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pellet. Thus much good, God intends to the enemy, in this phrase, that it is, Pia rindicta si resipiscant", We have taken a blessed revenge upon our enemies, if our charitable applying of ourselves to them, may bring them to apply themselves to God, and to glorify him: Si benefaciendo cicuremus, says St. Hierome, If we can tame a wild beast by sitting up with him, and reduce an enemy by offices of friendship, it is well. So much good God intends him in this phrase, and so much good he intends us, that, si non incendant, if these coals do not purge him, si non injiciant pudorem, if they do not kindle a shame in him, to have offended one that hath deserved so well, yet this fire gives thee light to see him clearly, and to run away from him, and to assure thee, that he, whom so many benefits cannot reconcile, is irreconcilable
PREACHED ON CANDLEMAS DAY.
MATTHEW ix. 2.
And Jesus seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, My son, be of good
cheer ; thy sins be forgiven thee.
In these words, and by occasion of them, we shall present to you these two general considerations; first upon what occasion Christ did that which he did, and then what it was that he did. And in the first, we shall see first some occasions that were remote, but yet conduce to the miracle itself ; some circumstances of time, and place, and some such dispositions, and then the more immediate occasion, the disposition of those persons who presented this sick man to Christ; and there we shall see first, that Faith was the occasion of all, for without faith it is impossible to please God, and without pleasing of God, it is impossible to have remission of sins. It was fides, and fides illorum, their faith, all their faith : for, though in the faith of others there be an assistance, yet with
24 Aben Ezra. Levi Gherson.
out a personal faith in himself, no man of ripe age comes so far, as to the forgiveness of sins; and then, this faith of them all, was fides visa, a faith that was seen; Christ saw their faith, and he saw it as man, it was a faith expressed, and declared in actions: and yet, when all was done, it is but cum vidit, it is not quia vidit, Christ did it when he saw, not because he saw their faith, that was not the principle and primary cause of his mercy, for the mercy of God is all, and above all; it is the effect and it is the cause too, there is no cause of his mercy, but his mercy. And when we come in the second part, to consider what in his mercy he did, we shall see first, that he establishes him, and comforts him with a gracious acceptation, with that gracious appellation, Fili, Son: he doth not disavow him, he doth not disinherit him; and then, he doth not wound him, whom God had stricken; he doth not flay him, whom God had scourged; he doth not salt him, whom God had flayed; he doth not add affliction to affliction, he doth not shake, but settle that faith which he had with more, confide fili, my son, be of good cheer; and then he seals all with that assurance, dimittuntur peccata, thy sins are forgiven thee; in which, first he catechises this patient, and gives him all these lessons, first that he gives before we ask, for he that was brought, they who brought him had asked nothing in his behalf, when Christ unasked, enlarged himself towards them, dat prius, God gives before we ask, that is first; and then dat meliora, God gives better things than we ask, all that all they meant to ask, was but bodily health, and Christ gave him spiritual; and the third lesson was, that sin was the cause of bodily sickness, and that therefore he ought to have sought his spiritual recovery before his bodily health: and then, after he had thus rectified him, by this catechism, implied in those few words, Thy sins are forgiren thee, he takes occasion by this act, to rectify the bystanders too, which were the Pharisees, who did not believe Christ to be God: for, for proof of that, first he takes knowledge of their inward thoughts, not expressed by any act or word, which none but God could do; and then he restores the patient to bodily health, only by his word, without any natural means applied, which none but God could do neither. And into fewer particulars than these, this pregnant and abundant text is not easily contracted.
First then to begin with the branches of the first part, of which the first was, to consider some, somewhat more remote circumstances, and occasions conducing to this miracle, we cannot avoid the making of some use of the time, when it was done: it was done, when Christ had dispossessed those two men of furious, and raging devils, amongst the Gergesenes; at what time, because Christ had been an occasion of drowning their herd of swine, the whole city came out to meet him, but not with a thankful reverence, and acclamation, but their procession was, to beseech him to depart out of their coasts': they had rather have had their legion of devils still, than have lost their hogs; and since Christ's presence was an occasion of impairing their temporal substance, they were glad to be rid of him.
We need not put on spectacles to search maps for this land of the Gergesenes ; God knows we dwell in it; Non quærimus Jesum propter Jesum, (which was a prophetical complaint by St. Augustine) we love the profession of Christ only so far, as that profession conduces to our temporal ends. We seek him not at the cross; there most of his friends left him ; but we are content to embrace him, where the kings of the East bring him presents of gold, and myrrh, and frankincense, that we may participate of those: we seek him not in the hundred and thirtieth Psalm, where, though there be plenty, yet it is but copiosa redemptio, plentiful redemption, plenty of that that comes not yet; but in the twenty-fourth Psalm we are glad to meet him, where he proclaims Domini terra, et plenitudo ejus, The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof, that our portion therein may be plenteous: we care not for him in St. Peter's hospital, where he excuses himself, Aurum et argentum non habeo, Silver and gold hare I none : but in the prophet Haggai's exchequer we do, where he makes that claim, Aurum meum, All the gold and all the silver is mine. Scarce any son is Protestant enough, to stand out a rebuke of his father, or any servant of his master, or any officer of his prince, if that father, or master, or prince would be, or would have him be a Papist; but, as though the different forms of religion, were but the fashions of the garment, and not the stuff, we put on, and we put off religion, as we would do a livery, to testify our respect
1 Mark v. 17.
to him, whom we serve, and (miserable Gergesenes) had rather take in that devil again, of which we have been dispossessed three or four score years since, than lose another hog, in departing with any part of our pleasures or profits; Non quærimus Jesum propter Jesum, we profess not Jesus, for his, but for our own sakes.
But we pass from the circumstance of the time, to a second, that though Christ thus despised by the Gergesenes, did, in his justice, depart from them; yet, as the sea gains in one place what it loses in other, his abundant mercy builds up more in Capernaum, than his justice throws down amongst the Gergesenes: because they drove him away, in judgment he went from them, but in mercy he went to the others, who had not entreated him to come.
Apply this also ; and, wretched Gergesene, if thou have entreated Christ to go from thee, for loss of thy hogs, that when thou hast found the preaching of Christ, or the sting of thy conscience whet thereby, to hinder thee in growing rich so hastily as thou wouldest, or trouble thee in following thy pleasures so fully as thou wouldest, thou hast made shift to divest, and put off Christ, and sear up thy conscience, yet Christ comes into his Capernaum now, that sent not for him; he comes into thy soul now, who camest not hither to meet him, but to celebrate the day, by this ordinary, and fashionable meeting; to thee he comes, as into Capernaum, to preach his own Gospel, and to work his miracles upon thee. And it is a high mercy in Christ, that he will thus surprise thy soul, that he will thus waylay thy conscience, that what collateral respect soever brought thee hither, yet when he hath thee here, he will make thee see that thou art in his house, and he will speak to thee, and he will be heard by thee, and he will be answered from thee; and though thou thoughtest not of him, when thou camest hither, yet he will send thee away, full of the love of him, full of comforts from him.
But we pass also from this, to a third circumstance, that when he came to Capernaum, he is said to have come into his own city”; not Nazareth, where he was born, but Capernaum where he dwelt, and preached, is called his own city. Thou art not a
* Matt. ix. 1.
Christian, because thou wast born in a Christian kingdom, and born within the covenant, and born of Christian parents, but because thou hast dwelt in the Christian church, and performed the duties presented to thee there.
Again, Capernaum was his own city, but yet Christ went forth of Capernaum, to many other places. I take the application of this, from you, to ourselves ; Christ fixes no man by his example so to one church, as that no occasion may make his absence from thence excusable. But yet when Christ did
But yet when Christ did go from Capernaum, he went to do his Father's will, and that, which he was sent for. Nothing but preaching the Gospel, and edifying God's church, is an excuse for such an absence ; for, væ si non evangelizarerit, if he neither preach at Capernaum, nor to the Gergesenes, neither at home, nor abroad, woe be unto him: if I be at home, but to take my tithes; if I be abroad, but to take the air, woe be unto
But we must not stop long upon these circumstances; we end all of this kind, in this one, that when Christ had undertaken that great work of the conversion of the world, by the word, and sacraments, to show that the word was at that time the more powerful means of those two, (for sacraments were instituted by Christ, as subsidiary things, in a great part, for our infirmity, who stand in need of such visible and sensible assistances) Christ preached the Christian doctrine, long before he instituted the sacraments; but yet, though these two permanent sacraments, baptism, and the supper, were not so soon instituted, Christ always descended so much to man's infirmity, as to accompany the preaching of the word, with certain transitory, and occasional sacraments; for miracles are transitory and occasional sacraments, as they are visible signs of invisible grace, though not seals thereof; Christ's purpose in every miracle was, that by that work, they should see grace to be offered unto them. Now this history, from whence this text is taken, begins, and ends with the principal means, with preaching; for, as St. Mark relates it, he was in the act of preaching, when this cure was done”; and in St. Matthew, after all was done, he went about the cities, and villages, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom“: and then
3 Mark ii. 2.
* Matt. ix. 35.