52. On the Three
Why are so many souls deceived and plunged into destruction? Because they
will not think. Lack of thought is one of the fruitful sources of human
misery. "My people do not consider." A thoughtless mind is one of the
characteristics of that broad road which leads to destruction; while anxious
inquiry, a solicitous concern, a serious consideration about eternal things,
is the first step through grace, into that narrow way which leads unto life
eternal. Give me, blessed Savior, a thoughtful, serious, reflecting mind; a
deep sight into myself; a watchful eye over my spiritual enemies; an
unshaken confidence in you.
From the word of God, and my own experience, I find that there are three
powerful enemies, which are incessantly laboring to destroy my soul.
The first is THE WORLD. Being rescued from its snares, through the mighty
power of God, it still seeks to effect my ruin: 1. By its smiles—hoping
thereby to win me back again, and allure my poor, vain heart by its soft,
seductive influence. This is a most dangerous temptation, and few withstand
its force. 2. By its frowns—thinking thereby to terrify my soul, and cause
me to renounce the faith of Jesus, rather than suffer affliction with the
people of God for a season. Lord, strengthen my faith, and arm me for the
combat. 3. By placing before my eyes its riches, honors, and pleasures—to
captivate my affections, and wean me from the unseen glories of a future
world. Fatal temptation! "Demas has forsaken me," said Paul, "having loved
this present era world." To withdraw the affections from the things of time;
to sit loosely even to lawful enjoyments; and to wait with anxious desire
for the signal of departure to a better world; is what unassisted nature can
never perform: yet genuine religion consists in this happy state of mind.
Lord, help me. Without you, I can do nothing; but, Oh! glorious triumph, "I
can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
The second enemy, who labors to oppose my progress to the realms of bliss,
is THE FLESH; dangerous enemy indeed, because never separated from me.
Wherever I go, I carry this enemy in my bosom. Lord, save me from this
sinful man, myself! The flesh harasses my soul: 1. By exciting evil
affections and lusts, and stimulating to wicked and unlawful actions. 2. By
resisting the good motions of the Spirit; stifling its convictions, and
craving a little more indulgence on the lap of sinful pleasure. 3. By
laboring to blind my understanding by false reasoning, and thereby aiding
the tempter in his work of destruction. Thus inbred sin is always at work. I
am only safe while vigilant and constant at a throne of grace.
The third enemy, by whose subtlety and malice man became a child of misery,
is THE DEVIL. This great adversary of the human race, as well as the world
and the flesh, has many devices and stratagems to deceive and to destroy.
May I never forget my helplessness and danger; but ever look to Him who
fought this warrior in my nature, and overcame him by his own most precious
death upon the cross.
The devil harasses my soul: 1. By injecting evil thoughts; those firebrands
of hell, which fill the mind with anguish, and almost drive the trembling
sinner to despair. The feeble-minded and the low-spirited are exposed to
this artillery of Satan; from which even the strongest and most joyous
believer is not wholly exempted. When the enemy comes in like a flood, Oh
blessed Spirit, lift up a standard against him. When the overflowings of
ungodliness make me afraid, then arise, Oh! mighty conqueror of death and
hell; so shall your enemies be scattered; then shall those who hate you flee
before you! 2. The devil tempts me to ruin by presenting the bait of
sin under false names and alluring colors. How many are destroyed by this
temptation! The object of Satan is to represent the religion of Jesus as
gloomy, unsocial, and forbidding; and the pleasures of the world as smiling,
sociable, and enchanting. Lord, make me watchful. "In vain is the net spread
in the sight of any bird." Enable me to examine every thing by the light of
truth: to prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good. 3. He seeks
my destruction by stirring up the wicked to persecute my soul; and by
spreading stumbling-blocks to impede my progress towards the heavenly
Canaan. These are but a small part of his devices, of which the believer is
not ignorant. We are in an enemy's country. This is the field of battle.
Here we must fight; but, if we endure faithful unto the end, we shall
triumphantly join in the conqueror's song.
My prayer must daily be, that I may never be allowed to indulge a thought,
which I would not dare to express; or do an action in secret, which I should
blush to have known.
I do not expect, while in this state of mortality, to be free from every
sinful thought, or effectually to prevent their entrance into the mind. This
is the perfection of heaven. Yet I must labor after this blessedness by
faith and prayer, or I am only a hypocrite and self-deceiver.
The ready access which Satan has to the imaginative powers of the soul, and
the quickness with which he can dart his poisonous suggestions into the
heart, are most astonishing. No season is too sacred to prevent his bold
intrusion. The house of God and the table of the Lord do not afford a
sanctuary from this enemy. Judas stands on record as an awful witness to
The Christian's private retirement is often greatly disturbed by this
restless invader, who tempted the holy Jesus in the desert. He raises
visionary schemes of profit or pleasure, to amuse the fancy or engage the
passions. No art or stratagem is left untried, to tempt the harassed soul to
forego its duties, or meditate on any thing rather than Christ, and
holiness, and heaven.
Oh! how precious at such a season are prayer and the word of God! The sword
of the Spirit and all-prayer are the weapons which Satan cannot long
withstand, when wielded by the arm of faith. "Resist the devil, and he shall
flee from you," is written for the encouragement of tempted pilgrims.
But who can prevent the injections of Satan? I might as soon attempt to
check the whirlwind in its course, or stop the flowing tide. Yet I may and
must resist them by faith and prayer, or I shall perish by them.
All-sufficient help is offered. Jesus has said, "My grace is sufficient for
you, my strength is made perfect in weakness." The promise is, "God shall
bruise Satan under your feet shortly." I must daily seek this promised aid
by humble, persevering prayer. Then, as surely as the promise stands
recorded in the Bible, so surely shall I come off more than conqueror
through the blood of the Lamb.
This is not, however, the work of an hour. The believer's warfare ends only
with his life. He puts off his earthly tabernacle and his earthly troubles
together. Oh my soul! take encouragement from that consoling question which
was put to doubting Sarah: "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?"
Almighty Savior! when sin is working within me, and my soul is bowed down
with sorrow; when Satan buffets me with his horrid assaults, and all seems
darkness and despair; when unbelief would tempt me to give up all for lost:
then may I hear you speak in cheering accents to my soul, "Is any thing too
hard for the Lord?"
Oh! let me never forget this animating question, which puts to flight a host
of unbelieving fears. May I daily live upon your grace, and rest on nothing,
blessed Lord, but you.
When I contemplate myself, what do I behold? A polluted nature; a deceitful
heart; a body every moment tending to decay; a beclouded understanding; a
depraved will; affections in disorder; a memory retaining things forbidden;
a creature, in short, born in sin; a child of wrath; an heir of hell. Awful
as this portrait is, and humbling to the pride of carnal man, yet it gives
but a faint representation of the original.
And can such a hateful creature enter into heaven? Impossible! I must be
born again. But can the Lord renew so vile a being, and cause the graces of
his Spirit to abound in such a heart as mine?
Hear, Oh! my soul, the words of your Savior which he spoke to Sarah, as the
ANGEL OF THE COVENANT: "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?"
Lord, I believe—help my unbelief. I believe you can in a moment raise me
from a death in sin to a life of righteousness; and shall I doubt your
willingness? You came to call sinners to repentance. You came to seek and to
save that which was lost. Thousands in every age, who have felt the power of
your regenerating grace, can witness to this delightful truth, that nothing
is too hard for you.
Oh! heavenly Father; bestow on me, the vilest, the most unworthy of your
creatures, a look, a smile of love, for his dear sake in whom my soul
delights, even Jesus, the sinner's friend.
You are almighty; nothing is too hard for you. Let not unbelief; for one
moment, stop the current of your grace; but cause your saving mercy to flow
onward in my soul, until unbelief and pride, and every sin, shall be forever
lost beneath the powerful stream. Then shall I be able to tell some fearful,
doubting saint, what you have done for my soul, and to the latest moment of
my life proclaim, with heartfelt joy, that nothing is too hard for you.
I will plead your promise, Lord,
I will trust your faithful word;
Since this precious truth I see,
"As your days, your strength shall be"
Often I feel an evil heart,
Prone to wander and depart;
But your word still speaks to me,
"As your days, your strength shall be"
Satan, with his crafty wile,
Seeks to fill my heart with guile;
Yet the promise says to me,
"As your days, your strength shall be"
In whatever strait I come,
While I journey to my home,
This shall be my stay and plea:
"As your days, your strength shall be."