Matthew 12:43-45. When the unclean spirit, &c. In these verses, with a view to show how dreadful the state of the Jewish people would be, if they continued to reject him and his gospel, our Lord introduces a parable, borrowed from the late subject of his dispute with the Pharisees. He compares their condition to that of a man, who, after having had an evil spirit expelled out of him, is again, through God’s permission, as a punishment of his continuing in sin, taken possession of by that spirit, with seven others still more wicked, and is thereby brought into a worse condition than ever. The parable evidently supposes the existence of demoniacal possessions, for if there had been no reality in them, the comparison would have meant nothing; and it supposes, also, that the Pharisees allowed their existence, otherwise our Lord’s words, instead of convincing or instructing them, must have been treated by them with contempt. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man Not of his own accord, or willingly, but compelled by one that is stronger than he; he walketh Wanders up and down, through dry places Barren, dreary, desolate; or places not yet watered with the gospel. The words contain a plain allusion to the common notion, that evil demons had their haunts in deserts and desolate places. Compare Isaiah 13:21; where, instead of satyrs, the LXX. read δαιμονια , demons. See also Revelation 18:2. Seeking rest To his own malignant nature, in observing barren wastes and desolations, rather than such agreeable scenes as might present to his view the memorials of God’s goodness to the human race: and findeth none How should he find any, while he carries with him his own hell? And is it not the case of his children, too? Reader, is it thy case? Then he saith, I will return into my house He resolves to make another attack on the person out of whom he had been expelled: whence I came out He speaks as if he had come out of his own accord: see his pride! And when he is come, he findeth it empty Of truth and grace; of wisdom and piety; of God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit: swept and garnished That is, prepared to receive him: swept, from love, lowliness, meekness, and all the fruits of the Spirit, and adorned with levity and folly, vanity and sin. In other words, he finds the miserable sinner unaffected with his late affliction and deliverance, and still a slave to those vices which render him an agreeable dwelling for Satan. Then goeth he and taketh seven other spirits That is, a great many, the number seven denoting perfection, whether of good or bad things; more wicked than himself Whence it appears that there are degrees of wickedness among the devils themselves. And they enter in, finding easy access, and dwell there Namely, for ever, in him that is forsaken of God. And the last state, &c., is worse than the first The devils having taken a sevenfold stronger possession of him than they had before. So shall it be also unto this wicked generation Who resist the convictions which my doctrine and miracles have raised in them. Instead of growing wiser and better, they will become seven times more foolish, sinful, and miserable, “as both the natural and judicial consequence of their rejecting the methods used by divine grace for their recovery; till, as if they were possessed by a multitude of devils, they are madly hurried on to their irrecoverable ruin in this world and the next. They who have read the sad account, given by Josephus, of the temper and conduct of the Jews after the ascension of Christ, and just before their final destruction by the Romans, must acknowledge that no emblem could have been more proper to describe them. Their characters were the vilest that can be conceived, and they pressed on to their own ruin, as if they had been possessed by legions of devils, and wrought up to the last degrees of madness.” Doddridge. But this parable is also designed to teach men, in every age, the danger and awful consequences of resisting the convictions produced in their minds by the truth and grace of God; or of grieving, quenching, and doing despite to the Holy Ghost, by breaking through their resolutions, and relapsing into their former sins; the effect being commonly to render them more obdurate and abandoned than before.
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