When a strong man armed keeps his palace, his goods are in peace:…
What is it then? Why, the sinner's heart is Satan's house; the place wherein he dwells — not near it or round about it, but within it. Now, to make this clear, you all know what your own house is to you, You go to and fro in it at your own will and pleasure — you order everything in it, exactly after your own taste — you give commands to your servants or to your children, and they are compelled to obey you — you walk up and down its several chambers, and furnish them as suits your convenience — you take your ease and pleasure there, and none interrupts you — you knock at the door and it instantly opens to you — you close it, and none can have an entrance there, without your consent. In one word, which is better than the longest description that can be given, it belongs to you, it is your own; you do what you like with it, it is a part of yourselves; and you feel at once how much is contained in that! Even so is the heart of the sinner to Satan; just as much his property. Sinner! Satan is within thee! The ungodly heart is the very home of the evil spirit! But, it is well worth your remarking that our Lord describes the place wherein the strong man dwells, not as a mere ordinary house, but as a palace, a king's mansion. And yet certainly in one point of view, it is difficult to imagine anything less like a royal dwelling-place than the soul of the unconverted sinner. For who is it that lives in it? Take it, on his own showing — it is himself; he is master of it. Be it so: but what a vile thing this self is! Though men dress it up, as savages do their ugly idols, in order to give it some show of comeliness, and some appearance of beauty, it is truly a mean thing and a contemptible at the best. And as is the supposed master, so is everything about him. All the furniture of the dwelling is of the same description. Low thoughts — wretched passions — miserable ends and aims; gild them and turn them as you will, they are all of the earth, earthy! No noble faith who elevated hopes. It was intended to be a palace; because, when Almighty God first framed it, He meant it for Himself to dwell in, and to put His glory there, and His purity, and His righteousness, and all the graces which attend upon His presence, and, like so many beams from the sun, are always issuing forth, and shining round about Him. And even the smallest dwelling that ever was, if a great king should make it his house, and live in it, would be fitly styled a palace. Nobody would think of the smallness of the place, but only the grandeur of its inhabitant. At any rate, the goods which are within this dwelling, and which furnish it, are the possession of him who resides there as lord and master, be it God or be it Satan. And magnificently did He who made you furnish you forth in this respect. There is a man's mind; a man's thoughts, which he can turn as he pleases; directing them to things good or things evil. Again, there is what we call our affections, the power of loving, or feeling a strong attachment for this or that object. Then there is the power which all men possess, in a greater or less degree, of influencing the minds of other men, and persuading them by their words, or by their deeds and example, to serve God, or to serve themselves and the world! And, in very many cases, there is, all this time, a state of peace. Everything is quiet in the soul of the sinner; Satan's reign is not disputed. How many solemn dispensations are sent to waken him, frequently in the shape of visitations on his friends and neighbours, sudden deaths, and so on! How is it he is neither moved nor changed, but is still the same? The man is not his own master! Satan has possession of him; and treats him as he will! The strong man keepeth his palace, and his goods are in peace, his own without difficulty or dispute. And, if you consider against how many workings and appeals of all kinds this possession is maintained, you will not and cannot doubt that a great deal of power is necessary to the strong man, to Satan with whom we have to deal. And he is strong in two ways. He is in himself powerful; not able indeed, as yet, absolutely to destroy either body or soul, as he constantly desires to do, limited round about, in many ways, by the obstacles which God throws in his way, and by which he continually overrules him, but still very mighty to tempt and destroy. He is of no mean rank. He is the prince of this world, seducing men with riches and pleasures.
2. He is mighty too, not only in himself, but in the weaknesses and corruptions of those Whom he sets himself to destroy, He winds himself into them. "Peace," he says to another; "you are not open sinners — you do not pick, nor steal, nor slay. You are not drunkards, or swearers, or adulterers! Why should you trouble yourselves about loving God with all your heart, and making Him reign in all your thoughts?" Or again he says to others, "Peace! it is all true that God does require truth and holiness in the inward parts. It is true, as your alarmed heart testifies, that Almighty God is a consuming fire, and does exact obedience to His laws. But then, He is not so awfully strict and severe, as, in your first terror, you are inclined to suppose. I do not say cherish all sins, but one is not much to keep." If, I say, a man is clearly convinced that it is indeed the plain and unquestionable sense of Scripture, and the real counsel of God towards sinners, as any candid and reason. able man must be, why then, there would be danger of such a person's escaping his authority, if Satan directly denied what is undeniable to an awakened conscience. He therefore, wisely, does not attempt it. He says, "Peace — all this is true. But then there is abundance of time still left for it. You need not be in a hurry!" So there is peace again; the tempter is believed, and all becomes quiet in his house. Dear brethren, the first sign that the power of the strong man is about to give way, is this inward struggle. It is the Spirit from above, descending to the battle, and waking you out of your sleep, to put on your armour and to fight for your life.
(J. Garbett, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: