The Possessed With Devils Coming Out of the Tombs
Matt. 8:28-the end.
And when He was come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way, etc
Q. HOW do you understand the miracle here recorded, according to its literal sense?
A. According to the literal sense of this miracle, are to be understood two men, who, as to their bodies, were possessed or obsessed by infernal spirits, coming out from amongst the filth and impurity of sepulchres, and so exceeding fierce and ungovernable, that it was unsafe for any one to come near them. And by the devils requesting to be permitted to enter into the herd of swine, and by the herd, when such permission was granted, running down a steep place into the sea, and perishing in the waters? is further to be understood, that the devils find delight in entering into the bodies of unclean animals, and then in instigating those animals to their own destruction.
Q. And how do you understand this miracle according to its spiritual sense, or according to that sense which is veiled under the letter?
A. According to the spiritual sense, by two are not to be understood two men, but two principles: and by their being possessed of devils, and meeting Jesus is further to be understood, that those principles were in connection with the power of darkness, and thus in opposition to the holy Jesus, that is to say, to his divine love and divine wisdom. And by their coming out of the tombs is further to be understood their issuing forth from their infernal abodes: and by their being exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way, is further described the violence of their opposition to the eternal truth, so that it was impossible for any truth to be manifested before them. According to this sense, therefore, by the devils beseeching Jesus to suffer them to enter into the herd of swine, and by Jesus permitting them, is further to be understood, that infernal spirits take delight in infesting both the bodies and minds of men, and that when, by the Word of the great redeemer, they are expelled from the minds of the humble, and the penitent, they then take refuge, and this by divine permission, in the minds of those who are here figured by the swine, that is to say, of the sordidly sensual and avaricious, who, under their infernal influence, descend rapidly into the infernal pit, and there perish in the polluted waters of all infernal persuasions.
Q. And what do you conceive the two principles to be, which are described as possessed of devils and meeting Jesus ?
A. By these two principles are to be understood the principle of evil in the human will, and the principle of error in the human understanding, both of them in connection with infernal agency: and by their meeting Jesus is further described a trial or temptation which the saviour of the world endured from the powers of darkness operating in His infirm humanity, before it was fully glorified, or made divine.
Q. But it is written, that the devils cried out, saying, What have we to do with you, Jesus, you son of god ? Art you come here to torment us before the time? — what do you understand by these words?
A. By the devils crying out, saying, What have we to do with you, Jesus, you son of god? is to be understood the vehemence of their opposition to the principles of the divine love and wisdom, notwithstanding their conviction that those principles were incarnate in the blessed Jesus. By the same words therefore is described, the torment under which they laboured through the opposition between their wills and their understandings, since with their understandings they knew the truth, but with their wills they hated and rejected it. They therefore exclaim, Art you come here to torment us (or, as it is expressed in the original, to explore us), before the time? to denote, that the manifestation of the divine truth was to them a source of the most exquisite pangs, because it was in opposition to their ruling love, and that consequently nothing is more painful to a wicked infernal being, than to have his purposes and thoughts thus exposed to the scrutinizing light of the divine intelligence.
Q. You have already told me what is to be understood by the herd of swine, and by the devils requesting permission to enter into them. Can you explain to me what is further to be understood by the words of the blessed Jesus, where it is written, He said to them, Go?
A. The Significant term Go, involves in it the whole of the divine will respecting the powers of darkness, which is, that they be eternally separated from Him, His kingdom, and His children, so as to be incapable of doing any mischief either to the great father of being, or to His happy family. Under every spiritual trial therefore, stirred up by the powers of darkness in the minds of the humble and the penitent, the great saviour is ever uttering the same authoritative command, Go, and the effect of this divine word is, to remove those powers from their usurped abode, that they may enter into minds congenial to their own, and precipitate them into their own infernal kingdom.
Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from the above miracle?
A. I learn again to adore that divine power, which was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, and overturn their empire, whether established in the bodies or in the souls of men. I learn also from the above miracle, that the powers of darkness are in direct opposition to the love and wisdom of Jesus Christ, and that their greatest torment consists in being explored by the light of the divine truth, and in the discovery thus made of their secret purposes, thoughts, and devices. I am also further instructed, that a single word uttered by the great saviour is able to put to flight a host of infernals, and that that saviour is ever uttering such a word of salvation in the hearts of all his penitent and suffering children. Lastly, I learn to tremble under the idea of the effect of infernal influence, and of those defiled concupiscencies in which it operates, since this effect is nothing less than a rapidity of motion downwards, hurrying its miserable subjects from the realms of bliss, to perish everlastingly in the disturbed waters of impiety and iniquity. I am resolved therefore, henceforth to be upon my guard against such infernal agency, and for this purpose to endeavour, through divine mercy, to keep my mind pure from all denied affections and concupiscencies. Thus, under the assault of all my spiritual enemies, I may hope to hear the authoritative word, Go, pronounced against them by my god and saviour, and may thus behold every infernal power cast out, and the blessed Jesus glorified in their separation, and in the consequent salvation of His humble and grateful child. Thus too I shall be preserved from imitating the folly and wickedness of the people amongst whom the above miracle was worked, and of whom it is written, that when they saw Jesus, they besought Him to depart out of their coasts, since by the experience which I have of the omnipotence and miraculous energy of my god and saviour in my own bosom, I shall be led to cleave to Him the more closely, and to beseech Him the more earnestly, not to depart, but rather to take up His eternal abode in my purified and grateful bosom, amen.