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WRITTEN IN THE YEAR I798.
Phil. ii. 12, 13. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to de, of his good pleasure.
IT is proposed to explain, illustrate and improve this passage of holy scripture with a view to promote the knowledge and practice of those exercises and duties in which real Christianity consists, and by which it is distinguished from all counterfeits.
In order to this, the following things must be attended to, and with care distinctly examined.
I. What is meant by Christians working out their own salvation, and in what this work consists.
II. What is meant by doing this with fear and trembling.
III. What is to be understood by God’s working in them, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.
IV. Wherein, and in what respects, this affords a reason and motive to enforce the foregoing exhortation, expressed by the particle For, by which the sentence is introduced: For it is God who worketh in you, &c.
V. Improve the subject to practical purposes.
I. We are to consider and shew what is intended and implied in Christians working out their own salvation. For it must be observed, and kept in mind, while attending to this subject, that the Apostle is here, and in the whole of this epistle, addressing none but those whom he considers to be real Christians, “saints in Christ Jesus;” [chap. i. verse 1;] in whom God had begun a good work, which he would perform until the day of Jesus Christ; [v. 6;] who not only believed on 146Christ, but also suffered for his sake, [v. 29,] and had always obeyed Christ since they first believed: [chap. ii. 12.]
By salvation we are to understand, eternal life, which consists in deliverance from sin and all evil, and being made perfectly holy and happy in the enjoyment and favour of God in his eternal kingdom. This is the hope which Christians are called by Christ to consider and pursue; the prize set up before them, for which they are commanded to run.
The Christian worketh out this as his own salvation, by avoiding and renouncing every thing which is in the way of obtaining it, and would effectually prevent it, if it were not given up and rejected; by surmounting and overcoming all the opposition and difficulties which would retard and obstruct him in his work; by his faithfully performing all those exercises, duties and works which are included in the life of a Christian, and necessary in order to his salvation.
When a person is truly converted, and becomes a real Christian, a true disciple of Christ, he then begins this great work, which is not finished till he leaves this state of trial, and passes into the unseen world by death. This is the most noble and important work, as well as the greatest and most difficult, in which any of the children of men can engage; and, as will appear before we have finished the subject, infinitely too great, and altogether impossible, to be performed by fallen man, unless strengthened and carried through it by the power and grace of the mighty Redeemer.
This work of Christians is represented and described in the scripture by a variety of expressions and metaphors, too many to be here particularly enumerated. It will be sufficient for the present purpose to mention the following.
Our Saviour speaks of this work in the following words: “And he said unto them all. if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” The apostle Paul describes this work of a Christian by telling how he worked out 147his own salvation: “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence, toward God and toward men. I follow after, that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended by Christ Jesus, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. I have, fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.”
Jesus Christ represents this work by a warfare, in which the soldiers follow their general to battles and. lieges, in which they resolutely press forward to conquest. He says, “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” And this is repeatedly represented by the same thing in the Revelation, where he often promises salvation to him who overcometh.
The apostle Paul represents the work of a Christian by those who strive for the mastery over those who opposed and fought against them; and who ran in a race, in order to obtain a crown, in the midst of a number of competitors: “Know ye not that they who run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man who striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do this to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.” And he describes the same work in the following passages: “God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good sight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.”148
But, in order to give a more particular and full description of this work, and shew what is implied in it, that every one may be in some measure sensible of the greatness and difficulty of it, this subject requires yet further attention, and more clear illustration from what is said of it in the holy scripture. This will be attempted under the following heads.
First. In working out their own salvation persons must avoid, forsake and renounce every way or practice of known and allowed sin.
The scripture teaches us that the allowed practice of any one way of known sin is not the way to heaven, but will certainly exclude men from salvation, though they should avoid all other ways of sinning, and whatever pains they may take in doing many things, and though they may make a high profession of godliness, and appear to have a great religious zeal. The apostle John says, “Whosoever abideth in him (that is in Christ) sinneth not: whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him, neither known him. He that committeth sin is of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” He does not mean that he does in no sense sin, and is perfectly free from all sin; for this would be a direct contradiction to what he had before asserted, viz. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” By sinning and committing sin is therefore meant, living in the allowed practice of any known sin, or omission of any known duty. “They who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.” The gospel teaches them to, deny all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, as the only way to obtain salvation. They who are working out their own salvation “are undefiled in their way, they do no iniquity, and have respect to all God’s commandments.”
They must not only avoid all grossly sinful anions, and live what is called a sober and regular life, but they must so govern their tongues as carefully to avoid every sinful and even idle word. The command is, “Let no 149 corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers:” [Eph. iv. 29.] And it is declared by the highest authority, that “for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment:” [Matth. xii. 36.] And an apostle says, “If any man seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, this man’s religion is vain:” [Jam. i. 26.]
And they must watch against, avoid and suppress all sinful, vain and idle thoughts and imaginations in their own hearts. They mud keep their hearts with all diligence, and not suffer any vain thoughts to lodge within them. They must oppose, fight against and mortify every lust, every sinful motion, disposition or inclination in their heart, and not indulge any vain imaginations. The heart is the feat and fountain of every thing which is sinful. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, and every sin which is brought forth into practice, in words and actions. All moral evil which is or has been in the world originates in the heart. The Christian therefore has a constant, great and difficult work to do in keeping his own heart, in watching against and striving to suppress every thought and motion which is contrary to the holy law of God, which has a primary respect to the heart, and, by requiring every thought and exercise of it to be holy, forbids every motion and thought which is not conformable to this holy law.
Under this head it will be needful to be more particular.
I. All selfish, covetous thoughts and affections must be opposed and suppressed. A selfish disposition, and all selfish thoughts, are covetousness, in the most proper and extensive sense of the word. And this disposition of the heart is the root and source of all sin, or of every thing wrong in the hearts and lives of men, or of all that is forbidden in the law of God. Therefore St. Paul speaks of covetousness as comprehending all sin, 150which is forbidden in the law of God, in the following words: “I had not known sin but by the law: for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet;” [Rom. vii. 7.] It hence appears that a covetous spirit is directly opposed to what the law of God requires; and this with the fruits of it is all that is forbidden. Selfishness seeks her own wholly, and nothing else; and therefore is directly contrary to that holy, disinterested benevolent love, which the law of God requires, and which the Apostle says “seeketh not her own.” Man is naturally wholly under the power of this selfishness in all his thoughts and actions; and the Christian has as much of this in his heart, as he has of sin; and to be delivered from every degree of selfish thoughts and affections, will complete his salvation. Therefore, in working out his own salvation, he must seek deliverance from this giant, selfishness, and watch and oppose all the motions of it, which will intrude itself and mix with every thought and exercise of the heart, and strive for the dominion, and that in a secret and unperceived way, putting on the appearance of benevolence and goodness, not to be discovered and detected but by the discerning mind, which is constantly on the watch against it.
This selfishness implies all other evil thoughts, as it is the root of all sin, as has been observed; but as these evil thoughts are ranked under different names, as they respect: diverse objects, and produce a variety of dissimilar actions, it is proper to consider them under distinct heads according to their particular names, in order to give a more clear and full view of the thoughts and affections which the Christian must oppose and mortify, in order to work out his own salvation.
2. Christians must watch against and oppose all proud thoughts, or the pride of their own hearts, would they work out their own salvation. Pride is selfishness, or a fruit of it, which consists in a disposition to exalt self, and induces persons to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. Against such 151thoughts the apostle Paul cautions Christians, and commands them to suppress and extinguish them: “I say to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think:” [Rom. xii. 3.] Our Saviour frequently inculcated the necessity of mortifying pride, and putting on humility, in order to be saved. He repeatedly said that he who exalteth himself shall be abased, and he who humbleth himself shall be exalted. The apostles commanded men to humble themselves in the light of God, as the only way to favour, and directed Christians to be clothed with humility.
Fallen man is naturally under the dominion of selfishness and pride. He is exceeding proud; by which all his thoughts, words and actions are governed, even when lie puts on the appearance and pretence of humility. This his pride is most unreasonable, and the source of constant unhappiness; while there is the highest reason for the deepest humiliation, in a view and sense of the infinite odiousness of his character and conduct, and his unspeakable guilt and misery, being the object of the high displeasure and awful curse of his Maker. But it is always true that the more reason men have for humility, and the more unreasonable their pride is, their pride is proportionably greater, and their hearts are more strongly opposed to humbling themselves. It is the nature of pride to hide itself from the person who has it; and he who has the most of it is the farthest from being sensible that he has any pride. And he only sees his own pride in any degree of true light in whose heart the power of it so far broken as to exercise a degree of true humility; which is true of every Christian. And even he is far from seeing the whole of his pride, and it often deceives him. It dwells in it great measure unseen in his heart; and it mixes itself with all his thoughts, and is gratified in words and actions, while it is not directly perceived, and is called, it may be, by some good name, and even looked upon to he real humility.152
Pride has different objects, and supports and exercises itself in ways and by means innumerable. It is exercised towards God, so far as he comes into view, in mean, degrading thoughts of the Most High, and high and exalting thoughts of self; in haughty stubbornness to his authority, and disobedience to his law; in setting a high value on his own exercises, which he calls religious, so as to be confident they are highly pleasing to his Maker, &c. &c. It is exercised, as it respects men and himself, in a manner and ways too many to be enumerated here.
The gospel is levelled directly against the pride of man, and is calculated to exalt God, and abase man; so that none but those who humble themselves in the sight of the Lord can approve of the way of salvation by Christ, or go one step in it. Every true Christian has thus humbled himself; so that the dominion of pride is broken in his heart. He has come to Christ:. and taken his yoke upon himself, and learned of him who is meek and lowly in heart; and walks humbly with God, and before men, in a view and sense of his own vile, odious character, his unworthiness, littleness and ill-desert before God, and his absolute dependence on him, of whom he has the highest, most exalted and honourable thou2:hts. He delights to abase himself, and exult the Lord, trusting wholly to the atonement and righteousness of the Redeemer for pardon and acceptance with God. But the Christian is far from deliverance from all pride. He has a degree of true humility, and in the light of this discovers his own pride, as he never did before, which appears to him to be exceeding odious; and the many instances of the exercise of it, which he sees in his own heart and practice, are made the occasion of promoting his humility, and of humbling him in his own eyes. And it requires constant watchfulness and exertion of a Christian to fight against, suppress and mortify the pride of his own heart, in which he is working out his own salvation; for he cannot be saved in any other way, nor until all his pride be slain, and he is completely delivered from it.153
All this is illustrated in the instance of king Hezekiah. He was a good man, and had been truly humbled; and resolved to walk softly and humbly all his days. But on a certain occasion he was led astray by his own pride and vanity of mind, which was not perceived by him in the time of his gratifying it. His sinful heart deceived him, and was lifted up in pride. But when this was discovered to him, he humbled himself for the pride of his heart; as it proved the occasion of his seeing more clearly than before all that was in his depraved heart: [see 2 Chron, xxxii. 25, 26, 31; Isai. xxxviii. 15.]
3. The Christian, in working out his own salvation, has to watch against all anger, wrath, bitterness, envy, and malevolence, even in the thoughts and motions of his heart. All these are implied in selfishness and pride, and are the genuine offspring and fruit of those evil dispositions, which, being indulged and gratified, produce all the angry clamours, contentions, fightings, wars, murders, and the various kinds of injuries, unrighteousness and oppressions, which take place among mankind. The Christian, from the remaining depravity of his heart, and the many, various and daily temptations, injuries and provocations, is in constant danger of having some or all of these evil thoughts and motions rise in his heart, and of indulging them in a sinful degree. He must therefore keep up a continual watch and fight against all these; constantly endeavouring to guard himself against them, that he may avoid or suppress them in their first motions, and prevent their breaking forth into words and actions. And without this he cannot work out his own salvation. In order to be saved he must mortify all these, and endeavour to cultivate an unruffled, calm, patient, meek and quiet spirit, and live in the exercise of that benevolence of heart which is contrary to anger, wrath, envy and malice, and will suppress and root them out. The apostle James therefore says to professing Christians, “If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the 154truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish:” [Jam. 3. 14, 15.] And the apostle Paul says to such, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” [Eph. 4. 31.]
4. Would Christians work out their own salvation, they must not indulge, but avoid and suppress, a worldly disposition and affections. All men are naturally of the earth and earthly. They love the world, and seek a worldly good as their portion: they set their hearts and affections on the things of this world: they speak of the world, and therefore think much of it, and take their greatest and only pleasure in the pursuits and enjoyments of this world. The Christian is no longer of this world, but has renounced it as his portion, and chosen that which is infinitely better. But as he has still a degree of a worldly disposition, and is surrounded with worldly objects, and must have much concern with them, they are constantly courting his affection, he is continually in danger of being led astray, and setting his affection on things on the earth. It therefore requires constant care, watchfulness and exertion in order to guard against, and suppress and mortify, all worldly affection, in the exercise of that faith which overcometh the world, and leads the soul to set its whole affection on things which are above, and not on things on the earthy and to keep the heart from a sinful love of the world and the things of the world. Salvation is to be obtained in no other way but this, by which Christians are more and more weaned from this world, and have their conversation in heaven. The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches and the pleasures of this life, being indulged, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. Therefore the Christian in working out his own salvation must follow the direction of Jesus Christ, who said to his disciples, “Take heed to yourselves, watch and pray always, lest, at any time, your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life:” [Luke xxi. 34, 36.}155
5. The Christian’s working out his own salvation implies a keeping in subjection and mortifying all inordinate bodily sensual appetites and lusts. These appetites are given to men to answer good and important purposes, while in the body in this world: but become a temptation to innumerable indulgences, which are hurtful and criminal, and are inconsistent with the gospel salvation; for they who live after the flesh shall die. In this respect therefore every Christian must crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts, and mortify their members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, and evil concupiscence. They must keep under their bodies, and bring them into subjection, as the only way to escape destruction. They must avoid the practice of gluttony, rioting and drunkenness, and all chambering and wantonness; and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof; but purge themselves from all these, that they may be vessels unto honour, sanctified and meet for their Master’s use; knowing that their bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost.
Thus, to keep the body under, and regulate and govern all the inclinations and appetites of it, and occasioned by it, requires great and constant care and watchfulness, and strong resolution and fortitude of mind, and is no small part of the work of a Christian.
6. The Christian cannot work out his own salvation unless he crosses and strives against an indolent, slothful disposition, which is natural to man, and prevalent in him with respect to all those things and actions which respect his salvation, and are necessary in order to it. Hence have been invented innumerable excuses and pleas in favour of sitting still, and neglecting those exertions and duties which are necessary to be performed in order to salvation, which are too many to be mentioned here. Christians are exposed to be infested and retarded in their work, by giving way to this slothful disposition, which is most contrary to the work they have to do. This requires their whole time, and constant zealous exertions, in which they must not be slothful, but fervent 156in spirit, serving the Lord. The Christian must therefore improve every opportunity, and all his advantages, diligently working while his day lasts. To sit still in indolence and sloth, is really to go backwards. In doing this work the Christian must do as the apostle Paul did; he attended to this one business; forgetting those things which were behind, i.e., his former indolence in, and deviations from, the way of truth, he reached forth to those things which were before, he pressed toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
7. The work of a Christian consists much in watching and guarding against, suppressing and overcoming, the unbelief of his heart, and all unbelieving thoughts.
Faith is necessary to salvation; and they who are saved live by faith, and persevere in believing to the saving of their souls. The Israelites were excluded from entering into the land of Canaan by their unbelief; and the scripture teaches us that unbelief under the gospel will as effectually exclude men from heaven: “He who believeth not shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him, and he shall be damned.”
Believing and unbelief, as it respects divine revelation or the gospel, do not mean merely the speculative judgment or conclusion of mind respecting the truth or falsehood of the gospel, or of any particular doctrines or facts which relate to invisible things. Two persons may be convinced in their judgment that there is good evidence that the gospel is from heaven, and agree in their speculative sentiments in the doctrines which are revealed; and yet one of them may be a true believer, in the scriptural sense of believing, and the other an unbeliever. This will be according to the disposition and exercises of their hearts, with respect to the gospel, and the truths which it contains. If the heart of one of them has no relish for these truths, and love to them, but dislikes and is displeased with them, so that they are not cordially embraced as good and excellent, he has no true discerning respecting them, and does not see them 157to be what they really are, and is not a believer, in the scripture and proper sense of believing. The other has such a taste and disposition of mind, that he relishes these truths, and receives them with cordial approbation and love. He sees them in a light of which the other has no apprehension or idea, and he feels them to be great and important realities, true, excellent and good; and they have such an influence and power on his heart as to excite strong affections, and govern him in all his exercises and conduct. This is a true believer. His faith is as different from that of the former, as light is from darkness; as powerful sensibility of heart, with strong exercises of affection and love, are from insensibility and hardness of heart, and real dislike of the truth, and aversion from it.
True faith, or a real belief of the truths of the gospel, is of a moral nature, and therefore has its foundation and seat in the heart; so that exercise of heart is necessarily implied in it, and essential to it; for every thing of a moral nature belongs to the heart, and that in which no disposition or exercise of the heart is implied, has nothing of a moral nature, and is neither good nor evil in a moral sense, i.e. neither virtue nor vice, which is true of every thing in the mind which consists in mere speculation. Therefore we find that believing and unbelief, as they respect the gospel, are represented in scripture as belonging to the heart, and an exercise of that: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”
It appears from the passage of scripture last mentioned, not only that unbelief belongs to the heart, and, being seated there, is moral evil; but that professing Christians are so exposed to the influence of an unbelieving heart, that it concerns them to take heed to themselves, and be on their watch and guard against the prevalency of this evil in their hearts. And indeed all true 158Christians have as much of this unbelief in their hearts as they have of moral depravity or sin. Their faith is comparatively small, and as a grain of mustard seed. It does exist and increases so far as their hearts are purified, and they grow in grace. Yet they are more sensible of the awful degree of unbelief in their hearts, than any other persons are or can be, and see the evil nature and hatefulness of it.
This unbelief does not consist so much in speculatively questioning the truth of divine revelation, and doubting of the truths contained in it, as in the want of sensibly feeling these truths in their reality, excellence and importance, and not being properly affected with them. All this is unbelief, which no conviction which is merely speculative, or any light and evidence which can be offered, by any external means and revelation or instructions, will remove, as it is properly hardness of heart. But it may, and often does, prejudice and blind the speculative understanding, so as at least to weaken the evidence of truth in speculation, and occasion speculative doubts about it; and is the cause of all that unbelief in speculation which takes place in the Christian world; this being not for want of external light and matter of conviction, but from the blindness and moral disorders of the heart.
The true Christian is sensible of this, and that he has that insensibility of heart to divine truth, and that darkness and blindness, which is not owing to any want of light and evidence which is set before him, but to the stupidity, hardness and moral depravity of his heart, which will resist the greatest light and matter of conviction that can be set before him, and the strongest mere speculative conviction of his judgment, and would lead to renounce in speculation all the evidence of the truth of divine revelation, were he given up of God to the power and prevalence of a reprobate mind; and that it is to be ascribed to divine restraints, or to the grace of God shining in his heart, and giving him the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus 159Christ, that he has any degree of true faith, and has not abandoned himself to total infidelity.
His remaining unbelief appears to him, especially at times, to be so great and overbearing, that it is very grievous, and as a heavy burden sinks him down, as an unspeakable calamity, and exceeding criminal. Against this he has to watch, strive and pray continually, and he can work out his salvation in no other way. His constant petition is, “Lord, deliver me from this evil heart of unbelief. Lord, I do believe; help thou my unbelief, and increase my faith. Give me that faith which is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. May I never draw back to perdition, but believe to the saving of my soul.”
8. The Christian cannot work out his own salvation without resisting the devil, by watching against and opposing his influence and the evil thoughts suggested by him.
The devil works in the hearts of men by the lusts, depraved propensities and evil thoughts which have been mentioned. He is represented in scripture as taking the advantage of the depravity of man to suggest evil thoughts, and excite and strengthen the lusts of the heart, and to blind the minds of all them who do not believe; to watch and exert all his cunning to deceive and destroy them. Unregenerate, wicked persons are represented to be wholly under his power, in whom he powerfully worketh, they being in his snare, and led captive by him at his will. And in order to persons being converted and becoming Christians, this strong enemy must be dispossessed of their hearts, by Christ, and they turned from the power of Satan unto God. And though Christians are so far delivered from the power of the devil, and out of his reach, that he cannot destroy or really hurt them in the end; and he who is born of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not; that is, is not able to destroy or hurt them, by leading them to sin the sin unto death, 160 or to live in a course of sin; yet they are not out of the reach of his temptations and assaults, so long as they are sanctified but in part, and live in this state of imperfection and depravity. Satan provoked king David to number the people; and our Saviour said to Peter, “Behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The apostle Paul was attended with a temptation which was the messenger of Satan to buffet him. And even Jesus Christ, who had no depravity to give the devil an advantage, was assaulted and tempted by him. The apostle Peter directs Christians to consider the devil as their adversary, as a roaring lion, walking about seeking whom he may devour. The apostle Paul, speaking in the name of all Christians, says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places;” and directs Christians to take to themselves the whole armour of God, that they may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; and goes on to address them in the following words: “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above [or over] all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” [Eph. vi. 10, 18.]
In these words great and constant work is prescribed to Christians in resisting the devil, and standing their ground against all his wiles and assaults; a conflict too great and mighty for all but those who are strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might; yet necessary in working out their own salvation. The apostles James and Peter exhort Christians to this same work in the words following: “Resist the devil, and he will flee 161from you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour: whom resist, stedfast in the faith.”
There are some who profess to receive the Bible as a revelation from God, who doubt whether there be any devil, or invisible spirits who are enemies to Christ, and seek the destruction of men. But surely they must be very inattentive to the Bible who can doubt of this. The real Christian finds the truth of this so abundantly asserted, that he cannot doubt it: and his own experience, if properly attended to, will confirm him in this. He will find many motions and suggestions in his own mind, which, from the kind of them, and the manner in which they take place, are evidently from the agency of Satan. And he is warranted from scripture to consider the devil as having a hand and agency in all the foolish imaginations, evil thoughts and motions of his heart, and in all sin which he sees in others; especially their opposition to Christ and the gospel, and unrighteousness and violence towards men; for he is deceiving the whole world, and works in all the children of disobedience, and is attempting to stir up all the corruption which is in the hearts of good men. Therefore, while Christians are watching against and opposing all their own evil propensities, and acting against and endeavouring to suppress and counteract the sinful courses of others, they are really resisting the devil, while they consider themselves and others as criminal, for every evil motion in their hearts, and all wrong conduct, as if there were no devil to tempt them.
However great, difficult and of long continuance this work of resisting the devil is, every Christian must go through it, and overcome, in order to obtain heaven. The Christian is in himself wholly unequal to it, but by Christ strengthening him he may go through it all. The Christian must do the work, while in order to it he must be strengthened by the power and grace of Christ, by which he becomes strong in the Lord and in the power 162 of his might. The Christian has no reason to desire that Christ should take this work out of his hands, and resist and conquer the devil and his lusts without the agency of the Christian; but ought to consider it as a great privilege to be obliged to do the work himself, and conquer, in the strength and power of the Redeemer.
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