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to themselves for the healing of diseases; and therefore they were unable to cure the afflicted youth. They did not receive the power for which they did not seek in faith. The scribes entered into a dispute with the disciples during our Saviour's absence, and attempted to entrap them by their subtleties. Perhaps they had succeeded in unsettling their minds, or in weakening their faith, to a certain extent, before the father made application on behalf of his son; and this may have been the immediate origin of that unbelief which was the cause of their failure.
We cannot infer, from the promise of our Lord in verse 20, that every person who has saving faith has, or ought to have, also the power of working miracles. Faith, as you well know, has relation to a promise. Now the apostles had received from their master a distinct personal commission to cast out devils and perform other miracles of healing, with a promise of power to enable them to do so.
This was the promise on which they were required to rely; a want of confidence in it, and in him who had given it, was that unbelief of which our Saviour complained; and the exercise of this confidence was that faith which would enable them to remove mountains. Unless, therefore, such a promise be made to ourselves individually, we cannot possibly have such faith. may, and ought to, have faith in the promise of forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake, and of all other blessings included in the Christian covenant; and through this faith we shall obtain salvation, and all covenant
blessings. But we cannot expect that this faith will impart to us the power of healing diseases or working any other miracles, just because such power is not included in the promises of the covenant. An attempt to perform miracles, on our part, would not be a work of faith, but an act of presumption.-"To remove mountains," was a proverbial expression among the Jews denoting the performance of some great and extraordinary work, in removing formidable obstructions, or overcoming difficulties apparently insuperable. It is evident that the faith which could remove mountains (or work miracles) is quite distinct from saving faith, or faith which worketh by love, because St. Paul says, 1 Cor. xiii. 2, "though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity (love), I am nothing."
The tribute mentioned in verse 24, was not any of the Roman taxes or imposts, but was the annual payment exacted from the Jews by the Mosaic Law for the use of the temple service, consisting of half a shekel from each male above twenty years of age, on occasion of the numbering of the people (Exod. xxx. 11-16). It was, in fact, the Jewish church-rate, imposed by divine authority, as a part of the ceremonial law; "a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for their souls."-The "tribute money" here spoken of was the double drachma (which is the word in the original), equal in value to the half shekel, i. e. about fifteen pence of our money. And the "piece of money" found in
the mouth of the fish, was the stater, he rejoined his disciples, brought with him a demonstration of his power; for
(also expressed in the original),-a coin equal in value to four drachmæ, or about half a crown; which was the sum required to pay the tribute for two persons, namely for our Lord and St Peter. In the performance of this miracle our Saviour displayed not only his Omniscience, but also his Omnipotent command of all creation. He not only knew where the stater was; but he caused it to come into the fish's mouth, and he caused the fish to come to the apostle's hook. Here we see the Son of man as the Lord of "whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas," Ps. viii. 8.In verse 25, "Jesus prevented him" means "Jesus was beforehand with him; Jesus spoke first." Then "Prevent us in all our doings" means "go before us; prepare the way."
There came to him a certain man— wisely abandoning all other means of help, forsaking even the poor timid disciples themselves, he repaired to Christ as his only and all-sufficient helper in the time of need,—kneeling down to him, and saying, with equal humility, faith, and fervour, Lord, have mercy on my son. Thus the woman of Canaan came to our Lord on behalf of her daughter; and herein parents and others may find abundant encouragement, and admonition, to repair to the throne of grace in prayer on behalf of those whom they love, as well as for themselves. For he is lunatic and sore vexed. It is our privilege to recount our griefs, and to declare our necessities, before the Lord, in the full assurance that no affliction can be so great as to be beyond the reach of his power and goodness. There must be a strong sense of need at the foundation of earnest prayer. The soul that does not know and feel its misery is dumb before the God of grace and consolation. For ofttimes he falleth into the
READER. When they were come to the multitude.-Here the scribes were captiously disputing with the apostles;-probably triumphing in their want of success in the case of the demoniac, occasioned by that very unbelief which they had perhaps them-fire, and oft into the water. How many selves induced ;--and denying even the power and authority of Jesus himself. Doubtless the apostles were in a state of great perplexity;—and so shall we be if we yield to unbelieving suggestions, and disturbing doubts. How much for our happiness is it to reflect, that if we are the sincere disciples of Christ, our Master is at hand, and will come and help us!-On this occasion, the Lord Jesus Christ, when
and various are the natural dangers which surround us, from the influence of which we are preserved by that one blessing, health, the continuance of our bodily powers and the faculties of our minds, by the continual support and goodness of Divine providence!— How many, too, and how various are the spiritual mischiefs which Satan is continually seeking to bring upon our souls! Sometimes he would cast us
into the fire, sometimes into the water;-now into one sin, and then into another of the very opposite kind; -at one time into the fire of earthly passions, or rash presumption, or unholy zeal, at another into the water of sloth, or unhallowed despondency, or coldness, formality, and spiritual death.
And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. If we bring our sinful souls, for counsel or for health, to the servants of Christ, and neglect the Saviour himself, our application will be made in vain. If we look to the church for blessings which can be derived only from the head of the church, we shall be sadly disappointed. It is a part of Satan's policy, not only to injure the souls of men, but to delude them by leading them to apply to fictitious or inadequate sources of remedy. Alas, how many have gone to popes and priests for pardon of their sins;-a blessing which popes and priests can never give! How many have trusted to the services of the church, for that spiritual strength and succour which can be derived only from Christ himself through a personal and lively faith!
And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him.-The Lord Jesus said, "Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee come out of him and enter no more into him." So may the Saviour, by the grace of his Holy Spirit, rebuke every evil passion, desire, or propensity within ourselves, and work for us a complete and eternal deliverance from their malignant influence! "And the spirit cried and rent him sore, and came out of him." It may cost us many a pang, and much trouble, to let go our sins and corruptions; but how great will be our gain, if withal the tormentor and defiler be cast out! "And he was as one dead; inasmuch that many said he is dead." Men are apt to mistake the nature and effects of real conversion. When a poor child of Adam becomes truly religious, they are disposed to regard him as lost to society and to himself,
and as good as dead. He is "dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." And of this spiritual resurrection, as well as of this death unto sin, we have a beautiful image in the transaction bebefore us, as the narrative is continued by St. Mark; for it is added that "Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up, and he arose." May
I believe, help thou mine unbelief!" This is indeed a wise and suitable reply, from the heart of man, to that word of encouragement and promise, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."Let us ever implore the help of God to enable us to overcome the remainder of unbelief.
O faithless and perverse generation! -A rebuke which applied, in its measure, not only to the cavilling scribes and ignorant multitude, but also to the weak and wavering disciples. Christ sees sin in his own people; he reproves them for it, and will cause them to suffer for it if it retained. Let all believers say, with the father of the lunatic, as his address is recorded by St. Mark, "Lord,
his friend, his helper and restorer, be our own! See Ps. ix. 13, 14. Col. iii. 3.
and fasting, let us not fail to make use of all suitable means, as occasion may require, for the obtaining of that gift of God, and its perpetual increase within our souls.
Why could not we cast him out? -Because of your unbelief.-Let us learn a lesson for ourselves from the failure of the disciples in this memorable instance. They did not work a miracle, because they had not suf
When they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute-money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your Master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. ficient faith in that promise which-Poter well knew that it became his blessed Master to fulfil all righteousness; and that he was ready to comply with that divine institution, the payment of the half shekel for the use of the temple service.-Let us not forget that "tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, honour to whom honour," is one of the clear and standing laws of Christianity. It is undoubtedly a believer's duty to pay all existing rates and taxes, imposed by lawful authority. If we feel ourselves aggrieved by the existence of any impost, we may use our endeavours, by proper and constitutional means, to obtain its remission. But, as long as it lasts, we must pay it, or sin against God.
Our blessed Lord now took occasion to intimate the exalted relation in which he stood to the temple and its services. He was not, as Moses, a servant in the house; but he was a Son over his own house. And on this ground he might have claimed exemption from the payment of the tribute. Then are the children free.
per, a simple dependence upon God our Saviour, and reliance on the word of his promise concerning ourselves. -And, remembering that admonition, this kind goeth not out but by prayer
this animating and invigorating tem--But he forbore to claim the honour due to himself, on this occasion; as he had already made still greater sacrifices, and was prepared to submit to a still deeper humiliation. Let us adore his condescension and
bore directly upon the case, and in Him who could have imparted to them sufficient power, and have given fulfilment to his own word. And we, in like manner, shall be unable to subdue our spiritual enemies, to work righteousness, to lead a holy life, and to enjoy the comforts and blessings of true religion, unless we place a simple reliance on the promises made to ourselves in the Gospel of Christ, and according to the covenant of grace. See 1 John v. 4. Unbelief paralyses the soul; faith is the great means of vitality and strength. Unbelief shuts out God; faith receives him, and works by his imparted influence. Real faith, like a grain of mustard seed, small in substance, but yet endued with a principle of vitality, and marked by continual growth and increase, will enable us to remove mountains,-to overcome difficulties, and to surmount obstacles, in the way of our salvation and happiness, which must otherwise be insuperable and fatal.-Let us cherish
his love! from that part of his example which is now before us, not to be too eager in insisting on the exercise of our privileges or our rights, especially when those rights are not clearly understood by those around us, or when we may run the risk of giving needless offence.-See Rom. xiv. 15.
And let us learn also,
The miracle which our Saviour wrought at this time, while it furnishes one proof, amongst many, of his divine knowledge and power, is adapted to encourage us in a faithful reliance on Providence for the supply of our need, while we continne in the way of duty. He who could bring a fish, with the needful coin, to Peter's hook, can never be at a loss for means to supply all the wants, whether
CHAP. XVIII. 1—14.
humble and harmless, to avoid offences, Christ warneth his disciples to be and not to despise the little ones.
AT the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven ?
2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
3 And said, Verily I say unto you, 'Except ye be converted, and become as little children,
bodily or spiritual, of those who walk ye shall not enter into the king
uprightly before him, and call on him with faith and prayer. He can lay all nature, and any part of it, under tribute for their support and comfort.
See Matt. vi. 25-34.
Jesus, our souls' delightful choice,
Thy promises our hearts revive,
Oh, let not sin and Satan boast
Do thou the dying spark inflame;
dom of heaven.
4 Whosoever therefore shall
humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 "And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
7 Woe unto the world ¶ because of offences! for 'it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!