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the strength of their graces, by holding up a temptation exactly suited to the present state of their minds. Whether the levity of christians arises from their natural disposition, or from the company they are called to keep, or from a particular and occasional relaxation of their minds, it always exposes them to the assaults of Satan, who knows when, and where, and to whom to present temptations. He is so well acquainted with mankind in general, and with particular persons, that he can pretty certainly determine, when they are in a state of gravity or levity; and, of consequence,
when he can attack them to the best advantage. This ought to excite the children of God, to maintain a constant and habitual sobriety or self-possession, that they may escape or repel the fiery darts of the wicked one.
In the next place, it behoves them to live in the exercise of vigilance as well as sobriety. Hence says the apostle, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your ad- . versary the devil, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” A watchful enemy needs to be watched. Christians should realize, at all times and in all places, that they are continually attended by a subtile and invisible foe, who is incessantly bent upon drawing them into his snares. Here they are extremely apt to fail, and give Satan an advantage of doing thern a great deal of mischief. It is for want of caution and vigilance against his influence, that they often suffer so much from him, without knowing from whence the evil comes. They ascribe to other causes, what is the effect of his malignant suggestions. How many doubts, and fears, and anxieties, and follies, and sins, might they escape, by watching over their own hearts, and properly avoiding every thing, whichi
they have found Satan has employed to lead them astray.
But though sobriety and vigilance will have a great tendency to preserve them from the temptations of the Devil; yet they need something else to defend themselves against his violent assaults. And the best weapon they can possess and employ is the word of Gcl. By this weapon, our Saviour gained the victory in the hour of temptation. Satan quoted Scripture to seduce him from his duty; and Christ quoted Scripture, which at once condemned and defeated his design. Let christians follow this example of the grea Captain of their salvation, and foil Satan with his own weapon. Let them diligently read and carefully treasure up the doctrines, the precepts, and the promises of the gospel, that they may always be prepared to discover the devices of the Devil, and resist all his efforts to lead them into the belief of error, or the practice of sin.
Though these are some of the best means they can use to overcome the tempter; yet, if they would ensure success, they must sincerely implore the aid and influence of Him, who is stronger than the strong man armed. It ought to be daily their heart's desire and prayer to God, that he would not "lead them into temptation, but deliver them from evil.” He is able to prevent their being tempted above what they are able to bear, and with every temptation to make a way for their escape. In a word, let them seriously ponder and cordially obey the solemn exhortation of the Apostle upon this subject. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, whei ewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance."
But the case of sinners is more alarming, and calls for a more solemn admonition to duty. They are dead in trespasses and sins, and wholly under the dominion of the god of this world, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. He is constantly endeavouring to blind their minds, harden their hearts, and stupify their consciences. Hence says the apostle, “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” It is in vain to exhort sinners to resist the Devil, who is seeking, not only to injure them in time, but to destroy them in eternity, while they remain his cordial subjects, and unite with him in opposing God and the whole scheme of redemption. Their first and indispensable duty is to renounce the spirit and kingdom of Satan, and cordially embrace the gospel. And as soon as they turn firom darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, they will have the power and grace of the Almighty engaged to guard them from their mortal enemy. But if they will reject the counsel of God against themselves, and walk in the paths of the Destroyer, they must expect to hear that awful sentence denounced against them at the great and last day, “Depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
THE EXHIBITION OF CHRIST TRIES THE HUMAN
LUKE ii, 34, 35. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his
mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts
THOUGH Christ was born in a low and obscure condition; yet never, perhaps, did two parents in Israel perform the rite of dedication with such emotions of heart, as Joseph and Mary felt, when they appeared in the temple, and publicly consecrated to God their Child, their Saviour, and their Sovereign. At the same time, good old Simeon came in, and raised the tide of their affections. After praising God for the long expected Messiah, and for the opportunity of seeing the young Redeemer, he addressed the mother of our Lord in the words I have read. “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against; that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” It appears from this declaration, which was made under a divine impulse, that it was the design of God, in exhibiting the Son of his love before his people Israel, to try their hearts and fix their final state. And wç must suppose, that he means to answer the same im. portant purpose, from age to age, by exhibiting the character and conduct of the blessed Saviour before the minds of men, through the medium of the gospel.