The Empty House
Matthew 12:43-45
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walks through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.…

The heart of man is a house in which dwell good or evil. When evil has taken up its abode there, the moralist will endeavour to drive it out. But if he is not able to substitute a positive good, his work will issue in worse than a failure; the evil will come back with increased power and resume possession of its old haunts. Let us endeavour to see the reason of this, and then how the mischief can be prevented.

I. THE EVICTION. The house was inhabited by a most undesirable tenant, who kept it in an ill condition, neglected, and filthy. So the landlord turned him out, and had the house cleaned down and garnished ready for a better occupier. This is analogous to a partial reformation - one that is only negative. We may compare it with the work of John the Baptist when that is not followed up by the gospel of Christ. The old state of sin has become unendurable; a desperate effort has been made to break off the bad habits. The drunkard has given up his drink; the profligate has left his vice; the worldly person has turned aside from his old follies. The evil spirit has been expelled. More has been done. Not only has there been an expulsion; there has been a cleansing, there has been a re-decoration. The empty house is swept and garnished. An improvement of manners has taken place. Some attempt has been made to add grace and beauty to the once wrecked and degraded soul.

II. THE EMPTINESS. An empty house is a dreary sight. Gaunt and silent in a street full of life, it seems to be the abode of ghostly shadows that flit to and fro am[ peep out of the windows at twilight. If we enter it, it strikes us with a dismal sense of desertion. Its wails echo to every footfall; the stairs creak painfully under our tread; a gust of wind sighs through the vacant passages; suddenly we are startled by the slamming of a door somewhere up in the garret. It is an eerie place. An empty mind is equally desolate; and a heart from which the old affections have been torn is a dreary vacancy. Such things cannot be endured, and they do not last.

III. THE RETURN. The empty house invites stray guests. It cannot remain perfectly deserted, if it has nothing better than rats and mice to scamper over the ceilings and chase one another behind the wainscoting. The poor empty soul will soon be infested with a brood of "tenants-at-will." 'If there is nothing to keep them out, the old habits will return and reassert themselves. The disappointment of the hope of reformation is likely to give rise to an utter abandonment of despair. When the reformed drunkard breaks out with his old vice again he plunges deeper than ever in the mire.

IV. THE REMEDY. How can this terrible end be prevented? The evil arises from the emptiness of the heart. This vacuum must be filled. If the old evil is not to return, a new good must take its place. The only way to keep the old tenant out is to put a new tenant in possession. -Negative morality is of little value. "Thou shalt not" is a poor substitute for a gospel of redemption. The heart needs to be filled with a new passion in order that it may leave no room for the old passions to return. Now, this remedy is found in Christ. The love of sin is only perfectly banished when the love of Christ has filled the heart. But when Christ is in possession sin cannot reassert its insolent claims. - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.

WEB: But the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of the man, passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and doesn't find it.

The Dangers of Relapse
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