« ZurückWeiter »
final perseverance. We firmly believe, that all those whom God has given to Christ in the covenant of redemption, shall certainly be renewed, sanctified, and saved. But if this be true, many are ready to ask, Why should real saints be cautioned against falling away, and threatened with final ruin, if they should fall away? This subject furnishes a complete answer to this question. It is because they have natural power to frustrate the divine decrees. They have natural power to apostatize from the faith, as well as to persevere in it. There is, therefore, a natural possibility of their falling away; and this natural possibility of falling away creates danger; and where there is danger, cautions and warnings against it, are altogether proper and necessary. Men may be in danger of an evil, which it is certain they shall eventually escape. It was after Paul had been divinely assured, that he and his company should get safe to land, that he said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.” This implies, that the certainty of their safety was consistent with the danger of their being lost. Paul was chosen from eternity to be a believer and a preacher of the gospel; but while he remained an enemy to Christ and to his followers, there was danger of his never becoming either a be. liever or preacher. And after he became a believer and a preacher, he tells us, that he still considered himself in danger of being finally cast away. Believers live in the same world, in which they lived, before they believed; they are surrounded by the same spiritual enemies, by which they were surrounded, before they believed; and they have the same natural power to renounce thegospel, which they had to reject it,before they believed; hence they stand in peculiar need of cautions und warnings, to resist the devil, to overcome the world, to keep t] lves in the love of God, to watch
and pray against temptations, and at all times, and under all circumstances, to take heed lest they fall. Such warnings and cautions are not only proper, but necessary means, to keep saints from falling, and to eonduct them safely to the kingdom of heaven.
Finally, since God has determined to bring about great and important events by the instrumentality of men, it is of great importance, that they should be aetive and diligent in carrying into execution his wise and holy designs. The means to promote any end, are as necessary as the end to be promoted. It was as necessary, that the shipmen should be restrained from leaving the ship, as that the lives of all on board should be saved. By employing men as means, in Scarrying on his designs, God has made human agency extremely necessary and important. He has put it into the power of men to do unspeakable good, while they are acting their parts in this probationary state. How eminently useful were the patriarchs, the prophets, and other good men, before the gospel day; and how much more good have the apostles, the ministers, and the followers of Christ done since! The field of usefulness is continually opening wider and wider. God has let us know, that he has determined to extend his kingdom through the world, by the instrumentality of human agents. A door is open for all men of every age, character, and condition, to employ all their abilities, to bring about the most desirable and important events. All who cordially co-operate with God in fulfilling his purposes, shall meet with final success and an ample reward. These are the strongest motives to exertion, that can be presented to the minds of men. And in the view of these, let all be steadfast and immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. Amen.
THE SCRIPTURAL ACCOUNT OF THE DEVIL OUGHT
TO BE BELIEVED.
1 Pet. V, 8. Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the
devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he
IT is generally unwise to despise our enemies, because it prevents that vigilance, which is necessary to defeat their evil designs. We often suffer more from those whom we contemn, than from those whom we fear. And, perhaps, mankind in general receive much greater injuries from their common enemy, whose power and malice they vainly deride, than from all their other enemies put together. Some are ready to doubt the existence of their adversary the Devil, and consider him merely as a creature of the imagination; while others who believe his existence commonly speak of him in the most familiar terms of reproach and contempt. But if he does really exist, and possess all that malevolence, which is ascribed to him in the text; then he is certainly much more to be feared than despised. And since all men are more or less exposed to his destructive influence, it concerns them to form just apprehensions of his power and disposition to deceive and destroy them. It is proposed, therefore, in the following discourse, to give the scriptural account of the Devil, and make it appear, that we ought to believe that account.
!. Let us consider the scriptural account of the Devil. This common enemy of mankind is more fre
quently mentioned in the Bible, than any other particular person or agent, except the man Christ Jesus. He is called by a great variety of appellations. More than fifty times he is called the Devil. More than forty times he is called Satan. And he is very often designated by several other names: such as the Accuser of the brethren, Apollyon, Angel of the bottomless pit, Prince of darkness, Prince of devils, and the God of this world. Nor do the sacred writers merely mention his names, but fully describe his origin, his character, and his conduct.
1. They represent him as an apostate angel. The scripture clearly reveals the apostasy of angels. The apostle Peter says, “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” And the apostle Jude gives a similar representation. “The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Satan, the head and leader of these apostates, originally belonged to a high and holy order of beings. But what his first offence was, we are not expressly told in his history. Some, however, have conjectured, that his first sin consisted in refusing to obey Christ as Mediator, and to minister to those who were to be heirs of salvation. And this idea seems to be suggested by several texts of Scripture. Christ speaking of the Devil in the eighth chapter of John says, “He abode not in the truth,” that is, he was not steadfast in obedience to Him, who was the way, the truth, and the life. And this disobedient temper he might manifest, when the Father said concerning the Son, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” If, on that occasion, Satan did refuse to bow to the Mediator, it seems his first
sin must have been pride; which appears to be intimated in the apostle's words to Timothy. “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” It is certain, however, that Satan once belonged to the highest order of created beings, and was, perhaps, the highest of that order. But by pride or some other offence, he apostatized from God, and led others to apostatize from him; for which he was doomed, with his followers, to a state of everlasting darkness and despair. But notwithstanding his loss of holiness and happiness, he still retains that superior power and intelligence with which he was originally created.
2. The scripture represents the Devil, as an invisible agent in this world. He is said to be a Spirit, which denotes his invisibility. He is likewise represented as taking possession of the minds of men, and invisibly governing their thoughts and actions. But though he is naturally invisible to human eyes, yet he is capable, as well as the angels of light, of assuming a material vehicle, and of becoming visible to mankind. It seems, he appeared to Adam and Eve in a visible form. But we are not to suppose, that God ever permits him to assume a bodily shape, unless it be on some peculiar occasion, to answer some special purpose of providence. It is true, he is represented in the text as a roaring lion; but this is to be understood figuratively. As an angel he is a spirit, and as a spirit he is naturally invisible, and, in his common intercourse with mankind, acts in an invisible manner; though he may occasionally put on a human or some other visible appearance.
3. The scripture represents the Devil, as the head of all the apostate angels. We are not informed how. many of the heavenly hosts apostatized from God;