Mark 5:7
This is the most detailed and important account given in the Gospels of demoniacal possession. Some are content to identify this phenomenon with lunacy or epilepsy, and suppose that our Lord used current phraseology upon the subject, although it expressed a popular delusion. We are slow to accept an explanation which would seem to credit him, who was always true, and himself "the Truth," with thus sanctioning error; especially as he used the same language when he was alone with his disciples, to whom he raid it was "given to know the mysteries of the kingdom" (Mark 9:28, 29). On the other hand," possession "was not identical with moral degradation. The idea that Mary Magdalene was one of peculiarly evil life, because "out of her the Lord cast seven demons," is untenable; and there is little doubt that Caiaphas, who was shrewd, callous, and self-controlled to the last, was morally worse than such sufferers. Yet a weak yielding to animal passions was possibly the primary cause of possession by evil spirits, in whose existence we cannot but believe. Good was incarnate in those days, and evil also appeared as in a special sense incarnate. Buckle shows that there have been ebb and flow in the currents of national history; and so there have been in moral history, and in the days of our Lord spiritual forces were at the flood. The more we study the works and the Word of God, the more we are convinced that the inexplicable is not to reverently thoughtful men incredible or absurd. We enter on the study of this scene not with the hope of elucidating all mystery, but with the prayer that we may gain from it some spiritual help. Depicted as it is in strong, dark colors, it may enable us to understand the nature of Christ's work in the soul. We see here -

I. A MAN UNDER BONDAGE TO evil. The expression an "unclean" spirit, and the strange willingness to enter "the swine," denote the nature of the man. By the indulgence of appetite habit had conquered will, and he had no mastery over himself. That is the essence of "possession." Modern forms of it are not difficult to find. Describe the drunkard in his downward progress. At last, although he knows that ruin is before him, if temptation is in his way, his resolutions go to the winds. He is fascinated, or "possessed. So with the gambler and others. The condition of the demoniac resembled theirs. Domestic comfort was gone; the respect of others was lost; life was laid waste. He could see fingers pointing at him, eyes glaring on him, hell yawning for him, and his foes seemed coming on him resistlessly as the advance of the dreaded Roman legion." Notice also the deranging effects of evil. He was "dwelling in the tombs" - a dreary, fearsome place, in harmony with his melancholy state. "All they that hate me, love death." The prodigal must "come to himself" before he returns to the Father. As this demoniac cut himself with stones, caring nothing for pain, so some destroy their moral sensibility; as he was a cause of misery or of terror, so is it with them; as he dreaded the near approach of a Judge he could not deceive, of a King he could not escape, so do they. Beware of tampering with sin.

II. A MAN CASTING OFF HUMAN RESTRAINTS. He was not without those who loved him. They had done their best to restrain or cure him. As they saw the growth of the evil, his parents would try to make the home attractive, inviting companions who would divert his thought; sisters would give up their innocent pleasure to fall in with his wishes; and when the outburst came, he was "bound with fetters and chains," lest he should harm himself or others. All in vain. Human restraint will never conquer moral evil. It represses it or alters its form, but does not root it out. The disorder and restlessness now seen in society portend serious issues, and indicate a breaking down of much in our boasted civilization. Education only changes Bill Sykes, the burglar, into Carker, the smooth, lying in lain. We may restrain dishonesty, drunkenness, swearing, etc., so that they are no longer in respectable homes; but though we shut our eyes to the fact, the demoniac has only slipped his chains, and is there in "the tombs" and dens of our land. Parental restraint does much, but a time comes when independence and self-assertion make themselves felt, and the father or mother can only pray. Speak to those who still remember the old home in which they were so different from what they are now.

III. A MAN MEETING HIS SAVIOUR. With his morbidly quickened sensibility he knew who Jesus was, and had a presentiment of what was coming. His abject prostration, coupled with his daring misuse of the sacred name, indicate the distraction and disorder characterizing him. Christ dealt with him wisely, firmly, lovingly. He asked, "What is thy name?" He tried to summon the man's better self, to bring about a severance in his thought between himself and the evil; he gave him time to think what need he had of help, and what hope and possibility there was of it. Then to the demons came the decisive word, "Go!" and in a short time he was to be seen "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind." In each of us the dominion of sin must be broken, and Christ only can break it. Appeal to those who have long been under the dominion of sin, not to despair of themselves, on the ground that Christ does not despair of them. It was when his friends had given up this demoniac as hopeless that his redemption came. So, when self-reform has proved useless, and benefactors fail, and friends lose heart, he proves "able to save to the uttermost." Dealing pitifully with the sinner, he deals ruthlessly with his sin, and will hurl it into the depths of the sea. - A.R.







What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the most high God:
I. THE DEVIL CRIES OUT AGAINST THE INTRUSION OF CHRIST.

1. Christ's nature is so contrary to that of the devil, war is inevitable when they meet.

2. There are no designs of grace for Satan; as, therefore, he has nothing to hope for from Jesus, he dreads His coming.

3. He wishes to be let alone. Thoughtlessness, stagnation, and despair suit his plans.

4. He knows his powerlessness against the Son of the Most High God, and has no wish to try a fall with Him.

5. He dreads his doom: for Jesus will not hesitate to torment him by the sight of good done and evil overcome.

II. MEN UNDER THE DEVIL'S INFLUENCE CRY OUT AGAINST THE INCOMING OF CHRIST BY THE GOSPEL.

1. Conscience is feared by them; they do not wish to have it disturbed, instructed, and placed in power.

2. Change is dreaded by them; for they love sin, and its gains, and pleasures, and know that Jesus wars with these things.

3. They claim a right to be left alone: this is their idea of religious liberty. They would not be questioned either by God or man.

4. They argue that the gospel cannot bless them. They are too poor, too ignorant, too busy, too sinful, too weak, too involved, perhaps too aged, to receive any good from it.

5. They view Jesus as a tormentor, who will rob them of pleasure, sting their consciences, and drive them to obnoxious duties.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is said that Voltaire, being pressed in his last moments to acknowledge the Divinity of Christ, turned away, and said feebly, "For the love of God don't mention that Man; let me die in peace!"

The coming of Jesus into a place puts all into a commotion. The gospel is a great disturber of sinful peace. Like the sun among wild beasts, owls, and bats, it creates a stir. In this case, a legion of devils began to move.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Universally we judge of instincts, or the qualities and dispositions which make up natural character, as we see the creature brought into relation or juxtaposition with something else, and observe, "What it will do with it." Especially is this true of man. This is just what makes up his probation. God has placed him in this world that he may show forth his character, and work out his own future condition, as he rightly uses or abuses it. Different men use the same material, or implement, or opportunity either for good or for evil. From the same forest and quarry one man builds a hospital, and another a gambling hell. Out of the grain from the same harvest field one man leavens wholesome bread, and another distils a destroying beverage. With the same ink and type and press, one prints Huxley's blasphemies, and another God's Bibles. And while in all this perhaps few men are conscious that they are achieving their probation, yet verily they are. God has brought them into these conditions that the universe may see what the man "will do with them." And according as he does evil or good, he displays his character and decides his own destiny.

I. NOW THIS, IN REGARD OF ALL THINGS, EVEN SECULAR AND SOCIAL, IS THE GREAT LAW OF LIFE. BUT HOW MUCH MORE IS ITS SOLEMNITY INCREASED WHEN IT HAS TO DO WITH MATTERS RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL? The question, in its first connection, was addressed to Christ; and its must significant application is to the case of impenitent and ungodly men who, with a like question, turn away from the gospel. "Oh," say some men, "I have nothing to do with it! I am not a professing Christian! I never joined any Church! What, then, is all this to me? What have I to do with the gospel of Christ?" But, alas, for their false logic! they have something to do with it. Their indifference cannot alter their relations to the gospel. Those relations grow out of character and condition. I can imagine a foolish man cherishing a settled dislike to the great law of gravitation, overlooking its beneficent results as working out, from the rounding of a dew drop to the rounding of a star — from the graceful equipoise of a lily's leaf to the harmonies of the stupendous systems of the universe — all the grand and gracious processes and phenomena of creation — overlooking all this, and thinking that but for its restraining power he might spring up as a pure spirit into the boundless expanse of heaven, and wander at will from star to star through immensity. I can conceive of such an one as disliking that great law, and in his insane hate blaspheming the Omnipotence which devised it. But what of that? Can the man escape from it? Will God have respect to his perverted taste, and annihilate that glorious force whereon depend all the beauties and harmonies of the universe? Oh, surely not. And just so it is of religion. It is that irresistible law of God under which all immortal creatures live. In the very nature of things, retribution must follow every act and experience of probation. Its solemn elements are two fold. First, there is a loss of all the unspeakable blessings which the gospel offers. Consider again these natural analogies. Take the law of gravitation. And the foolish man says: — "I do not like that law; it is the law of falling bodies; it dashes men down precipices; it brings the destroying avalanche upon human habitations; I will let it alone!" But not so a wise man. He says, I will have something to do with it; it makes the pendulum vibrate; I will set it to keep time for me; it gives momentum to the watercourses, it shall grind for me as a mill. And so of all the natural forces of the universe: by diligently working with them we secure immense benefits. What if a child, lost in a dangerous forest in the stormy night, amid ravening beasts and howling tempests, catching through the darkness the gleam of torches and the accents of gentle voices, and beholding the face of the father who, in agonizing love, had come forth to seek and save him, instead of springing joyfully into those outstretched arms, should turn away with the despising cry, "What have I to do with thee?" What would you call it but madness? And yet immeasurably greater is the madness of the impenitent man who rejects the precious Saviour; for the sinner's danger is more terrible, and the Saviour's love more tender.

II. IN THIS REJECTION OF THE GOSPEL YOU INCUR TERRIBLE GUILT. That gospel is not merely an invitation, but as well a sovereign mandate. The gospel is a law, and no law of God is ever violated with impunity. You may not believe in God's ordinances of health; but if you make your bed in a lazar house you will be stricken with pestilence. You may laugh to scorn God's law of great forces; but if you launch your bark above Niagara, it will sweep you to destruction. Alas! for this folly of infidelity and atheism! It may be effectual in persuading its abettor to have nothing to do with God, but is utterly powerless in persuading God to have nothing to do with him. Retribution is an awful thought, and an awful truth. But the aspect in which our text sets forth the neglect of the gospel is that of the utter folly of rejecting a great blessing.

(C. Wadsworth, D. D.)

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