I. Here is, The impudent impious brand which the scribes fastened upon Christ’s casting out devils, that they might evade and invalidate the conviction of it, and have a poor excuse for not yielding to it. These scribes came down from Jerusalem, Mark 3:22. It should seem they came this long journey on purpose to hinder the progress of the doctrine of Christ; such pains did they take to do mischief; and, coming from Jerusalem, where were the most polite and learned scribes, and where they had opportunity of consulting together against the Lord and his Anointed, they were in the greater capacity to do mischief; the reputation of scribes from Jerusalem would have an influence not only upon the country people, but upon the country scribes; they had never thought of this base suggestion concerning Christ’s miracles till the scribes from Jerusalem put it into their heads. They could not deny but that he cast out devils, which plainly bespoke him sent of God; but they insinuated that he had Beelzebub on his side, was in league with him, and by the prince of the devils cast out devils. There is a trick in the case; Satan is not cast out, he only goes out by consent. There was nothing in the manner of Christ’s casting out devils, that gave any cause to suspect this; he did it as one having authority; but so they will have it, who resolve not to believe him.
II. The rational answer which Christ gave to this objection, demonstrating the absurdity of it.
1. Satan is so subtle, that he will never voluntarily quit his possession; If Satan cast out Satan, his kingdom is divided against itself, and it cannot stand, Mark 3:23-26. He called them to him, as one desirous they should be convinced; he treated them with all the freedom, friendliness, and familiarity that could be; he vouchsafed to reason the case with them, that every mouth may be stopped. It was plain that the doctrine of Christ made war upon the devil’s kingdom, and had a direct tendency to break his power, and crush his interest in the souls of men; and it was as plain that the casting of him out of the bodies of people confirmed that doctrine, and gave it the setting on; and therefore it cannot be imagined that he should come into such a design; every one knows that Satan is no fool, nor will act so directly against his own interest.
2. Christ is so wise, that, being engaged in war with him, he will attack his forces wherever he meets them, whether in the bodies or souls of people, Mark 3:27. It is plain, Christ’s design is to enter into the strong man’s house, to take possession of the interest he has in the world, and to spoil his goods, and convert them to his own service; and therefore it is natural to suppose that he will thus bind the strong man, will forbid him to speak when he would, and to stay where he would, and thus show that he has gained a victory over him.
III. The awful warning Christ gave them to take heed how they spoke such dangerous words as these; however they might make light of them, as only conjectures, and the language of free-thinking, if they persisted in it, it would be of fatal consequence to them; it would be found a sin against the last remedy, and consequently unpardonable; for what could be imagined possible to bring them to repentance for their sin in blaspheming Christ, who would set aside such a strong conviction with such a weak evasion? It is true, the gospel promiseth, because Christ hath purchased, forgiveness for the greatest sins and sinners, Mark 3:28. Many of those who reviled Christ on the cross (which was a blaspheming of the Son of man, aggravated to the highest degree), found mercy, and Christ himself prayed, Father, forgive them; but this was blaspheming the Holy Ghost, for it was by the Holy Spirit that he cast out devils, and they said, It was by the unclean spirit, Mark 3:30. By this method they would outface the conviction of all the gifts of the Holy Ghost after Christ’s ascension, and defeat them all, after which there remained no more proof, and therefore they should never have forgiveness, but were liable to eternal damnation. They were in imminent danger of that everlasting punishment, from which there was no redemption, and in which there was no intermission, no remission.
Here is, 1. The disrespect which Christ’s kindred, according to the flesh, showed to him, when he was preaching (and they knew very well that he was then in his element); they not only stood without, having no desire to come in, and hear him, but they sent in a message to call him out to them (Mark 3:31, 32), as if he must leave his work, to hearken to their impertinences; it is probable that they had no business with him, only sent for him on purpose to oblige him to break off, lest he should kill himself. He knew how far his strength would go, and preferred the salvation of souls before his own life, and soon after made it to appear with a witness; it was therefore an idle thing for them, under pretence of his sparing himself, to interrupt him; and it was worse, if really they had business with him, when they knew he preferred his business, as a Saviour, so much before any other business.
2. The respect which Christ showed to his spiritual kindred upon this occasion. Now, as at other times, he put a comparative neglect upon his mother, which seemed purposely designed to obviate the prevent the extravagant respect which men in aftertimes would be apt to pay her. Our respect ought to be guided and governed by Christ’s; now the virgin Mary, or Christ’s mother, is not equalled with, but postponed to, ordinary believers, on whom Christ here puts a superlative honour. He looked upon those that at about him, and pronounced those of them that not only heard, but did, the will of God, to be to him as his brother, and sister, and mother; as much esteemed, loved, and cared for, as his nearest relations, Mark 3:33-35. This is a good reason why we should honour those that fear the Lord, and choose them for our people; why we should be not hearers of the word only, but doers of the work, that we may share with the saints in this honour, Surely it is good to be akin to those who are thus nearly allied to Christ, and to have fellowship with those that have fellowship with Christ; and woe to those that hate and persecute Christ’s kindred, that are his bone and his flesh, every one resembling the children of a king (see Jdg. 8:18, 19); for he will with jealously plead their cause, and avenge their blood.
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