CHAPTER XXII To what extent may prayer be offered for the incorrigible, and spiritually dead? For such an one, (1) says John the Apostle, I do not say that any one shall pray. But sayest thou, O Apostle, that no one may Hope? Surely he who loves that man may groan. He ventures not to pray, he need not forbear to weep. What is this that I say that perchance there remains the resource of hope, where prayer has no place? Take an instance of one who believes and hopes, yet does not pray. Lord, she says, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. (2) What mighty faith to believe that by His presence the Lord could have prevented death. But what comes next? It is inconceivable that she should doubt that He whom she believed could have kept him alive, was unable to raise him from the dead. But now, says she, I know that whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. (3) Then when He asks where they had laid him, she replies, Come and see. (4) Why dost thou stop there? O Martha, thou dost afford to us ample evidence of thy faith ; but, as it is so great, why dost thou hesitate? 1. 1 John v. 16.
2. John xi. 21.
3. John xi. 22.
4. John xi. 34. Come, sayest thou, and see. Why, if thou art not without hope, dost not thou go further and say, 'and raise him up'? If , on the other hand, thou art in despair, why givest thou the Master unreasonable trouble? Is it perchance that faith sometimes obtains that for which we dare not pray? Then as He approaches the corpse thou dost object to His coming near, and sayest, Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days. (1) Was this said in despair, or in pretence? In somewhat the same sense the Lord Himself after His Resurrection made as though he would go further, (2) while His intention was to remain with the disciples. O ye holy women, intimate friends of Christ, if ye love your brother why do ye not appeal to the compassion of Him of whose power and pity ye cannot entertain a doubt? Their answer is, We pray all the better for not uttering a prayer, we trust the more completely for concealing our confidence. We show our faith and suppress our feelings. He who has no need of any information Himself knows what we desire. We indeed know that He can do all things; but a miracle so great, so unprecedented, though it is within His power, far surpasses anything that in our insignificance we deserve. It is enough for us to have afforded scope for his power and an opportunity for His pity and we prefer patiently to await His will than daringly to demand that which it may not be His pleasure to give. And finally our modesty may perhaps obtain for us something more than we deserve. 1. Quatriduanus est, which the Rhemish version literally translates 'is of four days.'
2. Luke xxiv. 28. And I observe that Peter wept after his serious fall, but I do not hear that he prayed. Yet I have no doubt about his pardon. Learn further from the Mother of the Lord how to have full faith in the marvellous and in the full- ness of faith to preserve modesty. Learn to adorn faith with modesty and to avoid presumption. They have no wine, (1) says she. With what brevity, with what reverence she made a suggestion on a matter in which she felt a kindly anxiety. And that you may learn in similar circumstances rather to heave a sympathetic sigh than to venture to make a direct request, she concealed her eager earnestness under a shade of shyness, and modestly refrained from expressing the confidence she felt in prayer. She did not come boldly forward with a clear request, and say straight out before every one 'I appeal to thee, my son: the wine has run short, the guests are annoyed, the bridegroom is dismayed -- show what thou canst do'. But although as her breast was burning with these and many other thoughts, she might have expressed her feelings warmly, yet the devout Mother quietly approached her mighty Son, not to test His power but to discover His will. 1. John ii. 3.