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learn by inquiring; but that by the confession of that mischief, which thou pleasedst to suffer, the grace of the cure might be the more conspicuous, the more glorious: so, on the other, God and man might do that safely, which mere man cannot do without danger. Thou mightest touch the leprosy, and not be legally unclean; because thou touchedst it to heal it, didst not touch it with possibility of infection. So mightest thou, who, by reason of the perfection of thy Divine Nature, wert incapable of any stain by the interlocution with Satan, safely confer with him, whom corrupt man, predisposed to the danger of such a parley, may not meddle with without sin, because not without peril. It is for none but God, to hold discourse with Satan. Our surest way is, to have as little to do with that Evil One, as we may; and, if he shall offer to maintain conference with us by his secret temptations, to turn our speech unto our God, with the archangel: The Lord rebuke thee, Satan.
It was the presupposition of him that knew it, that not only men but spirits have names. This then he asks, not out of an ignorance or curiosity; nothing could be hid from him, who calleth the stars and all the hosts of heaven by their names: but out of a just respect to the glory of the miracle he was working, whereto the notice of the name would not a little avail. For if without inquiry or confession our Saviour had ejected this evil spirit, it had passed for the single dispossession of one only devil; whereas now it appears there was a combination and hellish champertie in these powers of darkness, which were all forced to vail unto that Almighty command.
Before, the Devil had spoken singularly of himself, What have I to do with thee? and I beseech thee, torment me not. Our Saviour yet, knowing that there was a multitude of devils lurking in that breast, who dissembled their presence, wrests it out of the spirit by this interrogation, What is thy name? Now can those wicked ones no longer hide themselves: he, that asked the question, forced the answer; My name is Legion. The author of discord hath borrowed a name of war: from that military order of discipline by which the Jews were subdued, doth the Devil fetch his denomination.
They were many; yet they say, My name, not, "Our name:" though many, they speak as one, they act as one, in this possession. There is a marvellous accordance, even betwixt evil spirits. That kingdom is not divided, for then it could not stand. I wonder not, that wicked men do so conspire in evil, that there is such unanimity in the broachers and abettors of errors, when I see those devils, which are many in substance, are one in name, action, habitation. Who can too much brag of unity, when it is incident unto wicked spirits? All the praise of concord is in the subject: if that be holy, the consent is angelical; if sinful, devilish.
What a fearful advantage have our spiritual enemies against us! If armed troops come against single stragglers, what hope is there of life, of victory? How much doth it concern us, to band our hearts together in a communion of saints! Our enemies come upon us, like a torrent: oh, let us not run asunder, like drops in the dust. All our united forces will be little enough, to make head against this legaue of destruction.
Legion imports order, number, conflict.
Order: in that there is a distinction of regiment, a subordination of officers. Though in hell there be confusion of faces, yet not confusion of degrees.
Number: those, that have reckoned a legion at the lowest, have counted it six thousand others have more than doubled it. Though here it is not strict, but figurative; yet the letter of it implies multitude. How fearful is the consideration of the number of apostate angels! And, if a legion can attend one man, how many must we needs think are they, who, all the world over, are at hand, to the punishment of the wicked, the exercise of the good, the temptation of both? It cannot be hoped, there can be any place or time, wherein we may be secure from the onsets of these enemies. Be sure, ye lewd men, ye shall want no furtherance to evil; no torment for evil. Be sure, ye godly, ye shall not want combatants, to try your strength and skill. Awaken your courages to resist, and stir up your hearts: make sure the means of your safety. There are more with us, than against us. The God of Heaven is with us, if we be with him; and our angels behold the face of God. If every devil were a legion, we are safe. Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil. Thou, O Lord, shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of our enemies, and thy right hand shall save us.
Conflict All this number is not for sight, for rest; but for motion, for action. Neither was there ever hour, since the first blow given to our first parents, wherein there was so much as a truce betwixt these adversaries. As therefore strong frontier towns, when there is a peace concluded on both parts, break up their garrison, open their gates, neglect their bulwarks; but when they hear of the enemy mustering his forces in great and unequal numbers, then they double their guard, keep centinel, repair their sconces: so must we, upon the certain knowledge of our numerous and deadly enemies in continual array against us, address ourselves always to a wary and strong resistance. I do not observe the most, to think of this ghostly hostility. Either they do not find there are temptations, or those temptations hurtful; they see no worse than themselves and if they feel motions of evil arising in them, they impute it to fancy, or unreasonable appetite, to no power but nature's; and those motions they follow without sensible hurt, neither see they what
harm it is to sin. Is it any marvel, that carnal eyes cannot discern spiritual objects? that the world, who is the friend, the vassal of Satan, is in no war with him? Elisha's servant, when his eyes were opened, saw troops of spiritual soldiers, which before he discerned not. If the eyes of our souls be once enlightened by supernatural knowledge and the clear beams of faith, we shall as plainly descry the invisible powers of wickedness, as now our bodily eyes see heaven and earth. They are, though we see them not: we cannot be safe from them, if we do not acknowledge, not oppose them.
The devils are now become great suitors to Christ; that he would not command them into the deep; that he would permit their entrance into the swine. What is this deep, but Hell; both for the utter separation from the face of God, and for the impossibility of passage to the region of rest and glory? The very evil spirits then fear and expect a further degree of torment. They know themselves reserved in those chains of darkness, for the judgment of the Great Day. There is the same wages due to their sins and to ours: neither are the wages paid till the work be done. They, tempting men to sin, must needs sin grievously, in tempting; as with us men, those, that mislead into sin, offend more than the actors. Not till the upshot therefore of their wickedness, shall they receive the full measure of their condemnation. This day, this deep, they tremble at: what shall I say of those men, that fear it not? It is hard for men, to believe their own unbelief. If they were persuaded of this fiery dungeon, this bottomless deep, wherein every sin shall receive a horrible portion with the damned, durst they stretch forth their hands to wickedness? No man will put his hand into a fiery crucible, to fetch gold thence, because he knows it will burn him. Did we as truly believe the everlasting burning of that infernal fire, we durst not offer to fetch pleasures or profits out of the midst of those flames.
This degree of torment they grant in Christ's power to command; they knew his power unresistible: had he therefore but said, "Back to Hell, whence ye came," they could no more have staid upon earth, than they can now climb into heaven. O the wonderful dispensation of the Almighty; who, though he could command all the evil spirits down to their dungeons in an instant, so as they should have no more opportunity of temptation, yet thinks fit to retain them upon earth! It It is not out of weakness, or improvidence of that Divine Hand, that wicked spirits tyrannize here upon earth; but out of the most wise and most holy ordination of God, who knows how to turn evil into good, how to fetch good out of evil, and by the worst instruments to bring about his most just decrees. Oh, that we could adore that awful and infinite power; and cheerfully cast ourselves upon that Providence, which keeps the keys even of
hell itself, and either lets out, or returns the devils to their places.
Their other suit hath some marvel in moving it, more in the grant; That they might be suffered to enter into the herd of swine. It was their ambition of some mischief, that brought forth this desire; that, since they might not vex the body of man, they might yet afflict men in their goods. The malice of these envious spirits reacheth from us to ours. It is sore against their wills, if we be not every way miserable.
If the swine were legally unclean for the use of the table, yet they were naturally good. Had not Satan known them useful for man, he had never desired their ruin. But as fencers will seem to fetch a blow at the leg, when they intend it at the head; so doth this devil, while he drives at the swine, he aims at the souls of these Gadarenes by this means he hoped well, and his hope was not vain, to work in these Gergesenes a discontentment at Christ, an unwillingness to entertain him, a desire of his absence; he meant to turn them into swine, by the loss of their swine. It was not the rafters or stones of the house of Job's children, that he bore the grudge to, but to the owners; nor to the lives of the children so much, as the soul of their father. There is no affliction, wherein he doth not strike at the heart; which while it holds free, all other damages are light; but a wounded spirit, whether with sin or sorrow, who can bear? Whatever becomes of goods or limbs, happy are we, if, like wise soldiers, we guard the vital parts. While the soul is kept sound from impatience, from distrust, our Enemy may afflict us, he cannot hurt us.
They sue for a sufferance; not daring other, than to grant, that, without the permission of Christ, they could not hurt a very swine. If it be fearful, to think how great things evil spirits can do with permission; it is comfortable to think, how nothing they can do without permission. We know, they want not malice to destroy the whole frame of God's work; but of all, man; of all men, Christians: but, if without leave they cannot set upon a hog, what can they do to the living images of their Creator? They cannot offer us so much as a suggestion, without the permission of our Saviour. And can he, that would give his own most precious blood for us, to save us from evil, wilfully give us over to evil?
It is no news, that wicked spirits wish to do mischief: it is news, that they are allowed it. If the Owner of All Things should stand upon his absolute command, who can challenge him for what he thinks fit to do with his creature? The first foal of the ass is commanded, under the Law, to have his neck broken. What is that to us? The creatures do that, they were made for, if they may serve any way to the glory of their Maker.
But seldom ever doth God leave his actions unfurnished with such reasons, as our weakness may reach unto. There were sects amongst these Jews, that denied spirits. They could not be more evidently, more powerfully convinced, than by this event. Now shall the Gadarenes see, from what a multitude of devils they were delivered; and how easy it had been, for the same power, to have allowed these spirits to seize upon their persons, as well as their swine. Neither did God this, without a just purpose of their castigation. His judgments are righteous, where they are most secret. Though we cannot accuse these inhabitants of ought, yet he could; and thought good thus to mulct them. And if they had not wanted grace to acknowledge it, it was no small favour of God, that he would punish them in their swine, for that, which he might have avenged upon their bodies and souls. Our goods are furthest off us: if but in these we smart, we must confess to find mercy.
Sometimes, it pleaseth God to grant the suits of wicked men and spirits, in no favour to the suitors. He grants an ill suit, and withholds a good: he grants an ill suit in judgment, and holds back a good one in mercy. The Israelites ask meat; he gives quails to their mouths, and leanness to their souls. The chosen vessel wishes Satan taken off, and hears only, My grace is sufficient for thee. We may not evermore measure favours by condescent. These devils doubtless receive more punishment for that harmful act, wherein they are heard. If we ask what is either unfit to receive or unlawful to beg, it is a great favour of our God to be denied.
Those spirits, which would go into the swine by permission, go out of the man by command: they had stayed long, and are ejected suddenly. The immediate works of God are perfect in an instant, and do not require the aid of time for their
No sooner are they cast out of the man, than they are in the swine. They will lose no time, but pass, without intermission, from one mischief to another. If they hold it a pain not to be doing evil, why is it not our delight to be ever doing good?
The impetuousness was no less than the speed. The herd was carried with violence from a steep down place into the lake, and was choked. It is no small force, that could do this; but if the swine had been so many mountains, these spirits, upon God's permission, had thus transported them. How easily can they carry those souls, which are under their power, to destruction! Unclean beasts, that wallow in the mire of sensuality, brutish drunkards transforming themselves by excess, even they are the swine, whom the legion carries headlong to the pit of perdition.
The wicked spirits have their wish; the swine are choked