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the Son of God should become man; that he should appear in a low, despised, condition, so contrary to human expectations, and to the expectation of our country! Help thou mine unbelief!
It is good for us to put this question to ourselves : Can We believe? We do not deny that Jesus is the Son of God: but do we practically apply the truth? If called to loss of favour, or of credit, or of fortune, “ for righteousness' sake,” could we risk or suffer all for Him? If lying on the bed of sickness, or brought to the hour of death, could we venture all upon Him? Could we say, “I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep what I have committed to him?"
It ought to be so; it must be so, that our sin may be forgiven, and we may be enabled to fulfil all righteousness. If thou canst believe : all things are possible to him that believeth.
We have need then of the prayer, Help thou mine unbelief. Every good and perfect gift cometh down from above." And of all gifts, faith is the first and best. The Spirit knoweth our weakness, and “ helpeth our infirmities;” and will in the end “establish, strength, settle” us in the more perfect “knowledge of the Father, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent."
25. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.
26. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead ; insomuch that many said, He is dead.
27. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
28. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out ?
29. And he said unto them. This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
Whatever was out of the course of nature, or beyond human power, was alike impossible to the disciples; and we cannot discern a difference between one miracle and another, one evil spirit and another. In a subject confessedly mysterious, there may be something which we do not apprehend.
Probably, however, they were allowed to fail in this instance, that they might perceive the necessity of depending entirely on him from whom their power proceeded. And the mode in which this dependence is shown and exercised, is left as a general lesson to Christians, in the words, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. Only an habitual course of prayer and selfdenial can lead to that state of heart, that true and lively faith, to which every thing gives way; to which God denies nothing.
And what we practically learn from the example, is to this purpose. The disciples could not change the course of nature, but through the power of that faith, of which prayer and self-denial are inseparable attendants. Christians can only change their moral nature by the same means.
As of evil spirits, some are represented in Scripture as more pernicious than others; so of moral habits, some are worse than others; are more deeply rooted in the constitution, or more strengthened than others by the habits of life. We may justly say, where a vice has been long indulged, has come upon a man from a child, this kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting.
We are also led to conclude, that though all Christians must " watch unto prayer,” must "pray without ceasing;" there are some occasions when more urgent, continual, and particular prayer is needed. And though all Christians must be temperate in all things, there may be some by whom more special and careful abstinence is required. Where the faith is such as leads to the persevering use of these means, we have reason to hope that all things are possible ; that there is no kind of evil which does not come forth by prayer and fasting.
St. Paul lived in this course of self-denial. He describes it, when he says, “ All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.” “I will not be brought within the power of any.” “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.”
Those Christians have approached, those Christians will approach nearest to St. Paul in personal religion, and in spiritual usefulness, who have most closely followed his example ; who have most truly been able to say, “ The world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.”
HUMILITY IS TAUGHT BY THE EXAMPLE OF A
NOT WITH THEM.
Mark ix. 30–42.
Matt. xvii. 22-23. Luke ix. 44-50.
30. And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee ; and he would not that any man should know it.
31. For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.
32. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.
33. And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house, he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?
34. But they held their peace : for by the way they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest.
35. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
36. And he look a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,
37. Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me : and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.
This was figurative instruction. It is not on the child itself, but on the character of the child, that the blessing is pronounced. The child is taken
Matt. xviii. 1-9.
and set in the midst, as an example of the character which is approved of God. The child is meek and humble, from the simplicity of its age. The man must be meek and humble, through the power of
And those who are thus meek and humble, are to be received in Christ's name : they are “ the poor in spirit,” to whom he has pledged a blessing.
The Pharisee and the publican, (as described Luke xviii. 9,) may be samples of the two states of mind, one of which is approved, the other condemned. The Pharisee, like the disciples when they disputed among themselves who should be greatest, had an high opinion of himself and his own merits. It is expressed in the words, “ Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men are." Such an one might be justly rebuked by the sentence, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. For “ he that ex. alteth himself shall be abased.”
The publican, on the contrary, “ would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” Here was the simple and humble spirit represented by the image of the child. And to that simple spirit of self-renunciation and conscious unworthiness, are the promises of the Gospel offered, and the Divine approval given. Such are dear to Christ and dear to Almighty God, and are therefore to be dear to the followers of Christ, and kindly treated by his ministers.
Whosoever shall receive one of such children, in my name, receiveth me ; and whosoerer shall receive me, receiveth not me, (alone,)