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his going out, as it is here expressed, and his being cast out. When he went out, of himself, and for some malicious purpose, he might return again; but, when he was driven out by Christ, he dared not return. Thus, we read in Mark xi. 25, that Jesus "rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee come out of him, and enter no more into him." Every such cure was a complete and lasting cure.
But it is plain that, in these three verses, our Lord had chiefly in view to direct our attention to a very common and delusive case, namely, the case of a partial reformation, without thorough conversion. The devil is called the " unclean spirit," as he is unclean; that is, spiritually polluted, or unholy in himself, and as he seeks to sink men into similar pollution. We have already noticed that he worketh in all the children of disobedience, and we are now reminded that he sometimes withdraws for a season, so that the sinner appears to have escaped from his thraldom, and to be very much improved in character. The devil never can be at rest, or peace, anywhere, because he has departed from God, the only centre of rest; but he is, if possible, more miserable than usual, when he is not employed in the work of corrupting others. In this his restless state, he is a true emblem of wicked men, of whom we read, "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. They are like the troubled sea, that cannot rest." To gratify his malevolence, the devil returns to the house, or heart, which he had left; and, you observe, it is called his house, for it is still his property, it has not changed owners, though it has been standing empty for a short time. When he returns, he finds it "swept;" it is swept, or cleared of gross pollutions, and of scandalous offences; but it is not thoroughly cleansed. It is swept, but not washed. It is even garnished," or ornamented. It is, perhaps, ornamentally furnished with the decencies of life, and even with something of the form of religion; but there is in it no true grace, no sincerity of goodness. All is appearance, not realityvarnish, not solidity-show, not substance. All is like the whited sepulchre; therefore, Satan returns, and finds it still his own dwelling-a dwelling more fitted than ever for himself. And, when the unclean spirit returns, he takes with him "seven"—that is, a considerable number, a certain for an uncertain number-"seven other spirits more wicked than himself:"-from which it appears that there are many fallen
spirits, that they are of different degrees of wickedness, and that they associate together in their diabolical schemes; "and they enter in and dwell there." The people of God cannot be finally overcome by Satan; but many of the characters here described are permanently possessed by him. Such relapses, after some partial conviction and reformation, were exemplified in Felix and Herod; and, it is to be feared, in Demas. "And the last state of that man is worse than the first." It is worse as to his sin, for his conscience is seared, and his transgression increased; and it is worse as to his punishment, for his hypocrisy and his relapse aggravate, not only his guilt, but his doom. In the language of Peter, "If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."
Though we have already noticed, in going along, much of the improvement to be derived from this passage, a few sentences are yet called for in conclusion.
Let us beseech you all to think, with deep seriousness and personal examination, of the view which this passage gives of your state by nature. You are naturally dumb, and deaf, and blind, as to spiritual things. Inquire, then, whether you have recovered the faculties of speech and hearing, and be using them in such a way as God requires. Inquire if you have recovered the faculty of sight, and are now blessed with spiritual discernment. If you think you have recovered these faculties, and if it be unquestionable that you do speak of the things of God in a certain way, and do know something at least of the theory of the gospel, consider whether the holy tenor of your actions be showing that your speech is sincere, and your light, or wisdom, from above. Do not hastily conclude that you are delivered from the evil one, merely because you feel nothing of that uneasiness and alarm which you may be ready to suppose his actual dwelling in you and working in you must necessarily occasion; for, remember this, that very generally, "when the strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in
peace." It is possible you may be at peace, merely because, like a dark and stagnant pool sheltered all around, your conscience has never been ruffled by any breath of celestial wind. There may be nothing to disturb the even tenor of your worldliness. Everything is quiet, when everything is going one way.
Think also, with the same seriousness and personal examination, of several things which are here shown to be included in true conversion. For example, the false peace of nature has been dissipated, that the true peace, the peace of God, that passeth all understanding, may fill the heart through Christ Jesus. Satan is destroyed and cast out, so as no longer to bear sway over the soul. Christ, the king of glory, who is king by right, becomes king in fact, and reigns in the affections and lives of his regenerated people. Their eyes are open to see his glory, and their tongue is loosed to speak of his work, and to celebrate his praise. They are not only nominally and apparently, but indeed and in truth, brought over to his side. The palace has changed owners, and it is not only swept, but washed; it is not garnished with gewgaws, but adorned with every substantial excellence. There is a thorough change in their state, for they have passed from a state of condemnation to a state of acceptance, and from a state of depravity and deadness, to a state of sanctification and newness of life. Think of all this, and consider how it is with yourselves.
Learn also here, how true conversion is effected; it is by the finger of God; it is by divine power, through the regenerating agency of the Spirit, and the redeeming work of the Son. This is, at once, most humbling and most encouraging. You cannot deliver yourselves from this wretched and polluting bondage, and this inability is the very climax and essence of your sin. The thought of this were enough to drive you to despair, were it not that, however strong your tyrant may be, the Redeemer is stronger than he. Look to Jesus, and he will rescue you. He has borne your iniquities, "Therefore will the Lord divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong."
"Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the Lord, Even the cap.. tives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.”
Believers! remember that, though you are delivered from
the reign of Satan, he will still be seeking to obtain some influence over you. Though expelled, he will lie in wait for opportunities to steal back into the palace of your hearts. Though he cannot utterly overthrow you, he may annoy you very grievously by his assaults. He had the audacity even to attempt the Saviour himself, and he did succeed in greatly troubling Peter and Paul. Guard, then, every avenue to your hearts, lest he come and break in upon you unawares. "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." When he returns to your palace, let him not find it empty; but let him find it completely occupied, full of all good-full of an indwelling Deity. Thus, there being no room for him, he will sullenly depart; and, though he come again, he will come in vain. The gates of hell shall not prevail against you. In due time, you shall be removed to the heavenly city, into which sin and Satan can in no wise enter; and you shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved you.
LUKE XI. 27, 28.
"And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28. But he said, Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it."
IN proof of his divine mission in general, and more particularly of his designation and ability to destroy, in every sense, the works of the devil, our Lord, as appears from the harmonized history of Matthew and Luke, had just cured a poor man, who, in consequence of a demoniacal possession, had been both blind and dumb. The Pharisees, however, when they could not deny the fact of the miracle, imputed it, with inexcusable obstinacy and monstrous malignity, to our Saviour's being in league with Beelzebub, the chief of the devils. Jesus then made a triumphant reply to this blasphemous insinuation, exposing the absurdities which it involved, and demonstrating that the legitimate inference from such a miracle was, that the kingdom of God, the reign of Messiah, was come. In addition to this, in a strain of illustration suggested, as it would seem, by the wonder which he had just performed, and with a particular view to his malicious accusers, Jesus was going on to describe the awful state of those who, notwithstanding some partial convictions and reformations, and some appearances of religion, were still spiritually possessed by the wicked one-still unrenewed, and who, therefore, relapsed into greater iniquity than ever, so that their last state was worse than their first. "And it came to pass as Jesus spake these things"—while he was proceeding in this strain of cogent argument, and divine admonition, "a certain" believing and affectionate "woman" was so struck, at once with the base and ungenerous aspersions which had been cast on him, and with the united attraction of his works and of his words, that, regardless of the scorn of the scribes and Pharisees, and bursting through