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duces it, rather than, by cutting it in two halves, preserve indeed a more painful accuracy, yet lose the total effect which the whole narrative related at a breath would possess. The cry with which these blind men sought to attract the pity of Christ was on their part a recognition of his dignity as the Messiah; for this name, “Son of David,” was the popular designation of the Messiah. There was therefore upon their part a double confession of faith, first that he could heal them, and secondly, not merely as a prophet from God, but as the Prophet, as the one who should come, according to the words of Isaiah, to give sight to the blind. In the case of the man blind from his birth, (John ix.) we have the same confessions, but following, and not preceding the cure, and with intervals between; so that first he acknowledges him as a prophet, (ver. 17.) and only later as the Messiah. (ver. 38.) And here the explanation has been sometimes found of the rebukes which they met from the multitude, who would fain have had them to hold their peace. These, it has been said, desired to hinder their crying, because they grudged to hear given unto Jesus this title of honor, which they were not themselves prepared to accord him.* This passage will then be very much a parallel to Luke xix. 39; only that there the Pharisees would have Christ himself to rebuke those that were glorifying him and giving him honor, while here the multitude take the rebuking into their own hands. Yet I hardly think the explanation good. It was quite in the spirit of the envious malignant Pharisees to be vexed with those Messianic salutations, “Blessed be the King, that cometh in the name of the Lord;” but these well-meaning multitudes, rude and for the most part spiritually undeveloped, as no doubt they were, were yet exempt from those spiritual malignities. We never trace aught of this kind in them, but rather in the main a sympathy with the Lord; it was not they who said that his miracles were wrought in the power of Beelzebub; but they glorified God because of them. And here, too, I cannot doubt but that it was out of an intention of honoring Christ that they sought to silence what appeared to them these ill-timed and unmannerly clamors. It may be that he was teaching as he went, and they would not have him interrupted. But their endeavors to suppress the crying of these blind men profited nothing: on the contrary, “they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, thou Son of David.” Many admirable homiletic applications of this portion of the history have been made. Here, it has been often
* Hilary (Comm. in Matth., in loc.): Denique eos turba objurgat, quia acerbè a cascis audiunt quod negabant, Dominum esse David Filium.
said, is the history of many a soul: when a man is first in earnest about his salvation, and begins to cry that his eyes may be opened, that he may walk in his light who is the Light of men, when he begins to despise the world and to be careless about riches, he will find infinite hinderances, and these not from professed enemies of the Gospel of Christ, but from such as seem, like this multitude, to be with Jesus and on his side. Even they will try to stop his mouth, and to hinder an earnest crying to him.* And then, with a stroke from the life, Augustine makes further application in the same direction of the words which follow in St. Mark, who, speaking as but of one that eried, says, “And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they called the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good confort, rise ; he calleth thee !” For, he observes, this too repeats itself often in the spiritual history of men's lives. If a man will only despise these obstaeles from a world which calls itself Christian, and overcome them ; if despite of all he will go on, until Christ is evidently and plainly with him, then they who began by reprehending, will finish by applauding; they who at first said, He is mad, will end with saying, “ He is a saint."+
* Augustine (Serm. 349, c. 6): Reprehensuri sunt mos, .... quasi dilectores nostri, homines sæculares, amantes terram, sapientes pulverem, nihil de cœlo ducentes, auras liberas corde, nare carpentes: reprehensuri sunt nos procul dubio, atque dicturi, si viderint mos ista humana, ista terrena contemnere; Quid pateris ? quid insanis ? Turba illa est contradicens, ne cæcus clamet. Et aliquanti Christiani sunt, qui prohibent vivere Christianè, quia et illa turba cum Christo ambulabat, et vociferantem hominem ad Christum ac lucem desiderantem, ab ipsius Christi beneficio prohibebat. Sunt tales Christiani, sed vincamus illos, vivamus bene, et ipsa vita sit vox nostra ad Christum. And again, Serm. 88, c. 13, 14: Incipiat mundum contemnere, inopi sua distribuere, pro nihilo babere quæ homines amant, contemnat injurias, .... si quis ei abstulerit sua, non repetat; si quid alieni abstulerit, reddat quadruplum. Cum ista facere coeperit, omnes sui cognati, affines, amici commoventur. Quid insanis ? Nimius es; numquid alii non sunt Christiani? Ista stultitia est, ista dementia est. Et cætera talia turba clamat, oe cæci clament ... Bonos Christianos, verè studiosos, volentes facere præcepta Dei, Christiani mali et tepidi prohibent. Turba ipsa quæ cum Domino est prohibet clamantes, id est, prohibet bene operantes, ne perseverando sanentur. Gregory the Great gives it another turn, saying (Hom. 2 in Evang.): Sæpe namque dum converti ad Dominum post perpetrata vitia volumus, dum contra hæc eadem exorare vitia quæ perpetravimus, conamur, occurrunt cordi phantasmata peccatorum quæ fecimus, mentis nostræ aeiem reverberant, confundunt animum, et vocem nostræ deprecationis premunt. Quæ præibant ergo, increpabant eum, ut taceret .... In se, ut suspicor, recognoscit unusquisque quod dicimus: quia dum ab hoc mundo animum ad Deum mutamus, dum ad orationis opus convertimur, ipsa quæ prius delectabiliter gessimus, importuna postea atque gravia in oratione nostrâ toleramus. Vix eorum cogitatio manu sancti desiderii ab oculis cordis abigitur; vix eorum phantasmata per pœnitentiæ lamenta superantur.
+ Augustine (Serm. 88, c. 17): Cum quisque Christianus coeperit bene vivere, fervere bonis operibus, mundumque contemnere, in ipsâ novitate operum suorum patitum
At this cry of theirs “Jesus stood still,” arrested, as ever, by the cry of need, “and called them;” or, in the words of St. Mark, (x, 49.) who throughout tells but of the one, “commanded him to be called. And he, casting away his garment,” to the end that he might obey with the greater expedition, and that he might be hindered by nothing, “rose and came to Jesus;”—in this ridding himself of all which would have been in his way, used often as an example for every soul which Jesus has called, that it should in like manner lay aside every weight and whatever would hinder it from coming speedily to him. (Matt. xiii. 44, 46; Phil. iii. 7.) The Lord's question, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee 3’ is, in part, an expression of his readiness to aid, a comment in act upon his own words, spoken but a little while before, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister;” (Matt. xx. 28,) in part uttered for the calling out into yet livelier exercise the faith and expectation of the petitioner. (Matt. ix. 28.) The man, whose cry has been hitherto a vague general cry for mercy, now singles out the blessing which he craves, declares the channel in which he desires that this mercy may run,” and makes answer, “Lord, that I might receive my sight.” Only St. Matthew mentions the touching of the eyes which were to be restored to vision, and only St. Luke the word of power, the “Receive thy sight,” by which the cure was effected. The man, who had hitherto been tied to one place, now used aright his restored eyesight; for he used it to follow Jesus in the way, and this with the free outbreaks of a thankful heart, himself “glorifying God,” and being the cocasion that others glorified his name as well. (Acts iii. 8–10.)
reprehensores et contradictores frigidos Christianos. Si autem perseveraverit, et eos superaverit perdurando, et non defecerit a bonis operibus; iidem ipsi jam obsequentur, qui antë prohibebant. Tamdiu enim corripiunt et perturbant et vetant, quamdiu sibi cedi posse praesumunt. Si autem victi fuerint perseverantiá proficientium, convertunt se et dicere incipiunt, Magnus homo, sanctus homo, felix cui Deus concessit. Honorant, gratulantur, benedicunt, laudant; quomodo illa turba quae cum Domino erant. Ipsa prohibebat ne caeci clamarent; sed postguam illi ita clamaverunt, ut mererentur audiri, et impetrare misericordiam Domini, ipsa turba rursum dicit, Vocat vos Jesus. Jam et hortatores fiunt, qui paulo ante corripiebant ut tacerent.
* Gregory the Great, (Hom. 2 in Evang.) commenting on this request of theirs, bids us to make request for the same, and in like manner to concentrate our petitions on the greatest thing of all: Non falsas divitias, non terrena dona, non fugitivos honores à Domino, sed lucem quaeramus; nec lucem quae loco clauditur, quae tempore finitur, quae noctium interruptione variatur, quae à nobis communiter cum pecoribus cernitur: sed lucem quaeramus, quam videre cum solis Angelis possimus, quam nec initium inchoat, nec finis anguo
This miracle was wrought upon the Monday of the week of Passion. On the Sunday of Palms our blessed Lord had made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and in the evening-since even now his hour, though close at hand, was not altogether come-he retired from the snares and perils of the city to the safer Bethany, to the house probably of those sisters whom he had so lately enriched with a restored brother, and there passed the night. On the morning of Monday, as he was returning from Bethany to his ministry in the city very early, indeed before sunrise, the word against the fig-tree was spoken. That same evening he with his disciples went back to Bethany to lodge there, but probably at so late an hour that the darkness prevented these from marking the effects which had followed upon that word. It was not till the morning of Tuesday that “they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots.” Such is the exact order of the circumstances, in the telling of which St. Mark shows himself a more accurate observer of times than the first Evangelist;-not, indeed, that this gives him any superiority; our advantage is that we have both narrations:—St. Matthew's, who was concerned for the inner idea, and hurried on to that, omitting circumstances which came between, that he might present the whole event at a single glance, in a single picture, without the historical perspective, of which he at no time takes so much note, his gifts and his aim being different;-and also St. Mark's, who was concerned likewise for the picturesque setting forth of the truth in its external details, as it was linked with times and with places, as it gradually unfolded itself before the eyes of men.
But while such differences as these are easily set at one, and they who enhance them into difficulties are the true Pharisees of history, straining at gnats and swallowing camels, there are other and undoubted difficulties in this narrative, and those not unworthy of consideration. And this first, that our Lord, knowing as by his divine power he must, that there were no figs upon that tree, should yet have gone to seek them there, should have made to his disciples as though he had expected to find them. It might be anxiously asked in what way this was consistent with the perfectness of sincerity and truth. Slight as would have been the deceit, yet, if it was such, it would trouble the clearness of our image of him, whom we conceive of as the absolute Lord of truth. It is again perplexing, that he should have treated the tree as a moral agent, punishing it as though unfruitfulness was any guilt upon its part. This would be in itself perplexing, but becomes infinitely more so by the notice which St. Mark inserts, and which indeed our acquaintance with the order of the natural year would, without this notice, have suggested, that it was not then the time of figs: so that at the time when they could not seasonably be expected, he sought, and was displeased at failing to find them. For, whatever the under-meaning might have been in treating the tree as a moral agent, and granting that to have been entirely justified, yet does it seem again entirely lost and obscured, when it was thus put out of the power of the tree to be otherwise than it was, namely, without fruit. For the symbol must needs be carried through: if by a figure we attribute guilt to the tree for not having fruit, we must be consistent, and show that it might have had such,--that there was no just and sufficient excuse why it should have been without this.
Upon the first point, that the Lord went to the tree, appearing to expect that he should find fruit upon it, and yet knowing that he should find none, deceiving thereby those who were with him, who no doubt believed that what he professed to look for, he expected to find, it is sufficient to observe that a similar charge might be made against all figurative teaching, whether by word or by deed: for in all such there is a worshipping of truth in the spirit and not in the letter; often a forsaking it in the letter, for the better honoring and establishing of it in the spirit. A parable is told as true, and though the facts are feigned, yet is true, because of the deeper truth which sustains the outward fabric of the story; it is true, because it is the shrine of truth, and because the truth which it enshrines looks through and through it. Even so a symbolic action is done as real, as meaning something; and yet, although not meaning the thing which it professes to mean, is no deception, since it means something infinitely higher and deeper, of which the