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tilled from fangs full of the fiend's own bitterness and hate, which is deadly to all hope, joy, and love, if by chance one gleam of them have lit the darkness or thrilled the deadness of poor sinners' hearts. It is the spirit which searches for love that it may wound it, for grace that it may poison it, for life that it may kill it, lest the world should live anew by grace, be comforted and cherished by love, and link itself on by hope to the bliss and the glory of heaven. It is the spirit which, seeing this love incarnate on its Divine errand, seeing the world's death-pallor tinged with the rosy glow, and the rigid limbs stirring under the currents of a newborn life, said straightway, “This is of the devil;” and stung the Divine One—though it could not touch the fountain of His power, the love which drew Him from Heaven to Calvary—even unto death. Thrice by inspired lips the spirit which was incarnate in the Pharisaic school was branded as viperous. Read the passages, you will easily gather from them what it means.
“ But when He saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to His baptism, He said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ?”—(Matt.
“ And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days ? that they might accuse Him. And He said unto them, What
man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days. Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him.
Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and
And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the Son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.”(Matt. xii. 10-14, 22—24.)
" But woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to
Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocribes ! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer ; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ze make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”— (Matt. xxiii. 13—15.) The
passage in Matt. iii.
does not explain itself, but it is valuable as affixing to the class which our Lord so vehemently denounces, the same terrible name.
The Baptist saw there the same essential character, and branded it with the same epithet. What is it then? What is that viperous spirit in a human breast which God hates with utter hatred, which the merciful Saviour brands with damning anathemas, and which God, angels, and men, will cast out with horror and loathing from the holy homes which the Lord is preparing for those who were once the bondsmen of Satan and the prey of death—the homes of the new heaven and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness for evermore?
It is the spirit which hates, maligns, and seeks to paralyse, the ministry of God's love to men.
Be sure it was no infirmity of flesh or spirit; no evil springing rankly out of man's sorrowful heritage of a passionate, lustful, and erring nature, which drew such withering words from those merciful lips. It was the spirit which was hating, wronging, binding, stinging, and tormenting the great mass of suffering sinners, the sick and dying ones all round, whom He came to heal and save. Only in the name of manman wronged, outraged, stung to death, by these asps of malignant pride—could the Son of Man bring His lips to utter these tremendous words of doom. The men who were poisoning the very
well-springs of mercy with their devilish
suggestions, who were crippling the healing hand of love with their tricks and subtleties of law, who were shutting the kingdom of heaven on the wretched who were thronging its portals, who were making it impossible, as far as their malignant will had sway, that God's poor dying world should be redeemed, heard surging around them, and sweeping them to perdition, this resistless flood of Divine indignation
“ Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how shall ye escape the damnation of hell ?”
This surely was one of the most startling and wonderful discourses ever delivered in this world. There were the elders of the Jewish Church, the acknowledged representatives and successors of the greatest name in history. They held unquestioned the supreme seats in the synagogues, they were the recognised interpreters and expositors of the Divine law and counsel to men. But there was a deep undercurrent of hatred towards them in the popular mind; the burdens which these men imposed in the Divine name were intolerable—life was weary, unutterably weary, under the conditions which they laid down. Still the people heard that they were God's expositors. “If life be so very intolerable,” they might say to themselves, “why, it must be borne; God, it seems, will have it so ; perhaps human misery is not so dreadful to
God: at any rate there is no help.” And now imagine the thrill of amazement and half-conscious, half-repressed delight which would stir their dull hearts, when One who spake as never man spake, and whom they ever heard gladly because of the gracious words which fell from His lips, tore off the veil of this Pharisaic sanctity, and laid bare the foulness and rottenness which were behinddeclared that these were not God's ministers, but the devil's, that these burdens were the devil's burdens, this yoke the devil's yoke, and these legal subtleties the devil's traps and snares for souls. It was the great revelation. The yoke was broken from that hour. Men were there, a poor tattered company of followers of this poor man's friend, who were training themselves to stand up before every court and tribunal of these tyrants of souls, and say,
“ Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye; but we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” From that time God's good words have had a myriad independent organs of utterance in the world, and poor sinners have never been without friends. But a great battle had to be fought, a great agony had to be borne, before that day of deliverance should fully dawn for man. The Pharisees were arming for the conflict after their fashion, as well as the Lord. They had