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“evil-speaking," in the widest acceptation of that phrase, comprehending all sorts of abusive language, imprecation, reviling, calumny. Let it also be remembered, that when such abuse is mentioned as uttered against God, there is no change made in the signification of the word; the only change is in the application of it, in its reference to a different being. The idea of “evil-speaking” is always included, against whomsoever the crime be committed. As, therefore, the sense of the word is the same, though differently applied, what is essential to constitute the crime of detraction or evil-speaking in the one case, is as necessary in the other. What is necessary to this crime, when committed against men, against a neighbour? It is necessary that the evil-speaker be actuated by a desire to detract from the merit of the person abused. A mere mistake as to the character of another, is not slander or defamation; for there is no evil disposition, no desire to injure; less still, if the mistake is not conceived by him who entertains it, to lessen the character, but is even supposed to exalt it, is it the crime of detraction. To constitute a crime, it is necessary that an evil disposition be present; but here, on the contrary, is
good disposition. Let us apply these observations respecting « blasphemy” against men, to the case of “ blasphemy " against God. If we simply mistake the character of God, that does not amount to the crime of “ blasphemy”
“ detraction.” Thus, some doctrines are popular in these islands, which seem to the writer of this Exposition to detract from the beauty and amiability of God's nature, to call in question his love, his fatherly character, his justice. Yet we should be sorry to say that those who entertain such doctrines, “ blaspheme against God;" for this simple reason, they do not intend, they do not desire to lower the perfections of the Creator. In a word, there can be no “blasphemy" against God, except where there is an impious desire to detract from the Divine Majesty, and to estrange the minds of others from the love and reverence of the Deity. Whatever mistakes or misconceptions a pious man may entertain of the Creator, or however zealously he may promulgate them, he cannot utter blasphemy, he cannot be a blasphemer, simply because he is a pious man, and as such, cannot
be actuated by a desire to detract from the merits of Jehovah. Blasphemy is knowingly, intentionally speaking evil of the attributes of the Creator; no sincere Christian, no good man of any creed, however ignorant or prejudiced he may be, can commit the crime. Hence is easily perceptible the gross injustice of so frequently using the odious words “ blasphemy” and “ blasphemous, from the pulpit and the press. It is no more than simple candour to admit, that men of every sect, so far from intending to diminish the honour of the Almighty (and it is the intention that constitutes the crime), are, on the contrary, persuaded in their own minds that their own views of Christianity are peculiarly adapted to elevate the moral character of God. This, in fact, must be their opinion, or they would not, as they do, prefer their own sect to all others. How false, then, is the charge of blasphemy against any Christian or denomination of Christians, when he or they are acting according to the best of their knowledge to give God due glory, and to recommend his perfections to the admiration of the world!
When Jesus said to the sick of the palsy, “ Thy sins be forgiven thee," certain of the Scribes said, “ This man blasphemeth.” Why did they bring this particular charge against the Saviour? Their reason is to be found in the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, “ Why does this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?”. It was the assumption of a power which belongs exclusively to God, that they accounted blasphemous. By this assumption, Jesus, in their estimation, placed Jehovah and himself upon an equality, and brought the Deity down to his own level; thus “ blaspheming, " or detracting from, the attributes of God. The forgiveness of sins does originally and necessarily belong to God, and to God alone; but he may give that power for a season to whomsoever he pleaseth; and he gave it to Jesus. This the Scribes and Pharisees forgot, or overlooked, or purposely concealed, that they might find opportunity to injure the Messias in the estimation of the people. Many modern Christians, who elevate Jesus of Nazareth to the Godhead, employ similar language to that used on this occasion by the Scribes and Pharisees, asking in triumph, “Who can forgive sins but God only?" It might be answered, in the words of Jesus in the present passage, that the power possessed by the Master, in this case, was limited, was finite. He only claims a power of forgiving sins in this world. In the 6th verse be says, “the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins." Similar is the language in Mark ii. 10, “the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” Similar also is the language in Luke v. 24, “the Son of Man hath power upon earth to forgive sins.” This is the highest power claimed by the Anointed; a power existing only while he was on earth, and therefore, because limited and finite, not the attribute of an Infinite Being. It might also be answered, that Jesus received this power of forgiving sins from his God and Father; he himself plainly declares, “ All power is given to me;" and it is manifest, that in the expression “all power," the power of remitting sins is included. It might farther be inquired, Who can raise the dead but God only? Yet, Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath's son, and Elisha raised the Shunamite's son, and Paul raised Eutychus. All these powers belong to God only; and none can work these miracles except those on whom he bestows the capability of so doing. Miracles, as has been already shown, do not prove the Deity of the persons who perform them, but they do prove their Divinity, i. e. the Divine origin of their mission. Peter had arrived at a right conclusion on this matter, when he said, in one of his sermons, “ Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him.” The people also, when they beheld the cure of the paralytic, formed a truer judgment on the matter than the Scribes and Pharisees, for it is written at the 8th verse, that the multitudes “glorified God, which had given such power unto men.”
In the ninth verse is mentioned, the calling of Matthew to the discipleship. Matthew was a publican or tax-gatherer, an officer under the Roman government, appointed to collect the tribute which Judea, as a captured country, was forced to pay into the Roman treasury. He was sitting at the “receipt of custom," the place at which the tribute was to be paid. Matthew immediately followed Jesus; and it
from Luke v. 29, that he gave an
entertainment in honour of his new Master, for it is there recorded, “ And Levi made him a great feast in his own house.” To this feast, many of Matthew's acquaintances, both Jew and Gentile, were invited, for “many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.” By the word here rendered "sinners," is generally meant, in the Gospels, and indeed in other parts of the New Testament, Gentiles, Heathens. We can easily conceive how it came to have that signification. The Jews held exceedingly exalted sentiments concerning their own dignities and privileges as a nation. They were God's chosen people, his elect; they alone possessed the true religion; they were a nation of saints, in comparison with whom all the surrounding people were as sinners. Hence, Gentile and sinner, were with them synonymous.
Verses 14, 15: “ Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast."
The children of the bridechamber,” (or, as it is in some MSS., “of the bridegroom,") are the companions of the bridegroom, who accompanied him to the house of his father-in-law when he went to bring his bride to her future home. The marriage-feast, among the Jews, lasted seven days, and was a period of extraordinary festivity and rejoicing. If the companions of the bridegroom cannot be sorrowful and fast while he is with them, neither can my disciples be sorrowful whilst I remain among them; but a time will arrive when I shall be taken away, and then shall they mourn. As a matter of historical fact, the disciples were not exposed to persecution during the lifetime of their Master; but after his death, when they began to proclaim bis resurrection, and to teach that he was the promised Messias, they were visited with all the barbarities wbich the malice of Jews and Gentiles could suggest or inflict. Jesus continues his reply to the followers of John, and gives yet another reason why the customary fasts were not ohserved by his disciples: “No man putteth a piece of new
cloth unto an old garment; for that which is put in to fill it up, taketh from the garment, and the rent is inade
Neither do men put new wine into old bottles ; else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish; but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved." It is still the custom among the Orientals to make their bottles of the skins of animals. If these are old, have lost their elasticity and acquired a permanent form, and if new wine be put into them, the fermentation which takes place bursts the bottles, and the results mentioned in the text occur, “the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish.” But if the bottles are new, if the skins are fresh and still elastic, and if new wine is poured into them, they stretch with the expansion of the liquid caused by fermentation, and neither are injured. This similitude is capable of two interpretations. The disciples were but new converts to Christianity, they were not long inured to the practices and precepts of the Gospel; and one reason why they should not observe austere fasting, arose from the necessity of not being too hasty in imposing rigours on persons who were yet young in the faith. Or, Jesus may have meant to say, that the ceremonies of the Pharisees, “the old bottles," and the doctrines of his religion, “the new wine,” would ill consort together. The fastings, and sacrifices, and ablutions of the Jewish hypocrites, suited not the simplicity of the religion of Jesus. Judaism, given in the infancy of our race, therefore made material, and destined only for a peculiar nation-and Christianity, addressed to the matured intellect of man, whose very essence is its spirituality, and designed for universal acceptance, could not be mingled, without the issuing of consequences mutually injurious, if not mutually destructive. This is a meaning which agrees well with the context, with the objection of the Pharisees to Jesus eating with tax-gatherers and Gentiles, and with the disciples of John adducing the Pharisees as an example of frequent fasting.
Verse 18: "6 Behold, a certain ruler came and worshipped him;" i.e. paid him reverence, made unto him obeisance. See on Chap. viii. 2.
Verse 28: “ They said unto him, Yea, lord;" i. e. Master, or Sir.-See on Chap. vii. 21.