"That which doth make manifest is light." The presence of
Jesus in the world made manifest its true condition. The various forms of human
wretchedness which met His eye and were ministered to by His hand, were not, in
general, unwonted or exceptional forms. Each had its place, and each gave some
distinctive feature to the picture of our poor fallen humanity as it lies
around us at this very hour. And therein lies for us much of the blessedness of
watching our Lord’s ways amid a scene like this, where sins and sorrows
like our own meet not mere exposure but relief from Him, in whom, as God
manifest, "light" and "love" are one.
The story before us may be pleaded,
however, as an exception, in some measure, to this. Without delaying to reason
as to it, I desire to point out how, when we look somewhat deeper than the
surface, we shall find still what has direct reference and application to
ourselves, to the condition of the world - of man at large. But here, as
commonly enough, that which is external and bodily is -. made the type of
spiritual and internal things.
"And when He was come out of the ship,
immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who
had his dwelling among the tombs, and no man could bind him - no, not with
chains: because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the
chains had been plucked asunder, and the fetters broken in pieces; neither
could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and
in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones".
How terrible a
picture of the power of Satan over man! How still more terrible to find under
this bodily possession the type of a spiritual power exercised far and wide
over those in whom, as "children of disobedience," the "god of this world"
works! There are some features strongly enough marked here to identify this
working, wherever found.
1. He "had his dwelling among the tombs." The
place of death and corruption is Satan’s familiar haunt. He delights in
the ruin his hands have wrought. But how manifestly his triumph over man is
seen, when he can inspire his infatuated victim with his own tastes, and make
him a willing captive in the scene of his own degradation. But you think,
perchance, reader, "this does not apply to me, however." Of that you must judge
for yourself, of course. Certain I am, for my part, that this earth we tread is
far less the home of the living than of the dead. Its buried generations lie
thickly strewn around us. Death is the seal and stamp of God upon a scene which
sin has blighted. And from man to the worm of the dust, from the cedar of
Lebanon to the hyssop upon the wall, the creature is made subject to vanity.
All die. "Sin has reigned unto death."
And thus we are not, when our eyes
are opened, "dwellers," but sojourners. "The world passeth away." It so plain a
fact that it would not be thought necessary for any to be reminded of it, even
for a moment. As the Psalmist says, man "seeth that wise men die, likewise the
fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others." Yet what
does he add as to those who see this? "Their inward thought is that their
houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling-places to all generations;
they call the lands after their own names. Nevertheless, man being in honour
abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish. This their way is their folly;
yet their posterity approve their sayings." (Ps. xlix. 10 - 13.)
Thus man takes possession of what he cannot keep. In his heart he is a
"dweller," where even for sight and sense he is a sojourner only; and although
God has come in with the proffer of eternal life, and opened heaven to the
outcasts of earth, alas, little attraction is there for men in general. They
are still characteristically dwellers among the tombs, and their wisdom
approves itself not as that which "descendeth from above," but as what is
"earthly, sensual, devilish." (Jas. iii. ii.) " Devilish"! - for what evidence
of being under Satan’s power could there be more, than when dying men
cling to a dying world in spite of very sight and sense, of reason and
self-interest alike, when they would sooner have their toilsome, care worn
life, grey hairs and furrowed brows, and disappointments and bereavements all
together, than the heaven they so often say they hope for, but, I fear me, only
as the one alternative with hell? Have you your "dwelling among the tombs,"
reader? Not loving them, of course, but your heart knowing no better portion
than a home in the valley of the shadow of death - in a world which passeth
away, and the lust thereof? If so, how little are you different from this poor
demoniac of Gadara, save that the devil that had possession of his body, has
(alas) possession of your SOUL?
2. But look now at the second
characteristic. "And no man could bind him; no, not with chains; because
that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been
plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces, neither could any man
tame him." Just such, once more, are men. Not this man or that man, but men
in general. For what are laws, all laws, human or divine, but chains and
fetters cast round men? Chains that they often break; but without them, who
would trust another? Take the most plausible advocate of the goodness of human
nature; watch him in his dealings with others, and you will soon find what real
confidence he has in the goodness which he vaunts. How many of his neighbours
will he trust with twenty dollars without good security, and how many of his
neighbours would trust him? But take away the restraint of law, and who would
trust himself unarmed upon the public road? You will perhaps say, it is of the
exceptionally bad we should have cause to be afraid; but all experience proves
you would soon scarce know whom to trust. And Scripture confirms this with its
simple, broad, decisive statements: "As in water face answereth to face, so
the heart of man to man." Who has not "lusts?" With opportunity to gratify
lust, and fear of punishment removed, how long would men desist to gratify
those lusts? "As it is written, "There is none righteous, no, not one; there
is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God; they are all
gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that
doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues
they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is
full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction
and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace have they not known; there
is no fear of God be fore their eyes." "Now we know that whatsoever
things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law, that EVERY mouth
may be stopped, and ALL THE WORLD become guilty before God." How vain,
then, to plead exception for any! But -
3. "Neither could any
man tame him." What do the efforts of men in this respect amount to? Alas,
how do they proclaim their utter disbelief of all attempts of this kind, who
assert that if you preach to man on God’s part, and from His love alone,
the free gift of a complete, a present, and an eternal salvation, then you open
the flood-gates of immorality at once. And though this is only the blindness of
unbelief, how can they more tell out their inmost thought that man can never be
tamed - no, not by all the love that God can show man, but that he must be
bound with fetters and chains, with the restraint of fear of the day of
judgment, because he never can be converted to the pure love of God and good?
4. "And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in
the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones." What a spectacle of
utter misery! And even so, men are moral suicides. What more common than the
expression, "He was an enemy to nobody except himself"? And though that is not
true of any, for none can injure himself without injuring others, still it is
ever true, that of all enemies, a man’s worst one is himself. Indeed,
without our own help, no enemy could injure us. Our fleshly lusts, our
self-righteousness, our unbelief, with the thousand other evil growths that
intertwine themselves with these, are our most real and deadly foes. And
whether "in the mountains" of spiritual pride and self-sufficiency, or "in the
tombs," the abodes of more palpable corruption, "crying, and cutting himself
with stones" is still man’s most constant occupation. It is a terrible
picture, but a most true and lifelike one. Every "child of disobedience" is one
in whom "the prince of the power of the air" thus "worketh."
But we are
now to look at the demoniac’s deliverance. "But when he saw Jesus afar
off, he ran and worshipped him." That it was not the devil brought him to the
feet of Jesus we may be quite sure; and we may get in this more than a hint of
how the devil’s power is exercised over those in whom he works. It is not
the direct might and mastery of a superior being. Mere force this way would not
be suffered. But even if "the god of this world blinds the mind, lest the light
of the glorious gospel* of Christ shines in," it is only the minds of "those
that believe not," and who thus by the rejection of God’s grace and love
shut themselves up under Satan’s power. It is not that the Word is not
witness to itself. It is not that the light shining is not evidence for all.
No: the condemnation is that "light is come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light." Not that they were ignorant that the light was
there; but they loved and chose darkness. Will was at work, and the heart
rejecting. Thus man yields himself up to the devil, and then and thus his
blinding power is exercised, until the deluded soul finds perhaps a hundred
good reasons for rejecting what he never wanted to receive. How little
conscious we are of how the understanding is controlled by the will, and how
men may end by becoming "honest infidels" to the truth, who yet never became so
in an honest way.
* Rather, "the gospel of the glory of Christ."
Jesus in the scene, the power of Satan is broken. "When he saw Jesus afar
off, he ran and worshipped him." Reader, have you ever done so? Of course,
I do not mean, do you go to church on Sunday, or "say your prayers." But I
mean, have you ever in your heart of hearts owned and bowed to the One whom man
has rejected, and whom God has put at His right hand in glory? Your salvation
lies in this, for "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be
saved." The way out of Satan’s power is in the truthful acknowledging
of Him who was manifested that "He might destroy the works of the devil." Put
yourself under His authority and power, and He will manifest it on your behalf
and for your deliverance. "Come unto me," says He, "all ye that labour and
are heavy laden, and I WILL give you rest."
But in a strange way does
the poor victim approach the Lord: "And cried, saying, What have I to do
with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God that thou
torment me not." Here is the devil and the man’s voice mingled, and in
such a way you cannot distinguish them. And with how many to whom the Lord has
been saying, as we learn He had been here, "Come out of the man, thou unclean
spirit," is this the case? For how many come, beseeching Him, the Deliverer,
"not to torment them!" With an awakened conscience, and the meaning of the
cross not seen, how natural the thought that the holy and the just God must be
against them! And how much positive influence of Satan, too, is there in this,
when He has so distinctly declared His grace, and justified it by a work done
for sinners, and for sinners only! Oh that every one did fully understand that
it is Satan’s work to impute enmity to the good and gracious God, who gave
His Son for us, as if He needed to be "reconciled," or have His heart changed
toward us, whereas it is we, not He, that need the reconciliation. Reader, the
"just God" and the "Saviour" are One. The righteousness of God is revealed in
the gospel - in good news to men. God has got title to show out His love to us
by the cross; and sin is no hindrance to the blessing of those that come to
Him, for Christ died for sinners. "And He asked him, What is thy name? And
he answered, saying, My name is Legion, for we are many. And he besought Him
much that He would not send them away out of the country." Then follows a
solemn word. "Now there was there, nigh unto the mountains, a great herd of
swine feeding. And all the devils besought Him, saying, Send us into the swine,
that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave."
solemn thing is that men (though not all men) are called "swine" in
Scripture. "Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your
pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again,
and rend you." Again, "It is happened unto them according to the true
proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed
to her wallowing in the mire." Thus the "swine" are those who, possessed of
their own sensual lusts, value not the precious things of God, though presented
to them. Such may have had "the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ"
(2 Pet. ii. 20), though never so as to change the nature, but only skin deep,
washing off the pollutions of the world without, but not reaching to the
corruption of the heart within (comp. ch. i. 14); leaving the swine still
swine, and, of course, finally to go back to wallowing in the mire once more.
How many such there are, in the heat of so-called "revivals," whether true or
false, converted, as they thought, to God, but who in result are found only to
have known enough of "religion," to make light of it altogether. In many cases,
too, false teaching gives its help to persuade them that it was real conversion
they had, though it was not able to keep them out of the world six months, nay,
one month, or a week. Thus they can the more thoroughly despise it, knowing the
poor, worthless thing it was to them. But how solemn this backsliding when we
see in it, as Peter speaks, the manifestation of the swine’s nature, and
contemplate their "latter end, worse with them than the beginning." And what
more appalling than even the hint, if you will call it no more, that is given
by this narrative, that they may be as he out of whom the devil went, but "only
to return with seven others more wicked than himself, to enter in and dwell
there! "And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went
out and entered into the swine; and the herd ran violently down a steep place
into the sea, and were choked in the sea."
Reader, if you be a
rejector of God’s precious truth, beware! Is it impossible that He whom
thou rejectest may leave thee to manifest the awful reality of Satan’s
power, driven, for the warning of others, headlong to destruction?
me say, if the voice of Jesus lingers in your ears - if you are not yet deaf to
it utterly - still it says, "Come," and you may come; and still, whosoever
corneth, He will in no wise cast out.
"And they that fed the swine
fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see
what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was
possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his
right mind." What a contrast in every feature to the man he was! The shame
of nakedness removed; the restless wandering changed to peace; the untamed
maniac, a terror to all around, now in the quiet possession of himself; the
company of Satan changed for the sweet companionship of the Son of God. Oh, to
have in our soul the deep reality of all these blessings! Reader, in their
fullest meaning, they are the portion, every one of them, of him who has come
to Jesus. If you have done so, come and count over the jewels in thy casket; if
thou hast not come, still the Lord keeps all this for thee; if thou covet it,
it may be thine.
For He giveth rest. Himself has
done all, finished All - proclaimed it "finished." The grace of God brings
salvation, consequently, to all men. (Tit. ii. ii.) You have not to work for
it, but to take it. If you have come, He has received you. You may say, I have
not rest; but you have title to it and His word must be your assurance, not
your feelings, that He has received you. He casts out NONE, not you then. Take
His word for it, and you will rest.
the angel of the Lord to Joshua (Zech. iii. 4), "I have caused thine iniquity
to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment." It is
God’s own hand furnishes this clothing, and clothes with it, too. "The
best robe" comes to us from the Father’s hand and love. "He hath covered
me with the robe of righteousness." "All our righteous - nesses are as filthy
rags;" but Christ "is of God made unto us righteousness." (Isa. lxi. 10; lxiv.
6; I Cor. i. 30.)
To those who believe, then, Christ is made over. God
appropriates Him to them, that the shame of their nakedness may not appear.
They are "in Christ" before God, and His beauty and glory are seen upon them.
Not only is there no condemnation, but they are "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph.
i. 6), and "as He is, so are they even in this world." (i John iv. x7.)
One more blessedness of this cleansed and delivered man of Gadara: he was -
"In his right mind."
For, reader, however "their posterity
approve their sayings," the "way" of the men of this world, wise in their
generation as they may be, is "folly," and none but he who has Christ has
really "wisdom." If you think not so yet, a few steps more upon the road you
are taking, and you will be convinced of it. The opened eye of faith alone sees
things as they are. God’s estimate of the world will stand. The things
"seen" are but "temporal;" the things "unseen" are yet "eternal." "It is
appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment." Happy and wise
alone is he who can say with the apostle, "I count all things but loss for the
excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." "He that drinketh of the
water that I shall give him," says the Lord himself, "shall never thirst."
"And they were afraid . . . and they began to pray him to depart out of
their coasts." Were these in their right mind, alas? Do you know that many
who are in like manner respectful to the Lord, are only yet praying Him to
leave them to the devil? Do you know that multitudes of so-called Christian
worshippers, are only respectfully bowing Him out of their houses and hearts?
Do you know that for multitudes (to change the figure), Christ is but a
dressed-up image to be worshipped in the churches, and left there till the next
occasion? Not the living One, not the gracious Master and Lord, not the Friend
that sticketh closer than a brother, not the companion of the heart and life?
And do you know, that in such cases the only true prayer they ever make Him is,
"Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways?" How different
with the really delivered soul: "And when He was come into the ship, he that
had been possessed with the devil prayed Him that He might be with Him."
And this desire is of Himself, and shall be fully satisfied. We shall be "ever
with the Lord." Before that day comes there is a brief but blessed interval of
service given: "Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home
to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and
hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis
how great things Jesus had done for him; and all men did marvel."
such be the testimony rendered to the Lord Jesus, dear reader, by you and me!