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to vice than to cleave inviolably to virtue: this is a falshood; this is even a falshood of the grossest kind. In what case can a creature promise himself more happiness in rebelling against his Creator, than in submitting to his authority? In what case can we hope for more happiness in pleasing Satan than in pleasing God?
What I affirmed of all known truth, that its force is irresistible, I affirm, on the same principle, of all motives to virtue: the most hardened sinners cannot resist them, if they attend to them, nor is there any other way of becoming insensible to them, than that of turning the eyes away from them.Dissipation is the usual cause of our irregularities. The principal, I had almost said, the only secret of Satan, in his abominable plan of human destruction, is to dissipate and to stun mankind; the noise of company, the din of amusements, the bustle of business, it does not signify, if it be but a noise, it will always produce its effect; it will always divide the capacity of the mind, it will prevent him, in whose ears it sounds, from thinking and reflecting, from pursuing an argument, and from attending to the weight of conclusive evidence.
And really, where is the man so blind as to digest the falshoods, which motives to vice imply? Where is the wretch so resolute as to reason in this inanner?
"I love to be esteemed; I will therefore devote myself wholly to the acquisition of the esteem of those men, who, like me, will shortly be devoured with worms; whose ashes, like mine, will be shortly confounded with the dust of the earth: but I will not take the least pains to obtain the approbation of those noble intelligences, those sublime geniusses, those angels, and seraphims, who incessantly surround the throne of God; I will not
give myself a moment's concern about obtaining a share of those praises, which the great God will one day bestow, in rich abundance, before heaven and earth, on them who have been faithful to him.
I love honor; I will therefore apply myself wholly to make the world say of me; That man hath an excellent taste for dress; his table is delicately served; the noble blood of his family was never debased by ignoble alliances; nobody can offend him with impunity; he must always be approached with respect but I will never give myself any trouble to force them to say of me, That man fears God; he prefers his duty above all other things; he thinks there is more magnanimity in forgiving an affront than in revenging it; to be holy, in his opinion, is better than to be noble in the world's esteem, and so on.
I am very fond of pleasure; I will therefore give myself wholly to the gratification of my senses; to the leading of a voluptuous life; a feast shall be succeeded by an amusement, and an amusement shall conduct to debauchery; this round I intend perpetually to pursue: but I will never stir onestep to obtain that fulness of joy, which is at God's right hand, that river of pleasures, with which they, who put their trust under the shadow of his wings, are abundantly satisfied, Psal. xvi. 11. and xxxvi. 7, 8. >
I hate constraint and trouble; I will therefore divert my attention wholly from all penitential exercises; and particularly from imprisonment, banishment, racks, and stakes: but I will brave the chains of darkness, with their galling weight; the devils, with their fury; hell, with its flames; I am at a point, I consent to curse eternally the day of my birth; eternally to consider annihilation as an invaluable good: to seek death for ever with
out finding it for ever to blaspheme my Creator; eternally to hear the howlings of the damned; to howl eternally with them; like them, to be for ever and ever the object of that condemning sentence, Depart from me, ye cursed! into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, Matt. xxv. 41. I ask again, Where is the wretch hardened enough to digest these propositions? Yet these are the motives to vice. Is not the developing of these sufficient to discover, that they ought to yield to virtue, and to prove in our second sense that Greater is he, that is in us, than he, that is in the world?
But, how active soever the light of religion may be, prejudices often cover its brightness from us; how superior soever motives to virtue may be to motives to vice, our passions invigorate motives to vice, and enervate those to virtue. Were we even free from innate dispositions to sin, we should be hurried into it by an external enemy, who studies our inclinations, adapts himself to our taste, avails himself of our frailties, manages circumstances, and who, according to the expression of an apostle, walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, 1 Pet. v. 8. This enemy is Satan.
III. But the holy Spirit, who openeth our eyes, (and this is my third proposition,) the holy Spirit, who openeth our eyes to shew us the light of truth, and who toucheth our hearts to make us feel the force of virtuous motives, is infinitely more powerful than Satan.
I do not pretend to agitate here the indissoluble question concerning the power of the devil over subdunary beings, and particularly over man: what I should advance on this subject would not be very agreeable to my hearers. We are naturally inclined to attribute too much to the devil, and we
easily persuade ourselves, that we are in an enchanted world. It seems to us, that as many degrees of power as we add to those, which God hath given the tempter, so many apologies we acquire for our frailties, and that the more power the enemy hath, with whom we are at war, the more excusable we are for suffering ourselves to be conquered, and for yielding to superior force. Do we revolve any black design in our minds? It is the devil, who inspires us with it. Do we lay a train for executing any criminal intrigues? It is the devil, who invented it? Do we forget our prayers, our promises, our protestations? It is the devil, who effaced them from our memory. My brethren, do you know, who is the most terrible tempter? Our own cupidity. Do you know, what devil is the most formidable? It is self.
But, passing reflections of this kind, and taking, in its plain and obvious meaning, a truth, which the holy scriptures in a great many places attest, that is, that the devil continually endeavors to destroy mankind; I repeat my third proposition, The holy Spirit, who watcheth to save us, is infinitely more powerful than the devil, who seeks to destroy us.
The power of Satan is a borrowed power. This mischievous spirit cannot move without the permission of God; yea, he is only a minister of his will. This appears in the history of Job. Jealous of the prosperity, more still of the virtue of that holy man, he thought, he could corrupt his virtue by touching his prosperity. But he could not execute one of his designs, further than God, by loosening his rein, allowed him to execute it. The power of the Spirit of God is a power proper and essential to him, who exerciseth it.
Because the power of the devil is a borrowed
power, it is a limited power, and although we are incapable of determining its bounds, yet, we may reasonably believe they are narrow. Jehovah will not give his glory to any other, Isa. xlii. 8. least of all will he give it to such an unworthy being as the devil.
The power of the Spirit of God is a boundless power. He acts on exterior beings to make them concur in our salvation. He acts on our blood and humors, to stir them to motion, or to reduce them to a calm. He acts on our spirits, I mean, on those subtile particles, which, with inconceivable rapidity, convey themselves into the divers organs of our bodies, and have an extensive influence over our faculties. He acts on our memories, to impress them with some objects, and to efface others. He acts immediately on the substance of our souls; he produceth ideas; he exciteth sensations; he suspendeth the natural effects of their union to the body. He sometimes, by this suspension, renders a martyr insensible to the action of the flames, that consume him; and teacheth him to say, even amidst the most cruel torments, I glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience experience, or proof, (this is a metaphor taken from gold, which is proved by the fire, that purifieth it,) and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in my heart, by the holy Ghost, which is given unto me, Rom. v. 3-5.
As the power of Satan is limited in its degrees, so it is also in its duration. Recollect a vision of St. John. I saw, said he, an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and