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death assaileth us, and seemeth ready to devour us; Satan is at hand, and seeketh to overcome us. It is necessary that this appearance of evil continue, that we may not be exalted, but may perceive and feel that we are nothing but miserable and wretched sinners. A christian is therefore defiled, and at the same time without sin; for under this appearance of sin, lie hid innocence, righteousness, and victory over death, hell, and Satan,
The world esteemeth that a good kingdom, where all things are quiet, peaceable,, and prosperous; where there is no fear from enemies without, or seditions within, but all things go forward safely and well. It is, however, not so in the kingdom of Christ; for in this kingdom, the flesh warreth with the spirit, and life and death, sin and righteousness, Christ and Satan, do fight against each other; but the spirit, life, righteousness, and Christ, will at last prevail, and overcome their enemies.
Christ said unto Peter, Mat. xvi. "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church : and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." He doth not say they shall not assail it, or fight against it; for the life of a christian is a continual warfare against temptations. While he is here, he must sometimes feel the remorse of sin, the fear of punishment, the horrour of death, yea, and even death itself. But nevertheless, this is only to outward appearance, for at the same time, the word and the spirit are strengthening, encouraging, and assuring him that God is not angry with him, that his sins are forgiven, and that he shall never die, nor be forsaken.
Concerning sin, I have never known or heard of any in whom it was not. Set whomsoever thou wilt before thee, provided he be a mortal man, and in him thou wilt discover sin. Paul, a very great apostle, affirmeth that he felt sin in his members: for he saith, Rom. vii. 18, 19. "To will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not: for the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do." He wished indeed to be free from sins, but nevertheless he was obliged to live in them. And so every christian is likewise de\ sirous to be exempted from sin, but this cannot be brought to pass in this life. As long as we are clothed with this flesh, and bear the burden thereof about with us, so long sin will remain in us. We may indeed strive against our carnal propensities, and keep them in some degree under subjection, but we cannot entirely subdue them. The old Adam, which is flesh and blood, still remaineth with us, and as long as these continue, sin cannot be wholly extinguished.
It therefore appeareth, that in Christ's kingdom on the earth, some appearance of sin still remaineth; so that every one may with propriety pray, as Christ taught his disciples, " Our father, &c. forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us." It is not given to any on earth, to say, they are subject to no sin; and if any go thus far, it is Satan that deceiveth them: they are false, and not true christians.
I know that some persons imagine, that in the kingdom of Christ there is no unrighteousness ; that all things therein are free from sin and uncleanness; and that a christian should be as pure and as holy as Christ himself. They often say, that if christians .commit all the sins whereof they accuse themselves, they are certainly worse than those who do not profess Christianity. But these know nothing of the nature of this kingdom; and the difference between them and christians is, that a christian is sensible of his sins, whereas their consciences are, as it were; seared with a hot iron. He is not a christian who thinketh he hath no sin, neither feeleth any; for a christian knoweth his infirmities, is sensible of his sin9, is sorry for them, and doth lament over them. It grieveth him totheheart that Tie must bearthe miserable burden of this flesh, and he crieth out in the language of Paul, Rom. vii. "O wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death." The kingdom of Christ therefore existeth among eins, and is established where he hath set it, that is, in the house of David. Yea, set David himself before you, and you will find him to have been a sinner ; notwithstanding he is bold to glory, that he is a servant acceptable to his Lord.
Thus, ye perceive that a christian is both dead and yet alive: that he is undefiled in the midst of sins; that although he is subject unto satan, still he hath dominion over him. For though sin, death, and hell assail, they do not overcome him, inasmuch as this kingdom triumphs over them all. It is therefore called a horn of salvation, because it is a strong and powerful kingdom; which, though frequently assailed, doth alway repel the assaults of its enemies.
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began, (verse 70.) Zacharias here signifieth that the time had arrived wherein God would fulfil the promise he had made by the mouth of his holy prophets; for all the prophets from the time of David did prophesy, that the seed of David should have a kingdom'in the earth, and yet a spiritual kingdom. Isaiah and Jeremiah foretold that it should be such a kingdom, that the government thereof should consist in the influence of the spirit, and of the word ; and to those prophecies doth Zacharias here refer. The other prophets do likewise speak of the same kingdom, but not so manifestly.
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us. (verse 71.) The evangelist hath hitherto spoken of this kingdom in general terms; but now he cometh to speak of it more particularly, and declareth what benefits we shall derive therefrom. First, we shall be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us. Ye may here perceive and understand, dearly beloved brethren, that this verse doth most plainly witness and declare, that we who are of this kingdom, do live in the midst of enemies, and that we must expect nothing else than to be hated of them; but it also affirmeth that this kingdom was raised up in order that we might be saved from them, and delivered out of their hands. This should give us comfort, and encourage us to serve under the Prince of this kingdom. But if we would secure his favour, we must not serve the world, neither seek to gain its favour, or strive to have no enemies therein; but we should look for nothing else than what is here set forth unto us : for if we be hated of the world, it is an evidence that we belong to this kingdom.
Zacharias declareth in this verse, that this kingdom was established in order that we might be saved from our enemies. Now, if it delivereth from our enemies, and, as it were, wresteth us out of their hands, it cannot be a kingdom of peace; but it must needs abide the hatred and malice of the world. And we see even now, that the enemies thereof bear a deadly hatred and aversion to the light which we trust hath, through the blessing of God, shone forth in some degree in these days. No people are so persecuted, as the christians. Not only the pope and the furious bishops, with their false apostles, but also the princes of the earth, the self-righteous, and the wise of the world, are all in array against them. They are not even content with putting them to death, but they would totally extinguish their name, that no trace nor memorial might remain of them among men.
But we are given to understand that Christ is our king, and that he will deliver us out of the hands of our enemies. We shall not therefore be destroyed; for though they be many who do persecute, yet this kingdom is more powerful than the world, and Christ is stronger than the princes thereof; and as he hath promised us deliverance, he will not fail us, if we place our trust and our confidence in him.
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham. (verses 72, 73.) The apostles often refer to the old Testament, to show that the events which were taking place in their days were foretold by the prophets; and thus doth Zacharias in this place. In Genesis xxii. 18. we read that God promised Abraham, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed; which promise he confirmed by an oath. This promise referred to Christ, that through him should come peace, blessings, and salvation to all nations. And though the fulfilment of this promise was deferred so long, that many supposed it was abolished, yet we see that it was in process of time most fully accomplished; and that God hath bountifully bestowed upon mankind all things whatsoever that he promised to Abraham and his posterity.
God is merciful and favourable, not because of our merits, as though he owed it to our righteousness, but of his mere grace and mercy. We cannot glory that we have delivered ourselves from sin, or that we have deserved his goodness, and the preaching of the gospel: no, it is not so ; here is no place for boasting. But the text saith, that God promised our fathers that he would give us those things. Upon this promise the prophets stay themselves with boldness, and by it we attain unto true goodness ; therefore he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord: for we live in his kingdom, and enjoy his goodness and grace.