First Forgiveness, Then Healing
Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 04/02/2003
First Forgiveness, Then Healing
Intended for Reading on Lord's-day, June 16th, 1895,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,
On Thursday Evening, June 2nd, 1887.
"When he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins be forgiven thee."Luke 5:20.
I HAVE READ TO YOU the narrative of the healing of the man taken with the palsy; and many of you
remember that, last Sabbath evening,* I preached upon the Pharisees and the doctors of the law who
were "sitting by." I tried to represent the position of many in our congregations who are just "sitting by." I
preached to the outsiders of the congregation, on the divers reasons which led to this "sitting by." I must
confess that I did not reckon on so large a blessing as I have already seen as the result of that sermon. When I
came here on Monday afternoon, that being Whit-Monday, when everybody is supposed to take a holiday, I was
surprised, on my arrival, at about three o'clock, by a friend running up to me, and saying, "We are glad you have
come, sir, for there is a room full already. There is quite a nice number of friends who have come forward from
the congregation, and who one after another have said, "We cannot be 'sitting by' any longer; we feel that we
cannot remain among the sitters-by, but that we must come in and partake of the gospel feast, and join ourselves
with the disciples of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
This blessed result of my sermon has set the bells of my heart ringing all the week, and I have felt deeply
thankful to God for it. I said to myself that, as I had taken one arrow, which had sped so well, out of that quiver, I
would take another. Having spoken to those who are "sitting by", I think I will now speak to those who are not
sitting by, but who indeed are the principal persons in the congregation, namely, those who are sick and sorry, and
who need the Saviour. For this palsied man, who was let down by ropes through the ceiling, was the most
remarkable person in that congregation. We may readily forget those Pharisees and learned legal gentlemen; but
we can never forget this man to whom, as soon as ever they "let him down through the tiling with his couch into
the midst before Jesus," the Saviour said, "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." I trust that, at this time, there are
some present in this audience who are not sitting by, but who are already praying, "God be merciful to whose
prayers are rising to heaven in accents like these, "Lord, help me!" "Lord, save, or I perish!" You are the principal
persons in the congregation both to the preacher and to the preacher's Master. He cares more about you, and
about what shall take place in you, than about any of the Pharisees or doctors of the law who may be sitting by.
God is glorified in scattering his miracles of mercy where there is the greatest need of them. Our Lord Jesus, when
the poor man was let down by his four friends through the ceiling, said to him at once, "Man, thy sins are forgiven
thee." Matthew puts our Saviour's words thus, "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee;" while Mark's
record is, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." Well, Jesus may have uttered all of these words, and all the different
versions of the story may be correct, for it is not every man's ear that catches the whole of every sentence that is
spoken, and we may be glad that there are three Evangelists who have recorded what the Saviour said. There is no
real difference in the sense, and the difference in the words may only show that Jesus said all three sentences.
I am going, on this occasion, to talk a little about this man, first, before his forgiveness; next, a little more
about his forgiveness itself; and then a little about what followed after his forgiveness.
I. First, then, let us think of this man BEFORE HIS FORGIVENESS.
We are not told much about him. If I indulge in imagination a little, you will take it for what it is worth. This
man, it seems to me, first, had faith which went out towards the Lord Jesus. Evidently, as I read the narrative, he
had been suddenly paralyzed. This affliction usually comes upon a sudden; men who have been about their
business, as active as usual, have been in a moment struck down with paralysis. This man appears to have been
completely paralyzed, so as to have been unable to move; and, as he lay in that helpless state, he heard that Jesus
of Nazareth had come to the city, and he believed that Jesus of Nazareth was able to heal even him. It does not
strike me that his friends would have brought him to Christ unless at his own request; the most rational explanation
of the whole proceeding seems to me to be this, he believed in Jesus as able to heal him, and he continued to cry
out earnestly, and to pray that he might somehow or other be taken into Christ's presence. He could not stir hand
or foot, but he had friends, and he begged those friends to take him to Jesus.
Well now, there never was a soul yet that had faith in Christ but what Christ revealed himself more fully in the
way of love to that soul. If thou knowest that thou canst not save thyself, if thou believest that Christ can save
thee, and if thy one anxiety is to be laid at his feet, that he may look upon thee, and save thee, he will assuredly
accept thee. "Him that cometh to me," saith he, "I will in no wise cast out." Whether he comes running, or
walking, or creeping, or borne of four, so long as he doth come, Christ will accept him; and if his faith be but as a
grain of mustard seed, our Lord Jesus will not let it die. If there be but a smouldering faith, he will not quench the
smoking flax. Believest thou this? If thou dost, let it cheer thee and comfort thee. There is something that is well
with thy soul already. It was better to be paralyzed and to have faith in Christ than to be walking upright like the
Pharisees and lawyers who had no faith in him. The apparent wretchedness of thy condition is not the real
wretchedness of it; it may even turn out to be the blessedness and the hopefulness of it. If thou believest in Jesus,
I care not how far thou hast fallen, nor how great is thy inability; if thou believest in Jesus, thou art brought into
contact with omnipotence, and that omnipotence will heal thee.
This man, I believe, further, thought that Christ could heal him, but he began to feel his great sinfulness. I am
certain that he did, because Jesus never does forgive where there is no repentance. There was never yet the fiat,
"Thy sins be forgiven thee," until first there was a consciousness of sin, and a confession of sin. "If we confess
our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This man, lying
there paralyzed, wept at the thought of his past life, his omissions and his commissions, his falling short and his
transgressions, and his heart was heavy within him. He seemed to say to his friends, "Get me somehow to the
great Prophet; get me within sight of this wonderful Saviour. Oh, get me within touch of him, that I may be
restored, that I may have this great load, which presses me down so sorely, taken off my heart! Worse to me even
than the paralysis is this awful sense of sin. Take me, oh, take me into the presence of this Messiah, this Son of
David, that he may have mercy upon me!" That I conceive to have been his condition before the word of pardon
was spoken to him.
Next, being hopeful himself, he inspired those about him with hope. Of course, they would not have taken
him to Christ if they had not had some sort of belief that possibly he might be healed. It is wonderful what sick
people can do even when they can do nothing; how, when they seem to be utterly powerless, they find a strength
in feebleness. Their very helplessness seems to be a plea where there is anything of generosity left in the heart of
those who are near them. So this man pleaded, "I believe Jesus will heal me, I believe he will have mercy upon
me; get me to him, do get me to him."
They resolved to do it if they could; and he was willing to be carried to Christ. Four stout stalwart men said,
"Yes, we will get you to him somehow, though it is a difficult task, for the house is small, the room is crowded,
and there is sure to be a press about the door." "But," said the poor man, "Oh! try to do it, for it is my only hope.
If I could but get where Jesus could see me, he would look on me, and save me. Oh, get me to him, get me to
him!" The palsied man would make no dispute about how it was to be done, so they carried him to the door of the
house, and then they said to the people crowding around, "Make way for this poor palsied man," and he would
say, "I pray you, friends and neighbours, make way;" but they could not; perhaps they, too, had their friends who
wanted to be healed, or they themselves had an anxiety to hear the great Teacher, so they pushed and pressed to
get as near him as they could. You see, those quibbling Pharisees and doctors of the law had got in first, and they
blocked up the road. They are always in a poor sinner's way. What must be done? The poor man's bearers would
have abandoned the task, I think, but he said, "No, do not give up trying to get me in; it is my only hope. Oh, get
me to him! Get me near him!"
So, next, the man was willing to be lowered into the presence of Christ. There was no other way but to go
up those stairs outside the house, and to take him to the top of the roof; and he, not fearing as many would have
done, said, "Ay, break it up, and let me down." These four men, belonging to a fishing town, were adepts in the
use of ropes, and they soon had their tackle ready, and they broke a way through the roof. As I told you in the
reading, I always feel pleased at the idea of the dust and the debris of the roof coming down upon the heads of the
Pharisees and doctors of the law. It always delights me to think that those gentlemen would have dust on their
heads for once; since they were there, they were bound to have a little of it. 0f course, when these gentlemen
come to a place of worship, one feels bound to be respectful to them; but if they come at an untimely hour, when
there is any rough work going on, one does not feel any particular regret. If, when souls are being saved, these
gentlemen should have their corns trodden upon, we do not even ask their pardon, or make any apology. Such a
work as Christ had to do could not stand still for the sake of reverence to the learned doctors of the law; so the
roof was broken up, and this man, though paralyzed, was not afraid to be let down. It is probable that there were
no outcries from him when they began to let him down; I think, if it had been my case, I might have been afraid
that one rope would go a little faster than the other. But no, the man keeps still in his paralysis and courage
mingled, till down drops the pallet just before the Saviour.
There he lies upon his mattress, on the floor of the house, just before the Saviour's eyes, exactly where he
wanted to be. Here I address myself to some who would give all that they have if they could but be brought under
the eye of Jesus. The one thought of such a sufferer is, "Oh, that I could be near him! Oh, that I could be near
him! Oh, that he would look on me, and cure my helplessness, and pardon my sin!" What a wonderful picture this
scene would make! The crowd are obliged to make way, or else they will have to bear the man and his bed on
their heads; so he is dropped down into their midst, and there he lies. The great Preacher has been preaching, and
he stops. There is an interruption which is indeed no interruption to him. His discourse is but broken off for a
minute, to be illustrated with engravings, that men may see, in after years, that what they have heard is but the
letter-press, and that the miracle which is now to be wrought shall be the engraving which shall convey the
Teacher's wonderful meaning to all eyes. So the poor palsied man lies there before the Saviour.
Is that where you desire to lie, dear friend? In your deadly sorrow, and sin, and weakness, do you wish to lie
at the Saviour's feet? That is where I want you to lie; and if you will to lie there, that is where you do lie. The
Lord Jesus is in the midst of us to-night, and you can at once cast yourself down before him. Do so, tell him about
your paralysis, tell him how sick you are, how sinful you are. Nay, you need not speak so that I can hear you; his
ears will hear the whisper of your soul. Your heart-beats will be vocal to his heart, and he will note all you say or
feel in your inmost soul. Just lie before Jesus; and as you lie there, what are you to do? This man did not speak a
word; but, as I believe, he lay there repenting that ever he should have lived as he had done, mourning that he
should have wasted his life and misspent his time. I think, too, that he lay there believing, looking at that wondrous
Man, and believing that all power was in him, and that he had only to speak the word, and the sinner should be at
once forgiven. So he lay there, in the presence of Jesus, hoping and expecting forgiveness and healing.
II. Now, in the second place, we are to consider THE FORGIVENESS ITSELF.
This poor paralyzed man had not lain there long before the blessed Master broke the silence, and said to him,
"Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." I think that the four men up on the roof, looking down to see what would
happen to their friend, would hardly understand what that sentence meant. They had brought him to Jesus because
he was paralyzed, but he had wanted to come first of all because he was a sinner. He did desire to have his
paralysis cured; but secretly in his soul there was another matter which they might not have understood if he had
tried to interpret it to.them; it was his sin that was his heaviest burden; and the Saviour, the great Thought-reader
knew all about that sin, so he did not first say to him, "Rise up and walk," but he began by saying, "Man, thy sins
are forgiven thee."
Observe, that the pardon of sin came in a single sentence. He spake, and it was done. Jesus said "Man, thy
sins are forgiven thee," and they were forgiven him. Christ's voice had such almighty power about it that it needed
not to utter many words. There was no long lesson for the poor man to repeat, there was no intricate problem for
him to work out in his mind. The Master said all that was required in that one sentence, "Thy sins are forgiven
thee." The burden of a sinner does not need two ticks of the clock for it to be removed; swifter than the lightning's
hash is that verdict of absolution which comes from the eternal lips, when the sinner lies hoping, believing,
repenting at the feet of Jesus. It was a single sentence which declared that the man was forgiven.
Next, remember that it was a sentence from One who was authorized to absolve. He was sent by the Father
on purpose to forgive sin; and do not imagine that he has now lost his authorization to forgive; for "him hath God
exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins."
Jesus is appointed as High Priest on purpose that he may stand on God's behalf, and declare the remission of sin.
What Jesus said was spoken with divine authority. It is vain for a priest to say to a sinner, "I absolve thee." What
can he do in such a case? He, or any other man who does not call himself a Priest, may speak in his Master's
name, and say to the penitent, "If thou dost sincerely repent, if thou truly believest, I know thou art.absolved, and
I comfort thee with the assurance of this absolution." So far, so good; but the Master alone can really give the
absolution, it must come from him who has power upon earth to forgive sins.
Now, my hearer, hast thou never been forgiven? Art thou in thy pew, and yet lying at that dear Master's feet,
and dost thou desire above all things that he should say to thee, "Thy sins are forgiven thee"? And dost thou
believe that he can say it, and wilt thou accept it from him as being by divine authority? If so, I think he says it to
thee, for in his own Word he declares that they who believe in him are forgiven. He says to each one of those who
are penitent, and believe in his grace, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." Take thou the absolution, and go thy way. Do
as Martin Luther did, in the days of his dark distress, when a brother-monk said to him, "Dost thou not believe in
the Creed, and dost thou not say, 'I believe in the forgiveness of sins'? Now believe in the forgiveness of sins for
thyself." Trust Christ's Word, and thou wilt be believing what is absolutely true. Trust it, take the comfort of it,
and go thy way. It is thus that Jesus Christ, by the preaching of the gospel, and by the revealed Word of God, says
authoritatively to each penitent, "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee."
Further observe, that this sentence, although it was but one, and was so short, yet was wonderfully
comprehensive: "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." Not one sin alone, nor many sins, but all thy sins are forgiven
thee. When you go into particulars, you are apt to leave something out; hence, the declaration is made
all-inclusive, there are no particulars given. "Thy sins are forgiven thee." Sins against the holy God? Sins against a
righteous law? Sins against the gospel? Sins against the light of nature? Sins of this and sins of that kind? No, there
is no enumeration. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee."
Murder, adultery, theft, fornication, blasphemy? Yes, in a word, "all manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be
forgiven unto men." "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." At one sudden sweep of the divine wave of mercy they are
all washed away. There is no such thing as a half-pardon of sin. I heard someone talking, the other day, about
original sin being forgiven, and the other sins left; but sin is a whole, it goes or it stays altogether, it cannot be
broken up into pieces, it is all there or it is not there at all, and it is not there if thou believest in Jesus. This blessed
and comprehensive sentence sets free from every jot and taint and stain of guilt: "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee."
Observe, also, that this sentence contains no conditions: and the blessed gospel, speaking to every repenting
and believing sinner, gives him absolute forgiveness. Behold, the tally is destroyed, the record of thy debt is nailed
to the cross and as for thy sins, they are like the Egyptians when the Red Sea swallowed them up, the depths have
covered them, there is not one of them left, however great or many they may have been. If thou art now a
believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, he says to thee now by his Word, "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." I pray the
blessed Master by his Holy Spirit to make his Word come home to many here with power. Oh, that those dear
lips, which are as lilies dropping sweet-smelling myrrh, did themselves speak to you! Oh, that those wounds of his,
which are mouths that preach pardon to sinners, might speak to you, and say, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." There
is no mouth that speaketh pardon like that gash in his side, out of which his very heart speaks, as he says, "I have
loved thee, and given myself to death for thee. Thy sins I have borne on the tree, and put them away once for all.
Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." Oh, that Jesus himself might thus speak effectually to many of you!
But note, that this sentence sufficed the receiver. When the Saviour afterwards raised this palsied man to
health and strength, he did not do it to let the man himself know that his sins were forgiven. The man knew that
already, and did not need any more evidence of it; but Jesus did it for another reason. To the scribes and
Pharisees he said, "That ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto
the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house." Those unbelieving
men had not evidence enough that Christ could forgive, but he to whom Christ spake wanted no further proof than
the power of that voice in his own conscience; and if he shall speak to thee, my hearer, thou wilt not want any
books about the evidences of Scripture, the proofs of inspiration, and so on; to thee, this indisputable miracle of
pardoned sin shall stand for ever as a holy memorial of God's mighty grace. It shall be unto you for a sign, for an
everlasting sign that shall not be cut off, that God has pardoned you, and spoken peace to your soul; and this God
shall be your God for ever and ever. To every soul that is in a similar case to that of the poor palsied man lying
repenting and believing at the feet of Jesus, his Word gives the comfortable assurance, "Believe, and thy sins,
which are many, are all forgiven thee." Believe it, and go thy way in peace.
III. Now I close by noticing, thirdly, what followed AFTER THIS MAN'S FORGIVENESS.
He was absolutely, irreversibly, eternally forgiven; for "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
He never plays fast and loose with men; he never issues a pardon from his throne, and afterwards executes the
pardoned sinner. His pardon covers all that may come afterwards as well as all that has gone before. But what
happened to this man?
I believe that, first, there was an inward peace that stole over his soul. If you could have looked into the face
of that palsied man, whilst still palsied, and lying there in that hammock, you would have seen a wonderful
transformation. Did you ever see a face transfigured? If you are a soul-winner, you have often seen it. All human
faces are not beautiful, some are absolutely repulsive; the countenances of some who have lived long in sin are
dreadful to look upon. Yet I have noticed faces, that at first I could scarcely endure, when the persons have been
gently led to the Saviour, and they have perceived the love of God to them, and have at last believed, and felt
within their soul the kiss of peace, why, they have looked positively beautiful! I should have liked to have had
them photographed, only it was too sacred a thing. Speak of physiognomies; the grace of God is such an eternal
beautifier that the face, from which you would have turned away in disgust, and said, "There can be no good thing
behind that countenance," is absolutely changed by the Lord's mighty working. I say not that a single feature may
be altered; the person may be the sa
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