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VI

THE DEVIL A “BLOCKADE” “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.”—1 Thessalonians . 18.

“But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days; but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.”—Daniel x. 13.

We find another striking interpretation couched in the title of devil. The Church in its organization is called militant, because it is engaged in a moral and religious warfare. The writings of Paul bristle with military terms, as two mighty armies are contending and contesting for dominion. Each army is fighting under a leader ; the surging campaign has changed its base of operation the battle-field has been transferred from heaven to this planet. The rivalry between Christ and Satan has, many times, changed modus operandi, but the spirit of the contest and the end-all for which they contend--change not.

The title-word of this chapter is not a Bible term; we appropriate and accommodate it because of its military meaning. Strictly in keeping with the use of terms, the blockade" belongs to naval operations; but any movement, reconnoitre, or countermarch, which interferes, hinders, or hedges up the way of progress, is a blockade. A campaign ends in failure because of obstructions thrown up, access to base of supplies cut off, reinforcements thwarted in reaching the scene of activities, etc., convey the idea set forth in the key Scriptures used giving emphasis to the chapterheading. The Apostle Paul had all the advantages of equipment; his intellectual attainments the very best; he was a recognized leader of men, a chosen vessel of the Lord, and full of the Holy Ghost. No man besides the Master was more able to withstand the opposition of the “ prince of darkness." Yet Satan actually prevents him from going to Thessalonica to comfort and strengthen the struggling church at that placeliterally hedges up the way.

A careful examination of the tenth chapter of Daniel gives us a conversation between the prophet and a “voice,"—a “vision "-having an appearance « like the similitude of the sons of men"; evidently an angel of high rank, whose mission was to encourage Daniel, but he also acknowledges that the “prince of Persia" hindered him from coming twenty days. This mighty angel, it seems, was helpless trying to reach Daniel, until Michael came upon

the scene. It was Michael who led the triumphant battle against him when he was overthrown in heaven. He alone was able to meet the “prince of Persia," the Devil.

We can, therefore, understand how successfully Satan can hinder-blockade the progress of righteousness wherever he chooses to concentrate his depraved energies. Volumes would be required to record the worthy enterprises in the Church of God which went down in failure, yet with no tangible explanation. Sudden reverses, turning the whole current of affairs, are daily happenings; revival efforts to reach certain communities, certain individuals, find insurmountable hindrances. It is the work of the “ blockade."

Such occurrences are generally regarded as “unfortunate coincidents" rather than a resultant of some deep-laid plans—invisible and impersonal. A

. baby cries at a critical moment, a dog creates an uproar, the fire-bell rings, the engine becomes disabled; landslides, swollen streams, sudden illness, and many others similar, which are never credited to the proper source or cause. The Bible concedes to Satan the dignity of being the god of this world; therefore he must of necessity control, to some extent, the physical phenomena, directing them to an advantage. We do not venture a dogmatic position as to what extent the hindrances in the physical world are due to his power; but the Bible most clearly teaches that he is an obstructionist.

There are hundreds of ways and places where moral and religious blockades obtain. It would seem that in the blaze of the last century of civilization war would be impossible. Why could not our Civil War have been averted ? In the retrospect, we can see how easily it might have been settled without such horror and bloodshed. The Hague with its millions of endowment is grinding away on international troubles, yet arbitration fails more often than it succeeds. But war continues, and all efforts in that direction generally meet a “stone wall of opposition."

Must we conclude that all these lapses, coming in direct conflict with human weal and happiness, are just “happen-sos"? Unthinkable ! « Satan hindered," declares the great apostle. “The prince of Persia withstood me twenty and one days,” says the angel.

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VII

THE GREAT MAGICIAN

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“ Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”—Ephesians vi. 11.

For they are the spirits of devils working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world.”—Revelation xvi. 14.

From the earliest records of history men have lived who seemed to possess strange, occult powers. Magicians-performing miracles, setting aside, appar ently, well-known physical laws. Moses met the sorcerers and magicians of Egypt in close competition, There are men to-day, on lecture platforms, performing feats which are miracles; there seems to be no visible explanation.

“ The hand is quicker than the eye,” it is said ; watches are pounded to pieces before your eyes, the fragments crammed into a gun; the gun is discharged, and the watch will be hanging on a hook, running as if nothing had happened. We once saw a man sewed up in a tarpaulin, placed in a huge trunk, and the trunk strapped securely. In less than five minutes the man came out from an enclosure where the trunk was placed; not one buckle loosened, and not one stitch in the tarpaulin broken. Cannonballs are taken from hats; live ducks, rabbits, and a dozen tin vessels are drawn from one hat in rapid succession. Cards are made to jump out of the deck when called by name. One magician laid his assistant on a table, cut off his head with a large knife, lifted the gory head by the hair and placed it on another table; then carried on a conversation with the severed head in the presence of the astonished audience.

Every one knows these wonderful feats are done by some kind of magic, but for all we can see they are done; the most astute observer cannot detect the secret. The Apostle exhorts the believers to put on the whole armour of God, to be able to stand (not to be swept away or captured) against the wiles of the Devil. Then the Devil is a trickster—a sleight-ofhand performer—a magician. One of his many methods to accomplish his purpose, we find, is delusion: practicing sleights, tricks, and works of magic on the gullibility of his victims.

How many unsophisticated men and boys have been robbed in daylight on a street corner by some little“ game," or trick, by a sharper. Farms have been deeded away for nothing in return. Now, if we were to catalogue all the tricks of all the conjurers of all ages, we have in this evil chieftain a consummation, an embodiment of them all; he is not only a magician, but the chief of them. He incessantly seeks victims more astutely than the crook seeks the ignorant with a purpose of robbery. Observe the text says, “ wiles of the devil”; not one, but many; while we are penetrating and avoiding one of his “ wiles," behold, we are in the meshes of another. Human intellect cannot fathom the feats of magic performed in friendly entertainment, where every opportunity is given to examine—then how

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