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give sins but God only? Why doth this fellow arrogantly assume to himself what belongs to God? a meaning which the word blasphemy has in other passages, particularly Matth. xxvi. 65. The Pharisees and teachers of the law being ignorant of our Lord's divinity, thought he was guilty of blasphemy in pretending to forgive the man his sins, because it was an assuming of what God had declared to be his incommunicable prerogative, Isa. xliii. 25. In the mean time Jesus, knowing all that passed, immediately reasoned with them on the subject of their thoughts, by which he let them understand, that it was impossible for any thought to come into their minds without his knowledge, and, consequently, proved himself endued with the omniscient spirit of God. Mark ii. 8. And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit, that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them— Matth. ix. 4. And Jesus knowing their thoughts, said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? Why do you indulge such foolish and uncharitable thoughts?—In the next place, by what he said to them he demonstrated, that the power he claimed did really belong to him, (see y 70.) 5. For whether is easier to say, (Mark, to the sick of the palsy) einer, to command, for so the word signifies, Matth. iv. 3. Luke xix. 15. * thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, (command) arise and walk? that is, whether it is easier to forgive sins, or to remove that which is inflicted as its punishment. The Pharisees could not but be sensible, that these things are one and the same, and therefore † ought to have acknowledged, that the power that does the one really does the other also. But they were incorrigibly stubborn, and made him no answer. For which reason, without troubling himself any farther, except to tell them that what he was about to do would demonstrate his power on earth to forgive sins, he turned to the paralytic, and bade him rise up and carry away his bed. 6. But that ye may know, that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins. He called himself on this occasion, not the Son of God, but the Son of man, that they might know he was speak
bricus speeches against God's being, attributes, or operations, such as when we ascribe o God the infirmities of men, or to men the perfections and operations of God; it signifies also irreverent speeches addressed immediately to God, such as when we curse G d as Job's wife desired him to do
Matth. Ver. 5. Thy sins be forgiven thee.] Physicians, both ancient and modern, tell us, that palsies are sometimes occasioned by intemperance. Wherefore, if this paralytic brought his disease upon himself by drunkenness or lust, the propriety of the terms in which the cure was pronounced will more fully appear, thy sins are forgiven thee.
Ought to have acknowledged, that the power, &c.] If it be replied to this, that the prophets of old wrought miraculous cures of diseases, but never claimed the power of forgiving sins, neither could claim it; the answer is, that the cases are widely different, none of the prophets ever pretending to work miracles by his own power, as Jesus did.
ing of himself, and be sensible, that even in his state of humilia tion, and while he was on earth, he acted as God. Perhaps, likewise, by calling himself, in the hearing of such a company of li terati, the Son of man, he meant to tell them that he was Messiah, Son of man being one of the names of Messiah in Daniel's prophecies. (Then saith he to the sick of the palsy) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. While the words were pronouncing, the cure was accomplished. The man was made active and strong in an instant. He arose, took up his bed with surprising vigour, and went off astonished in himself, and raising astonishment in all who, beheld him. The perfection of the cure, and its suddenness, together with the remembrance of the obsti nacy of the distemper, no doubt impressed the man with a lively, sense of the benefit that was conferred upon him. He therefore, went straight home, and spent some time in returning thanks to Almighty God, by whose good pleasure so great a happiness had befallen him. Luke v. 25. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own, house, glorifying God. When the Pharisees beheld this miracle, they were perfectly confounded; for though they no doubt examined it with the most scrupulous exactness, they could not find the least fault with it. They pronounced it, therefore, a very strange thing, and by that judgment glorified God, i. e. did ho nour to the miracle, without perhaps intending it. At the same time they were filled with fear. For as the cure was performed by one whom they had but a few moments before pronounced a blasphemer, they did not know but he might exert that power, of which he had given so signal a proof, in punishing them for their insolence.. 26. And they were all amazed. Who Luke means by all, may be gathered from ver. 17. they were the Pharisces and doctors of law which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem, and who were now sitting by, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to-day. Considering the impression which this miracle made upon them, we may wonder that these learned men did not forthwith lay aside their enmity against Jesus. Probably in this, as in other instances, they resisted the dictates of their own mind. Or, after the first impression was over, they might forget the miracle, and continue to find fault with the expression uttered when it was performed. The truth is, with respect to good, the minds of these learned men seem to have been in the same enervated and dead condition, which the body of the paralytic had been in before his cure; only the misery of their state was greater than his, the palsy of the soul being an evil much more deplorable than the palsy of the body. The people on this occasion behaved much better than the Pharisees and doctors. Having seen the miracle, they were struck with an high degree 3 S 2 of
of surprise mixed with admiration, and expressed their sense of the honour that was done to human nature by Almighty God, who had endued men with such powers. Matth. ix. 8. But when the multitude saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God which had given such power to men; power not only to heal diseases, but to forgive sins. For they could not but acknowledge the authority of Christ's declaration, Thy sins be forgiven thee, when their eyes shewed them the efficacy of his command, Arise and walk. Το conclude, Whether you examine the nature of this miracle, as being a perfect and instantaneous cure of an obstinate universal palsy, under which a person advanced in years, Luke, ver. 25. had laboured perhaps for a long time, a perfect cure produced by the pronouncing of a single sentence, importing that it should be; or whether you consider the number and quality of the witnesses present, Pharisees and doctors of the law from every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem, together with a vast concourse of people; or whether you attend to the effect which the miracle had upon the witnesses, namely the Pharisees and doctors of the law, not able to find fault with it in any respect, though they had come with a design to confute our Lord's pretensions as a miracle-worker, were astonished, and openly confessed that it was a strange thing which they had seen; the multitude glorified God who had given such power to men; the person upon whom the miracle was wrought, employed his tongue, the use of which he had recovered, in celebrating the praises of God: In short, view it in whatever light you please, you will find this a most illustrious miracle, highly worthy of your attention and admiration.
§ XXXIV. Jesus calls Matthew from the receipt of custom near Capernaum; and reasons in defence of his disciples, who are blamed for not fasting after the example of the Pharisees. Matth. ix. 9, 17. Mark ii. 13,-22. Luke v. 27,-39.
HAVING performed this great miracle on the paralytic, Jesus thought proper to allow the Pharisees and doctors an opportunity of conferring upon it among themselves, and of making what observations they pleased concerning it, in the hearing of the common people. He left the house therefore immediately. But on his going out the people accompanied him, eager to hear him preach. The good disposition they were in, Jesus improved to their advantage. He went with them to the lake, and on the shore preached to a great multitude. Mark ii. 13. And he went forth gain by the sea side, and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. The sacred historian has not told us the subject of his sermon on this occasion.-He only observes, that when Jesus had made an end of speaking, he passed by the
receipt of custom, or booth, where the collectors of the tax waited to levy it, possibly from the vessels which used the port of Capernaum. Here he saw a publican called Matthew or Levi, for it was a common thing among the Jews to have two names,' sitting, whom he ordered to follow him, and who immediately obeyed, being destined to a more honourable and important employment. 14. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alpheus (Luke, saw a publican named Levi, (Matth. a man named Matthew) sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, FolAnd he arose (Luke, and he left all, rose up) and followed him.-Matthew, thinking himself highly honoured by
Ver. 14. A publican named Levi] There were at this time, in the Roman empire, two sorts of people who might be called publicans, (rsλavas.) First, such as farmed the taxes of whole provinces. These generally were Roman knights, men of very honourable characters, as we learn from the commendations which Cicero gives of them in his oration pro lege Manilia and pro Planco. It was this sort of tax-gatherers who were properly termed publicans by the Romans. But it does not appear that they are ever mentioned in the gospels. These did not levy the taxes in person. But they employed their freed men and slaves in that office, and to make out the number, gave them for assistants as many of the natives of the country as were necessary. This sort of men were likewise called publicans (T82wva;), being as it were under-farmers of the taxes; but in Latin, their proper name was portitores. Their employment was attended with great temptations. For the taxes being farmed for a sum, in levying them from individuals, they had it in their power to exact more than was due. Farther, in every country the raising of taxes for a foreign power being an odious business, not many of the natives would chuse to be employed in it, except such as were of the lowest station and character. In the execution therefore of their office, these men did not fail to push matters to the utmost, levying the taxes with rigour, enriching themselves with the spoils of the people. Hence this class of publicans in all countries, became the objects of universal hatred. In Judea especially, they were particularly infamous, because the paying of taxes to heathens, was by many looked upon as little better than apostacy from their religion. This circumstance, together with the injustice which the publicans usually committed in the execution of their office, occasioned them to be always ranked with sinners, and made those who valued their reputation, shun their company. But though the publicans in general were bad men, there were among them some of a different character. Zaccheus we are sure was a person of great probity, piety and charity, even before his conversion. And Matthew may have resembled him. At least in the gospels, there are no hints to be found of any unjust practices committed by him in the execution of his office. It is generally thought, that the taxes which he levied were those imposed upon commodities, transported by the sea of Galilee to and from Capernaum.
+ Mark, ver. 14.] And be arose and followed bim.] Porphyry and Julian, two noted ancient enemies of Christianity, have blamed Matthew for thus rashly, as they are pleased to call it, following one of whom he had so little knowledge. But as it is evident that this publican lived in Capernaum, or near it, he must have often heard our Lord preach, for it was the town where he ordinarily resided, and probably may have been witness to a number of his miracles. Wherefore, the opposers of our religion must forgive us if we affirm, that there was neither rashness nor imprudence in the readiness which Matthew shewed to fol low Jesus when called. He may have been his disciple long before this, and only. waited for permission to attend him,
this call, made a splendid entertainment for his master, who did not refuse to partake of it. At the same time, he invited as many of his brother publicans as he could, hoping that Christ's conversation might bring them to repent. In this feast, therefore, Matthew shewed both gratitude and charity; gratitude to Christ who had now called him, and charity to his acquaintance in labouring to bring about their conversion. Luke v. 29. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house; and (Matth. it came to pass, that as Jesus sat at meat in the house) there was a great company of publicans, and of others (Matt. sinners) that sat down with them-But the Pharisees of Capernaum, who knew both Matthew's occupation and the character of his guests, were highly offended that Jesus, who pretended to be a prophet, should have deigned to go into the company of such men; so offended, that they could not forbear condemning his conduct openly, by asking his disciples with an air of insolence, in the hearing of the whole company, why he sat with publicans and sinners. Mark ii. 16. And when the Scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? Luke v. 30. But their Scribes and Pharisees, the Scribes and Pharisees of Capernaum, murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and * sinners? —The Pharisees indeed had not directed their discourse to Jesus, but having spoken so loud as to let all the guests hear their censure, he could not avoid meekly putting them in mind, that it is sick people only who have need of a physician, to insinuate, that since the Pharisees thought themselves righteous persons, they had no need of his company; whereas the publicans, whom they called sinners, being sick, had the best title to it. And that as nobody ever blamed a physician for going into the company of the patients whose care he had undertaken, so they could not blame him for conversing with sinners, since he did it not as their companion, but as their physician, and therefore with a view to reclaim them, Matt. ix. 12. But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.— Moreover, he begged his adversaries seriously to consider the meaning of what God had declared by the prophet Hosea, vi. 6. Matth. 13. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice; as if he had said, In bringing sinners to repentance, I certainly please God, because it is the highest exercise of benevolence, a virtue which he has expressly declared
• Ver. 30. Sinners.] The word sinner (apagroλ) in the LXX. answers to the Hebrew yon, which properly signifies an impious person, one that makes a mock of religion, and leads a loose life. It is men of this stamp, therefore, that are meant in the gospels, as often as sinners are mentioned.