Neither give place to the devil.
The devil is no myth nor bugbear to frighten bad children with, but a real being, and powerful. Most plausible and smooth of tongue, the devil makes the largest promises, but he is a poor paymaster. Old King Canute, the Dane, offered to make him the highest man in England who should murder his hated rival, King Edmund. The bloody deed was done, and the guilty wretch was hanged on the highest tower in London. So Satan promises to bestow upon his wining dupes anything and everything they ask, and the honour which they look for in return proves only shame, and the happiness ends in torment. "Who is the most diligent bishop in all England?" asks old Hugh Latimer, in one of his quaint sermons. "I will tell you: it is the devil. He is the most diligent preacher of all others; he is never out of his diocese; he is ever applying to his business. His office is to hinder religion, to set up idolatry." It is well for us to remember that the Arch-Deceiver is the same that he always was, and he was never more to be dreaded than now. He has access to us in various ways, and he knows how to make the best of his opportunities. The devil is not omnipresent, but carries on his evil work by his countless agents. Here are some of the ways in which people give place to the devil.
1. The soul that is not filled with good thoughts and desires is left empty for the enemy to enter. One night, as St. Anthony sat in his cell, he heard a knocking at the door, and going to see who was there, he beheld a man of terrible aspect, and the monk asked, in alarm, who he was. The stranger answered, "I am Satan; and I come to inquire how it is that thou and thy disciples, whenever ye stray into sin, or any evil befall ye, lay the blame on me, and load me with curses?" St. Anthony answered, with some spirit, "Have we not cause? Dost thou not go about seeking whom thou mayest devour, and tempt and torment us?" The demon retorted, sharply, "It is false; I do none of those things of which men accuse me; it is their own fault. They allure each other to sin; they torment and oppress each other; they go about seeking occasions to sin, and then they weakly lay the blame at my door. Since God came upon earth, and was made man to redeem man, I have no arms, no dwelling place. Let men complain of themselves, not of me." Ah, how mortifying the truth, my friends, that we as often tempt the devil as he tempts us!
2. Another way in which people put themselves in the power of the Great Adversary is by yielding to spiritual indolence. Industry and watchfulness distinguish all real Christians. As soon as they become indolent, they cease to be on their guard against the enemy of souls. Among the disciples of Hillel, the wise teacher of Israel, was one who gave himself up to idleness. The good rabbi was grieved, and resolved to cure him of it. He accordingly took him to the valley of Hinnom, by Jerusalem, where was a standing pool, full of loathsome reptiles, and covered with muddy weeds. "Here," said Hillel, "let us rest." "Not here," cried the youth; "dost thou not see what poisonous vapours it exhales?" "Thou art right, my son," replied the rabbi; "and this bog is like the soul of the slothful!" This is as true of things spiritual as of things temporal. "Because iniquity shall abound," says our blessed Lord, "the love of many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:12). "The atmosphere of sin is poisonous to everything sacred; but the first thing which it especially acts upon is love. Love is the tenderest of all plants of heaven."
3. Another favourable opportunity which Christians too often give to Satan to do them serious mischief, is the absorbing attention which they pay to their worldly business. "I have just seen a beautiful picture," said one business man to another, after the cares of the day were done. "What was it?" "It was a landscape. The conception is most beautiful, and the execution well nigh perfect. You must be sure to go and see it before it is removed." "And so have I seen a fine picture today," said the other. "Indeed! What was it?" "I received notice this morning that there was great suffering in a certain family, and as soon as I could leave my business, I went to see what could be done. I climbed up to the garret where the poor family was sheltered, and as I was about to knock at the door, I heard a voice in prayer. When it ceased, I entered the wretched apartment, and found a young merchant, whose store I had just been in, and whose business I knew to be very pressing. Yet he had left it, and spent some time in personal labours for the comfort of the sick and suffering, and when I arrived, he was praying with the family, preparatory to his taking his leave. I asked him how he could afford the time, at such a busy season, to engage in these merciful offices, and he told me that the ease of these poor sufferers had been made known to several professing Christians, who had given no heed to it. 'It is not absolutely necessary,' he added, 'that I should make money; but it is necessary that the honour of Christ should be maintained.'" I dare say you have seen some fine pictures in the attractive windows of our print shops, but have you observed one finer than this? Oh, my friends, you who, by your absorbing devotion to worldly business, are, in fact, "giving place to the devil," I pray you take time to examine this picture well, and if you admire it, try to furnish one like it. Dr. Judson once sent for a poor Christian convert, in India, who was about to engage in some enterprize which he feared would not be for her spiritual good. "Look here," he said, snatching a ruler from the table, and tracing a crooked, zigzag line upon the floor, "here is where you have been walking. You have been out of the path half the time, but then you have kept near it, and not taken to new roads, and you have, to a certain extent, grown in grace; and now here you stand. You know where this path leads. You know what is before you: some struggles, some sorrows, and, finally, eternal life and a crown of glory. To the left, branches off another very pleasant road, and along the air floats rather temptingly a pretty bubble. You do "not mean to leave the path you have walked in for so many years; you only purpose to step aside, and catch the bubble, and think you will come back; but you never will!" The lesson proved effectual in her case, and oh, my brethren, holding your eternal destiny in the balance, I pray God that it may not be unavailing in yours!
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Neither give place to the devil.