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will silence the prayer of faith; nor will aught else, so long as Jesus lives, and the invitations and promises of his word continue unrevoked. It was written, He shall deliver the needy when he erieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper: and the efficacy of this declaration must be tried again. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord help me!
Observe, she prefaces her petition with an act of worship. She had before acknowledged him as David's son, now she approaches him as his Lord. Prostrate at his feet, she adores him, and renews her supplication. It is short, yet very full. It has only three words, but more than three ideas, and these full of importance. She here, in effect, tells him, that her case is urgent; that she is truly helpless; that no help is to be expected from any other quarter; that she is persuaded of his being able to save to the uttermost, and that it belongs to his character, as Messiah, to help those that have no helper. Though a Canaanite, assuredly she possesses the spirit of an Israelite: I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
If there be such a thing as holy violence, or taking the kingdom of heaven, as it were, by force, surely this is it; and, knowing the character of Christ, we should have concluded that this petition must be successful. But Jesus answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. fect judges are we of times and seasons. Just now, we should have supposed her cause was gained, and yet it was not so; and now we should have been ready enough to conclude it was lost, and yet it is not so. Let us learn to wait patiently for the Lord, and neither conclude, when we enjoy great fervour and freedom in our approaches to him, that our prayers must be answered imme. diately, or not at all; nor, when thrown back into darkness and discouragement, that now there is no hope.. Had this poor woman rested her expectation on her own feelings, or on any thing short of the Lord's own word, she had fainted in this trying moment. What a crowd of thoughts might she, at this time, have cherished; hard thoughts, proud thoughts, and despairing thoughts. And is this the Messiah, of whom such glorious things are spoken? Is this the compassion that he is to exercise to the poor, and to them
that have no helper? No mercy, no help for a stranger, even though prostrate at his feet; and, as if it were not enough to refuse his assistance, he must call me a dog! I will ask no more: whatever be my lot, I will bear it!' Such might have been her reflections, and such her conduct; but she was a believer, and faith operates in a different way.
Yet what could our Saviour mean by such language? Did he really intend to countenance that contemptuous spirit with which the carnal Jews treated the Gentiles? Surely not. Did he feel towards this poor stranger, as his words would seem to indicate? No: his roughness, like that of Joseph towards his brethren, was assumed ▾ for the purpose of trying her; and she endures the trial with singular perseverance. She neither resents being called a dog, nor despairs on account of it; but is resolved still to follow up her suit. Yet what new plea can she find to offer?
Let us hear the fourth and last application: Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master's table. Most admirable! Such an instance of spiritual ingenuity, of holy and humble acumen, was perhaps never known before, nor since Now the conflict is at an end; the victory is gained; the kingdom of heaven is taken by the prayer of faith. Jesus, like Joseph, can refrain himself no longer, but appears in his true character: O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt! Let us review this charming crisis, and mark the ground from which this last and successful plea proceeded. IT WAS THE GROUND ON WHICH the Lord had PLACED HER. He intimated that she was a dog, unworthy of the children's bread. She readily admitted it, and, as a dog, presented her petition. Here, then, is the grand secret how to succeed in our approaches for mercy We must stand upon that ground where the scripture places us, and from thence present our pétition. Does the Lord tell us, in his word, that we are guilty, unworthy, ungodly, deserving of eternal death? On this ground we must take our stand, and plead for that mercy which is provided for characters of this description. All applications for mercy, on any other ground, will be unsuccessful.
The last answer of Jesus, as well as the last prayer of the woman, is worthy of special notice. There are three things remarkable in it; the commendation of her faith, the granting of her desire, and the affectionate manner in which both were addressed to her.
Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith! This accords with his general practice. The blessings of healing, as well as those of a more spiritual nature, were ordinarily suspended on believing, and, when obtained, were ascribed to it. Hence, such language as this: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.-Thy faith hath saved thee-Thy faith hath made thee whole. Did our Lord, by this language, mean to give away the honour of salvation from himself? No: it is not used for the purpose of transferring honour to us, but for giving encouragement to faith. Neither is there any opposition of interests between Christ and faith: those who are saved by faith are saved by Christ; for it is of the nature of faith to go out of itself, and draw all from him. Christ's power and grace operate as the cause of our salvation; faith, as the mean of it; yet, being a mean absolutely necessary for the bringing of Christ and the soul together, as well as for the promotion of all other graces, it is constantly held up as the one thing needful.
Perhaps, if we had comemnded the Canaanitish woman, we should have admired her great importunity, and great humility; but our Lord passes over these, taking notice only of her faith ; and wherefore? Because faith was the root, or principle, from whence the others sprang, and by which they were kept alive.
Our Lord often commended the faith of believers; but I recollect only two instances in which he speaks of it as being great ; and they are both of them Gentiles: one is the Roman centurion ; and the other, the woman of whom we are discoursing. There, doubtless, was an eminency, or peculiar strength, in the faith of each of them; but that which, more than any thing, rendered it great in our Lord's account was, the disadvantages under which it was exercised. To Israel pertained the promises. If Gentiles partook of the root and fatness of the olive-tree, it was by being grafted into it, contrary to nature. Yet, amidst these disadvanta
ges, they abounded in faith, which, for the degree of it, was not to be found in Israel. Thus we are often provoked to jealously. persons whose religious advantages have been small, compared with ours, are, nevertheless, before us in faith, and love, and heavenly-mindedness. Thus it is, that the pride of man is stained, and no flesh suffered to glory in the divine presence.
Having commended her faith, our Saviour proceeds to grant her desire:-Be it unto thee even as thou wilt. The Lord does not excite a willing mind, with a view finally to cross it; or an earnestness of desire, in order to disappoint it such. willingness and such desire, therefore, are indicative of his designs. Christ only can satisfy the desires of the mind; and Christians are the only men in the world whose desires are satisfied. Cæsar, in the full possession of empire, is said to have exclaimed, “Is this all ??? And such is the disappointment that every sinner will meet with, who sets his heart on any thing but Christ. It is not in the power of the whole creation to say to an immortal, guilty creature, Be it unto thee even as thou wilt; but Jesus hath the words of eternal life.
The tender and affectionate manner in which our Saviour commended the faith, and fulfilled the desire of the poor petitioner, is deserving also of remark. It is introduced with an interjection, O woman! In the lips of a speaker abounding in affectation, such words signify but little; but Jesus never affected to feel, when he did not. Whenever, therefore, an interjection is seen in his speeches, we may be certain he felt. He felt compassion towards her, on account of her affliction; but chiefly admiration and delight, on witnessing the peculiar energy of her faith. Thus be marvelled at the Roman centurion. The genuine, and especially the eminent exercises of grace, are, more than any thing, the delight of Christ's heart. In looking at the poor and contrite spirit, he overlooks heaven and earth.
It may be rather surprising to us, that our Saviour should hold this poor woman so long in suspense; but, if he had not, her gra ces would not have been so apparent, and the exercise of them so grateful to him. And thus we may account for many of the afflictions through which the Lord brings his servants. If tribula
tion work patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and if, in his esteem, the exercise of these graces be of greater account than our present ease, it is not surprising that he should prefer the former to the latter and this consideration should reconcile us to those providences which, for a time, hold us in painful suspense.
From the whole, we may remark, that genuine, yea, great grace, may be exercised in respect of temporal mercies. It was not for the salvation of her soul, or the soul of her daughter, that this poor woman was so importunate; but for the removal of an afflic tion. Yet, such was the grace which was exercised in it, that there is no doubt of her being eternally saved. The exercise of spirituality is not confined to the seeking of spiritual blessings. We may serve the Lord in our daily avocations, and it is essential to true religion, that we do so. Such prayer may be offered, and such faith exercised, in respect of our daily bread, as have the promise of everlasting life.
Finally: If our Saviour suffered himself to be overcome by one who sought for a temporal blessing, much more will he accept of those who come to him for such as are spiritual and eternal. His promises are much stronger in the one case, than in the other. Though there were several general intimations, that the Messiah would exercise compassion towards the bodies, as well as the souls of men; and the numerous miracles which he wrought afforded full proof of his readiness to do good in every way; yet he no where bound himself, that I recollect, to heal all that came to him. I believe he never sent away an individual without a cure: but still, he seems to have reserved to himself a kind of discretionary power to do so. But in matters of everlasting moment, the word is gone out of his lips. Him that cometh unto me, I will IN NO WISE cast out. Here, every one that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, we are assured by the keeper of the gate, that it shall be opened. If any man, therefore, be hereafter shut out of the kingdom of heaven, it will appear in the end, that he sought not after it in the present life; or, at least, that he sought it not by faith.