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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Mark 8

Verses 23-25


Mark 8:23-25. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw aught. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.

THIS miracle has many circumstances common to others. On other occasions our Lord manifested similar condescension and compassion: on other occasions also he both shewed his abhorrence of ostentation, and his displeasure at the obstinate unbelief of men, by performing his miracles in private, and forbidding the persons who were cured to make them known. But the gradual manuer in which he effected this cure is peculiar to this single miracle; we shall therefore fix our attention more particularly on that, and deduce from it some profitable observations.


Persons may be under the hand of Christ, and yet have but very imperfect views of spiritual things—]

[This man had experienced somewhat of the power and grace of Christ. Yet he could not distinguish men from trees, except by their motion. Thus are many, of whom there is reason to hope well, extremely dark and indistinct in their views. They know very little of their own depravity, or of Christ’s excellency, or of the nature of the spiritual warfare. Thus the Apostles themselves saw not the necessity of Christ’s death [Note: Matthew 16:22.], or the spiritual nature of his kingdom [Note: Luke 9:54.]. Even after Christ’s resurrection they could not conceive for what ends he was risen [Note: Acts 1:6.]. Nor, for several years after the day of Pentecost, did they understand their entire freedom from the Mosaic law, or the purpose of God to make the Gentiles partakers of his salvation [Note: Peter needed repeated visions to overcome his prejudices; nor did any thing but a conviction of God’s particular interposition prevent the whole college of Apostles from censuring Peter for preaching to Cornelius and his friends: Act 10:28 and Acts 11:17-18.]. We may well expect therefore to find some amongst ourselves, who, notwithstanding they are dear to Christ, still have “the veil in some measure upon their heart.”]

Nor should this at all appear strange unto us. For,


Though our Lord could heal our blindness in an instant, yet he chooses rather to do it by the repeated use of the same means—

[Our Lord, if it had pleased him, could have healed the man without touching him at all; or have cured him instantly by the first touch. He needed not, like Elisha, to repeat the use of the same means, because he had not power in himself to render the first use of them effectual [Note: 2 Kings 4:33-35.]. But he saw fit to repeat the imposition of his hand in order to exercise the faith and patience of the blind man. Thus could he instantaneously enlighten our minds. He who commanded light to shine out of darkness, could with the same ease shine into our hearts with meridian splendour [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.]. But this is not his usual mode of proceeding in any part of his works. He perfected not the creation but in six successive days of labour. The vegetable, the animal, and the rational creation rise to maturity by degrees. Thus in the new creation of the soul he gradually informs and renews it. He makes use of his preached Gospel to open the eyes of the blind. Inadequate as these means are (even as the mere touch of a finger) he has appointed them for this end. He orders also the means to be continually used, as long as there remains the smallest imperfection in our sight. And he is pleased to render them conducive to the end proposed. He “leads us gradually into all truth [Note: John 16:13.],” and enables us at last to comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of his unsearchable love [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.].]

However imperfect his work in us now is, it must afford us consolation to consider,


Wherever he has begun the good work, there is reason to hope that he will carry it on to perfection—

[Never did our Lord leave one of his miracles imperfectly wrought. In the instance before us he presently perfected the cure he had begun. Thus may we hope he will do with respect to the illumination of our minds. If indeed, like Balaam, we be only illuminated, and not really sanctified by the truth, we may justly expect to perish with a more aggravated condemnation [Note: Numbers 24:3-4.Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 6:4-6.]: but if we walk according to the light we have, that light shall surely be increased, and all saving blessings be communicated with it [Note: 1Jn 1:7]. Hence the Christian’s path is compared to the sun rising to its meridian height [Note: Proverbs 4:18.]. We have none of us reason to doubt, but that Christ will thus perfect that which concerneth us. He has promised to do so [Note: Psalms 138:8.]. On this ground St. Paul expresses his confidence, that he will complete the good work wherever he has begun it [Note: Philippians 1:6.].We too may be confident, provided our faith be tempered with a holy fear [Note: Romans 11:20.]. We may well argue with Manoah’s wife, that he would not have revealed such things unto us, if he had intended to destroy us [Note: Judges 13:23.]. We may regard his smaller gifts as an earnest and pledge of greater; and may be assured, that he who has been the Author of our faith will also be the Finisher of it [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].]

Surely this subject may well teach us,

Candour in respect to others—

[If a person have not very distinct views of divine truth, we are apt to undervalue him, as though the “root of the matter were not in him.” But God honoured young Abijah because there was some good thing in him towards the Lord his God.” And if God does “not despise the day of small things,” should we? Is our brother “a babe? let us feed him with milk.” Is he “a lamb? let us carry him in our bosom.” Many “a babe and suckling” in divine knowledge stands higher in God’s estimation than those who value them selves as wise and prudent.]


Jealousy in reference to ourselves—

[If we have ever come to Christ aright, he has so far opened our eyes, that we are made to possess some spiritual discernment. Let us ask ourselves therefore, ‘What do I see, which flesh and blood could never have revealed unto me? — — — And am I desirous that my knowledge of my own heart may be more deep, my views of Christ be more enlarged, and my experience of the divine life in all its diversified operations be more manifested by its transforming efficacy upon my soul?’ Dear brethren, we must “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ:” and if, “when for the time that we have been in the school of Christ we ought to be teachers of others, we need ourselves to be taught what are the first principles of the oracles of God,” we have reason to fear, that “the scales have never truly fallen from our eyes,” but that a veil of darkness is yet upon our heart]


Thankfulness to God, if he have given us the smallest insight into divine truth—

[I would not disparage worldly knowledge: but the Apostle Paul, who had made attainments in it beyond most, yet “counted it all but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.” Yes indeed, a single ray of spiritual discernment is preferable to the meridian splendour of human science; since that will transform the soul, which earthly knowledge never can; and will save the soul, when the wise of this world shall be found to have prosecuted a mere phantom, and to have wasted their lives in a sad fruitless course of laborious folly. As to human sciences, they are not within the reach of all: but spiritual knowledge is: for God can open the eyes of the poor as well as of the rich; yea rather, “the things which he has hid from the wise and prudent, he reveals to babes,” that his power may be the more seen, and his name be the more glorified. If then the day have begun to dawn on any of you, rejoice: and beg of God that “your path may shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.”]

Verse 38


Mark 8:38. Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

A SENSE of shame would never have been experienced, if man had abode in innocence. There is no room for shame in heaven, because there is no sin. But since man has become a guilty and corrupt creature, it is highly requisite that he should blush and be confounded before God. His shame should rise even to self-lothing and self-abhorrence. But so strangely has Satan blinded the eyes of men, that sin appears to them rather an object of glorying; and religion is regarded as the only thing of which we need to be ashamed. Hence iniquity is applauded, and piety decried. The Gospel, more especially, is made a butt of reproach and ridicule; and every method which the wit of man can devise, is used to bring vital godliness into disrepute and contempt. But our blessed Lord cautions his followers against yielding to the impressions of fear, or disguising their attachment to him through a wish to conciliate the esteem of men.


Who they are that are ashamed of Christ—

Though the “generation” amongst whom our Lord sojourned were distinguished for their wickedness, yet the present generation may with no less propriety be called “adulterous and sinful,” because the affections of men are almost universally alienated from God, their proper Lord and Husband, and the world with all its vanities is received to their embrace. That many among them should be ashamed of Christ and of his words, is the natural consequence of such a state of things. To determine who they are that answer to this character, we shall arrange them under distinct heads:


Those who openly disclaim all regard to Christ—

[How numerous this class is, a very little observation will suffice to teach us. The generality of men, if it were proved at this moment that there never had existed such a person as Jesus Christ, would have no one thing to alter in their conduct: a sure proof that they never have paid any regard to him at all. Indeed, they consider the fear of him as superstition, the love of him as enthusiasm, and all regard to him as a symptom of weakness and folly.

And what is this, but to “be ashamed of him,” or, as another Evangelist expresses it, to “deny him?” While they represent him as unworthy of any attention from his creatures, they degrade him as an impostor, and hold him up to universal contempt.]


Those who, while they feel some regard for him, are ashamed to manifest it before men—

[Many are persuaded in their minds, that the words of Christ are true, and that they who are obedient to them are the best and happiest of mankind: yet they dare not to unite themselves to this despised people, lest they should share in the obloquy that is cast upon them. They are ashamed to be seen conversing with any distinguished servant of Christ, or to be found in a Church where the Gospel is faithfully preached; or if they venture to go thither at any time, they assume an air of levity and indifference foreign to their real feelings, merely that they may not be thought to be tinctured with enthusiasm, or to have come thither for any other end than curiosity and amusement. They can hear the Gospel defamed, and the professors of it condemned as hypocrites and fanatics, and not dare to open their lips in vindication of either: yea, they can even join in profane jesting themselves, much sooner than they can utter the real sentiments of their hearts. Though, in a sense, they “believe in Christ, they dare not confess him. [Note: John 12:42.]” And what is this but to be ashamed of Christ?]


Those who profess indeed a regard for him, but in circumstances of trial are afraid to maintain a consistent conduct—

[Many professors of religion are far from possessing that courage which is necessary to uphold them in times of persecution. Peter himself, though naturally courageous, was tempted to deny his Lord with oaths and curses: nor was he restored to God’s favour without many tears and bitter lamentations. And is there not reason to fear that many of us, if brought into similar circumstances, would resemble him? How few are there amongst us, who, like Daniel [Note: Daniel 6:10.], would persist in the path of duty, when all around them had departed from it, and when a cruel death must he the immediate consequence of their fidelity to Christ? Yet the declining to sacrifice our lives in the cause of Christ would mark us out as persons ashamed of Christ, and subject us to his everlasting displeasure. Indeed it is to such characters that our Lord more immediately referred in the words before us [Note: Compare ver. 35.]; and therefore we cannot hesitate to class them among those to whom the warning in our text is given.]

Respecting all these, our Lord plainly informs us of,


The treatment which they must expect at his hands—

There is a day coming, when “the Son of Man,” who is now treated with such contempt, will appear in all the brightness of “his Father’s glory,” surrounded with myriads of “his holy angels,” and will summon the universe to his tribunal. “Then will he be ashamed of those who now are ashamed of him”—

His faithful servants he will then confess: he will declare, before all, his approbation of them, and his delight in them: he will welcome them as his brethren, and as joint-heirs of his eternal inheritance. But not one look of love will he vouchsafe to those who, through cowardice, or love of sin, have denied him. He will turn away his face from them, as one that is ashamed of them. If they begin to claim an acquaintance with him, and to plead the services they have rendered him, he will frown upon them, and, with a look of indignation and abhorrence, disclaim all knowledge of them [Note: Matthew 7:22-23.]. He will drive them from his presence, as unworthy of his favour, or of the company of his faithful people. And, O! who can conceive the anguish which these contemptuous sinners must endure; when the Saviour of the world shall thus retaliate upon them the treatment which he has received at their hands?]

This, I say, is the recompence which they must expect from him—

[He has plainly forewarned them respecting this; and therefore it shall come to pass. But, that they may see how just this doom will be, let them only consider the folly and wickedness of their conduct.

What folly is it to turn their back on Christ, through fear of a contemptuous look, or a reproachful name! What madness to “fear them who can only kill the body, rather than Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell!” Does not such conduct render them contemptible, and justly subject them to the sentence with which they are threatened?

What desperate wickedness too is it to be ashamed of him who is the Only-beloved of the Father, and the object of incessant adoration to all the hosts of heaven! What horrible impiety, to pour contempt on him who left his glory for them; who for their sakes “hid not his face from shame and spitting;” yea, “who, for the joy of saving their souls alive, endured the cross and despised the shame,” and “became obedient unto death, even the accursed death of the cross!” Let them only contemplate his kindness towards them, and then consider whether the punishment of their ingratitude exceed the quality of their offence.]


How necessary is courage to those who embrace the Gospel!

[It is not possible to be faithful unto Christ, and at the same time escape the censures of the world [Note: John 15:18-20.]. And our only alternative is, to “be faithful unto death,” or to relinquish all hope of his favour. The fearful and unbelieving will take their portion together in the lake of fire and brimstone [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12.Revelation 21:8; Revelation 21:8.]. O beg of God to endue your souls with courage, that you may “set your faces like a flint” against the whole ungodly world, and maintain your steadfastness even to the end.]


How desirable is it to be looking forward to the future judgment!

[If we attend only to the concerns of this life, we shall be anxious to preserve our reputation in the world. But if we consider how soon an unerring judgment will be passed upon us, we shall not regard the calumnies that are circulated respecting us, or the contempt that is poured upon us. This was St. Paul’s experience [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:3-4.]; and similar considerations will produce similar benefit to our souls.]


How important is it to have just views of Christ!

[The more enlarged our apprehension is of his excellency and glory, the more shall we be emboldened to confess him before men. St. Paul endured more for him than any other Disciple ever did: yet neither reproach nor suffering could move him. And whence was it that he was thus immoveable? He himself tells us; “I am not ashamed; for I know in whom I have believed [Note: 2 Timothy 1:12.]” Thus let us get a full persuasion of his power and faithfulness to support us under our tribulations, and reward us for them, and we shall not fear the face of man. We shall rather glory that we are counted worthy to suffer for his sake, and that we are honoured to be thus conformed to his image.]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Mark 8". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.