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SERMON XXIII.

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.

WE read, a few verses before my text, these simple words: "And he (i. e. Jesus) was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake." The effect of this was astonishment upon the part of the people; for it is added, with equal simplicity, "and the people wondered." There were those however present who would endeavour to prevent their astonishment from taking its course; for it would naturally lead to their acknowledgment of Him at whose command the evil spirits fled. They therefore immediately suggested a doubt as to the quarter from which this power proceeded. They do not pretend to deny the facts; these were abundantly plain, and could not be gainsayed. But they pronounce their opinion, "He casteth out devils through Beelzebub, the chief

1 Luke xi. 14.

of the devils."

It is impossible to conceive a more awful state than that of those persons who thus attempted to evade the force of the evidence placed before them. We cannot question but that it pro ceeded from the evil heart turning away from the light which was hateful to it, and resolutely determined to resist any proof that could be offered. Their danger was likewise as great as their wickedness; as they thus precluded themselves from all possibility of be ing ever convinced, since they rejected the only evidence that could be presented to them. But our Lord condescends to argue the case with them. He, "knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand?" He lays this down as an axiom, that disunion must be followed by destruction; and shows that this principle must hold good in the case before them; for, if Satan was casting out Satan, as they intimated, his ruin would ensue from it. This, however, considering Satan's wiles and wisdom, was too preposterous an idea to be entertained for a moment; and therefore it followed as a necessary consequence, that as it was not by Satan that he was exercising this power, it was by "the finger of God." And this established another point, that "the kingdom of God was come upon them;"5-that at that very moment God's spiritual kingdom was begun,

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and its gracious invitations addressed to them, and its blessed privileges offered to them. This is the truth which our Lord proceeds to illustrate by a parable, the direct object of which was to show that in the actual ejection of Satan from the bodies of men there was proof that the gospel era had arrived.

I propose to take this parable for the subject of our discourse this day, and purpose to consider from it,

I. THE FACT OF SATAN'S DOMINION; and

II. THE FACT OF SATAN'S OVERTHROW,

I. In entering upon the FIRST of these considerations we may notice the title which is here given to him; he is called "THE STRONG MAN." Very little information is afforded us in scripture with regard to this mysteriously awful being. All that we can gather from the word of God is, that he was among the most powerful of created beings. This is the character of all God's angels, that "they excel in strength ;”6 and as he was originally one of them, he partook of this their excellency. Nay, we may conclude that as he was high, if not chief, among them, he partook of it in an eminent degree. In what way or upon what occasion he fell from that situation in which his powers had been subservient to the Creator, and turned them in rebellion against him, we are not informed; as such information does not lie within the scope of God's revelation to man. And all that we can know is, that which may be incidentally gathered from such things as are written expressly for

6 Ps. ciii. 20.

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our own guidance and instruction. Thus, as we are warned against being lifted up with pride, lest we "fall into the condemnation of the devil," the same condemnation into which he fell; and as the fallen angels are spoken of by Jude, as "not having kept their first estate," and as "having left their own habitation," we are at liberty to conclude that this mighty being, and the hosts which he led, not contented with that station in which their Maker had placed them, had presumed to aspire still higher. And from this, as well as from that address to the king of Babylon in the 14th of Isaiah, which seems evidently to compare his fall to the fall of Satan, we may gather that it was for such an act of daring audacity that they were cast out from the presence of God. The passage to which I refer is this: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God."9 In this fall, however, it would seem that they retained their powers, and that the only difference between their present and their past state, was in the employment of them. Before, when they were subject unto God, and " did his commandments hearkening unto the voice of his word" when they were "his ministers and did his pleasure," the exercise of this power was for good; -but now, when they had cast off his authority, it

7 1 Tim. iii. 6.
9 Isa. xiv. 12, 13.

8 Jude 6.

1 Ps. ciii. 20, 21.

was for evil. The continuance indeed of their extraordinary power notwithstanding their fall, is denoted by the titles by which they are called. Thus we read of them still as "principalities and powers," as "spiritual wickedness in high places." And of their chief, or leader, this attribute of power is affirmed by the names which he individually bears. Thus he is spoken of as "the roaring lion," as "the great dragon," and as " and as "Leviathan, the piercing serpent." 5 There is much reason to fear that the truth of the personal existence of this deadly enemy is not sufficiently realized; and yet, notwithstanding the difficulty in which we may be involved in accounting for his origin, in describing the nature of his transgression, or the reason for the continuance of his power, there is not, perhaps, within the compass of God's word, any one fact more clearly revealed than that of his personal existence, and his continued and unceasing exertion. And as the reason why this is so fully revealed is obvious, namely, that we should be prepared against him; that we should not be "ignorant of his devices;" that we should not "give place" to him; but "resist" him; that we should "put on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand against his wiles ;"9 so it is equally obvious that his great object is to lead us to question this. And we may be assured that all doubts upon this subject are of his own infusing, and that they who

2 Ephes. vi. 12. 5 Isa. xxvii. 1.

8 James iv. 7.

3 1 Pet. v. 8.
6 2 Cor. ii. 11.

4 Rev. xii. 3.
7 Ephes. iv. 27.

9 Ephes. vi. 11.

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