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endeavour, by various devices, to deter men from prayer, and to render them afraid of those things, without which the life of faith cannot be maintained; in order that, after con. victions, they may be led to give up religion, as the only method of recovering composure of mind. Many,“ having “no root in themselves," thus gradually fall away; and others are greatly retarded: but the well-instructed believer sees no safety, except in facing his enemy. If there appear to be danger in persevering, ruin is inevitable if he desist; (for CHRISTIAN.' had no armour for his back.') Even fear, therefore, will in that case induce a man to stand his ground, and the more resolutely he resists temptation, the sooner will he regain his tranquillity: for,when the suggestions of SATAN excite us to pray more fervently, and to be more diligent in every service, that enemy will “ flee from us." Perhaps some may remember a time when they were so harassed as almost to despair of relief; who have since been so entirely delivered, that, were it not for the recollection of their own past experience, they would be ready to ascribe all such things to disease or enthusiasm, notwithstanding all that the scrip. ture contains on the subject.
..16. So he...The description of APOLLYON implies, that the combat afterwards recorded particularly represented the terrors by which evil spirits attempt to drive professors out of their path. Other temptations, though perhaps more dangerous, are not so distressing : " SATAN can transform “ himself into an angel of light;" and indeed he is a very PROTEUS, who can assume any form, as best suits his pur, pose.--As all have been overcome by the temptations of the devil; and “ of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he " brought into bondage:” so, by usurpation, he is become the god and prince of this world, and we have all been his slaves. But believers, having been redeemed by the blood of CHRIST, are made free from sin and become the ser. “ vants of God;" and the abiding conviction, that all the subjects of sin and SATAN must perish, concurs with their
experience of its hard bondage, in fortifying them against every temptation to return to it. Sensible of their obligations to God as their Creator and Governor, they have deeply repented of their past rebellions; and, having obtained mercy, feel themselves bound by gratitude and the most solemn engagements to cleave to him and his service. Their difficulties and discouragements cannot induce them to believe that they have changed for the worse;' nor will they be influenced by the numbers who apostatize, from love to the world and dread of the cross: for they are
“ rooted " and grounded in love,” and not merely moved by fears and hopes. They are sure that the Lord is able to deliver them from their enemies: and, should the wicked be permitted to prosper in their malicious devices, they know enough of his plan, to rely on his wisdom, truth, and love, in the midst of sufferings. Thus they have answers ready for every suggestion ; even such answers as CHRISTIAN had been furnished with at the house of the INTERPRETER.- If such temptations prove ineffectual, SATAN will perhaps assault the believer, by representing to his mind, with every possible aggravation, the several instances of his misconduct, since he professed the gospel ; in order to heighten his apprehensions of being found at last a hypocrite: when the soul is discouraged and gloomy, he will be as assiduous in representing every false step to be a horrid crime inconsistent with a state of grace, as he is at other times in persuading men, that the most flagrant violations of the divine law are mere trifles.-In repelling such suggestions, the well-instructed believer will neither deny the charge, nor extenuate his guilt; but he will flee for refuge to the free grace of the gospel, and take comfort from the consciousness that he now hates, and groans under, the remains of those evils, which once he wholly lived in without remorse; thence inferring, that “ his sins, " though many, are forgiven."
63..20. Rage... Thus far CHRISTIAN's contest with APOLLYon is intelligible and instructive to every expe
rienced believer: what follows is more difficult.
But if we duly reflect upon the Lord's permission to SATAN, in respect of JOB, with the efforts and effects that followed; and, if we compare it with the tempter's desire of sifting Peter and the other apostles as wheat-we shall not be greatly at a loss about our author's meaning. This enemy is sometimes gratified with such an arrangement of outward dispensations as most favours his assaults: so that the believer's path seems to be wholly obstructed. The Lord himself appears to have forsaken him, or even to fight against him; and his appointments are deemed contrary to his promises.
This gives SATAN an opportunity of suggesting hard thoughts of God and his ways, doubts about the truth of the scriptures, and desponding fears of a fatal event to a self-denying course of religion. Many such“ fiery darts” may be repelled or quenched by the shield of faith: but there are seasons (as some of us well know) when they are poured in so incessantly, and receive such plausibility from facts; and when they so interrupt a man while praying, reading, or meditating, that he is tempted to intermit religious duties, to avoid their horrid concomitants. The evils of the heart, which seemed before to be subdued, are at these times so excited by means of the imagination, that they apparently prevail more than ever, rendering every service an abomination, as well as a burden; so that the harassed soul, alarmed, baffled, defiled, selfdetested, and thinking that God and his servants unite in abhorring him, is ready to give up all hope, to doubt all his former principles, to seek refuge in some heretical or antinomian system, or to attempt the dissipation of his melancholy gloom, by joining again in the vanities of the world. Thus the enemy · wounds him in his understanding, faith, and conversation,' (according to the author's marginal interpretation of his meaning) yet he cannot find relief in this manner; but is inwardly constrained, with renewed efforts, to return to the conflict.-But when such temptations are long continued, resistance will gradually become more
feeble; the distressed believer will be ready to give up every thing; and, when the enemy plies him closely with infidel suggestions, to which his circumstances give a specious occasion, he may be thrown down, and “ his sword may fly out “of his hand :” so that for a time he may be unable to give any credit to the truth of the scriptures, by which alone he was before enabled to repel the tempter. This is a dreadful case: and could true faith thus finally and entirely fail, even real christians must perish : Satan hath succeeded against many professors, with half these advantages; and he may be supposed at least to boast that he is sure of such as are thus cast down. But the Advocate above “prays” for his disciples, " that their faith should not fail?:" so that, though PETER fell with JUDAS, he was not left to perish with him. The christian, therefore, though. almost pressed to death,' and ready' to despair of life,' will, by the special grace of God, be helped again to seize his sword, and to use it with more effect than ever. The Holy Spirit will bring to his mind, with the most convincing energy, the evidences of the divine inspiration of the scripture, and enable him to rely on the promises: and thus at length the enemy will be put to flight, by testimonies of holy writ pertinently adduced, and more clearly understood than before.—Experience will teach some readers to understand these things, and they will know how to compassionate and make allowances for the mistakes of the tempted: and others, who have been graciously exempted from perhaps the deepest anguish known on earth, (though commonly not of long duration) should learn from the testimony of their brethren, to allow the reality of these distresses, and sympathize with the sufferers; and not (like Job's friends) to join with SATAN in aggravating their sorrows. We may allow, that constitution, partial disease, and errors in judgement, expose some men more than others to such assaults: yet these are only occasions, and evil spirits are assuredly the agents in thus harassing serious persons.
1 Luke xxii. 31, 32.
It is indeed of the greatest importance to be well established in the faith: they, who in ordinary cases are satisfied with general convictions and comfortable feelings, without being able to give a reason for their hope, may be driven to the most tremendous extremities; should God permit them to be thus assaulted: for they have no fixed principles to which they may resort in such an emergency: and perhaps some degree of mistake always gives Saran his principal advantage on these occasions. Yet men of the most sober minds and sound judgement, when in a better state of bodily health than usual, and in all other respects most rational, have experienced such distressing temptations of this kind, as they could scarcely have believed on the report of others; and, when delivered, they cannot look back on the past without the greatest consternation.-Besides the verses, by which CHRISTIAN gave thanks to his great deliverer, we meet in the old copies with these lines
• A more unequal match can hardly be,
65..27. An hand... When the believer has obtained the victory over temptation, the Lord will graciously heal all the wounds he received in the conflict; pardoning his sins, rectifying his mistakes, and renewing his strength and comfort, through the mediation of CHRIST, and by the influences of the Holy Spirit: so that the most distressing experiences are often succeeded by the sweetest confidence and serenity of . mind, and the greatest alacrity in the ways of God. The ! leaves of the tree of life,'' represent the present benefits of the redemption of CHRIST: • the hand' may be the emblem of those whom the Lord employs, as instruments in restoring to his discouraged servants “ the joy of his
I Rey. xxii, 2.