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the evangelists inform us; “ And he went up into the ship, and returned back again." However it is added; “ And it came to pass, that when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received bim, for they were all waiting for him.” These things are written for the direction and support of wise and good men.
MARK V. 19.
Howobeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go
home to thy friends, and tell them, how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
HAVING formerly explained and improved the history of most of our Lord's miracles, and lately that of the cure of the two men at the tombs, in the country of the Gadarenes; I have thought it not improper, to consider in general the case of those, who in the New Testament are spoken of as having evil or unclean spirits.
The subject is not immediately practical; and it is most agreeable to insist upon the general principles of true religion, which are universally acknowledged, or are controverted by a few only; together with the virtues of a good life, which are of the greatest importance, and of absolute necessity, without which no man shall see the Lord ; and those helps and means, which, in their own nature, or by divine appointment, are fitted to promote faith in God, good works, and an heavenly frame of mind. These are the most excellent, the most delightful subjects of meditation and discourse. Upon no considerations, by no means whatever, would one be called off from these points, or cease to make them the usual topics of discourse in christian assemblies.
Nevertheless, it may not be altogether unprofitable, to treat on the subject I am now entering upon; it being what frequently occurs in the history of our Saviour's miracles, as recorded in the gospels. It is likely, therefore, that by considering the several texts, wherein these unhappy cases and their cure are mentioned, some light may be cast upon the holy scriptures, and some parts of the evar.gelical bistory may be better read with understanding.
In treating this subject I propose to observe the following method.
1. I would show what are the opinions of men of the present, and late times, concerning this matter.
Jl. I would observe, what was the general opinion in the time of our Saviour, and his apostles, and what notions men tben formed of these cases.
JII. I will endeavour to discover the truth, and what idea we ought to have of those unhappy persons, who are spoken of as possessed of devils.
IV. I intend to consider objections and difficulties, relating to that opinion, which may appear to be most probi ble.
1. In the first place I would show, what are the opinions of men of the present, or late times, concerning this matter. For there are two different opinions : one general and common, the other less general, and somewhat uncommon.
The opinion which I take to be most common, is this ; that these persons were possessed, and inhabited, acted, governed, and influenced by some spirit, or spirits; there having been in some of these persons one, in others many of these evil spirits.
And I reckon, that most in our times suppose these evil spirits to have been bad, or fallen angels, some of the companions, instruments, and agents of him, who is the chief of fallen angels, and called Satan, or Beelzebub, or the Devil, by way of eminence.
This I take to be the opinion of the vulgar: it obtains also very much among the learned.
the learned. We have these words of a great and eminent writer, in a late defence and vindication of our blessed Saviour's miracles against modern cavils and objections. He is speaking of the two men at the tombs, and the drowning of the herd of swine.
• Soa • that even this permission of Jesus to the evil spirits was amply compensated, by casting a whole legion of devils out of one person, that is, by suffering about three of them to enter into each bog, instead of about six thousand of them keeping possession of one man. And this disposses*sion of those evil spirits, and permission given them in
consequence of it, were arguments of great force, to show • the power of Jesus over so numerous a regiment.' So that great author.
The number of the spirits that had taken possession of the unhappy man, is here inferred and concluded from bis call• See Bp. Smallbrook's Vindication of our Saviour's Miracles, Vol. I. p. 203
mg himself Legion. A Roman legion at that time usually consisted of six thousand soldiers or more. That learned writer therefore supposeth, that there were about so many evil spirits in that man. And when those spirits were cast out of the man, there being about two thousand swine that were drowned in the sea, the same writer supposeth, that each swine became possessed, and was hurried down the precipice by three devils,
Every one, perhaps, does not judge it needful to conclude, that there were exactly such a number of spirits in the man, because be called himself Legion: but it is generally supposed, that there were in him very many evil spirits.
It being thought, that these persons were possessed and tormented by one or more evil spirits, whereas such cases
now very uncommon among us, if there are any at all: it has been supposed, that it might be wisely allowed of and suffered by the Divine Being at that time. Satan and bis instruments were then loosed, and permitted to possess and torment many persons in the land of Judea, and the adjoining countries. Hereby the power of Jesus, the Messiah, was rendered the more conspicuous, by delivering men from those possessions, and all the infirmities consequent upon them. Since which time, and especially since the power of miracles bas ceased in the church, Satan has not been permitted to torment men in this world in tbat extraordinary and remarkable manner.
This I take to be the prevailing sentiment of learned and unlearned, and the scheme that has been formed conceruing this point.
The other opinion, less common, is, that these cases were distempers only, which the human frame is subject to in this state of mortality, through its weakness and imperfection, and the accidents it is exposed to, and the temper of particular constitutions, and the influences of diet, and the circumambient air, and other natural causes.
• Jesus asked him saying, What is thy name? Which question was not asked to gratify his own, or others' curiosity; but for this good end, that the Gadarenes might see what a miserable condition their countryman was in, and be more sensible of the mercy of his cure, and their own great danger amidst such vast numbers of evil spirits as then swarmed amongst them : since so many had taken possession of that one unhappy man, as to deserve the name of Legion, (above six thousand,) as one of them told our Lord in the name of the rest, in answer to his question : My name is Legion, for we are many. Fr. Bragge on our Saviour's Miracles. Vol. I. p. 75.
· He cast out evil spirits, who by the Divine Providence were permitted to exert themselves at that time, and to possess many persons. Dr. Jortin's Remarks upon Ecclesiastical History, Vol. II. p. 17. See the same, Vol. I. p. 14. These are the two principal sentiments of moderns upon this head, II. In the second place I am to show, what was the
general opinion in the time of our Saviour and his apostles, and what notions men then formed of those cases, which are so frequently mentioned in the gospels.
I sball endeavour to show tbe ancient sentiment in several propositions and observations.
1. In the first place it is fit to observe the style, or the several phrases and expressions made use of in the New Testament in speaking of this matter. For there can be no doubt, but the evangelists have used the expressions which obtained at that time,
One expression, which frequently occurs, is,“ possessed with devils.” So in St. Matthew, chap. iv. 24, “ And his fame went throughout all Syria. And they brought unto him all sick people, that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils." Again, ch. viii. 16, “ When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils. And he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick.” The same evangelist, speaking of the men in the country of the Gadarenes, says, ver. 28, “ There met him two possessed with devils."
Another phrase very frequent in speaking of this matter is that of persons having " unclean spirits.” When our Lord sent forth the disciples," he gave them power against unclean spirits, and to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness," Matt. x. 1. And St. Mark, v. 13, in the account of the man called Legion, says: “And forthwith Jesus gave them leave, and the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine.” It is in the Acts likewise, v, 16, “ There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits.” And at Samaria, Acts viii. 7, when Philip, the deacon and evangelist, was there, “ unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many."
Sometimes the phrase is unclean spirit in the singular number; Mark i. 23, “ And there was in the synagogue a man with an unclean spirit.” And St. Mark useth also this same expression, ver. 2 of this chapter, speaking of the man called Legion ; “ When he was come out of the ship, there met him a man with an unclean spirit.” And at ver. 8, our Lord says, “ Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” There is another form of expression somewhat different from this in Luke iv. 33. “ And in the synagogue there was a man which had a spirit of an unclean devil.”
Sometimes they are called "evil' or wicked spirits ; Luke vii. 21, “ In that same hour be cured many of their infirmities, and plagues, and of evil spirits." See also viii. 2, and elsewhere.
2. Give me leave to observe in the second place, that in speaking of this matter, particularly of persons possessed with devils, our translation is not exact; and instead of devils, the word dæmons would be much more proper : for that is the word which we have in the Greek original, and in the ancient Latin version, and in many modern translations.
If any will be pleased to observe carefully, I believe they will find, that throughout the New Testament there is but one evil spirit called devil : who is supposed to be the chief or prince of the fallen angels, and is often called Satan and Beelzebub. Nor is that word once used in the plural number, in the New Testainent, where Satan, or the fallen angels, are spoken of
That the scripture supposes but one evil being, or spirit, called the devil, may be easily perceived by every one from some plain texts. Matt. xxv. 41, “ Then shall he say unto them on the left band, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and bis angels. Rev, xii. 9, “ The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan." Again, Acts xiii. 10, St. Paul says to Elymas, the sorcerer : “ Thou child of the devil,” or of Satan, that wicked one, prince of evil spirits. James iv. 7, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 1 Pet. v. 8, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Here the original word is rightly rendered. And every one may perceive, that hereby is meant, that one great tempter and seducer of mankind called Satan, and the prince of evil spirits. This is that evil being, by whom our Lord is said to have been tempted in the wilderness; Matt. iv. 1, " Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit to be tempted of the devil.” Mark i. 13, “ And he was there in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan."
There is therefore but one evil spirit, meant by that word in scripture; and wberever we have it in our translation in the plural number, the original word is dæmons. For instance, 1 Cor. x. 20, “ Now I say, that the things, which the gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, not to God.”