from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 9

Topical and Doctrinal Notes

Leading Thought: Casting Out Devils

We stopped in our last lesson with the story about the Lord, when there were brought to Him many possessed with demons; and He cast out the demons with a word, and healed the sick. That there were so many possessed with demons, or evil spirits, shows how fearfully enslaved by hell mankind was at that time, and it also shows the necessity for the Lord's coming into the world to save men. Had He not come, this slavery and captivity would have grown so bad that at last no one could possibly have been saved, but all men would have become worse than beasts.

You may wish to know how the demons possessed these people. You know that your spirit is in your body, and in every part of it, so that it really is the spirit which makes the body move. If you wish to see anyone, you turn your head in his direction, and your eyes in your, head, so that you can see him. If you wish to shake hands with him, you make your feet move so as to bring you near him, and you make your arm and hand and fingers move so that you can shake hands with him. All this is done ,by your spirit, which is yourself, in your body. But when a person is possessed by an evil spirit, then this evil spirit so takes possession of the person's body that the person himself cannot control his body, but the evil spirit makes the body and the parts of the body move, as if they were his own. This of course is very wrong, for the Lord wishes everyone to make use of his body himself. That memorable evening, in Peter's house, when so many that were possessed with demons were brought to Jesus, He cast them out with a word, and then, the people regained control of their bodies and could use them again. While possessed by the demons they would act like the insane, because spirits who want to possess the bodies of men, are always evil spirits, very low down, and they like to make man ridiculous. Sometimes spirits took possession of the bodies of people, and made them do foolish things, but did not hurt them. But those spirits whom the Lord cast out were of such a nature that they liked at the same time to hurt the bodies of which they had taken possession.

The present lesson makes us think of all these things, because it tells of two very sad cases, and shows very clearly what manner of spirits they were that possessed the bodies of men.

These two men came out of caves. Caves, as you know, are dark, hollow places in the sides of hills or underground. So the hells in which the evil live appear like caves and like ditches or pits, where they are" far removed from the sunlight. The demons would lead the men whose bodies they possessed to go into caves, because there they felt at home. But when they came into the presence of the Lord,

they knew Him and His power, for He had been fighting evil spirits and devils from His childhood up, although the general judgment, when all the evil spirits in the world of spirits were cast into hell, did not take place until about the time of His crucifixion. Recognizing the Lord and knowing His power, they were afraid and asked for permission to enter into the swine. And the Lord cast them out with just one word. He said, " Go," and they at once left the two poor men.

They wished to enter into the swine, because the swine are evil animals who love to root in the ground destroying vegetation, to eat unclean things, and to wallow in the mire, and so they correspond to the evil states of the demons. And then these demons made the swine go into the sea, for the sea, when it is stormy and destroys life, represents hell. This we can understand if we remember that the disciples, on their way across the lake to the country where the two demoniacs were, waked the Lord up to save them from the destruction which they feared would come upon them from the tempestuous sea. The Lord's speaking to the wind and causing a calm, represented that the Lord saves men from the power of hell.

We are taught in the heavenly doctrines of the New Church that these particular demons wanted to go into the swine, because they were people who when they had lived in the world, had been misers, and mean misers like things unclean, and appear to themselves in the other world to be among swine.

You can see from this whole story what great authority and power the Lord, even in His human nature, was obtaining over the hells, and even over the lowest and most unclean hells.

At the present day there are very few such possessions of the body, but there is something which is even worse, and that is the possession of the mind by evil spirits. They can take possession of the mind just as they formerly did of the body. But owing to the authority and the power which our Savior Jesus Christ has over them, and owing to the very tender and watchful care He takes of us all, the evil spirits cannot enter into our minds if we do not allow them to. If we keep our ears and eyes and hearts open to what is mean and unclean or false or evil in any way, then they can enter in and dwell there, just as evil spirits entered the swine. Yet the Lord has given us a safeguard. He has given us His Word, and if we use the Word aright, we can always keep our hearts and minds closed to evil, and no matter though a thousand demons should try to enter, they cannot, for the Lord is in His Word and He is Almighty. As He drove out demons with a word in Gospel times, so He can do it now by His Word when we have it in us. You see from this one reason why your teachers are so anxious that you should read His Word, and indeed commit it to memory, so that you may have it ready at any and all times, when you are tempted to think or love or feel a pleasure in what is wrong.

The worst demons are those who know what the Lord says in His Word, and yet so twist it as to make it appear that it is right for them to do what is wrong.

How thankful we ought to be to the Lord that He has redeemed us from the power of hell and given us the true understanding of the Word, and gives us strength to live as it teaches! Thus He saves us from hell, and helps us to learn what is true and beautiful, and to be glad and happy in being of use to others.

Read again the beautiful verse 17, which quotes Isaiah 53:4, " Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses," which means, that " by His temptation-combats and victories, He overcame the hells, and thus alone, even as to the Human Essence, sustains the trials with believers." (A. 1846.)

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