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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 14 - Acts 5:3 - Man's Partnership with Satan in his Sins Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


These are awful words; the question a very startling one. Why hath Satan filled thine heart? How has he got in at all? How and why has he contrived to fill thine heart? One might say, Better ask himself; he is more likely to know; the robber best knows how he got into the house. But the words evidently imply that it was the sinner's own doing, and that he alone is to blame. It was he who willingly let in the flood,—opened the gates to the enemy.

There is such a being as Satan. As truly as we are, so truly is he. Strange, how men deny the supernatural! What pride! Are we the only beings in the universe? And must there be neither angel nor devil because we do not see, or hear, or touch them? How unreasonable and presumptuous is such skepticism! Yet some of the men who deny the Bible statements as to good and evil spirits, are the men who contend that the stars are inhabited. If science or philosophy will teach them anything of the supernatural they will credit it; but divine revelation is to be set aside.

There are some who ascribe too much to Satan, in order to excuse them selves. Our first mother did so. "The serpent beguiled me." She rejects personal responsibility, implying that the disobedience was not her fault. The serpent pointed out the tempting object, and used arguments, but there his power ended, unless she had admitted him by yielding. Satan's temptations are no excuse for our sins; nor do they in the least shift responsibility.

The apostle's question to Ananias was certainly a very peculiar and unexpected one. The bringing in of Satan's agency here seems at first sight abrupt—almost out of place. It seemed a mere question of deceit and covetousness. But the apostle, in the power of the Holy Ghost, looked deeper. Even had the circumstances been those of mere common life there might have been the agency of Satan; and we may well ask, How much of Satan is there in the lies of everyday life—so sadly common; for Satan has from the beginning had much to do with lies. He is a liar and the father of lies. But here the circumstances are very peculiar. It is a lie in connection with church membership; a lie by which an attempt is made to deceive apostles who were known to be directly the ministers of the God of truth; a lie in connection with a very high profession of religion; a lie in connection with the first foundation of the church. And it is strange to find Satan here, in the beginning of the church, just as in Paradise at the origin of the race, as if wherever there is any special work of God, whether in Paradise or in Jerusalem, Satan must find his way to it, to prevent or to destroy it by his wiles and lies.

The apostle's question takes for granted that this alliance with Satan was an aggravation of guilt, not a diminution of it. He addresses Ananias, not as a poor helpless creature whom Satan had made his victim and his tool, but as one who had sought Satan's help, who had taken him into partnership, as if without his help he could not have ventured on such a crime, as one who had opened the gate and let in the hosts of the evil one, as his allies and abettors. This was the gravamen, the worst part and consummation of his guilt. He had "done evil with both hands earnestly." Like Saul, the king, going to Endor for help, so had he gone to hell, and entered into alliance with the evil one—making him his adviser, his counselor, his auxiliary. Yes, these are awful words, "Why hath Satan filled thine heart?"

The apostle's question brings Satan before us, not simply as the enemy of the church, but as the direct antagonist of the Holy Ghost, as if having fought with the Son of God and been overcome, he now entered into conflict with the Spirit of God, to do battle with Him and with the church in whom He dwells.

Satanic influence is a solemn subject, especially in connection with the last days, when the devil comes down, having great wrath, and fills the church and the world with the strong delusions by which men are to be led captive. When this is fully accomplished, then the "spirit of the times" will be "from beneath," and "public opinion" will be the echo of hell, the veritable inspiration of the evil one,—of the prince of this world, as an angel of light. Not "the world" merely, but "the church" shall be influenced by him, so that he shall deceive, if possible, the very elect. The air of the present day seems already impregnated with his hellish vapor of error and falsehood.

Let us consider Satan in connection with the following things, not as palliating guilt or excusing the offender, but as increasing the heinousness of the crime and darkening the character of the sinner.

1. In connection with lies. He is a liar, and the forger of lies; the hater of truth and uprightness. A lie is his own peculiar property and offspring. Let this connection with the evil one render lying of every kind peculiarly hateful; whether it be the lie of pretending to be what we are not, or of pretending to believe what we do not; or of subscribing creeds which we in our heart repudiate. This last is one of the worst; and it is too common. We find it even among apparently spiritual men.

2. In connection with errors. Apostacy from the faith, departure from the truth, whether in the form of irreverent and reckless speculation, and audacious skepticism, or the questionings of intellectual pride; these are the manifestations of the evil one.

3. In connection with forms. Ceremonies and shows, which look devout and religious—these are Satan's special inventions, and they are singularly efficacious in beguiling a large class of minds, to whom pictorialism, and sentimentalism, and beauty, and music, are the essentials of religion.

4. In connection with unbelief. It may be unbelief in reference to the gospel, or the Bible; in reference to God and His grace, or Christ and his love. Satan is the great suggester of doubt and distrust, the creator thoughts.

5. In connection with his own original falsehood in Paradise. He is uttering the old words of intellect "ye shall be as gods;" or trying to persuade God is too good to punish His creatures for ever by resuscitating the ancient falsehood, "ye shall not surely die."

Be sober, be vigilant! Him resist! It is not "with" or "flee from," but resist, and he will flee from you. Wrestle with principalities and powers. Yield not, but fight, till you overcome.