Jesus and Imperfect Faith.
I. Notice the leper's appeal to Christ. This appeal, as every other, must have had some manner of faith to rest upon. The leper believed in a healing virtue nigh at hand. When you think of this and all it involves, you will discover this faith to be by no means ordinary. He had been sadly conscious of his leprosy; he could find neither relief from the physician nor consolation from the theologian, and was therefore fastened within his leprous self by the hand of a hard and unrelenting fate. For him, then, to believe in any healing possible to him was to exercise the faith that overcometh the world, and the world which he had to overcome was a hard unsympathetic world. In the presence of the Christ this possibility flashed on and through his spirit. He believed, and therefore spoke.
II. Christ's answer to this appeal. When the leper said, "If thou wilt," he narrowed his appeal and directed it to the will of Jesus. His faith in Christ's power was very much stronger than his faith in His goodness. It contained much that was true, but did not contain much more that was equally true. Christ answered not according to the imperfection of the appeal, but according to its possibility of being perfected. And He touched him. He might have healed him, perhaps, without that touch; but He touched him. When, we may wonder, had that man been touched before? The leper could not forget the touch of that hand. Neither can you and I forget that the Christ has touched us, and touched us in all our possibilities. There is nothing peaceful within us which He has not touched and made still by the touch; neither is there anything painful without the impress of His hand. The deepest of our wounds has been probed by Him, and He confidently assures us of being finally healed.
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 21.
References: Matthew 8:1-4.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. 1, p. 54; Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 2. Matthew 8:1-9.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 344. Matthew 8:1-13.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 21. Matthew 8:2.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 182. Matthew 8:2, Matthew 8:3.—G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, vol. i., p. 47.
Notice in Christ's touch of the sick—
I. His fixing and confirming faith in Himself, the Healer. It is in condescension to human weakness that He lays His hands on diseased folk; we believe in little that we cannot see. Pain and sickness are so sensible that we look for equally sensible tokens of the energy of the restorer. Christ came into the world to heal sicknesses; and faith in Him, as Healer, was essential to the cure. By His touch He fixed men's thoughts upon Himself; this was the pledge of healing by which He stimulated and confirmed their faith.
II. His answer to our craving for sympathy. Christ's ability to cure would have been the same, though He had never touched a sick person of them all; but the weary multitudes would not have sought to be taken to Him. A very little thing was this touch, even as an indication of kindly purpose; but it was just the little thing that a sensitive sick man needed.
III. The symbol of His bearing our infirmities and carrying our sins. He "touched" our nature in all its pollution. He shrank not from it, but took it upon Himself, and bore its shame and suffering. A thousand will subscribe to a hospital, for one who will live with the idiot or deformed; a thousand will pay the doctor and the nurse, for one who will enter the cottage of the squalid sick and spend one night there. It needs much schooling of self to suppress the instinct of revolt at sickness hideously before us. Turn now and read of Christ, that He touched the sick and healed them. You will see that in His dealing with bodily diseases He did but symbolize how entirely He had taken human sinfulness to Himself.
A. Mackennal, Christ's Healing Touch, p. 1.
References: Matthew 8:3.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 18; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 75; J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 463. Matthew 8:5.—J. W. Burgon, Ninety-one Short Sermons, p. 17. Matthew 8:5-12.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 54. Matthew 8:5-13.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 12; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 211; Ibid., vol. xii., p. 25. Matthew 8:5-14.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 116. Matthew 8:7.—G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 147; Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 18. Matthew 8:7, Matthew 8:13.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1,422.
Several features of the character of this centurion are worthy of all imitation.
I. His singular care for his slave. We know something of the hardening effects of slavery in the United States of America. But, as the greatest of Roman historians (Mommsen) tells us, African slavery is a mere drop in the ocean in comparison with the horrors of slavery in the old Roman empire. Even so tender-hearted and amiable a man as Cicero once blushed and offered an abject apology because he so far forgot himself as to feel a twinge of regret at the painful death of a slave. It was in this corrupt and horrible atmosphere that this man cared for his slave; and I know nothing that is more noble, more indicative of the Godlike man, than a proper courtesy and thoughtfulness and a disinterested and unselfish care for those who are our social inferiors.
II. This man, who cared in so divine a way for the health even of his slave, had a regard for religion; and these two things generally go together.
III. Mark the centurion's beautiful humility. He felt that he was unworthy that one so good and great as Christ should come under his roof; and so, as Augustine well said, in his characteristic way, accounting himself unworthy that Christ should enter into his doors, he was counted worthy that Christ should enter into his heart.
IV. This Roman soldier teaches us the great practical crowning lesson of being satisfied with the word of Christ. We need nothing but the word of Christ; for the word of Christ is not like the word of an impotent man, that falls helpless to the ground. It is mighty; the omnipotence of God is in it. The only lifeboat in this wide sea is the word of Christ. The only safe anchorage is the word of Christ. The only enduring thing is the word of Christ.
H. Price Hughes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 113.
References: Matthew 8:8.—W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 158; J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 82. Matthew 8:8, Matthew 8:9.—Expositor, 2nd series, vol. vi., p. 161. Matthew 8:9-13.—W. Hay Aitken, Mission Sermons, 3rd series, p. 182.
I. Observe how this man got his faith, how it came to him. It came not in the midst of spiritual privilege, but in the midst of common life. Nay, more than this, it came from that particular field of common life which was his own. It came from his professional life as a soldier. To see the poetic side of discipline is not given to all; but to see the spiritual side is given to still fewer. And it was just this spiritual element which had been revealed to the Roman centurion. In the discharge of his daily professional duty, in the reception and transmission of the brief word of command, he could see the emblem of Divine power—power instantaneous, wholly effective, incapable of being thwarted or baffled, when once executed absolutely irreversible. And so, now, when a servant who was dear to him seemed at the point of death, he brought, as it were, his disciplined spiritual instincts into battle array. He had heard enough of Jesus to assure him of His love and power. His faith, trained as we have tried to imagine, would do the rest.
II. Note the fact that Jesus marvelled. Why did He marvel? You answer, Because the man was a Gentile. By comparison little had been given to him. He had had, as we should say, but few spiritual advantages. He had not from his youth known the true God. He had not from a child known the Holy Scriptures, or been brought up in instincts of worship, with saints and prophets and friends of God standing out in the sacred background of the distant past. And yet he was found meet for the kingdom of God. His faith was wonderful, a marvel even to Him who had given it.
III. What, after all, was the essence of the centurion's faith? It was faith, we must remember, in an early and elementary stage. We must not expect to find the faith of a Paul or an Augustine—the faith that removes mountains, the faith that overcomes the pollutions of the world. It was a belief in Christ's unlimited power to heal. "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed."
H. M. Butler, Cambridge Review, January 27th, 1886.
(with Mark 6:6)
Two Marvels—Faith and Unbelief.
I. Look first at some of the things which may lead us to marvel both at faith and at unbelief. (1) Our own nature. (2) The Bible. (3) The course of life and its events.
II. Notice some principles by which we may be helped to a decision. (1) The first thing to be realized is that God's plan of impressing spiritual truths is not by demonstration. (2) To reach a decision in faith, we should look at things in their full breadth and in their practical bearing. (3) To have faith raised to certainty we must find it in the life.
J. Ker, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 83.
References: Matthew 8:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 936; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 262; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 47; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 114; J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 451; C. Girdlestone, Twenty Parochial Sermons, 1st series, p. 103.
Faith the title for justification. Hearing and believing—that is, knowing, confessing, and asking—give us under the covenant of grace a title; nay, are the sole necessary right and title to receive the gifts purchased for us by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. And now observe what this does not imply.
I. It does not imply anything about the time or mode of our justification. Faith in the general scheme of the Gospel is what their very birth and origin is in the particular case of the children of Christians. It constitutes a claim in our case that we should be made Christians; it is an evidence, an inward spiritual token from God, that He means us to be made Christians; it is a promise from Him who is the Author and Finisher of our faith, that He means us, that He wills us, to be Christians. Him whom God gifts with faith will He also in due time gift with evangelical, justifying grace; but the first gift does not give the second gift, it does not involve it, it does not prepare for it; it does but constitute a title to it. A title is one thing, possession is another.
II. This becomes still more clear on considering that, whereas faith is in some passages made the means of gaining acceptance, prayer is in other places spoken of as the means; and, moreover, prayer is evidently the expression of faith, so that whatever is true of prayer is true of faith also. Now it is too plain to insist upon, that though success is certainly promised to prayer in the event, yet the time of succeeding is not promised; and, so far from its being immediate, we are expressly told to pray again and again, to continue instant in prayer, in order to succeed.
III. This is made a matter of certainty by the instances we find in the New Testament of justification by faith. We find that faith was not thought enough, but was made to lead on to other conditions. He who has the means of hearing the Gospel, and believes in it heartily, has not a means of gaining, but a title to receive, justification; he has within him a warrant, not that God has justified him, but that He will justify him.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vi., p. 153.
I. There ought to have been nothing which startled the Jews in the first part of this announcement. The name of Abraham ought to have recalled to them the covenant on which their nation stood. That covenant would have told them of a blessing to all the earth. But they had never understood what the blessing was which they had inherited, and which the families of the earth were to share with them. The Gospel of Christ's kingdom was a sentence upon those who had imagined another kingdom for themselves. The news of salvation to the world was the judgment upon those who counted the salvation of the world a loss and curse to them.
II. The light of the world shines forth upon mankind. Those who should hail it and spread it through the world are scared by it—fly from it, hate it. Either they must establish their reign of darkness, or the light must prove itself stronger than they arc. It does prove stronger; therefore they are left to the darkness which they have chosen. It is outer darkness; it lies outside of God's kingdom, outside of humanity. God's order has banished it. The Word made flesh and dwelling among men opened to men a kingdom of righteousness, peace, joy; showed them how with their spirits they might enter into it; promised them the Spirit of His Father—the Spirit who had dwelt without measure in Him—that they might enter into it. The Word came to His own, and His own received Him not. They did not confess Him as the Lord of their spirits; they saw in Him only the carpenter's son. And so more and more the invisible world became utterly obscure to them; they could perceive only that which their senses presented to them. And so more and more those great possessions of which the senses can take no account—justice, love, truth—the eternal, substantial, universal treasures, which the hearts of holy men felt that they must have or perish, were withdrawn from the apprehension of the chosen people; they became as though they were not. Shadows took their place; they passed into shadows. Then came the hubbub of parties, a Babel of unintelligible sounds, nothing clear but the passion and fury which were trying to express themselves, and which, since words proved so ineffectual, must seek for other weapons.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 69.
References: Matthew 8:11, Matthew 8:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., Nos. 39, 40. Matthew 8:13.—Ibid., vol. xxiv., No. 1422; J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 123; C. Girdlestone, Twenty Parochial Sermons, 1st series, p. 119; H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 97; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 3rd series, p. 33. Matthew 8:14, Matthew 8:15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1836; G. Macdonald, The Miracles of our Lord, p. 25. Matthew 8:14-17.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 21. Matthew 8:16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 49. Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:17.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 48; C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons Chiefly Practical, p. 417. Matthew 8:17.—J. Thain Davidson, Catholic Sermons, p. 49. Matthew 8:18-22.—J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 55; Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 30. Matthew 8:19-22.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 123.
It was the answer of our Lord to one of His disciples, possibly as an old tradition tells us, to the Apostle Philip, who, before following Him, wished to go and bury his father. The extreme urgency of the command is plain, nor is its meaning mistakable: "Thou art living in a world of natural and of spiritual death; thou art called to a kingdom of life. Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead. Follow thou Me."
I. And whither then must we follow Christ? In spirit, if not in letter. We must follow Him along the road He trod on earth; and that was a road of self-abnegation, of poverty, of homelessness, of the base man's hatred and the proud man's scorn. Let us not disguise it; it is no primrose path of dalliance, but a hard road—hard and yet happy; and all the highest and the noblest of earth have trodden it—all who have regarded the things eternal, not as things future, but merely as the unseen realities about them now. If we would follow Christ, we must shake off the baser objects of earthly desire as nothing better than the dust which gathers upon the cerements of mortality. So Christ taught us, and so He lived.
II. First then in self-denial; and secondly, you must follow Christ on the road of toil. It is not possible to misread lessons so clear and so heart-searching as those of the two sons and the labourers in the vineyard, and the unprofitable servant, and the stern apologue of the barren trees. It was the first law of Eden, "Work;" and though the work was changed to toil by a penal decree, even that toil by faithful obedience has been transformed into an honour and a blessing. It is, as St. Chrysostom calls it, "a bitter arrow from the gentle hand of God." But then the work must be approached in a right spirit, must be work in God's vineyard and work for God.
III. He who would follow Christ must not only follow Him on the path of self-denial and labour, but must also follow Him in the strength of enthusiasm, must be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire. And herein, too, he must let the dead bury their dead. For the dead of this world hate this fiery spirit. "Above all, no zeal," said the witty, crafty, successful statesman. "Fervent in spirit," said St. Paul; or, as it should be rather rendered, "Boiling in spirit." It was not the word of a fastidious atheist or long-robed Pharisee; but rather one of those words that were thunders—one of the words that have hands and feet. And never was it more needed than now, for never more than now did the world hate enthusiasm, and never was it more certain that by a noble enthusiasm it can alone be saved.
F. W. Farrar, The Fall of Man, p. 55.
I. "Lord, suffer me first." That is the cry of nature. "First suffer me to be disappointed, and then I will follow Thee; first build my house upon the sand, and then I will come, O Rock, to Thee. First worship and waste my affections on the clay, and then I will come to Thee. Suffer me first." But Jesus answered, "Follow thou Me." (1) Follow Me. I am Life, and you seek life; but then you have only death; as long as you linger there, you do but seek the living among the dead. Let your eyes follow Me from the place of graves. (2) Follow Me. You seek love, and here nothing loves you; that which loved you has gone, and if you would regain what loved you you must follow Me. (3) Follow Me; I am the only Life; I am the only Master of the kingdom of life; I am the Way to the life.
II. Thus the great lesson our Lord intended to preach was even this: Life is not a complaint, but an action; it is not to be spent in grieving, but in doing. Life is in action, in following more than in musing. The music of the harp is beautiful, but that has not served the world so well as the music of the hammer. The past should not be a tombstone, but a garden—a place in which we bury, so that the buried may bloom.
III. It is only in our own hearts that we can find the verdict as to the sentiments with which we should regard the dead. I believe the highest love is furthest removed from the storm of passionate grief, because love is a prophecy; so I would say, Love your friends more, and you will grieve less. These words were an invocation from a living to a dead dispensation—from dead ceremonies and observances. "I am the Life." To these also might Christ have said, as He said under other circumstances, "If ye seek Me, let these go their way."
E. Paxton Hood, Sermons, p. 284.
References: Matthew 8:22.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 145; Ibid., Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, 10th series, p. 407.
The Stilling of the Tempest.
I. "Behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea." A sudden and violent squall, such as these small inland seas, surrounded with mountain gorges, are notoriously exposed to, descended on the bosom of the lake; and the ship which bore the Saviour of the world appeared to be in imminent peril. But though the danger was so real, and was ever growing more urgent, "until the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full," their Master, weary and worn out with the toils of the day, continued sleeping still. The disciples may have hesitated long before they ventured to arouse Him; yet, at last, the extremity of the peril overcame their hesitation, and they did so, not without exclamations of haste and terror, as is evidenced by the double "Master, Master," of St. Luke.
II. "He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea." Cæsar's confidence that the barque which contained him and his fortunes could not sink forms an earthly counterpart to the heavenly calmness and confidence of the Lord. In the hour of her wildest uproar Nature knew the voice of Him who was her rightful Lord, and gladly returned to her allegiance to Him, and in this to her place of proper service to that race of which He had become the Head, and whose lost prerogatives He was reclaiming and reasserting once more. The chief ethical purpose of our Lord was to lead His disciples into thoughts ever higher and more awful of that Lord whom they served, more and more to teach them that in nearness to Him was safety and deliverance from every danger. The danger which exercised should likewise strengthen their faith, and they indeed had need of a mighty faith, since God, in St. Chrysostom's words, had chosen them to be the athletes of the world.
III. The sea is evermore in Scripture the symbol of the restless and sinful world. As Noah and his family, the kernel of the whole humanity, were once contained in the ark tossed on the waters of the deluge, so the kernel of the new humanity, of the new creation, Christ and His apostles, in this little ship. And the Church of Christ has evermore resembled this tempested barque, the waves of the world raging horribly around it, yet never prevailing to overwhelm it, and this because Christ is in it.
R. C. Trench, Notes on the Miracles, p. 152.
References: Matthew 8:23.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 392. Matthew 8:23-27.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 39; S. Cox, An Expositor's Notebook, p. 314. Matthew 8:23-34.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 25; W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 207. Matthew 8:24.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 91. Matthew 8:25.—J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 272.
The paragraph before us has two parts. At first sight they are not distinct only—they are incongruous. When you study them you see the harmony. Both represent Christ as the Restorer and Tranquillizer. The scenery of the two manifestations is widely different. The one is a storm at sea, the other a storm in the soul. But Christ manifests Himself in each of them; in each, when He manifests Himself, there is a great calm.
I. Christ, for proof's sake, for evidence' sake, brought on this occasion order out of confusion and calm out of storm, proving Himself the Lord of nature here in her disorders, as elsewhere in her diseases. Thus He showed himself the Master of our life as we live it—a life of conflict and buffeting; as with stubborn elements, so with adverse circumstances, and so with warring passions. He who is omnipotent over these actualities is omnipotent over all. Christ came not to make the outward world calm, whether the world of elements or the world of circumstances. But He came, first, to show Himself by many infallible proofs supreme even over these; and He came, secondly, to introduce an inward peace at once into all these confusions. He saves, not by taking us out of difficulty, but by making us in our weakness strangely strong; not by smoothing the circumstances, but by fortifying the soul—infusing grace at the moment, and pointing to an indestructible peace beyond.
II. Thus the second half of the narrative falls into entire unity with the first. Christ in the miracles of dispossession manifests Himself as supreme over spiritual disorder. That very incident, with which the insolence of infidelity can make merry, of the destruction of the swine, is intended to set in the strongest light the completeness of the dispossession—intended to say this to us: Evil is no part of you; if it were, your case would be past hope. Evil is an alien, an invader, a usurper of humanity. As yet it may be severed, separated, divorced from us, by the power of Christ and the Spirit, so that it shall be there and we here—it "gone to its own place," in swine, sea, or abyss; and we sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in our right mind.
C. J. Vaughan, Words of Hope, p. 101.
I. The storm-beaten boat on the lake is a type of our lives. For every one of us there are times when there ariseth a great tempest. The storm of sorrow sweeps over our home. We open the letter which tells us of commercial ruin; or we see some one very dear to us snatched away by death; or we ourselves are laid upon a sick-bed. Then, in that time of tempest, when the waves seem to go even over our soul, we must not be fearful. Let us, as Christians, remember that the ship in which we must cross the waves of this troublesome world is the ship of the Church, and that it carries Jesus. Take, then, as our first lesson from the text, that we must not be fearful in time of danger.
II. We must not be fearful in the storm of every-day life. We need courage for every day we live, with its countless trials, temptations, and worries. There needs, for example, "the common courage to be honest, the courage to resist temptation, the courage to speak the truth, the courage to be what we really are, and not to pretend to be what we are not, the courage to live honestly within our own means, and not dishonestly upon the means of others." If only we can feel that we have perfect faith in Jesus being with us, and that we are humbly trying to do our duty, we need fear no evil.
H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 83.
I. Constrained by Christ to embark, the Christian man, the Christian family, the Christian nation, tempts the wide waste of this world's waters. With them and among them is He Himself, dwelling in the heart by faith—in the midst of every two or three who are assembled in His name—found of them that seek Him. And for a while, and as long as danger is only in prospect, we feel and rest on this. "God is our hope and strength," we say; "therefore we will not fear." But this our every-day trust will not do for all times. In each man's life there are storms. The waves beat into his ship and threaten to sink it. The very present help of his God seems to have forsaken him. Well for him if even in this infirmity he flies to the apostles' remedy, and calls upon Him who slumbers not indeed, but yet will be sought by prayer with, "Save us, Lord; we perish."
II. With the Christian family the case is similar. The voyage is not without danger and loss. In some unlooked-for shape, from some unexpected quarter, does the storm descend and the waves beat in, and the vessel seems ready to sink. Let such fly to Him in prayer, who has never forgotten them. He can make a peace, even in mourning, which passeth all understanding.
III. And the Christian nation goes on its course likewise, a vessel bound across the waste of waters, in obedience to Him who Himself is among and with the people that fear Him. There are fearful storms which befall nations, as well as families and individuals. In such cases there is but one course which the Christian citizen should take, and that course is prayer—prayer, earnest, importunate, unceasing. Your confidence has given way, your strength is small; but you have this one refuge left. Our God has not forgotten us—our Saviour slumbers not; but He loves to be called on by His faithful people, and designates Himself as One that heareth prayer. We do not value prayer enough as an element in our national prosperity. God hears and answers every desire of every earnest heart which is addressed to Him in His Son's name.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. v., p. 1.
References: Matthew 8:26.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 83; B. F. Westcott, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 466. Matthew 8:27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1686; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 411.
Jesus and the Possessed.
I. Jesus was met with two possessed with devils. There is an evil and a good which we know to be not of ourselves. There is a devil and there is an angel to every man's life, a tempter and a saviour, and he is now as he has yielded to the one or welcomed the other. Man must be passive before he can become positive, must take before he can give, and must have his becoming before he can have his being either for good or for bad. He is tempted before he sins, and is saved before he becomes virtuous. To be possessed of an unclean spirit is, in a very true sense, not to think aright. Evil spirits are not the idiosyncrasies of any one age, but have been common to all, not excepting our own. But evil is never seen save in the presence of the good, as darkness is not known except by its contrast with the light.
II. The two men were coming out of the tombs. These words suggest about as melancholy a picture as could be conceived. To be wrong in thought and feeling must at length lead to sorrow, and the sorrow may not be the transitory sorrow of the birth into the nobler life. The tombs were the homes of corruption, and the men lived among the tombs. The evil within man will ever seek that which is evil without him—evil companions, evil excitements, and evil ways.
III. They were exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. They seem to have been possessed of extraordinary physical powers. To have some powers developed at the expense of the others ought never to be a thing to be longed for. Let an evil thought usurp the mind and exercise its power there for long, and the moral nature will be dwarfed, the intellectual will be robbed of its strength and of its graces, and the man will become the victim of the ungovernable force which he has fostered, and the slave of the debasing passions over which he once thought himself the master. Nature in him will be divided against itself, and Satan will cast out Satan. And this will be a sufficient reason for driving him to the tombs. These were not strong men, but monsters; their energy was wild and unreasonable.
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 71.
References: Matthew 8:28, Matthew 8:29.—E. J. Hardy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 283; C. Girdlestone, A Course of Sermons, vol. i., p. 157.
I. Consider the casting out of the devils. (1) The Gospel narratives are distinctly pledged to the historic truth of these occurrences. Either they are true or the Gospels are false. (2) Nor can it be said that they represent the opinion of the time, and use words in accordance with it. This might have been difficult to answer, but that they not only give such expressions as "possessed with devils," and other like ones, but relate to us words spoken by the Lord Jesus, in which the personality and presence of the demons is distinctly implied. (See Luke 11:17-26.) (3) The question then arises—Granted the plain historical truth of possession, what was it? The demoniac was one whose being was strangely interpenetrated by one or more of those fallen spirits who are constantly asserted in the Scriptures to be the enemies and tempters of the souls of men. There appears to have been in him a double will and double consciousness—sometimes the cruel spirit thinking and speaking in him, sometimes his poor crushed self crying out to the Saviour of men for mercy; a terrible advantage taken, and a personal realization, by the malignant powers of evil, of the fierce struggle between sense and conscience in the man of morally divided life.
II. The entrance of the devils into the swine. (1) Of the reason of this permission we surely are not competent judges. Of this, however, we are sure—that if this granting of the request of the evil spirits helped in any way the cure of the men, caused them to resign their hold on them more easily, mitigated the paroxysm of their going forth, this would have been motive enough. (2) The fact itself raises a question in our minds which, though we cannot wholly answer, we may yet approximate to the solution of. How can we imagine the bestial nature capable of the reception of demoniac influence? If the unchecked indulgence of sensual appetite afforded an inlet for the powers of evil to possess the human demoniac, then we have their influence joined to that part of man's nature which he has in common with the brutes that perish, the animal and sensual soul. We may thus conceive that the same animal and sensual soul in the brute may be receptive of similar demoniacal influence.
H. Alford, Family Treasury, 1878, p. 180
References: Matthew 8:28-34.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 49. Matthew 8:29.—H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 611; C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 65. Matthew 8:34.—G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to My Friends, p. 239; R. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. i., p. 160; W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 225. Matt 8.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 3rd series, p. 2.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 8". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany