Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

strength to repent? All the motives which religion offers have a thousand times been presented to his mind without rendering him more faithful to his promises. The idea of death, which may surprise him every hour; the fear of a judgment, of a hell, of an eternity of misery; all these truths have lost their force and influence on him; they make no impression upon his soul; he views them without emotion, and without fear. Or rather, he refuses to think of them; he accustoms himself to live in sin, without considering the terrible consequence of it. He has a fatal peace in the midst of his wanderings, and “ treasures up wrath against the day of wrath.” Oh! how deplorable, how pitiable is this state! Surely, the sinner himself would tremble, if he knew all its horror and misery

I do not carry further these reflections. I do not show you, in detail, all the miseries which are produced by thus quenching the Spirit, and relapsing into sin. In order to move you, it surely is not necessary

that your ministers should perpetually thunder, and open to your eyes the abysses of hell, in which the sinner is precipitated by his impenitence and disregard of the means which God employs for his salvation. No! my brethren, no! I love to believe that affection, gratitude, will have more effect upon your hearts, than fear of the judgments of God. I love to believe that the consideration of what Jesus Christ hath done for you, of the blood which he hath shed for the remission of your sins, will engage you to redouble your vigilance to resist sin, to guard against relapses, and to cherish the influences of the Holy Ghost. God has so much loved you, that, unless your hearts be totally insensible, you must strive to live in constant communion with him. May we thus

live; may we in future obey thy voice, blessed Jes saying to us, “ Sin no more.”

SERMON LII.

LIFE OF CHRIST.

No. XIX.

SIN AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST.

MATTHEW xii. 22-32.

a

We have seen in several instances, in the course of these lectures, that whilst our Lord was upon earth, Satan was permitted to afflict the bodies of men, in a visible and tremendous manner. Whilst our Lord was in Galilee, and probably in Capernaum, there was brought to him a demoniac who was both blind and dumb. Though he was silent, his wants spoke for him, and moved the compassionate heart of the Saviour, who immediately and perfectly cured him. The people, struck with astonishment, immediately concluded that Jesus was the promised Messiah, who was to descend from David. But the pharisees, who were filled with enmity against the Saviour, who were hardened against conviction, and resolved not to believe in Jesus, whatever proofs he might give of his divine commission, although they

could not deny the reality of the miracle, endeavoured to persuade the people that it was wrought by confederacy with Beelzebub, and that Christ was only a magician, who cast out devils by the aid of the prince of devils. “ Jesus," says the Evangelist, “ knew their thoughts." He perceived that this opinion (if it were really their opinion) proceeded not from the weakness of their judgments, but from the malignity of their hearts. But probably it was not their real sentiment, but only an assertion made contrary to their conviction, in order to prevent the people from believing on Jesus. Instead, therefore, of deserving pity for their mistake or ignorance, they merited the severest censures; and accordingly we perceive our Lord severely reproaching them, after he has repelled this calumny.

To show the absurdity of supposing that he was aided by Beelzebub, he bids the pharisees remember, that on this supposition, the devils would assist in overturning their own empire, and that it is not to be imagined that beings like them, who are endued with immense subtlety and wicked prudence, would aid in subverting their own kingdom, and would not feel the necessity of union among themselves. “ Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand ; and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how then shall his kingdom stand ?”

Our Saviour adds, “ If I by Beelzebub cast out devils; by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges." We learn from the Acts of the Apostles, and from Josephus, that in the time of our Saviour, there were among the Jews many exorcists, who pretended to eject

36

VOL. II.

evil spirits. These were probably, in general, of the sect of the pharisees, and their claims to this power were not questioned by their brethren. Jesus Christ, to silence them, here addresses them on their own principles, without, however, asserting the reality of the ejections in which they believed ; and reproaches them with their inconsistency in imputing his cure of demoniacs to Beelzebub, when they ascribe to God the pretended success of their own exorcisms; and at the same time he taxes them as persons of the most shameless disposition, and guilty of a malicious and wicked obstinacy, in countenancing the grossest impostures, while they resisted a miracle supported by the clearest evidence.*

“How can one enter into a strong man's house,” continues our Saviour, " and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house?” Nothing can be more striking than this representation. It is as though our Lord had said, • When you see a person enter into the house of a bold and resolute enemy, bind him, deprive him of his wealth, and reduce him to distress and penury; can you suppose that the vanquished person assisted his conqueror, and was pleased with his subjection? This is an image of what passes between me and Satan. The whole business of my life is to destroy him; and when I dispossess him, it is plain that he obeys me, not from choice, but necessity, and because I am stronger than he.'

Our Lord concludes his vindication of himself from their calumny, by reminding them of a proverbial saying, common among them, “ He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with

oppose and

* See Farmer on Miracles, p. 272.

me scattereth abroad;" the import of which maxim is, · He that is not my friend, is my enemy.' You see immediately the application of this saying. •If it be a common maxim, that he is to be regarded as an enemy who merely refuses his assistance, how can you esteem me the friend and confederate of Satan, when I am not merely neutral, but directly engaged in destroying his power, and shaking his dominion

, in the souls and bodies of men ?'

Our Lord then addresses to the pharisees that remarkable declaration, than which few parts of scripture have been more discussed, and concerning which so many volumes have been written: “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy

, shall be forgiven unto men; 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 a word against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in the world which is to come." St. Mark, in the parallel place, adds: “ Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

It would be inconsistent with the limits of these exercises, and the design of these lectures, to examine in detail all the various sentiments which have been entertained concerning this sin against the Holy Ghost. I shall only show you, with as, much brevity as will be consistent with perspicuity, what is its real nature.

It appears to me that the great cause of the difficulty which some theologians have found on this subject was, an erroneous opinion that this particular sin was spoken of in Heb. vi. 4-6, and 1 John, v. 16. Let us examine these texts, and if we find that they do not relate to the blasphemy against the

« PoprzedniaDalej »