Matthew ix. Our Lord having quitted the country of the Gadarenes, whither we attended him in our last discourse, re-crossed the lake, and returned to Galilee. As he principally resided at Capernaum, St. Matthew calls it his oivn city. Happy had it been for its inhabitants, if they had known how to profit by the privileges they enjoyed ; but in general they neglected their opportunities, and prepared for themselves the severest condemnation. Jesus did not constantly remain at Capernaum, but frequently went out from it to the neighbouring towns and cities, to preach the gospel. He however returned thither to rest from his fatigues, and lodged perhaps in the house of Peter, or more probably of

LIFE OF CHRIST. 22? his mother-in-law, since Peter was of Bethsaida, a village at no great distance. As soon as it was known that Jesus was returned, so great a multitude assembled that the house could not contain them, nor even the court before the door. Among them were many scribes, and " pharisees, and doctors of the law, who," says St. Luke, " were come out of every toAvn of Galilee, and Judea, and even from Jerusalem." On this occasion, a man was brought to him who was afflicted with the palsy to such a degree that he could neither stand, walk, nor

sit. He was therefore carried by four persons on a portable bed or couch. In consequence of the crowd they could not get access to Jesus through the door. They would not however relax in their exertions to obtain a cure ; but went to the roof of the house, and having broken up the tiling, let the man down into the midst of the room in which Jesus was. The houses of the orientals generally are but a single story high. Their roofs are flat, and guarded on every side by a balustrade. There are two ways of access to the top : one from the inside, and the other by steps from the outside. By these the persons who bore the sick man ascended to the roof. Jesus was not offended at this intrusion, but " seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." He saiv their faith ; i. e. the firm persuasion which they had that he was endued with miraculous powers, and sent of God ; that he had sufficient power to cure this unhappy man, and sufficient benevolence to exercise this power in his behalf. This faith Jesus required of all those who sought favours from him. It was a necessary condition : for those who did not believe that lie had power to heal them would not

228 SERMO XLVII. apply to him ; or if* they did, their requests would be insults. It was a gracious condition : nothing was required to secure the greatest blessings except a belief in his ability and goodness. It was a reasonable condition : since he had already proved the divinity of his mission by innumerable miracles. Jesus then saw this faith in the sick man, and in those who carried him. He saw it in their hearts, since the most secret thoughts are not unknown to

him; he saw it also in their conduct; "their faith was shown by their works." He saw also the charity of these men, who, not being able to pass through the crowd which surrounded the door, would not relinquish their benevolent exertions, but persisted till they had through the roof opened a passage to Jesus. With such strong faith, and such active charity, they need not fear a repulse. When we approach the Lord with these dispositions, he will always address us in the language of mercy. Brethren, let the conduct of these compassionate men teach us our duty to our friends and relations. Are there none of them who have a palsy of the soul, whose faculties are altogether destitute of spiritual motion and sensation ? And shall we coolly suffer them to perish, when there is a physician who can heal them ? Ought we not to carry them by faith into the presence of the compassionate Jesus? He will not be offended by our intrusion, and our labours of love may have the most salutary effects. Little do we think how many thousands have been converted in answer to the entreaties of God's praying people. When St. Augustine was still dissipated and thoughtless, Ambrose, bishop of Milan, said to his mother Monica, who was mourning over the irregularities of her child, " Fear not ; the son of so many prayers

LIFE OF CHRIST. 229 cannot be lost." The event justified his predictions, since he became one of the most shining lights of the church. It may be so with us; in answer to our prayers, we may see our friends healed of their sins, and triumphing in their blessed Saviour. We are sure, at least, that our prayers shall " return into our own bosom," and draw down blessings for ourselves. Let us then exert ourselves to bring all around us to

the presence of Jesus. We return to the sick man. Jesus says to him. " Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee." The tender epithet, son, by which he is addressed, displays the kindness and mercy of the Son of God, and was calculated to inspire confidence and joy in the bosom of this unhappy man. iH Be of good cheer."'' w Dismiss your fears and apprehensions ; I am not now come as your Judge, but as your deliverer.' " Your sins are forgiven yow." These words show that the sickness of this man was derived from some sin which he had committed. Probably his knowledge of this, and his secret self-reproaches, inspired him with a mixture of hope and fear in approaching to Jesus. He is persuaded that the^aviour can heal him ; but at the same time he is no less persuaded that he has merited the chastisement he endures, and that Jesus is acquainted with his sin. ' It is true,' he says to himself, * he is able to cure me, but I am unworthy of his favour.' Jesus, who perceives his inward trouble, begins by tranquillizing his conscience. i It is comparatively of small consequence to heal your body ; you have another disorder more lamentable than your palsy; I see the deep wound of your soul; I love you as my son, and I will heal your soul as well as your body. I announce to you that your sins are forgiven.' I attempt not to de-

230 SERMO XLVll. scribe to you the joy which swelled the heart of this man at these words of our Saviour. You only can conceive it who know what it is to love God, to offend him, and afterwards to obtain forgiveness through repentance and faith. My brethren, Jesus is still as able and willing to

forgive sin. If he possessed this power when he sojourned on earth, surely he retains it now that he is enthroned in glory. " He is exalted," says the apostle, for this very purpose, " to give repentance and remission of sins." Let us then present ourselves before him with all our miseries and wants. Let us endeavour by all possible means to get access to him. Let us break through every obstacle that would defeat our endeavours. Let us approach him with an assurance of his power and willingness to save ; and he will certainly say to us, " Son, be of good cheer ; thy sins are forgiven thee." On hearing this address of the Saviour, the pharisees and scribes were offended. Though they did not openly find fault, they said within themselves, M Who is this that speaketh, blasphemies ? Who can forgive sins but^God alone?" Their principle was just, but the application of it was incorrect. Certainly, none but God has any authority to forgive sin ; and the assumption of this power by any mere creature would be blasphemy. But in Jesus " dwelt the fulness of the Godhead." He turns to them, and vindicates his expression. " Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts ?" By thus showing them that he read their most secret thoughts, he proved that he was endued with the omniscient Spirit of God, and therefore could exercise divine powers. He then appeals to them, whether the same authority is not required to remove the effect, as to remove the cause; whe-

LIFE OF CHRIST.. 23 J ther he who has power to deliver from a disorder which is the punishment of sin, has not power also to forgive that sin. " Whether is easier to .say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and ivalk f n

My brethren, many of you have, at times, been dangerously sick. Has the disorder of your soul been healed, as well as that of your body ? Have you, like this man, obtained the remission of your sins, as well as restoration to health ? You are yet in a miserable state, if you are cured without a pardon ; if the soul is still disordered, when the body is made whole. " Bless the Lord, O my soul," said David, " who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy diseases." The latter blessing he esteemed of little consequence, in comparison with the former. When God takes away a disease, and does not take away our guilt, it is not so properly a deliverance, as a respite from present execution. The pharisees appear to have made no answer to our Lord's address. He, therefore, only further told them, that what he was about to do would demonstrate his power to forgive sins, and, turning to the paralytic, bid him rise, and carry away his bed. " But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go to thine own house." Scarcely had the Saviour spoken, before the man was suddenly and entirely healed ; and immediately, in the presence of them all, took up his couch and departed. What confusion must have been felt by the scribes and pharisees at this spectacle ! We are not told the effect that it produced upon them ; probably, however, in this, as in other instances, they were not suitably affected. The clear evidence of truth generally excites, in corrupt

232 SERMO X.LVII. minds, only rage and fury. The pharisees, when they could not deny the miracles of the Saviour, chose rather to attribute them to the aid of devils,

and the secrets of magic, than acknowledge his divine mission. Probably those present on this occasion were not more humble and docile than their brethren, and like them resisted the dictates of their own minds. But the people, who were not affected by the prejudices and passions of their teachers, were filled at first with wonder, and then, elevating their hearts to the Source of all blessings, " they glorified God who had given such power to man ;" for they still had not a clear view of the character of the Redeemer. It would be pleasant to us to know what Mas the future conduct of this man ; but on this subject Scripture is silent. This, with many other things not fully revealed in the sacred oracles, we shall probably learn in the heavenly world. Perhaps, Christians, you may hereafter associate with this person, and with many others who were the subjects of the Saviour's beneficent miracles, and find their hearts still glowing with gratitude to their Deliverer, and their mouths overflowing with his praises. After having healed this paralytic, " Jesus," says St. Mark, " went forth by the seaside, and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them." We know not what was the subject of his discourse at this time. When he had finished speaking, he passed by the " receipt of custom," or place where the collectors of the tax waited to gather or levy it. Here he sees a publican sitting, whom he commanded to follow him. This publican was St. Matthew, a Jew by birth and religion. He is the same person who is called Levi bv Mark and Luke. It was a

LIFE OF CHRIST. 233 common thing among the Jews to have two names ;

and probably this Evangelist quitted the name of Levi to assume that of Matthew, when he became a publican. If this conjecture be true, it assigns to us a reason why he always preserves this name, and speaks of himself by it in his writings. It was to show that he never forgot that the Lord took him from an odious profession, to make of him one of his disciples, and even one of his apostles. It is useful for the children of God thus to preserve the remembrance of the misery and sinfulness of their former state, that their hearts may be filled with humility and inflamed with love. It is thus that St. Paul never forgot that he had been the persecutor of the church. All the services which he renders to it cannot efface from his memory the sufferings he has inflicted on it. He never loses from his view his infinite obligations to Jesus Christ. St. Matthew was, then, a publican. Than this profession, as we have already remarked, none was more detested by the Jews. Pompey having conquered Judea about sixty years before Christ, the Romans imposed a tribute upon it, to which the inhabitants reluctantly submitted* The persons who collected this tribute were termed publicans, and generally were dissolute, immoral, and rapacious. Matthew was one of these officers, and had his house at Capernaum, on the shore of the lake of Gennesareth, to receive the duties on goods that were transported from Galilee to Perea, or from Perea to Galilee. Jesus, passing by, saw him, and said unto him, ;i Follow me." Matthew did not hesitate a moment ; but complied instantly with the call of the Redeemer. He did not act precipitately in thus obeying the voice of Jesus. He had had full and satisfactory proof oi vol. n. 30

234 SERMO XLVII. his divine mission. He resided at Capernaum, where Jesus had wrought so many illustrious miracles. His house was on the borders of the lake, on which, but a few days before, the voice of the Redeemer had stilled a furious tempest ; on which the winds and the waves had acknowledged him as the Lord of nature, and been calm. He beholds the Saviour now surrounded by a vast multitude, who publish aloud the miraculous cure of the paralytic, which has just taken place. Ought he then to have hesitated when Jesus said to him, " Follow me V Besides, these words w r ere doubtless accompanied by a secret energy, a divine power, which he could not resist. o wonder then, that he immediately abandoned his office, in order to attend constantly upon Jesus, to learn his docrines, to witness his miracles, and to be prepared for that important ministry to which Christ destined him. " And Levi," says St. Luke, "made him a great feast at his own house, and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them." Perhaps they came, hoping to be made partakers of that grace which Matthew had received - T or, more probably, Matthew had invited them, desirous that their hearts might be touched by the instructions of the Saviour. " What sinner," exclaims the excellent Bishop Hall, " can fear to kneel before thee, blessed Jesus, when he sees publicans and sinners sit with thee ? Who can fear to be despised of thy meekness and mercy, when thou didst not abhor to converse with the outcasts of men ? Thou didst not despise the thief confessing upon the cross, nor the sinner weeping upon thy feet, nor the Canaanite crying to thee in the way, nor the odious publican, nor the forswearing disciple, nor the persecutor of

LIFE OF CHRIST. 23/) disciples, nor thine own executioners ; how can we be unwelcome to thee, if we come with tears in our eyes, and with faith in our hearts. O Saviour, our hearts are too often shut against thee ! thy bosom is ever open to us !" The pharisees were offended at this condescension of the Saviour, and addressing his disciples, they insolently asked them, in the hearing of the guests, " How is it that your master eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners ?" Jesus, overhearing them, replied, " They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick.''' 1 l You do not blame the physician for visiting those whose disorders require his aid. I am the physician of souls, and the object of my ministry is to cure them of their sins, and their errors. Should I not then be with the spiritually sick. They who, like you, have a high opinion of their own righteousness, will not feel their need of me, and there is little hope of benefiting them. But they who, like these publicans, are without this vain conceit of their own excellency, are readily brought to feel that they are sinners, and to prize the physician of souls. Why then, since you acknowledge that they need healing, should you be offended at me for visiting them ?' My brethren, let this declaration of our Saviour teach us the danger of self-righteousness. There are many who are lost eternally, because confiding on a moral and decent life, they suppose thev have little need of Jesus. A man who, in dying circumstances, denies his need of help, as effectuallv destroys himself, as though he swallowed poison, or plunged a dagger in his heart. Deny not then your need of the heavenly Physician. Think not to heal yourself by any self-righteous methods. If. like Hit:

236 SERMO XLVII. publican, you would go down to your house justified, you must, like him, cry, " God be merciful to me a sinner." Let this declaration teach us to beware of unbelief. We are apt to make the depth of our misery a reason for despondency. But to doubt the heavenly Physician's power, will be as destructive to the soul as to deny our need of him. Whatever be our spiritual infirmity, we may find a remedy in Christ. To silence these proud censurers, Jesus also refers them to a passage in the prophet Hosea, "Go ye, and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice :" that is, I prefer the exercise of mercy to all the ceremonial worship, and even to sacrifices, which constituted the principal part of it. The application of this passage is striking. It is as though the Saviour had said, ' Even if the ceremonial law forbade us to visit sinners, yet, still, this law ought to be forgotten when it is an obstacle to their conversion; for, since God prefers works of mercy to sacrifices, and since the most excellent of these works is that of converting and saving sinners, he must prefer their conversion to the observation of a rule which prohibits eating with them. Do not then, unreasonably magnify ceremonial duties, at the expense of charity.' The Saviour adds, " I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." The pharisees, proud of their false righteousness and imaginary perfection, believed that heaven was due to their merits. They even dared to carry their pride to

the tribunal of their God, and demand of him a merited reward, instead of pardon. This is strikingly represented to us, by our Lord, in the parable of the pharisee and publican, where the first boasts of his

LIFE OF CHRIST. 237 good works, while the other deplores his sins, confesses them, and supplicates pardon for them. Jesus then, who knew the temper of the pharisees, indirectly says to them, ' Of what do you complain ? It is not for you that I have come. You suppose yourselves righteous, perfect men. You think you have no need of repentance, and that you have not committed sin. The physician need not go to you, who think you have no maladies to cure. It is to those who feel the weight of their sins and miseries, who sigh after pardon and grace, that I must turn. They feel their need of me, they will welcome me.' Probably the pharisees felt the force of this remark ; but in souls of the character of which theirs was, reproof or admonition excites irritation and anger, instead of leading to a salutary compunction. The history of our Saviour abundantly proves this truth. Publicans and sinners were converted, but the pharisees became more and more wicked. Such is too often the unhappy effects of the vices of the mind. They are not perceived or felt, however great they may be. Full of pride, of ambition, of envy, of cruelty, of malignity, the pharisees still believed themselves saints, because they were not guilty of those gross vices, which we cannot disguise into virtues, nor hide from the world, and which draw down the contempt of society. Their pride rendered them incorrigible ; censures, remonstrances, only inflamed them. On the other hand, the vices to which shame is attached, humble the sinner, and prepare

him for repentance. Thus the pharisees, who had the vices of the fallen angels, had also their impenitence. Whilst publicans and sinners, who had the vices of corrupted men, repented and reformed.



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