صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

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 never 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 Gods; 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

[ocr errors]

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 such, 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 implicit faith even of the Messiah, that could remove all occasions of sickness, even sin itself.

o Mark xvi. 16.

There was faith in the case; but in whom? Whose faith was it, that Christ had respect to ? To wliom 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, O 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 Loto; 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, I will defend this city, and save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant

[blocks in formation]

9 Gen. xviii.

6 Acts xxvii. 24. 10 Gen. xix. 29.

Davids sake". Quantus murus patriæ 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 belierest, so be it done unto thee, and his servant was healed in the self-same hour'a: 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. If 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 wouldst 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? 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

Relieve him, (if that be that which he needs)

prayers to God.

1 2 Kings xix. 34.

18 Matt. viii. 13.

19 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, sertus, 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 dare servis suis, ut propter eos salventur et alii, To afford this honour to his servants, that for their sakes 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 offerebatur, 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

« السابقةمتابعة »