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A Paralytic healed on the Faith of Others.
MARK, ii. 5.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the Palsy, Son,
thy sins be forgiven thee. By the preaching and miracles of Jesus Christ in Capernaum, his fame was much celebrated in that city and in the country around ; so that wherever he went, as soon as the people knew where he was, they crowded around him ; some to hear his doctrines, and some to receive cures for themselves or their friends.
At the time of the transaction referred to in the text, he was in a private house in this city, whither, it seems, he had retired for refreshment and rest, The people hearing that he was there, gathered to. gether in such multitudes, that there was no room to receive them, not even about the door. And while he was preaching the word to them, probably from an upper chamber in the house, there came four men, bringing on a bed, a poor helpless patient, with a design to lay him before Jesus; hoping, that, moved at the sight of such a miserable object, he
would exert for his relief that healing power, with which he was endued. When they drew near the house, they found such a throng within and around it, that they could not come to him through the door : They therefore ascended to the roof of the house, (for the Jewish houses, being flat roofed, had stairs without) and there opened a passage so wide, as to let down the paralytic, with his bed, into the chamber, where Jesus was.
“ And he, seeing their faith, said to the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”
The great pains, which they took in this case, disa, covered their full belief of Christ's power and mere cy to heal this unhappy man.. Jesus could as easily have healed him at a distance; but that the miracle might be as publick as possible, he suspended the exercise of his healing power, till they had let the man down before him through the roof. For his miracles were designed, not merely for the benefit of the particular persons, who were the immediate subjects of them ; but rather for the general benefit of mankind in establishing the truth of his gospel.
The phrase used to express the sick man's re. lease from his infirmity is, Thy sins be forgiven thee. That it is not a remission of the moral guilt of sin, which is here intended, is evident, because it was granted upon the faith of others. Whether the paralytic himself believed, or not, it is not said-be this as it may; yet his faith was not the special reason of his being healed, but the faith of those who brought him. As the design of the miracle was to make a publick display of Christ's divine power, so their faith, and not the faith of the patient himself, gave occasion for the exercise of this power in heal. ing him ; for it was their faith, which brought the patient before him in this conspicuous manner. The remission of moral guilt is granted only on personal faith and penitence. In the following
words our Saviour sufficiently explains what he here intends by this phrase. When some reasoned within themselves, Why doth this man speak blasphemy? Who can forgive sin but God alone ?" Jesus said, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee ; or to say, Arise, take up thy bed and walk? But that ye may know, that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, he saith to the sick of the palsy, Arise, take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he a Tose, took up his bed, and went forth before them all. And they were all amazed, and glorified
The Jews considered temporal calamities, and especially diseases of body, as the punishment of some particular sins, of which the sufferers had been guilty. Hence this enquiry of the disciples concerning the man born blind; “ Who sinned, this man, or his parents?" For this reason, the removal of sickness was expressed by the forgiveness of sin; for it was considered as a release from the temporal punishment of it. This language is used in the Old Testament. The prophet says, “ The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick, for the people shall be forgiven their iniquities.” The Psalmist says, “ Bless the Lord, O my soul, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.” This observation shews the perverseness of the Pharisees, in charging Christ with blasphemy, for saying, Thy sins are forgiven thee, when they knew it to be a common expression for release from bodily afflictions. They called that blasphemy in him, which in others would have passed as innocent.
What I would especially remark in these words, is the benefit, which this sick man received, from the faith of others. He was healed upon the faith of the men who brought him to Jesus. Several in
stances of the same kind occur in the history of Christ's miracles.
The faith of the centurion obtained a cure for his servant. The devil was cast out of a man deaf and dumb, through the faith of those who attended him, when he himself had no tongue to ask the favour. The daughter of one is raised from the dead, and the son of another is delivered from an unclean spirit by the faith of the father. The earnest prayer and strong faith of the woman of Canaan, obtained re. lief for her daughter, who was grievously vexed with a devil.
The conduct of the Saviour, in these instances, is agreeable to the general plan of God's moral gov. ernment.
As he has placed mankind in a state of mutual dependence, so it is an essential part of the constitution of his government, that some shall be benefited by the faith and piety, or shall be liable to suffer by the vice and wickedness of others.
The bestowment indeed, of future and eternal blessings, must depend on personal qualifications. The happiness of the heavenly world can be enjoyed only by those, whose hearts are prepared for it, and whose tempers are assimilated to it. “ Without holiness no man can see the Lord.”
Except a man be born of the spirit, and made partaker of a divine nature, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” But then God is often pleased to grant temporal blessings, and spiritual privileges and advantages to some, in consequence of the faith, piety and prayers of others. Observation shews us, that this is no uncommon
The virtue and happiness of communities greatly depend on the wisdom and integrity of rul
Publick manners are formed by the example of men in power and influence, and the national prosperity is connected with national virtue. So it
is also in families. Not only the health and comfort, but the virtue and reputation of children, are owing in a great measure to the wise care, good exam.. ple, and faithful instructions of those by whom they are educated. It is the parent who usually gives the first virtuous or vicious turn to the manners of the young. And this early bias often determines the character for life. The child, trained up in the way in which he should go, pursues it still when he is old. The youth, neglected and left to his own. perverse inclinations, brings shame on his family, and ruin on hims.f.
The case is the same with neighbourhoods and christian societies. A few vicious persons in a vicinity, will sometimes corrupt a number more, and by degrees spread the infection of their baleful example far around. On the other hand, men of strict virtue and exemplary piety, are, by their example and conversation, a great restraint on the wicked, and a mighty encouragement to those who are virtuously disposed.
The advantages which one enjoys by his connexion with the virtuous, and the dangers to which another is exposed by his connexion with the vicious, are not always owing merely to himself, but often to the immediate providence of God, who allots to each one, such trials, and such assistances, as his wisdom sees fit. That one is born of virtuous parents, and receives the first rudiments of his education in a pious family, that an. other has his lot assigned him in an irreligious and prayerless house, is not the result of their own pre. vious choice, but of the sovereign disposal of providence. And every one, as soon as he arrives at the age of discretion and consideration, is bound so to improve the advantages which he enjoys as to guard against the influence of the temptations which surround him.