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XXII

THE PRICE OF LIBERTY

“The spirit cried and rent him sore and came oat of him.”—Mark ix. 26.

AND so the evil spirit was expelled, but only at the price of a great convulsion. Spiritual tyrants do not relinquish their thrones without a struggle. The pangs of emancipation were so severe that it seemed as if the escape into freedom was almost worse than the misery of bondage. And that is one of the antagonisms always encountered at every crusade which seeks to serve the cause of liberty. The devil cries and rends the victim sore; and sometimes the onlookers and even the victims are inclined to say, “Better to have left it alone! Better to have borne the ills we had than pass to something which is possibly worse!” So the remedy seems more dreadful than the disease, and the oppression in Egypt is preferred to the hardships of the wilderness.

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But we are never going to acquire a rich and fruitful liberty without sore and rending struggle. There can be no large emancipation without an agony. We cannot loose bonds without inflicting and enduring wounds. That is true in the history of peoples. When has a social evil been expelled without tremendous struggle? When the watchword of emancipation rang through the Northern States the evil spirit of slavery seated itself more firmly and sternly upon its throne, and held its victims in fiercer grasp. A tyranny of that order is not expelled with the ease with which one might throw a chain out of a window. All the powers of hell are mobilised, and expulsion is a tearing and a raving business. How is it with the evil spirit of the opium trade? Is the deliverance going to be effected as easily and serenely as we might put up the shutters at a place of business and quietly turn the key and walk away? No, there is grim fighting ahead, and the evil spirit will tear and rend us sore before it is banished from the precincts of humanity. Or how is it with the liquor trade? Who expects a bloodless emancipation? The very threat of 86expulsion has consolidated vested interests, and there is an agonising struggle ahead before the evil spirit will be driven from our corporate life. Evil spirits never calmly accept their note of dismissal; they fight like tigers for their lairs.

And so it is in the individual life. We cannot purchase our moral freedom as easily as we can obtain a passport over a counter. It is a tremendous business to expel a well-housed and well-established evil spirit from any life. Even when the Saviour commands the expulsion there is a fearful reluctance, and a terrible clinging to its polluted throne, and a grim determination to hold its sovereignty to the very end.

But let it be noted that the evil spirit, which was being expelled by the Lord, exerted the utmost force of its destructive strength at the very moment of its expulsion. Just then, at the very instant of going out, when victory was almost attained, it threw its victim to the ground until he was as one dead. And so here again the darkest hour precedes the dawn, and the deadliest struggle is just before the final triumph.

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