Page images
PDF
EPUB

of preaching is according to the mind of God: he owns it, and blesses it; and by its simplicity, which in the wisdom of this world is called "foolishness," he saves them that believe. 1 Cor. i. 21. There is nothing Satan dreads more than a ministry of this stamp; accordingly he draws men away from the homely hackneyed path, fills them with notions of their own sufficiency, persuades them that originality is a great gift, much to be coveted, and that intellect is the right door to men's souls. He points out here a Paul, there an Apollos, and in another pulpit a Cephas: whose respective hearers presently discover, each that his own minister is the very model of all that a minister ought to be, and his style of preaching precisely what is most needed. Hence we hear whispers among the separating congregations, not of conscience-stricken sorrow for sin, not of awakened praise for salvation, not of deep desire for the continued presence of him who has been (or ought to have been) visibly set forth crucified among them; but 'What a splendid discourse! How great Mr. · to-day! What eloquence, what imagery, what clear views he takes! Certainly our pastor has no equal among his brethren.' Hence that system of sermonhunting, which as Cecil well remarked, is little better than fox-hunting; hence the Sabbath desecration, the carriage called out to bear its owner to some favourite place of worship; the horses robbed of their assigned season of repose, the attendant domestics either excluded

was

from, or cruelly curtailed in their share of religious ordinances and so, too often, carnality is insensibly substituted for spirituality.

:

This ought not to be: an adversary hath done it, and the same adversary well knows what immense advantage he must gain by the system, when he succeeds in drawing one of these popular men aside from the straight path. Many of those who think they only follow the teacher because he follows Christ, will be betrayed into still following him, when he has turned his back upon the Lord. Satan first infected man with his own diabolical disease-pride; and the whole tenor of the gospel of Christ is to provide an antidote to that venom. And first, the preaching of the cross is a cross to the preacher, if he use it aright; for he must be content to forego much of what is highly esteemed among men, and to be nothing, that Christ may be all. Line upon line, line upon line; precept upon precept, precept upon precept; the wearisome repetition of that one story, "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners,”-of that one warning, "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him :" —that one direction," Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted cut"—such a mode of dealing with a world dead in trespasses and sins, will never give the preacher undue pre-eminence among men, but it will glorify his Master, and save souls.

Where now shall we go for this heaven-inspired

strain? Many such ministers there doubtless are, whose rule of teaching is, "Christ exalted, and self abased;" but we may more readily find the thing which Satan fears in the pages of John Bunyan, or John Flavel, than from the lips of eloquent pastors in our own day. If Paul should come to hold a visitation of what we have reason to believe was once a part of his own wide diocese, surely he would be constrained to put the searching question, "Are ye not carnal?"

We are now writing of Satanic wrath as his permitted day shortens, and his wrath does not always vent itself in explosions of rage. It works sometimes in secrecy and darkness; fierce, indeed, and cruel always, but never devoid of skilful cunning to direct it. There is as much of his wrath in the speaking of smooth things, and the prophesying of peace to those with whom the Lord has a controversy, as in the greatest tumult of violence. Who shall tell the extent of that wrathful hatred against God and his fair creation which prompted the bland, insinuating lie, "Ye shall not surely die." Oh that ministers and congregations would bear in mind, equally bear in mind, how great a stake the enemy has in drawing away their attention from the unadorned simplicity that is in the doctrines of the cross!

But the doctrine of the crown is another which he now struggles with all his infernal might to suppress. A crucified Saviour, an atoning Sacrifice, a mediating High Priest in heaven, he loathes to think on, or to

suffer his bondslaves to hear of; but a reigning King, about to rescue the earth from all his usurpations, to plant his throne in righteousness in the midst of his people, to send forth his law from Zion, and his word from Jerusalem-this is the very knell of Satan's departure, and to stifle the sound he will foster humility itself, any grace by the perversion of which he may hope to seal the preacher's lips on that fearful topic. For eighteen centuries he has heard the petition resounding on all sides, "Thy kingdom come ;" and he cares not how often it is reiterated, as witness the Papacy with its everlasting repetitions of Pater-nosters, so long as men do not inquire into the nature of that coming kingdom, or watch for its approach. An imperfect Gospel he can tolerate, and in our day that is an imperfect Gospel which omits the great truth of a speedy manifestation of the Lord from heaven. The sound of his conqueror's chariot-wheels is a fearful sound to Satan; and knowing that nothing will so surely turn the attention of the Church upon himself as the heralding of Christ's approach, he will strike almost any bargain, of which a condition is the silencing of that ominous voice.

In connection with this part of the subject we may recal to mind the parable of our Lord, where he describes the proceedings of the unclean spirit who has left for a time his habitation, as distinguished from that effectual expulsion which God only can accomplish.

I

"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 unto my house, whence I came out and when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits, more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there and the last state of that man is worse than the first." Luke xi. 24-26. We may be assured that attempts at such re-entrance, under aggravated forms, into every person who may appear to have been delivered from the power of Satan, will be made as the time shortens, and the enemy's rage increases ; and hence the cruel treachery that Christ's people must look for at the hands of their nearest connexions, and dearest companions. Many an Ahithophel will be found; many a Judas to revolt from his friend, and to betray his master; and many an unsuspecting Christian will have to take up the prophetic complaint, “It was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance; we took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company," Psalm lv. 13, 14.

It is of the first importance that we should be prepared not only for an outburst of Satanic malignity and cruelty, such as was never before permitted to devastate our world, but also for a manifestation of Satanic potency, such as men are fast losing all belief in. We do not give the enemy credit for possessing such powers as the word of God distinctly ascribes to him; we are

« PreviousContinue »