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“Where is the promise of His coming ?”--2 PETER
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there : and the last state of that man is worse than the first."
THESE are words alike fearful and mysterious. They are fearful, because they reveal to us the terrible truth, that sin and evil in their most intense forms, after being partially subdued, may yet resume their dominion. They are very mysterious too: some things in them are well-nigh inexplicable. What, for instance, is implied by the “evil spirit walking through dry places, seeking rest and finding none ?” The dry places here seem to mean the sandy plains and rocky valleys with which the land of our Lord's nativity was encompassed. Such places were supposed in old times to be the
haunts of evil spirits. Does our Lord then fall in with a vulgar superstition, and speak in the language, and adapt Himself to the ideas, of the men of His day? Nay, rather, does He not speak as One to Whose searching glance the world of good and evil spirits was as naked and open as the world we see?
We cannot close our eyes to the fact that our blessed Lord makes much more of the great invisible world of good and evil beings than what we do. When we speak in a general way of God's providence interfering to protect the good or to punish the evil, our Lord speaks of God acting by His angels for such purposes. When we speak of sin and wickedness being the fruit of the evil in the heart of man, the Son of God, or His apostles, speak of this evil as stirred up, prompted, and directed by the devil and his angels.
There cannot be the shadow of a doubt but that by the imagery of the parable our Lord would mark with extraordinary emphasis the personal individual existence of these evil beings. The powers of evil in His eyes are not mere influences, as men say; they are not mere moral epidemics. They are not moral miasmata ascending from the morass of human corruption. All such expressions, when examined, simply resolve themselves into inanity and nonsense. No; according to the truth of our Lord's parable, an evil intelligence is actually cast
out of his victim. This evil one goes about, as any other vagabond would do, seeking an habitation, and when he can find no place of rest, he confers with himself; he looks out for companions that will assist him in recovering and retaining his hold upon his victim.
Such is the view which in this and in other narratives the Saviour gives us of the powers of evil. We believe with St. Paul that "by Him were all things created, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers." We can trust Him, then, that what He teaches us respecting these mysterious beings is true—that we cannot be misled by it; and so that we cannot be too watchful, too prayerful, too much on our guard, for we are not in danger from mere influences, but from active, malignant, intelligent, though invisible persons. And now for the application of this parable.
Respecting its primary application there can be no doubt, if we take the trouble to compare one part of Scripture with another; for we have the same parable repeated to us in nearly the same words in St. Matthew's Gospel; but St. Matthew has been commissioned to hand down to us our Lord's own application of His words.
The parable as read in St. Matthew is the same as in St. Luke, but concludes with the words, “Even so shall it be to this wicked generation.” We are bound then to seek for