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are chiefly intended in it. And, indeed, these will always occupy the chief attention of those worshippers who are humbly engaged in the service of God. For though, in times like those in which we live, we have need to pray mightily for Divine help against our national foes, and though. every
Christian has outward enemies from which the shield of Omnipotence alone can defend him, yet these are of inferior importance compared with those which war against his soul, and excite a less degree of anxiety within his breast. It is moreover to be observed that our collect is designed for stated and congregational use, and must therefore refer to a warfare that is never interrupted, and in which all who are required to join in our prayers are perpetually engaged.
Of our spiritual enemies St. Paul has given us a most alarming representation, Eph. vi. 12. He reminds us that we fight not against flesh and blood, “ but against principalities and powers,
against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against wicked spirits." Their nature, number, subtilty, power and malice, are considerations truly formidable. And the object contended for, the salvation of our own souls, is so immensely valuable, that we may well call on “Almighty “ God” to “stretch forth the right-hand of His “ majesty to be our defence against all our “ enemies."
That it is only the Almighty power of God that can keep us from sin, will appear if we consider either our enemies or ourselves.
“ First, consider the mighty advantages that our great enemy, the Devil, hath against us. As he is a spirit, he is both powerful and subtle; and both these are whetted by his great malice against us. ' Long experience also, for above five thou
sand years, hath made him very politic in dealing with souls, and in carrying on his own designs and interest. He knows our temper, our passions, and our inclinations; and can chuse and cull out those objects which shall infallibly strike and affect us. He waits those mollia tempora fandi, those easy hours of whispering his suggestions to us, when we are most facile and compliant, when we are most easily wrought upon, and made soft to his hands by some foregoing circumstances. And if, after all this, he despairs to prevail upon us as a Devil, he can quickly shift his shape, and transform himself into an angel of light, and engage our very consciences unto evil. He can disguise his temptations into impulses of the Holy Spirit, persuade us that what he prompts us to is our duty, head his fiery darts with Scripture sentences, wrap up his poison in the leaves of the Bible, and wound our souls by our consciences. And certainly this Devil of light is now gone abroad into the world with all that power of deceivableness he can, and we cannot but with sad and bleeding hearts observe his too general prevalency and success. And, besides all this, he is continually present with us, follows us up and down wherever we go, and is always at our elbow to prompt us to evil, and at our right-hand to oppose us in that which is good. Hell hath emissaries enough to afford every man a friend for his attendant; and these critically observe every glance of thine eyes, every flash of thy passions, and are presently ready to apply suitable temptations unto thee, and to strike thee in that part of thy soul which is softest and most yielding. And as the Syrians that were sent by Benhadad to the King of Israel, to intercede for him, watched every word that should fall from
his mouth, that they might lay hold of it to obtain farther favour from him; so these Spies of hell do watch every kind word and every kind look of thine towards sin, and want no skill to improve them, to obtain yet greater matters from thee. Now if God did not appear to deliver us from these subtle wiles and methods of the Devil, how soon would he make fools of the wisest and most experienced Christians !
“ Secondly, consider the mighty disadvantages that we lie under to oppose the temptations of the Devil; of which though they be many and great, yet I shall name but two, which may be found even in the best of men.
“ First, our inadvertency and heedlessness, through which we are often surprised into sin, and captivated by the cunning craftiness of our enemies which lie in wait to deceive. How seldom is it that we stand upon our guard, or if we do, that we are completely armed! Sometimes our shield, sometimes our helmet, sometimes our sword of the Spirit is wanting. How seldom is it that we attend all the motions of the
! Indeed a Christian should look round about him, for he is every where beset and encompassed round about with enemies; and whilst he is vigilant toward one part, the Devil falsifies his thrust and wounds him in another. But if he cannot wound on the right-hand by presumption, he will try what he can do on the left by despair. If he cannot prevail by his temptations to cause us to neglect and cast off holy duties, he will tempt us to pride ourselves in the well-performing of them. If he cannot make us fall, he will tempt us to be high-minded because we stand, and so make our very standing the occasion of our woeful downfall; and because we are apt to think ourselves better than others, he will tempt us to be supercilious despisers and contemners of others.
« Now, O Christian, it is a very hard matter, and thou wilt find it so, thus to turn thee about to every assault; and that man had need to have his spiritual senses well exercised that shall be able dexterously to do it.
Now when so great circumspection is scarce sufficient for our security, how can they possibly escape without fearful wounds and gashes in their consciences, who are supinely negligent of their souls, and mind not which way their thoughts, their passions, their affections incline, and so give the Devil a handle to turn their souls by which way he will! Certainly if we do not buckle our spiritual armour close to us, but suffer the joints of it by our heedlessness to lie open, the Devil may easily wound us wheresoever and in whatsoever part he pleaseth. And truly if, through this inadvertency and want of circumspection, Adam in the state of innocency and the state of uprightness fell, when the Devil had no immediate access or admission into the inward faculties or powers of his soul-yet if Satan, who was but a young, unpractised, and inexperienced Devil, could prevail with him by his wiles to ruin himself and to betray the great trust which God had deposited in his hands for all his posterity,--how much greater, may we think, is his advantage over us, into whom he may
insi. nuate himself and his temptations, and when we are busy about other things strike and wound us at unawares.
“ Secondly, besides this inadvertency, the Devil hath another grand advantage to lead us into evil, and that is because we are naturally prone and inclined of ourselves to those very sins to which he tempts us. It is very hard for that place
to escape that hath enemies without and traitors within. So stands the case with us, we are not only beleagured, but betrayed; there are in our hearts multitudes of lusts that hold intelligence with the Devil and espouse his cause. Yea, there is no one sin, how vile and profligate soever, but it may find partisans in our base and wicked hearts, wherein are the seeds and principles of all impieties; and therefore as things of a like nature presently concorporate (as we see one drop of water diffuseth itself and runneth into another) so temptations to sin ineeting with a sinful nature are presently entertained, and as it were embodied together; for whilst we pursue what Satan tempts us unto, we do but pursue what our own natural lusts and corruptions inclined unto before, waiting only for an opportunity of being called forth into act.
“ And therefore considering both the advantages the Devil hath against us, and the great disadvantages under which we lie, (he a spirit, we but flesh-he wise and subtle, we foolish and ignorant-he experienced, we raw and unpractised-he diligent and watchful, we careless and negligent-he laying a close siege to us without, and we betraying ourselves within )-it must needs be ascribed only to the goodness and grace of God to deliver us from the commission of that evil, to which we are so fiercely and cunningly tempted."*
In a situation so helpless as ours, and under circumstances apparently so desperate, what hope of safety or deliverance can arise? None, assuredly, from any exertion of our own wisdom or strength. But “the right-hand of God's
Bishop Hopkins on the Lord's Prayer, p. 146, &c.