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be given to dogs; and if the crumbs fall to their share, it is because their smallness admits not of a collection.
If those, who, out of obedience or due thrift, have thought to gather up crumbs, have found them pearls, I wonder not: surely both are alike the good creatures of the same Maker; and both of them may prove equally costly to us in their wilful mis-spending.
But oh, what shall we say, that not crusts and crumbs, not loaves and dishes and cups, but whole patrimonies, are idly lavished away; not merely lost, (this were more easy,) but ill spent, in a wicked riot upon dice, drabs, drunkards ? Oh the fearful account of these unthrifty bailiffs, which shall once be given in to our great Lord and Master, when he shall call us to a strict reckoning of all our talents! He was condemned, that increased not the sum concredited to bim: what shall become of him, that lawlessly impairs it?
Who gathered up these fragments, but the twelve apostles, every one his basket full ? They were the servitors, that set on this banquet, at the command of Christ; they waited on the tables ; they took away.
It was our Saviour's just care, that those offals should not perish: but he well knew, that a greater loss depended upon those scraps ; a loss of glory to the Omnipotent Worker of that miracle. The feeding of the multitude was but the one half of the work; the other half was in the remnant. Of all other, it most concerns the successors of the apostles, to take care, that the marvellous works of their God and Saviour may be improved to the best. They may not suffer a crust or crumb to be lost, that may yield any glory to that Almighty Agent.
Here was not any morsel or bone, that was not worthy to be a relique ; every the least parcel whereof was no other than miraculous.
All the ancient monuments of God's supernatural power and mercy were in the keeping of Aaron and his sons. There is no servant in the family, but should be thriftily careful for his master's profit; but most of all the steward, who is particularly charged with this oversight. Woe be to us, if we care only, to gather up our own scraps, with neglect of the precious morsels of our Maker and Redeemer.
THE WALK UPON THE WATERS. All elements are alike to their Maker. He, that had well approved his power on the land, will now shew it in the air and the waters. He, that had preserved the multitude from the peril of hunger in the desert, will now preserve his disciples from the peril of the tempest in the sea.
Where do we ever else find any compulsion offered by Christ to his disciples? He was like the good Centurion ; he said to one, Go, and he goeth. When he did but call them from their nets, they came ; and when he sent them by pairs into the cities and country of Judea to preach the Gospel, they went. There was never errand, whereon they went unwillingly : only now, he constrained them to depart. We may easily conceive, how loth they were to leave him; whether out of love, or of common civility. Peter's tongue did but (when it was) speak the heart of the rest Master, thou knowest, that I love thee. Who could chuse, but be in love with such a Master and who can willingly part from what he loves ? But had the respects been only common and ordinary, how unfit might it seem, to leave a Master now towards night, in a wild place, amongst strangers, unprovided of the means of his passage! Where otherwise therefore he needed but to bid, now he constrains.
O Saviour, it was ever thy manuer, to call all men unto thee; Come to me, all that labour and are heavy laden. When didst thou ever drive any one from thee? Neither bad it been so now, but to draw them closer unto thee, whom thou seemest for the time to abdicate.
In the mean while, I know not, whether more to excuse their unwillingness, or to applaud their obedience. As it shall be fully above, so it was proportionally here below; In thy presence, o Saviour, is the fulness of joy. Once, when thou askedst these thy domestics, whether they also would depart, it was answered thee by one tongue for all, Master, whither should we go from thee? thou hast the words of eternal life. What a death was it then to them, to be compelled to leave thee! Sometimes it pleaseth the Divine goodness, to lay upon his servants such commands, as savour of harshness and discomfort; which yet, both in his intention and in the event, are no other than gracious and sovereign. The more difficulty was in the charge, the more praise was in the obedience. I do not hear them stand upon the terms of capitulation with their Master, nor pleading importunately for their stay; but instantly upon the command they yield and go. We are never perfect disciples, till we can depart from our reason, from our will; yea, O Saviour, when thou biddest us, from thyself.
Neither will the multitude be gone, without a dismission. They bad followed him, while they were hungry ; they will not leave him, now they are fed. Fain would they put that honour upon him, which to avoid he is fain to avoid them. Gladly would they pay a kingdom to him, as their shot for their late banquet : he shuns both it and them. O Saviour, when the hour of thy passion was now come, thou couldst offer thyself readily to thine apprehenders; and now, when the glory of the world presses upon thee, thou runnest away from a crown. Was it to teach us, that there is Jess danger in suffering, than in outward prosperity? What do we dote upon that worldly honour, which thou heldedst worthy of avoidance and contempt?
Besides this reservedness, it was devotion, that drew Jesus aside. He went alone up to the mountain, to pray. Lo, thou, to whom the greatest throng was a solitude in respect of the fruition of thy Father, thou, who wert uncapable of distraction from him with
whom thou wert one, wouldst yet so much act man, as to retire for the opportunity of prayer; to teach us, who are nothing but wild thoughts and giddy distractedness, to go aside, when we would speak with God. How happy is it for us, that thou prayedst ? O Saviour, thou prayedst for us, who have not grace enough to pray for ourselves; not worth enough to be accepted, when we do pray. Thy prayers, which were most perfect and impetrative, are they, by which our weak and unworthy prayers receive both life and favour. And now, how assiduous should we be in our supplications, who are empty of grace, full of wants ; when thou, who wert a God of all power, prayedst for that, which thou couldst command! Therefore do we pray, because thou prayedst; therefore do we expect to be graciously answered in our prayers, because thou didst pray for us here on earth, and now intercedest for us in Heaven.
The evening was come. The disciples looked long for their Master, and loth they were to have stirred without him; but his command is more, than the strongest wind to fill their sails, and they are now gone.
Their expectation made not the evening seem so long, as our Saviour's devotion made it seem short to him.
He is on the mount; they, on the sea : yet, while he was in the mount praying and lifting up his eyes to his Father, he fails not to cast them about upon his disciples tossed on the waves. Those all seeing eyes admit of no limits. At once, he sees the highest heavens, and the midst of the sea ; the glory of his Father, and the misery of his disciples. Whatever prospects present themselves to his view, the distress of bis followers is ever most noted. How much more dost thou now, O Saviour, from the height of thy glorious advancement, behold us, thy wretched servants, tossed on the unquiet sea of this world, and beaten with the troublesome and threatening billows of affliction !
Thou foresawest their toil and danger, ere thou dismissedst them; and purposely sendedst them away, that they might be tossed. Thou, that couldest prevent our sufferings by thy power, wilt permit them in thy wisdom ; that thou mayest glorify thy mercy in our deliverance, and confirm our faith by the issue of our distresses.
How do all things now seem to conspire, to the vexing of thy poor disciples ! The night was sullen and dark; their Master was absent; the sea was boisterous; the winds were high and contrary. Had their Master been with them, howsoever the elements had raged, they had been secure : had their Master been away, yet if the sea had been quiet or the winds fair, the passage might have been endured : now both season, and sea, and wind, and their Master's desertion, had agreed to render them perfectly miserable. Sometimes the Providence of God hath thought good so to order it, that to his best servants there appeareth no glimpse of comfort; but so absolute vexation, as if heaven and earth had plotted their full affliction. Yea, O Saviour, what a dead night, what a fearful tempest, what an astonishing dereliction was that, wherein thou thyself criedst out in the bitterness of thine anguished soul, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Yet in all these extremities of misery, our gracious God intends nothing but his greater glory and ours; the triumph of our faith, the crown of our victory.
All that longsome and tempestuous night must the disciples wear out in danger and horror, as given over to the winds and waves; but in the fourth watch of the night, when they were wearied out with toils and fears, comes deliverance. At their entrance into the ship, at the arising of the tempest, at the shutting in of the evening, there was no news of Christ; but when they have been all the night long beaten, not so much with storms and waves as with their own thoughts, now in the fourth watch, (which was near to the morning,) Jesus came unto them, and purposely not till then ; that he might exercise their patience; that he might inure them to wait upon Divine Providence, in cases of extremity; that their devotions might be more whetted by delay ; that they might give gladder welcome to their deliverance. O God, thus thou thinkest fit to do still. We are by turns in our sea, the winds bluster, the billows swell, the night and thy absence heighten our discomfort, thy time and ours is set; as yet it is but midnight with us; can we but hold out patiently till the fourth watch, thou wilt surely come and rescue us. Oh let us not faint under our sorrows; but wear out our three watches of tribulation, with undaunted patience and holy resolution.
O Saviour, our extremities are the seasons of thine aid. Thou camest at last ; but yet so, as that there was more dread than joy in thy presence. Thy coming was both miraculous and frightful.
Thou, God of Elements, passedst through the air, walkedst upon the waters. Whether thou meantest to terminate this miracle in thy body, or in the waves which thou troddest upon; whether so lightening the one, that it should make no impression in the liquid waters, or whether so consolidating the other, that the pavemented waves yielded a firm causeway to thy sacred feet to walk on, I neither determine nor inquire : thy silence ruleth mine; thy power was in either miraculous ; neither know I in whether to adore it more.
But withal, give me leave to wonder more at thy passage, than at thy coming. Wherefore camest thou, but to comfort them? and wherefore then wouldest thou pass by them, as if thou hadst intended nothing but their dismay Thine absence could not be so grievous, as thy preterition : that might seem justly occasioned; this could not but seem willingly neglective. Our last conflicts have wont ever to be the sorest : as when, after some dripping rain, it pours down most vehemently, we think the weather is changing to serenity.
O Saviour, we inay not always measure thy meaning by thy semblance: sometimes, what thou most intendest, thou shewest Jeast. In our afflictions thou turnest thy back upon us; and hidest
thy face from us, when thou most mindest our distresses. So Jonathan shot the arrows beyond David, when he meant them to him. So Joseph calls for Benjamin into bonds, when his heart was bound to him in the strongest affection. So the tender mother makes as if she would give away her crying child, whom she hugs so much closer in her bosom. If thou pass by us while we are struggling with the tempest, we know it is not for want of mercy. Thou canst not neglect us; Oh let not us distrust thee.
What object should have been so pleasing to the eyes of the disciples, as their Master; and so much the more, as he shewed his Divine power in this miraculous walk? But lo, contrarily, they are troubled ; not with his presence, but with this form of presence. The supernatural works of God, when we look upon them with our own eyes, are subject to a dangerous misprision. The very sun beams, to which we are beholden for our sight, if we eye them directly, blind us. Miserable men! we are ready to suspect truths ; to run away from our safety ; to be afraid of our comforts; to misknow our best friends.
And why are they thus troubled? They had thought they had seen a spirit. That there have been such apparitions of spirits, both good and evil, hath ever been a truth undoubtedly received of Pagans, Jews, Christians; although, in the blind times of superstition, there was much collusion mixed with some verities : crafty men and lying spirits agreed to abuse the credulous world. But even where there was not truth, yet there was horror. The very good angels were not seen without much fear; their sight was construed to bode death : how much more the evil, which in their very nature are harmful and pernicious! We see not a snake or a toad, without some recoiling of blood and sensible reluctation, although those creatures run away from us; how much more must our hairs stand upright and our senses boggle at the sight of a spirit, whose both nature and will is contrary to ours, and professedly bent to our hurt!
But say it had been what they mistook it for, a spirit; why should they fear? Had they well considered, they had soon found that evil spirits are nevertheless present, when they are not seen; and nevertheless harmful or malicious, when they are present unseen. Visibility adds nothing to their spite or mischief.' And could their eyes have been opened, they had, with Elisha's servant, seen more with them than against them ; a sure, though invisible guard of more powerful spirits, and themselves under the protection of the God of Spirits : so as they might have bidden a bold defiance to all the powers of darkness. But partly, their faith was yet but in the bud; and partly, the presentation of this dreadful object was sudden, and without the respite of a recollection and settlement of their thoughts.
Oh the weakness of our frail nature, who, in the want of faith, are affrighted with the visible appearance of those adversaries, whom we profess daily to resist and vanquish, and with whom we VOL. II.