When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the sick of the palsy, Son, your sins be forgiven you.
What I would especially remark in these words, is the benefit which this sick man received from the faith of others. He was healed upon the faith of the men who brought him to Jesus. Several instances of the same kind occur in the history of Christ's miracles. The conduct of the Saviour, in these instances, is agreeable to the general plan of God's moral government. As He has placed mankind in a state of mutual dependence, so it is an essential part of the constitution of His government, that some shall be benefited by the faith and piety, or shall be liable to suffer by the vice and wickedness of others. The bestowment indeed of future and eternal blessings must depend on personal qualifications. Observation shows us that this is no uncommon case. The virtue and happiness of communities greatly depend on the wisdom and integrity of rulers. The advantages which one enjoys by his connection with the virtuous, and the dangers to which another is exposed by his connection with the vicious, are not always owing merely to himself, but often to the immediate providence of God, who allots to each one such trials and such assistances as His wisdom sees fit. From this part of the Divine constitution we may derive some useful instructions.
I. We see the reasonableness of INTERCESSION. If God is pleased to employ some men as visible instruments of general good, we may rationally suppose that He often, in a more secret and invisible manner, connects the happiness of many with the fervent prayers of a few, or even one godly soul. Of the Jews, in a corrupt period, the apostle says, "they were beloved for their fathers' sake." Some will ask, perhaps, how is it reasonable that our future happiness should be made to depend on another's prayers? We have not the command of their hearts, we cannot oblige them to pray for us; why should we be exposed to suffer for their neglect? What if, in His good providence, He brings you in the way of some useful warnings and instructions, and grants you some awakened and convincing influences of His kind spirit, when you have not sought them? And what if He does this in answer to the fervent prayers of others? Will you say that all this is wrong?
II. We see from this subject that the doctrine of Scripture concerning our being involved IN THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE PRIMITIVE APOSTASY IS AGREEABLE TO THE ANALOGY OF PROVIDENCE.
III. THAT OUR SALVATION THROUGH THE ATONEMENT AND RIGHTEOUSNESS OF A REDEEMER APPEARS TO CORRESPOND WITH THE GENERAL CONSTITUTION OF GOD'S MORAL GOVERNMENT. It is an essential part of the Divine plan that the virtue of some should not only benefit themselves, but extend its kind and salutary influence to others. We see this to be the case among men; and probably it is the case among all moral beings except those who are in a state of punishment. The angels, we are told, are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation.
IV. OUR SUBJECT REMOVES THE PRINCIPAL OBJECTION URGED AGAINST THE DEDICATION OF INFANTS TO GOD IN THE ORDINANCE OF BAPTISM. For it shows that some may be benefited by the faith of others. It is often asked, "What advantage is baptism to infants? They have no knowledge of the use and design of it. They have not that faith which is required to baptism. If they are baptized, it cannot be on their own faith, it must be on the faith of their parents; and what benefit can they derive from the faith of another?" But this is no more an objection against the baptism of infants than against intercession for infants
V. OUR SUBJECT TEACHES US THE IMPORTANCE OF THE STATION IN WHICH WE ARE PLACED. We are acting not merely for ourselves, but for others, for many others, how many we cannot tell; for we know not how many are connected with us; nor how extensive may be the influence of our good or bad conduct. A holy and religious life is certainly of vast importance to ourselves; for on this depends the happiness of our existence through all the succeeding ages of eternal duration. But when we consider ourselves as standing in a near connection with our fellow probationers; when we realize how much good a sinner may destroy, or a saint promote; how many souls may be corrupted by the example of the one, and how many may be converted by the influence of the other; the importance of our personal religion rises beyond all conception.
VI. WE SEE THAT BENEVOLENCE MUST BE AN ESSENTIAL PART OF TRUE RELIGION. If God has placed us in such a connection with those around us that their virtue and happiness will be affected by our conduct, we are evidently bound to act with a regard to their interest.
(J. Lathrop, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.