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THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
NHE Scripture hath given us a most alarm
and malice of our spiritual enemies; and this account is fully verified by the experience of all those who fight under the banners of the cross. While therefore they are resolved to maintain the awful struggle with persevering energy, and for this purpose to“ put on the whole armour “ of God” which is provided for them, they feel the necessity of imploring Divine aid, without which they cannot invest themselves with that armour, nor use it to any purpose when they are invested with it. They know that, while they call all their powers into action, they must “ pray always with all prayer and suppli“ cation in the Spirit, and watch thereunto with « all perseverance.”
For the use of those persons who are engaged in the spiritual contest, the collect of our church used on the eighteenth Sunday after Trinity is designed. And all of them will at once perceive the propriety of such a prayer, and cordially join in it. But there are others, mixed with our congregations, who, although by bapsm they have been enlisted to “ fight manfully under Christ's banner against sin, the world “ and the devil, and to continue Christ's faith“ ful soldiers and servants to their lives end," yet are conscious of no warfare in which they åre engaged. And the truth is, that they are engaged in none; for in spite of their baptismal profession, they are in league with “ sin, the is world, and the devil.” Now these persons cannot discern the propriety of such a prayer as that which our church has prescribed for their use; and though it may have passed over their lips as a matter of course, their hearts have never fervently joined in it. Earnestness of mind or the want of it, in the recital of our present collect, will serve for a criterion of character, and shew us whether we are hypocritical or sincere in our baptismal covenant.
Our present collect consists of two petitions. In the former we implore grace that we may be enabled to “ withstand the temptations of the “ world, the flesh, and the devil.” And in the
, latter we seek Divine aid that we may “ follow “ the only true God through Jesus Christ our " Lord.”
The world, the flesh, and the devil, constitute the threefold enemy of man, which we have solemnly engaged to renounce, and which we must resist and overcome, or perish eternally through their means. Under each of these general heads an innumerable host of opponents to our salvation is included. But though they may in some respects be distinguished from each other, they are all united by a common link, and aim at one and the same object, namely, our destruction. In the class of worldly temptations are comprehended “ the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of “ life;" that is, the objects of these lusts. The desires both of the flesh and of the mind, an incalculable swarm, are derivatives from human corruption here denominated “ the flesh.” “The “ temptations of the devil" are equally in number beyond the powers of arithmetic, so vast is their diversity and multitude. Surely the Chris-tian warrior may adopt, with a little variation, the complaint which he finds in the 69th Psalm:
They that hate me are more than the hairs “ of my head; they that would destroy me, “ being my enemies, are mighty.”
In the primary temptation by which our ruin was effected, the world supplied the bait, and corporeal appetite the subject; while the devil was the tempter, who exhibited the one, and excited the other to undue concupiscence. In the generality of subsequent temptations the same process takes place. Some, however, seem to be purely Satanic. For the Tempter has obtained, since the fall, such easy access to our spirits, that in many cases no outward bait is necessary to his success.
An attempt to analyse these three classes of temptations would lead us beyond the bounds of the plan proposed in these essays. To enumerate the schemes and artifices of the devil, the corrupt propensities of the flesh, or the allure. ments which the world affords, is impossible, since they are almost infinitely varied. And even a list of those temptations which are most common would take up too much of the room allotted to our present subject. It will be more to edification, if we consider the necessity of withstanding temptation in every shape in which it may assault us, the impossibility of doing
, it by our own wisdom or strength, and the consequent propriety of the collect which we are now reviewing.
The war in which the Christian believer is engaged is a war of extermination. He must conquer or perish. The command which Israel received in the Canaanitish war, to destroy without exception that accursed race, may be considered as addressed to the Christian warrior respecting sin. His eye must not pity nor his hand spare. He must fight under this conviction, that he must ultimately exterminate corruption, or corruption will destroy both soul and body. Without this he is not a true soldier of Christ. With a view to final victory every temptation must be withstood; for every one that succeeds weakens the power of resistance, increases the influence of corruption, and thereby throws great additional weight into the adversary's scale. Until we are earnestly desirous of withstanding every assault, and firmly resolved not to yield an inch of ground to the invading foe, whatever sacrifices or labour the opposition may cost us, we have no reason to hope that the issue of the contest will be prosperous: nay, we have no solid evidence that we are cordially engaged in it.
If we are indeed enlisted under the banner of Christ, are acquainted with the nature of the Christian warfare, and have had any experience of it, we have learned the impossibility of ensuring success, yea of gaining the smallest advantage, by our own unassisted efforts. Indeed the first perception of danger, and the first desire of escape from ruin by an effectnal opposition to sin, come from God; and every awakened person knows that they proceed from Him. And throughout every stage of the warfare it is
His grace that keeps alive the animosity to evil, and that gives strength for effectual resistance. The humble and grateful language of the Psalmist is adopted by every Christian champion: “ Blessed be the Lord my strength, who “ teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to “ fight."
The total impotence of man to withstand temptation will be evident, if it be considered that “the world” which he is to oppose consists of objects exactly suited to his corrupt propensities, and that he is daily and necessarily conversant with these objects, and even dependent on them for his present existence. Moreover, “ the flesh" which he is to combat, is himself, and every act of opposition to it is the amputation of a limb, the excision of a right eye. “ The devil" is a spirit possessed of that knowledge, subtlety, and might, to which human ability affords no counterpoise. Man even in
. his pristine state of perfection fell a prey to his devices. And how can fallen man, weakened both in his intellectual and moral faculties, in whose bosom Satan has a powerful, watchful, and ever obedient ally-how can fallen man oppose such an enemy? To these considerations on the awful and alarming power of Satan, another may be added. For the interval which has elapsed since the fall, during which he has been constantly employed in the infernal work of temptation, has furnished him with expeience, by which his original subtlety must have en greatly improved. The address of Saul to e' stripling David may be adapted to every. Iristian soldier with relation to his enemy the 1: “ Thou art not able to go against this listine to fight with him; for thou art but