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some explanation which will make it applicable to a whole generation of men, such as the Jewish nation in the time of Christ, before we seek to apply it to the case of single souls.

The Lord then, in this parable, represents the Jewish Nation and Church as possessed, i.e., as inhabited, and overborne, by an evil spirit. The most cursory reading of the Old Testament cannot fail to impress upon the reader what this spirit was. It was the spirit of gross and open idolatry. They seemed in all stages of their history, from the time of Moses to the captivity, to have been possessed with what we call a passion, but with what our Lord would call an unclean spirit, for worshipping other gods. No matter how gross the conception of the god; no matter if he were the incarnation of cruelty, demanding the burning alive of infants, as Moloch, or the incarnation of lust, as Baal or Ashtaroth ; no matter whether the temptation came from such contemptible quarters as the idolatries of Moab, or Ammon, or even of Egypt, whose gods had been so powerless to shield their worshippers and hinder the Exodus of the Israelites--no matter, I say, what the temptation, they were sure to yield to it.

Now this spirit appears to have been exorcised or expelled from them for ever by the tremendous visitation of the Babylonish captivity. Never after this did they fall from the worship

the One True God. Never, for instance, throughout the New Testament, do we find our Lord or His apostles accusing them of idolatry. No words of reproof can be more stinging, no denunciations more terrible than those poured upon them from the lips of Christ Himself; but amongst these reproofs or denunciations there is not the least hint that they then worshipped idols. The denunciations of the prophets and the denunciations of Christ are in this respect in wonderful contrast. Well, then, if this master national sin was subdued, was not the danger over? If, under severe temptations to the contrary, they had long adhered to the worship of the One True God, were they not His true people? Had they not, nationally at least, made their calling and election sure ?

Far, far from it. The evil spirit had returned to the house and found it empty. For the Spirit of God, the Only Spirit to whom it belongs to possess and occupy the Church of God, was not there.

Not only was it."empty,” but “swept ” and garnished,” as if it awaited his return. Now what does this sweeping and garnishing betoken? No doubt, the outside purifications and ceremonial observances of the Pharisees. There was a show of religion, but it was only show. It touched not, and was not intended to touch, the heart. We see now, for instance, among Mahommedans, men at the appointed hour spreading their carpet, kneeling down, and going through their prayers, and they will rise up from their prayers and plunder and murder without remorse. The religion of the Pharisees, instead of being used as a means of eradicating sin, was used as a set off against sin.

So there was the outward show or garnishing which served to stupify the conscience, whilst the inner man was full of all vice and unclean


The evil spirit, then, of open, gross idolatry had been cast out. But he came back in the shape of superstitious worshipping of the mere letter of the Bible and devotion to the merest outside forms, as if they were the kernel of religion and not its shell. He came back with "seven other spirits more wicked than himself.” He came back with the spirit of covetousness, of hypocrisy, of luxury, of national pride and boasting, of narrow-minded contempt, and so the last state of the favoured race was worse than the first.

Now this reads a lesson to us. If ever there has been a nation given, after the manner of the Jews, to boast of religious privileges—to say to other nations, stand off, I am holier in spirit, I am purer in worship, I am stricter in morals than you—it is our nation. We believe that we were once possessed with the spirit of superstition, and that three hundred years ago this spirit was expelled; for certainly a great

religious change passed over us. The blessed Virgin was no longer openly invoked in our churches. The Bible was translated, and is now in the hands of all. But when the evil spirit was exorcised, what spirit took its place? Can it be said that, amidst the anger and strife of the last century but one, and the spiritual death of the last century, the Holy Spirit of God took its place ? Impossible! It may be wholesome for us to remember that when the evil spirit returned with his seven more wicked companions, and repossessed in fuller force than ever the empty house of the Jewish church and nation, he did not bring back with him the burning of children in the fire to Moloch, nor the foul rites of Baal and Ashtaroth. Never was the temple worship celebrated with more grandeur. Never was the Bible, so far as the mere book was concerned, more worshipped : men counted its words, syllables, and letters as if each one was in itself a priceless jewel. Then you might see on all sides the scribes with their broad phylacteries, on which the words of God's law were written, and the Pharisees praying in the corners of the streets. Then, so strict was the observance of the Sabbath, that they called men to account for Sabbath desecration because they plucked ears of corn on that day and rubbed the grains out with their hands.

Now mark, I beseech you, all this. In the eye of man what contrast could be greater than that between the then state of God's people, and their state a few hundred years before, when the demon of idolatry possessed them, when they passed their sons and their daughters through the fire to Moloch, when the Sabbaths were unheeded, when the temple service was discontinued and its very fabric falling into ruins, and when the word of God was all but confined to the one copy which, to the dismay of king and people, was discovered in the temple ?

And yet the Saviour Himself describes these former days as days of enthralment to but one evil spirit, and these latter days of seeming religion as days when the empty house was swept and garnished, and the unclean spirit was returning with a troop of still more wicked ones, so that under a specious outside of decency the last state should be worse than the first.

May it not then be so with England ? May not the once cast-out evil spirit be returning in another form, and bringing with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself?

The spirit, for instance, which would keep the Bible from the people as a dangerous book is exorcised, but he comes back in the shape of a spirit that would make the Bible to be as any other book, so that we sinners should pick and choose from among the words of our Judge what suits us and what does not.

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