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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Mark 9

Verses 25-27


Mark 9:25-27. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, Come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

VARIOUS, and extremely opposite, were the states, which our Lord, in the course of his ministry, experienced. He was not wholly a stranger to seasons of exalted joy; but he was chiefly conversant with scenes of sorrow and affliction. He had just come down from the mount on which he had been transfigured, and the splendour of his glory was yet visible in his countenance [Note: This is not absolutely asserted by the Evangelist: but it is the most probable reason for the “great amazement” which the people discovered at the sight of him, ver. 15. This idea is confirmed by the account given us of Moses the Jewish lawgiver, who experienced a similar continuance of glory on his countenance after conversing with God on Mount Sinai, Exodus 34:29-30. with 2 Corinthians 3:7.]; but he descended only to behold the miseries to which sin had reduced us, and to renew his labours among a scoffing and unbelieving people.

To bring into view the various circumstances of the history before us, we shall consider,


The wretched state of the youth who was brought to him—

Imagination can scarcely point out a more distressing scene than that exhibited in the context:
[Here was a youth afflicted with an epilepsy, or falling-sickness [Note: Matthew 17:15.]. This affliction was greatly increased by his being a lunatic [Note: Matthew 17:15.]: to complete his misery, he was possessed by an evil spirit [Note: Luke 9:39.]. This evil spirit took advantage of his natural infirmities, and impelled him, on the returns of his disorder, to rush into the fire, or into the water [Note: ver. 22]: he moreover tare and rent the youth with most excruciating agonies [Note: ver. 18.], and deprived him of the powers of speech and hearing [Note: ver. 25.]. Thus had Satan tormented him even from his very childhood [Note: ver. 21.]: so that, in the very bloom of life, the youth pined and languished in the extremest misery [Note: ver. 18.].]

This scene too justly describes the invisible influence of Satan over the souls of men—
[We have reason to rejoice that his power over men’s bodies is now greatly contracted, if not wholly destroyed. What a miserable world would this be, if the malice of that fiend were not restrained! but his power over the souls of men is as extensive as ever [Note: 1 Peter 5:8.]. He still takes advantage of our constitutional propensities [Note: Some he stimulates to the pursuit of vain amusements, others to the gratification of grosser lusts and pleasures.]; and impels us to the commission of of the most self-destructive acts [Note: Acts 13:10.]. Doubtless much of our wickedness must be ascribed to our depraved appetites; but our malicious adversary concurs with them, and actuates us by them [Note: Compare John 12:6. with Luke 22:3-5.];. While we continue to walk after the course of this world, and of those who are of the same age and station with ourselves, we are altogether his vassals [Note: Ephesians 2:2.]; and the whole world, if viewed in a spiritual light, exhibits little else than such wretched spectacles as that before us [Note: 2 Timothy 2:26.].]

With such scenes, however, Jesus was continually conversant—


The application made to Jesus on his behalf—

The father of the youth had in vain applied to the Disciples for relief—
[The Disciples had been endued with power to cast out devils [Note: Matthew 10:8.]; but in this instance they were foiled in their attempt to exercise that power. This disappointment afforded to the unbelieving Scribes much occasion for malicious triumph [Note: ver. 14.]. Our Lord, being asked afterwards by his Disciples in private, assigned the reasons of their failure. They had not made the attempt in the full exercise of faith [Note: Matthew 17:20.]. Had they truly believed, nothing should have been impossible to them. They had moreover neglected to use extraordinary means on this extraordinary occasion. They should have had recourse to God in fasting and prayer [Note: Matthew 17:21. It seems from hence that some of the evil spirits have more power and malignity than others. See also Matthew 12:45.]. From these circumstances we may gather much useful instruction. Our Lord has promised us the victory over all the powers of darkness [Note: Romans 16:20.]; but we must have our strength renewed by fasting and prayer [Note: Ephesians 6:18.] — — — and must put it forth in a believing dependence on his word [Note: Ephesians 6:16.]: nor can we hope to succeed but in the use of these appointed means.]

He now applied to Jesus himself—
[Kneeling with deepest humility, he implored the mercy which he needed [Note: Matthew 17:14.]; but manifested that the disappointment he had experienced had shaken his faith even in Jesus himself [Note: ver. 22.].Our Lord gently reproves him for his unbelief, and bids him be more concerned about the increase of his own faith than about the ability of the person to whom he was applying [Note: ver. 23.] The father instantly with tears confesses the justice of the reproof [Note: ver. 24.], and entreats the Lord to increase and confirm his faith. (How amiable was this concern for his child, and this contrition for his fault!) And should we be less earnest in interceding for our unconverted relatives? Like him, when human powers have failed, we are ready to question the sufficiency of God himself: but we should be careful never to limit the almighty power of Jesus; and should deeply bewail the sad remains of unbelief that are within us! Let us then labour more to imitate this afflicted parent, and in every application to Jesus offer that suitable petition [Note: ver. 24.]—.]

Like thousands of other suppliants he soon obtained his request—


The miracle which Jesus wrought for him—

Our Lord immediately interposed for the relief of the youth; and Satan laboured to the utmost to obstruct his design—
[Jesus ordered the young man to be brought unto him. Satan, enraged at the prospect of his own disgrace, assaulted him with greater fury than ever, nor left him, till he had made one more effort to destroy his life [Note: ver. 26.]. Satan exerted himself thus to defeat our Lord’s purpose. Our Lord permitted him thus to act for the more abundant display of his own power. It is in this very manner that Satan still acts towards us; he cannot endure that any soul should come to Jesus for help; he usually makes his fiercest assaults upon us, when he is fearful of losing his dominion over us [Note: Some he discourages by inward suggestions, (you are not elect, your sins are too great, you have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, &c.) and some by opposition from without.]. Yea, not infrequently does he reduce us almost to a despair of life, just before our perfect deliverance is about to be effected.]

But in vain were Satan’s efforts against the sovereign power of Jesus—
[Jesus raised up the youth, who lay, to all appearance, dead, and delivered him in perfect health to his astonished father [Note: Luke 9:42.]. Thus shall also the grace of Jesus finally prevail in his people’s hearts. In vain shall be the renewed attacks of their great adversary: however fiercely they be assaulted, they shall be more than conquerors over every enemy [Note: Romans 8:37.] — — — And the malice of Satan shall only render them more distinguished monuments of their Redeemer’s power.]

Verses 28-29


Mark 9:28-29. And when he was come into the house, his Disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

THE gift of working miracles was possessed by all the Apostles. Yet it does not appear that the power could be exercised at all times, and at their own option, but only at such times and on such occasions as God saw fit to permit. Had the exercise of this gift been purely optional, we can scarcely conceive that Paul would have “left Trophimus at Miletum sick [Note: 2 Timothy 4:20.],” when he wanted him much for his companion in travel; or that, when “Epaphroditus was sick nigh unto death,” that same Apostle, who felt so deeply interested in his welfare, would not have interposed to restore him to health [Note: Philippians 2:27.]. It should seem, that a certain kind and degree of faith was necessary to be exercised by them, when they would put forth their miraculous powers; and that that faith was not always at their command, but needed to be brought down from heaven, by fresh and more abundant communications, in answer to their prayers. The Apostles, on having a youth, who was possessed by a dumb spirit, brought to them by his father, endeavoured to expel the demon from him, but were not able. The youth was then brought to Jesus himself, who, by a word, effected that which all his Disciples together could not effect. The Disciples then asked Jesus privately, What it was that had occasioned their failure? Our Lord told them, that they had failed through their want of faith; a more abundant measure of which was necessary, when so malignant a fiend as this was to be expelled: and that faith could be obtained only by a more particular and solemn application to God than they had used on this occasion: “for that kind could come forth by nothing but by fasting and prayer [Note: Compare Matthew 17:19-21. with the text.].”

Miraculous gifts having ceased in the Church, we shall forbear to speak of them. But the power of Satan over men has not ceased: the only difference is, that formerly he could operate immediately upon the body, by a preternatural power, without any concurrence on our part; whereas now he can only act on the soul, through the medium of our own corruptions, and in concurrence with our own will. But, as formerly, it was not in the power of unassisted man to withstand his efforts; so neither at this time can we hope to prevail against him, but by a power received from on high. This is true at all times, and under all circumstances: but there are times and seasons when he appears to have assaulted us with more than ordinary violence, and to have gained a peculiar advantage over us, through the instrumentality of some deep-rooted corruption. To withstand him then, is found more difficult than at other times; and we can do nothing against him, without such a measure of grace and strength as is communicated to those only who, with deliberate and determined purpose of heart, set themselves to seek it in solemn fasting and prayer. In reference, then, to these occasions we may well apply the text: in doing which, I will shew,


The extraordinary difficulties which some have to encounter—

There is no man who has not much to encounter both from within and from without. But some have far greater difficulties to contend with than others,


From the great adversary of souls—

[We know but little respecting angels; except that the good angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto those who are the heirs of salvation;” and that the evil angels are occupied in constant endeavours to ensnare and ruin the souls of men. Of the evil angels, as well as of the good, there are different ranks and orders, called “angels and principalities and powers;” and that they act under the guidance of one, even of “Beelzebub, who is the prince of the devils [Note: Matthew 12:24.].” It should seem, too, that some possess a deeper measure of malignity than others; since one spirit, on being driven out of a man, is said to “take unto himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and to enter into him again, and make his last state worse than the first [Note: Matthew 12:45.].” Sometimes several of them take possession of a man at once: for “out of Mary Magdalen our Lord cast seven devils;” and out of another person a whole “legion.” Over Satan’s family these bear an undisputed sway [Note: John 8:44.]; and over the godly themselves they maintain a very considerable influence; insomuch, that, if not restrained by Almighty God, they would “sift” every living man “as wheat,” and reduce even an inspired Apostle to chaff [Note: Luke 22:31-32.]. On some he acts “by guile, putting on the semblance of “an angel of light [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:14.]:” and so subtle are “his wiles,” and so crafty “his devices,” that it is inconceivably difficult to be always on our guard against them [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:11.Ephesians 6:11; Ephesians 6:11.]. Love to the Saviour himself may even be perverted by him into an occasion of evil; and be rendered, through the ignorance and inadvertence of man, subservient to the advancement of Satan’s purposes [Note: Matthew 16:21-23.]. At other times, Satan comes rather “like a roaring lion, ready to devour us [Note: 1 Peter 5:8.];” and, with an overwhelming power, carries men to the commission of the most palpable and damning sins; instigating Judas to betray his Lord [Note: John 13:27.], and Ananias and Sapphira to “lie unto the Holy Ghost [Note: Acts 5:3.].” Well is he called “the god of this world;” for, by blinding some [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4.], and impelling others, he maintains a sway over all “the children of disobedience [Note: Ephesians 2:2.].”

Now, to contend with these is, more or less, the lot of all God’s people [Note: Ephesians 6:12.]: but some experience his assaults in a more violent degree than others; and would be utterly destroyed by his “fiery darts,” if God had not furnished them with “the shield of faith, whereby to quench” or ward them off [Note: Ephesians 6:16.].]


From their own indwelling corruptions—

[All have a “heart full of evil [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:3.]:” but there is a “spiritual and a fleshly filthiness;” and in some the one has the ascendant; and in others, the other. Some, from their very infancy, are swollen with pride, or corroded with envy, or inflamed with passion, or envenomed with malice. Some betray a very early propensity to deceit, and falsehood, and dishonesty, and selfishness in all its bearings. In some profaneness and impiety are dominant; so that, without any interest to serve, or lust to gratify, they will find pleasure in insulting to his face the Most High God. In others, a disposition to lewdness and intemperance is marked from a very early period of life; and soon acquires such an entire dominion, that it bids defiance to all the efforts that are made to check it; nor can all the calamities which it entails on its unhappy victim induce him to withstand its influence. In truth, to such a degree are many subjected to some reigning sin, whether of a spiritual or fleshly nature, that one cannot but regard them as under Satanic influence; or, to use the words of St. Paul, as “taken in the snare of the devil, and as led captive by him at his will [Note: 2 Timothy 2:26.].”]

Now, where men are thus enslaved by any besetting sin, they have difficulties which others have scarcely any idea of: and to them I would declare,


The extraordinary means which they should use, in order to surmount them—

Resolutions will be of little avail: they will yield to even the smallest temptation. The passionate man may resolve to restrain his anger; the drunkard to contract a habit of sobriety; the lewd person to mortify his passions: but he resolves in vain, as long as his resolutions are formed in dependence on his own strength: he returns, again and again, “like a dog to his vomit;” nor can all the bitter consequences which he has experienced in this world, nor those more awful terrors which he is taught to expect in the world to come, suffice to keep him steadfast to his purpose. Even prayer itself has but a slight and transient effect; insomuch that, in some instances, he is even afraid to pray; because it seems as if his very prayers only stirred up his enemy to renew with greater vigour and success his irresistible assaults. But, by the ordinances of our Church, as well as by the Holy Scriptures, we are taught, and especially at this season [Note: Lent.], that “with prayer, fasting” should be joined—

[Fasting is a duty enjoined by God himself. Under the law, a day was appointed whereon the whole nation of Israel were to observe an annual fast [Note: Leviticus 23:27-29.]: and all the most eminent servants of God recorded in the Old Testament combined fasting with prayer [Note: Ezra 8:21.Nehemiah 1:4; Nehemiah 1:4.Esther 4:16; Esther 4:16.]. Under the New Testament dispensation the same duty is inculcated, and, on proper occasions, was practised also by the servants of the Lord [Note: Mark 2:20. Matthew 6:17. Luk 2:37. 2 Corinthians 11:27.]. For seasons of affliction, it is peculiarly suited; and, above all, for such a season as has been before described. It tends to honour God, whom we have offended by our sins. It tends to humble ourselves, as being itself an acknowledgment of our desert of his wrath. It tends to mortify the very corruptions we mourn over: and it greatly aids our urgency in prayer. In these respects it may justly be deemed of great importance: for though in itself it has no kind of merit, yet, as manifesting our sincerity, and approving us both to God and to our own consciences, it is of singular use, especially if accompanied with a corresponding humiliation of our souls before God: for, without that, it will be only an empty ceremony, an hypocritical profession, a senseless mockery.]

Though neither of them apart should have prevailed, the two combined will be effectual for the desired end—
[In no instance has God ever withheld his blessing from the two combined. Prayer alone, if fervent and believing, will not be suffered to go forth in vain; but, in the extraordinary cases before referred to, a man truly in earnest will address himself to the work of prayer in the more solemn attitude of penitential sorrow, “in weeping, and mourning, and fasting [Note: Joel 2:12.].” And how successful such prayer shall be, may be seen in the case of Nineveh, where the whole city was spared from destruction in consequence of their turning to the Lord in fasting and in prayer [Note: John 3:7-10.]. The example of Daniel is yet more encouraging than this, inasmuch as it brought down upon him not merely a suspension from evil, but the most extraordinary tokens of God’s favour. See how his fast was conducted; and with what fervent prayers it was accompanied: and then see what an answer it brought down from heaven [Note: Daniel 9:3-5; Daniel 9:17-23.]: and know, assuredly, that such humiliation shall prevail, whatever enemies you have to contend with, whatever corruptions you have to strive against.]


Those who are yielding to their spiritual enemies—

[Many think it sufficient to say, that such or such propensities are naturally inherent in them; and that they are regarded rather as constitutional infirmities, than as any deep grounds for personal humiliation. But, on this ground, there is no sin whatever which may not be cloked with a suitable apology. That a man will find a greater difficulty in mortifying his besetting sin, is true: and that he will, to his latest hour, be more in danger from it, is also true: but it must be put away [Note: Hebrews 12:1.]; and, if not subdued and mortified, it will inevitably plunge the soul into everlasting perdition. The eye, the hand, the foot, are natural, and dear, and necessary: but, if any one of them stand in competition with our duty, it must not be spared: there is no alternative, but to part with that, or to have both body and soul cast into the flames of hell [Note: Mark 9:43-48.]. If a man shall say ‘I have grace, but not enough for that;’ I answer, that grace insufficient, is no grace; and that the man who thinks he is a partaker of divine grace, whilst he is led captive by any constitutional or habitual sin, is only deceiving his own soul, and will find out his error when it is past a remedy [Note: James 1:26.]. A life of alternate sinning and repenting, sinning and repenting, (a life, alas! too common amongst those who profess religion,) will never be approved of God. I will readily allow that a man may have more than ordinary difficulties to contend with; but then he must adopt more than ordinary measures for the surmounting of them; and if he will not do this, he has only himself to blame: for “there is no kind, either of spirit or corruption, that shall not go forth by prayer and fasting.”]


Those who are conflicting with them—

[“Be strong, and of good courage: for no enemy shall be able to stand before you.” Only go forth in faith, and all the Goliaths in the universe shall fall under your hand. God has said, that, “provided you are not under the law, but under grace, sin shall not have dominion over you [Note: Romans 6:14.].” “The grace of Christ, which was sufficient for” Paul, shall be alike sufficient for all who trust in it [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.]. A very “worm shall thresh the mountains, and reduce them all to dust [Note: Isaiah 41:14-16.]:” and Satan himself, that great enemy, shall be bruised under the feet of all who will withstand him manfully [Note: 1 Peter 5:8-9. James 4:7. Romans 16:20.]. The armour provided for us shall not be girt on in vain [Note: Ephesians 6:11.]. Only go forth in the strength of the Lord Jesus [Note: Ephesians 6:10.], and you shall “be more than conquerors through Him that loveth you [Note: Romans 8:37.].”]

Verses 41-42


Mark 9:41-42. Whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, He shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

THOUGH the Lord requires decision of character, where full information exists; and therefore says in one place, “He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad [Note: Matthew 12:30.];” yet, in the passage before us, in reference to one who, for want of fuller information, did not follow with his Disciples, he said, “He that is not against us, is on our part.” There may be real integrity, where, from peculiar circumstances, there may be little profession: and where integrity of heart is, there will the Lord make due allowance for defects, which, under different circumstances, would provoke his heavy displeasure. The Apostles were, in this respect, but ill-instructed. They would have disallowed a brother altogether,

because he came not up to their standard: but our Lord told them, that, however weak his children were, he would reward every benefit conferred upon them, and resent every injury done to them.

Let us consider,


The interest which Christ takes in his believing people—

He completely identifies himself with them, and receives as done to himself whatever is done to them,


In a way of good—

[Scarcely any thing can be less than a cup of water: yet, if given to any one because he belongs to Christ, the donor of it “shall not lose his reward.” It is necessary that it be given for Christ’s sake; else, though it may be an act of humanity, it is no act of piety: but given for his sake, it is, and shall be, accepted of him, and be richly recompensed in the day of judgment [Note: Matthew 25:40.] — — —]


In a way of evil—

[To “offend” one of his little ones, is to cast a stumbling-block before him, by which he may fall. And this may be done either by temptation or persecution: but, in whatever way it be done, whether by allurement or menace, it shall be visited with God’s wrathful indignation. To “have a millstone hanged about one’s neck, and to be cast into the sea,” would be a fearful judgment: but “a far sorer judgment” awaits the man who endeavours to turn from Christ one of the least of his people, or to impede his progress heavenward [Note: Hebrews 10:28-29.] Christ considers this also as done to himself [Note: Acts 9:4.], and will resent it accordingly — — —]

If we view this aright, we cannot doubt,


The return it calls for at our hands—

Surely it calls for,



[How wonderful is it, that our adorable Redeemer should so condescend to notice what is done to us, and to regard “the touching of us as the touching of the apple of his eye!” It were absolutely incredible, if he had not so minutely and specifically affirmed it — — —]



[Is our Lord and Saviour so interested in our behalf? What can we ever want? or what is there which we have to fear? David says, “The Lord is my Shepherd; therefore I shall not want [Note: Psalms 23:1.]:” and sure 1 am that we, under the Christian dispensation, are not a whit, less privileged than he — — —]



[What shall we not do for Him, who so cares for us? And can we reach him, so to speak, by benefiting his poorer members? Whatever then I would do for Him, if he were personally present with me, that I will do for his Church and people; accounting nothing too much to do or suffer, if only I may please him, and honour him — — —]


Are there here any who have discouraged the saints?

[Possibly you may have done it only by sneers and ridicule; but, in whatever way it may have been, remember the warning here given you, and repent of your conduct ere it be too late. If you do not choose to go to heaven yourselves, beware how you aggravate your guilt, by making yourselves accountable also for the souls of others. It will be a fearful tiling to have the blood of others required at your hands — — —]


Are there any who have delighted to do them good?

[“Be not weary of well-doing; for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not” — — — None are to be excluded from your benevolent exertions: but“the household of faith” have a peculiar claim [Note: Galatians 6:10.], as the members of Christ’s body, and as the very representatives of Christ himself [Note: If this were a Charity Sermon, it would be proper here to recommend an united attention to the spiritual wants of the poor with the relief of their temporal necessities. See both referred to in the text.] — — —]

Verses 43-48


Mark 9:43-48. If thy hand offend thee, cut, it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

TO oppose and persecute the people of God is to make God himself our enemy; nor can we cast a stumbling-block in their way without aggravating thereby our own condemnation [Note: ver. 42.]. But it is not only by open profaneness that we endanger our salvation; we are no less obnoxious to the dipleasure of God if we retain any secret sin. Hence our Lord gives us the most solemn and repeated admonition to cut off every occasion of sin. In discoursing on his words we shall consider,


His injunctions—

There are many things which prove to us an occasion of sin—
[We are too ready to be drawn aside by our worldly interests. How often have they led men to profane the Sabbath, to engage in unlawful occupations, to practise deceit and falsehood, and in a thousand other ways to violate the dictates of their conscience! How has an undue regard to them deterred many from embracing the Gospel and following the Lord fully [Note: Mark 10:22.]! And how many have been turned aside by them from the truth of God, even after they had maintained a long and honourable profession [Note: 2 Timothy 4:10.]! Carnal affections also frequently prove a very fatal snare. How many spiritual people have been led to connect themselves for life with an unconverted person, through an unwillingness to thwart their natural inclinations, and that too, in opposition to the most express commands of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17.]? How many through an excess of attachment have idolized the creature while they possessed it, and murmured against God the instant it was removed? Need we add sensual appetites to this black catalogue? who, that knows the danger of an impure look [Note: Matthew 5:28-29.], must not tremble?]

These, as soon as ever we discover their baneful tendency, should be cut off—
[We are far from condemning these things as bad in themselves. Our carnal appetites and affections were given us to be indulged, and our worldly interests indispensably require a considerable degree of care and attention; but when they become stumbling-blocks to us and betray us into sin, then they become sinful in themselves, and must instantly be cut off. Nor must any consideration whatever induce us to spare them. If they be dear to us as an“eye,” or useful and apparently necessary to us as a“hand” or“foot,” we must sacrifice them without pity or reserve. Different situations indeed call for much prudence and discretion in the execution of this duty. We must not lose sight of meekness and humility when we are exercising a necessary firmness and self-denial. Nevertheless we must not tamper with our consciences, but fulfil our duty, and leave events to God.]
To aid us in obeying our Lord’s injunctions let us consider,


The arguments with which he enforced them—

Men in general are averse to hear any thing of the terrors of the Lord; but St. Paul insisted on them in order to persuade men; and our Lord himself frequently urged them on his hearers as inducements to obedience. The arguments with which he enforced his precepts in the text are most solemn and weighty:


God will surely deal with men hereafter according to their conduct in this life—

[This truth is not merely asserted, but assumed in the text as incontrovertible and undoubted: nor is there any truth whatever that is more agreeable to reason, or more abundantly confirmed by the sacred oracles [Note: Romans 8:13.Galatians 6:7-8; Galatians 6:7-8.]. And can any thing be a stronger argument for self-denial? Surely if eternal happiness or misery must be the issue of our conduct, we should diligently consider our ways, and put away the accursed thing that would ruin our souls. If we had no future account to give of our conduct, we might say, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die;” but, if we believe the Scriptures, we shall rather labour to act with a view to the future judgment.]


Heaven, notwithstanding all the trials we may endure in our way to it, is infinitely better than hell, whatever we may enjoy in our way thither—

[It is certain that the mortification of sin is often painful, like the cutting off a member from the body. But it is no less certain that that pain is followed by much peace and joy. But supposing the road to heaven were ever so thorny, will not eternal glory be a sufficient recompence for our toil? And supposing the gratifications of sin to be without alloy (though it will be found that the delicious draught is mixed with much gall) will they not be dearly purchased with the loss of the soul? Will not the torments of hell be greater than the pleasures of sin? The worms that may feed upon the body will die when our flesh is consumed; and the fire that may consume our body will be extinguished at last for want of fuel: but “the worm that will gnaw our conscience will never die; nor will the fire of God’s wrath be ever quenched,” because we shall be preserved as food for the one and fuel for the other to all eternity. What can sin offer us that can compensate for such a doom? Surely then this argument should induce us to mortify our most beloved lusts. Our Lord repeats it thus frequently, that it may the more deeply impress our minds. Let us then weigh it with the attention it deserves; and act as those who feel its force and importance.]


In what a lamentable state are the world at large!

[Men will persuade themselves that they are in the way to heaven, even while they are neglecting many duties, and committing many actual sins. But can they derive much encouragement from the words of our text? o that they did but credit the declarations of our Lord! Shall they, who retain only one bosom lust, be in danger of “hell-fire,” and they be safe who live in the allowed commission of many sins? Have they no reason to dread the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched? Shall they set up their idols in their heart, and God not answer them according to the multitude of their idols [Note: Ezekiel 14:4.]? Would to God that we could weep over such poor deluded creatures; that “our head were waters, and our eyes a fountain of tears to run down for them day and night!” May God give them just views of the eternal world! And may they be so persuaded by these terrors of the Lord as to flee immediately from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life!]


What need have the professors of religion to watch over their own hearts!

[It is no easy thing to know whether we be freed from our besetting sin. We have many pleas to urge in extenuation of its guilt, and many specious names whereby to conceal its malignity. How were even the Disciples themselves led captive by ambition and revenge, when they were least aware of their subjection to such evil principles [Note: ver. 35.Luke 9:54; Luke 9:54.]! Thus it may be with us also. How then should we search and try our hearts to find out our besetting sins! And how should we cry to God, “Search me, O God, and try the ground of my heart, &c. [Note: Psalms 139:23-24.]!” Let all then who name the name of Christ be jealous of themselves. And, “laying aside every weight, and the sin that doth most easily beset them, let them run their race with patience.”]


What reason have we to be thankful for the covenant of grace!

[Whatsoever God requires of us, he has also promised to us in the covenant of grace. Has he commanded us to part with every sin, however precious or profitable it may be? He has also promised, that “sin shall not have dominion over us [Note: Romans 6:14.].” He has pledged his word not only to forgive the sins of the penitent, but to “cleanse them from all unrighteousness [Note: 1 John 1:9.].” Let those then who tremble at the injunctions in the text, look up to Jesus for help. Let them plead the promises which he has made. And doubtless they shall find his “grace sufficient for them.” “They shall do all things through Christ strengthening them.” This is the portion of all who embrace that covenant, which “is ordered in all things and sure [Note: 2 Samuel 23:5.].” Let every believer then rejoice in that covenant; and “hold fast the beginning of his confidence steadfast unto the end.”]

Verses 49-50


Mark 9:49-50. Every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

TO understand this subject aright, we must take into consideration the whole context. The Disciples had disputed amongst themselves about precedency in their Master’s kingdom, which they supposed to be of a temporal nature; every one of them coveting for himself the highest post of dignity and power [Note: ver. 33–37.]. They had also, through jealousy and narrowness of mind, forbidden a person to cast out devils, merely because he did not exercise that power in concert with them, and in subserviency to them [Note: ver. 38–41.]. These evil dispositions our Lord had reproved, by appropriate and weighty observations: and then he proceeded to declare to them, that the exercise of such corrupt feelings would issue in the everlasting destruction of all who should indulge them, and would plunge them into “that fire of hell which never should be quenched [Note: ver. 42–48.].” After repeating, no less than five times, that “the fire into which they should be cast should never be quenched,” he told them that he expected very different tempers from them. The terms which he used on this occasion you have just heard: they contain a solemn admonition, and suitable advice; each of which we will consider in its order. Let us notice, then,


His solemn admonition—

This is somewhat difficult to be understood. Commentators, supposing that the word “for,” with which my text is introduced, is to be taken as connecting the text with the words immediately preceding, explain the first clause of our text thus: ‘The fire, into which the persons before spoken of shall be cast, shall never be quenched: neither shall the persons that are cast into it be consumed: for every one of them shall be salted with fire: and, as salt preserves from putrefaction the things that are impregnated with it, so shall the fire preserve from dissolution those who shall be subjected to its power.”

This interpretation is far from satisfactory, because it places two perfectly similar expressions, that which I have read, and that which follows it, in direct opposition to each other, (the one as referring to the destruction of the soul, and the other to the preservation of it,) when they are evidently intended to convey the same truth under two different figures.
To get rid of this difficulty, one commentator [Note: Macknight.] would translate the word thus: “Every one shall be salted for the fire.” But any one, who looks at the original, will see that such a translation is utterly inadmissible.

The translation, as it stands, is right: nor will the sense be difficult, if only the word “for” be taken as connecting the text with the whole subject contained in the context. The whole may be explained thus: ‘I expect of you, in future, a different state of mind from that which you have recently indulged. You are offered up as living sacrifices to God; and, as such, must be holy, and without blemish: and as the sacrifices under the law were offered through the instrumentality of fire, and always with the accompaniment of salt, so must you be salted with fire, and salted with salt, in order that your savour may come up with acceptance before God.’

If it be said that the term “salting with fire” is a strange expression; I answer, it is no more strange as applied to the preservation of the soul from sin, than as applied to the preservation of the body from destruction. On the contrary, it is expressly sanctioned by the Holy Scriptures in the sense now put upon it; whereas it is nowhere sanctioned in the sense which I am now controverting. John the Baptist says, “Christ shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire [Note: Luke 3:16.].” And it is no more strange to be “salted with fire,” than to be “baptized with fire.” If it be said, that “baptizing with fire” means only the enduing with grace, which shall purify as fire; I answer, this is the precise meaning which I annex to the “salting with fire;” namely, the enduing with grace, which shall purify as fire. The two expressions are precisely parallel, both in terms and import. And, this interpretation brings unity into the subject in the place of discord; and simplicity in the place of inexplicable confusion.

Having, I hope, thrown the true light upon this difficult passage, I now proceed to comment upon it, as an injunction from our blessed Lord.

[Under the Mosaic Law, this was God’s command: “Every oblation of thy meat-offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat-offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt [Note: Leviticus 2:13.].” To that ordinance our Lord refers, when he says, “Every one shall be salted with fire; and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” But as salt, however good, may possibly “lose its saltness,” so as to become unfit for the service of God; so may immortal souls lose the divine savour which is pleasing to God: and, as the salt in that case is “fit for nothing, not even for the land, nor yet for the dunghill;” so those professors of religion, who lose the spirituality of their minds, must be regarded as the most unprofitable and contemptible of mankind [Note: Luke 14:34-35.]. Now, the allowed indulgence of such base feelings as the Apostles had lately manifested was incompatible with spiritual-mindedness; and therefore our Lord warned them, that, if they would be useful as ministers, or be accepted as men, they must mortify all such corrupt affections, and shew themselves to be under the influence of a purer principle. And the same admonition is proper for us also: for we, it is to be feared, are, for the most part, as worldly and as carnal as they. Look at the state of the Christian world: see how ready men are, yea, even good men, to dispute and quarrel about every thing that concerns their interests in the world — — — See, too, how ready Christians are to decry and to discourage those who move not in their line, and belong not to their party — — — in a word, let the spirit of Christians, both of individuals and communities, be seen at this day; and it must be acknowledged, that the admonition in my text has in no degree lost its force, or its applicability to the souls of men.]

In connexion with this solemn admonition, we must consider,


His suitable advice—

The advice here given evidently refers to the whole context, and, in this respect, confirms the interpretation which we have given of the preceding clauses of our text. The Disciples had given way to very evil tempers and dispositions; and, to counteract such corrupt propensities in future, our Lord says to them, “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” The same counsel is proper for us also:


Have salt in yourselves—

[We, whether as ministers or as private Christians, are to be “the salt of the earth [Note: Matthew 5:13.];” not only richly imbued with grace in our own souls, but operating, all of us in our respective spheres, to keep the world around us from corruption. But how can we fulfil our office for the benefit of others, or how can we answer to our proper character as true believers, if there be not a savour of divine grace abiding in us, and diffused around us? In all our intercourse with God, we must exercise a spirituality of mind: for what is prayer without devotion? or what is praise without fervent love and adoring gratitude? In truth, what are any services whatever, if sin be unmortified, and corruption unsubdued? “If we retain any iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us [Note: Psalms 66:18.].” “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: it is the prayer of the upright only that is his delight [Note: Proverbs 15:8.].” The same may be said of all our intercourse with men. God’s direction to us is, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt [Note: Colossians 4:6.].” It is not necessary that we be always conversing about religion: but it is necessary that there always be found in us a religious frame of mind, and that not a word escape from our lips that is inconsistent with it. “As sons of God, we must be blameless and harmless, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, shining among them as lights in the world [Note: Philippians 2:15.]:” and if we attain not to this character, “all the labour that has been bestowed upon us will be in vain [Note: Philippians 2:16.].”

But, that we may come more directly to the point which our Lord had chiefly in view, I add,]


Have peace one with another—

[Love ought to be the one habit of the Christian’s mind, and the very element in which he moves. It is a shame to him to betray ambitious, envious, contentious dispositions; or to value his brother less on account of some minor differences, when he is evidently, in his own sphere, doing the Lord’s work. These, and such like dispositions, are the fruitful sources of contention and hatred; as St. James has said: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts which war in your members [Note: James 4:1.]?” Now the Christian world need exceedingly to be instructed on this point. All will admit that they need to “have salt in themselves;” whilst yet they imagine that that will consist with bigotry and contention. But I must say to all such characters, “If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above; but is earthly, sensual, devilish [Note: James 3:14-15.].” If we would approve ourselves upright before God, we must “walk worthy the vocation wherewith we are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace [Note: Ephesians 4:1-3.].” This is necessary to the enjoyment of God’s presence here: for then only, “when we are of one mind, and live in peace, will the God of love and peace be with us [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:11.].” It is necessary, also, for our acceptance with him in a better world; according as it is written, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord [Note: Hebrews 12:14.].” Remember, brethren, this is essential to your character, as “living sacrifices [Note: Romans 12:1.]:” and without this ye will in vain hope to be “acceptable offerings before God [Note: Romans 15:16.].” What then God has joined together, let no man put asunder;” but seek first to “have salt in yourselves, and then to live in peace and love one with another.”]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Mark 9". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.