The Devils Cast Out
When the even was come, they brought to him many that were possessed with devils, etc.
Q. WHAT do you here understand by the even coming?
A. By the even coming, according to the sense of the letter, is to be understood the close of the natural day, or the time when the sun sets to this lower world of nature; but according to the spiritual idea contained under the letter, by the even coming is to be understood a state of obscure faith and love in the church, or the close of the spiritual day, when the Sun of Heaven sets on benighted mortals, in consequence of their want of faith in the brightness of his rays, and their want of love for that heavenly warmth which they inspire.
Q. And what do you conceive to be here meant by the possessed of devils?
A. By devils are to be understood the spirits and powers of darkness in the infernal world, and by being possessed of these devils, according to the sense of the letter, is to be understood the possession which these spirits and powers took at that time of the bodies of men; for such at that time was the deplorable state of the Jewish church, in its departure from god and His kingdom, that the infernal inhabitants entered even into the corporeal part of man, and ruled it at pleasure. But by being possessed of devils, according to the spiritual idea, is to be understood the possession which the infernal powers take of the souls of men, by virtue of which possession they obtain entire government over the thoughtless and impenitent, and rule them with the iron rod of diabolical malice and agency. For such is the awful situation of man in this lower world, that he is placed as it were between two kingdoms, the kingdom of light, which is the kingdom of god, and the kingdom of darkness which is the kingdom of the enemy of god, called the Devil and Satan ; the Devil by reason of the diabolical evil by which he is impelled to all kind of mischief: and Satan, by reason of the false principles in which that evil works, and effects its mischievous purposes. Moreover, the inhabitants of both these kingdoms have access to man, and he becomes of necessity associated with the one or the other according to his ruling love, that is to say, according as he is desirous to submit himself to the government of the divine love and wisdom of god, or to govern himself, by exalting his own will and wisdom above the will and wisdom of the most high. It is further to be remarked concerning such association, that, man acquires a life and a form according to it, an angelic life and form if his association be angelic, but an infernal life and form if his association be infernal. Jesus Christ accordingly declares concerning the wicked and unbelieving Jews, You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. (John 8:44).
Q. Can you assign any reason why the possessed of devils were brought to Jesus when the even was come?
A. Yes, if the even be understood according to the spiritual idea above expressed, as denoting the absence of good and of truth in the church, for whenever this is the case, then the members of the church must of necessity become a prey to evil and error, and of course must be possessed of devils, because wherever evil and error are, there the powers of darkness, called the Devil and Satan, must have their abode. It is only therefore in the even, according to its spiritual meaning, that mankind can become possessed of devils, and thus brought to Jesus for deliverance.
Q. But it follows, that He cast out the spirits with His Word, and healed all that were sick — what do you understand by Jesus casting out the spirits with His Word?
A. By the spirits here spoken of are to be understood the powers of darkness, who have their abodes in all man’s natural evils and errors, and by the word of Jesus Christ is to be understood the complex of His divine love and wisdom brought down into the letter, or literal expression. By Jesus casting out the spirits with His Word is consequently to be understood the removal of evil and error through the implantation, the growth, and fruitfulness of heavenly love and wisdom, or what amounts to the same of heavenly goodness and truth. It is not therefore to be understood that Jesus cast out the spirits by the mere sound of His voice, or by any extraordinary act of divine authority or omnipotence separate from His divine love and wisdom, for evil can never be supplanted but by good, nor can error be supplanted but by truth, and therefore it is to be understood, that the voice of the blessed Jesus operated to the casting out the spirits by virtue of the omnipotence of His divine love and wisdom, as formed and contained in it. Hence then may be discovered the obligation imposed on every one, who is desirous of experiencing in his own mind the casting out of the powers of darkness, to cherish carefully in himself the contrary powers of heavenly love and wisdom, or goodness and truth, from a firm conviction that one opposite can never be cast out but by another, in like manner as darkness can never be cast out but by light, nor cold but by heat.
Q. And what do you conceive to be meant by the words which follow, and healed all that were sick?
A. By the sick, according to the spiritual sense O the Miracle, are here meant those who are spiritually sick, and the spiritually sick are all those who are distempered in their understanding, by reason of the influence of false persuasions and perverted thoughts. By healing the sick therefore is to be understood the removal of such false principles and perverted thoughts by the insemination and growth of heavenly truth and knowledge. This operation of healing the sick accordingly follows that of casting out the spirits, because by the spirits are meant the spirits of evil infecting the will of man with disorderly love, and until these spirits are cast out, it is impossible the sick can be healed, since if the love be disorderly in the will, it must of necessity give birth to false persuasions in the understanding; but no sooner is evil extirpated from the will, than error is at the same time extirpated from the understanding, and thus the sick are healed.
Q. But it is added, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses how do you understand these words? A. By these words I am instructed that all the Miracles worked by the blessed Jesus were of divine prediction, and that thus the prophetic Word and the evangelical are in the most perfect harmony, and accord with each other; the latter being the accomplishment of the former, in the person of the incarnate god. By this god taking our infirmities, and bearing our sicknesses? I am further instructed, that he subjected himself to the assault of all those evils and errors which infest the nature of man, and which are in connection with the powers of darkness, to the intent that he might finally subdue those powers, and deliver man from their tyrannical usurpation. Mention is accordingly made both of infirmities and sicknesses, because infirmities relate to the disorders of evil in the human will, whilst sicknesses have relation to the disorders resulting from false principles in the understanding.
Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from this Miracle?
A. I learn in the first place to adore the power of that incarnate god, who was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, both in the heart, in the understanding, and in the operation of man, by delivering the heart from the love of evil, and the understanding from the darkness of error, and the operation from the mischievous effects of both. I learn in the next place to venerate that holy word, which proceeds from this incarnate god, and is embodied in the letter or literal sense of the divine records, and to regard it as the grand complex of the divine will and wisdom let down from heaven for the use of man, by forming in him the same heavenly love and wisdom with which itself is filled. I learn also that the incarnate god effects all his saving purposes by the instrumentality of this His holy word. I learn further that so far as I deliberately cherish any evil or error, in the same proportion I admit into myself infernal agency, and by degrees become a living form of diabolical influence, from which I can never by any possibility be delivered, but through the reception of the eternal truth, producing in me the blessed fruits of repentance, of faith in Jesus Christ, and of a holy life according to His divine precepts. I learn lastly to adore that divine mercy, which was pleased in the fulness of time to assume a body of flesh, and in that body to submit to all the assaults of the powers of darkness, for the purpose of subduing them, and thus removing them from man. I am resolved therefore from now on to take Jesus Christ for my only god and saviour, by believing that he alone has power to deliver me from my natural evils, and thus from infernal association and usurpation. I am resolved also to venerate His holy word, by believing it to proceed from him, and to contain in its inmost bosom all the fullness of His love and wisdom, by virtue of which it is in continual close connection with Him. Lastly, I am resolved to cherish this holy word in my heart, my understanding, and my life, from a full conviction that I can never attain any ascendancy over my own natural evils, and thus over the powers of darkness, only so far as the heavenly goods and truths of the eternal word are implanted and bring forth their blessed fruits in my life and conversation, amen.