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depart from Capernaum into the wilderness, where he spent some time in retirement, meditation, and prayer.
Some writers have supposed that this leper, and the other mentioned in the foregoing chapter, were one and the same person; but this must be a mistake, the former being cleansed in the fields, the latter in the city: after cleansing the first, JESUS went to Capernaum and healed the centurion's servant; after curing the latter, JESUS retired into the wilderness, to shun the vast multitudes which soon gathered round him, from the leper being so careful to proclaim to all men the miracles which JESUS had wrought.
Perhaps it may seem strange that the blessed JESUS should be so careful to conceal his wondrous works, and be looked upon in some measure contrary to the end for which they were performed, which must certainly be to prove his divine mission. But it may be observed, that his modesty and humility would not allow his works to have the least appearance of ostentation; nor the Jews to have the least pretence of accusing him of seeking his own glory, or aiming at popular applause.
And it may be supposed that our great Redeemer did not think it proper, at this time, to irritate the Scribes and Pharisees by the proclamation and publication of his miracles through the kingdom. He very well knew that at the appointed time they would perform whatever had been determined, concerning him in the councils of heaven. In the mean time, he was to work the works of him that sent him, and proclaim his gospel amongst mankind. This he knew could not be so conveniently performed if the fame of his miracles had roused the rage of his enemies, and excited their malice and envy to exert their utmost power against him. He likewise was sensible of the unruly humour of the multitude; they were convinced that he was the Messiah; they had no further views than
a temporal reign; and he might be apprehensive that they would come by force, and make him king, if the fame of his miracles blazed abroad before he had informed them of the spiritual nature of his kingdom. If such were his views, there was the greatest necessity to keep his miracles concealed as much as possible. The fame of his cleansing the last leper had brought such numbers of people to Capernaum, that he was forced to retire into a solitary retreat in the neighbouring desart: nor could he even in this retirement long enjoy the repose he sought; for the people soon found out the place of his retreat and flocked to him in great numbers from every part of the country.
Our Lord finding his endeavours to conceal himself in the wilderness would be in vain, he ordered his disciples to accompany him to the other side of the lake. A certain Scribe, who happened to be amongst the company, declared that he would follow him whithersoever he went; JESUS, who well knew that his only desire was to gain the profits and honor of that temporal kingdom which he supposed the Messiah would establish, told him, that if he wanted nothing more than to advance and improve his worldly fortune, he would be greatly deceived; for the blessed Jesus informed this teacher of Israel, That the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
The Son of Man is a name by which the Messiah is called in the prophecy of Daniel, where his wide and extensive dominion is described; and therefore when this title is applied to our Lord, it hath reference to his human nature, and at the same time conveys an idea of that glorious kingdom to which his manhood will be exalted. But as it was also a name by which the old prophets were called by way of contempt, it is used in several places to express the deep humiliation of the Son of God,
The disciples having provided a ship, took their Master on board, and crossed the lake, being followed by several boats full of people, who were desirous of hearing his heavenly discourse, and seeing the wonderful works which he constantly performed. Our Lord, being fatigued with the labour of the day, fell asleep in the ship, while she smoothly glided along the level
But soon the weather, which till now had been calm and serene, changed, black clouds covered the skies, and the big storm burst from the dark concave of heaven, the winds roared aloud, and the white foam appeared on the face of the waves; the ship could scarce bear the dashing tides which beat incessantly against her; the darkness of the night increased the horrors of the tempest; the waves began to break over the ship, and she was in the utmost danger of sinking. All hopes of being saved were lost, and in the agonies of despair the disciples ran to JESUS, crying, Master, Master, we perish! This pitious exclamation awakened him from his sleep, and raising that hand, so often employed in acts of benevolence and mercy, he with an awful all-commanding voice, rebuked the boisterous ocean. The elements knew his voice; the roaring winds forsook the seas; and the foaming waves subsided. All was quiet, all was still and the ship smoothly cut the smiling deep, soon arriving at her destined port.
The disciples, before this, had seen our Lord perform many miracles, and had abundant reason to rely on his power and goodness. They had certainly no cause to be so much affrighted, or to give way to such despair and terror: they might have considered, that the same divine person who had so often healed the sick, and had lately shewn such power over the watery element, as to bring the fish to their nets, was equally able to stay the wild waves, or to have preserved them alive, had the ship sunk beneath them: but they seemed,
in the hurry of mind consequent on the terrors of the storm, to have forgot the power of their master, and therefore he gently rebuked them, Why are ye so fearful! How is it that ye have no faith? They ought to have remembered likewise, that the voyage was undertaken at his command, and it was not to be feared that he would permit them to perish: but when the terror of the storm was over, they wondered at his power, and though they frequently had occasion to remark the effects of his heavenly goodness, they exclaimed, What manner of man is this! that even the winds and the sea obey him.
Soon after the storm was stilled, the ship arrived in the country of Gadara; and on their landing, two men possessed with devils, came to meet our Redeemer. They were both exceeding fierce, turbulent and unruly; but one of them was more furious than the other this person had often been bound with chains and fetters, but all in vain, for his fetters were always broken with the greatest fury, so that no man attempted any longer to restrain him; being therefore at full liberty, he shunned all human society, and wandered day and night, in desert and dry places, and amongst the sepulchres and tombs, filling the silent repositories of the dead, with the most dismal and horrid howlings, and sometimes tearing his flesh, and cutting himself with stones.
The disciples were very much alarmed and terrified at the approach of these horrid and furious beings, but JESUS Soon quieted their apprehensions of danger, by commanding the devils to come out of the men, while they were at some distance The heavenly command had no sooner passed from the lips of our great Redeemer, than the men fell on their faces crying, What have we to do with thee Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time? I adjure, thee by God, that thou torments not. The infernal spirits were not ignorant of the power of
the Son of God, and were afraid, that he would cast them immediately into the torments prepared for them, and suffer them no longer to wander about the earth, which they seem to have hoped would be permitted them, till the judgment of the great day.
Jesus, being willing that the torment of these miserable men should be the more understood, asked one of the dæmons his name, who immediately answered, my name is Legion, for we are many: at the same time, he humbly requested, that our Lord would not immediately cast them into the ultimate torments prepared for them in the great deep of bottomless perdition, but would permit them to enter into an herd of swine, then feeding on a neighbouring mountain.
The grand deceiver of mankind, no doubt, beheld with gnawing envy, the effects of our Redeemer's power and goodness; and to abate the opinion which the inhabitants of Gadara might form of him, and make him odious in their view, seems to be the reason of his petition to enter into the swine; for doubtless the Devil knew, that if his legion could gain this permission, it would be in their power to destroy them; but though his secret designs could not be hid from the Saviour of the world, yet our Lord was pleased to grant to the fiend, the permission he desired: perhaps this might be complied with, to give the disciples a full proof that these persons were really possessed with devils, and to give a terrible instance of the power of these malicious beings when free from restraint.
The commission was no sooner granted, than the devils forsook the men, and swift as lightning, seized their bristly prey. The whole herd were immediately in a tumult, and the torments the poor creatures suffered, were plainly perceived by the spectators at a distance; the keepers were affrighted, and found it impossible to calm or restrain the wild fury of the herd; they poured, with amazing rapidity,