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women, whoever they were, who were permitted to follow Christ when He was here below! and blessed, unspeakably blessed all those, who tread in their steps! who seek their happiness now in His service, instead of looking for it as so many do in an evil world, which has really nothing but vanity and disappointment to bestow on those who serve it best!
Whilst, however, there were some who thus attended upon Christ with reverent affection, and gladly ministered to Him by every means in their power, there were others who tried to hinder Him in His great work. Even His own friends, that is to say, the relations of the Virgin Mary, attributed His zeal in preaching and doing good to madness: they said, “He is beside himself." And certainly the Saviour's zeal, His unwearied earnestness in man's salvation was very extraordinary, and such as the world had never seen before; so that we are hardly surprised to find persons, who did not seriously consider the evil of sin, and the value of their souls, saying that our Lord was beside Himself in taking so much pains, and enduring so much hardship, to destroy the one and save the other. Alas! it is we, poor sinners, who are beside ourselves, in caring so little for these things, and wasting all our anxiety and all our love on the trifles of the world! This is, indeed, madness, to think only of our perishing bodies, and to forget our immortal souls! to hear the blessed Jesus inviting us to Him, and
if we had no need of His help!
yet to turn away as
There were others again, I am sorry to say, who set themselves much more decidedly and more maliciously to speak evil of the good and gracious works
of the Son of God. It happened that whilst the relations of Christ, thinking Him, as we said, beside Himself, were coming to lay hold on Him, there was brought to Him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb and He healed him; so that he, who was before blind and dumb, both spake and saw. The people were astonished and said, "Is not this the Son of David?" for they took it for granted, that one who could do such things, must be their promised Messiah. And this was, indeed, the right conclusion to be drawn from all that they heard and saw. But his enemies, the Pharisees, having determined not to believe in Him themselves, nor to let the people be persuaded if they could prevent it, made use of the most wicked and absurd arguments, in order to persuade the people not to receive Jesus as their Messiah. His works, so great and good-those merciful and wonderful works-were done, they asserted, by the help of evil spirits. It was Beelzebub, they said, the prince of the devils, that gave our Lord power to cast them out!
E. How dreadful, Mamma! I almost wonder that even Jesus could bear with them.
M. Wicked and false as their words were, the patient and gentle Saviour not only bore with them, but condescended to reply to them. Knowing the thoughts of His enemies, He showed them how unreasonable it was, to suppose that Satan would help any one to overthrow His own kingdom, which was the object, you know, that our Lord had continually in view, and one chief end both of His teaching and His miracles. Great, before the coming of Christ, had been the power of the wicked one even over the
bodies of men, as well as secretly over their souls. He had made himself a kind of God of this world, and changed it into a habitation of his own, from which none as yet had been able to cast him out. But now, in the person of Jesus, one had come upon earth, who was able to bind the strong one, to take possession of his house, and to spoil him of what he had so long thought to be his own. The Son of God came down from heaven expressly to destroy the works of the devil, to rescue the earth from his dominion, and to deliver both our souls and bodies from his hands. His works were all works of goodness and mercy His teaching all pure and holy. How perverse then was it to ascribe to Beelzebub the works of Jesus! How wicked to attribute to such an impure source miracles, in which might be so clearly seen a heavenly power and a divine compassion! It was indeed a degree of wickedness, on which one even shudders to think; and it led our Saviour to address to the Pharisees a most awful warning.
But let us turn from the obstinacy of the Pharisees, to contemplate again the loving-kindness of Jesus Christ. Consider how, notwithstanding all this contradiction of sinners, he still went on doing good. Though His friends said, "He is beside himself," and His enemies, that His miracles were performed by the power of Satan, He continued His merciful labours for us men and our salvation, and suffered neither His patience to be exhausted, nor His love to wax cold towards us, because of these ungrateful returns which He met with.
He did indeed warn the Pharisees of the danger which they, and such as they, were in, who abused to
such sad purposes the privileges which they enjoyed: and when not content with His daily miracles, they asked Him to give them some further sign to prove that He was the Christ, He refused to give them one: excepting indeed that He told them beforehand of His own resurrection from the dead, that last and greatest sign of His power, which should be given them.
E. And did they not believe in Him, Mamma, when they heard that He would rise from the dead?
M. No, even to this sign many of the Jews refused to pay regard. Our Lord reminded them of the prophet Jonah, who had lain three days buried in the body of that great fish which the Lord had prepared to swallow him up, and told them that he was but a sign or figure of Himself. Like Jonah, our Lord should lie three days in the grave, and then, like him, be wonderfully restored. He should rise again to life, and cause repentance and remission of sin to be published in His name throughout the world, beginning at Jerusalem. And well would it be for these Pharisees, if they even then repented, as the Ninevites did at the preaching of Jonah, for then their sins might still be forgiven. But, alas! many of them were worse even than the people of Nineveh: nothing would lead them to repentance; they perverted all that was done to save them into an occasion of fresh sin; and so their last state was worse than the first. Therefore, Jesus declared to them: "The men of Nineveh shall rise up 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. The queen of the south," too, the Queen of Sheba, our Lord said, "shall rise up in judgment with
this generation and 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
But we have dwelt long enough on so sad a subject: yet though it is sad, may the Spirit of God make it profitable to us! May He keep us ever in mind that we too shall one day have to answer for all the advantages we enjoy; and that, if we do not make a wise and holy use of them, the very heathen will put us to shame at the last day!
We will turn now to a more pleasing subject. Whilst our Lord had been warning the Pharisees of their danger, his relations or brethren, as near relations were called among the Jews, arrived together with His mother, and stood without, desiring to speak with Him.
E. Mamma, I dare say the Virgin Mary was very unhappy at thinking that Jesus should be so much with such wicked men, who hated Him so exceedingly. Perhaps she came to beg Him to leave them?
M. I think it very likely, Edward, that she came with a wish to persuade Him not to go on in a course of so much labour and danger, in which powerful enemies were drawn together to hinder Him, whilst there were comparatively very few to thank Him for what He did.
E. But as our Saviour's work was so great and so good, I think it was strange, and a pity too, Mamma, that His own mother and relations should have wished to stop Him in it.
M. It certainly was wrong, and it appears very strange to us, because we know so well, why it was