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23. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea ; and shall not doubl in his heart, but shall beliere that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
24. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and
ye shall have them.
By the example before their eyes, of the fig-tree withered, our Lord takes the opportunity of pointing out the efficacy of faith, and of the prayer which is offered in faith. As much as to say, You seem surprised that the fig-tree is so soon withered away. The same power which has blasted the fig-tree, shall be committed to yourselves. Only believe, “all things are possible to him that believeth.”
On the strength of this promise, the apostles, to whom it was given, said confidently to the cripple who had been lame from his birth, (Acts iii. 6,) “ In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Peter spake, not doubting in his heart, but believing that he should receive ; and he was not disappointed. The cripple “ leaping up, stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”
It is obvious that this promise, in its full and literal sense, was confined to the apostles; confined to the time, which required evident and striking miracles as a testimony to the divinity of him from whom the power proceeded.
St. John, however, writing fifty years afterwards, when the power of working miracles was gradually declining, likewise speaks of the prayer of faith. The limit to which he confines its power, makes the promise applicable to every age. “ This is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.'
Such a measure of wisdom was given to the apostles, that they could not ask except according to the will of God. Succeeding Christians must limit their petitions to “what may be expedient for them.”
Then follows a precept which belongs to all ages
25. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
26. But if ye do not forgive, neither will which is in heuven forgive your trespasses.
There must be a right spirit in the heart which offers prayer; otherwise, let no man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. Our reason and our conscience must subscribe to the just declaration of the prophet, “ If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.' There may be much remaining corruption in the heart which makes acceptable prayer; but there must be no iniquity reigning and prevailing. Therefore when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any. Forgiveness is an essential part of the Christian spirit. The parable of the unmerciful servant, (Matt. xviii. 33,) is expressly introduced to show, that harshness in resenting the errors of others, or 11 John v. 14.
Ps. lxvi. 18.
the offences committed against ourselves, must betray a temper wholly inconsistent with Christian faith. “O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest thou not also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee ?”3 The Christian is one who lives by mercy; and who cannot be spi. ritually alive at all, if he is not habitually sensible of this. Therefore he must habitually show mercy, and feel compassion.
27. And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes and the elders,
28. And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things ? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?
29. And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell
you by what authority I do these things.
30. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men ?
31. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him ?
32. But if we shall say, Of men ; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.
33. And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.
The men of that generation had received suffi. cient proof, by what authority Jesus did these things. So Nicodemus candidly acknowledged.. * Luke xx. 1-8.
* John iji. l.
What they wanted, was not evidence to convince, but a heart to believe. Our Lord, therefore, answers them, by referring to John the Baptist, whom all men counted as a prophet indeed. And John had testified of him. “Looking upon Jesus as he walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!” 5 This is he of whom I spake. “He who cometh after me is preferred before me.” If, therefore, they believed not John, neither would they believe Jesus, if he told them by what authority he did these things.
Indeed, how could he have satisfied them, more fully than he had already exhibited his divine commission ? His miracles had proved it: but they refused to admit that evidence. His doctrines proved it; for “he taught them as one having authority :” but they set the proof aside, saying, “Out of Galilee cometh no prophet.” John's testimony had declared it ; and if they acknowledged the mission of John to be from heaven, they should have received his testimony. Self-convicted, therefore, they were silent: and justified the awful sentence, “ A wicked and perverse generation seeketh after a sign: but there shall no sign be given it, except the sign of the prophet Jonas.”
We too have sufficient proof: nay we doubt not, but confess, that truly Jesus “was the Son of God:" and by that authority did these things. Let us take heed, that we be not “barren nor unfruitful in this knowledge” and confession. A trying question might be asked of many; The gospel of Christ Jesus, was it from heaven, or of men ?-If they should say Of men, they would contradict their inward
• John i. 29.
conviction. If they should say,
From heaven why do they not believe him ? why do they not obey him?
Lord, we believe." Enable us to show our faith, by walking before thee in righteousness and holiness.
PARABLE OF THE REBELLIOUS HUSBANDMEN.
Mark xii. 1-12.
Matt. xxi. 33—45.
1. And he began to speak unto them by parables. Luke xx. certain man planted a vineyard, and sel an hedge about it,
and digged a place for the wine fat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.
2. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.
3. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.
4. And again he sent unto them another servant ; and at him they cast stones, und wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.
5. And again he sent another: and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.
When the owner of uncultivated ground reclaims it, and prepares it for the use of the husbandman, his object is, to receive a portion of the returns ; his share of the produce, or its value. This para