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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!
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.
And Jesus rebuked the devil; and
departed out of him.-The Lord Jesus said, "Thou dumb and desf 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,
O faithless and perverse generation! -A rebuke which applied, in its and as good as dead. He is "dead measure, not only to the cavilling indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, scribes and ignorant multitude, but through Jesus Christ our Lord." also to the weak and wavering dis- And of this spiritual resurrection, as ciples. Christ sees sin in his own well as of this death unto sin, we have a people; he reproves them for it, and beautiful image in the transaction bewill cause them to suffer for it if it before us, as the narrative is continued retained. Let all believers say, with by St. Mark; for it is added that the father of the lunatic, as his ad- "Jesus took him by the hand, and dress is recorded by St. Mark, "Lord, lifted him up, and he arose." May
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.
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.
Peter 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 But, as long as it lasts, we must pay it, or sin against God.
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 sufficient faith in that promise which 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 this animating and invigorating tem--But he forbore to claim the honour 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
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.
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
his love! And let us learn also, 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.
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 bodily or spiritual, of those who walk 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;
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!
8 Wherefore if thy hand or
thy foot offend thee, cut them
a Mark ix. 33. Luke ix. 46; & xxii. 24.-6 Pa. cxxxi. 2. eh. xix. 14. Mark x. 14. Luke xviii. 16. 1 Cor. xiv. 20. 1 Pet. ii. 2.-c ch. xx. 27; & xxiii. 11.-d ch. x. 42. Luke ix. 48.-e Mark ix. 42. Luke xvii. 1. 2.-f Luke xvii. 1. 1 Cor. xi. 19.-g ch. xxvi. 24.- ch. v. 29.
off, and cast them from thee: 30. Mark ix. 43. 45.-i Ps. xxxiv. 7. Zech. xiii. 7. Heb.
it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
9 And if thine eye offend thee pluck it out, and cast it from thee it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is
11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12" How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
14 Even so it is not the will
your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
i. 14.- Esth. i. 14. Luke i. 19- Luke ix. 56; & xix. 10. John iii. 17; & xii. 47.-m Luke xv. 4.
Reader.-We have here an account of our Saviour's instructions to his
disciples on the occasion of a very unbecoming contest which had arisen among them concerning precedency, or the question who should be first and greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps they did not venture to propose this question to their master; but it was one which appears to have been warmly debated among themselves. The narrative is given. at length by St. Mark (ix. 33—41), and more briefly by St. Luke (ix. 46-50). St. Mark says expressly that Jesus "came to Capernaum; and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace, for by the way they disputed among themselves who should be the greatest." And St. Luke also tells us that our Lord spoke to them on the subject, "perceiving the thought of their heart." Hence it appears that while this controversy existed among themselves they were yet ashamed, as they well might be, to bring it before their master. And when St. Matthew wrote "At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus saying," he probably meant to place the transaction in precisely the same light, leaving his reader to understand "saying among themselves," not, "saying unto Jesus." They came unto Jesus; and (as they came) they were saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
The existence of such a dispute as this makes it evident that the disciples did not yet rightly understand the nature of Christ's kingdom. They were still fixing their minds and hearts upon some temporal dominion, attended with outward pomp and worldly power; and were not sufficiently alive to the fact that the reign of the Messiah would be distinguished by righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Such is the power of prejudice! so slow is the heart of man to detach itself from worldly things, and to apprehend things spiritual and heavenly!
There is, however, one fact, of some importance to ourselves, which may be inferred from this unhappy and disgraceful dispute. It is clear from the circumstance before us, that no precedency had been yet granted to any one of the Apostles; and that the words lately addressed by our Lord to St. Peter in particular were not intended, or understood, as conveying to him any priority or rule over his brethren. How could the disciples have disputed among themselves who should be the greatest, if the question had already been decided by the highest authority in favour of St. Peter? The very existence of this debate proves that no preeminent power or dignity was granted to St. Peter by those words which had already been addressed to him, Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my church. -And, more than this, the answer which our Lord gave to the question makes it appear not only that he had not yet given any precedence
to either of his apostles, but that he did not intend to do so at any future time. If he had designed to make St. Peter the prince of the Apostles, an opportunity was now given for conferring this dignity upon him;-or rather, our Lord would have been compelled, in fairness and honesty of speech, to set the controversy at rest by declaring the truth of his intention! But no such declaration was drawn forth, just because no such design was
In the ancient church there was an unfounded tradition that the little child, whom our Lord called to him and placed in the midst of his disciples on this occasion, was Ignatius, afterwards bishop of Antioch, who suffered martyrdom about the year 107. The story, being without sufficient proof, is worth nothing; but doubtless it had its meaning and use when it was first propagated. The name of Ignatius was unfairly used, in the early centuries, for the purpose of exalting the power and influence of the hierarchy. Forged epistles, attributed to this holy man, were published, containing extravagant and unscriptural views of the office and claims of Christian Ministers, and tending to support the rising ecclesiastical system; and it is probable that fabulous tradition was employed with a view to give weight and dignity to the name of this supposed champion of an ambitious and grasping priesthood. If we value the simple truth of Scripture, we must be on our guard against tradition, even