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So likewise there are times with the individual followers of Christ, when His presence blesses them continually: and they experience the fulfilment of His promise, "Peace I leave with you:" "they are filled with all joy and peace in believing." They cannot mourn; the bridegroom is with them.
But other days come to the Church, when He suffers the enemy to disturb its prosperity; or to individuals, when the remaining corruptions of the heart cloud the evidences of their faith. Fear prevails over hope; the Bridegroom is taken away; the light of that countenance in which they were used to rejoice is withdrawn:then shall they fast in those days; and long for the season when there shall be no more sorrow, or fear, or temptation.
This, however, we must bear in mind. The Bridegroom was taken away, and left His disciples sorrowing. But it was only His visible presence which they lost; He was still with them by the power of His Spirit: "to the end of the world" He will be with His Church, so that Satan to the end of the world shall not prevail against it: He will be with His faithful people who compose that Church, to "stablish, and to strengthen, and to settle them."
A second reason follows, why the disciples of Christ fasted not.
16. "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 made worse."
It was not necessary that His disciples should fast, because the disciples of John and the Pharisees fasted. He was not putting a new cloth to an old garment: He was making all things new. His discipline must be a system of itself, not pieced upon the old; and the Jewish dispensation was now old, about to be folded up and changed. It might be expedient for His disciples to fast hereafter, but it was not necessarily so because other teachers had prescribed it. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes free from the law of sin and death." And it would be hurtful rather than profitable to require outward mortification as essential to those who were to depend upon Him "for grace to help in time of need." That which is put in to fill up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
There is still a third reason derived from the character of His disciples.
17. "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.'
His disciples were as unfit to bear austerities, as old bottles (old leathern bottles, such as were used in Judea) to bear the fermentation of new wine. There must be a suitableness between the person, and that which is applied to him or expected of him. Not to consider this; not to take into account whether the discipline is fitted to the person, or the person to the discipline, would risk the loss of all: the bottles break, and
the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish. Wait the proper time, wait for the gradual preparation of the heart,-put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
Here we must admire, not only the wisdom, but the tenderness of Him, who "taught as one that had authority, and not as the scribes." He "gathers the lambs in his bosom, and gently leads them that are with young." He "has
many things to say unto His disciples: but they cannot bear them now." It is an example of the care with which, in all ages, He prepares His people for the trials which they are to undergo, before those trials come. And so the promise is fulfilled; "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF: STRONG MAN
MATT. xii. 22-32.
(Mark iii. 22-30: Luke xi. 14—26.)
22. "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.
23. "And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the Son of David?
24. "But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub,' the prince of the devils.
25. "And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.
26. "And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how shall then his kingdom stand?
27. "And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
28. "But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you."
THE miracles which our Lord wrought, began to have their proper effect upon the minds of the people. They said, Is not this the Son of David? "He who should come?" The Pharisees, who denied Him to be the expected Son of David, must propose some answer to this, must account for His miracles in some other way. He is in league, they say, with Beelzebub and so casts out devils, not by His own power, but by agreement with their prince and chief. This, said our Lord, would be like a king conspiring against himself. These are evil spirits, of whom Beel
'Beelzebub was the name given to a god worshipped by some of the Philistines. The Israelites adopted the name from their idolatrous neighbours, and used it to signify the chief of evil spirits. Our Lord, by His answer, shows that it bore the same sense as the word Satan,
zebub, or Satan, is the head: will Satan cast out Satan?
Besides, some of yourselves attempt the same good work are they too united with Beelzebub ? or, by whom do they cast them out? No. In this ye have a proof, if ye had eyes to see, or ears to hear, that what your prophet Daniel has foretold, is coming to pass, and that "the God of heaven is setting up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed."
29. "Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
30. "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad."
Satan is like a strong man: and those who have devils are in his possession. Who can enter into his house and spoil his goods, that is, who can deliver such out of his power, unless he first conquer Satan? It is in this, as in other things; he that is not with another, is against him. If Jesus were not gathering for Satan, He was scattering and lessening his harvest. And they could not but see that thus He was really taking from him, and not adding to his power. "For this was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." 3
31. "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blas
Dan. ii. 44.
a 1 John iii. 8.