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11. THE HEALING OF THE CENTURION'S
Matt. viii 5—13; LUKE vii. 1--10.
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*. (Comparo Mark x. 35, with Matthew xx. 20, for another example of the same.)
Faustus the Manichæan 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 admirable on the unfair way in which the opposers of the truth find or make discrepancies where indeed there are none, -as though one narrator
This centurion, probably one of the Roman garrison of Capernaum, was by birth an 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 an higher world, entreating him, by them, “ that he would come and heal his servant,"
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, cùm legimus, obliviscimur quemadmodum loqui soleamus ? An Scriptura Dei aliter nobiscum fuerat quàin nostro more locutura. Cf. De Cons. Erang. 1. 2, c. 20.
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 deserved this return of favour: " 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 everdeepening 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 an heathen, and so might claim no near approach to the King of Israel ; but there was, no doubt, besides this and mingling with this, a deep and inward feeling of his own personal unworthiness and unfitness for a close communion with an 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 t," —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.
* Calvin: Lucas hoc modo dubitationem prævenit, quæ subire poterat lectorum animos: scimus eniin, non habitos fuisse servos eo in pretio, ut de ipsorum vitâ tam anxii essent domini, nisi qui singulari industriâ vel fide vel aliâ virtute sibi gratiam acquisierant. Significat ergo Lucas non vulgare fuisse sordidumque mancipium, sed fidelem et raris dotibus ornatum servum qui eximiâ gratiâ apud dominum polleret : hinc tanta illius vitæ cura et tum studiosa commendatio,
* Serm. 62., c. 1: Dicendo se indignum præstitit dignum, non in cujus parietes, sed in cujus cor Christus intraret. Neque hoc diceret cum tantâ fide et humilitate, nisi illum quem timebat intrare in domum suam, corde gestaret. Nam non erat magna felicitas si Dominus Jesus intraret in parietes ejus et non esset in pectore ejus. (Luc. vii. 36.)
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
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 borrows from his own military experiencef. 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 sercant, 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
Augustine (Serm. 77, c. 8): Tecto non recipiebat, corde receperat. Quantò humilior, tantò capacior, tantò plenior. Colles enim aquam repellunt, valles implentur. + Bengel: Sapientia fidelis ex ruditate militari pulchrè elucens. T. M.
my bidding, so that sitting still I can yot 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 +." His view of Christ's relation to the spiritual kingdom
* The στρατιά ουράνιος. Ilow 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.): Volens ostendere Dominum quoque non per adventum tantùm corporis, sed per angelorum ministeria posse implere quod vellet.
+ Severus (in CRAMER's Catena): El yap éyw otpatiuTIS wv, kai úto εξουσίαν βασιλέως τελων, τοίς δορυφόροις εντέλλομαι, πως ου μάλλον αυτός ο των άνω και αγγελικών δυνάμεων ποιητής, και θέλεις έρείς και γενήσεται; and Augustine (Enarr. in Ps. xlvi. 9, and Serm. Ixii. 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 huinility. Thus Ep. 392: () prudens et verè corde humilis anima! dicturus quod prælatus esset militibus, repressit extollentiam confessione subjectionis : immo præmisit subjectionem, ut pluris sibi esset quod suberat, quàm quod præerat; and beautifully, De Off. Episc., c. 8: Non jactabat potestatem, quam nec solam protulit, nec priorem. Præmissa siquidem est humilitas, ne altitudo præcipitet. Nec enim locum invenit arrogantia, ubi tam clarum humilitatis insigne præcesserat. Such explanation appears preferable to any of those which make čv@pwros ÜTÒ é ovoiav, a man in anthority. Rettig, (Theol. Stud. u. Krit., v. 11, p. 472.) reading with Lachmann, ävớp. itò igovo. TAO O Ouevos, (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 άνθρωπος υπό εξουσίαν, 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: “As I am under worldly authorities, and yet have those whom I may send, so thou, albeit under thine