Page images
PDF
EPUB

thine infinite pity take order to redress them! What evil can befall us, which thou knowest not, feelest not, relievest. not? How safe are we, who have such a Guardian, such a Mediator in heaven!

None ever offered to deal with Satan by a direct command, but the God of spirits. The great archangel, when the strife was about the body of Moses, commanded not, but imprecated rather, “ The Lord rebuke thee, Satan!" It is only the God who made this spirit an angel of light, who can command him, now that he hath made himself the prince of darkness. If any created power dare to usurp a word of command, he laughs at their presumption, and knows them his vassals. It is only thou, O Saviour, at whose beck those stubborn principalities of hell yield and tremble. No wicked man can be so much a slave to Satan as Satan is to thee. The interposition of thy grace may defeat that dominion of Satan: thy rule is absolute.

Who shall henceforth boast of the external homage he performs to the Son of God, when he sees Satan himself fall down and worship? What comfort can there be in that which is common to us with devils, who, as they believe and tremble, so they tremble and worship?

The outward bowing is the body of the action; the inward disposition is the soul of it: therein lies the difference from the counterfeit stoopings of wicked men and spirits. The religious heart "serves the Lord in fear, and rejoices in him with trembling.” What it does is in the way of service to his Lord, whose sovereignty is his comfort and protection ; in the fear of a son, not of a slave ; in fear tempered with joy; in a joy, but allayed with trembling; whereas the prostration of wicked men and devils is only an act of form, or of force; as to their judge, as to their tormentor, not as to their Lord; in mere servility, not in reverence; in an uncomfortable dulness, without any delight; in a perfect horror, without capacity of joy. These worship without thanks, because they fall down without the true affections of worship.

Whoso marvels to see the devil on his knees, would much more marvel to hear what came from his mouth; “ Jesus, the Son of the most high God;" a confession which, if we should hear without the name of the author, we should ask from what saint it came, Behold the same name given to

Christ by the devil, which was formerly given him by the angel ; “Thou shalt call his name Jesus.” That awful pame, whereat

every

knee shall bow, in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, is called on by this prostrate devil. And, lest that should not import enough, since others have been honoured by this name as types, he adds, for full distir lon, “The Son of the most high God.” No words more Divine could fall from the highest saint. Nothing hinders, but that the veriest miscreant on earth, yea, the foulest devil in hell, may speak holily. There is no passing of judgment on loose sentences. Foolish hypocrite, who pleasest thyself in talking well, hear this devil; and when thou canst speak better than he, look to fare better : but, in the mean time, know that a smooth tongue, and a foul heart, shall have double judgments.

Let curious heads dispute whether the devil knew Christ to be God. In this I dare believe him, though in nothing else. He knew what he believed; and what he believed, that he confessed, “ Jesus, the Son of the most high God;" to the confusion of those semi-christians, who have either held doubtfully, or ignorantly misknown, or blasphemously denied, what the very devils have professed. How little can a bare speculation avail us in these cases of Divinity! So far this devil hath attained; but to no ease, no comfort.

“ Knowledge” alone does but "puff up;” it is our “ love" that

edifies.' If there be not a sense of our sure interest in this Jesus, a power to apply his merits and obedience, we are no whit the safer, no whit the better; only we are so much the wiser, to understand who shall condemn us.

Part of the clause was spoken like a saint; “Jesus, the Son of the most high God :" the other part like a devil; "What have I to do with thee?” And dost thou ask, O thou evil spirit, what hast thou to do with Christ, while thou vexest a servant of Christ ? Hast thou thy name from knowledge, and yet so mistakest him, whom thou confessest, as if nothing could be done to him, but what immediately concerns his own person ? Hear that great and just Judge, sentencing on his dreadful tribunal; “ Inasmuch as thou didst it unto one of these little ones, thou didst it unto me.' It is idle to sever the sense of an injury done to any of the members, from being done to the Head.

There are tortures appointed even to the spiritual natures

that we

of evil angels. Men, who are led by sense, have easily granted that the body is subject to torment, who yet have not so readily conceived that spiritual substance is liable thereto. The Holy Ghost has not thought it fit to acquaint us with the particular manner of these invisible acts ; rather willing,

should herein fear than inquire. As the good spirits find themselves joined in blessedness unto the chief good, and hereon feel a perfect love of God, and unspeakable joy in him, and rest in themselves ; so, contrarily, the evil spirits perceive themselves eternally excluded from the presence of God, and see themselves settled in a woful darkness; and, from the sense of this separation, arises a horror not to be expressed, not to be conceived. How many men torment themselves with their own thoughts !

Tremble, O my soul, at the thought of this woful condition of the evil angels, who, for one act of apostasy from God, are thus perpetually tormented; whereas we sinful wretches multiply many and presumptuous offences against the majesty of our God: and withal admire and magnify that infinite mercy to the miserable generation of man, which, after this holy severity of justice to the revolted angels, so graciously forbears our heinous iniquities, and both suffers us to be free for the time from these hellish torments, and gives us opportunity of a perfect freedom from them for

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me praisc his holy name; who forgiveth all thy sins, and healeth all thine infirmities; who redeemeth thy life from destruction, and crowneth thee with mercy and compassions.”

Nature teaches every creature to wish for freedom from pain. There is no grace in the suit of devils, but nature only; no respect of glory to their Creator, but only to their own

They cannot pray against sin, but against torment for sin. What news is it now to hear the profanest mouth, in extremity, imploring the sacred name of God, when the devils do so ? The worst of all creatures hates punishment, and can say, “ Lead me not into pain :" only the renewed heart .can say,

Lead me not into temptation.” If we can as heartily pray against sin for the avoiding of displeasure, as against punishment when we have displeased, there is true grace in the soul. Indeed, if we could fervently pray against sin, we should not need to pray against punishment, which is no other than the inseparable shadow of that body; but

ever.

‘ease.

if we have not laboured against our sins, in vain do we pray against punishment. God must be just; and “the wages of sin is death."

It is for none but God to hold discourse with Satan. Our surest way is to have as little to do with that evil one as we may; and, if he offers to maintain conference with us by his secret temptations, to turn our speech unto our God, with the archangel, “ The Lord rebuke thee, Satan!”

How fearful is it to consider the number of apostate angels! And if thousands can attend one man, how many must we needs think are they, who, all the world over, are at hand for the punishment of the wicked, the exercise of the good, the temptation of both! It cannot be hoped there can be any place or time wherein we may be secure from the onsets of these enemies. Be sure, ye wicked, ye shall want no furtherance to evil, no torment for evil. Be sure, ye godly, ye shall not want combatants to try your strength and skill. Awaken your courage to resist, and stir up your hearts; make sure the means of your safety. There are more with us than against us. The God of heaven is with us, if we be with him; and our angels behold the face of God. If every devil were a legion, yet we should be safe. “Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil.” Thou, O Lord, shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of our enemies, and thy right hand shall save us.

BP. HALL.

THE UNPARDONABLE SIN. AN apprehension of having committed the unpardonable sin is not uncommon among religious inquirers. The following narrative is adapted to answer the twofold purpose of admonition and relief :

"Mr. L-- had enjoyed the privilege of sitting under an able and successful ministry. His heart had been touched; and during a remarkable period, in which he saw many of his friends embracing the hope of salvation, his own convictions increased. Not long after, his feelings of impatience became sensitive. His attention was subsequently turned from its own proper object to one more nearly connected with our natural selfishness. He ceased

to be an inquirer, and became an objector. It is hard to stop here. Opposition succeeded a habit of objecting. An apparent bitterness of prejudice, and malevolence of expression were observable whenever be opened his lips on the subject of religion. Still, the past day of conviction was a memorable time to him. Five years afterwards he was again roused to a sense of his danger; and with the aları came the terrible recollection of his former conduct. Language which he had uttered, and which appeared nearly allied to blasphemy, returned in fearful freshness to his memory. He accused himself of having committed the unpardonable sin. All efforts to persuade him to the contrary were unavailing. The impression was daily deepening. His mind lost its elasticity, and a moody temperament succeeded. His friends were alarmed. A suspicion was started amongst them that his couclusions might be just: this he marked, and laboured to confirm it. He seemed to take a negative satisfaction in stating the desperation of his case, and in watching the fallen countenance of sympathy.

“Many months had elapsed, during which he was the subject of religious gossip with some, of a kind of superstitious dread with others, and of fervent prayer with a few of the remainder; when the case was stated to a judicious minister, whom some providence had called into the neighbourhood. He waited on Mr. L., who far from being averse to any conversation relative to his own state, seemed rather to court it. He was fluent in all the details of time and circumstance, and always ended his narrative with the declaration that he had for ever ceased to pray. After a preparatory interchange of remarks, he was asked, “You believe yourself guilty of the unpardonable sin ?'

"I am sure of it.' “ ' In what did the crime consist ?' " ' I opposed the work of God.' «« So did Saul.' "I denied Jesus Christ.' “So did a disciple, afterwards honoured by his Master.'

“I doubted the power of Jesus Christ, after strong evidence in its favour.'

"So did Thomas.'

“What! are you attempting to prove by such examples that I am a christian?'

« PreviousContinue »