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pride and ostentation of the Pharisees. Although Jesus frequently rebuked them in strong language, it is easily perceived that the rebuke of his example was still more severe.
In order to show the impropriety of calling public attention, in that age, to himself, any farther than it was absolutely unavoidable, the blessed Jesus referred to a portion of the prophecy of Isaiah, in which the prophet had made reference to him. "He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets." He was to pass unostentatiously through the world; and as he never boasted of his benevolent deeds, so he charged his disciples to tell no man ;" but to leave the works to give testimony of themselves. "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." John x. 37, 38.
In the same spirit Jesus declared his intention to seek the most obscure, broken down, and perishing individuals; not to add sorrow to their sorrow, but to restore them. "A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench." The reed that was bruised he would not destroy, but endeavor to restore it; and the flax so nearly extinguished that it emitted nothing but smoke, he would not quench; as the poet beautifully says,
"He will not quench the smoking flax,
The bruised reed he never breaks,
The phrase here rendered "smoking flax," Dr. Campbell translates, "a dimly burning taper."" Adam Clarke says it means the wick of a lamp in an ex
1 Four Gospels
piring state, when the oil has been all burnt away from it, and nothing is left but a mere snuff emitting smoke.1 "This expression," saith Bishop Pearce, means that he shall be so gentle, as not to hurt even that which is of itself ready to perish. The Jews used flax as we now do cotton, for candles or in lamps. This, a little before it is quite extinguished, gives more smoke than flame, and therefore this sense seems a proper one." To the same purport is Knatchbull's annotation, who closes by saying, "that to speak to the capacity of the vulgar, it ought to be translated thus: he will not extinguish, or put out, the dying lamp. "Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?" Job xiii. 25. Whitby's comment is equally interesting. "Here saith St. Jerome, Qui pecatori non porrigit manum, et qui non portat onus fratris sui, he that stretcheth not forth his hand to the sinner, and he that beareth not the burthen of his brother, he breaks the bruised reed; et qui modicam scintillam fidei contemnit in paroulis, and he that contemneth the small spark of faith in little ones, quenches the smoking flax." The first of these expressions, "a bruised reed shall he not break," is a figurative way of speaking, denoting that the gentleness of Christ was so great that he would not hurt even that which of itself was ready to perish. The second, "And smoking flax shall he not quench," was intended to signify the same thing in different words, agreeably to the genius of Hebrew poetry.
The whole life of Jesus Christ may be appealed to, as an evidence that the prophecy in regard to him was just. To mourners he was always con
1 Com. on the place. 2 Com. on the place. 3 Com. on the place.
soling; to the oppressed he gave deliverance; to those afflicted with grievous diseases, so that they were just ready to perish, he gave health: and the wicked, the poor abandoned sinner, he did not despise. O my blessed Lord! how amiable is thy character in my sight. When the malicious Pharisees brought to thee the woman taken in a violation of the law of Moses, thou didst not upbraid; thou didst kindly say, "neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more." When the woman who was a sinner, intruded herself upon thee, with a trembling step, in the house of Simon; when, having heard the common report of thy tenderness to the unfortunate, she came bursting with grief and penitence, and washed thy feet with her tears, thou didst not spurn her from thy presence, but in mercy saidst "thy sins are forgiven thee." May we have more of thy disposition, and learn what it is to be kind to the unthankful and to the evil.”· We find the principal prophecies in regard to Christ, in harmony with what we have now said. "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.' Psalms cxlvii. 3. When on earth, Jesus quoted and applied the following prophecy of Isaiah to himself: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them "that are bruised.” Isaiah lxi. 1, and Luke iv. 18. This passage is a perfect commentary on the parable under consideration.
"Till he send forth judgment unto victory." By judgment here is to be understood the statutes and institutions of the gospel, as in verse 18. sense of the clause seems to be, that Christ would
observe the conduct above described, until he had faithfully and immoveably established his gospel among men or, as Isaiah hath it, xlii. 4, "till he have set judgment in the earth.”
Parable of the Unclean Spirit.
MATT. XII. 43-45.
"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return unto my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”
In this parable the Saviour referred to the opinion entertained by the Jews, and which they had derived from their association with the heathen nations, that persons were sometimes possessed by demons, or evil spirits; that is to say, that these spirits influenced them so far as to control their actions, and make them subject to extreme pains. There is the clearest evidence that the heathen attributed disorders, especially such as affected the mind, to the influence of evil spirits, who had in reality no existence or power, but were, like the rest of the heathen deities, imaginary beings. It ought to be distinctly understood, that the demons by which men are said, in the New Testament, to be possessed, were a very different order of beings from the Devil, or Satan, commonly so called. It is never said by the sacred writers, that
men were possessed by the devil: whether the doctrine of real possessions be true or false, it is not the devil by whom men were possessed, but another order of beings called demons. Dr. Campbell has labored with great effect to illustrate this fact.1 Demons are always spoken of in reference to possessions; but the devil is never so spoken of. It devolves on us, in this place, to show the reason why Jesus spoke of persons as being possessed by de
From the earliest ages the heathen supposed invisible spirits to have agency in the affairs of this world. They peopled the skies with the departed spirits of their heroes, to whom they assigned divers ranks, dispositions, and occupations; some they adored with gratitude, and before others they trembled with fear. This was all the work of imagination-it had no reality. They unquestionably believed it real; and when they experienced any extraordinary emotions, they were wont to attribute them to the agency of their fabled demons. This absurd notion was embraced by the Jews, as we learn from their historians; and Josephus, who lived nearly in the same age with the apostles, tells us, that demons are the spirits of wicked men, which return to the earth, and possess and torment the living. This was the prevailing opinion in the time of Christ. Persons afflicted with insanity and epilepsy were more particularly judged to be possessed of demous; and the careful reader will
1 Prelim. Dis. vi. 1.
2 Speaking of a certain plant, he says, "it is only valuable on account of one virtue it hath, that if it be only brought to tho sick persons, it quickly drives away those called demons, which are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive, and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them." Bell Jud. lib. vii. c. vi. sec. 3.