A Second Exhortation to Arm, and an
Argument urging the Exhortation.
‘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’
— Eph. 6:13
Apostle in these words reassumes his former exhortation mentioned, ver. 11,
and presseth it with a new force, from that more particular discovery which he
gives of the enemy, ver. 12, where, like a faithful scout, he makes a full
report of Satan’s great power and malice; and also discloseth what a
dangerous design he hath upon the saints—no less than to despoil them of all
that is heavenly —from all which he gives them a second alarm, and bids them
‘Arm! arm!’ ‘Wherefore take unto you,’ &c.
In the words consider—FIRST. The exhortation with the inference, ‘wherefore
take unto you the whole armour of God.’
SECOND. The argument with which he urgeth the exhortation, and that is
double—First. ‘That you may
be able to withstand in the evil day.’
Second. ‘Having done
all, to stand.’ That is, both
able to fight and able to conquer.
III.—FIRST GENERAL PART.
[The Exhortation with the
‘Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God,’ — Eph.
for the first general, ‘the exhortation,’ we shall waive it as to
the substance of it—it being the same with what we have handled, ver. 11;
only there are two observables which we shall lightly touch—the one, from
the repetition of the very same exhortation so soon, one verse only [being]
interposed; the other from the verb the apostle useth here, which being not
the same with ver. 11, affords a different note.
There it is ‘put on;’
here it is, ‘take unto you.’
[Why the apostle renews so soon the same
exhortation; also, what truths ministers
ought to preach.]
observe the repetition of the same exhortation and that in so short a
space. Sure it was not for
want of matter, but rather out of abundance of zeal, that he harps the second
time on the same string. Indeed he is a better workman, who drives one nail
home with reiterated blows, than he which covets to enter many, but fastens
none. Such preachers are not
likely to reach the conscience, who hop from one truth to another, but dwell
on none. Every hearer is not so
quick as the preacher, to take a notion as it is first darted forth; neither
can many carry away so much of that sermon which is made up all of varieties
—where a point is no sooner named, but presently it pulls back its hand, and
another makes a breach and comes forth; before the first hath been opened and
hammered upon the conscience by a powerful application—as where the
discourse is homogeneal, and some one necessary truth is cleared, insisted on,
and urged home with blow upon blow. Here
the whole matter of the discourse is akin, and one part remembered, brings
the memory acquainted with the other; whereas in the former, one puts the
other in a weak memory. Short
hints and away may please a scholar, but [are] not so profitable for others.
The one [way is] more fit for the schools, the other for the pulpit.
Were I to buy a garment in a shop, I should like him better that lays one good
piece or two before me that are for my turn, which I may fully peruse, than
him who takes down all his shop, and heaps piece upon piece, merely to show
his store, till at last for variety I can look wishly
on none, they lie so one upon another. Again,
as it is profitable thus to insist on truths, so it is not unbecoming a
minister to preach the same truths again and again.
Paul here goes over and over the same exhortation, ver. 11, 13, and
elsewhere tells us this is ‘not grievous’ to him, but to them ‘it is
safe,’ to hear the same things over and over, Php.
There are three sorts of truths must in our ministry be preached oft.
Sort. Fundamental truths;
or, as we call them, catechise-points, that contain truths necessary to
be known and believed. The weight
of the whole building lies on these ground-cells, more than on superstructory
truths. In a kingdom there are
some staple commodities and trades, without which the common weal could not
subsist, as wool, corn, &c., in our country, and these ought to be
encouraged above others, which though they be an ornament to the nation,
yea, add to the riches of it, yet are not so necessary to the subsistence of
it. Thus here.
There is an excellent use of our other ministerial labours, as they
tend to beautify and adorn, yea, enrich the Christian with the knowledge of
spiritual mysteries, but that which is chiefly to be regarded is the constant
faithful opening of those main truths of the gospel.
These are the landmarks, and show us the bounds of truth; and as it is
in towns that butt one upon another, if the inhabitants do not sometimes
perambulate, and walk the bounds, to show the youth what they are, when the
old studs are gone, the next generation may lose all their privileges by their
encroaching neighbours, because not able to tell what is their own.
There is no fundamental truth, but hath some evil neighbour, heresy I
mean, butting on it; and the very reason why a spirit of error hath so
encroached of late years upon truth is, because we have not walked the bounds
with our people in acquainting them with, and establishing their judgments on,
these fundamental points, so frequently and carefully as is requisite.
And people are much in the fault, because they cast so much contempt
upon this work, that they count a sermon on such points next to lost, and only
Sort. Those truths are oft
to be preached, which ministers observe to be most undermined by Satan,
or his instruments, in the judgments and lives of their people.
The preacher must read and study his people as diligently as any book
in his study, and, as he finds them, dispense like a faithful steward unto
them. Paul takes notice that the
Galatians had been in ill handling by false apostles, who had even bewitched
them back to the law in that great point of justification, and see how he
beats upon that one point. Our
people complain, we are so much, so oft reproving the same error or sin, and
the fault is their own, because they will not leave it.
Who will blame the dog for continuing to bark, when the thief is all
the while in the yard? Alas!
alas! it is not once or twice rousing against sin will do it.
When the people think the minister shows his laziness, because he
preacheth the same things, he may then be exercising his patience in
continuing to exhort and reprove those who oppose, waiting, if at last, God
will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.
We are bid to lift up our voice like a trumpet, and would you have us
cease while the battle lasts, or sound a retreat when it should be a battle?
Sort. Truths of daily
use and practice. These are like bread and salt; whatever else is on,
these must be on the board at every meal.
Saint Peter was of this mind: ‘I will not be negligent to put you
always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them,’ II
He had, you may see, been speaking of such graces and duties, that they
could not pass a day without the exercise of them, and therefore will be ever
their monitor, to stir up their pure minds about them.
All is not well, when a man is weary of his ordinary food, and nothing
will go down but rarities. The
stomach is sickly, when a man delights rather to pick some sallet, than eat of
solid meat; and how far this dainty age is gone in this spiritual disease, I
think few are so far come to themselves, as yet to consider and lament.
O sirs, be not weary, as in doing, so not in hearing those savoury
truths preached you have daily use of, because you know them and have heard
them often. Faith and repentance
will be good doctrine to preach and hear to the end of the world; you may as
well quarrel with God, because he hath made but one heaven, and one way to it,
as with the preacher, for preaching these over and over.
If thy heart were humble, and thy palate spiritual, old truths would be
new to thee every time thou hearest them.
In heaven the saints draw all their wine of joy, as I may so say, at
one tap, and shall to all eternity, and yet it never tastes flat.
God is that one object their souls are filled with, and never weary of;
and can anything of God and his love be wearisome to thee in the hearing here?
I am not all this while an advocate for any loiterer in our Lord’s
vineyard, for any slothful servant in the work of the gospel, who wraps up his
talent in idleness, or buries it in the earth, where, may be, he is digging
and playing the worldling all the week, and then hath nothing to set before
his people on the Lord’s-day, but one or two old mouldy loaves, which were
kneaded many years before. This
is not the good steward. Here are
the old, but where are the new things which he should bring out of his
treasure? If the minister labours
not to increase his stock, he is the worst thief in the parish.
It is wicked for a man trusted with the improving of orphans' estates,
to let them lie dead by him; much more for a minister not to improve his
gifts, which I may call the town-stock, given for the good of the souls of
both rich and poor. If that
preacher was wise, Ecc. 12:9,
who ‘still taught the people knowledge,’ that is, was ever going on,
endeavouring to build them higher in knowledge, and that he might, did give
‘good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs;’ then surely
he will be proved a foolish preacher at last, that wastes his time in sloth,
or spends more of it in studying how to add to his estate out of his
people’s, than how to add to their gifts and graces, by a conscionable
endeavour to increase his own.
[The best of saints subject to decline in their graces,
and why we are to seek a recovery of them.]
second observable in the exhortation is taken from the verb which the
which signifies not only to take, but to take again, or recover a thing which
we have lost, or reassume a thing which for the present we have left.
Now the apostle—writing to the saints at Ephesus, who, at least
many of them, were not now to put on this armour by a conversion—or the
first work of faith, which no doubt had already passed upon many among them
—he, in regard of them and believers to the end of the world, hath a further
meaning; that is, that they would put on more close where this armour hangs
loose, and [that] they would recover, where they had let fall any duty, or
decayed in any grace. So that the
That the Christian should have an especial care to repair his broken armour—to
recover his decaying graces. This
armour may be battered—I might show sad examples in the several pieces.
Was not Jacob's girdle of truth and sincerity unbuckled, when he used
that sinful policy to get the blessing? He was not the plain man then, but the
supplanter, but he had as good have stayed God’s time—he was paid home in
his own kind. He puts a cheat on
his father; and did not Laban put a cheat on him, giving Leah for Rachel?
What say you to David’s breast-plate of righteousness in the matter
of Uriah? was it not shot through, and that holy man fearfully wounded—who
lays almost a year, for aught we read of him, before he came to himself, so
far as to be thoroughly sensible of his sin, till Nathan, a faithful
chirurgeon, was sent to search the wound, and clear it of the dead flesh which
had grown over it? And Jonah,
otherwise a holy prophet, when God would send him on an errand to Nineveh, he
hath his shoes to seek, I mean that preparation and readiness with
which his mind should have been shod, to have gone at the first call.
Good Hezekiah, we find how near his helmet of hope was of being beaten
off his head, who tells us himself what his thoughts were in the day of his
distress, that he should ‘not see the Lord in the land of the living,’
expecting that God would never let go his hold, till like a lion he had broke
his bones, and at last made an end of him.
Even Abraham himself, famous for faith, had yet his fits of unbelief
and distrustful qualms coming over his valiant heart. Now in this case the
Christian's care should be to get his armour speedily repaired.
A battered helmet is next to no helmet in point of present use.
Grace in a decay is like a man pulled off his legs by sickness; if some
means be not used to recover it, little service will be done by it, or comfort
received from it. Therefore Christ gives this church of Ephesus, to whom Paul
wrote this epistle, this counsel, ‘to remember from whence she has fallen,
to repent and do her first works.’ How
many does a declining Christian wrong at once?
He wrongs God, and that in
a high degree, because reckons upon more honour to be paid him in, by his
saints’ grace, than by all other talents which his creatures have to trade
with in the world. He can in some
sense better bear the open sins of the world, than the decays of his saints'
graces. They by abusing their
talents, rob him but of his oil, flax, and wool; but the Christian, by the
other, bereaves him of the glory which should be paid him from his faith,
zeal, patience, self-denial, sincerity, and the rest.
Suppose a master should trust one servant with his money, and another
with his child to be looked to; would he not be more displeased to see his
dear child hurt, or almost killed by the negligence of the one, than his money
stolen by the carelessness of the other?
Grace is the new creature—the birth of the Spirit; when this comes to
any harm by the Christian’s careless walking, it must needs go nearer the
heart of God, than the wrong he hath from the world, who are trusted with
nothing like this.
He that declines in grace, and labours not to repair it, wrongs his
brethren, who have a share in one another's grace.
He wrongs his whole body that seeks not a cure for a wound in any
member. We are bid to ‘love one another,’ II
John 5; but how shall we show
our love to one another? The very
next words will direct us. ‘And
this is love, that we walk after his commandments,’ ver.
Indeed we show little love to our brethren by sinning, whereby we are
sure either to ensnare them or grieve them; and how to let grace go down and
sin not go up, is [a] riddle to any that know what they both are.
The Christian wrongs himself in not endeavouring to repair his broken
armour, and [to] recover his declining grace.
By this he loses the evidence of his inheritance, at least so blots
it that it cannot be so clearly perceived by him.
A declining Christian must needs be a doubting Christian, because the
common symptom of a hypocrite is to wear and waste, like a stake set in the
ground, which rots, while true grace like the tree grows.
Is not this the knot which the devil poseth many poor souls withal, and
finds them work for many years to untie?
If thou wert a Christian thou wouldst grow.
Right saints go from strength to strength, and thou goest from strength
to weakness. They go up the hill
to Zion —every ordinance and providence is a step that bears him nearer
heaven—but thou goest down the hill, and art farther from thy salvation than
when thou didst first believe, as thou thoughtest.
And doth it stand with thy wisdom, Christian, to put a staff into the
devil’s hand, an argument into his mouth, to dispute against thy salvation
with? If you held an estate by
the life of a child, which upon the death of it should all go away from you,
that child, I warrant you, should be well looked unto; his head should not
ache, but you would post to the physician for counsel.
I pray what is your evidence for that glorious estate you hope for?
Is it not Christ within you? Is
not this new creature—which may well be called Christ for its likeness to
him—the young heir of heaven’s glory? and when that is sick or weak, is it
not time to use all means for its recovery?
Whilst thus, thou canst neither live nor die comfortably. Not live! a
man in a consumption has little joy of his life; he neither finds sweetness in
his meat, nor delight in his work, as a healthful man doth.
O how sweet is the promise to faith, when active and vigorous! how easy
the yoke of the command to the Christian, when his conscience is not galled
with guilt, nor his strength enfeebled by temptation!
But the Christian in a declining condition, he tastes not the promise,
every command is grievous, and every duty burdensome to him; he goes in pain
like one whose foot is out of joint, though the way be never so pleasant. And
he is as unfit to die as he is to live. Such
a one can like no more to hear the news of death, than a tenant that wants his
rent doth to hear the quarter day. This
made David beg time of God. ‘O
spare me a little, that I may recover strength.’
shown you why the Christian should endeavour to recover his declining
graces, it will be very requisite to give a word of counsel to the Christian.
A word of counsel to direct him how to judge of the declining state of grace,
that he may not pass a false judgment upon himself therein.
A word of counsel to direct him, when he finds grace to be in a declination,
how he may recover it.
[A word of counsel, showing from what
we may not, as also from what we may,
judge our graces to be declining.]
A word of counsel to direct the Christian how to judge of the declining
state of grace, that he may not pass a false judgment upon himself
may a Christian judge whether grace be declining in him or no?
First. I shall resolve this negatively, and show by what he is
not to judge his grace to decline. Second.
I shall resolve it positively, and show by what he may certainly conclude a
decay of grace.
I shall resolve this negatively, and show by what he is not to judge
his grace to decline, and that in several particulars.
Christian, do not judge grace to be fallen weaker, because thy sense of
corruption is grown stronger. This
oft lies at the bottom of poor souls’ complaints in this case.
O they never felt pride, hypocrisy, and other corruptions, so haunt
them as now. None knows how they
are vexed with these and the like, besides themselves.
Now let me ask thee who makest this sad moan, whether thou dost not
think these corruptions were in thee before thou didst thus feel them? how oft
hast thou prayed as formally, and not been troubled? how oft hast thou stood
chatting with the same lusts, and thy soul hath not been laid low before the
Lord with such abasement of thyself as now?
Deal faithfully between God and thy soul, and tell not a lie for God by
bearing false witness against thyself.
If it be thus, thou hast rather a comfortable sign of grace growing
than decaying. Sin cannot be on
the getting hand, if the sense of sin grow quick; this is the concomitant of a
thriving soul. None [are] so full of complaints of their own hearts as such;
the least sin goes now to their very souls, which makes them think viler of
themselves than ever. But it is
not the increase of sin in them, but the advance of their love to Christ,
makes them judge so. When the sun shines with some power, and the year gets
up, we observe, though we may have frosts and snow, yet they do not lie long,
but are soon dissolved by the sun. O
it is a sweet sign that the love of Christ shines with [such] a force upon thy
soul, that no corruptions can lie long in thy bosom, but they melt into sorrow
and bitter complaints. That is
the decaying soul, where sin lies bound up and frozen, [where] little sense
of or sorrow for it appears.
Take heed thou thinkest not grace decays, because thy comfort withdraws.
The influence of the sun comes where the light of it is not to be
found, yea, is mighty, as appears in those mines of gold and silver, which are
concocted by the same. And so may
the actings of grace be vigorous in thee, when least under the shines of his
countenance. Did ever faith
triumph more than in our Saviour, crying, ‘My God, my God?’ here faith was
at its meridian, when it was midnight in respect of joy.
Possibly thou comest from an ordinance, and bringest not home with thee
those sheaves of comfort thou usest to do, and therefore concludest grace
acted not in thee as formerly. Truly
if thou hast nothing else to go by, thou mayest wrong the grace of God in thee
exceedingly. Because thy comfort
is extrinsical to thy duty—a boon which God may give or not, yea, doth give
to the weak, and deny to the strong. The
traveller may go as fast, and ride as much ground when the sun doth not shine,
as when it doth—though indeed he goes not so merrily on his journey—nay,
sometimes he makes the more haste. The
warm sun makes him sometimes to lie down and loiter, but when dark and cold,
he puts on with more speed. Some
graces thrive best, like some flowers, in the shade, such as humility,
dependence on God, &c.
Take heed thou dost not mistake, and think thy grace decays, when may be it is
only thy temptations increase, and not thy grace that decreases.
If you should hear a man say, because he cannot to-day run so fast,
when a hundred weight is on his back, as he could yesterday without any such a
burden, that therefore he was grown weaker, you would soon tell him where his
mistake lies. Temptation lies not
in the same heaviness alway upon the Christian’s shoulder.
Observe, therefore, whether Satan is not more than ordinary let loose
to assault thee—whether thy temptations come not with more force and violence
than ever. Possibly, though
thou dost not with the same facility overcome these, as thou hast done
less, yet grace may act stronger in conflicting with the greater, than in
overcoming the less. The same
ship, that when lightly ballasted, and favoured with the wind, goes mounting,
at another time deeply laden and going against wind and tide, may move with a
slow pace, and yet they in the ship take more pains to make it sail thus, than
they did when it went faster.
I shall resolve it positively, and show by what he may certainly
conclude that grace is declining; and that in a threefold respect.
1. In reference to temptations to sin.
2. In reference to the duties of God’s worship.
3. The frame of thy heart in worldly employments.
In reference to temptations to sin, and that is threefold.
When thou art not so wakeful to discover the encroachings of sin upon thee as
formerly. At one time we find
David’s heart smote him when he but rent the skirt of Saul’s garment; at
another time, when his eye glanced on Bathsheba, he takes no such notice of
the snare Satan had him in, and so is led from one sin to another, which
plainly showed that grace in him was heavy-eyed, and his heart not in so holy
a frame as it had been. If an
enemy comes up to the gates, and the sentinel [does] not so much as give an
alarm to the city of his approach, it shows he is off his guard, either fallen
asleep or worse. If grace were
awake, and thy conscience had not contracted some hardness, it would do its
When a temptation to sin is discovered, and thou findest thy heart shut up
that thou dost not pray against it, or
not with that zeal and holy indignation, as formerly upon such occasions, it
is a bad sign, that lust hath got an advantage of thy grace, that thou canst
not readily betake thyself to thy arms. Thy
affections are bribed, and this makes thee so cold a suitor at the throne of
grace for help against thine enemy.
When the arguments prevailing most with thee to resist temptations to sin, or
to mourn for sins committed, are more carnal and less evangelical than
formerly. May be thou rememberest
when thy love to Christ would have spit fire on the face of Satan tempting
thee to such a sin, but now that holy fire is so abated that if there were not
some other carnal motives to make the vote full, it would hazard to be
carried for it, rather than against it. And
so in mourning for a sin, there is possibly now some slavish arguments, like
an onion in the eye, which makes thee weep, rather than pure ingenuity arising
from love to God whom thou hast offended; this speaks a sad decay, and the
more mixture there is of such carnal arguments, either in the resisting of,
or mourning for sin, the greater the declination of grace is.
David’s natural heat sure was much decayed, when he needed so many
clothes to be laid on him, and yet he felt so little heat; the time was he
would have sweat with fewer. I am
afraid, many their love to Christ will be found, in these declining times, to
have lost so much of its youthful vigor, that what would formerly have put
them into a holy fury and burning zeal against some sins, such as
Sabbath-breaking, pride of apparel, neglect of family duties, &c., hath
now much ado to keep any heat at all in them against the same.
In reference to the duties of God's worship.
If thy heart doth not prompt thee with that forwardness and readiness as
formerly to hold communion with God in any duty.
Possibly thou knowest the time when thy heart echoed back to the
motions of God's spirit bidding thee seek his face: ‘Thy face, Lord, will I
seek;’ yea, thou didst long as much till a Sabbath, or a sermon-season came,
as the carnal wretch doth till it be gone; but now thy pulse doth not beat so
quick a march to the ordinances public or secret.
Nature cannot but decay if appetite to food go away.
A craving soul is the thriving soul; such a child that will not let his
mother rest, but is frequently crying for the breast.
When thou declinest in thy care to perform duties in spiritual sort, and to
preserve the sense of those more inward failings, which in duty none but
thyself can check thee of. It is
not frequency of duty, but spirituality in duty, [that] causeth thriving, and
therefore neglect in this point soon brings grace into a consumptive posture.
Possibly, soul, the time was thou wert not satisfied with praying, but
thou didst watch thy heart strictly; as a man would every piece in a sum of
money he pays, lest he should wrong his friend with any brass or uncurrent
coin—thou wouldst have God not only have duty, but duty stamped with that
faith which makes it current, have that zeal and sincerity which makes it
gospel-weight; but now thou art more careless and formal.
O look to it, poor soul, thou wilt, if thou continue thus careless,
melt in thy spiritual state apace. Such
dealings will spoil thy trade with heaven.
God will not take off these slightly duties at thy hands.
When a Christian gets little spiritual nourishment from communion with God,
to what it hath done. The time
had been, may be, thou couldst show what came of thy praying, hearing, and
fasting, but now the case is altered. There
is a double strength [which] communion with God imparts to a soul in a
healthful disposition—strength to faith, and strength for our obedient
walking. Dost thou hear and pray,
and get no more strength to hold by a promise, no more power over, or
brokenness of heart under, thy usual corruptions?
What! come down the mount, and break the tables of God’s law, as soon
as thou art off the place! as deep in thy passion, as uneven in thy course as
before! There is a sure decay of
that inward heat, which should and would, if in its right temper, suck some
nourishment from these.
The frame of thy heart in worldly employments.
When thy worldly occasions do not leave thee in so free and spiritual a
disposition, to return to the presence of God as formerly.
May be thou couldst have come from thy shop and family employments to
thy closet, and find they have kept thee in frame, yea, may be delivered thee
up in a better frame for those duties; but now it is otherwise, thou canst not
so shake them off but they cleave to thy spirit, and give an earthly savour to
thy praying and hearing. Thou
hast reason to bewail it; when nature decays, men go more stooping; and it is
a sign some such decay is in thee, that thou canst not, as thou usest, lift up
thy heart from earthly to spiritual duties. They were intended as helps
against temptation, and therefore when they prove snares to us there is a distemper
on us. If we wax worse after
sleep, the body is not right, because the nature of sleep is to refresh; if
exercise indisposeth for work, the reason is our bodies.
When thy diligence in thy particular calling is more selfish.
Possibly thou hast wrought in thy shop, and set close at thy study, in
obedience to the command chiefly. Thy
carnal interests have swayed but little with thee, but now thou tradest more
for thyself, and less for God. O
have a care of this.
When thou canst not bear the disappointment of thy carnal ends in thy
particular calling, as thou hast done. Thou
workest and gettest little of the world, thou preachest and art not much esteemed,
and thou knowest not well how to brook these.
The time was thou couldst retire thyself into God, and make up all thou
didst want elsewhere in him; but now thou art not so well satisfied with thy
estate, rank, and condition. Thy
heart is fingering for more of these than God allows thee, this shows declining.
Children are harder to be pleased, and old men—whose decay of nature
makes them more froward, and in a manner children a second time —than
others. Labour therefore to
recover thy decaying grace, and as this lock grows, so thy strength with it
will, to acquiesce in the disposure of God’s providence.
[Directions for the recovery of declining grace.]
We come now to give a few directions to the Christian, to show him, when he
finds grace to be in a declining state, he may recover it.
faithfully into the cause of thy declining.
The Christian’s armour decays two ways, either by violent battery,
when the Christian is overcome by temptations to sin, or else by neglecting to
furbish and scour it with the use of those means which are as oil, to keep it
clean and bright. Now inquire,
which of these have been the cause of thy decay.
It is like, both concur.
First. If thy grace be
weakened by any blow given it by any sin committed by thee, there then lies a
threefold duty upon thee towards the recovery of it.
Duty. Thou art to renew thy
repentance. It is Christ's
counsel, Rev. 2:5,
to Ephesus, ‘Repent and do the first works,’ where it is not only
commanded as a duty, but prescribed as a means for her recovery; as if he had
said, ‘Repent, that thou mayest do thy first works.’
So, Hosea 14:2,
the Lord sets backsliding Israel about this work, bidding her ‘take with you
words and turn to the Lord;’ and ver.
4, he then tells her he will
take her in hand to recover her of her sins, ‘I will heal their
backslidings.’ A repenting soul
is under the promise of healing, and therefore, Christian, go and search thy
heart, as thou wouldst thy house, if some thief or murderer lay hid in it to
cut thy throat in the night, and when thou hast found the sin
that has done thee the mischief, then labour to fill thy heart with
shame for it, and indignation against it, and so go big with sorrow, and cast
it forth before the Lord in a heart-breaking confession.
Better thou do this, than Satan do thy errand to God for thee.
Duty. When thou hast renewed thy
repentance, forget not, delay not then, to renew thy faith on the promise
for pardon. Repentance, that
is like purging physic to evacuate the peccant humour, but if faith come not
presently with its restorative, the poor creature will never get heart, or
recover his strength. A soul may
die of a flux of sorrow as well as of sin.
Faith hath an incarnating virtue, as they say of some strengthening
meat; it feeds upon the promise, and that ‘is perfect, converting’—or
rather restoring —‘the soul,’ Ps.
Though thou wert pined to skin and bones, all thy strength wasted, yet
faith would soon recruit thee, and enable every grace to perform its office
cheerfully. Faith sucks peace
from the promise, called ‘peace in believing.’
From peace flows joy, ‘being justified by faith we have peace with
God,’ Rom. 5:1;
and, ‘We rejoice in the hope of glory,’ ver.
2; and joy affords strength,
‘The joy of the Lord is our strength.’
Duty. Back both these with a
daily endeavour to mortify those lusts which most prevail over thy grace.
Weeds cannot thrive and the flowers also. When grace doth not act
vigorously and freely, conclude [that] it is oppressed with some contrary
lust, which weighs down its spirits, and makes them lumpish, even as
superfluous humours do load the natural spirits in our bodies, [so] that we
have little joy to stir or go about any business till they be evacuated.
And therefore ply this work close; it is not a day's work or two in the
year, like physic in the spring and fall; nothing more vain, than to make a
bustle, as the Papists do at their Lent, or as some unsound professors among
ourselves, who seem to bestir themselves before a sacrament or day of fasting,
with a great noise of zeal, and then let those very lusts live peaceably in
them all the year after. No, this
is child-play to do and undo; thou must mortify daily thy lusts by the Spirit,
Follow but this work conscionably, in thy Christian course, making it
thy endeavour, as constantly as the labouring man goes out every day to work
in the field where his calling lies, to watch thy heart, and use all means for
the discovery of sin, and as it breaks forth to be humbled for it, and be
chopping at the root of it with this axe of mortification, and thou shalt see
by the blessing of God what a change for the better there will be in the
constitution of thy grace. Thou
who art now so poor, so pale, that thou art afraid to see thy own face long in
the glass of thy own conscience, shalt then reflect with joy upon thy own
conscience, and dare to converse with thyself without those surprisals of
horror and fear which before did appall thee.
Thy grace, though it shall not be thy rejoicing, yet it will be thy
evidence for Christ, in whom it is, and lead thee in with boldness to lay
claim to him; while the loose Christian, whose grace is overgrown with lusts,
for want of his weeding-hook, shall stand trembling at the door, questioning
whether his grace be true or no, and from that doubt of his welcome.
Second. If, upon enquiry,
thou findest that thy armour decays, rather for want of scouring, than by any
blow from sin presumptuously committed, as that is most common and
ordinary—for rust will soon spoil the best armour, and negligence give grace
its bane, as well as gross sins—then apply thyself to the use of those
means which God hath appointed for the strengthening [of] grace.
If the fire goes out by taking off the wood, what way [is there] to
preserve it, but by laying it on again?
I shall sent thee to the Word of God; be more frequently conversant
with it. David tells us where he
renewed his spiritual life, and got his soul so oft into a heavenly heat, when
grace in him began to chill. The Word, he tells us, quickened him.
This was the sunny bank he sat under.
The Word draws forth the Christian's grace, by presenting every one
with an object suitable to act upon. This
is of great power to rouse them up; as the coming in of a friend makes us,
though sleepy before, shake off all drowsiness to enjoy his company.
Affections are actuated when their object is before them.
If we love a person, love is excited by sight of him, or anything that
minds us of him; if we hate one, our blood riseth much more against him when
before us. Now the Word brings
the Christian graces and their object together.
Here love may delight herself with the beholding Christ, who is set out
to life there in all his love and loveliness.
Here the Christian may see his sins in a glass that will not flatter
him; and can there any godly sorrow be in the heart, any hatred of sin, and
not come forth, whole the man is reading what they cost Christ for him?
From the word go to meditation. This
is as bellows to the fires. That
grace which lies choked and eaten up for want of exercise, will by this be
cleared and break forth. While
thou art musing this fire will burn, and thy heart grow hot within thee,
according to the nature of the subject thy thoughts dwell upon. Resolve,
therefore, Christian, to inclose time from all worldly suitors, wherein thou
mayest every day, if possible, at least take a view of the most remarkable
occurrences that have passed between God and thee.
Ask thy soul what takings it hath had that day, what mercies heaven hath sent
into thee? and do not, when thou hast asked the question, like Pilate, go out,
but stay till thy soul has made report of God’s gracious dealings with thee.
And, if thou beest wise to observe, and faithful to relate them, thy
conscience must tell thee, that the cock was never turned, the breast of mercy
never put up all the day, yea, while thou art viewing these fresh mercies,
telling over this new coin, hot out of the mint of God’s bounty, ancient
mercies will come crowding in upon thee, and call for a place in thy thoughts,
and tell thee what God hath done for thee months and years ago.
And indeed old debts should not be paid last; give them, Christian, all
a hearing one time or another, and thou shalt see how they will work upon thy
ingenuous spirit. It is with the
Christian in this case, as with some merchant’s servant that keeps his
master’s cash; he tells his master he hath a great sum of his by him, and
desires he would discharge him of it, and see how his accounts stand, but he
can never find him at leisure. There
is a great treasure of mercy always in the Christian's hands, and conscience
is oft calling the Christian to take the account, and see what God has done
for him; but seldom it is he can find time to tell his mercies over.
And is it any wonder that such should go behind-hand in their spiritual
estate, who take no more notice of what the gracious dealings of God are with
them? How can he be thankful that
seldom thinks what he receives? or patient when God afflicts, that wants one
of the most powerful arguments to pacify a mutinous spirit in trouble, and
that is taken from the abundant good we receive at the hands of the Lord as
well as a little evil? how can such a soul’s love flame to God, that is kept
at such a distance from the mercies of God, which are fuel to it?
And the like might be said of all the other graces.
Reflect upon thyself, and bestow a few serious thoughts upon thy own behaviour—what
it hath been towards God and man all along the day. Ask thy soul, as Elisha
his servant, ‘Whence comest thou, O my soul? where hast thou been? what hast
thou done for God this day? and how?’ And
when thou goest about this, look that thou neither beest taken off from a
thorough search, as Jacob was by Rachel’s specious excuse, nor be found to
cocker thyself, as Eli his sons, when thou shalt upon inquiry take thy heart
tardy in any part of thy duty. Take
heed what thou doest, for thou judgest for God, who receives the wrong by thy
sin, and therefore will do himself justice if thou wilt not.
From meditation go to prayer. Indeed,
a soul in meditation is on his way to prayer; that duty leads the Christian to
this, and this brings help to that. When the Christian has done his utmost by
meditation to excite his graces, and chase his spirit into some divine heat,
he knows all this is but to lay the wood in order.
The fire must come from above to kindle, and this must be fetched by
prayer. They say stars have
greatest influences when they are in conjunction with the sun; then sure the
graces of a saint should never work more powerfully than in prayer, for then
he is in the nearest conjunction and communion with God.
That ordinance that hath such power with God, must needs have a mighty
influence on ourselves. It will
not let God rest, but raiseth him up to his people’s succour, and is it any
wonder if it be a means to rouse up and excite the Christian’s grace?
How oft do we see a dark cloud upon David’s spirit at the beginning
of his prayer, which by that time he is a little warm in his work, begins to
clear up, and before his ends breaks forth into high actings of faith and
acclamations of praise? Only
here, Christian, take heed of formal praying, this is as baneful to grace as
not praying. A plaster, though
proper and of sovereign virtue, yet if it be laid on cold, may do more hurt
To all the former, join fellowship and communion with the saints thou
livest amongst. No wonder to
hear a house is robbed that stands far from neighbours.
He that walks in communion of saints travels in company, he dwells in a
city where one house keeps up another, to which Jerusalem is compared.
It is observable concerning the house in whose ruins Job’s children
were entombed, that a wind came from the wilderness and smote the four corners
of it. It seems it stood alone.
The devil knows what he does in hindering this great ordinance of
communion of saints—in doing this he hinders the progress of grace, yea,
brings that which Christians have into a declining, wasting state.
The apostle couples those two duties close together, to ‘hold fast’
our ‘profession,’ and to ‘consider one another to provoke unto love
and to good works,’ Heb. 10:23,24.
Indeed it is a dangerous step to apostasy, to forsake the communion
of saints; hence it is said of Demas, he ‘hath left us, and embraced the
present world.’ O what mischief
has Satan done us in these few late years, in this one particular! what is
become of this communion of saints? where are there two or three to be found
that can agree to walk together? Those
that could formerly suffer together, cannot sit together at their Father’s
table, can hardly pray one with or one for another.
The breath of one Christian is strange to another that once lay in his
bosom. ‘This is a lamentation,
and shall be for a lamentation.’
DIRECTION III.—SECOND GENERAL PART.
[The Argument with which he
urgeth the Exhortation.]
‘That ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done
all, to stand,’ Eph. 6:13.
come to the argument with which the apostle urgeth the exhortation, and that
is double. FIRST. The first hath
respect to the hour of battle—‘that ye may be able to withstand in the
evil day.’ SECOND. The
second to the happy issue of the war, which will crown the Christian
thus armed, and that is certain victory—‘and having done all, to
Argument—This hath respect to the Hour of Battle.
‘That ye may be able to withstand in the evil day.’
what is this evil day? Some take
this evil day to comprehend the whole life of a Christian here below in this
vale of tears, and then the argument runs thus:—Take to yourselves the whole
armour of God, that you may be able to persevere to the end of your life,
which you will find, as it were, one continued day of trouble and trial.
Thus Jacob draws a black line over his whole life—‘few and evil
have the days of the years of my life been,’ Gen.
What day shines so fair that overcasts not before night, yea, in which
the Christian meets not with some shower or other, enough to deserve the name
of an evil day? Every day hath its portion, yea, proportion.
Sufficient is the evil of the day; we need not borrow and take up
sorrows upon use of the morrow, to make up our present load.
As we read of ‘daily bread,’ so [also] of a ‘daily’ cross, Luke
9:23, which we are bid to take,
not to make. We need not
make crosses for ourselves, as we are prone to do; God in his providence
will provide one for us, and we are bid to take it up, but we hear nothing of
laying it down, till cross and we lie down together.
Our troubles and our lives are coetaneous; [they] live and die together
here. When joy comes, sorrow is at its heel—staff and rod go together.
Job himself, that good man, whose prosperity the devil so grudged,
and set forth in all his bravery and pomp, Job
1:10, as if his sun had no
shadow, hear what account he gives of this his most flourishing time, ‘I was
not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet;’ Job
There were some troubles that broke his rest; when his bed was, to
thinking, as soft as heart could wish, even then this good man tosses and
tumbles from one side to the other, and is not quiet.
If one should have come to Job and blessed him with his happy
condition, and said, ‘Surely, Job, thou couldst be content with what thou
hast for thy portion, if thou mightest have all this settled on thee and thy
heirs after thee;’ he would have said, as once Luther, ‘that God should
not put him off with these.’ Such
is the saints’ state in this bottom, that their very life here, and all the
pompous entertainments of it, are their cross, because they detain them from
their crown. We need nothing to
make our life an evil day, more than our absence from our chief good, which
cannot be recompensed by the world, nor enjoyed with it.
Only this goodness there is in this evil, that it is short.
Our life is but an ‘evil day,’ it will not last long.
And sure it was mercy that God hath abridged so much of the term of
man’s life in these last days—days wherein so much of Christ and heaven
are discovered, that it would have put the saints’ patience hard to it, to
have known so much of the upper world's glory, and then be kept so long from
it, as the fathers in the first age were.
O comfort one another, Christians, with this: Though your life be evil
with troubles, yet it is short—a few steps, and we are out of the rain.
There is a great difference between a saint in regard of the evils he
meets with, and the wicked, just as between two travellers riding contrary
ways—both taken in the rain and wet—but of whom one rides from the rain,
and so is soon out of the shower, but the other rides into the rainy
corner—the farther he goes, the worse he is. The saint meets with troubles
as well as the wicked, but he is soon out of the shower—when death comes he
has fair weather; but the wicked, the farther he goes the worse—what he
meets with here is but a few drops, the great storm is the last.
The pouring out of God's wrath shall be in hell, where all the deeps of
horror are opened, both from above of God’s righteous fury, and from beneath
of their own accusing and tormenting consciences.
take the phrase in a more restricted sense, to denote those particular seasons
of our life wherein more especially we meet with afflictions and sufferings.
Beza reads it tempore adverso—in the time of our adversity.
Though our whole life be evil, if compared with heaven’s blissful
state; our clearest day, night, to that glorious morning; yet one part of our
life, compared with another, may be called good, and the other evil.
We have our vicissitudes here. The providences of God to his saints
here, while on this low bottom of earth, are mixed and parti-coloured, as was
signified by the ‘speckled’ horses, Zech.
1:8, in Zechariah’s
vision—red and white, peace and war, joy and sorrow, checker our days.
Earth is a middle place betwixt heaven and hell, and so is our state
here; it partakes of both. We go
up hill and down, till we get to our journey’s end, yea, we find the deepest
slough nearest our Father’s house—death, I mean—into which all the other
troubles of our life fall, as streams into some great river, and with which
they all end, and are swallowed up. This
being the comprehensive evil, I conceive it is meant here, being made
remarkable by a double article, that day, that evil day;
not excluding those other days of tribulation which intervene.
These are but so many petty deaths, every one snatching away a piece of
our lives with them, or like pages sent before to usher in this king of
terrors that comes behind.
phrase being opened, let us consider the strength of this first argument, with
which the apostle reinforceth his exhortation of taking to ourselves the whole
armour of God, and that consists in three weighty circumstances.
The nature and quality of this day of affliction, it is an evil
day. Second. The unavoidableness
of this evil day of affliction implied in the form of speech, ‘that you may
withstand in the evil day.’ He
shuts out all hope of escaping; as if he had said, You have no way to
withstand, please not yourselves with thoughts of shunning battle, the evil
day must come, be you armed or not armed.
Third. The necessity of this armour, to withstand.
As we cannot run from it, so [we cannot] bear up before it, and oppose
the force which will be made against us, except clad with armour.
These would afford several points, but for brevity we shall lay them
together in one conclusion.
[The day of affliction and death is evil,
and in what respects.]
It behoves every one to arm and prepare himself for the evil day of
affliction and death, which unavoidably he must conflict with.
The point hath three branches. First.
The day of affliction and death is an evil day.
Second. This evil day is unavoidable.
Third. It behoves every one to provide for this evil day.
Branch. The day of
affliction, especially death, is an evil day.
Here we must show how affliction is evil, and how not.
It is not morally or intrinsically evil; for, if it were evil in this sense,
God could not be the author of it. His
nature is so pure, that no such evil can come from him, any more than the
sun’s light can make night. But
this evil of affliction he voucheth for his own act.
‘Against this family do I devise an evil,’ Micah
2:3, yea more, he so
appropriates it to himself, that he will not have us think any can do us evil
beside himself. It is the
prerogative he glories in, that there is no evil in the city, but it is of his
doing, Amos 3:6.
And well it is for the saints that their crosses are all made in
heaven; they would not else be so fitted to their backs as they are.
But for the evil of sin, he disowns it, with a strict charge that we
lay not this brat, which is begotten by Satan upon our impure hearts, at his
door. ‘Let no man say when he
is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither
tempteth he any man,’ James 1:13.
If affliction were thus intrinsically evil, it could in no respect be the
object of our desire, which sometimes it is, and may be.
We are to choose affliction rather than sin, yea, the greatest
affliction before the least sin. Moses
chose affliction with the people of God, rather than the pleasures of sin for
a season. We are bid rejoice when we fall into divers temptations, that is,
afflictions. But in what respects
then may the day of affliction be called evil?
As it is grievous to sense in Scripture, evil is oft put as
contradistinguished to joy and comfort. ‘We
looked for peace, and behold not good.’
A merry heart is called a good heart, a sad spirit an evil spirit,
because nature hath an abhorrency to all that opposeth its joy, and this
every affliction doth, more or less, Heb.
No affliction, while present, is joyous, but grievous; it hath, like
physic, an unpleasing farewell to the sense.
Therefore Solomon, speaking of the evil days of sickness, expresseth
them to be so distasteful to nature, that we shall say, ‘We have no pleasure
in them.’ They take away the
joy of our life. Natural joy is a
true flower of the sun of prosperity, it opens and shuts with it.
It is true indeed, the saints never have more joy than in their
affliction, but this comes in on another score; they have a good God that
sends it in, or else they would be as sadly on it as others.
It is no more natural for comfort to spring from afflictions, than for
grapes to grow on thorns, or manna in the wilderness.
The Israelites might have looked long enough for such bread, if heaven
had not miraculously rained it down. God
chooseth this season to make the omnipotency of his love the more conspicuous.
As Elijah, to add to the miracle, first causeth water in abundance to
be poured upon the wood and sacrifice, so much as to fill the trench, and then
brings fire from heaven by his prayer, to lick it up; thus God pours out the
flood of affliction upon his children, and then kindles that inward joy in
their bosoms which licks up all their sorrow; yea, he makes the very waters of
affliction they float on, add a further sweetness tot he music of their
spiritual joy, but still it is God that is good, and affliction that is evil.
The day of affliction is an evil day, as it is an unwelcome remembrancer of
what sinful evils have passed in our lives.
It revives the memory of old sins, which, it may be, were buried many
years ago in the grave of forgetfulness.
The night of affliction is the time when such ghosts use to walk in
men’s conscience’s; and as the darkness of the night adds to the horror
of any scareful object, so doth the state of affliction, which is itself
uncomfortable, add to the terror of our sins, then remembered.
Never did the patriarchs’ sin look so ghastly on them, as when it recoiled
upon them in their distress, Gen 42:21.
The sinner then hath more real apprehensions of wrath than at another
time; affliction approximates judgement, yea, it is interpreted by him as a
pursuivant sent to call him presently before God, and therefore needs beget a
woeful confusion and consternation in his spirit.
O that men would think of this, how they could bear the sight of their
sins, and a rehearsal sermon of all their ways, in that day!
That is the blessed man indeed, who can with the prophet then look on
them, and triumph over them. This
indeed is a dark parable, as he calls it, as ‘I will open my dark saying
upon the harp; wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity
of my heels shall compass me about?’ Ps.
The day of affliction makes the discovery of much evil to be in the heart,
which was not seen before. Affliction
shakes and roils the creature; if any sediment be at the bottom, it will
appear then. Sometimes it discovers the heart to be quite naught that before
had been seeming good. These suds
wash off the hypocrite’s paint; natura vexata prodit seipsam —when
corrupt nature is vexed it shows itself.
And some afflictions do that to purpose.
We read of such as are offended when persecution comes, they fall quite
out with their profession, because it puts them to such cost and trouble;
others in their distress, ‘that curse their God,’ Isa.
It is impossible for a naughty heart to think well of an afflicting
God. The hireling, if his master
takes up a staff to beat him, throws down his work and runs away, and so doth
a false heart serve God. Yea,
even where the person is gracious, corruption is oft found to be stronger, and
grace weaker, than they were thought to be.
[In the case of] Peter, who set out so valiantly at first to walk on
the sea, the wind doth but rise and he begins to sink; now he sees there was
more unbelief in his heart than he before suspected.
Sharp afflictions are to the soul as a driving rain to the house; we
know not that there were such crannies and holes in the house, till we see it
drop down here and there. Thus we
perceive not how unmortified this corruption, nor how weak that grace is,
till we are thus searched, and made more fully to know what is in our hearts
by such trials. This is the
reason why none have such humble thoughts of themselves, and such pitiful and
forbearing thoughts towards others in their infirmities, as those who are
most acquainted with afflictions. They meet with so many foils in their
conflicts, as make them carry a low sail in respect of their own grace, and a
tender respect to their brethren—more ready to pity than censure them in
This is the season when the evil one, Satan, comes to tempt.
What we find called the time of ‘tribulation,’ Matt.
13:21, we find in the same
parable, Luke 8:13,
called the time of ‘temptation.’ Indeed
they both meet; seldom doth God afflict us, but Satan addeth temptation to our
wilderness. ‘But this is your
hour,’ saith Christ, ‘and the power of darkness,’ Luke
Christ’s sufferings from man, and temptation from the devil, came
together. Esau, who hated his
brother for the blessing, said in his heart, ‘The days of mourning for my
father are at hand, then will I slay my brother Jacob,’ Gen.
Times of affliction are the days of mourning; those Satan waits for to
do us a mischief in.
The day of affliction oft hath an evil event and issue; and in this respect
proves an evil day indeed. All is
well, we say, that ends well; the product of afflictions on the Christian is
good; the rod with which they are corrected yields the peaceable fruits of
righteousness, and therefore they can call their afflictions good.
That is a good instrument that lets out only the bad blood.
‘It was good for me that I was afflicted,’ saith David.
I have read of a holy woman who used to compare her afflictions to her
children. They both put her to
great pain in the bearing; but as she knew not which of her children to have
been without—for all the trouble in bringing forth —so neither which of
her afflictions she could have missed, notwithstanding the sorrow they put her
to in the enduring. But to the
wicked the issue is sad, (a.) In regard of sin; they leave them worse,
more impenitent, hardened in sin, and outrageous in their wicked practices.
every plague on Egypt added to the plague of hardness on Pharaoh’s
heart. He that for some while
could beg prayers of Moses for himself, at last comes to that pass that he
threatens to kill him if he come at him any more.
O what a prodigious height do we see many come to in sin, after some
great sickness or other judgment! Children
do not more shoot up in their bodily stature after an ague, than they in their
lusts after afflictions. O how
greedy and ravenous are they after their prey, when once they get off their
clog and chain from their heels! When
physic works not kindly, it doth not only leave the disease uncured, but the
poison of the physic stays in the body also.
Many appear thus poisoned by their afflictions, by the breaking out
of their lusts afterward. (b.) In regard of sorrow; every affliction on
a wicked person produceth another, and that a greater than itself, the
greatest comes the last, which shall rive him fit for the fire.
The sinner is whipped from affliction to affliction, as the vagrant
from constable to constable, till at last he comes to hell, his proper place
and settled abode, where all sorrows will meet in one that is endless.
Branch. This evil day
is unavoidable. We may as
well stop the chariot of the sun, when posting to night, and chase away the
shades of the evening, as escape this hour of darkness, that is coming upon us
all. ‘There is no man that hath
power over the spirit to retain the spirit, neither hath he power in the day
of death, and there is no discharge in that war,’ Ecc.
Among men it is possible to get off when pressed for the wars, by
pleading privilege of years, estate, weakness of body, protection from the
prince, and the like; or if all these fail, possibly the sending another in
our room, or a bribe given in the hand, may serve the turn.
But in this war the press is so strict, that there is no dispensation.
David could willingly have gone for his son—we hear him crying, ‘Would God
I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son;’ but he will not be taken,
that young gallant must go himself. We
must in our own person come into the field, and look death in the face.
Some indeed we find so fond as to promise themselves immunity from this
day, as if they had an insuring office in their breast.
They say they have made a covenant with death, and with hell they are
at an agreement. When the
overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto them.
And now, like debtors that have fee'd the sergeant, they walk abroad
boldly, and fear no arrest. But
God tells them as fast as they bind he will loose: ‘Your covenant with death
shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand.’
And how should it, if God will not set his seal to it?
There is a divine law for this evil day, which came in force upon
Adam’s first sin, that laid the fatal knife to the throat of mankind, which
hath opened a sluice to let out his heart-blood ever since.
God, to prevent all escape, hath sown the seeds of death in our very
constitution and nature, so that we can as soon run from ourselves, as run
from death. We need no feller to
come with a hand of violence, and hew us down.
There is in the tree a worm which grows out of its own substance that
will destroy it; so in us, those infirmities of nature that will bring us down
to the dust. Our death was bred
when our life was first conceived. And
as a woman cannot hinder the hour of her travail—that follows in nature upon
the other—so neither can man hinder the bringing forth of death with which
his life is big. All the pains and aches man feels in his life are but so many
singultus morientis naturœ—groans of a dying nature; they tell him
his dissolution is at hand. Beest
thou a prince sitting in all thy state and pomp, death dare enter thy palace,
and come through all thy guards, to deliver the fatal message it hath from God
to thee, yea, runs its dagger to thy heart.
Wert thou compassed with a college of doctors consulting thy health,
art and nature both must deliver thee up when that comes.
Even when thy strength is firmest, and thou eatest thy bread with a
merry heart, that very food which nourisheth thy life gives thee withal an
earnest of death, as it leaves those dregs in thee which will in time procure
the same. O how unavoidable this
day of death be, when that very staff knocks us down to the grave at last,
which our life leans on and is preserved by!
God owes a debt to the first Adam and to the second.
To the first he owes the wages of sin, to the second the reward of his
sufferings. The place for full
payment of both is the other world, so that except death come to convey the
man thither, the wicked, who are the posterity of the first Adam, will miss of
that full pay for their sins, which the threatening makes due debt, and
engageth God to perform. The godly also, who are the seed of Christ, these
should not receive the whole purchase of his blood, which he would never have
shed but upon the credit of that promise of eternal life which God gave him
for them before the world began. This
is the reason why God hath made this day so sure.
In it he dischargeth both bonds.
Branch. It behoves every
one to prepare, and effectually to provide for this evil day, which so
unavoidably impends us: and this upon a twofold account.
1. In point of duty. 2. In
point of wisdom.
In point of duty.
It is upon our allegiance to the great God, that we provide and arm ourselves
against this day. Suppose a subject were trusted with one of his prince’s
castles, and that he should hear that a puissant enemy was coming to lay
siege to this castle, and yet he takes no care to lay in arms and provision
for his defence, and so it is lost. How
could such a one be cleared of treason? doth he not basely betray the place,
and with it his prince's honour into the enemy’s hand?
Our souls are this castle, which we are every one to keep for God.
We have certain intelligence that Satan hath a design upon them, and
the time when he intends to come with all his powers of darkness, to be that
evil day. Now as we would be
found true to our trust, we are obliged to stand upon our defence, and store
ourselves with what may enable us to make a vigorous resistance.
We are obliged to provide for that day, as a suitable return for, and
improvement of, the opportunities and means which God affords us for this
very end. We cannot without
shameful ingratitude to God, make waste of those helps god gives us in order
to this great work. Every one
would cry out upon him that should basely spend that money upon riot in
prison, which was sent him to procure his deliverance out of prison.
And do we not blush to bestow those talents upon our lusts and Satan,
which God graciously indulgeth to deliver us from them, and his [Satan’s]
rage in a dying hour? What have
we Bibles for, ministers and preaching for, if we mean not to furnish
ourselves by them with armour for the evil day?
In a word, what is the intent of God in lengthening out our days, and
continuing us some while here in the land of the living?
Was it that we might have time to revel, or rather ravel out upon the
pleasure of this vain world? Doth
he give us our precious time to be employed in catching such butterflies as
these earthly honours and riches are? It
cannot be. Masters, if wise, do
not use to set their servants about such work as will not pay for the candle
they burn in doing it. And truly
nothing less than the glorifying of God, and saving our souls at last, can be
worth the precious time we spend here. The great God hath a greater end than
most think in this dispensation. If
we would judge aright, we should take his own interpretation of his actions;
and the apostle Peter bids us ‘account that the longsuffering of our Lord
is salvation,’ II Peter 3:15,
which place he quotes out of Paul, Rom.
2:4, as to the sense, though
not in the same form of words—‘Or despisest thou the riches of his
goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of
God leadeth thee to repentance?’ From
both places we are taught what is the mind of God, and the language he speaks
to us in, by every moment's patience and inch of time that is granted to us.
It is a space given for repentance.
God sees [that] as we are, death and judgment could bring no good news
to us. We are in no case to
welcome the evil day, and therefore mercy stands up to plead for the poor
creature in God’s bosom, and begs a little time more may be added to its
life, that by this indulgence it may be provoked to repent before he be called
to the bar. Thus we come by every
day, that is continually superadded to our time on earth.
And doth not this lay a strong obligation on us to lay out every
point of this time, unto the same end it is begged for?
In point of wisdom. The
wisdom of a man appears most eminently in two things.
1. In the matter of his choice and chief care.
2. In a due timing of this his choice and chief care.
A wise man makes choice of that for the subject of his chief care and
endeavour, which is of greatest importance and consequence to him.
Fools and children only are intent about toys and trifles. They are as
busy and earnest in making of a house of dirt or cards, as Solomon was in
making of his temple. Those poor
baubles are as adequate to their foolish apprehensions, as great enterprises
are to wise men. Now such is the
importance of the evil day, especially that of death, that it proves a man a
fool, or wise, as he comports himself to it.
The end specifies every action, and gives it the name of good or evil,
of wise or foolish. The evil day
of death is, as the end of our days, so to be the end of all the actions of
our life. Such will our life be found at last, as it hath been in order to
this one day. If the several
items of our life—counsels and projects that we have pursued —when they
shall be then cast up, will amount to a blessed death, then we shall appear to
be wise men indeed; but, if after all our goodly plots and policies for other
things we be unprovided for that hour, we must be content to die fools at
last, and [there is] no such fool as a dying fool.
The Christian goes for the fool, in the world's account, while he
lives; but when death comes, the wise world will then confess they miscalled
him, and shall take it to themselves: ‘We fools counted his life to be
madness, and his end to be without honour.
But how is he now numbered among the children of God, and his lot is
among the saints? therefore, we have erred from the way of truth,’ Wis.
The place is apocryphal, but sinners will find the matter of it
canonical. It is true, indeed,
saints are outwitted by the world in the things of the world, and no marvel;
neither doth it impeach their wisdom, any more than it doth a scholar’s to
be excelled by the cobbler in his mean trade.
Nature, when it intends higher excellences, is more careless in those
things that are inferior, as we see in man, who, being made to excel the
beasts in a rational soul, is himself excelled by some beast or other in all
his senses. Thus the Christian
may well be surpassed in matters of worldly commerce, because he hath a nobler
object in his eye, that makes him converse with the things of the world in a
kind of non-attendance. He is not much careful in these matters; if he can die
well at last, and be justified for a wise man at the day of resurrection, all
is well, Jude 15.
He thinks it is not manners to be unwilling to stay so long for the
clearing of his wisdom, as God can wait for the vindicating of his own
glorious nature, which will not appear in its glory till that day, when he
will convince the ungodly of their hard thoughts and speeches of him. Then
they shall, till then they will not, be convinced.
A wise man labours duly to time and his care and endeavour, for the
attaining of what he proposeth. It
is the fool that comes when the market is done.
As the evil day is of great concernment in respect of its event, so the
placing of our care for it in the right season is of chief importance, and
that sure must be before it comes. There
are more doors than one at which the messenger may enter that brings evil
tidings to us, and at which he will knock we know not. We know not where we
shall be arrested, whether at bed, or board, whether at home or in the field,
whether among our friends that will counsel and comfort us, or among our
enemies that will add weight to our sorrow by their cruelty.
We know not when, whether by day or night, many of us [know] not
whether in the morning, noon, or evening of our age. As he calls to work at
all times of the day, so he doth to bed, may be while thou art praying or
preaching, and it would be sad to go away profaning them, and the name of God
in them; possibly when thou art about worse work.
Death may strike thy quaffing-cup out of thy hand, while thou art
sitting in the ale-house with thy jovial mates, or meet thee as thou art
reeling home, and make some ditch thy grave, that as thou livedst like a
beast, so thou shouldst die like a beast. In a word, we know not the kind of
evil God will use as the instrument to stab us; whether some bloody hand of
violence shall do it, or a disease out of our bowels and bodies; whether some
acute disease, or some lingering sickness; whether such a sickness as shall
slay the man while the body is alive—I mean, take the head and deprive us of
our reason—or not; whether such noisome troubles as shall make our friends
afraid to let us breathe on them, or themselves look on us; whether they shall
be afflictions aggravated with Satan’s temptations, and the terrors of our
own affrighted consciences, or not. Who
knows where, when, or what the evil day shall be?
Therefore doth God conceal these, that we should provide for all.
Cæsar would never let his soldiers know when or whither he meant to
march. The knowing of these would
torment us with distracting fear, the not knowing them should awaken us to a
providing care. It is an ill time to caulk the ship when at sea, tumbling up
and down in a storm; this should have been looked to when on her seat in the
harbour. And as bad as it is, to
begin to trim a soul for heaven when tossing upon a sick bed.
Things that are done in a hurry are seldom done well.
A man called out of his bed at midnight with a dismal fire on his
house-top, cannot stand to dress himself in order, as at another time, but
runs down with one stocking half on, may be, and the other not on at all.
Those poor creatures, I am afraid, go in as ill a dress into another
world, who begin to provide for it when, on a dying bed, conscience calls them
up with a cry of hell-fire in their bosoms.
But alas! they must go, though they have no time to put their armour
on. And so they are put to repent
at leisure in hell, of their shuffling up a repentance in haste here.
We come to the application of the point.
[Use or Application.]
First. It reproves those
that are so far from providing for the evil day, that they will not suffer
any thoughts of that day to stay with them.
They are as unwilling to be led into a discourse of this subject, as a
child to carried into the dark, and there left.
It is a death to them to think of death, or that which leads to it.
As some foolishly think [that] they must needs die presently when they
have made their will, so these think they hasten that sorrowful day by musing
on it. The meditation of it is no more welcome to them, than the company of
Moses was to Pharaoh. Therefore
they say to it as he to Moses, ‘Get thee from me, and let me see thy face no
more.’ The fear of it makes
them to butcher and make away all those thoughts which conscience stirs up
concerning it. And at last they get such a mastery of their consciences, that
they arrive at a kind of atheism. It
is as rare to have them think or speak of such matters, as to see a fly busy
in winter. Nothing now but what
is frolic and jocund is entertained by them.
If any such thoughts come as prophesy mirth and carnal content, these,
as right with their hearts, are taken up into the chariot to sit with them,
but all other are commanded to go behind.
Alas, poor-spirited wretches! something might be said for you, if this
evil day of death and judgement were such entia rationis—fictions of
the imagination, as had no foundation or being but what our fancies give them.
Such troubles there are in the world, which have all their evil from
our thoughts. When we are disquieted with the scorns and reproaches of men,
did we but not think of them, they were nothing.
But thy banishing the thoughts of this evil day from thy mind, will be
a poor short relief. Thou canst neither hinder its coming, nor take away its
sting when it comes, by thy slighting it.
Thou art like a passenger in a ship, asleep or awake thou art going thy
voyage. Thou dost but like that
silly bird, that puts her head into a reed, and then thinks see is safe from
the fowler, because she sees him not. Thou
art a fair mark for God's vengeance; he sees thee, and is taking his aim at
thee, when thou seest not him. Yea, thou puttest thyself under an inevitable
necessity of perishing, by not thinking of this day.
The first step to our safety, is consideration of our danger.
Second. It reproves those
who, if they think of the evil day, yet [do] so [only as so] far off, that it
is to little purpose. They
will be sure to set it at such a distance from them, as shall take away the
force of the meditation, that it shall not strike them down in the deep sense
and fear of it. That cannon
which, if we stood at the mouth of it, would shatter limb from limb, will not
so much as scare them that get out of its reach.
The further we put the evil day, the weaker impression it makes on us.
It is true, say sinners, it cannot be helped.
We owe a debt to nature; it must be paid.
Sickness will come, and death follow on that, and judgment brings up
the rear of both. But, alas! they
look not for these guests yet, they prophesy of these things a great while
hence to come. Many a fair day
they hope will intervene. Thus
men are very kind to themselves. First,
they wish it may be long before it comes, and then, because they would have it
so, they are bold to promise themselves it shall be so; and when once they
have made this promise, no wonder if they then live after the rate of their
vain hopes, putting off the stating of their accounts, till the winter evening
of old age, when they shall not have such allurements to gad abroad from the
pleasures of this life. O then
they will do great matters to fit them for the evil day.
Bold man! who gave thee leave to cut out such large thongs of that time
which is not thine but God's? Who
makes the lease, the tenant or the landlord? or dost thou forget thou farmest
thy life, and art not an owner? This
is the device of Satan, to make you delay; whereas a present expectation of
the evil day would not let you sit still unprepared.
O why do you let your souls from their work, make them idle and rest
from their burdens, by telling them of long life, while death chops in upon
you unawares? O what shame will
your whorish hearts be put to—that now say, your husband is gone afar off,
you may fill yourselves with loves—if he should come before he is looked
for, and find you in bed with lusts? And
let me tell you, sudden destruction is threatened, especially to secure
ones. Read that scripture where
it is denounced against that sort of sinners, who please themselves with their
Lord’s delaying his coming, [declaring] that ‘the lord of that servant
shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour he is not
aware of,’ Matt. 24:48,50,51.
Indeed God must go out of his ordinary road of dealing with sinners, if
such escape a sudden ruin. One is
bold to challenge any to show a precedent in Scripture of any that are branded
for security, that some remarkable, yea, sudden judgement did not surprise.
[In the case of those in] Sodom, how soon after a sunshine morning the
heavens thicken, and bury them in a few hours, by a storm of fire, in their
own ashes? Careless Laish is cut
off before they almost think of it. Agag,
when he saw the clouds of his fears break, and fair weather was in his
countenance, they return immediately upon him, and shut him up in death, he is
presently hewn in pieces. Amalek
[is] slaughtered by David, before the triumph of their late victory was cold.
Nebuchadnezzar is strutting himself in his palace with this bravado in his
mouth, ‘Is not this great Babylon that I have built?’ Dan.
4:30; and before he can get
the words out of his throat, there is another voice falling from heaven,
saying, ‘O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken, the kingdom is
departed from thee.’ And, ‘the same hour was the thing fulfilled,’ ver.
32,33, and he sent to graze
with the beasts. Dives blesses
himself for many years, and within a few hours the pillow is plucked from
under his head, and you hear no more of him till out of hell he roar; yea, a
whole world, few persons excepted, [is] drowned, and they ‘knew not till the
day the flood came and swept them all away,’ Matt.
And who art thou, O man, that promisest thyself an exemption, when
kings, cities, a whole world, have been ruined after this sort?
Third. This reproves those
who—much against their will, and by reason of an awakened conscience,
that is ever pinching of them, and preaching on Paul’s text before Felix
to them, till it makes them tremble as he did—think indeed often of this
evil day; yet such is the power of lust in their hearts, that it makes
them spur on, notwithstanding all the rebukes conscience gives them, and
affrighting thoughts they have of the evil day, yet they continue in
their old trade of sin desperately. These
wretches are the objects of our saddest pity.
The secure sinner, that has broke prison from his conscience, is like a
strong-brained drunkard, he swallows down his sin, as the other doth his
drink, with pleasure, and is not stirred at all.
But here is a man that is stomach-sick, as I may say, his conscience is
oft disgorging his sweet draughts, and yet he will sin, though with pain and
anguish. O consider, poor
wretches, what you do! Instead of arming yourselves against the evil day, you
arm the evil day against yourselves; you are sticking the bed with pins and
needles, on which you must ere long be laid; you are throwing billets into
that fiery furnace, wherein at last you shall be cast; and all this in spite
of your consciences, which yet God mercifully sets in your way, that the
prickings of them may be a hedge of thorns, to keep thee from the pursuit of
thy lusts. Know therefore, if
thou wilt go on, that as thy conscience takes from the pleasure of thy sin at
present, so it will add to the horror of thy torment hereafter.
Fourth. It reproves those
who, though they are not so violent and outrageous in sin, [as] to make
them stink above ground in the nostrils above others, yet rest in an
unarmed condition. They do
not fly to Christ for covering and shelter against the day of storm and
tempest, and the reason is, they have a lie in their right hand, they feed on
ashes, and a deceived heart carries them aside from seeking after Christ.
It would make one tremble to see how confident many are with their
false hopes and self-confidences. Daring to come up—as Korah with his
censer, as undauntedly as Moses himself—even to the mouth of the grave,
till on a sudden they are swallowed up with destruction, and sent to be
undeceived in hell, who would not be beaten from their refuges of lies here.
Whoever thou art, O man, and whatever thou hast to glory in, were it the most
saint-like conversation that ever any lived on earth, yet if this be thy
shelter against the evil day, thou will perish.
No salvation when the flood comes, but Christ; yea, being in Christ,
hanging on the outside of the ark by a specious profession, will not save.
Methinks I see how those of the old world ran for their lives, some to
this hill, and others to that high tree, and how the waves pursued them, till
at last they were swept into the devouring flood.
Such will your end be, that turn any other way for help than to Christ;
yet the ark waits on you, yea, comes up close to your gate to take you in.
Noah did not put forth his hand more willingly to take in the dove, than
Christ doth to receive those who fly to him for refuge.
O reject not your own mercies for lying vanity.
Fifth. Let it put thee upon
the inquiry, whoever thou art, whether thou beest in a posture of
defence for this evil day. Ask
thy soul soberly and solemnly, ‘Art thou provided for this day, this evil
day?’ how couldst thou part with what that will take away, and welcome what
it will certainly bring? Death comes with a voider to carry away all thy
carnal enjoyments, and to bring thee up a reckoning for them.
O canst thou take thy leave of the one, and with peace and confidence
read the other? Will it not
affright thee to have thy health and strength turned into faintness and
feebleness, thy sweet nights of rest into waking eyes and restless tossings
up and down, thy voice that has so often chanted to the viol, to be now acquainted
with no other tune but sighs and groans?
O how canst thou look upon thy sweet and dear relations with thoughts
of removing from them? yea, behold the instrument, as it were, whetting,
that shall give the fatal stroke to
sever soul and body? Think that
thou wert now half dead in thy members that are most remote from the fountain
of life, and death to have but a few moments' journey before it arrive to thy
heart, and so beat thy last breath out of thy body. Possibly the inevitable
necessity of these do make thee to harden thyself against them.
This might indeed, in some heathen, that is not resolved whether there
be another world or no, help a little to blunt the edge of that terror, which
otherwise would cut deeper in his amazed heart; but if thou believest another
world, and that judgment which stands at death’s back, ready to allot thee
thy unchangeable state in bliss or misery, surely thou canst not relieve thy
awakened conscience with such a poor cordial.
O therefore think what answer thou meanest to give unto the great God
at thy appearing before him, when he shall ask thee, ‘What thou canst say,
why the sentence of eternal damnation should not then be pronounced against
thee?’ Truly we deal
unfaithfully with our own souls, if we bring not our thoughts to this issue.
If now you should ask how you should provide against the evil day, so that you
may stand before that dreadful bar, and live so in the meantime that you
might not be under a slavish bondage through the fearful expectation of it,
take it in a few directions.
If ever you would have a blessed issue of this evil day, so as to stand in
judgement before the great God, rest not till thou hast got into a
covenant-relation with Christ. Dying
David’s living comfort was drawn from the covenant God had made with
him—this was all his desire, and all his salvation. How canst thou put thy
head into the other world without horror, if thou hast not solid ground that
Christ will own thee for his? Heaven
hath its heirs, and so hath hell. The
heirs of heaven are such as are in covenant with God.
The foundation of it was laid in a covenant, and all the mansions there
are prepared for a people in covenant with him: ‘Gather my saints together
that have made a covenant with me.’ But how mayest thou get into this
covenant-relation? First break thy covenant with sin.
Thou art by nature a covenant-servant to sin and Satan.
May be thou hast not expressly in words, and formally, as witches,
sealed this covenant, yet virtually, as thou hast done the work of Satan, and
been at the command of thy lusts, accepting the reward of
unrighteousness—the pleasure and carnal advantages they have paid thee in
for the same—therein thou hast declared thyself to be so.
Now if ever thou wilt be taken into covenant with God, break this.
A covenant with hell and heaven cannot stand together.
Betroth thyself to Christ. The
covenant of grace is the jointure which God settles only upon Christ’s
spouse. Rebekah had not the
jewels and costly raiment till she was promised to become Isaac’s wife, Gen
‘All the promises of God are yea’ and ‘amen’ in Christ.
If once thou receivest Christ, with him thou receivest them.
He that owns the tree hath right to all the fruit that is on it.
Now, that thou mayest not huddle up a marriage between Christ and thee,
so as to be disowned of Christ, and it prove a nullity at last, it behoves
thee to look to it, that there be found in thee what Christ expects in every
soul that he espouseth. First,
therefore, consider whether thou canst heartily love the person of Christ.
Look wishly on him again and again, as he is set forth in all his
spiritual excellences. Are they
such as thy heart can close with? Doth
his holy nature, and all those heavenly graces with which he is beautified,
render him desirable to thee? or couldst thou like him better if he were not
so precise and exactly holy? Yea,
is thy heart so inflamed with a desire of him, that thou canst love him with a
conjugal love? A woman may love
one as a friend, whom she cannot love so as to make him her husband.
A friendly love may stand with a love of some other equal to it, yea,
superior, but a conjugal love is such as will bear neither.
Canst thou find in thy heart to forsake all other, and cleave to
Christ? Does thy heart speak thee
ready, and present thee willing, to go with thy sweet Jesus, though he carry
thee from father, and father’s house? Is thy confidence such, of his power
to protect thee from all thy enemies—sin, wrath, and hell—that thou canst
resolvedly put the life of thy soul into his hands, to be saved by the sole
virtue of his blood, and [by the] strength of his omnipotent arm; and of his
care to provide for thee for this life and the other, that thou canst
acquiesce in what he promiseth to do for thee?
In a word, if thou hast Christ, thou must not only love him, but for
his sake all thy new kindred, which by thy marriage to him thou shalt be
allied unto. How canst thou fadge
to call the saints thy brethren? canst thou love them heartily, and forget all
the old grudges thou hast had against them?
Some of them thou wilt find poor and persecuted, yet Christ is not
ashamed to call them brethren, neither must thou.
If thou findest thy heart now in such a disposition as suits these
interrogatories, I dare not but pronounce Christ and thee husband and wife.
Go, poor soul—if I may call so glorious a bride poor—go and comfort
thyself with the expectation of the Bridegroom’s coming for thee; and when
the evil day approaches, and death itself draws nigh, look not now with terror
upon it, but rather revive, with old Jacob, to see the chariot which shall
carry thee over unto the embraces of thy Husband, whom thou hearest to be in
so great honour and majesty in heaven, as may assure thee he is able to make
thee welcome when thou comest there. Amongst
the ‘all things’ which are ours by being Christ’s, the apostle forgets
not to name this to be one, ‘Death is ours.’
And well he did so, or else we should never have looked upon it as a
gift, but rather as a judgment. Now
soul, thou art out of any danger of hurt that the evil day can do thee.
Yet there remains something for thee to do, that thou mayest walk in
the comfortable expectation of the evil day. We see that gracious persons may
for want of a holy care, fall into such distempers as may put a sting into
their thoughts of the evil day. David,
that at one time would not fear to ‘walk in the valley of the shadow of
death,’ is so affrighted at another time when he is led towards it, that he
cries, ‘Spare me,’ O Lord, ‘that I may recover my strength, before I go
hence,’ Ps. 39:13.
The child, though he loves his father, may do that which may make him
afraid to go home. Now, Christian,
if thou wouldst live in a comfortable expectation of the evil day,
Labour to die to this life, and the enjoyments of it, every day more and
more. Death is not so strong to
him whose natural strength has been wasted by long pining sickness, as it is
to him that lies but a few days, and has strength of nature to make great
resistance. Truly thus it is
here. That Christian whose love
to this life and the contents of it, hath been for many years consuming and
dying, will with more facility part with them than he whose love is stronger
to them. All Christians are not
mortified in the same degree to the world.
Paul tells us he died daily. He
was ever sending more and more of his heart out of the world, so that by that
time he came to die, all his affections were packed up and gone, which made
him the more ready to follow:
‘I am ready to be offered up,’ II
If it be but a tooth to pull out, the faster it stands the more pain we
have to draw it. O loosen the
roots of thy affections from the world, and the tree will fall more easily.
Be careful to approve thyself with diligence and faithfulness to God in thy
place and calling. The clearer
thou standest in thy own thoughts concerning the uprightness of thy heart in
the tenure of thy Christian course, the more composure thou wilt have when the
evil day comes. ‘I beseech
thee, O Lord,’ saith good Hezekiah, at the point of death as he thought,
‘remember now, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect
heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight,’ II
This cannot be our confidence, but it will be a better companion
than a scolding conscience. If
the blood be bad, the spirits will be tainted also.
The more our life has been corrupted with hypocrisy and unfaithfulness,
the weaker our faith will be in a dying hour. There
is a great difference between two children that come home at night, one from
the field, where he hath been diligent and faithful about his father’s work,
and another that hath played the truant a great part of the day; the former
comes in confidently to stand before his father, the other sneaks to bed and
is afraid his father should see him, or ask him where he hath been.
O sirs, look to your walking. These
have been as trying times as ever came to England.
It has required more care and courage to keep sincerity than formerly.
And that is the reason why it is so rare to find
Christians—especially those whose place and calling have been more in the
wind of temptation—go off the stage with a plaudite—praise ye—of
inward peace in their bosoms.
Familiarize the thoughts of the evil day to thy soul.
Handle this serpent often. Walk
daily in the serious meditations of it. Do
not run from them because they are unpleasing to the flesh; that is the way to
increase the terror of it. Do
with your souls, when shy of and scared with the thoughts of affliction or
death, as you used to do with your beast, that is given to bogle
and start as you ride on him. When
he flies back and starts at a thing, you do not yield to his fear and go back,
that will make him worse another time, but you ride him up close to that which
he is afraid of, and in time you break him off that quality.
The evil day is not such a scareful thing to thee that art a Christian,
as that thou shouldst start for it. Bring
up thy heart close to it. Show
thy soul what Christ hath done to take the sting out of it, what the sweet
promises are that are given on purpose to overcome the fear of it, and what
thy hopes are thou shalt get by it. These
will satisfy and compose thy spirit; whereas the shunning the thoughts of it
will but increase thy fear, and bring thee more into bondage to it.
Argument.—This hath respect to the happy issue of the War.
‘And having done all, to stand,’
come now to the second argument the apostle useth further to press the
exhortation; and that is taken from the glorious victory which hovers over the
heads of believers while in the fight, and shall surely crown them in the end.
This is held forth in these words, and having done all, to stand.
The phrase is short but full.
Observe, that heaven is not won with good words and a fair profession; having
done all. The doing Christian
is the man that shall stand, when the empty boaster of his faith shall fall.
The great talkers of religion are oft the least doers.
His religion is in vain whose profession brings not letter testimonial
of a holy life. Sacrifice without obedience is sacrilege.
Such rob God of that which he makes most account of.
A great captain once smote one of his soldiers for railing at his
enemy, saying, that he called him not to rail on him, but to fight against him
and kill him. It is not crying
out upon the devil, and declaiming against sin in prayer or discourse, but
fighting and mortifying it, that God looks chiefly upon.
Such a one else doth but beat the air.
There are no marks to be seen on his flesh and unmortified lusts that
he hath fought. Paul was in
earnest. He left a witness upon
his body, made black and blue with strokes of mortification.
It was not a little vapouring in sight of the Philistines that got
David his wife, but shedding their blood; and is it so small a matter to be
son of the King of heaven, that thou thinkest to obtain it without giving a
real proof of thy zeal for God and hatred to sin?
‘Not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work; this man,’ saith
the apostle, ‘shall be blessed in his deed,’ James
1:25. Mark! not by his
deed, but in his deed. He
shall meet blessedness in that way of obedience he walks in. The empty
professor disappoints others, who seeing his leaves expect fruit, but find
none, and at last he disappoints himself.
He thinks to reach heaven, but shall miss of it.
Tertullian speaks of some that think satìs Deum habere si corde et
animo suspiciatur, licèt actu minus fiat—‘God hath enough,’ they
think, ‘if he be feared and reverenced in their hearts, though in their
actions they show it not so much;’ and therefore they can sin, and believe
in God, and fear him never the worse. This,
saith he, is to play the adulteress, and yet be chaste; to prepare poison for
one’s father, and yet be dutiful. But
let such know, saith the same father, that if they sin and believe, God will
pardon them with a contradiction also; he will forgive them, but they shall be
turned into hell for all that. As
ever you would stand at last, look you be found doing the work your Lord hath
left you to make up, and trust not to lying words, as the prophet speaks, Jer.
Observe, that such is the mercy of God in Christ to his children, that
he accepts their weak endeavours, joined with sincerity and perseverance in
his service, as if they were full obedience; and therefore they are here said
to have done all. O who
would not serve such a Lord! You
hear servants sometimes complain of their masters as being so rigid and strict
that they can never please them, no, not when they do their utmost; but this
cannot be charged upon God. Be
but so faithful as to do thy best, and God is so gracious that he will pardon
thy worst. David knew this gospel-indulgence when he said, ‘Then shall I not
be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments,’ Ps.
119:6—when my eye is to all
thy commandments. The traveller
hath his eye on or towards the place he is going.
Though he be yet short of it, there he would be, and is putting on all
he can to reach it. So stands the
saint's heart to all the commands of God; he presseth on to come nearer and
nearer to full obedience. Such a
soul shall never be put to shame. But
woe to those that cover their sloth with the name of infirmity, yea, that
spend their zeal and strength in the pursuit of the world or their lusts, and
then think to make all up when charged therewith, that it is in their
infirmity, and they can serve God no better.
These do by God as those two did by their prince, Francis I. of France,
who cut off their right hand one for another, and then made it an excuse they
were lame, and so could not serve in his galleys, for which they were sent to
the gallows. Thus many will be
found at last to have disabled themselves, by refusing that help the Spirit
hath offered to them, yea, wasted what they had given them, and so shall be
rewarded for hypocrites as they are. God
knows how to distinguish between the sincerity of a saint in the midst of his
infirmities, and the shifts of a false heart.
But we will waive these, and briefly speak to four
points which lie clear in the words.
Here is the necessity of perseverance —having done all.
Here is the necessity of divine armour, to persevere till we have done all.
Wherefore, else, bids he them take this armour for this end, if they
could do it without?
Here is the certainty of persevering and overcoming at last, if clad with this
armour: else it were small encouragement to bid them take that armour which
would not surely defend them.
Here is the blessed result of the saints’ perseverance, propounded as that
which will abundantly recompense all their pain and patience in the
war—‘having done all, to stand.’
these we have four distinct doctrines. First.
He that will be Christ’s soldier, must persevere.
Second. There can be no
perseverance without true grace in the heart.
Third. Where true grace
is, that soul shall persevere. Fourth.
To stand at the end of this war, will abundantly recompense all our
hazard and hardship endured in the war.
FIRST POINT OF DOCTRINE.
[The necessity of perseverance.]
the words we have necessity of perseverance —having done all.
Doctrine. He that will
Christ’s soldier, must persevere to the end of his life in this war against
Satan. This, having done
all, comes in after our conflict with death.
That ye may be able to withstand in the evil day; then follows, having
done all. We have not done
all till that pitched battle be fought. ‘The
last enemy is death.’ The word
imports as much as to finish a business, and bring a matter to a full issue,
so Php. 2:12, where we translate it well, ‘work out your salvation,’ that
is, perfect it. Be not Christians
by halves, but go through with it; the thorough Christian is the true
Christian. Not he that takes the
field, but he that keeps the field; not he that sets out, but he that holds
out in this holy war, deserves the name of a saint.
There is not such a thing in this sense belonging to Christianity as an
honourable retreat; not such a word of command in all Christ’s military
discipline, as fall back and lay down your arms; no, you must fall on, and
stand to your arms till called off by death.
The necessity of perseverance, because we are all under a covenant and oath
to do this. Formerly soldiers used to take an oath not to flinch from
their colours, but faithful to cleave up to their leaders; this they called sacramentum
militare—a military oath. Such an oath lies upon every Christian.
It is so essential to the being of a saint, that they are described
by this: ‘Gather my saints together, those
that have made a covenant with me,’ Ps.
We are not Christians till we have subscribed this covenant, and that
without any reservation. When we
take upon us the profession of Christ’s name, we list ourselves in his
muster-roll, and by it do promise that we will live and die with him in
opposition to all his enemies. ‘Every
nation will walk in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of our
God;’ and what is it to walk in the name of our God, but to fight under the
banner of his gospel, wherein his name is displayed, by giving an eternal
defiance to sin and Satan? If a
captain had not such a tie on his shoulders, he might have them to seek when
the day of battle comes. Therefore
Christ tells us upon what terms he will enrol us among his disciples.
‘If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up
his cross, and follow me.’ He
will not entertain us, till we resign up ourselves freely to his disposal,
that there may be no disputing with his commands afterwards, but as one under
his authority, go and come at his word.
Perseverance is necessary, because our enemy perseveres to oppose us.
There is no truce in the devil's heart, no cessation of arms in our
enemy’s camp. If an enemy
continue to assault a city, and they within cease to resist, it is easy to
tell what will follow. The
prophet that was sent to Bethel did his errand well, withstood Jeroboam's
temptation, but in his way home was drawn aside by the old prophet, and at
last slain by a lion. Thus many
fly from one temptation, but not persevering, are vanquished by another; those
that at one time escape his sword, at another time are slain by it.
Joash was hopeful, when young, but it lasted not long.
Yea, many precious servants of God, not making such vigorous resistance
in their last days as in their first, have fallen foully, as we see in
Solomon, Asa, and others. Indeed,
it is hard when a line is drawn to a great length, to keep it so straight that
it slacken not, and to hold a thing long in our hand, and not to have a
numbness grow in our fingers so as to remit of our strength; therefore we are
bid so often to hold fast the profession of our faith.
But when we see an enemy gaping to catch us when we fall, methinks this
should quicken us the more to it.
Perseverance is necessary, because the promise of life and glory is settled
upon the persevering soul. The
crown stands at the goal, he hath it that comes to the end of the race.
‘To him that overcometh will I give,’ not in prœlio, but
in bello—not in a particular skirmish, but in the whole war.
‘Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God,
ye might receive the promise,’ Heb.
There is a remarkable accent on that henceforth, which Paul mentions, II
Tim. 4:7, 8 ‘I have fought a
good fight, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.’
Why, was it not laid up before? yes, but having persevered and come
near the goal, being within sight of home, ready to die, he takes now surer
hold of the promise. Indeed, in
this sense it is, that a gracious soul is nearer its salvation after every
victory than it was before, because he approacheth nearer to the end of his
race, which is the time promised for the receiving of the promised salvation, Rom.
Then and not till then the garland drops upon his head.
[Use or Application.]
we may take up a sad lamentation, in respect of the many apostate professors
of our days. Never was this spiritual falling sickness more rife.
O how many are sick of it at present, and not a few fallen asleep by
it? These times of war and
confusion have not made so many broken merchants as broken professors.
Where is the congregation that cannot show some who have out-lived
their profession? [They are] not unlike the silk-worm, which, they say, after
all her spinning, works herself out of her bottom, and becomes at last a
common fly. Are there not many,
whose forwardness in religion we have stood gazing on with admiration, as the
disciples on the temple, ready to say one to another, as they to Christ, See
what manner of stones these are! what polished gifts and shining graces are
here! and now not one stone left upon another.
O did you ever think, that they who went in so goodly array towards
heaven in communion with you, would after that, face about, and running over
to the devil’s side, turn blasphemers, worldlings, and atheists, as some
have done? O what a sad change is
here! ‘It had been better for
them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known
it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them, II
Better never to have walked a step towards heaven, than to put such a
scorn and reproach upon the ways of God.
Such a one who hath known both what a service Satan’s is, and what
God's is, then to revolt from God to the devil, seems to have compared one
with the other, and as a result of his mature thoughts, to pronounce the
devil's which he chooseth, better than God’s which he leaveth.
And how is it possible that any can sin upon a higher guilt, and go to
hell under a greater load of wrath? These
are they which God loathes. He
that hates putting away, disdains much more to be himself thus put away.
‘If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him,’ Heb.
The apostate is said to tread upon ‘the Son of God,’ Heb.
10.29, as if he were no better
than the dirt under his feet. Well,
he shall have treading for treading, God himself will set his foot upon him,
‘Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes,’ Ps.
119:118; and who, think you,
will be weary soonest? He that is
under foot bears the weight of the whole man upon him.
To be under the foot of God, is to lie under the whole weight of
God’s wrath. O pity and pray
for such forlorn souls. They are
objects of the one, and subjects of the other; though they are fallen low, yet
[they are] not into hell. Now
and then we see a Eutychus raised, that hath fallen from such a height; and
you that stand, take heed lest you fall.
SECOND POINT OR DOCTRINE.
[The necessity of divine armour
that we may persevere.]
is the necessity of divine armour to persevere till we have done all.
Wherefore else bids he them to take this armour for this end, if they
could do it without?
There can be no perseverance without true grace in the heart.
A soul void of divine armour cannot persevere.
What this divine armour is, I have shown, and the apostle here doth, in
the several pieces of it. The
sanctifying graces of God’s Spirit are this armour.
One that hath not these wrought in him, will never hold out to pass all
the stages of this Christian race, to fight all the battles that are to be
fought before victory is to be had. Common gifts of the Spirit, such as
illumination, conviction, sudden pangs, and flushing heats of affection, may
carry out the creature for a while with a goodly appearance of zeal for God
and forwardness in profession, but the strength these afford is soon spent.
John's hearers, mentioned in John 5:35, got some light and heat by
sitting under his burning ministry, but how long did it last?
‘Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.’
They were very beautiful colours that were drawn on them, but [they
were] not laid in oil, and therefore [were] soon washed off again.
The foolish virgins made as great a blaze with their lamps, and did
expect as good a day when Christ should come, as the wise virgins; but, alas,
their lamps are out before he appeared, and as good never a whit, as never the
better. The stony ground [was]
more forward than the best soil. The
seed comes up immediately, as if a crop should soon have been reaped, but a
few nipping frosts turn its hue, and the day of harvest proves a day of
desperate sorrow. All these
instances, and many more in Scripture, do evince, that nothing short of solid
grace, and a principle of divine life in the soul, will persevere.
How forward soever formalists and flighty professors are to promise
themselves hopes of reaching heaven, they will find it too long a step for
their short-breathed souls to attain. The
reasons are the following:
First. Such want a
principle of divine life to draw strength from Christ to persevere them in
their course. That by which the
gracious soul itself perseveres, is the continual supply it receives from
Christ, as the arm and foot is kept alive in the body by those vital spirits
which they receive from the heart. ‘I
live,’ saith Paul, ‘yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,’ that is, I live
but at Christ’s cost. He holds,
as my soul, so [also] my grace in life. Now
the carnal person wanting this union, must needs waste and consume in time.
He hath no root to stand on. A
carcass, when once it begins to rot, never recovers; but every day grows
worse, till it runs all into putrefaction.
No salve or plaster will do it good.
But where there is a principle of life, there when a member is wounded,
nature sends supplies of spirits, and helps to work with the salve for a cure.
There is the same difference between a gracious person and an
ungracious. See them opposed in
this respect: the righteous man ‘falleth seven times’ a day, and ‘riseth,’
but the wicked ‘falleth into mischief,’ Prov.
24:16; that is, in falling, he
falls farther, and hath no power to recover himself.
When Cain sinned, see how he falls farther and farther like a stone
down a hill, and never stays till he comes to the bottom of despair;—from
envying his brother, to malice, from malice to murder, from murder to
impudent lying and brazen-faced boldness to God himself, and from that to
despair; so true is that, ‘Evil men shall wax worse and worse,’ II
But now when a saint falls, he riseth, because when he falls he hath a
principle of life to cry out to Christ, and such an interest in Christ as
stirs him up to help. ‘Lord,
save me,’ said Peter, when he began to sink, and presently Christ’s hand
is put forth; he chides him for his unbelief, but he helps him.
Second. An unregenerate
soul hath no assurance for the continuance of those common gifts of the Spirit
he hath at present; they come on the same terms that temporal enjoyments do to
such a one. A carnal person, when
he hath his table most sumptuously spread, cannot show any word of promise
under God’s hand that he shall be provided for the next meal.
God gives these things to the wicked, as we a crust or a night’s
lodging to a beggar in our barn. It
is our bounty, such a one could not sue us for denying the same.
So in the common gifts of the Spirit, God was not bound to give them,
nor is he to continue them. Thou
hast some knowledge of the things of God; thou mayest for all this die without
knowledge at last. Thou art a
sinner in chains—restraining grace keeps thee in, [but] this may be taken
off, and thou let loose to thy lusts as freely as ever. And how can he
persevere that in one day may from praying fall to cursing, from [having] a
whining complaining conscience, come to have a seared conscience?
Third. Every unregenerate
man, when most busy with profession, hath those engagements lying upon him,
that will necessarily, when put to it, take him off one time or other.
One is engaged to the world, and when he can come to a good market for
that, then he goes away. He
cannot have both, and now he will make it appear which he loved best. Demas
hath forsaken us, and embraced this present world.
Another is a slave to his lust, and when this calls him he must go, in
spite of profession, conscience, God and all.
Herod feared John, and did many things; but love is stronger than fear,
his love to Herodias overcomes his fear of John, and makes him cut off at once
the head of John, and the hopeful buddings which appeared in the tenderness of
his conscience, and begun reformation. One
root of bitterness or other will spring up in such a one.
If the complexion of the soul be profane, it will at last come to it,
however for a while there may some religious colour appear in the man's face,
from some other external cause.
shows us what is the root of all final apostasy, and that is a want of a
thorough change of the heart. The
apostate doth not lose the grace he had, but discovers he never had any; and
it is no wonder to hear that he proves bankrupt, that was worse than nought
when he first set up. Many take
up their saintship upon trust, and trade in the duties of religion with the
credit they have gained from others’ opinion of them.
They believe themselves to be Christians, because others hope them to
be such, and so their great business is by a zeal in those exercises of
religion that lie outmost, to keep up the credit which they have abroad, but
do not look to get a stock of solid grace within, which should maintain them
in their profession; and this proves their undoing at last. Let it therefore
make us in the fear of God, to consider upon what score we take up our
profession. Is there that within
which bears proportion to our outward zeal?
Have we laid a good bottom? Is
not the superstructure top-heavy, jetting too far beyond the weak foundation?
They say, trees shoot as much in the root underground as in the
branches above, and so doth true grace. O
remember what was the perishing of the seed in the stony ground.
It lacked root; and why so but because it was stony?
Be willing the plough should go deep enough to humble thee for sin, and
rend thy heart from sin. The soul
effectually brought out of the love of sin as sin, will never be thorough
friends with it again. In a word,
be serious to find out the great spring that sets all thy wheels on motion in
thy religious trade. Do as men
that would know how much they are worth, who set what they owe on one side,
and what stock they have on the other, and then when they have laid out enough
to discharge all debts and engagements, what remains to themselves they may
call their own. Thus do they
consider what thou standest engaged to, thy worldly credit, profit, slavish
fear of God, and selfish desire of happiness, and when thou hast allowed for
all these, see then what remains of thy fear of God, love to God, &c.
If nothing, thou art nought; if any, the less there be the weaker
Christian thou art; and when thou comest to be tried in God’s fire, thou
wilt suffer loss of all other, which, as ‘hay’ and ‘stubble’ will be
THIRD POINT OR DOCTRINE.
[The certainty of persevering if clad
with this armour.]
have here the certainty of persevering and overcoming at last, if clad with
this armour. Having done all,
to stand, else it were small encouragement to bid them take that armour
which would not surely defend them.
There can be no perseverance without true grace in the heart.
Every soul clad with this armour of God shall stand and persevere; or
thus, true grace can never be vanquished.
The Christian is a born conqueror, the gates of hell shall not prevail
against him. He that is ‘born
of God, overcometh the world,’ I John
Mark from whence the victory is dated, even from his birth.
There is victory sown in his new nature; even that seed of God, which
will keep him from being swallowed up by sin or Satan.
As Christ rose never to die more, so doth he raise souls from the grave
of sin, never to come under the power of spiritual death more.
These holy ones of God cannot ‘see corruption.’
Hence he that believes is said in the present tense to have eternal
life. As ‘the law that came
four hundred years after,’ could not make void the promise made to Abraham,
so nothing that intervenes can hinder the accomplishing of that promise of
eternal life, which was given and passed to Christ in their behalf before the
foundation of the world. If a
saint could in any way miscarry, and fall short of this eternal life, it must
be from one of these three causes: Because God may forsake the Christian, and
withdraw his grace and help from him; or because the believer may forsake God;
or lastly, because Satan may pluck him out of the hands of God.
Another cause I know not. Now
none of these can be,
Because God can never forsake the Christian.
Some unadvised speeches have dropped from tempted souls discovering
some fears of God’s casting them off, but they have been confuted, and have
eaten their words with shame, as we see in Job and David.
O what admirable security hath the great God given his children in this
In promises he hath said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake
thee,’ Heb. 13:5.
[There are] five negatives in that promise, as so many seals to ratify
it to our faith. He assures us
there never did or can so much as arise a repenting thought in his heart concerning
the purposes of his love and special grace towards his children—‘The gifts
and calling of God are without repentance,’ Rom.
Even the believers’ sins against him—their froward carriage
—stirs not up thoughts of casting them off, but of reducing them—‘For
the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was
wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.
I have seen his ways, and will heal them,’ Isa.
57:17,18. The water of the
saints’ failings cast on the fire of God’s love cannot quench it.
Whom he loves, he loves to the end.
God, to give further weight and credit to our unbelieving and misgiving
hearts, seals his promise with an oath.
See Isa. 54:8-10, ‘With everlasting kindness will I have mercy on
thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For
this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of
Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be
wroth with thee.’ Yea, he goes
on and tells them, ‘The mountains shall depart’—meaning at the end of
the world, when the whole frame of the heavens and earth shall be
dissolved—‘but his kindness shall not depart, neither shall the covenant
of my peace be removed.’ Now,
lest any should think this was some charter belonging to the Jews alone, we
find it, settled on every servant of God as his portion.
‘This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their
righteousness is of me, saith the Lord,’ Isa.
54:17. And surely God that is
so careful to make his children’s inheritance sure to them, will con them
little thanks, who busy their wits to invalid and weaken his conveyances, yea,
disprove his will. If they had
taken a bribe, they could not plead Satan’s cause better.
In the actual fulfilling of these promises —which he hath made to
believers—to Christ their attorney. As
God, before the world began, gave a promise of eternal life to Christ for
them, so now hath he given actual possession of that glorious place to Christ,
as their advocate and attorney, where that eternal life shall be enjoyed by
them. For as he came upon our
errand from heaven, so thither he returned again, to take and hold possession
of that inheritance which God had of old promised, and he in one sum at his
death had paid for. And now, what
ground of fear can there be in the believer's heart, concerning God's love
standing firm to him, when he sees the whole covenant performed already to
Christ for him, whom God hath not only called to, sanctified for, and upheld
in the great work he has to finish for us; but also justified in his
resurrection and jail-delivery, and received him into heaven, there to sit on
the right hand of the majesty on high, by which he hath not only possession
for us, but full power to give it unto all believers?
Because the believer can never forsake God on account of the provision made in
the covenant. An occasion of
fear to the believer that he shall not persevere, may be taken from himself.
He has many sad fears and tremblings of heart, that he shall at last
forsake God. The journey is long
to heaven, and his grace is weak. ‘O,’
saith he, ‘is it not possible that this little grace should fail, and I fall
short at last of glory?’ Now
here there is such provision made in the covenant, as scatters this cloud
The Spirit of God is given on purpose to prevent this.
Christ left his mother with John, but his saints with his Spirit, to
tutor and keep them, that they should not lose themselves in their journey to
heaven. O how sweet is that
place—‘I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes,
and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them,’ Eze.
He doth not say they shall have his Spirit if they will walk in his
statutes; no, his Spirit shall cause them to do it.
But may be thou art afraid thou mayest grieve him, and so he in anger
leave thee, and thou perish for want of his help and counsel.
Ans. The Spirit of God is indeed sensible of unkindness, and upon a
saint’s sin may withdraw in regard of present assistance, but never in
regard of his care; as a mother may let her froward child go alone till it get
a knock, that may make it cry to be taken up again into her arms, but still
her eye is on it that it shall not fall into mischief.
The Spirit withdrew from Samson and he fell into the Philistines’
hands, and this makes him cry to God, and the Spirit puts forth his strength
in him again. Thus here, indeed,
the office of the Spirit is to abide for ever with the saints.
‘He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for
ever,’ John 14:16.
It is one main business of Christ’s intercession to obtain of God
perseverance for our weak graces. ‘I
have prayed,’ saith Christ to Peter, ‘that thy faith fail not.’
But was not that a particular privilege granted to him, which may be
denied to another? Such fears and
jealousies foolish children are ready to take up, and therefore Christ
prevents them, by bidding Peter, in the very next words, ‘When thou art
converted, strengthen thy brethren,’ Luke
22:32, that is, when thou
feelest the efficacy and force of my prayer for thy faith, carry this good
news to them, that their hearts may be strengthened also.
And what strengthening had it been to them, if Christ prayed not for
them as well as Peter? Does
Christ pray for us? yea, doth he not live to pray for us?
O how can children of so many prayers, of such prayers, perish?
The saints’ prayers have a mighty power.
Jacob wrestled and had power with God.
This was his sword and bow—to allude to what he said of the parcel of
ground he took from the Amorite—by which he got the victory and had power
with God. This was the key with
which Elijah opened and shut heaven. And
if the weak prayers of saints, coming in his name, have such credit in heaven,
that with them they can go in God's treasure, and carry away as much as their
arms of faith can hold; O then, what prevalency has Christ's intercession, who
is a Son, an obedient Son, that is come from finishing his great work on
earth, and now prays his Father for nothing but what he hath bid him ask; yea,
for nothing but what he is beforehand with him for, and all this to a Father
that loves those he prays for as well as himself?
Bid Satan avaunt! Say not
thy weak faith shall perish, till thou hearest that Christ hath left praying,
or meetest with a repulse.
Because Satan cannot pluck the believer out of the hands of God.
Let us see whether Satan be able to pluck the Christian away, and step
betwixt him and home. I have had
occasion to speak of this subject in another place; so the less here shall
serve. Abundant provision is made
against his assaults. The saint
is wrapped up in the everlasting arms of almighty power, and what can a
cursed devil do against God, who laid those chains on him which he cannot
shake off. When is he able to
pluck that dart of divine fury out of his own conscience which God hath
fastened there, then let him think of such an enterprise as this.
How can he overcome thee, that cannot tempt thee but in God's appointed
time? And if God set Satan his
time to assault the Christian whom he loves so dearly, surely it will be when
he shall be repulsed with the greatest shame.
[Use or Application.]
First. Away then with that
doctrine that saith, One may be a saint to-day and none to-morrow; now a
Peter, anon a Judas. O what unsavoury
stuff is this! A principle it is
that at once crosseth the main design of God in the gospel-covenant,
reflects sadly on the honour of Christ, and wounds the saint’s comfort to
It is derogatory to God's design in the gospel-covenant, which we find
plainly to be this, that his children might be put into a state sure and safe
from miscarrying at last, which by the first covenant man was not.
See Rom. 4:16, ‘Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace;
to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.’
God on purpose, because of the weakness of the first covenant, through
the mutable nature of man, makes a new covenant of a far different
constitution and frame, not of works, as that was but of faith; and why? the
apostle tells us that it, ‘might be sure to all the seed,’ that not one
soul, who by faith should be adopted into Abraham’s family, and so become a
child of the promise, should fail of inheriting the blessing of the promise,
which is eternal life; called so, Titus
1:2, and all this because the
promise is founded upon grace, that is, God’s immutable good pleasure in
Christ, and not upon the variable and inconsistent obedience of man, as the
first covenant was. But if a
saint may finally fall, then is the promise no more sure in this covenant than
it was in that, and so God should not have the end he propounds.
It reflects sadly on Christ’s honour, both as he is intrusted with
the saints' salvation, and also as he is interested in it.
First. As he is intrusted with the saints’ salvation.
He tells us they are given him of his Father for this very end, that he
should give them eternal life; yea, that power which he hath over all flesh,
was given him to render him every way able to effect this one business, John
He accepts the charge, owns them as his sheep, knows them every one,
and promiseth he ‘will give them eternal life, they shall never perish,
neither shall any pluck them out of his hand,’ John
Now, how well do they consult with Christ's honour that say his sheep
may die in a ditch of final apostasy notwithstanding all this?
Secondly. As he is interested in the salvation of every saint.
The life of his own glory is bound up in the eternal life of his
saints. It is true, when Adam
fell God did save his stake, but how can Christ, who is so nearly united to
every believing soul? There was a
league of friendship betwixt God and Adam; but no such union as here, where
Christ and his saints make but one Christ, for which his church is called
Christ. ‘As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of
that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ,’ I
Christ and his members make one Christ.
Now is it possible that a piece of Christ can be found at last burning
in hell? can Christ be a cripple Christ? can this member drop off and that? It
is as possible that all as any should. And
how can Christ part with his mystical members and not with his glory? doth not
every member add an ornament to the body, yea, an honour?
The church is called the ‘fulness of him,’ Eph.
O how dishonourable is it to Christ, that we should think he shall want
any of his fulness! and how can the man be full and complete that wants a
It wounds the saints’ comfort to the heart, and lays their joy a
bleeding. Paul saith he did not
dash the generous wine of God’s word with the water of man’s conceits, II
No, he gave them pure gospel. Truly, this principle of saints falling
from grace gives a sad dash to the sweet wine of the promises.
The soul-reviving comfort that sparkles in them, ariseth from the sure
conveyance with which they are in Christ made over to believers, to have and
to hold for ever. Hence [they
are] called ‘the sure mercies of David,’ Acts
13:34—mercies that shall
never fail. This, this is indeed
wine that makes glad the heart of a saint.
Though he may be whipped in the house when he sins, yet he shall not be
turned out of doors; as God promised in the type to David’s seed.
‘Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor
suffer my faithfulness to fail,’ Ps.
89:33; and ver.
36, ‘his seed shall endure
for ever.’ Could anything
separate the believer from the love of God in Christ, this would be as a hole
at the bottom of his cup to leak out all his joy; he might then fear every
temptation or affliction he meets would slay him, and so the wicked’s curse
would be the saint’s portion. His
life would ever hang in doubt before him, and the fearful expectation of his
final miscarriage, which he sees may befall him, would eat up the joy of his
present hope. Now, how contrary
such a frame of heart is to the spirit of adoption, and [to the] full
assurance of hope which the grace of the new covenant gives he that runs may
read in the word.
Second. This truth
prepares a sovereign cordial to restore the fainting spirits of weak
believers, who are surprised with many fears concerning their persevering and
holding out to the end of their warfare.
Be of good cheer, poor soul, God hath given Christ the life of every
soul within the ark of his covenant. Your
eternal safety is provided for. Whom
he loves, he loves to the end, John 13:1.
Hath he made thee ‘willing in the day of his power’ to march under
his banner, and espouse his quarrel against sin and hell?
The same power that overcame thy rebellious heart to himself, will
overcome all thy enemies within and without for thee.
Say not thou art a bruised reed, [for] with this [power] he will break
Satan’s head, and not cease till he hath brought forth judgment into
complete victory in thy soul. He
that can make a few wounded men rise up and take a strong city, can make a
wounded spirit triumph over sin and devils, Jer.
The ark stood in the midst of Jordan, till the whole camp of Israel was
safely got over into Canaan, Joshua 3:17,
and so doth the covenant, which the ark did but typify.
Yea, Christ, covenant and all, stand to secure the saints a safe
passage to heaven. If but one
believer drowns, the covenant must drown with him; Christ and the saint are
put together as co-heirs of the same inheritance.
‘If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with
Christ,’ Rom. 8:17.
We cannot dispute against one, but we question the firmness of the
other’s title. When you hear
[that] Christ is turned out of heaven, or that he is willing to sell his
inheritance there; then, poor Christian, fear thy coming thither, and not till
then. Co-heirs cannot sell the inheritance except both give up their right,
which Christ will never do nor suffer thee.
Third. This truth calls
for a word or two of caution. Though
there is no fear of a saint’s falling from grace, yet there is great danger
of others falling from the top of this comfortable doctrine into a careless
security and presumptuous boldness; and therefore a battlement is very
necessary, that from it we may, with safety to our souls, stand and view the
pleasant prospect this truth presents to our eye.
That flower from which the bee sucks honey, the spider draws poison.
That which is a restorative to the saint’s grace, proves an incentive
to the lust of a wicked man. What
Paul said of the law we may truly of the gospel.
Sin taking occasion from the grace of the gospel, and the sweet
promises thereof, deceives the carnal heart, and works in him all manner of
wickedness. Indeed sin seldom
grows so rank anywhere as in those who water its roots with the grace of the
gospel. Two ways this doctrine may be abused.
1. It may be into a neglect of duty.
2. Into a liberty to sin. Take
heed of both.
Take heed of falling into a neglect of duty upon this score—if a
Christian, thou canst not fall away from grace.
Take for an attitude against this, three particulars.
There are other arguments to invite, yea, that will constrain thee to a
constant vigorous performing of duty, though the fear of falling away should
not come in, or else thou art not a Christian.
What! nothing make the child diligent about his father's business but
fear of being disinherited and turned out of doors!
There is sure some better motive to duty in a saint’s heart, or else
religion is a melancholy work. Speak
for yourselves, O ye saints! Is
self-preservation all you pray for, and hear for?
Should a messenger come from heaven and tell you heaven were yours,
would this make you give over your spiritual trade, and not care whether you
had any more acquaintance with God till you came thither? O how harsh doth
this sound in your ears! There
are such principles engraven in the Christian's bosom, that will not suffer a
strangeness long to grow betwixt God and him.
He is under the law of a new life, which carries him [as] naturally to
desire communion with God, as the child doth to see the face of his dear
father; and every duty is a mount wherein God presents himself to be seen and
enjoyed by the Christian.
To neglect duty upon such a persuasion, is contrary to Christ's practice and
counsel. (a) His practice.
Though Christ never doubted of his Father's love, nor questioned the
happy issue of all his temptations, agonies, and sufferings, yet he prays, and
prays again most earnestly, Luke 22:44.
(b) His counsel and command.
He told Peter, that Satan had begged leave to have them to sift them,
but withal he comforts him—who was to be hardest put to it—with
this, ‘But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.’
Sure our Saviour by this provision made for him and the rest, means to
save them a labour that they need not watch or pray.
No such matter. After
this, as you may see, ver. 40,
he calls them up to duty—‘pray that ye enter not into temptation.’
Christ’s praying for them was to strengthen their faith, when they
should themselves pray for the same mercy; not to nourish their sloth that
they needed not to pray, Christ's prayers in heaven for his saints are all
heard already, but the return of them is reserved to be enclosed in the answer
God sends to their own prayers. The
Christian cannot in faith expect to receive the mercies Christ prays for in
heaven, so long as he lives in the neglect of his duty on earth.
They stand ready against he shall call for them by the prayer of faith,
and if they be not worth sending this messenger to heaven, truly they are
Consider, that although the Christian may be secured from a total and final
apostasy, yet he may fall sadly to the bruising of his conscience, [the]
enfeebling [of] his grace, and the reproach of the gospel, which sure are
enough to keep the Christian upon his watch, and the more, because,
ordinarily, the saints’ backslidings begin in their duties.
As it is with tradesmen in the world —they first grow careless of
their business, [are] often out of their shop, and then they go behind-hand in
their estates—so here [Christians are] first remiss in a duty, and then fall
into a decay of their graces and comforts, yea, sometimes into was that are
scandalous. A stuff loseth its
gloss before it wears; the Christian, the lustre of his grace in the lively
exercise of duty, and then the strength of it.
Take heed of abusing this doctrine into a liberty to sin.
Shall we sin, because grace abounds?—grow loose, because we have God
fast bound in his promise? —God forbid! none but a devil would teach us this
logic. It was a great height of sin those wretched Jews came to, who would
quaff and carouse it while death looked in upon them at the windows: ‘Let us
eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.’ They
discovered their atheism therein. But
what a prodigious stature in sin must that man be grown to, that can sin under
the protection of the promise, and draw his encouragement to sin from the
everlasting love of God? Let us
eat and drink, for we are sure to live and be saved.
Grace cannot dwell in that heart, which draws such a cursed conclusion
from the premises of God’s grace. The
saints have not so learned Christ. The
inference the apostle makes from the sweet privileges we enjoy in the covenant
of grace, is not to wallow in sin, but having these promises, to cleanse
ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, II
It is the nature of faith—the grace that trades with promises—to
purify the heart. Now the more
certain report faith brings of God's love from the promise to the soul, the
more it purifies the heart, because love by which faith works, is thereby more
inflamed to God, and if once this affection takes fire, the room becomes too
hot to stay there.
FOURTH POINT OR DOCTRINE.
[The blessed result of the saints’ perseverance.]
the words we have also the blessed result of the saints’ perseverance
propounded, as that which will abundantly recompense all their pain and
patience in the war. Having done
all, to stand.
To stand at the end of this war will abundantly recompense all our hazard
and hardship endured in the war against sin and Satan.
In man’s wars all do not get by them that fight in them.
The gains of these are commonly put into a few pockets.
The common soldiers endure most of the hardship, but go away with
little of the profit. They fight
to make a few that are great yet greater, and are many times themselves turned
off at last, with what will hardly pay for the cure of their wounds, or keep
them from starving in a poor hospital. But
in this war there is none loseth, but he that runs away.
A glorious reward there is for every faithful soldier in Christ’s
camp, and that is wrapt up in this phrase, ‘having done all, to stand.’
Now in this place, to stand imports three things, which laid
together will clear the point.
To stand, in this place,
is to stand conquerors. An
army, when conquered, is said to fall before their enemy, and the conqueror to
stand. Every Christian shall at
the end of the war stand a conqueror over his vanquished lusts, and Satan that
headed them. Many a sweet victory
the Christian hath here over Satan. But,
alas! the joy of these conquests is again interrupted with fresh alarms from
his rallied enemy. One day he
hath the better, and may be the next he is put to the hazard of another
battle. Much ado he hath to keep
what he hath got, yea, his very victories are such as send him bleeding out of
the field. Though he repulses the
temptation at last, yet the wounds his conscience gets in the fight do
overcast the glory of the victory. It
is seldom the Christian comes off without some sad complaint of the treachery
of his own heart, which had like to have lost the day, and betrayed him into
his enemy's hand. But for thy eternal comfort, know, poor Christian, there is
a blessed day coming, which shall make a full and final decision of the
quarrel betwixt thee and Satan. Thou shalt see this enemy's camp quite broken
up—not a weapon left in his hand to lift up against thee.
Thou shalt tread upon his high places, from which he hath made so many
shots at thee. Thou shalt see
them all dismantled and demolished, till there be not left standing any one
corruption in thy bosom, for a devil to hide and harbour himself in.
Satan, at whose approach thou hast so trembled, shall then be subdued
under thy feet. He that hath so oft bid thee bow down, that he might go over
thy soul and trample upon all thy glory, shall now have his neck laid to be
trodden on by thee. Were there
nothing else to be expected as the fruits of our watching and praying, weeping
and mourning, severe duties of mortification and self-denial, with whatever
else our Christian warfare puts us upon, but this, our labour sure would not
be in vain in the Lord. Yea,
blessed watching and praying, happy tears and wounds we meet with in this war.
May they but at last end in a full and eternal victory over sin and
Satan. Bondage is one of the
worst of evils. The baser the
enemy is, the more abhorred by noble spirits.
Saul feared to fall into the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines and
to be abused by their scorns and reproaches, more than a bloody death. Who
baser than Satan? What viler
tyrant than sin? Glorious then will the day be, wherein we shall praise God
for delivering us out of the hands of all our sins, and from the hand of
Satan. But [it will be] dismal to
you, sinner, who, at the same wherein you shall see the saints stand with
crowns of victory on their heads, must like fettered captives be dragged to
hell’s dungeon, there to have your ear bored unto an eternal bondage under
your lusts. And what more
miserable sentence can God himself pass upon you?
Here sin is pleasure, there it will be your torment.
Here [it is] a sweet bit that goes down glib, but there it will stick
in your throats. Here you have
suitable provision to entertain your lusts withal—palaces for pride to dwell
and strut herself in; delicious fare for your wanton palates; houses and
lands, with coffers of silver and gold, for your covetous hearts, by their
self-pleasing thoughts, to sit brooding upon—but you will find none of these
there. Hell is a barren place.
Nothing grows in that land of darkness to solace and recreate the sinners’
minds. You shall have your lusts,
but want the food they long for. O
what a torment that must needs be, to have a soul sharp set, even to a
ravenous hunger after sin, but chained up where it can come at nothing it
would have to satisfy its lust! For
a proud wretch, that would wish he might domineer over all the world, yea,
over God himself if he would let him, to be kept down in such a dungeon as
hell is, O how it will cut! For
the malicious sinner, whose heart swells with rancour against God and his
saints, that he could pluck them out of God's bosom, yea, God, out of his
throne if he had power, to find his hands so manacled, that he can do nothing
against them he so hates, O how this will torment!
Speak, O you saints, whose partial victory over sin at present is so
sweet to you, that you would choose a thousand deaths, sooner than return to
your old bondage under your lusts! How
glorious then is that day in your eye, when this shall be completed in a full
and eternal conquest, never to have anything to do more with sin or Satan!
To stand, is here to stand
justified and acquitted at the great day of judgement.
The phrase id frequent in Scripture, which sets out the solemn
discharge they shall have then by standing in judgment. ‘The ungodly shall
not stand in the judgment,’ Ps. 1:5,
that is, they shall not be justified. ‘If
thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?’ Ps.
130:3; that is, who shall be
discharged? The great God, upon
whose errand we come into the world, hath appointed a day wherein he will
judge the world by Jesus Christ. A
solemn day it will be, when all that ever lived on earth, high and low, good
and bad, shall meet in one assembly to make their personal appearance before
Christ, and from his mouth to receive their eternal doom, who shall in
his majestic robes of glory ascend the awful seat of judicature, attended
with his illustrious train and guard of angels about him, as so many officers
ready to execute and perform his pleasure according to the definitive sentence
that he shall pronounce—either to conduct those blessed ones whom he shall
justify into his glorious kingdom, or [to] bind them hand and foot to
be cast into hell's unquenchable flames, whom he shall condemn. I do not
wonder that Paul's sermon on this subject did not make an earthquake in
Felix's conscience; but rather that any should be so far gone in a lethargy
and dedolent numbness of conscience, as the thought of this day cannot recover
them to their sense and feeling. O
sirs, do not you vote them happy men and women that can speed well on this
day? are not your thoughts inquiring who those blessed souls are which shall
be acquitted by the lively voice of Christ the judge?
You need not ascend to search the rolls of election in heaven.
Here you may know they are such as fight the Lord's battles on earth
against Satan, in the Lord’s armour, and that to the end of their lives.
These having done all, shall stand in judgement.
And were it but at a man's bar—some court-martial where a soldier
stood upon trial for his life, either to be condemned as a traitor to his
prince, or cleared as faithful in his trust—O how such a one would listen to
hear how it would go with him, and be overjoyed when the judge pronounces him
innocent! Well may such be bid to fall down on their knees, thank God and the
judge that have saved their lives. How
much more ravishing will the sweet voice of Christ be in the saints’ ears,
when he shall in the face of men and angels make public declaration of their
righteousness? O how confounded will Satan then be, who was their accuser to
God and their own consciences also, ever threatening them with the terror of
that day! How blank will the
wicked world be, to see the dirt that they had thrown by their calumnies and
lying reports on the saints’ faces, wiped off with Christ's own hand, and
those justified from Christ’s mouth as sincere, whom they had called
hypocrites! Will not this, O ye
saints, be enough for all the scorn ye were laden with from the world, and
conflict you endured with the prince of the world!
But this is not all. Therefore,
To stand, doth here
also—as the compliment of their reward—denote the saints’ standing in
heaven’s glory. Princes,
when they would reward any of their subjects that in their wars have done
eminent service to the crown, as the utmost they can do for them, they prefer
them to court, there to enjoy their princely favour, and [to] stand in some
place of honourable service before them continually.
Solomon sets it out as the greatest reward of faithful subjects, to
‘stand before kings.’ Heaven
is the royal city where the great God keeps his court.
The happiness of glorious angels is to stand there before God—‘I an
Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God,’ Luke
1:19; that is, I am one of
those heavenly spirits who wait on the great God, and stand before his face,
as courtiers do about their prince. Now
such honour shall every faithful soul have.
‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if
thou wilt keep my charge....I will give thee places to walk among these that
stand by,’ Zech. 3:7.
He alludes to the temple, which had rooms joining to it for the priests
that waited on the Lord in his holy service there; or to courtiers, that have
stately galleries and lodgings becoming their place at court allowed them in
the king’s palace they wait upon. Thus all the saints—whose representative
Joshua was —shall, after they have kept the Lord's charge in a short
life's-service on earth, be called up to stand before God in heaven, where
with angels they shall have their galleries and mansions of glory also.
O happy they who shall stand before the Lord in glory!
The greatest peers of a realm—such as earls, marquises, and dukes
are—count it greater honour to stand before their king, though bareheaded
and oft upon the knee, than to live in the country, where all bow and stand
bare to them; yea, let but their prince forbid them coming to court, and it is
not their great estates, or respect they have where they live, will content
them. It is better to wait in
heaven than to reign on earth. It
is sweet standing before the Lord here in an ordinance.
One day in the worship of God is better than many elsewhere.
O, what then is it to stand before God in glory!
If the saints' spikenard sendeth forth so sweet a smell, while the king
sits at his table here in a sermon or sacrament; O then what joy must needs
flow from their near attendance on him, as he sits at his table in heaven,
which when God first made, it was intended by him to be that chamber of
presence in which he would present himself to be seen of, and enjoyed by, his
saints in all his glory. I know
nothing would have a more powerful, yea, universal operation, upon a saint’s
spirit, than the frequent and spiritual consideration of that blissful state
in heaven, which shall at last crown all their sad conflicts here on earth.
None like this sword, to cut the very sinews of temptation, and behead
those lusts which defy and out-brave whole troops of other arguments.
It is almost impossible to sin with lively thoughts and hopes of that
glory. It is when the thoughts of
heaven are long out of the Christian's sight, and he knows not what has become
of his hopes to that glorious place, that he begins to set up some idol—as
Israel the calf in the absence of Moses—which he may dance before. But
heaven come in sight, and the Christian’s heart will be well warmed with the
thoughts of it, and you may as soon persuade a king to throw his royal diadem
into a sink, and wallow with his robes in a kennel, as a saint to sin with the
expectation of heaven’s glory. Sin
is a devil’s work, not a saint’s, who is a peer of heaven, and waits every
hour for the writ that shall call him to stand with angels and glorified
saints before the throne of God. This
would cheer the Christian’s heart, and confirm him when the fight is
hottest, and the bullets fly thickest from men and devils, to think, it is
heaven all this is for, where it is worth having a place, though we go through
fire and water to it. ‘It is
before the Lord,’ said David to scoffing Michal, ‘which chose me before
thy father, and all his house;.... therefore will I play before the Lord, and
I will yet be more vile than thus,’ II
Christian, wouldst thou throw off the vipers of reproaches, which from the
fire of the wicked's malice fly upon thee.
It is for God that I pray, hear, mortify my lust, deny myself of my
carnal sports, profits, and pleasures, that God who hath passed by kings and
princes to chose me a poor wretch to stand before him in glory; therefore I
will be yet more vile than thus. O
sirs, were there not another world to enjoy God in, yet should we not, while
we have our being, serve our Maker? The
heavens and the earth obey his law, that are capable of no reward for doing
his will. ‘Quench hell, burn
heaven,’ said a holy man, ‘yet I will love and fear my God.’
How much more when everlasting arms of mercy stand ready stretched to
carry you as soon as the fight is over into the blissful presence of God?
You have servants of your own so ingenuous and observant, that can
follow you work hard abroad in all weathers; and may they but, when they come
home weary and hungry at night, obtain a kind look from you, and some tender
care over them, they are very thankful. ‘Yea,’
to shame the sluggish Christian, ‘how many hundred miles will the poor
spaniel run after his master in a journey, who gets nothing but a few crumbs,
or a bone from his master’s trencher?’
In a word, which is more the devil’s slaves; what will they not do
and venture at his command, who hath not so much to give them as you to
your dog, not a crust, not a drop of water to cool their tongue? and shall not
the joy of heaven which is set before the Christian, into which he shall
assuredly enter, make him run his race, endure a short scuffle of temptation
and affliction? yea sure, and make him reckon also that these ‘are not
worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in him.’
The Position to be maintained in the
‘Stand therefore’ (Eph.
apostle had laid down in general, ver. 13, what armour the Christian soldier
must use—armour of God. Now,
lest any should stamp divinity upon what is human, and make bold to set
God’s name on their counterfeit ware, calling that armour of God which comes
out of their private forge, as Papists, and many carnal Protestants also, do,
who invent weapons to fight the devil with that never came into God's heart to
appoint; he therefore comes more particularly to show what this whole armour
of God is, describing it piece by piece, which together make up the complete
suit, and every way furnish the Christian to take the field against this his
enemy. We shall handle them in
that order we find them here laid by the apostle.
Only something would briefly be first said to the posture given us in
charge, as that which we are to observe in the use of every piece, and [which
is] therefore prefixed to all. The
posture lies in these words—‘stand therefore;’ στ_τε,
stand. This word is the
same with the last in the precedent verse; but [is] neither in the same mood
nor tense. There [it is] put for
victory and triumph when the war is done; here for the Christian’s posture
in the fight, and in order to it. It
is a military expression, a word of command that captains use upon different
occasions to their soldiers, and so imports several duties that are required
at the Christian’s hands.
[The necessity of resisting Satan’s temptations,
with the danger of yielding to them.]
To stand, is opposed to a cowardly flight from, or treacherous
yielding to, the enemy. When
a captain sees his men beginning to shrink, and perceives some disposition in
them to flee or yield, then he bids stand; that is, stand manfully to
it, and make good your ground against the enemy, by a valiant receiving his
charge, and repelling his force. The
word taken thus, points at a suitable duty incumbent on the Christian, which
take in this note—
Satan in his temptations is stoutly to be resisted, not in anywise to
be yielded unto.
First. The command is
express for it: ‘Whom resist steadfast in the faith,’ I
Set yourselves in battle against him, as the word imports, fight him
whenever he comes. Soldiers must
keep close to their commission, whatever comes on it.
When Joab sent Uriah to stand in the forefront of the battle, in the
face of death itself, he could not but see his danger, yet he disputes not the
matter with his general; obey he must, though he loses his life upon the
place. Cowardice and disobedience
to the leader’s command are counted among the Turks the most damning sins;
and shall they be thought peccadillos, little ones, by us that have Christ for
our Captain to serve, and sin and the devil for enemies to fight?
To resist some temptations may cost us dear: ‘Ye have not yet
resisted unto blood,’ saith the apostle, ‘striving against sin,’ Heb.
12:4, implying that it may
come to that, and if it should, [that] it alters not the case, nor gives a
dispensation to shift for ourselves by choosing to sin rather than to suffer.
The Roman captain said it was necessary to sail, not to live; and shall
a Christian be afraid of his duty, when it is attended with outward hazard?
The soldier carries his prince's honour into the field with him, and so
doth the Christian his God’s, whenever he is called to contest with any
temptation. Now it will be seen at what rate he values his honour. David's
subjects valued him worth ten thousand of their lives, and therefore would die
every man of them, rather than hazard him.
O, how unworthy is it then, to expose the name of God to reproach,
rather than ourselves to a little scorn, temporal loss, or trouble!
It was Pompey’s boast, that at a word or nod of his, he could make
his soldiers creep up the steepest rock on their hands and knees, though they
were knocked down as fast as they went up.
Truly, God is not prodigal of the blood of his servants, yet sometimes
he tries their loyalty in hard services, and sharp temptations, that he may
from their faithfulness to him, and holy stoutness in their sufferings for
him, triumph over Satan, who was so impudent as to tell God, that one of his
choicest servants did but serve himself in serving him, ‘Doth Job fear God
for nought?’—as if, when any sharp encounter came, he would turn head, and
rather curse God than submit to him. And
therefore, we find the Lord glorying over Satan, ‘Still he holdeth fast his
integrity, although thou movedst me against him,’ Job
2:3—as if the Lord had said,
‘What dost thou think now, Satan? hath not Job proved thee a loud liar?
I have some servants, thou seest, that will serve me without a bribe,
that will hold fast their integrity, when they can hold fast nothing else.
Thou hast got away his estate, servants, and children, and yet he stands his
ground, and thou hast not got thy will of him, nor his integrity from him.’
Second. God furnisheth
us with armour for this end, that we should stand it out valiantly,
and not yield to Satan tempting. To
deliver up a castle into an enemy's hand, when it is well provided with
ammunition to defend it, is shameful and unworthy of such a trust. This makes
the Christian’s sin more dishonourable than another's, because he is better
appointed to make resistance. Take
a graceless soul, when solicited, suppose, to a sin that promiseth carnal
pleasure, or profit, it is no great wonder that he yields at first summons,
and delivers himself up prisoner to Satan.
The poor wretch, alas, hath no armour on to repel the motion.
He tastes no sweetness in Christ.
What marvel is it, if his hungry soul, for want of better food, falls
on board upon the devil's cheer?—that he, who hath no hope for another
world, be made to shark and prole
to get some of this? The goat, we
say, must browse where she is tied, and the sinner feed on earth and earthly
things, to which he is staked down by his carnal heart; but the Christian hath
a hope in his bosom of another guess-glory, than this peddling world can
pretend to, yea, a faith that is able to entertain him at present with some of
heaven’s joys—it being the nature of that grace to give existence to the
good things of the promise. This
helmet on and shield lift up, would keep off a whole shower of such arrows
from hurting the Christian. God
hath reason to take it the worse at his hands to yield, that might have stood,
would he but have made use of those graces which God hath given him for his
defence, or called in help from heaven to his succour.
‘Hast thou eaten,’ saith God to Adam, ‘of the tree, whereof I
commanded thee, that thou shouldest not eat?’ Gen.
The accent lies on thou. It
was not sure for hunger, thou hadst a whole paradise before thee; hast thou
eaten that wert provided so well to have withstood him?
Hast thou, may God say to the Christian, eaten of the devil’s
dainties, who hast a key to go to my cupboard? does thy heavenly Father keep
so starved a house, that the devil’s scraps will go down with thee?
Third. The Christian's safety
lies in resisting. All the armour here provided is to defend the Christian
fighting, none to secure him flying. Stand,
and the day is ours. Fly, or
yield, and all is lost. Great
captains, to make their soldiers more resolute, do sometimes cut off all hope
of a safe retreat to them that run away.
Thus the Norman conqueror, as soon as his men were set on English
shore, sent away his ships in their sight, that they might resolve to fight or
die. God takes away all thought
of safety to the coward; not a piece to be found for the back in all God's
armoury. Stand, and the
bullets light all on your armour; flee, and they enter into your
hearts. It is a terrible place, Heb.
10:38, ‘The just shall live
by faith, but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.’
He that stands to it believingly comes off with his life; but he that
recoils, and runs from his colours, as the Greek word
imports, God will have no pleasure in him, except it be in the just execution
of his wrath on him. And doth he
not make a sad change, that from fighting against Satan, engageth God as an
enemy against him? There is
comfort in striving against sin and Satan, though to blood, but none to lie
sweating under the fiery indignation of a revenging God.
What Satan lays on, God can take off; but who can ease, if God lays on?
What man would not rather die in the field fighting for his prince,
than on a scaffold by the axe, for cowardice or treachery?
Fourth. The enemy
we have to do withal, is such as is only to be dealt with by resisting.
God is an enemy that is overcome by yielding; the devil only by force
He is a cowardly enemy. Though
he sets a bold face on it by tempting, he carries a fearful heart in his
breast. The work is naught he
goes about; and, as a thief is afraid of every light he sees, or noise he
hears, in the house he would rob; so Satan is discouraged where he finds the
soul waking, and in any posture to oppose him.
He fears thee, Christian, more than thou needest him; ‘Jesus I know,
and Paul I know,’ Acts 19:15;
that is, I know them to my shame, they have both put me to flight, and if ye
were such as they, I should fear you also.
Believe it, soul, he trembles at thy faith.
Put it forth in prayer to call for help to heaven against him, and
exert it vigorously by rejecting the motions he makes, and thou shalt see him
run. Did soldiers in a castle
know that their enemies besieging them were in a distracted condition, and
would certainly upon their sallying out, break up, and flee away, what metal
and courage would this fill them withal?
The Spirit of God—who knows well enough how squares go in the devil's
camp—sends this intelligence unto every soul that is beleaguered by
temptations, ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,’ James
He cannot hurt us without our leave.
The devil is not so good a drawer; but, when he finds it comes
not—the soul yields not—his heart then fails him, at least for the
present, as in Christ’s combat, it is said he ‘departed from him for a
season.’ When the devil
continues long the same suit, it is to be feared [that] that person, though he
hath not fully promised him, yet hath not given him a peremptory denial.
He is a suitor, that listens for something to drop from the creature
that may encourage him to prosecute his motion.
No way to be rid of him but to shut the door upon him, and deny all
discourse with him; which prompts to the second character.
He is an encroaching enemy, and therefore to be resisted.
‘Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,’ saith the apostle,
‘neither give place to the devil,’ Eph.
As soldiers, by cowardly leaving some outwork they are set to defend,
give place to their enemy, who enters the same, and from thence doth more
easily shoot into the city than he could before.
Thus [by] yielding in one temptation we let the devil into our trench,
and give him a fair advantage to do us the more mischief. The angry man while
he is raging and raving, thinks, may be, no more, but to ease his passion by
disgorging it in some bitter keen words, but alas while his fury and wrath is
sallying out at the portal of his lips, the devil finding the door open,
enters and hurries him farther than he dreamt of.
We have not to do with a Hannibal —who, though a great swordsman, yet
wanted the art of following and improving the advantages his victories gave
him—but with a cunning devil that will easily lose no ground he gets.
Our best way, therefore, is to give him no hand-hold, not so much as to
come near the door where sin dwells, lest we be hooked in.
If we mean not to be burned, let us not walk upon the coals of temptation;—if
not to be tanned, let us not stand where the sun lies.
They surely forget what an insinuating wriggling nature this serpent
hath, that dare yield to him in something, and make us believe they will not
in another—who will sit in the company of drunkards, frequent the places
where the sin is committed, and yet pretend they mean not to be such?—that
will prostitute their eyes to unchaste objects, and yet be chaste?—that will
lend their ears to any corrupt doctrine of the times, and yet be sound in the
faith? This is a strong delusion
that such are under. If a man hath not power enough to resist Satan in the
less, what reason hath he to think he shall in the greater. Thou hast not
grace, it seems, to keep thee from throwing thyself into the whirl of
temptation, and dost thou think that, when in it, thou shalt bear up against
the stream of it? One would think
it is easier when in the ship, to keep from falling overboard, than when in
the sea, to get safely into the ship again.
He is an accusing enemy. And
truly folly is in that man’s name, who knows what a tell-tale the devil is,
and yet will, by yielding to his temptation, put an errand into his mouth,
with which he may accuse him to God. Some
foolishly report that witches cannot hurt till they receive an alms.
But I am sure, so long as thou showest no kindness to the devil, he
cannot hurt thee, because he cannot accuse thee.
Take up therefore holy Job’s resolution, ‘My righteousness I hold
fast,...my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live,’ Job
It is never sad indeed with the soul till the barking is within doors.
Conscience, not the devil, is the bloodhound that pulls down the
creature. O let not that reproach
thee, and thou art well enough.
[The Christian’s duty, to stand in his own place,
and the danger of straggling.]
To stand, amounts to as much as, to stand every one in his rank and
proper station, and here is opposed to all disorder, or straggling from
our place. When a captain sees his soldiers march, or fight our of their
rank and order, then he bids stand. Military
discipline is so strict in this case, that it allows none to stir from their
place without special warrant. It
hath cost some their lives for fighting out of their place, though with great
success. Manlius killed his own
son, for no other fault. From
hence the note is—
That it should be the care of every Christian, to stand orderly in the
particular place wherein God hath set him.
The devil’s method is first to rout, and then to ruin.
Order supposeth company, one that walks alone cannot go out of his
rank. This place therefore and
rank wherein the Christian is to stand, relates to some society or company in
which he walks. The Christian may
be considered as related to a threefold society —church, commonwealth, and
family. In all there are several
ranks and places. In the church,
officers and private members; in the commonwealth, magistrates and people; in
the family, masters and servants, parents and children, husband and wife.
The welfare of these societies consisteth in the order that is
kept—when every wheel moves in its place without clashing, when every one
contributes by performing the duty of his place to the benefit of the whole
society. But more distinctly, a
person then stands orderly in his place when he doth these three things—
When he understands the peculiar duty of his place and relation; ‘The
wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way,’ Prov.
14:8—his way, that
is, the way in which he on particular is to walk.
It will not profit a man to know the way to York, if going to London;
yet how prone are we to study another’s way and work [rather] than our
own—the servant more what his master’s duty is, not what his is to his
master—the people what the minister in his place should do, rather than what
is incumbent on themselves to such as are over them in the Lord.
It is not knowing another’s duty, no nor censuring the negligence of
another, but doing our own [duty, that] will bring us safely and comfortably
to our journey’s end. And how
can we do it except we know it? Solomon
in no one thing gave a greater proof of his wisdom than in asking of God
wisdom, to enable him for the duty of his place.
When knowing the duty of our place, we conscientiously attend to it and
lay out ourselves for God therein. When
Paul charged Timothy in his place, that every Christian must do in his.
He must ‘meditate upon these things,’ and ‘give himself wholly’
to the discharge of his duty, as a Christian, in such a place and calling—_v
τoύτoις _σθι, be in them, let
thy heart be on thy work, and thou wholly be taken up about it, I
The very power of godliness lies in this.
Religion, if not made practicable in our several places and callings,
becomes ridiculous and vanisheth into an empty notion that is next to nothing.
Yet many there are that have nothing to prove themselves Christians,
but a naked profession, of whom we may say as they do of the cinnamon tree,
that the bark is worth more than all they have besides.
Such the apostle speaks of, ‘They profess that they know God; but in
works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good
work reprobate,’ Titus 1:16.
What good works the apostle means, will appear in the next words, Titus.
2, where, in opposition to
these, he presseth those duties which Christians in their particular places
and relations, as becometh holiness, ought to perform.
A good Christian and a disobedient wife, a godly man and an unfaithful
servant, or undutiful child is a contradiction that can never be reconciled.
He that walks not uprightly in his house, is but a hypocrite at church.
He that is not a Christian in his shop, is not in his closet a
Christian, though upon his knees in prayer.
Wound religion in one part, and it is felt in every part.
If it declines one way, it cannot thrive in any other.
All that miscarry in religion do not the same way miscarry.
As it is in the regard of our natural life; some, it is observed, die
upwards, some downwards. In one,
the extreme parts, his feet, are first dead, and so [the malady] creeps up to
the legs, and at last takes hold on the vitals; in another his superior parts
are first invaded. Thus in
profession. [With] some, their
declining appears first in a negligence of duties about their peculiar
callings, and the duties they owe, by their place and relation, to man, though
all this while they may seem very forward and zealous in the duties of worship
to God, much in hearing, praying, and such like; while others falter first in
these, and at the same time seem very strict in the other.
Both are alike destructive to the soul; they both meet in the ruin of
the power of godliness. He stands
orderly that makes conscience of the whole duty that lies on him in his place
to God or man.
to stand orderly, it is requisite that we keep the bounds of our
place and calling. The
Israelites were commanded every man ‘to pitch by his own standard,’ Num.
The Septuagint translates it κατα
τάγμα —according to order.
God allows no stragglers from their station in his army of saints.
‘As the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk,’ I
Our walk must be in that path which our call beats out.
We are therefore commanded every one to ‘do his own business,’ I
That which is the commander’s business in the army, is not the
private soldier's; the magistrate’s [business] not the subjects’s; the
minister’s is not the people’s. That
which is justice in the ruler, is murder in another.
They are _δια, our own things—[things] that
come within the compass of our general or particular calling.
Out of these, we are out of our diocese.
O what a quiet world should we have, if every thing and person knew his
own place! If the sea kept its
own place, we should have no inundations; if men had theirs, we should neither
have seen such floods of sin, nor miseries, as this unhappy age has been
almost drowned with. But it must
be a strong bank indeed, that can contain our fluid spirits within our own
terms. Peter himself was sharply
chidden for prying, out of curiosity, into that which concerned him
not—‘What is that to thee?’ John
As if Christ had said, ‘Peter, meddle with thy own matters, this
concerns not thee;’ which sharp rebuke, saith one, might possibly make Peter
afterwards give so strict a charge against, and set so black a brand upon,
this very sin, as you may find, I Peter
4:15, where he ranks the
‘busybody’ among murderers and thieves.
Now to fix every one in his place, and persuade all to stand orderly
there without breaking their rank, these five considerations, methinks, may
carry some weight—among those especially with whom the word of God in the
Scripture yet keeps its authority to conclude and determine their thoughts.
[Five Considerations to persuade all to stand.]
Consideration. Consider what thou doest out of thy place is not
acceptable to God, because thou canst not do it in ‘faith,’ without
which ‘it is impossible to please God;’ and it cannot be in faith, because
thou hast no call. God will not
thank thee for doing that which he did not set thee about.
Possibly thou hast good intentions.
So had Uzzah in staying the ark, yet how well God liked his zeal, see
II Sam. 6:7. Saul himself could
make a fair story of his sacrificing, but that served not his turn.
It concerns us not only to ask ourselves what the thing is we do, but
also who requireth this at our hands? To
be sure, God will at last put us upon that question, and it will go ill with
us if we cannot show our commission. So
long must we needs neglect what is our duty, as we are busy about that which
is not. The spouse confesseth
this, ‘They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have
I not kept,’ Song. 1:6.
She could not mind their [vineyards] and her own too—our own iron
will cool while we are beating another’s.
And this must needs be displeasing to God—to leave the work God sets
us about, to do to do what he never commanded.
When a master calls a truantly scholar to account, that hath been
missing some days from school, would this be a good plea for him to tell his
master, that he was all the while in such a man’s shop at work with his
tools? No, sure his business lay
at school, not in that shop.
Consideration. By going out of our proper place and calling, we put
ourselves from under God’s protection.
The promise is, he will ‘keep us in all our ways,’ Ps.
When we go out of our way, we go from under his wing. We have an
excellent place for this, ‘Let every man, wherein he is called, therein
abide with God,’ I Cor. 7:24.
Mark that phrase, abide with God.
As we love to walk in God's company, we must abide in our place and
calling. Every step from that is
a departure from God; and better to stay at home, in a mean place and low
calling, wherein we may enjoy God’s sweet presence, than go to court and
there live without him. It is
likely you have heard of that holy bishop, that in a journey fell into an inn,
and by some discourse with the host, finding him to be an atheist, or very
atheistical, presently calls for his servant to bring him his horse, saying he
would not lodge there, for God was not in that place.
Truly when thou art in any place, or about any work to which thou art
not called, we may safely say, ‘God is not in that place or enterprise.’
And what a bold adventure it is to stay there where you cannot expect
his presence to assist or protect! ‘As
a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his
place,’ Prov. 27:8.
God took special care that the bird sitting over her eggs in her nest should
not be hurt; Deut. 22:6,
but we find nothing to secure her if found abroad.
In doing the duty of our place, we have heaven’s word for our
security; but upon our own peril be it if we wander.
Then we are like Shimei out of his precincts, and lay ourselves open to
some judgment or other. It is
alike dangerous to do what we are not called to, and to neglect or leave
undone the duty of our place. As
the earth could not bear the usurpation by Korah and his company of what
belonged not to them, but swallowed them up, so the sea could not but bear
witness against Jonah the runaway prophet, disdaining to waft him that fled
from the place and work that God called him to.
Nay, heaven itself would not harbour the angels, when once they left
their own place and office that their Maker had appointed; so these words
‘left their own habitation,’ Jude 6,
I find most probably interpreted. The
ruin of many souls breaks in upon them at this door.
First they break their ranks, and then they are led farther into
temptation. Absalom first looks
over the hedge in his ambitious thoughts. A king he would be, and this
wandering desire beyond his place, lets in those bloody sins, rebellion,
incest, and murder, and these ripened him for, and at last delivered him up
into, the hands of divine vengeance. The apostle joins order and steadfastness
together,’I am with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and
the steadfastness of your faith,’ Col.
If an army stands in close order, every one in his place attending
his duty, content with his work, it is impregnable in a manner.
How came many in our days to fall from their steadfastness, but by
breaking their order?
Consideration. We shall
never be charged for not doing another’s work.
‘Give an account of thy stewardship,’ Luke
16:2, that is, what by thy
place thou wert intrusted with. We
may indeed be accessory to another’s sin and miscarriage in his place.
‘Be not partakers with them,’ saith the apostle, Eph.
There is a partnership, if not very watchful, that we have with
other’s sins, and therefore we may all say ‘Amen’ to that holy man’s
prayer, ‘Lord, forgive me my other sins.’
Merchants can trade in bottoms
that are not their own, and we may sin with other man’s hands many ways; and
one especially is, when we do not lend our brother that assistance in his work
and duty, which our place and relation obligeth to.
But it is not our sin that we do not supply another’s negligence, by
doing that which belongs not to our place. We are to pray for magistrates that
they may rule in the fear of God, but if they do not, we may not step upon the
bench and do his work for him. God
requires no more than faithfulness in our place.
We do not find fault with an apple-tree if it be laden with
apples—which is the fruit of its own kind—though we can find no figs or
grapes growing on it. We expect
these only from their proper root and stock.
He is a fruitful tree in God’s orchard that ‘bringeth forth his
fruit in his season,’ Ps. 1:3.
Consideration. There is poor
comfort in suffering for doing that which was not the work of our place and
calling. Before we launch out
into any undertaking, it behoves us to ask ourselves, and that seriously, what
our tackling is, if a storm should overtake us in our voyage.
It is folly to engage in that enterprise which will not bear us out,
and pay the charge of all the loss and trouble it can put us to.
Now no comfort or countenance from God can be expected from any
suffering, except we can entitle him to the business we suffer for.
‘For thy sake are we killed all the day long,’ Ps.
44:22, saith the church. But
if suffering finds us out of our calling and place, we cannot say, ‘for thy
sake’ we are thus and thus afflicted, but ‘for our own sakes;’ and you
know the proverb, ‘self-do, self-have.’
The apostle makes a vast difference between suffering ‘as a
busy-body,’ and suffering ‘as a Christian,’ I
It is to the latter he saith, ‘Let him not be ashamed, but let him
glorify God on this behalf.’ As
for the busy-body, he mates him with thieves and murderers, and those, I trow,
have reason both to be ashamed and afraid.
The carpenter that gets a cut or wound on his leg from his axe, as he
is at work in his calling, may bear it more patiently and comfortably, than
one that is wantonly meddling with his tools, and hath nothing to do with such
work. When affliction or
persecution overtakes the Christian travelling in the way God hath set him in,
he may show the Bible, as that holy man suffering for Christ, did, and say,
‘This hath made me poor, this hath brought me to prison,’ that is, his
faith on the truths and obedience to the commands in it; and therefore may
confidently expect to suffer at God’s cost, as the soldier [expects] to be
kept and maintained by the prince in whose service he hath lost his limbs.
But the other that runs out of his place and so meets with sufferings,
he hath this to embitter them, that he can look for nothing from God but to be
soundly chidden for his pains—as the child is served that gets some hurt
while he is gadding abroad, and when he comes home at night with his battered
face, meets with a whipping from his father in the bargain for being from
home. This lay heavy on the
spirit of that learned German Johannis Funccius, who of a minister of the
gospel in his prince’s court, turned minister of state to his prince, and
was at last for some evil counsel at least so judged, condemned to die.
Before he suffered he much lamented the leaving of his calling, and to
warn others left this distich—
meo exemplo mandato munere fungi,
fuge ceu pestem
keep thy place and calling learn of me;
as the plague a meddler for to be.
Consideration. It is an erratic
spirit that usually carries men out of their place and calling.
I confess there is an heroicus impetus, an impulse which some of
the servants of God have had from heaven, to do things extraordinary, as we
read in Scripture of Moses, Gideon, Phinehas, and others.
But it is dangerous to pretend to the like, and unlawful to expect such
immediate commissions from heaven now, when he issueth them out in a more
ordinary way, and gives rules for the same in his word.
We may as well expect to be taught extraordinarily, without using the
ordinary means, as to be called so. When
I see any miraculously gifted, as the prophets and apostles, then I shall
think the immediate calling they pretend to is authentic.
To be sure we find in the word that extraordinary calling and
extraordinary teaching go together. Well,
let us see what that erratic spirit is which carries many out of their place
and calling. It is not always the same.
Sometimes it is idleness. Men
neglect what they should do, and then are easily persuaded to meddle with what
they have nothing to do. The
apostle intimates this plainly, ‘They learn to be idle, wandering about from
house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busy-bodies, I
An idle person is a gadder. He hath his foot on the threshold—easily
drawn from his own place—and as soon into another’s diocese.
He is at leisure for to hear the devil's chat.
He that will not serve God in his own place, the devil, rather than he
shall stand out, will send him off his errand, and get him to put his sickle
into another's corn.
It is pride and discontent that makes persons go out of their place.
Some men are in this very unhappy.
Their spirits are too big and haughty for the place God hath set them
in. Their calling is may be mean
and low, but their spirits high and towering, and whereas they should labour
to bring their hearts to their condition, they project how they may bring
their condition to their proud hearts. They
think themselves very unhappy while they are shut up in such strait limits.
Indeed the whole world is too narrow a walk for a proud heart, œstuat
infœlix angusto limite mundi—it tosses unhappy within the narrow
boundary of the world. The world
was but a little ease to Alexander. Shall
they be hid in a crowd, lie in an obscure corner, and die before they let the
world know their worth? No, they
cannot brook it, and therefore they must get on the stage, and put forth
themselves one way or other. It
was not the priest’s work that Korah and his accomplices were so in love
with him, but the priest’s honour which attended the work.
This they desired to share, and liked not to see others run away with
it from them. Nor was it the zeal
that Absalom had to do justice which made his teeth water so after his
father's crown, though this must silver over his ambition.
These places of church and state are such fair flowers, that proud
spirits in all ages have been ambitious to have them set in their own garden,
though they never thrive so well as in their proper soil.
In a third it is unbelief. This
made Uzzah stretch forth his hand unadvisedly to stay the ark that shook;
which being but a Levite, he was not to touch, see
Alas! good man, it was his faith shook more dangerously than the ark.
By fearing the fall of this, he fell to the ground himself.
God needs not our sin to shoar
up his glory, truth, or church.
In some it is misinformed zeal. Many
think they may do a thing, because they can do it.
They can preach, and therefore they may.
Wherefore else have they gifts? Certainly
the gifts of the saints need not be lost, any of them, though be not be laid
out in the minister’s work. The
private Christian hath a large field wherein he may be serviceable to his
brethren. He need not break the
hedge which God hath set, and thereby occasion such disorder as we see to be
the consequences of this. We read
in the Jewish law, Ex. 22,
that he who set a hedge on fire, and that fire burned the corn standing in a
field, was to make restitution, though he only fired the hedge—may be not
intending to hurt the corn; and the reason was, because his firing the hedge
was an occasion of the corn’s being burned, though he meant it not.
I dare not say, that every private Christian who hath in these times
taken upon him the minister’s work, did intend to make such a combustion in
the church, as hath been, and still sadly is, among us.
God forbid I should think so. But,
O that I could clear them from being accessory to it.
In that they have fired the hedge which God hath set between the
minister’s calling and people’s. If
we will acknowledge the ministry a particular office in the church of
Christ—and this I think the word will compel us to do—then we must also
confess it is not any one's work, though never so able, except called to the
office. There are many in a
kingdom to be found that could do the prince’s errand, it is like, as well
as his ambassador, but none takes the place but he that is sent, and can show
his letters credential. Those
that are not sent and commissionated by God’s call for ministerial work,
they may speak truths as well as they that are, yet of him that acts by virtue
of his calling, we may say that he preacheth with authority, and not like
those that can show no commission, but what the opinion themselves have of
their own abilities gives them. Dost
thou like the minister's work? why shouldst thou not desire the office, that
thou mayest do the work acceptably? Thou dost find thyself gifted, as thou
thinkest, for the work, but were not the church more fit to judge so, than
thyself? and if thou shouldst be
found so by them appointed for the trial, who would not give thee the right
hand of fellowship? There are not
so many labourers in Christ’s field, but thy help, if able, would be
accepted. But as thou now actest, thou bringest thyself into suspicion in the
thoughts of sober Christians; as he would justly do, who comes into the field
where his prince hath an army, and gives out he comes to do his sovereign
service against the common enemy, yet stands by himself at the head of a troop
he hath got together, and refuseth to take any commission from his prince’s
officers or join himself with them. I
question whether the service such a one can perform—should he mean as he
say, which is to be feared—would do so much good, as the distraction which
this his carriage might cause in the army would do hurt.
[The Christian must stand
To stand, here, is opposed
to sleep and sloth. Standing
is a waking, watching posture. When
the captain sees his soldiers lying secure upon the ground asleep, he bids
‘Stand to your arms,’ that is, stand and watch.
In some cases it is death for a soldier to be found asleep, as when he
is appointed to stand sentinel, or the like.
Now to sleep, deserves death; because he is to keep awake that
the whole army may sleep; and his sleep may cost them their lives.
Therefore a great captain thought he gave that soldier but his due,
whom he run through with his sword, because he found him asleep when he should
have stood sentinel, excusing his severity with this, that he left him but as
he found him, mortuum imveni et mortuum reliqui—I found him dead in
sleep, and left him but asleep in death.
Watchfulness is more needful for the Christian soldier than any other,
because other soldiers fight with men that need sleep as well as themselves;
but the Christian’s grand enemy, Satan, is ever awake and walking his
rounds, seeking whom he may surprise. And
if Satan be always awake, it is dangerous for the Christian at any time to be
spiritually asleep, that is secure and careless.
The Christian is seldom worsted by this his enemy, but there is either
treachery or negligence in the business.
Either the unregenerate part betrays him, or grace is not wakeful to
make a timely discovery of him, so as to prepare for the encounter.
The enemy is upon him before he is thoroughly awake to draw his sword.
The saint’s sleeping time is Satan’s tempting time.
Every fly dares to creep on a sleeping lion.
No temptation so weak, but is strong enough to foil a Christian that is
napping in security. Samson
asleep, and Delilah cuts his locks. Saul
asleep, and his spear is taken away from his very side, and he never the
wiser. Noah asleep, and his
graceless son has a fit time to discover his father’s nakedness.
Eutychus asleep, nods, and falls from the third loft, and is taken up
for dead. Thus the Christian
asleep in security may soon be surprised, so as to lose much of his spiritual
strength—‘the joy of the Lord,’ which is his ‘strength;’ be robbed
of his spear, his armour—graces, I mean—at least in the present use of
them, and his nakedness discovered by graceless men, to the shame of his
profession. As, when bloody Joab could take notice of David’s vainglory in
numbering the people, was not David’s grace asleep? Yea, the Christian may
fall from a high loft of profession, so low into such scandalous practices,
that others may question whether there be any life of grace indeed in him.
And therefore it behoves the Christian to stand wakefully.
Sleep steals as insensibly on the soul, as it doth on the body.
The wise virgins fell asleep as well as the foolish, though not so
soundly. Take heed thou dost not
indulge thyself in thy lazy distemper, but stir up thyself to action, as we
bid one that is drowsy stand up or walk.
Yield to it by idleness and sloth, and it will grow upon thee.
Bestir thyself in this duty, and that, and it will over.
David first awakes his tongue to sing, his hand to play on his harp,
and then David’s heart wakes also, Ps.
The lion, it is said, when he first wakes, lashes himself with his
tail, thereby to stir and rouse up his courage, and then away he goes after
his prey. We have enough to
excite and provoke us to use all the care and diligence possible.
[Why the Christian is
to stand and watch.]
The Christian’s work is too curious to be done well between sleeping and
waking, and too important to be done ill and slubbered
over no matter how. He had
need be awake that walks upon the brim of a deep river, or the brow of a steep
hill. The Christian’s path is
so narrow, and the danger is so great, that it calls for a nimble eye to
discern and a steady eye to direct; but a sleepy eye can do neither.
Look upon any duty or grace, and you will find it lie between Sylla and
Carybdis —two extremes alike dangerous.
Faith, the great work of God, cuts its way between the mountain of
presumption and gulf of despair. Patience
[is] a grace so necessary that we cannot be without it a day, except we would
be all that while beside ourselves. This
keeps us that we fall neither into the sleepy apoplexy of a blockish
stupidity, which deprives the creature of its senses; nor into a raging fit of
discontent, which hath sense enough, and too much, to feel the hand of God,
but deprives the man of his reason, that he turns again upon God, and shoots
back the Almighty’s arrows on his very face in the fury of his froward
spirit. The like we might say of
the rest. No truth but hath some
error next door to it. No duty
can be performed without approaching very near the enemy’s quarters, who
soon takes the alarm, and comes out to oppose the Christian.
And ought he not then to have always his heart on the watch?
The trouble of watching is not comparable to the advantage it brings.
By this, thou frustratest the designs Satan hath upon thee.
It is worth watching to keep the house from robbing, much more the
heart from rifling by the devil. ‘Watch,
that ye enter not into temptation,’ Matt.
26:41. He buys his sleep dear
that pays his throat-cutting for it; yea, though the wound be not so deep but
may be cured at last. Thy not
watching one night may keep thee awake many a night upon a more uncomfortable
occasion. And hadst thou not
better wake with care, to keep thyself from a mischief, than afterward to have
thine eyes held open, whether thou wilt or not, with pain and anguish of the
wound given thee in thy sleep? You know how sadly David was bruised by a fall
got in his spiritual slumber;—for what else was he when in the eventide he
rose from his bed, and walked upon the roof of his house, like a man walking
in his sleep? II Sam. 11:2-6.
And how many restless nights this brought over this holy man’s head
you may perceive by his own mournful complaints of this sin, which is the foot
and sad burden of several mournful psalms.
By thy watchfulness thou shalt best learn the evil of a sleepy state.
One asleep is not sensible of his own snorting, how uncomely and
troublesome to others it is, but he that is awake is apprehensive of both.
The man asleep is not sensible if laid naked by some that would abuse
him, but he that is awake observes, is ashamed, and covers himself.
Thus while you are in a spiritual sense awake, thou canst not but
observe many uncomely passages in the lives of those professors who do not
watch their hearts, which will fill thy heart with pity to them—to see how
they are abused by Satan and their own passions, which like rude servants,
take this their own time to play their pranks in, when they have made sure of
their mistress—grace I mean now laid asleep—that should keep them in
better rule. Yea, it will make
the blood come into thy face for shame, to see how by their nakedness,
profession itself is flouted at by those that pass by, and to see how it is
with them. Well, what thou blushest to see, and pitiest to find in another,
take heed it befall not thyself. If
thou sufferest a spiritual slumber to grow upon thee, thou wilt be the man
thyself that all this may come upon; and what not besides?
Sleep levels all; the wise man is then no wiser than a fool to project
for his safety; nor the strong man better than the weak to defend himself.
If slumber falls once upon thine eye, it is night with thee, and thou
art, though the best of saints, but as other men, so far as this sleep
prevails on thee.
By thy watchfulness thou shalt invite such company in unto thee as will
make the time short and sweet; and that is thy dear Saviour, whose sweet
communication and discourse about the things of thy Father’s kingdom, will
make that thou shalt not grudge the ease sleepy Christians get, with the loss
of such an heavenly entertainment as thou enjoyest.
Who, that loves his soul better than his body, had not rather have
David’s songs, than David's sleep in the night?
And who had not rather have Christ’s comforting presence with a
waking soul, than his absence with a sleepy slothful one?
It is the watchful soul that Christ delights to be with, and open his
heart unto. We do not choose that
for the time of giving our friends a visit, when they are asleep in their
beds. Nay, if we be with them and
perceive they grow sleepy, we think it is time we leave them to their pillow;
and verily Christ doth so too. Christ
withdraws from the spouse till she be better awake, as a fitter to receive his
loves. Put the sweetest wine into
a sleepy man’s hand and you are like to have it all spilled; yea, put a
purse of gold into his hand, and the man will hardly remember in the morning
what you gave him over night. Thus in the sleepy state of a soul, both the
Christian loseth the benefit, and Christ the praise of his mercy; and
therefore Christ will stay to give out his choice favours when the soul is
more wakeful, that he may both do the creature good, and his creature may
speak good of him for it.
[How the Christian is
to stand and watch.]
But how must the Christian stand upon his watch?
First. Watch constantly.
‘The lamp’ of God in the tabernacle was to ‘burn always,’ Ex.
27:20; 30:8; that is, always
in the night, which sense is favoured by several other places.
And I pray, what is our life in this world but a dark night of
temptation? Take heed, Christian,
that thy watch-candle go not out in any part of this darksome time, lest thy
enemy come upon thee in that hour. He
can find thee, but thou canst not resist him in the dark.
If once thy eye be shut in a spiritual slumber, thou art a fair mark
for his wrath; and know thou canst not be long off thy watch but the devil
will hear on it. The devil knew
the apostles’ sleeping time, and then he desires leave to ‘winnow’ them,
He saw they were in some disorder, the eye of their soul began ‘to be
heavy.’ The thief riseth when
honest men go to bed. The devil,
I am sure, begins to tempt when saints cease to watch.
When the staff is thrown away, then the wolf appears.
When the soul puts her danger farthest off, and lies most secure, then
it is nearest. Therefore labour to be constant in thy holy care; the want of
this spoils all. Some you shall
have, that after a great fall into a sin that hath bruised them sorely, will
seem very careful for a time where they set their foot, how they walk, and
what company they come in; but as soon as the soreness of their consciences
wears off, their watch is broken up, and they are as careless as ever; like
one that is very careful to shut up his shop strongly, and may be sits up late
to watch it also for two or three nights after it hath been robbed, but then
minds it no more. Others in an
affliction, or newly come out of the furnace, O how nice and scrupulous are
they while the smell of fire is about them, and memory of their distress
fresh! They are as tender of
sinning, as one that comes out of a hot close room is of the air.
They shrink at every breath of temptation stirring.
But alas, how soon are they hardened to commit those sins without
remorse, the bare motion of which, but a little before, did so trouble and
afflict them? Josephus, in his Antiquities,
tells us that the sons of Noah, for some years after the flood, dwelt on the
tops of high mountains, not daring to take up their habitation in the lower
ground for fear of being drowned by another flood; yet in process of time,
seeing no flood came, they ventured down into the plain of Shinar, where their
former fear, we see, ended in one of the boldest, proudest attempts against
God, that the sun was ever witness to—the building I mean of a tower whose
top should reach heaven, Gen 11:2-4.
They who at first were so maidenly and fearful, as not to venture down
their hills for fear of drowning, now have a design to secure themselves
against all future attempts from the God of heaven himself.
Thus oft we see God’s judgements leave such an impression on men’s
spirits, that for a while they stand aloof from their sins—as these on their
hills—afraid to come down to them; but when they see fair weather continue,
and no clouds gather towards another storm, then they can descend to their old
wicked practices, and grow more bold and heaven-daring than ever.
But if thou wilt be a Christian indeed, keep on thy watch still, remit
not in thy care. Thou hast well
run hitherto. O lie not down,
like some lazy traveller, by the wayside to sleep, but reserve thy resting
time till thou gettest home out of all danger.
Thy God rested not till the last day’s work in the creation was
finished, neither do thou cease to wake or work till thou canst say thy
salvation work is finished.
Second. Watch universally.
Watch thy whole man. The honest
watchman walks the rounds, and compasseth the whole town.
He doth not limit his care to this house or that.
So do thou watch over thy whole man.
A pore in the body is a door wide enough to let in a disease if God
command, and any one faculty of thy soul, or member of thy body to let in an
enemy that may endanger thy spiritual welfare. Alas, how few set the watch
round? some one faculty is not guarded, or member of the body not regarded. He
that is scrupulous in one, you shall find him secure in another.
May be thou settest a watch at the door of thy lips, that no impure
communication offends the ears of men; but how is the Lord’s watch kept at
the temple door of thy heart? II Chr.
Is not that defiled with lust? Thou,
may be, keepest thy hand out of thy neighbour’s purse, and thy foot from
going on a thievish errand to thy neighbour's house; but does not thy envious
heart grudge him what God allows him? When
thou prayest, thou art very careful thy outward posture be reverent; but what
eye hast thou on thy soul that it performs its part in the duty?
Watch in everything. If the
apostle bids, ‘in everything give thanks,’ then it behoves us in
everything to watch, that God may not lose his praise, which he doth in most
for want of watching. No action
so little, almost, but we may in it do God or the devil some service, and
therefore none too little for our care to be bestowed on.
He was a holy man indeed, of whom it was said, that ‘he ate and drank
eternal life.’ The meaning is,
he kept such a holy watch over himself in these things, that he was in heaven
while doing them. There is no
creature so little among all God's works but his providence watcheth over it,
even to a sparrow and a hair. Let
there be no word or work of thine over which thou art not watchful.
Thou shalt be judged by them even to thy idle words and thoughts, and
wilt thou not have care of them?
Third. Watch wisely.
This thou shalt do if thou knowest where thou shouldst keep strictest
watch, and that must be first in the weightiest duty of the command.
‘Tithing of cummin and anise’ must not be neglected; but take heed
thou dost not neglect the weightiest things of the law, ‘judgment, mercy,
and faith,’ making your preciseness in the less a blind for your horrible
wickedness in the greater, Matt. 23:23.
Begin at the right end of your work, Christian, by placing your chief
care about these main duties to God and man, in his law and gospel, in his
worship, and in thy daily course; which when thou hast done, neglect not the
circumstantials. Should a master
before he goes forth, charge his servant to look to his child, and trim his
house up handsomely against he comes home, when he returns will he thank his
servant for sweeping his house, and making it trim, if he finds his child
through his negligence fallen into the fire, and by it killed or crippled?
No sure, he left his child with him as his chief charge, to which the
other should have yielded, if both could not be done.
There hath been a great zeal of late among us about some
circumstantials of worship; but who looks to the little child—the main
duties of Christianity, I mean? Was
there ever less love, charity, self-denial, heavenly-mindedness, or the power
of holiness in any of its several walks, than in this sad age of ours?
Alas, these, like the child, are in great danger of perishing in the
fire of contention and division, which a perverse zeal in less things hath
kindled among us.
Be sure thou beest watchful more than ordinary over thyself, in those
things where thou findest thyself weakest, and hast been oftenest foiled.
The weakest part of the city needs the strongest guard, and in our
bodies the tenderest part is most observed and kept warmest.
And I should think it were strange, if thy fabric of grace stands so
strong and even, that thou shouldst not soon perceive which side needs the
shore most, by some inclination of it one way more than another.
Thy body is not so firm, but thou findest this humour overabound, and
that part craze faster than another; and so mayest thou in thy soul.
Well, take counsel in the thing, and what thou findest weakest, watch
more carefully. Is it thy head is
weak—thy judgment I mean? watch thyself, and come not among those that drink
no wine but that which thy weak parts cannot bear —seraphic notions and
high-flown opinions—and do not think thyself much wronged to be forbidden
their cup. Such strong wine is
more heady than hearty, and they that trade most with it are not found of the
healthiest tempers of their souls, no more than they that live most of strong
water are for their bodies. Is
thy impotency in thy passions? Indeed
we are weak as they are strong and violent.
Now watch over them as one that dwells in a thatched house would do of
every spark that flies out of his chimney, lest it should light on it and set
all on fire. O take heed what
speeches come from thy mouth, or from any thou conversest with.
This is the little instrument sets the whole course of nature on flame.
When our neighbour's house is on fire we cast water on our roof, or cover it
with a wet sheet. When the flame
breaks out at another’s mouth, now look thou throwest water on thy own hot
spirit. Some cooling,
wrath-quenching scriptures and arguments ever carry with thee for that
purpose. And so in any other
particular as thou findest thy weakness.
Wishly, an adverb of local usage, meaning with longing,
Fadge, an obsolete word, to agree; also, suit, fit.
Bogle, To start with fright or amazement.—SDB.
Comparationem videtur egisse qui utrumque cognoverit, et judicato
pronunciâsse eum meliorem, cujus se rursus esse maluerit.
— Tertull. de Pœnit.
Shark, to search, and prowl about; live by petty theft.
sometimes prolle, to search or prowl about for anything. — Ed.
Bottoms, vessels of burden.
Shoar, usually spelled shore, to prop up, support.
Slubbered, performed in a slipshod fashion.—SDB.