Page images

of his mind. When he was bound with chains, they were broken in sunder; nothing could tame him: night and day he was crying and cutting himself with


In all this we have an example of the power of Satan upon the hearts of men: his works are always the same in kind, though their effects do not always appear in the same form. He works by sin just as effectually as by the in-dwelling of a legion : for sin, where it gets possession, bereaves men of their wits; it is inconsistent with the rational enjoyment of life; and leads to melancholy and misery in some, in others to revellings and ravings, by night and by day: none of the obligations which bind good men to their duty. have an effect upon it; it breaks through them all. Consider, whether the determined idle sot is not a madman to all intents and purposes: he has no sense of his duty toward his wife and children: natural affection hath no hold upon him, though it can bind a brute beast: his fortune, his health, his soul are of no account with him; there he sits raving and destroying himself; an enemy to his own flesh; like the poor possessed man, who cut himself with stones, till his head was broken, and he was of consequence a ghastly spectacle, covered with his own blood; as the drunkard, in his ravings, is frequently seen to be.

When a man is come to this pass, what can be done with him? Will you offer him reasons? He hears none; for he has no reason in himself which you can lay hold of or apply to. Nothing but the power of Jesus Christ, nothing but a miracle of grace, can bring such an one to his right mind. But how is Jesus Christ looked upon by men when they are in this miserable state? Just as he was regarded by the

legion of Devils; that is, not as a Saviour but as a Tormentor. He and his religion are desired to keep at a distance, and not give them any interruption under this misery of sin; for, in their judgment, to be reformed and pacified, is to be tormented.

It is here to be remarked, that this man in the gospel was possessed by a multitude of evil spirits, who called themselves Legion. How this could be, it is in vain for us to ask; because, while we are in the body, we know so little about the world of spirits; but, in the moral application, the sense is very plain; for if sin is, in every man, what the Devil is in a dæmoniac; then, it is evident the same man may be under the dominion of a legion of vices and evil passions at once. Pride, covetousness, deceit, lying, lust, drunkenness and blasphemy, are often found in one single person. Such is the case of miserable man! but, lost as he may seem to be, the Saviour can find him, and cast out all that sin which has got the dominion over him; as he sent out this Legion of spirits into the herd of swine.

When the Devil leaves a man, he does not fall into idleness; he goes upon some other mischief as fast as he can, that no time may be lost. So, the evil spirits being cast out of this Gadarene, entered into a herd of swine, and drove them all headlong down a steep place into the sea, where they were drowned. Here observe, that the Devil, with all his malice, can do nothing against man or beast but by permission of God: he has no power over a poor worthless swine, that wallows in the mire, till he obtains leave to exercise it. The Legion, therefore, knowing what terms they were upon, apply to Jesus for this permission; Send us, said they, into the swine that we may enter into them; and forthwith Jesus gave them leave. Hence we

gather, that, in the like case, the like leave will be granted. Suffer us, said they, to enter, not into oxen, not into sheep, not into sober and orderly cattle, but into the greedy, filthy, rebellious swine. There the Devils had permission to work, as they are said still to do, in the children of disobedience. Who are the people that are delivered up by the best judgment of God to the will of the Devil? Who, but the unclean and abominable; which resemble swine in their lives and manners? The glutton, the drunkard, the adulterer, the fornicator, the idle and the disobedient, open a way for the devil to enter in, and possess them with other evil passions of wrath, malice, revenge, covetousness, which bring them under the severity of the laws, and so they go headlong to destruction. With good men, who lead sober and temperate lives, like the labouring ox or the innocent sheep, you find meekness, quietness, and charity; and where will you find wrath, and revenge, and clamour, and evil speaking, so much as with those who live in habitual intemperance? For bodily excess produces turbulence and furiousness of mind. When an evil spirit was to be cast out, and the disciples of Christ had failed in it, he told them, that kind went not forth, which means, that evil spirits of that sort could not be cast out, but by prayer and fasting. Therefore if prayer and fasting send away evil spirits, indevotion and intemperance will let them in. Look well then to yourselves the devil desires nothing so much as to destroy you, and is ever upon the watch; he will miss no opportunity; as soon as he sees you live like a swine, he will ask leave to take possession of you, and that leave will not be refused. And what will he do with you ? he will lead you farther off from God: he will hurry you away from the sins of the body into

blindness of heart, so that you shall not foresee the necessary consequences of your own evil actions: he will bring you nearer and nearer to some steep place; and when you are at it, down you must go without stopping it is an headlong course, and the sea of perdition is at the bottom. How careful ought we then to be in guarding against the beginnings of sin! Who knows how far he shall go, when he begins with the indulgence of any one sinful lust? how many "have began with keeping ill company; and ended with self-murder, or the gallows? You intend no more than the beginning; but the devil intends the utmost mischief that sin can do to you. He works with a view to that end, which you do not see: and he will take care, that you shall not see it, till it cannot be avoided; as, when the swine had started from the top of the precipice, they could not stop till they ran into the sea which lay at the bottom.

Now when all these things were done, the keepers of the swine flee to the city, and relate every thing as it had happened: at the hearing of which, the people went out to see what it was that was done. Here they find the man that was possessed with the Devil, sitting and clothed, and in his right mind. He that was used to run raving about, was now sitting calm and quiet he that had torn his clothes off his back, and was past all sense of shame, was now clothed and decent in his appearance: he that had been out of his wit, and spake and cried as Devils gave him utterance, was now in his right mind, and could give a rational account of all that had happened to him. What a wonderful change is here! How gracious is the power that can produce such a blessed transformation! that can raise up a child of God out of a child of wrath, and an instrument of the devil! How

will the people of the city rejoice when they see this! will they not wish that such a guest would remain with them for ever, to relieve their sicknesses and sins? So you would think: but, alas, when you come to know a little better what the humour of this world is, and what low motives men are governed by, you will find the contrary: you will discover, to your surprise and sorrow, that men will put away from them all the blessings of salvation, for the sordid ends and interests of this world. So did these Gadarenes. Instead of being delighted and cheered with this wonderful act of divine grace, in the restoration of their miserable neighbour, they were uneasy and affrighted at it. Instead of wishing for more good of the kind, these stupid people considered nothing but the hogs which they had lost, and were afraid the Saviour of the world should do them some more mischief. Good God! what infatuation is this! But it does not end here: these are not the only people, in whom this folly is found: the world is full of such Gadarenes: you find them every where: men, who pray Jesus Christ to depart out of their coasts, for fear he should send away their vile lusts and passions to the devil. It appears incredible, that any people should be so wicked and so false to themselves as to prefer the possession of their swine to the company of Jesus Christ. What! is our property in a filthy beast more desirable than the presence of the Son of God; who can deliver us from our passions, and restore us to our senses? It certainly is so, to all those who make this world their object; present pleasure or present profit doth so blind their eyes, that they can see nothing wonderful in the power of Christ, nor feel any desire that it should be exercised for their own salvation: they are rather busy in cal

« PreviousContinue »