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Lord Jesus runs counter to their conduct or wishes; when the warning whisper of a conscience not quite dead makes itself heard, and they only desire to be let alone-which, indeed, is the most terrible thing that can happen to us, that God should say, as of His people of old, “ Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone.” What we all want is heart knowledge : “ the devils also believe and tremble,” but “this is life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” If Paul's aspiration be ours, “ That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection,” we shall find the words true, “ Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.”
In the account of the man with an unclean spirit we notice that the devil acknowledged the Divine and human nature of our Lord, calling Him “Jesus of Nazareth” and “the Holy One of God.” And Jesus immediately proved'His power, and the truth of the devil's word, before the wondering multitude, by commanding him to hold his peace and come out of the man, so that they were fain to exclaim, “What thing is this! What a word is this !” How blessed for us to know that “with authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him." When the battle seems too strong for us—when everything seemas going against us—it is a rest-point to know that the strong man armed must succumb to the stronger than he; to feel certain that " when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him."1 And that though “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” ? yet “the breaker is come up before them;" 3 and “He is head over all,” and with authority He rules, “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself.” 4 “There was in the synagogue a man with an unclean spirit.” Was it that this poor possessed man came thither hoping for a season of rest and peace in the sanc| Isa. lix. 19 * Eph. vi. 12. 3 Mic. ii. 13. ^ a Cor. x 5.
tuary, and found there deliverance, Jesus of Nazareth passing by ? Unclean spirit? Alas! do we not often take one into God's house? Temptation will assail us in our holiest moments, thoughts will wander, the hidden evil will break out ; but if Jesus is by we may trust Him to rebuke it. And if we are grieving over the plague of our own heart, how blessed to find the Lord Jesus ready to exorcise the evil spirit !
How many miracles were performed by our Lord on the Sabbath-day, or in the temple or synagogue ! The man whose withered hand was healed was in the synagogue. So was the poor bowed-down woman whom “Satan had bound, lo, these eighteen years.” And in both these cases we may notice that their infirmity was esteemed no bar to attendance in the sanctuary ; a tacit reproof to many who make the slightest ailment or hindrance an excuse for absenting themselves from God's house. They and the man with an unclean spirit all carried away a blessing from having been in contact with Jesus, as every waiting soul will that pleads the fulfilment of God's promises. A blessed thing it was for those souls that their infirmity had not prevented them from honouring the Sabbath; and a blessed thing is it for any soul when the bonds wherewith it is bound of Satan are loosed by the hand of the Lord; when the powerless hand is nerved to take hold of God's strength; to “cling to the Crucified ;” to receive the good gifts God is willing to bestow; when the unclean spirit is cast out, and the renewed soul, “a new creature in Christ Jesus," is found sitting at the Saviour's feet to hear His Word.
66 To Thy temple I repair;
Lord, I love to worship there,
No Fear about that! MEDICAL man of some eminence in his profession was arranging with a minister as to a spot of ground in the churchyard where he should be buried.
For many months his health had been gradually failing, and he felt persuaded that his days would be but few.
When the place for his grave had been selected, his friend, the minister, put to the sick man a word of faithful inquiry as to his hope for eternity.
“Oh!” said he, “I have no fear about that. If I have done some bad things I have done many good ones, and I have no doubt all will be well.” But he learnt by-and-by to see everything in a new light. He saw his own sinfulness, and the breadth of God's law. He discovered that there was only one name by which man could be saved, and he died trusting only in the merit and blood of the Lord Jesus,
The secret of this man's mistake was a wrong view of the demands of God's law. Many men set up altogether a wrong standard. They imagine that good deeds will counterbalance evil ones. They suppose that a few sins can easily be atoned for, and they have no conception how great is the debt of sin which they owe. But the Word of God sanctions no such idea. It reveals God's law, which is holy, just, and good. It declares that sin is the transgression of the law. Whatever is opposed to the letter or the spirit of the law in the very least particular is sinful in God's sight. The thought of foolishness is sin. An idle word is sin. A selfish motive is sin. And every man stands in God's sight as a law-keeper or a law-breaker. There is no middle position. If you could justly plead that never by thought, word, or deed you had broken God's law, but had every moment perfectly fulfilled your duty to God and your neighbour, then you might claim the reward of life. But if you cannot do this, you stand guilty and condemned. It is beside the question to plead that you have in certain things obeyed God, or that you are free from sins that others have committed. Have you kept the law perfectly, or have you broken it? If, after fifty years of sinless obedience—were such possible—you had committed but one sin, that one sin would be enough to make you chargeable with the guilt of a broken law.
“ Cursed be every one that continueth not in all things
which are written in the book of the law to do them.” A single flaw in your obedience, a single monient in which you have failed to fulfil each precept, at once brings you under the curse.
More than this: one single offence is, before God, the same as having broken the whole law. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
Perhaps you cannot quite see the justice of this. You question the reason for such a broad statement. But consider a moment. The law of God is one thing. It is all given by one authority. The substance of it is one duty: supreme love to God, and love to our neighbour in Him. We shall be judged at last by the one Judge whom He has appointed. Hence it is that to break the law in one point is to break it altogether.
A lad throws a stone at a beautiful mirror. He breaks it, and is responsible for that which it has cost. If he had thrown fifty stones he could only have broken it, which he has done by the first.
God's law is like that mirror. Every sin is like casting the stone at it, and implies fresh contempt of Him who has made it. But the first sin broke it, and made a man responsible for the guilt of doing so.
Another illustration might be used. A conqueror sets a bound round a city which he has captured. He promises the inhabitants that he will spare their lives if they keep within the line which he has drawn, but threatens death against any who shall cross over it. A man may go but a few inches or a few yards beyond, but he is as truly liable to the penalty as if he had gone a mile or two. Such is God's law. It is a definite line which God has drawn. By transgressing it in the very least we incur the penalty of death. A man may boldly and openly break God's law, going as it were miles beyond the limit, or he may in a far
i Gal. ii. 10.