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ground : he is compared to a strong man, and to a strong man armed. Devils are fallen angels, strong in their natural powers; vastly superior to men ; and they have been long practised in the arts of destruction; they are like enemies flushed with victory, having succeeded in millions of instances, and were therefore not afraid to attack the innocent Jesus himself. Satan is armed; armed with astonishing cunning; he is “ the old serpent,” that deceived the whole world ; armed with inveterate malice against God and against man : as a hungry and ravenous lion, he goeth about seeking whom he may devour.
We read in 2 Cor. x. 4, of Satan's strong holdsfortified places. Ignorance, prejudice, beloved lusts, evil habits, the way of the world, &c. are Satan's strong holds in the hearts of some. Vain imaginations, carnal reasonings, and proud conceits of selfrighteousness, exalt themselves in others against the knowledge of God; and by these means the devil keeps men from faith in Christ, and retains the possession of their hearts as his own property.
(5.) While the strong man, thus armed, keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace. There is indeed “no (true) peace to the wicked.” God hath not spoken peace; but sinners speak peace to themselves; and Satan, by wicked and carnal ministers, who are some of his best agents, speaks peace also. Carnal persons have generally a good opinion of themselves and of their state; they think they have good hearts; are not so bad as others, and have no occasion to be uneasy. Just like St. Paul before his conversion-I was alive, saith he, without the law once. He thought if any man would go to heaven he should. He trusted in his birth and education; his good church, and his good life. Satan, the strong man armed, had then full possession of his heart, and therefore all was quiet ; “but when the commandment came ;" when the holy, fiery, spiritual, law, Christ's pioneer, came and showed him
he was a sinner, a great sinner, the chief of sinners; then farewell this old peace, this false peace, this fatal peace; then he saw what he was, and where he was ; and was glad to get peace from another quarter, even from the blood of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
If a person is never uneasy about his sins, it is no good sign. It may be feared that Satan keeps his heart; for wherever the Gospel comes, though it be the Gospel of peace, it creates disturbance. It often occasions great agitation in a parish, in a family, and in the heart; and be not offended, brethren, if it do so among you. Jesus Christ has told us it will do so. (Luke xii. 52.) “ Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division," -“a sword,”—“fire.” Ver. 49. The Gospel certainly tends to promote peace with God and man; but through the carnal enmity of the natural man, it becomes an occasion of great discord. Wherever the Gospel was first preached by the apostles, it excited disturbance and persecution; and to this day, where the true Gospel is newly preached, it makes no small stir," and people are ready to say, as of old, “The men who have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” Satan will not quietly part with his prey; and ungodly men, who know not the nature and need of the Gospel, will oppose it.
The Gospel is designed to bring the heart to rest and peace in Jesus; but, as the soul must change masters, this revolution cannot be brought about without division. There must be a separation of the heart from the creature, in order to its union with God; for peace with the world and peace with him are inconsistent.
Having thus shown you the first thing in the text, namely, The sad condition of an unconverted sinner, let us proceed to display,
II. The wonderful power of divine grace in his conversion-"when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoil.”
Observe bere, the greatness of the Conqueror, Jesus Christ; he alone is stronger than Satan. Strong as the devil is, he is but a creature, and his power is finite. Jesus Christ is the Creator, and his power is infinite. He made the worlds. This earthly ball, the glittering stars, the silver moon, and the glorious sun, are all the work of his hands; and by his power all nature stands : “ By him all things consist;" “ for of him, and through him, and to him, are all things, and to him be glory for ever. Amen.” This glorious and gracious God “ was manifested in the flesh; he took our feeble nature and became a man, that he might “destroy the works of the devil,” and rescue his people from Satan's destructive hands.
See him in the wilderness encountering this hellish foe; he was tempted in all points like ourselves ; but he vanquished the enemy, and he fed from him. See him displaying his superior power, in casting out devils from the bodies of many miserable people. They could never resist his command. By a single word he relieved multitudes, who had long been oppressed by Satan, and whose bodies as well as souls had been his habitation. He gave a portion of the same power to his disciples, who, returning from their mission, joyfully cried, “ Even the devils are subject unto us through thy name !" "I beheld,” said he, “ Satan fall as lightning from heaven.” Thus was “ the prince of this world judged.” The conquest was compieted when Jesus hung on the cross; and the triumph was celebrated when he rose to the skies—“He spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly;"! " he led captivity captive, and received gifts for men.”
The power of Christ over Satan was displayed in every country where the Gospel was preached. The heathens became ashamed of their idols; and the altars of their gods were deserted. Those oracles in which, perhaps, Satan had been suffered to speak, were struck dumb; the most abandoned of mankind were reformed and renewed, and the world was astonished at the triumphs of the cross : for it was not by the force of human laws, it was not by the edge of the sword, nor was it by the power of eloquence, that the Gospel prevailed; no, “the weapons of this warfare were not carnal ;” and however mean they seemed in the eyes of men, they were “mighty, through God, to pull down the strong holds of the devil.” Every man, who knew its nature and felt its effects, would say with the apostles, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God to salvation, to every one that believeth ;» 6 God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ, by which the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.”
As the strong man was armed, Jesus Christ is also armed. So speaks the Psalmist :—“Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty: and in thy majesty ride prosperously, because of truth, meekness, and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies, whereby the people fall under thee.” Ps. xlv. 3-5. Here Christ is described as a warrior armed for the field. The sword is “ the word of Christ," or the Gospel; with this weapon he prevailed, and made his “glory and majesty" known throughout the world; subduing idolatry and iniquity to the faith and temper of the Gospel, and thus rescuing his elect from the power of the devil.
In this conquest, Christ “ takes away the armour," on which so much dependance was placed. By the teaching of the Holy Spirit, he takes away the scales of ignorance which covered the eyes; the soul discovers its danger and ruin. He renews the will, for his people are “made willing in the day of his
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power;" they are glad to quit the service of their old master, and willingly yield themselves unto the Lord.” Thus is that prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled :—“I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.” (Chap. liii. 12.) Having conquered Satan, he takes possession. Much of the glory of Christ consists in vast multitudes of redeemed souls becoming his faithful subjects, and humble followers. Subdued by his grace, they give up themselves to him, to be saved, taught and governed : thus “he sees the travail of his soul,” the fruit of his sufferings; and thus “the pleasure of the Lord prospers in his hands."
"He divided the spoil.” As a conqueror takes possession of the enemy's property, so Christ, having subdued the sinner, now possesses what was before at the disposal of Satan. It is a sad truth, that whatever gifts a natural man has, they are applied for the purposes of sin; his wealth, his wisdom, his time, his influence, and all that he hath. How reasonable is it, then, that the saved sinner, constrained by the mercies of God, should present his body a living sacrifice to the Lord, holy and acceptable; it is indeed his reasonable service, and the poet's sweet language will be cordially adopted :
“ Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small :
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
APPLICATION. Whose habitation are we? Christ's, or the devil's ? One or the other rules in our hearts. Every man is under the influence of the good Spirit of God, or the evil spirit of the devil. “Know ye not that ye are the temples of the Holy Ghost ?" said the apostle to the first Christians. So we may say to wicked men,