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Miracles of Our Lord by George MacDonald

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George MacDonald






I have been requested to write some papers on our Lord's miracles. I
venture the attempt in the belief that, seeing they are one of the modes
in which his unseen life found expression, we are bound through them to
arrive at some knowledge of that life. For he has come, The Word of God,
that we may know God: every word of his then, as needful to the knowing
of himself, is needful to the knowing of God, and we must understand,
as far as we may, every one of his words and every one of his actions,
which, with him, were only another form of word. I believe this the
immediate end of our creation. And I believe that this will at length
result in the unravelling for us of what must now, more or less, appear
to every man the knotted and twisted coil of the universe.

It seems to me that it needs no great power of faith to believe in the
miracles--for true faith is a power, not a mere yielding. There are far
harder things to believe than the miracles. For a man is not required to
believe in them save as believing in Jesus. If a man can believe that
there is a God, he may well believe that, having made creatures capable
of hungering and thirsting for him, he must be capable of speaking a
word to guide them in their feeling after him. And if he is a grand
God, a God worthy of being God, yea (his metaphysics even may show the
seeker), if he is a God capable of being God, he will speak the clearest
grandest word of guidance which he can utter intelligible to his
creatures. For us, that word must simply be the gathering of all the
expressions of his visible works into an infinite human face, lighted up
by an infinite human soul behind it, namely, that potential essence of
man, if I may use a word of my own, which was in the beginning with God.
If God should _thus_ hear the cry of the noblest of his creatures, for
such are all they who do cry after him, and in very deed show them his
face, it is but natural to expect that the deeds of the great messenger
should be just the works of the Father done in little. If he came to
reveal his Father in miniature, as it were (for in these unspeakable
things we can but use figures, and the homeliest may be the holiest), to
tone down his great voice, which, too loud for men to hear it aright,
could but sound to them as an inarticulate thundering, into such a still
small voice as might enter their human ears in welcome human speech,
then the works that his Father does so widely, so grandly that they
transcend the vision of men, the Son must do briefly and sharply before
their very eyes.

This, I think, is the true nature of the miracles, an epitome of God's
processes in nature beheld in immediate connection with their source--a
source as yet lost to the eyes and too often to the hearts of men in the
far-receding gradations of continuous law. That men might see the will
of God at work, Jesus did the works of his Father thus.

Here I will suppose some honest, and therefore honourable, reader
objecting: But do you not thus place the miracles in dignity below the
ordinary processes of nature? I answer: The miracles are mightier far
than any goings on of nature as beheld by common eyes, dissociating them
from a living Will; but the miracles are surely less than those mighty
goings on of nature with God beheld at their heart. In the name of him
who delighted to say "My Father is greater than I," I will say that his
miracles in bread and in wine were far less grand and less beautiful
than the works of the Father they represented, in making the corn
to grow in the valleys, and the grapes to drink the sunlight on the
hill-sides of the world, with all their infinitudes of tender gradation
and delicate mystery of birth. But the Son of the Father be praised,
who, as it were, condensed these mysteries before us, and let us see
the precious gifts coming at once from gracious hands--hands that love
could kiss and nails could wound.

There are some, I think, who would perhaps find it more possible to
accept the New Testament story if the miracles did not stand in the way.
But perhaps, again, it would be easier for them, to accept both if they
could once look into the true heart of these miracles. So long as they
regard only the surface of them, they will, most likely, see in them
only a violation of the laws of nature: when they behold the heart of
them, they will recognize there at least a possible fulfilment of her
deepest laws.

With such, however, is not my main business now, any more than with
those who cannot believe in a God at all, and therefore to whom a
miracle is an absurdity. I may, however, just make this one remark with
respect to the latter--that perhaps it is better they should believe in
no God than believe in such a God as they have yet been able to imagine.
Perhaps thus they are nearer to a true faith--except indeed they prefer
the notion of the Unconscious generating the Conscious, to that of a
self-existent Love, creative in virtue of its being love. Such have
never loved woman or child save after a fashion which has left them
content that death should seize on the beloved and bear them back to the
maternal dust. But I doubt if there can be any who thus would choose a
sleep--walking Pan before a wakeful Father. At least, they cannot know
the Father and choose the Pan.

Let us then recognize the works of the Father as epitomized in the
miracles of the Son. What in the hands of the Father are the mighty
motions and progresses and conquests of life, in the hands of the Son
are miracles. I do not myself believe that he valued the working of
these miracles as he valued the utterance of the truth in words; but all
that he did had the one root, _obedience_, in which alone can any son
be free. And what is the highest obedience? Simply a following of the
Father--a doing of what the Father does. Every true father wills that
his child should be as he is in his deepest love, in his highest hope.
All that Jesus does is of his Father. What we see in the Son is of the
Father. What his works mean concerning him, they mean concerning the

Much as I shrink from the notion of a formal shaping out of design in
any great life, so unlike the endless freedom and spontaneity of nature
(and He is the Nature of nature), I cannot help observing that his first
miracle was one of creation--at least, is to our eyes more like creation
than almost any other--for who can say that it was creation, not knowing
in the least what creation is, or what was the process in this miracle?


Already Jesus had his disciples, although as yet he had done no mighty
works. They followed him for himself and for his mighty words. With his
mother they accompanied him to a merry-making at a wedding. With no
retiring regard, with no introverted look of self-consciousness or
self-withdrawal, but more human than any of the company, he regarded
their rejoicings with perfect sympathy, for, whatever suffering might
follow, none knew so well as he that--

"there is one
Who makes the joy the last in every song."

The assertion in the old legendary description of his person and habits,
that he was never known to smile, I regard as an utter falsehood, for to
me it is incredible--almost as a geometrical absurdity. In that glad
company the eyes of a divine artist, following the spiritual lines of
the group, would have soon settled on his face as the centre whence
radiated all the gladness, where, as I seem to see him, he sat in the
background beside his mother. Even the sunny face of the bridegroom
would appear less full of light than his. But something is at hand which
will change his mood. For no true man had he been if his mood had never
changed. His high, holy, obedient will, his tender, pure, strong heart
never changed, but his mood, his feeling did change. For the mood must
often, and in many cases ought to be the human reflex of changing
circumstance. The change comes from his mother. She whispers to him that
they have no more wine. The bridegroom's liberality had reached the
limit of his means, for, like his guests, he was, most probably, of a
humble calling, a craftsman, say, or a fisherman. It must have been a
painful little trial to him if he knew the fact; but I doubt if he heard
of the want before it was supplied.

There was nothing in this however to cause the change in our Lord's mood
of which I have spoken. It was no serious catastrophe, at least to him,
that the wine should fail. His mother had but told him the fact; only
there is more than words in every commonest speech that passes. It was
not his mother's words, but the tone and the look with which they were
interwoven that wrought the change. She knew that her son was no common
man, and she believed in him, with an unripe, unfeatured faith. This
faith, working with her ignorance and her fancy, led her to expect the
great things of the world from him. This was a faith which must fail
that it might grow. Imperfection must fail that strength may come in its
place. It is well for the weak that their faith should fail them, for
it may at the moment be resting its wings upon the twig of some brittle
fancy, instead of on a branch of the tree of life.

But, again, what was it in his mother's look and tone that should work
the change in our Lord's mood? The request implied in her words could
give him no offence, for he granted that request; and he never would
have done a thing he did not approve, should his very mother ask him.
The _thoughts of_ the mother lay not in her words, but in the expression
that accompanied them, and it was to those thoughts that our Lord
replied. Hence his answer, which has little to do with her spoken
request, is the key both to her thoughts and to his. If we do not
understand his reply, we _may_ misunderstand the miracle--certainly we
are in danger of grievously misunderstanding him--a far worse evil. How
many children are troubled in heart that Jesus should have spoken to his
mother as our translation compels them to suppose he did speak! "Woman,
what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come." His hour for
working the miracle _had_ come, for he wrought it; and if he had to do
with one human soul at all, that soul must be his mother. The "woman,"
too, sounds strange in our ears. This last, however, is our fault: we
allow words to sink from their high rank, and then put them to degraded
uses. What word so full of grace and tender imagings to any true man as
that one word! The Saviour did use it to his mother; and when he called
her _woman_, the good custom of the country and the time was glorified
in the word as it came from his lips _fulfilled_, of humanity; for those
lips were the open gates of a heart full of infinite meanings. Hence
whatever word he used had more of the human in it than that word had
ever held before.

What he did say was this--"Woman, what is there common to thee and me?
My hour is not yet come." What! was not their humanity common to them?
Had she not been fit, therefore chosen, to bear him? Was she not his
mother? But his words had no reference to the relation between them;
they only referred to the present condition of her mind, or rather the
nature of the thought and expectation which now occupied it. Her hope
and his intent were at variance; there was no harmony between his
thought and hers; and it was to that thought and that hope of hers that
his words were now addressed. To paraphrase the words--and if I do so
with reverence and for the sake of the spirit which is higher than the
word, I think I am allowed to do so--

"Woman, what is there in your thoughts now that is in sympathy with
mine? Also the hour that you are expecting is not come yet."

What, then, was in our Lord's thoughts? and what was in his mother's
thoughts to call forth his words? She was thinking the time had come for
making a show of his power--for revealing what a great man he was--
for beginning to let that glory shine, which was, in her notion, to
culminate in the grandeur of a righteous monarch--a second Solomon,
forsooth, who should set down the mighty in the dust, and exalt them of
low degree. Here was the opportunity for working like a prophet of old,
and revealing of what a mighty son she was the favoured mother.

And of what did the glow of her face, the light in her eyes, and the
tone with which she uttered the words, "They have no wine," make Jesus
think? Perhaps of the decease which he must accomplish at Jerusalem;
perhaps of a throne of glory betwixt the two thieves; certainly of a
kingdom of heaven not such as filled her imagination, even although
her heaven-descended Son was the king thereof. A kingdom of exulting
obedience, not of acquiescence, still less of compulsion, lay germed in
his bosom, and he must be laid in the grave ere that germ could send
up its first green lobes into the air of the human world. No throne,
therefore, of earthly grandeur for him! no triumph for his blessed
mother such as she dreamed! There was nothing common in their visioned
ends. Hence came the change of mood to Jesus, and hence the words that
sound at first so strange, seeming to have so little to do with the
words of his mother.

But no change of mood could change a feeling towards mother or friends.
The former, although she could ill understand what he meant, never
fancied in his words any unkindness to her. She, too, had the face of
the speaker to read; and from that face came such answer to her prayer
for her friends, that she awaited no confirming words, but in the
confidence of a mother who knew her child, said at once to the servants,
"Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it."

If any one object that I have here imagined too much, I would remark,
first, that the records in the Gospel are very brief and condensed;
second, that the germs of a true intelligence must lie in this small
seed, and our hearts are the soil in which it must unfold itself; third,
that we are bound to understand the story, and that the foregoing are
the suppositions on which I am able to understand it in a manner worthy
of what I have learned concerning Him. I am bound to refuse every
interpretation that seems to me unworthy of Him, for to accept such
would be to sin against the Holy Ghost. If I am wrong in my idea either
of that which I receive or of that which I reject, as soon as the fact
is revealed to me I must cast the one away and do justice to the other.
Meantime this interpretation seems to me to account for our Lord's words
in a manner he will not be displeased with even if it fail to reach
the mark of the fact. That St John saw, and might expect such an
interpretation to be found in the story, barely as he has told it, will
be rendered the more probable if we remember his own similar condition
and experience when he and his brother James prayed the Lord for the
highest rank in his kingdom, and received an answer which evidently
flowed from the same feeling to which I have attributed that given on
this occasion to his mother.

"'Fill the water-pots with water.' And they filled them up to the brim.
'Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast.' And they bare
it. 'Thou hast kept the good wine until now.'" It is such a thing of
course that, when our Lord gave them wine, it would be of the best, that
it seems almost absurd to remark upon it. What the Father would make and
will make, and that towards which he is ever working, is _the Best;_ and
when our Lord turns the water into wine it must be very good.

It is like his Father, too, not to withhold good wine because men abuse
it. Enforced virtue is unworthy of the name. That men may rise above
temptation, it is needful that they should have temptation. It is the
will of him who makes the grapes and the wine. Men will even call Jesus
himself a wine-bibber. What matters it, so long as he works as the
Father works, and lives as the Father wills?

I dare not here be misunderstood. God chooses that men should be tried,
but let a man beware of tempting his neighbour. God knows how and how
much, and where and when: man is his brother's keeper, and must keep him
according to his knowledge. A man may work the will of God for others,
and be condemned therein because he sought his own will and not God's.
That our Lord gave this company wine, does not prove that he would have
given any company wine. To some he refused even the bread they requested
at his hands. Because he gave wine to the wedding-guests, shall man dig
a pit at the corner of every street, that the poor may fall therein,
spending their money for that which is not bread, and their labour for
that which satisfieth not? Let the poor man be tempted as God wills, for
the end of God is victory; let not man tempt him, for his end is his
neighbour's fall, or at best he heeds it not for the sake of gain, and
he shall receive according to his works.

To him who can thank God with free heart for his good wine, there is a
glad significance in the fact that our Lord's first miracle was this
turning of water into wine. It is a true symbol of what he has done for
the world in glorifying all things. With his divine alchemy he turns not
only water into wine, but common things into radiant mysteries, yea,
every meal into a eucharist, and the jaws of the sepulchre into an
outgoing gate. I do not mean that he makes any change in the things or
ways of God, but a mighty change in the hearts and eyes of men, so that
God's facts and God's meanings become their faiths and their hopes. The
destroying spirit, who works in the commonplace, is ever covering the
deep and clouding the high. For those who listen to that spirit great
things cannot be. Such are there, but they cannot see them, for in
themselves they do not aspire. They believe, perhaps, in the truth and
grace of their first child: when they have spoiled him, they laugh
at the praises of childhood. From all that is thus low and wretched,
incapable and fearful, he who made the water into wine delivers men,
revealing heaven around them, God in all things, truth in every
instinct, evil withering and hope springing even in the path of the

That the wine should be his first miracle, and that the feeding of the
multitudes should be the only other creative miracle, will also suggest
many thoughts in connection with the symbol he has left us of his
relation to his brethren. In the wine and the bread of the eucharist, he
reminds us how utterly he has given, is giving, himself for the gladness
and the strength of his Father's children. Yea more; for in that he is
the radiation of the Father's glory, this bread and wine is the symbol
of how utterly the Father gives himself to his children, how earnestly
he would have them partakers of his own being. If Jesus was the son of
the Father, is it hard to believe that he should give men bread and

It was not his power, however, but his glory, that Jesus showed forth
in the miracle. His power could not be hidden, but it was a poor thing
beside his glory.

Yea, power in itself is a poor thing. If it could stand alone, which it
cannot, it would be a horror. No amount of lonely power could create.
It is the love that is at the root of power, the power of power, which
alone can create. What then was this his glory? What was it that made
him glorious? It was that, like his Father, he ministered to the wants
of men. Had they not needed the wine, not for the sake of whatever show
of his power would he have made it. The concurrence of man's need and
his love made it possible for that glory to shine forth. It is for this
glory most that we worship him. But power is no object of adoration, and
they who try to worship it are slaves. Their worship is no real worship.
Those who trembled at the thunder from the mountain went and worshipped
a golden calf; but Moses went into the thick darkness to find his God.

How far the expectation of the mother Mary that her son would, by
majesty of might, appeal to the wedding guests, and arouse their
enthusiasm for himself, was from our Lord's thoughts, may be well seen
in the fact that the miracle was not beheld even by the ruler of the
feast; while the report of it would probably receive little credit from
at least many of those who partook of the good wine. So quietly was it
done, so entirely without pre-intimation of his intent, so stolenly, as
it were, in the two simple ordered acts, the filling of the water-pots
with water, and the drawing of it out again, as to make it manifest that
it was done for the ministration. He did not do it even for the show
of his goodness, but _to be good_. This alone could show his Father's
goodness. It was done because here was an opportunity in which all
circumstances combined with the bodily presence of the powerful and the
prayer of his mother, to render it fit that the love of his heart should
go forth in giving his merry-making brothers and sisters more and better
wine to drink.

And herein we find another point in which this miracle of Jesus
resembles the working of his Father. For God ministers to us so gently,
so stolenly, as it were, with such a quiet, tender, loving absence of
display, that men often drink of his wine, as these wedding guests
drank, without knowing whence it comes--without thinking that the giver
is beside them, yea, in their very hearts. For God will not compel the
adoration of men: it would be but a pagan worship that would bring to
his altars. He will rouse in men a sense of need, which shall grow at
length into a longing; he will make them feel after him, until by their
search becoming able to behold him, he may at length reveal to them the
glory of their Father. He works silently--keeps quiet behind his works,
as it were, that he may truly reveal himself in the right time. With
this intent also, when men find his wine good and yet do not rise and
search for the giver, he will plague them with sore plagues, that the
good wine of life may not be to them, and therefore to him and the
universe, an evil thing. It would seem that the correlative of creation
is search; that as God has _made us_, we must _find_ him; that thus our
action must reflect his; that thus he glorifies us with a share in the
end of all things, which is that the Father and his children may be one
in thought, judgment, feeling, and intent, in a word, that they may
mean the same thing. St John says that Jesus thus "manifested forth
his glory, and his disciples believed on him." I doubt if any but his
disciples knew of the miracle; or of those others who might see or hear
of it, if any believed on him because of it. It is possible to see a
miracle, and not believe in it; while many of those who saw a miracle of
our Lord believed in the miracle, and yet did not believe in him.

I wonder how many Christians there are who so thoroughly believe God
made them that they can laugh in God's name; who understand that God
invented laughter and gave it to his children. Such belief would add a
keenness to the zest in their enjoyment, and slay that sneering laughter
of which a man grimaces to the fiends, as well as that feeble laughter
in which neither heart nor intellect has a share. It would help them
also to understand the depth of this miracle. The Lord of gladness
delights in the laughter of a merry heart. These wedding guests could
have done without wine, surely without more wine and better wine. But
the Father looks with no esteem upon a bare existence, and is ever
working, even by suffering, to render life more rich and plentiful.
His gifts are to the overflowing of the cup; but when the cup would
overflow, he deepens its hollow, and widens its brim. Our Lord is
profuse like his Father, yea, will, at his own sternest cost, be lavish
to his brethren. He will give them wine indeed. But even they who know
whence the good wine comes, and joyously thank the giver, shall one day
cry out, like the praiseful ruler of the feast to him who gave it not,
"Thou hast kept the good wine until now."


In respect of the purpose I have in view, it is of little consequence in
what order I take the miracles. I choose for my second chapter the story
of the cure of St Peter's mother-in-law. Bare as the narrative is,
the event it records has elements which might have been moulded with
artistic effect--on the one side the woman tossing in the folds of the
fever, on the other the entering Life. But it is not from this side that
I care to view it.

Neither do I wish to look at it from the point of view of the
bystanders, although it would appear that we had the testimony of three
of them in the three Gospels which contain the story. We might almost
determine the position in the group about the bed occupied by each of
the three, from the differences between their testimonies. One says
Jesus stood over her; another, he touched her hand; the third, he lifted
her up: they agree that the fever left her, and she ministered to
them.--In the present case, as in others behind, I mean to regard the
miracle from the point of view of the person healed.

Pain, sickness, delirium, madness, as great infringements of the laws of
nature as the miracles themselves, are such veritable presences to the
human experience, that what bears no relation to their existence, cannot
be the God of the human race. And the man who cannot find his God in the
fog of suffering, no less than he who forgets his God in the sunshine of
health, has learned little either of St Paul or St John. The religion
whose light renders no dimmest glow across this evil air, cannot be more
than a dim reflex of the true. And who will mourn to find this out?
There are, perhaps, some so anxious about themselves that, rather than
say, "I have it not: it is a better thing than I have ever possessed,"
they would say, "I have the precious thing, but in the hour of trial it
is of little avail." Let us rejoice that the glory is great, even if we
dare not say, It is mine. Then shall we try the more earnestly to lay
hold upon it.

So long as men must toss in weary fancies all the dark night, crying,
"Would God it were morning," to find, it may be, when it arrives, but
little comfort in the grey dawn, so long must we regard God as one to be
seen or believed in--cried unto at least--across all the dreary flats of
distress or dark mountains of pain, and therefore those who would help
their fellows must sometimes look for him, as it were, through the eyes
of those who suffer, and try to help them to think, not from ours, but
from their own point of vision. I shall therefore now write almost
entirely for those to whom suffering is familiar, or at least well
known. And first I would remind them that all suffering is against the
ideal order of things. No man can love pain. It is an unlovely, an
ugly, abhorrent thing. The more true and delicate the bodily and mental
constitution, the more must it recoil from pain. No one, I think, could
dislike pain so much as the Saviour must have disliked it. God dislikes
it. He is then on our side in the matter. He knows it is grievous to
be borne, a thing he would cast out of his blessed universe, save for

But one will say--How can this help me when the agony racks me, and the
weariness rests on me like a gravestone?--Is it nothing, I answer, to be
reminded that suffering is in its nature transitory--that it is against
the first and final will of God--that it is a means only, not an end?
Is it nothing to be told that it will pass away? Is not that what you
would? God made man for lordly skies, great sunshine, gay colours, free
winds, and delicate odours; and however the fogs may be needful for the
soul, right gladly does he send them away, and cause the dayspring from
on high to revisit his children. While they suffer he is brooding over
them an eternal day, suffering with them but rejoicing in their future.
He is the God of the individual man, or he could be no God of the race.

I believe it is possible--and that some have achieved it--so to believe
in and rest upon the immutable Health--so to regard one's own sickness
as a kind of passing aberration, that the soul is thereby sustained,
even as sometimes in a weary dream the man is comforted by telling
himself it is but a dream, and that waking is sure. God would have us
reasonable and strong. Every effort of his children to rise above
the invasion of evil in body or in mind is a pleasure to him. Few, I
suppose, attain to this; but there is a better thing which to many, I
trust, is easier--to say, Thy will be done.

But now let us look at the miracle as received by the woman.

She had "a great fever." She was tossing from side to side in vain
attempts to ease a nameless misery. Her head ached, and forms dreary,
even in their terror, kept rising before her in miserable and aimless
dreams; senseless words went on repeating themselves ill her very brain
was sick of them; she was destitute, afflicted, tormented; now the
centre for the convergence of innumerable atoms, now driven along in an
uproar of hideous globes; faces grinned and mocked at her; her mind
ever strove to recover itself, and was ever borne away in the rush of
invading fancies; but through it all was the nameless unrest, not an
aching, nor a burning, nor a stinging, but a bodily grief, dark, drear,
and nameless. How could they have borne such before He had come?

A sudden ceasing of motions uncontrolled; a coolness gliding through
the burning skin; a sense of waking into repose; a consciousness of
all-pervading well-being, of strength conquering weakness, of light
displacing darkness, of urging life at the heart; and behold! she is
sitting up in her bed, a hand clasping hers, a face looking in hers. He
has judged the evil thing, and it is gone. He has saved her out of her
distresses. They fold away from off her like the cerements of death. She
is new-born--new-made--all things are new-born with her--and he who
makes all things new is there. From him, she knows, has the healing
flowed. He has given of his life to her. Away, afar behind her floats
the cloud of her suffering. She almost forgets it in her grateful joy.
She is herself now. She rises. The sun is shining. It had been shining
all the time--waiting for her. The lake of Galilee is glittering
joyously. That too sets forth the law of life. But the fulfilling of the
law is love: she rises and ministers.

I am tempted to remark in passing, although I shall have better
opportunity of dealing with the matter involved, that there is no sign
of those whom our Lord cures desiring to retain the privileges of
the invalid. The joy of health is labour. He who is restored must be
fellow-worker with God. This woman, lifted out of the whelming sand of
the fever and set upon her feet, hastens to her ministrations. She has
been used to hard work. It is all right now; she must to it again.

But who was he who had thus lifted her up? She saw a young man by her
side. Is it the young man, Jesus, of whom she has heard? for Capernaum
is not far from Nazareth, and the report of his wisdom and goodness must
have spread, for he had grown in favour with man as well as with God. Is
it he, to whom God has given such power, or is it John, of whom she has
also heard? Whether he was a prophet or a son of the prophets, whether
he was Jesus or John, she waits not to question; for here are guests;
here is something to be done. Questions will keep; work must be
despatched. It is the day, and the night is at hand. She rose and
ministered unto them.

But if we ask who he is, this is the answer: He is the Son of God come
to do the works of his Father. Where, then, is the healing of the
Father? All the world over, in every man's life and knowledge, almost
in every man's personal experience, although it may be unrecognized
as such. For just as in certain moods of selfishness our hearts are
insensible to the tenderest love of our surrounding families, so the
degrading spirit of the commonplace _enables_ us to live in the midst of
ministrations, so far from knowing them as such, that it is hard for us
to believe that the very heart of God would care to do that which his
hand alone can do and is doing every moment. I remind my reader that I
have taken it for granted that he confesses there is a God, or at least
hopes there may be a God. If any one interposes, saying that science
nowadays will not permit him to believe in such a being, I answer it
is not for him I am now writing, but for such as have gone through a
different course of thought and experience from his. To him I may be
honoured to say a word some day. I do not think of him now. But to
the reader of my choice I do say that I see no middle course between
believing that every alleviation of pain, every dawning of hope across
the troubled atmosphere of the spirit, every case of growing well again,
is the doing of God, or that there is no God at all--none at least in
whom _I_ could believe. Had Christians been believing in God better,
more grandly, the present phase of unbelief, which no doubt is needful,
and must appear some time in the world's history, would not have
appeared in our day. No doubt it has come when it must, and will vanish
when it must; but those who do believe are more to blame for it, I
think, than those who do not believe. The common kind of belief in God
is rationally untenable. Half to an insensate nature, half to a living
God, is a worship that cannot stand. God is all in all, or no God at
all. The man who goes to church every Sunday, and yet trembles before
chance, is a Christian only because Christ has claimed him; is not a
Christian as having believed in Him. I would not be hard. There are so
many degrees in faith! A man may be on the right track, may be learning
of Christ, and be very poor and weak. But I say there is no _standing_
room, no reality of reason, between absolute faith and absolute
unbelief. Either not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him, or there
is no God, and we are fatherless children. Those who attempt to live in
such a limbo as lies between the two, are only driven of the wind and

Has my reader ever known the weariness of suffering, the clouding of the
inner sky, the haunting of spectral shapes, the misery of disordered
laws, when nature is wrong within him, and her music is out of tune and
harsh, when he is shot through with varied griefs and pains, and it
seems as there were no life more in the world, save of misery--"pain,
pain ever, for ever"? Then, surely, he has also known the turn of the
tide, when the pain begins to abate, when the sweet sleep falls upon
soul and body, when a faint hope doubtfully glimmers across the gloom!
Or has he known the sudden waking from sleep and from fever at once, the
consciousness that life is life, that life is the law of things, the
coolness and the gladness, when the garments of pain which, like that
fabled garment of Dejanira, enwrapped and ate into his being, have
folded back from head and heart, and he looks out again once more
new-born? It is God. This is his will, his law of life conquering the
law of death Tell me not of natural laws, as if I were ignorant of them,
or meant to deny them. The question is whether these laws go wheeling
on of themselves in a symmetry of mathematical shapes, or whether
their perfect order, their unbroken certainty of movement, is not the
expression of a perfect intellect informed by a perfect heart. Law is
truth: has it a soul of thought, or has it not? If not, then farewell
hope and love and possible perfection. But for me, I will hope on,
strive on, fight with the invading unbelief; for the horror of being the
sport of insensate law, the more perfect the more terrible, is hell and
utter perdition. If a man tells me that science says God is not a likely
being, I answer, Probably not--such as you, who have given your keen,
admirable, enviable powers to the observation of outer things only, are
capable of supposing him; but that the God I mean may not be the very
heart of the lovely order you see so much better than I, you have given
me no reason to fear. My God may be above and beyond and in all that.

In this matter of healing, then, as in all the miracles, we find Jesus
doing the works of the Father. God is our Saviour: the Son of God comes
healing the sick--doing that, I repeat, before our eyes, which the
Father, for his own reasons, some of which I think I can see well
enough, does from behind the veil of his creation and its laws. The cure
comes by law, comes by the physician who brings the law to bear upon us;
we awake, and lo! I it is God the Saviour. Every recovery is as much his
work as the birth of a child; as much the work of the Father as if
it had been wrought by the word of the Son before the eyes of the

Need I, to combat again the vulgar notion that the essence of the
miracles lies in their power, dwell upon this miracle further? Surely,
no one who honours the Saviour will for a moment imagine him, as he
entered the chamber where the woman lay tormented, saying to himself,
"Here is an opportunity of showing how mighty my Father is!" No. There
was suffering; here was healing. What I could imagine him saying to
himself would be, "Here I can help! Here my Father will let me put forth
my healing, and give her back to her people." What should we think of a
rich man, who, suddenly brought into contact with the starving upon his
own estate, should think within himself, "Here is a chance for me! Now I
can let them see how rich I am!" and so plunge his hands in his pockets
and lay gold upon the bare table? The receivers might well be grateful;
but the arm of the poor neighbour put under the head of the dying man,
would gather a deeper gratitude, a return of tenderer love. It is heart
alone that can satisfy heart. It is the love of God alone that can
gather to itself the love of his children. To believe in an almighty
being is hardly to believe in a God at all. To believe in a being
who, in his weakness and poverty, if such could be, would die for his
creatures, would be to believe in a God indeed.


In my last chapter I took the healing of Simon's wife's mother as a
type of all such miracles, viewed from the consciousness of the person
healed. In the multitude of cases--for it must not be forgotten that
there was a multitude of which we have no individual record--the
experience must have been very similar. The evil thing, the antagonist
of their life, departed; they knew in themselves that they were healed;
they beheld before them the face and form whence the healing power had
gone forth, and they believed in the man. What they believed _about_
him, farther than that he had healed them and was good, I cannot pretend
to say. Some said he was one thing, some another, but they believed in
the man himself. They felt henceforth the strongest of ties binding his
life to their life. He was now the central thought of their being. Their
minds lay open to all his influences, operating in time and by holy
gradations. The well of life was henceforth to them an unsealed
fountain, and endless currents of essential life began to flow from it
through their existence. High love urging gratitude awoke the conscience
to intenser life; and the healed began to recoil from evil deeds and
vile thoughts as jarring with the new friendship. Mere acquaintance with
a good man is a powerful antidote to evil; but the knowledge of _such_
a man, as those healed by him knew him, was the mightiest of divine

In these miracles of healing our Lord must have laid one of the largest
of the foundation-stones of his church. The healed knew him henceforth,
not by comprehension, but with their whole being. Their very life
acknowledged him. They returned to their homes to recall and love
afresh. I wonder what their talk about him was like. What an insight
it would give into our common nature, to know how these men and women
thought and spoke concerning him! But the time soon arrived when they
had to be public martyrs--that is, witnesses to what they knew, come of
it what might. After our Lord's departure came the necessity for those
who loved him to gather together, thus bearing their testimony at once.
Next to his immediate disciples, those whom he had cured must have been
the very heart of the young church. Imagine the living strength of such
a heart--personal love to the personal helper the very core of it. The
church had begun with the first gush of affection in the heart of the
mother Mary, and now "great was the company of those that published" the
good news to the world. The works of the Father had drawn the hearts of
the children, and they spake of the Elder Brother who had brought those
works to their doors. The thoughtful remembrances of those who had heard
him speak; the grateful convictions of those whom he had healed;
the tender memories of those whom he had taken in his arms and
blessed--these were the fine fibrous multitudinous roots which were to
the church existence, growth, and continuance, for these were they which
sucked in the dews and rains of that descending Spirit which was the
life of the tree. Individual life is the life of the church.

But one may say: Why then did he not cure all the sick in Judaea? Simply
because all were not ready to be cured. Many would not have believed in
him if he had cured them. Their illness had not yet wrought its work,
had not yet ripened them to the possibility of faith; his cure would
have left them deeper in evil than before. "He did not many mighty works
there because of their unbelief." God will cure a man, will give him a
fresh start of health and hope, and the man will be the better for it,
even without having _yet_ learned to thank him; but to behold the healer
and acknowledge the outstretched hand of help, yet not to believe in the
healer, is a terrible thing for the man; and I think the Lord kept his
personal healing for such as it would bring at once into some relation
of heart and will with himself; whence arose his frequent demand of
faith--a demand apparently always responded to: at the word, the
flickering belief, the smoking flax, burst into a flame. Evil, that is,
physical evil, is a moral good--a mighty means to a lofty end. Pain is
an evil; but a good as well, which it would be a great injury to take
from the man before it had wrought its end. Then it becomes all evil,
and must pass.

I now proceed to a group of individual cases in which, as far as we
can judge from the narratives, our Lord gave the gift of restoration
unsolicited. There are other instances of the same, but they fall into
other groups, gathered because of other features.

The first is that, recorded by St Luke alone, of the "woman which had a
spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in
no wise lift up herself." It may be that this belongs to the class of
demoniacal possession as well, but I prefer to take it here; for I am
very doubtful whether the expression in the narrative--"a spirit of
infirmity," even coupled with that of our Lord in defending her and
himself from the hypocritical attack of the ruler of the synagogue,
"this woman--whom Satan hath bound," renders it necessary to regard
it as one of the latter kind. This is, however, a matter of small
importance--at least from our present point of view.

Bowed earthwards, the necessary blank of her eye the ground and not
the horizon, the form divine deformed towards that of the four-footed
animals, this woman had been in bondage eighteen years. Necessary as it
is to one's faith to believe every trouble fitted for the being who has
to bear it, every physical evil not merely the result of moral evil, but
antidotal thereto, no one ought to dare judge of the relation between
moral condition and physical suffering in individual cases. Our Lord has
warned us from that. But in proportion as love and truth prevail in
the hearts of men, physical evil will vanish from the earth. The
righteousness of his descendants will destroy the disease which the
unrighteousness of their ancestor has transmitted to them. But, I
repeat, to destroy this physical evil save by the destruction of its
cause, by the redemption of the human nature from moral evil, would be
to ruin the world. What in this woman it was that made it right she
should bear these bonds for eighteen years, who can tell? Certainly it
was not that God had forgotten her. What it may have preserved her
from, one may perhaps conjecture, but can hardly have a right to utter.
Neither can we tell how she had borne the sad affliction; whether in the
lovely patience common amongst the daughters of affliction, or with
the natural repining of one made to behold the sun, and doomed ever to
regard the ground upon which she trod. While patience would have its
glorious reward in the cure, it is possible that even the repinings
of prideful pain might be destroyed by the grand deliverance, that
gratitude might beget sorrow for vanished impatience. Anyhow the right
hour had come when the darkness must fly away.

Supported, I presume, by the staff which yet more assimilated her to the
lower animals, she had crept to the synagogue--a good sign surely, for
the synagogue was not its ruler. There is no appearance from the story,
that she had come there to seek Jesus, or even that when in his presence
she saw him before the word of her deliverance had gone forth. Most
likely, being bowed together, she heard him before she saw him.

But he saw her. Our translation says he called her to him. I do not
think this is correct. I think the word, although it might mean that,
does mean simply that he _addressed her_. Going to her, I think, and
saying, "Woman, thou art loosed from thy infirmity," "he laid his hands
on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God." What
an uplifting!--a type of all that God works in his human beings.
The head, down-bent with sin, care, sorrow, pain, is uplifted; the
grovelling will sends its gaze heavenward; the earth is no more the
one object of the aspiring spirit; we lift our eyes to God; we bend no
longer even to his will, but raise ourselves up towards his will, for
his will has become our will, and that will is our sanctification.

Although the woman did not beg the Son to cure her, she may have prayed
the Father much. Anyhow proof that she was ready for the miracle is not
wanting. She glorified God. It is enough. She not merely thanked the man
who had wrought the cure, for of this we cannot doubt; but she glorified
the known Saviour, God, from whom cometh down every good gift and every
perfect gift.

She had her share in the miracle I think too, as, in his perfect bounty,
God gives a share to every one in what work He does for him. I mean,
that, with the given power, _she_ had to _lift herself_ up. Such active
faith is the needful response in order that a man may be a child of God,
and not the mere instrument upon which his power plays a soulless tune.

In this preventing of prayer, in this answering before the call, in this
bringing of the blessing to the door, according to which I have grouped
this with the following miracles, Jesus did as his Father is doing
every day. He was doing the works of his Father. If men had no help, no
deliverance from the ills which come upon them, even those which they
bring upon themselves, except such as came at their cry; if no salvation
descended from God, except such as they prayed for, where would the
world be? in what case would the generations of men find themselves? But
the help of God is ever coming, ever setting them free whom Satan hath
bound; ever giving them a fresh occasion and a fresh impulse to glorify
the God of their salvation. For with every such recovery the child in
the man is new-born--for some precious moments at least; a gentleness of
spirit, a wonder at the world, a sense of the blessedness of being, an
openness to calm yet rousing influences, appear in the man. These are
the descending angels of God. The passion that had blotted out the child
will revive; the strife of the world will renew wrath and hate; ambition
and greed will blot out the beauty of the earth; envy of others will
blind the man to his own blessedness; and self-conceit will revive in
him all those prejudices whose very strength lies in his weakness; but
the man has had a glimpse of the peace to gain which he must fight with
himself; he has for one moment felt what he might be if he trusted in
God; and the memory of it may return in the hour of temptation. As
the commonest things in nature are the most lovely, so the commonest
agencies in humanity are the most powerful. Sickness and recovery
therefrom have a larger share in the divine order of things for the
deliverance of men than can show itself to the keenest eyes. Isolated
in individuals, the facts are unknown; or, slow and obscure in their
operation, are forgotten by the time their effects appear. Many things
combine to render an enlarged view of the moral influences of sickness
and recovery impossible. The kingdom cometh not with observation, and
the working of the leaven of its approach must be chiefly unseen. Like
the creative energy itself, it works "in secret shadow, far from all
men's sight."

The teaching of our Lord which immediately follows concerning the small
beginnings of his kingdom, symbolized in the grain of mustard seed and
the leaven, may, I think, have immediate reference to the cure of this
woman, and show that he regarded her glorifying of God for her recovery
as one of those beginnings of a mighty growth. We do find the same
similes in a different connection in St Matthew and St Mark; but even if
we had no instances of fact, it would be rational to suppose that the
Lord, in the varieties of place, audience, and occasion, in the dullness
likewise of his disciples, and the perfection of the similes he chose,
would again and again make use of the same.

I now come to the second miracle of the group, namely that, recorded
by all the Evangelists except St John, of the cure of the man with the
withered hand. This, like the preceding, was done in the synagogue. And
I may remark, in passing, that all of this group, with the exception of
the last--one of very peculiar circumstance--were performed upon the
Sabbath, and each gave rise to discussion concerning the lawfulness of
the deed. St Mark says they watched Jesus to see whether he would heal
the man on the Sabbath-day; St Luke adds that he knew their thoughts,
and therefore met them with the question of its lawfulness; St Matthew
says they challenged him to the deed Joy asking him whether it was
lawful. The mere watching could hardly have taken place without the
man's perceiving something in motion which had to do with him. But there
is no indication of a request.

There cannot surely be many who have reached half the average life of
man without at some time having felt the body a burden in some way, and
regarded a possible deliverance from it as an enfranchisement. If the
spirit of man were fulfilled of the Spirit of God, the body would simply
be a living house, an obedient servant--yes, a humble mediator, by the
senses, between his thoughts and God's thoughts; but when every breath
has, as it were, to be sent for and brought hither with much labour
and small consolation--when pain turns faith into a mere shadow of
hope--when the withered limb hangs irresponsive, lost and cumbersome, an
inert simulacrum of power, swinging lifeless to and fro;--then even the
physical man understands his share in the groaning of the creation after
the sonship. When, at a word issuing from such a mouth as that of Jesus
of Nazareth, the poor, withered, distorted, contemptible hand obeyed
and, responsive to the spirit within, spread forth its fingers, filled
with its old human might, became capable once more of the grasp of
friendship, of the caress of love, of the labour for the bread that
sustains the life, little would the man care that other men--even rulers
of synagogues, even Scribes and Pharisees, should question the rectitude
of him who had healed him. The power which restored the gift of God and
completed humanity, must be of God. Argument upon argument might follow
from old books and old customs and learned interpretations, wherein man
set forth the will of God as different from the laws of his world, but
the man whose hand was restored whole as the other, knew it fitting that
his hands should match. They might talk; he would thank God for the
crooked made straight. Bewilder his judgment they might with their
glosses upon commandment and observance; but they could not keep his
heart from gladness; and, being glad, whom should he praise but God? If
there was another giver of good things he knew nothing of him. The hand
was now as God had meant it to be. Nor could he behold the face of
Jesus, and doubt that such a man would do only that which was right. It
was not Satan, but God that had set him free.

Here, plainly by the record, our Lord gave the man his share, not of
mere acquiescence, but of active will, in the miracle. If man is the
child of God, he must have a share in the works of the Father. Without
such share in the work as faith gives, cure will be of little avail.
"Stretch forth thine hand," said the Healer; and the man made the
effort; and the withered hand obeyed, and was no more withered. _In_ the
act came the cure, without which the act had been confined to the will,
and had never taken form in the outstretching. It is the same in all
spiritual redemption.

Think for a moment with what delight the man would employ his new hand.
This right hand would henceforth be God's hand. But was not the other
hand God's too?--God's as much as this? Had not the power of God been
always present in that left hand, whose unwithered life had ministered
to him all these years? Was it not the life of God that inspired
his whole frame? By the loss and restoration in one part, he would
understand possession in the whole.

But as the withered and restored limb to the man, so is the maimed and
healed man to his brethren. In every man the power by which he does the
commonest things is the power of God. The power is not _of us_. Our
power does it; but we do not make the power. This, plain as it is,
remains, however, the hardest lesson for a man to learn with conviction
and thanksgiving. For God has, as it were, put us just so far away
from Him that we can exercise the divine thing in us, our own will, in
returning towards our source. Then we shall learn the fact that we are
infinitely more great and blessed in being the outcome of a perfect
self-constituting will, than we could be by the conversion of any
imagined independence of origin into fact for us--a truth no man _can_
understand, feel, or truly acknowledge, save in proportion as he has
become one with his perfect origin, the will of God. While opposition
exists between the thing made and the maker, there can be but discord
and confusion in the judgment of the creature. No true felicitous vision
of the facts of the relation between his God and him; no perception of
the mighty liberty constituted by the holy dependence wherein the will
of God is the absolutely free choice of the man; no perception of a
unity such as cannot exist between independent wills, but only in
unspeakable love and tenderness between the causing Will and the caused
will, can yet have place. Those who cannot see how the human will should
be free in dependence upon the will of God, have not realized that the
will of God made the will of man; that, when most it pants for freedom,
the will of man is the child of the will of God, and therefore that
there can be no natural opposition or strife between them. Nay, more,
the whole labour of God is that the will of man should be free as his
will is free--in the same way that his will is free--by the perfect love
of the man for that which is true, harmonious, lawful, creative. If a
man say, "But might not the will of God make my will with the intent of
over-riding and enslaving it?" I answer, such a Will could not create,
could not be God, for it involves the false and contrarious. That would
be to make a will in order that it might be no will. To create in order
to uncreate is something else than divine. But a free will is not the
liberty to do whatever one likes, but the power of doing whatever one
sees ought to be done, even in the very face of otherwise overwhelming
impulse. There lies freedom indeed.

I come now to the case of the man who had been paralysed for
eight-and-thirty years. There is great pathos in the story. For many,
at least, of these years, the man had haunted the borders of legendary
magic, for I regard the statement about the angel troubling the pool as
only the expression of a current superstition. Oh, how different from
the healing of our Lord! What he had to bestow was free to all. The cure
of no man by his hand weakened that hand for the cure of the rest. None
were poorer that one was made rich. But this legend of the troubling
of the pool fostered the evil passion of emulation, and that in a most
selfish kind. Nowhere in the divine arrangements is my gain another's
loss. If it be said that this was the mode in which God determined which
was to be healed, I answer that the effort necessary was contrary to all
we admire most in humanity. According to this rule, Sir Philip Sidney
ought to have drunk the water which he handed to the soldier instead.
Does the doctrine of Christ, and by that I insist we must interpret the
ways of God, countenance a man's hurrying to be before the rest, and
gain the boon in virtue t of having the least need of it, inasmuch as
he was the ablest to run and plunge first into the eddies left by the
fantastic angel? Or if the triumph were to be gained by the help of
friends, surely he was in most need of the cure who like this man--a man
such as we hope there are few--had no friends either to plunge him
in the waters of fabled hope, or to comfort him in the seasons of
disappointment which alone divided the weary months of a life passed in
empty expectation.

But the Master comes near. In him the power of life rests as in "its own
calm home, its crystal shrine," and he that believeth in him shall not
need to make haste. He knew it was time this man should be healed, and
did not wait to be asked. Indeed the man did not know him; did not even
know his name. "Wilt thou be made whole?" "Sir, I have no man, when
the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming,
another steppeth down before me." "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk."

Our Lord delays the cure in this case with no further speech. The man
knows nothing about him, and he makes no demand upon his faith, except
that of obedience. He gives him something to do at once. He will find
him again by and by. The man obeys, takes up his bed, and walks.

He sets an open path before us; _we_ must walk in it. More, we must be
willing to believe that the path is open, that we have strength to walk
in it. God's gift glides into man's choice. It is needful that we should
follow with our effort in the track of his foregoing power. To refuse is
to destroy the gift. His cure is not for such as choose to be invalids.
They must be willing to be made whole, even if it should involve the
carrying of their beds and walking. Some keep in bed who have strength
enough to get up and walk. There is a self-care and a self-pity, a
laziness and conceit of incapacity, which are as unhealing for the body
as they are unhealthy in the mind, corrupting all dignity and destroying
all sympathy. Who but invalids need like miracles wrought in them? Yet
some invalids are not cured because they will not be healed. They will
not stretch out the hand; they will not rise; they will not walk; above
all things, they will not work. Yet for their illness it may be that
the work so detested is the only cure, or if no cure yet the best
amelioration. Labour is not in itself an evil like the sickness, but
often a divine, a blissful remedy. Nor is the duty or the advantage
confined to those who ought to labour for their own support. No amount
of wealth sets one free from the obligation to work--in a world the God
of which is ever working. He who works not has not yet discovered what
God made him for, and is a false note in the orchestra of the universe.
The possession of wealth is as it were pre-payment, and involves an
obligation of honour to the doing of correspondent work. He who does not
know what to do has never seriously asked himself what he ought to do.

But there is a class of persons, the very opposite of these, who, as
extremes meet, fall into a similar fault. They will not be healed
either. They will not take the repose in which God giveth to his
beloved. Some sicknesses are to be cured with rest, others with labour.

The right way is all--to meet the sickness as God would have it met, to
submit or to resist according to the conditions of cure. Whatsoever is
not of faith is sin; and she who will not go to her couch and rest in
the Lord, is to blame even as she who will not rise and go to her work.

There is reason to suppose that this man had brought his infirmity upon
himself--I do not mean by the mere neglect of physical laws, but by the
doing of what he knew to be wrong. For the Lord, although he allowed
the gladness of the deliverance full sway at first, when he found him
afterwards did not leave him without the lesson that all health and
well-being depend upon purity of life: "Behold, thou art made whole:
sin no more lest a worse thing come unto thee." It is the only case of
recorded cure in which Jesus gives a warning of the kind. Therefore I
think the probability is as I have stated it. Hence, the fact that we
may be ourselves to blame for our sufferings is no reason why we should
not go to God to deliver us from them. David the king knew this, and set
it forth in that grand poem, the 107th Psalm.

In the very next case we find that Jesus will not admit the cause of the
man's condition, blindness from his birth, to be the sin either of the
man himself, or of his parents. The probability seems, to judge from
their behaviour in the persecution that followed, that both the man and
his parents were people of character, thought, and honourable prudence.
He was born blind, Jesus said, "that the works of God should be made
manifest in him." What works, then? The work of creation for one, rather
than the work of healing. The man had suffered nothing in being born
blind. God had made him only not so blessed as his fellows, with
the intent of giving him equal faculty and even greater enjoyment
afterwards, with the honour of being employed for the revelation of his
works to men. In him Jesus created sight before men's eyes. For, as at
the first God said, "Let there be light," so the work of God is still
to give light to the world, and Jesus must work his work, and _be_ the
light of the world--light in all its degrees and kinds, reaching into
every corner where work may be done, arousing sleepy hearts, and opening
blind eyes.

Jesus saw the man, the disciples asked their question, and he had no
sooner answered it, than "he spat on the ground, made clay of the
spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay."--Why
this mediating clay? Why the spittle and the touch?--Because the man
who could not see him must yet be brought into sensible contact with
him--must know that the healing came from the man who touched him. Our
Lord took pains about it because the man was blind. And for the man's
share in the miracle, having blinded him a second time as it were with
clay, he sends him to the pool to wash it away: clay and blindness
should depart together by the act of the man's faith. It was as if the
Lord said, "I blinded thee: now, go and see." Here, then, are the links
of the chain by which the Lord bound the man to himself. The voice, if
heard by the man, which defended him and his parents from the judgment
of his disciples; the assertion that he was the light of the world--a
something which others had and the blind man only knew as not possessed
by him; the sound of the spitting on the ground; the touch of the
speaker's fingers; the clay on his eyes; the command to wash; the
journey to the pool; the laving water; the astonished sight. "He went
his way, therefore, and washed, and came seeing."

But who can imagine, save in a conception only less dim than the man's
blindness, the glory which burst upon him when, as the restoring clay
left his eyes, the light of the world invaded his astonished soul? The
very idea may well make one tremble. Blackness of darkness--not an
invading stranger, but the home-companion always there--the negation
never understood because the assertion was unknown--creation not erased
and treasured in the memory, but to his eyes uncreated!--Blackness of
darkness!.... The glory of the celestial blue! The towers of the
great Jerusalem dwelling in the awful space! The room! The life! The
tenfold-glorified being! Any wonder might follow on such a wonder. And
the whole vision was as fresh as if he had that moment been created, the
first of men.

But the best remained behind. A man had said, "I am the light of the
world," and lo! here was the light of the world. The words had been
vague as a dark form in darkness, but now the thing itself had invaded
his innermost soul. But the face of the man who was this light of the
world he had not seen. The creator of his vision he had not yet beheld.
But he believed in him, for he defended him from the same charge of
wickedness from which Jesus had defended him. "Give God the praise,"
they said; "we know that this man is a sinner." "God heareth not
sinners," he replied; "and this man hath opened my eyes." It is no
wonder that when Jesus found him and asked him, "Dost thou believe on
the Son of God?" he should reply, "Who is he, Lord, that I might believe
on him?" He was ready. He had only to know which was he, that he might
worship him. Here at length was the Light of the world before him--the
man who had said, "I am the light of the world," and straightway the
world burst upon him in light! Would this man ever need further proof
that there was indeed a God of men? I suspect he had a grander idea
of the Son of God than any of his disciples as yet. The would-be
refutations of experience, for "since the world began was it not heard
that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind;" the objections
of the religious authorities, "This man is not of God, because he
keepeth not the Sabbath day;" endless possible perplexities of the
understanding, and questions of the _how_ and the _why_, could never
touch that man to the shaking of his confidence: "One thing I know, that
whereas I was blind, now I see." The man could not convince the Jews
that Jesus must be a good man; neither could he doubt it himself, whose
very being, body and soul and spirit, had been enlightened and glorified
by him. With light in the eyes, in the brain, in the heart, light
permeating and unifying his physical and moral nature, asserting itself
in showing the man to himself one whole--how could he doubt!

The miracles were for the persons on whom they passed. To the spectators
they were something, it is true; but they were of unspeakable value to,
and of endless influence upon their subjects. The true mode in which
they reached others was through the healed themselves. And the testimony
of their lives would go far beyond the testimony of their tongues. Their
tongues could but witness to a fact; their lives could witness to a

In this miracle as in all the rest, Jesus did in little the great work
of the Father; for how many more are they to whom God has given the
marvel of vision than those blind whom the Lord enlightened! The remark
will sound feeble and far-fetched to the man whose familiar spirit is
that Mephistopheles of the commonplace. He who uses his vision only
for the care of his body or the indulgence of his mind--how should he
understand the gift of God in its marvel? But the man upon whose soul
the grandeur and glory of the heavens and the earth and the sea and
the fountains of waters have once arisen will understand what a divine
_invention_, what a mighty gift of God is this very common thing--these
eyes to see with--that light which enlightens the world, this sight
which is the result of both. He will understand what a believer the man
born blind must have become, yea, how the mighty inburst of splendour
might render him so capable of believing that nothing should be too
grand and good for him to believe thereafter--not even the doctrine
hardest to commonplace humanity, though the most natural and reasonable
to those who have beheld it--that the God of the light is a faithful,
loving, upright, honest, and self-denying being, yea utterly devoted to
the uttermost good of those whom he has made.

Such is the Father of lights who enlightens the world and every man that
cometh into it. Every pulsation of light on every brain is from him.
Every feeling of law and order is from him. Every hint of right, every
desire after the true, whatever we call aspiration, all longing for the
light, every perception that this is true, that that ought to be done,
is from the Father of lights. His infinite and varied light gathered
into one point--for how shall we speak at all of these things if we do
not speak in figures?--concentrated and embodied in Jesus, became _the_
light of the world. For the light is no longer only diffused, but in him
man "beholds the light _and whence it flows_." Not merely is our chamber
enlightened, but we see the lamp. And so we turn again to God, the
Father of lights, yea even of The Light of the World. Henceforth we know
that all the light wherever diffused has its centre in God, as the light
that enlightened the blind man flowed from its centre in Jesus. In other
words, we have a glimmering, faint, human perception of the absolute
glory. We know what God is in recognizing him as our God.

Jesus did the works of the Father.

The next miracle--recorded by St Luke alone--is the cure of the man with
the dropsy, wrought also upon the Sabbath, but in the house of one
of the chief of the Pharisees. Thither our Lord had gone to an
entertainment, apparently large, for the following parable is spoken "to
those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief

[Footnote: 1. Not _rooms_, but _reclining places_ at the table.] Hence
the possibility at least is suggested, that the man was one of the
guests. No doubt their houses were more accessible than ours, and it
was not difficult for one uninvited to make his way in, especially upon
occasion of such a gathering. But I think the word translated _before
him_ means _opposite to him_ at the table; and that the man was not too
ill to appear as a guest. The "took him and healed him and let him go,"
of our translation, is against the notion rather, but merely from its
indefiniteness being capable of meaning that he sent him away; but such
is not the meaning of the original. That merely implies that he _took
him_, went to him and laid his hands upon him, thus connecting the cure
with himself, and then released him, set him free, took his hands off
him, turning at once to the other guests and justifying himself by
appealing to their own righteous conduct towards the ass and the ox. I
think the man remained reclining at the table, to enjoy the appetite of
health at a good meal; if, indeed, the gladness of the relieved breath,
the sense of lightness and strength, the consciousness of a restored
obedience of body, not to speak of the presence of him who had cured
him, did not make him too happy to care about his dinner. I come now to
the last of the group, exceptional in its nature, inasmuch as it was
not the curing of a disease or natural defect, but the reparation of an
injury, or hurt at least, inflicted by one of his own followers. This
miracle also is recorded by St Luke alone. The other evangelists relate
the occasion of the miracle, but not the miracle itself; they record the
blow, but not the touch. I shall not, therefore, compare their accounts,
which have considerable variety, but no inconsistency. I shall confine
myself to the story as told by St Luke. Peter, intending, doubtless, to
cleave the head of a servant of the high priest who had come out to take
Jesus, with unaccustomed hand, probably trembling with rage and perhaps
with fear, missed his well-meant aim, and only cut off the man's ear.
Jesus said, "Suffer ye thus far." I think the words should have a point
of interrogation after them, to mean, "Is it thus far ye suffer?" "Is
this the limit of your patience?" but I do not know. With the words, "he
touched his ear and healed him." Hardly had the wound reached the true
sting of its pain, before the gentle hand of him whom the servant had
come to drag to the torture, dismissed the agony as if it had never
been. Whether he restored the ear, or left the loss of it for a reminder
to the man of the part he had taken against his Lord, and the return the
Lord had made him, we do not know. Neither do we know whether he turned
back ashamed and contrite, now that in his own person he had felt the
life that dwelt in Jesus, or followed out the capture to the end.
Possibly the blow of Peter was the form which the favour of God took,
preparing the way, like the blindness from the birth, for the glory that
was to be manifested in him. But the Lord would countenance no violence
done in his defence. They might do to him as they would. If his Father
would not defend him, neither would he defend himself.

Within sight of the fearful death that awaited him, his heart was no
whit hardened to the pain of another. Neither did it make any difference
that it was the pain of an enemy--even an enemy who was taking him to
the cross. There was suffering; here was healing. He came to do the
works of him that sent him. He did good to them that hated him, for his
Father is the Saviour of men, saving "them out of their distresses."


I come now to the second group of miracles, those granted to the
prayers of the sufferers. But before I make any general remarks on the
speciality of these, I must speak of one case which appears to lie
between the preceding group and this. It is that of the woman who came
behind Jesus in the crowd; and involves peculiar difficulties, in
connection with the facts which render its classification uncertain.

At Capernaum, apparently, our Lord was upon his way with Jairus to visit
his daughter, accompanied by a crowd of people who had heard the request
of the ruler of the synagogue. A woman who had been ill for twelve
years, came behind him and touched the hem of his garment. This we may
regard as a prayer in so far as she came to him, saying "within herself,
If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole." But, on the other
hand, it was no true prayer in as far as she expected to be healed
without the knowledge and will of the healer. Although she came to him,
she did not ask him to heal her. She thought with innocent theft to
steal from him a cure.

What follows according to St Matthew's account, occasions me no
difficulty. He does not say that the woman was cured by the touch; he
says nothing of her cure until Jesus had turned and seen her, and spoken
the word to her, whereupon he adds: "And the woman was made whole from
that hour." But St Mark and St Luke represent that the woman was cured
upon the touch, and that the cure was only confirmed afterwards by the
words of our Lord. They likewise represent Jesus as ignorant of what had
taken place, except in so far as he knew that, without his volition,
some cure had been wrought by contact with his person, of which he was
aware by the passing from him of a saving influence. By this, in the
heart of a crowd which pressed upon him so that many must have come into
bodily contact with him, he knew that some one had touched him with
special intent. No perplexity arises from the difference between the
accounts, for there is only difference, not incongruity: the two tell
more than the one; it is from the nature of the added circumstances that
it springs, for those circumstances necessarily involve inquiries of the
most difficult nature. Nor can I in the least pretend to have satisfied
myself concerning them. In the first place comes the mode of the cure,
which _seems_ at first sight (dissociated, observe, from the will of
the healer) to partake of the nature of magic--an influence without
a sufficient origin. Not for a moment would I therefore yield to an
inclination to reject the testimony. I have no right to do so, for
it deals with circumstances concerning which my ignorance is all but
complete. I cannot rest, however, without seeking to come into some
spiritual relation with the narrative, that is, to find some credible
supposition upon which, without derogating from the lustre of the object
of the whole history, the thing might take place. The difficulty, I
repeat, is, that the woman could be cured by the garment of Jesus,
without (not against) the will of Jesus. I think that the whole
difficulty arises from our ignorance--a helpless ignorance--of the
relations of thought and matter. I use the word _thought_ rather than
spirit, because in reflecting upon spirit (which is thought), people
generally represent to themselves a vague form of matter. All religion
is founded on the belief or instinct--call it what we will--that matter
is the result of mind, spirit, thought. The relation between them is
therefore simply too close, too near for us to understand. Here is what
I am able to suggest concerning the account of the miracle as given by
St Mark and St Luke.

If even in what we call inanimate things there lies a healing power in
various kinds; if, as is not absurd, there may lie in the world absolute
cure existing in analysis, that is parted into a thousand kinds and
forms, who can tell what cure may lie in a perfect body, informed, yea,
caused, by a perfect spirit? If stones and plants can heal by the will
of God in them, might there not dwell in the perfect health of a body,
in which dwelt the Son of God, a necessarily healing power? It may seem
that in the fact of the many crowding about him, concerning whom we
have no testimony of influence received, there lies a refutation of
his supposition. But who can tell what he may have done even for them
without their recognizing it save in conscious well-being? Besides,
those who crowded nearest him would mostly be of the strongest who were
least in need of a physician, and in whose being consequently there lay
not that bare open channel hungering for the precious life-current. And
who can tell how the faith of the heart, calming or arousing the whole
nature, may have rendered the very person of the woman more fit than
the persons of others in the crowd to receive the sacred influence? For
although she did not pray, she had the faith as alive though as small as
the mustard seed. Why might not health from the fountain of health flow
then into the empty channel of the woman's weakness? It may have been
so. I shrink from the subject, I confess, because of the vulgar forms
such speculations have assumed in our days, especially in the hands of
those who savour unspeakably more of the charlatan than the prophet.
Still, one must be honest and truthful even in regard to what he has to
distinguish, as he can, into probable and impossible. Fact is not the
sole legitimate object of human inquiry. If it were, farewell to all
that elevates and glorifies human nature--farewell to God, to religion,
to hope! It is that which lies at the root of fact, yea, at the root of
law, after which the human soul hungers and longs.

In the preceding remarks I have anticipated a chapter to follow--a
chapter of speculation, which may God make humble and right. But some
remark was needful here. What must be to some a far greater difficulty
has yet to be considered. It is the representation of the Lord's
ignorance of the cure, save from the reaction upon his own person of the
influence which went out from him to fill that vacuum of suffering which
the divine nature abhors: he did not know that his body was about to
radiate health. But this gives me no concern. Our Lord himself tells us
in one case, at least, that he did not know, that only his Father knew.
He could discern a necessary result in the future, but not the day or
the hour thereof. Omniscience is a consequence, not an essential of the
divine nature. God knows because he creates. The Father knows because he
orders. The Son knows because he obeys. The knowledge of the Father must
be perfect; such knowledge the Son neither needs nor desires. His
sole care is to do the will of the Father. Herein lies his essential
divinity. Although he knew that one of his apostles should betray him, I
doubt much whether, when he chose Judas, he knew that he was that one.
We must take his own words as true. Not only does he not claim perfect
knowledge, but he disclaims it. He speaks once, at least, to his Father
with an _if it be possible_. Those who believe omniscience essential to
divinity, will therefore be driven to say that Christ was not divine.
This will be their punishment for placing knowledge on a level with
love. No one who does so can worship in spirit and in truth, can lift
up his heart in pure adoration. He will suppose he does, but his heaven
will be in the clouds, not in the sky.

But now we come to the holy of holies of the story--the divinest of its
divinity. Jesus could not leave the woman with the half of a gift. He
could not let her away so poor. She had stolen the half: she must fetch
the other half--come and take it from his hand. That is, she must know
who had healed her. Her will and his must come together; and for this
her eyes and his, her voice and his ears, her ears and his voice must
meet. It is the only case recorded in which he says _Daughter_. It could
not have been because she was younger than himself; there could not have
been much difference between their ages in that direction. Let us see
what lies in the word.

With the modesty belonging to her as a woman, intensified by the painful
shrinking which had its origin in the peculiar nature of her suffering,
she dared not present herself to the eyes of the Lord, but thought
merely to gather from under his table a crumb unseen. And I do not
believe that our Lord in calling her had any desire to make her tell her
tale of grief, and, in her eyes, of shame. It would have been enough to
him if she had come and stood before him, and said nothing. Nor had she
to appear before his face with only that poor remnant of strength which
had sufficed to bring her to the hem of his garment behind him; for
now she knew in herself that she was healed of her plague, and the
consciousness must have been strength. Yet she trembled when she came.
Filled with awe and gratitude, she could not stand before him; she fell
down at his feet. There, hiding her face in her hands, I presume, she
forgot the surrounding multitude, and was alone in the chamber of her
consciousness with the Son of Man. Her love, her gratitude, her holy
awe unite in an impulse to tell him all. When the lower approaches the
higher in love, even between men, the longing is to be known; the prayer
is "Know me." This was David's prayer to God, "Search me and know me."
There should be no more concealment. Besides, painful as it was to her
to speak, he had a right to know all, and know it he should. It was her
sacrifice offered unto the Lord. She told him all the truth. To conceal
anything from him now would be greater pain than to tell all, for the
thing concealed would be as a barrier between him and her; she would be
simple--one-fold; her whole being should lie open before him. I do not
for a moment mean that such thoughts, not to say words, took shape in
her mind; but sometimes we can represent a single consciousness only by
analysing it into twenty thoughts. And he accepted the offering. He let
her speak, and tell all.

But it was painful. He understood it well. His heart yearned towards the
woman to shield her from her own innocent shame, to make as it were a
heaven about her whose radiance should render it "by clarity invisible."
Her story appealed to all that was tenderest in humanity; for the secret
which her modesty had hidden, her conscience had spoken aloud. Therefore
the tenderest word that the language could afford must be hers.
"Daughter," he said. It was the fullest reward, the richest
acknowledgment he could find of the honour in which he held her, his
satisfaction with her conduct, and the perfect love he bore her. The
degrading spirit of which I have spoken, the spirit of the commonplace,
which lowers everything to the level of its own capacity of belief, will
say that the word was an eastern mode in more common use than with us. I
say that whatever Jesus did or said, he did and said like other men--he
did and said as no other man did or said. If he said _Daughter_, it
meant what any man would mean by it; it meant what no man could mean by
it--what no man was good enough, great enough, loving enough to mean
by it. In him the Father spoke to this one the eternal truth of his
relation to all his daughters, to all the women he has made, though
individually it can be heard only by those who lift up the filial eyes,
lay bare the filial heart. He did the works, he spoke the words of him
that sent him. Well might this woman, if she dared not lift the downcast
eye before the men present, yet depart in shameless peace: he who had
healed her had called her _Daughter_. Everything on earth is paltry
before such a word. It was the deepest gift of the divine nature--the
recognition of the eternal in her by him who had made it. Between the
true father and the true daughter nothing is painful. I think also that
very possibly some compunction arose in her mind, the moment she knew
herself healed, at the mode in which she had gained her cure. Hence
when the Lord called her she may have thought he was offended with her
because of it. Possibly her contrition for the little fault, if fault
indeed it was, may have increased the agony of feeling with which she
forced rather than poured out her confession. But he soothes her with
gentle, consoling, restoring words: "Be of good comfort." He heals the
shy suffering spirit, "wherein old dints of deep wounds did remain." He
confirms the cure she feared perhaps might be taken from her again. "Go
in peace, and be whole of thy plague." Nay, more, he attributes her
cure to her own faith. "Thy faith hath made thee whole." What wealth
of tenderness! She must not be left in her ignorance to the danger of
associating power with the mere garment of the divine. She must be
brought face to face with her healer. She must not be left kneeling on
the outer threshold of the temple. She must be taken to the heart of the
Saviour, and so redeemed, then only redeemed utterly. There is no word,
no backward look of reproach upon the thing she had condemned. If it was
evil it was gone from between them for ever. Confessed, it vanished. Her
faith was an ignorant faith, but, however obscured in her consciousness,
it was a true faith. She believed in the man, and our Lord loved the
modesty that kept her from pressing into his presence. It may indeed
have been the very strength of her faith working in her ignorance that
caused her to extend his power even to the skirts of his garments. And
there he met the ignorance, not with rebuke, but with the more grace. If
even her ignorance was so full of faith, of what mighty confidence was
she not capable! Even the skirt of his garment would minister to such a
faith. It should be as she would. Through the garment of his Son, the
Father would cure her who believed enough to put forth her hand and
touch it. The kernel-faith was none the worse that it was closed in the
uncomely shell of ignorance and mistake. The Lord was satisfied with it.
When did he ever quench the smoking flax? See how he praises her. He is
never slow to commend. The first quiver of the upturning eyelid is to
him faith. He welcomes the sign, and acknowledges it; commends the
feeblest faith in the ignorant soul, rebukes it as little only in
apostolic souls where it ought to be greater. "Thy faith hath saved
thee." However poor it was, it was enough for that. Between death and
the least movement of life there is a gulf wider than that fixed between
the gates of heaven and the depths of hell. He said "_Daughter_."

I come now to the first instance of plain request--that of the leper who
fell down before him, saying, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me
clean"--a prayer lovely in the simplicity of its human pleading--appeal
to the power which lay in the man to whom he spoke: his power was the
man's claim; the relation between them was of the strongest--that
between plenty and need, between strength and weakness, between health
and disease--poor bonds comparatively between man and man, for man's
plenty, strength, and health can only supplement, not satisfy the need;
support the weakness, not change it into strength; mitigate the disease
of his fellow, not slay it with invading life; but in regard to God, all
whose power is creative, any necessity of his creatures is a perfect
bond between them and him; his magnificence must flow into the channels
of the indigence he has created.

Observe how Jesus responds in the terms of the man's request. The woman
found the healing where she sought it--in the hem of his garment. One
man says, "Come with me;" the Lord goes. Another says, "Come not under
my roof, I am not worthy;" the Lord remains. Here the man says, "If thou
wilt;" the Lord answers, "I will." But he goes far beyond the man's

I need say nothing of the grievous complaint under which he laboured.
It was sore to the mind as well as the body, for it made of the man an
outcast and ashamed. No one would come near him lest he should share his
condemnation. Physical evil had, as it were, come to the surface in him.
He was "full of leprosy." Men shrink more from skin-diseases than from
any other.[2] [Footnote 2: And they are amongst the hardest to cure;
just as the skin-diseases of the soul linger long after the heart is
greatly cured. Witness the petulance, fastidiousness, censoriousness,
social self-assertion, general disagreeableness of so many good
people--all in the moral skin--repulsive exceedingly. I say good people;
I do not say _very good_, nor do I say Christ-_like_, for that they are

Jesus could have cured him with a word. There was no need he should
touch him. _No need_ did I say? There was every need. For no one else
would touch him. The healthy human hand, always more or less healing,
was never laid on him; he was despised and rejected. It was a poor thing
for the Lord to cure his body; he must comfort and cure his sore heart.
Of all men a leper, I say, needed to be touched with the hand of love.
Spenser says, "Entire affection hateth nicer hands." It was not for our
master, our brother, our ideal man, to draw around him the skirts of his
garments and speak a lofty word of healing, that the man might at least
be clean before he touched him. The man was his brother, and an evil
disease cleaved fast unto him. Out went the loving hand to the ugly
skin, and there was his brother as he should be--with the flesh of a
child. I thank God that the touch went before the word. Nor do I think
it was the touch of a finger, or of the finger-tips. It was a kindly
healing touch in its nature as in its power. Oh blessed leper! thou
knowest henceforth what kind of a God there is in the earth--not the God
of the priests, but a God such as himself only can reveal to the hearts
of his own. That touch was more than the healing. It was to the leper
what the word _Daughter_ was to the woman in the crowd, what the
_Neither do I_ was to the woman in the temple--the sign of the perfect
presence. Outer and inner are one with him: the outermost sign is the
revelation of the innermost heart.

Let me linger one moment upon this coming together of creative health
and destroying disease. The health must flow forth; the disease could
not enter: Jesus was not defiled by the touch. Not that even if he would
have been, he would have shrunk and refrained; he respected the human
body in most evil case, and thus he acknowledged it his own. But my
reader must call up for himself the analogies--only I cannot admit that
they are mere analogies--between the cure of the body and the cure of
the soul: here they were combined in one act, for that touch went to the
man's heart. I can only hint at them here. Hand to hand is enough for
the cure of the bodily disease; but heart to heart will Jesus visit
the man who in deepest defilement of evil habits, yet lifts to him a
despairing cry. The healthful heart of the Lord will cure the heart
spotted with the plague: it will come again as the heart of a child.
_Only this kind goeth not out save by prayer and abstinence_.

The Lord gave him something to do at once, and something not to do. He
was to go to the priest, and to hold his tongue. It is easier to do than
to abstain; he went to the priest; he did not hold his tongue.

That the Lord should send him to the priest requires no explanation.
The sacred customs of his country our Lord in his own person constantly
recognized. That he saw in them more than the priests themselves was no
reason for passing them by. The testimony which he wished the man to
bear concerning him lay in the offering of the gift which Moses had
commanded. His healing was in harmony with all the forms of the ancient
law; for it came from the same source, and would in the lapse of ages
complete what the law had but begun. This the man was to manifest for
him. The only other thing he required of him--silence--the man would
not, at least did not, yield. The probability is that he needed the
injunction for his own sake more than for the master's sake; that he was
a talkative, demonstrative man, whose better life was ever in danger of
evaporating in words; and that the Lord required silence of him, that he
might think, and give the seed time to root itself well before it shot
its leaves out into the world. Are there not some in our own day, who,
having had a glimpse of truth across the darkness of a moral leprosy,
instantly begin to blaze abroad the matter, as if it were their part at
once to call to their fellows, and teach them out of an intellectual
twilight, in which they can as yet see men only as trees walking,
instead of retiring into the wilderness, for a time at least, to commune
with their own hearts, and be still? But he meant well, nor is it any
wonder that such a man should be incapable of such a sacrifice. The Lord
had touched him. His nature was all in commotion with gratitude. His
self-conceit swelled high. His tongue would not be still. Perhaps he
judged himself a leper favoured above his fellow-lepers. Nothing would
more tend to talkativeness than such a selfish mistake. He would be
grateful. He would befriend his healer against his will. He would work
for him--alas! only to impede the labours of the Wise; for the Lord
found his popularity a great obstacle to the only success he sought. "He
went out and began to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could
no more openly enter into the city." His nature could not yet understand
the kingdom that cometh not with observation, and from presumption
mingled with affection, he would serve the Lord after a better fashion
than that of doing his will. And he had his reward. He had his share in
bringing his healer to the cross.

Obedience is the only service.

* * * * *

I take now the cure of the ten lepers, done apparently in a village of
Galilee towards Samaria. They stood afar off in a group, probably afraid
of offending him by any nearer approach, and cried aloud, "Jesus,
Master, have mercy on us." Instead of at once uttering their cure, he
desired them to go and show themselves to the priests. This may have
been partly for the sake of the priests, partly perhaps for the
justification of his own mission, but more certainly for the sake of the
men themselves, that he might, in accordance with his frequent practice,
give them something wherein to be obedient. It served also, as the
sequel shows, to individualize their relation to him. The relation as a
group was not sufficient for the men. Between him and them it must be
the relation of man to man. Individual faith must, as it were, break up
the group--to favour a far deeper reunion. Its bond was now a common
suffering; it must be changed to a common faith in the healer of it. His
intention wrought in them--at first with but small apparent result. They
obeyed, and went to go to the priests, probably wondering whether they
would be healed or not, for the beginnings of faith are so small that
they can hardly be recognized as such. Going, they found themselves
cured. Nine of them held on their way, obedient; while the tenth,
forgetting for the moment in his gratitude the word of the Master,
turned back and fell at his feet. A moral martinet, a scribe, or a
Pharisee, might have said "The nine were right, the tenth was wrong: he
ought to have kept to the letter of the command." Not so the Master: he
accepted the gratitude as the germ of an infinite obedience. Real love
is obedience and all things beside. The Lord's own devotion was that
which burns up the letter with the consuming fire of love, fulfilling
and setting it aside. High love needs no letter to guide it. Doubtless
the letter is all that weak faith is capable of, and it is well for
those who keep it! But it is ill for those who do not outgrow and forget
it! Forget it, I say, _by outgrowing it_. The Lord cared little for the
letter of his own commands; he cared all for the spirit, for that was

This man was a stranger, as the Jews called him, a Samaritan. Therefore
the Lord praised him to his followers. It was as if he had said, "See,
Jews, who think yourselves the great praisers of God! here are ten
lepers cleansed: where are the nine? One comes back to glorify God--a
Samaritan!" To the man himself he says, "Arise, go thy way; thy faith
hath made thee whole." Again this commending of individual faith! "Was
it not the faith of the others too that had healed them?" Doubtless. If
they had had enough to bring them back, he would have told them that
their faith had saved them. But they were content to be healed, and
until their love, which is the deeper faith, brought them to the
Master's feet, their faith was not ripe for praise. But it was not for
their blame, it was for the Samaritan's praise that he spoke. Probably
this man's faith had caused the cry of all the ten; probably he was the
salt of the little group of outcasts--the tenth, the righteous man.
Hence they were contented, for the time, with their cure: he forgot the
cure itself in his gratitude. A moment more, and with obedient feet he
would overtake them on their way to the priest.

I may not find a better place for remarking on the variety of our Lord's
treatment of those whom he cured; that is, the variety of the form in
which he conveyed the cure. In the record I do not think we find two
cases treated in the same manner. There is no massing of the people with
him. In his behaviour to men, just as in their relation to his Father,
every man is alone with him. In this case of the ten, as I have said, I
think he sent them away, partly, that this individuality might have an
opportunity of asserting itself. They had stood afar off, therefore he
could not lay the hand of love on each. But now one left the group
and brought his gratitude to the Master's feet, and with a loud voice
glorified God the Healer.

In reflecting then on the details of the various cures we must seek the
causes of their diversity mainly in the individual differences of the
persons cured, not forgetting, at the same time, that all the accounts
are brief, and that our capacity is poor for the task. The whole divine
treatment of man is that of a father to his children--only a father
infinitely more a father than any man can be. Before him stands each, as
much an individual child as if there were no one but him. The relation
is awful in its singleness. Even when God deals with a nation as a
nation, it is only as by this dealing the individual is aroused to
a sense of his own wrong, that he can understand how the nation has
sinned, or can turn himself to work a change. The nation cannot change
save as its members change; and the few who begin the change are the
elect of that nation. Ten righteous individuals would have been just
enough to restore life to the festering masses of Sodom--festering
masses because individual life had ceased, and the nation or community
was nowhere. Even nine could not do it: Sodom must perish. The
individuals must perish now; the nation had perished long since. All
communities are for the divine sake of individual life, for the sake of
the love and truth that is in each heart, and is not cumulative--cannot
be in two as one result. But all that is precious in the individual
heart depends for existence on the relation the individual bears to
other individuals: alone--how can he love? alone--where is his truth? It
is for and by the individuals that the individual lives. A community is
the true development of individual relations. Its very possibility lies
in the conscience of its men and women. No setting right can be done in
the _mass_. There are no masses save in corruption. Vital organizations
result alone from individualities and consequent necessities, which
fitting the one into the other, and working for each other, make
combination not only possible but unavoidable. Then the truth which has
_informed_ in the community reacts on the individual to perfect his
individuality. In a word, the man, in virtue of standing alone in God,
stands _with_ his fellows, and receives from them divine influences
without which he cannot be made perfect. It is in virtue of the living
consciences of its individuals that a common conscience is possible to a

I cannot work this out here, but I would avoid being misunderstood.
Although I say, every man stands alone in God, I yet say two or many can
meet in God as they cannot meet save in God; nay, that only in God can
two or many truly meet; only as they recognize their oneness with God
can they become one with each other.

In the variety then of his individual treatment of the sick, Jesus did
the works of his Father _as_ his Father does them. For the Spirit of
God speaks to the spirit of the man, and the Providence of God arranges
everything for the best good of the individual--counting the very hairs
of his head. Every man had a cure of his own; every woman had a cure
of her own--all one and the same in principle, each individual in the
application of the principle. This was the foundation of the true
church. And yet the members of that church will try to separate upon
individual and unavoidable differences!

But once more the question recurs: Why say so often that this and
that one's faith had saved him? Was it not enough that he had saved
them?--Our Lord would knit the bond between him and each man by arousing
the man's individuality, which is, in deepest fact, his conscience. The
cure of a man depended upon no uncertain or arbitrary movement of the
feelings of Jesus. He was always ready to heal. No one was ever refused
who asked him. It rested with the man: the healing could not have its
way and enter in, save the man would open his door. It was there for him
if he would take it, or rather when he would allow him to bestow it.
Hence the question and the praise of the patient's faith. There was no
danger then of that diseased self-consciousness which nowadays is always
asking, "Have I faith? Have I faith?" searching, in fact, for grounds of
self-confidence, and turning away the eyes in the search from the only
source whence confidence can flow--the natal home of power and love. How
shall faith be born but of the beholding of the faithful? This diseased
self-contemplation was not indeed a Jewish complaint at all, nor
possible in the bodily presence of the Master. Hence the praise given
to a man's faith could not hurt him; it only made him glad and more
faithful still. This disease itself is in more need of his curing hand
than all the leprosies of Judaea and Samaria.

The cases which remain of this group are of blind men--the first, that
recorded by St Matthew of the two who followed Jesus, crying, "Thou Son
of David, have mercy on us." He asked them if they believed that he was
able to do the thing for them, drawing, I say, the bond between them
closer thereby. They said they did believe it, and at once he touched
their eyes--again the bodily contact, as in the case of the blind man
already considered--especially needful in the case of the blind, to
associate the healing with the healer. But there are differences between
the cases. The man who had not asked to be healed was as it were put
through a longer process of cure--I think that his faith and his will
might be called into exercise; and the bodily contact was made closer to
help the development of his faith and will: he made clay and put it
on his eyes, and the man had to go and wash. Where the prayer and the
confession of faith reveal the spiritual contact already effected, the
cure is immediate. "According to your faith," the Lord said, "be it unto

On these men, as on the leper, he laid the charge of silence, by them,
as by him, sadly disregarded. The fact that he went into the house, and
allowed them to follow him there before he cured them, also shows that
he desired in their case, doubtless because of circumstances, to avoid
publicity, a desire which they foiled. Their gladness overcame, if not
their gratitude, yet the higher faith that is one with obedience. When
the other leper turned back to speak his gratitude, it was but the delay
of a moment in the fulfilling of the command. But the gratitude that
disobeys an injunction, that does what the man is told not to do, and
so plunges into the irretrievable, is a virtue that needs a development
amounting almost to a metamorphosis.

In the one remaining case there is a slight confusion in the records. St
Luke says that it was performed as Jesus entered into Jericho; St Mark
says it was as he went out of Jericho, and gives the name and parentage
of the blind beggar; indeed his account is considerably more minute than
that of the others. St Matthew agrees with St Mark as to the occasion,
but says there were two blind men. We shall follow the account of St

Bartimaeus, having learned the cause of the tumultuous passing of feet,
calls, like those former two blind men, upon the Son of David to have
mercy on him.[3] [Footnote 3: In these two cases, the cry is upon the
_Son of David_: I wonder if this had come to be considered by the blind
the correct formula of address to the new prophet. But the cases are
almost too few to justify even a passing conjecture at generalization.]

The multitude finds fault with his crying and calling. I presume he was
noisy in his eagerness after his vanished vision, and the multitude
considered it indecorous. Or perhaps the rebuke arose from that common
resentment of a crowd against any one who makes himself what they
consider unreasonably conspicuous, claiming a share in the attention
of the potentate to which they cannot themselves pretend. But the Lord
stops, and tells them to call the man; and some of them, either being
his friends, or changing their tone when the great man takes notice of
him, begin to congratulate and comfort him. He, casting away his garment
in his eagerness, rises, and is led through the yielding crowd to
the presence of the Lord. To enter in some degree into the personal
knowledge of the man before curing him, and to consolidate his faith,
Jesus, the tones of whose voice, full of the life of God, the cultivated
hearing of a blind man would be best able to interpret, began to talk a
little with him.

"What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?"

"Lord, that I might receive my sight."

"Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole."

Immediately he saw; and the first use he made of his sight was to follow
him who had given it.

Neither St Mark nor St Luke, whose accounts are almost exactly the same,
says that he touched the man's eyes. St Matthew says he touched the eyes
of the _two_ blind men whom his account places in otherwise identical
circumstances. With a surrounding crowd who knew them, I think the
touching was less necessary than in private; but there is no need to
inquire which is the more correct account. The former two may have
omitted a fact, or St Matthew _may_ have combined the story with that of
the two blind men already noticed, of which he is the sole narrator. But
in any case there are, I think, but two recorded instances of the blind
praying for cure. Most likely there were more, perhaps there were many

I have now to consider, as suggested by the idea of this group, the
question of prayer generally; for Jesus did the works of him who sent
him: as Jesus did so God does.

I have not seen an argument against what is called the efficacy of
prayer which appears to me to have any force but what is derived from
some narrow conception of the divine nature. If there be a God at all,
it is absurd to suppose that his ways of working should be such as to
destroy his side of the highest relation that can exist between him and
those whom he has cared to make--to destroy, I mean, the relation of the
will of the creator to the individual will of his creature. That God
should bind himself in an iron net of his own laws--that his laws should
bind him in any way, seeing they are just his nature in action--is
sufficiently absurd; but that such laws should interfere with his
deepest relation to his creatures, should be inconsistent with the
highest consequences of that creation which alone gives occasion for
those laws--that, in fact, the will of God should be at strife with the
foregoing action of God, not to say with the very nature of God--that he
should, with an unchangeable order of material causes and effects, cage
in for ever the winged aspirations of the human will which he has made
in the image of his own will, towards its natural air of freedom in His
will, would be pronounced inconceivable, were it not that it has been
conceived and uttered--conceived and uttered, however, only by minds to
which the fact of this relation was, if at all present, then only in the
vaguest and most incomplete form. That he should not leave himself any
_willing_ room towards those to whom he gave need, room to go wrong,
will to turn and look up and pray and hope, is to me grotesquely absurd.
It is far easier to believe that as both--the laws of nature, namely,
and the human will--proceed from the same eternally harmonious thought,
they too are so in harmony, that for the perfect operation of either no
infringement upon the other is needful; and that what seems to be such
infringement would show itself to a deeper knowledge of both as a
perfectly harmonious co-operation. Nor would it matter that we know so
little, were it not that with each fresh discovery we are so ready to
fancy anew that now, at last, we know all about it. We have neither
humility enough to be faithful, nor faith enough to be humble. Unfit to
grasp any whole, yet with an inborn idea of wholeness which ought to be
our safety in urging us ever on towards the Unity, we are constantly
calling each new part the whole, saying we have found the idea, and
casting ourselves on the couch of self-glorification. Thus the very need
of unity is by our pride perverted to our ruin. We say we have found
it, when we have it not. Hence, also, it becomes easy to refuse certain
considerations, yea, certain facts, a place in our system--for
the system will cease to be a system at all the moment they are
acknowledged. They may have in them the very germ of life and truth; but
what is that, if they destroy this Babylon that we have built? Are not
its forms stately and fair? Yea, _can_ there be statelier and fairer?
The main point is simply this, that what it would not be well for God to
give before a man had asked for it, it may be not only well, but best,
to give when he has asked. [Footnote 4: _Well_ and _Best_ must be the
same thing with God when he acts.]

I believe that the first half of our training is up to the asking point;
after that the treatment has a grand new element in it. For God can give
when a man is in the fit condition to receive it, what he cannot give
before because the man cannot receive it. How give instruction in the
harmony of colours or tones to a man who cannot yet distinguish between
shade and shade or tone and tone, upon which distinction all harmony
depends? A man cannot receive except another will give; no more can a
man give if another will not receive; he can only offer. Doubtless, God
works on every man, else he _could_ have no divine tendency at all;
there would be no _thither_ for him to turn his face towards; there
could be at best but a sense of want. But the moment the man has given
in to God--to use a homely phrase--the spirit for which he prays can
work in him all with him, not now (as it _appeared_ then) _against_ him.
Every parent at all worthy of the relation must know that occasions
occur in which the asking of the child makes the giving of the parent
the natural correlative. In a way infinitely higher, yet the same at the
root, for all is of God, He can give when the man asks what he could not
give without, because in the latter case the man would take only the
husk of the gift, and cast the kernel away--a husk poisonous without the
kernel, although wholesome and comforting with it.

But some will say, "We may ask, but it is certain we shall not have
everything we ask for."

No, thank God, certainly not; we shall have nothing which we ourselves,
when capable of judging and choosing with open eyes to its true relation
to ourselves, would not wish and choose to have. If God should give
otherwise, it must be as a healing punishment of inordinate and hurtful
desire. The parable of the father dividing his living at the prayer of
the younger son, must be true of God's individual sons, else it could
not have been true of the Jews on the one hand and the Gentiles on the
other. He will grant some such prayers because he knows that the swine
and their husks will send back his son with quite another prayer on his

If my supposed interlocutor answers, "What then is the good of praying,
if it is not to go by what I want?" I can only answer, "You have to
learn, and it may be by a hard road." In the kinds of things which men
desire, there are essential differences. In physical well-being, there
is a divine good. In sufficient food and raiment, there is a divine
fitness. In wealth, as such, there is _none_. A man may pray for money
to pay his debts, for healing of the sickness which incapacitates
him for labour or good work, for just judgment in the eyes of his
fellow-men, with an altogether different confidence from that with which
he could pray for wealth, or for bodily might to surpass his fellows, or
for vengeance upon those whose judgment of his merits differed from his
own; although even then the divine soul will with his Saviour say, "If
it be possible: Not my will but thine." For he will know that God gives
only the best.

"But God does not even cure every one who asks him. And so with the
other things you say are good to pray for."

Jesus did not cure all the ills in Judaea. But those he did cure were at
least real ills and real needs. There was a fitness in the condition of
some, a fitness favoured by his own bodily presence amongst them, which
met the virtue ready to go out from him. But God is ever present, and I
have yet to learn that any man prayed for money to be honest with and
to meet the necessities of his family, and did the work of him who had
called him from the market-place of the nation, who did not receive his
penny a-day. If to any one it seems otherwise, I believe the apparent
contradiction will one day be cleared up to his satisfaction. God has
not to satisfy the judgment of men as they are, but as they will be and
must be, having learned the high and perfectly honest and grand way of
things which is his will. For God to give men just what they want would
often be the same as for a man to give gin to the night-wanderer whom he
had it in his power to take home and set to work for wages. But I must
believe that many of the ills of which men complain would be speedily
cured if they would work in the strength of prayer. If the man had
not taken up his bed when Christ bade him, he would have been a great
authority with the scribes and chief priests against the divine mission
of Jesus. The power to work is a diviner gift than a great legacy. But
these are individual affairs to be settled individually between God
and his child. They cannot be pronounced upon generally because of
individual differences. But here as there, now as then, the lack is
_faith_. A man may say, "How can I have faith?" I answer, "How can you
indeed, who do the thing you know you ought not to do, and have not
begun to do the thing you know you ought to do? How should you have
faith? It is not well that you should be cured yet. It would have hurt
these men to cure them if they would not ask. And you do not pray." The
man who has prayed most is, I suspect, the least doubtful whether God
hears prayer now as Jesus heard it then. That we doubt is well, for we
are not yet in the empyrean of simple faith. But I think the man who
believes and prays now, has answers to his prayers even better than
those which came to the sick in Judaea; for although the bodily presence
of Jesus made a difference in their favour, I do believe that the Spirit
of God, after widening its channels for nearly nineteen hundred years,
can flow in greater plenty and richness now. Hence the answers to prayer
must not only not be of quite the same character as then, but they must
be better, coming yet closer to the heart of the need, whether known as
such by him who prays, or not. But the change lies in man's power of
reception, for God is always the same to his children. Only, being
infinite, he must speak to them and act for them in the endless
diversity which their growth and change render necessary. Thus only they
can receive of his fulness who is all in all and unchangeable.

In our imperfect condition both of faith and of understanding, the whole
question of asking and receiving must necessarily be surrounded with
mist and the possibility of mistake. It can be successfully encountered
only by the man who for himself asks and hopes. It lies in too lofty
regions and involves too many unknown conditions to be reduced to
formulas of ours; for God must do only the best, and man is greater and
more needy than himself can know.

Yet he who asks _shall_ receive--of the very best. One promise without
reserve, and only one, because it includes all, remains: the promise of
the Holy Spirit to them who ask it. He who has the Spirit of God, God
himself, in him, has the Life in him, possesses the final cure of all
ill, has in himself the answer to all possible prayer.


If we allow that prayer may in any case be heard for the man himself, it
almost follows that it must be heard for others. It cannot well be in
accordance with the spirit of Christianity, whose essential expression
lies in the sacrifice of its founder, that a man should be heard only
when he prays for himself. The fact that in cases of the preceding group
faith was required on the part of the person healed as essential to his
cure, represents no different principle from that which operates in the
cases of the present group. True, in these the condition is not faith on
the part of the person cured, but faith on the part of him who asks for
his cure. But the possession of faith by the patient was not in the
least essential, as far as the power of Jesus was concerned, to his
bodily cure, although no doubt favourable thereto; it was necessary
only to that spiritual healing, that higher cure, for the sake of
which chiefly the Master brought about the lower. In both cases, the
requisition of faith is for the sake of those who ask--whether for
themselves or for their friends, it matters not. It is a breath to blow
the smoking flax into a flame--a word to draw into closer contact with
himself. He cured many without such demand, as his Father is ever curing
without prayer. Cure itself shall sometimes generate prayer and faith.
Well, therefore, might the cure of others be sometimes granted to

Beyond this, however, there is a great fitness in the thing. For so are
men bound together, that no good can come to one but all must share
in it. The children suffer for the father, the father suffers for the
children, and they are also blessed together. If a spiritual good
descend upon the heart of a leader of the nation, the whole people might
rejoice for themselves, for they must be partakers of the unspeakable
gift. To increase the faith of the father may be more for the faith of
the child, healed in answer to his prayer, than anything done for the
child himself. It is an enlarging of one of the many channels in which
the divinest gifts flow. For those gifts chiefly, at first, flow to men
through the hearts and souls of those of their fellows who are nearer
the Father than they, until at length they are thus brought themselves
to speak to God face to face.

Lonely as every man in his highest moments of spiritual vision, yea
in his simplest consciousness of duty, turns his face towards the one
Father, his own individual maker and necessity of his life; painfully
as he may then feel that the best beloved understands not as he
understands, feels not as he feels; he is yet, in his most isolated
adoration of the Father of his spirit, nearer every one of the beloved
than when eye meets eye, heart beats responsive to heart, and the poor
dumb hand seeks by varied pressure to tell the emotion within. Often
then the soul, with its many organs of utterance, feels itself but a
songless bird, whose broken twitter hardens into a cage around it; but
even with all those organs of utterance in full play, he is yet farther
from his fellow-man than when he is praying to the Father in a desert
place apart. The man who prays, in proportion to the purity of his
prayer, becomes a spiritual power, a nerve from the divine brain, yea,

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