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it would seem, so that “the blind and dunh both spake and sa :v."
We have no occasion to inquire here whether the condition of this man when brought to Jesus had been produced by the influence of some evil spirit or demon upon him, as was generally supposed, or whether it was due to merely natural causes. In the common speech of the time and country it was ascribed to a demon, and a demon was believed to be, as Hugh Farmer has shown, the spirit of some wicked deceased person which had returned to this world, taken possession of a living one, and subjected its unhappy victim to some one or more of a variety of diseases and other torments. We need not be greatly surprised at this belief, for there are millions of Christians who believe the same to-day, and other millions who could hardly be called Christians, who do not doubt that the spirits of the dead, good and bad, do now take possession of the bodies of certain persons, and so far from makir.g them blind and duml), as one might sometimes wish, enable them to see things invisible, and fill them with the spirit of poetry and eloquence such as Homer and Demosthenes never enjoyed.
The cure of this blind and dumb man was clearly miraculous, whatever may have been the cause of the disease under which he suffered. We have reason to suppose, as the learned Dr. Mede suggests, that only such bodily derangements were usually ascribed to demoniac influence as were either very uncommon or very obscure, and were regarded as incurable by the ordinary means known to the physicians of that day; and we may therefore fairly assume that the condition of this unfortunate man was both of long standing and well known. These circumstances rendered his cure the more remarkable, and at once arrested the attention of all who witnessed it, and excited some very natural and just reflections. St. Matthew tells us, therefore, only what might have been anticipated, that “all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the Son of David ?” The Son of David was a familiar title which the Jews conferred upon their long-expected Messiah, the Christ. They had been taught that the Messiah, when he came, would work miracles in attestation of his mission; and it was quite natural that when they saw the instant cure of their afflicted neighbor, they should earnestly inquire if he who had performed it was not their promised king. On another occasion, it will be reinembered, the people of Jerusalem, after witnessing some of his mighty works, said, “ When the Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man liath done?” This kind of questions greatly offended the chief priests and scribes and Pharisees, and on that occasion, we are told, they sent officers to take Jesus, that by removing the cause they might put a stop to such thoughts and queries. On the present occasion the Saviour was not in Jerusalem but in Galilee, and it is probable that the party of the Pharisees was not there so powerful as it was in the city, and they were therefore obliged to content themselves with calumniating one whom they had not the means to destroy. When, therefore, they saw how the people were impressed by this miracle, and heard them asking one another, “ Is not this the Son of David ?” they no doubt mocked, and sneeringly said, “ This man doth not cast out demons but hy Beelzebub, the prince of demons." St. Mark adds that these Pharisees were “scribes" - the learned and perhaps most influential class of the Jews, and generally Pharisees or acting with them
_" who came down from Jerusalem," as before sugested to watch Christ, and if possible procure the means of bis ruin. Mark further says what is peculiar to him that these scribes said of Jesus, “He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of demons he casteth out demons." It is worth the while to remember that this class of religious people had before accused Christ of having a demon, or devil, as it stands in our English version, but this was tame and meaningless in comparison with what they now lay to his charge. To be possessed with a demon was not an uncommon occurrence, but here it was not a demon, but Beelzebub himself — "inter omnia demonia Demona istum pessimum, turpissimum ac cæterorum quasi principem,” the foulest and worst, as it were, the prince of all the rest - who, they said, had entered into Christ, and lent him his power. And to this monster of evil, these pious souls
boldly ascribed the miracle they had just witnessed, by which Christ had given sight to the blind and speech to the dumb.
Now nothing can be more obvious, it seems to us, than the fact that this terrible accusation, that Jesus was possessed with Beelzebub, that is, the Devil himself, and that it was by his power alone that this miracle of mercy had been performed, was itself the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, or was at least such an approximation to it as indicated clearly its character as well as pointed immistakably in the direction where we must seek and should find it. Not only the occasion which called forth these words, but the whole drift of our Saviour's discourse show this, but St. Mark, after reciting the language of Christ in relation to this blasphemy of the Spirit, significantly adds, “ Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit;" and, as St. Matthew leaves us no room to doubt Christ uttered this declaration also, Because they further said, “This man doth not cast out demons but by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.” The accusation was a double one, but centered in a common rout. It represented our Lord as a tool of Satan, and his miraculous works, beneficent as they were, the product of the Devil's malevolent power. Its object was not merely to repel the people from longer thinking of Jesus as the Christ, but the design went further and was intended to throw a cloud of suspicion over the Saviour, to blast his reputation as a religious teacher, and exbibit him as an enemy of God by being an emissary and confederate of Satan.
It is, however, a question whether these Pharisees who were the authors of this base caluiny were guilty of the sin of blasphening the Holy Spirit. The prevailing opinion probably has been and still is that the Saviour's language was levelled at thicm, aud indeed that they stood condemned as guilty of this impardonable sin. But many have taken a different view of these words and regard them in the light of a solemn warning against a sin which they had not as yet committed, but one toward which they were obviously tending. There is no direct proof, perhaps no proof at all, that Christ did expressly, or by necessary implication, charge them with having already
reached this height of wickedness and actually committed the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Nor has this question in itself any practical importance; but there are other questions connected with this and dependent upon it, whose solution cannot be effected till this is answered. For instance, if, as the great majority of the Christian world has believed, and no doubt does still believe, these unscrupulous enemies of Christ were already guilty of this extreme form of blasphemy, then we know without further difficulty what this sin against the Holy Spirit is; for we have before us the history of what they did and said, and in a manner a transcript of their very thoughts. And we could without hesitation say, with Archbishop Tillotson, and virtually with many others : “The Pharisees are the persons charged with this sin or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. And their blasphemy was plainly this: that when he cast out devils by the Spirit of God, they said he did it by the power of the Devil; they maliciously ascribed these works of the Holy Ghost to the Devil.” If this be so, then we know not only what the sin against the Holy Spirit is, but also under what circumstances it is committed, and against what strength of evidence, what clearness of light. It consists, as the Archbishop further says, “in a most malicious opposition to the utmost evidence that could be given to the truth of any religion ;” and this conclusion justifies the inference which the learned Prelate draws from it, namely, that it relieves “ some very good and pious persons who are liable to despair upon an apprehension that they have committed this great and unpardonable sin, and consequently are utterly incapable of ever being restored to the mercy and favor of God.” Having the example of the Pharisees before us, we at once see that this sin is hardly possible except in an age of miracles, which fall under our own eye, or otherwise appeal to us with something of the force of ocular demonstration.
6 The evangelic history does not say that the Pharisees bad committed the sin against the Holy Ghost; they appear only in the way of possibly doing it, and Jesus warns them of it.- Olshausen. The Pharisees were warned against a sin to which they were drawing perilously near.,- Dr. Plumptre, in Bp. Ellicott's “
Handy Com. mentary,"
6. This was the case of the Pharisees," continues the Archbishop, “whom our Saviour chargeth with this sin. And nobody hatlı warrant to extend this sin any farther than this case ; and without good warrant it would be the most uncharitable tining in the world to extend it any farther.”6
But this interpretation of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is altogether too outward and matter-of-fact to meet the approval of all. Olshausen expresses something like amazement that Reinhard should define it as “the sin of certain Jews, who, moved by the greatest obstinacy, charged the miracles of Jesus, the evidence of which they could not deny, with being produced by the devil." With some others of the Lutheran Church, he wishes to find in this sin a deep ethical idea of the gravest importance for practical life, and therefore seeks to dissever the meaning of our Saviour's words here from all merely local and temporal relations. In his view, this blasphemy is no isolated act, but the culmination, the climax, of a long course of persistent and growing alienation from God and malignant opposition to the clearest proofs and the benignest spirit of the Gospel. Augustine had long before, after much shifting and indecision, and apparently in despair of interpreting the Saviour's words in harmony with his theory of religion, finally settled perlaps upon the opinion that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was hardness of heart to the end of life,” or what is now so well known as “final impenitence.” Though we ought to add that this rather indefinite “ final” extended in Augustine's opinion, if he was consistent with himself, much beyond the limits of the present lise ; since he found in the words “neither in this world, neither in the world to come,” what he thought warranted the forgiveness of sins down to the last judgment. His words are, “If no sins are forgiven in that final judgment, I think that the Lord would not hare said of a certain sin, 'It shall be forgiven neither in this world nor that which is to come.'
6 Sermon 17, On the Sin against the Holy Ghost. 7 Si nulla peccata remitterentur in judicio illo novissimo, puto quod Dominus non dixisset de quoddam peccato: Non remittetur neque in boc seculo, neque in futuro.Contra Julian, Lib. IV., Cap. xv.