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How apt are we to transgress the bounds both of reason and religion under a sharp affliction, appears in most men's experience, so in this woman's example, to whose excessive sorrow, Christ puts a stop in the text: “ He saw her, and had compassion on her, and said to her, Weep not."
The lamentations and wailing of this distressed mother, moved the tender compassions of the Lord in beholding them, and stirred up more pity in his heart for her, than could be in her heart for her dear and only son.
In the words, we are to consider both the condition of the woman, and the counsel of Christ with respect to it. I. the condition of this woman, which
appears to be very dolorous and distressed. Her groans and tears moved and melted the very heart of Christ, to hear and behold them: “ When he saw her, he had compassion on her.”
How sad an hour it was with her when Christ met her, appears by what is so distinctly marked by the Evangelist in ver. 12. where it is said, “ Now, when they came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city were with her.”
In this one verse, divers heart-piercing circumstances of this affliction are noted.
1. It was the death of a son. To bury a child, any child, must needs rend the heart of a tender parent; for what are children but the parents multiplied ? A child is a part of the parent made up in
another skin. But to lay a son in the grave, a son who continues the name, supports the family; this was ever accounted a very great affliction.
2. This son was not carried from the cradle to the coffin, nor stripped out of its swathing to be wrapt in his winding-cloth. Had he died in infancy, before he had engaged affection, or raised expectation, the affliction had not been so pungent and cutting, as now it was: death smote this son in the flower and prime of his life.
a man,” saith the Evangelist, ver. 12.- -“ a young man,” as Christ calls him, ver. 14.—he was now arrived at that which made him capable of yielding his mother all that comfort which had been the expectation and hope of many years, and the reward and fruit of
many cares and labours: yet then, when the endearments were greatest, and her hopes highest, even in the flower of his age, he is cut off.
Thus Basil bewailed the death of his son : once had a son, who was a young man, my only successor, the solace of my age, the glory of his kind, the prop of my family, arrived to the endearing age; then was he snatched from me by death, whose lovely voice but a little before I heard, who lately was a pleasant spectacle to his parents.”
Reader, if this had been thine own condition, as it hath been his who writes it, I need say no more to convince thee, that it was a sorrowful state indeed, in which Christ met this tender mother.
3. And what is yet more, he was not only a son, but an only son: so you find in verse 12.“ He was the only son of his mother.” One in whom all her
hopes and comforts of that kind were bound up. For, as in Virgil, Omnis in Ascanio, stat chari cura parentis. All her affections were contracted into this one object. If we have never so many children, we know not which of them to spare. If they stand like olive plants about our table, it would grieve us to see the least twig among them broken down But surely the death of one out of many, is much more tolerable than of all in one.
Hence it is noted in Scripture as the greatest of earthly sorrows—“ O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes ; make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation.” Yea, so deep and penetrating is this grief, that the Holy Ghost borrows it to express the deepest spiritual troubles by it They shall mour for him (namely Christ whom they pierced,) as one mourneth for an only son."
4. And yet to heighten the afflictions, it is superadded, ver. 12. “ And she was a widow." So that the staff of her age, on whom she leaned, was broken. She had now none left to comfort or assist her in her helpless, comfortless state of widowhood; which is a condition not only void of comfort, but exposed to oppression and contempt.
Yea, and being a widow, the whole burden lay upon
her alone: she had not a husband to comfort her, as Elkanah did Hannah" Why weepest thou, and why is thy heart grieved ? am not I more to thee than ten sons ?” This would have been a great relief, but her husband was dead as well as her son; both gone, and she only surviving to la
ment the loss of those comforts, that once she had. Her calamities come not single, but one after another, and this reviving and aggravating the former. This
her and condition when the Lord met her. II. Let us consider the counsel which Christ gives her, with respect to this her sad and sorrowful
" And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.” Relieving and supporting words ! wherein we shall consider,
1. The occasion.
1. The occasion of it; and that was his seeing of her. This meeting at the gate of the city, how accidental and occasional soever, it seems, yet, without doubt, it was providentially suited to the work intended to be wrought. The eye of his omniscience foresaw her, and this meeting was by him designed, as an occasion of that famous miracle which he wrought upon the young man. Christ hath a quick eye to discern poor mourning and disconsolate creatures. And though he be now in heaven, and stands out of our sight, so that we see him not, yet he sees us; and his eye, (which is upon all our troubles) still affects his heart, and moves his bowels for us.
2. The motive stirring him up to give this relieving and comfortable counsel to her, was his own compassion. She neither expected nor desired it from him ; but so full of tender pity was the Lord toward her, that he prevents her with unexpected consolation : her heart was nothing so full of com
passion for her son, as Christ was for her: he bore our infirmities, even natural as well as moral ones in the days of his flesh; and though he be now exalted to the highest glory, yet still he continues as merciful as ever, and is apt to be touched with the sense of our miseries.
3. The counsel itself, “ Weep not;" herein fulfilling the office of a comforter to them that mourn, whereunto he was anointed. Yet the words are not an absolute prohibition of tears and sorrow: he doth not condern all mourning as sinful, or all expressions of grief for dead relations as uncomely. No, Christ would not have his people stupid and insensible; he only prohibits the excess, and extravagancies of our sorrow for the dead ; that it should not be such a mourning for the dead as is found among the heathen, who sorrow without measure, because without hope, being ignorant of that grand relief, by the resurrection which the Gospel reveals.
The resurrection of her son from the dead, is the ground upon which Christ builds her consolation and relief. Well might he say,
Weep not,” when he intended quickly to remove the cause of her tears by restoring him again to life.
Now, though there be somewhat in this case extraordinary and peculiar: for few or none that carry their dead children to the grave, may expect to receive them again from the dead immediately, by a special resurrection, as she did : I say, this is not to be expected by any that now lose their relations; the occasions and reasons of such miraculous special resurrections being removed, by a sufficient and full