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Let us now proceed with the history. The phari. sees, while they “ neglected the weightier matters of the law,” while they violated the rules of justice, and were insensible to the claims of mercy, were rigorously austere in their external deportment. In addition to those fasts, which were of divine institution, they received many from tradition, and established some by their own authority. So much did their religion consist in them, that we hear one of them ascribing a high degree of merit to himself for their observance, and arrogantly boasting, even to God, of his scrupulosity in fasting twice every week. (Luke xviii. 12.) And as the life of John the Baptist was austere and abstemious, in correspondence with the nature of his ministry, so his disciples multiplied fasts, in imitation of their master, and of the custom of the pharisees.
These two very different classes of men agreed in inquiring of the Saviour, why he did not impose the same austere discipline upon his disciples which they observed. Why do the disciples of John, and of the pharisees fast oft ; but thy disciples fast not ?" To this question Jesus replied, “ Can the children of the bridechamber fast while the bridegroom is with them?” There are seasons and occasions suited to different duties. I am, as John himself has declared concerning me, the spiritual bridegroom, to whom the church is espoused. These, my disciples, are the children of the bride-chamber, the guests of the marriage-feast. It would be unreasonable to require mourning and tears during the festivity of a nuptial feast. It would be equally improper for these, my disciples, to enter upon a course of rigorous abstinence while I am with them, and to fast on these joyful days. But envy them not. They have many afflictions to under
go, many trials to endure. In a little time I shall leave them, and then they will have occasion for solemn fasting and humiliation. “ But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.”
To mingle mourning and rejoicing together, adds the Saviour, to fast while they enjoy my immediate presence, would be as incongruous as to put a new piece of cloth into an old garment.
And, finally, he bids them remember, that it is necessary not to discourage the weak, by imposing upon them duties that are too burdensome; that infant virtue must not immediately be put to the greatest trials, lest it should be killed by the severity of the exercise. As new wine would burst the leathern bottles--(for in the east the bottles were anciently made of leather, or goats' skins,)-as new wine would burst the leathern bottles, which by use and age are become too weak to resist the fermentation, and both the wine and the bottles would perish, so will both the precepts which we inculcate, and the persons whom we address, be in danger of perishing, if we neglect to accommodate our directions to the strength of those who receive them. 4 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles, else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish. But they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”
My brethren, this'incident in the life of our Saviour should teach us to judge others with candour. We are too apt to make our own experiences and conduct the precise rule for all else, and to condemn them as enthusiasts, if they exceed, or as lukewarm, if they fall short of the standard which we have raised. Even sincere persons may sometimes be found united with the pharisees in reproaching the chila
dren of God, and condemning them, because their sentiments and conduct do not in every respect ac. cord with their own.
But it is not our province, neither are we competent to judge others. The disciples of John might do right in fasting often, and yet the disciples of Jesus not do wrong in forbearing to fast. There are many things belonging to the situations of individuals of which God alone can judge. We must, therefore, leave every man to “stand or fall to his own master,” and study to approve ourselves to God.
While Jesus was thus defending his disciples, Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, (probably of Capernaum) came to him, supplicating his aid. His only daughter, who had arrived at the interesting age of twelve years, was apparently at the point of death. Having heard of, and perhaps witnessed some of our Lord's miracles, he earnestly requested him to come and restore her health. Jesus never rejected the petitions of the unhappy. He immediately departed with Jairus, but before they reached the house, the servants brought tidings that the child was dead. • Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.” What a stroke was this to the heart of Jairus! Whilst he hung over the sick bed of his child, while he observed her gradual descent to the tomb, and marked the inefficacy of all human remedies, he had been full of apprehension and sorrow! But when his trouble had driven him to Jesus, when the compassionate Saviour, before whom disease and pain had so often fled, consented to accompany him, doubtless he was inspired with the firmest hope, with the fullest assurance, that his child would be rescued from the tomb, and restored again to his affectionate
bosom. Alas! must he not now abandon these confident, these pleasing expectations? How often has it been thus with thee, believer! Affliction has driven thee to Christ. But, although thou hast applied to him, the storm has still appeared to gather thicker around thee. Difficulties have so increased, that thy hopes have been almost blasted. Thou hast cried for pardon, and found an increased sense of guilt. Thou hast prayed for deliverance from corruption or temptation, and hast experienced the assaults of Satan more violent than ever; thou hast been almost ready to conclude that God has rejected thy prayer, and shut up his tender mercies.
What is to be done in such a situation? Imitate Jairus. Like him, “ hope against hope.” Like him, regard this accumulated trouble as a renewed exercise and trial of thy faith. It was faith which led this ruler to Christ; and when his case seemed desperate, he did not abandon his hope. It is probable, indeed, that our Lord might perceive some rising apprehension in his mind. But he instantly sustained him with that encouraging address, “ Fear not.” Arrived at his house, our Lord reproved the excessive lamentation of the mourners; and entering with the parents and three favoured disciples into the chamber of the deceased, he “ took her by the
hand, and said unto her, Maid, arise." Death listenred to the voice of the Lord of life, and dropped the
chains with which his prey was bound. The soul, at the command of the God of spirits, re-animated the lifeless body; and the child sprang instantly from the couch of dissolution, and arose in perfect health. Who can describe, who can even conceive, the joy of the happy parents; the fervour with which they poured forth their thanksgivings to God; the
thankfulness to Jesus which swelled their hearts ? Christian parents, from whose reluctant bosoms death has torn a darling infant, these raptures are reserved for you. This same Redeemer, who here said, “ Maid, arise,” shall hereafter, with equal authority and efficacy, say, “ Arise, ye dead.” Then
, this beloved, this lamented child, over whose tomb you have wept, shall again fly to your embraces, and you shall exultingly shout, “ Our child was dead, but is alive again; was lost, but is found.”
The Evangelist relates another miraculous cure, performed by Jesus as he was going to the house of Jairus. A woman, who for twelve years had laboured under a disorder which had baffled all the power of medicine, and who was afflicted with the pains of poverty, as well as the oppression of disease, had heard of the benevolence and power of the Lord, and hoped to find relief from him. Humble and modest, she did not dare to address him; yet, full of faith, she was persuaded that if she could only touch him, she should be healed. She therefore came privately behind him, and touched the hem of his garment, and was instantly cured. Her faith was great, and the honour that was conferred upon her was propor
. tionable to it. Jesus, who by his voluntary influence had restored her to health, turned himself around, publicly commended her faith, confirmed her cure, and dismissed her with the endearing appellation of daughter.
Thus will he ever testify his love to all who rely on him; thus will he reward those who place their confidence in him. Let us then make our way to him through all difficulties and obstructions ; let us stretch out our hands to him witb humble boldness