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And when he was come into the house, then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustardseed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting.
The invidious opposition, which these Scribes and Pharisees made to our Lord, and the ill-natured joy they expressed, in what they imagined would disgrace his disciples, appears exceedingly odious; and it shews us the fatal effects of ambition, pride, and avarice, when they possess the hearts of those who should be (as these by their office were) teachers of others. Such qualities render those in the number of the most dangerous enemies of mankind, who ought to be its most affectionate friends and most useful benefactors. May the light of the gospel break in on their souls, and form them to a better temper!
The solicitous concern of this parent when he saw his child under such sad symptoms of disorder, may surely remind persons in that relation, of the sentiments, with which they should view those of their children who are, in a spiritual sense, under the power of Satan; and of the importunity, with which they should entreat that the hand of Christ may be stretched out for their rescue.
A lively exercise of faith is greatly to be desired in this and all other applications of this nature. But alas, how often do we find the remainders of a contrary principle! In how many instances does that passionate exclamation of the father in this story suit us! Lord, we believe, help thou our unbelief! How difficult is it, in the midst of so much guilt and weakness, of so much perplexity and unworthiness, to believe the promises of forgiveness and preservation, of grace and glory? yet we may humbly hope that He, who by his grace has wrought the Divine principle in our souls, will maintain it there. Only let it be our concern to oppose those corruptions which would enervate and suppress it. Perhaps there are some of them, which will not be driven out, but by prayer and fasting, by deep humiliation, and more than ordinary solemnity and intenseness of devotion. But surely they have little regard to the peace and security of their souls, who can allot only a few hasty moments to them, when they have whole hours and days to bestow, not only on the labours, but even on the amusements of life!
MATT. XVII. 22-27. MARK IX. 30-32. LUKE IX. 43-45. JOHN VII. 1.
AND after these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him: and he would not that any man should know it. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, Jesus taught his disciples and said unto them, while they abode in Galilee, Let these sayings sink down into your ears: For the Son of man shall be betrayed and delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him, and after that he is killed, he shall rise again the third day. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they were exceeding sorry; and were afraid to ask him of that saying.
And 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. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up: And when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
How slow and untractable were the minds of the apostles, who understood not these plain things when thus inculcated again and again! But, on the other hand, how much integrity does it shew in the historian, to record what seemed so little to the honour of himself and his brethren ! In this respect, and many others, surely credit rises to the gospel, even by occasion of the infirmities of those to whom it was
committed, and out of weakness they are made strong.-The lenity of our blessed Lord was truly admirable, that he should bear with such stupidity in his disciples with so much gentleness and patience, and should, with so much earnestness, go on to renew his instructions to them. Let us, however, learn to be upon our guard against the prejudices of worldly interest, since, as we see, they may take such strong hold of minds, in the main, upright and pious. And therefore let us earnestly pray, that God would give us a greater relish for spiritual and eternal blessings.
MARK IX. 33-50. LUKE 46-50.
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 there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And they had disputed among themselves. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him by him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. For he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.
And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and he followeth not us; and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not
against us is on our part.
For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, that believe in me, it were better for him that a mill
stone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 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! Wherefore if thy hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, and to be cast into everlasting fire that never shall be quenched: where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into everlasting fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt has lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.
How deeply is pride rooted in the heart of fallen man ; when neither the daily instructions, nor edifying example of the humble Jesus could prevent it from appearing, even among the apostles themselves, in so mean and unworthy a manner! Still did worldly interest and grandeur so intoxicate their minds, that they seemed even against hope to have hoped for it, and to have found out a strange kind of method of grafting these expectations, even on the very cross of Christ, which was intended to destroy them.
How edifying and affecting are these lessons, which the meek and lowly Redeemer gave us, with this little child in his arms, whose example we are required to copy! Lord, give us of thy regenerating grace, that we may do it; that we may be converted, and become as little children, free from avarice and ambition, malice, and prejudice! How melancholy is it to think, that many, who have by their office been employed to read and explain this lesson to others, and who have not been children in understanding, seem to have learnt so little
of it themselves; as if it had never been at all intended for that order of men, to whom indeed it was immediately addressed! If there be any such yet remaining in the Christian ministry, let them seriously weigh the woe denounced on that man by whom the offence cometh. May the infinite mercies of God be extended to all professing Christians, who give themselves up to worldly pursuits and projects: and especially to those who make the church of Christ only a kind of porch to the temple of mammon, and the sacred office itself merely a convenient vehicle for swallowing down riches and honours! May Divine grace deliver us from such fatal snares, and form us to that self-denial and mortification, without which we cannot be the true disciples of Christ; but, after having pierced ourselves through with many unnecessary sorrows here shall plunge ourselves deep into eternal perdition!
May these repeated and dreadful representations of future misery, which we have now been reading, impress our souls in a becoming manner! Blessed Jesus! thou bringest good tidings; yet which of the prophets under the legal dispensation ever represented the terrors of the Lord in so awful a light, as that in which thou hast placed them! Let none of thy ministers be afraid to imitate thee herein ! nor let any of thy followers presume to censure them for it! May we all be effectually warned to flee from the wrath to come; and, as we would not another day be salted with fire, may our hearts now be seasoned with thy grace! and may we, by a modest and peaceful, a benevolent and useful life, be daily bearing a testimony to it, and, as the salt of the earth, may we be labouring to cure the growing corruption of the world about us !
MATTHEW XVIII. 1-20.
AT the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. But