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the public evil ; but this is because it is for his advantage in the end that he be not exempted. “ If I am of the race of Canaan,” said our Syrophænician woman, “it is true I must take my share of certain national disadvantages which God hath been pleased to lay upon our race as lasting monuments of his abhorrence of the crime of our ancestors : but this is no reason that I trust not to his mercy for deliverance from my own particular afflictions. Nor will I be deterred by the crimes and follies of my past life. Maker knows that the understanding which he gave me is liable to error, — that he hath formed me with passions apt to be seduced : he hath administered a correction, by which I am brought to a sense of my error ; and I am, I trust, in some degree recovered from seduction ; I am no longer, therefore, the object of his displeasure, but of his mercy ; of which my providential recovery from sin and ignorance, though effected by a bitter discipline, is itself a proof. He hath already shown me his mercy in the very
affliction which hath wrought my reformation. I should fail therefore in gratitude to my benefactor were I to indulge a timidity of imploring his assistance.”
Such were the sentiments of the reformed idolatress, when she had the courage to become a suppliant to our Lord in her own person ; and such should be the sentiments of every sinner, in his first efforts to turn from the power of darkness to serve the living God. He should harbour no apprehension that his past sins will exclude him from the Divine mercy, if he can but persevere in his resolution of amendment. Nor is the perseverance doubtful, if the resolution be sincere : from the moment that the understanding is awakened to a sense of the danger and of the loath
someness of sin to a reverent sense of God's
perfections - to a fear of his anger, as the greatest evil
to a desire of his favour, as the highest good, from the moment that this change takes place in the sinner's heart and understanding, whatever may have been the malignity, the number, and the frequency of his past crimes, such is the efficacy of the great sacrifice, he is reconciled to God, — he obtains not only forgiveness, but assistance ; and the measure of the assistance, I will be bold to say, is always in proportion to the strength of evil habit, which the penitent hath to overcome. He is not, therefore, to be discouraged from addressing himself to God in prayer, by a sense of unworthiness arising from his past sins. Upon the ground of merit, no man is worthy to claim an audience of his Maker ; but to a privilege to which innocence might scarce aspire, by the mercy of the Gospel Covenant, repentance is admitted. Reformation, indeed, is innocence in the merciful construction of the Christian dispensation: the Redeemer stands at God's right hand, pleading in the behalf of the penitent the merit of his own humiliation; and the effect is, that no remembrance is had in heaven of forsaken sin. The courage of our converted idolatress is an edifying example to all repenting sinners ; and the blessing with which it was in the end rewarded justified the principles upon which she acted.
Before we proceed to the more interesting subject of meditation - our Saviour's conduct upon this occasion, we must consider another circumstance on the woman's part — the manner in which her supplication was addressed. She came from her home to meet him on the road ; and she cried out -“Have mercy upon me, O Lord, thou son of David !” Jesus, retir
ing from the malice of his enemies or the imprudence of his friends to the Sidonian territory, is saluted by an idolatress of the Canaanites, by his proper titles — “ the Lord,” “ the Son of David.” It is, indeed, little to be wondered, that idolaters living on the confines of the Jewish territory, and conversing much with the Israelites, should be well acquainted with the hope which they entertained of a national deliverer to arise in David's family, at a time when the expectation of his advent was raised to the height, by the evident completion of the prophecies which marked the time of his appearance; and when the numberless miracles wrought by our Lord, in the course of three successive summers, in every part of Galilee, had made both the expectation of the Messiah and the claim of Jesus to be the person the talk of the whole country to a considerable distance. It is the less to be wondered, because we find something of an expectation of the Messiah of the Jews in all parts of the world at that season. But the remarkable circumstance is this, – that this Syrophænician idolatress must have looked for no partial deliverer of the Jewish nation, but for a general benefactor of all mankind, in the person
of the Jewish Messiah ; for had he been to come for the particular benefit of the Jews only, this daughter of Canaan could have had no part or interest in the Son of David.
Having examined into the character of our Lord's suppliant, and remarked the terms in which she addressed him, we will in another discourse consider the remarkable manner in which on our Lord's part her petition was received.
MARK, vii. 26.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophænician by
These words describe what was most remarkable in the character of a woman, a Canaanite by birth, an idolatress by education, who implored our Lord's miraculous assistance in behalf of her young daughter tormented with an evil spirit. In
In my last discourse, the lessons to be drawn from this character of the woman, and from the manner in which her petition was preferred, were distinctly pointed out.
I come now to consider, still with a view to practical inferences, the manner in which, on our Lord's part, the petition was received.
In the lovely character of the blessed Jesus, there was not a more striking feature than a certain sentimental tenderness, which disposed him to take a part in every one's affliction to which he chanced to be a witness, and to be ready to afford it a miraculous relief.
He was apt to be particularly touched by instances of domestic distress ; in which the suffering arises from those feelings of friendship, growing out of natural affection and habitual endearment, which constitute the perfection of man as a social creature, and distinguish the society of the human kind from the instinctive herdings of the lower animals. When at the gate of Nain he met the sad procession of a young man's funeral,—a poor widow, accompanied by her sympathising neighbours, conveying to the grave the remains of an only son, suddenly snatched from her by disease in the flower of his age, — the tenderness of his temper appeared, not only in what he did, but in the kind and ready manner of his doing it. He scrupled not to avow how much he was affected by the dismal scene : he addressed words of comfort to the weeping mother: unasked, upon the pure motion of his own compassion, he went up and touched the bier; — he commanded the spirit to return to its deserted mansion, and restored to the widow the support and comfort of her age.
The object now before him might have moved a heart less sensible than his. A miserable mother, in the highest agony of grief, — perhaps a widow, for no husband appeared to take a part in the business, — implores his compassion for her daughter, visited with the most dreadful malady to which the frail frame of sinful man was ever liable — possession. In this reasoning age, we are little agreed about the cause of the disorder to which this name belongs. If we may be guided by the letter of holy writ, it was a tyranny of hellish fiends over the imagination and the sensory of the patient. For my own part, I find no great difficulty of believing that this was really
I hold those philosophising believers but weak in faith, and not strong in reason, who measure the probabilities of past events by the experience of the present age, in opposition to the evidence of the historians of the times. I am inclined to think that