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4. Matt. xi. 28. our Lord, in answer to the calumny of the Pharisees, who affirmed that he cast out the devils by Beelzebub their prince, reasons in this manner : If Satan cast out Satan, &c. Now, say they, the curing of a distemper could in no sense be called the casting out of Satan, unless Satan had had some hand or other in the bringing of it on, or in the continuing of it. Besides, our Lord's reasoning plainly implies, that the ejection of demons was more than the curing of a natural distemper. For he affirms, that he was at enmity with the beings whom he cast out ; that their interest was different from and opposite to his ; that he waged war with them; and that he was stronger than their prince : all which particulars, say they, would have been impertinent, if there was no foundation for them in fact.
5. In our Lord's discourse last cited, he represents an evil spirit, after being cast out, as walking through desert places, secking rest, and finding none. But this notion, applied to a disease, is altogether unintelligible. We may therefore, say they, ailirm with safety, that our Lord considered possessions as real, otherwise he would not have spoken in this manner.
6. Acts x. 33. Peter tells Cornelius and his companions, that Jesus went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed of the devil, πεντας τις καταδυνασευομενες απο το διαολε; which plainly implies some real power, exercised by the devil in hurting the bodies of men.
7. In the history of the demoniacs of Gadara, we are told, that at the approach of Jesus they cried out, Art thou come to torment us before the time ? that when he commanded them to come out, they begged him to allow them to enter into a herd of swine that was hard by; that upon Jesus's giving them leave, they entered into the swine ; and that the whole herd, to the number of two thousand, ran immediately down the mountain where they were feeding, into the sea, and perished : which circumstances, they think, prove the reality of the possession in the plainest
II. But in answer to these arguments it is observed, that the Jews believed evil spirits had power given them to bring certain diseases on men, sometimes by concurring with natural causes, and sometimes without them. This they think clear from the history of Job and of Saul, and from the practice of exorcism which prevailed among the Jews, Matt. xii. 27. Acts xvi. 16. and from the account which Josephus has given of Saul's distemper, Antiq. vi. 1. They observe farther, that the Scriptures being designed for mankind in general, were written in the language of men; that all language, being formed on popular and received opinions, must contain manifold allusions to these opinions; that though these opinions are oft-times false in fact, wise men do not
scruple to make use of the phrases which allude to them ; and that phrases of this kind are found even in the Scriptures themselves. Nor does this derogate in the least from the perfection of the inspired books, because revelation being intended to teach men, not natural philosophy, but religion, it was not at all necessary, that the opinions of the vulgar, in matters of natural philosophy, though false, should be corrected. It was rather necessary that they should be left to speak of these things as they were wont to do, jest to have corrected their phraseology might have introduced into revelation a language altogether unintelligible to the vulgar. From these premises they infer, that as the Jews believed evil spirits were permitted to afflict the bodies of men with certain distempers, the language of Christ and his apostles, as well as of Moses and the prophets, being the common language of the country, must needs suppose it, though in reality no such power was possessed by the devil. And so with the help of this key they propose to open the whole mystery. Jesus, in speaking to the diseased persons whom he had a mind to cure, makes use of the language of the country, and the evangelists, in giving the history of these cures, use the same language, wherein the diseases are termed possessions, and the persons afflicted with them demoniacs, deupovi om evol. They describe the symptoms of the distempers, and the effects of the cures, in the same language. Sometimes, however, they explain themselves to their readers. As for instance, when they represent demonism and madness to be the same thing ; or when one of them calls that a natural distemper, which another describes as a possession. Farther, the diseased persons, strongly impressed with the common opinion about possessions, speak of themselves as possessed, and sometimes personate the demons by whom they fancied themselves actuated; and having heard of the fame and character of Jesus, they salute him as Messiah and the Son of God. And with respect to our Lord's permitting the devils to enter into the herd of swine, they observe that this can be well enough understood on their scheme, there being nothing more surprising in the madness of these demoniacs seizing the swine, than in the leprosy of Naaman cleaving to Gehazi. And that Jesus should have thus permitted the swine to be seized with the madness of the demoniacs, was very fit, as it shewed, in a manner highly becoming, the meekness of Jesus, that he could not only cure men of all distempers whatever, but likewise afflict them with the most grievous maladies, if it so pleased him. Besides, it was a solemn warning to the Gadarenes to beware of despising, rejecting, and provoking a prophet clothed with such powers; an end much more reasonable than that which is commonly assigned, namely, to prove the reality of the possession, and to shew what a number of evil spirits had haunted these miserable men out of whom they were expelled. In this man
ner do the opposers of the real possession answer the arguments which are brought to support it. They add farther, that it is a strong presumption against these possessions, that the like have never been known to happen in the world, either before or since.
III. But the defenders of the real possession observe,
1. That in the foregoing answer, their second, third, and fourth arguments are entirely overlooked, together with the better half of the first argument. For, say they, though it should be allowed, not only that the Jewish language without any foundation supposes certain diseases to flow from possession, but that both our Lord in curing these diseases, and his disciples in writing the history of his cures, used the vulgar language, this will never account for the possessed persons speaking in the manner we find them doing. Fancying themselves to be possessed, they might indeed talk as such ; and those who were afflicted with melancholy or madness, might even personate the demons, and feign a dread of being tormented before the time. Nay, it may be said, though with no great degree of probability, that they mnight express a horror of being relieved from the possession, and beg Jesus not to restore them to their natural state. But in cases where the possessed persons laboured under no disease which disturbed their reason, can it be imagined that they would be unwilling to be relieved, or that they would express a dread at the thought thereof? No; to suppose this would be to carry matters beyond all bounds. If so, what shall we think of the manm entioned Luke iv. 33. who had a spirit of an unclean devil? This person was neither melancholic nor mad. For the distemper under which he laboured was an epilepsy, as is plain from ver. 35. where we are told that the spirit convulsed him. This the opposers of the real possession will not deny. But they will deny that the distemper arose from any agency of evil spirits. Nevertheless, if there was nothing in the case but an epilepsy arising from natural causes, how came the patient to cry out, yer. 31. Saying, Let us alone ; what have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the holy One of God. Supposing that the man, strongly tinctured with the notions of his country, really imagined himself possessed with a devil, is it natural to think, that being in his right senses, he would dread the ejection of the devil who possessed him, or look upon it as his own destruction ? The truth is, this and the like speeches can by no interpretation, far less by the one mentioned, be made consistent with common sense, on the supposition contended for, namely, that the diseased persons cured by our Lord only imagined themselves possessed. Wherefore, some better solution of the difficulty must be attempted.
2. In the second place they observe, that the solution offered by the opposers of the real possession, will not account properly even for the phraseology used by our Lord, and by the evangelist, which is the thing it is chiefly calculated to explain. That the language of a country must contain many allusions to the popular notions, no body will deny. Yet it does not at all follow, that Jesus, consistently with goodness, could use phrases which alluded to such popular notions as were false, especially if they had a pernicious tendency, unless the language in which he spake afforded no phrases by which he might have expressed the matter clearly. This indeed was the case with Joshua, in that noted saying, chap. X. 13. Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon, in the valley of Ajalon. But it was by no means the case with Jesus in the matter of the demoniacs. For it is allowed on all hands, that the Jewish language afforded abundance of phrases by which the truth of the fact might have been plainly expressed, on supposition there was no real possession in the case. They had proper names for all the distempers incident to the human body, and among the rest for the epilepsy, for lunacy, and for madness; diseases which are supposed more especially to have obtained the name of demonism. Nay, these distempers were as often called by their proper names, as by the figurative appellation of demonism. Wherefore, seeing the Jewish language was such, that in all his miracles of healing our Lord could have expressed him self in terms perfectly free from error, it is contrary to the perfection of his character to suppose, that he rather chose such a way of speaking as he knew would confirm the vulgar in their delusion; and the rather, that the particular delusion supported by the phraseology contended for, was of a most pernicious nature. For the opinion of the real possession, if it was a false belief, could not fail to fill the minds of mankind with such a fantastic dread of evil spirits, as must have distressed them exceedingly, through the whole course of their lives, and have laid in their way an unnecessary temptation, leading them to the worship of evil spirits. Not to mention that it gave occasion to many magical practices, which had the most pernicious influence upon the inorals of men. Besides, it ought to be considered, that whatever reasons may be pretended for our Lord's using the common phraseology in performing his miraculous cures, this cannot be urged with regard to the evangelists, who wrote histories which they knew were to be of general use in all ages. And therefore, if they were acquainted with the supposed truth of the case, some reason should be assigned for their expressing themselves in a way which could not but lead their readers into a most hurtful error. If it is alleged, that with the rest of their countrymen they believed the possessions to be real, and spake of them as such, this error must be reconciled with the notion of their inspiration, seeing their avoiding so dangerous a phraseology was a matter of
great importance, and very worthy of the direction of the Spirit, by whose inspiration they composed their histories.
3. With respect to the argument which the opposers of the real possession lay so much stress upon, namely, that demonism hath never been known in the world, either before or since Christ's time, the patrons of the real possession reply, First, That though demonisin should be acknowledged peculiar to the age and country wherein our Lord lived, it was wisely ordered, that the devil at that time, should give some unusual proofs of his existence, power and malice, by frequently attacking men's bodies, because it tended to show them what a dangerous enemy he is, and what need they had of the patronage of Christ. As, on the other hand, the dispossession of the demons was both a proof to the senses, and a specimen of that complete victory over the devil and his confederates, in which our Lord's mediatory kingdom is to end. See Truth of the Gospel History, p. 169. And, therefore, no kind of wonder could be more proper for attesting Christ's mission, or for pronoting the interests of piety than these. Hence, they are more frequently and more minutely described than his other miracles. Secondly, The defenders of the real possession say, it is far from being certain that demonism was a matter peculiar to our Lord's time. The practice of exorcism, which all along prevailed among the Jews, is a proof of the contrary. See to this purpose, Joseph. Ant. lib. viii. c. 2. It is certain likewise that the Jews practised exorcism in the heathen countries. For we find the sons of Sceva, a Jewish priest, exorcising a demoniac at Ephesus, Acts xix. 13,-17. Demonism therefore was by no means peculiar to Judea. That it was common among the heathens we learn from the gospels, where we are told, that a Syrophenician damsel was possessed with a demon. We learn it likewise from Plutarch, who tells us, Sympos. lib. i. quæst. 5. that the exorcists of most nations advised those who were possessed to repeat the Ephesian letters. The same thing appears still more clearly from the case of the damsel, who had a spirit of Python, mentioned Acts xvi. 16. This spirit is that wherewith the priestesses of Apollo are said to have been inspired. For by the help of it she practised soothsaying and divination ; that is, she revealed secrets to those who consulted her; perhaps also she pretended to foretel things future ; and by these practices she brought much gain to her masters. But happening to fall in the way of the apostle Paul at Philippi, he dispossessed her by ordering the spirit to come out of her, ver. 18. The opposers of the real possession pretend, that the matter of her inspiration was mere artifice, and that by often hearing the apostle's sermons, she was convinced of the wickedness of the course of life she was engaged in, and reformed ; so that there was here neither evil spirit nor miracle. But to this it is replied, that it by no means