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settled firmly that this merciful voice should be silenced, that this healing hand should be crippled, that this loving heart should be pierced, and that the world should remain a prison-house, full to bursting of the sin and misery of the poor; and already they were beginning their hellish work: “ Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him."—(Matt. xii. 14.) Mark the occasion. A man made whole on the Sabbath day—a great healing accomplished, a great burden lifted, a great joy poured into a sad, weary heart, a great ray of the love of God sent streaming into the darkness of the world. But a Pharisaic regulation had been broken. Perish the healing, perish the Healer, but let the rule of the Pharisees live! And so deadly was their determination that the Healer and the healing should perish, rather than that one jot or tittle of the Pharisaic law should fail, that from that hour they set themselves steadfastly to destroy Him. Do you wonder at the sequel ? “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 ce forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to
“ Ye serpents, ye
come.” — (Matt. xii. 31, 32.) generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ? "
In this chapter it is precisely the same. It is the wrongs and miseries of others, of hearts bruised under the heel of the Pharisees' insolence, and bleeding from the strokes of their rods, which stirs the Saviour's indignation. “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 go in.” There is the whole gist of it. Robbers and murderers of souls, infesting the broad highway of the kingdom of heaven with viperous malignity and craft, and frightening poor, trembling, crippled sinners from the gate--forbidding men to enter, when God's love had flung wide the entrance, and sent forth the summons, “ Come, for all things are now ready: and yet there is room”-infecting the bread of life with their poison, and fouling all its springs, choking with scowls the songs of its children, and changing their prattling praises into sobs and wailing. I say again, wonder you at the sequel ? Wonder you that these bitter wrongs and miseries of men stirred even the Son of Man to a Divine fury of indignation, which could only vent itself in the words, “ Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?”
II. What lies at the root of this state of mind and spirit-whence does it spring?
Not from the perversities, infirmities, lusts, and vices which belong to the prodigal's character, and are unveiled in the prodigal's life. These have their own perils, chastisements, and miseries—filth, squalor, rags, pining hunger, bitter regrets. But not thus does the Saviour denounce them. The prodigal may wander too far, he may linger in the wilderness till his day is ended, but the Father follows him with His pity, and to the last yearns over him to recover him to Himself. We must turn to another, the Saviour's dear disciple and friend, to unravel the mystery of these terrible words. “This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all .sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 John i. 5-10.) John speaks here
lutely, like the Master; and his words present a somewhat startling collocation of thought. Our first notion would perhaps be, that to walk in darkness and to be conscious of sin, must be about the same thing. Sin is darkness.
To be conscious of sin is to be conscious of darkness. He who can say, “I have no sin,” must surely be living in the light. Such would be our first thoughts. John says precisely the reverse. He tells us that to become conscious of sin is to get out into the light, that to remain unconscious of sin is to abide in the darkness, and that if we say that we have fellowship with Him while we are unconscious of sin, “ we lie, and do not the truth.”
And this is precisely what the Pharisees were saying. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other : for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”——(Luke xviii.
10-14.) They had settled in their own minds that they had fellowship with God. They had settled, equally clearly, that they were the holy ones of the world. They looked with a lofty contempt on the great mass of their fellow-men who did not know much about their divine relations, but who at any rate were sure that they were sinners. The Pharisees, quite sure that they had fellowship with God, and feeling bound to maintain the appearance of that fellowship, had to invent a God who could be pleased with such service. Thus they were groping in the densest moral darkness, their world was a world of mists and shadows, from which every reality which might give them a rude shock, and bring them to themselves, was jealously excluded. And this world of darkness, drear and ghastly, full of bloodless shadows of their own vanity and pride, they held forth as God's living world, His heavenly kingdom, to their perishing fellow-men. These, with the wholesome instinct of a real need, felt that this Pharisaic world was full of dreary mockeries and falsehood. But yet these men were in Moses' seat ! Ah, if this horrible Hades of theirs be the real kingdom of heaven !
That man is in darkness who never brings himself forth into the living presence of the Most High, who never brings his thoughts, his aims, his principles, his works, to the test of some