Philip schaff, D. D., LL. D., Professor in the union theological seminary, new york. In connection with a number of patristic scholars of europe and america



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Well then let me now state the actual reasons why I affirm that this man is not the same as that. What are they? The one is cured in Jerusalem, the other in Capernaum; the one by the pool of water, the other in some house; there is the evidence from place: the former during the festival: there is the evidence from the special season: the former had been thirty and eight years suffering from infirmity: concerning the other the evangelist relates nothing of that kind: there is the evidence from time: the former was cured on the Sabbath: there is the evidence from the day: for had this man also been cured on the Sabbath Matthew would not have passed by the fact in silence nor would the Jews who were present have held their peace: for they who found fault for some other reason even when a man was not cured on the Sabbath would have been yet more violent in their accusation against Christ if they had got an additional handle from the argument of the special day. Moreover this man was brought to Christ: to the other Christ Himself came, and there was no man to assist him. “Lord,” said he, “I have no man:” whereas this man had many who came to his aid, who also let him down through the roof. And He healed the body of the other man before his soul: for after he had cured the paralysis He then said “Behold thou art made whole, sin no more:” but not so in this case, but after He had healed his soul, for He said to him “Son be of good cheer thy sins be forgiven thee,” He then cured his paralysis. That this man then is not the same as the other has been clearly demonstrated by these proofs, but it now remains for us to turn to the beginning of the narrative and see how Christ cured the one and the other, and why differently in each case: why the one on the Sabbath and the other not on the Sabbath, why He came Himself to the one but waited for the other to be brought to Him, why He healed the body of the one and the soul of the other first. For He does not these things without consideration and purpose seeing that He is wise and prudent. Let us then give our attention and observe Him as He performs the cure. For if in the case of physicians when they use the knife or cautery or operate in any other way upon a maimed and crippled patient, and cut off a limb, many persons crowd round the invalid and the physician who is doing these things, much more ought we to act thus in this case, in proportion as the physician is greater and the malady more severe, being one which cannot be corrected by human art, but only by divine grace. And in the former case we have to see the skin being cut, and matter discharging, and gore set in motion, and to endure much discomfort produced by the spectacle, and great pain and sorrow not merely from the sight of the wounds, but also from the suffering undergone by those who are subjected to this burning or cutting: for no one is so stony-hearted as to stand by those who are suffering these things, and hear them shrieking, without being himself overcome and agitated, and experiencing much depression of spirit; but yet we undergo all this owing to our desire to witness the operation. But in this case nothing of that kind has to be seen, no application of fire, no plunging in of an instrument, no flowing of blood, no pain or shrieking of the patient; and the reason of this is, the wisdom of the healer, which needs none of these external aids, but is absolutely self-sufficient. For it is enough that He merely utters a command and all distress ceases. And the wonder is not only that He effects the cure with so much ease, but also without pain, causing no trouble to those who are being healed.

Seeing then that the marvel is greater and the cure more important, and the pleasure afforded to the spectators unalloyed by any kind of sorrow, let us now carefully contemplate Christ in the act of healing. “And He entered into a boat and crossed over and came into His own city: and behold they brought to him a man sick of the palsy lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick. of the palsy “Son! be of good cheer: thy sins are forgiven.” Now they were inferior to the centurion in respect of their faith, but superior to the impotent man by the pool. For the former neither invited the physician nor brought the sick man to the physician; but approached Him as God and said “Speak the word only and my servant shall be healed.” Now these men did not invite the physician to the house, and so far they are on an equality with the centurion: but they brought the sick man to the physician and so far they are inferior, because they did not say “speak the word only.” Yet they are far better than the man lying by the pool. For he said “Lord I have no man when the water is troubled to put me into the pool:” but these men knew that Christ had no need either of water, or pool, or anything else of that kind: nevertheless Christ not only released the servant of the centurion but the other two men also from their maladies, and did not say: “because thou hast proffered a smaller degree of faith the cure which thou receivest shall be in proportion;” but He dismissed the man who displayed the greater faith with eulogy and honour, saying “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” On the man who exhibited less faith than this one he bestowed no praise yet He did not deprive him of a cure, no! not even him who displayed no faith at all. But just as physicians when curing the same disorder receive from some person a hundred gold pieces, from others half, from others less and from some nothing at all: even so Christ received from the centurion a large and unspeakable degree of faith, but from this man less and from the other not even an ordinary amount, and yet He healed them all. For what reason then did He deem the man who made no deposit of faith worthy of the benefit? Because his failure to exhibit faith was not owing to indolence, or to insensibility of soul, but to ignorance of Christ and having never heard any miracle in which He was concerned either small or great. On this account therefore the man obtained indulgence: which in fact the evangelist obscurely intimates when he says, “for he wist not who it was,” but he only recognized Him by sight when he lighted upon Him the second time.



5. There are indeed some who say that this man was healed merely because they who brought him believed; but this is not the fact. For “when He saw their faith” refers not merely to those who brought the man but also to the man who was brought. Why so? “Is not one man healed,” you say, “because another has believed?” For my part I do not think so unless owing to immaturity of age or excessive infirmity he is in some way incapable of believing. How then was it you say that in the case of the woman of Canaan the mother believed but the daughter was cured? and how was it that the servant of the centurion who believed rose from the bed of sickness and was preserved. Because the sick persons themselves were not able to believe. Hear then what the woman of Canaan says: “My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil and sometimes she falleth into the water and sometimes into the fire:” now how could she believe whose mind was darkened and possessed by a devil, and was never able to control herself, not in her sound senses? As then in the case of the woman of Canaan so also in the case of the centurion; his servant lay ill in the house, not knowing Christ, himself, nor who He was. How then was he to believe in one who was unknown to him, and of whom he had never yet obtained any experience? But in the case before us we cannot say this: for the paralytic believed. Whence is this manifest? From the very manner of his approach to Christ. For do not attend simply to the statement that they let the man down through the roof: but consider how great a matter it is for a sick man to have the fortitude to undergo this. For you are surely aware that invalids are so faint-hearted and difficult to please as often to decline the treatment administered to them on their sick bed, and to prefer bearing the pain which arises from their maladies to undergoing the annoyance caused by the remedies. But this man had the fortitude to go outside the house, and to be carried into the midst of the market place, and to exhibit himself in the presence of a crowd. And it is the habit of sick folk to die under their disorder rather than disclose their personal calamities. This sick man however did not act thus, but when he saw that the place of assembly was filled, the approaches blocked, the haven of refuge obstructed, he submitted to be let down through the roof. So ready in contrivance is desire, so rich in resource is love. “For he also that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” The man did not say to his friends “What is the meaning of this? why make this ado? why push on? Let us wait until the house is cleared and the assembly is dissolved: the crowds will withdraw, we shall then be able to approach him privately and confer about these matters. Why should you expose my misfortunes in the midst of all the spectators, and let me down from the roof-top, and behave in an unseemly manner?” That man said none of these things either to himself or to his bearers, but regarded it as an honour to have so many persons made witnesses of his cure. And not from this circumstance only was it possible to discern his faith but also from the actual words of Christ. For after he had been let down and presented Christ said to him, “Son! be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.” And when he heard these words he was not indignant, he did not complain, he did not say to the physician “What mean you by this? I came to be healed of one thing and you heal another. This is an excuse and a pretence and a screen of incompetence. Do you forgive sins which are invisible?” He neither spoke nor thought any of these things, but waited, allowing the physician to adopt the method of healing which He desired. For this reason also Christ did not go to him, but waited for him to come, that He might exhibit his faith to all. For could He not have made the entrance easy? But He did none of these things; in order that He might exhibit the man’s zeal and fervent faith to all. For as He went to the man who had been suffering thirty and eight years because he had no one to aid him, so did He wait for this man to come to him because he had many friends that He might make his faith manifest by the man being brought to Him, and inform us of the other man’s loneliness by going to him, and disclose the earnestness of the one and the patience of the other to all and especially to those who were present. For some envious and misanthropical Jews were accustomed to grudge the benefits done to their neighbours and to find fault with His miracles, sometimes on account of the special season, saying that He healed on the sabbath day; sometimes on account of the life of those to whom the benefit was done, saying “if this man were a prophet He would have known who the woman was who touched Him:” not knowing that it is the special mark of a physician to associate with the infirm and to be constantly seen by the side of the sick, not to avoid them, or hurry from their presence—which in fact was what He expressly said to those murmurers; “They that are whole have no need of a physician but they that are sick.” Therefore in order to prevent their making the same accusations again He proves first of all that they who come to Him are deserving of a cure on account of the faith which they exhibit. For this reason He exhibited the loneliness of one man, and the fervent faith and zeal of the other: for this reason He healed the one on the Sabbath, the other not on the Sabbath: in order that when you see them accusing and rebuking Christ on another day you may understand that they accused him on the former occasion also not because of their respect for the law, but because they could not contain their own malice. But why did He not first address Himself to the cure of the paralytic, but said, “Son! be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee?” He did this very wisely. For it is a habit with physicians to destroy the originating cause of the malady before they remove the malady itself. Often for example when the eyes are distressed by some evil humour and corrupt discharge, the physician, abandoning any treatment of the disordered vision, turns his attention to the head, where the root and origin of the infirmity is: even so did Christ act: He represses first of all the source of the evil. For the source and root and mother of all evil is the nature of sin. This it is which enervates our bodies: this it is which brings on disease: therefore also on this occasion He said, “Son! be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.” And on the other He said, “Behold! thou art made whole, sin no more lest some worse thing happen unto thee,” intimating to both that these maladies were the offspring of sin. And in the beginning and outset of the word disease as the consequence of sin attacked the body of Cain. For after the murder of his brother, after that act of wickedness, his body was subject to palsy. For trembling is the same thing as palsy. For when the strength which regulates a living creature becomes weakened, being no longer able to support all the limbs, it deprives them of their natural power of direction, and then having become unstrung they tremble and turn giddy.

6. Paul also demonstrated this: for when he was reproaching the Corinthians with a certain sin he said, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you.” Therefore also Christ first removes the cause of the evil, and having said “Son! be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee,” He uplifts the spirit and rouses the downcast soul: for the speech became an efficient cause and having entered into the conscience it laid hold of the soul itself and cast out of it all distress. For nothing creates pleasure and affords confidence so much as freedom from self-reproach. For where remission of sins is there is sonship. Even so at least we are not able to call God Father until we have washed away our sins in the pool of the sacred water. It is when we have come up from thence, having put off that evil load, that we say “Our Father which art in Heaven.” But in the case of the man who was infirm thirty and eight years why did He not act thus, but cured his body first of all? Because by that long period of time his sins had been exhausted: for the magnitude of a trial can lighten the load of sins; as indeed we read was the case with Lazarus, that he received his evil things in full, and thereupon was comforted: and again in another place we read, “Comfort ye my people, say ye to the heart of Jerusalem, that she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for her sins.” And again the prophet says “O Lord give us peace, for thou hast requited all things to us,” indicating that penalties and punishments work forgiveness of sins; and this we might prove from many passages. It seems to me then that the reason why He said nothing to that man about remission of sins, but only secured him against the future, was because the penalty for his sins had been already worked out by the long duration of his sickness: or if this was not the reason, it was because he had not yet attained any high degree of belief concerning Christ that the Lord first addressed Himself to the lesser need, and one which was manifest and obvious, the health of the body; but in the case of the other man He did not act thus, but inasmuch as this man had more faith, and a loftier soul, He spoke to him first of all concerning the more dangerous disease: with the additional object of exhibiting his equality of rank with the Father. For just as in the former case He healed on the Sabbath day because He wished to lead men away from the Jewish mode of observing it, and to take occasion from their reproaches to prove Himself equal with the Father: even so in this instance also, knowing beforehand what they were going to say, He uttered these words that He might use them as a starting-point and a pretext for proving His equality of rank with the Father. For it is one thing when no one brings an accusation or charge to enter spontaneously upon a discourse about these things, and quite another when other persons give occasion for it, to set about the same work in the order and shape of a defence. For the nature of the former demonstration was a stumbling block to the hearers: but the other was less offensive, and more acceptable, and everywhere we see Him doing this, and manifesting His equality not so much by words as by deeds. This at any rate is what the Evangelist implied when he said that the Jews persecuted Jesus not only because He broke the Sabbath but also because He said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God, which is a far greater thing, for He effected this by the demonstration of His deeds. How then do the envious and wicked act, and those who seek to find a handle in every direction? “Why does this man blaspheme?” they say for “no man can forgive sins save God alone.” As they persecuted Him there because He broke the Sabbath, and took occasion from their reproaches to declare His equality with the Father in the form of a defence, saying “my Father worketh hitherto and I work,” so here also starting from the accusations which they make He proves from these His exact likeness to the Father. For what was it they said? “No man can forgive sins save God alone.” Inasmuch then as they themselves laid down this definition, they themselves introduced the rule, they themselves declared the law, He proceeds to entangle them by means of their own words. “You have confessed,” He says, “thatf forgiveness of sins is an attribute of God alone: my equality therefore is unquestionable.” And it is not these men only who declare this but also the prophet thus saying: “who is God as thou?” and then, indicating His special attribute he adds “taking away iniquity and passing over unrighteousness.” If then any one else appears thus doing the same thing He also is God, God even as that one is God. But let us observe how Christ argues with them, how meekly and gently, and with all tenderness. “And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: this man blasphemeth.” They did not utter the word, they did not proclaim it through the tongue, but reasoned in the secret recesses of their heart. How then did Christ act? He made public their secret thoughts before the demonstration which was concerned with the cure of the paralytic’s body, wishing to prove to them the power of His Godhead. For that it is an attribute of God alone, a sign of His deity to shew the secrets of His mind, the Scripture saith “Thou alone knowest men’s hearts.” Seest thou that this word “alone,” is not used with a view of contrasting the Son with the Father. For if the Father alone knows the heart, how does the Son know the secrets of the mind? “For He Himself” it is said, “knew what was in man”; and Paul when proving that the knowledge of secret things is a special attribute of God says, “and He that searchest the heart,” shewing that this expression is equivalent to the appellation “God.” For just as when I say “He who causeth rain said,” I signify none other than God by mentioning the deed, since it is one which belongs to Him alone: and when I say “He who maketh the sun to rise,” without adding the word God, I yet signify Him by mentioning the deed: even so when Paul said “He who searcheth the hearts,” he proved that to search the heart is an attribute of God alone. For if this expression had not been of equal force with the name “God” for pointing out Him who was signified, he would not have used it absolutely and by itself. For if the power were shared by Him in common with some created being, we should not have known who was signified, the community of power causing confusion in the mind of the hearers. Inasmuch then as this appears to be a special attribute of the Father, and yet is manifested of the Son whose equality becomes thence unquestionable, therefore we read “why think ye evil in your hearts? for whether is easier: to say: Thy sins are forgiven thee or to say arise and walk?”

7. See moreover He makes a second proof of His power of forgiving sins. For to forgive sins is a very much greater act than to heal the body, greater in proportion as the soul is greater than the body. For as paralysis is a disease of the body, even so sin is a disease of the soul: but although this is the greater it is not palpable: whereas the other although it be less is manifest. Since then He is about to use the less for a demonstration of the greater proving that He acted thus on account of their weakness, and by way of condescension to their feeble condition He says “whether is easier? to say thy sins are forgiven thee or to say arise and walk?” For what reason then should He address Himself to the lesser act on their account? Because that which is manifest presents the proof in a more distinct form. Therefore He did not enable the man to rise until He had said to them “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy) arise and walk:” as if He had said: forgiveness of sins is indeed a greater sign: but for your sakes I add the less also since this seems to you to be a proof of the other. For as in another case when He praised the centurion for saying “speak the word only and my servant shall be healed: for I also say to this man go and he goeth and to the other come and he cometh,” He confirmed his opinion by the eulogy which He pronounced: and again when He reproved the Jews for finding fault with Him on the Sabbath day saying that He transgressed the law, He proved hat He had authority to alter laws: even so in this instance also when some said “He maketh Himself equal with God by promising that which belongs only to the Father,” He having upbraided and accused them and proved by His deeds that He did not blaspheme supplied us with indisputable evidence that He could do the same things as the Father who begat Him Observe at least the manner in which He pleases to establish the fact that what belongs to the Father only, belongs also to Himself: for He did not simply enable the paralytic to get up, but also said “but that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins:” thus it was his endeavour and earnest desire to prove above all things that He had the same authority as the Father.



8. Let us then carefully hold fast all these things, both those which were spoken yesterday and the day before that, and let us beseech God that they may abide immoveably in our heart, and let us contribute zeal on our side, and constantly meet in this place. For in this way we shall preserve the truths which have been formerly spoken, and we shall add others to our store; and if any of them slip from our memory through the lapse of time we shall easily be able to recover them by the aid of continual teaching. And not only will the doctrines abide sound and uncorrupt but our course of life will have the benefit of much diligent care and we shall be able to pass through this present state of existence with pleasure and cheerfulness. For whatever kind of suffering is oppressing our soul when we come here will easily be got rid of: seeing that now also Christ is present, and he who approaches Him with faith will readily receive healing from Him. Suppose some one is struggling with perpetual poverty, and at a loss for necessary food, and often goes to bed hungry, if he has come in here, and heard Paul saying that he passed his time in hunger and thirst and nakedness, and that he experienced this not on one or two or three days, but constantly (this at least is what he indicates when he says “up to the present hour we both hunger and thirst and are naked),” he will receive ample consolation, learning by means of these words that God has not permitted him to be in poverty because He hated him or abandoned him: for if this were the effect of hatred, He would not have permitted it in the case of Paul who was of all men especially dear to Him: but He permitted it out of His tender love and providential care, and by way of conducting him to a higher degree of spiritual wisdom. Has some other man a body which is beset with disease and countless sufferings? The condition of these paralytics may be an ample source of consolation and besides these the blessed and brave disciple of Paul who was continually suffering from disorders, and never had any respite from prolonged infirmity, even as Paul also said “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities,” where he does not speak merely of infirmities as such. Or another having been subjected to false accusation has acquired a bad reputation with the public, and this is continually vexing and gnawing his soul: he enters this place and hears “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you and say all manner of evil against you falsely: rejoice ye and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in Heaven:” then he will lay aside all despondency and receive every kind of pleasure: for it is written “leap for joy, and be exceeding glad when men cast out your name as evil.” In this manner then God comforts those that are evil spoken of, and them that speak evil He puts in fear after another manner saying “every evil word which men shall speak they shall give an account thereof whether it be good or evil”

Another perhaps has lost a little daughter or a son, or one of his kinsfolk, and he also having come here listens to Paul groaning over this present life and longing to see that which is to come, and oppressed by his sojourn in this world, and he will go away with a sufficient remedy for his grief when he has heard him say “Now concerning them that are asleep I would not have you ignorant brethren that ye sorrow not even as others who have no hope.” He did not say concerning the dying, but “concerning them that are asleep” proving that death is a sleep. As then if we see any one sleeping we are not disturbed or distressed, expecting that he will certainly get up: even so when we see any one dead, let us not be disturbed or dejected for this also is a sleep, a longer one indeed, but still a sleep. By giving it the name of slumber He comforted the mourners and overthrew the accusation of the unbelievers. If you mourn immoderately over him who has departed you will be like that unbeliever who has no hope of a resurrection. He indeed does well to mourn, inasmuch as he cannot exercise any spiritual wisdom concerning things to come: but thou who hast received such strong proofs concerning the future life, why dost thou sink into the same weakness with him? Therefore it is written “now concerning them that are asleep we would not have you ignorant that ye sorrow not even as others who have no hope.”

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