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His hold over all his pupils I know perfectly astonished me. It was not so much an enthusiastic admiration for his genius or learning or eloquence which stirred within them; it was a sympathetic thrill, caught from a spirit that was earnestly at work in the world whose work was healthy, sustained, and constantly carried forward in the fear of God.
Mr. Price in Stanley's Life of Arnold, ii.
References. III. 14. J. Rendel Harris, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxii. 1902, p. 153. H. C. G. Moule, My Brethren and Companions, p. 14. III. 20, 21. John Watson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. 1895, p. 273. III. 20-35. W. H. Bennett, The Life of Christ According to St. Mark, p. 47.
I. Jesus was counted mad simply because He was enthusiastic, and the incident is therefore typical. Our Master illustrates that passion for religion which is prepared to sacrifice everything, even life itself, in the service of God, and His family represents for the time the worldly mind which regarded Him with angry suspicion and has been pouring cold water on enthusiasm ever since. Two states of mind are contrasted one inspired and self-forgetful, the other prosaic and self-regarding.
From time to time a tide of emotion has swept through the Church, cleansing her life from the pollution of the world and lifting it to a higher spiritual level, as when the ocean fills the bed of a shrunken river with its wholesome buoyant water. Every such springtime has been a lift to religion, and has been condemned as madness by the world.
II. There are two convincing pleas for enthusiasm and the first is its reasonableness. A man may be keen about many interests, but of all things he ought to be keenest about religion. If any one believes that the kingdom of God will remain when this world has disappeared like a shadow, then he is right to fling away all that he possesses, and himself too, for its advancement and victory.
My second plea for enthusiasm is its success. Take if you please the enthusiast who has not always been perfectly wise, and whose plans any one can criticize; the man who has not had tangible success. It does not follow that the cause of God is condemned in him or has lost by him. There is something more important than results which can be tabulated in reports, there is the spirit which inspires action and without which there will be no report to write. When a knight dies in his steel armour it does not matter much in the long result whether he lost or won. Every one who saw him fall, fearless to the last, leaves the lists with a higher idea of manhood. III. We are hag-ridden in the Church of God by the idea of machinery, and we forget that the motive power of religion is inspiration. 'The world,' some one has said, 'is filled with the proverbs of a base prudence which adores the rule of three, which never subscribes, which never gives, which seldom lends, and only asks one question Will it bake bread?' What we have to search for high and low is imprudent people, self-forgetful, uncalculating, heroic people.
J. Watson (Ian Maclaren), The Inspiration of Our Faith, p. 24.
References. III. 21. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 112. Vincent Tymms, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxix. 1905, p. 27. Henry Drummond, The Ideal Life, p. 9. III. 22-35. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 122.
An Eternal Sin
Or 'guilty of an eternal sin'. This is almost certainly the true rendering of the words of the Evangelist, from which some transcribers shrank as something strange and unusual, and took refuge in a word more easy to be explained and more closely related to cognate expressions.
I. What may we take it to mean, this description of a state, which men seem to have hesitated even to write down? It means surely, first of all, a great mistake. You may notice that our blessed Lord had just been speaking about that mysterious blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which has so exercised the thoughts and guesses, and even terrors of men. It is this which brings man into the imminent danger of which we are thinking. Surely we are face to face with the possibility of a great mistake where a man gets so entirely out of sympathy with God that where there is God, he can only see an evil spirit; where there is goodness, he can only see malignity; where there is mercy, he can only see cruel tyranny. The great mistake! It begins, perhaps, in the will. Life is presented with all its fascinating material; there is the deadly bias of disposition, while there is the make-weight of grace; and the will gives in. And the dishonoured will now seeks to justify its degradation by an appeal to the intellect. Sin is decried as an ecclesiastical bogey. And then from the intellect it goes to the heart. 'I will pull down my barns, and build greater.' This is the extent of the heart's ambition. See how the great mistake has spread! Self has deflected all the relations of life until the man has become denaturalized. He has made a great mistake his relations to the world, to God, to self, are inverted unless God interferes, i.e. unless the man allows God to interfere; he is guilty of an eternal sin, in the sense of having made an irreparable mistake, and missed the object for which he was created, the purpose for which he was endowed.
II. But, besides a great mistake, an eternal sin means a great catastrophe.
What a terrible consciousness to wake up to the thought that the position which God has given us, the talents, the intellect, the skill, have been abused by a real perversion of life, and that we have been only doing harm when we were meant to be centres of good! See how an eternal sin may mean an eternal catastrophe, where the forces of life have become mutinous and disobedient; where self-control has gone for ever, and anarchy or misrule riot across life, where there is the perversion of blessings which reaches its climax in the fact that man is the great exception in the order of nature; that while every other living thing is striving for its own good, man alone is found choosing what he knows to be for his hurt. There is no ruin to compare to it, no depravity so utterly depraved as that which comes from a disordered and shattered human nature.
III. Lastly, we are face to face with a great loss. 'I do not wonder at what people suffer, but I wonder often at what they lose.'
The loss of God out of life, which begins, it may be, with a deprivation, and is a disquieting pang, which, if it is not arrested, becomes death, which, if persisted in, becomes eternal, becomes utter and complete separation from God, which becomes what we know as hell the condition of an eternal sin.
W. C. E. Newbolt, Words of Exhortation, p. 230.
Illustration. It was only that petty thieving from the bag, which Judas forgot as the miracles flashed before him, in speaking tongues, in unstopped ears, healed lepers, and awakened dead. It was only the selfish love of the world which he forgot, as he listened to the wondrous word of searching power, of veiling parable, or piercing insight, but insensibly it has begun to tell. A rift has begun to open in the lute. He finds himself as he never did before, a critic; he finds himself a grumbler; he finds himself in opposition. He is outside the charmed circle; 'this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor'. He has a policy and a purpose of his own, 'what will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?' Christ has dropped out of his life. He is definitely on the side of His enemies, 'And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them'. 'I have sinned;' remorse pushes out repentance, and he stands in the piteous void of the awful and eternal loss.
W. C. E. Newbolt, Words of Exhortation, p. 243.
References. III. 29. William Alexander, Primary Convictions, p. 133. W. Leighton Grane, Hard Sayings of Jesus Christ, p. 133. W. Temple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 214. III. 31-35. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 129. R. Rainy, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 109. III. 33-35. R. J. Campbell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 409. T. Vincent Tymms, ibid. vol. lxix. 1906, p. 219. III. 34. R. Rainy, Sojourning With God, p. 114. III. 35. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 138. IV. 1-25. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2512. IV. 1-34. W. H. Bennett. The Life of Christ According to St. Mark, p. 54. IV. 3-8, 14-20. C. G. Lang, Thoughts on Some of the Parables of Jesus, p. 13. IV. 4. F. Y. Leggatt, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 337. IV. 5, 6. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1132.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 3". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany