Sermon 2881. Feeble Faith Appealing to a Strong Savior
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 1904.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, MARCH 19, 1876.
"And immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." Mark 9:24.
THIS is the case of a man who knew well enough what he wanted and who was full of anxiety to obtain it. Indeed, he was soanxious to obtain it that he prayed most earnestly and most importunately for it. He prayed to the right Person, too, for,after having failed with the disciples, he resorted to their Master, Himself. Yet, not withstanding all this, at the timerecorded in our text, he had not obtained the blessing that he sought.
We probably know of many persons who have not yet been awakened to a sense of their need-and much labor has to be expendedby the faithful minister in order to show them their danger and to make them realize their true condition in the sight ofGod. They have many spiritual needs, but they do not know what those needs really are. This man had gone further than that,for he did know what was the great need of himself and his son. Then there are others who have head knowledge as to theirspiritual needs, but they do not seem to be anxious to have those needs supplied. They are stolid, careless, immovable. Thatwas not the case with this man. He knew that he needed his son to be healed. He was intensely eager that he should be healed,and healed then and there. His heart was moved with compassion for his child and he was most anxious that the evil spiritshould be cast out of him at once. There are some of our hearers who seem to have desire of a certain kind, but they do notuse that desire in the right way. They go about seeking salvation where it is not to be found. They are, to an extent, earnestin their own fashion, but to them the Lord might say, as of old, "Why do you spend money for that which is not bread? Andyour labor for that which satisfies not?"
This man had gone a stage beyond that. He was directing all his entreaties to Jesus-he was appealing to the great Lord, Himself,from whom alone deliverance could come. It is a great mercy, my dear Friends, if you are brought as far as this poor man was-toknow what you really need, to be anxious to obtain it-and to be making your appeal to Jesus to grant your requests. Yet, withall that, this man had not obtained the gift he was seeking. There are many like he who have not secured the blessing theyare seeking. You are aware of your sin and you lament it, yet you cannot get a sense of pardon. You know your spiritual needsand you bemoan them, but you cannot grasp that which supply them. You have made an appeal to God in Christ Jesus and you areresolved that you will never leave off so appealing-yet, for all that, you have not, thus far, received the blessing. Thereis something or other in the way-something that hinders you. And I should not wonder-no, I feel quite certain-that the thingwhich hinders some of you from getting what you seek from Christ is your own unbelief. That is the point at which I am goingto aim in my discourse, as God shall help me. And I pray that as I do, from many a heart may be breathed this confession andcry, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief."
I. There are three things in our text. The first is THE SUSPECTED DIFFICULTY AND THE REAL DIFFICULTY.
Reading the story carefully, I gather that this man saw difficulties as to his child's cure, but that he never thought ofthe real one. He fancied that the difficulty lay in the case of his child. His words to Christ, "If You can do anything,"seem to imply that he felt, "This is a case that is quite out of the ordinary run-something special and singular-and, therefore,beyond Your power." If I can interpret his thoughts, it is my opinion that he said to himself, "This is too mysterious a caseto be cured. An evil spirit has struck my boy dumb, yet that same spirit makes him foam at the mouth and
gnash with his teeth. Those very organs which refuse to utter articulate speech, are, nevertheless, strangely in motion. Heseems to be taken, too, by this evil spirit at intervals, and hurried this way and that-he cannot tell how-and, at one time,he is hurled into the fire and, at another time, into the water. It is a most mysterious malady and, possibly, because itis so mysterious, it is not in the Messiah's line of things."
I have known some who have thought their case, spiritually, to be very mysterious. They have imagined that there was somethingabout their constitution, or, still worse, that some extraordinary guilt had brought upon them a condition of heart that waspeculiarly vicious. They have even fancied that this state of heart had put them beneath the ban of the unpardonable sin andthat others had better beware of coming near them, for their condition was so strange, so singular, so wild, that they couldnot tell what to think or say of themselves. Sometimes they are hot and in the fire. But at other times, cold, and in thewater-with no voice for praying or praising, yet able to curse and to blaspheme. "Ah," says such an one, "my case is so mysteriousthat even the Lord Jesus Christ will never be able to save me."
Very likely, too, the father thought that his child's disease was too violent to be cured. He was dashed about, here and there,and torn as though his poor body must be dissolved into the atoms of which it was made. He could not be held in or restrained-nogovernment or control could be exercised over him, for the demon carried him, with an irresistible influence, wherever itpleased. The poor father could truly have said, "Look at him. I brought him into the Presence of Christ, Himself, and herehe lays wallowing upon the ground, being torn in pieces by the demon! And now that the spasm is past, he lies there as ifhe were dead-and some say that he really is dead."
I should not wonder if I am addressing a man who thinks that the difficulty as to his salvation lies in the fact that hispassions are so violent and so fierce. Possibly, he says, "I kept sober for months, but, all of a sudden, it seemed as ifthe drink demon overpowered me and I had an awful bout of drinking till delirium tremens was well-near upon me." "Ah," saysanother, "I struggled against a vicious habit which I had formed and I thought I had overcome it, but, alas, the next timethe temptation came in my way, I did not seem to have any more power to resist it than a snowflake has to resist the windthat drives it along-and I was carried right away by the evil impulses. Some men have a peculiar bent towards evil becauseof their intense vehemence of character-it was so with Samson, though he had the saving Grace of faith. Such men are, perhaps,strongly developed in the sinews and muscles of their body, but, certainly, they are in the passions and impulses of theirsoul. You may bind them with fetters and chains, but the strongest bonds are only like the green ropes were to Samson. Thedevil that is in them seems to be absolutely supreme over them when he puts forth his power. I do not wonder, therefore, ifthey think that the difficulty, in their case, lies in the violence and suddenness of their sin. But it is not so.
Perhaps this poor father thought that in his child's case, the difficulty lay in the fact that he had been such a long timea sufferer, even from his childhood. In answer to Christ's question, "How long has this been happening to him?" he said, "Fromchildhood." So a man sometimes says, "Sin is bred in my bones and it will come out in my flesh. My very nature is corrupt.While I was but a child, I loved sin, and since then, throughout my youth and manhood, I have gone after it greedily-and ithas become a habit that is firmly fixed upon me. 'Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?' Then may hethat is accustomed to do evil, learn to do well." Such sinners feel as if they had been steeped and soaked in the crimsonlye until there was no hope of ever getting the stain out of them. They have been wanderers from God even from their youth-howcan they be brought near to Him?
Yet we know that the difficulty did not lie in the child's case at all, for Jesus Christ was able to cast the devil out andHe did cast it out. And if that child had been possessed by a whole legion of devils, instead of only by one, Jesus Christcould, with a single word, have cast them all out! No matter how long the demon had been in possession of the child, nor howvehement and impetuous he might be, Christ could drive him out whenever He pleased. And at this moment, dear Friend, yourpast life, your sins, your natural corruptions, your inherited vices, your evil habits which have grown so strong upon you,are not the real difficulty. The Lord Jesus Christ "is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him." He,Himself, said, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men."
So I care not how bad your case may me-it may even be worse than I should dare to guess-there may be a secret criminalityabout it that sets it altogether by itself as an unusual and even unique offense against God! But that is not the difficultyin the way of your salvation. Christ can easily write "settled"at the bottom of the long account of your sins- it is no moretrouble for Him to write that word at the foot of a long bill than a short one! God can as readily make you a
new creature in Christ Jesus-whatever your sins may have been-as if you had been living a strictly moral life. You are spirituallydead in any case-and it is He alone who can give you life. You are lost in any case and the Good Shepherd can just as readilyfind the lost sheep that has gone far astray as another which is only just outside the fold, for He is Almighty and, therefore,able to do all things! So the difficulty does not lie there.
Perhaps, however-no, we know that it was so-the father thought that the difficulty lay with Jesus Christ Himself He seemedto say, "I have done all I can for my child. I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him. And now I havebrought him to You. If You can"-but he had hardly got those words out of his mouth before the Lord Jesus addressed him, ina peculiar Greek idiom, which cannot be fully translated into English, but which might run something like this-"The if youcan"-that is exactly the Greek word-"the if you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes," as much as tosay, "The if you can does not lie with Me. Oh, no! The if you can lies with you." He takes the man's words and hurls themback at him! I daresay the man may have thought, "If His disciples cannot cure my child, at all events their Master does not.He has seen how afflicted he is. If He could have done it, surely He would at once have said to my child, 'Be healed.' Yetthere He is, standing still and talking to me, as if this were not a pressing case of urgent need! It must be lack of poweron His part that keeps Him from curing my child." But Jesus Christ will not let such a thing as that be said without showingthat it is not true! And, Brothers and Sisters, if you harbor in your heart any idea that there is a lack of power in theLord Jesus Christ to save you, you are believing a most atrocious lie and defaming the Almighty Savior! The difficulty, inyour case, is not either in the sin or in the Savior. He is able to forgive the greatest conceivable transgressions of allwho believe in Him and He is able to break and to renew the hardest heart, even though it should be hard as steel or likethe nether millstone!
II. We have now to consider, in the second place, THE TEARFUL DISCOVERY-"Lord, I believe; help my unbelief."
What was his discovery? Why his discovery was that he did not believe-and that is where the real difficulty lay. When didthe man make this discovery? When he began to believe! Is it not a very singular thing that as soon as ever he had a littlefaith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he discovered the great abyss of his unbelief? "Lord," he said, "I believe, but, oh, I doalso disbelieve so much that my unbelief seems to swallow up my belief!" Until a man receives faith, he may think that hehas it-but when he has real faith in Jesus Christ, then he shudders as he thinks how long he has lived in unbelief-and realizeshow much of unbelief is still mixed with his belief! There are many of you who have never believed to the saving of your souls,yet you say, "Oh, yes, we believe the Bible! We believe in God. We believe in Jesus Christ." You stand up in church and say,"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth," and so on, but you do not do anything of the sort! If youdid, you would be saved, since true belief in Jesus Christ brings salvation to everyone who so believes. While men have nofaith-I repeat what I said just now-while men have no faith, they are unconscious of their unbelief, but as soon as they geta little faith, then they begin to be conscious of the greatness of their unbelief! When the blind man gets a little lightinto his eyes, he perceives something of the blackness of the darkness in which he has been living-and so you must be ableto say from your heart, "Lord, I believe," or else you will never be able to pray, as this man did, "help my unbelief." Evena small measure of faith is necessary to discover the great measure of the unbelief.
This man, as soon as he discovered his unbelief, was distressed and alarmed at it. He could not look straight at Christ andsay, "Lord, I do disbelieve You, but I cannot help it." No, he was distressed about it. He felt how dreadful a thing it wasto be unbelieving and he appealed to Christ, confessing his unbelief, saying, "Lord, help me out of it, I beseech You." Noticehow he turned his whole attention to that one matter of his own unbelief-he did not even mention his poor child! His childwas, no doubt, still in his thoughts, yet his prayer was not concerning his child, but concerning his own unbelief, for hesaw that was the difficulty needing to be removed! And when God, in infinite mercy, visits a poor troubled heart and givesit even a little faith in Jesus Christ, its great distress is concerning its remaining unbelief, for it perceives that thisis the greatest of all sins-the most terrible of all stumbling blocks-and it is, indeed, the chief hindrance to men's entranceinto rest of heart and eternal life!
Now look, all of you who are seeking Christ, but who say that you cannot get peace. The difficulty lies here-if you can believe,all things are possible to you! But it is because you do notbelieve that you remain as you are.
Let me show you what it is that you do not believe. You say that Christ cannot save you. Then you believe that Om-nipotence-youdare not say it is notOmnipotence-has for once met its match! Look that statement in the face-that the Eternal Son of Godhas a task set before Him which He cannot perform! In other words, you do not believe in the Omnipotence of God, for, if Heis Omnipotent, He must be able to save you.
Next, Sinner, when you say, "Jesus cannot save me," you cast a slur upon His precious blood. You stand, in imagination, atthe foot of His Cross, and you see Him bleeding away His very life-yet you say, "The merit of that blood is limited. I knowit is, for it cannot atone for mysin." You are trampling upon the blood of the Son of God and counting it an unholy thingby declaring that your sin is more mighty than His Infinite Sacrifice!
Again, after shedding His blood for sinners, Christ went back into Heaven-and a great part of His occupation there is to makeintercession for the transgressors. Yet you say that His intercession cannot be powerful enough to avail for you, althoughI have already reminded you that God has said, "Therefore He is able, also, to save them to the uttermost that come unto Godby Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them." To say of yourself, "Christ cannot save me," or to say of anyother man, "He cannot save that man," is to insult His blood and to caste a slight upon His ever-living pleas! What greatercrime can there be than thus to limit the Holy One of Israel-yes, to limit Him both when bleeding on the Cross and sittingon His throne? I charge you, Sirs, to feel the utmost horror at the very thought that you should have been guilty of sucha crime against the Lord Jesus Christ! God has declared that "He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoever confessesand forsakes them shall have mercy." The Apostle John, writing under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares, "the bloodof Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." If, then, you say, "But it cannot cleanse mefrom mysin," you call a liethe most solemn Revelations and pledges of the Divine Mercy! Do you mean to do that? Oh, how often shall we have to remindyou that whether you mean to do so, or not, that is what you are doing? Remember how the loving John writes, "He that believesnot God has made Him a liar because he believes not the record that God gave of His Son."
In addition to insulting the Son as to the efficacy of His blood and insulting the Father concerning His veracity- bear withme, Sinner, in bringing these grave charges against you-and as God bears with you, you may well bear with me as I remind youof your sin! You also insult the Spirit of God by your unbelief, for you as good as say, "The Spirit of God cannot renew myheart. He cannot bring me to repentance, He cannot bring faith to me." Yet the Spirit, the Father and the Son, is, HimselfGod-Infinite and Almighty. It is a great sin for anyone to say, "The Spirit cannot regenerate me. There is no hope for me."
Is it possible that you, poor despairing Sinner, think that your despair proves that you are humble? It is not so. Despairis one of the proudest things in the world, for it even dares to tell the Almighty Spirit of God that He cannot-He cannot-save!I beseech you, do not say it! But if you have faith enough to believe that Jesus is Omnipotent and that there is unlimitedvalue in His blood and His plea-that the Father is true and that His promises must be fulfilled and that the Spirit of Godis able to work such a change in your heart that old things shall pass away and all things shall become new-then be alarmedto think that there should be any unbelief remaining in you, and cry out with tears, as this man did, "Lord, I believe; helpmy unbelief."
III. Now comes our third point-THE INTELLIGENT APPEAL.
The man has seen where the difficulty lies. He has made a discovery as to his own unbelief and now he turns round to Jesusand he cries, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." Kindly notice the wording of the man's prayer as recorded in the 22nd verse-"IfYou can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." See that word, "help." And, now, when he is convinced of his unbelief,look at his prayer: "Help my unbelief-the same word that he had used before. In his first petition, looking at his poor childwallowing on the ground, he cried, "Help us!" But now he has been taught better and he says, in effect, "Lord, I see thatit is easy work for You to cast a devil out, but the difficulty is that I am unbelieving, and that hinders You, Lord. Helpme believe, for that is what is needed." I recommend some of you, instead of praying, "Lord, give me a sense of pardoned sin.Give me a new heart. Give me to feel that You love me"-pray those prayers, by-and-by, but for the present, pray like this,"Lord, help me to believe. Lord, give me faith. Lord, drive away my unbelief." Direct your prayers to that one point-for thatis the matter in which you are lacking. Unbelief is the great stone lying at the door of your heart and preventing that doorfrom being opened!
Notice that this man's prayer was intelligently addressed to One, who, he believed, could help him. He seemed to say to himself,"If Christ can help my child to get well, then He can help me to believe." Believe that, Sinner, and ask Him to help you tobelieve! His prayer was addressed to One in whom he did believe, in a measure, for he would not have prayed to Christ to helphis unbelief if he had not felt that Christ could do so. And he did say, "Lord, I believe." His was a strange mixture of beliefand unbelief-and so are yours, my dear Friends-and I charge you, with the little faith you have, if you believe that Jesuscan save other people, go to Him and beseech Him to cast out of you the unbelief which is still lurking within you! The chiefreason why you have not peace with God-why you have not found the conscious enjoyment of eternal life-is that you lack faith!You need your unbelief to be cast out.
I am going to close my discourse by showing you that there is nobody but the Lord Jesus Christ who can help us to get ridof unbeliefand by advising you to take your unbelief, and all your other sins, and confess them to Christ as sins and thenask Him to enable you to get rid of them. It ought to enable you to see how Jesus Christ does help you to get rid of unbeliefif you consider His Nature. If you rightly understand that, it will be a deathblow to unbelief. Who and what is Jesus. Youbelieve-I know you do-that He is "very God of very God"-that Jesus of Nazareth is "over all God, blessed forever." If youwill only think of those two great facts, it will help you to believe in Him. Cannot you trust your soul in the hands of God?Is He not able to deliver you? Is He not able to pardon you? "The Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" because Heis God! If I had an angel sent to be my Savior, I dare not trust him. When any man says that he can forgive my sins, I willnot trust him, for I know that he is a liar and a thief, trying to rob God of His prerogative. When Jesus Christ, the Sonof God, says that He can save me, I cannot find any reason why I should not believe Him-and I do not believe you can suggestany reason! Unbelief is a most unreasonable thing, but faith is most reasonable and right. As Christ is Divine, my naturalinference is, "Then I will trust Him."
Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ is Man as well as God-and such a Man as the world has never seen before or since. You haveread the story of His life. Did you ever read of any other man so gentle, so tender, so true, so kind, so full of affection,so willing to live and die for others? What? Not trust Him? Oh, it seems to me as if I could not help trusting Him! Certainly,ever since I have known my blessed Lord and Savior, I have felt that I could say to Him, as David did, "They that know Yourname will put their trust in You." Son of God and Son of Man, Your very Nature helps to banish our unbelief and, as soon aswe rightly understand it, we feel that unbelief is an unnatural, illogical and wicked thing!
Think also, for a minute or two, of His great offices. Our Lord Jesus Christ has a thousand offices, but there is one uponwhich I especially love to dwell. He is a Savior-He "came into the world to save sinners." Many people imagine that they cannotbe saved because they are sinners, but that is the very reason why they can be saved. You remember how Martin Luther put it?He said, "The devil came to me and he said, 'Martin Luther, you are a big sinner. You are so great a sinner that you cannotbe saved.'" Luther replied, "I will tell you what I will do, Satan-I will cut off your head with your own sword, for I ama sinner-and I know that it is so. And since Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, I believe He came to save me-andI have trusted my soul to Him for time and eternity." A doctor does not come to heal those that are healthy-he naturally looksafter the sick-and a Savior does not come to save those who need no saving! He comes to save sinners, so that your sinnership,instead of being a disqualification, is, to speak broadly, a qualification! Just as filth is a qualification for being washed-justas poverty is a qualification for receiving alms-just as sickness is a qualification for medicine, so your very sin and vilenessare qualifications for Christ's work of Grace in you! I am using expressions that some will think strange, yet I am speaking,nevertheless, what is the absolute Truth of God. Does it not help to remove your unbelief to hear that Jesus is "mighty tosave"?
Think, next, of the anguish which Christ endured when He offered Himself up as the great atoning Sacrifice for His people'ssin. I have never been able, for a single instant, to believe in any limit to the value of the Atonement offered by Christon Calvary. It does seem to me to verge upon blasphemy to suppose that if God, Himself, becomes Incarnate, and suffers, andbleeds, and dies, there can be anything less than infinite value in the Atonement that He offers. So then, Sinner, as it isinfinite, it can cover your case! As it is without boundaries, there cannot be a boundary set to it as far as you are concerned!Look at Christ on the Cross and you will not dare to say, "He cannot save me." Know what He is and who He is-see how He suffers,how the Father smites Him and yet how the Father loves Him all the while-and you must say, "Christ's blood must have sufficientpower in it to take away all the guilt of all who trust Him." It is so! Believe it and that will help to drive away your unbelief.
Remember, too, dear Friends, that when Christ died upon the Cross, He was not working out a trifling scheme of salvation.It was a sublime enterprise that took Him from His Throne in Heaven and brought Him down to the manger in Bethlehem. It wasa God-like undertaking which made Him lay aside the scepter and bear to have great nails thrust through His hands. It wasa great scheme and, therefore, it included great sin, great pardon and great salvation! So, if you are a great sinner, youmatch the general scale of the whole scheme-which is of such huge proportions that it can encompass even you!
Christ's design in dying, too, ought to help to kill your unbelief. Why did He die? Was it not that the Free Grace of Godmight have full swing and abundant scope? And will it not have full swing if you are saved and is there not great scope forpardoning mercy in you? Remember, dear Friends, our Lord Jesus Christ never thought it was worth His while to come from Heavento give glory to a man-He came from Heaven to bring glory to God by vindicating His justice and manifesting His mercy! Now,if such a sinner as you are-you who think yourself too bad to be saved-if you get saved, what a display of Divine Grace therewill be in your case! A man said to me, some time ago, "If ever I get to Heaven, Sir, I believe they will carry me about thestreets and exhibit me as a marvel of God's mercy." "Well, then," I replied, "they will have to carry me around as well."I suspect that every saved soul in Heaven is a great wonder and that Heaven is a vast museum of wonders of Grace and mercy-apalace of miracles in which everything will surprise everyone who gets there! It has been well said that there will be threesurprises in Heaven-first, we shall not find some we thought we would meet there. Then, we shall find some we never thoughtwould be there. But the greatest surprise of all will be to find ourselves there! I think it will be so-not that we shallbe astonished at the fact when we remember God's promise and what He has done for us-but we shall be amazed when we rememberwhat we used to be and what the Grace of God had to do for us to make us fit to be there. Well, if you are one of those whowill be carried all around Heaven as a marvel of mercy, I believe you are the very person who is likely to get there-becauseGod wants the angels and all the redeemed to see the wonders of His Grace displayed to us-ward who believe!
I close with this one thought. If, poor Soul, it is your lack of faith that stands in the way of the blessing coming to you,and if that lack of faith is infamous on your part since you call God a liar, I charge you to repent of it and to believeGod here and now! If you still say, "I know not how to believe and I cannot trust," I dare not try to excuse you for sayingso. Unbelief is the greatest of all crimes-I know of none to match it. But if you really want help in fighting against yourunbelief, cannot you go to Christ for it? Even while you are thinking about Him, you will believe in Him! If you need to trustHis blood, thinkof His blood. If you need to trust Him as a living, loving Savior, thinkof Him as a living, loving Savior."Faith comes by hearing." When you are hearing about it, thinking about it, reading about it, the Holy Spirit will breed faithin your soul! Oh, do get faith, whatever else you do notget! May God enable you to exercise saving faith in Jesus Christ beforeyou rise from your seat, lest, in this very building, you should stumble into death and into Hell!
Do I need to ask you, Sirs, a thousand times, to believe the Truth of God? Must I, over and over again, say to you as Jesussaid to the Jews, "Because I tell you the truth, you believe me not"? If Christ is not worthy of being believed, then He isa liar. If Christ cannot be trusted, then He is wrongly named. Oh, do not drive us to the inference that you think thus ofHim! Commit your soul into His hands this very moment and have done with it, once and for all, for His dear name's sake. Amen!
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: MAARK92-29
Verses 2-6. And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter, and James, and John, and led them up into an high mountain apartby themselves and He was transfigured before them. And His raiment became shining, exceedingly white as snow, so as no fulleron earth could whiten them. And there appeared unto them Elijah with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answeredand said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for You, and one for Moses,and one for Elijah. For he knew not what to say; for they were afraid. Brothers and Sisters, like these disciples of our Lord,we are not yet fit to be favored with a sight of His Glory. As we now are, we could not bear it. As our poet says-
"At the too-transporting light,
Darkness rushes over my sight"
These three Apostles of Christ were too bewildered to know what to say. They were quite lost and, I suppose that if we couldgo to Heaven as we are, our bewilderment would even exceed our bliss! But we may rest assured that God will prepare us forthat which He has prepared forus.
7, 8. And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a Voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son: hearHim. And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man anymore, save Jesus only with themselves. And althoughthis was not so ravishing or so astonishing a sight, yet it was more encouraging to them- something which they could moreeasily bear with joy and peace-"they saw no man anymore, save Jesus only with themselves." May God grant to us, as long aswe are here below, that if no Moses or Elijah shall ever come to visit us, at any rate Jesus may never be absent from us!May our fellowship with Him be unbroken!
9, 10. And as they came down from the mountain, He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen tillthe Son of Man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what therising from the dead should mean. These were Peter, and James, and John-the three most privileged disciples of Christ-probablythe best scholars in that class which had the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, for its Teacher. Yet His plain language was withoutmeaning to them-"questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean." I wonder whether, when our Lordcomes the second time, we shall discover that the prophecies concerning His advent were wonderfully clear, but that we couldnot understand them till He came. Plain as His teaching concerning His Resurrection was, His disciples could not understandit till that great event had really occurred!
11-13. And they asked Him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elijah must first come? And He answered and told them, Elijahverily comes first, andrestores all things; andhowit is written ofthe Son ofMan, that He must suffer many thing, and be setat nothing. But Isay unto you, that Elijah is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatever they wished, as it is writtenof him. John the Baptist had come, in the spirit and power of Elijah, and had reconstituted matters and prepared the peoplefor the advent of the Savior, whose herald he was.
14, 15. And when He came to His disciples, He saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. Andstraightway all the people, when they beheld Him, were greatly amazed, and running to Him saluted Him. Some relics of theglory on the mountain still remained upon His face, and the people were astounded. So, though deeply interested in the battlewhich was proceeding between the scribes and the disciples, they left them and turned to look upon that mysterious radiancewhich hovered about His brow.
16. And He asked the scribes, What are you discussing with them? The circumstances of the disciples resembled a battlefieldon which the enemy was winning the day and the loyal troops were about to die defeated-when suddenly, the great Commander,Himself, appears for their relief. His Presence is worth more than a thousand battalions of men-and He charges at once uponthe adversary and puts them to rout! "He asked the scribes, What are you discussing with
17. And one of the multitude answered. One who had a peculiar reason for answering, just as, I trust there will be one inthis multitude before me who will have a peculiar reason for listening to my message and a peculiar reason for rememberingit after it is delivered-"One of the multitude answered." [Remember the Exposition was always before the sermon.]
17-19. And said, Master, I have brought unto You my son who has a dumb spirit; and wherever he takes him, he convulses him:and he foams, and gnashes with his teeth, andpines away. And I spoke to Your disciples that they should cast him out; andthey could not. He answered him, and said, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear withyou? Bring him unto Me. I suppose our Lord's rebuke was meant specially for His disciples. It was something like the speechof a schoolmaster who, having taught his pupils the same lesson a great many times, and labored hard with them, from yearto year, yet finds them failing in the very elements of knowledge. Christ does not speak as if He were tired of His life andwished to get away from His disciples-but this is His way of saying how disappointed He is that these learners have learnedso little.
"How long shall I bear with you? Bring him unto Me." Those words struck my heart very forcibly as I read them- "How long shallI bear with you?" Does not the Lord Jesus Christ have to put up with a great deal from every one of us? I applied His wordsto myself and I thought I heard Him saying to me, "How long shall I be with you? How long shall I
bear with you?" Often, He must derive more pain than pleasure from communion with many of His people. How grieved He mustoften be to see their slowness to learn, their readiness to forget and the difficulty with which they can be brought to livethe lessons which He so carefully imparts to them! Then note what His action is concerning the poor child- "Bring him untoMe."
20. And they brought him unto Him: and when He saw him, straightway the spirit convulsed him. As soon as ever Christ lookedat him, "the spirit convulsed him." One look from Christ awakes the devil! Sometimes sinners are worse, for a time, when Christlooks upon them. The devil always has great wrath when he knows that his time is short. And he rages and convulses most violentlywhen he is about to be ejected. The Jews have a proverb, "When the tale of bricks is doubled, Moses appears," and we may makeit into a Scriptural proverb, "When the devil's torment of the heart is doubled, then Jesus appears to cast him out."
20. And he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And Jesus, instead of curing him at once, gave his first attention tothe other patient before him, namely, the father of the child. He was suffering from an equally bad disease, though the symptomswere different-and Jesus meant to cure him as well as his boy!
21, 22. Andhe askedhis father, howlong has this been happening to him? Andhe said, from childhood. And oftentimes it has casthim into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if You can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us. Heput himself on a level with his child and that is the best way to pray for your children-"Have compassion on us, and helpus." It will be compassion on youas well as upon your son, if the Lord saves him!
23. Jesus said unto him. Catching at his words, "If You can do anything"-
23-29. If you can believe, all thing are possible to him that believes. And straightway the father of the child cried outand said with tears, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief! When Jesus saw that thepeople came running together, he rebuked thefoul spirit, saying unto him, You deaf and dumb spirit, I charge you come out of him and enter no more into him. And the spiritcried, and convulsed him sorely and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesustook him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately,Why could not we cast him out? And He said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting. Thereare some things which we are not fit to do until we have drawn very near to God and have been deeply humbled and, with sincererepentance and the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, have been cleaned so as to receive so great a gift. Faith alonewill not accomplish everything. Faith must be accompanied by prayer, and prayer must be, at least sometimes, in special cases,attended with fasting. The Lord makes reserves of His mercies which He does not give immediately. Even to the request of faith,He demands importunity on our part and heart-searching, and heart-cleansing before the blessing will be bestowed.