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THE HEALING OF THE CENTURION'S SERVANT.
THERE has been already occasion to speak of the utter impossibility of this healing being one and the same with that of the nobleman's son recorded by St. John. (iv. 43.) But while we may not thus seek to harmonize two narratives which relate to circumstances entirely different, yet there is still matter here remaining on which the harmonist may exercise his skill: there are two independent accounts of this miracle, one given by St. Matthew, the other by St. Luke, and, according to the first Evangelist, the centurion comes in his own person to ask the boon which he desires; according to the third he sends others as intercessors between himself and the Lord, with other differences which flow out of this. There can be no doubt that we are to accept the latter as the more strictly literal account of the circumstance, as it actually came to pass; —St. Matthew, who is briefer, telling it as though the centurion had done in his own person what, in fact, he did by the intervention of others— an exchange of persons of which all historical narrations and all the language of our common life is full.” (Compare Mark x. 35, with Matt. xx. 20, for another example of the same.)
* Faustus the Manichaean uses the apparent divergences of the two narrations, namely, that in one the Centurion pleaded in his own person, in the other by intervention of Jewish elders, and the greater fulness of the one than of the other, it being said in one that “many shall come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God,” while this is omitted in the other, to cast a slight and suspicion upon both. It is of course this last declaration which makes him bent any how on getting rid of this history. The calumniator of the Old Covenant, he cannot endure to hear of the chiefs of that covenant sitting down at the first places in the heavenly banquet. Augustine's reply contains much which is admiThis centurion, probably one of the Roman garrison of Capernaum, was by birth a heathen; but, like him in the Acts, (x.1) who bore the same office, was one of the many who were at this time deeply feeling the emptiness of all polytheistic religions, and who had attached themselves by laxer or closer bonds to the congregation of Israel and the worship of Jehovah, finding in Judaism a satisfaction of some of the deepest needs of their souls, and a promise of the satisfaction of all. He was one among the many who are distinguished from the seed of Abraham, yet described as fearing God, or worshipping God, of whom we read so often in the Acts, the proselytes, whom the providence of God had so wonderfully prepared in all the great cities of the Greek and Roman world as a link of communication between Gentile and Jew, in contact with both, holding to the first by their race, and to the last by their religion; and who must have greatly helped to the ultimate fusion of both into one Christian Church..
But with the higher matters which he had learned from his intercourse with the people of the covenant, he had learned no doubt this, that all heathens, all “sinners of the Gentiles,” were “without;” that there was a middle wall of partition between them and the children of the stock of Abraham; that they were to worship only as in the outer court, not presuming to draw near to the holy place. And thus he did not himself approach, but sent others to, Jesus, in whom he recognized a being of a higher world, entreating him, by them, “that he would come and heal his servant,” a servant who, as St. Luke adds, “was dear unto him,” but now “was sick and ready to die.” The elders of the Jews, whom he employed on this errand, were his willing messengers, and appear zealously to have executed their commission, pleading for him as one whose affection for, and active well-doing towards, the chosen people
rable on the unfair way in which the opposers of the truth find or make discrepan. cies where indeed there are none,—as though one narrator telling some detail in an event, contradicts another, who passes over that detail-one saying that a person did this, contradicts another who states more particularly that he did it by the agency and intervention of another. All that we demand, he says, is, that men should be as just to Scripture as to any other historic record; should suffer it to speak to men as they are wont to speak one to another (Con. Faust., 1.33, c. 7, 8): Quid ergo, cam legimus, obliviscimur quemadmodum loqui soleamus An Scriptura Dei aliter nobiscum fuerat quâm nostro more locutura. Cf. De Cons. Evang, l.2, c. 20. * Calvin : Lucas hoc modo dubitationem praevenit, quae subire poterat lectorum animos: scimus enim, non habitos fuisse servoseo in pretio, ut de ipsorum vità tam anxii essent domini, nisi qui singulari industriá vel fide vel alia virtute sibi gratiam acquisierant. Significat ergo Lucas non vulgare fuisse sordidumque mancipium, sed fidelem et raris dotibus ornatum servum qui eximiä gratia apud dominum polleret hinc tanta illius vitae cura et tum studiosa commendatio.
deserved this return of favor: “for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.” But presently even this request which he had made seemed to him too great a boldness. In his true and ever-deepening humility he counted it a presumption to have asked, though by the intervention of others, the presence under his roof of so exalted a personage. It was not merely that he was a heathen, and so might claim no near approach to the King of Israel; but there was, no doubt, besides this, and ming. ling with this, a deep and inward feeling of his own personal unworthiness and unfitness for a close communion with a holy being, which caused him again to send, beseeching the Lord to approach no nearer, but only to speak the word, and he knew that straightway his servant would be healed. And thus, in Augustine's words, “while he counted himself unworthy that Christ should enter into his doors, he was counted worthy that Christ should enter into his heart,”—a far better boon: for Christ sat down in the houses of men, as of that proud, self-righteous Pharisee, whose hearts were not for this the less empty of his presence. But this centurion received him in his heart, whom he did not receive in his house.} And, indeed, every little trait of his character, as it comes out in the sacred narrative, combines to show him as one in whom the seed of God's word would find the ready and prepared soil of a good and honest heart. For not to speak of those prime conditions, faith and humility, which in so eminent a degree shone forth in him, the evident affection which he had won from those Jewish elders, the zeal which had stirred him to build a house for the worship of the true God, his earnest care and anxiety about a slave—one so generally excluded from all earnest human sympathies on the part of his master, that even a Cicero thinks it needful to excuse himself for feeling deeply the death of such an one in his household,—all these traits of character combine to present him to us as one of those “children of God” that were scattered abroad in the world, and whom Christ was to gather together into the one fellowship of his Church. (John xi. 52.) The manner is remarkable in which the centurion makes easier to himself his act of faith, by the help of an analogy drawn from the circle of things with which he himself is familiar, by a comparison which he
* Serm. 62, c. 1: Dicendo se indignum praestitit dignum, non in cujus parietes, sed in cujus cor Christus intraret. Neque hoc diceret cum tantá fide et humilitate, nisi illum quem timebat intrare in domum suam, corde gestaret. Nam nonerat magna felicitas si Dominus Jesus intraret in parietes ejus et non esset in pectore ejus. (Luc. vii. 36.) # Augustine (Serm. 77, c. 8): Tecto non recipiebat, corde receperat. Quantò humilior, tantò capacior, tantò plenior. Colles enim aquam repellunt, valles implentur. borrows from his own military experience.” He knows that Christ's word will be sufficient, for he adds, “I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” His argument is here from the less to the greater. “I am,” he would say, “one occupying only a subordinate place, set under authority, a subaltern, with tribunes and commanders over me. Yet, notwithstanding, those that are under me, obey me. My word is potent with them. I have power to send them hither and thither, and they go at my bidding, so that sitting still I can yet have the things accomplished which I would. How much more thou, who art not set, as I am, in a subordinate place, but who art as a prince over the host of heaven, who wilt have angels and spirits to obey thy word and run swiftly at thy command. It needs not then that thou comest to my house; do thou only commission one of these genii of healing, who will execute speedily the errand of grace on which thou shalt send him.”f His view of Christ's relation to the spi
* Bengel: Sapientia fidelis ex ruditate militari pulchre elucens.
+ The arpartà otpávior. How true a notion this indeed was, which in his simple faith the centurion had conceived for himself, we see from those words of our Lord's, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matt. xxvi. 53.) Jerome (in loc.): Wolens ostendere Dominum quoque non per adventum tantúm corporis, sed per angelorum ministeria posse implere quod vellet.
f Severus (in CRAMER's Catena): El yag &yö arpartórno ov, kal iro &#ovatav Baqtāśwo teāāv, roic dopvpápoto èvré%20sual, Tróc of uážZov airóc à Tây ovo kai dyyeżuköv čvváueov Totmroc, 60% etc peic kai Yevågerat; and Augustine (Enarr. in Ps. xlvi. 9, and Serm. lxii. c. 2): Si ergo ego, inquit, homo sub potestate, jubendi habeo potestatem, quid tu possis, cui omnes serviunt potestates? And Bernard more than once brings out this as an eminent and characteristic feature of his humility. Thus Ep. 392: O prudens et veré corde humilis animal dicturus quod praelatus esset militibus, repressit extollentiam confessione subjectionis: immo praemisit subjectionem, ut pluris sibi esset quod suberat, quâm quod praerat; and beautifully, De Off. Episc., c. 8: Non jactabat potestatem, quam nec solam protulit, nec priorem.... Praemissa siquidem est humilitas, ne altitudo praecipitet. Nec enim locum invenit arrogantia, ubi tam clarum humilitatis insigne praecesserat. Such explanation appears preferable to any of those which make &vöparoc iro &#ovatav, a man in authority. Rettig, (Theol. Stud u. Krit., v. 11, p. 472,) reading with Lachmann, &v6p. tro &#ovo. T a o a op evoc, (which last word, however, should not have been admitted into the text.) has an ingenious but untenable explanation in the latter and less eligible sense. Different from all these, and entirely original, is the view of the passage taken by the Auct. Oper. Imperf, who agrees so far with the right interpretation that he makes dwtp.oroc iro &#ovatav, a man in a subordinate position; but then will not allow, but expressly denies, that it is thus a comparison by way of contrast between himself and the Lord, which the centurion is drawing— that he is magnifying the Lord's highest place by comparing it with his own only subordinate, but that rather he is in all things likening the one to the other: ritual kingdom is as original as it is grand; and it is so truly that of the Roman officer: the Lord appears to him as the true Caesar and Imperator, the highest over the hierarchy, not of earth, but of heaven. (Col. i. 16.) In all this there was so wonderful a union of childlike faith and profound humility, that it is not strange to read that the Lord himself was filled with admiration: “When Jesus heard it, he marvelled,” and said to them that followed, Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”? It is notable that St. Matthew alone records these words, which beforehand we should rather have expected to have found recorded by St. Luke. For it is he, the companion of the apostle to the Gentiles, that for the most part loves to bring out the side of our Lord's ministry, on which it looked not merely to the Jewish nation but to the heathen world. In these words, and in those which follow, is a solemn warning, on the Lord's part, to his Jewish hearers of their danger of losing privileges, which now were theirs, but which yet they
“As I am under worldly authorities, and yet have those whom I may send, so thou, albeit under thine heavenly Father, hast yet a heavenly host at thy bidding.” Ego sum homo sub potestate alterius, tamen habeo potestatem jubendi eis qui sub me sunt. Nec enim impedior jubere minores, propter quod ipse sum sub majoribus; sed abillis quidem jubeor, sub quibus sum; illis autem jubeo, qui sub me sunt: sic et tu, quamvis sub potestate Patris sis, secundum quod homo es, habes tamen potestatem jubendi angelis tuis, nec impediris jubere inferioribus, propter quod ipse habes superiorem. This interpretation, though just capable of a fair meaning, is probably the outcoming of the Arian tendencies of the author.
* But since all wonder, properly so called, arises from the meeting with something unexpected and hitherto unknown, how could the Lord, to whom all things were known, be said to marvel? To this it has been answered that Christ did not so much actually wonder, as commend to us that which was worthy of our admiration. Thus Augustine (De Gen., Con. Man., l. 1, c. 8): Quod mirabatur Dominus, nobis mirandum esse significabat; and he asks in another place, (Con. Adv. Leg, et Proph., l. 1, c. 7) how should not he have known before the faith, which he himself had created? (An veró alius eam in corde centurionis operabatur, quâm ipse qui mirabatur !) There is against this, that it seems to bring an unreality into parts of our Lord's conduct, as though he did some things for show and the effect which they would have on others, instead of all his actions having their deepest root in his own nature, being the truthful exponents of his own most inmost being. On the other hand, to say that according to his human nature he might have been ignorant of some things, seems to threaten a Nestorian severance of the Person of Christ. But the whole question of the Communio idiomatum, with its precipices on either side, is one of the hardest in the whole domain of theology. (See Aquinas, Sum. Theol, 8*. qu. 15, art. 8, and GERHARD's Loc. Theoll, l. 4, p. 2, c. 4.)
+ Augustine: In olivá non inveni, quod inveni in oleastro. Ergo oliva super biens praecidatur: oleaster humilis inseratur. Wide inserentem, vide praecidentem Cf. In Joh, Tract. 16, ad finem.