Sermon 419. The Roaring Lion
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 17, 1861,
BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: whomresist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world."1 Peter 5:8,9.
SATAN, who is called by various names in the Scriptures, all descriptive of his bad qualities, was once an angel of God- perhapsone of the chief among the fiery ones-
"Foremost of the sons of light, Midst the bright ones doubly bright." Sin, all-destroying sin, which has made an Aceldamaout of Eden, soon found inhabitants for Hell in Heaven itself, plucking one of the brightest stars of the morning from itssphere and quenching it in blackest night.
From that moment this evil spirit despairing of all restoration to his former glories and happiness has sworn perpetual hostilityagainst the God of Heaven. He has had the audacity openly to attack the Creator in all His works. He stained creation. Hepulled down man from the throne of Glory androlled him in the mire of depravity. With the trail of the serpent he despoiled all Eden's beauty and left it a waste thatbrings forth thorns and briers-a land that must be tilled with the sweat of one's face. Not content with that-inasmuch ashe had spoiled the firstcreation-he has incessantly attempted to despoil the second.
Man once made in the image of God, he soon ruined. Now he uses all his devices, all his crafts, all the power of his skilland all the venom of his malice to destroy twice-made man created in the image of Christ Jesus. With ceaseless toil and untiringpatience he is ever occupied in endeavoring tocrush the Seed of the woman. There is no believer in Christ, no follower of that which is true and lovely and of good repute,who will not find himself, at some season or other, attacked by this foul fiend and the legions enlisted in his service.
Now, behold your adversary. Yes, though you cannot see his face, or detect his form, believe that such a foe withstands you.It is not a myth, nor a dream, nor a superstitious imagination. He is as real a being as ourselves. Though a spirit, he hasas much real power over hearts as we have over thehearts of others, no, in many cases far more. This is, I repeat it, no vision of the night-no phantom of a disordered brain.That wicked one is as sternly real this day as when Christ met him in deadly conflict in the wilderness of temptation. Believersnow have to fight withApollyon in the Valley of Humiliation.
Woe to the professors of godliness who are defeated by this deadly antagonist. They will find it a terrible reality in theworld to come. Against this prince of darkness we utter afresh this morning the warning of the Apostle, "Whom resist steadfastin the faith."
I shall now speak to four points. First of all, Satan's incessant activity -"He walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whomhe may devour." Secondly, we will dwell awhile upon his terrible roaring. Thirdly, upon his ultimate aim, seeking to devourGod's people. And then, lastly, let us take upthe exhortation of Peter-and show how Satan is to be overcome.
I. First then, SATAN'S PERPETUAL ACTIVITY. Only God can be omnipresent, hence, Satan can only be in one place at one time.
Yet, if you will consider how much mischief he does, you will easily gather that he must have an awful degree of activity.He is here and there and everywhere tempting us here and anon scattering his temptations in the countries which are antipodesto us-hurrying across the sea or speeding overthe land. We have no means of asserting what are his means of flight. But we may easily infer from his being so constantlyin all places that he must travel with inconceivable velocity. He has, besides, a host of fallen spirits who fell with him.This great dragon drew with his tailthe third part of the stars of Heaven-and these are ready to execute his will and obey his behests, if not with the samepotency and force which belongs by hereditary right to their great leader, still with something of his spirit, his maliceand his cunning.
Think for awhile how active he must be! We know that he is to be found in every place! Enter the most hallowed sanctuary andyou shall find him there. Go where men congregate upon the Exchange and you shall lack no signs of his being present there.Retire into the quietude of the family circle andyou will soon detect in bickerings and jealousies that Satan has scattered handfuls of evil seed there. No less in the deepsolitude of the hermit's cave might you find the impress of his cloven foot. You shall sail from England to America and findhim there amidst the clashing ofswords.
You shall come back and journey across the mighty empire of Russia and find him there in the tyrant's heart and perhaps, too,even in the enmity which is excited in the breasts of those who are oppressed. You shall go into the wilds where foot of Christianmissionary never trod, but you shall findthat Satan has penetrated into the far interior and tutored the untutored barbarian. You shall go where the name of Jesusis as yet unknown, but you shall find Satan having dominion there. He is the prince of the power of the air. Wherever thebreath of life is inhaled the poisonousmiasma of temptation is a thing familiar. They that dwell in the wilderness bow before him-the kings of Seba and of Shebaoffer him gifts-yes and the dwellers in the isles acknowledge him too often as their king.
Then remember, that as he is found in all places, so you have often found him in all your duties. You have sought to serveGod in your daily avocations but strong temptations-furious suggestions of evil have followed you there. You have come homefrom your business almost broken-hearted with yourslips. You have come into the family and sought to magnify your Master in the social circle-but perhaps in the best moment,when you seemed about to achieve the greatest work, you were clipped up by the heels. Your easily besetting sin overturnedyou and Satan exulted at yourfall. You found him even there.
You have said, "I will go to my bed," but in your tossing at midnight you have found him there. You have risen and said, "Iwill go into my closet and shut the door." But who among us has not met the foul fiend even there in solitary conflict? Whenwe wished to be wrestling with the angel of God wehave had to contend with the fiend of Hell. Look upon any of your duties, Christian and will you not see upon them marksof sin-and on some not only marks of sin-but marks of Satan's presence, too? Satan is not in all sin. We sin of ourselves.We must not lay too much uponSatan's shoulders. Sin grows in our hearts without any sowing just as thorns and thistles will grow in fallow furrows. Butstill there are times when Satan himself must have been present and you have had to know it and feel it.
On some of the old bricks of Egypt and of Babylon there has been found the mark of a dog's foot. When the brick was made,while it was left to dry, the creature passed over it and left the imprint of his foot upon it. And now thousands of yearsafterwards when we pull down the wall we find the dogmark. Thus has it been often with us. While our duties were in such a state that they were yet impressible-before they wereyet sun-burned and dried and ready to be built up for real practical purpose-that dog of Hell has passed over them and leftthe footprint on the bestthings that we ever did. As we look back years afterwards we perceive what we might not have seen at the time-that he reallymarred and stained the best performance of our most willing hands.
Ah, when I think how Satan follows us in all places and in all duties I am sometimes almost ready to apply to him the languageof David when he spoke of the omnipresent God-"Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence?If I ascend up into Heaven, You are there-ifI make my bed in Hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of thesea, even there shall Your hand lead me and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me, eventhe night shall be light about me."But glory be to God, if I climb to Heaven Satan is not there. There I can escape him. Beyond the reach of his roaring myspirit shall find her rest in God.
We must observe also how ready Satan is to vent his spite against us in all frames of heart. When we are depressed in spirit-perhapssome bodily illness has brought us low. Our animal spirits have ebbed and we feel ready to sink-then that old coward Satanis sure to attack us. I have alwaysnoted as a matter of experience that he prefers rather to attack some of us when we are in a low and weak state than atany other time. Oh, how temptation has staggered us when we have been sick! We have said-"Ah, if this had but come when Iwas well then I could have caught it onthe shield at once. In fact I would have laughed at it and broken it in pieces." But Satan avails himself of our sad andweak frames in order to make his fiery darts find their mark more effectively.
On the other hand, if we are joyous and triumphant and are something in the frame of mind that David was when he danced beforethe ark, then Satan knows how to set his traps by tempting us to presumption-"My mountain stands firm, I shall never be moved."Or to carnal security-"Soul, take yourease, you have much goods laid up for many years." Or else to self-righteousness-"My own power and goodness have exaltedme." Or else he will even attempt to poison our joys with the spleen of evil forebodings. "Ah," says he, "this is too goodto hold, you will soon be cast downand all these fine plumes of yours shall yet be trod like the mire of the streets."
He well knows how, in every frame of mind to make our condition minister to his devouring purposes. He will follow you, Christian,when your soul is all but despairing and he will whisper in your ears-"God has forsaken you and given you over to the willof your enemies." And he will track yourupward course, riding as it were on cherub's wings. When you tread the starry pathway of communion he will dog your footstepseven upon Tabor's summit and climb with you to Pisgah's brow. On the temple's pinnacle he will tempt you, saying, "Cast yourselfdown," and on the mountain'shighest peak he will attack you with, "Bow down and worship me."
And ah, remember how well he knows how to turn all the events of Providence to our ill. Here comes Esau, hungry with hunting-thereis a mess of pottage ready-that he may be tempted to sell his birthright. Here is Noah, glad to escape from his long confinementin the ark-he is merry and thereis the wine-cup ready for him-that he may drink. Here is Peter, his faith is low but his presumption is high. There is amaiden ready to say-"You also were with Jesus of Nazareth." There is Judas and there are thirty pieces of silver in the priestlyhand to tempt him, yes, andthere is the rope afterwards for him to hang himself with.
No lack of means. If there is a Jonah, wishing to go to Tarshish rather than to Nineveh there is a ship ready to take him.Satan has his providences as if to counterfeit the Providence of God. At least he knows how to use God's Providence to servehis own ends. One of the greatest mercies Godbestows upon us is His not permitting our inclinations and opportunities to meet. Have you not sometimes noticed that whenyou had had the inclination to a sin there has been no opportunity-and when the opportunity has presented itself you havehad no inclination towards it?Satan's principal aim with believers is to bring their appetites and his temptations together-to get their souls into adry seared state and then to strike the match and make them burn.
He is so crafty and wily with all the experience of these many centuries that man, who is but of yesterday, can scarcely bethought of as a match for him. Did he not drag down the wise man, even Solomon, whose wisdom was more excellent than any ofthe sons of men? Did he not lay the Royal Preacherlike a helpless victim at his feet? Did he not cast down the strong man, Samson-who could slay a thousand Philistines, butwho could not resist the dallying of Delilah? Did he not bring down even the man after God's own heart by a most sorrowfulfault? Let us sorrowfully rememberthat we have hardly met with a perfect and an upright man against whom Satan has not vented his spleen and over whom Satanhas not in some degree triumphed.
Well I have thus spoken of Satan's terrible activity-of his following us into all places and attending us wherever we maygo. I am sure that no Christian heart here thinks this to be a mere trifle. Of course there are skeptics. There are some whowill not believe in the existence of this evilspirit. Too generally I have noticed that when a man has no devil he has no God. Usually when a man does not believe thereis a devil, it is because he never experiences his attacks and probably never will-for the devil does not take the troubleto go and look after those he issure of. "Oh, no," he says, "let them take their ease. I do not need to tempt them."
But I say this, if a man has ever met Satan, as John Bunyan describes Christian meeting Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation,he will have no doubt of the existence of a devil. When I have stood foot to foot with that arch-tempter in some dire hourof conflict, I could no more doubt his beingshown struggling and wrestling within than a soldier who has been cut and scarred and grounded-while bleeding and faint-doubtthat there must have been an antagonist to indict those wounds. Experience will be to man, after all, the best proof of thisand we cannot expect thatthose who have never known the joys of the Holy Spirit will know much about the attacks of the Evil Spirit.
Nor that those who doubt that there is a God can ever be much tormented with the devil. "Oh," says Satan, "let them alone,they will fall into the ditch of themselves. There is no need that I should go abroad after them." I think I remember tellingyou of Mr. Beecher's illustration. When the Negrowent out with his master to catch wild ducks, one of the ducks being a little wounded, the master made the most desperateefforts to get it. But he observed that when it was dead and had fallen down, his master did not bother much about it becausehe could pick it up at any time.And so it is with dead souls. The devil can pick them up at any time. It is those that are wounded-that have some life leftthat he is afraid of losing. Such as these he is sure to pursue. He will be ever striving to get them safe in his grasp. II.And now we turn, secondly, toSATAN'S ROARING.
The Destroyer has many ways of mischief. Here in the text he is compared to a roaring lion. In some passages of Scriptureyou will remember he is compared to a fowler. Now a fowler makes no noise. It would altogether defeat his end if he were tofrighten the birds. But as quietly as possible hesets his lure and with sweet notes he seeks to enchant his victim till it is taken in the trap. That is quite a differentthing from the roaring lion of the text. In another passage it is said that he knows how to transform himself into an angelof light and then, plausibly andsmoothly, he teaches false doctrine and error and all the while appears to have a holy zeal for Truth-and the most earnestlove for that which is delicate and lovely and of good repute.
We have plenty of specimens in these days of the devil teaching morality. You sometimes take up a newspaper and read of theskeptic or scorpion school, whose writers hate all true religion as much as the devil hates virtue-and you find a most unctuousarticle upon the indelicacies of some honestpreacher, or a very pious lamentation over the presumed follies of an earnest minister. Never let the devil accuse Christiansof cant and hypocrisy again-let him find his answer in his own dear allies who can plead for the sanctity of places whichthey abhor and for a solemnitywhich they despise. Of all devils the most devilish is the saintly hypocrite loving sin and yet pleading against it in orderto promote it.
In this text, however, he is not an angel of light, but a roaring lion. I think it was Rutherford who said that he liked thedevil best in this shape. I remember in one of his letters he thanks God that He had given him a roaring devil to deal with.Now what is the peculiar temptation which isintended under the metaphor of a roaring lion? Again we repeat it-not the slouching gait of a prowling lion who is seekingafter its prey and will only roar when it ready to lunge-but a lion that roars till he makes the very forest startle and shakesthe hills which gird theprairie.
These roaring of Satan are threefold. Perhaps Peter here alluded to the roaring of persecution. How Satan roared with persecutionsin Peter's days. He roared and roared and roared again till none but stout hearts dared to show themselves valiant for Christ.There were the underground prisons filledwith frogs and serpents and toads, where breath or fresh air never chased away the noxious smell and pestilential vapor.There were racks and gibbets. There was the sword for beheading and the stake for burning. There was dragging at the heelsof the wild horse. There was smearingover with pitch and then setting the body still alive to burn in Nero's garden. There were torments which must not be described-thevery pictures of which are enough to make one's eyes weep blood as you look upon them.
There was nothing for the Christian then but banishment and imprisonment-these were the lowest penalties. "They were stoned,they were sawn in sunder, they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, tormented." These were theroaring of the lion in good Peter's day. Sincethen, from his old den at Rome, what roaring has Satan given forth, like thunders indeed to all except the men who knewthe difference between the mimic thunders of Hell and the real thunder of the God of Heaven! Let Smithfield testify to theroaring of this lion! Let our cemeteriesand graveyards which still bear the memorial of our myriad martyrs testify how the lion has roared at us!
And let our denomination especially, persecuted alike by Protestant and Romanist, hunted both by good and bad upon the faceof the earth-let the thousands that have been drowned in the rivers of Holland and Germany-let the multitudes who have therebeen put to the most exquisite torture merelybecause they would hold God's holy ordinance and would not prostitute it at will of the Pope or prelate-let all these speakand tell how Satan has roared in days of old! He has not half the roar in him now that he had then! Why, he can do nothingat all against us! His roarsnow-a-days are like the hissings of some angry cat. All he can do is but to use cruel mockings.
Now and then a wicked slander, or a jeer, or a caricature, or a witty sentence. What are these? Oh, if we cannot bear these,what would we have done when the lion used to roar in real lion-like style? Well, well, he may growl again yet before someof us have gone off the face of the earth, for weknow not what may happen. But let him roar. We know, blessed be God, that He who is for us is more than all they that isagainst us.
But there is another kind of furious attack-the roaring of strong and vehement temptation. This some of us have felt. Do youknow what it is, Christian-I hope you do not-do you know what it is sometimes to be caught hold of by the clutch of some frightfultemptation which you hate, loathe,detest and abominate? And yet the clutch of the hand is seconded by an arm so terrific in its strength that it drags youright on against your will. You look at the sin, look it in the very face. You feel you cannot do this great wickedness andsin against God-and yet the impulsestrong and stern, mysterious and irresistible- drags you on till you come to the edge of the precipice and look down uponthe yawning gulf which threatens to swallow you up. And in the last moment, by God's grace, as by the very skin of your teeth,you are delivered and your footdoes not slip- neither do you fall into the hand of the Destroyer. You have had reason to say-"My steps had almost gone,my feet had well-near slipped."
Have you known what it is to have this temptation come again and again and again, till you were in agony? You felt that youhad rather die than thus be perpetually assaulted for you feared that in an evil hour you might leave your God and turn untoperdition. You have been like good Mr. Stand-Fastin Bunyan's Pilgrim, when tempted by Madam Bubble he fell at last down upon his knees and with sighs and cries to God hebegged Him to deliver him. And He that comes to the help of the feeble at last delivered His servant. Have you ever knownthis? This is one of Satan's roaring atyou-thrusting his temptation against you like the torments to which they put some of the early martyrs-when they laid themdown and poured filthy water down their throats in such immense quantities that they were at last killed. Though they loathedthe filthy liquid yet theirenemies continued to pour on and on.
So has Satan done with us-pouring down his filth-cramming us with his mire, constraining us as much as possible to yield totemptation. My peculiar temptation has been constant unbelief. I know that God's promise is true and that He that said itwill do it. He that has performed of old changesnot and will be firm and faithful even to the end. Yet does this temptation incessantly assail me-"Doubt Him. Distrust Him.He will leave you yet." I can assure you when that temptation is aided by a nervous state of mind it is very hard to standday by day and say, "No, I cannotdoubt my God. He that has been with me in days gone by is with me still. He will not forsake His servant, nor put him away."That perpetual assaulting, that perpetual stabbing and cutting and hacking at one's faith is not so easy to endure. O God,deliver us, we pray You and make usmore than conquerors by Your Spirit's power!
Once more-Satan has another way of roaring. I do not suppose that one in ten of God's people knows anything about this-andthey need not wish to-Satan can roar also in the Christian's ears with blasphemies. I do not allude now to those evil thoughtswhich spring up in the minds of men who, intheir childhood and their early youth went far into sin. I know that you will sometimes, when in prayer, be troubled withthe snatch of an old song which you once used to sing. And perhaps, when you would be most free from every unhallowed thought,some coarse expression which youheard in your former haunts will return again and again and again. Why the verse of a hymn may suggest to you some unholything or a text of Scripture bring up some of those old recollections which you have longed to forget.
I allude now more especially to those yet more ferocious attacks of Satan when he will inject blasphemous thoughts into theminds of believers who never thought such things before. You know how Bunyan describes it-"Good Christian had to pass throughthe valley of the shadow of death. About themidst of this valley he perceived the mouth of Hell to be and just when he was come over against the mouth of the pit, oneof the wicked ones got behind him and stepped up softly to him and whisperingly suggested many grievous blasphemies to himwhich he verily thought had proceededfrom his own mind. This put Christian more to it than anything he had met with before-even to think that now he should blasphemeHim that he so much loved before. Yet, if he could have helped it he would not have done it. But he had not the discretioneither to stop his ears or toknow from where those blasphemies came."
Seldom does the ministry allude to these matters. But, inasmuch as they trouble some of the people of God I believe it tobe the duty of a faithful shepherd of the flock to minister to those who are called to pass through this dark and dismal state.Oh, the horrors and terrors which Satan hassometimes caused God's people, by the thoughts that were not theirs-but proceeded from himself-or from some of his fiends!First, he suggested the thought so vividly that they cried with David- "Horror has taken hold of me, because of the wickedthat keep not Your Law." Andthen when the thought had flashed for a moment upon the soul, he gave a second horror by saying, "Ah, you are not a childof God or you would not have so vile a nature."
Whereas you never thought it at all. It was his suggestion, not yours. And then, having laid his sin at your door, he hasturned accuser of the Brethren and has sought to cast down your faith from its excellency by making you imagine that you hadcommitted the unpardonable sin. Now if he roarsagainst you, either with persecution, or with temptation, or with diabolical insinuations-take the language of our Apostlehere-"whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are inthe world."
III. I now turn to my third point which is SATAN'S ULTIMATE AIM-"Seeking whom he may devour."
Nothing short of the total destruction of a believer will ever satisfy our adversary. Nothing less than the perfection andcomplete salvation of a Christian is the heart's desire of our Savior. He will never see the full fruition of the travailof His soul till all His people are completely saved.The reverse is true of Satan. He can never be content till he sees the believer utterly devoured. He would rend him in piecesand break his bones and utterly destroy him if he could. Do not, therefore, indulge the thought that the main purpose of Satanis to make you miserable. Heis pleased with that-but that is not his ultimate end. Sometimes he may even make you happy for he has dainty poisons sweetto the taste which he administers to God's people.
If he feels that our destruction can be more readily achieved by sweets than by bitters, he certainly would prefer that whichwould best effect his end-
"More the treacherous calm I dread Than tempests rolling overhead," said Toplady. And much in the same spirit said a PuritanDivine of old-"There is no temptation so hard to bear as not being tempted at all."
Indeed, it is a stern temptation to be left at ease. When we think we have no occasion for our sword we begin to unbuckleit from our side. We strip off our armor piece by piece and then it is that we become most exposed to the attack of our enemies.Satan will be glad enough, no doubt, to see yourfaith weakened, but his aim is to destroy that faith so that you may not believe in God to the saving of your soul. He willbe pleased enough if he can throw mire into the eyes of your hope so that you can no more look to the goodly land that isbeyond Jordan. But he will never besatisfied till he puts those eyes out altogether and sends you, like Samson, to grind at the mill.
Let us take this for our comfort. If it is Satan's desire that we may be utterly destroyed-in that at least he is certainto be defeated. When it comes to a question who shall have the victory, Christ, the Eternal Son of God, or Satan, the princeof the power of the air-we need have no doubt asto which shall succeed. The devil is but a creature, finite in his nature and limits are laid upon his prowess. If the battlewere between Satan and man, then, indeed, woe the day to us! We might quit ourselves like men and be strong but before thisgiant all the host of Israel mustflee. But the battle is not ours. It is the mighty God's. He that once broke this serpent's head still wages war with him.
Yes and Christ Himself must be defeated. The glory of His Cross must be dimmed. His arm must be broken, the crown of sovereigntymust be snatched from His head-and His Throne must reel beneath Him-before one of those for whom He died and on whom He sethis love, should ever be cast away or begiven up to the power of His adversary. In this, then, tried Believer, count it your joy that Satan may worry, but he cannotrend. He may wound, but he cannot kill. He may get his foot upon you to make a full end of you, but you shall yet start upwith fresh strength and say,"Rejoice not against me, O my enemy-when I fall, I shall arise. When I sit in darkness the Lord shall be a light unto me."
IV. With the fourth point, we now draw to a close-WHAT WE SHOULD DO IN ORDER THAT WE MAY OVERCOME THIS ADVERSARY?
"Whom steadfast in the faith" This is our first means of defense. When Satan attacks us as an angel of light we need not somuch resist by open antagonism as by flight. There are some temptations which are only to be overcome by running away fromthem-but when Satan roars we most raise the shoutand the war-cry. To run then would be cowardice and must entail certain destruction. Suppose now that Satan roars with persecution,(and it is a poor roar that he can raise in that way now) or, suppose you are slandered, vilified, abused-will you give way?Then are you undone.Will you say, "No, never. By Him that called me to this work, I will see this battle out and in the name of Him who hasbeen my Helper up to now, I set up the banner. And I cry-Jehovah-Nissi-the Lord of Hosts is our Banner, the God of Jacob isour Refuge." You have donewell-you have resisted-and you will win the day.
Has he assailed you with some temptation obnoxious to your spirit? Yield an inch and you are undone, but become more watchfuland more vigilant over yourself in that particular sin and resistance must certainly bring victory. Or has he injected blasphemy?Resist. Be more prayerful every time he ismore active. He will soon give it up if he finds that his attacks drive you to Christ. Often has Satan been nothing buta big black dog to drive Christ's sheep nearer to the Master. Often has he been like a tremendous crested billow which hasjust lifted the poor shipwrecked marineron to the Rock and from very fear has made him cling the more tightly there. If he thrusts you thus, match him by turningeven his temptations to good account and he will soon give up that mode of warfare and exchange it for another.
Resist him. But how resist him? "Steadfast in the faith." Seek to obtain a clear knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospeland then get a good grip of them. Be ready to die sooner than give up a particle of God's revealed Truth. This will make youstrong. Then take hold of the promises of God whichare yes and amen in Christ Jesus. Be ready for every attack of Satan's commencing with, "Is it written?"-answer Satan with"Thus says the Lord"-"Steadfast in the faith." Remember all the water outside of a ship cannot sink it. It is the water insidethat perils its safety.
So, if your faith can keep its hold and you can still say, "Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him," Satan may batter yourshield, but he has not wounded your flesh-
"Amidst temptations sharp and long, My soul to this dear Refuge flies; Hope is my anchor, firm and strong, While tempestsblow and billows rise. The Gospel bears my spirits up; A faithful and unchanging God Lays the foundation for my hope,
In oaths and promises and blood."
The conflict may be long, but the victory is absolutely sure. Oh poor Soul! Do but keep near to the Cross and you are safe.Throw your arms around the dying Savior. Let the droppings of His blood fall on your sins and even if you can not see Him,still believe Him. Still say, "I know that He cameinto the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief, and I will cling to the sinner's Savior as my only hope and trust."Then let Satan roar-he cannot hurt. Let him rage-his fury is in vain. He may but show his teeth, for he certainly cannot bite."Whom resist, steadfast in thefaith."
But there is another word added for our comfort-"Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren thatare in the world." This is well sketched by John Bunyan in that picture I have already alluded to, in the Valley of the Shadowof Death. "As Christian was going along theexceedingly narrow pathway, with a deep ditch on one side and a dangerous quay upon the other, he came to a stand and hehad half a thought to go back and then again he thought he might be half-way through the valley so he resolved to go on. Andwhile he pondered and mused, he heardthe voice of a man as going before him, saying, 'Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fearno evil, for You are with me.'
"Then he was glad and that for these reasons. He gathered from thence that some who feared God were in this valley as wellas himself and that God was with them though they perceived Him not. He hoped to have company by-and-by so he went on andcalled to him that was before, but he knew not what toanswer for that he also thought himself to be alone." Here honest John has our experience to the life. It is likely enoughthat as I am speaking this morning some of you will say, "I did not think that anybody ever felt as I feel." And though Itell you these things and know thatmany of you have heard Satan roar, I am compelled to confess that I have frequently said in my own heart, "I do not believethat any other man ever had this temptation before me."
Well, this text stands to refute our supposition-"The same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world."Martin Luther was wont to say that next to Holy Scripture the best teacher for a minister was temptation-he put afflictionnext-but temptation he kept first in hisview. When we have been tempted and tried ourselves we know how to succor others. I grant you it is hard to have the convictionon one's mind that you are standing in a perilous place where never man stood before and tempted as never man was temptedbefore you. Come, Believer, wewill talk this matter over for two or three seconds. Certainly your Lord has been there before for He was tempted in allpoints like as you are. Scripture says that all your Brethren have had some participation in your trials.
Now mark-as they suffered as you suffer-no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man. As they came throughthe temptation safe and unharmed, so shall you. As they testified that their light afflictions worked out for them a far moreexceeding and eternal weight of glory-sothat shall be your testimony. As they have overcome and now circle the Throne of God clothed in pure white garments-so willyou. And inasmuch as their temptations have left no tears upon their brow, no stains upon their robes, no rent in their royalmantles-so neither shallSatan be able to disfigure or to mutilate you-you shall come out of every trial and of every struggle, losing nothing thereinsave that which it is well to lose-your dross and your tin, your chaff and your bran. You shall come forth from the deep waterswashed, cleansed andpurified. God grant that so it may be with you-but it can only be so by your resisting Satan-steadfast in the faith.
And now I am addressing some this morning whom the precept does not reach for they have no faith in which to stand fast. Ifyou knew what a blessed thing it is to be a Christian you would weep your eyes out that you are not Christians yourselves."Oh," you say, "but you have described to us thetemptations of Satan." Just so, but it is a blessed thing to be a Christian in his very worst state. As I look sometimesupon those pictures which are drawn by the artist to illustrate the Pilgrim's Progress-even when I have seen poor John upto his neck in the mire-I havethought I would sooner be Christian in the Slough of Despond, than Pliable on the dry land on the other side.
I would sooner be Christian when the dragon hurled all his darts at him though he smiled not all the day long-sooner be Christianthen, than be Hypocrisy or Formality climbing over the wall to go by some other way. It is a good thing to be a Christianeven in his very worst state and what must itbe in his best? Young men and young women, as one of your own age, I bear my testimony that to follow Christ is the mostblessed and pleasant thing, even in this present evil world-
"I would not change my blessed estate For all the world calls good or great; And while my faith can keep her hold, I envynot the sinner's gold."
But who am I, that I should say this? Why nothing but a poor miserable sinner who looks for all in Christ. With nothing inmy hand, I simply cling to His Cross. Nor am I an inch forwarder than I was twelve years ago in this respect. My cry thenwas, "None but Jesus, none but Jesus," and it is mycry now and shall be my cry even to the end. And what are you today but a lost, guilty sinner? But do not despair. TrustJesus! Trust Jesus!-and the joys and privileges of the Christian are yours. Now-this moment-cast yourself on Him. Look tohis agony and bloody sweat, HisCross, His passion, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension and you shall find a balm for every fear, a cordialfor every distress. All that you want and all that your heart can ever desire is most surely to be found in Christ Jesus yourLord.
May God grant us to be partakers of that grace which is in His most blessed name-that we may not be destroyed by the Destroyer!