Page images

with a great variety of movements, pleaseth them best. They like frequent, or continual interpositions of good and bad spirits ; and scarcely any thing happens in the world, but they ascribe it to their influence and causality.

Let every one be satisfied in bis own mind, after serious and diligent inquiry: but let us take care, that by introducing numerous inferior and intermediate beings, and their agency, we do not derogate from the Divine empire and government, as supreme over all causes and things, visible and invisible.

And let us remain fully persuaded, that our blessed Lord's doctrine, authority, and character, were supported and attested by numerous miracles performed by him, in healing every disease and affliction to which the human frame is exposed, and in raising the dead. And that, being bimself raised from the dead, and ascended to beaven, and living for ever, he is able to bestow eternal life upon all those, who sincerely obey the reasonable precepts of true holiness delivered by binn.


MARK V. 19.

Howobeit Jesus suffered him not, lut saith unto him, G

home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee,

I HAVE distinctly explained and improved the great cure, and miraculous work bere referred to. And the last time it was observed, that some are inclined to think, that the afflictions which they laboured under who are spoken of as baving evil spirits, were mere bodily diseases and indispositions : though it was then the prevailing opinion, that they were under the power and influence of some evil spirit. And those persons themselves, and their friends, attributing their disteinpers to Satan, and dæmons under him, our Saviour sometimes adapts his expressions to that opinion, without countenancing or approving it.

In favour of that sentiment divers arguments and considerations were proposed, taken from the reason of things, from the Old Testament, and from the history and description of these very persons, and their cases, as recorded in the New Testament.

IV. What now remains to be spoken to is the fourth and Jast head relating to this subject, the objections against the fore-mentioned opinion, or the arguments in favour of real possessions.

I shall take notice of, and consider these four.

1. There might be such cases in former times, though there are now none.

2. There are divers things said of those persons, who were called dæmoniacs, which are very difficult, or even impossible to be accounted for, but by the supposition of real possessions, or the operation and interposition of evil spirits.

3. The evangelists appear to bave believed, that these persons had really one or more unclean spirits.

4. Our Lord himself does not oppose the opinion of real possessions, as he would have done, it is likely, if not true.

Of these in order.

1. Obj. In the first place, it is said, that there might be such cases in former tiines, though there are none now.

Possibly such things may not be allowed of in the common and ordinary course of Divine Providence; but yet might be permitted at the time of our Saviour's appearance, when there was an uncommon and effectual remedy at hand. Bad angels, or other evil spirits, might be then suffered to leave their continement, and come abroad, and inflict grievous distempers upon men, especially in the land of Judea and near it; that the power of Jesus might be rendered more conspicuous, by showing bis authority over them, and removing by his word those evils which they bad inflicted, and causing those malignant spirits to leave those persons of whom they had taken possession.

To wbich I answer, that this supposition does not suit the histories related in the gospels : for these cases do not there appear to be extraordinary, but are looked upon by every body as ordinary and usual things. No one expresseth a surprise, that such people are brought to Jesus. His enemies never mention it as a reproach and dishonour to him, that their country was tben infested with evil spirits. If people had been now all on a sudden seized with 'disorders, never beard of among them before, and if such cases had been numerous, would it not have occasioned the utmost astonishment ? Would it not have raised a loud and general clamour? Would they not have thought they had indeed good reason to say, when they saw the cures performed by Jesus and his disciples, that there was a combination between them, and some malignant powers? They first brought them in among them into the country, and then they cast them out and drove them away again. But there was no ground for such a charge: it was never mentioned : it was impossible to be made: for such cases were well known, and are spoken of by other writers contemporary with the evangelists, by Josepbus and others, as common in Judea and elsewbere, not only at that time, but also before and afterwards, as was observed by us in a preceding discourse.

The Jews bad among thein methods of exorcising spirits, or curing the diseases which they were supposed to inflict : though possibly with but little success, any farther than they were assisted by the art of medicine. However, as exorcisms had been in use among them, they afford proof, that such cases, and the opinion concerning them, were known before our Saviour's appearance in the world.

2. Obj. It is said, that divers things appear in the history of these persons, which are very difficult, if not impossible to be accounted for, but upon the supposition of real possessions, or at least the interposition and operations of evil spirits.

(1.) First of all it may be said : if there was no agency of evil spirits, how came it to pass, that this opinion so prevailed as it did ; and how came it, that many persons thought themselves to be possessed by evil spirits? The man at the tombs when asked by Jesus what was his name, answered, “ Legion, for we are many.” And divers brought their children or other friends, to Christ, desiring him to have mercy on thein, because an evil spirit afflicted and tormented them.

To which I answer; It is no uncommon thing for opinions to prevail in the world which have no solid foundation, How many have been disposed to ascribe the diseases of the human body, and other disastrous events in the world, to the planets, or other stars! It was for a long time a very common opinion, that spirits of inferior orders, in a manner, filled the region of the air; and many distempers were ascribed to their influence. When such an opinion prevailed, it was very likely that some who fell under grievous distempers, should think themselves harassed and tormented by evil spirits, and upon some occasions speak in conformity to their inward apprehensions. This, particularly, was the case with the man called Legion, and perhaps of many others who were under a deep inelancholy.

These peo

(2.) It is urged; how came these persons who are said to have evil spirits, to know Jesus to be the Christ, if they were not under the influence of evil spirits, of great knowledge, as well as much power ? " And there was in their synagogue, [at Capernaum,] a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, saying, Let us alone, what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth ? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee, who thou art, the holy one of God,” Mark i. 23, 24. Compare Luke iv. 33, 34. And the two men, in the country of the Gadarenes, * cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God ? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time ?” Matt. viii. 29.

To wbich I beg leave to answer; it seems to me, that these persons knew Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, in the same way that others did. The expectation of the coming of the Messiah had been for some while very common, and even universal, founded upon just interpretations of the ancient prophets, which were publicly read in the synagogues, and were in the hands of all men. ple, before they were seized with the disorders which they now laboured under, were well apprized of the common notions concerning the greatness of the Messiah, which were allowed by the Jews in general,

We ought likewise to recollect, that none of the miracles recorded by the first three evangelists, were performed by our Lord till after the commencement of his public ministry, that is, the most public and open part of it. This is evident from St. John's gospel, compared with the rest. The first three evangelists say but little of our Lord's ministry, till after John was cast into prison : but before that, as St. John assures us, he bad wrought divers miracles, and had begun to gather disciples. Moreover, some of the miracles recorded by the first three evangelists, might be wrought, and some of our Lord's excellent discourses spoken by him, before any of those persons said to have an unclean spirit, made acknowledgments of our Lord's great character.

The expectation of the Messiah being general, and John the Baptist having preached in the most public manner, and declared to all, that the great person whom they looked for was at hand, and would soon appear among them; and our Lord beginning to speak as no man ever spake before, and doing many great and miraculous works, showing forth bis glory, and many believing on him, and his fame being very great in Judea, and in neighbouring places; no man could be altogether ignorant of him. It is therefore not at all strange, that these diseased persons should, in

their way, bear testimony to him. All those, said to have evil spirits, as we readily perceive, were not discomposed in mind; many of them were epileptical or paralytical." These undoubtedly enjoyed, at some seasons, the free use of their senses and understandings, and might discern the evidences of our Lord's great character; and being sincere and honest, might be disposed to own it, and declare the sense of their ininds. But thinking their distempers to be owing to the operation and influence of evil spirits, they affect to speak in their name.

As for the men in the country of the Gadarenes, who were disordered in their minds, and yet acknowledged Jesus to be the Christ, the thing may be thought more difficult. But, as just said, before they were seized with that distemper, they were acquainted with the expectation of the Messiah, and the general apprehensions concerning his character; and before now they had heard of Jesus. Many who Jabour under that indisposition are honest and acute: they have also some intervals of ease: nor are they unreasonable in every respect; but setting aside some particular fancy, can reason and argue consistently enough. It therefore is not impossible, nor improbable, that some labouring under this affliction, having heard of the fame of Jesus, wbo was much talked of every where, should think, and then be disposed to speak, honourably of bin.

(3.) The escape of the man called Legion froin bis confinement, it is argued, is a proof of the interposition of evil spirits of more than human power, and not to be otherwise accounted for. For the evangelist Mark says, " that no man could bind bim, no, not with chains. For he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains bad been plucked asunder, and the fetters broken in pieces. Neither could any man tame him," cbap. v. 3, 4. But, as seems to me,


escape of such a person from his confinement, needs not to be reckoned so very extraordinary a thing, when it is well known, that persons in the like disorders have at some seasons uncommon strength.

Moreover, I apprehend that many do imprudently magnify the security with which that inan had been confined. We are too apt, inconsiderately, to judge of former times by our own. It is likely, that great improvements have been made in late ages, in the method of treating people in that unhappy circumstance.

Hospitals for the relief and cure of such as labour under this and other grievous distempers, may be said to be a

« PreviousContinue »