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There is in ungodly men a general disposition to follow the way of the world. Hence these cautions and exhortations to professing christians ; “Be not conformed to this world ; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."-"Walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind; but put off the old man, and put on the new man.”" Keep yourselves from this untoward generation.”-“Be blameless and harmless, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation."
Most men have a general idea, that there is such a thing as religion, and that it is a matter of some importance to the human race. So obvious is this senti. ment, that few can wholly suppress it, or reason themselves out of it. But what religion is, and wherein it consists, there are many who seldom inquire ; and perhaps never examine with any degree of attention. The opinions, which are most prevalent, they implicitly adopt ; and join themselves to this or that profession, or to none at all, because others around them do so. Many, no doubt, believe christianity in the same imu plicit manner, in which the Ephesians worshipped Di. ana "the great goddess, whom all Asia and the world worshipped.” They are of this, or that denomination, rather than another, not because their own inquiry decides in its favor, but only because the way of the world gives it the preference. Such implicit believers, having no fixed principles of their own, are easily earried about by every new wind of doctrine that springs up. Such opinions as flatter their ungodly lusts, or pacify their guilty consciences, they warmly em brace. That scheme of doctrine, which will make converts without exacting reformation, and will give as. surance without putting them to much labor, they highly approve. The path which will lead men to beaven with little selfdenial, they readily pursue.
There are many, who blindly follow the examples of the world. Whether such a practice is right or Vol. III.
wrong, they take little pains to examine. It is enough, that they see many who adopt it. If their conscience condemns it, still they will rather retain it, than dissent from the fashionable world. They have not fortitude to withstand the ridicule of profane wits. They had rather incur the censure of their own minds, and the displeasure of their God, than stand distinguished by a singularity in virtue. It is a noble resolution, which, in times of general corruption, will say, “ Depart from me, ye evil doers, for I will keep the commandments of my God.”—“If it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, choose ye, this day, whom ye will serve : But, as for me, I will serve the Lord.”
III. The Apostle represents these Ephesians, in their Heathen state, as walking “ according to the prince of the power of the air, the Spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience."
The scripture teaches us, that God, before he made man, created a superior order of intelligences, whom he placed in a state of probation ; and that, of this-order a vast number, revolting from his government, were thrust out of heaven, their ancient habitation ; and are now reserved in chains, under darkness, to the judgment of the great day, when they will receive the full measure of the punishment due to their rebellion, being cast into the place prepared for that purpose. The opinion of Jews and Heathens, that evil spirits inhabited the lower regions of our atmosphere, seems to be favored by the Apostle, who calls the devil “ the prince of the power of the air”—and evil spirits “ the rulers of the darkness of this world.” And by our Saviour, who calls them “ the power of darkness.
These evil spirits are said “ to work in the children of disobedience"-" to enter into them"-“ fill their hearts"-"lead them captive at their will."
And the wickedness which prevails in the world is ascribed to them, in such terms as import, that they have much influence in its existence and continuance. Wicked
men are said to be “ of the devil." They are called “ his children.” The promoters of error and vice are denominated “the ministers of Satan.” And the place where wickedness and corruption abound is marked as « Satan's seat."
These spirits often tempt the godly; but in the child. ren of disobedience they are said to enter, to dwell, to work, to exercise an energy, an inwrought power ; for these yield themselves to their influence.
The number of evil spirits is very great ; but there is one distinguished from the rest, and called the devil, Satan, the prince of devils, the prince of the power of the air. The others are called his angels and minis. ters.
These Ephesians, before the gospel came among them, “ walked according to the prince of darkness.” They doubtless, like other Heathens, not only obeyed his suggestions and did his works, but paid worship and did sacrifice at his alter. The Heathen world is represented as the kingdom of Satan ; and, on account of the influence which he had in it, and the homage which he received from it, he is called the god of it. That direction of the Apostle, concerning an excom. municated person, “ that he should be delivered unto Satan,” probably intends, that he should be cast out of Christ's church into the world, which is the kingdom of Satan ; or should be considered as a Heathen, one who had revolted from Christ, and joined himself again to the kingdom of darkness.
The influence of Satan, though greatly diminished where the gospel comes, yet is not wholly extinguish. ed. He still works in the ungodly ; and even the saints he desires to have, that he may sift them as wheat -may agitate and vex them with his temptations. In what manner he works in the minds of men, it is difficult for us to say ; but the medium of his access seems to be their passions and lusts, which he inflames by suggesting evil thoughts, or by painting images on the
fancy. It was by the avarice of Judas, and of Ananias, that he entered into them and filled their hearts. They who have pleasure in unrighteousness, are the persons to whom he comes with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, and in whom he works strong delusions. They who, departing from the right way, give heed to seducing spirits—they who, laying aside the plain in. structions of scripture, yield themselves up to the pow. er of a heated imagination, and to the conduct of deceitful workers, are the persons to whom Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. That we may se. cure ourselves, then, from his subtie, influence, we must mortify our lusts, rule our passions, restrain the wild sallies of fancy, and follow the plain dictates of divine revelation. Our mother Eve was not drawn into disobedience, until she began to listen to the devil's perverse interpretation of God's command, and to imagine there might be in it some hidden sense, which her own sagacity had not discovered. The Apostle expresses his concern for the Corinthians, “ lest, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so their minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
IV. The Apostle says, “ We all in time past, had our conversation among the children of disobedience, in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind."
The wickedness of sinners consists, not merely in their evil works, but especially in the corrupt dispositions which prompt them to those works. These dispositions are of two sorts ; “the lusts of the flesh; and the desires of the flesh and of the mind ;" or of the fleshly mind-the mind sunk into a sensual frame, and devoted to carnal interests.
The lysts of the flesh, properly so called, are the vices of sensuality, which have their origin immediately from the flesh; such as intemperance, uncleanness, debauchery and excess of riot. The desires of the
mara deshly mind are the lusts which arise from the corrup-
pride, malice, envy, wrath, hatred, ambition and cove-
The Apostle says, " We all had our conversation in
Every unrenewed person is under the power of a carnal mind. No man, indeed, lives in the indulgence of coery lust; for some lusts are inconsistent with others, and that which predominates will naturally exclude those which oppose the gratification of itself. Covetousness makes some men temperate ; and pride makes others liberal. The denial of particular lusts is not a conclusive evidence of a sanctified heart. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, all things are
become new.” Though no man indulges every vice, was yet every unregenerate man obeys the carnal mind in
some way or other ; and whoever is under the domin.
V. The Apostle adds, “ We were by nature child.
the children of disobedience."
Man is by the Author of his nature endued with rea-