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executioners : how can we be unwelcome to thee, if we come with tears in our eyes, faith in our hearts, restitution in our hands? O Saviour, our breasts are too oft shut upon thee, thy bosom is ever open to us. We are as great sinners as the consorts of these publicans, why should we despair of a room at thy table?
The squint-eyed Pharisees look across at all the actions of Christ; where they should have admired his mercy, they cavil at his holiness : “They said to his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners ?” They durst not say this to the Master, whose answer, they knew, would soon have convinced them: this wind, they hoped, might shake the weak faith of the disciples. They speak where they may be most likely to hurt. All the crew of satanical instruments have learned this craft of their old tutor in Paradise. We cannot reverence that man whom we think unholy. Christ had lost the hearts of his followers, if they had entertained the least suspicion of his impurity, which the 'murmur of these envious Pharisees would fain insinuate: he cannot be worthy to be followed that is unclean: he cannot but be unclean that eateth with publicans and sinners. Proud and foolish Pharisees ! ye fast while Christ eateth ; ye fast in your houses, while Christ eateth in other men's; ye fast with your own, while Christ feasts with sinners; but if ye fast in pride, while Christ eats in humility; if ye fast at home for merit or popularity, while Christ feasts with sinners for compassion, for edification, for conversion, your fast is unclean, his feast is holy: ye shall have your portion with hypocrites, when those publicans and sinners shall be glorious.
When these censurers thought the disciples had offended, they speak not to them, but to their Master ; “Why do thy disciples that which is not lawful?” now when they thought Christ offended, they speak not to him, but to the disciples. Thus, like true makebates, they go about to make a breach in the family of Christ, by setting off the one from the other. The quick eye of our Saviour hath soon espied the pack of their fraud, and therefore, he takes the words out of the moaths of his disciples, into his own. They had spoke of Christ to the disciples, Christ answers for the disciples concerning himself, “ The whole need not the physician, but the sick.” According to the two qualities of pride, scorn and over-weaning, these insolent Pharisees overrated their own holiness, contemned the noted unholiness of others; as if themselves were not tainted with secret sins, as if others could not be cleansed by repentance. The Searcher of hearts meets with their arrogance, and finds those justiciaries sinful, those sinners just. The spiritual Physician finds the sickness of those sinners wholesome, the health of those Pharisees desperate; that wholesome, because it calls for the help of the physician; this desperate, because it needs not. Every soul is sick; those most that feel it not; those that feel it complain ; those that complain, have cure: those that feel it not, shall find themselves dying ere they can wish to recover. O blessed Physician, by whose stripes we are healed, by whose death we live! Happy are they that are under thy hands, sick, as of sin, so of sorrow for sin. It is as impossible they should die, as it is impossible for thee to want either skill, or power, or mercy.
Sin hath made us sick unto death: make thou us but as sick of our sins, we are as safe as thou art gracious.
Gadarene Herd. I do not any' where find so furious a demoniac as amongst the Gergesens: Satan is most tyrannous where he is obeyed
Christ no sooner sailed over the lake, than he was met with two possessed Gadarenes : the extreme rage of the one hath drowned the mention of the other. Yet, in the midst of all that cruelty of the evil spirit, there was sometimes a remission, if not an intermission of vexation. If ofttimes Satan caught him, then sometimes in the same violence he caught
It was no thank to that malignant one, who, as he was indefatigable in his executions, so unmeasurable in his malice; but to the merciful overruling of God, who, in a gracious respect to the weakness of his poor creatures, limits the spiteful attempts of that immortal enemy, and takes off this mastiff, while we may take breath. He, who in his justice gives way to some onsets of Satan, in his mercy restrains them; so regarding our deservings, that withal he regards our strength. If way should be given to that malicious spirit, we could not subsist: no violent thing can endure; and, if Satan might have his will, we should no moment be free. He can be no more weary of doing evil to us, than God is of doing good. Are we therefore preserved from the malignity of these powers of darkness ?
“Blessed be our strong helper, that hath not given us over to be a prey unto their teeth :” or, if some scope have heen given to that envious one to afflict us, it hath been with favourable limitations : it is thine only mercy, O God, that hath chained and muzzled up this band-dog, so as that he may scratch us with his paws, but cannot pierce us with his fangs. Far, far is this from our deserts, who had too well merited a just abdication from thy favour and protection, and an interminable seizure by Satan, both in soul and body.
Neither do I here see more matter of thanks to our God, for our immunity from the external injuries of Satan, than occasion of serious inquiry into his power over us for the spiritual. I see some that think themselves safe from this ghostly tyranny, because they sometimes find themselves in good moods, free from the suggestions of gross sins, much more from the commission. Vain men, that feed themselves with so false and frivolous comforts ! will they not see Satan, through the just permission of God, the same to the soul in mental possessions, that he is to the body in corporal ? The worst demoniac hath his lightsome respites, not ever tortured, not ever furious; betwixt whiles he might look soberly, talk sensibly, move regularly. It is a woeful comfort, that we sin not always. There is no master so barbarous, as to require of his slave a perpetual unintermitted toil; yet, though he sometimes eat, sleep, rest, he is a vassal still. If that wicked one have drawn us to a customary perpetration of evil, and have wrought us to a frequent iteration of the same sin, this is gage enough for our servitude, matter enough for his tyranny and insultation. He, that would be our tormentor always, cares only to be sometimes our tempter.
The possessed is bound, as with the invisible fetters of Satan, so with the material chains of the inhabitants. What can bodily force prevail against a spirit? yet they endeavour this restraint of the man, whether out of charity or justice ; charity, that he might not hurt himself; justice, that he might not hurt others. None do so much befriend the demoniac as those that bind him. Neither may the spiritually possessed be otherways handled : for, though this act of the enemy plausible, and to appearance pleasant, yet there is more danger in this dear and smiling tyranny. Two sorts of chains are fit
] CHRIST AMONG THE GERGESENS. 257 for outrageous sinners; good laws, impartial executions; that they may not hurt, that they may not be hurt to eternal death.
These iron chains are no sooner fast than broken. There was more than an human power in this disruption. It is not hard to conceive the utmost of nature in this kind of actions. Samson doth not break the cords and ropes like a thread of tow, but God by Samson. The man doth not break these chains, but the Spirit. How strong is the arm of these evil angels ! how far transcending the ordinary course of nature ! They are not called powers for nothing. What flesh and blood could but tremble at the palpable inequality of this inatch, if herein the merciful protection of our God did not the rather magnify itself, that so much strength, met with so , much malice, hath not prevailed against us! In spite of both, we are in safe hands. He that so easily brake the iron fetters, can never break the adamantine chain of our faith. In vain do the chaffing billows of hell beat upon that Rock whereon we are built; and though these brittle chains of earthly metal be easily broken by him, yet the sure tempered chain of God's eternal decree he can never break. That Almighty Arbiter of heaven and earth and hell, hath chained him up in the bottomless pit, and hath so restrained his malice, that, but for our good, we cannot be tempted; we cannot be foiled, but for a glorious victory.
Alas! it is no otherways with the spiritually possessed. The chains of restraint are commonly broken by the fury of wickedness. What are the respects of civility, fear of God, fear of men, wholesoine laws, careful executions, to the desperately licentious, but as cobwebs to an hornet?
Let these wild demoniacs know, that God hath provided chains for them that will hold, even “ everlasting chains of darkness.” These are such as must hold the devils themselves, their masters, unto the judgment of the great day; how much more these impotent vassals ! O that men would suffer themselves to be bound to their good behaviour, by the sweet and easy recognizances of their duty to their God, and the care of their own souls, that so they might rather be bound up in the bundle of life.
It was not for rest, that these chains were torn off, but for more motion. This prisoner runs away from his friends, he cannot run away from his jailor. He is now carried into the
wilderness, not by inere external force, but by internal impulsion; carried by the same power that unbound him, for the opportunity of his tyranny, for the horror of the place, for the famishment of his body, for the avoidance of all means of resistance. Solitary desarts are the delights of Satan. It is an unwise zeal that moves us to do that to ourselves in an opinion of merit and holiness, which the devil wishes to do to us for a punishment, and conveniency of temptation. The evil spirit is for solitariness ; God is for society : “ He dwells in the assembly of his saints, yea, there he hath a delight to dwell.” Why should not we account it our happiness, that we may have leave to dwell where the Author of all happiness loves to dwell?
There cannot be any misery incident unto us, whereof our gracious Redeemer is not both conscious and sensible. Without any intreaty therefore of the miserable demoniac, or suit of any friend, the God of spirits takes pity of his distress ; and, from no motion but his own, commands the evil spirit to come out of the man. O admirable precedent of mercy! preventing our requests, exceeding our thoughts, forcing favours upon our impotence, doing that for us which we should, and yet cannot desire! If men, upon our instant solicitations, would give us their best aid, it were a just praise of their bounty: but it well became thee, O God of mercy, to go without force, to give without suit : and do we think thy goodness is impaired by thy glory? If thou wert thus cominiserative upon earth, art thou less in heaven? how dost thou now take notice of all our complaints, of all our infirmities! how doth thine infinite pity take order to redress them! what evil can befal us which thou knowest not, feelest not, relievest not? how safe are we that have such a guardian, such a Mediator in heaven !
Not long before, had our Saviour commanded the winds and waters, and they could not but obey him. Now he speaks in the same language to the evil spirit: lie intreats not, he persuades not, he commands. Command argues superiority. He only is infinitely stronger than the strong one in possession : else, where powers are matcht, though with some inequality, they tug for the victory, and, without a resistance, yield nothing. There are no fewer sorts of dealing with Satan than with men. Some have dealt with him by suit, as the old Satanian hereticks, and the present Indian savages,