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Upon this the hotter part of the war begins. The old serpent puts forth all his strength and cunning, raiseth up enemies from every quarter, works upon the pride, envy, and prejudices of the Jewish rulers and teachers, and by their agency carries on a most furious persecution against him. Yet still this great Captain of Salvation maintains his ground, and, amidst all the opposition that is made to him, lays the foundation of a kingdom, against which the gates of hell shall never be able to prevail; till at length, by seeming to yield, he gives the enemy the mortal blow, pursues him into his own dominions; and, by a mysterious wisdom, “ through death, he conquers him that had the power of death, that is the devil:” And having thus obtained a complete victory, he riseth from the grave in triumph, ascendeth up on high, leading captivity captive; where, seated on the right hand of the Father, he shall continue in the exercise of government as Mediator till all his enemies be made bis footstool.
Thus, you see, that the doctrine of my text doth not lean upon a single testimony, but is supported by many clear and express declarations of holy writ, and beautifully illustrated by the whole of our Saviour's conduct during the time of his abode on this earth. Let us then proceed,
II. In the second place, To consider more particularly some of the principal means by which the Son of God hath hitherto conducted his salutary undertaking, and shall finally destroy the works of the devil.
1st. He hath given us the most certain and enlarged discoveries of every thing that is necessary to be known, believed, or done by us, in order to our present improve. ment in holiness, and the perfection of our happiness in a future state.
The devil is styled "the god of this world, who blindeth the minds of those that believe not,” and by keeping the light from them, leads them captive at his pleasure. And Christ delivers them from this thraldom, " by opening their eyes, and turning them from darkness to light;" dispelling those clouds of ignorance, error, and prejudice, whereby Satan maintains his usurpation over the hearts of men.
“ No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath de. clraed bim." To him we are indebted for the fullest and most satisfying information concerning the nature and perfections of God Most High; the measures of his government, his relation to us, and the worship that is die to him; and that neither guilt nor distance might discourage our approach to the throne of bis holiness, Christ hath opened to us, in his own blood, a precious fountain of sovereign virtue, in which the chief of sinners may wash and be made clean; and by revealing to us the mysterious union of the divine and human natures, in his own person as Mediator, he hath, as it were, thrown a bridge over that boundless infinite ocean, which separates the creature from the invisible Godhead: so that through the man Christ Jesus, who is also God's beloved Son, we may now address the Father of our spirits, without that dread of a repulse, and fear of offending him, which otherwise must have overwhelmed our minds. He hath given us a law which is holy, just, and good, ntterly subversive of the kingdom of Satan, and contrary to all his works; “ teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world.” This law he hath enforced with the most persuasive arguments. Every motive to obedience that can either encourage our VOL. I.
hopes, or alarm our fears, is get before us in the strongest and most affecting light. Heaven is unfolded to our view, and destruction hath no covering : And that no incitement may be wanting to invigorate our opposition to the devil and his works, this great Captain of Salvation solemnly enlists us into his army by baptism; and hath appointed the other sacrament, not merely to represent his atoning sacrifice, and to remind us of the price with which we were redeemed, but likewise to afford us an opportunity of recognizing his title to our grateful homage and most loyal subjection; and to be a means of imparting to our souls those supplies of grace, which will enable us to quit ourselves like men, while we fight under his banner against the powers of darkness, till the God of peace shall in due time bruise Satan under our feet. Thus doth the Son of God destroy the works of the devil, by the doctrines, and laws, and ordinances he hath taught us. To which I add,
2dly. The bright and glorious example of his life.
It was the just reproach of the Jewish teachers, that “ they bound heavy burdens, and laid them upon other men's shoulders, but they themselves would not touch them with one of their fingers.” Whereas the example of our Lord was of equal perfection with his laws. He lived as he taught; and the whole of his conduct, from his birth to his death, was one continued lecture of the purest devotion, the sublimest morals, and the most extensive usefulness. But this opens a field too extensive to be entered upon. It must suflice at present to observe, that the principal virtues which the peculiar character and circumstances of our Lord gave him an opportunity to practise, were obviously adapied to counteract the devil's most favourite vices. How odious, how disgrace. ful, do luman pride and vain-glory appear, when set in opposition to the lowliness of Christ, who, " though he was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet made himself of po reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant?” With what persuasive eloquence doth the contempt he poured upon the riches, and honours, and pleasures of this world, reprove and condemn the covetousness, the ambition, and sensualty of men? His condescension to the mean, and his sympathy with the miserable; his meekness in receiving and forgiving injuries; and his patience in enduring the most grievous sufferings, do all serve to expose the deformity of those opposite distempers which give Satan so much room in the hearts of most men. After this manner doth the perfect example of the Son of God in our nature contribute to the subversion of the kingdom of darkness. But,
3dly. It was by his obedience unto death that our Lord did most eminently destroy the works of the devil ; as we learn from the passage to which I formerly allụd. eil, (Heb. ii. 14.) “ Through death he destroyed him tbat had the power of death, that is the devil.” Accord. ingly, in the epistle to the Colossians, the cross of Christ is compared to a triumphal chariot, on which, having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly. I shall therefore discourse at greater length upon this head, and endeavour to illustrate the efficacy of Christ's death, in counteracting and defeating the malice of Satan : 1st. As it advances the glory of God which he sought to impair; and, 2d. As it purchaseth and secures the salvation of men, in spite of all his attempts to ruin them. These subjects, which are no less delightful than interesting, will serve to unfold the meaning of that heavenly anthem with which angels celebrated the birth of our Lord: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men." 1. First, then, let us view the death of Christ as a means of advancing the glory of God, or, to speak with greater propriety, of displaying it more fully to his intelligent creatures.
Satan, no doubt, triumphed in his victory over the heads of our race. He had seen with envy that fountain of beneficence flowing out towards them, wbich he kuew was eternally shut against himself; and bebeld, with vexation and rage, the complacency and delight of the Creator in his new.made world. But now that the fatal trespass was committed, he would fondly conclude, that this blessed harmony between heaven and earth was for ever at an end. Man, would he think, is become no less guilty than I am. That tremendous justice, the severity of which I feel, stands as much in the way of this creature's happiness as of mine. God must rear up another world before he can make any further display of his goodness, for this world is effectually put beyond the reach of it. Thus we may suppose him glorying in his conquest, and his fancied disappointment of the divine purpose.
But, behold! by the death of Christ, the shameful dis. appointment recoiling upon himself. He had before seen goodness and justice displayed alternately, each acting in the most perfect manner upon their proper objects; but now he sees them ministering to each other's glory, and mutually conspiring to take advantage of bis malice, that both might shine forth with more dazzling splendour. He sees mercy to the guilty (an exercise of goodness which till then he thought impossible) rejoicing against judgment, and judgment at the same time triumphing in a satisfaction of infinitely greater worth than the whole world of angels and men. He sees love bringing the sacrifice to satisfy justice; and justice, hav