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ed only with some uncommon and dreadful disease; for the evangelists have taken care to be very particu→ lar on that head: and being possessed with the devil is carefully distinguished from any other affliction and complaint: St. Matthew tells us, that, They brought unto Christ, all sick people, that were taken with divers diseases, and those that were possessed with devils, and those that were Lunatic; and he healed them, chap. iv. ver. 24. And again, chap. x. ver. i. He gave to the apostles power against evil spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sicknesses and diseases. And we are informed by St. Mark, chap. i. 34, That they healed many that were sick of divers diseases and cast out devils. There is in these passages a plain distinction between those who were sick of various diseases, and those who were possessed with devils; and this being distinctly noticed by the evangelists, it cannot be supposed, that there were not plain, evident marks of distinction, which made the cure so manifest that there was no danger of being deceived.
And it may further be observed, to those who doubt of the existence of evil spirits, that they cannot entertain such doubts without questioning the truth of the Holy Scriptures; for the sacred writers have laid down several particulars concerning those impious and envious beings; they have taken care to acquaint us with their original and fall, their names and numbers, their government and orders, their malicious designs, and various of their employments; and it is abundantly evident, both from sacred and prophane history, that before our Saviour's ascension, there were great numbers of persons possessed with evil spirits. These evil spirits had gained so great an ascendancy, and taken possession of so large a part of the world, that they reviled the great Creator in his worship; and in several Heathen nations, there were oracles which were applied to, in order to resolve the doubts, and answer the inquiries of their worshippers. And as the design of our Lord's incarnation, and his whole ministry, was to
destroy the works of the devil; perhaps, the reason why these apostate spirits were so frequently permitted to appear in Judea at this time, was, that the Son of God might, in a more manifest and triumphant manner, display his authority and power over the prince of darkness, and all his infernal legions, and thereby convince the wondering world, that he was really the Son of God, and the Saviour of mankind.
The fame of this miracle was soon spread over the neighbouring country. Our Redeemer had healed the sick, and done various wonderful works, which had excited the admiration of the people, and raised their expectations of something very great and advantageous to the Jewish nation, to arise from so extraordinary a person. But when the people beheld him, in the public assembly, with a commanding authority, dispossess the devil, and drive the powers of darkness before him; their astonishment increased, and they acknowledged that this was the mighty power of God.
Our Lord having performed this miracle in the synagogue, departed to Peter's house, whose wife's mother lay sick of a fever: he took her by the hand, and immediately the fever left her; and so perfectly was she restored to her former health, that she arose and ministered unto him. The evangelist Luke, in his account of this wonderful cure, says that he rebuked the fever; which is a figurative way of speaking, conformable to the language of the Scriptures, where not only the inanimate parts of the creation, but diseases, famine, pestilence, and the like, are personated and represented as the servants of the almighty, to execute his vengeance on rebellious sinners: hence, says the prophet, before him went the pestilence: and burning diseases went forth at his feet.
Our Lord being grown popular, and famed through the city of Capernaum, for the authority and eloquence of his teaching, and the manifold wonders which he
wrought, vast numbers of people resorted to him while he abode at Peter's house, and brought with him great numbers of sick persons, and those who were possessed with devils. The kind and compassionate Saviour of the world, was touched with pity at the sight of so many distressed and afflicted objects; when he immediately healed them all, and fulfilled, by his extensive all-relieving goodness, the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, He himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
But the vast crowds of people, who now gathered about him in Capernaum, were not easily to be borne, and to avoid the troublesome press, our Redeemer retired to the desert, whither he was soon followed by great multitudes of people, who were so delighted with his instructions, and had conceived so high an opinion of him, from his kind condescension, and his many wonderful works, that they desired him never to depart from them. But this request being inconsistent with the nature of his ministry, and the great design. of his coming into the world, he departed from the desert, and preached in the synagogues of Galilee; and after he had proceeded through various cities of that country, he returned to Capernaum.
When our great Redeemer was known to be returned to the city, he was soon surrounded by great multitudes of people; so that he was forced to retire into a ship, which being a little way from the shore, the divine instructor taught them from thence, while the attentive multitude crowded to the sea-side, and listened with great attention to his heavenly words.
When he had finished his discourse, he turned to Peter, who was the owner of the vessel, and advised him to launch out further from the shore, and let down his fishing net into the sea. Peter informed him of their unsuccessful toil during the night, but said at his command, they would let down their net, and make one
trial more. Accordingly, they cast into the water, and immediately found that their net had enclosed so prodigious a number of large fish, that it was in danger of breaking. Peter surprised at so strange a turn, and such an unexpected success, and knowing it must be produced by a supernatural power, fell down at JESUS'S feet. Depart from me, said he, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! He was convinced, by this miracle, of the divinity of his master, and was at that time impressed with awe from a sense of his own unworthiness: but the all-gracious Saviour of mankind bid him banish his fears, and informed him, that henceforth himself and his companions should be engaged in more noble employments. Our Lord declared that they should catch men, meaning, that they should be made instrumental in turning them from darkness to light, and from sin and Satan to the knowledge of God.
This miracle was considered, by the disciples of CHRIST, as a fuller and plainer manifestation of his divine power, and a clearer evidence of his being the Son of God, than those they had seen him perform in Capernaum and the adjacent country. It was the common opinion amongst the Jews, that good men, by their prayers, might prevail so far with the almighty Governor of the world, as to heal the sick and cast out devils; but they concluded that the creatures inhabiting the elements of the air or water, were subject only to the commands of our great Creator: and as he never granted to man an authority over these, the miracle which our Saviour had just wrought, proved him to be the Son of God, and the great Messiah; and accordingly this manifestation of divine power, fully convinced the disciples of the divinity of their master, and all they, without hesitation, joined in the resolution to follow him through the world.
CHRIST cleanseth a second leper: He rebukes the storm and calms the sea: He casteth out the Legion of Devils, and suffereth them to enter into a Herd of Swine: He cures a person who had long been afflicted with the Palsy: And calls Matthew who was sitting at the Receipt of Custom.
THE disciples now having every scruple removed, and being fully convinced that their master was the Messiah, left their employment and followed him, while according to his usual custom, he went through various cities of Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and confirming his divine doctrines, with the most astonishing miracles.
In one of the cities which he visited on this occasion, he found a man, said by the evangelist, to be full of leprosy, who seeing Jesus, fell on his face and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean. It was the custom of the priests in Judea to drive from the conversation of mankind, those persons who were infected with the contagious kind of leprosy; and as this person was permitted to dwell in the city, it may be supposed that his leprosy was not of the worst kind. His case however, excited the compassion of our great Redeemer, who immediately cleansed him, and commanded him to depart to Jeru salem, and shew himself to the priest, and offer the customary gifts; but not publish abroad the account of his cure, nor make any noise about it. But the blessing which the poor man had received, was so great and unexpected, that his heart was so full of gratitude and joy, that he could not contain it; and he published the great things which our Lord had done for him, to all men where ever he came. This brought such crowds of people to the Son of God, that he was obliged to