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ages the commission and the temporal punishment of sin were inseparably linked together, sometimes it should seem in fact, and generally in idea. In accommodation to this opinion must the sense of our Saviour be understood, (John, v. 14.) behold, thou art made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee.
Now the person who had solicited the assistance of Christ was unquestionably a sinner. His disorder, therefore, was, upon Jewish principles, the proper, and to Jewish apprehensions the evident effect of his misconduct. Hence the sick man himself could be at no loss to discover the cause of his sufferings, and when he had discovered it, the pangs of disease were, no doubt, sharpened by an agonizing sense of guilt. In respect to our blessed Lord, he, it is plain, was no stranger either to the crimes which the sufferer had committed, or to the contrition he felt, or to the expectation he had formed of meeting with relief from a person distinguished as Christ was by signs and wonders. He saw too the same laudable docility of disposition, the same anxious expectations of relief in those companions of the paralytic, who had employed every expedient to lay the sufferer before Jesus. These various cir cumstances rendered the sufferer an object eminently deserving the exertion of our Lord's preternatural powers, because moral as well as religious purposes were effected by that exertion-because the removal of his misery implied the acceptance and the reward of his faith, and because the attendants who were melted into compassion by his disaster might be warmed into gratitude upon his deli
Indeed, to a person rightly disposed, nothing can be conceived more affecting than a solemn assurance of forgiveness ; for, doubtless, the same admiration of Christ's virtues, and the same reliance on his mercy, which prompted the first application for succour to an afflicted body, must have inclined him more gladly to have welcomed the promise of pardon to his soul. Such probably were the conclusions of an understanding undebauched by false science, and unelated by spiritual pride, such the feelings of a heart, which affliction had taught the arduous but indispensible duties of humility and patience, of submission to God's appointments, however severe, and of dependence on his aid, however late.
But the conduct of the scribes upon this occasion was extravagantly absurd, as well as inexcusably wicked. Upon all principles of good nature they should have rejoiced in this act of kindness bestowed upon an unfortunate fellow-creature. Upon all principles of good sense they should have inferred the probability of a greater effect, from actual and repeated experience of other effects preternaturally great. Upon all principles of self-interest they should have looked upon this event as a pledge of the same relief treasured up for themselves, should they be placed in the same melancholy circumstances. The forgiveness of sins was not surely in itself less becoming a professed teacher of righteousness than the cure of sickness; and it was natural, I think, for those who were favoured with such
offers, not hastily to reject the assistance of which they might stand in need—not outrageously to insult the person who proposed it.
But the extravagances of self-delusion are boundless, and mock description. The scribes had often heard the pious instructions of Christ; they had seen his mighty works; but such was the baneful influence of bigotry, combined with selfishness, that they were alike unable to shake off the fetters of early prejudice, and to curb the sallies of licentious expectation. Their imaginations teemed with tumultuous and romantic notions of a Saviour who should restore their national grandeur, and continue all the daring innovations of priestcraft and superstition. They wished for a king, not for a reformer. They reserved their admiration for the frantic and impetuous courage of a conqueror, not for the calm and useful and lovely virtues of one who went about doing good. For these reasons they opposed the authority of their traditions almost to the testimony of their senses. They would listen to no instructor, but such an one as their own lawless and senseless prepossessions had pointed out. They would not accept salvation itself, unless upon the terms which themselves approved. Though sinful, helpless creatures, they disdained, as it were,
the thought of being treated as such by their God; and they presumed to spurn away his best gifts, because tendered in a manner that neither flattered their vanity, nor fell in with their caprice. Better it was that their sufferings should not be alleviated, - their sins unpardoned, than that they should stoop
to accept mercy at the hand of a teacher, whose faint, ignoble claims to respect did not rise above this standard-were founded upon this, that he made the blind to see and the lame to walk.
Under the tyranny of this infatuation they were reduced to a condition the most wretched, surely, which imagination can form or guilt incur-when every act of kindness unavoidably carried with it a degree of indirect severity--when it was impossible even for the Saviour of the world to lighten their sufferings without condemning their perverseness. The penetration of our Lord pierced at once through the veil which hypocrisy had thrown over stubborn
He therefore determined to crush every suspicion, either that he was unable to cure the sick man, or that, in order to colour over his real designs, and to support his groundless claims, he had arrogantly assumed that privilege which belongs to the Sovereign of the whole earth.
In the judicious execution of this design-in the gradual evolution of his right to forgive sins, there are some circumstances that well deserve our notice. By an instantaneous and direct compliance with the request of the sick man he might have obtained a conquest over the malice of his enemies, without a struggle against their obstinacy; but perceiving that the perverseness of the scribes was happily contrasted by the zeal of the paralytic and his friends, he judged it expedient to expose the one, and to gratify the other in the completest manner.
He therefore delayed the cure of the paralytic till the stores of opposition were quite exhausted; and thus, by permitting his claims to be disputed, he opened a wider range for their array, and made the display of them more decisive and more illustrious.
We have already heard the gracious and encouraging language by which he cheered the drooping spirits of the paralytic, and we have seen the Scribes preparing to insult him with the grossest and most virulent reproach. While they were harbouring every unworthy jealousy—while they were cherishing every unkind construction, and exulting in their supposed victory, Christ interrupts them in the career of their malignant triumph by this spirited appeal to their reason — this pertinent answer to their evil thoughts—“ for whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee? or, arise, and walk ? In this manner might a Christian teacher be permitted, with humility indeed, but I hope without impropriety, to unfold the argument implied in my text. You will easily perceive that I mean to spread that argument through all the circumstances of the story here recorded, and to support it by such considerations as were more immediately applicable to the sinner whom our Lord now addressed.
When the character of Christ is marked by the strongest and most amiable features of compassion to the distressed, and of candour to the misguided, why do you enviously undervalue his kindness, or perversely misrepresent his intentions ? If you
insist that it is far easier for Christ to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee, than, Arise and walk-to promise a thing invisible than to pledge himself for the performance of an action that falls within your senses, - you