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hot easy to assign any admissible reason why he should treat them as such if they were not so, and why he should not correct instead of countenancing so gross an error; as such a conduct could answer no one good purpose, and seems hard to reconcile with his own uniform fairness and sincerity of mind. To have done it to magnify his own power in casting out the evil spirits, would have been, to all appearance, a very needless expedient; because the immediate removal of a natural disease (if it was one) would have been an equal proof of his divine power. But besides this, there is every where a plain distinction made between common diseases and demoniacal possessions; which shews that they were totally different things. In the fourth chapter of this Gospel, where the very first mention is made of these possessions, itis said, that our Lord'sfame went throughout all Syria, and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils; and he healed them. Here 'you see those that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those possessed with devils, are mentioned as distinct
and and separate persons; a plain proof that the demoniacal possessions were not natural diseases: and the very same distinction is made in several other passages of holy writ.
There can be no doubt therefore that the demoniacs were persons really possessed with evil spirits; and although it may seem strange to us, yet we find from Josephus, and other historians, that it was in those times no uncommon case. In fact, it appears that about the time of our Lord's ministry, that tremendous spirit, Satan, or, as he is sometimes called in Scripture, the Prince of this world, had obtained an extraordinary degree of power over the human race, inflicting upon them the cruellest pains and torments, depriving them of their senses, rendering them wretched in themselves, and terrible to all around them. To subdue this formidable and wicked being, and to destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, was one great object of our Saviour's divine mission; and it seems to have been indispensably necessary for accomplishing the redemption of mankind, that the kingdom of Satan should in the first place be destroyed,
and and that the sons of men should be rescued from that horrible and disgraceful state of slavery in which he had long held them enthralled. One of the first steps, therefore, that our Lord took before he entered on his ministry, was to establish his superiority over this great enemy of mankind; which he did in that memorable scene of the temptation in the wilderness; and among the earliest of his miracles recorded, is that of casting out devils from those who were possessed by them. And perhaps one reason why these possessions were permitted, might be to afford our Lord an opportunity of giving the Jews a visible and ocular demonstration of his decided superiority and sovereignty over the prince of the devils and all his agents, and of his power to subdue this great adversary of the human species. He appears indeed to have been in a state of constant hostility and warfare with this wicked spirit; and in this very passage, Satan is described by our Saviour under the image of a strong man, whom it was necessary to bind before you could spoil his house, and exterminate him and his coadjutors, as Jesus was then * doingv
doing. Yet so little were the Jews sensible of this enmity between Christ and Beelzebub, that on the contrary they charged them with being friends and confederates. They said, "This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." The answer of our Lord to this was decisive and satisfactory to every reasonable mind. "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation: and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself, how shall then his kingdom stand?" His argument is this: How absurd and preposterous is it to suppose that Satan will act against himself, by expelling his own ministers and agents whom he has sent to take possession of the minds and bodies of men, and by assisting me to establish my religion, and thereby diffuse virtue and happiness throughout the world which it is his great object to destroy, and to introduce vice and misery in their room. This must clearly end in his ruin, and the overthrow of his empire over mankind. It is evident then that it is not by his assistance, but by the power of God, that I cast out
devils; and if so, it is clear to demonstration that I am commissioned by Heaven to teach true religion to mankind.
I cannot quit this subject of miracles without observing, what a remarkable difference there is between the sentiments of modern infidels and those of the first enemies of the Gospel respecting the miracles of Christ. The former assert, that our Saviour wrought no real miracles; that miracles are in their own nature incredible and impossible; and that no human testimony whatever can give credit* to- events so contrary to experience, and so repugnant to the ordinary course of nature. But go to those unbelievers who lived in the earliest ages of the Gospel, and even to those who were eye-witnesses "to our Lord's miracles, and they will tell you a very different story. They assert, that Jesus did work miracles; they acknowledge that he did expel evil spirits out of those that were possessed. They ascribed the miracle indeed to the power of Beelzebub, not of God. But this we know to be absurdity and nonsense. The fact of the miraculous cure they did not dispute; and this at once establishes the divine mission of our