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holiest and wisest Lord, to whom they are all naked and open?
Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts ?? There was no reason in the thing, but the reason was, their hearts were evil, and their emissions like themselves. An evil heart is an incessant forge of evil thoughts. It is a corrupt spring still issuing forth, and till it be renewed, it cannot find any other. From the heart come evil thoughts: that is in the front of all the black train that comes forth of the heart, às our Saviour teaches, Matt. xv. 19. These are the seeds of all the wickedness that fills the world. Chief regard, therefore, is to be had to the heart. An excellent advice that of Solomon, Keep thy heart with all diligence. To amend some evil customs, without the renewing of the heart, is but to lop the branches that will grow again, or others in their stead; but a holy heart meditates on holy things, is still in heaven, is all reverence towards God, and meekness and charity to men. • Ver. 5. Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise, and walk ?] Though the remission of sins Aows originally from the same power, and so is equal, and in its own place hath the preference, being by far the greater mercy, yet, the other of bodily cure runs into the senses, and so both is more evident to the beholders, and affects them more. The other word might be spoken with less control, the efficacy or inefficacy of it not falling under the cognition of them that heard it; but this of healing the palsy, would either be attested or denied in the effect. - Ver. 6. But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.] Now he asserts a peculiar power of forgiving sin. Though a man walking on the earth as the rest, yet, in testimony of the Divine power, He saith to the sick of the palsy,—this apostrophe maketh the proof more lively, joining presently the real experiment of that miraculous cure --Arise, take up thy bed. That word which gave being to the world, what is hard to it? And in the case of spiritual deadness, soul-palsy, no more is necessary than a word from
His mouth, and it shall be lively and strong; it shall skip and leap. Is. xxxv. 6. Lord, speak that word! And indeed, wheresoever he pardons sin, He withal makes the soul able and nimble, to run in the way of His commandments; to carry its head, that before carried it; to command and wield at pleasure those low things whereon it rested.
Ver. 8. But when the multitude saw it they marvelled.) They feared, says St. Luke. A gracious work it was, yet, so full of wonder, that it struck them with a kind of fear. And they glorified God. Thus shall he break out, and shine bright in His works, when most opposed by evil men. Yet, they knew him not well, but took him for an extraordinary man only. But thus he was pleased to be known by degrees, and to rise as the morning light. It is a common presumption, and generally that of the least knowing, to think that they have the true and full sense of the articles of religion; and that presumption is commonly accompanied with this precipitancy, that we would constrain all to know and believe, at once, without delay, whatsoever we think and believe. Who had given such power unto men. But had they known this honour given unto men, that this man was God, they would have wondered much more. And if he was so astonishingly wonderful in healing a sick man, how wonderful shall he be in raising the dead! And if in his lowness, his power was admired, how much more shall all admire that power which shall then be given him, when the man, Christ, shall come in the brightness of his glory, to judge the world!
Ver. 9. And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom.] He staid no long time upon earth, but he lost no part of that time. Every step to us is a wonder of goodness. And here is a cure which the Evangelist ingenuously relates as done upon himself, which was no less, if not more wonderful, than that
performed upon the paralytic; and done as easily and quickly by the same means, a word spoken.
He saw a man named Matthew. He loves first, and spies
first, when we think on nothing less than him; as he says to Nathanael : Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee. And this seeing of Matthew was no casual, but a designed sight, proceeding from a former sight, like unto that of Nathanael ; and is the sight of His fore-knowing and fore-choosing love. So even this very sight of his calling and converting power, did prevent Matthew, while he thought of no such thing, and would have let Jesus pass, ing so intent upon his busy employment, as either not to have seen him at all, or to have taken no notice of him.
Sitting at the receipt of custom. This is the common case, the posture of called sinners. While they are thinking of no such thing, but altogether drowned in other desires and cares, (even at the church, their hearts are often more in their shops, or fields, or any earthly business they are engaged in,) their very hearts being a little custom-house, such a crowd and noise of cares and vanities, as there is usually of people in a custom-house, He who hath their names in His book of life, at His appointed time glances at them, by a powerful look cast on them, and, by a word spoken to them, draws them to Himself ; and that without minding any previous worth or congruous disposition in them, more than in others; yea, finding them in a more indisposed temper and posture, possibly, than many others who are not called, as the Evangelist here freely and humbly declares of himself, speaking out his calling, and his busy diligence in it, in the very instant that he is called from it. Observe, likewise, his expressing of his common name, Matthew; whereas the other Evangelist, in the recital of this story, gives him that other name which was the more honourable, Levi. Sitting at the receipt of custom, a profession of great gain, but little credit among the Jews; and though, possibly, not utterly unlawful in the nature of it, yet, so generally corrupt in the exercise and management of it; like some other callings, which, though a man cannot absolutely determine them to be unlawful, are yet seldom or never lawfully and spotlessly discharged. Therefore, the Jews shunned the very
society of publicans (tax-gatherers) as a wicked, execrable kind of men, and did in a manner necessitate them to converse with the worst sort of persons, as being expelled and generally avoided by all others; so that you find them here, ver. 10, and usually in the Gospel, linked together, publicans and sira ners, that is, noted, nefarious sinners, such as harlots, and other scandalously vicious persons. Yet from this stained and illreputed calling, is Matthew called by the holy Lord, to follow him. As he called poor fishermen, and made them fishers of men, to catch men, to save them by their net spread, the word of life preached, so, he calls a rich publican to be a gatherer-in of his tribute and treasure in the world, the souls of chosen sinners, by the publication of the Gospel.
No rank of men is so low, as to be below the condescension of His choice and grace ; and none are so remote, in the res puted or real iniquity of their station or person, as to be without the extent and reach of His saving hand. And He is pleased to give instances of this in choosing whom He will, and making them what He will, that no flesh may glory before Him, but that all flesh may glorify Him, whom no unworthiness or unfitness can prejudice, either in the freedom of His grace in choosing them, or in the power of His grace in ehanging the mind and fitting them for what He calls them to. He hath no need, nor takes notice of our rules, nor judges aceording to our thoughts. Not only have we here a publican, but afterwards a persecutor, made a most eminent preacher and apostle of Jesus Christ. And His choice and calling wipes out the stain of all preceding sin, though the persons themselves do readily acknowledge it on all occasions, as St. Paul often does, and St. Matthew does here. And indeed it is sincerity and humility for them who are converted, at a great distance of time so to do. But for others to objeet to them after their 'conversion, either the meanness or the sinfulness of their former lives, were great uncharity and folly: it were to reckon up to men that which God hath blotted out, who alone is interested in the account.
Herein God is wonderful, who seizeth on some persons in the midst of youthful dissipations, or violent pursuits of the world, and purifies them for Himself; makes them not only vessels of honour, but of the first rank, to bear His name to others ; makes them eminently holy, gives them great abilities, and, which is the top of all abilities, ardent love, and mighty affection for His service. His spirit, that holy fire, refines gross earth into the pureness of transparent glass, to be the inlet of light to His people,
Now, why is this one taken from the custom-house, and so many others left, both there and elsewhere, round about him? This is arcanum imperii, a state secret : no reason is to be expected but His good pleasure. Why is such a poor creature in a cottage chosen, and great palaces passed by ? Why are simple and unlettered persons taught the mysteries of Heaven, and great wits left to evaporate themselves upon vain loves, and other like follies ? Why in the same house is one chosen and called, and it may be a servant, and the rest passed by ? Nothing can be given in answer but this ; Even so, Father, because it pleaseth Thee.
And he saith unto him, Follow me. I am not of the mind of a grave interpreter who thinks there were other words added to persuade him, though not related. I am somewhat confident that there was no more said at all, this being our Saviour's usual word of calling others in the same way, and so powerful a word, and of such mighty influence, that there was no resisting it. He arose, and followed him. No chains so strong to hold an earthly mind, as those of gold and silver. He was here in the midst of them, and very heavy ones they were, no doubt ; yet, the word makes the soul break loose with a marvellous foree from all. Some apprehend, (as well they may,) there was an attractive power in the amiable Jesus who here called him but surely the word had of His Divine power in it, and reached the heart, and could not be resisted, and drew more strongly than all the receipts, and gains, and involved business of his profession, which could not hold him back. So Elijah but