« السابقةمتابعة »
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 dimittuntur peccata, that his sins are forgiven, that man comes to have faith in himself. Justus in fide sua vivit"; 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 risa, faith, which, by an ouvert act, was declared, and made 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, 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 ridetur, 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 spectacle ; 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 have 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 assistam cras, says St. Gregory, Do not say, I will help thee to-morrow ; Ne quid inter propositum, et beneficium 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, quæ moram non admittit, Only that is charity, that is given presently.
11 Ilabak. ii. 4.
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. 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 inercy, in that which constitutes our second 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's. 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.
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 new 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 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, Hare mercy upon me O Lord, thou Son of David", 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 filia, Daughter be of good cheer; but yet, this put her not off, but (as it follows) She followed, and worshipped him, and said, O 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 master's 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,
15 Matt. xxii, 12, 13.
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 camest thou in? Who brought thee in then? Didst thou ask anything at God's hands then, when thou thyself wast not at all ?
Dat prius, 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 remissæ 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