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THE BOY WITH THE DUMB AND DEAF SPIRIT.
PREACHED IN REGENT SQUARE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH,
ON SABBATH MORNING, JANUARY 11TH, 1891.
REV. JOHN MCNEILL.
TEXT—Mark ix. from the 14th verse.
EVIDENTLY it would not have been good for some people if Peter's word on the Mount of Transfiguration could have been fulfilled. “Master," he said, “ it is good for us to be here; and let us build three tabernacles.” There was some selfishness in it, I rather think. Away up there in the midst of the heavenly glory, it was sweet, selfishly sweet, to forget the fever, and the fretting, and the groaning in the sinful world beneath. But Peter's wish was not obeyed. The Master left the glory. The vision faded. He came with His disciples back again into this weary, sin-stained, distracted world. Ah ! surely the Lord would have us learn here something of His infinite condescension. The brightness of the heavenly glory on the mountain-top is brought into such swift and sudden contact with the sin and wretchedness at the mountain's foot. How true must
Vol. III.-No. 10.
be the compassion, how strong and real the love of our God, as seen in Christ Jesus, for the sons of men when He came back again! Think you how through the night our Lord had been up near heaven. If He had only lifted His foot and made a kind of long step, he would have been off and away! Here, on the summit of this heaven-kissing hillif that expression can be applied to any eminence in this world—He was surely near home. Another step, and He could have been in, as I have said. Another step, and He could have saved Himself the agony of the Cross—a word of such meaning to Him as we shall never be able fully to understand.
How great His compassion that He came back again! I don't suppose many people are coming back from warm, genial, sunny climes, from the South of France, or from Madeira, for example, to London just now. You write and tell your friends about the fog, and frost, and bursting pipes, the abounding distress and disease, and I do not think they will come here by the first boat. Now, Jesus, on that mountain-top, met with His Father, and Moses, and Elias; the first society of heaven was round about Him again; and I tell you it is a marvel He came back. We don't half thank Him. We look on it as a matter of fact. “Of course He came down !'
Let us never forget He was human, and when He was near heaven might there not have been a strong inclination just to run in, when He was so near. Yet back He came, back into the fog, back into the foul smell, back into the coldness, back into the groans, and cares, and tears, back into
contradiction of sinners against Himself, back into a world that was sawing the wood and getting ready the nails and hammers that were to fasten Him to the cruel Cross. Surely His delights are with the sons of men. We do not pace step by step along with Him, and try to get into His very heart—the great human-Divine heart of His—or we would love Him better than we do, and help Him more faithfully. In the midst of all the trouble and toil of time we would be glad that we have daily opportunities for walking even as He walked ; the very sin and wretchedness continually opening up ready occasions for the exercise of the spirit of Christ. Our heaven, like His, will keep, while we are accomplishing our allotted task.
You remember the scene which the Gospel narrative brings before us. The Scribes and other gainsayers had got the disciples into a difficulty. This man with his lunatic boy has come to the “remnant” of the band. They were bereft of Jesus, and of the “three mighties”; and a small and feeble fragment they felt themselves to be. Still, they were Christ's disciples, and they ought to have had power. He gave power to the whole twelve over this form of evil. More than that, the seventy on their mission had power to cast out devils. This, then, wasn't a new, unforeseen, or untried difficulty. But they were dispirited, pushed into a corner. Their condition and surroundings make that vivid and immortal picture by Raphael. The Scribes coming crushing round them, the exulting looks on the faces of the enemy, the distressed father and “possessed” boy, the cowed, puzzled, distracted look on the faces of the
disciples. How heartless it is! The Church of Christ is still so beset. Still, anybody can pelt us with questions we cannot answer. It is the easiest thing in the world to look at human nature and society, then point to the Church of Christ, and say, “Where is your power? Ye be triflers, ye be liars.
Ye say ye can cure, and look — look at the East End, and the West End ! Look at human nature everywhere after eighteen centuries of your Christianty!” It is easy for sceptics to hurl objections, but they seem to forget that we have one way, at least, of turning the tables. He forgets, our friend the enemy, that here is a problem for all of us. This man, with the lunatic lad, belongs to you, friend, as much as to me. This is a man, a member of the human race, of our own blood. We are all afflicted in his affliction; and the part of humanity, not to speak of higher considerations at all, ought to be this: that if the Church of Christ has no power, then, so far from a spirit of triumph being shown because she has failed, all men ought to be in deeper distress; for what looked to be, at one time, a kindly light, has sputtered a while, and then gone out. Who of us is not suffering from the oppression of the devil ? Not one; not a heart, not a home, not a soul in all God's world. And yet, so subtle is his working, so does he deceive, not ignorant people, but so can be deceive the Scribes, and huckster the Huxleys, that they actually gather round the Church with a look of triumph upon their faces : "Ye are baffled! Hurrah! The Church is beaten! Glory! This Jesus is neither Prince nor Saviour ! Ha! ha! The pulpit has lost its power! Oh, happy day!” If it doesn't mean that, what does it mean? God pity them! forgetting it was their own sorrow and heart-break, as well as that of the father and the badgered disciples. Oh, what a scene this is ! It was all filled with devil! The devil in the son, the devil of doubt in the father, the devil of malignant criticism in the Scribes, and the devil of unbelief in the disciples' hearts. As London streets and squares, north, south, east, and west, can get packed full of fog till you cannot see an arm's length, and human homes and hearts are as though they were not; so this world has got full of the mist, and malaria, and miasma from the pit. It has crept up and spread till the stench of it is in every nostril, and the contagion of it is creeping like a fog through all the passages and chambers of the soul. I say again, this poor father and son ought to have been the burden of every human being who came within sight or sound of them.
“And Jesus asked the Scribes, What question ye with them? And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto Thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit." And he described his affliction. I like that. Let broken hearts tell their own tale. We will have no theorizing and no speculating, if you please, about sin. But let sinful men and women, afflicted and plagued in themselves, in their families, and beloved friends, stand up and tell their tale. It is rather striking and encouraging that, when the Lord puts the question, “ What's the trouble ? What's it all about ? " the Scribes did not speak, and the disciples did not speak, but a broken-hearted, white-faced