PREACHED ON CANDLEMAS DAY.
Matthew ix. 2.
And Jesus seeing their faith, said unto the'sick of the palsy, My son, be of good
cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.
In these words, and by occasion of them, we shall present to you these two general considerations; first upon what occasion Christ did that which he did, and then what it was that he did. And in the first, we shall see first some occasions that were remote, but yet conduce to the miracle itself; some circumstances of time, and place, and some such dispositions, and then the more immediate occasion, the disposition of those persons who presented this sick man to Christ; and there we shall see first, that Faith was the occasion of all, for without faith it is impossible to please God, and without pleasing of God, it is impossible to have remission of sins. It was ftdes, and fides illorum, their faith, all their faith: for, though in the faith of others there be an assistance, yet with
** Origen. ** A ben Ezra. Levi Gherson.
out a personal faith in himself, no man of ripe age comes so far, as to the forgiveness of sins; and then, this faith of them all, was fides visa, a faith that was seen; Christ saw their faith, and he saw it as man, it was a faith expressed, and declared in actions: and yet, when all was done, it is but cum vidit, it is not quia vidit, Christ did it when he saw, not because he saw their faith, that was not the principle and primary cause of his mercy, for the mercy of God is all, and above all; it is the effect and it is the cause too, there is no cause of his mercy, but his mercy. And when we come in the second part, to consider what in his mercy he did, we shall see first, that he establishes him, and comforts him with a gracious acceptation, with that gracious appellation, Fili, Son: he doth not disavow him, he doth not disinherit him; and then, he doth not wound him, whom God had stricken; he doth not flay him, whom God had scourged; he doth not salt him, whom God had flayed; he doth not add affliction to affliction, he doth not shake, but settle that faith which he had with more, confide fili, my son, be of good cheer; and then he seals all with that assurance, dimittiintur peccata, thy sins are forgiven thee; in which, first he catechises this patient, and gives him all these lessons, first that he gives before we ask, for he that was brought, they who brought him had asked nothing in his behalf, when Christ unasked, enlarged himself towards them, datprius, God gives before we ask, that is first; and then dat meliora, God gives better things than we ask, all that all they meant to ask, was but bodily health, and Christ gave him spiritual; and the third lesson was, that sin was the cause of bodily sickness, and that therefore he ought to have sought his spiritual recovery before his bodily health: and then, after he had thus rectified him, by this catechism, implied in those few words, Thy sins are forgiven thee, he takes occasion by this act, to rectify the bystanders too, which were the Pharisees, who did not believe Christ to be God: for, for proof of that, first he takes knowledge of their inward thoughts, not expressed by any acl or word, which none but God could do; and then he restores the patient to bodily health, only by his word, without any natural means applied, which none but God could do neither. And into fewer particulars than these, this pregnant and abundant text is not easily contracted.
First then to begin with the branches of the first part, of which the first was, to consider some, somewhat more remote circumstances, and occasions conducing to this miracle, we cannot avoid the making of some use of the time, when it was done: it was done, when Christ had dispossessed those two men of furious, and raging devils, amongst the Gergesenes; at what time, because Christ had been an occasion of drowning their herd of swine, the whole city came out to meet him, but not with a thankful reverence, and acclamation, but their procession was, to beseech him to depart out of their coasts1: they had rather have had their legion of devils still, than have lost their hogs; and since Christ's presence was an occasion of impairing their temporal substance, they were glad to be rid of him.
We need not put on spectacles to search maps for this land of the Gergesenes; God knows we dwell in it; Non quwrimus Jesum propter Jesum, (which was a prophetical complaint by St. Augustine) we love the profession of Christ only so far, as that profession conduces to our temporal ends. We seek him not at tho cross; there most of his friends left him; but we are content to embrace him, where the kings of the East bring him presents of gold, and myrrh, and frankincense, that we may participate of those: we seek him not in the hundred and thirtieth Psalm, where, though there be plenty, yet it is but copiosa redemptio, plentiful redemption, plenty of that that comes not yet; but in the twenty-fourth Psalm we are glad to meet him, where he proclaims Domini terra, etplenitudo ejus, The earth is the Lord^s, and the fulness thereof, that our portion therein may be plenteous: we care not for him in St. Peter's hospital, where he excuses himself, Aurum et argentum non haleo, Silver and gold have I none: but in the prophet Haggai's exchequer we do, where he makes that claim, Aurum menm, All the gold and all the silver is mine. Scarce any son is Protestant enough, to stand out a rebuke of his father, or any servant of his master, or any officer of his prince, if that father, or master, or prince would be, or would have him be a Papist; but, as though the different forms of religion, were but the fashions of the garment, and not the stuff, we put on, and we put off religion, as we would do a livery, to testify our respect
1 Mark v. 17.
to him, whom we serve, and (miserable Gergesenes) had rather take in that devil again, of which we have been dispossessed three or four score years since, than lose another hog, in departing with any part of our pleasures or profits; Noh quwrimus Jesum propter Jesum, we profess not Jesu.s, for his, but for our own sakes.
But we pass from the circumstance of the time, to a second, that though Christ thus despised by the Gergesenes, did, in his justice, depart from them; yet, as the sea gains in one place what it loses in other, his abundant mercy builds up more in Capernaum, than his justice throws down amongst the Gergesenes: because they drove him away, in judgment he went from them, but in mercy he went to the others, who had not entreated him to come.
Apply this also; and, wretched Gergesene, if thou have entreated Christ to go from thee, for loss of thy hogs, that when thou hast found the preaching of Christ, or the sting of thy conscience whet thereby, to hinder thee in growing rich so hastily as thou wouldest, or trouble thee in following thy pleasures so fully as thou wouldest, thou hast made shift to divest, and put oft' Christ, and sear up thy conscience, yet Christ comes into his Capernaum now, that sent not for him; he comes into thy soul now, who eamest not hither to meet him, but to celebrate the day, by this ordinary, and fashionable meeting; to thee he comes, as into Capernaum, to preach his own Gospel, and to work his miracles upon thee. And it is a high mercy in Christ, that he will thus surprise thy soul, that he will thus waylay thy conscience, that what collateral respect soever brought thee hither, yet when he hath thee here, he will make thee see that thou art in his house, and he will speak to thee, and he will be heard by thee, and he will be answered from thee; and though thou thoughtest not of him, when thou eamest hither, yet he will send thee away, full of the love of him, full of comforts from him.
But we pass also from this, to a third circumstance, that when he came to Capernaum, he is said to have come into his own city3; not Nazareth, where he was born, but Capernaum where he dwelt, and preached, is called his own city. Thou art not a
'Matt. ix. I.
Christian, because thou wast bom in a Christian kingdom, and born within the covenant, and born of Christian parents, but because thou hast dwelt in the Christian church, and performed the duties presented to thee there.
Again, Capernaum was his own city, but yet Christ went forth of Capernaum, to many other places. I take the application of this, from you, to ourselves; Christ fixes no man by his example so to one church, as that no occasion may make his absence from thence excusable. But yet when Christ did go from Capernaum, he went to do his Father's will, and that, which he was sent for. Nothing but preaching the Gospel, and edifying God's church, is an excuse for such an absence; for, vco si non evangelizaverit, if he neither preach at Capernaum, nor to the Gergesenes, neither at home, nor abroad, woe be unto him: if I be at home, but to take my tithes; if I be abroad, but to take the air, woe be unto me.
But we must not stop long upon these circumstances; we end all of this kind, in this one, that when Christ had undertaken that great work of the conversion of the world, by the word, and sacraments, to show that the word was at that time the more powerful means of those two, (for sacraments were instituted by Christ, as subsidiary things, in a great part, for our infirmity, who stand in need of such visible and sensible assistances) Christ preached the Christian doctrine, long before he instituted the sacraments; but yet, though these two permanent sacraments, baptism, and the supper, were not so soon instituted, Christ always descended so much to man's infirmity, as to accompany the preaching of tho word, with certain transitory, and occasional sacraments; for miracles are transitory and occasional sacraments, as they are visible signs of invisible grace, though not seals thereof; Christ's purpose in every miracle was, that by that work, they should see grace to be offered unto them. Now this history, from whence this text is taken, begins, and ends with the principal means, with preaching; for, as St. Mark relates it, he was in the act of preaching, when this cure was done3; and in St. Matthew, after all was done, he went about the cities, and villages, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom4: and then
a Mark ii. 2. 4 Matt. ix. 35.
between, St. Matthew here records five of his transitory and occasional sacraments, five miracles, of which every one, well considered, (as the petitions of Abraham did upon God) may justly be thought to have gained more and more upon his auditory.
First, this paralytic man in our text, who is sarcina sibi, overloaded with himself, he cannot stand under his own burden, he is cadaver animatum; it is true, he hath a soul, but a soul in a sack, it hath no limbs, no organs to move, this paralytic, this living dead man, this dead and buried man, buried in himself, is instantly cured, and recovered. But the palsy was a sudden sickness; what could he do, upon an inveterate disease? He cured the woman that had had the bloody issue twelve years, by only touching the hem of his garment. After, he extends his miraculous power to two at once, he cures two blind men. But all these, though not by such means merely, yet in nature, and in art might be possible, palsies, and issues, and blindnesses have been cured: but he went farther than ever art pretended to go; he raised the ruler's daughter to life, then when he was laughed to scorn, for going about to do it. And lastly to show his power, as over sickness, and over death, so over hell itself, he cast out the devil out of the dumb man, in some such extraordinary manner, as that the multitude marvelled, and said, It was nevcr so seen in Israel. This then was his way, and this must be ours, and it must be your way too. Christ preached, and he wrought great works, and he preached again; it is not enough in us to preach, and in you to hear, except both do and practise, that which is said, and heard; neither may we, though we have done all this, give over, for every day produces new temptations, and therefore needs new assistances. And so we pass from these more remote, to that which is our second branch of this first part, the immediate occasion of Christ's doing this miracle, When Jesus saw their faith.
Here then, the occasion of all that ensued, was faith; for, without faith, it is impossible to please God9; where you may be pleased to admit some use of this note, (for it is not a mere grammatical curiosity to note it) that it is not said in those words of St. Paul, It is impossible to please God, or impossible to please
5 Heb. xi. 6.
him, (which is with relation to God, as our translation hath it,) but it is merely, simply, only, impossible to please, and no more, impossible to please any worth pleasing; but if we take away our faith in God, God will take away the protection of angels, the favour of princes, the obedience of children, the respect of servants, the assistance of friends, the society of neighbours; God shall make us unpleasing to all; without faith it is impossible to please any, but sucb, as we shall repent to have made ourselves pleasing companions unto. When our Saviour Christ perfected the apostle's commission, and set his last seal to it, after his resurrection, he never modifies, never mollifies their instructions, with any milder phrase than this, He that believeth not, shall be damned*. It is not, that he shall be in danger of a council; no, nor in danger of hell fire: it is not, that it were better a mill-stone were tied about his neck, and be cast into the sea: it is not, that it will go hard with him at the last day: it is not, that it shall be easier to Tyre, and Sidon, than to him; for he is not bound to believe, but that Tyre, and Sidon, and he too, may do well enough: here is no modification, no mollification, no reservation; roundly, and irrevocably, Christ Jesus himself, after his resurrection, says, Qui non crediderit, He that believeth not, shall be damned.
If the judge must come to a sentence of condemnation, upon any person of great quality in the kingdom, that judge must not say, Your lordship must pass out of this world, nor, your lordship must be beheaded; but he must tell them plainly, You must be carried to the place of execution and there hanged. Christ Jesus hath given us the commission and the sentence there; Go into all the world, preach the Gospel to every creature; and then, the sentence follows upon those that will not receive it, He that believeth not, shall be damned. These men then, who prevailed so far upon Christ, brought faith; though not an explicit faith of all those articles, which we, who from the beginning have been catechized in all those points, are bound to have, yet a constant assurance that Christ could, and that he would relieve this distressed person, in which assurance, there was enwrapped an
8 Mark xvi. 16.
implicit faith even of the Messiah, that could remove all occasions of sickness, even sin itself.
There was faith in the case; hut in whom? Whose faith was it, that Christ had respect to I To whom hath that illorum in the text, their faith, reference? There can be no question, but that it hath reference to those four friends, that brought this sick man in his bed, to Christ: for, else it could not have been spoken in the plural, and called their faith. And certainly St. Ambrose does not inconveniently make that particular an argument of God's greatness and goodness, of his magnificence, and munificence, Magnus Dominus, qui aliorum meritis, aliis ignoscit; This is the large and plentiful mercy of God, that for one man's sake he forgives another. This Joash acknowledged in the person of Elisha; When Elisha was sick, the king came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, 0 my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. Here were all the forces of Israel mustered upon one sick bed, the whole strength of Israel consisted in the goodness of that one man. The angel said to Paul, when they were in an evident and imminent danger of shipwreck, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee*; he spared them, not for their own sakes, but for Paul's. God gave those passengers to Paul so, as he had given Paul himself before to Stephen; Si Stephanus non sic orasset, Paulum hodie ecclesia non haberet, says St. Augustine; If Paul had not been enwrapped in those prayers, which Stephen made for his persecutors, the church had lost the benefit of all Paul's labours; and if God had not given Paul the lives of all those passengers in that ship, they had all perished. For the righteousness of a few, (if those few could have been found) God would have spared the whole city of Sodom*; and when God's fury was kindled upon the cities of that country, God remembered Abraham, says that story, and he delivered Lot10; and when he delivered Jerusalem from Sennacherib, he takes his servant David by the hand, he puts his servant David into commission with himself, and he says, / will defend this city, and save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant
7 2 Kings xiii. 14. 8 Acts xxvii. 24.
• Gen. xviii. 10 Gen. xix. 29.
David's sake". Quant us murus patriw vir justus, is a holy exclamation of St. Ambrose, What a wall to any town, what a sea to any island, what a navy to any sea, what an admiral to any navy, is a good man! Apply thyself therefore, and make thy conversation with good men, and get their love, and that shall be an armour of proof to thee.
When St. Augustine's mother lamented the ill courses that her son took in his youth, still that priest, to whom she imparted her sorrows, said, Filius istarum lacrymarum, non potest perire; That son, for whom so good a mother hath shed so many tears, cannot perish: he put it not upon that issue, filius Dei, the elect child of God, the son of predestination cannot perish, for at that time, that name was either no name, or would scarce have seemed to have belonged to St. Augustine, but the child of these tears, of this devotion cannot be lost. Christ said to the centurion, Fiat sicut credidisti, Go thy way, and as thou believest, so be it done unto thee, and his servant was healed in the self-same hour": the master believed, and the servant was healed. Little knowest thou, what thou hast received at God's hands, by the prayers of the saints in heaven, that enwrap thee in their general prayers for the militant church. Little knowest thou, what the public prayers of the congregation, what the private prayers of particular devout friends, that lament thy carelessness, and negligence in praying for thyself, have wrung and extorted out of God's hands, in their charitable importunity for thee. And therefore, at last, make thyself fit to do for others, that which others, when thou wast unfit to do thyself that office, have done for thee, in assisting thee with their prayers. //* thou meet thine enemy's ox, or ass going astray, (says the law) thou shalt surely bring it back to him again: if thou see the ass of him that hateth thee, lying under his burden, and woaldst forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help him". Estne Deo cura de bobus? is the apostle's question, Hath God care of oxen? of other men's oxen? How much more of his own sheep I And therefore if thou see one of his sheep, one of thy fellow-Christians, strayed into sins of infirmity, and negligent of himself, join him with thine own soul, in thy prayers to God. Relieve him, (if that be that which he needs)
"2 Kings xix. 34. ]t Matt. viii. 13. 1* Exod. xxiii. 4, 5.
with thy prayers for him, and relieve him, (if his wants be of another kind) according to his prayers to thee. Cur apud te homo collega non valeat, says St. Ambrose, Why should not he that is thy colleague, thy fellow-man, as good a man, that is as much a man as thou, made of the same blood, and redeemed with the same blood as thou art, why should not he prevail with thee, so far as to the obtaining of an alms, Cum apud Deum, servus, et interveniendi meritum, et jus habeat impetrandi, When some fellow-servant of thine, hath had that interest in God, as by his intercession, and prayers to advance thy salvation? Wilt not thou save the life of another man that prays to thee, when perchance thy soul hath been saved by another man, that prayed for thee?
Well then; Christ had respect to their faith, that brought this sick man to him. Consuetudo est misericordis Dei, It is God's ordinary way, (says St. Chrysostom) hunc honorem dure servis suis, ut propter eos salventur et alii, To afford this honour to his servants, that for their sakcs he saves others. But neither this which we say now out of St. Chrysostom, nor that which we said before out of St. Ambrose, nor all that we might multiply out of the other fathers, doth exclude the faith of that particular man, who is to be saved. It is true, that in this particular case, St. Hierome says, Non vidit fidem ejus qui qfferebatur, sed eorum qui offerebant, That Christ did not respect his faith that was brought, but only theirs that brought him; but except St. Hierome be to be understood so, that Christ did not first respect his faith, but theirs, we must depart from him, to St. Chrysostom, Neque enim se portari sustinuisset, He would neither have put himself, nor them, to so many difficulties, as he did, if he had not had a faith, that is, a constant assurance in this means of his recovery. And therefore the rule may best be given thus; that God gives worldly blessings, bodily health, deliverance from dangers, and the like, to some men, in contemplation of others, though themselves never thought of it, all the examples which we have touched upon, convince abundantly.
That God gives spiritual blessings to infants, presented according to his ordinance, in baptism, in contemplation of the faith of their parents, or of the church, or of their sureties, without any actual faith in the infant, is probable enough, credible enough. But take it as our case is, de adultis, in a man who is come to the use of his own reason, and discretion, so God never saves any man, for the faith of another, otherwise than thus, that the faithful man may pray for the conversion of an unfaithful, who does not know, nor, if he did, would be content to be prayed for, and God, for his sake that prays, may be pleased to work upon the other; but before that man comes to the dimittunturpeccata, that his sins are forgiven, that man comes to have faith in himself. Justus in fide sua vivit14; there is no life without faith, nor in fide aliena, no such life as constitutes righteousness, without a personal faith of our own. So that this fides illorum, in our text, this that is called their faith, hath reference to the sick man himself, as well as to them that brought him.
And then, in him, and in them, it was fides visa, faith, which, by an ouvert act, was declared, and mado evident. For, Christ, who was now to convey into that company the knowledge that he was the Messiah, which Messiah was to be God, and man, as afterwards for their conviction, who would not believe him to be God, he showed that he knew their inward thoughts, and did some other things, which none but God could do; so here, for the better edification of men, he required such a faith, as might be evident to men. For, though Christ could have seen their faith, by looking into their hearts, yet to think, that here he saw it by that power of his divinity, Nimis coactum videtur, It is too narrow, and too forced an interpretation of the place, says Calvin. They then, that is, all they declared their faith, their assurance, that Christ could, and would help him. It was good evidence of a strength of faith in him, that in a disease, very little capable of cure, then when he had so far resolved, and slackened his sinews, that he could endure no posture but his bed, he suffered himself to be put to so many incommodities. It was good evidence of a strength of faith in them, that they could believe that Christ would not reject them for that importunity of troubling him, and the congregation, in the midst of a sermon; that when they saw, that they who came only to hear, could not get near the door, they should think to get in, with that load, that offensive spec
14 Habak. ii. 4.
tacle; that they should ever conceive, or go about to execute, or be suffered to execute such a plot, as without the leave of Christ, (if Christ preached this sermon in his own house, as some take it to have been done) or without the master's leave, in whose house soever it was, they should first untile or open, and then break through the floor, and so let down, their miserable burden: that they should havo an apprehension, that it was not fit for them to stay, till the sermon were done, and the company parted, but that it was likeliest to conduce to the glory of God, that preaching, and working might go together, this was evidence, this was argument of strength of faith in them. Take therefore their example, not to defer that assistance, which thou art able to give to another. Ne dicas assistant cras, says St. Gregory, Do not say, I will help thee to-morrow; Ne quid inter propositum, et beneficiiim intercedat; Perchance that poor soul may not need thee to-morrow, perchance thou mayst have nothing to give tomorrow, perchance there shall be no such day, as to-morrow, and so thou hast lost that opportunity of thy charity, which God offered thee, to-day; Unica beneficentia est, quw moram non admittit, Only that is charity, that is given presently.
But yet, when all was done, when there was faith, and faith in them all, and faith declared in their outward works, yet Christ is not said to have done this miracle, quia fides, but cum fides, not because he saw, but only when he saw their faith. Let us transfer none of that, which belongs to God, to ourselves: when we do our duties, (but when do we go about to begin to do any part of any of them ?) we are unprofitable servants: when God does work in us, are we saved by that work, as by the cause, when there is another cause of the work itself? When the ground brings forth good corn, yet that ground becomes not fit for our food: when a man hath brought forth good fruits, yet that man is not thereby made worthy of heaven. Not faith itself (and yet faith is of somewhat a deeper dye, and tincture, than any works) is any such cause of our salvation. A beggar's believing that I will give him an alms, is no cause of my charity: my believing that Christ will have mercy upon me, is no cause of Christ's mercy; for what proportion hath my temporary faith, with my everlasting salvation? But yet, though it work not as a cause, though it be not quia vidit, because he saw it, yet cum videt, when Christ finds this faith, according to that gracious covenant, and contract which he hath made with us, that wheresoever, and whensoever he finds faith, he will enlarge his mercy, finding that in this patient, he expressed his mercy, in that which constitutes our secoud part, Fili confide, My son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.
Where we see first, our Saviour Christ opening the bowels of compassion to him, and receiving him so, as if he had issued out of his bowels, and from his loins, in that gracious appellation, Fili, My son. He does not call him brother; for greater enmity can be no where, than is often expressed to have been between brethren; for in that degree, and distance, enmity amongst men began in Cain, and Abel, and was pursued in many pairs of brethren after, in sacred and in secular story. He does not call him friend; that name, even in Christ's own mouth, is not always accompanied with good entertainment; Amice, quomodo intrasti, says he, Friend how came you in? and he bound him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness". He does not call him son of Abraham, which might give him an interest in all the promises, but he gives him a present adoption, and so a present fruition of all, Fili, My son. His son, and not his son-inlaw; he loads him not with the encumbrances, and halfimpossibilities of the law, but he seals to him the whole Gospel, in the remission of sins. His son, and not his disinherited son, as the Jews were, but his son, upon whom he settled his ancient inheritance, his eternal election, and his new purchase, which he came now into the world to make with his blood. His son, and not his prodigal son, to whom Christ imputes no wastefulness of his former graces, but gives him a general release, and quietus est, in the forgiveness of sins. All that Christ asks of his sons, is, Fili da mihi cor, My son give me thy heart; and till God give us that, we cannot give it him; and therefore in this son he creates a new heart, he infuses a new courage, he establishes a uew confidence, in the next word, Fili confide, My son be of good cheer.
Christ then does not stay so long wrestling with this man's
15 Matt. xxii. 12, 13.
faith, and shaking it, and trying whether it were fast rooted, as he did with that woman in the Gospel, who came after him, in her daughter's behalf, crying, Have mercy upon me 0 Lord, thou Son of David13, for Christ gave not that woman one word; when her importunity made his disciples speak to him, he said no more, but that he was not sent to such as she; this was far, very far from a Confide jilia, Daughter be of good cheer; but yet, this put her not off, but (as it follows) She followed, and worshipped him, and said, 0 Lord help me: and all this prevailed no farther with him, but to give such an answer, as was more discomfortable, than a silence, It is not fit to take the children s bread, and cast it unto dogs. She denies not that, she contradicts him not; she says, Truth Lord, it is not fit to take the childrens' bread, and to cast it unto dogs, and Truth Lord, I am one of those dogs; but yet she perseveres in her holy importunity, and in her good ill-manners, and says, Yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters table: and then, and not till then comes Jesus to that, 0 woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee, even as thou wilt; and her daughter was healed. But all this, at last, was but a bodily restitution, here was no dimittuntur peccata in the case, no declaration of forgiveness of sins: but with this man in our text, Christ goes farther, and comes sooner to an end; he exercises him with no disputation, he leaves no room for any diffidence, but at first word establishes him, and then builds upon him. Now beloved, which way soever of these two God have taken with thee, whether the longer, or the shorter way, bless thou the Lord, praise him, and magnify him for that. If God have settled and strengthened thy faith early, early in thy youth heretofore, early at the beginning of a sermon now, a day is as a thousand years with God, a minute is as six thousand years with God, that which God hath not done upon the nations, upon the Gentiles, in six thousand years, never since the creation, which is, to reduce them to the knowledge, and application of the Messiah, Christ Jesus, that he hath done upon thee, in an instant. If he have carried thee about the longer way, if he have exposed thee to scruples, and perplexities, and storms in thine understanding, or conscience, yet in the midst of the tempest,
"Matt. xv. 22.
the soft air, that he is said to come in, shall breathe into thee; in the midst of those clouds, his Son shall shine upon thee; in the midst of that flood he shall put out his rainbow, his seal that thou shalt not drown, his sacrament of fair weather to come, and as it was to the thief, thy cross shall be thine altar, and thy faith shall be thy sacrifice. Whether he accomplish his work upon thee soon or late, he shall never leave thee all the way, without this confide fili, a holy confidence, that thou art his, which shall carry to the dimittuntur peccata, to the peace of conscience, in the remission of sins.
In which two words, we noted unto you, that Christ hath instituted a catechism, an instruction for this new convertite, and adopted son of his; in which, the first lesson that is therein implied, is, antequam rogetur, that God is more forward to give, than man to ask: it is not said that the sick man, or his company in his behalf, said anything to Christ, but Christ speaks first to them. If God have touched thee here, didst thou ask that at his hands? Didst thou pray before thou camest hither, that he would touch thy heart here? perchance thou didst: but when thou wast brought to thy baptism, didst thou ask anything at God's hands then? But those that brought thee, that presented thee, did; they did in thy baptism; but at thine election, then when God writing down the names of all the elect, in the Book of Life, how carnest thou in? Who brought thee in then? Didst thou ask anything at God's hands then, when thou thyself wast not at all I
Dat priw, that is the first lesson in this catechism, God gives before we ask, and then dat meliora rogatis, God gives better things, than we ask; they intended to ask but bodily health, and Christ gave spiritual, he gave remission of sins. And what gained he by that? why, Beati quorum remissw iniquitates, Blessed are they, whose sins are forgiven. But what is blessedness? Any more than a confident expectation of a good state in the next world? Yes; blessedness includes all that can be asked or conceived in the next world, and in this too. Christ in his sermon of blessedness, says first, Blessed are they, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; and after, Blessed are they, for they shall inherit the earth; again, Blessed, for they shall obtain mercy; and
Vol. in. K
Blessed, for they shall be filled"': remission of sins is blessedness, and as godliness hath the promise of this world, and the next, so blessedness hath the performance of both: he that hath peace in the remission of sins, is blessed already, and shall have those blessings infinitely multiplied in the world to come. The farthest that Christ goes in the expressing of the affections of a natural father here, is, that if his son ask bread, he will not give him a stone; and if he ask a fish, he will not give him a scorpion"; he will not give him worse than he asked; but it is the peculiar bounty of this father, who adopted this son, to give more, and better, spiritual for temporal.
Another lesson, which Christ was pleased to propose to this new convertite, in this catechism, was, to inform him, that sins were the true causes of all bodily diseases. Diseases and bodily afflictions are sometimes inflicted by God ad pwnam, non ad purgationem, not to purge or purify the soul of that man, by that affliction, but to bring him by the rack to the gallows, through temporary afflictions here, to everlasting torments hereafter; as Judas' hanging, and Herod's being eaten by worms13, was their entrance into that place, where they are yet. Sometimes diseases and afflictions are inflicted only, or principally to manifest the glory of God, in the removing thereof; so Christ says of that man, that was born blind, that neither he himself had sinned, nor bore the sins of his parents, but he was born blind to present an occasion of doing a miracle*0. Sometimes they are inflicted ad humiliationem, for our future humiliation; so St. Paul says of himself, that le*t he should be exalted above measure, by the abundance of revelations, he had that stimulum carnis, that vexation of the flesh, that messenger of Satan, to humble him". And then, sometimes they are inflicted for trial, and farther declaration of your conformity to God's will, as upon Job. But howsoever there be divers particular causes, for the diseases and afflictions of particular men, the first cause of death, and sickness, and all infirmities upon mankind in general, was sin; and it would not be hard for every particular man, almost, to find it in his own
case too, to assign his fever to such a surfeit, or his consumption to such an intemperance. And therefore to break that circle, in which we compass, and immure, and imprison ourselves, that as sin begot diseases, so diseases begot more sins, impatience and murmuring at God's corrections, Christ begins to shake this circle, in the right way to break it, in the right link, that is, first to remove the sin, which occasioned the disease; for, till that be done, a man is in no better case, than, (as the prophet expresses it) If he should fee from a lion, and a bear met him, or if he should lean upon a wall, and a serpent bit him". What ease were it, to be delivered of a palsy, of slack and dissolved sinews, and remain under the tyranny of a lustful heart, of licentious eyes, of slack and dissolute speech and conversation? What ease to be delivered of the putrefaction of a wound in my body, and meet a murder in my conscience, done, or intended, or desired upon my neighbour? To be delivered of a fever in my spirits, and to have my spirit troubled with the guiltiness of an adultery? To be delivered of cramps, and cholics, and convulsions in my joints and sinews, and suffer in my soul all these, from my oppressions, and extortions, by which I have ground the face of the poor. It is but lost labour, and cost, to give a man a precious cordial, when he hath a thorn in his foot, or an arrow in his flesh; for, as long as the sin, which is the cause of the sickness, remains, deterius sequetur, a worse thing will follow; we may be rid of a fever, and the pestilence will follow, rid of the cramp, and a gout will follow, rid of sickness, and death, eternal death will follow. That which our Saviour prescribes is, noli peccare amplius, sin no more; first, non amplius, sin no more sins, take heed of gravid sins, of pregnant sins, of sins of concomitance, and concatenation, that chain and induce more sins after, as David's idleness did adultery, and that murder, and the loss of the Lord's army, and honour, in the blaspheming of his name, noli amplins, sin no more, no such sin as induces more; and noli amplius, sin no more, that is, sin thy own sin, thy beloved sin, no more times over; and still noli amplius, sin not that sin which thou hast given over in thy practice, in thy memory, by a sinful delight in remembering it; and again, noli
u Amos v. 19.
amvlius, sin not over thy former sins, by holding in thy possession, such things as were corruptly gotten, by any such former practices: for, deterius sequetur, a worse thing will follow, a tertian will be a quartan, and a quartan a hectic, and a hectic a consumption, and a consumption without a consummation, that shall never consume itself, nor consume thee to an insensibleness of torment.
And then after these three lessons in this catechism, that God gives before we ask, that he gives better than we ask, that he informs us in the true cause of sickness, sin, he involves a tacit, nay, he expresses an express rebuke, and increpation, and in beginning at the dimittuntur peccata, at the forgiveness of sins, tells him in his ear, that his spiritual health should have been preferred to his bodily, and the cure of his soul before his palsy; that first the priest should have been, and then the physician might be consulted. That which Christ does to his new-adopted son here, the wise man says to his son, My son, in thy sickness be not negligent"; but wherein is his diligence required, or to be expressed? in that which follows, Pray unto the Lord, and he will make thee whole; but upon what conditions, or what preparations? Leave off from sin, order thy hands aright, and cleanse thy heart from all wickedness. Is this all? needs there no declaration, no testimony of this? Yes, give a sweet savour, and a memorial of fine flour, and make a fat offering, as not being; that is, as though thou wert dead: give, and give that which thou givest in thy lifetime, as not being. And when all this is piously, and religiously done, thou hast repented, restored, amended, and given to pious uses, then, says he there, Give place to the physician, for the Lord hath created him. For if we proceed otherwise, if we begin with the physician, physic is a curse; He that sinneth before his Maker, let him fall into the hands of the physician, says the wise man there: it is not, let him come into the hands of the physician, as though that were a curse, but let him fall, let him cast and throw himself into his hands, and rely upon natural means, and leave out all consideration of his other, and worse disease, and the supernatural physic for that. Asa had a great deliverance from God, when the prophet
83 Ecclus. xxxviii. 9.
Hanani asked him, Were not the Ethiopians, and the Lubims a huge host**? But because after this deliverance, he relied upon the king of Syria, and not upon God, the judgment is, From henceforth thou shalt have wars: that was a sickness upon the state, and then he fell sick in his own person, and in that sickness, says that story, He sought not to the Lord, but to the physician, and then he died. To the Lord and then to the physician had been the right way; if to the physician and then to the Lord, though this had been out of the right way, yet he might have returned to it: but it was to the physician, and not to the Lord, and then he died. Omnipotenti medico nullas languor insanabilis, says St. Ambrose, There is but one Almighty; and none but the Almighty can cure all diseases, because he only can cure diseases in the root, that is, in the forgiveness of sins.
We are almost at an end; when we had thus catechised his convertite, thus rectified his patient, he turns upon them, who beheld all this, and were scandalized with his words, the Scribes and Pharisees; and because they were scandalized only in this, that he being but man, undertook the office of God, to forgive sins, he declares himself to them, to be God. Christ would not leave even malice itself unsatisfied; and therefore do not thou think thyself Christian enough, for having an innocence in thyself, but be content to descend to the infirmities, and to the very malice of other men, and to give the world satisfaction; Nec paratum habeas illud e trivio, (says St. Hierome) Do not arm thyself with that vulgar, and trivial saying, Sufficit mihi conscientia mea, nec euro quid loquantur homines, It suffices me, that mine own conscience is clear, and I care not what all the world says; thou must care what the world says, and thinks; Christ himself had that respect even towards the Scribes, and Pharisees. For, first he declared himself to be God, in that he took knowledge of their thoughts; for they had said nothing, and he says to them, Why reason you thus in your hearts? and they themselves did not, could not deny, but that those words of Solomon appertained only to God, Thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men **, and those of Jeremy, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it? I the Lord search the
u 2 Chron. xvi. 8. "2 Chron. vi . 30.
heart, and I try the reins". Let the school dispute infinitely (for that ho will not content himself with means of salvation, till all school points be reconciled, will come too late) let Scotus and his herd think, that angels, and separate souls have a natural power to understand thoughts, though God for his particular glory restrain the exercise of that power in them, (as in the Roman church, priests have a power to forgive all sins, though the pope restrain that power in reserved cases; and the cardinals by their creation, have a voice in the consistory, but that the pope for a certain time inhibits them to give voice) and let Aquinas present his arguments to the contrary, that those spirits have no natural power to know thoughts; we seek no further, but that Christ Jesus himself thought it argument enough to convince the Scribes and Pharisees, and prove himself God, by knowing their thoughts, Eadem majestate et potentia, says St. Hierome, Since you see I proceed as God, in knowing your thoughts, why believe you not, that I may forgive his sins as God too?
And then in the last act he joins both together; he satisfies the patient, and he satisfies the beholders too: he gives him his first desire, bodily health; he bids him take up his bed and walk, and he doth it; and he shows them that he is God, by doing that, which (as it appears in the story) was harder in their opinion, than remission of sins, which was, to cure and recover a diseased man, only by his word, without any natural or second means. And therefore since all the world shakes in a palsy of wars, and rumours of wars, since wo are sure, that Christ's vicar in this case will come to his dimittuntur peccata, to send his bulls and indulgences, and crociatars for the maintenance of his part, in that cause, let us also, who are to do the duties of privato men, to obey and not to direct, by presenting our diseased and paralytic souls to Christ Jesus, now, Avhen he in the ministry of his unworthiest servant is preaching unto you, by untiling the house, by removing all disguises, and palliations of our former sins, by true confession, and hearty detestation, let us endeavour to bring him to his dimittuntur peccata, to forgive us all those sins, which are the true causes of all our palsies, and slacknesses in his service; and so, without limiting, him, or his great vicegerents,
M Jer. xvii. 9, 10.
and lieutenants, tho way, or the time to beg of him, that he will imprint in them, such counsels, and such resolutions, as his wisdoms knows best to conduce to his glory, and the maintenance of his Gospel. Amen.