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'O thou who art the hearer of prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.' In the still night, when all is silent around us, let the spirit of prayer descend into our hearts, and as Jesus prayed, so let us pray, pouring out our wants and our affections to God our Father. When we have some great thing to do, and lack wisdom, let us come to thee in faith, and thou wilt give us all we need.
We bless thee that thou dost in mercy hide from us what is still to come. O give us such holy and loving trust in thee, that step by step we may be led on through all the changes of life, neither seeking nor desiring any thing but that thy will may be done by us, and in us, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
LUKE VI. 17, 20.
When the Lord Jesus had chosen and regularly appointed his twelve apostles :
LUKE vi. 17, 20. "He came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea-coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples," (and taught them.)
In this place our Lord Jesus repeated to them the greater part of what He had before said in that long discourse we have already heard, which is called the Sermon on the Mount; * or it was at this time it was first spoken. As I have told you before, it is not easy exactly to know how day by day the events * See No. XXXVIII. Vol. I. page 163.
of our Lord's life followed each other.* Blessed be God we have all that is needful for us to know, each word, each deed plainly written, and it matters little whether the one was before or after the other. If the Sermon on the Mount was given at this time, we must suppose that the plain on which our Lord stood was among the mountains, high above the lake and the vallies below; for St. Matthew expressly says, " And seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up into a mountain." (Matt. v. 1.) And that when there, He taught the people in the words of that long and beautiful discourse. But this does not create the least difficulty, for these mountains are full of uneven heights, and Jesus may have chosen and appointed his twelve apostles apart, on a height far above the plain to which He came down with them. And that plain itself may have been what is called a table-land among the mountains, looking down upon the shores of the sea of Galilee, and upon its many towns and villages, upon its "cities set upon hills that could not be hid."
At all events, whether our Lord in this place gave the Sermon on the Mount, or whether He only repeated parts of it, the more deeply to impress its truths upon the minds of those who heard him, it is clear that here " He taught the people." LUKE Vii. 1-9. "Now when He had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, He entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That
* See No. II. Vol. II.
A centurion-a Roman military officer in command of a hundred men, as the title implies.
Centurions are mentioned, Acts x. 1-22; xxvii. 54. Luke vii. 2-6. Acts xxi. 32; xxii. 25, 26; xxiii. 17—23; xxiv. 23; xxvii. 1, 6, 11, 31, 43; xxviii. 16.
LUKE VII. 1—10.
MATTHEW VIII. 11-13.
he was worthy for whom He should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, 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. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."
MATTHEW viii. 11-13. "And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the self-same hour." LUKE Vii. 10. "And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick."
St. Matthew tells all this as if the centurion had come himself to Jesus, and in fewer words than St. Luke, who gives a more particular account of all that passed. In common life we often speak of things done for a person, and by their orders, as if they had been done by themselves. When we say, such a man built that large house, we mean that he caused it to be built, not that he built it with his own hands; and in graver history this sort of language is continually used. We often read that kings built cities, made roads and canals, fought
battles and so on, and we know very well that these things were done by their orders and in their names; therefore, when St. Matthew in few words tells the story of the believing centurion, it is very easy to see how he tells of his message, as though he had himself spoken it, which indeed he did through his messengers. Perhaps he came out in the end from his house to meet Jesus, after he had, through the elders of Israel, and at last through his friends, sent the petition he did not like to offer himself to Jesus, because he felt unworthy to do so. His faith and his humility are beautiful indeed, and even moved the Son of God to admiration. And we do in truth please him best when we feel most deeply, that we are not worthy so much as to offer up a prayer to God, and yet believe that through the intercession of His Son, He will in His own love and kindness give us more than we can ask or think. This centurion was a Roman officer and a heathen. Perhaps, when the commands of his general had obliged him to remain among the Jews, he had wished that any other duty had been given him; for the Romans despised the Jews, who hated them in their turn, and were continually seeking to throw off their yoke; but he soon found among this despised people a true religion that could satisfy the deepest needs of the soul. The utter emptiness of all other trust, but in the true God, must have been felt by every thoughtful mind, and we shall find in the history of the New Testament many officers of the Roman army more earnest in prayer, more humble and teachable in spirit, than the Jews, from whose knowledge their hope had come. (Acts x. 1-4.) It is not those who know most, but those who most deeply feel their need of pardon, who draw nearest to God. This centurion of whom we are reading, had learnt that the conquered Jews were God's people, and no doubt they had taken care to impress upon him that he, as a Gentile, though he might be received as a convert to the true faith, yet was not, and could not, become one of the children of the favoured family of Abraham. This was a feeling
dear to the Jews; it fed their pride as a nation, and like every sort of pride, kept them back from the kingdom of Christ. (Acts xiii. 41-49; xxii. 21-23.) One of their reasons for hating the religion of Jesus was, that it threw down "the middle wall of partition" which divided Jew from Gentile,* and welcomed every nation under the sun into the bosom of God's family. (Acts xi. 18.)
But the elders, or chief men, (not priests) in the Jewish Church, were quite willing to intercede for this Roman centurion with the Lord Jesus, that He should come and heal his servant. They gave as their reason, that he loved their nation, and had shown his love by building them a synagogue. This kind deed of his also showed the REASON of his love. A worldly man would have proved it by seeking favour for them with the Emperor, but this centurion was a religious man, and he proved his love and gratitude to them and to the great God they had taught him to know, by building a place where He would be worshipped, and they would be taught His will. It is clear that these elders of the Church in Capernaum at least believed that Jesus was able to perform the miracle they asked for. In truth nothing is more wonderful and more fearful than the way in which the greater number of the chief men among the Jews rejected Christ as their Messiah, even while the evidence of their senses convinced them of his truth.
It is as if their words, "We will not have this man to reign over us," spake the fearful determination,-" If this is all the Messiah we are offered, we will not have him! "+ Oh, what madness is like the pride of man's heart!
* That is, it did away with the difference between Jews and Gentiles. The fearful words which the German Klopstock in his Messiah, has put into the mouth of Caiaphas, seem but too truly to speak the feelings and the determination of the priests, and of most of the chief men of Jerusalem. And is it not the same now with worldly hearts! The Jews had expected a Messiah who was to deliver them from the power of the Romans, and to raise up their nation to the height of earthly greatness. They were enraged at the thoughts