point!
But it was not the intellectual merit of the answer that pleased the
Master. Cleverness is cheap. It is the faith he praises,5 which was
precious as rare-unspeakably precious even when it shall be the
commonest thing in the universe, but precious now as the first
fruits of a world redeemed-precious now as coming from the lips
of a Gentile-more precious as coming from the lips of a human
mother pleading for her daughter.

“O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”

Or, as St Mark gives it, for we cannot afford to lose a varying
word,

“For this saying, go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.”

The loving mother has conquered the tormenting devil. She has
called in the mighty aid of the original love. Through the channel
of her love it flows, new-creating,

5 Far more precious than any show of the intellect, even in regard
of the intellect itself. The quickness of her answer was the
scintillation of her intellect under the glow of her affection. Love
is the quickening nurse of the whole nature. Faith in God will do
more for the intellect at length than all the training of the schools.
It will make the best that can be made of the whole man.

“and her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”

Where, O disciples, are your children and your dogs now? Is not
the wall of partition henceforth destroyed? No; you too have to be
made whole of a worse devil, that of personal and national pride,
before you understand. But the day of the Lord is coming for you,
notwithstanding ye are so incapable of knowing the signs and
signals of its approach that, although its banners are spread across
the flaming sky, it must come upon you as a thief in the night.

For the woman, we may well leave her to the embraces of her
daughter. They are enough for her now. But endless more will
follow, for God is exhaustless in giving where the human receiving
holds out. God be praised that there are such embraces in the
world! that there are mothers who are the salvation of their
children!

We now complete a little family group, as it were, with the story of
another foreigner, a Roman officer, who besought the Lord for his
servant. This captain was at Capernaum at the time, where I
presume he had heard of the cure which Jesus had granted to the
nobleman for his son. It seems almost clear from the quality of his
faith, however, that he must have heard much besides of
Jesus-enough to give him matter of pondering for some time, for I
do not think such humble confidence as his could be, like Jonah’s
gourd, the growth of a night. He was evidently a man of noble and
large nature. Instead of lording it over the subject Jews of
Capernaum, he had built them a synagogue; and his behaviour to
our Lord is marked by that respect which, shown to any human
being, but especially to a person of lower social condition, is one
of the surest marks of a finely wrought moral temperament. Such a
nature may be beautifully developed, by a military training, in
which obedience and command go together; and the excellence of
faith and its instant response in action, would be more readily
understood by the thoughtful officer of a well-disciplined army
than by any one to whom organization was unknown. Hence arose
the parallel the centurion draws between his own and the Master’s
position, which so pleased the Lord by its direct simplicity. But
humble as the man was, I doubt if anything less than some spiritual
perception of the nobility of the character of Jesus, some
perception of that which was altogether beyond even the power of
healing, could have generated such perfect reverence, such
childlike confidence as his. It is no wonder the Lord was pleased
with it, for that kind of thing must be just what his Father loves.

According to St Luke, the Roman captain considered himself so
unworthy of notice from the carpenter’s son-they of Capernaum,
which was “his own city,” knew his reputed parentage well
enough-that he got the elders of the Jews to go and beg for him
that he would come and heal his servant. They bore testimony to
his worth, specifying that which would always be first in the eyes
of such as they, that he loved their nation, and had built them a
synagogue. Little they thought how the Lord was about to honour
him above all their nation and all its synagogues. He went with
them at once.

But before they reached the house, the centurion had had a fresh
inroad of that divine disease, humility,6 and had sent other friends
to say,

“Lord, trouble not thyself, for I am not worthy that thou shouldest
enter under my roof. Wherefore, neither thought I myself worthy to
come unto thee; but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers,
and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he
cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”

This man was a philosopher: he ascended from that to which he
was accustomed to that to which he was not accustomed. Nor did
his divine logic fail him. He begins with acknowledging his own
subjection, and states his own authority; then leaves it to our Lord
to understand that he recognizes in him an authority beyond all,
expecting the powers of nature to obey their Master, just as his
soldiers or his servants obey him. How

6 In him it was almost morbid, one might be tempted to say, were
it not that it was own sister to such mighty faith.

grandly he must have believed in him!

But beyond suspicion of flattery, he avoids the face of the man
whom in heart he worships. How unlike those who press into the
presence of a phantom-greatness! “A poor creature like me go and
talk to him!” the Roman captain would exclaim. “No, I will
worship from afar off.” And it is to be well heeded that the Lord
went no further-turned at once. With the tax-gatherer Zacch us he
would go home, if but to deliver him from the hopelessness of his
self-contempt; but what occasion was there here? It was all right
here. The centurion was one who needed but to go on. In heart and
soul he was nearer the Lord now than any of the disciples who
followed him. Surely some one among the elders of the Jews, his
friends, would carry him the report of what the Master said. It
would not hurt him. The praise of the truly great will do no harm,
save it fall where it ought not, on the heart of the little. The praise
of God never falls wrong, therefore never does any one harm. The
Lord even implies we ought to seek it. His praise would but glorify
the humility and the faith of this Roman by making both of them
deeper and nobler still. There is something very grand in the Lord’s
turning away from the house of the man who had greater faith than
any he had found in Israel; for such were the words he spoke to
those who followed him, of whom in all likelihood the messenger
elders were nearest. Having turned to say them, he turned not
again but went his way. St Luke, whose narrative is in other
respects much fuller than St Matthew’s (who says that the
centurion himself came to Jesus, and makes no mention of the
elders), does not represent the Master as uttering a single word of
cure, but implies that he just went away marvelling at him; while
“they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant
whole that had been sick.” If any one ask how Jesus could marvel,
I answer, Jesus could do more things than we can well understand.
The fact that he marvelled at the great faith, shows that he is not
surprised at the little, and therefore is able to make all needful and
just, yea, and tender allowance.

Here I cannot do better for my readers than give them four lines,
dear to me, but probably unknown to most of them, written, I must
tell them, for the sake of their loving catholicity, by an English
Jesuit of the seventeenth century. They touch the very heart of the
relation between Jesus and the centurion:-

Thy God was making haste into thy roof;
Thy humble faith and fear keeps Him aloof:
He’ll be thy guest; because He may not be,
He’ll come-into thy house? No, into thee.

As I said, we thus complete a kind of family group, for surely the
true servant is one of the family: we have the prayer of a father for
a son, of a mother for a daughter, of a master for a servant. Alas!
the dearness of this latter bond is not now known as once. There
never was a rooted institution in parting with which something
good was not lost for a time, however necessary its destruction
might be for the welfare of the race. There are fewer free servants
that love their masters and mistresses now, I fear, than there were
Roman bondsmen and bondswomen who loved theirs. And, on the
other hand, very few masters and mistresses regard the bond
between them and their servants with half the respect and
tenderness with which many among the Romans regarded it.
Slavery is a bad thing and of the devil, yet mutual jealousy and
contempt are worse. But the time will yet come when a servant
will serve for love as more than wages; and when the master of
such a servant will honour him even to the making him sit down to
meat, and coming forth and serving him.

The next is the case of the palsied man, so graphically given both
by St Mark and St Luke, and with less of circumstance by St
Matthew. This miracle also was done in Capernaum, called his
own city. Pharisees and doctors of the law from every town in the
country, hearing of his arrival, had gathered to him, and were
sitting listening to his teaching. There was no possibility of getting
near him, and the sick man’s friends had carried him up to the roof,
taken off the tiles, and let him down into the presence. It should
not be their fault if the poor fellow was not cured. “Jesus seeing
their faith-When Jesus saw their faith-And when he saw their faith,
he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer-Son-Man,
thy sins are forgiven thee.” The forgiveness of the man’s sins is by
all of the narrators connected with the faith of his friends. This is
very remarkable. The only other instance in which similar words
are recorded, is that of the woman who came to him in Simon’s
house, concerning whom he showed first, that her love was a sign
that her sins were already forgiven. What greater honour could he
honour their faith withal than grant in their name, unasked, the one
mighty boon? They had brought the man to him; to them he
forgave his sins. He looked into his heart, and probably saw, as in
the case of the man whom he cured by the pool of Bethesda,
telling him to go and sin no more, that his own sins had brought
upon him this suffering, a supposition which aids considerably to
the understanding of the consequent conversation; saw, at all
events, that the assurance of forgiveness was what he most needed,
whether because his conscience was oppressed with a sense of
guilt, or that he must be brought to think more of the sin than of
the suffering; for it involved an awful rebuke to the man, if he
required it still-that the Lord should, when he came for healing,
present him with forgiveness. Nor did he follow it at once with the
cure of his body, but delayed that for a little, probably for the
man’s sake, as probably for the sake of those present, whom he had
been teaching for some time, and in whose hearts he would now
fix the lesson concerning the divine forgiveness which he had
preached to them in bestowing it upon the sick man. For his words
meant nothing, except they meant that God forgave the man. The
scribes were right when they said that none could forgive sins but
God-that is, in the full sense in which forgiveness is still needed by
every human being, should all his fellows whom he has injured
have forgiven him already.

They said in their hearts, “He is a blasphemer.” This was what he
had expected.

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?” he said, that is, evil of
me-that I am a blasphemer.

He would now show them that he was no blasphemer; that he had
the power to forgive, that it was the will of God that he should
preach the remission of sins. How could he show it them? In one
way only: by dismissing the consequence, the punishment of those
sins, sealing thus in the individual case the general truth. He who
could say to a man, by the eternal law suffering the consequences
of sin: “Be whole, well, strong; suffer no more,” must have the
right to pronounce his forgiveness; else there was another than
God who had to cure with a word the man whom his Maker had
afflicted. If there were such another, the kingdom of God must be
trembling to its fall, for a stronger had invaded and reversed its
decrees. Power does not give the right to pardon, but its possession
may prove the right. “Whether is easier-to say, Thy sins be
forgiven thee, or to say, Rise up and walk?” If only God can do
either, he who can do the one must be able to do the other.

“That ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to
forgive sins-Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine
house.”

Up rose the man, took up that whereon he had lain, and went
away, knowing in himself that his sins were forgiven him, for he
was able to glorify God.

It seems to me against our Lord’s usual custom with the scribes and
Pharisees to grant them such proof as this. Certainly, to judge by
those recorded, the whole miracle was in aspect and order
somewhat unusual. But I think the men here assembled were either
better than the most of their class, or in a better mood than
common, for St Luke says of them that the power of the Lord was
present to heal them. To such therefore proof might be accorded
which was denied to others. That he might heal these learned
doctors around him, he forgave the sins first and then cured the
palsy of the man before him. For their sakes he performed the
miracle thus. Then, like priests, like people; for where their leaders
were listening, the people broke open the roof to get the helpless
into his presence.

“They marvelled and glorified God which had given such power
unto men”-“Saying, We never saw it on this fashion.”-“They were
filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to-day.”

And yet Capernaum had to be brought down to hell, and no man
can tell the place where it stood.

Two more cases remain, both related by St Mark alone.

They brought him a man partially deaf and dumb. He led him aside
from the people: he would be alone with him, that he might come
the better into relation with that individuality which, until molten
from within, is so hard to touch. Possibly had the man come of
himself, this might have been less necessary; but I repeat there
must have been in every case reason for the individual treatment in
the character and condition of the patient. These were patent only
to the Healer. In this case the closeness of the personal contact, as
in those cases of the blind, is likewise remarkable. “He put his
fingers into his ears, he spit and touched his tongue.” Always in
present disease, bodily contact-in defects of the senses, sometimes
of a closer kind. He would generate assured faith in himself as the
healer. But there is another remarkable particular here, which, as
far as I can remember, would be alone in its kind but for a fuller
development of it at the raising of Lazarus. “And looking up to
heaven, he sighed.”

What did it mean? What first of all was it?

That look, was it not a look up to his own Father? That sigh, was it
not the unarticulated prayer to the Father of the man who stood
beside him? But did he need to look up as if God was in the sky,
seeing that God was in him, in his very deepest, inmost being, in
fulness of presence, and receiving conscious response, such as he
could not find anywhere else-not from the whole gathered
universe? Why should he send a sigh, like a David’s dove, to carry
the thought of his heart to his Father? True, if all the words of
human language had been blended into one glorious majesty of
speech, and the Lord had sought therein to utter the love he bore
his Father, his voice must needs have sunk into the last inarticulate
resource-the poor sigh, in which evermore speech dies helplessly
triumphant-appealing to the Hearer to supply the lack, saying I
cannot, but thou knowest-confessing defeat, but claiming victory.
But the Lord could talk to his Father evermore in the forms of
which words are but the shadows, nay, infinitely more, without
forms at all, in the thoughts which are the souls of the forms. Why
then needs he look up and sigh?-That the man, whose faith was in
the merest nascent condition, might believe that whatever cure
came to him from the hand of the healer, came from the hand of
God. Jesus did not care to be believed in as the doer of the deed,
save the deed itself were recognized as given him of the Father. If
they saw him only, and not the Father through him, there was little
gained indeed. The upward look and the sigh were surely the
outward expression of the infrangible link which bound both the
Lord and the man to the Father of all. He would lift the man’s heart
up to the source of every gift. No cure would be worthy gift
without that: it might be an injury.

The last case is that of the blind man of Bethsaida, whom likewise
he led apart, out of the town, and whose dull organs he likewise
touched with his spittle. Then comes a difference. The deaf man
was at once cured; when he had laid his hands on the blind man,
his vision was but half-restored. “He asked him if he saw ought?
And he looked up and said, I see the men: for like trees7 I see them
walking about.” He could tell they were men and not trees, only by
their motion. The Master laid his hands once more upon his eyes,
and when he looked up again, he saw every man clearly.

In thus graduating the process, our Lord, I think, drew forth,
encouraged, enticed into strength the feeble faith of the man. He
brooded over him with his holy presence of love. He gave the faith
time to grow. He cared more for his faith than his sight. He let
him, as it were, watch him, feel him doing it, that he might know
and believe. There is in this a peculiar resemblance to the ordinary
modes God takes in healing men.

These last miracles are especially full of symbolism and analogy.
But in considering any of the miracles, I

7 Could it be translated, “As well as (that is besides) trees, I see
walkers about”?

do not care to dwell upon this aspect of them, for in this they are
only like all the rest of the doings of God. Nature is brimful of
symbolic and analogical parallels to the goings and comings, the
growth and the changes of the highest nature in man. It could not
be otherwise. For not only did they issue from the same thought,
but the one is made for the other. Nature as an outer garment for
man, or a living house, rather, for man to live in. So likewise must
all the works of him who did the works of the Father bear the same
mark of the original of all.

The one practical lesson contained in this group is nearer the
human fact and the human need than any symbolic meaning, grand
as it must be, which they may likewise contain; nearer also to the
constitution of things, inasmuch as what a man must do is more to
the man and to his Maker than what he can only think; inasmuch,
also, as the commonest things are the best, and any man can do
right, although he may be unable to tell the difference between a
symbol and a sign:-it is that if ever there was a Man such as we
read about here, then he who prays for his friends shall be heard of
God. I do not say he shall have whatever he asks for. God forbid.
But he shall be heard. And the man who does not see the good of
that, knows nothing of the good of prayer; can, I fear, as yet, only
pray for himself, when most he fancies he is praying for his friend.
Often, indeed, when men suppose they are concerned for the
well-beloved, they are only concerned about what they shall do
without them. Let them pray for themselves instead, for that will
be the truer prayer. I repeat, all prayer is assuredly heard:-what evil
matter is it that it should be answered only in the right time and
right way? The prayer argues a need-that need will be supplied.
One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years
as one day. All who have prayed shall one day justify God and
say-Thy answer is beyond my prayer, as thy thoughts and thy ways
are beyond my thoughts and my ways.

Chapter VII. THE CASTING OUT OF DEVILS.

BEFORE attempting to say the little I can concerning this group of
miracles, I would protect myself against possible misapprehension.
The question concerning the nature of what is called possession
has nothing whatever to do with that concerning the existence or
nonexistence of a personal and conscious power of evil, the one
great adversary of the kingdom of heaven, commonly called Satan,
or the devil. I say they are two distinct questions, and have so little
in common that the one may be argued without even an allusion to
the other.

Many think that in the cases recorded we have but the symptoms
of well-known diseases, which, from their exceptionally painful
character, involving loss of reason, involuntary or convulsive
motions, and other abnormal phenomena, the imaginative and
unscientific Easterns attributed, as the easiest mode of accounting
for them, to a foreign power taking possession of the body and
mind of the man. They say there is no occasion whatever to resort
to an explanation involving an agency of which we know nothing
from any experience of our own; that, as our Lord did not come to
rectify men’s psychological or physiological theories, he adopted
the mode of speech common amongst them, but cast out the evil
spirits simply by healing the diseases attributed to their influences.

There seems to me nothing unchristian in this interpretation. All
diseases that trouble humanity may well be regarded as inroads of
the evil powers upon the palaces and temples of God, where only
the Holy Spirit has a right to dwell; and to cast out such, is a
marvel altogether as great as to expel the intruding forces to which
the Jews attributed some of them. Certainly also our Lord must
have used multitudes of human expressions which did not more
than adumbrate his own knowledge. And yet I cannot admit that
the solution meets all the appearances of the difficulty. I say
appearances, because I could not be dogmatic here if I would. I
know too little, understand too little, to dare give such an opinion
as possesses even the authority of personal conviction. All I have
to say on the subject must therefore come to little. Perhaps if the
marvellous, as such, were to me more difficult of belief, anything I
might have to say on the side of it would have greater weight. But
to me the marvellous is not therefore incredible, always provided
that in itself the marvellous thing appears worthy. I have no
difficulty in receiving the old Jewish belief concerning possession;
and I think it better explains the phenomena recorded than the
growing modern opinion; while the action of matter upon mind
may well be regarded as involving greater mystery than the action
of one spiritual nature upon another. That a man should rave in
madness because some little cell or two in the grey matter of his
brain is out of order, is surely no more within the compass of
man’s understanding than the supposition that an evil spirit, getting
close to the fountain of a man’s physical life, should disturb all the
goings on of that life, even to the production of the most appalling
moral phenomena. In either case it is not the man himself who
originates the resulting actions, but an external power operating on
the man.

“But we do not even know that there are such spirits, and we do
know that a diseased brain is sufficient to account for the worst of
the phenomena recorded.” I will not insist on the fact that we do
not know that the diseased brain is enough to account for the
phenomena, that we only know it as in many cases a concomitant
of such phenomena; I will grant so much, and yet insist that, as the
explanation does not fit the statements of the record, and as we
know so little of what is, any hint of unknown possibilities falling
from unknown regions, should, even as a stranger, receive the
welcome of contemplation and conjecture, so long as in itself it
involves no moral contradiction. The man who will not speculate
at all, can make no progress. The thinking about the possible is as
genuine, as lawful, and perhaps as edifying an exercise of the mind
as the severest induction. Better lies still beyond. Experiment itself
must follow in the track of sober conjecture; for if we know
already, where is the good of experiment?

There seems to me nothing unreasonable in the supposition of the
existence of spirits who, having once had bodies such as ours, and
having abused the privileges of embodiment, are condemned for a
season to roam about bodiless, ever mourning the loss of their
capacity for the only pleasures they care for, and craving after
them in their imaginations. Such, either in selfish hate of those
who have what they have lost, or from eagerness to come as near
the possession of a corporeal form as they may, might well seek to
enter into a man. The supposition at least is perfectly consistent
with the facts recorded. Possibly also it may be consistent with the
phenomena of some of the forms of the madness of our own day,
although all its forms are alike regarded as resulting from physical
causes alone.

The first act of dispossession recorded is that told by St Mark and
St Luke, as taking place at Capernaum, amongst his earliest
miracles, and preceding the cure of Simon’s mother-in-law. He was
in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, teaching the congregation,
when a man present, who had an unclean spirit, cried out. If I
accept the narrative, I find this cry far more intelligible on the old
than on the new theory. The speaker, no doubt using the organs of
the man, brain and all, for utterance, recognizes a presence-to him
the cause of terror-which he addresses as the Holy One of God.
This holy one he would propitiate by entreaty and the flattering
acknowledgment of his divine mission, with the hope of being left
unmolested in the usurpation and cruelty by which he ministered
to his own shadowy self-indulgences. Could anything be more
consistently diabolic? What other word could Jesus address to such
than, “Hold thy peace, and come out of him”? A being in such a
condition could not be permitted to hold converse with the
Saviour; for he recognized no salvation but what lay in the
continuance of his own pleasures at the expense of another. The
form of the rebuke plainly assumes that it was not the man but
some one in the man who had spoken; and the narrative goes on to
say that when the devil had thrown him down and torn him and
cried with a loud voice-his rage and disappointment, I presume,
finding its last futile utterance in the torture of his captive-he came
out of him and left him unhurt. Thereupon the people questioned
amongst themselves saying, “What thing is this? It is a teaching
new, and with authority: he commandeth even the unclean spirits,
and they obey him;” 8

8 St Mark, i. 27. Authorized Version revised by Dean Alford.

thus connecting at once his power over the unclean spirits with the
doctrine he taught, just as our Lord in an after-instance associates
power over demons with spiritual condition. It was the truth in him
that made him strong against the powers of untruth.

Many such cures were performed, but the individual instances
recorded are few. The next is that of the man-dumb, according to
St Luke, both blind and dumb, according to St Matthew-who spake
and saw as soon as the devil was cast out of him. With unerring
instinct the people concluded that he who did such deeds must be
the Son of David; the devils themselves, according to St Mark,
were wont to acknowledge him the Son of God; the Scribes and
Pharisees, the would-be guides of the people, alone refused the
witness, and in the very imbecility of unbelief, eager after any
theory that might seem to cover the facts without acknowledging a
divine mission in one who would not admit their authority,
attributed to Beelzebub himself the deliverance of distressed
mortals from the powers of evil. Regarding the kingdom of God as
a thing of externals, they were fortified against recognizing in
Jesus himself or in his doctrine any sign that he was the enemy of
Satan, and might even persuade themselves that such a cure was
only one of Satan’s tricks for the advancement of his kingdom with
the many by a partial emancipation of the individual. But our Lord
attributes this false conclusion to its true cause-to no incapacity or
mistake of judgement; to no over-refining about the possible
chicaneries of Beelzebub; but to a preference for any evil which
would support them in their authority with the people-in itself an
evil. Careless altogether about truth itself, they would not give a
moment’s quarter to any individual utterance of it which tended to
destroy their honourable position in the nation. Each man to
himself was his own god. The Spirit of God they shut out. To them
forgiveness was not offered. They must pay the uttermost
farthing-whatever that may mean-and frightful as the doom must
be. That he spoke thus against them was but a further carrying out
of his mission, a further inroad upon the kingdom of that
Beelzebub. And yet they were the accredited authorities in the
church of that day; and he who does not realize this, does not
understand the battle our Lord had to fight for the emancipation of
the people. It was for the sake of the people that he called the
Pharisees hypocrites, and not for their own sakes, for how should
he argue with men who taught religion for their own
aggrandizement?

It is to be noted that our Lord recognizes the power of others
besides himself to cast out devils. “By whom do your children cast
them out?” Did you ever say of them it was by Beelzebub? Why
say it of me? What he claims he freely allows. The Saviour had no
tinge of that jealousy of rival teaching-as if truth could be two, and
could avoid being one-which makes so many of his followers grasp
at any waif of false argument. He knew that all good is of God, and
not of the devil. All were with him who destroyed the power of the
devil.

They who were cured, and they in whom self-worship was not
blinding the judgment, had no doubt that he was fighting Satan on
his usurped ground. Torture was what might be expected of Satan;
healing what might be expected of God. The reality of the healing,
the loss of the man, morally as well as physically, to the kingdom
of evil, was witnessed in all the signs that followed. Our Lord rests
his argument on the fact that Satan had lost these men.

We hear next, from St Luke, of certain women who followed him,
having been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, amongst whom
is mentioned “Mary, called Magdalene, out of whom went seven
devils.” No wonder a woman thus delivered should devote her
restored self to the service of him who had recreated her. We hear
nothing of the circumstances of the cure, only the result in her
constant ministration. Hers is a curious instance of the
worthlessness of what some think it a mark of high-mindedness to
regard alone-the opinion, namely, of posterity. Without a fragment
of evidence, this woman has been all but universally regarded as
impure. But what a trifle to her! Down in this squabbling nursery
of the race, the name of Mary Magdalene may be degraded even to
a subject for pictorial sentimentalities; but the woman herself is
with that Jesus who set her free. To the end of time they may call
her what they please: to her it is worth but a smile of holy
amusement. And just as worthy is the applause of posterity
associated with a name. To God alone we live or die. Let us fall,
as, thank him, we must, into his hands. Let him judge us. Posterity
may be wiser than we; but posterity is not our judge.

We come now to a narrative containing more of the marvellous
than all the rest. The miracle was wrought on the south-eastern
side of the lake-St Matthew says, upon two demoniacs; St Mark
and St Luke make mention only of one. The accounts given by the
latter Evangelists are much more circumstantial than that by the
former. It was a case of peculiarly frightful character. The man,
possessed of many demons, was ferocious, and of marvellous
strength, breaking chains and fetters, and untameable. It is
impossible to analyse the phenomena, saying which were the
actions of the man, and which those of the possessing demons.
Externally all were the man’s, done by the man finally, some part, I
presume, from his own poor withered will, far the greater from the
urging of the demons. Even in the case of a man driven by appetite
or passion, it is impossible to say how much is to be attributed to
the man himself, and how much to that lower nature in him which
he ought to keep in subjection, but which, having been allowed to
get the upper hand, has become a possessing demon. He met the
Lord worshipping, and, as in a former instance, praying for such
clemency as devils can value. Was it the devils, then, that urged
the man into the presence of the Lord? Was it not rather the other
spirit, the spirit of life, which not the presence of a legion of the
wicked ones could drive from him? Was it not the spirit of the
Father in him which brought him, ignorant, fearing, yet vaguely
hoping perhaps, to the feet of the Son? He knew not why he came;
but he came-drawn or driven; he could not keep away. When he
came, however, the words at least of his prayer were moulded by
the devils-“I adjure thee by God that thou torment me not.” Think
of the man, tortured by such awful presences, praying to the healer
not to torment him! The prayer was compelled into this shape by
the indwelling demons. They would have him pray for indulgence
for them. But the Lord heard the deeper prayer, that is, the need
and misery of the man, the horror that made him cry and cut
himself with stones-and commanded the unclean spirit to come out
of him. Thereupon, St Mark says, “he besought him much that he
would not send them out of the country.” Probably the country was
one the condition of whose inhabitants afforded the demons
unusual opportunities for their coveted pseudo-embodiment. St
Luke says, “They besought him that he would not command them
to go out into the deep”-to such beings awful, chiefly because there
they must be alone, afar from matter and all its forms. In such
loneliness the good man would be filled with the eternal presence
of the living God; but they would be aware only of their greedy,
hungry selves-desires without objects. No. Here were swine. “Send
us into the swine, that we may enter into them.” Deprived of the
abode they preferred, debarred from men, swine would serve their
turn. But even the swine-animals created to look unclean, for a
type to humanity of the very form and fashion of its greed-could
not endure their presence. The man had cut himself with stones in
his misery; the swine in theirs rushed into the waters of the lake
and were drowned. The evil spirits, I presume, having no further
leave, had to go to their deep after all.

The destruction of the swine must not be regarded as miraculous.
But there must have been a special reason in the character and
condition of the people of Gadara for his allowing this destruction
of their property. I suppose that although it worked vexation and
dismay at first, it prepared the way for some after-reception of the
gospel. Now, seeing him who had been a raving maniac, sitting at
the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and hearing what
had come to the swine, they were filled with fear, and prayed the
healer to depart from them.

But who can imagine the delight of the man when that wild troop
of maddening and defiling demons, which had possessed him with
all uncleanness, vanished! Scarce had he time to know that he was
naked, before the hands of loving human beings, in whom the
good Spirit ruled, were taking off their own garments, and putting
them upon him. He was a man once more, and amongst men with
human faces, human hearts, human ways. He was with his own;
and that supreme form and face of the man who had set him free
was binding them all into one holy family. Now he could pray of
himself the true prayer of a soul which knew what it wanted, and
could say what it meant. He sat down like a child at the feet of the
man who had cured him; and when, yielding at once to the desire
of those who would be rid of his presence, Jesus went down to the
boat, he followed, praying that he might be with him; for what
could he desire but to be near that power which had restored him
his divine self, and the consciousness thereof-his own true
existence, that of which God was thinking when he made him?

But he would be still nearer the Lord in doing his work than in
following him about. It is remarkable that while more than once
our Lord charged the healed to be silent, he leaves this man as his
apostle-his witness with those who had banished him from their
coasts. Something may be attributed to the different natures of the
individuals; some in preaching him would also preach themselves,
and so hurt both. But this man was not of such. To be with the
Lord was all his prayer. Therefore he was fit to be without him,
and to aid his work apart. But I think it more likely that the reason
lay in the condition of the people. Jud a was in a state of
excitement about him-that excitement had unhealthy elements, and
must not be fanned. In some places the Lord would not speak at
all. Through some he would pass unknown. But here all was
different. He had destroyed their swine; they had prayed him to
depart; if he took from them this one sign of his real presence, that
is, of the love which heals, not the power which destroys, it would
be to abandon them.

But it is very noteworthy that he sent the man to his own house, to
his own friends. They must be the most open to such a message as
his, and from such lips-the lips of their own flesh and blood. He
had been raving in tombs and deserts, tormented with a legion of
devils; now he was one of themselves again, with love in his eyes,
adoration in the very tones of his voice, and help in his
hands-reason once more supreme on the throne of his humanity.
He obeyed, and published in Gadara, and the rest of the cities of
Decapolis, the great things, as Jesus himself called them, which
God had done for him. For it was God who had done them. He was
doing the works of his Father.

One more instance remains, having likewise peculiar points of
difficulty, and therefore of interest.

When Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration, a dumb,
epileptic, and lunatic boy was brought by his father to those
disciples who were awaiting his return. But they could do nothing.
To their disappointment, and probably to their chagrin, they found
themselves powerless over the evil spirit. When Jesus appeared,
the father begged of him the aid which his disciples could not give:
“Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son, for he is mine only
child.”

Whoever has held in his arms his child in delirium, calling to his
father for aid as if he were distant far, and beating the air in wild
and aimless defence, will be able to enter a little into the trouble of
this man’s soul. To have the child, and yet see him tormented in
some region inaccessible; to hold him to the heart and yet be
unable to reach the thick-coming fancies which distract him; to
find himself with a great abyss between him and his child, across
which the cry of the child comes, but back across which no
answering voice can reach the consciousness of the sufferer-is
terror and misery indeed. But imagine in the case before us the
intervals as well-the stupidity, the vacant gaze, the hanging lip, the
pale flaccid countenance and bloodshot eyes, idiocy alternated
with madness-no voice of human speech, only the animal babble
of the uneducated dumb-the misery of his falling down anywhere,
now in the fire, now in the water, and the divine shines out as
nowhere else-for the father loves his only child even to agony.
What was there in such a child to love? Everything: the human was
there, else whence the torture of that which was not human?
whence the pathos of those eyes, hardly up to the dog’s in
intelligence, yet omnipotent over the father’s heart? God was there.
The misery was that the devil was there too. Thence came the
crying and tears. “Rescue the divine; send the devil to the deep,”
was the unformed prayer in the father’s soul.

Before replying to his prayer, Jesus uttered words that could not
have been addressed to the father, inasmuch as he was neither
faithless nor perverse. Which then of those present did he address
thus? To which of them did he say, “How long shall I be with you?
How long shall I suffer you?” I have thought it was the bystanders:
but why they? They had not surely reached the point of such
rebuke. I have thought it was the disciples, because perhaps it was
their pride that rendered them unable to cast out the demon, seeing
they tried it without faith enough in God. But the form of address
does not seem to belong to them: the word generation could not
well apply to those whom he had chosen out of that generation. I
have thought, and gladly would I continue to think, if I could
honestly, that the words were intended for the devils who
tormented his countrymen and friends; and but for St Mark’s story,
I might have held to it. He, however, gives us one point which
neither St Matthew nor St Luke mention-that “when he came to his
disciples he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes
questioning with them.” He says the multitude were greatly
amazed when they saw him-why, I do not know, except it be that
he came just at the point where his presence was needful to give
the one answer to the scribes pressing hard upon his disciples
because they could not cast out this devil. These scribes, these men
of accredited education, who, from their position as students of the
law and the interpretations thereof, arrogated to themselves a
mastery over the faith of the people, but were themselves so
careless about the truth as to be utterly opaque to its illuminating
power-these scribes, I say, I do think it was whom our Lord
addressed as “faithless and perverse generation.” The immediately
following request to the father of the boy, “Bring him unto me,”
was the one answer to their arguments.

A fresh paroxysm was the first result. But repressing all haste, the
Lord will care for the father as much as for the child. He will help
his growing faith.

“How long is it ago since thus hath come unto him?”

“From a child. And oft-times it hath cast him into the fire, and into
the waters, to destroy him; but if thou canst do anything, have
compassion on us, and help us.”9

“If thou canst? 10 All things are possible to him that believeth.”

9 Again the us-so full of pathos.

10 The oldest manuscripts. (Dean Alford). “If thou canst have
faith-All things,” etc. (“New Translation of the Gospel of St
Mark.” Rev. F. H. Godwin).

“Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Whether the words of Jesus, “him that believeth,” meant himself as
believing in the Father, and therefore gifted with all power, or the
man as believing in him, and therefore capable of being the
recipient of the effects of that power, I am not sure. I incline to the
former. The result is the same, for the man resolves the question
practically and personally: what was needful in him should be in
him. “I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

In the honesty of his heart, lest he should be saying more than was
true-for how could he be certain that Jesus would cure his son? or
how could he measure and estimate his own faith?-he appeals to
the Lord of Truth for all that he ought to be, and think, and believe.
“Help thou mine unbelief.” It is the very triumph of faith. The
unbelief itself cast like any other care upon him who careth for us,
is the highest exercise of belief. It is the greatest effort lying in the
power of the man. No man can help doubt. The true man alone,
that is, the faithful man, can appeal to the Truth to enable him to
believe what is true, and refuse what is false. How this applies
especially to our own time and the need of the living generations,
is easy to see. Of all prayers it is the one for us.

Possibly our Lord might have held a little farther talk with him, but
the people came crowding about. “He rebuked the foul spirit,
saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come
out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried and
rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead;
insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the
hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.”

“Why could not we cast him out?” asked his disciples as soon as
they were alone.

“This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting.”

What does this answer imply? The prayer and fasting must clearly
be on the part of those who would heal. They cannot be required of
one possessed with a demon. If he could fast and pray, the demon
would be gone already.

It implies that a great purity of soul is needful in him who would
master the powers of evil. I take prayer and fasting to indicate a
condition of mind elevated above the cares of the world and the
pleasures of the senses, in close communion with the God of life;
therefore by its very purity an awe and terror to the unclean spirits,
a fit cloud whence the thunder of the word might issue against
them. The expulsion would appear to be the result of moral, and
hence natural, superiority-a command resting upon oneness with
the ultimate will of the Supreme, in like manner as an evil man is
sometimes cowed in the presence of a good man. The disciples
had not attained this lofty condition of faith.

From this I lean to think that the words of our Lord-“All things are
possible to him that believeth”-apply to our Lord himself. The
disciples could not help the child: “If thou canst do anything,” said
the father. “All things are possible to him that believeth,” says our
Lord. He can help him. That it was the lack of faith in the disciples
which rendered the thing impossible for them, St Matthew informs
us explicitly, for he gives the reply of our Lord more fully than the
rest: “Because of your unbelief,” he said, and followed with the
assertion that faith could remove mountains.

But the words-“This kind”-suggest that the case had its
peculiarities. It would appear-although I am not certain of this
interpretation-that some kinds of spirits required for their
expulsion, or at least some cases of possession required for their
cure, more than others of the presence of God in the healer. I do
not care to dwell upon this farther than to say that there are points
in the narrative which seem to indicate that it was an unusually
bad case. The Lord asked how long he had been ill, and was told,
from childhood. The demon-to use the language of our
ignorance-had had time and opportunity, in his undeveloped
condition, to lay thorough hold upon him; and when he did yield to
the superior command of the Lord, he left him as dead-so close
had been the possession, that for a time the natural powers could
not operate when deprived of the presence of a force which had so
long usurped, maltreated, and exhausted, while falsely sustaining
them. The disciples, although they had already the power to cast
out demons, could not cast this one out, and were surprised to find
it so. There appears to me no absurdity, if we admit the demons at
all, in admitting also that some had greater force than others, be it
regarded as courage or obstinacy, or merely as grasp upon the
captive mortal.

In all these stories there is much of comfort both to the friends of
those who are insane, and to those who are themselves aware of
their own partial or occasional insanity. For such sorrow as that of
Charles and Mary Lamb, walking together towards the asylum,
when the hour had come for her to repair thither, is there not some
assuagement here? It may be answered-We have no ground to hope
for such cure now. I think we have; but if our faith will not reach
so far, we may at least, like Athanasius, recognize the friendship of
Death, for death is the divine cure of many ills.

But we all need like healing. No man who does not yet love the
truth with his whole being, who does not love God with all his
heart and soul and strength and mind, and his neighbour as
himself, is in his sound mind, or can act as a rational being, save
more or less approximately. This is as true as it would be of us if
possessed by other spirits than our own. Every word of unkindness,
God help us! every unfair hard judgment, every trembling regard
of the outward and fearless disregard of the inward life, is a siding
with the spirit of evil against the spirit of good, with our lower and
accidental selves, against our higher and essential-our true selves.
These the spirit of good would set free from all possession but his
own, for that is their original life. Out of us, too, the evil spirits
can go by that prayer alone in which a man draws nigh to the Holy.
Nor can we have any power over the evil spirit in others except in
proportion as by such prayer we cast the evil spirit out of
ourselves.

Chapter VIII. THE RAISING OF THE DEAD.

I LINGER on the threshold. How shall I enter the temple of this
wonder? Through all ages men of all degrees and forms of religion
have hoped at least for a continuance of life beyond its seeming
extinction. Without such a hope, how could they have endured the
existence they had? True, there are in our day men who profess
unbelief in that future, and yet lead an enjoyable life, nor even say
to themselves, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die;” but
say instead, with nobleness, “Let us do what good we may, for
there are men to come after us.” Of all things let him who would
be a Christian be fair to every man and every class of men. Before,
however, I could be satisfied that I understood the mental
condition of such, I should require a deeper insight than I possess
in respect of other men. These, however numerous they seem in
our day, would appear to be exceptions to the race. No doubt there
have always been those who from absorption in the present and its
pleasures, have not cared about the future, have not troubled
themselves with the thought of it. Some of them would rather not
think of it, because if there be such a future, they cannot be easy
concerning their part in it; while others are simply occupied with
the poor present-a present grand indeed if it be the part of an
endless whole, but poor indeed if it stand alone. But here are
thoughtful men, who say, “There is no more. Let us make the best
of this.” Nor is their notion of best contemptible, although in the
eyes of some of us, to whom the only worth of being lies in the
hope of becoming that which, at the rate of present progress, must
take ages to be realized, it is poor. I will venture one or two words
on the matter.

Their ideal does not approach the ideal of Christianity for this life
even.

Before I can tell whether their words are a true representation of
themselves, in relation to this future, I must know both their
conscious and unconscious being. No wonder I should be loath to
judge them.

No poet of high rank, as far as I know, ever disbelieved in the
future. He might fear that there was none; but that very fear is
faith. The greatest poet of the present day believes with ardour.
That it is not proven to the intellect, I heartily admit. But if it were
true, it were such as the intellect could not grasp, for the
understanding must be the offspring of the life-in itself essential.
How should the intellect understand its own origin and nature? It is
too poor to grasp this question; for the continuity of existence
depends on the nature of existence, not upon external relations. If
after death we should be conscious that we yet live, we shall even
then, I think, be no more able to prove a further continuance of
life, than we can now prove our present being. It may be easier to
believe-that will be all. But we constantly act upon grounds which
we cannot prove, and if we cannot feel so sure of life beyond the
grave as of common every-day things, at least the want of proof
ought neither to destroy our hope concerning it, nor prevent the
action demanded by its bare possibility.

But last, I do say this, that those men, who, disbelieving in a future
state, do yet live up to the conscience within them, however much
lower the requirements of that conscience may be than those of a
conscience which believes itself enlightened from “the Lord, who
is that spirit,” shall enter the other life in an immeasurably more
enviable relation thereto than those who say Lord, Lord, and do not
the things he says to them.

It may seem strange that our Lord says so little about the life to
come-as we call it-though in truth it is one life with the present-as
the leaf and the blossom are one life. Even in argument with the
Sadducees he supports his side upon words accepted by them, and
upon the nature of God, but says nothing of the question from a
human point of regard. He seems always to have taken it for
granted, ever turning the minds of his scholars towards that which
was deeper and lay at its root-the life itself-the oneness with God
and his will, upon which the continuance of our conscious being
follows of a necessity, and without which if the latter were
possible, it would be for human beings an utter evil.

When he speaks of the world beyond, it is as his Father’s house. He
says there are many mansions there. He attempts in no way to
explain. Man’s own imagination enlightened of the spirit of truth,
and working with his experience and affections, was a far safer
guide than his intellect with the best schooling which even our
Lord could have given it. The memory of the poorest home of a
fisherman on the shore of the Galilean lake, where he as a child
had spent his years of divine carelessness in his father’s house,
would, at the words of our Lord my Father’s house, convey to Peter
or James or John more truth concerning the many mansions than a
revelation to their intellect, had it been possible, as clear as the
Apocalypse itself is obscure.

When he said “I have overcome the world,” he had overcome the
cause of all doubt, the belief in the outside appearances and not in
the living truth: he left it to his followers to say, from their own
experience knowing the thing, not merely from the belief of his
resurrection, “He has conquered death and the grave. O Death,
where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?” It is the inward
life of truth that conquers the outward death of appearance; and
nothing else, no revelation from without, could conquer it.

These miracles of our Lord are the nearest we come to news of any
kind concerning-I cannot say from-the other world. I except of
course our Lord’s own resurrection. Of that I shall yet speak as a
miracle, for miracle it was, as certainly as any of our Lord’s,
whatever interpretation be put upon the word. And I say the
nearest to news we come, because not one of those raised from the
dead gives us at least an atom of information. Is it possible they
may have told their friends something which has filtered down to
us in any shape?

I turn to the cases on record. They are only three.

The day after he cured the servant of the centurion at Capernaum,
Jesus went to Nain, and as they approached the gate-but I cannot
part the story from the lovely words in which it is told by St Luke:
“There was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and
she was a widow; and much people of the city was with her. And
when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto
her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier; and they that
bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee,
Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he
delivered him to his mother.”

In each of the cases there is an especial fitness in the miracle. This
youth was the only son of a widow; the daughter of Jairus was his
“one only daughter;” Lazarus was the brother of two orphan sisters.

I will not attempt by any lingering over the simple details to render
the record more impressive. That lingering ought to be on the part
of the reader of the narrative itself. Friends crowded around a
loss-the centre of the gathering that which was not-the sole
presence the hopeless sign of a vanished treasure-an open gulf, as
it were, down which love and tears and sad memories went
plunging in a soundless cataract: the weeping mother-the dead man
borne in the midst. They were going to the house of death, but Life
was between them and it-was walking to meet them, although they
knew it not. A face of tender pity looks down on the mother. She
heeds him not. He goes up to the bier, and lays his hand on it. The
bearers recognize authority, and stand. A word, and the dead sits
up. A moment more, and he is in the arms of his mother. O
mother! mother! wast thou more favoured than other mothers? Or
was it that, for the sake of all mothers as well as thyself, thou wast
made the type of the universal mother with the dead son-the
raising of him but a foretaste of the one universal bliss of mothers
with dead sons? That thou wert an exception would have ill met
thy need, for thy motherhood could not be justified in thyself
alone. It could not have its rights save on grounds universal. Thy
motherhood was common to all thy sisters. To have helped thee by
exceptional favour would not have been to acknowledge thy
motherhood. That must go mourning still, even with thy restored
son in its bosom, for its claims are universal or they are not. Thou
wast indeed a chosen one, but that thou mightest show to all the
last fate of the mourning mother; for in God’s dealings there are no
exceptions. His laws are universal as he is infinite. Jesus wrought
no new thing-only the works of the Father. What matters it that the
dead come not back to us, if we go to them? What matters it? said
I! It is tenfold better. Dear as home is, he who loves it best must
know that what he calls home is not home, is but a shadow of
home, is but the open porch of home, where all the winds of the
world rave by turns, and the glowing fire of the true home casts
lovely gleams from within.

Certainly this mother did not thus lose her son again. Doubtless
next she died first, knowing then at last that she had only to wait.
The dead must have their sorrow too, but when they find it is well
with them, they can sit and wait by the mouth of the coming
stream better than those can wait who see the going stream bear
their loves down to the ocean of the unknown. The dead sit by the
river-mouths of Time: the living mourn upon its higher banks.

But for the joy of the mother, we cannot conceive it. No mother
even who has lost her son, and hopes one blessed eternal day to
find him again, can conceive her gladness. Had it been all a
dream? A dream surely in this sense, that the final, which alone, in
the full sense, is God’s will, must ever cast the look of a dream
over all that has gone before. When we last awake, we shall know
that we dreamed. Even every honest judgment, feeling, hope,
desire, will show itself a dream-with this difference from some
dreams, that the waking is the more lovely, that nothing is lost, but
everything gained, in the full blaze of restored completeness. How
triumphant would this mother die, when her turn came! And how
calmly would the restored son go about the duties of the world.11*

He sat up and began to speak.

It is vain to look into that which God has hidden; for surely it is by
no chance that we are left thus in the dark. “He began to speak.”
Why does not the Evangelist go on to give us some hint of what he
said? Would not the hearts of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers,
wives, children, husbands-who shall say where the divine madness
of love will cease?-grandfathers, grandmothers-themselves with
flickering flame-yes, grandchildren, weeping over the loss of the
beloved gray head and tremulously gentle voice-would not all
these have blessed God for St Luke’s record of what the son of the
widow said? For my part, I thank God he was silent.

11 Those who can take the trouble, and are capable of
understanding it, will do well to study Robert Browning’s “Epistle
of an Arab Physician.”

When I think of the pictures of heaven drawn from the attempt of
prophecy to utter its visions in the poor forms of the glory of earth,
I see it better that we should walk by faith, and not by a fancied
sight. I judge that the region beyond is so different from ours, so
comprising in one surpassing excellence all the goods of ours, that
any attempt of the had-been-dead to describe it, would have
resulted in the most wretched of misconceptions. Such might
please the lower conditions of Christian development-but so much
the worse, for they could not fail to obstruct its further growth. It is
well that St Luke is silent; or that the mother and the friends who
stood by the bier, heard the words of the returning spirit only as the
babble of a child from which they could draw no definite meaning,
and to which they could respond only by caresses.

The story of the daughter of Jairus is recorded briefly by St
Matthew, more fully by St Luke, most fully by St Mark. One of the
rulers of the synagogue at Capernaum falls at the feet of our Lord,
saying his little daughter is at the point of death. She was about
twelve years of age. He begs the Lord to lay his hands on her that
she may live. Our Lord goes with him, followed by many people.
On his way to restore the child he is arrested by a touch. He makes
no haste to outstrip death. We can imagine the impatience of the
father when the Lord stood and asked who touched him. What did
that matter? his daughter was dying; Death would not wait. But the
woman’s heart and soul must not be passed by. The father with the
only daughter must wait yet a little. The will of God cannot be
outstripped.

“While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s
house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou
the Master any further?” “Ah! I thought so! There it is! Death has
won the race!” we may suppose the father to say-bitterly within
himself. But Jesus, while he tried the faith of men, never tried it
without feeding its strength. With the trial he always gives the way
of escape. “As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken”-not
leaving it to work its agony of despair first-“he saith unto the ruler
of the synagogue, Be not afraid; only believe.” They are such
simple words-commonplace in the ears of those who have heard
them often and heeded them little! but containing more for this
man’s peace than all the consolations of philosophy, than all the
enforcements of morality; yea, even than the raising of his
daughter itself. To arouse the higher, the hopeful, the trusting
nature of a man; to cause him to look up into the unknown region
of mysterious possibilities-the God so poorly known-is to do
infinitely more for a man than to remove the pressure of the direst
evil without it. I will go further: To arouse the hope that there may
be a God with a heart like our own is more for the humanity in us
than to produce the absolute conviction that there is a being who
made the heaven and the earth and the sea and the fountains of
waters. Jesus is the express image of God’s substance, and in him
we know the heart of God. To nourish faith in himself was the best
thing he could do for the man.

We hear of no word from the ruler further. If he answered not our
Lord in words, it is no wonder. The compressed lip and the
uplifted eye would say more than any words to the heart of the
Saviour.

Now it would appear that he stopped the crowd and would let them
go no farther. They could not all see, and he did not wish them to
see. It was not good for men to see too many miracles. They would
feast their eyes, and then cease to wonder or think. The miracle,
which would be all, and quite dissociated from religion, with many
of them, would cease to be wonderful, would become a common
thing with most. Yea, some would cease to believe that it had
been. They would say she did sleep after all-she was not dead. A
wonder is a poor thing for faith after all; and the miracle could be
only a wonder in the eyes of those who had not prayed for it, and
could not give thanks for it; who did not feel that in it they were
partakers of the love of God.

Jesus must have hated anything like display. God’s greatest work
has never been done in crowds, but in closets; and when it works
out from thence, it is not upon crowds, but upon individuals. A
crowd is not a divine thing. It is not a body. Its atoms are not
members one of another. A crowd is a chaos over which the Spirit
of God has yet to move, ere each retires to his place to begin his
harmonious work, and unite with all the rest in the organized
chorus of the human creation. The crowd must be dispersed that
the church may be formed.

The relation of the crowd to the miracle is rightly reflected in what
came to the friends of the house. To them, weeping and wailing
greatly, after the Eastern fashion, he said when he entered, “Why
make ye this ado, and weep? The damsel is not dead, but
sleepeth.” They laughed him to scorn. He put them all out.

But what did our Lord mean by those words-“The damsel is not
dead, but sleepeth”? Not certainly that, as we regard the difference
between death and sleep, his words were to be taken literally; not
that she was only in a state of coma or lethargy; not even that it
was a case of suspended animation as in catalepsy; for the whole
narrative evidently intends us to believe that she was dead after the
fashion we call death. That this was not to be dead after the
fashion our Lord called death, is a blessed and lovely fact.

Neither can it mean, that she was not dead as others, in that he was
going to wake her so soon; for they did not know that, and
therefore it could give no ground for the expostulation, “Why
make ye this ado, and weep?”

Nor yet could it come only from the fact that to his eyes death and
sleep were so alike, the one needing the power of God for awaking
just as much as the other. True they must be more alike in his eyes
than even in the eyes of the many poets who have written of
“Death and his brother Sleep;” but he sees the differences none the
less clearly, and how they look to us, and his knowledge could be
no reason for reproaching our ignorance.

The explanation seems to me large and simple. These people
professed to believe in the resurrection of the dead, and did believe
after some feeble fashion. They were not Sadducees, for they were
the friends of a ruler of the synagogue. Our Lord did not bring the
news of resurrection to the world: that had been believed, in
varying degrees, by all peoples and nations from the first: the
resurrection he taught was a far deeper thing-the resurrection from
dead works to serve the living and true God But as with the greater
number even of Christians, although it was part of their creed, and
had some influence upon their moral and spiritual condition, their
practical faith in the resurrection of the body was a poor affair. In
the moment of loss and grief, they thought little about it. They
lived then in the present almost alone; they were not saved by
hope. The reproach therefore of our Lord was simply that they did
not take from their own creed the consolation they ought. If the
child was to be one day restored to them, then she was not dead as
their tears and lamentations would imply. Any one of themselves
who believed in God and the prophets, might have stood up and
said-“Foolish mourners, why make such ado? The maid is not
dead, but sleepeth. You shall again clasp her to your bosom. Hope,
and fear not-only believe.” It was in this sense, I think, that our
Lord spoke.

But it may not at first appear how much grander the miracle itself
appears in the light of this simple interpretation of the Master’s
words. The sequel stands in the same relation to the words as
if-turning into the death-chamber, and bringing the maid out by the
hand-he had said to them: “See-I told you she was not dead but
sleeping.” The words apply to all death, just as much as to that in
which this girl lay. The Lord brings his assurance, his knowledge
of what we do not know, to feed our feeble faith. It is as if he told
us that our notion of death is all wrong, that there is no such thing
as we think it; that we should be nearer the truth if we denied it
altogether, and gave to what we now call death the name of sleep,
for it is but a passing appearance, and no right cause of such
misery as we manifest in its presence. I think it was from this word
of our Lord, and from the same utterance in the case of Lazarus,
that St Paul so often uses the word sleep for die and for death.
Indeed the notion of death, as we feel it, seems to have vanished
entirely from St Paul’s mind-he speaks of things so in a continuity,
not even referring to the change-not even saying before death or
after death, as if death made no atom of difference in the progress
of holy events, the divine history of the individual and of the race
together. In a word, when he raised the dead, the Son did neither
more nor less nor other than the work of the Father-what he is
always doing; he only made it manifest a little sooner to the eyes
and hearts of men.

But they to whom he spoke laughed him to scorn. They knew she
was dead, and their unfaithfulness blinded their hearts to what he
meant. They were unfit to behold the proof of what he had said.
Such as they, in such mood, could gather from it no benefit. A
faithful heart alone is capable of understanding the proof of the
truest things. It is faith towards God which alone can lay hold of
any of his facts. There is a foregoing fitness. Therefore he put
them all out. But the father and mother, whose love and sorrow
made them more easily persuaded of mighty things, more
accessible to holy influences, and the three disciples, whose faith
rendered them fit to behold otherwise dangerous wonders, he took
with him into the chamber where the damsel lay-dead toward
men-sleeping toward God. Dead as she was, she only slept.

“Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.” “And her spirit came again,” “and
straightway the damsel arose and walked,” “and he commanded to
give her meat.” For in the joy of her restoration, they might forget
that the more complete the health of a worn and exhausted body,
the more needful was food-food which, in all its commonness,
might well support the miracle; for not only did it follow by the
next word to that which had wrought the miracle, but it worked in
perfect harmony with the law which took shape in this
resurrection, and in its relations to the human being involved no
whit less marvel than lay in the miracle itself. The raising of the
dead and the feeding of the living are both and equally
divine-therefore in utter harmony. And we do not any more
understand the power in the body which takes to itself that food,
than we understand the power going out from Jesus to make this
girl’s body capable of again employing its ministrations. They are
both of one and must be perfect in harmony, the one as much the
outcome of law as the other.

He charges the parents to be silent, it may be for his sake, who did
not want to be made a mere wonder of, but more probably for their
sakes, that the holy thing might not evaporate in speech, or be
defiled with foolish talk and the glorification of self-importance in
those for whom a mighty wonder had been done; but that in
silence the seed might take root in their hearts and bring forth
living fruit in humility, and uprightness, and faith.

And now for the wonderful story of Lazarus. In this miracle one
might think the desire of Jesus for his friend’s presence through his
own coming trouble, might have had a share, were it not that we
never find him working a miracle for himself. He knew the perfect
will of the Father, and left all to him. Those who cannot know that
will and do not care for it, have to fall into trouble that they may
know God as the Saviour from their own doings-as the fountain of
all their well-being. This Jesus had not to learn, and therefore
could need no miracle wrought for him. Even his resurrection was
all for others. That miracle was wrought in, not for him.

He knew Lazarus was dying. He abode where he was and let him
die. For a hard and therefore precious lesson for sisters and friends
lay in that death, and the more the love the more precious the
lesson-the same that lies in every death; and the end the same for
all who love-resurrection. The raising of Lazarus is the type of the
raising of all the dead. Of Lazarus, as of the daughter of Jairus, he
said “he sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” He
slept as every dead man sleeps.

Read the story. Try to think not only what the disciples felt, but
what Jesus was thinking; how he, who saw the other side, regarded
the death he was about to destroy.

“Lord, if thou hadst been here,” said Martha, “my brother had not
died.”

Did she mean to hint what she had not faith enough to ask?

“Thy brother shall rise again,” said the Lord.

But her faith was so weak that she took little comfort from the
assurance. Alas! she knew what it meant. She knew all about it. He
spoke of the general far-off resurrection, which to her was a very
little thing. It was true he should rise again; but what was that to
the present consuming grief? A thousand years might be to God as
one day, but to Martha the one day was a thousand years. It is only
to him who entirely believes in God that the thousand years
become one day also. For he that believes shares in the vision of
him in whom he believes. It is through such faith that Jesus would
help her-far beyond the present awful need. He seeks to raise her
confidence in himself by the strongest assertions of the might that
was in him. “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in
me, though he were dead, yet shall he live!” The death of not
believing in God-the God revealed in Jesus-is the only death. The
other is nowhere but in the fears and fancies of unbelief. “And
whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” There is for
him nothing to be called death; nothing that is what death looks to
us.

“Believest thou this?”

Martha was an honest woman. She did not fully understand what
he meant. She could not, therefore, do more than assent to it. But
she believed in him, and that much she could tell him plainly.

“Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God,
which should come into the world.”

And that hope with the confession arose in her heart, she gave the
loveliest sign: she went and called her sister. But even in the
profounder Mary faith reached only to the words of her sister:

“Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”

When he saw her trouble, and that of the Jews with her, he was
troubled likewise. But why? The purest sympathy with what was
about to vanish would not surely make him groan in his spirit.
Why, then, this trouble in our Lord’s heart? We have a right, yea, a
duty, to understand it if we can, for he showed it.

I think it was caused by an invading sense of the general misery of
poor humanity from the lack of that faith in the Father without
which he, the Son, could do, or endure, nothing. If the Father
ceased the Son must cease. It was the darkness between God and
his creatures that gave room for and was filled with their weeping
and wailing over their dead. To them death must appear an
unmitigated and irremediable evil. How frightful to feel as they
felt! to see death as they saw it! Nothing could help their misery
but that faith in the infinite love which he had come to bring them;
but how hard it was to persuade them to receive it! And how many
weeping generations of loving hearts must follow! His Father was
indeed with them all, but how slowly and painfully would each
learn the one precious fact!

“Where have ye laid him?” he asked.

“Lord, come and see,” they answered, in such mournful accents of
human misery that he wept with them.

They come to the grave.
“Take ye away the stone.”

“Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days,”
said she who believed in the Resurrection and the Life! They are
the saddest of sad words. I hardly know how to utter the feeling
they raise. In all the relations of mortality to immortality, of body
to soul, there are painful and even ugly things, things to which, by
common consent, we refer only upon dire necessity, and with a
sense of shame. Happy they in whom the mortal has put on
immortality! Decay and its accompaniments, all that makes the
most beloved of the appearances of God’s creation a terror,
compelling us to call to the earth for succour, and pray her to take
our dead out of our sight, to receive her own back into her bosom,
and unmake in secret darkness that which was the glory of the
light in our eyes-this was uppermost with Martha, even in the
presence of him to whom Death was but a slave to come and go at
his will. Careful of his feelings, of the shock to his senses, she
would oppose his will. For the dead brother’s sake also, that he
should not be dishonoured in his privacy, she would not have had
that stone removed. But had it been as Martha feared, who so
tender with feeble flesh as the Son of Man? Who so unready to
impute the shame it could not help? Who less fastidious over the
painful working of the laws of his own world?

Entire affection hateth nicer hands.

And at the worst, what was decay to him, who could recall the
disuniting atoms under the restored law of imperial life?

“Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest
see the glory of God?”

Again I say the essential glory of God who raises all the dead, not
merely an exceptional glory of God in raising this one dead man.

They should see not corruption but glory. No evil odour of
dissolution should assail them, but glowing life should spring from
the place of the dead; light should be born from the very bosom of
the darkness.

They took away the friendly stone. Then Jesus spoke, not to the
dead man, but to the living Father. The men and women about him
must know it as the Father’s work. “And Jesus lifted up his eyes,
and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew
that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand
by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” So might
they believe that the work was God’s, that he was doing the will of
God, and that they might trust in the God whose will was such as
this. He claimed the presence of God in what he did, that by the
open claim and the mighty deed following it they might see that
the Father justified what the Son said, and might receive him and
all that he did as the manifestation of the Father. And now-

“Lazarus, come forth.”

Slow toiling, with hand and foot bound in the grave clothes, he
that had been dead struggled forth to the light. What an awful
moment! When did ever corruption and glory meet and embrace as
now! Oh! what ready hands, eager almost to helplessness, were
stretched trembling towards the feeble man returning from his
strange journey, to seize and carry him into the day-their poor day,
which they thought all the day, forgetful of that higher day which
for their sakes he had left behind, content to walk in moonlight a
little longer, gladdened by the embraces of his sisters,
and-perhaps-I do not know-comforting their hearts with news of
the heavenly regions!

Joy of all joys! The dead come back! Is it any wonder that this
Mary should spend three hundred pence on an ointment for the
feet of the Raiser of the Dead?

I doubt if he told them anything? I do not think he could make
even his own flesh and blood-of womankind, quick to
understand-know the things he had seen and heard and felt. All
that can be said concerning this, is thus said by our beloved brother
Tennyson in his book In Memoriam:

‘Where wert thou, brother, those four days?’
There lives no record of reply,
Which telling what it is to die,
Had surely added praise to praise.

Behold a man raised up by Christ!
The rest remaineth unrevealed;
He told it not; or something sealed
The lips of that Evangelist.

Why are we left in such ignorance?

Without the raising of the dead, without the rising of the Saviour
himself, Christianity would not have given what it could of hope
for the future. Hope is not faith, but neither is faith sight; and if we
have hope we are not miserable men. But Christianity must not,
could not interfere with the discipline needful for its own
fulfilment, could not depose the schoolmaster that leads unto
Christ. One main doubt and terror which drives men towards the
revelation in Jesus, is this strange thing Death. How shall any man
imagine he is complete in himself, and can do without a Father in
heaven, when he knows that he knows neither the mystery whence
he sprung by birth, nor the mystery to which he goes by death?
God has given us room away from himself as Robert Browning
says:-

. . . “God, whose pleasure brought
Man into being, stands away,
As it were, an hand-breadth off, to give
Room for the newly-made to live,
And look at Him from a place apart,
And use His gifts of brain and heart”-

and this room, in its time-symbol, is bounded by darkness on the
one hand, and darkness on the other. Whence I came and whither I
go are dark: how can I live in peace without the God who ordered
it thus? Faith is my only refuge-an absolute belief in a being so
much beyond myself, that he can do all for this me with utter
satisfaction to this me, protecting all its rights, jealously as his own
from which they spring, that he may make me at last one with
himself who is my deeper self, inasmuch as his thought of me is
my life. And not to know him, even if I could go on living and
happy without him, is death.

It may be said, “Why all this? Why not go on like a brave man to
meet your fate, careless of what that fate may be?”

“But what if this fate should depend on myself? Am I to be
careless then?” I answer.

“The fate is so uncertain! If it be annihilation, why quail before it?
Cowardice at least is contemptible.”

“Is not indifference more contemptible? That one who has once
thought should not care to go on to think? That this glory should
perish-is it no grief? Is life not a good with all its pain? Ought one
to be willing to part with a good? Ought he not to cleave fast
thereto? Have you never grudged the coming sleep, because you
must cease for the time to be so much as you were before? For my
part, I think the man who can go to sleep without faith in God has
yet to learn what being is. He who knows not God cannot,
however, have much to lose in losing being. And yet-and yet-did
he never love man or woman or child? Is he content that there
should be no more of it? Above all, is he content to go on with
man and woman and child now, careless of whether the love is a
perishable thing? If it be, why does he not kill himself, seeing it is
all a lie-a false appearance of a thing too glorious to be fact, but
for which our best nature calls aloud-and cannot have it? If one
knew for certain that there was no life beyond this, then the noble
thing would be to make the best of this, yea even then to try after
such things as are written in the Gospel as we call it-for they are
the noblest. That I am sure of, whatever I may doubt. But not to be
sure of annihilation, and yet choose it to be true, and act as if it
were true, seems to me to indicate a nature at strife with
immortality-bound for the dust by its own choice-of the earth, and
returning to the dust.”

The man will say, “That is yielding everything. Let us eat and
drink, for to-morrow we die. I am of the dust, for I believe in
nothing beyond.”

“No,” I return. “I recognize another law in myself which seems to
me infinitely higher. And I think that law is in you also, although
you are at strife with it, and will revive in you to your blessed
discontent. By that I will walk, and not by yours-a law which bids
me strive after what I am not but may become-a law in me striving
against the law of sin and down-dragging decay-a law which is one
with my will, and, if true, must of all things make one at last. If I
am made to live I ought not to be willing to cease. This
unwillingness to cease-above all, this unwillingness to cease to
love my own, the fore-front to me of my all men-may be in me the
sign, may well be in me the sign that I am made to live. Above all
to pass away without the possibility of making reparation to those
whom I have wronged, with no chance of saying I am sorry-what
shall I do for you? Grant me some means of delivering myself
from this burden of wrong-seems to me frightful. No God to help
one to be good now! no God who cares whether one is good or not!
if a God, then one who will not give his creature time enough to
grow good, even if he is growing better, but will blot him out like
a rain-drop! Great God, forbid-if thou art. If thou art not, then this,
like all other prayers, goes echoing through the soulless vaults of a
waste universe, from the thought of which its peoples recoil in
horror. Death, then, is genial, soul-begetting, and love-creating;
and Life is nowhere, save in the imaginations of the children of the
grave. Whence, then, oh! whence came those their imaginations?
Death, thou art not my father! Grave, thou art not my mother! I
come of another kind, nor shall ye usurp dominion over me.”

What better sign of immortality than the raising of the dead could
God give? He cannot, however, be always raising the dead before
our eyes; for then the holiness of death’s ends would be a failure.
We need death; only it shall be undone once and again for a time,
that we may know it is not what it seems to us. I have already said
that probably we are not capable of being told in words what the
other world is. But even the very report through the ages that the
dead came back, as their friends had known them, with the old
love unlost in the grave, with the same face to smile and bless, is
precious indeed. That they remain the same in all that made them
lovely, is the one priceless fact-if we may but hope in it as a fact.
That we shall behold, and clasp, and love them again follows of
simple necessity. We cannot be sure of the report as if it were done
before our own eyes, yet what a hope it gives even to him whose
honesty and his faith together make him, like Martha, refrain
speech, not daring to say I believe of all that is reported! I think
such a one will one day be able to believe more than he even
knows how to desire. For faith in Jesus will well make up for the
lack of the sight of the miracle.

Does God, then, make death look what it is not? Why not let it
appear what it is, and prevent us from forming false judgments of
it?

It is our low faithlessness that makes us misjudge it, and nothing
but faith could make us judge it aright. And that, while in
faithlessness, we should thus misjudge it, is well. In what it
appears to us, it is a type of what we are without God. But there is
no falsehood in it. The dust must go back to the dust. He who
believes in the body more than in the soul, cleaves to this aspect of
death: he who believes in thought, in mind, in love, in truth, can
see the other side-can rejoice over the bursting shell which allows
the young oak to creep from its kernel-prison. The lower is true,
but the higher overcomes and absorbs it. “When that which is
perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”
When the spirit of death is seen, the body of death vanishes from
us. Death is God’s angel of birth. We fear him. The dying stretches
out loving hands of hope towards him. I do not believe that death
is to the dying the dreadful thing it looks to the beholders. I think it
is more like what the spirit may then be able to remember of its
own birth as a child into this lower world, this porch of the
heavenly. How will he love his mother then! and all humanity in
her, and God who gave her, and God who gives her back!

The future lies dark before us, with an infinite hope in the
darkness. To be at peace concerning it on any other ground than
the love of God, would be an absolute loss. Better fear and hope
and prayer, than knowledge and peace without the prayer.

To sum up: An express revelation in words would probably be
little intelligible. In Christ we have an ever-growing revelation. He
is the resurrection and the life. As we know him we know our
future.

In our ignorance lies a force of need, compelling us towards God.

In our ignorance likewise lies the room for the development of the
simple will, as well as the necessity for arousing it. Hence this
ignorance is but the shell of faith.

In this, as in all his miracles, our Lord shows in one instance what
his Father is ever doing without showing it.

Even the report of this is the best news we can have from the other
world-as we call it.

Chapter IX. THE GOVERNMENT OF NATURE.

THE miracles I include in this class are the following:-

I. The turning of water into wine, already treated of, given by St
John.

2. The draught of fishes, given by St Luke.

3. The draught of fishes, given by St John.

4 The feeding of the four thousand, given by St Matthew and St
Mark.

5. The feeding of the five thousand, recorded by all the
Evangelists.

6. The walking on the sea, given by St Matthew, St Mark, and St
John.

7. The stilling of the storm, given by St Matthew, St Mark, and St
Luke.

8. The fish bringing the piece of money, told by St Matthew alone.

These miracles, in common with those already considered, have
for their end the help or deliverance of man. They differ from
those, however, in operating mediately, through a change upon
external things, and not at once on their human objects.

But besides the fact that they have to do with what we call nature,
they would form a class on another ground. In those cases of
disease, the miracles are for the setting right of what has gone
wrong, the restoration of the order of things,-namely, of the
original condition of humanity. No doubt it is a law of nature that
where there is sin there should be suffering; but even its cure helps
to restore that righteousness which is highest nature; for the cure
of suffering must not be confounded with the absence of suffering.
But the miracles of which I have now to speak, show themselves
as interfering with what we may call the righteous laws of nature.
Water should wet the foot, should ingulf him who would tread its
surface. Bread should come from the oven last, from the field first.
Fishes should be now here now there, according to laws ill
understood of men-nay, possibly according to a piscine choice
quite unknown of men. Wine should take ripening in the grape and
in the bottle. In all these cases it is otherwise. Yet even in these, I
think, the restoration of an original law-the supremacy of righteous
man, is foreshown. While a man cannot order his own house as he
would, something is wrong in him, and therefore in his house. I
think a true man should be able to rule winds and waters and
loaves and fishes, for he comes of the Father who made the house
for him. Had Jesus not been capable of these things, he might have
been the best of men, but either he could not have been a perfect
man, or the perfect God, if such there were, was not in harmony
with the perfect man. Man is not master in his own house because
he is not master in himself, because he is not a law unto himself-is
not himself obedient to the law by which he exists. Harmony, that
is law, alone is power. Discord is weakness. God alone is perfect,
living, self-existent law.

I will try, in a few words, to give the ground on which I find it
possible to accept these miracles. I cannot lay it down as for any
other man. I do not wonder at most of those to whom the miracles
are a stumbling-block. I do a little wonder at those who can
believe in Christ and yet find them a stumbling-block.

How God creates, no man can tell. But as man is made in God’s
image, he may think about God’s work, and dim analogies may
arise out of the depth of his nature which have some resemblance
to the way in which God works. I say then, that, as we are the
offspring of God-the children of his will, like as the thoughts move
in a man’s mind, we live in God’s mind. When God thinks
anything, then that thing is. His thought of it is its life. Everything
is because God thinks it into being. Can it then be very hard to
believe that he should alter by a thought any form or appearance of
things about us?

“It is inconsistent to work otherwise than by law.”

True; but we know so little of this law that we cannot say what is
essential in it, and what only the so far irregular consequence of
the unnatural condition of those for whom it was made, but who
have not yet willed God’s harmony. We know so little of law that
we cannot certainly say what would be an infringement of this or
that law. That which at first sight appears as such, may be but the
operating of a higher law which rightly dominates the other. It is
the law, as we call it, that a stone should fall to the ground. A man
may place his hand beneath the stone, and then, if his hand be
strong enough, it is the law that the stone shall not fall to the
ground. The law has been lawfully prevented from working its full
end. In similar ways, God might stop the working of one law by
the intervention of another. Such intervention, if not understood by
us, would be what we call a miracle. Possibly a different condition
of the earth, producible according to law, might cause everything
to fly off from its surface instead of seeking it. The question is
whether or not we can believe that the usual laws might be set
aside by laws including higher principles and wider operations. All
I have to answer is-Give me good reason, and I can. A man may
say-“What seems good reason to you, does not to me.” I answer,
“We are both accountable to that being, if such there be, who has
lighted in us the candle of judgment. To him alone we stand or
fall. But there must be a final way of right, towards which every
willing heart is led,-and which no one can find who does not seek
it.” All I want to show here, is a conceivable region in which a
miracle might take place without any violence done to the order of
things. Our power of belief depends greatly on our power of
imagining a region in which the things might be. I do not see how
some people could believe what to others may offer small
difficulty. Let us beware lest what we call faith be but the mere
assent of a mind which has cared and thought so little about the
objects of its so-called faith, that it has never seen the difficulties
they involve. Some such believers are the worst antagonists of true
faith-the children of the Pharisees of old.

If any one say we ought to receive nothing of which we have no
experience; I answer, there is in me a necessity, a desire before
which all my experience shrivels into a mockery. Its complement
must lie beyond. We ought, I grant, to accept nothing for which we
cannot see the probability of some sufficient reason, but I thank
God that this sufficient reason is not for me limited to the realm of
experience. To suppose that it was, would change the hope of a
life that might be an ever-burning sacrifice of thanksgiving, into a
poor struggle with events and things and chances-to doom the
Psyche to perpetual imprisonment in the worm. I desire the higher;
I care not to live for the lower. The one would make me despise
my fellows and recoil with disgust from a self I cannot annihilate;
the other fills me with humility, hope, and love. Is the preference
for the one over the other foolish then-even to the meanest
judgment?

A higher condition of harmony with law, may one day enable us to
do things which must now appear an interruption of law. I believe
it is in virtue of the absolute harmony in him, his perfect
righteousness, that God can create at all. If man were in harmony
with this, if he too were righteous, he would inherit of his Father a
something in his degree correspondent to the creative power in
Him; and the world he inhabits, which is but an extension of his
body, would, I think, be subject to him in a way surpassing his
wildest dreams of dominion, for it would be the perfect dominion
of holy law-a virtue flowing to and from him through the channel
of a perfect obedience. I suspect that our Lord in all his dominion
over nature, set forth only the complete man-man as God means
him one day to be. Why should he not know where the fishes
were? or even make them come at his will? Why should not that
will be potent as impulse in them? If we admit what I hail as the
only fundamental idea upon which I can speculate harmoniously
with facts, and as alone disclosing regions wherein contradictions
are soluble, and doubts previsions of loftier truth-I mean the
doctrine of the Incarnation; or if even we admit that Jesus was
good beyond any other goodness we know, why should it not seem
possible that the whole region of inferior things might be more
subject to him than to us? And if more, why not altogether? I
believe that some of these miracles were the natural result of a
physical nature perfect from the indwelling of a perfect soul,
whose unity with the Life of all things and in all things was
absolute-in a word, whose sonship was perfect.

If in the human form God thus visited his people, he would
naturally show himself Lord over their circumstances. He will not
lord it over their minds, for such lordship is to him abhorrent: they
themselves must see and rejoice in acknowledging the lordship
which makes them free. There was no grand display, only the
simple doing of what at the time was needful. Some say it is a
higher thing to believe of him that he took things just as they were,
and led the revealing life without the aid of wonders. On any
theory this is just what he did as far as his own life was concerned.
But he had no ambition to show himself the best of men. He comes
to reveal the Father. He will work even wonders to that end, for the
sake of those who could not believe as he did and had to be taught
it. No miracle was needful for himself: he saw the root of the
matter-the care of God. But he revealed this root in a few rare and
hastened flowers to the eyes that could not see to the root. There is
perfect submission to lower law for himself, but revelation of the
Father to them by the introduction of higher laws operating in the
upper regions bordering upon ours, not separated from ours by any
impassable gulf-rather connected by gently ascending stairs, many
of whose gradations he could blend in one descent. He revealed
the Father as being under no law, but as law itself, and the cause of
the laws we know-the cause of all harmony because himself the
harmony. Men had to be delivered not only from the fear of
suffering and death, but from the fear, which is a kind of worship,
of nature. Nature herself must be shown subject to the Father and
to him whom the Father had sent. Men must believe in the great
works of the Father through the little works of the Son: all that he
showed was little to what God was doing. They had to be helped to
see that it was God who did such things as often as they were done.
He it is who causes the corn to grow for man. He gives every fish
that a man eats. Even if things are terrible yet they are God’s, and
the Lord will still the storm for their faith in Him-tame a storm, as
a man might tame a wild beast-for his Father measures the waters
in the hollow of his hand, and men are miserable not to know it.
For himself, I repeat, his faith is enough; he sleeps on his pillow
nor dreams of perishing.

On the individual miracles of this class, I have not much to say.
The first of them was wrought in the animal kingdom.

He was teaching on the shore of the lake, and the people crowded
him. That he might speak with more freedom, he stepped into an
empty boat, and having prayed Simon the owner of it, who was
washing his nets near by, to thrust it a little from the shore, sat
down, and no longer incommoded by the eagerness of his
audience, taught them from the boat. When he had ended he told
Simon to launch out into the deep, and let down his nets for a
draught. Simon had little hope of success, for there had been no
fish there all night; but he obeyed, and caught such a multitude of
fishes that the net broke. They had to call another boat to their aid,
and both began to sink from the overload of fishes. But the great
marvel of it wrought on the mind of Simon as every wonder tends
to operate on the mind of an honest man: it brought his sinfulness
before him. In self-abasement he fell down at Jesus’ knees.
Whether he thought of any individual sins at the moment, we
cannot tell; but he was painfully dissatisfied with himself. He
knew he was not what he ought to be. I am unwilling however to
believe that such a man desired, save, it may be, as a passing
involuntary result of distress, to be rid of the holy presence. I judge
rather that his feeling was like that of the centurion-that he felt
himself unworthy to have the Lord in his boat. He may have feared
that the Lord took him for a good man, and his honesty could not
endure such a mistake: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O
Lord.”

The Lord accepted the spirit, therefore not the word of his prayer.

“Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”

His sense of sinfulness, so far from driving the Lord from him,
should draw other men to him. As soon as that cry broke from his
lips, he had become fit to be a fisher of men. He had begun to
abjure that which separated man from man.

After his resurrection, St John tells us the Lord appeared one
morning, on the shore of the lake, to some of his disciples, who
had again been toiling all night in vain. He told them once more
how to cast their net, and they were not able to draw it for the
multitude of fishes.

“It is the Lord,” said St John, purer-hearted, perhaps therefore
keener-eyed, than the rest.

Since the same thing had occurred before, Simon had become the
fisher of men, but had sinned grievously against his Lord. He knew
that Lord so much better now, however, that when he heard it was
he, instead of crying Depart from me, he cast himself into the sea
to go to him.

I take next the feeding of the four thousand with the seven loaves
and the few little fishes, and the feeding of the five thousand with
the five loaves and the two fishes.

Concerning these miracles, I think I have already said almost all I
have to say. If he was the Son of God, the bread might as well
grow in his hands as the corn in the fields. It is, I repeat, only a
doing in condensed form, hence one more easily associated with
its real source, of that which God is for ever doing more widely,
more slowly, and with more detail both of fundamental wonder
and of circumstantial loveliness. Whence more fittingly might
food come than from the hands of such an elder brother? No doubt
there will always be men who cannot believe it:-happy are they
who demand a good reason, and yet can believe a wonder!
Associated with words which appeared to me foolish, untrue, or
even poor in their content, I should not believe it. Associated with
such things as he spoke, I can receive it with ease, and I cherish it
with rejoicing.

It must be noted in respect of the feeding of the five thousand, that
while the other evangelists merely relate the deed as done for the
necessities of the multitude, St John records also the use our Lord
made of the miracle. It was the outcome of his essential relation to
humanity. Of humanity he was ever the sustaining food. To
humanity he was about to give himself in an act of such utter
devotion as could only be shadowed-now in the spoken, afterwards
in the acted symbol of the eucharist. The miracle was a type of his
life as the life of the world, a sign that from him flows all the weal
of his creatures. The bread we eat is but its outer husk: the true
bread is the Lord himself, to have whom in us is eternal life.
“Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood ye
have no life in you.” He knew that the grand figure would disclose
to the meditation of the loving heart infinitely more of the truth of
the matter than any possible amount of definition and explanation,
and yet must ever remain far short of setting forth the holy fact to
the boldest and humblest mind. But lest they should start upon a
wrong track for the interpretation of it, he says to his disciples
afterwards, that this body of his should return to God; that what he
had said concerning the eating of it had a spiritual sense: “It is the
spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing”-for that. In words
he contradicts what he said before, that they might see the words
to have meant infinitely more than as words they were able to
express; that not their bodies on his body, but their souls must live
on his soul, by a union and communion of which the eating of his
flesh and the drinking of his blood was, after all, but a poor and
faint figure. In this miracle, for the souls as for the bodies of men,
he did and revealed the work of the Father. He who has once
understood the meaning of Christ’s words in connection with this
miracle, can never be content they should be less than true
concerning his Father in heaven. Whoever would have a perfect
Father, must believe that he bestows his very being for the daily
food of his creatures. He who loves the glory of God will be very
jealous of any word that would enhance his greatness by
representing him incapable of suffering. Verily God has taken and
will ever take and endure his share, his largest share of that
suffering in and through which the whole creation groans for the
sonship.

Follows at once the equally wonderful story of his walking on the
sea to the help of his disciples. After the former miracle, the
multitude would have taken him by force to make him their king.
Any kind of honour they would readily give him except that
obedience for the truth’s sake which was all he cared for. He left
them and went away into a mountain alone to pray to his Father.
Likely he was weary in body, and also worn in spirit for lack of
that finer sympathy which his disciples could not give him being
very earthly yet. He who loves his fellows and labours among
those who can ill understand him will best know what this
weariness of our Lord must have been like. He had to endure the
world-pressure of surrounding humanity in all its ungodlike
phases. Hence even he, the everlasting Son of the Father, found it
needful to retire for silence and room and comfort into solitary
places. There his senses would be free, and his soul could the
better commune with the Father. The mountain-top was his
chamber, the solitude around him its closed door, the evening sky
over his head its open window. There he gathered strength from
the will of the Father for what yet remained to be done for the
world’s redemption. How little could the men below, who would
have taken him by force and made him a king, understand of such
communion! Yet every one of them must go hungering and
thirsting and grasping in vain, until the door of that communion
was opened for him. They would have made him a king: he would
make them poor in spirit, mighty in aspiration, all kings and priests
unto God.

But amidst his prayer, amidst the eternal calm of his rapturous
communion, he saw his disciples thwarted by a wind stronger than
all their rowing: he descended the hill and walked forth on the
water to their help.

If ignorant yet devout speculation may be borne with here, I
venture to say that I think the change of some kind that was
necessary somehow before the body of the Son of Man could, like
the Spirit of old, move upon the face of the waters, passed, not
upon the water, but, by the will of the Son of Man himself, upon
his own body. I shall have more to say concerning this in a
following chapter-now I merely add that we know nothing yet, or
next to nothing, of the relation between a right soul and a healthy
body. To some no doubt the notion of a healthy body implies
chiefly a perfection of all the animal functions, which is, on the
supposition, a matter of course; but what I should mean by an
absolutely healthy body is, one entirely under the indwelling spirit,
and responsive immediately to all the laws of its supremacy,
whatever those laws may be in the divine ideal of a man. As we
are now, we find the diseased body tyrannizing over the almost
helpless mind: the healthy body would be the absolutely obedient
body. What power over his own dwelling a Saviour coming fresh
from the closest speech with him who made that body for holy
subjection, might have, who can tell! If I hear of any reasonable
wonder resulting therefrom, I shall not find it hard to believe, and
shall be willing to wait until I, pure, inhabit an obedient house, to
understand the plain thing which is now a mystery. Meantime I can
honour the laws I do know, and which honest men tell me they
have discovered, no less than those honest men who-without my
impulse, it may be, to speculate in this direction-think such as I
foolish in employing the constructive faculty with regard to these
things. But where, I pray them, lies any field so absolutely its
region as the unknown which yet the heart yearns to know? Such
cannot be the unknowable. It is endless comfort to think of
something that might be true. And the essence of whatever seems
to a human heart to be true, I expect to find true-in greater forms,
and without the degrading accidents which so often accompany it
in the brain of the purest thinker. Why should I not speculate in the
only direction in which things to me worthy of speculation appear
likely to lie? There is a wide may be around us; and every true
speculation widens the probability of changing the may be into the
is. The laws that are known and the laws that shall be known are
all lights from the Father of lights: he who reverently searches for
such will not long mistake a flash in his own brain for the candle
of the Lord. But if he should mistake, he will be little the worse, so
long as he is humble, and ready to acknowledge error; while, if he
should be right, he will be none the worse for having seen the
glimmer of the truth from afar-may, indeed, come to gather a little
honour from those who, in the experimental verification of an
idea, do not altogether forget that, without some foregone
speculation, the very idea on which they have initiated their
experiment, and are now expending their most valued labour,
would never have appeared in their firmament to guide them to
new facts and realities.

Nor would it be impossible to imagine how St Peter might come
within the sphere of the holy influence, so that he, too, for a
moment should walk on the water. Faith will yet prove itself as
mighty a power as it is represented by certain words of the Lord
which are at present a stumbling-block even to devout Christians,
who are able to accept them only by putting explanations upon
them which render them unworthy of his utterance. When I say a
power, I do not mean in itself, but as connecting the helpless with
the helpful, as uniting the empty need with the full supply, as being
the conduit through which it is right and possible for the power of
the creating God to flow to the created necessity.

When the Lord got into the boat, the wind ceased, “and
immediately,” says St John, “the ship was at the land whither they
went.” As to whether the ceasing of the wind was by the ordinary
laws of nature, or some higher law first setting such in operation,
no one who has followed the spirit of my remarks will wonder that
I do not care to inquire: they are all of one. Nor, in regard to their
finding themselves so quickly at the end of their voyage, will they
wonder if I think that we may have just one instance of space itself
being subject to the obedient God, and that his wearied disciples,
having toiled and rowed hard for so long, might well find
themselves at their desired haven as soon as they received him into
their boat. Either God is all in all, or he is nothing. Either Jesus is
the Son of the Father, or he did no miracle. Either the miracles are
fact, or I lose-not my faith in this man-but certain outward signs of
truths which these very signs have aided me to discover and
understand and see in themselves.

The miracle of the stilling of the storm naturally follows here.

Why should not he, who taught his disciples that God numbered
the very hairs of their heads, do what his Father is constantly
doing-still storms-bring peace out of uproar? Of course, if the
storm was stilled, it came about by natural causes-that is, by such
as could still a storm. That anything should be done by unnatural
causes, that is, causes not of the nature of the things concerned, is
absurd. The sole question is whether Nature works alone, as some
speculators think, or whether there is a soul in her, namely, an
intent;-whether these things are the result of thought, or whether
they spring from a dead heart; unconscious, yet productive of
conscious beings, to think, yea, speculate eagerly concerning a
conscious harmony hinted at in their broken music and conscious
discord; beings who, although thus born of unthinking matter,
invent the notion of an all lovely, perfect, self-denying being,
whose thought gives form to matter, life to nature, and thought to
man-subjecting himself for their sakes to the troubles their
waywardness has brought upon them, that they too may at length
behold a final good-may see the Holy face to face-think his
thoughts and will his wisdom!

That things should go by a law which does not recognize the
loftiest in him, a man feels to be a mockery of him. There lies little
more satisfaction in such a condition of things than if the whole
were the fortuitous result of ever conflicting, never combining
forces. Wherever individual and various necessity, choice, and
prayer, come in, there must be the present God, able and ready to
fit circumstances to the varying need of the thinking, will-ing
being he has created. Machinery will not do here-perfect as it may
be. That God might make a world to go on with absolute physical
perfection to all eternity, I could easily believe; but where the
gain?-nay, where the fitness, if he would train thinking beings to
his own freedom? For such he must be ever present, ever have
room to order things for their growth and change and discipline
and enlightenment. The present living idea informing the cosmos,
is nobler than all forsaken perfection-nobler, as a living man is
nobler than an automaton.

If one should say: “The laws of God ought to admit of no change,”
I answer: The same working of unalterable laws might under new
circumstances look a breach of those laws. That God will never
alter his laws, I fully admit and uphold, for they are the outcome of
his truth and fact; but that he might not act in ways unrecognizable
by us as consistent with those laws, I have yet to see reason ere I
believe. Why should his perfect will be limited by our
understanding of that will? Should he be paralyzed because we are
blind? That he should ever require us to believe of him what we
think wrong, I do not believe; that he should present to our vision
what may be inconsistent with our half-digested and constantly
changing theories, I can well believe. Why not-if only to keep us
from petrifying an imperfect notion, and calling it an Idea? What I
would believe is, that a present God manages the direction of those
laws, even as a man, in his inferior way, works out his own will in
the midst and by means of those laws. Shall God create that which
shall fetter and limit and enslave himself? What should his laws,
as known to us, be but the active mode in which he embodies
certain truths-that mode also the outcome of his own nature? If so,
they must be always capable of falling in with any, if not of
effecting every, expression of his will.

There remains but one miracle of this class to consider-one to
some minds involving greater difficulties than all the rest. They
say the story of the fish with a piece of money in its mouth is more
like one of the tales of eastern fiction than a sober narrative of the
quiet-toned gospel. I acknowledge a likeness: why might there not
be some likeness between what God does and what man invents?
But there is one noticeable difference: there is nothing of colour in
the style of the story. No great roc, no valley of diamonds, no
earthly grandeur whatever is hinted at in the poor bare tale. Peter
had to do with fishes every day of his life: an ordinary fish, taken
with the hook, was here the servant of the Lord-and why should
not the poor fish have its share in the service of the Master? Why
should it not show for itself and its kind that they were utterly his?
that along with the waters in which they dwelt, and the wind which
lifteth up the waves thereof, they were his creatures, and gladly
under his dominion? What the scaly minister brought was no ring,
no rich jewel, but a simple piece of money, just enough, I presume,
to meet the demand of those whom, although they had no legal
claim, our Lord would not offend by a refusal; for he never cared
to stand upon his rights, or treat that as a principle which might be
waived without loss of righteousness. I take for granted that there
was no other way at hand for those poor men to supply the sum
required of them.

Chapter X. MIRACLES OF DESTRUCTION.

IF we regard the miracles of our Lord as an epitome of the works
of his Father, there must be room for what we call destruction.

In the grand process of existence, destruction is one of the phases
of creation; for the inferior must ever be giving way for the growth
of the superior: the husk must crumble and decay, that the seed
may germinate and appear. As the whole creation passes on
towards the sonship, death must ever be doing its sacred work
about the lower regions, that life may ever arise triumphant, in its
ascent towards the will of the Father.

I cannot therefore see good reason why the almost solitary act of
destruction recorded in the story should seem unlike the Master.
True this kind is unlike the other class in this, that it has only an all
but solitary instance: he did not come for the manifestation of such
power. But why, when occasion appeared, should it not have its
place? Why might not the Lord, consistently with his help and his
healing, do that in one instance which his Father is doing every
day? I refer now, of course, to the withering of the fig-tree. In the
midst of the freshest greenery of summer, you may see the wan
branches of the lightning-struck tree. As a poet drawing his pen
through syllable or word that mars his clear utterance or musical
comment, such is the destruction of the Maker. It is the indrawn
sigh of the creating Breath.

Our Lord had already spoken the parable of the fig-tree that bore
no fruit. This miracle was but the acted parable. Here he puts into
visible form that which before he had embodied in words. All
shapes of argument must be employed to arouse the slumbering
will of men. Even the obedience that comes of the lowest fear is a
first step towards an infinitely higher condition than that of the
most perfect nature created incapable of sin.

The right interpretation of the external circumstances, however, is
of course necessary to the truth of the miracle. It seems to me to be
the following. I do not know to whom I am primarily indebted for
it.

The time of the gathering of figs was near, but had not yet arrived:
upon any fruitful tree one might hope to find a few ripe figs, and
more that were eatable. The Lord was hungry as he went to
Jerusalem from Bethany, and saw on the way a tree with all the
promise that a perfect foliage could give. He went up to it, “if
haply he might find anything thereon.” The leaves were all; fruit
there was none in any stage; the tree was a pretence; it fulfilled not
that for which it was sent. Here was an opportunity in their very
path of enforcing, by a visible sign proceeding from himself, one
of the most important truths he had striven to teach them. What he
had been saying was in him a living truth: he condemned the tree
to become in appearance that which it was in fact-a useless thing:
when they passed the following morning, it had withered away,
was dried up from the roots. He did not urge in words the lesson of
the miracle-parable; he left that to work when the fate of fruitless
Jerusalem should also have become fact. For the present the
marvel of it possessed them too much for the reading of its lesson;
therefore, perhaps, our Lord makes little of the marvel and much
of the power of faith; assuring them of answers to their prayers,
but adding, according to St Mark, that forgiveness of others is the
indispensable condition of their own acceptance-fit lesson surely
to hang on that withered tree.

After all, the thing destroyed was only a tree. In respect of
humanity there is but one distant, and how distant approach to
anything similar! In the pseudo-evangels there are several tales of
vengeance-not one in these books. The fact to which I refer is
recorded by St John alone. It is, that when the “band of men and
officers from the chief priests and Pharisees” came to take him,
and “Jesus went forth and said unto them, Whom seek ye?” and in
reply to theirs, had said “I am he, they went backward and fell to
the ground.”

There are one or two facts in connection with the record of this
incident, which although not belonging quite immediately to my
present design, I would yet note, with the questions they suggest.

The synoptical Gospels record the Judas-kiss: St John does not.

St John alone records the going backward and falling to the
ground-prefacing the fact with the words, “And Judas also, which
betrayed him, stood with them.”

Had not the prescence of Judas, then-perhaps his kiss-something to
do with the discomfiture of these men? If so-and it seems to me
probable-how comes it that St John alone omits the kiss-St John
alone records the recoil? I repeat-if the kiss had to do with the
recoil-as would seem from mystical considerations most probable,
from artistic most suitable-why are they divided? I think just
because those who saw, saw each a part, and record only what they
saw or had testimony concerning. Had St John seen the kiss, he
who was so capable of understanding the mystical fitness of the
connection of such a kiss with such a recoil, could hardly have
omitted it, especially seeing he makes such a point of the presence
of Judas. Had he been an inventor-here is just such a thing as he
would have invented; and just here his record is barer than that of
the rest-bare of the one incident which would have best helped out
his own idea of the story. The consideration is suggestive.

But why this exercise of at least repellent, which is
half-destructive force, reminding us of Milton’s words-

Yet half his strength he put not forth, but checked His thunder in
mid volley?

It may have had to do with the repentance of Judas which
followed. It may have had to do with the future history of the
Jewish men who composed that band. But I suspect the more
immediate object of our Lord was the safety of his disciples. As
soon as the men who had gone backward and fallen to the ground,
had risen and again advanced, he repeated the question-“Whom
seek ye?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” said the
Lord again, but added, now that they had felt his power-“If
therefore ye seek me, let these go their way.” St John’s reference in
respect of these words to a former saying of the Lord, strengthens
this conclusion. And there was no attempt even to lay hands on
them. He had astonished and terrified his captors to gain of them
his sole request-that his friends should go unhurt. There was work
for them to do in the world; and he knew besides that they were
not yet capable of enduring for his sake. At all events it was
neither for vengeance nor for self-preservation that this gentlest
form of destruction was manifested. I suspect it was but another
shape of the virtue that went forth to heal. A few men fell to the
ground that his disciples might have time to grow apostles, and
redeem the world with the news of him and his Father. For the
sake of humanity the fig-tree withered; for the resurrection of the
world, his captors fell: small hurt and mighty healing.

Daring to interpret the work of the Father from the work of the
Son, I would humbly believe that all destruction is for
creation-that, even for this, death alone is absolutely
destroyed-that, namely, which stands in the way of the outgoing of
the Father’s will, then only completing its creation when men are
made holy.

God does destroy; but not life. Its outer forms yield that it may
grow, and growing pass into higher embodiments, in which it can
grow yet more. That alone will be destroyed which has the law of
death in itself-namely, sin. Sin is death, and death must be
swallowed up of hell. Life, that is God, is the heart of things, and
destruction must be destroyed. For this victory endless forms of
life must yield;-even the form of the life of the Son of God himself
must yield upon the cross, that the life might arise a life-giving
spirit; that his own words might be fulfilled-“For if I depart not,
the Comforter will not come unto you.” All spirit must rise
victorious over form; and the form must die lest it harden to stone
around the growing life. No form is or can be great enough to
contain the truth which is its soul; for all truth is infinite being a
thought of God. It is only in virtue of the flowing away of the
form, that is death, and the ever gathering of new form behind, that
is birth or embodiment, that any true revelation is possible. On
what other terms shall the infinite embrace the finite but the terms
of an endless change, an enduring growth, a recognition of the
divine as for ever above and beyond, a forgetting of that which is
behind, a reaching unto that which is before? Therefore
destruction itself is holy. It is as if the Eternal said, “I will show
myself; but think not to hold me in any form in which I come. The
form is not I.” The still small voice is ever reminding us that the
Lord is neither in the earthquake nor the wind nor the fire; but in
the lowly heart that finds him everywhere. The material can cope
with the eternal only in virtue of everlasting evanescence.

Chapter XI. THE RESURRECTION.

THE works of the Lord he himself represents as given him of the
Father: it matters little whether we speak of his resurrection as a
miracle wrought by himself, or wrought in him by the Father. If he
was one with the Father, the question cannot be argued, seeing that
Jesus apart from the Father is not a conceivable idea. It is only
natural that he who had power to call from the grave the body
which had lain there for four days, should have power over the
body he had himself laid down, to take it again with reanimating
possession. For distinctly do I hold that he took again the same
body in which he had walked about on the earth, suffered, and
yielded unto death. In the same body-not merely the same form, in
which he had taught them, he appeared again to his disciples, to
give them the final consolations of a visible presence, before
departing for the sake of a yet higher presence in the spirit of truth,
a presence no longer limited by even the highest forms of the truth.

It is not surprising that the records of such a marvel, grounded
upon the testimony of men and women bewildered first with grief,
and next all but distracted with the sudden inburst of a gladness
too great for that equanimity which is indispensable to perfect
observation, should not altogether correspond in the minuti of
detail. All knew that the Lord had risen indeed: what matter
whether some of them saw one or two angels in the tomb? The
first who came saw one angel outside and another inside the
sepulchre. One at a different time saw two inside. What wonder
then that one of the records should say of them all, that they saw
two angels? I do not care to set myself to the reconciliation of the
differing reports. Their trifling disagreement is to me even
valuable from its truth to our human nature. All I care to do is to
suggest to any one anxious to understand the records the following
arrangement of facts. When Mary Magdalene found the tomb
empty, not seeing, or heedless of the angel, she forsook her
companions, and ran to the chief of the disciples to share the
agony of this final loss. Perhaps something might yet be done to
rescue the precious form, and lay it aside with all futile honours.
With Peter and John she returned to the grave, whence, in the
mean time, her former companions, having seen and conversed
with the angel outside and the angel inside, had departed to find
their friends. Peter and John, having, the one entered, the other
looked into the tomb, and seen only the folded garments of
desertion, returned home, but Mary lingered weeping by the place
which was not now even the grave of the beloved, so utterly had
not only he but the signs of him vanished. As she wept, she
stooped down into the sepulchre. There sat the angels in holy
contemplation, one at the head, the other at the feet where the
body of Jesus had lain. Peter nor John had beheld them: to the eyes
of Mary as of the other women they were manifest. It is a lovely
story that follows, full of marvel, as how should it not be?

“Woman, why weepest thou?” said the angels.

“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where
they have laid him,” answered Mary, and turning away,
tear-blinded, saw the gardener, as she thought.

“Woman, why weepest thou?” repeats the gardener. “Whom
seekest thou?”

Hopelessness had dulled every sense: not even a start at the sound
of his voice!

“Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid
him, and I will take him away.”

“Mary!”

“Master!”

“Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to
my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your
Father; and to my God and your God.”

She had the first sight of him. It would almost seem that, arrested
by her misery, he had delayed his ascent, and shown himself
sooner than his first intent. “Touch me not, for I am not yet
ascended.” She was about to grasp him with the eager hands of
reverent love: why did he refuse the touch?

Doubtless the tone of the words deprived them of any sting.
Doubtless the self-respect of the woman was in no way wounded
by the master’s recoil. For the rest, we know so little of the new
conditions of his bodily nature, that nothing is ours beyond
conjecture. It may be, for anything I know, that there were even
physical reasons why she should not yet touch him; but my
impression is that, after the hard work accomplished, and the form
in which he had wrought and suffered resumed, he must have the
Father’s embrace first, as after a long absence any man would seek
first the arms of his dearest friend. It may well be objected to this
notion, that he had never been absent from God-that in his heart he
was at home with him continually. And yet the body with all its
limitations, with all its partition-walls of separation, is God’s, and
there must be some way in which even it can come into a willed
relation with him to whom it is nearer even than to ourselves, for it
is the offspring of his will, or as the prophets of old would say-the
work of his hands. That which God has invented and made, which
has its very origin in the depth of his thought, can surely come
nigh to God. Therefore I think that in some way which we cannot
understand, Jesus would now seek the presence of the Father;
would, having done the work which he had given him to do, desire
first of all to return in the body to him who had sent him by giving
him a body. Hence although he might delay his return at the sound
of the woman’s grief, he would rather she did not touch him first. If
any one thinks this founded on too human a notion of the Saviour,
I would only reply that I suspect a great part of our irreligion
springs from our disbelief in the humanity of God. There lie
endless undiscovered treasures of grace. After he had once
ascended to the Father, he not only appeared to his disciples again
and again, but their hands handled the word of life, and he ate in
their presence. He had been to his Father, and had returned that
they might know him lifted above the grave and all that region in
which death has power; that as the elder brother, free of the
oppressions of humanity, but fulfilled of its tenderness, he might
show himself captain of their salvation. Upon the body he
inhabited, death could no longer lay his hands, and from the
vantage-ground he thus held, he could stretch down the arm of
salvation to each and all.

For in regard of this glorified body of Jesus, we must note that it
appeared and disappeared at the will of its owner; and it would
seem also that other matter yielded and gave it way; yes, even that
space itself was in some degree subjected to it. Upon the first of
these, the record is clear. If any man say he cannot believe it, my
only answer is that I can. If he ask how it could be, the nearest I
can approach to an answer is to indicate the region in which it may
be possible: the border-land where thought and matter meet is the
region where all marvels and miracles are generated. The wisdom
of this world can believe that matter generates mind: what seems
to me the wisdom from above can believe that mind generates
matter-that matter is but the manifest mind. On this supposition
matter may well be subject to mind; much more, if Jesus be the
Son of God, his own body must be subject to his will. I doubt,
indeed, if the condition of any man is perfect before the body he
inhabits is altogether obedient to his will-before, through his own
absolute obedience to the Father, the realm of his own rule is put
under him perfectly.

It may be objected that although this might be credible of the
glorified body of even the human resurrection, it is hard to believe
that the body which suffered and died on the cross could become
thus plastic to the will of the indwelling spirit. But I do not see
why that which was born of the spirit of the Father, should not be
so inter-penetrated and possessed by the spirit of the Son, that,
without the loss of one of its former faculties, it should be
endowed with many added gifts of obedience; amongst the rest
such as are indicated in the narrative before us.

Why was this miracle needful?

Perhaps, for one thing, that men should not limit him, or
themselves in him, to the known forms of humanity; and for
another, that the best hope might be given them of a life beyond
the grave; that their instinctive desires in that direction might thus
be infinitely developed and assured. I suspect, however, that it
followed just as the natural consequence of all that preceded.

If Christ be risen, then is the grave of humanity itself empty. We
have risen with him, and death has henceforth no dominion over
us. Of every dead man and woman it may be said: He-she-is not
here, but is risen and gone before us. Ever since the Lord lay down
in the tomb, and behold it was but a couch whence he arose
refreshed, we may say of every brother: He is not dead but
sleepeth. He too is alive and shall arise from his sleep.

The way to the tomb may be hard, as it was for him; but we who
look on, see the hardness and not the help; we see the suffering but
not the sustaining: that is known only to the dying and God. They
can tell us little of this, and nothing of the glad safety beyond.

With any theory of the conditions of our resurrection, I have
scarcely here to do. It is to me a matter of positively no interest
whether or not, in any sense, the matter of our bodies shall be
raised from the earth. It is enough that we shall possess forms
capable of revealing ourselves and of bringing us into contact with
God’s other works; forms in which the idea, so blurred and broken
in these, shall be carried out-remaining so like, that friends shall
doubt not a moment of the identity, becoming so unlike, that the
tears of recognition shall be all for the joy of the gain and the
gratitude of the loss. Not to believe in mutual recognition beyond,
seems to me a far more reprehensible unbelief than that in the
resurrection itself. I can well understand how a man should not
believe in any life after death. I will confess that although
probabilities are for it, appearances are against it. But that a man,
still more a woman, should believe in the resurrection of the very
same body of Jesus, who took pains that his friends should
recognize him therein; that they should regard his resurrection as
their one ground for the hope of their own uprising, and yet not
believe that friend shall embrace friend in the mansions prepared
for them, is to me astounding. Such a shadowy resumption of life I
should count unworthy of the name of resurrection. Then indeed
would the grave be victorious, not alone over the body, not alone
over all which made the life of this world precious and by which
we arose towards the divine-but so far victorious over the soul that
henceforth it should be blind and deaf to what in virtue of loveliest
memories would have added a new song to the praises of the
Father, a new glow to the love that had wanted but that to make it
perfect. In truth I am ashamed of even combating such an essential
falsehood. Were it not that here and there a weak soul is paralysed
by the presence of the monstrous lie, and we dare not allow
sympathy to be swallowed up of even righteous disdain, a
contemptuous denial would be enough.

What seemed to the disciples the final acme of disappointment and
grief, the vanishing of his body itself, was in reality the first sign of
the dawn of an illimitable joy. He was not there because he had
risen.

XII.

THE TRANSFIGURATION.

I HAVE judged it fitting to close this series of meditations with
some thoughts on the Transfiguration, believing the story to be as
it were a window through which we gain a momentary glimpse of
the region whence all miracles appear-a glimpse vague and dark
for all the transfiguring light, for God himself is “by abundant
clarity invisible.” In the story we find a marvellous change, a
lovely miracle, pass upon the form itself whence the miracles
flowed, as if the pent-up grace wrought mightily upon the earthen
vessel which contained it.

Our Lord would seem to have repeatedly sought some hill at
eventide for the solitude such a place alone could afford him. It
must often have been impossible for him to find any other
chamber in which to hold communion with his Father undisturbed.
This, I think, was one of such occasions. He took with him the
favoured three, whom also he took apart from the rest in the
garden of Gethsemane, to retire even from them a little, that he
might be alone with the Father, yet know that his brothers were
near him-the ocean of human need thus drawn upwards in an apex
of perfect prayer towards the throne of the Father.

I think this, his one only material show, if we except the entry into
Jerusalem upon the ass, took place in the night. Then the son of
Joseph the carpenter was crowned, not his head only with a crown
placed thereon from without, but his whole person with a crown of
light born in him and passing out from him. According to St Luke
he went up the mountain to pray, “but Peter and they that were
with him were heavy with sleep.” St Luke also says that “on the
next day, when they were come down from the mountain,” that
miracle was performed which St Matthew and St Mark represent
as done immediately on the descent. From this it appears more
than likely that the night was spent upon the mountain.

St Luke says that “the fashion of his countenance was altered, and
his raiment was white and glistering.” St Matthew says, “His face
did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” St
Mark says, “His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow,
so as no fuller on earth can white them.” St Luke is alone in telling
us that it was while he prayed that this change passed upon him.
He became outwardly glorious from inward communion with his
Father. But we shall not attain to the might of the meaning, if we
do not see what was the more immediate subject of his prayer. It
is, I think, indicated in the fact, also recorded by St Luke, that the
talk of his heavenly visitors was “of his decease which he should
accomplish at Jerusalem.” Associate with this the fact that his talk
with his disciples, as they came down the mountain, pointed in the
same direction, and that all open report of the vision was to be
withheld until he should have risen from the dead, and it will
appear most likely that the master, oppressed with the thought of
that which now drew very nigh, sought the comfort and sympathy
of his Father, praying in the prospect of his decease. Let us observe
then how, in heaving off the weight of this awful shadow by
prayer, he did not grow calm and resigned alone, if he were ever
other than such, but his faith broke forth so triumphant over the
fear, that it shone from him in physical light. Every cloud of
sorrow or dread, touched with such a power of illumination, is
itself changed into a glory. The radiance goes hand in hand with
the coming decay and the three days’ victory of death. It is as a
foretaste of his resurrection, a putting on of his new glorified body
for a moment while he was yet in the old body and the awful
shadow yet between. It may be to something like this as taking
place in other men that the apostle refers when he says: “We shall
not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” That coming death was
to be but as the overshadowing cloud, from which the glory should
break anew and for ever. The transfiguration then was the divine
defiance of the coming darkness.

Let us now speculate for a moment upon the relation of the
spiritual and physical manifested in it. He became, I repeat,
outwardly glorious from inward communion with his Father. In
like circumstance, the face of Moses shone marvellously. And
what wonder? What should make a man’s face shine, if not the
presence of the Holy? if not communion with the Father of his
spirit? In the transfiguration of Jesus we have, I think, just the
perfect outcome of those natural results of which we have the first
signs in Moses-the full daylight, of which his shining face was as
the dawn. Thus, like the other miracles, I regard it as simply a rare
manifestation of the perfect working of nature. Who knows not
that in moments of lofty emotion, in which self is for the time
forgotten, the eyes shine, and the face is so transfigured that we are
doubtful whether it be not in a degree absolutely luminous! I say
once more, in the Lord we find the perfecting of all the dull hunts
of precious things which common humanity affords us. If so, what
a glory must await every lowliest believer, since the communion of
our elder brother with his Father and our Father, a communion for
whose perfecting in us he came, caused not only his face to shine,
but the dull garments he wore to become white as snow through
the potency of the permeating light issuing from his whole person!
The outer man shone with the delight of the inner man-for his
Father was with him-so that even his garments shared in the glory.
Such is what the presence of the Father will do for every man. May
I not add that the shining of the garments is a type of the
glorification of everything human when brought into its true
relations by and with the present God?

Keeping the same point of view, I turn now to the resurrection
with which the whole fact is so closely associated:-I think the
virtue of divine presence which thus broke in light from the body
of Jesus, is the same by which his risen body, half molten in
power, was rendered plastic to the will of the indwelling spirit.
What if this light were the healing agent of the bodies of men, as
the deeper other light from which it sprung is the healing agent of
themselves? Are not the most powerful of the rays of light
invisible to our vision?

Some will object that this is a too material view of life and its
facts. I answer that the question is whether I use the material to
interpret the spiritual, as I think I do, or to account for it, as I know
I do not. In my theory, the spiritual both explains and accounts for
the material.

If the notions we have of what we may call material light render it
the only fitting image to express the invisible Truth, the being of
God, there must be some closest tie between them-not of
connection only, but of unity. Such a fitness could not exist
without such connection; except, indeed, there were one god of the
Natural and another of the Supernatural, who yet were brothers,
and thought in similar modes, and the one had to supplement the
work of the other. The essential truth of God it must be that creates
its own visual image in the sun that enlightens the world: when
man who is the image of God is filled with the presence of the
eternal, he too, in virtue of his divine nature thus for the moment
ripened to glory, radiates light from his very person. Where, when,
or how the inner spiritual light passes into or generates outward
physical light, who can tell? This border-land, this touching of
what we call mind and matter, is the region of miracles-of material
creation, I might have said, which is the great-I suspect, the only
miracle. But if matter be the outcome of spirit, and body and soul
be one man, then, if the soul be radiant of truth, what can the body
do but shine?

I conjecture then, that truth, which is light in the soul, might not
only cast out disease, which is darkness in the body, but change
that body even, without the intervention of death, into the likeness
of the body of Jesus, capable of all that could be demanded of it.
Except by violence I do not think the body of Jesus could have
died. No physiologist can tell why man should die. I think a perfect
soul would be capable of keeping its body alive. An imperfect one
cannot fill it with light in every part-cannot thoroughly inform the
brute matter with life. The transfiguration of Jesus was but the
visible outbreak of a life so strong as to be life-giving,
life-restoring. The flesh it could melt away and evermore renew.
Such a body might well walk upon the stormiest waters. A body
thus responsive to and interpenetrative of light, which is the visible
life, could have no sentence of death in it. It would never have
died.

But I find myself in regions where I dare tread no further for the
darkness of ignorance. I see many glimmers: they are too formless
and uncertain.

When or how the light died away, we are not told. My own fancy
is that it went on shining but paling all the night upon the lonely
mount, to vanish in the dawn of the new day. When he came down
from the mountain the virtue that dwelt in him went forth no more
in light to the eyes, but in healing to the poor torn frame of the
epileptic boy. So he vanished at last from the eyes of his friends,
only to draw nearer-with a more intense and healing presence-to
their hearts and minds.

Even so come, Lord Jesus.

THE END

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