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The father concludes his sad tale with a somewhat reproachful reference to the futile efforts of Christ's disciples to aid him; and declares what impotent exorcists they had proved: • I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out, and they could not On this the Lord with a sorrowful indignation exclaims, 'O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you ?'
e?' We have two applications of these words. Some, as Origen, apply them to the disciples, and to them alone; they suppose that our Lord spake thus, grieved and indignant at the weakness of their faith, and that even so brief a separation from Him should have shorn them of their strength, and left them powerless against the kingdom of darkness; and the after discourse (Matt. xvii. 20) favours such an application. Others, as Chrysostom, and generally the early interpreters, pointedly exclude the disciples from the rebuke; count it addressed to the surrounding multitude alone; and certainly the term generation' seems fitter for them,-in whom the Lord beholds specimens and representatives of the whole Jewish people, the father himself representing, only too well, the unbelieving temper of the whole generation to which he pertained (Mark ix. 22), and therefore sharing largely in the condemnation. This in St. Mark is directly addressed to him, yet the language shows that the rebuke is not restrained to him, but intended to pass on to many more. And indeed the most satisfactory explanation is one which reconciles both these views; the disciples are not exclusively aimed at, nor chiefly,
Cælius Aurelianus (Morb. Chron. i. 4): Alii (epileptici] publicis in locis cadendo fædantur, adjunctis etiam externis periculis, loci causâ præcipites dati, aut in flumina vel mare cadentes. And Paulus Ægineta, the last of the great physicians of the old world, describing epilepsy (iii. 13), might almost seem to have borrowed his account from this history: Morbus comitialis est convulsio totius corporis cum principalium actionum læsione, . . . fit hæc affectio maxime pueris, postea vero etiam in adolescentibus et in vigore consistentibus. Instante vero jam symptomate collaptio ipsis derepente contingit et convulsio, et quandoque nihil significans exclamatio [ižaiovns kpálec, Luke ix. 39). Præcipuum vero ipsorum signum est oris spuma (metà appoi, Luke ix. 39).
but rather the multitude and the father. They, however, are included in the rebuke; their unfaithfulness and unbelief had brought them, for the time, back to a level with their nation, and they must share with it all in a common condemnation. • How long shall I be with you ?' are words not so much of one longing to put off the coil of flesh,' but rather of a master, complaining of the slowness and dulness of his scholars : Have I abode with you all this time, and have you profited so little by my teaching ?' Till their task is learned, He cannot leave them, but must abide with them still.? We may compare his words to Philip, ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip?' (John xiv. 9.)
And now, since the help which is done on earth, He must Himself do it, He exclaims, ‘Bring him unto Me.' As the staff in Gehazi's hand could not arouse the dead child, but the prophet himself must arrive and undertake the work, if it were to be done at all, so is it now (2 Kin. iv. 31). Yet the first bringing of the child to Jesus causes another of the fearful paroxysms of his disorder, so that he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming.' The kingdom of Satan in small and in great is ever stirred into a fiercer activity by the coming near of the kingdom of Christ. Satan has great wrath, when his time is short.3 But as the Lord on occasion of another difficult and perilous cure (Mark v. 9) began a conversation with the sufferer Himself, seeking thus to inspire him with confidence, to bring back something of calmness to his soul, so does He now with the representative of
Jerome (Comm. in Matt. in loc.): Non quod tædio superatus sit, et mansuetus ac mitis; . . . sed quod in similitudinem medici si ægrotum videat contra sua præcepta se gerere dicat: Usquequo accedam ad domum tuam, quousque artis perdam injuriam; me aliud jubente et te aliud perpetrante ?
Bengel: Festinabat ad Patrem: nec tamen abitum se facere posse sciebat, priusquam discipulos ad fidem perduxisset. Molesta erat tarditas
8 Calvin : Quo propior affulget Christi gratia, et efficacius agit, eo impotentius furit Satan.
the sufferer, the father, being precluded by his actual condition from doing this with himself: 'How long is it ago since this came unto him ?' The father answers, ‘Of a child, and, for the stirring of more pity, describes again the miserable perils in which these fits involved his child; at the same time ill content that anything should come before the healing, if a healing were possible, having, also, present to his mind the recent failure of the disciples, he adds, 'If Thou, Thou more than those, canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.' In that us, we see how entirely his own life is knit up with his child's: as the woman of Canaan, pleading for her daughter, had cried, 'Have mercy on me' (Matt. xv. 22). At the same time he reveals by that “if,' that he has come with no unquestioning faith in Christ's power to aid, but is rendering the difficult cure more difficult still by his own doubts and unbelief.
Our Lord's answer is not without its difficulty, which our Version has rather evaded than met; but its sense is plainly the following: • That “if” of thine, that uncertainty whether anything can be done for thy child or not, is to be resolved by thee, and not by Me. There is a condition without which he cannot be healed; but the fulfilling of the condition lies with thyself and no other. The absence of faith on thy part, and not any overmastering power in this malignant spirit, is that which straitens Me; if this cure is hard, it is thou that renderest it so. Thou hast said, “If I can do anything :” but the question is, “ If thou canst believe ; ” this is . the hinge upon which all must turn-and then with a pause, and not merely completing the sentence, as in our Version,' • All things are possible to him that believeth. Thus faith is here, as in every other case, set as the condition of healing;
1 The words, I imagine, should be pointed thus : có, ci dúvaraı tioteīOAL' Távta dvvarà ru TLOTE VOVTi' and Bengel enters rightly into the construction of the first clause, explaining it thus: Hoc, si potes credere, res est ; hoc agitur. Calvin: Tu me rogas ut subveniam quoad potero; atqui inexhaustum virtutis fontem in me reperies, si modo afferas satis amplam fidei mensuram.
on other occasions it is the faith of the person ; but here, that being impossible, the father's is accepted instead ; even as the Syrophænician mother's in the room of her daughter's (Matt. XV. 22). Thus the Lord appears, in Olshausen's words, in some sort a MalevTN'S Tiotews, helping the birth of faith in that travailing soul ; even as at length, though with pain and sore travail, it comes to the birth, so that the father exclaims with tears, · Lord, I believe ;') and then, the little spark of faith which has been kindled in his soul revealing to him the abysmal deeps of unbelief which are there, he adds this further : • Help Thou mine unbelief.'' For thus it is ever: only in the light of the actual presence of a grace in the soul does that soul perceive the strength and prevalence of the opposing corruption. Till then it had no measure by which to measure its deficiency. Only he who believes, guesses ought of the unbelief of his heart.
When now this prime condition of healing is no longer wanting on bis part, the Lord, meeting and rewarding even the weak beginnings of his faith, accomplishes the cure. How majestic, in his address to the foul spirit, is that I charge thee. No longer those whom thou mayest hope to disobey, against whom thou mayest venture to struggle, but I, having all power in heaven and on earth, charge thee, come out of him.' Nor is this all : he shall enter no more into him;' his return is barred; he shall not take advantage of his long possession, presently to come back (Matt. xii. 45), and reassert his dominion; the cure shall be at once perfect and lasting. The wicked spirit must obey; but he does so most unwillingly; what he can no longer retain he would, if he might, destroy; as Fuller, with a wit which is in season and
1 That great divine, Thomas Jackson, says well: “This word, belief, is not a term indivisible, but admits of many degrees, as well for the certainty of the assent or apprehension, as for the radication of the truth, rightly apprehended, in men's hearts or centre of their affections.'
? Augustine, Serm. xliii. 6, 7.
3 Bengel: 'Eyos ooi itiráorw. Ego, antitheton ad discipulos, qui non valuerant,
out of season,' expresses it, like an outgoing tenant, that cares not what mischief he does.'? So fearful was this last paroxysm, so entirely had it exhausted all the powers of the child, that he was as one dead; and many said, He is dead; but Jesus took him by the hand,' and life from that touch of the Lord of life flowed into him anew: even as we often elsewhere find a revivifying power to be by the same channel conveyed (Dan. x. 8, 9; Rev. i. 17; Matt. xvii. 6-8).
• Then'--' when He was come into the house, as we learn from St. Mark—came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?' Where was the secret of their defeat, seeing that they were not exceeding their commission (Matt. x. 8), and had on former occasions found the devils subject to them (Luke x. 17)? • And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief,' because of their lack of that to wbich, and to which only, all things are possible. They had made but a languid use of the means for stirring up and increasing faith ; while yet, though the locks of their strength were shorn, they would go out as at other times before' against their enemies, being certain to be foiled whenever they encountered an enemy of peculiar malignity. And such they encountered here; for the phrase "this kind' marks that there are orders of evil spirits, that as there is a hierarchy of heaven, so is there an inverted hierarchy of hell. The same is intimated in the mention of the unclean spirit going and taking seven other spirits more wicked than himself' (Matt. xii. 45); and at Ephes. vi. 12, there is probably a climax, mounting up from one degree of spiritual power and malignity to another. • This kind, He declares, ‘goeth
· Gregory the Great (Moral. xxxii. 19): Ecce eum non discerpserat cum tenebat, exiens discerpsit: quia nimirum tunc pejus cogitationes mentis dilaniat, cum jam egressui divinâ virtute compulsus appropinquat. Et quem mutus possederat, cum clamoribus deserebat: quia plerumque cum possidet, minora tentamenta irrogat: cum vero de corde pellitur, acriori infestatione perturbat. Cf. Hom. xii
. in Ezek.; and H. de Sto. Victore: Dum puer ad Dominum accedit, eliditur: quia conversi ad Dominum plerumque a dæmonio gravius pulsantur, ut vel ad vitia reducantur, vel de suâ expulsione se vindicet diabolus.