And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother laid and sick of a fever. — Matt. viii. 14. OUR relatives by birth we have generally known from childhood. The familiar intercourse of years has created in us that sort of attachment that comes from mutual interests and the exchange of necessary courtesies and kindness, even where there is no real congeniality and no very near blood relationship. We accept as we must the members of the home circle, love them heartily and naturally in most cases, and in all make the best of them. Family quarrels are universally condemned, and there is fixed upon them a certain measure of disgrace. The Scriptures go farther and enforce family affection as a duty, as well as a privilege and a source of the purest and most lasting earthly joy. As by common consent, mankind rebels more stubbornly against the uncongenial relatives with

. MI ISTERI G. 85 whom human beings become connected by marriage. There is a noble as well as an unworthy ground for this difficulty. The loving, loyal heart is repulsed by the idea that persons, often utter strangers till met at the wedding feast, should at once be accepted on a par with the dear ones of house and hearth, linked with a whole

past life, and near through strong and grateful affection as well as by the natural bond. There is often, too, a similarity in the modes of thought, the perception of duty, and the aims both for the inner and the outer life, in a whole family connection. The bride or bridegroom may be suddenly plunged into an atmosphere quite new and uncongenial, to have long cherished preferences and prejudices perpetually shocked. The feelings may be wounded and the taste offended because these strangers, who are at once brought so near, are themselves playing upon an unknown instrument, meeting on a familiar footing fellow-creatures of whose habits of thought and peculiarities of character they are quite ignorant, or which they are wholly unable to appreciate. For all this there is a slow but certain cure in the open-hearted willingness of the bride and bridegroom to accept their new relatives as they find them, not as they fancy they ought to be. As a plain matter of fact, these relations are

86 OUR ELDER BROTHER. grown-up men and women not to be made over or remodelled to suit a new young member of the family. They are to be taken and loved and cherished and made happy, in the spirit of frank friendliness, in Christian submission, and in whole-hearted unselfishness, though it may not be easy to take at once quite near to the heart these strangers, who must be called by the sacred names of father or mother or sister or brother. These real difficulties in accommodating one's

self to new relatives, which are so often met and conquered by the warmth of a loving, conscientious nature, are quite different from the cherished opposition, the sharp-eyed spirit of criticism, the mean, small seeking for opportunities of difference, that may be found on one side or the other in the new relation. The bride and bridegroom are sometimes so selfishly wrapped up in each other that they consider the outer world only worthy to exist as far as it can conform to their wishes, or minister to their already abounding happiness, or at least not in any way intrude upon or diminish their unspeakable bliss. Such selfishness at the beginning of married life may make permanent strangers or even enemies of those who would gladly have taken the place and office of near and affectionate relatives. Even a mother or father or sister or brother, who cannot cease to love the selfishly

MI ISTERI G. 87 absorbed offender, may fee! repulsed and thrown off, and grow stiff and ceremonious with one who has been dear to them as the apple of the eye, blood of their blood, and heart of their heart. Into whatever household or family circle the Saviour has truly entered, the Friend of all and transforming all into His likeness, such animosities, such opposition of interests, such bickerings, can find no place. We know nothing of the moral condition of things under Peter's roof at the time of our Saviour's appearance there, which is honored by the mention of three evangelists. That Peter's

wife's mother was a member of his family shows that there was a strong bond of love or duty or congeniality between them. That the Master was at once taken to her bedside on His arrival indicates an eagerness that she should profit by the healing power that He was ever so lovingly ready to exert. Her sickness is called a fever, a " great fever " by one of the narrators of the incident. The physicians of our own day speak of a fever as if it were an enemy to be met and defeated by a nice system of tactics. Our physicians must often work in the dark. They know much of family matters, but they are not father confessors, to whom each member of the household may fully open the heart. There is

88 OUR ELDER BROTHER. much that causes and sustains disease, into which the wisest physician may not be able to penetrate. Who knows what anxieties may have preyed upon the mind of Peter's wife's mother? How wild, erratic, and unpractical she may have thought him, to be forsaking his boats and his nets to follow the new Master, who after all had only promised to make him "a fisher of men." She w^as perhaps familiar with the household difficulties consequent upon his course. The future of the family perhaps lowered gloomily before her. She had a vision of the wife and children sitting deserted in a home of poverty, while the husband was madly following the new Teacher to strange cities. Who can say that Peter, with his hasty tongue that could even rebuke the Lord Himself, may

not sometimes have wounded her to the quick, by a sharp criticism or a bitter retort, and made her feel that a home in his house was by no means a bed of roses. Perhaps she had no confidence in "this azarene," and had not cared to meet Him. ow she lay on her bed sick with a fever. She was not to be asked what physician should be brought to her side. Our Lord came like no ordinary physician to seek out symptoms and sound body and soul. He knew all the patient's pains and weaknesses.

MI ISTERI G. 89 He knew her trials and her sins. He came not on an official visit, for so much pay, so much experience, or so much renown. He came full of ability to heal, and of love to understand and forgive. What a visit that was from the Great Physician ! He took the patient by the hand and lifted her up. He lifted her up, doubtless, both in body and in soul ! " There went out virtue from Him." She felt that loving confidence in His willingness to help which His presence seemed so marvellously to inspire. Here was just such a friend as she needed, one who came with a kindly touch of the hand, and a deep sympathy for her in all her troubles ! So our Lord is willing, even now, to come to every sick-room and every troubled heart. If, like the wise surgeon, He cannot always spare the sharp knife, or dull the agonizing pain, He can give courage to bear the worst torture, and to triumph in the sorest mental struggles.

We need not say He will come to every lowly patient. There is no sick-room so dark that He is not already there, willing to give His wonderful light. There is no sufferer so lowly that the Friend of the poor is not ever beside his bed! If man would but turn in his distress to the Great Physician, not despising the means He

90 OUR ELDER BROTHER. has graciously appointed, but looking to Him foi a blessing on all means, and for support in all suffering, what a different world this would be ! We read of the patient, Peter's wife's mother, that Jesus " rebuked her fever and it left her, and immediately she rose and ministered unto them." That was a sign of a recovery of body and soul that does not always appear after illness. How often the contrary effect is produced by being the centre of interest and attention on the sick-bed and during convalescence. Who has not seen the faithful servant nursed through pain and danger to become an imperious mistress in her exactions, or the little child tenderly cared for by anxious love until it is a domestic tyrant? We may judge of our real gratitude for our recovery by the use we make of the life newly given back to us, or the lost strength so mercifully restored. In our extremity what weary watching fell to some one's lot for our sake! By what pa.tient, thoughtful service we were nursed back to life ! In what spirit have we risen from the sick-bed?

Have we a more tender feeling for all sufferers? Are we querulously ready to insinuate that this or that invalid has brought on himself by thoughtless imprudence the pain of which he complains? Have we become so used to being waited upon that we have ceased to remember

MI ISTERI G. 91 that hired feet can be tired as well as our own? Have our hearts and our purses fully and freely opened to relieve the poor who languish in sickrooms that are the family resort, the family workshop, the family dormitory, and the family nursery? "What a joy it must have been to Peter's wife's mother, after her sudden recovery, to be allowed to minister to the Master, as a revered and beloved guest! ow she understood Peter's enthusiasm for Jesus of azareth! She needed no longer to fear because her son-in-law had left all to follow the new Teacher. In His care Peter and Peter's house were safe ! We have not the Lord to minister to on our recovery, but if we have caught His spirit we shall find it a delight to minister to the needs or contribute to the joy of high or low, rich or poor, friend or acquaintance, as the opportunity may providentially be afforded us. We shall be a new source of help and happiness in the home in which our lot is cast. In the times that are gone by, family affection rarely allowed the sick to be entrusted entirely, or any more than was absolutely necessary, to the care of a hired nurse. Such a nurse was then

too commonly an ignorant if a willing help, and sometimes an incompetent mercenary or an irresponsible drudge. Then it was customary for

92 OUR ELDER BROTHER. friends to supplement the exertions of the overtaxed family of the patient, by sitting with the sufferer by day, or watching beside his bedside at night. That time has passed, and as to nursing, the trained and capable Christian women who now devote themselves to this self-denying occupation can in most cases give far better care tc the sick than the nearest and most devoted relatives. This is now everywhere acknowledged. Yet this very fact is bringing evils in its train. The sick-nurse is so kind and competent and acceptable that the family of the patient, relieved in a measure from anxiety, and feeling themselves superfluous in the sick-room, go on with their ordinary occupations, cheerful, and often indifferent and forgetful as regards the sufferer, who finds the nurse truly very agreeable and capable, but feels himself living in a dreary world, apart from all he holds most dear, and apparently as easily dispensed with as a wornout glove. Such is human selfishness, that this may even happen in families accounted lovely by outsiders, families in which business and pleasure and self-indulgence are the ruling elements, rather than true affection linked with deep Christian life. In such households it seems to be taken for granted that the sick-nurse has supernatural powers. She is supposed to need no rest,

MI ISTERI G. 93 day or night, no recreation, no cheering social chat, no friendliness, no fresh air. It is as if she were bound to perpetual self-abnegation, and almost to a slow self-murder ! These things ought not so to be ! The good sick-nurse does not come into the house to foster pleasure-seeking, worldliness, and selfishness. There is a ministry for all of us in our homes and in the homes of others, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow. ot sickness alone, not recovery, can teach us this lesson. The Lord Jesus must take us by the hand and lift us up, and give us of His loving spirit, and then we shall arise and minister unto our fellows, after His example and in His name.



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