THE SPOILER SPOILED
"They went across the lake to the region of the Gadarenes.
When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the
tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him
any more, not even with a chain." Matt. 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39
We now follow our Lord's footsteps, for the first time,
to the eastern shores of Gennesaret. Striking must have been the
contrast between their sterile aspect and the cultivated beauty with which
we have hitherto been familiar around Capernaum. Hills, with a few patches
of cultivation, rose slanting from the water's edge, unrefreshed by those
rills and water-courses which formed nature's contribution to the life of
the western side. If we add to an uncongenial climate and the absence of
soil, exposure, as at this day, to the incursion of the adjoining desert
hordes, we find an additional reason for the comparatively scanty
inhabitants—the near and strange proximity of intense activity to desolation
and barrenness. It was a border land "of darkness and the shadow of death,"
abandoned to a mixed population of Jew and Gentile; animals clean and
unclean—the sheep of the Hebrews, the swine of the Gentiles—browsing on
adjacent pastures. No rich plain or undulating slopes fringed, as on the
opposite shore, the margin of the lake, on which "the sower" could "go forth
to sow." If that memorable parable were suggested by an incident seen in the
fields of the one side, the parable of the lost sheep—roaming through a
trackless waste, had its appropriate scenery on the other. These Eastern
wilds formed "the desert place," to which Christ, on other occasions,
invited the disciples to "go and rest a while." The very solitude of this
wilderness was a pleasing refuge to Him from unceasing labor. There, amid
nature's rugged temples and oratories, her Great Maker and Lord "ofttimes
resorted," for purposes of meditation and prayer.
Such is the befitting frame for that terrible picture
which we are now to contemplate; a theme uninviting in itself, and
encompassed with not a few difficulties—but which, occurring, as it does, in
the order of the narrative, we dare not pass in silence.
The description of the Gadarene Demoniac is given
by the first three Evangelists. We shall avail ourselves of the notices
peculiar to each, taking as the groundwork that of Mark, which is
distinguished (as most of his other narrations are) for minuteness and
fidelity in all its parts. His is evidently the narrative of an
eye-witness; and, connected in some way, as we have good reason to
believe the writing of his Gospel was, with Peter—the Evangelist and the
Apostle-spectator, in compiling their inspired narratives, have retained,
with graphic power, each feature of the thrilling incident.
Let us look first to THE PICTURE itself, and then examine
its DETAILS. In other words, let us describe the general SCENE, and
afterwards, from its several parts, deduce some general LESSONS.
1. THE SCENE. Recent travelers inform us that
opposite the town of Tiberias, on the eastern shore, a recess is formed in
the mountains, where there are still the remains of a Jewish burying ground.
Caves, either natural or artificial, are hollowed out of the rock, while the
ruins of a city crown the heights at the top of the valley. There is a
strong presumption in favor of this being the locality of the scene
presented to us in the passage we are now considering.
In our last chapter, we found the Lord and His Apostles
suddenly overtaken by a storm in the midst of the Lake—no ordinary storm, as
the narrative infers—but one which led the disciple fishermen, who knew
these waters so well, to cower in terror at their Master's feet.
But what is this to the moral hurricane which
sweeps down upon them the moment their anchor is planted on the eastern
beach? Out of one of these rocky tombs or sepulchers, a being in human
shape, rushes with fleet foot down the intervening slope, with wild
gestures and cries. Mournful was his history! He is no madman or maniac
bereft of reason, the victim of a disordered fancy or bewildered
imagination—a deeper and darker woe broods over him.
One of the spirits from "the abyss"—an infernal
demon, or rather a whole legion of them—had taken possession of that
wretched body, and set it on fire of hell! It is altogether a misconception
to give to this passage a mere figurative rendering—to resolve this
Demoniac's case into a mere affliction of insanity, a disorganization of the
brain. Some would do so to evade the difficulties of the question. But by
thus rejecting the express declaration of Scripture, they only escape one
perplexity to involve themselves in another. If Demoniacal possession had
been a mere crude fancy of the Jews—a popular delusion—can we for a moment
entertain the idea, that He who came on earth to bear witness to truth
would have fostered among his disciples or their countrymen belief in a
superstitious lie?—that He would have misnamed mere aberration of the
intellect, by calling it the possession of a devil? No, we only do
honor alike to Christ and to His Sacred Word when we accept, in the fullest
sense, its literal averments, though they may do violence at times to our
feelings, and cross our carnal reason.
We know that often and again, in the course of His
ministry, the Savior makes special reference to the personality and presence
of Evil Spirits. In exorcizing these, He addresses personal agents.
He speaks to an individual, not to a disease, "Hold Your peace
and come out of him!"
At the period of the advent of the Prince of Light,
there seems to have been an especial putting-forth of the might of the
Prince of Darkness. The "Strong man armed" was invaded in his
territory by the "Stronger than he." Until now his subordinate ministers sat
unchallenged on their vice-regal thrones; the blinded nations bowed before
them in abject allegiance. But his kingdom is doomed. "For this purpose the
Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil."
Will his empire be resigned without a struggle? No! His
confederate legions are gathered especially in and around the land of Judea.
Every shaft is taken from his armory, to avert, if possible, the signal,
In that very Storm on the Sea, there may (as we surmised)
have been demon-spirits giving strength to the hurricane, mustering in
diabolic rage the destructive forces of nature, under some mad delusion that
they might possibly effect the ruin of the Voyagers, and thus prevent the
doom they seem to have known too well was at hand.
Terrible seems to have been the subjection of the
miserable Being now before us, who was led captive by their will! They had
driven him into "solitary places." Perhaps, under the bitter consciousness
of the demon power within him, he had himself sought the deepest solitudes
of nature, to be screened there from his more favored fellows. Moreover, as
if solitude intense enough could not be found amid these desert hills, the
demoniac had made his home "amid the tombs," places which, from his happier
infancy, he had been taught to regard as "unclean," and to rush from their
There he is!—"the living among the dead"—half envying
the ghastly repose of the crumbling bones and skeletons that strewed the
caves where he dwelt! A supernatural muscular strength had been imparted to
him. Again and again had the neighboring Gadarenes, for their own protection
and safety, attempted to curb his fury, binding him with iron chains and
"fetters;" but these he had broken like thread. In frantic
delirium he roamed the adjoining mountains, while, in his wilder
attacks, he was "driven by the evil spirit into the wilderness"—the bleak,
flat desert which stretched far away from the hills that girdled the Lake.
Under perhaps a consciousness of deep guilt as the cause
of his misery, the narrative further describes him as the Victim of
self-torture—"crying and cutting himself with stones." They had attempted to
clothe him, but in his demon rage every rag of clothing had been torn from
his bleeding, lacerated body. A highway seems to have led from the town to
the shore, but "no one now could pass that way." Travelers avoided the
haunted approach. He was the terror of the neighborhood; not by day only but
at night too, when all around was silent and still, the piteous wailings of
the demoniac awoke the echoes of the mountains and startled the fishermen in
their lonely night-watch on the sea!
And yet, by carefully attending to the narrative, you
will observe that there is in that tempest-tossed spirit a strange
mysterious blending of human consciousness and fiendish hate—an interweaving
of truth and error—a confounding of his own personality with that of the
devils. His own nature is crushed to the dust by some savage tormentor
lording it over him; yet the overmastered soul (the nobler being of the man)
seems now and then to rise to the surface, and to utter longings for
emancipation. It was thus not an entire wreck of the inner life. There are
chinks and openings that appear every now and then in that deep, dark,
dungeon-spirit—rays and flashes of nobler thought and aspiration that are
ever revealing themselves, although only to bring into sadder and more
fearful contrast the prevailing gloom. I repeat it, however, this very
misery of his tells us he was not an utterly abandoned and hopeless
castaway. Had he been so, conscience would have crouched a submissive slave
at the feet of these demon powers. No cry for deliverance would have rung
through these solitudes; the man, assimilated to the fiends within him,
would have rather rushed frightened from contact with infinite Purity,
Power, and Goodness.
But, so far from this, there is evidently a struggle
(though a seemingly hopeless one) in that tortured frame. He would spurn, if
he could, this alien tyrant-power that was detaining him in unwilling
bondage, and throw open the temple gates of his soul to a nobler Owner. As
he roams from rock to rock, and from tomb to tomb, a cry for emancipation
seems to mingle with the wild wailings which ring through the vaults of the
dead—"Oh! wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?"
Is there no response to that wild appeal? ONE, and
One only, in the wide world can hush the tempest of that storm-swept
soul, and say, "Peace, be still!" That ONE is near! The
Demoniac, from the increased distress and tumult of his spirit, may have had
some information given him that the Deliverer was now approaching. It is
possible that, in his moments of lucid consciousness, he may have heard of a
Great Prophet who, in the synagogue on the opposite side of the lake, had
expelled demons from bosoms like his. Hoping against hope, that he,
too, might not be beyond reach of the omnipotent word, he may have
been watching with eager longing each boat that dropped its sails as it
neared that solitary strand. At all events, no sooner does the fishing
vessel with the Lord and his disciples, touch the Gadara shore, than we see
him hastening down the slope, and the next moment he is a suppliant at the
In this act we recognize the man himself—his own
nobler nature. The demon, for the instant, has lost the ascendancy, and
degraded humanity asserts its right to be heard.
"Come out of the man, unclean spirit!" exclaims the
voice of Him who must have beheld with touching emotion the human soul made
"a habitation of devils"—ruined, dishonored, enslaved!
But the lucid moment has already passed into the demon
mood. The spirit within him stifles the struggles of his better self.
Seizing hold of the man's speech and utterance, he thus breaks silence,
disowning Christ's interference, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son
of the most High God? I adjure you by God that You torment me not." The
Demoniac, upon this, reeled back at the sight of his Deliverer, and fell
anew into a convulsive fit.
It may seem, at first, strange, that obedience to Jesus'
omnipotent command could be for a moment delayed. Doubtless He could have
enforced an immediate compliance; and He must have had wise reasons for
permitting the demon to retain for an instant longer, his infuriate mastery,
after He had uttered the mandate of expulsion. It has been supposed, that in
putting the question to the Demoniac, "What is your name?" He wished,
before his last and most fearful convulsion, to restore him to personal
consciousness—to the remembrance of his earlier history and better times.
But here, again, either the indwelling demon anticipates the reply—once more
seizing on his organs of speech as if the question had been addressed to
him; or, it may be, the wretched man, confusing again his own
personality with that of the devils, answered, saying, "My name is
Legion, for we are many." LEGION! (a Phalanx—a compact squadron
of Imperial Rome in battle array), is his own description of the invading
spirits of darkness that had run riot within him! His whole inner being had
been wildly torn and dislocated by a host of infernal fiends—"rulers of the
darkness of this world—spiritual wickednesses in high places."
But what are all these before the might of Incarnate
Omnipotence? Too well did they know the power of Him they owned and
recognized as the "Son of God most High." With the same remarkable
interchange of personality, either the Demoniac himself, or the possessing
devils, importune the Savior not to send them to "the deep" (or the
abyss), the dreadful abode of Apostate Spirits—the place of final
doom and condemnation.
In the parallel passage in Matthew, they are represented
as crying out as they addressed Jesus, "Have You come here to torment us
BEFORE THE TIME?" What time? It was the hour which they knew too well
was numbered, when, with their Great Leader, they should be cast into the
bottomless pit, "prepared for the devil and his angels."
Their further request, "not to be sent out of the
country," was equivalent to the other. It seemed a current belief among the
Jews, that each region or district was under the sway of Good Angels and
Wicked Demons. If the demons, in the present instance, had been expelled
their allotted region at Gadara, it would have been tantamount to
anticipating their certain doom—sending them beforehand to the dreadful
"abyss" which was to form their future and everlasting dwelling.
We need not linger on the sequel of the narrative, nor on
the needless and unprofitable questions to which it has given rise. Two
thousand swine were feeding on one of the adjoining mountains. Our Lord, in
His sovereignty, grants the startling request of the demons, that, instead
of being driven out of the country, they might be permitted to enter into
the animals. As a subordinate reason, this permission may have been given as
a righteous retribution for the owners keeping, in a Hebrew territory, what
was in direct violation of the Jewish law, (swine being reckoned unclean).
Be this as it may, the herd, being entered by the fiends, rush headlong in
frantic rage to the slopes overhanging the lake. One after another, each
following its blind leader, they leap over the precipices, and are engulfed
in the waters below. Those tending the swine fly in consternation to the
adjoining city. The inhabitants hurry out to verify with their own eyes the
strange rumors which had reached them. Not only do they find the herd
perishing in the waters, but, stranger than all, the scourge and terror of
the region is sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind!
Oh! wondrous triumph over hellish confederacy! Mighty as
was that Voice which, an hour before, had chained the tempests and bridled
the storm; more wondrous still was that which could put a curb on the
untamable spirit of a hapless wreck of humanity! "This poor man cried,
and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his troubles!"
II. THE LESSONS. Let us now look, as we proposed, at
this Picture in its various parts or DETAILS—at its lights and shadows—the
dark side and the bright side. In doing so, we have, in the dark side, the
Possessor and the Possessed; in the bright side, the
Restorer and the Restored.
1. THE POSSESSOR.
How dreadful the truth that is here brought before us—the
sway which Satan had, and still has, in our earth! Thanks be
to God it was the culmination of his power at that great crisis-time in the
world's history—emphatically "the Hour and Power of Darkness." How
terrible that power must have been, when the first Apostle who died—"Satan
entering into him"—died a suicide and a traitor; and the first two disciples
of the Christian apostles—"Satan filling their hearts"—died liars and
Christ, in vision, saw him "fall as lightning from
heaven." On the cross, He bruised his head, plucked the jewels from his
crown, rescued from him the usurped dominion of Life, and, as the
Moral Conqueror, ascending up on high, He dragged him and "captive
multitudes captive," at the wheels of His triumphant chariot. Yet still does
the Arch-deceiver "rule among the children of disobedience." "Let not
any one think," says Luther, "the devil is now dead; for as He that keeps
Israel, so he that hates Israel, neither slumbers nor sleeps." Cases,
indeed, of "possession" of the human body, are either now at an end,
or are comparatively rare. It would be presumption to speak with confidence
on a subject in which we have such limited data to guide us. One
thing, at all events, is plain, that if such cases do occur, they are
not so palpable as then. Satan seeks now to conceal his dominion. His
name is the "Prince of darkness," and he delights to work in the
dark. Jesus, on the shores of Gennesaret, forced him to speak
out. He dragged to light the demon-horde that had converted a living man
into a raving fiend. The raging lion was driven from his lair. He was
exposed, in the very act of "seeking whom he might devour."
Now, he continues to lie concealed in the thicket—he
succeeds once more in silently and stealthily seizing his victim, binding
not the body with iron chains, but the soul with moral and spiritual
fetters, and degrading it into a "habitation of dragons." "He so conceals
his agency," says an able writer, "that while we fancy we are sailing before
the impulse, and floating down the stream of our own free volitions, his
hand is on the helm; thus flattering our pride, scoffing at our weakness,
and steering our destiny at the same time" (Harris).
We dare not ignore this truth of the existence and
personality of Satan with his subordinate evil angels—his "dominions,
principalities, and powers"—an organized consolidated agency of evil. Vast
must be their multitude!—the air around us, for all we know, is thronged
with their myriad ranks!—their assaults only deflected by the
counter-working agency of Good Angels—those whom God gives charge to "encamp
round about His people, and bear them up in all their ways."
Let us not be guilty of rushing to a false inference from
this doctrine, that it is incompatible with the freedom of a moral
agent—that it diminishes our moral responsibility—that we may plead, as an
excuse for our sins, that we have become the helpless victims of a power
without us—that, (by a harsh fate which we cannot control) we are "delivered
over unto Satan."
While the Bible does everywhere admit the
existence of that extraneous power, and traces to it the authorship
of evil—"Satan has filled your heart"—"Satan entered into
Judas"—"Get behind me, Satan"—yet the Satan without, has his
echo in the evil heart within; the temptation is Satan's;
the crime and guilt is our own. "They sell themselves," says God,
"to work iniquity. If we are set on fire of hell, the fuel is our own
collecting. Every yielding to sin on our part, allows the deeper insertion
of the wedge on Satan's—an opening wider of the heart's doorway to let the
invader in. The same Bible which tells of the dread influence of the
arch-apostate and his legions, commands us to "RESIST the devil, and he will
flee from us."
Beware of his first encroachments. If, like the
inhabitants of Jerusalem of old, you give him of the gold of the Temple to
propitiate him, this will only lead him to make bolder demands until the
Temple is laid in ruins. Your safety consists in living near to God—soaring
above the wiles of the Great Adversary on the wings of faith and prayer.
"Surely in vain," we read in a striking verse in Proverbs, "the net is
spread in the sight of any bird" (or as that is rendered in the margin of
our Bibles, "in the sight of him that moves on the wing"). In vain
will Satan spread his traps, and snares, and nets, in the sight of the
Believer, who, on the soaring pinions of his renewed, regenerated nature,
rises above the fascinations of the world—the toils of sin—singing, as he
soars to heaven's gate—"I desire a better country, that is, an heavenly!"
2. We now turn from the Possessor to the
What a terrible spectacle! a human body, God's own
Temple—become a desecrated shrine, the haunt and residence of the sworn
enemy of His throne and His universe! The man lapsed into the fiend. A Hell
in embryo! How had he, we are led to inquire, become the subject of so
terrible a destiny? Was it a mere capricious exercise of demon-rage that
selected an innocent victim, and made him the sport of unmerited wrong, so
embittering life as to cause death to be a happy release—a welcome
termination to ignominious torture?
We have no clue, indeed, in the narrative that would lead
us to connect the man's present sufferings with his previous history. But
there is at least a strong presumption that his own guilty excesses had
invited the terrible assault. This legion company may have been roaming the
district in search of a victim. Look! the gates of a corrupt and corrupting
soul were found open for their entrance—a body debilitated by gross
passions, wallowing in sensuality, the whole nervous system, shattered and
unstrung, bid welcome to the wandering horde. Conscience—the conscience of
innocent days, when a pure mind dwelt in an unpolluted frame—now and then
awoke up to a sense of present guilt and forfeited innocence. But the
demon-throng were ever watching to crush the aspirations of nobler life, and
hurry him at last as their companion to the abyss!
This gives an dreadful reality to the Picture before us,
and invests it with utterances of pathetic warning. Ah, is it not to be
feared that it is the actual picture of many who, in the words of Scripture,
"give themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with
greediness," paying for their excesses the terrible penalty of a shattered
body, a ruined soul, and a maniac's end?
Would that youth, in the hot fever of its passions, if
unrestrained by loftier Bible motives, would come with us to Gadara, and
gaze on the picture of its inevitable fate—this awful Bible picture
of SENSUAL EXCESS! Would that those who have surrendered themselves
to tyrant lusts—pandering to base appetite, destroying and enervating their
bodily frames—would mark here the terrible destiny awaiting them. Our own
asylums can, at this hour, furnish many a counterpart. See yonder
wretch—half man, half fiend—coiled up, shuddering with terror, in one of the
midnight tombs of Galilee, clutching the ground in the wildness of
despair—the chains dangling by his side, and the blood streaming from
suicidal wounds—his body turned into a living grave! Slaves of Abandoned
Lust!—"Oh that you were wise, that you understood this, that you would
consider your Latter End."
3. We pass to a more pleasing theme—the, bright
side of the Picture—to the RESTORER and the RESTORED. Here (as in all the
other Gospel scenes we have hitherto contemplated) stands out, in bright and
beautiful contrast, the Divine Savior—the Restorer of the lost, the
Comforter of the downcast.
If ever there was a case, which, we might have thought,
would have repelled Infinite Goodness and Infinite Purity, it is that which
we are now considering. No Leper-house more loathsome or polluted than
this. Joined to his filthy idols—the trail of the serpent in every
chamber of imagery—Christ might well have said, "Let him alone!"
But who can "limit" the Holy One of Israel? He will leave
behind in that wild region, if He should never visit it again, ONE ever
enduring memorial of His grace and power. He would tell His church and
people in every age, that if Satan is mighty, there is a mightier still—that
over this legion-dominion "all power is committed" to the "Stronger" than
the "strong man." He has only to utter the word, and the demons surrender
their prey, and crouch submissive at His feet!
Moreover, adverting to a still further exhibition of the
Savior's power in the sequel of the narrative, observe the Devils would
not and dared not enter into the herd of swine, until they had
received His permissive word "Go." Blessed assurance! Satan's power
is bounded! Satan's Lord says now, as then, "This far shall you go, and
no further, and here shall your proud waves stop!"
Both from the case of this Gadarene Demoniac and the one
in the Synagogue of Capernaum, we learn, that, great as was the sway of
Satan over the bodies and souls of men, it was not such as to prevent them
taking themselves to Jesus, and seeking His mercy. If this were so at a time
when the influence of the great Adversary was at its height, we may take
comfort in the assurance that no power of Satan can now deter us
fleeing to the "Power of God;" that if our Faith and Hope is built
upon that Rock, "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."
And further, in connection with the Restorer of this
Demoniac, we have the assurance that there is a period of triumph at hand—a
time coming when Satan's kingdom shall be destroyed, when Jesus shall put
him and all other enemies "under His feet."
That Satanic Empire got its greatest and final blow on
the cross of Calvary. "Now," said Jesus, when that cross was projecting its
shadow on His path, "shall the Prince of this world be cast out!" It was
even so. "As He bowed His head, and cried, 'It is finished!' he dragged the
pillars of the Usurper's Empire to the dust." And if we see not yet "all
things put under Him," we know on infallible authority that victory does
await the Prince of life. The chain is already forged which is to bind the
destroyer. Ever since the day when his serried legions were routed at
Calvary, the loyal subjects of his Divine Conqueror have been following up
the triumph of their Lord, gathering spoils and trophies from the nations so
long enthralled—the Great Captain of Salvation "from henceforth
expecting, until His enemies be made His footstool."
You who are feeling at times downcast by reason of "the
depths of Satan," mourning over his power alike in your own hearts, in the
church of God, and in the world; remember his doom is sealed! Jesus can say
of each one of His people as of Gad of old, "A troop shall overcome him,
but he shall overcome at the last." We can anticipate with confidence
the predicted period when the tyranny of six thousand years shall end—Satan
and all his vanquished legions be strewn, like the hosts of Egypt, on the
shores of Time—and, in the words of God to His true Israel, "The enemies you
have seen today, you shall see no more forever."
4. Finally, let us contemplate THE RESTORED.
How beautiful this calm sunset after a storm-wreathed
sky! His fellow citizens come out in numbers to witness the prodigy—the once
infuriated man sitting, like a child, at the feet of his deliverer,
"clothed, and in his right mind." A vaster than mere deliverance from a
bodily thraldom would seem to have been his—it was a translation all
at once "out of darkness into marvelous light." No captive hurried
from the world's darkest and most pestilential dungeon to breathe the pure
light of day, ever experienced the gladsome sensations of this Restored
Can we wonder at his fervent wish, as his Lord and the
disciples are once more about to depart and cross the Lake, that he might be
allowed to accompany them? What, he might naturally think, may be the
consequence when my deliverer is gone? A new invasion, either of the old
legion or of a fresh raid from the Hosts of Darkness, may be made on this
trembling frame, and my last state may be "worse than the first." How
natural that he should cling in grateful love to that mighty Being, who had
"brought him out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and set his
feet upon a Rock, and established his goings, and put a new song into his
mouth, even praise unto our God." "HOWEVER Jesus did not allow him, but
said to him, Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the
Lord has done for you, and has had compassion on you."
We cannot pronounce what may have been the special object
Jesus had in giving this man such express injunctions to publish his cure,
while the same publicity, as you will remember, he strictly forbade in the
case of the Leper. It has been surmised that a previous profligate life had
involved his acquaintances and friends in his guilt and ruin, and he may
have been sent specially to warn them, lest theirs might be the same
terrible doom without the same hope of deliverance. Christ's refusal to
allow him to accompany Him may, moreover, have been intended as a great
lesson for all—that true rest and repose in a Savior's presence is
reserved for heaven; that life has great duties and great
responsibilities; that religion is not a thing to be thrust into a corner,
the joys of which are to be selfishly appropriated, without one effort to
impart them to others; but home, friends, country, humankind, are the
successive spheres for the operation of our Christian influence. Shining
first and brightest in our own dwellings, the light of truth must radiate to
the earth's circumference.
While from this man's history there is a voice of
terrible warning, there is a voice surely also of encouragement
and mercy. Are there any whose eyes may fall on these pages conscious
of a lifetime of sin? trembling on the brink of despair, fearful lest all be
lost? ONE has come to the shores of a desolate world; He has encountered
tempests of wrath, that He might reach your homes and hearts of wretchedness
with the word of pardon and peace! Oh, flee to Him without delay. Your
spiritual adversaries may be many—"their name is legion"—but One
is on your side, alone, but omnipotent. "God is for you, who can
be against you?"
Yes, there is no room to despair. Blessed be His name,
there are none debarred and excluded from mercy, and to whom we may not
utter the free message, "Turn to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope."
With these demons of the text the case was
different. With them hope was extinguished. Their probation
time had come and gone; their mighty game for Eternity had been staked and
lost; their die was cast, and cast forever! "What have WE to do
with YOU?" was their too truthful theology. The door of mercy on them
was irrevocably shut. They had "gone to their own place!"
But it is with you as with the demoniac! A
Savior's voice can still reach you—a Savior's blood can still wash you! You
may up to this hour have been "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked," but
His grace can bring you submissive to His feet—seat you there "clothed, and
in your right mind," clad in the spotless clothing of His imputed
"Behold the goodness and severity of God—on those who
fell severity, but on us goodness if we continue in His goodness!"
See that that goodness be not spurned. Flee to that
Savior's feet while yet He tarries on the earthly side of the Lake. Soon He
may depart—soon He may re-cross the waters—the opportunity of meeting Him
may be past! This was probably the one solitary visit He ever made to the
Gadarenes. It may be the same to us. See that our conduct be not a copy of
theirs, bidding Him begone, "praying Him to depart out of our
coasts." He may never return. He may take us at our word. He may prove in
this, by stern reality "a prayer-answering God."
Might He not have so dealt with us before now? How often,
already, have we rejected Him? Oh! if He had done to us, as he did to the
Gadarenes—granted our request—where should we have been at this hour? But
still He lingers! The anchor of Hope still clings to the sands of Time.
Still is He "waiting to be gracious." "If you seek Him, He will be found
by you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever!"