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know that I have no part or lot in this matter: and “the very spirit that is within me testifies that I have not God abiding in me.”! But, my brethren, judge not yourselves too hardly. Do not suppose, that, because there are imperfections in your obedience, it is therefore not sincere; or that because the Spirit shines not upon you in full lustre, you shall never behold the light of day. Be content, at present, to want the consolations which God sees fit to withhold: and occupy yourselves with the pursuit of those things which, in God's good time, will serve to prove what at the present you cannot see. Endeavour, in humble dependence upon God, to keep the commands of faith and love. Look to the Saviour, and live by faith in him: look to his peculiar people, and abound in all acts and offices of love to them. Look to the spirit and temper of your own minds altogether: and in the constant exercise of prayer seek the transformation of your souls into the Divine image. Then, though you be not able to see that God is in you, a foundation will be laid for the future discovery of it: or, though it should still, for wise and gracious purposes, be hid from you, you will have the benefit at a future day, when God will surely shine upon you, and "reward every man according to his works.” This is the advice given by the prophet, who says, " Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord: his going forth are prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth"."]
n Hos. vi. 3.
GOD AN EFFECTUAL HELP.
1 John iv. 4. Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the
world. CONSIDERING the opposition made to Christianity in the apostolic age, it is surprising that it gained so speedy, so extensive, and so permanent a footing in the world. That its establishment was effected through miracles, there is no doubt : but miracles, unless attended with a divine power to the hearts of the beholders, could effect nothing. The very raising of Lazarus from the dead served only to embitter the minds of many against him who had effected it. That which gave energy to the word, and caused it to work effectually for the conversion of men, was the power of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, after that men had embraced the Gospel, every possible method that Satan could devise was used to turn them from it : but millions maintained their steadfastness, even to the end : for, as St. John informs us, “ greater was He that was in them than he that was in the world."
This truth being still as important as ever, I shall, I. Confirm the assertion as relating to former times
Great," it must be confessed, “ is he who is in the world”
[“ Many false prophets,” even whilst the Apostles were yet living, “ had gone out into the world :” and great were the efforts which they made to turn men from the faith of Christ. Our blessed Lord had foretold that such persons would arise, and that their efforts would be productive of incalculable injury to his Church and people. “Many prophets shall arise, and deceive many.” “For there shall be false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before a.” In accordance with this prediction, we find that “the faith of many was overthrown 0;"
whole houses were subverted ®;" and great multitudes were “turned back unto perdition." At a future period we expect still more extensive ravages of the flock, through these wolves in sheep's clothinge: for the Spirit speaketh expressly, " that in the latter times some will depart from the faith; giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron."
But it is Satan, in reality, that is the great agent in all these transactions: and the men who are more immediately engaged, are his instruments. In " these false apostles, these deceitful workers, who transform themselves into the Apostles of Christ, it is Satan himself transformed into an angel of light." It is “the prince of the power of the air, even the evil spirit himself, who worketh in all those children of disobedienceh."] But “greater far is He who is in the Church”.
[" The strong man armed keepeth his palace, and his goods, for a time, in peace. But there is a stronger than he,
a Matt. xxiv. 11, 24, 25. b 2 Tim. ji. 18. c l'it. i. 11. d Heb. x. 39.
e Matt. vii. 15. 11 Tim. iv. 1, 2. 8 2 Cor. xi. 13-15. h Eph. ii. 2.
who comes upon him, and overcomes him, and takes from him his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoilsi.” He rescued millions from the dominion of that wicked one, and preserved them from the assaults of their cruel adversary. And “ greater He still is,” than that wicked fiend, and all his adherents.
He is greater in wisdom: for though the “ devices" of Satan are inconceivably numerous, and “ his wiles” beyond all conception subtle, yet he discerns them all, and knows how to counteract and defeat them all. He is greater also in power: for though Satan is “an angel that excels in strength," and has millions of wicked spirits, like unto himself, acting in confederacy with him, and under his special controul, He who sitteth in the heavens laugheth him to scorn; and says to him, “ Hither shalt thou go, and no further.” Earnest as Satan's desire was to destroy Job, he could effect nothing, till permitted by the Deity; and then could he not move an hair's breadth beyond his appointed bounds. Not even the herd of swine could he destroy, till he was liberated from the restraint which our Lord's superior power had imposed upon him.)
That we may improve the assertion for our own use, I will, II. Confirm it as applicable to the present day
The same wicked spirit works mightily in the world at this time
[Various are the instruments he employs, and incessant are his exertions to destroy the souls of men.
He works by open infidelity. It is well known what efforts he has made throughout the whole of Europe, and with what prospects of success; insomuch that his agents boasted that they should soon crush our blessed Lord, and extinguish his religion. And in our own country, if the legal authorities had not interposed to uphold the laws, there is reason to fear that impiety and blasphemy would have filled every corner of our land.
He works, too, by secret discouragements. In every place, he assaults the souls of those who are desirous of being liberated from his dominion. He would persuade them that they are, on some ground or other, excepted from the general invitation to accept of mercy. They are not among the elect; or are too unworthy to obtain God's favour; or have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, so that their day of grace is passed. All such suggestions are for the purpose of effecting that in
i Luke xi. 21, 22.
individual characters, which, by infidel principles, he endeavours to accomplish on the community at large.
He works also by specious admixtures; mutilating and debasing the true Gospel, by confounding it with the law, and introducing into it terms subversive of its fundamental principles. It matters little to him, how he effects his purpose : if it be by a bold denial of all religion, or a desponding rejection of proffered mercy, or a perversion of the Gospel under a pretended zeal for good works, he equally attains his end: and therefore he varies his assaults according to the diversified characters of men, if by any means he may draw them from Christ, and finally effect their ruin.] But a mightier power is in us also—
[God is still with his Church and people ; and still worketh in them, "mighty to save."
He is greater to instruct, than Satan is to deceive. The deepest of Satan's devices he can unveil, to the very weakest of his people ; and can overrule them for the accomplishing of his own gracious purposes towards them. Satan hoped, by destroying the Messiah, to subvert his kingdom: but God made it the very means of establishing that kingdom. It was “ by death that our Lord overcame him that had the power of death;” and on the very cross he spoiled principalities and powers, " triumphing over them openly in it.
He is greater also to uphold, than Satan is to cast down.The efforts which Satan made to intimidate the Apostle Paul were such as appeared sufficient to daunt the strongest mind : but observe how God enabled his servant to triumph in every assault: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed: we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken ; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body."
He is greater too to save, than Satan is to destroy.—Satan would have “ sifted Peter as wheat :” but God would “not suffer his faith to failk.” In the Epistle to the Church of Smyrna, it is said, “Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried : and ye shall have tribulation ten days!." Mark how Satan is here restrained. If he could have had his own will, he would have cast, not “some," but all; not " into prison," but into hell; not for " ten days," but for ever. No “ tribulation" short of that would satisfy his malignant mind. But “whereinsoever he, or his emissaries, deal proudly, our God is above them :" and the
very means which he uses for our destruction will God make use of for the promoting and effecting of our salvation.) k Luke xxii. 31, 32.
1 Rev. ii, 10.
Two QUESTIONS, we may suppose, you will be ready
to ask: 1. How shall I know by which spirit I am moved?
[This question is easily answered from the preceding context. We are bidden to " try the spirits, whether they be of God.” And this shews the propriety of suggesting the question before us. We have also the answer given : “ Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of Godm.” Here, then, is a plain test, by which the matter may be tried. Whoever, or whatever, would keep you from a total surrender of your souls to Christ, is from the devil: and whatever would lead you to it, is from God. All the false prophets before spoken of are antichrists: for “ there are many antichristsn." and whatever be the particular line they adopt, their object is the same; namely, to keep you from glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ. But whatever means our God is pleased to use, his object is, that Christ should be glorified in us.
This is the matter contested between God and Satan; as St. Paul also explicitly declares: “ The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto
But God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christo.” This exactly accords with the testimony of St. John, and completely answers the question that has been proposed. Know then, that if infidelity would pervert you, or despondency discourage you, or self-righteousness deceive you, they have “the mark of the beast upon them, as clear and visible as the sun at noon-day. The object of them all is, to keep you from Christ. But, whatever leads you to Christ, to believe in him, and serve him, and glorify him, you need no other evidence of its being from God. Reject therefore, with abhorrence, every antichristian spirit: and receive with gratitude every motion which bears upon it the character and impress of your heavenly Father.] 2. How may I secure the final victory?
[This also it is easy to answer: “ Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” “ They were of God," and relied altogether upon him: and therefore they overcame. Do ye the same; and the victory shall be yours also. Never
m ver. 1--3.
n 1 John ii. 18.
o 2 Cor. iv. 4, 6.