« AnteriorContinuar »
not? It is hard for men to believe their own unbelief. If they were persuaded of this fiery dungeon, this bottomless deep, wherein every sin shall receive an horrible portion with the damned, durst they stretch forth their hands to wickedness? No inan will put his hand into a fiery crucible to fetch gold thence, because he knows it will burn him. Did we as truly believe the everlasting burning of that infernal fire, we durst not offer to fetch pleasures or profits out of the midst of those flames.
This degree of torment they grant in Christ's power to command; they knew his power irresistible: had he therefore but said, Back to hell whence ye came, they could no more have staid upon earth, than they can now climb into heaven. O the wonderful dispensation of the Almighty! who, though he could command all the evil spirits down to their dungeons in an instant, so as they should have no more opportunity of temptation, yet thinks fit to retain them upon earth! It is not out of weakness or improvidence of that divine hand, that wicked spirits tyrannize here upon earth ; but out of the most wise and most holy ordination of God, who knows how to turn evil into good, how to fetch good out of evil, and by the worst instruments to bring about his most just decrees. O that we could adore that awful and infinite Power, and cheerfully cast ourselves upon that Providence which keeps the keys even of hell itself, and either lets out, or returns the devils to their places !
Their other suit hath some marvel in moving it, more in the grant; “That they might be suffered to enter into the herd of swine." It was their ambition of some mischief that brought forth this desire ; that since they might not vex the body of man, they might yet afflict inen in their goods. The malice of these envious spirits reacheth from us to ours : it is sore against their wills, if we be not every way miserable. If the swine were legally unclean for the use of the table, yet they were naturally good. Had not Satan known them useful for man, he had never desired their ruin. But as fencers will seem to fetch a blow at the leg, when they intend it at the head; so doth this devil, while he drives at the swine, he aims at the souls of these Gadarenes: by this means he hoped well, and his hope was not vain, to work in these Gergesens a discontentment at Christ, an unwillingness to entertain him, a desire of his absence; he meant to turn them into swine, by the loss of their swine. It was not the rafters or stones of the house of Job's children that he bore the grudge to, but to the owners ; nor to the lives of the children so much, as to the soul of their father. There is no affliction wherein he doth not strike at the heart; which, while it holds free, all other damages are light: but “a wounded spirit (whether with sin or sorrow) who can bear?” Whatever becomes of goods or limbs, happy are we, if, like wise soldiers, we guard the vital parts. While the soul is kept sound from impatience, from distrust, our enemiy may afflict us, he cannot hurt us.
They sue for a sufferance, not daring other than to grant, that, without the permission of Christ, they could not hurt a very swine. If it be fearful to think how great things evil spirits can do with permission, it is comfortable to think how nothing they can do without permission. We know they want not malice to destroy the whole frame of God's work, but of all, man; of all men, Christians : but if without leave they cannot set upon an hog, what can they do to the living images of their Creator? They cannot offer us so much as a suggestion, without the permission of our Saviour. And can he, that would give his own most precious blood for us, to save us from evil, wilfully give us over to evil?
It is no news that wicked spirits wish to do mischief; it is news that they are allowed it. If the owner of all things should stand upon his absolute command, who can challenge bin for what he thinks fit to do with his creatures. The first foal of the ass is commanded under the law to have his neck broken. What is that to us ? the creatures do that they were made for, if they may serve any way to the glory of their Maker. But seldom ever doth God leave his actions unfurnished with such reasons as our weakness may reach unto. There were sects amongst the Jews that denied spirits. They could not be more evidently, more powerfully convinced, than by this event. Now shall tlie Gadarenes see from what a multitude of devils they were delivered ; and how easy it had been for the same power, to have allowed these spirits to seize
persons as well as their swine. Neither did God this without a just purpose of their castigation. His judgments are rigliteous, where they are most secret. Though we cannot accuse these inhabitants of ouglit, yet he could, and thought good thus to mulct them. And if they had not wanted grace to acknowledge it, it was no sinall favour of God that he would punish them in their swine, for that which he might have avenged upon their bodies and souls. Our goods are farthest off us : if but in these we smart, we must confess to find mercy.
Sometimes it pleaseth God to grant the suits of wicked men and spirits, in no favour to the suitors. He grants an ill suit, and withholds a good; he grants an ill suit in judgment, and holds back a good one in mercy. The Israelites ask meat; he gives quails to their mouths, and leanness to their souls.
The chosen vessel wishes Satan taken off, and hears only, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” We may not evermore measure favours by condescent. These devils doubtless receive more punishment for that harmful act wherein they are heard. If we ask what is either unfit to receive, or unlawful to beg, it is a great favour of our God to be denied.
Those spirits, which would go into the swine by permission, go out of the man by command; they had staid long, and are ejected suddenly. The immediate works of God are perfect in an instant, and do not require the aid of time for their maturation.
No sooner are they cast out of the man, than they are in the swine. They will lose no time, but pass without permission from one mischief to another. If they hold it a pain not to be doing evil, why is it not our delight to be ever doing good? The impetuousness was no less than the speed. “The herd was carried with violence from a steep-down place into the lake, and was choked.” It is no small force that could do this : but if the swine had been so many mountains, these spirits, upon God's permission, had thus transported them. How easily can they carry those souls, which are under their power, to destruction? Unclean beasts, that wallow in the mire of sensuality, brutish drunkards, transforming themselves by excess, even they are the swine whom the Legion carries headlong to the pit of perdition.
The wicked spirits have their wish, the swine are choked in the waves. What ease is this to thee, good God, that there should be any creature that seeks contentment in destroying, in tormenting the good creatures of his Maker! this is the diet of hell. Those fiends feed upon spite towards man, so much more as he doth more resemble his Creator; towards all other living substances, so much more as they may be more useful to man. The swine ran down violently; what marvel is it is their keepers fled ? that niraculous work, which should have drawn them to Christ, drives them from him. They run with the news, the country comes in with the clamour : “The whole multitude of the country about besought him to depart.” The multitude is a beast of many heads; every head hath a several mouth, and every mouth a several tongue, and every tongue a several accent; every head hath a several brain, and every brain thoughts of their own; so as it is hard to find a multitude without some division: at least, seldom ever hath a good motion found a perfect accordance: it is not so infrequent for a multitude to conspire in evil. Generality of assent is no warrant for any act. Common error carries
Common error carries away inany, wbo inquire not into the reason of ought but the practice. The way to hell is a beaten road through the many feet that tread it. When vice grows into fashion, singularity is a virtue.
There was not a Gadarene found that either dehorted bis fellows, or opposed the motion. It is a sign of people given up to judgment, when no man makes head against projects of evil. Alas! what can one strong man do against a whole throng of wickedness ? yet this good comes of an unprevailing resistance, that God forbears to plague, where he finds but a sprinkling of faith. Happy are they, who, like unto the celestial bodies, (which being carried about with the sway of the highest sphere, yet creep on their own ways,) keep on the courses of their own holiness, against the swing of common corruptions; they shall both deliver their own souls, and help to withhold judgment from others.
The Gadarenes sue to Christ for his departure. It is too much favour to attribute this to their modesty, as if they held themselves unworthy of so divine a guest. Why then did
upon this suit in a time of their loss ? why did they not tax themselves, and intimate a secret desire of that which they durst not beg? It is too much rigour to attribute it to the love of their hogs, and an anger at their loss; then they had not intreated, but expelled him. It was their fear that moved this rash suit; a servile fear of danger to their persons, to their goods ; lest he, that could so absolutely command the devils, should have set these tormentors upon them; lest their other demoniacs should be dispossessed with like loss. I cannot blame these Gaderenes, that they feared : this power
was worthy of trembling at, their fear was unjust: they should have argued, “This man hath power over men, beasts, devils, it is good having him to our friend ; his presence is our safety and protection." Now they contrarily misiufer, “ Thus powerful is be, it is good he were further off.” What miserable and pernicious misconstructions do men make of God, of divine attributes and actions! God is omnipotent, able to take infinite vengeance of sin; O that he were not ! he is provident, I may be careless; he is merciful, I may sin; he is holy, let him depart from me, for I am a sinful man. How witty sophisters are natural men, to deceive their own souls, to rob themselves of a God! O Saviour, how worthy are they to want thee, that wish to be rid of thee! Thou hast just cause to be weary of us, even while we sue to hold thee : but when once our wretched unthankfulness grows ry of thee, who can pity us to be punished with thy departure? who can say it is other than righteous, that thou shouldst regest one day upon us, “Depart from me, ye wicked.”
The faithful Canaanite.
I'r was our Saviour's trade to do good; therefore he came down from heaven to earth, therefore he changed one station of earth for another. Nothing more commends goodness than generality of diffusion; whereas, reservedness and close-handed restraint blemishes the glory of it. The sun stands not still in one point of heaven, but walks his daily round, that all the inferior world may share of his influences both in heat and light. Thy bounty, O Saviour, did not affect the praise of fixedness, but motion : one while I find thee at Jerusalem, then at Capernaum, soon after in the utmost verge of Galilee; never but doing good.
But as the sun, though he daily compass the world, yet never walks from under his line, never goes beyond the turning points of the longest and shortest day; só neither didst