« AnteriorContinuar »
the spirits ; some assault the brain, others the heart or lungs ; so, in bodily and spiritual possessions, in some the evil spirit takes away their
in some their limbs, in some their inward faculties ; like as, spiritually, they affect to move us unto several sins, one to lust, another to covetousness or ambition, another to cruelty, and their names have distinguished them according to these various effects. This was a dumb devil, which yet had possessed not the tongue only of this man, but his ear; not that only, but, as it seems,
too. Oh subtle and tyrannous spirit, that obstructs all ways to the soul, that keeps out all means of grace, both from the door and windows of the heart, yea, that stops up all passages whether of ingress or egress; of ingress at the eye or ear, of egress at the mouth, that there might be no capacity of redress!
What holy use is there of our tongue, but to praise our Maker, to confess our sins, to inform our brethren? How rife is this dumb devil every where, while he stops the mouths of Christians from these useful and necessary
duties! For what end hath man those two privileges above his fellow-creatures, reason and speech ; but, that as by the one he may conceive of the great works of his Maker, which the rest cannot, so by the other he may express what he conceives to the honour of the Creator, both of them and himself? And why are all other creatures said to praise God, and bidden to praise him, but because they do it by the apprehension, by the expression of man? « If the heavens declare the glory of God," how do they it, but to the eyes, and by the tongue of that man for whom they were made? It is no small honour whereof the envious spirit shall rob his Maker, if he can close up the mouth of his only rational and vocal creature, and turn the best of his workmanship into a dumb idol, that hath a mouth and speaks not. “O Lord,
open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
Praise is not more necessary than complaint; praise of God, than complaint of ourselves, whether to God
The only amends we can make to God, when we have not had the grace to avoid sin, is to confess the sin we have not avoided. This is the
that wipes out all the blots and blurs of our lives. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
That cunning manslayer knows there is no way to purge the sick soul but upward, by casting out the vicious humour wherewith it is clogged; and therefore holds the lip close, that the heart may not disburden itself by so wholesome evacuation. “When I kept silence, my bones consumed: for day and night, thy hand, O Lord, was heavy upon me; my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.
Oh let me confess against myself my wickedness unto thee, that thou mayest forgive the punishment of my sin."
We have a tongue for God, when we praise him : for ourselves, when we pray and confess ; for our brethren, when we speak the truth for their information, which if we hold back in unrighteousness, we yield unto that dumb devil. Where do we not see that accursed spirit ? he is on the bench, when the mute or partial judge speaks not for truth and innocence; he is in the pulpit, when the prophets of God smother, or halve, or adulterate the message of their master; he is at the bar, when irreligious jurors dare lend an oath to fear, to hope, to gain ; he is in the market, when godless chapmen, for their penny, sell the truth and their soul; he is in the common conversation of men, when the tongue belies the heart, flatters the guilty, balketh reproofs even in the foulest crimes. Othou who only art stronger than that strong one, cast him out of the hearts and mouths of men! “It is time for thee, Lord, to work, for they have destroyed thy law."
That it might well appear this impediment was not natural, so soon as the man is freed from the spirit, his tongue is free to his speech. The effects of spirits, as they are wrought, so they cease at once. If the Son of God do but remove our spiritual possession, we shall presently break forth into the praise of God, into the confession of our vileness, into the profession of truth.
But what strange variety do I see in the spectators of his miracle, some wondering, others censuring, a third sort tempting, a fourth applauding! There was never man or action but was subject to variety of constructions. What man could be so holy as he that was of God ? what act could be more worthy than the dispossessing of an evil spirit? Yet this man, this act passeth these differences of interpretation. What can we do, to undergo but one opinion ? If we give alms and fast, some will magnify our charity and devotion, others will tax our hypocrisy: if we give not, some will condemn our hard-heartedness, others will allow our care of justice. If we preach plainly, to some it will savour of a careless slumbering, to others of a mortified sincerity; elaborately, some will tax our affectation, others will applaud our diligence in dressing the delicate viands of God. What marvel is it if it be thus with our imperfection, when it fared not otherwise with Him that was purity and righteousness itself? The austere forerunner of Christ, neither eating nor drinking ; they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking; they say, This man is a glutton, a friend of publicans and sinners :" and here one of his holy acts carries away at once wonder, censure, doubt, celebration. There is no way safe for a man, but to square his actions by the right rule of justice, of charity; and then let the world have leave to spend their
glosses at pleasure. It was an heroical resolution of the chosen
pass very little to be judged of you, or of man's day.
I marvel not if the people marvelled ; for here were four wonders in one, the blind saw, the deaf heard, the dumb spake, the demoniac is delivered. Wonder was due to so rare and powerful a work ; and if not this, nothing. We can cast away admiration upon the poor devices or activities of men: how much more upon the extraordinary works of omnipotency ! Whoso knows the frame of heaven and earth, shall not much be affected with the imperfect effects of frail humanity, but shall, with no less ravishment of soul, acknowledge the miraculous works of the same Almighty hand. Neither is the spiritual ejection worthy of any meaner entertainment. Rarity and difficulty are wont to cause wonder. There are many things which have wonder in their worth, and lose it in their frequence; there are some which have it in their strangeness, and lose it in their facility ; both meet in this. To see men haunted, yea possessed with a dumb devil, is so frequent, that it is a just wonder to find a man free: but to find the dumb spirit cast out of a man, and to hear him praising God, confessing his sins, teaching others the sweet experiments of mercy, deserves just admiration. If the cynic sought in the market for a man amongst men, well may we seek amongst men for a convert. Neither is the difficulty less than the rareness: the strong man hath the possession, all passages are blocked up, all helps barred, by the treachery of our nature. If any soul be rescued
from these spiritual wickednesses, it is the praise of Him that doth wonders alone.
But whom do I see wondering ? the multitude. The unlearned beholders follow that act with wonder, which the learned Scribes entertain with obloquy. God hath revealed those things to babes, which he hath hid from the wise and prudent.
With what scorn did those great rabbins speak of these sons of the earth! “This people that knows not the law is
accursed." Yet the mercy of God makes an advantage of their simplicity, in that they are therefore less subject to cavillation and incredulity; as, contrarily, his justice causes the proud knowledge of others to lie as a block in their way to the ready assent unto the divine power of the Messiah. Let the pride of glorious adversaries disdain the poverty of the clients of the Gospel : it shall not repent us to go to heaven with the vulgar, while their great ones go in state to perdition.
The multitude wondered. Who censured but Scribes, great doctors of the law, of the divinity of the Jews? what Scribes, but those of Jerusalem, the most eminent academy of Judea ? These were the men, who, out of their deep
reputed judgment, cast these foul aspersions upon Christ. Great wits ofttimes mislead both the owners and followers. shall once wish they had been born dullards, yea idiots, when they shall find their wit to have barred them out of heaven ! “ Where is the Scribe ? where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made the wisdom of the world foolishness ?” Say the world what it will, a dram of holiness is worth a pound of wit. Let others censure with the Scribes; wonder with the multitude.
What could malice say worse? “He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the prince of devils.” The Jews well knew, that the gods of the Heathen were no other than devils ; amongst whom for that the Lord of flies, (so called, whether for the concourse of flies to the abundance of his sacrifices, or for his aid implored against the infestation of those swarms) was held the chief, therefore they style him “ The prince of devils.” There is a subordination of spirits, some higher in degree, some inferior to others. Our Saviour himself tells us of the devil and his angels. Messengers are inferior to those that send them. The seven devils, that entered into the swept and garnished house, were worse than the former. Neither