Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
I. THE NEED FOR WATCHFULNESS.
1. The uncertainty of the future. No one can reckon upon events succeeding one another with even regularity, and therefore no one can make provision for time to come, and abandon himself to security and ease, assured that all things will continue as from the beginning. In our Lord's discourses we find frequent warnings of changes and catastrophes, accompanied by exhortations to vigilance.
2. The certainty that every man will be called upon, and that before very long, to appear before the Divine Judge, to give an account of the deeds done in the body. How important that that day should not come upon us unawares and find us unprepared!
3. The temptations to unfaithfulness and indolence which beset us from without. Whether Christians are vigilant or not, they may be sure the adversary of souls is upon the alert, and ready to take advantage of every opportunity of attacking us by force or seducing us by craft.
4. The frailty of our own nature is prone to concur with the enemy's activity in exposing us to spiritual danger. We have not only to watch against Satan, we have to watch against self.
II. THE METHODS AND SCOPE OF CHRISTIAN WATCHFULNESS. As the avenues by which danger approaches are many, it is necessary to set a guard against every one of them. More especially is it important:
1. To watch the thoughts. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts and sins; accordingly the precept of inspiration is most appropriate, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
2. To watch the lips. We are reminded by St. James that the tongue is a little member, but that it may be set on fire of hell. How much misery is caused by unbridled speech! - misery to the speaker himself, who regrets words spoken in sinful anger or passion of some other kind; misery to others, whose character may be blasted, whose usefulness may be crippled.
3. To watch the actions. It has been said that four-fifths of life consists of conduct. Certain it is that, unless the actions be watched, unless deeds of justice and mercy occupy the energies, all professions of religion are worthless. No man ought to be so confident of the stability and purity of his character as to deem himself exempt from the necessity of observing his conduct and consciously regulating it by the counsels of inspired wisdom.
III. THE MOTIVE TO WATCHFULNESS. The motive which will weigh most with the Christian will be the wish and authoritative command of his Lord. How deep an impression his frequent admonitions to spiritual vigilance produced upon his Church is apparent from the truly Christian names which were so frequently given or assumed by Christians; they took a pleasure in being called by such names as Gregory and Vigilantius, meaning "the Watcher." The Lord has said, "I say unto all, Watch!" "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation!" - J.R.T.
Be sober, be vigilant.
1. The temperate man preserves his health of body, health of mind, and alacrity and vigour both of the one and of the other.
2. Moderation in the enjoyment of sensual pleasure enhances the very enjoyment of that pleasure in various ways. The moderate man knows nothing of that languor and disgust which generally treads on the heels of the voluptuary, so frequently embittering his pleasures, rendering them insipid to him, and so seldom allowing him to enjoy them completely. How much more taste does the moderate, the industrious man find in the simplest meats, in the most natural drinks, than the intemperate have in all the delicacies of luxury! And how completely he enjoys the innocent pleasure it offers! He has no need artificially to prepare nor previously to devise means for sharpening his pallid appetite and render himself susceptible of pleasure.
3. Moderation in the enjoyment of sensual pleasure exalts and dignifies the mind. It in a manner spiritualises it; by divesting it of the degrading that is connected with mere animal gratification; by teaching us to use it as a means to higher ends. Thus may we connect spiritual and sensual pleasures together, and give a value to the latter by the former. All then becomes to us the gift of our gracious Father in heaven, the effect and demonstration of His all-comprehending love, and the pledge of still greater benefits and pleasures in the world to come.
(G. J. Zollikofer.)
(Bp. Jeremy Taylor.)
(R. South, D. D.)
The devil, as a roaring lionPsalm 104:22). But this spiritual lion is perpetually in motion. The day and night are both alike to him. Other lions are bloodthirsty and savage; but he hath no measure in his fury. He cannot possibly be satisfied unless all men are his prey. But mark some other points of contrast which show how far more terrible this lion is than the lions of the forest. They are visible, can be more easily avoided; but he is an invisible being. He springs upon his prey unseen and unsuspected. The natural lion attacks his prey by open violence; but this spiritual lion deals rather by secret craft. The natural lion seeks only to devour the body; the spiritual lion aims at the destruction both of soul and body in hell. The natural lion's strength is far greater than the strength of man, yet man has found out ways of overcoming him; but no power, no skill, no contrivances of man can enable him to overcome the spiritual lion our text speaks of. How then may this roaring lion be resisted and overpowered? Our text returns an answer to it. St. Peter is evidently speaking to believers, who, having been snatched already out of Satan's jaws, have now only to resist him to the end. How is a poor sinner, who "has been carried captive by Satan at his will," to "escape out of the snare"? Now to this the whole gospel is an answer. Why, you must look to the Cross. "For this cause the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." It is a most important question for the true believer, "How am I to resist this fearful adversary of my soul? Though I must not hope, on earth, to be free from his temptations, yet how am I to tread him under my feet?"
1. He exhorts us to sobriety — "Be sober." "Be moderate — be self-denying — make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof." Let the Christian but entangle himself in things of this life, and Satan has him at a great advantage.
2. "Be vigilant." They then who have such a watchful and unwearied enemy have need to be upon the watch themselves. Let your eye but rove a little towards some forbidden object, and he will take occasion from it to inflame your heart with evil passions. Once say of any sin, "Is it not a little one?" and suffer yourself, on that ground, to indulge in it — immediately the lion is upon you! He will make this breach much wider, and it will "increase unto more ungodliness." We must not go to sleep ourselves under the notion that the Lord will guard us. It is the wakeful, not the slothful servant who has a warrant for God's protection.
3. But the apostle's third direction is one of such immense importance that we can neither be "sober" nor "vigilant" without it. He bids us be "steadfast in the faith." Let us keep but faith within our bosoms, and we keep Satan at a distance off. We are proof against the lion. Yet a little while and we shall remove out of the lion's reach. In the meanwhile, if there is a lion seeking to devour, there is another Lion standing on our part; for it is under such an emblem that our mighty Saviour hath vouchsafed to represent Himself. He is "the lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5).
(A. Roberts, M. A.)I. SATAN'S PERPETUAL ACTIVITY. Only God can be omnipresent; hence, Satan can only be in one place at one time. Yet, if you consider how much mischief he doeth, you will easily gather that he must have an awful degree of activity.
1. We know that he is to be found in every place! Wherever the breath of life is inhaled, the poisonous miasma of temptation is a thing familiar.
2. Then, remember, that as he is found in all places, so you have often found him in all your duties. You have sought to serve God in your daily avocations, but strong temptations, furious suggestions of evil, hath followed you there. When we wished to be wrestling with the angel of God, we have had to contend with the fiend of hell.
3. 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 — perhaps some bodily illness has brought us low, our animal spirits have ebbed and we feel ready to sink, then that old coward Satan is sure to attack us. On the other hand, if we are joyous and triumphant, then Satan knows how to tempt us to presumption — "My mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved"; or else to carnal security — "Soul, take thine ease, thou hast much goods laid up for many years"; or else to self-righteousness — "My own power and goodness have exalted me." Or else, he will even attempt to poison our joys with the spleen of evil forebodings.
4. And ah! remember how well he knows how to turn all the events of Providence to our ill. Here comes Esau, hungry with hunting; there is a mess of pottage ready, that he may be tempted to sell his birthright. Here is Noah, glad to escape from his long confinement in the ark; he is merry, and there is the wine cup ready for him, that he may drink. Here is Peter; his faith is low, but his presumption is high; there is a maiden ready to say "Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth." There is Judas, and there are thirty pieces of silver in the priestly hand to tempt him, ay, and there is the rope afterwards for him to hang himself withal.
II. SATAN'S ROARINGS.
1. Perhaps Peter here alluded to the roaring of persecution. How Satan roared with persecutions in Peter's days! There were racks and gibbets; there was the sword for beheading and the stake for burning; there was dragging at the heels of the wild horse; there was smearing over with pitch and then setting the body still alive to burn in Nero's garden. There was nothing for the Christian then but banishment and imprisonment; these were the lowest penalties.
2. But there is another kind of furious attack, the roaring of strong and vehement temptation. This some of us have felt. Do you know what it is to be caught hold of by some frightful temptation which you detest, grid yet the clutch of the hand is seconded by an arm so terrific in its strength that it drags you right on against your will.
3. Satan can roar also in the Christian's ears With blasphemies. Oh! the terrors which Satan has sometimes caused to God's people by saying, "Ah, you are not a child of 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 has turned accuser of the brethren, and has sought to cast down your faith from its excellency, by making you imagine that you had committed the unpardonable sin. Now, if he roars against you, either with persecution or with temptation, or with diabolical insinuations, take the language of our apostle here — "Whom resist steadfast in the faith," etc.
III. SATAN'S ULTIMATE AIM — "Seeking whom he may devour." Nothing short of the total destruction of a believer will ever satisfy our adversary. If the battle were between Satan and man, then, indeed, woe to us! We might quit ourselves like men and be strong, but before this giant all the host of Israel must flee. But the battle is not ours; it is the mighty God's. Yea, and Christ Himself must be defeated, the glory of His Cross must be dimmed, the crown of sovereignty must be snatched from His head, ere one of those for whom He died should ever be given up to the power of His adversary.
IV. WHAT WE SHOULD DO IN ORDER THAT WE MAY OVERCOME THIS ADVERSARY.
1. "Whom resist, steadfast in the faith." But how resist him? "Steadfast in the faith." Seek to obtain a clear knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel, and then get a good grip of them. This will make you strong. Then take hold of the promises of God, which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus.
2. But there is another word added for our comfort "Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." This is well sketched by John Bunyan. "As Christian was going along the exceedingly narrow pathway, with a deep ditch on one side, and a dangerous quag upon the other, he came to a stand, and he had 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. And while he pondered and mused, he heard the voice of a man as going before him, saying, 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art 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 well as himself; that God was with them, though they perceived Him not; that he hoped to have company by and by. So he went on, and called to him that was before, but he knew not what to answer for that he also thought himself to be alone." "I did not think that anybody ever felt as I feel." And though I tell you these things, and know that many of you have heard Satan roar, I am compelled to confess that I have frequently said in my own heart "I do not believe that 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."
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)l: — Satan allows you as much religion as you please for the carrying on of his designs; and yet, if you please, you may have none at all. Some who are easily to be won, he tempts to downright villainy, only helping out their dull wits to more exquisite and genteel achievements. Others who are more cautious of notorious sins he draws to offences which seem less, but are equally serving his interest.
I. THAT THERE IS A DEVIL was the opinion of the heathen themselves that ever acknowledged a God. But most commonly they were mistaken in the nature of his being, and altogether as to his origin and power. Now as the agreement of all nations in the confession and worship of a God is a powerful argument to prove the same, so the same agreement in the general notion of this malignant being may be of the like force. And truly it seems agreeable to reason that since there is so much evil in the world there should be some sovereign patron of it. He also that shall consider the impetuous current of wickedness which has run down throughout all ages from the beginning of the world, which could never flow from infinite mercy and goodness, hath reasons sufficient to convince him that there must of necessity be some powerful being which manages this kingdom of darkness; some chief promoter of evil and subtle contriver of our ruin.
II. THAT SATAN IS OUR INVETERATE ADVERSARY, with the origin of his malice, and the reasons of God's permission and sufferance. It is very natural to those that are ambitious, when their designs of rising are thwarted, but much more when they are also degraded from that high and happy estate they once enjoyed, to fall into the deepest extremity of malice and eagerness of revenge, not only towards that power that frustrated their ends, but also with an endeavour to hinder all those who are in any possibility of obtaining that felicity which they by their rebellion have lost. And this is the case of the angels that fell. But since their power is still subject to God, how comes it to pass that He tolerates so vehement an adversary both to His honour and the works of His hands? Besides His unsearchable will and pleasure, I may presume to offer two reasons.
2. In relation to mankind. God purposing to advance those only to His kingdom whom neither the principalities nor powers of the air could shake, nor any subtle allurements could draw aside.
III. From experience and ordinary observation we may conclude, THAT THERE MUST OF NECESSITY BE SOME SUCH ENEMY by whose instigation chiefly and not altogether by the propensity of our own natures we commit most sins.
1. If we consider the nature and quality of most sins, how unanswerable to that earnestness with which men commit them, we shall find that the incitement proceeds, not so much from their own inclinations, or the fairness of the objects, as the secret subtle suggestions of Satan.
2. From that general and otherwise unaccountable averseness to religion, and other miscarriages in the duties thereof, which we cannot but charge ourselves withal.
(J. Cooke, M. A.)
(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
I. HERE IS A VERY REAL ENEMY. He is an old doctor, as Latimer calls him, and well versed in arts and crafts; but his master stroke has been reserved for these times. There is a fable of a fox that caught its prey by pretending to be dead. That is the last of Satan's devices. A hundred years ago everything was put clown to him — storms, earthquakes, eclipses, plagues, diseases; there was ascribed to him a power and activity that were almost infinite. Thanks to science, she has cast the devil out of the hailstorm and the thundercloud, and has taught us at least some of the laws which regulate these things. So he has altered his tactics, and with a humility which his betters might imitate he has announced his own decease. "I am dead" — saith the devil — "indeed there is no devil. I am passed away with witchcraft and ghosts and all the silly nonsense of the dark ages." No, no. We have a more sure word of prophecy to which we do well to give heed. This old adversary is as real for you and for me as he ever was. As real for us as he was for Adam, or for Job, or for Judas. Your adversary — says the apostle, as if he had marked us out for his prey. We dare not ignore him. We dare not make light of him. He tracks our steps and seeks us as his prey. Be sober, be vigilant.
II. HE IS A MIGHTY FOE. The glimpses we have of him in the Bible reveal one of vast dominion and of amazing power; probably of all God's creatures one of the first in the order of time and highest in rank; amongst the foremost of the angels that do excel in strength. There is a majesty about him as of one conscious of vast power. Think of his triumphs. Away up in the mountain caves is the den of the lion, the mouth and floor of it all strewn with the bones of his victims; Skulls and ribs lie thickly scattered. But what a sight it were to look into the den of this old lion the devil, and to see the mischief that he hath wrought!
III. HE IS A SUBTLE FOE. Think of his knowledge of human nature. How perfectly he understands us! As an old Puritan says, "He taketh the measure of every man's foot; and then he fitteth him instantly." Therefore let us put up a double guard on the side of our weakness. Be sober, be vigilant, and, most of all, be sober and be vigilant where the peril threatens most. It is then that the devil can do most harm when he finds a traitor wish within the soul — into whose ear he can whisper, a traitor that he can bribe. And not only of our besetments does he make use. Our very virtues he tries to turn into handles for his malice. Here is a pleasant, genial, good-hearted fellow — ah! the devil leads him on and tumbles him into the ditch of self-indulgence, or fetcheth him away by evil company. This man is thrifty and saving: and the devil elbows him on year after year until he casts him into that horrible pit of miserliness. This man is generous, but the devil puffs him up with the sense of his importance. This man is very humble, and the devil pushes him down so far in the valley of humility that he begins to climb up the other side and is proud of being so humble. This man is resolute and determined, and the devil eggs him on until he is overbearing and tyrannical. And this man is modest and retiring, and the devil keeps him lazy and useless by assuring him that he has no gifts. He can do almost as much with our virtues as with our vices. For all conditions and for all circumstances the tempter has his attack. Turn to the great temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, again, he seeks to turn our very mercies to our mischief. The lusciousness and beauty of the fruit in Paradise is made to awaken Eve's desire; and when she wished for it, lo! there it was hanging within reach. He is a cruel foe. A lion for his might, he is also a lion for his savage cruelty. His name is Apollyon, the destroyer. To worry if he cannot overthrow; to annoy if he cannot destroy. "Oh, sir," said one to me one day, as gentle and loving a man as ever lived, "I loved my wife better than my life, but when I was drunk it was as if the devil was in me, and I always began knocking her about. I beat her one night so that she could eat nothing but spoon meat for eleven days. And then when I saw what I had done I had to get drunk again just to forget it." He is a cruel monster, a hard master, driving his poor slave to lowest depths.
IV. LASTLY, THIS OLD LION CAN BE OVERCOME. "Be sober, be vigilant." The first word suggests our peril from over-eagerness. People who go rushing into anything and everything, rush into the lion's den and thrust their heads into his very mouth. There are some people that the old lion must hunt for, bat the over-eager he can get by lying still. Be sober. Take a right estimate of things. Measure things by God and by eternity. Don't be too thirsty — that is the meaning of the precept — too thirsty for pleasure; too thirsty for money; too thirsty for honour; too thirsty for your own way in everything. Travellers tell us that there are certain places where you may generally trace the steps of the old lion and expect to find him waiting about. They are the drinking places, where he can spring upon his prey in a moment. Be sober. And yet be vigilant. The too anxious are in peril; but so are the too careless. Be vigilant. But is that all? What is the good of telling the little lamb to be sober and vigilant when the old lion is about? We must go further back and further forward for the instructions as to our safety. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God." Be so little and so weak that you have no faith in yourself at all — and creep for your safety in under that mighty hand. "Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you." Beneath that hand I cannot know a fear. Here am I as within a fortress whose walls can neither be scaled nor undermined. That Presence alone is our safety. "Whom resist, steadfast in the faith." Be bold because thine hand is in the hand of thy God.
(M. G. Pearse.)I. We have here the devil AT WORK IN HUMANITY. He is "going about," not outside men, but in men, going about in the regions of human thoughts, human passions, human impulses, human activities. "He worketh in the children of disobedience." As a worker —
1. His inspiration is malignant. "He is a roaring lion." He is not a sleeping lion, nor a lion crouching down, satiated with food, but a lion roaring with hunger, savage for food.
2. His purpose is destruction. "Seeking whom he may devour." The devil is a devourer physically. The devil is a devourer spiritually. He is a devourer of purity of heart, peace of conscience, confidence in and fellow ship with the everlasting Father. The devil is a devourer socially. He is a devourer of domestic harmony, social order, prosperity, and peace. The devil is a devourer politically. He is a devourer of civil freedom, national progress, inter national harmony.
II. We have the devil here COUNTERACTED BY HUMANITY. Three things are necessary to counteract him —
1. Thoughtfulness — "Be sober." This does not mean mere physical sobriety, although, of course, it includes that — it means sobriety of soul, a state of mind opposed to all volatile excitement. Were men to think whence they came, what they are, whither they are tending, the devil would not easily influence them.
2. Diligence — "Be vigilant." Be vigilant in building up moral fortresses around your soul, so as to resist his entrance.
3. Steadfastness — "Whom resist, steadfast in the faith." Is it wise in a town to ignore the pestilence that has entered its streets and carried death to its homes? How infinitely more unwise is it to ignore this roaring lion!
(D. Thomas, D. D.)I. WHAT THE DEVIL REALLY IS IN RELATION TO MEN. First, He is an "adversary." Secondly, He is a malignant "adversary," ravenous and savage. Thirdly, He is a prowling adversary. "Walketh about." He is always on the move. He walks about the markets, the governments and churches of the world; about the public streets and secluded alleys, and about the chambers of every human soul. He has no rest.
II. WHAT MEN REALLY SHOULD BE IN RELATION TO THE DEVIL.
1. They should be serious. "Be sober." As calm, serious, and self-possessed as a soldier who waits the blast of the trumpet for war.
2. They should be watchful. "Be vigilant." He is wily, always plotting.
3. They should be resisting. "Whom resist." Do not yield an inch, but advance.
4. They should be reflective. "Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren."
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
The same afflictions are accomplished
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Plain Sermons by Contributors to the, Tracts for the Times.When people are sick, and in bad pain, we know how apt they are to imagine, Surely never anyone was so afflicted as I am. Thus St. Peter encourages his suffering brethren, when a time of trouble was coming on; much as St. Paul had before encouraged the Corinthians. "There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man": nothing that is beyond human strength, assisted by the grace of the Holy Ghost, to bear. This is the answer to those who think the commandments of the gospel too strict, too pure to be obeyed. "Your Father which is in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him." And if that be not enough, look at the lives of the saints: look and see how good and penitent persons, from time to time, have really been helped to keep these commands which you think too hard, and to resist these temptations which you think too strong. On the other hand, that roaring lion, who is ever seeking whom he may devour, will be busy encouraging in you just the contrary of these good thoughts. If you are in trouble he will try to make you feel as if no other person was ever in so bad a condition. If he can, he will persuade you that all or a great part of your trouble arises from such and such a person's ill-usage, and so he will make you spiteful and envious. Other persons, who are not so ill-used, may do well to be forgiving and meek: but your case, he will whisper, is really too hard, too bad. What is the use, they will say, of such exact goodness? you may as well give it up; for you see it does not save you from ill-usage and suffering. Thus the enemy moves us to discontent, when we are afflicted or ill-used: but still more does He encourage us to sin, when we are in strong temptation from our own passions, or the evil example of others. He will at such times set us on thinking, that surely our passions are stronger than other men's, and therefore there is more excuse for our giving way to them. This is how the devil would beguile us, and a very serious temptation it is: he would have us believe, either that there never were any saints, any persons really good and holy, or that if there have been any, they were such by a kind of miracle. To be afflicted, then, is a mark of Christian brotherhood: it is a token that we belong to God's family. If anyone were quite exempt, he would almost feel it unfair: might he choose, he would rather take his share, relieving, if so it might be, his brethren. Or take the case of comrades and fellow soldiers — what sort of a spirit is he thought to have who draws back and spares himself when the rest are entering upon labour and danger? And here comes in the other word, by which, as I said, St. Peter in the text would stir us up to a godly jealousy of the saints. The word I mean is "accomplished." Their afflictions are accomplished, ours but just beginning. To conclude: whereas the apostle's word is, that whatever we suffer, the same afflictions are accomplished "in our brethren that are in the world," we understand that when they are once out of the world, there is an end of their affliction and care forever.
(Plain Sermons by Contributors to the "Tracts for the Times.)
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