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gain of bodily sight made way for thy spiritual eyes ; who hast lost a synagogue, and hast found heaven; who, being abandoned of sinners, art received of the Lord of glory?
THE STUBBORN DEVIL EJECTED.
How different, how contrary are our conditions here upon earth! While our Saviour is transfigured on the mount, his disciples are perplexed in the valley. Three of his choice followers were with him above, ravished with the miraculous proofs of his Godhead; nine other were troubled with the business of a stubborn devil below.
Much people was met to attend Christ, and there they will stay till he come down from Tabor. Their zeal and devotion brought them thither, their patient perseverance held them there. We are not worthy the name of his clients, if we cannot painfully seek him, and submissively wait his leisure.
He, that was now a while retired into the mount to confer with his Father, and to receive the attendance of Moses and Elias, returns into the valley to the multitude. He was singled out awhile for prayer and contemplation, now he was joined with the multitude for their miraculous cure and heavenly instruction. We, that are his spiritual agents, must be either preparing in the mount, or exercising in the valley ; one while in the mount of meditation, in the valley of action ; another, alone to study, in the assembly to preach : here is much variety, but all is work.
Moses, when he came down from the hill, heard music in the valley ; Christ, when he came down from the hill, heard discord. The scribes, it seems, were setting hard upon the disciples : they saw Christ absent, nine of his train left in the valley, those they fly upon.
As the devil, so his imps, watch close for all advantages. No subtle enemy but will be sure to attempt that part where is likelihood of least defence, most weakness. When the spouse misses him whom her soul loveth, every watchman hath a buffet for her. O Saviour, if thou be never so little stept aside, we are sure to be assaulted with powerful temptations.
They, that durst say nothing to the Master, so soon as his back is turned, fall foul upon his weakest disciples. Even at the first hatching, the serpent was thus crafty to begin at the weaker vessel: experience and time hath not abated his wit. If he still work upon
silly women laden with divers lusts," upon rude and ungrounded ignorants, it is no other than his old wont.
Our Saviour, upon the skirts of the hill, knew well what was done in the plain, and therefore hastes down to the rescue of his disciples. The clouds and vapours do not sooner scatter upon the sun's breaking forth, than these cavils vanish at the presence of Christ: instead of opposition they are straight upon their knees; here are now no quarrels, but humble salutations, and if Christ's questions did not force theirs, the scribes had found no tongue.
Doubtless there were many eager patients in this throng; none made so much noise as the father of the demoniac. Belike upon his occasion it was that the scribes held contestation with the disciples. If they wrangled, he sues, and that from his knees. Whom will not need make both humble and eloquent ?
The case was woful, and accordingly expressed. A son is a dear name, but this was his only son. Were his grief ordinary, yet the sorrow were the less ; but he is a fearful spectacle of judgment, for he is lunatic. Were this lunacy yet merely from a natural distemper, it were more tolerable ; but
this is aggravated by the possession of a cruel spirit, that handles him in a most grievous manner. Yet were he but in the rank of other demoniacs, the discomfort were more easy ; but lo, this spirit is worse than all other his fellows; others are usually dispossessed by the disciples, this is beyond their power. “I besought thy disciples to cast him out, but they could not : therefore, Lord, have thou mercy on my son.” The despair of all other helps sends us importunately to the God of power. Here was his refuge; the stronger man had gotten possession, it was only the stronger than he that can eject him. O God, spiritual wickednesses have naturally seized upon our souls; all human helps are too weak; only thy mercy shall improve thy power to our deliverance.
What bowels could choose but yearn at the distress of this poor young man! Frenzy had taken his brain : that disease was but health, in comparison of the tyrannical possession of that evil spirit, wherewith it was seconded. Out of hell there could not be a greater misery: his senses are either bereft, or else left to torment him ; he is torn and racked so as he foams and gnashes, he pines and languishes, he is cast sometimes into the fire, sometimes into the water. How that malicious tyrant rejoices in the mischief done to the creature of God! Had earth any thing more pernicious than fire and water, thither had he been thrown, though rather for torture than despatch. It was too much favour to die at
O God, with how deadly enemies hast thou matched us ! Abate thou their power, since their malice will not be abated.
How many think of this case with pity and horror, and in the mean time are insensible of their own fearfuller condition !
It is but oftentimes that the devil would cast this young man into a temporary fire : he would cast the sinner into an eternal fire, whose everlasting burnings
have no intermissions. No fire comes amiss to him
; the fire of affliction, the fire of lust, the fire of hell. O God, make us apprehensive of the danger of our sin, and secure from the fearful issue of sin.
All these very same effects follow his spiritual possession. How doth he tear and rack them whom he vexes and distracts with inordinate cares and sorrows! How do they foam and gnash whom he hath drawn to an impatient repining at God's afflictive hand! how do they pine away who hourly decay and languish in grace!
Oh the lamentable condition of sinful souls, so much more dangerous, by how much less felt !
But all this while, what part hath the moon in this man's misery? How comes the name of that goodly planet in question ? Certainly these diseases of the brain follow much the course of this queen of moisture. That power which she hath in humours is drawn to the advantage of the malicious spirit; her predominancy is abused to his despite. Whether it were for the better opportunity of his vexation, or whether for the drawing of envy and discredit upon so noble a creature, it is no news with that subtle enemy, to fasten his effects upon those secondary causes, which he usurps to his own purposes. Whatever be the means, he is the tormentor. Much wisdom needs to distinguish betwixt the evil spirit abusing the good creature, and the good creature abused by the evil spirit.
He that knew all things, asks questions ; “How long hath he been so ?” not to inform himself, (that devil could have done nothing without the knowledge, without the leave of the God of spirits,) but that, by the confession of the parent, he might lay forth the woful condition of the child, that the thank and glory of the cure might be so much greater, as the complaint was more grievous; “He answered, From a child.”
O God, how I adore the depth of thy wise and just and powerful dispensations! Thou, that couldst say, “I have loved Jacob, and Esau have I hated, ere the children had done good or evil,” thoughtest also good, ere this child could be capable of good or evil, to yield him over to the power of that evil one. What need I ask for any other reason than that which is the rule of all justice, thy will ? yet even these weak eyes can see the just grounds of thine actions. That child, though an Israelite, was conceived and born in that sin which both could and did give Satan an interest in him: besides, the actual sins of the parents deserved this revenge upon that piece of themselves. Rather, O God, let me magnify this mercy, that we and ours escape this judgment, than question thy justice that some escape not. How just might it have been with thee, that we, who have given way to Satan in our sins, should have way and scope given to Satan over us in our punishments! it is thy praise that any of us are free; it is no quarrel that some suffer.
Do I wonder to see Satan's bodily possession of this young man from a child, when I see his spiritual possession of every son of Adam from a longer date ; not from a child, but from the womb, yea in it? why should not Satan possess his own? we are all by nature the sons of wrath. It is time for us to renounce him in baptism, whose we are till we be regenerate. He hath right to us in our first birth : our new birth acquits us from him, and cuts off all his claim. How miserable are they that have nothing but nature ! better it had been to have been unborn, than not to be born again.
And if this poor soul from an infant were thus miserably handled, having done none actual evil, how just cause have we to fear the like judgments, who, by many foul offences, have deserved to draw this executioner upon us ! O my soul, thou hast