The Compete Armor of God By William Gurnall

01.001 CONTENTS VOL 1 & 2

VOLUME ONE

GurnArmor: 01.01 A Treatise of The Whole Armour of God
GurnArmor: 01.02 Second Part Directions for managing this War successfully
GurnArmor: 01.021 DIRECTION I-SECOND GENERAL PART
GurnArmor: 01.022 DIRECTION SECOND
GurnArmor: 01.0223 DIVISION SECOND
GurnArmor: 01.03 DIRECTION THIRD
GurnArmor: 01.04 DIRECTION FOURTH
GurnArmor: 01.05 DIRECTION FIFTH
GurnArmor: 01.06 DIRECTION SIXTH
GurnArmor: 01.07 DIRECTION SEVENTH

VOLUME TWO

GurnArmor: 01.08 VOLUME TWO DIRECTION EIGHTH
GurnArmor: 01.081 DIRECTION EIGHTH SECOND GENERAL PART
GurnArmor: 02.02 Direction Eighth - Second General Part
GurnArmor: 02.03 DIRECTION NINTH
GurnArmor: 02.04 DIRECTION TENTH
GurnArmor: 02.05 DIRECTION ELEVENTH
GurnArmor: 02.06 DIRECTION ELEVENTH SECOND GENERAL PART
GurnArmor: 02.07 DIVISION THIRD
GurnArmor: 02.08 DIRECTION TWELFTH

 


01.01 A Treatise of The Whole Armour of God

 

A TREATISE OF THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD WITH INTRODUCTION & PART FIRST.

 

{With Branches First & Second, Branch Third and Branch Fourth}.

 

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

 

"Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

 

"Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."

 

- Eph 6:10-20.

 

The Introduction

 

Paul was now in bonds, yet not so close kept as to be denied pen and paper; God, it seems, gave him some favour in the sight of his enemies: Paul was Nero's prisoner, but Nero was much more God's. And while God had work for Paul, he found him friends both in court and prison. Let persecutors send saints to prison, God can provide a keeper for their turn.

 

But how does this great apostle spend his time in prison? Not in publishing invectives against those, though the worst of men, who had laid him in; a piece of zeal which the holy sufferers of those times were little acquainted with: nor in politic counsels, how he might wind himself out of his trouble, by sordid flattery of, or sinful compliance with, the great ones of the times. Some would have used any picklock to have opened a passage to their liberty and not scrupled, so escape they might, whether they got out at the door or window. But this holy man was not so fond of liberty or life, as to purchase them at the least hazard to the gospel. He knew too much of another world, to bid so high for the enjoying of this; and therefore he is regardless what his enemies can do with him, well knowing he should go to heaven whether they would or no. No, the great care which lay upon him, was for the churches of Christ; as a faithful steward he labors to set the house of God in order before his departure. We read of no despatches sent to court to procure his liberty; but many to the churches, to help them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free. There is no such way to be even with the devil and his instruments, for all their spite against us, as by doing what good we can wherever we be come.

 

The devil had as good have let Paul alone, for he no sooner comes into prison but he falls a preaching, at which the gates of Satan's prison fly open, and poor sinners come forth. Happy for Onesimus that Paul was sent to jail; God had an errand for Paul to do to him and others, which the devil never dreamed of. Nay he doth not only preach in prison, but that he may do the devil all the mischief he can, he sends his epistles to the churches, that tasting his spirit in his afflictions, and reading his faith, now ready to be offered up, they might much more be confirmed; amongst which Ephesus was not least in his thoughts, as you may perceive by his abode with them two years together, Ac 19:10; as also by his sending for the elders of this church as far as Miletus, in his last journey to Jerusalem, Ac 20:17, to take his farewell of them as never to see their faces in this world more. And surely the sad impression which that heart-breaking departure left on the spirits of these elders, yea, the whole church, by them acquainted with this mournful news, might stir up Paul, now in prison, to write unto this church, that having so much of his spirit, yea, of the spirit of the gospel, left in their hands to converse with, they might more patiently take the news of his death.

 

In the former part of this epistle, he soars high in the mysteries of faith. In the latter, according to his usual method, he descends to application; where we find him contracting all those truths, as beams together, in a powerful exhortation, the more to enkindle their hearts, and powerfully persuade them to 'walk worthy of their vocation,' Eph 4:1, which then is done, when the Christian's life is so transparent that the grace of the gospel shines forth in the power of holiness on every side, and from all his relations, as a candle in a crystal glass, not in a dark lantern, lightsome one way and dark another: and therefore he runs over the several relations of husband, wife, parents, children, masters, and servants, and presseth the same in all these.

 

Now having set every one in his proper place, about his particular duty; as a wise general after he has ranged his army, and drawn them forth into rank and file, he makes the following speech at the head of the Ephesian camp, all in martial phrase, as best suiting the Christian's calling, which is a continued warfare with the world, and the prince of the world. The speech itself contains two parts.

 

First, A short but sweet and powerful encouragement, Eph 6:10. Secondly, The other part is spent in several directions for their managing this war the more successfully, with some motives here and there sprinkled among them, Eph 6:11-20. We begin with the first.

 

Part First

 

A Sweet and Powerful Encouragement to the War

 

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord,

 

and in the power of his might.' - Eph 6:10

 

The apostle begins his speech with the word of encouragement to battle: 'Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord;' the best way indeed to prepare them for the following directions. A soul deeply possessed with fear, and dispirited with strong apprehensions of danger, is in no posture for counsel. As we see in any army when put to flight by some sudden alarm, or apprehension of danger, it is hard rallying them into order until the fright occasioned thereby is over; therefore the apostle first raiseth up their spirits, 'be strong in the Lord.' As if he should say, Perhaps some drooping souls find their hearts fail them, while they see their enemies so strong, and they so weak; so numerous, and they so few; so well appointed, and they so naked and unarmed; so skilful and expert at arms, but they green and raw soldiers. Let not these or any other thoughts dismay you; but with undaunted courage march on, and be strong in the Lord, on whose performance lies the stress of battle, and not on your skill or strength. It is not the least of a minister's care and skill in dividing the word, so to press the Christian's duty, as not to oppress his spirit with the weight of it, by laying it on the creature's own shoulders, and not on the Lord's strength, as here our apostle teacheth us. In this verse (under four heads or branches), We have first, A familiar appellation, 'my brethren.' second, An exhortation, 'be strong.' third, A cautionary direction annexed to the exhortation, 'in the Lord.' fourth, An encouraging amplification of the direction, 'and in the power of his might,' or in his mighty power.

 

BRANCHES FIRST AND SECOND.

 

The appellation, 'my brethren.'-

 

The exhortation, 'be strong.'

 

We have, Branch First, a familiar appellation, 'my brethren.' This we shall waive, and begin with,

 

Branch Second, the exhortation-'be strong;' that is, be of good courage, so commonly used in scripture phrase: 'Be strong and courageous,' 2Ch 32:7; 'Say to them that are of a fearful heart, 'Be strong,' Isa 35:4. Or, unite all the powers of your souls, and muster up your whole force, for you will have use for all you can make or get. From whence the point is this.

 

Christian courage and resolution

 

-wherefore necessary.]

 

Doctrine, The Christian of all men needs courage and resolution. Indeed there is nothing that he does as a Christian, or can do, but is an act of valour. A cowardly spirit is beneath the lowest duty of a Christian, 'be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest'-What? stand in battle against those warlike nations? No, but that thou mayest 'observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee,' Jos 1:7. It requires more prowess and greatness of spirit to obey God faithfully, than to command an army of men; to be a Christian than a captain. What seems less, than for a Christian to pray? yet this cannot be performed aright without a princely spirit: as Jacob is said to behave himself like a prince, when he did but pray; for which he came out of the field God's banneret. Indeed if you call that prayer, which a carnal person performs, nothing is more poor and dastard-like. Such an one is as great a stranger to this enterprise, as the craven soldier to the exploits of a valiant chieftain. The Christian in prayer comes up close to God, with a humble boldness of faith, and takes hold of him, wrestles with him; yea, will not let him go without a blessing, and all this in the face of his own sins, and divine justice, which let fly upon him from the fiery mouth of the law; while the other's boldness in prayer is but the child, either of ignorance in his mind, or hardness in his heart; whereby not feeling his sins, and not knowing his danger, he rushes upon duty with a blind confidence, which soon quails when conscience awakes, and gives him the alarm, that his sins are upon him, as the Philistines on Samson: alas, then in a fright the poor-spirited wretch throws down his weapon, flies the presence of God with guilty Adam, and dares not look him in the face. Indeed there is no duty in the Christian's whole course of walking with God, or acting for God but is lined with many difficulties, which shoot like enemies through the hedges at him, while he is marching towards heaven: so that he is put to dispute every inch of ground as he goes. They are only a few noble-spirited souls, who dare take heaven by force, that are fit for this calling. For the further proof of this point, see some few pieces of service that every Christian engageth in.

 

First.-The Christian is to proclaim and prosecute an irreconcilable war against his bosom sins; those sins which have lain nearest his heart, must now be trampled under his feet. So David, 'I have kept myself from my iniquity.' Now what courage and resolution does this require? You think Abraham was tried to purpose, when called to take his 'son, his son Isaac, his only son whom he loved,' Ge 22:2, and offer him up with his own hands, and no other; yet what was that to this? Soul, take thy lust, thy only lust, which is the child of thy dearest love, thy Isaac, the sin which has caused the most joy and laughter, from which thou hast promised thyself the greatest return of pleasure or profit; as ever thou lookest to see my face with comfort, lay hands on it and offer it up: pour out the blood of it before me; run the sacrificing knife of mortification into the very heart of it; and this freely, joyfully, for it is no pleasing sacrifice that is offered with a countenance cast down -and all this now, before thou hast one embrace more from it. Truly this is a hard chapter, flesh and blood cannot bear this saying; our lust will not lie so patiently on the altar, as Isaac, or as a 'Lamb that is brought to the slaughter which was dumb,' but will roar and shriek; yea, even shake and rend the heart with its hideous outcries.

 

Who is able to express the conflicts, the wrestlings, the convulsions of spirit the Christian feels, before he can bring his heart to this work? Or who can fully set forth the art, the rhetorical insinuations, with which such a lust will plead for itself? One while Satan will extenuate and mince the matter: It is but a little one, O spare it, and thy soul shall live for all that. Another while he flatters the soul with the secrecy of it: Thou mayest keep me and thy credit also; I will not be seen abroad in thy company to shame thee among thy neighbours; shut me up in the most retired room thou hast in thy heart, from the hearing of others, if thou wilt only let me now and then have the wanton embraces of thy thoughts and affections in secret. If that cannot be granted, then Satan will seem only to desire execution may be stayed awhile, as Jephthah's daughter of her father: 'let me alone a month or two, and then do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth,' Jg 11:36-37, well knowing few such reprieved lusts but at last obtain their full pardon; yea, recover their favour with the soul. Now what resolution doth it require to break through such violence and importunity, and notwithstanding all this to do present execution? Here the valiant swordsmen of the world have showed themselves mere cowards, who have come out of the field with victorious banners, and then lived, yea, died slaves to a base lust at home. As one could say of a great Roman captain who, as he rode in his triumphant chariot through Rome, had his eye never off a courtesan that walked along the street: Behold, how this goodly captain, that had conquered such potent armies, is himself conquered by one silly woman.

 

Second.-The Christian is to walk singularly, not after the world's guise, Ro 12:2. We are commanded not to be conformed to this world, that is, not to accommodate ourselves to the corrupt customs of the world. The Christian must not be of such a complying nature as to cut the coat of his profession according to the fashion of the times, or the humor of the company he falls into; like that courtier, who being asked how he could keep his preferment in such changing times, which one while had a prince for Popery, another while against Popery, answered, he was e salice, non ex quercu ortus-he was not a stubborn oak, but bending osier, that could yield to the wind. No, the Christian must stand fixed to his principles, and not change his habit; but freely show what countryman he is by his holy constancy in the truth. Now what an odium, what snares, what dangers doth this singularity expose the Christian to? Some will hoot and mock him, as one in a Spanish fashion would be laughed at in your streets. Thus Michal flouted David. Indeed, the world counts the Christian for his singularity of life the only fool; which I have thought gave the first occasion to that nick-name, whereby men commonly express a silly man or a fool. Such a one, say they, is a mere Abraham; that is, in the world's account, a fool. But why an Abraham? Because Abraham did that which carnal reason, the world's idol, laugh's at as mere folly; he left a present estate in his father's house to go he knew not whither, to receive an inheritance he knew not when. And truly such fools all the saints are branded for by the wise world. 'You know the man and his communication,' said Jehu to his companions, asking what that mad fellow came for, who was no other than a prophet, 2Ki 9:11. Now it requires courage to despise the shame which the Christian must expect to meet withal for his singularity. Shame is that which proud nature most disdains, to avoid which many durst not 'confess Christ openly,' Joh 7:13. Many lose heaven because they are ashamed to go in a fool's coat thither. Again, as some will mock, so others will persecute to death, merely for this nonconformity in the Christian's principles and practices to them. This was the trap laid for the three children; they must dance before Nebuchadnezzar's pipe, or burn. This was the plot laid to ensnare Daniel, who walked so unblameably, that his very enemies gave him this testimony, that he had no fault but his singularity in his religion, Da 6:5. It is a great honour to a Christian, yea, to religion itself, when all their enemies can say is, They are precise, and will not do as we do. Now in such a case as this, when the Christian must turn or burn, leave praying, or become a prey to the cruel teeth of bloody men; how many politic retreats and self-preserving distinctions would a cowardly unresolved heart invent? The Christian that hath so great opposition had need be well locked into the saddle of his profession, or else he will soon be dismounted.

 

Third.-The Christian must keep on his way to heaven in the midst of all the scandals that are cast upon the ways of God by the apostasy and foul falls of false professors. There were ever such in the church, who by their sad miscarriages in judgement and practice have laid a stone of offence in the way of profession, at which weak Christians are ready to make a stand, as they at the bloody body of Asahel, 2Sa 2:22, not knowing whether they may venture any further in their profession, seeing such, whose gifts they so much admired, lie before them, wallowing in the blood of their slain profession: from being zealous professors, to prove perhaps fiery persecutors; from being strict performers of religious duties, to prove irreligious atheists: no more like the men they were some years past, than the vale of Sodom (now a bog and a quagmire) is, to what it was, when for fruitfulness compared to the garden of the Lord. We had need of a holy resolution to bear up against such discouragements, and not to faint; as Joshua, who lived to see the whole camp of Israel, a very few excepted, revolting, and in their hearts turning back to Egypt, and yet with an undaunted spirit maintained his integrity, yea, resolved though not a man beside would bear him company, yet he would serve the Lord.

 

Fourth.-The Christian must trust in a withdrawing God, Isa 50:10. Let him that walks in darkness, and sees no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. This requires a holy boldness of faith indeed, to venture into God's presence, as Esther into Ahasuerus', when no smile is to be seen on his face, no golden sceptre of the promise perceived by the soul, as held forth to embolden it to come near, then to press in with this noble resolution, 'If I perish, I perish,' Es 4:16. Nay, more, to trust not only in a withdrawing but a 'killing God,' Job 13:15; not when his love is hid, but when his wrath breaks forth. Now for a soul to make its approaches to God by a recumbency of faith, while God seems to fire upon it, and shoot his frowns like envenomed arrows into it, is hard work, and will try the Christian's mettle to purpose. Yet such a masculine spirit we find in the poor woman of Canaan, who takes up the bullets of Christ shot at her, and with a humble boldness of faith sends them back again in her prayer.

 

Fifth.-The believer is to persevere in his Christian course to the end of his life: his work and his life must go off the stage together. This adds weight to every other difficulty of the Christian's calling. We have known many who have gone into the field, and liked the work of a soldier for a battle or two, but soon have had enough, and come running home again, but few can bear it as a constant trade. Many are soon engaged in holy duties, easily persuaded to take up a profession of religion, and as easily persuaded to lay it down, like the new moon, which shines a little in the first part of the night, but is down before half the night is gone-lightsome professors in their youth, whose old age is wrapped up in thick darkness of sin and wickedness. O, this persevering is a hard word! this taking up the cross daily, this praying always, this watching night and day, and never laying aside our clothes and armour, I mean indulging ourselves, to remit and unbend in our holy waiting on God, and walking with God. This sends many sorrowful away from Christ, yet this is a saint's duty, to make religion his every-day work, without any vacation from one end of the year to the other. These few instances are enough to show what need the Christian hath of resolution. The application follows.

 

Use or Application

 

Use First.-This gives us reason why there are so many professors and so few Christians indeed; so many that run and so few obtain; so many go into the field against Satan, and so few come out conquerors; because all have a desire to be happy, but few have courage and resolution to grapple with the difficulties that meet them in the way to their happiness. All Israel came joyfully out of Egypt under Moses' conduct, yea, and a mixed multitude with them, but when their bellies were pinched with a little hunger, and the greedy desires of a present Canaan deferred, yea, instead of peace and plenty, war and penury, they, like white-livered soldiers, are ready to fly from their colours, and make a dishonorable retreat into Egypt. Thus the greatest part of those who profess the gospel, when they come to push of pike, to be tried what they will do, deny to endure for Christ, grow sick of their enterprise. Alas! their hearts fail them, they are like the waters of Bethlehem. But if they must dispute their passage with so many enemies, they will even content themselves with their own cistern, and leave heaven to others who will venture more for it. O how many part with Christ at this cross-way! Like Orpah, they go a furlong or two with Christ, while he goes to take them off from their worldly hopes, and bids them prepare for hardship, and then they fairly kiss and leave him, loath indeed to lose heaven, but more loath to buy it at so dear a rate. Like some green heads, that childishly make choice at some sweet trade, such as is the confectioner's, from a liquorish tooth they have to the junketsi it affords, but meeting with sour sauce of labour and toil that goes with them, they give in, and are weary of their service. So the sweet bait of religion hath drawn many to nibble at it, who are offended with the hard service it calls to. It requires another spirit than the world can give or receive to follow Christ fully.

 

Use Second.-Let this then exhort you, Christians, to labour for this holy resolution and prowess, which is so needful for your Christian profession, that without it you cannot be what you profess. The fearful are in the forlorn of those that march for hell, Rev. 21; the violent and valiant are they which take heaven by force: cowards never won heaven. Say not that thou hast royal blood running in thy veins, and art begotten of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by this heroic spirit, to dare to be holy despite men and devils. The eagle tries her young ones by the sun; Christ tries his children by their courage, that dare to look on the face of death and danger for his sake, Mr 8:34-35. O how uncomely a sight is it to see, a bold sinner and a fearful saint, one resolved to be wicked, and a Christian wavering in his holy course; to see guilt put innocence to flight, and hell keep the field, impudently braving it with displayed banners of open profaneness; to see saints hide their colours for shame, or run from them for fear, who should rather wrap themselves in them, and die upon the place, than thus betray the glorious name of God, which is called upon by them to the scorn of the uncircumcised. Take heart therefore, O ye saints, and be strong; your cause is good, God himself espouseth your quarrel, who hath appointed you his own Son, General of the field, called 'the Captain of our salvation,' Heb 2:10. He shall lead you on with courage, and bring you off with honour. He lived and died for you; he will live and die with you; for mercy and tenderness to his soldiers, none like him. Trajan, it is said, rent his clothes to bind up his soldiers' wounds: Christ poured out his blood as balm to heal his saints' wounds; tears off his flesh to bind them up. For prowess, none to compare with him: he never turned his head from danger: no, not when hell's malice and heaven's justice appeared in field against him; knowing all that should come upon him, he went forth and said, 'Whom seek ye?' Joh 18:4. For success insuperable: he never lost battle even when he lost his life: he won the field, carrying the spoils thereof in the triumphant chariot of his ascension, to heaven with him: where he makes an open show of them to the unspeakable joy of saints and angels. You march in the midst of gallant spirits, your fellow-soldiers every one the son of a Prince. Behold, some, enduring with you here below a great flight of afflictions and temptation, take heaven by storm and force. Others you may see after many assaults, repulses, and rallyings of their faith and patience, got upon the walls of heaven, conquerors, from whence they do, as it were, look down, and call you, their fellow-brethren on earth, to march up the hill after them, crying aloud: 'Fall on, and the city is your own, as now it is ours, who for a few days' conflict are now crowned with heaven's glory, one moment's enjoyment of which hath dried up all our tears, healed all our wounds, and made us forget the sharpness of the fight, with the joy of our present victory.' In a word, Christians, God and angels are spectators, observing how you quit yourselves like children of the Most High; every exploit your faith doth against sin and Satan causeth a shout in heaven; while you valiantly prostrate this temptation, scale that difficulty, regain the other ground, you even now lost out of your enemies' hands. Your dear Saviour, who stands by with a reserve for your relief at a pinch, his very heart leaps within him for joy to see the proof of your love to him and zeal for him in all your combats; and will not forget all the faithful service you have done in his wars on earth; but when thou comest out of the field, will receive thee with the like joy as he was entertained himself at his return to heaven of his Father.

 

Christian courage and resolution

 

-how obtained.]

 

Now, Christian, if thou meanest thus courageously to bear up against all opposition, in the march to heaven, as thou shouldst do well to raise thy spirit with such generous and soul-ennobling thoughts, so in an especial manner look thy principles be well fixed, or else thy heart will be unstable, and an unstable heart is weak as water, it cannot excel in courage. Two things are required to fix our principles.

 

First. An established judgement in this truth of God. He that knows not well what or whom he fights for may soon be persuaded to change his side, or at least stand neuter. Such may be found that go for professors, that can hardly give an account what they hope for, or whom they hope in; yet Christians they must be thought, though they run before they know their errand; or if or if they have some principles they go upon, they are so unsettled that every wind blows them down, like loose tiles from the house top. Blind zeal is soon put to a shameful retreat, while holy resolution, built on fast principles, lifts up its head like a rock in the midst of waves. 'The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits,' Da 11:32. The angel told Daniel who were the men that would stand to their tackling, and bear up for God in that hour, both of temptation and persecution, which should be brought upon them by Antiochus; that not all the Jews, but some of them, should be corrupted basely by flatteries, others scared by threats out of their profession; only a few of fixed principles, who knew their God whom they served, and were grounded in their religion, these should be strong, and do exploits: that is, to flatteries they should be incorruptible, and to power and force unconquerable.

 

Second. A sincere aim at the right end of our profession. Let a man be never so knowing in the things of Christ, if his aim is not right in his profession, that man's principles will hang loose; he will not venture much or far for Christ, no more, no further than he can save his own stake. A hypocrite may show some mettle at hand, some courage for a spurt in conquering some difficulties; but he will show himself a jade at length. He that hath a false end in his profession, will soon come to an end of his profession when he is pinched on that toe where his corn is-I mean, called to deny that which his naughty heart aimed at all this while. Now his heart fails him, he can go no farther. O take heed of this squint eye to our profit, pleasure, honour, or anything beneath Christ and heaven; for they will take away your heart, as the prophet saith of wine and women, that is, our love, and if our love be taken away, there will be little courage left for Christ. How courageous was Jehu at first, and he tells the world it is zeal for God! But why doth his heart fail him then, before half his work is done? His heart was never right set; that very thing that stirred up his zeal at first, at last quenched and cowed it, and that was ambition. His desire of a kingdom made him zealous against Ahab's house, to cut off them who might in time jostle him besides the throne: which done, and he quietly settled, he dare not go through stitch with God's work, lest he should lose what he got by provoking the people with a thorough reformation. Like some soldiers who when once they meet with a rich booty at the sacking of some town, are spoiled for fighting ever after.

 

BRANCH THIRD

 

A cautionary direction,

 

'be strong in the Lord.'

 

In this we have a cautionary direction. Having exhorted the saints at Ephesus, and in them all believers, to a holy resolution and courage in their warfare, lest this should be mistaken, and beget in them an opinion of their own strength for the battle, the apostle leads them out of themselves for this strength, even to the Lord: 'be strong in the Lord.' From whence we observe.

 

The saint's strength lies in the Lord.

 

Doctrine. That the Christian's strength lies in the Lord, not in himself. The strength of the general in other hosts lies in his troops. He flies, as a great commander once said to his soldiers, upon their wings; if their feathers be clipped, their power broken, he is lost; but in the army of saints, the strength of every saint, yea, of the whole host of saints, lies in the Lord of hosts. God can overcome his enemies without their hands, but they cannot so much as defend themselves without his arm. It is one of God's names, 'the Strength of Israel,' 1Sa 15:29. He was the strength of David's heart; without him this valiant worthy (that could, when held up in his arms, defy him that defied a whole army) behaves himself strangely for fear, at a word or two that dropped from the Philistine's mouth. He was the strength of his hands, 'He taught his fingers to fight,' and so is the strength of all his saints in their war against sin and Satan. Some propound a question, whether there be a sin committed in the world in which Satan hath not a part? But if the question were, whether there be any holy action performed without the special assistance of God concurring, that is resolved, 'Without me ye can do nothing,' Joh 15:5. Thinking strength of God, 'Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,' 2Co 3:5. We apostles, we saints that have habitual grace, yet this lies like water at the bottom of a well, which will not ascend with all our pumping till God pour in his exciting grace, and then it comes. To will is more than to think, to exert our will into action more than both. These are of God: 'For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,' Php 2:13. He makes the heart new, and having made it fit for heavenly motion, setting every wheel, as it were, in its right place, then he winds it up by his actuating grace, and sets it on going, the thoughts to stir, the will to move and make towards the holy object presented; yet here the chariot is set, and cannot ascend the hill of action till God puts his shoulder to the wheel: 'to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not,' Ro 7:18. God is at the bottom of the ladder, and at the top also, the Author and Finisher, yea, helping and lifting the soul at every round, in his ascent to any holy action. Well, now the Christian is set on work, how long will he keep close to it? Alas, poor soul, no longer than he is held up by the same hand that empowered him at first. He hath soon wrought out the strength received, and therefore to maintain the tenure of a holy course, there must be renewing strength from heaven every moment, which David knew, and therefore when his heart was in as holy a frame as ever he felt it, and his people by their free-will offering declared the same, yet even then he prays, that God would 'keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of his people, and prepare their heart unto him,' 1Ch 29:18. He adored the mercy that made them willing, and then he implores his further grace to strengthen them, and tie a knot, that these precious pearls newly strung on hearts might not slip off. The Christian, when fullest of divine communications, is but a glass without a foot, he cannot stand, or hold what he hath received, any longer than God holds him in his strong hand. Therefore, Christ, when bound for heaven, and ready to take his leave of his children, bespeaks his Father's care of them in his absence. 'Father, keep them,' Joh 17:11; as if he had said, they must not be left alone, they are poor shiftless children, that can neither stand nor go without help; they will lose the grace I have given them, and fall into those temptations which I kept them from while I was with them, if they be out of thy eye or arms but one moment; and therefore, 'Father, keep them.'

 

Again, consider the Christian as addressing himself to any duty of God's worship, still his strength is in the Lord.

 

1. Prayer. Would he pray? Where will he find materials for his prayer? Alas, he 'knows not what he should pray for as we ought,' Ro 8:26. Let him alone, and he will soon pray himself into some temptations or other, and cry for that which it were cruelty in God to give; and therefore God puts words in our mouths: 'Take with you words and say,' Ho 14:2. Well, now he hath words put into his mouth. Alas, they will freeze in his very lips, if he hath not some heart-heating affections to thaw the tap. And where shall this fire be had? Not a spark to found on his own hearth, except it be some strange fire of natural desires, which will not serve. Whence then must the fire come to thaw the iciness of the heart, but from heaven? The Spirit, he must stretch himself upon the soul, as the prophet on the child, and then the soul will come to some kindly warmth and heavenly heat in its affections. The Spirit must groan, and then the soul will groan. He helps us to these sighs and groans which turn the sails of prayer. He dissolves the heart and then it i.e. prayer bursts out of the heart by groans of the lips by heavenly rhetoric, out of the eyes as from a flood-gate with tears. Yet further, now the creature is enabled to wrestle with God in prayer, what will he get by all this? Suppose he be weak in grace, is he able to pray himself strong, or corruption weak? No, this is not to be found in prayer, as an act of the creature; this drops from heaven also: 'In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul,' Ps 138:3. David received it in duty, but had it not from his duty, but from his God. He did not pray himself strong, but God strengthened him in his prayer.

 

2. Hearing the Word. Well, cast your eyes once more upon the Christian, as engaging in another ordinance of hearing the word preached. The soul's strength to hear the Word is from God. He opens the heart to attend, Ac 16:14, yea, he opens the understanding of the saint to receive the Word, so as to conceive what it means. It is like Samson's riddle, which we cannot unfold without his heifer. He opens the womb of the soul to conceive by it, as the understanding to conceive of it, that the barren soul becomes a 'joyful mother of children.' David sat for half a year under the public lectures of the law, and the womb of his heart shut up, till Nathan comes, and God with him, and now is the time of life. He conceives presently, yea, and brings forth the same day, falls presently into the bitter pangs of sorrow for his sins, which went not over till he had cast them forth in that sweet 51st Psalm. Why should this one word work more than all the former, but that now God struck in with his word, which he did not before? He is therefore said to 'teach his people to profit,' Isa 48:17. He sits in heaven that teacheth hearts. When God's Spirit, who is the headmaster, shall call a soul from his usher to himself, and say, -Soul, you have not gone the way to receive by hearing the word. Thus and thus conceive of such a truth, improve such a promise -presently the eyes of his understanding open, and his heart burns within him while he speaks to him. Thus you see the truth of this point, 'That the Christian's strength is in the Lord.' Now we shall give some demonstrations or reasons.

 

Why the saint's strength is laid up in God.

 

Reason First. The first reason may be taken from the nature of the saints and their grace. Both are creatures, they and their grace also. Nowii, 'it is in the very nature of the creature to depend on God its Maker,' both for being and operation. Can you conceive and accident to be out of its subject, whiteness out of the wall, or some other subject? It is impossible that the creature should be, or act without strength from God. This to be, act in and of himself, is so incommunicable a property of the Deity, that he cannot impart it to his creature. God is, and there is none besides him. When God made the world, it is said indeed he ended his work, that is, of creation: he made no new species and kinds of creatures more; but to this day he hath not ended his work of providence: 'My Father worketh hitherto,' saith Christ, Joh 5:17, that is, in preserving and empowering what he hath made with strength to be and act, that therefore he is said to hold our souls in life. Works of art, which man makes, when finished, may stand some time without the workman's help, as the house, when the carpenter that made it is dead; but God's works, both of nature and grace, are never off his hand, and therefore as the Father is said to work hitherto for the preservation of the works of nature, so the Son, to whom is committed the work of redemption, he tells us, worketh also. Neither ended he his work when he rose again, any otherwise than his Father did in the work of creation. God made an end of making, so Christ made an end of purchasing mercy, grace, and glory for believers, by once dying; and as God rested at the end of creation, so he, when he had wrought eternal redemption, and 'by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,' Heb 1:3. But he ceaseth not to work by his intercession with God for us, and by his Spirit in us for God, whereby he upholds his saints, their graces, and comforts his life, without which they would run to ruin. Thus we see as grace is a creature, the Christian depends on God for his strength. But further,

 

Reason Second. The Christian's grace is not only a creature, but a weak creature, conflicting with enemies stronger than itself, and therefore cannot keep the field without an auxiliary strength from heaven. The weakest goes to the wall, if no succour comes in. Grace in this life is but weak, like a king in the cradle, which gives advantage to Satan to carry on his plots more strongly to the disturbance of this young king's reign in the soul, yea, he would soon make an end of the war in the ruin of the believer's grace, did not Heaven take the Christian into protection. It is true indeed, grace, wherever it is, hath a principle in itself that makes it desire and endeavour to preserve itself according to its strength, but being overpowered must perish, except assisted by God, as fire in green wood, which deads and damps the part kindled, will in time go out, except blown up, or more fire put to that little; so will grace in the heart. God brings his grace into the heart by conquest. Now, as in a conquered city, though some yield and become true subjects to the conqueror, yet others plot how they may shake off this yoke; and therefore it requires the same power to keep, as was to win it at first. The Christian hath an unregenerate part, that is discounted at this new change in the heart, and disdains as much to come under the sweet government of Christ's sceptre, as the Sodomites that Lot should judge them. What, this fellow, a stranger, control us! And Satan heads this mutinous rout against the Christian, so that if God should not continually reinforce this new planted colony in the heart, the very natives (I mean corruptions) that are left, would come out of their dens and holes where they lie lurking, and eat up the little grace the holiest on earth hath; it would be as bread to these devourers.

 

Reason Third. A third demonstration may be taken from the grand design which God propounds to himself in the saint's salvation; yea, in the transaction of it from first to last. And that is twofold. 1. God would bring his saints to heaven in such a way as might be most expressive of his dear love and mercy to them. 2. He would so express his mercy and love to them, as might rebound back to him in the highest advance of his own glory possible. Now how becoming this is to both, that saints should have all their ability for every step they take in the way to heaven, will soon appear.

 

1. Design. God would bring his saints to heaven in such a way as might be most expressive of his dear love and mercy to them. This way of communicating strength to saints, gives a double accent to God's love and mercy.

 

(1.) It distills a sweetness into all the believer hath or doth, when he finds any comfort in his bosom, any enlargement of heart in duty, any support under temptations, to consider whence came all these, what friend sends them in. They came not from my own cistern, or any creature's. O it is my God that hath been here, and left his sweet perfume of comfort behind him in my bosom! my God that hath unaware to me filled my sails with the gales of his Spirit, and brought me off the flats of my own deadness, where I lay aground. O, it is his sweet Spirit that held my head, stayed my heart in such an affliction and temptation, or else I had gone away in a fainting fit of unbelief. How can this choose but to endear God to a gracious soul? His succors coming so immediately from heaven, which would be lost, if the Christian had any strength to help himself (though this stock of strength came at first from God). Which, think you, speaks more love and condescent: for a prince to give a pension to a favorite, on which he may live by his own care, or for this prince to take the chief care upon himself, and come from day to day to this man's house, and look into his cupboard, and see what provision he hath, what expense he is at, and so constantly to provide for the man from time to time? Possibly some proud spirit that likes to be his own man, or loves his means better than his prince, would prefer the former, but one that is ambitious to have the heart and love of his prince would be ravished with the latter. Thus God doth with his saints. The great God comes and looks into their cupboard, and sees how they are laid in, and sends in accordingly as he finds them. 'Your heavenly Father knows you have need of these things,' and you shall have them. He knows you need strength to pray, to hear, to suffer for him, and, in ipsâ horâ dabitur, 'in the very hour it will be given.'

 

(2.) This way of God's dealing with his saints adds to the fulness and stability of their strength. Were the stock in our own hands, we should soon prove broken merchants. God knows we are but leaking vessels, when fullest we could not hold it long; and therefore to make all sure, he sets us under the streaming forth of his strength, and a leaking vessel under a cock gets what it loseth. Thus we have our leakage supplied continually. This is the provision God made for Israel in the wilderness: He clave the rock, and the rock followed them. They had not only a draught at present, but it ran in a stream after them, so that you hear no more of their complaints for water. This rock was Christ. Every believer hath Christ at his back, following him with strength as he goes, for every condition and trial. One flower with the root is worth many in a posie, which though sweet yet doth not grow, but wither as we wear them in our bosoms. God's strength as the root keeps our grace lively, without which, though as orient as Adam's was, it would die.

 

2. Design. The second design that God hath in his saints' happiness is, that he may so express his mercy and love to them as may rebound back to him in the highest advance of his own glory therein, Eph 1:4,12, which is fully attained in this way of empowering saints, by a strength not of their own, but of their God his sending, as they are put to expense. Had God given his saints a stock of grace to have set up with and left them to the improvement of it, he had been magnified indeed, because it was more than God did owe the creature; but he had not been omnified as now, when not only the Christian's first strength to close with Christ is from God, but he is beholden still to God for the exercise of that strength, in every action of his Christian course. As a child that travels in his father's company, all is paid for, but his father carries the purse, not himself, so the Christian's shot is discharged in every condition; but he cannot say this I did, or that I suffered, but God wrought all in me and for me. The very comb of pride is cut here; no room is left for any self-exalting thoughts. The Christian cannot say, that I am a saint is mercy; but being a saint, that my faith is strong, this is the child of my own care and watchfulness. Alas, poor Christian! who kept thine eye waking, and stirred up thy care? Was not this the offspring of God as well as thy faith at first? No saint shall say of heaven when he comes there, 'This is heaven, which I have built by the power of my might.' No, 'Jerusalem above is a city whose builder and maker is God.' Every grace, yea, degree of grace, is a stone in that building, the topstone whereof is laid in glory, where saints shall more plainly see, how God was not only Founder to begin, but Benefactor also to finish the same. The glory of the work shall not be crumbled and piece-mealed out, some to God and some to the creature, but all entirely paid in to God, and he acknowledged all in all.

 

Use or Application

 

Use First. Is it the Christian's strength in the Lord, not in himself? Surely then the Christless person must needs be a poor impotent creature, void of all strength and ability of doing anything of itself towards its own salvation. If the ship launched, rigged, and with her sails spread cannot stir, till the wind come fair and fill them, much less the timber that lies in the carpenter's yard hew and frame itself into a ship. If the living tree cannot grow except the root communicate its sap, much less can a dead rotten stake in the hedge, which hath no root, live of its own accord. In a word, if a Christian, that hath his spiritual life of grace, cannot exercise this life without strength from above, then surely one void of this new life, dead in sins and trespasses, can never be able to beget this in himself, or concur to the production of it. The state of unregeneracy is a state of impotency. 'When we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,' Ro 5:6. And as Christ found the lump of mankind covered with the ruins of their lapsed estate (no more able to raise themselves from under the weight of God's wrath which lay upon them, than one buried under the rubbish of a fallen house is to free himself of that weight without help), so the Spirit finds sinners in as helpless a condition, as unable to repent, or believe on Christ for salvation, as they were of themselves to purchase it. Confounded therefore for ever be the language of those sons of pride, who cry up the power of nature, as if man with his own brick and slime of natural abilities were able to rear up such a building, whose top may reach heaven itself. 'It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but God that sheweth mercy,' Ro 9:16. God himself hath scattered such Babel-builders in the imagination of their hearts, who raiseth this spiritual temple in the souls of men, 'not by might, nor by a power,' of their own, 'but by his Spirit,' that so 'grace, grace,' might be proclaimed before it forever. And therefore, if any yet in their natural estate would become wise to salvation, let them first become fools in their own eyes, and renounce their carnal wisdom, which perceives the things of God, and beg wisdom of God, who giveth and upbraideth not. If any man would have strength to believe, let them become weak, and die to their own, for, 'by strength shall no man prevail,' 1Sa 2:9.

 

Use Second. Doth the Christian's strength lie in God, not in himself? This may for ever keep the Christian humble, when most engaged in duty, most assisted in his Christian course. Remember, Christian, when thou hast thy best suit on, who made it, who paid for it. Thy grace, thy comfort is neither the work of thy own hands, nor the price of thy own desert; be not, for shame, proud of another's cost. That assistance will not long stay which becomes a nurse to thy pride; thou art not lord of that assistance thou hast. Thy Father is wise, who when he alloweth thee most for thy spiritual maintenance, even then keeps the law in his own hands, and can soon curb thee, if thou growest wanton with his grace. Walk humbly therefore before thy God, and husband well that strength thou hast, remembering that it is borrowed strength. Who will waste what he begs?iii or who will give that beggar that spends idly his alms? when thou hast most, thou canst not be long from thy God's door. And how canst thou look him on the face for more, who hast embezzled what thou hast received?

 

BRANCH FOURTH.

 

An amplification of the direction,

 

'and in the power of his might.'

 

In this branch we have an encouraging amplification annexed to the exhortation, in these words 'and in the power of his might,' where a twofold inquiry is requisite for the explication of the phrase. First, What these words import, 'the power of his might.' Second, What it is to 'be strong in the power of his might.'

 

First. What these words import, 'the power of his might.' It is an Hebraism, and imports nothing but his mighty power, like that phrase, 'to the praise of the glory of his grace,' Eph 1:6 that is, to the praise of his glorious grace. And his mighty power imports no less than his almighty power; sometimes the Lord is styled 'strong and mighty,' Ps 24:8, sometimes 'most mighty,' sometimes 'almighty,' no less is meant in all than God's infinite almighty power.

 

Second. What it is to 'be strong in the power of his might.' To be strong in the power of the Lord's might, implies two acts of faith. First, a settled firm persuasion that the Lord is almighty on power. 'Be strong in the power of his might,' that is, be strongly rooted in your faith, concerning this one foundation truth, that God is almighty. Second, It implies a further act of faith, not only to believe that God is almighty, but also that this almighty power of God is engaged for its defence; so as to bear up in the midst of all trials and temptations undauntedly, leaning on the arm of God Almighty, as it were his own strength. For that is the apostle's drift, as to beat us off from leaning on our own strength, so to encourage the Christian to make use of God's almighty power, as freely as if it were his own, whenever assaulted by Satan in any kind. As a man set upon by a thief stirs up all the force and strength he hath in his whole body to defend himself and offend his adversary; so the apostle bids the Christian 'be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,' that is, Soul, away to thy God, whose mighty power is all intended and devoted by God himself for thy succor and defence. Go strengthen and entrench thyself in it by a steadfast faith, as that which shall be laid out to the utmost for thy good. From whence these two notes or doctrines, I conceive, will draw out the fatness of the words. Doctrine First, That it should be the Christian's great care and endeavour in all temptations and trials to strengthen his faith on the almighty power of God. Doctrine Second, The Christian's duty and care is not only to believe that God is almighty, but strongly by faith to rest on this almighty power of God, as engaged for his help and succour in all his trials and temptations.

 

Of acting our faith on

 

the almighty power of God.]

 

Doctrine First. It should be the Christian's great care in all temptations and trials to strengthen his faith on the almighty power of God. When God holds forth himself as an object of the soul's trust and confidence in any great strait or undertaking, commonly this attribute of his almighty power is presented in the promise, as the surest holdfast for faith to lay hold on. As a father in rugged way gives his child his arm to lay hold by, so doth God usually reach forth his almighty power for his saints to exercise their faith on, as He did for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose faith God tried above most of his saints before or since, for not one of those great things which were promised to them did they live to see performed in their days. And how doth God make known himself to them for their support, but by displaying this attribute? 'I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty,' Ex 6:3. This was all they had to keep house with all their days: with which they lived comfortably, and died triumphantly, bequeathing the promise to their children, not doubting, because God Almighty had promised, of the performance. Thus, Isa. 26, where great mercies are promised to Judah, and a song penned beforehand to be sung on that gaudy day of their salvation; yet because there was a sharp winter of captivity to come between the promise and the spring-time of the promise, therefore, to keep their faith alive in this space, the prophet calls them up to act their faith on God Almighty. 'Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength,' ver. 4. So when his saints are going to the furnace of persecution, what now doth he direct their faith to carry to prison, to stake, with them but this almighty power? 'Let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator,' 1Pe 4:19. Creator is a name of almighty power; we shall now give some reasons of the point.

 

Reason First. Because it is no easy work to make use of this truth, how plain and clear soever it now appears, in great plunges of temptation, that God is almighty. To vindicate this name of God from those evil reports which Satan and carnal reason raise against it, requires a strong faith indeed. I confess this principle is a piece of natural divinity. That light which finds out a Deity will evince, if followed close, this God to be almighty; yet in a carnal heart, it is like a rusty sword, hardly drawn out of the scabbard, and so of little or no use. Such truths are so imprisoned in natural conscience, that they seldom get a fair hearing in the sinner's bosom, till God gives them a jail-delivery, and brings them out of their house of bondage, where they are shut up in unrighteousness with a high hand of his convincing Spirit. Then, and not till then, the soul will believe that God is holy, merciful, almighty; nay, some of God's peculiar people, and not the meanest for grace amongst them, have had their faith for a time set in this slough, and much ado to get over these difficulties and improbabilities which sense and reason have objected, so as to rely on the almighty power of God, with a notwithstanding. Moses himself was a star of the first magnitude for grace, yet see how his faith blinks and twinkles till he wades out the temptation: 'The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them?' Nu 11:21-22. This holy man had lost the sight for a time of the almighty power of God, and now he projecting how this should be done; as if he had said in plain terms, How can this be accomplished? For so God interprets his reasoning: 'And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord's hand waxed short?' ver. 23. So Mary, 'Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,' Joh 11:32. And her sister Martha, 'Lord, by this time he stinketh,' ver. 39. Both were gracious women, yet both betrayed the weakness of their faith on the almighty power of Christ; one limiting him to place-'f thou hadst been here,' he had not died; as if Christ could not have saved his life absent as well as present-sent his health to him as well as brought it with him;-the other to time -'now he stinketh;' as if Christ had brought his physic too late, and the grave would not deliver up its prisoner at Christ's command. And thou hast such a high opinion of thyself, Christian, that thy faith needs not thy utmost care and endeavour for further establishment on the almighty power of God, when thou seest such as these dash their foot against this kind of temptation?

 

Reason Second. The second reason may be taken from the absolute necessity of this act of faith above others, to support the Christian in the hour of temptation. All the Christian's strength and comfort is fetched without doors, and he hath none to send of his errand but faith; this goes to heaven and knocks God up, as he in the parable his neighbour at midnight for bread: therefore, when faith fails, and the soul hath none to go to market for supplies, there must needs be a poor house kept in the meantime. Now faith is never quite laid up till the soul denies, or at least questions, the power of God. Indeed, when the Christian disputes the will of God, whispering within its own bosom, will he pardon? will he save? this may make faith go haltingly to the throne of grace, but not knock the soul off from seeking the face of God. Even then faith on the power of God will bear it company thither: 'If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean;' if thou wilt, thou canst pardon, thou canst purge. But when the soul concludes he cannot pardon, cannot save, this shoots faith to the heart, so that the soul falls at the foot of Satan, not able more to resist; now it grows more listless to duty, indifferent whether it pray or not, as one that sees the well dry breaks or throws away his pitcher.

 

Reason Third. Because God is very tender of this flower of his crown, this part of his name: indeed we cannot spell it right and leave out this letter, for that is God's name, whereby he is known by all his creatures. Now man may be called wise, merciful, mighty: God only, all-wise, all-merciful, almighty; so that when we leave out this syllable all, we nickname God, and call him by his creature's name, which he will not answer to. Now the tenderness that God shows to this prerogative of his appears in three particulars.

 

1. In the strict command he lays on his people to give him the glory of his power. 'Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid,' but 'sanctify the Lord of hosts himself,' Isa 8:12-13; that is, in this sad posture of your affairs, when your enemies associate, and you seem a lost people to the eye of reason, not able to contest with those united powers which beset you on every side, I charge you, sanctify me in giving me the glory of my almighty power. Believe that your God is able of himself, without any other, to defend you, and destroy them.

 

2. In his severity to his dearest children, when they stagger in their faith, and come not off roundly, without reasoning and disputing the case, to rely on his almighty power. Zacharias did but ask the angel, 'whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years?' yet for bewraying therein his unbelief, had a sign indeed given him, but such a one as did not only strengthen his faith, but severely punish his unbelief, for he was struck dumb upon the place. God loves his children should believe his word, not dispute his power; so true is that of Luther: 'God loves the obedient, not the cavilling.'iv That which gave accent to Abraham's faith was that he was 'fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform,' Ro 4:21.

 

3. In the way God takes of giving his choicest mercies and greatest salvations to his people, wherein he lays the scene of his providence, so that when he hath done it may be said, Almighty power was here. And therefore, God commonly puts down those means and second causes, which if they stood about his work would blind and hinder the full prospect thereof in effecting the same. 'We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead,' 2Co 1:9. Christ stayed while until Lazarus was dead, that he might draw the eyes of their faith more singly to look on his power, by raising his dead friend, rather than curing him being sick, which would not have carried so full a conviction of almightiness with it. Yea, he suffers a contrary power many times to arise, in that very juncture of time, when he intends the mercy to his people, that he may rear up more magnificent pillar of remembrance to his own power, in the ruin of that which contests with him. Had God brought Israel out of the Egypt in the time of those kings which knew Joseph, most likely they might have had a friendly departure and an easy deliverance, but God reserves this for the reign of that proud Pharaoh, who shall cruelly oppress them, and venture his kingdom, but will satisfy his lust upon them. And why must this be the time, but that God would bring them forth with a stretched-out arm? The magnifying of his power was God's great design. 'In very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth,' Ex 9:16.

 

4. In the prevalency which an argument that is pressed from his almighty power hath with God. It was the last string Moses had to his bow, when he begged the life of Israel: 'The nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able,' &c., Nu 14:15-16. And 'Let the power of my Lord be great,' ver. 17; and with this he hath their pardon thrown him.

 

The application of this point will fall in under the next, which is

 

Of acting our faith on the almighty

 

power of God, as engaged for our help.]

 

Doctrine Second. That it is the saint's duty, and should be their care, not only to believe God Almighty, but also strongly to believe that this almighty power of God is theirs, that is, is engaged for their defence and help, so as to make use of it in all straits and temptations. First, I shall prove that the almighty power of God is engaged for the Christian's defence, with the grounds of it. Second, I shall prove why the Christian should strongly act his faith on this.

 

First. I shall prove that the almighty power of God is engaged for the Christian's defence, with the grounds of it. God brought Israel out of Egypt with an high hand, but did he set them down on the other side of the Red Sea, to find and force their way to Canaan, by their own policy or power? When he had opened the gate of their iron house of bondage, and brought them into the open fields, did he vanish as the angel from Peter, when out of prison? No, 'The Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went,' De 1:31. This doth lively set forth the saint's march to heaven; God brings a soul out of spiritual Egypt by his converting grace, that is, the 'day of his power,' wherein he makes the soul willing to come out of Satan's clutches. Now when the saint is upon his march, all the country riseth upon him. How shall this creature pass the pikes, and get safely by all his enemies' borders? God himself enfolds him in the arm of his everlasting strength. 'We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.' 1Pe 1:5. The power of God is that shoulder on which Christ carries his sheep home, rejoicing all the way he goes, Lu 15:5. These everlasting arms of his strength are those eagles' wings, upon which the saints are both tenderly and securely conveyed to glory, Ex 19:4. There is a five-fold tie or engagement that lies upon God's power to be the saints' life-guard.

 

First Tie. The near relation he hath to his saints. They are his own dear children; every one takes care of his own-the silly hen, how doth she bustle and bestir herself to gather her brood under her wing when the kite appears? no care like that which nature teacheth. How much more will God, who is the Father of such dispositions in his creature, stir up his whole strength to defend his children? 'He said, They are my people, so he became their Saviour,' Isa 63:8. As if God had said, Shall I sit still with my hand in my bosom, while my own people are thus misused before my face? I cannot bear it. The mother as she sits in her house hears one shriek, and knowing the voice, cries out, 'O it is my child.' Away she throws all, and runs to him. Thus God takes the alarm of his children's cry: 'I heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, saith the Lord;' his cry pierced his ear, and his ear affected his bowels, and his bowels called up his power to the rescue of him.

 

Second Tie. The dear love he beareth to his saints engageth his power. He that hath God's heart cannot want his arm. Love in the creature commands all the other affections, sets all the powers of the whole man on work; thus in God, love sets all his other attributes on work. When once God pitched his thoughts of doing good to lost man, then wisdom fell on projecting the way, almighty power that undertook to raise the fabric according to wisdom's model. All are ready to effect what God saith he likes. Now the believing soul is an object of God's choicest love, even the same with which he loves his Son, Joh 17:26.

 

1. God loves the believer as the birth of his everlasting counsel. When a soul believes, then God's eternal purpose and counsel concerning him, whom he chose in Christ before the foundation of the world, and with whom his thoughts went so long big, brings forth. And how must God needs love that creature whom he carried so long in the womb of his eternal purpose? This goodly fabric of heaven and earth had not been built, but as a stage whereon he would in time act what he decreed in heaven of old, concerning the saving of thee, and a few more his elect. And therefore according to the same rate of delight, with which God pleased and entertained himself in the thoughts of this before the world was, must he needs rejoice over the soul now believing, with love and complacency inconceivable; and God having brought his counsel thus far towards its issue, surely will raise all the power he hath, rather than be disappointed of his glory within a few steps of home; I mean, his whole design in the believer's salvation. The Lord who hath chosen his saints Zech. 3, as Christ prays for Joshua their representative, will rebuke Satan and all their enemies.

 

2. God loves the saints as the purchase of his Son's blood. They cost him dear, and that which is so hardly got shall not be easily lost. He that was willing to expend his Son's blood to gain them, will not deny his power to keep them.

 

3. God loves the saints for their likeness to himself, so that if he loves himself, he cannot but love himself appearing in them; and as he loves himself in them, so he defends himself in defending them. What is it in a saint that enrageth hell but the image of God, without which the war would soon be at an end? It is the hatred that the panther hath to man that makes him fly at his picture. 'For thy sake we are slain all the day long:' and if the quarrel be God's, surely the saint will not go forth to war at his own cost.

 

Third Tie. The covenant engageth God's almighty power, 'I am the Almighty God; walk before me,' #Ge:17:1???|. There is a league offensive and defensive between God and his saints; he gives it under his hand that he will put forth the whole power of his godhead for them, 'The Lord of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel,' 1Ch 17:24. God doth not parcel himself out by retail, but gives his saints leave to challenge whatever a God hath, as theirs; and let him, whoever he is, sit in God's throne and take away his crown, that can fasten any untruth on the Holy One; as his name is, so is his nature, a God keeping covenant for ever. The promises stand as the mountains about Jerusalem, never to be removed; the weak as well as the strong Christian is within this line of communication. Were saints to fight it out in open field by the strength of their own grace, then the strong were more likely to stand, and the weak to fall in battle; but both castled in the covenant, are alike safe.

 

Fourth Tie. The saints' dependence on God, and expectation from God in all their straits, oblige his power for their succour. Whither doth a gracious soul fly in any want or danger from sin, Satan, or his instruments, but to his God? As naturally as the cony to her burrow. 'What time I am afraid,' saith David, 'I will trust in thee,' Ps 56:3. He tells God he will make bold of his house to step into when taken in any storm, and doth not question his welcome. Thus when Saul hunted him, he left a city of gates and bars to trust God in open field. Indeed all the saints are taught the same lesson, to renounce their own strength, and rely on the power of God; their own policy, and cast themselves on the wisdom of God; their own righteousness, and expect all from the pure mercy of God in Christ, which act of faith is so pleasing to God, that such a soul shall never be ashamed, 'The expectation of the poor shall not perish,' Ps 9:18. A heathen could say, when a bird scared by a hawk flew into his bosom, I will not betray thee unto thy enemy, seeing thou comest for sanctuary unto me. How much less will God yield up a soul unto its enemy when it takes sanctuary in his name, saying, 'Lord, I am hunted with such a temptation, dogged with such a lust, either thou must pardon it, or I am damned; mortify it, or I shall be a slave to it; take me into the bosom of thy love, for Christ's sake; castle me in the arms of thy everlasting strength, it is in thy power to save me from, or give me up into, the hands of my enemy. I have no confidence in myself or any other: into thy hands I commit my cause, my life, and rely on thee.' This dependence of a soul undoubtedly will awaken the almighty power of God for such an one's defence. He hath sworn the greatest oath that can come out of his blessed lips, even by himself, that such as thus fly for refuge to hope in him, shall have strong consolation, Heb 6:17. This indeed may give the saints the greater boldness of faith to expect kindly entertainment when he repair to God for refuge, because he cannot come before he is looked for. God having set up his name and promises as a strong tower, both calls his people into these chambers, and expects they should betake themselves thither.

 

Fifth Tie. Christ's presence and employment in heaven lays a strong engagement on God to bring his whole force and power into the field upon all occasions for his saints' defence. One special end of his journey to heaven, and abode there, is that he might, as the saints' solicitor, be ever interceding for such supplies and succours of his Father as their exigencies call for; and the more to assure us of the same before he went, he did, as it were, tell us what heads he meant to go upon his intercession when he should come there; one of which was this, that his Father should keep his children while they were to stay in the world from the evil thereof, Joh 17:15. Neither doth Christ take upon him this work of his own head, but hath the same appointment of his Father for what he now prays in heaven, as he did for what he suffered on earth. He that ordained him a Priest to die for sinners, did not then strip him of his priestly garments, as Aaron, but appoints him to ascend in them to heaven, where he sits a Priest for ever by God's oath. And this office of intercession was erected purely in mercy to believers, that they might have full content given them for the performance of all that God had promised; so that Jesus Christ lies lieger at court as our ambassador, to see all carried fairly between God and us according to agreement; and if Christ follows his business close, and be faithful in his place to believers, all is well. And doth it not behove him to be so, who intercedes for such dear relations? Suppose a king's son should get out of a besieged city, where he hath left his wife and children, whom he loves as his own soul, and these all ready to die by sword or famine; if supply come not sooner, could this prince, when arrived at his father's house, please himself with the delights of the court, and forget the distress of his family? Or rather would he not come post to his father, having their cries and groans always in his ears, and before he eat or drink, do his errand to his father, and entreat him if ever he loved him, that he would send all the force of his kingdom to raise the siege, rather than any of his dear relations should perish? Surely, sirs, though Christ be in the top of his preferment, and out of the storm in regard of his own person, yet his children left behind in the midst of sins, Satan, and the world's batteries, are in his heart, and shall not be forgotten a moment by him. The care he takes in our business appeared in the speedy despatch he made of his Spirit to his apostles' supply, when he ascended, which as soon almost as he was warm in his seat, at his Father's right hand, he sent, to the incomparable comfort of his apostles and us, that to this day, yea, to the end of the world, do or shall believe on him.

 

Second. I shall prove why the Christian should strongly act his faith on this almighty power as engaged for his help. -The second branch of the point follows namely, that saints should eye this power of God as engaged for them, and press it home upon their souls till they silence all doubts and fears about the matter; which is the importance of this exhortation, 'Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.' Fortify and entrench your souls within the breastwork of this attribute of God's mighty power made over to you by God himself.

 

First. As it is the end of all promises to be security to our faith, so it is of those in particular where his almighty power is expressly engaged, that we may count this attribute our portion, and reap the comfort it yields as freely as one may the crop of his own field. 'Walk before me,' saith God to Abraham, 'I am God Almighty;' set on this as thy portion, and live upon it. The apostle teacheth us what use to make of promises, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,' Heb 13:5; there is the promise, and the inference which he teacheth us from this, follows, 'So we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper,' ver. 6. We, that is, every believer, may boldly say, that is, we may conclude, God will help, not sneakingly, timorously, perhaps he will; but we may boldly assert it in the face of men and devils, because He that is almighty hath said it. Now for a Christian not to strengthen his faith on this incomparably sweet attribute, but to sit down with a few weak unsettled hopes, when he may, yea, ought to be strong in the faith of such promises, what is it but to undervalue the blessing of such promises? As if one should promise another house and land, and bid him make them as sure to himself as the law can bind, and he should take no care to effect this: would it not be interpreted as a slighting of his friend's kindness? Is it a small matter that God passeth over his almighty power by promise to us, and bids us make it as sure to ourselves as we can by faith, and we neglect this, leaving the writings of the promises unsealed on our hearts?

 

Second. Our obedience and comfort are strong or weak, as our faith is on this principle.

 

1. Our obedience, that being a child of faith, partakes of its parent's strength or weakness. Abraham being strong on faith, what an heroic act of obedience did he perform in offering up his son! His faith being well set on the power of God, he carries that without staggering which would have laid a weak faith on the ground. No act of faith more strengthens for duty, than that which eyes God's almighty power engaged for its assistance. 'Go in this thy might,' said God to Gideon, 'have not I called thee?' As if he had said, Can I not, will I not carry thee through thy work? Away goes Gideon in the faith of this, and doth wonders. This brought the righteous man from the East to God's foot, though he knew not whither he went, yet he knew with whom he went, God Almighty. But take a soul not persuaded of this, how uneven and unstable is he in his obediential course! Every threat from man, if mighty, dismays him, because his faith is not fixed on the Almighty, and therefore sometimes he will shift off a duty to comply with man, and betray his trust into the hands of a sorry creature, because he hath fleshly eyes to behold the power of a man, but wants a spiritual eye to see God at his back, to protect him with his almighty power; which, were his eyes open to see, he would not be so routed in his thoughts at the approach of a weak creature. 'Should such a man as I flee?' said good Nehemiah, Ne 6:11. He was newly come from the throne of grace, where he had called in the help of the Almighty, 'O God, strengthen my hands,' ver. 9. And truly, now, he will rather die upon the place, than disparage his God with a dishonorable retreat.

 

2. The Christian's comfort increaseth or wanes, as the aspect of his faith is to the power of God. Let the soul question that, or his interest in it, and his joy gusheth out, even as blood out of a broken vein. It is true, a soul may scramble to heaven with much ado, by a faith of recumbency, relying on God as able to save, without this persuasion of its interest in God; but such a soul goes with a scant side-wind, or like a ship whose masts are laid by the board, exposed to wind and weather, if others better appointed did not tow it along with them. Many fears like waves ever and anon so cover such a soul, that it is more under water than above; whereas one that sees itself folded in the arms of almighty power, O how such a soul goes mounting afore the wind, with her sails filled with joy and peace! Let affliction come, storms arise, this blessed soul knows where it shall land and be welcome. The name of God is his harbor, where he puts in as boldly, as a man steps into his own house, when taken in a shower. He hears God calling him into this, and other his attributes, as chambers taken up for him. 'Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers,' Isa 26:20. God calls them his, and it were foolish modesty not to own what God gives. 'Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength,' Isa 45:24; that is, I have righteousness in God's righteousness, strength in his strength, so that in this respect Christ can no more say that his strength is his own, and not the believer's, than the husband can say, My body is my own and not my wife's. A soul persuaded of this may sing merrily with the sharpest thorn at his breast; so David, 'My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise,' Ps 57:7. What makes him so merry in so sad a place as the cave where now he was? he will tell you ver. 1, where you have him nestling himself under the shadow of God's wings, and now well may he sing care and fear away. A soul thus provided may lie at ease on a hard bed. Do you not think they sleep as soundly who dwell on London-bridge, as they who live at Whitehall or Cheapside, knowing that the waves that roar under them cannot hurt them? even so may the saints rest quietly over the floods of death itself, and fear no ill.

 

Use or Application.

 

Use First. Is the almighty power of God engaged for the saints' defence? surely then they will have a hard pull, the saints' enemies, who meddle with them who are so far above their match. The devil was so cunning, he would have Job out of his trench, his hedge down before he could fall on. But so desperate are men, they will try the field with the saints, though encircled with the almighty power of God. What folly were it to attempt or sit down before such a city, which cannot be blocked up so as no relief can get in? the way to heaven cannot. In the church's straitest siege, 'there is a river which shall make glad this city of God,' with seasonable succours from heaven. The saints' fresh-springs are all from God, and it is as feasible for sorry man to stop the water-courses of the clouds, as to dam up those streams, which invisibly glide like veins of water in the earth, from the fountain-head of his mercy into the bosom of his people. The Egyptians thought they had Israel in a trap, when they saw them march into such a nook by the sea-side. 'They are entangled, they are entangled;' and truly so they had been irrecoverably, had not that almighty power which led them on, engaged to bring them off with honor and safety. Well, when they are out of this danger; behold they are in a wilderness where nothing is to be had for back and belly, and yet here they shall live for forty years, without trade or tillage, without begging or robbing of any of the neighbor nations; they shall not be beholden to them for a penny in their way. What cannot almighty power do to provide for his people? what can it not do to protect them against the power and wrath of their enemies? Almighty power stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians, so that, poor creatures, they could not so much as come to see their enemies. God sets up a dark cloud as a blind before their eyes, and all the while his eye through the cloud is looking them into disorder and confusion. And is the Almighty grown weaker now-a-days, or his enemies stronger, that they promise themselves better success? No, neither; but men are blinder than the saints' enemies of old, who sometimes have fled at the appearances of God among his people, crying out, 'Let us flee, for the Lord fighteth for them.' Whereas there be many now-a-days will rather give the honor of their discomfitures to Satan himself, than acknowledge God in the business; more ready to say that the devil fought against them, than God. O you that have not yet worn off the impressions which the almighty power of God hath at any time made upon your spirits, beware of having anything to do with that generation of men, whoever they are. Come not near their tabernacle, cast not thy lot in amongst them, who are enemies to the saints' of the most High; for they are men devoted to destruction. He ripped open the very womb of Egypt, to save the life of Israel his child, Isa 43:3.

 

Use Second. This shows the dismal, deplorable condition of all you who are yet in a Christless state. You have seen a rich mine opened, but not a penny of this treasure comes to your share; a truth laden with incomparable comfort, but it is bound for another coast, it belongs to the saints, into whose bosom this truth unlades all her comfort. See God shutting the door upon you, when he sets his children to feast themselves with such dainties. 'Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty,' Isa 65:13. God hath set his number which he provides for. He knows how many he hath in his family: these and no more shall sit down. One chief dish at the saints' board is the almighty power of God. This was set before Abraham, and stands before all his saints, that they may eat to fulness of comfort on it; but thou shalt be hungry. He is almighty to pardon, but he will not use it for thee, an impenitent sinner. Thou hast not a friend on the bench, not an attribute in all God's name, will speak for thee: mercy itself will sit and vote with the rest of its fellow-attributes for thy damnation. God is able to save and help in a time of need; but upon what acquaintance is it that thou art so bold with God, as to expect his saving arm to be stretched forth for thee? Though a man will rise at midnight to let in a child that cries and knocks at his door, yet he will not take so much pains for a dog that lies howling there. This presents thy condition, sinner, sad enough, yet this is to tell thy story fairest; for that almighty power of God which is engaged for the believer's salvation, is as deeply obliged to bring thee to thy execution and damnation. What greater tie than an oath? God himself is under an oath to be the destruction of every impenitent soul. That oath which God sware in his wrath against the unbelieving Israelites, that they should not enter his rest, concerns every unbeliever to the end of the world. In the name of God consider, were it but the oath of a man, or a company of men, that like those in the Acts, should swear to be the death of such a one, and thou wert the man, would it not fill thee with fear and trembling night and day, and take away the quiet of thy life, till they were made friends? What then are their pillows stuffed with, who can sleep so soundly without any horror or amazement, though they be told that the Almighty God is under an oath of damning them, body and soul, without timely repentance? O bethink yourselves, sinners, is it wisdom or valor to refuse terms of mercy from God's hands, whose almighty power, if rejected, will soon bring you into the hands of justice? And how fearful a thing that is, to fall into the hands of Almighty God, no tongue can express, no, not they who feel the weight of it.

 

Use Third. This speaks to you, who are saints indeed. Be strong in the faith of this truth, make it an article of your creed; with the same faith you believe that there is a God, believe also this God's almighty power is thy sure friend, and then improve it to thy best and advantage. As,

 

1. In agonies of conscience that arise from the greatness of thy sins, fly for refuge into the almighty power of God. Truly, sirs, when a man's sins are displayed in all their bloody colors, and spread forth in all their killing aggravations, and the eye of conscience awakened to behold them through the multiplying or magnifying glass of a temptation, they must needs surprise the creature with horror and amazement, till the soul can say with the prophet, For all this huge host, there is yet more with me than against me. One Almighty is more than many mighties. All these mighty sins and devils, make not one almighty sin, or an almighty devil. Oppose to all the hideous charges brought against thee by them this only attribute. As the French ambassador once silenced the Spaniard's pride in repeating his master many titles, with one that drowned them all, God himself, when he had aggravated his people's sins to the height, then to show what a God can do, breaks out into a sweet promise: 'I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger;' and why not? 'I am God, and not man,' Ho 11:9. I will show the almightiness of my mercy. Something like our usual phrase when a child or a woman strikes us, I am a man, and not a child or a woman, therefore I will not strike again. The very considering God to be God, supposeth him almighty to pardon as well as to avenge. And this is some relief. But then to consider it is almighty power in bond and covenant to pardon, this is more. As none can bind God but himself, so none can break the bond himself makes: and are they not his own words, that 'he will abundantly pardon?' Isa 55:7. He will multiply to pardon, as if he had said, 'I will drop mercy with your sin, and spend all I have, rather than let it be said my good is overcome of your evil.' It fares with the gracious soul in this case as with a captain, that yields his castle upon gracious terms of having his life spared, and he safely conveyed to his house, there to be settles peaceably in his estate and possessions, for all which he hath the general's hand and seal, on which he marches forth; but the rude soldiers assaulting him, and putting him in fear of his life, he appeals to the general, whose honor is now engaged for him, and is presently relieved, and his enemies punished. Thou mayest, poor soul, when accused by Satan, molested by his terrors, say, It is God that justifies; I have his hand to it, that I should have my life given me as soon as I laid down my arms and submitted to him, which I desire to do. Behold, the gates of my heart are open to let the Prince of peace in, and is not the Almighty able to perform his promise? I commit myself to him as unto a faithful Creator.

 

2. Improve this almighty power of God, and thy interest therein, in temptations to sin, when thou art overpowered, and fliest before the face of thy strong corruption, or fearest thou shalt one day fall by it; make bold to take hold of this attribute, and reinforce thyself from it again to resist, and in resisting, to believe a timely victory over it. The Almighty God stands in sight of thee while thou art in the valley fighting, and stays but for a call from thee when distressed in battle, and then he will come to thy rescue. Jehoshaphat cried when in the throng of his enemies, and the Lord helped him; much more mayest thou promise thyself his succor in thy soul combats. Betake thyself to the throne of grace with that promise, 'Sin shall not have dominion over you;' and before thou urgest it, the more to help thy faith, comfort thyself with this, that though the word almighty is not expressed, yet it is implied in this and every promise, and thou mayest without adding a tittle to the Word of God, read it in thy soul; sin shall not have dominion over you, saith the Almighty God, for this and all his attributes are the constant seal to all his promises. Now, soul, put the bond in suit, fear not the recovery, it is debt, and so due. He is able whom thou suest, and so there is no fear of losing the charge of the suit; and he that was so gracious to bind himself when he was free, will be so faithful, being able, to perform now he is bound; only, while thou expectest the performance of the promise, and the assistance of the almighty power against thy corruptions, take heed that thou keep under the shadow of this attribute, and condition of this promise, Ps 91:1. The shadow will not cool except in it. What good to have the shadow, though of a mighty rock, when we sit in the open sun? to have almighty power engaged for us, and we throw ourselves out of the protection thereof by bold sallies into the mouth of temptation? The saints' falls have been when they run out of their trench and hold; for, like the conies, they are a weak people in themselves, and their strength lies in the rock of God's almightiness, which is their habitation.

 

3. Christian, improve this, when oppressed with the weight of any duty and service, which in thy place and calling lies upon thee. Perhaps thou findest thy duty of thy calling too heavy for thy weak shoulders, make bold by faith to lay the heaviest end of thy burden on God's shoulder, which is thine (if a believer) as sure as God can make it by promise. When at any time thou art sick of thy work, and ready to think with Jonas to run from it, encourage thyself with that of God to Gideon, whom he called from the flail to thrash the mountains, 'Go in this thy might,' hath not God called thee? Fall to the work God sets thee about, and thou engagest his strength for thee. The way of the Lord is strength. Run from thy work, and thou engagest God's strength against thee; he will send some storm or other after thee to bring home his runaway servant. How oft hath the coward been killed in a ditch, or under some hedge, when the valiant soldier stood his ground and kept his place got off with safety and honor? Art thou called to suffer? flinch not because thou art afraid, thou shalt never be able to bear the cross; God can lay it so even, thou shalt not feel it, though thou shouldst find no succor till thou comest to the prison door, yea, till thou hast one foot on the ladder, or thy neck on the block, despair not. 'In the mount will the Lord be seen.' And in that hour he can give thee such a look of his sweet face, as shall make the blood come in the ghastly face of a cruel death, and appear lovely in thy eye for his sake. He can give thee so much comfort in hand, as thou shalt acknowledge God is aforehand with thee, for all thy shame and pain thou canst endure for him; and if it should not amount to this, yet so much as it will bear all the charges thou canst be put to in the way, lies ready told in the promise, 1Co 10:13. Thou shalt have it at sight, and this may satisfy a Christian, especially if he considers, though he doth not carry so much of heaven's joy about him to heaven as others, yet he shall meet it as soon as he comes to his Father's house, where it is reserved for him. In a word, Christian, rely upon thy God, and make thy daily applications to the throne of grace for continual supplies of strength; you little think how kindly he takes it, that you will make use of him, the oftener the better, and the more you come for, the more welcome. Else why would Christ have told his disciples, 'Hitherto you have asked nothing,' but to express his large heart in giving? loath to put his hand to his purse for a little, and therefore by a familiar kind of rhetoric puts them to rise higher in asking, as Naaman when Gehazi asks one talent, entreats him to take two. Such a bountiful heart thy God hath, while thou art asking a little peace and joy, he bids thee open thy mouth wide and he will fill it. Go and ransack thy heart, Christian, from one end to the other, find out thy wants, acquaint thyself with all thy weaknesses, and set them before the Almighty, as the widow her empty vessels before the prophet; hadst thou more than thou canst bring, thou mayest have them all filled. God hath strength enough to give, but he hath no strength to deny. Here the Almighty himself (with reverence be it spoken) is weak; even a child, the weakest in grace of his family that can but say father, is able to overcome him; and therefore let not the weakness of thy faith discourage thee. No greater motive to the bowels of mercy to stir almighty power to relieve thee than thy weakness, when pleaded in the sense of it. The pale face and thin cheeks, I hope, move more with us, than the canting language of a stout sturdy beggar; thus with that soul that comes laden in the sense of his weak faith, love, patience, the very weakness of them carries an argument along with them for succor.

 

Objection Answered

 

A grand objection that some disconsolate

 

souls may raise against

 

the former discourse, answered.]

 

Objection. O but, saith some disconsolate Christian, I have prayed again and again for strength against such a corruption, and to this day my hands are weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are so strong, that I am ready to say, All the preachers do but flatter me, that do pour their oil of comfort upon my head, and tell me I shall at last get the conquest of these mine enemies, and see that joyful day wherein with David, I shall sing to the Lord, for delivering me out of the hands of all mine enemies. I have prayed for strength for such a duty, and find it come off as weakly and dead-heartedly as before. If God be with me by his mighty power to help me, why then is all this befallen me?

 

Answer First. Look once again, poor heart, into thy own bosom, and see whether thou findest not some strength sent unto thee, which thou didst overlook before; this may be, yea, is very ordinary in this case, when God answers our prayer no in the letter, or when the thing itself is sent, but it comes in at the back-door, while we are expecting it at the fore; and truly thus the friend thou art looking for may be in thine house and thou not know it. Is not this thy case, poor soul? Thou hast been praying for strength against such a lust, and now thou wouldst have God presently put forth his power to knock it on the head and lay it for dead, that it should never stir more in thy bosom. Is not this the door thou hast stood looking for God to come in at? And yet there is no sight or news of thy God's coming that way. Thy corruption yet stirs, it may be is now more troublesome than before. Now thou askest where is the strength promised to thy relief? Let me entreat thee before thou layest down this sad conclusion against thy God or self, to see whether he hath not conveyed in some strength by another door. Perhaps thou hast not strength to conquer it so soon as thou desirest; but hath he not given further praying strength against it? Thou prayest before, but now more earnestly, all the powers of thy soul are up to plead with God. Before, thou wast more favorable and moderate in thy request, now thou hast a zeal, thou canst take no denial, yea, will welcome anything in the room of corruption. Would God but take thy sin and send a cross, thou wouldst bless him. Now, poor soul, is this nothing? Is this no strength? Had not thy God reinforced thee, thy sin would have weakened thy spirit of prayer, and not increased it. David began to recover himself when he began to recover his spirit of prayer. The stronger the cry, the stronger the child, I warrant you. Jacob wrestled, and this is called his strength, Ho 12:3. It appeared, there was much of God in him when he could take such hold of the Almighty as to keep it, though God seemed to shake him off. If thus thou art enabled, soul, to deal with the God of heaven, no fear but thou shalt be much more able to deal with sin and Satan. If God hath given thee so much strength to wrestle with him above and against denials, thou hast prevailed with the stronger of the two. Overcome God, and he will overcome the other for thee. Again, perhaps thou hast been praying for further strength to be communicated to thee in duty, that thou might be more spiritual, vigorous, united, sincere, and the like, therein, and yet thou findest thy old distempers hanging about thee, as if thou hadst never acquainted God with thy ail. Well, soul, look once again into thy bosom with an unprejudiced eye, though thou dost not find the assisting strength thou prayed for, yet hast thou no more self-abasing strength? perhaps the annoyance thou hast from these remaining distempers in duty, occasion thee to have a meaner opinion of all thy duties than ever, yea, they make thee abhor thyself in the sense of these, as if thou hadst so many loathsome vermin around thee. Job's condition on the dunghill, with all his botches and running sores on his body, appears desirable to thee, in comparison of thine, whose soul, thou complainest, is worse than his body. O this afflicts my soul deeply, that thou shouldst appear before the Lord with such a dead divided heart, and do his work worst that deserves best at thy hands. And is all this nothing? Surely, Christian, thine eyes are held as much as Hagar's, or else thou wouldst see the streamings forth of divine grace in this frame of thy heart; surely others will think God hath done a mighty work in thy soul. What harder and more against the hair than to bring our proud hearts to take shame for that whereof they naturally boast and glory? And is it nothing for thee to tread on the very neck of thy duties, and count them matter of thy humiliation and abasing, which others make the matter of their confidence and self-rejoicing? Good store of virtue hath gone from Christ to dry this issue of pride in thy heart, which sometimes in gracious ones so runs through and through their duties, that it is seen, or may be, by those that have less grace than themselves.

 

Answer Second. Christian, candidly interpret God's dealings with thee. Suppose it be as thou sayest; thou hast pleaded the promise, and waited on the means, and yet findest no strength from all these receipts, either in thy grace or comfort. Now take heed of charging God foolishly, as if God were not what he promiseth; this were to give that to Satan which he is all this while gaping for. It is more becoming the dutiful disposition of a child, when he hath not presently what he writes for to his father, to say, My father is wiser than I His wisdom will prompt him what and when to send to me, and his fatherly affections to me his child will neither suffer him to deny anything that is good, or slip the time that is seasonable. Christian, thy heavenly Father hath gracious ends that hold his hand at present, or else thou hadst ere this heard from him.

 

1. God may deny further degrees of strength to put thee on the exercise of that thou hast more carefully. As a mother doth by her child that is learning to go, she sets it down, and stands some distance from it, and bids it come to her. The child feels its legs weak and cries for the mother's help, but the mother steps back on purpose that the child should put forth all its little strength in making after her. When a poor soul comes and prays against such a sin, God seems to step back and stand at a distance, the temptation increaseth, and no visible succour appears, on purpose that the Christian, though weak, should exercise that strength he hath. Indeed, we shall find the sense of a soul's weakness, is an especial means to excite into a further care and diligence. One that knows his weakness, how prone he is in company to forget himself, in passion how apt he is to fly out; if there be a principle of true grace, this will excite him to be more fearful and watchful, than another that hath obtained greater strength against such great temptations. As a child that writes for money to his father. None comes presently. This makes him husband that little that he hath the better, not a penny now shall be laid out idly. Thus, when a Christian hath prayed against such a sin again and again, and yet finds himself weak, prone to be worsted, O how careful will this, should this make such a one of every company, of every occasion! Such a one had not need give his enemy any advantage.

 

2. God may deny the Christian such assisting strength in duty, or mortifying the strength of corruption, as he desires, purely on a gracious design that he may thereby have an advantage of expressing his love in such a way, as shall most kindly work upon the ingenuity of the soul to love God again. Perhaps, Christian, thou prayest for a mercy thou wantest, or for deliverance out of some great affliction, and in the duty thou findest not more assistance than ordinary, yea, many distractions of spirit in it, and misgiving thoughts with unbelieving fears after it. Well, notwithstanding those defects in thy duty, yet God hears thy prayer, and sends in the mercy on purpose that he may greaten his love in thine eye, and make it more luscious and sweet to thy taste, from his accepting thy weak services, and passing by the distempers of thy spirit. Here is less strength for the duty, that thou mayest have more love in the mercy; nothing will affect a gracious heart more than such a consideration. See it in David, 'I said in my haste, All men are liars. What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?' Ps 116:11-12. As if David had said, Notwithstanding all the comfortable messages I had from God by his prophets concerning this matter, my own prayers, and those remarkable providences, which carried in them a partial answer to them, and performance of what was promised, yet I betrayed much unbelief, questioning the truth of the one, and the return of the other; and hath God, notwithstanding all my infirmities, fulfilled my desire, and performed his promise? O what shall I render unto the Lord? Thus David reads God's mercy through the spectacles of his own weakness and infirmity, and it appears great; whereas if a mercy should come in, as an answer to a duty managed with such strength of faith, and height of other graces, as might free him and his duty from usual infirmities, this might prove a snare, and occasion some self-applauding, rather than mercy-admiring thoughts in the creature.

 

3. God may communicate the less of his assisting strength, that he may show the more of his supporting strength, in upholding weak grace. We do not wonder to see a man of strong constitution that eats his bread heartily and sleep soundly, live. But for a crazy body, full of ails and infirmities, to be so patched and shored up by the physician's art that he stands to old age, this begets some wonder in the beholders. It may be thou art a poor trembling soul, thy faith is weak, and thy assaults from Satan strong, thy corruptions stirring and active, and thy mortifying strength little, so that in thy opinion they rather gain ground on thy grace, than give ground to it. Ever and anon thou art ready to think thou shalt be cast as a wreck upon the devil's shore; and yet to this day thy grace lives, though full of leaks. Now is it not worth the stepping aside to see this strange sight? A broken ship with masts and hull rent and torn, thus towed along by almighty power through an angry sea, and armadas of sins and devils, safely into its harbor. To see a poor dilling or rush-candle in the face of the boisterous wind, and not blown out! In a word, to see a weak stripling in grace held up in God's arms till he beats the devil craven! This God is doing in upholding thee. Thou art one of those babes, out of whose mouth God is perfecting his praise, by ordaining such strength for thee, that thou, a babe in grace, shalt yet foil a giant in wrath and power.

 

Answer Third. If after long waiting for strength from God, it be as thou complainest, inquire whether the JÎ 6"J"XP@4H, that which hinders, be not found in thyself. The head is the seat of animal spirits, yet there may be such obstructions in the body as the other members may for a time be deprived of them; till the passage be free between Christ thy head and thee, thy strength will not come, and therefore be willing to inquire,

 

1. Hast thou come indeed to God for strength to perform duty, to mortify corruption and the like? Perhaps thou wilt say, Yes, I have waited on those ordinances which are the way in which he hath promised to give out strength. But is this all? Thou mayest come to them, and not wait on God in them. Hast thou not carnally expected strength from them, and so put the ordinances in God's stead? Hath not the frame of thy spirit some affinity with theirs, 'We will go into such a city, and buy and sell, and get gain?' Jas 4:13. Hath not thy heart said, I will go and hear such a man, and get comfort, and strength? And dost thou wonder thou art weak, barren and unfruitful? Are ordinances God, that they should make you strong or comfortable? Thou mayest hear them answer thee, poor soul, as the king to the woman in the siege of Samaria. Help, O prayer, sayest thou, or, O minister; how can they help except the Lord help? These are but Christ's servants. Christ keeps the key of his wine cellar; they cannot so much as make you drink when you come to their master's house; and therefore, poor soul, stay not short of Christ, but press through all the crowd of ordinances, and ask to speak with Jesus, to see Jesus, and touch him, and virtue will come forth.

 

2. Ask thy soul whether thou hast been thankful for that little strength thou hast. Though thou art not of that strength in grace to run with the foremost and hold pace with the tallest of thy brethren, yet thou art thankful that thou hast any strength at all, though it be but to cry after them whom thou seest outstrip thee in grace, this is worth thy thanks. All in David's army attained not to be equal with his few worthies in prowess and honor, and yet did not cashier themselves: thou hast reason to be thankful for the meanest place in the army of saints, the least communications of gospel-mercy and grace must not be overlooked. As soon as ever Moses with his army was through the sea, they strike up before they stir from the bank side, and acknowledge the wonderful appearance of God's power and mercy for them, though this was but one step in their way; for a howling wilderness presented itself to them, and though they were not able to subsist a few days with all their provision, for all their great victory, yet Moses will praise God for this handsel of mercy. This holy man knew the only way to keep credit with God, so as to have more, was to keep touch, and pay down his praise for what was received. If thou wouldst have fuller communications of divine strength, own God in what he hath done. Art thou weak? Bless God thou hast life. Dost thou through feebleness often fail in duty, and fall into temptation? Mourn in the sense of these; yet bless God in that thou dost not live in a total neglect of duty, out of a profane contempt thereof, and instead of falling through weakness, thou dost not lie in the mire of sin through the wickedness of thy heart. The unthankful soul may thank itself it thrives no better.

 

3. Art thou humble under the assistance and strength God hath given thee? Pride stops the conduit. If the heart begin to swell, it is time for God to hold his hand, and turn the cock, for all that is poured on such a soul runs over into self-applauding, and so it is as water spilt, in regard of any good it doth the creature, or any glory it brings to God. A proud heart and a lofty mountain are never fruitful. Now beside the common ways that pride discovers itself, as by undervaluing others, and overvaluing itself, and such like, you shall observe two other symptoms of it. (1.) It appears in bold adventures, when a person runs into the mouth of temptation, bearing himself up on the confidence of his grace received. This was Peter's sin, by which he was drawn to engage further than became an humble faith, running into devil's quarters, and so became his prisoner for a while. The good man, when in his right temper, had thoughts low enough of himself, as when he asked his Master, Is it I? But he that feared at one time lest he might be the traitor, at another cannot think so ill of himself, as to suspect he should be the denier of his Master. What, he? No, though all the rest should forsake him, yet he would stand to his colors. Is this thy case, Christian? Possibly God hath given thee much of his mind; art thou skilful in the Word of life, and therefore thou darest venture to breathe in corrupt air, as if only the weak spirits of less knowing Christians exposed them to be infected with the contagion of error and heresy. Thou hast a large portion of grace, or at least thou thinkest so, and venturest to go where an humble-minded Christian would fear his heels should slip under him. Truly, now thou temptest God to suffer thy lock to be cut, when thou art so bold to lay thy head in the lap of a temptation. (2.) Pride appears in the neglect of those means whereby the saints' graces and comforts are to be fed when strongest. Maybe, Christian, when thou art under fears and doubts, then God hath thy company, thou art oft with thy pitcher at his door; but when thou hast got any measure of peace, there grows presently some strangeness between God and thee; thy pitcher walks not as it was wont to these wells of salvation. No wonder if thou, though rich in grace and comfort, goest behind-hand, seeing thou spendest on the old stock, and drivest no trade at present to bring in more. Or if thou dost not thus neglect duty, yet maybe thou dost not perform with that humility which formerly beautified the same: then thou prayed in the sense of thy weakness to get strength, now thou prayest to show thy strength, that others may admire thee. And if once, like Hezekiah, we call in spectators to see our treasure, and applaud us for our gifts and comfort, then it is high time for God, if he indeed love us, to send some messengers, to carry these away from us, which carry our hearts from him.

 

Answer Fourth. If thy heart doth not smite thee from what hath been said, but thou hast sincerely waited on God, and yet hast not received the strength thou desirest, yet let it be thy resolution to live and die waiting on him. God doth not tell us his time of coming, and it were boldness to set on of our own heads. Go, saith Christ, to his disciples, 'tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high,' Lu 24:49. Thus he saith to thee, Stay at Jerusalem, wait on him in the means he hath appointed, till thou beest endued with further power to mortify thy corruptions, &c. And for thy comfort know,

 

1. Thy thus persevering to wait on God will be an evidence of strong grace in thee. The less encouragement thou hast to duty, the more is thy faith and obedience to bear thee up in duty. He that can trade when times are so dead, that all his ware lies upon his hand, and yet draws not in his hand, but rather trades more and more, sure his stock is great. What! no comfort in hearing, no ease to thy spirit in praying, and yet more greedy to hear, and more frequent in prayer. O soul, great is thy faith and patience!

 

2. Assure thyself when thou art at the greatest pinch that strength shall come. They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength: when the last handful of meal was dressing, then is the prophet sent to keep the widow's house. When temptation is strong, thy little strength is even spent, and thou ready to yield into the hands of thine enemies, then expect succors from heaven, to enable thee to hold out under the temptation. Thus with Paul, 'My grace is sufficient for thee,' i.e. there is power from heaven to raise the siege, and drive away the tempter. Thus with Job, when Satan had him at an advantage, then God takes him off, like a wise moderator who, when the respondent is hard put to it by a subtle opponent, takes him off, when he would else run him down. 'Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. Jas 5:11.

 

 

01.02 Second Part Directions for managing this War successfully

Part Second.

Direction First, First General Part, with Branch First, Second, Third and Fourth.

 

Directions for managing this War successfully, with some Motives sprinkled among them.

 

Direction First.

 

The Christian must be armed, and the Reason why.

 

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. {Eph 6:11}

 

This verse is a key to the former, wherein the apostle had exhorted believers to encourage and bear up their fainting spirits on the Lord, and the power of his might. Now in these words he explains himself, and shows how he would have them do this, not presumptuously to come into the field without that armour which God hath appointed to be worn by all his soldiers, and yet with a bravado, to trust to the power of God to save them. That soul is sure to fall short of home (heaven I mean), who hath nothing but a carnal confidence on the name of God, blown up by its ignorance of God and himself. No, he that would have his confidence duly placed on the power of God, must conscientiously use the means appointed for his defence, and not rush naked into the battle, like that fanatic spirit at Munster, who would needs go forth, and chase away the whole army then besieging that city, with no other cannon than a few words charged with the name of the Lord of hosts, which he blasphemously made bold to use, saying, In the name of the Lord of hosts depart. But himself soon perisheth, to learn others wisdom by what he paid for his folly. What foolish braving language shall ye hear drop from the lips of the most profane and ignorant among us! They trust in God, hope in his mercy, defy the devil and all his works, and such like stuff, who are yet poor naked creatures without the least piece of God's armour upon their souls. To cashier such presumption from the saints' camp, he annexeth this directory to his exhortation, 'Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.' So that the words fall into these two general parts. FIRST, A direction annexed to the former exhortation, showing how we may in a regular way come to be strong in the Lord, that is, by putting on the whole 'armour of God.' SECOND, A reason or argument strengthening this direction, 'that ye may be able to stand against the wile of the devil.'

 

DIRECTION I-FIRST GENERAL PART.

 

The Christian must be armed for the War, 'Put on the whole armour of God.'

 

In this part we have a direction annexed to the former exhortation, showing how we may in a regular way come to be strong in the Lord, that is, by putting on the whole 'armour of God.' In this observe, first, The furniture he directs, and that is 'armour.' second, The kind or quality of this armour-'armour of God.' third, The quantity or entireness of the armour-the 'whole' armour of God. fourth, The use of this armour-'put on' the whole armour of God.

 

BRANCH FIRST.

 

The furniture or armour needful

 

-what it is.]

 

To begin with the first, the furniture which every one must get that would fight Christ's battles, and that is 'armour.' The question here will be, What is this armour?

 

First. By armour is meant Christ. We read of putting on the 'Lord Jesus,' Ro 13:14, where Christ is set forth under the notion of armour. The apostle doth not exhort them for rioting and drunkenness to put on sobriety and temperance, for chambering and wantonness to put on chastity, as the philosopher would have done, but bids, 'put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ;' implying thus much that till Christ be put on, the creature is unarmed. It is not a man's morality and philosophical virtues that will repel a temptation, sent with a full charge from Satan's cannon, though possibly it may the pistol-shot of some less solicitation; so that he is the man in armour, that is in Christ. Again,

 

Second. The graces of Christ, these are armour, as 'the girdle of truth, the breast-plate of righteousness,' and the rest. Hence we are bid also to 'put on the new man,' Eph 4:24, which is made up of all the several graces, as its parts and members. And he is the unarmed soul, that is the unregenerate soul, not excluding those duties and means which God hath appointed the Christian to use for his defence. The phrase thus opened, the point is, to show that to be without Christ is to be without armour.

 

The Christless and graceless soul is

 

without armour, and therein his misery.]

 

Observe. That a person in a Christless graceless state is naked and unarmed, and so unfit to fight Christ's battles against sin and Satan. Or thus, A soul out of Christ is naked and destitute of all armour to defend him against sin and Satan. God at first sent man forth in complete armour, 'being created in true righteousness and holiness,' but by a wile the devil stripped him, and therefore as soon as the first sin was completed, it is written, 'they were naked,' Ge 3:7, that is, they were poor weak creatures, at the will of Satan, a subdued people disarmed by their proud conqueror, and unable to make head against him. Indeed it cost Satan some dispute to make the first breach, but after that he hath once the gates opened to let him in as conqueror into the heart of man, he plays rex or king. Behold, a troop of other sins crowd in after him, without any stroke or strife; instead of confessing their sins, they run their head in a bush, and by their good-will would not come where God is, and when they cannot fly from him, how do they prevaricate before him? They peal one of another, shifting the sin rather than suing for mercy. So quickly were their hearts hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. And this is the woeful condition of every son and daughter of Adam; naked he finds us, and slaves he makes us, till God by his effectual call delivers us from the power of Satan into the kingdom of his dear Son, which will further appear, if we consider this Christless state in a fourfold notion.

 

First. It is a state of alienation from God: 'Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise,' &c. Eph 2:12. Such an one hath no more to do with any covenant-promise, than he that lives at Rome hath to do with the charter of London, which is the birthright of its own denizens, not of strangers. He is without God in the world; he can claim no more protection from God, than an out-lawed subject from his prince. If any mischief befalls him, the mends is in his own hands; whereas God hath his hedge of special protection about his saints, and the devil, though his spite be most at them, dares not come upon God's ground to touch any of them, without particular leave. Now what a deplored condition is that wherein a soul is left to the wide world, in the midst of legions of lusts and devils, to be rent and torn like a silly hare among a pack of hounds, and no God to call them off! Let God leave a people, though never so warlike, presently they lose their wits, cannot find their hands. A company of children or wounded men may rise up, and chase them out of their fenced cities, because God is not with them; which made Caleb and Joshua pacify the mutinous Israelites at the tidings of giants and walled cities with this, 'They are bread for us, their defence is departed from them.' How much more must that soul be as bread to Satan, that hath no defence from the Almighty? Take men of the greatest parts, natural or acquired accomplishments, who only want an union with Christ, and renewing grace from Christ. O what fools doth the devil make of them, leading them at his pleasure, some to one lust, some to another! The proudest of them all is slave to one or other, though it be to the ruining of body and soul for ever. Where lies the mystery, that men of such parts and wisdom should debase themselves to such drudgery work of hell? Even here. They are in a state of alienation from God, and no more able of themselves to break the devil's prison, than a slave to run from his chain.

 

Second. The Christless state is a state of ignorance, and such must needs be naked and unarmed. He that cannot see his enemy, how can he ward off the blow he sends? One seeing prophet leads a whole army of blind men whither he pleaseth. The imperfect knowledge saints have here, is Satan's advantage against them. He often takes them on the blind side. How easily then may he with a parcel of good words carry the blind soul out of his way, who knows not a step of the right! Now that the Christless state is a state of ignorance, see Eph 5:8: 'For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.' Ye were darkness, not in the dark, so one that hath an eye may be. A child of light is often in the dark concerning some truth or promise, but then hath a spiritual eye, which the Christless person wants, and so is darkness. And this darkness cannot be enlightened, but by its union with Christ, which is expressed in the following phrase: 'But now are ye light in the Lord.' As the eye of the body once put out, can never be restored by the creature's art, so neither can the spiritual eye-lost by Adam's sin-be restored by the teaching of men or angels. It is one of the diseases Christ came to cure, Lu 4:18. It is true, there is a light of reason, which is imparted to every man by nature, but this light is darkness compared with the saints', as the night is dark to the day, even when the moon is in its full glory. This night-light of reason may save a person from some ditch or pond-great and broad sins-but it will never help him to escape the more secret corruptions, which the saint sees like atoms in the beams of spiritual knowledge. There is such curious work the creature is to do, which cannot be wrought by candle-light of natural knowledge. Nay more, where the common illumination of the Spirit is superadded to this light of nature, yet there is darkness compared with the sanctifying knowledge of a renewed soul, which doth both discover spiritual truths, and warm the heart at the same time with the love of truth, having like the sun a prolific and quickening virtue, which the other wants; so that the heart lies under such common illuminations, cold and dead. He hath no more strength to resist Satan, than if he knew not the command; whereas the Christian's knowledge, even when taken prisoner by a temptation, pursues and brings back the soul, as Abraham his nephew, out of the enemies' hands. This hints the third notion,

 

Third. The Christless state is a state of impotency: 'For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,' Ro 5:6. What can a disarmed people that have not sword or gun do to shake off the yoke of a conquering enemy? Such a power hath Satan over the soul as that, Lu 11:21, he is called the strong man that keeps the soul as his palace. If he hath no disturbance from heaven, he need fear no mutiny within; he keeps all in peace there. What the Spirit of God doth in a saint, that in a manner doth Satan in a sinner. The Spirit fills his heart with love, joy, holy desires, fears; so Satan fills the sinner's heart with pride, lust, lying. 'Why hath Satan filled thy heart?' saith Peter. And thus filled with Satan (as the drunkard with wine), he is not his own man, but Satan's slave.

 

Fourth. The state of unregeneracy is a state friendship with sin and Satan. If it be enmity against God, as it is, then friendship with Satan. Now it will be hard to make that soul fight in earnest against his friend. Is Satan divided? Will the devil within fight against the devil without?-Satan in the heart shut out Satan at the door? Sometimes indeed there appears a scuffle between Satan and a carnal heart, but it is a mere cheat, like the fighting of two fencers on a stage. You would think at first they were in earnest, but observing how wary they are, and where they hit one another, you may soon know they do not mean to kill; and that which puts all out of doubt, when the prize is done you shall see them making merry together with what they have got of their spectators, which was all they fought for. When a carnal heart makes the greatest bustle against sin by complaining of it, or praying against it, follow him but off the stage of duty, where he hath gained the reputation of a saint-the prize he fights for-and you shall see them sit as friendly together in a corner as ever.

 

Use and Application.

 

Use First. This takes away the wonder of Satan's great conquests in the world. When you look abroad and see his vast empire, and what a little spot of ground contains Christ's subjects, what heaps of precious souls lie prostrate under this foot of pride, and what a little regiment of saints march under Christ's banner, perhaps the strangeness of the thing may make you ask, I shell stronger than heaven? -the arms of Satan more victorious than the cross of Christ? No such matters. Consider but this one thing, and you will wonder that Christ hath any to follow him, rather than that he hath so few. Satan finds the world unarmed; when the prince of the world comes, he finds nothing to oppose; the whole soul is in a disposition to yield at first summons. And if conscience, governor for God in the creature, stands out a while, all the other powers, as will and affections, are in a discontent, like mutinous soldiers in a garrison, who never rest till they have brought over conscience to yield, or against its command set open the city gate to the enemy, and so deliver traitorously their conscience prisoner to their lusts. But when Christ comes to demand the soul, he meets a scornful answer. 'Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of the Most High. We will not have this man to reign over us.' With one consent they vote against him, and rise up as the Philistines against Samson, whom they called the destroyer of the country. 'Ye will not come unto me,' saith Christ. O how true are poor sinners to the devil's trust! They will not deliver the castle they hold for Satan till fired over their heads. Pharaoh opposeth Moses on one hand, and Israel cry out upon him on the other. Such measure hath Christ both at Satan's hand and the sinner's. That which lessened Alexander's conquests was, that he overcame a people buried in barbarism, without arms and discipline of war; and that which heightened Caesar's, though not so many, he overcame a people more warlike and furnished. Satan's victories are of poor ignorant graceless souls, who have neither arms, nor hands, nor hearts to oppose. But when he assaults a saint, then he sits down before a city with gates and bars, and ever riseth with shame, unable to take the weakest hold, to pluck the weakest saint out of Christ's hands; but Christ brings souls out of his dominion with a high hand, in spite of all the force and fury of hell, which like Pharaoh and his host pursue them.

 

Use Second. This gives a reason why the devil hath so great a spite against the gospel. Why? Because this opens a magazine of arms and furniture for the soul. The word is that tower of David, 'Builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men,' Song 4:4. Hence the saints have ever had their armour, and the preaching of the gospel unlocks it. As gospel-light ascends, so Satan's shady kingdom of darkness vanisheth, Re 14:6; there one angel comes forth to preach the everlasting gospel, and another angel follows at his back, ver. 8, crying Victory, 'Babylon is fallen, is fallen.' The very first charge the gospel gave to the kingdom of darkness, shook the foundations thereof, and put the legions of hell to the run. The seventy whom Christ sent out, bring this speedy account of their ambassage, 'Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name;' and Christ answers, 'I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.' As if he had said, It is no news you tell me, I beheld Satan falling when I sent you: I knew the gospel would make work where it came: and therefore no wonder Satan labors to dispossess the gospel, which dispossesseth him; he knows that army is near lost, whose magazine is blown up. It is true indeed, under the very gospel the devil rageth more in such swinish sinners, as are given over of God to be possessed of that fiend, for rejecting of his grace; but he is cast out of others, who 'before the loving-kindness of God to man appeared in the gospel,' were commanded by him, 'serving divers lusts and pleasures;' but now by the light of the gospel they see their folly, and by the grace it brings are enabled to renounce him. This, this is that which torments the foul spirit, to see himself forsaken of his old friends and servants, and this new Lord to come and take his subjects from him: and therefore he labours either by persecution to drive the gospel away, or by policy to persuade a people to send it away from their coasts. And was he ever more likely to effect it among us? What a low esteem hath he brought the preaching of the gospel unto? the price is fallen half and half to what it was some years past, even among those that have been counted the greatest merchants upon the saints' exchange. Some that have thought it worth crossing the seas, even to the Indies-almost as far as others fetch their gold-to enjoy the gospel, are loathe now to cross the street to hear it, at so cheap a rate; and some that come, who formerly trembled at it, make it most of their errand to mock at, or quarrel wit it. Nay, it is come to such a pass, that the Word is so heavy a charge to the squeamish stomachs of many professors, that it comes up again presently, and abundance of choler with it, against the preacher, especially if it fall foul of the sins and errors of the times, the very naming of which is enough to offend, though the nation be sinking under their weight. What reproaches are the faithful ministers of the gospel laden withal! I call heaven and earth to witness, whether ever they suffered a hotter persecution of the tongue, than in this apostatizing age. A new generation of professors are started up, that will not know them to be the ministers of Christ, though those before them (as well in grace as time, and more able to derive their spiritual pedigree than themselves), have to their death owned them for their spiritual fathers. And must not the ark needs shake, when they that carry it are thus struck at, both in their person and office? What are these men doing? Alas, they know not. 'Father, forgive them.' They are cutting off their right hand with their left; they are making themselves and the nation naked, by despising the gospel, and those that bring it.

 

Use Third. Consider your deplored estate, you who are wholly naked and unarmed. Can you pity the beggar at your door (when you see such in a winter day, shivering with naked backs, exposed to the fury of the cold), and not pity your own far more dismal soul-nakedness, by which thou liest open to heaven's wrath and hell's malice? Shall their nakedness cover them with shame, fill them with fear of perishing, which makes them with pitiful moans knock and cry for relief, as it is reported of Russia, where their poor, through extreme necessity, have this desperate manner of begging in their streets: 'Give me and cut me, give me and kill me.' And canst thou let Satan come and cut thy throat in thy bed of sloth, rather than accept of clothes to cover, yea, armour to defend thee?-I mean Christ and his grace, which in the gospel is tendered to you. Do not lightly believe your own flattering hearts, if they shall tell you, You are provided of these already. I am afraid many a gaudy professor will be found as naked in regard of Christ, and truth of grace, as drunkards and swearers themselves. Such there are, who content themselves with a Christ in profession, in gifts, and in duties, but seek not a Christ in solid grace, and so perish. Those indeed are an ornament to the Christian, as the scarf and feather to the soldier, but these quench not the bullet in battle; it is Christ and his grace that doth that. Therefore labour to be sound rather than brave Christians. Grace embellished with gifts, is more beautiful, but these without grace are only the richer spoil for Satan.

 

BRANCH SECOND.

 

The kind or quality of armour needful

 

-Armour of God.]

 

The subject of this branch is the quality or kind of that armour, the Christian is here directed to provide. It is not any trash will serve the turn; better none than not armour of proof, and none is such 'but the armour of God.' In a twofold respect it must be of God. First, In institution and appointment. Second, In constitution.

 

The armour we use against Satan

 

must be divine in the institution,

 

and only as God appoints.]

 

Observe First. The Christian's armour which he wears must be of divine institution and appointment. The soldier comes into the field with no arms but what his general commands. It is not left to every one's fancy to bring what weapons he please; this will breed confusion. The Christian soldier is bound up to God's order; though the army be on earth, yet the council of war sits in heaven; this duty ye shall do; these means ye shall use. And those who do more, or use other, than God commands, though with some seeming success against sin, shall surely be called to account for this boldness. The discipline of war among men is strict in this case. Some have suffered death by a council of war even when they have beaten the enemy, because out of their place, or beside their order. God is very precise in this point; he will say to such as invent ways to worship him of their own, coin means to mortify corruption, obtain comfort in their own mint: 'Who hath required this at your hands?' This is truly to be 'righteous over-much,' as Solomon speaks, when he will pretend to correct God's law, and add supplements of our own to his rule. Who will pay that man his wages that is not set on work by God? God tells Israel the false prophets shall do them no good, because they come not of his errand, Jer 23:32; so neither will those ways and means help, which are not of God's appointing. God's thoughts are not as man's, nor his ways as ours, which he useth to attain his ends by. If man had been to set forth the Israelitish army, now to march out of Egypt, surely this wisdom would have directed rather to have plundered the Egyptians of their horses and arms, as more necessary for such an expedition, than to borrow their jewels and ear-rings. But God will have them come out naked and on foot, and Moses keeps close to his order; yea, when any horses were taken in battle, because God commanded that they should be houghed, they obeyed, though to their seeming disadvantage. It was God's war they waged, and therefore but reasonable they should be under his command. They encamped and marched by his order, as the ark moved or rested. They fight by his command. The number is appointed by him-the means and weapons they should use-all are prescribed by God, as in the assault of Jericho. And what is the gospel of all this-for surely God hath an eye in that our marching to heaven, and our fighting with these cursed spirits and lusts that stand in our way-but that we should fight lawfully, using those means which we have from his mouth in his Word? This reproveth two sorts:

 

Reproveth First, Those that fight Satan in armour that hath no divine institution.

 

1. The Papist. Look into his armour, and hardly a piece will be found armour of God. They fight in the pope's armour. His authority is the shop wherein their weapons are forged. It were a kind of penance to your patience, to repeat all the several pieces of armour with which they load silly souls -too heavy indeed for the broadest shoulders among them to bear-yea, more than the wiser sort of them mean to use. Their masses, matins, vigils, pilgrimages, Lent-fasts, whippings, vows of chastity, poverty, with a world of such trash!-where is a word of God for these? Who hath required these things at their hands? A thousand woes will one day fall upon those impostors, who have stripped the people of their true armour of God, and put these reeds and bulrushes in their hands. This may justify us in the sight of God and men for our departure from them who will force us to venture the life of our souls in such paper-armour, when God hath provided better.

 

2. The Carnal Protestant, who fights in fleshly armour, 2Co 10:3. The apostle speaks there of 'warring after the flesh,' that is, with weapons or means which man's carnal wisdom prompts to, and not God's commands, and which so are weak. How few are clad with other in the day of battle!

 

(1.) When Satan tempts to sin, if he hath not presently a peaceable entrance, yet the resistance commonly made is carnal; the strength carnal they rest on, their own, not God's; the motive's carnal, as the fear of man more than of God; as to which one saith, 'How shall I do this and sin against God?' Many in their hearts say, How shall I do this and anger man, displease my master, provoke my parents, and lose the good opinion of my minister? Herod feared John, and did many things. Had he feared God, he would have labored to have done everything. The like may be said of all other motives, which have their spring in the creature, not in God; they are armour which will not out-stand shot. If thy strength lie in a creature-lock, it may be soon cut off; if in God it will hold, as his command: It is written. I cannot do it, but I must set my foot on the law of my Maker, or on the love of Christ. I cannot come at my lust, but I must go over my bleeding Savior, and therefore away, foul tempter, I hate thee and thy motion. This foundation is rock, and will stand; but if it be some carnal respect that balanceth thee, another more weighty may be found of the same kind, which will cast the scales another way. She that likes not the man because of his dress only, may soon be gained when he comes in another habit. Satan can change his suit, and then thy mouth will be stopped when thy carnal argument is taken off.

 

(2.) When the Word or conscience rebukes for sin, what is the armour that men commonly cover their guilty souls withal? Truly no other than carnal. If they cannot evade the charge that these bring, then they labor to mitigate it, by extenuating the fact. It is true, they will say, I did (I confess) commit such a fault, but I was drawn in. 'The woman gave me, and I did eat,' was Adam's fig-leaf armour. It is but once or twice, and I hope that breaks no such squares. Was this such a great business? I know jolly Christians will do as much as this comes to. I thank God, I cannot be charged with whore or thief. This is the armour that must keep off the blow. But if conscience will not be thus taken off, then they labor to divert their thoughts, by striking up the loud music of carnal delights, that the noise of one may drown the other; or with Cain, they will go from the presence of the Lord, and come no more at those ordinances which make their head ache, and hinder the rest of their raving consciences. If yet the ghost haunts them, then they labor to pacify it with some good work or other, which they set against their bad; their alms and charity in their old age, must expiate the oppression and violence of their former days; as if this little frankincense were enough to air and take away the plague of God's curse, which is in their ill-gotten goods. Thus poor creatures catch at any sorry covering, which will not so much as hide their shame, much less choke the bullet of God's wrath, when God shall fire upon them. There must be armour of God's appointing. Adam was naked for all his fig-leaves, while God taught him to make 'coats of skins,' Ge 3:21, covertly (as some think) shadowing out Christ the true Lamb of God, whose righteousness alone was appointed by him to cover our shame, and arm our naked souls from the sight and stroke of his justice.

 

Reproveth Second. Those who use the armor of God, but not as God hath appointed; which appears in three sorts.

 

1. When a person useth a duty appointed by God, not as armor of defence, but as a cover for sin. Who would think him an enemy that wears Christ's colors in his hat, and marcheth after Christ in his exercise of all the duties of his worship? Such a one may pass all the courts of guard, without so much as being bid to stand. All take him for a friend. And yet some such there are, who are fighting against Christ all the while. The hypocrite is the man; he learns his postures, gets the Word, hath his tongue tipped with Scripture language, and walks in the habit of a Christian, merely on a design to drive his trade the more closely, like some highwayman in our days, who rob in the habit of soldiers, that they may be the less suspected. This is desperate wickedness indeed, to take up God's arms and use them in the devil's service; of all sinners such shall find least mercy, false friends shall speed worse than open enemies.

 

2. They use not the armour of God, as God hath appointed, who put a carnal confidence therein. We must not confide in the armour of God, but in the God of this armour, because all our weapons are only 'mighty through God,' 2Co 10:4. The ark was the means of the Jews safety, but being carnally applauded and gloried in, hastened their overthrow: so duties and ordinances, gifts and graces in their place, are means for the soul's defence. Satan trembles as much as the Philistines at the ark, to see a soul diligent in the use of duty and exercise of grace; but when the creature confides in them, this is dangerous. As some, when they have prayed, think they please God for all day, though they take little heed to their steps. Other have so good an opinion of their faith, sincerity, knowledge, that you may as soon make them believe they are dogs, as that they may ever be taken in such error or sinful practice. Others, when assisted in duty, are prone to stroke their own head with a bene fecisti Bernarde, and so promise themselves to speed, because they have done their errand so well. What speak such passages in the hearts of men, but a carnal confidence in their armour to their ruin? Many souls, we may safely say, do not only perish praying, repenting, and believing after a sort, but they perish by their praying and repenting, &c., while they carnally trust in these. As it falls out sometimes, that the soldier in battle loseth his life by means of his own armour, because it is so heavy he cannot flee with it, and so close buckled to him that he cannot get it off, to flee for his life without it. If we be saved, we must come naked to Christ for all our duties; we will not flee to Christ while confiding in them. Some are so locked into them, that they cannot come without them, and so in a day of temptation are trampled under the feet of God's wrath and Satan's fury. The poor publican throws down his arms, that is, all confidence in himself, cries for quarter at the hands of mercy, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' He comes off with his life-he went away justified; but the Pharisee, laden with his righteousness, and conceited of it, stands to it, and is lost.

 

3. They do not use the armour of God as such, who in the performing of divine duties, eye not God through them, and this makes them all weak and ineffectual. Then the Word is mighty, when read as the Word of God; then the gospel preached, powerful to convince the conscience, and revive the drooping spirit, when heard as the appointment of the great God, and not the exercise of a mean creature. Now it will appear in three things, whether we eye divine appointment in the means.

 

(1.) When we engage in a duty, and look not up to God for his blessing. Didst thou eye God's appointment in the means, thou wouldst say, Soul, if there come any good of thy present service it must drop from heaven, for it is God's appointment, not man's. And can I profit whether God will or no, or think to find, and bring away, any soul-enriching treasure from his ordinance, without his leave? Had I not best look up to him, by whose blessing I live more than by my bread?

 

(2.) It appears we look not at God's appointment, when we have low thoughts of the means. What is Jordan that I should wash in it? What is this preaching that I should attend on it, where I hear nothing but I knew before? what these beggarly elements of water, and bread, and wine! Are not these the reasonings of a soul that forgets who appoints them? Didst thou remember who commands, thou wouldst not question what the command is. What though it be clay, let Christ use it and it shall open the eyes, though in itself more like to put them out. Hadst thou thy eye on God, thou wouldst silence thy carnal reason with this, It is God sends me to such a duty; whatsoever he saith unto me I will do it, though he should send me, as Christ to them, to draw wine out of pots filled with water.

 

(3.) When a soul leaves off a duty, because he hath not in it what he expected from it. Oh, saith the soul, I see it is vain to follow the means as I have done; still Satan foils me, I will even give over. Dost thou remember, soul, it is God's appointment? Surely then thou wouldst persevere in the midst of discouragements. He that bids thee pray without ceasing; he that bids thee hear, bids thee wait at the posts of wisdom. Thou wouldst reason thus, God hath set me on duty, and here I will stand, till God takes me off and bids me leave praying.

 

The armour we use against Satan

 

must be divine by constitution.]

 

Observe Second. The Christian's armour must be of God in regard of its make and constitution. My meaning is, it is not only that God must appoint the weapons and arms the Christian useth for his defence: but he must also be the efficient of them, he must work in them and for them. Prayer is an appointment of God, yet this is not armour of proof, except it be a prayer of God flowing from his Spirit, Jude 20. Hope, that is the helmet the saint by command is to wear, but this hope must be God's creature; 'who hath begotten us to a lively hope,' 1Pe 1:3. Faith, that is another principal piece in the Christian's furniture, but it must be faith of God's elect, Tit 1:1. He is to take righteousness and holiness for his breastplate, but it must be true holiness: 'Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,' Eph 4:24. Thus you see that it is not armour as armour, but as armour of God, that makes the soul impregnable. That which is born of God overcometh the world-a faith born of God, a hope born of God. But the spurious adulterous brood of duties and graces, being begot of mortal seed, cannot be immortal.

 

Must the soul's armour be of God's make? Be exhorted then to look narrowly whether the armour ye wear be the workmanship of God or no. There is abundance of false ware put off now-a-days; little good armour worn by the multitude of professors. It is Satan's after-game he plays, if he cannot please the sinner with his naked state of profaneness, to put him off with something like grace, some flighty stuff, that shall neither do him good, nor Satan hurt. Thus many are like children, that cry for a knife or dagger, and are pleased as well with a bone knife and wooden dagger, as with the best of all. So they have some armour, it matters not what. Pray they must, but little care how it be performed. Believe in God? yes, they hope they are not infidels. But what the armour is, how they came by it, or whether it will hold in an evil day, this never was put to the question in their hearts. Thus thousands perish with a vain conceit that they are armed against Satan, death, and judgment, when they are miserable and naked, yea, worse on it their conceit than those who are more naked, those I mean who have not a rag of civility to hide their shame from the world's eye; and that in a double respect,

 

First. It is harder to work on such a soul savingly, because he hath a form, though not the power, and this affords him a plea. A soul purely naked, nothing like the wedding garment on, he is speechless. The drunkard hath nothing to say for himself, when you ask him why he lives so swinishly; you may come up to him, and get within him, and turn the very mouth of his conscience upon him, which will shoot into him. But come to deal with one who prays and hears, one that is a pretender to faith and hope in God; here is a man in glittering armour, he hath his weapon in his hand, with which he will keep the preacher, and the word he chargeth him with, at arm's length. Who can say I am not a saint? What duty do I neglect? Here is a breastwork he lies under, which makes him not so fair a mark either to the observation or reproof of another; his chief defect being within, where man's eye comes not. Again, it is harder to work on him, because he hath been tampered with already, and miscarried in the essay. How comes such a one to be acquainted with such duties-to make such a profession? Was it ever thus? No, the word hath been at work upon him, his conscience hath scared him from his trade of wickedness, into a form of profession, but, taking in short of Christ, for want of a thorough change, it is harder to remove him than the other. He is like a lock whose wards have been troubled; which makes it harder to turn the key than if never pottered with. It is better dealing with a wild ragged colt, never backed, than one that in breaking hath took a wrong stroke; with a bone quite out of joint than false set. In a word, such a one hath more to deny than a profane person. The one hath but his lusts, his whores, his swill, and dross, but the other hath his duties, his seeming graces. O how hard it is to persuade such a one to light, and hold Christ's stirrup, while he and his duties are made Christ's footstool.

 

Second. Such an one is in deepest condemnation. None sink so far into hell as those that come nearest heaven, because they fall from the greatest height. As it aggravates the torments of the damned souls in this respect above devils, because they had a cord of mercy thrown out to them, which devils had not so, by how much God by his Spirit waits on, pleads with, and by both gains on one soul more than others, by so much such a one, if he perish, will find hell the hotter. These add to his sin, and the remembrance of his sin in hell thus accented will add to his torment. None will have such a sad parting from Christ as those who went half-way with him and then left him.

 

Therefore, I beseech you, look to your armour. David would not fight in armour he had not tried, though it was a king's. Perhaps some thought him too nice. What! is not the king's armour good enough for David? Thus many will say, Art thou so curious and precise? Such a great man doth thus and thus, and hopes to come to heaven at last, and darest not thou venture thy soul in this armour? No, Christian, follow not the example of the greatest on earth; it is thy own soul thou venturest in battle, therefore thou canst not be too choice of thy armour. Bring thy heart to the Word, as the only touch-stone of thy grace and furniture; the Word, I told you, is the tower of David, from whence thy armour must be fetched; if thou canst find this tower stamp on it, then it is of God, else, not. Try it therefore by this one scripture-stamp. Those weapons are mighty which God gives his saints to fight his battles withal. 'For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God,' 2Co 10:4. The sword of the Spirit hath its point and edge, whereby it makes its way into the heart and conscience, through the impenitency of the one and stupidity of the other (wherewith Satan, as with buff and coat of mail, arms the sinner against God) and there cuts and slashes, kills and mortifies lust in its own castle, where Satan thinks himself impregnable. The breastplate which is of God, doth not bend and break at every pat of temptation, but is of such a divine temperament, that it repels Satan's motions with scorn on Satan's teeth. Should such an one as I sin, as Nehemiah in another case; and such are all the rest.

 

Now try whether your weapons be mighty or weak; what can you do or suffer more for God than an hypocrite that is clad in fleshly armour? I will tell you what the world saith, and if you be Christians, clear yourselves, and wipe off that dirt which they throw upon your glittering armour. They say, These professors indeed have God more in their talk than we; but when they come down into their shops, relations and worldly employment, then the best of them all is but like one of us. They can throw the tables of God's commandments out of their hands as well as we; can come from a sermon, and be as covetous and gripping, as peevish and passionate, as the worst. They show as little love to Christ as others, when it is matter of cost, as to relieve a poor saint or maintain the gospel; you may get more from a stranger, an enemy, than from a professing brother. O Christians, either vindicate the name of Christ, whose ensign you seem to march after, or throw away your seeming armour, by which you have drawn the eyes of the world upon you. If you will not, Christ himself will cashier you, and that with shame enough ere long. Never call that the armour of God which defends thee not against the power of Satan.

 

Take, therefore, the several pieces of your armour and try them, as the soldier before he fights will set his helmet or head-piece as a mark, at which he lets fly a brace of bullets, and as he finds them so will wear them or leave them. But be sure thou shootest scripture-bullets. Thou boastest of a breastplate of righteousness. Ask thy soul, Didst thou ever in thy life perform a duty to please God, and not to accommodate thyself? Thou hast prayed often against thy sin, a great noise of the pieces have been heard coming from thee by others, as if there were some hot fight between thee and thy corruption, but canst thou indeed show one sin thou hast slain by all thy praying? Joseph was alive, though his coat was brought bloody to Jacob; and so may thy sin be, for all thy mortified look in duty, and outcry thou makest against them. If thou wouldst thus try every piece, thy credulous heart would not so easily be cheated with Satan's false ware.

 

Objection. But is all armour that is of God thus mighty? We read of weak grace, little faith; how can this then be a trial of our armour whether of God or not?

 

Answer. I answer, the weakness of grace is in respect of stronger grace, but the weak grace is strong and mighty in comparison of counterfeit grace. Now, I do not bid thee try the truth of thy grace by such a power as is peculiar to stronger grace, but by that power which will distinguish it from false. True grace, when weakest, is stronger than false when strongest. There is a principle of divine life in it which the other hath not. Now life, as it gives excellency-a flea or a fly by reason of its life, is more excellent than the sun in all his glory-so it give strength. The slow motion of a living man, though so feeble that he cannot go a furlong in a single day, yet coming from life, imports more strength than is in a ship, which though it sails swiftly, hath its motion from without. Thus possibly an hypocrite may exceed the true Christian in the bulk and outside of a duty, yet because his strength is not from life, but from some wind and tide abroad that carries him, and the Christian's is from an inward principle, therefore the Christian's weakness is stronger than the hypocrite in his greatest enlargements. I shall name but two acts of grace whereby the Christian, when weakest, exceeds the hypocrite in all his best array. You will say, then grace is a weak stay indeed, when the Christian is persuaded to commit a sin, a great sin, such a one as possibly a carnal person would not have it said of him for a great matter. So low may the tide of grace fall, yet true grace at such an ebb will appear of greater strength and force than the other.

 

1. This principle of grace will never leave till the soul weeps bitterly with Peter, that it hath offended so good a God. Speak, O ye hypocrites can ye show one tear that ever you shed in earnest for a wrong done to God? Possibly you may weep to see the bed of sorrow which your sins are making for you in hell, but ye never loved God so well as to mourn for the injury ye have done the name of God. It is a good gloss Augustine hath upon Esau's tears Heb 12:16-17. -Flevet quòd perdidit, non quòd vendidit -he wept that he lost the blessing, not that he sold it. Thus we see an excellency of the saint's sorrow above the hypocrite's. The Christian by his sorrow shows himself a conqueror of that sin which even now overcame him; while the hypocrite by his pride shows himself a slave to a worse lust than that he resists. While the Christian commits a sin he hates; whereas the other loves it while he forbears it.

 

2. When true grace is under the foot of a temptation, yet then it will stir up in the heart a vehement desire of revenge. It is like a prisoner in his enemies' hand, who is thinking and plotting how to get out, and what he will do when out, waiting and longing every minute for his delivery, that he again may take up arms. 'O Lord God, remember me,' saith Samson, 'I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. Jg 16:28. Thus prays the gracious soul, that God would but spare him a little, and strengthen him but once before he dies, that he may be avenged on his pride, unbelief, and those sins whereby he hath most dishonoured God. But a false heart is so far from studying revenge, that he rather swells like the sea against the law which banks his lust in, and is angry with God who hath made sin such a leap, that he must hazard his soul if he will have it.

 

BRANCH THIRD.

 

The entireness of our armour.

 

It must be the whole armour of God.]

 

In this branch observe the quantity or entireness of the saints' furniture or armour, 'the whole armour of God.' The Christian's armour must be complete, and that in a threefold respect.

 

First. He must be armed in every part cap-à-pie, soul and body, the powers of the one, and the senses of the other, not any part left naked. A dart may fly in at a little hole, like that which brought a message of death to Ahab, through the joints of his harness, and Satan is such an archer as can shoot at a penny breadth. If all the man be armed, and only the eye left without, Satan can soon shoot his fireballs of lust in at that loophole, which shall set the whole house on flame. Eve looked but on the tree, and a poisonous dart struck her to the heart. If the eye be shut, and the ear be open to corrupt communication, Satan will soon wriggle in at this hole. If all the outward senses of a man be guarded, and the heart not kept with all diligence, he will soon by his own thoughts be betrayed into Satan's hands. Our enemies are on every side, and so must our armour be, 'on the right hand and on the left,' 2Co 6:7. The apostle calls sin µ"D\"<,ÛB,D\FJ"J@<, an enemy that surrounds us, Heb 12:1. If there be any part of the line unguarded or weakly provided, there Satan falls on; as we see the enemy often enter the city at one side, while he is beat back on the other, for want of care to keep the whole line. Satan divides his temptations into several squadrons, one he employs to assault here, another to storm there. We read of fleshly wickedness and spiritual wickedness; while thou repellest Satan tempting thee to fleshly wickedness, he may be entering thy city at the other gate of spiritual wickedness. Perhaps thou hast kept thy integrity in the practical part of thy life; but what armour hast thou to defend thy head, thy judgment? If he surprise thee here, corrupting that with some error, then thou wilt not long hold out in thy practice. He that could not get thee to profane the Sabbath among sensualists and atheists, will under the disguise of such a corrupt principle as Christian liberty prevail. Thus we see what need we have of universal armour, in regard of every part.

 

Second. The Christian must be in complete armour, in regard of the several pieces and weapons, that make up the whole armour of God. Indeed there is a concatenation of graces; they hang together like links in a chain, stones in an arch, members in the body. Prick one vein, and the blood of the whole body may run out at the sluice; neglect one duty, and no other will do us as good.

 

The apostle Peter, in his second epistle, ch. 2Pe 1:5-7, presseth the Christians to a joint endeavour to increase the whole body of grace; indeed, that is health when the whole body thrives. 'Add,' saith he, 'to your faith virtue.' Faith is the file-leading grace. Well, hast thou faith, add virtue. True faith is of a working stirring nature, without good works it is dead or dying. Fides pinguescit operibus-'faith fattens or becomes strong on works,' Luther. It is kept in plight and heart by a holy life, as the flesh which plasters over the frame of man's body, though it receives its heat from the vitals within, yet helps to preserve the very life of those vitals. Thus good works and gracious actions have their life from faith, and yet are necessary helps to preserve the life of faith; thus we see sometimes the child nursing the parents that bare it, and therein he performs but his duty.

 

Thou are fruitful in good works, yet thou art not out of the devil's shoot, except thou addest to thy virtue, knowledge. This is the candle without which faith cannot see to do its work. Art thou going to give an alms? If it be not oculata charitas, if charity hath not this eye of knowledge to direct when, how, what, and to whom thou art to give, thou mayest at once wrong God, the person thou relievest, and thyself. Art thou humbling thyself for thy sin? For want of knowledge in the tenor of the gospel, Satan may play upon thy ignorance, and either persuade thee thou art not humbled enough, when, God knows, thou art almost quackledi with thy tears, and even carried down by the impetuous torrent of thy sorrow into despair, or else showing thee thy blubbered face, may flatter thee into a carnal confidence of thy humiliation.

 

Perhaps thou seest the name of God dishonoured in the place where thou livest, and thy spirit is stirred within thee, as Paul's at Athens; now if knowledge sits not in the saddle to rein and bridle in thy zeal, thou wilt be soon carried over hedge and ditch, till thou fallest into some precipice or other by thy irregular acting. Neither is knowledge enough, except thou beest armed with temperance, which here, I conceive, is that grace, whereby the Christian, as master of his own house, so orders his affections, like servants, to reason and faith, that they do not regularly move, or inordinately lash out into desires of, cares for, or joy in the creature comforts of this life, without which Satan will be too hard for thee. The historian tells us, that in one of the famous battles between the English and French, that which lost the French the day was a shower of English arrows, which did so gall their horse, as put the whole army into disorder, for their horse knowing no ranks, did tread down their own men. The affections are but as the horse to the rider, on which knowledge should be mounted; if Satan's barbed arrows light on them, so that thy desires of the creature prove unruly, and justle with thy desires of Christ, if thy care to keep thy credit or estate put thy care to keep a good conscience to disorder, and thy carnal joy in wife and child trample down or get before thy joy in the Lord, judge on which side victory is like to fall.

 

Well, suppose thou marchest provided thus far in goodly array towards heaven, while thou art swimming in prosperity, must thou not also prepare for foul way and weather-I mean in an afflicted estate? Satan will line the hedges with a thousand temptations, when thou comest into the narrow lanes of adversity, where thou canst not run from this sort of temptation, as in the campaign of prosperity. Possibly, thou that didst escape the snare of an alluring world, mayest be dismounted by the same when it frowns; though temperance kept thee from being drunk with sweet wines of those pleasures, yet for want of patience thou mayest be drunk with the wine of astonishment, which is in affliction's hands; therefore, saith the apostle, 'to temperance, add patience.' Either possess thyself in patience, or else some raving devil of discontent will possess thee. An impatient soul in affliction is a bedlam in chains, yea, too like the devil in his chains, who rageth against God, while he is fettered by him.

 

Well, hast thou patience? -an excellent grace indeed, but not enough. Thou must be a pious man as well as patient. Therefore, saith the apostle, 'to patience, add godliness.' There is an atheistical patience, and there is a godly Christian patience. Satan numbs the conscience of one, and so no wonder he complains not, that feels not; but the Spirit of Christ sweetly calms the other, not by taking away the sense of pain, but by overcoming it with the sense of his love. Now godliness comprehends the whole worship of God, inward and outward. If thou beest never so exact in thy morals, and not a worshipper of God, then thou art an atheist. If thou dost worship God, and that devoutly, but not by Scripture rule, thou art but an idolater. If according to the rule, but not in spirit and truth, then thou art an hypocrite, and so fallest into the devil's mouth. Or if thou dost give God one piece of his worship, and deniest another, still Satan comes to his market. 'He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination,' Pr 28:9.

 

Yet, Christian, all thy armour is not on. Thy godliness indeed would suffice, wert thou to live in a world by thyself, or hadst nothing to do but immediate communion with God. But, Christian, thou must not always dwell on this mount of immediate worship, and since when thou descendest, thou hast many brethren and servants of thy Father, who live with thee in the same family, thou must deport thyself becomingly, or else thy Father will be angry. Thou hast brethren, heirs of the same promise with thee, therefore you must add to godliness 'brotherly-kindness.' If Satan can set you at odds, he gives a deep wound to your godliness. You will hardly join hearts in a duty, that cannot join hands in love. In the family there are not only brethren, but servants, a multitude of profane carnal ones, who though they never had the names of sons and daughters, yet retain to God's family. And thy heavenly Father will have thee walk unblameably, yea winningly, to those that are without, which thou mayest do, thou must add to brotherly-kindness, 'charity;' by which grace thou shalt be willing to do good to the worst of men. When they curse thee, thou must pray for them, yea, pray for no less than a Christ, a heaven, for them. 'Father, forgive them,' said Christ, while they were raking in his side for his heart-blood. And truly, I am persuaded this last piece of armour hath given Satan great advantage in these our times, we are so afraid our charity should be too broad. Whereas in this sense, if it be not wide as the world, it is too strait for the command which bids us 'do good to all.' May not we ministers be charged with the want of this, when the strain of our preaching is solely directed to the saints, and no pains taken in rescuing poor captive souls, yet uncalled, out of the devil's clutches? He may haul them to hell without disturbance, while we are comforting the saints, and preaching their privileges; but in the meantime, let the ignorant be ignorant still, and the profane profane still, for want of a compassionate charity to their souls, which would excite us to the reproving and exhorting of them, that they might also be brought into the way of life, as well as the saints encouraged, who are walking therein. We are stewards to provide bread for the Lord's house. The greatest part of our hearers cannot, must not, have the children's bread, and shall we therefore give them no portion at all? Christ's charity pitied the multitude, to whom in his public preaching he made special application, as in that famous sermon, most part of which is spent in rousing up the sleepy consciences of the hypocritical Pharisees, by those thunderclaps of woes and curses so often denounced against them, Mt 23. Again, how great advantage hath Satan from the want of this charity in our families? Is it not observed how little care is taken by professing governors of such societies for the instructing their youth? Nay, it is a principle which some have drunk in, that it is not their duty. O where is their charity in the meantime, when they can see Satan come within their own walls, and let them drive a child, a servant, in their ignorance and profaneness, to hell, and not so much as sally out upon this enemy by a word of reproof or instruction, to rescue these silly souls out of the murder's hand? We must leave them to their liberty forsooth, and that is as fair play as we can give the devil. Give but corrupt nature enough of this rope, and it will soon strangle the very principles of God and religion in their tender years.

 

Third. The entireness of the saint's armour may be taken not only for every part and piece of the saint's furniture, but for the completeness and perfection of every piece. As the Christian is to endeavour after every grace, so is he to press after the advance and increase of every grace, even to perfection itself. As he is to add to his faith virtue, so he is to add faith to faith-he is ever to be completing of his grace. It is that which is frequently pressed upon believers. 'Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,' Mt 5:48. 'And purify yourselves, as God is pure.' There we have an exact copy set, not as if we could equalize that purity and perfection which is in God, but to make us strive the more, when we shall see how infinitely short we fall of our copy, when we write the fairest hand; so 'Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing,' Jas 1:3-4, or be wanting in nothing. Thou who makest a hard shift to carry a little burden with thy little patience, wouldst sink under a greater, therefore there is need that patience should be ever perfecting, lest at last we meet a burden too heavy for our weak shoulders. Take a few reasons why the Christian should thus be completing of his grace.

 

First. Because grace is subject to decays, and therefore ever needs completing. It is as in an army, especially one which often engagest in battle; their arms are battered and broken, one man hath his helmet bent, another his sword gaped, a third his pistol unfixed, and therefore recruits are ever necessary. In one temptation the Christian hath his helmet of hope beaten off his head, in another his patience hard put to it. The Christian had need have an armourer's shop at hand to make up his loss, and that speedily, for Satan is most like to fall on when the Christian is least prepared to receive the charge. 'Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to sift you;' he knew they were at that time weakly provided-(Christ their captain now to be taken from the head of their troop; discontents among themselves, striving who should be greatest; and their recruits of stronger grace, which the Spirit was to bring, not yet come). Now he hath a design to surprise them; and therefore Christ, carefully to prevent him, promiseth speedily to despatch his Spirit for their supply, Ac 1:4, and in the meantime sends them to Jerusalem, to stand as it were in a body in their joint supplications upon their guard, while he comes to their relief; showing us in the weakness of our grace what to do, and whither to go for supply.

 

Second. Because Satan is completing his skill and wrath. It is not for nought that he is called the old serpent-subtle by nature, but more by experience, wrathful by nature, yet every day more and more enraged; like a bull, the longer he is baited, the more fury he shows. And therefore we who are to grapple with him, now his time is so short, had need come well appointed into the field.

 

Third. It is the end of all God's dispensations, to complete his saints in their graces and comforts. Wherefore doth he lop and prune by afflictions, but to purge, that they may bring forth more fruit, that is, fuller and fairer? Joh 15:2. Tribulation works patience,  Ro 5:3, and accordingly he hath furnished his church with instruments, and those with gifts, 'For the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the body of Christ,' Eph 4:12. Wherefore doth the scaffold stand, and the workman on it, if the building go not up? For us not to advance under such means is to make void the counsel of God. Therefore the apostle blames the Christian Jews for their non-proficiency in the school of Christ: 'When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God,' Heb 5:12.

 

Use and Application.

 

Use. O how few are there endeavour thus to promove in their spiritual state, and labour to perfect what is yet lacking in their knowledge, patience, and the rest.

 

1. Tell some of adding faith to faith, one degree of grace to another, and you shall find they have more mind to join house to house, and lay field to field. Their souls are athirst, ever gaping for more. But of what? not of Christ or of heaven. It is earth. Earth they never think they have enough of, till death comes and stops their mouth with a shovel-full, digged out of their own grave. What a tormenting life must they needs have, who are always crying for more weight, and yet cannot press their covetous desires to death? O sirs, the only way-if men would believe it-to quench this thirst to the creature, were to enkindle another after Christ and heaven. Get but a large heart vehemently thirsting after these, and the other will die alone, as the feverish thirst doth when nature comes to her temper.

 

2. Others labour not thus to perfect grace, because they have a conceit they are perfect already, and upon this fancy throw away praying, hearing, and all other ordinances, as strings for those babes in grace to be carried by, who are not arrived to their high attainments. O what fools does pride make men! Truly heaven were no such desirable place, if we should be no more perfect than thus-a sort of people that are too high for this world, and too low for another. The way by which God cures this frenzy of pride, we have in these days seen to be something like that of Nebuchadnezzar; to give them the heart of a beast, I mean, for a time, to suffer them to fall into beastly practices, by which he shows them how far they are from that perfection they dreamed of so vainly.

 

3. Others who have true grace, and desire the advancement of it, yet are discouraged in their endeavour for more, from too deep a sense of their present penury. Bid some such labour to get more power over corruption, more faith on, and love to God, that they may be able to do the will of God cheerfully, and suffer it in the greatest afflictions patiently, yea, thankfully, and they will never believe, that they whose faith is so weak, love so chill, and stock so little in hand, should ever attain to anything like such a pitch. You may as well persuade a beggar with one poor penny in his purse, that if he shall go and trade with that, he shall come to be lord-Mayor of London before he die. But why, poor hearts, should you thus despise the day of small things? Do you not see a little grain of mustard-seed spread into a tree, and weak grace compared to it, for its growth at last as well as littleness at first? Darest thou say thou hast no grace at all? If thou hast but any, though the least that ever any had to begin with, I dare tell thee, that he hath done more for thee in that, than he should in making that which is now so weak, as perfect as the saint's grace is now in heaven. (1.) He hath done more, considering it as an act of power. There is a greater gulf between no grace and grace, than between weak grace and strong, between a chaos and nothing, than between a chaos and this beautiful frame of heaven and earth. The first day's work of both creations is the greatest. (2.) Consider it as an act of grace. It is greater mercy to give the first grace of conversion, than to crown that with glory. It is more grace and condescension in a prince to marry a poor damsel, than having married her, to clothe her like a princess; he was free to do the first or not, but his relation to her pleads strongly for the other. God might have chosen whether he would have given thee grace or no, but having done this, thy relation to him, and his covenant also, do oblige him to add more and more, till he hath fitted thee as a bride for himself in glory.

 

BRANCH FOURTH.

 

The use of our spiritual armour

 

-put on the whole armour of God.]

 

The fourth and last branch in the saints' furniture is, the use they are to make thereofii, 'put on the whole armour of God.' Briefly, what is this duty, put on? These being saints, many of them at least, whom he writes to, it is not only putting on by conversation, what some of them might not yet have, but also, he means they should exercise what they have. It is one thing to have armour in the house, and another thing to have it buckled on; to have grace in the principle, and grace in the act. So that our instruction will be,

 

Our armour or grace must be

 

kept in exercise.]

 

Doctrine. It is not enough to have grace, but this grace must be kept in exercise. The Christian's armour is made to be worn; no laying down, or putting off our armour, till we have done our warfare, and finished our course. Our armour and our garment of flesh go off together; then, indeed, will be no need of watch and ward; shield or helmet. Those military duties and field-graces-as I may call faith, hope, and the rest-shall be honourably discharged. In heaven we shall appear, not in armour, but in robes of glory. But here these are to be worn night and day; we must walk, work, and sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ. This Paul professeth to endeavour. 'Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men,' Ac 24:16. Here we have this holy man at his arms, training and exercising himself in his postures, like some soldier by himself handling his pike, and inuring himself before the battle. Now the reason of this is,

 

First. Christ commands us to have our armour on, our grace in exercise. 'Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning,' Lu 12:35. Christ speaks either in a martial phrase, as to soldiers, or in a domestic, as to servants. If as to soldiers, then let your loins be girded and your lights burning, that is, we should be ready for a march, having our armour on-for the belt goes over all-and our match lighted, ready to give fire at the first alarm of temptation. If as to servants, which seems more natural, then he bids us, as our master that is gone abroad, not through sloth or sleep to put off our clothes, and put out our lights; but to stand ready to open when he shall come, though at midnight. It is not fit the Master should stand at the door knocking, and the servant within sleeping. Indeed there is no duty the Christian hath in charge, but implies this daily exercise: 'pray' he must-but how?-'without ceasing;' 'rejoice'-but when?-'evermore;' 'give thanks' -for what? 'in everything,' 1Th 5:16-18. The shield of faith, and helmet of hope, we must hold them to the end, 1Pe 1:13. The sum of all which is, that we should walk in the constant exercise of these duties and graces. Where the soldier is placed, there he stands, and must neither stir nor sleep till he be brought off. When Christ comes, that soul shall only have his blessing whom he finds so doing.

 

Second. Satan's advantage is great when grace is not in exercise. When the devil found Christ so ready to receive his charge, and repel his temptation, he soon had enough. It is sad 'he departed for a season,' Lu 4:13; as if in his shameful retreat he had comforted himself with hopes of surprising Christ unawares, at another season more advantageous to his design; and we find him coming again, in the most likely time indeed to have attained his end, had his enemy been man, and not God. Now if this bold fiend did thus watch and observe Christ from time to time, doth it not behove thee to look about thee, lest he take thy grace at one time or other napping? what he hath missed now by thy watchfulness, he may gain anon by thy negligence. Indeed he hopes thou wilt be tired out with continual duty. Surely, saith Satan, when he sees the Christian up and fervent in duty, this will not hold long. When he finds him tender of conscience, and scrupulous of occasion to sin, he saith, This is but for a while, ere long I shall have him unbend his bow, and unbuckle his armour, and then have at him. Satan knows what orders thou keepest in thy house and closet, and though he hath not a key to thy heart, yet he can stand in the next room to it, and lightly hear what is whispered there. He hunts the Christian by the scent of his own feet, and if once he doth but smell which way thy heart inclines, he knows how to take the hint; if but one door be unbolted, one work unmanned, one grace off its cárriage, here is advantage enough.

 

Third. Because it is so awkyiii a business, and hard a work, to recover the activity once lost, and to revive a duty in disuse. 'I have put off my coat,' saith the spouse, Song 5:3. She had given way to a lazy distemper, was laid upon her bed of sloth, and how hard is it to raise her! Her Beloved is at the door, beseeching her by all the names of love which might bring her to remembrance the near relation between them; he crieth, 'My sister, my love, my dove, open to me,' and yet she riseth not. He tells her 'his locks are filled with the drops of the night,' yet she stirs not. What is the matter? Her coat was off, and she is loath to put it on. She had given way to her sloth, and now she knows not how to shake it off; she could have been glad to have her Beloved's company, if himself would have opened the door; and he desired as much hers, if she would rise to let him in, and upon these terms they part. The longer a soul hath neglected a duty, the more ado there is to get it taken up; partly, through shame, the soul having played the truant, now knows not how to look God in the face; and partly, from the difficulty of the work, being double to what another finds that walks in the exercise of his grace. Here is all out of order. It requires more time and pains for him to tune his instrument, than for another to play the lesson. He goes to duty as to a new work, as a scholar that hath not looked on his book some while; his lesson is almost out of his head, whereas another that was even now but conning it over, hath itiv at his finger ends. Perhaps it is an affliction thou art called to bear, and thy patience is unexercised. Little or no thoughts thou hast had for such a time-while thou wert frisking in a full pasture-and now thou kickest and flingest, even as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, Jer 31:18; whereas another goes meekly and patiently under the like cross, because he had been stirring up his patience, and fitting the yoke to his neck. You know what a confusion there is in a town at some sudden alarm in the dead of the night, the enemy at the gates, and they asleep within. O what a cry is there heard! One wants his clothes, another his sword, a third knows not what to do for powder. Thus in a fright they run up and down, which would not be if the enemy did find them upon their guard, orderly waiting for his approach. Such a hubbub there is in a soul that keeps not his armour on; this piece and that will be to seek when he should use it.

 

Fourth. We must keep grace in exercise in respect of others our fellow-soldiers. Paul had this in his eye when he was exercising himself to keep a good conscience, that he might not be a scandal to others. The cowardice of one may make others run. The ignorance of one soldier that hath not skill to handle his arms, may do mischief to his fellow-soldiers about him. Some have shot their friends for their enemies. The unwise walking of one professor makes many others fare the worse. But say thou dost not fall so far as to become a scandal, yet thou canst not be so helpful to thy fellow-brethren as thou shouldst. God commanded the Reubenites and Gadites to go before their brethren ready armed, until the land was conquered. Thus, Christian, thou art to be helpful to thy fellow-brethren, who have not, it may be, that settlement of peace in their spirit as thyself, not that measure of grace or comfort. Thou art to help such weak ones, and go before them, as it were, armed for their defence; now if thy grace be not exercised, thou art so far unserviceable to thy weak brother. Perhaps thou art a master, or a parent, who hast a family under thy wing. They fare as thou thrivest; if thy heart be in a holy frame, they fare the better in the duties thou performest; if thy heart be dead and down, they are losers by the hand. So that as the nurse eats the more for the babe's sake she suckles, so shouldst thou for their sake who are under thy tuition, be more careful to exercise thy own grace, and cherish it.

 

Objection. O but, may some say, this is hard work indeed, our armour never off, our grace always in exercise. Did God ever mean religion should be such a toilsome business as this world make it?

 

Answer First. Thou speakest like one of the foolish world, and showest thyself a mere stranger to the Christian's life that speakest thus. A burden to exercise grace! Why, it is no burden to exercise the acts of nature, to eat, to drink, to walk, all are delightful to us in our right temper. But if any of these be otherwise, nature is oppressed, as, if stuffed, then it is difficult to breathe; if sick, then the meat is offensive we eat. So take a saint in his right temper, and it is his joy to be employed in the exercise of his grace in this or that duty: 'I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord,' Ps 122:1. His heart leaped at the motion. When any occasion diverts him from communion with God, though he likes it never so well, yet it is unwelcome and unpleasing to him. As for you, who are used to be in your shops from morning to night, how tedious is it to be abroad some days, though among good friends, because you are not where your work and calling lies! A Christian in duty is one in his calling-as it were in his shop, where he should be, and therefore far from being tedious. Religion is so burdensome to none, as to those who are infrequent in the exercise of it. Use makes heavy things light. We hardly feel the weight of our clothes, because fitted to us, and worn daily by us, whereas the same weight on our shoulder troubles us. Thus the grievousness of religious duties to carnal ones, is taken away in the saints, partly by the fitness of them to the saints' principles, as also by their daily exercise in them. The disciples, when newly entered into the ways of Christ, could not pray much or fast long; the bottles were new, and that wine too strong, but by the time they had walked a few years, they grew mighty in both. Dost thou complain that the heaven-way is rugged? Be the oftener walking in it, and that will make it smooth.

 

Answer Second. Were this constant exercise of grace more troublesome to the flesh, which is the only complainer, the sweet advantage that accrues by this to the Christian, will abundantly recompense all his labour and pains.

 

1. The exercise of thy grace will increase thy grace. 'The hand of the diligent maketh rich.' The provident man counts that lost which might have been got; not only when his money is stole out of his chest, but when it lies there unimproved. Such a commodity, saith the tradesman, if I had bought with that money in my bags, would have brought me in so much gain, which is now lost. So the Christian may say, My dawning knowledge, had I followed on to know the Lord, might have spread to broad day. 'I have more understanding,' saith David, 'than all my teachers.' How came he by it? He will tell you in the next words-'for thy testimonies are my meditation,' Ps 119:99. He was more in the exercise of duty and grace. The best wits are not always the greatest scholars, because their study is not suitable to their parts; neither always proves he the richest man that sets up with the greatest stock. A little grace well husbanded by daily exercise will increase, when greater grace neglected shall decay.

 

2. As exercise increaseth, so it evidenceth grace. Would a man know whether he be lame or no, let him rise; he will sooner be satisfied by one turn in a room, than by a long dispute, and he sitting still. Wouldst thou know whether thou lovest God? Be frequent in exhorting acts of love; the more the fire is blown up, the sooner it is seen, and so of all other graces. Sometimes the soul is questioning whether it hath any patience, any faith, till God comes and puts him into an afflicted estate, where he must either exercise this grace or perish. Then it the soul appears like one that thinks he cannot swim, yet being thrown into the river, then uniting all his strength, he makes a shift to swim to land, and sees what he can do. How oft have we heard Christians say, I thought I could never have endured such a pain, trusted God in such a strait? But now God hath taught me what he can do for me, what he hath wrought in me. And this thou mightest have known before, if thou wouldst have oftener stirred up and exercised thy grace.

 

3. Exercise of grace doth invite God to communicate himself to such a soul. God sets the Christian at work, and then meets him in it. Up and doing, and the Lord be with you. He sets a soul reading as the eunuch, and then joins to his chariot a praying, and then comes the messenger from heaven-'O Daniel, greatly beloved.' The spouse, who lost her beloved on her bed, finds him as she comes from the sermon. 'It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth,' Song 3:4.

 

Use and Application.

 

Use First. This falls heavy on their heads, who are so far from exercising grace, that they walk in the exercise of their lusts. Their hearts are like a glass house, the fire is never out, the shop-windows never shut, they are always at work, hammering some wicked project or other upon the anvil of their hearts. There are some who give full scope to their lusts; when their wicked hearts will, they shall have; they cockerv their lusts as some their children, and deny them nothing; as it is recorded of David to Adonijah, they do not so much as say to their souls, Why doest thou so? why art thou so proud, so covetous, profane? They spend their days in making provision for these guests; as at some inns, the house never cools, but as one guest goes out another comes in-as one lust is served, another is calling for attendance; as some exercise grace more than others, so there are greater traders in sin, that set more at work than others, and return more wrath in a day than others in a month. Happy are such, in comparison of these, who are chained up by God's restraint upon their outward man or inward, that they cannot drive on so furiously as those who, by health of body, power and greatness in place, riches and treasures in their coffers, numbness and dedolencyvi in their consciences, are hurried on to fill up the measure of their sins. We read of the Assyrian, that he 'enlarged his heart as hell,' stretching out his desires as men do their bags that are thrackedvii full with money to hold more, Hab 2:5. Thus the adulterer, as if his body were not quick enough to execute the commands of his lust, stirs it up by sending forth his amorous glances, which come home laden with adultery, blows up his fire with unchaste sonnets and belly-cheer, proper fuel for the devil's kitchen; and the malicious man, who that he may lose no time from his lust, is a tearing his neighbour in pieces as he lies on his bed, and cannot sleep unless some such bloody sacrifice be offered to his ravening lust. O how may this shame the saints! How oft is your zeal so hot that you cannot sleep till your hearts have been in heaven, as you are on your beds, and there pacified with the sight of your dear Saviour, and some embraces of love from him!

 

Use Second. It reproves those who flout and mock at the saints, while exercising their graces. None jeered as the saint in his calling. Men may work in their shops, and every one follows his calling as diligently as they please; and no wonder made of this by those that pass by in the streets; but let the Christian be seen at work for God, in the exercise of any duty or grace, and he is hooted at, despised, yea, hated. Few so bad indeed, but seem to like religion in the notion; they commend a sermon of holiness like a discourse of God or Christ in the pulpit, but when these are really set before their eyes, as they sparkle in a saint's conversation, they are very contemptible and hateful to them. This living and walking holiness bites, and though they like the preacher's art in painting forth the same in his discourse, yet now they run from them, and spit at them. This exercise of grace offends the profane heart, and stirs up the enmity that lies within; as Michal, she could not but flout David to see him dancing before the ark. He that commended the preacher for making a learned discourse of zeal, will rail on a saint expressing an act of zeal in his place and calling; now grace comes too near him. A naughty heart must stand some distance from holiness, that the beams thereof may not beat too strongly on his conscience, and so he likes it. Thus the Pharisees the prophets of old; these were holy men in their account, and they can lavish out their money on their tombs, in honour of them; but Christ, who was more worth than all of them, he is scorned and hated. What is the mystery of this? The reason was, these prophets are off the stage, and Christ on. Pascitur in vivis livor, post fata quiescit-envy feeds on the living, but after death it ceases.

 

Use Third. Try by this whether you have grace or no. Dost thou walk in the exercise of thy grace? He that hath clothes, surely will wear them, and not be seen naked. Men talk of their faith, repentance, love to God; these are precious graces, but why do they not let us see these walking abroad in their daily conversation? Surely if such guests were in thy soul, they would look out sometimes at the window, and be seen abroad in this duty and that holy action. Grace is of a stirring nature, and not such a dead thing, like an image, which you may lock up in a chest, and none shall know what God you worship. No, grace will show itself; it will walk with you into all places and companies; it will buy with you, and sell for you; it will have a hand in all your enterprises; it will comfort you when you are sincere and faithful for God, and it will complain and chide you when you are otherwise. Go to, stop its mouth, and Heaven will hear its voice, it will groan, mourn and strive, even as a living man when you would smother him. I will as soon believe a man to be alive, that lies peaceably as he is nailed up in his coffin, without strife or bustle, as that thou hast grace, and never exercise it in any act of spiritual life. What! man, hast thou grace, and carried as peaceably as a fool to the stocks by thy lust? Why hangest thou there nailed to thy lust? If thou hast grace, come down and we will believe it; but if thou beest such a tame slave as to sit still inder the command of lust, thou deceivest thyself. Hast thou grace, and show none of it in the condition thou art placed in? May be thou art rich; dost thou show thy humility towards those that are beneath thee? dost thou show a heavenly mind, breathing after heaven more than earth? It may be thy heart is puffed with thy estate, that thou lookest on the pooras creatures of some lower species than thyself, and disdainest them, and as for heaven thou thinkest not of it. Like that wicked prince that said, He would lose his part in paradise rather than in Paris. Art thou poor? why dost thou not exercise grace in that condition? Art thou contented, diligent? May be instead of contention thou repinest, canst not see a fair lace on thy rich brother's cloth, but grudgest it; instead of concurring with providence by diligence to supply thy wants, thou art ready to break through the hedge into thy neighbour's fat pasture; thus serving thy own turn by a sin, rather than waiting for God's blessing on thy honest diligence. If so, be not angry we call thee by thy right name, or at least question whether we may style thee Christian, whose carriage is so cross to that sacred name, which is too holy to be written on a rotten post.

 

Use Fourth. Be exhorted, O ye saints of God, to walk in the exercise of grace. It is the minister's duty, with the continual breath of exhortation, and if need be, reproof, to keep this heavenly fire clean on the saints' altar. Peter saw it necessary to have the bellows always in his hands, 'I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth,' 2Pe 1:12. That shall not take him off; as long as he is in this tabernacle, he saith he will stir them up, and be putting them in remembrance, ver. 13. There is a sleepy disease we are subject to tin this life; Christ though he had roused up his disciples twice, yet takes them napping the third time. Either exercise thy grace, or Satan will act hy corruption; as one bucket goes down the other riseth; there is a body of sin within, which likely a malignant party watcheth for such a time to step into the saddle, and it is easier to keep them down than to pull them down. Thy time is short, and thy way long, thou hadst best put on, lest thou meanest to be overtaken with the night before thou gettest within sight of thy Father's house. How uncomfortable it is for a traveller in heaven's road, above all other, to go potching in the dark, many can with aching hearts tell thee. And what hast thou here to mind like this? Are they worldly cares and pleasures? Is it wisdom to lay out so much cost on thy tenement, which thou art leaving, and forget what thou must carry with thee? Before the fruit of these be ripe which thou art now planting, thyself may be rotting in the grave. 'Time is short,'viii saith the apostle, 1Co 7:29. The world is near its port, and therefore God hath contracted the sails of man's life; but a while, and there will not be a point to choose whether we had wives or not, riches or not; but there will be a vast difference between those that had grace and those that had not; yea, between those that did drive a quick trade in the exercise thereof, and those that were more remiss. The one shall have an 'abundant entrance into glory,' 2Pe 1:2; while the other shall suffer loss in much of his lading, which shall be cast overboard, as merchandise that will bear no price in that heavenly country. Yea, while thou art here others shall fare the better by thy lively graces. Thy cheerfulness and activity in thy heavenly course will help others that travel with thee; he is dull indeed that will not put on, when he sees so much metal for God in thee who leadest the way. Yea, thy grace will give a check to the sins of others, who never stand in such awe, as when grace comes forth and sits like a ruler in the gate, to be seen of all that pass by. The swearer knows not that such majesty is present, when the Christian is mealy-mouthed, and so goes on and fears no colours, whose grace, had it but her dagger of zeal ready, and courage to draw it forth in a wise reproof, would make sin quit the place, and with shame run into its hole: 'The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up. The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth,' Job 29:8-9. And doth not God deserve the best service thou canst do him in thy generation? Did he give thee grace to lay it up in a dead stock, and none to be the better? or can you say that he is wanting to you in his love and mercy? Are they not ever in exercise for your good? Is the eye of providence ever shut? No, he slumbers not that keeps thee. Is it one moment off thee? No, 'the eye of the Lord is upon the righteous;' he hath fixed it for ever, and with infinite delight pleaseth himself in the object. When was his ear shut, or his hand, either from receiving thy cries, or supplying thy wants? Nay, doth not thy condition take up the thoughts of God? And are they any other than thoughts of peace which he entertains? A few drops of this oil will keep the wheel in motion.

 

01.021 DIRECTION I-SECOND GENERAL PART

DIRECTION I-SECOND GENERAL PART

With Branch First and Second. 

 

The reason why the Christian must be armed, 'That ye may be able to stand

 

against the wiles of the devil.']

 

These words present us with the reason why the Christian soldier is to be thus completely armed, 'That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.' The strength of this argument lies in these two particulars or branches. First, The danger, if unarmed. The enemy is no mean contemptible one, no less than the devil, set out as a cunning engineer by his wiles and stratagems. Second, The certainty of standing against all his wits and wiles, if we be thus armed. As there is no standing without armour, so there is no fear of falling into the fiend's hands if armed.

 

BRANCH FIRST.

 

The danger, if unarmed.

 

The saint's enemy is the devil, described by his wiles, properly, the methods of Satan. The Greek word1]] signifies, the art and order one observes in handling a point; we say such a one is methodical. Now because it shows ingenuity and acuteness of wit so to compose a discourse, therefore it is transferred to express the subtlety of Satan, in laying off his plots and stratagems, in his warlike preparations against the Christian. Indeed the expert soldier hath his order as well as the scholar; there is method in forming of an army, as well as framing an argument. The note which lies before us is-

 

Doctrine, That the devil is a very subtle enemy. The Christian is endangered most by his policy and craft. He is called the old serpent-the serpent subtle above other creatures; an old serpent above other serpents. Satan was too crafty for man in his perfection, much more now in his maimed estate, having never recovered that first crack he got in his understanding, by the fall of Adam. And as man hath lost, so Satan hath gained more and more experience; he lost his wisdom, indeed, as soon as he became a devil, but, ever since, he hath increased his craft; though he hath not wisdom enough to do himself good, yet he hath subtlety enough to do others hurt. God shows us where his strength lies, when he promiseth he will bruise the head of the serpent; his head crushed, and he dies presently. Now in handling this point of Satan's subtlety, we shall consider him in his two main designs, and therein show you his wiles and policies. His first main design is to draw into sin. The second main design is to accuse, vex, and trouble the saint for sin.

 

Satan's first main design

 

is to draw into sin.]

 

First. Let us consider the devil as a tempter to sin, and there he shows us his wily subtlety in three things. First. In choosing the most advantageous season for temptation. Second. In managing the temptations, laying them in such a method and form as shows his craft. Third. In pitching on fit instruments for his turn, to carry on his design.

 

Satan's subtlety in choosing the most

 

advantageous seasons for tempting.]

 

First. Satan shows his subtlety in choosing the most proper and advantageous seasons for tempting. 'To every thing there is a season,' Solomon saith, Ec 3:1, that is, a nick of time, which taken, gives facility and speedy despatch to a business; and therefore the same wise man gives this reason why man miscarries so frequently, and is disappointed in his enterprises, 'because he knows not his time,' Ec 9:12. He comes when the bird is flown. A hundred soldiers at one time may turn a battle, save an army, when thousands will not do it at another. Satan knows when to make his approaches, when (if at any time) he is most likely to be entertained. As Christ hath the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season of counsel and comfort, to a doubting dropping soul, so Satan knows his black heart, and hellish skill, in speaking words of seduction and temptation in season; and a word in season is a words on its wheels. I shall give you a view of his subtlety in special seasons, which he chooseth to tempt in. These special seasons are:

 

1. Season. When the Christian is newly converted. No sooner is this child of grace, the new creature, born, but this dragon pours a flood of temptation after it. He learned the Egyptians but some of his own craft, when he taught them that bloody and cruel baptism, which they exercised upon the Israelitish babes, in throwing them into the river as soon as they were born. The first cry of the new creature gives all the legions of hell an alarm. They are as much troubled at it as Herod and Jerusalem were when Christ was born; and now they sit in council to take away the life of this new-born king. The apostles met with opposition and persecution in their latter days when endued with larger portions of the Spirit, but with temptations from Satan in their former, when young converts; as you may observe in the several passages recorded of them. Satan knew grace within was but weak, and the supplies promised at the Spirit's coming not landed. And when is an enemy more like to carry the town than in such a low condition? And therefore he tries them all. Indeed the advantages are so many, that we may wonder how the young convert escapes with his life; knowledge being weak, and he so soon let him into an error, especially in divided times, when many ways are held forth one saying, Here is Christ, another There is Christ. And the Christian is ready to think every one means honestly that comes with good words, as a little child that hath lost his way to his father's house, is prone to follow any that offer their conduct or experience of what he knows little. And if Adam, whose knowledge was so perfect, yet was soon cheated-being assaulted before he was well warm in his new possessions-how much more advantage hath Satan of the new convert! In him he finds every grace in a great indisposition to make resistance, both from its own weakness, and the strength of contrary corruption, which commonly in such is unmortified. This makes it act with more difficulty and mixture, as in a fire newly kindled, where the smoke is more than the flame, or like beer newly tunned which runs thick. So that though there appear more strength of affection in such, that it works over into greater abundance of duty than in others, yet it is with more dregs of carnal passions, which Satan knows, and therefore chooseth to stir what he sees troubled already.

 

2. Season. When the Christian is beset with some great affliction, this is as blind lane or solitary place, fit for this thief to call for his purse in. An expert captain first labours to make a breach in the wall, and then falls on in storming the city. Satan first got power from God to weaken Job in his estate, children, health and other comforts he had, and now tempts him to impatience, and what not; he lets Christ fast forty days before he comes, and then he falls to his work; as an army stays till a castle be pinched for provision within, and then sends a parley, never more likely to be embraced than in such a strait. A temptation comes strong when the way to relief seems to lie through the sin that Satan is wooing to; when one is poor and Satan comes, What! wilt starve rather than step over the hedge and steal for thy supply? this is enough to put flesh and blood to the stand.

 

3. Season. When the Christian is about some notable enterprise for God's glory, then Satan will lie like a serpent in the way, 'an adder in the path, that biteth his horse-heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.' Thus he stood at Joshua's right hand 'to resist him.' The right hand is the working hand, and his standing there implies the desire to hinder him in his enterprise. Indeed the devil was never friend to temple-work, and therefore that work is so long a doing. What a handsome excuse doth he help the Jews unto-The time is not come! God's time was come, but not the devil's, and therefore he helps them to this poor shift, Ezr 1; 1:2,6,8, perverting the sense of providence as if it were not time, because they were so poor; whereas they thrive no better because they went no sooner about the work, as God tells them plainly. Paul and Barnabas had a holy design in their thoughts, to go visit the brethren in every city, and strengthen their faith. The devil knew what a blow this might give to his kingdom; their visiting might hinder him in his circuit, and he stirs up an unhappy difference between these two holy men, who grow so hot that they part in this storm, Ac 15:36-39. There were two remarkable periods of Christ's life, his intrat and exit, his entrance into his public ministry at his baptism, and his finishing it at his passion, and at both we have the devil fiercely encountering him. The more public thy place, Christian, and the more eminent thy service for God, the more thou must look that the devil will have some more dangerous design or other against thee; and therefore if every private soldier needs armour against Satan's bullets of temptation, then the commanders and officers, who stand in the front of the battle, much more.

 

4. Season. When he hath the presence of some object to enforce his temptation. Thus he takes Eve when she is near the tree, and had it in her eye while he should make the motion, so that by assaulting two ports at once, it might be the harder for her to hinder the landing of his temptation; and if Eve's eye did so soon affect her heart with an inordinate desire, then much more now is it easy for him, by the presence of the object, to excite and actuate that lust which lies dormant in the heart. As Naomi sent her daughter to lie at the feet of Boaz, knowing well, if he endured her there, there were hope he might take her into his bed at last. If the Christian can let the object come so near, Satan will promise himself that his suit may in time be granted. Therefore it should be our care, if we would not yield to the sin, not to walk by, or sit at, the door of the occasion. Look not on that beauty with a wandering eye, by which thou wouldst not be taken prisoner. Parley not with that in thy thoughts, which thou meanest not to let into thy heart. Conversation begets affection: some by this have been brought to marry those, whom at first they thought they could not have liked.

 

5. Season. After great manifestations of God's love, then the tempter comes. Such is the weak constitution of grace, that it can neither well bear smiles or frowns from God without a snare; as one said of our English nation,2 it cannot well bear liberty nor bondage in the height. So neither can the soul. If God smile and open himself a little familiar to us, then we are prone to grow high and wanton; if the frown, then we sink as much in our faith. Thus the one, like fair weather and warm gleams, brings up the weeds of corruption; and the other, like sharp frosts, nips and even kills the flowers of grace. The Christian is in danger on both hands; therefore Satan takes the advantage, when the Christian is flush of comfort, even as a cheater, who strikes in with some young heir, when he hath newly received his rents, and never leaves till he hath eased him of his money. Thus Satan lies upon the catch, then to inveigle a saint into one sin or other, which he knows will soon leak out his joy. Had ever any a larger testimony from heaven than Peter? Mt 16:17, where Christ pronounceth him blessed, and puts a singular honour upon him, making him the representative of all his saints. No doubt this favour to Peter stirred up the envious spirit the sooner to fall upon him. If Joseph's parti-coloured coat made the patriarchs to plot against him their brother, no wonder malice should prompt Satan to show his spite, where Christ had set such a mark of love and honour; and therefore we find him soon at Peter's elbow, making him his instrument to tempt his Master, who rebukes Peter with a 'get thee behind me, Satan.' He that seemed a rock even now, through Satan's policy is laid as a stone of offence for Christ to stumble at. So with David, when he had received such wonderful mercies, settled in his throne with the ruin of his enemies, yea, pardoned for his bloody sin, and now ready to lay down his head with peace in the dust, Satan chops in to cloud his clear evening, and tempts him to number the people; so ambitious is Satan then chiefly to throw the saint into the mire of sin, when his coat is cleanest.

 

6. Season. At the hour of death, when the saint is down and prostrate in his bodily strength, now this coward falls upon him. It is the last indeed he hath for the game; now or never; overcome him now and ever. As they say of the natural serpent3, he is never seen at his length till dying; so this mystical serpent never strains his wits and wiles more, than when his time is short. The saint is even stepping into eternity, and now he treads upon his heel, which he cannot trip up so as to hinder his arrival in heaven, yet at least to bruise it, that he may go with more pain thither.

 

Satan's subtlety in managing his temptations,

 

where several stratagems used by him to

 

deceive the Christian are laid down.]

 

Second. The second way wherein Satan shows his tempting subtlety, is in those stratagems he useth to deceive the Christian, managing his temptations, laying them in such a method and form, as shows his craft.

 

1. Stratagem. He hangs out false colours, and comes up to the Christian in the disguise of a friend, so that the gates are opened to him, and his motions received with applause, before either be discovered. Therefore he is said to 'transform himself into an angel of light,' 2Co 11:14. Of all plots it is most dangerous, when he appears in Samuel's mantle, and silvers his foul tongue with fair language. Thus in point of error he corrupts some in their judgement, by commending his notions for special gospel-truths, and like a cunning chapman4 puts off his old ware (errors I mean that have lain long upon his hand), only turning them a little after the mode of the times, and they go for new light, under the skirt of Christian liberty. He conveys in libertinism, by crying up the Spirit. He decries and vilifies the Scripture, by magnifying faith. He labours to undermine repentance, and blow up good works. By bewailing the corruption of the church in its administrations, he draws unstable souls from it, and amuseth them, till at last they fall into a giddiness5, and can see no church at all in being. And he prevails no less on the hearts and lives of men by this wile, than on their judgements. Under the notion of zeal, he kindles sometimes a dangerous flame of passion and wrath in the heart, which like a rash fire makes the Christian's spirit boil over into unchristian desires of, and prayers for, revenge where he should forgive. Of this we have an instance of the disciples, Lu 9:54, where two holy men are desiring that 'fire may come down from heaven.' Little did they think from whence they had their coal that did so heat them, till Christ told them, 'Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of,' ver.

 

55. Sometimes he pretends pity and natural affection, which in some cases may be good counsel, and all the while he desires to promote cowardice and sinful self-love, whereby the Christian may be brought to fly from his colours, shrink from the truth, or decline some necessary duty of his calling. This wile of his, when he got Peter to be his spokesman, saying, Master, pity thyself, Christ soon spied, and stopped his mouth with that sharp rebuke, 'Get thee behind me, Satan.' O what need have we to study the Scriptures, our hearts, and Satan's wiles, that we may not bid this enemy welcome, and all the while think it is Christ that is our guest!

 

2. Stratagem. Is to get intelligence of the saint's affairs. This is one great wheel in the politician's clock, to have spies in all places, by whom they are acquainted with the counsels and motions of their enemies, and as this gives them advantage to disappoint their designs, so also more safely to compass their own. It is no hard matter for him to play this game well, that sees his enemies' hands. David knew how the squares went at court, Jonathan's arrows carried him the news; and accordingly he removed his quarters, and was too hard for his great enemy Saul. Satan is the greatest intelligencer in the world; he makes it his business to inquire into the inclinations, thoughts, affections, purposes of the creature, that finding which humour abounds, he may apply himself accordingly,-finding which way the stream goes, that he may open the passage of temptation, and cut the channel to fall of the creature's affections, and not force it against the torrent of nature. Now if we consider but the piercing apprehension of the angelic nature, how quick he is to take the scent which way the game goes, by a word dropped, the cast of an eye, or such a small matter-signal enough to give him the alarm; if we consider his experience in heart-anatomy, having inspected, and as it were dissected, so many in his long practice, whereby his knowledge is much perfected, as also his great diligence to add to both these, being as close a student as ever, considering the saints, and studying how he may do them a mischief, as we see in Job's case, whom he had so observed, that he was able to give an answer ex tempore to God, as to what Job's state and present posture was, and what might be the most probable means of obtaining his will of him; and besides all this, the correspondence that he hath with those in and about the Christian, from whom he learns much of his estate, as David did by Hushai in Absalom's counsel;-all these considered, it is almost impossible for the creature to stir out of the closet of his heart, but it will be known whither he inclines. Some corrupt passion or other will bewray the soul to him, as they did bewray David to Saul, who told him where he might find him, in the wilderness of Engedi, 1Sa 24:4. Thus will these give intelligence to Satan, and say to him, If thou wouldst surprise such a one, he is gone that way, you will have him in the wood of worldly employments, over head and ears in the desires of this life. See where another sits under a bower, delighting himself in this child, or that gift, endowment of mind, or the like; lay but the lime-twig6 there, and you shall soon have him in it. Now Satan having thus intelligence, lets him alone to act his part. He sure cannot be at a loss himself, when his scholars, the Jesuits I mean, have such agility of mind, to wreathe and cast themselves into any form becoming the persons they would seduce. Is ambition the lust the heart favours? O the pleasing projects that he will put such upon! How easily, having first blown them up with vain hopes, doth he draw them into horrid sins. Thus Haman, that he may have a monopoly of his prince's favour, is hurried into that bloody plot, fatal at last to himself against the Jews. Is uncleanness the lust after which the creature's eye wanders? Now he will be the pander, to bring him and his minion together. Thus he, finding Amnon sick of this disease, sends Jonadab, a deep-pated fellow, 2Sa 13:3, to put this fine device into his head of feigning himself sick, whereby his sister fell into his snare.

 

3. Stratagem. In his gradual approaches to the soul. When he comes to tempt, he is modest, and asks but a little; he know that he may get that at many times, which he should be denied if he asked all at once. A few are let into a city, when an army coming in a body would be shut out; and therefore that he may beget no suspicion, he presents may be a few general propositions, which do not discover the depth of his plot. These like scouts go before, while his whole body lies hid as it were in some swamp at hand. Thus he wriggled into Eve's bosom, whom he doth not, at first dash, bid take and eat. No, he is more mannerly than do so. This would have been so hideous, that as the fish with some sudden noise, by a stone cast into the river, is scared from the bait, so she would have been affrighted from holding parley with such a one. No, he propounds a question which shall make way for this. Hath God said? art thou not mistaken? Could this be his meaning, whose bounty lets thee eat of the rest, to deny thee the best of all? Thus he digs about and loosens the root of her faith, and then the tree falls the easier the next gust of temptation. This is a dangerous policy indeed. Many have yielded to go a mile with Satan, that never intended to go two; but when once on the way, they have been allured farther and farther, till at last they know not how to leave his company.

 

Thus Satan leads poor creatures down into the depths of sin by winding stairs, that let them not see the bottom whither they are going. He first presents an object that occasions some thoughts; these set on fire the affections, and they fume up into the brain, and cloud the understanding, which being thus disabled, Satan now dares a little more declare himself, and boldly solicit the creature to that it even now have defied. Many who at this day lie in open profaneness, never thought they should have rolled so far from their profession; but Satan beguiled them, poor souls, with their modest beginnings. O Christian, give not place to Satan, no, not an inch, in his first motions. He that is a beggar and a modest one without doors, will command the house if let in. Yield at first, and thou givest away thy strength to resist him in the rest; when the hem is worn, the whole garment will ravel out, if it be not mended by timely repentance.

 

4. Stratagem. The fourth way, wherein Satan shows his subtlety in managing his temptations, is in his reserves. A wise captain hath ever some fresh troops at hand, to fall in at a pinch when others are worsted. Satan is seldom at a loss in this respect; when one temptation is beat back, he soon hath another to fill up the gap, and make good the line.

 

Thus he tempts Christ to diffidence and distrust, by bidding him turn stones into bread, as if it were now time to carve for himself, being so long neglected of his Father, as to fast forty days, and no supplies heard of. No sooner had Christ quenched this dart with these words, 'It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,' Mt 4:4, but he hath another on the string, which he let fly to him, tempting him to presumption. 'Then the devil taketh him up and setteth him on a pinnacle,' and bids, 'Cast thyself down headlong; for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee,' &c., ver. 5, 6. As if he had said, If thou hast such confidence on God and his Word, as thou pretendest, show it by casting thyself down, for thou hast a word between thee and the ground, if thou darest trust God. And truly, though Christ had his answer ready, and was prepared to receive his charge on the right hand and on the left, being so completely armed that no temptation could come amiss, yet note we, that Satan's temptations on Christ were like the serpents motion on a rock, of which Solomon speaks, Pr 30:19. They make no impression, no dint at all; but on us they are as a serpent on sand, or dust, that leaves a print, when not in the heart yet in the fancy-colours that which is next door to it, and so the object there is ready to slip in, if great care be not observed. Especially in this case when he doth thus change his hand, as when we have resisted one way, falls afresh in another, yea, plants his succeeding temptation upon our very resistance in the former.

 

Now it requires some readiness in our postures, and skill at all our weapons, to make our defence; like a disputant, when he is put out of his road, and hath a new question started, or argument unusual brought, now he is tried to purpose. And truly this is Satan's way when he tempts the Christian to neglect of the duties of God's worship (from his worldly occasions, the multitude of them, or necessity of following them); and this takes not, then he is on the other side, and is drawing the Christian to the neglect of his worldly calling, out of a seeming zeal to promote his other in the worship of God. Or first, he comes and labours to deaden the heart in duty, but the Christian too watchful for him there, then he is puffing of him up with an opinion of his enlargement in it, and ever he keep his sliest and most sublimated temptations for the last.

 

5. Stratagem. In his politic retreats. You shall have an enemy fly as if overcome, when it is on a design of overcoming. This was Joshua's wile, by which he caught the men of Ai in a trap, Josh. 8. We read not only of Satan's being cast out, but of the unclean spirit going out voluntarily, yet with a purpose to come again, and bring worse company with him, Mt 12:43. Satan is not always beat back by the dint and power of conquering grace, but sometimes he draws off, and raiseth his own siege, the more handsomely to get the Christian out of his fastnesses and trenches, that so he may snap him on the plains, whom he cannot come at in his works and fortifications. Temptations send the saint to his castle, as the sight of the dog doth the coney to her burrow. Now the soul walks the rounds, stands upon its guard, dares not neglect duty, because the enemy is under its very walls, shutting in his temptations continually; but when Satan seems to give the soul over, and the Christian finds he is not haunted, with such motions as formerly, truly now he is prone to remit in his diligence, fail in his duty, and grow either unfrequent or formal therein; as the Romans, whose valour decayed for want of the Carthaginian troops to alarm them. Let Satan tempt or not tempt, assault or retreat, keep thou in order, stand in a fighting posture, let his flight strengthen thy faith, but not weaken thy care. The Parthians do their enemy most hurt in their flight, shooting their darts as they run, and so may Satan do thee, if thy seeming victory makes thee secure.

 

Satan's subtlety in choosing fitting

 

instruments for his purpose.]

 

Third. Satan shows his subtlety in pitching on fit instruments for his turn to carry on his designs. He, as the master-workman, cuts out the temptation, and gives it the shape, but sometime he hath his journeymen to make it up; he knows his work may be carried on better by others, when he appears not aboveboard himself. Indeed there is not such a suitableness between the angelical nature and man's, as there is between one man and another; and therefore he cannot make his approaches so familiarly with us, as man can do to man. And here, as in other things, he is God's ape. You know this very reason was given, why the Israelites desired God might not speak to them, but Moses, and God liked the motion: 'they have well said,' saith God, 'I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee,' De 18:17-18. Thus Satan useth the ministry of men like ourselves, by which as he becomes more familiar, so he is less suspected, while Joab-like, he gets another to do his errand. Now it is not any one that will serve his turn for this employment; he is very choice in his instruments he pitcheth on. It is not every soldier that is fit for an embassage, to treat with an enemy, to betray a town, and the like. Satan considers who can do his work to his greatest advantage. And in this he is unlike God, who is not at all choice in his instruments, because he needs none, and is able to do as well with one as another; but Satan's power being finite, he must patch up the defect of the lion's skin with the fox's. Now the persons Satan aims at for his instruments are chiefly of four sorts. 1. Persons of place and power. 2. Persons of parts and policy. 3. Persons of holiness, or at least reputed so. 4. Persons of relation and interest.

 

1. Instrument. Satan makes choice of persons of place and power. These are either in the commonwealth or church. If he can, he will secure the throne and the pulpit, as the two forts that command the whole line. (1.) Men of power in the commonwealth; it is his old trick to be tampering with such. A prince or a ruler may stand for a thousand; therefore saith Paul to Elymas, when he would have turned the deputy from the faith, 'O full of all subtilty thou child of the devil!' Ac 13:10. As if he had said, You have learned this of your father the devil-to haunt the courts of princes, wind into the favour of great ones. There is a double policy that Satan hath in gaining such to his side. (a) None have such advantage to draw others to their way. Corrupt the captain, and it is hard if he bring not off his troop with him. When the princes-men of renown in their tribes-stood up with Korah, presently a multitude are drawn into the conspiracy, Nu 16:2,19. Let Jeroboam set up idolatry, and Israel is soon in a snare. It is said that the people willingly walked after his commandment, Hos, 5:11. (b) Should the sin stay at court, and the infection go no farther, yet the sin of such a one, though a good man, may cost a whole kingdom dear. 'Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel,' 1Ch 21:1. He owed Israel a spite, and he pays them home in their king's sin, which dropped in a fearful plague upon their heads. (2.) Such as are in place and office in the church. No such way to infect the whole town, as to poison the cistern at which they draw their water. Who shall persuade Ahab that he may go to Ramoth-Gilead and fall? Satan can tell: 'I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets,' 1Ki 22:22. How shall the profane be hardened in their sins? Let the preacher sew pillows under their elbows, and cry Peace, peace, and it is done. How may the worship of God come to be neglected? Let Hophni and Phinehas be but scandalous in their lives, and many both good and bad will 'abhor the sacrifice of the Lord.'

 

2. Instrument. He employeth persons of parts and policy. If any hath more pregnancy of wit and depth of reason than other, he is the man Satan looks upon for his service, and so far does he prevail, that very few of his rank are found among Christ's disciples, 'Not many wise.' Indeed, God will not have his kingdom, either in the heart or in the world, maintained by carnal policy, for it is a gospel command that we walk in godly simplicity7. Though the serpent can shrink up into his folds, and appear what he is not, yet it doth not become the saints to juggle or shuffle with God or men; and truly when any of them have made use of the serpent's subtlety, it hath not followed their hand. Jacob got the blessing by a wile, but he might have had it cheaper with plain dealing. Abraham and Sarah both dissemble to Abimelech; God discovers their sin, and reproves them for it by the mouth of a heathen. Asa, out of state-policy, joins league with Syria, yea, pawns the vessels of the sanctuary and all for help. And what comes of all this? 'Herein thou hast done foolishly,' saith God, 'from henceforth thou shalt have wars.' Sinful policy shall not long thrive in the saints' hands well. But Satan will not out of his way; he inquires for the subtlest-pated men, a Balaam, Ahithophel, Haman, Sanballat, men admired for their counsel and deep plots; these are for his turn. A wicked cause needs a smooth orator; bad ware, a pleasing chapman. As in particular, the instruments he useth to seduce and corrupt the minds of men are commonly subtle-pated men, such 'that if it were possible should deceive the very elect.' This made the apostle so jealous of the Corinthians, whom he had espoused to Christ, lest, as Eve by the serpent, so their 'minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.' He must be a cunning devil indeed that can draw off the spouse's love from he Beloved; yet there is such a witchery in Satan's instruments, that many have been brought to fly on the face of those truths and ordinances, yea, of Christ himself, to whom they have seemed espoused formerly. Now in three particulars this sort of Satan's instruments show their master's subtlety.

 

(1.) In aspersing the good name of the sincere messengers of Christ-Satan's old trick to raise his credit upon the ruined reputation of Christ's faithful servants. Thus he taught Korah, Dathan, and Abiram to charge Moses and Aaron: 'Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation is holy,' Nu 16:3. They would make the people believe that it was the pride of their heart to claim a monopoly to themselves, as if none but Aaron and his fraternity were holy enough to offer incense, and by this subtle practice they seduced for a while, in a manner, the whole congregation to their side. So the lying prophets, that were Satan's knights of the post to Ahab, fell foul on good Micaiah. Our Saviour himself was no better handled by the Pharisees and their confederates; and Paul, the chief of the apostles, had his ministry undermined, and his reputation blasted, by false teachers, as if he had been some weak sorry preacher. 'but his bodily presence is weak,' say they, 'and his speech contemptible,' 2Co 10:10. And is this your admired man?

 

(2.) In covering their impostures and errors with choice notions and excellent truths. Arius himself, and other dangerous instruments of Satan, were too wise to stuff their discourses with nothing but heterodox matter. Precious truths dropped from them, with which they sprinkled their corrupt principles, yet with such art as should not easily be discerned. This, as one observes, our Saviour warns his disciples of, when he bids them 'beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,' that is, of their errors. But why leaven? Just for the secret mixture of it with the wholesome bread. You do not make your bread all of leaven, for none would then eat it, but crumble a little into a whole batch, which sours all. Thus Christ doth tell the disciples, that the Pharisees among many truths mix their errors; and therefore it behoves them to beware, lest with the truth the errors go down also. Again, leaven is very much like the dough, of the same grain with it, and only differs in age and sourness. Thus Christ intimates the resemblance of their errors to the truth, as it were, out of the Scriptures, but soured with their own false glosses. This indeed makes it easy for Christ's sheep to be infected with the scab of error, because that weed which breeds the rot is so like the grass that nourisheth them.

 

(3.) Their subtlety appears in holding forth such principles as are indulgent to the flesh. This brings in whole shoals of silly souls into their net. The heart of man loves a life to shape a religion according to his own humour, and is easy to believe that to be a truth that favours his own inclination. Now there are three lusts that Satan's instruments labour to gratify in their doctrine-carnal reason, pride, and fleshly liberty.

 

(a) Carnal reason. This is the great idol which the more intelligent part of the world worship, making it the very standard of their faith, and from this bitter root have sprung those Arian and Socinian heresies. And truly he that will go no farther than reason will carry him, may hold out in the plain way of the moral law, but when he comes to the depths of the gospel, must either go back, or be content that faith should help reason over.

 

(b) Another lust that Satan cockers is pride. Man naturally would be a god to himself, though for clambering so high he got his fall; and whatever doctrine nourisheth a good opinion of man in his own eye, this is acceptable to him; and this hath spawned another fry of dangerous errors-the Pelagian and Semi-pelagian, which set nature upon its legs, and persuade man he got alone to Christ, or at least with a little external help, of a hand to lead, or argument to excite, without any creating work in the soul. O, we cannot conceive how glib such stuff goes down. If one workman should tell you your house is rotten, and must be pulled down, and all new materials prepared; and another should say, No such matter; such a beam is good, and such a spar may stand -a little cost will serve the turn: it were no wonder that you should listen to him that would put you to least cost and trouble. The faithful servants of Christ tell sinners from the Word, that man in his natural state is corrupt and rotten, that nothing of the old frame will serve, and there must needs be all new; but in comes an Arminian, and blows up the sinner's pride, and tells him he is not so weak or wicked as the other represents him. If thou wilt, thou mayest repent and believe; or, at least, by exerting thy natural abilities, oblige God to superadd what thou hast not. This is the workman that will please proud man best.

 

(c) Satan by his instruments nourisheth that desire of fleshly liberty, which is in man by nature, who is a son of Belial, without yoke; and if he must wear any, that will please best which hath the softest lining, and pincheth the flesh least; and therefore when the sincere teachers of the Word will not abate of the strictness of the command, but press sincere obedience to it, then come Satan's instruments and say, These are hard task-masters, who will not allow one play-day in a year to the Christian, but tie him to continual duty; we will show you an easier way to heaven. Come, saith the Papist, confess but once a year to the priest, pay him well for his pains, and be an obedient son of the church, and we will dispense with all the rest. Come, saith the Familist8Quoted from the Funk and Wagnalls online Encyclopedia -L. B. W., the gospel charter allows more liberty than these legal preachers tell you of. They bid you repent and believe, when Christ hath done all these to your hand. What have you left to do but to nourish the flesh? Something sure is in it, that impostors find such quick return for their ware, while truth hangs upon the log. And is it not this, that they are content to afford heaven cheaper to their disciples than Christ will to his? He that sells cheapest shall have most customers, though, at last, best will be best cheap; truth with self-denial is a better pennyworth, than error with all its flesh-pleasing.

 

3. Instrument. Satan makes choice of such as have a great name for holiness. None so good as a live bird to draw other birds into the net. But is it possible that such should do this work for the devil? Yes, such is the policy of Satan, and the frailty of the best, that the most holy men have been his instruments to seduce others. 'Abraham' he tempts his wife to lie, 'Say thou art my sister.' The old prophet leads the man of God out of his way, 1Ki 13:11; the holiness of the man, and the reverence of his age, it is like, gave authority to his counsel. O, how should this make you watchful, whose long travel and great progress in the ways of God, have gained you a name of eminency in the church, what you say, do, or hold, because you are file-leading men, and others look more on you than their way!

 

4. Instrument. Satan chooseth persons of relation and interest, such as by relation or affection have deep interest in the persons he would gain. Some will kiss the child for the nurse's sake, and like the present for the hand that brings it. It is like David would not have received that from Nabal, which he took from Abigail, and thanks her. Satan sent the apple by Eve's hand to Adam. Delilah doth more with Samson than all the Philistines' bands. Job's wife brings him the poison, 'Curse God and die.' Some think Satan spared her life, when he slew his children and servants-(though she was also within his commission)-as the most likely instrument, by reason of her relation and his affection, to lead him into temptation. Satan employs Peter, a disciple, to tempt Christ, at another time his friends and kinsfolk. Some martyrs have confessed, the hardest work they met withal, was to overcome the prayers and tears of their friends and relations. Paul himself could not get off his snare without heart-breaking. 'What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?' Ac 21:13.

 

Satan's subtlety as a tempter to sin

 

            briefly applied.]

 

Use First. Affect not sinful policy and subtlety, it makes you but like the devil. There is the wisdom of the serpent, which is commended, and that is his perfection as a creature, in which both the literal and the mystical excel, the one in an ingenious observing nature above the beast of the field, and the other in knowledge as an angel above men; but as the subtlety of the one and knowledge of the other is degenerate, and makes them more able to do mischief, the one of the bodies, the others to the souls of men, this kind of wisdom and subtlety is to be abhorred by us. The serpent's eye, as one saith, does well only in the dove's head.

 

1. Affect not subtlety in contriving any sin. Some are wise to do evil, Jer 4:22. Masters of this craft, who can as they lie on their beds, cast their wicked designs into an artificial method, showing a kind of devilish wit therein, as the Egyptians who dealt wisely, as they thought, with the Israelites, and Jezebel, who had printed her bloody design in so fair a letter, that some might read her saint while she was playing the devil. This is the black art indeed, and make the soul as black as hell that practiseth it. It is not hard for any, though a fool, to learn. Be but wicked, and the devil will help thee to be witty. Come but a while to his school, and thou mayest soon be a cunning man. No sins speak a higher attainment in wickedness, than those which are of deliberate counsel and deep plottings. Creatures, as they go longer with their young, so their birth is more strong and perfect, as the elephant above all others. The longer a sin is a forming and forging within, and the oftener the head and heart meet about it, the completer the sin. Here are many litters of unformed sins in one, such, I mean, as are conceived and cast forth in the hurry of extemporary passion. Those sudden acts show weakness, these other deep wickedness.

 

2. Take heed of hiding sin when thou hast committed it. This is one of the devices that are in man's heart; and as much art and cunning is shown in this, as in any one part of the sinner's trade. What a trick had the patriarchs to blind their father's eye with a bloody coat? Joseph's mistress, to prevent a charge from Joseph, accuseth him for what she is guilty, like the robber who escaped by crying 'stop the thief.' God taught man to make coats to cover his naked body, but the devil learnt him to weave these coverings to hide the nakedness of his soul. The more subtle thou seemest in concealing thy sin, the more egregiously thou playest the fool. None so shamed as the liar when found out, and that thou art sure to be. Thy covering is too short to hide thee from God's eye, and what God sees, if thou dost not put thyself to shame, he will tell all the world hereafter, however thou escapest in this life.

 

3. Take heed of subtlety and sinful policy, in compassing that which is lawful in itself; it is lawful to improve thy estate and husband it well for thy posterity but take not the devil's counsel, who will be putting thee upon some tricks in thy trade and sleights in thy dealing. Such may go for wise men for a while, but the prophet reads their destiny, 'At his end he shall be a fool,' Jer 17:11. It is lawful to love our estate, life, liberty; but beware of sinful policy to save them. It is no wisdom to shuffle with God, by denying his truth, or shifting off our duty to keep correspondence with men. He is a weak fencer that lays his soul at open guard to be stabbed and wounded with guilt, while he is lifting up his hands to save a broken head. Our fear commonly meets us at that door by which we think to run from it. He that 'will save his life shall lose it.' As you love your peace, Christians, be plain-hearted with God and man, and keep the king's highway. Go the plain way of command to obtain thy desire, and not leap over hedge and ditch to come a little sooner to the journey's end; such commonly either meet with some stop that makes them come back with shame, or else put to venture their necks in some desperate leap. He is sure to come faster, if not sooner, home, that is willing to go a little about to keep God company. The historian's observation is worth the Christian's remembrance: 'Crafty counsels promise fair at first, but prove more difficult in the managing, and in the end do pay the undertaker home with desperate sorrow.'9

 

Use Second. Is Satan so subtle? O then, think not to be too cunning for the devil, he will be too hard for thee at last. Sin not with thoughts of an after-repentance; it is possible thou meanest this at present, but dost thou think, who sits down to play with this cheater, to draw out thy stock when thou pleasest? Alas, poor wretch! he has a thousand devices to carry thee on, and engage thee deeper, till he hath not left thee any tenderness in thy conscience. As some have been served at play, intending to venture only a shilling or two, yet have by the secret witchery in gaming, played the very clothes off their back before they had done,-O how many have thus sinned away all their principles, yea, profession itself, that they have not so much as this cloak left, but walk naked to their shame! They are like children, who, got into a boat, think to play near the shore, but are unawares by a violent gust carried down to the wide sea. O how know you that dally with Satan, but that at last you may (who begin modestly) be carried down to the broad sea of profaneness? Some men are so subtle to over-reach, and so cruel when they get men into their hands, that a man had better beg his bread than borrow of them. Such a merchant is Satan, cunning to insinuate, and get the creature into his books, and when he hath him on the hip, there is no more mercy to be had at his hand than the lamb may expect from the ravenous wolf.

 

Use Third. Study his wiles, and acquaint thyself with Satan's policy. Paul takes it for granted, that every saint doth in some measure understand them; 'We are not ignorant of his devices,' 2Co 2:11. He is but an ill fencer that knows and observes nothing of his enemy's play. Many particular stratagems I have laid down already which may help a little, and for thy direction in this study of, and inquiry into, Satan's wiles, take the threefold counsel.

 

1. Take God into thy counsel. Heaven overlooks hell. God at any time can tell thee what plots are hatching there against thee. Consider Satan as he is God's creature; so God cannot but know him. He that makes the watch, knows every pin in it. He formed this crooked serpent, though not the crookedness of this serpent; and though Satan's way in tempting is as wonderful as the way of a serpent on a rock, yet God traceth him, yea, knows all his thoughts together. Hell itself is naked before him; and this destroyer hath no covering. Again, consider him as God's prisoner, who hath him fast in chains, and so the Lord, who is his keeper, must needs know whither his prisoner goes, who cannot stir without his leave. Lastly, consider him as his messenger, for so he is. An evil spirit from the Lord vexed Saul, and he that gives him his errand, is able to tell thee what it is. Go then and plough with God's heifer; improve thy interest with Christ, who knows what his Father knows, and is ready to reveal all that concerns thee to thee, Joh 15:15. It was he who described the devil coming against Peter and the rest of the apostles, and faithfully revealed it to them, before they thought of any such matter, Lu 22. Through Christ's hands passes all that is transacted in heaven hell. We live in days of great actions, deep counsels, and plots on all sides, and only a few that stand on the upper end of the world know these mysteries of state; all the rest know little more than pamphlet intelligence. Thus it is in regard of those plots which Satan in his infernal conclave is laying against the souls of men; they are but a few that know anything to purpose of Satan's designs against them; and those are the saints, from whom God cannot hide his own counsels of love, but sends his Spirit to reveal unto them here, what he hath prepared for them in heaven, 1Co 2:10, and therefore much less will he conceal any destructive plot of Satan from them.

 

2. Be intimately acquainted with thy own heart, and thou wilt the better know his design against thee, who takes his method of tempting from the inclination and posture of thy heart. As a general walks about the city, and views it well, and then raiseth his batteries where he hath the greatest advantage, so doth Satan compass and consider the Christian in every part before he tempts.

 

3. Be careful to read the word of God with observation. In it thou hast the history of the most remarkable battles that have been fought by the most eminent worthies in Christ's army of saints with this great warrior Satan. Here thou mayest see how Satan hath foiled them, and how they have recovered their lost ground. Here you have his cabinet-counsels opened. There is not a lust which you are in danger of, but you have it described; not a temptation which the Word doth not arm you against. It is reported that a certain Jew should have poisoned Luther, but was happily prevented by his picture which was sent to Luther, with a warning from a faithful friend that he should take heed of such a man when he saw him, by which he knew the murderer, and escaped his hands. The Word shows thee, O Christian, the face of those lusts which Satan employs to butcher thy precious soul.

 

'By them thy servant is warned,' saith David, Ps 19:11.

 

Satan's second main design is to accuse,

 

vex, and trouble the saint for sin.]

 

The second main design in which Satan appears such a subtle enemy is as a troubler and an accuser for sin, molesting the saint's peace, and disquieting the saint's spirit. As the Holy Spirit's work is not only to be a sanctifier, but also a comforter, whose fruits are righteousness and peace, so the evil spirit Satan is both a seducer unto sin, and an accuser for sin, a tempter and a troubler, and indeed in the same order. As the Holy Ghost is first a sanctifier, and then a comforter, so Satan is first a tempter, then a troubler. Joseph's mistress first tries to draw him to gratify her lust, but that string breaking, she hath another to trounce him and charge him, and, for a plea, she hath his coat to cover her malice; nor is it hard for Satan to pick some hole in the saint's coat, when he walks most circumspectly. The proper seat of sin is the will, of comfort the conscience. Satan hath not absolute knowledge of or power over these, they being locked up from any other but God, and therefore what he doth, either in defiling temptations, or disquieting, is by wiles more than by open force; and he is not inferior in troubling, to himself in tempting. Satan hath, as the serpent, a way by himself. Other beasts have their motion direct, right on, but the serpent goes askew, as we say, winding and writhing its body; so that when you see a serpent creeping along, you can hardly discern which way its tends. Thus Satan in his vexing temptations hath many intricate policies, turning this way and that way, the better to conceal his design from the saint, which will appear in these following methods:

 

First Wile. He vexeth the Christian by laying his brats at the saint's door, and charging him with that which is his own creature. And here he hath such a notable art, that many dear saints of God are woefully hampered and dejected, as if they were the vilest blasphemers and veriest atheists in the world: whereas indeed the cup is of his own putting into the sack. But so slyly is it conveyed into the saint's bosom, that the Christian, though amazed and frighted at the sight of them, yet being jealous of his own heart, and unacquainted with Satan's tricks of this kind, cannot conceive how such notions should come there, if not bred in, and vomited out by his own naughty heart. So he bears the blame of the sin himself, because he cannot find the right father, mourning as one that is forlorn and cast off by God, or else, saith he, I should never have such vermin of hell creeping in my bosom. And here Satan hath the end he proposeth, for he is not so silly as to hope he should have welcome with such a horrid crew of blasphemous and atheistical thoughts in that soul, where he hath been denied when he came in an enticing way. No, but his design is by way of revenge, because the soul will not prostitute itself to his lust, otherwise therefore to haunt it and scare it with those imps of blasphemy. So he served Luther, to whom he appeared, and when repulsed by him, went away and left a noisome stench behind him in the room. Thus when the Christian hath worsted Satan in his more pleasing temptations, being maddened, he belcheth forth this stench of blasphemous motions to annoy and affright him, that from them the Christian may draw some sad conclusion or other, and indeed the Christian's sin lies commonly more in the conclusion which he draws from them-as that he is not a child of God-than in the motions themselves. All the counsel therefore I shall give thee in this case, is to do with these motions, as you use to serve those vagrants and rogues that come about the country, whom, though you cannot keep from passing through your town, yet you look they settle not there, but whip them and send them to their own home. Thus give these motions the law, in mourning for them, resisting of them, and they shall not be your charge. Yea, it is like you shall seldomer be troubled with such guests; but if once you come to entertain them, and be Satan's nurse to them, then the law of God will cast them upon you.

 

Second Wile. Another wile of Satan as a troubler, is in aggravating the saint's sins, against which he hath a notable declamatory faculty-not that he hates sin, but the saint. Now in this, his chief subtlety is so to lay his charge, that it may seem to be the act of the Holy Spirit. He knows an arrow out of God's quiver wounds deep; and therefore, when he accuseth, he comes in God's name. As suppose a child were conscious to himself of displeasing his father, and one that owes him a spite, to trouble him, should counterfeit a letter from his father, and cunningly convey it into the son's hand, who receives it as from his father. Therein he chargeth him with many heavy crimes, disowns him, and threatens he shall never come in his sight, or have penny portion from him; and the poor son, conscious to himself of many undutiful carriages, and not knowing the plot, takes on heavily, and can neither eat nor sleep from grief. Here is a real trouble begot from a false and imaginary ground. Thus Satan observes how the squares go between God and his children. Such a saint he sees tardy in his duty, faulty in that service, and he knows the Christian is conscious of this, and that the Spirit of God will also show his distaste for these; both which reasons prompt Satan to draw a charge at length, raking up all the aggravations he can think of, and give it into the saint as sent from God. Thus he taught Job's friends to pick up those infirmities which dropped from him in his distress, and shoot them back in his face, as if indeed they had been sent from God to declare him an hypocrite, and denounce his wrath for the same.

 

But how shall we know the false accusation of Satan from the rebukes of God and his Spirit?

 

1. If they cross any former act or work of the Spirit in thy soul, they are Satan's, not the Holy Spirit's. Now you shall observe Satan's scope in accusing the Christian, and aggravating his sin, is to unsaint him, and persuade him he is but an hypocrite. Oh, saith Satan, now thou hast shown what thou art. See what a foul spot is on thy coat. This is not the spot of a child. Whoever, that was a saint, committed such a sin after such a sort? All thy comforts and confidence which thou hast bragged of, were false, I warrant you. Thus you see Satan at one blow dasheth all in pieces. The whole fabric of grace which God hath been rearing up many years in the soul, must now at one puff of his malicious mouth be blown down, and all the sweet comforts with which the Holy Spirit hath sealed up God's love, must be defaced with this one blot, which Satan draws over the fair copy of the saint's evidence. Well, soul, for thy comfort know, if ever the Spirit of God hath begun sanctifying or comforting work, causing thee to hope in his mercy, he never is, will, can be the messenger to bring contrary news to thy soul; His language is not yea and nay, but yea and amen for ever. Indeed, when the saint plays the wanton, he can chide, yea, will frown and tell the soul roundly of its sin, as he did David by Nathan. 'Thou art the man' -this thou hast done. He paints out his sin with such bloody colours, as made David's heart melt, as it were, into so many drops of water. But that shall not serve his turn; he tells him what a rod is steeping for him, that shall smart to purpose-one of his own house, no other than his darling son, shall rise up against him. This happens in order that he may the more fully conceive how ill God took the sin of him, a child, a saint, when he shall know what it is to have his beloved child traitorously invade his crown, and unnaturally hunt for his precious life; yet not a word all this while is heard from Nathan teaching David to unsaint himself, and call in question the work of God in his soul. No, he had no such commission from God; he was sent to make him mourn for his sin, not from his sin to question his state which God had so oft put out of doubt.

 

2. When they asperse the riches of God's grace, and so charge the Christian, that withal they reflect upon the good name of God, they are not of the Holy Spirit but from Satan. When you find your sins so represented and aggravated to you, as exceeding either the mercy of God's nature, or the grace of his covenant10, this comes from that foul liar. The Holy Spirit is Christ's spokesman to commend him to souls, and to woo sinners to embrace the grace of the gospel; and can such words drop from his sacred lips, as should break the match and sink Christ's esteem in the thoughts of the creature? You may know where this is mined. When you hear one commend another for a wise or good man, and at last come in with a but that dasheth all, you will easily think he is no friend to the man, but some sly enemy that by seeming to commend, desires to disgrace the more. Thus you find God represented to you as merciful and gracious, but not to such a great sinner as you. to have power and strength, but not able to save thee; you may say, Avaunt, Satan, thy speech bewrayeth thee.

 

Third Wile. Another wile of Satan lies in cavilling at the Christian's duties and performances, by which he puts him to much toil and trouble. He is at church as soon as thou canst be, Christian, for thy heart; yea, he stands under thy closet-window, and hears what thou sayest to God in secret, all the while studying how he may commence a suit against thee from thy duty. He is like those who come to sermons to carp and catch at what the preacher saith, that they make him an offender for some word or other misplaced; or like a cunning opponent in the schools, while his adversary is busy in reading his position, he is studying to confute it. And truly Satan hath such an art as this, that he is able to take our duties in pieces, and so disfigure them that they shall appear formal, though never so zealous; hypocritical, though enriched with much sincerity. When thou hast done thy duty, Christian, then stands up this sophist to ravel out thy work; there, will he say, thou playedst the hypocrite, zealous, but serving thyself, here wandering, there nodding, a little further puffed up with pride. And what wages canst thou hope for at God's hands, now thou hast spoiled his work, and cut it all out into chips? Thus he makes many poor souls lead a weary life; nothing they do but he hath a fling at, that they know not whether it be best to pray or not, to hear or not; and when they have prayed and heard, whether it be to any purpose or not. Thus their souls hang in doubt, and their days pass in sorrow; while their enemy stands in a corner, and laughs at the cheat he hath put upon them; as one, who by putting a counterfeit spider into the dish, makes those that sit at table either out of conceit with the meat, that they dare not eat, or afraid of themselves if they have eaten, lest they should be poisoned with their meat.

 

Question. But you will say, What will you have us do in this case to withstand the cavils of Satan, in reference to our duties?

 

Answer 1. Let this make thee more accurate in all thou doest. It is the very end God aims at in suffering Satan thus to watch you, that you his children might be the more circumspect, because you have one who overlooks you, that will be sure to tell tales of you to God, and accuse thee to thy own self. Doth it not behove thee to write thy copy fair, when such a critic reads and scans it over? Doth it not concern thee to know thy heart well, to turn over the Scriptures diligently, that thou mayest know the state of thy soul-controversy in all the cases of conscience thereof, when thou hast such a subtle opponent to reply upon thee?

 

Answer 2. Let it make thee more humble. If Satan can charge thee with so much in thy best duties, O what then can thy God do! God suffers sometimes the infirmities of his people to be known by the wicked, who are ready to check and frump them for them, for the end of humbling his people. How much more low should these accusations of Satan, which are in a great part too true, lay us before God?

 

Answer 3. Observe the fallacy of Satan's argument, which discovered, will help thee to answer his cavil. The fallacy is double.

 

(1.) He will persuade thee that thy duty and thyself are hypocritical, proud, formal, &c., because something of these sins are to be found in thy duty. Now, Christian, learn to distinguish between pride in a duty, and a proud duty; hypocrisy in a person, and a hypocrite; wine in a man, and a man in wine. The best of saints have the stirrings of such corruptions in them and in their services. These birds will light on an Abraham's sacrifice, but comfort thyself with this, that if thou findest a party within thy bosom pleading for God, and entering its protest against thee, thou and thy services are evangelically perfect. God beholds these as the weaknesses of thy sickly state here below, and pities thee, as thou wouldst do thy lame child. How odious is he to us that mocks one for natural defects, a blear eye, or a stammering tongue! such are these in thy new nature. Observable is that in Christ's prayer against Satan, 'And the Lord said unto Satan, Zec 3:2, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; is not this a brand plucked out of the fire,'. As if Christ had said, Lord, wilt thou suffer this envious spirit to twit thy poor child with, and charge him for, those infirmities that cleave to his perfect state? He is but new plucked out of the fire. No wonder there are some sparks unquenched, some corruptions unmortified, some disorders unreformed in his place and calling; and what Christ did for Joshua, he doth incessantly for all his saints, for apologizing for their infirmities with his Father.

 

(2.) His other fallacy is in arguing from the sin that is in our duty, to the non-acceptance of them. Will God, saith he, thinkest thou, take such broken groats at thy hand? Is he not a holy God? Now here, Christian, learn to distinguish and answer Satan. There is a double acceptance. There is an acceptance of a thing by way of payment of a debt, and there is an acceptance of a thing offered as a token of love and testimony of gratitude. He that will not accept of broken money, or half the sum for payment of a debt; the same man, if his friend sends him through but a bent sixpence, in token of his love, will take it kindly. It is true, Christian, the debt thou owest to God must be paid in good and lawful money, but for thy comfort, here Christ is thy paymaster. Send Satan to him, bid him bring his charge against Christ, who is ready at God's right hand to clear his accounts, and show his discharge for the whole debt. But now thy performances and obedience come under another notion, as tokens of thy love and thankfulness to God, and such is the gracious disposition of thy heavenly Father, that he accepts thy mite. Love refuseth nothing that love sends. It is not the weight or worth of the gift, but 'the desire of a man in his kindness,' Pr 19:22.

 

Fourth Wile. A fourth wile of Satan as a troubler, is to draw the saint into the depths of despair, under a specious pretence of not being humbled enough for sin. This we find singled out by the apostle for one of the devil's fetches. 'We are not ignorant,' saith he, 'of his devices,'11 2Co 2:11, his sophistical reasonings. Satan sets much by this sleight; no weapon is oftener in his hand. Where is the Christian that hath not met him at this door? Here Satan finds the Christian easy to be wrought on -the humours being stirred to his hand-while the Christian of his own accord complains of the hardness of his heart, and is very prone to believe any who comply with his musing thoughts; yea, thinks every flatters him that would persuade him otherwise. It is easier to dye that soul into black, which is of a sad colour already, than to make such a one take the lightsome tincture of joy and comfort.

 

Question. But how shall I answer this subtle enemy, when he perplexeth my spirit with not being humbled enough for sin, &c.?

 

Answer. I answer as to the former, Labour to spy the fallacy of his argument, and his mouth is soon stopped.

 

Argument 1. Satan argues thus. There ought to be a proportion between sin and sorrow. But there is no proportion between thy sins and thy sorrow. Therefore thou art not humbled enough. What a plausible argument is here at first blush? For the major, that there ought to be a proportion between sin and sorrow, this Satan will show you scripture for. Manasseh was a great sinner, and an ordinary sorrow will not serve his turn; 'He humbled himself greatly before the Lord,' 2Ch 33:12. Now, saith Satan, weigh thy sin the balance with thy sorrow; art thou as great a mourner as thou hast been a sinner? So many years thou hast waged war against the Almighty, making havoc of his laws, loading his patience till it groaned again, raking in the sides of Christ with thy bloody dagger-while thou didst grieve his Spirit, and reject his grace-and dost thou think a little remorse, like a rolling cloud letting fall a few drops of sorrow, will be accepted? No, thou must steep in sorrow as thou hast soaked in sin. Now to show you the fallacy, we must distinguish of a twofold proportion of sorrow.

 

(1.) An exact proportion of sorrow to the inherent nature and demerit of sin.

 

(2.) There is a proportion to the law and rule of the gospel. Now the first is not a thing feasible, because the injury done in the least sin is infinite, because done to an infinite God. And if it could be feasible, yet according to the tenor of the first covenant it would not be acceptable, because it had no clause to give any hope for an after-game by repentance: but the other, which is a gospel sorrow, is indeed repentance unto life, both given by the Spirit of the gospel, and to be tried by the rule of the gospel. This is given for thy relief. As you see sometimes in the highway, where the waters are too deep for travellers, you have a foot-bridge or causey, by which they may escape the flood, and safely pass on; so that none but such as have not eyes, or are drunk, will venture to go through the waters, when they may avoid the danger. Thou art a dead man if thou think to answer thy sin with proportionable sorrow; thou wilt soon be above thy depth, and quackle12 thyself with thy own tears, but never get over the least sin thou committedst. Go not on therefore as thou lovest thy life, but turn aside to this gospel path, and thou escapest the danger. O you tempted souls, when Satan saith you are not humbled enough, see where you may be relieved. I am a Roman, saith Paul, I appeal to Cæsar. I am a Christian, say, I appeal to Christ's law. And what is the law of the gospel concerning this? Heart-sorrow is gospel sorrow: 'they were pricked in their heart,' Ac 2:37. And Peter, like an honest chirugeon13, will not keep these bleeding patients longer in pain with their wounds open, but presently claps on the healing plaster of the gospel-'Believe on the Lord Jesus.' Now a prick to the heart is more than a wound to the conscience. The heart is the seat of life. Sin wounded there lies a dying. To do anything from the heart makes it acceptable, Eph 6:6; 2Co 5:11. Now, poor soul, hadst thou sat thus long in the devil's stocks if thou hadst understood this aright? Doth thy heart clear or condemn thee, when in secret thou art bemoaning thy sin before God? If thy heart be false, I cannot help you, no, not the gospel itself; but if sincere, thou hast boldness with God, 1Jo 3:21.

 

Argument 2. A second argument Satan useth, is this, He whose sorrow falls short of theirs that never truly repented, he is not humbled enough. But, soul, thy sorrow falls short of some that never truly repented; ergo. Well, the first proposition is true, but how will Satan prove his minor? Thus: Ahab, he took for his sin, and went in sackcloth. Judas, he made bitter complaint. O, says Satan, didst thou not know such a one that lay under terror of conscience, walking in a sad mournful condition so many months, and every one took him for the greatest convert in the country? And yet he at last fell foully, and proved an apostate. But thou never didst feel such smart, pass so many weary nights and days in mourning and bitter lamentation as he hath done, and therefore thou fallest short of one that fell short of repentance. And truly this is a sad stumbling-block to a soul in an hour of temptation. Like a ship sunk in the mouth of the harbour, which is more dangerous to others than if it had perished in the open sea; there is less scandal by the sins of the wicked, who sink, as it were, in the broad sea of profaneness, than in those who are convinced of sin, troubled in conscience, and miscarry so near the harbour, within sight, as it were, of saving grace. Tempted souls can hardly get over these without dashing. Am I better than such a one that proved nought at last? Now to help thee a little to find out the fallacy of this argument, we must distinguish between the terrors that accompany sorrow, and the intrinsical nature of this grace. The first, which are accessory, may be separated from the other, as the raging of the sea, which is caused by the wind, from the sea when the wind is down. From this distinction take two conclusions.

 

(1.) One may fall short of an hypocrite in the terrors that sometimes accompany sorrow, and yet have the truth of this grace, which the other with all his terrors wants. Christians run into many mistakes, by judging rather according to that which is accessory, than that which is essential to the nature of duties and graces. Sometimes thou hearest one pray with a moving expression, while thou canst hardly get out a few broken words in duty, and thou art ready to accuse thyself and to admire him, as if the gilt of the key made it open the door the better. Thou seest another abound with joy which thou wantest, and art ready to conclude his grace more, and thine less; whereas thou mayest have more real grace, only thou wantest a light to show thee where it lies. Take heed of judging by accessories. Perhaps thou hast not heard so much of the rattling chains of hell, nor in thy conscience the outcries of the damned to make thy flesh tremble; but hast not seen that in a bleeding Christ which hath made thy heart melt and mourn, yea, loathe and hate thy lusts more than the devil himself? Truly, Christian, it is strange to hear a patient complain of his physician, when he finds his physic work effectually to the evacuating his distempered humours, and the restoring his health, merely because he was not so sick as some others with the working of it. Soul, thou hast more reason to be blessing God that the convictions of his Spirit wrought so kindly on thee, to effect that in thee without those errors which have cost others so dear.

 

(2.) This is so weak an argument, that contrariwise, the more the terrors are, the less the sorrow is for sin while they remain. These are indeed preparatory sometimes to sorrow; they go before this grace as austere John before meek Jesus. But as John went down when Christ went up, his increase was John's decrease, so as truly godly sorrow goes up, these terrors go down. As the wind gathers the clouds, but those clouds seldom melt into a set rain, until the wind falls that gathered them; so these terrors raise the clouds of our sins in our consciences, but when these sins melt into godly sorrow, this lays the storm presently. Indeed, as the loud winds blow away the rain, so these terrors keep off the soul from this gospel sorrow. While the creature is making an outcry, 'it is damned, it is damned,' it is taken up so much with the fear of hell, that sin as sin, which is the proper object of godly sorrow, is little looked on or mourned for. A murderer condemned to die is so possessed with the fear of death and thought of the gallows, that there lies the slain body, it may be, before him, unlamented by him: but when his pardon is brought, then he can bestow his tears freely on his murdered friend. 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and mourn.' Faith is the eye. This eye, beholding its sin piercing Christ, and Christ pardoning its sin, affects the heart. The heart affected sighs. These inward clouds melt, and run from the eye of faith with in tears; and all this is done when there is no tempest of terror upon the spirit, but a sweet serenity of love and peace; and therefore, Christian, see how Satan abuseth thee, when he would persuade thee thou art not humbled enough, because thy sorrow is not attended with these legal terrors.

 

Brief application of Satan's subtlety as

 

a troubler and accuser for sin.]

 

Use First. Is Satan so subtle to trouble the saint's peace? This proves them to be the children of Satan, who show the same art and subtlety in vexing the spirits of the saints, as doth their infernal father; not to speak of bloody persecutors, who are the devil's slaughter-slaves to butcher the saints, but of those who more slyly trouble and molest the saint's peace.

 

1. Such as rake up the saint's old sins, which God hath forgiven and forgotten, merely to grieve their spirits and bespatter their names. These show their devilish malice indeed, who can take such pains to travel many years back, that they may find a handful of dirt to throw on the saint's face. Thus Shimei twitted David, 'Come out, thou bloody man,' 2Sa 16:7. When you that fear God meet with such reproaches, answer them as Beza did the Papists, who for want of other matter charged him for some wanton poems penned by him in his youth.14. These men, saith he, grudge me the pardoning mercy of God.

 

2. Such as watch for the saints' halting, and catch at every infirmity to make them odious, and themselves merry. It is a dreadful curse such bring upon themselves, though they think little of it; no less than Amalek's, the remembrance of whose name God threatened to blot out from under heaven, De 25:19. Why what had Amalek done to deserve this? They smote the hindermost, those that were feeble, and could not march with the rest. And was it so great a cruelty to do this? Much more to smite with the edge of a mocking tongue the feeble in grace.

 

3. Such who father their sins upon the saints. Thus Ahab calls the prophet the troubler of Israel, when it was himself and his father's house. What a grief was it, think you, to Moses' spirit, for the Israelites to lay the blood of those that died in the wilderness at his door? Whereas, God knows, he was their constant bail, when at any time God's hand is up to destroy them. And this was the charge which the best of God's servants in this crooked generation of ours lie under. We may thank them, say the profane, for all our late miseries in the nation; we were well enough till they would reform us. O for shame, blame not the good physic that was administered, but the corrupt body of the nation that could not bear it.

 

4. Such as will themselves sin, merely to trouble the saint's spirit. Thus Rabshakeh blasphemed, and when desired to speak in another language, he goes on the more to grieve them. Sometimes you shall have a profane wretch, knowing one to be conscientious, and cannot brook to hear the name of God taken in vain, or the ways of God flouted, will on purpose fall upon such discourse as shall grate his chaste ears and trouble his gracious spirit. Such a one strikes father and child in one blow; he thinks it not enough to dishonour God, except the saint stands by to see and hear the wrong done to his heavenly Father.

 

Use Second. This may afford matter of admiration and thankfulness to any of you, O ye saints who are not at this day under Satan's hatches. Is he so subtle to disquiet, and hast thou any peace in thy conscience? To whom art thou beholden for that serenity that is on thy spirit? To none but thy God, under whose wing thou sittest so warm and safe. Is there not combustible matter enough in thy conscience for his sparks to kindle? Perhaps thou hast not committed such bloody sins as others. That is not the reason for thy peace, for the least is big enough to damn, much more to trouble thee. Thou hast not grossly fallen, may be, since conversion, that is rare, if thou beest of long standing, yet the ghosts of thy unregenerate sins might walk in thy conscience. Thou hast had many testimonies of God's favour, hast thou not? Who more than David? Ps 77. Yet he was at a loss, sometimes learning to spell his evidences, as if he could never have read them. The sense of God's love comes and goes with the present taste. He that is in the dark, while there, sees not the more for former light. O bless God for that light which shines in at thy window; Satan is plotting to undermine thy comfort every day. This thief sees thy pleasant fruits as they hang, and his teeth water at them, but the wall is too high for him to climb; thy God keeps this serpent out of thy paradise. It is not the grace of God in thee, but the favour of God, as a shield about thee, that defends thee from the wicked one.

 

Use Third. Let Satan's subtlety to molest your peace, make thee, O Christian, more wise and wary. Thou hast no a fool to deal with, but one that hath wit enough to spill thy comfort and spoil thy joy, if not narrowly watched. This is the dainty bit he gapes for. It is not harder to keep the flies out of your cupboards in summer from tainting your provision, than Satan out of your consciences. Many a sweet meal hath he robbed the saints of, and sent them supperless to bed; take heed, therefore, that he roams not thine away also.

 

Directions tending to entrench and fortify

 

the Christian against the assaults of Satan,

 

as a troubler and accuser.]

 

Question. How shall I stand in a defensive posture, may the Christian say, against these wiles of Satan as a troubler?

 

Answer First. If thou wouldst be guarded from him as a troubler, take heed of him as a seducer. The haft of Satan's hatchet, with which he lies chopping at the root of the Christian's comfort, is commonly made of the Christian's wood. First he tempts to sin, and then for it. Satan is but a creature, and cannot work without tools; he can indeed make much of a little, but not anything of nothing, as we see in his assaulting of Christ, where he troubled himself to little purpose, because he came and found nothing in him, Joh 14:30. Though the devil throws the stone, yet it is the mud in us which royles our comforts. It is in vain for the Philistines to fall on Samson till his lock was cut. Take heed, therefore, of yielding to his enticing motions. These are the stumbling-blocks at which he hopes thou wilt break thy shins, bruise thy conscience; which once done, let him alone to spin out the cure. Indeed, a saint's flesh heals not so easily as others: drink not of the devil's wassel15; there is poison in the cup, his wine is a mocker; look not on it as it sparkles in the temptation. What thou drinkest down with sweetness, thou wilt be sure to bring up again as gall and wormwood. Above all sins, take heed of presumptuous ones; thou art not out of the danger of such. Sad stories we have of saints' falls, and what follows then? Ps 19:13. Take him, jailor, saith God, deliver such a one unto Satan. And if a saint be the prisoner, and the devil the keeper, you may guess how he shall be used. O how he will tear and rend thy conscience! Though that dreadful ordinance is not used as it should be in the church, yet God's court sits, and if he excommunicate a soul from his presence, he falls presently into Satan's clutches. Well, if through his subtlety thou hast been overtaken, take heed thou art yet not in the devil's quarters. Shake the viper off thy hand; ply thee to thy chirurgeon. Green wounds cure best. If thou neglectest and the wind get to it, thy conscience will soon fester. Ahab, we read, was wounded in battle, and was loath to yield to it; it is said, he was held up in his chariot, but he died for it, 1Ki 22:35. When a soul hath received a wound-committed a sin -Satan labours to bolster him up with flattering hopes, holds him up, as it were, in his chariot against God. What, yield for this! Afraid for a little scratch, and lose the spoil of thy future, pleasure for this? O take heed of listening to such counsel; the sooner thou yieldest, the fairer quarter thou shalt have. Every step in this way gets thee further from thy peace. A rent garment is catched by every nail, and the rent made wider. Renew therefore thy repentance speedily, whereby this breach may be made up, and worse prevented, which else will befall thee.

 

Answer Second. Study that grand gospel truth of a soul's justification before God. Acquaint thyself with this in all its causes; the moving cause, the free mercy of God, being justified freely by his grace; the meritorious, which is the blood of Christ; and the instrumental, faith; with all the sweet privileges that flow from it, Ro 3:24. An effectual door once opened to let the soul into this truth, would not only spoil the pope's market, as Gardner said, but the devil's also. When Satan comes to disquiet the Christian's peace, for want of a right understanding here, he is soon worsted by his enemy; as the silly hare which might escape the dogs in some covert or burrow that is at hand, but trusting to her heels is by the print of her own feet and scent, which she leaves behind, followed, till at last, weary and spent, she falls into the mouth of them. In all that a Christian doth, there is a print of sinful infirmity, and a scent by which Satan is enabled to trace and pursue him over hedge and ditch; this grace and that duty, till the soul, not able to stand before the accusation of Satan, is ready to fall down in despair at his feet. Whereas, here is a hiding place whither the enemy durst not come, 'the clefts of the rock,' the hole 'of the stairs,' which this truth leads unto. When Satan chargeth thee for a sinner, perhaps thou interposest thy repentance and reformation, but soon art beaten out of those works, when thou art shown the sinful mixtures that are in them: whereas this truth would choke all his bullets, that thou believest on him who hath said, Not unto him that worketh, but unto him that believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is imputed for righteousness, Ro 4:5. Get therefore into this tower of the gospel covenant, and roll this truth (as she that stone on the head of Abimelech) on the head of Satan.

 

Answer Third. Be sure, Christian, thou keepest the plains. Take heed that Satan coop thee not up in some straits, where thou canst neither well fight nor fly. Such a trap the Egyptians hoped they had the Israelites in, when they cried, They are entangled, they are entangled. There are three kinds of straits wherein he labours to entrap the Christian -nice questions, obscure scriptures, and dark providences.

 

1. He labours to puzzle him with nice and scrupulous questions, on purpose to retard the work, and clog him in his notion, that meeting with such intricacies in his Christian course, which he cannot easily resolve, thereby he may be made either to give over, or go on heavily. Therefore we have particular charge not to trouble the weak heads of young converts with 'doubtful disputations,' Ro 14:1. Sometimes Satan will be asking the soul, How it knows its election. And where he finds one not so fully resolved, as to dare to own the same, he frames his argument against such a one's closing with Christ and the promise, as if it were presumption to assume that, which is the only portion of the elect, before we know ourselves of that number. Now, Christian, keep the plains and thou art safe. It is plain, we are not to make election a ground for our faith, but our faith and calling a medium or argument to prove our election. Election indeed is first in order of divine acting, God chooseth before we believe; yet faith is first in our acting. We must believe before we can know we are elected, yea, by believing we know it. The husbandman knows it is spring by the sprouting of the grass, though he hath no astrology to know the position of the heavens. Thou mayest know thou art elect, as surely by a work of grace in thee, as if thou hadst stood by God's elbow when he writ thy name in the book of life. It had been presumption for David to have thought he should have been king, till Samuel anointed him, but then none at all. When thou believest first, and closest with Christ, then is the Spirit of God sent to anoint thee to the kingdom of heaven; this is that holy oil which is poured upon none but heirs of glory; and it is no presumption to read what God's gracious purpose was towards thee of old, when prints those his thoughts, and makes them legible in thy effectual calling. Here thou dost not go up to heaven, and pry into God's secrets, but heaven comes down to thee, and reveals them. Again, he will ask the Christian what was the time of his conversion. Art thou a Christian, will he say, and dost thou not know when thou commencedst? Now keep the plains, and content thyself with this, that thou seest the streams of grace, though the time of thy conversion be like the head of Nylus, not to be found. God oft betimes, before gross sins have deflowered the soul, and steals into the creature's bosom without much noise. In such a case Satan doth but abuse thee when he sends thee in this errand; you may know the sun is up, though you did not observe when it rose. Again, what will become of thee, saith Satan, if God should bring thee into such an affliction or trial, when thou must burn or turn, or when all thy outward estate shall be rent from thee, no meal in the barrel, no money in the purse? Darest thou have so good an opinion of thyself, as to think that thy faith will hold out in such an hour of temptation? If thou hast but half an eye, Christian, thou mayest see what Satan drives at. This is an ensnaring question; by the fear of future troubles he labours to bring thee into a neglect of thy duty, and indispose thee also for such a state whenever it falls. If a man hath much business to do on the morrow, it is his wisdom to discharge his mind thereof, when composing to sleep, lest the thoughts thereof break his rest, and make him the more unfit in the morning. The less rest the soul hath in God and his promise concerning future events, the less strength it will find to bear them when the pinch comes. When therefore thou art molested with such fears, pacify thy heart with these three plain conclusions.

 

(1.) Every event is the product of God's providence; not a sparrow, much less a saint, falls to the ground by poverty, sickness, persecution, &c., but the hand of God is in it.

 

(2.) God hath put in caution he 'will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,' Heb 13:5. He that enables thee in one condition, will in another. God learns his servants their whole trade. Grace is a universal principle. At the first moment of thy spiritual life, suffering grace was infused as well as praying grace.

 

(3.) God is wise to conceal the succours he intends in the several changes of thy life, that so he may draw thy heart into an entire dependence on his faithful promise. Thus to try the metal of Abraham's faith, he let him go on, till his hand was stretched forth, and then he comes to the rescue. Christ sends his disciples to sea, but stays behind himself, on a design to try their faith, and show his love. Comfort thyself therefore with this, though thou seest not thy God in the way, yet thou shalt find him in the end.

 

2. Satan perplexeth the tender consciences of doubting Christians, with obscure scriptures, whose sense lies too deep for their weak and distempered judgements readily to find out, and with these he hampers poor souls exceedingly. Indeed as melancholy men delight in melancholy walks, so doubting souls most frequent such places of Scripture in their musing thoughts, as increase their doubts. How many have I known that have looked so long on those difficult places, Heb 6:6; 10:26, which pass the understanding, as a swift stream the eye, so that the sense is not perceived without great observation, till their heads have turned round, and they at last, not able to untie the difficulties, have fallen down in despairing thoughts and words of their own condition, crying out, O they have sinned against knowledge of the truth, and therefore no mercy remains for them. Now if they have refreshed their understandings by looking off these places, whose engraving is too curious to be long pored on by a weak eye, they might have found that in other scriptures plainly expressed, which would have enabled them, as through a glass, more safely to have viewed these. Therefore, Christian, keep the plains; thou mayest be sure it is thine enemy that gives thee such stones to break thy teeth, when thy condition calls rather for bread and wine-such scriptures, I mean, as are most apt to nourish thy faith, and cheer thy drooping spirit. When thou meetest such plain scriptures which speak to thy case, go over where it is fordable, and do not venture beyond thy depth. Art thou afraid because thou hast sinned since the knowledge of truth, and that therefore no sacrifice remains for thee? See David and Peter's case, how it patterns thine, and is left upon record that their recovery may be a key in thine hand to open such places as these. Mayest thou not safely conclude from these, that this is not their meaning, that none can be saved the sin after knowledge? Indeed in both these places, it is neither meant of the falls of such as ever had true grace, nor of a falling away in some particular acts of sin, but of a total universal falling away from the faith, the doctrine as well as seeming practice of it. Now if the root of the matter were ever in thee, other scriptures will first comfort thee against those particular apostasies into which thou hast relapsed, by sweet promises inviting such to return, and giving precedents of saints, who have had peace spoken to them after such folly, and also they will satisfy thee against the other, by giving full security to thy faith, that thy little grace shall not die, being immortal, though not in its proper essence, because but a creature, yet by covenant, as it is a child of promise.

 

3. Dark providences. From these Satan disputes against God's love to, and grace in, a soul. First, he got a commission to plunder Job of his temporal estate, and bereave him of his children, and then labours to make him question his spiritual estate and sonship. His wife would have him entertain hard thoughts of God, saying, 'Curse God and die;' and his friends as hard thoughts of himself, as if he were an hypocrite; and both upon the same mistake, as if such an afflicted condition and a gracious state were inconsistent. Now, Christian, keep the plains, and neither from this, charge God foolishly for thine enemy, nor thyself as his. Read the saddest providence with the comment of the Word, and thou canst not make such a harsh interpretation. As God can make a straight line with a crooked stick, be righteous when he useth wicked instruments; so also gracious when he dispenseth harsh providences. Joseph kept his love, when he spake roughly to his brethren. I do not wonder that the wicked think they have God's blessing, because they are in the warm sun. Alas! they are strangers to God's counsels, void of his Spirit, and sensual, judging of God and his providence, by the report their present feeling makes of them like little children, who think every one loves them that gives them plums. But it is strange that a saint should be at a loss for his afflicted state, when he hath a key to decipher God's character. Christian, hath not God secretly instructed thee by his Spirit from the Word, how to read the shorthand of his providence? Dost not thou know that the saint's afflictions stand for blessings? Every son whom he loves he corrects; and prosperity in a wicked state, must it not be read a curse? Doth not God damn such to be rich, honourable, victorious in this world, as well as to be tormented in another world? God gives them more of these than they seem to desire sometimes, and all to bind them faster up in a deep sleep of security, as Jael served Sisera: he shall have milk though he asked but water, that she might nail him surer to the ground-milk having a property, as some write, to incline to sleep, Jg 5:25.

 

Answer Fourth. Be careful to keep thy old receipts which thou hast had from God for the pardon of thy sins. There are some gaudy days, and jubilee-like festivals, when God comes forth clothed with the robes of his mercy, and holds forth the sceptre of his grace more familiarly to his children than ordinary, bearing witness to their faith, sincerity, &c., and then the firmament is clear, not a cloud to be seen to darken the Christian's comfort. Love and joy are the soul's repast and pastime, while this feast lasts. Now when God withdraws, and this cheer is taken off, Satan's work is how he may deface and wear off the remembrance of this testimony, which the soul so triumphs in for its spiritual standing, that he may not have it as an evidence when he shall bring about the suit again, and put the soul to produce his writings for his spiritual state, or renounce his claim. It behoves thee therefore to lay them safely; such a testimony may serve to nonsuit thy accuser many years hence; one affirmative from God's mouth for thy pardoned state, carries more weight, though of old date, than a thousand negatives from Satan's. David's songs of old spring in with a light to his soul in his midnight sorrows.

 

Question. But what counsel would you give me, saith the distressed soul, who cannot fasten on my former comforts, nor dare to vouch those evidences which once I thought true? I find indeed there have been some treaties of old between God and my soul; some hopes I have had, but these are now so defaced and interlined with backslidings, repentances, and falls again, that now I question all my evidences, whether true or counterfeit; what should one in this case do?

 

Answer First. Renew thy repentance, as if thou hadst never repented. Put forth fresh acts of faith, as if thou hadst never believed. This seriously done, will stop Satan's mouth with an unexpected answer. Let him object against thy former actions as hypocritical; what can he say against thy present repenting and believing? which, if true, sets thee beyond his shot. It will be harder for Satan to disprove the present workings of God's gracious Spirit, whilst the impression thereof are fresh, than to pick a hole in thy old deeds and evidences. Acts are transient, and as wicked men look at sins committed many years since as little or none, by reason of that breadth of time which interposeth; so the Christian upon the same account stands at great disadvantage, to take the true aspect of those acts of grace, which so long ago passed between God and him, though sometimes even these are of great use. As God can make a sinner possess the sins of his youth, as if they were newly acted, to his terror in his old age, so God can present the comforts and evidences which of old the saint received, with those very thoughts he had then of them, as if they were fresh and new.

 

Answer Second. And therefore, if yet he haunts thee with the fears of thy spiritual estate, ply thee to the throne of grace, and beg a new copy of thy old evidence, which thou hast lost. The original is in the pardon office in heaven, whereof Christ is master, and if thou beest a saint, thy name is upon record in that court. Make thy moan to God, hear what news from heaven, rather than listen to the tales which are brought by thine enemy from hell. Did such reason less with Satan, and pray over their fears more to God, they might sooner be resolved. Can you expect truth from a liar, and comfort from an enemy? Did he ever prophesy well of believers? Was not Job the devil's hypocrite, whom God vouched for a non-such in holiness, and proved him so at last? If he knew thou wert a saint, would he tell thee so? If an hypocrite, he would be as loath thou shouldst know it. Turn thy back therefore on him, and go to thy God; fear not, but sooner or later he will give his hand to thy certificate. But look thou dost not rashly pass a censure on thyself, because a satisfactory answer is not presently sent at thy desire; the messenger may stay long, and bring good news at last.

 

Answer Third. Shun battle with thine enemy while until thou art in a fitter posture, and that thou mayest draw into thy trenches, and make an honourable retreat into those fastnesses and strengths which Christ hath provided for his sick and wounded soldiers. Now there are two places of advantage into which deserted souls may retire-the name of God, and the absolute promises of the gospel. These I may call the fair havens, which are then chiefly of use, when the storm is so great that the ship cannot live at sea. O, saith Satan, dost thou hope to see God? None but the pure in heart shall be blessed with that vision. Thinkest thou to have comfort? That is the portion of the mourners in spirit. Now, soul, though thou canst not say in the hurry of temptation that thou art the pure and the mourner in spirit, yet then say thou believest God is able to work these in thee; yea, hath promised such a mercy to poor sinners; it is his covenant that he will give a new heart, a clean heart, a soft heart; and here I wait, knowing, as there was nothing in the creature to move the great God to make such promises, so there can be nothing in the creature to hinder the Almighty his performance of them, where and when he pleaseth. This act of faith, accompanied with a longing desire after that grace thou canst not yet find, and an attendance on the means, though it will not fully satisfy all thy doubts, may be, yet will keep thy head above water, that thou despairest not; and such a shore thou needest in this case, or the house falls.

 

Answer Fourth. If yet Satan dogs thee, call in help, and keep not the devil's counsel. The very strength of some temptations lies in the concealing of them, and the very revealing of them to some faithful friend, like the opening and pricking of some imposthume16, gives the soul present ease. Satan knows this too well; and therefore, as some thieves, when they come to rob a house, either gag them in it, or hold a pistol to their breast, frightening them with death, if they cry or speak; thus Satan, that he may more freely rifle the soul of its peace and comfort, overawes it so, that it dares not disclose his temptation. O, saith Satan, if thy brethren or friends know such a thing by thee, they will cast thee off; others will hoot at thee. Thus many a poor soul hath been kept long in its pangs by biting them in. Thou losest, Christian, a double help by keeping the devil's secret -the counsel and prayers of thy fellow-brethren. And what an invaluable loss is this!

 

BRANCH SECOND.

 

The certainty of standing against all his wiles

 

if we be thus armed.]

 

The second branch of the apostle's argument follows, to excite them the more vigorously to their arms; and that is from the possibility yea, certainty of standing against this subtle enemy, if thus armed, 'That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.' So that this gives the apostle's argument its due temperament; for he meant not to scare them into a cowardly flight, or sullen despair of victory, when he tells them that their enemy is so subtle and politic, but to excite them to a vigorous resistance, from the assured hope of strength to stand in battle, and victoriously after it; which two I perceive are comprehended in that phrase, standing against the wiles of Satan. Sometimes to stand implies a fighting posture, ver. 14. sometimes a conquering posture: 'I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth,' Job 19:25. That earth which was the field where all the bloody battles were fought betwixt him and Satan, on it shall he stand, when not an enemy shall dare to show his head. So that taking both these in, the observation is-

 

Satan shall never vanquish a soul

 

armed with true grace.]

 

Doctrine. Satan with all his wits and wiles, shall never vanquish a soul armed with true grace; nay, he that hath this armour of God on shall vanquish him. Look into the Word; you shall not find a saint but hath been in the list with him, sifted and winnowed more or less by this enemy, yet at last we find them all coming off with an honourable victory: as in David, Job, Peter, Paul, who were the hardest put to it of any upon record; and lest some should attribute their victory to the strength of their inherent grace above other of their weaker brethren, you have the glory of their victories appropriated to God, in whom the weak are as strong as the strongest. We shall give a double reason of this truth, why the Christian who seems to be so overmatched, is yet so unconquerable, 2Co 12:9; Jas 5:11.

 

First Reason. The curse that lies upon Satan and his cause. God's curse blasts wherever it comes. The Canaanites with their neighbour nations were bread for Israel, though people famous for war; and why? They were cursed nations. The Egyptians were a politic people; let us deal wisely, say they; yet being cursed of God, this lay like a thorn at their heart, and at last was their ruin. Yea, let the Israelites themselves, who carry the badge of God's covenant on their flesh, by their sins once become the people of God's curse, and they are trampled like dirt under the Assyrian's feet. This made Balak beg so hard for a curse upon Israel. Now there is an irrevocable curse cleaves to Satan from Ge 3:14-15, 'And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed,' &c., which place, though partly meant of the literal serpent, yet chiefly of the devil and the wicked-his spiritual serpentine brood-as appears by the enmity pronounced against the serpent's seed and the woman's, Ge 3:15,17, which clearly holds forth the feud between Christ with his seed, against the devil and his. Now there are two things in that curse which may comfort the saints. 1. The curse prostrates Satan under their feet: Upon thy belly shalt thou go; which is no more than is elsewhere promised, that God will subdue Satan under our feet. Now this prostrate condition of Satan assures believers that the devil shall never lift his head, that is, his wily policy, higher than the saint's heel. He may make thee limp, but cannot bereave thee of thy life; and this bruise which he give thee shall be rewarded with the breaking of his own head, that is, the utter ruin of him and his cause. 2. His food is here limited and appointed. Satan will not devour whom he will. The dust is his food; which seems to restrain his power to the wicked, who are of the earth earthy, mere dust; but for those who are of a heavenly extraction, their graces are reserved for Christ's food, Song 7:13, and their soul's are surely not a morsel for the devil's tooth.

 

Second Reason. The second reason is taken from the wisdom of God, who as he undertakes the ordering of the Christian's way to heaven, Ps 37:24, so especially this business of Satan's temptations. We find Christ was not led of the evil spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, but of the Holy Spirit, Mt 4:1. Satan tempts not when he will, but when God pleaseth, and the same Holy Spirit which led Christ into the field, led him off with victory. And therefore we find him marching in the power of his Spirit, after he had repulsed Satan, into Galilee, Lu 4:14. When Satan tempts a saint, he is but God's messenger, 2Co 12:7. 'There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.' So our translation. But rather as Beza, who will have it in the nominative case18]], the messenger Satan, implying that he was sent of God to Paul; and indeed the errand he came about was too good and gracious to be his own, lest I should be exalted above measure. The devil never meant to do Paul such a good office, but God sends him to Paul, as David sent Uriah with letters to Joab; neither knew the contents of their message. The devil and his instruments, both are God's instruments, therefore the wicked are called his sword, his axe; now let God alone to wield the one and handle the other. He is but a bungler that hurts and hackles his own legs with his own axe; which God should do, if his children should be the worse for Satan's temptations. Let the devil choose his way, God is for him at every weapon. If he will try it by force of arms, and assault the saints by persecution, as the Lord of hosts he will oppose him. If by policy and subtilty, he is ready there also. The devil and his whole council are but fools to God. Nay, their wisdom, foolishness, cunning, and art, commend everything but sin. The more artificial the watch, the picture, &c., the better; but the more wit and art in sin, the worse, because it is employed against an all-wise God, that cannot be outwitted, and therefore in the end but pay the workmen in greater damnation. 'The foolishness of God is wiser than men;' yea, than the wisdom of men and devils, that is, the means and instruments which God opposeth Satan withal. What weaker than a sermon? Who sillier than the saints in the account of the wise world? Yet God is wiser in a weak sermon, than Satan in his deep plots, wherein the state heads of a whole conclave of profound cardinals are knocked together-wiser in his simple ones, than Satan in his Ahithophels and Sanballats. And truly God chooseth on purpose to defeat the policies of hell and earth by these, that he may put such to greater shame, 1Co 1:21. How is the great scholar ashamed to be baffled by a plain countryman's argument? Thus God calls forth Job to wrestle with Satan and his seconds-for such his three friends showed themselves in taking the devil's part-and sure he is not able to hold up the cudgels against the fencing-master, who is beaten by one of the scholars. God sits laughing while hell and earth sit plotting, Ps 2:4; 'He disappointeth the devices of the crafty,' Job 5:12, he breaketh their studied thoughts and plots, as the words import, in one moment pulling down the labours of many years' policy. Indeed as great men keep wild beasts for game and sport, as the fox, the boar, &c., so doth God Satan and his instruments, to manifest his wisdom in the taking of them. It is observed, that the very hunting of some beasts affords not only pleasure to the hunter, but also more sweetness to the eater. Indeed God, by displaying of his wisdom in the pursuit of the saint's enemies, doth superadd a sweet relish to their deliverance at last. He brake the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gave him to be meat to his people. After he had hunted Pharaoh out of all his forms and burrows, now he breaks the very brains of all his plots, and serves him up to his people, with the garnishment of his wisdom and power about.

 

How God doth outwit the devil

 

in his tempting of saints to sin.]

 

Question. But how doth God defeat Satan, and outwit his wiles in tempting his saints?

 

Answer. This God doth by accomplishing his own gracious ends for the good and comfort of his people out of those temptations from which Satan designs their ruin. This is the noblest kind of conquest, to beat back the devil's weapon to the wounding of his own head, yea, to cut it off with the devil's own sword. Thus God sets the devil to catch the devil, and lays, as it were, his own counsels under Satan's wings, and makes him hatch them. Thus the patriarchs helped to fulfil Joseph's dream, while they were thinking to rid their hands of him. To instance in a few particulars,

 

The ends Satan propounds.

 

First Particular. Satan by his temptations aims at the defiling of the Christian's conscience, and disfiguring that beautiful face of God's image which is engraven with holiness in the Christian's bosom; he is an unclean spirit himself, and would have them such that he might glory in their shame; but God outwits him, for he turneth the temptations of Satan to sin, to purging them from sin; they are the black soap with which God washes his saints white.

 

1. God useth the temptations of Satan to one sin, as a preventive against another; so Paul's thorn in the flesh to prevent his pride. God sends Satan to assault Paul on that side where he is strong, that in the meantime he may fortify him where he is weak. Thus Satan is befooled, as sometimes we see an army sitting down before a town, where it wastes its strength to no purpose, and in the meantime gives the enemy an advantage to recruit; and all this by the counsel of some Hushai, that is a secret friend to the contrary side. God, who is the saint's true friend, sits in the devil's council, and overrules proceedings there to the saint's advantage. He suffers the devil to annoy the Christian with temptations to blasphemy, atheism, and with these, together with the troubles of spirit they produce, the soul is driven to duty, is humbled in the sense of these horrid apparitions in its imagination, and secured from abundance of formality and pride, which otherwise God saw invading him. As in a family, some business falls out, which keeps the master up later than ordinary, and by this the thief, who that night intended to rob him, is disappointed. Had not such a soul had his spirit of prayer and diligence kept awake by those afflicting temptations, it is likely that Satan might have come as a seducer, and taken him napping in security.

 

2. God purgeth out the very sin Satan tempts to, even by his tempting. Peter never had such a conquest over his self-confidence, never such an establishment of his faith as after his soul-fall in the high-priest's hall. He that was so well persuaded of himself before, as to say, 'Though all were offended with Christ, yet would not he,' how modest and humble was he in a few days become, when he durst not say he loved Christ more than his fellow-brethren, to whom before he had preferred himself! Joh 21:15. What an undaunted confessor of Christ and his gospel doth he prove before councils and rulers, who even now was dashed out of countenance by a silly maid, and all this the product of Satan's temptation sanctified unto him! Indeed a saint hath a discovery by his fall, what is the prevailing corruption in him, so that the temptation doth but stir the humour, which the soul having found out, hath the greater advantage to evacuate, by applying those means, and using those ingredients which do purge that malady with a choice19]]. Now the soul sure will call all out against this destroyer? Paul had not taken such pains to buffet his body, had he not found Satan knocking at that door.

 

3. God useth these temptations for the advancing the whole work of grace in the heart. One spot occasions the whole garment to be washed. David overcome with one sin, renews his repentance for all, Ps 51. A good husband when he seeth it rain at one place, sends for the workman to look over all the house. This indeed differenceth a sincere heart from an hypocrite, whose repentance is partial, soft in one plot, and hard in another. Judas cries out of his treason, but not a word of his thievery and hypocrisy. The hole was no wider in his conscience than where the bullet went in; whereas true sorrow for one, breaks the heart into shivers for others also.

 

How Satan is prevented in all.

 

Second Particular. Satan by tempting one saint hath a mischievous design against others, either by encouraging then to sin by the example of such a one, or discouraging them in their holy course by the scandal he hath given; but God here befools him.

 

1. By making the miscarriages of such, a seasonable caveat to others to look to their standing. Dost thou see a meek Moses provoked to anger; what watch and ward hast thou need keep over thy unruly heart! Though loud winds do some hurt by blowing down here a loose tile, and there a turret, which was falling before-yet the common good surmounts the private damage of some few, these being a broom in God's hands to sweep and cleanse the air. So, though some that are wicked are by God's righteous judgement for the same hardened into further abominations by the saints' falls, yet the good which sincere souls receive by having their formality and security in a further degree purged, doth abundantly countervail the other, who are but sent a little faster, whither they were going before.

 

2. God makes his saints' falls an argument for comfort to distressed consciences. This hath been, and is as a feather-when the passage seems so stopped that no comfort can be got down otherwise -to drop a little hope into the soul, to keep the creature alive from falling into utter despair. Some have been revived with this, when next door to hell in their own fears. David's sin was great, yet he found mercy. Peter fell foully, yet is now in heaven. Why sittest thou here, O my soul, under the hatches of despair? Up and call upon thy God for mercy, who hath pardoned the same to others.

 

3. God hath a design in suffering Satan to trounce some of his saints by temptation, to train them up in a fitness to succour their fellow-brethren in the like condition. He sends them hither to school -where they are under Satan's ferula and lash-that his cruel hand over them may make them study the Word and their own hearts, by which they get experience of Satan's policies till at last they commence masters in this art of comforting tempted souls. It is an art by itself, to speak a word in season to the weary soul. It is not serving out an apprenticeship to human arts that will furnish a man for this. Great doctors have proved very dunces here, knowing no more how to handle a wounded conscience than a rustic the chirurgeon's instrument in dissecting the body when an anatomy lecture is to be read. It is not the knowledge of the Scripture-though a man were as well acquainted with it, as the apothecary with his pots and glasses in his shop, and able to go directly to any promise on a sudden-that will suffice. No, not grace itself, except exercised with these buffetings and soul conflicts. Christ himself we find trained up at this school. 'He wakeneth mine ear, to hear as the learned,' Isa 50:4. Even as the tutor calls up his pupil to read to him. And what is the lecture which is read to Christ, that he may have the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to the weary souls? 'The Lord hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned I away back; I gave my back to the smiters,' &c., ver. 5, 6. His sufferings (which were all along mingled with temptations), were the lecture from which Christ came out so learned, to resolve and comfort distressed souls. So that the devil had better let Christ alone, yea, and his saints also, who do him but the greater disservice in comforting others. None will handle poor souls so gently as those who remember the smart of their own heart sorrows. None are so skilful in applying the comforts of the Word to wounded consciences, as those who have lain bleeding themselves; such know the symptoms of soul-troubles, and feel others' pains in their own bosoms, which some that know the Scriptures, for lack of experience do not, and therefore are like a novice physician, who perhaps can tell you every plant in the herbal, yet wanting the practical part, when a patient comes, knows not well how to make use of his skill. The saints' experiences help him to a sovereign treacle made of the scorpion's own flesh-which they through Christ have slain-and that hath a virtue above all other to expel the venom of Satan's temptations from the heart.

 

The gracious issue God puts

 

to Satan's temptations.]

 

Third Particular. Satan, in tempting the saint to sin, labours to make a breech between God and the soul. He hates both, and therefore labours to divide these dear friends. If I can, thinks he, get such a one to sin, God will be angry, and when angry he will whip his child soundly; this will be some sport; and when God is correcting the saint, he will be questioning the love of God to him, and cool in his love to God. So though I should not keep him from heaven at last, yet he shall have little joy thither in the way. In this case God and the soul will be like man and wife fallen out, who neither of them look kindly one upon another. Now see how God befools Satan in both these.

 

1. God useth his saints' temptations, as his method by which he advanceth the communications of his love unto them. The devil thought he had got the goal when he got Adam to eat the forbidden fruit; he thought now he had man in the same predicament with himself, as unlikely ever to see the face of God, as those apostate spirits. But, alas! this was by God intended to usher in that great gospel-plot of saving man by Christ, who (as soon as this prologue of man's fall is done) is brought upon the stage in that grand promise of the gospel made to Adam, and, at God's command, undertakes the charge of recovering lost man out of Satan's clutches, and reinstating him in his primitive glory, with an access of more than ever man had at first, so that the meanest lily in Christ's field exceeds Adam in all his native royalty. And as Satan sped in his first temptation, so he is still on the losing hand. What got he by all his pains upon Job, but to let that holy man know at last how dearly God loved him? When he foiled Peter so shamefully, do we not find Christ owning Peter with as much love as ever? Peter must be the only disciple to whom by name the joyful news of the resurrection is sent. 'Go tell my disciples and Peter;' as if Christ had said, Be sure let his sad heart be comforted with this news, that he may know I am friends with him for all his late cowardice.

 

But doth not this seem to countenance sin, and make Christians heedless whether they fall into temptation or no? If God do thus show his love to the saints after their falls and foils, why should we be so shy of sin, which ends so well at last? Two things will prevent the danger of such an inference.

 

(1.) We must distinguish between a soul who is foiled through his own infirmity, and his enemies' subtlety and power over-matching him; and another thorough a false heart doth voluntarily prostrate himself to the lust of Satan, Though a general will show little pity to a soldier that should traitorously throw down his arms, and run to the enemy, yet if another in fighting receives a wound and be worsted, it will be no dishonour for him to express his pity and love, no, though he should send him out of the field in his own coach, lay him in his own bed, and appoint him his own chirurgeon. God doth not encourage wickedness in his saints, but pities weakness. Even when the saints fall into a sin, in its nature presumptuous, they do not commit it so presumptuously as others; there is a part true to God in their bosoms, though over-voted. Moses spake unadvisedly, but the devil had his instruments to provoke him, quite against the good man's temper. David numbers the people, but see how the devil dogged and hunted him, till at last he got the better: 'Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel,' 1Ch 21:1. How bravely did Job repel Satan's darts! No wonder if in such a shower someone should get between the joints of his armour! And for Peter, we know-good man!-with what a loyal heart, yea, zealous, he went into the field, though when the enemy appeared his heart failed him.

 

(2.) Consider but the way how God communicates his love after his saints' falls, not in sinning, or for sinning, but in mourning and humbling their souls for their sins. Indeed did God smile on them while acting sinfully, this might strengthen their sin, as wine in a fever would the disease; but when the fit is off, the venom of the disease spent, and breathed out in a kindly humiliation, now the creature lies low. God's wine of comfort is a cordial to the drooping spirit, not fuel for sin. When David was led into temptation first, he must be clad in sackcloth and mourning, and then God takes it off, and puts on the garment of joy and praise, 1Ch 21:10,15. Job, though he expressed so much courage and patience, yet, bewraying some infirmities after he was baited long by so many fresh dogs, men and devils, he must cry Peccavi I have sinned, and abhor himself in dust and ashes, before God will take him into his arms, Job 42:6. And the same way God takes with all his children. Now to his saints in such a posture, God may with safety to his honour and their good, give a larger draught of love than ordinary. Their fears and sorrows which their sin hath cost them, will serve instead of water to dash this strong wine of joy, and take away its headiness, that it neither fume up into pride, nor occasion them to reel backward into apostasy.

 

But why doth God now communicate his love? (a) From his own pitiful nature; 'You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and full of tender mercy.' God loves not to rake in bleeding wounds; he knows a mourning soul is subject to be discouraged. A frown or an angry look from God, whom the saint so dearly loves, must needs go near the heart, therefore God declares himself at hand to revive such, Isa 57:15. And if he gives the reason: 'For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me,' ver. 16. Whose spirit is there meant? Not that of the presumptuous sinner; he goes on, and never blunks; but of the contrite and humble ones. As the father observes the disposition of his children; one commits a fault and goes on rebelliously, despising his father's anger; another, when offending him, lays it to heart, refuseth to eat, gets into some corner to lament the displeasure of his father; the father sees it, and his bowels yearn toward him. Indeed should he not put his child out of fear by discovering his love, the spirit of such a one would fail. It is not possible there should be a long breach between such a father and such a son, the one relenting over his sin, the other over his mourning son. (b) God doth thus, to pour the greater shame upon Satan, who is the great makebate20 between God and the soul. How is the man ashamed that hath stirred up variance between husband and wife, father and son, to see the breach made up, and all set themselves against him! It went ill on Christ's side when Herod and Pilate were made friends; and can it go well with Satan to see all well between God and his children? If Esther be in favour, Haman her enemy shall have his face covered. Indeed, this covers Satan's face with shame, to see a poor saint, even now his prisoner, whom he had leave to rob and plunder, tempt and disquiet, now sitting in the sunshine of God's love, while he like a ravening lion takes on for the loss of his prey.

 

2. Satan's aim is to weaken the saint's faith on God, and cool his love to God, but he is befooled in both.

 

(1.) God turns their temptations, yea, their falls to the further establishment of their faith, which, like the tree, stands stronger for its shaking; or like the giant Anteus, who, in his wrestling with Hercules, is feigned to get strength by every fall to the ground. False faith, indeed, once foiled, seldom comes on again; but true faith riseth and fights more valiantly, as we see in Peter and other Scripture examples. Temptation to faith, is like fire to gold, 1Pe 1:7. The fire doth not only discover which is true gold, but makes the true gold more pure; it comes out, may be, less in bulk and weight, because severed from that soil and dross which embased it, but more in value and worth. When Satan is bound up, and the Christian walks under the shines of divine favour, and the encouragement of divine assistance, his faith may appear great, if compared with another under the withdrawings of God and buffetings of Satan, but this is not equal judging. As if to try who is the bigger of two men, we should measure one naked, and the other over his clothes; or in comparing two pieces of gold, we weighed one with the dross and dirt it contracts in the purse, with the purged from these in the fire. Faith before temptation hath much heterogeneal stuff that cleaves to it, and goes for faith; but when temptation comes these are discovered. Now the Christian feels corruption stir, which lay as dead before; now a cloud comes between the soul and the sweet face of God-the sense of which latter, and the little sense of the other bore up his faith before-but these bladders being pricked, he comes now to learn the true stroke in this heavenly art of swimming on the promise, having nothing else to bear him up but that. And a little of this carries more of the precious nature of faith in it, than all the other; yea, is, like Gideon's handful of men, stronger when all these accessories to faith are sent away, than when they were present. And here is all the devil gets; instead of destroying his faith which he aims at, he is the occasion of the refining of it, and thereby adding to its strength.

 

(2.) The love of tempted saints is enkindled to Christ by their temptations, and foils in their temptations. Possibly in the fit there may seem a damp upon their love, as when water is first sprinkled upon the fire, but when the conflict is a little over, and the Christian comes to himself, his love to Christ will break out like a vehement flame. (a) The shame and sorrow which a gracious soul must needs feel in his bosom for his sinful miscarriage while under the temptation, will provoke him to express his love to Christ above others; as is sweetly set forth in the spouse, who, when the cold fit of her distemper was off, and the temptation over, bestirs her to purpose; her lazy sickness is turned to love-sickness; she finds it as hard now to sit, as she did before to rise; she can rest in no place out of her Beloved's sight, but runs and asks every one she meets for him. And whence came all this vehemency of her zeal? All occasioned by her undutiful carriage to her husband; she parted so unkindly with him, that bethinking what she had done, away she goes to make her peace. If sins committed in unregeneracy have such a force upon a gracious soul, that the thought of them, though pardoned, will still break and melt the heart into sorrow (as we see in Magdalene), and prick on to show zeal for God above others (as in Paul), how much more will the sins of a saint, who, after sweet acquaintance with Jesus Christ, lifts up the heel against that bosom where he hath lain, affect, yea, dissolve the heart as into so many drops of water, and that sorrow provoke him to serve God at a higher rate than others? No child so dutiful in all the family as he who is returned from his rebellion. (b) Again, as his own shame, so the experience which such a one hath of Christ's love above all others will increase his love. Christ's love is to fuel ours21; as it gives its being, so it affords growth. It is both mother and nurse to our love. The more Christ puts forth his love, the more heat our love gets; and next to Christ's dying love, none greater than his succouring love in temptation. The mother never hath such advantage to show her affection to her child as when in distress, sick, poor or imprisoned; so neither hath Christ to his children as when tempted, yea, worsted by temptation. When his children lie in Satan's prison, bleeding under the wounds of their consciences, this is the season he takes to give an experiment of his tender heart in pitying, his faithfulness in praying for them, his mindfulness in sending succour to them, yea, his dear love in visiting them by his comforting Spirit. Now when the soul hath got off some great temptation, and reads the whole history thereof together (wherein he finds what his own weakness was to resist Satan, nay his unfaithfulness in complying with Satan, which might have provoked Christ to leave him to the fury of Satan), now to see both his folly pardoned and ruin graciously prevented, and that by no other hand but Christ's coming unto his rescue (as Abishai to David, when that giant thought to have slain him, 2Sa 21) This must needs exceedingly endear Christ to the soul. At the reading of such records the Christian cannot but inquire -Ahasuerus concerning Mordecai, who by discovering a treason had saved the king's life-What honour hath been done to his sweet Saviour for all this? And thus Jesus Christ, whom Satan thought to bring out of the soul's favour and liking, comes in the end to sit higher and surer in the saint's affections than ever.

 

Use or Application.

 

Use First. This affords a reason why God suffers his dear children to fall into temptation, because he is able to outshoot Satan in his own bow, and in the thing wherein he thinks to outwit the Christian to be above him. God will not only be admired by his saints in glory for his love in their salvation, but for his wisdom in the way to it. The love of God in saving them will be the sweet draught at the marriage-feast, and the rare wisdom of God in effecting this, as the curious workmanship with which the cup will be enamelled. Now wisdom appears most in untying knots and wading through difficulties. The more cross wards there are in a business, the more wisdom to fit a key to the lock, to make choice of such means as shall meet with the several turnings in the same. On purpose therefore doth God suffer such temptations to intervene, that his wisdom may be the more admired in opening all these, and leading his saints that way to glory, by which Satan thought to have brought them to hell. The Israelites are bid remember all the way that God led them in the wilderness for forty years, De 8:2. The history of these wars, Christian, will be pleasant to read in heaven, though bloody to fight on earth. Moses and Elias talked with Christ on Tabor-an emblem of the sweet communion which shall pass between Christ and his saints in glory,-and what was their talk, but of his death and sufferings? Lu 9:30. It seems a discourse of our sufferings and temptations is not too low a subject for that blissful state. Indeed this left out, would make a blemish in the fair face of heaven's glory. Could the damned forget he way they went into hell, how oft the Spirit of God was wooing, and how far they were overcome by the conviction of it; in a word, how many turns and returns there were in their journey forward and backward, what possibilities, yea, probabilities they had for heaven, when on earth; were but some hand so kind as to blot these tormenting passages out of their memories, it would ease them wonderfully. So, were it possible, glorified saints could forget the way wherein they went to glory, and the several dangers that intervened from Satan and their own backsliding hearts, they and their God too would be losers by it, I mean in regard to his manifestative glory. What is the glory wherein God appears at Zion's deliverance -those royal garments of salvation, that make so admired of men and angels-but the celebration of all his attributes, according to what every one hath done towards their salvation? Now wisdom being that which the creature chiefly glories in, and that which was chosen by Satan for his first bait, when he made Eve believe she should be like God in knowledge and wisdom, therefore God, to give Satan the more shameful fall, gives him leave to use his wits and wiles in tempting and troubling his children, in which lies his great advantage over the saints, that so the way to his own throne-where his wisdom shall at last, as well as his mercy, sit in all its royalty-may be paved with the skulls, as I may so speak, of devils.

 

Use Second. This gives a strong cordial to our fainting faith, in the behalf of the church of Christ. If all the devil's wits and wiles will not serve him to overcome one single soldier in Christ's camp, much less shall he ever ruin the whole army. These are the days of great confusion in the Christian world, and the chief fear of a gracious heart is for the ark, lest that should fall into the enemies' hand; and when this palladium is taken, lest the city of God, his church, be trod under the feet of pride. I confess Satan seems to get ground daily; he hath strangely wriggled into the bosoms and principles of many, who, by the fame of their profession and zeal, had obtained, in the opinion of others, to be reckoned among the chief of Christ's worthies in their generation. He hath sadly corrupted the truths of Christ; brought a disesteem on ordinances, so that by this, and as a judgment for this, the womb of the gospel is become in a great measure barren, and her children which hang upon her breasts thrive not in love and holiness as of old, when the milk was not so much, nor that so spiritful. He hath had advantage by the divisions of the godly, to harden those that are wicked into a further disdain of religion; and by the bloody wars of late years, to boil up the wrath of the popish and profane crew to a higher pitch of rage and fury against Christ's little remnant than ever: so that if ever God should suffer the sword to fall into their hand, they are disciplined and fitted to play the bloody butchers on Christ's sheep above their forefathers. Neither are they so crest-fallen, but that they can hope for such a day, yea they take up some of those joys upon trust aforehand, to solace themselves, while the rest follow. And now, Christian, may be their confidence, together with the distracted state of Christ's affairs in the world, may discompose thy spirit, concerning the issue of these rolling providences that are over our heads; but be still, poor heart, and know that the contest is not between the church and Satan, but between Christ and him. These are the two champions. Stand now, O ye army of saints, still, by faith, to see the all-wise God wrestle with a subtle devil. If you live not to see the period of these great confusions, yet generations after you shall behold the Almighty smite off this Goliath's head with his own sword, and take this cunning hunter in the toil of his own policies; that faith which ascribes greatness and wisdom to God, will shrink up Satan's subtlety into a nigrum nihil-a thing of nothing. Unbelief fears Satan as a lion, faith treads on him as a worm22. Behold therefore thy God at work, and promise thyself that what he is about, is an excellent piece. None can drive him from his work. The pilot is beaten from the helm, and can do little in a storm, but lets the ship go adrift. The architect cannot work, when night draws the curtain, yea, is driven off the scaffold with a storm of rain. Such workmen are the wisest counsellors and mightest princes on earth. A pinch may come, when it is as vain to say, Help, O king; as, Help, O beggar. Man's wisdom may be levelled with folly, but God id never interrupted. All the plots of hell and commotions on earth, have not so much as shaken God's hand, to spoil one letter or line that he hath been drawing. The mysteriousness of his providence may hang a curtain before his work, that we cannot see what he is doing, but when darkness is about him, righteousness is the seat of his throne for ever. O, where is our faith, sirs? Let God be wise, and all men and devils fools. What though thou seest a Babel more likely to go up, than a Babylon to be pulled down; yet believe God is making his secret approaches, and will clap his ladders on a sudden to the walls thereof. Suppose truth were a prisoner with Joseph, and error the courtier, to have its head lift up by the favour of the times; yet dost thou not remember that the way to truth's preferment lies through the prison? Yea, what though the church were like Jonah in the whale's belly, swallowed up to the eye of reason by the fury of men, yet dost thou not remember that the whale had not power to digest the prophet? O be not too quick to bury the church before she be dead. Stay while Christ tries his skill before you give it over; bring Christ by your prayers to its grave, to speak a resurrection word. Admirable hath the saints' faith been in such straits; as Joseph's, who pawned his bones that God would visit his brethren, willing them to lay him where he believed they should be brought; Jeremiah purchaseth a field of his uncle, and pays down the money for it, and this when the Chaldean army was quartered about Jerusalem, ready to take the city, and to carry him with the rest into Babylon. And all this by God's appointment, Jer 32:6-8, that he might show the Jews by this, how undoubtedly he, in that sad juncture of time, did believe the performance of the promise for their return out of captivity. Indeed God counts himself exceedingly disparaged in the thoughts of his people, though at the lowest ebb of his church's affairs, if his naked word, and the single bond of his promise, will not be taken as sufficient security to their faith for its deliverance.

 

01.022 DIRECTION SECOND

Direction Second.With First Generl Part , and Second General Part with First Division.

 

The nature of the War, and character of the Assailants.

 

'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places'. {Eph 6:12}

 

The Words are coupled to the precedent with the casual particle 'for,' which either refers to the two foregoing verses-and then they are a further reason, pressing the necessity of Christian fortitude in the tenth verse, and furniture in the eleventh-or else to the last words in the eleventh verse, where the apostle having descried the saints' grand enemy to be Satan, and described him in one of his attributes-his wily subtlety-he in this further displays him in his proper colours, not to weaken the saints' hands, but to waken their care, that seeing their enemy marching up in a full body, they might stand in better order to receive his charge. Here, by the way, we may observe the apostle's simplicity and plain-dealing; he doth not undervalue the strength of the enemy, and represent him inconsiderable, as captains use to keep their soldiers together, by slighting the power of their adversary; no, he tells them the worst at first. If Satan had been granted to set out his own power he could have challenged no more than is here granted to him. See here, the difference between Christ dealing with his followers, and Satan with his. Satan dares not let sinners know who that God is they fight against; this were enough to breed a mutiny in the devil's camp. Silly souls, they are drawn into the field by a false report of God and his ways, and are kept there together, with lies and fair tales; but Christ is not afraid to show his saints their enemy in all his power and principality, the weakness of God being stronger than the powers of hell.

 

The words contain a lively description of a bloody and lasting war between the Christian and his implacable enemy. In them we may observe: FIRST, The Christian's state in this life is set out by this word 'wrestling.' SECOND, The assailants that appear in arms against the Christian. They are described-First, Negatively, 'not flesh and blood;' or rather comparatively, not chiefly flesh and blood. Second, Positively, 'but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.'

 

DIRECTION II-FIRST GENERAL PART.

 

The nature of the War is set out by this word Wrestling.

 

'For we wrestle,' Eph 6:12.

 

The Christian's state in this life is set out by this word wrestling. The wrestling or conflicting state of a Christian in this life is rendered observable here by a threefold circumstance. First, The sharpness of the combat. Second, The universality of the combat. Third, the permanency of the combat.

 

First. The sharpness of the combat. The kind of combat which the Christian's state is here set out by, is the phrase translated 'we wrestle'1, which though it be used sometimes for a wrestling of sport and recreation, yet is used here to set out the sharpness of the Christian's encounter. There are two things in wrestling that render it a sharper combat than others.

 

First. It is a single combat. Wrestling is not properly fighting against a multitude, but when one enemy singles out another, and enters the list with him, each exerting their whole force and strength against one another; as David and Goliath, when the whole armies stood as it were in a ring to behold the bloody issue of that duel. Now this is more fierce than to fight in an army, where though the battle be sharp and long, the soldier is not always engaged, but falls off when he has discharged, and takes breath a while; yea, possibly may escape without hurt or stroke, because there the enemy's aim is not at this or that man, but at the whole heap. In wrestling however one cannot escape so; he being the particular object of the enemy's fury, must needs be shaken and tried to purpose. Indeed the word 'wrestling' signifies such a strife as makes the body shake again2. Satan hath not only a general malice against the army of saints, but a spite against thee John, thee Joan; he will single thee out for his enemy. We find Jacob when alone, a man wrestled with him. As God delights to have private communion with his single saints, so the devil delights to try it hand to hand with the Christian when he gets him alone. As we lose much comfort when we do not apply the promise and providence of God to our particular persons and conditions-God loves me, pardons me, takes care of me. The water at the town-conduit doth me no good, if I want a pipe to empty it into my cistern; so it obstructs our care and watchfulness, when we conceive of Satan's wrath and fury as bent in general against the saints, and not against me in particular. O how careful would a soul be in duty, if, as going to church or closet, he had such a serious meditation as this: Now Satan is at my heels to hinder me in my work, if my God help me not!

 

Second. It is a close combat. Armies fight at some distance. Wrestlers grapple hand to hand. An arrow shot from afar may be seen and shunned, but when the enemy hath hold of one there is no declining, but either he must resist manfully, or fall shamefully at his enemy's foot. Satan comes close up, and gets within the Christian, takes his hold of his very flesh and corrupt nature, and by this shakes him.

 

Second. The universality of the combat. 'We wrestle' comprehends all. On purpose you may perceive the apostle changeth the pronoun ye in the former verse, into we in this, that he may include himself as well as them; as if he had said, The quarrel is with every saint. Satan neither fears to assault the minister, nor despiseth to wrestle with the meanest saint in the congregation. Great and small, minister and people, all must wrestle; not one part of Christ's army in the field, and the other at ease in their quarters, where no enemy comes. Here are enemies enough to engage all at once.

 

Third. The permanency or duration of this combat; and that lies in the tense we wrestle. Not, our wrestling was at first conversion, but now over, and we passed the pikes; not, we shall wrestle when sickness comes, and death comes; but our wrestling is; the enemy is ever in sight of us, yea, in fight with us. There is an evil of every day's temptation, which, like Paul's bonds, abides us wherever we be come. So that these particulars summed up will amount to this point.

 

The Christian's life here is a continual wrestling

 

with sin and Satan.]

 

Doctrine. The Christian's life is a continual wrestling. He is, as Jeremiah said of himself, born 'a man of strife.' Or what the prophet said to Asa, may be said to every Christian; 'From hence thou shalt have wars:' from thy spiritual birth to thy natural death; from the hour when thou first didst set thy face to heaven, till thou shalt set thy foot in heaven. Israel's march out of Egypt was, in gospel-sense, our taking the field against sin and Satan; and when had they peace?-not till they lodged their colours in Canaan. No condition wherein the Christian is, here below, is quiet. Is it prosperity or adversity? here is work for both hands, to keep pride and security down in the one, faith and patience up in the other; no place which the Christian can call privileged ground. Lot in Sodom wrestled with the wicked inhabitants thereof; his righteous soul being vexed with their unclean conversation. And how fares he at Zoar? Do not his own daughters bring a spark of Sodom's fire into his own bed, whereby he is inflamed with lust? Some have thought if they were but in such a family, under such a ministry, out of such occasions, O then they should never be tempted as now they are! I confess change of air is a great help to weak nature, and these forenamed as vantage-ground against Satan; but thinkest thou to fly from Satan's presence thus? No, though thou shouldst take the wings of the morning he would fly after thee; these may make him change his method in tempting, but not lay down his designs; so long as his old friend is alive within, he will be knocking at thy door without. No duty can be performed without wrestling. The Christian needs his sword as much as his trowel. He wrestles with a body of flesh; and this to the Christian in duty is as the beast to the traveller, he cannot go his journey without it, and has much ado to go with it. If the flesh be kept high and lusty, then it is wanton and will not obey; if low, then it is weak and soon tires. Thus the Christian rids but little ground, because he must go his weak body's pace. He wrestles with a body of sin as well as of flesh; this mutters and murmurs when the soul is taking up any duty, so that he cannot do what he would. As Paul said, I would have come once and again, but Satan hindered me. I would have prayed, may the Christian say, at such a time, and meditated on the word I heard, the mercies I received at another time, but this enemy hindered. It is true indeed, grace sways the sceptre in such a soul; yet, as school-boys taking their time when the master is abroad, do shut him out, and for a while lord it in misrule, though they are whipped for it afterwards, thus the unregenerate part takes advantage when grace is not on its watch to disturb its government, and shut it out from duty. Though this at last makes the soul more severe in mortifying, yet it costs some scuffle before it can recover its throne; and when it cannot shut from duty, yet is the Christian woefully yoked with it in duty. It cannot do what it doth as it would. Many a letter in its copy doth this enemy spoil, while he jogs him with impertinent thoughts. When the Christian is a praying, then Satan and the flesh are a prating; he cries, and they louder to put him out or drown his cry. Thus we see the Christian is assailed on every side by his enemy; and how can it be other, when the seeds of war are laid deep in the natures of both, which can never be rooted up till the devil cease to be a devil, sin to be sin, and the saint to be a saint? Though wolves may snarl at one another, yet are soon quiet again, because the quarrel is not in their nature; but the wolf and the lamb can never be made friends. Sin will lust against grace, and grace draw upon sin, whenever they meet.

 

Reproof to such as are not true wrestlers.

 

First. This may reprove such as wrestle; but against whom? against God, not against sin and Satan. These are bold men indeed, who dare try a fall with the Almighty; yet such there are, and a woe is pronounced against them, Isa 45:9 'Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker.' It is easy to tell which of these will be worsted. What can he do but break his shins that dasheth them against a rock? A goodly battle there is like to be, when thorns contest with fire, and stubble with flame. But where live those giants that dare enter the list with the great God? What are their names, that we may know them, and brand them for creatures above all other unworthy to live? Take heed, O thou who askest, that the wretched man whom thou seekest so to defy, be not found in thy own clothes itself. Judas was the traitor, though he would not answer to his name, but put it off with a 'Master, is it I?' And so mayest thou be the fighter against God. The heart is deceitful. Even holy David, for all his anger, was so hot against the rich man, that took away the poor man's ewe-lamb, that he bound it with an oath, that the man should not live who had done it, yet proves at last to be himself the man, as the prophet told him, 2Sa 12. Now there are two ways wherein men wrestle against God. 1. When they wrestle against his Spirit, 2. When they wrestle against his providence.

 

1. When the wrestle against his Spirit. We read of the Spirit striving against the creature, 'My spirit shall not always strive with man,' Ge 6:3, where the striving is not in anger and wrath to destroy them -that God could do without any stir or scuffle-but a loving strife and contest with man. The old world was running with such a career headlong into their ruin, that he sends his Spirit to interpose, and by his counsels and reproofs to offer, as it were, to stop them and reclaim them; as if one seeing another ready to offer violence on himself, should strive to get the knife out of his hand, with which he would do the mischief; or one that hath a purse of gold in his hand to give, should follow another by all manner of entreaties, striving with him to accept and take it. Such a kind of strife is this of the Spirit's with men. They are the lusts of men-those bloody instruments of death, with which sinners are mischieving themselves -that the Holy Spirit strives by his sweet counsels and entreaties to get out of our hands. They are Christ's grace and eternal life that he strives to make us accept at the hands of God's mercy; and for repulsing the Spirit thus striving with them, sinners are justly counted fighters against God. 'Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost,' Ac 7:51. Now there is a twofold striving of the Spirit, and so of our wrestling against it.

 

(1.) The Spirit strives in his messengers with sinners. They coming on his errand, and not their own, he voucheth the faithful counsels, reproofs, and exhortations which they give us as his own act. What Noah, that preacher of righteousness, said to the old world is called the preaching of the Spirit, 1Pe 3:19. The pains that Moses, Aaron, and other servants of God took in instructing Israel, is called the instruction of the Spirit, Ne 9:20; so that when the word, which God's ministers bring in his name, is rejected, the faithful counsels they give are thrown at sinners' heels and made light of; then do they strive with the Spirit, and wrestle against Christ as really, as if he visibly in his own person had been in the pulpit, and preached the same sermon to them. When God comes to reckon with sinners, it will prove so. Then God will rub up your memories, and mind you of his striving with you, and your unkind resisting him. They, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, shall know here hath been a prophet among them, Eze 2:5. Now men soon forget whom and what they hear. Ask them what was pressed upon their consciences in such a sermon. They have forgot. What were the precious truths laid out in another? -and they are lost. And well were it for them if their memories were no better in another world; it would ease their torments more than a little. But then they shall know they had a prophet among them, and what a price they had with them in their hands, though it was in fools' keeping. They shall know what he was, and what he said, though a thousand years past, as fresh as if it were done but last night. The more zealous and compassionate, the more painful and powerful he was in his place, the greater shall their sin be found, to break from such holy violence offered to do them good. Surely God will have something for their sweat, yea, lives of his servants which were worn out in striving with such rebellious ones. May be yet, sinners, your firmament is clear, no cloud to be seen that portends a storm; but know, as you use to say, winter does not rot in the clouds; you shall have it at last. Every threatening which your faithful ministers have denounced against you out of the Word, God is bound to make good. He confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers, Isa 44:26, and that in judgment against sinners, confirming the threatenings, as well as in mercy performing the promises, which they declare as the portion of his children. But it will be time enough to ask such on a sick-bed, or a dying hour, whether the words of the Lord delivered by their faithful preachers have not taken hold of them. Some have confessed with horror that they have; as the Jews-'Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, so hath he dealt with us,' Zec 1:6.

 

(2.) The Spirit strives with men more immediately, when he makes his inward approaches to the consciences of men, debating in their own bosoms the case with them. One while he shows them their sins in their bloody colours, and whither they shall surely bring them, if not looked to timely, which he doth so convincingly, that the creature smells sometimes the very fire and brimstone about him, and is at present in a temporary hell; another while he falls a parleying and treating with them, making gracious overtures to the sinner, if he will return at his reproof, presents the grace of the gospel, and opens a door of hope for his recovery, yea, falls a wooing and beseeching of him to throw down his rebellious arms, and come to Christ for life, whose heart is in a present disposition to receive and embrace the first motion the returning sinner makes for mercy. Now when the Spirit of God follows the sinner from place to place, and time to time, suggesting such motions, and renewing his old suit, and the creature shall fling out of the Spirit's hands, thus striving with him,3 the thing being unaccomplished, as far from renouncing his lusts, or taking any liking to Christ as ever. This is to resist the Spirit to his face, and it carries so much malignity in it, that even where it hath not been final, poor humbled souls so over-set with the horror of it, that they could not for a long time be persuaded but that it was the unpardonable sin. Take heed therefore, sinners, how you use the Spirit when he comes knocking at the door of your hearts. Open at his knock, and he will be your guest; you shall have his sweet company. Repulse him, and you have not a promise he will knock again. And if once he leave striving with thee, unhappy man, thou art lost for ever; thou liest like a ship cast up by the waves upon some high rock, where the tide will never come to fetch it off. Thou mayest come to the Word, converse with other ordinances, but in vain. It is the Spirit in them, which is both tide and wind, to set the soul afloat, and carry it on, or else it lies like a ship on dry ground which stirs not.

 

2. We wrestle against God when we wrestle with is providence; and that in two ways.

 

(1.) When we are discontented with his providential disposure of us. God's carving for us doth not please us so, but that we are objecting against his dealings towards us, at least muttering something with the fool in our hearts, which God hears as lightly as man our words. God counts then we begin to quarrel with him, when we do not acquiesce in, and say amen to his providence, whatever it is. He calls it a contending with the Almighty, Job 40:2, yea, a reproving of God. And he is a bold man sure that dare find fault with God, and article against heaven. God challengeth him, whoever he is, that doth this, to answer it at his peril. 'He that reproveth God, let him answer it,' ver. 2 of the chapter forementioned. It was high time for Job to have done, when he hears what a sense God puts upon those unwary words which dropped from him in the anguish of his spirit and paroxysm of his sufferings. Contend with the Almighty? Reprove God? Good man, how blank he is, and cries out, I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Let God but pardon what is past, and he shall hear such language no more. O, sirs, Take heed of this wrestling above all other. Contention is uncomfortable, with whomsoever it is we fall out-Neighbours or friends, wife or husband, children or servants, but worst of all with God. If God cannot please thee, but thy heart riseth against him, what hopes are there of thy pleasing him, who will take nothing kindly from that man who is angry with him? And how can love to God be preserved in a discontented heart, that is always muttering against him? Love cannot think any evil of God, nor endure to hear any speak evil of him, but it must take God's part, as Jonathan David's, when Saul spake basely of him; and when it cannot be heard, will like him arise and be gone. When afflicted, love can allow thee to groan, but not to grumble. If thou wilt ease thy encumbered spirit into God's bosom by prayer, and humbly wrestle with God on thy knees, love is for thee, and will help thee to the best arguments thou canst use to God; but if thou wilt vent thy distempered passions, and show a mutinous spirit against God, this stabs it to the heart.

 

(2.) We wrestle against providence, when incorrigible under the various dispensations of God toward us. Providence has a voice if we had an ear. Mercies should draw, afflictions drive. Now when neither fair means nor foul do is good, but we are impenitent under both; this is to wrestle against God with both hands. Either of these have their peculiar aggravations: one is against love, and so disingenuous; the other is against the smart of his rod, and therein we slight his anger, and are cruel to ourselves in kicking against the pricks. Mercy should make us ashamed, wrath afraid to sin. He that is not ashamed, has not the spirit of a man. He that is not afraid when smitten, is worse than the beast who stands in awe of whip and spur. Sometimes mercy, especially these outward mercies, which have a pleasing relish to the carnal part in a Christian, hath proved a snare to the best of men, but then affliction useth to recover them. But when affliction makes men worse, and they harden themselves against God, to sin more and more while the rod is on them; what is like to reclaim them? Few are made better by prosperity, whom afflictions make worse. He that will sin, though he goes in pain, will much more, if that once be gone. But take heed of this contesting with God. There is nothing got by scuffling with God, but blows, or worse. If he say he will afflict thee no more, it is even the worst he can say; it is as much as if he should say he will be in thy debt till another world, and there pay thee altogether. But if he means thee mercy, thou shalt hear from him in some sharper affliction than ever. He hath wedges that can rive thee, wert thou a more knotty piece than thou art. Are there yet the treasures of wickedness, and the scant measure that is abominable? saith god to Israel. What! incorrigible, though the Lord's voice crieth unto the city, Mic 6:9, bidding you hear the rod, and him that hath appointed it? See what course God resolves on. Therefore will I make thee sick in smiting of thee, ver. 13. As if he had said, My other physic, I see, was too weak, it did not work or turn your stomach, but I will prepare a potion that shall make you sick at heart.

 

Second. It reproves those who seem to wrestle against sin, but not according to the word of command that Christ gives. There is a law in wrestling which must be observed. If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully, 2Ti 2:5. He alludes to the Roman games, to which there were judges appointed to see that no foul play were offered contrary to the law of wrestling; the prize being denied to such though they did foil their adversary; which the apostle improves to make the Christian careful in his war, as being under a stricter law and discipline, that requires not only valour to fight, but obedience to fight by order and according to the word of command. Now few do this that go for great wrestlers.

 

1. Some while they wrestle against one sin, embrace another, and in this case it is not that the person wrestles against sin, but one sin wrestles against another, and it is no wonder to see thieves fall out when they come to divide the spoil. Lusts are diverse, Tit 3:3, and it is hard to please many masters, especially when their commands are so contrary. When pride bids lay on in bravery, lavish out in entertainment, covetousness bids lay up; when malice bids revenge, carnal policy saith, Conceal thy wrath, though not forgive. When lust sends to his whores, hypocrisy pulls him back for shame of the world. Now is he God's champion that resist one sin at the command of another, it may be a worse?

 

2. Some wrestle, but they are pressed into the field, not volunteers. Their slavish fears scare them at present from their lust, so that the combat is rather betwixt their conscience and will, than them and your lust. Give me such a sin, saith will. No, saith conscience, it will scald; and throws it away. A man may love the wine, though he is loath to have his lips burned. Hypocrites themselves are afraid to burn. In such combats the will at last prevails, either by bribing the understanding to present the lust it desires in a more pleasing dress, that conscience may not be scared with such hideous apparitions of wrath; or by pacifying conscience with some promise of repentance for the future; or by forbearing some sin for the present, which it can best spare, thereby to gain the reputation of something like a reformation. Or if all this will not do, then, prompted by the fury of its lust, the will proclaims open war against conscience, sinning in the face of it, like some wild horse, which impatient of the spur which pricks him and bridle that curbs him, gets the bit between his teeth, and runs with full speed, till at last he easeth himself of his rider; and then where he sees fattest pasture, no hedge or ditch can withhold him, till in the end you find him starving in some pound for his trespass. Thus, many sin at such rate, that conscience can no longer hold the reins nor sit the saddle, but is thrown down and laid for dead; and then the wretches range where their lusts can have the fullest meal, till at last they pay for their stolen pleasures most dearly, when conscience comes to itself, pursues them, and takes them more surely by the throat than ever, never to let them go till it brings them before God's tribunal.

 

3. Others wrestle with sin, but they do not hate it, and therefore they are favourable to it, and seek not the life of sin as their deadly enemy. These wrestle in jest, and not in earnest; the wounds they give sin one day, are healed by the next. Let men resolve never so strongly against sin, yet will it creep again into their favour, till the love of sin be quenched in the heart; and this fire will never die of itself, the love of Christ must quench the love of sin, as Jerome saith excellently4 one love extinguishes another. This heavenly fire will indeed put out the flame of hell; which he illustrates by Ahasuerus' carriage to Vashti his queen, who in the first chapter makes a decree in all haste that she comes no more before him; but when his passion is a little down, Es 2:1, he begins to relent towards her; which his council perceiving, presently seek out for a beautiful virgin, on whom the king might place his love, and take into his royal bed; which done, we hear no more of Vashti. Then and not till then will the soul's decree stand against sin, when the soul hath taken Christ into his bosom.

 

How the true wrestlers

 

should manage their combat.]

 

Direction to the saints. Seeing your life is a continual wrestling here on earth, it is our wisdom to study how you may best manage the combat with your worst enemy; which that you may do, take these few directions.

 

First. Look thou goest not into the field without thy second. My meaning is, engage God by prayer to stand at thy back. God is in a league offensive and defensive with thee, but he looks to be called. Did the Ephraimites take it ill, that Gideon called them not into the field, and may not God much more? as if thou meanedst to steal a victory before he should know it. Thou hast more valour than Moses, who would not stir without God, no, though he sent an angel for his lieutenant. Thou art wiser than Jacob, who to overcome Esau, now marching up, turns from him, and falls upon God; he knew if he could wrestle with God, he might trust God to deal with his brother. Engage God and the back-door is shut, no enemy can come behind thee, yea, thine enemy shall fall before thee. God turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness, saith David. Heaven saith amen to his prayer, and the wretch hangs himself.

 

Second. Be very careful of giving thine enemy hand-hold. Wrestlers strive to fasten upon some part or other, which gives them advantage more easily to throw their adversary; to prevent which, they used-1. To lay aside their garments; 2. To anoint their bodies.

 

1. Christian, labour to put off the old man which is most personal, that corruption which David calls his own iniquity, Ps 18:23. This is the skirt which Satan lays hold of; observe what it is, and mortify it daily; then Satan will retreat with shame, when he sees the head of that enemy upon the wall, which should have betrayed thee into his hands.

 

2. The Roman wrestlers used to anoint their bodies. So do thou; bathe thy soul with the frequent meditations of Christ's love. Satan will find little welcome, where Christ's love dwells; love will kindle love, and that will be as a wall of fire to keep off Satan; it will make thee disdain the offer of a sin, and as oil, supple the joints, and make thee agile to offend thy enemy. Think how Christ wrestled in thy quarrel; sin, hell, and wrath had all come full mouth upon thee, had not he coped with them in the way. And canst thou find in thy heart to requite his love, by betraying his glory into the hands of sin, by cowardice or treachery. Say not thou lovest him, so long as thou canst lay those sins in thy bosom which plucked his heart out of his bosom. It were strange if a child should keep, and delight to use, no other knife, but that wherewith his father was stabbed.

 

Third. Improve the advantage, thou gettest at any time, wisely. Sometimes, the Christian hath his enemy on the hip, yea, on the ground, can set his foot on the very neck of his pride, and throw away his unbelief, as a thing absurd and unreasonable. Now, as a wise wrestler, fall with all thy weight upon thine enemy. Though man think it foul play to strike when his adversary is down, yet do not thou so compliment with sin, as to let it breathe or rise. Take heed thou beest not charged of God, as once Ahab, for letting go this enemy now in thy hands, whom God hath appointed to destruction. Learn a little wisdom of the serpent's brood, who, when they had Christ under their foot, never thought they had him sure enough, no, not when dead; and therefore both seal and watch his grave. Thus do thou, to hinder the resurrection of thy sin, seal it down with stronger purposes, solemn covenants, and watch it by a wakeful circumspect walking.

 

Use or Application.

 

Use First. Consolation. This is a ground of consolation to the weak Christian, who disputes against the truth of his grace, from the inward conflicts and fightings he hath with his lusts, and is ready to say like Gideon, in regard of outward enemies, 'If God be with me, why is all this befallen me?' Why do I find such strugglings in me, provoking me to sin, pulling me back from that which is good? Why dost thou ask? The answer is soon given; because thou art a wrestler, not a conqueror. Thou mistakest the state of a Christian in this life. When one is made a Christian, he is not presently called to triumph over his slain enemies, but carried into the field to meet and fight them. The state of grace is the commencing of a war against sin, not the ending of it; rather than thou shalt not have an enemy to wrestle with, God himself will come in a disguise into the field, and appear to be thine enemy. thus when Jacob was alone, a man wrestled with him until breaking of the day; and therefore set thy heart at rest if this be thy scruple. Thy soul may rather take comfort in this, that thou art a wrestler. This struggling within thee, if upon the right ground, and to the right end, doth evidence there are two nations within thee, two contrary natures, the one from earth, earthly, and the other from heaven, heavenly; yea, for thy further comfort, know that though thy corrupt nature be the elder, yet it shall serve the younger.

 

Use Second. Hope of triumph. O how should this make the Christian long to be gone home, where there is none of this stir and scuffle! It is strange, that every hour seems not a day, and every day a year, till death sounds thy joyful retreat, and calls thee off the field-where the bullets fly so thick, and thou art fighting for thy life with thy deadly enemies-to come to court, where not swords, but palms are seen in the saints' hands; not drums, but harps; not groans of bleeding soldiers and wounded consciences, but sweet and ravishing music is heard of triumphing victors carolling the praises of God and the Lamb, through whom they have overcome. Well, Christians, while you are below, comfort yourselves with these things. There is a place of rest remaining for the people of God. You do not beat the air, but wrestle for a heaven that is yonder above the clouds; you have your worst first, the best will follow. You wrestle but to win a crown, and win to wear it, yea, wear, never to lose it, which once on, none shall ever take off, or put you to the hazard of battle more. Here we overcome to fight again; the battle of one temptation may be over, but the war remains. What peace can we have as long as devils can come abroad out of their holes, or anything of sinful nature remains in ourselves unmortified? This nature will even fight upon its knees, and strike with one arm while the other is cut off; but when death comes, the last stroke is struck. This good physician will perfectly cure thee of thy spiritual blindness and lameness,-as the martyr told his fellow at the stake, bloody Bonner would do their bodily. What is it, Christian, which takes away the joy of thy life, but the wrestlings and combats which this bosom-enemy puts thee to? Is not this the Peninnah that, vexing and disturbing thy spirit, hath kept thee off many a sweet meal, thou mightest have had in communion with God and his saints?-or if thou hast come, hath made thee cover the altar of God with thy tears and groans? And will it not be a happy hand that cuts the knot, and sets thee loose from thy deadness, hypocrisy, pride, and what not, wherewith thou wert yoked? It is life which is thy loss, and death which is thy gain. Be but willing to endure the rending of this vail of thy flesh, and thou art where thou wouldst be, out of the reach of sin, at rest in the bosom of thy God. And why should a short evil of pain affright thee more, than the deliverance from a continual torment of sin's evil ravish thee? Some you know have chosen to be cut, rather than to be ground daily with the stone, and yet, may be, their pain comes again; and canst thou not quietly think of dying, to be delivered from the torment of these sins, never to return more? And yet that is not the half that death doth for thee. Peace is sweet after war, ease after pain; but what tongue can express what joy, what glory must fill the creature at the first sight of God and that blessed company? None but one that dwells there can tell. Did we know more of that blissful state, we ministers should find it as hard a work to persuade Christians to be willing to live here so long, as now it is, to persuade them to be willing to die so soon.

 

DIRECTION II-SECOND GENERAL PART.

 

Character of the Assailants or Enemies

 

with whom the Christian is to wrestle.]

 

'Not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the

 

darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,' Eph 6:12.

 

The assailants that appear in arms against the Christian, or the enemies with whom he is to wrestle, are described, First, Negatively, 'not against flesh and blood,' or rather comparatively, not chiefly against flesh and blood. Second, Positively, 'but against principalities and powers,' &c.

 

Division First.-The Assailants described negatively.

 

'Not against flesh and blood.'

 

We are not to take the negative part of the description for a pure negation, as if we had no conflict with flesh and blood, but wholly and solely to engage against Satan; but by way of comparison, not only with flesh and blood, and in some sense not chiefly. It is usual in Scripture such manner of phrase: Call not thy friends to dinner, but the poor, Lu 14:12; that is, not only those, so as to neglect the poor. Now, what is meant here by flesh and blood? There is a double interpretation of the words.

 

What is meant by flesh and blood.

 

First. By flesh and blood may be meant our own bosom corruptions; that sin which is in our corrupt nature, so oft called flesh in the Scripture -'the flesh lusteth against the Spirit;' and sometimes flesh and blood, 'Flesh and blood hath not revealed this;' Mt 16:17, that is, this confession thou hast made comes from above; thy fleshly corrupt mind could never have found out this supernatural truth, thy sinful will could never have embraced it. 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,' 1Co 15:50; that is, sinful mortal flesh; as it is expounded in the words following. I consulted not with flesh and blood, #Ga:1:16???|; that is, carnal reason. Now this bosom enemy may be called flesh, First. Partly from its derivation, and Second. Partly from its operation.

 

First. Partly from its derivation, because it is derived and propagated to us by natural generation. Thus Adam is said to beget a son in his own likeness, sinful as he was, as well as mortal and miserable; yea, the holiest saint on earth having flesh in him, derives this corrupt and sinful nature to his child, as the circumcised Jew begat an uncircumcised child; and the wheat cleansed and fanned, being sown, comes up with a husk. 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh,' Joh 3:6.

 

Second. It is called flesh, partly from the operations of this corrupt nature, which are fleshly and carnal. The reasonings of the corrupt mind are fleshly; therefore it is called the carnal mind, incapable indeed of the things of God, which it neither doth nor can perceive. as the sun doth hide the heavens which are above it from us, while it reveals things beneath5, so carnal reason leaves the creature in the dark concerning spiritual truths, when it is most able to conceive and discourse of creature excellences, and carnal interests here below. What a childish question for so wise a man, did Nicodemus put to Christ! though Christ to help him did wrap his speech in a carnal phrase. If fleshly reason cannot understand spiritual truths when thus accommodated, and the notions of the gospel translated into its own language, what skill is it like to have of them, if put to read them in their original tongue? I mean, if this garment of carnal expression were taken off, and spiritual truths in their naked hue presented to its view. The motions of the natural will are carnal, and therefore 'they that are after the flesh,' Ro 8:5, are said to 'mind the things of the flesh.' All its desires, delights, cares, fears, are in, and of, carnal things; it favours spiritual food no more than an angel fleshly. What we cannot relish we will hardly make our daily food6. Every creature hath its proper diet; the lion eats not grass, nor the horse flesh; what is food to the carnal heart, is poison to the gracious; and that which is pleasing to the gracious, is distasteful to the carnal.

 

Now according to this interpretation, the sense of the apostle is not as if the Christian had no combat with his corrupt nature, for in another place it is said, the Spirit lusts against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit-and this enemy is called the sin that besets the Christian round-but to aggravate his conflict with this enemy by the access of a foreign power, Satan, who strikes in with this domestic enemy. As if while a king is fighting with his own mutinous subjects, some outlandish troops should join with them; now he may be said, not to fight with his subjects, but with a foreign power. The Christian wrestles not with his naked corruptions, but with Satan in them. Were there no devil, yet we should have our hands full, in resisting the corruptions of our own hearts; but the access of this enemy makes the battle more terrible, because he heads them who is a captain so skilful and experienced. Our sin is the engine, Satan is the engineer; lust the bait, Satan the angler. When a soul is enticed by his own lust, he is said to be tempted, Jas 1:14, because Satan and our own lust concur to the completing the sin.

 

Use First. Let us make thee, Christian, ply the work of mortification close. It is no policy to let thy lusts have arms, which are sure to rise and declare against thee when thine enemy comes. Achish's nobles did but wisely, in that they would not trust David in their army when to fight against Israel, lest in the battle he should be an adversary to them; and darest thou go to duty, or engage in any action, where Satan will appear against thee, and not endeavour to make sure of thy pride, unbelief, &c.,that they join not with thine enemy?

 

Use Second. Are Satan and thy own flesh against thee-not single corruption, but edged with his policy, and backed by his power? See then what need thou hast of more help than thy own grace. Take heed of grappling with him in the strength of thy naked grace; here thou hast two to one against thee. Satan was too hard for Adam, though he went so well appointed into the field, because left to himself; much more easily will he foil thee. Cling therefore about thy God for strength; get him with thee, and then, though a worm, thou shalt be able to deal with this serpent.

 

Second. Flesh and blood is interpreted as a periphrasis of man. 'We wrestle not with flesh and blood,' that is, not with man, who is here described by that part which chiefly distinguisheth him from the angelic nature. Touch me, saith Christ, and handle me, a spirit hath not flesh. Now, according to this interpretation, observe these particulars. First. How meanly the Spirit of God speaks of man. Second. Where he lays the stress of the saint's battle; not in resisting flesh and blood, but principalities and powers. Where the apostle excludes not our combat with man, for the war is against the serpent and his seed; -as wide as the world is, it cannot peaceably hold the saints and wicked together. But his intent is to show what a complicated enemy-man's wrath and Satan's interwoven together-we have to deal with.

 

How the Christian doth not wrestle

 

with flesh and blood.]

 

First. How meanly doth the Spirit of God speak of man, calling him flesh and blood! Man hath a heaven-born soul, which makes him akin to angels, yea, to the God of them, who is the Father of spirits; but this is passed by in silence, as if God would not own that which is tainted with sin, and not the creature God at first made it; or because the soul, though of such noble extraction, yet being so immersed in sensuality, deserves no other name than flesh, which part of man levels him with the beast, and is here intended to express the weakness and frailty of man's nature. It is the phrase by which the Holy Ghost expresseth the weakness and impotency of a creature by. 'They are men, and their horses are flesh', Isa 31:3, that is, weak; as on the contrary, when he would set out the power and strength of a thing, he opposeth it to flesh-'Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty,' 2Co 10:4. And so in the text, not flesh and blood, but powers. As if he should say, 'Had you no other to fear but a weak sorry man, it were not worth the providing arms or ammunition; but you have enemies that neither are flesh, nor are resisted with flesh.' So that here we see what a weak creature man is, not only weaker than angels, as they are spirit and he flesh-put in some sense beneath the beasts, as the flesh of man is frailer than the flesh of beasts; therefore the Spirit of God compares man to the grass, which soon withers, and his goodliness to the flower of the field, Isa 40:6. Yea, he is called vanity. 'Men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie,' Ps 62:9. Both alike vain; only the rich and the great man's vanity is covered with honour, wealth, &c., which are here called a lie, because they are not what they seem, and so worse than plain vanity, which is known to be so, and deceives not.

 

Use First. Is man but frail flesh? Let this humble thee, O man, in all thy excellency; flesh is but one remove from filth and corruption. Thy soul is the salt that keeps thee sweet, or else thou wouldst stink above ground. Is it thy beauty thou pridest in? Flesh is grass, but beauty is the vanity of this vanity. This goodliness is like the flower, which lasts not so long as the grass, appears in its mouth and is gone; yea, like the beauty of the flower, which fades while the flower stands. How soon will time's plough make furrows in thy face, yea, one fit of an ague so change thy countenance, as shall make thy doting lovers afraid to look on thee? Is it strength? Alas, it is an arm of flesh, which withers oft in the stretching forth. Ere long thy blood, which is now warm, will freeze in thy veins; thy spring crowned with May-buds will tread on December's heel; thy marrow dry in thy bones, thy sinews shrink, thy legs bow under the weight of thy body; thy eye-strings crack; thy tongue be not able to call for help; yea, thy heart with thy flesh shall fail. And now thou who art such a giant, take a turn of thou canst in thy chamber, yea, raise but thy head from thy pillow if thou art able, or call back thy breath, which is making haste to be gone out of thy nostrils, never to return more; and darest thou glory in that which so soon may be prostrate?

 

Is it wisdom? The same grave that covers thy body, shall bury all that-the wisdom of thy flesh I mean-all thy thoughts shall perish, and thy goodly plots come to nothing. Indeed, if a Christian, thy thoughts as such shall ascend with thee, not one holy breathing of thy soul lost. Is it thy blood and birth? Whoever thou art, thou art base-born till born again; the same blood runs in thy veins with the beggar in the street, Ac 17:26. All nations there we find made of the same blood; in two things all are alike, we come in and go out of the world alike; as one is not made of finer earth, so not resolved into purer dust.

 

Use Second. Is man flesh? Trust not in man; 'cursed be he that makes flesh his arm!' not the mighty man; robes may hide and garnish, they cannot change flesh. Put not your trust in princes, Ps 146:3; alas, they cannot keep their crowns on their own heads, their heads on their own shoulders; and lookest thou for that which they cannot give themselves? Not in wise men, whose designs recoil oft upon themselves, that they cannot perform their enterprise7. Man's carnal wisdom intends one thing, but God turns the wheel and brings forth another. Trust not in holy men, they have flesh, and so their judgment is not infallible, yea, their way is sometimes doubtful. His mistake may lead thee aside, and though he returns, thou mayest go on and perish. Trust not in any man, in all man, no not in thyself, thou art flesh. He is a fool, saith the wise man, that trusts his heart. Not in the best thou art or doest; the garment of thy righteousness is spotted with the flesh; all is counted by St. Paul confidence in the flesh, besides our rejoicing in Christ, Php 3:3.

 

Use Third. Is man but flesh? Fear him not. This was David's resolve: 'I will not fear what flesh can do unto me,' Ps 56:4. Thou needest not, thou oughtest not to fear. Thou needest not. What, not such a great man, not such a number of men, who have the keys of all the prisons at their girdle, who can kill or save alive! no, not these. Only look they be thy enemies for righteousness' sake. Take heed thou makest not the least child thine enemy by offering wrong to him; God will right the wicked even upon the saint. If he offends, he shall find no shelter under God's wing for his sin. This made Jerome complain that the Christians' sins made the arms of those barbarous nations which invaded Christendom victorious8. But if man's wrath finds thee in God's way, and his fury take fire at thy holiness, thou needest not fear, though thy life be the prey he hunts for. Flesh can only wound flesh; he may kill thee, but not hurt thee. Why shouldst thou fear to be stripped of that which thou hast resigned already to Christ? It is the first lesson thou learnest, if a Christian, to deny thyself, to take up thy cross, and follow thy Master; so that the enemy comes too late. Thou hast no life to lose, because thou hast given it already to Christ, nor can man take away that without God's leave. All thou hast is insured; and though God hath not promised thee immunity from suffering in this kind, yet he hath undertaken to bear thy loss, yea, to pay thee a hundredfold; and thou shalt not stay for it till another world. Again, thou oughtest not to fear flesh. Our Saviour Matt. 10, thrice in the compass of six verses, commands us not to fear man. If thy heart quail at him, how wilt thou behave thyself in the list against Satan, whose little finger is heavier than man's loins? The Romans had9 weapons rebated or cudgels, which they were tried at before they came to the sharp. If thou canst not bear a bruise in thy flesh from man's cudgel and blunt weapon, what wilt thou do when thou shalt have Satan's sword in thy side? God counts himself reproached when his children fear a sorry man; therefore we are bid, Sanctify the Lord, and not to fear the fear. Now if thou wouldst not fear man who is but flesh, labour to do these two things,

 

1. Mortify thy own flesh. Flesh only fears flesh; when the soul degenerates into carnal desires and delights, no wonder he falls into carnal fears. Have a care, Christian, thou bringest not thyself into bondage. Perhaps thy heart feeds on the applause of men, this will make thee afraid to be evil spoken of, as those who shuffled with Christ, Joh 12:42; owning him in private when they durst not confess him openly, for they loved the praise of men. David saith the mouth of the wicked is an open sepulchre; and in this grave hath many a saint's name been buried. But if this fleshly desire were mortified, thou wouldst not pass to be judged by man; and so of all carnal affections. Some meat you observe is aguish; if thou settest thy heart on anything that is carnal-wife, child, estate, &c.-these will incline thee to a base fear of man, who may be God's messenger to afflict thee in these.

 

2. Set faith against flesh. Faith fixeth the heart, and a fixed heart is not readily afraid. Physicians tell us we are never so subject to receive infection as when the spirits are low, and therefore the antidotes they give are all cordials. When the spirit is low through unbelief, every threatening from man makes sad impression. Let thy faith take but a deep draught of the promises, and thy courage will rise.

 

Use Fourth. Is man but flesh? Comfort thyself, Christian, with this, that as thou art flesh, so thy heavenly Father knows it, and considers thee for it.

 

1. In point of affliction; Ps 103:14, 'He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.' Not like some unskilful empiric, who hath but one receipt for all, strong or weak, young or old; but as a wise physician considers his patient, and then writes his bill. Men and devils are but God's apothecaries, they make not our physic, but give what God prescribes. Balaam loved Balak's fee well enough, but could not go an hair's breadth beyond God's commission. Indeed God is not so choice with the wicked; 'Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him?' Isa 27:7. In a saint's cup the poison of affliction is corrected, not so in the wicked's; and therefore what is medicine to the one is ruin to the other.

 

2. In duty. He knows you are but flesh, and therefore pities and accepts thy weak service, yea, he makes apologies for thee. The spirit is willing, saith Christ, but the flesh is weak.

 

3. In temptations. He considers thou art flesh and, and proportions the temptations to so weak a nature. It is called10 such a temptation as is common to man; a moderate temptation, as in the margin, fitted for so frail a creature. Whenever the Christian begins to faint under the weight of it, God makes as much haste to his succour, as a tender mother would to her swooning child; therefore he is said to be nigh, to revive such, lest their spirit should fail.

 

How the Christian doth wrestle

 

with flesh and blood.]

 

Second. Observe where he lays the stress of the saint's battle; not in resisting flesh and blood, but principalities and powers; where the apostle excludes not our combat with man, for the war is against the serpent and his seed. As wide as the world is, it cannot peaceably hold the saints and wicked together. But his intent is to show what a complicated enemy, man's wrath and Satan's interwoven, we have to deal with. Observe therefore the conjuncture of the saint's enemies. We have not to do with naked man, but with man led on by Satan; not with flesh and blood, but principalities and powers acting in them. There are two sorts of men the Christian wrestles with, good men and bad. Satan strikes in with both.

 

1. The Christian wrestles with good men. Many a sharp conflict there hath been betwixt saint and saint, scuffling in the dark through misunderstanding of the truth, and each other; Abraham and Lot at strife. Aaron and Miriam justled with Moses for the wall, till God interposed and ended the quarrel by his immediate stroke on Miriam. The apostles, even in the presence of their Master, were at high words, contesting who should be the greatest. Now in these civil wars among saints, Satan is the great kindle-coal, though little seen, because, like Ahab, he fights in a disguise, playing first on the one side, and on the other, aggravating every petty injury, and thereupon provoking to wrath and revenge; therefore the apostle, dehorting from anger, useth this argument, Give no place to the devil; as if he had said, Fall not out among yourselves, except you long for the devil's company, who is the true soldier of fortune, as the common phrase, living by his sword, and therefore hastes thither where there is any hope of war. Gregory compares the saints in their sad differences to two cocks, which Satan the master of the pit sets on fighting, in hope, when killed, to sup with them at night. Solomon saith, Pr 18:6, the mouth of the contentious man calls for strokes. Indeed we by our mutual strifes give the devil a staff to beat us with; he cannot well work without fire, and therefore blows up these coals of contention, which he useth at his forge, to heat our spirits into wrath, and then we are malleable, easily hammered as he pleaseth. Contention puts the soul into disorder, and11 amid arms laws are silent. The law of grace acts not freely, when the spirit is in a commotion. Meek Moses provoked, speaks unadvisedly. Methinks this, if nothing else will, should sound a retreat to our unhappy differences-that this Joab hath a hand in them-he sets his evil spirit betwixt brethren, and what folly is it for us to bite and devour one another to make hell sport? We are prone to mistake our heat for zeal, whereas commonly in strifes between saints, it is a fire-ship sent in by Satan to break their unity and order; wherein while they stand, they are an Armada invincible, and Satan knows he hath no other way but this shatter to them. When the Christian's language, which should be one, begins to be confounded, they are then near a scattering; it is time for God to part his children when they cannot live in peace together.

 

2. The Christian wrestles with wicked men. Because you are not of the world, saith Christ, the world hates you. The saint's nature and life are antipodes to the world; fire and water, heaven and hell, may as soon be reconciled as they with it. The heretic is his enemy for truth's sake; the profane for holiness' sake; to both the Christian is an abomination, as the Israelite to the Egyptian. Hence come wars; the fire of persecution never goes out in the hearts of the wicked, who say in their hearts as they once with their lips12, Christians to the lions. Now in all the saint's wars with the wicked, Satan is commander-in-chief; it is their father's work they do; his lusts they fulfil. The Sabeans plundered Job, but went on Satan's errand. The heretic broacheth corrupt doctrine, perverts the faith of many, but in that he is the minister of Satan, 2Co 11:15; they have their call, their wiles and wages from him. Persecutors have their work ascribed to hell. Is it a persecution of the tongue? It is hell sets it on fire. Is it of the hand? Still they are but the devil's instruments, Re 2:10. The devil shall cast some of you into prison.

 

Use First. Do you see any driving furiously against the truths or servants of Christ? O pity them, as the most miserable wretches in the world; fear not their power, admire not their parts; they are men possessed of, and acted by, the devil; they are his drudges and slaughter-slaves, as the martyr called them. Augustine, in his epistle to Lycinius, one of excellent parts but wicked, who once was his scholar, speaks thus pathetically to him: O how I would weep and mourn over thee, to see such a sparkling wit prostituted to the devil's service! If thou hadst found a golden chalice, thou wouldst have given it to the church; but God hath given thee a golden head, parts and wit, and in this propinas teipsum diabolo-thou drinkest thyself to the devil. When you see men of power and parts, using them against God that gave them, weep over them; better they had lived and died, the one slaves, the other fools, than do the devil such service with them.

 

Use Second. O ye saints, when reproached and persecuted, look farther than man, spend not your wrath upon him. Alas! they are but instruments in the devil's hand. Save your displeasure for Satan, who is thy chief enemy. These may be won to Christ's side, and so become thy friends at last. Now and then we see some running away from the devil's colours, and washing thy wounds with their tears, which they have made with their cruelty. It is a notable passage in Anselm, in which he compares the heretic and the persecutor to the horse, and the devil to the rider. Now, saith he, in battle, when the enemy comes riding up, the valiant soldier 'is13 angry not with the horse, but horseman; he labours to kill the man, that he may possess the horse for his use; thus must we do with the wicked, we are not to bend our wrath against them, but against Satan that rides them, and spurs them on, labouring by prayer for them as Christ did on the cross, to dismount the devil, that so these miserable souls hackneyed by him may be delivered from him.' It is more honour to take one soul alive out of the devil's clutches, than to leave many slain upon the field. Erasmus said of Augustine, that he begged the lives of those heretics, at the hands of the emperor's officers, who had been bloody persecutors of the orthodox:14 Like a kind physician he desired their life, that if possible he might work a cure on them, and make them sound in the faith.

 

01.0223 DIVISION SECOND

 

Division Second.-The Assailants described Positively.

With Branch First – Fifth.

 

'But against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Eph 6:12

 

The apostle having shown what the saint's enemies are not, flesh and blood, frail men, who cannot come but they are seen, who may be resisted by man's power, or escaped by flight; now he describes the positively, 'against principalities, against powers,' &c. Some think that the apostle by these divers names and titles, intends to set forth the distinct orders, whereby the devils are subordinate one to another; so they make the devil, ver. 11, to be the head or monarch, and these, ver. 12, so many inferior orders, as among men there are princes, dukes, earls, &c., under an emperor. That there is an order among the devils cannot be denied. The Scripture speaks of a prince of devils, Mt 9:34, and of the devil and his angels, who with him fell from their first station, called his angels, as it is probably conceived, because one above the rest (as the head of the faction), drew with him multitudes of others into his party, who with him sinned and fell. But that there should be so many distinct orders among them, as there are several branches in this description, is not probable; too weak a notion to be the foundation of a pulpit discourse. Therefore we shall take them as meant of the devil collectively-we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with devils, who are principalities and powers, &c.-and not distributively, to make principalities one rank, powers another; for some of these branches cannot be meant of distinct orders, but promiscuously of all as spiritual wickedness; it being not proper to one to be spirits, or wicked, but common to all. first, Then, the devil or whole pack of them are here described by their government in this world-principalities. second, By their strength and puissance, called powers. third, In their kingdom or proper territories-rulers of the darkness of this world. fourth, By their nature in its substance and degeneracy-spiritual wickedness. fifth, By the ground of the war-in the heavenly places, or about heavenly things.

 

BRANCH FIRST.

 

Against principalities.

 

The devil or whole pack of them are here described by their government in this world -principalities. The term principalities1 is here used in the abstract for the concrete; that is, such as have a principality. So, Tit 3:1, we are bid to be subject to principalities and powers, that is, princes and rulers; so the Vulgate reads it. We wrestle against princes, which some will have to express the eminency of their nature above man's; that as the state and spirit of princes is more raised above others-great men have great spirits-as Zebah and Zalmunna to Gideon, asking who they were they slew at Tabor; 'As thou art,' say they, 'so were they, each one resembled the children of a king,' that is, for majesty and presence beseeming a princely race; so they think, the eminent nature of angels here to be intended, who are as far above the highest prince, as he above the basest peasant. But because they are described by their nature in the fourth branch, I shall subscribe to their judgment, who take this for their principality or government, which the devil exerciseth in this lower world; and the note shall be,

 

What a principality Satan hath.

 

Doctrine. That Satan is a great prince. Christ himself styles him the 'prince of this world,' Joh 14:30. Princes have their thrones where they sit in state; Satan hath his-Thou dwellest where Satan hath his throne, Re 2:13; and that such a one, as no earthly princes may compare with. Few kings are enthroned in the hearts of their subjects; they rule their bodies and command their purses, but how oft in a day are they pulled out of their thrones by the wishes of their discontented subjects. But Satan hath the heart of all his subjects. Princes have their homage and peculiar honour done to them. Satan is served upon the knee of his subjects; the wicked are said to worship the devil, Re 13:4. No prince expects such worship as he; no less than religious worship will serve him. Jeroboam is said to ordain priests for devils, 2Ch 11:15; and therefore he Satan is called not only the prince, but the god of this world, because he hath the worship of a god given him. Princes, such as are absolute, have a legislative power, nay, their own will is their law, as at this day in Turkey, where their laws are written in no other tables than in the proud sultan's breast. Thus Satan gives law to the poor sinner, who is bound and must obey, though the law be writ with his own blood, and the creature hath nothing but damnation for fulfilling the devil's lust. It is called a 'law of sin,' Ro 8:2, because it comes with authority. Princes have their ministers of state, whom they employ for the safety and enlargement of their territories; so Satan his, who propagates his cursed designs, and therefore we read of 'doctrines of devils,'  1Ti 4:12. Princes have their3 secrets of government, which none knows but a few favourites in whom they confide. Thus the devil hath his mysteries of iniquity, and depths of Satan we read of, which all his subjects know not of, Re 2:24; these are imparted to a few favourites, such as Elymas, whom Paul calls 'full of subtlety, and child of the devil;' such, whose consciences are so debauched, that they scruple not the most horrid sins; these are his white boys. I have read of a people in America that love meat best when it is rotten and stinks. The devil is of their diet. The more corrupt and rotten the creature is in sin, the better he pleaseth his tooth. Some are more the children of the devil than others. Christ had his beloved disciple; and Satan those that lie in his very bosom, and know what is in his heart. In a word, princes have their4 tribute and custom; so Satan his. Indeed he doth not so much share with the sinner in all, but is owner of all he hath; so that the devil is the merchant, and the sinner but the broker to trade for him, who at last puts all his gains into the devil's purse. Time, strength, parts, yea, conscience and all, is spent to keep him in his throne.

 

How Satan came to be such a prince.

 

Question 1. But how comes Satan to this principality?

 

Answer. Not lawfully, though he can show a fair claim. As,

 

1. He obtained it by conquest; as he won his crown, so he wears it by power and policy. But conquest is a cracked title. A thief is not the honester because able to force the traveller to deliver his purse; and a thief on the throne is no better than a private one on the road, or a pirate in a pinnace, as one boldly told Alexander. Neither doth that prove good with process of time which was evil at first. Satan indeed hath kept possession long, but a thief will be so as long as he keeps his stolen goods. He stole the heart of Adam from God at first, and doth no better to this day. Christ's conquest is good, because the ground of the war is righteous-to recover what was his own; while Satan cannot say of the meanest creature, 'It is my own.'

 

2. Satan may lay claim to his principality by election. It is true he came in by a wile, but now he is a prince elect, by the unanimous voice of corrupt nature. 'Ye are of your father the devil,' saith Christ, 'and his lusts ye will do.' But this also hath a flaw in it, for man by law of creation is God's subject, and cannot give away God's right; by sin he loseth his right in God as a protector, but God loseth not his right as a sovereign. Sin disabled man to keep God's law, but it doth not enfranchise or disoblige him that he need not keep it.

 

3. Satan may claim a deed of gift from God himself, as he was bold to do to Christ himself upon this ground, persuading him to worship him as the prince of the world. He showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world, saying, 'All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it,' Lu 4:5-6. Here was a truth, though he spake more than the truth-as he cannot speak truth, but to gain credit to some lie at the end of it. God, indeed, hath delivered, in a sense, this world to him, but not in his sense to do what he will with it; nor by any approbatory act given him a patent to vouch him his viceroy: not Satan by the grace of God, but by permission of God, prince of this world.

 

Question 2. But why doth God permit this apostate creature to exercise such a principality over the world?

 

Answer 1. As a righteous act of vengeance on man, for revolting from the sweet government of his rightful Lord and Maker. It is the way God punisheth rebellion: 'Because ye would not serve me in gladness, in the abundance of all things, therefore ye shall serve your enemies in hunger,' &c. Satan is a king given in God's wrath. Ham's curse is man's punishment; 'a servant of servants.' The devil is God's slave, man the devil's. Sin hath set the devil on the creature's back; and now he hurries him without mercy, as he did the swine, till he be choked with flames, if mercy interpose not.

 

Answer 2. God permits this his principality, in order to the glorifying of his name in the recovery of his elect from the power of this great potentate. What a glorious name will God have when he hath finished this war, wherein, at first, he found all possessed by this enemy, and not a man of all the sons of Adam to offer himself as a volunteer in this service, till made willing by the day of his power! This, this will gain God a name above every name, not only of creatures, but of those by which himself was known to his creature. The workmanship of heaven and earth gave him the name of Creator; providence of Preserver; but this of Saviour. Herein he doth both the former; preserve his creature, which else had been lost; and create a new creature-I mean the babe of grace -which, through God, shall be able to beat the devil out of the field, who was able to drive Adam, though created in his full stature, out of paradise. And may not all the other works of God empty themselves as rivers into this sea, losing their names, or rather swelling into one of redemption? Had not Satan taken God's elect prisoners, they would not have gone to heaven with such acclamations of triumph. There are three expressions of great joy in Scripture; the joy of a woman after her travail, the joy of harvest, and the joy of him that divideth the spoil. The exultation of all these is wrought upon a sad ground, many a pain and tear it costs the travailing woman, many a fear the husbandman, perils and wounds the soldier, before they come at their joy; but at last they are paid for all, the remembrance of their past sorrows feeding their present joys. Had Christ come and entered into affinity with our nature, and returned peaceably to heaven with his spouse, finding no resistance, though that would have been admirable love, and would have afforded the joy of marriage, yet this way of carrying his saints to heaven will greaten the joy, as it adds to the nuptial song the triumph of a conqueror, who hath rescued his bride out of the hands of Satan, as he was leading her to the chambers of hell.

 

How we may know whether we be under Satan as our prince, or not.]

 

First. Is Satan such a great prince? Try whose subject thou art. His empire is large; there are only a few privileged who are translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. Even in Christ's own territories -the visible church I mean-where his name is professed and the sceptre of his gospel held forth, Satan hath his subjects. As Christ had his saints in Nero's court, so the devil his servants in the outward court of his visible church. Thou must therefore have something more to exempt thee from his government, than living within the pale, and giving an outward conformity to the ordinances of Christ; Satan will yield to this and be no loser. As a king lets his merchants trade to, yea, live in a foreign kingdom, and, while they are there, learn the language, and observe the customs of the place. This breaks not their allegiance; nor all that, thy loyalty to Satan. When a statute was made in Queen Elizabeth's reign, that all should come to church, the Papists sent to Rome to know the pope's pleasure. He returned then this answer, as it is said, 'Bid the Catholics in England give me their heart, and let the queen take the rest.' His subject thou art whom thou crownest in thy heart, and not whom thou flatterest with thy lips.

 

But to bring the trial to an issue, know that thou belongest to one of these, and but to one; Christ and satan divide the whole world. Christ will bear no equal, and Satan no superior; and therefore, hold in with both thou canst not.

 

Now if thou sayest that Christ is thy prince, answer to these interrogatories.

 

1. How came he Christ into the throne? Satan had once the quiet possession of thy heart; thou wast by birth, as the rest of thy neighbours, Satan's vassal; yea, hast oft vouched him in the course of thy life to be thy liege lord; how then comes this great change? Satan, surely, would not of his own accord resign his crown and sceptre to Christ; and for thyself, thou wert neither willing to renounce, nor able to resist, his power. This then must only be the fruit of Christ's victorious arms, whom God hath exalted 'to be a Prince and a Saviour,' Ac 5:31. Speak therefore, Hath Christ come to thee, as once to Abraham to Lot, when prisoner to Chedorlaomer, rescuing thee out of Satan's hands, as he was leading thee in the chains of lust to hell? Didst thou ever hear a voice from heaven in the ministry of the word calling out to thee as once to Saul, so as to lay thee at God's foot, and make thee face about for heaven; to strike thee blind in thine own apprehension, who before hadst a good opinion of thy state; to tame and meeken thee; so as now thou art willing to be led by the hand of a child after Christ? Did ever Christ come to thee, as the angel to Peter in prison, rousing thee up, and not only causing the chains of darkness and stupidity to fall off thy mind and conscience, but make thee obedient also-that the iron gate of thy will hath opened to Christ before he left thee? Then thou hast something to say for thy freedom. But if in all this I be a barbarian, and the language I speak be strange, thou knowest no such work to have passed upon thy spirit, then thou art yet in the old prison. Can there be a change of government in a nation by a conqueror that invades it, and the subjects not hear of this? One king unthroned and another crowned in thy soul, and thou hear no scuffle all this while? The regenerating Spirit is compared to the wind, Joh 3:8. His first attempts on the soul mat be so secret that the creature knows not whence they come, or whither they tend; but, before he hath done, the sound will be heard throughout the soul, so as it cannot but see a great change in itself, and say, 'I that was blind, now see; I that was hard as ice, now relent for sin; now my heart gives; I can melt and mourn for it. I that was well enough without a Christ, yea, did wonder what others saw in him, to make much ado for him, now have changed my note with the daughters of Jerusalem; and for, What is your Beloved? as I scornfully have asked; I have learned to ask where he is, that I might seek him with you.' O soul, canst thou say it thus with thee? Thou mayest know who has been here; no less than Christ, who, by his victorious Spirit, hath translated thee from Satan's power into his own sweet kingdom.

 

2. Whose law dost thou freely subject thyself unto? The laws of these princes are as contrary as their natures; the one a law of sin, Ro 8:2; the other a law of holiness, Ro 7:12; and therefore if sin hath not so far bereaved thee of thy wits, as not to know sin from holiness, thou mayest, except thou resolve to cheat thy own soul, soon be resolved. Confess therefore and give glory to God; to which of these laws doth thy soul set its seal? When Satan sends out his proclamation, and bids the sinner go, set thy foot upon such a command of God. Observe what is thy behaviour; dost thou yield thyself, as Paul phraseth it, Ro 6:16; 'yield yourselves,' a metaphor from princes' servants or others, who are said to present themselves before their lord, as ready and at hand to do their pleasure; by which the apostle elegantly describes the forwardness of the sinner's heart to come to Satan's foot, when knocked or called. Now doth thy soul go out thus to meet thy lust, as Aaron his brother, glad to see its face in an occasion? Thou art not brought over to sin with much ado, but thou likest the command. Transgress at Gilgal, saith God, this liketh you well, Hosea 4:56. As a courtier, who doth not only obey, but thank his prince that he will employ him. Needest thou be long in resolving whose thou art? Did ever any question, whether those were Jeroboam's subjects, who willingly followed his command? Ho 5:11. Alas, for thee, thou art under the power of Satan, tied by a chain stronger than brass or iron; thou lovest thy lust. A saint may be for a time under a force; sold under sin, as the apostle bemoans; and therefore glad when deliverance comes; but thou sellest thyself to work iniquity. If Christ should come to take thee from thy lusts, thou wouldst whine after them, as Micah after his gods.

 

3. To whom goest thou for protection? As it belongs to the prince to protect his subjects, so princes expect their subjects should trust them with their safety. The very bramble bids, 'If in truth you anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow,' Jg 9:15. Now who hast thy confidence? Darest thou trust God with thy soul, and the affairs of it in well-doing? Good subjects follow their calling, commit state matters to the wisdom of their prince and his council. When wronged, they appeal to their prince in his laws for right; and when they do offend their prince, they submit to the penalty of the laws, and bear his displeasure patiently, till humbling themselves they recover his favour, and do not, in a discontent, fall into open rebellion. Thus a gracious soul follows his Christian calling, committing himself to God as a faithful Creator, to be ordered by his wise providence. If he meets with violence from any, he scorns to beg aid of the devil to help him, or be his own judge to right himself; no, he acquiesceth in the counsel and comfort the Word of God gives him. If himself offends, and so comes under the lash of God's correcting hand, he doth not then take up rebellious arms against God, and refuse to receive correction; but saith, 'Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?' whereas a naughty man dares not venture his estate, life, credit, or anything he hath, with God in well-doing; he thinks he shall be undone presently, if he sits still under the shadow of God's promise for protection; and therefore he runs from God as from under an old house that would fall on his head, and lays the weight of his confidence in wicked policy, making lies his refuge. Like Israel, he trusts in perverseness; when God tells him, 'In returning and rest he shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be his strength;' he hath not faith to take God's word for his security in ways of obedience. And when God comes to afflict him for any disloyal carriage, instead of accepting the punishment for his sin-and so to own him for his Sovereign Lord, that may righteously punish the faults of his disobedient subjects -his heart is filled with rage against God, and instead of waiting quietly and humbly, like a good subject till God upon his repentance receives him into his favour, his wretched heart, presenting God as an enemy to him, will not suffer any such gracious and amiable thoughts of God to dwell in his bosom, but bids him look for no good at his hand: 'This evil is of the Lord; why should I wait on the Lord any longer?' Whereas a gracious heart is most encouraged to wait from this very consideration that drives the other away: 'Because it is the Lord afflicts.'

 

4. Whom dost thou sympathize with? He is thy prince, whose victories and losses thou layest to heart, whether in thy own bosom or abroad in the world. What saith thy soul, when God hedgeth up thy way, and keeps thee from that sin which Satan hath been soliciting for? If on Christ's side thou wilt rejoice when thou art delivered out of a temptation, though it be by falling into an affliction. As David said of Abigail, so wilt thou here: Blessed be the ordinance, blessed be the providence which kept me from sinning against my God; but if otherwise thou wilt harbour a secret grudge against the word which stood in thy way, and be discontented, thy design took not. A naughty heart, like Amnon, pines while his lust hath vent. Again, what music doth the achievements of Christ in the world make in thy ear? When thou hearest that the gospel thrives, the blind see, the lame walk, the poor gospellized, doth thy spirit rejoice in that hour? If a saint, thou wilt, as God is thy Father, rejoice that thou hast more brethren born; as he is thy prince, that the multitude of his subjects increase. So when thou seest the plots of Christ's enemies discovered, powers defeated, canst thou go forth with the saints to meet King Jesus, and ring him out of the field with praises? or do thy bells ring backward, and such news make thee haste, like Haman, mourning to thine house, there to empty thy spirit, swollen with rancour against his saints and truth? Or if thy policy can master thy passion, so far as to make fair weather in thy countenance, and suffer thee to join with the people of God in their acclamations of joy, yet then art thou a close mourner within, and likest the work no better than Haman his office, in holding Mordecai's stirrup, who had rather have held the ladder. This speaks thee a certain enemy of Christ, how handsomely soever thou mayest carry it before men.

 

Second. Bless God, O ye saints, who upon the former trial, can say you are translated into the kingdom of Christ, and so delivered from the tyranny of this usurper. There are few but have some one gaudy day in a year, which they solemnize; some keep their birthday, others their marriage; some their manumission from a cruel service, others their deliverance from some imminent danger. Here is a mercy where all these meet. You may call it, as Adam did his wife, Evah, the mother of all the living; every mercy riseth up and calls this blessed. This is thy birth-day; thou wert before, but beganst to live when Christ began to live in thee. The father of the prodigal dated his son's life from his return: 'This my son was dead, and is alive.' Is it thy marriage day: 'I have married you to one husband, even Christ Jesus,' saith Paul to the Corinthians. Perhaps thou hast enjoyed this thy husband's sweet company many a day, and had a numerous offspring of joys and comforts by thy fellowship with him, the thought of which cannot but endear him to thee, and make the day of thy espousals delightful to thy memory. It is thy manumission; then were thy indentures cancelled, wherein thou wert bound to sin and Satan. When the Son made thee free, thou becamest free indeed. Thou canst not say thou wast born free, for thy father was a slave; not that thou boughtest thy freedom with a sum. By grace ye are saved. Heaven is settled on thee in the promise, and thou not at charge so much as for the writing's drawing. All is done at Christ's cost, with whom God indented, and to whom he gave the promise of eternal life before the world began, as a free estate to settle upon every believing soul in the day they should come to Christ, and receive him for their Prince and Saviour; so that from the hour thou didst come under Christ's shadow, all the sweet fruit that grows on this tree of life is thine. With Christ, all that both worlds have, fall to thee; all is yours, because you are Christ's.

 

O Christian, look upon thyself now, and bless thy God to see what a change there is made to thy state, since that black and dismal time, when thou wert slave to the prince of darkness. How couldst thou like thy old scullion's work again, or think of returning to thy house of bondage, now thou knowest the privileges of Christ's kingdom? Great princes, who from baseness and beggary have ascended to kingdoms and empires-to add to the joy of their present honour-have delighted to speak often of their base birth, to go and see the mean cottages where they were first entertained, and had their birth and breeding and the like. And it is not unuseful for the Christian to look in at the grate, to see the smoky hole where once he lay, to view the chains wherewith he was laden, and so to compare Christ's court and the devil's prison-the felicity of the one and the horror of the other-together. But when we do our best to affect our hearts with this mercy, by all the enhancing aggravations we can find out, alas, how little a portion of it shall we know here? This is a nimium excellens-a surpassing excellence, which cannot be fully seen, unless it be by a glorified eye. How can it be fully known by us, where it cannot be fully enjoyed? Thou art translated into the kingdom of Christ, but thou art a great way from his court. That is kept in heaven, and that the Christian knows, but as we know far countries which we never saw only by map, or some rarities that are sent us as a taste of what grows there in abundance.

 

Third. This, Christian, calls for thy loyalty and faithful service to Christ, who hath saved thee from Satan's bondage. Say, O ye saints, to Christ, as they say to Gideon, 'Come thou and rule over us, for thou hast delivered us from the hand, not of Midian, but of Satan.' Who so able to defend thee from his wrath, as he who broke his power? who like to rule thee so tenderly, as he that could not brook another's tyranny over thee? In a word, who hath right to thee besides him, who ventured his life to redeem thee? -that being delivered from all thine enemies, thou mayest serve him without fear in holiness all the days of thy life. And were it not pity that Christ should take all this pains to lift up thy head from Satan's house of bondage, and give thee a place among those in his own house, who are admitted to minister unto him-which is the highest honour the nature of men or angels is capable of-and that thou shouldst after all this be found to have a hand in any treasonable practice against thy dear Saviour? Surely Christ may think he hath deserved better at your hands, if at none besides. Where shall a prince safely dwell, if not in the midst of his own courtiers? and those such were all taken from chains and prisons to be thus preferred, the more to oblige them in his service. Let devils and devilish men do their own work, but let not thy hand, O Christian, be upon thy dear Saviour. But this is too little, to bid thee not play the traitor. If thou hast any loyal blood running in thy veins, thy own heart will smite thee when thou rendest the least skirt of his holy law; thou canst as well carry burning coals in thy bosom, as hide any treason there against thy dear Sovereign. No, it is some noble enterprise I would have thee think upon, how thou mayest advance the name of Christ higher in thy heart, and in the world too, as much as in thee lies. O how kindly did God take it, that David, when peaceably set in his throne, was casting about, not how he might entertain himself with those pleasures which usually corrupt and debauch the courts of princes in times of peace, but how he might show his zeal for God, in building a house for his worship that had reared a throne for him, 2Sa 7. And is there nothing, Christian, thou canst think on, wherein thou mayest be instrumental for God in thy generation? He is not a good subject, that is all for what he can get of his prince, but never thinks what he may do for him; nor he the true Christian, whose thoughts dwell more on his own happiness than on the honour of his God. If subjects might choose what life stands best for their own enjoyment, all would desire to live at court with their prince; but because the prince's honour is more to be valued than this, therefore, noble spirits, to do their prince service, can deny the delicacies of a court, to jeopard their lives in the field, and thank their prince too for the honour of their employment. Blessed Paul upon these terms was willing to have his day of coronation in glory prorogued7, and he to stay as companion with his brethren in tribulation here, for the furtherance of the gospel. This, indeed, makes it worth the while to live8, that we have by a fair opportunity-if hearts to husband it-in which we may give a proof of our real gratitude to our God, for his redeeming love in rescuing us out of the power of the prince of darkness, and translating us into the kingdom of his dear Son. And therefore, Christian, lose no time, but, what thou meanest to do for God, do it quickly.

 

Art thou a magistrate? now it will be soon seen on whose side thou art. If indeed thou hast renounced allegiance to Satan, and taken Christ for thy prince, declare thyself an enemy to all that bear the name of Satan, and march under his colours. Study well by commission, and when thou understandest the duty of thy place, fall to work zealously for God. Thou hast thy prince's sword put into thy hand. Be sure thou use it, and take heed how thou usest it, that when called to deliver it up, and thy account also, it may not be found rusty in the sheath through sloth and cowardice, besmeared with the blood of violence, not bent and gaped with partiality and injustice.

 

Art thou a minister of the gospel? Thy employment is high, an ambassador, and that not from some petty prince, but from the great God to his rebellious subjects; a calling so honourable, that the Son of God disdained not to come in extraordinary from heaven to perform it, called therefore the 'messenger of the covenant,' Mal 3:1; yea, he had to this day stayed on earth in person about it, had he not been called to reside as our ambassador and advocate in heaven with the Father; and therefore in his bodily absence he hath intrusted thee, and a few more, to carry on the treaty with sinners, which, when on earth, himself began. And what can you do more acceptable to him, than to be faithful in it, as a business on which he hath set his heart so much? As ever you would see his sweet face with joy-you that are his ambassadors -attend to your work, and labour to bring this treaty of peace to a blessed issue between and those you are sent to. And then if sinners will not come off, and seal the articles of the gospel, you shall, as Abraham said to his servant, be clear of your oath. Though Israel be not gathered, yet you shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord.

 

And let not the private Christian say he is a dry tree, and can do nothing for Christ his prince, because he may not bear the magistrate's fruit or minister's. Though thou hast not a commission to punish the sins of others with the sword of justice, yet thou mayest show thy zeal in mortifying thy own with the sword of the Spirit, and mourn for theirs also; though thou mayest not condemn them on the bench, yet thou mayest, yea, oughtest, by the power of a holy life, to convince and judge them. Such a judge Lot was to the Sodomites. Though thou art not sent to preach and baptize, yet thou mayest be wonderfully helpful to them that are. The Christian's prayers whet the magistrates and ministers' sword also. O pray, Christian, and pray again, that Christ's territories may be enlarged. Never go to hear the Word but pray, Thy kingdom come. Loving princes take great content in the acclamations and good wishes of their subjects as they pass by. A vivat rex-long live the king-coming from a loyal breast, though poor, is more worth than a subsidy from those who deny their hearts while they part with their money. Thou servest a prince, Christian, who knows what all his subjects think of him, and he counts it his honour not to have a multitude feignedly submit to him, but to have a people that love him and cordially like his government, who, if they were to choose their king, and make their own laws they should live under every day, would desire no other than himself, nor any other laws than what they have already from his mouth. It was no doubt great content to David, that he had the hearts of his people, so as whatever the king did, pleased them all, 2Sa 3:36. And surely God took it as well, that what he did pleased David, for indeed David was content under the rule and disposure of God as the people were under his. Witness the calmness of his spirit in the greatest affliction that ever befell him: 'Behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him,' 2Sa 15:26. Loyal soul! he had rather live in exile, with the good-will of God, than have his throne, if God will not say it is good for him.

 

BRANCH SECOND.

 

Against powers.

 

Satan, in this second branch of the description, is set forth by his strength and puissance-called powers. This gives weight to the former. Were he a prince and not able to raise a force that might dread the saints, the swelling name of prince were contemptible; but he hath power answerable to his dignity, which in five particulars will appear. First. In his names. Second. His nature. Third. His number. Fourth. His order and unity. Fifth. The mighty works that are attributed to him.

 

The great power Satan hath not only over

 

the elementary and sensitive part of the world,

 

but over the intellectual also

 

-the souls of men.

 

First. He hath names of great power. He is called 'the strong man,' Lu 11:21; strong that he keeps his house in peace in defiance of all the sons of Adam, none on earth being able to cope with this giant. Christ must come from heaven to destroy him and his works, or the field is lost. He is called the roaring lion, which beast commands the whole forest. If he roars, all tremble; yea, in such a manner, as Pliny relates, that he goes amongst them, and they stand exanimated while he chooseth his prey without resistance; such a lion is Satan, who leads sinners captive at his will, 2Ti 2:26. He takes them alive, as the word is, as the fowler the bird, which, with a little scrap is enticed into the net; or as the conqueror his cowardly enemy, who has no heart to fight, but yields without contest. Such cowards the devil finds sinners that he no sooner appears in a motion, but they yield. They are but a very few noble spirits, and those are the children of the most High God, who dare valiantly oppose him, and in striving against sin resist to blood. He is called the 'great red dragon,' who with his tail, wicked men his instruments, sweeps down the third part of the stars of heaven; the 'prince of the power of the air,' because as a prince can muster his subjects, and draw them into the field for his service so the devil can raise9 the power of the air. In a word, he is called 'the god of this world,' 2Co 4:4, because sinners give him a god-like worship, fear him as the saints do God himself.

 

Second. The devil's nature shows his power; it is angelical. Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, Ps 103:20. Strength is put for angels, Ps 78:25. They did eat angels' food, the food of the mighty. In two things the power of angelical nature will appear; in its superiority, and in its spirituality.

 

1. Its superiority. Angels are the top of the creation; man himself is made a little lower than the angels. Now in the works of creation, the superior hath a power over the inferior; the beasts over the grass and herb, man over the beasts, and angels over man.

 

2. The spirituality of their nature. The weakness of man is from his flesh; his soul, made for great enterprises, but weighed down with a lump of flesh, is forced to row with a strength suitable to its weak partner. But now, the devils being angels have no such encumbrance, no fumes from a fleshly part to cloud their understanding, which is clear and piercing; no clog at their heel to retard their motion, which, for swiftness, is set out by the wind and flame of fire. Yea, being spiritual, they cannot be resisted with carnal force; fire and sword hurt not them. The angel which appeared to Manoah went up in the fire that consumed the sacrifice. Though such had been the dotage, and is at this day, of superstitious ones, that they think to charm the devil with their carnal exorcisms; hence the Romish relics, cross, holy water; yea, and it existed among the Jews themselves in corrupter times, who thought by their phylacteries and circumcision to scare away the devil, which made some of them expound that passage Song 3:8, of circumcision: 'Every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.' By sword on the thigh, they expound circumcision, which they will vainly have given as a charm against evil spirits that affright them in the night. But alas, the devil cares for none of these, no, not for an ordinance of God, when by fleshly confidence we make it a spell; he hath been often bound with these fetters and chains, as is said of him in the gospel, and the chains have been plucked asunder by him, neither could any man thus tame him. He esteems, as Job saith of the leviathan, iron as straw and brass as rotten wood. It must be a stronger than the strong man that must bind him, and none is stronger but God, the Father of spirits. The devil lost, indeed, by his fall, much of his power in relation to that holy and happy estate in which he was created, but not his natural abilities; he is an angel still, and hath an angel's power.

 

Third. The number of devils adds to their power. What lighter than the sand? yet number makes it weighty. What creature less than lice? yet what plague greater to the Egyptians. How formidable must devils be, who are both for nature so mighty and for number such a multitude! There are devils enough to beleaguer the whole earth; not a place under heaven where Satan hath not his troops; not a person without some of these cursed spirits haunting and watching him wherever he goes; yea, for some special service, he can send a legion to keep garrison in one single person, as Mark 5; and, if so many can be spared to attend one, to what a number would the muster-roll of Satan's whole army amount, if known? And now tell me if we are not like to find our march difficult to heaven-if ever we mean to go thither -that are to pass through the very quarters of this multitude, who are scattered over the face of all the earth?

 

When armies are disbanded, and the roads full of debauched soldiers, wandering up and down, it is dangerous travelling; we hear then of murderers and robberies from all quarters. These powers of hell are that party of angels, who for their mutiny and disobedience were cashiered heaven, and thrust out of that glorious host; and, ever since, they have straggled here below, endeavouring to do mischief to the children of men, especially travelling in heaven's road.

 

Fourth. Their unity and order makes their number formidable. We cannot say there is love among them-that heavenly fire cannot live in a devil's bosom; yet there is unity and order as to this -they are all agreed in their design against God and man: so their unity and consent is knit together by the ligaments not of love, but of hatred and policy -hatred against God and his children, which they are filled with-and policy, which tells them that if they agree not in their design, their kingdom cannot stand. And how true they are to this wicked brotherhood, our Saviour gives a fair testimony, when he saith, Satan fights not against Satan. Did you ever hear of any mutiny in the devil's army? or that any of these apostate angels did freely yield up one soul to Christ? They are many, and yet but one spirit of wickedness in them all. My name, said the devils, not our name, is legion. The devil is called the leviathan. 'The Lord with his strong sword shall punish leviathan,' Isa 27:1, from their cleaving together, of %&- (lava), compact or joined together, used for the whale, whose strength lies in his scales, which are so knit, that he is, as it were, covered with armour. Thus these cursed spirits do accord in their machinations, and labour to bring their instruments into the same league with them; not contented with their bare obedience, but where they can obtain it do require an express oath of their servants to be true to them, as in witches.

 

Fifth. The mighty works that are attributed to these evil spirits in Scripture declare their power; and these either respect the elementary, sensible, or intellectual part of the world. The elementary: what dreadful effects this prince of the power of the air is able to produce on that, see in the word; he cannot indeed make the least breath of air, drop of water, or spark of fire, but he can, if let loose, as reverend Master Caryl saith on Job 1, go to God's storehouse, and make use of these in such a sort as no man can stand before him; he can hurl the sea into such a commotion that the depths shall boil like a pot, and disturb the air into storms and tempests, as if heaven and earth would meet. Job's children were buried in the ruins of their house by a puff of his mouth, yea, he can go to God's magazine (as the former author saith) and let off the great ordinance of heaven, causing such dreadful thunder and lightning as shall not only affright, but do real execution, and that in a more dreadful way than in the ordinary course of nature. If man's art can so sublimate nature, as we see in the invention of powder, that such hath a strange force; much more able is he to draw forth its power. Again, over the sensitive world his power is great; not only the beasts, as in the herd of swine, hurried by him into the deep; but over the bodies of men also, as in Job, whose sore boils were not the breakings out of a distempered nature, but the print of Satan's fangs on his flesh, doing that suddenly, which in nature would have required more time to gather and ripen; and over the demoniacs in the gospel, grievously vexed and tormented by him. But this the devil counts small game.

 

His great spite is at the souls of men, which I call the intellectual world; his cruelty to the body is for the soul's sake. As Christ's pity to the bodies of men, when on earth, healing their diseases, was in a subserviency to the good of their souls, bribing them with those mercies suitable to their carnal desires, that they might more willingly receive mercies for their souls from that hand which was so kind to their bodies; as we give children something that pleaseth them, to persuade them to do something that pleaseth them not-go to the school, learn their book; so the devil, who is cruel as Christ as meek, and wisheth good neither to body nor soul, yet shows his cruelty to the body, but on a design against the soul -knowing well that the soul is soon discomposed by the perturbation of the other-for the soul cannot but lightly hear, and so have its peace and rest broken by the groans and complaints of the body, under whose very roof it dwells; and then, it is not strange, if, as for want of sleep, the tongue talk idly, so the soul should break out into some sinful carriage, which is the bottom of the devil's plot on a saint. And as for other poor silly souls, he gains little less than a god-like fear and dread of them by that power he puts forth, through divine permission, in smiting their goods, beasts, and bodies, as among the Indians at this day. Yea, there are many among ourselves who plainly show what a throne Satan hath in their hearts upon this account; such, who, as if there were not a God in Israel, go for help and cure to his doctors -wizards I mean. And truly had Satan no other way to work his will on the souls of men, but by this vantage he takes from the body, yet, considering the degeneracy of man's state,-how low his soul is sunk beneath its primitive extraction; how the body, which was a lightsome house, is now become a prison to it; that which was its servant, is now become its master -it is no wonder he is able to do so much.

 

But besides this, he hath, as a spirit, a nearer way of access to the soul, and as a superior spirit, yet more power over man, a lower creature. And, above all, having got within the soul by man's fall, he hath now far more power than before; so that, where he meets not resistance from God, he carries all before him; as in the wicked, whom he hath so at his devotion, that he is, in a sense, said to do that in them which God doth in the saints: God works effectually in them, Ga 2:8; 1Th 2:13. Satan worketh effectually in the children of disobedience, Eph 2:2, the word in the original being the same as in the former places10, -he is in a manner as efficacious with them, as the Holy Spirit with the other. His delusions are 'strong,' 2Th 2:11; they return not11, without accomplishing their object. The Spirit enlightens; he 'blinds the minds of them which believe not,' 2Co 4:4. The Spirit fills the saints, Eph 5:18; 'Why hath Satan filled thine heart?' saith Peter to Ananias, Ac 5:3. The Spirit fills with knowledge and the fruits of righteousness; Satan fills with envy and all unrighteousness. The Holy Spirit fills with comfort; Satan, the wicked with terrors-as in Saul, vexed by an evil spirit, and Judas, into whom it is said he entered, and when he had satisfied his lust upon him (as Amnon on Tamar), shuts the door of mercy upon him, and makes him that was even now traitor to his Master, hangman to himself. And though saints be not the proper subjects of his power, yet they are the chief objects of his wrath; his foot stands on the wicked's back, but he wrestles with these, and when God steps aside, he is far above their match. He hath sent the strongest among them home, trembling and crying to their God, with the blood running about their consciences. He is mighty, both as a tempter to, and for, sin; knowing the state of the Christian's affairs so well, and able to throw his fire-balls so far into the inward senses, whether they be of lust or horror, and to blow up these with such unwearied solicitations, that-if they at first meet not with some suitable dispositions in the Christian, at which, as from some loose corns of powder, they may make fire, which is most ordinary-yet, in time, he may bring over the creature, by the length of the siege, and continued volleys of such motions, to listen to a parley with them, if not a yielding to them. Thus many times he even wearies out the soul with importunity.

 

Use or Application.

 

Use First. Let this, O man, make the plumes of thy pride fall, whoever thou art that gloriest in thy power. Hadst thou more than thou or any of the sons of Adam ever had, yet what were all that to the power of these angels? Is it the strength of thy body thou gloriest in? Alas, what is the strength of frail flesh, to the force of their spiritual nature? Thou art no more to these, than a child to a giant, a worm to a man: they could tear up the mountains, and hurl the world into a confusion, if God would but suffer them. Is it the strength of thy parts above others? Dost thou not see what fools he makes of the wisest among men? winding them about as a sophist would do an idiot, making them believe light is dark, bitter is sweet, and sweet bitter. Were not the strength of his parts admirable, could he make a rational creature, as man is, so absurdly throw away his scarlet, and embrace dung? I mean, part with God and the glorious happiness he hath with him, in hope to mend himself by embracing sin. Yet this he did when man had his best wits about him in innocency. Is it the power of place and dignity got by war-like achievement? Grant thou wert able to subdue nations, and give laws to the whole world, yet even then, without grace from above, thou wouldst be his slave. And he himself, for all this his power, is a cursed spirit, the most miserable of all God's creatures, and the more as he hath so much power to do mischief. Had the devil lost all his angelical abilities when he fell, he had gained by his loss. Therefore tremble, O man, at any power thou hast, except thou usest it for God. Art thou strong in body; who hath thy strength? God, or thy lusts? Some are strong to drink, strong to sin; thy bands shall therefore be stronger, Isa 28:22. Hast thou power, by thy place, to do God and his church service, but no heart to lay it out for them, but rather against them? Thou and the devil shall be tried at the same bar. It seems thou meanest to go to hell for something, thou wilt carry thy full lading thither. No greater plague can befall a man, than power without grace. Such great ones in the world, while here, make a brave show, like chief commanders and field-officers at the head of their regiments-the common soldiers are poor creatures to them; but when the army is beaten, and all taken prisoners, then they fling off their scarf and feather, and would be glad to pass for the meanest in the army. Happy would devils be, happy would princes and great ones in the world be, if then they could appear in the habit of some poor sneaks to receive their sentence as such; but then their titles and dignity, and riches, shall be read, not for their honour, but further shame and damnation.

 

Use Second. It shows the folly of those that think it is such an easy matter to get to heaven. If the devil be so mighty, and heaven's way so full of them, then sure it will cost hot water before we display our banners upon the walls of that new Jerusalem. Yet it is plain that many think otherwise by the provision they make for their march. If you should see a man walking forth without a cloak, or with a very thin one, you will say, 'Surely he fears no foul weather;' or one riding a long journey alone and without arms, you will conclude he expects no thieves on the road. All, if you ask them, will tell you they are on the way to heaven; but how few care for the company of the saints? as if they needed not their fellowship in their journey! Most go naked, without so much as anything like armour, and have not enough to gain the name of professors at large; others, it may be, will show you some vain flighty hopes on the mercy of God, without any scripture bottom for the same, and with these content themselves, which will, like a rusty unsound pistol, fly in their own face when they come to use it; and is it any wrong to say that they meet with many rooks12 and cheaters in their dealing, who, should they not look to themselves, would soon undo them. And are there none that thou needest fear will put a cheat on thy soul, and bereave thee of thy crown of glory if they can? Thou art blinder than the prophet's servant, if thou seest not more devils encompassing thee, than he saw men about Samaria. Thy worldly trade they will not hinder, nay, may be will help thee to sinful tricks in that, to hinder thee in this; but if once thou resolvest to seek out for Christ and his grace, they will oppose thee to thy face. They are under an oath, as Paul's enemies were, to take away the life of thy soul if they can; desperate creatures themselves, who know their doom is irrecoverable, and sell their own lives they will as dear as they can. Now what folly is it to betray thy soul into their hands, when Christ stands by to be thy convoy? Out of him thou art a lost creature; thou canst not defend thyself alone against Satan, nor with Satan against God. Close with Christ, and thou art delivered from one of thy enemies, and him the most formidable, God, I mean; yea, he is become thy friend, who will stick close to thee in thy conflict with the other.

 

Use Third. To the saints; be not ye dismayed at this report which the Scripture makes of Satan's power. Let them fear him who fear not God. What are these mountains of power and pride, before thee, O Christian, who servest a God that can make a worm thrash a mountain? The greatest hurt he can do thee, is by nourishing this false fear of him in thy bosom. It is observed, Bernard saith, of some beasts in the forest13, that though they are too hard for the lion in fight, yet they tremble when he roars. Thus the Christian, when he comes to the pinch indeed, is able through Christ to trample Satan under his feet, yet before the conflict, stands trembling at the thought of him. Labour therefore to get a right understanding of Satan's power, and then this lion will not appear so fierce, as you paint him in your melancholy fancy. Three considerations will relieve you when at any time you are beset with the fears of his power.

 

Consider 1. It is a derived power. He hath it not in himself, but by patent from another, and that no other but God. All powers are of him, whether on earth or in hell. (1.) This truth subscribed in faith, would first secure thee, Christian, that Satan's power shall never hurt thee. Would thy Father give him a sword to mischief thee his child? 'I have created the smith,' saith God, 'that bloweth the coals,' 'I have created the waster to destroy,' and therefore he assures them that no weapon formed against them shall prosper,' Isa 54:16-17. If God provides his enemies' arms, they shall, I warrant you, be such as will do them little service. When Pilate thought to scare Christ, with what he could do towards the saving or taking away of his life, he replies, that he could do nothing 'except it were given him from above,' Joh 19:11, as if he had said, 'Do your worst, I know who sealed your commission.' (2.) This considered, would meeken and quiet the soul, when troubled by Satan within, or his instruments without. It is Satan buffets, man persecutes me, but it is God who gives them both power. The Lord, saith David, bids him curse. The Lord, saith Job, hath given, and the Lord hath taken. This kept the king's peace in both their bosoms. O Christian, Look not on the jailor that whips thee; may be he is cruel, but read the warrant, see who wrote that, and at the bottom thou shalt find thy Father's hand.

 

Consider 2. It is a limited power. Satan's power is limited, and that two ways-he cannot do what he will, and he shall not do what he can.

 

(1.) He cannot do what he will. His desires are boundless, they walk not only to and fro here below, but in heaven itself, where he is pulling down his once fellow-angels, knocking down the carved work of that glorious temple, as with axes and hammers, yea, unthroning God and setting himself in his place.

 

(a) This fool saith in his heart, 'There is no God;' but he cannot do this, nor many other things, which his cankered malice stirs him up to wish; he is but a creature, and so hath the length of his tedder, to which he is staked, and cannot exceed. And if God be safe, then thou also, for thy life 'is hid with Christ in God.' 'If I live,' saith Christ, 'ye shall live also.' You are engraven on the table of his heart; if he plucks one away, he must the other also. (b) Again, as he cannot hurt the being of God, so he cannot pry into the bosom of God. He knows not man's, much less the thoughts of God. The astrologers nor their master could bring back Nebuchadnezzar's dream. As men have their closets for their own privacy, where none can enter in but with their key; so God keeps the heart as his withdrawing room, shut to all besides himself; and therefore when he takes upon him to foretell events, if God teach him not his lesson, nor second causes help him, he is beside his book. So to save his credit he delivers them dubiously, that his text may bear a gloss suitable to the effect whatever it is. And when he is bold to tell the state of a person, there is no weight to be laid on his judgement. Job was an hypocrite in his mouth, but God proved him a liar. (c) Again, he cannot hinder those purposes and counsels of God he knows. He knew Christ was to come in the flesh, and did his worst, but could not hinder his landing, though there were many devices in his heart, yet the counsel of the Lord concerning him did stand, yea, was delivered by the midwifery of Satan suggesting, and his instruments executing his lust as they thought, but fulfilling God's counsel against themselves. (d) Satan cannot ravish thy will. He cannot command thee to sin against thy will, he can motum agere-make the soul go faster14, that is on its way, as the wind carries the tide with more swiftness; but he cannot turn the stream of the heart contrary to its own course and tendency.

 

(2.) Satan's power is so limited that he cannot do what he can. God lets out so much of his wrath as shall praise him, and be as a stream to set his purpose of love to his saints on work, and then lets down the flood-gate by restraining the residue thereof. God ever takes him off before he can finish his work on a saint. He can, if God suffers him, rob the Christian of much of his joy, and disturb his peace by his cunning insinuations, but he is under command; he stands, like a dog, by the table, while the saints sit at his sweet feast of comfort, but dares not stir to roam15 off their cheer; his Master's eye is on him. The want of this consideration loseth God his praise, and us our comfort-God having locked up our comfort in the performance of our duty. Did the Christian consider what Satan's power is, and who dams it up, this would always be a song of praise in his mouth. Hath Satan power to rob and burn, kill and slay, torment the body, distress the mind? whom may I thank that I am in any of these out of his hands? Doth Satan love me better than Job? or am I out of sight, or beside his walk? Is his courage cooled or his wrath appeased, that I escaped so well? No, none of these. His wrath is not against one, but all the saints; his eye is on thee, and his arm can reach thee; his spirit is not cowed, nor his stomach stayed with those millions he hath devoured, but is keen as ever; yea, sharper, because now he sees God ready to take away, and the end of the world drawing on so fast. It is thy God alone whom thou art beholden to for all this; his eye keepeth thee. when Satan finds this good man asleep, then he finds our God awake; therefore thou art not consumed, because he changeth not. Did his eye slumber or wander for one moment, there would need no other flood to drown thee, yea, the whole world, that what would come out of this dragon's mouth.

 

Consider 3. It is a ministerial power. Satan's power is ministerial, appointed by God for the service and benefit of the saints. It is true, as it is said of the proud Assyrian, 'he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so,' Isa 10:7; but it is in his heart to destroy those he tempts. But no matter what he thinks; as Luther comforted himself, when told what had passed at the diet at Nuremberg against the Protestants, that 'it was decreed one way there, but otherwise in heaven;' so for the saints' comfort, the thoughts which God thinks to them are peace, while Satan's are to ruin their graces, and destruction to their souls. And his counsel shall stand in spite of the devil. The very mittimus16 which God makes, when he commits any of his saints to the devil's prison, runs thus: 'Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus,' 1Co 5:5; so that tempted saints may say, 'We had perished if we had not perished to our own thinking.' This leviathan, while he thinks to swallow them up, is but sent of God (as the whale to Jonah) to waft them safe to land. 'Some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white,' Da 11:35. This God intends when he lets his children fall into temptation. As we do with our linen, the spots they get at our feasts, are taken out by washing, rubbing, and laying them out to bleach. The saints' spots are most got in peace, plenty, and prosperity, and they never recover their whiteness to such a degree as when they come from under Satan's scouring. We do too little, not to fear Satan; we should comfort ourselves with the usefulness and subserviency of his temptations to our good. All things are yours who are Christ's. He hath given life to be yours, hath given death also. He that hath given heaven for your inheritance-Paul and Cephas, his ministers and ordinances to help you thither-hath given the world with all the afflictions of it, yea, the prince of it too, with all his wrath and power, in order to the same end. This, indeed, is love and wisdom in a riddle, but you who have the Spirit of Christ can unfold it.

 

BRANCH THIRD.

 

Against the rulers of the darkness of this world.]

 

These words contain the third branch in the description of our great enemy the devil; and they hold forth the proper seat of his empire, with a threefold boundary. He is not 'Lord over all'-that is the incommunicable title of God-but a ruler of the darkness of this world, where the time, place, and subjects of his empire are stinted. First. The time when this prince hath his rule-in this world, that is, now, not hereafter. Second. The place where he rules-in this world, that is, here below, not in heaven. Third. The subjects or persons whom he rules, not all in this lower world neither; they are wrapped up in these words-the darkness of this world.

 

The time when Satan rules.

 

First. Satan's empire is bounded by time. The time when he rules is in this world; that is, now, not hereafter. This word world may be taken in the text for that little spot of time which, like an inconsiderable parenthesis, is clapped in on either side with vast eternity, called sometimes the present world, Tit 2:12. On this stage of time this mock king acts the part of a prince; but when Christ comes to take down his scaffold at the end of this world, then he shall be degraded, his crown taken off, his sword broke over his head, and he hissed off with scorn and shame; yea, of a prince, become a close prisoner in hell. No more, then, shall he infest the saints, no, nor rule the wicked, but he with them, and they with him, shall lie under the immediate execution of God's wrath. For this very end Christ hath his patent and commission, which he will not give up, till 'he shall have put down all rule,' 1Co 15:24. Then, and not till then, will he deliver up his economical kingdom to his Father, 'when he shall have put down all rule;' 'for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet,' ver.  1Co 15:25. Satan is cast already, his doom is past upon him, as Adam's was upon his first sin, but full execution is stayed till the end of the world. The devil knows it; it is an article in his creed, which made him trembling ask Christ why he came to torment him before his time.

 

Use First. This brings ill news to the wicked. Your princes cannot long sit in his throne. Sinners at present have a merry time of it, if it would hold; they rejoice, while Christ's disciples weep and mourn; they rustle in their silks, while the saint goes in his rags. Princes are not more careful to oblige their courtiers with pensions and preferments, than the devil is to gratify his followers. He hath his rewards also: 'All this will I give thee.' 'Am not I able to promote thee?' saith Balak to Balaam. Oh, it is strange-and yet not strange, considering the degeneracy of man's nature-to see how Satan carries sinners after him with this golden hook. Let him but present such a bait as honour, pelf, or pleasure, and their hearts skip after it, as a dog would after a crust. He makes them sin for a morsel of bread. Oh the naughty heart of man loves the wages of unrighteousness, which the devil promiseth, so dearly, that it fears not the dreadful wages which the great God threatens. As sometimes see a spaniel so greedy of a bone, that he will leap into the very river for it, if you throw it thither, and by the time he comes with much ado thither, it is sunk, and he gets nothing but a mouthful of water for his pains-thus sinners will go after their desired pleasures, honours, and profits, swimming through the very threatenings of the Word to them. And sometimes they lose even what they gaped for there. Thus God kept Balaam, as Balak told him, 'from honour,' Nu 24:11. But however they speed here, they are sure to lose themselves everlastingly without repentance. They that are resolved they will have these things, are the men that will fall into the devil's snare, and are led into those foolish and hurtful lusts, which will drown them in destruction and perdition, 1Ti 6:9. O poor sinners! were it not wisdom, before you truck17 with the devil, to inquire what title he can give you to these goodly vanities? will he settle them as a free estate upon you? can he secure your bargain, and keep you from suits of law? or is he able to put two lives into the purchase, that when you die, you may not be left destitute in another world? Alas, poor wretches! you shall ere long see what a cheat he hath put on you, from whom you are like to have nought but caveat emptor -let the buyer look to that; yea, this great prince that is so brag to tell what he will give you, must down himself; and a sad prince must needs make a sad court. O what howling will there then be of Satan and his vassals together! O but, saith the sinner, the pleasures and honour sin and Satan offer are present, and that which Christ promiseth we must stay for. This, indeed, that which takes most. Demas, saith Paul, forsook me, 'having loved this present world,' 2Ti 4:10. It is present, indeed, sinners, for you cannot say it will be yours the next moment. Your present felicity is going, and the saints', though future, is coming, never to go; and who, for a gulp of pottage and sensual enjoyments at present, would part with a reversion of such a kingdom? Except thou art of his mind, who thought he had nothing but what he had swallowed down his throat, thou wouldst not.

 

Hœc habeo quœ edi, quœ exacurata libido Hausit18.

 

This Cicero could say was more fit to be writ on an ox's grave than on a man's. Vile wretch, that thinkest it is not better to deal with God for time, than with the devil for ready pay. Tertullian wonders at the folly of the Roman's ambition, who would endure all manner of hardship in field and fight, for no other thing but to obtain at last the honour to be consul, which he calls19 'a joy that flies away at the year's end.' But O! what desperate madness is it of sinners then, not to endure a little hardship here, but to entail on themselves the eternal wrath of God hereafter, for the short feast and running banquet their lusts entertain them here withal; which often is not gaudium unius horœ-a joy that lasts an hour.

 

Use Second. Let this encourage thee, O Christian, in thy conflict with Satan-the skirmish may be sharp, but it cannot be long. Let him tempt thee, and his wicked instruments trounce20 thee, it is but a little while, and thou shalt be rid of both their evil neighbourhoods. The cloud while it drops is rolling over thy head, and then comes fair weather, an eternal sunshine of glory. Canst thou not watch with Christ one hour or two? keep the field a few days? If thou yield thou art undone for ever. Persevere but while until the battle is over, and thine enemy shall never rally more. Bid faith look through the key-hole of the promise, and tell thee what it sees there laid up for him that overcomes; bid it listen and tell thee whether it cannot hear the shout of those crowned saints, as of those that are dividing the spoil, and receiving the reward of all their services and sufferings here on earth. And dost thou stand on the other side afraid to wet thy foot with those sufferings and temptations, which, like a little plash of water, run between thee and glory?

 

The place where Satan rules.

 

Second. Satan's empire is confined to place. The place where the devil rules is in this world, that is, here below, not in heaven. He is the ruler of this lower world, not of the heavenly. The highest the devil can go is the air; he is called the prince thereof, as being the utmost marches of his empire; he hath nothing to do with the upper world. Heaven fears no devil, and therefore its gates stand always open. Never durst this fiend look into that holy place since he was first expelled, but he rangeth to and fro here below as a vagabond creature, excommunicated the presence of God, doing what mischief he can to saints on their way to heaven. But is not this matter of great joy, that Satan hath no power there, where the saints' lies? What hast thou, Christian, which thou needest value, that is not there? Thy Christ is there, and if thou lovest him, thy heart also, which lives in the bosom of its Beloved. Thy friends and kindred in Christ are there, or expected, with whom thou shalt have a merry meeting in thy Father's house, notwithstanding the snare on Tabor, the plots of Satan which lie in the way. O friends, get a title to that kingdom, and you are above the flight of this kite. This made Job a happy man indeed, who, when the devil had plundered him to his skin, and worried him almost out of that too, could then even vouch Christ, in the face of death and devils, to be his Redeemer; whom he should with those eyes, that now stood full with brinish tears, behold, and that for himself as his own portion. It is sad with him indeed, who is robbed of all he is worth at once; but this can never be said of a saint. The devil took away Job's purse, as I may say, which put him into some straits, but he had a God in heaven that put him into stock again. Some spending-money thou hast at present in thy purse, in the activity of thy faith, the evidence of thy sonship, and comfort flowing from the same, enlargement in duty and the like. These Satan may for a time disturb, yea, deprive thee of, but he cannot come to the rolls, to blot thy name out of the book of life; he cannot null thy faith, make void thy relation, dry up thy comfort in the spring, though he may dam up the stream; nor can he hinder thee a happy issue of thy whole war with sin, though he may worst thee in a private skirmish; these all are kept in heaven, among God's own crown-jewels, who is said to keep us by his 'power through faith unto salvation.'

 

The subjects over which Satan rules.

 

Third. The subjects of Satan's empire are stinted. The third boundary of the devil's principality is in regard of his subjects, and they are described here to be the darkness of this world, that is, such who are in darkness. This word is used sometimes to express the desolate condition of a creature in some great distress, 'He that walketh in darkness, and hath no light,' Isa 50:10; sometimes to express the nature of all sin; so, Eph 5:11, sin is called the 'works of darkness;' sometimes the particular sin of ignorance; and is often is set out by the darkness of the night, blindness of the eye. All these I conceive may be meant, but chiefly the latter; for though Satan makes a foul stir in the soul that is in the darkness of sorrow, whether it be from outward crosses or inward desertions; yet if the creature be not in the darkness of sin at the same time, though he may disturb his peace as an enemy, yet he cannot be said to rule as a prince. Sin only sets Satan in the throne. So that I shall take the words in the two latter interpretations. First. I take them for the darkness of sin in general. Second. For the darkness of ignorance in special. And the sense will be, that the devil's rule is over those that are in a state of sin and ignorance, not over those who are sinful or ignorant. Were it so, he would take hold of saints as well as others; but it is over those who are in a state of sin, which is set out by the abstract, 'rulers of the darkness,' the more to express the fulness of the sin and ignorance that possesseth Satan's slaves. The notes or Doctrines will be two. First. Every soul in a state of sin is under the rule of Satan. Second. Ignorance above other sins enslaves a soul to Satan; and therefore all sins are set out by that which chiefly expresseth this, namely, darkness.

 

Souls in a state of sin are subject to Satan's rules.]

 

Doctrine First. Every soul in a state of sin is under the rule of Satan; under which point these two things must be inquired. First. The reason why sin is set out by darkness. Second. How every one in such a state appears to be under the devil's rule.

 

First. The reason why sin is set out by darkness.

 

1. Sin may be called darkness, because the spring and common cause of sin in man is darkness. The external cause is Satan, who is the great promoter of it; he is a cursed spirit, held in chains of darkness. The internal is the blindness and darkness of the soul. We may say when anyone sins, he doth he knows not what, as Christ said of his murderers. Did the creature know the true worth of the soul which he now sells for a song, the glorious amiable nature of God and his holy ways, the matchless love of God in Christ, the poisonful nature of sin, and all these, not by a sudden beam darted into the window at a sermon, and gone again like a flash of lightning, but by an abiding light, it would spoil the devil's market. Poor creatures would not readily take this toad into their bosom. Sin goes in a disguise, and so is welcome.

 

2. It is darkness, because it brings darkness into the soul, and that naturally and judicially.

 

(1.) Sin bring darkness into the soul naturally. There is a noxious quality in sin offensive to the understanding, which is to the soul what the eye and palate are to the body; it discerns of things, and distinguisheth true from false, as the eye white from black; it trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meats. Now as there are some things bad for the sight, and others bad for the palate, vitiating it, so that it shall not know sweet from bitter; so here sin besots the creature and makes it injudicious, that he, who could see such a practice absurd and base in others before, when once he hath drunk off this enchanting cup himself-as one that hath foredone his understanding-is mad of it himself, not able to see the evil of it, or use his reason against it. Thus Saul, before he had debauched his conscience, thinks the witch worthy of death; but after he had trodden his conscience hard with other foul sins, goes to ask counsel of one himself.

 

(2.) Sin brings darkness into the soul judicially. Such have been threatened, whose ear God hath been trying to open and instruct, and have run out of God's school into the devil's, by rebelling against light, that they shall 'die without knowledge,' Job 36:10,12. What! should the candle burn waste, when the creature hath more mind to play than work?

 

3. Sin may be called darkness, because it runs into darkness. Impostors bring in their damnable heresies privily, like those who sell bad ware. Loath to come to the market, where the standard tries all, they put it off in secret. So in moral wickedness, sinners like beasts go out in the night for their prey, loath to be seen, afraid to come where they should be found out. Nothing more terrible to sinners than the light of truth, because their deeds are evil, Joh 3:19. Felix was so nettled with what Paul spake, that he could not sit out the sermon, but flings away in haste, and adjourns the hearing of Paul till a convenient season, but he could never find one. The sun is not more troublesome in hot countries, than truth is to those who sit under the powerful preaching of it; and therefore as those seldom come abroad in the heat of the day, and when they must, have their devices over their heads to screen them from the sun, so sinners shun as much as may be the preaching of the Word; but if they must go, to keep in with their relations, or for other carnal advantages, they, if possible, will keep off the power of truth, either by sleeping the sermon away, or prating it away with any foolish imagination which Satan sends to bear them company and chat with them at such a time; or by choosing such a cool preacher to sit under, whose toothless discourse shall rather flatter than trouble, rather tickle their fancy than prick their consciences, and then their sore eyes can look upon the light. They love truth flourishing, who do not love it when it is confuting21].] They dare handle and look on the sword with delight when in a rich scabbard, who would run away to see it drawn.

 

4. Sin may be called darkness for its uncomfortableness, and that in a threefold respect.

 

(1.) Darkness is uncomfortable, as it shuts out of all employment. What could the Egyptians do under the plague of darkness but sit still? and this to an active spirit is trouble enough. Thus in a state of sin man is an unserviceable creature, he can do his God no service acceptably, spoils everything he takes in hand; like one running up and down in a shop when the windows are shut, he doth nothing right. It may be writ on the grave of every sinner, who lives and dies in that state, 'Here lies the man that never did God an hour's work in all his life.'

 

(2.) Darkness is uncomfortable in point of enjoyment. Be there never such rare pictures in the room, if dark, who the better? A soul in a state of sin may possess much, but he enjoys nothing; this is a sore evil, and little thought of. One thought of its state of enmity to God, would drop bitterness into every cup; all he hath smells of hellfire; and a man at a rich feast would enjoy it sure but little, if he smelt fire, ready to burn his house and himself in it.

 

(3.) Darkness is uncomfortable, as it fills with terrors. Fears in the night are most dreadful; a state of sin is a state of fear. Men that owe much, have no quiet, but when they are asleep, and not then neither, the cares and fears of the day sink so deep, as makes their rest troublesome and unquiet in the night. The wicked hath no peace, but when his conscience sleeps, and that sleeps but brokenly, awaking often with sick fits of terror; when he hath most prosperity, he is scared like a flock of birds in a corn-field, at every piece going off. He eats in fear, and drinks in fear; when afflicted, he expects worse behind, and knows not what this cloud may spread to, and where it may lay him, whether in hell or not, he knows not, and therefore trembles, as one in the dark, not knowing but his next step may be into the pit.

 

5. Sin may be called darkness, because it leads to utter darkness. Utter darkness is darkness to the utmost. Sin in its full height, and wrath in its full heat together; both universal, both eternal. Here is some mixture, peace and trouble, pain and ease; sin and thoughts of repenting, sin and hopes of pardon; there the fire of wrath shall burn without slacking, and sin run parallel with torment; hell-birds are no changelings, their torment makes them sin, and their sin feeds their torment, both unquenchable, one being fuel to another.

 

Second. Let us see how it appears, that such as are under a state of sin, are under the rule of Satan. Sinners are called the children of the devil, #1 Jon 3:10|; and who rules the child, but the father? They are slaves; who rules the slave, but the master? They are the very mansion-house of the devil; where hath a man command, but in his own house? 'I will return into my house,' Mt 12:44. As if the devil had said, I have walked among the saints of God, to and fro, knocking at this door and that, and none will bid me welcome, I can find no rest; well, I know where I may be bold, I will even go to my own house, and there I am sure to rule the roost without control: and when he comes, he finds it empty, swept and garnished, that is all ready for his entertainment. Servants make the house trim and handsome against their master comes home, especially when he brings guests with him, as here the devil brings seven more.

 

Look to the sinner, there is nothing he is or hath, but the devil hath dominion over it; he rules the whole man, their minds blinding them. All the sinner's apprehensions of things are shaped by Satan; he looks on sin with the devil's spectacles, he reads the word with the devil's comment, he sees nothing in its native colours, but is under a continual delusion. The very wisdom of a wicked man is said to be devilish, Jas 3:15, *"Greek Word”, or devil-like, because taught by the devil, and also such as the devil's is, wise only to do evil. He commands their wills, though not to force them, yet effectually to draw them. His work, saith Christ, ye will do. You are resolved on your way, the devil hath got your hearts, and him you will obey; and therefore when Christ comes to recover his throne, he finds the soul in an uproar, as Ephesus at Paul's sermon, crying him down, and Diana up. 'We will not have this man to reign over us;' 'what is the Almighty that we should serve him?' He rules over all their members; they are called weapons of unrighteousness, all at the devil's service, as all the arms of a kingdom, to defend the prince against any that shall invade-the head to plot, the hand to act, the feet swift to carry the body up and down about his service; he rules over all he hath. Let God come in a poor member, and beseech him to lend him a penny, or bestow a morsel to refresh his craving bowels, and the covetous wretch his hand of charity is withered, and he cannot stretch it forth; but let Satan call, and his purse flies open and heart also. Nabal, that could not spare a few fragments for David and his followers, this churl could make a feast like a prince, to satiate his lust of gluttony and drunkenness. He commands their time; when God calls to duty, to pray, to hear, no time all the week to be spared for that; but if the sinner hears there is a merry-meeting, a knot of good fellows at the alehouse, all is thrown aside to wait on his lord and master. Calling left at six and sevens; yea, wife and children crying, may be starving; while the wretch is pouring out their very blood, in wasting their livelihood, at the foot of his lust. The sinner is 'in bond of iniquity,' and being bound he must obey. He is said to go after his lust, as the fool to the stocks, Pr 7:22. The pinioned malefactor can as soon untie his own arms and legs, and so run from his keeper, as he from his lusts. They are 'servants,' and their members 'instruments of sin;' even as the workman takes up his axe and it resists not, so doth Satan dispose of them, except God saith nay.

 

Application of this doctrine, 'That the soul in a state of sin in under the rule of Satan.']

 

See here the deplored condition of every one in a state of sin. He is under the rule of Satan and government of hell. What tongue can utter, what heart can conceive the misery of this state? It was a dismal day which Christ foretold, Matt 24, when the 'abomination of desolation' should be seen standing in the holy place; then, saith Christ, let him that is in Judea flee into the mountains. But what was that to this? they were but men, though abominable, these devils. They did but stand in the material temple, and defile and deface that: but these display their banners in the souls of men, pollute that throne which is more glorious than the material heaven itself, made for God alone to sit in. They exercised their cruelties at furthest on the bodies of men, killing and torturing them; here the precious souls of men are destroyed. When David would curse to purpose the enemies of God, he prays that Satan may be at their right hand. It is strange that sinners should no more tremble at this, who, should they see but their swine, or a beast bewitched and possessed of the devil, run headlong into the sea, would cry out as half undone: and is not one soul more worth than all these? What a plague is it to have Satan possess thy heart and spirit, hurrying thee in the fury of thy lusts to perdition? O poor man! what a sad change thou hast made? Thou who wouldst not sit under the meek and peaceful government of God, thy rightful Lord, art paid for thy rebellion against him, in the cruelty of this tyrant, who writes all his laws in the blood of his subjects. And why will you sit any longer, O sinners, under the shadow of this bramble, from whom you can expect nothing but eternal fire to come at last and devour you? Behold, Christ is in the field, sent of God to recover his right and your liberty. His royal standard is pitched in the gospel, and proclamation made, that if any poor sinners, weary of the devil's government, and heavy laden with the miserable chains of his spiritual bondage, so as these irons of his sins enter into his very soul to afflict it with the sense of them-shall thus come and repair to Christ-he shall have protection from God's justice, the devil's wrath and sin's dominion; in a word, he shall have rest, and that glorious, Mt 11:28.

 

Usually when a people have been ground with the oppression of some bloody tyrant, they are apt enough to long for a change, and to listen to any overture that gives them hope of liberty, though reached by the hand of a stranger, who may prove as bad as the other, yet bondage is so grievous, that people desire to change, as sick men their beds, though they find little ease thereby. Why then should deliverance be unwelcome to you sinners? -deliverance brought, not by a stranger whom you need fear what his design is upon you, but by near kinsman in blood, who cannot mean you ill, but he must first hate his own flesh; and whoever did that? To be sure not he, who though he took part of our flesh, that he might have the right of being our Redeemer, yet would have no kindred with us in the sinfulness of our nature, Heb 2:14-15. And it is sin that is cruel, yea, to our own flesh. What can you expect from him but pure mercy, who is himself pure? They are 'the mercies of the wicked which are cruel,' Pr 12:10. Believe it, sirs, Christ counts it his honour, that he is a king of a willing people, and not of slaves. He comes to make you free, not to bring you into bondage, to make you kings, not vassals. None give Christ an evil word, but those who never were his subjects. Inquire but of those who have tried both Satan's service and Christ's, they are best able to resolve you what they are. You see when a soul comes over from Satan's quarters unto Christ, and has but once the experience of that sweetness which is in his service, there is no getting him back to his old drudgery; as they say of those who come out of the north, which is cold and poor, they like the warm south so well, they seldom or never go back more. What more dreadful to a gracious soul, than to be delivered into the hands of Satan? or fall under the power of his lusts? It would choose rather to leap into a burning furnace, than be commanded by them. This is the great request a child of God makes, that he would rather whip him in his house, than turn him out of it to become a prey to Satan.

 

O sinners, did you know-which you cannot till you come over to Christ, and embrace him as your Lord and Saviour-what the privileges of Christ's servants are, and what gentle usage saints have at Christ's hands, you would say these are the only happy men in the world which stand continually before him. His laws are writ, not with his subjects' blood, as Satan's are, but with his own. All his commands are acts of grace, it is a favour to be employed about them. To you it is given to believe, yea, to suffer, Php 1:29. Such an honour the saint esteems it to do anything he commands, that they count God rewards them for one piece of service, if he enables them for another. 'This I had,' saith David, 'because I kept thy precepts,' Ps 119:56; what was the great reward he got? 'I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law,' ver. 55; then follows, 'This I had.' He got more strength and skill to keep the law for the future, by his obedience past, and was not well paid, think you, for his pains? There is 'fruit' even in 'holiness,' the Christian hath in hand, which he eats while he is at work, that may stay his stomach until his full reward comes, which is 'eternal life,' Ro 6:22. Jesus Christ is a prince that loves to see his people thrive and grow rich under his government. This is he whom sinners are afraid of, that when he sets open their prison, and bids them come forth, they choose rather to bore their ears to the devil's post, than enjoy this blessed liberty. It is no wonder that some of the saints have, indeed, 'when tortured, not accepted deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection,' Heb 11:35. But what a riddle is this, that forlorn souls bound with the chains of their lusts, and the irresistible decree of God for their damnation, if they believe not on the Lord Jesus, should, as they are driving to execution, refuse deliverance! This may set heaven and earth on wondering. Surely, dying in their sins, they cannot hope for a better resurrection than they have a death. I am afraid rather, that they do not firmly believe they shall have any resurrection, and then no wonder they make so light of Christ's offer, who think themselves safe, when once earthed in this burrow of the grave. But let sinners know, it is not the grave can hold them, when the day of assize comes, and the Judge calls for the prisoners to the bar. The grave was never intended to be a sanctuary to defend sinners from the hand of justice, but a close prison to secure them against the day of trial, that they may be forthcoming. Then sinners shall be digged out of their burrows, and dragged out of their holes, to answer their contempt of Christ and his grace. O how will you be astonished to see him become your judge, whom you now refuse to be your king! to hear that gospel witness against you for your damnation, which at the same time shall acquit others for their salvation! What think you to do, sinners, in that day? Wilt thou cry and scream for mercy at Christ's hands? Alas, when the sentence is passed, thy face will immediately be covered; condemned prisoners are not allowed to speak: tears then are unprofitable, when no place left for repentance, either in Christ's heart or in thine own. Or meanest thou to apply thyself to thy old lord, in whose service thou hast undone thy soul, and cry to him, as she to Ahab, Help, O king! Alas! thine eye shall see him in the same condemnation with thyself. Hadst thou not better now renounce the devil's rule, while thou mayest be received into Christ's government?-pour out thy tears and cry now for mercy and grace when they are to be had, than to save them for another world to no purpose?

 

How one born a slave to sin may be translated into the kingdom of Christ.]

 

Question. But possibly thou wilt say, How may I, that am a home-born slave to sin, yea, who have lived so many years under his cursed rule, get out of his dominion and power, and be translated into the kingdom of Christ?

 

Answer. The difficulty of this great work lies not in prevailing with Christ to receive thee for his subject, who refuseth none that in truth of heart desire to come under his shadow. It doth not stand with his design to reject any such. Do physicians use to chide their patients away? lawyers their clients? or generals discourage those who fall off from the enemy and come to their side? surely no. When David was in the field, it is said, 'Every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them,' 1Sa 22:2. And so will Christ be to every one that is truly discontented with Satan's government, and upon an inward dislike thereof repairs to him. But the main business will be to take thee off from thy engagements to thy lusts and Satan; till which be done, Christ will not own thee as a subject, but look on thee as a spy. It fares with sinners as with servants. There may be fallings out between them and their masters, and high words pass between them, that you would think they would take up their pack and be gone in all haste; but the fray is soon over, and by next morning all is forgot, and their servants are as hard at their work as ever. O how oft are sinners taking their leave of their lusts, and giving warning to their old masters, that will repent and reform, and what not; but in a few days they have repented of their repentance, and deformed their deformings, which shows they were drunk with some passion when they thought or spake this, and no wonder they reverse all when they come to their true temper. Now because Satan has many policies by which he useth to keep his hold of sinners, I shall discover some of them, which if thou canst withstand, it will be no hard matter to bring thee out of his power and rule.

 

Policies of Satan which must be withstood if we would escape from his rule.]

 

First. Satan doth his utmost, that sinners may not have any serious thoughts of the miserable state they are in, while under his rule; or hear anything from others which might the least unsettle their minds from his service. Consideration, he knows, is the first step to repentance. He that doth not consider his ways what they are, and whither they lead him, is not like to change them in haste. Israel stirred not, while until Moses came and had some discourse with them about their woeful slavery, and the gracious thoughts of God towards them; and then they began to desire to be gone. Pharaoh soon bethought him what consequence might follow upon this, and cunningly labours to prevent by doubling their task: 'Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the Lord. Go therefore now, and work,' Ex 5:17-18. As if he had said, 'Have you so much spare time to think of gadding into the wilderness, and have you your seditious conventicles, Moses and you, to lay your plots together? I will break the knot: give them more work; scatter them all over the land to gather straw, that they may not meet to entice one another's hearts from my service.' Thus Satan is very jealous of the sinner, afraid that every Christian that speaks to him, or ordinance he hears, should inveigle him. By his good-will he should come at neither, no, nor have a thought of heaven or hell from one end of the week to the other; and that he may have as few as may be, he keeps him full-handed with work. The sinner grinds, and he is filling the hopper, that the mill may not stand still. He is with the sinner as soon as he wakes, and fills his wretched heart with some wicked thoughts, which as a morning draught may keep him from the infection of any savour of good that may be breathed on him by others in the daytime. All the day long he watched him, as the master would do his man that he fears will run away. and at night he like a careful jailor locks him up again in his chamber with more bolts and fetters upon him, not suffering him to sleep as he lies on his bed till he hath done some mischief. Ah, poor wretch! Was ever slave so looked to? As long as the devil can keep thee thus, thou art his own sure enough. The prodigal came to himself, before he came to his father. He considered with himself what a starving condition he was in, his husks were poor meat, and yet he had not enough of them neither, and how easily he might mend his commons, if he had but grace to go home and humble himself to his father. Now and not till now he goes. Resolve thus, poor sinner, to sit down and consider what thy state is, and what it might be, if thou wouldst but change the bondage of Satan for the sweet government of Jesus Christ. First ask thy soul whether the devil can, after thou hast worn out thy miserable life here in this drudgery, prefer thee to a happy state in the other world, or so much as secure thee from a state of torment and woe? If he cannot, whether there not be one Jesus Christ who is able and willing to do it? and if so, whether it be not bloody cruelty to thy precious soul to stay any longer under the shadow of this bramble, when thou mayest make so blessed a change? A few of these thought abidingly laid home to thy soul, may-God striking in with them-shake the foundations of the devil's prison, and make thee haste as fast from him, as one out of a house on fire about his ears.

 

Second. Satan hath his instruments to oppose the messengers and overtures which God sends by them to bring the sinner out of Satan's rule. When Moses comes to deliver Israel out of Egyptian bondage, up start Jannes and Jambres to resist him. When Paul preacheth to the deputy, the devil hath his chaplain at court to hinder him-Elymas, one that was full of all subtlety and mischief. Some or other, to be sure, he will find, when God is parleying with a sinner, and persuading him to come over to Christ, that shall labour to clog the work. Either carnal friends -these he sends to plead his cause; or old companions in wickedness-these bestir them; one while by labouring to jeer him out of his new way, or, if that take not, by turning their old love into bitter wrath against him for playing the apostate and leaving him so. Or if yet he will not be stopped in his way, then he hath his daubing preachers, still like Job's messengers the last the worst, who with their soul-flattering, or rather murdering doctrine, shall go about to heal his wound 'slightly.' Now as ever you desire to get out of Satan's bondage, have a care of all these; harden thyself against the entreaties of carnal friends and relations. Resolve, that if thy children should hang about thy knees to keep thee from Christ, thou wilt throw them away; resolve, if thy father and mother should lie prostrate at thy foot, rather than not go to Christ, to go over their very backs to him. Never can we part with their love upon such advantageous terms as these. And for thy brethren in iniquity, I hope thou dost not mean to stay while i.e. until thou hast their good-will; then even ask the devil's also. Heaven is but little worth if thou hast not a heart to despise a little shame, and bear a few frumps22 from profane Ishmaels for thy hopes of it. Let them spit on thy face, Christ will wipe it off; let them laugh, so thou winnest. If they follow not thy example before they die, the shame will be their own; God himself shall spit it on their face before men and angels, and then kick them into hell. And lastly, escape but the snare of those flatterers, who use their tongues only to lick sinners' consciences whole with their soothing doctrine, and thou art fair for a Christ; ask not counsel of them; they may go about to give you ease, with which they sow up thy wounds, must be ripped open, or thou diest for it.

 

Third. Satan labours to while off the sinner with delays. Floating, flitting thoughts of repenting he fears not; he can give sinners leave to talk what they will do, so he can beg time, and by his art keep such thoughts from coming to a head, and ripening into a present resolution. Few are in hell but thought of repenting, but Satan so handled the matter, that they could never pitch upon the time in earnest when to do it. If ever thou meanest to get out of his clutches, fly out of his doors and run for thy life, wherever this warning finds thee; stay not, though in the midst of thy joys, with which thy lusts entertain thee. As the paper which came to Brentius-from that senator his dear friend-took him at supper with his wife and children, and bade him flee citò, citus, citissimè-quickly, more quickly, as quickly as possible-which he did, leaving his dear company and sweet cheer; so do thou, or else thou mayest repent thy stay when it is too late. A vision charged the wise men to go back another way, and not so much as see Herod, though he had charged them otherwise. O go not back, drunkard, to thy good fellows; adulterer, to thy queans23; covetous wretch, to thy usury and unlawful gain: turn another way and gratify not the devil a moment. The command saith, 'Now repent;' the imperative hath no future tense. God saith, 'To-day, while it is called to-day.' The devil saith, To-morrow. Which wilt thou obey, God or him? Thou sayest, thou meanest at last to do it, then why not now? Wilt thou stand with God a day or two, huckle with him for a penny? Heaven is not such a hard pennyworth, but thou mayest come up to his terms. And which is the morrow thou meanest? Thou hast but a day in thy life, for aught thou knowest, where then canst thou find a morrow for repentance? But shouldst thou have as many days to come as Methuselah lived, yet know, sin is hereditary, and such sort of diseases grow more upon us with our years. It is with long-accustomed sinners, as with those who have sat long under a government, they rather like to be as they are, though but ill on it, than think of a change; or like those who in a journey have gone out of their way all the day, will rather take any new way, over hedge and ditch, than think of going so far and back to be set right.

 

Fourth. Satan labours to compromise the business, and bring it to a composition between him and Christ. When conscience will not be pacified, then Satan for quiet's sake will yield to something, as Pharaoh with Moses; after much ado he is willing they should go. 'And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness,' Ex 8:28. But then comes this caution, 'Only you shall not go very far away.' Thus Satan will yield; the sinner may pray, and hear the word, and make a goodly profession, so he doth not go very far, but that he may have him again at night. If God hath the matins, he looks for the vigils, and thus he is content the day should be divided. Doth conscience press a reformation and change of the sinner's course? rather than fail, he will grant that also. Yet as Pharaoh, when he yielded they should go, he meant their little ones should stay behind as a pledge for those that went, Ex 10:11; so Satan must have some one sin that must be spared, and no matter though it be a little one. Now if ever you would get out of the devil's rule, make no composition with him. Christ will be king or no king. Not a hoof must be left behind, or anything which may make an errand for thee afterwards to return. Take therefore thy everlasting farewell of every sin, as to the sincere and fixed purpose of thy heart, or thou dost nothing. Paul joins his faith and purpose together, 2Ti 3:10, not the one without the other. At the promulgation of the law in Sinai, God did, as it were, give Israel the oath of allegiance to him; then he told them what law he would rule them by, and they gave their consent; this was the espousal which God puts them in mind of, Jer. 2, in which they were solemnly married together, as king and subjects. Now mark, before God would do this, he will have them out of Egypt. They could not obey his laws and Pharaoh's idolatrous customs also, and therefore he will have them out, before he solemnly espouseth them to be a nation peculiarly his. Thou must be a widow before Christ marry thee; he will not lie beside another's wife. O that it were come to this! then the match would soon be made between Christ and thee. Let me ask thee, poor soul, hast thou seriously considered who Christ is, and what his sweet government is? and couldst thou find in thy heart-out of an inward abhorrency of sin and Satan, and a liking to Christ-to renounce sin and Satan, and choose Christ for thy Lord? Doth thy soul say, as Rebekah, 'I will go,' if I could tell how to get to him. But alas, I am here a poor prisoner, I cannot shake off my fetters, and set myself at liberty to come unto Christ.' Well, poor soul, canst thou groan heartily under thy bondage? then for thy comfort know thy deliverance is at the door; he that heard the cry of Israel in Egypt, will hear thine also, yea, will come and save thee out of the hands of thy lusts. He will not act as some, who entangle thy affections by making love to thee, and then give over the suit and come at thee no more. If Christ has won thy heart, he will be true to thee, and be at all the cost to bring thee out of thy prison- house also, yea, take the pains to come for thee himself, and bring with him those wedding garments in which he will carry thee from thy prison to his Father's house with joy, where thou shalt live, not only as a subject under his law, but as a bride in the bosom of his love. And what can be added to thy happiness more? when thy prince is thy husband, and that such a prince to whom all other are vassals, even the Prince of the world himself; and yet so gracious, that his majesty hinders not his familiar converse with thee a poor creature, but adds to the condescent thereof; therefore God chooseth to mix names of greatness and relation together, the one to sweeten the other: 'Thy Maker is thine husband, thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called,' Isa 54:5. And to usher in those promises with titles of greatest dread and terror to the creature, that hold forth the greatest condescensions of love; how can God stoop lower than to come and dwell with a poor humble soul? which is more than if he had said, such a one should dwell with him; for a beggar to live at court is not so much as the king to dwell with him in this cottage. Yet this promise is ushered in with the most magnificent titles: 'Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit,' Isa 57:15; and why such titles, but to take away the fears which his saints are prone to take up from them? Will the high and lofty One, saith the humble soul, look on a poor worm? will the Holy God come near such an unclean creature? saith the contrite one. Isaiah himself cried he was undone at the sight of God, and this attribute proclaimed before him, Isa. 6. Now God prefixeth these, that the creature may know his majesty and holiness, which seems so terrible to us, are no prejudice to his love; yea, so gracious a prince is thy husband, that he delights rather his saint should call him by names of love than state. 'Thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. Ho 2:16, that is, my husband, not my Lord.

 

          Souls in a state of ignorance are subject to Satan's rule.]

 

Doctrine Second. Ignorance above other sins enslaves a soul to Satan. A knowing man may be his slave, but an ignorant one can be no other. Knowledge doth not make the heart good, but it is impossible that without knowledge it should be good. There are some sins which an ignorant person cannot commit, there are more which he cannot but commit; knowledge is the key, Lu 11:52; Christ the door, John 10. Christ opens heaven. Knowledge opens Christ. In three particulars the point will appear more fully. First. Ignorance opens a door for sin to enter. Second. As ignorance lets sin in, so it locks it up in the soul, and the soul in it. Third. as it locks it up, so it shuts all means of help out.

 

First. Ignorance opens the door for Satan to enter in with his troops of lusts. Where the watch is blind, the city is soon taken. An ignorant man sins, and like drunken Lot, he knows not when the tempter comes, nor when he goes; he is like a man that walks in his sleep, knows not where he is, nor what he does. 'Father, forgive them,' saith Christ, 'they know not what they do.' The apostle, 1Co 15, having reproved the sensuality of some, ver. 32, who made the consideration of death, by which others are awed from sin, a provocative to sin, 'Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die;' he gives an account of this absurd reasoning: All have not the knowledge of God. An ignorant person is a man in shape, and a beast in heart. There is no knowledge in the land, saith the prophet, Ho 4:1 and see what a regiment follows this blind captain, swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and what not. We read, 2Ti 3:6, of some 'laden with sins;' 'silly women,' and such who never 'come to the knowledge of the truth.' Here are trees full of bitter fruit, and what dung shall we find at the root, that makes them so fruitful, but ignorance?

 

Second. Ignorance, as it lets sin in, so it locks it up in the soul, and the soul in it. Such a one lies in Satan's inner dungeon, where no light of conviction comes. Darkness inclines to sleep; a blind man and a drowsy conscience go together. When the storm arose, the mariners who were awake fell a praying to their god, but the sleeper fears nothing. Ignorance lays the soul asleep under the hatches of stupidity. God hath planted in the beast a natural fear of that which threatens to hurt it. Go to thrust a beast into a pit, and it hangs back; nature shows its abhorrency. Man being of a nobler nature, and subject to more dangers, God hath set a double guard on him; as he has a natural fear of danger, so also a natural shame that covers the face at the doing of any unworthy action. Now an ignorant man hath slipped from both these his keepers; he sins and blusheth not, because he knows not his guilt; he wants that magistrate within which should put him to shame. Neither is he afraid, because he knows not his danger; and therefore he plays with his sin, as the child with the waves, that, by and by, will swallow him up. Conscience is god's alarm to call the sinner up. It doth not always ring in his ear that hath knowledge, being usually set by God to go off at some special hour, when God is speaking in an ordinance, or striking in a providence; but in an ignorant soul this is silent. The clock cannot go when the weights are taken off; conscience is only a witness to what it knows.

 

Third. Ignorance shuts out the means of recovery. Friends and ministers, yea, Christ himself stands without, and cannot help the creature. As such, threatenings and promises are of no use; he fears not the one, he desires not the other, because he knows neither. Heaven's way cannot be found in the dark, and therefore the first thing God doth, is to spring in with a light, and let the creature know where he is, and what the way is to get out of his prison-house, without which all attempts to escape are in vain. There is some shimmering light in all. Non dantur purœ tenebrœ absolute darkness is not given, I think, is good divinity as well as philosophy. And this night-light may discover many sins, produce inward prickings of conscience for them, yea, stir up the creature to step aside, rather than to drown in such broad waters. There are some sins so cruel and costly, that the most prostrate soul may in time be weary of their service for low ends; but what will all this come to, if the creature be not acquainted with Christ, the true way to God, faith and repentance, the only way to Christ? Such a one, after all this bustle, instead of making an escape from Satan, will run full into his mouth another way. There are some ways which at first seem right to the traveller, yet wind about so insensibly, that when a man hath gone far, and thinks himself near home, he is carried back to the place from whence he set forth. This will befall every soul ignorant of Christ, and the way of life through him. After many years' travel, as they think, towards heaven by their good meanings, blind devotions, and reformation, when they shall expect to be within sight of heaven, they shall find themselves even where they were at first, as very slaves to Satan as ever.

 

Use or Application.

 

Use First. This speaks to you that are parents. See what need you have of instructing your children, and training them up betimes in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Till these chains of darkness be knocked off their minds, there is no possibility of getting them out of the devil's prison. He hath no such tame slave as the ignorant soul. Such a one goes before Satan-as the silly sheep before the butcher-and knows not who he is, nor whether he carries him. And can you see the devil driving your children to the shambles, and not labour to rescue them out of his hands? Bloody parents you are, that can thus harden your bowels against your own flesh. now the more to provoke you to your duty, take these considerations.

 

First. Your relation obligeth you to take care of their precious souls. It is the soul that is the child, rather than the body; and therefore in Scripture put for the whole man. Abraham and Lot went forth with all the souls they had gotten in Haran, Gen. 12; so, all the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, that is, all the persons. The body is but the sheath; and if one should leave his sword with you to be kept safely for him, would you throw away the blade, and only preserve the scabbard? And yet parents do commonly judge of their care and love to their children by their providing for the outward man, by their breeding, that teaching them how to live like men, as they say, when they are dead and gone, and to comport themselves to their civil place and rank in the world. These things, indeed, are commendable; but is not the most weighty business of all forgotten in the meantime, while no endeavour is used that they may live as Christians, and know how to carry themselves in duty to God and man as such? And can they do this without the knowledge of the holy rule they are to walk by? I am sure David knew no means effectual without this, and therefore propounds the question, 'Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?' and he resolves it in the next words, 'by taking heed thereto according to thy word,' Ps 119:9. And how shall they compare their way and the Word together, if not instructed? Our children are not born with Bibles in their heads or hearts. And who ought to be the instructor, if not the parent, yea, who will do it with such natural affection? As I have heard sometimes a mother say in other respects, Who can take such pains with my child, and be so careful as myself, that am its mother? Bloody parents then they are who acquaint not their children with God or his Word. What do they but put them under a necessity of perishing, if God stir not up some to show more mercy than themselves to them? Is it any wonder to hear that ship to be sunk or dashed upon the rock, which was put to sea without card or compass? No more is it, they should engulf themselves in sin and perdition, that are thrust forth into the world-which is a sea of temptation-without the knowledge of God or their duty to him. In the fear of God think of it, parents. your children have souls, and these God sets you to watch over. It will be a poor account at the last day, if you can only say, Lord, here are my children, left them rich and wealthy. The rust of that silver you left them will witness your folly and sin, that you would do so much for that which rusts, and nothing for the enriching their minds with the knowledge of God, which would have endured for ever. Happy if you had left them less money and more knowledge.

 

Second. Consider it hath ever been the saints' practice to instruct and teach their children the way of God. David we find dropping instruction into his son Solomon: 'Know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind,' 1Ch 28:9. Though a king, he did not put it off to his chaplains, but whetted it on him with his own lips. Neither was his queen Bathsheba forgetful of her duty, her gracious counsel is upon record, Prov. 31; and that she may do it with the more seriousness and solemnity, we find her stirring up her motherly bowels, to let her son see she fetched her words deep, even from her heart: 'What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?' ver.2. Indeed that counsel is most like to go to the heart which comes from thence. Parents know not what impression such melting expressions of their love mingled with their instructions, leave with their children. God bids draw forth our souls to the hungry, that is more than draw forth our purse, which may be done, and the heart hard and churlish. Thus we should draw forth our souls with our instructions. What need I tell of Timothy's mother and grandmother, who acquainted him with the Scripture from his youth? And truly, I think that man calls in question his own saintship, that takes no care to acquaint his child with God, and the way that leads to him. I have known some that, though profane themselves, have been very solicitous their children should have a good education; but never knew I saint that was regardless whether his child knew God or not.

 

Third. It is an act of great unrighteousness not to instruct our children. We read of some who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Among others, those parents do it that lock up the knowledge of these saving truths from their children, which God hath imparted to themselves. There is a double unrighteousness in it.

 

1. They are unrighteous to their children, who may lay as much claim to their care of instructing them, as to their labour and industry in laying up a temporal estate for them. If he should do unrighteously with his child, that should not endeavour to provide for his outward maintenance, or having gathered an estate, should lock it up, and deny his child necessaries, then much more he that lives in ignorance of God, whereby he renders himself incapable of providing for his child's soul, but most of all, he that having gathered a stock of knowledge, yet hides it from his child.

 

2. They are unrighteous to God.

 

(1.) In that they keep that talent in their own hands which was given to be paid out to their children. When God revealed himself to Abraham, he had respect to Abraham's children, and therefore we find God promising himself this at Abraham's hands, upon which he imparts his mind to him concerning his purpose of destroying Sodom, 'Shall I hide from Abraham,' saith God, 'that thing which I do? I know him that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord,' Ge 18:17,19. The church began at first in a family, and was preserved by the godly care of parents in instructing their children and household in the truths of God, whereby the knowledge of God was transmitted from generation to generation, and though the church is not confined to such strait limits, yet every private family is as a little nursery to the church. If the nursery be not carefully planted, the orchard will soon decay. O could you be willing, Christians, that your children, when you are laid in the dust, should be turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine, and prove a generation that do not know God? Atheism needs not be planted; you do enough to make your children such, if you do not endeavour to plant religion in their minds. The very neglect of the gardener to sow and dress his garden, gives advantage enough to the weeds to come up. This is the difference between religion and atheism, Religion doth not grow without planting, but will die even where it is planted, without watering; atheism, irreligion, and profaneness are weeds that will grow without setting, but they will not die without plucking up. All care and means are little enough to stub them up. And therefore you that are parents, and do not teach your children, deal the more unrighteously with God, because you neglect the best season in their whole life for planting in them the knowledge of God, and plucking up the contrary weeds of atheism and irreligion. Young weeds come up with most ease. Simple ignorance in youth becomes wilful ignorance, yea, impudence in age; you will not instruct them when young, and they will scorn that their ministers should, when they are old.

 

(2.) You deal unrighteously with God, that train not up your children in the knowledge of God. Because your children, if you be Christian parents, are God's children, they stand in a federal relation to him, which the children of others do not; and shall God's children be nurtured with the devil's education? Ignorance is that which he blinds the minds of the children of disobedience withal. Shall God's children have no better breeding? The children of a Jew God made account were born to him, 'Thy sons and thy daughters whom thou hast born unto me,' Eze 16:20. God had by the covenant which he made with that people, married them unto himself, and therefore as the wife bears her children to her husband, they are his children. So God calls the children of the Jews his, and complains of it as a horrible wickedness in them, that they should not bring them up as his, but offer them up to Moloch; they have 'slain my children,' saith God, ver. 21. And are not the children of a Christian his children, as well as the Jews' were? Hath God altered or recalled the first covenant, and cut off the entail, and darest thou slay not only thy children, but the Lord's also? And is not ignorance that bloody knife that doth it? 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,' Ho 4:6. Do you not tremble to offer them, not to Moloch but to the devil, whom, before, you had given up to God, when you brought them to that solemn ordinance of baptism, and there desired before God and man that they might become covenant-servants to the Lord? and hast thou bound them to him, and never teach them, either who their Lord and Master is, or what their duty is as his servants? Of thy own mouth God will condemn thee.

 

Fourth. Consider, you who are parents, that by not instructing your children, you entitle yourselves to all the sins they shall commit to their death. We may sin by a proxy, and make another's fact our own. 'Thou hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon,' 2Sa 12:9. So thou mayest pierce Christ, and slay him over and over with the bloody sword of thy wicked children, if thou beest not the more careful to train them up in the fear of God. There might be something said for that heathen who, when the scholar abused him, fell upon the master and struck him. Indeed it is possible he might be in the most fault. When the child breaks the Sabbath, it is his sin, but more the father's, if he never taught him what the command of God was. And if the parent be accessory to the sin of the child, it will be hard for him to escape a partnership, yea, a precedency in the punishment. O what a sad greeting will such have of their children at the great day! will they not then accuse you to be the murderers of their precious souls, and lay their blood at your door, cursing you to your face that taught them no better? But, grant that, by the interposition of thy timely repentance, thou securest thy soul from the judgement of that day, yet God can scourge thee here for the neglect of thy duty to them. How oft do we see children become heavy crosses to such parents? It is just that they should not know their duty to thee, who didst not teach them their duty to God. Or if thou shouldst not live so long as to see this, yet sure thou canst not but go in sorrow to thy grave, to leave children behind thee that are on their way to hell. Some think that Lot's lingering so long in Sodom, was his loathness to leave his sons-in-law behind him, to perish in the flames. No doubt, good man, it was very grievous to him, and this might make him stay pleading with them, till the angel pulled him away. And certainly nothing makes holy parents more loath to be gone out of this Sodomitical world, than a desire to see their children out of the reach of that fire, before they go, that God will rain upon the heads of sinners. You know not how soon the messenger may come to pluck you hence. Do your best while you are among them to win them home to God.

 

Use Second. To the ministers of the gospel. Let this stir up your bowels of compassion towards those many ignorant souls in your respective congregations, who know not the right hand from the left. This, this is the great destroyer of the country, which ministers should come forth against with all their care and strength. More are swept to hell with this plague of spiritual darkness than with any other. Where the light of knowledge and conviction is, there commonly is a sense and pain that accompanies the sinner when he doth evil, which forceth some, now and then, to inquire for a physician, and to come in the distress of their spirits to their minister or others for counsel. But the ignorant soul feels no such smart. If the minister stay till he sends for him to instruct him, he may sooner hear the bell go for him, than any messenger come for him. You must seek them out, and not expect they will come to you. These are a sort of people that are afraid more of their remedy than of their disease, and study more to hide their ignorance, than how they may have it cured, which should make us pity them the more, because they pity themselves so little. I confess, it is no small unhappiness to some of us, who have to do with a multitude, that we have neither time nor strength to make our addresses to every particular person in our congregations, and attend on them as their needs require, and yet cannot well satisfy our consciences otherwise. But let us look to it, that though we cannot do to the height of what we would, we be not found wanting in what we may. Let not the difficulty of our province make us like some, who when they see they have more work upon their hands than they can well despatch, grow sick of it, and sit down, out of a lazy despondency, and do just nothing. He that hath a great house running to ruin, and but a small purse-it is better for him to repair now a little, and then a little, than to let all fall down, because he cannot do it all at once. Many ministers may complain of their predecessors, that they left them their people more out of repair than their houses, and this makes the work great indeed; as the Jews did, who were to revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, before they could build the wall; yet it went up, because the people had a mind to work, Neh. 4. O if once our hearts were but filled with zeal for God, and compassion to our people's souls, we would up and be doing, though we could but lay a brick a day, and God would be with us. May be, you who find a people rude and sottishly ignorant, like stones in the quarry, and trees unfelled, shall not bring the work to such perfection in your days as you desire; yet as David did for Solomon, thou mayest, by thy pains in teaching and instructing them, prepare materials for another who shall rear the temple. It is very ordinary for one minister to enter into the labours of another, to reap those by a work of conversion, in whom a former minister hath cast the seed of knowledge and conviction. And when God comes to reckon with his workmen, the ploughman and the sower shall have his penny, as well as the harvest-man and reaper. O it is a blessed thing to be, as Job saith he was, 'eyes to the blind,' much more to blind souls. Such are the ministers God himself calls pastors after his own heart, that feed his people with knowledge and understanding, Jer 3:15. But woe to those that are accessory to their people's ignorance. Now a minister may be accessory to the ignorance of his people-

 

First. By his own ignorance. Knowledge is so fundamental to the work and calling of a minister, that he cannot be one without it. 'Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Ho 4:6. The want of knowledge in a minister can be such a defect, as cannot be supplied by anything else. Be he never so meek, patient, bountiful, unblamable, if he hath not skill to divide the word aright, he is not cut out for a minister. Everything is good, as it is good for the end it is appointed to. A knife, though it had a haft of diamonds, yet if it will not cut, it is no knife. A bell, if not sound, is no bell. The great work of a minister is to teach others, his lips are to preserve knowledge, he should be as conversant in the things of God as others in their particular trades. Ministers are called lights. If the light then be darkness, how great is the darkness of that people like to be? I know these stars in Christ's hands are not all of the same magnitude. There is a greater glory of gifts and graces shining in some than in others; yet so much light is necessary to every minister, as was in the star the wise men saw at Christ's birth, to be able out of the word to direct sinners the safe and true way to Christ and salvation. O sirs, it is a sad way of getting a living by killing of men, as some unskilful physicians do; but much more to get a temporal livelihood by ruining souls through our ignorance. He is a cruel man to the poor passengers, who will undertake to be pilot, when he never so much as learned his compass.

 

Second. By his negligence. It is all one if the nurse hath no milk in her breasts, or having it, draws it not forth to her child. There is a woe to the idle shepherd, Zec 11:17; such as have mouths, but speak not; lips, but not to feed the people with knowledge. It shall be the people's sin, if they feed not when bread is before them, but woe to us if we give them not meat in due season. O sirs, what shall we say to our Lord that trusts us, if those abilities which he hath given us as market-money to buy bread for our people, be found wrapped up in a napkin of sloth? if that time wherein we should have been teaching and instructing them, shall appear to be wasted in our pleasures, or employed about our carnal profits. That servant shall have but a sad welcome of his master when he comes home, that shall be found out of the way with the key, and the family starving in meantime for want of provision.

 

Third. By his unedifying preaching; when he preacheth unsound doctrine, which doth not perfect the understanding, but corrupt it. Better he did leave them in simple ignorance, than colour their minds with a false dye; or when that he preacheth is frothy and flashy, no more fit to feed their souls, than husks the prodigal's belly, which, when they know, they are little the wiser for their soul's good. Or, when his discourses are so high flown, that the poor people stand gazing, as those who have lost the sight of their preacher, and at the end of the sermon cannot tell what he would have. Or, those who preach only truths that are for the higher form of professors, who have their senses well exercised; excellent, may be, for the building up three or four eminent saints in the congregation; but in the meantime, the weak ones in the family-who should indeed chiefly be thought on, because least able to guide themselves, or carve for themselves-these are forgotten. He, sure, is an unwise builder that makes a scaffold as high as Paul's steeple, when his work is at the bottom, and he is to lay the foundation, whereas the scaffold should rise as the building goes up. So Paul advanceth in his doctrine, as his hearers do in knowledge: 'Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection,' Heb 6:1. 'Let us;' it is well, indeed, when the people can keep pace with the preacher. To preach truths and notions above the hearer's capacity, is like a nurse that should go to feed the child with a spoon too big to go into its mouth. We may by such preaching please ourselves and some of higher attainments, but what shall poor ignorant ones do in the meantime? He is the faithful steward that considers both. The preacher is, as Paul saith of himself, a 'debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise,' Ro 1:14. He is to prepare truths suitable to the degree of his hearers. Let the wise have their portion, but let them be patient to see the weaker in the family served also.

 

Fourth. A minister may be accessory to the ignorance of his people, when through the scandal of his life he prejudiceth his doctrine; as a cook, who, by his nastiness, makes others afraid to eat what comes out of his foul fingers. Or he may be so, when, through his supercilious carriage, his poor people dare not come to him. He that will do any good in the minister's calling, must be as careful as the fisher, that he doth nothing to scare souls away from him, but all to allure and invite, that they may be toled24 within the compass of his net.

 

Use Third. To the ignorant. Is the ignorant soul such a slave to Satan? Let this stir you up that are ignorant from your seats of sloth whereon, like the blind Egyptians, you sit in darkness, speedily come out of this darkness, or resolve to go down to utter darkness. The covering of Haman's face did tell him that he should not stay in the king's presence. If thou livest in ignorance, it shows thou art in God's black bill. He puts this cover before their eyes in wrath, whom he means to turn off into hell: 'If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost,' 2Co 4:3. In one place sinners are threatened, 'they shall die without knowledge,' Job 36:12; in another place, they shall die in their sins, Joh 8:21. He, indeed, that dies without knowledge, dies in his sins; and what more fearful doom can the great God pass upon a creature than this? Better die in a prison, die in a ditch, than die in one's sins. If thou die in thy sins, thou shalt rise in thy sins; as thou fallest asleep in the dust, so thou awakest in the morning of the resurrection; if an ignorant Christless wretch, as such thou shalt be arraigned and judged. That God whom sinners now bid depart from them will then be worth their acquaintance-themselves being judges-but alas! then he will throw their own words in their teeth, and bid them depart from him, he desires not the knowledge of them. O sinners, you shall see at last, God can better be without your company in heaven, than you could be without his knowledge on earth. Yet, yet it is day, draw your curtains, and behold Christ shining upon your face with gospel-light. Hear wisdom crying in the streets, and Christ piping in your window in the voice of his Spirit and messengers, 'How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you,' Pr 1:21-23. What can you say, sinners, for your sottish ignorance? Where is your cloak for this sin? The time hath been when the word of the Lord was precious, and there was no open vision, not a Bible to be found in town or country; when the tree of knowledge was forbidden fruit, and none might taste thereof without license from the pope. Happy he that could get a leaf or two of the Testament into a corner, afraid to tell the wife of his bosom! O how sweet were these waters, when they were forced to steal them! but you have the word, or may, in your houses; you have those that open them every Sabbath in your assemblies; many of you, at least, have the offers of your ministers, to take any pains with you in private, passionately beseeching you to pity your souls, and receive instruction; yea, it is the lamentation they generally take up, that you will not come unto them that you may receive light. How long may a poor minister sit in his study, before any of the ignorant sort will come upon such an errand? Lawyers have their clients, and physicians their patients; these are sought after, and called up at midnight for counsel; but alas! the soul, which is more worth than raiment and body too, that is neglected, and the minister seldom thought on, till both these be sent away. Perhaps, when the physician gives them over for dead, then we must come and close up those eyes with comfort, which were never opened to see Christ in his truth, or be counted cruel, because we will not sprinkle them with this holy water, and anoint them for the kingdom of heaven, though they know not a step of the way which leads to it. Ah, poor wretches! what comfort would you have us speak to those, to whom God himself speaks terror? Is heaven ours to give to whom we please? or is it in our power to alter the laws of the Most High, and save those whom he condemns? Do you not remember the curse that is to fall upon his head 'that maketh the blind to wander out of the way?' De 27:18. What curse, then, would be our portion, if we should confirm such blind souls, that are quite out of the way to heaven, encouraging you to go on and expect to reach heaven at last, when, God knows, your feet stand in those paths that lead to eternal death? No, it is written, we cannot, and God will not reverse it; you may read your very names among those damned souls which Christ comes in flaming fire to take vengeance on, who, the apostle tells us, are such 'that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,' 2Th 1:8. And therefore, in the fear of God, let this provoke you, of what age or sex, rank or condition soever in the world, to labour for the saving knowledge of God in Christ, whom to know is life eternal.

 

Are you young? Inquire after God betimes, while your parts are fresh, and memory strong, before the throng of worldly cares divert you, or lusts of youth debauch you. The feet of those lusts which have buried millions of others in perdition, stand ready to carry you the same way, if preventing grace come not and deliver you out of their hands, by seasoning your minds with the knowledge of God. This morning's draught may prevent thy being infected with the ill savours thou mayest receive from the corrupt examples of others. Nay, how long thy stay may be in the world thou knowest not-see whether thou canst not find graves of thy length in the burial-place; and if thou shouldst die ignorant of God and his law, what would then become of thee? The small brush and the old logs, young sinners and those that are withered with age, meet and burn together; or if thou shouldst stay a while longer here, may be because thou wilt not learn now, God will not teach thee then; or if thou shouldst in thy old age get acquaintance with God, yet it is sad to be sowing thy seed, when thou shouldst be reaping thy sheaves; learning to know God, when thou mightest be comforting thyself from the old acquaintance thou hast enjoyed with him.

 

Are you old and ignorant? Alas, poor creatures! your life in the socket, and this candle of the Lord not set up and lighted in your understanding! your body bowing to the dust, and nature tolling the passing bell, as it were, and you, like one going into the dark, know not whither death will lead you or leave you. It is like the infirmities of age make you wish your bones were even laid at rest in the grave; but if you should die in this condition, your poor souls would even wish they were here again with their old burdens on their back. Aches and diseases of old age are grievous, but damned souls would thank God if he would bless them with such a heaven as to lie in these pains, to escape the torments of the other. O bethink you before you go hence! The less time you have, the more diligence you must use to gain knowledge. We need not be earnest, one would think, to bid the poor prisoner learn his book, that cannot read, when he knows he shall be hanged if he read not his neck-verse. It is not, indeed, the bare knowing the truths of the gospel saves; but the gross ignorance of them, to be sure, will damn souls.

 

Are you poor? It is not your poverty is your sin or misery, but your ignorance where the true treasure lies. Were you God's poor, rich in knowledge and faith, you were happy-'Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished,' Ec 4:13-yea, so happy, that did the princes of the world understand themselves aright, they would wish themselves in your clothes, how ragged soever they are, rather than be in their own robes. There are better making for you in heaven, which you shall put on, when theirs shall be pulled off to their shame. It will not then trouble you that you were, while in the world, poor; but it will torment them they were so rich and great, and so poor to God and beggarly in their souls.

 

Are you rich? Labour for the knowledge of the Most High. Solomon had more of the world's treasure than a thousand of you have, and yet we find him hard at prayer, tugging with God for knowledge, 2Ch 1:10. All these outward enjoyments are but vaginœ bonorum the shells of blessings, as afflictions are vaginœ malorum the shells of evils. I am afraid that many men think themselves privileged by their worldly greatness from this duty, as if God were bound to save them because rich. Alas, sirs, there are not so many of you like to come there. I must confess, it would make one tremble to think what a small number those among the great ones that shall be saved, are summed up into, Not many great, not many rich. Why so few saved? Because so few have saving knowledge. O the atheism, the ignorance, the sottish barbarism that is to be found even in those that the world applaud, and even worship, because of their lands and estates, who yet are not able to give any account of their faith? A poor leather-coat Christian will shame and catechize a hundred of them. If heaven were to be purchased with house and lands, then these would carry it away from the poor disciples of Jesus Christ-they have their hundreds and thousands lying by them for a purchase always, but this money is not current in heaven's exchange. 'This is life eternal, to know thee, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.'

 

Question. But how may an ignorant soul attain to knowledge?

 

Answer First. Be deeply affected with thy ignorance. Some are blind, as Laodicea, and know it not, Re 3:17. As ignorance blinds the mind, so pride is a blind before their ignorance, that they know it not. These have such a high opinion of themselves that they take it ill that any should suspect them as such. These of all men are most out of the way to knowledge; they are too good to learn of man, as they think, and too bad to be taught of God. The gate into Christ's school is low, and these cannot stoop. The Master himself is so humble and lowly, that he will not teach a proud scholar. Therefore first become a fool in thine own eye. A wiser man than thyself hath confessed as much: 'I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy,' Pr 30:2-3. When thou art come to thyself to own and blush at the brutish ignorance of thy mind, thou art fit to be admitted into Christ's school. If they be ashamed, then show them the pattern of the house, Eze 43:10.

 

Answer Second. Be faithful with that little knowledge thou hast. Art thou convinced this is a sin, and that is a duty? Follow the light close, you know not what this little may grow to. We use to set up our children with a little stock at first, and as they use it, so we add. The kingdom of God comes of small beginnings. God complains of Israel, they were brutish in their knowledge, Jer 10:14. He doth not say, brutish in their ignorance; had they sinned because they did not know better, this would have excused à tanto by so much, but they did that which was brutish and unreasonable, as their worshipping graven images, notwithstanding they knew to the contrary. That man shall not excel in knowledge who prostitutes it to sin: 'If they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge,' Job 36:12. A candle pent up close in a dark lantern, sweals 25 out apace; and so doth light shut up in the conscience, and not suffered to come forth in the conversation. Those heathens that are charged for holding 'the truth in unrighteousness,' Ro 1:18, the next news you hear from them is, that they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened, ver. 21.

 

Answer Third. Ply the throne of grace. He is the best student in divinity that studies most upon his knees 26. Knowledge is a divine gift; all light is from heaven. God is the Father of light, and prayer puts the soul under the pupilage of God. If anyone lack wisdom, let him ask it of God. This is more than naked knowledge; wisdom how to use it. Study may make one a great scholar in the Scriptures, but prayer makes a wise Christian, as it obtains sanctified knowledge, without which it is no perfect gift, but a gift and no gift. Pray then with an humble boldness. God gives it all to ask, and that?B8TH-candidly, liberally; not like proud man, who will rather put one to shame, who is weak for his ignorance, than take the pains to teach him. Thy petition is very pleasing to God. Remember how Solomon sped upon the like occasion, and promise thyself the same success. Christ's school is a free school; he denies none that come to him, so they will submit to the orders of the school; and though all have not an answer in the same degree of knowledge-it is not needful that all should be Solomons in knowledge, except all were to be Solomons in place; yet the meanest disciple that Christ sends forth, shall be furnished with saving knowledge enough to fir him for his admittance into heaven's academy. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and after bring me to glory.

 

Answer Fourth. Thou must bestow some time for thy diligent search after truth. Truth lies deep, and must be digged for. Since man was turned out of paradise, he can do nothing without labour except sin (this follows his hand indeed), but this treasure of knowledge calls for spade and mattock. We are bid 'search the Scriptures.' Again, it is said that 'many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased,' Da 12:4-a metaphor from merchants, who bestir themselves to get an estate, run to and fro, first in one land, then in another; wherever they hear of anything to be got, thither they post, though to the ends of the earth. Thus must the soul run from one duty to another, one while read, and anon meditate of what he hath read, then pray over his meditations, and ask counsel after all. What is the meaning of this, and how understand you that? Not the school of Epicurus, but intercourse with him, made great men27].] There is more light got sometimes by a short conference with the preacher, than by his whole sermon. Be sure thou compass all the means for knowledge within the walk of thy endeavour. In this thy search for knowledge observe three things.

 

1. The end thou proposest, that it be pure and holy; not merely to know, as some do, who labour for knowledge, as many for estates, and when they have got it, look on their notions, as they on their bags of money, but have not a heart to use their knowledge for their own or others' good; this is a sore evil. Speculative knowledge, like Rachel, is fair, but barren. Not to be known and admired by others for thy stature in knowledge above thy brethren, verily, it is too base an end to aim at, in seeking knowledge, especially such as is the knowledge of God in Christ. To see a heathen study for knowledge in philosophy, and then carry all his labour to this market, and think himself rewarded with obtaining the name for a wise man, is, though base, yet more tolerable; but for one that knows God, and what it is to enjoy him, for such a one to content himself with a blast or two of sorry man's vain breath, this is folly with a witness. Look thou fliest higher in thy end than so. Labour for knowledge, that thou mayest fear God whom thou knowest. Thus David, 'Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end,' Ps 119:33. The Word of God is called a light unto our feet, not to our tongues, merely to talk of, but to our feet to walk by. Endeavour for it, not that thou mayest spread thy own name, but celebrate God's. As David promiseth, when he understands the precepts of God, then he will talk of his wondrous works, he will trumpet the fame of them, and thereby awaken others to inquire after God.

 

2. When thy end is right set, then thou must be constant in thy endeavour after it. The mysteries of Christ are not learned in a day. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord, Ho 6:3. Some are in a good mood, may be, and they will look into the Bible, and read a chapter or two, and away they go for a week, and never practice it more, like some boys who if at school one day, truant all the week after; is it any wonder such thrive not in knowledge? It is a good speech of Bernard:28 'The study of the word, and the reading of it differ as much as the friendship of such who every day converse lovingly together, doth from the acquaintance one hath with a stranger at an inn, or whom he salutes as he passeth by in the street.' If you will get knowledge indeed, you must not only salute the word now and then, but walk with it, and enter into daily converse with it. The three men, who were indeed angels, that stood by Abraham, as he sat at his tent door, were reserved and strange, till Abraham invited them into his tent, and entertained them friendly, Ge 18:2; and then Christ, who was one among them-as appears by the name Jehovah, given him in several verses, and also by what he promised he would do for Sarah, ver. 10, not what God would do, which if a created angel, he would -begins to discover himself to Abraham, and to reveal his secrets to him. That soul above others shall be acquainted with the secrets of God in his word, that doth not slightly read the word, and as it were compliment with it, at his tent-door, but desires more intimacy with it, and therefore entertains it within his soul by frequent meditating of it. David compares the word for sweetness to the honey and the honey-comb. Indeed it is so full, that at first reading some sweetness will now and then drop from it, but he that doth not press it by meditation, leaves the most behind.

 

3. Be sure thou takest the right order and method. Arts and sciences have their rudiments, and also their more abstruse and deep notions, and sure the right end to begin at is first to learn the principles. He, we say, is not likely to make a good scholar in the university, that never was a good grammar-scholar. And they cannot be solid Christians, that are not instructed in the grounds of Christianity. The want of this is the cause why many are so unsteadfast. First of this way and then of that, blown like glasses into any shape, as false teachers please to breathe. Alas! they have no center to draw their lines from. Think it no disgrace you who have run into error, and lost yourselves in the labyrinths of deep points, which now are the great discourse of the weakest professors, to be set back to learn the first principles of the oracles of God better. Too many are, as Tertullian saith in another case,29 more tender of their reputation than their salvation: who are more ashamed to be thought ignorant, than careful to have it cured.

 

Answer Fifth. If thou wouldst attain to divine knowledge, wait on the ministry of the word. As for those who neglect this, and come not where the word is preached, they do like that one should turn his back on the sun that he may see it. If thou wouldst know God, come where he hath appointed thee to learn. Indeed, where the means is not, God hath extraordinary ways, as a father, if there is no school in town, will teach his child at home, but if there be a public school, thither he sends him. God maketh manifest, saith Paul, the savour of his knowledge by us in every place, 2Co 2:14. Let men talk of the Spirit what they please. He will at last be found a quencher of the Spirit, that is, a despiser of prophecy; they both stand close together, 1Th 5:19-20, Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying. But it is not enough to sit under the means. Woeful experience teacheth us this. There are some no sun will tan, they keep their old complexion under the most shining and burning light of the word preached, as ignorant and profane as those that never saw gospel-day; and therefore if thou wilt receive any spiritual advantage by the word, take heed how thou hearest.

 

1. Look thou beest a wakeful hearer. Is it any wonder he should go away from the sermon no wiser than he came, that sleeps the greatest part of it away, or hears betwixt sleeping and waking? It must be in a dream sure, if God reveals anything to his mind to him. So indeed God did to the fathers of old, but it was not as they profanely slept under an ordinance. O take heed of such irreverence. He that composeth himself to sleep, as some do, at such a time, or he that is not humbled for it, and that deeply, both of them betray the base and low esteem they have of the ordinance. Surely thou thinkest but meanly of what is delivered, if it will not keep thee awake, yea, of God himself, whose message it is. See how thou art reproved by the awful carriage of a heathen, and that a king. Ehud did but say to Eglon, I have a message from God unto thee, and he arose out of his seat, Jg 3:20. And thou clappest down on thy seat to sleep. O how darest thou put such an affront upon the great God? How oft did you fall asleep at dinner, or telling your money? And is not the word of God worth more than these? I should wonder if such sermon-sleepers do dream of anything but hell-fire. It is dangerous, you know, to fall asleep with a candle burning by our side-some have been so burned in their beds; but more dangerous to sleep while the candle of the word is shining so near us. What if you should sink down dead like Eutychus? here is no Paul to raise you as he had; and that you shall not, where is your security?

 

2. Thou must be an attentive hearer. He that is awake, but wanders with his eye or heart, what doth he but sleep with his eyes open? It were as good the servant should be asleep in his bed, as when up, not to mind his master's business. When God intends a soul good by the word, he draws such a one to listen and hearken heedfully to what is delivered, as we see in Lydia, who, it is said, attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul; and those, Lu 19:48, 'The people were attentive to hear him.' They did hang on him, as you shall see bees on some sweet flower, or as young birds on the bills of their dams as they feed them, that is, the soul which shall get light and life by the word. Hear ye children, and attend to know understanding, Pr 4:1. Labour therefore in hearing the word to fix thy quicksilver mind, and set thyself to hear, as it is said Jehoshaphat did to pray; and that thou mayest, before thou goest, get thy heart into some deep sense of thy spiritual wants, especially of thy ignorance of the things of God, and thy deplored condition by reason of it: till the heart be touched, the mind will not be fixed. Therefore you may observe, it is said, God opened the heart of Lydia, that she attend, Ac 16:14. The mind goes of the will's errand; we spend our thoughts on what our hearts propose. If the heart hath no sense of its ignorance, or no desires after God, no wonder such a one listens not to what the preacher saith, his heart sends his mind another way. They sit before me as my people, saith God, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. They do not come out of such an intent or desire to hear for any good to their souls; then they would apply themselves wholly to the work. No, it is their covetousness that hath their hearts, and therefore as some idle servant, when he hath waited on his master and brought him to his pew, then he goes out to his good fellows at the alehouse, and comes no more till sermon be almost done. So do the thoughts of most when they go to the ordinance; they slip out in the street, market, or shop; you may find them anywhere but about the duty before them, and all because these have their hearts more than God and his word.

 

3. Thou must be a retentive hearer. Without this the work will ever be to begin again. Truths to a forgetful hearer are as a seal set on water, the impression lasts no longer than the seal is on; the sermon once done, and all is undone. Be therefore very careful to fasten what thou hearest on thy memory, which that thou mayest do,

 

(1.) Receive the truth in the love of it. An affectionate hearer will not be a forgetful hearer. Love helps the memory. 'Can a woman forget a child, or a maid her ornaments, or a bride her attire?' No, they love them too well. Were the truths of God thus precious to thee, thou wouldst with David think of them day and night. Even when the Christian, through weakness of memory, cannot remember the very words he hears, to repeat them, yet then he keeps the power and savour of them in his spirit. As when sugar is dissolved in wine, you cannot see it, but you may taste it; when meat is eaten and digested it is not to be found as it was received, but the man is cheered and strengthened by it, more able to walk and work than before, by which you may know it is not lost; so you may taste the truths the Christian heard in his spirit and see them in his life. Perhaps if you ask him what the particulars were the minister had about faith, mortification, repentance, and the like, he cannot tell you; yet this you may find, his heart is more broken for sin, more enabled to rely on the promises, and now weaned from the world. As that good woman answered one, that coming from sermon, asked her what she remembered of the sermon; she said she could not recall much, but she heard that which should make her reform some things as soon as she came home.

 

(2.) Meditate on what thou hearest. By this David got more wisdom than his teachers. Observe what truth, what Scripture is cleared to thee in the sermon more than before, take some time in secret to converse with it, and make it thereby familiar to thy understanding. Meditation to the sermon in what the harrow is to the seed, it covers those truths, which else might have been picked or washed away. I am afraid there are many proofs turned down at a sermon, that are hardly turned up, and looked on any more, when the sermon is done; and if so, you make others believe you are greater traders for your souls, than you are indeed. It is as if one should come to a shop and lay by a great deal of rich ware, and when he hath done goes away, and never calls for it. O take heed of such doings. The hypocrite cheats himself worst at last.

 

(3.) Discharge thy memory of what is sinful. We wipe our table-book and deface what is there scribbled, before they can write anew. There is such a contrariety betwixt the truths of God, and all that is frothy and sinful, that one puts out the other. If you would retain the one, you must let the other go.

 

BRANCH FOURTH.

 

Against spiritual wickedness.

 

These words are the fourth branch in the description, spiritual wickedness, and our contest or combat with them as such is expressed by the adversative particle 'against.' In the Greek it reads , word for word, against the spirituals of wickedness, which is, say some, 'against wicked spirits;' that is true, but not all. I conceive, with many interpreters, not only the spiritual nature of the devil, and the wickedness thereof, to be intended, but also, yea chiefly, the nature and kind of those sins which these wicked spirits do most usually and vigorously provoke the saints unto; and they are the spirituals of wickedness, not those gross fleshly sins, which the heard of beastly sinners, like swine, wallow in, but sin spiritualized, and this because it is not not spirits, but spirituals. The words present us with these three doctrinal conclusions. First. The devils are spirits. Second. the devils are spirits extremely wicked. Third. These wicked spirits do chiefly annoy the saints with, and provoke them to, spiritual wickednesses.

 

The spirituality of the devil's nature.

 

Doctrine First. The devils are spirits. Spirit is a word of various acceptation in Scripture. Amongst others, it is used often to set forth the essence and nature of angels, good and evil, both which are called spirits. the holy angles, 'Are they not all ministering spirits?' Heb 1:14. The evil 'And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him,' 1Ki 22:21; that spirit was a devil. How oft is the devil called the unclean spirit, foul spirit, lying spirit, &c.! Sin did not alter their substance, for then, as one saith well, that nature and substance which transgressed could not be punished.

 

First. The devil is a spirit; that is, his essence is immaterial and simple, not compounded, as corporal beings are, of matter and form: 'Handle me and see,' saith Christ to his disciples, that thought they had seen a spirit, 'for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have,' Lu 24:39. If they were not thus immaterial, how could they enter into bodies and possess them, as the Scripture tells us they have done, even a legion into one man? Lu 8:30. One body cannot thus enter into another.

 

Second. The devils are spiritual substances, not qualities, or evil motions, arising from us, as some have absurdly conceived. So the Sadducees, and others following them, deny any such being as angel, good or evil; but this is so fond a conceit, that to maintain it, we must both forfeit our reason and deny the Scriptures. There we find their creation related, Col 1:16; the fall of some from their first estate, Jude 6, and the standing of others, called the elect angels; the happiness of the one class, who behold God's face, and their employment-sent out to attend on the saints, as servants on their master's heirs, Heb 1:14; the misery of the other, reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgement of the great day; and their present work, which is to do mischief to the souls and bodies of men, as far as they are permitted; all which show their subsistence plain enough. But so immersed is sorry man in flesh, that he will not easily believe what he sees not with his fleshly eyes. Upon the same account we may deny the being of God himself, being invisible.

 

Third. They are entire spiritual substances, which have, every one, proper existence. And thus they are distinguished from the souls of men, which are made to subsist in a human body, and together with it make one perfect man; so that the soul, though, when separated from the body, it doth exist, yet hath a tendency to union with its body again.

 

Fourth. They are, though entire spiritual substances, yet finite, being but creatures. God only is the uncreated, infinite, and absolutely simple Spirit, yea, Father of all other spirits. Now from this spiritual nature of the devil, we may further see,

 

What a dreadful enemy we have to grapple with.

 

First. As spirits, they are of vast intellectual abilities. Sorry man, while in this dark prison of the body, hath not light enough to know what angelical perfections are. That they excel in knowledge all other creatures, we know because, as spirits, they come nearest by creation to the nature of God who made them. The heavens are not lift higher from the earth, than angels, by knowledge, from man while on earth. Man, by art, hath learned to take the height of the stars of heaven, but where is he that can tell how far in knowledge angels exceed man? It is true they have lost much of that knowledge they had, even all their knowledge as holy angels; what now they know of God hath lost its savour, and they have no power to use it for their own good. What Jude saith of wicked men, may be said of them: What they know naturally, in these things they corrupt themselves. They know the holiness of God, but love him not for it, as the elect angels do, and themselves by creation did. They know the evil of sin, and love it not the less; but though they are such fools for themselves, yet they have subtilty too much for all the saints on earth, if we had not a God to play our game for us.

 

Second. As spirits, they are invisible, and their approaches also. They come, and you see not your enemy. Indeed, this makes him so little feared by the ignorant world, whereas it is his greatest advantage, if rightly weighed. O, if men have an apparition of the devil, or hear a noise in the night, they cry, 'The devil! the devil!' and are ready to run out of their wits for fear; but they carry him in their hearts, and walk all the day long in his company, and fear him not. When thy proud heart is clambering up to the pinnacle of honour in thy ambitious thoughts, who sets thee there but the devil? When thy adulterous heart is big with all manner of uncleanness and filthiness, who but Satan hath been there, begetting these brats on thy whorish spirit? When thou art raging in thy passion, throwing burning coals of wrath and fury about with thy inflamed tongue, where was it set on fire, but of hell? When thou art hurried like the swine into the precipice, and even choked with thy own drunken vomit, who but the devil rides thee?

 

Third. As spirits, they are immortal. Of other enemies you may hear news at last, that 'they are which sought thy life,' as the angel told Joseph of Herod. Persecuting men walk a turn or two upon the stage, and are called off by death, and there is an end of all their plots; but devils die not, they will hunt thee to thy grave, and when thou diest they will meet thee in another world, to accuse and torment thee there also.

 

Fourth. As spirits, they are unwearied in their motions. When the fight is over among men, the conqueror must sit down and breathe, and so loseth the chase because not able to pursue it in time. Yea, some have given over their empires, as glutted with the blood of men, and weary of the work, when they cannot have their will as they desired. Thus Diocletian, because he saw he did but mow a meadow, that grew the thicker for cutting down-as Tertullian speaks of the Christians martyred-he throws away his sceptre in a pet. Charles V did the like, some say, upon the same reason, because he could not root out the Lutherans. But the devil's spirit is never cowed, nor he weary of doing mischief, though he hath never stood still since first began his walk to and fro the world. O what would become of us, if a God were not at our back, who is infinitely more the devil's odds than he ours.

 

The extreme wickedness of the devils.

 

Doctrine Second. The devils are spirits extremely wicked; wicked in the abstract, as in the text, and called by way of eminency is sin, 'the wicked one,' Mt 13:19. As God is called the Holy One, because none is holy as the Lord; so the devil, the wicked one, because he is a none-such in sin. In a few particulars let us endeavour to take the height of the devil's sin, and rather that we may judge of the degrees of sins and of sinners among the sons of men: the nearer God in holiness, the more holy; the liker the devil, the more wicked.

 

Particular First. These apostate angels are the inventors of sin-the first that sounded the trumpet of rebellion against their Maker, and led the dance to all that sin which since hath filled the world. Now, what tongue can accent this sin to its full? for such a noble creature whom God hath set on the top, as it were, of all the creation, nearest to himself, and from whom God had kept nothing but his own royal diadem; for this peer and favourite of the court, without any cause or solicitation from any other, to make this bold and blasphemous attempt to snatch at God's own crown, this paints the devil blacker than the thoughts of men and angels can conceive. He is called 'the father of lies,' as those who found out any art are the father of it. Jubal 'the father of all such as handle the harp and organ,' he invented music. And this is a dreadful aggravation, because they sinned without a tempter. And though man is not in such a degree capable of this aggravation, yet some men sin after the very similitude of the devil's transgression in this respect; who, as St. Paul styles them, are 'inventors of evil things,' Ro 1:30. Indeed sin is an old trade, found out to our hand; but as in other trades and arts, some famous men arise, who add to the inventions of others, and make trades and arts, as it were, new; so, there ever are some infamous in their generation, that make old sins new by superadding to the wickedness of others. Uncleanness is an old sin from the beginning; but the Sodomites will be filthy in a new way, and therefore it carries their name to this day. Some invent new errors; others new oaths -such as are of their own coining-hot out of the mint; they scorn to swear after the old fashion. Others invent new devices of persecuting, as Julian, who had a way by himself different from all before him; and to the end of the world every age will exceed other in the degrees of sinning. Ishmael and the mockers of the old world were but children and bunglers to the scoffers and cruel mockers of the last time. Well, take heed of showing thy wit in inventing new sins, lest thou stir up God in inventing new punishments. 'Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?' Job 31:3. Sodom sinned after a new mode, and God destroys them after a new way-sends hell from above upon them. Some have invented new opinions, monstrous errors, and God hath suited their monstrous errors with births as monstrous of their own body.

 

Particular Second. They were not only the inventors of sin, but are still the chief tempters to, and promoters of sin in the world. They are therefore called `` B,4DVT<, the tempter, and sin is called 'the work of the devil,' whoever commits it; as the house goes by the name of the master-workman, though he useth his servant's hands to build it. O take heed of soliciting others to sin. Thou takest the devil's office, as I may say, out of his hand. Let him do it himself if he will. Make not thyself so like him. To tempt another is worse than to sin thyself. It speaks sin to be of great growth in that man, that doth it knowingly and willingly. Herbs and flowers shed not their seed till ripe, creatures propagate not till of stature and age. What do these that tempt others, but diffuse their wicked opinions and practices, and, as it were, raise up seed to the devil, thereby to keep up the name of their infernal father in the world? This shows sin is mighty in them indeed. Many a man, though so cruel to his own soul as to be drunk or swear, yet will not like this in a child or servant. What are they then but devils incarnate, who teach their children the devil's catechism, to swear and lie, drink and drab30? If you meet such, be not afraid to call them, as Paul did Elymas, when he would have perverted the deputy, children of the devil, full of all subtilty and mischief, and enemies of all righteousness. O do you not know what you do when you tempt? I will tell you. You do that which you cannot undo by your own repentance. Thou poisonest one with error, initiatest another in the devil's school-alehouse I mean; but afterwards may be, thou seest thy mistake, and recantest thy error, thy folly, and givest over thy drunken trade. Art thou sure now to rectify and convert them with thyself? Alas, poor creatures! this is out of thy power. They, may be, will say, as he-though he did it on a better account-that was solicited to turn back to Popery by him who had persuaded him to renounce the same: 'You have given me one turn, but shall not give me another.' And what a grief to thy spirit will it be, to see those going to hell on thy errand, and thou not able to call them back! Thou mayest cry out as Lamech, 'I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.' Nay, when thou art asleep in thy grave, he whom thou seduced may have drawn in others, and thy name may be quoted to commend the opinion and practice to others; by which, as it is said, though in another sense, Abel being dead yet speaketh. Thou mayest, though dead, sin in those that are alive, generation after generation. A little spark kindled by the error of one, hath cost the pains of many ages to quench it, and when thought to be out, hath broken forth again.

 

Particular Third. They are not barely wicked, but maliciously wicked. The devil hath his name , to denote his spiteful nature-his desire to vex and mischief others. When he draws souls to sin, it is not because he tastes any sweetness or finds any profit therein-he hath too much light to have any joy or peace in sin. He knows his doom, and trembles at the thought of it; and yet his spiteful nature makes him vehemently desire and incessantly endeavour the damnation of souls. As you shall see a mad dog run after a flock of sheep, kill one, then another, though when dead he is not able to eat of their flesh, but kills to kill; so Satan is carried out with a boundless rage against man, especially the saints, and would not, if he could, leave one of Christ's flock alive. Such is the height of his malice against God, whom he hates with a perfect hatred; and, because he cannot reach him with a direct blow, therefore he strikes him at the second-hand through his saints; that wicked arm which reacheth not to God, is extended against these excellent on the earth-well knowing the life of God is in a manner bound up in theirs. God cannot outlive his honour, and his honour speeds as his mercy is exalted or depressed; this being the attribute God means to honour in their salvation so highly, and therefore maligned above the rest by Satan. And this is the worst that can be said of these wicked spirits, that they maliciously spite God, and in God the glory of his mercy.

 

Use or Application.

 

Use First. This may help us conceive more fully what the desperate wickedness of man's nature is, which is so hard to be known, because it can never be seen at once-it being a fountain whose immensity consists not in the stream of actual sin-that is visible, and may seem little-but in the spring that incessantly feeds this. But here is a glass that will give us the shape of our hearts truly like themselves. Seest thou the monstrous pitch and height of wickedness that is in the devil? All this there is in the heart of every man. There is no less wickedness potentially in the tamest sinner on earth, than in the devils themselves, and that one day thou, whoever thou art, wilt show to purpose, if God prevent thee not by his renewing grace. Thou art not yet fledged, thy wings are not grown to make thee a flying dragon; but thou art of the same brood, the seed of this serpent is in thee, and the devil begets a child like himself. Thou yet standest in a soil not so proper for the ripening of sin-which will not come to its fulness till transplanted unto hell. Thou who art here so maidenly and modest, as to blush at some sins out of shame, and to forbear the acting of others out of fear, when there thou shalt see thy case as desperate as the devil doth his, then thou wilt spit out thy blasphemies, with which thy nature is stuffed, with the same malice that he doth. The Indians have a conceit, that when they die they shall be transformed into the deformed likeness of the devil; therefore in their language they have the same word for a dead man and the devil. Sin makes the wicked like him before they come there, but indeed they will come to their countenance more fully there, when those flames shall wash off that paint which here hides their complexion. The saints in heaven shall be like angels, in their alacrity, love, and constancy to serve God; and the damned like the devils, in sin as well as punishment. This one consideration might be of excellent use to unbottom a sinner, and abase him, so as never to have high thought of himself. It is easy to run down a person whose life is wicked, and convince him of the evil of his actions, and make him confess what he doth is evil, but here is the thicket we lose him in. He will say, 'It is true, I am overseen31, I do what I should not, God forgive me, but my heart is good.' Thy heart good, sinner? and so is the devil's. His nature is wicked, and thine is as bad as his. These pimples in thy face show the heat of thy corrupt nature within, and without gospel physic-the blood of Christ applied to thee-thou wilt die a leper. None but Christ can give thee a new heart, till which, thou wilt every day grow worse and worse. Sin is an hereditary disease that increaseth with age. A young sinner will be an old devil.

 

Use Second. Again, it would be of use to the saints; especially to those in whom God by his timely call forestalled the devil's market; as sometimes the Spirit of God takes sin in its quarters before it comes into the field, in the sins of youth. Now such a one not finding those daring sins committed by him that others have been left unto, may possibly not be so affected with his own sin or God's mercy. O let such a one behold here the wickedness of his heart in the glass of the devil's nature, and he will see himself as a great debtor to the mercy of God as Manasseh, or the worst of sinners-as in pardoning, so in preventing the same cursed nature with theirs, before it gave fire on God with those bloody sins which they committed. That thou didst not act such outrageous sins, thou art beholden to God's gracious surprise, and not to the goodness of thy nature, which hath the devil's stamp on it, and for which God might have crushed thee, as we do the brood of serpents before they sting, knowing what they will do in time. Who will say that Fawkes suffered unjustly, because the parliament was not blown up? It is enough that the materials for that massacre were provided, and he taken there with match and fire about him ready to lay the train. And canst thou say, when God first took hold on thee, that thou hadst not those weapons of rebellion about thee-a nature full charged with enmity against God, which in time would have made its own report of what for the present lay like unfired powder silent in thy bosom? O Christian, think of this, and be humbled for thy villanous nature, and say, blessed be God that sent his Spirit and grace so timely to stay thy hand-as Abigail to David-while thy nature meditated nothing but war against God and his laws.

 

Use Third. Again, are the devils so wickedly malicious against God himself? O sirs, take the right notion, of sin, and you will hate it. The reason why we are so easily persuaded to sin is, because we understand not the bottom of his design in drawing a creature to sin. It is with men in sinning as it is with armies in fighting. Captains beat their drums for volunteers, and promise all that list, pay and plunder; and this makes them come trowling in. But few consider what the ground of the war is, against whom, or for what. Satan enticeth to sin, and gives golden promises of what they shall have in his service, with which silly souls are one. But how few ask their souls, Whom do I sin against? What is the devil's design in drawing me to sin? Shall I tell thee? Dost thou think it is thy pleasure or profit he desires in thy sinning? Alas, he means nothing less, he hath greater plots in his head than so. He hath, by his apostasy, proclaimed war against God, and he brings thee, by sinning, to espouse his quarrel, and to jeopard the life of thy soul in defence of his pride and lust; which that he may do, he cares no more for the damnation of thy soul, than the great Turk doth to see a company of his slaves cut off for the carrying on of his design in a siege. And darest thou venture to go into the field upon his quarrel against God? O earth, tremble thou at the presence of the Lord. This bloody Joab sets thee where never came any off alive. O stand not where God's bullets fly. Throw down thy arms, or thou art a dead man. Whatever others do, O ye saints, abhor the thoughts of sinning willingly; which when you do, you help the devil against God. And what more unnatural than for a child to be seen in arms against his father?

 

Satan's plot to defile the Christian with Spiritual Wickedness.]

 

Doctrine Third. These wicked spirits do chiefly annoy the saints with, and provoke them to, spiritual wickedness. Sins may be called spiritual upon a double account; either, First. From the subject wherein they are acted; or Second. From the object about which they are conversant.

 

First Sort of Spiritual Sins,

 

So called from the subject wherein they are acted.

 

First. Sins may be called spiritual, from the subject wherein they are acted. When the spirit or heart is the stage whereon sin is acted, this is a spiritual sin; such are all impure thoughts, vile affections and desires. Though the object be fleshly lust, yet they are spiritual sins, because they are purely acts of the soul and spirit, and break not forth unto the outward man.

 

They are heart sins.

 

Satan labours what he can to provoke the Christian to heart sins-to stir up and foment these inward motions of sin in the Christian's bosom. Hence it is, he can go about no duty, but these-his imps, I may call them-haunt him; one motion or other darts in to interrupt him, as Paul tells us of himself, 'When he would do good, evil was present with him.' If a Christian should turn back whenever these cross the way of him, he should never go on his journey to heaven. It is the chief game the devil hath left to play against the children of God-now his field-army is broken, and his commanding power taken away which he had over them-to come out of these his holds where he lies skulking, and fall upon their rear with these suggestions. He knows his credit now is not so great with the soul as when it was his slave. Then no drudgery work was so base that it would not do at his command; but now the soul is out of his bondage, and he must not think to command another's servant as his own. No, all he can do is to watch the fittest season-when the Christian least suspects-and then to present some sinful motion, handsomely dressed up, to the eye of the soul, that the Christian may, before he is aware, take this brat up and dandle it in his thoughts, till at last he makes it his own by embracing it; and this he knows will defile the soul; and, may be, this boy sent in at the window, may open the door to let in a greater thief. Or if he should not so prevail, yet the guilt of these heart sins, yea, their very neighbourhood will be a sad vexation to a gracious heart, whose nature is so pure that it abhors all filthiness-so that to be haunted with such notions, is as if a living man should be chained to a stinking carcase, that wherever he goes he must draw that after him; and whose love is so dear to Christ, that it cannot bear the company of those thoughts without amazement and horror, which are so contrary and abusive to his beloved. This makes Satan so desirous to be ever raking in the unregenerate part, that as a dunghill stirred, it may offend them both with the noisome streams which arise from it.

 

Use or Application.

 

Use First. Let this be for trial of thy spiritual state. What entertainment finds Satan when he comes with these spirituals of wickedness, and solicits thee to dwell on them? Canst thou dispense with the filthiness of thy spirit, so thy hands be clean? or dost thou wrestle against these heart sins as well as others? I do not ask, whether such guests come within thy door-for the worst of sins may be found, in the motions of them, not only passing by the door of a Christian, but looking in also, as holy motions may be found stirring in the bosom of wicked men-but I ask thee, whether thou canst find in thy heart to lodge these guests and bid them welcome? It is like, thou wouldst not be seen to walk in the street with such company-not lead a whore by the hand through the town-not violently break open thy neighbour's house to murder or rob him; but canst thou not under thy own roof, in the withdrawing room of thy soul, let thy thoughts hold up an unclean lust, while thy heart commits speculative folly with it? Canst thou not draw thy neighbour into thy den, and there rend him limb from limb by thy malice, and thy heart not so much as cry Murder, murder? In a word, canst thou hide any one sin in the vance-roof32 of thy heart, there to save the life of it when inquired after by the Word and Spirit, as Rahab hid the spies, and sent the king of Jericho's messengers to pursue them, as if they had been gone? Perhaps thou canst say, 'The adulterer, the murderer is not here,' thou hast sent these sins away long ago; and all this while thou hidest them in the love of thy soul. Know it, or thou shalt another day know it to thy cost, thou art stark nought. If there were a spark of the life of God or the love of Christ in thy bosom, though thou couldst not hinder such motions in thy soul, yet thou wouldst not conceal them, much less nourish them in thy bosom; when overpowered by them, thou wouldst call in help from heaven against these destroyers of thy soul.

 

Use Second. Show your loyalty, O ye saints, to God, by a vigorous resistance of, and wrestling against, these spirituals of wickedness.

 

1. Consider, Christian, heart sins are sins as well as any. 'The thought of foolishness is sin,' Pr 24:9. Mercury is poison in the water distilled, as well as in the gross body. Uncleanness, covetousness, murder are such in the heart as well as in the outward act; every point of hell, is hell.

 

2. Consider, Thy spirit is the seat of the Holy Spirit. He takes up the whole heart for his lodging, and it is time for him to be gone when he sees his house let over his head. Defile not thy spirit till thou art weary of his company.

 

3. Consider, There may be more wickedness in a sin of the heart than of the hand and outward man; for the aggravation of these is taken from the behaviour of the heart in the act. The more of the heart and spirit that is let out, the more malignity is let in to any sinful act. To backslide in heart, is more than to backslide. It is the comfort of a poor soul, when tempted and troubled for his relapses, that though his foot slides back, yet his heart turns not back, but faceth heaven and Christ at the same time; so to err in the heart is worse than to have an error in the head. Therefore God aggravates Israel's sin with this, 'They do alway err in their heart,' Heb 3:10. Their hearts run them upon the error; they liked idolatry, and so were soon made to believe what pleased them best. As, on the contrary, the more of the heart and spirit is in any holy service, the more real goodness there is in it, though it fall short of others in the outward expression. The widow's two mites surpassed all the rest, Christ himself being judge; so in sin, though the internal acts of sin, in thoughts and affections, seem light upon man's balance, if compared with outward acts, yet these may be so circumstantiated that they may exceed the other in God's account. Peter lays the accent of Magus' sin on the wicked thought, which his words betrayed to be in his heart, 'Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee,' Ac 8:22. Saul's sin in sparing Agag, and saving the best of the sheep and oxen, which he was commanded to destroy, was materially a far less sin than David's adultery and murder, yet it is made equal with a greater than both, even witchcraft itself, 1Sa 15:23; and whence received his sin such a dye, but from the wickedness of his heart, that was worse than David's when deepest in the temptation.

 

4. Consider, If Satan get into thy spirit and defile it, O how hard wilt thou find it to stay there? Thou hast already sipped of his broth, and now art more likely to be overcome at last to sit down and make thy full meal of that, which by tasting hath vitiated thy palate already. It were strange, if, while thou art musing, and thy heart hot with the thought of lust, the fire should not break forth at thy lips, or worse.

 

Helps against this sort of Satan's temptations.

 

Question. But what help have we against this sort of Satan's temptations?

 

Answer. I suppose thee a Christian, that makest this question; and if thou dost it in the plainness of thy heart it proves thee one. Who, besides, will or can desire in earnest, to be eased of these guests? Even when a carnal heart prays for deliverance from them, he would be loath his prayer should be heard. 'Not yet, Lord,' the heart of such a one cries, as Austin confessed of himself. Sin is as truly the offspring of the soul, as children are of our bodies, and it finds as much favour in our eyes; yea more, for the sinner can slay a son to save a sin alive, Mic 6:7, and of all sins, none are made more on, than these heart sins.

 

1. Because they are the first-born of the sinful heart, and the chiefest strength of the soul is laid out upon them.

 

2. Because the heart hath more scope in them than in outward acts. The proud man is staked down oft to a short state, and cannot ruffle it in the world, and appear to others in that pomp he would; but within his own bosom he can set up a stage, and his own foolish heart present himself as a great a prince as he pleaseth. The malicious can kill, in his desires, as many in a few minutes, as the angel smote in a night of Sennacherib's host. Nero thus could slay all Rome on the block at once.

 

3. These sins stay with the soul when the others leave it. When the sinner hath crippled his body with drunkenness and filthiness, and proves miles emeritus -cannot follow the devil's camp longer in those ways -then these cursed lusts will entertain him with stories of his old pranks and pleasures. In a word, these inward lusts of the heart, have nothing but the conscience of a Deity to quell them. Other sins put the sinner to shame before men; and, as some that believed on Christ durst not confess him openly, because they loved the praise of men, so there are sinners who are kept from vouching their lusts openly, for the same tenderness to their reputation. But here is no fear of that, if they can but forget that heaven sees them, or persuade themselves there is no danger from thence, the coast then is clear; they may be as wicked as they please. These make inward sins so hugged and embraced. If thou therefore canst find thy heart set against these, I may venture to call thee a Christian. And for thy help against them, improve the following.

 

First Help. Be earnest with God in prayer to move and order thy heart in its thoughts and desires. If the tongue be such an unruly thing that few can tame; O what is the heart, whence such a multitude of thoughts are flying forth as thick as bees from the hive, and sparks from the furnace! It is not in man, not in the holiest on earth to do this without divine assistance. Therefore we find David so often crying out in this respect, to order his steps in his word, to unite his heart to his fear, to incline his heart to his testimonies. As a servant, when the child he tends is troublesome and will not be ruled by him, who no sooner speaks but all is whist with him. No doubt holy David found his heart beyond his skill or power, that makes him so oft do his errand to God. Indeed, God hath promised thus much to his children, to order their steps for them, Ps 37:22, only he looks they should bring their hearts to him for that end. 'Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established,' Pr 16:3, or ordered. Art thou setting thy face towards an ordinance, where thou art sure to meet Satan, who will be disturbing thee with worldly thoughts and may be worse? Let God know from thy mouth whither thou art going, and what thy fears are. Never doth the soul march in so goodly order, as when it puts itself under the conduct of God.

 

Second Help. Set a strong guard about thy outward senses. These are Satan's landing places, especially the eye and ear. Take heed what thou importest at them. Vain discourse seldom passeth without leaving some tincture upon the heart; as unwholesome air inclines to putrefaction things sweet in themselves, so unsavory discourse to corrupt the mind that is pure. Look thou breathest therefore in a clean air. And for thy eye, let it not wander. Wanton objects cause wanton thoughts. Job knew his eye and his thoughts were like to go together, and therefore, to secure one, he covenants with the other, Job 31:1.

 

Third Help. Often reflect upon thyself in a day, and observe what company is with thy heart. A careful master will ever and anon will be looking into his workhouse, and seeing what his servants are doing, and a wise Christian should do the same. We may know by the noise in the school that the master is not there. Much of the misrule in our bosoms ariseth from the neglect of visiting our hearts. Now, when thou art parleying with thy soul, make this threefold inquiry.

 

1. Inquire, Whether that which thy heart is thinking on, be good or evil. If evil and wicked, such as are proud, unclean, distrustful thoughts, show thy abhorrency of them, and chide thy soul sharply for so much as holding a conference with them, of which nought can come but dishonour to God, and mischief to thy own soul; and stir up thy heart to mourn for the evil neighbourhood of them, and by this thou shalt give a testimony of faithfulness to God. When David mourned for Abner, 'all Israel,' it is said, 'understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner.' Thy mourning for them will show, that these thoughts are not so much of thee as of Satan.

 

2. Inquire, If thy thoughts be not broadly wicked, then inquire whether they be not empty, frothy, vain imaginations, that have no subserviency to the glory of God, thy own good or others'; and if so, leave not till thou hast made thyself apprehensive of Satan's design on thee, in them. Though such are not for thy purpose, yet they are for his; they serve his turn to keep thee from better. All the water is lost that runs beside the mill, and all thy thoughts are waste which help thee not to do God's work withal, in thy general or particular calling. The bee will not sit on a flower where no honey can be sucked, neither should the Christian. Why sittest thou here idle -thou shouldst say to thy soul-when thou hast so much to do for God and thy soul and so little time to despatch it in?

 

3. Inquire, If thou findest they are good for matter thy heart is busied about, then inquire whether they be good for time and manner, which being wanting they degenerate.

 

(1.) Are they good for the time or the season? That is good fruit which is brought forth in its season. Christ liked the work his mother would have put him upon as well as herself, Joh 2:4, but his time was not come. Good thoughts and meditations misplaced, are like some interpretations of Scripture-good truths but bad expositions; they fit not the place they are drawn from, nor these the time. To pray when we should hear, or be musing on the sermon when we should pray, is to rob God one way so as to pay him another.

 

(2.) Are they good for the manner? Thy heart may meditate a good matter, and spoil it in the doing. Thou art, may be, musing of thy sins, and affecting thy heart into a sense of them, but so, that while thou art stirring up thy sorrow, thou weakenest thy faith on the promise. That is thy sin. He is a bad chirurgeon that in opening a vein goes so deep that he cuts into an artery, and lames the arm, if he does not kill the man. Or thou art thinking of thy family, and providing for that; this thou oughtest to do, and wert worse than an infidel if thou neglectest; but, may be, these thoughts are so distracting and distrustful, as if there were no promise, no providence to relieve thee. God takes this ill, because it reflect upon his care of thee. O how near doth our duty here stand to our sin! So much care, is necessary ballast to the soul; a little more sinks it under the waves of unbelief. It is like some things which are very wholesome, but, one degree more of hot or cold would make them poison.

 

Second Sort of Spiritual Sins,

 

So called from the object about which

 

they are conversant.

 

Second. Sins may be called spiritual, from the object about which they are conversant; when that is spiritual and not carnal, such as idolatry, error, spiritual pride, unbelief, &c., both which Paul calls the filthiness of the spirit, and distinguisheth them from filthiness of the flesh, 2Co 7:1.

 

They are such as are not only acted in the spirit, but are conversant about spiritual objects proper to the soul's nature that is a spirit, and not laid out in carnal passions of fleshly lusts, in which the soul acts as but a pander for the body, and partakes of their delights only by way of sympathy; for as the soul feels the body's pains no other way than by sympathy, so neither doth it share in the pleasures of the flesh by any proper taste it hath of them, but only, from its near neighbourhood with the body, doth sympathize with its joy. But in spiritual wickednesses that corrupt the mind, the soul moves in its own sphere, with a delight proper to itself, and there are no less of these than the other. There is hardly a fleshly lust but hath some spiritual sin analogous to it, as they say there is no species of creatures on the land but may be patterned in the sea. Thus the heart of man can produce spiritual sins answering carnal lusts. For whoredom and uncleanness of the flesh, there is idolatry, called in Scripture spiritual adultery, from which the seat of Antichrist is called spiritual Sodom; for sensual drunkenness, there is a drunkenness of the mind, intoxicating the judgement with error, a drunkenness of the heart in cares and fears; for carnal pride in beauty, riches, honour, there is a spiritual pride of gifts, graces, &c. Now Satan in an especial manner assaults the Christian with such as these, but it would require a larger discourse than I can allow, to run over the several kinds of them. I shall, of many, pick out two or three.

 

First Spiritual Wickedness-Error in Principle.

 

First. Satan labours to corrupt the mind with erroneous principles. He was at work at the very first plantation of the gospel, sowing his darnel as soon almost as Christ his wheat. This sprung up in pernicious errors even in the apostles' times, which made them take the weeding-hook into their hands, and, in all their epistles, labour to countermine Satan in his design. Now in this his endeavour to corrupt the minds of men, especially professors, with error, Satan hath a threefold design,

 

First Design. He doth this in despite to God, against whom he cannot vent his malice at a higher rate, than by corrupting his truth, which God hath so highly honoured, 'For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.' Ps 138:2. Every creature bears the name of God, but in his word and truth therein contained it is writ at length, and therefore he is more choice of this than of all his other works; he cares not much what becomes of the world and all in it, so he keeps his word and saves his truth. Ere long we shall see the world on a light flame; 'The heavens and earth shall pass away, but the word of the Lord endureth for ever.' When God will, ha can make more such worlds as this is, but he cannot make another truth, and therefore he will not lose one iota thereof. Satan, knowing this, sets all his wits on work to deface this truth, and disfigure it by unsound doctrine. The word is the glass in which we see God, and seeing him, are changed into his likeness by his Spirit. If this glass be cracked, then our conceptions we have of God will misrepresent him unto us, whereas the word in its native clearness sets him out in all his glory unto our eye.

 

Second Design. He endeavours to draw into this spiritual sin of error, as the most subtle and effectual means to weaken, if not destroy, the power of godliness in them. The apostle joins the spirit of power and a sound mind together, 2Ti 1:7. Indeed the power of holiness in practice depends much on the soundness of judgment. Godliness is the child of truth, and it must be nursed, if we will have it thrive, with no other milk than of its own mother. Therefore we are exhorted to 'desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow,' 1Pe 2:233; if this milk be but a little dashed with error, it is not so nutritive. All error, how innocent soever it may seem, like the ivy, draws away the strength of the soul's love from holiness. Hosea tells us whoredom and wine take away the heart, now error is spiritual adultery. Paul speaks of his espousing them to Christ. When a person receives an error, he takes a stranger into Christ's bed, and it is the nature of adulterous love to take away the wife's heart from her true husband, that she delights not in his company so much as in that of her adulterous lover. And do we not see it at this day fulfilled? Do not many show more zeal in contending for one error, than for many truths? How strangely are the hearts of many taken off from the ways of God, their love cooled to the ordinances and messengers of Christ!-and all this occasioned by some corrupt principle got into their bosoms, which controls Christ and his truth, as Hagar and her son did Sarah and her child. Indeed Christ will never enjoy true conjugal love from the soul, till, like Abraham, he turns these out of doors. Error is not so innocent a thing as many think it; it is as unwholesome food to the body-that poisons the spirits, and surfeits the whole body-which seldom passeth away without breaking out into sores. As the knowledge of Christ carries a soul above the pollutions of the world, so error entangles and betrays it to those lusts, whose hands it had escaped.

 

Third Design. Satan in drawing a soul into this spiritual sin hath a design to disturb the peace of the church, which is rent and shattered when this fire-ship comes among them. 'I hear,' saith Paul, 'that there be divisions among you, and I partly believe it, for there must also be heresies,' 1Co 11:18-19 -implying that divisions are the natural issue of heresy. Error cannot well agree with error, except it be against the truth; then indeed, like Pilate and Herod, they are easily made friends; but when truth seems to be overcome, and the battle is over with that, then they fall out among themselves, and therefore it is no wonder if it be so troublesome a neighbour to truth. O sirs, what a sweet silence and peace was there among Christians a dozen years ago. Methinks the looking back to those blessed days in this respect-though they had also another way their troubles, yet not so uncomfortable, because that storm united, this scatters the saints' spirits-is joyous, to remember in what unity and love Christians walked. The persecutors of those times might have said, as their predecessors did of the saints in primitive times, 'See how they love one another,' but now, alas, they may jeer and say, See how they that loved so dearly, are ready to pluck one another's throats out.

 

Use or Application.

 

A word of exhortation to all. The application of this shall be only in a word of exhortation to all; especially you who bear the name of Christ by a more eminent profession of him. O beware of this soul-infection, this leprosy of the head. I hope you do not think it needless, for it is the disease of the times. This plague is begun, yea, spreads apace. There is not a flock, not a congregation hardly, that hath not this scab among them. Paul was a preacher the best of us all may write after, and he presseth this home upon the saints, yea, in the constant course of his preaching it made a piece of his sermon. He sets us preacher also upon this work; 'Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock;-for I know this, that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter;-also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things,' Ac 20:28-30; therefore watch. And then he presents his own example, that he hardly made a sermon for several years, but this was part of it, to warn every one night and day with tears. We need not prophesy what impostors may come upon the stage when we go off. There are too many at present above-board of this gang drawing disciples after them. And if it be our duty to warn you of them, surely it is yours to watch, lest you by any of them be led into temptation in this hour thereof, wherein Satan is let loose in so great a measure to deceive the nation. May you not as easily be soured with this leaven, as the disciples whom Christ bids beware? Are you privileged above those famous churches of Galatia and Corinth, many of which were bewitched with false teachers, and in a manner turned to another gospel? Is Satan grown orthodox, or have his instruments lost their cunning, who hunt for souls? In a word, is there not a sympathy between thy corrupt heart and error? Hast thou not a disposition, which, like the fomes of the earth, makes it natural for these weeds to grow in thy soil? Seest thou not many prostrated by this enemy, who sat upon the mountain of their faith, and thought it should never have been removed? Surely they would have taken it ill to have been told, 'you are the men and women that will decry Sabbaths, which now ye count holy; you will turn Pelagians, who now defy the name; you will despise prophecy itself, who now seem so much to honour the prophets; you will throw family duties out of doors, who dare not now go out of doors till you have prayed there.' Yet these, and more than these, are come to pass; and doth it not behove thee, Christian, to take heed lest thou fallest also? And that thou mayest not,

 

1. Exhortation. Make it thy chief care to get a thorough change of thy heart. If once the root of the matter be in thee, and thou beest bottomed by a lively faith on Christ, thou art then safe, I do not say wholly free from all error; but this I am sure, free from engulfing thy soul in damning error. 'They went out from us,' saith St. John, 'but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us,' 1Jo 2:19. As if he had said, They had some outward profession, and common work of the Spirit with us, which they have either lost or carried over to the devil's quarters, but they never had the unction of the sanctifying Spirit. By this, ver. 20, he distinguisheth them, and comforts the sincere ones, who possibly might fear their own fall by their departure: 'But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.' It is one thing to know a truth, and another thing to know it by unction. An hypocrite may do the former, the saint only the latter. It is this unction which gives the soul the savour of the knowledge of Christ; those are the fit prey for impostors, who are enlightened, but not enlivened. O, it is good to have the heart established with grace! This, as an anchor, will keep us from being set adrift, and carried about with divers and strange doctrines, as the apostle teacheth us, Heb 13:9.

 

2. Exhortation. Ply the work of mortification. Crucify the flesh daily. Heresy, though a spiritual sin, is yet by the apostle reckoned among the deeds of the flesh, Ga 5:20, because it is occasioned by fleshly motives, and nourished by carnal food and fleshly fuel. Never have any turned heretic, but flesh was at the bottom; either they served their belly or a lust of pride-it was the way to court, or secured their estates and saved their lives, as sometimes the reward of truth is fire and fagot. Some pad or other is in the straw when least seen; and therefore it is no wonder that heresies should end in the flesh, which in a manner sprang from it. The rheum in the head ascends in fumes from the stomach, and returns thither, or unto the lungs, which at last fret and ulcerate. Carnal affections first send up their fumes to the understanding, clouding that, yea, bribing it to receive such and such principles for truths; which when embraced, fall down into the life, corrupting that with the ulcer of profaneness. So that, Christian, if once thou canst take off thy engagements to the flesh, and become a free man, so as not to give thy vote to gratify thy carnal fears or hopes, thou wilt then be a sure friend to truth.

 

3. Exhortation. Wait conscionably on the ministry of the word. Satan commonly stops the ear from hearing sound doctrine, before he opens it to embrace corrupt. This is the method of souls in apostatizing from truth: 'They shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables,' 2Ti 4:3-4. Satan, like a cunning thief, draws the soul out of the road into some lane or corner, and there robs him of the truth. By rejecting of one ordinance, we deprive ourselves of the blessing of all others. Say not that thou prayest to be led into truth; God will not hear thy prayer if thou turnest thine ear from hearing the law. He that loves his child, when he sees him play the truant, will whip him to school. If God loves a soul, he will bring him back to the word with shame and sorrow.

 

4. Exhortation. When thou hearest any unusual doctrine, though never so pleasing, make not up the match hastily with it. Have some better testimony of it, before you open your heart to it. The apostle indeed bids us entertain strangers, for some have entertained angels unawares Heb 13:2; but he would not have us carried about with strange doctrine, ver. 9, though by this I am sure some have entertained devils. I confess, it is not enough to reject a doctrine, because strange to us, but ground we have, to wait and inquire. Paul marvelled that the Galatians were so soon removed from him, who had called them unto the grace of Christ, unto another gospel. They might sure have stayed till they had acquainted Paul with it, and asked his judgement. What, no sooner an impostor come into the country, and open his pack, but buy all his ware at first sight! O friends, were it not more wisdom to pray such new notions over and over again, to search the Word, and our hearts by it, yea, not to trust our own hearts, but to call in counsel from others? If your minister have not such credit with you, get the most holy, humble, and established Christians you can find. Error is like fish, which must be eaten new or it will stink. When those dangerous errors sprung up first in New England, O how unsettled were the churches! what an outcry was made, as if some mine of gold had been discovered! But in a while, when those error came to their complexion, and it was perceived whither they were bound-to destroy churches, ordinances, and power of godliness-then such as feared God, who had stepped aside, returned back with shame and sorrow.

 

Second Spiritual Wickedness-Spiritual pride.

 

Second. The second spiritual wickedness which Satan provokes unto, especially the saint, is spiritual pride. This was the sin made him, of a blessed angel, a cursed devil; and as it was his personal sin, so he chiefly labours to derive it to the sons of man: and he so far prevailed on our first parents, that ever since, this sin hath and doth claim a kind of regency in the heart, making use of both bad and good to draw her chariot.

 

First. It maketh use of evil. Pride enters into the labours of other sins; they do but work to make her brave, as subjects to uphold the state and grandeur of their prince. Thus you shall see some drudge and droil, cheat, cozen, oppress; and what mean they? O it is to get an estate to maintain pride. Others fawn and flatter, lie, dissemble; and for what? to help pride up some mount of honour.

 

Second. It maketh use of that which is good. It can work with God's own tools, his ordinances, by which the Holy Spirit advanceth his kingdom of grace in the hearts of his saints. These often are prostituted to pride. A man may be very zealous in prayer, and painful in preaching, and all the while pride is the master whom he serves, though in God's livery. It can take sanctuary in the holiest actions, and hide itself under the skirt of virtue itself. Thus while a man is exercising his charity, pride may be the idol in secret for which he lavisheth out his gold so freely. It is hard starving this sin, because there is nothing almost but it can live on-nothing so base that a proud heart will not be lift up with, and nothing so sacred but it will profane; it will even dare to drink in the bowls of the sanctuary, nay, rather than starve, it will feed on the carcases of other sins. 'That sin is with great difficulty avoided which springs from a victory of our vices.'34 This minion pride will stir up the soul to resist, yea, in a manner kill, some sins, that she may boastingly show the head of them, and blow the creature up with the conceit of himself above others. As the Pharisee, who through pride bragged that he was not as the publican-so that pride, if not looked to, will have to do everywhere, and hath a large sphere it moves in. Nothing indeed (without divine assistance) the creature hath or doth, but will soon become a prey to this devourer. But I am not to handle it in this latitude.

 

Pride is either conversant about carnal objects, as pride of beauty, strength, riches, and such like, or about spiritual. The latter we shall speak a little to. I confess for the former, possibly a saint may be catched in them-no sin is to be slighted-yet not so commonly, for ordinary pride is of those perfections which are suitable, if not proper, to the state and calling we are in. Thus the musician; he is proud of the skill he hath in his art, by which he excels others of his rank. The scholar, though he can play perhaps as well, yet is not proud of that, but looks on it as beneath him; no, he is proud of his learning and choice notions: and so of others.

 

Now the life of a Christian, as a Christian, is superior to the life of a man as a man; and therefore he doth not value himself by these which are beneath him, but in higher and more raised perfections, which suit a Christian's calling. As a natural man is proud of perfections suitable to his natural state, as honour, beauty; so the Christian is prone chiefly to be puffed up with perfections suitable to his life. I shall name three: First. Pride of gifts. Second. Pride of grace. Third. Pride of privileges. These are the things which Satan chiefly labours to entangle him in.

 

First kind of spiritual pride-pride of gifts.

 

First. By gifts, I mean those supernatural abilities, with which the Spirit of God doth enrich and endow the minds of men for edification of the body of Christ; of which gifts the apostle tells us there is great diversity, and all from the same Spirit, 1Co 12:4. There is not greater variety of colours and qualities of plants and flowers, with which the earth like a carpet of needle-work is variegated for the delight and service of man, than there is of gifts, natural and spiritual, in the minds of men, to render them useful to one another, both in civil societies and Christian fellowship. The Christian, as well as man, is intended to be a sociable creature, and for the better managing of this spiritual commonwealth among Christians, God doth wisely and graciously provide, and impart, gifts suitable to the place every one stands in relative to his brethren, as the vessels are larger or less in the body natural, according to the place therein. Now Satan labours what he can, to taint these gifts, and fly-blow them with pride in the Christian, that so he may spoil the Christian's trade and commerce, which is mutually maintained by the gifts and graces of one another. Pride of gifts hinders the Christian's trade-at least its thriving by their commerce, two ways. First. Pride of gifts is the cause why we do so little good with them to others. Second. Pride of gifts is the cause why we receive so little good from the gifts of others.

 

First. Pride of gifts is the cause why we do so little good with them to others, and that upon a threefold account.

 

1. Pride diverts a man from aiming at the end. So far as pride prevails, the man prays, preaches, &c., rather to thought good by others, than to do good to others; rather to enthrone himself, than Christ, in the opinions and hearts of his hearers. Pride carries the man aloft, to be admired for the height of his parts and notions, and will not suffer him to stoop so low as to speak of plain truths, or if he does, not plainly; he must have some fine lace, though on a plain stuff. Such a one may tickle the ear, but is very unlikely to do real good to the soul. Alas! it is not that he attends.

 

2. If this painted Jezebel of pride be perceived to look out at the window in any exercise, whether of preaching, prayer, or conference, it doth beget a disdain in the spirits of those that hear such a one, both good and bad. It is a sin very odious to a gracious heart, and oft-times makes the stomach go against the food, though good, through their abhorrency of that pride they see in the instrument. It is, indeed, their weakness, but woe to them that by their pride lead them into temptation! nay, those that are bad and may be in the same kind, like not that in another which they favour in themselves, and so prejudiced they return as bad as they went.

 

3. Pride of gifts robs us of God's blessing in the use of them. The humble man may have Satan at his right hand to oppose him; but be sure the proud man shall find God himself there to resist him, whenever he goes about any duty. God proclaims so much, and would have the proud man know wherever he meets him that he will oppose him. He 'resisteth the proud.' Great gifts are beautiful as Rachel, but pride makes them also barren like her. Either we must lay self aside, or God will lay us aside.

 

Second. Pride of gifts is the cause why we receive so little good from the gifts of others. Pride fills the soul; and a full soul will take nothing from God, much less from man, to do it good. Such a one is very dainty; it is not every sermon, though wholesome food, not every prayer, though savoury, that will go down. He must have a choice dish. He thinks he hath better than this of his own. And is such a one like to get good? And truly we may see it, that as the plain ploughman, that can eat of any homely food if wholesome, hath more health, and is able to do more work in a day, than many enjoy or can do in their whole life, that are nice, squeamish, and courtly in their fare; so the humble Christian that can feed on plain truths, and ordinances which have not so much of the art of man to commend them to their palate, enjoy more of God, and can do more for God, than the nicer sort of professors, who are all to be served in a lordly dish of rare gifts. The church of Corinth was famous for gifts above other churches, 1Co 1, but not in grace; none were so charged for weakness in that, 1Co 3:2. He Paul calls them carnal babes in Christ, so weak as not able to digest man's meat. 'I have fed you,' saith Paul, 'with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.' Why? what is the matter? the reason lies, 'Ye are yet carnal: there is among you envying, and strife;' ver. 3, 'One saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos,' ver. 4. Pride makes them take parts, and make sides, one for this preacher, another for that, as they fancied one to excel another. And this is not the way to thrive. Pride destroys love, and love wanting edification is lost. The devil hath made foul work in the church by this engine. Zanchy tells of one in Geneva, who being desired to go hear Calvin, answered his friend, 'If Paul were to preach, I would leave Paul himself to hear Calvin35.' And will pride in the gifts of another so far transport, even to the borders of blasphemy, what work will then pride make when the gifts are a man's own?

 

Use or Application.

 

Use 1. To those that have mean gifts. Doth Satan thus stir up saints to the spiritual pride of gifts? Here is a word to you that have mean gifts, yet truth of grace-be content with thy condition. Perhaps when thou hearest others, how enlargedly they pray, how able to discourse of the truths of God, and the like, thou art ready to go into a corner, and mourn to think how weak thy memory, how dull thy apprehension, how straitened thy spirit, hardly able, though in secret, to utter and express thy mind to God in prayer. O thou art ready to think those the happy men and women, and almost to murmur at thy condition. Well, canst thou not say, though I have no words, I hope I have faith? I cannot dispute for the truth, but I am willing to suffer for it. I cannot remember a sermon, but I never hear a word but I hate sin and love Christ more than ever. Lord, thou knowest I love thee. Truly, Christian, thou hast the better part; thou little thinkest what a mercy may be wrapt up even in the meanness of thy gifts, or what temptations their gifts expose them to, which God, for aught I know, may in mercy deny thee. Joseph's coat made him finer than his brethren, but this caused all his trouble-this set the archers a shooting their arrows into his side. Thus, great gifts lift a saint up a little higher in the eyes of men, but it occasions many temptations which thou meetest not with that art kept low. What with envy from their brethren, malice from Satan, and pride in their own hearts, I dare say, none find so hard a work to go to heaven as such, so much ado to bear up against those waves and winds-while thou creepest along the shore under the wind to heaven. It is with such as with some great lord of little estate-a meaner man oft hath money in his purse, when he hath none, and can lend his lordship some at a need. Great gifts and parts are titles of honour among men, but many such may come and borrow grace and comfort of a mean-gifted brother, possibly, the preacher of his poor neighbour. O, poor Christians, do not murmur or envy them, but rather pity and pray for them, they need it more than others. His gifts are thine, thy grace is for thyself. Thou art like a merchant that hath his factor who goes to sea, but he hath his adventure without hazard brought home. Thou joinest with him in the prayer, hast the help of his gifts, but not the temptation of his pride.

 

Use 2. To those that have great gifts. Doth Satan labour thus to draw to pride of gifts? This speaks a word to you to whom God hath given more gifts than ordinary. Beware of pride, that is now your snare. Satan is at work; if possible he will turn your artillery against yourself. Thy safety lies in thy humility; if this lock be cut, the legions of hell are on thee. Remember whom thou wrestlest with-spiritual wickednesses-and their play is to lift up, that they may give the sorer fall. Now the more to stir up thy heart against it, I shall add some soul-humbling considerations on this pride of gifts.

 

1. Consideration. These spiritual gifts are not thine own; and wilt thou be proud of another's bounty? Is not God the founder, and can he not soon be the confounder of thy gifts? Thou that art proud of thy gourd, what wilt thou be when it is gone? Surely then thou wilt be peevish and angry, and truly thou takest the course to be stripped of them. Gifts come on other terms than grace. God gives grace as a freehold-it hath the promise of this and another world; but gifts come on liking. Though a father will not cast off his child, yet he may take away his fine coat and ornaments, if proud of them.

 

2. Consideration. Gifts are not merely for thyself. As the light of the sun is ministerial-it shines not for itself-so all thy gifts are for others -gifts for the edifying of the body. Suppose a man should leave a chest of money in your hands to be distributed to others, what folly is it in this man to put this into his own inventory, and applaud himself that he hath so much money? Poor soul, thou art but God's executor, and by that time thou hast paid all the legacies, thou wilt see little left for thee to brag and boast of.

 

3. Consideration. Know, Christian, thou shalt be accountable for these talents. Now, with what face can a proud soul look on God? Suppose one left an executor to pay legacies, and this man should pay them, not as legacies of another, but as gifts of his own. Christ at his ascension gave gifts that his children should receive. Thou hast some in thy hand. Now a proud soul gives out all, not as the legacy of Christ, but as his own; he assumes all to himself. O how abominable is this, to entitle ourselves to Christ's honour!

 

4. Consideration. Thy gifts commend thee not to God. Man may be taken with thy expression and notion in prayer; but these are all pared off when thy prayer comes before God. 'O woman,' saith Christ, 'great is thy faith!' not, compt36 and flourishing thy language. It were good after our duties to sort the ingredients of which they are made up-what grace contributed, and what gifts, and what pride-and when all the heterogeneal stuff is severed, you shall see in what a little compass the actings of grace in our duties will lie.

 

5. Consideration. Consider while thou art priding in thy gifts, thou art dwindling and withering in thy grace. Such are like corn that runs up much into straw, whose ear commonly is but light and thin. Grace is too much neglected where gifts are too highly prized; we are commanded to be clothed with humility. Our garments cover the shame of our bodies, humility the beauty of the soul. And as a tender body cannot live without clothes, so neither can grace without this clothing of humility. It kills the spirit of praise; when thou shouldst bless God, thou art applauding thyself. It destroys Christian love, and stabs our fellowship with the saints to the heart; a proud man hath not room enough to walk in company, because the gifts of others he thinks stand in his way. Pride so distempers the palate, that it can relish nothing that is drawn from another's vessel.

 

6. Consideration. It is the forerunner of some great sin, or some great affliction. God will not suffer such a weed as pride to grow in his garden without taking some course or other to root it up; may be he will let thee fall into some great sin, and that shall bring thee home with shame. God useth sometimes a thorn in the flesh, to prick the bladder of pride in the spirit; or at least some great affliction, the very end whereof is to 'hide pride from man,' Job 33:17,19. As you do with your hot mettled horses-ride them over ploughed lands to tame them, and then you can sit safely on their back. If God's honour be in danger through thy pride, then expect a rod, and most likely the affliction shall be in that which shall be most grievous to thee, in the thing thou art proud of. Hezekiah boasted of his treasure. God sends the Chaldeans to plunder him. Jonah is fond of his gourd, and that is smitten. And if thy spirit be blown up with pride of gifts, thou art in danger of having them blasted, at least in the opinion of others whose breath of applause, possibly, was a means to overset thy unballasted spirit.

 

Three doors whence this enemy comes forth.

 

Question. But how would you direct us against this?

 

Answer. Arguments you have had before; I shall only therefore point to two or three doors where your enemy comes forth upon you; and surely the very sight thereof, if thou beest loyal to Christ, will stir thee up to fall upon it.

 

First Door. This kind of pride discovers itself in dwelling upon the thoughts of our gifts, with a secret kind of content to see our own face, till at last we fall in love with it. We read of some whose eyes are full of the adulteress, and cannot cease from sin. A proud heart is full of himself; his own abilities cast their shadow before him. They are in his eye wherever he goes. The great subject and theme of his thoughts in what he is, and what he hath above others, applauding himself; as Bernard confesseth, that-when one would think he had little leisure for such thoughts-even in preaching; pride would be whispering in his ear, Bene fecisti Bernarde-O well done, Bernard. Now have a care, Christian, of chatting with such company. Run from such thoughts as from a bear. If the devil can get thee to stand on this pinnacle, while he presents thee with the glory of thy spiritual attainments and endowments, for thee to gaze on them thy weak head will soon turn round in pride; and therefore labour to keep the sense of thy own infirmities lively in thy soul, to divert the temptation. As those who are subject to some kind of fits carry about them things proper for the disease, that when the fit is coming-which is oft occasioned with a sweet perfume-they may use them for their help; sweet scents are not more dangerous for them, than anything they may applaud thee is to thy soul. Have a care, therefore, not only of wearing such thoughts in thy bosom, but also of sitting by others that bring the sweet scent of thy perfections to thee by their flattery.

 

Second Door. This kind of pride appears in a forwardness to expose itself to view, 1Sa 17:28. David's brethren were mistaken in him indeed, but oft the pride and naughtiness of the heart breaks out at this door. Christ's carnal friends bid Christ show himself; pride loves to climb up, not as Zacchaeus, to see Christ, but to be seen himself. 'The fool,' Solomon tells us, 'hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself,' Pr 18:2. Pride would be somebody, and therefore comes abroad to court the multitude; whereas humility delights in privacy. As the leaves do cover and shade the fruits, that some hand may gently lift up them, before they can see the fruit; so should a humility and holy modesty conceal the perfections of the soul, till a hand of providence by some call invites them out. There is a pride in naked gifts, as well as in naked breasts and backs. Humility is a necessary veil to all other graces, and therefore, 1. Christian, look whenever thou comest forth to public duty, that thou hast a call. It is obedience to be ready to answer when God calls thee forth, but it is pride to run before God speaks. 2. When called, earnestly implore divine strength against this enemy. Shun not a duty for fear of pride-thou mayest show it in the very seeming to escape it-but go in the strength of God against it. There is more hope of overcoming it by obedience than by disobedience.

 

Third Door. This kind of pride discovers itself in envying the gifts of others, when they seem to blind our own that they are not so fair a prospect as we desire. This is a weed may grow too rank in a good soil. Aaron and Miriam could not bear Moses his honour, Nu 12:1; that was the business, though they pick a quarrel with him about his wife, because an Ethiopian, as appears plainly, 'Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?' ver. 2. They thought Moses went away with too much of the honour, and did repine that God should use him more than themselves. And it is observable, that the lusting for flesh broke out among the mixed multitude, and baser sort of people, Nu 11:4-5; but this of pride and envy took fire in the bosoms of the most eminent for place and piety. O what need then have we, poor creatures, to watch our hearts when we see such precious servants of God led into temptation? 'The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy,' Jas 4:5. Our corrupt nature is ever putting on to this sin. It is as hard to keep our hearts and this sin asunder, as it is to keep two lovers from meeting together. Thatch is not more ready to be fired with every flash of lightning, than the heart to be kindled at every shining forth of any excelling gift or grace in another. It was of the first windows that corrupt nature looked out at-a sin that shed the first blood. Cain's envy hatched Abel's murder. Now if ever thou meanest to get the mastery of this sin,

 

1. Call in help from heaven. No sooner hath the apostle set forth how big and teeming full the heart of man is with envy, but he shows where a fountain of grace is, infinitely exceeding that of lust: 'The Spirit within us lusteth to envy, but he giveth more grace,' Jas 4:5-6. And therefore sit not down tamely under this sin: it is not unconquerable. God can give thee more grace than thou hast sin-more humility than thou hast pride. Be but so humble as cordially to beg this grace, and thou shalt not be so proud as wickedly to envy his gifts or grace in others.

 

2. Make this sin as black and ugly as thou canst possibly to thy thought, that when it is presented to thee, thou mayest abhor it the more. Indeed there needs no more than its own face-wouldst thou look wisely on it-to make thee out of love with it. For,

 

(1.) This envying of others' gifts casts great contempt upon God, and that more ways than one.

 

(a) When thou enviest the gifts of thy brethren, thou takest upon thee, to teach God what he shall give and to whom; as if the great God should take counsel, or ask leave of thee, before he dispenseth his gifts. And darest thou stand to thy own envious thoughts with this interpretation? such a one thou findest Christ himself give, 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?' Mt 20:15, as if Christ had said, What hath any to do with cavil, at my disposure of what is not theirs, but mine, to give?

 

(b) Thou malignest the goodness of God. It troubles thee, it seems, that God hath a heart to do good to any besides thyself; thine eye is evil, because he is good. Wouldst not thou have God be good? you might as well say, you would not have him God. He can as soon cease to be God as to be good.

 

(c) Thou art an enemy to the glory of God, as thou defacest that which should set it forth. Every gift is a ray of divine excellency; and as all the beams declare the glory of the sun, so all the gifts of God imparts declare the glory of God. Now envy labours to deface and sully the representations of God; it hath ever something to disparage the excellency of another withal. God showed Miriam her sin by her punishment. She went to bespatter Moses that shone so eminently with the gifts and graces of God, and God spits in her face, Num. 12, yea, fills her all over with a noisome scab. Dost thou cordially wish well to the honour of God? why then hangest thou thy head, and dost not rather rejoice to see him glorified by the gifts of others? Could a heathen take it so well, when himself was passed by, and others chosen to places of honour and government, that he said he was glad his city could find so many more worthy than himself; and shall a Christian repine that any are found fit to honour God besides himself?

 

(2.) By this envying of others' gifts, thou wrongest thy brother, as thou sinnest against the law of love, which obligeth thee to rejoice in his good as thy own, yea, to prefer him in honour before thyself. Thou canst not love and envy the same person. Envy is as contrary to love, as the hectical feverish fire in the body is to the kindly heat of nature. 'Charity envieth not,' 1Co 13:4. How can it, when it lives where it loves? And when thou ceasest to love thy brother, thou beginnest to beginnest to hate and kill him; and dost not thou tremble to be found a murderer at last?

 

(3.) By this envying of others' gifts, thou consultest worst of all for thyself. God is out of thy reach. What thou spittest against heaven, thou art sure to have fall on thy own face at last; and thy brother whom thou enviest, God stands bound to defend against thy envy, because he is maligned for what he hath of God in him. Thus did God plead Joseph's cause against his envious brethren, and David's against wicked Saul. Thyself only hast real hurt.

 

(a) Thou deprivest thyself of what thou mightst reap from the gifts of others. That old saying is true, 'What thou hast is mine, and what I have thine, when envy is gone.'37 Whereas now, like the leech-which they say draws out the worst blood-thou suckest nothing but what swells thy mind with discontent, and is after vomited out in strife and contention. O what a sad thing it is, that one should go from a precious sermon, a sweet prayer, and bring nothing away but a grudge against the instrument God used; as we see in the Pharisees and others at Christ preaching!

 

(b) Thou robbest thyself of the joy of thy life. ``He that is cruel troubleth his own flesh,' Pr 11:17. The envious man doth it to purpose; he sticks the honour and esteem of others as thorns in his own heart; he cannot think of them without pain and anguish, and he must needs pine that is ever in pain.

 

(c) Thou throwest thyself into the mouth of temptation, thou needest give the devil no greater advantage; it is a stalk any sin almost will grow upon. What will not the patriarchs do to rid their hands of Joseph whom they envied? That very pride which made them disdain the thought of bowing to his sheaf, made them stoop far lower, even to debase themselves as low as hell, and be the devil's instruments to sell their dear brother into slavery, which might have been worse for him-if God had not provided otherwise-than if they had slain him on the place. What an impotent mind, and cruel, did Saul show against David, when once envy had envenomed his heart! From that day on which he heard David preferred in the women's songs above himself, he could never get that sound out of his head, but did ever after devote this innocent man to death in his thoughts, who had done him no other wrong, but in being an instrument to keep the crown on his head, by the hazard of his own life with Goliath. O it is a bloody sin! It is the womb wherein a whole litter of other sins are formed, Ro 1:29, full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, &c.; and therefore, except you be resolved to bid the devil welcome and his whole train, resist him in this, that comes before to take up quarters for the rest.

 

Second kind of spiritual pride-pride of grace.

 

Second. Another way Satan assaults the Christian is through pride of grace. It is true, grace cannot be proud, yet it is possible a saint may be proud of his grace. There is nothing the Christian hath or doth, but this worm of pride will breed in it. The world we live in is corruptible, and all here is subject to purify, as things kept in a rafty muggish room38 are subject to mould. It is not the nature of grace, but the salt of covenant, keeps and preserves the purity of it. In heaven indeed we shall be safe. But how can a saint be said to be proud of his grace? Then a soul is proud of his grace, when he trusts in his grace. Trust and confidence is an incommunicable flower of God's crown as Sovereign Lord;-even among men it goes along with royalty. Set up a king, and as such he expects you should give him this, as the undoubted prerogative of his place, and therefore to seek protection from any other is, as it were, to set up another king. 'If indeed you anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust under my shadow,' Jg 9:15. Therefore when a soul puts his trust in anything beside God, he sets up a prince, a king, an idol, to which he gives God's glory away. Now it doth not make the sin less, that it is the grace of God we crown, than if it were a lust we crowned. It is idolatry to worship a holy angel as well as a cursed devil, to make our grace a god as well as our belly our god; nay, rather it adds to it, because that is now used to rob him of his glory which should have brought him in the greatest revenue of glory. Certainly the more treasure you put into your servant's hands, the greater wrong to you for him to run away with it. I doubt not but David could have borne it better to have seen a Philistine drive him from his throne than a son-an Absalom. But how can, or may, a saint be said to trust in his grace? First. By trusting on the strength of his grace. Second. By trusting on the worth of his grace, I conceive, cannot stand with grace: but there is an oblique kind of trust, or that which by interpretation may savour of it. Satan is sly in his assaults.

 

Pride of grace is to trust in the strength

 

of our grace.]

 

First. A Christian may be proud of his grace, by trusting in the strength of his grace. To trust in the strength of grace is to be proud of grace. This is opposed to that poverty of spirit so commended by our Saviour, Matt. 5, by which a man lives in the continual sense of his spiritual beggary and nothingness, and so hath his recourse to Christ, as the poor to the rich man's door, knowing he hath nothing at home to maintain him. Such a one was Paul, not able to do anything of himself. He is not ashamed to let the world know that Christ carries his purse for him. 'Our sufficiency is of God;' yea, after many years trading, this holy man sees nothing he hath got. 'I count not myself to have apprehended,' Php 3:13. He is still pressing forward. Ask him how he lives, he will tell you who keeps house for him, 'I live, yet not #I,' Ga 2:20|. Ask a beggar where he hath his meat, clothes, &c., he will say, 'I thank my good master.' Now Satan chiefly labours to puff the soul up with an overweening conceit of his own ability, as the readiest means to bring him into his snare. Satan knows it is God's method to give his children into his hands, when once they grow proud and self-confident. Hezekiah was left to a temptation, 'to try him,' 2Ch 32:31. Why? God had tried him to purpose a little before in an affliction; what needs this? O, Hezekiah's heart was lift up after his affliction. It was time for God to let the tempter alone a little to foil him. Probably now Hezekiah had high thoughts of his grace-O he would never do as he had done before-and God will let him see what a weak creature he is. Peter makes a whip for his own back in that bravado, 'Though all should forsake thee, yet will not I' Christ now in mere mercy must set Satan on him to lay him on his back, that seeing the weakness of his faith, he might be dismounted from the height of his pride. All that I shall say from this is, to entreat thee, Christian, to have a care of this kind of pride. You know what Joab said to David, when he perceived his heart lift up with the strength of his kingdom, and therefore would have the people numbered. 'Now the Lord thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?' 2Sa 24:3. The Lord add to the strength of thy grace an hundredfold, but why delightest thou in this? why shouldst thou be lift up? is it not grace? shall the groom be proud because he rides on his master's horse? or the mud-wall because the sun shines on it? Mayest thou not say of every dram of grace, as the young man of his hatchet, 'Alas, master, it is borrowed?' nay, not only borrowed, but thou canst not use it without his skill and strength that lends it thee. O beware of this; let not those vain thoughts lodge in thee, lest thou enter into temptation. It is a breach a whole troop of sins may enter at, yea, will, except speedily filled up.

 

1. It will make thee soon grow loose and negligent in thy duty. It is sense of insufficiency that keeps a soul at work, to pray and hear-as want in the house and hutch holds up the market; no man comes thither to buy what he hath at home. 'Up,' saith Jacob, 'go down to Egypt for corn, that we live and not die.' Thus saith the needy Christian, 'Up, soul, to thy God; thy faith is weak; thy patience almost spent; ply thee to the throne of grace; go with thy homer to the ordinances, and get some supplies.' Now a soul conceited of his store, hath another song, 'Soul, take thine ease, thou art richly laid in for many days. Let the doubting soul pray, thy faith is string; let the weak lie at the breast, thou art well grown up.' Nay, it is well if it goes not further-to a despising of ordinances, except they have some more courtly fare than ordinary. Such a pass were the Corinthians come to, 'Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us,' 1Co 4:8. I pray observe how he lays the accent on the particle now-now ye are rich, as if he had said, I knew the time when if Paul had come to town, and news spread abroad in the city that Paul was to preach, you would have flocked to hear him, and blessed God for the season; but then you were poor and empty, now ye are full, you have got to a higher attainment-Paul is a plain fellow now, he may carry his cheer to a hungry people if he will; we are well apaid satisfied. And when once the heart is come to this, it is easy to judge what will follow.

 

2. This trusting to the strength of grace will make the soul bold and venturous. The humble Christian is the wary Christian. He knows his weakness, and this makes him afraid. 'I have a weak head,' saith he, 'I may soon be disputed into an error and heresy, and therefore I dare not come where such stuff is broached, lest my weak head should be intoxicated.' The confident man will sip of every cup, he fears none, no, he is stablished in the truth-a whole team of heretics shall not draw him aside. 'I have a vain light heart,' saith the humble soul-'I dare not come among wicked debauched company, lest I should at last bring the naughty man home with me.' But one, trusting to the strength of his grace, dares to venture into the devil's quarters. Thus Peter ventured into the route of Christ's enemies, and how he came off, you know. There his faith had been slain on the place, had not Christ sounded a retreat, by the seasonable look of love he gave him. Indeed I have read of some bragging philosophers, who did not think it enough to be temperate, except they had the object of intemperance present, and therefore they would go into taverns and whore-houses, as if they meant to beat the devil on his own ground. But the Christian knows an enemy nearer than so-which they were ignorant of-and that he need not go over his own threshold to challenge the devil. He hath lust in his bosom, that will be hard enough for him all his days, without giving it the vantage-ground. Christian, I know no sin, but thou mayest be left to commit it, except one. It was a bold speech of him -and yet a good man, as I have heard-'If Clapham die of the plague, say Clapham had no faith;' and this made him boldly go among the infected. If a Christian, thou shalt not die of spiritual plagues-yet such may have the plague-sores of gross sins running on them for a time; and is not his sad enough? therefore walk humbly with thy God.

 

3. This high conceit of the strength of thy grace will make thee cruel and churlish to thy weak brethren in their infirmities-a sin that least becomes a saint. 'If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness,' Ga 6:1. But how shall a soul get such a meek spirit? It follows-'Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.' What makes men hard to the poor? they think they shall never be so themselves. Why are many so sharp in their censures, but because they trust too much to their grace, as if they could never fall? O you are in the body, and the body of sin in you, therefore fear. Bernard used to say, when he heard any scandalous sin of a professor,39 'He fell to-day, I may stumble tomorrow.'

 

Pride of grace is to trust in the worth

 

of our grace.]

 

Second. The second way a Christian may be proud of his grace, is by trusting on the worth of his grace-resting on it for his acceptance with God. The Scripture calls inherent grace 'our own righteousness' -though God indeed be the efficient of it-and opposeth it to the righteousness of Christ, which alone is called 'the righteousness of God,' Ro 10:1-4. Now, to rest on any grace inherent, is to exalt our own righteousness above the righteousness of God; and what pride will this amount to? If this were so, then a saint when he comes to heaven might say, 'This is heaven which I have built-my grace hath purchased;' and thus the God of heaven should become tenant to his creature in heaven. No, God hath cast the order of our salvation into another method -of grace, but not of grace in us, but grace to us. Inherent grace hath its place and office to accompany salvation, Heb 6:9, but not to procure it. This is Christ's work, not grace's. When Israel waited on the Lord at Mount Sinai they had their bounds. Not a man must come up besides Moses to treat with God; no, not touch the mount, lest they die. Thus all the graces of the Spirit wait on God, but none come up to challenge any acceptance of God besides faith, which is a grace that presents the soul not in its own garments. But you will say, 'What needs all this? where is the man that trusts in his grace?' Alas, where is the Christian that doth fully stand clear, and freely come off his own righteousness? He is a rare pilot, indeed, that can steer his faith in so direct a course, as not now and then knock upon this duty, and run on ground upon that grace. Abraham went in to Hagar, and the children of Abraham's faith are not perfectly dead to the law, and may be found sometimes in Hagar's arms. Witness the flux and reflux of our faith, according to the various aspect of our obedience. When this seems full, then our faith is at a spring-tide, and covers all the mountains of our fears; but let it seem to wane in any service or duty, then the Jordan of our faith flies back, and leaves the soul naked. The devil's spite is at Christ, and therefore, since he could not hinder his landing-which he endeavoured all he could-nor work his will on his person when he was come, he goes now, in a more refined way, to darken the glory of his sufferings, and the sufficiency of his righteousness, by blending ours with his. This doctrine of justification by faith hath had more works and batteries made against it, than any other in the Scripture. Indeed many other errors were but his sly approaches to get nearer to undermine this. And lastly, when he cannot hide this truth -which now shines in the church like the sun in its strength-then he labours to hinder the practical improvement of it, that we (if he can help it) shall not live up to our own principles-making us, at the same time that, in our judgment, we profess acceptance only through Christ, in our practice confute ourselves.

 

Now there is a double pride in the soul he makes use of for this end-the one I may call a mannerly pride, the other a self-applauding pride.

 

First. There is a mannerly pride, which comes forth in the habit and guise of humility, and that discovers itself, either at the soul's first coming to Christ, and keeps him from closing with the promise; or afterward in the daily course of a Christian's walking with God, which keeps him from comfortable living on Christ.

 

1. When a poor soul is staved off the promise by the sense of his own unworthiness and great unrighteousness. Tell him of a pardon, alas! he is so wrapped up with the thoughts of his own vileness, that you cannot fasten it upon him. What, will God ever take such a toad as he is into his bosom, discount so many great abominations at once, and receive him into his favour, that hath been so long in rebellious arms against him! He cannot believe it; no, though he hears what Christ hath done and suffered for sin, he refuseth to be comforted. Little doth the soul think what a bitter root such thoughts spring from. Thou thinkest thou doest well thus to declaim against thyself, and aggravate thy sins. Indeed, thou canst not paint them black enough, or entertain too low and base thoughts of thyself for them; but what wrong hath God and Christ done thee, that thou shouldst so unworthily reflect upon the mercy of the one, and merit of the other? Mayest thou not do this, and be tender of the good name of God also? Is there no way to show the sense of thy sin, except thou asperse thy Saviour? Canst thou not charge thyself, but thou must condemn God, and put Christ and his blood to shame before Satan, who triumphs more in this than all thy other sins? In a word, though thou, like a wretch, hast undone thyself, and damned thy soul by thy sins, yet art thou not willing God should have the glory of pardoning them, and Christ the honour of procuring the same? or art thou like him in the gospel, who could not dig, and to beg was ashamed? Lu 16:3. Thou canst not earn heaven by thy own righteousness; and is thy spirit so stout that thou wilt not beg it for Christ's sake? yea, take it at God's hands, who, in the gospel, comes a begging to thee, and beseecheth thee to be reconciled to him? Ah, soul! who would ever have thought there could have lain such pride under such a modest veil? and yet none like it. It is horrible pride for a beggar to starve rather than take an alms at a rich man's hands-for a malefactor rather to choose his halter than a pardon from his gracious prince's hand; but here is one infinitely surpassing both-a soul pining and perishing in sin, and yet rejecting the mercy of God, and the helping hand of Christ to save him! Though Abigail did not think herself worthy to be David's wife, yet she thought David was worthy of her, and therefore she humbly accepted his offer, and makes haste to go with the messengers. That is the sweet frame of heart indeed-to lie low in the sense of your own vileness, yet to believe; to renounce all conceit of worthiness in ourselves, yet not therefore to renounce all hope of mercy, but the more speedily to make haste to Christ that woos us. All the pride and unmannerliness lies in making Christ stay for us, who bids his messengers invite poor sinners to come and tell them 'all things are ready.' But, may be thou wilt say still, it is not pride that keeps thee off, but thou canst not believe that ever God will entertain such as thou art. Truly thou mendest the matter but little with this. Either thou keepest some lust in thy heart, which thou wilt not part with, to obtain the benefit of the promise, and then thou art a notorious hypocrite, who under such an outcry for thy sins, canst drive a secret trade with hell at the same time; or if not so, thou dost discover the more pride in that thou darest stand out, when thou hast nothing to oppose against the many plain and clear promises of the gospel but thy peremptory unbelief. God bids the wicked forsake his ways, and turn to him, and he will abundantly pardon him; but thou sayest thou canst not believe this for thy own self. Now who speaks the truth? One of you two must be the liar; either thou must take it with shame to thyself, for what thou hast said against God and his promise-and that is thy best course; or thou must proudly, yea, blasphemously cast it upon God, as every unbeliever doth, 1Jo 5:10. Nay, thou makest him foresworn, for God-to give poor sinners the greater security in flying for refuge to Christ, who is that 'hope set before them,' Heb 6:17-18-hath sworn they should have strong consolation. 'O happy we, for whose sake God puts himself under an oath: but O miserable we, who will not believe God, no, not when he swears!'40

 

2. When the soul hath shot the great gulf, and got into a state of peace and life by closing with Christ, yet this mannerly pride Satan makes use of in the Christian's daily course of duty and obedience, to disturb him and hinder his peace and comfort. O how uncheerfully, yea, joylessly do many precious souls pass their days! If you inquire what is the cause, you shall find that all their joy runs out at their crannies of their imperfect duties and weak graces. They cannot pray as they would, and walk as they desire, with evenness and constancy; they see how far short they fall of the holy rule in the Word, and the pattern which others more eminent in grace do set before them; and this, though it doth not make them throw the promises away, and quite renounce all hope in Christ, yet it begets many sad fears and suspicions, yea, makes them sit at the feast Christ hath provided, and not know whether they may eat or not. In a word, as it robs them of their joy, so it robs Christ of that glory he should receive from their rejoicing in him. I do not say, Christian, thou oughtest not to mourn for those defects thou findest in thy graces and duties, nay, thou couldst not approve thyself to be sincere if thou didst not. A gracious heart-seeing how far short his renewed state, for the present, falls of man's primitive holiness by creation-cannot but weep and mourn-as the Jews did to behold the second temple; yet, Christian, even while the tears are in thy eyes for thy imperfect graces-for a soul riseth with his grave-clothes on-thou shouldst rejoice, yea, triumph over all these thy defects by faith in Christ, in whom thou art complete, Col 2:10, while imperfect in thyself. Christ's presence in the second temple-which the first had not-made it, though comparatively mean, more glorious than the first, Hag 2:9. How much more doth his presence in this spiritual temple of a gracious heart, imputing his righteousness to cover all uncomeliness, make the soul glorious above man at first? This is a garment for which-as Christ saith of the lily-we neither spin nor toil; yet Adam in all his created royalty was not so clad, as the weakest believer is with this on his soul. Now, Christian, consider well what thou doest, while thou sittest languishing under the sense of thy own weaknesses, and refusest to rejoice in Christ, and live comfortably on the sweet privileges thou art interested in by thy marriage to him. Dost thou not bewray some of this spiritual pride working in thee? O, if thou couldst pray without wandering, walk without limping, believe without wavering, then thou couldst rejoice and walk cheerfully. It seems, soul, thou stayest to bring the ground of thy comfort with thee, and not to receive it purely from Christ. O how much better were it if thou wouldst say with David, 'Although my house' -my heart-'be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure; and this is all my desire, all my confidence. Christ I oppose to all my sins, Christ to all my wants; he is my all in all, and all above all.' Indeed, all those complaints of our wants and weaknesses, so far as they withdraw our hearts from relying cheerfully on Christ, they are but the language of pride hankering after the covenant of works. O it is hard to forget our mother-tongue, which is so natural to us; labour therefore to be sensible of it, of how grievous it is to the Spirit of Christ. What would a husband say, if his wife, instead of expressing her love to him, and delight in him, should day and night do nothing but weep and cry to think of her former husband that is dead? The law, as a covenant, and Christ, are compared to two husbands: 'Ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead,' Ro 7:4. Now thy sorrow for the defect of thy own righteousness, when it hinders thy rejoicing in Christ, is but a whining after thy other husband, and this Christ cannot take but unkindly-that thou art not well pleased to lie in the bosom of Christ, and have thy happiness from him as with your old husband the law.

 

Second. There is a self-applauding pride; when the heart is secretly lift up, so as to promise itself acceptation at God's hands, for any duty or act of obedience it performs, and doth not, when most assisted, go out of his own actings, to lay the weight of his expectation entirely upon Christ. Every such glance of the soul's eye is adulterous, yea, idolatrous. If thy heart, Christian, at any time be secretly enticed-as Job saith of another kind of idolatry-or thy mouth doth kiss thy hand, that is, dote so far on thy own duties and righteousness, as to give them this inward worship of thy confidence and trust, this is a great iniquity indeed; for in this thou deniest the God that is above, who hath determined thy faith to another object. Thou comest to open heaven's gate with the old key, when God hath set on a new lock. Dost thou not acknowledge that thy first entrance into thy justified state was of pure mercy? thou wert 'justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,' Ro 3:24. And whom art thou beholden to, now thou art reconciled, for thy further acceptance or duty or holy action? to thy duty, thy obedience, thyself, or Christ? The same apostle will tell you, 'By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand,' Ro 5:2. If Christ should not lead thee in and all thou doest, thou art sure to find the door shut upon thee. There is no more place for desert now thou art gracious, than when thou wert graceless. 'The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith,' for 'the just shall live by faith,' Ro 1:17. We are not only made alive by Christ, but we live by Christ; faith sucks in continual pardoning, assisting, comforting mercy from him, as the lungs suck in the air. Heaven's way is paved with grace and mercy to the end.

 

Use or Application.

 

Use. Be exhorted above all to watch against this play of Satan, beware thou restest not in thy own righteousness. Thou standest under a tottering wall; the very cracks thou seest in thy graces and duties, when best, bid thee stand off, except thou wouldst have them fall on thy head. The greatest step to heaven, is out of our own doors, over our own threshold. It hath cost many a man his life when his house on fire-a grippleness41 to save some of the stuff -which, venturing among the flames to preserve, they have perished themselves. More have lost their souls by thinking to carry some of their own stuff with them to heaven-such a good work or duty -while until they, like lingering Lot, have been loath to leave in point of confidence-have themselves perished. O sirs, come out, come out, leave what is your own in the fire. Fly to Christ naked; he hath gold-not like thine, which will consume and be found drossy in the fire, but such as hath in the fiery trial passed in God's righteous judgment for pure and full weight. You cannot be found in two places at once. Choose whether you will be found in your own righteousness or in Christ's. Those who have had more to show than thyself, have thrown away all, and gone a begging to Christ. Read Paul's inventory, Php. 3-what he had, what he did -yet all dross and loss. Give him Christ, and take the rest who will. So Job, as holy a man as trod on earth-God himself being witness-yet saith, 'Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life,' Job 9:21. He had acknowledged his imperfection before, now he makes a supposition-indeed, quod non est supponendum, which ought not to be made-'If I were perfect, yet would I not know my own soul. I would not entertain any such thoughts as would puff me up into such confidence of my holiness, as to make it my plea with God.' Like to our common phrase, we say, such a one hath excellent parts, but he knows it, that is, he is proud of it. Take heed of knowing thy own grace in this sense; thou canst not give a greater wound both to thy grace and comfort, than by thus priding thyself in it.

 

Why the Christian should not rest on any inherent work of grace.]

 

First. Thy grace cannot thrive so long as thou thus restest upon it. A legal spirit is no friend to grace; nay, is a bitter enemy against it, as appeared by the Pharisees in Christ's time. Grace comes not by the law, but by Christ; thou mayest stand long enough by it, before thou gettest any life of grace into thy soul, or further life into thy grace. If thou wouldst have this, thou must set thyself under Christ's wings by faith. From his Spirit in the gospel alone comes this kindly natural heat to hatch thy soul to the life of holiness, and increase what thou hast; and thou canst not come under Christ's wings, till thou comest from under the shadow of the other, by renouncing all expectation from thy own works and services. You know Reuben's curse-that he should not excel, because he went up into his father's bed. When other tribes increased, he stood at a little number. By trusting in thy own works thou dost worse by Christ, and shalt thou excel in grace? Perhaps some of you have been long professors, and yet have come to little growth in love to God, humility, heavenly-mindedness, mortification; and it is worth the digging to see what lies at the root of your profession -whether there be not a legal principle that hath too much acted you. Have you not thought to carry all with God from your duties and services, and too much laid up your hopes in your own actings? Alas! this is as so much dead earth, which must be thrown out, and gospel principles laid in the room thereof. Try but this course, and see whether the spring of thy grace will not come on apace. David gives an account how he came to stand and flourish, when some that were rich and mighty, on a sudden withered and came to nothing. 'Lo,' saith he, 'this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches.' 'But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever,' Ps 52:7-8. While others trust in the riches of their own righteousness and services, and make not Christ their strength, do thou renounce all, and trust in the mercy of God in Christ, and thou shalt be like a green olive when they fade and wither.

 

Second. Christian, you will not thrive in true comfort so long as you rest in any inherent work of grace, and do not stand clear of your own actings and righteousness. Gospel-comfort springs from a gospel-root, which is Christ. 'We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,' Php 3:3. Now a soul that rests on any holiness in himself, he grafts his comfort upon himself, not upon Christ; he sucks his own breast, not Christ's, and so makes Christ a dry nurse; and what comfort can grow on that dry tree? The Spirit is our comforter as well as our teacher and counsellor. Now as the Spirit, when he teacheth, comes not with any new or strange truth, but takes of Christ's own-what he finds in the Word; so where he comforts, he takes of Christ's own -his righteousness, not our own. Christ is the matter and ground of his comfort. All cordials are but Christ distilled, and made up in several promises; his acting, not ours; his suffering, not ours; his holiness, not ours. He doth not say, 'Soul, rejoice! thou art holy,' but 'Soul, triumph! Christ is righteous, and is the Lord thy righteousness;' not, 'Soul, thou prayest sweetly, fear not;' but, 'Thou hast an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;' so that the first step to the receiving of comfort from the Spirit, is to send away all comforts of our own. As in learning of the Spirit, he that will be taught by him, must first become a fool-that is, no way lean to his own understanding; so he that would be comforted, must first be emptied of all self-supports, must not lean on his own comforts. As a physician first bids his patient cast off all others he hath tampered with, asks what physic he hath had from them, takes off their plasters, throws away their physic, and goes about the work de novo-anew; so the Spirit, when he comes to comfort a poor soul, first persuades the soul to send away all its old physicians. O, saith the soul, I have been in the hand of such a duty, such a course of obedience, and have thought sure now I shall be well, and have comfort, now I do this duty, set upon such a holy course. Well, saith the Spirit, if you will have me do anything, these must all be dismissed in point of confidence. Now, and not till now, is the soul a subject fit to receive the Spirit's comforts. And therefore, friends, as you love your inward peace, beware what vessel you draw your comfort from. Grace is finite, and so cannot afford much. It is leaking, and so cannot hold long; thou drinkest in a riven dish, that hast thy comfort from thy grace. It is mixed, and so weak; and weak grace cannot give strong consolation-and such thou needest, especially in strong conflicts. Nay, lastly, thy comfort which thou drawest from it, is stolen-thou dost not come honestly by it; and stolen comforts will not thrive with thee. O, what folly is it for the child to play the thief, for that which he may have freely and more fully from his father, who gives and reproacheth not! That comfort which thou wouldst filch out of thy own righteousness and duties, behold it is laid up for thee in Christ, from whose fulness thou mayest carry as much as thy faith can hold, and there is none to check thee, yea, the more thou improvest Christ for thy comfort, the more heartily welcome. We are bid to open our mouth wide, and he will fill it.

 

Third kind of spiritual pride

 

-pride of privileges.]

 

Third. Pride of privileges is the third kind of spiritual pride, with which these wicked spirits labour to blow up the Christian. To name three of these privileges: First. When God calls a person to some eminent place, or useth him to do some special piece of service. Second. When God honours a saint to suffer for his truth or cause. Third. When God flows in with more than ordinary manifestations of his love, and fills the soul with joy and comfort. These are privileges not equally dispensed to all; and therefore, where they are, Satan takes advantage of assaulting such with pride.

 

First Privilege. When God calls a person to some eminent place, or useth him to do some special piece of service. Indeed it requires a great measure of grace to keep the heart low, when the man stands high. The apostle, speaking how a minister of the gospel should be qualified, saith he must not be 'a novice,' or a young convert, 'lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil,' 1Ti 3:6; as if he had said, 'This calling is honourable, if he be not well balanced with humility, a little gust from Satan will topple him into this sin.' The seventy that Christ first sent out to preach the gospel, and who prevailed so miraculously over Satan-even these, while they trod on the serpent's head, he turned again, and had like to have stung them with pride. This our Saviour perceived, when they returned in triumph, and told what great miracles they had wrought; and therefore he takes them off that glorying, lest it should degenerate into vainglory, and bids them 'rejoice not that spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven,' Lu 10:20. As if he had said, 'It is not the honour of your calling, and success of your ministry that will save you. There shall be some cast to the devils, who shall then say, ``Lord, Lord, in thy name we have cast out devils,'' and therefore value not yourselves by that, but rather evidence to your souls, that you are mine elect ones, which will stand you more in stead at the great day than all this.'

 

Second Privilege. A second privilege is, when God honours a person to suffer for his truth. This is a great privilege. 'Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake,' Php 1:29. God doth not use to give worthless gifts to his saints, there is some preciousness in it, which a carnal eye cannot see. Faith, you will say, is a great gift, but perseverance greater -without which faith would be little worth-and perseverance in suffering is, above both, honourable. This made John Careless, our English martyr-who, though he died not at the stake, yet died in prison for Christ-say, 'Such an honour it is, as angels are not permitted to have, therefore God forgive me mine unthankfulness.' Now when Satan cannot scare a soul from prison, yet then he will labour to puff him up in prison; when he cannot make him pity himself, then he will flatter him till he prides in himself. Affliction from God, exposeth to impatience, affliction for God, to pride; and therefore, Christians, labour to fortify yourselves against this temptation of Satan. How soon you may be called to suffering work you know not-such clouds oft are not long arising. Now to keep thy heart humble when thou art honoured to suffer for the truth, consider,

 

1. Though thou dost not deserve those sufferings at man's hand, thou canst and mayst, in that regard, glory in thy innocency that thou sufferest not as an evildoer; yet thou canst not but confess it is a just affliction from God in regard of sin in thee, and this methinks should keep thee humble. The same suffering may be martyrdom in regard of man, and yet a fatherly chastening for sin in regard of God. None suffered without sin but Christ, and therefore none may glory in sufferings but he-Christ in his own, we in his. 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,' Ga 6:14. This kept Mr. Bradford humble in his sufferings for the truth. None more rejoiced in them, and blessed God for them, yet none more humble under them, than he. And what kept him in this humble frame? Read his godly letters, and you shall find almost in all how he bemoans his sins, and the sins of the Protestants under the reign of king Edward, 'It was time,' saith he, 'for God to put his rod into the Papists' hands. We were grown so proud, formal, unfruitful, yea, to loathe and despise the means of grace, when we enjoyed the liberty thereof, and therefore God hath brought the wheel of persecution on us.' As he looked at the honour to make him thankful, so to sin to make him humble.

 

2. Consider who bears thee up, and carries thee through thy sufferings for Christ. Is it thy grace, or his, that is sufficient for such a work? thy spirit, or Christ's, by which thou speakest when called to bear witness for the truth? How comes it to pass that thou art a sufferer and not a persecutor? a confessor, and not a denier, yea, betrayer of Christ and his gospel? This thou owest for to God. He is not beholden to thee, that thou wilt part with estate, credit, or life itself for his sake-if thou hadst a thousand lives, thou wouldst owe them all to him; but thou art beholden to God exceedingly, that he will call for these in this way, which has such an honour and reward attending it. He might have suffered thee to live in thy lusts, and at last to suffer the loss of all these for them. O how many die at the gallows as martyrs in the devil's cause, for felonies, rapes and murders! Or, he might withdraw his grace, and leave thee to thy own cowardice and unbelief, and then thou wouldst soon show thyself in thy colours. The stoutest champions for Christ have been taught how weak they are if Christ steps aside. Some that have given great testimony of their faith and resolution in Christ's cause-even to come so near dying for his name as to give themselves to be bound to the stake, and to the fire to be kindled upon them-yet then their hearts have failed, as that holy man Mr. Benbridge, in our English martyrology, who thrust the faggots from him, and cried out, 'I recant, I recant.' Yet this man, when reinforced in his faith, and endued with power from above, was able, within the space of a week after that sad foil, to die at the stake cheerfully. 'He that once overcame death for us, is he that always overcomes death in us.'42 And who should be thy song, but he that is thy strength? applaud not thyself, but bless him. It is one of God's names; he is called 'the glory of his people's strength,' Ps 89:17. The more thou gloriest in God that gives thee strength to suffer for him, the less thou wilt boast of thyself. A thankful heart and a proud cannot dwell together in one bosom.

 

3. Consider what a foul blot pride gives to all thy sufferings; where it is not bewailed and resisted, it alters the case. The old saying is, that it is not the punishment but the cause that makes the martyr. We may safely say further, 'It is not barely the cause, but the sincere frame of the heart in suffering for a good cause, that makes a man a martyr in God's sight.' Though thou shouldst give thy body to be burned, if thou hast not the humble heart of a sufferer for Christ, thou turnest merchant for thyself. Thou deniest but one self, to set up another; runnest the hazard of thy estate and life, to gain some applause may be, and rear up a monument to thy honour in the opinions of men. Thou doest no more, in this case, than a soldier, who for a name of valour will venture into the mouth of death and danger; only thou showest thy pride under a religious disguise; but that helps it not, but makes it the worse. If thou wilt in thy sufferings be a sacrifice acceptable to God, thou must not only be ready to offer up thy life for his truth, but to sacrifice thy pride also, or else thou mayst tumble out of one fire into another-suffer here from man as a seeming champion for the gospel, and in another world from God, for robbing him of his glory in thy sufferings.

 

Third Privilege. A third privilege is, when God flows in with more than ordinary manifestations of his love. Then the Christian is in danger of having his heart secretly lift up in pride. Indeed, the genuine and natural effect which such discoveries of divine love have on a gracious soul is to humble it. The sight of mercy increaseth the sense of sin, and that sense dissolves the soul kindly into sorrow, as we see in Magdalene. The heart which possibly was hard and frozen in the shade, will give and thaw in the sunshine of love, and so long is pride hid from the creature's eye. 'Then,' saith God, 'shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight,' &c., Eze 36:31. And when shall this be, but when God would save them from all their uncleannesses? as appears, ver. 25; yet notwithstanding this, there remain such dregs of corruption unpurged out of the best, that Satan finds it not impossible to make the manifestations of God's love an occasion of pride to the Christian. And truly God lets us see our proneness to this sin in the short stay he makes, when he comes with any greater discoveries of his love. The Comforter, it is true, abides for ever in the saint's bosom; but his joys, they come and are gone again quickly. They are as exceedings with which he feasts