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Jesus answered and said nnto her, woman, great Is thy faith ; be it unto thee even as thou wilt.— MAT., zv. 28. THE woman to whom Jesus Ohrist gave this answer appears to have been entirely a stranger to him. In what manner she had heard of him we are not informed. But it is not improbable that she had never heard of him at all until about the period referred to in the text Jesus Christ seems to have been accustomed after he entered upon the work of his ministy, wherever he went, to carry along with him in all his habits some Kgoal mark of his high character. By miraculous healing of the diseased, or some other ministration of mercy, or by conversation and preaching on the great objects of his mission, a manifestation was made of the power and wisdom which attended him. His acts and his instructions circulated &om lip to lip among the people ; and through the rumors about him, which went abroad over the land, probably this woman had heard of him. Man was made for religion. His conscience, his mind, heart and hopes, as well as his fears, naturally prompt him toward religious endeavors. This is an impulse of his nature. The influence of it does not cease till he learns the sad fact that he is a sinner in the very bent and preferences of hia heart ; and then, too ofl»n, by the law
234 THE WOMA OF CA AA I PRAYEB. of sin which truth demands of him to mortify, he is induced to forego all his attempts. On this principle that man has impulses, capacities and wants which demand
religion, the people in the time of Christ conversed much about him ; and in this mode the woman who approached him so earnestly may have heard much of him. We know little of her. She was not a Jewess. She appears to have been bom and educated in a heathen country. She was a Oanaanite. She belonged to that doomed race with whom the patience of God seems to have been exhausted on account of their wickedness. Probably she was herself like the rest of her blood — ^not dnly a sinner^ but one of aggravated guilt But she had heard of Christ, and now when he was on the coasts of Tyre and Sidon she came out and cried unto him, saying. Have mercy on me. The doom which hung upon her nation, the evU character of her people, and the vileness of her own sin, did not hinder her from applying to Christ in her time of trouble ; and he did not £Etil to do that which assorted with his character and his commission — ^the Redeemer of lost sinners. woman, great is thy faith; he it unto thee even as thou wiU. The story shows us at once what Christ is, and what needy sinners ought to be. His grace is unlimited, inexhaustible and ready; and sinners who need it ought to copy the example of the Syro-Phoenician woman. She was in deep affliction. At the period of affliction is the very time to apply to Christ. Her daughter was in trouble, and, it would seem, a hopeless trouble, unless some hitherto unknown power should aid her. This affliction gave point and pathos to her entreaty: Hoive TTiercy on me, Lord, thou son of David, my daughter is grievously vexed with a devU, Affliction has a rhetoric of
THE WOMA OF CA AA I PRAYEB. 285 its own. It makes no pre&ces and preludes— it passes no oompliments — and seldom employs any argument save one. Absorbed itself in the one matter of its
troubles, it can not wait to arrange considerations taken from any other quarter; and it can not but feel that the sadness it breathes must find its way to the spot of pity in any heart that beats. . Hence the agitated woman at once, nature acting out nature both in matter and manner, breaks over all the forms of society, and without introduction or hesitancy, and just with the propriety of grie^ lays down her plea of affliction at the door of her Saviour's heart : Have mercy on me; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. There is an eloquence in grief which no dramatist can imitate, and no insincerity can counterfeit, but which every heart can feel. This woman's parental love has here a fine and striking manifestation. It is the true love of a mother. o other heart would love so. She took all the torment upon herself. She does not pray for her daughter. That is not the form of her speech. Have mercy on ME, Lord. This is woman ; this is mother. If any thing touches her child, it touches Jier. The affliction becomes her own. She has adopted it ; and it would lose more than half its anguish if she could take it all upon herself and let her child go free. Somewhat on this ground it was^ perhaps, that this woman, so much of a stranger to Christ, would almost go counter to the very modesty of her sex, and uninvited, yea, almost repulsed, would break through the crowds which attended Christ, and amid the gaze of the multitude come up to the very presence of her Master. She did not send. A messenger would not do. o message could carry along a mother's
236 THE WOICA OF CAKAA I PBAYBB. heart, or oflEer a moQiex^s prayer. Orief has a law of its own; and no matter what the conventional roles of Bocietj may saj, where it acts in its own sincerity it
will act rightly, and human natore will respect it. Bat be it remembered, it did not rely npon self; it did not despond. It jnst prompted the heart-stricken mother to pray. Fit model for parental love to copy. There is the same Christ to pray to still. The soUc^de and determined earnestness of this woman were very remarkable. See how she perseveres. othing can stop her or still her. She wiUh&ep on. When she first came to Christy it is said she cried. ature, woman, mother, was acting; and though a loud and earnest female voice might sound strange amid such a throng crowding the house and aroxmd it the highway, and men might aim to stop her as they did ; yet all that was a mere trifle to her. She would not stop— she could not — ^nature, woman, mother, was at work. But she. seems to have gained no attention in the very quarter to which her maternal grief and solicitude had directed her. Even Jesus answered her not a fvord. What ice is thisi How strange 1 (a a word/ And what then! othing is so tender as grief. It seems to dissolve the heart It needs sympathy ; and when even a little word of kindness is uttered to it, such a word falls on the heart like a smile of Heaven and puts new courage into it I£ Jesus had but spoken one kind word to her we should not be astonished that she persevered; and it would at first sight appear to be more like himael£ But he had higher ends in view. ot a word: still she kept on praying. She would not take discouragement She would not take it from even the quarter whence, if it should come, there would seem
TBE WOUA OF CAKAA I PRAYER. 287 to be BO giotind for the trtterance of another syllable. She kept on. Maternal solicitade and affection are not to be measnred or weighed by any thing else. At length
the disciples became weary with her importunity; or deemed it indecorous toward Jesus Christy since he had not answered her a word; or perhaps their hearts were touched with some tender compassion for her, and they could not bear to hear the poor creature's cry ; and thinking that Christ did not deign to regard her, they did nof wish to have their feelings harrowed up by the pitiful wail of her misery any longer. So they besought him : JSenfi her away^ for she crieih after us. Here was another obstacle. She had a right to expect that her misery would have found at least some seconding to its plea among men, mortals and sinners like herself, exposed iheTnsdvfis to have their hearts torn with anguish ; and when she only found the contrary, what a new wave of trouble must have come darkly and dreadftiHy over her heart I Christ did not answer her a word; and now even his disciples would not pray for her but pray against her : send her away I And when Christ makes his answer to them, lam not sent but unto the lost sheqp of the house of Israel, another item of discouragement would seem to have con;ie up, sufficient to take away the last gleam of hope, and plunge her into the depths of dark and desponding afUction. She was not a woman of Israel. She was a Canaanite —of a cursed and outcast race. She knows it very well. Her ancestors had been driven from their country generations ago. She and her people had been sunk into the dissoluteness of morals, such as their idolatry promoted ; and now, when Jesus Christ speaks of the Jbrael to whose lost sheep he tvas sent exclusively, the woman
288 THK WOKA OF CA AA IK PBAYISB. would have stopped, if anj thing ooold stop her. But she rises with the occasion. Her prayers keep pace with the difficulties as the j come up before her. Instead of turning back in despair to her home, she approaches
Christ as boldly as if he had bidden her welcome. She falh aJt his feet, saying^ Lordhelp me. Aad there the poor creature lies — ^at^his feet — ^as much in anguish as ever. And there the eye of the Lord is upon her. She plead^ and he listens. Surely now she must succeed. She has got the Master's ear and his eye. She has made her Way through the crowds and the disciples, and flung herself on the ground before him. But he answers : It ianot meet to take the children^ s bread and cast it to dogs. What a repulse ! Dog was the lowest of all terms of reproach and contempt. How could the afflicted woman endure it? Especially, how could she have any courage or heart to utter another syllable, when she heard this fix>m the very lips of him in whom aU her hopes centered* She did not know what we know : she was ignorant that Christ intended to put her to the test, and then relieve her. How could she have expected that Jesus Christ would regard her favorably after he had applied to her such an epithet? But this woman does not sink into despair. She does not complain. She does not manifest any dis* satisfaction at the rank which Christ seems to assign her. Dog I yes, she '11 be a dog ; she will be any thing^ if he will heal her daughter. Self is sunk, and forgotten, annihilated, in maternal solicitude, at the feet of Jesus I With the instant quickness of grief, and with the devotion of a mother, she takes up the reproach which Christ appears to have flung upon her, and just turns it into an argument to put back into his own heart. She consents to be a dog, and take the dog's place and portion, and
THE WOIIAK OF CAKAA I PiRAYER. 289 : for nothing more, and be cotitent with that: TrvHC, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the CRUMBS which foMfrom their
masten^s table. This was enough. The purpose of Jesus Christ was now answered. The woman had been through a trial, and had manifested an afTectioD; perseverance, prayerftdness, and discouragement, and a humility, which constitute a lesson to all after her. As long as the sun shines, no sinner on earth can ever be found in any such condition of discouragement and ilMesert as ever ought to silence the lip of prayer, or turn back a poor sinner from seek* ing the favor of Christ. And now notice the answer of the Lord : woman^ great is thyfoith. It is not a little remarkable that Jesus Christ takes no notice of the maternal affection, and maternal solicitude, earnestness, perseverance, and humility of tills mother. He certainly could admire these qualities, as well as we. There are many demonstrations in his life that he had taste and tenderness, as well as discrimination and perception of what is touching and beautiful ; and that herein he never had any equal among men. The taste and tenderness of his teachings are not less remarkable than the truthfulness of them. And when we behold h irn loving the young man in the Gospel, forgiving the womwx taken in adultery, or weeping at the grave of Lazarus, or providing for his mother as he hung upon the cross, we can not but perceive that the sensibilities which adorn human nature were all his own. He must have honored and admired the workings of this woman's heart — ^her entire devotedness in the midst of her grief— -her deciaon, her indomitable perseverance amid discouragements, her humility, and her fondness which adopted her daughter's afl3i^^n as her 11
240 THK WOHA OF GAKAA I PBAYSB.
'owe, and which could not be damped or repulsed by all the strange treatment it met with. But he does not commend an j one of these things. He commends onlj her £uth : woman^ great is thy faiA. He singles out her faith as if it were the sole matter for any conmxenda* tion, or any admiring regard. He read her heart, and read it not as you or I would have done, in the mere aspects of its humanity alone ; but particularly and the more in the aspects which were cast over it aU by a diTine principle within her. She had faith ; and it was fidth which started her out from home to find Jesus. It was fisdth which put the cry for mercy into her trembling lips. It was Mth which urged her on through the throngs of stranger men who encircled Jesus Christ. It was her faith which would not sink at the silence of Christy at the complaints of the disciples, or at the seem« ing rebuke of her Lord, when he ranked her among dogs. It was &ith which made her take the dog's place — any place and any portion he would assign her« Faith stood as the origin and prompter of all her other virtues. It gave her courage. It increased her maternal tenderness, and wisely directed it She applied to Ohri^ in her affliction. Faith made her open to him all the saciednesa of a mother's grie^ and trust her bleeding heart to him, to touch the sacredness of sorrow even just as he pleased. When he himself seemed to be against her, silent to her cries, or speaking to his disciples, or standing over her as she lay at his feet, willing to be any thing for her daughter's sake, she would not believe that Christ would cast her off. She believed he would hear her ; and by faith she looked through and beyond all the dark and discouraging signals which hung around her^ and seemed to block up her way to any expectancy
>rHB W01£A OF CA AA I PBAYEB. 241 of reKef. This faith was really the moving prindple of the woman all along, from the time that she left her sad
home, to hunt up Jesus, down to the moment that she left him to return to her gladdened home, a grateftd and happy mother. It is quite probable, if not quite certain, that both her maternal tenderness and her grief would have foiled her, and left her heart to sink within her amid her discouragements, had it not been borne up by the power of her faith. Tenderness and grief, as they are by nature, are very touching, and may be very useful ; but they are not strong. They are easily discouraged. They can not bear unkindness and ill-treatment. Such unkindness drives off grief to hunt after relief in some other quarter — some heart-quarter. Tenderness and grief demand sympathy, and can not well bear repulse. So they are by nature. But as they are by the commingling influences of faith, while they lose none of their tenderness they put on the power of perseverance— while they lose none of their sweetness they put on strength. By faith they refuse to despair, and refuse to be repulsed. The woman would not believe that to be in the heart of Jesus which appeared to be indicated by his own treatment of her. Be she Oanaanite, or be she dog, she would believe that Christ had mercy for her, and this faith, by doing him justice, did him the highest honor. Hers was great M%h. Christ called it such. And I do not think we are to regard the greatness of it as being proved by her making her way through the outward obstacles we have mentioned, and persevering in her entreaties amidst all these discouragements, so much as in another thing. This woman had received no assoranoGs of aoc^tanoe. o conditions or offers had
24S THE WOMAK OF CA AA I PBAYSa been made to her on the ground of which she proceeded. She did not regard herself as a child of God. If any one
can entertain swh a regardj it does ixot require a great amount of Mth to make one's way to Christ determinedly and commit one's case or cause into his hands. A weak &ith might do it, on the ground that one is a child of God, and that Christ, after all, will act accordingly. How often, how very often, amid the miserable hearts of this world, do we find persons extremely desirous to feel that they are the children of God, before they venture a single word of prayer I Because they do not feel so, they are afraid to pray — ^afraid to hope — alBraid to commit themselres to any perseverance — afraid to take a low place at Christ's feet, like this woman, and lie there and plead. This woman ventured all this without a word or a thought that she was a child of God. The greatness of her fidth appears in this, that she just acted faith, instead of hunting around her heart first, to see if ishe had got any. Herein she was a good example for many a sinner that resorts to this sanctuary. If they would but go to Christ as they are, as sinners, as undone sinners, bSsoing that he would accept such, many a dark day would be turned into a bright one — many a heavy and hesitating heart would make this woman's proof of Christ, and get this woman's answer: luoman, great is thy faith : beit unto thee even as thou milt. Jesu^hrist had marvelously delayed to answer her. He often does this by his own people — even those whom he loves the best, and even those who best love him. It does not belong to us to fiftthom the depths of his wisdom; and therefoi^ we can not tell all the reasons he may have for such delaying. It tries their fidth. That is one thing: And an untried fidth is not commonly a
THB WOUAK OF GAKAAK I PBi.YEB. 248 yerj constant and comfortable one. We are sach crea* tores that we have a sort of necessity for something to look back npon amid many of onr glooms and doubts^ which
shall be a sort of argument to prove our pietj. If we can look back upon such seasons as show that our fidth has been tried and has not given way in the trial, then a litde gleam from the past lights up the gloom of the present and sends on its ray into the darkness of the future. Moreover, a good sailor is trained among storms; a good soldier has heard the shots rattle ; and few Christians have been qualified for either great service or great comfort who have not parted with much of their dross in the crucible of trial. Hence we find David complaining of the Lord's delay : / am weary of my cry^ ing ; my throat w dried; mine eyes Jail whUe I wait for my God. Hence we find the sad-hearted Jeremiah exclaiming: When I cry and shout, he shuUeth out my prayer. Habakkuk complains : Lord, how long shall I cry and thou wiU not hear f And the Church even, the very bride of Christ, his love and his glory, after representing him as inviting her requests, strangely represents him as retiring from her: I opened to my behved, but my beloved had withdrawn himself and was gone, I sought him, but looxdd not find him; I called, but he gave me no answer. God is not to be judged of by man's wisdom. He has a way of his own. But one thing is certain, delay of answer is no denial ; and the woman who lies at Christ's feet in tears, where fidth put her, shall yet be glad that she lay there. If you can not rejoice in the answer as you seek God, keep seeking, and the answer is sure ; it may be swelling in sweetness and magnitude as it delays. The woman's power to persevere in prayer was itself part of her answer. It was grace which Christ bestowed upon
244 THE WOMAK OF CA AAK I PRATEB. lier, while he did not appear to be bestowing any thing. Oonaequenilj her prayer becomes the more earnest and humble as she waits and pleads for an answer. Sometimes when a desired blessing comes at once the soul la
rather iqjured than benefited by it Prayer languishes, and the sense of dependence melts away, and the soul wanders off firom God. At other times the answer is delayed, and then &ith is stirred up in the soul, and the individual cries like the Psalmist : My aoulfolhweik hard cffter thee. As the hart panteth for the water-brooks, so panteA my soul a/ier thee, God. It is one of the marks of true prayer where the heart is quickened, and will not be discouraged or dispirited by a delayed answer. While this heart-stricken woman was holding on to her purpose and refusing to give back, perhaps, indeed probably, it never entered into her heart that her Lord was strengthen^ ing her just to pray. She probably felt just as any of you would, or as many of you fhave, when in the time of your trouble you have not obtained your request, but have not ceased to solicit You felt unanswered-^not satisfied — ^not ha^ppy. Oh, you did not know that the grace to persevere in that prayer was the very richest answer you could have. You knew it only afterward. And you could remember it then with such a vividness and belief in the power of prayer as you never could have had, if your answer had come as soon as you opened your lips to supplicate. There is a light in the inner sanctuary which does not shine in the exterior courts of God*s house. There is a spirit of intimacy and communion, of solemnity and satisfection in God, which no man can reach without mustering all the powers within him, and embarking all his soul in his supplication. God delays to answer in order to
XH2 WOHAK OF CA^AiL I PBAYXB. 246 draw the sinner. He is too far off for one of God's cluldren. God wants him nearer. And he lets them go unanswered till he comes nearer and nearer, and gets into the presence of God, and is filled with the sacredness and sweetness of the. secrets of God's tabernacle. The
delay just leads him up to God's heart and makes him aoquainted with it. In the experience of this woman we remark, therefore, beyond all this, that there was an enhanced felicity. She got near to Christ through her discouraging delay. He did not treat all sinners so. He did not treat the oentuzion so when he prayed for his servant, sick with the palsy at home. But I ask you, would you not rather be this poor Canaanite woman, hoping against hope, and struggling up into the presence of Christ, and lying at his feet, and having faith enough to turn his repulse into an argument and aim it back at his own heart — would you not rather be this poor creature, and have her experience, than to be the Roman centurion, answered almost before he begatx to ask ? Christ had tried her. She stood the trial. And evidently he admired and loved her. looman, great is thy faith ; he it unto thee even as thou wilt. ever distrust him. And you need not misunderstand him as long you have feith to pray like this woman, while not answered. The answer will come if the prayer does not cease. All she asks he gives her. He lays down his own omnipotence at the door of her will — even as thou wiU. Till this moment he had been trying her. He had concealed from her his intent There was that in his heart which she could not read, and which she would certainly have misread if she had attempted to read it from his actions. He had heard her cry and did not answer her a word. He had replied to
246 THS WOKA OF CA AA I PRATER. his disciples as if he did not intend to do any tiiii^ tar her. He had seen at her at his feet p3X)8trate on the ^ ground, and ail bat called her a dog. She bore it alL Oh, if she had known what was^in his heart toward herself) and how he was making an example of her which should encourage ten thousand mothers in prayer long
after she was dead and gone, and help them on to Christ and gloiy after her^ how her heart would have leaped for joy I And now the time has come, and the Saviour's heart indulges itself. Be it unto thee even as thou wilt. Happy woman I return to thy happy home. Thy fidth has met its reward. Thy daughter is free, and thy futh has led thee to such a knowledge of Christ and his love as shall shine bright and cheering in thy soul to the end. Happy woman I Such an experience as thine shall raise thee above the gloom of dark Providences in days to come. Thou wilt never distrust the heart of thy Bedeemer, let him call thee dog or treat thee as such. Happy woman I ^ Thou hast learnt the value and the power of prayer. ever wilt thou forget the hour when, low in the dust, thy motherly lips would not be still, a^d then thy admiring Lord let out his heart to thee, 0, woman, great is thy faOh; be it unto thee even as thou wiU, The recollection of that hour shall never fede from thy memory, nor the love of prayer from thy heart. The recollection shall gild thine hour of death, and beyond it sweeten the bliss of thine eternal heaven. Happy, happy woman 1 who would not pray like thee ; and then, like thee, on the wings of death soar to thy reward ? Beit unto thee even as thou unit.
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