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And touch with unseen fingers keys
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of woodlands green
Dear heaven! it can never be
FIVE LESSONS FROM THE MARRIAGE IN CANA OF GALILEE.
SHORT SUNDAY READINGS FOR JANUARY.
were usually lengthened out for a week and 1.-A LESSON FOR YOUNG MEN AND sometimes for as many as fourteen days. MAIDENS.
Music, songs, riddles, wagers, and merry Read Proverbs xxxi. 10—31 ; John ii. 1-11. conversation formed a long-remembered feaIT is necessary to a right understanding of ture at Samson's marriage feast. These and
this interesting narrative that we have such-like things, with the most generous some knowledge of the way a marriage was eating and drinking, filled up the four, or celebrated in the days of our Lord. On the seven, or fourteen days, as the case might be, evening of his marriage day, the bridegroom, of a Jewish marriage feast. accompanied by his groomsmen, the children The marriage at Cana, however, was a of the bride-chamber, as our Lord calls them, marriage among the poorer classes of the went to the house of the bride, and, amid people, the classes to which Mary the mother great demonstrations of joy, conducted her to of Jesus belonged, and among which her her future home. We have many references children had all been brought up. Most in the Scriptures to the hilarity of the bridal likely the bridegroom, or the bride, or both, procession, and to the protracted festivities were not far-off relations of her humblé that followed it. So far back as Laban's day Nazareth household. we find that churl complaining that Jacob This happy bridegroom then had Jesus did not give him the opportunity of sending Christ at his marriage, either because he away Rachel with songs and tabret and himself belonged to Mary's family, or beharp. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of it as cause he had married a wife who did. And a sign of the divine anger, that the voice of a marriage so contracted will secure the mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of divine presence and blessing still. Yes, and the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, more than that, if you so contract and so were no more heard in the streets of Jeru- marry you may count on God's presence and salem. And, in His parable of the ten virgins, His blessing more surely than though you our Lord makes the whole scene to rise like had been married in Cana and had had Christ life itself before our eyes. “While the at the ceremony and at the supper-table after bridegroom tarried in coming to claim the it
. For I have no assurance that that marbride, the virgins, her companions, all slum- riage in Cana was, after all, “a marriage in bered and slept. And at midnight there was the Lord.” I do not know that it came up a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; to Paul's ideal of a New Testament marriage, go ye out to meet him. Then all those even though Paul's master was present, and virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.” by His divine power purveyed for the feast
. In the bridegroom's house, meantime, a That only is a marriage in the Lord, when sumptuous feast was prepared to which a two of God's children have been created and great company of friends and neighbours kept for one another, and have both asked were invited, and at which the festivities and received His fatherly consent to love and
serve one another, for a lifetime, as man and the natural and legitimate use of any meat wife. Our Lord's very presence, with all His or drink, to mortify any appetite of the body disciples around Him, would not make that a or any affection of the heart, for a moral or true marriage which was otherwise contracted a religious reason is assuredly a far nobler and otherwise consummated. If you would virtue than to live even in the most temhave Jesus Christ in the fulness of His grace perate use of these pleasant things. At the and power at your marriage, and would also, same time, it must always be remembered reciprocally, have a place at His, take good that it is entirely the motive and the will heed that you marry into the family of God. with which all our acts of self-denial are And since it has been so often found that done that give them their value in the sight neighbourhood and opportunity have had so of God, and their place among the moralities much to do with this important matter, of his kingdom. The morality or immorality choose your neighbourhood and your neigh- of all our habits and practices, both ascetic bours wisely, and let God's gracious provi- and self-indulgent, is ultimately to be tested dence direct the opportunity. And you can- by a standard that goes to the very core and not make any mistake as to who are and who bottom of the human heart. To deny ourare not Christ's true kindred, for He is every selves marriage, or a meat or a drink for day stretching forth His hand toward them, Christ's sake, as so many men and women saying unto you, “Behold my mother and have done in all ages of the Church, is surely my brethren! For whosoever shall do the a far nobler and more martyr-like grace than will of my Father which is in heaven, the without care, or consideration, or a cross, to same is my brother and sister and mother.” enjoy to indulgence all these permitted
things. Nor will he, who is either unable or II.-A. LESSON FOR TOTAL ABSTAINERS.
unwilling to take up that cross, expect the Read Rom. xiv. 7-23; 1 Cor. viii. 9–13.
corresponding crown. But, on the other Michael's address to Adam.- Paradise Lost, XI. hand, that the very noblest and most selfThe extraordinary abuse of strong drink, sacrificing service in the cause of Christ and in our day, has led many worthy people to the ripest attainments in evangelical morality look at the marriage of Cana with some and personal holiness are incompatible with misgiving, if not secret aversion; and efforts a married life, or with the most genial, joyful, have been made at their instigation to show and, indeed, luxurious lot, can no more be that the wine our Lord supplied to the contended, since Christ countenanced the governor of that feast was not true wine at lengthened festivities of a marriage with His all. But we are not left to this passage blessed presence, and by His divine power alone, to learn the mind of our Master as to contributed so bountifully thereto. Solomon, the moralities of meats and drinks, in His indeed, says that it is better to go to the kingdom. The doctrine of Jesus Christ on house of mourning than to the house of this whole subject is delivered in a hundred feasting, as also that sorrow is better than passages of the New Testament, he that laughter. And most men will agree with the runs may read it, and when it is read it is preacher in his experience. But that, too, this : temperance in all things is one of the depends on whose house the mirth goes on plainest of Christian virtues, and total in, on who makes the mirth and who leads abstinence from some things is another. the laughter. There was no little mirth and And these two virtues stand related to each laughter in Cana of Galilee that week, and other in this way: a Christian man is tem- yet I feel sure that if Solomon in his bitterest perate when, in the possession of all the com- and most misanthropical mood had been forts or even luxuries of this life, he yet uses there, he would have been the last to leave them so as never to fall into excess, but so the feast. partakes of meats and drinks, and all other The Son of Man came eating and drinking, like gifts of God, as to make and keep him and he took this open and unmistakeable self a better man, a better servant of God, way of altogether repudiating for Himself and a closer follower of Jesus Christ. The and His followers the Johannine morality of truly temperate man lives among the satis- self-denial and corporal mortification. Our factions and embellishments and luxuries of Lord was preparing the way for the bringing this life uncontaminated, simple, severe, in of far deeper views of the real evil of master of himself, and master of all those human life than had ever yet obtained when seductive things that so often master others. He, as a first step, thus openly and concluTotal abstinence, on the other hand, is a sively set aside the whole ascetical system of virtue of quite another nature. To abjure John and the Essenic monks. Our Saviour's conception of life and religion was infinitely said of their Master was at all true-and it deeper and loftier, infinitely more inward must be true, it could not be a lie—what might and spiritual, than it was possible for the they not expect to see of deeds and hear of Baptist's to be, and accordingly, while finding doctrines, if He was indeed the Lamb of God much that was worthy of all praise in John that should come into the world? And thus personally, he yet set aside as a delusion and the moral and religious character of the disa snare all his eremite ideals and ascetical ciples, their sense of sin, their fear of death methods, and introduced in room of them a and judgment, their hunger for a Redeemer, moral ideal and a spiritual method far more and their waiting faith in Jehovah's prophets; full of true self-denial and inward mortifica- all this worked together to make Christ's tion. At one stroke, that day in Cana, our mightiest works credible, and even probable, Lord for ever set aside John's whole system to them; likely, and even necessary; and of solitude and celebacy and abstinence from then those mighty works of His shed back a meat and drink, with the whole rubric of new certainty into their minds that their morose morality and superficial sanctification, Master was indeed the Christ and the Son that these things tended to produce. These of God. Probability is to us the guide of things, our Lord was continually teaching, life; but it cannot be too much pressed upon never touch the real root of moral evil in a us that probability and improbability, doubt man. Nay, so far from that, some of the and certainty, dislike and desire, hope and worst vices of the human heart thrive best fear are all just as the mind is that enterwhen they put on the cloak of a severe and tains them. What is certain to one man is self-imposed morality. Jesus Christ con- doubtful to another; what is probable to tinually directs the thoughts of all his dis- my mind is improbable to yours; and what I ciples to what constitutes the true life of love and long for you hate and hide away. religion and morality, the intense inwardness, In short, in all things, but in religion above fine spirituality, and keen severity of God's all things, the mind is as the heart beneath holy law, and then teaches them to value it is; and the will is as the inclinations are and employ outward rules and ascetical and on which the will hangs. And thus the very self-mortifying practices, only so far as they laws of nature, the very constitution and prinharmonize with and experimentally assist ciples of the human mind, shut us up under that divine life that has its seat and sphere this solemn truth, that we are as responsible not in the body of a man, but in his soul. for our faith as we are for our works; for
what we think of Christ and believe about III.-A LESSON FOR THE UNDECIDED. Him and look for from Him, as we are for Read 1 Kings xviii. 21 ; Psalm cxix. 112.
how we obey His and His Father's comDr. Newman's sermon, “ Dispositions for Faith.” mandments. This, indeed, is the work of “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in God, that we believe on Jesus Christ, whom Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his God hath sent. glory, and his disciples believed on him." So true is it that it is with the heart that
Probability,” says Butler, “is to us the man believeth unto righteousness. Men just very guide of life.” That is to say, the see what they bring eyes to see, and they whole of human life, and every step of it, is just hear what they bring ears to hear; and taken by us on a balance of probabilities; in like manner they believe or disbelieve, we continually decide and act on what seems love or hate, just as their hearts are. At the to us most likely to be true and safe. But, marriage-feast in Cana the bridegroom and then, probabilities are balanced in the mind; the bride were sufficient for one another; the and what is probable, and likely, and cer- governor of the feast was absorbed in his tain, and necessary to one mind may be the duties; the servants were attending to what very opposite to another. Now, it was the they were commanded, and the guests were previous state of the disciples' minds that delighted above measure because they drank made them so easy of belief in Jesus Christ better and more abundant wine at the end compared with others. There was, to them, of the feast than they had had at the begina strong antecedent probability that mani- ning. But there were some men there that festations of divine power would some time day whose god was not their belly. There or other accompany and authenticate divine were some guests at that feast who had not truth. It had always been so in the past his- come to eat and drink and dance. They had tory of their nation, and the probability was come to this marriage in order to be beside that the same thing would hold true at the Jesus of Nazareth. It was only yesterday present crisis. Nay, if what the Baptist had that they had found Him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, and easy. And faith worketh by love. If your they had no heart left for any one else. They love is only warm enough, neither the creeds sat silent at the hilarious feast, and forgot to of the Church nor the commandments of her eat or drink, as, continually looking at their Head will be felt by you to be grievous. Master, they pondered in their hearts the And if you once aright believe, your faith heart-burning words, “THE LAMB OF GOD will, like that of John and Peter, grow every WHICH TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE day. You will be on the outlook for Christ WORLD.” And, after the miracle, they were in your own life, and in the life of the to themselves and to one another like men Church, and in the life of the world conpossessed. “We beheld his glory," says one tinually. "On Thee do I wait all the day," who was present, “the glory as of the only will be your words to Him. And, conbegotten of the Father, full of grace and sequently, you will discover Him in a thoutruth."
sand things that love alone, and a faith that Now, if you had been at that marriage, worketh by love alone, will see. And He, what part would you have taken in it? And finding such a heart in you, will come unto where would your eyes and your heart have you, and will manifest Himself unto you in been ? Would they have been with the bride- a way He will not unto the world. Indeed, groom in his strength, and with the bride in He will
. Only let your saying be to every her beauty, and with the guests at their re- law of nature, to every ordinance of revelaplenished table ? or would your eyes and tion, and to every means of grace, Saw ye your heart have been with the disciples as Him whom my soul loveth? they secretly worshipped their manifested Master? Would you have been found drink
IV.-A LESSON FOR YOUNG DISCIPLES. ing that mantling wine, blessing yourself
Read Prov. ix. 9; Matt. xxv. 29. over its goodness and abundance ? or would John Foster's Notes on Deuteronomy xv.5; Robert you have drunk it as if it were an awful
Browning's "Christmas Eve," IV. sacrament, all the time full of a holy joy that The immediate intention of our Lord in you had been chosen to sit beside Him who the miracle at Cana was to relieve the dismade it, and to be one of His first disciples ? tress of his mother and her poor kindred, but You may know what you would have done the ultimate design and evangelical issue of at Cana by what you do every day here. the miracle was to confirm the faith of his For the Son of God manifests His divine lately enlisted disciples. And accordingly, glory still. Not in the same way, indeed, John adds emphatically that, “His disciples but in ways not less glorious, not less im- believed on Him." His disciples believed pressive, not one whit less commanding and because they were His disciples, and were on less convincing than when He turned water that account predisposed to believe. The into wine, and multiplied the loaves, and said truth is they had believed already. They to Lazarus, Come forth! He who made were present at the marriage because they all things, and without whom was not any had believed. They were there, not as thing made that was made, still upholds friends of the bride or bridegroom, but as them. By Him all things consist. He the disciples of Jesus the Christ. And, being stands among the foundations of the earth, disciples already, they were naturally conand
says, I bear up the pillars of it. He still firmed in their faith by this new manifestation turns water into wine in every sunny vine- of their Master's glory. yard; He still multiplies the loaves in every I do not read that Jesus made any new harvest-field; it is He who maketh all things disciples at the marriage of Cana. I do not beautiful and fruitful in their season. And read that either the bridegroom, or the bride, lest all these things, through their familiarity, or the governor of the feast, or any of the should escape you, lest they should all fail guests, or any of the servants believed on to lead you to think of Him who makes them our Lord because of this His first miracle. all
, He comes still nearer you. He besets you His disciples alone believed. They had their behind and before by His providence, and first faith increased. They had their remainall but lays His very hand upon you. And ing unbelief helped. This miracle mightily with what result ? His disciples believed fortified the faith they already had. They on Him.” Are you among them? Have you had left all to follow Christ, and, naturally, believed on their Master through their word ? they were disposed to accept any testimony If you have believed, He will increase your to their Master's Messianic position and divine faith, He will help your unbelief. If you power. You may say, if you please, that once truly believe, you will find more faith | they were committed to Christ and were