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DELIVERED AT THE ORDINATION OF REV. PRESTON POND, AS PASTOR OF THE CENTRAL CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH AND SOCIETY IN EASTPORT, (Me.)
THE GREAT CONFLICT.
"We wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."-Ephesians vi. 12.
In this passage of scripture, as in many others, there is an express reference to a mighty conflict, carried on in the moral and spiritual world, between the powers of light and the powers of darkness, the sons of God and the children of the wicked one. "We wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
The fact of such a conflict I hardly need take time to consider. It has been so obvious even to heathen nations, as to give rise to a belief in two opposing divinities; the god of light, and the god of darkness; the one good, and the other evil. This fact is perfectly obvious to every observer of the affairs of men. Every where, we see virtue conflicting with vice, right with wrong, holiness with sin. Indeed, we more than see this order of things; we feel it in our own breasts. Every man who is not so far gone in iniquity, as to make no resistance to its reigning power-is conscious of an inward struggle. He has evidence enough of the great conflict of which I speak, in his own spirit. Assuming, therefore, the fact of the conflict referred to in the text, and in a multitude of other scriptures, it is proposed, in this discourse, to consider,
I. The leaders in it.
II. The scene of it.
III. The hosts engaged.
IV. The manner in which it is carried on. And
V. What are to be its issues or results.
The leaders in the conflict of which we speak, are the Lord Jesus Christ on the one side, and the Prince of devils on the other. This we learn from many passages of scripture, in which these two great personages are set over, one against the other, in the attitude of generalissimos, or leaders. To give but a single example: In the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, immediately preceding the annunciation of the Millennium, John saw the heavens opened," and behold a white horse, and he that sat on him is called Faithful and, True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns, and he had a name written that no man knew but he himself; and he was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen white and clean." There can be no doubt as to the character of this royal personage. "His name was called (the Logos) the Word of God." He was unquestionably the Lord Jesus Christ.
And against whom is his mighty power directed? Against "the beast and the false prophet," and all those who act under their influence. And who is the beast here spoken of? Who is it that moves and actuates him-that gives him "his power, his seat, and his great authority?" It is the dragon, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan." (Rev. 13: 2.) Here, then, as in many other places, we find Christ heading his forces on the one side, and Satan his on the other. We find them standing one over against the other in the attitude of opposing leaders.
I. The Lord Jesus Christ, rather than God the Father, is leader of the sacramental host in the great conflict of which we speak, because of his office and work as Mediator. He now sits on a mediatorial throne; as mediator, he is king in heaven; all power is committed unto him both in heaven and on earth; he is head over all things in the church, and is represented in Scripture as the Captain of Salvation.
II. We inquire, secondly, as to the scene, the theatre, the place of the conflict between the Lord Jesus Christ and the powers of darkness. This is emphatically, earth. The struggle does not reach so high as heaven. It does not enter into and disturb that world of rest, of peace, of everlasting joy. We read, indeed, in the Revelations, of a "war in heaven;" but the heaven there spoken of is a mystical, symbolical heaven, and not the happy abode of the saints in light.
Nor does the conflict of which we are speaking extend properly to hell. That world is the prison of subdued rebels, where they are reserved in chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day; and not the place where they put on armor, and join battle, and contest the point for victory and glory. The scene of the conflict between the powers of light, and the powers of darkness, is emphatically earth. This world is the theatre of it. It is here that Satan has usurped his dominion, and set up his throne. It is the family of man that he claims as his vassals and victims. He vaunts himself as the
god of this world. It is to dispossess him of his usurped dominion, rescue his victims from between his teeth, and send him back, subdued and ashamed, to his prison in the world of fire, that the Lord Jesus Christ has put on his armor, and become the Captain of Salvation. Earth, then, is especially the scene of the conflict. It moves and deeply interests other worlds, but the centre, the theatre of it is here.
III. We inquire, in the third place, as to the hosts engaged in this conflict, under their respective leaders.
On the side of Satan, there are enlisted, first of all, a great multitude of evil spirits, like himself. All these spirits were once holy and happy in heaven. But they joined in the miserable revolt of their Prince, and fell with him under the power and the curse of sin. These evil spirits are very numerous. "Our name is legion," said they on one occasion," for we are many." They are also subtle, malicious, and of great power. They are represented in the text, and in other places, as belonging to different ranks and orders. These are "principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spirits of wickedness in high places." These spirits of darkness have long been permitted to roam the earth, to have access to the minds of men, to plot and scheme against the Church, and for a time to carry their diabolical schemes into execution. By the great majority of human beings, they have been not only served, but worshipped as gods. The things which the heathen sacrifice, all over the earth," they sacrifice to devils, and not to God," 1 Cor. 10: 20. These legions of fallen spirits constitute a material part of the host of their mighty leader.
The other part of Satan's host consists of wicked men here on the earth, and these constitute a vast multitude, divided into different classes, all trained and disciplined for their master's service. Here are hundreds of millions of pagan idolators, all the worshippers of devils, and all besotted in their delusions and sins. Here are millions upon millions of the votaries of the false prophet, whose eyes Satan has blinded, whose feet he has bound, and who are led captive by him at his will. Here are other millions of dispersed Jews, the inveterate enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom Satan employs, in different parts of the earth, to promote his cause and injure the Church. Of the devotees of Rome there is a prodigious multitude-Pope, cardinals, priests, monks, crowned monarchs and sceptred kings, titled churchmen and degraded serfs, all enlisted and marshaled under the same great leader, and intent upon doing their master's work. Still nearer to us, Satan has his regiments of atheists and infidels, of scoffers and blasphemers, to whom he assigns an important part in this conflict, and who will deny him no service which it is in their power to bestow. He has, also, his worldly men, who love, pursue and extol the world, and exert an influence to draw all around them into its engulfing vortex. He has his sensual men-men of appetite and lust, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, who scorn to sin and die alone, but are intent upon destroying a multitude with them.
his self-righteous men-of sober face and proud heart, who believe themselves, and teach others, that persons of sober, honest life have no need of a Savior, and should never humble themselves to embrace him. In addition to all these, he has a band of masked hypocrites, who conceal their sins that they may the more successfully practise them; and another band of self-deceivers, whom he has effectually blinded to their real characters, and is hurrying along to the judgment with a lie in their right hand. There are also the open denyers of God's essential truth-the propagators of " damnable heresies"-whom Satan persuades to reject doctrines which he believes himself, and to scoff at realities, under the torturing power of which he writhes and burns.
Such, in brief, are the hosts of the great adversary-the legions which he has at his control, and with which he has undertaken to wage conflict with the Son of God. Assuredly, his armies are great and terrible; and he is himself an enemy of prodigious power, whom no being in this world can prudently or safely despise.
On the side of the Son of God, and in opposition to Satan, there are, in the first place, legions of holy angels. These are a class of created spirits, superior to ourselves-of fervid love, of glowing intelligence, of burning zeal, of mighty power, who are represented as standing in the presence of God, and flying on his errands of mercy and of wrath. They are particularly conversant with the affairs of this world; are deeply interested in the great work of redemption; and have enlisted, with all their energies, in that mighty conflict between holiness and sin, of which earth is the principal theatre and object. They ascend and descend on the ladder which reaches from earth to heaven. They conflict directly, as no other beings can, with the Prince and the powers of darkness. They are ministers of wrath and vengeance to hardened transgressors, as well as of comfort and deliverance to the oppressed children of God. When Lot was to be delivered, and Sodom destroyed; ministering angels were employed to effect both these objects. When an ungodly tyrant was about to invade and distress the Church, the angel of the Lord was sent into his camp, and 185,000 of his army fell in a single night. When Peter was shut up in prison, expecting in a few hours to be barbarously slain, an angel opens his prison doors, and conducts him in safety to his friends.
The number of the holy angels is immensely great, and they are all the devoted servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. They heralded his entrance into this world with songs of praise. They strengthened him during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane. And now that he has ascended up on high, they wait his commands, and do his pleasure. They are to be ministering spirits to his Church, so long as it shall need their ministry on the earth. And in the consummation of all things, when the mystery of God shall be finished, they are to bring together his elect, from the one end of heaven to the other; and are to gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity, and cast them into a furnace of fire. The offices sustained by
the holy angels, the works done and to be done by them, sufficiently show that they constitute a material part of the host of the great Captain of our Salvation.
Another part of Christ's militant host consists of his people, in the present world. These, though in themselves weak, are "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might." They are represented in the scriptures as "laborers together with Christ," sustained and strengthened by his Holy Spirit, they "have done exploits," and they can do the same again. Through faith in their Divine Redeemer, they have "subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, waxed valiant in fight, and put to flight the armies of the aliens." Under the protection of their great Captain, they are able to contend successfully "against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spirits of wickedness in high places."
This part of the Redeemer's host, like that in the other world, consists of different ranks and orders. Some are leaders, standard-bearers; while others hold subordinate stations. Some can do one thing for their Divine Master, and some another. But all can effect something in the holy war. To each is committed some talent, which he is required and expected to improve; and in the improving of which he may aid materially in bringing the great conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, to a successful issue.
In speaking of the hosts engaged in this conflict, I have made no mention of those who have already departed this life. The holy dead are, indeed, the servants of Christ; but they are no longer his militant servants. They rest from their previous labors and warfare, and their works follow them. The sinful dead are, in like manner, the enemies of Christ. But they are subdued under his feet. They are no longer in a situation to contend against him, or to oppose the triumphs of his holy kingdom.
IV. We come now to the fourth and more important part of the subject-the manner in which the great conflict of which we have spoken is, at present, carried on.
On the part of Satan, it is carried on in various ways. It is carried on, in the first place, by deception and falsehood. Satan is called in Scripture" a liar, and the father of it ;" and he has abundantly shown how well he deserves to bear these opprobrious epithets. He commenced his attack upon our first mother with a lie. He compassed his design upon her, by the grossest deception. And from that hour to the present, he has been carrying into effect his dreadful designs against the best interests of our race, by deception and falsehood. He deceives one person under this pretence, and another under that, and a third under something else. He persuades some, that there is no truth in the Bible-no God, no Savior, no heaven, no hell. He leads some to discard the essential doctrines of the Bible; so that while they profess to receive it in form, they reject it in fact. He even persuades