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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:—“ 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 case.
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.
“ 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 him.self 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, “ What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?” Happily for the world, for this purpose he came : “ 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.
66 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, 6 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.” “ 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.
In what way angels became demons, it does not become us to determine. The two leading references to this mysterious event, are in the second epistle of Peter, and the general epistle of Jude. Our Lord himself seems to allude to the fact, when he says to the Jews who resisted his doctrines and mission, “ Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do : he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it." While a reference appears to be made to a departure from his original state, when it is said, he abode not in the truth — the declaration, that he was “a murderer from the beginning,” can be understood, as we conceive, to refer only to those wiles by which he allured man from his original innocence, and with it destroyed his peace, and involved his posterity in ruin.
The language of the Scriptures, on the agency of the devil on the human mind, is explicit: the name Satan signifies « an adversary,” “ an accuser.” He is described as a real being, when Jesus says, “ If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself.” He is called, “ the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air.” We are charged, “ Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” He is exhibited under various images —a serpent—the old serpent—a roaring and devouring lion. It is promised, “ the Lord God of peace shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly.” The world of punishment, is called, a fire “ prepared for the devil and his angels.” Cain was said to be “ of that wicked one,” because he slew his brother. Jesus charged the Jews with a resemblance to this evil spirit. He is said to “ lie in wait to deceive.” He is described as having access to the human mind; and endeavouring, by all possible means, to allure, or to alarm; to tempt, or to terrify. “ And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not:"—there can be no doubt, from the connection of this passage, that the reference was to that future act of the disciple—the denial of his Master. When Peter charged Ananias with deliberate falsehood, he said, “ Why hath Satan filled thine heart, to lie against the Holy Ghost ?” and when Judas betrayed his Lord, before he left the table where he had eaten with Jesus, it is said, that " Satan entered into the heart of Judas Iscariot.”
In certain instances of what is usually called demoniacal possessions, it does not appear that the demoniac was afflicted with any bodily disease whatever. Such were the Gadarene demoniacs. The evangelists carefully distinguish between diseases of every description and possessions. It is impossible to suppose a maniac capable of knowing the Saviour, and of bearing such a testimony to his character and mission, at a time when he had not been heard of by them as the Messiah. We appeal to every one who has carefully perused the history of the Gospels.
Some reasons may be assigned for possessions in the days of our Lord, arising from the nature of his mission. He was said to be “ manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil.” Such possessions, allowed at that particular time, proved the nature and malice of the adversary, and the superiority and mission of the Saviour. He produced, in his miraculous
agency, successive evidences of his power over disease, and over death: it was of importance that he should furnish some marks of his victory over “ him that had the power of death,” the grand adversary. Those who beheld the expulsion of demons from the bodies of mankind, would more readily receive him, as the deliverer destined to bruise the head of the serpent; and believe him, when he pronounced the forgiveness of sin. With what zeal would his apostles go forth to contend against an enemy thus early defeated, and whose kingdom had been already shaken! Thus, before he finally subdued these spirits of darkness on the cross, even in the days of his pilgrimage, he “ spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly !”