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The old adversaries of our Lord, the Scribes, had taken advantage of his absence on the Mount of Transfiguration, to win a temporary triumph, or at least something like one, over his disciples, who were themselves weakened by the absence of their Lord; and with him of three, the chiefest among themselves—those, too, in whom, as habitually the nearest to him, we may suppose his power most mightily to have resided. It was here again, as it was once before during the absence of Moses and his servant Joshua, on his mount of a fainter transfiguration. Then, too, in like manner, the enemy had found his advantage, and awhile prevailed against the people. (Exod. xxxii.) It would seem that the disciples who were left below had undertaken to cast out an evil spirit of a peculiar malignity, and had proved unequal to the task; “they could not.” And now the Scribes were pressing the advantage which they had gained by this miscarriage of the disciples to the uttermost. A great multitude too were gathered round, spectators of the defeat of the servants of Christ; and the strife was at the highest-the Scribes, no doubt, arguing from the impotence of the servants to the impotence of the Master,” and they denying the conclusion; when suddenly he concerning whom the strife was, appeared, returning from the holy mount, his face and person yet glistening, as there is reason to suppose, with reminiscences and traces of the glory which had clothed him there, reminiscences and traces which had not yet disappeared, nor faded into the light of common day-so that “all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed.” Yet here
* Calvin: Scribae victores insultant, nec modó subsannant discipulos, sed proterviunt adversus Christum, quasi in illorum persona exinanita esset ejus virtus.
the impression which that glory made was other than the impression of the countenance of Moses. When the multitude saw him as he came down from his mountain, the skin of his face shining, “they were afraid to come nigh him,” (Exod. xxxiv. 30.) for that glory upon his face was a threatening glory, the awful and intolerable brightness of the Law. But the glory of God shining in the face of Christ Jesus, though awful too, was also an attractive glory, full of grace and beauty, drawing men to him, not driving them from him: and thus, indeed, “all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed,” such gleams of brightness played around him still: yet did they not therefore flee from him, but rather, as taken with that brightness, they “running to him, saluted him.” (Compare 2 Cop. iii. 18.) Yet the sight and sounds which greeted him on his return to our sinful world, how different were they from those which he had just left upon the holy mount ' There the highest harmonies of heaven; here some of the wildest and harshest discords of earth. There he had been receiving honor and glory from the Father; here his disciples, those to whom his work had been intrusted in his absence, had been procuring for him, as far as in them lay, shame and dishonor. But as when some great captain suddenly arriving upon a field of battle, where his subordinate lieutenants have well nigh lost the day, and brought all into a hopeless confusion, with his eye measures at once the necessities of the moment, and with no more than his presence causes the tide of victory to turn, and every thing to right itself again, so was it now. The Lord arrests the advancing and victorious foe; he addresses himself to the Scribes, and saying, “What question ye with them * takes the baffled and hard pressed disciples under his own protection, implying by his words, “If you have any question, henceforth it must be with me.” But they to whom these words were spoken were slow to accept the challenge; for it was one from among the multitude, the father of the suffering child, which was his only one, who took up the word, and, kneeling down before Jesus, declared all his own misery and his son's.
St. Mark paints the whole scene with the hand of a master, and his account of this miracle, compared with those of the other Evangelists, would be alone sufficient to vindicate for him an original character, and to refute the notion of some, that we have in him only an epitomizer, now of one, and now of the other.” All the symptoms, as put into the father's mouth, or described by the sacred historians, exactly agree with those of epilepsy; not that we have here only an epileptic; but this was the ground on which the deeper spiritual evils of this child were superinduced. The fits were sudden and lasted remarkably long; the evil spirit “hardly departeth from him;”—“a dumb spirit,” St. Mark calls it, a statement which does not contradict that of St. Luke, “he suddenly crieth out;” this dumbness was only in respect of articulate sounds; he could give no utterance to these. Nor was it a natural defect, as where the string of the tongue has remained unloosed, (Mark viii. 32.) or the needful organs for speech are wanting, not a defect under which he had always labored; but the consequence of this possession. When the spirit took him in its might, then in these paroxysms of his disorder it tare him, till he foamed* and gnashed with his teeth: and altogether he pined away like one the very springs of whose life were dried up. And while these accesses of his disorder might come upon him at any moment and in any place, they often exposed the unhappy sufferer to the worst accidents: “ofttimes he falleth into the fire,
* Even Augustine falls in with this view (De Cons. Evang, 1.1, c. 2): Divus Marcus eum [Matthaeum] subsequutus tanquam pedissequus et breviator ejus videtur.
# Compare the remarkable account in LuciaN's Philopseudes, c. 16, where I cannot but think there is an ironical allusion to this and other cures of demoniacs by our Lord: IIávrec laaguw rôv Xipov Tów & Tic IIazatarivno, Tóv tri Toirov cootarov, &covc trapaza;30y kararitrov.rac Tpoc Tív aežňum kai Tô 39002 ué, étagspébovtar kai dopod troutzauévour to aróua Čuoc dvíarmat kal drostěurel dpriove &T utato usyá29 draž2ášac Töv Četvöv. There is much beside this quoted in the passage, of interest.
# Empatveral. If indeed this word has not reference to the stiffness and starkness, the unnatural rigescence of the limbs in the accesses of the disorder. Compare 2 Kin. xiii. 4, LXX. Such would not indeed be the first, but might well be the secondary meaning of the word, since that which is dried up loses its pliability, and the place which the word occupies makes it most probable that the father is describing not the general pining away of his son, but his symptoms when the paroxysm takes him. The aežmutasouévot, (in other Greek aežmtaxoi, aežmó37 m rol,) are mentioned once besides in the New Testament, (Matt. iv. 24,) where they are distinguished from the datuovučouevot. The distinction, however, whatever it was, in the popular language would continually disappear, and the father here saying of his son, aežmutašetat, does but express the fact, or rather the consequence, of his possession. Of course the word originally, like uavía (from usivm) aud lunaticus, arose from the wide-spread belief of the evil influence of the moon (Ps. cxxi. 6) on the human frame. (See CREUzeR's Symbolik, v. 2, p. 571.)
and of into the water.” In St. Mark the father attributes these fits to
the direct agency of the evil spirit: “ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him;” yet such calamities might equally be looked at as the natural consequences of his unhappy condition.* But when the father told the Lord of the ineffectual efforts which the disciples had made for his relief, “I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out, and they could not,” he with a sorrowful indignation exclaimed, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?” And here we have two different applications. of these words. Some, as for instance Origen, apply them to the disciples, and them alone; they suppose that our Lord speaks thus, grieved and indignant at the weakness of their faith, and that even so brief a separation from him had shorn them of their strength, and left them powerless against the kingdom of darkness; and the after discourse (Matt. xvii. 20) seems to make for such an application. Others, as Chrysostom, and generally the early interpreters, would pointedly exclude the disciples from the rebuke; and they give it all to the surrounding multitude, and certainly the term “generation” seems to point to them, though less personally, than as being specimens and representatives of the whole Jewish people, the father himself coming singularly forward as an example of the unbelieving temper of the whole generation to which he pertained, (Mark ix. 22.) and therefore being an especial sharer in the condemnation. In St. Mark indeed it is primarily addressed to him: “He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation;” yet the language shows that the rebuke is intended to pass on to many more. And indeed the most satisfactory explanation is that which reconciles both these views; the disciples are not exclusively aimed at, nor chiefly, but rather the multitude and the father: they, however, are included in the rebuke; their unfaithfulness and unbelief had brought them, for the
* These extracts will abundantly justify what was said above of the symptoms of this child's case being those of one taken with epilepsy. Caelius Aurelianus (Morb. Chron, 1.1, c. 4): Alii [epileptici] publicis in locis cadendo foedantur, adjunctisetiam externis periculis, loci causā praecipites dati, aut in flumina vel mare cadentes. And Paulus AEgineta, the last of the great physicians of the old world, describing epilepsy, (l. 3, c. 13,) might almost seem to have borrowed his account from this history: Morbus comitialis est convulsio totius corporis cum principalium actionum laesione,... fit hac affectio maximë pueris, postea very etiam in adolescentibus et in vigore consistentibus. Instante veró jam symptomate collaptio ipsis derepente contigit et convulsio, et quandoque nihil significans exclamatio (Šalovno kpáçet, Luke ix. 39). Praecipuum vero ipsorum signum est oris spuma (uerd dopoi, Luke ix. 39; cf. LUCLAN's Philopseudes, c. 16.)
* time, back to the level with their nation, and they must share with them in a common reproach. “How long shall I be with you ?” are words not so much of one longing to put off the coil of flesh,” as 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?” feeling, it may be, at the same time, that till their task was learned, he could not leave them, he must abide with them still.4 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 he says, “Bring him unto me.” As the staff in Gehazi's hand could not arouse the dead child, but the prophet himself must come and take the work in hand, before ever a cure can be wrought, so must it be now. 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.t But as the Lord on occasion of another difficult 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 the sufferer, the father, it being impossible, from his actual condition, to do it with himself: “How long is it ago since this came unto him #" But the father, answering indeed the question, that it was “of a child,” and for the stirring of more pity, describing again the miserable perils in which these fits involved his child, yet ill content that any thing should come before the healing, if a healing were possible, having, too, present before his mind the recent failure which the disciples had made, added, “If thou, if thou more than these, canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” He says “us,” so entirely is his own life knit up with his child's life: as the Canaanitish woman, pleading for her daughter, had cried, “Have mercy on me.” (Matt. xv. 22.) Yet at the same time he reveals by that “if” how he had come with no unquestioning faith in the power of the Lord to aid, but was rendering the difficult cure more difficult still by his own doubting and unbelief.
* Jerome (Comm. in Matth., in loc): Non quod taedio superatus sit, et mansuetus ac mitis; ... sed quod in similitudinem medici si agrotum 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 eorum.
# Calvin: Quo propior affulget Christi gratia, et efficacius agit, eú impotentius furit Satan.