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shall receive manifold more in this present life, and in the world to come everlasting life."
See Matt. xiii. 18-53; viii. 18-22. Mark iv. 14-35. Luke viii. 11-18.
THIRTIETH SUNDAY EVENING.
MIRACLES ON THE LAKE, IN DECAPOLIS, AND CAPERNAUM.
M. We were talking last Sunday of our Saviour's power to provide for the happiness and safety of those who give themselves up into His hands. We have an extraordinary instance of this given us immediately after the account of the scribe and the other disciple who wished to follow him. I told you that the Lord Jesus was on the point of leaving that part of the country when they came to Him. Accordingly we find Him directing His disciples to cross over to the other side of the lake; and that He entered into a ship and they followed him.
E. The lake of Gennesareth-was it not, Mamma? M. It was; and I have read that this lake, though calm and beautiful to look at in general; is subject to very sudden and violent storms. It seems that one of these great tempests arose just as they were in the act of crossing the lake, and that the wind was very high, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was full of water, and the danger became very great.
E. Ah! I know that a storm at sea is a very dreadful thing; but I should not much have minded this storm: for, you know, our Lord Jesus Christ was there.
M. Perhaps in your fear you might have forgotten, as the disciples did, that One "Mightier than many waters," One greater than the storm, was with you. Wearied with His labours, our blessed Lord had fallen asleep in the ship. Now they might have known, from all that they had seen of Christ, that, asleep or awake, He was equally able to deliver them. But their faith failed them; fear got possession of their hearts; and, terrified with the storm, they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us; we perish." What a mixture of faith and want of faith was here! Some faith they must have had, or they would not have thought of going to Jesus to awake Him, and to entreat Him to save them. But there was also much want of faith; or they would not have talked of perishing, when their Almighty Saviour was at their side. Wearied in body, but unwearied in patience and compassion, the blessed Jesus arose from the pillow on which He had been resting for a little while, and, though He gently reproved them for their unbelief, saying,
Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" he immediately "rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm." What a display of Omnipotence was here! Not only do disease and death yield to the voice of Jesus, but the winds and the waves, those powerful and uncontrollable elements, are obedient to His word. He rebukes the storm and it ceases; He says to the sea," Peace, be still," and immediately there is a perfect calm. Well may we say with the astonished disciples, "What manner of person is this, who commandeth even the winds and waves, and they obey Him?" Has He not a right to command our obedience also under any circumstances whatever? Shall
the winds and the waves be still at His bidding, and shall our stubborn and rebellious hearts rise up against Him, and refuse to submit to His power, or yield to His love? This would be sad indeed; it would make us like to those evil spirits, who on every occasion delighted to oppose themselves to Christ, but whose resistance only overwhelmed them in ruin. A dreadful instance of this lies before us now.
No sooner had our Saviour crossed the lake, and come to the country of the Gergesenes, which lay on the other side, than there met Him a most miserable man possessed with evil spirits, and so completely under their dreadful influence, that he was exceeding fierce; so that no man could venture to approach the place where he dwelt. But though their power was so terrible, these wicked beings trembled at the approach of Christ. And though they were here collected in such a numerous and powerful company, as to call themselves Legion (that is, a large and compact host), yet were they driven, in an agony of fear, to entreat Christ not to torment them with those punishments which they well knew they deserved, which they knew equally well Jesus was able, if He chose, to inflict upon them.
E. I think I recollect a little of this story, Mamma. Did not our Lord oblige them to come out of the poor unhappy man, and did He not allow them to go into a herd of swine, that was feeding near by?
M. He did; and you may remember how the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. From which we may judge of the power of this desperate band of wicked spirits, who were yet so afraid of Christ: and
you may form some idea, how great He must be in the eyes of all spiritual beings, good or bad, and how great therefore He ought to be in our eyes also, and how dreadful should be the thought of ever doing any thing to displease Him, or of hesitating a moment to obey His commands; especially when we reflect, that He is not more powerful, than He is kind and gracious, and compassionate to poor fallen man.
At this very moment, when the devils trembled at the sight of Him, and the winds and the waves fell prostrate at His feet, call to mind how poor He was, without a home, without a couch to rest upon; His only repose from His continual labours being what He could snatch, amidst a raging storm, in the stern of a fishing boat. But this poverty was voluntary; it was undertaken by the Son of God in infinite love to our souls. "For our sakes He became poor; that we, through His poverty, might be made rich." This is a subject that fills us with wonder now, and we shall perhaps wonder at it through all eternity.
E. And what became of the poor man, whom our Lord delivered from those wicked spirits?
M. You must think of Him, as shortly afterwards "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in His right mind." A memorial of the Lord's compassion in the midst of His mighty power;-like a bright ray of sunshine gilding a thunder cloud, or like the soft and beautiful rainbow, which stood across the arch of Heaven at the close of the deluge, a token of the tender mercy of God!
It was seldom that our gracious Lord wrought miracles of mere power: His works were almost
always works of goodness also. This is the only instance to the contrary mentioned in the Gospels. "He came not into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved" and in this spirit He went about continually doing good. We read indeed once of His causing an unfruitful tree to wither, but it was out of kindness to men; to teach them the necessity of bringing forth the fruits of righteousness. Again, in working the miracle of which we have just been speaking, He suffered a herd of swine to be destroyed. This may surprise us for a moment; but even to touch these animals was forbidden expressly to the Jews, and we cannot therefore wonder that the Son of God should mark His displeasure against those who disobeyed the Law, by allowing the evil spirits to go into the swine. E. Where did you say all this happened, Mamma? M. In the country of the Gergesenes, which was part of the region of Decapolis to the south east of the sea of Galilee. In two of the Gospels it is called the country of the Gadarenes; for the towns, Gergesa and Gadara, were near to each other, and the pasture perhaps between them and the sea was common to them both. This part of the country was inhabited partly by Jews, and partly by Gentiles. Whether the owners of the swine were Jews or Gentiles, we are not told. If Jews, they acted directly against their law in keeping swine. If Gentiles, they showed great contempt for the religion of the country, and needed to be taught to reverence whatever God appoints, whether understood by them or not. You will see Decapolis, as well as the towns of Gadara and Gergesa, marked upon the map.