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rality, the real practical goodness, after all, is with those who make no pretensions to this sort of experience." One or two such arguments in the hands of this arch deceiver are enough to satisfy multitudes in every community that spiritual religion is all a pretence; that men are just as good, and just as safe, without being born again, as with it. They lie down and sleep on the easy pillow of this delusion; it is so easy, and so many new opiates are administered, that they sleep quietly, brutishly, almost, up to the hour of their sleeping in death, and their waking in eternity, as deluded, unregenerate men, there to lie down under the dreadful wrath of God.
Such are some of the methods of the devil. The object in all seems to be, to stand between redeeming truth and a world of lost minds; and by blinding the latter, and obscuring the former, prevent, as far as possible, all salutary results. The subject we have been discussing suggests various topics of remark, on some of which we will dwell for a few moments. Though a dark subject, it sheds light on some points which otherwise seem nearly inexplicable.
1. In the first place, it furnishes an explanation of the fact, that men, capable of reasoning, often reason so strangely, and come to such unaccountable conclusions in matters of christian faith and practice. The fact of such reasoning is frequent and notorious. We do observe that clear-headed men, whose minds on all other subjects move straight and sure as a demonstration in geometry, when they come upon some great truth of God, involving unbounded interests, even their own interminable destiny, exhibit altogether another order and style of intellectual movement. They are not able to see the strongest points that ever stood forth in effulgent light for the mind's apprehension. They cannot walk without staggering and stumbling in the high, broad, illumined path which the Holy Ghost has marked out for our certain arrival at truth. How comes it to pass? Clear-headed, strait-minded every where else but within the precincts of religion: how is it that they move so here? I confess I am utterly confounded on this point, till I read in the Bible that the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not. This is the explanation which God gives of this matter, and as we can get no other in any quarter, may we not be permitted to rest in this? This does account for the anomally. It is owing to a blindness preternaturally induced upon the mind, keeping out the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ.
Take, for instance, the doctrine of a retribution to come, already referred to. God declares that there is a hell, and that it is the place where fallen angels and incorrigible men are to be for ever punished. In the clear and strong assertion of this truth, God has put human language to its utmost limit and energy of expression. If there has been any failure to express it, it is a failure in the
power of language, not in the purpose of the speaker, Language as employed in the Bible, we repeat, has again and again done its utmost on this subject. In addition, wicked beings, the devil and his angels have been permitted to come up, as it were, sweltering from those fires in demonstration of the fact, that there is a place of torment, and that God is punishing and will for ever punish there his rebellious subjects. After all, multitudes will have it that there is no such place, no such thing. In accounting now for this very prevalent unbelief, on a point on which testimony is so perfect, and evidence is so made to flame and to blaze, we are forced to admit the fact of a positive and thick blindness upon the minds of these
It is not only a blindness, there seems in connection a contracting and depressing of the mind. There are men, we find, who can take large views on other subjects-can discourse admirably on human law and government: "There must be authority here, penalty here; both inflexibly maintained: no government, no order, no security without it." Very well: but these same persons of great and comprehensive minds, civilians, magistrates, who have just been reasoning so admirably on human law and government, the moment they touch on matters connected with the divine government, the whole scene is changed-the entire style of argument changed" Authority is nothing-penalty, no need of it:" a wavering, womanish weakness is made to pervade the whole divine administration: an administration conducted throughout on the most imbecile principles; principles so imbecile, that it would be impossible in the strength of them to govern successfully and progressively a community of half a dozen children. And yet these comprehensive minds seem to suppose that the great Monarch of the universe can, on these same principles, govern the literal immensity of his dominions. What does it mean? What means this childish, this puling logic, in connection with such minds? Only one thing solves the mystery: the blinding, narrowing, depressing influence of the god of this world. And so he maintains his bad pre-eminence of god of this world, and destroyer of this world.
2. My second remark is to suggest a reason why the devil disseminates so widely disbelief in his own existence and agency. It is remarkable to what an extent, even amongst those who receive the Bible, there is this disbelief. God's revelation is as clear on this subject as on any other. The doctrine of satanic existence and agency is asserted in every variety of name and form. It is a tissue running most intimately clean through the Bible. According to the divine teaching, it is a terrible power and agency, and yet multitudes who profess to believe the Bible, believe nothing about it. Others, who pretend to believe it, do not more than half believe it. With the majority, the whole tremendous subject, on which God in his word is so serious, is matter of jest and sport; something to be witty upon and laugh about. How can we account for these
things? In this way:-it is one of the devices of the adversary; what he himself brings about; what he knows to be necessary to his most successful operations. He operates, we have seen, very much by stratagem. We read of the "wiles of the devil"-of "the depths," that is, the hidden plans of Satan. We read repeatedly of "the snares of the devil." As a great fowler, spreading his net for the entrapping of souls, he knows, and so may we, that his success depends upon his keeping out of sight. The Bible says truly, "In vain is the net set in sight of any bird." The fowler conceals his person on the same principle, the devil conceals his. While men are not aware of his presence, while they are stoutly denying his existence, he is seizing upon them. While they are jeering at his name, and making themselves merry at his doings, he grapples them, and ere they are aware, brings them to that world where the laughers now, will weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth for ever.
3. It is obvious from our subject and the whole teaching of the Bible, that the christian has a great labor and duty to perform in order to stand. It is to the highest degree important that he do stand, both for his own sake and for the sake of Christ's cause and truth. But how shall he stand with such powers against him? He wrestles not with flesh and blood, (not with merely human enemies,) but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. They are evil angels; spiritual foes; the legions of darkness that are against him. They are malignantly determined in their onset. They mean, if possible, to overthrow him: they work by wile and craft: they mean to do it, ere he is aware of danger. What can the christian do? The apostle instructs him what to do. Let him take unto himself the whole armor of God, that he may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, disciple of the Lord, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel. Above all, taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the adversary, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. This last, Christ wielded to the utter discomfiture of the tempter. In each instance, the appeal, "it is written" silenced and confounded him, and in the end drove him away.
Let it be remembered, that this whole armor is to be worn, and employed with prayer, the mightiest consideration of all. Whoever does this, praying as he contends, with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto, will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Especially if he keep fast to Christ; upon Christ as his foundation; under Christ as his protector, he is perfectly safe from all this hostile array. Were it tenfold greater, he need not be disturbed. It would still be true, that more are they that be for him, than they that be against him. We are sometimes
astonished at the ease with which, according to the Bible, the christian may turn back this terrible foe of his salvation. It is only, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." The efficacy is all in Christ: the power is there before which the foe quails and recedes. One with that Saviour, faithful in the adherence, you shall abide in safety; you shall prevail over the arrogant and plotting enemy. Standing in Christ, you may strike a blow with your frail arm of dust, which shall stun and prostrate the arch-fiend. But never forget, a single moment, that your entire safety and final triumph depend upon your abiding in Christ.
4. In view of the number and strength of the christian's foes, it is no great marvel that he is sometimes overtaken and overthrown. The adversary has only to take him when off his guard; when he has laid aside his armor, or when separate from his Lord, and he makes him comparatively an easy prey. This leads us to remark, in the fifth place,
5. That the fact that some who are not christians stand, while some by their side, who are known as christians, fall, is no ground of special self-complacency on the part of the former. There are some in almost every religious community who are not religious men, who are exceedingly amiable in their spirit, and correct in their way of life. They appear even better outwardly, more sober and consistent than some professors of religion, and who it is hoped are christians, though with many infirmities. These persons mean by their correct demeanor, nothing further than to live as upright men and good citizens. But the adversary, we may safely presume, has another design to accomplish by them: the same design, indeed, that he has in the fall of the professed christian, namely, to help on his great business of blinding; to give augmented strength and vividness to the impression that men can live correctly enough without religion; that they do, on the whole, live as well without as with it. The case standing thus, we ask, what possible inducement can the adversary have to assault this fair man of the world? What is to be gained? Possession? He has that already. The fall of the individual? In that there would be loss rather than gain. He knows better than to make an assault there. He makes it rather where he has lost possession, and where much is to be gained to his cause by an overthrow. Hence it is that the one is borne down upon by the prince of the power of the air with the view to crush him; the other is even upheld externally by the same power. The one is shot into with deadly and fiery weapons; the other is unmolested by any such missiles. The adversary is interested in the overthrow of the one, that he may bring a soul into jeopardy and Christ's truth into disrepute: he is interested in the upright standing of the other, that he may make it appear that men can live even better without religion than with it. Certainly, in this view, the worldly man has nothing to boast of. He stands externally, because the devil is willing he should, even desirous that he should.
There never was a greater mistake than in supposing that the adversary is interested in having his servants act with outward and abominable viciousness. There is no such thing: his devices are not so gross as that would imply. He cares not how correct and even grave the manners of unregenerate men;-the graver the better, if the heart only remains unsubdued, still linked to his interest and kingdom. He cares not, we believe, how morally, how soberly and even religiously men go in the path to death, if they will only consent to go in that path. He will be satisfied with any order of belief or disbelief, any style of conduct, any subordinate arrangement which will allow to him his usurped supremacy of god of this world.
6. Allow me, before closing, to dwell a moment on the dark picture before us, for the purpose of christian incitement. It is indeed a dark picture, and has been for successive centuries. Contemplate it. A world of minds, each of uncounted value, under the merciless and deadly despotism of the adversary of God and man; a world, too, that has been marked with the feet and wet with the tears and the blood of the Son of God. It is Christ's by creation and preservation; Christ's, too, by the purchase of his own mysterious agony; and still the adversary holds under his foul sway far the greater portion of it. We know, indeed, it is by sufferance on the part of Christ, and that good will be brought out of this evil. We know also the ascendancy is kept by craft and deception on the part of the adversary. He manages to corrupt and obscure Christ's truth--to defeat, in a measure, its operation; even to blot it out and bury it up. He gives currency and efficacy to all kinds of monstrous superstition and falsehood; spreads, like huge and black palls, his blinding and damning systems over nations and continents. Let the christian look at these facts; almost an entire world lying in the wicked one; the devil with his thousands where Christ has his tens; and the vile way this vile ascendancy is maintained; and it seems to me, the view cannot fail to move his spirit, and give new intensity to his prayer, that God would come down and relieve an oppressed world, and give the kingdom to Him whose right it is to reign, and in whose sceptre there is life and peace. The deep wrong, the utter outrage of the case as it now stands, is enough to awaken to indignation all holy feelings, and nerve to extremest exertion all sanctified energies, that truth may be more rapidly diffused, and more quickly do its work, and the darkness recede, and sin be done away, and the miserable captives of Satan become the freemen of the Lord. Can the christian be satisfied, can he remain supine, when he beholds an overwhelming proportion of the race for whom the Redeemer died against the Redeemer-on the side of, and doing service to the destroyer? No: not if there abide within him a single particle of the vivid, working aggressive spirit of a christian.
But it is not all gloom. There is hope to incite. We know the