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“ from the beginning;" and in the book of Revelation, he is said to '“ deceive the whole "s world.” So that it is sufficiently evident, not only that there is a Devil, but also that he is a very formidable being; that he is a spirit ever on the watch to destroy the souls of men; and that most dreadful is that man's situation whom he gets within his power. But alarming as this truth is, it is, in the 'second place, encouraging to be assured, that this wicked spirit is entirely under the government of God, and can do nothing with. out the permission of the ALMIGHTY. The story of the legion informs us, that Jesus gave them leave ; a proof that the spirits could not have entered into the herd of swine without that permission ; and in the book of Job, we find the same assurance that the evil spirit must first be authorised by God, before he can act against any one of God's creatures, “ Hast thou not made a fence “ about him, and about all that be hath?” said the Devil to the ALMIGHTY; upon which, God, in order to try the faith of his servant Job, and to bring him off conqueror from the field of battle; replied to Satan in these terms: “ Behold! all that he hath is in thy “ power.
This permission having been obtained, Satan had now power over Job; and we see, when once he had obtained it, bow
quickly he destroyed all his happiness : he left him neither estate ; nor child; nor health ; nor friend, except his Heavenly Father. Of this protector he could not deprive him; and as Job continued to put his trust in Him, so, after a time, his faith was rewarded by a prosperity a hundred times greater than he enjoyed before. This proves the third point which I designed to explain to you: that God permits the devil to make use of his malice and power, for the trial of good men, and the punishment of the wicked. In the case of Job, we see that the end of his trial was to prove his integrity, and to reward him for his constancy: and our blessed Saviour, though the most innocent of all men, was permitted not only to be tempted by Satan, but also . to be crucified through his wiles, that he might be exalted to the right hand of God, and reign in glory and happiness for ever and ever. St. Paul, too, - was made subject, in some degree, to the power of the devil
, for we read “ that he had a messenger of Satan to buffet him;" that is, a disease, by God's permission, inflicted on him by Satan, that his high gifts and graces might not inspire him with pride, which would have ruined his soul. In all these cases, however, where the great enemy
of mankind is allowed, for wise reasons, to tempt good men, they have this blessed promise from the ALMIGHTY, to support their spirits under the trial : “ God is “ faithful, who will not suffer you to be “ tempted above wnat ye are able ; but « will, with the temptation, also make a “ way to escape, that ye may be able to 66 bear it.” But this is not always the design of God in permitting the Devil to have his liberty ; since he is often allowed it, in order to punish the wicked. “ casteth upon sinners (says the Psalmist) 6 the fierceness of his anger, by sending “ evil spirits among them;" and God had
sooner decreed to destroy the wicked king Ahab, than an evil spirit was forthwith commissioned to bring him to destruction, by becoming a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets, whose advice be followed to his ruin.
Such being the nature of this wicked and destroying spirit, it is a matter of the highest importance to us, my friends, to learn those lessons which the scripture account of him was intended to teach us. In the first place, we must take heed to “ our steps," lest this dreadful enemy of our souls get the advantage over us. St. Paul has expressed this caution in the following words: “ Be sober ; be vigilant ; because
your adversary the Devil, as a roaring “ lion, walketh about seeking whom he may “ devour.” If christians will live as if they had no enemies, when they are surrounded by them, notwithstanding the warning which God has given them, they must perish everlastingly, and this reflection will heighten their suffering, that they perish entirely through their own fault. In the next place, as the Devil cannot hurt us, without permission from God, it is of the utmost importance to us, that we put ourselves, and all that belongs to us, under the protection of our heavenly father ; by praying to him every morning of our lives, for his blessing through the day; and every evening before we go to rest, for his protection during the night. If we can secure him for our friend, (and we can only obtain his friendship by imploring it with earnestness and sincerity,) we may then bid defiance to the malice of our spiritual enemies: under his defence we shall be safe ;. without it, we are exposed to continual danger here, and certain destruction hereafter. In the third place, we learn the necessity of conquering every evil passion, and keeping under every evil lust of the heart, and rooting out every wicked habit. All wicked inclinations, all bad desires, and all vicious habits, are the suggestions of the Devil ; the instruments which he makes use of to slay the souls of men. Thus, for instance, the indulgence of hatred and malice will lead us to revengeful actions, which is the proper business of the Devil, and fits the soul for dwelling with the wretched inhabit. ants of hell. Uncleanness, fornication, and impurity of every kind, are the delight of this wicked spirit ; because they destroy all religious principles in the heart, and make us. hate the law of God, and consequently hateful in his sight. Drunkenness deprives men of their reason, and renders them an easy prey to sin, and a sure slave to the great foe of mankind; whilst lying is a proof that we renounce God, and receive willingly the wages
of the Devil, who is the great father of lies, and the author of all the delusions which ruin mankind. In the fourth place, we must be diligent in keeping the LORD's Day, attending his worship, and fulfilling all the ordinances of religion. When the Devil took our blessed Saviour in the hour of temptation to the Temple, he could not enter within it, but placed Jesus on one of its pinnacles. In the house of God we are safe ; and whilst we are performing the duties of religion, nothing can approach to hurt us.
But if, on the other hand, we be found in any other place, when it is our duty