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LOITAHIT 5 .1 sp LUNOS QUATB 4 314.I wil
PT. 1907 Y 6 * *
compassion on us and help us.” Jesus answered, “ If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” As much as to say, You think that the man will be healed if I have power. Now there is no if on my part—the if is on yours. I can heal your son ; and I will, provided you have faith. The whole matter depends on this: “If thou canst believe." We might adduce many other instances to show that usually Christ required faith before He would work miracles. And, in fact, we find this principle expressly stated. “And He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief." The evangelist Mark puts the case even more strongly : “And He could there do no mighty work, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief.” It seems as if there were such a benumbing power in unbelief, that it could prevent the exercise even of Christ's saving power; that while, of course, it was physically possible for Him to work miracles anywhere and at any time, yet unbelief made it morally impossible for Him to do so, in accordance with the higher laws of God's spiritual kingdom.
We may observe the same principle brought out in another way in the reply made by our Lord to the Pharisees when they asked Him what sign He showed them of His being the Messiah. He said, " Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And again, “There shall no sign be given to this generation but the sign of the prophet Jonas ; for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly : 80 shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” He gave these unbelievers no sign such as they asked for; and the only sign He did give was the prediction of His resurrection, an event still future, and, when it had taken place, to be believed only on the testimony of His people; for we know that between His resurrection and His ascension Christ never appeared to any but His own followers. Hence, He gave no special sign to those who had no faith. Not that the slightest doubt is thus thrown upon the reality of the miracles which Christ wrought. Though only believers, as a rule, enjoyed the blessings which He came to bestow, yet the miracles were performed in the presence of crowds of unbehevers. The Pharisees themselves could not deny the reality of the miracles ; in order to reject the testimony borne by these acts to the Divine mission of the Saviour, they were forced to ascribe them to Satanic power. They could not deny them, for they were wrought before their own eyes. Hence we know that the record of these miracles is a truthful record, and those who refused to believe, seeing the miracles or hearing the record of them from others, were without excuse; but the fact remains that it was only believers, who, as a rule, themselves received the blessing, while all were forced to acknowledge The superhuman power put forth.
Now the question may be asked, Why did our Lord thus act ? Would it not have been wiser, kinder, better, to have wrought His miracles on the persons of unbelievers, and thus have produced faith, rather than to have required faith as a pre-requisite to receive His blessing, and to have refused to heal those who did not believe? Was it wise and kind of Him to make the healing of the demoniac son depend upon the father's faith, and thus to cause the anguish of the cry, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief”? Would it not have been better to have healed the son, and thus awakened faith in the father without the agonising trial that preceded? Of course, as believers in the Saviour, we are sure that He acted wisely and lovingly, that “ He did all things well;" that He not only ever did the right thing, but ever did it in the right way. But whilst satisfied that He did what was best, even if we could not find out the reason, it is not wrong for us to seek if we can find it. And if we do thus seek, we shall probably not have to go far to find it. Our Lord sought not only to do good to men's bodies, but also to their souls. He desired to make the healing of their bodily infirmities a means of healing the sicknesses of their souls. Now, had He not required faith in those who came to be healed, it is very possible that even the fact of a miracle being wrought upon them would not have produced faith. Mere miracles, of them selves, will not produce it. God may make use of them by His Spirit as a means of implanting it in those whose hearts are not sealed against the truth, but of themselves they will not avail. We may set an illustration of this fact in this very chapter. We read that Chris cast out a devil, and the result was, “the multitudes marvelled.” Tha was all. They did not believe: whilst the Pharisees, who beheld th miracle as well as the rest of the people, even ascribed it to the power of Beelzebub. Hence, if our Lord had worked miracles indiscrimi nately on all that came to Him, whether they had faith or not, thes miracles would not necessarily have produced faith in those upor whom they were wrought. Those who were healed would at first have marvelled, and felt grateful to their Deliverer, but in the course of few weeks they would very likely have forgotten how infirm they ha been, and how they had been healed, and they would have ascribe their cure to chance, or magic, or the power of an evil spirit. We se the same tendency in man every day around us. What can be a mor manifest proof of the existence of the Creator than the marvellou adaptation of every member of our body and power of our nature t the circumstances by which we are surrounded, or the wondrous growt of vegetation, the power of the seed to gather to itself the elements its development into the plant or the tree? And yet men every da use this wondrous body, and behold these marvellous operations, an say, “ There is no God—it is all the course of nature.” They have I faith to begin with, and therefore the sight of ten thousand proofs o every hand of the Divine power and goodness, awakens not the slighte feeling of faith in their hearts. But suppose the growth of the col depended upon our faith. Suppose it could be said to the unbelieve If you do not believe in God, the corn will not grow, and you w have nothing to eat. If he felt that his very life depended upon h faith, how he would agonize himself into faith ; and then, upon h belief, though it might be feeble, beholding the corn to grow, how h faith would be strengthened ! So, in the case of the demoniac to which we have referred. Had Christ healed the son at once, when the father could only say, “ If Thou canst do anything," it is very possible that in the course of a short time, when he had become accustomed to see his son in good health, he might have begun to forget what had been done, or even disbelieve in the Saviour, and ascribe the healing to witchcraft or the power of Satan. But now, Christ requires faith first, and the man, perceiving that without faith his child would not be healed, strove earnestly to believe, and Christ blessed his strivings, and he was enabled to cry out, “ Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief." Thus there was real faith, though weak; but when he received his son again, sound, and in his right mind, his faith was mightily strengthened.
We see then, that miracles of themselves will not produce faith where it does not exist, but will mightily increase faith where it does exist. There must be in every case a “readiness to believe,” or the beholding of miracles will only harden the heart, as it did in the case of the Pharisees. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, 'neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” This, then, may have been one of the chief reasons why our Lord required faith in those who came to be healed. His first disciples followed Jesus, and said, "We have found the Messias,” even without beholding any miracle wrought by Him. · It was such disciples that He desired to draw, not those to whom He had to say, “Except ye see signs and wonders, Je will not believe.” And even for these weaker ones He had wrought enough miracles, the fame of which was spread abroad, for their faith to rest on; and hence He rightly required faith in those that came to Him before He would work a miracle upon them. : Let us inquire further, applying the subject to ourselves, whether He does not act upon the same principle now. He does, and this may have been another reason why He thus acted when on earth, to teach us a law of His mediatorial government. He now ever says, "According to your faith be it unto you."
It is on this principle that He acts in the first coming of the sinner to Him. It is faith that He requires the sinner to exercise, and then "according to his faith” is it to him. The message of the gospel is not, According to your good works be it unto you; or, According to your purposes of amendment be it unto you; or, According to your tears and cries be it unto you; or, According to your penance and self-mortification be it unto you; but, “ According to your faith be it unto you.”. All hinges upon the possession of faith. Of course the taith must be genuine, and must show itself to be so by its fruits, as it did in the case of these two blind men. They persevered in their cry, they followed Jesus, until He answered them. Thus the sinner comes earnestly, humbly, perseveringly to the Saviour, believes that He is able to save him to the uttermost, and “ according to his faith” it is
Our Lord acts upon the same principle in the bestowal of spiritual blessings upon His people. He gives blessings in proportion to their real, earnest faith. In prayer, for instance, He requires faith. He says, “Whatsoever ye pray, believing, ye shall receive." And so the apostle James says, “Let him pray in faith, nothing wavering;” and with regard to him that prays without faith, he adds, “Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” Prayer without faith is the mere idle expression of a wish ; prayer with faith is the real true prayer, and this alone shall be accepted of God. And the same reason may be given why God should thus require faith in those who pray, that was brought forward to account for Christ's having required faith in those who came to be healed. If we ask for a blessing without any expectation that our prayers will be heard, without believing that prayer is really a mighty power with God, and that it will certainly bring down either the exact blessing we seek, or something in its place that our Father sees would be better for us—if we thus ask, expressing a mere wish and nothing more, and if God were to grant us the blessing we had asked for, should we receive it as coming from Him? Probably not. We ask for deliverance from some danger ; we do not ask with a definite belief that God will hear us and answer us in the best way, but we ask simply because we feel it is our duty to do so, or because our distress expresses itself in a natural cry to God; but we do not believe that God will really answer our prayer. He grants the blessing that we desire; shall we receive it as coming from God? It is far more likely that we shall receive it as coming in the ordinary course of events, that it so happened that we asked for deliverance and that deliverance came—a mere coincidence. The answering of the prayer will not produce faith where it does not exist. But if there be faith to begin with, if we ask with a real belief, though weak, that our prayer will have some effect, that God will hear and answer,—then, when we receive that which we ask for, we receive it at once as coming from God, and our weak faith is mightily strengthened. The answering of prayer will thus increase faith where it does exist. If God heart prayer that was offered without faith, we should pray carelessly unbelievingly, and receive no spiritual blessing from the act of prayer But because He requires faith as a pre-requisite to His answering our cries, if we earnestly desire a blessing, we try and believe that Go will hear us, He helps our endeavours to believe, and when we cr with the afflicted father, “ Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief, He does help it by answering our prayers and sending us away froi the throne of grace strong in faith and rejoicing in the Lord.
But there is yet a further application of the principle before u Not only does Christ bestow blessings, as a rule, only upon those wh have faith, but He generally does so in proportion to our faith. To gret faith He gives a great blessing. He says, “ According to your faith 1 it unto you.” If we believe that He will bless us abundantly, if w are thus strong in faith, we shall receive an abundant blessing fro Him; if we expect to receive from Him only a small blessing, if oi faith is weak, it is very likely that the blessing we receive will 1 small. Strong faith honours Him, and He loves to honour it.