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THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT.
of God, so overpoweringly manifested. There is no hope of you. You cannot be moved, and of course you cannot be forgiven. Your conduct is unpardonable. He who speaks against me as a man, without knowledge of my words or works, as, no doubt, many do, may be forgiven, for he may repent; but when a man sets himself against God, against the most striking exhibitions of God's presence and agency, there is no hope for him, now, or ever.' Such I believe to be substantially the meaning of this passage. It was uttered with direct reference to a peculiar case, and in that general and unqualified manner, which the deep feeling, excited by the case, naturally prompted.
The Pharisees immediately ask Jesus for a sign. And this request in connexion with the peculiar circumstances, intimates, as I have suggested in another place, that the Pharisees were momentarily impressed by what he had done, and were ready to believe in him, if he would only do a work which should prove him to be such a Christ as they expected. That this was their state of mind is implied by what follows. For, after saying that no sign of his authority would be given them except his death and resurrection, he goes on to describe the condition of a man suffering under one of those violent maladies, which in those days were ascribed to evil spirits, and which come on by paroxysms; evidently hinting in this description at the moral condition of the Pharisees. They might appear for a little while to be forsaken by the evil spirit of unbelief which possessed them. But its departure was only temporary. It would return like other diseases with seven-fold fury and violence.
We come now to the point which I wish to make prominent. The narrative proceeds to inform us that while he was speaking, speaking, as I have represented,
with the greatest earnestness and solemnity, one said to him, "Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee." Some thoughtless individual, insensible to the import of his words and to common decorum, or, it might have been, some one, who disliked the direction his remarks were taking and was glad of an opportunity to break them off, interrupted him, telling him that his mother wanted to see him. Now it seems to me he was disturbed at the interruption, ("ægre ferens interpellationem," says Kuinoel) and that the exclamation, "Who is my mother, and who are my brethren!" reveals a momentary excitement of mind. So full was he of what he was saying, and so offended, if I may be allowed the expression, that he utters himself at the instant as if he had forgotten that he had either mother or brethren.
I am unable to understand the feelings of those who can consider this incident, thus regarded, as indicating any defect in the character of Jesus. It reveals his humanity, it is true, but in so doing, in showing him affected by human feelings,-weaknesses, if you please, it heightens our reverence for him and makes him live more vividly in our faith and affections. With not a trace of human weakness, his character might have been beautiful, but its beauty would have been unreal and visionary, appealing only to the imagination. It could have had no foundation in nature, no power over the deep and active sympathies of the human soul. There is none absolutely good but one, God. We want not a character absolutely good in the person of a man, for that would be an inconsistency in the nature of things, but we want a specimen of the perfection of a nature, still seen and felt to be a human nature, possessing the inherent, ineradicable principles of humanity. My mind does not pause with the least regret over the
INSTANCE OF HUMAN FEELING IN JESUS.
hasty feeling which prompted the exclamation, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren!" but I feel all the more deeply the touching manner in which he corrects himself, the evidence he immediately gives of the tenderness of his filial and fraternal affections, when, extending his hand towards his disciples, and, as if he could say nothing more affectionate, he adds, "Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever will do the will of my Father in Heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother."
COINCIDENCE BETWEEN THE GOSPELS.
In commenting upon this passage I have followed the Gospel of Matthew. Luke relates the circumstances of the same occasion, but he does not mention that the mother of Jesus desired to see him. He only mentions that a woman of the company lifted up her voice and said unto him, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the breasts that gave thee nourishment!"* Is there not a probable coincidence here between the two narratives? Some one, as we learn from Matthew, told Jesus that his mother was waiting
* To this benediction, Jesus replied "Yea, rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it." Here, by the way, we have an instance of that mode of speaking, upon which I was just remarking a proposition general in its terms, but prompted by, and applying to a particular case. It was not a formal declaration, but a spontaneous and sudden exclamation. We cannot doubt that when Jesus uttered these words, he fastened his eyes upon the woman whose language had called them forth. And it is as if he had said, "Dost thou deem my mother happy? Rather most blessed art thou if thou but know thy present privilege, and hearing what I say, bear thyself accordingly." How deeply absorbed he was with what he had just been saying, we may infer from the sensitiveness he evinces to the least disposition on the part of his hearers to think of any thing else.
When the woman uttered this benediction on the mother of Jesus, little did she dream that she uttered a sentiment to which, in the worship of the Virgin the world was for ages to respond; and which was to be embodied in the finest efforts of Art. In the adoration of the infant Jesus and his mother have we not a touching tribute to the power with which Christianity has appealed to some of the best and tenderest affections of our nature? With the manhood of Jesus the world has yet to learn to sympathise.
CONDUCT OF JESUS IN VIEW OF DEATH.
for him. Upon the mention of his mother, a woman, herself probably a mother, exclaimed in effect, "Thy mother! what a blessed woman thy mother must be!" The whole passage is redolent of nature and life. Is it looking at it too curiously to see in the introduction of the word, "sister," a little fraction as it were, a bright but delicate hue of truth? Observe, according to Matthew, Jesus says, "Whoever will do the will of my Father in Heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother." Bringing before the imagination the whole group, keeping in view the sensibility of the woman who had just broken forth in blessing her who had borne such a son, may we not suppose that he was led, unconsciously as it were, to increase the point and emphasis of the sentiment, by the introduction of the sisterly relation-turning his eyes as he spake towards the woman?
But my present object is to illustrate the honesty of the Christian historians, evinced in the unconcern with which they record repeated instances of human weakness in Jesus. The most striking case in point, and the last I shall mention, comprehends all the notices of his conduct and bearing at the prospect and in the agonies of death. The narrators have not hesitated to mention words and actions of his, expressive of the greatest distress at the thought of the fate that awaited him. And the extravagant explanations to which Christians in subsequent times have had recourse in their anxiety to avoid what certainly appears to be the most obvious inference, namely, that Jesus was smitten with horror at the thought of dying, only serve to place in the most striking light the simple honesty of the historians who have related the facts without one explanatory remark. Once at a comparatively early period
INSTANCES OF GREAT EMOTION.
he is said to have exclaimed, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" In other words, I have a terrible trial to go through, and oh! the agony till it be over! Again, "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say!" Surely these are expressions of mortal suffering. To his betrayer he is represented as saying, "What thou doest, do quickly." Do not these words show that he felt the intolerable wretchedness of suspense? And then in the garden just before he was seized and led away to trial, what a scene of misery is disclosed! He went to that, his favourite place of resort, accompanied by the Eleven. When he reached the spot, he took his three intimate friends, bidding the rest remain where they were. In the company of these three “he began to be sorrowful and very heavy." He said to them, "my soul is exceedingly sorrowful even unto death," in other words, 'The anguish of my mind is so great I feel as if I should die.' Shortly he left these three and went apart and threw himself prostrate on his face, and prayed that if it were possible, the torture to which he was about to be put, and which he was already suffering in anticipation-the bitter cup of mortal agony, which he was about to exhaust to its very dregs, might be put aside. He returned to his three friends, and then went away again, and prayed in an agony of mind so intense that the sweat poured from him as if it had been his life-blood, and again he returned, and again he went apart by himself, uttering the same prayer every time-that he might be excused, if it were possible, from the dreadful hour which was at hand. No doubt he said much more to the same purport, but his disciples, who were exhausted probably with watching and excitement, fell asleep, awaking only for a few moments when he approached them,