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that nothing should be able to separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But as the means of preservation from the temptations of the flesh, he found it needful to continue instant in prayer; and then it appeared, that Divine grace was sufficient for him to enable him to resist the power of indwelling sin, and the strength of Christ was made perfect in his weakness »84 so that although he was weak in himself, and unable to contend with his internal foes, yet he was strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might ,85 in consequence of which they did not prevail against him. The same grace, which enabled the apostle to overcome sin that dwelt in him, is effectual to enable all who diligently seek it to overcome likewise.
There is, however, another enemy by whose means the Christian is exposed to tribulation in this world; and that is, Satan, and the powers of darkness which are confederate with him. The apostle therefore exhorts the Ephesians, 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.86 The wiles of the devil are such, and his power is so great, that human
84 2 Cor. xii. 9.
85 Eph. vi. 10.
86 Eph. vi. 11, 12.
strength is of itself impotent to oppose him. The apostle Peter encourages the Christian warrior to the combat, by saying, Be sober, be vigilant ; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour ; whom resist, stedfast in the faith.87 It is only as we continue instant in prayer for Divine aid, that we can effectually withstand this powerful and subtle foe. But the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much against him. By praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, 88 every assault will be foiled; because the strength of the Lord will always be manifested in favour of His praying people. Every day while here on earth, we are liable to be assaulted by the wiles or the violence of the enemy of souls, and of those who are under his dominion; as well as by the corruption of our own hearts, which the devil, by his fiery darts, endeavours to inflame; but continuing instant in prayer, we shall be enabled to overcome them, so that they shall not be permitted to obtain the victory over us. And therefore while we are thus occupied, we may rejoice in hope of the glory of God, believing that in a little time our prayer will be turned into praise, and our hope into full fruition.
87 i Peter v. 8.
88 Eph. vi. 18.
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
Romans xii. 21.
BE NOT OVERCOME OF EVIL, BUT OVERCOME
EVIL WITH GOOD.
THESE words conclude the chapter from which our church has taken the Epistles for the first three Sundays after the Epiphany. As the Epiphany means “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles,” this chapter may be supposed to have been selected at this season, for the purpose of showing the superiority of Christian morals to those of the heathen philosophers. It has been asserted by competent judges, that in the whole range of heathen ethics, or the precepts inculcated by the wise philosophers of Greece and Rome, which have been extolled as master-pieces of human wisdom, there is nothing to be met with that will bear a comparison with this
chapter. The morals of the Christian religion are, however, vastly superior, not only in point of intrinsic excellence, but also in not being like those of the pagan sages of antiquity, a baseless fabric. Christianity not only furnishes rules of duty, but also directs us where to obtain strength or ability for the performance of what it enjoins. The belief of the Christian religion not only raises fallen man from the low state to which he has been reduced by sin, and sets before him the good and the right way, that he may walk in it and find rest to his soul; but also shows him the means whereby he may be enabled to do the will of God. It tells him that since he is unable of himself to walk in the commandments of God, and to serve Him as he ought to do, God will give His special grace to them who call upon Him for it by diligent prayer, to strengthen them for the performance of what He has required of them. The gracious influence of the Holy Spirit is promised, which our heavenly Father will give to all those who are His children by faith in Christ Jesus, when they call upon Him. If then we take up the precepts of Christianity in the same manner as any human precepts, with a resolution of living in obedience to them, without seeking Divine grace to enable us to do the will of God, we shall assuredly fail in the attempt. But if we regard them as the commands of the God of love, who has given them to us for our benefit,
in order that by having respect to them, we may be conformed to the image of Him who is the perfection of excellence; and if we implore the grace of His Holy Spirit to enable us to manifest our gratitude for His mercies bestowed upon us, on account of which we owe ourselves to Him; we shall then receive the help of His grace to strengthen us in resisting the temptations of our spiritual enemies, and in walking so as to please Him, and therein to abound more and more. Such a view of moral duty and the means whereby ability to perform it is obtained, were unknown to the heathen world. The service that proceeds from the love of God was one of which they had no idea whatever. We have seen in our consideration of the former part of this chapter, that the mercies of God, of which the sinful children of men are partakers through our Lord Jesus Christ, are the exciting cause and the powerful inducement of obedience to His holy and blessed will. The redeeming love of Christ is that which constrains His believing people to live not to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again. Let us cultivate in our minds a deeper sense of the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, and then we shall be more thankful, and more anxious to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. It will then appear to be of the utmost importance to us, that we should have respect to all His commandments, and