PETER S WIFE S MOTHER A D EVIL SPIRITS BY HE RY KOLLOCK, D. D, Matthew viii. 14, &c.

Afflictions and diseases enter the families of the servants of God, as well as of the unholy. Though Peter was one of the peculiar favourites of our Lord, and privileged to have more intimate access to him than almost any of the apostles, yet he experienced personally, and in his family, those troubles common to humanity. The aged mother of his wife spent her declining years with him. She had been afflicted by a fever, which, by its duration and violence, had reduced her to a weak and languid state. Her trial was doubtless the greater, because she was detained from attending the public ordinances of God ; and this, too, at a time when He, who " spake as never man spake," had come to Capernaum to instruct the people. Peter interceded for his afflicted relative; and his intercessions were not in vain. " Jesus arose out of the synagogue," says St. Luke. 4k and entered into Simon's house." He rebuked her disorder. It instantly vanished, and her former strength returned. Universal joy succeeded to the tears of sympathy and compassion, which had before vol. ii. 28

218 bERMO XLVI. been paid to the sufferings of this aged female. Rejoicing in her perfect restoration, and desirous of manifesting her gratitude, she immediately ministered to Jesus and his attendants. Christians, imitate the example of Peter. In the

arms of faith and prayer, carry your friends and relations to Jesus. If they are suffering under external afflictions, or if their souls are languishing, spread their wants before him. Your intercessions will probably benefit them, will certainly draw down blessings upon yourselves. And you who have received mercies from God. learn from the example of this pious matron to testify your gratitude. Have you been preserved in health, or restored from sickness? Content not yourselves with making a few cold acknowledgments ; but render active services to your Benefactor. Do not pretend that there is nothing which you can do for him. Whatever your capacity or your situation in life is, you may find something to perform for Jesus ; and however mean or trifling the service is, it shall be accepted, if it spring from a grateful heart. " When the even was come,''' proceeds the Evangelist, i. e. after the Jewish Sabbath was ended, " they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils, and he cast out the spirits with his word.'''' From this and a variety of other passages in the ew Testament, we learn that, just before the advent of our Saviour, Satan was permitted to exercise a power over the bodies of men which he no longer possesses. Perhaps one great reason why Providence permitted this, was to show, visibly and openly, the superiority of Jesus to the adversary of souls ; and to dispose men joyfully to receive him who " came to destroy (he

LIFE OF CHRIST. 219 works of* the devil." These evil spirits inflicted upon all whom they possessed the severest sufferings, and rendered them personally unhappy and formidable to

others. Human power was inadequate to the relief of these unhappy persons ; but the spirits who afflicted them bowed before the authority, and fled at the command, of Jesus ; and the same men who were furious and ungovernable, became calm and composed, threw themselves at the feet of their Benefactor, and poured forth the effusions of praise, and the tears of gratitude. We have an instance of the ejection of one of these spirits, which occurred about this time, (Luke iv. 33 — 37.) Whilst Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, a man who was possessed was present. The evil spirit immediately knew Jesus. otwithstanding the lowly habit in which he sojourned among men, he knew him to be the Son of God, who had left the bosom of his Father to assume our nature and dwell among us. He was well aware that this Holy One of Israel must feel an irreconcilable aversion to one of such impious dispositions. He dreaded Jesus. He knew that he was the promised Seed who should bruise the head of the serpent. He knew that he was to be the Judge of evil spirits at the last day, when their present miseries should be greatly augmented. He therefore cried out, " Let us alone : what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of azareth ? Art thou come to destroy us ? I know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God." It was in vain, however, that he pleaded; Jesus would not receive his acknowledgments, but enjoined him silence, and ordered him instantly to depart from the unhappy object who had so long been subjected to his malice and fury. ki And Jesus rebuked him. saying

220 SERMO XL VI. Hold thy peace, and come out of him ! And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out

of him, and hurt him not." My brethren, let this incident teach us not to rest in a speculative knowledge of Christ. We see that this evil spirit was well acquainted with the person and offices of Christ ; but, notwithstanding his knowledge, he was a devil still. To what purpose will be all our knowledge, if we are not sanctified by it? It will only aggravate our guilt, and enhance our condemnation. We never know Jesus aright, till we love his presence, and delight in an unreserved compliance with his will. Learn, also, to welcome and improve his presence. He comes to us by the preaching of the gospel. Shall we, by our indifference or aversion, say to him, " Let us alone ?" Shall we not rather say, ' Lord, expel this evil spirit from my heart, and take me under thy care and protection?' Then shall the " prince of this world be cast out," and we be brought from his thraldom into " the glorious liberty of the sons of God." Thus Jesus delivered the possessed. He healed, also, all manner of diseases ; and thus proved himself to be indeed the promised " Sun of Righteousness, with healing in his wings." Great multitudes followed him, impelled by different motives. When he retired a little into a desert, the crowd that was collected at Capernaum sought him out, as we are informed by St. Luke, (iv. 42, &c.) and entreated him never to depart from them. He replied, that this was inconsistent with the duties of his mission. "I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also, for therefore am I sent." He resolved, therefore, to go to the other side of the lake.

MFE OF CHRIST. 221

A scribe, who was present, offered to accompany him. "Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest." Jesus, knowing his heart, and perceiving that he was impelled only by a desire of sharing in the pleasures and profits of that temporal kingdom, which the Jews supposed that the Messiah would erect, rejected his service, and pointed out to him his error in supposing that he would better his worldly circumstances. " Jesus said unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests ; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Another person who was present, and who had for some time followed Jesus as his disciple, expressed his willingness still to continue his follower, provided he might first attend on his father till his death. " Another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father." " Jesus said unto hiw, Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.'''' That is, let such as are dead in sin, who have neither hope nor desire of immortality, and who are not devoted to me, as you profess to be, perform that office to your father when he dies ; for if you wish to become my disciple, you must not neglect my work by waiting for his death, which may not happen so soon as you are imagining. The disciples having procured a vessel, Jesus entered it, together with them, and sailed towards the country of the Gadarenes. Jesus, fatigued with the labours of the day, fell asleep; while he slept, a furious storm arose. Its violence was such that the disciples expected every moment to perish ; full of apprehension, they ran to the Saviour, exclaiming, " Lord, save us, we perish !" They were properly reproved by Jesus for their fears. Why should they tremble, nhen they had put to sea at our Lord's command.

222 SERMO XL VI. and when he was present with them ? But still, not, withstanding their weakness, they showed in whom was their trust, and that they had no hope but in his almighty aid. Jesus immediately interposed for their deliverance. He could, if he had seen fit, have prevented the storm. But his disciples would not then have witnessed this marvellous display of their master's power, nor have hence acquired additional cause of trust in him. It is for the same gracious ends that he permits our troubles, and when they have brought us to him in fervent supplications, he will deliver us from them. He arose, and, with authority, rebuked the storm. Instantly the boisterous winds were hushed, and the roaring billows silenced. Though at other times the waters after a storm remain in a perturbed state, they then at his command subsided to a perfect calm. Such is the effect which his word produces on the tempest-tossed soul. Terrors that appalled the conscience are dissipated as a cloud ; temptations that agitated the frame are disarmed of their power; and afflictions that overwhelmed the soul are made to yield the "peaceable fruits of righteousness." Well might the beholders marvel, and exclaim, " What manner of man is this ?" when even the winds and the waves, than which nothing seems more beyond the control of man, heard the voice and obeyed the will of the Lord Jesus. Learn from this event, trembling believer, that the Lord is never unmindful of the troubles of his people, even though he should appear to neglect them. According to the language which Mark attributes to the disciples, they supposed that Jesus was inattentive to them : " Master, carest thou not that we perish ?" Yet his providential care was not the less

LIFE OF CHRIST. 223 exerted because he was asleep. We, also, on some occasions, are apt to think him unmindful of us, and disposed to adopt the impatient language of the church of old, " The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me." The answer he gave to them is equally applicable to us, " Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb ? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." We need never be afraid, if we are embarked with Jesus. His ark may be tossed about, and driven by tempestuous winds, but, though every thing else should perish, that shall outride the storm. Let us be taught, also, from this miracle, that he is able to save us out of the greatest difficulties, as well as the least. We are prone to limit him in the exercise of his goodness. or are even the most signal manifestations of his power sufficient entirely to correct this propensity. But he who created and upholds all things, can overrule them as he pleases. And his promises to his people are fully commensurate with their wants. Let us then go to him with confidence under our most pressing difficulties ; and rest assured that he is able and willing to save to the uttermost. • On the ceasing of the storm, Jesus and his disciples landed in the country of the Gergesenes, says Matthew ; of the Gadarenes, say Mark and Luke. It is the same country which bore these two names from the two principal cities, Gergesa and Gadara. Two persons, possessed with devils, there met the Saviour. Mark and Luke mention but one of them, who was by far the most furious ; who had often been bound with chains and fetters, 'and broken

them ; and who, no longer restrained, shunned the

221 SERMO XLV1. society of men, wandered day and night among the solitary caverns out of the city, in which, according to the practice of the Jews, the dead were reposited, making the most frightful outcries, tearing and cutting himself with the stones. This unhappy man and his companion, not only thus injured themselves, but also furiously attacked the persons who passed that way. This did not prevent Jesus from meeting them, for he carries with him chains which the combined powers of hell cannot break; he humbles them, and makes them tremble before him. At beholding him we should have supposed that they would have been filled with fury, or, agitated with fear, would have fled and hid themselves in the caverns of the mountains. A secret power restrains them ; they know that in every place they are subject to the control of the Lord. They have, therefore, no resource left, except to endeavour to move him. They, therefore, cast themselves before him, exclaiming, " What have we do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God ? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time ?" It is added in Mark, " I adjure thee by God, that thou torment us not." That the misery of these men should be known before he delivered them, our Lord asked one of the devils his name. He replied, " My name is Legion, for we are many." At the same time, adds St. Luke, " they besought him that he would not make them go into the deep :" in the original, " the abyss" the place of punishment. The devils well know that their condemnation is fixed and irrevocable. They know that at the day of judgment their punishment shall be pronounced in the presence of the universe,

their miseries increased, and themselves for ever confined in the infernal abyss. They here suppli-

LIFE OF CHRIST. 225 cate Jesus not to hasten this punishment; not to send them instantly to hell. They also entreated permission to enter a herd of swine that were feeding at a little distance. In order to show the reality of the possession, and to show to all ages what is the power of evil spirits, and how terrible their malice would be if it were not restrained, he permitted them : and the herd suddenly ran from the top of the rocks into the sea, and were drowned ; whilst the men who had been possessed became calm and serene, and recovered the perfect exercise of their powers. Jesus might also permit the devils to enter the swine as a punishment to their owners, who, if Jews, were guilty of a violation of the law ; and if Gentiles, spread a snare to the Jewish people, and expressed contempt for their religion, by keeping them within the confines of Palestine, and in the midst of the Jews. Besides, Jesus, as God, had a. sovereign authority over the whole earth. He could give, and he could take away, from whom he pleased, without being accountable to his creatures. Those who had seen this miracle, fled and recounted it at Gadara. The inhabitants came out in crowds, and with astonishment saw the most furious of the demoniacs sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. Instead of tilling them with admiration and love, this spectacle excites fear in them. Vicious and criminal men tremble at virtue accompanied with power. They therefore solicit him to leave the country. He immediately complied with their request. The dispossessed demoniac could not however think of leaving his benefactor.

He wished to live and die with him who had bestowed so inestimable a favour upon him. The Lord however told him, " Go home to thy friends, and tell how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee." He acquiesced in the Lord's will, and lived a conspicuous monument of the power and grace of Christ.

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