Luke 11:21


Lasting power shows solid worth. The corrupt empire falls; the false system is exploded; the demoralizing custom is discarded. That which, under all changes, shows itself strong and enduring, is proved to be sound and good. But add the element of benignity. Jesus Christ adduces his beneficent power in the expulsion of evil spirits from the bodies of men as a convincing evidence of the Divine presence; that being done, "no doubt the kingdom of God is come." Power for good, for healing, for restoring, for transforming, such power continuing for many generations and acting under all skies, - "no doubt" that is from above; it is of God. If we find that Christianity has proved itself to be the one great benignant power in the world, exerting a gracious, redeeming, elevating influence on humanity, then "no doubt the kingdom of God is come" upon us. We shall see that this is so if we consider -

I. THE STATE OF SOCIETY WHEN JESUS CAME. And we have to take into our account the parental tyranny; the position of woman in her state of inferiority and even degradation; the universal sentiment toward the stranger or the foreigner, spoken of and treated as a "barbarian" and an enemy; the prevalence of war, and its conduct with every imaginable cruelty and the most shocking recklessness of life; the prevalence of slavery under a system in which the slaves were regarded and treated as absolutely without any rights or claims whatsoever; the existence of gladiatorial shows, in which the lives of hundreds of strong men in the midst of life were sacrificed for sport to men and even to women; the common usage of infanticide; the abundance of pauperism, existing to such an extent that in the time of Caesar "nearly three-fourths of the whole population of the city of Rome were on the roll of public succor;" the institution of torture; the practice of licentious shows, and of unnatural and unnameable vices. We have here no more than a bare outline of the evils which existed in the world when "Jesus was born at Bethlehem."

II. WHAT AMELIORATION CHRISTIANITY HAS WROUGHT AND IS WORKING. Three things have to be mentioned - one to be admitted, and the other two to be maintained.

1. That there have been one or two auxiliary forces in the field, which have contributed towards the elevation of mankind; but theirs has been very much indeed the smaller share.

2. That Christianity was prevented from doing all it would have done by being bitterly opposed.

3. That its action has been most pitifully weakened by its truth having been so greatly corrupted. But what, notwithstanding, has it accomplished .9

(1) It has cast out the demon of parental tyranny, and made the child to be the object of respect and kindness.

(2) It has raised woman, and made her the helpmeet, in every way, of her husband, causing her to be treated with deference and consideration.

(3) It has mitigated the terrible severities of war, carrying its red cross of succor into the very midst of the battle-field, and, to a large extent, removing its hideous savagery.

(4) It has gone far towards exorcising the demon of slavery.

(5) It has abolished the shameful scenes of the old Roman arena.

(6) It has extinguished infanticide and torture wherever it has authority to legislate.

(7) It is carrying on a stern and victorious campaign against impurity and intemperance.

(8) It has built hospitals, lunatic asylums, reformatories, orphanages, almshouses, by the hundred, by the thousand.

(9) It has opened the school-door in which youth everywhere is prepared for the duties, the joys, and the conflicts of life.

(10) It has sent forth its many hundreds of heralds to carry light, peace, love, purity, wisdom, into the haunts of superstition, violence, and vice.

(11) It is penetrating the worst slums of our great cities, seeking out the prod, me, the abandoned, the criminal; and with its touch of holy pity, which surely proceeds from "the finger of God," it is casting out the demons of sin and shame. At the present rate of progress, another half-century will see a most wonderful and glorious change in the aspect of the human world.

III. THE CONCLUSION THAT WE DRAW. If Christianity has done, is doing, will do, all this, then "no doubt "in its advent we have the coming of the "kingdom of God." No doubt Christ has that to say to us which it is infinitely worth our while to know; that to do for us it is our highest privilege to have done on our behalf; that to be to us which it is immeasurably desirable he should be. Let us learn of him; be led by him into paths of sacred service; and invite him to become our personal Lord and Savior. - C.







A strong man armed.
I. A PICTURE OF MAN IN HIS SINFUL STATE. Observe, that although man's hear, was intended to be the throne of God, it is now become the palace of Satan. It is said of this strong man, moreover, that he is armed. Truly the prince of the power of the air is never without weapons. His principal weapon is the lie. Then we are told that he wears armour — for we read that the stronger warrior "taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted." Certain it is, the evil spirit is well accoutred in that which is proof against all terrestrial steel. Prejudice, ignorance, evil education — all these are chain-armour with which Satan girds himself. A hard heart is the impenetrable breast-plate which this evil spirit wears; a seared conscience becomes to him like greaves of brass; habitude in sin is a helmet of iron. Notice, again, this strong man: besides being armed and plated with armour, he is very watchful; for it is said "he keepeth his palace" — keeps it like the faithful warder who with ceaseless tramp and sleepless eye holds watch upon the castle wall. He does not put on the armour to sleep in it. You may find sleeping saints, but never sleeping devils. We have in the text a good reason given why Satan thus watches over the man whose heart he inhabits, because he considers the man to be his property — "he keepeth his goods." They are not his in justice; whatever goods there are in the house of manhood must belong to God who built the house, and who intended to tenant it. But Satan sets up a claim and calls everything in the man his goods. The man's memory he makes a storehouse for ill words and bad songs; the man's judgment he perverts so that the scales and weights are false; the man's love he sets on fire with coals of hell, and his imagination be dazzles with foul delusions. He claims the whole man to be his own; and it is wonderful how readily his claim is allowed. Men fancy music in the chains with which Satan binds them, and hug the fetters which he hangs upon them. Nor is this all; Satan not only claims possession, but he claims sovereignty. You perceive it is said, "his palace." A palace is usually the abode of a king, so Satan considers himself a great king when he dwells in the human heart. I must not leave this picture until you have observed that it is said, "while he keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace." This is the most fearful sign in the whole affair. The man is quite undisturbed — conscience does not prick him: why should it? God does not alarm him: who is God, that he should obey His voice? Thoughts of hell never disturb him. Men who are stupefied with laudanum may be naked, but they are not cold; they may have empty stomachs, but they are not hungry; they may be diseased in body, but they do not feel the torment: they are drunken, and know not their misery: and so it is with the most of carnal men — nothing awakens them.

II. A REPRESENTATION OF MAN FOR A TIME REFORMED. Observe, then, that in the case before us the unclean spirit goes out of his own free will. Why does the evil spirit leave a man for a time? Has he not some hellish purpose in view? Certainly he has. I think it often is because he feels if he does not go out he will be driven out, but he thinks that by giving way for a time he will satisfy the conscience till he gets it lulled to sleep faster than ever. Thus he will stoop to conquer, retreat to draw his opponent into an ill position; allow his throne to shake, that he may re-establish his dominion permanently. Moreover, he thinks that by letting the man indulge in a little religion for a time, and then turn aside from it, he will make him permanently sceptical so that he will hold him fast by the iron chain of infidelity, and drag him down to hell with that book in his jaws. Now, after a time it appears that the evil spirit returned; he could find no rest for himself except in the hearts of the wicked, and therefore he came back again. There is no opposition to his entrance, the door is not locked, or if it be he has the latch-key. He comes in, there is no tenant, no man in possession, no other proprietor. He looks round and cries, "Here is my house. I left it when I took my walks abroad, and I have come back, and here it is ready for me." The devil shouts his "Halloa!" and there is an echo through every room, but no intruder starts up. "Is Christ here?" No answer. He goes outside and he looks at the lintel, for Christ's mark is sure to be there if Jesus is within. "No mark of blood on the post, Christ is not here," says he, "it is empty, I will make myself at home"; for if Jesus had been there, though He had been hidden in a closet, yet when He came out He would claim possession, and drive out the traitor, and say, "Get thee gone! this is no place for thee; I have bought it with My blood, and I mean to possess it for ever." But it is empty, and so Satan fills it with stores of evil. The next thing the fiend notices is that it is swept; as one says, "Swept, but never washed." Sweeping takes away the loose dirt, washing takes away all the filth. O to be washed in Jesus' blood I Here is a man whose house is swept — the loose sins are gone. He is not a drunkard; there is a pledge over the mantelpiece. He is no longer lustful; he hates that sin or says he does, which is as much as the devil wants him to do. The place is swept so tidy, so neat, you would not know him to be the same man as he used to be; and he himself is so proud to think he has got his house so clean, and he stands up at the threshold as he meets the devil with a "Good morning," and he says, "I am not as other men are — I am neither an extortioner, nor a drunkard; nor even as that Christian over yonder, who is not half what he ought to be — nor a tithe so consistent as I am." And as the devil looks round and finds the place swept, he finds it garnished too. The man has bought some pictures — he has not real faith, but he has a fine picture of it over the fireplace; he has no love to the cross of Christ, but he hag a very handsome crucifix hanging on the wall. He has no graces of the Spirit, but he has a fine vase of flowers on the table, of other people's experiences and other people's graces, and they smell tolerably sweet. There is a fireplace without fire, but there is one of the handsomest ornaments for the fireplace that was ever bought for money. It is swept and garnished.

III. A GRAPHIC PORTRAIT OF MAN ENTIRELY CONQUERED BY THE POWER OF THE GREAT REDEEMER. NOW, observe here is a "stronger than he." This is not the man himself, the man is the house, the man is not so strong as the devil — who is this? This is Jesus Christ, who comes by His Spirit into the heart of man, and the Spirit of God is vastly superior to Satanic power, as much as the infinite Creator Himself must ever be superior to the finite creature. "He comes upon him," that is to say, He attacks him; and ah, how vehemently does Christ lay to at the great enemy of souls. One sword-cut cuts away the plume of pride; another blow takes away the comfort of sin; and another destroys the reigning power of sin. As soon as ever the stronger man has conquered the enemy, what does he do? He takes his sword of rebellion, snaps it across his knee, and pulls the armour from the back of the unclean spirit. Prejudice, ignorance, hardheartedness, all these are pulled off the old enemy. Christ Jesus then proceeds to divide the spoil. "There is the man's heart, I will take that," says He, "that shall be a jewel in My crown. The man's love I will set as a jewel upon My arm for ever. His memory, his judgment, his power of thought, utterance, and working — these are all Mine," says Christ. He begins to divide the spoil, He puts the broad arrow of the King upon every room in the house, upon every piece of furniture. The garnishing He pulls out; "I will adorn it far better than this," saith He. "There shall be no pictures of faith, but faith; there shall be no ornament in yonder gate except the ornament of the glowing fire of fervid zeal; there shall be no borrowed flowers, but I will train round this window the sweet roses and jessamine of love and peace of mind; I will wash what was only swept, with My blood I will make it white, and sweet, and clean; and I will strike the lintel and the two side posts with the hyssop, and with the blood mark, and then the destroying angel when he sweeps by shall sheathe his sword, and the black fiend when he would enter shall see the mark there, and go back trembling to his accursed den." This is conversion, the other was only conviction; this is change of heart, the other was only change of life.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. Look AT THE DEVIL'S INFLUENCES FOR EVIL.

1. His possession may be more or less apparent.

2. His possession may be more or less oppressive.

II. LOOK AT THE LORD'S APPLIANCES FOR GOOD.

1. The Lord Jesus comes upon Satan. Deliverance is from without, from above.

2. The Lord Jesus stands against Satan.

3. The Lord Jesus rises above Satan.

(1)Strips him of his power.

(2)Deprives him of his prey.

(3)Expels him from his usurped authority in the soul.Lessons:

1. Whether men mean it or not, they do, and they must take sides.

2. Unless the expulsion of evil be by Christ, it will be a temporary relief followed by increased mischief.

3. When sceptical standers-by comment upon the seeming difficulties, the dispossessed soul knows and proves that the dumb spirit is gone.

4. When the unprejudiced observers witness what the Lord is doing, they know by whom it has been done.

(John Richardson, M. A.)

Family Churchman.
I. CHRIST AFFIRMS THE ANCIENT DOMINION OF THE EVIL ONE IN ITS STRENGTH AND SECURITY.

1. Satan's kingdom was held by dint of great strength.

2. By means of many and various agencies.

3. With all the security of antiquity and custom.

4. And in consequence of the ignorance of the subjects over whom he reigned.

5. Yet this dominion was iniquitous.

II. CHRIST DECLARES HIMSELF TO BE THE MIGHTY ONE, OVERTHROWING AND SPOILING MAN'S SPIRITUAL TYRANT. The figure is picturesque and vigorous. When you see a warrior in the palace of his foeman, capturing his arms and appropriating his goods, you know that the battle has been lost and won, that the strong man has yielded to the stronger, and is now either bound in the dungeon or dead upon the field. So, when you see such a victory as Christ's over the demon possessing this miserable sufferer, you know that the fight upon our behalf has been fought, that He who came to release the prisoners has already grappled with the grim foe who has made them captive, has demolished his power and humbled his pride.

1. Christ is stronger by reason of His own Divine nature.

2. Christ is proved to be stronger, as appears by the evidence of historical fact. The events of His ministry are witness; even then He saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

3. His victories upon earth were an earnest of His complete triumph over His foe and man's. Every foe must he put beneath His feet. Application: Each human heart is a battlefield between the two powers. Has Christ obtained the victory in our spiritual nature?

(Family Churchman.)

I. THE STATE HERE DESCRIBED.

1. The description," strong man armed," applies to Satan —(1) Because he was created a being of a higher order than man, and therefore superior to him in strength.(2) Because he has the strength of a numerous host available to the execution of his designs.(3) Because the skill he must have acquired by the long practice he has had, enables him to apply that strength, as it shall best serve to the accomplishment of his own designs.

2. The hearts of unregenerate men are the "palace" of Satan.(1) He keeps them in a state of dire captivity, aliens from the God who made them, and enemies of the Saviour who redeemed them.(2) He keeps them under the most powerful delusion.

II. THE CONTEST.

III. THE TRIUMPH.

1. Satan is rendered defenceless, with reference to all those who are made free from his dominion; so that the victory achieved for them may be maintained even by the weakest amongst them.

2. When Christ recovers His interest in man and His dominion over him, He disposes him, all that he has and is, for the destruction of sin, the good of the Church, and the glory of God.

(J. Fowler.)

I. THE NATURAL CONDITION OF THE HUMAN SOUL. Under the dominion of Satan; a dominion which is —

1. Absolute.

2. Degrading.

3. Destructive.

II. THE CHANGE WROUGHT IN THE CONDITION OF THE HUMAN SOUL BY —

1. The character of the agent.

2. The method of the attack.

3. The victory of the Saviour involves the ransom of man from the guilt of sin; "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."

III. THE DUTIES WHICH THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE CHARGE WROUGHT IN THE CONDITION OF THE HUMAN SOUL BY MEDIATORIAL GRACE SHOULD DEEPLY AND UNIVERSALLY IMPRESS.

1. There ought to be an humble acknowledgment of the supreme majesty of Christ.

2. Another duty must be regarded as being the formation of an impressive estimate as to the value of the human soul.

3. It is a duty earnestly to aspire after the application of delivering power to ourselves.

4. There is that of entire, absolute devotedness to Him by whom you are delivered.

(J. Parsons.)

The Preacher's Treasury.
n: —

I. THE DEFENCE AND RESOURCES OF THE ENEMY.

1. Idolatry.

2. Imposture.

3. Superstition.

4. Despotism.

5. Crime in its various forms.

6. False liberality in religion.

7. Corruption of religious revivals.

II. How SHALL THE ENEMY BE VANQUISHED?

1. By the judgments of heaven, in which the Son of Man will come upon the strong man armed, and take away his armour.

2. By the universal propagation of the gospel; before the light of which, idolatry, imposture, and superstition, will retreat abashed. And —

3. By frequent, and, at last, general revivals of religion; giving resistless power to the gospel, as it is preached to every creature.Conclusion:

1. There must be more faith in the Church of God.

2. There must be a more intense love for Christ in His Church.

3. There must be an era of more decided action, before the earth can be subdued to Christ.

4. For this glorious achievement, there is demanded more courage than has, in modern days, been manifested by the Church of God.

5. There must be new and more vigorous efforts to increase the number and power of evangelical churches in our land.

6. Special effort is required, to secure to the rising generation an education free from the influence of bad example, and more decidedly evangelical.

7. The vigour of charitable effort must be greatly increased.

8. The jealousies of Christians who are united substantially in their views of evangelical doctrine and religion, and who are divided only by localities, and rites, and forms, must yield, and give place to the glorious exigencies of the present day.

9. Let me add, that we must guard against the dangers peculiar to a state of religious prosperity.

(The Preacher's Treasury.)

Note here —

1. That Satan is an unclean spirit, he hath lost his original purity, his holy nature in which he was created, and is by sin become universally sinful and impure; no means being allowed him by God for the purging of his filthy and impure nature; yea, he is a perfect enemy to purity and holiness; maligning all that love it and would promote it.

2. That Satan is a restless and unquiet spirit, being cast out of heaven he can rest nowhere; when he is either gone out of a man by policy, or cast out by power, he has no content or satisfaction, till he returns into a filthy heart, where he delights to be, as the swine in miry places.

3. That wicked and profane sinners have this unclean spirit dwelling in them; their hearts are Satan's house and habitation, and the lusts of pride and unbelief, malice and revenge, envy and hypocrisy, these are the garnishings and furniture of Satan's house: man's heart was God's house by creation, it is now Satan's by usurpation and judiciary tradition.

4. That Satan, by the preaching of the gospel, may seem to go out of persons, and they become sober and civilized; yet may he return again to his old habitation, and the latter end of that man may be worse than the beginning.

(W. Burkitt.)

The Divine conqueror is here represented as not destroying, but "dividing the spoil" — i.e., employing for His own cause and glory everything that, before the conquest, Satan had been using for his own evil purposes. Now, this is the overlooked and apparently unimportant point in the parable we wish practically to consider as setting forth this simple proposition — That Christ Jesus, in the victories of His grace, whether individual or universal, turns to His own advantage, and employs for His own glory, all those physical powers and intellectual endowments — that whole array of influence and engine which previously the great adversary had perverted and made powerful for evil.

I. We begin with the INDIVIDUAL, as certainly the most obvious reference of the lesson — the case of a sinful soul conquered by Christ in the process of regeneration. And thus it serves to rectify some wrong conceptions often entertained of the nature of regeneration. Here the representation of the great change wrought in the regenerated soul, is only a change in the sovereignty that overrules it. h change, not in the house's furniture and appointments, but in their uses and ownership. The stronger man has not come to destroy what was in the fortress, but to rescue it all from the hands of the strong man, and turn it to his own purposes. Those very endowments of reason, imagination, wit, wealth, power — acquirements which before were exercised sinfully, because without godliness — Christ would now employ for man's good and God's glory; not destroying but only "dividing the spoil." To be a Christian, is simply and truly to be the highest style of man — to have all the faculties and impulses of your nature lifted from the perishing things of earth. Oh, no; He would enter only to conquer and bind the despot that enslaves you — to unshutter the darkened windows, and let in heavenly aims, and odours, and sunshine; and, reviving in all their original beauty, and replacing in all their original glory, its magnificent adornments, transform it from the haunt of a demon to the home of a God! But now let us pass from the individual to consider —

II. THE TEXT'S WIDER AND UNIVERSAL APPLICATION. This satanic despotism over the human heart is in exact analogy with his despotism over the earth as man's dwelling-place. The Bible everywhere represents this fallen spirit as practically "the god of this world." But there is a day coming when "the strong man" shall be mastered by "one stronger than he." The kingdoms and dominions under the whole heavens are to become Immanuel's, and this world become manifestly again the abode of a universally acknowledged Jehovah. All this we are assured of. But then, we do not believe that, as a result of this, earth is suddenly to be transfigured, as into another planet. Here, in the universal as in the individual, we look for this great law of conquest — that, having bound the strong man and taken away his armour, our glorious Redeemer will not destroy the spoil, but will only "divide the spoil." We judge that the world, under Messiah's reign, will be the world as it is, only redeemed from sin and reestablished in, and filled with, all righteousness. Physically it will be the same world, but instead of working disobedience to the precepts of the Divine law, all natural agents and processes shall be consecrated to Christ; and holiness to the Lord "shall be written on the bells of the horses." Intellectually it will be the same world, and all sciences and arts flourish, and poetry see visions, and eloquence utter prophecies; but literature shall embalm with sweet spices the name of the Crucified, and science shall go forth along all its broad journeyings, only searching for God. Socially and politically, it will be the same; and though all despotisms shall cease, and every oppressor's rod be broken, yet, as under the old Hebrew theocracy different civil polities successively obtained, so then there may be all present forms of government. But high above finite magistracy shall rise one Omnipotent enthronement, and monarchs, and princes, and presidents, and mighty men shall be mighty men, and presidents, and kings unto God.

(C. Wadsworth, D. D.)

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.)

I. And, if you reflect for a moment upon that blessed being, in whom is our life; the sinless man; the God in the flesh; you will at once discern what peculiar fitness there is in Him for our deliverance from this spiritual battle! a fitness nowhere else to be found, or to be imagined. As the very and eternal God, He hath all power, equal to the Father, all brightness, and glory, and all unutterable perfections dwelling within Him, as in a fountain inexhaustible, and ever flowing over on the objects of His love. As man, again, one with us, He is our brother, united by ties unspeakable in any words which human nature can supply, with those for whose sake He came down from the bosom of the eternal glory. Christ for Himself has fought it all over before us, with the very same enemy, and against the very same arms and weapons which are directed against us. And right and well it is that so it should have been ordered. As Satan's first victory was gained over flesh and blood, in the same flesh and blood it seemed good to Almighty God that he should be conquered. Christ, then, is the stronger man who conquereth the strong for us and frees the soul from its captivity, which is the first point which the text suggests to our consideration.

II. The next is the use which He makes of His victory.

III. TAKETH FROM HIM, that is, from Satan, THE ARMOUR IN WHICH HE TRUSTED. The meaning evidently is, that He deprives him of those weapons of spiritual strength and spiritual delusion, by making use of which he was enabled to keep an uninterrupted dominion for so long a time. What is Satan's armour? to what, in fact, in the soul of the sinner, does he mainly trust, in order to prevent his escape into the liberty of the children of God? Evidently this is a most important point, necessary for us clearly to understand if we would enter into the secret wisdom of this mystery of iniquity, and put ourselves on an effectual guard against it. Now, I think, that those arms of Satan are mainly three.

1. Our self-love.

2. Our unbelief. And —

3. Our indulgence in some one favourite sin.So long as we allow Satan possession of these weapons, it is impossible to expel him; he keeps a fast and sure hold, in spite of any occasional struggle, of his house and all the goods that are therein. And I am sure you must confess that, wherever this is present, whichever essential doctrine of the truth as it is in Jesus it chooses not to credit, there Satan's possession is quite secure! And it is, indeed, a powerful instrument of war in his hand, with which to repel the assaults of the gospel upon the heart, and to prevent Christ, the rightful owner, from entering in, and taking possession.

(J. Garbett, M. A.)

And if it seems strange to any among you, that such things should give such delight, and if you ask the reason, it is precisely what I have been speaking about. The reason is, that the heart is in it, just as it might have been in the world, and in the service of Satan before. There is all the difference. Only imagine just as powerful a liking for the things of God, as some of you probably feel for the things of the world; and just as strong a desire for God's favour and growth in all heavenly graces, and the full enjoyment of His presence, whether in heaven or earth, as sinners have for earthly vanities; and the marvel is explained. Satan is spoiled, and what was once his, the heart, is now Christ's — that is all. And the consequence is, that the affections being engaged, the very same things, such as worshipping God in His holy house, which are practised alike by nominal and real Christians, are very different indeed in the feeling they produce, and the fruits they leave behind!

1. Only look, then, at the practical difference which this produces. Is there an opportunity given us of promoting God's glory, and the spread of the gospel, say by giving somewhat out of our substance? We used to try to give as little as it was possible, and no more; to invent all kinds of doubts, and difficulties, and scruples, and hesitations, full of worldly caution and worldly wisdom. Now we thank Him for such a privilege. We are filled with gratitude at being thought worthy to feed or to clothe the members of Christ, or to aid in the extension of the glorious gospel. It is only giving from what is not ours, but His. If we must give up anything, it must not be these deeds of love. Satan is spoiled, and we now do for God, what we once did for him.

2. Again — Is there laid before us, solemnly and affectionately, out of God's holy Word, some grace to be obtained, of which we never thought before; some holy temper which we have never cultivated, or some duty to ourselves, our families, or our neighbours, which has never been pressed upon us in former times. Is this the ease, as it must be, with us all? Look at the result of our choice being on heavenly things. We no longer say, "No, the old ways were good enough for me; I take trouble enough in going to church and leading an upright life, and I shall do no more." No. We say, "It is well; this never struck me; but it is in scripture, it is in the practice of holy men, the saints of God. It is, I cannot deny it, a good and Christian thing to do, and such as the blessing of God will fall upon, if there is any truth in plain gospel words, and any reality in Divine grace. I am willing then to follow him wheresoever He may lead me, and still to do more and more as increasing light shall guide me. By His aid I will do this good thing, and trust to Him to bless it." Here, again, the Christian is only doing in Divine things what he has done all his life in worldly ones; taking advantage of every new light, and every fresh instruction, and permitting no opportunity to pass, by which he could advance his interest or improve his chances of ultimate success. Satan is spoiled, and we now do for God what we used to do for him.

3. Again — It may be that, in the performance of this or that duty to God, and of obedience to one or other of the commandments which He has laid upon us, there may be inconveniences to encounter, difficulties in family arrangement, perhaps some labour to be undergone, some pleasure or relaxation to be abandoned, some worldly gain, or supposed worldly gain and advantage, to be sacrificed. We used not to scruple in such a case to sacrifice God instantly to the world or to ourselves. "I have pressing accounts upon my hands," a man says; "I cannot, therefore, come to church, or read the Bible, or meditate on my soul; business must be done whether or no, that is the main thing in the world, and God could not intend that I should so trouble myself to my own disadvantage." "I shall have so much less at the end of the year if I give this or that, and what good will Christ's love do me in such a matter?" It is now; "God forbid that I should break His holy law, be it the Sabbath — be it prayer — be it almsgiving — be it what it may; how shall I do this wickedness, and sin against God? My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God, and I am content if I can please and obey Him; where or what shall I be if I lose His love who is my all?" Here, again, you see, the Christian only does in the concerns of his soul, and in the service of God, what men of the world are always practising for earthly ends and objects. Satan is spoiled of his old weapons, that is all; we now do for God what we used to do for him.

3. Again — we encounter some grievous trial. We find, perhaps, when we least expected it, that something very dear to us must be given up, some grievous sacrifice be made, of something not in itself bad, perhaps; but not to be reconciled with a devotion of the soul to God in Christ. Formerly, it never would have entered into our heads to surrender it. But now it is, "Take it all, O Lord, lay this and everything else upon us, if it be Thy good will; Thy will, O Lord, and not ours be done." We give up the less for the greater, and trust where we know trust should be reposed, exactly as men do in the world. Satan is spoiled, and we now do for God what we used to do for him.

(J. Garbett, M. A.)

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