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up his bed, and walked : and on the same day was the sabbath.
Thus he who had no earthly friend, found that one greater than any earthly friend was here. What he had so long and so hopelessly waited for, Christ at once effected for him. Christ felt the pity which his fellow creatures did not feel; and together with the sympathy to pity, he had the power to cure. Immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked ; giving this evident proof of the completeness of his restoration.
I must now show, that the cure he performed on the body of this cripple, is an example of the healing power which the same Lord exercises on the soul.
All mankind are not diseased, halt, and withered in their body, like these persons who were gathered at the side of the pool of Bethesda. In respect of bodily health and strength, there is a great difference among men.
There is no such difference as to the soul. Here all are by nature alike. “Every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. For that all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God: being justified (if justified at all) freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” We lately received it from his own mouth, “ He that believeth not, is condemned already :"3 lies under the condemnation of his own natural and actual sin.
3 John iii. 18–36.
For the remedy of this miserable state, it pleased God to send his Son, that as many as believe in him might be freed from this condemnation. And he comes to the world, as he came to the pool of Bethesda. There he found those lying who were afflicted with diseases, and says to one, Wilt thou be made whole? So he comes into the world, the inhabitants of which are oppressed with sin; oppressed both by its present misery and its future consequences : and he says to all who hear “ the Gospel of the kingdom,” Will ye be made whole ?”
We might suppose that all would be ready to reply, Thanks be to God for his condescending mercy! And in one sense all are ready to answer thus: there is no man who does not desire the pardon of his offences; no man who would not gladly be safe from the wrath of his Maker, the sentence of his Judge. If this were the whole offer, all would embrace it hastily. But they know that it goes further, and implies more : they know that it is an offer of deliverance from sin itself, as well as from the consequences of sin. Wilt thou be made whole of thy plague of a sinful heart? Wilt thou be delivered from those works of the flesh against which God's wrath and indignation are revealed ? “ They that do such things, cannot inherit the kingdom of God:” and therefore before thou canst inherit that kingdom, thou must be delivered from them.
Alas! too many feel no need of such deliverance. These things give them no pain, no distress, no anxiety. And too many others, who cannot but
confess their need, have no real wish or desire for spiritual health. However they might be glad to be freed from danger, they are not willing to be freed from sin. They had rather indulge their sin and risk the consequence: they have not faith enough to cut off the right arm, or pluck out the right eye-to abandon habits which have become part of themselves rather than with all their guilt remaining to encounter the “ tribulation and anguish revealed against every soul of man that doeth
Otherwise, the gospel would afford them the same comfort which was given in this history. Jesus saith unto the impotent man, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And such is his universal offer, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “ Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”+ His name is called Jesus, “ for he shall save his people from their sins.”5
Let us, at least, inquire, whether we have both understood this offer and accepted it. He that believeth in the Son of God, hath the consciousness of it in himself:6 and can tell whether he is looking up to him for that remedy of his soul's disease, which the impotent man received in his crippled limbs at the pool of Bethesda.
* Acts ii. 38. 5 Matt. i. 21. 61 John v. 10.
NARRATIVE OF THE MIRACLE AT BETHESDA
John v. 10–14.
10. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
11. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
It was a just and natural reply on the part of this poor man. Who He was that had made him whole he wist not: but this he felt at once, that whoever had power to effect the cure, must also have authority to permit him to carry home the bed on which he was lying. But the Jews, instead of attending to the miracle, or learning the lesson which it taught, “ sought to slay Jesus, because he did these things on the sabbath day.” We cannot, therefore, think so favourably of them, as to believe that they were led to censure the man from any proper feeling, any honest zeal for God's honour. It were possible that they might have censured him, in a state of mind like that of our Lord himself, when he said, “Make not my Father's house a house of merchandise.” In the same spirit, they might have rebuked the man who made their Fa
1 Verse 16.
ther's day a day of ordinary labour. But their subsequent conduct shows that they were actuated by malevolence, and not by piety.
12. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk ?
13. And he that was healed wist not who it was : for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.
14. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
We need not conclude from this remark, that the man's disease had been a special judgment : Jesus takes the opportunity of declaring to him, that there is a judgment against sin, which must fall upon those who continue in sin; and more especially on those who continue in sin after mercy has been shown them, and the light manifested to them. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." 2
Yet how is this command to be obeyed, Sin no more? Nature is not altered, temptations are not removed, because a disease is cured, or an affliction taken away.
He who issues the command, will also afford the power. Without his power, the cripple could not have risen, and taken up his bed, and walked. But he did this at the command of Jesus ; did,
? Heb. x. 26.