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And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forth with Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine : and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand,) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. And they that saw it, told them how it befel to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit, Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel. -Mark v. 1-20. See Matt. viii. 28, 34.—Luke viji. 27-39.
And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David ! my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith : be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.—Matt. xv. 22, 28. See Mark vii. 25, 30.
SACRED NARRATIVE. 6 God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil.”—Acts x. 38. Intimating to us by this instance of his doing good, that he who took so much pains to rescue men's bodies from the power of the devil, would not let their souls remain under his tyranny.
There was brought to our Saviour “one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb, and he healed him.” Upon this “ the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the Son of David ?” that is the Messias. The Pharisees, hearing this, with great bitterness and contempt, said, “ This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.”. Matt. xii. 22, 24. Upon this our Saviour asks, “ If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out ? therefore they shall be your judges :” (that is, This may be sufficient to convince you of malice to me) “ But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you;” that is the Messiah is come, because he wrought these and other miracles to prove that he was the Messias. And the Saviour adds, “ Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” So that the Pharisees are the persons charged with this sin or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. It was plainly this, that when he cast out devils by the Spirit of God, they said he did it by the power of the devil; they maliciously ascribed these works of the Holy Ghost to the devil ! ARCHBISHOP Tillotson.
Demons of Holy Writ are malignant spirits. We are not informed particularly about their origin or destiny; but we find them represented as unclean spirits, and in league with the devil, as the subjects of his dominion, and the instruments of his will. But some writers contend that the demoniacs of the New Testament were only diseased persons : madness and epilepsy being ascribed by the Jews to the agency of evil spirits; and that this notion was adopted by our Lord and his apostles.
Christ and his apostles, however, represent the demons as speaking, and reasoning, as having inclinations and a versions peculiar to themselves, and distinct from those of the person who is the subject of the possession : they tell us of one unhappy sufferer vexed with many devils ; and in the case of the demoniac of Gadara, they assure us that the devils were cast out” of the man, and were permitted, at their own request, to “ enter into” a herd of swine, and that immediately the herd ran violently down a steep place, and were drowned in the sea. Who ever heard of swine afflicted with madness as a natural disease ? As various instances are recorded in Scripture, might we not expect, if possessions were nothing more than diseases, that Christ himself would have declared, in one unequivocal affirmation, or in some intelligible way, the exact truth of the case ? Or, at all events, when the Holy Ghost had descended upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, and when a full disclosure of the revelation was made, might it not reasonably have been rectified? What conceivable motive could influence our Saviour, or his apostles, to sanction the delusion of the multitude ? And does it not strike at the root of the Christian religion itself, to have it thought, for a single moment, that its “ Author and Finisher," who came to enlighten and to reform the world, should have not only countenanced, but confirmed an opinion which he knew to be “ the reverse of the truth?”
Let us then beware how we relinquish the literal sense of Holy Writ, in search of allegorical interpretations. It is evident that the devil and his angels, according to all that we can learn of them in the sacred books, are real beings; that the demons of the New Testament are malignant spirits ; and that they act upon the same principles, and even under the authority of Satan himself, called Beelzebub, and the prince of the devils. And it is on this supposition alone that we can explain the language of Christ in that remarkable declaration which he made to the Pharisees and rulers of the Jews, Matt. xii. 24-26:- .66 The Pharisees heard it, and they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. 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 ; and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how shall his kingdom stand ?”
Rev. RICHARD WATSON.
There is everywhere a plain distinction made between common diseases and demoniacal possessions, which shows that they are totally different things. In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, where the very first mention is made of these possessions, it is said that our Lord's fame went throughout all Syria, and that they brought unto him “ all sick people, that were taken with divers diseases and torments,” and those “ which were possessed with devils,” and he healed them. Here those that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those possessed with devils, are mentioned as distinct and separate persons: a plain proof that the demoniacal possessions were not natural diseases : and the very same distinction is made in several passages of Holy Writ. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the demoniacs were persons really possessed with evil spirits ; and although it may appear strange to us, yet we find from Josephus and other historians, that it was in those times no uncommon
Gadara. The account given of the habitation of the demoniacs, from whom the legion of devils was cast out here, struck us very forcibly, while we were ourselves wandering among rugged mountains, and surrounded by tombs, still used as habitations by individuals and whole families of those residing there. A finer subject for a masterly expression of the passions of madness in all their violence, contrasted with the serenity of benevolence and virtue in him who went about doing good, could hardly be chosen by the pencil of an artist; and a faithful delineation of the rugged and wild majesty of the mountain scenery here on the one hand, with the still calm of the water of the lake on the other, would give an additional charm to the picture.
6 Gadarenes.” The Gadarenes were included within the limits of the Gergesenes, Dr. Lightfoot supposes that, of the two demoniacs mentioned Matt. viii. 28, one was of Gadara, and consequently a heathen, the other was a Gergesenian, and consequently a Jew; and he thinks that Mark and Luke mention the Gadarene demoniac, because his case was a singular one being the only heathen cured by our Lord, except the daughter of the Syrophenician woman.
“ Bound with fetters and chains.” His strength, it appears, was supernatural, no kind of chains being strong enough to confine him. With several, this man would have passed for an outrageous madman, and diabolical influence be entirely left out of the question ; but it is the prerogative of the inspired penman only, to enter into the nature and causes of things: and how strange is it, that because men cannot see as far as the Spirit of God does, therefore they deny his testimony !
- Crying, and cutting himself with stones.” In this person's case, we see a specimen of what Satan could do in all the wicked, if God should permit him; but even the devil himself has his chain; and he who often binds others, is always bound himself.
DR. A. CLARKE.
This history, more fully than any other, acquaints us with the power of those evil spirits which Christ Jesus came to subdue. Jesus had begun his ministry by overcoming Satan; he proceeds to show that the Son of God was come, and for what purpose he was come, by subduing those inferior spirits, who at this period seem especially to have exerted their malevolent power. They knew, it appears, who was appointed to restrain them and break their dominion. They cried out, saying,
66 What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?” Happily for the world, for this purpose
he 6 for this was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” And an awful subject of thought is opened to us in the words that follow, “ Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" This shows a fearful expectation of wrath ; of the judgment awaiting them, of which Peter speaks,“ God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.”—2 Pet. ii. 4.
“ The devils besought him, Suffer us to go into the herd of swine.” Without permission they could do nothing. This agrees with what we read in Job's history, “ The Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thy hand.”—Job i. 12. And again, “ the LORD said unto Satan, Behold he is in thine hand: but save his life.” — ii. 6.
The Jews were forbidden to eat the flesh of swine, Deut. xiv. 8: therefore, those who kept them were not obedient to the law; and this destruction of their herd may have been intended as a punishment. But the great purpose of the whole was, no doubt, to show the dominion of Jesus over the spiritual world. It has been supposed, that the power of devils was allowed to be more evidently exerted at the period of our Lord's ministry than at any other time before or since, in order that his own superior power, and universal sovereignty, might appear. So by the power at this time evidently exercised by unclean spirits, the greater power of him, who “ with authority commanded them, and they obeyed him," was displayed in the sight of all who witnessed this miracle.
Another truth appears which well deserves attention,—the miserable end to which those bring themselves who are given up to the dominion of evil spirits. We are well assured that none are so given up, till they have rejected all means of grace. But do we not sometimes see sinners run headlong upon their own destruction, — Pharaoh, for instance. This is an extraordinary case; but much of the same nature may be traced in the life and death of many heinous sinners. The “unclean spirit goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” 6 Be wise therefore." “ Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and ye perish from the right way.” Make him your friend, who is able to restrain and bind the enemy of your souls.
“ Blessed are all they that put their trust in him!”
BISHOP J. B. SUMNER.
From the remarkable story which is here before us, we must surely see the most apparent reason to adore the good providence of God, which restrains the malignant spirits of hell: that all their fury and rage is under a Divine control! The unhappy creature whose state is here described in such lively colours, is an affecting emblem of those who are in a spiritual sense under the power of Satan. Thus do they break asunder the bonds of reason and gratitude, and sometimes of authority, and even of shame. Human attempts to moderate and reform them may be vain; but let us remember that the Almighty Saviour has a voice which can put this worst kind of demon to flight, so as to place them at his feet in a holy composure, and in calm rational attention.
We see here a legion of devils trembling before the Son of God, confessing his superior power, howling as it were in their chains, and entreating the delay of their torments. And can human pride stand before him? Happy souls that are listed under his banners! They shall share the victories of the great Captain of their salvation! But oh, how stupid were these Gadarenes, who preferred their swine to their souls, and besought him to depart out of their coasts, whose presence was their defence and their glory! May Divine grace preserve us from a temper like theirs ! And may those of us who have experienced the restoring power of Christ, be engaged to adhere to our great Benefactor! Dr. DODDRIDGE.
Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.”—Luke viii. 2. Mary Magdalene is commonly thought to have been a prostitute before she came to the knowledge of Christ, and then to have been a remarkable penitent. So historians and painters represent her ; but neither from this passage, nor from any other of the New Testament, can such a supposition be legitimately drawn. She is here represented as one who had been possessed with seven demons; and as one among other women who had been healed by Christ of evil (or wicked) spirits and infirmities. As well might Joanna and Susanna, mentioned verse 3, come in for a share of the censure as this Mary Magdalene; for they seem to have been dispossessed likewise by Jesus, according to Luke's account of them.
They had all had infirmities, of what sort it is not said, and those infirmities were occasioned by evil spirits within them, and Jesus had healed them all : but Mary Magdalene, by her behaviour, and constant attendance on Jesus in his life-time, at his crucifixion, and at his grave, seems to have exceeded all the other women in respect to his person.