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§ 161. Healing of the Deaf and Dumb Demoniac.—The Charge of a League with Beelzebub: a Visible Sign demanded.—The Charge refuted.

The constantly increasing influence of Christ naturally heightened 240the wrath of the Pharisees. A movement which they could not check was in progress against the spirit and the interests of their party. But a powerful impression, wrought by a single miracle, gave the signal for a new and more artful attack. This occasion was the healing a man of imbecile mind, or a melancholy idiot, who went about appearing neither to see nor to hear any thing that passed around him.422422   Luke, xi., 14; Matt., xii., 22. This view of the case is founded upon the fact that the man’s dumbness is ascribed (which is not done in other cases) to his being possessed with demons, and his subsequent ability to hear and speak to their expulsion. Matthew adds blindness, which harmonizes well with our view. We infer from the impression produced by the miracle that the case differed from ordinary possessions. It is possible, however, that the case is confounded in Matthew with other cures of blind men; cf. Matt., ix., 27-34. This last passage, v. 32-34, seems to be but an abridged account of the very case under discussion. The people received the cure as a sign of Christ’s Messianic power.

It was necessary for the Pharisees to remove this impression from their minds. But how was it to be done? The fact could neither be denied nor attributed to natural agencies. In this dilemma they had recourse to falsehood, and accused him of employing an evil magic, a relief in which still propagated itself among the traditions423423   Celsus took a hint from these. of Jewish fanaticism. The Prince of Evil Spirits, they said, in order to secure favour among the people for the false prophet who was labouring for Satan’s kingdom, had given him power to exorcise inferior spirits from men; thus sacrificing a less object for a greater.424424   Matt., xii., 24-26.

Others, again, whose hostility to Christ and to truth was not so decided (although they were not susceptible of Divine impressions), only refused to acknowledge the miracle as a sufficient sign of Messiahship, and demanded an immediate token from God—a voice from heaven, or a celestial appearance.425425   How strongly expectations of this kind were cherished by the Jews is shown by the fact that Philo’s Hellenic-Alexandrian culture could not free him from them, although the expectation of a personal Messiah is not prominent in him. He believes that, when the purification of the scattered Jews is accomplished, they will be drawn together from all nations, by a celestial phenomenon, to one definite place: “ξεναγούμενοι πρός τινος θειοτέρας ἢ κατὰ φύσιν ἀνθρωπίνην ὄψεως, ἀδήλου μὲν ἑτέροις, μόνοις δὲ τοῖς ἀνασωζομένοις ἐμφανοῦς.”—De Execrat., § 9.

Christ first replied to the most decided opponents, and, to show the absurdity of their accusation, reasoned as follows: “It is a contradiction in terms to suppose that good can be directly wrought by evil;426426   There is, indeed, a sense in which the kingdom of evil is always at war with itself; but in evil, as such, as opposed to good, there is always a definite relative unity. If this unity was destroyed, if Satan were to accomplish the same good as that wrought by the power of God, it would be a contradictio in adjecto; the kingdom of evil would be ipso facto subverted. Evil may, and indeed must, indirectly subserve good; but it cannot directly do good so long as its nature, as evil, remains. A kingdom, or a family, may continue to exist as such, with an internal discord in its bosom that is the germ of its dissolution; but the relative unity must remain. This truth admitted the further application — which Christ did not express, but left to the Pharisees to make—that Satan could not seek to secure access to the hearts of men for one whose whole nature and labours were opposed to the kingdom of evil. “Satan, casting out Satan,” would be no more Satan. The difficulties, therefore, which De Wette finds in the passage are overcome. The truth of Christ’s proposition does not lie upon the surface. 241that evil should be conquered by evil; that one should be freed from the power of the Evil One by the power of the Evil One. Could evil thus do the works of good, it would be no more evil.” He then applies an argumentum ad hominem to the Pharisees [If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges]. If a charge of the sort, he tells them, were brought against their exorcists, they would soon pronounce it untenable. It follows, then, that this Divine act—the delivery of a human soul from the evil spirit that had crushed its self-conscious activity—was wrought by the power and Spirit of God alone.

But,” he continues, “if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” This single victory proves that a power has come among men which is able to conquer evil—the power, namely, of the kingdom of God, which ever propagates itself in struggling with evil; the negative presupposes the positive. The similitude that follows illustrates the same truth: “When a strong man, armed, keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.” So, had not the power of evil itself been subdued by a higher power, such individual manifestations of it as the evil spirit in the demoniac could not have been conquered.427427   Christ here indicates that the so-called demoniacal possessions were nothing else but individual phenomena of Satan’s kingdom manifested among men.


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