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formed by Satan in league with Christ, then Satan's kingdom was divided against itself, for thus Satan would have been exerting his power, not only to set this particular person free from his dominion, but to confirm the whole doctrines and precepts of Christ, which were all directly opposed to the kingdom of Satan, and calculated and destined to overthrow it. Such a supposition, therefore, was quite inconsistent with the craft and sagacity of the devil, and was altogether untenable. On this we may remark, that however the children of the wicked one differ in other subjects, they are commonly very united in supporting their own worldly and sinful system, and opposing genuine, vital religion; nay, in this they sometimes find a bond of union, or of reconciliation, when they can find it in nothing else. When "Herod with his men of war set Jesus at nought, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him to Pilate, the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together; for before they were at enmity between themselves."
Our Lord goes on to obviate the insinuation, by another argument, verse 20: "And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges." By the sons, or children, of the Pharisees, we may understand their disciples, or those professedly belonging to their sect and following them, but not connected with Christ. We know that there were Jews who were exorcists, that is, who professed to be able to expel demons from possessed persons, and who proceeded, some of them by magical charms, and some of them by calling over them the name of Jehovah.* In Acts xix. 13, we read of certain Jews who went about from place to place as exorcists: "Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them who had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus, whom Paul preacheth." The superstitious use, even of the name of Jesus, without faith in his power and willingness to heal, could not be expected to avail to a miraculous cure then, and cannot effect a spiritual cure now. These exorcists not
only failed, but were attacked, overcome, and wounded by the demoniac. It does not appear quite certain whether our Lord meant to acknowledge that the sons of the Pharisees did actually work such cures, or merely to reason with the Pharisees on their own principles: in either way, however, the reference he made to the Jewish exorcists was * Josephus, Justin Martyr, &c. Whitby on Matt. xii. 27.
quite conclusive against his opponents. It amounted to this, that the Pharisees, who were accustomed to consider their own disciples as exorcising in the name of God, should have applied the same rule to Jesus Christ, and not have rashly attributed his works of that kind to Satan; therefore, their own adherents were their judges-they furnished considerations to convict them of malicious partiality in this case. Thus it frequently happens, that, in their eagerness to condemn others, men advance arguments which, when correctly applied, condemn themselves. Let us avoid this, from a regard both to ourselves, and to justice to others; and, wherever there is room for a favourable construction, let us avoid rashly and uncharitably imputing the apparently good actions of others to improper motives and an evil instigation.
Verse 20: "But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you." The expression, "The finger of God," was probably employed in allusion to the expression of the Egyptian magicians,* when they said, in reference to one of Moses' miracles which they could not imitate, "This is the finger of God." And the expression may be considered as teaching that the miracles were wrought by the power of God, and yet with the utmost ease; requiring (to speak after the manner of men) not the full strength of his arm, but only a touch of his finger. According to Matthew, our Lord said, "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God." The agency of the Holy Ghost is to be especially acknowledged in Christ's miracles; and it was this which constituted the imputing of them to Beelzebub the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Indeed, the agency of all the three persons in the Trinity was here; for, Jesus said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." But, if it was so that Jesus' miracles were performed by divine power, then the conclusion was inevitable, that he was Messiah, and that the kingdom of God, the gospel dispensation, was come. This is, indeed, the grand conclusion to which his miracles should lead us; and, while we admit it in theory, let us see that we follow it out in fact, by the cordial reception of all the doctrines he teaches, and the actual obedience of his holy commandments.
Verses 21 and 22: "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his *Exod. viii. 19.
spoils." The meaning of this, in the literal sense, is very obvious. So also is its application to this particular miracle; for, the overthrow and expulsion of the evil spirit proved that Jesus was stronger than he. But our Lord here evidently leads us on to consider the deliverance of the soul from the power of Satan. Satan is well compared to "a strong man." He was originally one of the holy angels, who are said to "excel in strength;" and though fallen, he is still very formidable. He is "the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name, in the Hebrew tongue, is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue, hath his name Apollyon," that is, the destroyer. He is called "The dragon, that old serpent, the devil," and "The god of this world." Again, the heart of every unconverted person is Satan's palace; there he dwells, and there he rules; he is "the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience," he has access to their hearts as he entered into the hearts of Judas and Ananias. As a strong man, he is armed-armed with his own power and wiles, and with the ignorance, error, prejudices, unbelief, pride, and lusts of his subjects, all which he turns to his own account. As a strong man armed he keeps his palace; once in possession of a human heart, he does all he can to maintain his hold of it. He defends it like a garrison; he fortifies it against God and Christ, that he may still keep it in an ungodly and careless state, and retain it for himself. While he holds the palace of the heart, all its powers may be called "his goods," his effects, his possessions, as they are all employed in his service. While he holds it, his goods are in peace." There is, undoubtedly, often a kind of peace in unconverted men. They have a good opinion of themselves; they flatter themselves in their own eyes. They say to their soul, “Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." They say to themselves, "Peace, peace," while there is no true peace. But, blessed be God! strong as is Satan, there is one who is stronger than he, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our deliverer. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is the mighty God. "All power, also, is given unto him in heaven and on earth," as Mediator. "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine fat? I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of
the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come." He is far stronger than "the strong man;" and whenever he attacks, he overthrows him. He has already gained the great and decisive victory from which his enemy cannot recover; "having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in his cross." So, in consequence of his superior strength, he still gains the victory for his people, when they confide in him. In the language of John, "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world." And, however confident "the strong one" may be in his armour, the stronger than he wrests it out of his hands, and turns it against him. Does the devil strive to keep Christ out of men's hearts, and to preserve his own influence over them, by the weapon of ignorance? Christ wrests it from him by letting in a stream of light. Does he strive to hold them fast by error? Christ causes them to know the truth. Does he keep them by pride? Christ humbles them:-by unbelief? Christ bestows on them the grace of faith:-by the love of sin? Christ renews and sanctifies them. Satan may vary and prolong the struggle, but he is foiled at last. The spiritual weapons are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Jesus prevails, takes possession of the citadel of the heart, and drives out the usurper. Then "he divideth his spoils;" he takes possession of them for himself; all the endowments of mind, or body, the estate, power, interest, which before were made use of in the service of sin, and Satan, are now converted to Christ's service, and employed for him; yet that is not all -he makes a distribution of them among his followers, and having conquered Satan, gives to all believers the benefit of that victory.*
Having thus adverted to the great contest which is carrying on between sin and holiness, Satan and Christ, our Lord proceeds to teach that, in the contest, he does not allow of any neutrality. "He that is not with me," says he, "is against me." We formerly noticed the consistency of this
declaration with that in the 9th chapter and 50th verse: "He that is not against us is for us." In that case, our Lord was speaking of one who, in the midst of much imperfection, had a true regard for him, and would not lightly speak evil of him, and who, therefore, was to be acknowledged, in so far as he supported the cause of the Gospel. But here, Jesus is speaking of those who slighted his miracles, and rejected his doctrines, and of those, too, who, in such circumstances, would not distinctly and boldly take part with him: all such, it is plain, must have been against him. And, in much the same sense, he adds, "And he that gathereth not with me scattereth;" that is, probably, He that does not endeavour with me to gather subjects into my kingdom, does, in effect, drive them away from me. us mark, here, the absolute necessity of taking our part decidedly with Christ, if we hope to be sharers of his kingdom. We cannot serve God and mammon. If we seek to be neither for Christ nor against him, he counts us among his enemies. Let us not halt, then, between two opinions. Let those who have not yet declared for Christ now avouch him for their Lord. And let those who are on his side think, not only of their state, but of their habits, and let them remember that they cannot innocently remain neutral where duty is clear, or stand aloof when the Saviour is mustering his friends; and let them remember that when they are not doing good, they are doing evil. The complete sense seems, then, to require us to conclude, that if even those who do not appear professedly with Christ are against him, much more so are his avowed and daring opposers.*
The remaining verses run thus: "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first. It is likely that something of this kind occurred in literal possessions; that is, that an unclean spirit went out of a man, and returned again to torment him worse than before. But there would be a difference between
Cicero thus addresses Cæsar: "We have heard you say that we reckon all those our enemies, except those who are with us; but that you reckon all those your friends who are not against you.-Nos omnes adversarios putare nisi qui nobiscum essent: te omnes qui contra te non essent, tuos."—Orat. pro Ligario, ad finem.