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through his whole lifetime on earth, tempting us to sin!
But our authors have not told us how the devil can be confined to that "dismal hell," of which they say so much, and at the same time be here on earth to superintend the vast affairs of sin and wickedness throughout all nations and kingdoms of the world.
There are more difficulties still which we must dispose of as prudently as possible.
If the devil be in fact an immortal spirit, and if he be confined to a state of endless misery, how shall we understand the Apostle in our text, who says, that Jesus took flesh and blood, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil ?
How could Jesus, by dying, destroy an immortal, spiritual being ? and one too who is to exist as long as Jesus shall exist ?
Not only is it believed, that the devil will exist as long as Jesus, who died to destroy him, but it is likewise believed that he will be able to maintain his
government over a much larger number of the human race, than will ever be made subject to the laws of the Redeemer. In support of this opinion, such passages of scripture as the following are frequently cited;
Many are called, but few are chosen. - Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat : Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” It is believed that the adversary is continually exerting himself and using all his infernal arts to lead men into sin, that the divine Being may be moved to sentence them to his dismal abode, where he may have the control of them forever ; on the other hand, it is believed that Jesus Christ is continually employing all the means of
grace to bring sinners to repentance, that they may be his happy subjects in the eternal world; but the result of all these counter operations, and this warfare between Christ and the adversary will be a few to the praise of the glory of the Redeemer's name, and
many victims to the more successful endeavors of the prince of darkness !
Notwithstanding these sentiments are thought to be true, and of essential importance in the christian doctrine, yet we hear abundance said, find much written, and not a little sung of the glorious victory which Jesus won over the adversary, when he died, and rose from the dead. But if those sentiments be correct, which give the result of the warfare between Christ and the adversary, so much in favor of the latter, it is evident that another contest, and one more like victory would establish the adversary in universal dominion !
That we may, at once deliver our minds from all the inconsistencies which the common opinion concerning the devil involves, let us avail ourselves of the important fact, that no such sentiment is found in the scriptures, nor in the least favored by reason or common
That the devil was ever a holy angel we have no account in the scriptures ; that any man was ever tempted by an agent distinct from the powers of flesh and blood we have no reason to believe.
St. James says; Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” And it is a fact, that we are never tempted to commit any sin, that may not be accounted for without a separate agent.
The word devil, or satan, means an adversary, an enemy, an opposer. And this character every man finds in himself. Every man, being a partaker of flesh and blood, has the adversary in him, who tempts him to sin; and can say, with as much propriety as St. Paul did, “ In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.". The Apostle further says ; " I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Again he says, “ the fesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against e flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other ; that ye cannot do the things that ye would-Now
A1 the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these :
adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idola
try, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, & strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunken
ness, revellings, and such like.” Again he says; "the carnal mind is enmity against God, is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be.”
This "carnal mind,” this "law of sin," this enmity against God, is the devil, that has the power of death, for “ to be carnally minded is death.”. Corruption and mortality are within the powers of flesh and blood, and the history of sin, evil, and death no where extends beyond those limits.
This power of the flesh was figuratively represented by the serpent, which beguiled Eve; and it was said to the serpent; "dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” The prophet Isaiah says; “dust shall be the serpent's meat.
This serpent is not an immortal spirit; for such a spirit surely would not feed on dust; and the words, " all the days of thy life,” certainly indicate that the life of the serpent would come to an end.
It seems that our subject must now be plainly seen by the hearer.
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." That is, as the children of God, the heirs of life and immortality are partakers of flesh and blood, in order to abolish death and bring life and immortality to light; in order to destroy the devil and his works, and to triumph over all these earthly and carnal powers, Jesus took on him flesh and blood, was made in all points like unto his brethren, was tempted in all points as we are, subdued every temptation of the flesh, by the Power of the spirit which he had without measure, laid down bis natural life, arose from the dead incorruptible and immortal. "He dieth no more ; death hath no more dominion over him.” Flesh and blood which cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and corruption
which cannot inherit incorruption are no more. The serpent's days are ended, he has no more dust to eat, he is destroyed and is no more.
If the adversary had an immortal constitution, could exist out of flesh and blood as well as in them, the putting off alt flesh and blood, would only demolish one of the enemy's encampments, while it would leave him unbounded space and eternity to occupy still.
We may now draw to a conclusion, by an attempt to illustrate the following clause of our text; " And deliver them, who through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
For want of the knowledge of life and immortality, which Jesus has brought to light by his resurrection from the dead, men are perpetually subject to bondage through fear of death. Bui a belief in the gospel of our blessed Redeemer gives us a complete victory over all such fears. It enters the silent, dark mansion of the dead with a steady clear light which directs us to the bright abodes of immortal life.
The disciples of Jesus, who were favored with positive evidence of the resurrection of the Saviour, were so completely delivered from the bondage of fear, that they never hesitated to publish the doctrine of the resurrection even to the perpetual hazard of their lives.
Such was the persuasion which St. Paul had of the truth of the resurrection, and the glory of the future world, that he said ; “I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” This Apostle built all his hopes of a future existence on the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He says ; " If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain ; ye are yet in your sins. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of their that slept. -For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” He further says; 6. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.--And as we have borne the in
age of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
In the image of the earthy man we find the carnal mind, which is enmity against God, is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. We find a law in our members warring against the law of our mind, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin. We find all the fruits of the flesh, and all the devil, of which the Apostle speaks in our text, that has the power of death. But in the image of the heavenly man none of these things exist. No carnal mind, no enmity against God, no law in the members warring against the law of the mind. That flesh and blood which cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and that corruption which cannot inberit incorruption, will exist
The "whole creation," thus delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God, will realize the fulness of what we now see but in part.
My brethren, how near are these things! but a moment, as it were, separates us from the immortal scenes anticipated by the christian faith. The view of these eternal things and a steady belief in them, are present victory over the powers of the flesh. This is indeed a holy calling, a calling to heavenly-mindedness and heavenly conversation. These thoughts and contemplations are blossoms in the desert, they are pools in parched ground. This doctrine of eternal life is a river in a dry place, the shadow of a great rock in
land. Jesus says ; " In the world you shall have tribulation. but in me ye shall have peace.
My friends do not reject and refuse this peace, this joy, this consolation, because it is free to all. You do not refuse the light and warmth of the sun because all men have it ; why then will you turn your backs on the grace
of Jesus because he is that wisdom which is without partiality ?