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Though daemoniacal possessions were uot properly disorders, yet are they always enumerated with them, when the miracles of our Lord are recited. And, however humiliating the truth may be, it is certain that we are all, while in an unconverted state, possessed by satan. The unbelieving world are blinded,? governed,b and led captive by him at his will.' And, whatever evil they are excited to commit, it is through the instigation of that wicked fiend.k]
2. There is a resemblance between the cures wrought by our Lord upon the bodies of men, and the cures which he \\>'i w nrk upon their souls
[Wherever the blessings of salvation c/re mentioned in the prophets, they are set forth in some highly figurative expressions; and by none more commonly than by those relating to bodily cures. Isaiah, says, " In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind see out of obscurity and out of darkness."i And again, " Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped: then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing:">n which figures are afterwards explained as relating to the spiritual salvation of the church."
TM application which the inspired apostles make of these prophecies further evinces the truth of our position. St. Matthew quotes a passage, which beyond all doubt relates to.spiritual benefits that were to be obtained through the death of Christ, and explains it, in a 'way of accommodation, as referring to the bodUy cures-which otir Lord had wrought.0 Further, our Lord himself, having healed a blind man, takes occasion to trace this very analogy between the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees, and the bodily blindness which he had just healed:" For judgment I am come into this world, that they who see not might see, and that they who See might fee made blind."" And both the answer which the Pharisees made to him, and the replywhich our Lord gave them, manifest that this analogy was intended to be pointed out.i]
"3. There is a resemblance between the manner in which the diseased persons applied to our Lord for heal-: jng, and the manner in which we should apply, to him for
spiritual healing .i:„ i... ;I..'i>.;. >.- ,il
.„; [Of all the multitudes that came to our Lord, there wa* not one who was.not sensible of his disease. Moreover, they
. '. I n . i II. _ _ 1, i i i i . !.. in
« 2 Cor. iv. 4. b Eph. ii. 2. » 2 Tim.'ii; 26.'
i«. John xiii. 27. Acts v. 3; i Isar. xxix. 18. and m Isai. xxxv. 5, 6. » lb. 10. . , xxxii. 3.
• Con.p. Isai. liii. 4 with Matt. viii. 16,17.
» John ix. 39. i lb. 40t 4.1 v
all came to him with deep humility, prostrating themselves before him in the most abject manner/ and acknowledging the utter insufficiency of all other means.' And such was their earnestness, that they came from afar,' and could not be prevailed upon to hold their peace,TM nor would take a denial even from our Lord himself.* It is worthy of notice also, that they all came in faith: some few indeed doubted his power, and some his willingness, to help them: but none doubted both his power and his willingness; and the greater part entertained no doubt at all.
Thus then should we go to him, " weary and heavy-laden" with our sins, and so sensible of our spiritual wants, that, if he should ask us, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? we may answer him immediately, " Lord, that this disorder may be healed, and that sin forgiven.* We must also, with all lowliness of mind, confess our inability to obtain relief from any other quarter, and our dependence on him alone.1 Moreover, in proof of our earnestness, we must not merely seek, but strive,* determining to take the kingdom of heaven by violence,b and not to let the Saviour go, except he bless us.« Lastly, we must be sure to exercise fait h on Christ, believing him both able and willing to save us: for we are expressly told that, he who wavereth and is of a doubtful mind, must not expect to receive any thing of the Lord.d]
4. There is . a resemblance between the manner in which our Lord cured their disorders and the manner in which he will cure ours
[He sometimes healed the people secretl//, as when he took the deaf man aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and said, Ephphatha, be opened, and then charged him to tell no man.e So he has now many "hidden ones,"f in whose hearts he carries on a secret work, and heals them without attracting the notice of the world. At other times he performed the cures openly, and in the sight of all; as when he bade the man with the withered hand to stand forth.* So he often converts the souls of profligate sinners, or bitter persecutors, in such a striking manner, as to fill all around them with wonder and amazement.
Sometimes he wrought his cures instantaneously; as in the man at the pool of Bethesda:b and so he effects a sudden change in the hearts of many, causing them to cry out like the first converts, and the jailor, What shall I do to be
'«. Luke viii. 28, 41. • Mark v. 26, 33. » Mark viii. 3.
« Matt. xx. 30, 31. * Matt. xv. 22—28. T Matt. xx. 33.
* Hos. xi'v. 1—3. « Luke xiii. 24. b Matt. xi. 12.
c Gen. xxxii. 26. * Jam. i. 6, 7. • Mark vii. 34,36.
r Ps. lxxxiii. 3. c Matt. iii. 3, 5. fc John v. viii.
saved?' At other times he performed his cures gradually, as in the blind man, who at first saw men, as trees, walking:k and so he often carries on his work in a gradual manner in our souls, leading us from progressive conviction, to thorough conversion.
Sometimes he used means in curing them; as when he put clay and spittle on the blind .man's eyes:i so he now converts many by the preaching of his gospel. At other times he used no means, as in the case of the ten lepers, who were cleansed as they were going in the way:m and so he often imparts the knowledge of himself by the teachings of his Spirit, without using any particular means or instrument to convey iu
But however varied his manner was with respect to these things, in one respect it was uniformly the same: whomsoever he cured, he cured perfectly; and.thus he always carries on the work he has begun in the souls of men," and perfects that which concerneth them.0]
Since then without any forced interpretations or conceits, we may draw such instruction from the miracles in general, let us endeavour to II. Improve the particular miracle recorded in the text
If, in the concerns of our souls, we desire either direction or encouragement, we cannot find them any where more suitably afforded than in the passage before us; where the conduct of the multitude suggests the former, and the conduct of Jesus the latter. Let us then improve it
I. For direction [We should not dare to exhort you in general to follow the multitude; since that would be to lead you in the broad road to destruction." But in the present instance we say, Follow that multitude.
Follow them in the conviction which they had of their own need of Christ. Every one felt within himself that he laboured under a disorder which needed healing; and, if each of them had been asked, What is your disorder? and what is yours? they could all have specified the principal symptoms of the disorders under which they laboured. Now thus must we go to Jesus, feeling and lamenting the ravages which sin has made upon our souls. It is not sufficient for us to confess in general that we are sinners; we must open our case to him, and tell him, "Thus and thus have I done."' And, if
* Acts ii. 3f. & xvi. 30. * Mark viii. 24. i John ix. 6.
"" I.uke xvii. 14. n Phil. i. 6. • Ps. exxxviii. 8.
P Matt, vil 13. i Josh. vii. 20.
the Spirit of God have truly convinced us of sin, we shall find no more difficulty in this, than a poor man does in opening his complaints to a physician. More particularly, we should get our hearts impressed with the evil of our besetting sin; and, carrying it to Jesus, we should confess It, lament it, aggravate it, and implore both his mercy to pardon it, and his grace to subdue it: and, if we thus go to him labouring and heavy-laden, we have his promise that he will give us rest.r
Follow them also in their earnestness. We are told that the people pressed on Jesus, so that they who were nearest to him could not maintain their place by reason of the multitudes, who strove to get access to him, and to touch him.8 They not only left their own business, but, in many instances, prevailed on their friends to relinquish their occupations also, in order to carry them to Jesus. In short, they postponed every consideration to that of obtaining a cure from him. And who could blame them? They found their need of healing, and knew that they might obtain it by going to him, and therefore they would on no account lose the opportunity afforded them: and, when they could in no other way get access to him, they would go up to the top of the house, and let down their diseased friends in a couch through the tiling.r Would to God that we were all thus earnest for the salvation of our souls! that no consideration whatever were suffered to detain us from the Lord! and that not one of us might delay another hour to go unto him! We are far more favourably circumstanced than they were, since we can go to him without removing from our chamber, or intermitting our earthly business. He is every where present to heal us; if we can only break through the crowd of lusts and cares that are within our own hearts, there is no other crowd that can keep us from him. How anxious should we be to get immediate relief from an acute disorder, especially if there were but one physician able to heal us, and his continuance in our neighbourhood were likely to be very short! Let us then shew the same care for our souls, and go to Jesus without delay, knowing that "this is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation."
Once more—Follow them in their faith. They were not only convinced of Christ's power and willingness to heal them, but were assured that, if they could but touch his garment, they should be whole." They did not stand reasoning about the matter, or go and try other means, but applied to him as their all-sufficient helper. So must we go to him, not endeavouring first to heal ourselves by our repentance, or labouring to make ourselves fit for him by our amendments, or questioning whether he be willing to receive us: we must go to him
'Matt. xi. 28. > Mark iii. 10.
» Luke v. 19. » Matt. ix. 21.
just as we are, altogether filthy and abominable; and be firmly persuaded that we shall not seek his lace in vain. To be reasoning or yielding to doubts and fears will be of little avail; but to go to Christ in faith, will prove an infallible remedy for every ill: whatever be' our complaint, he will say, "Go thy way; and, as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee;" and we shall be made whole from diat very hour.xJ
2. For encouragement [We cannot conceive any thing more encouraging than the behaviour of our blessed Lord to the people.
Behold his condescension! How wonderful was it, that he, the Lord of glory, should suffer such a multitude of miserable and filthy objects to press upon him! yea, that he should go about through all cities, towns, and villages for that very purpose! And will he now be inattentive to our spiritual wants? When we rush, as it were, with holy violence into his presence, and seek to touch him, will he forbid us? Will he withdraw himself from us, or say, "Stand off; thou art too vile to be admitted to my presence?" Has he not said, on the contrary, that whosoever cometh unto him, he will in no wise cast out?'' Let the trembling sinner then take courage; for his sighing shall soon be turned into that triumphant song, " Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name, who forgiveth all thy sins, and healeth all thy diseases.
Behold also his compassion! There was not one of all the multitudes that came to him, dismissed without a cure. Though many of them probably had despised him, and though he foresaw that many of those very persons would join in that general cry, Away with him, crucify him, crucify him, (as it is highly probable they did) yet his bowels of compassion yearned over them. Many, no doubt, were as unthankful as the nine lepers; yet did he not withhold his mercy from thenbodies. How much more then will he have compassion on those who seek him for their souls! When he beholds them supplicating for the pardon of their sins, and the renovation of their hearts, will he turn from them, and shut his ear at their cry? no: he will rather fall upon their neck and kiss them;1 or, as the prophet speaks, " He will save; he will rejoice over them with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over them with singing."b Only let us seek him in truth, and we shall find him rich in mercy unto all that call upon him.«
Lastly, behold his power! However inveterate the diseases of many might be, the whole multitude were healed: and has