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It was at Capernaum, while the Lord was teaching there, and on an occasion when there were present Pharisees and doctors of the law from many quarters, some of whom had come even as far as from Jerusalem, (Luke v. 17,) that this healing of the paralytic took place. It might have been a kind of conference, more or less friendly upon the part of these, which had brought together as listeners and spectators the great multitude of whom we read, a multitude so great that the avenues of approach to the house were blocked up; “there was no room to receive them, no not so much as about the door,” and thus no opportunity, by any ordinary way, of access to the Lord. (Matt. xii. 46, 47.) And now some who arrived late with their sick, who brought with them a poor paralytic, “could not come nigh unto him for the press.” Only the two later Evangelists record for us the extraordinary method to which the
* Chrysostom mentions, in a sermon upon this miracle, (v. 8, p. 37, 88, Bened. edit.) that many in his day confounded this history with that of the impotent man at Bethesda, a supposition so wholly groundless as hardly to be worth the complete refutation which he gives it, showing that on no one point do the histories agree. In the apocryphal Evangelium Nicodemi, (see THILo's Cod. Apocryph., v. 1, p. 556) there is a confusion of the two miracles.
# The words of St. Luke, “The power of the Lord was present to heal them,” are difficult, atroor having no antecedent to which it refers; for clearly it cannot refer to the Pharisees and doctors just before named. There was nothing in them which made them receptive either of a bodily or a spiritual healing. Most likely it is proleptic; the Evangelist, in writing thus, has already in his mind him, though yet unnamed, on whom that power was put forth. We must take #v as pregnant, supply. ing opyasouévn, or some such word.
# Tà Tpor row 6: pav, scil. pépm = mpáðupov, vestibulum, atrium.
bearers of the suffering man (St. Mark tells us they were four) were compelled to have recourse, for bringing him before the notice of the great healer of bodies and of souls. They first ascended to the roof: this was not so difficult, because commonly there was a flight of steps on the outside of the house, reaching to the roof, as well as, or sometimes instead of, an internal communication of the same kind. Such are to be seen (I have myself seen them) in those parts of the south of Spain which bear a permanent impress of Eastern habits. Our Lord assumes the existence of such, when he says, “Let him that is on the house-top not come down to take any thing out of his house,” (Matt. xxiv. 17;) he is to take the nearest and shortest way of escaping into the country: but he could only avoid the necessity of descending through the house by the existence of such steps as these.” Some will have it, that, on the present occasion, the bearers having thus reached the roof, did no more than let down their sick through the grating or trap-door, which already existed therein, (cf. 2 Kin. i. 2;) or, at most, that they might have widened such an aperture, already existing, to enable them to let down the sick man's bed. Others, that Jesus was sitting in the open court, round which the houses in the East are commonly built, and that to this they got access by the roof, and breaking through the breastwork or battlement (Deut. xxii. 8) made of tiles, which guarded the roof, and removing the linen awning which was stretched over the court, let him down in the midst before the Lord. But there seems no sufficient rea: son for departing from the obvious meaning of the words. In St. Mark, at least, they are so plain and clear, that we can suppose nothing else than that a part of the actual covering of the roof was removed, that so the bed on which the palsied man lay might be let down before the Lord. The whole circumstance will be much more easily conceived, and present fewer difficulties, when we keep in mind that it was probably the upper chamber, (orspoov,) where were assembled those that were
drawn together to hear the Lord. This, as the most retired, (2 Kin. iv. 10, LXX.; Acts iz. 37) and probably the largest room in the house, extending oftentimes over its whole area, was much used for such purposes as that which now drew him and his hearers together.” (Acts i. 13; xx. 8.) The merciful Son of man, condescending to every need of man, and never taking ill that which witnessed for an earnest faith in him, even though, as here, it manifested itself in a way so novel,-in one, too, which must have altogether disturbed the quiet of his teaching, saw with an eye well-pleased their faith. Had we only the account of St. Matthew, we should hardly understand wherein their special faith consisted, —why here, more than in many similar instances, it should have been noted; but the other Evangelists admirably complete that which he would have left obscure. They tell us how it was a faith which pressed through hinderances, and was not to be turned aside by difficulties. By “their faith,” many, as Jerome and Ambrose, understand the faith of the bearers only, but there is no need so to confine the words. To them the praise justly was due, but no doubt the sick man was approving all which they did, or it would not have been done: so that Chrysostom, with greater reason, concludes, that it was alike their faith and his which the Lord saw and rewarded. And this faith, as in the case of all whom he healed, was not as yet the reception of any certain doctrines, but a deep inward sense of need, and of Christ as the one, who only could meet that need. Beholding this faith, the Lord addressed him, “Son,' be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee:”—a striking example this of the way in which the Lord gives before men ask, and better than men ask: for this man had not asked any thing, save, indeed, in the dumb asking of that earnest effort to come near to Jesus; and all that he dared to ask even in that, or at least all that his friends and bearers hoped for him, was that his body might be healed. Yet there was no doubt in himself
* As Vitringa too (De Synag., p. 145, seq.) proves by abundant examples. + Bengel: Per omnia fides ad Christum penetrat. Gerhard (Harm. Evang., c. 43): Pictura est quomodo in tentationibus et calamitatibus ad Christum nobis conentur intercludere hominum judicia, quales fuerunt amici Jobi, et qui Ps. iii. 3, dicunt: Non est salus ipsi in Deo ejus. Item: Legis judicium et propriae conscientiae accusationes. Et quomodo per illa omnia fides perrumpere debeat, ut in conspectum Christi Mediatoris se demittat. t Tiver truarórarol, as in the apocryphal Evangelium Nicodemi they are called. § In St. Luke, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." But as he addresses another down-smitten soul, “Daughter, be of good comfort,” (Matt. ix. 22,) it is probable that the tenderer appellation here also found place.
o a deep feeling of his sickness in its innermost root; as growing out of sin, perhaps as the penalty of some especial sin whereof he was conscious; and some expression of contrition, some exclamation of a peni. tent heart, may have been the immediate occasion of these gracious words of forgiveness, as, indeed, the address, “Son, be of good cheer,” would seem also to imply that he was one evidently burdened and cast down, and, as the Lord saw, with more than the weight of his bodily sicknesses and sufferings. We shall see in other cases how the forgiveness of sins follows the outward healing: for we may certainly presume that such a forgiveness did ensue in cases such as that of the thankful Samaritan, of the impotent man who was first healed, and at a later period bidden to sin no more. (John v. 14.) But here the remission of sin takes the precedence; the reason no doubt being, that in the sufferer's own conviction there was so close a connection between his sin and his plague, that the outer healing would have been scarcely intelligible to him, would have scarcely carried to his mind the sense of a benefit, unless his conscience had been also set free; perhaps he was incapable even of receiving it, till there had been spoken peace to his spirit. James v. 14, 15, supplies an interesting parallel, in the connection which exists there also between the raising of the sick and the forgiving of his sin. The others, alluded to above, who had a much slighter sense of the relations between sin and suffering, were not first forgiven and then healed; but their thankfulness for their bodily healing was used to make them receptive of that better blessing which Christ had in store for them. The absolving words, “Thy sins be forgiven” thee,” are not to be taken as operative merely, as a desire that it might be so, but as declaratory of a fact. They are the justification of the sinner; and, as declaratory of that which takes place in the purposes of God, so also effectual, shedding abroad the sense of forgiveness and reconciliation in the sinner's heart. For God's justification of a sinner is not merely a word spoken about a man, but a word spoken to him and in him; not an act of God's, immanent in himself, but transitive upon the sinner. In it there is the love of God, and so the consciousness of that love, shed abroad in his heart” on whose behalf the absolving decree has been uttered. The murmurers and cavillers understood rightly that Christ, so speaking, did not merely wish and desire that this man's sins might be forgiven him; and that he did not, as does now the Church, in the name of another and wielding a delegated power, but in his own name, forgive the man his sins. They had also a right insight into the meaning of the forgiveness of sins itself, that it is a divine prerogative; that, as no man can remit a debt save he to whom the debt is due, so no one can forgive sin save he against whom all sin is committed, that is, God; and out of this feeling, true in itself, but most false in their present application of it, they said, “This man blasphemeth.” It is well worth our while to note, as Olshausen here calls us to do, the deep insight into the relations of God and the creature, which is involved in the Scriptural use of the word blasphemy. Profane antiquity knew nothing like it; with it “to blaspheme” meant only to speak something evil of a person,t (a use which indeed is not foreign to
* 'Abéovrat. (Cf. Luke vii. 48; 1 John ii. 12.) The old grammarians are not at one in the explanation of this form. Some make it = dovrat, 2 aor, conj., as in Homer dipén for doj. Thus Eustathius; but others more rightly explain it as the praeter, indic, pass., - doeivral, though of these again some find in it an Attic, others, more correctly, a Doric form. Cf. HERod, l.2, c. 165, divéovrat. This perfect passive will then stand in connection with the perfect active doćaka for doeika. (WINER's Grammatik, p. 77.)
* It will be seen above that I have used Rom. v. 5, in a different sense from that in which it is far too often used. The history of the exposition of the verse is curious, and is not altogether foreign to the subject in hand. To Augustine's influence, no doubt, we mainly owe the loss for many centuries of its true interpretation, which Origen, Chrysostom, and Ambrose, men every one of them less penetrated with the spirit of St. Paul than he was, had yet rightly seized; but which, by his influence and frequent use of it in another sense, was so completely lost sight of, that it was not recovered anew till the time of the Reformation. He read in his Latin, Charitas Dei diffusa est in cordibus nostris per Spiritum Sanctum, qui datus est nobis. Had he read, as Ambrose reads it, (De Spir. Sanc., l. 1, c. 8, $88,) and as it should have been, effusa, (&xkéxural is the original word,) it is probable he would have been saved from his mistake: for the comparison which would have been thus suggested with such passages as Acts ii. 17; Isai. xxxii. 15; Ezek. xxxvi, 25; Joel ii. 28, in all which God's large and free communication of himself to men is set forth under the image of a stream from heaven to earth, would have led him to see that this love of God which is poured out in our hearts, and is here declared to be our ground of confidence in him, is his love to us, and not ours to him: that the verse is in fact to find its explanation from ver. 8, and affirms the same thing. The passage is of considerable dogmatic importance. The perverted interpretation became in after times one of the mainstays, indeed by far the chiefest one, of the Romish theory of an infused righteousness being the ground of our confidence towards God: which the true explanation excludes, yet at the same time affirms this great truth, that God's justification of the sinner is not, as the Romanists say we hold it, an act merely declaratory, leaving the sinner as to his real state where it found him, but a transitive act, being not alone negatively a forgiveness of sin, but positively an imparting of the spirit of adoption, with the sense of reconciliation, and all else into which God's love received and believed will unfold itself
ł B2ag.pnueiv as opposed to eionueiv.