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In Satan's Temptations, And The ManNbr Of Resisting Them.
E P H E S. vi. II.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to Jiand against the 'wiles of the devil.
THE devil is the prosessed and inveterate enemy of mankind. Ever since his apostasy from Sod, partly out of enmity to him, and partly from :nvy to men, he has made it his business to seduce hem to sin. This is the chief thing at which ha urns; the end of all his endeavours j because by this neans he knows that he will make us-wretched ind miserable like himself. But, in the accomplishment of this, who can describe the various artisices vhich he employs? From his subtilry and deceitsuliess, he is styled in scripture the Old Serpent; and ft are told that he can transform himself into an mgel of light. His superior strength is implied in us titles of " Prince of the power of the air," and * Ruler of the darkness of this world." His malice s implacable. His activity is unceasing and unwearied. He is represented in scripture, as going a2 B bout
bout continually, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Hence, we have the greatest reason to be always on our guard; and, as the apostle exhorts us in the text, to" put on the whole armour "of God, that we may be able to sland against tie "wiles of the devil."
By the wiles of the devil, we are evidently to understand his temptations; they are called his wiles, because of the subtilty and cunning he employs in seducing men; and, for the same reason, they are fisewhere styled his snares and devices. That we may be able to withstand and repel these, we are exhorted to put on the whole armourof God. The apostle, in this and the following verses, compares Christians to soldiers; and the methods of their desence against the powers of darkness, to the proper use of such arms as were anciently used in war; and by these it fe evident he means the graces of the Christian lise, for, in the 14th verse, and downwards, he mentions those graces as the Christian's spiritual armour: And here in the text, he exhorts us to p':t them on; th.K is, to have them not only implanted in our fouls, to be as it were clothed with them like a soldier, i'ho is completely armed for the day of battle, but to hate them in constant readiness for repelling the attacks of the enemy.
In sarther discourGng on this subject, I shall endeavour* by Divine assistance, First, To give yon some account of Satan's temptations, which the apostle in the text calls his wiles: Secondly, Explain to you the method of desence and resistance to which we are here directed: and, Lastly, Conclude with 1 lhort practical improvement.
I. I begin, then, with giving you some account of Satan's temptations.
The temptations of Satan are of various kinds; but the great intention of them all, is to defeat the ;racious design of God for the recovery and salvation lf mankind; for he beholds with aversion every thing hat tends either to the glory of God, or the happiness of man. I pretend not to give a suli account of he/various temptations'which proceed from the art and malice of our spiritual enemies: all I design is, o give a few instances, by which we may understand something of his wicked devices, and thereby be enabled to trace the designs of our great enemy, and our own danger, in an insinite variety of cases which we cannot pretend to enumerate.
1. He sometimes tempts men to doubt, or practically to deny the being or attributes of God. Of this we have a remarkable instance recorded in the sacred scriptures. When Ananias and Sapphira attempted to deceive the apostles, by bringing only a part of the price of the land they had fold, by which they in esfect denied the insinite knowledge of God, Satan is said to have silled their hearts for the purpose of inciting them to do so: " Why," says Peter, ** hath "Satan silled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, "in keeping back part of the price of the land (r) i" This kind of temptation he so frequently uses, that our Saviour calls him a liar from the- beginning, and the sather of lies. Such, therefore, as are addicted to this abominable vice, would do well to consider whence it comes, aud whom they imitate and serve.—Sometimes, again, he tempts men to deny 'he power of God, or to distrust that powersul Providence, which is their surest guard and protection. Thus he is said to have provoked David to number Israel (r). That a king lhould kuow the number and strength of his subjects, appears, when considered in. itself, to be innocent and prudent. But God* who sees not as man sees, knew that this action of the king proceeded from vainglory, and considence in tlui arm of flesh. And this shews us, that even tht 2 B 2 - doing;
(r) Acts v. (t) 1 Cliran. xxi. t.
doing things harmless in themselves, may proceed from the temptation of Satan, when the principles by which we are' actuated, and the ends we have in view are not sincere and upright. At other times, he tempts mankind to call in question the goodness of God. This was the manner in which he tempted our sirst parents: " God knoweth," says he, " that "in the day ye eat thereof, your eyes shall be open"ed, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and "evil:" As if he had said, however gracious ycu may think God is to you, yet you are capable of map greater honour and happiness than that which he has allowed you to possess, even an honour and happiness like his own ; and because he grudges this to you, he restrains you from eating of the fruit of this tree, which would conser it.—To give only one instance more: Satan tempts men, by raising doubts in their mind concerning the saithsulness of God, and that both as to the sulsilling of his promises, and the executing his threatenings. He would have us presumptuously apply the promises to ourselves, whsi; we are not in that way of duty in which they aresu!silled to us. Thus he would have tempted our blelsed Saviour himself K'" If," says he, " thou be the "Son of God, cast thyself down; for it is writtOi "He shall give his angels charge concerning thee (I). But our Saviour resutes this sophistry, by answering, "It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy "God (»)." He likewise tempts men to call in question the truth of God's threatenings. Of this « have a remarkable instance in the attack he made upon our sirst parents. God had said to them, " I3 * the day that ye eat of the tree of knowledge ol "good and evil, ye shall surely die:" But the serpent, in direct opposition to this, says, " Ye flij" "not surely die." He seemed to insinuate, that the threatening was denounced against them, sor tfe
(fcl Matt. ir. 6. (*) Matt. Lv. 7.
purpose os alarming alone, without the intention of being executed. Thus, you see how Satan strives, by his temptations, to undermine the very foundations of religion, which is built upon the belies of the being and attributes of God.
.2. He tempts also, by counterseiting the persections and works of God. Thus, we are told that "the coming of Antichrist fs aster the working of "Satan;" and the meaning of the expression is explained in the following words, " With all power, and. . "signs, and lying wonders, and deceivablcness of "unrighteousness." Has he not, by tins means, kept the heathen world under his dominion for many ages? Nay, so miserably are they deceived by those lying wonderS, and pretended oracles, that some of them pay direct homage and adoration to him. And. is not the idolatry of the church of Rome supported by the same diabolical artisice? The miracles pretended to be wrought by the relicts of their saints, as they are base impostures, so they are one of the chief engines by which Satan deludes vast numbers in that corrupt church. But, surther, the superstition %vhich has existed among all men, Christians as well as heathens, may be sairly ascribed to the devices of the devil. His art consists in, sirst exciting unwarrantable curiosity,. and then directing men toimproper means to gratify it. He has his emissaries in the world, who assume to themselves that knowledge of suture events which belongs to God alone. To the blinded votaries of such superstition, we may deliver the message which God sent by his prophet to the king of Israel: " Is it not because there is no "God in Israel to inquire of his word, that thou hast "sent to inquire of Baalzebub the God of Ekron?"
3. He tempts, sometimes, by insolently pretending that he will bestow a more certain reward upon his followers than God does on his. Thus, we sind he assaulted our blessed Saviour: " He took him up in2 B 2 "to.