2881. Feeble Faith Appealing To A Strong Saviour

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Feeble Faith Appealing To A Strong Saviour

No. 2881-50:205. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, March 19, 1876, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, April 28, 1904.

And immediately the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” {Mr 9:24}

 For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1033, “Faith’s Dawn and Its Clouds” 1024}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2881, “Feeble Faith Appealing to a Strong Saviour” 2882}
   Exposition on Mr 9:14-32,43-48 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2844, “Seed Upon a Rock, The” 2845 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Mr 9:20-41 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3341, “Oil of Joy for Mourning, The” 3343 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Mr 9:2-29 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2454, “Secret of Failure, The” 2455 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Mr 9:2-29 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2881, “Feeble Faith Appealing to a Strong Saviour” 2882 @@ "Exposition"}

1. This is the case of a man who knew well enough what he wanted, and who was full of anxiety to obtain it; indeed, he was so anxious to obtain it that he prayed most earnestly, and most persistently, for it. He prayed to the right Person, too; for, after having failed with the disciples, he resorted to their Master himself. Yet, notwithstanding all this, at the time recorded in our text, he had not obtained the blessing that he sought for.

2. We probably know of many people who have not yet been awakened to a sense of their need, and much labour has to be expended by the faithful minister in order to show them their danger, and to make them understand their true condition in the sight of God. They have many spiritual needs, but they do not know what those needs really are. This man had gone further than that, for he knew what the great need was for himself and his son.

3. Then there are others, who have head-knowledge concerning their spiritual needs, but they do not seem to be anxious to have those needs supplied. They are stolid, careless, immovable. That was not the case with this man. He knew that he wanted his son to be healed, he was intensely eager that he should be healed, and healed then and there. His heart was moved with compassion for his child, and he was most anxious that the evil spirit should be cast out of him at once. There are some of our hearers, who seem to have desire of a certain kind, but they do not use that desire in the right way. They go about seeking salvation where it is not to be found. They are, to an extent, earnest in their own way; but to them the Lord might say, as of old, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread? And you labour for what does not satisfy?”

4. This man had gone a stage beyond that. He was directing all his entreaties to Jesus; he was appealing to the great Lord himself, from whom only deliverance could come. It is a great mercy, my dear friends, if you are brought as far as this poor man was, — to know what you really need, to be anxious to obtain it, and to be making your appeal to Jesus to grant your requests. Yet, with all that, this man had not obtained the blessing he was seeking; and there are many, like him, who also have not secured the blessing they are seeking. You are aware of your sin, and you lament it, yet you cannot get a sense of pardon. You know your spiritual needs, and you bemoan them, but you cannot grasp what can supply them. You have made an appeal to God in Christ Jesus, and you are resolved that you will never stop appealing. Yet, for all that, you have not, so far, received the blessing. There is something or other in the way, — something that hinders you; and I should not wonder — indeed, I feel quite certain, — that the thing which hinders some of you from getting what you seek from Christ is your own unbelief. That is the point at which I am going to aim in my discourse, as God shall help me; and I pray that, as I do so, from many a heart may be breathed this confession and cry, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

5. I. There are three things in our text; and the first is, THE SUSPECTED DIFFICULTY AND THE REAL DIFFICULTY.

6. Reading the story carefully, I gather that this man saw difficulties concerning his child’s cure, but that he never thought of the real one. He imagined that the difficulty lay in the case of his child. His words to Christ, “If you can do anything,” seem to imply that he felt, “This is a case that is quite out of the ordinary, — something special and unique; — and, therefore, beyond your power.” If I can interpret his thoughts, it is my opinion that he said to himself, “This is too mysterious a case to be cured. An evil spirit has struck my boy dumb, yet that same spirit makes him foam at the mouth, and gnash with his teeth. Those very organs, which refuse to utter articulate speech, are, nevertheless, strangely set in motion. He seems to be taken, too, by this evil spirit at intervals, and hurried this way and that, — he cannot tell how; — and, at one time, he is hurled into the fire, and, at another time, into the water. It is a most mysterious malady; and, possibly, because it is so mysterious, it is not in the Messiah’s line of things.”

7. I have known some, who have thought their case, spiritually, to be very mysterious. They have imagined that there was something about their constitution, or, worse still, that some extraordinary guilt had brought them into a condition of heart that was particularly vicious. They have even imagined that this state of heart had put them beneath the ban of the unpardonable sin, and that others had better be beware of coming near them, for their condition was so strange, so exceptional, so wild, that they could not tell what to think or say of themselves. Sometimes, they are hot, and in the fire; and, at other times, cold, and in the water; with no voice for praying or praising, yet able to curse and to blaspheme. “Ah!” says such a one, “my case is so mysterious that even the Lord Jesus Christ will never be able to save me.”

8. Very likely, too, the father thought that his child’s disease was too violent to be cured. He was dashed about, here and there, and rent and torn as though his poor body must be dissolved into the atoms of which it was made. He could not be held in or restrained; no government or control could be exercised over him; for the demon carried him, with an irresistible influence, wherever it pleased. The poor father could truly have said, “Look at him now. I brought him into the presence of Christ himself, and here he lay wallowing on the ground, being torn in pieces by the demon; and now that the paroxysm is past, he lies there as if he were dead, and some say that he really is dead.”

9. I should not wonder if I am addressing a man who thinks that the difficulty concerning his salvation lies in the fact that his passions are so violent and so fierce. Possibly, he says, “I kept sober for months; but, all of a sudden, it seemed as if the drink-demon overpowered me, and I had an awful bout of drinking until delirium tremens {DTs} was nearly on me.” “Ah!” another says, “I struggled against a vicious habit which I had formed, and I thought I had overcome it; but, alas! the next time the temptation came in my way, I did not seem to have any more power to resist it than a snowflake has to resist the wind that drives it along; and I was carried right away by the evil impulse.” Some men have a particular bent towards evil because of their intense vehemence of character; it was so with Samson, though he had the saving grace of faith. Such men are, perhaps, strongly developed in the sinews and muscles of their body; but, certainly, they are in the passions and impulses of their soul. You may bind them with fetters and chains, but the strongest bonds are only like the green withs were to Samson. The demon that is in them seems to be absolutely supreme over them when he exerts his power. I do not wonder, therefore, if they think that the difficulty, in their case, lies in the violence and suddenness of their sin; but it is not so.

10. Perhaps this poor father thought that, in his child’s case, the difficulty lay in the fact that he had been a sufferer for such a long time, even from his childhood. In answer to Christ’s question, “How long ago is it since this happened to him?” He said, “From childhood.” So a man sometimes says, “Sin is bred in my bones, and it will come out in my flesh. My very nature is corrupt; while I was only a child, I loved sin; and since then, throughout my youth and manhood, I have gone after it greedily, and it has become a habit that is firmly fixed in me. ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?’ Then may he, who is accustomed to do evil, learn to do good.” Such sinners feel as if they had been steeped and soaked in the crimson lye until there was no hope of ever getting the stain out of them. They have been wanderers from God even from their youth, how can they be brought near to him?

11. Yet we know that the difficulty did not lie in the child’s case at all, for Jesus Christ was able to cast the demon out, and he did cast it out. And if that child had been possessed by a whole legion of demons, instead of only by one, Jesus Christ could, with a single word, have cast them all out. No matter how long the demon had been in possession of the child, nor how vehement and impetuous he might be, Christ could drive him out whenever he pleased. And at this moment, dear friend, your past life, your sin, your natural corruptions, your inherited vices, your evil habits, which have grown so strong in you, are not the real difficulty. The Lord Jesus Christ “is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him.” He himself said, “All kinds of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men”; so I do not care how bad your case may be, — it may be even worse than I should dare to guess, there may be a secret criminality about it that sets it altogether by itself as an unusual and even unique offence against God; but that is not the difficulty in the way of your salvation. Christ can easily write “settled” at the bottom of the long account of your sins, and it is no more trouble for him to write that word at the foot of a long bill than a short one. God can as readily make you a new creature in Christ Jesus, whatever your sins may have been, as if you had been living a strictly moral life. You are spiritually dead in any case, and it is only he who can give you life. You are lost in any case, and the good Shepherd can just as readily find the lost sheep that has gone far astray as another which is only just outside the fold, for he is almighty; and, therefore, able to do all things. So the difficulty does not lie there.

12. Perhaps, however, — indeed, we know that it was so, — the father thought that the difficulty lay with Jesus Christ himself. He seemed to say, “I have done all I can for my child; I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him, and now I have brought him to you. If you can” — but he had hardly gotten those words out of his mouth before the Lord Jesus addressed him, in a special Greek idiom, which cannot be fully translated into English, but which might run something like this: “The if you can” — that is exactly the Greek word, — “the if you can believe, all things are possible for him who believes”; as much as to say, “The if you can does not lie with me. Oh, no! the if you can lies with you.” He takes the man’s word, and hurls it back at him. I daresay the man may have thought, “If his disciples cannot cure my child, in all events their Master does not. He has seen how afflicted he is; if he could have done it, surely he would at once have said to my child, ‘Be healed’; yet there he is, standing still, and talking to me, as if this were not a pressing case of urgent need. It must be lack of power on his part that keeps him from curing my child.” But Jesus Christ will not let such a thing as that be said without showing that it is not true; and, brethren, if you harbour in your heart any idea that there is a lack of power in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you, you are believing a most atrocious falsehood, and defaming the almighty Saviour. The difficulty, in your case, is not either in the sin or in the Saviour. He is able to forgive the greatest conceivable transgressions of all who believe in him; and he is able to break and to renew the hardest heart, even though it should be hard as steel or like the lower millstone.

13. II. We now have to consider, in the second place, THE TEARFUL DISCOVERY: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

14. What was his discovery? Why his discovery was, that he did not believe; and that is the place where the real difficulty lay. When did the man make this discovery? When he began to believe. Is it not an ironic thing that, as soon as he ever had a little faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he discovered the great abyss of his unbelief? “Lord,” he said, “I believe; but, oh! I do also doubt so much that my unbelief seems to swallow up my belief.” Until a man gets faith, he may think that he really has it; but when he gets real faith in Jesus Christ, then he shudders as he thinks how long he has lived in unbelief, and realizes how much of unbelief is still mixed with his belief. There are many of you, who have never believed to the saving of your souls; yet you say, “Oh, yes! We believe the Bible; we believe in God; we believe in Jesus Christ.” You stand up in church, and say, “I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” and so on, but you do not do anything of the kind. If you did, you would be saved; since true belief in Jesus Christ brings salvation to everyone who believes like this. While men have no faith, — I repeat what I said just now, — while men have no faith, they are unconscious of their unbelief; but, as soon as they get a little faith, then they begin to be conscious of the greatness of their unbelief. When the blind man gets a little light into his eyes, he perceives something of the blackness of the darkness in which he has been living; so, you must be able to say, from your heart, “Lord, I believe,” or else you will never be able to pray, as this man did, “help my unbelief.” Even the small measure of faith is necessary to discover the great measure of the unbelief.

15. This man, as soon as he discovered his unbelief, was distressed and alarmed about it. He could not look straight at Christ, and say, “Lord, I doubt you, but I cannot help it.” No, he was distressed about it; he felt how dreadful a thing it was to be unbelieving; and he appealed to Christ, confessing his unbelief, and saying, “Lord, help me out of it, I beseech you.” Notice how he turned his whole attention to that one matter of his own unbelief; he did not even mention his poor child. His child was, no doubt, still in his thoughts; yet his prayer was not concerning his child, but concerning his own unbelief, for he saw that that was the difficulty needing to be removed. And when God, in infinite mercy, visits a poor troubled heart, and gives it even a little faith in Jesus Christ, its great distress is concerning its remaining unbelief, for it perceives that this is the greatest of all sins, the most terrible of all stumbling-blocks, and is, indeed, the chief hindrance to men’s entrance into rest of heart, and into eternal life.

16. Now, look, all of you who are seeking Christ, but who say that you cannot get peace. The difficulty lies here; if you can believe, all things are possible for you; but it is because you do not believe, that you remain as you are.

17. Let me show you what it is that you do not believe. You say that Christ cannot save you. Then, you believe that omnipotence — you dare not say it is not omnipotence, — has for once met its match. Look that statement in the face, — that the Eternal Son of God has a task given to him which he cannot perform; in other words, you do not believe in the omnipotence of God, for, if he is omnipotent, he must be able to save you.

18. Next, sinner, when you say; “Jesus cannot save me”; you cast a slur on his precious blood. You stand, in imagination, at the foot of his cross, and you see him bleeding away his very life, yet you say, “The merit of that blood is limited; I know it is, for it cannot atone for my sin.” You are trampling on the blood of the Son of God, and considering it an unholy thing, by declaring that your sin is more mighty than his infinite sacrifice.

19. Again, after shedding his blood for sinners, Christ went back into heaven, and a great part of his occupation there is to make intercession for the transgressors. Yet you say that his intercession cannot be powerful enough to avail for you, although I have already reminded you that God has said, “Therefore he is able also to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him, since he lives for ever to make intercession for them.” To say of yourself, “Christ cannot save me,” or to say of any other man, “He cannot save that man,” is to insult his blood, and to cast a slight on his ever-living plea. What greater crime can there be than to limit the Holy One of Israel like this, — indeed, to limit him both when bleeding on the cross and sitting on his throne? I charge you, sirs, to feel the utmost horror at the very thought that you should have been guilty of such a crime against the Lord Jesus Christ. God has declared that “he who covers his sins shall not prosper: but whose confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” The apostle John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” If, then, you say, “But it cannot cleanse me from my sin,” you do not believe in the most solemn revelations and pledges of the divine mercy. Do you intend to do that? Oh, how often shall we have to remind you that, whether you intend to do so, or not, that is what you are doing? Remember how the loving John writes, “He who does not believe God has made him a liar; because he does not believe the record that God gave concerning his Son.”

20. In addition to insulting the Son concerning the efficacy of his blood, and insulting the Father concerning his veracity; — bear with me, sinner, in bringing these grave charges against you; and just as God bears with you, so you may well bear with me as I remind you of your sin; — you also insult the Spirit of God by your unbelief, for you as good as say, “The Spirit of God cannot renew my heart; he cannot bring me to repentance, he cannot bring faith to me.” Yet the Spirit, the Father and the Son, is himself God, infinite and almighty. It is a great sin for anyone to say, “The Spirit cannot regenerate me; there is no hope for me.”

21. It is possible that you, poor despairing sinner, think that your despair proves that you are humble; but it is not so. Despair is one of the proudest things in the world, for it dares even to tell the Almighty Spirit of God that he cannot — he cannot — save. I beseech you, do not say so; but, if you have faith enough to believe that Jesus is omnipotent, and that there is unlimited value in his blood and his plea; that the Father is true, and that his promises must be fulfilled; and that the Spirit of God is able to work such a change in your heart that old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new; then be alarmed to think that there should be any unbelief remaining in you, and cry out with tears, as this man did, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

22. III. Now comes our third point, — THE INTELLIGENT APPEAL.

23. The man has seen where the difficulty lies; he has made a discovery concerning his own unbelief; and now he turns around to Jesus, and he cries, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” Kindly notice the wording of the man’s prayer as recorded in the twenty-second verse: “If you can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” See that word “help.” And, now, when he is convinced of his unbelief, look at his prayer: “Help my unbelief” — the same word that he had used before. In his first petition, looking at his poor child wallowing on the ground, he cried, “Help us.” But now he has been taught better, and he says, in effect, “Lord, I see that it is easy work for you to cast a demon out, but the difficulty is that I am unbelieving, and that hinders you, Lord. Help me believe, for that is what is needed.” I should recommend to some of you, — instead of praying, “Lord, give me a sense of pardoned sin, give me a new heart, give me to feel that you love me,” — pray those prayers eventually; but for the present, pray like this, “Lord, help me to believe; Lord, give me faith; Lord, drive away my unbelief.” Direct your prayers to that one point, for that is the matter in which you are lacking. Unbelief is the great stone lying at the door of your heart, and preventing that door from being opened.

24. Notice that this man’s prayer was intelligently addressed to One, who he believed could help him. He seemed to say to himself, “If Christ can help my child to get well, then he can help me to believe.” Believe that, sinner; and ask him to help you to believe. His prayer was addressed to One in whom he did believe, in a measure; for he would not have prayed to Christ to help his unbelief if he had not felt that Christ could do so. And he did say, “Lord, I believe.” He was a strange mixture of belief and unbelief; and so are you, my dear friends; but I charge you, with the little faith you have, if you believe that Jesus can save other people, go to him, and beseech him to cast out of you the unbelief which is still lurking within you. The chief reason why you do not have peace with God, why you have not found the conscious enjoyment of eternal life, is that you lack faith; you need your unbelief to be cast out.

25. I am going to close my discourse by showing you that only the Lord Jesus Christ can help us to get rid of unbelief; and by advising you to take your unbelief, and all your other sins, and confess them to Christ as sins, and then ask him to enable you to get rid of them. It ought to enable you to see how Jesus Christ helps you to get rid of unbelief if you consider his nature; if you properly understand that, it will be a death-blow to unbelief. Who and what is Jesus? You believe — I know you do, — that he is “very God of very God,” — that Jesus of Nazareth is “over all God, blessed for ever.” If you will only think of that great fact, it will help you to believe in him. Can you not trust your soul in the hands of God? Is he not able to deliver you? Is he not able to pardon you? “The Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins” because he is God. If I had an angel sent to be my Saviour, I dare not trust him. When any man says that he can forgive my sins, I will not trust him, for I know that he is a liar and a thief, trying to rob God of his prerogative. When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, says that he can save me, I cannot find any reason why I should not believe him, and I do not believe you can suggest any such reason. Unbelief is a most unreasonable thing, but faith is most reasonable and right. Since Christ is divine, my natural inference is, “Then I will trust him.”

26. Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ is man as well as God; and such a man as the world has never seen before or since. You have read the story of his life; did you ever read of any other man so gentle, so tender, so true, so kind, so full of affection, so willing to live and die for others? What, not trust him? Oh, it seems to me as if I could not help trusting him. Certainly, ever since I have known my blessed Lord and Saviour, I have felt that I could say to him, as David did, “Those who know your name will put their trust in you.” Son of God, and Son of man, your very nature helps to banish our unbelief; and, as soon as we correctly understand it, we feel that unbelief is an unnatural, illogical, and wicked thing.

27. Think also, for a minute or two, of his great offices. Our Lord Jesus Christ has a thousand offices, but there is one on which I especially love to dwell. He is a Saviour; he “came into the world to save sinners.” Many people imagine that they cannot be saved because they are sinners; but that is the very reason why they can be saved. You remember how Martin Luther puts it. He says, “The devil came to me, and he said, ‘Martin Luther, you are a big sinner; you are so great a sinner that you cannot be saved.’ ” Luther replied, “I will tell you what I will do, Satan; I will cut off your head with your own sword; for if I am a sinner, — and I know that it is so, — Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, so I believe he came to save me, and I have entrusted my soul to him for time and eternity.” A doctor does not come to heal those who are healthy, he naturally looks after the sick; and a Saviour does not come to save those who need no saving, but he comes to save sinners; so that your sinnership, instead of being a disqualification, is, to speak broadly, a qualification. Just as filth is a qualification for being washed, — just as poverty is a qualification for receiving alms, — just as sickness is a qualification for medicine, so your very sin and vileness are qualifications for Christ’s work of grace in you. I am using expressions that some will think strange, yet I am speaking, nevertheless, what is absolute truth. Does it not help to remove your unbelief to hear that Jesus is “mighty to save?”

28. Think, next, of the anguish which Christ endured when he offered himself up as the great atoning sacrifice for his people’s sin. I have never been able, for a single instant, to believe in any limit to the value of the atonement offered by Christ on Calvary. It seems to me to verge on blasphemy to suppose that, if God himself becomes incarnate, and suffers, and bleeds, and dies, there can be anything less than infinite value in the atonement that he offers. So then, sinner, since it is infinite, it can cover your case; since it is without bounds, there cannot be a bound set to it as far as you are concerned. Look at Christ on the cross, and you will not dare to say, “He cannot save me.” Know what he is, and who he is; see how he suffers, how the Father strikes him, and yet how the Father loves him all the while; and you must say, “Christ’s blood must have sufficient power in it to take away all the guilt of all who trust him.” It is so; believe it, and that will help to drive away your unbelief.

29. Remember, too, dear friends, that, when Christ died on the cross, he was not working out a trifling scheme of salvation. It was a sublime enterprise that took him from his throne in heaven, and brought him down to the manger in Bethlehem. It was a Godlike undertaking which made him lay aside the sceptre, and bear to have great nails thrust through his hands. It was a great scheme, and therefore it included great sin, great pardon, and great salvation; so, if you are a great sinner, you match the general scale of the whole scheme, which is of such huge proportions that it can encompass even you.

30. Christ’s intent in dying, too, ought to help to kill your unbelief. Why did he die? Was it not that the free grace of God might have full sway and abundant scope; and will it not have full sway if you are saved, and is there not great scope for pardoning mercy in you? Remember, dear friends, our Lord Jesus Christ never thought it was worth his while to come from heaven to give glory to a man: he came from heaven to bring glory to God, by vindicating his justice, and revealing his mercy. Now, if such a sinner as you are, — you who think yourself too bad to be saved, — if you get saved, what a display of divine grace there will be in your case! A man said to me, some time ago, “If I ever get to heaven, sir, I believe they will carry me around the streets, and exhibit me as a marvel of God’s mercy.” “Well, then,” I replied, “they will have to carry me around as well.” I suspect that every saved soul in heaven is a great wonder, and that heaven is a vast museum of wonders of grace and mercy, a palace of miracles, in which everything will surprise everyone who gets there. It has been well said that there will be three surprises in heaven; — first, we shall not find some we thought we should meet there; then, we shall find some we never thought would be there; but the greatest surprise of all will be to find ourselves there! I think it will be so; — not that we shall be astonished at the fact when we remember God’s promise, and what he has done for us; but we shall be amazed when we remember what we used to be, and what the grace of God had to do for us to make us fit to be there. Well, if you are one of those who will be carried all around heaven as a marvel of mercy, I believe you are the very person who is likely to get there, because God wants the angels and all the redeemed to see the wonders of his grace displayed towards us who believe.

31. I close with this one thought. If, poor soul, it is your lack of faith that stands in the way of the blessing coming to you, and if that lack of faith is infamous on your part, since you do not believe God; I charge you to repent of it; and to believe God, here and now. If you still say, “I do not know how to believe, and I cannot trust,” I dare not try to excuse you for saying so. Unbelief is the greatest of all crimes; I know of nothing to be a match for it. But if you really want help in fighting against your unbelief, can you not go to Christ for it? Even while you are thinking about him, you will believe in him. If you want to trust his blood, think of his blood. If you want to trust him as a living, loving Saviour, think of him, as a living, loving Saviour. “Faith comes by hearing.” When you are hearing about it, thinking about it, reading about it, the Holy Spirit will create faith in your soul. Oh, have faith, whatever else you do not have! May God enable you to exercise saving faith in Jesus Christ before you rise from your seat, lest, in this very building, you should stumble into death and into hell! Do I need to ask you, sirs, a thousand times, to believe the truth? Must I say over and over again to you, as Jesus said to the Jews, “Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me?” If Christ is not worthy of being believed, then he is a liar. If Christ cannot be trusted, then he is wrongly named. Oh, do not drive us to the inference that you think like this about him! Commit your soul into his hands this very moment, and be finished with it, once and for all, for his dear name’s sake. Amen!

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Mr 9:2-29}

2-6. And after six days Jesus takes with him Peter, and James, and John, and leads them up into a high mountain apart by themselves, and he was transfigured before them. And his clothing became shining, extremely white like snow, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say; for they were very afraid.

Brethren, like these disciples of our Lord, we are not yet ready to be favoured with a sight of his glory. As we now are, we could not bear it. As our poet says, —

    At the too-transporting light,
    Darkness rushes o’er my sight.

These three disciples of Christ were too bewildered to know what to say, they were quite lost, and I suppose that, if we could go to heaven as we are, our bewilderment would even exceed our bliss. But we may rest assured that God will prepare us for what he has prepared for us.

7, 8. And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” And suddenly, when they had looked all around, they saw no man any more, but only Jesus with themselves.

And although this was not so ravishing or so astonishing a sight, yet it was more encouraging to them, — something which they could more easily bear with joy and peace: “they saw no man any more, but only Jesus with themselves.” May God grant to us, as long as we are here below, that, if no Moses or Elijah shall ever come to visit us, at any rate Jesus may never be absent from us! May our fellowship with him be unbroken!

9, 10. And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, until the Son of man was risen from the dead. And they kept that saying to themselves, questioning with each other what the rising from the dead should mean.

These were Peter, and James, and John, the three most privileged disciples of Christ, — probably, the best scholars in that class which had the Lord Jesus Christ himself for its Teacher; yet his plain language was without meaning to them: “questioning with each other what the rising from the dead should mean.” I wonder whether, when our Lord comes the second time, we shall discover that the prophecies concerning his advent were amazingly clear, but that we could not understand them until he came. Plain as his teaching concerning his resurrection was, his disciples could not understand it until that great event had really occurred.

11-13. And they asked him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” And he answered and told them, “Elijah truly comes first, and restores all things; and how it is written concerning the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at naught. But I say to you, that Elijah is indeed come, and they have done to him whatever they wished, as it is written concerning him.”

John the Baptist had come, in the spirit and power of Elijah, and had reconstituted matters, and prepared the people for the advent of the Saviour, whose herald he was.

14, 15. And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude around them, and the scribes questioning with them. And immediately all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him greeted him.

Some remnants of the glory on the mount still remained on his face, and the people were astounded; so, though deeply interested in the battle which was proceeding between the scribes and the disciples, they left them, and turned to look at that mysterious radiance which hovered around his brow.

16. And he asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?”

The circumstances of the disciples resembled a battle-field on which the enemy was winning the day, and the loyal troops were about to die defeated; when suddenly, the great Commander himself appears for their relief. His presence is worth more than a thousand battalions of men; and he charges at once against the adversary, and puts them to rout: “He asked the scribes, ‘What are you discussing with them?’ ”

17. And one of the multitude answered —

One who had a special reason for answering; just as, I trust there will be one in this multitude before me who will have a special reason for listening to my message, and a special reason for remembering it after it is delivered: “One of the multitude answered” —

17-19. And said, “Master, I have brought to you my son, who has a dumb spirit; and wherever he takes him, he tears him: and he foams, and gnashes with his teeth, and pines away: and I spoke to your disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.” He answers him, and says, “Oh faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me.”

I suppose our Lord’s rebuke was meant especially for his disciples. It was something like the speech of a school teacher, who, having taught his pupils the same lesson a great many times, and laboured hard with them, from year to year, still finds them failing in the very rudiments of knowledge. Christ does not speak as if he were tired of his life, and wished to get away from his disciples; but this is his way of saying how disappointed he is that these learners have learned so little.

“How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me” Those words struck my heart very forcibly as I read them: “How long shall I bear with you?” Does not the Lord Jesus Christ have to put up with a great deal from every one of us? I applied his words to myself, and I thought I heard him saying to me, “How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” Often, he must derive more pain than pleasure from fellowship with many of his people. How grieved he often must be to see their slowness to learn, their readiness to forget, and the difficulty with which they can be brought to live the lessons which he so carefully imparts to them! Then note what his action is concerning the poor child: “Bring him to me.”

20. And they brought him to him: and when he saw him, immediately the spirit tore him;

As soon as Christ ever looked at him, “the spirit tore him.” One look from Christ awakens the demon. Sometimes, sinners are worse for a time when Christ looks at them. The devil always has great wrath, when he knows that his time is short; and he rages and tears most violently when he is about to be ejected. The Jews have a proverb, “When the quota of bricks is doubled, Moses appears,” and we may make it into a scriptural proverb, “When the devil’s torment of the heart is doubled, then Jesus appears to cast him out.”

20. And he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

And Jesus, instead of curing him at once, gave his first attention to the other patient before him, namely, the father of the child. He was suffering from an equally bad disease, though the symptoms were different, and Jesus intended to cure him as well as his boy.

21, 22. And he asked his father, “How long ago is it since this happened to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often it has cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if you can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.”

He put himself on a level with his child, and that is the best way to pray for your children: “Have compassion on us, and help us.” It will be compassion on you, as well as on your son, if the Lord saves him.

23. Jesus said to him, —

Catching at his words, “If you can do anything,” —

23-29. “If you can believe, all things are possible for him who believes.” And immediately the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying to him, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I charge you to come out of him, and enter no more into him.” And the spirit cried, and tore him severely, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast him out?” And he said to them, “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting.”

There are some things, which we are not fit to do until we have drawn very near to God, and have been deeply humbled, and, with sincere repentance, and the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, have been cleansed in order to receive so great a blessing. Faith alone will not accomplish everything. Faith must be accompanied by prayer, and prayer must be at least sometimes, in special cases, attended with fasting. The Lord makes reserves of his mercies, which he does not give immediately even to the request of faith, he demands persistence on our part, and heart-searching, and heart-cleansing, before the blessing will be bestowed.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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