Now the man out of whom the devils were departed sought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying,…
And regarding Christ's treatment of this restored man, as in entire analogy with His treatment of true Christians, let us learn —
I. A LESSON IN REGARD TO GOD'S ANSWERING OF PRAYER. If our prayers are proper and right, both in their spirit and their objects, may we not come to the throne of grace assured that they will be answered? To which I answer —
1. That according to the principle just insisted on, that God's thoughts are not our thoughts, no man is competent to decide positively whether the prayer he offers is in the right spirit. The petition of this Gadarene may have originated in a selfish desire to be happy in Christ's presence, rather than useful in His service. And if so, it was self-considered, an improper prayer, and not to be answered. And so of other prayers.
2. But we remark that, even were we certain that the prayer is such as God promises to answer, there remains still a more important point to be considered — viz., the best way of answering it. If the Gadarene prayed properly, desiring only his own greatest good and God's greatest glory, then Christ may have seen that he would grow more rapidly in grace, and bring more honour to his Saviour, by remaining among his own countrymen; and thus really answered his petition by sending him away. And so it is always. God will assuredly answer all prayers that are proper and good; but then He answers them in His own way, and according to His own higher wisdom. The Christian prays to be sanctified; and this is a good prayer, and if offered in a right spirit is sure to be answered. But how! Ah, not according to the man's thoughts I God lays His strong hand upon the man's idols. He takes away his property; He takes away his health; He takes away his comforts; He lays the beloved of his home and heart into the unpitying grave — thus weakening his affections for the earthly and the carnal. "Ah," but says the Christian, "this is not what I meant!" Be it so; yet if you prayed sincerely to be sanctified, this is precisely what you asked for — for this is sanctification! But passing now from this great lesson of prayer, and considering the text as containing important parabolic instruction, we learn here several lessons as to practical Christian influence.
I. We learn THE IMPORTANCE OF SUCH CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE. The text most impressively teaches us that the law of Christian life is not spiritual enjoyment, but usefulness. And so it is with the Christian. If the end of his conversion were his own spiritual enjoyment, then, as soon as he is converted, he would be translated to Christ's presence in glory. There is nothing falser and fouler than that low, narrow, selfish idea of conversion, which regards it only as the condition whereby the man escapes from hell and gets into heaven. If such conversion makes a man good, it is a goodness out of harmony with all other good things. God's great law of goodness is not absorption, but diffusion. All God's glorious things, from a flower of the field to a star in the firmament, are not receptacles, but fountains. No man ever thought of one of God's angels as sitting selfishly on a heavenly throne, contemplating in indolent rapture the sceptre he is wielding and the diadem he wears. And if one of those professing Christians, who think that all God requires of them is just to get themselves to glory, is a true child of God, then he lacks at least one evidence of sonship — he does not resemble his great Father. Of one thing we are certain, that every converted soul is designed by Jehovah to be "the light of the world." And if Jesus Christ should descend again to the earth, dwelling as of old time with mortals, and one of these very happy and indolent Christians should come to Him, saying, " O Lord Jesus, precious Saviour, let me ever sit at Thy feet in love, and rapture, and worship!" then, sure I am Christ would frown on him as a slumbering and selfish disciple, and, like the restored man of Gadara, "would send him away."
II. Passing this, we learn from the text, THE SECRET, OR ELEMENT, OF ALL TRUE CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE, Our Lord sent this restored man away, that he might bear witness for God unto his kinsfolk and countrymen. But how was he to bear witness? Why, simply by making it manifest that the devil had gone out of him. But the power of his witness was not in his lips, but his life. They saw that he was a changed man. A hundred men might have come from Galilee, telling these Gadarenes of Christ, the worker of miracles, and yet all their arguments and eloquence would have been as nothing to one hour's converse with this restored man — yesterday known to all as a raging demoniac, to-day a gentle and loving companion, in his right mind. His power of testimony for Jesus was the power of his life. And in this lies the secret of all true Christian influence. It is the easiest thing in the world to talk about religion. But mere talk about religion is the poorest thing in the world. Every true Christian will indeed talk about his Saviour. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Nevertheless, here as elsewhere, the utterance of the lips is as nothing to the influence of the life. In the Divine economy, all grand forces are comparatively gentle and silent. The shallow rill, that is dry on the mountain-side half the year, brawls more noisily at times than yon mighty river. The boy's sparkling rocket makes a louder demonstration in the night air than all God's starry constellations. And yet, in the silence of their sublime manifestations, how eloquently do these great forces of the universe bear witness for God! And so it is of moral forces. The gentle movement of this restored man, amid his wondering countrymen, did more to convince them of Christ's saving power than a thousand noisy utterances. And so is it with the convincing power of a Christian life. The converted man is left in this world a witness for Jesus — allying illustration of the power and blessedness of a religious life. He is to the theologic truth of the Bible what practical experiments are to scientific truths in nature. As the chemist talks technically of elements in analysis and synthesis, and exhibits, in illustration, free gases and ponderous compounds; and as the botanist discourses scientifically of the structure of plants, and the functions of their parts, and shows you his meaning by producing the petals of a lily, or a spike of lavender — so is it with spiritual science, in the hands of the Great Teacher. The Bible explains, and Christian life illustrates; e.g., Faith, by definition, is "the substance of things hoped for." But, in order to make men understand it, I must be able to point to some man who, under its power, lives, as did Abraham, ever looking for a city whose maker is God. Trust in God is, by definition, an unswerving resting of the mind on Divine veracity and benevolence. But, to make a man comprehend it, it must be in my power to point to men who, under its influence, sit calmly, like Daniel in the lion's den; or go resolutely, like the young Hebrews, into a fiery furnace. And so of all graces. In the Bible they are described, as in a written epistle — in Christian life they are illustrated, as in a "living epistle." And in this sense are we, mainly, witnesses for Christ. As the Gadarenes saw that the demoniac was restored, so must the world see that the sinner is converted. He must speak for Christ, as the flower and the star speak for God, in the beauty and glory of their physical manifestations. Without this abiding savour of a holy life, all else will prove but a mockery.
III. Meanwhile, the text teaches us THE TRUE SPHERE OF THIS CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE. "Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee." We may not be able to understand all the reasons of this command. It is, however, quite evident, first, that his home would be the field of his most powerful influence — since those who had best known him in his demoniacal state would be the most thoroughly convinced of Christ's power of miraculous restoration. And, secondly, that his home would be the most appropriate field of his influence, since his kinsfolk had the first claim upon his sympathy and labours. And, were there no reasons but these, this direction of Christ teaches us this important lesson in regard of Christian influence — that its truest field, and its mightiest power, are alike always at home. Its mightiest power is at home, because the members of a man's own household, and the familiar friends of his own social circle, are the best judges of the genuineness of his conversion. It is very easy to put on seemings of godliness that shall deceive strangers; but that must be a true piety, which, amid the daily vexations of life, and the unrestrained intercourse of the home circle, bears the image of Jesus. Meanwhile, a man's home is the fittest field for the exercise of his Christian influence. Religion, like charity, should begin at home. See that your own field is well tilled, ere you go abroad to other fields. Your own heart first; then your own family; then your own Church; then your own country; and then the whole world. This is God's great law of influence. The heart must be in strong health, if the circulation be vigorous and healthful in the extremities. The roots and trunk of a tree must thrive, if it would fling forth new branches. .No matter, indeed, how largely a man expands — the larger his benevolence the better — if he expand harmoniously, from a healthy and permanent centre. Let him not mistake diffusion for expansion, nor a change of scene for an enlargement of influence. Would that all Christians, and all Christian Churches, would learn this simple lesson, which Christ taught to the, restored man of Gadara. One fixed and steadfast sun, standing earnestly in its appointed place, and diffusing constant light and life over the small circle of worlds God has committed to its keeping, is worth more than a hundred erratic comets, flaming out in the heavens, and casting a fiery and locomotive glare on a thousand constellations. "Let me walk through broad Galilee, and stand up as a living witness for God before Greek and Jew; before ruler and Pharisee." And though this request falls in with the dictate of human reason, yet, oh, deeper wisdom of the blessed Saviour; Christ sent him unto his own kinsfolk, saying, "Go home! Go home!"
IV. Moreover, the text Leaches us THE MOTIVES OF THIS CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE. "Return to thine own house," said the Saviour. The text tells us he had " a home"; and faithful hearts, long agonized in his behalf, were to be comforted and blessed by his presence. And though, for his own sake, he preferred to be with Jesus, yet, for the sake of beloved kindred, he was willing to depart. Here was one motive, and a strong one. But the text gives us a stronger.
1. The Divine commandment — "Christ sent him away." He may not have had the intellect to understand why Christ thus ordered it; but he surely had the heart that, in its supreme love to his great Deliverer, rejoiced above all things to do His bidding. And here are the types of Christian motives, in labour for the Saviour. Here is, first, philanthropy, the love of our human kindred; a desire to save the sons and daughters of our one great Father. But yet, strong as this motive is, it is as nothing to that second and mightier one — the command of his Master. Christ, his great and gracious Saviour, hath commanded him, as the grand end of his earthly being, to labour to bring impenitent men under the power of the gospel. And this motive is omnipotent. "The love of Christ constraineth him." The love of my kindred might fail — but "the love of Christ constraineth me!"
Parallel VersesKJV: Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying,