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Jesus answering, saith unto them, Have faith in God; For verily I say unto you, That if ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig-tree; but also, whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; it shall be done, and he shall have whatsoever he saith.
And therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, and shall ask in prayer, believe that
receive them, and ye
shall have them.
And when ye stand, praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven, forgive your trespasses.
We may consider this answer of our Lord in two points of view; one, as addressed to his disciples in particular; the other, as a standing instruction to all future Christians in general.
The promises which are here made to a miraculous faith in prayer, are not our immediate concern; but they must be restrained to the age of miracles, and to
the persons to whom they were spoken, the apostles, and first propagators of the Gospel; for it is certain from experience, that this is no ordinary and perpetual gift of Christians. And that the thing here promised was extraordinary, appears. from the faith required to it, called by St. Mark, The Faith of God, that is, either the greatest and most excellent faith; or else, faith that does certainly persuade us of God's extraordinary assistance. And that this respects the apostles, is evident, because Christ elsewhere speaks this to them, on the account of that defect of faith, which made them fail in casting out a devil. Matt. xvii. 19, 20*.
Perhaps it may seem to you, that to this faith a promise is made of a power to perform impossibilities; for it is said, that the possessor of it shall be able to remove mountains, and by a word to cause thiem to be cast into the sea. Far be it from me to say, that it is not in the power of God to root up mountains, and and to remove, and even to cast them into the sea ; or that he is not able to communicate this power to others; but I wish to signify to you, that there are
some expressions which we are not to understand in a strict literal sense, but to interpret agreeably to the idioms of that language in which they were delivered. Now the phrase to root up, to remove mountains, is a strong figurative expression, by which is signified the performance of any, the most difficult matter: as the Jews used to say of their own doctors who were able to solve the most difficult questions, Such a one is a rooter up of mountains. As therefore the religion of Christ was to be progagated and confirmed by the working of miracies; a promise is here made to the disciples, that by a firm and lively faith and trust in God, they should be enabled to work the greatest miracles in confirmation of the Divine truths, which they were hereafter to preach. But suffer me to impress you with a caution against entertaining any improper opinions of faith, for no encouragement is given in this promise to an enthusiastic notion of the power of it in ordinary cases : nor is this caution in these days unnecessary, when so much is attributed to the power of faith, as to supersede the necessary condition of good works, whereby this faith can alone be rendered available to salvation.
I have before said, that this power of working miracles was promised only to those who were to be the propagators of the Gospel, and that it was to be restrained to the age of miracles; but in the verses read to you from St. Matthew and St. Mark, we are to observe, that both the extraordinary and ordinary exertions of faith, must be attended with certain requisites, otherwise they will prove ineffectual; and these requisites are declared in most express terms to be hearty and sincere prayer for Divine assistance, and a forgiving disposition towards each other: and here also it is to be remembered, that such prayer as is here supposed, will never be directed to improper objects. You see then, my Brethren, that whatever petitions you offer unto God, you must offer them in faith, nothing wavering*, and that you must not expect to receive blessings or forgiveness of your sins at God's hands, if you do not forgive the trespasses of others, and live in charity with all men.
Before I quit this interesting passage, I will offer one observation more for the comfort of all Christians, while they are passing through the changes and chances
* James i. 6.
“ This pro
of this mortal life, which is taken from an Exposition of the New Testament by a very celebrated writer. mise," says he, “ of our Saviour to his disciples, I apprehend, relates chiefly to the enabling them to perform miracles ; yet in a degree it may be applicable to all Christians, as affording them assistance in the midst of difficulties and distresses, which may appear like removing mountains."
The conversation which arose, and the instructions which were the consequence of it from our LORD to his disciples, passed between them, as they were going from Bethany to Jerusalem ; and here we cannot but admire the great condescension of their Master in thus rendering their walk pleasant by his instructive and edifying discourse ; and declare the happiness of the disciples in having so able and willing a teacher at hand, to solve their difficulties, and to lead them into a method of profiting by them. Happy was it for those disciples, that they had a living monitor with them! and happy is it for us, would we but acknowledge, and make a right use of, the blessing, that the same monitor instructs us, as powerfully and as effectually, by his written word. !