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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 17

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Verse 8

Jesus Only

April 3rd, 1870




"And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus

only."-- Matthew 17:8 .

The last words will suffice us for a text, "Jesus only." When Peter saw

our Lord with Moses and Elias, he exclaimed, "Master, it is good to be

here," as if he implied that it was better to be with Jesus, and Moses, and

Elias, than to be with Jesus only. Now it was certainly good that for

once in his life he should see Christ transfigured with the representatives

of the law and the prophets; it might be for that particular occasion the

best sight that he could see, but as an ordinary thing an ecstasy so

sublime would not have been good for the disciples; and Peter himself

very soon found this out, for when the luminous cloud overshadowed

him, and the voice was heard out of heaven, we find that he with the rest

became sore afraid. The best thing after all for Peter, was not the

excessive strain of the transfiguration, nor the delectable company of the

two great spirits who appeared with Jesus, but the equally glorious, but

less exciting society of "Jesus only." Depend on it, brethren, that

ravishing and exciting experiences and transporting enjoyments, though

they may be useful as occasional refreshments, would not be so good for

every day as that quiet but delightful ordinary fellowship with "Jesus

only," which ought to be the distinguishing mark of all Christian life. As

the disciples ascended the mountain side with Jesus only, and as they

went back again to the multitude with Jesus only, they were in as good

company as when they were on the mountain summit, Moses and Elias

being there also; and although Jesus Christ in his common habiliments

and in his ordinary attire might not so dazzle their eyes as when they

saw his raiment bright as the light, and his face shining as the sun, yet he

really was quite as glorious, and his company quite as beneficial. When

they saw him in his everyday attire, his presence was quite as useful to

them as when he robed himself in splendor. "Jesus only," is after all

upon the whole a better thing than Jesus, Moses, and Elias. "Jesus only,"

as the common Jesus, the Christ of every day, the man walking among

men, communing in secret with his disciples, is a better thing for a

continuance while we are in this body, than the sight even of Jesus

himself in the excellence of his majesty.

This morning, in trying to dwell upon the simple sight of "Jesus only,"

we shall hold it up as beyond measure important and delightful, and

shall bear our witness that as it was said of Goliath's sword, "there is

none like it," so may it be said of fellowship with "Jesus only." We shall

first notice what might have happened to the disciples after the

transfiguration; we shall then dwell on what did happen; and then,

thirdly, we shall speak on what we anxiously desire may happen to those

who hear us this day.

I. First, then, WHAT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED to the three disciples after they

had seen the transfiguration.

There were four things, either of which might have occurred. As a first

supposition, they might have seen nobody with them on the holy mount;

they might have found all gone but themselves. When the cloud had

overshadowed them, and they were sore afraid, they might have lifted

up their eyes and found the entire vision melted into thin air; no Moses,

no Elias, and no Jesus. In such a case they would have been in a sorry

plight, like those who having begun to taste of a banquet, suddenly find

all the viands swept away; like thirsty men who have tasted the cooling

crystal drops, and then seen the fountain dried up before their eyes.

They would not have gone down the mountain side that day asking

questions and receiving instruction, for they would have had no teacher

left them. They would have descended to face a multitude and to

contend with a demon; not to conquer Satan, but to stand defeated by

him before the crowd; for they would have had no champion to espouse

their cause and drive out the evil spirit. They would have gone down

among Scribes and Pharisees to be baffled with their knotty questions,

and to be defeated by their sophistries, for they would have had no wise

man, who spake as never man spake, to untie the knots and disentangle

the snarls of controversy. They would have been like sheep without a

shepherd, like orphan children left alone in the world. They would

henceforth have reckoned it an unhappy day on which they saw the

transfiguration; because having seen it, having been led to high thoughts

by it, and excited to great expectations, all had disappeared like the foam

upon the waters, and left no solid residuum behind. Alas! For those who

have seen the image of the spirits of just men made perfect, and beheld

the great Lord of all such spirits, and then have found themselves alone,

and all the high companionship forever gone.

My dear brethren and sisters, there are some in this world and we ourselves

have been among them, to whom something like this has actually occurred. You

have been under a sermon, or at a gospel ordinance, or in reading the word

of God, for a while delighted, exhilarated, lifted up to the sublimer

regions, and then afterwards when it has all been over, there has been

nothing left of joy or benefit, nothing left of all that was preached and

for the moment enjoyed, nothing, at any rate, that you could take with you

into the conflicts of every-day life.

The whole has been a splendid vision and nothing more. There has been

neither Moses not Elias, nor Jesus left. You did remember what you saw, but

only with regret, because nothing remained with you. And, indeed, this which

happens sometimes to us, is a general habit of that portion of this ungodly

world which hears the gospel and perceives not its reality; it listens with

respect to gospel histories as to legends of ancient times; it hears with

reverence the stories of the days of miracles; it venerates the far-off ages

and their heroic deeds, but it does not believe that anything is left of all

the vision, any thing for to-day, for common life, and for common men. Moses

it knows, and Elias it knows, and Christ it knows, as shadows that have

passed across the scene and have disappeared, but it knows nothing of any

one of these as abiding in permanent influence over the mind and the spirit

of the present. All come and all gone, all to be reverenced, all to be

respected, but nothing more; there is nothing left, so far as they are

concerned, to influence or bless the present hour. Jesus and his gospel have

come and gone, and we may very properly recollect the fact, but according to

certain sages there is nothing in the New Testament to affect this advanced

age, this enlightened nineteenth century; we have got beyond all that. Ah!

Brethren, let those who can be content to do so, put up with this worship

of moral relics and spiritual phantoms; to us it would be wretchedness

itself. We, on the other hand, say, blessing the name of the Lord that we

can say it, that there abides with us our Lord Jesus. At this day he is with

us, and will be with us even to the end of the world. Christ's existence is

not a fact confined to antiquity or to remote distance. By his Spirit he is

actually in his church; we have seen him, though not with eyes; we have

heard him, though not with ears; we have grasped him, though not with

hands; and we feed upon his flesh, which is meat indeed, and his blood,

which is drink indeed. We have with us at this very day Jesus our friend,

to whom we make known our secrets, and who beareth all our sorrows.

We have Jesus our interpreting instructor, who still reveals his secrets to

us, and leads us into the mind and name of God. We have Jesus still with

us to supply us with strength, and in his power we still are mighty. We

confess his reigning sovereignty in the church, and we receive his all-

sufficient succors. The church is not decapitated, her Head abides in

vital union with her; Jesus is no myth to us, whatever he may be to

others; he is no departed shade, he is no heroic personification: in very

deed there is a Christ, and though others see him not, and even we with

these eyes see him not, yet in him believing we rejoice with joy

unspeakable and full of glory. Oh, I trust it will never be so with us, that

as we go about our life work our religion shall melt into fiction and

become nothing but mere sentiment, nothing but thought, and dream,

and vision; but may our religion be a matter of fact, a walking with the

living and abiding Saviour. Though Moses may be gone, and Elias may

be gone, yet Jesus Christ abideth with us and in us, and we in him, and

so shall it be evermore.

Now, there was a second thing that might have happened to the

disciples. When they lifted up their eyes they might have seen Moses

only. It would certainly have been a very sad exchange for what they did

see, to have seen Moses only. The face of Moses would have shone, his

person would have awed them, and it would have been no mean thing

for man of humble origin like themselves to walk down the mountain

with that mighty king in Jeshurun, who had spoken with God face to

face, and rested with him in solemn conclave by the space of forty days

at a time. But yet who would exchange the sun for the moon? Who

would exchange the cold moonbeams of Moses and the law for the

sunny rays of the Saviour's divine affection? It would have been an

unhappy exchange for them to have lost their Master whose name is

love, and to have found a leader in the man whose name is synonymous

with law. Moses, the man of God, cannot be compared with Jesus, the

Son of God. Yet dear brethren, there are some who see Moses only.

After all the gospel preaching that there has been in the world, and the

declaration of the precious doctrines of grace every Sabbath day; after

the clear revelations of Scripture, and the work of the Holy Spirit in

men's hearts; yet we have among us some who persist in seeing nothing

but Moses only. I mean this, there are some who will see nothing but

shadows still, mere shadows still. As I read my Bible I see there that the

age of the symbolical, the typical, the pictorial, has passed away. I am

glad of the symbols, and types, and pictures, for they remain instructive

to me; but the age in which they were in the foreground has given way

to a clearer light, and they are gone forever. There are, however, certain

persons who profess to read the Bible and to see very differently, and

they set up a new system of types and shadows--a system, let me say,

ridiculous to men of sense, and obnoxious to men of spiritual taste.

There are some who delight in outward ordinances; they must have

rubric and ritual, vestments and ceremonial, and this superabundantly,

morning, noon and night. They regard days, and seasons, and forms of

words and postures. They consider one place holy above another. They

regard a certain caste of men as being priestly above other believers, and

their love of symbols is seen in season and out of season. One would

think, from their teachings, that the one thing needful was not "Jesus

only," but custom, antiquity, outward performance, and correct

observance! Alas! for those who talk of Jesus, but virtually see Moses,

and Moses only. Ah! unhappy change for the heart if it could exchange

spiritual fellowship with Jesus for outward acts and symbolical

representations. It would be an unhappy thing for the Christian church if

she could ever be duped out of the priceless boons which faith wins

from her living Lord in his fullness of grace and truth, to return to the

beggarly elements of carnal ordinances. Unhappy day, indeed, if Popish

counterfeits of legal shadows should supplant gospel fact and substance.

Blessed be God, we have not so learned Christ. We see something better

than Moses only.

There are too many who see Moses only, inasmuch as they see nothing

but law, nothing but duty and precept in the Bible. I know that some

here, though we have tried to preach Christ crucified as their only hope,

yet whenever they read the Bible, or hear the Gospel, feel nothing

except a sense of their own sinfulness, and, arising out of that sense of

sinfulness, a desire to work out a righteousness of their own. They are

continually measuring themselves by the law of God, they feel their

shortcomings, they mourn over their transgressions, but they go no

further. I am glad that they see Moses, may the stern voice of the

lawgiver drive them to the lawfulfiller; but I grieve that they tarry so

long in legal servitude, which can only bring them sorrow and dismay.

The sight of Sinai, what is it but despair? God revealed in flaming fire,

and proclaiming with thunder his fiery law, what is there here to save

the soul? To see the Lord who will by no means spare the guilty, but

will surely visit transgression with eternal vengeance, is a sight which

never should eclipse Calvary, where love makes recompense to justice.

O that you may get beyond the mount that might be touched, and come

to Calvary, where God in vengeance is clearly seen, but where God in

mercy fills the throne. Oh how blessed is it to escape from the voice of

command and threatening and come to the blood of sprinkling, where

"Jesus only" speaketh better things!

Moses only, however, has become a sight very common with some of

you who write bitter things against yourselves. You never read the

Scriptures or hear the gospel without feeling condemned. You know

your duty, and confess how short you have fallen of it, and therefore

you abide under conscious condemnation, and will not come to him who

is the propitiation for your sins. Alas, that there should be so many who

with strange perversity of unbelief twist every promise into a

threatening, and out of every gracious word that drips with honey

manage to extract gall and wormwood. They see the dark shadow of

Moses only; the broken tablets of the law, the smoking mount, and the

terrible trumpet are ever with them, and over all an angry God. They had

a better vision once, they have it sometimes now; for now and then

under the preaching of the gospel they have glimpses of hope and

mercy, but they relapse into darkness, they fall again into despair,

because they have chosen to see Moses only. I pray that a change may

come over the spirit of their dream, and that yet like the apostles they

may see "Jesus only."

But, my brethren, there was a third alternative that might have happened

to the disciples, they might have seen Elijah only. Instead of the gentle

Saviour, they might have been standing at the side of the rough-clad and

the stern-spirited Elias. Instead of the Lamb of God, there might have

remained to them only the lion who roared like the voice of God's own

majesty in the midst of sinful Israel. In such a case, with such a leader,

they would have gone down from the mount, and I wot that if John had

said, "Command fire from heaven," Elias would have consumed his

foes; the Pharisees, like the priests of Baal, would have found a speedy

end; Herod's blood, like Ahab's, would have been licked up by dogs; and

Herodias, like another Jezebel, would have been devoured of the same.

But all this power for vengeance would have been a poor exchange for

the gracious omnipotence of the Friend of sinners. Who would prefer the

slayer of the priests to the Saviour of men? The top of Carmel was

glorious when its intercession brought the rain for Israel, but how poor it

is compared with Gethsemane, whose pleadings bring eternal life to

millions! In company with Jesus we are at Elim beneath the palm tree,

but with Elias we are in the wilderness beneath the stunted juniper. Who

would exchange the excellency of Olivet for the terrors of Horeb? Yet I

fear there are many who see Elias only. Prophecies of future woe

fascinate them rather than thoughts of present salvation. Elias may be

taken representatively as the preparer of Christ, for our Lord interpreted

the prophecy of the coming of Elias as referring to John the Baptist.

There are not a few who abide in the seeking, repenting, and preparing

state, and come not to "Jesus only." I am not myself fond of even using

the term "preparing for Christ," for it seems to me that those are best

prepared for Christ who most feel themselves unprepared; but there is

no doubt a state of heart which prepares for faith--a sense of need, a

consciousness of sin, a hatred of sin, all these are preparations for actual

peace and comfort in Christ Jesus, and oh! How many there are who

continue year after year merely in that preliminary condition, choosing

the candle and refusing the sun. They do not become believers, but are

always complaining that they do not feel as yet fit to come to Christ.

They want Christ, they desire Christ, they would fain have Christ, but

they stay in desire and longing and go no further. They never get so far

as to behold "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world."

The voice from heaven to them they always interpret as crying, "The axe

is laid unto the root of the trees; bring forth therefore fruits meet for

repentance." Their conscience is thrilled, and thrilled again, by the voice

that crieth in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." Their

souls are rent and torn by Elijah's challenge, "If the Lord be God, follow

him: but if Baal, then follow him;" but they remain still halting between

two opinions, trembling before Elias and not rejoicing before the

Saviour. Unhappy men and women, so near the kingdom, and yet out of

it; so near the feast, and yet perishing for want of the living bread. The

word is near you(ah, how near!), and yet you receive it not. Remember,

I pray you, that merely to prepare for a Saviour is not to be saved; that to

have a sense of sin is not the same thing as being pardoned. Your

repentance, unless you also believe in Jesus, is a repentance that needs

to be repented of. At the girdle of John the Baptist the keys of heaven

did never hang; Elias is not the door of salvation; preparation for Christ

is not Christ, despair is not regeneration, doubt is not repentance. Only

by faith in Jesus can you be saved, but complaining of yourselves is not

faith. "Jesus only" is the way, the truth, and the life. "Jesus only" is the

sinner's Saviour. O that your eyes may be opened, not to see Elias, not to

see Moses, but to see "Jesus only."

You see, then, these three alternatives, but there was also another: a

fourth thing might have happened when the disciples opened their eyes--

they might have seen Moses and Elias with Jesus, even as in the

transfiguration. At first sight it seems as if this would have been superior

to that which they did enjoy. To walk down the mountain with that

blessed trio, how great a privilege! How strong might they have been for

the accomplishment of the divine purposes! Moses could preach the law

and make men tremble, and then Jesus could follow with his gospel of

grace and truth. Elias could flash the thunderbolt in their faces, and then

Christ could have uplifted the humble spirits. Would not the contrast

have been delightful, and the connection inspiriting? Would not the

assemblage of such divers kinds of forces have contributed to the

greatest success? I think not. It is a vastly better thing to see "Jesus

only," as a matter of perpetuity, than to see Moses and Elias with Jesus.

It is night, I know it, for I see the moon and stars. The morning cometh,

I know it cometh, for I see no longer many stars, only one remains, and

that the morning star. But the full day has arrived, I know it has, for I

cannot even see the morning star; all those guardians and comforters of

the night have disappeared; I see the sun only. Now, inasmuch as every

man prefers the moon to midnight and to the twilight of dawn, the

disappearance of Moses and Elias, indicating the full noontide of light,

was the best thing that could happen. Why should we wish to see

Moses? The ceremonials are all fulfilled in Jesus; the law is honored and

fulfilled in him. Let Moses go, his light is already in "Jesus only." And

why should I wish to retain Elias? The prophecies are all fulfilled in

Jesus, and the preparation of which Elias preached Jesus brings with

himself. Let, then, Elias go, his light also is in "Jesus only." It is

better to see Moses and Elias in Christ, than to see Moses and Elias with


The absence of some things betokens a higher state of things than their

presence. In all my library I do not know that I have a Lennie's English

Grammar, or a Mavor's Spelling Book, or a Henry's First Latin

Exercises, nor do I regret the absence of those valuable works, because I

have got beyond the need of them. So the Christian wants not the

symbols of Moses, or the preparations of Elias, for Christ is all, and we

are complete in him. He who is conversant with the higher walks of

sacred literature and reads in the golden book of Christ's heart, may

safely lay the legal school-book by; this was good enough for the

church's infancy, but we have now put away childish things. "We, when

we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but

when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of

a woman, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law,

that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons,

God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba,

Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son,

then an heir of God through Christ." My brethren, the principle may be

carried still further, for even the most precious things we treasure here

below will disappear when fully realized in heaven. Beautiful for

situation was the temple on Mount Zion, and though we believe not in

the sanctity of buildings under the gospel, we love the place of solemn

meeting where we are accustomed to offer prayer and praise; but when

we enter into perfection we shall find no temple in heaven. We delight

in our Sabbaths, and we would not give them up. O may England never

lose her Sabbaths! but when we reach the Jerusalem above, we shall not

observe the first day of the week above the rest, for we shall enjoy one

everlasting Sabbath. No temple, because all temple; and no Sabbath day,

because all Sabbath in heaven. Thus, you see, the losing of some things

is gain: it proves that we have got beyond their help. Just as we get

beyond the nursery and all its appurtenances, and never regret it because

we have become men, so do Moses and Elias pass away, but we do not

miss them, for "Jesus only" indicates our manhood. It is a sign of a

higher growth when we can see Jesus only. My brethren, much of this

sort of thing takes place with all Christians in their spiritual life. Do you

remember when you were first of all convinced and awakened, what a

great deal you thought of the preacher, and how much of the very style

in which he spoke the gospel! But now, though you delight to listen to

his voice, and find that God blesses you through him, yet you have sunk

the thought of the preacher in the glory of the Master, you see no man

save "Jesus only." And as you grow in grace you will find that many

doctrines and points of church government which once appeared to you

to be all important, though you will still value them, will seem but of

small consequence compared with Christ himself. Like the traveller

ascending the Alps to reach the summit of Mont Blanc; at first he

observes that lord of the hills as one born among many, and often in the

twistings of his upward path he sees other peaks which appear more

elevated than that monarch of mountains; but when at last he is near the

summit, he sees all the rest of the hills beneath his feet, and like a

mighty wedge of alabaster Mount Blanc pierces the very clouds. So, as

we grow in grace, other things sink and Jesus rises. They must decrease,

but Christ must increase; until he alone fills the full horizon of your

soul, and rises clear and bright and glorious up into the very heaven of

God. O that we may thus see "Jesus only!"

II. Time hastens so rapidly, this morning, that I know not how I shall be

able to compress the rest of my discourse into the allotted space. We

must in the most rapid manner speak upon WHAT REALLY


"They saw no man, save Jesus only." This was all they wanted to see for

their comfort. They were sore afraid: Moses was gone, and he could

give them no comfort; Elias was gone, he could speak no consolatory

word; yet when Jesus said, "Be not afraid," their fears vanished. All the

comfort, then, that any troubled heart wants, it can find in Christ. Go not

to Moses, nor Elias, neither to the old covenant, not to prophecy: go

straight away to Jesus only. He was all the Saviour they wanted. Those

three men all needed washing from sin; all needed to be kept and held

on their way, but neither Moses nor Elias could have washed them from

sin, nor have kept them from returning to it. But Jesus only could

cleanse them, and did; Christ could lead them on, and did. Ah! brethren,

all the Saviour we want, we find in Jesus only. The priests of Rome and

their Anglican mimics officiously offer us their services. How glad they

would be if we would bend our necks once again to their yoke! But we

thank God we have seen "Jesus only," and if Moses has gone, and if

Elias has gone, we are not likely to let the shavelings of Rome come in

and fill up the vacancy. "Jesus only," is enough for our comfort, without

either Anglican, Mosaic, or Roman priestcraft.

He, again, was to them, as they went afterwards into the world, enough

for a Master. "No man can serve two masters," and albeit, Moses and

Elias might sink into the second rank, yet might there have been some

difficulty in the follower's mind if the leadership were divided. But

when they had no leader but Jesus, his guidance, his direction and

command were quite sufficient. He, in the day of battle, was enough for

their captain; in the day of difficulty, enough for their direction. They

wanted none but Jesus. At this day, my brethren, we have no Master but

Christ; we submit ourselves to no vicar of God; we bow down ourselves

before no great leader of a sect, neither to Calvin, nor to Arminius, to

Wesley, or Whitfield, "One is our Master," and that one is enough, for

we have learned to see the wisdom of God and the power of God in

Jesus only.

He was enough as their power for future life, as well as their Master.

They needed not ask Moses to lend them official dignity, nor to ask

Elias to bring them fire from heaven: Jesus would give them of his Holy

Spirit, and they should be strong enough for every enterprise. And,

brethren, all the power you and I want to preach the gospel, and to

conquer souls to the truth, we can find in Jesus only. You want no

sacred State prestige, no pretended apostolical succession, no prelatical

unction; Jesus will anoint you with his Holy Spirit, and you shall be

plenteously endowed with power from on high, so that you shall do

great things and prevail. "Jesus only." Why, they wanted no other

motive to constrain them to use their power aright. It is enough incentive

to a man to be allowed to live for such a one as Christ. Only let the

thought of Christ fill the enlightened intellect, and it must conquer the

sanctified affections. Let but Jesus be well understood as the everlasting

God who bowed the heavens, and came down and suffered shame and

ignominy, that he might redeem us from the wrath to come; let us get

but a sight of the thorn-crowned head, and those dear eyes all red with

weeping, and those sweet cheeks bruised and battered by the scoffer's

fists; let us but look into the tender heart that was broken with griefs

unutterable for our sakes, and the love of Christ must constrain us, and

we shall thus "judge, that if one died for all, then were wll dead: and that

he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto

themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again." In the

point of motive, believers do not need the aid of Moses. That you ought

to do such a thing because otherwise you will be punished, will but little

strengthen you, nor will you be much aided by the spirit of prophecy

which leads you to hope that in the millennial period you will be made a

ruler over many cities. It will be enough to you that you serve the Lord

Christ; it suffices you if you may be enabled to honor him, to deck his

crown, to magnify his name. Here is a stimulus sufficient for martyrs

and confessors, "Jesus only." Brethren, it is all the gospel we have to

preach--it is all the gospel we want to preach--it is the only ground of

confidence which we have for ourselves; it is all the hope we have to set

before others. I know that in this age there is an overweening desire for

that which has the aspect of being intellectual, deep, and novel; and we

are often informed that there are to be developments in religion, even as

in science; and we are despised as being hardly men, certainly not

thinking men, if we preach today what was preached two hundred years

ago. Brethren, we preach to-day what was preached eighteen hundred

years ago, and wherein others make alterations, they create deformities,

and not improvements. We are not ashamed to avow that the old truth of

Christ alone is everlasting; all else has gone or shall go, but the gospel

towers above the wrecks of time: to us "Jesus only" remains as the sole

topic of our ministry, and we want nothing else.

For "Jesus only" shall be our reward, to be with him where he is, to

behold his glory, to be like him when we shall see him as he is, we ask

no other heaven. No other bliss can our soul conceive of. The Lord grant

that we may have a fullness of this, and "Jesus only" shall be throughout

eternity our delight.

There was here space to have dilated at great length, but we have rather

given you the heads of thought, than the thoughts themselves. Though

the apostles saw "Jesus only," they saw quite sufficient, for Jesus is

enough for time and eternity, enough to live by and enough to die by.

III. I must close, though I fain would linger. Brethren, let us think of

WHAT WE DESIRE MAY HAPPEN to all now present.

I do desire for my fellow Christians and for myself, that more and more

the great object of our thoughts, motives, and acts may be "Jesus only." I

believe that whenever our religion is most vital, it is most full of Christ.

Moreover, when it is most practical, downright, and common sense, it

always gets nearest to Jesus. I can bear witness that whenever I am in

deeps of sorrow, nothing will do for me but "Jesus only." I can rest in

some degree in the externals of religion, its outward escarpments and

bulwarks, when I am in health; but I retreat to the innermost citadel of

our holy faith, namely, to the very heart of Christ, when my spirit is

assailed by temptation, or besieged with sorrow and anguish. What is

more, my witness is that whenever I have high spiritual enjoyments,

enjoyments right, rare, celestial, they are always connected with Jesus

only. Other religious things may give some kind of joy, and joy that is

healthy too, but the sublimest, the most inebriating, the most divine of

all joys, must be found in Jesus only. In fine, I find if I want to labor

much, I must live on Jesus only; if I desire to suffer patiently, I must

feed on Jesus only; if I wish to wrestle with God successfully, I must

plead Jesus only; if I aspire to conquer sin, I must use the blood of Jesus

only; if I pant to learn the mysteries of heaven, I must seek the teachings

of Jesus only. I believe that any thing which we add to Christ lowers our

position, and that the more elevated our soul becomes, the more nearly

like what it is to be when it shall enter into the religion of the perfect,

the more completely every thing else will sink, die out, and Jesus, Jesus,

Jesus only, will be first and last, and midst and without end, the Alpha

and Omega of every thought of head and pulse of heart. May it be so

with every Christian.

There are others here who are not yet believers in Jesus, and our desire

is that this may happen to them, that they may see "Jesus only." "Oh,"

saith one, "Sir, I want to see my sins. My heart is very hard, and very

proud; I want to see my sins." Friend, I also desire that you should, but I

desire that you may see them not on yourself, but on Jesus only. No

sight of sin ever brings such true humiliation of spirit as when the soul

sees its sins laid on the Saviour. Sinner, I know you have thought of sins

as lying on yourself, and you have been trying to feel their weight, but

there is a happier and better view still. Sin was laid on Jesus, and it made

him to be covered with a bloody sweat; it nailed him to the cross; it

made him cry, "Lama Sabachthani;" it bowed him into the dust of death.

Why, friend, if you see sin on Jesus you will hate it, you will bemoan it,

you will abhor it. You need not look evermore to sin as burdening

yourself, see Jesus only, and the best kind of repentance will follow.

"Ah, but," saith another, "I want to feel my need of Christ more." You

will see your need all the better if you look at Jesus only. Many a time

an appetite for a thing is created by the sight of it. Why, there are some

of us who can hardly be trusted in a bookseller's shop, because though

we might have done very well at home without a certain volume, we no

sooner see it than we are in urgent need of it. So often is it with some of

you about other matters, so that it becomes most dangerous to let you

see, because you want as soon as you see. A sight of Jesus, of what he is

to sinners, of what he makes sinners, of what he is in himself, will more

tend to make you feel your need of him than all your poring over your

poor miserable self. You will get no further there, look to "Jesus only."

"Ay," saith another, "but I want to read my title clear, I want to know

that I have an interest in Jesus." you will best read your interest in

Christ, by looking at him. If I want to know whether a certain estate is

mine, do I look into my own heart to see if I have a right to it? But I

look into the archives of the estate, I search testaments and covenants.

Now, Christ Jesus is God's covenant with the people, a leader and

commander to the people. To-day, I personally can read my title clear to

heaven, and shall I tell you how I read it? Not because I feel all I wish to

feel, nor because I am what I hope I yet shall be, but I read in the word

that "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners," I am a sinner,

even the devil cannot tell me I am not. O precious Saviour, then thou

hast come to save such as I am. Then I see it written again, "He that

believeth and is baptized, shall be saved." I have believed, and have

been baptized; I know I trust alone in Jesus, and that is believing. As

surely then as there is a God in heaven I shall be in heaven one day. It

must be so, because unless God be a liar, he that believeth must be

saved. You see it is not by looking within, it is by looking to Jesus only

that you perceive at last your name graven on his hands. I wish to have

Christ's name written on my heart, but if I want assurance, I have to look

at his heart till I see my name written there. O turn your eye away from

your sin and your emptiness to his righteousness and his fullness. See

the sweat drops bloody as they fall in Gethsemane, see his heart pierced

and pouring out blood and water for the sins of men upon Calvary!

There is life in a look at him! O look to him, and though it be Jesus only,

though Moses should condemn you, and Elias should alarm you, yet

"Jesus only" shall be enough to comfort and enough to save you. May

God grant us grace every one of us to take for our motto in life, for our

hope in death, and for our joy in eternity, "Jesus only." May God bless

you for the sake of "Jesus only." Amen.

Verses 19-21

A Desperate Case How to Meet It

January 10th, 1864 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: 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 nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." Matthew 27:19-21 .

The narrative, of which our text forms a part, describes a scene which took place immediately after the transfiguration of our Lord. Not to divorce it therefore from its connection, let us glance at the antecedents of the case, that nothing may be lost by negligence, or that peradventure we may gain something by meditation. How great the difference between Moses and Christ! When Moses had been forty days upon the mountain-top, he underwent a kind of transfiguration, so that his face shone with exceeding brightness when he came down among the people, and he was obliged to put a veil over his face; for they could not bear to look upon his glory. Not so our Saviour! He had been really transfigured with a greater glory than Moses could ever know, and yet, as he came down from the mount, whatever radiance shone upon his face, it is not written that the people could not look upon him, but rather they were amazed, and running to him, they saluted him. The glory of the law repelled; for the majesty of holiness and justice, drive the awed spirits away from God. But the greater glory of Jesus attracts; though he is holy, and just, and righteous too, yet blended with these there is so much of truth and grace that sinners run to Jesus, amazed at his goodness, attracted by the charming fascination of his love, and they salute him, become his disciples, and take him to be their Lord and Master. Some of you may be just now blinded by the dazzling brightness of the law of God. You feel its claims on your conscience, but you cannot keep it in your life. It is too high; you cannot attain to it. Not that you find fault with the law; on the contrary, it commands your profoundest esteem. Still you are in no wise drawn by it to God; you are rather hardened in your heart, and you may be verging towards the inference of desperation: "As it is impossible for me to earn salvation by the works of the law, I will continue in my sins." Ah, poor heart! Turn thine eye away from Moses, with all his repelling splendour, and look to Jesus, yonder, crucified for sinful men. Behold his flowing wounds, and thorn crowned head! He is the Son of God, and therein he is greater than Moses. He bear the wrath of God, and therein he shows more of God's justice than Moses' broken tablets could ever do. Look thou to him, and as thou feelest the attraction of his love, fly to his arms and thou shalt be saved. How different the spirit of Moses and Jesus! When Moses comes down from the mountain, it is to purge the camp. He seems to grasp the fiery sword; he breaks the golden calf; he smites the idolaters; but when Jesus comes down from the mountain, he finds a strife in the camp, as Moses did; he finds his own apostles worsted and beaten, just as Aaron had been defeated by the clamours of the people; but he has not a word of cursing; there is a gentle rebuke "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?" His actions are actions of mercy no breaking in pieces, but healing; no cursing, but blessing: love sits smiling on his brow, as he touches the poor wretch who is almost dead with diabolical possession, and restores him to life and health. Go you then, to Jesus; leave the law and your own self-righteousness, for these can do nothing but curse you. Fly to Jesus, for be you whomsoever you may, there are pardons on his lips; there are blessings in his hands; there is love in his heart; and he will not disdain to receive even you. How much of condescension there is in the manner of Christ! Our Lord, we have told you, had been very glorious on the mountain's top, with Moses and Elias, yet, when he comes down into the midst of the crowd, he doth not disdain the cry of the poor man, not refuse to touch him who was possessed with a devil. Observe my Masters condescension, for he deigns attention, and yet his manner softens into pity and presently it melts into a gracious sympathy, as if this was the only channel through which his peerless power could flow. Then remember, he is the same to-day as he was then.

"Now though he reigns exalted high, His love is still as great:"

He is willing now to receive sinners as when it was said of him, "This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them:" just as ready to receive you, poor sinners, as when he was called "The friend of publicans and sinners." Come to him. Bow at his feet. His love invites you still. Believe that the transfigured and glorified Jesus is still a loving Saviour, willing to pardon and forgive. Once again what choice instruction there is in history! After Jesus had been absent for some time, he came back. You may ask for what purpose he had retired? Evidently he went up into the mountain to pray. It was while he was praying (and I make no doubt, fasting likewise) that the fashion of his countenance changed. By his own personal devotion, and by the Father's special revelation, he had thus come back, as it were, with great refreshment to carry on his ministry. Hence we become witnesses of a marvelous power which he immediately showed forth, and of no less remarkable counsel which he spoke to his disciples, when they felt their own weakness. Thus we have before us, on our text, a peculiar case a patient, who utterly baffled the skill of all his disciples, healed at once by the great Master; and we have a reason given why the apostles themselves were not able to deliver him. Let us look for a little time at this very sad case; not so singular either, methinks, but that we may find the round about us. Then let us notice the scene around the case the father, the disciples, the scribes. Afterwards we shall joyfully observe the Saviour's coming into the midst and deciding all the difficulty; and, lastly, we shall attend to the reason he gives in private to his disciples, why they, before his coming, were utterly powerless to achieve the work. I. First we have before us a VERY PECULIAR CASE. It appears that the disciples had cast out devils of all sorts. Wherever they had gone, heretofore, this was their uniform testimony, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us;" but now they are baffled. They seem to have encountered a devil of the worst kind. There are grades in devilry as there are in human sin. All men are evil, but all men are not alike evil. All devils are full of sin, but they are not all sinful to the same degree. Do we not read in Scripture, "Then goeth he and taketh unto him seven other spirits more wicked than himself?" It may be there is a gradation in the wickedness of devils, and perhaps, also, in their power to fulfil their wicked impulses. We can scarcely think that all devils are Satans. There seems to be one chief arch-spirit, one great Diabolus, who is an accuser of the brethren one mighty Lucifer, who fell down from heaven and has become the prince of the powers of darkness. In all his hosts it is probable that there is not his like. He stands first and chief of those fallen morning stars; the rest of the spirits may stand in different grades of wickedness, a hierarchy of hell. This poor wretch seems to have been possessed of one of the worst, most potent, and violent, and virulent of these evil spirits. I believe, brethren, that here we have a picture of a certain class of individuals who are not only desperately sinful, but subject to extraordinary impulses which carry them to infernal lengths and depths of infamy; they are incapable of restraint, a terror to their kinfolk, and a misery to themselves. All men are sinful, as I have said before; but the power of depravity in some men is much stronger than in others; at least, if it be not intrinsically stronger, yet it certainly has manifestations in some which we have never perceived in common among men. Let us try and pick out the case according to the narrative. How frequently, dear friends, too frequently, alas! have we seen young people who have answered to the description here given. They have had a precocity of wickedness. When Jesus asked the father, "How long has he been in this way?" the answer was, "Of a child." I remember having once known such a child, over whom, paroxysms of passion came, in which his face would turn black. When he was able to run about, and was sent to a public school, a flint-stone, a club, a brick-bat, anything which might come next to hand, he would throw, without a moment's thought, at any one who vexed him. His knife would be drawn from his pocket and opened in an instant. The young assassin has often been prevented from stabbing others by a careful hand and watchful eye which guarded him. We have noticed this, I say, in the very young. They begin to lie early and to thieve soon, and the young lip even assays to swear, while the anxious mother cannot understand where the child could have learnt it. You have protected such a child from contamination, and seemed to shut him in and girdle him about with holy influences; and yet, in these desperate instances, as soon as ever the child could know the right from the wrong, he has deliberately chosen the wrong with a violence of self-will and recklessness of consequences altogether unusual. Some such cases we have seen. O, may God grant it never be your lot or mine, to be the parents of such children. Yet such there have been, and such men there are who have grown up now, and the youthful passions of their childhood have become developed; and you may find them with the low forehead and dark scowling eye, if you will, in our prison-houses. Or if you see them in the streets, you may hopefully wish that they may be in prison ere long, for they are unsafe abroad. Of a child they seem to have been possessed with the chief of devils, and to have been carried captive by him at his will. This lad seems also to have been afflicted with what is here called lunacy, which was, indeed, only a form of epilepsy. He was constantly subjected, it seems, to epileptic fits; for I think we can hardly understand lunacy to mean anything short of occasional madness. Attacks of such outrageous violence would come upon him, that there would be no enduring him. He would then dash himself into the fire, or if water were near, he would attempt self destruction by plunging in to it. We have met with persons of this kind, perfectly outrageous and beyond all command, when fits of evil came upon them. I will instance cases which I have observed. I know a man now, he may be here this morning; if he is , he will recognize his own portrait. At times he is as reasonable as anyone I could wish to associate with. He enjoys listening to the Word of God. He is, in some respects, an amiable, excellent, and respectable man. But occasionally fits of drunkenness come upon him, in which he is perfectly powerless under the influence of the demon; and while it lasts, it matters not, even when he knows he is wrong, a thousand angels could not drag him from it. He is thrown into the water of self-destruction, and he will continue in it. You may urge him and reason with him, and you may think oh, how often some have thought who love him! he will never do that again; he is too sensible a man; he has been too well-taught; the Word of God has had such an effect upon him, that he will never do it again; yet he does; he repeats the old paroxysms, and has done for twenty or thirty years; and, if he lives, unless sovereign grace prevent it, he will die a drunkard, as sure as he is a living man, and go from his drink to damnation. Another case, from which I likewise draw from life. The man is kind, tender, and generous generous to a fault. He has a home he had one, I ought to say he had a home, and he was the light of it. No one ever suspected him that is, in his better times of any grievous faults; but sometimes and this has been concealed by many an indulgent friend an attack of lasciviousness comes upon him, and at such seasons it matters not what the temptation may be, nor how foul the vice may be, the man runs into it. If you should meet him in the street, and talk with him, and argue with him, it would be all time and labour thrown away; nay, I have known him break up his home, and cross the sea to go to another land, that he might indulge his vile passions without rebuke, or the restraint of associating with former friends. He will come back again, broken-hearted, wondering that he ever could be such a fool; but he will go again. It is in him. The devil is in him, and, unless God casts it out, he will do the same again, deliberately choosing his own damnation. Though he knows it, yet so possessed of the love of sin is he, that when the fit comes upon him, this diabolical epilepsy, he falls into sin with his whole might and power. I might go on describing cases of the kind, but you will not need that I should picture any more; it could only be to vary the different forms of sin. However, let me try once more. A lad had as good a father as a child could have. He was bound apprentice. It became whispered in a few weeks that little moneys were missing. The father was very grieved, so indeed was the master, and the matter was quietly hushed up. A little while after the same thing occurred. The indentures were cancelled, and nothing more was said of it; but the father was sorely perplexed. He looked out for some other situation for the boy where he might, perhaps, recover his character. After a time it was precisely the same again. Bad companions had got hold of him, or rather, he had become a ringleader among other bad companions. Well, something else must be tried. It was tried. He has had twenty situations, and they have all been thrown up from the very same cause. And now, what think you is his treatment of his parents? Instead of being grateful for the repeated kindness and longsuffering shown to him, he will break out sometimes into such dreadful passions, that even the lives of his parents are scarcely safe; and when he has been in his old haunts a little more than usual, he is really so terrible a being, that his mother who loves him and who weeps over him, would almost as soon see a fiend from hell as see him; for when he comes home, everything goes wrong; confusion, is in the house, and terror in every heart; he acts precisely as if he were a madman. They have said, "Send him to Australia, or send him to America" where they do send many of that sort but if he goes there he will turn up, sooner or later, at the foot of the gallows; he is desperately set on evil, and nothing turns him aside. He tears and foams at the mouth with passion; his whole heart goes forth outrageously after anything like vice, and there appears to be not one redeeming trait in his character; or, if there be, it only seems to be subjected tot he power his lusts. He devises means to be more mighty to do mischief in the world. What dreadful cases these are! Wherefore am I talking of them? Dear friends , I have taken them because it has been laying upon my heart to encourage and comfort you who are constrained to carry a daily cross in having such relations and such children as these. It is one of the heaviest afflictions which can come upon you. In the case before us, the child was both deaf and dumb not, I suppose, through any organic effect, but through the epilepsy, and the Satanic possession. So often we have seen children shall I look them in the face this morning, as I stand here? they are no children now who are positively deaf to all spiritual sounds. They have been pleaded with, but it is vain. They know the truth, they know the whole truth, but they do not know the power of it. They are never absent from family prayer, nor in any prayer are they ever forgotten by their parents. They come to this place; they attend our classes; they go to revival services. Now and then there is something like a little emotion, but it does not come to much; they are precisely similar to the deaf adder which cannot be charmed, charm we never so wisely. Others of the family have been converted. Nearly all the household has now been brought to Christ. Lydia has had her heart opened; God has been much pleased to call young Timothy; but this one remains, and after much anxiety, much effort, much labour, no good has been achieved. The adamant seems as soft as their heart, and the ear of the deaf as much alive to rebuke as their conscience. This again is a very sad case. I meet sometimes, too, with cases of another kind persons who are beset with very high doctrine, who have got the devil in them, puffing up their fleshly minds with a vain conceit of sound understanding, and degrading their carnal profession with a loathsome impurity of heart and life. You will talk with them; they will tell you they wish to be saved would give their right arm to be saved; but it is not in their power. You bid them believe in Jesus. They have no sense, they tell you, of the need of a Saviour; they are not in a fit state to believe. When God's time comes, the thing will occur. They love high doctrine; they will hear nothing else but it; but then their Sunday, if there is a temptation which comes across their path, will be spent anywhere but in the worship of God; and during the week they give way to all sorts of sins. Whatever temptation comes, they go after it. The comfort they get from their religion, which they wrap about them like a cloak, is this that no minister speaks the truth except one or two; that the truth is fatalism; that all they have to do is to be carried along like dead, inanimate logs down the stream, and that they are not at all responsible; or if they are responsible, it is merely to maintain with unflinching hardihood their own crude sentiments. I have seen some of these people good people in their own way too of whom I have thought that the conversation of drunkards was more hopeful than theirs; for that damnable fatalism, which by some is put instead of the predestination of the Scriptures, has locked them up put them in an iron cage: and so they are beyond the reach of help, going on in their sin, rejecting the gospel of Christ, while assaying to be connoisseurs of its choicest mysteries. Now, brothers and sisters, why are such cases as these permitted? Why doth the Lord allow the devil thus to fill the soul with sin? I think it is, first, to show that there is a reality of sin. If we were all moral and outwardly respectable, we should begin to think sin was but a fancy. These daring sinners show the reality of it. It is to manifest the reality of divine grace; for when these are saved, then it is we wonder, and we are compelled to say, "There is something in this. If such a hard, iron nature yet melts before the power of divine love, there must be a majesty in it." It is to humble us too, to throw us on our back, and let us see how utterly powerless human agency is. When you cannot get in the thin end of the wedge, much less the whole wedge; when the ploughshare breaks on the edge of a hard rock; when the edge of the sword turns against the armour, then it is to draw yourself out of self to God. You see it is a deadly evil, where only omnipotence can help. Your soul says, "Lord, put out thine arm! Now do it, and the glory shall be thine." This is probably the chief reason; it is in order that God may get great glory to himself. He lets the devil have it all his own way. "There," he says, "pick your own ground, fight in your own territory, manoeuvre in your own way, and, with a word, I will crush your power." He gives Satan great advantage, lets him entrench himself firmly in the soul from youth up, so that the victory may be splendid to the greatest degree. We have thus before us now, for our sorrowful contemplation, the case of one whose disease mocks the physician, laughs at all human endeavours, and defies the watchful care of mild and gentle treatment to mitigate its force, or ameliorate its fearful symptoms. II. Turn we now with passing glance, to LOOK AT THE SCENE AROUND. The company is made up of five sorts of people. There are the scribes cynics, methinks, to a man "We told you so! We told you so!" they say. "Your Master pretended to give you power to cast out devils. No such thing! you cannot cast out devils. Those whom you healed were not truly possessed. Little enough was ever the matter with them, and so they got better. They were fanciful, and they believed you through enthusiasm. The dupes of credulity, your incantations bewitched them, and so they got better. But you cannot cast out a devil you cannot cast that devil out." "Now then," says one of the scribes to Andrew, "cast it out. Come, Phillip, try what you can do!" And inasmuch as after all trying, the devil would not go out "Ah! just so!" they say, "they are impostors. There is nothing in it" Just recall it, friends, to your own memories, have not you seen men of that kind? "Ah yes," they say, " the gospel converts one sort of people, such as always go to places of worship, the more intelligent and respectable of the community, but, you see, it is no good in these tough cases. These hardened ones it cannot touch them. They are beyond its power." "Aha!" they say, "where is the boasted might of this great physician? He can heal your finger-aches; he does not know how to make these foul diseases fly." Then here is the poor father, all dejected. "I brought him to you I knew you did cast out devils, and I thought you could cast my son's devil out, and he would be healed. I am disappointed in you all. Yet I do think your Master can do it, but I am not sure that even he can. If such excellent apostles, as you are, have tried so hard, and have failed, I do not think there can be any chance for me. I am full of unbelief. O, I wish I had never brought my child here at all, to make a public spectacle of him, that he might be a witness to your failures." That is the poor father. Perhaps that poor father is here this morning and he is saying, "Ah, I do believe, but still I am full of unbelief. I have brought my daughter; I have brought my child under the sound of the Word; I have prayed, and wrestled with God in prayer, and my child is not saved." "I have brought my husband," says one good woman, "but he is just as full of Satan as he ever was. I must give it up in despair." And then, there are the disciples, and they look pitiable indeed. "Well," they say, "we do not know how to account for it. We cannot tell you how it is. We have said the same in this case that we were wont to say in others." "Why" says one of them, "when I went abroad and just said 'In the name of Jesus Christ I command thee to come out of him,' the unclean spirit always did come out in every other case. I cannot comprehend this. I must give it up." "We all must give it up," says the apostles. For some unknown cause, this seems to be quite out of the catalogue of cases which we are commissioned to cure. And so we sometimes hear dejected ministers, after preaching long at such hard shells as these they say, "Well, we cannot understand it. 'The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.' Oh, it must be that these are fore-ordained unto damnation; we must give it up." That is how unbelieving ministers talk or at least the most part of ministers in their season of misgiving and chagrin. But then there is the general crowd. They are neither this way nor that. They say they will see fair. "Come, clear the ring out. If Jesus Christ be not an impostor if he be God certainly he can heal this poor man." Now here is the test and the ordeal, "If that man be not healed, we," says the crowd, "will not believe; but, if he be, then we will believe that Jesus Christ is sent of God." O dear friends, how often we have thought of those very hard cases in this way. There are hundreds of undecided people looking on and saying, "Ah, if So-and-so were converted, then I should say there was something in it. If truly we could have a new heart and a right spirit, then I, too, would turn to God with full purpose of heart. There was the fifth party there, and that was the devil himself. Oh, how triumphant was he! "Ah!" he seemed to say, "try your exorcism; go on with your words; preach at him; pray at me; weep over me; do what you will, you cannot get me out." There he seems to stand intrenched within the stronghold of the poor tortured heart. "Do your best, do your worst, I am not afraid of you. I have got this man, and I will keep him. I have so fixed myself in him that no power shall ever be able to heal him." So we seem to hear that vile shriek of hell over some men, "Yes," saith he, "I will trust him to go into Spurgeon's Tabernacle. I know the thousands there have felt the power of the Holy Ghost in making new men of them, this is a case I can trust. There is nothing that will ever touch him. The great hammer has knocked the chains off many, but it cannot touch his chains; they are harder than iron. I have no fear for him;" and perhaps he is gloating his thoughts now with the torments of the man in another world. Ah, thou foul fiend! if our Master should come here this morning, thou shouldst sing another tune. if he should say, "Come out of him thou foul spirit," thou wilt go back howling to thy vile den; for his voice can do what our voice never could have done. And may we not easily realize such a scene enacted in this congregation? You have the scoffers, you have the anxious parent, the ministry confessedly powerless in the matter; the crowd looking on, and the devil rejoicing that such cases are quite beyond human strength. What more can you want to vivify the picture before your imagination? III. But look! THE MASTER COMES. Ah! the master comes! Forthwith the scene changes. The lieutenants and the captains who began the battle did not understand the art of war; the were precipitant and hasty. The right wing was broken; the left began to reel; the centre almost fails. The trumpets of the adversary begin to sound a victory. Here they come their dread artillery in front. What will become of the army now? Hold! Hold! What is that I see? A cloud of dust. Who comes galloping there? It is the commander-in-chief. "What are you at?" says he, "What are you at?" In a moment he sees this is not the way to fight. He comprehends the difficulties of the case in an instant. "Forward there! Forward There! Backward there!" The scale is turned. The mere presence of the commander-in-chief has changed the whole face of the field; and now, ye adversaries, ye may turn your backs and fly. It was so in Jesus' case exactly. His lieutenants and captains the apostles had lost the day. He comes into the field; comprehends the state of the case. "Bring him hither to me," says he, and the poor wretch, foaming and tormented, is brought to him, and he says, "Come out of him, thou unclean spirit." The thing is done; the victory achieved; the undecided receive Christ as a prophet; the scoffers' mouths are shut; the trembling father rejoices, and the poor demoniac is cured. And yet when Jesus Christ came to cure this poor man, he was in as bad a state as he well could be. Nay, the very presence of the Saviour seemed to make it worse. As soon as ever the devil perceived that Christ was come he began to rend and tear his poor victim. As quaint old Fuller says like a bad tenant whose lease is out, he hates the landlord, and so he does all the damage he can, because he has got notice to quit. Often just before men are converted, they are worse than ever; there is an unusual display of their desperate wickedness, for then the devil hath great wrath, now that his time is short. The struggles of this child are appalling. The devil seemed as if he would kill him before he would be healed; and after great paroxysms of the most frightful kind, the poor youth laid upon the ground, pale, and still as a corpse, insomuch that many said, "He is dead." It is just the same with many conversions of these desperate sinners. Their convictions are so terrible; frequently the work of the devil within them keeping them from Christ is so furious that you would give up all hope. You say, "That man will be driven mad; those acute feelings, the intense agony of his spirit will rob him of all mental power, and then in abject persecution he will die in his sin." Ah! dear friends, this again is only a piece of Satan's infamy. He knew, and knew right well that Christ would set that poor young man free, and therefore he sets upon him with all his might, to torment him while he may. Have I any such desperate case among my hearers this morning one who has been as a son of Belial among the children of men? Is the devil tormenting you to-day? Do you feel tempted to commit suicide? Are you urged to some freak of yet greater sin in order to drown your griefs and strangle your conscience? O poor soul, do no such thing, for my Master will soon stoop over you, and take you by the hand and lift you up, and your comfort shall begin, because the unclean spirit is cast out. "Ah! he means to destroy me," says the soul under conviction. Nay, soul, God does not destroy those whom he convinces of sin. Men do not plough fields which they have no intention to sow. If God ploughs you with conviction he will sow you with gospel comfort, and you shall bring forth a harvest of his glory. As a woman at her work first plies the needle with its sharp prick, and then draws the thread after it, so in your case the sharpness of sorrow for sin will be speedily followed by the silver thread of joy and peace in believing. And oh, mark it! The vision just now, up there on the mountain of glory, resolved itself into "Jesus only." His peerless radiance eclipsed every other. So, too, it is "Jesus only," down there in the valley. His matchless grace can encounter no rival. Keep this forever in your mind's eye it is the Master who did it all. His appearance on the scene removed all difficulties. In such extreme cases, there will be, and there must be, a most eminent display of God's power; and that power may be unassociated with means. Under any circumstances, it will be the Lord alone doing it, to the praise and glory of his grace. IV. Now, we come to the last, and perhaps the most important part of the sermon. The riddle is perplexing. "WHY COULD NOT WE CAST HIM OUT?" Let the Master tell us the reasons why these cases thwart our power. The Saviour said it was for want of faith want of faith. No man may expect to be the means of the conversion of a sinner without having faith which leads him to believe that the sinner will be converted. Such things may occur, but it is not the rule. If I can preach in faith that my hearers will be saved, they will be saved. If I have no faith, God may honour his Word, but it will be in no great degree; certainly he will not honour me. Abandoned sinners, if converted by means, are usually brought under the power of divine grace through ministers of great faith. Have you observed there were persons who heard all the small fry of the Whitefieldian age; they had listened to this preacher and to that. Under whom were they converted? Under Mr. Whitefield, because Mr. Whitefield was a man of masterly faith. He believed that the lost could be reclaimed that the worst diseases could be healed, the most heinous, abandoned, profligate, blasphemous sinners could be saved. He preached to them as if he expected the deaf would be charmed by the gospel melody, and the dead would be quickened at the commanding call of the great Redeemer's name. At Surrey Chapel, over yonder, in Rowland Hill's day, some of the grossest blackguards and biggest scamps who ever infested London, were saved. Why? Because Rowland Hill preached the gospel to big sinners, and believed the fact of big sinners being converted. The respectable people of his day said, "Oh, yes! it is only tag, rag, and bob-tail who go to hear Mr. Hill." "Just so," said Mr. Hill, " and welcome tag, and welcome rag, and welcome bob-tail; they are the very people that I want" "What is the good of such people as they are, going to hear the gospel? Why does Mr. Hill try to preach to harlots and thieves?" they said. "They are just the very people," said Mr. Hill. "I believe that these people can be saved." It was want of faith in the others; for if a man have faith as a grain of mustard seed, let it be ever so little, yet, if it is true, it is mighty in proportion to its power. Mr. Hill had the power of faith, and he was the means of the conversion of very great sinners. A few years ago it was utterly hopeless to try and reclaim fallen daughters of sin, but a few men had faith that it could be done, and it has been done; and I will now make bold to say that if there be a great sinner here, such as I tried to describe just now, some gross case of infernal possession, if that person be not saved, it is for the want of faith in our case. If we have brought that person before God, and have not been anxious about his salvation, and God has not heard that prayer, it is because we could not believe it possible such a case could be saved. If God gives you the power to believe that any soul will be saved, it will be saved; there is no doubt about that. Still, our Saviour added, "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." What does he mean by that? I believe he meant that in these very special cases ordinary preaching of the Word will not avail, and ordinary prayer will not suffice. There must be an unusual faith, and to get this there must be an unusual degree of prayer; and to get that prayer up to the right point, there must be, in many cases, fasting as well. No doubt there is something special about the admonition to prayer, from the association in which it stands. One sort of Christian will use formal supplications; and the petitions they ask are founded upon a sense of propriety, without any glow of feeling. Another sort will wait for the Spirit to move them; and when certain impulses stimulate their minds, they rejoice in a sense of liberty. Yet I show you a more excellent way There be those who watch unto prayer, wait before the Lord, seek his face, and exercise patience till they get an audience. Such disciples continue in their retirement until they have an experience of access for which they crave. And what is fasting for? That seems to be the difficult point. It is evidently accessory to the peculiar continuance in prayer, practised oftentimes by our Lord, and advised by him to his disciples. Not a kind of religious observance, in itself meritorious, but a habit, when associated with the exercise of prayer, unquestionably helpful. I am not sure whether we have lost a very great blessing in the Christian Church by giving up fasting. It was said there was superstition in it; but, as an old divine says, we had better have a spoonful of superstition than a porringer full of gluttony. Martin Luther, whose body, like some others, was of a gross tendency, felt as some of us do, that in our flesh dwelleth no good thing, in another sense than the apostle meant it; and he used to fast frequently. He says his flesh was wont to grumble dreadfully at abstinence, but fast he would, for he found that when he was fasting, it quickened his praying. There is a treatise by an old Puritan, called, "The soul fattening institution of fasting," and he gives us his own experience that during a fast he has felt more intense eagerness of soul in prayer than he had ever done at any other time. Some of you, dear friends, may get to the boiling point in prayer, without fasting. I do think that others cannot, and probably if we sometimes set apart a whole day for prayer for a special object, we should at first feel ourselves dull, and lumpish, and heavy. Then let us resolve, "Well, I shall not go down to my dinner. I shall stop here. I feel anxious for a praying frame of mind, and I will keep alone; and if when the time for evening meal came on, we should say, "I feel a little craving of hunger, but I will satisfy them with some very slender nutriment a piece of bread, or something of the kind and I will continue in prayer," I think that very likely towards evening our prayers would become more forcible and vehement than at any other part of the day. We do not exactly recommend this for those who are weak. There are some men with little or no encumbrance of flesh about them; but others of us of a heavy make, with sluggishness for a temptation, have to cry out because we are rather like stones on the ground than birds in the air. To such, I think, we can venture to recommend it from the words of Christ. At any rate, I can suppose a father here setting apart a day of prayer, going on wrestling with God without any intermission; pleading with him till, as it was said of the famous martyr of Brussels, he would so pray that he forgot everything except his prayer; and when they came to call him to meat, he made no answer, for he had got out of all earthly things in his wrestling with the angel, that he could not think of anything besides. Such a man taking up the case of a gross sinner, I believe, would be the means of that sinner's conversion; and the reason why some are never brought to Christ, is, speaking after the manner of men, because we have not got the qualified to deal with them; for "this kind goeth not out save with prayer and fasting." When we have prayed, and have reached the point of true faith, then the sinner is saved by the mighty power of God, and Christ is glorified. Methinks I have some in this house who are ready to say, "Well, if such be the case, I will try it. I will take the Master at his word." Brother, brother, if half-a-dozen of us joined together, it might be better; nay, "If two agree as touching any one thin," it would be done. Let some of us put it to the test upon some big sinner, and see whether it does not come true. I think I may fairly ask you who are lovers of souls, who have eyes which do weep, and hearts which can feel, to try my Master's prescription, and see if the most unmanageable devil which ever took possession of a human heart, be not driven out, as the result of prayer and fasting, in the exercise of your faith. The Lord bless you in this thing, and may he bring us all to trust in Jesus by a saving faith. To him be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Secret of Failure

February 25, 1886 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: 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 nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." Matthew 17:19-21 .

"And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." Mark 9:28-29 .

I put these two texts together for this reason. Those of you who are acquainted with the Revised Version know that the 21st verse in the 17th chapter of Matthew is left out. There seems to be little doubt that it was inserted in certain copies by persons who thought that it ought to be there because it was in Mark's narrative. It is put in the margin of the Revised Version, but it is left out of the text. It is, therefore, very satisfactory to find that the omission from Matthew's account makes no real difference, because we have the words in the 29th verse of the 9th of Mark, "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." Only there is this fact to be noticed, in the Revised Version this verse runs, according to Mark, "This kind can come out by nothing, save by prayer." Whether the fasting was originally there, or not, I cannot tell; but putting together the two accounts in Matthew and Mark, we believe we have a full and true report of what the Master did actually say on this occasion. I. Observe then, dear friends, at the outset, without any further preface, that WE MAY BE THE SERVANTS OF GOD, AND YET WE MAY BE OCCASIONALLY DEFEATED. Those nine disciples, who remained at the foot of the mountain when the Savior took the other three to behold his transfiguration, had each of them a true commission from the Lord Jesus Christ. They were nine of his chosen apostles. He had elected them in his own good pleasure, and there was no doubt about their being really called to the apostleship. They were not only elected, but they were also qualified, for on former occasions they had healed the sick, they had cast out devils, and they had preached the Word of Christ with great power. Upon them rested miraculous influences, and they were able to do great wonders in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; and they were not only qualified to do this, but they had actually performed many marvels of healing. When they went forth, girded with divine power, they healed the sick, and cast out devils everywhere; yet on this occasion you perceive that they were completely baffled and beaten. A poor father had brought to them his epileptic son, who was also possessed with an evil spirit; and they could neither cast out the evil spirit nor heal the epileptic boy. They came, as it were, to a great difficulty which quite nonplussed them; and the scoffing scribes were there, ready enough to take advantage of them, and to say in scorn and contempt, "You cannot cure this child, for the power you have received from your Master is limited. He can do some strange things, but even he cannot do all things. Perhaps he has lost his former power, and now, at last, a kind of devil has appeared that he cannot master. You see, you are mistaken in following him; your faith has been fixed upon an impostor, and you had better give it up." Oh, how ready the evil spirit ever is to suggest dark thoughts if we cannot always be successful in our work of faith and labor of love! I believe that it was for this very reason that our Lord gave us this record of the defeat of the nine apostles in order to let us feel that it is not so great a wonder if, sometimes, we have to come back and say, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" It is no new thing that we should be made a laughingstock to the enemies of the cross of Christ because we cannot even do what we have formerly done, and are beaten in the very field where aforetime we have achieved great and notable victories for our Master. Brethren, why do you think that the Lord allows his servants to be beaten at all? Well, of course, the chief reason in this case was and of that we will speak presently, because God gives the victory to faith, and if we will not believe, neither shall we be established. If we fall, as those disciples probably had fallen, into an unspiritual frame of mind and a low state of grace, our commission will not be worth much, our former qualifications will be of little value, and all successes we have had in earlier days will not take away the effect of present failures. We shall be like Samson, who went out and shook himself as he had done aforetime; but the Spirit of God had departed from him; and the Philistines soon overcame him, those very Philistines whom, if his Lord had still been with him, he would have smitten hip and thigh with great slaughter. If we are to do the Lord's work, and to do it successfully, we must have faith in him, we must look beyond ourselves, we must look beyond our commission, we must look beyond our personal qualifications, we must look beyond our former successes, we must look for a present anointing by the Holy Spirit, and by faith we must hang upon the living God from day to day. Apart from that, however, which we will dwell upon directly, I think our Lord intends that we should often have something fresh come across our path to keep us from getting into ruts. It is a very bad thing for anyone when even the Christian life gets to be merely mechanical; you know what state of things that is, you may have come here to this service just as a matter of course, almost without thinking what you were doing. I have known many persons, in the public worship of God, sing simply because the time far singing has come; and they frequently prove that they are singing only in a mechanical fashion, for they sit down before the hymn has come to an end, showing that they are not sufficiently interested to find out how it closes. So we may kneel apparently in prayer, and not really be praying, for the mind is gadding to and fro. The minister also can get into a way of preaching that is almost like a parrot repeating by rote what it has been taught to say. This will not do, brothers and sisters. The Lord will not have us always moving in ruts, so he does what men do sometimes in our roads when they put great blocks of timber to turn travelers off from one side of the road an to the other. In that way, this lunatic child was put right in the disciples' road, so that they should not go on sleepily doing the same work without heart and without thought. This strange case wakes them up; they have something to deal with now that is very different from that they have had before, it is not a common fever, or even an ordinary case of Satanic possession, but it is a dreadful demoniac who is now before them, foaming, and raging, and wallowing in their presence, and altogether beyond their power to heal. This wakes them up; and the Lord permits us sometimes to have trouble in the church, or a shock in the family, that we may wake right up, and not go on mechanically with no spiritual life in us. Next, it was to make the disciples see the infinite superiority of their Master. Had he been there, there would have beep no devil that would have nonplussed him. Whatever needed to be accomplished, he spoke, and it was done. The soft utterance of his voice, the gentle uplifting of his hand, nay,-the very glance of his eye, or the willing in his mind, was sufficient to work his marvellous cures. But the disciples had to come to him, and say, "We could not do it; we could not cast him out." No, and it is the same still; He cannot, but he can; wherefore, let us worship before the omnipotent Christ, to whom nothing is difficult, much less impossible. Then they were driven to wish for more of his company. They were made to see that they could not do without him. Soldiers, without their ever-victorious Captain, driven before the enemy, they now felt that their strength must lie in him, and that they must keep close to him, and entreat him not to leave them again. This experience also drove them to him in prayer. They now want their Master, and they begin to cry to him. "Why could not we cast him out?" was now their humiliating confession and enquiry; and there was, within the heart of their question, this earnest prayer, "O Master, help us to cast out devils again! Take not thy Spirit from us, but renew in us our former strength, and give us even more." I am sure that anything that makes us often came back to our Lord must be a blessing to us. It is very humiliating to have so long preached in vain; to have gone to that village so many times and yet to see no conversions; to visit that lodging-house so often, and apparently to have made no impression upon the careless inmates, or to have gone into that dark garret, and told out the story of the cross, only to find that the hearer is just as dark, and, possibly, just as brutal as ever. It seems as if our hearts must break, when we are really in earnest, yet we cannot achieve the blessed purpose that we feel sure must be dear to the Savior's own heart; but it may be that our non-success has much of divine instruction in it, and it may be the preface and preparation for future success that shall greatly honor the Lord Jesus Christ. This was a part of the training of the twelve. They were at college now, with Christ as their Tutor. They were being prepared for those grand days, when they should do even greater things than he had done, because he had gone back again to his Father, and had received still greater power, and had given it to them. "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." It is good for you, young brethren in college, when you go to your first pastorate, to get battered about, to have all manner of troubles, to go through fire and through water. It will make men of you; you will be all the grander and the better servants of God in after years, when your own weakness shall have driven you back upon the divine strength, and you shall have learned to trust, not in man, much less in yourself, but to cast yourself confidently on God. II. The next thing to be learned from this narrative is that, when Christ's servants do get baffled, they should make haste to their Master, and ask him this question, which his disciples put to him, "Why could not we cast him out?" That is to be our second division. WHEN WE ARE BAFFLED, THERE MUST BE A CAUSE, and it is well for us to try and find it out. We must go to the Master, and ask, "Why could not we cast him out?" This enquiry, if it leads up to a correct answer, is evidently a very wise one, for every man ought to try to know all he can about himself. If I am successful, why is it that I succeed? Let me know the secret, that I may put the crown on the right head. If I do not succeed, let me know the reason why, that I may at any rate try to remove any impediment, if it be an impediment of my own making. If I am a vessel that is not fit for the Master's use, let me know why I as not fit, that I may, as much as lieth in me, prepare myself for the great Master's service. I know that, if I am fit to be used, he is sure to use me; and if he does not use me, it will most probably be because there is some unfitness in me. Try to know, brethren and sisters, why you get baffled in holy service, for it will be wise to know. Probably, it may tend very greatly to your humiliation. It may make you go, with tears in your eyes, to the mercy-seat. You may not yet know all that is in your own heart; there may be a something, which to you seems to be a very trifling affair, which is grieving your God, and weakening your spiritual power. It may seem to you to be a little thing, but in that little thing may lie the eggs of so much mischief that God will not tolerate it, and he will not bless you until you are altogether clear of it. It will be wise and right, therefore, even though it be to your sorrow and regret, that you should find the answer to the question, "Why could not we cast him out?" For, whatever may be the reason of your failure, it may be cured. In all probability, it is not a great matter, certainly not an insuperable difficulty to the Lord. By the grace of God, this hindrance may be taken away from you, and no longer be allowed to rob you of your power. Search it out, then; look with both your eyes, and search with the brightest light that you can borrow, that you may find out everything that restrains the Spirit of God, and injures your own usefulness. I would at the present time earnestly put into the mouths of a great many people this question, "Why could not we cast him out?" Let the Church of God get to the windows of her sanctuaries, and look out, and say, "Why do not these thousands of people come to hear the gospel that we preach?" There is all the harlotry in our streets; why has not the Church of God swept that away? The vilest sin is rampant, sin of which we dare not speak, it is so vile; how is it that we cannot cast this out? And all this social discord, this complaining and confusion, this aiming at the disruption of everything; what have we been at that all this unrest has come? Why could we not cast these vile forces out? Then, perhaps, in your family there is a son, and you cannot bring him even to respect religion. It is not so very long ago since you nursed him on your knee; you did not think then that he would live to be an opponent of the Christ in whom your soul delights. There are in your family certain evils that you pray against, and yet they remain there. Father, you are responsible for your family, and you cannot get rid of your responsibility. Mother, much responsibility for your children's characters must lie with you; if they are not what you would have them to be, oh, ask the question, "Why could not we cast the evils out of them?" That question each teacher may ask concerning his class, and each worker concerning his sphere of labor. I ask it concerning my hearers, when I remember some of them who have made a profession of religion, and then have foully fallen, and others who have backslidden into coldness or lukewarmness, and many who, after years of preaching, remain just the same as ever. What devil is this that has got into them? Why cannot we cast him out? I will tell you another time when you may well ask this question; it is, when you realize the evil that is within your own heart. There are certain sins there that have cost you much pain, and they are not cast out yet. In your life, they have no rightful place; in your heart of heart, they have no welcome place, for you desire your heart to be clean before God. Still, those sins do come. Perhaps, in your case, a hasty temper is the demon that takes possession of you; or possibly you have a spirit tending to despondency. I do not know what your particular sins are, but do you not sometimes ask the question, "Why could not we cast them out?" We have got rid of some sins, "bag and baggage;" they never torment us now. It is long since we had a temptation to certain forms of sin, we sent them adrift in the name of the Lord; but there are certain others of these Diabolonians that hide away in dens and caves and corners, and we cannot rout them out. Why could not we cast them out? It is a question that may be asked from so many quarters and so many points, and it ought to be pressed home. I have put it to you; but let each one's own conscience get alone with Christ, and ask him; "Why am I baffled and defeated? Why cannot I cast this evil out?" III. Now, in the third place, consider OUR LORD'S ANSWER, upon which I cannot dwell very long, because our time is short. The first answer that the Lord Jesus gave to his disciples was, "Because of your unbelief." He told them that their failure was due to their want of faith. He did not say, "Because of the devil, and his peculiar character, and the strength of his entrenchment within the poor sufferer's nature;" but he said, "Because of your unbelief." They might have said, and it would have been true, "This demon has been long in possession." The father said that the affliction came upon him when he was a child. You know that it is not easy to turn out a devil that has lived in any place, say, for twenty years; he says, "I have been in possession three, seven, twenty-one years, and I am not going. Does not even the law of the land give me a right to remain after I have held undisputed possession so long? I am not going; and especially, I am not going for anything you say or do!" So, the long duration of a sin makes it all the more difficult matter to deal with it. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." It is a difficult thing to cast out evils of long standing; still, if we have faith, there will be no difficulty in overcoming even those sins that have held possession of the sinner for a great length of time. Moreover, in this case, there was the strength of this devil as well as the length of his possession. He took this poor child, and threw him into the fire or into the water, and hurled him to and fro at his cruel and wicked pleasure. He did this even before the disciples' eyes. Yes, but if they had had faith, they would have understood that, though Satan is strong, Christ is far stronger. The devil is mighty, but God is almighty. If the disciples had only believed, they might have overcome the demon by the power of Christ. In addition to the length and the strength of this possession, there was a tremendous fury shown by this evil spirit. The child was not simply vexed as in ordinary cases of epilepsy, but he was tremendously tossed and torn; and I think there was in this case a feature of sullenness also, it was apparently so, at any rate, for it was a dumb spirit. The child could not or did not speak; whatever happened to him, he was still silent. When people can speak of their troubles of soul, when they can tell you their grief of heart, and ask your prayers, you can get on with them. But here was one who could not speak, yet there was the devil rending and tearing him. It was a horrible case, yet the failure did not lie in the child; it lay mainly, as the Savior put it, in the disciples' want of faith: "Why could not we cast him out?" "Because of your unbelief." You see, the want of faith breaks the connection between us sad Christ. We are like the telegraphic wire, which can convey the message as long as the electricity can travel along it; but if you break the connection, it is useless. Faith is our connection with Christ; break the connection, and then what can we do? It is by faith that God works in us and through us; but if unbelief comes in, we are unfit for him to work with us. Would you have God to bless the man who will not believe in him? Would you have God to set his seal to the works of the unbelieving? That cannot be. The first condition of success in any work for God must be hearty faith in the God for whom we are working. "Trust me," says he, "and I will do anything for you." If we distrust him, what can happen to us but what happened to the children of Israel whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? Now, you know that even the body of a child of God is precious in his sight; for there is faith in him, and he is precious in the sight of the Lord; but as for those who have no faith, Paul calls their bodies carcases! "Whose carcasses fell in the wilderness." If you have no faith in God why, what are you? Like brute beasts-"carcases." But faith gives God somewhat of his due; it trusts him, and God says, "I will never let you trust me beyond what I will do for you. If you trust me, I will be as good as your faith." Would you have him change a condition which is so natural, so proper, so beneficial for ourselves? O brethren, we shall do great things when God gives us more faith! Looking now upon the condition of our times, and upon the work allotted to each one of us, I feel that what we want is more faith. Never mind how firmly fixed are the mountains of iniquity; they must move if faith be strong. Never mind how deep have gone the root of the sycamore tree; it shall be plucked up by its roots, if faith be strong. O brethren, we do not half believe! Drive the sword in up to the hilt. Believe in God to the uttermost; dare and venture, and yet find no daring and no venturing in it, as you simply trust your God as a child trusts his father. Many of us must feel, brethren, that we have often failed because of our unbelief. I must not dwell longer on that point because I want you to notice that the Savior added that, in some cases, faith must rise to prayer, and must manifest itself mainly by prayer, or else it will do nothing. I am afraid that these disciples were so satisfied with their commission, and their qualifications, and with what they had already done, that they proceeded to work upon this epileptic child without prayer. The Savior says, "This kind this sort of devil this peculiarly furious kind of demon will not go out by the exercise of ordinary faith. It must be faith that rises into prayer." You will frequently meet with persons to whom you desire to be blessed, but you never will be blessed to them till first of all you pray for them; and it may be that you will have to pray long and earnestly, and that the praying will have to rise to wrestling, and the wrestling may have to be continued all night, as in the case of Jacob, and you may have to go to God as often as the importunate widow went to the unjust judge. It may be that there are cases in which God will not yield to your faith until your faith works in prayer; and then, when prayer has wrought to its utmost, you shall get the blessing. I think that I can understand some of God's reasons for acting thus. First, he wants to make us see the greatness of the mercy, so he occupies our thoughts with the greatness of the distress that needs to be relieved, and with this impossibility of that distress being relieved except by his own power and Godhead. That experience does us good, dear friends, does it not? It makes us feel that the mercy, when it does come, will be remarkably precious to us. The Lord intends also to excite our desires, and that, likewise, does us good. To be all aglow with holy desires is, in itself, a healthy exercise. Then the Lord means to create in us unity of action. One brother finds that he cannot get on alone, so he will call in another to help him in prayer; and much holy united supplication will be called forth by the very desperateness of the case which cannot be met by simple faith, or even by the prayer of one. Let us always seek the united prayers of many brethren and sisters. You remember that man who was carried by four, and let down from the roof into Christ's presence. Oh, I wish that, in your houses, brethren, you met frequently, in two's and three's, for united prayer! I should like to hear of little bands formed of Christian men and women, who pledged themselves to pray, four at a time, for somebody possessed by a devil of the kind that will not go out by ordinary means, and must be ejected by four of you. Get together, and say to yourselves, "We will not rest until this soul, and that soul, shall have the devil cast out, and shall sit, clothed, and in their right mind, at Jesus Christ's feet." "This kind" these certain kinds of devils are not to be driven out, except by special, importunate, continued, united prayer. They can be cast out if you only believe and pray; there is never a devil but will have to go, if you have faith enough and prayer enough to drive him out. But then my text says, "By prayer and fasting." Our Lord Jesus Christ never made much of fasting. He very seldom spoke about it; and when the Pharisees exaggerated it, he generally put them off by telling them that the time had not come for his disciples to fast, because the Bridegroom was still with them, and while he was with them their days were to be days of joy. But, still, Holy Scripture does speak of fasting, in certain cases it advises fasting, and there were godly men and godly women, such as Anna, the prophetess, who "served God with fastings and prayer night and day." I do not mean to spiritualize this away. I believe, literally, that some of you would be a great deal the better if you did occasionally have a whole day of fasting and prayer. There is a lightness that comes over the frame, especially of bulky people like myself; we begin to feel ourselves quite light and ethereal. I remember one day of fasting and prayer, in which I realized to myself, spiritually, the meaning of a Popish picture, which I have sometimes seen, of a saint floating in the air. Well, that, of course, was impossible; and I do not suppose that, when the picture was painted, it was believed in its literal sense; but there is a lightness, an elevation of the spirit above the flesh, that will come over you after some hours of waiting upon God in fasting and prayer. I can advise brethren sometimes to try it; it will be good for their health, and it certainly will not harm them. If we only ate about half what is ordinarily eaten, we should probably all of us be in better health; and if, occasionally, we put ourselves on short commons, not because there is any virtue in that, but in order to get our brains more clear, and to help our hearts to rest more fully upon the Savior, we should find that prayer and fasting have great power. But I will take the fasting in another sense, for I believe that this also is what is meant by our Lord Jesus. Suppose that we have such cases as these to pray for, a church full of discord, a nation or an individual full of sin. We might say to one another, "We will appoint such-and-such a time for prayer." Fast or not, according as your body would be the better or the worse for it. To some, it would be mischievous and injurious to fast; but say to yourselves, "We are going to take a whole day to ourselves. Two or three of us have agreed to devote an evening, or a whole night if it is a hard case, and we are going to meet together for no purpose but just to pray about that one matter; and if that does not do, we will meet again." I have often heard of instances in which persons, who knew that they were thus made specially the object of some remarkable occasions of prayer, have been impressed by the fact, or, if not by the fact, yet the outcome of that special, particular, marked season of prayer has been that, before long, they have been brought to Christ. There is a kind of devil that will not go out by ordinary prayer, there must be added to that pleading something by which our zeal shall be yet further increased; there must be "prayer and fasting." I think also that I may spiritualize this expression now, and say that, when your mind gets into such a condition that you begin to sorrow over a lost soul, when you realize the meaning of that agonizing cry of Jeremiah, "Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" it is then that the devil will have to go. When your soul is clothed in sackcloth and ashes, and you go mourning, without the light of the sun, saying, "I could die rather than that soul should die; I could wish myself accursed rather than that soul were accursed; I put myself in the dust before God, even in the dust of self-abasement on account of that soul, that I may win it to Christ," then that sort of devil will have to go out. Starving him out by starving yourself, and making your own spirit wretched and miserable for the poor sinner's sane, you will make that devil find the person untenable any longer as a lodging-place. Permit me to say just one thing more. I believe that the devil of drunkenness will not go out of some men, unless some of you Christian people, who pray for them, and talk with them, will practice fasting in the matter of total abstinence. I do mean this, not that it is wrong for you to take what you do take, but that there are some souls that you cannot win unless you say to them, "For your sakes we are going to give up what might be lawful to us, that we may save you from the public-house and all its temptations. Come, Jack, I intend to take the pledge; I never was drunk, and probably never shall be, but I will sign the pledge for your sake." There are some devils that will not go out till you act like that; and, brothers, we ought to do anything that may result in the saving of a soul. We ought to deny ourselves anything of which we can deny ourselves, if it be necessary to bring one single person to the cross of Christ. Let us see to it that we are quite clear in this matter, for there are still many devils that will not go out without prayer and fasting. Well then, say, "I will not fast to please the devil, or to please other people; but I will fast to spite the devil, and to get him out of that man. I will fast from anything so that I may but bring him to the feet of Jesus, that he may be saved." We who love the Lord are, I trust, all agreed on that matter, that no cost on our part should be spared to win a soul from the dominion of Satan, and bring him into the glorious liberty of the children of God. O you who are not saved, see how concerned we are about you! It seems nothing to you to lose your souls, but it seems everything to us, and it was everything to Christ. You would not suffer even a little self-denial that you might be saved; yet Christ died so highly did he value the souls of sinners, rather than that you should perish. Oh, may that love of his make you begin to love yourselves so as to trust him, and love him, and find in him eternal life! God bless you, for Christ's sake! Amen.

Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Matthew 17". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/matthew-17.html. 2011.
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