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Having thus addressed the multitude, the blessed Jesus turned himself to the centurion, and said, "Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee." Though the idea thou hast conceived of my power is just, though remarkably great, as a reward for thy faith, I grant the petition thou hast asked of me. And the evangelist adds, "his servant was healed in the selfsame hour." Matt. viii. 13.
On the succeeding sabbath, our Saviour went into the Jewish synagogue at Capernaum, and taught the people, delivering his instructions in so graceful and elegant a manner, that they were all astonished ; and to increase their admiration, one of the congregation, possessed of an unclean spirit, cried out in a terrible manner, "Let us alone, what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth; art thou coiue to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God." Mark i. 24.
But the blessed Jesus, who wanted the testimony of no such confessors, commanded him to keep silence, and immediately come out of the m;tn; which command the evil spirit instantly obeyed, to the great surprise and astonishment of all the spectators.
The enemies of the gospel have always endeavoured to depreciate our Saviour's miracles, pretending that no more is meant by a person possessed of the devil, than that he was afflicted with some loathsome disease; and that because sepulchres were considered as polluted places; and therefore, whenever any melancholy person frequented them, they were said to be possessed with unclean spirits. They add, that it will be difficult to assign a reason why demons were at this time, more numerous in Judea than any other country.
To the first of these objections, namely, that the demoniacs were, in reality, nothing more than persons afflicted with some loath
some disease, we reply, it is evidently false; the evangelist having taken care to be very particular on this head. "They brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. Matt. iv. 24. "He gave to the apostles power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness, and ail manner of disease." Matt. x. 1. And accordingly, " he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils." Mark i. 34. It is. therefore evident, that those said to be possessed with unclean spirits were different from those that had diseases. Let us therefore pass to the second objection, and see whether we cannot give a satisfactory reason why demons were, at this time, more numerous in Judea than any other country.
That there were evil spirits of this kind is abundantly evident from the holy scriptures, the sacred penman having taken care to acquaint us with their origin and fall, their names and numbers, their government and orders, their malicious designs and employments, with several other particulars. So that no one can doubt of the existence of demons, who believes theseholy oracles to be the word of God. And it is equally evident, both from prophane and sacred history, that before our Saviour's, advent, great numbers of men were possessed of those evil spirits.
The truth is, these spirits of darkness had at this time taken possession of so largo a share of the world, that they began to rival the Almighty in his worship; and therefore, one end of the incarnation of the Son of God, was, "that he might deslroy the works of the devil." And hence we may easily seethe reason why Omnipotence suffered these apostate spirits to appear so frequently in Judea at the time of our Saviour's ministry, namely, that the Son of God might, in a more signal manner, triumph over all the powers of darkness, and convince mankind that he was truly the Saviour of the world.
But to return. The fame of this miracle was soon spread over the neighbouring country. He had before healed the sick, and done many other wonderful things : but to command with authority, the unclean spirits to quit their residence, and to see these enemies to mankind readily obey his voice, filled them with astonishment, and abundantly convinced them, that he was filled with the Spirit of God.
It has been asked, why the devil, who, it is plain from the text, knew our Saviour to be the Son of God, should put it into the heart of Judas to betray him, since this was the proper method of accomplishing the redemption of mankind? but the answer to this is obvious and easy. The devil, doubtless, knew Jesus to be the Messiah; but he was ignorant of the mystery of man's redemption. And, therefore, though he was not ignorant of his divinity, yet he might be so far infatuated as to think, that by destroying his body, he should defeat the great design of Omnipotence. For however extensive we may suppose his intellectual faculties to be, yet the wonderful work of man's redemption, by the death of Christ, was a mystery that no infinite understanding could comprehend, till God himself was pleased io reveal it.
Having per formed this astonishing miracle in the synagogue, our Lord retired to Peter's bouse, where he found his wife's mother sick of a fever; but on his taking her by the hand, she was immediately restored to her former health, and arose from the bed, and " ministered unto him."
The evangelist St. Luke, in his account of this miraculous cure, tells us, that he *' rebuked the fever." Luke iv. 39. to in* timate his authority over all diseases, being
analogous to the figurative expression* in scripture, which not only represent all inanimate creatures as servants to the Almighty, but diseases, famine, pestilence, and the like, as executioners waiting on him to inflict punishment on rebellious sinners, "Before him.went the pestilence, and burning diseases went forth at his feet.''
The fame of the miracles was soon spread through the city; and as soon as the sabbath was over, which ended at the setting of the sun,.the whole city was gathered together about Peter's house, and with them great numbers of sick persons, and those possessed with devils. The sight of so many human objects in distress excited the pity of this heavenly Physician; so that he immediately healed them all. And thus was the prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled. '' Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses."
But the vast concourse of people that now gathered round him in Capernaum began to be troublesome, and he retired into a desart, whither the multitude soon followed him, and intreated bim never to depart from them. But as this request was inconsistent with the design of his mission, he, for the first time, refused their request, "and preached in the synagogues of Galilee." Luke iv. 44.'
Jesus confirms his Mission by producing a miraculous Draught of Fishes. Cur-' ing the Leprosy a second Time. Appeasing the boisterous Waves. Casting Devils out of dicers Persons griev.* ously possessed.
OUB blessed Lord, having spread his doctrine throughout Galilee, returned to Capernaum, followed by such throngs of people, that he found it necessary to step into Peter's ship; from whence he taught the multitude who stood on the shore, listening with gaeat attention to bis doctrine.
Having concluded his sermon, he turned himself to Simon Peter, desiring him to launch out farther from the shore, and let down his net. On which the disciple told him of the unsuccessful pains they had taken during the whole night; but added, that he would, in obedience to his command, make one trial more. Nor had he any cause to repent; for the net was no sooner in the lake, than they found it so full of large fishes, that it was in danger of breaking.
This success, after such ill fortune, astonished Peter, who falling down at the feet of Jesus, cried out, " Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." He was conscious of the many sins he had been guilty of, and therefore afraid of being in the company of so divine a person, lest some infirmity, or offence, might have exposed him to more than ordinary chastisement.
- But the benevolent Redeemer of mankind encouraged his fears, and told him that from henceforth the employments for him and his companions should be far more noble: they should catch men; that is, they should turn them from their crooked paths of iniquity, to the straight road leading to the heavenly mansions.
This miracle was considered by the disciples as a plainer manifestation of his being the Sou of God, than they had seen him
eerfonn on the sick in the city and neigh3urhood of Capernaum. It was a received opinion among tiie Jews that all good men, by prayers, and laying their hands on the sick, were able to cure certain diseases, and even to cast out devils: but that the creatures inhabiting the elements of air or water, were subject only to the commands of Omnipotence himself: consequently, the power shewn by our blessed Saviour on this occasion, undeniably proved him to.be
divine. And, accordingly, this demonstration of his power rendered these disciples, for the future, absolutely devoted to his will; and, in the greatness of their admiration they abandon every thing, and followed the Saviour of the world.
The disciples being thus attached to their divine Master, followed him through the cities of Galilee, where according to his usual custom, he preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, and confirmed the doctrines he delivered with astonishing miracles.
In one of these cities through which he passed, he found "a man full of leprosy, who seeing Jesus, fell on his face and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." Luke v. 12.
It was the custom in Judea for the priests to banish from society those persons who were afflicted with the contagious species of leprosy. The disease of this person, therefore, was of a less pestilent kind, as he was suffered to be permitted to join the conversation of men. His case, however, excited the pity of the compassionate Jesus, who immediately cleansed him, ordered him to repair to Jerusalem. and after shewing himself to the priest, offer the gifts commanded by Moses; giving him the same admonition he had done to others, namely, not to tell any man.what had been done for him. But the blessing he had received was so great and unexpected, that instead of concealing, he published every where the great things Jesus had done for him; which brought such crowds. to. the Sou of God, that he was obliged to retire from Capernaum into the wilderness, to refresh his body with rest,.and his spirit with prayer and meditation.
The generality of commentators suppose that the leper, and the other mentioned in the foregoing chapter, are one and the same person -r but this is a mistake ; the former was cured in the fields, the latter in the city. After cleansing the first, Jesus went to Capernaum, and healed the Centurion's son : but after curing; the latter, he retired io the wilderness, to shun the prodigious crowds, which soon gathered round him, from the leper's publishing every where the miracles Jesus had wrought for him.
If the curious should wish to enquire, why our blessed Saviour so often command-' ed the people to conceal his miracles? We answer them : his modesty and humility would riot suffer that his works should have the least appearance of ostentation ; fiorthe Jews to have the least pretence for accusing him of seeking' his own glory. Nor was it proper, at this time, to irritate the Scribes and Pharisees. Me well knew, that in.a certain determinate space of time they would bring about what had been determined concerning him in the council of Omnipotence. In the meantime, " he was to work the works of him that sent him, while it was day. ^ John ix. 4. And to propagate his gospel as, much as possible both among the Jews and Gentiles ; which could not have been so conveniently performed, if the greatness of his miracles had once provoked the malice and envy of his enemies, to exert their utmost pawer against him. He likewise knew the mad, capricious humour of the multitude, and had reason to apprehend, " tha* they might come and take him away by force, and make him king." John vi. 15. If all his miracles had been blazed abroad, before he had sufficiently instructed them in the spiritual nature of his kingdom, and that his throne was not to be established in the earthly, but in the heavenly Jerusalem.
From these instances we see that the blessed Jesus did not, without sufficient reason, desire his miracles to be concealed. The fame of this single miracle being pread through ,the neighbouring countries, brought such multitudes of people to Capernaum, that as we have already observed, be
was obliged to retire into a solitary part of the neighbouring wilderness. Nor could he long enjoy the repose of the tranquil-, li^ty he sought, even in this thirsty waste; the people soon discovered the place of his retreat, and flocked to him from every quarter.
Our blessed Lord, finding all his endeavours to conceal himself in thedesart would be in vain, ordered his disciples to accompany him to the other side of the lake: upon which a certain Scribe, who happened to be present, declared he would follow him; but Jesus who well knew that his desire was only to gain the profits and advantages of an earthly kingdom, which he supposed the Messiah would establish, told him if he intended nothing more by following him, than to. improve his worldly fortune, he would find himself wretchedly mistaken. "The foxes have holes, (said the blessed Jesus to this teacher of Israel) and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not whereto lay.his head." Matt. viii. 20.
The disciples having prepared the ship, took on board their master, and departed for the other side of the lake, attended by many boats full of people, who were desirous of hearing his heavenly discourses, and being spectators of his astonishing works. But Jesus, being fatigued with the labous of the day, sat himself down at the stern of the ship, and fell asleep.
The weather, which had till now been calni and serene, suddenly changed. A terrible storm came on, and the rising waves dashed impetuously against the ship, threatening every moment to bury them all in the bowels of the deep. The darkness of the night increased the horrors of the tempest. Wow they were carried on the top of the mountainous wave, and seemed to touch the skies; then plunged to the bottom of the deep, while the foaming billows roared horridly above them. In vain the disciples exerted their utmest strength; the storm continued to increase, and baffled all the efforts of human strength. The waves broke over the ship, the water rushed in, and site began to sink. All hopes of escaping were vanished ; despair seized every individual; and they were on the brink of perishing, when they ran to Jesus, crying out, "Master, Master, we perish!" Their vehement cries roused him from his sleep. He raised his hand, so often employed in acts of mercy and benevolence, and, with a stern and awful voice, rebuked the boisterous element. The raging sea instantly obeyed his command. The aerial torrent stopped short in its impetuous course, and became silent as the grave, while the mountainous waves sunk at once into their beds, and the surface of the deep became as smooth as polished marble.
The disciples had before seen their great Master perform many miracles: and therefore had abundant reason to rely wholly on his power and goodness. They should have considered that he who could by his word restore the sick, and bring the inhabitants of the sea to their nets, eould with the same ease have supported them on the surface of the deep, had the ship sunk beneath them, and carried them safe to the place whither they were going. But they seemed to have forgotten the power of their Master ; and when human assistance failed, tohave abandoned all hopes of life. The blessed Jesus, therefore, veryjustly rebuked them, "Why are ye fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" Why should ye doubt of my power to protect you ? The voyage was undertaken at my command; and therefore you should have been confident that I would not suffer you to perish in it.
It is indeed strange, that the disciples should have been so remarkably terrified during the storm, and after it to make this singular reflection, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him." Matt. viii. 27. -'./. . ;..
But it should be remembered, that the terror of the storm had deprived them of all presence of mind ; so that they did not recollect the divine power of their Master during the fury of the tempest: and the transition from a terrible storm to the most perfect calm, was so quick and astonishing that they uttered this reflection before the confusion in their minds was over.
Soon after the storm was allayed, they arrived in the country of Gadara: and on their landing two men possessed with devils came to the tombs to meet Jesus. One of them who was more furious than the other, had been often 'bound with chains and fetters, but to no purpose, being always broken with great fury ; so that no man attempted farther to restrain him. Being therefore at liberty, he shunned the society of men, wandering day and in'gbt in desart places, au>6ng the sepulchres or caverns where the dead were deposited, crying and making the most dismal complaints, and cutting himself with stones.
The disciples were'terrified at the approach of these furious mortals; but Jesus soon dissipated their fears, commanding, while the men were at a distance, the devils to come out of them. The heavenly mandate was no sooner given than they fell on their faces; crying out, " What have 1 to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God?'' Mark v. 7. "Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" Matt. viii. 29. "I adjure thee, by God, that thou torment me not.'' Mark v. 7. The apostate spirits well knew the power of the Son of God, and trembled lest he should immediately cast them into the torments prepared for them; and not suffer them to continue roving through the earth til I the day of judgment, when they should be condemned to eternal punishment in the sight of the whole creation. ......--'' ',
Jesus being willing that the torments sulfered bv these miserable men should be