« PreviousContinue »
Self, and they enter in, and devell there, and the last state of thar man is worse Iban tbe firft.
27. And it came to pass, as be spake these obings, a certain woman of the company lift up ber voice, and said unto him, Blefjed is the wimb ibat bare tbić, and the paj's zubich thou baft fucked.
28. But bejaid, yea rather blefed are they that bear the word of God and keep it.
F what unhappy Power private Interests and Pre
a bar they put to Mens coming to the knowledge and belief of the Truth, we cannot have a clearer Proof, than from the Instance set before us, in the Portion of Scripture appointed to be read this day. Jesus is here faid to have dispossess’d a dumb Spirit ; and the Operation was so amazing and so effectual, that the Devil immediately quitted his hold, the Tongue that he had tied up before was presently loosed, the dumb Spake, and the people wondred.
This Wonder indeed was the natural consequence of so sudden and mighty a Cure. For the Diseases of this kind were always looked upon with Horror and Despair, and acknowledged to exceed all the force of common Remedies and Human Helps. And when they saw a Recovery perfected without
tedious Methods of Application, only by virtue of one commanding Word; A Word too abfolute for the Strength of Hell to withstand ; This would necessarily carry them to admire, not only the thing, but also the Person by whom it was done.
Of this the Scribes and Pharisees were well aware, who had degenerated so far into Ambition and Covetousness, as now to use their Authority over the People, no longer for Their Benefit, but their Own. The Advantage they fucked from their falling to them was no smallone: And, provided this could but be continued and secured, it was no great concern to Them, what became of the Consciences under their direction. The
A a 2
Reputation of our Saviour's Miracles press’d them hard. And great danger there was, that the Multitude should be drawn off, and join themselves to this new Master, of whose Commission they beheld so many, and such convincing, Testimonies every Day. Some Stratagem was necessary, to check this growing Prophet, and ruin him in the Esteem of the People ; for things were now brought to that desperate pass, that both their Credits could not stand together. What then was to be done in this Cafe? For, that indeed a notable Miracle had at this very time been wrought by him, was manifest to all them that were present, and they could not deny it. The Powers of Nature were evidently outdone, and somewhere else they must lay it. But, if they could insinuate, that there was a Secret in all this, which, tho' the credulous and easy vulgar could not discover, yet themselves, who were wiser, and examined things more nicely, faw clearly into : That might prevail with Men to proceed more warily, and at least to suspend their Belief for some time.
To this purpose they agree with the Crowd, in the Confession of a supernatural and invisible Power, concerned in these Matters ; but, at the same time craftily warn them not to be too rash, and easily impos’d upon. For, that the Devil, who is the Great Deceiver of Mankind, might very probably play booty, and enable our Lord to cast out Devils, only the more effectually to ensnare and betray Men. Thus they hardned themselves and their Hearers, by a most obstinate and perverse Calumny, by attributing what they could not deny to be above the Power of Nature and Art, to the Concurrence of the Devil. Rather chusing to make it pass for the Work of Hell, so to countenance their own wicked Infidelity, and to difcourage the Belief of Others ; than to confess the Spirit of God, even where his Power and Goodness appeared most eminently visible, and, where nothing
could have hindred them from Seeing it, but a settled Resolution, not to See, and not to be Persuaded.
Upon Men so violently bent against the Truth, there was little hope of any Good to be done. But however, when so malicious and black an Aspersion was cast upon our Saviour, it was necessary to refute it. This was a Right, he owed to himself, and to the Divine Spirit, by which he wrought. It was also an Act of Compassion, due to those better meaning People, whose Easiness might have been possessed by that impudent Cavil of their Spiritual Guides. Upon these Accounts our Lord condescends to reason the Case with them ; and, by four most undeniable Arguments, shews, that what they objected, could never be. That it was impossible, any Man of common Sense, or even They themselves, should imagine it true. And, because these Arguments make up
the greatest part
of this Gospel, I will touch them lightly, that you may read and hear what the Church hath recommended to your Meditation, with a better Understanding ; and may
discern the Absurdity of calling into question the Divinity of our Saviour's Miracles. Which is indeed so very material a Point, that the greatest Evidence of the Christian Religion stands upon this Bottom; And, if those Miracles could be proved either False, or Diabolical ; the very Foundations would be torn up, and we should never be able to Support our Cause without them.
The first of those Arguments proceeds uponcommon Experience, and the known Mischiefs and Disorders, which follow
Divisions : In regard all Societies, the less, as well as the greater, owe their Subsistence and Preservation to Amity and Concord, and can never maintain themselves, except by an united Strength. Whenever therefore any thing happens to break and divide them, Destruction presently follows. Of this the Devil is so sensible, that he makes it his business
A a 3
perpetually to Sow the Seeds of Discord and Discontent, Animosities and Jealousies among Men. He knows, that this is to play Parties against One Another ; And, that the End of it will be the dashing, and breaking One Another to pieces. But He, who fo well understands the Consequence of such Separated Interests in Other Cafs, and uses them with so much Artifice to Our Rui, cannot be Supposed, to be so far forsaken of all Polj'y and common Prudence, as to employ this dangerous Weapon against himself. Nor can the Nature of the thing be io changid, as to produce a quite contrary Effect in the kingdom of Darkness, from what it does in all other States. Nay as it produces, even in private Fainilies, where the Difference might seem more easy to be con posed, or over-powered. And therefore, since we fee daily, that every Kingdom divided against it self is brought to defiru&tion, and that a house divided against a house falleth ; it were most absurd to suppose, that our Saviour should cast out Devils through Beelzebub. Because, at this rate, Satan conld be divided against himself; and the effect of this would be, that his Kingdom could no longer siand. This is the Importance of what we find urged, at the 17th and 18th Verses of this Chapter.
The Two following Verses proceed to a Second Argument, in which the Persons of these Objectors themselves were more immediately concerned. It was a very common thing among the Jews, to make use of the Name of the God of Abraham in Exorcisms. And, tho' they made this the Occasion of a great many Superstitious Practices, yet God was picated many times to give Success, to such Solemn Invocations of his Name. By this Presence of his Power he saw fit to signalize and distinguish his own People, who worihipped the one true God only ; from the rest of the World, who still continued in Ignorance and Idolatry, Now these Operations of a Divine Spirit the Scribes
and Pharisees were very fond and proud of; because they thought a great deal of Honour devolved upon their Religion from hence, and consequently upon themselves, who were the very Oracles, and Teachers of it to the People. And upon this Account, our Saviour mentions the Spirits, that were frequently dispossess'd by their own Disciples; to shew their most unreasonable Malice against himself; and the Wickedness of that Partiality they were transported with. For they ascribed the very fame Operations to the Devil, when done by Chrift; which they freely acknowledged to be the wonderful Work of God; and boasted of, and valued themselves upon them as such, when their own Proselytes and Children were made the Instruments and Ministers of them. If therefore the Fruit be the Same in both cases, it is manifest, that the Tree producing it must be the Same too. And, if that be owned, and admired for a good Tree in one case; Nothing but Frowardness, and Envy, and the incorrigible Obstinacy of the
very Devil himself, can call it a Thorn or a Thistle, when the Grapes and the Figs gathered from it are still the Same. If then I by Beelzebub cast out Devils, by whom (says he) do your Sons cast them out ? therefore shall they be your Judges. But if I with the Finger of God cast out Devils, no doubt the Kingdom of God is come upon you.
Thirdly, The Devil is that Wolf, who cometh not, but to catch, and to tear, and to destroy. He Seizeth upon Men as his Prey, and he is so greedy of that Prey, as never to let it go again, till they be forced out of his Hands. So that, whenever any wicked Spirit is dispossessed ; This comes to pass, not for want of employing any Subtilty or Strength that he hath ; but from having his Force overpowered, and his Cunning defeated, by a Being wiser, and mightier than himself. And Such a Being is none but God only. So that, where-ever dumb and deaf Spirits are cast out, this is an
Ver. 19, 20.