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and by us.
By thus giving heed to our ministry, we save our own souls and the souls of others; and yet not we, but Christ in us
For though the servants dispensed the wine, yet they did not make the wine, but Christ; He did one thing by making them do another; He bade them fill the water-pots up to the brim, and, lo! the water became wine. Thus by Ministers, mere earthen vessels, and and other instruments of mean appearance, powerless in themselves, Christ worketh “hitherto.” When the Ministers of His Church baptize, hear confession, give absolution, distribute bread and wine, Christ by His Holy Spirit giveth efficacy to all these things, unto as many as imitate the faith and obedience of the blessed Virgin and the servants at the marriage feast. By the water, is applied the efficacy of Christ's Blood. By the bread and wine, we are made partakers of His spiritual Body and Blood. The word of absolution to the truly penitent, spoken by frail man on earth, is repeated and ratified in Heaven. And all this takes place in a wonderful manner, past our finding out. We think it is water in the earthen vessels, but, behold, it is “good wine!" By outward visible signs on us, Christ works inwardly and spiritually in us. And it is His will that it be thus, although, being Omnipotent, He can at any moment dispense with these means. Why needed He cause the water-pots to be filled with water by the servants? Could He not, by the same Almighty power, which changed the water into wine, have filled them, at once, with water, and without the servants' aid ? and indeed have filled them at once with wine? Doubtless, He could. But that is not the question: the question is, did He? Could He not by the same Almighty power, which put health into the frame of the centurion's servant, whilst yet far off, have filled the cups and vessels out of which the guests were drinking, as easily as He filled the water-pots? Doubtless, He could have so done. But, again, the question is not whether He could, but whether He did? We know He did not. And hence we see, in this instance, (and many others might be adduced,) not the way in which alone He can, but the way in which alone He is pleased to act.
i John v. 17.
This is a thing to be well borne in mind. One often hears it asked by the disputers and cavillers of this world: What! do you pretend to say that one cannot be regenerated without Baptism? that one cannot be fed with the bread of Heaven and nourished unto life everlasting, without coming to the Holy Communion ? Do you maintain, that it is necessary to listen to the Church? Is the Lord's hand so shortened, that He cannot save without such beggarly elements ? Are we not living under the ministration of the Spirit? Is it not said of these times that all shall be taught of God? Is not the Spirit promised to every one to profit withal ? Is it not the Holy Spirit's office to teach? What is the need of insisting on forms and ceremonies, an Apostolic succession of the Ministry, and outward unity ? cannot God save us all without our attending to such things?
To all this, and to every thing of the kind, there is this one plain answer, viz. that it is a mistaking of the whole question. The question being, not as to the power, but as to the will of God. Not whether He cannot save by other means, but whether He has been pleased to say He nill save by these means? Nor whether He cannot work without instruments, such as Sacraments, Ceremonies, Ministers, but whether He has not declared that He will work by them. He has declared that He will. He shewed it by many of His miracles, by all indeed. He has appointed Baptism, and the Eucharist, and the Church, to be means of salvation, and of setting forth His glory 5, and they cannot be neglected without peril to men's souls. To reason about them, as so many now do, is as though the servants, instead of filling the water-pots with water, and then drawing
k Ephes. iii. 10; iv. 1-16.
out and bearing to the governor of the feast, had reasoned within themselves that there was no need thereof; that Christ might supply the need another way, if He meant to supply it at all. They might have asked, Of what use water, when wine is wanted ?
Far be from us all, such a spirit of disobedience : rather let us imitate the faith of the blessed Virgin, who, although her suit seemed rejected, murmured not, but even exhorted others to obedience, saying unto the servants, “ Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."
And this notice of the blessed Mother of our Lord, suggests another lesson. We must not think that because our prayers are not answered at once, that, therefore, they are not heard : rather we are to conclude, that we ask amiss. That perhaps it is not so much for the glory of God that our prayer should be answered, as that our faith should be tried. His hour is not yet come.
The hour which He, Who hath times and seasons in His