The Sick Of The Palsy Healed
And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; your sins be forgiven you, etc.
Q. YOU have already told me, in the explanation of a former miracle, what is to be understood both naturally and spiritually by the sick of the palsy, and that it implies some obstruction to the circulation of the blood in the body, and of truth in the mind, in consequence of which both the corporeal and mental organs are rendered incapable of performing their proper functions. Can you now tell me why the sick of the palsy, as here recorded, is described as lying on a bed?
A. The reason is, because a bed, according to its spiritual signification, figures and represents the natural principle of the life of man, since what a literal bed is to the body of a man, that the natural principle is to the spirit of a man. For man, it is well known, or may be known, consists of two distinct principles, the one natural, the other spiritual; in other words, the one formed to be affected by, and to take cognizance of the things of this world, and the other formed to be affected by, and to take cognizance of the things of another world, namely. god, His law, His kingdom, His providence, His perfections, and the relationship subsisting between Him and His creatures. Agreeable then to this idea, the natural principle, as being the lowest, may be regarded as the bed of the spiritual principle, which is above it, because the spiritual principle rests upon, and finds its repose in the natural, in like manner as the body of man rests upon, and finds its repose in a literal bed. That bed has such a spiritual signification, may be plain from these passages in the holy word, where it is mentioned. Thus it is written in the Book of Psalms; Commune with your own heart on your bed, (Psalm 4:4). And again, He deviseth mischief upon his bed, (Psalm 36:4). And again, You will make all his bed in his sickness, (Psalm 41:3). And again, When I remember you upon my bed, (Psalm 63:6). And again, in Isaiah, The bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it) (Isa. 28:20). in all which passages, by bed is not meant a bed literally, but the natural mind or principle, on which the spiritual mind or principle rests, and in which it thinks. The awful sentence therefore against Jezebel was denounced in these words, Behold, I will cast her into a bed, (Rev. 2:22), to denote that she would be left to the natural mind or principle, and to its false persuasions. It deserves however to be noted, that the spiritual bed here spoken of varies according to the state of the natural principle, being a soft and easy bed if the natural principle be brought into right subordination to the spiritual, but a hard and uneasy bed, if such subordination be wanting. By the sick of the palsy, therefore, lying on a bed, is to be understood the connection of the spiritual principle with the natural, and that in this connection there was some obstruction, which prevented the due circulation of spiritual principles and persuasions in the natural life and its principles and persuasions.
Q. But it is said, that Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; your sins be forgiven you — what is it you understand by these words of the blessed Jesus, Son, be of good cheer; your sins be forgiven you?
A. Jesus, in calling the sick of the palsy, his son, announces his divine parental affection to all His distempered and suffering children, and this is language at once the most tender, most consolatory, and most encouraging. When He says again to this son, Be of good cheer, He meant to announce, further, the presence and comfort of His own mercy and love, since it is impossible that man can be of good cheer, or, as it is expressed in the original, have confidence, by any other means than the communication and reception of the divine favour and loving-kindness. And again, when He pronounces, your sins be forgiven you, He meant to declare the saving blessed effect of such favour and loving-kindness, in removing and separating all the principles of sin and disorder, thus in purifying the affections and thoughts from all defilement of iniquity, and finally restoring the whole man, with all his principles both natural and spiritual, to the order, the image, the peace and blessing of god and heaven.
Q. But it is added, that certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemes, And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think you evil in your hearts? — what instruction do you learn from these words?
A. I learn that sinful men, especially if their sin be strengthened and supported by human learning, and what are commonly called great talents, are ever ready to misinterpret the words of the most high, and to call His wisdom foolishness, and the declarations of his mercy blasphemy. I learn further an additional proof of the divinity of my saviour, manifested so evidently in His discernment of the thoughts of those with whom He was conversing; for who but the only god can possess such discernment? Thirdly, from the significant question, Wherefore think you evil in your hearts? I am taught to reflect, not only that all evil thoughts proceed from a corrupt heart, but also that they are in themselves most unreasonable and groundless, being nothing more or less than oppositions to the divine love and wisdom of the Most high god.
Q. But the blessed Jesus adds, as a proof of the unreasonableness of such evil thoughts, Whether is easier to say, Your sins be forgiven you; or to say, Arise, and walk? — what do you conceive to be the force and drift of this significant question?
A. My saviour would instruct me by this significant question, that to forgive sins and to cure bodily disease, are acts which equally require the exercise of Divine Omnipotence, and that consequently the supernatural cure of a bodily disease implies the power to cure a mental disease. He would instruct me therefore to regard all His healing operations, exercised on the bodies of men, as proofs most positive of His divine power to exercise similar operations on the souls or spirits of men. And the reason is plain, because sin, properly considered, is nothing but a distemper of the soul; and to forgive sin therefore, or, as it is expressed in the original, to remit it, means nothing more or less than to remove that distemper. The blessed Jesus therefore, by every act of healing exercised on the bodies of men, gave a full demonstration of His divine power to heal their souls or spirits; in other words, to forgive sins: to which purpose He declares afterwards, But that you may know that the son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, (then says He to the sick of the palsy ) Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.
Q. And what do you conceive to be involved in the words, Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house?
A. The injunction to arise, involves in it spiritually an elevation of the affections and thoughts, or of the will and understanding, from earthly things to heavenly; in other words, from self-love and the love of the world to the love of god and neighbourly love. The injunction again, to take up the bed, involves in it a similar elevation of the natural mind, with all its purposes, words and works, agreeable to what was said above concerning the spiritual signification of the term bed. And lastly, the injunction, go to your house, spiritually considered, involves in it a divine exhortation to the sick of the palsy, and thus to every distempered child of man, to retire into the interiors of his own mind, where the most high has His consecrated abode, and there to dwell continually in the enjoyment of the divine presence, favour and benediction of the god who heals all his infirmities.
Q. In the conclusion it is said, that he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitude saw it, they marvelled, and glorified god, which had given such power to men——what do you learn from these words?
A. By the sick of the palsy arising, and departing to his house, I am taught to discern the effect of the divine word of the most high, produced in the ultimates of nature. For such is the quality of the divine intention and thought, which is the same thing with the divine word or speech, that it ever proceeds to its effect, which effect terminates in the ultimates of the natural world, and from thence returns, by re-action, to its divine source. And from the multitude marvelling at the sight of the effect, and glorifying god which had given such power to men, I am further instructed in the true disposition and genuine character of the followers of the blessed Jesus, that is to say, of the real living members of His church and kingdom, namely. that they adore with wonder the effects of His omnipotence, in removing the disorders both of body and mind, and thus of restoring man to his original purity, order, and life; and further, that they refer these effects to the union of the divine and human nature in the person of the incarnate god, and thus worship Jesus Christ in His divine humanity as One with the eternal father, consequently as the supreme and only god, who has all power both in heaven and earth.
Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from this miracle?
A. I learn again to adore the power of that merciful god and saviour, which I find exercised in healing the bodily infirmities of mankind. But I learn still more to adore that same divine power as applied to the removal of spiritual infirmity and distemper, and as expressing itself in the divine consolatory words, Son, be of good cheer your sins be forgiven you. From the account too of the above miracle, I receive an additional confirmation of my faith in the divinity of my lord and saviour, of whom I find it written, that He knew the thoughts of those with whom He conversed, for such knowledge is a peculiar characteristic of divinity, and consequently a demonstration that the person possessing it could be no other than the supreme god. Again I learn, that the power of healing bodily disease involves in it, of necessary consequence, the power of healing spiritual disease, and that therefore the blessed Jesus, in controlling the disorders of matter, exhibited a proof most positive that the kingdom of mind also was subject to His authority, and that of course he was able likewise to control all its disorders, and to restore it to its proper health, vigour, and enjoyment. Lastly, I learn what is the true temper and spirit of the followers of this incarnate god, or of the members of His church and kingdom, and that their minds are continually filled with wonder and adoration at observing the effects of His mercy and omnipotence as exhibited both in matter and in mind, and further, that they are led by those effects to the acknowledgment of the incarnate god, and to the devout worship of Him in His divine humanity, thus in His one-ness with the eternal father. I am resolved therefore from now on to take this god for my god, and to believe in and follow Him, as the restorer of the breach in all the principles both of my body and of my mind. So may I humbly hope, in all my sorrows and infirmities, to hear from His divine mouth the consolatory words, Son, be of good cheer, your sins be forgiven you; and penetrated with a lively and grateful sense of the mercy and power of these divine words, I may finally experience their blessed efficacy, in enabling me to arise, and take up my bed, and go to my house. amen.