Графични страници
PDF файл

Mark i. 22.

he taught them as one that had authority, and not Capernaum, as the Scribes.

goras, and after them Plato and the Stoics, affirmed that all things were full of dæmons (9). And it is well known that the priests, in giving forth their oracles, are always represented as being possessed by their gods (r).

4. Christ is said to have adopted the common language of the people, which it was not necessary to change. He was not sent to correct the mistakes in the popular philosophy of the day in which he lived.

This argument takes for granted the very point to be proved. With respect also to the philosophy of the day, it would be difficult to shew that our Lord sanctioned an error because it was popular.

5. No reason can be given why there should be demoniacal possessions in the time of our Lord, and not at present, when we have no grounds to suppose that any instances of this nature any where occur.

In reply to this objection, it may be observed, that these possessions might then have been more frequent, that the power of Christ might be shewn more evidently over the world of spirits, and that he who came to destroy the works of the devil, should visibly triumph over him. By this act of Almighty power he confuted also the error so prevalent among the Sadducees, which denied the existence of angels or spirits, (Acts xxiii. 8.) and which likewise prevailed among many of those who were distinguished for their rank and learning at that time among the Jews.

Lightfoot, when speaking on this point, supposes that the power of dæmons might be permitted to display itself in this peculiar manner while Christ was upon earth, because the iniquity of the Jews was now at its greatest height; and the whole world were consequently in a state of extreme apostacy from God. He adds also, that the Jews were now much given to magic: and to prevent his miracles from being attributed to this source, our Saviour evoked the evil spirits, to show that he was in no confederacy with them.

Those, on the contrary, who espouse the ancient opinion, not only adduce the

(9) Tòv koopov daquóvwv alñon. Diog. Laert. lib. i. g. 27. ap. Biscoe. (r) “ They much mistake,' says Mr. Biscoe, “who assert that Demoniacs abounded in the Jewish nation alone. We learn from the writers of other nations, that they abounded elsewhere. If they were not always known by the name of Demoniacs, they were spoken of under several other names, which signify the same thing, such as ευρυκλείται f, νυμφόληπτοι ! θεοφόρητος 5, θεόληπτος ||, φοιβόληπτοι Π, πύθωνες **, Bacchantes tt, Cerriti, Lavati 11, Lymphatici $$, Nocturnis Diis, Faunisque agitati ||||."

[ocr errors]

History of the Acts confirmed, p. 283. + Έγγαστρείται δε και έυρυκλείται εκαλούντο, &c. schol. in Aristophan. Vesp. p. 503.

Plato in Phæd. § øpevopavús tis Ei Okopoontos, Æsch. Agamemnon, 1149. || Scholia in Sophoc. Antiq. ad. v. 975. | Herod. Melpom. §. 13. ** Plut. de Orac. def. p. 414. tt Plaut. Amph. act 2. scene 2. v. 71. Herod. lib. iv. . 79. Ii Plaut. Mæn. act 5. scene 4. v. 2. Bag. Amph. v. 5, &c. &c. &c. $$ Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. 25. s. 24. and lib. 27. s. 83, &c. &c. HU Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. 30. s. 24.


And in the synagogue there was a man which Luke iv. 39.


arguments already mentioned in reply to the objections of their opponents, but maintain much that is laid down in the following positions, which have ever appeared to me decisive in favour of the popular opinion.

I. The Heathens had an idea of beings superior to men, but inferior to the one Supreme God. Cudworth (s) enumerates many instances. Among others he quotes. Plato's expression, that there were oparo, kai yevuntoi 0801, visible and generated gods ; and Maximus Tyrius, ovváp xovtas Osy, co-rulers with God, &c. &c. The Jewish and Christian ideas of angels and spirits are in some respects şiınilar. Both believe that these inferior beings may possess some influence by the permission of the Deity, in the concerns of mankind : and the opinion is neither hostile to reason or Scripture (t).

JI. The doctrine of demoniacal possessions, is consistent with the whole tenor of Scripture. Evil is there represented as having been introduced by a being of this description, which in some wonderful manner influenced the immaterial principle of man. The continuance of evil in the world is frequently imputed to the continued agency of the same being. Our ignorance of the manner in which, the mind may be controlled, perverted, or directed, by the power of other beings, ought not to induce us to reject the opinioa. We are unable to explain the operation of our own thoughts, but we do not therefore deny their existence, III. The doctrine of demoniacal possessions is likewise consistent with rea

We acknowledge that a merciful God governs the world, yet we are astonished to observe that exceeding misery is every where produced by the indulgence of the vices of man, An ambitious conqueror will oceasion famine, poverty, pestilence, and death, to hundreds of thousands of his fellow men, whose lives are blameless and tranquil. If one man may cause evil to another, is it not probable that evils of a different kind might be produced by means of other beings, and the moral government of God remain unimpeached? We are assured that in the great period of retribution, other beings than man, will be condemned by their Creator. The Scripture affirms this fact, that other accountable and immortal beings, superior to mankind, have been created, some of whom have not fallen ; while others, under the influence of one who is called Satan, or the Devil, apostarized from God, perverted the mind of man, are still persevering in evil, are conscious of their crimes, and are now reserved in chains of darkness to the judgment of the great day. A future state alone can explain the mystery of the origin and destiny of man, and his rank in the universe of God. The whole supposition, that the demoniacs spoken of in Scripture were madmen, is crowded with difficulties. But let us take for granted the ancient and orthodox opinion; let us believe Christ to be divine, and pre-existent, conversant with the world of spirits, as well as with the world of men ; and if we then trace the progress of that evil he was appointed to overthrow from the beginning to the end, how much more easy and rational is the belief, that he exerted over this dæmon the power he will hereafter display at the end of the world, wben apostate devils and impenitent men will be associated in one common doom?

(8) Intellectual System, vol. i. book i. ch. ivo p. 232. Birch's 4to, edition, London, 1743. () Locke's Essay, book ii. ch. i. sect. 13. fin,

Luke iv. 33. had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out

Capernaum. with a loud voice,



IV. The facts recorded of the supposed demoniacs demonstrate also that they

not merely madmen. The insane either reason rightly on wrong grounds (u), or wrongly on right grounds, or blend the right and wrong together. But these demoniacs reasoned rightly upon right grounds. They uttered propositions undeniably true. They excelled in the accuracy of their knowledge the disciples of Christ himself; at least, we never hear that either of these had applied to our Lord the epithet of the Holy One of God. They were alike consistent in their knowledge and their language. Their bodies were agitated and convulsed. The powers of their mind were controlled in such manner that their actions were unreasonable ; yet they addressed our Lord in a consistent and rational, though in an appalling and mysterious manner. Our Lord answered them not by appealing to the individuals whose actions had been so irrational, but to something which he requires and commands to leave them: that is, to evil spirits, whose mode of continuing evil in this instance had been so fearfully displayed. These spirits answer him by evincing an intimate knowledge both of his person and character, which was hidden from the wise and prudent of the nation. The spirits that have apostatized are destined to future misery—their Judge was before them. Ah, what hast thou to do with us, in our present condition,” they exclaim, “ Art thou come to torment us before our time ?” And they entreat him not to command them to leave this earth, and to go to the invisible world (x. The dæmons believed and trembled.

It is an admirable observation of Jortin on this point, that where any circumstances are added concerning the demoniacs, they are generally such as shew that there was something præternatural in the distemper; for these afflicted persons unanimously joined in giving homage to Christ and his Apostles; they all know him, and they unite in confessing his divinity. If, on the contrary, they had been lunatics, some would have worshipped, and some would have reviled our Saviour, according to the various ways in which the disease had af fected their minds.

V. The other facts recorded of the demoniacs are such that it is impossible to conclude that they were madmen only. The usual and principal of these is that most extraordinary event of the possession of the herd of swine, by the same dæmons which had previously shown their malignity in the human form. It has ever been found impossible to account for this extraordinary event(y), excepting upon the ancient and literal interpretation of Scripture.

A singular instance of the absurdities into which some have been led, in their endeavours to overthrow the testimony of Scripture, and establish some proposition in their place which may seem more rational, or, as they very strangely think, more philosophical, may be found in Lardner, vol. i. p. 239 ; who, among the various opinions which had been advanced on the subject of the demoniacs, mentions one which endeavours to account for the destruction of the

(u) Luke viii. 28–31. (x) Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, Works, 8vo. edit. vol. i. p. 199. (y) The Socinian version of the New Testament has no note on this part. With the usual modesty, however, which characterizes the writers of this school, Evanson is quoted to prove the whole history of the Gadarene demoniac, (Luke viii. 27-40.) to be an interpolation.


Or, Away

Saying, * Let us alone ; what have we to do Luke iv. 34. with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth ? art thou come


herd of swine, by imagining that Christ drove the lunacy, and not the dæmons, from the man into the swine.

VI. It cannot be supposed, as Doddridge observes, that our Lord humoured she madmen by adopting their language, and inducing his disciples to do the

Hold thy peace, and come out of him—What is thy name—thou undean spirit, &c. &c. These are all expressions which imply truths and doctrines of infinitely greater moment than any which could be conveyed to the minds of his hearers by flattering a madman, or increasing and encouraging the religious errors of a deluded and wicked generation.

Dr. Lardner, in his remarks on Dr. Ward's Dissertations, quotes a letter from his friend Mr. Mole, which accurately expresses the feeling that induced so many to reject what appears to me to be the plain narrative of Scripture. “ This affair of the possessions is an embarrassment, which one would be glad to be fairly rid of," &c. &c. It is the part of reason to examine the evidences of revelation. When reason is satisfied of its truth, as it must be, its only remaining duty is to fall prostrate before the God of reason and Scripture, and implieitly to believe the contents of the sacred volume in their plain and literal meaning. This stage of our existence is but the introduction to, and the preparation for another, and it seems therefore but rational and philosophical to conclude that some things would be recorded in revelation, which should serve as links to connect the visible with the invisible world. Among these may be considered such facts as the resurrection—the three ascensions—the visits of angels—the sudden appearances of the Jehovah of the Old Testament-the miraculous powers of prophecy conferred upon the favoured servants of God. Among these events also, I would place the fact of demoniacal possessions. As at the transfiguration Moses and Elias appeared in glory, to foreshew to man the future state of the blessed in heaven; so also do I believe that the fearful spectacle of a human being possessed by evil spirits, was designed as a terrible representation of the future punishment. The demoniac knew Christ, yet avoided and hated him. An outcast from the intellectual and religious world, he grieved over his lot, yet he could not repent. In the deepest misery and distress, he heightened his own agony by self-inflicted torments. The light of heaven, which occasionally broke in upon his melancholy dwelling among the tombs, served only to make more visible the darkness of his wretchedness, and embittered every anguish and suffering by the torturing remembrance of what he was, and what he might have been. Although I have not met with the opinion elsewhere, I canpot but consider, that we are here presented with a fearful and overwhelming description of the future misery of the wicked, by the visible power of the devil, over the bodies and souls of men. The account of demoniacal possessions may be regarded as an awful warning addressed to mankind in general, lest they also come into the same state of condemnation. At the last day, when every eye shall see Him, and every knee bow down before him, many, like the raving demoniac, shall hail the same Saviour, who died to redeem them, with unavailing horror and despair. Many like the demoniac will be compelled to acknowledge his divinity—" We know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God,” — while they join in the frantic and piercing cry, “ Art thou come to torment us ?"


Luke v. 34.

Luke iv. 35.

Mark i. 26.

Mark I. 28.

to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Capernaum.
Holy One of God.

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy

and come out of him.

And when the unclean spirit had Luke iv. 33. thrown him in the midst, (and)

had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he

came out of him, Luke iv. 35. and hurt him not.

And they were all amazed,

insomuch that they questioned,
Luke iv. 36, and spake among themselves, saying, What a

word is this?
What thing is this? what new doctrine is this?

for with authority,
Luke iv. 36. and power he commandeth the unclean spirits

even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him, Luke iv. 36. and they come out.

Luke iv. 36

Mark 1, 27.

Mark i, 27.

Mark i. 27.

It appears to me also, that the demoniacs powerfully represent to us the state to which all the sons of Adam would have been reduced for ever, if the Son of God had not descended from heaven, to accomplish the wonderful plan of redemption, which is revealed in the inspired writings. The experience of common life, indeed, not unfrequently sets before us many deplorable instances of the exceeding degradation to which the human mind may fall, when it becomes the slave of the passions, uninfluenced by religious principle. We seldom sufficiently appreciate the incalculable benefit which has already accrued to the world from the influence of the Christian Religion.

With respect, then, to the demoniacs of the New Testament, we may conclude, that it is with this doctrine as with many others in the New Testament. The traditional, popular, literal, and simplest interpretation is most probably correct, for this very satisfactory reason, that the difficulties of the new interpretation are always greater than of that which is rejected. We have here the actions of the Saviour and the destroyer. On one side we have the wonderful doctrine, that it has pleased the Almighty to permit invisible and evil beings to possess themselves in some incomprehensible manner of the bodies and souls of

On the other we have Christ, the revealer of truth, establishing falsehood, sanctioning error, or encouraging deception. We have the Evangelists inconsistent with themselves, and a narrative, which is acknowledged to be inspired, and to be intended for the unlearned—unintelligible, or false. Between such difficulties I prefer the former; and, if I cannot comprehend, I bow my reason to the Giver of reason, and confess with reverence the superiority of Revelation. The difference between Christianity and Philosophy, or the mode of speculating which assumes that title, may be said to consist in this. In matters of philosophy, the vulgar may be in error, and the speculatist may be right. But, in Christianity, the popular opinion is generally right. The speculator, the philosopher, who would fashion Christianity according to his own notions of truth and falsehood, of right, or wrong, generally concludes with error.


« ПредишнаНапред »