Exposed Positions. (conti.)
- The Devil: His Beginning.
- The Prince of this world.
- The Devil a Busy Character.
- The Devil and the Church.
- The Devil and the Church (conti.).
- The Devil and the World.
- The Devil and the World (conti.).
- The Power of the Devil.
- The Power of the Devil (conti.).
- The Devil and His Methods.
- The Devil and His Methods. (conti.)
- Exposed Positions.
- Exposed Positions. (conti.)
- Our Defense against the Devil.
- Our Defense against the Devil. (Conti.)
My soul, be on thy guard;
Ten thousand foes arise,
The hosts of sin are pressing hard
To draw thee from the skies.
O watch, and fight, and pray;
The battle ne’er give o’er;
Renew it boldly every day,
And help divine implore.
WE have two statements in first Timothy of serious import m regard to the appointing of men to active and official leadership in the Church. The first is against appointing novices to such leadership, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” To press young converts to the front, to put immature ones into spiritual leadership, is to blind and puff with pride. It is to put the young convert in an exposed place, where he readily falls into the condemnation, into which the devil fell through the blinding effects of pride. This is a text, which by its reminiscential reference, is of much value, giving, as it does, cre-
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dence to the Church’s almost universally received opinion, that the devil fell through pride, its aspiring and blinding and blasting effects. Let the novitiates be hardened and matured by discipline ere they are put to the front. Staying behind is often a greater cross, as well as a greater virtue, than pushing or being pushed to the front. It is always an unsafe place for faith till faith has its beard or grows its spurs.
Men of questionable reputation placed in church leadership or official position, bring reproach and help the devil much in his disgraceful business. “Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” Men of good character and spotless reputation in the lead of church affairs, closes Satan’s mouth, cuts off his revenue, and brings his business low. The violation of these two rules in church control, novices in lead and men whose reputation is not spotless as leaders, puts the novices in bad case, and increases the bad odour of the leaders of questionable repute. The entire Church is also put in an exposed condition, imperilling the whole army. Leaders are standard bearers, conspicuous. They ought to be conspicuous in spotless piety. They ought to be mature in age, sound and advanced in faith and love and sobriety. Gifted, wise, sober, grave, blameless leaders, will make the Church strong and victorious in the day of battle.”
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Novices in leadership is an exposed condition. Put novices to the rear till sheltered and trained.
Bad reputation is a treacherous or cowardly leadership for God’s army.
Young widowhood in sable sadness is an exposed condition. No widower has as keen an eye to invade the sanctities of widowed grief as Satan. Paul writes plainly. He knew the hidden gins of Satan. He writes broadly, tenderly, honestly, with discrimination: “Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents, for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth. But the young widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry, having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will, therefore, that the younger widows marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan.”
This salutary advice relieves the sorrow of the young woman, and puts her where her heart and
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hands are full of sweet and sacred responsibilities, and nerve, and time, and heart are full of taxing toil. Satan has a hard job to work on a person thus filled fully in heart and hands with holy toil, rearing the home and state and Church of the future.
There are in man what the Scriptures term lust, strong natural desires. They are called “lusts of the flesh,” “lusts of the eye,” “worldly lusts,” the “lusts of men.” There are things of time and sense which the heart naturally craves after and clamours for. They form the basis of temptation within. A wily and powerful seducer may tempt and lead innocence and purity astray when there is no inward response to his allurements, but these lusts or desires within form the basis and afford the groundwork for Satan’s insidious temptations. St. James describes the whole process: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lusts, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” The term “drawn away” means to “lure forth.” The metaphor is from hunting or fishing. As game is lured from its many ranges, so man by lust IS allured from the safety of self-restraint to sin. The word “enticed” means a bait, to catch by bait.
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The Scriptures demand that these lusts or desires be banned and reprobated.
We see how Satan and the world are m these lusts. The Gospel is a training school in which these lusts are to be denied. “ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” The solemn declaration is made without qualification or deception, a declarative carrying the force of an imperative demand and also that of a condition, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.** The whole work of Christ is presented as an engaging and exciting pattern for us to copy in destroying these lusts, “ For as much then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.”
We are taught that these lusts are put in opposition to the will of God. They cannot be yielded to and obey God. No man can serve these two masters. These lusts are the basis and sources of corruption. They war against the soul. We are to **put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your
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mind, that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
The war with Satan is much concerned about these lusts. These lustings after the things of time and sense are not wholly destroyed when we are converted to Christ They are broken in power, enfeebled more or less, but the remains, the roots of these, are there. Like a tree in life, cut down at its stump, they throw up many shoots. If we allow these shoots to remain they will keep Satan in his work.
They who are content to leave the remains of these lusts in them will be hampered by internal conditions. To allow sin or the tendency to sin to remain in us, is as fatal as the leaving of the remains of the original natives in the land of Canaan was fatal to the piety, peace and prosperity of Israel. God’s command to Israel was that those nations were to be destroyed completely so as to leave neither root nor branch. Israel’s failure to do this was the source of untold evil to them. Exposed conditions these remaining lusts are, as much so as the remains of a decayed and broken tooth are the exposed conditions of toothache or neuralgia. So we are charged, “ For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”
In another text we have these words: “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts.” “Lust” is the larger word
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in Scripture, including the whole world of active lusts and desires. The “affections” is not so much the soul’s disease in its more active operations, as the diseased conditions out of which these spring. The lusts spring from the passions and are nourished by them. They deserve the same punishment as the flesh. All, the flesh, the lusts, and affections, are crucified. This puts the Christian in the best fortified condition to resist the attacks of the devil. With these lusts remaining, he is but half armed and wholly exposed.
Low aims in the spiritual life, satisfaction and quiescence in present conditions and attainments, is exposed condition. The devil may visit the highlands and mountain ranges of spiritual elevation, but he makes his home in the lowlands. He will attack the strongest, maturest giant form of piety, but he works his havoc and gains his spoils where the Christian slumbers in the cradle of spiritual babyhood. There is no safety but in high aims, strenuous effort and constant advance.
It is on the field of low aims and satisfied results, that the devil wins his chief victories. A spiritual growth, constant and sure spiritual development, is the surest safeguard against Satan’s wiles, assaults and surprises. Constant growth is all eyes and all strength. Satan never finds it asleep, drowsy nor weak. Onward, upward, is the great battle cry. Constant advance is the steel armour in the fight with the devil.
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Israel lost Canaan by not possessing Canaan. Satan has all the vantage ground when we do not maintain the aggressive.
When the Bible sounded the clarion call, “ Let us go on unto perfection,” it was seeking to arouse a Church which had lost immensely in the vigour, manliness and fighting ability of Christian character by feeding on milk, and indulging in the lazy luxury of being children. It raises a standard and marks a point for them to gain. The point is far ahead, but it is a real point, as real as the point at which their steps had been stayed by a ruinous stay. They are called out of the cradle and away from the nursery to the strength, conflicts and perfection of a royal manhood.
The eulogy on Wesley by a great writer of being “ the first of theological statesmen,” pays him no high compliment; but his spiritual perception, the man of open, divine vision, is his highest eulogy, and this is evidenced by the fact that he reechoed the trumpet call of the Bible, and sounded it on every key and in every refrain, and sought to stir into a forward movement the Church, and quicken its members to seek an advanced position, which had not only dropped out of their experience, but out of their hopes and creeds. God gives religion in its beginnings, and these beginnings are glorious; but to be content with the beginnings of religion, is to forfeit not only its possibilities, but is to leave us opened, naked to Satan, a prey to his
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schemes. Additions to our spiritual capital are the conditions of solvency, and of the retaining of the capital, and is a victory over the devil as well. To stand still in religion is to lose it. To enter into camp at regeneration, is to forfeit regenerating grace. To stop at any other transitional advance station, is to go backward. The weakness of men is inconstancy to a great aim. The drafts of a long and exhaustive strain are intolerable. We are willing to pay the cost of nerves for a great temporal success, but the price is too dear for religious success. The tendency in religion is to be satisfied with rudiments and to die in infancy. Teething time is a perilous time for spiritual babes. The great sin of the Israelites was hugging the shores and not going up to possess the land. The marvellous glory of their entrance into Canaan paled in the lethargy and timidity of their after advance. A stopping, standing still, a non-growing, nonfighting condition, is a position fully exposed to Satan. Many run well, fight well, but at some point their running and fighting cease. At once spiritual development is arrested and the devil moves at once to an easy victory. This spiritual arrest may be at the initial steps or stages of spiritual life. The raptures and triumph of the first stages may arrest advance and cause a standstill while the cradle is not out of sight, and the steps are unsteady by baby toddling. It is true that Paul calls the Corinthian saints baby saints, but
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this was the point where their saintship turned back to carnality and lost its odour, sanctity and strength. Their great sin and backslidings were found in their babyhood, not that they began as babes, but that they stayed babes. Baby sainthood is the popular sainthood of these days. To begin as babes is well, but to remain babes forty years is a fearful deformity.
It would be well for us if spiritual arrest belonged only to the high regions of spiritual advance. While not a few, doubtless, of those who have received a great spiritual baptism after the grace of conversion, have crystallized around this point of advance, the far greater number of people and preachers have crystallized around the initials of grace. We may have some specimens of Christian mummies who in size approach to maturity, but the number of the dwarfed and cradled ones is legion.
Spiritual arrest is not confined though to the initial steps. Its life-blood may chill and its step halt at the point of highest advance. Many Christians are so enthusiastic over some marked advance, some higher elevation gained, that they become enchanted with the beautiful and lofty regions, and are lulled to sleep, and, like Bunyan’s Pilgrim, lose their roll, and are all unconscious of their loss; and instead of pressing on with tireless steps, they but cover the future with their imaginations, and while their fancies are filled with the
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rich colourings of their advanced position, their feet have declined and are in the vale again. They are so happy that it is almost impossible to bring them to their senses, and make them understand that there is many a weary and toilsome step between their Red Sea deliverance and the Promised Land, and that even after the desert is crossed, and the Jordan divided, and the sanctified soil of Canaan pressed by sanctified feet, there is many a battle to be fought, and many an enemy to be destroyed before the goodly land is all possessed. A singing and shouting sanctification is good, but if it is not joined with a marching and fighting sanctification, it will sing and shout itself as thin as a ghost and as dry as a chuck. “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth to those things that are before,’* is the divine process to hold what we have by getting more. Paul’s marvellous career was simple, not complex. He sums it up in fighting, running, watching, the three elements of continuous advance. Many a great battle has been lost by the demoralizing effects of the halt caused by a partial victory in the earlier part of the conflict It is no easy matter to keep place and march in rank when the spoils of a halfgained victory cover the ground. There is no position this side of heaven free from the dangers of spiritual arrest and secure from the devil’s attacks. The conflict and vigilance of advance must mark every step till our feet are within the pearly gates.
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A non-growing piety, with an arrested spiritual development, whether the arrest is in the initial stages or at the more advanced steps, is always and everywhere an exposed position, always vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.