« PreviousContinue »
worst man on earth will neither curse nor swear, neither cheat nor lie, neither steal nor kill, without some particular motive or temptation to commit either of these gross immoralities. Satan knows, therefore, that he has no ground to expect any man will commit any particular sin which he desires he should commit, unless he suggests a particular motive or temptation to that particular sin. He tempted David to number Israel, because he supposed he would not number them unless he led him into that sin by a suitable temptation. He acted in that case, upon the same ground that wicked men act, when they tempt one another to sin. Though they know each other to be extremely corrupt, yet they think it is necessary to tempt, persuade, and seduce one another to particular acts of wickedness. There is, therefore, just as much occasion for Satan's tempting men to sin, as for their tempting one another. It is true, there may be much moral evil committed without his agency, since there are so many other objects and agents which may present temptation. But since he actually desires to destroy mankind, we may well suppose that he employs all his malice and subtilty to involve them in sin and ruin.
Still some may say the devil is not omnipresent, he cannot be every where at once, nor tempt more than one person at one time; and therefore it must be very seldom that he tempts the same person, and never, perhaps, the largest part of mankind. There would be some plausibility in this objection, were there but one evil spirit to tempt the children of disobedience. But it appears from what has been said, that Satan is at the head of myriads of impure spirits, who are united with him, and act under him, in tempting and deceiving the world; and he may employ as many millions in his service, as there are millions of men in this state of probation. If every heir of salvation has a good angel to attend him, as the scripture seems to intimate, why should it be thought absurd to suppose that there is an evil angel, who occasionally if not constantly attends every impenitent sinner on the face of the earth? There is a perfect consistency in all the scripture says, concerning the apostacy of the devil and his angels, their malignant nature, and destructive influence upon the minds of men; and whoever will fairly and candidly consider the subject, will find every shadow of objection entirely vanish. Those who indulge doubts and difficulties upon this point, "give place to the devil," who wishes to keep them in ignorance and unbelief of his devices, that he may lead them captive at his will.
2. It appears from what has been said in this discourse, that the denial of the existence and operations of the devil directly tends to total infidelity. There are many truths contained in
the Bible, which men may disbelieve, without entertaining the least doubt of the plenary inspiration of that sacred volume. But to deny the truth of what is so plainly and abundantly revealed, concerning the existence and agency of Satan, strikes at the root of divine revelation. The history of the devil is so interwoven with the facts which the scripture records, and with the doctrines which it teaches, that whoever denies the existence and agency of that great adversary, who is said to involve the world in sin and misery, must naturally and necessarily consider the gospel, or the whole scheme of redemption, as a cunningly devised fable. Accordingly we find that Deists, who are professed infidels, openly reject and ridicule the notion of the existence and temptations of Satan. And those who are leaning towards infidelity, such as Universalists and Socinians, call in question not only what the Bible teaches concerning the devil's tempting the hearts and possessing the minds of men, but also what it declares concerning the existence of evil spirits in general. Reason, observation, and experience unitedly testify, that those who deny the scriptural account of the devil, are taking large strides towards complete infidelity. It is, therefore, very alarming that such an anti-scriptural sentiment is so openly avowed and propagated, at the present day of error and delusion. There is just ground to fear that many unsanctified and unthinking persons will be entirely ruined, before they even suspect that they are in the path of the destroyer.
3. If the Bible gives a true description of the devil, then he undoubtedly does all in his power to make men infidels. He knows the gospel has a direct tendency to defeat all his malignant designs; and, unless he can prevent men from believing it, that he must inevitably fall before its powerful influence. Our Saviour says he felt this effect when the seventy apostles were sent forth to preach the gospel in his name. "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." The devil has, from the beginning of the world to this day, endeavored to prevent mankind from believing the word of God. By this artifice he ruined our first parents. By this artifice he destroyed Ahab. By this artifice he attempted to deceive Christ himself, and defeat the design of his mediatorial work. As he is an acute and subtile reasoner, so he is capable of suggesting the most sophistical arguments against divine revelation. enmity to the gospel naturally prompts him to employ this method to subvert it, whenever he sees any prospect of suc
How often does he suggest doubts to the minds of both saints and sinners, respecting the inspiration of the scriptures!
How often does he help the promoters of infidelity to the most plausible and delusive arguments to pervert the doctrines and subvert the first principles of Christianity! His agency is often very visible in the writings and reasonings of infidels. At the present day, the enemies of the gospel appear to be under a more than common influence of the great deceiver. It seems to be his main object to spread infidelity through all the christian world, and his success is extremely great and alarming.
4. If the devil has such power and inclination to tempt and deceive mankind as the scripture represents, then we may learn why they so often go beyond their intentions and expectations in sinning. When they commit a sin once, they have no thought of committing it again; or when they indulge themselves in one sinful practice, they have no thought of going into another. They intend and expect to set bounds to their sinning. This is always the case with young sinners, and not uncommonly the case with declining and backsliding professors. But Satan knows the natural connection between the beginning and the continuance in sin, and between one course of sinning and another. When he has tempted them to begin iniquity, he knows he has them on his own ground and in his own power, and neglects no opportunity of leading them, step by step, into that path which he imagines will most infallibly prove their ruin. Though they may be at certain times alarmed at the progress they have made in sins of omission and commission, yet he can easily allay their fears, and push them on in their usual course of negligence and disobedience. How many has he led from lying to cheating, from cheating to stealing, and from stealing to murder! How many has he led from Arminianism to Arianism, from Arianism to Socinianism, from Socinianism to Deism, and from Deism to Atheism and total skepticism! And how many has he led in a more insensible way to ruin, by first tempting them to neglect prayer, next reading the Bible, next hearing the gospel preached, and finally the whole concern of their souls! It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to account for the high handed crimes, the absurd errors, and the general security and stupidity of mankind under the gospel, without the instrumentality of the devil, who always lies in wait to destroy them. But it is easy to see how they are carried beyond their intentions, resolutions and expectations in their sinful ways, through his subtile and powerful temptations. His seductive agency will account for the sins of Adam, Noah and Lot, Moses, David and Solomon, Ahithophel, Jeroboam and Judas, the idolatry of the heathen, and the degeneracy, delusion and infidelity of millions in the christian world.
Finally, this subject admonishes all persons of every age and character, to guard against the fatal influence of their common adversary the devil. His invisibility, subtilty and malignity, render him a most dangerous enemy. He has slain his thousands and ten thousands, and still walks about seeking whom he may devour. None, while they remain in this imperfect state, are beyond the reach of his fiery darts and evil suggestions. Though saints have been turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son, yet they are still exposed to the assaults of the devil, who wishes to molest, disturb and injure those whom he knows he cannot finally destroy. It highly concerns them to use every proper method to resist the devil, that he may flee from them.
In the first place, let them live in the habitual exercise of sobriety. "Be sober," is the divine direction to christians. While they maintain sobriety, the adversary knows they are guarded within against any temptation he can suggest. But when he sees them in a light and airy humor, he knows they lie open to his malignant influence, and will by no means fail to improve such a favorable opportunity of trying the strength of their graces, by holding up a temptation exactly suited to the present state of their minds. Whether the levity of christians arises from their natural disposition, or from the company they are called to keep, or from a particular and occasional relaxation of their minds, it always exposes them to the assaults of Satan, who knows when and where and to whom to present temptations. He is so well acquainted with mankind in general, and with particular persons, that he can pretty certainly determine when they are in a state of gravity or levity, and, of consequence, when he can attack them to the best advantage. This ought to excite the children of God to maintain a constant and habitual sobriety or self possession, that they may escape or repel the fiery darts of the wicked one.
In the next place it behooves them to live in the exercise of vigilance as well as sobriety. Hence says the apostle, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." A watchful enemy needs to be watched. Christians should realize at all times and in all places, that they are continually attended by a subtile and invisible foe, who is incessantly bent upon drawing them into his snares. Here they are extremely apt to fail, and to give Satan an advantage for doing them a great deal of mischief. It is for want of caution and vigilance against his influence, that they often suffer so much from him, without knowing whence the evil comes. They ascribe to other
causes, what is the effect of his malignant suggestions. How many doubts, and fears, and anxieties, and follies, and sins, might they escape, by watching over their own hearts, and properly avoiding every thing which they have found Satan has employed to lead them astray!
But though sobriety and vigilance will have a great tendency to preserve them from the temptations of the devil, yet they need something else to defend themselves against his violent assaults. And the best weapon they can possess and employ is the word of God. By this weapon, our Saviour gained the victory in the hour of temptation. Satan quoted scripture to seduce him from his duty; and Christ quoted scripture, which at once condemned and defeated his design. Let christians follow this example of the great Captain of their salvation, and foil Satan with his own weapon. Let them diligently read and carefully treasure up the doctrines, the precepts and the promises of the gospel, that they may always be prepared to discover the devices of the devil, and resist all his efforts to lead them into the belief of error, or the practice of sin.
Though these are some of the best means they can use to overcome the tempter, yet, if they would insure success, they must sincerely implore the aid and influence of Him who is stronger than the strong man armed. It ought to be daily their heart's desire and prayer to God, that he would "lead them not into temptation, but deliver them from evil." He is able to prevent their being tempted above what they are able to bear, and with every temptation to make a way for their escape. In a word, let them seriously ponder and cordially obey the solemn exhortation of the apostle upon this subject: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand, therefore, 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 of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance."
But the case of sinners is more alarming, and calls for a