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approve? What can be greater folly, what greater impiety, than to refuse our belief to the words of Him whom we confess to be the Life and the Truth; or, while we admit, in certain points, the reality of things surpassing our own experience, to reject, in others, what are not more difficult to conceive, and are told us on the same authority? As, then, there is nothing · contrary to reason in the existence of evil spirits; and as their existence is plainly set forth in Holy Scripture; it follows, that, however alarming such a belief may be, we have no ground for not believing the fact; and that there may be, nay that there are, and must be, such terrible enemies surrounding our path and our bed.

He is

For, in the next place, the same authority of Scripture teaches us, that these beings not only exist, but that they have various ways of working us mischief; and are unceasingly employed in troubling us. There are two lights, in which the devil is represented by God's word,—that of an accuser; and that of a tempter. called by St. John, in the Revelation, accuser of the brethren, which accused them before our GOD, day and night." The prophet Zechariah introduces him, as standing before the judgement seat of God, to "resist," or, as we might more properly say, "accuse” the high priest Joshua; and the history of Job, in like

1 Rev. xii. 10.

2 Zech. iii. 1.

"the

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manner, represents him, as coming before God to bring a charge of insincerity and unsteadiness against the yet unformed virtue of that holy patriarch.1 "Accuser," enemy," or, as we might call it, "plaintiff," is, according to the letter, the meaning of the Hebrew word "Satan;' and many places of Scripture, where this word is met with, may be rendered with equal, or greater, clearness and propriety, according to this less usual sense. The sentence in the Psalms, "Set thou an ungodly man to be ruler over him, and let Satan stand at his right hand 2," is understood by many to signify,-let him have a severe judge, and an accuser be preferred before him. And, doubtless, if this were all, which we had to apprehend from the devil's power and malice; — if we had only reason to fear him as an active accuser, unweariedly engaged in spying out our ways, and in carrying our backslidings to the throne of the Most High, there would be still very sufficient reason for watching over our own hearts, which are exposed to so vigilant and malicious an enquirer and accuser.

But this is not all: for, in order that the characters of men may be more thoroughly tried and purified, the devil is not only employed in recording and searching out those transgressions, to which our natural infirmities, both of body and mind, are but too apt, of themselves, to lead 1 Job, i. 6. ii. 1. 2 Psalm cix. 5. (Common Prayer Version.)

us; but he is also permitted by God, to try our patience, as in the case of Job, with bodily afflictions; to try our firmness and moderation, as in the case of David, with unbounded worldly prosperity; to entice us into sin, by offering tempting objects to our senses or fancy; and to terrify us into despair, by a too gloomy consideration of our fallen state; and by fixing our attention on the greatness of our own sins;

without noticing, at the same time, the unbounded mercy of God, and the offers of pardon and assistance, which we have received through Jesus Christ.

If it be demanded, why the devil is thus permitted to vex and ensnare the sons of God; it would be a sufficient answer to reply, that we know that this is the case; - that we know, from our daily experience, that there is a great deal of sin and moral blindness in the world, and that, [we have God's word for it,] this is, in a great measure, produced by an unseen enemy. Nor, to those, who allow that God governs the world, and that all things happen by His permission, does it alter the case at all, nor is there any greater difficulty in supposing, that the evil, which we see and meet with, is thus produced, than that it flows from ourselves, and from our own passions. To the sufferer, it is the same, from whatever cause it proceeds; and what is the cause, as it is best known to God, so

we have only to take it from what He has thought fit to reveal to us.

If, however, I be asked again; why any sin is allowed in the world; though I might answer, that God knows what is best for the world; and I might thus shut up all our useless curiosity, in a reliance on His mercy and wisdom; yet I will not scruple to say, that we have good reason for supposing, that, as the exercise of free will, and the habit of withstanding temptation, necessarily, include in themselves the power of falling; so these trials, in which some doubtless perish, are yet so proportioned to our strength, by a merciful Providence, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; that if we fall, we fall by our own fault and carelessness; and if we stand, we are repaid ten thousand-fold for such danger and temptation, by the improvement which our minds receive, from such experience of their own weakness, and of the strength which they may obtain from God; and by the exceeding weight of glory, by which our poor endeavours will be rewarded hereafter. The soldier loves the dangers of war, because, if he overcome them, they bring him renown and reward; and shall the Christian shrink from that warfare, which God has thought fit to assign him; and in which his victory will conduct him to a crown of life and glory without end? "When He hath tried me," saith Job, "I

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shall come forth as gold." "Blessed is the man,' observes St. James, "who endureth temptation." “Be thou faithful unto death" [it is said in another Scripture], "and I will give thee a crown of life."

But in order that we may be victorious, it is necessary that we first know the extent of our danger; since nothing else can make us sufficiently watchful. Self-government, self-denial, mortification of some of the strongest propensities of our hearts, are not very easy tasks; nor are they pleasurable. And so great is the dislike of our human nature to such necessary exertions, that, unless we know, and are fully persuaded, that there really is an enemy, ready to break into our house, we shall not watch in our own defence. This knowledge, then, so necessary to our safety, is given us in such texts as the present. If we knew, that, in our way home at night, we should be exposed to the attack of a wild beast, we should want no persuasion to keep ourselves cool and sober, ready and able to avoid and resist the danger, whenever it should come on "Behold our adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour:" and shall we be drunken, or sleepy, or careless, or fling away the weapons of God's grace, with which He has furnished

us.

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