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54

JESUS WEEPING OVER JERUSALEM.

The whole city was moved to meet him. The excitement was so great and the exciting cause so powerful, that he declared that, if the people could have been unmoved and silent, the very stones would have cried out. Harder, then, than the stones, must have been the hearts of those who remained unaffected by all that Jesus had said and done. The populace lavished upon him the most striking expressions of respect, spreading their garments before him. And he was weeping! He wept because he looked above and beyond the hour, because he was so completely elevated above the weakness of being imposed upon by the dazzling prospect of success, which his popularity at that moment may well have suggested to his mind. He saw that he was entering the city, there to be condemned to death, and that the tide of popular feeling was shortly to be turned against him. The cross which he had long borne in imagination, now began to press with a close and oppressive weight upon his mind. He saw, too, the inevitable ruin of his country, and he broke forth into that pathetic cry, “O that thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace! but now are they hid from thine eyes!” This incident, however, is recorded with the greatest brevity, and the narrators leave it to speak for itself. They linger not to point out its beauty

CHAPTER V.

THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.

“ While he suffers, the spirit of God and glory rests upon him. There is a glory and a freshness sparkling in him by suffering, an excellency that was hidden.- He that doth and can suffer, shall have my heart.”—Anon.

THERE is one instance, in which I cannot divest myself of the impression, that Jesus is represented as speaking in a tone of haste and irritation. At least the historians, in their fearless frankness, have not breathed a word to guard us against such an impression. I refer to the exclamation, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?" Let us endeavour to appreciate the occasion on which these words were uttered.

In the most public manner Jesus had, by his word, t. relieved a man who had lost the powers both of sight and of speech, and who, according to the current belief of the times, was under the influence of a malignant spirit. Certain Pharisees, who were among the spectators, charged Jesus with being in league with the very prince of the evil spirits. By this charge, they virtually admitted that the cure he had just wrought transcended the power of man. One cannot but feel that such inveterate perverseness of mind must have shocked him deeply. After replying to the charge in various ways, he went on to make those

56

THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT.

solemn declarations which have so often struck terror into the minds of readers : “All manner of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven unto men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.” Now in the very form of these sentences, I think I perceive that they must have been uttered with great feeling—with the deepest emotion. They are in the shape of general propositions. They are couched in unqualified language. Deep feeling always craves this mode of expression. It delights to leap at once, from the particular circumstances which have excited it, to the annunciation of a general or universal truth; or rather, such is its magnifying power, that it immediately swells out the incident or object which has awakened it, whether it be joyous or otherwise, into a world-embracing light or an allobscuring darkness. It loses sight of all qualifications of time or circumstance.

And here I cannot but mourn, to think how the thrilling life of the Christian scriptures has been concealed through the irrecognition of this mode of expression, so characteristic of intense feeling. Passages, from being expressed in universal terms, have been understood as cold, formal, creed-like statements of theological dogmas, when in fact they assumed their particular form because those by whom they were originally uttered or written, spoke or wrote from hearts bursting with emotion. Thus, for

FEELING EXPRESSED IN GENERAL TERMS.

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instance, a dry, doctrinal character has been given to the language of the Apostle Paul when he says " In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” And yet, when I consider the connexion of these words, I cannot help feeling that in this general way, he was giving expression to his own burning experience. He exclaims just before, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” And then, he adds, “ For in Jesus Christ, neither circumcision is of any importance, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation."*

What an immense change had taken place in the mind of Paul ! that instrument of suffering—that symbol of the deepest shamehad become, in its spiritual aspects, its moral manifestations, his central light, and a glory streamed from it, which was as the glory of God! Well did he say, and he must have uttered it from the fervent feeling of his own soul—“To be a Christian, is to be ushered into a new creation. In eyes illuminated by the moral light of the cross of Christ, all things are changed. The old world with its artificial standards of judgment and thought, its superficial distinctions, vanishes utterly away, and a new world appears, a world, not of outward observance, but bound together by the moral influences, and irradiated by the spiritual light, of the cross of Christ.

The cross,

But to return. On the occasion mentioned above, they who cavilled at the astonishing work wrought by

* Not a new creature.'

58

THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Jesus, betrayed a moral blindness, hopeless to the last degree. A work which they confessed to be superhuman, and in which power and benevolence were miraculously displayed, they refused to refer to the agency of God. As I conceive, and as I have already said, Jesus was shocked at the impenetrable hardness of their hearts. And it is as if he had said, “Any other sin or blasphemy, of which men may be guilty, they may be forgiven, for they may repent of it; but you are past repentance, you, who speak against the Spirit of God, so overpoweringly manifested. There is no hope of you. You cannot be moved, and of course you cannot be forgiven.

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

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