« ÎnapoiContinuă »
by those acts of severity, which the nature of the crime demanded.
[2.] Satan often prevents the reproof from taking effect, by inclining the reprover to use indecent behaviour in expressing the haughtiness of his temper, as though there were no respect due to superiors, as such, because they are worthy of reproof; or else by expressing a kind of hatred against the person that committed the sin; whereas, hatred ought to be principally directed against the crime itself, while we convince those whom we are reproving, that it is love to them, as well as zeal for the glory of God that moves us to do this.
[3.] Satan often hinders reproofs from taking effect, either by tempting those who give them to commit the same sin, or, at least, by persuading those against whom they are directed, that there are other sins equally great, which they are charge able with, and therefore they ought to look to themselves, rather than take notice of what is done by others.
(2.) Satan hinders the work of conviction, by endeavouring to suppress the preaching of the word, or prevent the success thereof when preached. As to the preaching of the word, this is God's ordinary way by which he convinces of sin; and Satan sometimes stirs up those that are under his power and influence to persecute or suppress the preaching of the gospel. Thus the apostles were commanded by the Jews, not to speak at all, nor teach in the name of Jesus, Acts iv. 18. and when they refused to obey this command, they put them in prison, chap. v. 18. This method has been taken, in all ages, by Satan's instigation, with a design to hinder the spreading of Christ's interest in this world, which, by the blessing of providence, has been, notwithstanding, continued unto this day. Therefore, there are other methods which he uses to hinder the success of the word. Sometimes he does this by perverting them that preach it; so that they endeavour to corrupt the word of God, whereby the minds of men are turned away from that simplicity that is in Christ; at other times he tempts them to be very sparing in reproving sin, or to do this in a more general way, as though their only design was to let their hearers know that there are some sinners in the world, and not that they should be brought under conviction of sin themselves. This is done sometimes in compliance with the corruptions of those whom they do not care to disoblige hereby; and others shun to declare some of the most important truths of the gospel, and affect such a method of preaching as has not a tendency to bring that real advantage to the souls of men, as when it is delivered with more zeal and faithfulness.
Moreover, Satan endeavours to hinder the success of the word, by stirring up the corruptions of those that attend upon
it; for which reason he is represented, by our Saviour, in the parable of the seed which fell by the way-side, which the fowls came and devoured, as catching away the word, Matt. xiii. 4, 19. By this means they are not much affected with it, nor endeavour to retain it in their memories; and, sometimes he injects vain thoughts under the word preached. This our Saviour compares, in the parable but now mentioned, to the seed that fell among thorns; and explains it of the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choaking the word, ver. 7, 22. And sometimes he endeavours to raise prejudices in the minds of men, against what is delivered; so that the plainness of expression, when addressed to the consciences of men, in such a way, as that it has a tendency to bring them under conviction, is contemned, and called a low, mean way of address, and disliked, because it is not delivered with that elegancy of style, or ingenious turn of thought, that is adapted rather to please the ear, than affect the hearts of those that hear it. By those methods Satan endeavours to hinder persons from being brought under conviction: But if their consciences are, notwithstanding this, awakened under the word, or, by some providences which God often makes use of for that end; then there are methods of another kind, which Satan uses, to prevent convictions from making any deep or lasting impression on them. As,
[1.] By endeavouring to make the soul easy, from the consideration of the universal depravity of human nature; and accordingly he insinuates, that all have reason to accuse themselves of sins that would tend to their disquietude, if they made so narrow a search into their hearts as these do, or had such formidable thoughts of the consequences thereof as they have. Here he produces many examples of those who have been quiet and easy in their own minds, though they had as much ground to perplex and torment themselves with such-like melancholy thoughts as they have; yet they go on in a course of sin, without any checks of conscience, and, as Job speaks, spend their days in wealth, or, as it is in the margin, in mirth, and in a moment go down to the grave, Job vii. 22. being resolved to give way to nothing that shall disturb their peace, or render their lives uncomfortable.
[2.] If this stratagem will not take effect, inasmuch as they are sensible, that while they remain in an unconverted state, shey can have no solid foundation for peace, then he endeavours to persuade them, that the work of conversion is over, and that conviction of sin, though destitute of faith, is true repentance, or that a partial reformation, and abstaining from some gross and scandalous sins, or engaging in the external duties of religion, especially with some degree of raised affec
tions therein, is a sufficient ground for them to conclude, that they are in a state of grace; and if they resolve to go on in this way, he puts them upon depending and relying on their
wn righteousness, and expecting to be justified thereby, without seeing a necessity of laying hold on what Christ has done and suffered, in order to the removing the guilt of sin; and, so long as they continue in this way, they shall meet with no disturbance from Satan, this not being the method which God has prescribed for our attaining justification, or that peace which flows from it.
[3.] He puts them upon making vows and resolutions in their own strength, that they will perform several religious duties with the greatest exactness, and abstain from those sins which he is sensible they will commit, if not prevented by the grace of God, that so, by too great confidence in their own strength, they may provoke him to leave them to themselves; and, as the consequence thereof, they soon break their resolutions, and bring themselves under greater perplexities than they were in before: And, then to make them easy, he endeavours to persuade them, that God does not require them to lead so strict a life as they seemed determined to do, but has allowed them some innocent liberties, as he calls them, in giving way to those sins which their condition in life renders necessary; and, as he had before tempted them to rely on their own strength, now he tempts them to carnal security, and a slothful, stupid frame of spirit, whereby they will be rendered more receptive of those temptations he has to offer, to turn them aside from that strictness in religion, which they before resolved to maintain.
[4.] Satan dazzles their eyes with the glittering vanities of this world, that he might divert their minds from serious thoughts about, or any concern for a better; and if their secular callings are attended with some incumbrances, through the multiplicity of business, or the constant care they are obliged to take to live in the world; then he alleges the inconsistency hereof, with their giving way to those convictions of sin which will be an hindrance to the necessary business of life. Thus concerning the method which Satan uses to prevent conviction of sin, or to hinder the efficacy thereof: But inasmuch as this does not always take effect; especially when convictions make a deep impression upon us. We proceed to
3. Those methods that are used by Satan, to hinder persons from closing with Christ, and believing in him. And this he does,
1st, By endeavouring to keep them in ignorance of the great doctrines of the gospel; and, as the consequence thereof, turn
ing them aside to embrace those errors, which are inconsistent with faith in Christ; and in order thereto, he suggests, that it does not belong to them, to press after the knowledge of the sense of scripture, but to persons of learning, or those who are called to preach or defend the truth; and that it is enough for them to have some general notions of the doctrines of religion, whereby they may be induced to practise those moral virtues which their station in life engages them to, and to leave the more abstruse parts thereof, to those whose inclination leads them thereunto.
Moreover, he improves the different sentiments of men about the doctrines of the gospel, to answer this end, and infers from thence, that since one asserts one thing for truth, and another the contrary, that therefore there is nothing certain in religion; so that they are safest who keep clear of all these controverted matters; and among them he includes the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ. This method of temptation leads men to scepticism, and, if complied with, is inconsistent with faith in Christ; and the consequence hereof is, their imbibing those doctrines that tend to sap the very foundation of revealed reli gion. And if they pretend to adhere to any scheme of doctrine, it is generally such an one, as has a tendency to strike at the divinity and glory of Christ, the necessity of his satisfaction, or of our justification, by his imputed righteousness, or denying the divinity of the Holy Ghost, and the need we have of his powerful operations in the work of regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. These are the doctrines on which our faith is built; therefore, to deny them, is not only inconsistent with our closing with Christ, as being the result of the alienation of our minds from God; but it is agreeable to the working of Satan in the children of disobedience, whereby he answers his character, as a deceiver, as well as a tempter.
2dly, Satan endeavours to hinder men from believing in Christ, by persuading them to hope for salvation from the mercy of God, without any regard to the display of this attribute in Christ, as our Mediator, or faith in him, without which we have no ground to conclude, that we shall obtain mercy from him: Or, since faith is necessary to salvation, he persuades them to take up with such a kind of faith as consists only in a general assent to some things contained in scripture, without the exercise of other graces that are inseparably connected with, and flow from it; and if they have no other notion of saving faith than this, it is no wonder that Satan, by his false reasoning, carries on the temptation yet farther, and persuades them, that this is in their own power, and that it is an easy matter to believe, which is a certain indication that they are destitute of saving faith. Thus we have considered Satan as
endeavouring to strengthen the habits of sin, hinder the work of conviction, or prevent its taking effect; and using methods to keep those who are under convictions, from closing with Christ by faith. We now proceed to consider,
4. His injecting atheistical and blasphemous thoughts into the minds of men, and using his utmost endeavours to despair.
(1.) He sometimes injects atheistical and blasphemous thoughts into the minds of men. His nature inclines him to hate and oppose God; and his malice breaks forth in tempting men to blaspheme his perfections: Thus some are represented as opening their mouths in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven, Rev. xiii. 6. which they do by the instigation of Satan: However, there is a vast difference between those blasphemous thoughts, which are injected into the minds of wicked men, and those which are oftentimes complained of by the believer. In the former, the Devil enstamps his own image upon them, and they are like a spark falling into combustible matter, which immediately sets it on fire: The latter is like a flash of fire that lights upon water, without doing any execution. We read of some who are entirely under his dominion, who blaspheme the God of heaven, because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds, chap. xvi. 11. But there are others into whom he injects such-like thoughts, which are a grief and burden to them. Some are tempted to deny the being or providence of God; and others to have unworthy and injuri ous thoughts of the divine perfections; which cannot be reckon→ ed any other than blasphemy, and, so far as they proceed from us, bring with them a very great degree of guilt. That believers themselves have been sometimes guilty hereof, appears from what the Psalmist utters in words, when he says, Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Hath God forgotten to be gracious, Psal. lxxvii. 8, 9. And, indeed, it is no uncommon thing for believers to complain of their having such injurious and unworthy thoughts of the divine perfections, that they dare not utter in words; which fills them with the greatest uneasiness; Therefore it is necessary for us to enquire, when these blasphemous suggestions take their rise from ourselves, and when from Satan?
It is certain, that sometimes they proceed from ourselves: Thus our Saviour says, Out of the heart proceed blasphemies that defile a man, Matt. xv. 19. and we have reason to charge ourselves therewith, when they arise from, or are accompanied with other presumptuous sins; or when we do not strive against, but rather give way to them, and other suggestions VOL. IV. 3 M