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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.
HE miracles which our Lord performed were so obvious, that it was impossible for his greatest enemies to deny them; but such was the malice of their hearts, that they said he performed them by the power of the devil. Our Saviour, in answer to this, shows how unreasonable and absurd it is to suppose, that Satan should cast out himself, or any way oppose his own kingdom: "for every kingdom divided against itself is brought into desolation; and a house divided against itself falleth." But in the text he shows how he had performed the miracle of casting out Satan, namely, by his superior power. He compares Satan to a strong man, armed with weapons to defend his house; and he compares himself to one that is stronger than the strong man. He allows that the devil is strong; but asserts that he is much stronger, and therefore able to cast him out. By this similitude our Lord vindicates his miracles, and proves he did not act in concert with Satan. But the words are also fairly applicable to Christ's continual victories over the devil in the hearts of men, by that power which still goes along with the preaching of the Gospel. They describe two things:
I. The sad condition of an unconverted sinner and,
II. The wonderful power of divine grace in his
I. Here is the sad condition of an unconverted sinner; his heart is the habitation of Satan; the faculties of his mind, and the members of his body, are Satan's goods; they are employed by him in the service of sin; and, while this is the case, there is peace -a false and dangerous security-until Christ, by his Gospel, disturbs it, and by his grace delivers the prey from the hands of the mighty.
(1.) The human heart is a palace, a noble building; at first erected for the habitation of the great and glorious God, who made man "in his own image, after his own likeness," "in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness." "But the holy God has withdrawn himself, and left his temple desolate. The stately ruins are visible to every eye, and bear in their front this doleful inscription,-HERE GOD ONCE DWELT. The comely order of this house is turned into confusion; the beauties of holiness into noisome impurities; the house of prayer into a den of thieves; the noble powers of the soul, designed for divine contemplation and delight, are alienated to the service of base idols and despicable lusts. The whole soul is like the ruined palace of some prince, in which you see here the fragments of a lofty pillar, there the shattered remains of a curious statue, and all lying neglected and useless among heaps of dirt. The faded glory, the darkness, the impurity of this palace, plainly show the great Inhabitant is gone!" But,
(2.) The heart is now become the palace of Satan. Great is the power of the devil in this world, and over the minds of wicked men. This is an unwelcome truth; but it must be told. Our Saviour calls him (John xiv. 30.) the prince of this world.-He who rules in this kingdom of darkness, and who is also
called (2 Cor. iv. 4.) the god of this world, because of the great interest he has in the world, and the homage that is paid him by the multitudes in the world, and the great sway that, by divine permission, he beareth in the hearts of his subjects. The worship of the heathen is the worship of the devil. Those who worship Jupiter, Bacchus, Venus, or any other idol, do really worship the devil; and the foolish, filthy, and bloody rites and ceremonies of their worship are very fit for such devilish gods. But it is not only among Pagans that he reigns. St. Paul assures us, Eph. ii. 2, that unconverted men "walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience;"-those who are disobedient to God are obedient to Satan: he works powerfully in them; they follow his suggestions; they comply with his temptations; they are subject to his commandments; and are "led captive by him at his will." This is a very awful state! People may be in it without knowing it. But all are in it by nature: all are yet in it who "walk after the flesh, fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and of the mind."
The dwelling of Satan in a sinner is further insisted on in this chapter, verse 24, &c. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest and finding none; he saith, I will return to my house." There may be a partial and temporary reformation in a sinner; but without a real change the devil will resume his power; "and the last state of that man is worse than the first."
The heart of man is either God's house or Satan's. If God does not rule there by his Spirit, Satan does; and it may easily be known who rules. St. John plainly decides this matter, 1 Epis. iii. 7: "Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous. He that committeth sin is of
the devil. In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil." Our Lord spake the same language to the wicked Jews. They boasted that they were Abraham's children, and the people of God; but he faithfully told them, Ye are of your father the devil; and the lusts of your father ye will do." "Know ye not," saith the apostle Paul, Rom. vi. 16," that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" Sin is the devil's work, and death is the
wages of sin. One person is under the power of drunkenness; another of uncleanness; another curses and swears; another lies; another steals. All these are Satan's drudges and slaves. Their slavery is the most abject in the world, and is worse than any other; for in other cases the poor slave longs for freedom, and gladly escapes if he can; but here the wretched sinner hugs his yoke, fancies music in his chains, and scorns the proposal of liberty. All this is owing to the power and craft of the devil, who
(3.) Endeavours by all means to keep possession"the strong man armed keepeth the house;" and this he does by hiding from his vassals the fatal consequences of sin-by hindering any intercourse with the right owner-and by filling the heart with prejudice against him.
He keeps possession of the sinner's heart, by hiding from him the evil and wages of sin. He is called a ruler of darkness; he reigns in darkness, and by darkness. Sinners little think where he is leading them. Surely in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird." Prov. i. 17. The silly birds are wiser than sinners. Sinners are told of their danger, but to no purpose. Satan hath shut their eyes, and they are determined to keep them shut; "they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil :" and how justly may a holy God doom that soul to
everlasting darkness, who wilfully rejects the light of life!
Satan does all he can to prevent any intercourse between the sinner and the blessed God, who is the original and rightful owner of the heart. Such is the love of God to his rebellious creatures that he has sent his Son into the world to make reconciliation; and he has also sent his servants to publish the Gospel, or the ministry of reconciliation, "beseeching sinners, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God." But Satan dreads the effect of the Gospel, and therefore tries to hinder it. St. Paul says, Satan hath blinded the mind of unbelievers, lest the light of the glorious Gospel should shine unto them." He would keep the light of the Gospel out of the world if he could; and he tries hard for it in some places, by his persecuting agents; but as he cannot do this, he will keep it out of men's hearts if possible. He loves to keep men in ignorance and error. He persuades some to break the Sabbath, and to forsake the house of God, and to neglect the Bible; and he keeps others in a state of wretched formality; they worship God with their bodies, but their hearts are far from him.
He fills the hearts of many with prejudices against Christ and the Gospel. Those who preach it, and receive it, generally go under some name of reproach, and are so misrepresented by ignorant, interested, and carnal persons, that they are afraid to hear and judge for themselves. Where open persecution is not permitted, this is one of Satan's principal means of keeping the possession of the sinner's heart. But this snare would be broken, if men would remember that it has always been the lot of good men to be des pised; that Christ himself was treated in the same manner that he tells all his followers to expect reproach; and calls upon them to rejoice and be exceeding glad on that account. Thus you see that, (4.) Satan is but too well qualified to maintain his