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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 12 - Verse 45

Verse 45. Then goeth he, etc. Seeing the state of the man, dissatisfied with a lonely dwelling in the desert where he could do no evil, envious of the happiness of the individual, and supremely bent on evil, he resolved to increase his power of malignant influences, and return. He is therefore represented as taking seven other spirits still worse, and returning to his former habitation. Seven denotes a large but indefinite number. It was a favourite number with the Jews, and was used to denote completeness or perfection, or any finished or complete number. See 1 Sa 2:5; Re 1:4. Here it means a sufficient number completely to occupy and harass his soul.

Even so shall it be with this generation. This shows the scope and design of this illustration. The state of that man was a representation of that generation of men. Much might be done to cure their unbelief; much to reform them externally; but such was the firm hold which the principles of infidelity and wickedness had taken of their minds as their proper habitation, that they would return, after all the means used to reform them, and the people would be worse and worse. And this was literally accomplished. After all the instructions and miracles of the Saviour and his apostles; after all that had been done for them by holy men and prophets, and by the judgments and mercies of God; and after all their external temporary reformations—like the temporary departure of an evil spirit from a man possessed—yet such was their love of wickedness, that the nation became worse and worse. They increased in crime, like the sevenfold misery and wretchedness of the man into whose bosom the seven additional evil spirits came. They rejected God's messengers, abused his mercies, crucified his Son, and God gave their temple, and capital, and nation, into the hands of the Romans, and thousands of the people to destruction.

It is not proved, by this passage, that evil spirits actually dwell in deserts. It is proved only that such was the opinion of the Jews; that it was drawn from some expressions in the Bible; and that such expressions were sufficiently clear to justify our Saviour in drawing an argument from them to confound those who firmly believed that such was the case. Nor is there any absurdity in the opinion.

For

(1.) there are evil spirits. See Barnes "Mt 8:33".

 

(2.) They must exist in some place.

(3.) There is as much propriety that they should be located about our earth as anywhere.

(4.) The clear doctrine of the Bible is, that many of them have much to do with our world.

(5.) It is as reasonable that they should dwell commonly in desolate and uninhabited regions as anywhere else.

{t} "worse than the first" Heb 6:4; 10:26; 2 Pe 2:20,22

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