صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

heinous iniquities, and both suffers us to be free for the time from these hellish torments, and gives us opportunity of a perfect freedom from them for ever. "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me praise his holy name, who forgiveth all thy sins, and healeth all thine infirmities; who redeemeth thy life from destruction, and crowneth thee with mercy and compassions."

There is no time wherein the evil spirits are not tormented, there is a time wherein they expect to be tormented yet more: "Art thou come to torment us before our time?" They knew that the last assizes are the prefixed term of their full execution, which they also understood to be not yet come; for though they knew not when the day of judgment should be, a point concealed from the glorious angels of heaven, yet they knew when it should not be; and therefore they say, "Before the time." Even the very evil spirits confess, and fearfully attend a set day of universal sessions. They believe less than devils, that either doubt of, or deny that day of final retribution.

O the wonderful mercy of our God, that both to wicked men and spirits respites the utmost of their torment! He might, upon the first instant of the fall of angels, have inflicted on them the highest extremity of his vengeance; he might, upon the first sins of our youth, yea of our nature, have swept us away, and given us our portion in that fiery lake. He stays a time for both: though with this difference of mercy to us inen, that here not only is a delay, but may be an utter prevention of punishment, which to the evil spirits is altogether impossible. They do suffer, they must suffer; and though they have now deserved to suffer all they must, yet they must once suffer more than they do.

" I

Yet so doth this evil spirit expostulate, that he sues; beseech thee, torment me not. The world is well changed since Satan's first onset upon Christ. Then he could say, "If thou be the Son of God?" now, Jesus, the Son of the most high God:" then, "All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me;" now, "I beseech thee torment me not." The same power, when he lifts, can change the note of the tempter to us. How happy are we that have such a Redcemer, as can command the devils to their chains! O consider this, ye lawless sinners, that have said, break his bands, and cast his cords from us." However the

[ocr errors]

Almighty suffers you, for a judgment, to have free scope to evil, and he can now impotently resist the revealed will of your Creator; yet the time shall come, when ye shall see the very masters whom ye have served, the powers of darkness, unable to avoid the revenges of God. How much less shall man strive with his Maker? man, whose breath is in his nostrils, whose house is clay, whose foundation is the dust.

Nature teaches every creature to wish a freedom from pain. The foulest spirits cannot but love themselves, and this love must needs produce a deprecation of evil: yet what a thing is this, to hear the devil at his prayers! "I beseech thee torment me not." Devotion is not guilty of this, but fear. There is no grace in the suit of devils, but nature; no respect of glory to their Creator, but their own ease. They cannot pray against sin, but against torment for sin. What news is it now to hear the profanest mouth, in extremity, imploring the sacred name of God, when the devils do so? The worst of all creatures hates punishment, and can say, Lead me not into pain only the good heart can say, "Lead me not into temptation." If we can as heartily pray against sin, for the avoiding of displeasure, as against punishment when we have displeased, there is true grace in the soul. Indeed, if we' could fervently pray against sin, we should not need to pray against punishment, which is no other than the inseparable shadow of that body; but if we have not laboured against our sins, in vain do we pray against punishment. God must be just; and "the wages of sin is death."

It pleased our holy Saviour, not only to let fall words of command upon this spirit, but to interchange some speeches with him. All Christ's actions are not for example. It was the error of our grandmother to hold chat with Satan. That God, who knows the craft of that old serpent, and our weak simplicity, hath charged us not to inquire of an evil spirit. Surely, if the disciples, returning to Jacob's well, wondered to see Christ talk with a woman, well may we wonder to see him talking with an unclean spirit. Let it be no presumption, O Saviour, to ask upon what grounds thou didst this, wherein we may not follow thee. We know that sin was accepted, in thy conformity of thyself to us; we know there was no guile found in thy mouth, no possibility of taint in thy nature, in thine actions; neither is it hard to conceive, how the same thing may be done by thee without sin, which we cannot but

sin in doing. There is a vast difference in the intention, in the agent: for, on the one side, thou didst not ask the name of the spirit, as one that knew not, and would learn by inquiring; but that, by the confession of that mischief which thou pleasedst to suffer, the grace of the cure might be the more conspicuous, the more glorious: so on the other, God and man might do that safely, which mere man cannot do without danger. Thou mightst touch the leprosy, and not be legally unclean, because thou touchedst it to heal it, didst not touch it with possibility of infection. So mightst thou (who, by reason of the perfection of thy divine nature, wert incapable of any stain by the interlocution with Satan) safely confer with him, whom corrupt man, predisposed to the danger of such a parley, may not meddle with, without sin, because not without peril. It is for none but God to hold discourse with Satan. Our surest way is to have as little to do with that evil one as we may; and if he shall offer to maintain conference with us by his secret temptations, to turn our speech unto our God with the archangel, "The Lord rebuke thee, Satan."

It was the presupposition of him that knew it, that not only 'men but spirits have names. This then he asks, not out of an ignorance or curiosity, (nothing could be hid from him, who calleth the stars and all the hosts of heaven by their names,) but out of a just respect to the glory of the miracle he was working, whereto the notice of the name would not a little avail. For if, without inquiry or confession, our Saviour had ejected this evil spirit, it had passed for the single dispossession of one only devil; whereas now it appears, there was a combination and hellish champerty in these powers of darkness, which were all forced to vail unto that Almighty command.

Before, the devil had spoken singularly of himself, “What have I to do with thee?" and, "I beseech thee torment me not." Our Saviour, yet knowing that there was a multitude of devils lurking in that breast, who dissembled their presence, wrests it out of the spirit by this interrogation, "What is thy name?" Now can those wicked ones no longer hide themselves he that asked the question forced the answer; "My name is Legion." The author of discord hath borrowed a name of war: from that military order of discipline, by which the Jews were subdued, doth the devil fetch his denomination. They were many, yet they say, My name, not, Our name ;

though many, they speak as one, they act as one in this possession. There is a marvellous accordance even betwixt evil spirits. That kingdom is not divided, for then it could not stand. I wonder not that wicked men do so conspire in evil, that there is such unanimity in the broachers and abettors of errors, when I see those devils, which are many in substance, are one in name, action, habitation. Who can too much brag of unity, when it is incident unto wicked spirits? all the praise of concord is in the subject: if that be holy, the consent is angelical; if sinful, devilish.

What a fearful advantage have our spiritual enemies against us! If armed troops come against single stragglers, what hope is there of life, or victory? how much doth it concern us to band our hearts together in a communion of saints? our enemies come upon us like a torrent: O let us not run asunder like drops in the dust! All our united forces will be little enough to make head against this league of destruction.

Legion imports order, number, conflict. Order, in that there is a distinction of regiment, a subordination of officers. Though in hell there be confusion of faces, yet not confusion of degrees. Number; those that have reckoned a legion, at the lowest, have counted it six thousand, others have more than doubled it. Though here it is not strict, but figurative, yet the letter of it implies multitude. How fearful is the consideration of the number of apostate angels: and if a legion can attend one man, how many must we needs think are they, who, all the world over, are at hand to the punishment of the wicked, the exercise of the good, the temptation of both? it cannot be hoped, there can be any place or time wherein we may be secure from the onsets of these enemies. Be sure, ye lewd men, ye shall want no furtherance to evil, no torment for evil. Be sure, ye godly, ye shall not want combatants to try your strength and skill. Awaken your courage to resist, and stir up your hearts, make sure the means of your safety. There are more with us than against us. The God of heaven is with us, if we be with him: and our angels behold the face of God. If every devil were a legion, we are safe. "Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil." Thou, O Lord, shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of our enemies, and thy right-hand shall

save us.

Conflict; All this number is not for sight, for rest, but for

motion, for action. Neither was there ever hour since the first blow given to our first parents, wherein there was so much as a truce betwixt these adversaries. As therefore strong frontier towns, when there is a peace concluded on both parts, break up their garrison, open their gates, neglect their bulwarks; but when they hear of the enemy mustering his forces in great and unequal numbers, then they double their guard, keep centinel, repair their sconces; so must we, upon the certain knowledge of our numerous and deadly enemies in continual array against us, address ourselves always to a wary and strong resistance. I do not observe the most to think of this ghostly hostility. Either they do not find there are temptations, or those temptations hurtful; they see no worse than themselves; and if they feel motions of evil arising in them, they impute it to fancy, or unreasonable appetite, to no power but nature's; and those motions they follow without sensible hurt, neither see they what harm it is to sin. Is it any marvel that carnal eyes cannot discern spiritual objects? that the world, who is the friend, the vassal of Satan, is in no war with him? Elisha's servant, when his eyes were opened, saw troops of spiritual soldiers, which before he discerned not. If the eyes of our souls be once enlightened by supernatural knowledge and the clear beam of faith, we shall as plainly descry the invisible powers of wickedness, as now our bodily eyes see heaven and earth. They are, though we see them not; we cannot be safe from them, if we do not acknowledge, not oppose them.

The devils are now become great suitors to Christ, that he would not command them into the deep, that he would permit their entrance into the swine. What is this deep but hell, both for the utter separation from the face of God, and for the impossibility of passage to the region of rest and glory? The very evil spirits then fear and expect a further degree of torment; they know themselves reserved in those chains of darkness for the judgment of the great day. There is the same wages due to their sins and to ours; neither are the wages paid till the work be done. They tempting men to sin, must needs sin grievously in tempting: as with us men, those that mislead into sin offend more than the actors. Not till the upshot therefore of their wickedness, shall they receive the full measure of their condemnation. This day, this deep, they tremble at; what shall I say of those men that fear it

« السابقةمتابعة »