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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 gire him a stone; and if he ask a fish, he will not give him a scorpion 18; 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 poenam, 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 worms'', 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. Sometimes they are inflicted ad humiliationem, for our future humiliation ; so St. Paul says of himself, that lest 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 flee 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 amplius, 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 amolius, 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.
17 Matt. v. 3—7.
2) John ix.
18 Luke xi. 12.
19 Acts xii. 23. 21 2 Cor. xii. 7.
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 negligentos; 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 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 hare vars: 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 nullus 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.
23 Ecclus. xxxyiii. 9.
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 è tricio, (says St. Hierome) Do not arm thyself with that vulgar, and trivial saying, Sufficit mihi conscientia mea, nec curo 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 knovest the hearts of the children of men 25, and those of Jeremy, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it? I the Lord search the
24 2 Chron. xvi. 8.
25 2 Chron, vi. 30.
heart, and I try the reins. Let the school dispute infinitely (for that he 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 we 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 private men, to obey and not to direct, by presenting our diseased and paralytic souls to Christ Jesus, now, when 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,
86 Jer. xvii. 9, 10.