Obrazy na stronie

Our Lord's answer is not without its difficulty, especially as it appears in the original, but the sense of it is plainly the following; “That if' of thine, that uncertainty whether this can be done or not, is to be resolved by thee and not by me. There is a condition without which this thy child cannot be healed; but the fulfilling of the condition lies with no other than thyself. 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 any thing; but the question is, 'If thou canst believe;' this is the hinge upon which all must turn”—and then with a pause, and no merely suspended sense as in our translation,* follow those further words,

All things are possible to him that believeth.So that faith is here, as in all other cases, set as the condition of healing; on other occasions it is the faith of the person ; but here, that being impossible, the father's is accepted instead; even as the Syrophenician mother's in the room of her daughter's. (Matt. xv. 22.) Thus the Lord appears, in Olshausen's words, in some sort a maseutins midtsws, helping the birth of faith in that empty soul. And now, though with pain and with sore travail, it has come to the birth, so that the father exclaims, “ Lord, 1 believe ;” and then the little spark of faith which is enkindled in his soul revealing to him the abysmal deeps of unbelief which are there, he adds this further, Help thou mine unbelief."'t For thus it is ever: only in the light of the actual presence of grace in the soul does any man perceive the strength and prevalence of the opposing corruption. Before he had no measure by which to measure his deficiency. Only he who believes, guesses aught of the unbelief of his heart.

But now, when this condition of healing is no longer wanting on his part, the Lord, meeting and rewarding even the weak beginnings of his faith, accomplishes the cure. We may observe, in Christ's address to the foul spirit, the majestic "I charge thee;" no longer one whom thou mayest dare to disobey, against whom thou mayest venture to struggle, but I, the Prince of the kingdom of light, “charge thee, come out of him." Nor is this all: he shall “enter no more into him.Christ bars his return; he shall not take advantage of his long possession, presently to come back (Matt. xii. 45) and re-assert his dominion; the cure shall be perfect and lasting. Most unwillingly the evil spirit departs, seeking to

* The words, I imagine, should be pointed thus: Tò, el dúvajal ALOTEūOAL névra δυνατά το πιστεύοντι, 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.

† AUGUSTINE, Serm. 43, c. 6, 7.

destroy that which he can no longer retain; as Fuller, with wit which is in season and 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 from that touch of the Lord of life there came into him life anew : even as we often elsewhere find a reviving power to be by the same channel conveyed. (Dan. x. 8, 9; Rev. i. 17; Matt. xvii. 6-8.)

Afterwards the disciples asked privately how it came to pass that they were baffled in the attempts which they had made to accomplish the cure, since they were not exceeding their commission, (Matt. x. 8,) and had on former occasions found the devils subject to them; and the Lord tells them, because of their unbelief, because of their lack of that to which, and to which only, all things are possible. They had made but a languid use of the means for stirring up and strengthening faith; while yet, though their locks were shorn, they would go forth, as before against their enemies, being certain to be foiled whensoever they encountered, as they did here, an enemy of peculiar malignity; 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, St. Paul mounting up from one degree of spiritual power and malignity to another. This kind," he says, “ goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." The faith which shall be effectual against this must be a faith exercised in prayer, that has not relaxed itself by an habitual compliance with the demands of the lower nature, but often girt itself up to an austerer rule, to rigor and self-denial.

But as the secret of all weakness is in unbelief, so of all strength is faith; and this our Lord teaches them when he adds, “ For verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and

* Gregory the Great (Moral., 1. 32, c. 19): Ecce eum non discerpserat cùm tenebat, exiens discerpsit: quia nimirum tunc pejus cogitationes mentis dilaniat, cùm jam egressui divinâ virtute compulsus appropinquat. Et quem mutus possederat, cum clamoribus deserebat: quia plerumque cùm possidet, minora tentamenta irrogat: cùm verò de corde pellitur, acriori infestatione perturbat. Cf. Hom. 12 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.

nothing shall be impossible unto you." The image re-appears with some modifications, Luke xvii. 6; and St. Paul probably alludes to these words of his Lord, 1 Cor. xiii. 2. Many explain "faith as a grain of mustard seed” to mean lively faith, with allusion to the keen and biting powers of that grain.* But it certainly is not upon this side that the comparison is to be brought out; rather, as Maldonatus rightly remarks, it is the smallest faith, with a tacit contrast between a grain of mustard seed, a very small thing, and a mountain, a very great. That smallest shall be effectual to work on this largest. The least spiritual power shall be potent for the overthrow of the mightiest powers which are merely of this world.

* Augustine (Serm. 246): Modicum videtur granum sinapis; nihil contemtibilius adspectu, nihil fortius gusto. Quod quid est aliud, nisi maximus ardor et intima vis fidei in ecclesiâ ?



MATT. xvii. 24–27.

This miracle finds a place only in the Gospel of St. Matthew, and a nearer contemplation of its features will. show why we might even beforehand have expected to meet it, if in one only, then in that which is eminently the theocratic Gospel. But its significance has oftentimes been wholly missed, and the entire transaction emptied of 'its higher meaning, robbed too of all its deeper lessons, by the assumption that this

money which was demanded of Peter was a civil impost, a tribute owing, like the penny of a later occasion, (Matt. xxii. 19,) to the Roman emperor; and the word tribute* used in our translation, rather upholds this error, and leads men's thoughts in the wrong direction,-and to consider it this civil impost, instead of what it truly was, a theocratic payment, due to the temple and the temple's God. And this error has brought in with it and necessitated another : for, as the only means of maintaining any appearance of an argument in our Lord's words, it has been needful to understand the kingly dignity, the royal birth, on the ground of which Christ here exempts himself from the payment, to be his Davidical descent, and not, as it is indeed, his divine.

It is true that this erroneous interpretation has been maintained by some, I may say by many expositors, ancient and modern, of high authority; yet rather, it would seem, in most cases, from not having the true interpretation, which carries conviction with it, before them, than from deliberately preferring the other. Thus Augustine adduces this passage in connection with Rom. xiii. 1—7, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers . . . . Render, therefore, to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due,"—and finds in it a motive for a willing obedi

* In the original, ta didpaxua.

ence on the part of the faithful to the civil power ;* and Clement of Alexandria draws from it the same lesson. Origen, too, supposes it a civil payment; and Jerome, also, throughout takes this wrong standing point from which to explain this miracle ; so too, in modern times, Mal. donatus, who is aware of, but distinctly rejects, the correcter interpretation, -being here, for once, at one with Calvin, the great object of his polemical hatred. The last, however, upholds this view in a modified forin, -he supposes that the money claimed was indeed the temple dues, but yet which now had been by the Romans alienated from its original des. tination, they compelling the Jews to pay it into the Roman treasury. This, however, as will be seen, is historically incorrect, that alienation not having taken place till a later time. I

The arguments for the other interpretation, both external and internal, are so prevailing, as hardly to leave a residue of doubt upon any mind before which they are fairly brought. For, in the first place, this didrachm was exactly the sumę which we find mentioned Exod. xxx. 11–16, as the ransom of the soul, to be paid by every Israelite above twenty years old, to the service and current expenses of the tabernacle, or, as it afterwards would be, of the temple. It is true that there it

* De Catechiz. Rud., c. 21 : Ipse Dominus ut nobis hujus sanæ doctrinæ præberet exemplum, pro capite hominis, quo erat indutus, tributum solvere non dedignatus est. Clemens of Alex. (Pædag. 1. 2, Pot er's Ed., v. 1, p. 172): Tòv otaripa Tois Teluvais δους, τα Καίσαρος αποδους τω Καίσαρι.

+ Ita quasi alienati essent Judæi à Dei imperio, profanis tyrannis solvebant sacrum consum in Lege indictum.

| Add to these Wolf (Curæ, in loc.), who has the wrong interpretation; and Petitus (Crit. Sac., 9, 2566): Corn. à Lapide ; and only the other day, and after any further mistake seemed impossible, Wieseler (Chronol. Synopse, p. 265, sqq.) has returned to the old error. The true meaning has been perfectly seized by Hilary (Comm. in Matth., in loc.) by Ambrose (Ep. 7, ad Justum, c. 12), and in the main by Chrysostom (In Matth., Hom. 54,) and Theophylact, who yet have gone astray upon Num. iii. 40–51; and in later times by Cameron (Crit. Sac., in loc.), by Freher (Crit. Sac., v. 9, p. 3633), by Hammond, who has altogether a true ansight into the matter, Grotius, Lightfoot, Bengel, Michaelis, and last of all by Olshausen, and Mr. Greswell (Dissert., v. 2, p. 376).

§ It is true that in the Septuagint (Exod. xxx. 13) it is nulov Toù didpú xuov. But this arises from their expressing themselves, as naturally they would, according to the Alexandrian drachm, which was twice the value of the Attic. (See HAMMOND, in loc.)

| The sum there named is a half shekel. Before the Babylonian exile, the shekel was only a certain weight of silver, not a coined money : in the time, however, of the Maccabees, (1 Macc. xv. 6,) the Jews received the privilege, or won the right, from the kings of Syria of coining their own money, and the shekels, half shekels, and quarter shekels now found in the cabinets of collectors are to be referred to this period. These growing scarce, and not being coined any more, it became the custom to estimate the temple dues as two drachms, (the dispaxuov here required,) a sum actually

« PoprzedniaDalej »