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not room enough for thankfulness to that good God, who hath not delivered thee up to that malignant spirit.
The distressed father sits not still, neglects not means; “I brought him to thy disciples.' Doubtless, the man came first to seek for Christ himself ; finding him absent, he makes suit to the disciples. To whom should we have recourse, in all our spiritual complaints, but to the agents and messengers of God? The noise of the like cures had surely brought this man with much confidence to crave their succour; and now how cold was he at the heart when he found that his hopes were frustrate ! “ They could not cast him out.” No doubt the disciples tried their best : they laid their wonted charge upon this dumb spirit, but all in vain. They, that could come with joy and triumph to their Master, and say, “The devils are subject to us,” find now themselves matched with a stubborn and refractory spirit. Their way was hitherto smooth and fair ; they met with no rub till now: and now surely the father of the demoniac was not more troubled at this event than themselves. How could they choose but fear, lest their Master had, with himself, withdrawn that spiritual power which they had formerly exercised ? Needs must their heart fail them with their success.
The man complained not of their impotence ; it were fondly injurious to accuse them for that which he could not do. Had the want been in their will, they had well deserved a querulous language ; it was no fault to want power: only he complains of the stubbornness, and laments the invincibleness of that evil spirit.
I should wrong you, Oye blessed followers of Christ, if I should say, that as Israel, when Moses was gone up into the mount, lost their belief with their guide; so that ye, missing your Master, who was now ascended up to his Tabor, were to seek for
your faith. Rather the wisdom of God saw reason to check your over-assured forwardness, and both to pull down your hearts by a just humiliation, in the sense of your own weakness, and to raise up your hearts to new acts of dependence upon that sovereign power from which your limited virtue was derived.
What was more familiar to the disciples than ejecting of devils ? in this only it is denied them. Our good God sometimes finds it requisite to hold us short in those abilities whereof we make least doubt, that we may feel whence we had them. God will be no less glorified in what we cannot do, than in what we can do. If his graces were always at our command, and ever alike, they should seem natural, and soon run into contempt: now we are justly held in an awful dependence upon that gracious hand, which so gives as not to cloy us, and so denies as not to discourage us.
Who could now but expect, that our Saviour should have pitied and bemoaned the condition of this sad father and miserable son, and have let fall some words of comfort upon them? Instead whereof, I hear him chiding and complaining, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you ?" complaining not of that woful father, and more woful son: it was not his fashion to add affliction to the distressed, to break such bruised reeds ; but of those Scribes, who, upon the failing of the success of this suit, had insulted upon the disability of the followers of Christ, and depraved his power; although, perhaps, this impatient father, seduced by their suggestion, might slip into some thoughts of distrust.
There could not be a greater crimination than faithless and perverse :" faithless in not believing ; perverse in being obstinately set in their unbelief. Doubtless these men were not free from other notorious crimes; all were drowned in their infidelity. Moral uncleannesses or violences may seem more heinous to men, none are so odious to God as these intellectual wickednesses.
What a happy change is here in one breath of Christ! “How long shall I suffer you ? bring him hither to me;" the one is a word of anger, the other of favour. His just indignation doth not exceed or impeach his goodness. What a sweet mixture there is in the perfect simplicity of the divine nature ; “In the midst of judgment, he remembers mercy,” yea, he acts it: his sun shines in the midst of this storm. Whether he frown, or whether he smile, it is all to one purpose, that he may win the incredulous and disobedient. Whither should the rigour of all our censures tend, but to edification, and not to destruction ? We are physicians, we are not executioners; we give purges to cure, and not poisons to kill. It is for the just Judge to say one day to reprobate souls, “ Depart from me;" in the mean time it is for us to invite all that are spiritually possessed to the participation of mercy. “Bring him hither to me.
O Saviour, distance was no hindrance to thy work ; why should the demoniac be brought to thee? was it that this deliverance might be the better evicted, and that the beholders might see it was not for nothing that the disciples were opposed with so refractory a spirit ? or was it, that the Scribes might be witnesses of that strong hostility that was betwixt thee and that foul spirit, and be ashamed of their blasphemous slander? or was it that the father of the demoniac might be quickened in that faith, which now, through the suggestion of the Scribes, began to droop; when he should hear and see Christ so cheerfully to undertake and perform that whereof they had bidden him despair ?
The possessed is brought, the devil is rebuked and ejected. That stiff spirit, which stood out boldly against the commands of the disciples, cannot but
stoop to the voice of the Master: that power which did at first cast him out of heaven, easily dispossesses him of a house of clay. “The Lord rebuke thee, , Satan," and then thou canst not but flee.
The disciples, who were not used to these affronts, cannot but be troubled at their mis-success : “Master, why could not we cast him out ?" Had they been conscious of any defect in themselves, they had never asked the question : little did they think to hear of their unbelief. Had they not had great faith, they could not have cast out any devils; had they not had some want of faith, they had cast out this. It is possible for us to be defective in some graces, and not to feel it.
Although not so much their weakness is guilty of this unprevailing, as the strength of that evil spirit: “This kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting. ” Weaker spirits were wont to be ejected by a command ; this devil was more sturdy and boisterous. As there are degrees of statures in men, so there are degrees of strength and rebellion in spiritual wicked
Here bidding will not serve; they must pray, and praying will not serve without fasting. They must pray to God that they may prevail ; they must fast to make their prayer more fervent, more effectual: we cannot now command, we can fast and pray. How good is our God to us, that while he hath not thought fit to continue to us those means which are less powerful for the dispossessing of the powers of darkness, yet hath he given us the greater! While we can fast and pray, God will command for us, Satan cannot prevail against us.
THE WIDOW'S MITES. The sacred wealth of the temple was either in stuff or in coin: for the one the Jews had a house, for the
other a chest. At the concourse of all the males to the temple thrice a year, upon occasion of the solemn feasts, the oblations of both kinds were liberal. Our Saviour, as taking pleasure in the prospect, sets himself to view those offerings, whether for holy uses or charitable.
Those things we delight in, we love to behold: the eye and the heart will go together. And can we think, O Saviour, that thy glory hath diminished aught of thy gracious respects to our beneficence? or that thine acceptance of our charity was confined to the earth ? Even now that thou sittest at the right hand of thy Father's glory, thou seest every hand that is stretched out to the relief of thy poor saints here below. And if vanity have power to stir up our liberality, out of a conceit to be seen of men, how shall faith encourage our bounty in knowing that we are seen of thee, and accepted by thee? Alas! what are we the better for the notice of those perishing and impotent eyes, which can only view the outside of our actions ; or for that waste wind of applause which vanisheth in the lips of the speaker ? Thine eye, O Lord, is piercing and retributive. As to see thee is perfect happiness, so to be seen of thee is true contentment and glory.
And dost thou, O God, see what we give thee, and not see what we take away from thee? Are our offerings more noted than our sacrileges ? Surely thy mercy is not more quick-sighted than thy justice. In both kinds our actions are viewed, our account is kept; and we are sure to receive rewards for what we have given, and vengeance for what we have defaulked. With thine eye of knowledge thou seest all we do ; but what we do well, thou seest with thine eye of approbation. So didst thou now behold these pious and charitable oblations. How well wert thou pleased with this variety! Thou sawest many rich men give much ;
gave more than they in lesser room.
and one poor