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than the spirit of a man, which in its own day on earth had been compassed itself with sins and infirmities. But in the presence of the Holy Spirit of God, who is dwelling in us to do us good, we do not scruple to commit any wickedness. This is indeed unbelief; God is in this place, and we know it not; he declares that he is in our hearts, and we give no heed to his words : nay, sometimes we think it folly and extravagance to believe them. But that is superstition, which leads to some wickedness, or to some foolishness in our practice; such as faith in the promises of God revealed to us in the Scripture will never lead to. That is no superstition which teaches us that the Father of spirits influences the spirits that he has made ; that the God who redeemed us watches over the souls that he has purchased ; that the Author and Giver of all holiness and goodness is present to inspire and to bless every thing holy, good, and wise, in us his creatures; and that he is dishonoured and profaned by every thought, or word, or deed, of evil. That, in short, is no superstition, which in proportion as it is more firmly believed makes us wiser and better, and in proportion as it is disbelieved or slighted, lets us fall back surely into thoughts and actions the most unbecoming God's reason. able and spiritual creatures.
In this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you ;
but rather rejoice, because your names are written in Heaven.
The temptations which beset different men, or the same men at different periods of life, are, as we know, exceedingly different. There is a sort of regular order of them, in which they attack the Christian character in its earlier, and in its more advanced stages; and this order is well shown in the history of the three temptations to which our Lord was exposed, as it is related by St. Luke. These three temptations answer to the three great enemies of our souls, the flesh, the world, and the devil. The first of these attacks by far the greatest number of persons; for all, one may say, are exposed to it at one part of their lives, and a great many are subject to it during all their days. Then comes the world, which is also an universal tempter to the richer and higher classes
of society during the prime of their lives ; going on with them to their last years of old age. Last of all, are those temptations which are called more particularly the temptations of the Devil; not as if he did not tempt us through the enticements of the flesh and the world, but because this last class form as it were his choicest weapons, and those with which he gains his proudest victories; the temptations by which he too often overcomes those who have resisted the flesh and the world, and who to human judgment are amongst the highest and noblest of their kind.
It is to these temptations that our Lord alludes, when he says, “ In this rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you.” The words were addressed to his seventy disciples whom he had sent out to preach the coming of the kingdom of God, and to labour in his service. They returned again with joy, saying, “ Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” What they said was no more than the truth : they had advanced the kingdom of Christ, and lessened that of Satan : and their Lord acknowledged it by saying, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from Heaven.” And he rewarded them by increasing their powers of labouring in his service, by granting to them greater. gifts than those which they had enjoyed before.
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” It was the reward given by the king in the parable to that good and faithful servant whose pound had gained ten pounds; he gave him authority over ten cities, that he might there have larger means of usefulness. To every one that hath shall be given. But at the same time that he rewarded them, he gave
them a caution to beware of the temptations with which Satan would assault them in the very midst of their welldoing. “ In this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.” The words,“ rather rejoice," tell us exactly how we are to understand the first part of the verse, “in this rejoice not, because the spirits are subject unto you.” It was not wrong in them to rejoice in the gifts which their Lord had given ; or that they had been enabled to use them effectually to his service. Nay, “ he that reapeth” in such a field “receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” They might rejoice in this ; but
yet they must rejoice with trembling. Great gifts only make their possessor more deeply answerable for the use of them; and the honour of being the happy instrument in the hand of Christ in doing his will, may make us forget that we are no more than instruments, and may weaken our own sense of dependence upon our head, and fountain of spiritual life.
“Rather rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.” In the thought of God's gifts to them, and of their success in using them, they might rejoice, but it must be not too freely : but in the thought of God's free mercy to them,
, of the everlasting kingdom which he had prepared for them from the beginning of the world, through Him who was “ slain from the beginning of the world,” in that they might rejoice safely; it would fill them not with dangerous pride, but with a humbling and softening love; it was the joy of the Holy Ghost shed abroad in their hearts by the Spirit of Christ their Saviour.
Now then we must have seen ere this, how the words of Christ apply to ourselves. Are we casting out devils in his name? that is, are we striving to advance his kingdom in good and useful works, to the bodies and souls of our neighbours ? Does our employment and