The Bathos of Detracting Blasphemy
Matthew 12:22-37
Then was brought to him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, so that the blind and dumb both spoke and saw.…

In introduction, note the unity of this passage of sixteen verses. While the linking of one portion of the accounts contained in the Gospels to another is very often exceedingly evident, and that, link by link, a oneness of a different and complete kind marks this marvellous episode. Observe also upon the fact that the criticism of all the ages from the earliest Christian writings of the centuries has fastened upon these verses with no mistaken instinct. And grant that the crucial question, which they undoubtedly own to, considering the words and the tone of the Lord Jesus, may be approached, ought to be approached, investigated, and pondered with prayer, but will not allow itself to be dogmatized upon. The certain meaning eludes this treatment at any rate; and demands most reverential handling quite as really as it commands the awed meditating of the true student of the words of Christ. Treating the passage in the simplest manner, the likelier to lead to a better appreciation of the central difficulty, notice -


1. The prompt, manifest, and undisputed healing of a man who suffered from the deprivation (presumably) of three out of the five senses which belonged to his nature.

2. The modus of this healing, to wit, the relieving the man of the tyrannous incubus of an evil spirit. This dispossessed, the man's dispossession vanished; the devil's possession challenged, disturbed, dislodged, and evicted, the man's rightful possession and possessions came to him, like some dawn of day.

3. Inspiration's presentation of this event and transaction to the uncounted millions of its readers. That is, not in its personal aspects, without one word of rehearsal of the circumstances of the faith and inner desire and subsequent conduct of the man healed. He is here; be is healed - possibly he joins the amazed multitude, possibly he goes his way, and gratefully so; but the mighty work of Christ is left, and this becomes the sole absorbing subject.

4. The world of observers wended different ways - the way of the "people," and the way of the "Pharisees."

II. THE DARING IMPUTATION, SUICIDAL SLANDER, AND PRONOUNCED BLASPHEMY THEREUPON, OF THE PHARISEES. A type to infernal perfection of that vice that has discredited so often in less degree fallen human nature, the detracting from the goodness of the good and their good deeds, and from the greatness of the great and their great deeds, is before us here. What are the facts? They are:

1. A great work done, a good work done, an absolutely merciful work done, the same being done not on the sabbath day," and the same, all in one, done manifestly and to absolute undenied certainty; done, not merely alleged, not even offered the charge of simulation.

2. An evil work undone, a devil's work undone, with the devil who had done that, work turned out; and an exceeding bitter calamity and deprivation to an integral, individual part of God's creation graciously undone.

3. The Doer of the work answering to the above description - he is present, and his prerequisites for such work are, and (by the confession and in the words of one of that very body from whom the blasphemy proceeds) are known to be," that he be come from God," and that "God be with him" (John 3:2). It must be added that the credentials of this accused but wonderful Personage are already multiplied, and of the most pronounced character, alike in deed and in word. The blasphemy is that his detractors say that his work is not of that God whose working he does, but of the devil whose working he undoes!

III. THE EXPOSURE AND REBUKE OF THIS BLASPHEMY. The Pharisees spoke their blasphemy as an aside; or perhaps from a little distance off, whence they come, and now draw near enough to Christ for him to address them and "their thoughts" personally, though "their thoughts" had not been openly and with any "courage of conviction" addressed in language to him.

1. Universal reason expressed in universal proverb exposes and rebukes the blasphemy. Satan won't divide against himself, says Christ; and they all know it.

2. A practical alternative question storms the position and abashes the blasphemy. "If," says Christ, "I by Beelzebub cast out devils," dare to put it in words," by whom your children cast them out?" "but if I by the finger of God," which is "the Spirit of God, cast them out, then that kingdom of God ' which you are refusing to enter, and which you are striving to prevent, is veritably "come to yon." What about your neglect of it, and your malignant opposition to him who brings it? Strong and armed as confessedly Satan is, and his "palace" long time "kept," now it is before your eyes, though you may not, will not, confess it with the tongue, that a Stronger has "come upon him," has "overcome him," has "bound him," has "taken from him all his armour, wherein he trusted, and has divided his spoils." It is upon the ruins of that house, that palace, that kingdom which your blasphemy says is already divided against itself, that "the kingdom of God is come unto you." And now henceforth, he that does not know me, know to be "with me," and to gather with and for me, "is against me," and dooms himself to "scatter," and be scattered.

IV. THE TERRIBLE WARNING IN THE MATTER OF BLASPHEMY, VIZ. THAT "AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST," NOW PRONOUNCED BY CHRIST. The language of Christ on this subject offers itself for the simplest acceptance, and humble and awed faith of all. Notwithstanding its brevity, its exceedingly simple diction, and the apparently designed wording of it, so that it shall not fail to reach its aim, it remains, after all the centuries, a passage that finds no absolutely satisfactory exposition, and that can command not one really just parallel by aid of which to determine and define it. To generalize upon it is easy, and to say continuous resistance of the Holy Spirit is likely, only too likely, to lead to final resistance of him, and that to the fatal doom here pronounced, is safe enough, and at the same time safely far enough from the exactness of the language and the point of its warning, here found. The apostle warns not to "quench" the Holy Spirit of God, after warning not to "grieve" him. But at what point long and repeated grieving may avail to quench we cannot fix, nor, if we could, would this enable us any more certainly to decipher what is here written, not of some prolonged rebellion against the Holy Spirit, but apparently of some such state of heart as may in a moment precipitate the unforgivable sin. We believe that it must be a "mercifiul and wise obscurity" that lies upon this passage; none the less solemn, but perhaps more so; none the less useful, but perhaps more so. The comment of St. Mark (Mark 3:30), "Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit," seems to bring us nearest of all to the exact description of the sin, already adjudicated on by Christ, both for the time before the full gospel day, and thence to the end. And we believe that the dread testimony and warning goes to this - that there is a blasphemy of the tongue against the Holy Ghost, which speaks a blasphemy of the heart against him, such and of such sort, that though not to be pronounced upon (while wheat and tares grow together), the all-seeing One knows, and declares of it, that it cannot know the grace of repentance, and cannot have the infinite boon of forgiveness extended to it.

V. CHRIST'S EMPHATIC DENIAL OF ANY FORM OF CONVENTIONAL AND ARTIFICIAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE HEART AND INNER QUALITY AND INGRAVEN CHARACTER OF MEN, AND THEIR WORDS AND ACTIONS. It is as true of the highest as of the lowest; and it is also as true of them both, and of all others whomsoever, as of the tree and its fruit. So literally and precisely true is this, that though it were possible that a "word," for instance, were so "idle," so light, so useless, so inactive, devoid of energy, inoperative, that it inferred no danger to any one in all the world outside, it should not the less be true that it inferred danger to the speaker of it. What witness must it needs bear about him, and against him! These concluding verses are, without mistake, a summing up of most practical and forcible application to the "generation of vipers" in the first instance, and also a reminder of widespread and deeply significant importance to all of us. - B.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.

WEB: Then one possessed by a demon, blind and mute, was brought to him and he healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw.

Christ and the Pharisees
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