Page images
PDF
EPUB

your preposterous anxiety is useless to you both, for it comes too late.

III. We will consider the faith with which this father applied to Jesus in behalf of his son. Though his faith was weak, yet there were several things which shewed it to be real and sincere.

The weakness of his faith especially appeared in his doubting of Christ's power to help him. “If thou canst do any thing, have compassion and help us." They who doubt are said to be of little faith. A strong faith rests on the power, wisdom, goodness and faithfulness of God without jealousy, or distrust. A christian, in the full exercise of faith, may doubt whether he shall actually receive this, or that particular blessing which he asks : but his doubt arises not from any suspicion of the want of goodness, or power in God to grant the blessing; but wholly from an apprehension, that he is himself unqualified to receive it, and that the wisdom of God may not see best to bestow it. All distrust of God implies a weakness, or want of faith. Distrust of ourselves is a different thing. This is often a reasonable humility-at the worst, it is a pardonable infirmity. Had this father thus addressed the Saviour, “ If thou seest it to be best, help us,” here would have been no indication of a weak faith ; because such a petition would have implied no distrust of Christ's power, or mercy, but only a doubt whether he, in his wisdom, would see fit to exercise his power and mercy in that particular way. But, by saying, “ If thou canst do any thing, help us,” he expressed a doubt of Christ's ability in the case, and thus shewed a weakness of faith.

But though his faith was weak, yet it was real. Doubting, though inconsistent with the strength, is not incompatible with the sincerity of faith. His faith appeared in several things.

1. In bringing his son to Christ to be healed.

He did not come with an insidious intention to insnare Christ, or to get an advantage against him; but with an honest desire to obtain a favor from him--a favor which, he trusted, Christ was able and ready to grant, and which he could not obtain elsewhere.

A spirit of faith will lead us to God in prayer for such things as we want. He who believes in God, will make known his requests to him. If you were under the pressure of any difficulty,

success.

and saw a friend near, who, you really believed, was able and ready to help you, on proper application; in this case you would not be silent-you would request his attention and aid. Much more, if

you believe in the power and goodness of God, will you spread your troubles before him. The neglect of prayer is an evidence of the want of faith.

This good man's faith farther appeared,
2. In his perseverance under discouragements.

He came to the place in expectation of finding Jesus. Perceiving that Jesus was absent, he applied to the disciples, who had often cast out devils in their master's name, and who, he hoped, could do the same now. They made the attempt, but without

The scribes hence took occasion to dispute Christ's Divine power, and to insinuate that here was an evil spirit which neither the disciples nor their master could manage.

These things staggered the poor man's hope ; but did not reduce him to despair. As soon as Jesus came, he presented the lad to him, told him the case, and begged his compassion.

True faith is persevering; it neither yields to discouragements, nor faints under disappointments, nor is confounded by the scoffs of infidelity. The believer, though his prayers meet not with expected success, still continues in them, knowing that he ought always to pray and not to faint-always to wait on God, and not to be cast down and disquieted.

This man shewed the honesty of his faith, 3. By acting on such probability as he had.

Several things happened, which created a doubt whether his high opinion of Jesus were well founded. But still he would not give it up without farther trial. Let the scribes say what they would, he could not but believe, this was the Saviour-he hoped, he should find him so-he would apply to him. The case was extreme-he knew not where else to

go.
He
prays,

“ If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us."

The sincere believer may have doubts; but he will not allow his doubts to draw him into the neglect of his duty. He may have fears; but he will not let go his confidence.

In cases of immediate importance, where we cannot have certainty of success, we think it reasonable to act on probability. If a child is sick, we use means for his recovery, though we have no assurance, that the means will avail. Why will we not act with as much wisdom in our spiritual concerns ? What can be of such moment as our eternal salvation ? Ought we not, even upon the most doubtful prospect, to engage in seeking it? How much more, when the best encouragements are set before us ?

We proceed to observe,

IV. The gracious notice which Christ took of this man's sincere, though feeble faith.

“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” It is as if Christ had said, “ There is no want of power in me; but I require faith as the condition of my favors. I never work miracles to gratify a vain curiosity, or to answer a captious demand. But if any apply to me in humility and sincerity, and with an honest disposition to receive evidence of the truth ; for them I am ready to employ my power. All things which are proper to be done, are possible to be done for them who believe."

You see, that Christ despises not the day of small things; he rejects not the weakest believer. He regards the feeblest motions of faith toward him. He smiles on the smallest beginnings of grace in the heart. He accepts the least acts of true faith and real piety. A cup of cold water given to a disciple in his name will not lose its reward. What mighty encouragement is here to tender souls—to young christians—to new converts—to the weak in faith. Their Saviour is one, who gathers the lambs with his arms, and carries them in his bosom. He is one who strengthens the weak and supports the falling. He is one who meets with his grace them who seek him with their hearts, and wait for him in his way. Let the feeble christian, under his fears and doubts, look to this Saviour, who is so full of power, goodness and condescension; and remember, that he will in no wise cast out them who come to him, nor disappoint those who wait for him. He says to the afflicted father, “ All things are possible to him that believeth.” To the woman who besought him for her daughter, he says, “As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.”

[ocr errors]

Christians; do you hear your Saviour speaking thus unto you? Let your pious desires rise up with new vigour on the wings of faith, and stretch away to seize and enjoy the promised good.

This leads us to observe,

V. How this believer was affected with Christ's gracious declaration. “ Straitway he cried out with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

He readily believed Christ's word, that he was able to do whatever he should ask. And he received this word with great affection. O, what a joyful word must this be to a father afflicted by the danger and distress of his only child ? Here is a physician able to heal him. But how much greater joy must it give to an awakened and enquiring sinner to hear and believe, that there is a Saviour able to redeem him from guilt and hell? To such a sinner the word of salvation comes as tidings of great joy. When Peter's hearers, pricked in their heart, and enquiring what they must do to be saved, were told, that through Jesus Christ there was a promise of pardon to all ; as many as should repent; they gladly received the word, and embraced the promise.

Many hear of salvation by Christ without any emotion of gratitude, or joy for the blessing, and without any concern to obtain a share in it. The reason is, they have no sense of their guilt, and of their desert of the wrath to come. Tell a sick man, that there is a physician at hand, who has a sure remedy for his disease, and that he may have it for asking, your information, if he believes it, will give him great joy. Were you as sensible of your danger from sin, as the sick man is of his danger from sickness, the word of salvation would give you still greater joy.

This believer had a humble sense of his remaining unbelief. “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief."

The true believer knows himself; he feels and laments the unbelief of his heart. Faith is imperfect in the most improved christian : it is especially so in new converts. They are babes in Christ. They must aspire to the stature of perfect men.

The unbelief of christians discovers itself in various ways. They should watch to observe and rebuke its workings. not sometimes feel great impatience under your afflictions; espe

Do you

[ocr errors]

cially if they have continued long; and deliverance has not come when you expected it? Are you never tempted to question the mercy and faithfulness of God under your troubles? The Psalmist found this symptom of unbelief. He expostulated with God, Is thy mercy clean gone? “But,” says he, “this is mine infirmity.” It is owing to your unbelief, that you cannot quietly trust God in all conditions, and rejoice in him, though the fig-tree should not blossom. Have you never taken indirect methods to extricate yourselves from worldly embarrassments? Do you never feel discontented with the allotments of Providence, or anxious about the events which are before you? These feelings are the fruits of unbelief. If you had a lively view of the providence, promises and perfections of God, you would be careful for nothing, but to know and do his will—to secure and enjoy his favor; you would commit your souls to him in well-doing as to a faithful Creator. Are you never distracted in religious duties? Do not your thoughts wander, and your affections flag ? What is the reason, but because your faith is weak ? Would not a lively faith in God collect your thoughts, and fix your attention? Do you live under a slavish fear of death? It is because faith has not so purified your hearts, as to give you decisive evidence of your title to heaven; or has not so raised you above this world as to make you willing to leave it for another.

Do you find any of these signs of unbelief in you? They call for humiliation: and if you are true believers, they will work humiliation. Humility was the temper of this weak believer who came with his son to Jesus for a cure of his maladies. For himself he prayed, that his faith might be strengthened. When he fully believed Christ's Divine power, the first thing he requested was, that this power might be employed in removing the unbelief which he felt within him.

The true christian often applies to Christ for the increase of faith. Where a principle of faith and holiness exists, there will be earnest desires of deliverance from sin and unbelief. These are a burden to the renewed soul. “ O wretched man that I am ; who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?”

« PreviousContinue »