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may He say, Be of good courage, who could add this, Thy sins be forgiven thee. Oh! what can dismay after this? The heart, wholly filled with Divine peace and love, bears up all, and sorrow is turned into joy before a soul thus assured. Jesus knew well, that the healing of his palsy, without this pardon, had been but a lame cure, only the half, and the far less, the meaner half. This was the main business that brought him down from Heaven to be a man, and to dwell among men, and that made him die for man; that which nailed him to the cross, and drew forth his heart's blood : it was for the remission of the sins of many. These cures of bodily diseases, though clear demonstrations of Christ's Divine power and goodness, were but a transient appendage and symbol of that mainly intended and highest mercy, the forgiveness of sins. - The sentence of eternal death standing in full force above the head of an unpardoned sinner, if it were lively apprehended, Oh! what a paralytic trembling would it strike the soul into, causing the joints of it to shake and smite one upon another, in the midst of its fullest health and mirth, as the hand-writing on the wall did that drunken king Belshazzar. But we know not what sin is, though we hear and speak of it, and some times confess it; and therefore our hearts leap not at the report of a pardon, though we hear of it, and usually entreat it. Any of you, when complaining that you are robbed, or spoiled of your goods, would scarcely think it to the purpose were I to tell you, Your sins are pardoned. But, Oh, how fit a word it is to answer and drown all griefs; so pertinent that nothing besides it is so! And happy that soul that hears it from His mouth who gives it and who alone can ascertain it. - This is the answer that will satisfy. If thou sayest, “ I am diseased;" ay, but thy sin is pardoned. “I am poor;" ay, but thy sin is pardoned. And surely, a soul that heeds it right, will be quieted, and will be bold, of good courage, as the word here is, and will embrace all other burdens, and go light under them; will say," Lord, now let me live, or let me die, let me abound or want, let me be healthy or sick, take away
thou wilt, or lay on what thou wilt, all is well; Thou hast pardoned my sin.
Ver. 3. And behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.] Supposing Jesus but a man, yet, there was no necessity for this construction. He was a holy man, a singular, extraordinary man, doing unparalleled miracles; and he said not, I forgive thy sins, but, Thy sins are forgiven thee ; which was a word not beyond the capacity of a prophetical power to say it declaratively, And though there was an air of authority, might they not have thought, This may be the Messiah, who they knew was to come, and was to be the Son of God, and to bring remission of sins along with him? But that base spirit, the spirit of envy, with which they were filled, willingly rejects all better sort of constructions, and fastens on the absolutely worst it can invent. To an eye that looks through the dark glass of prejudice and malice, all is discoloured. Yet they are struck with so much awe, that they dare not speak it out. That which struck them was, they were obscured by his brightness. They were animalia gloriæ, as one calls the philosophers, and could not endure to go less in the opinion they had gained : a sore mischief, and one much attaching to known and venerable possession. Genus irritabile vatum.
But a spirit devoted to Him whose due all glory is, willingly resigns it to Him, in what way He will. Let whoso will be best or chief, so that still He be chief of all, and glorified in all. The holy Baptist had another spirit than these rabbies: he told it freely and gladly, He must increase, but I must decrease. It was his end, as the morning star is willingly drowned in the brightness of the rising sun.
Ver. 4. And Jesus knowing their thoughts.] This, without any thing further, was clearly enough to demonstrate his Divine power. Oh! that this was ever in our thoughts, that all our thoughts are under his eye! If they were so, and we knew them to be so, to some grave,
wise man, how wary, and choice should we be of them! And shall we have less regard to the holiest and wisest Lord, to whom they are all naked and open? : Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts ?] There was no reason in the thing, but the reason was, their hearts were evil, and their emissions like themselves. An evil heart is an incessant forge of evil thoughts. It is a corrupt spring still issuing forth, and till it be renewed, it cannot find any other. From the heart come evil thoughts: that is in the front of all the black train that comes forth of the heart, as our Sa. viour teaches, Matt. xv. 19. These are the seeds of all the wickedness that fills the world. Chief regard, therefore, is to be had to the heart. An excellent advice that of Solomon, Keep thy heart with all diligence. To amend some evil customs, without the renewing of the heart, is but to lop the branches that will grow again, or others in their stead; but a holy heart meditates on holy things, is still in heaven, is all reverence towards God, and meekness and charity to men.
Ver. 5. Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise, and walk ?] Though the remission of sins flows originally from the same power, and so is equal, and in its own place hath the preference, being by far the greater mercy, yet, the other of bodily cure runs into the senses, and so both is more evident to the beholders, and affects them more. The other word might be spoken with less control, the efficacy or inefficacy of it not falling under the cognition of them that heard it; but this of healing the palsy, would either be attested or denied in the effect.
Ver. 6. But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.] Now he asserts a peculiar power of forgiving sin. Though a man walking on the earth as the rest, yet, in testimony of the Divine power, He saith to the sick of the palsy,--this apostrophe maketh the proof more lively, joining presently the real experiment of that miraculous cure,
Arise, take up thy bed. That word which gave being to the world, what is hard to it?. And in the case of spiritual deadness, soul-palsy, no more is necessary than a word from His mouth, and it shall be lively and strong; it shall skip and leap. Is. xxxv. 6. Lord, speak that word ! And indeed, wheresoever he pardons sin, He withal makes the soul able and nimble, to run in the way of His commandments; to carry its head, that before carried it; to command and wield at pleasure those low things whereon it rested.
Ver. 8. But when the multitude saw it they marvelled.] They feared, says St. Luke. A gracious work it was, yet, so full of wonder, that it struck them with a kind of fear. And they glorified God. Thus shall he, break out, and shine
right in His works, when most opposed by evil men. Yet, they knew him not well, but took him for an extraordinary man only. But thus he was pleased to be known by degrees, and to rise as the morning light. It is a common presumption, and generally that of the least, knowing, to think that they have the true and full sense of the articles of religion; and that presumption is commonly accompanied with this precipitancy, that we would constrain all to know and believe, at once, without delay, whatsoever we think and believe. Who had given such power unto men. But had they known this honour given unto men, that this man was God, they would have wondered much more. And if he was so astonishingly wonderful in healing a sick man, how wonderful shall he be in raising the dead! And if in his lowness, his power was admired, how much more shall all admire that power which shall then be given him, when the man, Christ, shall come in the brightness of his glory, to judge the world!
Ver. 9. And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom.] He staid no long time upon earth, but he lost no part of that time. Every step to us is a wonder of goodness. And here is a cure which the Evangelist ingenuously relates as done upon himself, which was no less, if not more wonderful, than that
upon the paralytic; and done as easily and quickly by the same means, a word spoken.
He saw a man named Matthew. He loves first, and spies first, when we think on nothing less than him ; as he says to Nathanael : Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee. And this seeing of Matthew was no casual, but a designed sight, proceeding from a former sight, like unto that of Nathanael ; and is the sight of His fore-knowing and fore-choosing love. So even this very sight of his calling and converting power, did prevent Matthew, while he thought of no such thing, and would have let Jesus pass, being so intent upon his busy employment, as either not to have seen him at all, or to have taken no notice of him.
Sitting at the receipt of custom. This is the common case, the posture of called sinners. While they are thinking of no such thing, but altogether drowned in other desires and cares, (even at the church, their hearts are often more in their shops, or fields, or any earthly business they are engaged in,) their very hearts being a little custom-house, such a crowd and noise of cares and vanities, as there is usually of people in a custom-house, He who hath their names in His book of life, at His appointed time glances at them, by a powerful look cast on them, and, by a word spoken to them, draws them to Himself; and that without minding any previous worth or congruous disposition in them, more than in others; yea, finding them in a more indisposed temper and posture, possibly, than many others who are not called, as the Evangelist here freely and humbly declares of himself, speaking out his calling, and his busy diligence in it, in the very instant that he is called from it. Observe, likewise, his expressing of his common name, Matthew; whereas the other Evangelist, in the recital of this story, gives him that other name which was the more honourable, Levi. Sitting at the receipt of custom, a profession of great gain, but little credit among the Jews; and though, pos: sibly, not utterly unlawful in the nature of it, yet, so generally corrupt in the exercise and management of it ; like some other callings, which, though a man cannot absolutely determine them to be unlawful, are yet seldom or never lawfully and spotlessly discharged. Therefore, the Jews shunned the very