« VorigeDoorgaan »
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. Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstand. ing in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Luke x. 17–20. This certainly im. plies a great blow inflicted on the visible kingdom of Satan among men; but that its extent was limited by the area to which the Gospel spread, seems also clear from the case of the seven sons of Sceva, (Acts xix. 13-16,) who took upon themselves like some others, to exercise in the name of the Lord in whom they did not themselves believe. “We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” To which the unclean spirit replied, " Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye ?” and instead of obeying the unauthorized com. mand to come out of the
gave him strength to leap upon and overcome all the seven pretenders, so that they fled from the house, naked and wounded. But though we cannot define either the precise nature or extent of the curb laid down upon the enemy by the first advent of our Lord, it is certain that a great change took place shortly after in the manifestation of Satanic influences, which assumed more of a spiritual and less of a physical character, so that cases of obvi. ous possession and witchcraft became less frequent, gradually disappearing before the advancing light of the Gospel. In our day they have apparently ceased,
and with them, in a great measure, the belief in their having ever existed, while doubts that give the direct lie to the inspired Scriptures are started, listened to and canvassed with a grievous insensibility of the gross insult thus put upon the divine Author of that Book. Satan knows better than we do the extent of our power over him: the weakest believer is more than a match for him and all his angels, and would be able to prove it if brought to the test in the sight of men: therefore Satan lurks in ambush, forbearing to show himself openly as of old, lest he should draw forth the dormant energy of the Christian, inducing him to unsheath the sword that has slumbered in the scabbard until its mas. ter forgets that he holds such a weapon. The enemy indeed seems to be preparing for his last campaign against the church, by inducing such an oblivion of his history and features, that when he advances again she will not recognise him as the old serpent; while among the ungodly he prevails to have his existence so utterly disbelieved, and his name converted into a jest, that he may work in them to any extent. They will obey his worst impulses as the dictates of their own wisdom, and exhibit as honourable trophies of liberty and independence, the heaviest fetters that he can rivet on their enslaved minds.
We may then safely assert that a limit exists, be. yond which the power of Satan and his crew cannot pass; and that it is known to us where that limit lies. Our blessed Lord disclosed it, when he said to Peter, “ Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sist you as wheat: but I have prayed for this, that thy faith fail not.” Luke xxii. 31, 32. It is our faith that effectually baffles his strongest efforts, as St. Paul declares, “ Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Eph. vi. 16. And in a case of possession, where Jesus cast out a devil which his disciples had vainly tried to expel, when the latter asked the Lord, “Why could we not cast him out ?"! he answered, “Because of your unbelief.” Matt. xvii. 19, 20. It is evident that man, being himself the law. ful captive of Satan, and naturally inclined to follow his suggestions and to do his bidding, has nothing in himself calculated to oppose any effectual resistance to his power; and it is only as Christ, the conqueror of Satan dwells in him by faith, influencing his desires, and strengthening him with strength in his soul, that many may venture to face so terrible a foe. All other means of defence are utterly vain : Satan knows no fetter in his actings among men, but that which Christ has thrown upon him; and there is nothing so sure to drive the sinner to seek refuge in his Saviour, or to keep the believer close to him, as the clear comprehension of this momentous truth, that Satan, “going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it," meets no restraint but where he meets Christ enthroned in the heart of a ransomed sinner.
These hinderers of Satan's work of destruction, which he, "a murderer from the beginning,” (John viii. 44,) is ever seeking to carry on and extend, are the people of God: they occupy through the reconciled blood of the cross, that position in the divine favour which man was originally created to enjoy, but which Satan persuaded him to forfeit. They are a little flock, gathered out from the immense community of the adversary's willing bondslaves, and from a king. dom as yet scarcely visible, scattered up and down, and divided, by his craft, into many portions. Of course, the usurper's object is two-fold: first, to strengthen his authority within his own domain, so as to place every obstacle in the way of the enlargement of the Redeemer's kingdom, by the accession of souls delivered from his thraldom, and next to weaken the little band of his successful opponents; to lure them back, if it may be, into his chains; if not, to harass, to persecute, to destroy them from off the face of the earth. To accomplish these ends, to break down the prescribed limits of his range, he wields every means within his reach; his personal power and subtlety, the legions of fallen angels who acknowledge him as their chief, and the people of this world, “the children of disobedience,” in whom he works, and in whom his works shows itself in an envious hatred of all that is good. If to dishonour God be, as we know it is, the end of Satan's designs; and if to make man the instrument of so dishonouring his Creator, be, as we know it is, his delight; how great must be his triumph, when he can involve the redeemed people of the Lord in such guilt, and turn, as it were, his prison bars into weapons of offence against his righteous captor. True, it may not again enclose the souls of the ransomed in his dead. ly grasp; but knowing the words of the Lord Jesus to his disciples, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye
bear much fruit." John xv. 8. He strives to nip the tender blossoms, and to soil, if he cannot shake off, the half-ripened clusters of the true living branches. He contrives to mingle other motives with those which the Holy Spirit dictates; and if he cannot cause them to predominate, so that they who have begun in the spirit, and run well for awhile, are gradually drawn aside to follow the flesh, still he often weakens their hands by presenting to them, in a strong and alarming light, their defiled and imperfect service, and persuading them that God has forsaken them. This he did of old through his servants the false prophets, as the Lord speaks, “ With lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad.” Ezek. xiji. 22. As he quoted Scripture to tempt the Lord Jesus, so he will do to harass his disciples. Has not the servant of God often found himself assailed in the act of teaching, exhorting, admonishing, whether with the lip or the pen, by some such passage as that, “ What hast. thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth ?" Psalm l. 16, coupled with the recollection of past sins, which are washed away by the blood of the Lamb, or the sense of present infirmity, which he knows he may carry to the throne of grace, where grace is promised, and help for every time of need, by him who hath made reconciliation for the sins of the people; and “ for in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Heb. ii. 18.
And he will, he does succour them. He has said, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you:” and has