14.After these things Jesus found him. These words show still more clearly that, when Christ concealed himself for a time, it was not in order that the remembrance of the kindness which he had conferred might perish, for he now appears in public of his own accord; only he intended that the work should first be known, and that he should afterwards be declared to be the Author of it. This passage contains a highly useful doctrine; for when Christ says, lo, thou art made whole, his meaning is, that we make an improper use of the gifts of God, if we are not excited to gratitude. Christ does not reproach the man with what he had given him, but only reminds him that he had been cured in order that, remembering the favor which he had received, he might all his life serve God his Deliverer. Thus, as God by stripes instructs and spurs us on to repentance, so he invites us to it by his goodness and forbearance; and, indeed, it is the universal design both of our redemption and of all the gifts of God, to keep us entirely devoted to Him. Now this cannot be done, unless the remembrance of the past punishment remain impressed on the mind, and unless he who has obtained pardon be employed in this meditation throughout his whole life.
This admonition teaches us also, that all the evils which we endure ought to be imputed to our sins; for the afflictions of men are not accidental, but are so many stripes for our chastisement. First, then, we ought to acknowledge the hand of God which strikes us, and not to imagine that our distresses arise from a blind impetuosity of fortune; and next we ascribe this honor to God, that, since He is a Father full of goodness, He does not take pleasure in our sufferings, and therefore does not treat us more harshly than he has been offended by our sins. When he charges him,sin no more, he does not enjoin him to be free from all sin, but speaks comparatively as to his former life; for Christ exhorts him henceforth to repent, and not to do as he had done before.
Lest something worse befall thee. If God does not succeed in doing us good by the stripes with which he gently chastises us, as the kindest father would chastise his tender and delicate children, He is constrained to assume a new character, and a character which, so to speak, is not natural to Him. He therefore seizes the whip to subdue our obstinacy, as He threatens in the Law, (Lev_26:14; Deu_28:15; Psa_32:9;) and indeed throughout the Scriptures passages of the same kind are to be found. Thus, when we are incessantly pressed down by new afflictions, we ought to trace this to our obstinacy; for not only do we resemble restive horses and mules, but we are like wild beasts that cannot be tamed. There is no reason to wonder, therefore, if God make use of severer punishment to bruise us, as it were, by mallets, when moderate punishment is of no avail; for it is proper that they who will not endure to be corrected should be bruised by strokes. In short, the use of punishments is, to render us more cautious for the future. If, after the first and second strokes, we maintain obstinate hardness of heart, he will strike us seven times more severely. If, after having showed signs of repentance for a time, we immediately return to our natural disposition, he chastises more sharply this levity which proves us to be forgetful, and which is full of sloth.
Again, in the person of this man it is of importance for us to observe with what gentleness and condescension the Lord bears with us. Let us suppose that the man was approaching old age, in which case he must have been visited by disease in the very prime of life, and perhaps had been attacked by it from his earliest infancy; and now let us consider how grievous to him must have been this punishment continued through so many years. It is certain that we cannot reproach God with excessive severity in causing this man to languish, and to be half-dead, for so long a period; and, therefore, when we are punished more lightly, let us learn that it is because the Lord, in his infinite goodness, moderates the extreme rigour of the punishments which we would have well deserved. (97) Let us also learn that no punishments are so rigorous and severe, that the Lord cannot make additions to them whenever he pleases. Nor can it be doubted that wretched men by their wicked complaints, often draw down upon themselves dreadful and shocking tortures, when they assert that it is not possible to endure heavier distresses, and that God cannot send them any thing more. (98)Are not these things hidden among my treasures ? saith the Lord, (Deu_32:34.) We ought also to observe how slow we are in deriving benefit from God’ chastisements; for if Christ’ exhortation was not superfluous, we may learn from it that the soul of this man was not yet fully purified from every vice. Indeed, the roots of vices are too deep in us to be capable of being torn out in a single day, or in a few days; and the cure of the diseases of the soul is too difficult to be effected by remedies applied for a short time.
(97) “Que nous aurions bien meritee.”
(98) “Quand ils disent qu’ n’ pas possible d’ plus grand mal, et que Dieu ne leur en scauroit envoyer davantage.”