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23. And, when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
24. And behold there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves, or, rather, “began to be covered with the waves ;”, but he was asleep.
The great fatigue which our Lord had undergone, in travelling on foot and in preaching to the multitude, inclined him to fall asleep, when he came on board the vessel; and made him sleep so soundly, that he was not awakened by the noise of a violent storm.
25. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, savé us; we perish; “ we are perishing,” or, about to be shipwrecked.
26. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, 0 ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
The disciples ought to have been confident that, while they accompanied Christ, they were under the peculiar protection of God, who would not suffer his beloved son to be lost in a storm. Their fears, therefore, were a proof of the weakness of their faith, for which Christ justly reproves them. When it is said that he rebuked the winds, the language is figurative, like that in Ps. cvi. 9. where it is said that God rebuked the Red Sea, and it was dried up, and means no more than that Christ calmed the sea with his word. The word by which the calm is expressed, signifies not merely that the wind had ceased, but likewise that the
surface of the sea became immediately smooth. This was an evident proof that the change which had taken place was miraculous, and did not arise from the sudden stopping of the wind: for it is well known that after every storm, the sea continues to be violently agitated for a long time; but here the waves as well as winds, being suddenly checked by divine power, stopped at the same moment.
27. But the men marvelled, “wondered," saying, What manner of man is this, rather, “what great man can this be," that even the winds and the sea obey him?
28. And when he was come to the other side, into the country of the Gergesenes, there met bim two possessed with dæmons, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce; so that no man might pass by that way.
We enter here upon a part of the evangelical history; about which learned men have entertained different opinions; some considering the case of these men as instances of human creatures being inhabited or possessed by fallen angels, of whom the devil or satan is the chief; others regarding thein as afflicted only with a bodily distemper, which took from them the use of their understandings, or with madness; but which was ignorantly attributed to the influence of the spirits of dead men, which were called dæmons, entering their bodies: the latter opinion appears to me better founded; and, if I mistake not, the present history will furnish us with fresh proof in support of it.
What is here called the country of the Gergesenes, is, by the other evangelists, Mark and Luke, called that of the Gadarenes, from a city of the name of Ga
dara, situated within this district.
It has been supposed therefore that Matthew wrote originally Gadarenes, but that the word has, by some means, been altered. Upon entering this country, Jesus meets two madmen, whose disorder was so violent that they had broken loose from their confinement, and who spent their time among the tombs, or in one of their buryingplaces, which, among the Jews, were without the walls of the cities; a place which suited the gloomy turn of their disordered minds, and afforded them likewise. some protection and shelter: for Dr. Shaw tells us, that among the Moors, the graves of the principal citizens havę cupolas, or vaulted chambers, of three, four or more yards, built over them, and that they frequently lie open, and afford an occasional shelter
from the inclemency of the weather. This will explain the dæmoniacs' dielling among the tombs. They were exceedingly fierce, so as to attack passengers who went by the place in whịch they were: 'other proofs of their violence are mentioned in the other evangelists, such as their breaking the chains with which they wera bound, and their cutting themselves with stones and wearing no clothes. These are all symptoms of a violent phrenzy or madness. Persons in this unhappy condition, in the paroxysms of their disorder, it is well known, have shewn an extraordinary degree of strength, which has enabled them to break tlie chains with which they were bound, and to overcome their keepers. We have two dæmoniacs mentioned by Matthew, but Mark and Luke take notice only of one; because one of them was probably fiercer thản the other, or was, on some other account, the more remarkable.
29. And behold they 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?
Son of God, in the New Testament, is understaod to signify the same thing as Messiah. The dæmoniac,
• Travels, p. 285. Fol.
therefore, knew the claim of Jesus to that character; whence it has been inferred that he was possessed by a devil, some being of superior intelligence: for how should a madman know Jesus to be the Messiah, especially when persons in their senses did not acknowledge himn in that character? But might not dæmoniacs, long before they were seized with their disorder, learn, in common with others, the high character of the Messiah, then universally expected; and in their intervals of sanity, so very common to persons of a disordered understanding, might they not hear the fame of Jesus as the expected Messiah, which was spread in all places, before they made any acknowledgment of his character? With respect to these two dæmoniacs, in particular, it cannot be esteemed extraordinary that they should be acquainted with the character and fame of Jesus, if we consider that Christ had heretofore preached upon the borders of their country, and been followed by crowds from it, who would not fail to publish the miraculous cures which Christ performed, either upon themselves or their friends, amongst which were many cures of dæmoniacs, We are likewise to consider that, violent as the disorder of one of these men was, at certain seasons, he had intervals of sanity, as is clearly implied in its being said by Luke, “the spirit had often times caught him:" for if his disorder often returned, it must have often left him, Perhaps the dæmoniacs or madmen would run into the common opinion concerning Jesus, as the Messiah, more eagerly than persons of a cooler judgment; the latter being struck by some contrary appearances in his character, such as the poverty of his condition, and the spiritual nature of his doctrine, which escaped the observation of the former, who, for this reason, with greater confidence saluted him under his high character, agreeably to the first impression which his miracles made upon the minds of all men. In the latter part of the verse the dæmoniacs ask Christ, whether he was come to torment them before the season; to understand which it is necessary to observe that it was a common opinion among the Jews, in the belief of which the dæmoniacs must have been educated, that the punishment of the spirits of wicked men could not be completed till the day of judgment; and, as Jesus had been long famed for expelling dæmons and exercising an absolute power over them, the dæmoniac might be filled with fear.--Madmen, under their disorder, will sometimes say things surprisingly just: they reason rightly upon wrong principles, and appear raving and sober at the same time, especially on different subjects. Being tinctured with the common opinion about possessions, these unhappy men fancied themselves really possessed, personated the dæmons by whom they thought themselves inspired, and spoke as if they themselves had been those very dæmons. They plead with Christ, that the time appointed for the punishment of wicked spirits was not yet come, and seemingly upbraid him with an intention of inflicting that punisliment before the time.
30. And there was, a good way off from them, a herd of many swine, feeding:
31. So the dæmons besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.
This is a very strange request for a spirit of celestial origin, such as the devil, to make, but not at all unsuitable to the character of a madman, that fancied himself to be, or spoke in the name of an unclean spirit, who, after defiling himself with the bodies of dead men, could find no habitation more conformable to his own ideas of himself than the body of the animal here mentioned.
32. And he said unto them, Go. And, when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine; and behold the whole herd of swine ran violently,