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By whom do your children,' &c. Your disciples, taught by you, and encouraged by you, pretend to cast out devils. If your argument be true that a man who casts out devils must be in league with the devil, then your disciples have made a covenant with him also. You must therefore admit that the working of miracles is proof of the assistance of God.
The words of Christ, here, do not prove that they had actually the power of casting out devils, but only that they claimed it, and practised magic, or jugglery. See Acts xix. 13. Your children.' Your disciples, or followers. They shall be your judges.' They shall condemn you and your argument.
28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
'By the Spirit of God,' means the power of God-in Luke, ‘by the finger of God.' Compare Ex. viii. 19. Ps. viii. 3. reign of Satan over men, and the reign of God, are in opposition. If God expels Satan from his dominion over men, then his reign has come. He has set up his kingdom,
29 Or else, how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
A man could not break into the house of a strong man, and take his property, unless he had rendered the man himself helpless. If he had taken his goods, it would therefore be sufficient proof that he had bound the man. So I, says he, have taken this property-this possessed person-from the dominion of Satan. It is clear proof that I have subdued Satan himself, the strong being that had him in possession. 'Spoil his goods.' The word spoil, means here to plunder, to take with violence, as it commonly does in the bible. See Col. ii. 8, 15.
30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
There could be but two parties in the universe; there was no neutral ground. If any one did not act with our Lord, he was against him. If he gathered not with him he scattered. He that did not gather with him, or aid him, scattered abroad, or opposed him. The application of this was, as I have not united with Satan, but opposed him, there can be no league between us.
31 ¶ 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. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not
be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
In this place, and in Mark iii. 28-30, Jesus proceeds to state the awful nature of the sin of which they had been guilty. That sin was the sin against the Holy Ghost. It consisted in charging Jesus with being in league with the devil, or in accusing him of working his miracles, not by the Spirit or power of God, but by the aid of the prince of the devils. It was therefore a direct insult, abuse, evil speaking against the Holy Ghost-the Spirit by whom Jesus worked his miracles. That this was what he intended by this sin, at that time, is clear from Mark iii. 30, Because they said he had an unclean spirit.' All other sins-all speaking against the Saviour himself-might be remitted. But this sin was clearly against the Holy One; it was alleging that the highest displays of God's mercy and power were the work of the devil; it argued, therefore, the highest depravity of mind. The sin of which he speaks is, then, clearly stated. It was accusing him of working miracles by the aid of the devil-thus dishonouring the Holy Ghost. 'All manner of sin-shall be forgiven.' Men repent and believe. If they continue in this sin they cannot be forgiven, Mark xvi. 16. Rom. ii. 6-9. Blasphemy.' Injurious or evil speaking of God. See note, Matt. ix. 3. word against the Son of man.' The Jews were offended at the humble life and appearance of the Saviour. Jesus says, that reflections on his poverty, humble birth, and the lowliness of his human nature might be forgiven. Neither in this world, nor in that which is to come.' That is, as Mark expresses it, hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. It means, then, that the guilt will be unpardoned for ever; that God will not forgive a sin so direct, presumptuous, and awful. It cannot be inferred from this that any sins will be forgiven in hell. He meant to say that there were no possible circumstances in which the offender could find forgiveness.
33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit:
You are to judge of a man's being in league with Satan by his works. If my doctrines and works be properly the works of Satan, then I am corrupt: if not, then your charge is blasphemy. So, on the other hand, if, notwithstanding your professions, your works are the works of the devil, and your doctrines be such as he would teach, it would prove, respecting you, that which you charge on me.
34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. 35 A good man, out of the
good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
'O generation of vipers!' Christ here applies the argument which he had suggested in the previous verse. They were a wicked race; like poisonous reptiles, with a corrupt and evil nature. As the bad fruit of a tree was the proper effect of its nature, so were their words about him and his works the effect of their nature. Vipers are a poisonous kind of serpents. They are emblems of malignity and mischief. These expressions were not the effect of anger and malice; they were a declaration of the true character of the men with whom he was conversing.
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
'Idle word.' This literally means a vain, thoughtless, useless word, that accomplishes no good. Here it means, evidently, wicked, false and malicious; for such were the words which the pharisees had spoken.
37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
That is, words shall be the indication of the true principles of the heart; by words the heart shall be known, as the tree by the fruit. If false, envious, malignant, and impious, they will prove that the heart is wrong, and will therefore be among the causes of condemnation. See James iii, 3-12.
38 Then certain of the scribes and of the pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
'We would see a sign from thee.' See Luke xi. 16, 29-32. A sign' signifies a miracle-that is, a sign that God was with the person, or had sent him. Luke adds, that this was done tempting him-trying him, doubting if he had the power to do it. Perhaps they referred in this to Moses. He had been with God amidst thunders and lightnings; and he had given them manna -bread from heaven-to eat. They wished Jesus to show some miracle equally undoubted.
39 But he answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
An evil and adulterous generation.' The relation of the Jews to God was often represented as a marriage contract; God as the husband, and the Jewish people as the wife. See Isa. lvii. 3. Hos. iii. 1. Ezek. xvi. 15. Hence their apostasy and idolatry are often represented as adultery. They were evil, and unfaithful to the covenant, or to the commandments of God-an apostate and corrupt people. There shall no sign be given to it,' &c. He would give no such miracle as they required. He would give one that ought to be as satisfactory evidence to them that he was from God, as the miraculous preservation of Jonah was to the Ninevites that he was divinely commissioned. As Jonah was preserved three days by miracle, and then miraculously restored alive, so he would be raised from the dead after three days. 'The sign of the prophet Jonas,' means the sign or evidence which was given to the people of Nineveh that he was from God-to wit, that he had been miraculously preserved, and was therefore divinely commissioned. The word 'Jonas' is the Greek way of writing the Hebrew word Jonah, as Elias is for Elijah.
40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
This event took place in the Mediterranean sea. The fish in the book of Jonah is described merely as a great fish, without specifying the kind. The Greek word translated whale, in the New Testament, may denote a large fish of any kind.
'Three days and three nights. See Jonah i. 17. Christ was in the grave but two nights and a part of three days. See Matt. xxviii. 6. This computation is, however, strictly in accordance with the Jewish mode of reckoning, that a part of a day was to be received as a whole. Many instances of this kind occur in both sacred and common history. See 2 Chron. x. 5-12. Gen. xlii. 17, 18. Compare Esther iv. 16 with v. 1. 'In the heart of the earth.' The Jews used the word' heart' to denote the interior of a thing. It means here, to be in the grave or sepulchre.
41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire. It was a city of vast extent. It contained in the time of Jonah, it is supposed, 600,000 inhabitants. The destruction of Nineveh, threatened by Jonah in forty days, was suspended, upon their repentance, 200 years. It was then overthrown by the Babylonians, about 600 years before Christ. 'Shall condemn it.' They, ignorant and wicked heathen, repented when threatened with temporal judg ment by a mere man, Jonah; you, Jews, professing to be en
lightened, and threatened for your great wickedness with eternal punishment by the Son of God, a far greater being than Jonah, repent not, and must therefore meet with a far heavier condemnation.
42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
'The queen of the south.' That is, the queen of Sheba, 1 Kings x. 1. Sheba was probably a city of Arabia, situated to the south of Judea. 'From the uttermost parts of the earth.' This means simply from the most distant parts of the habitable world then known. See a similar expression in Deut. xxviii. 49. She would condemn that generation, for she came a great distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and the Jews of that age would not lis ten to the wisdom of one much greater than Solomon, though present with them.
43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth
'When the unclean spirit,' &c. The Jews had asked a sign from heaven that should decisively prove that he was the Messiah, and satisfy their unbelief. He replies that though he should give them such a sign-a proof conclusive and satisfactory; and though for a time they should profess to believe, and apparently reform, yet such was the obstinacy of their unbelief and wickedness, that they would soon return to them, and become worse and worse. Infidelity and wickedness, like an evil spirit in a possessed man, were appropriately at home in them. If driven out, they would find no other place so fit, and comfortable, and undisturbed, as their bosoms. They would return therefore and dwell with them. He walketh through dry places.' That is, through deserts-regions of country unwatered, sandy, barren, desolate. Our Saviour here speaks according to the ancient opinions of the Jews, that evil spirits had their abodes in those desolate uninhabited regions. See Rev. xviii. 2. 'Seeking rest, and findeth none.' Those desolate and dry regions are represented as uncomfortable habitations: so much so, that the dissatisfied spirit, better pleased with a dwelling in the bosoms of men, as affording an opportunity of doing evil, seeks a return there.
44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.