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ST. LUKE viii. 38, 39.
"Now the man out of whom the devils were departed, besought Him that he might be with Him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee."
THE man, whose request our Lord in these words discouraged and refused, was one of the most grievously afflicted of all those whose cases are recorded in the holy Gospel. He had been possessed "for a long time" with a "legion" of devils. The effects of this possession were of the most melancholy kind. He wore no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. St. Mark adds to this description that "no man could bind him, no, not with chains. Because he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces; neither could any man tame him,
And always day and night he was in the tombs, crying and cutting himself with stones'."
These descriptions, as well as the nature of the case itself, prove to us that this man was well known in all that part of the country. Probably he had long been the wonder and terror of those who met him wandering in his melancholy enthusiasm among the tombs near the town of Gadara, or saw him in his wilder and more frenzied times, when he had broken the bonds with which he had been fastened, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness. It is rendered not improbable from the narrative of the Evangelists, that the particular mischief inflicted upon him by the evil spirits who were permitted to dwell in him was a religious one. His dwelling among the tombs shews a gloomy superstitious temper; his cutting himself with stones, which was a sacred rite to the false gods, is undoubtedly connected with religion; above all his loud voice of crying, when he fell down at the feet of Jesus and said "What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the most high God? I adjure Thee by God that Thou torment me not," declares the same thing. He had not come to Christ of his own will. This would not have been at all characteristic of religious despair. But when the merciful Lord upon his landing on that coast, 'immediately' met him, and said to the devil that
Mark v. 1.
possessed him, "Come out of him, thou unclean spirit," the man ran and worshipped Jesus, and cried and besought Him that He would not torment him. The evil spirit which was in him knew the Son of God who had seen Satan himself fall from heaven-He knew that His voice could at once command him to the deep, or reserve him in chains under darkness to the judgment of the last day, or condemn him to immediate and everlasting torment. The miserable man betrayed in that cry the secret of his inward woe; the fear of torment, the consciousness of guilt, the knowledge of an offended God.
The benevolent Lord took compassion on his exceeding unhappiness. By His word of power He expelled the legion of evil spirits who had so long possessed and rendered miserable his body and his soul. And the next thing which we hear of the unfortunate object of their malice is, that when the people of the city came out to see what was done, they found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. His terrors were soothed. He needed not now to be bound in chains and fetters. He had discovered that the object of his former frenzied dread was a merciful and gracious Lord. The storm which had raged in his soul was calmed by the same voice which the very night before had stilled the tempest of the sea on the shore of which they stood. There was, doubtless, a tranquil sun
shine in his breast to which he had long been a stranger. He sat dutifully at the feet of Jesus instead of rushing wildly into the desert, or moaning and cutting himself with stones among the tombs. He was clothed and in his right mind, instead of bursting the chains which vainly bound the preternatural strength of his naked body, or issuing from his gloomy haunts to frighten the inhabitants of Gadara.
When Jesus, granting the mistaken prayer of the Gadarenes, was about to depart from their coasts, the cured Demoniac besought Him, that he might be with Him. A natural, and as we should be disposed to think, a proper request! So recently received, and by so signal an instance of mercy and power, among the Disciples of Jesus, he probably felt no wish so strongly, as to attach himself to His company, and to pass his life in grateful and devoted attendance upon His teaching. Besides which, he had just been witness to the mistaken prayer of the Gadarenes. blindness besought Jesus to depart from their coasts, and He was immediately preparing to depart-how could then the poor Demoniac doubt that his humble and earnest entreaty to be permitted still to company with Him, while He went in and out upon the earth, to pick up, as it were, the crumbs of the Bread of Life by dutiful attendance on His person, would be graciously and readily granted? "But Jesus sent him away, saying, Return
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to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee." Our Lord, doubtless with the same mercy that He had shewn before, but with the appearance of unkindness, refused His prayer. He sent him to his own house, to testify to his own kindred, to be of Christian use and benefit at home. He discouraged his extreme zeal of devotion; teaching him, that as he was at first despairing, then relieved and comforted, so now his life must be one of unambitious obedience, of tranquil homely zeal, of quiet good example. Perhaps he particularly needed such a check. Perhaps the temper which in discouragement despairs the soonest, under the sense of favour is the first to be too highly elated; perhaps the indulgence of over-excited feelings of religion now, might ultimately cause the return of seven legions of devils more wicked and miserable than those which had possessed him before. At least it would be difficult to think that even the traitor Judas, slave of Satan as he was at last, had always been devoid of Christian zeal and real belief.
This then is the use to which I propose on the present occasion to turn this remarkable narrative. There are dangers, great and peculiar dangers, in high religious excitements. We are apt to depart from the simplicity of Christian faith, and the simplicity of Christian love, by the chilling effects of discouragement and despair in the one hand, or by the too warm and exciting influence of a sense of