Our Saviour’s argument is this, Where the case is the same the judgment ought to be the same, and the contrary judgment speaketh malice, and hatred of the person. Do I cast out devils? So do your children. You say they do it by the power of God; why do you say that I do it by a prince of devils? What appeareth in their casting of them out more than in mine, which can argue that they do it by the power of God, and I by the power of the prince of devils? The only question is who our Saviour here meaneth by their children. Some think that he meaneth his own apostles, who were all of them Jews, and to whom they might be more favourable than to him, because of their relation to them. Others think that he means some exorcists amongst the Jews; such they had, Act_19:13. But concerning these there is a double opinion. Some think that they were such as themselves, acted by compact of the devil. Others think that they invocating the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God might honour them so far, as upon that invocation to command the devil out of persons. Origen and Justin Martyr both tell us, that there were some that used that form with such success. But so they might do, and yet not obtain their effect from a Divine influence, nor so much cast as flatter out devils, upon a homage first paid to the devil. I find some difficulty to persuade myself that in those times, especially when God by this miraculous effect was demonstrating the Messias, God should so far concur with any but him, and those that did it by his express name and authority; and I observe, that when the seven sons of Sceva attempted such a thing, Act_19:13, they called over them which had evil spiritsthe name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus, whomPaul preacheth, ( which they, being the sons of the chief of the priests, would not have done if the more grateful form of, The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would have done it), yet could they not prevail, as you read there, Act_19:14-16. Our Saviour’s meaning therefore must certainly be either,
1. You do not say so of your children, my apostles, who do, and profess to do, what they do by a power derived from me; why do you say this of me, not of them? Or,
2. There are some of you who seem to cast out devils, whereas the devil only plays with them, and yields to their magical arts for his own advantage, and abates some more external effects on people’s bodies, upon the surrender of their souls to him, by believing he is able to cure them, and imploring his help; yet you think these men endowed with the power of God: why are you so unequal to me?
I observe, though we read of exorcists amongst the Jews, Act_19:13, yet they are called periercomenoi, vagrants. They were an idle, vagabond sort of persons, (such probably as we call gypsies), with whom, or by whom; it is not probable God would work such effects, especially at such a time, though they used the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Nay, it is plain from the story of the Acts, that though they used the name Jesus, God would not work by them; Mat_12:16, the demoniac leaped on them, overcame them, prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.