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The Gospel for the Nineteenth Sunday after
St. Matthew ix. I9. Fesus entered into a ship, and passed over, and
came into his own City; and behold they brought to him a Man fick of the Palfy, lying on a Bed, &c.
THIS Gospel for the Day contains an Account of a
Miracle wrought by our Saviour, in healing a Per
fon sick of the Pally; in the relating whereof we may observe,
First, The Circumstances leading to it.
First, For the Circumstances leading to it. We read in the first Verse, that Jesus entred into a Ship, and passed over : He was then on the other side of the Water, in the Country of the Gergesens, where he difpoffess’d a Legion of Devils out of two Men possess'd with them; which Spirits entring into a Herd of Swine, they ran violently down a steep place into the Sea, and perish'd in the Waters. The People, astonish'd at the seeing or hearing hereof, went all out of the City to meet Jesus ; and being terrify'd at the Greatness of his Power, or troubled for the Loss of their Swine, instead of desiring more of his Company, they besought him, that he would depart out of their Coafts : Hereupon he entred into a Ship, and passed over to the other fide, and came into his own City; that is, into Capernaum, à City in Galilee, call'd his own City, becanse he then had his Habitation, and dwelt there. The former Place of his Abode was Nazareth, the Place of his Conception and
Education ; for which, as also for his long Continuance there, he is often call'á Jesus of Nazareth. During his Abode there he liv'd in constant Communion with the Jewish Church, of which he was a Member; for St. Luke tells us, that his Cuftom was to go into the Synagogue every Sabbathday; where he sometimes stood up to read, and teach the People: Luke 4. 16. Though the People of Nazoreth were none of the best, as appears by that proverbial Saying, Can any Good come out of Nazareth ? yet he made no Separation, and blam'd the Pharisees for so doing upon Pretences of
greater Purity. So great a Lover was Jesus Christ of the Peace and Unity of the Church, for which he gave both his Precept and Example, contrary to the Practice of some seeming Zealots in our Days, who for worldly Ends rend and divide the Christian Church.
But to go on, Christ leaving Nazareth, came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the Sea-Coast, in the Borders of Zabulon and Naphthali; as we read, Matth. 4. 13. When he came there, he began to preach and to expound to the People the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven ; insomuch that they wobo before sate in Darkness, Savo great Light, and to them mbich" Sate in the Region and Shadoro of Death, is Light Sprung up; ver. 16, 17. of that Chapter. The Fame of his Doctrine, which was confirm'd by many Miracles, brought much People unto him: among the rest, we are here told in our Text, that upon his Return to his own City, or Dwelling-place at Capernaum, Behold, they brought to him a Man fick of the Palfy, lying on a Bed. Some times they brought or carry'd infirm, diseased and poffeffed People unto him; at other times he himself went to them that were unable to come: sometimes he sent Salvation to them, and by his Word spake them whole at a diftance, it being all one to his Divine Power to cure them present or absent. Here they brought to him a Paralytick, that was so sick and fhaken with a Palsy, that he could neither stand nor go, and so could only be brought lying on a Bed.
But how was he receiv'd ? Did our Saviour refuse to fee hin, or to take the trouble of the Cure ? Did he difdain his Poverty, or dismiss him without hearing or healing of him? No, he was so far from refuling any, that he fought out Objects for his Mercy and Compassion to work upon ; he was never weary, but still went up and down doing Good; his Will was always as ready as his
Power, and his Goodness as both. Poverty and Sickness were the Motives of his Mercy, and the Misery and Meanness of any one's Condition rather help'd than hinder'd the Influence of his Bounty. Accordingly his Bowels yearn’d towards this sick Perfon, and seeing their Faith, which he did by this extraordinary way of bringing him to him, said unto the fick of the Palfy, Son, be of good cheer; he was affected towards him as a father is to a Son, and pitied him as much as a Parent doth his own Child whom he loveth : Son, faith he; and what a loving Compellation is that to a Stranger, and in Distress too, and from the Mouth of the Son of God? How was he transported, think you, at so dear and gracious a Title, or what might he not expect from one, who at first sight took him into so near a Relation ; Son, be of good cheer? What reviving Words were thefe to this poor Paralytick? A Cordial higher than the strongest Potion, especially coming from the Lips of fo Divine a Person.
But what were the Ingredients in it, that could adminif ter so much Comfort ? Why, that the next words declare, Son, be of good cheer, thy Sins be forgiven thee: Words that drop the greatest Sweetness, and are
able to revive the most fainting Spirit; for next to Health, which he afterward reitor'd, what could more comfort a fick Perfon, than the Forgiveness of his Sins, which is far better than Health or Life it self? And therefore before he remov'd the Distem. pers of his Body, or cur'd his Palsy, he thought fit to heal the greater Maladies of his Soul, and to seal his Pardon to him, well knowing that both Soul and Body would fare well enough when that was done.
But certain of the Scribes, whose Eyes were evil, because his were good, said within themselves, for they durft not fpeak it openly, This Man blasphemeth, for who can forgive Sins, fave God only? Where, by reasoning among themselves, they fought to charge him with Blasphemy, partly to render him odious to the People, by usurping upon God, and assuming to himself the fole incommunicable Prerogative of forgiving of Sins; and partly to bring him under the Cena fure and Penalty of the Law against Blasphemy, which was to be stoned to death : for so we read, Levit. 24. 16. He that blafphemeth the Name of the Lord shall surely be pilt to death, and all the Congregation shall certainly stone him, as well the Stranger, as he that dwelleth in the Land i when he blafphemeth the Name of the Lord, he shall be put to death. Thus we find that when Christ said, I and my
Esther are one, they said he blasphemed, and were taking up of Stones to stone him; John 10. 30, 31. And when he stild hintself The Son of God, they ask'd him, Why blaf phentest thou, saying, I am the Son of God? and were again for stoning him; ver. 36. Blasphemy is a Sin that flieth in the Face of Heaven, by detracting from the Honour of God, or invading his Attributes, and justly deserves the feverest Punishment; and being so heinous and capital a Crime, the Scribes and Pharisees, the bitter Enemies of our Saviour, fought to fasten it upon him, and thereby either to put him to death, or to put a stop to the spreading of his Doctrine.
But Jesus, kroving their Thoughts, which, being Searcher of the Hearts, could not be hid from him, said unto them, Why think ye Evil in your Hearts? which was but a gentle Reproof for fo vile an Accusation; Why do ye entertain such hard Thoughts, or harbour in your Hearts such nialicious Designs? And the better to convince them of the Folly of their evil and unjust Surmises, he makes a Comparison between the Power of forgiving of Sins, and the Power of giving Health to a sick Man by a word's Speaking; asking the Question, Whether is easier to say, Thy Sins be forgiven thee? or to say, Arise and, walk? And tho both these are equally easy and feasible to a Divine Power, yet, because they vainly thought it a higher and more difficuit thing to cure this diseafed Man by a Word, than to forgive him his Sins, he was pleas’d to do that which they judgd most difficult, to convince them that he could do that which they esteem'd more easy ; and so argu'd with them a majori ad minus, from his doing the greater to his Ability of doing the less: and that the same Divine Power, that was able to restore Health to his Body by a word's speaking, was able likewise to fave his Soul, by sealing to him the Pardon of his Sins; the same Infinite and Almighty Power being requir'd to both.
Now here follows the Miracle, for their Satisfaction, in the next words; That ye may know that the Son of Man (whom you are so apt to despise) hath Power on Earth, as well as in Heaven, to forgive Sins; then saith be to the Sick of the Palsy, Arise, take up thy Bed, and go unto thine House : Upon the uttering of which words, he immediately arose, and departed to his own House. These healing words of our Saviour chased away his Disease, rid him of his Pally, and
restor'd him perfectly found and whole. He who was borne on the Shoulders of four Men to our Saviour, was very well able to go home alone ; and he who before depended whol. ly upon the Strength of others, was now able to walk by his own : he bore the Bed upon his Shoulders, that before bore him, and return'd more nimbly to his House than his former Bearers.
This is the Miracle, which we read and ought to media ditate upon this Day, and is indeed well worthy of it, being a Miracle truly great and divine in sundry respects: As,
ift, In respect of the Author, who was no less a Person than the Son of God, and God blessed for ever: His daily and ordinary Actions highly deserve our Notice and Obfervation, but his miraculous Acts much more. The Jews were charged and upbraided with Ingratitude for not considering the Works of the Lord, nor regarding the Ope. rations of his Hand; but how much more may Chriftians be upbraided with it, if they regard not the Miracles of Chrilt, which so vastly exceeded all that was done or recorded by Moses and the Prophets ? Corazin and Bethsaida, who heard the Doctrine, and
saw the Miracles of Chrift, were threaten'd with a heavier Doom than Tyre and Sidon, who were never bless'd with either; and Capernaum, where this and many other Miracles were perform’d, were said to be lifted up to Heaven in their Privileges, and therefore should sink so much the deeper into Hell, for their not believing and amending by them. In like manner fad will be the Account of the Deists and Infidels of our Age, for doubting or denying the Truth of these Miracles, which stand upon Record in the Gospel, and were confirm'd beyond all reasonable Contradiction.
2dly, This Miracle was great in respect of the Person upon whom it was wrought, who labour'd under those great and incurable Diftenipers, which neither Nature nor Art were ever able to remove, and yet were foon and easily cur'd by his Divine Hand : Which shews it,
3dly, To be great, and worth Consideration, in respect of the wonderful Manner of effecting it, which was not by the natural and ordinary Ways and Methods of Physick, but only by a Word of his Mouth; for he no sooner faid, Arise, take up thy Bed and walk, but presently he, who before was not able to move hand or foot, was able to do all these.