Blind Bartimæus

THE blind man in his accustomed place by the wayside is a familiar sight to us in our own country. Some of us can remember from our childhood the well-known features of the blind man who sits by the wayside, begging. There he is on his stool from day to day, making the mat of colored strips of cloth, or anon conducting his hands along the broad leaves of the raised-letter Testament, and reading slowly the precious words of life, while his dog, basket round its neck, looks up into our faces as if to ask an alms! There the blind man has sat day by day since we were children. Now he is old, as well as blind and poor, and no one on earth can open his eyes. Some of us may have had more interest in the poor man than simply that of dropping a penny into the basket; we may have inquired after his health and home, becoming acquainted with his name and his surroundings. If so, we should hardly speak of the blind man who sits by the wayside, but of poor So-and-So, the blind man, who sits at such and such a place.
In the East, lepers and blind people occupy an accustomed spot, where they solicit alms. Perhaps a poor leper is carried day by day, and placed on his ragged old mat outside the city's walls, where he may be seen daily for years together, till at last, too feeble to be carried to the accustomed spot, he is seen no more. But there is no one on earth now whose touch can heal a leper.
Sometimes the blind man holds a gourd in his hand, as our artist has given it in our picture, and into the gourd the alms are cast.
Our artist wished to know whether he should draw us two poor men sitting together at the foot of the wall, as he had so often seen them, or only one. We wished for but one, as we desire particularly to speak of Bartimus, who sat outside the walls of Jericho. Both St. Matthew and St. Luke tell us of two blind men who sat there. St. Mark mentions but one. He gives us his name, Bartimaeus, and his father's too, Timæus, and so speaks of him, and, indeed, so describes the scene of mercy and healing, that we can but feel assured he knew the poor blind son ' of Timæus by name and character, as well as by sight. How many years he had sat by that highway side we know not? How long, think we, had he lost his sight? By the Lord's word to him, we should suppose he had once seen, perhaps, as well as you and I, but darkness deeper than that of night had fallen on him—that darkness which so powerfully teaches us the terribleness of soul-darkness—there was in the eyes of Bartimus no power for receiving light! So there he sat by the wayside, begging.
One day the hum of a multitude and the tramp of many feet, made the blind man ask what it all meant. "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by," the people answered.
Oh! what words of hope were these to Bartimus! He had heard many a time of Jesus of Nazareth. Who can say but that as Bartimæus and the other blind man sat on their mats together they had not frequently talked together of Jesus and His wondrous works, and wondered if ever He would give them sight? I think, had you been a blind child in that day, you would have tried to learn all you could about the blessed Jesus who gave sight to the blind.
Indeed, I am sure, had I been blind, I should have done so; and if we heard that Jesus was in our very town, oh! how would our hearts have beaten in anticipation of our being brought to Him! And now Jesus was coming along the very road at the side of which Bartimæus sat. How his heart leaped within him as he lifted up his voice: "Son of David, have mercy on me!" He cried out, for he wanted Jesus to hear, and as so many people were talking together, and so many feet were tramping along, he cried as loud as he could, "Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Then a great many people told Bartimæus to be quiet: "Hush!" said they, "hold your peace!" Hold his peace, indeed, when Jesus, who gave sight to the blind, was passing by? Hold his peace, indeed, because the fine people did not wish to be vexed with the wants of a blind beggar? No, no, no! All the louder and the more often did Bartimæus shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
I do so love Bartimæus for his earnest longing and for his faith in the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Will it not be pleasant to see him by and by in glory, and to hear from his own lips in the city of God all about that wonderful day when, outside the wall of poor accursed Jericho, he sought the Lord and received sight? But happier far than the contemplation of Bartimæus is the sweet pleasure of thinking of Jesus listening to the cry of the blind man. Bartimæus heard the voice of Jesus. The people said to him, "Rise, He calleth thee"; and away he cast his poor ragged old garment—his outer shawl-like covering—and at the Lord's bidding stood before Him, blind, miserable in himself, but trusting in Jesus, and full of hope in His mercy.
How all the people must have crowded close to see what the Master would do Then He asked Bartimæus what he wished that He should do for him. And the blind man cried, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." Then in a moment Bartimæus saw. And what think you he saw?—Jesus! He cast his eyes upon the gracious Lord who had so kindly passed by on the highway from Jericho and had mercy on him.
Now who cries for mercy, and, who says to Jesus, "Have mercy on me"? Who feels his deep darkness of soul? Be not blind and a beggar any longer; Jesus is passing by; He will stop to heed your cry for mercy. Whatever your friends and companions may say to try to stop your calling on the Lord, cry but the louder, "Have mercy on me!”
The earnest cry for mercy is never, never unheeded. Whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.
Now listen: "Rise, He calleth thee!" Away with the rags, away with the miserable covering; you shall beg and be ragged no longer; Jesus calls you; come to Him, and as He places His gifts at your disposal, reply to Him, "Give me my sight, Lord"; and then, like grateful Bartimæus, follow the Lord on the way. Be a disciple indeed.