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The Unclean Spirit Returning.

by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Whitsuntide 

Rivingtons, London, 1875 [New Edition.]

First part of Sermon XXIV. for the Third Sunday in Lent.

 Ephesians v. 1-14.    St. Luke xi. 14-28.


Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than

himself; and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of

that man is worse than the first." — St. Luke. xi. 26.


THE Gospel for last Sunday spoke of the evil spirit cast out of her daughter by the prayer of the Canaanitish woman; that for to-day in a remarkable manner carries on this awful subject, for it gives the account of an unclean spirit which had gone out of a man, watching for, and at length finding, an opportunity to return.


First of all, bearing in our minds this dread Lesson for the day, let us consider the Epistle with a reference to it.  The Ephesians to whom St. Paul writes, were precisely in the situation of the penitent here described.  The unclean spirit had been cast out; One far mightier than he, even the Lord Jesus, had entered in, had taken from him all the armour wherein he trusted, and had sanctified them to the service of God.  They were under His protection, the Spirit of God, Which had overcome the wicked one, and cast him out of their hearts, was keeping watch within them.  But the enemy was lying in wait, eagerly bent on returning, and watching his opportunity. 


Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.  By those loving-kindnesses of God, whereby He hath delivered you from the power of the enemy and made you His children, endeavour to be as He is; this is the best return ye can make.   And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.  As if He had said, Dwell in love and ye will dwell in God, and God will dwell in you; and this will be to you a pledge and proof that ye are safe from the enemy.  As of the sacrifice of Noah it was said that God “smelled a sweet savour,” much more is the sacrifice of Christ's death ever pleasing to Him; and while ye are knit in love unto Christ and your brethren, ye shall have part in that sacrifice, and that wicked one toucheth you not.  But mind, he goes on to say, there are some things quite incompatible with this love of God, the very contrary to it; and if you in any way admit their approaches, you are opening your heart to the enemy, you are inviting him to you, and God will not dwell in you, Who alone is more powerful.  But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.  He does not say, avoid falling into these sins, but keep far away, even from the very mention of them; for even to allow any conversation on such subjects implies some remains of love for them in the heart, which is not compatible with the holiness of a Christian, who has to watch and pray always against the enemy.  Words of sensuality or avarice are like the breath of the unclean spirit; like the parching breath of him that “walketh through dry places, seeking rest,” which will dry up in the heart the refreshing fountains of God's grace, and make you, like himself, to seek for rest and not to find it, because you seek it not in God.  Neither filthiness, adds St. Paul, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient but rather giving of thanks.  Let there not be that light and easy conversation which is unsuitable to your high calling, but that discourse which is “seasoned with salt” of good principle; and if your hearts at any time are full of Christian joy, let it be shown in “giving of thanks ;” keeping always to that meekness of wisdom in which alone is safety. 


On which passage St. Chrysostom says, “The devil stands hard at hand; he is going about roaring to catch thee, and turning everything against thy life.  And art thou sitting down and talking folly?  Look at the countenances of men in battle; the stern eye, the eager and beating heart, the spirit collected, but anxious and trembling.  In camps all is order and discipline.  If they who have visible enemies observe so great silence, art thou, whose chief warfare is in thy words, enjoying thyself with jests, and raising a laugh as if the matter were a mere nothing?  Now is the time of watch and guard; such things are of the world, and can have no place here.  Christ was crucified for thy ills: art thou taking it all in jest?" [Ephes. ad. loc.]


But why is it that these things, this light carriage, is so dangerous?  It is because they lie near to great sins, which are no less than the entering of the unclean spirit again into the soul.  Such conversation makes light of those sins which will infallibly shut us out from the Kingdom of God.  For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.  Idol worship in the Old Testament is called “abomination;” and our Lord applies the same word in speaking of covetousness, saying, that what is “highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” [St. Luke xvi. 15]  Here St. Paul warns us against conversation on such matters; because sins of the flesh, and that worldly wisdom which is set on gain, are not so estimated in the judgment of the world and in common discourse as they are with God; and this very materially assists that self-deceit which men put upon themselves in these cases, and is quite contrary to that prayer and watchfulness which is needful for those whom the devil is seeking to enter.


Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.  These sins are the very cause of God's judgment on unbelievers; he had said before, in this Epistle, “in time past ye walked according to the course of this world according to the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” [Eph. ii. 2]  These are the marks of them who are manifestly under captivity to the great enemy.  Be not ye therefore partakers with them.  Do not ye then, by your conversation or otherwise, become associated with them in their thoughts and principles.  “Let no man deceive you,” he says.  These deceivers are often, in Scripture, likened to Balaam of old, who endeavoured to destroy God's children, and put them in the power of their enemies by corrupting them with sensuality, from motives of covetousness.  And that these Ephesians were in great danger of such relapse we learn from the Revelation of St. John, where our Lord some time after sent unto them, saying, “Thou hast left thy first love.  Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent." [Rev. ii. 5]


For ye were sometimes darkness.  He does not say in darkness, but “darkness “ itself; ye yourselves “were darkness,” the light within you being darkness, of which our Lord says, “how great is that darkness!" being in “the kingdom of darkness,” and belonging to the prince of darkness; “their foolish heart was darkened," [Rom. i. 21] because it was alienated from God.  As our Lord says in the Gospel, “when a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace;" the evil one in full power possessed the heart and affections; so that there was no struggle, no power, or thought of escape from him.  But now are ye light in the Lord.  All is now changed; as Christ says Himself, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life;" [St. John viii. 12]  Walk as Children of light.  For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth.  Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.  Ye are light in the Lord, not in yourselves; for in yourselves ye are all darkness, but in the Lord ye are light; as long as ye continue in Him, by walking as His children, by proving what is acceptable to Him.  “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." [1 St. John i. 6]  And what else is this walking in the light but the fruit of the Spirit, which is in all goodness; that is, in all gentleness and forbearance, that walking in love which He had before spoken of, “forgiving one another as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”  For, “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another,” says St. John.  And righteousness, that honest dealing which is contrary to all that covetousness and love of gain he had before condemned.  And truth, as opposed to all that foolish talking, those deceits of vain words, by which men are entangled in the snares of the evil one before they are aware of it; persuading themselves that such things are allowable, which a good conscience, enlightened by the Spirit of Christ, would condemn.


And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.  Our Lord speaks of “idle words,” and St. Paul here of “unfruitful works;” in both the expression is of those things which bear no fruit unto holiness.  “What fruit had ye then,” says the same Apostle to the Romans, “in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death." [Rom. vi. 21]  Do not partake in such things by appearing to consent with them, but rather reprove them.  Take care that your presence rebukes them, either by your words or your silence, that you share them not.  For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.


But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light; for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.  I said that you must reprove these things, for you that are the light of Christ will, by your own example, condemn these sins and show what they are.  As Christ Himself says, “Ye are the light of the world; a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” “Ye are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt hath lost its savour, wherewithal shall it be seasoned?” You must reprove and make manifest the evil that is around you, by your words, by your actions, by your very presence, letting the light of Christ shine forth from you in a dark world.


Wherefore He saith--i.e. the Holy Spirit says, by the Prophet in the Old Testament, when Christ shall arise on the gross darkness of the Heathen, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  Thou that art asleep in darkness, come to Christ in faith and repentance, and He shall be thy light: thou that art “dead” in sin, “awake” to righteousness, and Christ shall be thy life.... 

...(for the second part, on the Gospel