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“ to be ejected again but with the greatest diffi
culty: so this wicked generation, which hath so happy an opportunity of being entirely delivered
by me from the sad bondage of Satan, and the “ vile slavery of their lusts, and restored to the glo“ rious liberty of the children of God, and which
they see I am able to accomplish by the manifest
power I have over the spirits of darkness, and “ which those evil spirits are in constant dread of; “ this wicked generation, I say, if it refuseth so
great mercy, will be more enslaved to those cruel tyrants than before: who will domineer it in“ tolerably when this danger that threatens them “ is over; and my coming to save the world will, if “ it rejects me, but add to its future misery."
Having thus seen the occasion and meaning of this parable, we proceed now to consider the several parts of it, and apply it to ourselves.
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none.—That the Devil and his angels are called foul and unclean spirits in the New Testament cannot but be observed by every one; and the reason is, that we may be rightly informed in the nature of them, and know what designs they have upon us in their temptations, and what will be the consequence of our listening to them. They are the great enemies of every thing that is holy and pure, and good; and are made up of spiritual filthiness, such as pride and envy, malice and cruelty, hatred and revenge, ingratitude, falsehood, and deceit: and their business is to make us as foul and impure as themselves, to pollute our souls with vile affections, obscene, wicked, and profane thoughts, to engage us in a course of irreligion and vice, to corrupt our principles, and make us live as without God in the world; and in short, to make us as devilish in our temper and disposition, as brutish in our lives, and as much at enmity with God and virtue as they can. That so they may bring dishonour upon the divine Majesty, contempt upon religion, and shame and misery upon mankind in this world; and at last rejoice in their eternal torment with themselves in hell.
Now this they do by working upon our fancy and imagination, and filling our minds with vain, impure, and impious images and representations; and all the while giving them a false turn, and recommending them under the appearance of pleasure, or honour, or wealth and greatness, as Satan served our Lord himself, when he drew a most charming landscape of the glories of the world, and placed it before him, and told him, All this will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship mek.
And when we are thus prepared, then they help us to opportunity and ill advice and example; and still keep plying our fancy, by raising mighty hopes and expectations in us, and painting it with delightful scenes of wonderful happiness from such and such enjoyments, and such a way of life.
By this means they endeavour to engage us in what will be our ruin ; and with hellish cunning make us their tools to do their work upon ourselves, and bring about our own destruction : and all the while bubble us into an opinion, that it is all out of kindness to us, to make us enjoy ourselves, and live pleasantly, and be happy.
k Matt. iv. 9.
But let us remember that they are unclean spirits, earnestly bent upon making us as wicked and as miserable as themselves; and let us scorn to be so shamefully imposed upon by them. And whenever we find our fancy roving after sensual or any other sinful objects, and our thoughts taken up with impure imaginations, and we feel ourselves begin to be delighted with them; let us summon up all our reason and our religion, to resist their insinuations and drive them out : and fly to God by prayer for his protection, as earnestly as if we saw one of those foul fiends in the most frightful shape coming to seize upon us. For this imaginary impiety will soon grow into a strong desire of completing it by action; and our great enemy will take care that no encouragement shall be wanting from company, and suitable objects, and conveniency, and then it is usually too late to bethink ourselves; the violence of the temptation will be so great as to take full possession of us, and hurry us on impetuously to actual sin. And then how does the infernal tyrant triumph over his wretched prey, which he hath thus decoyed into his net! And how does the wretched prey, if sensible of its miserable state, bewail and lament its folly in being seduced by the great deceiver; and if not sensible of it, then is its condition most deplorable of all.
How carefully therefore should we avoid even the least appearance of evil, and shun the first tendencies and inclinations to it, and every wicked thought and fancy! even as carefully as we would avoid and shun the apparition of an evil spirit; which though invisible (blessed be God) to our senses, yet is pre
sent to our minds, when we are haunted with impious suggestions and vile imaginations.
But notwithstanding the watchfulness, and cunning, and insinuating arts of these dangerous enemies that lurk so close within us, their attempts will be in vain, unless we prove treacherous to ourselves, and by complying with them provoke our divine guardian to leave us to their mercy. For if God be present with us, by the assistance of his holy Spirit, who can be against us? What can the united force of all the spirits of darkness signify against a soul that is under the protection of the Almighty? And that every soul is, that does its best endeavour to resist the wicked one, trusting in God's aid, and flying upon all occasions to him for help. Cannot he, think we, make as strong impressions of virtue upon our minds, as the Devil can of wickedness and vice? Cannot he draw the beauty of holiness upon our fancy and imagination with as much life and spirit, as the fiend can paint the pleasures and enjoyments of the world and of sense? And has not religion infinitely greater attractives to those that contemplate it with due seriousness and attention, than sin in its best dress, and with all the advantages that can possibly be given it? And are not the blessed angels as ready and as able to give us favourable opportunities of growing in grace!, and improving in true piety and goodness, and practising the virtues that Christ has taught us, and made our duty, as the unclean spirits are to betray us into vice ? So that indeed the odds is more than a little on the side of religion; and let the Devil and
1 Matt. xviii. 10; Heb. i. 14.
his black legions oppose it as much as they will, it will thrive and flourish in our souls, unless we ourselves are resolved to the contrary, and join with them against it. But if we will disregard, and it may be obstinately resist the motions of the good Spirit of God upon our souls, and be very fond of, and cherish the insinuations and injections of the tempter; if we will shut our eyes and our ears against every thing that would recommend virtue and goodness to us, and employ all our thoughts upon the pleasures of sense and the enjoyments of the world, and listen with great attention and delight to whatever will blow up our passions to an ardent desire and prosecution of them; and greedily embrace all opportunities of gratifying our bodily appetites, and as carelessly neglect whatever tends to the good of our souls : if we do at this rate, no wonder if vice prevails against virtue, and earth against heaven, and the Devil carries us away from God. But we see whom we must blame for it, even our vile, unnatural, ungrateful selves; and this very consideration will be a great aggravation of our misery in hell, namely, that when we might have fought with great advantage against our spiritual enemies, and as glorious conquerors triumphed for ever in the regions of the blessed, we basely delivered ourselves up into their power, and chose to follow the great destroyer in the ways of sin to that place of endless torment, rather than to tread in the blessed steps of our Redeemer, and in the paths of holiness to arrive at heaven. What weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth will be caused by such reflections as these!
This is that which unclean spirits do their ut