« ПредишнаНапред »
Then is our heart right, when in all things we glorify the God of Israel.—But let us trace our Lord's footsteps onwards.
George. The account which next follows, relates to the miraculous feeding of four thousand men; but this, Sir, I suppose, we may now pass over, as it was considered in our conversation on the feeding of the five thousand.
Minister. You will find our Lord still continuing his active life; warning his disciples to take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees; going into the towns of Cæsarea-Philippi, when, asking them of the opinions of men concerning him, and then, of their own, Peter made his solemn and explicit confession of faith, and received such commendation from his Master ; opening before them his approaching humiliation and sufferings, rebuking Peter, who had counselled self-indulgence, and asserting the absolute necessity of self-denial; and, after a short time, taking with him Peter, and James, and John, and ascending to the summit of one of the higher hills in the neighbourhood, when “he was transfigured before them.”
George. In one point of view that was miraculous, Sir, was it not?
Minister. Most undoubtedly it was an occurrence altogether supernatural, and in this sense, miraculous. Still, we cannot include it among what are strictly called, the miracles of our Lord. It was not a work of which he was the author, so much as the subject. It was wrought upon him, rather than by him. Nor was it wrought publicly, in attestation of his claims. He was in a mountain apart. Peter, and James, and John, where the sole eye-witnesses of what took place. On them, of course, it would produce a mighty effect; but to others it could only be known by their testimony. Still, though we do not place the Transfiguration among the miracles, as thus regarded, you will see it was a most amazing transaction. Thus were these three to be shown the glory of their Lord; thus were they to see “the fashion of his countenance altered;" thus to view the departed of former ages revisiting earth, and even conversing of the wonderful events that were now soon to take place, when this same glorious Lord should appear as having no form nor comeli
ness, hanging on the cross with his “visage marred more than the sons of men.” I recommend you to read the whole account seriously and reflectingly. At present, however, let us proceed with the history. You may read Matthew xvii. 14--22; Mark ix. 14–30; and Luke ix. 37–43. Connect these, and give me the history as from the whole.
George. Our Lord, returning with the three who had accompanied him, saw his disciples mixed with a number of persons, and some Scribes questioning them. Asking what was the subject of the conversation, a man came to him, kneeling down, and mentioned the case of his son, who was, it seems, possessed by an evil spirit, in consequence of which he was lunatic, dumb, and subject to the most distressing paroxysms, when he would fall into the fire, or water, foam at the mouth, and be most violently excited. The effect, too, on his general health was decided and evident: “he pineth away.” This distressing case the poor man sought to remedy by bringing his son to the disciples, beseeching them “to cast him out, and they could not.”
Minister. What said our Lord to this melancholy recital ?
George. He complained of the unbelief of the generation, and directed that the youth should be brought to himself.
Minister. What followed ?
George. While he was coming, he had another paroxysm, and apparently a very violent one. After speaking to the father, who was evidently very deeply affected, for he said, I think with strong feeling, “ If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us :”
Minister. I only interrupt you to say that your inference, respecting the father's feeling, is plainly correct. And the expression of it is so natural, as to form a beautiful part of the record. The poor man, as desired by our Lord, gives some account of the duration and extent of the possession itself; and then, abruptly, but most naturally, solicits aid, yet solicits it as one who had already begun to feel disappointment from the failure of the disciples. But go on.
George. Our Lord addresses him on the power of faith. “ If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."
Minister. Possible, only as apprehending the power of Him who is its object. In itself faith has no power; but He whom it honours, is pleased to honour it in return by exercising his own. What does the man say in reply?
George. O Sir, he speaks like one who, while he was not destitute of the required belief in our Lord's power, feared to rest there the case about which he felt so much, lest it should not be sufficient. “Lord, I believe," he says, “with tears;” “ help thou mine unbelief.”.
Minister. The scene which the record calls us to view, is exceedingly affecting. But it is full of instruction. Never forget that He who requires you to believe, in order to the reception of spiritual blessings, is able, not only to bestow the blessings, but to strengthen the faith. We may so look at ourselves, so deeply feel our utter unworthiness, that our sight of Christ's power may be obscured, and our belief in his willingness to exercise it, shaken. But see the remedy. “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” He will not fail you, but move your mind to that steadfast contemplation of himself, as your Almighty Saviour, that your fears shall be dispersed, your spirit brought into tranquillity, and your confidence be made strong and untrembling.
George. The people now began to collect around our Lord, and he commanded the spirit to depart. But is not the moment of cure marked with some peculiar features?
Minister. To what do you refer?
George. Our Lord charges the spirit to depart, and return no more; and immediately, before he went out, he occasioned a most violent paroxysm, from the power of which it seemed as if the child could not escape with life.
Minister. It was permitted, to show both that the disease was supernatural, and that to the very last moment the cause that occasioned it possessed unabated activity and energy. The child had a paroxysm while coming. No sooner is the “ foul spirit” commanded to depart, than another ensues, yet more violent. But this was all. The child was given to his father not only relieved, but cured. Not only was the evil spirit expelled, but general health was at once restored. Place yourself as before these occurrences. See them, as if they were now taking place in your presence. Who is this that can do such wondrous works, so full of tenderness, of wisdom, of might? Was this an impostor, an enthusiast?
George. No, indeed, Sir; but the very Son of God. Minister. We must not, however, overlook the conclusion.
George. I suppose you refer, Sir, to the inquiry of the disciples why their efforts had not been successful ?
Minister. To that, and our Lord's reply. He first tells them that the immediate cause was their want of faith. They commanded the unclean spirit to depart; but whether the violence of the symptoms awakened doubt, or whatever occasioned their unbelief, yet so it was that they hesitated. They seemed to think the power of the Evil One was greater than that even of their great Master. They spoke not with the full confidence of absolute persuasion; and as they honoured not him, neither were they honoured by success. But he goes farther, does he not?
George. Yes, Sir. “He said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting.”
Minister. And in these solemn words, he first discloses an awful mystery. Among the beings who exercise power over sinful man, who, when no longer permitted to possess, can yet tempt and influence, some are of greater authority and might than others. They who as possessing, require greater energy of faith for their expulsion, will, in working in the children of disobedience, exert a more decidedly malignant effect, producing a character of deeper wickedness. And, secondly, he teaches the lesson, that faith is affected by the state of mind in the individual called to exercise it. That it may be mighty, and triumphantly adequate to the occasion calling for it, there must be, sometimes, the deeper humility of fasting, and more earnest prayer. When we desire from God the increase of faith, and feel that the conflict is severe, we must humble ourselves before God, and seek divine succours.
That faith may be victorious over the “foul spirit," it must be firm and unhesitating; but that it may be so, “ fasting and prayer" may be necessary. But what then? The conflict is one of life and death. Eternity depends upon its issue. Perhaps we are too confident in ourselves, and might attri
bute the victory to our own resolution. Let us fast and pray. When we are weak, then are we strong. When we feel we can of ourselves do nothing, and in deep and manifested humility take hold of our Saviour's strength, and by mighty prayer implore his present aid, he will give the all-conquering faith, by which we shall be enabled to drive forth the mightiest evil agency, and to say to massy mountains of opposition, “Remove hence to yonder place.” We are all weakness, but He is omnipotent. Let us seek from Him, not neglecting the use of the prescribed means, the state of mind in which our faith shall apprehend his omnipotence, “and nothing shall be impossible to” us. You desire to be delivered from all evil; filled with all good. “ If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
SCRIPTURE ILLUSTRATIONS. GEN. Xxxvii. 25. “ A company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels,” &c.—Midianites being also mentioned as denominating this company, we may infer that it was a mixed caravan, and principally composed of Ishmaelites and Midianites. We might call them generally “ Arabians,” as the Chaldee does. “Here,” says Dr. Vincent, upon opening the oldest history in the world, we find the Ishmaelites from Gilead conducting a caravan loaded with spices of India, the balsam and myrrh of Hadramaut; and in the regular course of their traffic proceeding to Egypt for a market. The date of this transaction is more than seventeen centuries before the Christian era, and, notwithstanding its antiquity, it has all the genuine features of a caravan crossing the desert at the present hour.” In the present text we see a caravan of foreigners proceeding to Egypt, their camels laden with articles of luxury; whence it is an obvious inference that Egypt had then become, what it is always recorded to have been, the centre of a most extensive land-commerce : the great emporium to which the merchants brought gold, ivory, and slaves from Ethiopia, incense from Arabia, spices from India, and wine from Phænicia and Greece; for which Egypt gave in exchange its corn, its manufactures of fine