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cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.
By the children of the Pharisees we are to understand their disciples and followers, or the Jews; (in the same manner as by sons of the prophets we are to understand their disciples); who undertook to cast out dæmons in the name of the God of Abraham, but who did not succeed in their attempts; and our Lord reproaches the manifest inconsistency of their conduct, in imputing his cure of dæmoniacs to Beelzebub, when they ascribed to God the pretended success of their own exorcisms.
28. But if I cast out dæmons by the spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
If I, by the power of God, and not by the assistance of any evil being, have wrought what ye have lately seen, the miracle is of such an extraordinary nature as to prove that the kingdom of the Messiah is already begun among you.
29. Or else, how can one enter into a strong man's house, or, rather, “ into the house of the strong one,” and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong one? and then he will spoil his house.
Christ had already proved that the power by which he cast out dæmons, was opposite to that which they attributed to Beelzebub: he now shews that it must be superior to his, upon their own principles: for as it is impossible for a person to rob the house of one that is stronger than himself, unless he first bind or disable him; so, it would have been impossible for Christ to have cast out dæmons, unless he had been stronger than Beelzebub, whom they considered as the prince of dæ
30. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
This is a proverbial maxim, which Christ applies to the present case; and the meaning which he intends to convey is this: “if it be a just maxim that he is to be regarded as an enemy, who only refuses his assistance, will you account me a friend and confederate with Beelzebub, who directly oppose and dispossess him?
1. In the conduct of these Pharisees, we see how consistent a warm zeal for outward observances may be with a total disregard of the most essential rules of morality. While these superstitious hypocrites are offended at the disciples of Jesus for failing in the reverence which they apprehended due to the sabbath, we find them plotting, without remorse, the death of an innocent and perfect character. We may learn hence in what estimation we ought to hold such observances: as the means of religious iinprovement they are certainly useful; but if we regard them as the most important parts of religion, and rest satisfied with the mere performance of them, without regarding the effects which they produce upon our temper or lives, our zeal is directed towards a wrong object, and we fall into a fatal error.---We shall be transported with a fond conceit of our own excellence, and despise others, while the heart is corrupted with the most unworthy passions, and the conduct disgraced with every kind of enormity. Let us not judge of ourselves or others by the degree of attention paid to ceremonies, but by the substantial virtues of piety, justice, benevolence and humility. Wherever these flourish, there is true religion, but if they be
wanting, our zeal about other matters is no better than hypocrisy.
2. We have here a just and noble description of the character of Jesus. He was furnished with the most extraordinary powers, and adorned with the most excellent virtues: he was eminent for his piety, benevolence, integrity, fortitude, meekness and patience; and all these virtues were accompanied with humility, which gives a lustre and perfection to every other grace. If any one had any thing whereof to boast, it was Christ: he was furnished with the most extraordinary powers, greater than ever had been communicated to any human being before, by which he was enabled to cure, by a word's speaking, the most inveterate diseases: he was enriched with treasures of wisdom and knowledge: he was honoured with audible and public testimonials of the divine favour, by a voice from heaven; yet these distinguished favours were far from filling the mind of Christ with sentiments of pride or ambition: on the contrary, he endeavoured to conceal his mighty works, and to prevent a crowd of people from following him: he was not anxious to proclaim the things which redounded to his own glory, but took pains to prevent them from being published abroad. Hence we may learn that true greatness is accompanied with humility, and that there is often the most worth, where there is the least outward show and noise.
3. We see, from what has been read, by whose power the miracles of Christ were performed. Not by any assistance derived from the spirits of dead men, much less by the power of the devil: not by any natural power, which belonged to Christ himself; but by the finger of God. It was his hand which wrought all the wonderful things which appeared to proceed from his Son; and it is on this account that they afford us such satisfactory proof that the kingdom of God is come unto us: for we are sure that a pure and holy God would not alter the course of nature, in order to support a lie, or to give countenance to an impostor.
Matthew xii. 31----40.
31. Wherefore I
AII manner of sin and blasphemy, or, rather, “ evil speaking,” shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, “the evil speaking against the Spirit,” shall not be forgiven unto men,
These words refer to what had passed before; particularly, to the Pharisees' declaring that Jesus cast out dæmons by Beelzebub, the prince of the dæmons; thus attributing his miracles not to God, by whose power or spirit they were performed, but to the influence of evil beings. This discovered the most wilful blindness and depraved malignity. Every kind of calumny is a crime of great enormity, and pardoned by God with great difficulty; but to speak evil of God himself, by attributing his beneficent and miraculous works to a wicked being, was a sin of the deepest dye, much more difficult to be forgiven. This seems to me all that is to be understood by these words; and, if thus interpreted, they are to be considered as a method of expressing a comparison between one thing and another, which was common among the Hebrews, and of which we have several examples in Scripture, where one thing is affirmed and another denied, and yet no more intended than that the former is more excellent, more easy, or more difficult, than the second.
In this manner God is represented as saying, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice;" meaning hereby not that sacrifices were disagreeable to him, in themselves; but that acts of beneficence were more acceptable. So Matthew says, “ till heaven and earth shall pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, until all be fulfilled;" which Luke explains, by saying, “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. In the same manner, Christ, in the text, seems to say that every other kind of evil speak- L ing may be forgiven; but that to speak evil of God or his Spirit shall not be forgiven; when no more is intended than that it is more difficult to obtain forgiveness for the one than the other. There are others, however, who plead for understanding these words literally, and suppose that they declare, that to speak evil of the Spirit of God, in the manner before mentioned, is an unpardonable offence; either because the persons who are guilty of it, rejecting the evidence of miracles, resist the strongest motive to repentance which God can give; or, because the crime is of too enormous a nature to come within the reach of the divine mercy: but it does not seem probable in itself that any sin, committed by creatures of such limited capacities as we are, can be so heinous as to leave no hope of pardon, when sincerely repented of; nor does it appear that our Lord himself thought it unpardonable: for when he was put to death by these Pharisees, who had been guilty of this offence, he prays for them that God would forgive them: to which it may be added, that a few verses below we find these Pharisees ask for a sign, and Christ tells them that one shall be given them, even that of the prophet Jonas: but why should this sign be given them, except for their conviction, that they might obtain forgiveness?
32. And whosoever speaketh a word against the son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him ; neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
Christ is still labouring to impress upon his hearers a just sense of the enormity of the crime of speaking evil of the Holy Spirit, or the power of God; by adopt