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And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace.
How joyful an assurance must this be to a soul thus bowed down and humbled in the very dust under a sense of sin! How light did the reproaches of men sit upon her when she heard these reviving words from the mouth of the great Saviour, who alone had authority to pronounce them!
Our hearts surely upbraid us with many and aggravated sins; but we hear the tidings of pardon: let us gladly embrace it; and acknowledging that not five hundred pence, nor even ten thousand talents, are sufficient to express the greatness of our debt; let us retain the remembrance of it, even when we hope that God has forgiven it; and let us labour that the tenderness of our love, the warmth of our zeal, and the steadiness of our obedience, may in some measure be proportionable to it: and, blessed Jesus, how distinguished must they then be!
Let us with humble pleasure approach this compassionate Friend of sinners; who, though in one sense separate from them, yet thus freely and graciously encouraged the chief of them to apply to him, though he well knew that condescension would expose him to the censure of the self-conceited Pharisees. May God preserve us from that arrogant confidence in our own righteousness, which, while it leads us to despise some, perhaps much dearer to him than ourselves, would proportionably sink our value for the Saviour, and our love to him!
As for what remains, let the candour with which Christ accepted this invitation, and the gentleness and prudence with which he behaved at this ensnaring entertainment, teach us to mingle the wisdom of the serpent with the innocence and sweetness of the dove; and neither absolutely to refuse all favours, nor severely to resent all neglects from those, whose friendship might at best be very dubious, and their intimacy by no means safe.
To conclude; let us avoid that very ill temper which this Pharisee shewed in upbraiding this poor humble penitent with the scandals of her former life. Where we have reason to believe that sin has been lamented and forsaken, and consequently that God has forgiven it, let us cheerfully receive those whom our holy Master has not rejected; and if the remembrance of former irregularities cannot be entirely lost, let it only engage us to magnify the riches of Divine grace toward such persons, and to rejoice with them in the display of it.
MATTHEW XII. 22-32. MARK III. 20, 21.
AND it came to pass afterward, that Jesus went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said he is beside himself. Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?
MATTHEW XII. 24-34.-MARK III. 22-30.
But the Pharisees, when they heard it, and the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem, said, This fellow hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. But Jesus knew their thoughts, and called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. And if Satan rise up against and cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how shall then his kingdom stand? He cannot stand, but hath an end. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the king
dom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore, verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men: And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come; but he is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
How condescending was the conduct of the blessed Jesus while he dwelt among us! Though he was Lord of all, he not only waved the pompous manner of subsisting by continued miracles, but likewise declined to dwell with the rich and the great, with whom he could easily have secured to himself a constant abode. He chose a laborious itinerant course, and subsisted chiefly on the bounty of a few pious women, whose company and friendship he did not despise. That subsistence was most pleasing to him which was the greatest testimony of the respect and affection of his hearers, and at the same time gave the greatest opportunity to testify his own humility and self-denial, and to pursue his schemes for public usefulness. So may his followers, and especially his ministers, always judge! And may all the great things they seek for themselves be such as lie on the other side of the grave, and are to be enjoyed in the presence of our glorified Master.
We have seen another triumph of Christ over the evil spirit, another of those glorious and delightful instances, in which the great Captain of our salvation, with superior strength, bound the strong man, and spoiled his goods. May the victory still be carried on to perfection! May his merciful alarms break that dangerous and fatal peace in which the slaves of Satan are for a while detained, that he may with greater advantage, and greater terror, plunge them into final and eternal ruin! And, in such a contest, may we abhor neutrality. With pleasure and zeal let us list ourselves under the Redeemer's banners, that we may share his trophies! And,
while others are throwing away their time, their labour and their souls, may we, by gathering with him, secure to ourselves everlasting riches!
We must surely be astonished to hear of that perverse and malignant interpretation which these wretches put on such convincing miracles; and it must move our indignation to see the Son of God maliciously charged as an associate with Satan. If they have thus called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more those of his household? (Matt. x. 25.) Let us learn to imitate that meekness of wisdom, with which the blessed Jesus pursues his vindication. Oh that his followers had ever traced it! Yea, I had almost said, Oh that they had learned, even from the union of confederate enemies, the danger of that house or kingdom which is unnaturally divided against itself!
It is matter of great thankfulness thus expressly to hear that every other sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven; but awful to think that the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is excepted. Let those, who, while they cannot deny the facts of Christianity, despise and oppose its doctrines, tremble to think how near they approach to the boundaries of this sin, which is perhaps more obscurely described that we may more cautiously avoid all such approaches. But let not the humble soul, that trembles at God's word, meditate terror to itself from such a passage; which, when viewed in its due connection, cannot, with any shadow of reason, be thought to belong to any, who do not obstinately reject the gospel and maliciously oppose it, when made known to them with its fullest evidence.
MATTHEW XII. 33-45.
EITHER make the tree good, and his fruit good: or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Then certain of the Scribes and of the Pharisees tempting him answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from heaven from thee. But he answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn them; for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
Let us especially attend to those instructions we have here received, and judge of ourselves by our fruits; never flattering ourselves that our hearts are good, if our lives are abominable and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate. (Titus i. 16.) And in particular let us remember, that not our actions only, but the fruits of our lips, are to be brought into the solemn account which we must give to the great Judge of all the earth; and that the day is coming, when all our idle and unprofitable talk, which has proceeded from the evil treasure of a depraved heart, will undergo a strict examination, and we must answer not for our actions only, but shall be justified or condemned by our words. And, if foolish and wicked speeches are to be accounted for in the day of judgment, let us set a watch on the door of our lips to prevent them: and labour daily to use our