[chapter:v2 1. Fourth Piece—The Christian’s Spiritual Shield.] [chapters:300,right]

Volume 2

1. Fourth Piece—The Christian’s Spiritual Shield.

2. The Saint’s Enemy Described.

3. Fifth Piece—The Christian’s Helmet.

4. Sixth Piece—The Christian’s Sword.

5. The necessary duty of the Christian, as clothed in the Whole Armour of God: or, how the Spiritual Panoply may alone be kept furbished.

6. How to perform the duty commanded—a directory for prayer.

7. The Inward Principle of Prayer

8. The Duty of every Christian in complete Armour to aid by Prayer.

The Christian

In Complete Armour

Volume Two

A Treatise of

The Whole Armour of God

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

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

— Ephesians 6:13-20

Part Second.—Direction Eighth.

The Several Pieces of the Whole Armour of God.

Fourth Piece—The Christian’s Spiritual Shield.

‘Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench

all the fiery darts of the wicked.’

— Ephesians 6:16

The Fourth piece in the Christian’s panoply presents itself in this verse to our consideration —and that is The Shield of Faith. A grace of graces it is, and here fitly placed in the midst of her other companions. It stands, methinks, among them, as the heart in the midst of the body; or, if you please, as David when Samuel ‘anointed him in the midst of his brethren,’ I Sam. 16:13. The apostle, when he comes to speak of this grace doth, as it were, lift up its head, and anoint it above all its fellows—‘above all, take the shield of faith.’ The words easily fall into these two general parts. FIRST. An exhortation—‘above all, take the shield of faith.’ SECOND. A powerful argument pressing the exhortation—‘whereby ye are able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked.’

explication of the words.

In the exhortation ‘Above all, taking the shield of faith, whereby ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked,’ these four particulars call for our inquiry towards the explication of the words. First. What faith it is that is here commended to the Christian soldier. Second. Having found the kind, we are to inquire what his faith is as to its nature. Third. Why it is compared to a shield rather than other pieces. Fourth. What is the importance of this §B4 BF4<, ‘above all.’

 

[The kind of faith here meant.]

First Inquiry. What faith is it that here is commended? This will soon be known, if we consider the use and end for which it is commended to the Christian, and that is to enable him to ‘quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;’ i.e. of the wicked one, the devil. Now, look upon the several kinds of faith, and that among them must be the faith of this place which enables the creature to quench Satan’s fiery darts, yea, all his fiery darts. Historical faith cannot do this, and therefore is not it. This is so far from quenching Satan’s fiery darts, that the devil himself, that shoots them, hath this faith. ‘The devils believe,’ James 2:19. Temporary faith cannot do it. This is so far from quenching Satan’s fiery darts, that itself is quenched by them. It makes a goodly blaze of profession, and ‘endures for a while,’ Matt. 13:21, but soon disappears. Miraculous faith, this falls as short as the former. Judas’ miraculous faith, which he had with other of the apostles—for aught that we can read —enabling him to cast devils out of others, left himself possessed of the devil of covetousness, hypoc­risy, and treason; yea, a whole legion of lusts, that hurried him down the hill of despair into the bottomless pit of perdition. There is only one kind of faith remains, which is it the apostle means in this place, and that is justifying faith. This indeed is the grace that makes him, whoever hath it, the devil’s match. Satan hath not so much advantage of the Christian by the transcendency of his natural abilities, as he hath of Satan in this cause and this his weapon. The apos­tle is confident to give the day to the Christian before the fight is fully over: ‘Ye have overcome the wicked one,’ I John 2:13, that is, ye are as sure to do it as if you were now mounted on your triumphant chariot in heaven. The knight shall overcome the giant; the saint, Satan; and the same apostle tells us what gets him the day. ‘This is the victory that over­cometh the world, even our faith,’ I John 5:4.

[Justifying faith, as to its nature.]

Second Inquiry. What is this justifying faith as to its nature?

I shall answer this, First. Negatively. Second. Af­firmatively.

First. Negatively, in two particulars.

1. Justifying faith is not a naked assent to the truths of the gospel. This justifying faith doth give; but this doth not make it justifying faith. A dogmat­ical faith, or historical, is comprehended in justifying faith. But dogmatical faith doth not infer justifying faith. Justifying faith cannot be without a dogmatical; it implies it, as the rational soul in man doth the sen­sitive. But, the dogmatical may be without the justi­fying, as the sensitive soul in the beast without the ra­tional. Judas knew the Scriptures, and without doubt did assent to the truth of them, when he was so zeal­ous a preacher of the gospel; but he never had so much as one dram of jus­tifying faith in his soul. ‘But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him,’ John 6:64. Yea, Ju­das’ master, the devil himself—one far enough, I sup­pose, from justifying faith—yet he assents to the truth of the word. He goes against his conscience who denies them. When he tempted Christ he did not dispute against the Scripture, but from the Scripture, drawing his arrows out of this quiver, Matt. 4:6. And at another time, he makes as full a confession of Christ, for the matter, as Peter himself did, Matt. 8:29, compared with Matt. 16:17. Assent to the truth of the word is but an act of the understanding, which reprobates and devils may exercise; but justifying faith is a compounded habit, and hath its seat both in the under­standing and will; and therefore [it is] called a ‘believing with the heart,’ Rom. 10:10; yea, a ‘believing with all the heart,’ Acts 8:37. ‘Philip said, If thou be­lievest with all thine heart, thou mayest.’ It takes all the powers of the soul. There is a double object in the promise—one proper to the understanding, to move that; another proper to the will, to excite and work upon that. As the promise is true, so it calls for an act of assent from the understanding; and as it is good as well as true, so it calls for an act of the will to embrace and receive it. Therefore, he which only no­tionally knows the promise, and speculatively assents to the truth of it, without clinging to it, and embracing of it, doth not believe savingly, and can have no more benefit from the promise, than nourishment from the food he sees and acknowledgeth to be wholesome, but eats none of.

2. Justifying faith is not assurance. If it were, St. John might have spared his pains, who wrote to them that ‘believed on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life,’ I John 5:13. They might then have said ‘We do this already. What else is our faith, but a believing that we are such as through Christ are pardoned, and shall through him be saved?’ But this cannot be so. If faith were assurance, then a man’s sins would be pardoned before he believes, for he must necessarily be pardoned before he can know he is pardoned. The candle must be lighted before I can see it is lighted. The child must be born before I can be assured it is born. The object must be before the act. Assurance rather is the fruit of faith. It is in faith as the flower is in the root. Faith, in time, after much communion with God, ac­quaintance with the word, and experience of his deal­ings with the soul, may flourish into assurance. But, as the root truly lives before the flower appears, and continues when that hath shed its beautiful leaves, and gone again; so doth true justifying faith live before assurance comes, and after it disappears. As­surance is, as it were, the cream of faith. Now you know there is milk before there is cream, this riseth not but after some time standing, and there remains milk after it is fleted off. How many, alas! of the precious saints of God must we shut out from being believers, if there is no faith but what amounts to assurance? We must needs offend against the generation of God’s children, among whom some are babes, not yet come to the use of their reflex act of faith, so as to own the graces of God in them to be true, upon the review that they take of their own actings. And, must not the child be allowed to be a child, till he can speak for himself, and say he is so? Others there are in Christ’s family, who are of higher stature and great­er experience in the ways of God, yet have lost those apprehensions of pardoning mercy, which once they were, through the goodness of God, able to have shown—shall we say their faith went away in the de­parture of their assurance? How oft then in a year may a believer be no believer? even as oft as God withdraws and leaves the creature in the dark. Assur­ance is like the sun-flower, which opens with the day and shuts with the night. It follows the motion of God’s face. If that looks smilingly on the soul, it lives; if that frowns or hides itself, it dies. But faith is a plant that can grow in the shade, a grace that can find the way to heaven in a dark night. It can ‘walk in darkness,’ and yet ‘trust in the name of the Lord,’ Isa. 50:10. In a word, by making the essence of faith to lie in assurance, we should not only offend against the generation of God’s children, but against the God and Father of these children; for at one clap we turn the greater number of those children he hath here on earth out of doors. Yes, we are cruel to those he is most tender of, and make sad the hearts of those that he would have chiefly comforted. Indeed if this were true, a great part of gospel provision laid up in the promises is of little use. We read of promises to those that mourn, ‘they shall be comforted,’ to the contrite, ‘they shall be revived,’ to him that ‘walks in darkness,’ and the like. These belong to believers, and none else. Surely then there are some believers that are in the dark, under the hatches of sorrow, wounded and broken with their sins, and temptation for them. But they are not such as are assured of the love of God; their water is turned into joy, their night into light, their sighs and sobs into joy and praise.

Second. I shall answer affirmatively, what justi­fying faith is, and in the description of it I shall con­sider it solely as justifying. And so take it in these few words—It is the act of the soul whereby it rests on Christ crucified for pardon and life, and that upon the warrant of the promise. In the description observe,

1. The subject where faith is seated, not any single faculty, but the soul. 2. The object of faith as justifying—Christ crucified. 3. The act of faith upon this object, and that is resting on Christ crucified for pardon and life. 4. The warrant and security that faith goes upon in this act.

1. The subject where faith is seated, not any sin­gle faculty, but the soul. Of this I have spoken some­thing before, and so pass on to the second point.

2. Here is the object of faith as justifying, and that is Christ crucified. The whole truth of God is the object of justifying faith. It trades with the whole word of God, and doth firmly assent unto it; but, in its justifying act, it singles out Christ crucified for its object. (1.) The person of Christ is the object of faith as justifying. (2.) Christ as crucified.

(1.) The person of Christ. Not any axiom or proposition in the word. This is the object of assurance, not of faith. Assurance saith ‘I believe my sins are pardoned through Christ.’ Faith’s language is, ‘I believe on Christ for the pardon of them.’ The word of God doth direct our faith to Christ, and terminates it upon him; called therefore, a ‘coming to Christ,’ Matt. 11:28, a ‘receiving of him,’ John 1:12, a ‘believing on him,’ John 17:20. The promise is but the dish in which Christ, the true food of the soul, is served up; and, if faith’s hand be on the promise, it is but as one that draws the dish to him, that he may come at the dainties in it. The promise is the marriage-ring on the hand of faith. Now we are not married to the ring, but with it unto Christ. ‘All the promises,’ saith the apostle, ‘are yea and amen in him.’ They have their excellency from him, and efficacy in him—I mean in a soul’s union to him. To run away with a promise, and not to close with Christ, and by faith become one in him, is as if a man should rend a branch from a tree, and lay it up in his chest, expecting it to bear fruit there. Promises are dead branches severed from Christ. But when a soul by faith becomes united to Christ, then he partakes of all his fatness; not a promise but yields sweetness to it.

(2.) As Christ is the primary object of faith, so Christ as crucified. Not Christ in his personal ex­cellencies—so he is the object rather of our love than faith—but as bleeding, and that to death, under the hand of divine justice for to make an atonement by God’s own appointment for the sins of the world. As the handmaid’s eye is to her mistress’s hand for direc­tion, so faith’s eye is on God revealing himself in his word; which way God by it points the soul, thither it goes. Now there faith finds God, intending to save poor sinners, pitched on Christ, and Christ alone, for the transacting and effecting of it, and him whom God chooseth to trust with the work—him and him alone—will faith choose to lay the burden of her confidence on.

Again, faith observes how Christ performed this great work, and accordingly how the promise holds him forth to be applied for pardon and salvation. Now faith finds that then Christ made the full payment to the jus­tice of God for sin, when he poured out his blood to death upon the cross. All the prece­daneous[1] acts of his humiliation were but preparatory to this. He was born to die; he was sent into the world as a lamb bound with the bonds of an irreversible decree for a sacrifice. Christ himself when he came into the world understood this to be the errand he was sent on, Heb. 10:5. ‘Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me;’ i.e. to be an expiatory sacrifice. Without this, all he had done would have been labour undone. No redemption but by his blood, ‘In whom we have re­demption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,’ Eph. 1:7. No church without his blood, ‘The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,’ Acts 20:28. E latere Christi morientis exstitit ecclesia— the church is taken out of dying Jesus’ side, as Eve out of sleeping Adam’s. Christ did not redeem and save poor souls by sitting in majesty on his heavenly throne, but by hanging on the shameful cross, under the tormenting hand of man’s fury and God’s just wrath. And therefore the poor soul, that would have pardon of sin, is directed to place his faith not only on Christ, but on bleeding Christ, Rom. 3:25: ‘Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.’

3. The act of faith upon this object, and that is resting on Christ crucified for pardon and life. I know there are many acts of the soul antecedent to this, without which the creature can never truly exer­cise this. As knowledge, especially of God and Christ, upon whose authority and testimony it relies: ‘I know whom I have believed,’ II Tim. 1:12. None will readily trust a stranger that he is wholly unacquainted with. Abraham indeed went he knew not whither, but he did not go with he knew not whom. The greatest thing God laboured to instruct Abraham in, and satisfy him with, was—

(1.) The knowledge of his own glorious self —who he was—that he might take his word and rely on it, how harsh and improbable, soever it might sound in sense or reason’s ear, ‘I am Almighty God, walk before me, and be thou perfect.’

(2.) Assent to the truth of the word of God. If this foundation-stone be not laid, faith’s building cannot go on. Who will trust him that he dares not think speaks true?

(3.) A sense of our own vileness and emptiness. By the one he means us see our demerit, what we deserve, hell and damnation; by the other, our own impotency, how little we can contribute—yea, just nothing, to our own reconciliation. I join them together, because the one ariseth out of the other. Sense of this emptiness comes from the deep apprehensions a soul hath of the other’s fulness in him. You never knew a man full of self-confidence and self-abasement together. The con­science cannot abound with the sense of sin and the heart with self-conceit at the same time. ‘When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died,’ Rom. 7:9—that is, when the commandment came, in the accusations of it, to his conscience, sin, like a sleepy lion had lain still, and he secure and confident by it, when that began to roar in his conscience, then he died—that is, his vain-confidence of himself gave up the ghost. Both these are necessary to faith—sense of sin, like the smart of a wound, to make the creature think of a plaster to cure it; and sense of emptiness and insufficiency in himself or any creature to do the cure necessary to make him go out to Christ for cure. We do not go abroad to beg what we have of our own within doors. These, with some other, are necessary to faith. But the receiving of Christ, and resting on Christ, is that act of faith to which justification is promised. ‘He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,’ John 3:18. Now every one that assents to the truth of what the Scripture saith of Christ, doth not believe on Christ. No; This believing on Christ im­plies an union of the soul to Christ and fiduciary re­cumbency on Christ. Therefore we are bid to take hold of Christ, Isa. 27:5, who is there called God’s ‘strength,’ as elsewhere his arm—‘that we may make peace with God, and we shall make peace with him.’ It is not the sight of a man’s arm stretched out to a man in the water will save him from drowning, but the taking hold of it. Christ is a stone. Faith builds upon Christ for salvation. And how? but by laying its whole weight and expectation of mercy on him. What Paul, II Tim. 1:12, calls ‘believing’ in the former part of the verse, he calls in the latter part a ‘committing to him to be kept against that day.’

(4.) The fourth and last branch in the description, is the warrant and security that faith goes upon in this act. And this it takes from the promise. In­deed, there is no way how God can be conceived to contract a debt to his creature but by promise. There are ways for men to become debtors one to another, though never any promise passed from them. The fa­ther is a debtor to his child, and owes him love, provi­sion, and nurture. The child is a debtor to his parent, and owes him honour and obedience, though neither of them promised this to each other. Much more doth the creature stand deep in God’s debt-book, and owes himself with all he hath to God his Maker, though he hath not the grace voluntarily to make these over to God by promise and covenant. But the great God is so absolute a Sovereign, that none can make a law to bind him but himself. Till he be pleased to pass an act of grace, of his own good-will, to give this or do that good thing to and for his poor creatures, no claim can be laid to the least mercy at his hands. There are two things therefore that are greatly to be heeded by the soul that would believe.

(1.) He must inquire for a promise to bear his faith out, and warrant him to expect such a mercy at God’s hand.

(2.) Again, when he hath found a promise, and observed the terms well on which it runs, the Chris­tian is not to stay for any further encouragement, but upon the credit of the naked promise to set his faith on work.

(a) He is to inquire out a promise, and observe well the terms on which it runs. Indeed upon the point it comes all to one; to believe without a promise, or to believe on a promise, but not observe the terms of it. Both are presumptuous, and speed alike. A prince hath as much reason to be angry with him that doth not keep close to his commission, as with another that acts without any commission. O how little considered is this by many who make bold of God’s arm to lean on for pardon and salvation, but never think that the promise, which presents Christ to leaned on as a Saviour, presents him at the same time to be chosen as a Lord and Prince! Such were the rebellious Israelites, who durst make God and his promise a leaning-stock for their foul elbows to rest on. ‘They call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel; The Lord of hosts is his name,’ Isa. 48:2; but they were more bold than welcome. God rejected their confidence and loathed their sauciness. Though a prince would not disdain to let a poor wounded man, faint with bleeding, and unable to go alone, upon his humble request, make use of his arm, rather than he should perish in the streets; yet he would, with indignation, reject the same motion from a filthy drunkard that is be­smeared with his vomit, if he should desire leave to lean on him because he cannot go alone. I am sure, how welcome soever the poor humble soul—that lies bleeding for his sins at the very mouth of hell in his own thoughts—is to God when he comes upon the encouragement of the promise to lean on Christ, yet the profane wretch that emboldens himself to come to Christ, shall be kicked away with infinite disdain and abhorrency by a holy God for abusing his promise.

(b) When a poor sinner hath found a promise, and observes the terms with a heart willing to embrace them, now he is to put forth an act of faith upon the credit of the naked promise, without staying for any other encouragement elsewhere. Faith is a right pilgrim-grace; it travels with us to heaven, and when it sees us safe got within our Father’s doors —heaven I mean—it takes leave of us. Now, the promise is this pilgrim’s staff with which it sets forth, though, like Jacob on his way to Padan-aram, it hath nothing else with it. ‘Remember the word unto thy servant,’ saith David, ‘upon which thou hast caused me to hope,’ Ps. 119:49. The word of promise was all he had to show, and he counts that enough to set his faith on work. But alas! some make comfort the ground of faith, and experience their warrant to believe. They will believe when God manifests him­self to them, and sends in some sensible demonstra­tion of his love to their souls; but, till this be done, the promise hath little authority to silence their unbe­lieving cavils, and quiet their misgiving hearts into a waiting on God for the performance of what there is spoken from God’s own mouth. It is like old Jacob, who gave no credit to his children when they told him Joseph was yet alive and governor over all the land of Egypt. This news was too good and great to enter into his belief, who had given him {up} for dead {for} so long; it is said, ‘his heart fainted, for he believed them not,’ Gen. 45:26. But when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him thither, then it is said, ‘the spirit of Jacob revived,’ ver. 27. Truly thus, though the promise tells the poor humbled sinner Christ is alive, governor of heaven itself, with all power there and on earth put into his hand, that he may give eternal life unto all that believe on him, and he be therefore exhorted to rest upon Christ in the promise, yet his heart faints and believes not. It is the wagons he would fain see—some sensible expressions of God’s love that he listens after—if he did but know that he was an elect person, or were one that God did love, then he would believe. But God hath little reason to thank him in the meantime for suspending his faith till these come. This is, as I may so say, to believe for spiritual loves, and is rather sense than faith.

[Why faith is compared to a shield.]

Third Inquiry. Why is faith compared to a shield?

It is so, because of a double resemblance that is between this grace and that piece of armour.

First Resemblance. This shield is not for the de­fence of any particular part of the body—as almost all the other pieces are—the helmet fitted for the head, the plate designed for the breast, and so others having their several parts which they are fastened to—but is intended for the defence of the whole body. It was used therefore to be made very large, for its broadness called 2LD,ÎH, of {from} 2bD”, a gate or door, because so long and large as in a manner to cover the whole body. To this that place alludes, ‘For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield,’ Ps. 5:12. And if the shield were not large enough at once to cover every part, yet, being a movable piece of armour, the skilful soldier might turn it this way or that way, to latch the blow or arrow from lighting on any part they were directed to. And this indeed doth excellently well set forth the universal use that faith is of to the Christian. It defends the whole man; every part of the Christian by it preserved. Sometimes the temptation is levelled at the head. Satan, he will be disputing against this truth and that, to make the Christian, if he can, call them into question, merely because his reason and understanding cannot comprehend them; and he pre­vails with some that do not think themselves the un­wisest in the world, upon this very account, to blot the deity of Christ, with other mysterious truths of the gospel, quite out of their creed. Now faith inter­poseth between the Christian and this arrow. It comes into the relief of the Christian’s weak under­standing as seasonably as Zeruiah did to David, when the giant Ishbi-benob thought to have slain him. I will trust the word of God, saith the believer, rather than my own purblind reason. ‘Abraham not being weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead,’ Rom. 4:19. If sense should have had the hearing of that business, yea, if that holy man had put it to a reference between sense and reason also, what resolution his thoughts should come to concerning this strange message that was brought him, he would have been in danger of calling the truth of it in question, though God himself was the messenger; but faith brought him honourably off.

Again, Is it conscience that the tempter assaults? —and it is not seldom that he is shooting his fiery darts of horror and terror at his mark. Faith receives the shock, and saves the creature harmless: ‘I had fainted, unless I had believed,’ saith David, Ps. 27:13. He means when false witnesses rose up against him, and such as breathed out cruelty, as appears, ver. 12. Faith was his best fence against man’s charge; and so it is against Satan’s and conscience’s also. Never was a man in a sadder condition than the poor jailer, Acts 16. Much ado he had to keep his own hands from offering violence to himself. Who that had seen him fall trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, with that sad question in his mouth, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ ver. 30, could have thought this deep wound that was now given his conscience, would so soon have been closed and cured as we find it, ver. 34. The earthquake of horror that did so dreadfully shake his conscience is gone, and his trembling turned into rejoicing. Now mark what made this blessed calm. ‘Believe,’ saith Paul, ‘on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,’ ver. 31; and ver. 34, it is said, he ‘rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.’ It is faith stills the storm which sin had raised—faith that changed his doleful note into joy and gladness. Hap­py man he was, that had such skilful chirurgeons so near him, who could direct him the nearest way to a cure.

Again, Is it the will that the temptation is laid to catch? Some commands of God cannot be obeyed without much self-denial, because they cross us in that which our own wills are carried forth very strong­ly to desire; so that we must deny our will before we can do the will of God. Now a temptation comes very forcible, when it runs with the tide of our own wills. ‘What,’ saith Satan, ‘wilt thou serve a God that thus thwarts thee in everything?’ If thou lovest anything more than another, presently he must have that from thee. No lamb in all the flock will serve for a sacrifice, but Isaac, Abraham’s only child, he must be offered up. No place will content God, that Abraham should serve him in, but where he must live in ban­ishment from his dear relations and acquaintance. ‘Wilt thou,’ saith Satan, ‘yield to such hard terms as these?’ Now faith is the grace that doth the soul ad­mirable service at such a pinch as this. It is able to appease the tumult which such a temptation may raise in the soul, and dismiss the rout of all mutinous thoughts, yea, to keep the King of heaven’s peace so sweetly in the Christian’s bosom, that such a temptation, if it comes, shall find few or none to declare for it, ‘By faith,’ it saith, ‘Abraham obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither,’ Heb. 11:8. And we do not read of one fond look that his heart cast back upon his dear native country, as he went from it, so well pleased had faith made him with his journey. It was hard work for Moses to strip himself of the magistrate’s robes, and put his hands on his servants head; hard to leave another to enter upon his labours, and reap the honour of lodging the Israelites’ colours in Canaan, after it had cost him so many a weary step to bring them within sight of it. Yet, faith made him willing; he saw better robes, that he should put on in heaven, than those he was called on to put off on earth. The lowest place in glory is, beyond all compare, greater preferment than the highest place of honour here below; to stand before the throne there, and minister to God in immediate service, than to sit in a throne on earth and have all the world waiting at his foot.

Second Resemblance. The shield doth not only defend the whole body, but is a defence of the soldier’s armour also. It keeps the arrow from the hel­met as well as head, from the breast and breast-plate also. Thus faith it is armour upon armour, a grace that preserves all the other graces. But of this more hereafter.

[The import of the expression ‘above all.’]

Fourth Inquiry. What doth this ¦B4 BVF4<, ‘above all,’ import?

There is variety among interpreters about it. Jerome reads it, in omnibus, sumentes scutum fidei —in all things taking the shield of faith, i.e. in all duties, enterprises, temptations, or afflictions—in whatever you are called to do or suffer, take faith. Indeed, faith to the Christian is like fire to the chem­ist; nothing can be done without it christianly. ‘But without faith it is impossible to please God,’ Heb. 11:6. And how can the Christian please himself in that wherein he doth not please his God? Others read it, ‘Over all take the shield of faith,’ i.e. take it over all your graces, as that which will cover them. All other graces have their safety from faith; they lie secure under the shadow of faith, as an army lies safe under the protection and command of a strong castle planted round with cannon. But we shall follow our translation, as being most comprehensive, and that which will take these within its compass. ‘Above all, take,’ &c., that is, among all the pieces of armour which you are to provide and wear for your defence, let this have the pre-eminence of your care to get; and having got, to keep it. Now, that the apostle meant to give a preeminency to faith above the other graces appears,

First. By the piece of armour he compares it to —the shield. This, of old, was prized above all other pieces by soldiers. They counted it greater shame to lose their shield, than to lose the field, and therefore when under the very foot of their enemy, they would not part with it, but esteemed it an honour to die with their shield in their hand. It was the charge that one laid upon her son, going into the wars, when she gave him a shield, ‘that he should either bring his shield home with him, or be brought home upon his shield.’ She had rather see him dead with it, than come home alive without it.

Second. By the noble effect which is here ascribed to faith—‘by which ye shall quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.’ The other pieces are nakedly commended, ‘take the girdle of truth, breast-plate of righteousness,’ and so the rest; but there is nothing singly ascribed to any of them, what they can do, yet, when he speaks of faith, he ascribes the whole victory to it. This quencheth ‘all the fiery darts of the wicked.’ And why thus? Are the other graces of no use, and doth faith do all? What need then the Christian load himself with more than this one piece? I answer, every piece hath its necessary use in the Christian’s warfare: not any one part of the whole suit can be spared in the day of battle. But the reason, I humbly conceive, why no particular effect is annexed severally to each of these, but all ascribed to faith, is, to let us know that all these graces—their efficacy and our benefit from them—is in conjunction with faith, and the influence they receive from faith; so that this is plainly the design of the Spirit of God to give faith the precedency in our care above the rest. Only, take heed that you do not fancy any indifferency or negligence to be allowed you in your endeavours after the other graces, because you are more strongly provoked and excited up to the getting and keeping this. The apostle would intend your care here, but not remit it there. Cannot we bid a soldier above all parts of his body to beware of a wound at his heart, but he must needs think presently he need take no care to guard his head? Truly, such a one would deserve a cracked crown to cure him of his folly. The word thus op ened, we shall content ourselves with one general observation from them; and it is this.

DIRECTION VIII.—FIRST GENERAL PART.

[The pre-eminence of faith above other graces.]

The exhortation—‘Above all, taking the shield of faith’ (Eph. 6:16).

Of all graces faith is the chief, and is chiefly to be laboured for. There is a precedency or pre-eminence peculiar to this above all other. It is among graces, as the sun is among the planets, or as Solomon’s ‘virtuous woman among the daughters,’ Prov. 31:29. Though every grace had done virtuously, yet thou, O faith, excellest them all. The apostle indeed give the precedency to love, and sets faith on the lower hand. ‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity,’ I Cor. 13:13. Yet, you may observe, that this prelation of it before faith hath a particular respect to the saints’s blissful state in heaven, where love remains, and faith ceaseth. In that regard love indeed is the greater, because it is the end of our faith. We apprehend by faith that we may enjoy by love. But, if we consider the Christian’s present state, while militant on earth, in this respect love must give place to faith. It is true, love is the grace that shall triumph in heaven. But it is faith, not love, which is the conquering grace on earth. ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,’ I John 5:4. Love indeed hath its place in the battle, and doth excellent service, but is under faith its leader. ‘Faith which worketh by love,’ Gal. 5:6. Even as the captain fighteth by his soldiers whom he leads on, so faith works by love which it excites. Love, it is true, is the grace that at last possesseth the inheritance, but it is faith that gives the Christian right unto it. Without this he should never have enjoyed it, John 1:12. In a word, it is love that unites God and glorified saints together in heaven; but it was faith that first united them to Christ while they were on earth—‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,’ Eph. 3:17. And if Christ had dwelt in them by faith on earth, they should never have dwelt with God in heaven.

BRANCH FIRST.

[Four Particulars in which faith stands

pre-eminent above other graces.]

I proceed to show wherein it appears that faith hath such a pre-eminence above other graces as we previously have indicated. This takes in the following particulars.

First Particular. In the great inquiry that God makes after faith above all other graces. Nothing more speaks our esteem of persons or things than our inquiry after them. We ask first and most for those that stand highest in our thoughts. ‘Is your father well?’ said Joseph, ‘the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?’ Gen. 43:27. No doubt there were others of whose welfare Joseph would have been glad to hear also, but being most pent and pained with a natural affection to his father, he easeth himself of this first. And when David asks for Absalom above all others, ‘Is the young man Absalom safe?’ and over again with it to Cush, II Sam. 18, it was easy to guess how highly he valued his life. Now you shall find the great inquiry that God makes is for faith: ‘When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?’ Luke 18:8—implying that this is the grace which he will especially look for and desires to find. We read, John 9, of a great miracle, a man by Christ restored to his sight that was born blind. This so enraged the malicious Pharisees that they excommunicate the poor man for no other fault but giving his merciful physician a good word. This brings Christ the sooner to him—so tender is he of those that suffer for him, that they shall not long want his sweet company—and he hath no cause to complain for being cast out of man’s society that gains Christ’s presence by the same. Now, observe what Christ saith to him at his first meet­ing, ver. 35, ‘Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?’ The man had already expressed some zeal for Christ, in vindicating him, and speaking well of him to the head of the bitterest enemies he had on earth, for which he was now made a sufferer at their hands. This was very commendable. But there is one thing Christ prizeth above all this, and that is faith. This he inquires after, ‘Dost thou believe on the Son of God?’ As if he had said, ‘All this thy zeal in speaking for me, and patience in suffering, are nothing worth in my account except thou hast faith also.’ Indeed most of God’s dealings with his people, what are they but inquiries after faith? either the truth or strength of it. When he af­flicts them, it is ‘for the trial of their faith,’ I Peter 1:7. Afflictions they are God’s spade and mattock, by which he digs into his people’s hearts to find out this gold of faith. Not but that he inquires for other graces also; but this is named for all as the chief; which found, all the other will soon appear. When God seems to delay, and makes, as it were, a halt in his providence, before he comes with the mercy he prom­iseth, and we pray for, it is exploratory to faith. ‘O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee even as thou wilt,’ Matt. 15:28. She had received her answer without so much ado; only Christ had a mercy in store more than she thought of. With the granting of her suit in the cure of her daughter, he had a mind to give her the evidence of her faith also, and the high esteem God hath of his grace, as that which may have of him what it will.

Second Particular. The commendations that are given to faith above other graces. You shall ob­serve, that in the same action wherein other graces are eminently exercised as well as faith, even then faith is taken notice of, and the crown set upon faith’s head rather than any of the other. We hear nothing almost of any other grace throughout the whole 11th of Hebrews but faith. ‘By faith Abraham,’ ‘by faith Ja­cob,’ and the rest of those worthies, did all those fa­mous exploits. There was a concurrence of the oth­er graces with faith in them all. But all goes under the name of faith. The whole army fight, yet the general or the captain hath the honour of the victory ascribed to him. Alexander and Cæsar’s names are transmitted to posterity as the great conquerors that overcame so many battles, not the private soldiers that fought under them. Faith is the captain grace. All those fa­mous acts of those saints are recorded as the achieve­ments of faith. Thus concerning the centurion, ‘Veri­ly,’ saith Christ, ‘I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel,’ Matt. 8:10. There were other graces very eminent in the centurion besides his faith;—his con­scientious care of his poor servant, for whom he could have done no more if he had been his own child. There are some that call themselves Christians, yet would not have troubled themselves so much for a sick servant. Such, alas! are oft less regarded in sickness than their master’s beast. But, especially his humility; this shined forth very eminently in that self-abasing expression: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof,’ Matt. 8:8. Consider but his calling and degree therein, and it makes his humility more conspicuous. A swordsman, yea, a commander! such use to speak big and high. Power is seldom such a friend to humility. Surely he was a man of a rare humble spirit, that he, whose mouth was used so much to words of command over his sol­diers, could so demit[2] and humble himself in his ad­dress to Christ; yet his faith outshines his humility in its greatest strength. Not, I have not found such humility, but ‘such faith’ in all Israel. As if Christ had said, ‘There is not one believer in all Israel but I know him, and how rich he is in faith also; but I have not found so much of this heavenly treasure in any one hand as in this centurion’s.’ Indeed the Christian’s chief riches is in faith’s hand. ‘Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith?’ James 2:5. Why rich in faith, rather than rich in patience, rich in love, or any other grace? O great reason for it, when the creature comes to lay claim to pardon of sin, the favour of God, and heaven itself. It is not love, pa­tience, &c., but faith alone that lays down the price of all these. Not ‘Lord, pardon, save me, here is my love and patience for it;’ but ‘here is Christ, and the price of his blood, which faith presents thee for the full purchase of them all.’ This leads to a third particular, and indeed the chief of all.

Third Particular. The high office that faith is set in above other graces, in the business of our jus­tification before God—‘being justified by faith, we have peace with God,’ Rom. 5:1. Not justified by love, repentance, patience, or any other grace beside faith. O how harsh doth it sound in a Christian ear, justifying patience, justifying repentance! And if they were concerned with the act of justification, as faith is, the name would as well become them as it doth faith itself. But we find this appropriated to faith, and the rest hedged out from having to do in the act of justifi­cation, though included and supposed in the person who is justified. It is faith that justifies without works. This is Paul’s task to prove, Rom. 3. But this faith which justifies is not dead or idle, but a lively working faith, which seems to be James’ design in the second chapter of his epistle. As God did single Christ out from all others to be the only mediator betwixt him and man, and his righteousness to be the meritorious cause of our justification; so he hath singled faith out from all the other graces, to be the instrument or means for appropriating this righ­teousness of Christ to ourselves. Therefore, as this righteousness is called ‘the righteousness of God,’ and opposed to our ‘own righteousness,’ though wrought by God in us, Rom. 10:3, because it is wrought by Christ for us, but not inherent in us, as the other is; so also it is called ‘the righteousness of faith,’ Rom. 4:11, 13—not the righteousness of repentance, love, or any other grace. Now, wherefore is it called ‘the righteousness of faith,’ and not of love, repentance, &c.? Surely, not that faith itself is our righteousness. Then we should be justified by works, while we are justified by faith, contrary to the apostle, who oppos­eth faith and works, Rom. 4.

In a word, then, we should be justified by a righ­teousness of our own, for faith is a grace inherent in us, and as much our own work as any grace besides is. But this is contrary to the same apostle’s doctrine, Php. 3:9, where our own righteousness, and the righteousness which is by faith, are declared to be inconsistent. It can therefore be called ‘the righteousness of faith’ for this reason and no other—because faith is the only grace whose office it is to lay hold on Christ, and so to appropriate his righteousness for the justification of our souls. Christ and faith are relatives which must not be severed. Christ, he is the treasure, and faith the hand which receives it. Christ’s righteousness is the robe, faith the hand that puts it on; so that it is Christ who is the treasure. By his blood he dischargeth our debt, and not by faith; whose office is only to receive Christ, whereby he becomes ours. It is Christ’s righteousness that is the robe which covers our nakedness, and makes us beau­tiful in God’s eye; only, faith hath the honour to put the robe on the soul, and it is no small honour that is therein put upon it above other graces. As God graced Moses exceedingly above the rest of his brethren the Israelites, when he was called up the mount to receive the law from God’s mouth, while they had their bounds set them—to stand waiting at the bot­tom of the hill till he brought it down to them; so doth God highly honour faith, to call this up as the grace by whose hand he will convey this glorious privilege of justification over to us.

Question. But why is faith rather than any other grace else employed in this act?

Answer First. Because there is no grace hath so proper a fitness for this office as faith. Why hath God appointed the eye to see and not the ear? why the hand to take our food rather than the foot? It is easily answered, because these members have a par­ticular fitness for these functions and not the other. Thus faith hath a fitness for this work peculiar to itself. We are justified not by giving anything to God of what we do, but by receiving from God what Christ hath done for us. Now faith is the only receiving grace, and therefore only fit for this office.

Answer Second. There is no grace that God could trust his honour so safely with in this business of justification as with faith. The great design God hath in justifying a poor sinner is to magnify his free mercy in the eye of his creature. This is written in such fair characters in the word, that he who runs {to it} may read it. God was resolved that his free mercy should go away with all the honour, and the creature should be quite cut out from any pretensions to part­nership with him therein. Now there is no way like to this of being justified by faith, for the securing and safe-guarding of the glory of God’s free grace, Rom. 3:25, 26. When the apostle hath in some verses to­gether discoursed of the free justification of a sinner before God, he goes on to show how this cuts the very comb, yea throat, of all self-exalting thoughts, ver. 27: ‘Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.’ Princes, of all wrongs, most disdain and abhor to see their royal bed defiled. So jealous they have been of this, that, for the prevention of all suspicion of such a foul fact, it hath been of old the custom of the greatest monarchs, that those who were their favourites, and admitted into nearest attendance upon their own per­sons and queens, should be eunuchs—such whose very disability of nature might remove all suspicion of any such attempt by them. Truly, God is more jeal­ous of having the glory of his name ravished by the pride and self-glorying of the creature, than ever any prince was of having his queen deflowered. And therefore to secure it from any such horrid abuse, he hath chosen faith—this eunuch grace, as I may so call it—to stand so nigh him, and be employed by him in this high act of grace, whose very nature, being a self-emptying grace, renders it incapable of entering into any such design against the glory of God’s grace. Faith hath two hands; with one it pulls off its own righ­teousness and throws it away, as David did Saul’s ar­mour; with the other it puts on Christ’s righteousness over the soul’s shame, as that in which it dares alone see God or be seen of him. ‘This makes it impossible,’ saith learned and holy Master Ball, ‘how to conceive that faith and works should be conjoined as concauses in justification; seeing the one—that is faith—attributes all to the free grace of God; the other—that is works—challenge to themselves. The one, that is faith, will aspire no higher but to be the instrumental cause of free remission; the other can sit no lower, but to be the matter of justification, if any cause at all. For, if works be accounted to us in the room or place of exact obedience in free justification, do they not supply the place? are they not advanced to the dignity of works complete and perfect in jus­tification from justice?’ Treatise of Covenant of Grace, p. 70.

Fourth Particular. The mighty influence, yea universal, that faith hath upon all her sister-graces, speaks her the chief of them all. What makes the sun so glorious a creature but because it is a com­mon good, and serves all the lower world with light and influence? Faith is a grace whose ministry God useth as much for the good of the spiritual world in the saints—called in Scripture the 6″4<­ 6JÂF4H, ‘the new creation,’ Gal. 6:15—as he doth the sun for the corporeal. Nothing is hid from the heat of the sun, Ps. 19:6, and there is no grace that faith’s influence reach­eth not unto.

[The influence of faith reacheth

unto all other graces.]

First. Faith finds all the graces with work. As the rich tradesman gives out his wool, some to this man, and some to that, who all spin and work of the stock he gives them out, so that, when he ceaseth to trade, they must also, because they have no stock but what he affords them,—thus faith gives out to every grace what they act upon. If faith trades not, neither can they.

To instance in one or two graces for all the rest. Repentance, this is a sweet grace, but set on work by faith. Nineveh’s repentance is attributed unto their faith: ‘The people of Nineveh believed God, and pro­claimed a fast, and put on sackcloth,’ Jonah 3:5. It is very like indeed that their repentance was no more than legal, but it was as good as their faith was. If their faith had been better, so would their repentance also. All is whist and quiet in an unbelieving soul; no news of repentance, nor noise of any complaint made against sin till faith begins to stir. When faith presents the threatening, and binds the truth and terror of it to the conscience, then the sinner hath something to work upon. As light accentuates colours and brings the eye acquainted with its object, whereupon it falls to work, so doth faith actuate sin in the conscience; now musing thoughts will soon arise, and, like clouds, thicken apace into a storm, till they bespread the soul with a universal blackness of horror and trembling for sin; but then also the creature is at a loss, and can go no further in the business of repentance, while faith sends in more work from the promise by presenting a pardon therein to the returning soul; which no sooner is heard and believed by the creature, but the work of repentance goes on apace. Now the cloud of horror and terror, which the fear of wrath, from con­sideration of the threatening, had gathered in the conscience, dissolves into a soft rain of evangelical sorrow, at the report which faith makes from the promise.

Love is another heavenly grace; but faith gathers the fuel that makes this fire. Speak, Christian, whose soul now flames with love to God, was it always thus? No! sure there was a time, I dare say for thee, when thy heart was cold—not a spark of this fire to be found on the altar of thy heart. How is this then, Christian, that now thy soul loves God, whom before thou didst scorn and hate? Surely thou hast heard some good news from heaven, that hath changed thy thoughts of God, and turned the stream of thy love, which ran another way, into this happy channel. And who can be the messenger besides faith that brings any good news from heaven to the soul? It is faith that proclaims the promise; opens Christ’s excellencies; pours out his name, for which the virgins love him. When faith hath drawn a character of Christ out of the word, and presented him in his love and love­liness to the soul, now the creature is sweetly invei­gled in his affections to him; now the Christian hath a copious theme to enlarge upon in his thoughts, whereby to endear Christ more and more unto him —‘Unto him that believes, he is precious;’ and the more faith, the ‘more precious,’ I Peter 1:7. If we should sit in the same room by the dearest friend we had in all the world, and our eyes were held from seeing him, we would take no more notice of him, and give no more respect to him, than to a mere stranger. But if one should come and whisper {to} us in the ear, and tell us this is such a dear friend of yours, that once laid down his life to save yours, that hath made you heir to all the goodly estate that he hath, will you not show your respect to him? O how our hearts would work in our breasts, and make haste to come forth in some passionate expression of our dear affection to him! Yea, how heartily ashamed would we be for our uncivil and unbecoming behav­iour towards him, though occasioned by our ignor­ance of him. Truly thus it is here. So long as faith’s eye hath a mist before it, or is unactive and as it were asleep in the dull habit, the Christian may sit very nigh Christ in an ordinance, in a providence, and be very little affected with him, and drawn out in loves to him. But when faith is awake to see him as he pass­eth by in his love and loveliness, and active to make report to the soul of the sweet excellencies it sees in Christ, as also of his dear bleeding love to his soul, the Christian’s love now cannot choose but spring and leap in his bosom at the voice of faith, as the babe did in Elizabeth’s womb at the salutation of her cousin Mary.

Second. As faith sets the other graces on work by actuating their objects, about which they are con­versant, so it helps them all to work, by fetching strength from Christ to act and reinforce them. Faith is not only the instrument to receive the righteousness of Christ for our justification, but it is also the great instrument to receive grace from Christ for our sanctification. ‘Of his fulness…we receive grace for grace,’ John 1:16. But how do we receive it? Even by faith. Faith unites the soul to Christ; and as by a pipe laid close to the mouth of a fountain water is carried to our houses for the supply of the whole family, so by faith is derived to the soul supply in abundance for the particular offices of all the several graces. He that believes, ‘out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,’ John 7:38. That is, he that hath faith, and is careful to live in the exercise of it, shall have a flow and an increase of all other graces, called here ‘living waters.’ Hence it is that the saints, when they would advance to a high pitch in other graces, pray for the increase of their faith. Our Saviour, Luke 17:3, 4, sets his apostles a very hard lesson when he would wind up their love to such a high pitch as to forgive their offending brother ‘seven times’ in a day. Now mark, ver. 5—‘The apostles,’ apprehending the difficulty of the duty, ‘said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.’ But why did they rather not say, ‘Increase our love,’ see­ing that was the grace they were to exercise in forgiving their brother? Surely it was not because love hath its increase from faith. If they could get more faith on Christ, they might be sure they should have more love to their brother also. The more strongly they could believe on Christ for the pardon of their own sins, not ‘seven,’ but ‘seventy times’ in a day committed against God, the more easy it would be to forgive their brother offending themselves seven times a day. This interpretation, our Saviour’s reply to their pray­er for faith favours, ver. 6 —‘And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.’ Where Christ shows the efficacy of justifying faith by the power of a faith of miracles. As if he had said, ‘You have hit on the right way to get a for­giving spirit; it is faith indeed that would enable you to conquer the unmercifulness of your hearts. Though it were as deeply rooted in you as this sycamore-tree is in the ground, yet by faith you should be able to pluck it up.’ When we would have the whole tree fruitful, we think we do enough to water the root, knowing what the root sucks from the earth it will soon disperse into the branches. Thus that sap and fatness, faith, which is the radical grace, draws from Christ, will be quickly diffused through the branches of the other graces, and tasted in the pleasantness of their fruit.

Third. Faith defends the Christian in the exer­cise of all his graces. ‘By faith we stand,’ Rom. 11:20. As a soldier under the protection of his shield stands his ground and does his duty, notwithstanding all the shot that are made against him to drive him back. When faith fails, then every grace is put to the run and rout. Abraham’s simplicity and sincerity, how was it put to disorder when he dissembled with Abim­elech concerning his wife? and why, but because his faith failed him. Job’s patience received a wound when his hand grew weary, and his shield of faith, which should have covered him, hung down. Indeed, no grace is safe if from under the wing of faith. There­fore, to secure Peter from falling from all grace, Christ tells him, ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not,’ Luke 22:32. This was the reserve that Christ took care should be kept to recover his other graces when foiled by the enemy, and to bring him off that encounter wherein he was so badly bruised and broken. It is said that Christ could not do many mighty things in his own country ‘because of their unbelief,’ Matt. 13:58. Neither can Satan do any great hurt to the Christian so long as faith is upon the place. It is true he aims to fight faith above all, as that which keeps him from coming at the rest, but he is not able long to stand before it. Let a saint be never so humble, pa­tient, devout, alas! Satan will easily pick some hole or other in these graces, and break in upon him when he stands in the best array, if faith be not in the field to cover these. This is the grace that makes him face about and take him to his heels, I Peter 5:9.

Fourth. Faith alone procures acceptance with God for all the other graces and their works. ‘By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice,’ Heb. 11:4. When a Christian hath wrought hardest in a day, and hath spun the finest, evenest, thread of obedience at the wheel of duty, he is afraid to carry home his work at night with an expectation of any ac­ceptance at God’s hands for his work’s sake. No, it is faith he makes use of to present it through Christ to God for acceptance. We are said, I Peter 2:5, ‘To offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ;’ That is, by faith in Christ, for without faith Christ makes none of our sacrifices acceptable. God takes nothing kindly but what the hand of faith pre­sents. And so prevalent is faith with God, that he will take light gold—broken services—at her hand; which, were they to come alone, would be rejected with in­dignation. As a favourite that hath the ear of his prince, finds it easy to get his poor kindred entertained at court also (so Joseph brought his brethren into Pharaoh’s presence with great demonstrations of favour shown them by him for his sake; and Esther wound Mordecai into a high preferment in Ahasu­erus’ court, who upon his own credit could get no far­ther than to sit at the gate), thus faith brings those works and duties into God’s presence, which else were sure to be shut out, and, pleading the righteousness of Christ, procures them to be received into such high favour with God, that they become his delight, Prov. 15:8, and as a pleasant perfume in his nostrils, Mal. 3:4.

Fifth. Faith brings in succours when other graces fail. Two ways the Christian’s graces may fail—in their activity, or in their evidence.

1. In their activity, it is low water sometimes with the Christian. He cannot act so freely and vigorously then as at another time when the tide runs high, through divine assistances that flow in amain upon him. Those temptations which he could at one time snap asunder as easily as Samson did his cords of flax, at another time he is sadly hampered with that he cannot shake them off. Those duties which he performs with delight and joy, when his grace is in a healthful plight; at another time he pants and blows at, as much as a sick man doth to go up a hill—so heavily doth he find them come off. Were not the Christian, think you, ill now on it, if he had no com­ings in but from his own shop of duty? Here now is the excellency of faith; it succours the Christian in this his bankrupt condition. As Joseph got over his brethren to him, and nourished them out of his gran­aries all the time of famine, so doth faith the Christian in his penury of grace and duty. And this it doth in two ways.

(1.) By laying claim to the fulness of that grace which is in Christ as its own. Why art thou dejected, O my soul, saith the Christian’s faith, for thy weak grace? There is enough in Christ, all fulness dwells in him, it pleased the Father it should be so, and that to pleasure thee in thy wants and weaknesses. It is a ministerial fulness; as the clouds carry rain not for themselves but the earth, so doth Christ his fulness of grace for thee. ‘He is made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,’ I Cor. 1:30. When the rags of the Christian’s own righteousness discourage and shame him, faith hath a robe to put on that covers all this unco meliness. ‘Christ is my righteousness,’ saith faith, and ‘in Him’ we are ‘complete,’ Col. 2:10. Faith hath two hands, a working hand a receiving hand; and the receiving hand relieves the working hand, or else there would be a poor house kept in the Christian’s bosom. We find Paul himself but in a starving condition, for all the comfort his own graces could with their earnings afford him. He is a wretched man in his own account, if these be all he hath to live upon, Rom. 7:24; yet even then, when he sees nothing in his own cup­board, his faith puts forth his receiving hand to Christ, and he is presently set at a rich feast, for which you find him giving thanks, ver. 25, ‘I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’

(2.) Faith succours the Christian in the weakness and inactivity of his graces, by applying the promises for the saints’ perseverance in grace. It brings great comfort to a sick man, though very weak at present, to hear his physician tell him, that though he is low and feeble, yet there is no fear he will die. The present weakness of grace is sad, but the fear of falling quite away is far sadder. Now faith, and only faith, can be the messenger to bring the good news to the soul, that it shall persevere. Sense and reason are quite posed and dunced here. It seems impossible to them, that such a bruised reed should bear up against all the counterblasts of hell, because they consider only what grace itself can do, and finding it so over­matched by the power and policy of Satan, think it but rational to give the victory to the stronger side. But faith, when it seeth symptoms of death in the saint’s grace, finds life in the promise, and comforts the soul with this—that the faithful God will not suf­fer his grace to see corruption. He hath undertaken the physicking of his saints: ‘Every branch in me that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit’ John 15:2. When Hazael came to inquire of Elisha for his sick master, whether he should live or die; the prophet sent him with this answer back unto the king his master: ‘Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die,’ II Kings 8:10—that is, he might certainly recover for all his disease, but he should die by the traitorous bloody hand of Hazael his servant. Give me leave only to allude to this. When the Christian consults with his faith, and inquires of it, whether his weak grace will fail or hold out, die or live, faith’s answer is, ‘Thy weak grace may certainly die and fall away, but the Lord hath showed me it shall live and persevere’ —that is, in regard of its own weakness and the muta­bility of man’s nature, the Christian’s grace might certainly die and come to nothing; but God hath shown faith in the promise that it shall certainly live and recover out of its lowest weakness. What David said in regard of his house, that every Christian may say in regard of his grace. ‘Though his grace be not so with God (so strong, so unchangeable in itself), yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire,’ II Sam. 23:5. This salt of the covenant is it shall keep, saith faith, thy weak grace from corrup­tion. ‘Why art thou cast down,’ saith the psalmist, ‘O my soul? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God,’ Ps. 42:11. The health of David’s countenance was not in his countenance, but in his God, and this makes his faith silence his fears, and so peremptorily resolve upon it, that there is a time coming—how near soever he now lies to the grave’s mouth—when he shall yet praise him. ‘The health and life of thy grace lie both of them, not in thy grace,’ saith faith, ‘but in God, who is thy God, therefore I shall yet live and praise him.’ I do not wonder that the weak Christian is mel­ancholy and sad when he sees his sickly face in any other glass but this.

2. In the evidence of them the Christian’s grace may fail. It may disappear, as stars do in a cloudy night. How oft do we hear the Christian say in an hour of desertion and temptation, ‘I know not whet her I love God or no in sincerity; I dare not say I have any true godly sorrow for sin; indeed I have thought formerly these graces had a being in me, but now I am at a loss what to think, yea, sometimes I am ready to fear the worst.’ Now in this dark benighted state, faith undergirds the soul’s ship, and hath two anchors it casts forth, whereby the soul is stayed from being driven upon the devouring quicksands of despair and horror.

(1.) Faith makes a discovery of the rich mercy in Christ to poor sinners, and calls the soul to look up to it, when it hath lost the sight of his own grace. It is no small comfort to a man, that hath lost his acquaintance for a debt paid, when he remembers that the man he deals with is a merciful good man, though his discharge be not presently to be found. That God whom thou hast to do with is very gracious; what thou hast lost he is ready to restore—the evidence of thy grace I mean. David begged this and obtained it, see Ps. 51. ‘Yea,’ saith faith, ‘if it were true what thou fear­est, that thy grace was never true, there is mercy enough in God’s heart to pardon all thy former hy­pocrisy, if now thou comest in the sincerity of thy heart.’ And so, faith persuades the soul by an act of adventure to cast itself upon God in Christ. ‘Wilt thou not,’ saith faith, ‘expect to find as much mercy at God’s hands as thou canst look for at a man’s?’ It is not beyond the line of created mercy to forgive many unkindnesses, much falseness and unfaithfulness, upon a humble sincere acknowledgment of the same. The world is not so bad, but it abounds with parents that can do thus much for their children, and masters for their servants; and is that hard for God to do which is so easy in his creature? Thus faith vindi­cates God’s name. And so long as we have not lost the sight of God’s merciful heart, our head will be kept above water, though we want the evidence of our own grace.

(2.) Faith makes a discovery of the rich mercy in Christ to poor sinners, and calls the soul to look up to it, when it hath lost the sight of his own grace. And it is some comfort, though a man hath no bread in his cupboard, to hear there is some to be had in the market. ‘O,’ saith the complaining Christian, ‘there were some hope, if I could find but those relentings and meltings of soul which others have in their bos­oms for sin; then I could run under the shadow of that promise and take comfort, ‘Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted,’ Matt. 5:4. But alas! my heart is as hard as the flint.’ ‘Well,’ saith faith, ‘for thy comfort know, there are not only prom­ises to the mourning soul and broken heart, but there are promises that God will break the heart, and give a spirit of mourning.’ So for other graces; not only promises to those that fear God, but to ‘put the fear of God into our hearts;’ not only promises to those that walk in his statutes and keep his judgments, but also to ‘put his spirit within us, and cause us to walk in his statutes,’ Eze. 36.27. Why then, O my soul, dost thou sit there bemoaning thyself fruitlessly for what thou sayest thou hast not, when thou knowest where thou mayest have it for going? As Jacob said to his sons, ‘Why do ye look one upon another? Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die,’ Gen. 42:1, 2. Thus faith rouseth the Christian out of his amazed thoughts upon which his troubled spirit dwells like one destitute of counsel, not knowing what to do; and turns his bootless com­plaints, wherein he must necessarily pine and starve, into fervent prayer for that grace he wants. ‘There is bread in the promise,’ saith faith. Sit not here languishing in a sluggish despondency, but get you down upon your knees, and humbly, but valiantly, besiege the throne of grace for grace in this time of need. And certainly, the Christian may sooner get a new evidence for his grace, by pleading the promise, and plying the throne of grace, than by yielding so far to his unbelieving thoughts as to sit down and melt away his strength and time in the bitterness of his spirit —which Satan dearly likes—without using the means, which he will never do to any purpose, till faith brings thus much encouragement from the promise, that what he wants is there to be had freely and fully.

Sixth. As faith succours the Christian when his other graces fail him most, so it brings in his comfort when they most abound. Faith is to the Christian as Nehemiah was to Artaxerxes, Neh. 2:1. Of all the graces this is the Christian’s cup-bearer. The Christian takes the wine of joy out of faith’s hand, rather than any other grace. ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,’ Rom. 15:13. It is observable, I Peter 1, to see how the apostle therefore doth, as it were, cross his hands, as once Jacob did in blessing his son Joseph’s children, and gives the pre-eminence to faith, attributing the Christian’s joy to his faith, rather than to his love ver. 8: ‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ Mark, ‘believing, ye rejoice.’ Here is the door, the Christian’s chief joy, yea, all his fiduciary joy comes in at. It is Christ that we are in this respect allowed only to rejoice in, ‘For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,’ Php. 3:3,—where Christ is made the sole subject of our rejoicing fiduciarily, in opposition to all else, even our graces themselves, which become flesh when thus re­joiced and glorified in. Christ’s blood is the wine that only glads the heart of God by way of satisfaction to his justice, and therefore only that can bring true gladness into the heart of man. When Christ prom­iseth the Comforter, he tells his disciples from what vessel he should draw the wine of joy that he was to give them: ‘He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you,’ John 16:15. No grape of our own vine is pressed into this sweet cup. As if Christ had said, When he comes to comfort you with the pardon of your sins, ‘he shall take of mine,’ not anything of yours—my blood by which I purchased your peace with God, not your own tears of repentance by which you have mourned for your sins. All the blessed priv­ileges which believers are instated into, they are the fruits of Christ’s purchase, not of our earnings. Now, the Christian’s joy flowing in from Christ, and not anything that he, poor creature, doth or hath; hence it comes to pass, that faith, above all the graces, brings in the Christian’s joy and comfort, because this is the grace that improves Christ and what is Christ’s for the soul’s advantage. As of grace, so of comfort. Faith is the good spy, that makes discovery of the excellences in Christ, and then makes report of all to the soul it sees in him and knows of him. It is faith that broaches the promises, turns the cock and sets them a running into the soul. It doth not only show the soul how excellent Christ is, and what dainties are in the promises; but it applies Christ to the soul, and carves out the sweet viands that are dished forth in the promises. Yea, it puts them into the very mouth of the soul; it masticates and grinds the promise so, that the Christian is filled with its strength and sweet­ness. Till faith comes and brings the news of the soul’s welcome, O how maidenly and uncomfortably do poor creatures sit at the table of the promise! Like Hannah, ‘they weep and eat not.’ No, alas! they dare not be so bold. But, when faith comes, then the soul falls to, and makes a satisfying meal indeed. No dish on the table but faith will taste of. Faith knows God sets them not on to go off untouched. It is though an humble yet a bold grace, because it knows it cannot be so bold with God in his own way as it is welcome.

USE OR APPLICATION.

[Unbelief hath the same pre-eminence

among sins, as faith ‘above all’ graces.]

Use First. Is faith the chief of graces? This may help us to conceive of the horrible nature of unbelief. This surely will deserve as high a place among sins as faith hath among the graces. Unbelief! It is the Beel­zebub, the prince of sins. As faith is the radical grace, so is unbelief a radical sin, a sinning sin. As of all sinners, those are most infamous who are ringleaders and make others sin—which is the brand that God hath set upon Jeroboam’s name, ‘Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin,’ I Kings 14:16—so among sins, they are most horrid that are most pro­ductive of other sins. Such a one is unbelief above any other. It is a ring-leading sin, a sin-making sin. The first poisonous breath which Eve sucked in from the tempter was sent in the words, ‘Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ Gen. 3:1. As if he had said, ‘Consider well on the matter. Do you believe God meant so? Can you think so ill of God as to believe he would keep the best fruit of the whole garden from you?’ This was the traitor’s gate, at which all other sins entered into her heart; and it continues of the same use to Satan to this day, for the hurrying souls into other sins—called therefore, ‘an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God,’ Heb. 3:12. The devil sets up this sin of un­belief as a blind betwixt the sinner and God, that the shot which come from the threatening, and are level­led at the sinner’s breast, may not may not be dre aded and feared by him. And then the wretch can be as bold with his lust, as the pioneer is at his work, when once he hath got his basket of earth between him and the enemies’ bullets. Nay, this unbelief doth not only choke the bullets of wrath which are sent out of the law’s fiery mouth, but it damps the motions of grace which come from the gospel. All the offers of love which God makes to an unbelieving heart, they fall like seed into dead earth, or, like sparks into a river, they are out as soon as they fall into it.

‘The word’—it is said—‘did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it,’ Heb. 4:2. The strength of this whole body of sin lies in this lock of unbelief. There is no mastering of a sinner while unbelief is in power. This will carry all arguments away, whether they be from law or gospel, that are pressed upon him, as easily as Samson did the doors, posts, with bar and all, from the city of Gaza, Judges 16:2. It is a sin that doth keep the field—one of the last of all the others; that which the sinner is last con­vinced of, and the saint ordinarily last conqueror of. It is one of the chief strengths and fastnesses unto which the devil retreats when other sins are routed. O how oft do we hear a poor sinner confess and bewail other sins he hath lived in formerly, with brinish tears, but will not hearken yet to the offer of mercy in Christ. Bid him believe on Christ, and he shall be saved—which was the doctrine Paul and Silas preach­ed to the trembling jailor, Acts 16:31—alas! he dares not, he will not; you can hardly persuade him it is his duty to do so. The devil hath now betaken himself to this city of gates and bars, where he stands upon his guard; and, the more strongly to fortify himself in it, he hath the most specious pretenses for it of any other sin. It is a sin that he makes the humbled soul commit out of fear of sinning, and so stabs the good name of God, for fear of dishonouring him by a saucy presumptuous faith. Indeed it is a sin by which Satan intends to put the greatest scorn upon God, and unfold all his cankered malice against him at once. It is by faith that the saints ‘have obtained a good report.’ Yea, it is by the saints’ faith that God hath a good report in the world. And, by unbelief, the devil doth his worst to raise an evil report of God in the world; as if he were not what his own promise and his saints’ faith witness him to be. In a word, it is a sin that hell gapes for of all the others.

There are two sins that claim a pre-eminence in hell—hypocrisy and unbelief; and therefore other sin­ners are threatened to ‘have their portion with the hypocrites,’ Matt. 24:51, and ‘with unbelievers,’ Luke 12:46; as if those infernal mansions were taken up principally for these, and all others were but inferior prisoners. But of the two unbelief is the greater, and that which may, with an emphasis, be called above this or any other, ‘the damning sin.’ ‘He that believeth not is condemned already,’ John 3:18. He hath his mittimus already to jail; yea, he is in it already in a sense—he hath the brand of a damned person on him. The Jews are said, Rom. 11.32, to be shut up ‘in unbelief.’ A surer prison the devil cannot keep a sinner in. Faith shuts the soul up in the promise of life and happiness, as God shut Noah into the ark. It is said, ‘the Lord shut him in,’ Gen. 7:16. Thus faith shuts the soul up in Christ, and the ark of his covenant, from all fear of danger from heaven or hell; and [thus too,] on the contrary, unbelief shuts a soul up in guilt and wrath, that there is no more possibility for an unbeliever of escaping damnation, than for one to escape burning that is shut up in a fiery oven. No help can come to the sinner so long as this bolt of un­belief is on the door of his heart. As our salvation is attributed to faith, rather than to other graces —though none [be] wanting in a saved person—so sinners’ damnation and ruin is attributed to their unbelief, though the other sins [are] found with it in the person damned. The Spirit of God passeth over the Jews’ hypocrisy, murmuring, rebellion, and lays their destruction at the door of this one sin of unbelief. ‘They could not enter in because of unbelief,’ Heb. 3:19.

O sinners!—you who live under the gospel I mean—if you perish, know beforehand what is your undoing—it is your unbelief that does it. If a malefactor that is condemned to die be offered his life by the judge upon reading a psalm of mercy, and he reads not, we may say his not reading hangs him. The promise of the gospel is this psalm of mercy, which God offers in his son to law‑condemned sinners. Be­lieving is reading this psalm of mercy. If thou believ­est not and are damned, thou goest to hell rather for thy final unbelief than any of thy other sins, for which a discharge is offered thee upon thy receiving Christ and believing on him. Let this cause us all to rise up against this sin, as the Philistines did against Samson, whom they called the destroyer of their country,’ Judges 16:24. This is the destroyer of your souls, and that is worse; yea, it destroys them with a bloodier hand than other sins do that are not aggravated with this. We find two general heads of indictments upon which the whole world of sinners shall be condemned at the great day, II Thes. 1:8. There Christ’s coming to judgment is expressed; and those miserable undone creatures that shall fall under his condemning sentence, are comprised in these two [classes]—such as ‘know not God,’ and such as ‘obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ The heathens’ negative unbelief of the gospel shall not be charged upon them, because they never had it preached to them. No; they shall be sent to hell for ‘not knowing God,’ and so shall escape with a lighter damnation by far, than Jews or Christian Gentiles to whom the gospel hath been preached —though to some of these with a stronger and longer continued beam of light than [has been the lot of] others. The dismal charge which shall be brought against these will be, that they have not obeyed the gospel of our Lord Jesus; that is, not believed on Christ—called therefore the ‘obedience of faith,’ Rom. 16.26. And certainly, we cannot but think that there shall be a torment proper to these gospel refusers, which those that never had the offer of grace shall not feel, in hell. And among those that obey not the gospel the greatest vengeance waits for them that have had the longest and most passionate treaty of mercy allowed them. These are they that put God to the greatest expense of mercy, and therefore they must necessarily expect the greatest proportion of wrath and vengeance to be measured to them; yea, their unbelief puts Christ, and the grace of God in him, to the greatest shame and scorn that is possible for creatures to do; and it is but righteous that God should therefore put their unbelief and themselves with it to the greatest shame before men and angels, of any other sinners.

[Reasons why we should be serious

in the trial of our faith.]

Use Second. Is faith the chief of graces? Let this make us the more curious and careful that we be not cheated in our faith. There are some things of so inconsiderable worth, that they will not pay us for the pains and care we take about them; and there to be choice and scrupulous is folly; to be negligent and incurious is wisdom. But there are other things of such worth and weighty consequence, that none but he that means to call his wisdom in question can be willing to be mistaken and cozened in them. Who that is wise would pay as for a precious stone, and have a pebble, or at best a Bristol-stone, put upon him for his money? Who, when his life is at stake, and knows no way to save it but by getting some one rich drug which is very scarce, but to be had, would not be very careful to have the right? O my dear friends, doth it not infinitely more concern you to be careful in your merchandise for this pearl of precious faith? Can you be willing to take the devil’s false sophisticated ware off his hand? a mock faith which he would cheat you with, rather than obtain the ‘faith unfeigned,’ which God hath to give unto his children —called therefore the ‘faith of God’s elect?’ Will the devil’s drugs, that are sure to kill thee, serve thy turn, when thou art offered by God himself a rich drug that will cure thee? When thou goest to buy a garment, thou askest for the best piece of stuff of cloth in the shop. In the market thou wouldst have the best meat for thy belly; when with the lawyer the best counsel for thy estate; and of the physician the best directions for thy health. Art thou for the best in all but for thy soul? Wouldst thou not have a faith of the best kind also? If a man receives false money, who doth he wrong but himself? and if thou beest gulled with a false faith, the loss is thy own, and that no small one. Thyself will think so when thou comest to the bar, and God shall bid thee either pay the debt thou owest him, or go to rot and roar in hell’s prison. Then how wilt thou be confounded! When thou producest thy faith and hopest to save thyself with this—that thou believest on the Lord Jesus—but shalt have thy confi­dence rejected, and God tell thee to thy teeth it is not faith but a lie in thy right hand that thou hast got, and therefore he will not accept the payment, though it be Christ himself that offerest to lay down; nay, that he will give thee up into the tormentor’s hand, and that not only for believing, but also for counterfeiting the King of heaven’s coin, and setting his name on thy false money; which thou dost by pretending to faith, when it is a false one thou hast in thy bosom. This were enough to awaken your care in the trial of your faith, but to give some further weight to the exhorta­tion we shall cast in these three conditions.

1. Reason. Consider that as thy faith is, so are all thy other graces. As a man’s marriage is so are all his children, legitimate, or illegitimate. Thus, as our marriage is to Christ, so all our graces are. Now, it is faith by which we are married to Christ. ‘I have es­poused you to one husband,’ saith Paul to the Corinthians, II Cor. 11:2. How, but by their faith? It is faith whereby the soul gives its consent to take Christ for her husband. Now, if our faith be false, then our mar­riage to Christ is feigned; and if that be feigned, then all our pretended graces are base-born. How goodly soever an outside they have—as a bastard may have a fair face—they are all illegitimate; our humility, patience, temperance—all bastards. And, you know, ‘a bastard was not to enter into the congregation,’ Deut. 23:2. No more shall any bastard grace enter into the congregation of the just in heaven. He that hath children of his own will not make another’s bastard his heir. God hath children of his own to inherit heaven’s glory, in whose hearts he hath by his own Spirit begotten those heavenly graces which do truly resemble his own holy nature; surely he will never settle it upon strangers, counterfeit believers, that are the devil’s brats and by-blows.

2. Reason. Consider the excellency of true faith makes false faith so much the more odious. Because a king’s son is an extraordinary personage, therefore it is so high a crime for an ignoble person to counterfeit him­self to be such a one. It is by that we ‘become the sons of God,’ John 1:12. And what a high presumption is it then that, by a false faith, thou committest? Thou pretendedst to be a child of God, when no heaven-blood runs in thy veins, but hast more reason to look for thy kindred in hell and derive thy pedigree from Satan. This passeth for no less than blasphemy in the account of the Scripture. ‘I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan,’ Rev. 2:9. God loathes such with his heart. A false friend is worse than an open enemy in man’s judgment; and a hypocritical Judas more abhorred by God than a bloody Pilate. Either, therefore, get true faith, or pretend to none. The ape, because he hath the face of a man, but not the soul of a man, is therefore the most ridiculous of all creatures. And of all sinners, none will be put more to shame at the last day than such as have aped and imitated the believer in some exterior postures of profession, but never had the spirit of a believer so as to perform one vital act of faith. The psalmist tells us of some whose ‘image’ God will ‘despise,’ Ps. 73.20. It is spoken chiefly of the wicked man’s temporary pros­perity—which, for its short continuance, is compared to the image or representation of a thing in the fancy of a sleeping man, that then is busy and pl easeth us with many fine pleasing objects, but all are lost when our sleep leaves us—this God will despise at the great day; when he shall not give heaven and glory by the estates and honours that men had in the world, but tumble them down to hell if graceless, as well as the poorest beggar in the world. But, there is another sort of persons whose image God will at that day despise more than these, and that is the image of all temporary believers and unsound professors, who have a fantastical faith, which they set up like an image in their imaginations, and dance about it with as many self-pleasing thoughts as a man doth that is dreaming himself to be some great prince; but this great idol shall then be broken, and the worshippers of it hissed down to hell with the greatest shame of any other.

3. Reason. Consider that none stand at greater disadvantage for the obtaining of a true faith than he who flatters himself with a false one. ‘Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him,’ Prov. 26:12, that is, there is more hope of persuading him. Of all fools the conceited fool is the worst. Pride makes a man incapable of receiving counsel. Nebuchadnezzar’s mind is said to be ‘hardened in pride,’ Dan. 5:20. There is no reasoning with a proud man. He castles himself in his own opinion of himself, and there stands upon his defence against all arguments that are brought. Bid a conceited professor labour for faith, or he is undone; and the man will tell you that you mistake and knock at the wrong door. It is the ignorant person, or profane, you should go to on the errand. He thanks God he is not now to seek for a faith, and thus blesseth himself in his good condition, when God knows ‘he feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?’ Isa. 44:20. The ignorant profane person, like the psalmist’s ‘man of low degree,’ is plain ‘vanity.’ It is not hard to make themselves to acknowledge as much as that they have nothing, de­serve nothing, can look for nothing as they are but hell and damnation. But, such as pretend to faith, and content themselves with a false one, they are like the ‘men of high degree’ ‘a lie,’ which is vanity as well as the other, but with a specious cover over it that hides it. Therefore the devil is forward enough to put poor silly souls on believing, that he may forestall, if he can, the Spirit’s market, and prevent the creature’s obtaining of a true faith, by cheating of it with a counterfeit. It is like the wicked policy of Jeroboam, who, to keep the Israelites from going to Jerusalem, and hankering after the true worship of God there, set up something like a religious worship nearer hand, at home, in the ‘golden calves;’ and this pleased many well enough, that they missed not their walk to Jeru­salem. O friends, take heed therefore of being cheat­ed with a false faith. Every one, I know, would have the living child to be hers and not the dead one. We would all pass for such as have the true faith and not the false. But, be not your own judges; appeal to the Spirit of God, and let him, with the sword of his word, come and decide the controversy. Which faith is thine, the true or false?

SECOND BRANCH.

‘The shield of faith’ itself, and how

its truth may be judged of.

By this time, possibly, you may be solicitous to know what your faith is, and how you may come to judge of the truth of it. Now for your help therein, take these two directions. One, taken from the manner of the Spirit’s working faith; the other, from the properties of faith, when it is wrought.

[The manner of the Spirit’s working faith.]

First Direction. We know what faith is, and how to judge of it, from the manner of the Spirit’s working it in the soul. It is incomparably the greatest work that passeth upon the soul from the Spirit of Christ; it is called the ßB,D$V88T< µX(,[email protected] J­H *L<µ­,TH –[email protected]Ø—‘The exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe,’ Eph. 1:19. Oh, observe with what a heap of expressions the Spirit of God loads our weak understandings, that labouring under the weight of them, and finding the difficulty of reach­ing the significancy of them, we might be the more widened to conceive of that power which can never be fully understood by us—being indeed infinite, and so too big to be inclosed within the narrow walls of our understandings—power,’ ‘greatness of power,’ ‘exceeding greatness,’ and lastly, ‘exceeding greatness of his power,’ that is, of God. What angel in heaven can tell us what all these amount to? God, with reverence be it spoken, sets his whole force to this work. It is compared to no less than ‘the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power,’ Eph. 1:20,21. To raise anyone from the dead is a mighty, an almighty work; but to raise Christ from the dead, carries more wonder with it than to raise any other. He had a heavier grave-stone to keep him down than any besides—the weight of a world’s sin lay upon him—yet notwithstanding this he is raised with power by the Spirit, not only out of the grave, but into glory. Now the power God puts forth upon the soul in working faith, is according to this of raising Christ, for, indeed, the sinner’s soul is as really dead in sin as Christ’s body was in the grave for sin. Now, speak, poor creature, art thou any way acquainted with such a power of God to have been at work in thee? or dost thou think slightly of believing, and so show thyself a stranger to this mystery? Cer­tainly, this one thing might resolve many—if they desired to know their own state—that they have no faith, because they make faith so trivial and light a matter, as if they were as easy to believe as to say they do; and it were of no more difficulty to receive Christ into their souls by faith, than to put a bit of bread into their mouths with their hand. Ask some, wheth­er ever such a day or time of God’s power came over their heads, to humble them for sin, drive them out of themselves, and draw them effectually unto Christ? And they may answer you as those did Peter, when he asked—‘Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye be­lieved? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard wh ether there be any Holy Ghost,’ Acts 19:2. So these might say, ‘We know not whether there be any such power required to the working of faith or no.’ But to descend into a more particular consideration of this powerful work of the Spirit upon the soul for the production of faith, it will be necessary to consider—O what posture the Spirit of Christ finds the soul in before he begins this great work! and then how he makes his addresses to the soul, and what acts he puts forth upon the soul for the working faith.

First. The posture of the soul when the Spirit begins his great work of grace in it. The Spirit finds the creature in such a state as it neither can, nor will, contribute the least help to the work. As the ‘prince of the world,’ when he came to tempt Christ, ‘found nothing in him’ to befriend and further his tempting design; so, when the Spirit of Christ comes, he finds as little encouragement from the sinner. No party within the castle of the soul to side with him when he comes first to set down before it, and lay siege to it, but all the powers of the whole man in arms against him! Hence it is that so many scornful answers are sent out to the summons that are given sinners to yield. ‘He came unto his own, and his own received him not,’ John 1:11. Never was a garrison more resolved to stand out against both the treaties and batteries of an assailing enemy, than the carnal heart is all means that God useth to reduce it into his obedience. The noblest operations of the soul, they are ‘earthly, sensual, devilish,’ James 3:15, so that except heaven and earth can meet—sensual and spir­itual please one palate, God and the devil agree —there is no hope that a sinner of himself should like the motion that Christ makes, or that with any argument he should be won over to like it, so long as the ground of dislike remains in his earthly, sensual, and devilish nature.

Second. We proceed to show how the Spirit makes his addresses to the soul, and what acts he puts forth upon it for the working faith. Now the Spirit’s address is suited to the several facilities of the soul, the principal of which are these three, understanding, conscience, and will. These are like three forts, one within the other, which must all be reduced before the town be taken—the sinner, I mean, subdued to the obedience of faith—and to these the Spirit makes his particular addresses, putting forth an act of almighty power upon every one of them, and that in this order.

[The Spirit’s particular addresses to

the soul, when working faith in it.]

1. The Spirit makes his approach to the under­standing, and on it he puts forth an act of illumination. The Spirit will not work in a dark shop; the first thing he doth in order to faith, is to beat out a window in the soul, and let in some light from heaven into it. Hence, believers are said to be ‘renewed in the spirit of their minds,’ Eph. 4:23, which the same apostle calleth being ‘renewed in knowledge,’ Col. 3:10. By nature we know little of God, and nothing of Christ or the way of salvation by him. The eye of the creature therefore must be opened to see the way of life, before he can by faith get into it. God doth not use to waft souls to heaven, like passengers in a ship, who are shut under the hatches, and see nothing all the way they are sailing to their port. If [it had been] so, that prayer might have been spared which the psalmist, inspired of God, breathes forth in the behalf of the blind Gentiles ‘That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations,’ Ps. 67:2. As faith is not a naked assent without affiance[3] and innitency[4] on Christ; so neither is it a blind as­sent without some knowledge. If, therefore, thou continuest still in thy brutish ignorance, and knowest not so much as who Christ is, and what he hath done for the salvation of poor sinners, and what thou must do to get interest in him, thou art far enough from believing. If the day be not broken in thy soul, much less is the Sun of righteousness arisen by faith in thy soul.

2. Again, when the Spirit of God hath sprung with a divine light into the understanding, then he makes his address to the conscience, and the act which passeth upon that is an act of conviction; ‘he shall convince the world of sin,’ &c, John 16:8. Now this conviction is nothing but a reflection of the light that is in the understanding upon the conscience whereby the creature feels the weight and force of those truths he knows, so as to be brought into a deep sense of them. Light in a direct beam heats not, nor doth knowledge swimming in the brain affect. Most under the gospel know that unbelief is a damning sin, and that there is ‘no name’ to be saved by but the name of Christ; yet how few of those know this con­vincingly, so as to apply it to their own consciences, and to be affected with their own deplored state, who are the unbelievers and Christless persons? As he is a convicted drunkard in law, who, in open court, or before a lawful authority, upon clear testimony and deposition of witnesses, is found and judged to be such; so he, scripturally, is a convinced sinner, who, upon the clear evidence of the word brought against him by the Spirit, is found by his own conscience —God’s officer in his bosom—to be so. Speak now, poor creature, did ever such an act of the Spirit of God pass upon thee as this is? which that thou mayest the better discern of, try thyself by these few characters of a convinced person.

(1.) A sinner truly convinced is not only convinced of this sin or that sin, but of the evil of all sin. It is an ill sign when a person seems in a passion to cry out of one sin, and to be senseless of another sin. A parboiled conscience is not right, soft in one part, and hard in another. The Spirit of God is uniform in its work.

(2.) The convinced sinner is not only convinced of acts of sin, but of the state of sin also. He is not only affected [by] what he hath done—this law bro­ken, and that mercy abused by him—but with what his state and present condition is. Peter leads Simon Magus from that one horrid act he committed to the consideration of that which was worse—the dismal state that he discovered him to be in. ‘I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,’ Acts 8:23. Many will confess they do not do as they should, who will not think by any means so ill of themselves that their state is na ught—a state of sin and death; whereas the convinced soul freely puts himself under this sentence of death, owns his condition, and dissembles not his pedigree. ‘I am a most vile wretch,’ saith he, ‘a limb of Satan, full of sin as the toad is of rank poison. My whole nature lies in wickedness, even as the dead rotten carcass doth its slime and putrefaction. I am a child of wrath, born to no other inheritance than hell-flames; and if God will now tread me down thither, I have not one righteous syllable to object against his proceedings, but there is that in my own conscience which will clear him from having done me any wrong in my doom.’

(3.) The convinced sinner doth not only condemn himself for what he hath done and is, but he despairs of himself as to anything he can now do to save himself. Many, though they go so far as to con­fess they are vile wretches, and have lived wickedly, and for this deserve to die; yet, when they have put the rope around their neck by a self-condemning act, they are so far from being convinced of their own im­potency, that they hope to cut the rope with their re­pentance, reformation, and I know not what bundle of good works, which they think shall redeem their credit with God and recover his favour, which their former sins have unhappily lost them. And this comes to pass, because the plough of conviction did not go deep enough to tear up those secret roots of self-confidence with which the heart of every sinner is woefully tainted. Whereas every soul, thoroughly convinced by the Spirit, is a self-despairing soul; he sees himself beyond his own help, like a poor condemned prisoner, laden with so many heavy irons, that he sees it is impossible for him to make an es­cape, with all his skill or strength, out of the hands of justice. O friends! look whether the work be gone thus far in your souls or no. Most that perish, it is not their disease that kills them, but their physician. They think to cure themselves, and this leaves them uncurable. Speak, soul, did the Lord ever ferret thee out of this burrow where so many earth themselves? Art thou as much at a loss what to do, as sensible for what thou hast done? Dost thou see hell in thy sin and despair in thyself? Hath God got thee out of this Keilah, and convinced thee if thou wouldst stay in the self-confidence of thy repentance, reformation, and duties, they would all deliver thee up into the hands of God’s justice and wrath, when they shall come against thee? Then, indeed, thou hast escaped one of the finest snares that the wit of hell can weave.

(4.) The convinced sinner is not only convinced of sin, so as to condemn himself, and despair of himself, but he is convinced of a full provision laid up in Christ for self-condemned and self-despairing ones. ‘He shall convince the world of sin, and of righteousness,’ John 16:9, 10. And this is as necessary an antecedent for faith as any of the former. Without this, the soul convinced of sin is more like to go to the gallows with Judas, or fall on the sword of the law—as the jailer attempted to do on his when he thought his condition desperate—than think of com­ing to Christ. Who will go to his door that hath not wherewithal to relieve him?

3. The third and last faculty to be dealt with is the will, and on this, for the production of faith, the Spirit puts forth an act of renovation, whereby he doth sweetly, but powerfully, incline the will, which before was rebellious and refractory, to accept of Christ, and make a free deliberate choice of him for his Lord and Saviour. I say a ‘free’ choice, not only cudgelled into him with apprehensions of wrath, as one may run under an enemy’s pent-house in a storm, whose door he would have passed by in fair weather, and never looked that way. Speak, soul, dost thou please thyself in choosing Christ? dost thou go to Christ, not only for safety, but delight? So the spouse: ‘I sat under his shadow with great delight,’ Song 2:3. I say a ‘deliberate’ choice, wherein the soul well weighs the terms Christ is offered on, and when it hath considered all seriously, likes them, and clos­eth with him. Like [as it was with] Ruth, who when Naomi spake the worst she could to discourage her, yet liked her mother’s company too well to lose it for those troubles that attended her. Speak, soul, hath the Spirit of God thus put his golden key into the lock of thy will, to open the everlasting door of thy heart to let Christ the King of glory in? Hath he not only opened the eye of thy understanding, as he awaked Peter asleep in prison, and caused the chains of senselessness and stupidity to fall off thy conscience, but also opened the iron gate of thy will, to let thee out of the prison of impenitency, where even now thou wert fast bolted in; yea, brought thee to knock at heaven-door for entertainment, as Peter did at the house of Mary, where the church was met. Be of good comfort, thou mayest know assuredly that God hath sent, not his angel, but his own Spirit, and hath delivered thee out of the hand of sin, Satan, and justice.

[The properties of true faith,

when it is wrought.]

Second Direction. We know what faith is, and how to judge of it, from its properties when it is wrought in us buy the Spirit. We shall content ourselves by noticing three. First. True faith is obediential. Second. It is prayerful. Third. It is uni­form in its acting.

[True faith is obediential.]

First Property. This choice excellent faith is an obediential faith; that is, true faith on the promise works obedience to the command. Abraham is fa­mous for his obedience; no command, how difficult soever, came amiss to him. He is an obedient servant indeed, that, when he doth but hear his master knock with his foot, leaves all and runs presently to know his master’s will and pleasure. Such a servant had God of Abraham: ‘Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot,’ Isa. 41:2. But what was the spring that set Abraham’s obedience a going? See for this, Heb. 11:8 ‘By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheri’tance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.’ As it is impossible to please God without faith, so it is impossible not to desire to please God with faith. It may well go for an idol faith, that hath hands but doth not work, feet, but doth not walk in the statutes of God. No sooner had Christ cured the woman in the gospel of her fever, but it is said, ‘She arose, and ministered unto them,’ Matt. 8:15. Thus the believing soul stands up and ministers unto Christ in gratitude and obedience. Faith is not lazy; it inclines not the soul to sleep, but work; it sends the creature not to bed, there to snort away his time in ease and sloth, but into the field. The night of ignorance and unbelief, that was the creature’s sleeping time; but, when the Sun of righteousness ariseth, and it is day in the soul, then the creature riseth and goeth forth to his labour. The first words that break out faith’s lips, are those of Saul in his hour of conversion: ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ Acts 9:6. Faith turns the Jordan, and alters the whole course of a man. ‘We were,’ saith the apostle, ‘foolish’ and ‘disobedient,’ ‘but after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,’ Titus 3:3, 4, then the case was altered, as it follows. And, therefore, take your foul fingers off the promise, and pretend no more to faith, if ye be chil­dren of Belial—such whose necks do not freely stoop to this yoke of obedience. The devil himself may as soon pass for a believer as a disobedient soul. Other things he can show as much as you. Dost thou pre­tend to knowledge? thou wilt not deny the devil to be a greater scholar than thyself, I hope, and that in Scripture knowledge. Dost thou believe the Scripture to be true? and doth not he more strongly? Dost thou tremble? he much more. It is obedience he wants, and this makes him a devil, and it will make thee like him also.

[Two characters distinguishing

true faith’s obedience.]

Question. But, you may ask, what stamp is there to be found on faith’s obedience which will distinguish it from all counterfeits—for there are many fair semblances of obedience, which the devil will never grudge us the having?

Answer. Take these two characters of the obedi­ence of faith.

1. Character. Faith’s obedience begins at the heart, and from thence it diffuseth and dilates itself to the outward man, till it overspreads the whole man in a sincere endeavour. As in natural life, the first part that lives in the heart, so the first that faith sub­dues into obedience is the heart. It is called a ‘faith which purifieth the heart,’ Acts 15.9. And the believing Romans ‘obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to them,’ Rom. 6:17. Whereas a false faith, which apes this true faith—as art imitates nature—begins without, and there ends. All the seeming good works of a counterfeit believer, they are like the beautiful colour in a picture’s face, which comes not from a principle of life within, but the painter’s pencil without. Such were those, John 2:23, who are said to ‘believe on Christ,’ ‘but Jesus did not commit himself unto them,’ ver. 24. And why? ‘for he knew what was in man,’ ver. 25. He cared not for the painted porch and goodly outside: ‘for he knew what was in man,’ and by that knowledge he knew them to be rotten at core, naught at heart, before they were specked on the skin of their exterior conversation.

Question (1.) But how may I know my obedience is the obedience of the heart?

Answer. If it comes from love then it is the obedience of the heart. He commands the heart that is the master of its love. The castle must needs yield when he that keeps it, and hath the keys of it, submits. Love is the affection that governs this royal fort of man’s heart. We give our hearts to them we give our love to. And indeed thus it is that faith brings the heart over into subjection and obedience to God, by putting it under a law of love; ‘faith worketh by love,’ Gal. 5:6. First, faith worketh love, and then it worketh by it. As first the workman sets an edge on his tools, and then carves and cuts with them; so faith sharpens the soul’s love to God, and then acts by it. Or, as a statuary, to make some difficult piece, before he goes about it, finding his hands numb with cold, that he cannot handle his tools so nimbly as he should, goes first to the fire, and, with the help of its heat, chafes them till they of stiff and numb become agile and active, then to work he falls; so faith brings the soul—awk and listless enough, God knows, to any duty—unto the meditation of the peerless, matchless love of God in Christ to it; and at this fire faith stays the Christian’s thoughts till his affections begin to kindle and come to some sense of this love of God, and now the Christian bestirs himself for God with might and main.

Question (2.) But how may I know my obedience is from love?

Answer. I will send to St. John to be resolved of this question, ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous,’ I John 5:3. Speak, soul, what account have you of the commandments? Do you look upon them as an iron chain about your legs, and think yourselves prisoners because you are tied to them? or do you value them as a chain of gold about your neck, and esteem yourselves favourites of the King of heaven, that he will honour you to honour him by serving of him? So did as great a prince as the world had: ‘Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly,’ I Chr. 29. Not, ‘Who am I, that I should be a king over my people?’ but ‘that I should have a heart so gracious to offer willingly with my people.’ Not, ‘Who am I, that they should serve me?’ but, ‘that thou wilt honour me with a heart to serve thee with them?’ The same holy man in another place speak of sin as his prison, and his obedience as his liberty: ‘I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts,’ Ps. 119:45. When God gives him a large heart for duty, he is as thankful as a man that was bound in prison is when he is set at liberty, that he may visit his friends and follow his calling. The only grievous thing to a loving soul is to be hindered in his obedience. This is that which makes such a one out of love with the world, and with being in it —because it cumbers him in his work, and many times keeps him from it. As a conscionable faithful servant, that is lame or sickly, and can do his master little service, O how it grieves him! Thus the loving soul bemoans itself, that it should put God to so much cost, and be so unprofitable under it. Speak, is this thy temper? Blessed art thou of the Lord! There is a jewel of two diamonds, which this will prove thou art owner of, that the crown-jewels of all the princes of the world are not so worthy to be valued with, as a heap of dust or dung is to be compared with them. The jewel I mean, is made of this pair of graces —faith and love. They are thine, and, with them, God and all that he hath and is. But, if the commandments if the commandments of God be ‘grievous,’ as they are to every carnal heart, and thou countest thyself at ease when thou canst make an escape from a duty to commit a sin, as the beast doth when his collar is off and he in his fat pasture again; now thou art where thou wouldst be, and can show some spirits that thou hast. But when conscience puts on the trace again, thou art dull and heavy again. O, it speaks thee to have no love to God, and therefore no faith on God, that is true. That is a jade indeed who hath no mettle but in the pasture.

2. Character. The obedience of faith is full of self-denial. Faith keeps the creature low; as in what he hath, so he doth. ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,’ Gal. 2:20. As if he had said, ‘I pray, mistake me not; when I say, ‘I live,’ I mean, not that I live by myself, but Christ in me. I live, and that de­liciously, but it is Christ that keeps the house, not I. I mortify my corruptions, and vanquish temptations, but I am debtor to Christ for the strength.’ None can write here, as one did under Pope Adrian’s statue —where the place of his birth was named, and those princes that had preferred him from step to step till he mounted the pope’s chair, but God left out of all the story—‘nihil hic Deus fecit’—God did nothing for this man. No, blessed Paul, and in him every be­liever, acknowledgeth God for sole foun­der, and benefactor too, of all the good he hath and doth. They are not ashamed to acknowledge who they are beholden to for all. ‘These are the children which God hath graciously given me,’ said Jacob. And these the services which God hath graciously assisted me in, saith Paul; ‘I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me,’ I Cor. 15:10. All is ex dono Dei—from the gift of God. O how chary are saints of writing themselves the authors of their own good works, parts, or abilities! ‘Art thou able,’ said the king to Daniel, ‘to make known unto me the dream which I have seen?’ Dan. 2:26. Now mark, he doth not say, as the proud astrologers, ‘We will show the interpretation,’ Dan. 2:4. That fitted their mouths well enough who had no acquaintance with God, but not Daniel’s—the servant of the living God. Though at the very time he had the secret revealed to him and could tell the king his dream, yet he was careful to stand clear from any filching of God’s glory from him; and therefore he answers the king by telling him what his God could do rather than himself. ‘There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets,’ &c. And what makes Daniel so self‑denying? Truly it was because he had obtained this secret of God by faith at the throne of grace; as you may perceive by chapter 2:15-17 compared. That faith which taught him to beg the mercy of God, enabled him to deny himself, and give the entire glory of it from himself to God. As rivers empty their streams again into the bosom of the sea, whence they at first received them; so men give the praise of what they do unto that by which they do it. If they attempt any enterprise with their own wit or industry, you shall have them bring their sacrifice to their wit or net. No wonder to hear Nebuchadnezzar—who looked no higher than himself in building his great Babylon—ascribe the honour of it to himself, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built…by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?’ Dan. 4:30. But faith teacheth the creature to blot out his own name, and write the name of God in its room, upon all he hath and doth. When the servants came to give up their accounts to their Lord, every one for his pound; those that were faithful to improve it how humbly and self-denyingly do they speak! ‘Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds,’ saith the first, Luke 19:16. ‘Thy pound hath gained five,’ saith another, ver. 18. Mark, not ‘I have gained,’ but, ‘thy pound hath gained ten and five.’ They do not applaud themselves, but ascribe both principal and increase to God; thy talent hath gained, that is, thy gifts and grace, through thy assistance and blessing, have gained thus much more. Only he that did least comes in with a brag, and tells his Lord what he had done. ‘Behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin.’ Least doers are greatest boasters.

[True faith is prayerful.]

Second Property. True faith is prayerful. Prayer, it is the child of faith; and as the child bears his father’s name upon him, so doth prayer the name of faith. What is it known by but by ‘the prayer of faith?’ James 5:15. Prayer, it is the very natural breath of faith. Supplication and thanksgiving—the two parts of prayer—by these, as the body by the double motion of the lungs, doth the Christian suck in mercy from God, and breathe back again that mercy in praise to God. But, without faith he could do neither; he could not by supplication draw mercy from God; ‘for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,’ Heb. 11:6. Neither could he return praises to God without faith. David’s heart must be fixed before he can sing and give thanks, Ps. 56. Thanksgiving is an act of self-denial, and it is faith alone that will show us the way out of our own doors; and as the creature cannot pray—I mean acceptably—without faith, so with faith he cannot but pray. The new creature, like our infants in their natural birth, comes crying into the world; and therefore Christ tells it for great news to Ananias of Saul, a new-born believer, ‘Behold he prayeth.’ But is that so strange, that one brought up at the foot of Gamaliel, and so precise a Pharisee as he was, should be found upon his knees at prayer? Truly no, it was that his sect gloried in—their fasting and praying—and therefore, he, being strict in his way, was no doubt acquainted with this work as to the exterior part of it, but he never had the spirit of prayer, till he now had the Spirit of grace, whereby he believed on Jesus Christ. And therefore, if you will try your faith, it must not be by bare praying, but by some peculiar characters which faith imprints prayer withal. Now there are three acts by which faith dis­covers itself in reference to this duty of prayer. 1. Faith puts forth an exciting act, whereby it stirs up the Christian to pray. 2. Faith hath an assisting act in prayer. 3. Faith hath a supporting act after prayer.

[Three acts by which faith discovers

itself in reference to prayer.]

1. Act. Faith puts forth an exciting act, whereby it provokes the Christian and strongly presseth him to pray. And this it doth,

(1.) By discovering to the creature his own beggary and want, as also the fulness that is to be had from God in Christ for his supply—both which faith useth as powerful motives to quicken the soul up to pray. As the lepers said to one another, ‘Why sit we here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: come, and let us fall into the host of the Syrians,’ II Kings 7:3, 4. Thus faith rouseth up the soul to prayer. If thou stayest at thy own door, O my soul, thou art sure to starve and die. What seest thou in thyself but hunger and famine? No bread there; no money to buy any in thy own purse. Up therefore, haste thee to thy God, and thy soul shall live. O sirs, are you pressed with this inward feeling of your own wants? Press to the throne of grace as the only way left for your supply. You may hope it is faith that sends you. Faith is the principle of our new life. ‘I live,’ said Paul, ‘by the faith of the Son of God,’ Gal. 2:20. This life being weak, is craving and crying for nourishment, and that naturally, as the new-born babe doth for the milk. If therefore you find this inward sense prompting and provoking of you to cry to God, it shows this prin­ciple of life—faith I mean —is in thee.

Objection. But, may not an unbeliever pray in the sense of his wants, and be inwardly pinched with them, which may make him pray very feelingly?

Answer. We must distinguish of wants. They are either spiritual or carnal. It cannot be denied, but an unbeliever may be very sensible of outward carnal wants, and knock loud at heaven-gate for supply. We find them ‘howling on their beds, and assembling themselves for corn and wine,’ Hosea 7:14. There is the cry of the creature, and the cry of the new crea­ture. Every creature hath a natural cry for that which suits their nature. Hence, ‘The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God,’ Ps. 104:21. But, give the lion flesh, and he will not roar for want of grass; give the ox grass, and you shall not hear him lowing for flesh; so give the faithless, graceless person his fill of his carnal food—sensual enjoyments—and you shall have little complaint of spiritual wants from him. They are therefore spiritual wants you must try your faith by. If thou canst heartily pray for love to Christ, faith on him, or any other grace—feeling the want of them, as a hungry man doth of his food —thou mayest conclude safely there is this principle of new life, which, like the veins at the bottom of the stomach, by its sucking, puts thee to pain till it be heard and satisfied; for these graces being proper to the new creature, can be truly desired of none but one that is a new creature.

(2.) Faith excites to prayer from an inward de­light it hath in communion with God. ‘It is good for me,’ saith the psalmist, ‘to draw near to God.’ Now mark the next words, ‘I have put my trust in the Lord,’ Ps. 73:28. We take delight to be often looking where we have laid up our treasures. This holy man had laid up his soul, and all he had, in God, by faith, to be kept safely for him; and now he delights oft to be with God. He hath that which invites him into his presence with sweet content. By faith the soul is contracted to Christ. Now, being espoused to Christ, there is no wonder at all that it should desire com­munion with him. And prayer, being the place of meeting where Christ and the soul can come the near­est on this side of heaven, therefore the believer is seen so oft walking that way. Canst thou say, poor soul, that this is thy errand when praying—to see the face of God? Can nothing less, and needest thou nothing more to satisfy, and recreate thy soul in prayer, than communion with God? Certainly God hath thy faith, or else thou couldst not so freely bestow thy love on him and take delight in him.

2. Act. Faith puts forth an assisting act in prayer. To instance only in two particulars.

(1.) It assists the soul with importunity. Faith is the wrestling grace. It comes up close to God; takes hold of God, and will not easily take a denial. It in­fires all the affections, and sets them on work. This is the soul’s eye, by which it sees the filth, the hell, that is in every sin. And seeing affects the heart, and puts it into a passion of sorrow when the soul spreads its abominations before the Lord. The creature now needs no onion to make it weep. Tears come alone freely, as water from a flowing spring. It makes a discovery of Christ to the soul in the excellencies of his person, love, and graces, from the glass of the promise, at the sight of which it is even sick with longing after them, and such pangs of love come upon it, as make it send forth strong cries and supplications for that it so impatiently desires. Yea, further, faith doth not barely set the creature’s teeth on edge by displaying the excellency of Christ and his grace; but it supplies him with arguments, and helps the soul to wield and use them both valiantly and victoriously upon the Almighty. Never could he tell what to do with a promise in prayer, till now that faith teacheth him to press God with it, humbly, yet boldly. ‘What wilt thou do unto thy great name?’ Joshua 7:9. As if he had said, ‘Thou art so fast bound to thy people by promise and oath, that thou canst not leave them to perish, but thy name will suffer with them.’ Faith melts promises into arguments, as the soldier doth lead into bullets, and then helps the Christian to send them with a force to heaven in a fervent prayer; whereas a promise in an unbeliever’s mouth is like a shot in a gun’s mouth without any fire to put to it. O how cold and dead doth a promise drop from him in prayer! He speaks promises, but cannot pray prom­ises or press promises. And therefore, try thyself not by naked praying, but by importunity in prayer; and that, not by the agitation of thy bodily spirits, but the inward working of thy soul and spirit, whether carried out to plead the promise and urge it upon God with an humble importunity, or not.

(2.) Faith enables the soul to persevere in the work. False faith may show some mettle at hand, but it will jade at length. Will the hypocrite pray always? Job 27:10. No; as the wheel wears with turning, till it breaks at last; so doth the hypocrite. He prays himself weary of praying. Something or other will in time make him quarrel with that duty which he never inwardly liked; whereas the sincere believer hath that in him which makes it impossible he should quite give over praying, except he should also cease believing. Prayer, it is the very breath of faith. Stop a man’s breath, and where is he then? It is true the believer through his own negligence may find some more dif­ficulty of fetching his prayer-breath at one time than at another—as a man in a cold doth for his natural breath. Alas! who is so careful of his soul’s health that needs not to bewail this? But for faith to live, and this breath of prayer to be quite cut off, is impossible. We see David did but hold his breath a little longer than ordinary, and what a distemper it put him into, till he gave himself ease again by venting his soul in prayer. ‘I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, Lord, make me to know mine end,’ Ps. 39:2. Dost thou, O man, find thyself under a necessity of praying? As the little babe who cannot choose but cry when it ails or wants anything—because it hath no other way to help itself than by crying to hasten its mother or nurse to its help—[so] the Chris­tian’s wants, sins, and temptations continuing to return upon him, he cannot but continue also to pray against them. ‘From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee,’ saith David, Ps. 61:2. Wherever I am I will find thee out. Prison me, banish me, or do with me what thou wilt, thou shalt never be rid of me, ‘I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever,’ ver. 4. But how could David do that when banished from it? Surely he means by prayer. The praying Christian carries a ‘tabernacle’ with him. As long as David can come at the tabernacle he will not neglect it; and when he cannot through sickness, banishment, &c., then he will look towards it, and as devoutly worship God in the open fields as if he were in it. ‘Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice,’ Ps. 141:2. He speaks of such a time when he could not come to of­fer sacrifice at the tabernacle.

3. Act. Faith hath a supporting act after prayer.

(1.) It supports the soul to expect a gracious an­swer. ‘I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up,’ Ps. 5:3. Or, ‘I will look’ for what, but for a return? An unbelieving heart shoots at random, and never minds where his arrow lights, or what comes of his praying; but faith fill the soul with expectation. As a merchant, when he casts up his estate, counts what he hath sent beyond sea, as well as what he hath in hand; so doth faith reckon upon what he hath sent to heaven in prayer and not received, as well as those mercies which he hath received, and are in hand at present. Now this expectation which faith raiseth in the soul after prayer, appears in the power that it hath to quiet and compose the soul in the interim between the sending forth, as I may say, the ship of prayer, and its return home with its rich lading it goes for. And it is more or less, according as faith’s strength is. Sometimes faith comes from prayer in triumph, and cries victoria—victory. It gives such a being and exis­tence to the mercy prayed for in the Christian’s soul, before any likelihood of it appears to sense and reason, that the Christian can silence all his troubled thoughts with the expectation of its coming. So Hannah prayed, and ‘was no more sad,’ I Sam. 1:18. Yea, it will make the Christian disburse his praises for the mercy long before it is received. Thus high faith wrought in David, ‘What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee;’ and in the next words, ‘In God I will praise his word,’ Ps. 56:3, 4; that is, he would praise God for his promise, before there were any performance of it to him, when it had no existence but in God’s faithfulness and David’s faith. This holy man had such a piercing eye of faith, as he could see the promise, when he was at lowest ebb of misery, so certain and unquestionable in the power and truth of God, that he could then praise God, as if the promised mercy had actually been fulfilled to him. But I would not have thee, Christian, try the truth of thy faith by this heroic high strain it mounts to in some eminent believers. Thou mayest be a faithful soldier to Christ, though thou attainest not to the degree of a few worthies in his army, more honourable in this respect than the rest of their brethren.

(2.) There is a lower act of faith, which, if thou canst find, may certify thee of its truth: that, I mean, which, though it doth not presently, upon praying, disburden the soul of all its anxious disquieting thoughts, yet keeps the soul’s head above their waves and gives a check to them, that they abate, though by little and little, as the stream in a channel doth at a falling tide. When God took the deluge from the earth, he did not do it in a moment. It is said, ‘The waters returned from off the earth continually,’ Gen. 8:3; that is, it was falling water from day to day, till all was gone. Canst thou not find, Christian, that some of thy tumultuous disquieting thoughts are let out at the sluice of prayer, and that it is some ease to thy encumbered spirit, that thou hast the bosom of a gra­cious God to empty thy sorrowful heart into? and, though praying doth not drain away all thy fears, yet it keeps thee, doth it not, from being overflown with them, which thou couldst not avoid without faith? A soul wholly void of faith, prays, and leaves none of its burden with God, but carries all back with it that it brought, and more too. Calling on God gives no more relief to him, than throwing out an anchor that hath no hooks to take hold on the firm earth, doth the sinking ship. If, therefore, poor soul, thou find­est, upon throwing thy anchor of faith in prayer, that it takes such hold on Christ in the promise as to stay thee from being driven by the fury of Satan’s affright­ing temptations, or thy own despairing thoughts, bless God for it. The ship that rides at anchor is safe —though it may be a little tossed to and fro—so long as the anchor keeps its hold. And so art thou, poor soul. That faith will save from hell, that will not wholly free the soul here from fears[5].

[True faith is uniform.]

Third Property. True faith is uniform. As sin­cere obedience doth not pick and choose—take this commandment, and leave that—but hath respect to all the precepts of God; so, faith unfeigned hath re­spect to all the truths of God. It believes one promise as well as another. As the true Christian must not have ‘the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ James 2:1, so, not with respect to truths. To pretend to believe one promise, and to give no credit to another, this is to be partial in the promises, as the priests are charged to be in the duties of the law, Mal. 2:9. The honour of God is as deeply engaged to perform one promise as another. Indeed, as the breach of but one command­ment would put us under the guilt of the whole; so God’s failing in one promise—which is blasphemy to think—would be the breaking of his whole covenant. Promises are copulative as well as commands; and therefore, neither can God keep one, except he per­form all; nor we believe one, except we believe all. God hath spoken all these words of promises, as he did those of precepts; his seal is to all, and he looks that we should compass all within the embraces of our faith. David bears witness to the whole truth of God, ‘Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever,’ Ps. 119:160. Try now thy faith here. Possibly, thou pre­tendest to believe the promise for pardon, and art oft pleasing thyself with the thoughts of it; but, what faith hast thou on the promise, for sanctifying thy nature and subduing thy corruptions? May be thou mindest not these, improvest not these. This fruit may hang long enough on the branches of the promises before thou gatherest it. The other is for thy tooth, not these; whereas true faith would like one as well as the other. See how David heartily prays for the perform­ance of this promise, ‘Be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name. Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have do­minion over me,’ Ps. 119:132, 133. David would not lose any privilege that God hath by promise settled on his children. ‘Do with me,’ saith he, ‘as thou usest to do.’ this is no more than family fare—what thou promisest to do for all that love thee; and let me not go worse clad than the rest of my brethren. May be thou fanciest thou hast a faith for the eternal salva­tion of thy soul. But, hast thou faith to rely on God for the things of this life? A strange believer, is he not, that lives by faith for heaven, and by his wits and sin­ful policy for the world? Christ proves that they, John 5:44, did not believe on him, because they durst not trust him with their names and credits. If we cannot trust him with the less, how can we in the greater?

I deny not, but he that hath a true faith, yea, a strong faith for heaven, may be put to a plunge and his faith foiled about a temporal promise; but we must not from an hour of temptation, wherein God leaves his most eminent saints to humble them, judge of the constant ordinary frame of the believer’s heart. Though Abraham dissembled once to save his life, which he thought in some danger for his wife’s beauty; yet he did, at other times, give eminent testimony that he trusted God for his temporal life, as well as for his eternal salvation. I do not therefore bid thee question the truth of thy faith for every fainting fit that comes over it, as to the good things of the promise of this life. A man may, in a time of war, have some of his estate lie under the enemy’s power for a time, and he, so long, have no profits from it; but still he reckons it as his estate, is troubled for his present great loss, and endeavours, as soon as he can, to re­cover it again out of his enemy’s hand. So, in the hurry of a temptation, when Satan—the soul’s great enemy—is abroad, and God withdraws his assistance, the believer may have little support from some partic­ular promise; but he ever counts that as his portion as well as any other, mourns he can act his faith no more upon it, and labours to reinforce his faith with new strength from heaven when he can, that he may be able to live upon it, and improve it more to his com­fort. So that still it holds true, if we believe not God for this life, neither do we for the other. In a word, may be thou pretendest for a faith for thy temporals, and seemest to trust God for things of this life; but art a mere stranger to those prime acts of faith, whereby the believing soul closeth with Christ, and receiveth him as his Lord and Saviour, and so seals to the cov­enant that in the gospel is tendered to poor sinners. Canst thou so far fight against thy own reason, as to think that any temporal promise belongs to thee with­out these? What gives the woman the right to her jointure[6] but her marriage covenant? And what gives the creature a true claim to these promises, or any other in the covenant of grace, but its union to Christ, and accepting of him as he is offered? The first act of God’s love to the creature is that whereby he chooseth such a one to be his, and sets him apart, in his un­changeable purpose, to be an object of his special love in Christ, and therefore called ‘the foundation,’ as that on which God lays the superstructure of all other mercies: ‘The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his,’ II Tim. 2:19. First, God chooseth a person to be his, and on this foundation he builds, and bestows all his further cost of mercy upon the creature, as one that is his. So on the creature’s part, fist, faith closeth with Christ, severs him in his thoughts from all others, and chooseth him to be his Saviour, in whom alone he will trust, and whom alone he will serve; which done, then it trades with this promise and that, as the portion which falls to him by marriage with Christ. And therefore see how preposterous thy course is, who snatchest these promises to thyself, before there hath passed any good-will from thee to Christ.

BRANCH THIRD.

[Exhortation to unbelievers,

to obtain ‘the shield of faith.’]

Is faith so precious a grace? Let it provoke you, who want it, to get it. Can you hear of this pearl and not wish it were yours? Wherefore hath the Spirit spoken such great and glorious things of faith in the Word but to make it the more desirable in your eye? Is there any way to get Christ, but by getting faith? or dost not thou think that thou needest Christ as much as any other? There is a generation of men in the world would almost make one think this was their judgment, who, because their corruptions have not, by breaking out into plague-sores of profaneness, left such a brand of ignominy upon their name as some others lie under, but their conversations have been strewed with some flowers of morality, whereby their names have kept sweet among their neighbours; and, therefore, they do not at all listen to the offers of Christ, neither do their consciences check them for this neglect. And why so? Surely it is not because they are more willing to go to hell than others; but because the way they think they are in will bring them in good time to heaven, without any more ado. Poor deluded creatures! Is Christ then sent to help only some more debauched sinners to heaven, such as drunkards, swearers, and of that rank? And are civil, moral men, left to walk thither on their own legs? I am sure, if the word may be believed, we have the case resolved clear enough. That tells of but one way to heaven for all that mean to come there. As there is but ‘one God,’ so but ‘one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,’ I Tim. 2:5. And if there is but one bridge over the gulf, judge what is like to become of the civil, righteous man, for all his sweet-scented life, if he miss this one bridge, and goes on in the road he hath set out in for heaven? O remember, proud man, who thou art, and cease thy vain attempt. Art thou not of Adam’s seed? Hast thou not traitor’s blood in thy veins? If ‘every mouth be stopped,’ Rom. 3:19, 20, how darest thou open thine? If ‘all the world become guilty before God,’ that ‘by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified in his sight,’ where then shalt thou stand to plead thy innocency before him who sees thy black skin under thy white feathers, thy foul heart through thy fair carriage? It is faith on Christ that alone can purify thy heart. Without it thy washed face and hands—exter­nal righteousness I mean—will never commend thee to God. And therefore thou art under a horrible de­lusion if thou dost not think that thou needest Christ and a faith to interest thee in him, as much as the bloodiest murderer or filthiest Sodomite in the world. If a company of men and children in a journey were to wade through some brook, not beyond a man’s depth, the men would have the advantage of the chil­dren. But if to cross the seas, the men would need a ship to waft them over, as well as the children. And they might well pass for madmen, if they should think to wade through, without the help of a ship, that is offered them as well as the other, because they are a little taller than the rest are. Such a foolish, desper­ate adventure wouldst thou give for thy soul, if thou shouldst think to make thy way through the justice of God to heaven, without shipping thyself by faith in Christ, because thou art not so bad in thy external conversation as others. Let me therefore again and again beseech all that are yet destitute of faith, to endeavour for it, and that speedily. There is nothing deserves the precedency in your thoughts before this. David resolved not to ‘give sleep to his eyes, or slum­ber to his eyelids, till he find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob,’ Ps. 132:4, 5. The habitation which pleaseth God most is thy heart; but it must be a believing heart, ‘That Christ may dwell in your heart by faith,’ Eph. 3:17. O how dare yo sleep a night in that house where God doth not dwell? and he dwells not in thee, if thou carriest an unbelieving heart in thy bosom. There is never a gospel sermon thou hearest, but he stands at thy door to be let in. Take heed of multiplying unkindnesses in denying him entertainment. How knowest thou but God may, finding thy heart shut so oft by unbelief against his knocks, suddenly seal thee up under final unbelief?

[Directions to unbelievers

for attaining faith.]

But possibly thou wilt ask now, how thou mayest get this precious grace of faith? The answer to this question, take in these following directions. First. Labour to get thy heart convinced of, and affect­ed with, thy unbelief. Second. Take heed of resisting or opposing his help to the Spirit of God, when he offers his help to the work. Third. Lift up thy cry aloud in prayer to God for faith. Fourth. Converse much with the promises, and be fre­quently pondering them in thy musing thoughts. Fifth. Press and urge thy soul home with that strong obligation that lies on thee, a poor humbled sinner, to believe.

[The unbeliever must get his heart

convinced of its unbelief.]

First Direction. Labour to get thy heart con­vinced of, and affected with, thy unbelief. Till this be done, thou wilt be but sluggish and slighty in thy en­deavours for faith. A man may be convinced of other sins and never think of coming to Christ. Convince a drunkard of his drunkenness, and upon leaving his drunken trade his mind is pacified; yea, he blesseth himself in his reformation, because all the quarrel his conscience had with him was for that particular sin. But, when the Spirit of God convinceth the creature of his unbelief, he gets between him and those bur­rows in which he did use to earth and hide himself. He hath no ease in his spirit from those plasters now, which formerly had relieved him, and so kept him from coming over to Christ. Before, it served the turn to bring his conscience to sleep when it accused him for such a sin, that he had left the practice of it; and, for the neglect of a duty, that now he had taken it up without an inquiry into his state, whether good or bad, pardoned or unpardoned. Thus many make a shift to daub and patch up the peace of their con­sciences, even as some do to keep up an old rotten house, by stopping in, here a tile and there a stone, till a loud wind comes and blows the whole house down. But, when once the creature hath the load of its unbelief laid upon his spirit, then it is little ease to him to think he is no drunkard as he was, no atheist in his family—without the worship of God—as he was. ‘Thy present state,’ saith the Spirit of God, ‘is as damning, in that thou art an unbeliever, as if thou wert these still.’ Yea, what thou wert, thou art; and wilt be found at the great day, to be the drunkard and atheist, for all thy seeming reformation, except by an intervening faith thou gainest a new name. What though thou beest drunk no more? yet the guilt re­mains upon thee till faith strikes it off with the blood of Christ. God will be paid his debt; by thee, or Christ for thee; and Christ pays no reckoning for unbelievers.

Again, as the guilt remains, so the power of those lusts remains, so long as thou art an unbeliever —however they may disappear in the outward act. Thy heart is not emptied of one sin, but the vent stopped by restraining grace. A bottle full of wine, close stopped, shows no more what it hath in it than one that is empty. And that is thy case. How is it possible thou shouldst truly mortify any one lust, that hast no faith, which is the only victory of the world? In a word, if under the convincement of thy unbelief thou wilt find—how little a sin soever now it is thought by thee—that there is more malignity in it than in all thy other sins. Hast thou been a liar? That is a grievous sin indeed. Hell gapes for every one that loveth and telleth a lie, Rev. 22:15. But know, poor wretch, the loudest lie which ever thou toldest is that which by thy unbelief thou tellest. Here thou bearest false witness against God himself, and tellest a lie, not to the Holy Ghost, as Ananias did, but a lie of the Holy Ghost; as if not a word were true he saith in the promises of the gospel. If ‘he that believeth setteth to his seal that God is true,’ judge you whether the unbe­liever makes him not a liar? Hast thou been a mur­derer, yea, had thy hand in the blood of saints—the best of men? This is a dreadful sin, I confess. But by thy unbelief, thou art a more bloody murderer by how much the blood of God is more precious than the blood of mere men. Thou killest Christ over again by thy unbelief, and treadest his blood under thy feet, yea, throwest it under Satan’s feet to be trampled on by him.

Question. But how can unbelief be so great a sin, when it is not in the sinner’s power to believe?

Answer. By this reason the unregenerate person might wipe off any other sin and shake off the guilt of it with but saying, ‘It is not my fault that I do not keep this commandment or that, for I have no power of myself to do them.’ This is true; he cannot per­form one holy action holily and acceptably. ‘They that are in the flesh cannot please God,’ Rom. 8:8. But, it is a false inference, that therefore he doth not sin because he can do no other.

1. Because his inability is not created by God, but con­tracted by the creature himself. ‘God hath made man up­right; but they have sought out many in­ventions,’ Ecc. 7:29. Man had not his lame hand from God. No, he was made a creature fit and able for any service his Maker would please to employ him in. But man crippled himself. And man’s fault cannot preju­dice God’s right. Though he hath lost his ability to obey, yet God hath not lost his power to command. Who, among ourselves, thinks his debtor discharged, by wasting that estate whereby he was able to have paid us? It is confessed, had man stood, he should not, indeed could not, have believed on Christ for salvation, as now he is held forth in the gospel; but this was not from any disability in man, but from the unmeetness of such an object to Adam’s holy state. If it had been a duty meet for God to command, there was ability in man to have obeyed.

2. Man’s present impotency to yield obedience to the commands of God, and in particular to this of believing—where it is promulgated—doth afford him no excuse; because it is not a single inability, but complicated with an inward enmity against the com­mand. It is true man can not believe. But it is as true man will not believe. ‘Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life,’ John 5:40. It is possible, yea, ordinary, that a man may, through some feebleness and deficiency of strength, be disabled to do that which he is very willing to do; and this draws out our pity. Such a one was the poor cripple, who lay so long at ‘the pool,’ John 5:5. He was willing enough to have stepped down if he could have but crept thither; or that any other should have helped him in, if they would have been so kind. But, what would you think of such a cripple that can neither go himself into the pool for healing, nor is willing any should help him in; but flees in the face of him that would do him this friendly office? Every unbeliever is this cripple. He is not only impotent himself, but a resister of the Holy Ghost that comes to woo and draw him unto Christ. Indeed, every one that believes believes will­ingly. But he is beholden, not to nature, but to grace, for this willingness. None are willing till ‘the day of power’ comes, Ps. 110:3, in which the Spirit of God ov­ershadows the soul, and by his incubation, as once upon the waters, new‑forms and moulds the will into a sweet compliance with the call of God in the gospel.

[The Spirit of God must not be resisted

when proffering his help to the work of faith.]

Second Direction. Take heed of resisting or op­posing the Spirit of God when he offers his help to the work. If ever thou believest, he must enable thee; take heed of opposing him. Master workmen love not to be controlled. Now, two ways the Spirit of God may be opposed. First. When the creature waits not on the Spirit, where he ordinarily works faith. Second. When the creature, though he attends on him in the way and means, yet controls him in his work.

First. Take heed thou opposest not the Spirit by not attending on him in the way and means by which he ordinarily works faith. Thou knowest where Jesus used to pass, and his Spirit breathe, and that is in the great gospel ordinance—the ministry of the word. Christ’s sheep ordinarily conceive when they are drinking the water of life here. The hearing of the gospel it is called, Gal. 3:2, ‘The hearing of faith;’ because by hearing the doctrine of faith, the Spirit works the grace of faith in them. This is the still voice he speaks to the souls of sinners in. ‘Thine eyes shall see thy teachers: and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it,’ Isa. 30:20. Here are God and man teaching togeth­er. Thou canst not neglect man’s teaching, but thou resist the Spirit’s also. It was for some­thing that the apostle placed them so near, I Thes. 5:19, 20. He bids us ‘quench not the Spirit;’ and in the next words, ‘Despise not prophesyings.’ Surely he would have us know that the Spirit is dangerously quenched when prophesying, or preaching of the gospel, is despised. Now the most notorious way of despising prophesying or preaching, is to is to turn our back off the ordin­ance and not attend on it. When God sets up the ministry of the word in a place, his Spirit then opens his school, and expects that all who would be taught for heaven should come thither. O take heed of play­ing the truant, and absenting thyself from the ordin­ance upon any unnecessary occasion, much less of casting off the ordinance. If he tempts God that would be kept from sin, and yet will not keep out of the circle of the occasion that leads to the sin; then he tempts God as much that would have faith, and pre­tends his desire is that the Spirit should work it, but will not come within the ordinary walk of the Spirit where he doth the work. Whether it is more fitting that the scholar should wait on his master at school to be taught, or that the master should run after the his truant scholar at play in the field to teach him there, judge you?

Second. Take heed that in thy attendance on the word thou dost not control the Spirit in those several steps he takes in thy soul in order to the pro­duction of faith. Though there are no preparatory works of our own to grace, yet the Holy Spirit hath his preparatory works whereby he disposeth souls to grace. Observe therefore carefully the gradual ap­proaches he makes by the word to thy soul, for want of complying with him in which he may withdraw in a distaste and leave the work at a sad stand for a time, if not quite give it over, never more to return to it. We read, Acts 7:23, how ‘it came into the heart of Moses to visit his brethren the children of Israel’ —stirred up no doubt by God himself to the journey. There he begins to show his good-will to them, and zeal for them, in slaying an Egyptian that had wronged an Israelite; which, though no great matter towards their full deliverance out of Egypt, yet ‘he supposed’ (it is said, ver. 25) ‘his brethren would have un­derstood,’ by that hint, ‘how that God by his hand would deliver them.’ But they did not comply with him, nay, rather opposed him; and therefore he with­drew, and they hear no more of Moses or their deliv­erance for ‘forty years’’ space, ver. 30. Thus, may be, the Spirit of God gives thee a visit in an ordinance —directs a word that speaks to thy particular condi­tion. He would have thee understand by this, sinner, how ready he is to help thee out of thy house of bond­age—thy state of sin and wrath —if now thou wilt hearken to his counsel and kindly entertain his mo­tions. [But], carry thyself rebelliously now against him, and God knows when thou mayest hear of him again knocking at thy door upon such an errand.

God makes short work with some in his judiciary proceedings. If he finds a repulse once, sometimes he departs, and leaves a dismal curse behind him as the punishment of it. ‘I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper,’ Luke 14:24. They were but once invited, and, for their first denial, this curse [is] clapped upon their heads. It is not said they shall never come where the supper stands on the board, but they shall never ‘taste.’ Many sit under the ordinances, where Christ in gospel-dishes is set forth admirably, but, through the efficacy of this curse upon them, never taste of these dainties all their life. They hear precious truths, but their hearts are sealed up in unbelief, and their minds made reprobate and injudicious, that they are not moved at all by them. There is a kind of frenzy and madness I have heard of, in which a man will dis­course soberly and rationally, till you come to speak of some one particular subject that was the occasion of his distemper, and first broke his brain; here he is quite out, and presently loses his reason, not able to speak with any understanding of it. O how many men and women are there among us—frequent at­tenders on the word—who, in any matter of the world are able to discourse very understandingly and ration­ally; but, when you come to speak of the things of God, Christ, and heaven, it is strange to see how soon their reason is lost and all understanding gone from them! they are not able to speak of these matters with any judgement. Truly I am afraid, in many —who have sat long under the means, and the Spirit hath been making some attempts on them—th is injudiciousness of mind in the things of God is but the consequence of that spiritual curse which God hath passed upon them for resisting these essays of his Spirit.

I beseech you, therefore, beware of opposing the Spirit. Doth he beam any light from his word into thy understanding, whereby thou, who wert before an ig­norant sot, comest to something of the evil of sin, the excellency of Christ, and canst discourse rationally of the truths of the Scripture? Look now to it, what thou canst with this candle of the Lord is lighted in thy mind; take heed thou beest not found sinning with it, or priding thyself in it, lest it goes out in a snuff, and thou, for ‘rebelling against the light,’ com­est at last to ‘die without knowledge,’ as is threatened, Job 36:12. If the Spirit of God goes yet further, and [so] fortifies the light in thy understanding that it sets thy conscience on fire with the sense of thy sins, and apprehensions of the wrath due to them; now, take heed of resisting him when in mercy to thy soul he is kindling this fire in thy bosom, to keep thee out of a worse in hell, if thou wilt be ruled by him. Thou must expect that Satan, now his house is on fire over his head, will bestir him what he can to quench it; thy danger is lest thou shouldst listen to him for thy pres­ent ease. Take heed therefore where thou drawest thy water with which thou quenchest this fire; that it be out of no well, but out of the word of God. In thinking to quiet thy conscience, thou mayest quench the Spirit of God in thy conscience; which is the mis­chief the devil longs thou shouldst pull upon thy own head. There is more hope of a sick man when his disease comes out, than when it lies at the heart and nothing is seen outwardly. You know how Hazael helped his master to his sad end, who might have lived for all his disease. ‘He took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died;’ and it follows, ‘and Hazael reigned in his stead,’ II Kings 8:15. Thus the wretch came to the crown. He saw the king like to recover, and he squat­ted his disease, in all probability, to his heart by the wet cloth, and so by his death made a way for himself to the throne. And truly Satan will not much fear to recover the throne of thy heart—which this present combustion in thy conscience puts him in great fear of losing—can he but persuade thee to apply some carnal coolings to it, thereby to quench the Spirit in his convincing work. These convictions are sent thee mercifully in order to thy spiritual delivery, and they should be as welcome to thee as the kindly bearing pains of a woman in travail are to her. Without them she could not be delivered of her child, nor without these, more or less, can the new creature be brought forth in thy soul.

Again, may be the Spirit of God goes yet further, and doth not only dart light into thy mind, hell-fire into thy conscience, but heaven-fire also into thy affections. My meaning is, he from the word displays Christ so in his own excellencies, and the fitness of him in all his offices to thy wants, that thy affections begin to work after him. The frequent discourses of him, and the mercy of God through him to poor sin­ners, are so luscious, that thou beginnest to taste some sweetness in hearing of them, which stirs up some passionate desires, whereby thou art in hearing the word often sallying forth in such‑like breathings as these, ‘O that Christ were mine! Shall I ever be the happy soul whom God will pardon and save?’ Yea, possibly in the heat of thy affections thou art cursing thy lusts and Satan, who have held thee so long from Christ; and sudden purposes are taken up by thee that thou wilt bid adieu to thy former ways, and break through all the entreaties of thy dearest lusts, to come to Christ. O soul! now the kingdom of God is nigh indeed unto thee. Thou art, as I may so say, even upon thy quickening, and therefore, above all, this is the chief season of thy care, lest thou shouldst miscarry. If these sudden desires did but ripen into a deliberate choice of Christ; and these purposes settle into a permanent resolution to re­nounce sin and self, and so thou cast thyself on Christ; I durst be the messenger to joy thee with the birth of this babe of grace—faith I mean—in thy soul.

I confess, affections are up and down; yea, like the wind, how strongly soever they seem to blow the soul one way at present, [they] are often found in the quite contrary point very soon after. A man may be drunk with passion and affection, as really as with wine or beer. And as it is ordinary for a man to make a bargain, when he is in beer or wine, which he re­pents of as soon as he is sober again; so it is as ordi­nary for poor creatures, who make choice of Christ and his ways in a sermon—while their affections have been elevated above their ordinary pitch by some moving discourse—to repent of all they have done a while after, when the impression of the word, which heated their affection in hearing, is worn off. Then they come to themselves again and are what they were —as far from any such desires after Christ as ever. Content not therefore thyself with some sudden pangs of affection in an ordinance, but labour to pre­serve those impressions which then the Spirit makes on thy soul, that hey be not defaced and rubbed off —like colours newly laid on before they are dry—by the next temptation that comes. This is the caveat of the apostle, Heb. 2:1, ‘Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip’—or run out as leaking vessels. May be, at present, thy heart is melting, and in a flow with sorrow for thy sins, and thou thinkest, Surely now I shall never give my lust a kind look more—indeed one might wonder, to see the solemn mournful countenances under a sermon, which of these could be the man or woman that would afterwards be seen walking hand in hand with those sins they now weep to hear mentioned—but, as thou lovest thy life, watch thy soul, lest this prove but ‘as the early dew,’ none of which is to be seen at noon. Do thou therefore as those do who have stood some while in a hot bath, out of which when they come they do not presently go into the open air (that were enough to kill them), but betake themselves to their warm bed, that they may nourish this kindly heat; and now while their pores are open, by a gentle sweat breathe out more effectually the remaining dregs of their distemper. Thus betake thyself to thy closet, and there labour to take the advantage of thy present relenting frame for the more free pouring out of thy soul to God, now the ordinance hath thawed the tap; and, with all thy soul, beg of God he would not leave thee short of faith, and suffer thee to mis­carry now he hath thee upon the wheel, but make thee a ‘vessel unto honour;’ which follows as the third direction.

[The unbeliever must

cry in prayer for faith.]

Third Direction. Lift up thy cry aloud in prayer to God for faith.

Question. But may an unbeliever pray? Some think he ought not.

Answer. This is ill news, if it were true, even for some who do believe, but dare not say they are be­lievers. It were enough to scare them from prayer too; and so it would be as Satan would have it—that God would have few or none to vouch him in this sol­emn part of his worship; for they are but the fewest of believers that can walk to the throne of grace in view of their own faith. Prayer, it is medium cultus, and also medium gratiæ—means, whereby we give worship to God, and also wait to receive grace from God; so that to say a wicked man ought not to pray, is to say he ought not to worship God and acknowledge him to be his Maker; and also, that he ought not to wait on the means whereby he may obtain grace and receive faith. ‘Prayer is the soul’s motion God-ward,’ saith Rev. Mr. Baxter; and to say an unbeliever should not pray, is to say he should not turn to God, who yet saith to the wicked, ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.’ ‘Desire is the soul of prayer,’ saith the same learned author, ‘and who dares say to the wicked, Desire not faith, desire not Christ or God?’ (Right Method for Peace of Conscience, p. 63)

It cannot indeed be denied, but that an unbe­liever sins when he prays. But it is not his praying is his sin, but his praying unbelievingly. And therefore, he sins less in praying than in neglecting to pray; be­cause, when he prays, his sin lies in the circumstance and manner, but when he doth not pray, then he stands in a total defiance to the duty God hath com­manded him to perform, and means God hath ap­pointed him to use, for obtaining grace. I must there­fore, poor soul, bid thee go on, for all these bugbears, and neglect not this grand duty which lies upon all the sons and daughters of men. Only go in the sense of thy own vileness, and take heed of carrying pur­poses of going on in sin with thee to the throne of grace. This were a horrible wickedness indeed. As if a traitor should put on the livery which the prince’s servants wear, for no other end but to gain more easy access to his person, that he might stab him with a dagger he hath under that cloak. Is it not enough to sin, but wouldst thou make God accessory to his own dishonour also? By this bold enterprise thou dost what lies in thee to do it. Should this be thy temper —which, God forbid —if I send thee to pray, it must be with Peter’s counsel to Simon Magus, ‘Repent of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee,’ Acts 8:22. But I suppose thee, to whom now I am directing my advice, to be of a far different complexion—one brought to some sense of thy deplored state, and so softened by the word that thou couldst be content to have Christ upon any terms; only thou art at a loss in thy own thoughts, how such an impotent creature, yea impudent sinner, as thou hast been, should ever come to believe on him. So that it is not the love of any present sin in thy heart, but the fear of thy past sins in thy conscience, that keeps thee from believing. Now for thee it is that I would gather the best encour­agements I can out of the word, and with them strew thy way to the throne of grace.

Go, poor soul, to prayer for faith. I do not fear a chiding for sending such customers to God’s door. He that sends us to call sinners home unto him, can­not be angry to hear thee call upon him. He is not so thronged with such suitors as that he can find in his heart to send them away with a denial that come with this request in their mouths. Christ complains that sinners ‘will not come unto him that they may have eternal life;’ and dost thou think he will let any com­plain of him, that they desire to come, and he is un­willing they should? Cheer up thy heart, poor crea­ture, and knock boldly; thou hast a friend in God’s own bosom that will procure thy welcome. He that could, without any prayer made to him, give Christ for thee, will not be unwilling, now thou so earnestly prayest, to give faith unto thee. When thou prayest God to give, he commands thee to do. ‘And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ,’ I John 3:23. So that, in praying for faith, thou prayest that his will may be done by thee; yea, that part of his will which above all he desires should be done—called therefore with an emphasis ‘the work of God.’ ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent,’ John 6:29. As if Christ had said, ‘If ye do not this, ye do nothing for God;’ and surely Christ knew his Father’s mind best. O how welcome must that prayer be to God which falls in with his chiefest design.

Joab found his request, in the mouth of the woman of Tekoah, to take as he would have it. How could it do otherwise, when he asks nothing but what the king liked better than himself did or could? And doth it not please God more, thinkest thou—how strong soever thy desires for faith are—that a poor humbled sinner should believe, than it can do to the creature himself? Methinks, by this time, thou shouldst begin to promise thyself, poor soul, a happy return of this thy adventure, which thou hast now sent to heaven. But for thy further encouragement know that this grace, which thou so wantest and makest thy moan to God for, is a principal part of Christ’s purchase. That blood, which is the price of pardon, is the price of faith also, by which poor sin­ners may come to have the benefit of that pardon. As he has bought off that wrath which man’s sin had justly kindled in God’s heart against him, so hath also that enmity which the heart of the creature is filled with against God, and paid for a new stock of grace, wherewith his bankrupt creature may again set up; so that, poor soul, when thou goest to pray for faith, look up unto Christ, as having a bank of grace lying by him, to give out to poor sinners who see they have nothing of their own to begin with, and in the sense of this their beggary repair to him. ‘Thou hast as­cended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them,’ Ps. 68:18. This is beyond all doubt meant of Christ, and to him applied, Eph. 4:8. Now observe,

First. There is a bank and treasure of gifts in the hand of Christ—‘Thou hast.’

Second. Who trusts him with them; and that is his Father—‘Thou hast received gifts;’ that is, Christ of his Father.

Third. When, or upon what consideration, doth the Father deposit this treasure into Christ’s hands? ‘Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received,’ &c. That is, when Christ had vanquished sin and Satan by his death and rode in the triumphant chariot of his ascension into heav­en’s glorious city, then did Christ receive these gifts. They were the purchase of his blood, and the pay­ment of an old debt which God, before the foun­dation of the world—when the covenant was trans­acted and struck—promised his Son, upon the con­dition of his discharging sinful man’s debt with the effusion of his own precious blood unto death.

Fourth. The persons for whose use Christ received these gifts—‘for men,’ not angels—for ‘rebellious’ men, not men without sin; so that, poor soul, thy sinful nature and life do not make thee an excepted person, and shut thee out from receiving any of this dole.

Fifth. Observe the nature of these gifts, and the end they are given Christ for; ‘that God may dwell in them or with them.’ Now, nothing but faith can make a soul that hath been rebellious a place meet for the holy God to dwell in. This is the gift indeed he re­ceived all other gifts for, in a manner. Wherefore the gifts of the Spirit and ministry, ‘apostles, teachers, pastors,’ &c., but that by these he might work faith in the hearts of poor sinners? Let this give thee bold­ness, poor soul, humbly to press God for that which Christ hath paid for. Say, ‘Lord, I have been a rebel­lious wretch indeed; but did Christ receive nothing for such? I have an unbelieving heart; but I hear there is faith paid for in thy covenant. Christ shed his blood that thou mightest shed forth thy Spirit on poor sinners.’ Dost thou think, that while thou art thus pleading with God, and using Christ’s name in prayer to move him, that Christ himself can sit within hear­ing of all this, and not befriend thy motion to his Father? Surely he is willing that what God is indebted to him should be paid; and therefore, when thou beggest faith upon the account of his death, thou shalt find him ready to join issue with thee in the same prayer to his Father. Indeed, he went to heaven on purpose that poor returning souls might not want a friend at court, when they come with their humble petitions thither.

[The unbeliever should, for faith,

converse much with the promises.]

Fourth Direction. Converse much with the promises, and be frequently pondering them in thy musing thoughts. It is indeed the Spirit’s work, and only his, to bottom thy soul upon the promise, and give his word a being by faith in thy heart. This thou canst not do. Yet, as fire came down from heaven upon Elijah’s sacrifice, when he had laid the wood in order and gone as far as he could; so thou mayest comfortably hope that then the Spirit of God will come with spiritual light and life to quicken the promise upon thy heart, when thou hast been consci­onably diligent in meditating on the promise; if withal thou ownest God in the thing as he did. For when he had laid all in order, he lift up his heart to God in prayer, expecting all from him, I Kings 18:36. I know no more speedy way to invite the Spirit of God into our assistance than this. As he tempts the devil to tempt him that lets his eyes gaze, or thoughts gad, upon a lustful object, so he bespeaks the Holy Spirit’s company that lets out his thoughts upon holy heav­enly objects. We need not doubt but the Spirit of God is as willing to cherish any good motion, as the infernal spirit is to nourish that which is evil. We find the spouse sitting under the shadow of her be­loved, as one under an apple‑tree, Song 2:3, and presently she tells us ‘his fruit was sweet to her taste.’ What doth this her sitting under his shadow better signify, than a soul sitting under the thoughts of Christ and the precious promises, that grow out of him as branches out of a tree? Do but, O Christian, place thyself here awhile, and it were strange if the Spirit should not shake some fruit from one branch or another into thy lap. Thou knowest not but, as Isaac met his bride when he went into the fields to meditate, so thou mayest meet thy beloved while walking by thy meditations in this garden of the promises.

[The unbeliever should press his soul with the

strong obligation we are under to believe.]

Fifth Direction. Press and urge thy soul home with that strong obligation that lies upon thee, a poor humbled sinner, to believe. Possibly, God hath [so] shamed thee in the sight of thy own con­science for other sins, that thou loathest the very thought of them, and durst as well run thy head into the fire as allow thyself in them. If thou shouldst wrong thy neighbour in his person, name, or estate, it would kindle a fire in thy conscience and make thee afraid to look within doors—converse, I mean, with thy own thoughts—till thou hadst repented of it. And is faith the only indifferent thing—a business left to thy own choice, whether thou wilt be so good to thy­self as to believe or no? Truly, the tenderness of con­science which many humbled sinners express in trem­bling at, and smiting them for, other sins, compared with the little sense they express for this of unbelief, speaks as if they thought that they offended God in them, and only wronged themselves by this their un­belief. O how greatly thou art deceived and abused in thy own thoughts if these be thy apprehensions!—yea, if thou dost not think thou dishon ourest God and of­fendest him in a more transcendent manner by thy unbelief than by all thy other sins!

What Bernard saith of a hard heart I may say of an unbelieving heart, illud cor verè durum, quod non trepidat, ad nomen cordis duri—that is a hard heart indeed, saith he, that trembles not at the name of a hard heart. And that is an unbelieving heart indeed, that trembles not at the name of an unbelieving heart. Call thyself, O man, to the bar, and hear what thy soul hath to say for its not closing with Christ, and thou shalt then see what an unreasonable reason it will give. It must be either because thou likest not the terms, or else because thou fearest they are too good ever to be performed. Is the first of these thy reason, because thou likest not the terms on which Christ is offered? Possibly, might thou but have had Christ and thy lusts with him, thou wouldst have been better pleased. But to part with thy lusts to gain a Christ, this thou thinkest is ‘a hard saying.’ It is strange this should offend thee, which God could not have left out and truly loved us. Thou art a sot, a devil, if thou dost not think thy sins the worst piece of thy misery. O what is Christ worth in thy thoughts if thou darest not trust him to recompense the loss of a base lust? That man values Gold little who thinks he shall pay too dear for it by throwing the dirt or dung out of his hands, with which they are full, to receive it. Well sinner, the terms for having Christ, it seems, content thee not. Ask then thy soul how the terms on which thou holdest thy lusts like thee? Canst thou, doth thou think, better spare the blissful presence of God and Christ in hell, where thy lusts, if thou hold­est of this mind, are sure enough to leave thee at last, than the company of thy lusts in heaven, whither faith in Christ would as certainly bring thee? Then take thy choice, and leave it for thy work in hell to repent of thy folly. But I should think, if thou wouldst be so faithful to thyself as to state the case right, and then seriously acquaint thy soul with it, giving it time and leisure to dwell upon it daily, that thou wouldst soon come to have better thoughts of Christ, and worse of thy sins.

But may be this is not the reason that keeps thee from believing. The terms thou likest highly, but it cannot enter into thy heart to think that ever such great things as are promised should be performed to such a one as thou art. Well, of the two, it is better the rub in thy way to Christ should lie in the difficulty that thy understanding finds to conceive, than in the obstinacy of thy will not to receive, what God in Christ offers. But this must be removed also. And therefore fall to work with thy soul, and labour to bring it to reason in this particular, for, indeed, nothing can be more irrational than to object against the reality and certainty of God’s promises. Two things well wrought on thy soul, would satisfy thy doubts and scatter thy fears as to this.

First. Labour to get a right notion of God in thy understanding, and it will not appear strange at all that a great God should do so great things for poor sinners. If a beggar should promise you a thousand pounds a year, you might indeed slight it, and ask where should he have it? But if a prince should promise more, you would listen after it, because he hath an estate that bears proportion to his promise. God is not engaged for more by promise than infinite mercy, power, and faithfulness can see discharged. ‘Be still, and know that I am God,’ Ps. 46:10. Of this psalm Luther would say, in times of great confusion in the church, ‘Let us sing the six and fortieth psalm, in spite of the devil and all his instruments.’ And this clause of it, poor humbled soul, thou mayest sing with comfort, in spite of Satan and sin also, ‘Be still, O my soul, and know that he who offers thee mercy is God.’ ‘They that know his name will trust in him.’

Second. Peruse well the securities which this great God gives for the performance of his promise to the believer, and thou shalt find them so many and great—though his bare word deserves to be taken for more than our souls are worth—that if we had the most slippery cheating companion in the world under such bonds for the paying of a sum of money, we should think it were sure enough; and wilt thou not rest satisfied when the true and faithful God puts himself under these for thy security, whose truth is so immutable that it is more possible for light to send forth darkness, than it is that a lie should come out of his blessed lips?

BRANCH FOURTH.

[Exhortation to believers to preserve

the ‘shield of faith.’]

I now turn myself to you that are believers in a double exhortation. First. Seeing faith is such a choice grace, be stirred up to a more than ordinary care to preserve it. Second. If faith be such a choice grace, and thou hast it, dent not what God hath done for thee.

[Faith is to be preserved with exceeding care

because of its pre-eminence among graces.]

Exhortation First. Seeing faith is such a choice grace, be stirred up to a more than ordinary care to preserve it. Keep that, and it will keep thee and all thy other graces. Thou standest by faith; if that fails thou fallest. Where shall we find thee then but under thy enemies’ feet? Be sensible of any dan­ger thy faith is in; like that Grecian captain who, being knocked down in fight, asked as soon as he came to himself where his shield was. This he was solicitous for above anything else. O be asking, in this temptation, and that duty, where is thy faith, and how it fares? This is the grace which God would have us chiefly judge and value ourselves by, because there is the least danger of priding in this self-emptying grace above any other. ‘I say through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith,’ Rom. 12:3. There were many gifts which the Corinthians received from God, but he would have them think of themselves rather by their faith, and the reason is, that they may ‘think soberly.’

Indeed all other graces are to be tried by our faith; if they be not fruits of faith they are of no true worth. This is the difference between a Christian and an honest heathen. He values himself by his pa­tience, temperance, liberality, and other moral virtues which he hath to show above others. These he ex­pects will commend him to God and procure him a happiness after death; and in these he glories and makes his boast while he lives. But the Christian, he is kept sober in the sight of these—though they com­mence graces in him that were but virtues in the heathen—because he hath a discovery of Christ, whose righteousness and holiness by faith become his; and he values himself by these more than what is in­herent in him. I cannot better illustrate this than by two men—the one a courtier, the other a countryman and a stranger to the court, both having fair estates, but the courtier the greatest by far. Ask the country gentleman, that hath no relation to court or place in the prince’s favour, what he is worth; and he will tell you as much as his lands and monies amount to. These he values himself by. But, ask the courtier what he is worth; and he—though he hath more land and money by far than the other—will tell you he values himself by the favour of his prince more than by all his other estate. I can speak a big word, saith he: ‘What my prince hath is mine, except his crown and royalty; his purse mine to maintain me, his love to embrace me, his power to defend me.’ The poor heathens, being strangers to God and his favour in Christ, they blessed themselves in the improvement of their natural stock, and that treasure of moral virtues which they had gathered together with their industry, and the restraint that was laid upon their corruptions by a secret hand they were not aware of. But the believer, having access by faith into this grace wherein he stands so high in court favour with God by Jesus Christ, he doth and ought to value himself chiefly by his faith rather than any other grace. Though none can show these graces in their true heavenly beauty besides himself, yet, they are not these, but Christ, who is his by faith, that he blesseth himself in. The believer, he can say through mercy, that he hath a heart beautified with those heavenly graces, to which the heathen’s mock-virtue’s and the proud self-justiciary’s mock-graces also, are no more to be compared, than the image in the glass is to the face, or the shadow to the man himself. He can say he that hath holiness in truth, which they have but in show and semblance. And this grace of God in him he values infinitely above all the world’s treasure or pleasure—he had rather be the ragged saint than the robed sinner—yea, above his natural life, which he can be willing to lose, and count himself no loser, may he thereby but secure this his spiritual life. But this is not the biggest word a believer can say. He is not only partaker of the divine nature by that princi­ple of holiness infused to him; but he is heir to all the holiness, yea, to all the glorious perfections, that are in God himself. All that God is, hath, or doth, he hath leave to call his own. God is pleased to be called his people’s God—‘The God of Israel,’ II Sam. 23:3. As a man’s house and land bears the owner’s name upon it, so God is graciously pleased to carry his people’s name upon him, that all the world may know who are they he belongs to. Naboth’s field is called ‘the portion of Naboth,’ II Kings 11:21; so God is called ‘the portion of Jacob,’ Jer. 10:16. Nothing hath God kept from his people, saving his crown and glory. That, indeed, he ‘will not give to another,’ Isa. 42:8. If the Christian wants strength, God would have him make use of his; and that he may do boldly and confidently, the Lord calls himself his people’s strength, ‘the strength of Israel will not lie,’ I Sam. 15:29. Is it righ­teousness and holiness he is scanted in? Behold, where it is brought unto his hand—Christ ‘is made unto us righteousness,’ I Cor. 1:30, called therefore ‘the Lord our righteousness,’ Jer. 33:16. Is it love and mer­cy they would have? All the mercy in God is at their service. ‘Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee!’ Ps. 31:19. Mark the phrase, ‘laid up for them.’ His mercy and good­ness—it is intended for them. As a father that lays up such a sum of money, and writes on the bag, ‘This is a portion for such a child.’ But how comes the Christian to have this right to God, and all that vast and untold treasure of happiness which is in him? This indeed is greatly to be heeded. It is faith that gives him a good title unto all this. That which makes him a child makes him an heir. Now faith makes him a child of God, ‘But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,’ John 1:12. As there­fore, if you would not call your birthright into ques­tion, and bring your interest in Christ, and those glorious privileges that come along with him, under a sad dispute in your souls, look to your faith.

Question. But what counsel, may the Christian say, can you give for the preserving of my faith?

Answer. To this I answer in these following par­ticulars. First. That which was instrumental to beget thy faith will be helpful to preserve it, viz. the word of God. Second. Wouldst thou preserve thy faith, look to thy conscience. Third. Exercise it. Fourth. Take special notice of that unbelief which yet remains in thee. Fifth. If thou wouldst preserve thy faith, labour to increase it.

[Directions to believers for the preserving of faith.]

First Direction. That which was instrumental to beget thy faith will be helpful to preserve it—I mean the word of God. As it was seed for the former pur­pose in thy conversion, so now it is milk for the present sustentation of thy faith. Lie sucking at this breast, and that often. Children cannot suck long, nor digest much at a time, and therefore need the more frequent returns of their meals. Such children are all believers in this world. ‘Precept’ must be ‘upon precept, line upon line, here a little, and there a little.’ The breast [must be] often drawn out for the nourishing of them up in their spiritual life, or else they cannot subsist. It was not ordinary that Moses should look so well as he did after he had fasted so long, Ex. 34:28, 29. And truly it is a miraculous faith they must have who will undertake to keep their faith alive without taking any spiritual repast from the word. I have heard of some children that have been taken from their mother’s breast as soon almost as born, and brought up by hand, who yet have done well for their natural life. But I shall not believe a creature can thrive in his spiritual life, who cast off ordinances, and weans himself from the word, till I hear of some other way of provision that God hath made for the ordinary maintenance of it besides this; and I despair of living so long as to see this proved. I know some, that we may hope well of, have been for a time persuaded to turn their backs on the word and ordinances; but they have turned well hunger-bit to their old fare again, yea, with Naomi’s bitter com­plaint in their mouths, ‘I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty,’ Ruth 1:21. And happy are them that they are come to their stomachs in this life, before this food be taken off the table, never more to be set on. He that taught Christians to pray for their daily bread, did suppose they had need of it; and surely he did not mean only or chiefly corporal bread, who, in the same chapter bids them, ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God,’ Matt. 6:33. Well, Christian, prize thou the word, fed savourily on the word, whether it be dished forth in a sermon at the public, or in a conference with some Christian friend in private, or in a more secret duty of reading and meditation by thy solitary self. Let none of these be disused, or carnally used, by thee, and with God’s blessing thou shalt reap the benefit of it in thy faith. When thy stomach fails to the word, thy faith must needs begin to fail on the word. O that Christians, who are so much in complaints of their weak faith, would but turn their complaints into inquiries why it is so weak and declining! Is it not because faith hath missed its wonted meals from the word? Thou, hap­ly, formerly broken through many straits to keep thy acquaintance with God in his word, and wert well paid for that time which thou didst borrow of thy other occasions for this end, by that sweet temper that thou foundest thy heart in to trust God and rely upon him in all conditions; but now, since thou hast dis­continued thy acquaintance with God in those ordin­ances, thou perceivest a sad change. Where thou couldst have trusted God, now thou art suspicious of him. Those promises that were able in a mutiny and hubbub of thy unruly passions, to have hushed and quieted all in thy soul at their appearing in thy thoughts, have now, alas! but little authority over thy murmuring unbelieving heart, to keep it in any toler­able order. If it be thus with thee, poor soul, thy case is sad; and I cannot give thee better counsel for thy soul, than that which physicians give men in a consumption for their bodies. They ask them where they were born and bred up, and to that their native air they send them, as the best means to recover them. Thus, soul, let me ask thee, if thou ever hadst faith, where it was born and bred up? was it not in the sweet air of ordinances, hearing, meditating, conferring of the word, and praying over the word? Go, poor creature, and get thee as fast as thou canst into thy native air, where thou didst draw thy first Chris­tian breath, and where thy faith did so thrive and grow for a time. No means more hopeful to set thy feeble faith on its legs again than this.

Second Direction. Wouldst thou preserve thy faith, look to thy conscience. A good conscience is the bottom faith sails in. If the conscience be wrecked, how can it be thought that faith should be safe? If faith be the jewel, a good conscience is the cabinet in which it is kept; and if the cabinet be broken, the jewel must needs be in danger of losing. Now you know what sins waste the conscience—sins either deliberately committed, or impudently contin­ued in.

O take heed of deliberate sins! Like a stone thrown into a clear stream, they will so roil thy soul and muddy it, that thou, who even now couldst see thy interest in the promise, wilt be at a loss and not know what to think of thyself. They are like the fire on the top of the house; it will be no easy matter to quench it. But, if thou hast been so unhappy as to fall into such a slough, take heed of lying in it by im­penitency. The sheep may fall into a ditch, but it is the swine that wallows in it; and therefore, how hard wilt thou find it, thinkest thou, to act thy faith on the promise, when thou art, by thy filthy garments and besmeared countenance, so unlike one of God’s holy one’s? It is dangerous to drink poison, but far more to let it lie in the body long. Thou canst not act thy faith, though a believer, on the promise, so as to ap­ply the pardon it presents to thy soul, till thou hast renewed thy repentance.

Third Direction. Exercise thy faith, if thou meanest to preserve it. We live by faith, and faith lives by exercise. As we say of some stirring men, they are never well but at work—confine them in their bed or chair and you kill them; so here, hinder faith from working, and you are enemies to the very life and being of it. Why do we act faith so little in prayer, but because we are no more frequent in it? Let the child seldom see its father or mother, and when he comes into their presence he will not make much after them. Why are we no more able to live on a promise when at a plunge? Surely because we live no more with the promise. The more we converse with the promise, the more confidence we shall put in it. We do not strangers as we do our neighbours, in whose company we are almost every day. It were a rare way to secure our faith, yea, to advance it and all our other graces, would we, in our daily course labour to do all our ac­tions, as in obedience to the command, so in faith on the promise. But alas! how many enterprises are un­dertaken where faith is not called in, nor the promise consulted with, from one end of the business to the other? And therefore, when we would make use of faith in some particular strait, wherein we think our­selves to be more than ordinary at a loss, our faith itself is at a loss, and to seek, like a servant who, be­cause his master very seldom employs him, makes bold to be gadding abroad, and so when his master doth call him upon some extraordinary occasion, he is out of the way and not to be found. O Christian! take heed of letting your faith be long out of work. If you do not use it when you ought, it might fail you when you desire most to act it.

Fourth Direction. Take special notice of that unbelief which yet reMal. in thee and, as it is putting forth daily its head in thy Christian course, be sure thou loadest thy soul with the sense of it, and deeply humblest thyself before God for it. What thy faith loseth by every act of unbelief, it recovers again by renewing thy repentance. David’s faith was on a mending hand when he could shame himself heartily for his unbelief, Ps. 73:22. He confesseth how ‘foolish and ignorant’ he was; yea, saith he, ‘I was as a beast before thee’—so irrational and brutish his unbelieving thoughts now appeared to him—and, by this ingenuous, humble confession, the malignity of his distemper breathes out [so] that he is presently in his old temper again, and his faith is able to act as high as ever. ‘Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory,’ ver. 23, 24. But so long as thy unbelief is sure to grow upon thee as thou beest unhumbled for it. We have the reason why the people of Laish were so bad. ‘There was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in anything,’ Judges 18:7. Christian, thou hast a magistrate in thy bosom com­missioned by God himself to check, reprove, and shame thee, when thou sinnest. Indeed, all things go to wreck in that soul where this [one] doth his office. Hear therefore what this hath to charge thee with, that thou mayest be ashamed. There is no sin dis­honours God more than unbelief; and this sword cuts his name deepest when in the hand of a saint. O to be wounded in the house of his friends, this goes near the tender heart of God. And there is reason enough why God should take this sin so unkindly at a saint’s hand, if we consider the near relation such a one stands in to God. It would grieve an indulgent father to see his own child come into court, and there bear witness against him and charge him of some untruth in his words, more than if a stranger should do it; because the testimony of a child, though, when it is for the vindication of a parent it may lose some credit in the opinion of those that hear it, upon the suspi­cion of partiality, yet, when against a parent, it seems to carry some more probability of truth than what is another that is a stranger says against him; because the band of natural affection with which the child is bound to his parent is so sacred that it will not be easily suspected. He can offer violence to it, but upon the more inviolable necessity of bearing witness to the truth.

O think of this, Christian, again and again—by thy unbelief thou bearest false witness against God! And if thou, a child of God, speakest no better of thy heavenly Father, and presentest him in no fairer char­acter to the world, it will be no wonder if it be con­firmed in its hard thoughts of God, even to final im­penitency and unbelief, when it shall se how little credit he finds with thee, for all thy great profession of him and near relation to him. When we would sink the reputation of a man the lowest possible, we cannot think of an expression that will do it more effectually than to say, ‘He is such a one as those that are nearest to him, even his own children, dare not trust, or will not give him a good word.’ O Christian, ask thyself whether thou couldst be willing to be the unhappy instrument to defame God, and take away his good name in the world. Certainly thy heart trem­bles at the thought of it if a saint; and if it doth, then surely thy unbelief, by which thou hast done this so oft, will wound thee to the very heart; and, bleeding for what thou hast done, thou wilt beware of taking that sword into thy hand again, with which thou hast given so many a wound to the name of God and thy own peace.

Fifth Direction. If thou wouldst preserve thy faith, labour to increase it. None [are] in more dan­ger of losing what they have than those poor-spirited men who are content with what they have. A spark is sooner smothered than a flame; a drop more easily drunk up and dried than a river. The stronger thy faith is, the safer thy faith is from the enemies’ as­saults. The intelligence which an enemy hath of a castle’s being weakly provided for a siege, is enough to bring him against it, which else should not have been troubled with his company. The devil is a coward, and he loves to fight on the greatest advantage; and greater he cannot have than the weakness of the Christian’s faith. Didst thou but know, Christian, the many privileges of a strong faith above a weak, thou wouldst never rest till thou hadst it. Strong faith comes conqueror out of those temptations where weak faith is foiled and taken prisoner. Those Philis­tines could not stand before Samson in his strength, who durst dance about him scornfully in his weak­ness. When David’s faith was up how undauntedly did he look death in the face! I Sam. 30:6. But, when that was out of heart, O how poor-spirited is he! —ready to run his head into every hole, though never so dishonourably, to save himself, I Sam. 21:13.

Strong faith frees the Christian from those heart-rending thoughts which weak faith must needs be op­pressed with. ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee,’ Isa. 26:3. So much faith, so much inward peace and quietness. If little faith, then little peace and serenity, through the storms that our unbelieving fears will necessarily gather. If strong faith, then strong peace; for so the ingemination in the Hebrew, ‘peace, peace,’ imports. It is confessed that weak faith hath as much peace with God through Christ as the other hath by his strong faith, but not so much bosom peace. Weak faith will as surely land the Christian in heaven as strong faith; for it is impossible the least dram of true grace should perish, being all incorruptible seed. But the weak doubting Christian is not like to have so pleasant a voyage thither as another with strong faith. Though all in the ship come safe to shore, yet he that is all the way sea‑sick hath not so comfortable a voy­age as he that is strong and healthful. There are many delightful prospects occur in a journey which he that is sick and weak loseth the pleasure of. But the strong man views all with abundance of delight; and though he wisheth with all his heart he was at home, yet the entertainment he hath from these do much shorten and sweeten his way to him. Thus, Christian, there are many previous delights which saints travel­ling to heaven meet on their way thither—besides what God hath for them at their journey’s end—but it is the Christian whose faith is strong and active on the promise that finds them. This is he who sees the spiritual glories in the promise that ravish his soul with unspeakable delight; while the doubting Chris­tian’s eye of faith is so gummed up with unbelieving fears that he can see little to affect him in it. This is he that goes singing all the way with the promise in his eye; while the weak Christian, kept in continual pain with his own doubts and jealousies, goes sighing and mourning with a heavy heart, because his interest in the promise is yet under a dispute in his own thoughts. As you would not therefore live uncomfortably, and have a dull melancholy walk of it to heaven, labour to strengthen your faith.

Question. But may be you will ask, How may I know whether my faith be strong or weak? I answer by these following characters.

[Characters by which we may know

whether faith be strong or weak.]

1. Character. The more entirely the Christian can rely on God, upon his naked word in the promise, the stronger his faith is. He, surely, putteth great­er confidence in a man that will take his own word or single bond for a sum of money, than he who dares not, except some others will be bound for him. When we trust God for his bare promise, we trust him on his own credit, and this is faith indeed. He that walks without staff or crutch is stronger than he that needs these to lean on. Sense and reason, these are the crutches which weak faith leans on too much in its acting. Now, soul, inquire,

(1.) Canst thou bear up thyself on the promise, though the crutch of sense and present feeling be not at hand? May be thou hast had some discoveries of God’s love and beamings forth of his favour upon thee; and so long as the sun shined thus in at thy window thy heart was lightsome, and thou thoughtest thou shouldst never distrust God more, or listen to thy unbelieving thoughts more; but how findest thou thy heart now, since those sensible demonstrations are withdrawn, and may be some frowning providence sent in the room of them? Dost thou presently dis­pute the promise in thy thoughts, as not knowing whether thou mayest venture to cast anchor on it or no? Because thou hast lost the sense of his love, does thy eye of faith fail thee also, that thou hast lost the sight of his mercy and truth in the promise? Surely thy eye of faith is weak, or else it would read the promise without these spectacles. The little child, in­deed, thinks the mother is quite lost if she goes but out of the room where he is; but as it grows older so it will be wiser. And truly so will the believer also. Christian, bless God for the experiences and sensible tastes thou hast at any time of his love; but know, that we cannot judge of our faith, whether weak or strong, by them. Experiences, saith Parisiensis, are like crutches, which do indeed help a lame man to go, but they do not make the lame man sound or strong; food and physic must do that. And therefore, Christian, labour to lean more on the promise, and less on sen­sible expressions of God’s love, whether it be in the present feeling or past experiences of it. I would not take you off from improving these, but [from] leaning on these, and limiting the actings of our faith to these. A strong man, though he doth not lean on his staff all the way he goes—as the lame man doth on his crutch, which bears his whole weight—yet he may make good use of it now and then to defend himself when set upon by a thief or dog in his way. Thus the strong Christian may make good use of his experi­ences in some temptations, though he doth not lay the weight of his faith upon them, but [upon] the promise.

(2.) Canst thou bear thyself upon the promise, when the other crutch of reason breaks under thee? or does thy faith ever fall to the ground with it? That is a strong faith indeed that can trample upon the im­probabilities and impossibilities which reason would be objecting against the performance of the promise, and give credit to the truth of it with a non obstante —notwithstanding. Thus Noah fell hard to work about the ark, upon the credit he gave both the threatening and promissory part of God’s word, and never troubled his head to clear the matter to his reason how these strange things could come to pass. And it is imputed to the strength of Abraham’s faith, that he could not suffer his own narrow reason to have the hearing of the business, when God promised him a Michaelmas[7] spring—as I may say—a son in his old age. ‘And being not weak in faith, he consid­ered not his own body now dead,’ Rom. 4:19. Skilful swimmers are not afraid to go above their depth, whereas young learners feel for the ground, and are loath to go far from the bank-side. Strong faith fears not when God carries the creature beyond the depth of his reason: ‘We know not what to do,’ said good Jehoshaphat, ‘but our eyes are upon thee,’ II Chr. 20. As if he had said, ‘We are in a sea of troubles; beyond our own help, or any thought how we can wind out of these straits; but our eyes are upon thee. We dare not give our case for desperate so long as there is strength in thine arm, tenderness in thy bowels, and truth in thy promise.’ Whereas weak faith, that is groping for some footing for reason to stand on, it is taken up how to reconcile the promise and the crea­ture’s understanding. Hence those many questions which drop from its mouth. When Christ said, ‘Give ye them to eat,’ Mark 6, his disciples ask him, ‘Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread?’ As if Christ’s bare word could not spare that cost and trouble! ‘Whereby shall I know this?’ saith Zacharias to the angel, ‘for I am an old man,’ Luke 1:18. Alas! his faith was not strong enough to digest, at present, this strange news.

2. Character. The more composed and content­ed the heart is under the changes which providence brings upon the Christian’s state and condition in the world, the stronger his faith is. Weak bodies cannot bear the change of weather so well as healthful and strong ones do. Hot and cold, fair or foul, cause no great alteration in the strong man’s temper; but alas! the other is laid up by them, or at best goes complain­ing of them. Thus strong faith can live in any cli­mate, travel in all weather, and fadge with any condi­tion. ‘I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, there­with to be content,’ Php. 4:11. Alas! all Christ’s schol­ars are not of Paul’s form; weak faith hath not yet got the mastery of this hard lesson. When God turns thy health into sickness, thy abundance into penury, thy honour into scorn and contempt, into what language dost thou now make thy condition known to him? Is thy spirit embittered into discontent, which thou ventest in murmuring complaints? or art thou well satisfied with God’s dealings, so as to acquiesce cheer­fully in thy present portion, not from an unsensible­ness of the affliction, but approbation of divine ap­pointment? If the latter, thy faith is strong.

(1.) It shows God hath a throne in thy heart. Thou reverencest his authority and ownest his sover­eignty, or else thou wouldst not acquiesce in his or­ders. ‘I was dumb, because thou didst it,’ Ps. 39:9. If the blow had come from any other hand he could not have taken it so silently. When the servant strike the child, he runs to his father and makes his complaint; but, though the father doth more to him, he com­plains not of his father, nor seeks redress from any other, because it is his father whose authority he re­veres. Thus thou comportest thyself toward God; and what but a strong faith can enable thee? ‘Be still, and know that I am God,’ Ps. 46:10. We must know God believingly to be what he is, before our hearts will be ‘still.’

(2.) This acquiescency of spirit under the dispo­sition of providence shows that thou dost not only stand in awe of his sovereignty, but hast amiable comfortable thoughts of his mercy and goodness in Christ. Thou believest he can soon, and will certainly make thee amends, or else thou couldst not so easily part with these enjoyments. The child goes willingly to bed when others, may be, are going to supper at a great feast in the family; but the mother promiseth the child to save something for him against the morn­ing; this the child believes and is content. Surely thou hast something in the eye of thy faith which will rec­ompense all thy present loss; and this makes thee fast so willingly when others feast, be sick when others are well. Paul tells us why he and his brethren in afflic­tion did not faint, II Cor. 4:16, 17. They saw heaven coming to them while earth was going from them. ‘For which cause we faint not, …for our light afflic­tion, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’

3. Character. The more able to wait long for answers to our desires nd prayers, the stronger faith is. It shows the tradesman to be poor and needy when he must have ready money for what he sells. They that are forehanded are willing to give time, and able to forbear long. Weak faith is all for the present; if it hath not presently its desires answered, then it grows jealous and lays down sad conclusions against itself—his prayer was not heard, or he is not one God loves, and the like. Much ado to be kept out of a fainting fit—‘I said in my haste that all men were liars.’ But strong faith that can trade with God for time, yea, waits God’s leisure—‘He that believeth shall not make haste,’ Isa. 28:16. He knows his money is in a good hand, and he is not over-quick to call for it home, knowing well that the longest voyages have the richest returns. As rich lusty ground can forbear rain longer than lean or sandy [ground], which must have a shower ever and anon, or the corn on it fades; or as a strong healthful man can fast longer without faintness, than the sickly and weak,—so the Christian of strong faith can stay longer for spiritual refreshing from the presence of the Lord, in the returns of his mercy and discoveries of his love to him, than one of weak faith.

4. Character. The more the Christian can lose or suffer upon the credit of the promise, the stronger his faith is. If you should see a man part with a fair inheritance, and leave his kindred and country where he might pass his days in the embracements of his dear friends and the delicious fare which a plentiful estate would afford him every day, to follow a friend to the other end of the world, with hunger and hard­ship, through sea and land, and a thousand perils that meet him on every hand, you would say that this man had a strong confidence of his friend, and a dear love to him, would you not? Nay, if he should do all this for a friend whom he never saw, upon the bare credit of a letter which he sends to invite him to come over to him, with a promise of great things he will do for him; now, to throw all his present possessions and enjoyments at his heels, and willingly put himself into the condition of a poor pilgrim and traveller, with the loss of all he hath, that he may come to his dear friend, this adds to the wonder of his confidence. Such gallant spirits we read of—‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice,’ I Peter 1:6-8. Observe the place, and you shall find them in sorrowful plight —‘in heaviness through manifold temptations’—yet, because their way lies through the sloughs to the en­joyment of God and Christ, whom they never saw or knew, but by the report the word makes of them, they can turn their back off the world’s friendship and enjoyments—with which it courted them as well as others—and go with a merry heart through the deep­est of them all. Here is glorious faith indeed. It is not praising of heaven, and wishing we were there, but a cheerful abandoning the dearest pleasures, and embracing the greatest sufferings of the world when called to the same, that will evidence our faith to be both true and strong.

5. Character. The more easily that the Christian can repel motions, and resist temptations to sin, the stronger is his faith. The snare or net which holds the little fish fast, the greater and stronger fish easily breaks through. The Christian’s faith is strong or weak as he finds it easy or hard to break from temptations to sin. When an ordinary temptation holds thee by the heel, and thou art entangled in like the fly in the spider’s web—much ado to get off, and per­suade thy heart from yielding—truly it speaks faith very feeble. To have no strength to oppose the as­saults of sin and lust, speaks the heart void of faith. Where faith hath not a hand to prostrate an enemy, it yet hath a hand to lift up against it, and a voice to cry out for help to heaven. Some way or other faith will show its dislike and enter its protest against sin.

And to have little strength to resist, evidenceth a weak faith. Peter’s faith was weak when a maid’s voice dashed him out of countenance; but it was well amended when he could withstand, and, with a noble constancy, disdain the threats of a whole counsel, Acts 4. Christian, compare thyself with thyself, and give righteous judgment on thyself. Do now thy lusts as powerfully inveigle thy heart, and carry it away from God, as they did some months or years ago; or canst thou in truth say thy heart is got above them. Since thou hast known more of Christ, and had a view of his spiritual glories, canst thou now pass by their door and not look in; yea, when they knock at thy door in a temptation, thou canst shut it upon them, and dis­dain the motion? Surely thou mayest know thy faith is grown stronger. When we see that the clothes which a year or two ago were even fit for the person, will not now come on him, they are so little, we may easily be persuaded to believe the person is much grown since that time. If thy faith were no more grown, those temptations which fitted thee would like thee as well now. Find but the power of sin die, and thou mayest know that faith is more lively and vigor­ous. The harder the blow, the stronger the arm that gives it. A child cannot strike such a blow as a man. Weak faith cannot give such a home-blow to sin as a strong faith can.

6. Character. The more ingenuity and love is in thy obediential walking, the stronger thy faith is. Faith works by love, and therefore its strength or weakness may be discovered by the strength or weakness of that love it puts forth in the Christian’s actings. The strength of a man’s arm that draws a bow, is seen by the force the arrow which he shoots flies with. And certainly the strength of our faith may be known by the force our love mounts to God with. It is impossible that weak faith—which is unable to draw the promise as a strong faith can—should leave such a forcible impression on the heart to love God to aban­don sin, perform duty, and exert acts of obedience to his command, know thy place, and take it with hum­ble thankfulness, thou art a graduate in the art of be­lieving. The Christian’s love advanceth by equal paces with his faith, as the heat of the day increaseth with the climbing sun; the higher that mounts towards its meridian, the hotter the day grows. So the higher faith lifts Christ up in the Christian, the more intense his love to Christ grows, which now sets him on work after another sort than he was wont. Before, when he was to mourn for his sins, he was acted by a slavish fear, and made an ugly face at the work, as one doth that drinks some unpleasing potion; but now acts of repentance are not distasteful and formidable, since faith hath discovered mercy to sit on the brow of jus­tice, and undeceived the creature of those false and cruel thoughts of God which ignorantly he had taken up concerning him. He doth not now ‘hate the word repentance’—as Luther said he once did before he understood that place, Rom. 1:17—but goes about the work with amiable sweet apprehensions of a good God, that stands ready with the sponge of his mercy dipped in Christ’s mercy, to blot out his sins as fast as he scores them up by his humble sorrowful confession of them. And the same might be said concerning all other offices of Christian piety. Strong faith makes the soul ingenuous. It doth not pay the performance of any duty, as an oppressed subject doth a heavy tax —with a deep sigh, to think how much he parts with —but as freely as a child would present his father with an apple of that orchard which he holds by gift from him. Indeed, the child when young is much ser­vile and selfish, forbearing what his father forbids for fear of the rod, and doing what he commands for some fine thing or other that his father bribes him with, more than for pure love to his person or obedi­ence to his will and pleasure. But, as he grows up and comes to understand himself better, and the relation he stands in, with the many obligations of it to filial obedience, then his servility and selfishness wear off, and his FJ`D(¬—natural affection—will prevail more with him to please his father than any other argument whatever. And so will it with the Christian where faith is of any growth and ripeness.

7. Character. To name no more, the more able faith is to sweeten the thoughts of death, and make it desirable to the Christian, the stronger his faith. Things that are very sharp or sour will take much sugar to make them sweet. Death is one of those things which hath the most ungrateful taste to the creature’s palate that can be. O it requires a strong faith to make the serious thoughts of it sweet and de­sirable! I know some in a pet and a passion have pro­fessed great desires of dying, but it hath been as a sick man desires to change his place, merely out of a wea­riness of, and discontent with, his present condition, without any due consideration of what they desire. But a soul that knows the consequences of death, and the unchangeableness of that state, whether of bliss or misery, that it certainly marries us to, will never cheerfully call for death in his cordial desires, till he be in some measure resolved from the promise what entertainment he may expect from God when he comes into that other world—and that weak faith will not do without abundance of fears and doubts. I con­fess, that sometimes a Christian of very weak faith may meet death with as little fear upon his spirit, yea, more joy, than one of a far stronger faith, when he is held up by the chin by some extraordinary comfort poured into his soul from God immediately. Should God withdraw this, however, his fears would return upon him, and he feel again his faintings; as a sick man, that hath been strangely cheered with a strong cordial, does his feebleness when the efficacy of it is spent. But we speak of the ordinary way how Chris­tians come to have their hearts raised above the fear, yea, into a strong desire, of death, and that is by attaining to a strong faith. God can indeed make a feast of a few loaves, and multiply the weak Chris­tian’s little faith on a sudden, as he lives on a sick-bed, into a spread table of all varieties of consola­tions. But I fear that God will not do this miracle for that man or woman who, upon the expectation of this, contents himself with the little provision of faith he hath, and labours not to increase his store against that spending time.

[Faith or the graces of God in a

believer must be acknowledged.]

Exhortation Second. We come to the second word of exhortation we have to speak to the saints:—If faith be such a choice grace, and thou hast it, deny not what God hath done for thee. Which is worst, thinkest thou?—the sinner to hide his sin and deny it, or the Christian to hide and deny his faith? I confess the first does worst, if we look to the inten­tion of the persons; for the sinner hides his sin out of a wicked end. The doubting soul [however] means well:—he is afraid to play the hypocrite and be found a liar in saying he hath what he fears he hath not. But, if we consider the consequence of the Christian’s dis­owning the grace of God in him, and what use the devil makes of it for the leading him into many other sins, it will not be so easy to resolve whose sin is the greatest. Good Joseph meant piously when he had thought of putting away secretly his es­poused Mary —thinking no other but that she had played the whore—and yet, it would have been a sad act if he had persisted in his thoughts, especially after the angel had told him that which was conceived in her to be of the Holy Ghost. Thus thou, poor mourning soul, may be, art oft thinking to put away thy faith as some by-blow of Satan, and base-born counterfeit grace begot on thy hypocritical heart by the father of lies. Well, take heed what thou dost. Hast thou had no vision—not extraordinary of and angel or immedi­ate revelation, but ordinary of the Spirit of God—I mean in his word and ordinances, encouraging thee from those characters which are in the Scripture given of faith, and the conformity thy faith hath to them, to take and own thy faith as that which is conceived in thee by the Holy Ghost, and not a brat formed by the delusion of Satan in the womb of thy own groundless imagination? If so, be afraid of bearing false-witness against the grace of God in thee. As there is that makes himself rich in faith that hath nothing of this grace, so there is that maketh himself poor that hath great store of this riches. Let us therefore hear what are the grounds of this thy suspicion, that we may see whether thy fears or thy faith be imaginary and false. First. Saith the poor soul, I am afraid I have no true faith because I have not those joys and consolations which others have who believe. Second. O but can there be any true faith where there is so much doubt­ing as I find in myself? Third. O but I fear mine is a presumptuous faith, and if so, to be sure it cannot be right.

[Grounds of suspicion which lead

to a believer’s denying his faith.]

First Ground of Suspicion. I am afraid, saith the poor soul, I have no true faith, because I have not those joys and consolations which others have who believe.

Answer First. Thou mayest have inward peace though not joy. The day may be still and calm though not glorious and sunshine. Though the Comforter be not come with his ravishing consolations, yet he may have hushed the storm of thy troubled spirit; and true peace, as well as joy, is the consequent of ‘faith un­feigned.’

Answer Second. Suppose thou hast not yet at­tained so much as to this inward peace, yet know, thou hast no reason to question the truth of thy faith for want of this. We have peace with God as soon as we believe, but not always with ourselves. The par­don may be past the prince’s hand and seal, and yet not put into the prisoner’s hand. Thou thinkest them too rash, dost thou not, who judged Paul a murderer by the viper that fastened on his hand? And what art thou who condemnest thyself for an unbeliever, be­cause of those troubles and inward agonies which may fasten for a time on the spirit of the most gracious child God hath on earth?

Second Ground of Suspicion. O but can there be any true faith where there is so much doubting as I find in myself?

Answer. There is a doubting which the Scripture opposeth to the least degree of faith. Our blessed Saviour tells them what wonder they shall do if they believe and ‘doubt not,’ Matt. 21:21; and, Luke 17:6, he tells his disciples if they have faith as a grain of mustard-seed,’ they shall do as much. That which is a faith without doubting in Matthew is faith as a grain of mustard-seed in Luke. But again, there is a doubt­ing which the Scripture opposeth not to the truth of faith, but to the strength of faith, ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’ Matt. 14:31. They are the words of Christ to sinking Peter, in which he so chides his doubting as yet to acknowledge the truth of his faith, though weak. All doubting is evil in its nature, yet some doubting, though evil in itself, doth evidence some grace that is good to be in the person so doubting; as smoke proves some fire. And peev­ishness and pettishness in a sick person that before lay senseless, is a good sign of some mending, though itself a thing bad enough. But the thing here desir­able, I conceive, would be to give some help to the doubting soul, that he may what his doubting is symptomatical of; whether of true faith, though weak, or of no faith. Now for this I shall lay down four characters of those doubtings which accompany true faith.

1. Character. The doubtings of a true believer are attended with much shame and sorrow of spirit, even for those doubtings. I appeal to thy conscience, poor doubting soul, whether the consideration of this one sin doth not cost thee many a salt tear and heavy sigh which others know not of? Now, I pray, from whence come these? Will unbelief mourn for unbe­lief? or sin put itself to shame? No, sure, it shows there is a principle of faith in the soul that takes God’s part, and cannot see his promises and name wronged by unbelief without protesting against it, and mourning under it, though the hands of this grace be too weak at present to drive the enemy out of the soul. The law cleared the damsel that ‘cried’ out ‘in the field,’ and so will the gospel thee who sincerely mournest for thy unbelief, Deut. 22:27. That holy man, whoever he was, was far gone in his doubting disease, Ps. 77. How many times do we find his unbelief putting the mercy and faithfulness of God—which should be beyond all dispute in our hearts—to the question and dubious vote in his distempered soul? He might with as much reason have asked his soul whether there was a God? as whether his mercy was clean gone and his promise failed? yet so far did his fears in this hurry carry him aside. But at last you have him acknowledging his folly, ver. 10, ‘And I said this in my infirmity.’ This I may thank thee for, O my unbelief! thou enemy of God and my soul, thou wilt be puzzling me with needless fears, and make me think and speak so unworthily of my God. This proved there was faith at the bottom of his unbelief.

2. Character. The doubtings of a sincere believer are accompanied with ardent desires those things which it most calls in question and doubts of. The weak believer, he questions whether God loves him or no, but he desires it more than life. And this is the language of a gracious soul, ‘Thy lovingkindness is better than life,’ Ps. 63:3. He doubts whether Christ be his; yet, if you should ask him what value he sets upon Christ, and what he would give for Christ, he can tell you, and that truly, that no price should be too great if he were to be bought. No condition that God offers Christ upon appears to him hard, but all easy and cheap. And this is the judgment which only the believing soul can have of Christ. ‘Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious,’ I Peter 2:7. In a word, he doubts whether he be truly holy or only counterfeit; but his soul pants and thirsts after those graces most which he can see least. He to him should be the more welcome messenger that brings him the news of a broken heart, than another that tells him of a whole crown and kingdom fallen to him. He dis­putes every duty and action he doth, whether it be ac­cording to the rule of the word; and yet he passion­ately desires that he could walk without one wry step from it; and doth not quarrel with the word because it is so strict, but with his heart because it is so loose. And how great a testimony these give of a gracious frame of heart! See Ps. 119:20, 140, where David brings these as the evidence of his grace. Canst thou there­fore, poor soul, let out thy heart strongly after Christ and his graces, while thou dost not see thy interest in either? Be of good cheer, thou art not so great a stranger with these as thou thinkest thyself. These strong desires are the consequent of some taste thou hast had of them already; and these doubts may pro­ceed, not from an absolute want, as if thou wert wholly destitute of them, but [from] the violence of thy desires, which are not satisfied with what thou hast. It is very ordinary for excessive love to beget excessive fear, and that groundless. The wife, because she loves her husband dearly, fears when he is abroad she shall never see him more. One while she thinks he is sick; another while killed; and thus her love torments her without any just cause, when her hus­band is all the while well and on his way home. A jewel of great price, or ring that we highly value, if but laid out of sight, our extreme estimate we set on them makes us presently think them lost. It is the nature of passions in this our imperfect state, when strong and violent, to disturb our reason, and hide things from our eye which else were easy to be seen. Thus many poor doubting souls are looking and hunting to find that faith which they have already in their bosoms—[it] being hid from them merely by the vehemency of their desire of it, and [by the] fear they should be cheated with a false one for a true. As the damsel ‘opened not the gate for gladness’ to Peter Acts 12:14—her joy at [the time then] present made her forget what she did—so the high value the poor doubting Christian sets on faith, together with an ex­cess of longing after it, suffer him not to entertain so high an opinion of himself as to think he at present hath that jewel in his bosom which he so infinitely prizeth.

3. Character. The doubtings of a truly believing soul make him more inquisitive how he may get what he sometimes he fears he hath not. Many sad thoughts pass to and fro in his soul whether Christ be his or no, whether he may lay claim to the promise or no; and these cause such a commotion in his spirit, that he cannot rest till he come to some resolution in his own thoughts from the word concerning this great case. Therefore, as Ahasuerus, when he could not sleep, called for the records and chronicles of his kingdom, so the doubting the doubting soul betakes himself to the records of heaven—the word of God in the Scripture—and one while he is reading there, another while looking into his own heart, if he can find anything that answers the characters of Scrip­ture—faith, as the face in the glass doth the face of man. David, Ps. 77, when he was at a loss what to think of himself, and many doubts did clog his faith —insomuch that the thinking of God increased his trouble—did not sit down and let the ship drive, as we say, not regarding whether God loved him or no. No; he ‘communes with his own heart, and his spirit makes diligent search.’ Thus it is with every sincere soul under doubtings. He dares no more sit down contented in that unresolved condition, than one who thinks he smells fire in his house dares settle himself to sleep till he hath looked into every room and cor­ner, and satisfied himself that all is safe, lest he should be waked with the fire about his ears in the night. The poor doubting soul [is indeed] much more afraid, lest it should awake with hell‑fire about it; whereas a soul in a state and under the power of unbelief, is secure and careless. The old world did not believe the threatening of the flood, and they spend no thoughts about the matter. It is at their doors and windows before they had used any means how to escape it.

4. Character. In the midst of the true believer’s doubtings there is an innitency of his heart on Christ, and a secret purpose still to cleave to him. At the same time that Peter’s feet were sinking into the waters, he was lifting up a prayer to Christ; and this proved the truth of his faith, as the other its weak­ness. So Jonah, he had many fears, and sometimes so predominant, that as bad humours settle into a sore, so they gathered into a hasty unbelieving conclusion, yet then his faith had some little secret hold on God. ‘Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple,’ Jonah 2:4. And, ‘When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord,’ ver. 7. Holy David also, though he could not rid his soul of all those fears which got into it through his weak faith, as water into a leaking ship, yet he hath his hand at the pump, and takes up a firm resolution against them. ‘What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee,’ Ps. 56:3. The doubting Christian sinks, but, as a traveller in a slough where the bottom is firm, and so recovers himself. But the unbeliever, he sinks in his fears, as a man in a quick-sand, lower and lower till he be swallowed up into despair. The weak Chris­tian’s doubting is like the wavering of a ship at anchor —he is moved, yet not removed from his hold on Christ; but the unbeliever’s, like the wavering of a wave, which, having nothing to stay it, is wholly at the mercy of the wind. ‘Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed,’ James 1:6.

Third Ground of Suspicion. O but, saith another, I fear mine is a presumptuous faith, and if so, to be sure it cannot be right.

Answer. For the fuller assoiling [i.e. clearing] this objection, I shall lay down three characters of a presumptuous faith.

1. Character. A presumptuous faith is an easy faith. It hath no enemy of Satan or our own corrupt hearts to oppose it, and so, like a stinking weed, shoots up and grows rank on a sudden. The devil never hath the sinner surer than when dreaming in this fool’s paradise, and walking in his sleep, amidst his vain fantastical hopes of Christ and salvation. And therefore he is so far from waking him, that he draws the curtains close about him, that no light nor noise in his conscience may break his rest. Did you ever know the thief call up him in the night whom he meant to rob and kill? No, sleep is his advantage. But true faith he is a sworn enemy against. He persecutes it in the very cradle, as Herod did Christ in the cratch;[8] he pours a flood of wrath after it as soon as it betrays its own birth by crying and lamenting after the Lord. If thy faith be legitimate Naphtali may be its name; and thou mayest say, ‘With great wrestlings have I wrestled with Satan and my own base heart, and at last have prevailed.’ You know the answer that Rebecca had when she inquired of God about the scuffle and striving of the children in her womb, ‘Two nations,’ God told her, ‘were in her womb.’ If thou canst find the like strife in thy soul, thou mayest comfort thyself that it is from two con­trary principles, faith and unbelief, which are lusting one against another; and thy unbelief, which is the elder —however now it strives for the mastery—shall serve the younger.

2. Character. Presumptuous faith is lame of one hand; it hath a hand to receive pardon and heaven from God, but no hand to give up itself to God. True faith hath the use of both her hands. ‘My beloved is mine’—there the soul takes Christ; ‘and I am his’ —there she surrenders herself to the use and service of Christ. Now, didst thou ever pass over thyself freely to Christ? I know none but will profess they do this. But the presumptuous soul, like Ananias, lies to the Holy Ghost, by keeping back part, yea, the chief part, of that he promised to lay at Christ’s feet. This lust he sends out of the way, when he should deliver it up to justice; and that creature enjoyment he twines about, and cannot persuade his heart to trust God with the disposure of it, but cries out when the Lord calls for it, ‘Benjamin shall not go.’ Life is bound up in it, and if God will have it from him he must take it by force, for there is no hope of gaining his consent. Is this the true picture of thy faith, and [of the] temper of thy soul? then verily thou blessest thyself in an idol, and mistake a bold face for a believing heart. But, if thou beest as willing to be faithful to Christ, as to pitch thy faith on Christ; if thou countest it as great a privilege that Christ should have a throne in thy heart and love, as that thou shouldst have a place and room in his mercy; in a word, if thou beest plain-hearted and wouldst not hide a sin, nor lock up a creature enjoyment, from him, but desirest freely to give up thy dearest lust to the gibbet, and thy sweetest enjoyments to stay with, or go from thee, as thy God thinks fit to allow thee—though all this be with much regret and discontent from a malignant party of the flesh within thee—thou provest thyself a sound believer; and the devil may as well say that himself believeth as that thou presumest. If this be to pre­sume, be thou yet more presumptuous. Let the devil nickname thee and thy faith as he pleaseth; the rose-water is not the less sweet because one writes ‘worm­wood water’ on the glass. The Lord knows who are his, and will own them for his true children, and their graces for the sweet fruits of his Spirit, though a false title be set on them by Satan and the world, yea, sometimes by believers on themselves. The father will not deny his child because he is a violent fit of a fever talks idle and denies him to be his father.

3. Character. The presumptuous faith is a sap­less and unsavoury faith. When an unsound heart pretends to greatest faith on Christ, even then it finds little savour, tastes little sweetness in Christ. No, he hath his old tooth in his head, which makes him relish still the gross food of sensual enjoyments above Christ and his spiritual dainties. Would he but freely speak what he thinks, he must confess that if he were put to his choice whether he would sit with Christ and his children, to be entertained with the pleasures that they enjoy from spiritual communion with him in his promises, ordinances, and holy ways; or had rather sit with the servants, and have the scraps which God al­lows the men of the world in their full bags and bellies of carnal treasure; that he would prefer the latter before the former. He brags of his interest in God, but he care not how little he is in the presence of God in any duty or ordinance. Certainly, if he were such a favourite as he speaks, he would be more at court than he is. He hopes to be saved, he saith, but he draws not his wine of joy at this tap. It is not the thoughts of heaven that comfort him; but what he hath in the world and of the world, these maintain his joy. When the world’s vessel is out, and the creature joy spent, alas, the poor wretch can find little relief from, or relish in, his pretended hopes of heaven and interest in Christ, but he is still whining after the other. Whereas true faith alters the very creature’s palate. No feast so sweet to the believer as Christ is. Let God take all other dishes off the board and leave but Christ, he counts his feast is not gone—he hath what he likes; but let all else stand, health, estate, friends, and what else the world sets a high value on, if Christ be withdrawn he soon misseth his dish, and makes his moan, and saith, ‘Alas! who hath taken away my Lord?’ It is Christ that seasons these and all his enjoyments, and makes them savoury meat to his palate; but without him they have no more taste than the white of an egg without salt.

 

[1]Precedaneous: Preceding; antecedent; anterior. From Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. — SDB

[2]Demit: dismiss; resign, to withdraw from office or membership. From Webster’s — SDB

[3]Affiance, trust or faith.

[4]Innitency, act of leaning on.

[5]Can anyone, at this point, avoid thinking of the fol­lowing verses from Hebrews? — SDB

17Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

— Hebrews 6

[6]Jointure — 1. [Now Rare] an act or instance of joining; 2. Law a) an arrangement by which a husband grants real property to his wife for her use after her death. b) the property thus settled; widow’s portion c) [Obs] the holding of property jointly.

— From Webster’s

[7]Michaelmas — the feast of the archangel Michael, cele­brated chiefly in England, on September 29: also Mi­chaelmas Day. — from Webster’s. SDB

[8]Cratch, i.e. manger or crib.

[chapter:v2 2. The Saint’s Enemy Described.] [chapters:300,right]

DIRECTION VIII.—SECOND GENERAL PART.

[Argument pressing the exhortation.]

‘Whereby ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked’ (Eph. 6:16)

We have done with the exhortation, and now come to the second general part of the verse, viz. a powerful argument pressing this exhortation, contained in these words—‘Whereby ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.’ ‘Ye shall be able.’ Not an uncertain ‘may be ye shall;’ but he is peremptory and absolute—‘ye shall be able.’ But what to do? ‘able to quench’—not only to resist and repel, but ‘to quench.’ But what shall they ‘quench?’ Not ordinary temptations only, but the worst arrows the devil hath in his quiver—‘fiery darts;’ and not some few of them, but ‘all the fiery darts of the wicked.’ In this second general there are two particulars. first. The saint’s enemy described—‘The wicked.’ second. The power and puissance of faith over the enemy—‘Ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.’

Division First.—The Saint’s Enemy Described.

‘The Wicked.’

 

Here we have the saint’s enemy described in three particulars. First. In their nature—‘wicked.’ Second. In their unity—‘wicked,’ or ‘wicked one,’ [email protected]Ø [email protected]<[email protected]Ø, in the singular number. Third. In their warlike furniture and provision, with which they take the field against the saints—‘darts,’ and they are ‘fiery.’

[The saints enemy described by their nature.]

First. The saint’s enemy is here described by their nature—‘wicked.’ Something I have said of this, ver. 12 where Satan is called ‘spiritual wickednesses.’[1] I shall at present therefore pass it over with the lighter hand. Certainly there is some special lesson that God would have his people learn even from this attribute of the devil and his limbs—for the whole pack of devils and devilish men are here intended —that they are represent­ed to the saint’s considera­tion by this name so oft as ‘wicked.’ I shall content myself with two ends, that I conceive God aims at by this name.

First End. They are called ‘wicked,’ as an odi­ous name whereby God would raise his children’s stomachs into a loathing of sin above all things in the world, and provoke their pure souls as to hatred and detestation of all sin, so [to] a vigorous resistance of the devil and his instruments, as such, who are wicked; which is a name that makes him detestable above any other. God would have us know, that when he himself would speak the worst he can of the devil, he can think of no name for the purpose like this—to say he is ‘the wicked one.’ The name which exalts God highest, and is the very excellency of all his other excellencies, is, that he is ‘the holy One,’ and ‘none holy as the Lord.’ This therefore gives the devil the blackest brand of infamy, that he is ‘the wicked one,’ and none wicked to that height besides himself. Could holiness be separated from any other of God’s attributes—which is the height of blasphemy to think —the glory of them would be departed. And could the devil’s wickedness be removed from his torments and misery, the case would be exceedingly altered. We ought then to pity him whom now we must no less than hate and abominate with a perfect hatred.

1. Consider this, all ye who live in sin, and blush not to be seen in the practice of it. O that you would behold your faces in this glass, and you would see whom you look like! Truly, no other than the devil himself and in that which makes him most odious, which is his wickedness. Never more spit at the name of the devil, nor seem to be scared at any ill-shapen picture of him; for thou carriest a far more ugly one —and the truest of him that is possible—in thy own wicked bosom. The more wicked the more like the devil; who can draw the devil’s picture like himself? If thou beest a wicked wretch thou art of the devil himself. ‘Cain,’ it is said, ‘was of that wicked one,’ I John 3:12. Every sin thou committest is a new line that the devil draws on thy soul. And if the image of God in a saint—which the Spirit of God is drawing for many years together in him—will be so curious a piece when the last line shall be drawn in heaven, O think, then, how frightful and horrid a creature thou wilt appear to be, when after all the devil’s pains here on earth to imprint his image upon thee, thou shalt see thyself in hell as wicked to the full as a wicked devil can make thee.

2. Consider this, O ye saints, and bestow your first pity on those poor forlorn souls that are under the power of a wicked devil. It is a lamentable judg­ment to live under a wicked government, though it be but of men. For a servant in a family to be under a wicked master is a heavy plague. David reckons it among other great curses. ‘Set thou a wicked man over him,’ Ps. 109:6. O what is it then to have a wicked spirit over him! He would show himself very kind to his friend that should wish him to be the worst slave in Turkey, rather than the best servant of sin or Sa­tan. And yet see the folly of men. Solomon tells us, ‘When the wicked bear rule, the people mourn,’ Prov. 29:2. But when a wicked devil rules, poor besotted sinners laugh and are merry. Well, you who are not out of your wits so far, but know sin’s service to be the creature’s utmost misery, mourn for them that go themselves laughing to sin, and by sin to hell.

And again, let it fill thy heart, Christian, with zeal and indignation against Satan in all his tempta­tions. Remember he is wicked, and he can come for no good. Thou knowest the happiness of serving a holy God. Surely, then, thou hast an answer ready by thee against this wicked one comes to draw thee to sin. Canst thou think of fouling thy hands about his base nasty drudgery, after they have been used to so pure and fine work as the service of thy God is? Listen not to Satan’s motions except thou hast a mind to be ‘wicked.’

Second End. They are called ‘wicked,’ as a name of contempt, for the encouragement of all be­lievers in their combat with them. As if God had said, ‘Fear them not; they are a wicked company you go against’—cause, and they who defend it, both ‘wicked.’ And truly, if the saints must have enemies, the worse they are the better it is. It would put mettle into a coward to fight with such a crew. Wickedness must needs be weak. The devils’ guilt in their own bosoms tells them their cause is lost before the battle is fought. They fear thee, Christian, because thou art holy, and therefore thou needest not be dismayed at them who are wicked. Thou lookest on them as subtle, mighty, and many, and then thy heart fails thee. But look on all these subtle mighty spirits as wicked ungodly wretches, that hate God more than thee, yea thee for thy kindred to him, and thou canst not but take heart. Whose side is God on that thou art afraid? Will he that rebuked kings for touching his anointed ones and doing them harm in their bodies and estates, stand still, thinkest thou, and suf­fer these wicked spirits to attempt the life of God himself in thee, thy grace, thy holiness, without com­ing in to thy help? It is impossible.

[The saint’s enemy described by their unity.]

Second. The saint’s enemy is set out by their unity—‘fiery darts of the wicked’—[email protected]Ø [email protected]<[email protected]Ø ‘of the wicked one.’ It is as if all were shot out of the same bow, and by the same hand; as if the Christian’s fight were a single duel with one single enemy. All the legions of devils, and multitudes of wicked men and women, make but one great enemy. They are all one mystical body of wickedness; as Christ and his saints [are] one mystical holy body. One Spirit acts Christ and his saints; so one spirit acts devils, and ungodly men his limbs. The soul is in the little toe; and the spirit of the devil in the least of sinners. But I have spoken something of this subject elsewhere.[2]

[The saint’s enemy described

by their warlike provision.]

Third. The saint’s enemy is here described by their warlike furniture and provision with which they take the field against the saints—‘darts,’ and those of the worst kind, ‘fiery darts.’

First. Darts. The devil’s temptations are the darts he useth against the souls of men and women. They may fitly be so called in a threefold respect.

1. Darts or arrows are swift. Thence is our usual expression, ‘As swift as an arrow out of a bow.’ Light­ning is called God’s arrow, because it flies swiftly. ‘He sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them,’ Ps. 18:14, that is, lightning like arrows. Satan’s temptations flee like a flash of lightning—not long of coming. He needs no more time than the cast of an eye for the despatch of a temptation. David’s eye did but una­wares fall upon Bathsheba, and the devil’s arrow was in his heart before he could shut his casement. Or the hearing of a word or two [will suffice]. Thus, when David’s servants had told what Nabal the churl said, David’s choler was presently up—an arrow of revenge wounded him to the heart. What quicker than a thought? Yet how oft is that a temptation to us? one silly thought riseth in a duty, and our hearts, before intent upon the work, are on a sudden carried away, like a spaniel after a bird that springs up before him as he goes after his master. Yea, if one tempta­tion speeds not, how soon can he send another after it!—as quick as the nimblest archer. No sooner than one arrow is delivered, but he hath another on the string.

2. Darts or arrows fly secretly. And so do temptations.

(1.) The arrow oft comes afar off. A man may be wounded with a dart and not see who shot it. The wicked are said, to shoot their arrows ‘in secret at the perfect,’ and then, ‘they say, Who shall see them?’ Ps 64:4, 5. Thus Satan lets fly a temptation. Sometimes he useth a wife’s tongue to do his errand; another while he gets behind the back of a husband, friend, servant, &c., and is not seen all the while he is doing his work. Who would have thought to have found a devil in Peter tempting his master, or suspected that Abraham should be his instrument to betray his be­loved wife into the hands of a sin? Yet it was so. Nay, sometimes he is so secret that he borrows God’s bow to shoot his arrows from, and the poor Christian is abused, thinking it is God chides and is angry, when it is the devil that tempts him to think so, and only counterfeits God’s voice. Job cries out of ‘the arrows of the Almighty,’ how ‘the poison of them drank up his spirit,’ and of ‘the terrors of God that did set themselves in array against him,’ Job 6:4, when it was Satan all the while that was practicing his malice and playing his pranks upon him. God was friends with this good man, only Satan begged leave—and God gave it for a time—thus to affright him. And poor Job cries out, as if God had cast him off and were become his enemy.

(2.) Darts or arrows, they make little or no noise as they go. They cut their passage through the air, without telling us by any crack or report, as the can­non doth, that they are coming. Thus insensibly doth temptation make its approach;—the thief is in before we think of any need to shut the doors. The wind is a creature secret in its motion, of which our Saviour saith, ‘We know not whence it cometh and whither it goeth,’ John 3:8, yet, ‘we hear the sound thereof,’ as our Saviour saith in the same place. But temptations many times come and give us no warning by any sound they make. The devil lays his plot so close, that the soul sees not his drift, observes not the hook till he finds it in his belly. As the woman of Tekoah told her tale so handsomely, that the king passeth judgement against himself in the person of another before he smelt out the business.

3. Darts have a wounding killing nature, espe­cially when well headed and shot out of a strong bow by one that is able to draw it. Such are Satan’s temp­tations—headed with desperate malice, and drawn by a strength no less than angelical; and this against so poor a weak creature as man, that it were impossible, had not God provided good armour for our soul, to outstand Satan’s power and get safe to heaven. Christ would have us sensible of their force and danger, by that petition in his prayer which the best of saints on this side heaven have need to use—‘Lead us not into temptation.’ Christ was then but newly out of the list, where he had tasted Satan’s tempting skill and strength; which, though beneath his wisdom and pow­er to defeat, yet well he knew it was able to worst the strongest of saints. There was never any besides Christ that Satan did not foil more or less. It was Christ’s prerogative to be tempted, but not lead into temptation. Job, one of the chief worthies in God’s army of saints, who, from God’s mouth, is a none­such, yet was galled by these arrows shot from Satan’s bow, and put to great disorder. God was fain to pluck him out of the devil’s grip, or else he would have been quite worried by that lion.

Second. Satan’s warlike provision is not only darts, but ‘fiery darts.’ Some restrain these fiery darts to some particular kind of temptation, as despair, blasphemy, and those which fill the heart with terror and horror. But this, I conceive, is too strait; but faith is a shield for all kind of temptations—and indeed there is none but may prove a ‘fiery’ tempta­tion; so that I should rather incline to think all sorts of temptations to be comprehended here, yet so as to respect some in an especial manner more than others. These shall be afterwards instanced in.

Question. Why are Satan’s darts called fiery ones?

Answer 1. They may be said to be ‘fiery,’ in re­gard of that fiery wrath with which Satan shoots them. They are the fire this dragon spits, full of indignation against God and his saints. Saul, it is said, ‘breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,’ Acts 9:1. As one that is inwardly inflamed, his breath is hot—a fiery stream of persecuting wrath came as out of a burning furnace from him. Tempta­tions are the breathings of the devil’s wrath.

Answer 2. They may be said to be ‘fiery,’ in re­gard of the end they lead to, if not quenched; and that is hell-fire. There is a spark of hell in every tempta­tion; and all sparks fly to their element. So all temp­tations tend to hell and damnation, according to Sa­tan’s intent and purpose.

Answer 3. And chiefly they may be said to be ‘fiery,’ in regard of that malignant quality they have on the spirits of men—and that is to enkindle a fire in the heart and consciences of poor creatures. The apostle alludes to the custom of cruel enemies, who used to dip the heads of their arrows in some poison, whereby they became more deadly, and did not only wound the part where they lighted, but inflamed the whole body, which made the cure more difficult. Job speaks of ‘the poison of them which drank up his spirits,’ Job 6:4. They have an envenoming and inflaming quality.

Division Second.—The Power and Puissance of Faith over this Enemy.

‘The shield of faith, whereby ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.’

 

The fiery darts of Satan which the believing soul is able by faith to quench may be described as of two sorts. First. Either those that do pleasingly entice and bewitch with some seeming promises of satis­faction to the creature. Or, Second. Such as affright and carry horror with them. Both are fiery, and quenched by faith, and only faith.

FAITH’S FIRST QUENCHING POWER.

[Satan’s ‘fiery darts’ of pleasing temptations,

and faith’s power to quench them.]

We shall begin with the first sort of Satan’s fiery darts, viz. those temptations that do pleasingly entice and bewitch the soul with some seeming promises of satisfaction to the creature. The note is this:— Doctrine. That faith will enable a soul to quench the fire of Satan’s most pleasing temptations. First. We will show you that these enticing temptations have a fiery quality to them. Second. That faith is able to quench them.

[Satan’s pleasing temptations have a ‘fiery’ quality.]

First. We shall show you that Satan’s enticing temptations have a fiery quality in them. They have an inflaming quality. There is a secret disposition in the heart of all to all sin. Temptation doth not fall on us as a ball of fire on ice or snow, but as a spark on tinder, or [as] lightning on a thatched roof, which presently is on a flame. Hence in Scripture, though tempted by Satan, yet the sin is charged on us. ‘Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed,’ James 1:14. Mark! it is Satan tempts, but our own lust draws us. The fowler lays the shrap,[3] but the bird’s own desire betrays it into the net. The heart of a man is marvellous prone to take fire from these darts. ‘Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out,’ Prov. 26:20. Thus the ‘fiery darts’ on Christ. There was no combustible matter of corruption in him for Satan to work upon. But our hearts being once heated in Adam could never cool since. A sinner’s heart is compared to ‘an oven.’ ‘They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker,’ Hosea 7:4. The heart of man is the oven, the devil the baker, and temptation the fire with which he heats it; and then no sin comes amiss. ‘I lie,’ saith David, ‘among them that are set on fire,’ Ps. 57:4. And, I pray, who sets them on fire? The apostle will resolve us, ‘set on fire of hell,’ James 3:6. O friends! when once the heart is inflamed by temptation, what strange effects doth it produce! how hard to quench such a fire, though in a gracious person! David himself, under the power of a temptation so apparent that a carnal eye could see it—Joab I mean, who reproved him—yet was hurried to the loss of seventy thousand men’s lives; for so much that one sin cost. And if the fire be so raging in a David, what work will it make where no water is nigh, no grace in the heart to quench it? Hence the wicked are said to be ‘mad’ upon their idols, Jer. 1:38—spurring on without fear or wit, like a man inflamed with a fever that takes his head; there is no holding of him then in his bed. Thus the soul posses­sed with the fury of temptation runs into the mouth of death and hell, and will not be stopped.

[Use or Application.]

Use First. O how should this make us afraid of running into a temptation when there is such a witchery in it. Some men are too confident. They have too good an opinion of themselves—as if they could not be taken with such a disease, and therefore will breathe in any air. It is just with God to let such be shot with one of Satan’s darts, to make them know their own hearts better. Who will pity him whose house is blown up, that kept his powder in the chimney corner? ‘Is thy servant a dog,’ saith Hazael, II Kings 8:13. Do you make me a beast, sunk so far be­low the nature of man as to imbrue my hands in these horrid murders? Yet, how soon did this wretch fall into the temptation, and, by that one bloody act upon his liege lord, which he perpetrated as soon as he got home, show that the other evils, which the prophet foretold of him, were not so improbable as at first he thought. Oh, stand off the devil’s mark, unless you mean to have one of the devil’s arrows in your side! Keep as far from the whirl of temptation as may be. For if once he got you within his circle, thy head may soon be dizzy. One sin helps to kindle another; the less the greater, as the brush the logs. When the courtiers had got their king to carouse and play the drunkard, he soon learned to play the scorner: ‘The princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners,’ Hosea 7:5.

Use Second. Hath Satan’s darts such an enkind­ling nature? take heed of being Satan’s instrument in putting fire to the corruption of another. Some on purpose do it. Idolaters set out their temples and al­tars with superstitious pictures, embellished with all the cost that gold and silver can afford them, to be­witch the spectator’s eye. Hence they are said to be ‘inflamed with their idols,’ Isa. 57:5—as much as any lover with his minion. And the drunkard, he enkin­dles his neighbour’s lust, ‘putting the bottle to him,’ Hab. 2:15. O what a base work are these men em­ployed about! By the law it is death for any wilfully to set fire on his neighbour’s house. What then de­serve they that set fire on the souls of men, and that no less than hell-fire? But, is it possible thou mayest do it unawares by a less matter than thou dreamest on. A silly child playing with a lighted straw may set a house on fire which many wise cannot quench. And truly Satan may use thy folly and carelessness to kin­dle lust in another’s heart. Perhaps an idle light speech drops from thy mouth, and thou meanest no great hurt; but a gust of temptation may carry this spark into thy friend’s bosom, and kindle a sad fire there. A wanton attire, which we will suppose thou wearest with a chaste heart, and only because it is the fashion, yet may ensnare another’s eye. And if he that kept a pit open but to the hurt of a beast, sinned, how much more thou, who givest occasion to a soul’s sin, which is a worse hurt? Paul ‘would not eat flesh while the world stood, if it made his brother offend,’ I Cor. 8:13. And canst thou dote on a foolish dress and im­modest fashion, whereby many may offend, still to wear it? ‘The body,’ Christ saith, ‘is better than rai­ment.’ The soul, then, of thy brother is more to be valued surely than an idle fashion of thy raiment. We come to the second branch of the point.

[Faith’s power to quench

Satan’s pleasing temptations.]

Second. We shall show you that faith will enable a soul to quench the pleasing temptations of the wicked one. This is called our ‘victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,’ I John 5:4. Faith sets its triumphant banner on the world’s head. The same St. John will tell you what is meant by the world: ‘Love not the world;… for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world,’ I John 2:15, 16. All that is in the world is said to be ‘lust,’ because it is food and fuel for lust. Now faith enables the soul to quench those darts which Satan dips and envenoms with these worldly lusts —called by some the worldlings Trinity.

First Dart of pleasing temptations. ‘The lust of the flesh.’ Under this are comprehended those temp­tations that promise pleasure and delight to the flesh. These indeed carry fire in the mouth of them; and when they light on a carnal heart, do soon inflame it with unruly passions and beastly affections. The adulterer is said to burn in his lust, Rom. 1:27. The drunkard to be ‘inflamed with his wine,’ Isa. 5:11. No sort of temptation works more strongly than those which present sensual pleasure and promise delight to the flesh. Sinners are said to ‘work all uncleanness with greediness’—with a kind of covetousness; for the word imports they never have enough.[4] When the voluptuous person hath wasted his estate, jaded his body in luxury, still the fire burns in his wretched heart. No drink will quench a poisoned man’s thirst. Nothing but faith can be helpful to a soul in these flames. We find Dives in hell burning, and not ‘a drop of water to cool the tip of his tongue’ found there. The unbelieving sinner is in a hell above ground. He burns in his lust, and not a drop of water, for want of faith, to quench the fire. By faith it is said those glorious martyrs ‘quenched the violence of the fire,’ Heb. 11. And truly the fire of lust is as hot as the fire of martyrdom. By faith alone this is quenched also: ‘We…were sometimes foolish, dis­obedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleas­ures,…But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,…he saved us,’ Titus 3:3, 4. Never could they shake off these lusts, the old companions, till by faith they got a new acquaintance with the grace of God re­vealed in the gospel.

[How faith quenches the ‘lust of the flesh.’]

Question. How does faith quench this fiery dart of sensual delights?

Answer 1. As it undeceives and takes off the mist from the Christian’s eyes, whereby he is now enabled to see sin in its naked being and callow[5] principles be­fore Satan hath plumed [it]. It gives him the native taste and relish of sin before the devil hath sophis­ticated it with his sugared sauce. And truly, now sin proves a homely piece, a bitter morsel. Faith hath a piercing eye; it is ‘the evidence of things not seen.’ It looks behind the curtain of sense, and sees sin, before its fiery was on and it be dressed for the stage, to be a brat that comes from hell, and brings hell with it. Now, let Satan come if he please, and present a lust never so enticing, the Christian’s answer is ready. ‘Be not cheated, O my soul,’ saith faith, ‘with a lying spirit.’ He shows thee a fair Rachel, but he intends thee a blear-eyed Leah; he promises joy, but he will pay thee sorrow. The clothes that make this lust so comely are not its own. The sweetness thou tastest is not native, but borrowed to deceive thee withal. ‘Thou art Saul,’ saith the woman of Endor, ‘why hast thou deceived me?’ Thus, faith can call sin and Satan by their own names when they come in a disguise. ‘Thou art Satan,’ saith faith, ‘why wouldst thou de­ceive me? God hath said sin is bitter as gall and wormwood, and wouldst thou make me believe I can gather the sweet fruits of true delight from this root of bitterness? grapes from these thorns?’

Answer 2. Faith doth not only enable the soul to see the nature of sin void of all true pleasure, but also how transient its false pleasures are. I will not lose, saith faith, sure mercies for transient uncertain pleas­ures. This made Moses leap out of the pleasures of the Egyptian court into the fire of ‘affliction,’ Heb. 11:25, because he saw them ‘pleasures for a season.’ Should you see a man in a ship throw himself over­board into the sea, you might at first think him out of his wits; but if, a little while after, you should see him stand safe on the shore, and the ship swallowed up of the waves, you should then think he took the wisest course. Faith sees the world and all the pleasures of sin sinking: there is a leak in them which the wit of man cannot stop. Now is it not better to swim by faith through a sea of trouble and get safe to heaven at last, than to sin in the lap of sinful pleasures till we drown in hell’s gulf? It is impossible that the pleasure of sin should last long.

(1.) Because it is not natural. Whatever is not natural soon decays. The nature of sugar is to be sweet, and therefore it holds its sweetness; but sweeten beer or wine never so much with sugar, in a few days they will lose their sweetness. The pleasure of sin is extrinsical to its nature, and therefore will corrupt. None of that sweetness which now bewitches sinners will be tasted in hell. The sinner shall have his cup spiced there by his hand that will have it a bitter draught.

(2.) The pleasures of sin must needs be short, because life cannot be long, and they both end toge­ther. Indeed, many times the pleasure of sin dies be­fore the man dies. Sinners live to bury their joy in this world. The worm breeds in their conscience be­fore it breeds in their flesh by death. But be sure that the pleasure of sin never survives this world. The word is gone out of God’s mouth, every sinner shall ‘lie down in sorrow and wake in sorrow.’ Hell is too hot a climate for wanton delights to live in. Now faith is a provident, wise grace, and makes the soul bethink itself how it may live in another world. Whereas the carnal heart is all for the present; his snout is in the trough, and, while his draught lasts he thinks it will never end. But faith hath a large stride; at one pace it can reach over a whole life of years and see them done while they are but beginning. ‘I have seen an end of all perfections,’ saith David. He saw the wicked, when growing on their bed of pleasure, cut down, and burning in God’s oven, as if it were done already, Ps. 37:2. And faith will do the like for every Christian according to its strength and activity. And who would envy the condemned man his feast which he hath in his way to the gallows.

Answer 3. Faith outvies Satan’s proffers by show­ing the soul where choicer enjoyments are to be had at a cheaper rate. Indeed, ‘best is best cheap.’ Who will not go to that shop where he may be best served? This law holds in force among sinners themselves. The drunkard goes where he may have the best wine; the glutton where he may have the best cheer. Now faith presents such enjoyments to the soul that are beyond all compare best. It leads to the promise, and entertains it there, at Christ’s cost, with all the rich dainties of the gospel. Not a dish that the saints feed on in heaven but faith can set before the soul, and give it, though not a full meal, yet such a taste as shall melt it in ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ This sure must needs quench the temptation. When Satan sends to invite the Christian to his gross fare, will not the soul say, ‘Should I forsake those pleasures that cheered, yea ravished, my heart, to go and debase my­self with sin’s polluted bread, where I shall be but a fellow-commoner with the beast, who shares in sen­sual pleasures with man—yea, become worse than the beast—a devil, like Judas, who arose from his Master’s table to sit at the devil’s?’

Second Dart of pleasing temptations. ‘The lust of the eyes.’ This is quenched by faith. By ‘the lust of the eyes,’ the apostle means those temptations which are drawn from the world’s pelf and treasure. [It is] called so, in the first place, because it is the eye that commits adultery with these things. As the un­clean eye looks upon another man’s wife, so the cov­etous eye looks upon another’s wealth to lust after it. In the second place it is called so, because all the good that in a manner is received from them is but to please the eye. ‘What good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?’ Ecc. 5:11. That is, if a man hath but to buy food and raiment enough to pay his daily shot of necessary ex­penses, the surplusage serves only for the eye to play the wanton with. Yet we see how pleasing a morsel they are to a carnal heart. It is rare to find a man that will not stoop, by base and sordid practices, to take up this golden apple. When I consider what sad ef­fects this temptation had on Ahab, who, to gain a spot of ground of a few acres, that could not add much to a king’s revenues, durst swim to it in the owner’s blood, I wonder not to see men whose condition is necessitous nibbling at the hook of temptation, where the bait is a far greater worldly advantage. This is the door the devil entered into Judas by. This was the break-neck of Demas’ faith, he embraced ‘this present world.’ Now faith will quench a temptation edged with these.

[How faith quenches the ‘lust of the eyes.’]

1. Faith persuades the soul of God’s fatherly care and providence over it. And where this breast-work is raised the soul is safe so long as it keeps within its line. ‘Oh!’ saith Satan, ‘if thou wouldst but venture on a lie—make bold a little with God in such a com­mand—this wedge of gold is thine, and that advan­tage will accrue to thy estate.’ Now faith will teach the soul to reply, ‘I am well provided for already, Sa­tan; I need not thy pension; why should I play the thief for that which, if good, God hath promised to give?’ ‘Let your con­versation be without covetous­ness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,’ Heb. 13:5. How canst thou want, O my soul, that by the promise hast command of God’s purse? Let him that is ‘without God in the world’ shift and shirk by his wits; do thou live by thy faith.

2. Faith teaches the soul that the creature’s com­fort and content comes not from abundance but God’s blessing. And to gain the world by a sin is not the road that leads to God’s blessing. ‘A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent,’ Prov. 28:20. ‘Shouldst thou,’ saith faith, ‘heap up the world’s goods in an evil way, thou art never the nearer to the content thou ex­pectest.’ It is hard to steal one’s meat and then crave a blessing on it at God’s hands. What thou gettest by sin Satan cannot give thee quiet possession of, nor discharge those suits which God will surely com­mence against thee.

3. Faith advanceth the soul to higher projects than to seek the things of this life. It discover a world beyond the moon—and there lies faith’s merchandise —leaving the colliers of this world to load themselves with clay and coals, while it trades for grace and glory. Faith fetcheth its riches from on far. Saul did not more willingly leave seeking his father’s asses when he heard of a kingdom, than the believing soul leaves proling for the earth now it hears of Christ and heaven, Ps. 39:6, 7. We find, ver. 6, holy David brand­ing the men of the world for folly, that they troubled themselves so much for naught: ‘Surely,’ saith he, ‘they are disquieted in vain; he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.’ And, ver. 7, we have him with a holy disdain turning his back upon the world as not worth his pains: ‘And now, Lord, what wait I for?’ As if he had said, Is this the portion I could be content to sit down with?—to sit upon a greater heap of riches than my neighbour hath? ‘My hope is in thee; deliver me from all my transgressions,’ ver. 8. Every one as they like. Let them that love the world take the world; but, Lord, pay not my portion in gold or silver, but in pardon of sin. This I wait for. Abraham, he by faith had so low an esteem of this world’s treasure that he left his own country to live here a stranger, in hope of ‘a better,’ Heb. 11:16.

Third Dart of pleasing temptations. ‘The pride of life.’ There is an itch of pride in man’s heart after the gaudy honours of the world; and this itch of man’s proud flesh the devil labours to scratch and ir­ritate by suitable proffers. And when the temptation without and lust within meet, then it works to pur­pose. Balaam loved the way that led to court; and therefore spurs on his conscience—that boggled more than the ass he rode on—till the blood came. The Jews when convinced of Christ’s person and doctrine, yet were such slaves to their honour and credit, that they part with Christ rather than hazard that. ‘For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,’ John 12:43. Now faith quenches this temptation, and, with a holy scorn, disdains that all the prefer­ment the world hath to heap on him should be a bribe for the least sin. ‘By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,’ Heb. 11:24, though by this adoption he might have been heir, for aught we know, of the crown; yet this he threw at his heels. It is not said, ‘he did not seek to be the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,’ though that would have sounded a high commenda­tion, having so fair an opportunity. Some would not have scrupled a little court flattery, thereby to have cologued[6]From Webster’s. — SDB themselves into further favour—having so fair a stock in the king’s heart to set up with. But, it is said that he ‘refused to be called’ by this name. Honour came trouling in upon him, as water at a flowing tide. Now, to stand against this flood of pre­ferment, and no breach made in his heart to entertain it—this was admirable indeed. Nay, he did not refuse this preferment for any principality that he hoped for elsewhere. He forsook not one court to go to another, but to join with a beggarly reproached peo­ple. Yea, by rejecting their favour he incurred the wrath of the king. Yet faith carried him through all those heights and depths of favour and disgrace, honour and dishonour; and truly, wherever this grace is—allowing for its strength and weakness—it will do the like. We find, Heb. 11:33, how Samuel and the prophets ‘through faith subdued kingdoms.’ This, sure, is not only meant of the conquest of the sword —though some of them performed honourable achievements that way—but also by despising the honour and preferments of them. This indeed many of the prophets are famous for; and in particular Samuel, who, at God’s command, gave away a king­dom from his own house and family by anointing Saul, though himself at present had possession of the chief’s magistrate’s chair. And others, ver. 37, we read, ‘were tempted;’ that is, when ready to suffer, were offered great preferments if they would bend to the times by receding a little from the bold profession of their faith; but they chose rather the flames of martyr­dom than the favour of princes on those terms. But, more particularly to show you how faith quenches this temptation.

[How faith quenches ‘the pride of life.’]

1. Faith takes away the fuel that feeds this temp­tation. Withdraw the oil and the lamp goes out. Now that which is fuel to this temptation is pride. Where this lust is in any strength, no wonder the creature’s eyes are dazzled with the sight of that which suits the desires of his heart so well. The devil now by a temp­tation does but broach, and so give vent to, what the heart itself is full with. Simon Magus had a haughty spirit; he would be Simon µX(“H—some great man, and therefore, when he did but think an opportunity as offered to mount him up the stage, he is all on fire with a desire of having a gift to work miracles, that he dares to offer to play the huckster with the apostle. Whereas a humble spirit loves a low seat; is not ambi­tious to stand high in the thoughts of others; and so, while he stoops in his own opinion of himself, the bullet flees over his head which hits the proud man on the breast. Now it is faith lays the heart low. Pride and faith are opposed; like two buckets, if one goes up the other goes down in the soul. ‘Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith,’ Hab. 2:4.

2. Faith is Christ’s favourite, and so makes the Christian expect all his honour from him. Indeed it is one of the prime acts of faith to cast the soul on God in Christ as all-sufficient to make it completely happy; and therefore, when a temptation comes —‘soul, thou mayest raise thyself in the world to this place or that esteem, if thou wilt but dissemble thy profession, or allow thyself in such a sin’—now faith chokes the bullet. Remember whose thou art, O my soul. Hast thou not taken God for thy liege-lord, and wilt thou accept preferment from another’s hand? Princes will not suffer their courtiers to become pen­sioners to a foreign prince—least of all to a prince in hostility to them. Now, saith faith, the honour or applause thou gettest by sin makes thee pensioner to the devil himself, who is the greatest enemy God hath.

3. Faith shows the danger of such a bargain, should a Christian gain the glory of the world for one sin.

(1.) Saith faith, Hadst thou the whole world’s empire, with all bowing before thee, this would not add to thy stature one cubit in the eye of God. But thy sin which thou payest for the purchase blots thy name in his thoughts; yea, makes thee odious in his sight. God must first be out of love with himself before he can love a sinner as such. Now, wilt thou incur this for that? Is it wisdom to lose a prize, to draw a blank?

(2.) Saith faith, The world’s pomp and glory cannot satisfy thee. It may kindle thirstings in thy soul, but quench none; it will beget a thousand cares and fears, but quiet none. But thy sin that procures these hath a power to torment and torture thy soul.

(3.) When thou hast the world’s crown on thy head, how long shalt thou wear it? They are sick at Rome, as he said, and die in princes’ courts, as well as at the spital; yea, kings themselves are put as naked to their beds of dust as others. In that day all thy thoughts will perish with thee. But the guilt of thy sin, which was the ladder by which thou didst climb up the hill of honour, will dog thee into another world. These and such like are the considerations by which faith breaks off the bargain.

4. Faith presents the Christian with the exploits of former saints, who have renounced the world’s honour and applause, rather than defile their con­sciences, and prostitute their souls to be deflowered by the least sin. Great Tamerlane carried the lives of his ancestors into the field with him, in which he used to read before he gave battle, that he might be stirred up not to stain the blood of his family by cowardice or any unworthy behaviour in fight. Thus, faith peruses the roll of Scripture-saints, and the exploits of their faith over the world, that the Christian may be excited to the same gallantry of spirit. This was plainly the apostle’s design in recording those worthies, with the trophies of their faith, Heb. 11—that some of their no­bleness might steal into our hearts while we are read­ing of them, as appears, ‘Seeing we also are com­passed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so eas­ily beset us,’ Heb. 12:1. Oh, what courage does it put into the soldier to see some before him run upon the face of death! Elisha, having seen the miracles of God wrought by Elijah, smites the waters of Jordan with his mantle, saying, ‘Where is the Lord God of Elijah?—‘and they parted,’ II Kings 2:14. Thus faith makes use of the exploits of former saints and turns them into prayer. Oh where is the Lord God of Abra­ham, Moses, Samuel, and those other worthies, who by faith have trampled on the world’s pomp and glory, subdued temptations, stopped the mouths of lion-like lusts? Art not thou, O God, god of the val­leys—the meanest saints, as well as of the mountains —more eminent heroes? Do not the same blood and spirits run in the veins of all believers? Were they victorious, and shall I be the only slave, and of so prostrate a spirit, like Issachar, to couch under my burden of corruption without shaking it off? Help me, O my God, that I may be avenged of these my enemies. And when it hath been with God it will also plead with the Christian himself. ‘Awake,’ saith faith, ‘O my soul, and prove thyself akin to these holy men —that thou art born of God as they were—by thy victory over the world.’

[Faith’s victory over the world distinguished from

that attained by some of the better heathens.]

Objection. But some may say, if this be all faith enables to, this is no more than some heathens have done. They have trampled on the profits, pleasures of the world, who never knew what faith meant.

Answer. Indeed, many of them have done so much by their moral principles, as may make some, who would willingly pass for believers, ashamed to be outgone by them who shot in so weak a bow. Yet it will appear that there is a victory of faith, which, in the true believer, outshoots them more than their moral conquest doth the debauched conversations of looser Christians.

1. Distinction. Faith quenches the lust of the heart. Those very embers of corruption, which are so secretly raked up in the inclination of the soul, find the force and power of faith to quench them. Faith purifies the heart, Acts 15:9. Now none of their con­quests reach the heart. Their longest ladder was too short to reach the walls of this castle. They swept the door, trimmed a few outward rooms; but the seat and sink of all, in the corruption of man’s nature, was never cleansed by them; so that the fire of lust was rather pent in than put out. How is it possible that could be cleansed, the filthiness of which was never known to them? Alas! they never looked so near themselves to find that enemy within them which they thought was without. Thus, while they laboured to keep the thief out he was within, and they knew it not. For they did either proudly think that the soul was naturally endued with principles of virtue, or vainly imagined it to be but an abrasa tabula—white paper, on which they might write good or evil as they pleased. Thus you see the seat of their war was in the world without them, which, after some sort, they con­quered; but the lust within remained untouched, be­cause a terra incognita—an unknown region to them. It is faith from the word that first discovers this unfound land.

2. Distinction. Faith’s victory is uniform. Sin in Scripture is called a ‘body,’ Rom. 6:6, because made up of several members, or as the body of an army, con­sisting of many troops and regiments. It is one thing to beat a troop or put a wing of an army to flight, and another thing to rout and break the whole army. Something hath been done by moral principles, like the former. They have got some petty victory, and had the chase of some more gross and exterior sin; but then they were fearfully beaten by some other of sin’s troops. When they seemed to triumph over ‘the lust of the flesh’ and ‘eye’—the world’s profits and pleasures—they were at the same time slaves to ‘the pride of life,’ mere gloriæ animalia—creatures of fame—kept in chains by the credit and applause of the world. As the sea which, they say, loses as much in one place of the land as it gains in another; so, what they got in a seeming victory over one sin they lost again by being in bondage to another, and that a worse, because more spiritual. But now, faith is uni­form, and routs the whole body of sin, that not one single lust stands in its unbroken strength. ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace,’ Rom. 6:14. ‘Sin shall not’—that is, no sin; it may stir like a wounded soldier on his knees—they may rally like broken troops, but never will they be long master of the field where true faith is seen.

3. Distinction. Faith enables the soul not only to quench these lusts, but, the temptation being quenched, it enables him to use the world itself against Satan, and so beat him with his own weapon by striking his own cudgels to his head. Faith quen­ches the fire of Satan’s darts, and then shoots them back on him. This it doth by reducing all the enjoy­ments of the world which the Christian is possessed of into a serviceableness and subordination for the glory of God.

Some of the heathens’ admired champions, to cure ‘the lust of the eyes,’ have from a blind zeal plucked them out; to show the contempt of riches, have thrown their money into the sea; to conquer the world’s honour and applause, have sequestered them­selves from all company in the world—a preposterous way that God never chalked. Shall we call it a victory or rather a frenzy? The world by this time perceives their folly. But faith enables for a nobler conquest. Indeed, when God calls for any of these enjoyments, faith can lay all at Christ’s feet. But while God allows them, faith’s skill and power is in sanctifying them. It corrects the windiness and flatulent nature of them so, that what on a naughty heart rots and corrupts, by faith turns to good nourishment in a gracious soul. If a house were on fire, which would you count the wiser man—he that goes to quench the fire by pulling the house down, or he that by throwing good store of water on it, doth this as fully, and also leaves the house standing for your use? The heathen and some superstitious Christians think to mortify by taking away what God gives us leave to use; but faith puts out the fire of lust in the heart, and leaves the crea­ture to be improved for God’s glory and enjoyed to the Christian’s comfort.

[Use or Application.]

Use First. This may be a touchstone for our faith, whether of the right make or no; is thy faith a temptationquenching faith? Many say they believe. Yes, that they do! They thank God they are not infi­dels. Well, what exploits canst thou do with thy faith? Is it able to defend thee in a day of battle, and cover thy soul in safety when Satan’s darts flee thick about thee? Or is it such a sorry shield that lets every arrow of temptation pierce thy heart through it? Thou believest, but still as very a slave to thy lust as ever. When a good fellow calls thee out to a drunken meet­ing, thy faith cannot keep thee out of the snare, but away thou goest, as a fool to the stocks. If Satan tells thee thou mayest advantage thy estate by a lie, or cheat in thy shop, thy faith stands very tamely by and makes no resistance. In a word, thou hast faith, and yet drivest a trade of sin in the very face of it! Oh! God forbid that any should be under so great a spirit of delusion to carry such a lie in their hand and think it a saving faith. Will this faith ever carry thee to heaven that is not able to bring thee out of hell? for there thou livest while under the power of thy lust. ‘Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely,… and come and stand before me,’ Jer. 7:9. If this be faith, well fare and honest heathens who escaped these gross pollutions of the world, which you like beasts with your faith lie wallowing in. I had rather be a sober heathen than a drunken Christian, a chaste heathen than an unclean believer.

Oh venture not the life of your souls with such a paper shield. Come to him for a faith that is the faith maker—God I mean. He will help thee to a faith that shall quench the very fire of hell itself, though kindled in thy bosom, and divide the waves of thy lust in which now thou art ever drowned—as once he did the sea for Israel—that thou shalt go on dry land to heaven, and thy lusts not be able to knock off the wheels of thy chariot. But, if thou attemptest this with thy false faith, the Egyptians’ end will be thine. ‘By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned,’ Heb. 11:29. Though true faith gets safely through the depths of temptation, yet false faith will drown by the way.

But, perhaps thou canst tell us better news than this, and give us better evidence for the truth of thy faith than so. Let us therefore hear what singular thing hath been done by thee since a believer. The time was thou wert as weak as water; every puff of wind, blast of temptation, blew thee down; thou wert carried as a dead fish with the stream. But, canst thou say [that] since thou hast been acquainted with Christ thou art endued with a power to repel those temptations which before held thy heart in perfect obedience to their commands? Canst thou now be content to bring thy lusts, which once were of great price with thee—as those believers did their conjuring books, Acts 19:19—and throw them into the fire of God’s love in Christ to thy soul, there to consume them? Possibly thou hast not them at present under thy foot in a full conquest. Yet have they begun to fall in thy thoughts of them? and is thy countenance changed towards them to {from} what it was? Be of good comfort, this is enough to prove thy faith of a royal race. ‘When Christ cometh,’ said the convinced Jews, ‘will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?’ John 7:31. And when Christ comes by faith into the heart, will he do greater works than these thy faith hath done?

Use Second. This helps to answer that objection by which many poor souls are discouraged from be­lieving and closing with the promise. ‘Oh,’ saith the tempted soul, ‘ye bid me believe—alas! how dare I, when I cannot get victory of such a lust, and am over­come by such a temptation? What have such as I to do with a promise?’ See here, poor soul, this Goliath prostrated. Thou art not to believe because thou art victorious, but that thou mayest be victorious. The reason why thou art so worsted by thy enemy is for want of faith. ‘If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established,’ Isa. 7:9. Wouldst thou be cured before thou goest to the physician? that sounds harsh to thy own reason, and is as if thou shouldst say thou wilt not go to the physician till thou hast no need of him. No; go and touch Christ by faith that virtue may flow from him to thy soul; thou must not think to eat the fruit before thou plantest the tree. Victory over corruption is a sweet fruit; but found growing upon faith’s branches. Satan does by thee as Saul did by the Israelites, who weakened their hands in battle by keeping them fasting. Up and eat, Christian, a full meal on the promise, if thou wouldst find thy eyes enlightened and thy hands strengthened for the com­bat with thy lusts. It is one part of the ‘doctrine of devils,’ which we read of, I Tim. 4:3, to forbid ‘meats which God hath created to be received with thanks­giving.’ But the grand doctrine of the devil which above all he would promote is, to keep poor trem­bling souls from feeding by faith on the Lord Jesus; as if Christ were some forbidden fruit! Whereas, God hath appointed him above all other, that he should be received with thanksgiving of all humble sinners. And therefore, in the name of God, I invite you to this feast. Oh, let not your souls—who see your need of Christ, and are pinched at your very heart for want of him—be lean from day to day from your unbelief; but come, ‘eat, and your souls shall live.’ Never was child more welcome to his father’s table than thou art to Christ’s, and that feast which stands on the gospel board.

Use Third. Make use of faith, O ye saints, as for other ends and purposes, so particularly for this, of quenching this kind of fiery darts, viz. enticing temp­tations. It is not the having of a shield, but the hold­ing and wielding of it, that defends the Christian. Let not Satan take thee with thy faith out of thy hand, as David did Saul in the cave, with his speak sticking in the ground which should have been in his hand.

[Directions how to use the shield of faith

to quench enticing temptations.]

Question. But how would you have me use my shield of faith for my defence against these fiery darts of Satan’s enticing temptations?

Answer. By faith engage God to come in to thy succour against them. Now, there are three engaging acts of faith which will bind God—as we may so say with reverence—to help thee, because he binds him­self to help such.

Direction 1. The first is the prayerful act of faith. Open thy case to God in prayer, and call in help from heaven—as the governor of a besieged castle would send a secret messenger to his general or prince to let him know his state and straits. The apostle James saith, ‘Ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not,’ chap. 4:2. Our victory must drop from heaven if we have any. But it stays till prayer comes for it. Though God had a purpose to deliver Israel out of Egypt, yet no news of his coming till the groans of his people rang in his ears. This gave heav­en the alarm, ‘Their cry has come up to God,… and God heard their groaning, and remembered his covenant,’ Ex. 2:24. Now the more to prevail upon God in this act of faith, fortify thy prayer with those strong reasons which saints have used in like cases. As,

(1.) Engage God from his promise when thou prayest against any sin. Show God his own hand in such promises as these, ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you,’ Rom. 6:14. ‘He will subdue our iniquities,’ Micah 7:19. Prayer is nothing but the promise reversed, or God’s word formed into an argument, and retorted by faith upon God again. Know, Christian, thou hast law on thy side; bills and bonds must be paid, Ps. 119:37. David is there praying against the sins of a wanton eye and a dead heart, ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.’ And see how he urgeth his argument in the next words—‘Stablish thy word unto thy servant.’ A good man is as good as his word, and will not a good God? But where finds David such a word for help against these sins? surely in the covenant; it is the Magna Charta. The first promise held forth thus much, ‘The seed of the woman shall break the serpent’s head.’

(2.) Plead with God from relation when thou art against any sin. Art thou one God hath taken into his family? Hast thou chosen God for thy God? Oh what an argument hast thou here! ‘I am thine, Lord, save me,’ saith David. Who will look after the child if the father will not? Is it for thy honour, O God, that any child of thine should be a slave to sin? ‘Be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.’ ‘Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me,’ Ps. 119:132.

(3.) Engage God from his Son’s bloody death to help thee against thy lusts that were his murderers. What died Christ for but to ‘redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people,’ Titus 2:14. And shall not Christ be reimbursed of what he laid out? Shall he not have the price of his blood and purchase of his death? In a word, what is Christ praying for in heaven, but what was in his mouth when praying on earth? That his Father would ‘sanc­tify them, and keep them from the evil of the world.’ Thou comest in a good time to beg that of God which thou findest Christ hath asked for thee.

Direction 2. A second way to engage God is by faith’s expecting act; when thou hast been with God expect good from God. ‘I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up,’ Ps. 5:3. For want of this many a prayer is lost. If you do not believe, why do you pray? and if you believe, why do you not expect? By praying, you seem to depend on God; by not expect­ing, you again renounce your confidence and ravel out your prayer. What is this but to take his name in vain, and to play bo‑peep with God? as if one that knocks at your door should, before you came to open it to him, go away and not stay to be spoken with. Oh Christian, stand to your prayer in a holy expectation of what you have begged upon the credit of the prom­ise, and you cannot miss of the ruin of your lusts.

Question. O, but, saith the poor soul, shall not I presume to expect when I have prayed against my corruptions that God will bestow on me so great a mercy as this is?

Answer (1.) Dost thou know what it is to presume? He presumes that takes a thing before it is granted. He were a presumptuous man indeed that should take your meat off your table who never was invited. But I hope your guest is not over-bold that ventures to eat of what you set before him. For one to break into your house, upon whom you shut the door, were presumptuous; but to come out of a storm into your house when you are so kind as to call him in, is no presumption, but good manners. And, if God opens not the door of his promise to be a sanc­tuary to poor humbled sinners fleeing from the rage of their lust, truly then I know none of this side heaven that can expect welcome. God hath promised to be a king, a lawgiver, to his people. Now it is no presumption in subjects to come under their princes’ shadow and expect protection from them, Isa. 33:21, 22. God there promiseth he ‘will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ships pass thereby.’ ‘For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.’ God speaks to his people as a prince or a state would to their sub­jects. He will secure them in their traffic and mer­chandise from all pirates and pickroons; they shall have a free trade. Now, soul, thou art molested with many pirate lusts that infest thee and obstruct thy commerce with heaven—yea, thou hast complained to thy God what loss thou hast suffered by them; is it now presumption to expect relief from him, that he will rescue thee from them, that thou mayest serve him without fear who is thy liege‑lord?

Answer (2.) You have the saints for your prece­dents, who, when they have been in combat with their corruptions, yea, been foiled by them, have even then acted their faith on God, and expected the ruin of those enemies which for the present have overrun them. Iniquities prevail against me, Ps. 65:3—he means his own sins and others’ wrath. But see his faith. At the same time they prevailed over him he beholds God destroying of them, as appears in the very next words, ‘As for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.’ See here, poor Christian, who thinkest thou shalt never get above deck. Holy David has a faith not only for himself, but also [for] all be­lievers—of whose number I suppose thee one—‘as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away!’ And mark the ground he hath for his confidence, taken from God’s choosing act, ‘Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts,’ ver. 4. As if he had said, ‘Surely he will not let them be under the power of sin or want of his gracious succour whom he sets so nigh himself.’ This is Christ’s own argument against Satan in the behalf of his people. ‘The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jeru­salem rebuke thee,’ Zech. 3:2.

Answer (3.) Thou hast encouragement for this expecting act of faith from what God already hath en­abled thee to do. Thou canst, if a believer indeed, through mercy say, that sin is not in that strength within thy soul as it was before thy acquaintance with Christ, his word and ways. Though thou art not what thou wouldst be, yet also thou art not what thou hast been. There was a time when sin played rex—king, in thy heart without control. thou didst go to sin as a ship to sea before wind and tide. Thou didst dilate and spread thy affections to receive the gale of temp­tation. But now the tide is turned, and runs against those motions, though weakly—being but new flood; yet thou findest a secret wrestling with them, and God seasonably succouring thee, so that Satan hath not all his will on thee. Well, here is a sweet beginning, and let me tell thee, this promiseth thee a readiness in God to perfect the victory; yea, God would have thy faith improve this into a confidence for a total deliv­erance. ‘Moses,’ when he slew the Egyptian, ‘sup­posed his brethren would have understood,’ by that little hint and essay, ‘how that God by his hand would deliver them,’ Acts 7:25. Oh it is a bad improvement of the succours God gives us, to argue from them to unbelief: ‘He smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, can he give bread also?’ He broke my heart, saith the poor creature, when it was a rock, a flint, and brought me home when I was walking in the pride of my heart against him; but, can he give bread to nourish my weak grace? I am out of Egypt; but can he master those giants in iron chariots that stand betwixt me and Canaan? He helped me in such a temptation; but what shall I do the next bout? Oh, do not grieve a good God with these heart‑aching questions. You have ‘the former rain,’ why should you question ‘the latter?’ Benjamin was a good pawn to make old Jacob willing to go himself to Egypt. The grace which God hath already enriched thee with is a sure pledge that more is coming to it.

Direction 3. The expecting act of faith must produce another—an endeavouring act, to set the soul on work in the confidence of that succour it ex­pects from God. When Jehoshaphat had prayed and stablished his faith on the good word of promise, then he takes the field and marches out under his vic­torious banner against his enemies, II Chr. 20. Go, Christian, do as he did, and speed as he sped. What David gave in council to his son Solomon, that give I to thee, ‘Arise therefore, and be doing, and the Lord be with thee,’ I Chr. 22:16. That faith which sets thee on work for God against thy sins as his enemies, will undoubtedly set god on work for thee against them as thine. The lepers in the gospel were cured, not sitting still but walking. ‘And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed,’ Luke 17:14. They met their cure in an act of obedience to Christ’s command. The promiseth saith, ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you;’ the command bids, ‘Mortify your members which are on earth.’ Go thou and make a valiant attempt against thy lusts, upon this word of com­mand, and in doing thy duty thou shalt find the per­formance of the promise. The reason of so many fruitless among Christians concerning the power of their corruptions lies in one of these two miscarriages —either they endeavour without acting faith on the promise (and such indeed go at their own peril, like those bold men, Num. 14:40, who presumptuously went up the hill to fight the Canaanites, though Moses told them the Lord was not among them, thus slighting the conduct of Moses their leader, as if they needed not his help to the victory; a clear resemblance of those who go in their own strength to resist their cor­ruptions and so fall before them)—or else they pre­tend to believe, but it is ostiâ fide—an easy faith; their faith doth not set them on a vigorous endeavour. They use faith as an eye but not as a hand; they look for victory to drop from heaven upon their heads, but do not fight to obtain it. This is a mere fiction, a fanciful faith. He that believes God for the event, believes him for the means also. If the patient dare trust the physician for the cure, he dare also follow his prescription in order to it. And therefore, Chris­tian, sit not still, and say thy sin shall fall, but put thyself in array against it. God, who hath promised thee victory calls thee to thy arms and means to use thy own hands in the battle if ever thou gettest it. ‘Get thee up,’ said the Lord to Joshua, ‘wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face,’ Joshua 7:10. God liked the prayer and moan he made very well; but there was something else for him to do besides praying and weeping, before the Amorites could be overcome. And so there is for thee, Christian, with thy faith to do, besides praying and expecting thy lusts down, and that is searching narrowly into thy heart, whether there be not some neglect on thy part, as an Achan, for which thou art so worsted by sin, and fleest before the face of every temptation.

FAITH’S SECOND QUENCHING POWER.

[Satan’s fiery darts of affrighting

temptations, and faith’s power

to quench them.]

Having thus despatched the first kind of fiery darts—temptations which are enticing and alluring —we now proceed to the second kind—such as are of an affrighting nature, by which Satan would dismay and dispirit the Christian. And my task [in this] is still the same, to show the power of faith in quenching these fiery darts. Let then the point be this.

Doctrine. That faith, and only faith, can quench the fiery darts of Satan’s affrighting tempta­tions. This sort of fiery dart is our enemy’s reserve. When the other, viz. pleasing temptations, prove un­successful, then he opens this quiver and sends a shower of these arrows to set the soul on flame, if not of sin, yet of terror and horror. When he cannot carry a soul laughing to hell through the witchery of pleasing temptations, he will endeavour to make him go mourning to heaven by amazing him with the other. And truly it is not the least support to a soul exercised with these temptations to consider they are a good sign that Satan is hard put to it when these arrows are upon his string. You know an enemy that keeps a castle will preserve it as long as he can hold it; but, when he sees he must out, then he sets it on fire, to render it, if possible, useless to them that come after him. While the strong man can keep his house under his own power, he labours to keep it in peace; he quenches those fire-balls of conviction that the Spirit is often shooting into the conscience; but, when he perceives it is no longer tenable, [when] the mutiny increases, and there is a secret whisper in the soul of yielding unto Christ, now he labours to set the soul on fire by his affrighting temptations. Much more doth he labour to do it when Christ hath got the castle out of his hands, and keeps it by the power of his grace against him. It is very observable that all the darts shot against Job were of this sort. He hardly made any use of the other. When God gave him leave to practice his skill, why did he not tempt him with some golden apple of profit, or pleasure, or such like enticing temptations? Surely the high testimony that God gave to this eminent servant discouraged Satan from this method; yea, no doubt he had tried Job’s manhood before this as to those, and found him too hard; so that now he had no other way left prob­able to attain his design but this. I shall content my­self with three instances of this sort of fiery darts, showing how faith quenches them all—temptations to atheism, blasphemy, and despair.

[Satan’s first affrighting temptation

—the fiery dart of atheism.]

First Dart of affrighting temptations. The first of Satan’s affrighting temptations is his temptation to atheism, which, for the horrid nature thereof, may well be called a fiery dart; partly because by this he makes so bold an attempt, striking at the being of God himself; as also because of the consternation he produceth in a gracious soul wounded with it. It is true the devil, who cannot himself turn atheist, is much less able to make a child of God an atheist, who hath not only in common with other men an indelible stamp of a deity in his conscience, but such a sculpture of the divine nature in his heart, as irresis­tibly demonstrates a God; yea, lively represents a holy God, whose image it is; so that it is impossible a holy heart should be fully overcome with this temptation, having an argument beyond all the world of wicked men and devils themselves to prove a deity, viz. a new nature in him, ‘created after God in righteousness and true holiness,’ by which, even when he is buffeted with atheistical injections, he saith in his heart, ‘There is a God,’ though Satan in the paroxysm of his temptation, clouds his reasoning faculty for the pres­ent with this smoke of hell, which doth more offend and affright than persuade his gracious heart to es­pouse such a principle as it doth in a wicked man; who, when, on the contrary, he is urged by his conscience to believe a God, ‘saith in his heart there is no God,’ that is, he wisheth there were none. And this may exceedingly comfort a saint—who, notwith­standing such injections to atheism, clings about God in his affections, and dares not for a world allow him­self to sin against him, no, not when most oppressed with this temptation—that he shall not pass for an atheist in God’s account, whatever Satan makes him believe. As the wicked shall not be cleared from atheism by their naked profession of a deity, so long as those thoughts of God are so loose and weak as not to command them into any obedience to his com­mands—‘The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes,’ Ps. 36:1; the holy prophet argues from the wickedness of the sinner’s life to the atheism of his heart—so, on the contrary, the holy life of a gracious person saith in mine heart that the fear of God is before his eyes; it appears plainly that he believes a God, and reveres that God whom he believes to be. Well, though a gracious heart can never be overcome, yet he may be sadly haunted and disquieted with it. Now, in the next place, I am to show you how the Christian may quench this fiery dart, and that is by faith alone.

[How faith quenches

the fiery dart of atheism.]

Question. But what need of faith? Will not reason serve the turn to stop the devil’s mouth in this point? Cannot the eye of reason spy a deity except it look through the spectacles of faith?

Answer. I grant that this is a piece of natural di­vinity, and reason is able to demonstrate the being of a God. Where the Scriptures never came a deity is acknowledged: ‘For all people will walk every one in the name of his god,’ Micah 4:5, where it is supposed that every nation owns some deity, and hath a wor­ship for that god they own. Yet in a furious assault of temptation it is faith alone that is able to keep the field and quench the fire of this dart.

1. That light which reason affords is duskish and confused, serving for little more than in general to show there is a God; it will never tell who or what this God is. Till Paul brought the Athenians acquainted with the true God, how little of this first principle in religion was known among them, though that city was then the very eye of the world for learning! And if the world’s eye was so dark as not to know the God they worshipped, what then was the world’s darkness itself —those barbarous places, I mean, which wanted all tillage and culture of humane literature to advance and perfect their understandings? This is a Scripture notion; and so is the object of faith rather than rea­son, ‘He that cometh to God must believe that he is,’ Heb. 11:6. Mark that, he ‘must believe.’ Now faith goes upon the credit of the word, and takes all upon trust from its authority. He ‘must believe that he is;’ which, as Mr. Perkins on the place saith, is not nakedly to know there is a God, but to know God to be God’—which reason of itself can never do. Such is the blindness and corruption of our nature, that we have very deformed and misshapen thoughts of him, till with the eye of faith we see his face in the glass of the word; and therefore the same learned man is not afraid to affirm that all men who ever cam of Adam —Christ alone excepted—are by nature atheists, because at the same time that they acknowledge a God, they deny him his power, presence, and justice, and allow him to be only what pleaseth themselves. Indeed it is natural for every man to desire to accom­modate his lusts with such conceptions of God as may be most favourable to, and suit best with, them. God chargeth some for this: ‘Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself,’ Ps. 50:21—sinners doing with God as the Ethiopians with angels, whom they picture with black faces that they may be like themselves.

2. Suppose thou wert able by reason to demon­strate what God is, yet it were dangerous to enter the list and dispute it out by thy naked reason with Satan, who hath, though the worst cause, yet the nimbler head. There is more odds between thee and Satan —though the reason and understanding of many the ripest wits were met in thee—than between the weak­est idiot and the greatest scholar in the world. Now who would put a cause of so great importance to such a hazard as thou must do, by reasoning the point with him that so far outmatches thee? But there is a divine authority in the word which faith builds on, and this hath a throne in the conscience of the devil himself, he flies at this; for which cause Christ, though he was able by reason to have baffled the devil, yet to give us a pattern what arms to use for our defence in our conflicts with Satan, he repels him only by lifting up the shield of the word. ‘It is writ­ten,’ saith Christ, Luke 4:4, and again, ‘it is written,’ ver. 8. And it is very observable how powerful the word quoted by Christ was to nonplus the devil; so that he had not a word to reply to any scripture that was brought, but was taken off upon the very mention of the word and forced to go to another argument. Had Eve but stood to her first answer, ‘God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it,’ Gen. 3:3, she had been too hard for the devil; but letting her hand‑hold go which she had by faith on the word, presently she fell into her enemy’s hand. Thus in this particular, when the Christian in the heat of temptation by faith stands upon his defence, interposing the word between him and Satan’s blows—I believe that God is; though I cannot comprehend his nature nor answer thy sophis­try, yet I believe the report the word makes of God; Satan may trouble such a one, but he cannot hurt him. Nay, it is probable he will not long trouble him. The devil’s antipathy is so great to the word, that he loves not to hear it sound in his ear. But, if thou throwest down the shield of the word, and thinkest by the dint or force of thy reason to cut thy way through the temptation, thou mayest soon see thyself sur­rounded by thy subtle enemy, and put beyond an honourable retreat. This is the reason, I conceive, why, among those few who have professed themselves atheists, most of them have been great pretenders to reason—such as have neglected the word, and gone forth in the pride of their own understanding, by which, through the righteous judgment of God, they at last have disputed themselves into flat atheism. While they have turned their back upon God and his word, [and] thought, by digging into the secrets and bowels of nature, to be admired for their knowledge above others, that hath befallen them which some­times doth those in mines that delve too far into the bowels of the earth—a damp from God’s secret judgment hath come to put out that light which at first hey carried down with them; and so that of the apostle is verified on them, ‘Where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?’ I Cor. 1:20. Indeed it is the wisdom of God that the world by wisdom—their own trusted to —should not know God.

3. He that assents to this truth, that there is a God, merely upon grounds of reason and not of faith, and rests in that, doth not quench the temptation; for still he is an infidel and a Scripture atheist. He doth not believe there is a God at the report of God’s word, but at the report of his reason; and so indeed he doth but believe himself and not God, and in that makes himself a god, preferring the testimony of his own reason before the testimony of God’s word, which is dangerous.

Question. But, may some say, is there no use of reason in such principles as this which are within its sphere? May I not make use of my reason to confirm me in this truth that there is a God?

Answer. It is beyond all doubt that there is [use of reason]. Wherefore else did God set up such a light if not to guide us? But it must keep its own place, and that is to follow faith, not to be the ground of it, or to give law and measure to it. Our faith must not depend on our reason, but our reason on faith. I am not to believe what the word saith merely because it jumps with my reason, but believe my reason be­cause it is suitable to the word. The more perfect is to rule the less. Now the light of the word—which faith follows—is more clear or sure than reason is or can be; for therefore it was written, because man’s natural light was so defective. Thou readest in the word there is a God, and that he made the world. Thy eye of reason sees this also. But thou layest the stress of thy faith on the word, not on thy reason. And so of other truths. The carpenter lays his rule to the tim­ber, and by his eye sees it to be right or crooked; yet, it is not the eye but the rule that is the measure —without which his eye might fail him. All that I shall say more to such as are annoyed with atheistical injections is this, fix thy faith strongly on the word, by which you shall be able to overcome this Goliath, and when thou art more free and composed, and the storm is over, thou shalt do well to back thy faith what thou canst with thy reason. Let the word, like David’s stone in the sling of faith, first prostrate the temptation; and then, as he used Goliath’s sword to cut off his head, so mayest thou with more ease and safety make use of thy reason to complete the victory over these atheistical suggestions.

[Satan’s second affrighting temptation

—the fiery dart of blasphemy.]

Second Dart of affrighting temptations. The second fiery dart with which he frightens the Christian is his temptation to blasphemy. Every sin, in a large sense, is blasphemy; but here we take it more strictly. When a man does, speaks, or thinks anything derogatory to the holy nature or works of God, with an intent to reproach him or his ways, this properly is blasphemy. Job’s wife was the devil’s so­licitor, to provoke her husband to this sin: ‘Curse God,’ saith she, ‘and die.’ The devil was so impudent {as} to assault Christ himself with this sin, when he bade him ‘fall down and worship him.’ But he hath an advantage of making a nearer approach to a saint than he bade to Christ. All that he could do to him was to offend his holy ear with an external motion. It would not stand with the dignity or holiness of Christ’s person to let him come any farther. But he can shoot this fiery dart into the imagination of a saint, to the great disturbance of his thoughts, endeav­ouring thereby to stir up some unworthy thoughts of God in him—though these are commonly no more welcome to a gracious soul than the frogs which crept into the bed-chamber of Pharaoh were to him. Two things Satan aims at by these injections. 1. To set the saint a defaming God, which he loves a life to hear. But if this fails, then, 2. He is content to play at lower game, and intends the Christian’s vexation by forcing these unwelcome guests upon him. Now faith, and only faith, can quench these fireballs in both respects.

[How faith quenches the fiery dart of blasphemy,

and Satan’s double design therein.]

First Design. Satan aims, by the stirring up of unholy thoughts, to set the saint a defaming God. There is a natural disposition in every wicked man to blaspheme God. Let God but cross a carnal wretch in this way, and then suffer Satan to edge his corruption, and he will soon flee in God’s face. If the devil’s supposition had been true—as it was indeed most false—that Job was a hypocrite, then that tale which he brought against him to God would have been true also—‘Put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face,’ Job 1:11. Had Job been the man he took him for, the devil had not lied; because it is natural to every wicked man to have base thoughts of God; and, when provoked, the inward rancour of his heart will appear in the foulness of his tongue—‘This evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer?’ II Kings 6:33—a loud blasphemy, the seed of which is found in every un­believer. There is but one spirit of wickedness in sin­ners, as but one spirit of grace in saints. Simon Ma­gus he was ‘in the gall of bitterness,’ Acts 8:23; that is, in a state of sin. Every unbeliever is of a bitter spirit against God and all that bears his name. There is no trusting of the tamest of them all, though cooped up by restraining grace. Let the lion out of his grate and he will soon show his bloody nature. An unbeliever hath no more in him to quench such a temptation, than dry wood hath to quench the fire that is put to it. But now, let us see what exploits faith can do in quenching this fiery dart, and how faith does it. Generally it is by keeping the soul from entertaining any unbecoming or blasphemous thoughts of God; but,

1. Faith sets God before the soul—within sight and hearing of all its thoughts and ways; and this keeps the soul in awe, that it dares harbour nothing unworthy of God in its most secret thoughts. David gives the reason why the wicked are so bold, ‘They have not set thee before them,’ Ps. 54:3. Such as de­fame and asperse the name of others do it commonly behind their backs. Sin, in this life, seldom comes to such a ripeness as to blaspheme God to his face. This is properly the language of hell. There is a mixture of atheism with the blasphemy of sinners while on earth. They do with God as those wretched miscreants did with Christ; they cover his face and then smite him; they draw a curtain by some atheistical principles betwixt God and them, and then they belch out their blasphemies against that God whose omniscience they do not believe. Now faith eyes God eyeing the soul, and so preserves it. ‘Curse not the king,’ saith Solomon,’ ‘no not in thy thought,… nor the rich in thy bedchamber; for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter,’ Ecc. 10:20. Such kind of language faith useth. Blas­pheme not, saith faith, O my soul, the God of heaven; thou canst not whisper it so softly, but the voice is heard in his ear who is nearer to thee than thou to thyself. And thus it breaks the snare the devil lays. Those unbeseeming speeches which dropped from Job’s mouth, through the length and extremity of his troubles, though they did not amount to blasphemy, yet, when God presented himself to him in his majesty, they soon vanished, and he covered his face with shame before the Lord for them—‘Now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes,’ Job 42:5, 6.

2. Faith credits no report of God but from God’s own mouth; and thus it quencheth temptations to blasphemy. It is impossible that a soul should have any but holy and loyal thoughts of God, who shapes his apprehensions of him by the word of God, which is the only true glass to behold God in, because it alone presents him like himself in all his attributes, which Satan by this sin of blasphemy one way or other asperses. Faith conceives its notions of God by the word, resolves all cases of conscience, and deciphers all providences which God writes in myster­ious figures, by the word; for want of which skill, Satan drives the creature very oft to have hard thoughts of God, because he cannot make presently good sense of his administrations in the world. Thus, there have been [those] who foolishly have charged God’s justice, because some outrageous sinners have not been overtaken with such speedy judgment as they deserve. Others have charged as deeply his care and faithfulness in providing no better for his serv­ants, whom they have seen kept long under the hatches of great afflictions; like him, that seeing a company of Christians in poor ragged clothes, said he would not serve that God who kept his servants no better. These, and such like, are the broken glasses that Satan presents God in, that he may disfigure him to the creature’s eye; and truly if we will look no further, but judge God to be what he appears to be by them, we will soon condemn the holy One, and be within the whirl of this dangerous temptation.

3. Faith quenches temptations to blasphemy, as it is praiseful. It disposeth the Christian to bless God in the saddest condition that can befall it. Now these two, blessing and blasphemy, are most contrary. By the one we think and speak evil, and by the other good, of God; and therefore [they] cannot well dwell under the same roof. They are like contrary tunes. They cannot be played on the same instrument with­out changing all the strings. It is past Satan’s skill to strike so harsh a stroke as blasphemy is, on a soul tuned and set to praise God. Now faith doth this, ‘My heart is fixed,’ saith David. There was his faith. Then follows, ‘I will sing and give praise,’ Ps. 57:7. It was faith that turned his spirit and set his affections praise-way. And would not Satan, think you, have found it a hard task to have made David blaspheme God while his heart was kept in a praising frame? Now, two ways faith doth this.

(1.) Faith espies mercy in the greatest affliction —an eye of white in the saddest mixture of provi­dence; so that when the devil provokes to blasphemy from the evil that the creature receives from God, faith shows more good received than evil.

Thus Job quenched this dart which Satan shot at him from his wife’s tongue. ‘Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall not we receive evil?’ Shall a few present troubles be a grave to bury the remem­brance of all my past and present mercies? ‘Thou speakest as one of the foolish women.’ What God takes from me is less than I owe him, but what he leaves me is more than he owes me. Solomon bids us, ‘In the day of adversity consider,’ Ecc. 7:14. Our unbeseeming thoughts and words of God are the product of a rash hasty spirit. Now faith is a considering grace; ‘He that believeth will not make haste’—no not to think or speak of God. Faith hath a good memory, and can tell the Christian many stories of ancient mercies; and when his present meal falls short, it can entertain the soul with a cold dish, and not complain that God keeps a bad house neither. Thus David recovered himself when he was even tumbling down the hill of temptation. ‘This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old,’ Ps. 77:10, 11. Therefore, Christian, when thou art in thy depths of affliction, and Satan tempts thee to asperse God as if he were forgetful of thee, stop his mouth with this, ‘No, Satan, God hath not forgot to do for me, but I have forgot what he hath done for me, or else I could not question his fatherly care at present over me!’ Go, Christian, play over thy old lessons. Praise God for past mercies; and it will not be long before thou hast a new song put into thy mouth for present mercy.

(2.) As faith spies mercy in every affliction, so it keeps up an expectation in the soul for more mercy; which confidence disposeth the soul to praise God for, as if the mercy were then in being. Daniel, when in the very shadow of death—the plot the plot laid to take away his life—‘three times a day he prayed and gave thanks before his God.’ To have heard him pray in that great strait would not have afforded so much matter of wonder; but to have his heart in tune for thanksgiving in such a sad hour, this was admirable, and his faith enabled him, Dan. 6:10. Mercy in the promise is as the apple in the seed. Faith sees it growing up, the mercy a coming. Now, a soul under the expectation of deliverance, how will it scorn a blasphemous notion! When relief is known to be on its way for a garrison besieged, it raiseth their spirits; they will not then hearken to the traitorous motion of the enemy. It is when unbelief is the counsellor, and the soul under doubts and suspicions of God’s heart to it, that Satan finds welcome upon such an errand. An excellent instance for both we have in one chapter, Isa. 8. We find, ver. 17, what is the effect of faith, and that is a cheerful waiting on God in straits —‘I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him;’ and, ver. 21, we have the fruit of unbelief—and that is no less than blasphemy—‘And it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.’ Faith keeps the believer in a waiting posture; and unbelief sets the sinner a cursing both God and man. None escapes his lash that crosseth him in his way, no, not God himself.

4. Faith quenches this fiery dart, by purifying the heart of that enmity against God which, in man’s cor­rupt nature, is fuel for such a temptation. ‘Back­biters, haters of God, and despiteful,’ are joined together, Rom. 1:30. No wonder that a man whose spirit is full of rancour against another, should be easily persuaded to revile him he hates so much. Every unbeliever is a hater of God, and so is in a dis­position to blaspheme God when his will or lust is crossed by God. But faith slays this enmity of the heart; yea, it works love in the soul to God, and then works by this love. Now it is one property of love ‘to think no evil,’ I Cor. 13:5. That is, a man will neither plot any evil against him he loves, nor easily suspect any evil to be plotted by him against himself. Love reads the actions of a friend through such clear glasses of candour and ingenuity, as will make a dark print seem a fair character. It interprets all he doth with so much sweetness and simplicity, that those passages in his behaviour towards her, which to another would seem intricate and suspicious, are plain and pleasing to her; because she ever puts the most favourable sense upon all he doth that is possible. The believer dares not himself plot any evil of sin against God, whom, from the report that faith hath made of him to his soul, he loves so dearly. And, as love will not suf­fer him to turn traitor against a good God, so neither will it suffer him to harbour any jealous thoughts of God’s heart towards him, as if he, who was the first lover, and taught the soul to love him by making love to her, could, after all this, frame any plot of real un­kindness against it. No, this thought, though Satan may force it in a manner upon the Christian, and violently press for its entertainment, under the advan­tage of some frowning providence, which seems to countenance such a suspicion, yet it can never find welcome, so far as to be credited in the soul where love to God hath anything to do. And surely there is no fear that soul will be persuaded wickedly to belch out blasphemies against God, who so abominates but the surmising the least suspicion of God in her most secret thoughts.

Second Design. Satan aims by these blasphe­mous temptations to effect the Christian’s trouble and vexation. Though he doth not find the Christian so kind as to take these his guests in and give them lodging for his sake, yet he knows it will not a little disturb and break his rest to have them continually knocking and rapping at his door; yea, when he can­not pollute the Christian by obtaining his consent to them, even then he hopes to create him no little disquiet and distraction, by accusing him for what he will not commit; and so of a defiler—which rather he would have been—he is forced to turn slanderous reviler and false accuser. Thus the harlot sometimes accuseth the honest man, merely to be avenged on him because he will not yield to satisfy her lust. Joseph would not lie with his mistress and she raiseth a horrible lie on him. The devil is the blasphemer, but the poor Christian, because he will not join with him in the fact, shall have the name and bear the blame of it. As the Jews compelled Simon of Cyrene to carry Christ’s cross, so Satan would compel the tempted Christian to carry the guilt of his sin for him. And many time he doth so handsomely, and with such sleight of hand, shift it from himself to the Christian’s back, that he, poor creature, perceives not the juggler’s art of conveying it unto him, but goes complaining only of the baseness of his own heart. And as it sometimes so falls out, that a true man in whose house stolen goods are found suffers, because he cannot find out the thief that left them there; so the Christian suffers many sad terrors from the mere presence of these horrid thoughts in his bosom, because he is not able to say whose they are—whether shot in by Satan, or the steaming forth of his own naughty heart. The humble Christian is prone to fear the worst of himself, even where he is not conscious to himself; like the patriarchs, who, when the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, took the blame to them­selves, though they were innocent in the fact. And such is the confusion sometimes in the Christian’s thoughts, that he is ready to charge himself with those brats that should be laid at another door—Satan’s, I mean. Now here I shall show you how faith defeateth this second design of the devil in these blasphemous motions. And this it doth two ways. 1. By helping the Christian to discern Satan’s injections from the motions of his own heart. 2. By succouring him, though they rise of his own heart.

1. Faith teaches the Christian to discern and dis­tinguish those fireballs of temptations which are thrown in at his window by Satan, from those sparks of corruption which fly from his own hearth and take fire at his own sinful heart. And certainly those blas­phemous thoughts, of which many gracious souls make such sad complaint, will be found very often of the former sort, as may the more probably appear if we consider, (1.) The time when they first stir and are most busy. (2.) The manner how they come. And, (3.) The effect they have on the Christian’s heart.

(1.) The time when they begin to stir and the soul to be haunted with them; and that is ordinarily when the work of conversion hath newly passed or is passing on him. When the creature falls off from his old sinful course to embrace Christ, and declares for him against sin and Satan, this is the time when these blasphemous suggestions begin to make their appari­tion, and those vermin are seen to crawl in the Christian’s bosom—a strong probability that they do not breed there, but are sent from Satan by way of revenge for the soul’s revolt from him. The devil deals by the Christian in this, and not much unlike what his own sworn servants—witches, I mean—are known to do, who to express their spite against those that cross them, sometimes cause them to swarm with lice, or such kind of vermin, to make them loathsome to themselves. And, as one that never found such vermin crawling about him before, might well wonder to see himself so suddenly stocked with a multitude of them—yea, might rather impute it to the witch’s malice than to the corruption of his own body that bred them—so in this case. Indeed, it is very im­probable to think that the creature should in this juncture of time above all fall so foul with God by sinning against him at such a height as this. Is it like­ly that he can, while he is in tears for the sins of his past life, commit a greater than any of them he mourns for? or that he dare, while he is crying for pardoning mercy with a trembling heart, block up the way to his own prayers, and harden God’s heart into a denial of them, by such horrid sins as these are? In a word, seems it not strange, that all the while he was a stranger to, yea an enemy against, God, he durst not venture on this sin for the prodigious nature of it, and that now he begins to love God those blasphemies should fit his mouth which were too big and horrid before for him to meddle with?

(2.) The manner how these blasphemies rise in the Christian’s thoughts, will increase the probability that they are injections from Satan without, rather than motions of the Christian’s own heart within. They are commonly violent and sudden. They come like lightning, flashing into the Christian’s thoughts before he hath time to deliberate with himself what he is doing. Whereas that lust, which is the ebullition of our own hearts, is ordinarily gradual in its motion; it moves in a way more still and suitable to man’s nature; it doth entice the soul, and by degrees slyly inveigles it into a consent; making first the affections on its side, which then it employeth to corrupt the understanding, and take it off from appearing against it, by putting its eye out with some bribe of sensual pleasure and profit; and so, by these paces it comes at last to have a more easy access to and success over the will, which being now deprived of her guard, yields the sooner to the summons that lust makes. But these sudden dartings of blasphemous thoughts, they make a forcible entry upon the soul without any ap­plication used to gain its good-will to come in. Their driving is like the driving of that hellish Jehu. It is the devil that is got into the box; who else could drive so furiously? Yea, not only their suddenness and vio­lence, but incoherence with the Christian’s former thoughts and course, do still heighten the probability that they are darts shot from the devil’s bow. Peter was once known to be of Christ’s company by his voice: ‘Thy speech,’ say they, ‘bewrayeth thee.’ He spake like them, therefore he was judged one of them. On the contrary, we may say of these blasphemous motions, ‘They are not the Christian’s, their language bewrays them to be rather the belching of a devil than the voice of a saint. If they were woven by the soul, they would be something like the whole piece from which they are cut off.’ There is ordinarily a depen­dency in our thoughts. We take the hint for one thought from another. As circle riseth out of circle in the moved water, so doth thought out of thought, till they spread into a discourse.

Now, may not the Christian well wonder to see —may be when he is at he worship of God, and taken up with holy and heavenly meditations—a blasphe­mous thought on a sudden appear in the midst of such company to which it is so great a stranger? and also how it should get in among them? If a holy thought surpriseth us on a sudden, when we stand as it were with our back on heaven, and there be nothing in the discourse our hearts at present are holding to usher it in, we may take it as a pure motion of the Spirit of Christ. Who, indeed, but he, could be so soon in the midst of the soul when the door is shut, even before the creature can turn his thoughts to open it for him? And probably these blasphemies, which rush upon thee, O Christian, at a time when thy soul is at the farthest distance from such thoughts, yea, sailing to the clean contrary point, in thy praying to and praising of God, are the irruptions of that wicked one, and that on purpose to interrupt thee in that work which of all other he fears and hates most.

(3.) The effect these blasphemous notions have on the heart may make us think they are Satan’s brats rather than the birth of the Christian’s own heart; —and that is a dismal horror and consternation of the Christian’s spirit, which reacheth often to the dis­composure of the body. So that an apparition of the devil to their bodily eyes could not affright them more than these blasphemies do that walk in their imagin­ation. Yea, they do not only cause a horror, but stir up a vehement indignation and abhorrency, in the soul at their presence. If now they be the birth of the Christian’s own heart, why this horror? whence this indignation? Those motions which arise from our­selves use to please us better. It is natural for men to love the children of their own loins though black and deformed; and as natural to like the conceptions of their own minds. Solomon found out the true mother by her tenderness to the child. If these blas­phemies were the issue of the heart, familiarity with them might be expected rather than horror at the sight of them; favour to them rather than abhorrency of them. Were it not more likely, poor soul, that thou wouldst kiss them, if thy own, than seek to kill them?—draw out thy breast to nurse and suckle them, than the sword of the Spirit to destroy them? And if so, saith faith, that these be Satan’s brats, why then art thou troubled because he lays them at thy door? Is the chaste woman the more whore, because some foul tongue calls her so? Have patience a little, poor soul; the judge is at the door, and when he comes thou shalt be called by thy right name. Sit not thou any longer wounding thy soul with his dart, and troubling thyself for the devil’s sin, but go and complain of him to thy God; and when thou hast spread his blasphemies before the Lord, as Hezekiah did Rabshakeh’s, comfort thyself with this, that God will spread thy cause against this false accuser, and send him away with as much shame and as little suc­cess as he did that barking dog who so reviled God and railed on his people. But,

2. Suppose these blasphemous notions to be the Christian’s own sins, bred in his own heart, and not the devil’s brats falsely fathered on him; yet here faith relieves the Christian when distressed with the guilt of them, and Satan labours most to aggravate them. Now the succour faith brings the soul here is manifold.

(1.) Succour. Faith can assure the soul upon sol­id Scripture bottom that these blasphemous thoughts are pardonable. ‘All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men,’ Matt. 12:31. And it were strange if thy fancy should be so wild and melancholy as to think thou seest this only unpardonable blasphemy, which is ever marked on the forehead with final impenitency and desperate hatred against God, in those loose roving thoughts that never yet could gain any consent from thy heart to them, but continues to disavow and protest against them. I say it were very strange That thou couldst long mistake those unwelcome guests for that wicked sin. Now, for thy comfort, thou hearest all manner of blasphemy besides that one shall be forgiven. Pardon for them may be sued out in the court of mercy, how terrible and amazing soever their circumstances are to thy trembling soul. And if the creature believes this, Satan’s dart is quenched; for his design is to make use of these temptations as a trap-door by which he may let thy soul down into despair.

(2.) Succour. Faith resolves the soul that the ebullition[7] of such thoughts is not inconsistent with the state of grace; and if the soul be well satisfied in this point, the devil’s fiery dart hath lost its enven­omed head, which uses so much to drink up the Christian’s spirits. The common inference which he makes tempted souls draw from the presence of these thoughts in them is, ‘Surely I am not a saint. This is not the spot of God’s children.’ But faith is able to disprove this, and challenges Satan to show—as well-read as he is in the Scriptures—one place in all the Bible that countenanceth such a conclusion. Indeed there is none. It is true the blasphemy of blasphe­mies—I mean the sin against the Holy Ghost —with this the evil one shall never touch a true believer. But I know no kind of sin, short of that, from which he hath any such protection or immunity, as makes it impossible he should for a time be foiled by it. The whole body of sin indeed is weakened in every be­liever, and a deadly wound given by the grace of God to his corrupt nature, which it shall never claw off, but at last die by it. Yet as a dying tree may bear some fruit, though not so much, nor that so full and ripe, as before; and a dying man may move his limbs, though not so strongly as when he was in health; so original corruption in a saint will be stirring, though but feebly, and showing its fruit, though it be but crump­ted and unripe. And thou hast no cause to be dis­couraged that it stirs; but to be comforted that it can but stir. O be thankful thou hast got thy enemy, who even now was master of the field, and had thee tied to his triumphant chariot, now himself on his knees un­der the victorious sword of Christ and his grace, ready to drop into his grave, though lifting up his hand against thee to show his enmity continues when his power fails to do execution as he would.

(3.) Succour. Faith can clear it to the soul that these blasphemous thoughts, as they are commonly entertained in a saint, are not so great sins in God’s account as some other that pass for less in our ac­count. The Christian commonly contracts more guilt by a few proud, unclean, covetous thoughts than by many blasphemous ones, because the Christian sel­dom gets a so clear a victory over those as over these of blasphemy. The fiery darts of blasphemy may scare Christians more, but fiery lusts wound sooner and deeper. It was the warm sun made the traveller open his cloak which the blustering wind made wrap closer to him. Temptations of pleasure entice the heart to them, whereas the horrid nature of the other stirs up the Christian to a more valiant resistance of them. O, the Christian is soon overtaken with these; they are like poison in sweet wine, they are down before he is aware, and diffuse apace into his affec­tions, poisoning the Christian’s spirits. But these of blasphemy are like poison in some bitter potion; either it is spit out before it is down, or vomited up by the Christian before it hath spread itself far into his affections. Sins are great or small by the share the will hath in the acting of them. And blasphemous thoughts, commonly having less of the Christian’s will and affections in them than the other, cannot be a greater sin.

(4.) Succour. Faith tells the soul that God may have, yea, undoubtedly hath, gracious ends in suffer­ing him to be haunted with such troublesome guests, or else they should not be sent to quarter on him. Possibly God saw some other sin thou wert in great danger of, and he sends Satan to trouble thee with these temptations, that he may not overcome thee in the other. And though a plaster or poultice be very offensive and loathsome, yet better endure that a while than a disease that will hazard thy life. Better tremble at the sight of blasphemous thoughts than strut thyself in the pride of thy heart at the sight of thy gifts and privileges. The first will make thee think thyself as vile as the devil himself in thy own eyes; but the other will make thee prodigiously wicked and so indeed like the devil in God’s eyes.

(5.) Succour. Faith will put the Christian on some noble exploits for God, thereby to vindicate himself, and prove the devil’s charge a lie, as one that is accused for some traitorous design against his prince, to wipe off that calumny doth undertake some notable enterprise for the honour of his prince. This indeed is the fullest revenge the Christian can take either of Satan for troubling him with such injections, or [of] his own heart for issuing out such impure streams. When David preferred Saul’s life in the cave above a kingdom, which one hearty blow might have procured him, he proved all his enemies liars that had brought him under a suspicion at court. Thus, Chris­tian, do thou but prefer the honour of God when it cometh in competition with sin and self, and thou wilt stop the devil’s mouth, who is sometimes ready to make thee jealous of thyself as if thou wert a blasphemer. Such heroic acts of zeal and self‑denial would speak more for thy purgation before God and thy own conscience than these sudden thoughts can do against thee.

[Satan’s third affrighting temptation

—the fiery dart of despair.]

Third Dart of affrighting temptations. The third fiery dart which Satan lets fly at the Christian is his temptation to despair. This cursed fiend thinks he can neither revenge himself further on God, nor en­grave his own image deeper on the creature, than by this sin; which at once casteth the greatest scorn upon God, and brings the creature nearest the complexion of devils and damned souls, who, by lying continually under the scorching wrath of God, in hell’s horrid zone, are blacked all over with despair. This is the sin that of all Satan chiefly aims at. Other sins are but as previous dispositions to introduce that, and make the creature more receptive for such a tempta­tion. As the wool hath a tincture of some lighter col­ours given it before it can be dyed into a deep grain, so Satan hath his more lightsome and pleasant sins, which he at first entices to, that he may the better dis­pose the creature to this. But this is kept by him as a great secret from the creature’s knowledge. The devil is too cunning a fowler to lay his net in the bird’s sight he means to take. Despair is the net. Other sins are but the shrap, whereby he covers it, and so flatters them into it, which done, he hath them safe to eternity. This, above all sins, puts a man into a kind of actual possession of hell. Other sins bind over to wrath, whereby he covers it, but this gives fire to the threatening, and sets the soul on a light flame with horror. As it is faith’s excellency to give a being to the word of promise; so it is the cruelty of despair that it gives an existence to the torments of hell in the con­science. This is the arrow that drinks up the spirit, and makes the creature executioner to itself. Despair puts a soul beyond all relief; the offer of a pardon comes too late to him that hath turned himself off the ladder. Other temptations have their way to escape. Faith and hope can open a window to let out the smoke that offends the Christian in any condition, be it at present never so sad and sorrowful; but then the soul must needs be choked, when it is shut up within the despairing thoughts of its own sins, and no crevice left to be an outlet to any of that horror with which they fill him.

How faith quenches the fiery dart of

despair drawn from the greatness of sin.]

I might here instance in those many media or arguments Satan useth to dispute souls into despair from, and how able faith, and only faith, is to answer and refel[8] them. But I shall content myself with one to dilate upon—which is the chief of all Satan’s strength—and that is taken from all the greatness and multitude of the creature’s sins. This when the crea­ture is enlightened to see, and hath the brawniness of its conscience pared off to feel with remorse, and then God but do allow Satan to use his rhetoric in declaiming against the heinousness of them, it must needs be in a doleful condition, and of necessity sink into the depths of despair, for all the help it can find from itself within or any other creature without doors. Perhaps some of you, who have slighty thoughts of your own sins, think it proves but a childish impotent spirit in others to be so troubled for theirs; and in this you show that you never were in Satan’s stocks pinched by his temptations. Those who have will speak in another language, and tell you that the sins which are unfelt by you have lain like a mountain of lead upon their spirits. O, when a breach is once made in the conscience, and the waves of guilt pour in amain upon the soul, it soon overtops all the crea­ture’s shifts and apologies, as the flood did the old world, that covered the tallest trees and the highest mountains. As nothing then was visible but sea and heaven; so in such a soul, nothing but sin and hell. His sins stare him on the face, as with the eyes of so many devils, ready to drag him into the bottomless pit. Every silly fly dares creep upon the lion while asleep, whose voice all the beasts in the forest tremble at when he awakes. Fools can make a mock of sin when conscience’ eye is out or shut. They can then dance about it, as the Philistines about blind Samson. But when God arms sin with guilt, and causeth this serpent to put forth his sting upon the conscience, then the proudest sinner of them all flees before it. Now it is faith that alone can grapple with sin in its strength; which it doth several ways. First. Faith gives the soul a view of the great God. Second. Faith quenches this fiery dart of despair drawn from the greatness of sin, by opposing to that the greatness of the promises. Third. Faith teaches the soul to oppose the greatness of this one sin of despair to the great­ness of all its other sins.

[To the greatness of sin, faith opposes

a view of the great God.]

First. Faith gives the soul a view of the great God. It teacheth the soul to set his almightiness against sin’s magnitude, and his infinitude against sin’s multitude; and so quencheth temptation. The reason why the presumptuous sinner fears so little, and the despairing soul so much, is for want of know­ing God as great. Therefore, to cure them both, the serious consideration of God under this notion is pro­pounded. ‘Be still, and know that I am God,’ Ps. 46:10. As if he had said, ‘Know, O ye wicked, that I am God, who can avenge myself when I please upon you, and cease to provoke me by your sins to your own confusion.’ Again, ‘Know ye, trembling souls, that I am God, and therefore able to pardon the greatest sins; and cease to dishonour me by your un­believing thoughts of me.’ Now faith alone can thus show God to be God. Two things are required to the right conceiving of God.

1. Inorder to the right conceiving of God, we must give him the infinitude of all his attributes; that is, conceive of him not only as wise—for that may be a man’s name—but infinitely wise; not mighty, but almighty, &c.

2. This infinitude which we give to God, we must deny to all besides him, what or whosoever they be. Now faith alone can realize and fix this principle so in the heart that the creature shall act suitably there­unto. Indeed, none are so wicked who will not say, if you will believe them, that they believe that God is infinite in his knowledge, and omnipresent—at their heels wherever they go; infinite in his power, needing no more to effect their ruin than his speaking it. But, would they then in the view of these go and sin so boldly? They durst as well run their heads into a fiery oven, as do it in the face of such a principle. So others; they believe God is infinite in mercy. But, would they then carry a hell flaming in their bosoms with despair, while they have infinite mercy in their eye? No, it is plain God appears not in his true greatness to such. Despair robs God of his infinitude and ascribes it to sin. By it the creature saith his sin is infinite and God is not—too like those unbelieving Israelites: ‘They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea,’ Ps. 106:7. They could not see enough in God to serve their turn in such a strait; they saw a multi­tude of Egyptians to kill, and multitude of waters to drown them, but could not see multitude enough of mercies to deliver them. Thus the despairing sees multitude of great sins to damn, but not an infinitude of mercy to save him. Reason, alas! is low of stature, like Zaccheus, and cannot see mercy in a crowd and press of sins. It is faith alone that climbs the prom­ise; then and not till then will the soul see Jesus. Faith ascribes mercy to God with an overplus, ‘He will abundantly pardon,’ Isa. 55:7—multiply to pardon, so the Hebrew. He will drop pardons with our sins which are most. ‘He will subdue our iniquities, and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea’. This is faith’s language; he will pardon with an over­flowing mercy. Cast a stone into the sea, and it is not barely covered, but buried many fathom deep. God will pardon thy greatest sins, saith faith, as the sea doth a little pebble thrown into it. A few sins poured out upon the conscience—like a pail of water spilt upon the ground—seems like a great flood; but the greatest poured into the sea of God’s mercy are swal­lowed up and not seen. Thus, when ‘the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for,’ the Scripture saith, ‘and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.’ And why so? ‘For I will pardon,’ Jer. 50:20. There is the reason.

Objection. ‘O but,’ saith the trembling soul, ‘the consideration of God’s infinitude, especially in two of his attributes, drives me fastest to despair. Of all other my perplexed thoughts, when I think how in­finitely holy God is, may I not fear what will become of an unholy wretch? When again, I look upon him as just, yea, infinitely just, how can I think he will re­mit so great wrongs as I have done to his glorious name?’

Answer. Faith will, and none but faith’s fingers can, untie this knot, and give the soul a satisfactory answer to this question.

1. Attribute.—The holiness of God. For this at­tribute faith hath two things to answer.

Answer. (1.) That though the infinite holiness of God’s nature doth make him vehemently hate sin, yet the same doth strongly incline his heart to show mercy to sinners. What is it in the creature that makes him hard-hearted but sin? ‘The tender mer­cies of the wicked are cruel,’ Prov. 12:10. If wicked then cruel, and the more holy the more merciful. Hence it is that acts of mercy and forgiveness are with so much difficulty drawn, many times, from those that are saints; even like milk out of awarded breast; because there are remainders of corruption in them, which cause some have hardness of heart and unwill­ingness to that work. ‘Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good,’ Rom. 12:21—implying it is a hard work, which cannot be done till a victory be got over the Christian’s own heart; which hath contrary passions, that will strongly oppose such an act. How oft, alas! do we hear such language as this from those that are gracious! ‘My patience is spent; I can bear no longer, and forgive no more.’ But God, who is purity without dross, holiness without the least allay and mixture of sin, hath nothing to sour his heart into any unmercifulness. ‘If ye then, being evil,’ saith Christ, ‘know how to give good gifts unto your chil­dren, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?’ Matt. 7:11. Christ’s design in this place is to help them to larger apprehensions concerning the mercifulness of God’s heart; which that he may do, he directs them to the thoughts of his holiness as that which would infal­libly demonstrate the same. As if Christ had said, ‘Can you persuade your hearts, distempered with sinful passions, to be kind to your children? how much more easy is it to think that God, who is holiness itself, will be so to his poor creatures pros­trate at his feet for mercy?’

(2.) Faith can tell the soul that the holiness of God is no enemy to pardoning mercy; for it is the holiness of God that obligeth him to be faithful in all his promises. And this, indeed, is as full a breast of consolation as I know any to a poor trembling soul. When the doubting soul reads those many precious promises which are made to returning sinners, why doth he not take comfort in them? Surely it is be­cause the truth and faithfulness of God to perform them is yet under some dispute in his soul. Now the strongest argument that faith hath to put this ques­tion out of doubt, and make the sinner accept the promise as a true and faithful word, is that which is taken from the holiness of God, who is the promise-maker. It must be true, saith faith, what the promise speaks; it can be no other, because a holy God makes it. Therefore, God, to gain the more credit to the truth of his promise in the thoughts of his people, prefixeth so often this attribute to his promise, ‘I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,’ Isa. 41:14That which in the Hebrew is mercies, in the Septuagint is often J ÓF\”—holy things. See Isa. 55:3. Indeed the mercies of God are founded in holiness, and therefore are sure mercies. The reason of man’s unfaithfulness in promises pro­ceeds from some unholiness in his heart. The more holy a man is, the more faithful we may expect him to be. A good man, we say, will be as good as his word. To be sure a good God will. How many times did La­ban change Jacob’s wages after promise? But God’s covenant with him was inviolably kept, though Jacob was not so faithful on his part as he ought—and why? but because he had to do with a holy God in this, but with a sinful man in the other, whose passions altered his thoughts and changed his countenance towards him; as we see the clouds and wind do the face of the heavens and temper of the seasons.

2. Attribute. We come to the second attribute which scares the tempted soul, and seems so little to befriend this pardoning act of God’s mercy; and that is his justice. This proves often matter of amazement to the awakened sinner rather than encouragement, especially when the serious thoughts of it possess his heart. Indeed, my brethren, the naked consideration of this attribute rent from the other, and the musing on it without a gospel-comment—through which alone it can be safely and comfortably viewed by a sin‑smitten soul—must needs appall and dispirit him, whoever he be, yea, kindle a fire of horror in his bosom; for the creature, seeing no way that God hath to vindicate his provoked justice but by the eternal destruction and damnation of the sinner, cannot, without a universal consternation of all the powers of his soul, think of that attribute which brings to his thoughts so fearful an expectation and looking for of judgment. Heman, though a holy man, yet even lost his wits with musing on this sad subject. ‘While I suf­fer thy terrors I am distracted,’ Ps. 88:15, 16. But faith can make good work of this also. Faith will enable the soul to walk in this fiery attribute with his comforts unsinged, as those three worthies, Dan.3, in the flaming furnace; while unbelieving sinners are scorched, yea, swallowed up into despair, when they do but come in their thoughts near the mouth of it. There is a threefold consideration with which faith relieves the soul when the terror of this attribute takes hold on it. (1.) Faith shows, and this on the best evidence, that God may pardon the greatest sinner, if penitent and believing, without the least prejudice to his justice. (2.) Faith goes farther, and shows that God, in par­doning the believing sinner, doth not only save his justice, but advance the honour of it. (3.) Faith shows that God doth not only save and advance his justice in pardoning a believing soul; but, as things stand now, he hath no other way to secure his justice but by pardoning the believing soul his sins. Be they never so great. These three well digested, will render this attribute as amiable, lovely, and comfortable to the thoughts of a believer, as that of mercy itself.

[A threefold consideration with which faith

relieves the soul from terror of God’s justice.]

Consideration 1. Faith shows to the soul—and that upon the best evidence—that God may pardon its sins, though never so great and mountainous, with safety to the justice of God. That question is not now to be disputed, whether God can be just and righteous in pardoning sinners. This, saith faith, was debated and determined long ago, at the council‑board of heaven by God himself, before so much as a vote, yea, a thought, could pass from God’s heart for the benefit of poor sinners. God expresseth thus much in the promise: ‘I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment,’ Hosea 2:19. Who is this that God means to marry? one that had played the whore, as appears by the former part of the chapter. What doth he mean by betrothing? No other but that he will pardon their sins, and receive them into the arms of his love and peculiar favour. But how can the righteous God take one that hath been a filthy strumpet into his bosom? —betroth such a whorish people, pardon such high-climbing sins? How? Mark, he will do it ‘in judg­ment and in righteousness.’ As if God had said, ‘Trouble not your thoughts to clear my justice in the act. I know what I do. The case is well weighed by me. It is not like the sudden matches that are hud­dled up by men in one day, and repented of on the next; but is the result of the counsel of my holy will so to do.’ Now when Satan comes full mouth against the believer with this objection, ‘What! such a wretch as thou find favour in the eyes of God?’ faith can easily retort, ‘Yes, Satan, God can be as righteous in par­doning me as in damning thee. God tells me it is ‘in judgment and in righteousness.’ I leave thee there­fore to dispute this case out with God, who is able to justify his own act.’

Now, though this in the lump were enough to re­fel Satan, yet faith is provided with a more particular evidence, for the vindication of the justice and righ­teousness of God in this pardoning act. And this is founded on the full satisfaction which Christ hath given to God for all the wrong the believer hath done him by his sin. Indeed, it was the great undertaking of Christ to bring justice to kiss mercy, that there might not be a dissenting attribute in God when this vote should pass, but the act of pardoning mercy carried clear, nullo contradicente—without a dis­sentient voice. Therefore, Christ, before he solicits the sinner’s cause with God by request, performs first the other of satisfaction by sacrifice. He pays, and then prays for what he hath paid—presenting his peti­tion in the behalf of believing sinners written with his own blood, that so justice might not disdain to read or grant it. I will not dispute whether God could by a prerogative mercy, without a satisfaction, have issued out an act of pardon; but in this way of satis­faction, the righteousness of God, I am sure, may be vindicated in the conscience of the greatest sinner on earth; yea, the devil himself is but a faint disputant when faith pinches him with this argument; it is a trench which he is not able to climb. Indeed, God laid our salvation in this method, that even we weak ones might be able to justify him, in justifying us, to the head of the most malicious devil in hell. Peruse that incomparable place, which hath balm enough in it to heal the wounds of all the bleeding consciences in the world, where there is but faith to drop it in; and for ever to quench the fire of this dart, which is headed with the justice of God. ‘Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteous­ness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justi­fier of him which believeth in Jesus,’ Rom. 3:24-26. O what work will faith make of this scripture! A soul castled with these walls is impregnable.

(a) Observe, Christ is here called a propitiation, or, if you will, a propitiatory—Ê8″[email protected]<—alluding to the mercyseat, where God promised to meet his people that he might converse with them, and no dread from his majesty fall upon them, Ex. 25. Now, you know, the mercy‑seat was placed over the ark, to be a cover thereunto, it being the ark wherein the holy law of God was kept, from the violation of which all the fears of a guilty soul arise. Therefore it is observ­able that the dimensions of the one were propor­tioned to the other. The mercy-seat was to be as long and broad to the full as the ark was, that no part thereof might be unshadowed by it, ver. 10, compared with ver. 17. Thus, Christ our true propitiatory covers all the law, which else would come in to accuse the believer; but not one threatening now can arrest him, so long as this screen remains for faith to interpose between God’s wrath and the soul. Justice now hath no mark to level at. God cannot see the sinner for Christ that hides him. ‘this is not the man,’ saith wrath, ‘that I am to strike. See how he flees to Christ, and takes sanctuary in his satisfaction, and so is got out of my walk and reach, that being a privileged place where I must not come to arrest any.’ It is usual, you know, in battles to wear a riband, hand­kerchief, or some such thing, to distinguish friends from foes. Christ’s satisfaction worn by faith is the sign that distinguisheth God’s friends from his ene­mies. The scarlet thread on Rahab’s window kept the destroying sword out of her house; and the blood of Christ, pleaded by faith, will keep the soul from receiving any hurt at the hands of divine justice.

(b) Observe what hand Christ hath his com­mission from: ‘whom God hath set forth to be a pro­pitiation through faith in his blood.’ Christ, we see, is the great ordinance of heaven; him the Father hath sealed; he is singled out from all others, angels and men, and set forth as the person chosen of God to make atonement for sinners, as the lamb was taken out of the flock and set apart for the passover. When, therefore, Satan’s sets forth the believer’s sins in battle‑array against him, and confronts him with their greatness, then faith runs under the shelter of this castle into the holes of this rock. Surely, saith faith, my Saviour is infinitely greater than my greatest sins. I should impeach the wisdom of God’s choice to think otherwise. God, who knew what a heavy burden he had to lay upon his shoulders, was fully satisfied of his strength to bear it. He that refused sacrifice and burnt‑offering for their insufficiency, would not have called him had he not been all‑sufficient for the work. Indeed, here lies the weight of the whole building; a weak faith may save, but a weak saviour cannot. Faith hath Christ to plead for it, but Christ hath none to plead for him. Faith leans on Christ’s arm, but Christ stood upon his own legs, and if he had sunk under the burden of our sins, he had been past the reach of any creature in heaven or earth to help him up.

(c) Observe the why God chose this way of issu­ing out his pardoning mercy; and that is ‘to declare his righ­teousness for the remission of sins.’ Mark! not to declare his mercy. That is obvious to every eye. Every one will believe him merciful that is for­giving. But, to conceive how God should be righteous in forgiving sinners—this lies more remote from the creature’s apprehensions, and therefore it is ingeminated and repeated, ‘To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,’ ver. 26. As if God had said, ‘I know why it seems so incredible, poor sinners, to your thoughts, that I should pardon all your iniquities, so great and many. You think, because I am a righteous God, that I will sooner damn a thousand worlds of sinners than asperse my justice, and bring my name under the least suspicion of unrighteousness, and that thought is most true. I would indeed damn them over and over again, rather than stain the honour of my justice—which is myself. But I declare, yea, again I declare it, and command you and the greatest sinners on earth, upon pain of damnation, to believe it, that I can be just, and yet the justifier of those sinners who believe in Jesus.’ O what boldness may the believer take at this news! Methinks I see the soul that was even now pining to death with despair, and lotting upon hell in his thoughts—as one already free among the dead—now revive and grow young again at these tidings; as Jacob, when he heard Joseph was alive. ‘What? Is justice —the only enemy I feared, and attribute in God’s heart which my thoughts fled from—now become my friend! Then cheer up, my soul, who shall condemn if God justifies? And how can God himself be against thee, when his very justice acquits thee?’

Objection. But Satan will not thus leave the soul. Dost thou, poor creature, saith he, believe this strange divinity? Is it just for God to pardon thee for the satisfaction that another makes? One man com­mit the murder, and another man that is innocent hanged for it!—call, you this just? The law demands the person sinning to be delivered up to justice. We find no mention of a surety to be allowed by the cov­enant: ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’

Answer (a). Faith teaches the soul to acquiesce in the declaration that God makes of his own mind. Now, though the threatening at first acquaints us with the sinner’s name only, yet faith finds a gracious re­laxation of that threatening in the gospel covenant, where, to the believer’s everlasting comfort, God promiseth to accept the sinner’s debt at Christ’s hand, whom therefore we find arrested upon our action. ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed,’ Isa. 53:5. Here is bottom strong enough for faith to rest on. And why should we, shallow crea­tures, ruffle gospel truths, to the ensnarling our own thoughts, by thinking to fathom the bottomless depths of God’s justice with the short cordage of our reason, which we see dunced by the meanest piece of God’s work of creation? Faith spies a devil in this beautiful serpent, Reason, which, for its smooth tongue, Satan useth on a mischievous design to un­dermine, as other, so in particular, this one most sweet and fundamental truth of the gospel—I mean the satisfaction of Christ; and therefore faith protests against the illegality of reason’s court. What indeed hath reason to call before her lower bench these mys­teries of our faith, that are purely supernatural, and so not under her cognizance? And O that those, in this proud age of ours, would consider it, who go to law, as I may so say, with the highest gospel truths, before this heathen judge, Reason! whereby they evac­uate one great end of the gospel, which is to sacrifice our shallow reason on faith’s altar, that so we might give the more signal honour to the truth of God, in believing the high mysteries of the gospel upon this naked report of them in the word, though our own reason with its little span cannot comprehend them.

Answer (b). The believer can clear God as just in receiving the debt as Christ’s hand, from that near union that is betwixt Christ and his people. The husband may lawfully be arrested for his wife’s debt, because this union is voluntary; and it is to be sup­posed he did, or ought to have considered, what her estate was, before he contracted so near a relation to her. A suit may justly be commenced against a surety, because it was his own act to engage for the debt. To be sure Christ was most free in engaging himself in the sinner’s cause. He knew what a sad plight man’s nature was in; and he had an absolute freedom to please himself in his choice, whether he would leave man to perish, or lend his helping hand towards his recovery. He had also an absolute power of his own life, which no mere creature hath; so that being his own offer—upon his Father’s call—to take our nature in marriage, thereby to interest himself in our debt, and for the payment of it, to disburse and pour out his own precious blood to death; how dare proud flesh call the justice of God to the bar, and bring his righteousness in this transaction into question, for which God promised himself the highest expression of love and thankfulness at his creature’s hands?

Consideration 2. Faith doth not only bear witness to the justice of God, that he may pardon a poor believing sinner, and yet be just; but it shows that he may advance the honour of his justice by pardoning the believing soul, more than in damning the impenitent sinner. And surely God had no less design in the gospel-covenant than this. He that would not the death of a sinner but to vindicate his justice, would not certainly have consented to the death of his only Son, but for the higher advance and further glorifying of his justice in the eye of his crea­ture. Christ saith he came not only that we sinners ‘might have life,’ but that we might ‘have it more ab­undantly,’ John 10:10—that is, more abundantly than we should have inherited it from innocent Adam. May we not therefore say, that Christ did not die that God might only have his due debt, but that he might have it more abundantly paid by Christ, than he could have had it at the creature’s hands? But more partic­ularly the justice of God will appear here clothed with four glorious circumstances, that cannot be found in the payment which the sinner by his own personal sufferings makes unto it.

(a) If we consider the person at whose hand divine justice receives satisfaction. When the sinner is damned for his own sins, it is but a poor sorry crea­ture that is punished; but, when Christ suffereth, the debt is paid by a more honourable hand: God hath it from one who is near to himself, yea, equal with him­self. ‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts,’ Zech. 13:7. Who will not say a judge gives more eminent testimony of his justice, when he condemns his own son, than when he arraigns a stranger? Here God indeed declared his utmost hatred to sin, and inflexible love to justice, in that he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.

(b) If we consider the manner how the debt is paid. When the sinner is damned, it is in a poor beg­garly way by retail; now a few pence, and then a few more. He is ever paying, but never comes to the last farthing, and therefore must for ever lie in prison for non-payment. But, at Christ’s hands God receives all the whole debt in one lump, so that Christ could truly say, ‘It is finished,’ John 19:30—as much as if he had said, There are but a few moments, and the work of redemption will be finished. I ave the sum now in my hand to pay God his whole debt, and as soon as I have bowed my head, and the breath is once out of my body, all will be finished. Yea, he hath his dis­charge for the receipt of the whole sum due to God’s justice from the mouth of God himself, in which we find him triumphing. ‘He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me?’ Isa. 50:8. Yea, still more, Christ hath not only discharged the old debt, but by the same blood hath made a new purchase of God for his saints; so that God, who was even now the cred­itor, is become the debtor to his creature, and that for no less than eternal life, which Christ hath paid for, and given every believer authority, humbly to claim of God in his name. See them both in one place. ‘But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,’ Heb. 10:12-14. He hath not only crossed the debt-book for believers, but per­fected them for ever; that is, made as certain provi­sion for their perfection in glory, as for their salvation from hell’s punishment. From which he exhorts them to ‘draw near in full assurance of faith,’ ver. 22. Let us not fear but we shall receive at God’s hands what Christ hath paid for.

(c) When God damns the sinner, his justice indeed appears—those condemned miscreants have not one righteous syllable to charge their judge withal —but mercy is not seen to sit so glorious on the throne, in this sentence pronounced on the sinner. But when Christ suffered, justice had mercy met. Indeed justice appears never more orient in God or man than when it is in conjunction with mercy. Now in the Lord Christ’s death they shone both in all their glory, and did mutually set off each the other. Here the white and the red—the roses and the lilies—were so admirably tempered, that it is hard to say which presents the face of justice most beautiful to our eye, God’s wrath upon Christ for us, or his mercy to us for his sake.

(d) When God damns the sinner, justice is glori­fied only passively. God forceth his glory from devils and damned souls; but they do not willingly pay the debt. They acknowledge God just, because they can do no other, but at the same time they hate him, while they seem to vindicate him. Now, in the satis­faction that Christ gives, justice is glorified actively, and that both from Christ—who was not dragged to the cross, or hauled to his sufferings, as the damned are to their prison and torment, but ‘gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God,’ Eph. 5:2; suf­fering as willingly for us as ever we sinned against him —and also from believing souls, who now sing praises to the mercy and justice of God that redeemed them, and will for ever in heaven run division on the same note. Now by how much the voluntary sufferings of Christ are better than the forced torments of the damned; and the cheerful praises of the saints in heaven more melodious in God’s ear than the extorted acknowledgments of damned souls in hell; by so much the justice of God is more glorified by Christ’s sufferings than theirs. O what incomparable boldness may this send the soul withal to the throne of grace —who, when he is begging pardon for Christ’s sake, may, without any hazard to his eternal salvation, say, ‘Lord, if my damnation will glorify thy justice more, or so much, as the death of Christ for me hath done, and the everlasting praises which my thankful heart shall resound in heaven to the glory of all thy attributes for my salvation, will do, let me have that rather than this.’

Consideration 3. Faith doth not only see justice preserved, yea, advanced in this act of pardoning mer­cy; but it will tell the soul, and can make good what it saith, that God, as things now stand, cannot be just, if he doth not pardon the sins of a repenting, believ­ing soul, how great soever they have been. One great part of justice consists in a faithful and punctual performance of promises; he is, we say, a just man that keeps his word. And, can God be a just God if he doth not? The word is gone out of his mouth that he will forgive such. Yea, he is willing to be ac­counted just or unjust by us, as he makes perform­ance thereof. See where he lays this his attribute to pawn upon this very account—‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,’ I John 1:9. He doth not say merciful, but ‘just,’ as the attribute which we most fear should vote against us. This he would have us know is bound for the performance of the promise. It was mercy in God to make the promise; but justice to perform what mercy hath promised. ‘Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham,’ Micah 7:20. God was not bound to make a promise to Abraham and his seed; but having once passed his word to him, it was ‘truth to Jacob,’ who was heir to that bond which God had left in his father’s hand.

[To the greatness of sin faith opposes

the greatness of the promises.]

Second. Faith quenches this temptation to des­pair, drawn from the greatness of sin, by opposing the greatness of the promises to sin’s greatness. Faith only can see God in his greatness; and therefore none but faith can see the promises in their greatness, be­cause the value of promises is according to the worth of him that makes them. Hence it comes to pass that promises have so little efficacy on an unbelieving heart, either to keep from sin, or to comfort under terror for sin. Promises are like the clothes we wear, which, if there be heat in the body to warm them, then they will warm us; but if they receive no heat from the body, they give none to it. Where there is faith to chase the promise, there the promise will af­ford comfort and peace abundantly; it will be as a strong cordial glowing with inward joy in the crea­ture’s bosom; but on a dead unbelieving heart it lies cold and ineffectual; it hath no more effect on such a soul than a cordial which is poured sown a dead man’s throat hath on him. The promises have not comfort actually and formally as fire hath heat; then it were only going to them, and we should be warm, taking them up in our thoughts and we should be comforted; but virtually as fire is in the flint, which requires some labour and art to strike it out and draw it forth. Now none but faith can learn us this skill of drawing out the sweetness and virtue of the promise, which it doth these three ways among many others: —1. Faith leads the soul to the spring‑head of the promises, where it may stand with best advantage to take a view of their greatness and preciousness. 2. Faith attends to the end of the promises, which gives a further prospect of their greatness. 3. Faith pre­sents the Christian with a cloud of witnesses to which the promise hath been fulfilled, and these as great sinners as himself.

[Three ways by which faith teaches the soul

to draw out the virtue of the promises.]

1. Way. Faith leads the soul to the springhead of the promises, where it may stand with best advan­tage, to take a view of their greatness and precious­ness. Indeed we understand little of things till we trace them to their originals and can see them lying in their causes. Then a soul will know his sins to be great when he sees them in their spring and source flowing from an envenomed nature that teems with enmity against God. Then the sinner will tremble at the threatenings which roll like thunder over his head, ready to fall every moment in some judgment or other upon him, when he sees from whence they are sent; the perfect hatred that God bears to sin, and infinite wrath with which he is inflamed against the sinner for it. In a word, then the poor trembling soul will not count the consolation of the promises small when it sees from what fountain it flows—the bosom of God’s free mercy. This indeed is the original source of all promises. The covenant itself, which comprehends them all is called ‘mercy,’ because the product of mercy. ‘To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant,’ Luke 1:72. Now, saith faith, if the promises flow from the sea of God’s free mercy, then they must needs be infinite as he is, boundless and bottomless as that is; so that to reject the promise, or question the suffi­ciency of the provision made in it upon this account, because thy sins are great or many, casts a dishonour­able reflection on that mercy, in whose womb the promise was conceived; and God will certainly bring his action of defamation against thee, for aspersing this his darling attribute, which he can least endure to see slandered and traduced. God makes account you have done your worst against him, when once you re­port him to be unmerciful or but scant in his mercy. How great a sin this is may be conceived by the thoughts which God hath of this disposition and frame of spirit in his creature. An unmerciful heart is such an abomination before the Lord that it hath few like it. This lies at he bottom of the heathen’s charge, as the sediment and grossest part of all their horrid sins—they were ‘implacable, unmerciful,’ Rom. 1:31. Now, to attribute that to God which he so abhors in his creature, must needs make a heart tender of the good name of God to tremble and exceedingly fear. It was a dreadful punishment that God brought upon Jehoram, king of Judah, whom he ‘smote in his bowels with an incurable dis­ease,’ that after two years’ torment his very bowels fell out, II Chr. 21:18, 19. And why did this sore and heavy plague befall him? Surely to let him know his want of bowels of mercy to his brethren and princes, whom he most cruelly butch­ered. He had not bowels in his heart, and he shall therefore have none in his body. Now, darest thou, saith faith, impute want of bowels to God, that he will not show mercy to thee, who penitently seeks it in Christ’s name, when thou seest what testimony he gives of his incensed wrath against those men who have hardened their bowels against their brethren, yea, their enemies? O, have a care of this. To shut thy own bowels of compassion from thy brother in need is s grievous sin, and brings it into question whether the love of God dwells in thee, I John 3:17; but, to asperse the merciful heart of God, as if his bowels of compassion were shut against a poor soul in need, that desires to repent and return, is transcen­dently the greater abomination, and it puts out of all question—where it is persisted in—that the love of God dwells not in him. It is impossible that love to God should draw such a misshapen portraiture of God as this is.

2. Way. Faith attends to the end of the prom­ises, which give a further prospect of their greatness. Now a word, which is the light faith goes by, discovers a double end of promises, especially of the promise of pardoning mercy.

(1.) End. The exalting and magnifying the riches of free grace, which God would have appear in all its glory—so far, I mean, as it is possible to be exposed to the creature’s view; for the full sight of God’s glory is an object adequate to his own eye and none else. See this counsel and mysterious design sweetly opened, Eph. 1:6, 9, 11, 12. The sums of it all will amount to this, that God in himself hath taken up a purpose of pardoning and saving a company of poor sinners for Christ’s sake; and this he hath prom­ulgated in the promises of the gospel. And the plot of all is, that he might gather these all together at last in heaven—some of which are already there, others of them at present on earth, and some yet unborn—and, when they shall all meet together in one glorious choir, that there they may, by their triumphant songs and hallelujahs, fill the heavens with praiseful acclam­ations of thankfulness to the glory of that mercy which hath thus pardoned and saved them. Now, faith observing the praise of God’s mercy to be the end aimed at by him in the promise, comes with good news to the trembling soul, and tells it that if God will be but true to his own thoughts, and keep his eye on that mark where at first he hath set it, impossible it is that he should reject any poor penitent sinner merely for the greatness of the sins he hath committed.

It is the exaltation of his mercy, saith faith, that God hath in his eye, when he promiseth pardon to poor sinners. Now, which exalts this most? to pardon little or great sinners? Whose voice will be highest and shrillest in the song of praise, thinkest thou? Surely his to whom most is forgiven; and therefore God cannot but be most ready to pardon the greatest sinners when truly penitent. A physician that means to be famous will not send away those that most need his skill and art, and only practise upon such diseases as are slight and ordinary. They are the great cures which ring far and near. When one, given over by himself and others as a dead man, is, by the skill and care of a physician, rescued out of the jaws of death that seemed to have inclosed him, and raised to health; this commends him to all that hear of it, and gains him more reputation than a whole year’s prac­tice in ordinary cures. The great revenue of praise is paid into God’s exchequer from those who have had great sins pardoned. He that hath five hundred pence forgiven will love more than he that hath but fifty, by Christ’s own judgment, Luke 7:43. And where there is most love there is like to be most praise;—love and praise being symbolical, the one resolving into the other. The voice of a Manasseh, a Magdalene, and a Paul, will be heard, as I may so say, above all the rest in heaven’s concert. The truth is, greatness of sin is so far from putting a bar to the pardoning of a peni­tent sinner in God’s thoughts; that he will pardon none—how little sinners soever they have been —except they see and acknowledge their sins to be great, before they come to him on such an errand. And therefore he useth the law to make way, by its convictions and terrors on the conscience, for his pardoning mercy, to ascend the throne in the peni­tent sinner’s heart with the more magnificence and honour, Rom. 5:20. ‘The law entered’—that is, it was promulgated first by Moses, and is still preached —‘that the offence might abound:’—that is in the conscience by a deeper sense and remorse. And why so, but that ‘where sin abounded, grace might much more abound?’ We must needs shape our thoughts of the mercy that pardons our sins, suitable to the thoughts we frame to ourselves of the sins we have committed. If we conceive these little, how can we think the other great? And if we tremble at the great­ness of our sins, we must needs triumph and exult at the transcendency of the mercy which so far exceeds their bulk and greatness. He that wonders at the height of some high mountain, would much more wonder at the depth of those waters which should quite swallow and cover it from being seen.

(2.) End. The second end of the promise is the believer’s comfort. The word, especially this part of it, was on purpose writ, that ‘through patience and comfort of the Scriptures they might have hope,’ Rom. 15:4. God was willing to give poor sinners all the se­curity and satisfaction that might be, concerning the reality of his intentions, and immutability of that counsel which his mercy had resolved upon from eternity, for the saving of all those who would em­brace Christ, and the terms offered through him in the gospel; which, that he might do, he makes publi­cation in the Scripture, where he opens his very heart and exposeth the purposes of his love—that from everlasting he had taken up for the salvation of poor sinners—to their own view in the many precious promises, that run like veins throughout the whole body of the Scriptures, and these with all the seals and ratifications which either his wisdom could find, or man’s jealous unbelieving heart desire, and all this on a design to silence the querulous spirit of poor tempted souls, and make their life more comfortable, who, pursued by the hue and cry of their high climb­ing sins, take sanctuary for their lives in Christ Jesus. As we have it in totidem verbis—in so many words, ‘That by two immutable things, in which it was im­possible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us,’ Heb. 6:18. And because that of the greatness and multitude of the creature’s sins, is both the heaviest millstone which the devil can find to tie about the poor sinner’s neck, in order to the drowning him in despair, and that knife also which is the oftenest taken up by the tempted sinner’s own hands for the murdering his faith; therefore the more frequent and abundant provision is made by God against this. Or read for this purpose these choice scriptures, Ex. 34:5; Jer. 3, the whole chapter; Isa. 1:18; 45:7-9, 12; Heb. 7:25; I John 1:9; these, and such like places, are the strongholds which faith re­treats into when this battery is raised against the soul.

Canst thou for shame be gravelled, saith faith, O my soul, with an argument drawn merely from the greatness of thy sins, which is answered in every page almost in the Bible, and to confute which so consider­able part of Scripture was written? Thus faith hisseth Satan away with this his argument, that he counts so formidable, as they would do a wrangling sophister out of the schools, when he boldly and ridiculously denies some known principle, acknowledged by all for a truth that have not lost their wits. But I would not be here mistaken. God forbid, that while I am curing despair I should cause presumption in any. These two distempers of the soul are equally mortal and dangerous, and so contrary, that, like the cold stom­ach and the hot liver in the same person, while the physician thinks to help nature in the one to a heat for digesting its food, he sometimes unhappily kindles a fire in the other that destroys nature itself. Thus, while we labour to cheer the drooping soul’s spirits, and strengthen him to retain and digest the promise for his comfort, we are in danger of nourishing that feverish heat of presumptuous confidence, which is a fire will soon eat out all care to please, and fear to displease, God; and consequently all ground of true faith in the soul. Faith and fear are like the natural heat and radical moisture in the body, which is never well but when both are preserved. ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.’ Let me therefore caution thee, Christian. As thou meanest to find any relief from the mercy of God in a day of distress, take heed thou dost not think to befriend thyself with hopes of any favour thou mayest find from it, though thou continuest thy friendship with thy lusts. [It were] a design as infecable as to reconcile light and darkness, and bring day to dwell with night. Thou needest not indeed fear to believe the pardon of thy sins—if thou re­pentest of them—merely because they are great; but tremble to think of sinning boldly, because the mercy of God is great. Though mercy be willing to be a sanctuary to the trembling sinner, to shelter him from the curse of his sin; yet it disdains to spread her wing over a bold sinner, to cover him while he is naught with his lust. What! sin because there are promises of pardon, and these promises made by mercy, which as far exceeds our sins as God doth the creature! Truly this is the antipodes to the meaning that God’s mercy had in making them, and turns the gospel with its heels upwards. [It is] as if your servant should get to your cellar of strong waters, and with them make him­self drunk, which you keep for them when sick or faint, and then only to be used. O take heed of quaf­fing thus in the bowls of the sanctuary. It is the sad soul, not the sinning, that this wine of consolation belongs to.

3. Way. Faith presents the Christian with a cloud of witnesses to whom the promise hath been fulfilled; and these as great sinners as himself is. Scripture examples are promises verified. They are book-cases, which faith may make use of by way of encouragement, as well as promises. God would nev­er have left the saints’ great blots to stand in the Scriptures, to the view of the world in all succeeding generations, had not it been of such use and advan­tage to tempted souls, to choke this temptation, which of all other makes the most dangerous breach in their souls—so wide sometimes, that despair itself is ready to enter in at it. Blessed Paul gives this very reason why such acts of pardoning mercy to great sin­ners are recorded, Eph. 2. He shows first what foul filthy creatures himself and other believers contem­porary with him were before they were made par­takers of gospel grace. ‘Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh,’ Eph. 2:3; and then he magnifies the rich mercy of God, that rescued and took them out of that damned desperate state. ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,… hath quickened us together with Christ,’ ver. 4.

And why must the world know all this? O, God had a design and plot of mercy in them to more than themselves—‘That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness to­ward us through Christ Jesus,’ ver. 7. Wherever the gospel comes this shall be spoken of, what great sins he had forgiven to them, that unbelief might have her mouth stopped to the end of the world, and this ar­row which is so oft on Satan’s string made headless and harmless. God commanded Joshua to take twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan and set them up. And observe the reason, ‘That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever,’ Joshua 4:6, 7. Thus God hath, by his pardoning mercy, taken up some great notorious sinners out of the very depths of sin, who lay at the very bottom, as it were, of hell, swallowed up and engulfed in all manner of abomination; and these he hath set up in his word, that when any poor tempted souls to the end of the world—who are even overwhelmed with fears from the greatness of their sins—shall see and read what God hath done for these, they may be relieved and comforted with these examples, by God intended to be as a memorial of what he hath done for others in time past, so a sign what he shall do, yea, will, for the greatest sinners to the world’s end, upon their repen­tance and faith. No sins, though as great and many as the waters of Jordan themselves, shall be able to stand before the mercy of God’s gracious covenant, but shall all be cut off and everlastingly pardoned to them.

O who can read a Manasseh, a Magdalene, a Saul, yea, an Adam—who undid himself and a whole world with him—in the roll of pardoned sinners, and yet turn away from the promise, out of a fear that there is not mercy enough in it to serve his turn? These are as landmarks, that show what large bound­aries mercy hath set to itself, and how far it hath gone, even to take into its pardoning arms the great­est sinners, that make not themselves incapable thereof by final impenitency. It were a healthful walk, poor doubting Christian, for thy soul to go this circuit, and oft to see where the utmost stone is laid and boundary set by God’s pardoning mercy—farther than which he will not go—that thou mayest not turn in the stone to the prejudice of the mercy of God by thy own unbelief, nor suffer thyself to be abused by Satan’s lies, who will make nothing to remove God’s land‑mark, if he may by it but increase thy trouble of spirit, though he be cursed for it himself. But if, after all this, thy sins seems to exceed the proportion of any one thou canst find pardoned in Scripture —which were strange—yet faith at this plunge hath one way left beyond all these examples for thy soul’s succour, and that is to fix thy eye on Christ, who, though he never had sin of his own, yet laid down his life to procure and purchase pardon for all the elect, and hath obtained it; they are all, and shall, as they come upon the stage, be pardoned. ‘Now,’ saith faith, ‘suppose thy sins were greater than any one saint’s; yet are they as great as all the sins of the elect to­gether?’ Thou darest not surely say or think so. And cannot Christ procure thy pardon, who art but a sin­gle person, that hath done it for so many millions of his elect? Yea, were thy sins as great as all theirs are, the sum would be the same; and God could forgive it if it lay in one heap, as well as now when it is in several. Christ is ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,’ John 1:29. See here all the sins of the elect world trussed up in one fardel,[9] and he carries it lightly away into the land of forgetfulness. Now faith will tell thee, poor soul, that the whole vir­tue and merit of Christ’s blood, by which the world was re­deemed, is offered to thee, and shall be com­municated to thy soul in particular. Christ doth not retail and parcel out his blood and the purchase of it, some to one and some to another; then thou mightest say something; but he gives his whole self to the faith of every believer. All is yours, you are Christ’s. O, what mayest thou not, poor soul, take up from the promise, upon the credit of so great a Redeemer?

[To the greatness of all the rest, faith opposes

the greatness of this one sin of despair.]

Third. Faith, to quench this fiery dart headed with the greatness of sin, and shot by Satan to drive the poor and penitent soul to despair, teacheth him to oppose the greatness of this one sin of despair to the greatness of all his other sins. ‘What,’ saith faith, ‘would Satan persuade thee, because thou hast been so great and prodigious a sinner, therefore not to be­lieve, or dare to think the promise hath any good news for thee? Retort thou, O my soul, his argument upon himself, and tell him [that] that very thing by which he would dissuade thee from believing, doth much more deter thee from despairing; and that is the greatness of this sin above all thy other.’ Grant to be true what he chargeth thee withal, that thou art such a monster in sin as he sets thee forth—though thou hast no reason to think so upon his bare report, but yield him his saying—dost thou think to mend the matter or better thy condition by despairing? Is this all the kindness he will show thee, to make thee of a great sinner, a desperate sinner like himself? This, indeed, is the only way he can think of to make thee worse than thou art. And, that this is true, faith is able to prove by these four considerations of this bloody horrid sin, which will easily evince more mal­ignity to be in this one sin of despair, than in any other, yea, all other together. 1. Despair opposeth God in the greatest of all his commands. 2. Despair hath a way peculiar to itself of dishonouring God above other sins. 3. Despair strengthens and enrages all other sins in the soul. 4. The greatness of this sin of despair appears in this, that the least sin enven­omed by it is unpardonable, and without this the greatest is pardonable.

[Four considerations proving the sin of despair

to exceed all others together.]

Consideration 1. Despair opposeth God in the greatest of all his commands. the greatest command without all compare in the whole Bible, is to believe. When those Jews asked our Lord Jesus, ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ mark his answer, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent,’ John 6:28, 29. As if he had said, The most compendious way that I am able to give you, is to receive me into your hearts by faith; do this, and you do all in one. This is the work that is instar omnium—all in all. All you do is undone, and yourselves also, till this work be done, for which you shall have as much thanks at God’s hands as if you could keep the whole law. Indeed, it is accepted in lieu of it: ‘To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,’ Rom. 4:5; where ‘he that worketh not,’ is not meant a slothful lazy sinner that hath no list to work, nor a rebellious sinner whose heart riseth against the work which the holy law of God would employ him in; but the humbled sinner, who desires and endeavours to work, but is no way able to do the task the law as a covenant sets him, and therefore is said to have a law‑sense not to work, because he doth not work to the law’s purpose, so as to answer its de­mands, which will accept nothing short of perfect obedience. This man’s faith on Christ is accepted for righteousness; that is, God reckons him so, and so he shall pass at the great day by the judge’s sentence, as if he had never trod one step awry from the path of the law. Now, if faith be the work of God above all other, then unbelief is the work of the devil, and that to which he had rather thou shouldst do than drink or drab. And despair is unbelief at the worst. Unbelief among sins is as the plague among disease, the most dangerous; but when it riseth to despair, then it is as the plague with the tokens that bring the certain message of death with them. Unbelief is despair in the bud, despair is unbelief at its full growth.

Consideration 2. Despair hath a way peculiar to itself of dishonouring God above other sins. Every sin wounds the law, and the name of God through the law’s sides. But this wound is healed when the peni­tent sinner by faith comes to Christ and closeth with him. God makes account, reparations now are fully made through Christ—whom the believer receives —for the wrong done to his law, and his name vindi­cated from the dishonour cast upon it by the crea­ture’s former iniquities; yea, that it appears more glorious because it is illustrious, by the shining forth of one title of honour, not the least prized by God himself—his forgiving mercy—which could not have been so well known to the creature, if not drawn forth to act upon this occasion. But what would you say of such a prodigious sinner that, when he hath wounded the law, is not willing to have it healed? when he hath dishonoured God, and that in a high provoking man­ner, is not willing that the dirt he hath cast on God’s face should be wiped off? Methinks I see every one of your choler to rise at the reading of this, against such a wretch, and hear you asking, as once Ahasu­erus did Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?’ Est. 7:5. Would you know? Truly, the adversary and enemy is this wicked despair. The despairing soul is the person that will not let Christ make satisfaction for the wrong that by his sins he hath done to God. Suppose a man should wound another dangerously in his passion, and when he hath done, will not let any chirurgeon come near to cure the wound he hath made. Every one would say his last act of cruelty was worse than his first.

O my soul, saith faith, thou didst ill, yea, very ill, in breaking the holy laws of God, and dishonouring the name of the great God of heaven and earth there­by; let thy heart ache for this. But thou dost far worse by despairing of mercy. In this act thou rejectest Christ, and keepest him off from satisfying the justice of the law that is injured by thee, and from redeeming the honour of his name from the reproach thy sins have scandalized it with. What language speaks thy despair but this? Let God come by his right and hon­our as he can, thou wilt never be an instrument active in the helping of him to it, by believing on Christ, in whom he may fully have them with advantage. O what shame would despair put the mercy of God to in the sight of Satan his worst enemy! He claps his hands at this, to see all the glorious attributes of God served alike and divested of their honour. This is meat and drink to him. That cursed spirit desires no better music than to hear the soul ring the promises, like bells, backward; make no other use of them than to confirm it in its own desperate thoughts of its dam­nation, and to tell it hell‑fire is kindled in its conscience, which no mercy in God will or can quench to eternity. As the bloody Jews and Roman soldiers exercised their cruelty on every part almost of Christ’s body, crowning his head with thorns, goring his side with a spear, and fastening his hands and feet with nails; so the despairing sinner deals with the whole name of God. He doth, as it were, put a mock crown on the head of his wisdom, setting it all to naught, and charging it foolishly, as if the method of salvation was not laid with prudence by the all‑wise God. He nails the hands of his almighty power, while he thinks his sins are of that nature as put him out of the reach and beyond the power of God to save him. He pierceth the tender bowls of God through his mercy, of which he cannot see enough in a God that not only hath, but is, mercy and love itself, to per­suade him to hope for any favour or forgiveness at his hands. In a word, the despairing soul transfixeth his very heart and will, while he unworthily frames no­tions of God, as if he were unwilling to the work of mercy, and not so inclined to exercise acts of pardon and forgiveness on poor sinners as the word declares him. No, despair basely misreports him to the soul, as if he were a lame God, and had no feet—affec­tions, I mean—to carry him to such a work as forgiving sin is. Now, what does the sum of all this amount to? If you can, without horror and amaze­ment, stand to cast it up, and consider the weight of those circumstances which aggravate the flagitiousness of this unparalleled fact, surely it riseth to no less than the highest attempt that the creature can make for the murdering of God himself; for the infinitude of God’s wisdom, power, mercy, and all his attributes, are more intrinsical to the essence and being of God, than the heart‑blood is to the life of a mortal man. Shall he that lets out the heart‑blood of a man, yea, but attempts to do it, be a murderer—especially if he be a prince or a king the design is against—and des­ervedly suffer as such a one? and shall not he much more be counted and punished as the worst of all murderers that attempts to take away the life of God —though his arm and dagger be too short for the purpose—by taking from him in his thoughts the infinitude of those attributes which are, as I may say, the very life of God? Surely God will neither part with the glory, nor suffer the dishonour, of his name at the hands of his sorry creature; but will engage all his attributes for the avenging himself on the wretch that attempts it. O tremble therefore at despair. Nothing makes thy face gather blackness, and thy soul hasten faster to the complexion of the damned souls, than this. Now thou sinnest after the similitude of those that are in hell.

Consideration 3. Despair strengthens and en­rageth all other sins in the soul. None fight so fiercely as those who look for no quarter. They think them­selves dead men, and therefore they will sell their lives as dear as they can. Samson despaired of ever getting out of the Philistines’ hands—his eyes being now lost, and he unfit to make an escape. What doth he meditate, now his case is desperate, but his ene­mies’ ruin, though it costs him his own? He cares not though he pulls the house on his own head, so it may but fall on the Philistines’ also. Absalom, when by the cursed counsel of Ahithophel he had, as he thought, made himself so hateful to David as to put him past all hope of being treated with, then breaks out with a high rage and seeks the ruin of his royal father with fire and sword. So cruel a thing is despair, it teaches to show no respect where it looks for none. But most clearly it appears in the devil himself, who, knowing himself to be excepted from the pardon, sins with a rage as high as heaven. And the same sin hath the same effects in men that it hath in the devil, ac­cording to the degrees of it that are found in them. ‘They said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices,’ Jer. 18:11, 12. Did you never see a sturdy beggar—after a while knocking at a door, and concluding by the present silence or denial that he shall have nothing given him—fall into a cursing and railing of them that dwell there? Even such foul lan­guage doth despair learn the sinner to belch out against the God of heaven. If despair enters it is im­possible to keep blasphemy out. Pray, therefore, and do thy utmost to repel this dart, lest it soon set thy soul on a flame with this hell‑fire of blasphemy.

Hear, O you souls smitten for sin, that spend your life in sighs, sobs, and tears for your horrid crimes past, would you again be seen fighting against God as fierce as ever? As you would not, take heed of despair. If thou once thinkest that God’s heart is hardened against thee, thy heart will not be long hardening against him. And this, by the way, may administer comfort to the thoughts of some gracious but troubled souls, who can find no faith that they have, yea, who are oft reckoning them­selves among despairers. Let me ask thee who art in this sad con­dition, this one thing, Canst thou find any love breathing in thy heart towards God, though thou canst find no breath of love coming at present from him to thee? And art thou tender and fearful of sin­ning against him, even while thou seemest to thy own thoughts to hope for no mercy from him? If so, be of good comfort; thy faith may be weak, but thou art far from being under the power of despair. Desperate souls do not use to reserve any love for God, or care for the pleasing of him. There is some faith surely in thy soul which is the cause of these motions, though, like the spring in a watch, it be itself unseen, when the other graces moved by it are visible.

Consideration 4. The greatness of this sin of despair appears in this, that the least sin envenomed by it is unpardonable, and without this the greatest is pardonable. That must needs of all sins be most abominable which makes the creature incapable of mercy. Judas was not damned merely for his treason and murder; for others that had their hands deep in the same horrid fact, obtained a pardon by faith in that blood which through cruelty they shed; but they were these heightened into the greatest malignity possible, from the putrid stuff of despair and final impenitency with which his wretched heart was filled, that he died so miserably of, and now is infin­itely more miserably damned for. Such being despair, then, oh, let us shrink from the woful gulf!

 

 

[1]see vol. i p. 128

[2]see vol. i p. 129.

[3]Shrap, or shrape, a place baited with chaff to entice birds. Imp. Dict.—Ed.

[4]The following is a series of quotes that refer to what the Rev. Gurnall is stating here. The reason for the Scripture citation is obvious. The next two references are language resources that give fuller information on the word in question. These I have supplied to aid the reader in understanding the point and were not supplied with the book. — SDB.

17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lascivi­ousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness4124.

— Ephesians 4

4124 [email protected]<0>\” pleonexia {pleh‑on‑ex‑ee’‑ah}

from 4123; TDNT 6:266,864; n f

AV ‑ covetousness 8, greediness 1, covetous practice 1; 10

1) greedy desire to have more, covetousness, avarice

gen. pleonexias, fem. noun from pleion (4119), more, and écho (2192) to have. Covetousness, greediness (Luke 12:15; Rom. 1:29 [cf. I Cor. 5:10, 11]; II Cor. 9:5, “as bounty or blessing on your part, and not as covetousness on ours, not as extorted by us from you” (a.t.); Eph. 4:19; I Thes. 2:5; II Peter 2:3, 14; LXX, Jer. 22:7; Hab. 2:9). Pleonexia is a larger term which includes philarguria (5365), love of money to hoard away, avarice. It is con­nected with extortioners (I Cor. 5:10); with thefts (Mark 7:22, covetous thoughts, plans of fraud and extortion); with sins of the flesh (Eph. 5:3, 5; Col. 3:5). Pleonexia may be said to be the root from which these sins grow, the longing of the creature which has forsaken God to fill itself with the lower objects of nature.

From The Complete Word Study New Testament Dictionary

By Spiros Zodhiates © 1992

And Vine notes that this Greek word is used always in the bad or evil sense.

— From Vine’s: under “covetousness,” no. 3.

[5]Callow, bare, wanting feathers—Ed.

[6]Cologued: intrigue, conspire; to talk privately, confer.

[7]ebullition; violent boiling over. — SDB

[8]Refel; an obsolete term meaning to reject, repulse.

— SDB

[9]Fardel: bundle or burden. From Webster’s — SDB

[chapter:v2 3. Fifth Piece—The Christian’s Helmet.] [chapters:300,right]

Direction Ninth.

The Several Pieces of the Whole Armour of God.

Fifth Piece—The Christian’s Helmet.

‘And take the helmet of salvation’ (Eph. 6:17).

These words present us with another piece of the Christian’s panoply—a helmet to cover his head in the day of battle—the helmet of salvation. It makes the fifth in the apostle’s order. And, which is observ­able, this, with most of the pieces in this magazine, are defensive arms, and all to defend the Christian from sin, none to secure him from suffering.

First. They are most defensive arms. Indeed, there is but one of all the pieces in the whole panoply for offence, i.e. ‘the sword.’ It may be to give us this hint, that this spiritual war of the Christian lies chiefly on the defence, and therefore requires arms most of this kind to wage it. God hath deposited a rich treasure of grace in every saint’s heart. At this is the devil’s great spite; to plunder him of it, and with it of his happi­ness, he commenceth a bloody war against him. So that the Christian overcomes his enemy when himself is not overcome by him. He wins the day when he doth not lose his grace, his work being rather to keep what is his own than to get what is his enemy’s. And truly this one thing well heeded, that the saint’s war lies chiefly on the defence, would be of singular use to direct the Christian how to manage his combats both with Satan and also his instruments.

First. With Satan. Look, Christian, thou standest always in a defensive posture, with thy armour on, as a soldier, upon thy works, ready to defend the castle of thy soul which God hath set thee to keep, and valiantly to repel Satan’s assaults whenever he makes his approach. But be not persuaded out of the line of thy place, and calling that God hath drawn about thee; no, not under the specious pretence of zeal and hope to get the greater victory by falling into the enemies’ quarters. Let Satan be the assailant, and come if he will to tempt thee; but go not thou in a bravado to tempt him to do it. It is just he should be foiled that seeks his own danger. This got Peter his fall in the high‑priest’s hall, who was left therefore cowardly to deny his master, that he might learn humbly to deny himself ever after.

Second. With Satan’s instruments. May be they revile and reproach thee. Remember thy part lies on the defence. Give not railing for railing, reproach for reproach. The gospel allows thee no liberty to use their weapons, and return them quid pro quo—stroke for stroke. ‘Be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing,’ I Peter 3:8, 9. Thou hast here a girdle and breastplate to defend thee from their bullets—the comfort of thy own sincerity and holy walking, with which thou mayest wipe off the dirt thrown upon thy own face—but no weapon for self-revenge. A shield is put into thy hand, which thou mayest lift up to quench their fiery darts, but no darts of bitter words to retort upon them. Thou art ‘shod with peace,’ that thou mayest walk safely upon the injuries they do thee, without any prick or pain to thy spirit, but not with pride to trample upon the persons that wrong thee.

Second. As most of the pieces are defensive, so all of them to defend from sin, none to secure the Christian from suffering. They are to defend him in suffering, not privilege him from it. He must prepare the more for suffering, because he is so well furnished with armour to bear it. Armour is not given for men to wear by the fireside at home, but in the field. How shall the maker be praised, if the metal of his arms be not known? And where shall it be put to the proof, but amidst swords and bullets? He that desires to live all his days in an isle of providence, where the whole year is summer, will never make a good Christian. Re­solve for hardship, or lay down thine arms. Here is the true reason why so few come at the beat of Christ’s drum to his standard; and so many of those few that have listed themselves by an external profession under him, do within a while drop away, and leave his colours; it is suffering work they are sick of. Most men are more tender of their skin than conscience; and had rather the gospel had provided armour to defend their bodies from death and danger, than their souls from sin and Satan.

But I come to the words—‘and take the helmet of salvation;’ in which—after we notice the copulative that clasps this to the former piece of armour, viz. ‘and,’ showing the connection between the various pieces, we pass to observe—FIRST. The piece of armour itself—the helmet of salvation. SECOND. The use of this ‘helmet,’ or the offices of hope in the Christian’s warfare. THIRD. Several applications of the doc­trine of the helmet of salvation, alike to those who have and to those who have it not.

Connection of the Helmet with the Shield,

and the previous pieces of the Armour.

Let us notice the copulative ‘and.’ ‘And take the helmet of salvation;’ that is, with the shield of faith, and all the other pieces of armour here set down, take this also into the field with you. See here how every grace is lovingly coupled to its fellow; and all at last, though many pieces, make but one suit; though many links, yet make but one chain. The note which this points at is the concatenation of graces.

[The concatenation of graces, in

their birth, growth, and decay.]

Note. The sanctifying saving graces of God’s Spirit are linked inseparably together; there is a con­nection of them one to the other, and that in their birth, growth, and decay.

First Connection. In their birth. Where one sanctifying grace is, the rest are all to be found in its company. It is not so in common gifts and graces. These are parcelled out like the gifts Abraham bestowed on the children he had by his concubines, Gen. 25:6. One hath this gift, another hath that, none hath all. He that hath a gift of knowledge may want a gift of utterance, and so of the rest. But sanctifying graces are like the inheritance he gave to Isaac; every true believer hath them all given him. ‘He that is in Christ is a new creature.’ And, ‘Behold all things are be­come new,’ II Cor. 5:17. Now, the new creature con­tains all. As natural corruption is a universal princi­ple of all sin, that sours the whole lump of man’s na­ture; so is sanctifying grace an universal principle, that sweetly seasons and renews the whole man at once, though not wholly. Grace comes, saith one, into the soul, as the soul into the body at once. In­deed, it grows by steps, but is born at once. The new creature hath all its parts formed together, though not its degrees. Some one grace may, we confess, be per­ceived to stir, and so come under the Christian’s notice, before another. He may feel his fear of God putting forth itself in a holy trembling, and awe upon his spirit, at the thoughts of God, before he sees his faith in the fiduciary recumbency of his soul upon God; yet the one grace is not in its production before the other. One part of the world hath been discov­ered to us long after the other; yet all the world was made together. Now this connection of graces in their birth is of double use.

1. Use. To relieve the sincere Christian when in doubt of his gracious state, because some one grace which he inquires for, cannot at present be discerned in his soul by him. Possibly it is faith thou hast been looking for, and it is not at any hand to be heard of. Well, Christian, do not presently unsaint thyself till thou hast made further trial of thyself. Send out therefore thy spies to search for some other grace—as thy love to Christ; may be thou wilt hear some tidings of this grace, though the other is not in view. Hath not thy love to God and Christ been seen by thee in such a temptation, chasing it away with Joseph’s answer to his wanton mistress, ‘How…can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ Yea, mayest thou not see it all the day long, either in thy sincere care to please him, or hearty sorrow when thou hast done anything that grieves him? in which two veins run the life‑blood of a soul’s love to Christ. Now, know to thy comfort, that thy love can tell thee news of thy faith. As Christ said in another case, ‘He that hath seen me hath seen my Father,’ John 14:9; so say I to thee, ‘Thou that hast seen thy love to Christ, hast seen thy faith in the face of thy love.’

But, may be, thy love to Christ is also lodged in a cloud. Well, then, see whether thou canst spy no evangelical repentance, loathing thee with the sight of thy sins, as also enfiring thee with revenge against them, as those enemies which drew thee into rebel­lion against God, yea, were the bloody weapon with which thou hast so oft wounded the name and mur­dered the Son of God. Behold, the grace thou look­est for stands before thee. What is love to God, if zeal against sin as God’s enemy be not? Did not Abi­shai love David, when his heart boiled so over with rage against Shimei for cursing David, that he could not contain, but breaks out into a passion, saying, ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head?’ II Sam. 16:9. And by thy own acknowledgment it troubles thee as much to hear thy lusts bark against God, and thy will is as good to be the death of them, if God would but say his fiat to it, as ever Abishai’s was to strike that traitor’s head off his shoulders; and yet art thou in doubt whether thou lovest God or no? Truly then thou canst not see fire for flame, love for zeal. Thus, as by taking hold of one link you may draw up the rest of the chain that lies under water, so by discovering one grace, thou mayest bring all to sight. Joseph and Mary were indeed deceived, when they supposed their son to be in the company of their kin­dred, Luke 2:44. But so canst thou not here. For this holy kindred of graces go ever together, they are knit, as members of the body, one to another. Though you see only the face of a man, yet you doubt not but the whole man is there.

2. Use. As it may relieve the sincere Christian, so it will help to uncase and put the hypocrite to shame, who makes great pretensions to some one grace when he hates another at the same time—a certain note of a false heart. He never had any grace that loves not all graces. Moses would not out of Egypt with half his company, Ex. 10. Either all must go or none shall stir. Neither will the Spirit of God come into a soul with half of his sanctifying graces, but with all his train. If therefore thy heart be set against any one grace, it proves thou art a stranger to the rest; and though thou mayest seem a great ad­mirer and lover of one grace, yet the defiance thou standest in to others washeth off the paint of this fair cover. Love and hatred are of the whole kind; he that loves or hates one saint as such, doth the same by ev­ery saint; so he that cordially closeth with one grace, will find every grace endeared to him upon the same account; for they are as like one to another, as one beam of the sun is to another beam.

Second Connection. Sanctifying graces are con­nected in their growth and decay. Increase one grace, and you strengthen all; impair one, and you will be a loser in all; and the reason is, because they are recip­rocally helpful each to other. So that when one grace is wounded, the assistance it should and would, if in temper, contribute to the Christian’s common stock, is either wholly detained or much lessened. When love cools, obedience slacks and drives heavily, be­cause it wants the oil on its wheel that love used to drop. Obedience faltering, faith weakens apace. How can there be great faith when there is little faithful­ness? Faith weakening, hope presently wavers; for it is the credit of faith’s report, that hope goes on to ex­pect good from God. And hope wavering, patience breaks, and can keep shop windows open no longer, because it trades with the stock hope lends it. In the body you observe there are many members, yet all make but one body; and every member so useful, that the others are beholden to it. So in the Christian there are many graces, but one new creature. And the eye of knowledge cannot say to the hand of faith, ‘I have no need of thee,’ nor the hand of faith to the foot of obedience, but all are preserved by the mutual care they have of one another. For, as ruin to the whole city may enter at a breach in one part of its wall, and the soul run out through a wound in a par­ticular member of the body; so the ruin of all the graces may, yea must needs, follow on the ruin of any one. There is indeed a stronger bond of necessity between graces of our souls than there is between the members of our body. It is possible, yea ordinary, for some member to be cut off from the body without the death of the whole, because all the members of the body are not vital parts. But every grace is a vital part in the new creature, and so essential to its very being that its absence cannot be supplied per vicarium—by substitution. In the body one eye can make a shift to do the office of it fellow which is put out; and one hand do the other’s work that is cut off, though may not be so exactly; but faith cannot do the office of love, nor love the work of obedience. The lack of one wheel spoils the motion of the whole clock. And if one grace should be wanting, the end would not be attained for which this rare piece of workmanship is set up in the saint’s heart.

[Two inferences to be drawn from

the connection of graces.]

First Inference. Let it learn thee, Christian, this wisdom, whenever thou findest any grace weakened, either through thy negligence not tending it, or Sa­tan’s temptations wounding it, speedily to endeavour to recovery of it; because thou dost not only lose the comfort which the exercise of this one grace might bring, but thou weakenest all the others. Is he a bad husband who hazards the fall of his house by suffering a hole or two in the roof go unmended? What, then, art thou that puttest thy whole gracious state in dan­ger, by neglecting a timely repair of the breach made in any one of thy graces? And so when thou art temp­ted to any sin, look not on it as a single sin, but as having all other sins in its belly. Consider what thou dost before thou gratifiest Satan in any one motion; for by one sin thou strengthenest the whole body of sin. Give to one sin, and that will send more beggars to your door; and they will come with a stronger plea than the former; another, why mayest thou not do this for them, as well as that? Thy best way is to keep the door shut to all; lest, while thou intendest to en­tertain only one, all crowd in with it. But if it were possible that thou couldst break this connection of sin, so as to take off one link that pleaseth thee best, and not draw the whole chain after thee by commit­ting this, yet know there is a connection of guilt also. ‘Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all,’ James 2:10. As he that administereth to the estate of one deceased, though it be never so little that he takes into his hands, be­comes liable to pay all his debts, and brings all his creditors upon him; so by tampering but with one sin, and that a little one, thou bringest the whole law upon thy back, which will arrest thee upon God’s suit, as a trespasser and transgressor of all its commands. A man cannot stab any part of the face but he will disfigure the whole countenance, and wrong the whole man. Thus the law is copulative; an affront done to one redounds to the dishonour of all, and so is resented by God the lawgiver, whose authority is equally in all.

Second Inference. This may comfort those who trouble themselves with the thoughts of future chan­ges which may befall them, and so alter the scene of their affairs, as to call them to act a part they never much thought upon; and what shall they do then, say they? Now, blessed be God, they make a shift to serve God in their place. But what if straits come? poverty, sickness, or other crosses, make a breach in their bank? How, alas! shall they then behave them­selves? Where is their faith, patience, contentment, and other suffering graces, that should enable them to walk on these waves without sinking? They fear, alas! little of these suffering graces is in their hands for such a time. Well, Christian, for thy encouragement know, that if the graces of thy present condition —those I mean which God calls thee to exercise now in thy prosperous state—be lively, and quit them­selves well, thou mayest comfortably hope the other suffering graces, which now stand unseen behind the curtain, will do the same, when God changeth the scene of thy affairs and calls them upon the stage to act their part. The more humble thou art now with thy abundance, the more patient thou wilt certainly show thyself in thy penury. So much as thy heart is now above the world’s enjoyments, even so much thou wilt then be above the troubles and sorrows of it. Trees, they say, grow proportionably under ground to what they do above ground; and the Christian will find something like this in his graces.

DIRECTION IX.—FIRST GENERAL PART.

[The Helmet of Salvation, what it is.]

‘Take the helmet of salvation’ (Eph. 6:17).

We have done with the connective particle, whereby this piece is coupled to the former, and now come to address our discourse to the piece of armour itself—‘take the helmet of salvation.’ Though we have not here, as in all the other [pieces], the grace expressed, yet we need not be long at a loss for it, if we consult with another place, where our apostle lends us a key to decipher his meaning in this. And none so fit to be interpreter of the apostle’s words as himself. The place is, I Thes. 5:8, ‘And for an helmet, the hope of salvation:’ so that, without any further scruple, we shall fasten the grace of ‘hope,’ as in­tended by the Holy Ghost in this place. Now, in or­der to a treatise of this grace, it is requisite that some­thing be said by explication that may serve as a light set up in the entry, to lead us the better into the several rooms of the point which is to be the subject of our discourse; and this I shall do by showing—First. What ‘hope’ is. Second. Why called ‘the hope of salvation.’ Third. Why this ‘hope’ is compared to ‘a helmet.’

[The nature of the hope that forms the helmet.]

First Inquiry. What is the nature of the hope that forms the Christian’s helmet? A little to open the nature of this grace of hope, we shall do so as it will best be done, by laying down a plain description of it, and briefly explicating the parts. Hope is a su­pernatural grace of God, whereby the believer, through Christ, expects and waits for all those good things of the promise, which at present he hath not received, or not fully.

First. Here is the author or efficient of hope —God; who is called ‘the God of all grace,’ I Peter 5:10 —that is, the giver and worker of all grace, both as to the first seed and the further growth of it. It is impos­sible for the creature to make the least pile of grass, or being made, to make it grow; and as impossible to produce the least seed of grace in the heart, or to add one cubit to the stature of it. No, as God is the father of the rain, by which the herbs in the fields spring and grow, so also of those spiritual dews and influences that must make every grace thrive and flourish. The apostle, in the former place, teacheth us this when he prays that God would ‘perfect, establish, strengthen, settle them.’ And as of all grace in general, so of this in particular, Rom. 15:13, where he is styled ‘the God of hope;’ and ‘by whom we abound in hope’ also. It is a supernatural hope; and thereby we distinguish it from the heathens’ hope, which, with the rest of their moral virtues, so far as any excellency was found in them, came from God—to whom every man that cometh into the world is beholden for all the light he hath, John 1:9—and is but the remains of man’s first noble principles, as sometimes we shall see a broken turret or two stand in the midst of the ruins of some stately palace demolished, that serves for little more than to help the spectator to give a guess what godly buildings once stood there.

Second. Here is hope’s subject—the believer. True hope is a jewel that none wears but Christ’s bride; a grace with which none is graced but the be­liever’s soul. Christless and hopeless are joined together, Eph. 2:12. And here it is not amiss to observe the order in which hope stands to faith. In regard of time, they are not one before another; but in order of nature and operation, faith hath preced ency of hope. First, faith closeth with the promise as a true and faithful word, then hope lifts up the soul to wait for the performance of it. Who goes out to meet him that he believes will not come? The promise is, as it were, God’s love‑letter to his church and spouse, in which he opens his very heart, and tells all he means to do for her. Faith reads and embraceth it with joy, whereupon the believing soul by hope looks out at his window with a longing expectation to see her hus­band’s chariot come in the accomplishment thereof. So Paul gives a reason for his own hope from his faith, Acts 24:14, 15, and prays for the Romans’ faith in order to their hope, Rom. 15:13.

Third. Here is hope’s object.

1. Ingeneral, something that is good. If a thing be evil, we fear and flee from it; if good, we hope and wait for it. And here is one note of difference be­tween it and faith. Faith believes evil as well as good; hope is conversant about good.

2. It is the good of the promise. And in this faith and hope agree; both their lines are drawn from the same centre of the promise. Hope without a promise is like an anchor without ground to hold by; it bears the promise on its name. ‘I stand and am judged,’ saith Paul, ‘for the hope of the promise,’ Acts 26:6. So David shows where he moors his ship and casts his anchor. ‘I hope in thy word,’ Ps. 119:81. True hope will trade only for true good. And we can all nothing so that the good God hath not promised; for the promise runs thus, ‘No good thing will he withhold from them that walk up­rightly,’ Ps. 84:11.

3. All good things of the promise. As God hath encircled all good in the promise, so he hath prom­ised nothing but good; and therefore hope’s object is all that the promise holds forth. Only, as the matter of the promise hath more degrees of goodness, so hope intends its act, and longs more earnestly for it. God, he is the chief good, and the fruition of him is promised as the utmost happiness of the creature. Therefore true hope takes her chief aim at God, and makes after all other promises in a subserviency to heave and lift the soul nearer unto him. He is called ‘the Hope of Israel,’ Jer. 17:13. There is nothing be­yond God the enjoying of which the believer projects; and nothing short of God that he can be so content with as, for the enjoying of it, to be willing to give God a general and full discharge of what by promise he stands engaged to him for. Now, because God is only enjoyed fully and securely in heaven’s blissful state, therefore it is called ‘the hope of glory,’ Col. 1:27, ‘the hope of eternal life,’ Titus 3:7, and ‘the hope of salvation,’ I Thes. 5:8.

4. The object of hope is the good of the prom­ise, not in hand, but yet to be performed. ‘Hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?’ Rom. 8:24. Futurity is intrinsical to hope’s object, and distinguisheth it from faith, which gives a present being to the promise, and is §8B\>@­µX<T< ßB`FJ”F4H—the subsistence of things hoped for, Heb. 11:1. The good of the promise hath a kind of subsistence by faith in the soul. It is heaven as it were in an interview. It brings the Christian and heaven together, as if he were there already. Hence they are said by faith to kiss and embrace the promise, Heb. 11:13, as two friends when they meet. Faith speaks in the present tense, ‘We are conquerors, yea, we are more than conquerors.’ Hope in futuro—in the fu­ture, ‘I shall.’ And lastly, I inserted or not fully per­formed. Partial performance of the promise intends hope; but, complete, ends hope, and swallows it up in love and joy. Indeed, either the full performance of the promise, or execution of the threatening, shuts out all hope. In heaven the promise is paid and hope dismissed, because we have what was looked for; and in hell the threatening is fully inflicted, and therefore no hope to be found among the damned, because no possibility of release.

Fourth. Hope’s aid—by whose help and for whose sake it expects to obtain the promise—and that is Jesus Christ. It waits for all in and through him. He is therefore called ‘our hope,’ I Tim. 1:1, because through him we hope for what is promised, both as the purchaser, by whose death we have hanc veniam sperandi—leave and liberty to expect good from God; and by whose Spir­it we have virtutem sperandi—abil­ity to hope; so that both the ¦>@F\” and *b<“µ4H —the authority and strength to hope comes from Christ; the former by the effusion of his blood for us, the latter by the infusion of his Spirit into us.

[Why this hope is called the hope of salvation.]

Second Inquiry. Why is the Christian’s hope styled a ‘hope of salvation?’ A double reason is ob­vious.

First Reason. Because salvation comprehends and takes within its circle the whole object of his hope. ‘Salvation’ imports such a state of bliss, where­in meet eminently the mercies and enjoyments of the promises, scattered some in one and some in an­other; as at the creation, the light which was first diffused through the firmament was gathered into the sun. Cast up the particular sums of all good things promised in the covenant, and the total which they amount unto is, salvation. The ultima unitas—final whole, or unity, gives the denomination to the num­ber, because it comprehends all; so salvation the ul­timate object of the Christian’s expectation, and that which comprehends the rest, denominates his hope.

Second Reason. It is called ‘a hope of salva­tion,’ to distinguish it from the worldling’s hope, whose portion, Ps. 16, is in this life, and so his hope also. It is confessed that many of these will pretend to a hope of salvation; but the truth is, they neither have right to it, nor are they very eager of it. They think themselves so well seated in this world, that if they might have their wish, it should be that God would not remove them hence. Even when they say they hope to be saved, their consciences tell them that they had rather stay here than part with this world in hope to mend themselves in the other. They blow up themselves into a hope and desire of salvation, more out of a dread of hell than liking of heaven. None I think so mad among them but had rather be saved than damned—live in heaven than lie in hell—yet the best of the whole pack likes this world better than them both.

[Why hope is compared to a helmet.]

Third Inquiry. Why is hope compared to a helmet? For this conceive a double reason.

First Reason. The helmet defends the head, a principal part of the body, from dint of bullet and sword; so this ‘hope of salvation’ defends the soul, the principal part of man, and the principal faculties of that, whereby no dangerous, to be sure no deadly, impression by Satan or sin be made on it. Tempta­tions may trouble but cannot hurt, except their darts enter the will and leave a wound there, by drawing it to some consent and liking of them; from which this helmet of hope, if it be of the right make, and fits sure on the Christian’s head, will defend him. It is hard to draw him into any treasonable practice against his prince, who is both well satisfied of his favour at pres­ent, and stands also on the stairs of hope, expecting assuredly to be called up within a while to the highest preferment that the court can afford or his king give. No, the weapons of rebellion and treason are usually forged and fashioned in discontent’s shop. When subject’s take themselves to be neglected and slighted by their prince—think that their preferments are now at an end, and [that they] must look for no great favours more to come from him—this softens them to receive every impression of disloyalty that any enemy to the king shall attempt to stamp them withal. As we see in the Israelites; thinking the men of Judah, of whose tribe the king was, had got a monopoly of his favour, and themselves to be shut out from sharing, at least equally, with them therein; how soon are they —even at a blast or two of Sheba’s seditious trumpet —made rebels against their sovereign? ‘We have no part in David,’ saith Sheba, ‘neither have we inheri­tance in the son of Jesse: every man to his tents, O Israel!’ II Sam. 20:1. And see how this treason runs, even like a squib upon a rope. ‘Every man of Israel went up from after David, and followed Sheba,’ ver. 2. Thus, if once the soul fears it hath no part in God, and expects no inheritance from him, I know no sin so great but it may at the sound of the tempter’s trumpet be drawn to commit.

Second Reason. As the helmet defends the soldier’s head from wounding, so his heart also from swooning. It makes him bold and fearless in battle though amidst swords and bullets. Goliath with his helmet of brass and other furniture, how confidently and daringly did the man come on! As if he had been so enclosed in his armour that it was impossible that any we apon could come near to deliver a message of death unto him! This made him carry his crest so high, and defy a whole host, till at last he paid his life for his pride and folly. But here is a helmet that whoever wears it need never be put to shame for his holy boasting. God himself allows him so to do, and will bear him out in this rejoicing of his hope. ‘Thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me,’ Isa. 49:23. This made holy David so undaunted in the midst of his enemies, ‘Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear,’ Ps. 27:3. His hope would not suffer his heart so much as beat within him for any fear of what they could do to him. He had this ‘helmet of salva­tion’ on, and therefore he saith, ‘Mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me,’ ver.6. A man cannot drown so long as his head is above water. Now it is the proper office of hope to do this for the Christian in times of any danger. ‘When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh,’ Luke 21:28. A strange time, one would think, for Christ then to bid his disciples lift up their heads in, when they see other ‘men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth,’ ver. 26, yet, now is the time of the rising of their sun when others’ is setting, and blackness of darkness overtaking them; because now the Christian’s feast is coming, for which hope hath saved its stomach so long—‘your redemption draweth nigh.’ Two things make the head hang down—fear and shame. Hope easeth the Christian’s heart of both these; and so forbids him to give any sign of a desponding mind by a dejected countenance. And so much may suffice for explication of the words. I come now to lay down the one general point of doctrine, from which our whole dis­course on this one piece of armour shall be drawn.

DIRECTION IX.—SECOND GENERAL PART.

[Use of the Helmet, or the Offices of Hope in the Christian Warfare.]

The doctrine now then is, that hope is a grace of singular use and service to us all along our spiritual warfare and Christian course. We are directed to take the helmet of salvation—and this, not for some particular occasion and then hang it by till another extraordinary strait calls us to take it down and use it again—but we must take it so as never to lay it aside till God shall take off this helmet to put on a crown of glory in the room of it. ‘Be sober and hope to the end,’ is the apostle Peter’s counsel, I Peter 1:13. There are some engines of war that are of use but now and then, as ladders for scaling of a town or fort; which done, [they] are laid aside for a long time and not missed. But the helmet is of continual use. We shall need it as long as our war with sin and Satan lasts. The Christian is not beneath hope so long as above ground, nor above hope so long as beneath heaven. Indeed when once he enters the gates of that glorious city, then ‘farewell hope and welcome love forever.’ He may say, with the holy martyr, Armour becomes earth, but robes heaven. Hope goes into the field and waits on the Christian till the last battle be fought and the field cleared, and then faith and hope together carry him in the chariot of the promise to heaven door, where they deliver up his soul into the hands of love and joy, which stand ready to conduct him into the blissful presence of God. But that I may speak more particularly of hope’s serviceableness to the Christian, and the several offices it performeth for him, I shall reduce all to these four heads. First. Hope puts the Christian upon high and noble ex­ploits. Second. Hope makes him diligent and faith­ful in the meanest services. Third. Hope keeps him patient amidst the greatest sufferings. Fourth. Hope composeth and quiets the spirit, when God stays longest before he comes to perform promises.

First of the first.

FIRST OFFICE.

[Hope, as the Christian’s helmet,

stirs him to noble exploits.]

Hope of salvation puts the Christian upon high and noble exploits. It is a grace born for great ac­tions. Faith and hope are the two poles on which all the Christian’s noble enterprises turn. As carnal hope excites carnal men to their achievements which gain them any renown in the world, so is this heav­enly hope influential unto the saints’ undertakings. What makes the merchant sell house and land, and ship his whole estate away to the other end almost of the world—and this amidst a thousand hazards from pirates, waves and winds—but hope to get a greater by this bold adventure? What makes the daring soldier rush into the furious battle, upon the very mouth of death itself, but hope to snatch honour and spoil out of its jaws? Hope is his helmet, shield, and all, which makes him laugh on the face of all danger. In a word, what makes the scholar beat his brains so hard —sometimes with the hazard of breaking them, by overstraining his parts with too eager and hot a pur­suit of learning—but hope but hope of commencing some degrees higher in the knowledge of those secrets in nature that are locked up from vulgar under­standings?—who, when he hath attained his desire, is paid but little better for all his pains and study, that have worn nature in him to the stumps, than he is that tears the flesh off his hands and knees with creeping up some craggy mountain, which proves but a barren bleak place to stand in, and wraps him up in the clouds from the sight of others, leaving him little more to please himself with but this, that he can look over other men’s heads, and see a little farther than they. Now if these peddling hopes can prevail with men to such fixed resolutions for the obtaining of these poor sorry things, which borrow part of their goodness from men’s fancy and imagination, how much more effectual must the Christian’s hope of eternal life be to provoke him to the achievement of more noble exploits! Let a few instances suffice. First. This hope raiseth in the Christian a heroic res­olution against those lusts that held him before in bondage. Second. This hope ennobles and enables the Christian to contemn the present world with all its pomp, treasure, and pleasure, to which the rest of the sons of men are, every man of them, basely enslaved. Third. This hope, where it is steadfast, makes the Christian active and zealous for God. Fourth. It begets in the Christian a holy impatience after further attainments, especially when it grows to some strength.

[Instances wherein hope has raised

the Christian to noble exploits.]

First Instance. This hope raiseth in the Chris­tian heroic resolution against those lusts that held him before in bondage. The Israelites who couched so tamely under the Egyptian burdens, without any attempt made by them to shake off the oppressor’s yoke, when once Moses came from God to give them hope of an approaching salvation, and his report had gained some credit to be believed by them, it is strange to see what a mighty change the impression of their new‑conceived hope made upon them. On a sudden their mettle returns, and their blood, that with anguish and despair had so long chilled, and been even frozen in their veins, grows warm again. They who had hardly durst let their groans be heard —so cowed were their spirits with hard labour—dare now, fortified with hope, break open their prison doors, and march out of Egypt towards the place of rest promised, maugre [in spite of] all the power and wrath of enraged Pharaoh, who pursued them. Truly, thus it is with a soul in regard of sin’s bondage.

O how impotent and poor‑spirited is a soul void of this heavenly hope! what a tame slave hath Satan of him! He is the footstool for every base lust to trample upon. He suffers the devil to back and ride him whither he pleaseth, without wincing. No puddle so filthy, but Satan may draw him through it with a twine thread. The poor wretch is well enough con­tented with his ignoble servitude, because he knows no better master than him he serves, nor better wages than the swill of his sensual pleasures which his lusts allow him. But, let the news of salvation come to the ear of this sin‑deluded soul, and a spiritual eye be given him to see the transcendent glory thereof, with a crevice of hope set open to him, that he is the per­son that shall inherit it, if willing to make an ex­change of Satan for Christ, and of the slavery of his lusts for the liberty of his Redeemer’s service—O what havoc then doth the soul begin to make among his lusts! He presently vows the death of them all, and sets his head at work how he may soonest and most effectually rid his hands of them. ‘Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure,’ I John 3:3. He now looks upon his lusts with no better eye than a captive prince would do on his cruel keepers, out of whose hands could he but make an escape, he would presently enjoy his crown and kingdom; and therefore meditates his utmost revenge upon them. There may be some hasty pur­poses taken up by carnal men against their lusts, upon some accidental discontent they meet with now and then in the prosecution of them; but, alas! the swords they draw against them are soon in their sheaths again, and all the seeming fray comes to nothing in the end. They, like Esau, go out full and angry in a sudden mood, but a present comes from their lusts that bribes them from hurting them; yea, so reconciles them to them, that, as he did by his broth­er, they can fall upon the necks of those lusts to kiss them, which a while before they threatened to kill; and all for want of a true hope of heaven to outbid the proffers their lusts make to appease their anger, which would never yield a peace should be patched up with them on such infinite hard terms as it must needs be, the loss of eternal salvation. He that hath a mind to provide himself with arguments to arm him against sin’s motions, need not go far to seek them; but he that handles this one well, and drives it home to the head, will not need many more.

What is the sin this would not prostrate? Art thou tempted to any sensual lust? Ask thy hope what thou lookest to be in heaven. And canst thou yield to play the beast on earth, who hopest to be made like the pure and holy angels in heaven?

Is it a sin of profit that bewitcheth thee? Is not a hope of heaven a spell strong enough to charm this devil? Can gold bear any sway with thee that hopest to be heir of that city where gold bears no price? Wherefore is that blissful place said to be paved with gold, but to let us know it shall be there trampled up­on as of no account? And wilt thou let that now lie in thy heart, that will ere long be laid under thy feet?

Is it a sin of revenge? Dost thou not hope for a day when thy dear Saviour will plead thy cause, and what needest thou then take his work out of his hand? Let him be his own judge that hath no hope; the Judge, when he comes, will take his part.

Second Instance. This hope ennobles and en­ables the Christian to contemn the present world, with all its pomp, treasure, and pleasure, to which the rest of the sons of men are, every man of them, basely enslaved and held by the leg as a prisoner by this chain. When once faith makes a discovery of land that the Christian hath lying in heaven, and, by hope, he begins to lot upon it as that which he shall shortly take up at his remove from earth; truly then the price of this world’s felicity falls low in his account; he can sell all his hopes from it very cheap, yea, he can part with what he hath in hand of this world’s growth, when God calls him to it, more freely than Alexander did the cities he took; because, when all this is gone, he shall leave himself a better hope than that great monarch had to live upon. The hopes of heaven leave a blot upon the world in the Christian’s thoughts. It is no more now to him, than the asses were to anointed Saul.

Story tells us of some Turks who have, upon the sight of Mahomet’s tomb, put their eyes out, that they might not defile them, forsooth! with any common object after they had been blessed with seeing one so sacred. I am sure many a gracious soul there hath been, who by a prospect of heaven’s glory—the palace of the great God—set before the eye of their faith, have been so ravished with the sight, that they have desired God even to seal up their eyes by death, with Simeon, who would not by his good‑will have lived a day after that blessed hour in which his eyes had be­held the ‘salvation’ of God. Abraham was under the hope of this salvation, and therefore ‘he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country;…for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God,’ Heb. 11:9, 10. Canaan would have liked [pleased] him well enough, if God had not told him of a heaven that he meant to give him, in comparison to which, Canaan is now but Cabul—a dirty land, in his judgment. So Paul tells us not only the low thoughts he hath himself of the world, but as they agree with the common sense of all believers, whose hope is come to any consistency and settlement, ‘for our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour,’ Php. 3:20. Mark, he sets the saint with his back upon earth; and draws his reason from their hope—‘from whence we look,’ &c. Indeed, he that looks on heaven must needs look off earth. The soul’s eye can as little as the body’s eye be above and below at the same time. Every man converseth most where he hopes for to receive his greatest gains and advantage. The publican sits at the receipt of custom: there come in his gains. The courtier stands at his prince’s elbow. The merchant, if you will find him, look for him in his warehouse or at the exchange. But the Christian’s hope carries him by all these doors. Here is not my hope, saith the soul; and therefore not my haunt. My hope is in heaven, from whence I look for the Saviour to come, and my salvation to come with him; there I live, walk, and wait.

Nothing but a steadfast well‑grounded hope of salvation can buy off the creature’s worldly hopes. The heart of man cannot be in this world without a hope; and if it hath no hope for heaven, it must of necessity take in at earth, and borrow one there such as it can afford. What indeed can suit an earthly heart better than an earthly hope? And that which is a man’s hope—though poor and peddling—is highly prized, and hardly parted with. As we see in a man like to drown, and [who] hath only some weed or bough by the bank’s side to hold by; he will die with it in his hand rather than let go; he will endure blows and wounds rather than lose his hold. Nothing can take him from it, but that which he hopes may serve better to save him from drowning. Thus it is with a man whose hope is set upon the world, and whose happiness [is] expected to be paid in from thence. O how such a one hugs and hangs about the world! You may as soon persuade a fox to come out of his hole, where he hath taken sanctuary from the dogs. Such a one to cast off his hopes! No, he is undone without this pelf and that honour; it is that he hath a lid up his hopes in, and hope and life are ever kept in the same hand. Scare and threaten him with what you will, still the man’s heart will hold its own. Yea, throw hell‑fire into his bosom, and tell him this love of the world, and making gold his hope, will damn him another day, still he will hold to his way.

Felix is a fit instance for this, Acts 24:26. Paul preached a thundering sermon before him; and though the preacher was at the bar, and Felix on the bench, yet God so armed the word, that he ‘trembled’ to hear the prisoner speak ‘of righteousness, temper­ance, and judgment to come.’ Yet this man, notwith­standing his conscience was struggling with the fears of judgement, and some sparks of divine vengeance had taken fire on him, could at the same time be sending out his heart on a covetous errand, to look for a bribe, for want of which he left that blessed servant of God in his bloody enemies’ hands; for it is said, ver. 26, ‘he hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him.’ But he missed his market; for, as a sordid hope of a little money made him basely refuse to deliver Paul, so the blessed hope which Paul had for another world made him more honourably disdain to purchase his deliver­ance at his hands with a bribe.

Third Instance. This hope of salvation, where it is steadfast, makes the Christian active and zealous for God. It is called ‘a lively hope,’ I Peter 1:3. They are men of mettle that have it. You may expect more from him than many others, and not be deceived. Why are men dull and heavy in their service of God? Truly because their hopes are so. Hopeless and life­less go together. No marvel the work goes hardly off a‑hand, when men have no hope, or but little, to be well paid for their labour in doing of it. He that thinks he works for a song, as we say, will not sing at his work—I mean, be forward and cheery in it. The best customer is sure to be served best and first, and him we count the best customer that we hope will be the best paymaster. If God be thought so, we will leave all to do his business. This made Paul engage so deep in the service of the gospel, [as] even to lose his worldly friends, and lay his own life to stake, it was ‘for the hope of the promise,’ Acts 26:6. This made the other Israelites that feared God follow the trade of godliness so close, ‘unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come,’ ver. 7. Mark, they are both instant, and con­stant, ¦< ¦6J,<,\‘. They run with full speed, stretch­ing themselves forth as in a race; and this, at night and day—no stop or halt in their way, but ever put­ting on. And what is it that keeps them in breath? even the hope that they shall at last come to that salvation promised. Nothing better to expectorate and clear the soul of this dull phlegm of sloth and listlessness of spirit in the service of God, than hope well improved and strengthened. It is the very physic which the apostle prescribes for this disease: ‘We desire that every one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not slothful,’ Heb. 6:11, 12.

Fourth Instance. Hope begets in the Chris­tian a holy impatience after further attainments, espe­cially when it grows to some strength. The higher our hopes of salvation rise, the more will our hearts widen and distend themselves in holy desires. ‘Not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body,’ Rom. 8:23. Methinks rejoicing would better become them for what they have already, than groan­ing for what they have not. Who may better stay long for their dinner, than they who have their stomachs stayed with a good breakfast? This would hold in bodily food, but not spiritual. No doubt, the sweet­ness which they tasted from their first‑fruits in hand did cheer their spirits; but the thoughts of what was behind made them groan. Hope waits for all, and will not let the soul sit down contented till all the dishes be on the board—till the whole harvest that stands on the field of the promise be reaped and well inned; yea, the more the Christian hath received in partial payments, the deeper groans hope makes the soul fetch for what is behind. And that,

First. Because these foretastes do acquaint the Christian more with the nature of those joys which are in heaven, and so enlarge his understanding to have more raised conceptions of the felicity those en­joy that are arrived there. And the increasing of his knowledge must needs enlarge his desires; and those desires break out into sad groans, to think what sweet wine is drunk in full bowls by glorified saints, and he living where only a sip is allowed, that doth not satisfy but kindle his thirst. It is harder now for him to live on this side heaven than before he knew so much. He is like one that stands at the door within which is a rich feast. He hears them how merry they are. Through the keyhole he sees what variety they have; and by a little which he licks from the trenchers that are brought out is sensible how delicious their fare is. O how such a one’s teeth would water after their cheer; which another misse th not that hears not of it, or only hears, and tastes not of their dainties! The nearer the soul stands to heaven, and the more he knows of their joys, the more he blesseth them and pities himself. None long for heaven more than those who enjoy most of heaven. All delays now are exceed­ingly tedious to such. Their continual moan is, ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariot?’ The last year is thought longer by the apprentice than all his time before, because it is nearer out. And if delays be so tedious, what then are desertions to such a soul, who hath his hopes of salva­tion raised high by the sweet illapses of the Spirit and foretastes of glory! No doubt Moses’ death so nigh Canaan, after he had tasted of the fruit of the land at the spies’ hand, was exceeding grievous. To lose a child grown up, when we seem ready to reap our hopes conceived of him, is more than to part with two in the cradle, that have not yet drawn our conceptions far. The Christian indeed, cannot quite lose his hopes. Yet he may have them nipped and set back, as a forward spring, by after‑claps of winter weather, which pinches so much the more because the warm beams of the sun had made the herbs come forth and disclose themselves. And so desertions from God do make the saddest impression upon those, above all others, whose expectation had advanced far, and, by the present sense of divine goodness, been unfolded into a kind of rejoicing through hope of glory. Now to meet with a damp from the frowns of the Almighty, and to be benighted by the withdrawing of that light which did so ravish it, O how dreadful must this sudden change be to the soul!

Second. These present attainments of grace or comfort, they do embolden the soul to expect yet more; and so provoke the Christian to press on for the full payment of all. See both these in David: ‘Be­cause thou hast been my help, therefore in the sha­dow of thy wings will I rejoice,’ Ps. 63:7. The present boon he hath got makes him rejoice in hope of what is yet to come, and by this scent he is carried out with full cry to pursue the chase for more, as appears in the very next words, ‘my soul followeth hard after thee,’ ver. 8. And no wonder, if we consider that God gives his people their experiences with this very no­tion stamped on them, i.e. to raise their expectations for further mercies at his hand: ‘I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope,’ Hosea 2:15. God is there speaking to a soul converted and newly taken into covenant, what blessings he will bestow on it, as the happy effects of its reconciliation to God and marriage with Christ, and he alludes to his dealing with Israel, who came out of a desolate wilderness—where they had wan­dered, and endured unspeakable hardship, forty years —into a pleasant fruitful country, in the very en­trance where whereof this Achor lay, which, when God gave them, he would not have them look on it as in itself it was a little spot of ground, and not so much worth, but as the opening of a door through which he would undertake to let them into the possession of the whole land in process of time; which circum­stance, believed by them, made Joshua advance his banners with so much courage against the proudest of his enemies, well knowing that man could not shut that door upon them which God had opened to them.

Thus every particular assistance God gives the Christian against one corruption, is intended by God to be an Achor—‘a door of hope,’ from which he may expect the total overthrow of that cursed seed in his bosom. When he adds the least degree of strength to his grace or comfort he gives us an Achor, or door of hope, that he will consummate both in glory. O what courage this must needs bring to thee, poor heart, in thy fears and faintings! Paul had many enemies at Ephesus to oppose him, but having ‘an effectual door opened unto him,’ for his encouragement, he went on undauntedly, I Cor. 16:9. As an army, when, after stub­born resistance by the enemy, who labour what they can to keep them out, the door or gate of the city flies open, then the soldiers press in amain with a shout, ‘the city is our own.’ Thus when, after long tugging, and much wrestling with God for pardon of sin, or strength against sin, the door of the promise flies open, and God comes in with some assisting, com­forting presence, now hope takes heart, and makes the soul fall on with double force and zeal.

SECOND OFFICE.

[Hope, as the Christian’s helmet, makes

him faithful in the meanest services.]

As hope raiseth the Christian’s spirit to attempt great exploits, so it makes him diligent and faithful in the meanest and lowest services that the providence of God calls him to;—for the same providence lays out every one his work and calling, which sets bounds for their habitations on the earth. Some he sets on the high places of the earth, and appoints them hon­ourable employments, suitable to their place. Others he pitcheth down on lower ground, and orders them in some obscure corner, to employ themselves about work of an inferior nature all their life, and we need not be ashamed to do that work which the great God sets us about. The Italians say true, ‘No man fouls his hands in doing his own business.’ Now, to en­courage every Christian to be faithful in his particular place, he hath made promises that are applicable to them all. Promises are like the beams of the sun: they shine in as freely at the window of the poor man’s cottage as of the prince’s palace. And these hope trades with, and from these animates the Chris­tian at his work. Indeed, we are no more faithful in our callings than [we are] acted by faith and hope therein.

Now, you shall observe, God lays his promise, so as it may strengthen our hands and hearts against the chief discouragement that is most like to weaken them in their callings. The great discouragement of those high and public employments—magistracy and ministry—is the difficulty of the province, and oppo­sition they find from the angry world. These there­fore are guarded and supported with such promises as may fortify their hearts against the force and fury with which the world comes forth to oppose them. ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee: be strong and of a good courage,’ Joshua 1:5, [a promise] which was given to Israel’s chief magistrate. And the minister’s prom­ise suits well with this, as having ordinarily the same difficulties, enemies, and discouragements: ‘Go ye therefore and teach all nations;…and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,’ Matt. 28:19, 20. Again, the temptation which usually haunts persons in low and more ignoble callings, is the very meanness of them; which occasions discontent and envy in some, to see themselves on the floor, and their brother preferred to more honourable services; in others, dejection of spirit, as if they were, like the eunuch, but dry trees, unprofitable, and brought no glory to God, while others, by their more eminent places and callings, have the advantage of being highly serviceable to God in their generations. Now, to arm the Christian against this temptation, and remove this discouragement, God hath annexed as great a reward in the promise to his faithfulness in the meanest em­ployment, as the most honourable is capable of. What more mean and despicable than the servant’s employ­ment? yet no less than heaven itself is promised to them if faithful. He is speaking there to such. ‘What­soever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ,’ Col. 3:23, 24. Where observe,

First. What honour he puts on the poor serv­ants’ work. He serves the Lord Christ; yea, in the lowest piece of work that belongs to his office. His drudgery is divine service, as well as his praying and hearing; for he saith, ‘Whatsoever ye do.’ Again observe,

Second. The reward that is laid up for such; and that is as great as he shall receive that hath been faith­ful in ruling kingdoms, ‘the reward of the inherit­ance.’ As if God had said, ‘Be not, O my child, out of love with thy coarse homely work. Ere long thou shalt sit as high as he that sways sceptres. Though your employment now be not the same with his, yet your acceptation is the same, and so shall your reward also be.’ Thus we see, as we bestow more abundant honour on those members which we think less hon­ourable; so doth Christ with those members of his body which, by reason of their low place in the world, may be thought to be most despised—he puts an abundant honour upon them in his promise. And where hope is raised, the Christian cannot but take sweet satisfaction from the expectation thereof. The poor ploughman that is a saint, and plows in hope of reaping salvation, would be as well contented with his place and work as the bravest courtier is with his. Think of this, when any of you have a servant to choose; if you would have your work faithfully and heartily done, employ such about it—if they be to be had—as have a hope of salvation. This will not suffer them to wrong you, though they could. Their helmet will defend them from such temptations. Jacob was a true drudge for his master Laban by day and by night, though he used him none of the best in chop­ping and changing his wages so oft. But Jacob served in hope, and expected his reward from a better master than Laban; and this made him faithful to an unfaith­ful man. Joseph would not wrong his master, though at the request of his mistress. He chose to suffer his unjust anger, rather than accept of her unchaste love. The evidence of this grace in a servant is better se­curity for his faithfulness than a bond of a thousand pounds.

THIRD OFFICE.

[Hope, as the Christian’s helmet,

supports him in the greatest afflictions.]

This hope of salvation supports the soul in the greatest afflictions. The Christian’s patience is, as it were, his back, on which he bears his burdens; and some afflictions are so heavy, that he needs a broad one to carry them well. But if hope lay not the pillow of the promise between his back and his burden, the least cross will prove insupportable; therefore it is called ‘the patience of hope,’ I Thes. 1:3. There is a patience, I confess, and many know not a better, when men force themselves into a kind of quietness in their troubles because they cannot help it, and there is no hope. This I may call a desperate pa­tience, and it may do them some service for a while, and but for a while. If despair were a good cure for troubles, the damned would have more ease; for they have despair enough, if that would help them. There is another patience also very common in the world, and that is a blockish stupid patience, which, like Nabal’s mirth, lasts no longer than they are drunk with ignorance and senselessness; for they no sooner come to themselves to understand the true state they are in, but their hearts die within them.

But ‘the patience of hope,’ we are now treating of, is a sober grace, and abides as long as hope lasts; when hope is lively and active, then it floats, yea even danceth aloft the waters of affliction, as a tight sound ship doth in a tempestuous sea; but when hope springs a leak, then the billows break into the Chris­tian’s bosom, and he sinks apace, till hope, with much labour at the pump of the promise, clears the soul again. This was David’s very case. ‘Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul,’ Ps. 69:1. What means he by ‘coming unto his soul?’ Sure­ly no other than this, that they oppressed his spirit, and as it were sued into his very conscience, raising fears and perplexities there, by reason of his sins, which at present put his faith and hope to some dis­order, that he could not for a while see to the com­fortable end of his affliction, but was as one under water, and covered with his fears; as appears by what follows, ‘I sink in deep mire, where there is no stand­ing,’ ver. 2. He compares himself to one in a quag­mire, that can feel no firm ground to bear him up. And observe whence his trouble rose, and where the waters made their entrance: ‘O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee,’ ver. 5. This holy man lay under some fresh guilt, and this made him so uncomfortable under his affliction, because he saw his sin in the face of that and tasted some displeasure from God for it in his outward trouble, which made it so bitter in the going down; and therefore, when once he hath humbled himself in a mournful confession of his sin, and was able to see the coast clear betwixt heaven and him, so as to be­lieve the pardon of his sin, and hope for good news from God again, he then returns to the sweet temper, and can sing in the same affliction where before he did sink. But more particularly I shall show what powerful influence hope hath on the Christian in af­fliction, and how. First. What influence it hath. Second. Whence and how hope hath this virtue.

[The influence of hope on

the Christian in affliction.]

First. What influence hope hath on the Christian in affliction.

First Influence. Hope stills and silenceth the Christian under affliction. It keeps the king’s peace in the heart, which else would soon be in an uproar. A hopeless soul is clamorous. One while it chargeth God, another while it reviles instruments. It cannot long rest, and no wonder, when hope is not there to rock it asleep. Hope hath a rare art in stilling a fro­ward spirit when nothing else can; as the mother can make the crying child quiet by laying it to the breast, when the rod makes it cry worse. This way David took, and found it effectual. When his soul was out of quiet, by reason of his present affliction, he lays his soul to the breast of the promise. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God,’ Ps. 43:5. And here his soul sweetly sleeps, as the child with the teat in his mouth. And that this was his usual way, we may think by the fre­quent instances we find to this purpose. Thrice we find him taking this course in two psalms, Ps 42 and 43. When Aaron and Miriam were so uncivil with Moses, and used him so ill in their foul language, no doubt it was a heavy affliction to the spirit of that holy man, and aggravation of his sorrow, to consider out of whose bow these sharp arrows came; yet it is said, ‘Moses held his peace’—waiting for God to clear his innocency. And his patience made God, no doubt, the more angry to see this meek man wronged, who durst trust him with the righting of his name; and therefore [it was that] with such speed he wiped off the dirt they had thrown on him, before it could soak in to the prejudice of his good name in the thoughts of others. Indeed this waiting on God for deliverance in an afflicted state, consists much in a holy silence. ‘Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation,’ Ps. 62:1—or, as the Hebrew, ‘my soul is silent.’ It is a great mercy, in an affliction that is sharp, to have our bodily senses, so as not to lie rav­ing or roaring, but still and quiet; much more to have the heart silent and patient. And we find the heart is as soon heat into a distemper, as the head. Now, what the sponge is to the cannon when hot with often shooting, that is hope to the soul in multiplied afflic­tions; it cools the spirit, and meekens it, that it doth not fly apieces, and break out into distempered thoughts or words against God.

Second Influence. This hope fills the afflicted soul with such inward joy and consolation, that it can laugh while tears are in the eye—sigh and sing all in a breath. It is called ‘the rejoicing of hope,’ Heb. 3:6. And hope never affords more joy than in affliction. It is on a watery cloud that the sun paints those curious colours in the rainbow. ‘Rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and not only so, but we glory in tribulations,’ Rom. 5:2, 3. Glorying is rejoicing in a ravishment —when it is so great that it cannot contain itself with­in the Christian’s own breast, but comes forth in some outward expression, and lets others know what a feast it sits at within. The springs of comfort lie high indeed when his joy pours out at the mouth. And all this joy with which the suffering saint is entertained, is sent in by hope at the cost of Christ, who hath provided such unspeakable glory for them in heaven as will not suffer them to pity or bemoan themselves for those tribulations that befall them on the way to it. Dum mala pungunt, bona promissa un­guunt—while calamities smite with oppression, the gracious promises anoint with their blessings. Hope breaks the alabaster box of the promise over the Christian’s head, and so diffuseth the consolations thereof abroad the soul, which, like a precious oint­ment, have a virtue, as to exhilarate and refresh the spirit in its faintings, so to heal the wounds and re­move the smart which the Christian’s poor heart may feel from its affliction, according to the apostle in the aforementioned place: ‘Hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts,’ Rom. 5:5.

There are two graces which Christ useth above any other to fill the soul with joy; and they are faith and hope, because these two fetch all their wine of joy without doors. Faith tells the soul what Christ hath done for it, and so comforts it. Hope revives the soul with news of what Christ will do. Both draw at one tap—Christ and his promise. Whereas the other gra­ces present the soul with its own inherent excellencies —what it doth and suffers for him, rather than what he does for them; so that it were neither honourable for Christ, nor safe for the saint, to draw his joy from this vessel. Not honourable to Christ! This were the way to have the king’s crown set on the subject’s head, and cry Hosanna! to the grace of Christ in us, which is due only to the mercy of God in us. For thither we will carry our praise whence we have our joy; and therefore upon our allegiance we are only to ‘rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,’ Php. 3:3. And it would be no more safe for us than honourable for him, because of the instability of our hearts, and unconstant actings of our graces, which are as oft ebbing as flowing. And so our joy could not be constant, because our graces are not; but as these springs lie high or low, so would this rise and fall. Yea, we were sure to drink more water than wine —oftener want joy than have it. Whereas now, the Christian’s cup need never be empty, because he draws his wine from an undrainable Fountain that never sends any poor soul away ashamed, as the brook of our inherent grace would certainly, at one time or other, do.

[Whence and how hope hath its

supporting influence in affliction.]

Second. Whence and how hope hath its virtue; or what are the ingredients in hope’s cordial that thus exhilarates the saint’s spirit in affliction.

First Answer. Hope brings certain news of a happy issue, that shall shortly close up all the wounds made by his present sufferings. When God comes to save his afflicted servants, though he may antedate their hopes, and surprise them before they looked for him, yet he doth not come unlooked for. Salvation is that they lot upon: ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,’ Jer. 29:11—that is, an end suitable to the hopes and expec­tations taken up by you. Hope is a prying grace; it is able to look beyond the exterior transactions of provi­dence. It can, by the help of the promise, peep into the very bosom of God, and read what thoughts and purposes are written there concerning the Christian’s particular estate, and this it imparts to him, bidding him not to be at all troubled to hear God speaking roughly to him in the language of his providence. ‘For,’ saith hope, ‘I can assure thee he means thee well, whatever he saith that sounds otherwise. For as the law, which came hundreds of years after the promise made to Abraham, could not disannul it, so neither can any intervening afflictions make void those thoughts and counsels of love which so long before have been set upon his heart for thy deliver­ance and salvation.’ Now, such a one must needs have a great advantage above others for the pacifying and satisfying his spirit concerning the present pro­ceedings of God towards him; because, though the actings of God on the outward stage of providence be now sad and grievous, yet he is acquainted with heaven’s plot therein, and is admitted as it were into the attiring room of his secret counsel, where he sees garments of salvation preparing, in which he shall at last be clad, and come forth with joy. The traveller, when taken in a storm, can stand patiently under a tree while it rains, because he hopes it is but a show­er, and sees it clear up in one part of the heavens, while it is dark in another. Providence, I am sure, is never so dark and cloudy but hope can see fair weather a‑coming from the promise. ‘When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh,’ Luke 21:28. And this is as black a day as can come.

When the Christian’s affairs are most disconso­late, he may soon meet with a happy change. The joy of that blessed day, I Cor. 15:52, comes ¦< •[email protected]µå ¦< Õ4B­ ÏN2V8µ@Ø—‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,’ we shall be ‘changed.’ In one moment sick and sad, in the next well and glad, never to know more what groans and tears mean. Now clad with the rags of mortal flesh, made miserable with the thou­sand troubles that attend it; ‘in the twinkling of an eye’ arrayed with robes of immortality, embossed and enriched with a thousand times more glory than the sun itself wears in the garment of light which now dazzleth our eyes to look on. ‘It is but winking,’ said a holy martyr to his fellow‑sufferer in the fire with him, ‘and our pain and sorrow is all over with.’ Who can wonder to see a saint cheerful in his afflictions that knows what good news he looks to hear from heaven, and how soon he knows not? You have heard of the weapon‑salve, that cures wounds at a distance. Such a kind of salve is hope. The saints’ hope is laid up in heaven, and yet it heals all their wounds they receive on earth. But this is not all. For, as hope prophesies well concerning the happy end of the Christian’s afflictions, so it assures him he will be well tended and looked to while he lies under them. If Christ sends his disciples to sea, he means to be with them when they most need his company. The well child may be left a while by the mother, but the sick one she will by no means stir from. ‘When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee,’ Isa. 43:2.

You know what God said to Moses when he was sick of his employment, and made so many mannerly or rather unmannerly excuses from his own inability —and all that he might have leave to lay down his commission: ‘Go,’ saith God, ‘and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say,’ Ex. 4:12. And again, ‘Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee,’ ver. 14. Thus God did ani­mate him, and toll [draw] him on to like that hard province he was called to. Methinks I hear hope, as God’s messenger, speaking after the same sort to the drooping soul oppressed with the thoughts of some great affliction, and ready to conclude he shall be able to stem so rough a tide—bear up cheerfully and lift up his head above such surging waves. ‘Go, O my soul,’ saith hope, ‘for thy God will be with thee, and thou shalt suffer at his charge. Is not Christ thy brother? yea, is he not thy husband? He, thou thinkest, can tell how to suffer, who was brought up to the trade from the cradle to the cross. Behold, even he comes forth to meet thee, glad to see thy face, and willing to impart some of his suffering skill unto thee.’ That man indeed must needs carry a heavy heart to prison with him, who knows neither how he can be maintained there nor delivered thence. But hope easeth the heart of both these, which taken away, suffering is a harmless thing and not to be dreaded.

Second Answer. Hope assures the Christian not only of the certainty of salvation coming, but also of the transcendency of this salvation to be such, as the sorrow of his present sufferings bears no proportion to the joy of that. This kept the primitive Christians from swooning while their enemies let out their blood. They had the scent of this hope to exhilarate their spirits: ‘For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day,’ II Cor. 4:16. Is not this strange, that their spirit and courage should increase with the losing of their blood? What rare unheard‑of cordial was this? ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,’ ver. 17. Behold here the dif­ference betwixt hopes of heaven and hopes of the world. These latter, they are fanciful and slighty, seem great in hope but prove nothing in hand; like Eve’s apple, fair to look on as they hang on the tree, but sour in the juice, and of bad nourishment in the eating. They are, as one calls them wittily, ‘nothing between two dishes.’ It were well if men could in their worldly hopes come but to the unjust steward’s reckoning, and for a hundred felicities they promise themselves from the enjoyments they pursue, find but fifty at last paid them. No, alas! they must not look to come to so good a market, or have such fair deal­ings, that have to do with the creature, which will certainly put them to greater disappointments than so. They may bless themselves if they please for a while in their hopes, as the husbandman sometimes doth in the goodly show he hath of corn standing upon his ground; but by that time they have reaped their crop and thrashed out their hopes, they will find little besides straw and chaff—emptiness and vanity —to be left them. A poor return, God knows, to pay them for the expense of their time and strength which they have laid out upon them! Much less suitable to recompense the loss he is put to in his conscience; for there are few who are greedy hunters after the world’s enjoyments, that do drive this worldly trade without running in debt to their consciences. And I am sure he buys gold too dear, that pays the peace of his conscience for the purchase. But heaven is had cheap, though it be with the loss of all our carnal interests, even life itself. Who will grudge with a sorry lease of a low-rented farm, in which he also hath but a few days left before it expires (and such our temporal life is), for the perpetuity of such an inherit­ance as is to be had with the saints in light? This hath ever made the faithful servants of God carry their lives in their hands, willing to lay them down, ‘while they look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal,’ II Cor. 4:18.

Third Answer. As hope assures the soul of the certainty and transcendency of heaven’s salvation, so also of the necessary subserviency that his afflictions have towards his obtaining this salvation. ‘Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?’ Luke 24:26. As if Christ had said, ‘What reason have you so to mourn, and take on for your Master’s death, as if all your hopes were now split and split? Ought he not to suffer? Was there any other way he could get home, and take possession of his glory that waited for him in heaven? And if you do not grudge him his preferment, never be so inordi­nately troubled to see him onwards to it, though through the deep and miry land of suffering.’ And truly the saint’s way to salvation lies in the same road that Christ went in: ‘If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together,’ Rom. 8:17; only with this advantage, that his going before hath beaten it plain, so that now it may be forded, which but for him had been utterly impassable to us. Afflictions understood with this notion upon them—that they are as necessary for our waftage to glory as water is to carry the ship to her port, which may as soon sail without water, as a saint land in heaven without the subserviency of afflictions—this notion, I say, well understood, would reconcile the greatest afflictions to our thoughts, and make us delight to walk in their company. This knowledge Parisiensis calls unus de septem radiis divini scientiæ—one of the seven beams of divine knowledge; for the want of which we call good evil, and evil good—think God blesseth us when we are in the sunshine of prosperity, and curs­eth when our condition is overcast with a few clouds of adversity. But hope hath an eye that can see heav­en in a cloudy day, and an anchor that can find firm land under a weight of waters to hold by; it can expect good out of evil. The Jews open their windows when it thunders and lightens, expecting, they say, their Messiah to come at such a time to them. I am sure hope opens her window widest in a day of storm and tempest: ‘I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord,’ Zeph. 3:12, and, Micah 7:7, ‘There­fore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.’ See what strong hold hope’s anchor takes. And it is a remark­able ‘therefore,’ if you observe the place. Because all things were at so desperate a pass in the church’s affairs—as there you will find them to be in man’s thinking—‘therefore,’ saith the saint, ‘I will look, I will wait.’ Indeed, God doth not take the axe into his hand to make chips. His people, when he is hewing them, and the axe goes deepest, they may expect some beautiful piece at the end of the work.

It is a sweet meditation Parisiensis hath upon ‘We know that all things work together for good to them that love God,’ Rom. 8:28. Ubi magis intrepida magis pensata esse debes, quàm inter cooperarios meos, et coadjutores meos?—Where, O my soul, shouldst thou be more satisfied, free of care and fear, then when thou art among thy fellow‑labourers, and those that come to help thee to attain thy so‑much desired salvation, which thy afflictions do? They work together with ordinances and other providential dealings of God for good; yea, thy chief good, and thou couldst ill spare their help as any other means which God appoints thee. Should one find, as soon as he riseth in the morning, some on his house‑top tearing off the tiles, and with axes and hammers taking down the roof thereof, he might at first be amazed and troubled at the sight, yea, think they are a company of thieves and enemies come to do him some mischief; but when he understands they are workmen sent by his father to mend his house, and make it better than it is—which cannot be done without taking some of it down he is satisfied and content to endure the present noise and trouble, yea thankful to his father for the care and cost he bestows on him. The very hope of what advantage will come of their work makes him very willing to dwell a while amidst the ruins and rubbish of his old house. I do not wonder to see hopeless souls so impatient in their sufferings—sometimes even to distraction of mind. Alas! they fear presently—and have reason so to do —that they come to pull all their worldly joys and comforts down about their ears; which gone, what, alas! have they left to comfort them, who can look for nothing but hell in another world? But the believer’s heart is eased of all this, because assured from the promise that they are sent on a better errand to him from his heavenly Father, who intends him no hurt, but rather good—even to build the ruinous frame of a his soul into a glorious temple at last; and these af­flictions come, among other means, to have a hand in the work; and this satisfies him, that can say, ‘Lord, cut and hew me how thou wilt, that at last I may be polished and framed according to the platform [pat­tern] which love hath drawn in thy heart for me.’ Though some ignorant man would think his clothes spoiled when besmeared with fuller’s earth or soap, yet one that knows the cleansing nature of them will not be afraid to have them so used.

FOURTH OFFICE.

[Hope, as the Christian’s helmet, quiets his spirit

when God delays to perform his promise.]

The fourth and last office of hope propounded is, to quiet and compose the Christian’s spirit when God stays long before he come to perform promises. Patience, I told you, is the back on which the Chris­tian’s burdens are carried, and hope the pillow between the back and the burden, to make it sit easy. Now patience hath two shoulders; one to bear the present evil, and another to forbear the future good promised, but not yet paid. And as hope makes the burden of the present evil of the cross light, so it makes the longest stay of the future good promised short. Whereas, without this, the creature could have neither the strength to bear the one, nor forbear and wait for the other. ‘And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord,’ Lam. 3:18; implying thus much, that where there is no hope there is no strength. The soul’s comfort lies drawing on, and soon gives up the ghost, where all hope fails. God un­dertook for Israel’s protection and provision in the wilderness, but when their dough was spent, and their store ended, which they brought out of Egypt, they fall foul with God and Moses. And why? but because their hope was spent as soon as their dough. Moses ascends the mount, and is but a few days out of their sight, and in all haste they must have a golden calf. And why? but because they gave him for lost, and never hoped to see him more. This is the reason why God hath so few servants that will stick fast to him, because God puts them to wait for what he means to give, and most are short-spirited, and cannot stay. You know what Naomi said to her daughters, ‘If I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having hus­bands?’ Ruth 1:12, 13. The promise hath salvation in the womb of it; but will the unbeliever, a soul without heavenly hope, stay till the promise ripens, and this happiness be, as I may so say, grown up? No, sure, they will rather make some match with the beggarly creature, or any base lust that will pay them in some pleasure at present, than wait so long, though it be for heaven itself. Thus as Tamar played the strumpet be­cause the husband promised was not given her so soon as she desired, Gen. 38, so it is the undoing of many souls because the comfort, joy, and bliss of the promise is withheld at present, and his people are made to wait for their reward; therefore they throw themselves into the embraces of this adulterous world that is present. ‘Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world,’ II Tim. 4:10. The soul only that hath this divine hope will be found patiently to stay for the good of the promise. Now, in handling this last office of hope, I shall do these three things—

First. I shall show you that God oft stays long before he pays in the good things of the promise.

Second. That when God stays longest before he performs his promises, it is our duty to wait.

Third. That hope will enable the soul to wait when he stays longest.

[God oft stays long before he fulfills his promise.]

First. God oft stays long before he pays in the good things of the promise. The promise contains the matter of all our hopes;—called therefore ‘the hope of the promise.’ To hope without a promise is to claim a debt that never was owing. Now the good things of the promise are not paid down presently; in­deed, then there would be not such use of the prom­ises. What need of a bond where the money is pres­ently paid down? God promised Abraham a son, but he stayed many years for him after the bond of the promise was given him. He promised Canaan to him and his seed, yet hundreds of years interposed be­tween the promise and performance. Esau was spread into a kingdom before the heirs of promise had their inheritance, or one foot of land [was] given them in it. Yea, all the patriarchs, who were the third genera­tion after Abraham, died, ‘not having received the promises,’ Heb. 11:13. Simeon had a promise ‘he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ,’ Luke 2:26. But this was not performed till he had one foot in the grave, and was even taking his leave of the world.

In a word, those promises which are the portion of all the saints, and may be claimed by one as well as by another, their date is set in the book of God’s de­cree, when to be paid in to a day; some sooner, some later; but not expressed in the promise. He hath engaged to answer the prayers of his people, and ‘ful­fil the desires of those that fear him,’ Ps. 145:19. But it proves a long voyage sometimes before the praying saint hath the return of his adventure. There comes oft a long and sharp winter between the sowing time of prayer and the reaping. He hears us indeed as soon as we pray, but we oft do not hear him so soon. Prayers are not long on their journey to heaven, but long a‑coming thence in a full answer. Christ at this day in heaven hath not a full answer to some of those prayers which he put up on earth. Therefore he is said to ‘expect till his enemies be made a footstool,’ Heb 10:13. Promises we have for the subduing sin and Satan under our feet, yet we find these enemies still skulking within us; and many a sad scuffle we have with them before they are routed and outed our hearts. And so with others. We may find sometime the Christian—as great an heir as he is to joy and comfort—hardly able to show a penny of his heavenly treasure in his purse. And for want of well pondering this one clause, poor souls are oft led into tempta­tion, even to question their saintship. ‘Such promises are the saints’ portion,’ saith one; ‘but I cannot find them performed to me, therefore I am none of them. Many a prayer I have sent to heaven, but I hear no news of them. The saints are conquerors over their lusts; but I am yet often foiled and worsted by mine. There is a heaven of comfort in the promise, but I am as it were in the belly of hell, swallowed up with fears and terrors.’ Such as these are the reasonings of poor souls in the distress of their spirits; whereas all this trouble they put themselves to might be prevented, if they had faith to believe this one principle of un­doubted truth—that God performs not his promises all at once, and that what they want in hand they may see on the way coming to them.

[Our duty is to wait, when God stays

his longest before fulfilling his promise.]

Second. When God stays long before he makes payment of the promise, then it is the believer’s duty to wait for it. ‘Though it tarry, wait for it,’ Hab. 2:3. He is speaking there of the good of the promise, which God intended to perform in the appointed time; and because it might tarry longer than their hasty hearts would, he bids them wait for it. As one that promiseth to come to a friend’s house sends him word to sit up for him, though he tarry later than or­dinary, for he will come at last assuredly. This is hard work indeed! What! wait? When we have stayed so long, and no sight of God’s coming after this prayer, and that sermon! So many long looks given at the window of his ordinances and providences, and no tidings to be heard of his approach in mercy and comfort to my soul; and after this, still am I bid wait? This is wearisome work. True, to flesh and blood it is; yea, weak faith is oft out of breath, and prone to sit down, or turn back, when it hath gone long to meet God in the returns of his mercy, and misseth of him; and therefore the apostle ushers in his duty with an affectionate prayer. ‘The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ,’ II Thes. 3:5. He had laid down a strong ground of consolation for them in the preceding chapter, in that they were ‘chosen to salvation,’ and ‘called by the gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ II Thes. 2:13, 14, and assured them that God, who is ‘faithful,’ would ‘stablish them, and keep them from evil,’ II Thes. 3:3. He means [this] so as they should not miscarry, and at last fall short of the glory promised; but, being sensible how difficult a work it was for them amidst their own present weaknesses, the apostasies of others, and the assaults of Satan upon themselves, to hold fast the assurance of their hope unto the end, he turns himself from them to speak to God for them. ‘The Lord direct your hearts.’ And, as if he had said, it is a way you will never find, a work you will never be able to do of yourselves—thus to wait patiently till Christ come, and bring the full reward of the promise with him; the Lord therefore direct your hearts into it. And Moses, it seems, before he ascended the mount, had a fear and jealousy of what afterward proved too true, that the Israelites’ unbelieving hearts would not have the patience to wait for his return, when he should stay some while with God there out of their sight; to prevent which, he gave express command before he went up that they should tarry there for him, Ex 14:14. Indeed, a duty more contrary than this of waiting quietly and silently on God, bear our manners, and lackey after us, before we do what he commands: but if the promise comes not galloping full speed to us, we think it will never be at us.

Question. But why doth God, when he hath made a promise, make his people wait so long?

Answer. I shall answer this question by asking another. Why doth God make any promise at all to his creature? This may be well asked, considering how free God was from owing any such kindness to his creature; till, by the mere good pleasure of his will, he put himself into bonds, and made himself, by his promise, a debtor to his elect. And this proves the former question to be saucy and over-bold. As if some great rich man should make a poor beggar that is a stranger to him his heir, and when he tells him this, he should ask, ‘But why must I stay so long for it?’ Truly, any time is too soon for him to receive a mercy from God that thinks God’s time in sending it too late. This hasty spirit is as grievous to God as his stay can be to us. And no wonder God takes it so hei­nously, if we consider the bitter root that bears it.

First. It proceeds from a selfishness of spirit, whereby we prefer our own content and satisfaction before the glory of God, and this becomes not a gra­cious soul. Our comfort flows in by the performance of the promise, but the revenue of God’s honour is paid into him by our humble waiting on him in the interval between the promise and the performance, and is the main end why he forbears the paying it in hastily. Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and God sure may better make us wait, before the promise is given in to our embraces by the full accomplishment of it. ‘For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the prom­ise,’ Heb. 10:36. It is very fit the master should dine before the man. And if he would not like a servant that would think much to stay so long from his meal as is required at his hands for waiting at his master’s table, how much more must God dislike the rudeness of our impatient spirits, that would be set at our meal, and have our turn served in the comfort of the prom­ise, before he hath the honour of our waiting on him!

Second. It proceeds from deep ingratitude; and this is a sin odious to God and man. ‘They soon for­gat his works; they waited not for his counsel,’ Ps. 106:13. God was not behindhand with his people. It was not so long since he had given them an experi­ment of his power and truth. He had but newly lent them his hand, and led them dry‑shod through a sea, with which they seemed to be much confirmed in their faith, and enlarged in their acknowledgments, when they came safe to shore: ‘then believed they his words; they sang his praise,’ Ps. 106:12. One would have thought that God’s credit now would have gone for a great sum with them ever after. But it proved nothing so. They dare not trust God with so much as their bill of fare—what they shall eat and drink; and therefore it is said, ‘they waited not for his counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness.’ That is, they prevented the wisdom and providence of God, which would have provided well for them, if they could but have stayed to see how God would have spread their table for them. And why all this haste? ‘They forgat his works.’ They had lost the thankful sense of what was past, and therefore cannot wait for what was to come.

[Hope will enable the soul to wait

when the promise stays longest.]

Third. Hope will enable the soul to wait when the promise stays longest. It is the very nature of hope so to do. ‘It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord,’ Lam. 3:26. Hope groans when the mercy promised comes not, but does not grumble. Hope’s groans are from the spirit sighed out to God in prayer, Rom. 8:26, and these lighten the soul of its burden of fear and solicitous care; whereas the groans of a hopeless soul are vented in discontented passions against God, and these are like a loud wind to a fire, that makes it rage more. ‘They shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them,’ Jer. 25:16. It is spoken of the enemies of God and his people. God had prepared them a draught which should have strange effects—‘they should be moved;’ as a man, whose brain is disturbed with strong drink, is restless and unquiet: yea, ‘be mad.’ As some, when they are drunk, quarrel with every one they meet, so should their hearts be filled with rage even at God himself, who runs his sword into their sides, because they had no hope to look for any healing of their wounds at his hand. But now where there is hope, the heart is soon quieted and pacified. Hope is the handkerchief that God puts into his people’s hands to wipe the tears from their eyes, which their present troubles, and long stay of expected mercies, draw from them. ‘Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy, and there is hope in thine end,’ Jer. 31:16, 17. This, with some other comfortable promises which God gave his prophet Jeremiah in a vision, did so overrun and fill his heart with joy, that, he was as much recruited and comforted as a sick or weary man is after a night of sweet sleep: ‘Upon this I awaked,…and my sleep was sweet unto me,’ ver. 26. When, however, the promise seems to stay long, hope pacifies the Christian with a threefold assurance. First. Hope assures the soul, that though God stays a while before he performs the promise, yet he doth not delay. Second. That when he comes he will abun­dantly recompense his longest stay. Third. That while he stays to perform one promise, he will leave the comfort of another promise, to bear the Christian company in the absence of that.

[A threefold assurance which hope gives

the Christian when God delays to perform

his promise.]

First Assurance. Hope assures the soul that though God stays a while before he performs the promise, yet he doth not delay. ‘The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will sure­ly come, it will not tarry,’ Hab. 2:3. How is this? ‘Though it tarry it will not tarry!’ How shall we rec­oncile this tarrying and not tarrying? Very well. Though the promise tarries till the appointed time, yet it will not tarry beyond it. ‘When the time of the promise drew nigh,’ it is said, ‘which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,’ Acts 7:17. As the herbs and flowers which sleep all winter in their roots underground without any mention of them, when the time of spring ap­proacheth, presently they start forth of their beds, where they had lain so long unperceived. Thus will the promise in its season do. He delays who passeth the time appointed, but he only stays that waits for the appointed time, and then comes. Every promise is dated, but with a mysterious character; and for want of skill in God’s chronology, we are prone to think God forgets us, when, indeed, we forget our­selves, in being so bold to set God a time of our own, and in being angry that he comes not just then to us. As if a man should set his watch by his own hungry stomach rather than by the sun, and then say it is noon, and chide because his dinner is not ready. We are over greedy of comfort, and expect the promise should keep time with our hasty desires, which be­cause it doth not we are discontented. A high piece of folly! The sun will not go the faster for setting our watch forward, nor the promise come the sooner for our antedating it. It is most true what one saith, ‘Though God seldom comes at our day, because we seldom reckon right, yet he never fails his own day.’ That of the apostle is observable. He exhorts the Thessalonian church there, ‘that they would not be shaken in mind, or be troubled, as that the day of Christ were at hand,’ II Thes. 2:2, 3. But what need of this exhortation to saints, that look for their greatest joy to come with the approach of that day? Can their hearts be troubled to hear the day of their redemption draws nigh, the day of refreshing is at hand? It was not therefore, I conceive, the coming of that day which was so unpleasing and affrighting, but the time in which some seducers would have persuaded them to expect it, as if it had been at the very doors, and presently would have surprised them in their genera­tion, which had been very sad indeed, because then it should have come before many prophecies and prom­ises had received their accomplishment, and by that means the truth of God would have gone off the stage with a slur, which must not, shall not be, as he tells them, ‘For that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,’ II Thes. 2:3. And as that promise stays but till those intermediate truths, which have a shorter period, be fulfilled, and then comes without any possible stay or stop; so do all the rest but wait till their reckoning be out, and what God hath ap­pointed to intervene be despatched, and they punctu­ally shall have their delivery in their set time.

Thou art, may be, bleeding under a wounded spirit, a poor broken‑hearted creature that liest steep­ing in thy tears for sin. The promise tells thee that God is nigh thee to revive thee, thee I say by name, Isa. 57:15. Yet thou comest from this prayer, and that sermon, but hast no sight of him, nor canst hear more news of his coming than what the promise gives thee. Look now that God suffers no prejudice by his stay in thy thoughts, but conclude that his time is not come, or else he had been ere this with thee; and take heed of measuring God’s miles by thy own scale, for his nigh may be thy far. God could have told his people the time when he meant to come with the perfor­mance of every promise as easily as set it down in his own purpose, but he hath concealed it in most, as a happy advantage to our faith, whereby we may more fully express our confidence in waiting for that which we know not when we shall receive. Abraham’s faith was great and strong to follow God when he con­cealed the place he meant to lead him to. For he went, ‘he knew not whither,’ Heb. 11:8. So it requires great faith to rest satisfied with the promise when the time of payment is hid. But if we consider who we trade with we can have no reason to be the least jealous, no not when he stays longest, that he will fail or delay us a moment longer than the set time of the promise. There are three [why] men break their times of payment, and come not at their day. 1. Forgetfulness. 2. Unfaithfulness. 3. Impotency.

1. Cause. Forgetfulness. Many remember not what they promise. The day comes and it is quite out of their minds. Men seldom forget when they are to receive, but too oft when they are to pay, debts. An extraordinary occasion must be sent to rub up the butler’s memory, or else he will never think of his prison promise. But God’s promise is never out of his thoughts, ‘he remembers his covenant,’ Ps. 105:8; his people and their affairs are ‘graven on the palms of his hands, and their walls are continually before him,’ Isa. 49:16. Though the preferment of the Pha­raoh’s court made the butler forget his promise to Jo­seph, yet all the glory that Christ sees and enjoys in heaven hath not the power to blot the remembrance of his promise to his people who lie in chains of affliction here below. And God would have his saints take notice of this to comfort themselves with, while [i.e. until] he comes. ‘I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,’ Jer. 29:11.

2. Cause. Unfaithfulness. A promise with some is no more than a collar on an ape’s neck. You have them not a whit the faster by it; for they can slip off the obligation at their pleasure. May be they never intended performance, when they passed it, but made use of a promise only as a key, to lock up their inten­tion of deceiving from your present knowledge. Others haply mean at present as they say, but soon grow sick of their engagement, upon sight of some disadvantage which their after-thoughts discover like­ly to befall them upon the performance, and therefore their wits are set a-work to coin some handsome evasion to delude their engagement, or at least delay the payment. This made Lysander say of some men, that they played with oaths and promises sicut pueri cum astragalis—as children do at nine pins. They will keep them if they can get by the per­formance; but if it be like to prove a losing game, they will rather run debt to their conscience by breaking them, than to their purse, or any other worldly inter­est, by their performance. But no fear of God in this matter.

(1.) His name is truth and faithfulness. Now can truth itself lie, or faithfulness deceive? ‘In my Fa­ther’s house,’ saith Christ, ‘are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go,…I will come again and receive you,’ John 14:2, 3. See here the candour and nakedness of our Saviour’s heart. As if he had said, ‘This is no shift to be gone, that so I may by a fair tale leave you in hopes of that which shall never come to pass. No; did I know it otherwise than I speak, my heart is so full of love to you, that it would not have suffered me to put such a cheat upon you for a thous­and worlds. You may trust me to go; for as surely as you see me go, shall your eyes see me come again to your everlasting joy.’ The promises are none of them yea and nay, but ‘yea and amen’ in him.

(2.) He is wisdom as well as truth. As he is truth, he cannot wrong or deceive us in breaking his word; and being wisdom, it is impossible he should promise that which should prejudice himself. And therefore, he makes no blots in his purposes or promises, but what he doth in either is immutable. Repentance is indeed an act of wisdom in the crea­ture, but it presupposeth folly, which is incompatible to God. In a word, men too oft are rash in promising; and therefore what they in haste promise they per­form at leisure. They consider not before they vow, and therefore inquire afterward whether they had best stand to it. But the all‑wise God needs not this after-game. As in the creation he looked back upon the several pieces of that goodly frame, and saw them so exact that he took not up his pencil the second time to mend anything of the first draft; so in his promises, they are made with such infinite judgment and wis­dom, that what he hath writ he will stand to for ever. ‘I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judg­ment,’ Hosea 2:19. Therefore for ever, because in righ­teousness and in mercy.

3. Cause. Impotency. Men’s promises, alas! de­pend upon many contingencies. The man haply is rich when he seals the bond, and poor before the day of payment comes about. A wreck at sea, a fire by land, or some other sad accident, intervenes, either quite impoverisheth him, or necessitates him to beg further time, with him in the gospel, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all,’ Matt. 18:26. But the great God cannot be put to such straits. ‘The Strength of Israel will not lie,’ I Sam. 15:29. As there is a lie of wickedness, when one promiseth what he will not perform; so there is a lie that proceeds from weakness, when a person or thing cannot perform what they promise. Thus indeed all men, yea, all creatures, will be found liars to all that lean on them, called therefore ‘lying vanities.’ ‘Vanities,’ as empty and insufficient; ‘lying vanities,’ because they promise what they have not to give. But God, he is propound­ed as a sure bottom for our faith to rest on in this respect. ‘Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is strength, or everlasting strength,’ Isa. 26:4. Such strength his is that needs not another’s strength to uphold it. One man’s ability to perform his promises leans on others’ ability to pay theirs to him. If they him, he is forced to fail them. Thus we see, the breaking of one merchant proves the breaking of many others whose estates were in his hands. But God’s power is independent. Let the whole creation break, yet God is the same as he was, as able to help as ever. ‘Though the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines.’ And, ‘yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salva­tion. The Lord God is my strength,’ Hab. 3:17-19. O how happy are the saints! a people that can never be undone, no, not when the whole world turns bank­rupt, because they have his promise whose power fails not when that doth. The Christian cannot come to God when he hath not by him what he wants. ‘How great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee,’ Ps. 31:19. It is laid up, as a father hath his child’s portion, in bags, ready to be paid him when the time comes. The saint shall not stay a moment beyond the date of the promise. ‘There is forgiveness with thee,’ saith the psalmist. It stands ready for thee against thou comest to claim the promise.

Second Assurance. Hope assures the Christian, that though God stays long, yet, when he does come, he will abundantly recompense his longest stay. As the wicked get nothing by God’s forbearing to execute his threatening, but the treasuring up more wrath for the day of wrath; so the saints lose nothing by not having the promise presently paid into them, but ra­ther do, by their forbearing God a while, treasure up more joy against the joyful day, when the promise shall be performed. ‘To them who by patient con­tinuance…seek for glory and honour,…eternal life,’ Rom. 2:7. Mark, it is not enough to do well, but to ‘continue’ therein; nor that neither, except it be ‘pa­tient continuing in well-doing’—in the midst of God’s seeming delays; and whoever he be that can do this, shall be rewarded at last for all his patience. Plough­ing is hungry work, yet because it is in hope of reaping such an abundant increase, the husbandman faints not. O my soul, saith hope, though thou wantest thy dinner, hold but out a while, and thou shalt have din­ner and supper served in together when night comes. The sick fits and qualms which the Christian hath in the absence of the promise are all forgot, and the trouble of them over, when once it comes and he is feasted with the joy it brings. ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life;’ Prov. 13:12—that is, when it cometh in God’s time after long waiting, then it causeth an overflowing joy. As there is a time which God hath set for the ripening the fruits of the earth, before which, if they be gathered, it is to our loss; so there is a time set by God for the good things of the promise, which we are to wait for, and not unseasonably pluck, like green apples, off the tree—as too many do, who, having no faith or hope to quiet their spirits while [until] God’s time comes, do therefore snatch that by unwarrant­able means, which would in time drop ripe into their bosoms.

And what get these short‑spirited men by their haste? Alas! they find their enjoyments thin and lank, like corn reaped before it is fit for the sickle, wherewith he that bindeth the sheaves, filleth not his bosom. Therefore we find this duty of waiting press­ed under this very metaphor. ‘Be patient, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord,’ James 5:7. Stay God’s time, till he comes according to his promise, and takes you off your suffering work, and be not hasty to shift yourselves out of trouble. And why so? ‘Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.’ The husbandman who, the proverb saith, is, dives in novum annum—rich in hope of the next year’s crop —though he gladly would have his corn in the barn, yet waits for its ripening in the ordinary course of God’s providence. When the former rain comes he is joyful, but yet desires the latter rain also, and stays for it, though long in coming. And do not we see, that a shower sometimes falls close to the time of harvest, that plumps the ear to the great increase of the crop, which some lose, that, through distrust of providence, put in their sickle too soon? I am sure mercies come fullest when most waited for. Christ did not so soon supply them with wine at the marriage of Cana, as his mother desired, but they had the more for staying a while. There is a double fullness, which the Christian may hope to find in those enjoyments that he hath with long patience waited for, above another that can­not stay God’s leisure.

1. Afulness of duration. Enjoyments snatched out of God’s hand, and not given by it, are but guests come, not to stay long; like David’s child born in adultery, they commonly die in the cradle. They are like some fruit gathered green, which soon rots.

Is it riches that is thus got? Some are said to ‘make haste to be rich,’ Prov. 28:20. They cannot, by a conscionable diligence in their particular calling, and exercise of godliness in their general, wait upon God. No; the promise doth not gallop fast enough for them; on therefore they spur, and, by sordid prac­tices, make haste to be rich. But God makes as much haste to melt their estate, as they do to gather. No salt will keep that meat long from corrupting which was overheated in the driving, nor any care and prov­idence of man keep that estate from God’s curse which is got by so hot and sinful a pursuit. ‘Wealth gotten by vanity’—that is, vain, unwarrantable courses —‘shall be diminished,’ Prov. 13:11. Like the unsound fat which great drinkers and greedy eaters gain to themselves, it hath that in it that will hasten its ruin. ‘The getting of treasure by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death,’ Prov 21:6. The meaning is, such estates are tossed like a ball, from one to another, and are not to stay long in any hand, till it comes into the godly man’s, whom God oft, by his providence, makes heir to such men’s riches, as you may see, Job 27:11-23; Ecc. 2:26.

Again, is it comfort and inward joy? Some make too much haste for this. They are not like other Christians, who use to have a wet seed-time, and are content to wait for joy till harvest, or at least till it be in some forwardness, and the seed of grace, which was sown in tears of humiliation, appears above ground in such solid evidences as do in some degree satisfy them concerning the reality and truth of the same. Then indeed the sincere Christian’s spirit begins to cheer up, and his comfort holds, yea increaseth more and more, as the sun that, after a contest with some thick mist, breaks forth, and gets a full victory of those vapours which for a while darkened it. ‘The light of the righteous rejoiceth,’ Prov. 13:9—that is, over all his fears and doubts. But there are others so hasty that they are catching at comfort before they were ever led into acquaintance with godly sorrow. They are delivered without pain, and their faith flames forth into the joy of assurance, before any smoke of doubtings and fears were seen to arise in their hearts. But alas! it is as soon lost as got, like too forward a snibbing spring, that makes the husband­man weep at harvest; or a fair sunshine day in winter, that is the breeder of many foul ones after it. The stony ground is a clear instance of this, Mark 4, whose joy was a quickly down as up. A storm of persecution or temptation comes, and immediately he is offend­ed.

In a word, take but one instance more, and that is in point of deliverance. Such hasty spirits that can­not wait for the promise to open their prison door, and God to give them a release in his time, but break prison, and by some unwarrantable practice wind themselves out of trouble; do we not see how miser­ably they befool themselves? For while they think, by the midwifery of their sinful policy, to hasten their deliverance, they kill it in the birth, which, had it come in God’s time, might have stayed many a fair day with them. The Jews are a sad instance of this; who, though God gave them such full security for their deliverance from the Babylonian hand, would yet take their own course, hoping, it seems, to com­pass it sooner by policy than they could expect it to be effected by providence, and therefore to Egypt they will post in all haste, not doubting but they shall thence bring their deliverance. But alas! it proved far otherwise; for all they got was to have more links add­ed to their chain of bondage, and their lordly masters to use greater rigour upon them, which God, by his prophet, bids them thank their own hasty unbelieving spirits for. ‘Thus saith the Lord God, the holy One of Israel, In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength, and ye would not,’ Isa. 30:15. Indeed, if we look on such as have quietly waited by hope for God’s coming to their help, we shall find they ever sped well. Joshua, who bore up against all discouragements from God and man, steadfastly believing, and patiently waiting, for the land God had promised, did he not live to walk over their graves in the wilderness that would have turned back to Egypt? and to be witness to their destruction also, who presumptuously went up the hill to fight the enemy and take the land—as they vainly hoped—before God’s time was come? Deut. 1. Yea, did not he at last divide the land, and lay his bones in a bed of honour, after he had lived to see the promise of God happily performed to his people? So David, whose hope and patience was admirable in waiting for the kingdom after he had the promise of it; especially if we consider what fair opportunities he had to take cruel Saul out of the way, whose life alone did stand betwixt him and the throne. Neither did he want matter to fill up a declaration for the satisfaction and pacifying the minds of the people, if he had a mind to have gone this way to the crown; but he knew those plausible arguments for such a fact, which would have pleased the multitude, would not have pa­cified his own conscience, and this stayed his hand from any such ripping open the womb of the promise, to come by the crown with which it was big, but left it to go its full time, and he lost nothing by it.

2. There flows in a fulness of benediction, with an enjoyment reaped in God’s full time, which is lost for want of patience to wait thereunto. Now this ben­ediction is paid into the waiting soul’s bosom two ways. (1.) He hath that enjoyment sweetened to him with God’s love and favour for his comfort. (2.) He hath it sanctified to him in the happy fruit it bears for his good.

(1.) He hath it sweetened to him with God’s love and favour for his comfort; which he cannot so well expect that carves for himself, and cannot stay for God in his own time to lay it on his trencher. There is guilt ever to be found in the company of impatience and distrust. And where guilt is contracted in the get­ting of an enjoyment, there can be little sweetness tasted when it comes to be used. O guilt is an embit­tering thing! It keeps the soul in a continual fear of hearing ill news from heaven; and a soul in fear is not in case to relish the sweetness of a mercy. Such a one may happily have a little tumultuous joy, and warm himself awhile at this rash fire of his own kindling, till he comes to have some serious discourse with his own heart in cold blood, about the way and manner of getting the enjoyment and this is sure to send such a dampness to the heart of the poor creature as will not suffer that fire long to burn clear. O what a stab it is to the heart of an oppressor, to say of his great wealth, as that king of his crown, ‘Here is a fair estate, but God knows how I came by it!’ What a wound to the joy of a hypocrite! ‘I have pretended to a great deal of comfort, but God knows how I came by it!’ Whereas the Christian who receives any comfort, in­ward or outward, from God’s hand, as a return for his patient waiting, hath none of these sad thoughts to scare him and break his drought when the cup is in his mouth. He knows where he had his outward es­tate and inward comfort. He can bring God to vouch them both, that they with his leave and liking. There is a great odds between the joy of the husbandman, at the happy inning of his corn in harvest, and the thief’s joy, who hath stolen some sheaves out of an­other’s field, and is making merry with his booty as soon as he is got home. Possibly you may hear a greater noise and outis[1] of joy in the thief’s house than the honest husbandman’s, yet no compare be­tween them. One knock at the thief’s door by an of­ficer that comes to search his house for stolen goods, spoils the mirth of the whole house—who run, one this way and another that. O what fear and shame must then take hold on his guilty heart, that hears God coming to search for his stolen mercies and comforts!

(2.) The waiting soul hath enjoyments sanctified to him for his good; and this another wants with all he hath. And what is the blessing of mercy, but to have it do us good? Hasty spirits grow worse by en­joyments gathered out of season. This is a sore evil indeed, to have wealth for our hurt, and comfort for our hurt. It was the sin of Israel that ‘they waited not for his counsel,’ Ps. 106:13. God had taken them as his charge, and undertook to provide for them if they would have stood to his allowance; but they could not stay his leisure, ‘but lusted exceedingly in the wilder­ness, and tempted God in the desert,’ ver. 14. They must have what pleaseth their palate, and when their own impatient hearts call, or not at all. And so they had: ‘He gave them their request,’ ver. 15. But they had better been without their feast, for they did not thrive by it, ‘he sent leanness into their soul,’ ver. 15. A secret curse came with their enjoyments, which soon appeared in those great sins they thereupon were left to commit—‘they envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord,’ ver. 16—as also in the heavy judgments by which God did testify against them for the same, Num. 11:31. Whereas mer­cies that are received in God’s way and time, prove meat of better juice and purer nourishment to the waiting soul. They do not break out into such bot­ches and plague-sores as these. As the other are fuel for lust, so these food to the saints’ graces, and make them more humble and holy. See this in Isa. 30:18, 19, compared with ver. 22, where they, as a fruit of their patient waiting on God for their outward deliv­erance, have with it that which is more worth than the deliverance itself, i.e. grace to improve and use it hol­ily. It was a great mercy that Hannah had, after her many prayers and long waiting, ‘a son;’ but a greater, that she had a heart to give up her son again to God, that gave him to her. To have estate, health, or any other enjoyment upon waiting on God for the same, is mercy, but not to be compared with that blessing which seasons and sanctifies the heart to use them for God’s glory. And this is the ordinary portion of the waiting soul, and that not only in outward comforts, but inward also. The joy and inward peace which the sincere soul hath thus, makes it more humble, holy, heavenly; whereas the comfort which the hypocrite comes so quickly by, either degenerates into pride and self-conceit, or empties itself into some other fil­thy sink—sometimes even of open profaneness it­self—before it hath run far.

Third Assurance. Hope assures the soul, that while God stays the performance of one promise, he shall have the absence thereof supplied with the pres­ence of another. And this is enough to quiet the heart of any that understands himself. God hath laid things in such a sweet method, that there is not one point of time wherein the soul of a believer is left wholly des­titute of comfort, but there is one promise or other that stands to minister unto his present wants. Some­times, haply, he may want what he strongly desires, yet even then care is taken for his present subsistence; one promise bears the Christian company while another comes. And what cause hath the sick man to complain, though all his friends do not sit up with him together, if they take it by turns, and never leave him without a sufficient number to look to him?

We read of a ‘tree of life,’ Rev. 22:2, ‘which bears twelve manner of fruits, and yieldeth her fruit every month,’ so that it is never without some hanging on it which is fit for the eater. What can this tree be bet­ter conceived to be than Christ, who yields all manner of fruit in his promises, and comfort for all times, all conditions? The believer can never come but he shall find some promise ripe to be eaten, with which he may well stay his stomach till the other—whose time to be gathered is not yet come—hangs for further ri­pening. Here you see the Christian hath provision for all the year long. When Christ returned to heaven he gave his disciples this to comfort them, that he would come again, and carry them with him unto his father’s house, where no he lives himself in glory, John 14:2, 3. This is sweet indeed. But, alas! what shall they do in the meantime to weather out those many storms which were to intervene between this promise and the time when it shall be performed? This also our Sav­iour considered, and tells them he does not mean to leave them comfortless, but gives them another promise to keep house with, in the meantime, i.e. a promise of his Spirit—who should be with them on earth, while [until] he took them to be with him in heaven, John 14:16. The Christian is never at such a loss wherein hope cannot relieve it. ‘Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is, for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit,’ Jer. 17:7, 8. These waters are the promises from which the be­liever draws continual matter of comfort, that as a tree planted by a river flourisheth, however the year goes, so doth he, whatever the temper of God’s ex­terior providence is. Possibly the Christian is in an afflicted state, and the promise for deliverance comes not, yet then hope can entertain him in the absence of that, at the cost of another promise—that though God doth not at present deliver him out of the afflic­tion, yet he will support him under it, I Cor. 10:13. If yet the Christian cannot find this promise paid into such a height as to discharge him of all impatience, distrust, and other sinful distempers—which to his grief he finds too busy in him for all the promise —then hope hath another window to let out the smoke at, and that is by presenting the soul with those promises which assure the weak Christian that pardoning mercy shall cover those defects which as­sisting grace did not fully conquer. ‘I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him,’ Mal. 3:1. So, Micah 7:18 ‘Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever.’ And certainly God would not have suffered so much impatience to have broken out in Job, but that he would have something left for par­doning mercy to do at the close of all, to which that holy man should see himself beholden, both for his deliverance, and that honourable testimony also which God himself gave of him before his uncharit­able friends, who from his great afflictions, and some discomposure of spirit in them, did so unmercifully burden him with the heavy charge of being a hypocrite.

DIRECTION IX.—THIRD GENERAL PART.

[Application of the Doctrine of the Christian Helmet, alike to those who have,

and to those who have it not.]

Having shown now what the helmet of salvation is, and several of its offices to the Christian, we pro­ceed to bring out how its doctrine applies alike to those who have, and to those who have it not, and the several points of improvement which naturally flow from it. These may be classed as four. First. A trial of what metal our helmet of hope is made. Second. An exhortation to those who, upon trial, find it genu­ine, in which two duties are pressed on them. Third. Arguments why we should strengthen our hope, with directions how we may do so. Fourth. An exhorta­tion to those who want this helmet of hope.

FIRST POINT OF IMPROVEMENT.

[Trial of what metal our helmet of hope

is made.]

For trial, whether we have this helmet of hope on our heads or no—this helmet, I say, commended to us in the text. As for such paltry ware, that most are contended with for cheapness’ sake, it, alas! de­serves not the name of a true hope, no more than a paper cap doth of a helmet. O, look to the metal and temper of your helmet in an especial manner, for at this most blows are made. He that seeks chiefly to defend his own head—the serpent I mean—will aim most to wound yours. None but fools and children are so credulous as to be blown up with great hopes upon any light occasion and slight ground. They who are wise, and have their wits about them, will be as wary as how they place their hopes, especially for sal­vation, as a prudent pilot, that hath a rich lading, would be where he moors his ship and casts his anchor. There is reason for our utmost care herein, because nothing exposeth men to more shame than to meet with disappointment in their hopes. ‘They were confounded because they had hoped; they came thith­er and were ashamed,’ Job 6:20; that is, to miss of what they hoped to have found in those brooks. But there is no shame like to that which a false hope for eternal salvation will put sinners to at last; some shall rise ‘to shame everlasting,’ Dan. 10. They shall awake out of their graves, and out of that fool’s paradise also, wherein their vain hopes had entertained them all their lives, and see, instead of a heaven they expected, hell to be in expectation of them, and gaping with full mouth for them. If the servants of Eglon were so ashamed after their waiting awhile at their prince’s door, from whom they expected all their preferment, to find him, and their hopes with him, dead on the floor, Judges 3:25; O, whose heart then can think what a mixture of shame and horror shall meet in their faces and hearts at the great day, who shall see all their hopes for heaven hop headless, and leave them in the hands of tormenting devils to all eternity! Hannibal’s soldiers did not so confidently divide the goldsmiths’ shops in Rome among themselves —which yet they never took—as many presumptuous sinners do promise themselves heaven’s bliss and happiness, who must instead thereof sit down with shame in hell, except they can, before they die, show better ground for their hope than now they are able to do. O what will those fond dreamers do in the day of the Lord’s anger, when they shall see the whole world in a light flame round about them, and hear God —whose piercing eyes will look them through and through—calling them forth before men and angels to the scrutiny! Will they stand to their hope, and vouch it to the face of Christ, which now they bless themselves so in? Surely their hearts will fail them for such an enterprise. None then will speak so ill of them as their own consciences shall do. God will in that day use their own tongues to accuse them, and set forth the folly of their ridiculous hope to the confusion of their faces before all the world. The prophet foretells a time when the false prophets ‘shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive, but he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman,’ &c., Zech. 13:4, 5.

Truly the most notorious false prophet that the world hath, and deceives most, is this vain hope which men take up for their salvation. This proph­esies of peace, pardon, and heaven, to be the portion of such as [it] never once entered into God’s heart to make heirs thereof. But the day is coming, and it hastens, wherein this false prophet shall be con­founded. Then the hypocrite shall confess he never had any hope for salvation but what was the idol of his own fancy’s making; and the formalist shall throw off the garment of his profession by which he de­ceived himself and others, and appear to himself and to all the world in his naked colours. It behooves therefore everyone to be strict and curious in the search of his own heart, to find what his hope is built upon.

Now, hope of the right make, is a rational well-grounded hope. ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you,’ I Peter 3:15. Alas! how can they give an ans­wer to others, that have not any to give to their own consciences to this question, ‘Why dost thou hope to be saved, O my soul?’ There is no Christian, be he never so weak in grace, but hath some reason bot­tomed on the Scripture—for other I mean not—for the hope he professeth. Do you think, yea, can you be so absurd as to think, your own bold presumption, without any word of promise to build upon, can en­title your souls to the inheritance in God’s kingdom? Should one come and say your house and land were his, and show you no writing under your hand by which you did ever grant him a right thereunto, but all he can say is, he dreamed the last night your house and land were his, and therefore now he demands it; would you not think the man mad, and had more to the bedlam than to your estate? And yet there are many hope to be saved, that can give no better reason than this comes to for the same, and such are all grossly ignorant and profane sinners. As it is enough for a saint to end the trouble which his fears put him into, to ask his soul why it is disquieted within him, would he but observe how little reason his heart can give for the same; so [would it be enough] to dis­mount the bold sinner from his prancing hopes, if he might be prevailed with to call himself to an account, and thus to accost his soul sometimes, and resolve not to stir without a satisfactory answer. ‘In sober sadness tell me, O my soul! what reason findest thou in the whole Bible, for thee to hope for salvation, what livest in ignorance of God, or a trade of sin against God?’ Certainly he should find his soul as mute and speechless as the man without the wedding garment was at Christ’s question. This is the reason why men are such strangers to themselves, and dare not enter into any discourse upon this subject with their own hearts, because they know they should soon make an uproar in their consciences that would not be stilled in haste. They cocker their false hearts as much as David did his Adonijah, who in all his life never displeased him so much as to ask him, ‘Why dost thou so?’ Nor they their souls to the day of their death by asking them, ‘Soul, why hopest thou so?’ Or if they have, it hath been as Pilate, who asked Christ what was truth, John 18:38, but had no mind to stay for an answer.

May be thou art an ignorant, soul, who knowest neither who Christ is, nor what in Christ hope is to fasten its hold upon; but only with a blind surmise thou hopest God will be better to thee than to damn thee at last. But why thou thus hopest, thou canst give no reason, nor I neither. If he will save thee as now thou art, he must make a new gospel for thy sake; for in this Bible it damns thee without hope or help. The gospel is ‘hid to them that are lost,’ II Cor. 4:3. But if knowledge will do it, thou haply canst show good store of that. This is the breast-work un­der which thou liest, and keepest off those shot which are made at thee from the word, for those lusts which thou livest and liest in as a beast in his dung, defiling thyself with them daily. And is this all thou hast to prove thy hopes for salvation for hopes true and solid? Indeed, many make no better use of their knowledge of the Scripture, than thieves do of the knowledge they have of the law of the land, who study it not that they mean to keep it, but to make them more cunning to evade the charge of it when called in question by it. So many acquaint themselves with the word—especially those passages in it that display the mercy of God to sinners at the greatest breadth—that with these they may stuff a pillow to lay their wretch­ed heads on, when the cry of the abominations in which they live begins to break their rest. God deliver you, my dear friends, from such a hope as this. Sure­ly you mean to provide a better answer to give unto Christ at the great day than this, why ye hope to be saved by him; do you not? Will thy knowledge, thinkest thou, be as strong a plea for salvation, as thy sins which thou wallowest in, against that knowledge, will be for thy damnation? If there be hope for such as thee, then come Judas and Jezebel, yea devils, and all ye infernal spirits, and strike in for this good com­pany for a part with them, for some of you can plead more of this than any of them all.

But may be thou hast more yet to say for thyself than this comes to. Thou art not only a knowing per­son but a reformed also; the pollutions in which once thou layest, now thou hast escaped; yea, thy reformation is embellished and set forth with a very gaudy profession of religion, both which have gained thee a very high opinion in the thoughts of all thy neigh­bours; so that if heaven might be carried by thy hands, thou couldst haply have a testimonial for thy unblam­able and saint-like behaviour among them; yet, let me tell thee, if thou meanest to be faithful to thy own soul, thou must not rest in their charitable opinion of thee, nor judge of thy hopes for heaven by what comes under their cognizance, to wit, the behaviour of thy outward man—for further their eye and observation reacheth not—but art to look inward to thy own bos­om, and inquire what spring thou canst find thereto have been the cause of this change and new motion that hath appeared in thy external conversation. This, and this alone, must decide the controversy, and bring thy thoughts to an issue, what to judge of thy hope, whether spurious or legitimate. It is not a new face that colours our outward behaviour, but a new principle that changeth the frame of the heart within, will evince thy hope to be good and genuine. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope,’ I Peter 1:3. The new birth entitles to a new hope. If the soul be dead, the hope cannot be alive. And the soul may be dead, and yet put into a very handsome dress of external reformation and profession, as well as a dead body may be clad with rich clothes. A beggar’s son got into the clothes of a rich man’s child, may as well hope to be heir to the rich man’s land, as thou, by an external reformation and profession, to be God’s heir in glory. The child’s hopes are from his own father, not from a stranger. Now, while thou art in a natural estate —though never so finished—old Adam is thy father; and what canst thou hope from him who proved worse than nought, and left his poor posterity noth­ing, except we should put a crazy mortal body, a sinful nature, and a fearful expectation of death tem­poral and eternal from the wrathful hand of a pro­voked God—which indeed he left all his children —into his inventory? O sirs, how can you give way that any sleep should fall upon your eyes, till you get into this relation to God! Hannah was a woman of a bitter spirit till she got a child from God; and hast not thou more reason to be so, till thou canst get to be a child of God? Better a thousand times over that thou shouldst die childless than fatherless; my meaning is, that thou shouldst leave no child to inherit thy estate on earth, than to have no father to give thee an inher­itance in heaven when thou art taken hence.

SECOND POINT OF IMPROVEMENT.

[Exhortation to those who have

this helmet of hope.]

For exhortation of you, believers, who upon trial are found to have this helmet of hope. Several duties are to be pressed upon you as such. First. Be thankful for this unspeakable gift. Second. Live up to your hopes.

[Duties which possession of the

helmet of hope involves.]

First Duty. Be thankful for this unspeakable gift. I will not believe thou hast it if thy heart be not abundantly let out in thankfulness for it. Blessed Peter cannot speak of this but in a doxology. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which hath begotten us again unto a lively hope,…to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away,’ I Peter 1:3, 4[2]. The usual proem to Paul’s epistles is of this strain, Col. 1:5; Eph. 1:3. Hast thou hope in heaven? It is more than if thou hadst the whole world in hand. The greatest monarch the earth hath will be glad, in a dying hour, to change his crown for thy helmet. His crown will not procure him this helmet, but thy helmet will bring thee to a crown, when he shall have none to wear—a crown, not of gold, but of glory, which once on shall never be taken off, as his is sure to be. O remember, Christian, what but a while since thou wert—so far from having any hope of heaven, that thou wert under a fearful expec­tation of hell and damnation. And are those chains of guilt with which thy trembling conscience was weighed down unto despair, taken off, and thy head lift up to look for such high preferment in the celes­tial court of that God whose wrath thou hadst, by thy horrid treasons, most justly incensed against thee? Certainly, of all the men in the world, thou art deep­est in debt to the mercy of God. If he will be thanked for a crust, he looks, sure, thou shouldst give him more for a crown. If food and raiment, though coarse and mean—suppose but roots and rags—be gratefully to be acknowledged; O with what ravishment of love and thankfulness are you to think and speak of those rarities and robes with which you hope to be fed and clad in this heavenly kingdom! especially if you cast your eye aside, and behold those that were once your fellow-prisoners—in what a sad and dismal condition they continue—while all this happiness has befallen you! It could not, sure, but affect his heart into ad­miration of his prince’s mercy and undeserved favour to him, who is saved from the gibbet only by his gra­cious pardon, if, as he is riding in a coach towards his prince’s court—there to live in wealth and honour —he should meet some of his fellow‑traitors on sleds, as they are dragging full of shame and horror to exe­cution for the same treason in which they had as deep a hand as any of them all. And dost thou not see, Christian, many of thy poor neighbours, with whom haply thou hast had a partnership in sin, pinioned with impenitency and unbelief, driving apace to hell and destruction, while thou, by the free distinguishing mercy of God, art on thy way for heaven and glory? O down on thy knees, and cry out, ‘Lord, why wilt thou show thyself to me, and not to these?’ How easy had it been, and righteous for God, to have directed the pardon to them, and the warrant for damnation unto thee! When thou hast spent thy own breath and spir­its in praising God, thou hadst need beg a collection of praises of all thy friends that have a heart to contribute to such charitable work, that they would help thee in paying this debt; and get all this, with what in heaven thou shalt disburse thyself to all eternity, in better coin than can be expected from thee here—where thy soul is embased with sinful mix­tures—it must be accounted rather an acknowledg­ment of what thou owest to thy God, than any pay­ment of the least part of the debt.

Second Duty. Live up to thy hopes, Christian. Let there be a decorum kept between thy principles and thy practices, thy hope of heaven and walk on earth. The eye should direct the foot. Thou lookest for salvation; walk the same way thy eye looks. This is so often pressed in the word, as shows both its ne­cessity and difficulty. Some times we are stirred up to act ‘as becometh saints,’ Rom. 16:2; Eph. 5:3. Sometimes ‘as becometh the gospel of Christ,’ Php. 1:27. Sometimes ‘as becometh those who profess godli­ness,’ I Tim. 2:10. There is a JÎ [email protected]<—a decorum, and comely behaviour, which, if a Christian doth not observe in his walking he betrays his high calling and hopes unto scorn and contempt. To look high, and to live low, O how ridiculous it appears to all men! When a man is dressed on purpose to be laughed at and made a jeering‑stock, they put on him some­thing of the king and something of the beggar, that, by this patchery of mock‑majesty with sordid baseness to­gether, he may appear the greater fool to all the company. And certainly, if the devil might have the dressing of a man, so as to cast the greatest shame and ignominy upon him, yea, upon Christ and the profession of his gospel, he could not think of a read­ier way than to persuade a wretch to pretend to high and glorious hopes of heaven, and then to have noth­ing suitable to the high‑flown hopes in his conversa­tion, but all base and unworthy of such royal claims. If ye should see one going into the field with a helmet of brass on his head, but a wooden sword in one hand, and a paper shield on the other, and the rest of his armour like to these, you would expect he was not likely to hurt his enemies, except they should break their sides with laughing at him. Such a goodly spec­tacle is the brag professor, who lifts up his head on high with a bold expectation of salvation, but can show never a grace beside to suit with the great hope he hath taken up; he may make the devil sport, but never do him any great hurt, or himself good.

Question. But may be you will ask, How is the Christian to live up to his hopes?

Answer. I answer, in general, he is to be careful to do nothing in which he may not freely act his hope, and from the promise expect that God will, for Christ’s sake, both approve the action, and reward his person for it. Ask thy soul this question seriously before thou engagest in any work, ‘May I hope that God will bid me good speed? Can I look for his countenance in it, and his blessing on it?’ It is very unworthy of a Christian to do anything sneakingly, as if he were afraid God or his conscience should be privy to his work. ‘Whatsoever is not of hope is sin, because it cannot be of faith.’ O how would this hedge in the Christian’s heart from all by-paths! Pos­sibly thou hast a grudge against thy neighbour. The fire is kindled in thy heart, though it flames not presently out into bitter words and angry behaviour; and thou art going to pray. Ask now thy soul, wheth­er God will accept that sacrifice which is kindled with such strange fire? Yea, bid thy soul bethink herself how thy hopes of pardoning and saving mercy from God can agree with thy wrathful unforgiving spirit towards thy brother? Certainly, as the sun cannot well be seen through a disturbed air, so neither can the eye of hope well see her object—heaven’s salva­tion—when the soul is tumultuous and roiled with anger and unchristian passion.

But, to instance in some particulars wherein you must comport with your hopes of salvation.

[Instances wherein the Christian

should live up to his hopes.]

First Instance. In your company. Man is a so­ciable creature—made for fellowship. And what com­pany is fit for thee to consort with, but those of the same breeding and hopes with thyself? The saints are a distinct society from the world. ‘Let ours also learn to maintain good works,’ Titus 3:14. ‘Ours,’ i.e. of our fellowship. And it becomes them to seek their com­pany among themselves. That of Peter and John is observable, ‘being let go, they went to their own com­pany,’ Acts 4:23. When among the ungodly world they made account they were not in their own company, and therefore stayed no longer than needs must among them. There were enough surely in the land of Canaan with whom Abraham might have associ­ated; but he knew they were not company for him to be linked to in any intimacy of acquaintance, and therefore it is said of him, that ‘he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise,’ Heb. 11:9. We find him indeed confederate with Mamre, the Amorite, and Eshcol, and Aner, his brethren, Gen. 14:13, which presup­poseth more than ordinary acquaintance. But these, in all probability, were proselytes, and had, by Abraham’s godly persuasions, renounced their idolatry, to worship with him the true God. And we may the ra­ther be induced to think so, because we find them so deeply engaged with Abraham in battle with those idolatrous neighbour princes, which, had they them­selves been idolaters, it is like they would not have done for a stranger, and him of a strange religion also. We find how dearly some of the saints have paid for their acquaintance with the wicked, as Jehoshaphat for his intimacy with Ahab, and many others. And if, knowing this, we shall yet associate ourselves with such, we cannot in reason look to pay less than they have done; yea, well, if we come off so cheap, because we have their follies recorded to make us wiser.

O consider, Christian, whither thou art going in thy hopes! Is it not to heaven? and do not men seek for such company as go their way? And are the wicked of thy way? When heaven’s way and hell’s meet in one road, then, and not till then, can that be. And if thy companion will not walk in heaven-way, what wilt thou do that walkest with him? It is to be feared thou must comply too much in his way. In a word, Christian, thy hope points to heaven; and is it not one thing thou hopest for, when thou comest there, to be delivered from all company with the wicked? and what thou then hopest for, doth thou not now pray for? Sure enough thou dost, if a true saint. Whatever is the object of a saint’s hope is the subject of his prayer. As oft as thou sayest, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ thou prayest thus much. And will hoping and praying to be delivered from them, stand with throw­ing thyself upon them, and intimate familiarity with them?

Second Instance. Then thou comportest with thy hopes of salvation, when thou labourest to be as holy in thy conversation as thou art high in thy expec­tation. This the apostle urgeth from the condescency of the thing: ‘What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness; looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God,’ II Peter 3:11, 12. Certainly it becomes such to be holy even to admiration, who look for such a blessed day! We hope then to be like the angels in glory, and therefore should, if possible, live now like angels in holiness. Every believing soul is Christ’s spouse. The day of conversion is the day of espousals, wherein she is contracted and betrothed by faith to Christ; and as such, lives in hope for the marriage-day, when he shall come and fetch her home unto his Father’s house—as Isaac did Rebecca into his mother’s tent —there to cohabit with him and live in his sweet em­braces of love, world without end. Now, would the bride have her bridegroom find her, when he comes, in her fluttery and vile raiment? No, sure. ‘Can a bride forget her attire?’ Jer. 2:32. Was it ever known that a bride forgot to have her wedding‑clothes made against the marriage‑day? or to put them on when she looks for her bridegroom’s coming? Holiness is the ‘raiment of needle-work,’ in which, Christian, thou art to be ‘brought unto thy king and husband,’ Ps. 45:14. Wherefore is the wedding-day put off so long, but because this garment is so long a making? When this is once wrought, and thou ready dressed, then that joyful day comes: ‘The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready,’ Rev. 19:7.

Thou hast not, Christian, a weightier argument to knock down all temptations to sin, nor a more honourable way to get the victory of them, than by setting thy hope to grapple with them. I confess it is well when this enemy is worsted, what hand soever he falls by; though it be the fear of hell that clubs it down in the lives of men, it is better than not at all. Yet I must tell you, that as the Israelites’ state was poor and servile, when they were fain to borrow the Philis­tines’ grindstone ‘to sharpen every man his axe and mattock,’ I Sam. 13:20, so it speaks the Christian to be in no very good state as to his spiritual affairs when he is fain to use the wicked man’s argument to keep him from sinning, and nothing will set an edge upon his spirit to cut through temptation, but what the un­circumcised world themselves use. Thou, Christian, art of a nobler spirit, and more refined temper than these, I trow. And as we have a finer stone to sharpen a razor with that we use for a butcher’s knife, so, certainly, a more spiritual and ingenuous argument would become thee better, to make thee keen and sharp against sin, than what prevails with the worst of men sometimes to forbear at least acting their wicked­ness. Go thou, Christian, to thy hope, and while the slavish sinner scares and terrifies himself from his lust with fire and brimstone, do thou shame thyself out of all acquaintance with it from the great and glorious things thou lookest for in heaven. Is it a sin of sensual pleasure that assaults thy castle? Say then to thy soul, ‘Shall I play the beast on earth, that hope to be such a glorious creature in heaven?’ Shall that head be found now in a Delilah’s lap, that ere long I hope to be laid in Abraham’s bosom? Can I now yield to defile that body with lust and vomit, which is the gar­ment my soul hopes to wear in heaven? O no! Avaunt, Satan! I will have nothing to do with thee, or anything that will make me unmeet for that blessed place and holy state I wait for.

Third Instance. Let thy hope of heaven moder­ate thy affections to earth. ‘Be sober, and hope,’ saith the apostle, I Peter 1:13. You that look for so much in another world, may very well be content with a little in this. Nothing more unbecomes a heavenly hope than an earthly heart. You would think it an un­seemly thing for some rich man, that hath a vast es­tate, among the poor gleaners at harvest‑time, as busy to pick up the ears of corn that are left in the field, as the most miserable beggar in the company. O how all the world would cry shame of such a sordid‑spirited man! Well, Christian, be not angry if I tell thee that thou dost a more shameful thing to thyself by far; if thou, that pretendest to hope for heaven, beest as eager in the pursuit of this world’s trash as the poor carnal wretch is who expects no portion but what God hath left him to pick up in the field of this world. Certainly thy hope is either false, or at best very little. The higher that the summer sun mounts above the horizon, the more force it bears both to clear and also heat the air with his beams. And if thy hope of salva­tion were advanced to any ordinary pitch and height in thy soul, it would scatter these inordinate desires after this world with which now thou art choked up, and put thee into a greater heat of affection after heaven, than now thou feelest to things below.

I remember Augustine, relating what sweet dis­course passed once between his mother and himself concerning the joys of heaven, breaks forth into this apostrophe, ‘Lord, thou knowest quàm viluit nobis in illo die hic mundus—how vile and contemptible this sorry world was in our eye in that day when our hearts were warmed with some sweet discourse of that bless­ed place.’ And I doubt not but every gracious person finds the same by himself; the nearer to heaven he gets in his hopes, the further he goes from earth in his desires. When he stands upon these battlements of heaven, he can look down upon this dunghill world as a nigrum nihil, a little dust‑heap next to nothing. It is Scultetus’ observation, that though there are many blemishes by which the eminent saints and servants of God recorded in Scripture are set forth as instan­ces of human frailty, yet not one godly man in all the Scripture is to be found, whose story is blotted with the charge of covetousness. If that hold true, which, as yet, I am not able to disprove, we may wonder how it comes about that it should, now‑a‑days, be called the professors’ sin, and become a common charge laid by the profane upon those that pretend to heaven more than themselves. O woe to those wretched men who, by their scandalous practices in this kind, put the coal into wicked men’s hands, with which they now black the names of all the godly, as if to be covetous were a necessary consequent of profession.

Fourth Instance. Let thy hope of heaven master thy fear of death. Why shouldst thou be afraid to die, who hopest to live by dying? Is the apprentice afraid of the day when his time comes out?—he that runs a race, of coming too soon to his goal?—the pilot troubled when he sees his harbour?—or the betrothed virgin grieved when the wedding‑day approacheth? Death is all this to thee. When that comes, thy in­den­ture expires, and thy jubilee is come. Thy race is run, and the crown won—sure to drop on thy head when thy soul goes out of thy body. Thy voyage, how troublesome soever it was in the sailing, is now hap­pily finished, and death doth but this friendly office for thee, to uncover and open the ark of thy body, that it may safely land thy soul on the shore of eter­nity at thy heavenly Father’s door—yea, in his sweet embraces, never to be put to sea more. In a word, thy husband is come for thee, and knocks with death’s hand at thy door, to come forth unto him, that he may perform his promise, which, in the day of thy be­trothing, he made to thee; and thou lovest him but little, if thou beest not willing to be at the trouble of a remove hence, for to enjoy his blissful presence, in his Father’s royal palace of heaven, where such prep­aration is made for thy entertainment, that thou canst not know here, though an angel were sent on purpose to inform thee.

O what tongue can express that felicity which infinite mercy bespeaks, infinite wisdom deviseth, in­finite merit purchaseth, and infinite power makes ready! I have read that the Turks say, ‘They do not think we Christians believe heaven to be such a glori­ous place as we profess and talk of; for if we did, we would not be so afraid to go thither, as we see many that profess themselves Christians to be.’ It cannot be denied, but all inordinate fears of death betray great unbelief and little hope. We do not look upon death under a right notion, and so we start at it; which, were we by faith but able to see through, and assure ourselves it comes to do us a good turn, we should feel as comfortably on the thoughts of it, as now we are scared at the apparition of it. The horse eats that hay in the rack, which he is afraid of when a little lies at a distance on the road; because there he knows it, but on the way he doth not. Christian, un­derstand aright what message death brings to thee, and the fear of it will be over. It snatcheth thee in­deed from this world’s enjoyments, but it leads thee to the felicities of another incomparably better. And who, at a feast, will chide the servant that takes away the first course, of which enough is eaten, to make room for the second to be set on, that consists of far greater delicacies?

Fifth Instance. Then thou comportest with thy hope when thou livest in the joy of thy hope. A sad uncheerful heart does not become a lively hope. Let him follow his master with a heavy countenance, that looks to get nothing by his service. Thou art out of this fear, and therefore wrongest both thyself and thy God too by thy disconsolate spirit. ‘Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end,’ Heb. 3:6. Christ takes no more delight to dwell in a sad uncheerful heart, than we in a dark melancholy house. Open thy shuts therefore, and let in the light which sheds its beams upon thee from the promise, or else thy sweet Saviour will be gone. We do not use to entertain our friends in a dark room, or sit by those that visit us, mopish and melancholic, lest they should think we are weary of their company. Christ brings such good news with him, as may bespeak better welcome with thee than a dejected countenance and a disconsolate spirit. I tell thee, Christian, could such a message be carried to the damned as might give them any hope—though never so little—of salvation, it would make hell itself a lightsome place, and tune those miserable souls into a rejoicing temper in the midst of their present tor­ments. Blush then, and be ashamed, O ye drooping saints! that a few thin clouds of some short afflictions, coming over your heads, should so wrap you up in the darkness of your spirits, as that the hope of heaven, whither you look at last to come, should not be able, in a moment, to dispel and turn your sorrow into a ravishment of joy and comfort.

Sixth Instance. Thou livest up to thy hopes when, with thy rejoicing of hope, thou preservest an awful fear of God. ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy,’ Ps. 147:11. We too often see that children forget to pay that respect and reverence which is due to their par­ents, when once the estate is made sure into them. And truly, though the doctrine of assurance cannot be charged with any such bitter fruit to grow naturally from it, as the Remonstrants and Papists would have us believe; yet we are too prone to abuse it; yea, the best of saints may, after they have the love of God with eternal life passed over to them under the privy-seal of hope’s assurance, be led so far into tempta­tion, as to fall foully, and carry themselves very undu­tifully. Witness David and Solomon, whose saddest miscarriages were after God had obliged them by opening his very heart to them in such manifestations of his love to them, as few are to be found that had the like. Both father and son are checked by God for this, and a blot left upon their history, on purpose to show what a sad accent this gave to their sin—that they fell after such discoveries of divine love made to them—and also to leave us instances not barely of human frailty, but of grace’s frailty in this life (and that in the most eminent saints, such as were penmen of holy writ), that when our hope grows into greatest assurance, and this assurance spreads itself into high­est rejoicing from the certainty of our expected glory, we should yet nourish a holy fear of God in our hearts, lest we grow crank[3] and forget God in the abundance of our peace. This holy fear will be to our joy as the continual dropping of water on the iron work in the fuller’s wheel—which keeps it from firing; or, as the pericardium with which the God of nature hath moated about the heart in our bodies, that by the water of it, the heart, which is perpetually in motion, might be kept from being inflamed into a distempered heat.

The devil is pleased if he can at any time get a saint to sin, but he glorieth most when he can lay them in the dirt in their holiday clothes, as I may so say, and make them defile themselves when they have their garments of salvation on, I mean those which God hath in some more than ordinary discovery of himself clothed them withal. If at such a time he can be too hard for them, then he hath, he thinks, a fair occasion given him to go, and insultingly show God what pickle his child is in, and hold up the Christian’s assurance and comfort mockingly—as they their brother’s coat to their father—besmeared with the blood and filth of some beastly sin he hath thrown him into, and ask God, ‘Is this the assurance thou hast given him of heaven? and this the garment of sal­vation which thou didst put on him? See where he hath laid it, and what a case he hath made it in.’ O what gracious soul trembles not at the thought of putting such blasphemy into the mouth of the devil to reproach the living God by! That, Christian, is the be­loved child, and shall be most made of by his heav­enly Father, who sits not down to loiter in the sun­shine of divine love, but gathers up his feet the nimb­ler in the way of duty, because his God is so kind to make his walk more cheerful and comfortable than others find it, and who loseth not his reverential fear of God in God’s familiarity with him. Moses is a rare instance for this. Did ever the great God treat a mor­tal man, a saint in flesh, with the like familiarity and condescension, as he did that holy man, with whom he spake mouth to mouth, and before whom he caused all his goodness to pass? Ex. 34:6. And how bears he this transcending act of grace? Doth he grow bold, and forget his distance between God and him, by this low stoop of the divine Majesty to converse with him in such a humble manner, if I may so say? No; his heart was never in all his life more filled with the reverence of God than now. He trembled, in­deed, and quaked more, it is very likely, on Mount Sinai; but his filial fear was as conspicuous now as then. It is true, this extraordinary manifestation of those soul-ravishing attributes of God’s love and goodness—especially his pardoning mercy to him that knew himself a sinner, and at that time made much more sensible thereof by the terror which the dreadful promulgation of the law had left on his spirit—could not but exceedingly heighten his joy, and overrun his soul with a sweet love to so gracious a God. Yet, was not Moses’ awful fear of God drowned or lost in the high tide of these sweeter affections; for it follows, ‘and Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped,’ ver. 8. This favourite of heaven, mark how he shows his fear of God most, when God expresseth his love to him most.

THIRD POINT OF IMPROVEMENT.

[Arguments why we should strengthen

our hope, with directions how.]

Labour, O ye saints! to strengthen your hope. There is, as a weak faith, so a wavering unsteadfast hope. This you are by the diligent use of all means to establish and consolidate. Now, then, hope is firm and solid when the Christian doth not fluctuate formidine opposti—with the fear of being opposed, but, by this anchor‑hold that hope hath on the prom­ise, is kept from those dejections and tumultuous fears with which they that have no hope are swallowed up, and they whose hope is but weak are sadly dis­composed and shaken. Solidum est quod sui solius est plenum—that is a solid body which is compact and free from heterogeneal mixtures. The more pure gold is from dross, and whatever is of a different na­ture to itself, the more solid it is. So hope, the more it is refined from groundless presumption on the one hand, or slavish fear and distrust on the other, the more solid and strong it is. This in Scripture is called ‘the assurance of hope.’ Now to provoke you to a holy zeal in your endeavour after this, consider, First. It is thy duty so to do. Second. If thou do not thou wilt show thou little esteemest Christ and his salvation. Third. Thou knowest not what stress thy hope may be put to before thou diest.

[Arguments why we should strengthen our hope.]

First Argument. Consider it is thy duty so to do. Indeed by the Papist’s doctrine, no man is bound to labour for such an assurance. But whether we should believe God or them, judge ye. What saith the Spirit of God, ‘We desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.’ Observe,

First. The thing he exhorts to endeavour for, BDÎH J¬< [email protected]@D\”< J0H ²8B\*@H –PD4 [email protected] —‘to the full assurance of hope.’ They whose hope is weak sail with but a scant side-wind. The apostle would have them go before the wind, and be carried with a full gale to heaven, which then is done when the soul, like a sail spread to the wind, is so filled with the truth and goodness of the promise, that it swells into an assured hope of what is promised, and rejoiceth in a certain expectation of what it shall have when it comes to the shore of eternity, though it be now tossed and weather-beaten with a thousand temptations and trials in its passage thither.

Second. Observe whom he presseth this duty upon; not some few choice Christians, as an enter­prise laid out for them above the rest of their fellow-soldiers, but every person that will prove himself a Christian. ‘We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence,’ &c. In our civil trade, and partic­ular worldly calling, it were sinful for every poor man to propound such a vast estate to himself in his own desires as he sees some few—the wealthiest mer­chants in a city—have got by their trade, so as no less shall content him. But in the spiritual trade of a Christian it is very warrantable for every Christian to covet to be as rich in grace as the best. Paul himself will not think himself wronged if thou desirest to be as holy man as himself was, and labourest after as strong a faith and steadfast a hope as he had; yea, thou oughtest not to content thyself with what thou hast, if there were but one degree of grace more to be had than what at present thou hast obtained. And,

Third. Observe what he imputes the weakness of the saints’ grace to; not an impossibility of attain­ing to more, but their sloth and laziness. And there­fore he opposeth this to that blessed frame of heart he so much wisheth them, ‘That ye be not slothful,’ Heb. 6:12. Indeed it is the diligent hand makes rich; as in this world’s goods, so in this heavenly treasure also.

Second Argument. Labour to strengthen thy hope of salvation, or thou wilt show thou little es­teemest Christ and his salvation. As we prize any good, so we labour more or less to assure ourselves of it. If a prince should lose a pin from his sleeve, or a penny out of his purse, and one should bring him news they are found; the things are so inconsiderable that he would not care whether it were true or not. But if his kingdom lay at stake in the field, and intel­ligence comes that his army hath got the day and beat the enemy, O how he would long to have his hope, that is now raised a little, confirmed more strongly by another post! Is heaven worth so little that you can be satisfied with a few probabilities and uncertain maybees you shall come thither? Thou basely despis­eth that blessed place if thou beest no more solicitous to know the truth of thy title to it. When Micaiah seemed to give Ahab—now advancing his army against Ramoth-gilead—some hope of a victory, by bidding him ‘go up and prosper,’ the thing being pas­sionately desired by the king, he fears the worst—as indeed he had reason, for the prophet’s speech was ironical—and therefore cannot rest till he know more of this matter. ‘And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me noth­ing but that which is true in the name of the Lord?’ I Kings 22:16.

Maybe thou hast some loose wavering hopes of heaven floating in thy soul. If now, thou didst think thy eternal woe lay in the truth or falsehood of that hope, certainly thou wouldst search thy heart by the word, and adjure thy conscience after an impartial review to tell thee the naked truth, what thy state is, and whether thou mayest in God’s name, and with the leave of his word, hope it shall be thy portion or not; and this thou wouldst do, not hypocritically, as that wretched king did—who adjured Micaiah to tell him the truth, and then would not believe him though he did it faithfully—but with great plainness of heart; it being about a business of no less importance than what shall become of thee to eternity. Peter, when surprised with the tidings of Christ’s resurrection, though the report did not find such credit with him as it might, yet, by his speedy running to, and looking into, the sepulchre, he showed both how dearly he loved his Lord, as also how joyful a man he should be, if the news held true that he was alive. Thus, Chris­tian, though the promise of eternal life hath not hitherto produced such an assurance of hope that thou art the person that shalt undoubtedly enjoy it, yet show what appreciating thoughts thou hast of that blissful state, by endeavouring to strengthen thy hope and put thee out of doubt thereof.

Third Argument. Consider this also in the last place, that thou knowest not what stress thy hope may be put to before thou diest. The wise mariner doth victual his ship for the longest day. He reckons on foul weather and cross winds which may retard his voyage, and make it more troublesome, though some find it a shorter cut and fairer passage, and therefore he stores himself accordingly, knowing well it is easier carrying provision to sea than getting it there. Non facilè inveniuntur in adversitate præsidia, quænon fuerint in pace quæsita—protection is not readily found in adversity, which has not been sought out in time of peace—a good speech of Austin. God himself tells us we have ‘need of patience;’ he means great store of patience, ‘that after we have done the will of God, we may receive the promise,’ Heb. 10:36. And if of patience, then of hope; because patience bears all on hope’s back. Now, because we know not the cer­tain degree of hope that will serve our turn—God having purposely concealed the weight of affliction and temptation he intends to lay on us—therefore we should never cease our endeavour to strengthen it. There are hard duties to be performed, and strong trials to be endured, and these require a hope propor­tionable. We are to ‘hold fast…the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end,’ Heb. 3:6. Now, will the Christian of weak hope do this? He, alas! is like a leaky ship with a rich lading; the fear of sinking be­fore she gets the port takes away the owner’s joy of the treasure she carries. Bid such a one rejoice in his inheritance that is laid up in heaven for him, and he will tell you he questions whether ever he shall come there. Patient waiting for mercy prorogued and defer­red is another hard duty, ‘It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord,’ Lam. 3:26. Now weak hope is short-breathed, and cannot stay long with any quietness. Omne invalidum est querulum—weak persons are commonly hardest to please; soon peevish and fro­ward if they have not what they would, and that when they desire it also.

When David’s faith and hope were under a dis­temper, then he falls out with all. The prophet him­self that brought him the news of a kingdom cannot escape his censure, and all because the promise stayed longer before it was delivered than he expected —‘I said in my haste, All men are liars,’ Ps. 116:11 —whereas the promise went not a day beyond its due time, but he missed of its true reckoning through his inordinate desire. But take David in his healthful temper—when his faith and hope are strong—and he is not so hasty then to call for a mercy out of God’s hands; but thinks his estate in God’s hands as safe as if it were paid into his own. ‘Praise waiteth for thee, O God,’ or, ‘praise is silent for thee,’ so the Hebrew, %-%( %*/$ (dumiyah thehillah), will bear it, Ps. 65:1. As if the holy man had said, ‘Lord, I do quietly wait for a time to praise thee. My soul is not in an uproar because thou stayest. I am not murmuring, but rather stringing my harp, and tuning my instrument with much patience and confidence, that I may be ready to strike up when the joyful news of my deliverance first comes.’ You have much ado to make the child quiet till dinner, though he sees preparations for a great feast; but one that is grown up will be soon pacified when he is kept a little longer than ordinary for his meal upon such an occasion. O Christian, it is our childishness and weakness of grace—especially of our hope—that makes us so soon out of patience to wait God’s leisure. Strengthen hope, and patience will grow with it.

In a word, Christian, thou hast great trials and strong temptations to conquer before you enter heav­en gates and be clothed with your garments of salva­tion there. Now defend thy hope, and that will de­fend thee in these; strengthen that, and that will carry thee through them. The head, every member is offi­cious to preserve it. The hands are lift up to keep off the blow, the feet run to carry the head from danger, the mouth will receive any unsavoury pill to draw fumes and humours from the head. Salvation is to the soul what the head is to the body—the principal thing it should labour to secure; and hope is to our salvation what the helmet is to the head. Now if he be unwise that ventures his head under a weak helmet in the midst of bullets at the time of battle, then much more unwise he that hazards his salvation with a weak hope. Know, O Christian, the issue of the battle with thy enemy depends on thy hope; if that fail all is lost. Thy hope is in conflicts with temptations and suffer­ings, as a prince is amidst his army, who puts life into them all while he looks on and encourageth them to the battle, but if a report of the king’s being slain comes to their ears, their courage fails and hearts faint. Therefore Ahab would be held up in his chariot to conceal his danger from the people, the knowledge of which would have cast a damp on their courage.

Thy hope is the mark Satan’s arrows are leveled at. If possible keep that from wounding. Or if at any time his dart reacheth it, and thy spirit begins to bleed of the wound which he hath given thee by ques­tioning ‘Whether such great sins can be pardoned as thou hast committed? such old festered sores as thy lusts have been can be ever cured? or afflictions that are so heavy and have continued so long can possibly be either endured or removed?’ Now labour, as for thy life, to hold up thy hope though wounded in the chariot of the promise, and bow not by despairing to let the devil trample on thy soul. So soon as thy hope gives up the ghost will this cursed fiend stamp thee under his foul feet, and take his full revenge of thee, and that without any power of thy soul to strike a stroke for thy defence. This will so dispirit thee that thou wilt be ready to throw up all endeavour and at­tendance on the means of salvation; yea, desperately say, ‘To what purpose is it to think of praying, hear­ing, and meditating, when there is no hope?’ What! should we send for the physician when our friend is dead? What good will the chafing and rubbing the body do when the head is severed from it? The army broke up, and every one was sent to his city, as soon as it was known that Ahab was dead. And so wilt thou cast off all thought of making any head against sin and Satan when thy hope is gone, but fall either into Judas’ horror of conscience, or with Cain, turn atheist, and bury the thoughts of thy desperate con­dition in a heap of worldly projects.

I come now to give a few words of counsel, how a Christian may best strengthen his hope. Take them in these six particulars following. 1. If thou meanest thy hope of salvation should rise to any strength and solidness, study the word of God diligently. 2. Keep thy conscience pure. 3. Resort to God daily, and beg a stronger hope of him. 4. Labour to increase your love. 5. Be much in the exercise of your hope. 6. File up thy experiences of past mercies, and thy hope will grow stronger for the future.

[Six directions how we may strengthen our hope.]

First Direction. If thou meanest thy hope of salvation should rise to any strength and solidness, study the word of God diligently. The Christian is bred by the word, and he must be fed by it also, or else his grace will die. That is the growing child that lies libbing oftenest at the breast. Now as God hath provided food in his word to nourish every grace, so in the composition of the Scriptures he had a particu­lar respect to the welfare and growth of the saint’s hope, as one principal end of their writing. ‘That we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope,’ Rom. 15:4. The devil knows this so well, that his great labour is spent to deprive the Christian of the help which the word is stored with; and indeed therein he is not mistaken, for so long as this river is unblocked up which makes glad the City of God, with the succours which are brought in to them on the stream of its precious promises, he can never besiege them round or put them to any great straits. Some, therefore, he deprives of their relief by mere sloth and laziness. They make a few fruitless complaints of their doubts and fears, like sluggards crying out of their wants and poverty as they lie in bed, but are loath to rise and take any pains to be resolved of them by searching of the word for their satisfaction; and these sell their comfort of all others the cheapest. Who will pity him, though he should starve to death, that hath bread before him, but loath to put his hand out of his bosom to carry it to his mouth! Others he abuseth by false applications of the word to their souls, partly through their weak understandings, and troubled spirits also, which discolour the truths of God and misrepresent them to their judgments, whereby they come to be beaten with their own staff —even those promises which a skilful hand would knock down Satan’s temptations withal. The devil is a great student in divinity, and makes no other use of his Scripture-knowledge than may serve his turn by sophistry to do the Christian a mischief, either by drawing him to sin, or into despair for sinning; like some wrangling barrister, who gets what skill he can in the law merely to make him the more able to put honest men to trouble by his vexatious suit. Well, if Satan be so conversant in the word to weaken thy hope, and deprive thee of thy inheritance, what rea­son hast thou then to furnish thyself with a holy skill to maintain thy right and defend thy hope? Now, in thy study of the word, propound these two ends, and closely pursue them till thou hast obtained them.

1. End. Labour to clear up thy understanding from the word, what are the conditions required by God of every soul that hath his grant and warrant to hope assuredly for life and salvation in the other world. Some conditions there are required to be found in all such is without all doubt, or else it were free for all, be they what they will, and live how they list, actually to lay claim to a right in heaven and sal­vation. If God had set no bounds at Sinai, and said nothing who should come up the mount, and who not, it had been no more presumption in any of the company to have gone up than in Moses; and if God requires no conditions in the person that is to hope, then heaven is a common for one as well as other to crowd into; then the beastly sinner may touch God’s holy mount as well as the saint, and fear no stoning for his bold adventure. But this sure is too fulsome doctrine for any judicious conscience to digest. Well, having satisfied thyself that if ever thou hast true hope thou must also have the conditions, inquire what they are. Now the word holds forth two sorts of conditions according to the two different covenants.

(1.) There is a covenant of nature, or law-covenant, which God made with innocent Adam; and the condition of this was perfect obedience of the per­son that claimed happiness by it. This is not the con­dition now required; and he that stands groping in at this door in hope to enter into life by it, shall not only find it nailed up and no entrance that way to be had, but he also deprives himself of any benefit of the true door which stands open, and by which all pass that get thither. ‘Whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace,’ Gal. 5:4. You must therefore inquire what the other covenant is; and that is,

(2.) A covenant of grace, as that other was of na­ture; of reconciliation to make God and man friends, as that was a covenant to preserve those friends who had never fallen out.

Now the condition of this covenant is, repen­tance and faith. See for this Luke 24:47; John 3:36; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 20:21; Gal. 5:5. Labour therefore to give a firm as­sent to the truth of these promises, and hold it as an indisputable and inviolable principle, that ‘whoever sincerely repents of his sins, and with a ‘faith un­feigned’ receiveth Christ to be his Lord and Saviour, this is the person that hath the word and oath of a God that cannot possibly lie, for the pardon of his sins and the salvation of his soul.’ What service a strong assent to this will do thee towards exerting thy hope thou wilt by and by see. It is the very basis thereof. The weight of the Christian’s whole building bears so much on it that the Spirit of God, when he speaks in Scripture of evangelical truths and prom­ises, on which poor sinners must build their hopes for salvation, doth it with the greatest averment of any other truths, and usually adds some circumstance or other that may put us out of all doubt concerning the certainty and unalterableness of them. ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs,’ Isa. 53:4. There is no question to be made of it; but it was our potion he drank, our debt he paid. What end could he have besides this in so great sufferings? Was it to give us a pattern of pa­tience how we should suffer? This is true, but not all; for some of our fellow-saints have been admirable instances of this. ‘He carried our sorrows,’ and ‘was wounded for our transgressions.’ This, this was the great business worthy of the Son of God’s undertak­ing, which none of our fellow-saints could do for us. So, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all accep­tation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,’ I Tim. 1:15. As if he had said, ‘Fear no cheat or imposture here; it is as true as truth itself; for such is he that said it.’ If you believe not this you are worse than a devil. He cannot shut this truth out of his conscience, though the unwelcomest that ever came to his knowledge. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,’ I John 1:9. What can the poor penitent fear when that attribute is become his friend that first made God angry with him. Yea, so fast a friend as to stand bound for the performance of the promise, which even now was so deeply engaged to execute the threatening on him? ‘Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath,’ Heb. 6:17. What security could we have asked more of a deceitful man, than the faithful God of his own accord gives? The Ro­mans did not give their magistrates oaths—supposing the dignity and honour of their persons and place were bond strong enough to make them true and righ­teous. Surely then God’s word would have deserved credit, though it had not an oath to be its surety, yet God condescends to this, that he may sink the truth of what he saith deeper into our minds, and leave the print fairer and fuller in our assents to the same when set on with the weight of asseverations[4] and oaths.

2. End. Having found what is the condition of the covenant, rest not satisfied till thou findest this condition to be wrought in thy own soul, and art able to say thou art this repenting and believing sinner. A strong hope results from the clear evidence it hath for both these. We read in Scripture of a threefold assurance. (1.) An assurance of understanding, Col. 2:2. (2.) An assurance of faith, Heb. 10:22. (3.) An assurance of hope, Heb. 6:11. And it is a good note which an acute doctor of our own hath upon them, ‘That these three make up one practical syllogism; wherein knowledge forms the proposition, faith makes the assumption, and hope draws the conclu­sion’ (D. A. Tac. Sa. p. 126). ‘I do,’ saith the Christian, ‘assuredly know from the word, that the repenting believing sinner shall be saved; my conscience also tells me that I do unfeignedly repent and believe; therefore I do hope firmly that I shall, however un­worthy otherwise, be saved.’ Now we know there can be no more in the conclusion than is in the premises; so that, as the force is, which the Christian puts forth in his assent to the truth of the promise, and the evi­dence which he hath, that the condition of the prom­ise—viz. faith and repentance—is wrought in his soul, so will his hope be, weak or strong. Indeed it can be no otherwise. If his assent to the truth of the promise be weak, or his evidence for the truth of his faith and repentance be dark and uncertain, his hope that is born—as I may so say—of these, must needs partake of its parent’s infirmities, and be itself weak and wavering, as they are from that which it results.

Second Direction. Wouldst thou have thy hope strong? then, keep thy conscience pure. Thou canst not defile this, but thou wilt weaken that, ‘Living godly in this present world,’ and ‘looking for that blessed hope’ laid up for us in the other, are both conjoined, Titus 2:12,13. A soul wholly void of godli­ness needs be as destitute of all true hope, and the godly person that is loose and careless in his holy walking, will soon find his hope languishing. All sin is aguish meat; it disposeth the soul that tampers with it to trembling fears and shakings of heart. But such sins as are deliberately committed and plotted, they are to the Christian’s hope as poison to the spirits of his body, which presently drinks them up. They, in a manner, exanimate the Christian. They make the thoughts of God terrible to the soul; which, when he is in a holy frame, are his greatest joy and solace. ‘I remembered God, and was troubled,’ Ps. 77:3. They make him afraid to look on God in a duty, much more to look for God in the day of judgment. Can the servant be willing his master should come home when he is in his riot and excess? Mr. Calvin, when some wished him to forbear some of his labours, es­pecially his night studies, asked those his friends, ‘whether they would have his Lord find him idle when He came?’ O, God forbid! Christian, that death should find thee wanton and negligent in thy walking; that he should surprise thee lying in the puddle of some sin unrepented of! This would be a sad meet­ing! O how loath wouldst thou then be to die, and go to the great audit where thou must give up thy ac­counts for eternity! Will thy hope then be in case to carry thee up with joy to that solemn work? Can a bird fly when one of her wings is broke? Faith and a good conscience are hope’s two wings. If, therefore, thou hast wounded thy conscience by any sin, renew thy repentance, that so thou mayest act faith for the pardon of it, and, acting faith, mayest redeem thy hope, when the mortgage that is now upon it shall be taken off. If a Jew had pawned his bed‑clothes, God provided mercifully, it should be restored before night: ‘For,’ saith he, ‘that is his covering, wherein shall he sleep?’ Ex. 22:27. Truly, hope is the saint’s covering, wherein he wraps himself when he lays his body down to sleep in the grave. ‘My flesh,’ saith David, ‘shall rest in hope,’ Ps. 16:9. O Christian! bestir thyself to redeem thy hope before this sun of thy temporal life go down upon thee, or else thou art sure to lie down in sorrow. A sad going to the bed of the grave he hath, that hath no hope of a resurrection to life.

Third Direction. Resort to God daily, and beg a stronger hope of him. That is the way the apostle took to help the saints at Rome to more of this pre­cious grace. ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost,’ Rom. 15:13. God, you see, is the God of hope; and not only of the first seed and habit, but of the whole increment and abounding of it in us also. He doth not give a saint the first grace of conversion, and then leave the improvement of it wholly to his skill and care; as sometimes a child hath a stock at first to set up, and never hath more help from his father, but, by his own good husbandry, advanceth his little beginnings into a great estate at last; but rather as the corn in the field, that needs the influences of heaven to flower and ripen for harvest, as much as to quicken in the clods when first thrown in. And therefore, be sure thou humbly acknowledgest God by a constant wait­ing on him for growth. ‘The young lions,’ are said to, ‘seek their meat from God,’ Ps. 104:21. That is, God hath taught them, when hungry, to express their wants by crying and lifting up their voice, which, did they know God to be their Maker, they would direct to him for supply; as we see the little babe that at first only expresseth its wants by crying, doth, so soon as it knows the mother, directs his moan to her. Thou knowest, Christian, that thou art at thy heavenly Fa­ther’s finding. He knows indeed what thou wantest, but he stays his supplies till thou criest, and this will make him draw forth his breast presently. Doth God take care for the beasts in the field? Surely then much more will he for thee his child in his house, and for thy soul above all. Thou mayest possibly pray for more riches, and be denied; but a prayer for more grace is sure to speed.

Fourth Direction. If you would strengthen your hope, labour to increase your love. There is a secret, yet powerful, influence that love hath on hope. Mo­ses, we will easily grant, greatly befriended the Israel­ite, when he slew the Egyptian that fought with him. Love kills slavish fear—one of the worst enemies hope hath in the Christian’s heart—and thereby strengthens hope’s hand. He that plucks up the weeds helps the corn to grow, and he that purges out the disease makes way for nature’s strengthening. It is slavish fear oppresseth the Christian’s spirit that he cannot act hope strongly. Now, ‘love casteth out fear,’ I John 4:18. The free‑woman will cast out the bond-woman. Slavish fear is one of Hagar’s breed —an affection that keeps all in bondage that hath it. This love cannot brook. ‘Shall I,’ saith the loving soul, ‘fear he will hurt me, or be hard to me, that loves me, and I him so dearly? Away, unworthy thoughts, here is no room for such company as you are in my bosom.’ ‘Love thinketh no evil,’ I Cor. 13:5. That is, it neither wisheth evil to, nor suspects evil of, another. The more thou lovest Christ, the less thou wilt be jealous of him; and the less jealous thou art of him, the more strongly thou wilt hope in him, and comfortably wait for him. Hence, these two graces are so often mated in Scripture. ‘The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ,’ II Thes. 3:5. Love him, and you will wait for him. So, ‘keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life,’ Jude 21.

Fifth Direction. Be much in the exercise of your hope. Repeated acts strengthen habits. Thus the little waddling child comes to go strongly by going often. You have no more money in your chest at the year’s end than when you laid it there; nay, it is well if rust or thieves have not made it less. But you have more by trading with it than your first stock amoun­ted unto. ‘Thou oughtest to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury,’ said Christ to the ‘slothful servant,’ Matt. 25:27. Now the promises are hope’s object to act upon. A man can as well live without air, as faith and hope without a promise; yea, without frequent sucking in the refreshment of the promises. And, therefore, be much in meditation of them; set some time apart for the purpose. You that love your healths, do not content yourselves with the air that comes to you as you sit at work in your house or shop, but you will walk out into the fields some­times, to take the air more fresh and full. And if thou beest a wise Christian, thou wilt not satisfy thyself with the short converse thou hast by the by with the promises, as now and then they come into thy mind in thy calling, and when thou art about other employ­ments, but wilt walk aside on purpose to enjoy a more fixed and solitary meditation of them. This were of admirable use; especially if the Christian hath skill to sort the promises, and lay aside the provision made in them suitable to his case in particular.

Sometimes the Christian is at a stand when he remembers his past sins, and his hope is quite dashed out of countenance while they stare on his conscience with their grim looks. Now it were excellent for the Christian to pick out a promise where he may see this objection answered and hope triumphing over it. This was David’s very case, Ps. 130. He grants himself to be in a most deplored condition, if God should reckon with him strictly, and give him quid pro quo—wages suitable to his work. ‘If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?’ ver. 3. But then, he puts his soul out of all fear of God’s taking this course with poor penitent souls, by laying down this comfortable conclusion as an indubitable truth. ‘But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared;’ ver. 4, that is, ‘there is forgiveness in thy nature; thou carriest a pardoning heart in thy bosom; yea, there is forgiveness in thy promise, thy merciful heart doth not only incline thee to thoughts of forgiv­ing, but thy faithful promise binds thee to draw forth the same unto all that humbly and seasonably lay claim thereunto. Now, this foundation laid, see what superstructure this holy man raiseth, ‘I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope,’ ver. 5. As if he had said, ‘Lord, I take thee at thy word, and am resolved by thy grace to wait at this door of thy promise, never to stir thence till I have my promised dole—forgiveness of my sins—sent out unto me.’ And this is so sweet a morsel, that he is loath to eat it alone, and therefore he sets down the dish, even to the lower end of the table, that every godly person may taste with him of it—‘Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities,’ ver. 7, 8. As if he had said, ‘That which is a ground of hope to me, not­withstanding the clamour of my sins, affords as solid and firm a bottom to any true Israelite or sincere soul in the world, did he but rightly understand himself, and the mind of God in his promise. Yea, I have as strong a faith for such as my own soul, and durst pawn the eternity of its happiness upon this princi­ple—that God shall redeem every sincere Israelite from all his iniquities.’ This, this is the way to knock down our sins indeed. And Satan, when he comes to reproach us with them, and, by their batteries, to dis­mount our hope, sometimes a qualm comes over the Christian’s heart merely from the greatness of the things hoped for. ‘What!’ saith the poor soul, ‘seems it a small thing for me to hope, that of an enemy I should become a son and heir to the great God! What! a rebel? and not only hope to be pardoned, but prove a favourite, yea such a one, as to have robes of glory making for me in heaven, where I shall stand among those that minister about the throne of God in his heavenly court, and that before I have done him any more service here on earth? O, it is too great good news to prove true.’ Thus the poor soul stands amazed—as the disciples, when the first tidings of the Lord’s resurrection surprised them—and is ready to think its hope but an idle tale with which Satan abuseth it, ut præsumendo speret et sperando pereat —that he may presume to hope, and perish with his presumption.

Now, Christian, that thou mayest be able to stride over this stumbling‑block, be sure to observe those prints of God’s greatness and infinitude that are stamped upon the promise. Sometimes you have them expressed, on purpose to free our thoughts, and ease our hearts of this scruple. When God promised what great things he would do for Abraham, to make them more credible, and easily believed, he adds, ‘I am the Almighty God,’ Gen. 17:1; and so, Isa. 55:7, ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’ But how can this possibly be done, that in the turn of a hand, as it were, such a great favour can be obtained, which among men could hardly be done in a lifetime spent suing for it? O that is easily answered. He tells you he is not a sorry man, but a God, and hath a way by himself in pardoning wrongs, which none can follow him in; for it is as far above our ways as the heavens are above the earth. This, Christian, observe, and it will be a key to unlock all promises, and let you in unto the untold treasures that are in them; yea, [will] make the greatest prom­ise in the Bible easy to be believed. Whenever you read any promise, remember whose bond it is—the word of no other than God. And when you think of God, be sure you do not narrow him up in the little compass of you finite apprehensions, but conceive of him always as an infinite being, whose center is every­where, and circumference is nowhere. When you have raised your thoughts to the highest, then know you are as far yea infinitely farther, from reaching his glory and immensity, than a man is from touching the body of the sun with his hand when got upon a hill or mountain. This is to ascribe greatness to God,’ as we are commanded, Deut. 32:3. And it will admirably facilitate the work of believing.

Suppose a poor cripple should be sent for by a prince to court, with a promise to adopt him for his son and make him heir to his crown, this might well seem incredible to the poor man, when he considers what a leap it is from his beggar’s cottage to the state of a prince. No doubt if the promise had been to pre­fer him to a place in a hospital, or some ordinary pen­sion for his maintenance, it would be more easily credited by him, as more proportional to his low con­dition; yet, the greatness of the prince, and the de­light such take to be like God himself, by showing a kind of creating power to raise some as it were from nothing unto the highest honours a subject is capable of—thereby to oblige them as their creatures to their service—this, I say, might help such a one think this strange accident not altogether impossible. Thus here. Should a poor soul spend all his thoughts on his own unmeetness and unworthiness to have heaven and eternal life conferred on him, it were not possible he should ever think so well of himself as that he should be one of those glorious creatures that were to enjoy it. But, when the greatness of God is believed, and the infinite pleasure he takes to demonstrate that greatness this way—by making miserable creatures happy, rather than by perpetuating their miseries in an eternal state of damnation—and what cost he hath been at to clear a way for his mercy to freely act in, and, in a word, what a glorious name this will gain him in the thoughts he thus exalts; these things —which are all to be found in the word of promise —well weighed, and acknowledged, cannot but open the heart, though shut with a thousand bolts, to enter­tain the promise and believe all is truth that God there saith, without any more questioning the same. A taste I have given in one or two particulars, you see, how the promises may be suited to answer the partic­ular objections raised against our hope. It were easy here to multiply instances, and to pattern any other case with promises for the purpose; but this will most effectually be done by you who know your own scru­ples better than another can. And be such true friends to your own souls, as to take a little pains therein. The labour of gathering a few simples in the field, and making them up into a medicine by the direction of the physician, is very well paid for, if the poor man finds it doth him good and restores him to health.

Sixth Direction. File up thy experiences of past mercies, and thy hope will grow stronger for the fu­ture. Experience worketh hope, Rom. 5:4. He is the best Christian that keeps the history of God’s gracious dealings with him most carefully, so that he may read in it his past experiences, when at any time his thoughts trouble him and his spiritual rest is broken with distracting fears for the future. This is he that will pass the night of affliction and temptation with comfort and hope; while others that have taken no care to pen down—in their memories at least—the remarkable instances of God’s love and favour to them in the course of their lives, will find the want of this sweet companion in their sorrowful hours, and be put to sad plunges; yea, well, if they be not driven to think their case desperate, and past all hope. Some­times a little writing is found in a man’s study that helps to save his estate; for want of which he had gone to prison and there ended his days. And some one experience remembered keeps the soul from despair —a prison which the devil longs to have the Christian in. ‘This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope,’ Lam. 3:21. David was famous for his hope, and not less eminent for his care to observe preserve, the experi­ences he had of God’s goodness. He was able to re­count the dealings of God to him. They were so often the subject of his meditation and matter of his dis­course, that he had made them familiar to him. When his hope is at a loss, he doth but rub his memory up a little and he recovers himself presently, and chides himself for his weakness. ‘I said, This is my infir­mity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High,’ Ps. 77:10. The hound, when he hath lost the scent, hunts backward and so recovers it, and pursues his game with louder cry than ever. Thus, Christian, when thy hope is at a loss for the life to come, and thou questionest thy salvation in another world, then look backward and see what God hath already done for thee in this world.

Some promises have their day of payment here, and others we must stay to receive in heaven. Now the payment which God makes of some promises here, is an earnest given to our faith, that the other also shall be faithfully discharged when their date ex­pires; as every judgment inflicted here on the wicked is sent as a penny in hand of that wrath the full sum whereof God will make up in hell. Go therefore, Christian, and look over thy receipts. God hath promised ‘sin shall not have dominion over you;’ no, not in this life, Rom. 6:14. It is the present state of a saint in this life that is intended there. Canst thou find this promise made good to thee? is the power of sin broken and the sceptre wrung out of this king’s hand, whom once thou didst willingly obey as ever subject his prince? yea, canst thou find he hath but begun to fall by thy unthroning him in thy heart and affections? Dost thou now look on sin not as thou wert wont, for thy prince, but as a usurper, whose tyranny, by the grace of God, thou art resolved to shake off, both as intolerable to thee and dishonour­able to God, whom thou now acknowledgest to be thy rightful Lord, and to whose holy laws thy heart most freely promiseth obedience? This, poor soul, may assure thee that thou shalt have a full dominion over sin in heaven ere long, which hath begun already to lose his power over thee on earth. It is observable how David rears up his hope to expect heaven’s per­fect state of holiness from his begun sanctification on earth. First, he declares his holy resolution for God, and then his high expectation from God. ‘As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be sat­isfied, when I awake, with thy likeness,’ Ps. 17:15. Hast thou found God’s supporting hand in all thy tempta­tions and troubles, whereby thou art kept from sink­ing under them? A David would feed his hope for eternal salvation with this, ‘thou hast holden me by my right hand,’ Ps. 73:23. Now observe hope’s infer­ence, ‘Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and af­terward receive me to glory,’ ver. 24.

And as experiences carefully kept and wisely im­proved, would conduce much to strengthening the Christian’s hope on its chief object—salvation; so also would they lift up its head above all those dis­tracting fears which arise in the Christian’s heart, and put him to much trouble from those cross and af­flicting providences that befall him in this life. Cer­tainly David would have been more scared with the big looks and brag deportment of that proud Goliath, had not the remembrance of the bear and the lion which he slew brought relief to him and kept them down. But he had slain this uncircumcised Philistine in a figure when he tore in pieces those unclean beasts. And therefore when he marches to him, this is the shield which he lifts up to cover himself with, ‘The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine,’ I Sam. 17:37. If experiences were no ground for hope in future straits —temporary now I mean—then they would not have the force of an argument in prayer. But saints use their experiences to do them service in this case, and make account they urge God very close and home when they humbly tell him what he hath already done for them, and expect he should therefore go on in his fatherly care over them. ‘Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns,’ Ps. 22:21. And no doubt a gracious soul may pray in faith from his past experience, and expect a satisfactory answer to that prayer wherein former mercies are his plea for what he wants at present. God himself intends his people more comfort from every mercy he gives them, than the mercy itself singly and abstractly considered amounts to. Suppose, Chris­tian, thou hast been sick, and God hath, at thy hum­ble prayer, plucked thee out of the very jaws of death, when thou wert even going down his throat almost; the comfort of this particular mercy is the least God means thee therein; for he would have thee make it a help to thy faith, and a shore [support] to thy hope, when shaken by any future strait whatever. ‘Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilder­ness,’ Ps. 74:14. God in that mercy at the Red Sea, we see, is thinking what Israel should have to live on for forty years together, and looked that they should not only feast themselves at present with the joy of this stupendous mercy; but powder it up in their memo­ries, that their faith might not want a meal in that hungry wilderness all the while they were to be in it. Experiences are like a cold dish reserved at a feast. Sometimes the saint sits down with nothing else on his table but the promise and his experience; and he that cannot make a soul‑refreshing meal with these two dishes deserves to fast. Be sure, Christian, thou observest this in every mercy—what is the matter of present thankfulness, and what is ground of future hope. Achor is called ‘a door of hope,’ Hosea 2:15. God, when he gives one mercy, opens a door for him to give, and us to expect more mercy through it. God compares his promise to ‘the rain,’ which maketh the earth ‘bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,’ Isa. 55:10. Why shouldst thou, O Christian, content thyself with half the bene­fit of a mercy? When God performs his promise, and delivers thee out of this trouble and that strait, thou art exceedingly comforted, may be, with the mercy, and thy heart possibly enlarged at present into thank­fulness for the same. It is well. Here is ‘bread for the eater’—something at present feasts thee. But where is the ‘seed for the sower?’ The husbandman doth not spend all his corn that he reaps, but saves some for seed, which may bring him another crop. So, Christian, thou shouldst feast thyself with the joy of thy mercy, but save the remembrance of it as hope-seed, to strengthen thee to wait on God for another mercy and further help in a needful time.

[An objection answered,

with some practical reflections.]

But, you will possibly say, how can a saint’s past experience be so helpful to his hope for the future, when God, we see, often crosseth the saint’s experi­ences? He delivers them out of one sickness, and takes them away, may be, with the next; he saves them in one battle without a scratch or hurt, and in another a while after they are killed or wounded; how then can a saint ground and bottom his hope from a past deliverance to expect deliverance in the like strait again?

Answer 1. There is the same power still in God that was then. What he did once for thee he can with as much ease do again; and this is one way thy experi­ences may help thee. Thou hast seen God make bare his arm, so that except thou thinkest that he since hath lost the strength or use of it, and is become at last a God with a lame hand, hope hath an object to act upon, and such one as will lift thy head above water. Indeed, the soul never drowns in despair till it hath lost its hold on the power of God. When it questions whether God will deliver, this is a sad leak, I confess, and will let in a thousand fears into thy soul; yet so long as the Christian can use this pump —I mean, act faith on the power of God, and believe that God can deliver when he pleases—thou gh it will not clear the ship of his soul of all its fears, yet it will keep it from quite sinking, because it will preserve him in a seeking posture. ‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,’ Mark 1:40. And for thee to say God cannot deliver, who hast been an eyewitness to what he hath done, were not only to betray thy great unbelief, but to forfeit thy reason as a man also. But,

Answer 2. To give a more close answer to the question, the saint, from his former experiences, even of temporal salvations, may, yea ought, not only be­lieve that God can, but also that he will, save him in all future straits and dangers of this nature; only, he cannot conclude that he will do it in the same way as in former deliverances. And none I hope will say, if he hath deliverance, that his experiences are crossed because God doth use another method in the convey­ance of it to him. A debt may be fully satisfied, as with money, so with that which is money worth, ex­cept the bond restrains the payment otherwise. Now there is no clause to be found in any promise for tem­poral mercies, that binds God to give them in specie or in kind. Spiritual mercies—such I mean as are saving and essential to the saint’s happiness—these indeed are promised to be given in kind, because there is nothing equivalent that can be paid in lieu of them; but temporal mercies are of such an inferior nature, that a compensation and recompense may be easily given in their stead; yea, God never denies these to a saint, but for his gain and abundant advan­tage. Who will say the poor saint is a loser whose purse God denieth to fill with gold and silver, but filleth his heart with contentation? or the sick saint, when God saves him not by restoring to former health, but by translating to heaven? And so much may suffice for answer to the objection propounded. I shall wind up this head with two or three reflections to be used by the Christian for his better improving past experiences when he is at a plunge.

(1.) Reflection. Look back, Christian, to thy past experiences, and inquire whether thou canst not find that thy God hath done greater matters for thee than this which thou now hast so many disquieting fears and despairing thoughts about. I suppose thy present strait great; but wert thou never in a greater, and yet God did at last set thy feet in a large place? Thou art now in a sad and mournful posture; but hath not he brightened a darker cloud than this thou art now under, and let thee out of it into a state of light and joy? Surely thy staggering hope may prevent a fall by catching hold of this experience. Art thou not ashamed to give thyself for lost, and think of nothing but drowning, in a less storm than that out of which God hath formerly brought thee safe to land? See David relieving his hope by recognizing such an experiment as this, ‘Thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from fall­ing,’ Ps. 56:13. Hast thou given me the greater, and wilt thou stand with me for the less? Haply thy present fear, Christian, is apostasy. Thou shalt one day fall by the hand of thy sins; this runs in thy thoughts, and thou canst not be persuaded otherwise. Now it is a fit time to recall the day of God’s convert­ing grace. Darest thou deny such a work to have passed upon thee? If not, why then shouldst thou despair of perseverance? That was day wherein he saved thy soul. ‘This day,’ saith Christ to Zacchaeus, ‘is salvation come to this house,’ Luke 19:9. And did God save thy soul by converting grace, and will he not keep thy feet from falling by his sustaining grace? Was it not both more mercy and power to take thee out of the power of sin and Satan, than it will cost him to preserve thee from falling into their hands again? Surely the Israelites would not so often have feared provision in the wilderness, had they remem­bered with what a high hand God did bring them out of Egypt. But, may be it is some outward affliction that distresseth thee. Is it greater than the church’s was in cruel bondage and captivity? yet she had some­thing to recall that put a new life into her hope. ‘The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him,’ Lam. 3:24. See, she makes a spiritual mercy—because incomparably greater of the two—a ground of hope for temporal salvation, which is less. And hast not thou, Christian, chosen him for thy por­tion? Dost thou not look for a heaven to enjoy him in for ever? And can any dungeon of outward afflic­tion be so dark that this hope will not enlighten? Recall thy experiences of his love to thy soul, and thou canst not be out of hope for thy body and outward condition. He that hath laid up a portion in heaven for thee, will lay out surely all the expenses thou needest in thy way thither.

(2.) Reflection. Remember how oft God hath confuted thy fears and proved thy unbelief a false prophet. Hath he not knocked at thy door with in­ward comfort and outward deliverances, when thou hadst put out the candle of hope, given over looking for him, and been ready to lay thyself down on the bed of despair? Thus he came to Hezekiah, after he had peremptorily concluded his case desperate, Isa. 38:10, 11. Thus to the disciples in their unbelieving dumps, ‘We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel,’ Luke 24:21. They speak as if now they were in doubt whether they should own their former faith or no. Hath it not been formerly thus with thee? wert thou never at so sad a pass—the storm of thy fears so great—that the anchor of hope even came home, and left thee to feed with misgiving and despairing thoughts, as if now thy everlasting night were come, and no morning tale more expected by thee? yet even then thy God proved them all liars, by an unlooked for surprise of mercy with which he stole sweetly upon thee? If so, press and urge this experience home upon thyself, to encourage thy hope in all future temptations. What, O my soul! thou wouldst say, wilt thou again be seared with these false alarms?—again lend an ear to thy distrustful de­sponding thoughts, which so oft thou hast found liars, rather than believe the report of the promise, which never put thy hope to shame as these have done? The saints are oft feeding their hopes on the carcass of their slain fears. The time which God chose, and the instrument he used, to give the captive Jews their jail-delivery and liberty to return home, were so incredi­ble to them—who now looked rather to be ground in pieces by those two millstones, the Babylonians with­in, and the Persians without the city—that when it came to pass, like Peter whom the angel had carried out of prison, Acts 12:1-17, it was some time before they could come to themselves, and resolve whether it was a real truth or but a pleasing dream, Ps. 126:1.

Now, see what effect this strange disappointment of their fears had upon their hope for afterward. It sends them to the throne of grace for the accomplish­ment of what of what was so marvellously begun. ‘The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O Lord,’ ver. 3, 4. They have got a hand-hold by this experiment of his power and mercy; and they will not now let him go till they have more. Yea, their hope is raised to such a pitch of confidence, that they draw a general conclusion from this particular experience for the comfort of themselves or others in any future distress. ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him,’ ver. 5, 6.

(3.) Reflection. Remember what sinful distem­pers have broke out in thy afflictions and tempta­tions, and how God hath, notwithstanding these, car­ried on a work of deliverance for thee. So that thou mayest say, in respect of these enemies in thy bosom, what David spake triumphantly in regard of his ene­mies without, that ‘God hath prepared a table before me in the presence of thy enemies,’ yea, of his ene­mies. While thy corruptions have been stirring and acting against him, his mercy hath been active for thy deliverance. O what a cordial-draught this would be to thy fainting hope! That which often sinks the Christian’s heart in any distress, inward or outward, and even weighs down his head of hope that it cannot look up to God for help and succour at such a time, is the sense of those sinful infirmities which then dis­cover themselves in him. ‘How,’ saith the poor soul, ‘can I look that God should raise me out of this sick­ness, wherein I have bewrayed so much impatience and frowardness? Or out of that temptation in which I have so little exercised faith, and discovered so much unbelief? Surely I must behave myself better before any good news be sent from heaven to me.’ It is well, poor Christian, thou art sensible of thy sins as to be thy own accuser, and prevent Satan’s doing it for thee; yet be not oppressed into discouragement by them. Remember how God hath answered the like objections formerly, and saved thee with a ‘notwith­standing.’ If these could have hardened his bowels against thee, hadst thou been alive, yea, out of hell this day? Didst thou ever receive a mercy of which God might not have made stoppage upon this very account that makes thee now fear he will not help thee? Or, if thou hast not an experience of thy own at hand—which were strange—then borrow one of other saints. David is an instance beyond exception. This very circumstance with which his deliverance was, as I may say, en­amelled, did above all affect his heart: ‘I said in my haste, All men are liars. What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?’ Ps. 116:11, 12. He remembered his sinful and distempered carriage; and this he mentions, as to take shame for the shame, so to wind up his heart to the highest peg of thankfulness. He knows not how to praise God enough for that mercy which found him giving the lie to God’s messenger—even Samuel him­self—that was sent to tell him it was a coming. And he doth not only make this circumstance an incentive to praise for what is past, but lays it down for a ground of hope for the future. ‘I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee,’ Ps. 31:22. As if he had said, ‘When I prayed with so little faith, that I as it were unprayed my own prayer, by concluding my case in a manner desperate; yet God pardoned my hasty spirit, and gave me that mercy which I had hardly any faith to expect.’ And what use doth he make of this experi­ence, but to raise every saint’s hope in a time of need? ‘Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord,’ ver. 24.

FOURTH POINT OF IMPROVEMENT.

[Exhortation to them that want

this helmet of hope.]

Be you exhorted that are yet without this helmet, to provide yourselves with it. Certainly if you be but in your right wits, it is the first thing you will go about, and that with sober sadness—especially may but three considerations take place in your thoughts. First. How deplored a thing it is to be in a hopeless state. Second. It is possible that thou who art now without hope, mayest by a timely and vigorous use of the means obtain a hope of salvation. Third. Con­sider the horrid cruelty of this act—to pull down eternal destruction on thy own head.

[Three considerations to make all

provide themselves with this helmet.]

First Consideration. How deplored a thing it is to be in a hopeless state. The apostle makes him to be ‘without God’ that is ‘without hope’—‘having no hope, and being without God in the world,’ Eph. 2:12. God, to the soul, is what the soul is to the body. If that be so vile and noisome a thing, when it hath lost the soul that keeps it sweet; what is thy soul when nothing of God is in it? ‘The heart of the wicked is little worth,’ saith Solomon. And why? but because it hath not God to put a value on it. If God, who is light, be not in thy understanding, thou art blind; and what is an eye whose sight is out fit for but to help thee break thy neck? If God be not in thy conscience to pacify and comfort it, thou must needs be full of horror or void of sense; a raging devil or a stupid atheist. If God be not in thy heart and affections to purify them, thou art but a shoal of fish, a sink of sin. If God be not in thee, the devil is in thee; for man’s heart is a house that cannot stand empty. In a word, thou canst not well be without this hope neither in life nor death. Not in life—what comfort canst thou take in all the enjoyments thou hast in this life with­out the hope of a better? A sad legacy it is which shuts the rebellious child from all claim to the inher­itance. Thou hast an estate, it may be, but it is all you must look for. And is it not a dagger at the heart of thy joy to think thy portion is paid thee here, which will be spent by that time the saint comes to receive his? Much less tolerable is it to be without this hope in a dying hour. Who can without horror think of leaving this world, though full of sorrows, that hopes for no ease in the other? The condemned malefactor, as ill as he likes his smokey hole in the prison, had rather be there, than accept of deliverance at the hangman’s hand; he had rather live still in his stink­ing dungeon than exchange it for a gibbet. And great­er reason hath the hopeless soul—if he understands himself—to wish he may spend his eternity on earth, though in the poorest hole or cave in it—and that under the most exquisite torment of stone or gout —than to be eased of that pain with hell’s torment. Hence is the sad confusion in the thoughts of guilty wretches when their souls are summoned out of their bodies. This makes the very pangs of death stronger than they would be, if these dear friends had but a hopeful parting. If the shriek and mournful outcry of some friends in the room of a dying man may so dis­turb him as to make his passage more terrible, how much more then must the horror of the sinner’s own conscience under the apprehensions of that hell whither it is going, amaze and affright him? There is a great difference between a wife’s parting with her husband, when called from her to live at court under the shine of his prince’s favour, whose return after a while she expects with an accumulation of wealth and honour; and another whose husband is taken out of her arms to be dragged to prison and torment.

Is this thy case, miserable man, and art thou cutting thy short life out into chips, and spending thy little time upon trifles, when the salvation of thy soul is yet to be wrought out? Art thou tricking and trim­ming thy slimy carcass, while thy soul is dropping into hell? What is this but to be painting the when the house is on fire? For a man to be curious about trim­ming his face, when he is not sure his head shall stand a day on his shoulders! It was an unseasonable time for Belshazzar to be feasting and quaffing when his kingdom lay at stake and an enemy at the gates. It would have become a wise prince to have been fight­ing on the wall than feasting in his palace, and fatting himself for his own slaughter, which soon befell him, Dan. 5:30. And it would become thee better to call up­on thy God, poor sinner, and lie in tears for thy sins at his foot, if yet haply thy pardon may be obtained, than by wallowing in thy sensual pleasures, to stupify thy conscience, and lay it asleep, by which thou canst only gain a little ease from the troublesome thoughts of thy approaching misery.

Second Consideration. Consider it is possi­ble—I do not mean in the way thou art in, for so it is as impossible that thou shouldst get to heaven, as it is that God should be found a liar—but it is possible that thou who art now without hope, mayest by a timely and vigorous use of the means obtain a hope of salvation; and certainly a possible hope carries in it a force of strong argument to endeavour for an actual hope. There is never a devil in hell so bad but if he had a thousand worlds at his dispose—and every one better than this we dote on—would exchange them all for such a may be, yea count it a cheap pennyworth too. It was but a possibility that brought that heathen king of Nineveh from his throne to lie grovelling at God’s foot in sackcloth and ashes, and that king will rise up in judgment against thee if thou dost not more. For that was a possibility more remote than thine is. It was spelled out, not from any express promise that dropped from the preacher to encourage them to humble themselves and turn to the Lord —for we read of nothing but desolation denounced —but from that natural theology which was imprinted on their minds. This taught them to hope that he who is the chief good would not be implacable. But you have many express promises from God’s faithful lip, that if you in his tie and way seek unto him, as sure as God is now in heaven, you shall live there with him in glory. ‘Your heart shall live that seek God,’ Ps. 69:32. Yea there are millions of blessed ones now in heaven experimenting the truth of this word, who once had no more right to heaven than your­selves now have; and that blissful place is not yet crowded so full but he can and will make room for you if indeed you have a mind to go thither. There is one prayer which Christ made on earth that will keep heaven-gate open for all that believe on him unto the end of the world. ‘Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word,’ John 17:20. This is good news indeed. Me­thinks it would make your souls leap within your breasts, while you sit under the invitations of the gos­pel, as the babe once did in Elizabeth’s womb, upon the virgin Mary’s salutation. Say not then, sinners, that ministers put you upon impossibilities, and bid you climb a hill inaccessible, or assault a city that is unconquerable. No; it is the devil, and thy own unbe­lieving heart—who together conspire thy ruin—that tell thee so. And as long as you listen to these coun­sellors you are like to do well, are you not? Well, whatever they say, know, sinner, that if at last thou missest heaven—which God forbid—the Lord can wash his hands over your head and clear himself of your blood; thy damnation will be laid at thine own door. It will then appear there was no cheat in the promise, no sophistry in the offer of the gospel. What God did tender he was willing to give, but thou didst voluntarily put eternal life from thee, and thy heart, whatever thy lying lips uttered to the contrary, did not like the terms. ‘But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me,’ Ps. 81:11. So that when the jury shall go on thy murdered soul, to inquire how thou camest to thy miserable end, thou wilt be found guilty of thine own damnation: nemo amittit Deum nisi qui dimittit eum—none loseth God but he that is willing to part with him.

Third Consideration. Consider the horrid cruelty of this act, for thee, by thy incorrigible and im­penitent heart, to pull down eternal destruction on thy own head. O what a sad epitaph is this to be found on a man’s grave‑stone! Here lies one that cut his own throat, that unnaturally made away himself! this the man, that the woman, who would not be re­claimed! They saw hell before them, and yet would leap into it, notwithstanding the entreaties of Christ by his Spirit and ministers to the contrary! And the oftener thou hast attempted to do it, and God hath been staying thy hand by his gracious solicitations, the greater will be thy shame and confusion before God, men, and angels, at the last day. God hath set a brand upon those acts of cruelty which a man com­mits upon himself above all other. It would speak a man of a harsh currish nature, that could see a horse in his stable or hog in his sty starve, when he hath meat to lay before him; more cruel to hear his servant roar and cry for bread and deny it; yet more horrid if this were done to a child or wife; but of all—because nature cries loudest for self-preservation—the great­est violence that can possibly be done to the law of nature is, to forget the duty we owe to out own life. O what is it then for a sinner to starve his soul by rejecting Christ ‘the bread of life,’ and to let out his soul’s blood at this wide sluice! This is matchless cruelty! Indeed, that which makes the self-murder of the body so great a crime is, because it doth so emin­ently—I will not say unavoidably—hazard the de­struction of the soul. O how unworthy then art thou to have so noble a guest as thy soul dwell in thy bos­om, who preparest no better lodgings than hell for it in another world!—that soul whose nature makes it being capable of being preferred to the blissful pres­ence of God in heaven’s glory, if thou hadst not bolted the door against thyself by thy impenitency. But alas! this which is the worst murder is the most common. They are but a few molesters that we now and then hear of who lay violent hands upon their bodies, at the report of which the whole country trembles; but you can hardly go into any house one day of the week, in which you shall not find some attempting to make away their souls; yea, that carry the very knife and halters in their bosoms—their be­loved sins I mean—with which they stab and strangle them; even those that are full of natural affections to their bodies, so as to be willing to spend all that they are worth, with her in the gospel, on physicians when the life of it is in danger; yet are so cruel to their dying damning souls, that they turn Christ their phys­ician out of doors, who comes to cure them on free cost.

In a word, those that discover abundance of wis­dom and discretion in ordering their worldly affairs, you would wonder how rational they are, what an ac­count they will give why they do this, and why that; when it comes to the business of heaven and the sal­vation of their souls, they are not like the same men. So that, were you to judge them only by their actings herein, you could not believe them to be men. And is it not sad, that the soul, which furnisheth you with reason for the despatch of your worldly business, should have no benefit itself from the very reason it lends you to do all your business with. This, as one well saith, is as if the master of the house, who provides food for all his servants, should be himself kept by them from eating, and so remain the only starved creature in the house. And is not this the sad judgment and plague of God, that is visibly seen upon many, and those that go for wise men too, stilo mundi —after the manner of the world? Are not their souls, which give them understanding, to provide for back and belly, house and family, themselves starving in the meantime? being kept by the power of some lust from making use of their understanding and rea­son so far as to put them upon any serious and vig­orous endeavour for the salvation of them. How then can souls that are so treated prosper?

 

 

[1]Outhees, i.e. outcry.—Chaucer.

[2]The text has the “Blessed Paul,” and cites, I Peter 1:3, 4. However, correcting it to read Peter creates problems in the rest of the paragraph. For he then continues to cite the beginnings of Paul’s epistles for his examples. All that I can do, for continuity’s sake, is to change Paul to Peter here, and in the next sentence change the word ‘his’ to Paul. This should make it more uniform and clear up the misunderstanding that is bound to arise because of it. Also, this has the advantage of making the fewest changes to Gurnall’s text.

— SDB

[3]Crank, in this case, bold, self‑confident.—Ed.

[4]Asseverate: to state seriously or positively. — SDB

[chapter:v2 4. Sixth Piece—The Christian’s Sword.] [chapters:300,right]

Direction Tenth.

The Several Pieces of the Whole Armour of God.

Sixth Piece—The Christian’s Sword.

‘And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Eph. 6:17).

Here we have the sixth and last piece in the Christian’s panoply brought to our hand—a sword; and that of the right make—‘the sword of the Spirit.’ The sword was ever esteemed a most necessary part of the soldier’s furniture, and therefore hath obtained a more general use in all ages, and among all nations, than any other weapon. Most nations have some particular weapons or arms proper to themselves; but few or none come into the field without a sword. A pilot without his chart, a scholar without his book, and a soldier without his sword, are alike ridiculous. But, above all these, is it absurd to think of being a Christian, without knowledge of the word of God and some skill to use this weapon. The usual name in Scripture for war is ‘the sword.’ ‘I will call for a sword upon all the in­habitants of the earth,’ Jer. 25:29; that is, I will send war. And this because the sword is the weapon of most universal use in war, and also that whereby the greatest execution is done in the battle. Now such a weapon is the word of God in the Christian’s hand. By the edge of this his enemies fall, and all his great exploits are done. ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony,’ Rev. 12:11. There are two observables we may take notice of, before we fall to the closer discussion of the words. The first from the kind or sort of arms here presented for the Christian’s use. The other from the place or order it stands in.

two observables drawn from the words.

First Observable. Mark the kind or sort of arms here appointed for the Christian’s use. It is a weapon that is both defensive and offensive. Such is the sword. All the rest in the apostle’s armoury are set out by defensive arms, girdle, breastplate, shield, and helmet—such as are of use to defend and save the sol­dier from his enemy’s stroke. But the sword doth both defend him and serves to wound his enemy also. Of like use is the word of God to the Christian.

First. It is for defence. Easily might the soldier be disarmed of all his other furniture, how glistering and glorious soever, had he not a sword in his hand to lift up against his enemies’ assaults. And with as little ado would the Christian be stripped of all his graces, had he not this sword to defend them and himself too from Satan’s fury. ‘Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction,’ Ps. 119:92. This is like the flaming sword with which God kept Adam out of paradise. The saint is oft compared to Christ’s garden and orchard. With the sword of the word he keeps this his orchard from robbing. There would not long hang any of their sweet fruit—either graces or comforts—upon their souls, were not this great robber Satan kept off with the point of this sword. O, this word of God is a terror to him; he cannot for his life overcome the dread of it. Let Christ but say, ‘It is written,’ and the foul fiend runs away with more confusion and terror than Caligula at a crack of thunder. And that which was of such force coming from Christ’s blessed lips to drive him away, the saints have always found the most successful instrument to defend them against his fiercest and most impetuous temptations. Ask David what was the weapon with which he warded off the blows this enemy made at him, and he will tell you it was the word of God. ‘Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer,’ Ps. 17:4. That is, by the help of thy word I have been enabled to preserve myself from those wicked works and outrageous practices, to which others, for want of this weapon to defend them, have been harried.

Second. It is for offence. The sword, as it defends the soldier, so it offends his enemy. Thus the word of God is, as a keeping, so a killing sword. It doth not only keep and restrain him from yielding to the force of temptations without, but also by he kills and mortifies his lusts within, and this makes the victory complete. A man may escape his enemy one day, and be overcome by him at another time. We read of some that for a while escaped the pollutions of the world, yet because their lusts were never put to the sword, and mortified in them by the power of the word applied to their hearts, were at last themselves overcome and slain by this secret enemy that lay skulking within their bosoms, II Peter 2:20, compared with ver. 22. Absalom, notwithstanding his being hanged by the hair of his head, might have lived to have taken revenge afterwards on them by whom he was then beaten, had not Joab come in timely and sped him, by sending his darts with a message of death to his heart. We have daily sad experiences of many that wriggle themselves out of their troubles of con­science—by which for a time they are restrained, and their sins, as it were, held by the hair—to rush after­wards into more abominable courses than they did before; and all for want of skill to use, or courage and faithfulness to thrust this sword by faith into the heart of their lusts.

Second Observable. Observe the order and place wherein this piece of armour stands. The apostle first gives the Christian all the former pieces, and when these are put on, he then girds this sword about him. The Spirit of God, in holy writ, I confess, is not always curious to observe method; yet, methinks, it should not be unpardonable if I venture to give a hint of a double significancy in this very place and order that it stands in.

First. It may be brought in after all the rest, to let us know how necessary the graces of God’s Spirit are to our right using of the word. Nothing more abused than the word. And why? but because men come to it with unsound and unsanctified hearts. The heretic quotes it to prove his false doctrine, and dares be so impudent as to cite it to appear for him. But how is it possible they should father their monstrous births on the pure chaste word of God? Surely it is because they come to the word and converse with it, but bring not the girdle of sincerity with them, and being ungirt, they are unblest. God leaves them justly to miss of truth, because they are not sincere in their inquiry after it. The brat is got upon their own hearts by the father of lies, and they come to the word only to stand as witness to it. Another reads the word and is worse after it, more hardened in his lusts than he was before. He sees some there canonized for saints by the Spirit of God, the history of whose lives is notwithstanding blotted with some foul falls, possibly into those very sins in which he lies wallowing, and therefore is bold to put himself into the saints’ calendar. And why so impudent to do this? Truly because he comes to the word with an unholy heart, and wants the breastplate of righteousness to defend him from the dint of so dangerous a temptation. Another, for want of faith to give existence to the truth of the threatening in his conscience, runs boldly upon the point of this sword, and dares the God of heaven to strike him with it. Thus we find those wretches mentioned by the prophet playing with this edge‑tool: ‘Where is the word of the Lord? let it come now,’ Jer. 17:15. As if they had said mockingly , ‘Thou scarest us with strange bugbears—judgments that in the name of God thou threatenest are coming on us. When will they come? we would fain see them. Is God’s sword rusty that he is so long getting it out of the scabbard?’ And the despairing soul, for want of a helmet of hope, deals little better with the promise than the presumptuous sinner with the threatening. Instead of lifting it up to defend himself against the fears of his guilty conscience, he falls upon the point of it, and destroys his own soul with that weapon which is given him to slay his enemy with. Well, therefore, may the apostle first put on the other pieces, and then deliver this sword to them to use for their good. A sword in a madman’s hand, and the word of God in some wicked man’s mouth, are used much alike—to hurt only themselves and their best friends with.

Second. It may be commended after all the rest, to let us know [that] the Christian, when advanced to the highest attainments of grace possible in this life, is not above the use of the word; nay, cannot be safe without it. When girded with sincerity—his plate of righteousness on his breast, the shield of faith in his hand, and the helmet of hope covering his head, that his salvation is out of doubt to him at present; yet even then he must take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. This is not a book to be read by the lowest form in Christ’s school only, but beseeming the highest scholar that seems most fit for a remove to heaven’s academy. It is not only of use to make a Christian by conversion, but to make him perfect also, II Tim. 3:15. It is like the architect’s rule and line—as necessary to lay the top-stone of the building at the end of his life as the foundation at his conversion. They therefore are like to prove foolish builders that throw away their line before the house be finished.

I come now to take up the weapon laid before us in the text, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’ In which words these three parts. FIRST. The weapon itself; that is, ‘the word of God.’ SECONDLY. The metaphor in which it is sheathed—‘the sword,’ with he person whose it is—‘the sword of the Spirit.’ THIRDLY. An exhortation to make use of this weapon, and directions how—‘and the sword,’ &c. That is, take this with all the other before-named pieces. So that to whom he directs the former pieces, to these he gives the sword of the word to use. Now those you shall find are persons of all ranks and relations; husbands and wives, parents and children masters and servants. He would have none be without this sword any more than without the girdle, helmet, and the rest, &c., though this I know will not please the Papists, who would have this sword of the word, like that of Goliath, laid up out of their reach, and that in the priest’s keeping also.

DIRECTION X.—FIRST GENERAL PART.

[What is here meant by the Word of God.]

‘The Word of God’ (Eph. 6:17).

I begin with the weapon itself—‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’ I shall first hold forth the sword naked, and the put it again into its sheath, to handle it under the metaphor of a sword. There is a twofold word of God. First. A substantial or subsisting word, and that is the eternal Son of God. Second. There is a declarative word of God, differing according to the sundry times and diverse manners in which he hath been pleased to reveal his will to man.

[Twofold reference of the

expression ‘the word of God.’]

First. There is a substantial or subsisting word, and that is the eternal Son of God. ‘The Word was with God, and the Word was God,’ John 1:1. ‘And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God,’ Rev. 19:13. This is spoken of a person, and he is no other than Christ the Son of God. But he is not the word of God in the text. The Spirit is rather Chr ist’s sword, than Christ the sword of the Spirit; in the 15th verse of the fore­named chapter, ‘Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations.’

Second. There is a declarative word of God, and this is manifold, according to the divers ways and manners where­by the Lord hath been pleased to de­clare his mind to the sons of men. At first, while the earth was thin sown with people, and the age of man so voluminous as to contain many centuries of years, God delivered his mind by dreams and visions, with such like immediate revelations unto faithful wit­nesses, who might instruct others of their present gen­eration therein, and transmit the knowledge of the same to after ages. They lived so long that three holy men were able, from the death of Adam, to preserve the purity of religion by certain tradition, till within a few years of the Israelites’ going down to Egypt. For, as a reverend and learned pen calculates the chron­ology, Methuselah lived above two hundred years with Adam, and from him might receive the will of God re­vealed to him. Shem lived almost a hundred years with Methuselah, and Shem was alive to the fiftieth year of Isaac’s age, who died but a few years before Israel’s going into Egypt. Thus long did God forbear to commit his will to writing, because it, passing through so few, and those trusty hands, it might safely be preserved.

But when the age of man’s life was so con­tracted, that from eight and nine hundred years—the then ordinary duration of it—it shrank into but so many tens, as it was in Moses time, Ps. 90; and when the people of God grew from a few persons to a multi­tude in Egypt—and those corrupted with idolatry —God now intending at their deliverance thence, to form them into a polity and commonwealth, thought it fit, for the preventing of corruption in his worship, and degeneracy in their lives, that they should have a written law to be as a public standard to direct them in both. And accordingly he wrote the ten command­ments with his own finger on tables of stone; and commanded Moses to write the other words he had heard from him on the mount, Ex. 34:27; yet so, that he still continued to signify his will by extraordinary revelations to his church, and also to enlarge this first edition of his written word, according to the necessity of the times; reserving the canon of the sacred writ to be finished by Christ the great doctor [teacher] of the church, who completed the same, and by the apostles, his public notaries, consigned it to the use of his church to the end of the world. Yea, a curse from Christ’s mouth cleaves to him that shall add to or take from the same, Rev. 22:18, 19. So that now all those ways whereby God directly made known his mind to this people, are resolved into this one of the Scriptures, which we are to receive as the undoubted word of God, containing in a perfect rule of faith and life, and to expect no other revelation of his mind to us. Such is the meaning of Heb. 1:1: ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.’ Therefore called the ‘last days,’ because that we are to look for no other revelation of God’s will. And therefore for ever let us abhor that blasphemy of Joachim, Abbas, Wigelians, and others that have fallen into the same frenzy with them, who dream of a threefold doctrine flowing from the three Persons of the sacred Trinity —the law from the Father, the gospel from the Son, which we have in the New Testament, and a third from the Spirit, which they call evangelium eternum —the everlasting gospel. Whereas, the Spirit of God himself, by whom the Scriptures were indited, calls the doctrine in them ‘the everlasting gospel,’ Rev. 14:6. Thus much to show what is here meant by the word of God. From whence the doctrine follows.

[The divinity of the Scriptures, and the

sufficiency of their own testimony

in proof of the same.]

Doctrine. That the holy Scriptures are the un­doubted word of God. By the Scripture I mean the Old and New Testaments contained in the Bible; both {of} which are that one foundation whereupon our faith is built: ‘Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,’ Eph. 2:20. That is the doctrine which God by them hath delivered unto his church, for they were under the unerring guidance of the Spir­it: ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God,’ II Tim. 3:16, 2,@B<,[email protected]—breathed by God; it came as tru­ly and immediately from the very mind and heart of God, as our breath doth from within our bodies. Yea, both matter and words were indited by God; for the things which they spake were ‘not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth,’ I Cor. 2:13. God did not give them a theme to dilate and enlarge upon with their own parts and abilities; but confined them to what he indited. They were but his amanuenses to write his infallible dic­tate; or as so many scribes, to transcribe what the Spirit of God laid before them. This is given as the reason why no scripture is to be sensed by our private fancy or conceit. We are to take the meaning of it from itself, as we find one place clears another; be­cause it came not from the private spirit of any man at first, ‘but holy men of God spake as they were moved,’ or carried, ‘by the Holy Ghost,’ II Peter 1:20 and ver. 21 compared. Now ejusdem est condere et inter­pretari—the power that makes the law, that must expound it.

Question. But it may be some will say, Do you bring Scripture to bear witness for itself? The ques­tion is, whether the Scripture be the word of God? and you tell us the Scripture saith so, and is that enough?

Answer. This would carry weight, if it were the word of some sorry creature that stood upon the trial; but a greater than man is here. Humana dita argu­mentis ac testibus egent; Dei autem sermo ipse sibi testis est, quia necesse est quicquid incorrupta veritas loquitur incorruptum sit veritas testimonium: so Salvan (De Gub. Dei, lib. iii)—men need arguments and witnesses to prove and vouch what they say to be true; but the word of God is a sufficient witness to itself, because what truth itself, which is pure, saith, can be no other than a sincere and true testimony. Christ, who thought it derogatory to the dignity of his person to borrow credit from man’s testimony, did yet refer himself to the report that the Scripture made of him; and was willing to stand or fall in the opinion of his very enemies, as the testimony thereof should be found concerning him, John 5:34, compared with ver. 39. And therefore their testimony may well pass for themselves. He that cannot see this sun by its own light, may in vain think to go find it with candle and lantern of human testimony and argument. Not that these are wanting, or useless. The testimony of the church is highly to be reverenced, because to it are these oracles of God delivered, to be kept as a sacred depositum and charge. Yea, it is called ‘the pillar and ground of truth,’ I Tim. 3:15, and ‘the candlestick, Rev. 1:12, from whence the light of the Scriptures shines forth into the world. But who will say, that the proc­lamation of a prince hath its authenticity from the pillar it hangs on in the market cross? or that the can­dle hath its light from the candlestick it stands on? The office of the church is ministerial—to publish and make known the word of God; but not magister­ial and absolute—to make it Scripture, or unmake it, as she is pleased to allow or deny her stamp. This were to send God to man for his hand and seal, and to do by the Scriptures, as Tertullian saith in his Apology the heathens did with their gods, who were to pass the senate, and gain their good‑will, before they might be esteemed deities by the people. And does not the church of Rome thus by the Scriptures? sending us to the pope for leave to believe the Scrip­ture to be Scripture? The blasphemous speech of Hermanus is notoriously known, who said, that the Scriptures did tantum valere, quantum Æsopi fabulæ, nisi accedat ecclesiæ testimonium—that they are of no greater force than the fables of Aesop, unless the testimony of the church be added. O how like is Rome to Rome! Superstitious Rome to pagan Rome! But we need not travel so far to be determined in this case. The Scripture itself will save us the pains of this wearisome journey to so little purpose, being more able to satisfy us of its own divine extraction, than the pope, sitting in his porphyry chair with all his card­inals about him. Neither is there any necessity to ask for a messenger to ascend on high, who may from heaven bring down their letters testimonial unto us; seeing they bear heaven’s superscription so fairly writ upon their own forehead, as denies them to proceed from any but God himself. May a particular man be known from a thousand others by his face, voice, or handwriting? Certainly then it cannot seem strange that the God of heaven should be discerned from his sorry creature, by his voice and writing in the sacred Scriptures. Do we not see that he hath interwoven his glorious name so in the works of creation, that they speak his power and Godhead, and call him Maker in their thoughts, who never read the Bible, or heard of such a book?—so that they could not steal the notion thence, but had it from the dictate of their own consciences, exhorting the acknowledgment of a deity. And much more will an enlightened con­science and sanctified heart be commanded by the overpowering evidence that shines forth in the Scrip­tures to fall down and cry, It is the voice of God, and not any creature that speaks in them. Indeed the grand truths and chief notions found in the Scrip­tures, are so connatural to the principles of grace, which the same Holy Spirit, who is the inditer of them, hath planted in the hearts of all the saints, that their souls ever spring and leap at the reading and hearing of them, as the babe did in Elizabeth’s womb at the salutation of the virgin Mary. The lamb doth not more certainly know her dam in the midst of a whole flock (at whose bleating she passeth by them all to come to be suckled by her), than the sheep of Christ know his voice in the saving truths of the Scriptures—the sincere milk whereof they desire, and are taught of God to taste and discern from all other. Indeed, till a soul be thus enlightened and wrought upon by the Spirit of God, he may have his mouth stopped by such arguments for the divinity of them, as he cannot answer; but he will never be persuaded to rest on them, and cordially embrace them as the word of God. As we see in the scribes and Pharisees, who oft were nonplussed and struck down speechless by the dint of Christ’s words, yet, as those wretches sent to attack the person of Christ, rose up from the earth—where the majesty of Christ’s deity, looking out upon them, had thrown them grovelling—to lay violent hands on him; so those obdurate Pharisees and scribes, after all their convictions, returned to op­pose the doctrine he preached, and that most of them unto death. Yea, that part of the Scripture they seemed to cry up so highly, the law of Moses, and made the ground of their quarrel against Christ, our Saviour is bold to tell them, that as great admirers as they were thereof, they did not so much as believe it to be the word of God. How could they indeed have a true divine faith on it who wanted the Spirit of God that alone works it? ‘Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me,’ John 5:46. Erasmus tells his friend in a letter, that he met with many things charged on Luther by the monks for heresies, which Augustine passed among them for sound truths. But certainly they did not really believe them to be truths in Augustine which they condem­ned in Luther. Neither did the Pharisees in truth be­lieve what Moses wrote, because they opposed Christ, who did but verify what Moses before from God’s mouth had spoke. But because, when the Spirit of God comes to raise the heart to a belief of the word of God, he doth it by putting his own weight and force to those arguments which are couched in the word, and so doth sigillare animum charactere illorum—leave the print or character of them sealed upon the soul; therefore I shall draw out an argument or two among many that are to be found in the Scripture itself, proving the parentage thereof to be divine. I know it is a beaten path I am now walking in, and I shall speak •88äH—otherwise, than •88″—other things; the same things for substance which you may meet in many others, only a little otherwise shaped on my private forge. For my own part, I think it more wis­dom to borrow a sword of proved metal at another’s hands, than to go with a weak leaden one of my own into the field, and so come home well beaten for my folly and pride.

The two general heads from which I deduce my demonstrations, are these: First. The matter of the Scriptures. Second. The supernatural effects produced by them.

FIRST GENERAL HEAD.

[Proof of the divinity of the Scriptures

from their subject‑matter.]

The very matter contained in the holy Scriptures demonstrates their heavenly descent; it being such as cannot be the birth or product of a creature. Let us search the Scriptures a little, and consider the several parts thereof, and see whether they do not all bear the image of God upon them. Consider, First. The historical part of Scripture. Second. The prophet­ical. Third. The doctrinal. Fourth. The precep­tive, with its appendices of promises and threatenings to enforce the same. And see if a print of a Deity be not stamped upon them all.

[The historical Scriptures bear

the impress of Deity.]

First Part. The historical part of the Scrip­tures. In this let us consider, First. The antiquity of the matter related. Second. The simplicity and sincerity of the penmen relating what concerns them­selves.

First. The antiquity of the matter related. There are some pieces that could not possibly drop from a creature’s pen. Where should or could he have his reading and learning to enable him to write the history of the creation? The heathen, it is confessed, by the inquiry of natural reason, have made a dis­covery thus far, that the world had a beginning, and could not be from eternity, and that it could be the workmanship of none but God; but what is this to the compiling of a distinct history, how God went to work in the production thereof? what order every creature was made in? and how long God was finishing the same? He that is furnished for such an enterprise, must be one that was pre‑existent to the whole world, and an eye‑witness to every day’s work, which man, that was made the last day, cannot pretend unto. And yet there is history more ancient than this in the Scripture, where we find what was done at the council-table of heaven, before the world began, and what passed there in favour of man, whom afterwards he would make. Who could search these court‑rolls, I wonder, and bring us intelligence of the everlasting decrees then resolved on, and promises made by the Father to the Son of eternal life in time to be con­ferred on his elect? Titus 1:2.

Second. The simplicity and sincerity of holy penmen, in relating what most concerns themselves, and those that were near and dear to them. We may possibly find among human authors, some that carry their pen with an even hand in writing the history of others, the making known whose faults casts no dis­honourable reflection upon him that records them. Thus, Suetonius spared not to tell the world how wicked great emperors were, who therefore is said ‘to have taken the same liberty in writing their lives that they took in leading them.’ But where is the man that hath not a hair upon his pen, when he comes to write of the blemishes of his own house or person? Alas! here we find that their pen will cast no ink. They can rather make a blot in their history than leave a blot on their own name; they have, like Alexander’s painter, a finger to lay upon these scars; or, if they mention them, you shall observe they learn their pen on a sudden to write smaller than it was wont. But in the history of the Scripture, none of this self-love is to be found, the penmen whereof are as free to expose their own shame and nakedness to the world’s view as any others. Thus Moses brands his own tribe for their bloody murder on Shechem, Gen. 34. An enemy could not have set the brand heavier on their name than himself doth it; his own brother is not favoured by him, but his idolatry set upon the file, Ex. 32. The proud behaviour of his dear sister, and the plague of God which befell her, escapes not his pen, Num. 12. No, not the incest of his own par­ents, Ex. 6:20. So that we must say of him, concerning the impartiality of his pen in writing, what himself saith of Levi in the execution of justice, that he ‘said unto his father, and to his mother, I have not seen him, neither did he acknowledge his brethren,’ Deut. 33:9. In a word, to despatch this particular, he is no more tender of his personal honour than he is of his house and family, but doth record the infirmities and miscarriages of his own life: as his backwardness to enter upon that difficult charge, Ex. 3, 4—wherein he discovered so much unbelief and pusillanimity of spirit, notwithstanding his clear and immediate call thereunto by God himself; hid neglect of a divine ordinance in not circumcising his child, and what the sin had like to cost him; his frowardness and im­patience in murmuring at the troubles that accom­panied his place wherein God had set him, Num. 11:11‑13; and his unbelief after so many miraculous seals from heaven set to the promise of God, for which he had his leading staff taken from him, and the honour of conducting Israel into Canaan denied him—a sore and heavy expression of God’s displeas­ure against him, Num. 20:12. Certainly we must con­fess, had not his pen been guided by a spirit more than human, he could never have so perfectly con­quered all carnal affections, so as not the least to favour himself in reporting things thus prejudicial to his honour in the world.

And the same spirit is found to breathe in the evangelists’ history of the gospel—they being as little dainty of their own names as Moses was; as may be observed in their freedom to declare their own blem­ishes and their fellow apostles’. So far were they from wronging the church with a lame mutilated story of Christ’s life and death, to save their own credits, that they interweave the weaknesses of one another all along their relations. Hence we read of the sinful passion and revenge working the sons of Zebedee; Peter acting the devil’s part to tempt his Master at another time; the ignorance of all the twelve in some main principles of Christianity for awhile; their ambi­tion who should be greatest, and their wrangling about it; their unbelief and cowardice, one denying his Lord, and the rest fleeing their colours, when they should have interposed their own bodies betwixt their Master and the danger, as resolved wither to die for him, or at least with him, and not save their lives with so dishonourable a flight;—these, and such like pas­sages, declare them to be acted in their writings by a spirit higher than their own, and that by no other than by God himself, for whom they so willingly de­base themselves in the eyes of the world, and lay their names in the dust, that the glory of his name might be exalted in this their free acknowledgment.

[The prophetical Scriptures bear

the impress of Deity.]

Second Part. The prophetic part of the Scrip­tures; which contains some wonderful predictions of things to come, as could drop from no pen but one guided by a divine hand; all of which have had their punctual performance in the just periods foretold. Indeed from whom could these come but God? ‘The secret things belong unto the Lord our God,’ Deut. 29:29. And predictions surely may pass very well for secrets; they are arcana ejus imperii—secrets of his government; such secrets, that God offers to take him —whoever he is—and set him with himself in his own throne, that is able to foretell things to come. ‘Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods,’ Isa. 41:23. This must be con­fessed to be a flower of the crown, and an incom­municable property and prerogative of the only true God, who stands upon the hill of eternity, and from thence hath the full prospect of all things, and to whose infinite understanding they are all present; for his will being the cause of all events, he must needs know them, because he knoweth that. The devil, in­deed, is very ambitious to be thought able to do this, and to gain the reputation hereof, hath had his mock‑prophets and prophecies in all ages, with which he hath abused the ignorant credulous world. But alas! his predictions are no more true prophecies, than his miracles are true miracles. He puts a cheat upon the understandings of silly souls in the one, as he doth on their senses in the other. For his predictions are either dark and dubious, cunningly packed and laid, that, like a picture in plicis—folds, they carried two faces under one hood; and in these folds the subtle serpent wrapped himself, on purpose to save his credit, which way soever the event fell out. And this got Apollo the name of Loxias, of [email protected]>ÎH, obliquus; propter obliqua et tortuosa responsa ejus—because he mocked them that consulted his oracle with such ambiguous answers, that sent them as wise home as they came to him. Indeed, the devil found it necessary thus to do. Had he not with this patch of policy eked out the scantiness of his own un­derstanding, the nakedness thereof would have been seen by every vulgar eye, to his shame and to the con­tempt of his oracles. Or, if his predictions were more plainly delivered, they were,

First. Of such things as he spelled out by the help of nature’s alphabet, and came to the knowledge of by diving into the secrets of natural causes, before they discovered themselves unto the observation of man’s duller understanding; and this made them cried up for wonderful predictions, and supernatural, by those who could not see this clue in Satan’s hand that guided him. If a man should meet you in the street, and tell you such a friend of yours will die within a few months, whom you left well, to your thinking, but a few minutes before, and the event should seal to the truth of what he said, you might possibly begin to think this a wonderful prophecy. But, when you afterwards know that he who told you this was a physician rarely accomplished, and had upon much study and strict observation of your friend’s bodily state, found a dangerous disease growing insensibly upon him, you would alter your opinion, and not think him a prophet, but admire him for a skilful physician. Thus, did we but consider the vastness of Satan’s natural parts—though limited, because created—and the improvement he hath made of them, by the study and experience of so many thousand years, we shall not count his predictions for prophecies, but rather as comments and explications of the short and dark text of natural causes, and acknowledge him a learned naturalist, but not deserv­ing the name of a true prophet.

Second. If he hath not his hint from natural causes, then he gathers his inferences from moral and political causes, which, compared together by so deep a pate as his, give him great help and advantage to infer many times what in very great probability, and all likelihood of reason, will come to pass. Thus what the devil told Saul would become of him, his army, and kingdom, was nothing but what he might ration­ally conclude from those premises which lay before him, in his being rejected of God, and another anointed by God’s own command to be king in his stead, together with the just height, and full measure, to which Saul’s sins might now be thought to have arrived—by his going to a witch for counsel—and a puissant army of the Philistines preparing against him, whose wonted courage now so failed him, that he went rather like a malefactor pinioned and bound with the terrors of his accusing conscience, to meet an executioner that should give the fatal stroke to him, than like a valiant captain, to adorn and enrich him­self with the spoils of his enemies. All these laid to­gether make it appear the devil, without a gift of prophecy, might tell him his doom.

Third. God may, and doth, sometimes reveal future events to Satan, as when god intends him to be his instrument to execute some of his purposes, he may, and doth, acquaint him with the same some time before. And you will not say the hangman is a prophet, that can tell such a man shall, on such a day, be beheaded or hanged, when hath a warrant from the king that appoints him to do that office. Thus Satan could have told Job beforehand what sad afflictions would certainly befall him in his estate, servants, chil­dren, and his own body; because God had granted him a commission to be the instrument that should bring all these upon him. But neither Satan nor any creatures else are able of themselves to foretell such events as neither arise from natural causes, nor may be rationally concluded to follow from moral and po­litical probabilities; but are locked up in the cabinet of the divine will, how they shall fall out. And such are the prophecies which we find in the holy Scrip­tures, by which they plainly prove their heavenly extraction. They must needs come from God that tell us what God only knew, and depended on his will to be disposed of. Who but God could tell Abraham where his posterity should be, and what should partic­ularly befall them, four hundred years after his death? —for so long before was he acquainted with their deliverance out of Egypt, Gen. 15, which accord­ingly came to pass punctually on the very day foretold, Ex. 12:41. How admirable are the prophecies of Christ the Messiah, in which his person, birth, life, and death, even to the minute, and circumstances of them, are as exactly and particularly set down, many ages before his coming upon the stage, as by the evan­gelists themselves, who were upon the place with him, and saw all that was done with their own eyes. And though some things foretold of him may be thought, because small and inconsiderable in themselves, not to deserve a mention in so high and sacred a proph­ecy—as our Saviour’s riding on an ass, Zech. 9:9; the thirty pieces given for him, and the purchase of the potter’s field afterwards with them, Zech. 11:12, 13; and the preserving his bones whole, when they that had suffered with him had theirs broken—these, I say, and such like, though they may seem inconsiderable passages in themselves, yet upon due weighing the end for which they are mentioned, we shall find that our weak faiths could not well have spared their help to strengthen it in the belief of the prophecy. Indeed, a great weight of the argument to prove the truth and divinity of the prophecy, moves upon these little hinges; because, the less these are in themselves, the more admirably piercing and strong must that eye be that could see such small things at so great a distance. None but an infinite understanding could do this! And now I hope none will dare ask ‘But how may we be sure that such prophecies were extant so long be­fore their fulfilling, and not foisted in after these things were done?’—seeing they were upon public record in the church of the Jews, and not denied by those that denied Christ himself. And truly this one consideration cast into the scale after all the former, doth give an overweight to the argument we are now upon—I mean, that these prophecies were so long, and that so openly, read and known. And conse­quently [it were] impossible that Satan should be ig­norant of them, and not take the alarm from them to do his utmost to impede their accomplishment, see­ing his whole kingdom lay at stake, so as either he must hinder them, or they would ruin it; and that notwithstanding all this, together with his restless en­deavour against them, they should be all so fairly delivered in their full time; yea, many of them by the midwifery of those very persons that would, if pos­sible, have destroyed them in the womb, as we see, Acts 4:27. Here breaks out the wisdom and power of a God, with such a strong beam of light and evidence, that none of the Scriptures’ enemies can wishly look against it.

[The doctrinal part of Scripture

bears the impress of Deity.]

Third Part. The doctrinal part of the Scrip­tures; by which, in this place, I mean only those grounds and principles of faith that are laid down in Scripture, and proposed to be believed and embraced of all that desire eternal life. There is a divine glory that is to be seen on the very face of them, being so sublime, that no creature can be the inventor of them. To instance but in a few for all. First, God himself, who is the prime object of our faith. Who but God could tell us who and what his nature is? That there is a God, we confess is a notion that natural reason hath found the way to search out. Yea, his Godhead and power are a lesson taught in the school of nature, and to be read in the book of the creatures. But how long men who have no higher teaching are learning the true knowledge of God, and how little progress they make therein, we see in the poor heathen, among whom the wisest philosophers have been such dunces, groping about this one principle one age after another, and yet not able to find the door; as the apostle tells us when he saith that ‘the world by wisdom knew not God,’ I Cor. 1. But, as for the trinity of persons in the Godhead, this is such a height as the heart of man never could take aim at, so much as to dream or start a thought of it; so that, if God had not revealed it, the world of necessity must have for ever continued in the ignorance thereof. And the same must be said of all gospel truths, Jesus Christ, God‑man, justification by faith in his blood, and the whole method of grace and salvation through him. They are all such notions as never came into the heart of the wisest sophists in the world to conceive of; and therefore it is no wonder that a little child, under the preaching of the gospel, believes these mysteries which Plato and Aristotle were ignorant of, because they are not attained by our parts and indus­try, but communicated by divine and supernatural revelation. Yea, now they are revealed, how does our reason gaze at them as notions that are foreign, and mere strangers to its own natural conceptions, yea, too big to be grasped and comprehended with its short span, which makes it so malapert—where grace is not master to keep it in subjection—as to object against the possibility of their being true, because itself cannot measure them? As if the owl should say the sun had no light, because her weak eyes cannot bear to look on it. These are truths to be believed on the credit of him that relates them, and not to be entertained or rejected as they correspond to, or differ from, the mould of our reason. He that will handle these with his reason, and not his faith, is like to be served as the smith—it is Chrysostom’s comparison—that takes up the red-hot iron with his hand, and not with his tongs, what can he expect but to burn his fingers with them?

[The preceptive part of Scripture bears

the impress of Deity.]

Fourth Part. The fourth and last part in our division is the preceptive part of the Scriptures, or that which contains commands and precepts. And this will be found to carry the superscription of its divinity on its forehead, and that with as legible and fair characters as any of the former, if we do but consider, First. The vast extent of Scripture com­mands; and Second. Their spotless purity.

First. The vast extent of Scripture commands. This is such as never any human laws, though of the greatest monarch that ever swayed a scepter, could pretend unto. Where is the prince, among the sons of men, that ever went about to give laws to all man­kind, and did not rather, in his royal edicts and laws, respect that particular people, and those nations, whose lot fell within the circle of their empire? Of all the empires the world ever had, the Roman was with­out compare the greatest; and yet when the Roman eagle’s wings were best grown, they could not overspread more than the third part of this lower world. And how vain and ridiculous had it been for the emperor to have attempted to make a law for those nations which neither knew him, nor he them? But in the Scripture we find such laws as concern all mankind, wherever they live, and which have been promulgated, where the Bible was never seen. Their sound has gone into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Many of the laws in sacred writ, they are but a second, and that fairer, edition of what was found written in the consciences of men and women before the Scripture came forth. So that, if those laws that are cut with so indelible a character in the consciences of all the sons of Adam, be of God, then the Scripture must be confessed to proceed from God also.

Yet further. As the Scripture takes all mankind to task, and lays its bonds on all, high and low, rich and poor; so its laws bind the whole man. The heart with its most inward thoughts is laid in these chains, as well as the outward man. Indeed, the heart is the principle subject, whose loyalty is most provided for in the precepts of Scripture. Those commands that contain our duty to God, require that all be done with the heart and soul. If we pray, it must be ‘in the spirit,’ John 4:23, or else we had as good do nothing, for we transgress the law of prayer. If it be a law that respects our carriage to man, still the heart is chiefly intended: ‘Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart,’ Lev. 19:17; ‘Curse not the king, no not in thy thought,’ Ecc. 10:20. And accordingly the promises and threatenings, which attend the commands of Scrip­ture—as the arteries do the veins in man’s body—to inspirit and enforce them, are suitable to the spiritual nature of those commands; the rewards of the one, and punishments of the other, being such as respect the spiritual performance or neglect of them. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God,’ Matt. 5:8. Not blessed are they whose hands are clean, though their hearts are foul and filthy. So, ‘But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing,’ Mal. 1:14. The deceiver there is the hypocrite, that gives God the skin of the sacrifice, the shape of the duty for the substance, the lean of an outside obedience instead of the fat of the inward man, viz. the obedience of the heart. And as the principle ob­ject that these are levelled to and against, is the obedience or disobedience of the heart; so the subject or vessel into which the one emptieth its blessings, and the other its curses, is chiefly the soul and spirit: ‘They shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever,’ Ps. 22:26. ‘I comfort you…and your heart shall rejoice,’ Isa. 66:13, 14. ‘Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse O God!’ Lam. 3:65.

Now I would fain know the man that ever went about to form such laws as should bind the hearts of men, or prepare such rewards as should reach the souls and consciences of men. Truly, if any mortal man—be he the greatest of the world’s monarchs —should make a law that his subjects should love him with all their hearts and souls, and not dare, upon peril of his greatest indignation, to bid a trai­torous thought against his royal person welcome in their souls, but presently confess it to him, or else he would be avenged on him; he would deserve to be more laughed at for his pride and folly, than Xerxes for casting his fetters into the Hellespont to chain the surly waves with them into his obedience, or Caligula, that threatened the air, if it durst rain when he was at his pastimes, who yet, poor sneak, durst not himself so much as look into the air when it thundered. Certainly a bedlam would be fitter for such a madman than a king’s throne and palace, that should so far forfeit his reason, as to think that the thoughts and hearts of men were within his territories and juris­diction. Who need fear such a law, when none but the offender himself can bring in evidence of the fact? There have been indeed some that, intending to take away the life of their prince by a bloody murderous knife, have been attached by their own conscience, and forced by it to blab and confess their own wicked thoughts, before any other could be their accuser, so sacred are the persons of God’s anointed ones; but not from the power of man or his law making them do so, but the dread of God arresting their conscience for violating his law, which indeed not only binds up subjects’ hands from killing, but hearts also from cursing, kings in our very thought. This, this the law which rules in the consciences of the worst of men; a bit that God rides the fiercest sinners with, and so curbs them, that they can never shake it out of their mouths. Enough to prove the divinity thereof.

Second. The spotless purity of Scripture com­mands do no less evince their divine extraction. God is ‘the holy One,’ Isa. 43. He alone is perfectly holy: ‘The heavens are not clean in his sight,’ Job 15:15. He can charge the angels themselves—who may be the heavens in the forementioned place—‘with folly,’ Job 4:18, because, though they never sinned, yet they are sinable. It is possible they might sin, as some of their order have done, if not kept from it by confirming grace. And as God is the only holy person, so the Scripture is the only holy book. All besides this have their errata, which are corrected by this, ‘The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever,’ Ps. 19:9. That is, the word of the Lord is ‘clean’—called ‘the fear of the Lord,’ because it teacheth it; as God is called the fear of Isaac, because the object of his fear. The word is clean, and mark, it ‘endureth for ever;’ that is, it ever continues, and shall be found so. There are dregs and sediment that will appear in the holiest writings of the best men, when they have stood awhile under the observation of a critical eye; but the Scripture hath been exposed to the view and censure of all sorts of men, yet could never have the least impurity charged justly upon it. It is so clean and pure, that it makes filthy souls clean: ‘Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth,’ John 17:17. That which is itself filthy may make our clothes and bodies clean, but that which makes our souls pure and clean must be itself without all defilement. And such is the Scripture. Nothing there that gratifies the flesh or affords fuel to any lust. No, it puts every sin to the sword, and strikes through the loins of all sinners great or small: ‘To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace,’ Rom. 8:6. So that, as Athenagoras well said, ‘No man can be wicked that is a Christian, unless he be a hypocrite.’ For the Scripture which he professeth to be his rule of faith and life, will not allow him to embrace any doctrine that is false, or practice that is filthy and unholy. This is that which Christianity can alone glory in. The heathen were led into many abominations by their religion and gods whom they worshipped. No wonder they were so beastly and sensual in their lives, when they served drunken and filthy gods; and the very mysteries of their religion were so horribly unclean that they durst not let them be commonly known, as having a scent too strong and stinking to be endured by any that had not their senses quite stopped, and their foolish minds, by the judgment of God upon them, wholly darkened. But the Christian can charge none of his sins upon his God—who tempteth none to evil, but hateth perfectly both the work and also worker of iniquity; nor upon his Bible, which damns every sin to the pit of hell, and all that liveth therein: ‘Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gen­tile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile,’ Rom. 2:9, 10. O who could be author of this blessed book but the blessed God? If any creature made it, he was either a wicked creature or one that was holy.

1. No wicked creature could do it, neither angel nor man. Surely they would never have taken so much pains to pull down their own kingdom of dark­ness—the great plot which runs through the Bible from one end of it to the other. And if it were the birth of their brain, no doubt, as every one loves his own child, so would they have shown more love to it than yet they have done. The implacable wrath which the devil and his party of wicked ones in the world have shown in all ages to the Scripture, declare sufficiently that it never came from them. No, no, it cannot stand with the interest of unclean spirits or wicked men to advance holiness in the world. The devil, though bold enough, durst never be so impu­dent as to lay claim to this holy, heavenly piece. But, if he should, the glorious beauty of holiness which shines on the face of it, would forbid any man in his wits to believe that black fiend to be the father of it. Naturalissimum est opis omnis viventis generare sibi simile—it is natural for every creature to beget his like. And what likeness there is betwixt light and darkness, it is easy to judge.

2. Neither can any holy creature be the author of it, be he angel or man. Can we think that any having the least spark of love to God, or fear of his majesty dwelling their breast, durst counterfeit his dreadful name by setting it to their work, and abuse the world with such a blasphemy and prodigious lie, as to say, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and prefix his name all along, when, not God but themselves are the authors? Could this impudence and audacious wickedness proceed from any holy angel or man? Doubtless it could not. Nay further, durst any holy creature put such a cheat upon the world, and then denounce the wrath and vengeance of God against those who shall speak in God’s name, but were never sent of him, as the Scrip­ture mentions? Certainly, that earth which swallowed up Korah and his ungodly rout, for pretending to an authority from God as good as the priests’, to offer incense, would not have spared Moses himself if he had spoke that in God’s name which he had not from him, but which was the invention of his own private brain. Thus we see that no creature, good or bad, angel or man, can be the author of Scripture. So that none remains but God to own it; which he hath done with miracles enough to convince a very atheist of their divinity.

SECOND GENERAL HEAD.

[Proof of the divinity of the Scriptures

from their supernatural effects.]

The second argument I shall choose to demon­strate the divine extraction of the Scriptures, shall be taken from the supernatural effects they produce. Nothing can be the cause of an effect higher or greater than itself. If therefore we can find such effects to be the product of the Scriptures, as are above the sphere of any creature’s activity, it will then be evident that the Scripture itself is supernatural, not the word of a mere creature, but of God himself. What the psalm­ist saith of thunder, that loud voice of nature from the clouds, we may apply to the voice of God speaking from heaven in the Scripture, ‘It is a mighty voice and full of majesty; it breaketh cedars’—kings and king­doms; ‘it divideth the flames of fire.’ The holy martyrs have with one bucket of this spiritual water quenched the scorching flames of that furious ele­ment into which their persecuting enemies have thrown them. ‘It shaketh the wilderness’ of the wild wicked world, making the stout hearts of the proudest sinners to tremble like the leaves of the trees with the wind; and bringeth the pangs of the new‑birth upon them whose hearts before never quailed for the most prodigious crimes. ‘It discovereth the forests,’ and hunts sinners out of their thickets and refuges of lies, whither they run to hide themselves from the hue and cry of divine vengeance. But, to speak more particu­larly and distinctly, there are four powerful and strange effects, which the word puts forth upon the hearts of men; all which will evince its divine original. First. It hath a heart‑searching power, whereby it ransacks and rifles the consciences of men. Second. It exercises a power on the conscience to convince and terrify it. Third. It has power to comfort and raise a dejected spirit. Fourth. It hath the power of conversion, which none but God can effect.

[The heart‑searching power of the word

attests to its divine origin.]

First Effect. The word of God hath a heart-searching power, whereby it ransacks and rifles the consciences of men. It looks into the most secret transactions of the heart and tells us what we do in our bed-chamber—as Elisha did by the king of Syria, II Kings 6:12. It cometh where no prince’s warrant can empower his officer to search, I mean the heart. We read that Christ came to his disciples ‘when the doors were shut, and stood in the midst of them,’ John 20:19. Thus the word—when all doors are shut, that men have no intelligence what passeth within the breasts of men—comes in upon the sinner without asking him leave, and stands in the midst of his most secret plots and counsels, there presenting itself to his view, and saith to him as Elisha to Gehazi, ‘Went not my eye with thee when thou didst this and that?’ How often doth the sinner find his heart discovered and laid out of all its folds by the word preached, as if the minister had stood at his window, and seen him what he did within doors, or some had come and told tales of him to the preacher? Such I have known, that would not believe to the contrary, but that the min­ister had been informed of their pranks, and so leveled his discourse particularly at their breasts, when he hath been as ignorant of their doings as of theirs that live in America, and only shot his reproofs like him that smote Ahab, who drew his bow at a ven­ture, without taking aim at the person of any. From whence can this property come but [from] God, who claims it as his own incommunicable attribute, ‘I the Lord search the heart?’ Jer. 17:10. God is in the word, and therefore it findeth the way to get between the joints of the harness, though sent at random out of man’s bow. If any creature could have free ingress into this retiring room of the heart, the devil, being a spirit, and of such a piercing, prying eye, were the most likely to be he; yet even he is locked out of this room, though indeed he can peep into the next.

Now if God can only search the heart, then the word which doth the same can come from no other but God himself. Who indeed can make a key to this lock of the heart, but he that knoweth all the wards of it? Suppose you did lock up a sum of money in a cabinet, and none but one in all the world besides yourself besides yourself were privy to the secret place where you lay this key. If you then should find the key taken away, and the cabinet opened and rifled, you would soon conclude whose doing it was. Why thus, when you find your heart disclosed, and the secret thoughts therein laid open unto you in the word, you may easily conclude that God is in it. The key that doth this is of his making who is the only one besides yourselves that is privy to the counsels of your hearts, that seeth all the secret traverses of your in­ward man. Who but he can send a spy so directly to your hiding-place, where you have laid up your treasures of darkness out of the world’s sight? There are two secrets that the word discloseth:—

First. What a man’s own heart knoweth, and no creature besides. Thus Christ told the woman of Sa­maria what her neighbours could not charge her with; from which she concluded him to be a prophet—a man of God. And may we not conclude the Scripture to be the word of God, that doth the same?

Second. Those things which a man’s own heart is not privy to. God is said to be ‘greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things,’ I John 3:20. He knows more by us than we by ourselves. And doth not the word dive to the bottom of the heart, and fetch up that filth thence, which the eye of the conscience never had the sight of before, nor ever could without the help of the word? ‘I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet,’ Rom. 7:7. And if the word findeth that out which escapeth the scrutiny of man’s own heart, doth it not prove a Deity to be in it? So argueth the apostle, I Cor. 14:25, speak­ing of the power the word preached hath to lay open the heart: ‘Thus are the secrets,’ saith he, ‘of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.’

[The conscience‑touching power of the word

attests its divine origin.]

Second Effect. The second effect the Scrip­ture hath upon the spirits of men, by which its divine pedigree may be proved, is the power it exerciseth on the conscience to convince and terrify it. Conscience is a castle that no batteries but what God raiseth against it can shake. No power can command it to stoop but that which heaven and earth obey. He that disarms the strong man must be stronger than he. He that masters the conscience must be greater than it, and so God only is, I John 3:20[1]. Now the word being able to shake and shatter this power of the soul, which disdaineth to stoop to any but God, must needs be from him. And that the word exerts such a power upon the conscience who will doubt? Do we not see it daily chastising the proudest sinners, even to make them cry and whine under its convictions, like a child under the rod? Yea, doth it not slay them outright, that they fall down dispirited at one thunder-clap of the law let off by God upon them? ‘When sin revived, I died,’ saith Paul. He who before was a jolly man—as well provided in his own opinion for his spiritual estate, as Job was for his outward, when he had his flocks and herds, sons and daughters, health and prosperity, all as yet untouched by the hand of God—upon him, it stripped his conscience as naked as Job afterward was in his outward condition. The man’s eyes are opened now to see how naked and void of all holiness he is. Yea his fair skin of phar­isaical strictness, with the beauty of which he was formerly so far in love as if he had been another Absalom, without mole or wart, he now judgeth to be but odious deformity, and himself a most loathsome creature, by reason of those plague-sores and ulcers that he sees running on him. Yea, such power the word hath upon him, that it laid him trembling over the bottomless pit, in a despair of himself and his own righteousness.

Hath any creature an arm like this of the word? or can any book penned by the wit of man command the heart to tremble at the rehearsal thereof, as this can do? Even a Felix on the bench, when a poor pris­oner preacheth this word at the bar to him, is put into a shaking fit. Who but a God could make those monsters of men, that had paddled in the blood of Christ, and who had scorned his doctrine so as to count the professors of it fools and idiots, yet come affrighted in their own thoughts, at a secret prick given them in Peter’s sermon, and cry out in the open assembly, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?’ Doth not this carry as visible a print of Deity, as when Moses clave the rock with a little rod in his hand?

Question. But haply you will say, If there be such a conscience-shaking power in the word, how comes it to pass, that many notorious sinners sit so peaceably and sleep so soundly under it? They read it at home, and hear it preached powerfully in the public, yet are so far from feeling any such earthquake in their consciences, that they remain senseless and stupid; yea, can laugh at the preacher for his pains, and shake off all the threatenings denounced, when sermon is done, as easily as the spaniel doth the water when he comes out of the river.

Answer First. I answer, many sinners who seem so jocund in your eyes, have not such merry lives as you think for. A book may be fairly bound and gild­ed, yet have but sad stories writ within it. Sinners will not tell us all the secret rebukes that conscience from the word gives them. If you will judge of Herod by the jollity of his feast, you may think he wanted no joy; but at another time we see that John’s ghost walked in his conscience. And so doth the word haunt many a one, who to us appear to lay nothing to heart. In the midst of their laughter their heart is sad. You see the lightning in their face, but hear not the thunder that rumbles in their conscience.

Answer Second. It is enough, that the word doth leave such an impression upon the conscience of any ‘though not of all’ to prove its divinity. One affirma­tive testimony speaketh louder for the proof of a thing, than many negatives do to the contrary. The word is not a physical instrument, but a moral, and works not by a virtue inherent in it, but [by a] power impressed on it by the Spirit of God that first indited it. And this power he putteth forth according to his own good pleasure; so that the same word sets one man a trembling, and leaves another ‘in the same seat may be’ as little moved by it as the pillar he leaneth on. Thus as two at a mill, so at a sermon, one is taken, and the other left; one is humbled, and another hardened; not from any impotency in the word, but [from the] freeness of God’s dispensing it. His message it shall do to him it is sent, and none else. It is as a man strikes with a sword, back or edge, a strong or weak blow, that makes it cut or not, gives a slight wound or deep. The word pierceth the con­science according to the force and divine power that is impressed on it. The three children walked in the fire, and were not singed, others were consumed as soon as they came within the scent of it. Shall we say, ‘That fire is not hot,’ because one was burned and the other not? Some, their consciences do not so much as smell of the word, though the flames of the threatening fly about their ears, others are set all on fire with the terrors of it.

Answer Third. The senseless stupidity of some under the stroke of the word, is not to be imputed to its impotency, but to the just judgement of God, wherewith he plagueth them for sinning against the convictions thereof. For commonly they are of that sort, whose consciences are so impenetrable ‘the with­ering curse of God having lighted upon them’ that there is no wonder their judgments are darkened and their consciences seared. It was as great a mani­festation of Christ’s power ‘and his disciples judged it so’ when with two or three words the fig‑tree was blasted, as if he had caused it to spring and sprout when withered and dry. The power of God is as great in hardening Pharaoh’s heart as in melting Josiah’s.

[The comforting power of the word

attests its divine origin.]

Third Effect. The word of God hath a power to comfort and raise a dejected spirit. Conscience is God’s prison in the creature’s own bosom, from whence none can have his release, except by his war­rant that made the mittimus, and committed him thither. Indeed he is a weak prince that hath no pris­on to commit offenders into but what another can break open. This, where God lays sinners in chains, is not such. ‘A wounded spirit,’ saith Solomon, ‘who can bear?’ Yea, and who can cure? If any creature could, surely then the devils were as able as any to do it. But we see they have not to this day found the way to shake off those fetters which God keepeth them in; but lie roaring under the unspeakable torment of God’s wrath. And they who cannot cure their own wounds, are like to be but poor physicians to help others. Indeed they acknowledge it beyond their skill and power: ‘Wherefore then dost thou ask of me,’ said the devil to Saul, ‘seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?’ I Sam. 28:16. The distress of an afflicted conscience ariseth from the dismal sense of divine wrath for sin. Now none can remove this but he that can infallibly assure the soul of God’s pardoning mercy; and this lies so deep in God’s heart, that God alone ‘who only knoweth his own thoughts’ can be the messenger to bring the news; and therefore the word which doth this can come from none but him. And, that is able not only to do this, but also to fill the soul with ‘joy unspeak­able and full of glory,’ is a truth so undoubted, that we need not ascend up to heaven for further confirm­ation. That Spirit which first indited the word, hath sealed it to the hearts of innumerable believers.

Indeed all the saints acknowledge their comfort and peace to be drawn out of these wells of salvation. ‘In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy com­forts delight my soul,’ Ps. 94:19. Nay, he doth not only tell us his own experience, whence he had his joy, but also to have had theirs from the same tap. ‘Fools, because of their transgressions, are afflicted’ Ps 107:17. And what then can ease them? Will all the rarities that can be got by sea or land make a diversion to their thoughts, and ease them of their pain? No; for ‘their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death,’ ver. 18. What cor­dial then have they left to use, or way to take for their relief? Truly none, but to betake themselves to prayers and tears, ‘Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their dis­tresses,’ ver. 19. And with what key doth God open their prison door? It follows, ‘He sent his word, and healed them,’ ver. 20. If you shall say all this is meant of outward trouble; yet surely you must grant in holds more strong concerning that which is inward. What but a word from God’s mouth can heal a distres­sed spirit, when the body pineth and languisheth till God speaketh a healing word unto it?

Great and mighty things are spoken of thee, and done by thee, O holy Word! Thou outviest the world’s joy, and makest the soul that hath but tasted thy ‘strong consolations’ presently to disrelish all sen­sual delights, as flashy and frothy. So pure and pow­erful is the light of that joy which thou kindlest in the saint’s bosom, that it quencheth all sinful carnal joy with its beams, as the sun doth the fire on the hearth. Thou conquerest the horror of death, that it is not feared. Thou vanquishest the pains thereof, that they are not felt. Thou treadest on scorpions and ser­pents, and they have no power to sting or hurt those that believe in thee. Devils know thee, and flee be­fore thee, quitting, at sight of thee, their holds, and leave those consciences which they had so long under their power and tyranny, for thee to enter with thy sweet consolations. Thou quenchest the flames of hell itself, and makest the soul that even now was thrown bound by despair into the fiery furnace of God’s wrath, to walk comfortably and unsinged amidst the thoughts thereof. Thou bringest heaven down to earth, and givest the believing soul a prospect of that heavenly Jerusalem which is so far off, as if he were walking in the blessed streets thereof; yea, thou entertainest him with the same delicacies which glorified saints—though more fully—feed on; so that sometimes he forgetteth he is in the body, even when pains and torments are upon him. This have the saints experienced, and more than my pen or their own tongue can express; so that we may say to him that yet questions whence the Scriptures came, as the blind man cured by Christ did to the Pharisees, ‘this is a marvellous thing,’ saith he, ‘that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes,’ John 9:30. So here, this is marvellous, yea ridicu­lous, to say we know not whence the Scripture is, when it can do all this. Since the world began was it not heard, that the word of a mere creature could re­move mountains of despairs, and fill the souls of poor sinners with such joy and peace, in spite of hell and the creature’s own unbelief, under the weight of which, as a heavy gravestone, he lay buried and sealed.

[The converting power of the word

attests its divine origin.]

Fourth Effect. The word of God hath the power of conversion, which none but God—who is the ‘God of all grace’—can produce. When John’s disciples came to Christ to be resolved who he was, whether the Messiah or not, Christ neither tells them he was, or was not he; but sends them to take their answer from the marvellous works he did. ‘Go,’ saith he, ‘and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see; the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them,’ ,Û”((,8\[email protected]<J”4—are gospel­lized, Matt. 11:4, 5—that is, they are transformed into the very nature of the gospel, and acted by the spirit which breathes in the gospel. By all these instances Christ’s drift was to give an ocular demonstration of their faith, that he, who did such miracles, could be no other than he whom they sought. And that which brings up the rear, is the converting power of the word —not set last because the least among them, but rather because it is the greatest wonder of them all, and comprehends in it all the other. When souls are converted, ‘the blind receive their sight.’ You were ‘darkness,’ but now ‘light in the Lord.’ ‘The lame walk,’ in that the affections—the soul’s feet—are set at liberty, and receive strength to run the ways of God with delight. Lepers are cleansed, in that filthy lusts are cured, and foul souls are sanctified. And so of the rest. Now, though the former miracles cease, yet this, which is the greatest, still accompanying the word, affords such a demonstration of its divinity, as reason itself cannot oppose. Is it not beyond he skill and strength of the mightiest angel to make the least pile of grass in the field? Much more the new creature in the heart, the noblest of God’s works.

That therefore which doth thus new‑mould the heart, and make the creature as unlike to his former self as the lamb is to the wolf, and the ox to the lion —the one meek and harm­less, the other fierce and ravenous—that must needs be from God. And such changes are the daily product of ‘the word.’ How many have you known—once under the power of their lusts, throwing like madmen their firebrands about, possessed with so many devils as sins, and hurried hither and thither by these furies—yet at the hearing of one gospel sermon, have you not seen them quite metamorphosed, and, with him in the gospel, out of whom the devil was cast, sitting at Jesus’ feet in their right mind, bitterly bewailing their former course, and hating their once beloved lusts, more than ever they were fond of them? I hope some of you that read these lines can say thus much concerning yourselves, as the apostle doth of himself and others of his brethren: ‘We ourselves were also sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving di­vers lusts and pleasures,’ &c. ‘But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, he saved us, by the washing of regenera­tion,’ &c., Titus 3:3, 4. And can you, who are the very epistle of Christ, writ not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, in the fleshly tables of your hearts, stand yet in doubt whether that word came from God, which is thus able to bring you home to God? How long might a man sit at the foot of a philosopher, before he should find such a commanding power go forth with his lectures of morality, [as] to take away his old heart, full of lusts as the sea is of creeping things innumerable, and put a new and holy one in the room of it? Some indeed in their school have been a little refined from the dregs of sensuality, as Polemo, who went a drunkard to hear Plato, and returned a temperate man from his lecture; and no wonder, if we consider what violence such broad and beastly sins offer to the very light of a natural con­science—that lesser light appointed by God to rule the night of the heathen world. But take the best philosopher of them all, and you shall find sins that are of a little finer spinning—such as spiritual wickednesses and heart‑sins are—that are acted behind the curtain in the retiring room of the inner man. These were so far from being the spoils of their victorious arms, that they could never come to the sight of them. But ‘the word’ treads on these ‘high places’ of spiritual wickednesses, and leaves not any stronghold of them untaken. It pursues sin and Satan to their bogs and fastnesses; it digs the sinner’s lusts like vermin out of their holes and burrows, where they earth themselves. The heart itself is no safe sanctuary for sin to sit in. The word will take it thence—as Joab from the horns of the altar—to slay it. Those corruptions that escaped the sword of the moralist and honest heathen, even these fall by the edge of the word.

I cannot give a better instance of the converting power of the word, than by presenting you with the miraculous victories obtained by it over the hearts of men, when the apostles were sent out first to preach, the grace of Christ, and, as it were, to begin the com­bination of the gospel ministry. Wherever they came, they found the world up in arms against them, and the black prince of it, the devil, at the head of their troops, to make their utmost resistance against them; yet what unheard‑of victories were got by them? Was it not strange that without drawing any other sword than ‘the everlasting gospel,’ they should turn the world upside down, as their enemies themselves con­fessed?—slighting the devil’s works, casting down his holds wherever they came, and overcoming those bar­barous heathens whom the devil had held in his peaceable possession so many thousand years! To [make them] renounce their idolatries in which they had been bred and trained up all their days; receive a new Lord, and him a crucified Jesus; and this at the report of a few silly men, loaden with the vilest re­proaches that the wit of man could invent, or malice rake together, to besmear their persons, and render their doctrine they preached odious to the world, this, I say, is such an unheard‑of conquest, as could not be obtained by any less than the arm of the Almighty —especially if we cast in two or three circumstances to give a further accent to the heightening of this consideration. As,

First Circumstance. The meanness of the per­sons employed to preach this doctrine. They were mean in their condition and rank, being of the floor and lowest of the people, and many of them as mean in their intellectual accomplishments as external port and garb in the world, having no help from human learning to raise their parts, and set a varnish upon their discourses. Men very unfit for such an enter­prise, God knows, had the stress and success of their works depend on their own furniture. This put their very enemies to a stand, whence they had their wisdom, knowing well how low their parentage and unsuitable their breeding were to give them any advantage toward such a high undertaking, Acts 4:13. Surely these poor men could contribute no more, by anything that was their own, to that wonderful success which followed their labours, than the blowing of the rams’ horns could to the laying of Jericho’s walls flat with the ground, or the sounding of Jehoshaphat’s musical instruments to the routing of so formidable an army of his enemies; so that we must attribute it to the breath of God, by which they sounded the trum­pet of the gospel, and his sweet Spirit charming the hearts of his hearers, that such mighty works were done by them.

Second Circumstance. If we consider the nature of the doctrine they held forth and commended to the world, which was not only strange and new—enough to make the hearers shy of it—but so contrary to the humour of man’s corrupt nature, that it hath not one thought in the sinner’s heart to befriend it. No won­der indeed, that Mahomet’s spiced cup went down so glib, it being so luscious and pleasing to man’s carnal palate. We are soon wooed to espouse that for truth which gratifies the flesh, and easily persuaded to de­liver up ourselves into the hands of such opinions as offer fair quarter to our lusts, yea, promise them sat­isfaction. Indeed, we cannot much wonder to see Christianity itself generally and readily embraced, when it is presented in Rome’s whorish dress, with its purity adulterated, and its power emasculated. But, take the doctrine of the gospel in its own native excellency, before its falls into these hucksters’ hands, and it is such as a carnal heart cannot like, because it lays the axe to the root of every sin, and bids defiance to all that take part with it. It will suffer no religion to set her threshold by its. This may make us step aside—as Moses once to behold the bush—to see this great wonder—a doctrine believed and embraced that is pure nonsense to carnal reason, teaching us to be saved by another’s righteousness, wise with another’s wisdom, to trust in him as a God that was himself a child, to rely on him to deliver us from the power of sin and Satan that fell himself under the wrath of men. O how great a gulf of objections which reason brings against this doctrine, must be shot before a man come to close with it! And yet this doctrine to find such welcome, that never any prince at the beat of his drum had his subjects flock more in throngs to list themselves in his muster‑roll, than the apostles had multitudes of believers offering themselves to come under baptism—the military oath given by them to their converts. Add but one more.

Third Circumstance. Consider how little world­ly encouragement this word they preached gave to its disciples; and you will say, ‘God was in it of a truth.’ Had it been the way to thrive in the world to turn Christian, or had it won the favour of kings and prin­ces to have been their disciple, and taught them how to climb the hill of honour, we could not have won­dered to have seen so many to worship the rising sun. But, alas! the gospel which they preached comes not with these bribes in its hand. No golden apples thrown in the way to entice them on. Christ bids his disciples stoop not to take up crowns for their heads, but a cross for their backs; ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me,’ Luke 9:23. They must not dream of getting the world’s treasure, which they have not, but prepare to part with what they have. To be sure, when the apostles preached it, the way it led to was not to prin­ces’ palaces with their preferments, but have aimed at their own honour, and pleased themselves with the renown that they should win by their sufferings, and that their names should be writ and read in the leaves of fame when they were dead and gone, some Roman spirit, haply, might have been found to have endured as much. Or, if it had taught them that they should have ascended in their fiery chariot of martyrdom, to receive heaven’s glory as the purchase of their pa­tience and prowess, this might have hardened some popish shaveling against the fear of those bloody deaths they met with. But the doctrine they preached allows neither, but teaches them when they have done their best, and suffered the worst that their enemies’ wrath can inflict for the cause of God, then to renounce the honour of all, and write themselves unprofitable servants. All these considerations twist­ed together, make a strong cord to draw any that have staggered in this particular to a firm belief of the divine parentage of the Scriptures.

DIRECTION X.—SECOND GENERAL PART.

[Why the word of God is called the Sword of the Spirit.]

‘The sword of the Spirit’ (Eph. 6:17).

Having despatched the first part, which presented us with the weapon itself, commended to the Chris­tian’s use—i.e. ‘the word of God’—the second part of the text now comes under our consideration, and that is the notion under which this weapon is commended, or the metaphor in which it is sheathed—‘the sword of the Spirit.’ And here a double inquiry would be made. First. Why the word of God is compared to a ‘sword.’ Second. Why this sword is attributed to the Spirit, and bears his name, ‘the sword of the Spirit.’

 

[Two inquiries as to the expression,

‘the sword of the Spirit.’]

First Inquiry. Why is the word of God com­pared to a ‘sword?’ For this inquiry let this suffice. The sword, being both of general and constant use among soldiers, and also that weapon with which they not only defend themselves, but do the greatest exe­cution upon their enemies, it most fitly sets forth the necessity and excellent use of the word of God, by which the Christian both defends himself, and of­fends, yea cuts down before him all his enemies.

Second Inquiry. Why is the sword attributed to ‘the Spirit?’ Some take the abstract here to be put for the concrete, B<,bµ” for B<,Lµ”J46ÎH, sword of the Spirit for the spiritual sword, as if it were no more but ‘take the spir­itual sword, which is the word of God,’ according to that of the apostle, ‘The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty’—that is, spiritual, II Cor. 10:4. Indeed, Satan bring a spirit, must be fought with spiritual arms. And such is the word, a spiritual sword. But this, though true, reach­eth not the full sense of the place, where B<,bµ” is taken personaliter—personally, for the person of the Holy Spirit. And in these three respects the written word is the sword of the Spirit.

First. He is the Author of it. A weapon it is which his hand alone formed and fashioned; it came not out of any creature’s forge, ‘holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,’ II Peter 1:21.

Second. The Spirit is the only true interpreter of the word. Hence that known passage of Bernard: quo spiritu factæ sunt Scripturæ, eo spiritu legi desi­derant, ipso etiam intelligendæ sunt—the Scriptures must be read, and can be understood, by that Spirit alone by whom they were made. He that made the lock can alone help us to a key that will fit its wards and open its fence. ‘No prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation,’ II Peter 1:20. And why not? It follows—because it came not from any private spir­it at first. ‘For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man,’ &c., ver. 21. And who knows the mind of the Spirit so well as himself?

Third. It is only the Spirit of God can give the word its efficacy and power in the soul. It is his of­fice, as I said, sigillare animum charactere rerum creditarum—to seal the soul with the impress of things believed. Except he lays his weight on the truths we read and hear, to apply them close, and as it were cut the very image in our minds and hearts, they leave no more impression than a seal set upon a stone or rock would do;—still the mind fluctuates, and the heart is unsatisfied, notwithstanding our own and others’ utmost endeavours to the contrary. It was not the disciples’ rowing, but Christ’s coming, that could lay the storm or bring them to shore. Not all our study and inquiry can fix the mind, or pacify the heart in the belief of the word, till the Spirit of God comes. ‘Do you now believe?’ saith Christ to his disciples, John 16:31. How oft, alas! had the same things sounded in their ears, and knocked at their door for entertainment, but never could be received, till now that the Spirit put in his finger to lift up the latch! B. Davenant on Colossians tells us a story out of Gerson, concerning a holy man whom himself knew to be sadly beaten and buffeted with frequent doubts and scruples, even so as to call into question an article of faith, but afterward was brought into so clear a light and full evidence of its truth, that he doubted no more of it than of his own being alive. And this certainty, saith Gerson, did not arise ex nova aliquâ ratione et demonstratione, sed ex humilia­tione, et captivitate intellectûs, atque admirabili quadam Dei illuminatione à montibus æternis—did not come from any new argument he had found out to demonstrate the truth of it, but from the Spirit of God humbling and captivating his proud understand­ing, and admirably irradiating the same. The words thus opened present us with this important doctrinal conclusion.

[The written word is the sword by

which the Christians overcome.]

Doctrine. That the written word, or if you will, the Scripture, is the sword by which the Spirit of God enables his saints to overcome all their enemies. The Spirit will do nothing for them without the word, and they can do nothing to purpose without him. The word is the sword, and the Spirit of Christ the arm which wields it in for the saints. All the great con­quests which Christ and his saints achieve in the world are got with this sword. When Christ comes forth against his enemies, this sword is girded on his thigh, ‘Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty,’ Ps. 45:3. His victory over them too is ascribed to it, ver. 4, ‘And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth,’—that is, the word of truth. We find, Rev. 1:6, Christ holding ‘seven stars in his right hand,’ intimating the choice care he hath over his people, particularly the ministers, who are more shot at than any other. And how doth he protect them, but by this ‘sharp two‑edged sword coming out of his mouth?’ This is the great privilege which the poorest believer in the church hath by the covenant of grace —such a one as Adam had not in the first covenant. He, when fallen, had a flaming sword to keep him out of paradise, but had no such sword, when innocent, to keep him from sinning, and so from being turned out of that happy place and state. No, he was left to stand upon his own defence, and by his own vigilancy to be a lifeguard to himself. But now the word of God stands between the saints and all danger. This will the better appear if we single out the chief ene­mies with whom the saint’s war is waged, and show how they all fall before the word, and receive their fatal blow from this one sword, as Abimelech slew the threescore sons of Jerubbaal ‘upon one stone,’ Judges 9:5. First. The bloody persecutor who breathes slaughter against the saints, and pursues them with fire and faggot. Second. The seducer and heretic. Third. Our own lusts. Fourth. An army of afflictions, both outward and inward.

[Persecutors are overcome by ‘the word of God.’]

First Enemy. The bloody persecutor, who breathes slaugh­ter against the saints, and pursues them with fire and faggot. Such a race of giants there ever was, and will be as long as the devil hath any kindred alive in the world, who, when it lies in their power, to maintain their father’s kingdom of dark­ness, will not fear to trample under their feet those stars of heaven whose light acquaints the world with their horrid impieties, and so hazards the weakening of the devil’s interest in the minds of men. Hence those bloody wars raised, cruel fires of martyrdom kindled, and massacres practised on the saints—with many devilishly witty inventions of torments, that these innocent souls might linger in their pains, and stay the longer in the jaws of death, thereby to ‘feel themselves to die,’ as one of them barbarously and inhumanly said! Well, what ladders doth God use to scale these mountains of pride? Where are the weap­ons with which the people of God resist and over­come these monsters of men that thus defy the Lord and his hosts? Wouldst thou know where? Truly, they are to be seen in the tower of David, builded for an armoury—the word of God, I mean. Here hang the shields and bucklers, the swords and darts, by which the worthies of God have in all ages defended themselves stoutly against the rage of persecutors, and also triumphed gloriously over their greatest force and power. Out of this ‘brook’ they take those ‘smooth stones’ by which they prostrate these Goliaths. This sort of the church’s enemies are overcome two ways: —either by their conversion or destruction. Now, the word of God is the sword that effects both. It hath two edges, Heb. 4:12, and so cuts both sides.

1. Way. The sword of the Spirit hath applica­tion to the elect, who, for a time, through ignorance and prejudice, are joined with the saints’ enemies, as busy sticklers and bloody persecutors as the worst of the pack. The word of God is a sacrificing knife, to rip open their hearts, and let out the hot putrefied blood of their sins, which made them so mad against the church of God, yea, and to prepare them also, by converting grace, as an offering acceptable unto God, as the apostle excellently showeth, Rom. 15:16. Thus the murderers of our blessed Lord, we find them by one sermon of Peter so strongly wrought upon that they presently vomit up his blood, as sick of it as ever they were for it, and, at one prick that the point of this sword gave them, crying for quarter at God’s hands, yea throwing down their persecuting arms, and most freely entering their names into his muster‑roll, whose life but a few days before they had so cruelly taken away, about three thousand of them at one clip being baptized in his name, Acts 2:41. Yea, Paul him­self, whom I may call, as Erasmus doth Augustine, before his conversion, ‘the great whale,’ that did so much mischief to the church of Christ, what hook did he use to strike him with but the word? Never had Christ a more furious enemy in the world than this man. His heart was so inflamed with a rage against the saints, that the fiery steam thereof came out of his lips, as from the mouth of a hot furnace, breathing slaughter against them wherever he went, Acts 9:1. Now what force of arms, besides the word preached, did Christ send to take in the castle of this bloody man’s heart? First. Christ himself took him immedi­ately to task, preaching such a thundering sermon from his heavenly pulpit, as dismounted this proud rider, and sent him bound in the fetters of his own troubled soul, prisoner even to that place where he thought to have clapped up others, and then left his Spirit to carry on the work of his conversion, by ap­plying and keeping the plaster of the word close to his heart. How powerfully this wrought on him he him­self tells us, ‘When the commandment came, sin re­vived, and I died,’ Rom. 7:9. That is, when the law came by the convictions of the Spirit to rake in his soul, and pierce his conscience, then sin revived those lusts which like a sleepy lion slumbered in him. Now, however, in his awakened conscience they roared so dreadfully that he was as it were struck dead with the terror of them as a poor damned creature; and would have undoubtedly gone away in that swoon of horror and despair, had not the joyful news of gospel grace been by the same word and Spirit applied seasonably, to bring him to the life of hope and comfort again. Thus was this boisterous furious enemy of the saints chained and tamed by the terrors of the law, changed and renewed by the gentleness and mercy of the gos­pel, and he became no more like himself than a rav­ening wolf is to the innocent lamb, more ready to lay down his own life now for the defence of the gospel, than before conversion to take away their lives that professed it.

2. Way. The sword of the Spirit hath applica­tion to the saints’ persecuting enemies, when ruined and destroyed. Indeed, if they continue impenitent, and harden themselves against the truths and servants of God, that is the end they must all look to come to. They are like ravenous beasts—‘made to be taken and destroyed,’ II Peter 2:12, and they may know be­forehand, as the certainty of their ruin, so what shall procure it, and that is the word of God. ‘And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed,’ Rev. 11:5. It is spoken of those that shall dare to oppose and persecute the faithful preachers of the gospel —that fire comes out of their mouths to destroy them. Though they have their will on the bodies of the saints, butchering and burning them, yet the word they preach will be their destruction. That lives and stays behind, to pay the saints’ debts and avenge them on their enemies. God is resolved they must and shall in this manner be killed, the word must give them the fatal stroke. Julian confessed as much, when bleeding under his deadly wound, though the arrow came out of a Persian bow, yet the wretch knew it was sent by a higher than a Persian hand, vicisti Galileæ—O Galilean, thou hast overcome and been too hard for me. His conscience told him that his spite against the truth of Christ was his death; and many more besides him have acknowledged as much when under the hand of justice. The face of the word of God which they have opposed, hath appeared to them as engraven upon their judgments.

O this sword of the word, it hath a long reach; it is at the breast of every enemy God and his saints hath in the world, and though at present they cannot see whence their danger should come (they are so great and powerful, so safe and secure, as they think), yet the word of God having set down their doom already, God will sooner or later open one door or other to let in their destruction upon them. When the prophet would express the indubitable ruin of the Philistines impending, mark what prognostics he gives, ‘Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast,… the word of the Lord is against you,’ Zeph. 2:5. As if he had said, You are a lost undone people; the whole world cannot save you; for ‘the word of the Lord is against you.’ The threatening of the word, like lightning or mildew, blasts wherever it goes, and its curse burns to the very root. Hence all the seven na­tions of Canaan fell into the mouth of the Israelites like ripe fruit into the mouth of him that shakes the tree. The word of the Lord cursing them, had gone before them to make their conquest certain and easy. This Balak knew, and therefore would have given so much for a few words out of Balaam’s mouth to have cursed Israel in God’s name. The truth is, though we look upon the monarchs of the world, and their armies, as those which have the sway of the affairs of the world, yet these are no more than the fly on the wheel. It is the word of God that hath the great stroke in all that is done on the world’s stage. ‘I have set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down,…to build, and to plant,’ Jer. 1:10. Indeed, the whole earth is God’s ground; and who hath power to build on his ground, or pull down, but himself? And in his word he hath given his mind what he will have done to his enemies, and for his saints, and therefore all the mercies they have, they receive and acknowledge them as gracious per­formances of the promise, so all the judgments executed on all their enemies as accomplishments of the threatenings of the word, called therefore ‘the judgment written,’ Ps. 149:9.

[Heretics are overcome by the ‘word of God.’]

Second Enemy. The seducer is another enemy the Christian hath to cope with, and no less danger­ous than the other: nay, in this respect, far more formidable—the persecutor can kill only the body, but the seducer comes to poison the soul. Better to be slain outright by his sword, than to be ‘taken alive,’ as the apostle phraseth it, ‘in this snare of the devil,’ which these whom he sends forth abirding for souls privily lay, even where they are oft least suspected. When Paul fell into the mouth of the persecutor, he could yet glory, and rejoice that he had escaped the latter: ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,’ II Tim. 4:7, 8. See how this holy man triumphs and flourisheth his colours, as if the field were fought and the day won; whereas, good man, he was now going to lay his head on the block under the hand of bloody Nero’s headsman, as you may perceive, ‘I am now ready to be offered up,’ ver. 6, alluding to the kind of death, it is like, he was shortly to undergo. But you will pos­sibly say, What great cause had he then to cry victoria —victory, when his affairs were in such a desperate and deplored condition? Yes, this made him tri­umph, he had ‘kept the faith;’ and that was a thousand times more joy and comfort to him than the laying down his life was trouble. If he had left the faith by cowardice, or chopped it away for any false doctrine, he had lost his soul by losing of that; but having kept the faith, he knew that he did but part with his life to receive a better at God’s hands than was taken from him by man’s. The locusts men­tioned, Rev. 9—which Mr. Mede takes to be the Sara­cens, who were so great a scourge and plague to the Roman world, newly Christianized—we find ‘they had tails like unto scorpions, and their were stings in their tails,’ ver. 10: which the learned writer fore-named interprets to be the cursed Mahometan doctrine with which they poisoned the souls of the people wherever their conquering sword came.

It seems, though the sword of war in the hand of a barbarous bloody enemy be a heavy judgment to a people, yet the propagation of cursed errors is a greater. This is the ‘sting in the tail’ of that judgment. I do not doubt but many that were godly might fall by the sword of that enemy in such a general calamity, but only those that were not among God’s sealed ones felt the sting in their tail by being poisoned with their cursed imposture; and therefore they alone are said to be ‘hurt’ by them, ver. 4. We may be cut off by an enemy’s sword and not be hurt; but we cannot drink in their false doctrine, and say so. Now, the word of God is the sword whereby the Spirit enables the saints to defend themselves against this enemy; yea, to rout and ruin this subtle band of Satan. We read of Apollos, Acts 18:28, that ‘he mightily convinced the Jews.’ He did, as it were, knock them down with the weight of his reasoning. And out of what armoury fetched he the sword with which he so prevailed? See ver. 28. ‘Showing by the Scriptures’—not their cabala —‘that Jesus was Christ;’ and therefore he is said to be ‘mighty in the Scriptures,’ ver.24, amighty man of valour, and so expert, through his excellent knowl­edge in them, that the erroneous Jews could no more stand before him holding this sword in his hand, than a child with a wooden dagger can against a giant formidably armed with killing weapons.

When Paul warns Timothy to stand upon his defence carefully against seducers, which snapped so many everywhere, he can devise no better counsel how he might keep out of their hands, than by sending him to the Scriptures, and bidding him shut himself up within these, as in a town of war. ‘But con­tinue thou in the things which thou hast learned,’ II Tim. 3:14; and in the next verse he opens himself, and shows what lesson he means that he had learned, by telling him, that from a child he had known the holy Scriptures, which were able to make him wise unto salvation; and by consequence, wiser than all his ene­mies, if he stuck close to them. Other arms we may load ourselves with, by tumbling over many authors; but he that hath this sword, and hath been but taught of the Spirit the use of this weapon, is provided well enough to meet the stoutest champions for error the devil hath on his side, in an encounter. With this, poor women have been able to disarm great doctors of their studied arguments, ruffling all their art and logic with one plain place of Scripture, as she who brained Abimelech, that great commander, by tum­bling a piece of millstone on his head. Out of this ar­moury came those weapons Paul tells us are so ‘mighty through God, casting down imaginations,’ or reasonings, 8T(4Fµ@×H 6″2″[email protected]Ø<J,H, by which an ancient will have the Greek Philosophers’ syllogisms to be meant. Indeed, he that hath the word on his side, and a holy skill to use it, hath as much advan­tage of his adversary that comes with other armour —let him be never so good a fencer—as a man with a good sword hath over him that comes forth only with a bulrush in his hand.

All error dreads the light of the word, and fears more to be examined by that, than a thief does to be tried before a strict judge. Hereticorum sententias prodidisse est superasse—to have expounded the doctrines of heretics is to have overcome them, saith Hieron. Unfold them, or bring them and the word face to face, and, like Cain, they hang down their head; they are put to shame. This is the only certain ordeal to try suspected opinions at. If they can walk upon this fiery law unhurt, unreproved, they may safely pass for truths, and none else. Paul tell us of some that ‘will not endure sound doc­trine,’ II Tim. 4:3. Alas! how should they, when their minds are not sound? It is too searching for them. Gouty feet can­not go but on soft way that gently yields to them. Such must have doctrine that will comply with their humour, which the word will not do, but rather judge them, and this they think it will do too soon at the great day; therefore now they shun it so much, lest it should torment them before their time. Thus the Quakers, they have their skulking hole to which they run from the Scripture, at whose bar they know their opinions would be cast undoubtedly, and therefore [they] appeal to another where they may have a more favourable hearing—the light within them, or, in plain English, their natural conscience; a judge which is known too well to be corrupt and easily bribed to speak what the lusts of men will oft have him do. Ah, poor creatures, what a sad change they have made!—to leave the word that is 6″<ã< J0H B\FJ,TH •684¬H, an inflexible rule of faith, and can no more lie or deceive them than God himself can do—to trust the guidance of themselves to themselves, a more ignorant, sottish, unfaithful guide than which the devil could not have chosen for them. ‘He that is his own teacher,’ saith Bernard, ‘is sure to have a fool for his master.’ And Solomon, yea a greater then Solomon, God himself by Solomon, saith, ‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearken­eth unto counsel is wise,’ Prov. 12:15. But he is most wise that makes the word of God the man of his counsel. The Papist he hath his thicket and wood also—antiquity and traditions—to which he flees before the face of the Scripture for sanctuary, as Adam did to a bush when God came walking to him. As if any antiquity were so authentic as God’s own oracles; and any traditions of men to be laid in the balance with the Scripture.

To name no more, the Socinian, he folds up himself in his own proud reason, and takes such state on him, that the Scripture must come to that to be sensed, and not that stoop to it. He must have a re­ligion and Scripture that fits the model his own reason draws, or [he] will have neither. This forms the root of many prodigious errors and heretics; like those of whom Tertullian speaks, qui Platonicum et Aristotelicum Christianismum procuderunt—who went to the philosopher’s forge to shape a Christian­ity. What is this but to carry gold to be weighed at the chandler’s scales, and to look for the sun by the light of the moon. A modern divine saith, ‘Most heresies have sprung either ex Samo Satani fastu, vel ex Ætii ignorantiâ, vel ex Arrii dialectiâ—from pride, Aetian ignorance, or the Arian sophistry of reason’—the last of which seems to be the shelf on which Paul himself observes some to have split, ‘and to have erred con­cerning the faith,’ I Tim. 6:21; and therefore so affectionately exhorts Timothy to keep off this dan­gerous shore, and steer his course by the word, ‘O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust,’ &c., ver. 20. For this which is here committed to him, I take for no other than ‘the form of sound words’ he exhorts him to hold fast in II Tim. 1:13.

Objection. But we see heretics quote Scripture for their most prodigious errors, and draw this sword for their defence, as well as the orthodox; how then is it such a powerful instru­ment and engine against error?

Answer. What will not men of subtle heads, corrupt hearts, and bold faces, dare to do for the car­rying on their wicked party, when once they have es­poused an error or any sinful way? Korah and his un­godly company dare give out that ‘the Lord is among them,’ and they have as much to do with the priest­hood as Aaron himself, on whom the holy oil was poured, Num. 16:3. And Zedekiah, that arch‑flatterer, fears not to father his lie on the God of truth himself. He ‘made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them,’ I Kings 22:11; whereas God never spake such a word. It is no marvel then, to see any lay their bastard brats at God’s door, and cry they have Scripture on their side. By this impu­dence they may abuse credulous souls into a belief of what they say, as a cheater may pick the purses of ignorant people by showing them something like the king’s broad seal, which was indeed his own forgery. Yea, God may suffer them to seduce others of more raised parts and understanding, as a just judgment on them for rebelling against the light of their own consciences. As Pharaoh, by the false miracles of the magicians, was set off further from any compliance with Moses. And those of the antichristian faction, who ‘because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie,’ II Thes. 2:10, 11. But sincere souls that search humbly for the truth, and have no other designs in their inquiry after it but that they may know the will of God and obey it, shall find on their faithful prayers to God, a light most clear shining from the Scripture, to guide them safe from those pitfalls of damning er­rors into which others fall, towards whom the dark side of this cloud stands. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: Ps. 111:10. The fox, they say, when hard put to it, will fall in subtly with the dogs and hunt with them as one of their company, but even then his strong scent, which he cannot leave behind him, bewrays him.

Thus heretics, for to shelter their errors, will crowd in among Scripture truths, and by their fair col­ours and false glosses, make them seem to be of their company, but they cannot so perfume their rotten opinions but their rank scent and savour will be smelt and discerned by those who have their senses exer­cised. Never any heretic got by appealing to the Scriptures. What Christ saith in another case, ‘All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,’ Matt. 26:52, is most true of all heretics. They are con­founded and confuted by that very sword of the word which they lift up to defend them withal.

[Corruptions and lusts are overcome

by the ‘word of God.’]

Third Enemy. Our own lusts make the next ad­versary we have to grapple with. Thus the further we go the worse the enemy we meet. These are more for­midable than both the former, partly because they are within us—men of our own house, lusts of our own bosom that rise up against us, and partly because they hold correspondence with a foreign foe also—the devil himself—who, as he did beat man at first with his own rib, so he continues to do us the worst mis­chief with our own flesh. The fire of lust is ours, but the flame commonly is his, because his temptations are the bellows that blow it up. And when such a fire meets with such a strong wind to spread and carry it on its wings, whither will it fly? O how hard to slake and quench it! A whole legion of devils are as soon cast out of the body, as one lust out of the soul; yea, sooner. Satan likes his lodging better in the heart than in the house, and is loather out. He came more willing out of the man into the swine, Matt. 8:31, be­cause by coming out of his body, and contenting himself a while with a meaner house—the swine I mean—he hoped for a fairer way thereby to get fuller possession of their souls; which indeed he obtained, Christ leaving them most justly to his rule that were so soon weary of his sweet company. Now the word is the only weapon. Like Goliath’s sword, none to this for the hewing down and cutting off this stubborn enemy. The word of God can master our lusts when they are in their ruff[2] and pride. If ever lust rageth more than other, it is when youthful blood boils in our veins. Youth is heady, and lust then hot and im­petuous. Our sun is climbing higher still, and we think it a great while to night; so that it must be a strong arm that brings a young man off his lusts, who hath his palate at best advantage to taste sensual pleasures with; the vigour of his strength to take in more of the delights of the flesh than crippled age can do, and further from fear of death’s gunshot (as he thinks) than old men, who are upon the very marches of the grave, and carry the scent of the earth about them into which they are sure suddenly to be re­solved. Well, let the sword of God meet this young gallant in all his bravery, with his feast of sensual delights before him, and but whisper a few syllables in his ear, give his conscience but a prick with the point of its sword, and it shall make him flee in as great haste from them all, as Absalom’s brethren did from their feast, when they saw their brother Amnon mur­dered at the table.

When David would give the young man a receipt to cure him of his lusts—not one, but all—how he may cleanse his whole course and way, he bids him only wash in this Jordan, Ps. 119.9. By what means or ‘wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word?’ It is called ‘the rod of his strength,’ Ps 110:2. God, we know, wrought those great miracles, whereby he plagued the Egyptians and saved the Israelites, with the rod in Moses’ hand. By that he tamed proud Pharaoh, making him and his people at last to let go their hold of the Israelites, yea, in a manner, to thrust them out from them, and be as glad of their room as before they were of their company. By that he di­vided the sea for Israel’s passage, and covered the Egyptians in its waves. By that he smote the rock. And by this rod of his word he doth as great wonders in the souls of men as these. By this he smites their consciences, cleaves the rocks of their hard hearts, divides the waves of their lusts, and brings poor sin­ners from under the power of sin and Satan.

Never could Austin get a jail‑delivery from his lusts till he heard that voice, tolle lege, tolle lege —take, read; upon which, as himself tells us (Lib. Confess. 8), he presently took up the Bible, and that one place, Rom. 13, to which his eye was directed, once read, like a mighty earthquake did so shake all the powers of his soul that the prison doors of his heart immediately flew open, and those chains of lusts which, with all his skill and strength, he could never file off, did now on a sudden fall off, and he became so strangely metamorphosed, that quas amittere metus erat, jam dimittere gaudium fuit—those lusts, to lose which was one all his fear, now to pack them away was his joy. Never man, by his own confession, was more slave to his lusts, and tied with a stronger chain of delight to them, than himself was. He did, as he saith, volutare in cæno tanquam cinamonis et unguentis pretiosis—he tumbled in the puddle of his filthy lusts with as much delight as if he had been rolling in a bed of spices, and anointing himself with the most precious ointments; yet this one word came with such a commanding power to him, that it tore them out of his very heart, and turned his love into a cordial hatred of them, who before would have let his heart sooner been plucked out of his bosom than these taken out of his heart. And as the word is the weapon by which he, with a strong hand, brings poor sinners out of the power of Satan and sin into a state of freedom, so he useth it to defend his saints from all after‑storms of temptations, by which Satan, now thrown out of his kingdom, endeavours to recover the same. Those kingdoms indeed that are got by the sword must be kept by the sword. David will tell us how he stood upon his guard, and made good his ground, against this enemy. ‘Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer,’ Ps. 17:4. As if he had said, ‘Would you know how it comes to pass that I escape those ungodly works and practices which men ordin­arily take liberty to do? I must ascribe it to the good word of God. It is this I consult with, and by am kept from those foul ways whereinto others, that make no use of the word for their defence, are carried by Satan, the destroyer of mankind.’

Can we go against sin and Satan with a better weapon than Christ used to vanquish the tempter with? And certainly Christ did it per modum exempli —by way of example, to set us an example how we should come armed into the field against them; for Christ could with one beam shot from his Deity (if he had pleased to exert it), have as easily laid the bold fiend prostrate at his foot, as afterwards he did them that came to attach him; but he chose rather to con­ceal the majesty of his divinity, and let Satan come up closer to him, that so he might confound him with the word, and thereby give a proof of that sword to his saints which he was to leave with them for their de­fence against the same enemy. The devil is set out by the ‘leviathan,’ Isa. 27:1, him God threatens to punish with his ‘strong sword;’ alluding to that great fish, the whale, which fears no fish like the sword‑fish, [and] by whom this great devourer of all other fish is oft killed; for, receiving one prick from his sword, he hasteth to the shore, and beats himself against it till he dies. Thus the devil, the great devourer of souls, who sports himself in the sea of this world, even as the leviathan in the waters, and swallows the greatest part of mankind without any power to make resis­tance against him, is himself vanquished by the word. When he hath to do with a saint armed with this sword, and instructed how to use this weapon, he then, and not till then, meets his match.

[Afflictions, outward and inward, are overcome

by the ‘word of God.’]

Fourth Enemy. A fourth enemy that meets the Christian, is an army made up of many bands of af­flictions, both outward and inward, sometimes one, sometimes another, yea, of a whole body of them pouring their shot together upon them. This was Paul’s case, ‘without were fightings, within were fears,’ II Cor. 7:5. He endured a great fight of external afflic­tions and buffetings within his own bosom at once. And that is sad indeed, when a city is on fire within at the same time that an enemy is battering its walls from without. Yet this is oft the condition of the best saints, to have both the rod on their backs, and rebukes from God in their spirits, at once. ‘When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth,’ Ps. 39:11.

God sometimes corrects with outward crosses, but smiles with inward manifestations; and then he whips them, as I may so say, with a rosemary rod. The one sweetens and alleviates the other. At another time he sends a cross, and incloseth a frown in it. He whips with outward affliction, and, as an an­gry father, every lash he gives his child, tells him, ‘this is for that fault, and that for this,’ which exceedingly adds to the smart of the correction, and is the very knot on the whip, to see his father so much dis­pleased with him. And when the poor Christian lies thus under the hand of an afflicting God, or under the rebukes of a frowning God, Satan will not be long from the Christian, or wanting to throw his salt and vinegar into the wounds that God hath made in his flesh or spirit, thereby to increase his dolour, and so lead him further into temptation one way or other, if he can have his will. Indeed, God often sends so many troops of various afflictions to quarter upon some one Christian, that it puts him hard to it to bid them all welcome, and entertain them with patience; yea, it would pose any one—that knows not what service the word of God doth the Christian, and the supplies it brings him in—to conceive how his spirit should be kept, and his faith from being eaten up, and swallowed into despair by them. But the word of God, this bears all the charge he is at. This is his counsellor and comforter. David tells us plainly his heart had died within him but for it: ‘Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction,’ Ps. 119:92. The word was his spiritual Abishag, from which his soul got all its warmth. All the world’s enjoyments heaped on him would have left him cold at heart if this had not lain in his bosom to bring him a kindly heat of inward peace and com­fort: ‘This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me,’ ver. 50. Not the crown in hope —for some think it was not, when this psalm was penned, on his head—but the word in his heart, to which he was beholden for his comfort. A word of promise is more necessary at such a time to a poor soul, than warm clothes are to the body in cold weather.

When Adam was thrust naked out of paradise into the cold blasts of a miserable world—where, from his own guilty conscience within, and crosses without, he was sure to meet with trouble enough —then God gave him a word of promise, as you may observe, to fence his soul, before he taught him to make coats to clothe his body, Gen. 3:15, compared with ver. 21. The Lord knew full well how indispensably necessary a word of promise was to keep him from being made a prey the second time to the devil, and from being swallowed up with the dismal sight of those miseries and sorrows in which he had thrown himself and posterity; and therefore, he would not suffer him to lie open to the shock of their assaults one day, but presently puts the sword of a promise in­to his hand, that with it he might defend and comfort his sorrowful heart in the midst of all his troubles. It was the speech of a holy man, after God had made that sweet place: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,’ &c., Matt. 11:28, the messenger to open his dungeon of soul‑trouble, and bring him into the light of inward joy—‘that he had better be without meat, drink, light, air, earth, life, and all, than with­out this one comfortable scripture.’ If one single promise, like an ear of corn rubbed in the hand of faith, and applied by the Spirit of Christ, can afford such a full satisfying meal of joy to a hunger‑bitten, pining soul, O what price can we set on the whole field of the Scripture, which stands so thick with promises, every way as cordial as this!

Love is witty, and sets the head on work to de­vise names for the person we love dearly—such names as may at once express how highly we prize them, and also yet more endear them to us by car­rying on them the superscription of that sweetness which we conceive to be in them. Thus many holy persons have commended the promises to us with their appreciating names—the saints’ legacies—the breasts of God full of milk of grace and comfort—the saints’ plank to swim upon to heaven. Indeed, we might rob the world of all her jewels, and justly hang them on the ear of the promise; apply all the excel­lencies she boasts of unto the promises. There is more riches and treasure to be had in one promise than all the gold and silver of the Indies are worth; ‘exceeding great and precious promises,’ II Peter 1:4; by them a poor believer may lay claim to heaven and earth at once; for godliness hath the promise of this life and the other also. But that which in this place I would commend their excellency from, is the admir­able service they do, and succour they afford a poor soul in the day of his greatest distress. They are the granary of spiritual provision, whereby our Joseph, our dear Lord Jesus, nourisheth and preserveth alive his brethren in a time of famine. They are the ‘hive of sweetness,’ where the believing soul in the winter of affliction—when nothing is to be gathered abroad from the creature—both lies warmly, and lives plentifully on the stock of comfort there laid up. They are, in a word, ‘the fair havens’ and safe road into which the tempted soul puts his weather‑beaten ship, where it lies secure till the heavens clear, and the storm is over, which the world, sin, and Satan raise upon him. Yea, when death itself approacheth, and the devil hath but one cast more for the game, one skirmish more to get or lose the victory for ever, then faith on the promise carries the Christian’s soul out of the garrison of his body—where he hath endured so hard a siege—with colours flying, and joy tri­umphing to heaven, leaving only his flesh behind in the hands of death, and that also with an assured hope of having it redeemed out of its power ere it be long, at the day of resurrection and restitution of all things.

USE OR APPLICATION.

[Cruelty and presumption of the Church of Rome,

in disarming the people of this spiritual sword.]

Use First. Is the word the sword of the Spirit whereby the Christian vanquisheth his enemies? Then we may justly charge the Church of Rome of cruelty to the souls of people, in disarming them of that weapon with which they alone can defend them­selves against their enemies, that seek their eternal ruin. It is true, they have some fig-leaves with which they would fain hide this their shameful practice, making the world believe they do it in mercy to the people, lest they should cut their fingers and wound themselves with this weapon. ‘We see,’ say they, ‘how many errors and heresies the world swarms with, by the mistakes of the vulgar.’ Yea, Peter himself they dare subpœna as a witness on their side, who saith that there ‘are some things hard to be understood’ in Paul’s epistles, ‘which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction,’ II Peter 3:16. And therefore the Scripture, which is so dan­gerous for or­dinary people to meddle with, they judge it safest to lay out of their reach, as we do a sword or edge‑tool from children, though they cry never so much for it. See what a fair glove they draw over so foul a hand. But did Peter, because some unlearned and unstable souls wrested the Scripture, forbid them, or any other, how weak soever, to read the Scripture? This had carried some weight with it indeed. But we find just the contrary. For in the following verses, the counsel he gives Christians, that they may not be led away with the error of the wicked, is to ‘grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,’ ver. 18. Lumen est vehiculum influentiæ —light is the chariot that conveys the influences of the sun. So the knowledge of Christ brings with it the influences of his grace into the heart. And how did Peter mean they should grow in the knowledge of Christ, if he would not have them read the Scriptures, which is the only book where it is to be learned? But the Papists would have their people learn their knowl­edge of Christ from their preaching of him, and not from the Scriptures, which they cannot so safely converse with. But,

1. How shall they be assured that what they preach is true, except they have the Scripture, to which, as unto the true touch‑stone, they may bring their doctrine to be tried? Thus did the Bereans by Paul’s sermon, Acts 17:11—a preacher as good, I trow, as any of theirs. And,

2. Suppose they preach the truth, can they war­rant that their words shall not be perverted and mistaken by their hearers? And if they cannot, why then are they suffered to preach in a vulgar tongue, when the word of God, for the same reason, is forbid­den to be read by the people in a known tongue? Truly, I am of that learned man’s mind, who saith, ‘that, if God himself may not speak in a vulgar tongue, I see far less reason that a friar should, and so the people should know nothing at all of Christ’ (Mede on Jer. 10:11). No, the true reason why they forbid the Scripture to be read, is not to keep them from errors and heresies, but to keep them from discovering those which they themselves impose upon them. Such trash as they trade in would never go off their hand roundly, did they not keep their shop thus dark; which made one of their shavelings so bitterly com­plain of that unlucky Luther for spoiling their market, saying, ‘But for him they might have persuaded the people of Germany to have ate hay.’ Anything indeed will go down a blind man’s throat. I do not wonder that their people thus nustled[3] in ignorance, do so readily embrace their fopperies, and believe all their forgeries so confidently. The blind man must either sit still, or go whither he pleaseth that leads him. We read of a whole army, when once smitten with blind­ness, carried out of their way by one single man that had his eyes in his head, II Kings 6. But this we may well wonder at, that men who know the Scriptures —as many of their leaders do—and acknowledge their divinity, dare to be so impudent and audacious [as] to intercept this letter sent from the great God to the sons of men, and not suffer them—except a few whom they think fit—to look on it, though it be su­perscribed and directed by God himself not to any party or sort of men, but to every man where it comes, Rom. 1:17, II Cor. 1:1. This is such a piece of im­pudence as cannot be paralleled. Wherefore are laws made, but to be promulgated?—Scripture written, but to be read and known of all men? I am sure the apostle by the same authority with which he wrote his epistles, commands them to be read in the church, Col. 4:16. And did the ministers of those churches pocket them up, and conceal them from the people’s notice, lest they should, by perverting them, be made heretics?

It is too true some ‘wrest’ the Scriptures ‘to their own destruction.’ And so do some, for want in care of eating, choke themselves with their bread. Must all therefore starve for fear of being choked? Some hurt themselves and friends with their weapons; must therefore the whole army be disarmed, and only a few chief officers be allowed to wear a sword by their sides? Truly, if this be argument enough to seal up the Bible from being read, we must not only deny it to the meaner and ore unlearned sort, but also to the great rabbis and doctors of the chair, for the grossest heresies have bred in the finest wits. Prodigious errors have been as much beholden to Arrius as the ignorance of Ætius: so that the upshot of all will be this—the unlearned must not read the Scripture, because they may pervert them through ignorance; nor the learned, because they may wrest them by their subtlety. Thus we see, when proud men will be wiser than God, their foolish minds will darken, till they lose the reason and understanding of men.

[Reproof of the Church of Rome for the

insufficiency it imputes to the Scriptures].

Use Second. This falls heavy upon them that charge the holy Scriptures with insufficiency, as not containing all things necessary to salvation. What a horrid blasphemy is this, and reproach to the great God, that he should send his people into the field, and put such a wooden sword into their hand as is not sufficient to defend them and cut their way through their enemies’ powers to heaven, whither he orders them to march. Would any gracious prince, that loves the lives of his subjects, give them arms that are not fit to oppose such an enemy as comes out against them, if he knows how to furnish them with better? Nay, would he give them such weak and in­sufficient weapons for their defence, and then charge them to use no other? This were to unworthily to send them as sheep to the shambles, and could signify nothing but that he had a mind either their throats should be all cut by their enemies. And doth not God himself highly commend this sword of the Scripture to his people, when he tells Timothy it is ‘able to make thee,’ as a Christian, ‘wise unto salvation,’ II Tim. 3:15, and as a ‘man of God,’ or minister of the gospel, ‘perfect,’ and ‘thoroughly furnished unto all good works?’ ver. 17. Yea, doth he not also forbid us the use of any other weapon but what the Scripture furnisheth us withal? ‘To the law and to the testimony’ he sends us, Isa. 8:20, and makes it a renouncing our allegiance to him to go anywhere else for counsel or pro­tection than to his written word: ‘Should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?’ Then follows, ‘To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,’ ver. 19, 20. It seems then God doth not count we seek to him, ex­cept we inquire for him at ‘the law and the testi­mony,’ and bring all we hear to their test and touch.

Surely, that which is intended by God to be to his people what the standard and town-bushel are to the market, a rule to measure all doctrines by, is itself exact and sufficient. But the world, by this time, knows where the insufficiency of the Scriptures lies. Sufficient they are enough for God’s ends, but not for the pope’s ends. They are able to furnish every true Christian in the world with wisdom enough how he should save his soul. But the pope finds himself grieved, that they are not so useful to help him to save the triple crown on his head, and do not furnish him with grounds from which he may defend the lordly power and godlike infallibility he claims, with the other doctrines held forth by him. And this is the only defect he can charge the Scriptures with, to sup­ply which, the rabble‑rout of traditions is brought into the church; all taught to speak the pope’s sense be­fore they see the light. And, that reputation may be gained to these unknown witnesses, this way with the devil’s help—who owes the Scripture an old spite ever since the first promise rescued Adam, his pris­oner out of his hand—have taken, that the Scriptures be declared insufficient and uncertain;—minima par­ticula veritatis revelatæ—the least particle of revealed truth, as one of them impudently writes, and so needs the patchery of these to make it perfect Just as An­dronicus served the emperor Alexius, who gave out he was weak and insufficient to govern alone, and so first got a joint power with him, and at last an absolute power over him to unthrone him. And whether their traditions have dealt better by the Scripture, the world may judge. When traditions go up, the written word is sure to go down. Ye have made, saith Christ to the Pharisees, the commandment of none effect by your tradition, Matt. 15:6, ²6LDTF”J,—you have un­lorded it, and supplanted its authority in the minds of men, who leave the word to hearken to your traditions.

[Wickedness of those who uplift the sword

of the Spirit in defence of any sin.]

Use Third. This condemns those of prodigious wickedness, that, instead of using this sword to de­fend them against sin and Satan, lift it up audaciously for their defence in their wicked and abominable practices. Thus the heretic, he takes up the word to justify his corrupt tenets, forcing it, in favour of his way, to bear witness against itself. And many wretches we meet with, who, to ward off a reproof, will dare to seek protection for their ungodly courses from the word, which they have at their tongue’s end, and interpose to break the blow that is made at them. Tell the sensualist of his voluptuous, brutish life, and you shall have him sometimes reply, Solomon was not so precise and scrupulous, who saith, ‘A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry,’ Ecc. 8:15. As if Solomon, yea God himself that directed his pen, meant to fill the drunkard’s quaffing‑cup for him, and were a friend of gluttons and wine-bibbers! Whereas, ‘to eat and drink, and be merry’ in Solomon’s mouth there, amounts to more than to serve God with gladness in the abundance of those good things which God gives us to enjoy, in the mouth of Moses, Deut. 28:47.

Such is the desperate wickedness of man’s heart, that the sweetest and comfortablest portions of Scrip­ture are most wrested by many to serve their lusts. The declarations of God’s free‑grace, made on pur­pose to melt sinners’ hearts, and draw them from their lusts to Christ, how oft are they abused to wedge and harden them in their sins, and keep them from him! Examples of holy men’s falls, recorded merely to make them fear that stand, and to preserve hope of mercy alive in those that have fallen, whereby they are in danger of being swallowed up with despair, how are they perverted by many, who lie like beasts wallowing in their own dung, and think all is well because such eminent saints fell so foully, and yet came off so fairly at last, with their sins pardoned and souls saved! The good success that late repentance hath now and then had in a few, yea very few Scripture-instances, it is strange to think what use and advantage Satan makes of them, to beg time of the sinner, and make him linger still in the Sodom of his sins. ‘The eleventh hour,’ saith he, ‘is not yet come; why will you repent so long before you need?’ Why should he set out in the morning, who may despatch his journey well enough an hour before night? The penitent thief, that, as one saith, stole to heaven from the cross, hath, I fear, been an occasion—though on God’s part an innocent one—to bring many a sinner to the gallows; yea, well, if not to a place of a longer execu­tion in another world! O, take heed of this, sinners, as you love your souls! Is it not enough to have your lusts, but you must also fetch your encouragement from the word, and forge God’s hand to bear you out? The devil indeed thus abuseth Scripture, Matt. 4:4, thinking thereby to make Christ more readily hearken to his accursed motion; and wilt thou tread in his steps? By this thou makest one sin two, and the last the worst. to be drunk was a fearful sin in Belshaz­zar; but to quaff in the bowels of the sanctuary was far worse. No sin is little, but the least sin amounts to blasphemy when thou committest it on a Scripture pretence. The devil cannot easily desire a greater occasion of glorying over God, than thus to wound his name with his own sword. When Julian the Apostate saw the Gentile philosophers confuted by the human learning of some Christians, he said [email protected]ÃH “LJä< BJ,[email protected][email protected]µ,2″—we are taken by our own wings; looking upon it as a great disgrace for them to be beaten and worsted at that which they counted their own weapon. The word is the Holy Spirit’s sword. O, for shame, let not Satan make his boast over thy God, Christian, by thy means, which he will, if he can persuade thee to wound his name with this his own weapon. He that fetcheth an argument from the holy Scriptures to countenance any corrupt opin­ion or practice, what doth he but go about to make God fight against himself? He shoots at him with an arrow out of his won quiver. He sins, and then doth as it were say, God bids him do it. If there be a man on the face of the earth that God will single out as a mark for his utmost wrath, this is he who shelters his wickedness under the wing of the holy Scriptures, and so makes God patron of his sin.

[Twofold exhortation in regard

to the word of God.]

Use Forth. Let us be exhorted to thankfulness to God for the word, and incited also to the study of it. 1. Let us bless God for furnishing us with this sword for our defence. 2. Let us study the word, so that we may make use of this weapon to defend our­selves against the many potent enemies that are in the field against us.

[Exhortation to thankfulness for the word.]

1. Exhortation. Let us be excited and provoked to bless God for this sword, with which he hath furn­ished us so graciously, whereby we may stand on our defence against all our bloody enemies. If a man had a kingdom in his possession, but no sword to keep the crown on his head, he could not expect to enjoy it long. This is a world that there is no living or holding anything we have in safety, without the help of arms. Least of all, could our souls be safe if naked and un­armed, which are here in the mouth of danger, and can no way pass to the place of bliss and happiness in heaven prepared for them, but through their enemies’ quarters. When Israel took their march out of Egypt towards the promised land, few or none would trust them to travel through their country, but all rose up in arms against them. The Christian will find his march much more troublesome and dangerous to heaven. Satan is not grown tamer than he used to be, nor the wicked world better affected than it was wont to the people of God. O what a mercy is it, that we have this sword by our side, which puts us out of danger from any of them all! This is thy hand, Chris­tian, as the rod was in Moses’. What though an army of devils be behind thee, and a sea of sins before thee roaring upon thee, with this sword, by faith wielding it, thou mayest cut thy way through the waves of the one, and set thyself out of the reach of the other. Tru­ly, the Scripture is a mercy incomparably greater than the sun in the heavens. That might be better spared out of its orb, than this out of the church. If that were gone, we should be but knocked off our worldly business, and be only in danger to lose our bodily life, by missing our way, and stumbling on this pit and tumbling into that pond. But, if deprived of the word, salvation work would be laid aside, or gone about to little purpose, and our souls must needs miss the right way to happiness, and stumble inevit­ably upon hell, while we think we are going to heaven, unless a miracle should interpose to prevent the same. But more particularly, bless God for these three mercies in reference to the Scriptures.

(1.) For their translation into vulgar tongues.

(2.) For the ministry of the word.

(3.) For the efficacy of the word and its ministry hath had upon thy heart.

(1.) Bless God for the translation of the Scrip­tures. The word is our sword. By being translated, this sword is drawn out of its scabbard. What use, alas! could a poor Christian, that hath but one tongue in his head—that understands but one language, I mean, which his mother taught him—make of this sword when presented to him as it is sheathed in Greek and Hebrew? Truly, he might even fall a weeping with John at the sight of the sealed book, because he could not read it, Rev. 5:4. O bless God that hath sent not angels, but men, furnished by the blessing of God on their indefatigable labours and studies, with ability to roll away the stone from the mouth of this fountain! And were it not sad to see the water of life brought to you with the expense of their spirits and strength (wasted in the work), to be spilled on the ground, and basely undervalued by you, so as hardly to be put into the catalogue of mercies which you praise God for? O God forbid! It cannot be, if ever you had but the sweetness of any one promise in it milked out unto you, or the power of one of its divine truths impressed on your hearts. Melchior Ad. tells us that Bugenhagius—whom Luther used, with others, for his help in translating the Bible—when the work was brought to a happy period, he was so affected with the incomparable mercy therein to the churches of Christ in Germany, that every year he invited his friends to a solemn feast that day whereon the work was finished, which they called, ‘The feast of the translation of the Bible.’

When Queen Elizabeth, our English Deborah, opened the prisons at her coming to the crown—as at such times is {it} usual to scatter acts of grace—one as piously as ingeniously told her, that there were yet some good men left in prison undelivered, and de­sired they might also partake of her princely favour, meaning the four evangelists, and Paul, who had been denied to walk abroad in the English tongue when her sister swayed the scepter. To this she answered, ‘They should be asked, whether they are willing to have their liberty;’ which soon after appearing, they had their jail-delivery, and have ever since had their liberty to speak to you in your own tongue at the as­semblies of your public worship; yea, to visit you in your own private houses also. Now is that happy day come, and long hath been, which holy Mr. Tyndal told a popish doctor of, when a poor ploughman should be able to read the Scriptures, and allowed to as freely converse with them, as any doctor of them all! A blessed day indeed it is to the souls of men!

Now, Christian, when thou art prisoner to God’s providence, and kept by his afflicting hand at home, thou hast the word of God to bear thee company in thy solitude; and so, though thou canst not sit up with thy brethren and sisters at thy Father’s table in the public ordinances, yet thou dost not wholly go with­out thy meal. Thou canst not, it is like, carve so well for thyself as the minister useth to do for thee, yet it is an incomparable mercy thou hast liberty to pick up out of the word for thy present counsel and comfort, as thou art enabled by the Spirit of God upon thy humble prayer for his assistance. Admirable hath been the support the saints have found from this holy book in their confinements. God hath graciously ord­ered it, that the most useful and necessary truths for afflicted saints hang, as I may so say, on the lower boughs of this tree of life, within the reach of a poor Christian who is of but an ordinary stature in knowl­edge. O think, and think again, of those sad times when the bloody sword of persecutors was drawn to keep off the people of God from coming near this tree, and then you will the better conceive of your present privilege. Yea, look back unto those times of popish ignorance, when this cellar of cordial waters was locked up in the original tongues, and not one in a whole town could be found that had a key, by whom poor souls in their fainting fits and agonies of spirit could have it opened, so as to come by any of their sweet consolations to restore their swooning souls; and then you will surely bless God, who hath given you so free an access unto them, when others cannot have access to you to communicate their help unto you.

(2.) Bless God for the ministry of the word, which is the public school he opens to his people, that in it they may learn the use of this their weapon. It is a sad fruit that grows upon the little smattering knowledge that some have got from the word, to puff them up with a conceit of their own abilities, so as to despise the ministry of the word as a needless work. The Corinthians were sick of this disease, which the apostle labours to cure by a sharp reproof: ‘Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us,’ I Cor. 4:8. Paul, it seems, was nobody now with these high proficients. The time was, when Paul came to town he was a welcome man. The sucking child was not more glad to see his mother come home, nor could cry more earnestly to be laid to the breast, than they did to partake of his ministry; but now, like the child when it hath sucked its bellyful, they bite the very teat they so greedily awhile before took into their mouths, as if they should never want another meal. So high did their waxen wings of pride carry them above all thoughts of needing his ministry any more. And hath not the pride of many in our days carried them as far into a contempt of the minis­try of the word, though their knowledge comes far short of the Corinthians’ knowledge? Well, take heed of this sin. Miriam’s plague, yea a worse, a spir­itual scab and leprosy, apparently cleaves to those, as close as a girdle to the loins, who come once to scorn and despise their ordinance, that they make all afraid to come near their tents. What prodigious errors are they left unto, whereby God brands them! Yea, what sensual lusts hath the once forward profession of many among them been quite swallowed up with! If once a man thinks he needs no longer go to the Spir­it’s school, he shall find, whoever he is, that he takes the ready way to deprive himself of the Spirit’s teaching at home. ‘Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings,’ I Thes. 5:19, 20. They are coupled together. He that despiseth one loseth both. If the scholar be too proud to learn of the usher, he is unworthy to be taught by the master.

But I turn to you humble souls, who yet sit at the feet of Jesus in your right minds. Speak the truth and lie not; are you not well paid for your pains? Dare you say of your waiting on the ministry of the word, what a wretch—though a learned one, Politianus by name—said of his reading the Scripture, ‘That he never spent time to less purpose!’ Do you count it among your lost time and misplaced hours that are bestowed in hearing the word? I trow not. Thou keepest thy acquaintance with the word at home if thou beest a Christian, and eatest many a sweet bit in a corner while thou art secretly medita­ting thereon. But does this content thee, or make thee think the word preached a superfluous meal? I am sure David knew how to improve his solitary hours as well as another, yet in his banishment, O how he was pinched and hunger-bitten for want of the public ordinance! And sure we cannot think he for­got to carry his Bible with him into the wilderness, loving the word so dearly as he did. ‘My soul thirst­eth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is,’ Ps. 63:1. Why, David? what is the matter thou thus complainest? Hast thou not the word to read in secret? Canst thou not let down thy bucket, and by meditation draw what thou wilt out of the well of the word? Why then dost thou say thou art in a ‘thirsty land where no water is?’ He means, therefore, comparatively. The sweetest re­freshings he enjoyed in his private converse with the word, were not comparable to what he had met in public. And can you blame a sick child for desiring to sit up with his brethren at his father’s table, though he is not forgot in his chamber where he is prisoner, but hath something sent him up? It was the sanctuary —there to ‘see God, his power and glory, as of old’ —that David’s heart longed for, and could not well live without.

God threatens to bring ‘a famine of hearing the words of the Lord,’ Amos 8:11. Mark, not a famine of reading the word, but of hearing the word. If the word be not preached, though we have the Bible to read in at home, yet it is a famine; and so we ought to judge it. ‘And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision,’ I Sam. 3:1. The strongest Christians would find a want of this ordin­ance in time. We see in a town besieged, though it be well laid in with corn, yet when put to grind with private hand‑mills all they spend, what straits they are soon put to. And so will the best grown saints, when they come to have no more from the word for their souls to live on, than what they grind with their own private meditation and labour, then they will miss the minister, and see it was a mercy indeed to have one whose office it was to grind all the week for him. And if the stronger Christian cannot spare this office, be­cause yet not perfect; what shift shall the weaker sort make, who need the minister to divide the word, as much as little children their nurse’s help to mince their meat and cut their bread for them? To leave them to their own improving the word, is to set a whole loaf among a company of little babes, and bid them help themselves. Alas! they will sooner cut their fingers with the knife than fill their bellies with the bread.

(3.) Bless God for the efficacy of the word upon thy soul. Did ever its point prick thy heart? its edge fetch blood of thy lusts, and cut off any rotten mem­ber of the body of sin? Bless God for it. You would do as much for a surgeon for lancing a sore, and sev­ering a putrefied part from thy body, though he put thee to exquisite torture in the doing of it. And I hope thou thinkest God hath done thee a greater kindness than so. Solomon tells us, ‘faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful,’ Prov. 27:6. The wounds that God thus gives are the faithful wounds of a friend; and the kisses sin gives come from an enemy. God’s wounds cure, sin’s kisses kill. The Italians say that, ‘play, wine, and women consume a man laughing.’ It is true of all pleasurable sins; and as sin kills the sinner laughing, so God saves poor souls weeping and bleeding under the wounds his word gives them. Happy soul, thou that hast made such an exchange to get out of the enchanting arms of thy lusts that would have kissed thee to death, and to fall into the hands of a faithful God, that means thee no more hurt by all the blood he draws from thee than the saving of thy soul’s life! How far mightst thou have gone, and not met with such a friend and such a favour! There is not another sword like this in all the world that can cure with cutting; not another arm could use this sword to have done thus much with it, besides the Spirit of God. The axe does nothing till the hand of the workman lifts it up; neither can every one—may be none else —do with his tools what himself can. None could do such feats with Scanderberg’s sword as himself. To be sure, none can pierce the conscience, wound the spir­it, and hew down the lusts that there lie skulking in their fastness, but God himself. And this he doth not for every one that reads and hears it, which still great­ens thy mercy. There were many widows in Israel when God sent his prophet to her of Sarepta. And why to her? Was there never a drunkard, swearer, or unbeliever, beside thee in the congregation at the same time that God armed his word to smite thee down, and graciously prick thy heart? O cry out in admiration of this distinguishing mercy, ‘Lord, how is it thou wilt manifest thyself to me and not unto the world!’

[Exhortation to the study of the word.]

2. Exhortation. Let this provoke you to the study of the word, that you may thereby have a famil­iar acquaintance with it. For this the Bereans ob­tained a mark of honour as a nobler sort of people than others, because they ‘searched the Scriptures,’ Acts 17:11. Shall God leave but one book to his church’s care and study, and shall it not be read? Shall we be told there is so rich a treasure laid up in this mine, and we continue so beggarly in our knowl­edge rather than take a little pains by digging in it to come by it? The canker and rust of our gold and sil­ver, which is got with harder labour than here is re­quired, will rise up in judgment against many, and say, ‘You could drudge and trudge for us that are now turned to rust and dust, but could walk over the field of the world, where an incorruptible treasure lay, and would lose it rather than your sloth!’ O where is to be found—in what breast doth the ancient zeal of for­mer saints to the word lodge! Have they not counted it above rubies and precious stones? Have they not trudged over sea and land to get the sight of it? —given the money out of their purse, the coat off their backs, to purchase a few leaves of it, and parted with their blood out of their veins rather than forego the treasure which they had found in it? And is the market now fallen so low that thou desirest not ac­quaintance with it when it is offered at a far lower rate! Either they must be charged for very fools to buy the knowledge of it so dear, or you that refuse it who may have it so cheap. But, lest you should think I set you upon a needless work, you are to understand there is an indispensable necessity of Scripture knowledge; and that is double: necessitas præcepti et necessitas medii—a necessity of command and a necessity of means.

(1.) There is a necessity of command: ‘Search the Scrip­tures,’ John 5:39. Indeed, were there not such an express word for this duty, yet the very penning of them, with the end for which they are written con­sidered, would impose the duty upon us. When a law is enacted by a prince or state, for their subjects to obey, the very promulgation of it is enough to oblige the people to take notice of it. Neither will it serve a subject’s turn that breaks this law, to say he was ig­norant of any such law being in force: the publication of it bound him to inquire after it. What other end have lawgivers in divulging their acts, but that their people might know their duty? Christ fastens con­demnation on the ignorance of men where means for knowledge is afforded: ‘This is the condemnation, and men loved darkness,’ John 3:19. They will not know the rule, because they have no mind to walk by it. Now if ignorance of the word be condemned where its light shines, then sure he commands us to open our eyes, whereby we may let in the knowledge it sheds forth; for a law must be transgressed before a condemning sentence be pronounced. It is the hea­then that shall be judged without the written word; but thou that livest within its sound shalt be judged by it; whether thou wilt know it or not, II Thes. 1:8. And if thou shalt be judged by it, then surely thou art bound to be instructed by it. The Jews once had the word deposited in their hands, ‘unto them were com­mitted the oracles of God,’ and do you think they had well discharged their trust by locking them up safely in the ark, and never looking into them? Surely, you cannot but think God intended another chest, even that in their own breasts, where he would principally have them bestowed. They were committed to them, and now to us, as a dying father doth his will and tes­tament to his son whom he makes his executor, not to throw it aside among his waste papers, but carefully and curiously to read and observe it, that thereby nothing therein contained might be left unperformed. It is called ‘the faith once delivered unto the saints,’ Jude 3, that is, delivered to their study and care. If any of us had lived when Christ was here in the flesh, and he—when taking his farewell of the world—should have left to us some one thing in special charge to be done for his sake after he was gone to heaven, would we not religiously have performed the will of our dy­ing Saviour, as did St. John, to whom he left the care of his mother, who therefore took her home to his own house? Behold here a greater charge deposited in his saints’ hands—‘the faith which was once delivered to them,’ that is, ‘once’ for all, to be by them kept and transmitted from one generation to another while this world lasts. So that, if thou takest thyself to be one of the saints’ number, thou art con­cerned with the rest to take it home with thee, and see that it dwells in the richly, as becomes such a guest bequeathed by so dear a friend.

(2.) There is a necessity of means. The word contains the whole counsel of God for the bringing of poor sinners to eternal life, and none besides this —only as they borrow their notions out of it. If you will not search the Scripture, and sit here at the feet of the Spirit—who fits his scholars for heaven by this one book—where wilt thou meet another master? In whose works else wilt thou find the words of eternal life? Of Apollos, who was a man ‘mighty in the Scrip­tures,’ it is said, that Aquila and Priscilla ‘expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly,’ Acts 18:26. An exposition presupposeth a ‘text.’ The meaning is, they opened the Scripture more perfectly to him. This is ‘the way of God’ to lead us to God; yea, the only way. In other journeys we may miss the right way, and yet come at last to the place we intended, though not so soon; but no way will bring us to God but this of the word; neither can we walk in this way of God, if we be ignorant of it. A man may in his other journeys be in his right way, and, though he knows not he is right, may yet come safe home. But we can have no benefit from this way of God if wholly ignorant of it, because we can do nothing in faith. O labour therefore to study this book, though thou beest a dunce in all besides! What is it thou wouldst learn? Is it the true knowledge of God? thou mayest tumble over all the philosophers that ever wrote, and, when thou hast done, not be able to frame a right notion of him. The best of them all were but brutish in their highest knowledge of God. Indeed, God left the wise world to run into a thousand follies and vanities, while they were by their own wisdom shaping a reli­gion to themselves, that, having proved them dunces, he might send them and the whole world to learn this lesson in another school, and that is the ministry of the gospel, which is naught else but the explication and application of the word. ‘After that in the wis­dom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,’ I Cor. 1:21.

Wouldst thou come to the true knowledge of sin? This also is a notion to be found nowhere else. The Scripture alone dissects the whole body of sin, and reads to us a perfect anatomy lecture upon its most minute and secret parts. This discovers the ul­cers of our wicked hearts, which thousands die of, and through ignorance of the Scriptures can never come to know what their disease is. If lust comes not out in spots and sores, to be seen in the outward conversa­tion, the philosopher pronounceth him a clear man. The plague of the heart, though an old disease and epidemical, yet never was found out, or treated of, but by this sacred book, and this doth it fully, yea, acquaints us where and from whom we got this infec­tion: even from Adam, by whom the whole world was tainted and turned into a pesthouse[4]. Which of the wise ones of the world ever dreamed of this geneal­ogy? Poor man, till the Scripture informs him of this, he lies in the pit of sin, and knows not who threw him in!

In a word, wouldst thou be helped out? Thou must then be beholden to the Scripture to do this kind office for thee. Thy own cordage is too short to reach, and too weak to draw thee thence. If thou takest not hold of this cord of love which God lets down unto thee in his word, thy case is desperate. And now, having set life and death before thee, I leave thee to thy choice. If yet thou beest resolved to reject the knowledge of the Almighty, and put thy soul in launch into eternity without this chart to di­rect thee, not caring whether thou sinkest or swim­mest, at what port thou arrivest at in another world, heaven or hell; then prepare to take up thy lodgings among the damned, and harden thy stout heart, if thou canst, against those endless flames which are kindled for all those ‘that know not God, and that obey not his gospel,’ II Thes. 1:8. And to thy terror know that, in spite of thy now wilful ignorance, thou shalt one day understand the Scriptures to the in­crease of thy torment. Here thou shuttest out their light, but then it will shine full on thy face, when it would give thee some ease if thou couldst forget that ever thou didst hear of such a book as the Bible is, but then against thy will thou shalt carry the remem­brance thereof to hell with thee, that thy scornful neglect of it on earth may be continually pouring new horror—as so much fire and brimstone—into thy guilty conscience. How must it needs then fill thee with amazement to think of thy folly and madness, to sell thy soul for a little ease and sloth? Hell from beneath would be moved for thee, to meet thee at thy coming thither. It will stir up the dead for thee; and the poor heathens, whom thou shalt find prisoners there, will come flocking about thee, and with their taunts reproaching thee, saying, ‘Art thou also be­come weak as we? Art thou become like unto us? Thou perish for thy ignorance, who hadst the key of knowledge at thy girdle, and at so easy a rate might have been instructed in the way of life! We, poor heathens, cannot bring an action against God for false imprisonment, though we never heard of such a thing as the gospel, for we did not walk up to our little light; and might have known more of God had we not darkened our own foolish minds by rebelling against the light we had; but never were we at such cost to damn our souls as you, who have rejected the word of God, and broke through all the threatenings and promises thereof, to come hither!’

[Carnal objections to the

study of the word removed.]

Objection First. But you will say, ‘If we had so much time to spare as others, we would not be so unacquainted with the Scriptures. But alas! we have so much business to do, and our hands so full with our worldly callings, that we hope God will excuse us, though we have not so much knowledge of his word as others.’

Answer. Is this thy plea that thou indeed mean­est to use when thou comest to the bar, and art called to give thy answer to Christ thy judge upon this mat­ter? Does not thy heart quake within thy breast to think how he will knit his brow, and throw this thy apology with disdain and wrath upon thy face? Did so much anger sit on the countenance of meek Jesus when on earth, and such a dreadful doom proceed from his sweet lips against those that made their farms and oxen as a mannerly excuse for not coming to his supper, sentencing them never to taste thereof? O what then will glorious Christ say—when, mounted on his tribunal, not to invite, but to judge sinners—to such an excuse as this? Could God find heart and time to pen and send this love-letter to thee, and thou find none to read and peruse it? The sick man no time to look on his physician’s bill! The con­demned malefactor to look on his prince’s letter of grace, wherein a pardon is tendered to him! Poor wretch! must the world have all thy time, and swallow thee up quick? A curse not less than that of Corah! Art thou such a slave to thy pelf as to tie thy soul to thy purse‑strings, and take no more time for the sav­ing of thy soul than this cruel master will afford thee? Thou and thy money perish with thee! His soul is in an ill ease which hath an allowance from so base a lust. This is so far from mending the matter, that thou dost but cover one sin with another. Who gave thee leave thus to overlade thyself with the encum­brance of the world? Is not God the Lord of thy time? Is it not given by him to be laid out for him? He allows thee indeed a fair portion thereof for the lower employments of this life; but did he ever intend to turn himself out of all? This is as if the mariners, who are allowed by the merchant some small adven­ture for themselves, should fill the ship, and leave no stowage for his goods that pays the freight. Will it suffice for him to say, ‘There is no room left for his commodities?’ Or, as if a servant, when his master asks why he neglected such a business committed to his care for despatch, should answer, ‘He was drunk, and therefore could not do it.’ Why did you not read my word and meditate thereon? will Christ say at that day. Darest thou then to be so impudent as to say, ‘Lord, I was overcharged with the cares, and drunk with the love, of the world, and therefore I could not?’ Well, if this be the thief that robs thee of thy time, get out of his hands as soon as thou canst, lest it also rob thee of thy soul. The devil can desire no greater advantage against thee. He hath thee sure enough in his trap. He may better boast over thee than Pharaoh could over Israel. ‘He is entangled, in the wilderness of the world, and shall not escape my hands.’

If a friend should tell you that you kept so many servants and retainers as would beggar you, would you not listen to his counsel, and rather turn them out of doors, than keep them still to eat you out of them? And wilt thou not be as careful of thy soul? Wilt thou keep such a rout of worldly occasions, as will eat up all thoughts of God and heaven? Certainly thou must either discharge thyself of these, or else fairly dismiss thy hope of salvation. But why should I speak so much to these? This ordinarily is but a cover to men’s sloth. If they had hearts, they would find time to converse with the word in the greatest throng of their worldly occasions. These can find time to eat and sleep, to sport and recreate them­selves, but no time for God and his word. Would they but allow their souls those broken ends of time to search the Scripture, which they spend in pastimes, idle visits, reading of empty pamphlets, it would not be long but they might give a happy account of their proficiency in their spiritual knowledge. What calling more encumbering than a soldier’s? And of all sol­diers the general’s, to whom all resort? Such a one was Joshua, yet a strict command to study the Scrip­ture: ‘This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night,’ Joshua 1:8. Must Joshua, in the midst of drums and trumpets, and distractions of war, find time to meditate on the law of God? And shall thy shop or plough, a few trivial occasions in thy private calling, discharge thee from the same duty? Dost thou think that the closet is such an enemy to thy shop, and the time spent with God a thief to thy temporal estate? God, I am sure, intends his people better; as appears in the former place, ‘Then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.’

Objection Second. But I cannot read; how can I search the Scriptures?

Answer. It is sad, I confess, that parents, who are God’s trustees, to whom the nurture of their chil­dren is committed, should take no more care for their souls than the ostrich doth of her eggs, not caring what becomes of them. What do these but throw them into the devil’s mouth, by sending them out in­to a sinful world without the knowledge of God and his word, to become a prey to every lust that meets them? To hell they must needs swim, if God show no more pity to them than their bloody parents have done! But shall thy parents negligence be a plea for thy ignorance? Wilt not thou be merciful to thyself because they were cruel? In the fear of God be per­suaded to supply their defect by thy diligence. I hope thou dost not think it a shame to learn that, now thou art old, which thou shouldst have been taught when thou wert young. Had not thy parents learned thee a trade to get thy temporal living with, wouldst thou therefore have lived thee a beggar, rather than have applied thyself, though late, to some calling? There are many, for thy encouragement, who have begun late, and, by God’s blessing on their diligence, have conquered the difficulty of the work. If thou wert in prison, thou hadst rather learn to read thy neck‑verse, than lose thy life for want thereof. Now, though abil­ity to read the word be not of absolute necessity for the salvation of thy soul, yet knowledge of its saving truths is, and few better private means to obtain this than reading. But if thou beest not capable of this, thou hast not by it an excuse for thy ignorance so long as thou hast an ear to receive instruction from others. As God sometimes recompenses the defect of one sense with the quickness of another, so may be thou shalt find thy inability to read supplied with a tena­cious memory, to hold what thou hearest read or preached unto thee. Some martyrs we find mighty in the Scriptures, able to defend the truth against learned doctors, and yet not book‑learned. One amongst the rest who could not read, ‘yet carried al­ways some part of the Scripture about with him, and when he met any Christian that could, he would get him to read some portion or other thereof to him,’ whereby he attained to such a measure of knowledge and faith, as made him wiser than his enemies, and a stout champion for the truth, even to resist to blood.

Objection Third. ‘O but,’ saith a third, ‘though I can read, yet I am of so weak an understanding that I fear I shall make no work with such deep mysteries as are there contained.’

Answer. Take heed this objection comes not from thy sluggish heart, which gets this fair pretence to ease thee of a duty thou fearest will be troublesome unto thee. Didst thou ever make a trial, and set about the work, conscientiously using all means that might conduce towards thy instructing in the mind of god? If not, lay not the blame on thy weak head, but wicked heart. When thou wentest first to be an ap­prentice, what skill hadst thou in thy trade? Didst thou therefore despair and run away? No, but by thy diligence didst learn the mystery of it in a few years, so as to maintain thyself comfortably upon it; and will not thy industry to learn that, condemn thy sloth in not studying the word, which is able to bring in a bet­ter livelihood to thy soul than thy trade can do for thy body?

But, poor soul, if what thou sayest indeed ariseth from the deep sense thou hast of thy own weakness, then ponder upon this twofold encouragement.

1. Encouragement. God is able to interpret his own word unto thee. Indeed none can enter into the knowledge thereof, but he must be beholden unto his Spirit to unlock the door. If thou hadst a riper head and higher parts than thou canst now pretend to, thou wouldst, without his help, be but like the blind Sodomites about Lot’s house, groping, but not able to find the way into the true saving knowledge thereof. He that hath not the right key is as far from entering the house as he that hath none, yea in some sense further off. For he that hath none will call to him that is within, while the other, trusting to his false key, stands pottering without to little pur­pose. The Pharisees, who were so conversant in the Scriptures, and obtained the name for the admired doctors of the chair, called, ‘the princes of the world,’ I Cor. 2:8,—be­cause so renowned and adored among the people, yet even these missed the truth which lay before them almost in every leaf of Moses and the prophets, whom they were, in their every‑day’s study, tumbling over —I mean that grand truth concerning Christ, of whom both Moses and the prophets speak. And at the same time the people whom they counted so base, yea accursed, as those that understood not the law, could see him whom they missed. None so knowing that God cannot blind and infatuate; none so blind and ignorant whose eyes his spirit cannot open. He who, by his incubation upon the waters at the crea­tion, hatched that rude mass into the beautiful form we now see, and out of that dark chaos made the glorious heavens, and garnished them with so many orient stars, can move upon thy dark soul, and en­lighten it, though now it be as void of knowledge as the evening of the world’s first day was of light. The school‑master sometimes sends home and bids the father put him to another trade, because not able, with all his art, to make a scholar of him. But if the Spirit of God be the master, thou shalt learn, though a very dunce: ‘The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple,’ Ps. 119:130. No sooner is a soul entered into the Spirit’s school, but he becomes a proficient. Thence we are com­manded to encourage those that discourage them­selves: ‘Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees,’ Isa. 35:3. Why? what good news shall we tell them? ‘The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped,’ ver. 5. ‘An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the way­faring men, though fools, shall not err therein,’ ver. 8.

2. Encouragement. The deeper sense thou hast of thy own weakness, the more fit thou art for the Spirit’s teaching. A proud scholar and a humble mas­ter will never agree; Christ is ‘meek, and lowly,’ and so ‘resisteth the proud,’ but ‘giveth grace unto the humble.’ Though he cannot brook him that is proud, yet he can bear with thee that art weak and dull, if humble and diligent; as we see in the disciples, whom our Saviour did not disdain to teach the same lesson over and over again, till at last they say, ‘Lo, now speakest thou plainly,’ John 16:29. The eunuch was no great clerk when in his chariot he was reading Isaiah’s prophecy; yet because he did it with an honest heart, Philip is despatched to instruct him.

DIRECTION X.—THIRD GENERAL PART.

[How to use the Sword of the Word.]

‘And the sword of the Spirit,’ &c. (Eph. 6:17).

But haply some may say, ‘You have said enough to let us know how necessary a weapon this sword is to defend our souls, and of what admirable use in all the conflicts the Christian hath with any of his enemies. But we hope you will not leave us thus. It is a word of counsel we now listen to hear from you, how we poor Christians may wield and use this sword for our own defence, and the vanquishing of the several enemies whose approach you have alarmed us to expect; some whereof we already, to our great terror, see in the field against us, and how soon the other may appear we know not. What will a sword by our side, a Bible in our hand, yea mouth, do us good, if we be not instructed how we may ward off their blows, and make them feel the impression of ours therewith?’

Your request is reasonable, and for your better satisfaction I shall sort the directions into several branches, suited to the several kinds of enemies you have to grapple with; for their assaults being of a different nature, do require a resistance suitable to their way of fight. first. How we are to use the spiritual sword against the persecutor. second. Against the heretic. third. Against the army of lusts lodged within our own bosoms. fourth. Against the bands of afflictions which from without invade, from within distress, him.

BRANCH FIRST.

[Directions how to use the sword

of the word against persecutors.]

We shall begin with the persecutor. Now, wouldst thou, Christian, stand the shock of his furi­ous assault, when he hangs out his bloody flag, breathing slaughter to the church and flock of Christ, if they will not let him trample upon all their glory, by defiling their consciences, and renouncing their faith at the lust of his imperious command. Then, First. Let it be thy care to get clear Scripture ground for those principles and practices of thine which stir up the persecutor’s rage against thee. Second. Improve those scriptures which teach us to dread God more and fear man less. Third. Be sure thou givest up thy lusts to the sword of the Spirit, before thy life is in any danger from the sword of the persecutor. Fourth. Fortify thy faith on those promises which have an especial respect to persecution.

Direction First. Let it be thy first care to get clear Scripture grounds for those principles and prac­tices of thine which stir up the persecutor’s rage against thee. A man had need be well assured of that which brings life and dear enjoyments—that go all away with it—into hazard. It is enough to weaken the courage of a valiant man to fight in a mist, when he cannot well discern his foes from his friends; and to be a damp upon the Christian’s spirit in a suffering hour, if he be not clear in his judgement, and fixed in his principles that he is to suffer for. Look, therefore, to put that out of question in thy own thoughts for which the persecutor calls thee into question. And the rather because it ever was, and still will be the policy of persecutors to disfigure what they can the beautiful face of those truths and practices for which the servants of Christ suffer, that they may put a colour of justice upon their bloody cruelties, and make the world believe they suffer as evil-doers. Now thou wilt never be able to bear up under the weight of this their heavy charge except thou beest fully per­suaded in thy own conscience that thou sufferest for righteousness’ sake. But if thou standest clear in thy own thoughts concerning thy cause, thou wilt easily wipe off the dirt they throw upon thee, and sweetly entertain thyself with the comfort which thy own conscience will bring to thee through the reproaches of thy enemies. Nemo est miser sensu alieno, saith Salvian—what others say or think of us makes not miserable. One reproof from a man’s own thoughts wounds ore than the reproaches do of all the world besides. When the Thessalonians were once satisfied of the certain truth of Paul’s doctrine—for the gospel, it is said, came to them ‘in much assurance,’ I Thes. 1:5—then they could open their door ‘with joy’ to receive it, though afflictions and persecutions came along with it, ver. 6.

Direction Second. Improve those scriptures which teach us to dread God more and fear man less. Every man is most loath to fall into his hands whom he fears most. So that, if God hath once gained the supremacy of thy fear, thou wilt rather skip into the hottest fire the persecutor can make, than make God thy enemy. ‘Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word,’ Ps. 119:161. David had put, it seems, man’s wrath and that which God threatens in his word into the scales, and finding God’s hand to be without compare the heavier, trembles at that, and ventures the worst that the other can do against him. Hence it is the Scrip­ture is so much in depressing the power of man, that we may not be scared at his big looks or threats; in depressing the power of man, and representing his utmost rage to be so contemptible and inconsiderable a thing, as none that knows who God is needs fear the worst he can do. ‘Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?’ Isa. 2:22. ‘Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,’ Matt. 10:28. Pueri timent larvas, sed non timent ignem —children are afraid of bugbears that cannot hurt them, but can play with fire that will burn them. And no less childish is it to be frighted into a sin at the frowns of a sorry man, who comes forth with a vizard of seeming dread and terror, but hath no power to hurt us more than our own fear gives him, and to play with hell-fire, into which God is able to cast us for ever. Truly this is to be scared with painted fire in the picture, and not in the furnace where it really burns. What was John Huss the worse for his fool’s cap that his enemies put on his head, so long as un­der it he had a helmet of hope which they could not take off? Or how much the nearer hell was the same blessed martyr for their committing his soul to the devil? No nearer than some of their own wicked crew are to heaven for being sainted in the pope’s calendar. Melancthon said some are anathema secundum dici —to be doubly cursed, as Luther and other faithful servants of Christ whom the pope cursed. But what saith David? ‘Let them curse, but bless thou,’ Ps. 109:28. He that hath God’s good needs not fear the world’s bad. The dog’s barking doth not make the moon change her colour. Nor needs the saint change his countenance for the rage of his persecutors.

Direction Third. Be sure thou givest up thy lusts to the sword of the Spirit before thy life is in any danger from the sword of the persecutor. He is not likely to be free of his flesh for Christ, when called to suffer at man’s hand, that is dainty of his lusts, and cannot bear the edge of the Spirit’s sword, when he comes to mortify them. Canst thou be willing to lay down thy life for Christ, and yet keep an enemy in thy bosom out of the hand of justice, that seeks to take away the life of Christ? Persecutors tempt as well as torture, Heb. 11. They promise the honours of the court as well as threaten the hardship of the prison and cruelty of the devouring fire. Now, if thy love to the world be not mortified, it is easy to tell what choice thou wilt make, even the same that Demas did, thou wilt embrace the ‘present world,’ and leave Christ in the plain field. Or if thou shouldst through a natural stoutness bear up under sufferings, even to give thy body to be burned, rather than renounce the true religion thou professest, yet if any lust should at last be found to have been fostered by thee, thou shalt have no more thanks at Christ’s hands than he who in the law offered up an unclean beast to God. It is pos­sible for one to die in the cause of Christ and not be his martyr. Thy heart must be holy thou sufferest with as well as the cause holy thou sufferest for. Thy behaviour must be gracious in suffering, as well as the cause just that brings thee to suffer. He alone is Christ’s martyr that suffers for Christ as Christ him­self suffered. For he hath not only left us his truth to maintain to blood when called thereunto, but his ex­ample to follow also in our sufferings. ‘If when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God; for even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps;…who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not,’ I Peter 2:20, 21, 23.

This is hard work indeed, in the very fire to keep the spirit cool, and clear of wrath and revenge towards those that throw him so unmercifully into the devour­ing flames! But it makes him that by grace from above can do it, a glorious conqueror. Flesh and blood would bid a man call for fire from heaven, rather than mercy to fall upon them that so cruelly handle them. He that can forgive his enemy is too hard for him, and hath the better of him: because his enemy’s blows do but bruise his flesh, but the wounds that love gives pierce the soul and conscience. Saul was forced to confess that David, persecuted so furiously by him, was the better man, ‘Thou art more righteous than I,’ I Sam. 24:17. And the people went from the execution of Christ, whom they were so mad to have crucified, sick of what they had done, shaking their heads as if all were not right {what} they had done against so good a man, Luke 23. Now, when two contraries are in a contest, that overcomes which pre­serves its own nature, and turns the other into some likeness unto itself; as we see fire transfuseth its own heat into the water, forcing it to assimilate and yield to it. Thus a holy charitable spirit, by forgiving an enemy, if it doth not prevail to turn an enemy’s heart to him in love, yet then it turns an enemy’s con­science against himself, and forceth him to condemn himself, and justify him whom he persecutes wrongfully.

Direction Fourth. Fortify thy faith on those promises which have an especial respect to such a condition as persecution. This is the saints’ victory over the world, even their faith. Thus David, when Saul seemed to have him under his foot, and had driven him from living in a court to earth himself for his safety in a cave of the wilderness, yet by faith tri­umphed over his proud enemy, and sung as pleasantly in his grot and earth‑hole as the merriest bird in the wood, ‘My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise,’ Ps. 57:7. Saul had his body higher fed, but not his heart fixed as David’s was, and therefore could not sing David’s tune. A thousand thoughts and fears distracted his head and heart, while David lives without fear and care, even when his enemies are in the field a hunting for his life. Faith on the promise will, like the widow’s oil, not only set thee out of debt to all thy worldly fears and cares which by thy troubles thou mayest contract, but afford thee enough to live comfortably besides, yea, with joy unspeakable and glorious. There are two sorts of sorrows that do usually distress gracious souls most in their sufferings for Christ. First. They are prone to be troubled for their own persons and private affairs. Second. For the cause of Christ which they bear testimony unto, lest that should miscarry. Now there is abundant provision laid up in the prom­ises to ease the Christian’s heart of both these burdens.

[Provision in the promises for the two sorts

of sorrows to which believers are prone.]

First. Believers are at times prone to be troub­led for their own persons and private affairs. To meet this there is in the promises an ample provision. Ac­quaint thyself with those promises that concern thy­self as a sufferer for Christ, and see where any crevice is left unstopped, if thou canst, that may let in the least air of suspicion in thy mind to disturb thy peace and discompose thy joy. The promises are so many, and fitted so exactly to every particular query of which the soul can desire satisfaction, that it will require thy study and diligence to gather them. God having chosen rather to scatter his promises here and there promiscuously than to sort them and set every kind in a distinct knot by themselves, we may think on pur­pose that we might be drawn into an acquaintance with the whole Scripture, and not leave any one cor­ner unsearched, but curiously observe it from one end to the other. And let not the present peace of the church cause thee to think it needless work. The apothecary gathers his simples in the summer which haply he may not use [i.e. until] winter. And how soon persecution may arise thou knowest not. The church ever hath had, and shall have, its vicissitudes of summer and winter. Yea, sometimes winter strikes in before it is looked for; and then who is the man most likely to be offended? Surely he that received the word with joy in the prosperous estate of the church, but laid not in for foul weather. Well, what is thy fear? whence comes thy discouragement? Art thou scared with the noisomeness of the prison? or doth the terror of the fire, and torture of the rack, affright thee? Know for thy comfort, if thy strength be too weak to carry thee through them, thou shalt never be called to such hot service and hard work. The promise assures thee as much, he ‘will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able,’ I Cor. 10:13.

God who gives the husbandman his discretion with what instrument to thrash his corn, as it is hard­er or softer, will not let the persecutor’s wheel come upon thee that art not able to bear it. God gives us this very account why he led his people the further way about—at their first coming out of Egypt—rather than by the land of the Philistines—the far shorter cut of the two—‘for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt,’ Ex. 13:17. See here God considers their weak­ness. They cannot yet bear war, and therefore they shall not be tried with it until more hardened for it. But if thou beest called into the field to encounter with these bloody fiery trials, the promise takes the whole care and charge of the war off thy hands: ‘When they deliver you up, take no thought’—that is, disquieting, distrustful—‘how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak,’ Matt. 10:19; and, it is ‘the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you,’ ver. 20. There is no mouth that God cannot make eloquent; no back so weak which he cannot make strong. And he hath promised to be with thee wherever thy enemies carry thee; fire and water shall not part thee from his sweet company. These promises make so soft a pillow for the saints’ heads that they have professed, many of them, never to have lain at more ease than when most cruelly handled by their merciless enemies. One dates his letter ‘from the delectable orchard his prison;’ another subscribes herself, ‘Your loving friend, as merry as one bound for heaven.’ They have been so far from pitying themselves in their sufferings, that their chief sorrow hath been, that they could be no more thankful for them. And whence had they their strength? Where drew they their joy? Had they not both from the same Spirit applying the promises to them?

Second. Believers are at times prone to be troubled for the cause of Christ which they bear testi­mony unto, lest that should miscarry. As for this trouble, though God takes the good-will to his cause and church very kindly, from which those thy fears arise, yet there is no need of tormenting thyself, be­liever, with that which is sure never to come to pass. The ark may shake, but it cannot fall; the ship of the church may be tossed, but it cannot sink, for Christ is in it, and will awake time enough to prevent its wreck. There is therefore no cause for us, when the storm beateth hard upon it, to disturb him, as once the dis­ciples did, with the shrieks and outcries of our unbe­lief, as if all were lost. Our faith is more in danger of sinking at such a time than the cause and church of Christ are. They are both by the promise set out of the reach of men and devils. The gospel is an ‘everlasting gospel,’ Rev. 14:6. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one iota of this shall perish, Matt. 5:18. ‘The word of the Lord endureth for ever,’ I Peter 1:25, and shall be alive to walk over all its enemies’ graves, yea, to see the funeral of the whole world, when, at the great day of the Lord, it must be everlast­ingly buried in its own ruins. And for the church, that is built upon a rock, impregnable. ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it,’ Matt. 16:18. It hath been oft in the sea, but never drowned; seldom out of the fire, but never consumed; sometimes swallowed up to reason, but, like Jonah in the whale’s belly, cast up again, as too heavy a charge for the strongest stomach that ever persecutor had to digest. The faith of this hath carried the blessed martyrs to the grave, when they swam to it in their own blood with joy, because they knew the church should have the day at last, and that they left others behind in pursuit of the victory on earth, while themselves were taken out of the field to triumph in heaven. Yea some, by prophetic spirit have foretold the very time when the persecuted truths, that were then buried with so much ignominy and scorn, should have a happy resurrection and vic­tory over their proud enemies. Thus John Huss cited his enemies to answer him a hundred years after, comforting himself, that though they then ‘burned the goose’—alluding to his own name—‘a swan’ would come in his stead, that should fill the air with his sweet singing, which was fulfilled in Luther, whose doctrine went far and near, and charmed the hearts of multitudes everywhere. And Hiltenius, another Ger­man divine, alleviated the miseries he endured in his stinking prison—where he died for rubbing the monks sores too hard—with this, that another, naming the very time, 1516, should arise after him, that would ruin the monks’ kingdom—whose abuses he had but gently reproved—and that they should not be able to resist his power, nor so much as fasten a chain upon him; which came to pass in Luther; for, to a miracle, he was kept out of the hands of his bloody enemies, though never man’s blood more thirsted for.

BRANCH SECOND.

[Directions how to use the sword

of the word against heretics.]

Now the second enemy that comes forth against the Christian is the heretic or seducer, who is so much more to be feared than the former by how much it is worse to part with God’s truth than our own life; to be corrupted in our minds than to be tortured in our members; in a word, to have our souls damned by God than our bodies killed by man. If the martyrs had feared death more than heresy, they would not have leaped into the persecutors’ flames rather than consent to their doctrine. Now, that thou mayest be able to lift up this sword of the Spirit—the only weapon to defend thee—with victory against this dan­gerous enemy, apply thyself in the use of the best means with thy utmost care to find out the true sense and meaning of the Spirit in his word. This sword in another’s hand will defend thee not. No, it must be in thy own, or else thou canst not have the benefit of it. The phrase and outward expression are but the shell, the sense and meaning is the pearl, which thou, like a wise merchant, shouldst seek for. To tumble over a chapter and not reach the mind of God therein held forth, and to tumble over a prayer in an un­known tongue, are both alike, ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; Rev. 2:7. We are to listen what the Spirit saith in the word as we hear or read it. And he that hath an ear for the Spirit will not have an ear for the seducer.

Now to help thee in thy search for the sense and meaning of the word, these directions, I hope, may stand thee in some stead. First. Take heed thou comest not to the Scriptures with an unholy heart. Second. Make not thy own reason the rule by which thou measurest Scripture truths. Third. Take heed thou comest not with a judgment preengaged to any party or opinion. Fourth. Go to God by prayer for a key to unlock the mysteries of his word. Fifth. Compare scripture with scripture. Sixth. Consult with thy faithful guides which God hath set over thee in his church.

Direction First. Take heed thou comest not to the Scriptures with an unholy heart. If ever you know the mind of God in his word, the Spirit must impart it to you. And will he that is so holy take thee by thy foul hand, thinkest thou, to lead thee into truth? No, thy doom is set: ‘None of the wicked shall understand,’ Dan. 12:10. The angel who took Lot’s daughters into the house smote the Sodomites with blindness, that they might grope for the door and not find it. And so are those like to be served that come with unclean hearts to the word. ‘Without are dogs:’ not only without heaven at last, but without the true knowledge of God on earth. The wicked have the word of God, but the holy soul hath ‘the mind of Christ,’ I Cor. 2:16. Therefore the same apostle ex­horts us that we ‘be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,’ Rom. 12:2. And what amounts this to, but if we will have truth for our guest, and be acquainted with the mind and will of God, we must prepare a holy heart for its lodging? They commonly are taken captive by seducers who were before prisoners of their lusts, ‘and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,’ II Tim. 3:6, 7. When David would beg understanding in the word, he makes his purpose for a holy life the argument with which he urgeth God: ‘Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart,’ Ps. 119:33, 34.

Direction Second. Make not thy own reason the rule by which thou measurest Scripture truths. Is that fit to try the revelations of the word by, which is dunced and posed with so many secrets in nature? Doth not the word reveal such things to us as are not only above sense, for eye hath not seen them, nor ear heard them; but also above the ken of reason? being such as never ‘entered into the heart of man,’ I Cor. 2:9. Indeed the whole system of gospel truths speaks in a foreign and outlandish tongue to reason; it can make no sense of them, except faith be the inter­preter. The Scriptures are like the Red Sea, through which the Israelites by faith passed safely, but the Egyptians attempting to do it, for want of that guide were drowned. A humble believer passeth through the deep mysteries of the word safely, without plung­ing into any dangerous mistakes; whereas those sons of pride, who leave faith and take reason for their guide, we see how they are drowned in many dam­nable errors, Arianism, Pelagianism, Socinianism, and what not. The most dangerous errors fathered upon the Scriptures have sprung from this womb. This was the Sadducees’ ground on which they went for their denying the resurrection of the dead. They owned the book of Moses for the word of God, and yet denied the resurrection asserted therein; because it seemed so impossible a thing to their reason that our bodies, after so many alterations into slime and dust, should stand up in life. This their reason laughed at; for so our Saviour’s answer plainly shows, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God,’ Matt. 22:29.

Direction Third. When thou consultest with the word, take heed thou comest not with a judgment pre-engaged to any party and opinion. He is not like to hold the scales even whose judgment is bribed be­forehand. A distempered eye sees the object of that colour with which itself is affected; and a mind pre­possessed will be ready to impose its own sense upon the word, and so loseth the truth by an overweening conceit of his own opinion. Too many, alas! read the Scriptures not so much to be informed by them, as confirmed in what already they have taken up! They choose opinions, as Samson his wife, because they please them, and then come to gain the Scriptures’ consent. Thus the Jews first made up the match with their idols, and then ask counsel of God what they should do, Eze. 14:4. It is a just judgment of God, that such should not see the truth when it lies fair before them, but be given up to an injudicious heart, to be­lieve the word favours their fancies, and chimes as they think. ‘I the Lord will answer him…ac­cording to the multitude of his idols: that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart,’ Eze. 14:4, 5. And when is a man taken in his own heart, if not when ensnared in the fancies and follies which his erroneous mind hath weaved?

Direction Fourth. Go to God by prayer for a key to unlock the mysteries of his word. It is not the plodding but the praying soul that will get this treasure of Scripture-knowledge. St. John got the sealed book opened by weeping, Rev. 5:5. God oft brings a truth to the Christian’s hand as a return of prayer, which he had long hunted for in vain with much labour and study; there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, Dan. 2:22. And where doth he reveal the secrets of his word but at the throne of grace? ‘From the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words,’ i.e. for thy prayer, Dan. 10:12. And what was this heav­enly messenger’s errand to Daniel but to open more fully the Scripture to him? as appears by ver. 14, compared with ver. 21. This holy man had got some knowledge by his study in the word, and this sets him a praying, and prayer fetched an angel from heaven to give him more light. If ever we know the mind of God, we must be beholden to the Spirit of God for it. ‘When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth,’ John 16:13. And the Spirit is the fruit of Christ’s intercession: ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,’ &c. Now there must be a concurrence of our prayers with his intercession. While our High-priest is offering in­cense within the vail, we are to be praying without for the same thing that he is interceding within. Now to quicken thee up to pray with more fervent impor­tunity for this manuduction of the Holy Spirit to lead thee into truth,

[Means to quicken us to pray with more

fervour for the leading of the Holy Spirit.]

First Means. Let the dread of those scriptures which set forth the danger of errors and false doc­trines fall upon thee, that thou mayest not think thou goest upon a slighty errand, when praying to be pre­served from them, as if the odds were not great, whether thou hast thy request or hast it not. It is one of the devil’s master-policies, by sinking the price of errors in the thoughts of men, to make them thereby the more vendible. Many think they shall not pay so dear for an error in judgment as for a sin in practice. Yea, some have such a latitude, that they fancy a man may be saved in any religion—a principle that must needs tend to make them that hold it careless and incurious in their choice. That sin shall not want cus­tomers which men think they shall pay little or noth­ing for. Some can be content to be drunk on free cost, that would not, were they assured their own purse should pay soundly for the reckoning. How comes fornication to abound so much among the Romish clergy, but because it is counted so petty a sin by them? And I wish that error and heresy—which are the fornication of the mind—were not by many among ourselves sized as low. But woe to those clerks of the devil’s market, that tempt and toll men on to sin by setting cheaper rates on their head than the word of God hath done. If once the dread of a sin be word off the conscience, no wonder then if we see men as boldly leap upon it, as the frogs in the fable on the log, that lay so still and tame at the bottom of the river. Fear makes the body more apt to take in­fection, but it preserveth the soul from the infection of sin.

Now that thou mayest the more stand in fear of drinking in the poison of any corrupt and unsound doctrine, let thy mind ponder on a few scriptures, which show both their detestable, and also damning nature of them. Gal. 5:19, there heresy is called ‘a work of the flesh,’ and reckoned among those sins which shut the doors of them out of heaven; ‘they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,’ ver. 21. They are called ‘doctrines of devils,’ I Tim. 4:1. And if they come from the devil, whither must they lead but to hell? Such as are against the fundamental principles of the gospel are inconsistent with the love and favour of God. He that ‘abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God,’ II John 9. And who, think you, shall have him that hath not God? Were there no other scripture against this kind of sin, but that one, II Peter 2:1, it were enough to strike the heretic through his loins, and make the knees of every seducer, like Belshazzar’s at the sight of the ‘handwriting on the wall,’ to knock one against the other. ‘But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heres­ies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.’ So that if a man hath a mind to get the start of other sinners, and desires to be in hell before them, he need do no more than open his sails to the wind of heretical doctrine, and he is like to make a short voyage to hell of it; for these bring upon their maintainers ‘swift destruction.’ Nay, the Spirit of God, the more to aggravate their deplored state brings in three most dreadful instances of divine vengeance that ever was executed upon any sinners, viz. the detrusion of the apostate angels from heaven to hell, the drowning of the old world, and the conflagration of Sodom and Gomorrah by raining hell, as it were, out of heaven upon them. I say, he brings these as patterns and pledges of that vengeance which shall certainly befall this kind of sinners. And by this time I hope thou wilt be warm in thy prayer against this dangerous enemy. But,

Second Means. When thou hast thus possessed thy heart with the dread of being led into any corrupt opinion, then strengthen then thy faith from those comfortable scriptures which assure thee that no sin­cere saint shall be left to fall finally into any soul-damning error. Christ is as able for, and faithful in, his prophetic and kingly offices, as his priestly. Surely he will not have the least care of his people’s under­standing, which is guide to their whole man, and is that faculty which he first practiseth upon in the work of conversion. Thou hast therefore as strong ground to believe he will preserve thee from damnable princi­ples as damnable practices. It would be little advan­tage to be kept from one enemy, and left open to the will and power of another. Christ’s hedge comes round about his people. Solomon tells us, ‘The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein,’ Prov. 22:14. And so is the mouth of the seducer, who comes with strange doctrines—whorish opinions. Now who is this pit digged for? Indeed, if we look at Satan’s design, it is a trap chiefly laid to catch the saint; he would, if possible, ‘deceive the very elect.’ His great­est ambition is to spread his banners in this temple of God, and defile them whom God hath washed. But if we eye God’s intention, it is a pit he suffers to be made for hypocrites and false gospellers—such who would never heartly close with Christ and his truth. These are they whom God abhors, and therefore they are left by him to become a prey to those that go a birding for souls with their corrupt doctrines. ‘Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved; and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness,’ II Thes. 2:10-12. These, like the outsetting deer, are shot, while they within the pale are safe; or, like the sub­urbs, taken by the enemy, but those within the city escape their fury. It is the outward court that is left to be trampled underfoot, Rev. 11:2. And in the fore-quoted place in the epistle to the Thessalonians —though he gives up hypocrites to be deceived by false teachers, as once Ahab by those knights of the post his false prophets—yet, ver. 13 he speaks com­fortably to the elect, and shows that the same decree which appointed them to salvation provided also for their embracing the truth, as the necessary means leading thereunto. ‘But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and be­lief of the truth.’ And if God had got possession of the head by his truth, and of the heart by his sancti­fying grace, he will keep them out of Satan’s clutches.

Go, therefore, and plead the promise for thy preservation. The promise improved by faith at the throne of grace will be thy best antidote in these times of general infection. Never fear speeding when the promise bids thee ‘go and prosper.’ The mercy is granted before thou askest it; only God will have thee by prayer lay claim to it, before thou beest possessed of it. And for thy help I have set down some sweet promises of this nature, with which, if thou acquaint­est thyself, thou mayest be furnished both with grounds for thy faith, and arguments for thy prayer in this case, Matt. 24:24; John 7:12; 10:5, 29; I Cor. 11:19; Php. 3:15; I John 2:19, 20.

Direction Fifth. Compare scripture with scripture. False doctrines, like false witnesses, agree not among them­selves. Their name may be called ‘Legion, for they are many.’ But truth is one; it is homogeneal. One scripture sweetly harmonizeth with another. Hence it is, though there were many pen­men of sacred writ, and those of several ages, one after another, yet they all are said to have but one mouth; ‘As he spake by the mouth of his holy proph­ets, which have been since the world began,’ Luke 1:70. All had one mouth, because they accord so perfectly together. The best way, therefore, to know the mind of God in one text is to lay it to another. The lapi­dary useth one diamond to cut another. So should we one place of Scripture to interpret another. Scrip­tures compared, like glasses set one against another, cast a light each to the other. ‘They (i.e. the Levites) read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading,’ Neh. 8:8. Et exponendo sensum dabant intelligentiam per Scripturam ipsam—so Tremelius reads the words—they gave them the meaning of what they read, by the Scripture itself.

Now, in comparing scripture with scripture, be careful thou interpretest obscure places by the more plain and clear, and not the clear by the dark. Error creeps into the most shady obscure places, and there takes sanctuary. ‘Some things hard to be understood, which they that are unstable wrest.’ No wonder they should stumble in those dark and difficult places, when they turn their back on that light which plainer scriptures afford to lead them safely through. ‘He that is born of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not,’ I John 5:18. This is a dark place, which some run away with, and from it con­clude there is a perfect state free from all sin attain­able in this life; whereas a multitude of plain scrip­tures testify against such a conclusion, I Kings 8:38; Prov. 20:9; Ecc. 7:20; Job 9:20; Php. 3:12; I John 1:8-10, with many more. So that it must be in a limited and qualified sense that he ‘that is born of God sinneth not.’ He sins not finally or comparatively, not as the carnal wretch doth. ‘And the wicked one toucheth him not,’ i.e. non tactá qualitativo, as Cajetan saith—not so as to transfuse his own nature and disposition into him; as the fire toucheth the iron or wood it comes near, assimilating them to its own nature. This rule of using plain scriptures to be a key for to unlock obscure, will hold in all other instances. And blessed be God, though to tame our pride he hath inserted some knotty passages, yet the necessary saving truths are of easy access even to the weakest understanding. Salubritèr Spiritus Sanctus ita, modificavit, ut locis apertioribus fami oc­curreret, obscurioribus fastidia detergeret (Aug. de Doc. Ch. lib. ii. c. 6)—there is enough in the plain places of Scripture to keep the weak from starving, and in the obscure to lift them above con­tempt of the strongest.

Direction Sixth. Consult with thy faithful guides which God hath set over thee in his church. Though people are not to pin their faith on the min­ister’s sleeve, yet they are to ‘seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts,’ Mal. 2:7. Christ directs his kids for their safe­ty, that they turn not aside into by‑paths of error, and fall not into the hands of false teachers—those cheating companions—that they go ‘go forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed…beside the shepherds’ tents,’ Song 1:8. The devil knows too well—‘send away the shepherd and he may soon catch the sheep.’ And these times prove sadly that he is not mistaken. When were people’s affections more withdrawn from their ministers? And when were their judgments more poisoned with error? Of what sort, I pray, are those that have been trapanned[5] into dangerous er­rors in our late unhappy times? Have they not most this brand upon them? Are they not such who would sooner hearken to a stranger—may be a Jesuit in a buff‑coat or with a blue apron before him?—seek to any mountebank that comes they know not whence, is here to‑day and gone tomorrow, than to their own ministers, who from God have the rule over them, and watch for their souls as they that must give account to God for them; yea, who from many years’ experience in life and doctrine they have found able and faithful? In the fear of God consider this. They are not your ministers—I speak as to the most—in their pulpits and public ministry, but these hucksters and quack-salvers in corners practicing upon you, that privily have brought in damnable doctrines, and leav­ened so great a lump of people in the nation with sour and unsound doctrine. If thou wouldst therefore be preserved from error, make use, as of the sword of the word in thy own hand, so of the holy skill that God hath given thy faithful minister for thy defence. Wait on his public ministry, praying for divine assis­tance to be poured down on him, and a divine bless­ing from his labours to fall on thyself. If at any time thou art in the dark concerning his message, resort to him, and I dare promise thee—if he answers his name, and be a faithful minister of the gospel—an easy access and hearty welcome to him. Only come to learn, not cavil; to have thy conscience satisfied, not any itch of vain curiosity rubbed. Our Saviour, who was so willing to satisfy his disciples concerning the doctrine he publicly preached, that in private he opened it to them more fully, yet when they came with nice and curious questions, did rather choose to repel that humour by a reproof than cherish it by a satisfying answer. ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons;’ and at another time, ‘If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.’ He takes Peter off from a profitable question to ind a necessary duty.

BRANCH THIRD.

[Directions how to use the sword

of the word against lusts.]

The third enemy we are to fight is made up of an army of lusts lodged within our own bosoms, which have Satan to head and lead them forth against us. And who that believes he hath a soul to lose or save can be unwilling to engage against this cursed com­bination of lusts and devils? The Romans were said, when in war with other nations, to fight for honour and glory; but against the Carthaginians for their very life and being. In this war against sin and Satan both lie at stake. This, this is the most noble war of all other.

It is noble, because just. It is too true, I fear, what one saith of the wars which the great monarchs of this world wage one against another, ‘that the cause is very seldom so clear for which they take arms but there is some ground of scruple left in the conscience of the undertaker.’ But here we are put out of all doubt. This, without abusing the name, may be called, ‘the holy war.’ For it is against the only enemy that the holy God hath in the world, who hath himself taken the field, and set up his royal standard in defi­ance of it; to which he calls all mankind, some by the voice of a natural conscience, and others by the loud sound of his word, to repair, and upon our allegiance to him, our sovereign Lord and Creator, to help him ‘against the mighty;’ not because he needs our help, but [because he] expects our duty, and had rather re­ward our loyalty than punish our rebellion. Some have been found who for shame have killed them­selves, that their prince through their cowardice had lost the victory. O what confusion then will one day fill our faces if we, by our faintness or treachery, do what lies in us [to] help Satan and sin to triumph over God himself!

But again, it is a noble war, because hard and difficult. This is an enemy stout and stubborn, such as will try both our skill and strength to the utter­most. Never did coward overcome in this war. What sin loseth is by inches, and what it gains hardly lets go. They who follow this war closest will find a life’s work at least of it. O you that love brave exploits, and hunt for enterprises that only a few generous spirits dare undertake, here is that you look for. Fighting with men and storming of castles is but children’s play to this encounter, where devils and lusts are to be repelled. ‘He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city,’ Prov. 16:32. ‘Better,’ because he over­comes a worse enemy, infinitely more potent and puissant. Few, alas! of the world’s swordsmen, so famed for their conquests, but have lived and died slaves to sin!—cowardly submitting the neck of their souls to draw the iron chariot of a base lust, while they have proudly sat to be drawn in triumph by those whom they have taken prisoners in war. Thus as Hannibal was beaten at home in his own country, who was a victor in his foreign expeditions; so too, many that do great feats in arms abroad, which makes them famous in this world, are miserably beaten and shamefully trampled upon by their own corruptions at home, that will make them much more infamous in the other world.

But be not you, O ye saints, dismayed at the report of your enemies’ strength and number. The greater will be your victory, and the more your cap­tives to draw your triumph and chariot. Neither let your hearts faint to see the conquering Cæsars des­poiled of their ensigns of honour by this enemy, which themselves had won from others, and to die in chains slaves to their lusts, that had lived conquerors over men. Remember, for your comfort, it is but the unbelieving world—such as are without spiritual arms, and so abandoned of God—that are left thus to become a prey to sin and Satan. But you have a God on your side, who gives you the consecrated sword of his word for your defence—a weapon whose edge Satan hath already felt, and therefore trembles whenever faith draws it forth. He that made this levi­athan, as is said of the other, Job 40:19, can make this his sword to approach to him, and the heart of all thy lusts also. But I forbear; my task in this place being not to excite you to, but direct you in, the manage­ment of your fight with this your enemy, and that also only by teaching you the use of this one weapon, the word of God, in order to repelling motions to sin from within, or temptations to it from Satan without. First, therefore, Take some pains to collect out of the word the several lineaments with which the Spirit of God doth paint out the deformity of sin, that so thou mayest make it the more odious and hateful to thy thoughts. Second. Provide thyself with Scripture answers to Satan’s false reasonings. Third. Hide the word in thy heart. Fourth. Plead the promise against sin at the throne of grace.

[We are to collect out of the word the

several lineaments of sin’s deformity.]

Direction First. Take some pains to collect out of the word the several lineaments with which the Spirit of God doth paint out the deformity of sin, that so thou mayest make it the more odious and hateful to thy thoughts, when, by laying them together, thou shalt see in its true picture and portraiture—drawn by so skilful and faithful a hand—the fair face of this goodly lady, whose beauty Satan doth so highly com­mend to thy wanton embraces. Poor man sins upon Satan’s credit, and receives it into his bosom, as Jacob did his wife into his bed—before he sees its face, or knows well what it is—and therefore, as he in the morning found her to be, not that beautiful Rachel as was promised, but a blear‑eyed Leah; so the sinner, too late—when his conscience awakes—sees himself miserably cheated, and disappointed of what he looked for, and finds a purgatory where he expected a paradise. Now, that thou mayest, Christian, the better see the ugly shape of this monster sin, observe from the word of God these four particulars concerning it. First. The birth and extraction of it. Second. The names given it. Third. Its nature. And, Fourth. Its properties.

[Four particulars concerning sin,

taken from the word of God.]

First Particular. The birth and extraction of sin. Who is its father, and from whom is it descended? The holy God disowns it. The sun can as soon beget darkness, as God, who is ‘the Father of lights,’ be the author of sin. From him comes ‘every good and per­fect gift,’ James 1:17. But, O sin, whence art thou? Thou art not his creature; he neither made thee, nor ever moved any to thy production. Certainly if it were from him he would like and love it. Every one loves his own child, though never so black. Much more doth God like what is his. We find him looking back upon every day’s work of the creation, and upon all at last, pleased with what he had done, all ‘was very good,’ Gen. 1:31. But of sin what he thinks, see Deut. 7:25, 26; Prov. 6:16; Rev. 2:6, 15, where he ex­presseth his detestation and hatred of it, from which hatred proceed all those direful plagues and judg­ments thundered from the fiery mouth of his most holy law against it. Nay, not only the work, but the worker also, of iniquity, becomes the object of his hatred, Ps. 5:5. So that if God were the author of sin, he would be a hater of himself. Well, at whose door then doth God lay this brat to find a father? Surely at the devil’s: ‘Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do,’ John 8:44. And again in the same place, ‘When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.’ Sin is a brat which calls the devil both father and mother. For of himself, even of his own free will—the womb wherein it was conceived—did he beget it; and having begot it, put it out to nurse to man. And is not man, who was made to serve and enjoy the great God his Maker, highly set up, to suckle and carry this his infernal child about in his arms? Ah, poor man, whence art thou fallen? It is strange that the very remembering whose offspring thyself wert doth not strike thee into a horror, to see thy precious soul de­based unto such servitude as to fulfil the lusts of that cursed spirit. Never let us spit at the witch for suffer­ing the devil’s imps to suck on her body, while we can prostitute our souls to any of his lusts.

Second Particular. The names and titles with which the word stigmatizeth sin. And God, to be sure, miscalls none. If a thing be sweet, he will not say it is bitter; if good, he will not call it evil. For he claps a woe upon his head that doth so, Isa. 5:20. Never think to find honey in the pot when God writes poison on its cover. We may say of every sin in this respect what Abigail of her husband—as is its name in Scripture, so is it. If God call it folly, then there is no wisdom to be found in it. The devil indeed teacheth sinners to cover foul practices with fair names. Super­stition must be styled devotion; covetousness, thrift; pride in apparel, handsomeness; looseness, liberty; and madness, mirth. And truly there is great need for sinners to do thus, to make this fulsome dish go down with less regret. There are some have made a hearty meal of horseflesh, or the like carrion, under a better name, whose stomachs would have risen against it if they had known what it was. Therefore as persecu­tors of old wrapped the Christians in the skins of those beasts which would render them the most desir­able prey to those they were cast; so Satan and our false hearts present sins to us under those names that will sharpen our appetites to them, or at least take away the abhorrence our consciences else would show against them.

But canst thou be content, poor soul, to be so easily cheated? Will the fire burn thee the less, into which thou art emboldened to put thy finger, because a knave that owes thee and ill turn tells thee that it will not hurt thee? Hear rather what the God of truth saith of sin, and by what names he calls it, and you shall find that whatever is dreaded by us, or hated, feared, or loathed, in all the world, they are borrowed, and applied to sin—the vomit of dogs; the venom of serpents; the stench of rotten sepulchres; dunghills and jakes; the deadliest diseases and sores, gangrenes, leprosies, and plague, attributed to it, II Peter 2:22; Luke 3:7; Rom. 3:13; II Tim. 2:17; I Kings 8:38; yea, hell is raked for an expression to set it out—it being compared to the very fire of hell itself, James 3:6. And because of their penury and straitness of these appellations —therefore it is called by its own name, as the worst that God himself can say thereof, ‘sinful’ sin, Rom. 7:13. Now what shall be done to the thing that the great God thus loathes, and loads with such names of dishonour, thereby to signify his abhorrence of it? What? Every gracious heart will soon resolve, that he should pursue it with fire and sword, till we have executed upon it the judgement written in its utter ruin and destruction.

Third Particular. The nature of sin, as the word defines it. See its description, ‘sin is the transgression of the law,’ I John 3:4—a few words, but of weight enough to press the soul that commits it to hell, yea to press sin itself to death in the heart of a saint, if laid on with these considerations—

1. Whose law it is by sinning we break. It is not that of some petty prince—and yet such conceive their honour so deeply concerned in their laws, that they take vengeance on the violators of them—but of the great God, whose glorious name is in every attri­bute assaulted and reproached by the sinner, yea the very life and being of God is endeavoured to be des­troyed. Peccatum est deicidium—sin is deicide. For he that would rob God of his honour is an enemy to his very being; because God’s being is so wrapped up in his glory, that he cannot outlive the loss of it. These, it is true, are above the reach of the sinner’s short arm, but that is no thanks to him, because his sin aims at these, though it cannot carry its shot so far as to hurt him.

2. What law it is; not cruel, written with the blood of his creatures, as the laws of some tyrant princes are, who consult their own lust, and not their people’s good, in their edicts. But this law is equal and good; in {the} keeping of which is life. So that no provocation is given by any rigour of unnecessary taxes imposed upon us to rise up against it. ‘What iniquity,’ saith God, ‘have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me?’ Jer. 2:5. He that put away his wife was to give her a bill of divorce, de­claring the cause of his leaving her. Thus God con­descends to expostulate with sinners, and asks what evil they can charge upon him or his government that they forsake him. But, alas! no more cause can be given than why a beast, in a fat sweet pasture, should break the hedge to get into a barren heath or a dirty lane, where nothing but starving is to be had.

3. At whose notion the poor creature transgres­seth the good law of God, and that is of a cursed spirit the devil, no less our enemy than God’s enemy. Now for a child at the solicitation of his father’s greatest enemy, and his own also, to take up rebellious arms against a dear loving parent, adds to the monstrosity and unnaturalness of the fact. This thou dost, Chris­tian, when by sin thou transgressest the law of God. And now, by this time, methinks I see thy blood to rise and boil with anger in thee, while thy God points to thy sin and tells thee, ‘This, O my child, is the enemy that would take away my glory and life too by thy means—who by debt both of nature and grace owest thy whole self to live and die for the maintain­ing of my honour!’ Art thou not as ready to fall upon thy sin, and drag it to execution, as the servants of Ahasuerus were to lay hold of Haman, and cover his face as a son of death, when their prince did but vent his wrath conceived against him? Est. 7:8. Certainly, were but the love of God well kindled in our bosoms, we should even spit fire on the face of any that durst tempt us to sin against him.

Fourth Particular. The properties of sin dis­covered by the word of God. I shall content myself with three. It hath,1. A defiling property.2. A disturbing property.3. A damning property.

1. Sin hath a defiling property, called ‘filthiness of flesh and spirit,’ II Cor. 7:1. It besmears both. ‘The whole world’ is said to, ‘lie in wickedness,’ as a beast in his dung and ordure, or as a rotten carcass, in its slime and putrefaction, I John 5:19. It is that leprosy which infects man, and the very house he lives in also. Wherefore did God send the flood in Noah’s time, but to wa