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Prayer alone can get a lasting dominion over sin. And prayer will obtain it, if we pray always, and do not faint.” You may find the victory slower, and the enemy stronger, than you expected. You may be discouraged by many disappointments. You may say with David, “ Has the Lord forgotten to be gracious, and will He shut up his loving kindness in displeasure ? Is His mercy clean gone for ever, and His promise come utterly to an end ?" Go on, however, to say with Him; “ This is my infirmity. But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember that He said, If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?
And the parable which introduces these words is especially intended to furnish reasons why we should not doubt, but earnestly believe, that if we ask, it shall be given to us : if we seek, we shall find : if we knock, it shall be opened unto us. The neighbour here, to whom the request is made, is represented as being what men too often are, selfish: loving himself, and his own ease and pleasure, too well to assist another. His reply is, Trouble me not : the door is now shut; and my children are with me in bed : I cannot rise and give thee. Yet even he is prevailed on, and cannot resist importunity. I
say you, Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet, because of his
importunity, he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
With what different feelings may we approach God in prayer! He is always ready to receive us: he assures us, that we can never apply unseasonably. We may offend Him by not asking: but our petition can never offend Him. We may “ ask amiss," and therefore, not receive: but what we ask faithfully, we shall obtain effectually ; be the request ever so great, even for eternal life itself: be the petitioner ever so unworthy, even a sinner seeking pardon for his transgressions.
The heart, however, which shall be disposed to profit by God's mercy, must still be the gift of his mercy. And we must end, as the disciples began, by entreating, Lord, teach us to pray.
POWER OF JESUS OVER SATAN.
LUKE xi. 14-26.
(Matt. xii. 22–32. Mark iii. 22.) 14. “ And He was casting out a devil, and it was dumb.
And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the
dumb spake; and the people wondered. 15. “ But some of them said, He casteth out devils through .. Beelzebub the chief of the devils. 16. 6 And others, tempting him, sought of Him a sign
from heaven. 17. “But He, knowing their thoughts, said unto them,
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation : and a house divided against a house falleth.
18. “If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall
his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils
through Beelzebub. 19. “And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do
your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. 20. “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no
doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” St. John relates, (John xi. 47,) that after the resurrection of Lazarus, the chief priests and elders held a council together, saying, What do we? For this man doeth many miracles. So they resolved upon His death. The time for this was not now come.
But His miracles must be accounted for; so they ascribe them to a confederacy with Satan. He casteth out devils through Beelzebub,' the chief of the devils.
Our Lord, knowing their thoughts, showed the folly of them. What! He said, is it likely that Satan should fight against himself? When he has possessed a wretched creature, and got him into his power, will he himself furnish the arms by which he may be driven out? If a house is divided against a house, or a kingdom against itself, that family and that nation must quickly come to ruin. And so if Satan opposes his own instruments, and frees the soul which his spirits have enthralled,—how shall his kingdom stand?
No: the kingdom of God is established
· The name of a god worshipped among the Philistines, and adopted from them by the Israelites, to signify the chief of evil spirits.
to destroy the power
of Satan. As Jesus had recently intimated, when the seventy exulted,"
“ saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fal from heaven.' He would not, therefore, strengthen the hand which was to subdue him. It must then be the finger of God; And if I by the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. My breaking the power of devils, and relieving men from their dominion, is a sure sign that I have an authority greater than theirs. You have a clear proof that I am come in the power of God, and are bound to believe and follow me.
This our Lord illustrates by a parable. He compares it to what happens among men, when the palace or fortress of a king is invaded by an enemy whom he is unable to resist, or prevent from entering and taking possession. 21. “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his
goods are in peace: 22. “But when a stronger than he shall come upon him,
and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.”
The same thing took place when one who had been long harassed, perhaps " from a child,”
“ by an unclean spirit, and deprived of the faculties of a reasonable being, was delivered from his enemy, and restored to “his right mind.” Satan was strong who had done the mischief; and, at the present season especially, unusual power had been permitted him; but Jesus was stronger than he, so as to overcome him, and release men from his dominion.
But the parable does more than illustrate the victory of our Lord over evil spirits of this kind ; it also explains the manner in which “the children of disobedience,” who have long been given up as slaves to “the prince of this world,” are sometimes reclaimed by divine grace, and made the children of God.
The heart of the worldly man is Satan's palace. Does this seem a harsh saying? It is the saying of Him who is full of compassion and mercy. He says of the impenitent and unbelieving, “Ye are of your Father the devil: and the lusts of your Father ye will do.” “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” And this agrees too well with much that we observe. How many pass the time appointed them on earth in a way which we can only explain, by supposing that the spirit of evil is using his authority over them? They go through life, neglecting all that is good and commanded, despising whatever could possibly prepare them for any better state, and growing more and more hardened as they advance in years. Is it not, that the strong man armed keepeth his palace ? He has safe and undisturbed possession ; and the goods are his; the man's faculties, and means, and time, and opportunities, are all engaged in the service of Satan, and denied to God. And
John viii. 44.