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withdrew for a short time into a desert, or uncultivated place. He was not tired of relieving human suffering, nor of teaching human ignorance; but his body was subject to the common and sinless infirmities of our nature; he, therefore, sought for rest away from the busy crowd. Besides, he saw at this time that the people, in their excited state, might be carried away to rebel against their rulers, and proclaim him as their king. As this would interfere with the great purpose for which he came to the earth, while it would expose the Jews to the wrath of the Romans, he withdrew for a short season.
When our Lord returned from the desert, he privately entered into Capernaum: it soon, however, became known that he was there, and the people again flocked to him with their diseases, from different parts of the land; nor did they seek to him in vain, for “ he healed them all.” What mercy was here! All, whatever the nature of the malady, and however poor and friendless the applicant. Such displays of power and benevolence increased the crowding of the people; for what will not men do to get free from disease! what will they not spend! yea, “all that a man hath will he give for his life,” Job ii. 4: but to obtain a certain cure of afflictions deemed incurable, free of all cost, who would not make an effort, when the blessing is within his reach?
Numbers continued to throng the door, in vain seeking admittance, for the house was filled. Jesus beheld the eager, struggling multitude, and felt more than human pity. It was a pity not merely for their sickly bodies; he knew that all were sinners—ignorant and ruined, needing a Physician for the soul. He then began to teach them, as they stood and sat around. Among those who had assembled were some Jewish doctors, who had come, not with a desire to profit by the “ Teacher sent from God,” but to discover something in his conduct or speech, by which they might lessen his credit with the people, or else find grounds to accuse him of breaking the law. It was not long before their pride and prejudice were aroused.
A PARALYTIC HEALED,
Matt. ix. 2-8; MARK ii. 1-12; LUKE v. 17-26. Slowly along the road four men were seen bearing on his bed a man sick of the palsy, or, as he would now be called, a helpless paralytic. This disease was not uncommon in the east, and was often caused by the practice of sleeping at night in the open air.*
The bearers carefully carried their afflicted friend: the hope of his getting relief made them cheerfully bear along their burden. And now they arrive before the house: already they seem as if they had succeeded on their errand of mercy: when how great their distress to find that they cannot get near to present the sick to Jesus! They in vain implore that an opening may be made in the crowd, and urge the misery of their friend. The door-way is thronged: some are seeking a cure themselves; others are anxious to
Bishop Pearce, in the “Miracles of Jesus Vindicated," considers that the man's disorder was what is called the universal palsy, which is quickly fatal ; and which may account for the earnestness and haste of the bearers in getting their friend to Christ. A few hours would probably have closed the sick man's life. Ader, in his “ Treatise on Scripture Diseases,” is of the same opinion.
hear the Saviour preach; many are influenced by curiosity to see him; and the envious scribes are not disposed to give way that he may again prove his almighty power. We may suppose we see the bearers of the poor paralytic: they have been again and again foiled, and they now rest their burden on the ground, and for a few moments consult what is to be done. They conclude that the stay of Jesus in the city will be short, and another opportunity may not occur.
Shall they again attempt an entrance? and yet it seems almost useless. Shall they return home as they came out? how mortifying to themselves! what a disappointment to their sick friend! The sight of his helpless state touches their hearts, and makes them resolve to try once more to gain an entrance. When the thought occurs, to ascend the top of the house, and let him down from above into the midst of the assembly. They again take up their burden, and make their way up the stairs by the side of the house, and so ascend the parapet; or, they make their way along the terraces of the adjoining houses. What pains they take to get their burden to the top! At length, they reach the flat roof; and now what is to be done? If the house were like some in the east, it was of one or two stories high, of the form of a small square, with an open court in the middle. Over this centre, cords were placed from side to side, which folded and unfolded a kind of awning. In bright sunny weather, this covering was drawn aside; and at night, or in the wet season, it was fastened across. So that the bearers had only to unfasten the veil or awning, and they could look down into the assembly where Jesus was teaching.
Or if, as in some houses in Judea, the roof had a large trap-door, this could as easily be opened. * Then, again taking up the helpless man on his bed, they gently lower him down. How strong a proof is this of their affection for their friend, and of their faith in the Saviour! If they so exerted themselves to get health restored to the sick body of their neighbour, let it teach us to spare neither pains nor labour that we may lead those we love to Jesus, to obtain salvation for their souls.
Jesus was not angry because they had interrupted him in his discourse; he did not rebuke the bearers, and order the sick man to be removed from his sight. He saw their care and anxiety, and knew the hope and fear which filled the poor
man's heart. Never did the Saviour turn coldly away from one who sought his help. The man now lay stretched on his mattress; he spoke not a word; his helpless body and implor.. ing look were enough: those clenched hands, and that tearful eye, spoke to the heart of Christ. The first word He spoke sounded kindly: “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Was it so, that the man had not only faith in Christ's power to work a miracle, but, as a sinner, also believed in him as able to pardon his sin? or, did he fear lest his past sins would deprive hiin of the blessing? Whatever were the thoughts of his heart, they were known to Christ, who
• The evangelist Mark says, • They uncovered the roof;" and Luke, that" they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling.” Dr. Shaw supposes that the house had an opening with a veil across the inner court; but Dr. Bloomfield, Paxton, and others, consider that there are objections to this explanation, and that the original word means
" to dig out,” "to break up," or " to pluck out.”
intended to make the man truly happy, and therefore he first spoke of forgiveness. The cure of his body alone would not have made him happy. If our Lord had cured his disease, insured to him health for the remainder of his days, prolonged his life for a hundred years, made him rich, raised him to the highest honours of the earth, placed him in a palace, made him monarch of a mighty empire-all this would not have made him happy. He freely received the pardon of his sins, and the salvation of his soul. These are better than all earthly blessings, and in these true happiness consists.
Now mark the scribes: their cheeks redden with rage, and they dart their scornful looks, as they hear Christ pronounce the words of mercy. He forgive sin indeed! Where is the proof ? This man is a blasphemer; he speaks wickedly: for who can forgive sins but God? We have at last clear evidence against him, and now it is in our power to crush his growing popularity.— They did not speak their thoughts: they may have feared the people. Jesus, however, knew what was passing in their minds, and soon gave them a sign that he had power to pronounce pardon to the impenitent. “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk." As though our Lord had said—“ Look at that poor man: see how utter helpless he is: is he not beyond the reach of human skill? where is the physician in Israel that can make him well? Now, if I can restore him to health in a moment-at á word—will it not be a proof that I have power to forgive sin? for if I can do the one, does it not