THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
A Father's Tears.
'And straightway the father of the child cried out and said with tears, Lord, I bclievo: help Thou mine unbelief.'—Mark ix. 24.
HEN Jesus spoke to the disciples about the mothers who were coming with their little children to Him, His word was, Suffer the children to come, and forbid them not. In this story He uses a stronger word. When the father of the lunatic had told Him that the disciples had not been able to cast out the evil spirit, and Jesus had reproved their unbelief, He spake, Bring the child unto me. The expression is a stronger one, still setting forth the same truth. The little ones were quite ready and willing to come to the loving Stranger to be blessed. This poor child, at times all unconscious or rebellious, had to be brought, whether he knew it or not. There can be no evil spirit in a child so strong, no resistance so desperate, but the parent has the liberty and the power to bring him to Jesus. To every disciple, to every father and mother, in every extremity of sin or need, Christ's voice is heard calling, Bring the child unto me.
And then, if we want to understand what it is really to bring a child, on whom Satan has a hold, to Jesus, we have this most wondrously set forth in the further intercourse of this father with Jesus. When, in answer to Christ's question, he had told the touching story of how ever since his childhood the boy had been the prey of this terrible trouble, and had pleadingly added, 'If Thon canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us,' Jesus threw all the responsibility of the issue of the case upon the father, and said, 'If thou canst! all things are possible to him that believeth.' It was not the question whether Jesus could and would do it, but whether the father could believe. If he did, the healing was sure; if he did not, it could not take place.
'If thou canst! all things are possible to him that believeth.' These words are one of the wellknown expressions in which all the blessings of God's mighty saving love are put at the disposal of faith. 'By faith we understand, both what God has done and will do. By faith we see Him who is invisible, in the reality of His almighty power and His love towards ourselves. By faith we receive His word into our very heart as a quickening power, that wrorks in us the very thought and sentiment that was in His heart when Ho spake it. By faith our heart, our nature, our life is opened up to give place to God, so as to let Him be and do in us what He pleases. By faith we become fully conscious of what the purpose of His will is, and of Himself as waiting to work it in us. By faith we forsake the visible, ourselves, with our own thoughts and strength; we look to God to do what He has promised, and so give Him the glory. Faith is the exercise of a will that yields itself for God's holy will to take possession of it and work out its pleasure. 'All things are possible to him that believeth,' because 'with God nothing shall be impossible,' and faith is union with God.
In speaking these words to the father of the lunatic, Jesus gave to us for all time the secret of successful parental training and prayer. He tells us that it is not only the ministers of His gospel, the watchmen, and the workers in fields of special danger or difficulty, but every Christian parent, that needs to exercise strong faith, and in strong faith may most assuredly secure the salvation of his child. It teaches us that His compassion and power are longing to help us, if we can believe. If not, it is our blame if our children perish.
There are parents who think this is a hard saying. They seek the cause of unconverted and unsaved children in God and not in themselves. Has God's sovereignty nothing to do with the salvation of our children? Is there not such a thing as election? And if so, how can all the responsibility be thrown on our unbelief? Scripture reveals to us most clearly God's sovereignty; His grace is electing grace; the final decision of the destiny of each man is in His hands. Scripture reveals as clearly man's responsibility, and the all-prevailing power of faith. True humility accepts both statements without reconciling them; it bows under the solemn truth Jesus utters here, that if the parent can believe the child can be saved.
How this truth ought to affect us, our text tells us. With tears the father cried, 'Lord, I believe! help mine unbelief.' In the agony of the thought that his unbelief may keep the blessing from his child, in the consciousness of how strong unbelief is still in himself, he bursts into tears, and casts himself to confess at Jesus' feet that unbelief, and ask deliverance from it. It is amid these tears of penitence and confession that the faith is exercised to which the victory is given. The devil is cast out, and the child is saved. Christ's blessed and most heart-searching word had done its work; it had revealed the unbelief, but also wakened the faith that brought the blessing.
Christ's word must do the same with every parent, with every father, who pleads for a child's liberation from Satan's power. A father's tears have power. There must be confession and humbling wherever there is to be strong faith. There must be the conviction and confession of the sin of unbelief: that it has been the cause of the blessing being withheld, and that we are verily guilty in being unbelieving. When the disciples asked the Master why they could not cast out this devil, He told them it was because of their unbelief, and that this unbelief was caused by their life not being one of prayer and fasting. Unbelief is not, as many think, a weakness, inexplicable and beyond our power. Unbelief has its reasons: it is the indication of the state of heart. The world, the worldly man, cannot believe. The self-righteous, the proud man, cannot believe. It is only the pure iii heart, the humble, the soul that thirsts for God, and forsakes all to follow Christ, that can be strong in faith. And therefore the first step in the path of an overcoming faith is the confession of its sinfulness, and the sins of which it is the index and the symptom.
I have heard parents plead very earnestly with God for the conversion of their grown-up children, when I secretly feared that they could not be heard. I saw no sign of confession of parental sin. There are parents whose worldliness, whose lack of living faith, whose self-indulgence and neglect in the education of their children, have simply sown the seeds of which they are now reaping the fruit in the departure of their children from God; and yet they wonder why their children are not more religious. They sometimes pray earnestly for them, and try to have the faith, perhaps think they have it, that their children will be saved. They may be deceiving themselves. True faith sanctifies. It searches the heart. It confesses the sin of unbelief, and all the sin in which that has its root and strength. It casts itself weeping and helpless at the feet of Jesus. There, and there alone, bowing in its weakness, resting on His strength, it obtains the blessing He loves to bestow.
Fathers, who have sons you would fain bring to Jesus to be saved, come and hear the lessons the Lord would teach you. Let these children first bring you to Jesus in confession, and prayer, and trust; your faith can then bring them in truth. And in yourself and in them you will experience what the all - prevailing power and truth is of the word:' If thou canst! all things are possible to him that believeth.'
Blessed Son of God! look in mercy upon a parent who now comes to Thee with a child still unconverted and under the power of the Evil One.
O Lord Jesus! have compassion on us and help us! Let the child be delivered from Satan's power; oh, make Him a child of God.
Lord! I have heard Thy voice—' If thou canst believe!' and it has filled my heart with trembling.
1 have to confess how little my life has been a life of faith, and how my unbelief has hindered the blessing from my child. I have to confess the worldliness and selfishness, the want of entire surrender and obedience to Thee, which made a strong faith impossible. I bow in shame at the thought of all the unbelief that even now comes up in me. Lord, I do believe! help Thou mine unbelief.
I do believe, Lord, in Thy mighty power. I do believe in Thy infinite Love. I do believe in Thee as my Saviour, my Friend, my Covenant Eedeemer. I do believe, my Lord, that Thou hearest me now for this child. Lord, I believe! help Thou mine unbelief. I look to Thy word, and hold it fast. I yield myself to a life of entire surrender to Thee, to be Thine alone. Blessed Lord Jesus, I do believe! Thou hearest and savest my child. In this faith I praise Thy holy name. Amen.