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Matthew 12:22-37 - Homilies By Marcus Dods

Casting out devils, and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.

The opposition of the Pharisees on this occasion much less excusable than when charging the Lord with sabbath-breaking. Contrasts with honest amazement of the people, exclaiming," Is not this," etc.? Pharisees felt evidence of miracle as much as common people, but refused to follow their own convictions. Make what they know to be a flimsy and insufficient explanation. Our Lord makes a threefold reply.

1 . It is absurd to suppose that any prince would counterwork his own agents. Argument addressed to common sense.

2 . Introduces more serious difficulties. "If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children ," etc.? Exorcism not uncommon in our Lord's day. Necessary to notice unusually formidable assault made on gospel narrative. It has been urged that the age and nation were extremely credulous, that accurate observation and exact reporting are very rare, tendency to misstate and exaggerate much increased by religious excitement. Jews believed in power of many subordinate spirits in causing maladies and misfortunes. Therefore little credit due to their reports. Reply, in first place, modern critics also guilty of exaggeration in collecting all evidences of this taste for marvels to the exclusion of all other features of the age, as if no countervailing sense or knowledge of men. But granting all the credulity and superstition, the fact cuts both ways. If marvels were so common, what gave our Lord ' s miracles so decisive an influence on the world's history? Why did this imagination of the Christians alone prove so solid a basis for life? But the whole force of our Lord's reference to exorcism by the Jews is not exhausted by saying it was a form of quackery, sometimes benefiting feeble, nervous patients, but otherwise an imagination. One cannot but be struck by the contrast between the Jews' method—charlatanry too silly to be quoted—and our Lord's sober, simple word of command. How is it that he stands absolutely clear of all professional methods? It is true he believes in a demoniacal possession of which modern science takes no account—now called epilepsy, lunacy, etc. Argument that our Lord might be ignorant of the nature of the diseases he cured. Not necessary to suppose that he knew and anticipated all discoveries of modern science. This were to deny to him a true and proper humanity, and so fall into one of the most dangerous of heresies. His miracles displayed his power and his love, not his medical skill. But our knowledge on these very points still too limited to admit of pronouncing positively. And to reason thus does not remove the difficulty, for the Lord's idea of actual devils is verified in the recorded facts—they not only obeyed him, but on one occasion passed into the swine, indicating separate personalities. Alternative between veracity of Gospels and existence of devils.

3 . Third reply most significant for us. Blasphemy against the Spirit, a sin of quite unique enormity. Pharisees had often judged and found fault with his conduct as man ; but these were works admittedly Divine, yet they ascribed them to Satanic agency. The distinction broad and important. In the one case it might be a mistake, though a blamable one; in the other, an evasion of evidence and resistance to light which must result in utter darkness. Jesus ever seeks to be judged by his works. If the fruit is good, must not the tree be good? If he gives us what is best, shall we not own him, and give him our best? From attitude of Pharisees two important warnings:

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