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Our Blessed Saviour had not been long at Capernaum before his great fame was spread throughout the adjacent country, and multitudes of people flocked daily to see him and hear his doctrine. As he was one day walking by the side of a lake, surrounded by a croud of people, he saw two fishing vessels, one belonging to Peter and the other James and John (who were all partners and companions in that business) and, stepping into Peter's ship, he desired him to put a little from the shore, that from thence he might preach to the multitude.
As soon as our Blessed Saviour had concluded his discourse, he turned himself to Peter, desiring him to launch his vessel farther from the shore, and let down his net. Peter modestly told him that he and his companions had been toiling all the night without meeting with any success; but nevertheless, in obedience to him, he would make one trial more. This he accordingly did, and such was the success attending it that they were obliged to call to their partners in the other ship to come to their assistance in drawing up the nets, which being done they contained such a multitude of fishes as to load both vessels, and that so deep that they were in some danger of sinking before they could reach the shore.
This wonderful success so astonished Peter, that, falling down at the feet of the Blessed Jesus, he cried out, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. He was conscious of the many sins he had committed, and therefore afraid of being in the company of so Divine a person, lest some infirmity or offence might have subjected him to more than ordinary chastisement. But our Blessed Saviour soon removed his fears, by bidding him be of good comfort; telling him at the same time, that he had a much better work and employment for him, if he would attach himself to him, namely, the gaining of men's souls to salvation. Our Lord then gave the like invitation to James and John, both of whom obeyed his call, and, leaving their vessels, nets, relations and employment, became, and continued ever after, his constant and inseparable disciples.
After the performance of this miracle our Blessed Saviour returned with his new disciples into the city, and
much comfort; tel:oved his fpement. Butubjected him
on the next sabbath-day went into the chief synagogue to preach to the people. This he did with such gracefulness, and in a manner so widely different from their usual teachers the Scribes, that all were astonished at him. To increase their astonishment, one of the congregration, whose body was possessed with an unclean spirit, hideously cried out, Let us alone, what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy one of God. But
fessors, commanded the evil spirit to be silent, and depart out of the poor man's body, which, to the great surprize and amazement of the whole congregation, was imme
diately effect od Saviour, alter cocue, retirea
nick of a
Our Blessed Saviour, after having performed this ag. tonishing miracle in the synagogue, retired to Peter's bouse, where his wife's mother at that time lay sick of a fever; but on his taking her by the hand she was immediately restored to her former health, and arose from the bed, and ministered unto him.
The fame of this miracle, together with that performed in the synagogue, was soon spread throughout the city of Capernaum; and as soon as the sabbath was over, which ended at the setting of the sun, the people of the city gathered together, in prodigious multitudes, about Peter's house. Among them were great numbers afflicted with various diseases, the sight of whom excited the pity of the heavenly physician, who, in the presence of the wbole as. sembly, immediately healed them of their respective complaints, either by a touch of his finger, or a gentle pressure of his hand.
The prodigious concourse of people which continued to surround Peter's house, greatly disturbed our Lord, so that to avoid their noise and importunities, as well as to have the opportunity of praying to his heavenly Father, he, early the next morning, left Capernaum, and retired to a private place in the adjoining wilderness. But even in this solitude he was soon found out; and therefore, to disengage himself from such a crowd of attendants, as well as to discharge his mission by the circulation of his doctrine, he, accompanied by his disciples, privately left:
ented harde nealed him
the place, and made a progress into Galilee, preaching in all the public synagogues in his way, and curing all such as applied to him of their respective diseases.
In one of the cities of Galilee through which our Blessed Saviour passed, he was met by a man afflicted with a leprosy, who immediately fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. It was the custom in Judea for the priests to banish from society those persons who were afflicted with a contagious species of leprosy. The disease, therefore, of this person was of a less pestilent kind, as he was suffered to enjoy the conversation of men. His case, how. ever, excited the pity of the compassionate Jesus, who, with one touch, immediately healed him, but at the same time gave him a strict charge not to discover it to any one till he had presented himself before the priest in the temple at Jerusalem, and had offered a sacrifice in testimony of the great benefit he had received. But the poor man, from the great abundance of bis joy, could not refrain from publishing, in every place through which he passed, the wonderful miracle which had been performed upon him. This increased our Saviour's fame to such a degree, that he thought it most advisable not to return openly into the city of Capernaum, lest the multitude of his followers should give some umbrage to the state; and therefore, having finished his progress through Galilee (which lasted near three months) he retired into a desert place, in order to refresh his body with rest, and his spirit with prayer and meditation. .
After our Blessed Lord had been some time in this state of retirement, he left it, and went privately into Capernaum. It was not, however, long, before he was discovered, the consequence of which was, that such throngs of people gathered together from all parts, that the house where he was, and all the court-yard about it, were not sufficient to contain them. Within the house were many Pharisees and Doctors of the law from Jerusalem and Judea, as well as Galilee, who, led thither by curiosity, sat day after day hearing his discourses, and observing the miracles he performed, which were of so wonderful a nature as, it might have been reasonably
paon him. This incught it most ad test the multit
imagined, would have effectually removed every doubt and scruple they could have possibly entertained relative to the truth of his mission.
Among other instances our Blessed Saviour gave at this time of his Divine power, was that of restoring a man to perfect health who had long been afflicted with the
most melancholy condition. This miserable object was carried in his bed by four persons, who being unable to enter at the front, conveyed him to the top of the house,* and by means of ropes let him down through the trap. door into the midst of the company before Jesus, who, seeing the faith of the friends of the diseased, had imme. diate compassion on him, saying aloud, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee. The baughty Scribes and Pharisees, taking offence at this expression, called out, this man speaketh blasphemy, for he appropriates that to himself, which is solely the property of God. They were ignorant that the person who uttered such healing words was the Son of God, and consequently had the power of forgiving the sins of the human race. But our Lord who had recourse to the most secret recesses of the heart, and was willing to shew them that he was really endued with the Spirit of God, said to them,
most part (as they are even at this day) low built, flat roofed, and surrounded with a battlement about breast-high, according to the direction given by Moses, Deut. xxii. 8. so that to go up to the tops of their houses, the Jews had two ways; one, by a pair of stairs within the house, leading up to the trap.door, which Jay even with the roof; and the other on the outside of the house, by a ladder, or rather pair of stairs, either fixed or movable, by which they could ascend to the roof when they pleased, without going into the house itself. Since, then, this was the fashion of Jewish houses, the bearers of the sick man, finding they could not get at the door by reason of the crowd, went round a private way, and coming to the stairs which stood on the outside of the house, ascended them, and gained the top; but finding the trap-door (or, as the Jews call it, way of the roof) shut against them, they immediately went to work, and forcing it open (which St. Mark calls uncovering or breaking up the roof) they conveyed the sick man lying on his bed into the room where our Blessed Saviour was then expounding the doctrine of the Gospel to the people.
Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed and walk? This was a question that could only be resolved of the latter, it being doubtless easier to forgive sin than remit that which is inflicted as its punishment. But these incorrigible mortals held their peace; and the Blessed Jesus only added, that the miracles lie was going to perform would sufficiently demonstrate, that he had not usurped what did not, in the strictest manner, belong to him. And turning himself from these bigotted teachers of Israel towards the sick of the palsy, he said unto him, Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thine own house. No sooner was this Divine mandate given, than the sick man was restored to his former health and strength; and, to the astonishment of all present arose, took up his bed, and departed to his own housc, glorifying God. The whole congregation (the Scribes and Pharisees excepted) being convinced by their eyes of the efficacy of our Saviour's last words, were perfectly satisfied that he had also the power of forgiving sins; they then glorified God who had manifested such power on earth, and being filled with reverential fear, declared, they had that day seen strange and wonderful things.
After our Blessed Saviour had wrought this miracle,
digious concourse of people. When his discourse was ended he returned to the city, in his way to which, seeing one Matthew (otherwise named Levi) a rich publican, sitting at the door of the receipt of customs, he said unto him, Follow me. Matthew readily obeyed the Divine
and afterwards became both an Apostle and Evangelist.
A few days after Matthew's conversion he invited our Blessed Saviour and his disciples to a feast, and, among others, all he knew of the profession which he had forsook, hoping that the latter, by hearing the heavenly conversation of Christ, might also repent, and embrace the doctrine of the Gospel. The Scribes and Pharisees, who accounted all in a manner sinners, except themselves, (but more especially the publicans) were highly offended