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contributing towards it. Our text refers solely to justification by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ: this is incapable of progress or degree; we cannot be more or less justified, it is an absolute state: we are justified or condemned, acquitted or under sentence of the curse; if we believe, we are wholly and perfectly acceptable to God; if we do not, we are at enmity with him. Let us not then seek justification through attainments in sanctity ; but remember that this must come from Christ, and from him alone; “ Being justified by faith, and having found peace with God," then shall“ we be careful to maintain good works, and anxious to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things :" knowing that He hath“ chosen us to himself through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” May we ever “show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light!”
THE STRONG MAN SUBDUED.
Luke xi. 21, 22.
“ WHEN A STRONG MAN ARMED KEEPETH HIS PALACE, HIS GOODS
ARE IN PEACE; BUT WHEN A STRONGER THAN HE SHALL COME UPON HIM AND OVERCOME HIM, HE TAKETH FROM HIM ALL HIS ARMOUR WHEREIN HE TRUSTED, AND DIVIDETH HIS SPOILS.”
Our blessed Lord, in the pursuit of that errand of mercy which brought him down from heaven to earth, “ was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake, and the people wondered.” St. Matthew, relating the same miracle, states that many were convinced by this exercise of divine power that Jesus was the Messiah. The enemies of the Saviour perceiving the great effect which he had thus produced on the minds of the bystanders, endeavoured to weaken it by darkly whispering that he was in league with Satan, and that he cast out devils through “ Beelzebub, the chief of the devils.” It was left for after
" When a
ages, and for a sceptical generation to question the reality of the possession and of the miracle; this was never doubted by the eye-witnesses of these wonderful works; the fact could not be disputed; but it was suggested that Satan was the hidden agent. Jesus having quickly shown the obvious folly and impiety of such a charge, declared that “it was by the finger of God he cast out devils,” and “ that the kingdom of God was come unto them.” And in the words of the text he further illustrated that exercise of divine power which was about to be exhibited to the whole universe by his conquests over the powers of darkness, and Satan their prince. strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods
But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.”
In dependence upon the aid and grace of God we will proceed to consider from these words, I. THE PEACEABLE EMPIRE OF SATAN IN THE HUMAN HEART; and, II. THE OVERTHROW OF THAT EMPIRE BY THE POWER OF CHRIST.
1. And here we are called to contemplate, (1.) Our great enemy under the figure of “a strong man armed.” (2.) “ His palace,” the human heart; and, (3.) His peaceable possession of it, “he keeps it, and his goods are in peace.”
(1.) “ The strong man armed.” Mysterious
are in peace.
being! powerful adversary! Who can take an estimate of his spiritual influence, or calculate the effects of his tremendous sway in a fallen world ?-Who, where is he?-Whence did he come ?-He came from heaven !_He is the leader of those “evil angels who kept not their first estate;"* expelled from the regions of bliss by the avenging hand of the archangel, Messiah, he evinced his remaining strength, and his deadly enmity, by poisoning the fountain of human happiness at its source, and marring the creation of God almost at its birth. What must have been the power of this strong man, that could avail to convert the paradise of innocence into an accursed world, and its happy and sinless inhabitants into wretched and guilty beings, at enmity with their God! Fearful things concerning him are revealed in Scripture. His power, malice, and wickedness are denoted by a variety of expressions and metáphors. He is “the great serpent”-“a roaring lion”—“ the dragon”—“ the spirit of the power of the air”_" the god and prince of this world”
a murderer"_“a liar from the beginning, and the father of lies”_" the deceiver and accuser of the brethren.” He goes to and fro in the earth, and walks up and down in it. He has legions of evil spirits at his command—“principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, wicked spirits in high places.” His individuality may be doubted or denied, and many even of those whom he successfully deceives may question the fact of his personality or of his existence, yet of this there is fully as much evidence, both from Scripture and from experience, as there is of the existence and attributes of a God; and our unbelief will not diminish the fearful certainty. No exhibition of Satan's power is more surprising than that afforded us by the conflicts which he sustained with the Son of God; that he should be able to harass, deceive, and conquer a being so inferior to himself as man, is not so much a subject of wonder; but that he should venture to assail the Son of the Most High, whom he knew, whom on many occasions he was compelled to confess, and the weight of whose vengeance he had already experienced,—this is deeply and awfully mysterious. Yet the presumptuous assault was made, and so far with effect, that the strong man armed with his fiery darts was terrible even to Him who finally overcame him. How much more then to his feeble people! The figure denotes his power and ferocity-that he is an enemy much to be dreaded.
* Jude 6.