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fluence to lift us up to commune with himself. And he who has a real faith in Jesus must believe that he came to put us into possession of ourselves, and to give us glorious liberty of the sons of God.” We are not to be possessed by a heap of money, or a habit of sensuality; we are not to be enslaved to a pack of cards or a bottle of whiskey; we are not to be the servants of fashion, opinion, creeds, ceremonies. But if a man is really a disciple of Jesus, then he may say, All things are ours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, or the Roman Church, or Protestantism, they belong to us. We do not belong to them. We are not the servants of things present or of things to come. All are ours, and we belong to God, and are his children.
GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN !
“GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN.”
ESUS here calls Peter Satan, though just before he had
promised him the keys of heaven. He called him Satan because he tempted Jesus to draw back from his duties ; because he begged him not to go to Jerusalem, since that was going to his death.
It has been a general opinion in the church that there is a Prince of Evil, whose office is to tempt mankind. Martin Luther, it is well known, had a firm and practical belief in diabolic agency. His “Table-Talk" is full of it. In one place, he says: “I am a Doctor of Holy Scripture, and for many years have preached Christ; yet, to this day, I am not able to put Satan off, or to drive him me, as I would." He gives minute directions for resisting Satan. He thinks Satan dislikes being laughed at, and that it is a good plan to ridicule him. So he says that when Satan tempts him to despair, telling him what a great sinner he is, he replies : " Then pray for me, Saint Satan.” There is something quite gallant in the way in which Luther fought Satan.
I have sometimes thought that the notion of a Satan or a Devil came from the need of having something to fight. The Devil, perhaps, is the child of the Organ of Combative
ness in man. We put the evil in us outside of us, so that we may fight it, and call it Devil. St. James says: “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed.” But it enables us to concentrate our energies against evil, to personify it in the form of an enemy against whom we can throw the inkstand (as Luther did, in more senses than one), whom we can talk to, argue with, and almost see before us in a visible form, with hoofs and horns. So, without undertaking to decide whether there is any real Devil, or not, I shall speak in this discourse as if there were a Devil, and shall endeavor to show what some of his methods are, and how we can resist them.
And, first, we must see what the chief object of Satan is, and whom he tempts. He does not trouble himself about those who are not trying to serve God. He leaves them to themselves. They do not need a Satan. They are travelling on together, in his direction, and that is enough. If one cares nothing about God or duty, nothing about improvement, or usefulness, Satan lets him go; he does not waste his force on him ; he will take care of himself. The motto of Satan, as of Jesus, is : “He who is not against me, is with me.” The principle of evil and of good are both so positive, that they are sure to repel and attract equally. If they do not attract, they repel; if they do not repel, they attract. Wherever either Jesus or Satan come, they judge men. Jesus parts the sheep from the goats by attracting the sheep. Satan parts them also, but by attracting the goats. Therefore, it comes almost to the same thing whether we resist evil or follow good. If we love good, we need not think of evil ; if we hate evil and fight against it, it is a sign that we have the love of good in us. Almost ; not quite. For to follow an attraction rather than a repulsion is always the best way.
The object of Satan is to tempt those who are going to
God, and lead them astray. For this end he tries all arts and contrivances. Sometimes he comes as a friend ; sometimes he appears as an angel of light; sometimes he quotes Scripture for his purpose ; but you can detect him under all his disguise by his desire of drawing you away from God.
One thing which Satan likes well to do, is to persuade us to lower our standard of duty. If he finds a young man, well brought up, of good habits, one who has been taught, at home, industry, sobriety, virtue, - taught to keep clear of wine, gaming, dissipation of all sorts, – the Devil comes to him, usually in the form of some good fellow, some kindly, pleasant companion, and says: “What's the use of being so particular? Why not do as others do? Why should
you be so much better than every one else ? Come along with us; there's no harm in it. Try it, just for once. I tell you what, it's first rate. You'll have a good time; and if
you do not like it, you need not do it again.” For Satan makes great use of curiosity. He knows how to excite the imagination of a novice, about things unknown. This temptation is very effective with young people, both , boys and girls, who are naturally curious. For this reason, it is not a bad thing for parents and friends to blunt the edge of curiosity by showing, themselves, to young people whatever amusements are not evil. The theatre is very attractive to those who have not been to it. But if children are taken there occasionally by their parents, they are not likely to be fascinated by it afterwards. So of dancing, card-playing, and the like. Let children see all these things when they are with their parents and their imagination will not be excited by them afterwards.
One of the great objects of the Devil is to discourage us. Courage, hope, and faith, make so large a part of goodness, that the aim of Jesus is chiefly to encourage us,
and that of the Devil chiefly to discourage us. If the Devil can only persuade us that we are such great sinners that it is of no use trying to be good, he has gained his point. Christ hangs round our neck a cross, on which is written,
Hope on, hope ever.” The Devil gives us as his talisman, an easy chair, with the motto,
" It's of no use.” He is always suggesting that our sins are so great we had better not try to get rid of them. The Scripture he relies upon the most, and which may be called the Devil's prooftest, is that about the unpardonable sin. If he can only persuade any one that he has committed the unpardonable sin, he is sure of him, unless Christ comes to the rescue.
But Satan has another trick, of the opposite kind. If he finds he cannot discourage us, then he tries to make us self-satisfied. If he cannot do anything by telling us how bad we are, then he often gets his end by telling us how good we are. If he cannot make us infidels, then he tries to make us Pharisees. A good many of the long and solemn prayers, fasts, and penances, in the church, are mere inventions of Satan, in order to puff Christians up with an idea of extraordinary sanctity. The distinction made in the churches between the pious and irreligious, the saints and sinners, the penitent and impenitent, converted and unconverted, is a great trick of the Devil. It works both ways. It discourages those who are outside of the Church, by telling them that all their efforts to be good amount to nothing as long as they are not converted, and they might just as well give them up. It inflates those inside the Church with the idea that they are the people of God already, and do not need to try very much to do better. Thus it keeps both from improving ; teaching the one that he cannot do anything to improve himself, and the other that he need not. I call that the master-stroke of Satan.