« PreviousContinue »
privacy. [Acts x. 9. 2 Kings xxiii. 12.) This door, when shut, lying even with the roof, made a part of it, and was commonly well fastened, to secure the house against thieves. They, therefore, took off the tiles, wherewith, not only the roof, but the door was covered ; and, forcing the door open, let down the paralytic through the tiling, on his bed, or carpet, which they held by the corners, or by ropes fastened to the corners of it, and så placed him before Jesus, who, if this was one of the higher kind of houses, might be sitting in the second floor, at a window, preaching both to the people who were within, and to those who stood without in the court. When Jesus
11 saw the faith of the bearers of the paralytic, he had compassion on the afflicted person ; and, previously to his cure, declared publicly that his sins were forgiven. But the Pharisees, hearing this, were exceedingly provoked. And, though they did not openly find fault, they said in their own minds, or, perhaps, whispered to one another, why doth this fellow thus blaspheme? This charge of blasphemy was founded on their supposition that Christ was a mere man, and their knowledge that none but God had the prerogative of forgiving sins: their crime, therefore, consisted, not in any improper thoughts of God, but in their resisting the miraculous evidence by which the divine mission of our Saviour was attested. At this very time, Christ proved, upon their own principles, that he was entitled to their deepest veneration ; for, whereas, the Jews held, that, when Messiah came, he should be of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord, discovering the characters of men with whom he had bo ti acquaintance, he discovered that he was possessed of this marvellous faculty, by replying to their thoughts which they had not openly expressed. And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? Why do you indulge ve 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. For whether is it easier to say, (Mark, to the sick of the palsy,) to command, for so the word signifies, [Mat. iv. 3. Luke xix. 15.] thy sins be forgiven, or to say, (command) arise and walk ? that is, whether is it 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 himiself 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. 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 speaking of himself, and be sensible that even in his state of humiliation, and while he was on earth, he acted as God. Perhaps, likewise, by calling himself, in the hearing of such a company of literati, 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 prophecy. Then saith he to the sick of the palsy, Arisc, take up thy bed, and go into 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 astonishinent in all who beheld hiin. The perfection of the cure, and its suddenness, together with the remembrance of the obstinacy 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. When the Pharisces beheld this miracle, they were obliged to prue
nnunce it a most wonderful event ; and, by this concession, glorified God, by un. willingly confirming the mission of his Son. It is also said, that they were filled with fear, probably, lest he, whom they had reproached as an impostor, should now exercise his power in punishing their insolence. Considering the impression which this miracle made upon them, we may consider, that these learned men did not forthwith lay aside their enmity agaiust 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 of surprize 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. [Mat. ix. 8.) But when the multitude saw it they marvelled, and glorified God
, which had giren such power unto 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.
To conclude: whether we examine the nature of this miracle as being a perfect and instantaneous power of an obstinate universal palsy, under which a person, adFauced in years, [Luke v. 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 we 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 coucourse of people ; or whether we 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 glory 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 we please, we shall find this a most illustrious miracle, highly worthy of our attention and admiration.
The next remarkable event in the history of Jesus was the calling of a certain publican, named Levi, or Matthew. This man was sitting at the office appointed for the receipt of customs, and immediately, on receiving the divine command, forsook :lucrative employment, to become the follower of him who had not where to lay bis head. It is generally supposed, as we hare already intimated, that Levi was tho same as Matthew, the apostle and historian of our Lord. Michaelis, however, gives the following reasons for a different opinion.
1. In the catalogue of the twelve apostles, St. Mark and St. 'Luke ascribe to our efangelist no other name than that of Matthew. Is it credible then, that, in describing his call to the apostleship, they should both have agreed in naming him Levi, and hare thus occasioned an unecessary confusion to the reader. The same argument operates, likewise, against the opinion that Levi is the same person as Lebbæus.
2. The sons of Alphæus, with whom we are acquainted in the New Testament, Were near relations of Jesus ; for their mother, whose name was, likewise, Mary,
was sister to Jesus's mother. They were James, Joses, Simon, and Judas'; and they are mentioned Mat. xii. 55, and there called brethren of Christ. One of them, namely James, is expressly called the son of Alphæus, Mat. x. 3, Mark iii. 18, Luke vi. 15 ; and of their mother we find an account, Mat. xxvii. 56, Mark xv. 40. If St. Matthew, therefore, was a son of the same Alphæus, he was a near relation of Jesus. But of this relationship we no where find the smallest trace : and, at the principal passage, where St. Matthew names the relations of Christ, he is silent in respect to himself.
But though I believe that Levi and St. Matthew were not the same person, I shall not attempt to discover which of the twelve apostles Levi really was. I see no necessity for supposing that Levi was an apostle at all ; at least, the command which he received to follow Christ does not necessarily imply that he was admitted into the number of the twelve, since Christ selected seventy disciples in addition to the twelve apostles.
About this time, it is probable, our Lord performed the celebrated miracle at the pool of Bethesda, which is recorded in the fifth chapter of John. We shall give it at lengtn in Dr. Campbell's translation; by comparing which, with that commonly received, considerable light will be cast on the subject.
[John v. 1..47.] Afterwards there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem, nigh the sheep-gate, a bath, called, in Hebrew, Bethesda, which hath five covered walks. In these lay a great number of sick, blind, lame, and palsied people, waiting for the moving of the water. For a messenger, at times, descended into the bath, and agitated the water; and the first that stepped in after the agitation of the water, was cured of whatever disease he had.
Now there was one there who had been diseased eight and thirty years. Jesus, who saw him lying, and knew that he had been long ill, said to him, Wouldst tho u be healed ? The diseased man answered, Sir, I have no man to put me into the bath, when the water is agitated; but while I am going, another getteth down before me. Jesus said to him, arise, take up thy couch, and walk. Instantly the man was healed, and took up his couch, and walked.
Now that day was the sabbath. The Jews, therefore, said to him that was cured, This is the sabbath, it is not lawful for thee to carry thy couch. He answered, a He who healed me said to me, " Take up thy couch and walk.' They asked him then, Who is the man that said to thee, " Take up thy couch and walk ?” But he that had been healed knew not who it was ; for Jesus had slipped away, there being a iz crowd in the place.
Jesus afterwards finding him in the temple, said to him, Behold, thou art cured ; sin no more, lest something worse befal thee. The man went and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him. Therefore the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill him, because he had done this on the sabbath.
But Jesus answered them, As my Father hitherto 'worketh, I work. For this reason the Jews were the more intent to kill him, because he had not only broken the sabbath, but by calling peculiarly his Father, had equalled himself with God. Then Jesus addressed them, saying, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but as he seeth the Father do ; for what thing soever he doth, such doth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all that he himself doth : nay, and will shew him greater works than these, works which will astonish you. For as the Father raiseth and quickeneth the dead, the Son also quickencth whom he will: for the Father judgeth no person, having committed
the power of judging entirely to the Son, that all might honour the Son, as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father, who sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he who heareth my doctrine, and believeth him who sent me, hath eternal life, and shall not incur condemnation, having passed from death to life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the time cometh, or rather is come, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and, hearing, they shall live. For as the Father has life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him even the judicial authority, because he is a Son of man. Wonder not at this ; for the time cometh when all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and come forth. They that have done good shall arise to enjoy life ; they that have done evil shall arise to suffer punishment. I can do nothing of myself ; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not to please myself, but to please the Father, who sent me.
If I (alone) testify concerning myself, my testiinony is not to be regarded ; there is another who testifieth concerning me ; and I know that his testimony of me ought to be regarded. Ye yourselves sent to John, and he bare witness to the truth. As for me, I need no human testimony ; I only urge this for your salvation. He was the lighted and shining lamp; and, for a while, ye were glad to enjoy his light.
But I have greater testimony than John's ; for the works which the Father hath empowered me to perform, the work themselves, which I do, testify for me that the Father hath sent me.
Nay, the Father, who sent me, hath himself attested me. Did ye never hear his voice
, or see his form ? Or have ye forgotten his declaration, that ye believe not him whom he hath commissioned ? Yesearch the scriptures, because ye think to obtain, hy their means, eternal life. Now these, also, are witnesses for me ; yet ye will not come unto me that ye may obtain life. I desire not honour from men ; but I know you, that ye are strangers to the love of God. I am come in my Father's name, and ye do not receive me ; if another come in his own name, ye will receive him. How can ye believe, while ye court honour one from another, regardless of the honour which cometh from God
Do not think that I am he who will accuse you to the Father. Your accuser is Moses, in whom ye confide. For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe nie; for he wrote concerning me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye words?"
The most remarkable circumstance mentioned in this chapter, is the descent of the angel
, or messenger, at certain times, to trouble the waters, and give them, or excite in them, an healing quality. It is probable, that, in honour of the personal appearance of Christ upon earth, this remarkable power was conferred upon the waters, perhaps, to indicate that Ezekiel's vision of the waters, issuing out of the sanctuary, was about to be fulfilled. Ezek. xlvii. of which waters it is said, verse 9, They shall be healed, and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. That which is counmonly translated the sheep-market, may be equally rendered the sheep-gate, as there is nothing in the original words which answers to either gate or market ; but the words used, being an adjective, require some such addition to complete the sense. We have, beside, good evidence that one of the gates of Jerusalem was called the sheep-gate, but none, that any place there was ever denominated the sheep-market. It is remarkable, that, in the twenty-seventh verse, Christ calls hineself a Son of man, and not the Son of man.
The meaning of the clause seems here to be, that it suits the ends of divine wisdom, that the judge, as well as the Saviour of men, should bimself
In the thirty-first verse, Christ does not mean to assert that it was impossible
that a man should speak truth in his own favour, but that such a testimony was inadmissible in a court of judicature. The thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth verses are, by many learned men, as interrogations, and are supposed to refer to the visible descent of the Holy Spirit on our Lord after his baptism. Lastly, the thirty-ninth verse may be rendered either, search the scriptures, or ye search the scriptures, on which subject learned men differ in their opinions.
Upon the first second-day sabbath, that is, the ordinary sabbath, happening in the passover week, probably, the very sabbath that was honoured with the cure of the paralytic, who lay in Bethesda, Jesus and his disciples passed through the corn-fields near Jerusalem, attended by some of the Pharisees, whose curiosity prompted them. to mix with the crowd on this occasion, in expectation of seeing more miracles. These, no doubt, they proposed to examine with the greatest accuracy, as well as to watch Jesus while he performed them, that they might detect whatever, as they vainly imagined, was false in them. Or, if no miracle was performed, they hoped to find hiin behaying, on the sabbath, in a manner inconsistent with the holy character which he assumed. Accordingly, they first found fault with his disciples ; for, on seeing them pluck the ears of corn, and eat as they walked, they reproved them, and complained of them to their Master, not for having taken what they had no right to, the law authorising them to do this [Deut. xxiii. 25.]; but for having broken the sabbath, such as they supposed plucking and rubbing the ears to be. This accusation, though it seemed to be levelled immediately against the disciples, was really intended against Jesus himself : but he easily repelled it by putting the Pharisees in mind of it David, who, though a prophet, as well as a king, in case of necessity, took the sacred shew-bread, contrary to the law (Lev. xxiv. 9.] ; and of the priests in the temple, who killed the sacrifices on the sabbath-day, and by desiring them to consider a passage in Hosea, where God declares that he has greater pleasure in mercy than in sacrifice; and by explaining unto them the end of the sabbath itself, which was instituted for the benefit, and not for the detċiment, of mankind.
He began with David's action in the matter of the shew-bread, which the high-priest himself was accessary to, which the scriptures record with no mark of disapprobation, and which, it seems, the doctors never had condemned ; and, for that reason, was a proper vindication of the disciples in the like circumstances. [Mark ii. 25.] And le suid unto them, have ye never read (Luke, so much as this) what David did when he had need, and was an hungered, he, and they that were with hiin. How he went into the house of God, in the days of Abiathar the high-priest, and did eat the shew-bread, which is not lawful to eat, (Matthew, which was not lawful for him to cat, but only for the priests,) but for the priests, ( Luke, alone,) and gave also to them which were with him? The house of God, into which David went for the shew-bread, was not the tabernacle ; for none but priests could go in thither : but it was the house of the high-priest, situated beside the court of the tabernacle, and called the house of God on that account. Thus the apartment on which the high-priest Eli and his servant Samuel slept, is called the house of the Lord, 1 Sam. iii. 15. [Mat. xii. 5.] Or have ye not read in the law, how that, on the sabbath-days, the pricsts in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? He did not mean that these words are to be found in the law, but that they might be read in the law, how that the priests were obliged, on the sabbath-days, to perform such servile work in the temple, as, considered separately from the end of it, was a profanation of the sabbath ; and yet were guiltless, because it was necessary to the public worship, on account of which the sabbath was instituted. From Numbers xxviii. 9, it appears, that, beside the continual burntoffering, the priests were obliged, on the sabbaths, to sacrifice two lambs extraordinary,