Here the apostle does three things:—
I. He shows them their danger from an enemy more cruel and restless than even the worst of men, whom he describes,
1. By his characters and names. (1.) He is an adversary: “That adversary of yours; not a common adversary, but an enemy that impleads you, and litigates against you in your grand depending cause, and aims at your very souls.” (2.) The devil, the grand accuser of all the brethren; this title is derived from a word which signifies to strike through, or to stab. He would strike malignity into our natures and poison into our souls. If he could have struck these people with passion and murmuring in their sufferings, perhaps he might have drawn them to apostasy and ruin. (3.) He is a roaring lion, hungry, fierce, strong, and cruel, the fierce and greedy pursuer of souls.
2. By his business: He walks about, seeking whom he may devour; his whole design is to devour and destroy souls. To this end he is unwearied and restless in his malicious endeavours; for he always, night and day, goes about studying and contriving whom he may ensnare to their eternal ruin.
II. Hence he infers that it is their duty, 1. To be sober, and to govern both the outward and the inward man by the rules of temperance, modesty, and mortification. 2. To be vigilant; not secure or careless, but rather suspicious of constant danger from this spiritual enemy, and, under that apprehension, to be watchful and diligent to prevent his designs and save our souls. 3. To resist him stedfast in the faith. It was the faith of these people that Satan aimed at; if he could overturn their faith, and draw them into apostasy, then he knew he should gain his point, and ruin their souls; therefore, to destroy their faith, he raises bitter persecutions, and sets the grand potentates of the world against them. This strong trial and temptation they must resist, by being well-grounded, resolute, and stedfast in the faith: to encourage them to this,
III. He tells them that their care was not singular, for they knew that the like afflictions befel their brethren in all parts of the world, and that all the people of God were their fellow-soldiers in this warfare. Learn, 1. All the great persecutions that ever were in the world were raised, spirited up, and conducted, by the devil; he is the grand persecutor, as well as the deceiver and accuser, of the brethren; men are his willing spiteful instruments, but he is the chief adversary that wars against Christ and his people, Gen. 3:15; Rev. 12:12. 2. The design of Satan in raising persecutions against the faithful servants of God is to bring them to apostasy, by reason of their sufferings, and so to destroy their souls. 3. Sobriety and watchfulness are necessary virtues at all times, but especially in times of suffering and persecution. “You must moderate your affection to worldly things, or else Satan will soon overcome you.” 4. “If you would overcome Satan, as a tempter, an accuser, or a persecutor, you must resist him stedfast in the faith; if your faith give way, you are gone; therefore, above all, take the shield of faith,” Eph. 6:16. 5. The consideration of what others suffer is proper to encourage us to bear our own share in any affliction: The same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren.
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