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But though the wind was against them, we find not that they returned. Their Master had ordered them to go to the other side ; and therefore, in spite of winds and weather, they press forward. Mark this, O my soul. He sent out his servants to sea, though he foresaw the storm; and perhaps purposely too, that they might be tossed by the tempest. Why art thou, therefore, cast down; why art thou disquieted within me? Depend upon his grace, follow his di.
, rections, and the end will fully equal thy wishes.
“And about the fourth watch of the night, he cometh unto them walking on the sea.
All that long and tempestuous night must the disciples wear out in terror and distress. In the evening there was no appearance of Jesus. But when they had been all night long tossed at the mercy of the waves, and quite spent with toil and fears, in the fourth watch, which was near to the morning, Jesus comes to them. This was done, that he might exercise their faith and patience; and that their devotion might be more animated, and deliverance more welcome, in consequence of the trying delay. We own, O Lord, that we are often unable to explain the reasons of thy conduct. What thou dost, we know not now: but we depend on thy promise, and we rejoice in the thought, that we shall know it hereafter. Like these poor disciples, some one of you, my Christian friends, may be now in the midst of a sea of trouble. The winds roar, the billows swell, the night is dark, and your Saviour's absence heightens your distress. But the time to favour you is not fully come. Perhaps it is yet but midnight with you; but if you hold out till the fourth watch, he
will certainly appear for your deliverance. He came to them, walking on the sea,
“And would have passed by them.”
Surely his absence could not be more grievous than this. But we must not always determine the Lord's designs from appearances. He sometimes appears to turn from us, when he is most attentive to our distresses. If he pass by us, or rather seem as if he would, when we are struggling with the storm, we know that it is not for want of kindness or affec. tion. He will not, he cannot neglect us. O let us, therefore, never distrust him.
“But when they saw him walking on the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out; for they all saw him, and were troubled.”
What object would have been so pleasant to the disciples as their Master? and yet his presence greatly alarmed them. Has not our ignorance, too, of Jesus, and the way that he takes, led us often to sus. pect, yea, to run away from, our safety ; to be afraid of our means of comfort; and to mistake our com. passionate and heavenly friend?
“ And immediately he talked with them.”
This was, indeed, very seasonable ; for, in consequence of their alarm, from the apprehension of seeing an apparition, and from the increasing violence of the tempest, they were almost overwhelmed with despair. Till they were thus afraid, he would not speak; but then he could be no longer silent. If his presence was frightful, his words were comfortable. He“ saith unto them, Be of good cheer, it is I ; be not afraid.” He was present before, but they mistook him, and feared ; for it is his word only that can
make his presence known and comfortable to us. s Be of good cheer.” It is remarkable, how frequently exhortations of this kind are used by Christ and his Apostles. He is pleased to see his servants cheerful, and has therefore mercifully forbidden them all that anxiety and solicitude, which would, if indulged, render them wretched. < Be careful for nothing. Cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you. Cast thy burden upon the Lord. In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. Delight thyself in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say rejoice." A thousand passages of this kind might be enumerated, to show us, how abundantly “light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Be of good cheer, then, thou dejected believer; dry up thy tears, and cast off the gloom of thy countenance, which is so unbecoming thy character, and so displeasing to thy Saviour. For the credit of thy religion, for the honour of thy Master, for the encouragement of thy fellow disciples, be cheerful; and let all the world see that wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness.
“ It is l.” He does not say who; nor was it necessary. His sheep hear his voice; and we are not of his flock, if we know him not by his voice among a thousand. “It is 1, the Sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth ; I, who command the winds and waves, and they obey me; I, your Lord, and Saviour, and friend, whom you lost last night in the mountain, praying for you.” What a seasonable and comprehensive word was that, and how did it calm the
tumult of their passions ! Blessed Jesus, only say, “ It is 1,” and in spite of winds, and waves, and storms, and men, and devils, we are safe.
“ And he went up unto them into the ship, and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure; for they considered not the miracle of the loaves, for their heart was hardened.”
Though the stormy winds had fulfilled his word, and ceased, yet, through the weakness of their faith, the disciples had another trial to endure. They were like children, tossed to and fro, from an excess of grief to a transport of pleasure. It was but a moment before, that, out of the depth of distress, they cried to the Lord: and now they are full of wonder and joy, as if this had been the first instance in which he had shewn himself strong in their favour,
So shallow were their memories, and so insensible their hearts, that they had forgotten the miracle of the loaves, which he had wrought the day before. They doubted whether he, who had multiplied the bread, could walk upon the water. O thou, that canst have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way, who art touched with the feeling of human infirmities, have pity on us, and help us. Thou seest how badly we bear thy absence, and sometimes even thy presence. This is our request, that thou wouldst stablish, strengthen, comfort, and settle us; that in the greatest extremity of joy or sorrow, we may possess our souls in patience; that we may maintain a humble, cheerful, thankful, and active temper, under all the
vicissitudes of Providence; and that with Jesus our pilot, we may get safe to land, and triumph in the immediate presence, and everlasting love, of our God and Saviour.
If this were a time to address myself to the poor, and blind, and halt, and maimed, who are wandering and perishing in the highways and hedges, I know not what I could do better, than recommend to their imitation, the conduct of the men of Gennesareth, in the story before us. As soon as Jesus was come out of the ship, “Straightway they knew him, and ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard that he was: and whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him, that they might touch, if it were but the border of his garment; and as many as touched him, were made whole.” Happy, glorious, wonderful season! To see the blind cast away their garments, and hastening to Jesus; and the lame, and the sick, of every description brought to him, and laid at his feet; and every one coming away cured of his disease ; what a delightful and astonishing spectacle! What walking, and leaping, and praising God, was there on that occasion ! How might we hear from every mouth, “ Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.” If you were as much concerned for your souls as they were for their bodies, Christ would be followed by you in the same ardent manner; and you would fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows. Need you be told, that Jesus is among us, and that your souls are in most imminent