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panse was his own; the teeming population were his subjects; the invisible rulers were his selected agents; temptation in his hands had become a science, and sin was taught by rule; the world was one storehouse of temptation; an armory in which every object and event ranked as a weapon, and all classed and kept ready for service: every human heart was a fortified place: every demon power was at its post: he beheld the complicated machinery of evil, which his mighty malignity had constructed, in full and efficient operation; no heart unoccupied, no spot un visited, no agency unemployed; and the whole resulting in a vast, organized and consolidated empire. No sooner, therefore, did Jesus begin to attract the attention of Judea, as the 'Sent of God,' than he became obnoxious to the tyrant's hate. In the usurped capacity of the sovereign of the world, the tempter went forth and met him, asking him only to own that sovereignty, and all the kingdoms of the world should be his, and the glory of them.
But the great object which had brought Christ upon earth, was to dispute that soverignty, to re-assert the original and supreme rights of God to the alienated homage of mankind, and thus rescue man from the grasp of the Destroyer. What the enemy reserved as his last and most powerful temptation, the splendid vision of a thousand provinces; was a sight, we may suppose, familiar to the eye of Christ; though seen by him, alas! under a far different aspect. He beheld in it a scene of woe, which never failed to call forth his profound compassion. On all sides he beheld the blinded victims of satanic cruelty ; vast, crowded tracts of spiritual beings, immortal essences, wasted, ruined, murdered, lost ; a captive world, chained to the wheels of the spoiler, and moving along, (most of them so beguiled, as to be actually pleased with the mock pomp of the gloomy procession, to endless death. While immediately beneath his eye, in the very land where he had taken humanity, he saw legions of fiends in actual, bodily possession of miserable man. Not satisfied with the evil they could inflict by ordinary temptation, he beheld them consummating their cruelty by actually incorporating with men ; turning their bodies into living tombs, engrossing and demonizing all their powers, merging the man in the fiend. Yes, man, who had been created in the image of God, became “the habitation of dragons;' his heart the fuel consumed by their passions; his senses and organs, the slaves of their rampant impiety; hell brought to him, and begun in him, upon earth; an incarnate demon, his features putting on the image of the legion within him ;-what a sight for the Lover of souls! what a spectacle for infinite goodness to contemplate! The Savior beheld, and meditated relief. He made bare his arm, and the unclean spirits fled at his approach. He sent his disciples, first twelve, and then seventy, to traverse the land in all directions; each of them armed, and charged, to cast out devils; and again he repeated the charge to his apostles, when on his way to ascend from earth to heaven.
When vindicating the character of his power from the imputation of the Pharisees, he affirmed that it was of a nature essentially hostile to Satan, and subversive of his kingdom. While the foresight of the redemption his death would achieve enabled him to speak of the future as if it had been present, and to say, 'Now is the prince of this world cast out.' The voice of prophecy had declared, • He shall divide the spoil with the strong;' and, in fulfillment of that prediction, he planted himself full in the pathway of the destroyer: he may be said to have erected his cross in the highway to hell, that he might rescue sinners from the very jaws of perdition.
Now, as Satan possesses on earth official ubiquity, as he is every where present through the medium of his agents, it was not to be supposed that an event so signalized as the advent of Christ would escape his knowledge; or, that being known, it would fail to call forth his jealous vigilance and utmost opposition. Knowing, indeed, as we do, the essential dignity of Christ, we might have hoped that, in deference to his.purity and majesty, temptation would have retired from his presence, or have laid its baneful activity to sleep ; that the powers of darkness would have left him a free and open passage through the world: and that his disciples would have found in his hallowed presence a certain shelter from the persecutions of hell. But, so far from this, his coming awoke all the original antipathy, the native oppugnancy, of evil against good. He had come into a world in which nothing in human form had ever escape the polution of sin ; and he had come here, attested by such signal credentials of a divine commission, that from the hour of his advent, through the whole of his earthly course, Satan appears to have called in his agents from every other pursuit, and to have set them in array against him alone; turning away from all ignobler prey, he seems to have made him the sole mark for every shaft and
weapon of hell. As if the temptation of Christ were too great an enterprise, a field too momentous, to be left to the power of a common arm, the prince of darkness, himself, undertook personally to conduct the untried adventure. Having drawn out his forces, and entrenched himself in his
way, he came into eager and determined collision with Christ on the very threshold of his public life; leaving him to infer, that it he persisted in his intended course, his progress would be disputed, step by step.
Nor are the eventful narratives of the evangelists wanting in intimations that the threat was made good. In his own express language, especially as that language is after
wards illustrated by the apostles, we can only arrive at one conclusion, that his whole life was a continued coflict, hourly increasing in fierceness and malignity on the part of hell, till it came to the crisis of Calvary. The prince of this world cometh,' said he, 'and hath nothing in me.' Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.' This is your hour, and the power of darkness. During that dreadful hour, indeed, no foe could be seen by man, but such as the gates of Jerusalem had poured forth. And it is true, that, had that been the only foe, the enmity of the carnal mind had that day collected and led out her chosen bands from the halls and streets of the city ; had assembled and crowded around the cross the darkest elements of human depravity. But the great Foe was invisible. Often had he assailed the life of Jesus before, but as often had he been defeated; it seemed guarded, like the tree of life itself, by a sword which turned every way. at length, his persevering malice seemed crowned with success; the Savior was in his toils, and appeared to be abandoned to his fate: he and his cause would expire in ignominy together; and mercy pierced through his side, and chased from the world, would no more return, but would henceforth relinquish man to the undisp ued sceptre of hell.
We cannot but imagine that the thrones and principalities of darkness were there to witness the triumph; that, flocking together from the east and west, the north and south, leaving behind them many an unfinished plot of evil, they came and covered the mount, to celebrate his triumph. And could heaven be absent ? No, the angels of God, incapable of repose while such an issue was pending, quitted their celestial seats, and surrounded the scene with horses and chariots of fire. Stars in their courses might have fought during that hour, and have been unheeded. It was more than an era; the junction of all the eras of time: the event of that hour was to determine, whether earth should pass entirely into the hands of Satan, or be again recovered into the hand of God: whether the expiring rays of human hope should be quite extinguished in the blood of Christ, leaving the earth in hopeless night; or, whether his cross should henceforth radiate light and life to the universe : it was to draw to a close the great question, to terminate the comprehensive controversy of all ages between right and wrong, holiness and sin. Hell inflicted the decisive stroke; the shock was received and sustained by the heart of the son of God. Then, and not till then, did the powers of darkness perceive their error: they saw with unutterable dismay, that in bowing his head he was dragging the pillars of their empire to the dust; that he was dying to triumph; that, in effect, his cross was changing into a throne. He exclaimed, "It is finished!' and the gates of hell vibrated to the shout. He entered into the grave for a short space; there attired himself in the robes of triumph ; came forth to receive the gratulation and homage of angels and men; and ascended to his new mediatorial throne, 'leading captivity captive, and making a show of them openly.' It is by no
means unlikely that some persons, on comparing this statement with the moral condition of the world, may be tempted to think, that, if the death of our Lord is to be viewed as a triumph over hell, we greatly overrate its practical results. To such a suspicion it may suffice to reply, that our language is only the echo of scripture, of the declarations of Christ himself. That,
we see not yet all things put under him,' we readily admit; that a large proportion of the satanic empire has not yet been even summoned in his name ; and that much of the kingdom which nominally belongs to Christ has not real