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The evangelist here declares sundry other cures wrought by our Saviour; he healed the sick, and dispossessed the devils. In our Saviour's time we read of many possessed wiih devils, and hut few of either before or alterwards. Probably, 1. liecause Satan, ptrceiv ;ng the Messiah to be come ih the rlcsh to de>lroy his kingdom, did rage the more, and discover greater malice and enmity against mankind. 2. Perhaps Almighty God suffered Satan at that time to possess so many, that Christ might have occasion to manifest his divine power by casting Satan out. And accordingly we find our Saviour dispossessing all that were possessed by Satan. It is added, That he suffered not the devils to speak, because the;i knew him; that is, Christ would not be made known to be the Son of God by the preaching of the devil, lest the world should from thence take occasion to think that our Saviour held a correspondence with those wicked spirits, and that the miracles which he wrought were performed by the devil's assistance, as being one in comhination with him. Possibly from the devils owning Christ to be the Holy One of God, the Pharisees coucluded that there was a compact and agreement betwixt them; and thereupon their affirmation was grounded, He casteth out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devils.
42 And when it was day, he departed, and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them. 43 And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; for therefore am I sent. 44 And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.
Observe here, 1. The great work and business of our Saviour's life: to preach the gospel. I must preach the kingdom of God, for therefore came I forth. Preaching was Christ's great work, it is undoubtedly his ministers.' Christ omitted some opportunities of working miracles, that he might preach to other cities: this was his great work. Observe, 2. It being Christ's great design to plant and propagate the gospel, he would not confine his ministry to one particular place, not to the great city of Capernaum, but resolves to preach the word in smaller towns and vil
lages; leaving his ministers herein an instructive example, to be as willing to preach the gospel in the smallest villages, as in the largest and most populous cities, if God calls us thereunto. Let the place be never so obscure and mean, and the congregation never so small and little, if God sends us thither, the greatest of us must not think it beneath us to go and instruct an handful of people. •
CHAP. V. A ND it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
Here observe 1. That our Saviour used the sea as well as the land in his passage from place to place to preach tlie gospel; and the reasons why he did so might probably be these: 1. To show Nature's intent in making of the sea: namely, to be sailed upon, as the land to be walked upon. 2. That Christ might take occasion to manifest his Deity, in working miracles upon the sea: namely, by calming of the waves and stilling of the winds. 3. It might be to comfort sea-faring men in their distresses, and to encourage them to pray to such a Saviour as had an experimental knowledge of the dangers of the sea: it were well if sailors would consider this, and instead of inuring themselves to the language of hell when they go down into the deep, would direct their prayer unto Christ, and look up to hiin; who now in heaven has the remembrance of what he himself endured and underwent here on earth, and on the sea. Observe, 2. The circumstance of time, when Christ used to put forth to sea: it was usually after he had wrought some extraordinary miracle, which set them on admiring and commending of him; as after he had fed so many thousands, with a few barley loaves and fishes, presently he put forth to sea, shunning thereby all popularity and vain-glorious applause from the multitude which he was never amhitious of, but industriously avoided. Observe, 3. That after our Saviour's resurrection, we never find him sailing any more upon the seas. For such a fluctuating and turbulent condition, which necessarily attends sea voyages, was utterly inconsistent with the constancy, stahility, and perpetuity, of Christ's estate when risen from the grave. The firm land better agreeing with his fixed state, he keeps upon it, till his ascension into heaven. Observe, 4. That Christ scruples not to preach to the people in, and out of the ship: He sat down, and taught the people out of the ship'. Sometimes we find our holy Lord preaching upon a mountain, sometimes in a ship, sometimes in a house, as often as may be in a synagogue. He that laid hold of all seasons for preaching the gospel, never scrupled any place which conveniency offered to preach in; well knowing that it is the ordinance that sanctifies the place, and not the place the ordinance.
4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing; nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 0 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so teas also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
Observe here, 1. Our Saviour having
delivered his doctrine to the people, confirms his doctrine with a miracle, and with such a miracle as did at once instruct and encourage his apostles; the miraculous number of fish which tlicy caught did presage and prefigure their miraculous success in preaching, planting, and propagating, the gospel. Observe, 2. Our Saviour's command to Peter, and his ready compliance with Christ's command: Let down your netsfor a draught, says Christ: We have toiled all night, says St. Peter, and caught nothing; nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net. This mystically represents to us, 1. That the fishers of men may labour all night, and all day too, and catch nothing. This is sometimes the fisherman's fault, but oftener the fishes'. It is the fisher's fault that nothing is taken, if he doth only play upon the sands, and not launch out into the deep; deliver some superficial and less necessary truths, without opening to the people the great mysteries of godliness. If they fish with broken nets, either deliver unsound doctrine, or leadunexemplary lives. If they do not cast the net on the right side of the ship; that is, rightly divide the word, as workmen that need not to be ashamed. And if they do not fish at Christ's command, but run a fishing unsent, it is then no wonder that they labour all their days and catch nothing. But very often it is the fishes' fault, rathe* than the fisherman's: worldly men are crafty and cunning, they will not come near the net; hypocrites are slippery, like eels, the fishermen cannot long hold them, but they dart into their holes; priding themselves in their external performances, and satisfying themselves with a round of duties. The great men of the world break through the net, the divine commands cannot hind them, Jer. v. 5. I will go to the gn at men, and speak to them: but they have broken the yoke, and burst the bonds. Observe, 3. The miraculous success which St. Peter had, when at Christ's command he let down the net: They inclosed such a multitude of fishes that their net brake. Two things our Saviour aimed at in this miracle, 1. To manifest to his disciples the power of his Godhead, that they might not be offended at the poverty and meanness of his manhood. 2. To assure them of the great success which his apostles and their successors might expect in planting and propagating of the gospel. If the ministers of Christ, whom he calls fishers of
., be faithful in the cast, his power shall be magnified in tbe draught . Some of our fish will cleave eternally to the rocks, others play upon the sands, more will wallow in the mud, and continue all their days in the filth of sin, if our Master, at whose command we let down the net, doth not inclose them in it, as well as assist us in the casting of it. Observe, 4. What influence the sight of this miracle had upon St. Peter: it occasioned fear and amazement, and caused him to adore Christ, and declare himself unworthy of his presence; Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. Not that the good man was weary of Christ's presence, but acknowledged himself unworthy of it. It is a great discovery of our holiness, to revere God, and fear before him, when he doth wonderful things before us, though they be wonders of love and mercy: here was a wonderful appearance of Christ's power and mercy to St. Peter, but it affects him with a reverential fear and awful astonishment. Observe, 5. How St. Peter and the rest of the apostles, at Christ's call, forsook all and followed him: they left father and friends, ship and nets, and followed Jesus. Whom Christ calls, he calls effectually; he draws whom he calls, and works their heart to a ready compliance to their duty. And although when they were first called to be disciples, they followed their trades of fishing for a time, yet upon their second call to the apostleship, they left off their trade, and forsook all to follow the ministry; teaching the ministers of the gospel, that it is their duty to give themselves wholly up to their great work, and not to encumber themselves with secular affairs and worldly business. Nothing but an indispensable necessity in providing for a family can excuse a minister's incumbering himself with worldly concerns and business: They fortook all, and followed Jesus.
12 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold, a man full of leprosy ; who seeing Jesus, fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 13 And he put forth hi." hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. 14 And he charged
him to tell no man: but go and show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, accordingas Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him -. and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be bealed by him of their infirmities.
Observe here, 1. The petitioner, that in a very bumble and submissive manner sues unto Christ for cure and healing: A leper fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. He doth not question Christ's power, but distrusts his willingness to help and heal him. Christ's divine power must be fully assented to, and firmly believed, by all those that expect benefit, by him, and healing from him. Observe, 2. The great readiness of Christ to help and heal this distressed person: Jesus touched him, saying, I -will: he thou clean. By the ceremonial law, the leper was forbidden to be touched ; therefore Christ touching this leper, shows himself to be above the law; that he was the Lord of it, and might dispense with it. And his healing this leper, by the word of his mouth and the touch of his hand, showed him to be truly and really sent of God; for leprosy among the Jews was accounted an incurable distemper, called the finger of God j a disease of his sending, and of his removing. Our Saviour therefore, as a proof of his being the Messias, tells John's disciples, Matt. xi. 5. That the lepers mere cleansed, and the dead raised by him; which two being joined together, do imply, that the cleansing of the lepers is as much an act of divine power, as the raising of the dead; and accordingly, 2 Kings v. 7. it is said, Am I God, that this man sends unto me to cure a person of his leprosy? Observe, 3. The certainty and the suddenness of the cure was a farther proof of Christ's divine power: Immediately the leprosy departed. Christ not only cured him immediately, but instantaneously; not only without means, but without the ordinary time required for such a cure. Thus Christ showed both power and will to cure him miraculously, who believed his power, but questioned his willingness. Observe, 4. A twofold charge and command given by Christ to the leper, I. To tell it to no man. Where tlie great modesty, piety, and humility of our Saviour are discovered, together with the prudent care he took of his own safety : his modesty, in concealing his own praises; his humility, in shunning all vain-glorious applause and commendation; his piety, in relerring all the honour and glory to God his Father; and the care of his own safety appeared, lest the publishing of his miracles should create untimely danger from the Pharisees. 2. The next part of the charge given to the recovered leper is to go and show himself to the priest, and to otfer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto theoi , that is, to testify to the Jews, that be did not oppose the ceremonial law, which required a thank-offering at his hand , and also that the miracle might testify that he was the true and promised Messiah. Learn hence, Tliat our blessed Saviour would have the ceremonial law punctually observed, so long as the time of its continuance did endure; though he came to destroy that law, yet whilst it stood, he would have it exactly observed. See note on St. Mati. viii. 2.
16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
The duty of private and solitary prayer is not more strictly enjoined by our Saviour's command, than it is recommended to us by his example. Observe, 1. The duty which our holy Lord performed : prayer. We have much more business with God m prayer than Christ had; he had no sins to be humbled for, nor beg pardon of; no need to pray tor any sanctifying hahits of grace, the Holy Spirit being given to him without measure; yet did our holy Lord spend much of his time in prayer , he took delight in paying this homage to his heavenly Father. Observe, 2. What kind of prayer our Lord did eminently delight in: it was solitary and private prayer. He often went alone, even out of the hearing of his own disciples. The company of our best friends is not always seasonable nor acceptable. There are times and seasons when a christian would not be willing that his dearest relations upon earth should hear that intercourse which passes between him and his God. Observe, 3. Tlie place our Lord withdraws to for private prayer: it is the desert; he withdrew into the wilderness and prayed, both to avoid ostentation, and also to enjoy communion with his Father. The modest Bridegroom of his church, lays St. Bernard, will not im>
part himself so freely to his spouse before company. St. Mark i. 35. adds, That our Saviour rose tip a great white before day, and went into this desert place to pray. Teaching us, That the morning is the fit season, yea, the best of seasons, for private duties; now are our spirits freshest, and our spirits freest, before the distractions of the day break in upon us. It is certainly much better to go from prayer to business, than from business to prayer. Mote lastly, That our blessed Saviour had no idle hours here in the world; his time did not he upon his hands as ours do; be was always either preaching or praying, or working miracles; either paying homage to God, or doing good to man. Lord, help us to imitate this thy instructive example, by embracing all opportunities of glorifying God, and doing good to one another.
17 A nd it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. 18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy : and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. 19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the house-top, and let him down through the tiling, with his couch, into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?
22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? 23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? 24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up the couch, and go unto thine house. 25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. 26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to-day.
As the great end of our Saviour's miracles was to confirm his~doctrine, so commonly after his preaching he wrought his miracles. The scribes and Pharisees, though they had no love for our Saviour's person, nor value for his ministry, yet they frequently accompanied him wherever he went, partly to cavil at his doctrine, and partly out of curiosity to see his miracles: but observe the gracious condescension of our Saviour; although he well knew that the Pharisees at this time attended upon him with no good intention, yet he puts forth his divine power in working miracles before them: The power of the Lord was present to heal. Not that Christ's power was at any time absent, but it is said now to be present, because it was now exerted and put forth at his will and pleasure. And accordingly at this time, before the Pharisees' eyes, he miraculously cures a person sick of the palsy, as the paragraph before us does inform us. Wherein observe, 1. The diseased and distressed person, one sick of the palsy, which being a resolution and weakness of the nerves, enfeebles the joints, and confines a person to his bed or couch. As a demonstration of Christ's divine power, he was pleased to single out the palsy and leprosy, incurable diseases, to work a cure upon. Now this person was so great a cripple, by reason of the palsy, that he could not go, nor be led, but was carried in his bed or couch. Observe, 2. As the grievousness of the disease, so the greatness of the people's faith. The man and his friends had a firm and full persuasion, that Christ was clothed with a divine power, and able to help him; and they hope in his goodness, that he was willing as well as able. And accordingly, the roof of the Jewish houses being flat, they uncover some part of it, and let the bed down with the sick man in it, and lay him at the foot of Christ, in hopes of help and healing. Observe, 3. That no sooner did they exercise their faith
in believing, but Christ exerts his divine power in healing: yet the object of their faith probably was not Christ's divine power as God, but they looked upon him as an extraordinary prophet, to whom God had communicated such a divine power as Elijah and F.hsha had before him. Yet, see the marvellous efficacy even of this faith, which obtained not only what was desired, but more than was expected. They desired only the healing of the body, but Christ heals body and soul too, saying, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee. Thereby our Saviour signifies to them, that sin is the meritorious cause of sickness, and consequently, that in sickness the best way to find ease and deliverance from pain, is first to seek for pardon; for the sense of pardon will in some degree take away the sense of pain. Observe, 4. The exception which the Pharisees take against our Saviour for pronouncing that this man's sins were forgiven him: they charge bim with blasphemy, urging, that it is God's peculiar prerogative to pardon sin. Indeed their proposition was true, but their application was false. Nothing more true, than that it is the highest blasphemy for any mere man to arrogate and assume to himself the incommunicable property of God, absolutely and authoritatively to forgive sin. But then their denying this power to Christ of forgiving sins, which he bad as God from all eternity, and as mediator, God and man in one person, when here on earth; this was blasphemy in them; but the assuming and challenging in it, none in him. - Observe, 5. To cure, if possible, the obstinacy and blindness of the Pharisees, our Saviour gives them a twofold demonstration of his Godhead; 1. By letting them understand that he knew their t houghb, Jesus perceived their thoughts, ver. 22. To know the thoughts, to search the hearts, and understand the reasonings, of men, is not in the power of angels or men, bat the prerogative of God only. 2. By assuming to himself a power to forgive sins: for our Saviour here, by taking upon him to forgive sins in his own name and by his own authority, doth give the world an undeniable proof, and a convincing evidence, of his Godhead : for who can forgive sixs but God only? Observe, 6. The erfet which this miracle had upon the minds of the people: they marvelled and were amazed, were filled with fear, but not with faith; astonished, but did not believe. Learn hence, That the sight of Christ's