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How evil, of all kinds has prevailed and highly exalted itself in the world.
Evil, of all kinds, has risen to an exceeding height in the world, and highly exalted itself against God, and Christ, and the church.—This will appear by the following particulars.
1. Satan has highly exalted himself, and greatly prevailed. He is vastly superior in his natural capacity and abilities, to mankind. He was originally one of the highest rank of creatures; but proudly exalted himself, in rebellion, against God in heaven. We are told, that pride was the condemnation of the devil. 198198 I Tim. iii 6. He became proud of his own superior dignity and mighty abilities, and the glory which his Creator had put upon him; and probably thought it too much to submit to the Son of God, and attempted to exalt his throne above him. And he prevailed to draw away vast multitudes of the heavenly hosts, into an open rebellion against God.
And after he was cast down from heaven, he proudly exalted himself in this world, and prevailed to do great things. By his subtle temptations he procured the fall of our first parents, and so brought about the ruin of their whole race. He procured their ruin in body and soul, and the death of both; and that they should be exposed to all manner of calamity in this world, and to eternal ruin hereafter. He so far prevailed, that he drew men off from the service of their Maker, and set up himself to be the god of this world; and in a little time drew the world into that almost universal corruption, which brought on the flood of waters, by which it was destroyed. And after that, he drew off all nations, except the posterity of Jacob, from the worship of the true God, and darkened all the world with heathenism; and held them under this darkness for a great many ages; he himself being worshipped as God almost all over the world; the nations of the earth offered sacrifices to him; and multitudes offered up their children. And during that time, he often so far prevailed against the people of God, that he had almost swallowed them up. The church was often brought to the very brink of ruin.
And when Christ himself appeared in the world, how did he exalt himself against him! and prevailed so far, as to influence men to hate and despise him all the days of his life. And at last he persuaded one of his own disciples to betray him. Accordingly, he was delivered into the hands of men, to be mocked, buffeted, spit upon, and treated with the greatest ignominy that unrestrained malice could devise; and at last procured that he should be put to the most cruel and ignominious kind of death. And since that, he has greatly exalted himself against the gospel and kingdom of Christ. He has procured that the church, for the most part, has been the subject of great persecution; has often brought it to the brink of utter destruction; has accomplished great works in setting up those great kingdoms of antichrist and Mahomet; and darkened great part of the world, that was once enlightened with the gospel of Christ, with worse than heathen darkness. And he has infected the Christian world with multitudes of heresies and false ways of worship, and greatly promoted atheism and infidelity. Thus highly has the devil exalted himself against God and Christ, and the elect; and so far he prevailed.
2. Guilt is another evil which has come to a great height in the world. All guilt is an evil of a dreadful nature: the least degree of it is enough utterly to undo any creature. It is a thing that reaches unto heaven, and cries to God, and brings down his wrath. The guilt of any one sin is so terrible an evil, that it prevails to bind 214 over the guilty person to suffer everlasting burnings: and so is in some respect infinite, in that it obliges to that punishment which has no end; and so is infinitely terrible. But this kind of evil has risen to a most amazing height in this world; where not only some persons are guilty, but all, in all nations and ages, are naturally guilty wretches. And they who live to act any time in the world, are not only guilty of one sin, but of thousands, and thousands of thousands. What multiplied and what aggravated sins are some men guilty of! What guilt lies on some particular persons! How much more on some particular populous cities! How much more still on this wicked world! How much does the guilt of the world transcend all account, all expression, all powers of numbers or measures! And above all, how vast is the guilt of the world, in all ages, from the beginning to the end of it! To what a pitch has guilt risen! The world being, as it were, on every side, loaded with it, as with mountains heaped on mountains, above the clouds and stars of heaven.
And guilt, when it was imputed to Christ, greatly prevailed against him—though in himself innocent, and the eternal Son of God—even so as to hold him prisoner of justice for a while; and to open the flood-gates of God’s wrath upon him, and bring his waves and billows over him.
3. Corruption and wickedness of heart, is another thing that has risen to an exceeding height in the world. Sin has so far prevailed, that it has become universal: all, mere men, are become sinful and corrupt creatures. Let us attend to St Paul’s description of the world. 199199 Rom. iii. 9-18. “Jews and Gentiles are all under sin. As is written, There is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no not one.” And not only is every one corrupt, but they are all over corrupt, in every power, faculty, and principle; every part is depraved. Which is here represented by the several parts of the body being corrupt, as the throat, the tongue, the lips, the mouth, the feet. ” Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues they have used deceit, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood.” And not only is every part corrupt, but exceeding corrupt; being possessed with dreadful principles of corruption, horribly evil dispositions and principles of sin, that may be represented by the poison of asps: which makes men like vipers and devils: principles of all uncleanness, pride, deceit, injustice, enmity, malice, blasphemy, murder. Here their throats are compared to an open sepulchre, and their mouth is said to be full of cursing and bitterness, and destruction and misery are said to be in their ways.
And there are those principles of sin not only that are very bad, but every kind; here is no sort of wickedness, but there is a seed of it in men. And these seeds and principles have not only a being in men’s hearts, but are there in great strength: they have the absolute possession and dominion over men, so that they are sold under sin. Yea, wicked principles, and those only, are in the heart. The imagination of the thoughts of their heart is evil only. There are bad principles only, and no good ones. ” There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Thus the hearts of all men are deceitful and desperately wicked. 200200 Jer. xvii. 9.
And if we look, not only at the natural corruption of the heart, but at the contracted habits of sin, by wicked education and customs, how full shall we find the world of wickedness, in this respect! How have men, by bad customs in sinning, broken down all restraints upon natural corruption, and as it were abandoned themselves to wickedness! So far has corruption and wickedness prevailed in the world, and so high has it risen, that it is become a great and universal deluge, that overtops all things, and prevails with that strength, that it is like the raging waves of the tempestuous ocean; which are ready to bear down all before them.
4. Many of the devil’s instruments have greatly prevailed, and have been exalted to an exceeding height in the world. It has been so in almost all ages of the world. Many of the devil’s instruments have prospered and prevailed, till they have got to the head of great kingdoms and empires, with vast riches and mighty power.
Those four great heathen monarchies that rose in the world before Christ 201201 The Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman monarchies , are spoken of in Scripture as kingdoms set up in opposition to the kingdom of Christ. So they are represented in the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. 202202 Dan. ii. 35, 36. These monarchies were exceeding powerful. The two last ruled over the greater part of the then known world. And the last especially, viz. the Roman empire, was exceeding mighty: so that it is said to be diverse from all kingdoms; and that it should devour the whole earth, and tread it down, and break it in pieces. 203203 Dan. vii. 23. It is represented by the fourth beast, which was dreadful and terrible; and strong exceedingly; and had great iron teeth, that devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet. 204204 Dan. vii. 7. These four kingdoms all persecuted the church of God in their turns, especially the last. One of the governors of this monarchy put Christ to death. And afterwards one emperor after another, made dreadful havoc of the church; making a business of it, with the force of all the empire, to torment and destroy the Christians; endeavouring, if possible, to root out the Christian name from under heaven.
And in these latter ages, how have those two great instruments of the devil, viz. antichrist and Mahomet, prevailed, and to what a pitch of advancement have they arrived; ruling over vast empires, with mighty wealth, pride and power: so that the earth has been, as it were, subdued by them. Antichrist has set up himself as the vicar of Christ; and has for many ages usurped the power of God, “sitting in the temple of God, and showing himself that he is God; and exalting himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped.” And how dreadfully has he ravaged the church of God, being drunk with the blood of the saints, and the martyrs of Jesus. And has often, as it were, deluged the world in Christian blood, shed with the utmost cruelty that human wit and malice could invent.—And at this day, many other instruments of the devil, many heretics, atheists, and other infidels, are exerting themselves against Christ and his church, with great pride and contempt.
5. Affliction and misery have also prevailed and risen to an unspeakable height in the world. The spiritual misery which the elect are naturally in, is great. They are miserable captives of sin and Satan, and under obligations to suffer eternal burnings. This misery all mankind are naturally in. And spiritual troubles and sorrows have often risen to a great height in the elect. The troubles of a wounded spirit and guilty conscience, have been felt with intolerable and insupportable weight. “A wounded spirit who can bear?” 205205 Prov. xviii. 14. And the darkness that has risen to God’s people after conversion, through the temptations and buffetings of the devil, and the hidings of God’s face, and manifestations of his anger, have been very terrible. And temporal afflictions have often risen exceeding high. The church of God has, for the most part, all along, been a seat of great affliction and tribulation.
But the height to which the evil of affliction has risen, nowhere appears so much, as in the afflictions that Christ suffered. The evil of affliction and sorrow exalted itself so high, as to seize the Son of God himself, and to cause him to be all in a bloody sweat, and to make his soul exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. It caused him to cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Affliction never prevailed to such a degree in this world, as in Christ, whose soul was, as it were, overwhelmed in an ocean of it.
6. Death is an evil which has greatly prevailed, and made dreadful havoc in this world. How does it waste and devour mankind, one age after another; sparing none, high or low, rich or poor, good or bad! Wild beasts have destroyed many; many cruel princes have taken away the lives of thousands, and laid waste whole countries: but death devours all; none are suffered to escape. And the bodies of the saints as well as others, fall a prey to this great devourer. Yea, so high did this enemy rise, that he215 took hold on Christ himself, and swallowed him among the rest. He became the prey of this great, insatiable monster. By his means, was his bodily frame destroyed, and laid dead in the dark and silent grave. And death still goes on destroying thousands every day. And therefore the grave is one of those things which Agur says, never has enough. 206206 Prov. xxx 16. —So have evils of every kind prevailed; and to such a degree have they exalted themselves in the world.
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