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when they came into their country, to make no peace with them, neither to spare any of them, but utterly to destroy them, lest God's chosen people should be corrupted by their evil examples.
Here, then, we see the power of that grace which CHRIST brought with Him unto all nations of the world, revoking and abolishing every curse, in behalf of those who would but believe on Him, in whom “ all the families of the earth are blessed."
For these Canaanites, who had been not only cast out, but in most cases destroyed, lest they should pervert the Jews, now appear better than the Jews. Here, at least, we see that when the Jews were persecuting Christ, driving Him out when He was coming unto them, and was going about among them to do them good, a Canaanitish woman comes after Him, and seeks His gracious help with earnest and humble prayer.
And having come unto Him, she continued to cry after Him, “ Have mercy on me, O LORD, thou Son of David,” until her continual and earnest cries drew on her the attention of His disciples. And indeed it must have been a piteous sight to see a woman in such affliction, a mother entreating in behalf of her daughter-of her daughter suffering from so shocking a calamity.
For these possessed persons were afflicted with dreadful madness, so that we read of some who were so fierce that men did not dare to pass by that way, and that no man could bind them, no, not with chains, who were continually crying out and cutting themselves with stones?; of another, who had often cast himself into the fire, often into the water'; and plainly this case was a grievous one, indeed she said, “M: daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” And the afflicted mother did not venture to bring before our Lord her poor child, who was in all likel hood in too shocking a condition to take abroad, but left her at home, and came hers lf alone to make entreaty for her, and now she merely cr es for mercy, and sets forth her affliction, and adds no more. She does not venture to set forth one plea, one claim. She does not ask Him to come to her house; she does not say, like Jairus for his daughter, “Come, and lay thy hand upon her;" nor like that nobleman St. Jobn mentions, • Come down ere my child diel." And she does not say, "Have mercy on my child,” but “Have mercy on me.” For the daughter had less sense of her calamity, or, it may be, none at all : it was the poor mother that was the great sufferer, and she most earnestly entreats compassion of our gracious LORD.
7 Mark v. 3.
8 Matt. xvii. 15.
9 Matt. ix. 18.
1 John iv. 49.
But “ He answered her not a word.” How wonderful are His ways ! they are above our ways. To the Jews he continues to use persuasion and kindness when most wilfully blind of heart. He entreats them when they blaspheme, and does not forsake them, even when they tempt Him ; but to this woman He does not vouchsafe an answer, though she was displaying such faith, such awe of His greatness and power; and this, not having had the same privilege as the Jews, of instruction from her childhood in the knowledge of the true and living God.
Who is there who would not have been offended, that is, made to turn away from CHRIST, by such a refusal ? For her prayers had been most humble and faithful ; she had pleaded no worthiness, she had made no claim; she had only made known her. affliction and entreaty, and yet she received no answer.
Perhaps some of those that stood by were for the time offended, -I mean, their faith in Christ may have been shaken, but she was not offended.
Even the very disciples may have been astonished, though they were Jews and accustomed to consider the Canaanites accursed; at least they seemed to have interceded gently for her, that she might have a favourable answer, “for his disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send her away; let her depart, for she crieth after us." Her cries had moved their compassion-yet they do not venture directly to ask that He should grant her entreaty. Neither does He grant it, but answers, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Whence we may learn not to trust overmuch to the prayers of others for us, but to continue ever to entreat the LORD ourselves with all earnestness for mercy in spite of all discouragements, and however unworthy we may kn w ourselves to be.
For what did this woman, when she heard at last His long silence broken only by what seemed a rejection of her entreaty ? Did she cease to pray? Did she withdraw from His presence ? Was she less earnest ? Far from it, she increased her importunity.
How different, alas! from ourselves, who, if we receive not at once strength to overcome any temptation that assails us, leave off both prayers and struggle, when we ought to strive and to pray the more earnestly, the more we find it is only in God's strength we can overcome.
And consider the example of faith we have set us here. If His silence was disheartening before, much more His answer now. The persons on whom she could most rely to speak for her were rejected, and mercy to her declared to be out of the present purpose of His mission.
Yet she, seeing them rejected, ventured to pray the more earnestly for herself; before, she only cried after Him, not daring to come before Him—but now the conviction that in Him was her only hope of succour, and that He was yet, of a truth, a compassionate and merciful, as well as a most mighty SAVIOUR, made her approach Him with a holy confidence ; She came and worshipped Him, saying, LORD, help me.” Though apostles were rejected entreating in her behalf, still “she cries unto Him" because He alone could save her. And though she had heard them
He was not sent to those of her race, yet she repeats her entreaty, as confident He could help whom He would : she did not say, “Pray for me,” or, Entreat for me,” but
Help me,” as believing the help was in HIMSELF to bestow.
But our LORD was pleased to try her yet further and more sharply; "He answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it unto dogs."
Thus when He did answer her, His words to her were at first more discouraging than His silence. He calls the Jews now not sheep only, but children, and her nation dogs. He no longer refers to the will of another, “I am not sent," but withholds what she asks, as though it were not in His own judgment meet that it should be granted.
But the woman, so far from being disheartened, makes for herself a fresh plea from those very words of His. “Yes, LORD: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs ;” or, as St. Matthew says,
“ of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.” She acknowledges herself a dog, and the Jews children, nay, masters; but on this very ground she claims to partake a little of the blessed privileges of His presence and healing, so fully
enjoyed, though so little valued, by those whom she is not reluctant to call children, nay, even masters.
As though she had said, “ Though I be a dog, yet, as a dog, I may eat of the crumbs that fall from the table, that are not missed by the children-these, surely, even the dogs may humbly claim as their natural portion.
And now we may see, partly, why it was our LORD continued so long to refuse her. He knew she would say this; and it was His gracious will to give her occasion to exercise and show forth this faith and humility.
Else if it had been His purpose from the first to deny her, He would have refused her still, for He was not a mere man that HE should repent and change His mind. So that it was not in sternness He kept silence, neither was it reproachfully that He said what He did say, but in order to unfold the concealed treasure of her humility and faith; and also that we might draw from her history a full assurance that, however severe and repeated the discouragements we may meet with in prayer, and in our endeavours after holiness, we have but to persevere in faith with humility, and we shall obtain in the end an abundance of blessings, the more ample the longer our faith is tried. I mean, if we will continue importunate, continue to pray and strive without ceasing, the longer the Gift is kept back from us, the more fully and graciously will it be given to us at last. For what does our LORD say to her in the end ?
O woman, great is thy faith.” How comfortable to her to hear at last those Lips speak praise and encouragement. But how had her great faith been shewn? By this humble answer. So that, as St. Mark teaches us, our LORD expressly said " For this saying go thy way. Be it unto thee even as thou wilt: and her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” His word was no sooner spoken than it wrought the cure,—for this was the same LORD Who said at the first, “Let there be light, and there was light," and His word has still, and shall have for ever and ever the same Almighty power. He speaks, and it is done, and He commands and it stands fast?.
And it is ever in answer to humble persevering prayers, and in reward of such a course of life as is suitable thereto, that He
2 See Ps. xxxiii. 9.
speaks that Almighty word in mercy, to the saving, and healing, and blessing of soul and body. When they who have long prayed and laboured on earth, with all humility and perseverance amidst discouragements and great tribulation, shall at last be brought before His Throne, and when He shall say at last to each of these, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy LORD3.” Then at that self-same hour as we hear that most joyful Voice, shall all sin and sorrow be taken away from them for ever, and the devil shall be even driven away from them; the gates of heaven shall open, the Face of the Blessed One shall shine upon them. They shall be like Him then at once, and see Him as He is.
Yes, that most blessed Voice we shall hear, those joys beyond thought we shall partake, if only we will now persevere in humble prayer and service to our God,
While we remain here, that wicked and cruel enemy will still assail us with his pernicious suggestions, with the evil thoughts wherewith he is for ever trying to assault and hurt our souls. And our only safety is to keep in our minds that deep conviction which moved this woman, of whom we have heard, to this most blessed importunity; the conviction, I mean, that we cannot help ourselves, that our only hope of deliverance from that fearful enemy is to be even like her, worshipping and entreating our only Saviour, saying unto Him, "LORD, help me."
But alas ! what hope have we of victory, if victory cannot be obtained, cannot be looked for, without earnest importunate prayer?
Can they be in the safe way, can they be of the right mind, who think that if they say one short, perhaps hurried prayer in the morning and another at night, and go to church one day in the week, and that, perhaps, only once, this is religion enough, prayer enough?
Is this all that was meant to be taught by this history? or by our LORD's parables of the importunate widow, who by her continual coming, moved even the judge that feared not God, neither regarded man; or of him that, late at night, by continual entreaties roused up from his bed his friend that at first denied him, and prevailed upon him to supply all his wants ? I ask you, when you read or hear those parables, and such
3 Matt. xxv. 21.