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but no octopus of darkness grips a soul sincerely pure. "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord." No sooner is the danger-signal given than we are lifted into the light, and delivered from monstrousness. "With the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities."
The more subtle forms of sin are equally innocuous to the pure in heart. The temptations of our Lord were of this more delicate character; and as He overcame in His passion of purity, so will His disciples. There is no gross tangibility in the temptations to which many good people are subject; the enemy attacks with unseen array and smokeless powder. "Spiritual wickedness in high places." The development of electricity has brought with it a new kind of peril that has set inventors on devising anti-electric armour; and recently a coat of mail was fabricated that is effectual against the dangers of high-tension electricity. The protection consists in a garment of fine close brass gauze, which envelopes the body and extremities entirely, so that the current, if it should pass over the body, will only get as far as the metallic surface, and be then conducted off harmlessly. Thus the occult forces of evil, the temptations which appeal to the mind and heart, are neutralized by the delicate mail, the spiritual armour, which guarantees the salvation of faithful souls. We cannot read the whole passage whence our text is taken without feeling that the atmosphere of life is charged with malign electricities, which work deadly mischief unless we are sheltered from head to foot in the invisible anti-electric
armour which Heaven silently and constantly forges about pure-hearted men.
The defiance of evil. It is not enough to defend ourselves from the assaults of evil; we must challenge and fight it at every step, even when it does not decisively challenge us. Are we not often conscious of possibilities of evil in our nature which are permitted to remain undisturbed whilst they do not actively disturb us? From time to time they signify their presence, but so long as they are latent only they are ignored. We do not act thus with the diseases of the body. We no sooner suspect the existence of a bodily malady than we do our best to bring it to the light, to ascertain its real character, and to deal with it as drastically as we may. In our spiritual warfare we ought to follow the same course, anticipating evil, challenging it, carrying the war into the enemy's camp. To "let sleeping dogs lie" is not sound policy in the moral life. Our attitude must be aggressive, whether evil is palpable or obscure.
We must deal with evil in an uncompromising spirit, allowing no truce, granting no quarter. It is an axiom with the military that a purely defensive war must end in defeat; and certainly we often fail in spiritual warfare because we do not press the battle to the gate, and thoroughly subjugate the enemy when God gives us his neck. We must deal with evil in the spirit of abounding courage and confidence. He who is in us is more than he who is in the world, and we ought to know it and strike home. We must also struggle against evil in the full assurance of final victory. "When Immanuel," says John Bunyan, “had
driven Diabolus and all his forces out of the City of Mansoul, Diabolus preferred a petition to Immanuel, that he might have only a small part of the city. When this was rejected, he begged to have only a little room within the walls; but Immanuel answered, He should have no place in it at all, no, not to rest the sole of his foot." To this end and in this confidence we must pursue the struggle. We often fail in defence because we are lacking in the spirit of defiance; and the whole conception of the New Testament touching the spiritual war is that it will be won in the spirit of defiance.
PLOUGHING THE SANDS
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence.-Hos. ii. 14, 15.
R. WALLACE tells us that one of the most peculiar and least generally considered features of our earth, but one which is also essential to the development and maintenance of the rich organic life it possesses, is the uninterrupted supply of atmospheric dust which is now known to be necessary for the production of rain clouds and beneficial rains and mists, and without which the whole course of meteorological phenomena would be so changed as to endanger the very existence of a large portion of the life upon the earth. Now, the chief portion of this fine dust, distributed through the upper atmosphere, from the equator to the poles, with wonderful uniformity, is derived from those great terrestrial features which are often looked upon as the least essential, and even as blots and blemishes on the fair face of nature-deserts and volcanoes. Most persons, no doubt, think they could both be very well spared, and that the earth would be greatly improved, from a human point of view, if they were altogether abolished. Yet
it is almost a certainty that the consequences of doing so would be to render the earth infinitely less enjoyable, and, perhaps, altogether uninhabitable by man.
In most human lives are periods closely corresponding with the deserts of the earth: times and conditions distinctly stale, flat, and apparently unprofitable; spaces of compulsory isolation and solitariness; seasons of intellectual infertility and depression; stretches of drudgery; tedious spells of personal affliction; times of enforced inaction; years of dullness, dreariness, and barrenness. Destitute of the ordinary interests, excitements, and charms of life, we may justly reckon such periods as constituting the wilderness stages of our pilgrimage. Of these monotonous interludes we think and speak regretfully. They are looked upon as the waste part of life, the days when we simply marked time, when we ploughed the sand. What the desert is to nature, a blot and blemish; that, we conclude, are the grey, featureless terms of human life. Yet may we not be mistaken about our dreary days and years as we are in our estimate of the worth of deserts in the system of nature? As Dr. Wallace reminds us, indirectly we get our vineyards from the Sahara; and is it any more difficult to believe that what we are tempted to call the waste places of life fulfil a mission. similarly benign and precious? The deserts of nature and the colourless episodes of time are immensely more enriching than at first sight appears. "I will give her her vineyards from thence." Ploughing the sands is a more profitable form of agriculture than some clever persons think.