« ÎnapoiContinuă »
axe, and the fiery flame, are all which remain for us.
Let us, then, my friends, earnestly intreat the Almighty, for His Son's sake, that He would not cut us off, in the midst of our sinful barrenAnd let us pray to that blessed Son, that He will graciously continue to give us His help, and that so powerfully, as to correct and support our corrupt and feeble nature:-that we may grow in grace, as we grow in years; and may defy the storms of temptation, and adversity, like the cedars of Lebanon, which the Lord hath planted.
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
1 PETER, V. 8, 9.
Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist, stedfast in the faith; knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
Of those few circumstances, which the Almighty has thought fit to reveal to us, respecting our unseen and ghostly enemy,- a malice without bound, a power, even beyond our fears, and an activity which is ever exerted in acts of seduction or of violence, may seem to make up the sum. He is described in the warm and highly coloured poetry of Job, as walking up and down the earth.1 He is represented, in the book of Revelations, as coming into the world for a certain space before its conclusion; having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time: and we find him here, under the likeness of the fiercest of beasts, roaring for rage and hunger, and going about seeking whom he may devour.
1 Job, ii. 2.
From texts like these, it may seem that there are three lessons to be drawn. First, the certainty of the devil's personal existence and formidable influence; secondly, the constant watchfulness, which the presence of so great dangers requires from us; and, lastly, that, great as the danger may seem, we have no reason for despair, inasmuch as these perils are no more than those to which all our brethren are liable; and over which, by Christ's help, so many, of like infirmity with ourselves, have been, and are at this present hour, successful.
The personal existence and aweful power of the Devil are plain from so many passages of Scripture, that it may seem like loss of time, to enlarge on a truth which is so familiar to you all. As, nevertheless, there are some who, though they call themselves Christians, yet are not afraid to clip and pare the word of God at their pleasure; and, as they have rejected, on the one side, the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice, so, on the other hand, are they anxious to deny the reality of those aweful dangers, which made that sacrifice necessary to the human race; as there are some such who call this formidable enemy of man, the creature of fancy only, and of superstition; I shall observe, that the words of Christ are of a meaning so express and positive; that Satan must have blinded those with his power,
who, professing to believe the Scriptures, are led to doubt his existence.
For, first, the devil and his angels are spoken of as persons who have reasoned and conversed; who are capable of faith, and fear, and motion; who give answers to questions, and offer petitions to the Lord; who are, hereafter, to be partakers in everlasting fire, with wicked men; and whose spiritual and airy bodies, the bodies of those wicked men are to resemble after the resurrection; in the same manner as the bodies of the just are to be shaped after the likeness of the angels, and of our glorified Redeemer. Now, if the angels be not imaginary creatures, [and that they are, no one has yet, I believe, ventured to teach,] so neither can the devils be considered as the children of superstitious fancy. We have the same authority for the one, as for the other. Actions, which can only consist with reasonable beings, are attributed to the one, as well as to the other. Now, putting revelation for a moment aside, can any reason be given, why the one sort of beings are more unlikely to be found, than the other; since the same God, who hath suffered the earth to contain both good and evil men, was as likely, it may be thought, to fill the air with spirits, having the same freedom of will as ourselves, and the same capacity of pleasing or displeasing
Him. Wicked spirits are, then, as likely to be found as wicked men; and that there are such, the Scripture assures us. But we are told, that our Saviour condescended to the superstition of the times; that He expressed Himself in the common language of the day, and attributed to spiritual agents those effects, both without and within the mind, which are, in reality, produced by natural causes. In other words, that, by thus accommodating His expressions, He did all that in Him lay to perpetuate errors of the most gloomy kind; that He sanctioned, by His example, the practice of alarming men with false fears; and that He, and His apostles, have thought fit to treat the world as we too often treat unruly children, who are to be kept quiet with a tale of goblins.
We are to suppose, that, when the spirits answered Christ from the body of the possessed man, it was the man himself, whose disturbed imagination led him to answer in their name; and that when Christ gave power to the same spirits to enter into the herd of swine, He not only sanctioned the vain fancies of a madman, but even wrought a miracle to prove them true.'
But is it not easier, is it not really less offensive to God, to reject all the Bible at once, than thus, I repeat, to clip and pare it to the limits, which our pride, or love of argument, may St. Mark, v. 1-20.