By J.R. Miller
One of the surest ways to hurt a man's reputation, is to give him a bad name. That was the course the scribes took with Jesus. They could not deny that He did very wonderful works, for there were the evidences--the demoniacs in their right mind--but they were determined to damage or destroy His influence over the people by starting this atrocious slander about Him. They whispered all around, that Jesus and Satan were in league, and that He received His power from Satan! "He has Beelzebub!" they said. The same tactics have since been employed many times. Men who are vigorously engaged in destroying the works of Satan--are accused of being themselves Satan's agents!
When there is no way of defeating the earnestness or breaking the power of good men--vile tongues resort to slanderous speech. Base stories are started, or suspicions are breathed, or certain acts are misconstrued or misrepresented, or motives are misjudged. Such slanders fly on the wind, and the usefulness of many a godly Christian has been marred or altogether destroyed by them. Yet we must not be surprised if the world treats us--as it treated our Master. We may as well make up our mind to the fact, that if we are very earnest either in working for the lost or in fighting vice and wickedness, we shall be both misunderstood and misjudged. Some will say we are crazy, and others will say that we have a devil. The way to escape all such uncomfortable charges, is never to rise above the temperate point in Christian fervor, and never to break over the lines of eminent respectability in active Christian service. The devil does not worry over easy-going Christians, for he has little to fear from them. But when he finds a very earnest Christian, bold and uncompromising, he tries relentlessly to strike him down, or to render him harmless.
Of the wonderful things that Jesus did, they said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons--He is driving out demons!" It will be noticed that even His enemies did not seek to deny that Jesus performed miracles; they only tried to account for His mighty works in a way that would blacken His name. Skeptics in these days who deny the miracles of Christ, should take note of this fact that even His worst enemies when He was in their very midst, did not attempt to deny them. They confessed that He produced miraculous works. The Pharisees and scribes confessed it. Herod confessed it, and in his remorse thought that John the Baptist must have risen from the dead. Not one of His opponents ever hinted a doubt concerning the fact of His miracles. Thus, when the theory of demoniac possession failed, they invented the theory of magic; but they never denied the miracles themselves.
"How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand." That is the way Jesus swept away their slanderous charge. Satan surely would not join hands with Jesus in His work of tearing down Satan's kingdom. Satan would not be so foolish as to help Jesus cast out his tenants and agents. Satan's aim is to get possession of men, and when he had done this--he would not turn about and drive out the minor demons he had at so much pains got into men's hearts. We should look with great caution, even with suspicion, on professions of interest in the work of Christ, from bad men. They have some other motive than the true one. They mean not good--but evil, for the cause of Christ; hurt, not help, for Christ's Kingdom. Satan will never help Christ destroy the works of darkness.
"No one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house." Thus Christ declared His power over Satan, and gave a hint of what He will in the end accomplish. If He had not been stronger than Satan, He could never have entered his "house" or kingdom at all. Satan met Him at the door, at the time of His temptation, and resisted his entrance with all his power. But Christ was too strong for him and overcame him and entered. That was the beginning of Satan's downfall. At once our Lord began to "carry off his goods," to expel his emissaries from human lives, to rescue Satan's slaves from his clasp, to undo the terrible work he had done in the world.
The work of Christianity in this world all these centuries, has been to "carry off the goods" of the "strong man's house"; and this work will go on until Satan's kingdom is entirely destroyed, the last vestige of his power swept away, and the last trace of the ruin wrought by him removed, and until the kingdom of Christ has filled the world. It ought to be a great comfort to us in our struggle with Satan--to know that Christ is stronger than he, and that we need but to flee to Him for shelter and help in danger. We ought to know, also, on whose side we are, in this world; for there are but two sides, Christ's and Satan's, and the sure doom of Satan and all his captives, is utter defeat and chains and eternal darkness. If we are on Satan's side, we cannot escape the ruin which is sure to overtake him and all his.
"I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven." This is a wonderful saying. Mrs. Stowe, in Uncle Tom's Cabin, draws a picture of a slave, weary and worn, toiling in the sultry sun. One quotes to him the words, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden--and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). "Them's good words," said the old slave; "but who says them?" All their value depended upon who said them. If it was only a man, there was little comfort in them. But it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who said them; and therefore, they were of infinite value! The same thought applies to these words: "All the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven." They are good words--but who said them? It was the same Jesus; and therefore, they are true.
"But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." Learned men do not agree in their idea of what it is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. But no matter about the exact meaning of the words; they stand here as a warning against a terrible danger. They are like a red light hung over a most perilous rock in the midst of the sea. While we may not know just what constitutes the sin here warned against so solemnly--it certainly is our duty to keep as far from its edge as possible! And surely all willful and determined resistance to the influence of the Spirit, is a step toward this point of awful peril. This utterance of our Lord should lead us to treat with utmost reverence--every appeal, persuasion, or bidding of the Holy Spirit; never to resist--but always to yield and submit to His guidance. We have no other Friend in this world, who can guide us home. If we drive Him away from us--forever we shall be left in the darkness of eternal night. How long we may continue to reject Him and not go beyond the line that marks the limit of hope--we know not; but the very thought that there is such a line somewhere, ought to startle us into instant acceptance of the offered guidance.
"Whoever does God's will--is my brother and sister and mother." This seems too good to be true. To be the brother or the sister of Jesus--did you ever stop to try to think out what it means? Then, for every Christian to be taken by Christ into as close and tender a relationship as His own mother sustained to Him--did you ever try to think that out, remembering that you are the one taken into this loving fellowship? Thousands of women have wished that they could have had Mary's honor in being the mother of Jesus. Well, here it lies close to their hand. They cannot have her distinction in this world--but they can have a place just as near to the heart of Christ--as she has! How wonderful is divine grace! How astonishing it is that sinful creatures can be taken thus into the very family of God, and have all the privileges and joys of children of God! We cannot understand it--but let us believe it and think of it--until it fills our hearts with warmth and gladness. But we must not overlook the first part of this verse that tells us who are received into this close relationship. If we would be the brothers and sisters of Christ, we must obey the will of God.