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SATAN'S CAPTIVE DELIVERED

by JOHN BOOTH

Preached at Ebenezer Chapel, Clapham, on Monday, February 10th, 1919

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"But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped Him." (Mark 5:6)

WE have many times read, and many times have we heard quoted, that "He must needs go through Samaria." There was a necessity--He must needs go. There was one poor woman, a Samaritan, there. We never heard anybody say He must needs cross the Sea of Galilee; and yet it is one of the most striking incidents in the Redeemer's life; and I am not sure if we have paid due attention to the fact that it was absolutely necessary for Him to cross the Sea of Galilee. Humanly speaking, we should have said He risked His life in order to get to a poor mad Gadarene, for while He was crossing the Sea of Galilee there arose a great storm, and He was well-nigh shipwrecked, as though the very elements fought against Him; as though all the powers of nature were determined to hinder Him; as though it were utterly impossible for Him ever to reach this one, isolated case. No, I do not think we have done justice to this journey of our Redeemer. Why should He venture forth? why should He put to all that trouble? why should He run such great risks? why should He expose Himself to such a mighty storm? There was only a madman, an insane man, on the other side of the sea, and the Lord Jesus Christ took all these pains just to reach that one man; it is a most striking thing. It opens up to you visions of His great compassion; truly He must be about His Father's business. I would that we could take the Lord Jesus Christ for our example even in this one thing: when we come to this house, when we speak in His name, when we undertake anything in the church of Christ, any office--it does not matter how inferior--that we could always remember that we must be about our Father's business. It does seem sometimes as though things in connection with the house of God are done very reluctantly. We do not realize that we are about our Father's business. We do not attend to our Father's business, I fear, with the same activity as we attend to our own petty affairs. He was about His Father's business. Just think what all that meant. It was His Father's business that this man was reached, was rescued, was delivered, was saved. What a view it opens up to you of the Redeemer as a Shepherd! as a Shepherd seeking a poor lost sheep; or as a Redeemer engaged in the work of redemption--always about His Father's business. Running great risks, as men say, while engaged in that business--crossing the sea in a storm, in order to reach the isolated case of one man.

Now, if you can take your astonished eyes from your Redeemer--and if you are not astonished, if you can really read this, and think upon this, and have this put before you, and not be astonished at this journey that Christ took, then it must be that your casual reading of the Word of God has blinded your susceptibilities. It must be that, and I am afraid that mine often are dulled and blinded, so that I rush over the very things that are calculated to strike one with astonishment in these Scripture narratives. Here we see Jesus exposing Himself, venturing forth, crossing the sea, meeting danger, venturing into the border land, partly occupied by Jew and partly occupied by Gentile, and you will always find a border land is full of filth. It seems as though all the worst elements gather just on the border. It was not in the interior, well looked after, but the border land where the Gadarenes dwelt; and you cannot expect much refinement where all nationalities assemble together. They are the dregs of society. What encouragement could there have been for Christ to venture amongst Gadarenes? What encouragement could there have been for Christ to go into the lowest slums?--for it was only slum lands, and all of it slum property--and Christ ventured forth and crossed the sea in the full force of the storm, in order to meet the case of the mad Gadarene. Let it sink deep into your heart, you that are tempted sometimes to doubt the compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ and His willingness to save you. If you can take your astonished eyes from your great Redeemer, look, then, at the man He came to rescue. He beholds a lamb in the jaws of a lion; He beholds a prisoner in the lowest dungeon; He beholds a man bereft even of his reason; and as you see this lamb, this sheep, this vessel of mercy, this prisoner,--as you behold a man rushing, destroying everything, walking amongst the tombs, breaking every chain and every fetter, whom no man could tame, ask yourself--you must ask yourself, "Can this man ever be made sane? Can this mad Gadarene ever be brought to the feet of Christ? Can this turbulent spirit ever be calmed? Can this naked man ever be clothed? Can this man ever be brought again into his right mind? Can these dry bones love?" If so, then our Christ can accomplish anything. Surely it is one of the worst cases, one of the most difficult cases that ever came within the power of the Lord Jesus Christ--and it was done.

"He had his dwelling among tombs." Where was your dwelling? Amongst dead men, amongst unregenerate men. I dwelt there in my unregeneracy, amongst people who were dead to God, I myself being dead in sin. Yes, the tombs were the natural resting-places of everyone of us in our unregeneracy. Say you, "Are you going to put us on a level with a madman? Are you going to take us among the tombs and put us there?" That is where we all were. "And no man could bind him." Did no one ever try to bind you? Did no man ever try to tame you? Did not your father seek to direct you? Did not custom at all reform you? Were you never shamed out of your iniquity? No; nobody, nothing, no man could exercise any influence over you. No man--it was beyond the power of mere man to tame the spirit of an unregenerate person. No man could tame him. "He had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces; neither could any man tame him." And when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped Him." He saw, he ran, he worshipped, and that is more than man so-called sane men ever did.

He saw, he ran, he worshipped, and that seems sometimes to condemn me root and branch, for when I want to see I am blind, and when I want to run I crawl, and when I would worship I am carnal. I stand condemned by the Gadarene; for I only crawl, that's all. It shames me, and I have often thought of that passage, "The captive exile hasteneth." (Isa. 51:14) He does not want to die in the prison; he hasteneth, he runs, he hastes when he realizes his position and flees, he hasteneth that he die not in the pit. This is a description of the man that is fleeing to Christ. He hasteneth. I do not think there is anything on earth would give me so much pleasure as to see people hastening as from the pit. Captive exiles hastening, running, fleeing. People do not seem to be converted today just as we were thirty-five or forty years ago. Somehow it seems a more gentle process; some sort of feeling comes over a person, and he begins to come to the house of God. No law work, no terrible feelings, no dread despair, no pit, no exile, hardly any captivity, and no hastening. That seems to me the religion of today; as contrary to all the characters in the Word of God as light is to darkness. He ran when he had seen.

Now I am prepared to admit at the outset that there is a very great difficulty here. In fact, every text I take seems to be full of nothing else but difficulty, and I can hardly ever read a chapter through but what I am faced with difficulty. I must be the blindest of all blind men. Almost every time I open my Bible there is something, and I am saying, "What can this possibly mean?" for I fail to see, and the difficulty is the words in the context seem to be spoken by the man, while it also seems to point out that the very legions are speaking and not the man: "And cried with a loud voice, and said, "What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the Most High God? I adjure Thee by God, and Thou torment me not." Can you understand it at all? Do you know anything at all of two armies?

"In every believer two armies are seen,
The new man of grace and the old man of sin."

And one is ever dragging back and ever shrinking, and would cry were it not subdued, "What hast Thou to do with me? why touchest Thou my body? why touchest Thou my circumstances? why touchest Thou my family?" Human nature manifested in all its dreadful power speaks thus today. Not two persons; two armies, each powerful, tearing at the very vitals of a man who wants to walk the narrow path and feels as though he cannot. It is the man who is speaking. He saw Jesus afar off, and evidently recognized Jesus afar off. The Pharisees could not recognize Him when He was near at hand. This man recognized Him afar off; and recognizing Him he runs, not held back by all the legion.

Now that is our state by nature--afar off. "And He came and preached peace to you that are afar off."--"As far from God as sheep can run." He saw evidently the desirability of the Lord Jesus, and was evidently astonished that Jesus should enter into the land of the Gadarenes, the border land where there is nothing at all of an encouraging nature. You and I would have shrunk from it, and gone nowhere near the Gadarenes. So you see the great love and compassion of Christ in seeking out such a man; and when He has done with this man, when He has brought this man to His feet He goes back, He returns. He has done His work, and does not stay to moralize or seek to convert the Gadarenes. He does not try to establish a pure Council, or seek to reform the people. He does not spread any pure literature; He has done His work. He has saved the Gadarene. He has rescued the man out of the jaws of the lion, and when He has done that He has done all that He went for.

The poor man beheld Him and recognized Him while He was afar off, and immediately he recognized Him he ran, he did not hesitate. I was noticing last night--our text was, "Draw me; we will run after Thee" (Songs 1:4)--how Peter was always impetuous, and when he heard that it was Jesus he cast himself into the sea, and did not wait until the boat drew nigh--that was not Peter's nature. We have long encouraged people that can from their hearts say, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after;" but we have encouraged them so that desire might develop into running. Most of us only crawl; many of us only walk; many of us sit still; many more seem to wait; we seem so far removed from this man, it puts us to shame. Immediately, when he saw Jesus, he ran. Can you think for a moment what it must have been, because the legion were not yet cast out of the man, and there were enough Satanic spirits in him to fill the herd of 2,000 swine. They filled 2,000 swine, and they had all been collected in the body or mind or heart of one individual; why, it is as though the whole man must have been impregnated, saturated, as though he had absorbed all the demons in the district; and yet there is a power, there is an influence, he cannot resist. He beholds Christ, sees Him afar off, and runs and worship Him. I think if there is one subject above all subjects that we make mistakes about, it is just this one thing--worship. I should never have thought that he worshipped. I should have imagined that there was a large purifying process to go through before the man could worship. I could not have believed it possible that a man in his state could worship. I should have thought that the man ought to be converted three months at least, if he worshipped. We think we are really unfit for worship; we have been at business all the day, and we creep into the house of God at seven o'clock, or a quarter-past, and think we cannot really worship; we are not in a mood to worship--but he ran and worshipped. And there came a woman out of Canaan, another place that was cursed of God; a descendant of Canaan on whom the curse of God rested, and she worshipped. I should never have thought it possible; the Pharisees would never have permitted her; if there was a committee or a body of men to guard worship, she would never have been allowed to so worship. And there came a leper, a man completely full of leprosy, and he worshipped.

Really, friends, it seems to revolutionize our ideas of worship. The woman of Canaan, whom we could never have admitted; the leper who came beseeching Jesus and worshipping; the Gadarene, mad, inflated with demons, and he worshipped. Can you grasp it? Is it not very humbling? I candidly confess it revolutionizes my ideas regarding worship. If this Gadarene worshipped, and I dare not say he did not, then there is hope for some of us, who feel sometimes as though we are as far removed from a devotional frame of mind as it is possible to be. God accepts a sigh, God accepts a groan, God bottles a tear; Christ accepted a mad Gadarene, received the worship of the leper, and that before he was cleansed from his leprosy. Maybe the persons that worships is the person that comes in and sits in the back seat that nobody notices; maybe the person that worships is the person that creeps into the house of God, whom nobody cares for, and all the worship that ascends from that respectable congregation is the brokenness of spirit of that poor man, who is almost too vile for us to speak to. He worshipped, and the Lord received, and the Lord delivered, and He blessed and He saved; and we are wondering whether He will save us, and we are tempted sometimes regarding our worship and our running, especially our running, for do not we feel to be lame on both feet? and we do not make any progress. Did you ever see a man run to Christ? ever see a man anxious to get to the house of God? ever see a man in all your life who ran with that alacrity to the house of God and to the Word of God as he runs to his own business and his own family? I have been encouraged sometimes when I have read in the Word of God of the cities of refuge; of the merciful provision so ordered that there should be a city of Refuge here, and a city of Refuge there, so that if a man unwittingly slew another man he could flee, he could run for safety; and the way was to be kept free, well made, and in good repair. There was to be nothing to hinder that man; no hindrances to be put before him. He was fleeing for his life. Do you suppose when he saw what he had done, and as he made his way to the city of Refuge, knowing that the manslayer, or the man interested in the dead man, is fleeing after him, is approaching him, and is close at his heels, and that it is death unless he can reach the city of Refuge before his enemy overtakes him--do you think that man will stay to talk about politics with you? Do you think you could get that man to delay? No. He is running. Do you think you can turn that man aside until the enemy overtakes him? No. Could you get him to delay a little? No. It is a reality with the man; and, say what you will, do what you please, the man runs and flees. He is hastening; he wants to escape with his life. We play at religion for the most part, as though it entailed no effort at all. Have you begun to crawl? Have you begun to walk? The Gadarene ran; like Paul, who speaks of those who have fled to lay hold of the hope set before them in the gospel. (Heb. 6:18)

There is a very important thing, and I have weighed it up; I have tried to look at it; I have wanted to know what it all meant. I have searched my heart, I have tried to put myself into that scale, I have measured myself by that thing: "And the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matt. 11:12) It has tried me more than a little, and makes me ask: "Have I practiced any violence? Have I hit the door of mercy? Have I tapped the door of mercy? Have I knocked at the door of mercy? Have I cried, 'Except Thou bless me, I will not let Thee go?'" and "the violent take it by force?" You could not have persuaded that widow woman who was on her way to the judge to go back with you. She ventured, and went again and again; she would take no denial. It is an astonishing thing that Christ should commend an unjust judge; that Christ should refer us to an unjust judge; that Christ should send us to hear an unjust judge; that Christ should give us any encouragement at all to turn our ears to an unjust judge. We should have said, "Do not go near that man; do not pay any attention to that man; he is a very wicked man; do not listen to the man." That is what Christ never said. It is man that tells you not to listen; it is man that tells you to pay no attention. Christ teaches, if you have wisdom, you can learn from all. Hear what unjust men say, and take the opposite course; hear what men of error say, and take the opposite course. There is a lesson to be learnt even from men who know nothing at all of the grace of God. "And shall not God avenge His own elect?" (Luke 18:7) When we have heard what the unjust judge says, we are encouraged to go and plead, and run; peradventure we may touch the hem of His garment.

What a striking thing it was that the Gadarene should run! What not take his ease? He runs and he worships. Now what ingredients can there be, then, in this mysterious act of worship, that allows even a mad Gadarene to do it? What really can constitute pure worship, that allows even a leprous man to perform it? What must there be in mercy that permits a woman of Canaan to come and worship? It may be, after all, our rigidness; it may be, after all, our strictness; it may be, after all, our narrow-mindedness--and I am as narrow-minded as anybody in a right and proper way. You will always find it is a narrow gauge railway that ascends mountains, and we are ascending the mount. You never found a broad line laid to ascend mountains--after all our rigidity, possibly there may be worshippers whom we should never dream of permitting to take a leading part. It is a wonder that poor things like we are should be accepted in the Beloved, and our poor broken prayers received as acts of worship; that our gatherings together in twos and threes, despised though we are by the world, should actually be written by the recording angel as worship!

And when he saw he ran and worshipped. The Lord give us a worshipping frame of mind, give us increased alacrity in Divine things, and deliver us from our lethargy. Time is short, eternity is long; death is approaching, the grave is before us. Our earthly joys are from us torn; shall it not quicken us to follow after those things which are laid up for us at the right hand of the Father? May He add His blessing. Amen.




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