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MARK, Vii. 26.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophonician by
THESE words describe what was most remarkable in the character of a woman, a Canaanite by birth, an idolatress by education, who implored our Lord's miraculous assistance in behalf of her young daughter tormented with an evil spirit. In my last discourse, the lessons to be drawn from this character of the woman and from the manner in which her petition was preferred were distinctly pointed out. I come now to consider, still with a view to practical inferences, the manner in which on our Lord's part the petition was received.
In the lovely character of the blessed Jesus, there was not a more striking feature than a certain sentimental tenderness, which disposed him to take a part in every one's affliction to which he chanced to be a witness, and to be ready to afford it a miraculous relief. He was apt to be particularly touched by instances of domestic distress; in which the suffering arises from those feelings of friendship, growing out of natural affection and habitual endearment, which constitute the perfection of man as a social creature, and distinguish the society of the human kind from the instinctive herdings of the lower animals. When at the gate of Nain he met the sad procession of a young man's funeral, -a poor widow, accompanied by her sympathizing neighbours, conveying to the grave the remains of an only son, suddenly snatched from her by disease in the flower of his age,the tenderness of his temper appeared, not only in what he did, but in the kind and ready manner of his doing it. He scrupled not to avow how much he was affected by the dismal scene: He addressed words of comfort to the weeping mother: Unasked,
upon the motion of his own compassion, he went up and touched the bier; he commanded the spirit to return to its deserted mansion, and restored to the widow the support and comfort of her age.
The object now before him might have moved a heart less sensible than his. A miserable mother, in the highest agony of grief, perhaps a widow, for no husband appeared to take a part in the business, implores his compassion for her daughter, visited with the most dreadful malady to which the frail frame of sinful man was ever liable possession. In this reasoning age, we are little agreed about the cause of the disorder to which this name belongs. If we may be guided by the letter of holy writ, it was a tyranny of hellish fiends over the imagination and the sensory of the patient. For my own part, I find no great difficulty of believing that this was really the case. I hold those philosophizing be
lievers but weak in faith, and not strong in reason, who measure the probabilities of past events by the experience of the present age, in opposition to the evidence of the
historians of the times. I am inclined to think that the power of the infernal spirits over the bodies as well as the minds of men suffered a capital abridgment, an earnest of the final putting down of Satan to be trampled under foot of men, when the Son of God had achieved his great undertaking: That before that event, men were subject to a sensible tyranny of the hellish crew, from which they have been ever since emancipated. As much as this seems to be implied in that remarkable saying of our Lord, when the seventy returned to him expressing their joy that they had found the devils subject to themselves through his name. He said unto them"I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." Our Lord saw him fall from the heaven of his power: What wonder then that the effects should no longer be perceived of a power which he hath lost? Upon these general principles, without any particular inquiry into the subject, I am contented to rest, and exhort you all to rest, in the belief which in the primitive church was universal, that possession really was what the name imports. Be that as it may, whatever the
disorder was, its effects are undisputed, a complication of epilepsy and madness, sometimes accompanied with a paralytic affection of one or more of the organs of the senses; the madness, in the worst cases, of the frantic and mischievous kind.
Such was the malady in which our Lord's assistance was implored. The compassion of the case was heightened by the tender age of the miserable patient. St. Mark calls her the " young daughter" of the unhappy suppliant; an expression which indicates that she had just attained that engaging season when a winning sprightliness takes place of the insipid state of puling infancy, and the innocence of childhood is not yet corrupted by the ill example nor its good-humour ruffled by the ill usage of the world. It might have been expected, that the slightest representation of this dismal case would have worked upon the feelings of our compassionate Lord, and that the merciful sentence would immediately have issued from his lips which should have compelled the trembling fiend to release his captive: But, strange to tell! he made as