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say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea ; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass ; he shall have whatsoever he saith."
According to St. MATTHEW xxi. 21, 22. "Jesus answered and said, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do that which is done to the fig-tree, but also yo shall say unto this mountain, “ Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea ; it shall be done. (Then follows the promise which shows how this power is to be attained.) And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
The meaning clearly is, Let not this that is done unto the fig-tree astonish you; for you shall, by the power of faith yourselves be enabled to do this and more than this.
We must not suppose that Christ meant that His power was of faith. No, His power was his own.
He could use it as He pleased, and if His disciples were like-minded with him, He would impart it to them.
Simple wonder was not the feeling that could be useful to the apostles, and Jesus taught them, from what they saw, to learn the power that faith gives. The life of the fig-tree was gone, never more could it produce leaf or fruit. Faith in God is the life of the soul flowing from the God of life, and imparting to men the powers of God. By telling them that they would be able to remove mountains if their faith was firm, Jesus no doubt meant to teach them that no difficulty would be too great for them to overcome, and that nothing should be impossible to those who believed.
Verse 24.“ Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive, and ye shall have them."
The words of Christ are clear; let us take comfort from them, and allow nothing to make us “ careful and troubled;" but remembering His words, let us make known our requests unto God with thanksgiving, even as though we had already received; for we know that Christ has said, -—"All things, whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
The fate of the fig-tree, that was covered with leaves but bore no fruit, was clearly a sign of punishment awaiting the hypocritical Jews. The disciples might forget that the curse laid by their Lord upon a senseless tree was the one only instance of severity in His ministry. The tree could feel nothing; but its withering away might strike with a wholesome fear all who knew themselves to be accused by the Saviour of making a pretence of religion; therefore it was in fact, like all His other acts, an act of mercy: but the disciples might overlook this, they might make it an excuse to themselves for encouraging an angry and revengeful spirit against their enemies. It was probably for this reason, that Jesus immediately added a lesson which we must never forget :
Verse 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. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven, forgive your trespasses."
The mind that prays must be in tune with the mind of God; for real prayer is the intercourse of the child with the heart of the father, making known his wants in the certainty of being heard. The proud and unforgiving cannot thus pray, for they are not like-minded with God.
“ If you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses." Wise and kind was the caution, for the apostles, being but men, were in the double danger of “thinking of themselves more highly than they ought to
think,” when they saw the difference between themselves and their fellow-countrymen, and of cherishing anger against the ill usage they were sure to meet with. Christ therefore warns them that they must not venture into the presence of God in prayer, without remembering their own sinfulness, and His exceeding love in forgiving them ; without forgiving all who have offended against them, in the same spirit of love that had been shewn to them. Let the words of our Lord sink deep into our hearts, for even as the blight upon the bud destroys the fruit, so does vain-glorious pride, angry at all opposition, destroy the christian character. It is the danger that attends human nature. Our Lord cautioned His apostles against it;—surely we shall do well to take heed to His words.
Jesus and His disciples passed on to Jerusalem, and we, when duty calls, must not linger by the way: but before we turn from the withered fig-tree, let us think again of the words of Christ, “ Have faith in God.”
Are you sometimes startled by alarming proofs of the power of God ;-often perplexed by difficulties lying in your path that seem to make it impossible for you to go forward ? * Have faith in God, He is “the same yesterday, to-day and for ever.” He never forsook His people, neither will He forsake you. Only see that you are like-minded with Him. When ye pray, forgive, that ye also may be forgiven, and doubt not that your prayers will be heard.
Verses 27—31. “And they came again to Jerusalem , and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things ? and who gave thee this authority to do these things ? 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. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men ? answer me. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him ?”
* Exodus xv. 15.
LUKE XX. 6—8. “But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us : for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered, That they could not tell whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”
Jesus knew that they would not answer his question concerning John's ministry. Had they been as honest regarding him, as the common people were, they would have been as clear-sighted, and would have counted John " that he was a prophet indeed." Then they could have had no need to ask, By what authority Jesus acted, or who gave Him that authority ?-seeing that John bare record that He was the Son of God." *
Had the Chief Priests, and the Scribes, and Elders given any attention to the teaching of John, they would have been at no loss to know why Jesus acted with authority, seeing that John had said of Him, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire; whose fan is His hand and He will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner, but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable.”+ They had sent to John, to know if he were the Christ, and they had received a distinct answer, that he was not, but that he was the forerunner of the Messiah, whom he pointed out to all the people, -Jesus of Nazareth the Lamb of God.
* John i. 29–36. + Luke iii. 17. Alluding to the manner in which they winnowed the grain.
We thus see how calm and wise was the reply of Jesus. He entered into no needless dispute, but referred them to what they already knew, but did not choose to acknowledge. Thus their own consciences would be their reprovers, and their instructors. This was the way our Saviour chiefly taught, and by His parables He led men to condemn sin, as we are willing enough to do, when we see it in others; and then by a sudden turn, He held up the mirror of truth before their eyes, showing them that what they had looked upon, and passed judgment upon, as a mere picture, was in reality the reflection of their own characters. It was thus David had been led to acknowledge, and to repent of his great sin, and thus the Saviour strove to lead those Scribes and Pharisees who were now questioning him, to see their danger, in time to escape from it; therefore without any pause he went on speaking.
MATTHEW xxi. 28. “But what think ye, a certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to-day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented, and went. And he caine to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, Sir, and went not. Whether of these twain, did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not : but the publicans and harlots believed him; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward that
ye might believe him.” John had come in the “way of righteousness,” that is, preaching the very doctrines which they themselves upheld, -the necessity of good works ; yet they had given no attention to his preaching, while these who had till then, been utterly careless, and disobedient, had been roused by it, to repentance. Even