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return into my house, from whence I came out, and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.” Here our blessed Lord compares the state of this unbelieving and unhappy people to that of one possessed with a devil, who is never satisfied or at rest, but when engaged in mischief and wickedness; consequently, when he had departed out of the man, he is described as being restless and unhappy; wandering about in dry places, where he can meet with nothing to satisfy his mischievous disposition, which makes him determine to return again and possess the miserable person from whom he had for a time departed; and, finding no opposition, he enters, with seven spirits, more wicked than himself, so that the last state of that man is worse than the first—" and so shall it be,” adds our Lord, “ to this,” that is, the Jewish “ generation.” The Jews had been peculiarly favoured by Godthey had been separated from an idolatrous world—instructed by the Prophets of the Lord, till Christ himself appeared among them, who wrought miracles in their presence, and taught in their synagogues and their streets. Thus was Satan, the unclean spirit, dispossessed ; he went out of them for a season, and sought rest among the Gentiles, who are compared to dry places, which had not as yet been refreshed with the waters of life. But, when the vail of the temple was rent in twain, and the partition-wall broken
down, by the sacrifice on the cross, à way was opened, floods were poured in on the dry ground, and the Gospel was successfully preached among the Gentile nations ; then was Satan's empire among the heathen shaken to its centre, numbers were turned from darkness to light, from the multitude of their idols, to serve the living and the true God.
Being thus defeated in that quarter, the evil spirit bethought himself of returning to his house from whence he came out, that is, to the Jewish nation, who were prepared for his reception ; their convictions had been but slight and superficial; they had failed to cause them to turn unto God, or receive Christ into their hearts ; so that they were prepared to admit the evil spirit, being, as it were, empty, swept, and garnished, that is, they were devoid of the grace of God; by an external purity, they appeared to be swept, but not washed from their filthiness; and they were garnished by a pharisaical righteousness, while unadorned by the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit. Thus Satan had more advantage over them, they became more obdurate and hardened in unbelief, they appeared to be given over to the power of the wicked one, by the just judgment of God, so that “ their last state was worse than the first."
This parable holds out an awful warning to all Christian nations, and, indeed, to all individuals
who profess to have received the Gospel of Christ; it points out to them, that there may be profession without principle; a name to live, while they are dead ; that Satan may go out for a season, and yet return again with increased force, and render that nation or individual, to whom he returns, more miserable and lost than ever.
Let us now endeavour to apply this instructive parable to our nation, and ourselves, according to the signs of our times. At the period of the Reformation, the evil spirit may be said to have departed out of the British nation—the idolatrous worship and services of the Church of Rome were abolished, and a pure and Scriptural church established in its place; a church which provided for the spiritual worship of God, and the due administration of the sacraments which Christ had himself ordained. The great bulk of the nation embraced the apostolic doctrine, while they protested against the idolatries and abominations of the Church of Rome; then the blessing of God seemed to rest on our country; the Almighty appeared to direct our councils, and to teach our senators wisdom ; in all our struggles with our enemies, he seemed to go forth with our armies, and lead us on to victory, and no weapon formed against us was permitted to prosper. Thus, for
many years, under the favour and protection of the God of Heaven, we enjoyed great national prosperity, while “all things appeared to be so
ordered and settled upon the best and surest foundation,” as to excite in us a hope and expectation, “ that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, might be established among us, for all generations." But it frequently happens, that national prosperity is not favourable to the growth of true religion, and it is remarkable, that it is recorded of the Jewish nation, in the same page in which their prosperity is mentioned, that “ Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked”—
they forgot the God of their mercies, and lightly esteemed the rock of their salvation then he turned to be their enemy, and fought against them.” And may
it not be said of Britain, as she increased in property, so she increased in pride and luxury, and as if not satisfied with these, she learned of foreign nations, and added their vices and irreligion to her own-just as the Jews introduced the idolatory of the surrounding nations, corrupting the worship of the true God. These naturally engendered a profligacy in conversation and conduct among the highest ranks in society; a profligacy not to be concealed, and not to be thought of, much less maintained, without horror. Vice also became prevalent in the lower orders, and crimes were perpetrated, at which human nature shuddered, but which the strong arm of the law, though visiting with vengeance, has not been able to repress. The laws of God, and the laws of man, have been alike violated; the Lord's day has long been, and still is, scandalously and publicly profaned; the laws, which the wisdom and piety of our ancestors framed, for the express purpose of enforcing its observance, are now suffered to lie a dead letter on our statute-book ; those whose duty it is to put them in force, being found among their principal violators; so that, on a review of our national profligacy, vice, and irreligion, we may exclaim with the Prophet of old, “ Except the Lord of hosts had left us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” And to what are we to attribute this national degeneracy, manifesting itself in profligacy and crime ? simply to the want of SCRIPTURAL EDUCATION, producing national piety and the fear of God. When the unclean spirit went out, and a national reformation from the corruptions of Popery took place, the doctrines of the Scripture, and a pure worship, in conformity with these, were established in our national church ; it is to be feared, indeed it soon became manifest, that the spirit of these doctrines, had not taken possession of the hearts of the people; they were satisfied with an orthodox confession of faith, without a practice agreeable to that profession ; so that when the evil spirit was disposed to return, he found our house empty, swept, and garnished ; that is,