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Jews, as that of Naaman was fixed upon Gehazi, the covetous attendant on the prophet. To shew that this cleansing by baptism should not take place upon the Jews, but the Gentiles, our Saviour hinted to those of the synagogue, that there were many lepers in Israel when this happened, and none of them were cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian. The Jews could bear to hear of any thing rather than the acceptance of the Gentiles; and seeing his meaning they were filled with rage, and would have cast him down headlong as an enemy to his country.
Other miracles of Christ were intended to shew how the power of God is necessary to help the impotence of man. He must open our lips before we are able, and furnish us with matter before we know how to praise him or pray to him; therefore the tongue of the dumb was loosed, ahd even babes and sucklings were empowered to utter hosannas to his name. The deaf were made to hear, because men have ears which neither hear nor understand, nor can attend to the words of divine wisdom, till God has opened them: of which there are many lamentable examples in the gospel, and I wish there were none at this day.
Vol. iv. Q The
The lame were made to walk, because the way of man is not in himself; it is God alone that enableth us to walk, yea, to run with pleasure and swiftness, as the feet of an hind, in the way of his commandments. In short, all the faculties of man are useless in the service of God, like the limbs of one sick of the palsy, which cannot lift or move themselves till some new strength is communicated. The prophet instructs us how this should be when God should be revealed: strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees; or, as the apostle words it, lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make strait paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed:* which terms are all applied in an intellectual sense to the minds of weak Christians.
Another miracle of Christ, and one of the most considerable, is that of relieving the possessed by casting out evil spirits: the design of which is to teach us, that there is a spirit working in the children of disobedience (the Greek signifies possessing^ them) which no
* Heb. xii. 13. ^ Eugytulo;; the common name of demoniacs, or possessed people, was Eiiy»(*»w, Entrgumeni,
thing but the power of the gospel can cast , out. When we observe how strangely men err in their judgments; how they hasten towards their own destruction, maiming their bodies and ruining their fortunes by their vices, as if they hated their own flesh; preferring nakedness' and wretchedness, and loathsome diseases dnd infamy, to peace, honour, health, and happiness; we must conclude they are under the working of some malignant power, beyond the mere depravity of nature: for nature would always act in men, as it does in brutes, on a principle of self-preservation. Such as were possessed by the devil uttered horrible noises, and chose a miserable residence amongst the tombs of the dead.' And bad as such a spectacle may be, it is not a worse example of Satan's power, than when we hear a miserable man crying out for curses to descend from heaven, inviting the blastings of lightning on their enemies, or their friends, or themselves; on their souls as well as their bodies. To live naked among the tombs is not a greater symptom of possession, than to fly Jrom God, and his light and truth, and seek after the ways that lead to death. To bruise the flesh in frantic fits of despair, is not worse than to injure the health of the body with such Q 2 excess
excess and riot, as wastes the flesh, and brings wounds and bruises and putrifying sores: yet the world, who are shocked at a madman, look with unconcern on this moral insanity, because the case is common.
It is a symptom of madness when a man delights in mischief: and how many do we see, who have no greater diverfion, than to impose upon the innocent, and terrify people with vain fears, or mock at them when they are betrayed into real dangers.
The wise man, considering how fools make a mock at fin; how outrageous men are in their mirth, how perverse in their ways, how corrupt and irrational in their, pleasures, pronounces upon them in plain terms; the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, yea madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead* (Ratione expulsa, sensuq. religionis amoto, quae immanitas, quae feritas, quae dementia non illico exoritur?)f without true religion to sober them and bring them to a right mind, men are in fact as much out of the way as lunatics; and worse in one respect, that they are still accountable as free agents for that reason which vice has extin
• Manila & fracepta Chrijliana, p. 104. f Eccles. ix. 3:
guished. guished. The man who does not see and consider that he is come into this world to be saved by Jesus Christ, is an ideot to all intents and purposes in the sight of God. If he is upon his defence against the power of the gospel, and puts it from him with those words of the demoniac, "Why art thou come to torment us?" he is a madman of the first class, to whom the poor lunatic, with a sceptre of straw, is an hopeful character.
Miserable is the condition of men under temptation or possession from evil spirits: but the power of grace sets us free from their ter-' rors, with those comfortable words, Who is he that shall harm you if ye be followers of that which is good? As a pledge to assure us of which, our Saviour gave to his apostles an evident superiority over the powers of darkness: Behold I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you *. Who is this enemy? The enemy of Christians is the devil; and such poisonous vermin as serpents and scorpions are the emblems of him and his children. A miraculous power over these creatures which hurt the body, was an outward assurance to the world, that he who Q 3 wound% * £uke x. 19.