Thine own doubts and mistrusts about what God will do and about whither thou shalt go, when thou for him hast suffered awhile he can resolve, yea, dissolve, crush, and bring to nothing. He can make fear flee far away, and place heavenly confidence in its room. He can bring invisible and eternal things to the eye of thy soul, and make thee see THAT, in those things in which thine enemies shall see nothing, that thou shalt count worth the loss of ten thousand lives to enjoy. He can pull such things out of his bosom, and can put such things into thy mouth; yea, can make thee choose to be gone, though through the flames, rather than to stay here and die in silken sheets. Yea, he can himself come near, and bring his heaven and glory to thee. The Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon them that are but reproached for the name of Christ. And what the Spirit of glory is, and what is his resting upon his sufferers, is quite beyond the knowledge of the world, is but little felt by saints at peace. They that are engaged, that are under the lash for Christ—they, I say, have it, and understand something of it.
Look not upon the sufferings of God's people for their religion, to be tokens of God's great anger. It is, to be sure, as our heavenly Father orders it, rather a token of his love; for suffering for the gospel and for the sincere profession of it, is indeed a dignity put upon us, a dignity that all men are not counted worthy of. Count it therefore a favor that God has bestowed upon thee his truth, and grace to enable thee to profess it, though thou be made to suffer for it.
Let God's people think never the worse of religion because of the coarse entertainment it meeteth with in the world. It is better'to choose God and affliction, than the world, and sin, and carnal peace.
It is necessary that we should suffer, because we have sinned; and if God will have us suffer a little while here for his word, instead of suffering for our sins in hell, let us be content, and count it a mercy with thankfulness.
The wicked are reserved to the day of destruction, they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath. How kindly, therefore, doth God deal with us, when he chooses to afflict us but for a little, that with everlasting kindness he may have mercy upon us.
Since the rod is God's as well as the child, let us not look upon our troubles as if they came from and were managed only by hell. It is true, a persecutor has a black mark upon him; but yet the Scriptures say that all the ways of the persecutor are God's. Wherefore as we should, so again we should not, be afraid of men: we should be afraid of them, because they will hurt us; but we should not be afraid of them as if they were let loose to do to us and with us what they will. God's bridle is upon them, God's hook is in their nose; yea, and God hath determined the bounds of their rage; and if he lets them drive his church into the sea of troubles, it shall he hut up to the neck; and so far it may go and not he drowned. Isaiah 8:7, 8.
"May we not fly in a time of persecution? Your pressing upon us that persecution is ordered and managed by God, makes us afraid to fly."
Thou mayest do in this even as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Moses stood; Jeremiah fled, Jeremiah stood; Christ withdrew himself, Christ stood; Paul fled, Paul stood.
But in flying, fly not from religion; fly not, for the sake of a trade; fly not, that thou mayest have care for the flesh: this is wicked, and will yield neither peace nor profit to thy soul, neither now, nor at death, nor at the day of judgment.
The hotter the rage and fury of men are against righteous ways, the more those that love righteousness grow therein. For they are concerned for it, not to hide it, but to make it spangle; not to extinguish it, but to greaten it, and to show the excellency of it in all its features and in all its comely proportion. Now such an one will make straight steps for his feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. Heb. 12: 13.
Now he shows to all men what faith is, by charity, by self-denial, by meekness, by gentleness, by long-suffering, by patience, by love to enemies, and by doing good to them that hate us. Now he walketh upon his high places, yea, will not now admit that so slovenly a conversation should come within his doors, as did use to haunt his house in former times. Now it is Christ-mas, now it is suffering-time, now we must keep holy day every day.
The reason is, that a man when he suffereth for Christ, is set upon a hill, upon a stage, as in a theatre, to play a part for God in the world. And you know, when men are to play their parts upon a stage, they count themselves if possible more bound to circumspection; and that for the credit of their master, the credit of their art, and the credit of themselves. For then the eyes of every body are fixed, they gape and stare upon them, Psalm 22:17, and a trip here is as bad as a fall in another place. Also now God himself looks on. Yea, he smileth, as being pleased to see a good behavior attending the trial of the innocent.
There are some of the graces of God that are in thee, that as to some of their acts cannot show themselves, nor their excellency, nor their power, nor what they can do, but as thou art in a suffering state. Faith and patience in persecution have that to do, that to show, and that to perform, that cannot be done, shown, nor performed, anywhere else but there. There is also a patience of hope, a rejoicing in hope when we are in tribulation, that is over and above that which we have when we are at ease and quiet. That also that all graces can endure and triumph over, shall not be known, but when and as we are in a state of affliction. Now these acts of our graces are of such worth and esteem with God, and he so much delighteth in them, that occasion, through his righteous judgment, must be ministered for them to show their beauty and what bravery there is in them.
It is also to be considered that those acts of our graces that cannot be put forth or show themselves in their splendor but when we christianly suffer, will yield such fruit to those whose trials call them into exercise, as will in the day of God abound to their comfort and tend to their perfection in glory. 1 Peter, 1:7; 2 Cor. 4:17.
Why then should we think that our innocent lives will exempt us from sufferings, or that troubles shall do us harm?
Alas, we have need of those bitter pills at which we so much wince. I see that I still have need of these trials; and if God will by these judge me, as he judges his saints, that I may not he condemned with the world, I will cry, Grace, grace, for ever.
Shall we deserve correction, and be angry because we have it? Or shall it come to save us, and shall we he offended with the hand that brings it? Our sickness is so great that our enemies take notice of it; let them know too that we take our purges patiently.
We are willing to pay for those potions that are given us for the health of our body, how sick soever they make us; and if God will have us pay too for that which is to better our souls, why should we grudge thereat? Those that bring us these medicines have little enough for their pains; for my part, I profess I would not for a great deal be bound, for their wages, to do their work. True, physicians are for the most part chargeable, and niggards are too loath to part with their money to them; but when necessity says they must either take physic or die, of two evils they desire to choose the least. Why, affliction is better than sin; and if God sends the one to cleanse us from the other, let us thank him, and be also content to pay the messenger.
BUNYAN'S TRIAL AND IMPRISONMENT. FROM BUNYAN'S EXAMINATION BEFORE JUSTICES KEELING, CHESTER, [Footnote: On the restoration of the house of Stuart, Charles II. entered London, in May, 1600. In November of that year, Bunyan was indicted for an upholder of unlawful assemblies and conventicles, and for not conforming to the church of England. "He was sentenced,"] ETC.
KEELING. Justice Keeling said that I ought not to preach, and asked me where I had my authority; with many other such like words.
BUNYAN. I said that I would prove that it was lawful for me, and such as I am, to preach the word of God.
KEELING. He said unto me, By what scripture?
BUNYAN. I said, by that in the first epistle of Peter, fourth chapter and eleventh verse, and Acts eighteenth, with other scriptures; which he would not suffer me to mention, but said, Hold, not so many: which is the first?
BUNYAN. I said, This: "As every man hath received the gift, even so let him minister the same unto another, as good stewards of the grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God."
KEELING. He said, Let me a little open that scripture to you. As every man hath received the gift; that is, said he, as every man hath received a trade, so let him follow says Crosby, "to perpetual banishment, in pursuance of an act made by the then parliament." This sentence was never executed, but he was kept in prison for more than twelye years.
Subsequently to this year, 1660, several oppressive acts were passed, as the Corporation act, 1661, the act of Uniformity, 1662, the Five-mile act, 1665, the Conventicle acts, 1666 and 1671, and the Test act, 1673. The act of Uniformity required that every clergyman should be reordained; should declare his assent to every thing contained in the Book of Common Prayer, etc. By this act, about two thousand dissenting ministers were ejected from their livings, and the most cruel persecution followed. The Five-mile and Conventicle acts imposed various fines, imprisonment, and death upon all persons above sixteen years of age, who attended divine service where the liturgy was not read; ordained that no non-conformist minister should live within five miles of any town; and aimed to suppress all meetings for worship among the non-conformists. These in a short time made frightful desolations, and all the jails in the kingdom soon became filled with men who were the brightest ornaments of Christianity. The persecuted included both sexes and all ages, from the child of nine or ten years, to the hoary-headed saint of eighty. In Picart's Religious Ceremonies, it is stated that the number of dissenters of all sects, who perished in prison under Charles II., was EIGHT THOUSAND. On the accession of William III., these penalties and disabilities were removed by the Toleration act. The Corporation and Test acts, however, disgraced the statute-book of England till the year 1828, when they were triumphantly repealed. Offer's Introduction, Hume's History, and Ency. Amer. it. If any man hath received a gift of tinkering, as thou hast done, let him follow his tinkering; and so other men their trades, and the divine his calling, etc.
BUNYAN. Nay, sir, said I, but it is most clear that the apostle speaks here of preaching the word: if you do but compare both the verses together, the next verse explains this gift what it is; saying, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;" so that it is plain that the Holy Ghost doth not so much in this place exhort to civil callings, as to the exercising of those gifts that we have received from God. I would have gone on, but he would not give me leave.
KEELING. He said we might do it in our families, but not otherwise.
BUNYAN. I said, if it was lawful to do good to some, it was lawful to do good to more. If it was a good duty to exhort our families, it is good to exhort others; but if they held it a sin to meet together to seek the face of God, and exhort one another to follow Christ, I should sin still; for so we should do.
KEELING. He said he was not so well versed in scripture as to dispute, or words to that purpose. And said, moreover, that they could not wait upon me any longer; but said to me, Then you confess the indictment; do you not? Now, and not till now, I saw I was indicted.
BUNYAN. I said, This I confess: we have had many meetings together both to pray to God and to exhort one another, and we have had the sweet comforting presence of the Lord among us for encouragement; blessed be his name therefor. I confessed myself guilty no otherwise.
KEELING. Then said he, Hear your judgment. You must be had back again to prison, and there lie for three months following; and at three months' end, if you do not submit to go to church to hear divine service, and leave your preaching, you must be banished the realm: and if, after such a day as shall be appointed you to be gone, you shall be found in this realm, or be found to come over again without special license from the king, you must stretch by the neck for it; I tell you plainly. And so he bid my jailer have me away.
BUNYAN. I told him, as to this matter I was at a point with him; for if I was out of prison today, I would preach the gospel again tomorrow, by the help of God.
I continued in prison till the next assizes, which are called midsummer assizes, being then kept in August, 1661.
Now at that assizes, because I would not leave any possible means unattempted that might be lawful, I did, by my wife, [Footnote: "This courageous woman [his second wife] and lord chief-justice Hale and Bunyan have long since met in heaven; but how little could they recognize each other's character on earth! How little could the distressed, insulted wife have imagined, that beneath the judge's ermine there was beating the heart of a child of God, a man of humility, integrity, and prayer! How little could the great, learn- ed, illustrious, and truly pious judge have dreamed that the man, the obscure tinker whom he was suffering to languish in prison for want of a writ of error, would one day be the subject of greater admiration and praise than all the judges in the kingdom of Great Britain." Dr. Cheever's Lectures on Pilgrim's Progress, p. 158.] present a petition to the judges three times, that I might be heard, and that they would impartially take my case into consideration.
The first time my wife went, she presented it to Judge Hale, who very mildly received it at her hand, telling her that he would do her and me the best good he could; but he feared, he said, he could do none. The next day again, lest they should through the multitude of business forget me, we did throw another petition into the coach to Judge Twisdon, who, when he had seen it, snapt her up, and angrily told her I was a convicted person, and could not be released unless I would promise to preach no more, etc.
Well, after this, she again presented another to Judge Hale, as he sat on the bench, who, as it seemed, was willing to give her audience; only Justice Chester being present, stept up and said that I was convicted in the court, and that I was a hot-spirited fellow, or words to that purpose; whereat he waived it, and did not meddle with it. But yet, my wife being encouraged by the high-sheriff, did venture once more into their presence, as the poor widow did to the unjust judge, to try what she could do with them for my liberty before they went forth of the town. The place where she went to them was to the Swan Chamber, where the two judges and many justices and gentry of the country were in company together. She then, coming into the chamber with abashed face and a trembling heart, began her errand to them in this manner.
WOMAN. My lord-directing herself to Judge Hale—I make bold to come once again to your lordship to know what may be done with my husband.
JUDGE HALE. To whom he said, Woman, I told thee before I could do thee no good, because they have taken that for a conviction which thy husband spoke at the sessions; and unless there be something done to undo that, I can do thee no good.
WOMAN. My lord, said she, he is kept unlawfully in prison; they clapped him up before there was any proclamation against the meetings; the indictment also is false; besides, they never asked him whether he was guilty or no; neither did he confess the indictment.
ONE OF THE JUSTICES. Then one of the Justices that stood by, whom she knew not, said, My lord, he was lawfully convicted.
WOMAN. It is false, said she; for when they said to him, Do you confess the indictment? he said only this, that he had been at several meetings, both where there was preaching the word and prayer, and that they had God's presence among them.
JUDGE TWISDON. Whereat Judge Twisdon answered very angrily, saying, What, you think we can do as we list! Your husband is a breaker of the peace, and is convicted by the law, etc. Whereupon Judge Hale called for the statute-book.
WOMAN. But, said she, my lord, he was not lawfully convicted.
CHESTER. Then Justice Chester said, My lord, he was lawfully convicted.
WOMAN. It is false, said she; it was but a word of discourse that they took for conviction.
CHESTER. But it is recorded, woman, it is recorded, said Justice Chester; as if it must of necessity be true, because it was recorded. With which words he often endeavored to stop her mouth, having no other argument to convince her but, It is recorded, it is recorded.
WOMAN. My lord, said she, I was a while since at London, to see if I could get my husband's liberty; and there I spoke with my Lord Burkwood, one of the House of Lords, to whom I delivered a petition, who took it of me and presented it to some of the rest of the House of Lords for my husband's releasement; who, when they had seen it, said that they could not release him, but had committed his releasement to the judges at the next assizes. This he told me; and now I come to you to see if any thing can be done in this business, and you give neither releasement nor relief. To which they gave her no answer, but made as if they heard her not.
CHESTER. Only Justice Chester was often up with this, He is convicted, and it is recorded.
WOMAN. If it be, it is false, said she.
CHESTER. My lord, said Justice Chester, he is a pestilent fellow; there is not such a fellow in the country again.
TWISDON. What, will your husband leave preaching? If he will do so, then send for him.
WOMAN. My lord, said she, he dares not leave preaching as long as he can speak.
TWISDON. See here: what should we talk any more about such a fellow? Must he do what he lists? He is a breaker of the peace.
WOMAN. She told him again, that he desired to live peaceably and to follow his calling, that his family might be maintained; and moreover said, My lord, I have four small children that cannot help themselves, of which one is blind; and we have nothing to live upon but the charity of good people.
HALE. Whereat Justice Hale, looking very soberly on the matter, said, Alas, poor woman!
TWISDON. But Judge Twisdon told her that she made poverty her cloak; and said, moreover, that he understood I was maintained better by running up and down a preaching, than by following my calling.
HALE. What is his calling? said Judge Hale.
ANSWER. Then some of the company that stood by said, A tinker, my lord.
WOMAN. Yes, said she, and because he is a tinker and a poor man, therefore he is despised and cannot have justice.
HALE. Then Judge Hale answered, very mildly, saying, I tell thee, woman, seeing it is so that they have taken what thy husband spake for a conviction, thou must apply thyself to the king, or sue out his pardon, or get out a writ of error.
CHESTER. But when Justice Chester heard him give her this counsel, and especially, as she supposed, because he spoke of a writ of error, he chafed and seemed to be very much offended, saying, My lord, he will preach and do what he lists.
WOMAN. He preacheth nothing but the word of God, said she.
TWISDON. He preach the word of God! said Twisdon—and withal she thought he would have struck her—he runneth up and down and doeth harm.
WOMAN. No, my lord, said she, it is not so; God hath owned him, and done much good by him.
TWISDON. God! said he; his doctrine is the doctrine of the devil.
WOMAN. My lord, said she, when the righteous Judge shall appear, it will be known that his doctrine is not the doctrine of the devil.
TWISDON. My lord, said he to Judge Hale, do not mind her, but send her away,
HALE. Then said Judge Hale, I am sorry, woman, that I can do thee no good: thou must do one of those three things aforesaid, namely, either to apply thyself to the king, or sue out his pardon, or get a writ of error; but a writ of error will be cheapest.
WOMAN. At which Chester again seemed to be in a chafe, and put off his hat, and as she thought scratched his head for anger; but when I saw, said she, that there was no prevailing to have my husband sent for, though I often desired them that they would send for him, that he might speak for himself, telling them that he could give them better satisfaction than I could in what they demanded of him, with several other things which now I forget: only this I remember, that though I was somewhat timorous at my first entrance into the chamber, yet before I went out I could not but break forth into tears, not so much because they were so hard-hearted against me and my husband, but to think what a sad account such poor creatures will have to give at the coming of the Lord, when they shall there answer for all things whatsoever they have done in the body, whether it be good or whether it be bad. So when I departed from them, the book of statutes was brought; but what they said of it I know nothing at all, neither did I hear any more from them.
In the house of the forest of Lebanon you find pillars, pillars; so in the church in the wilderness. Oh the mighty ones of which the church was compacted; they were all pillars, strong, bearing up the house against wind and weather; nothing but fire and sword could dissolve them. As therefore this house was made up of great timber, so this church in the wilderness was made up of giants in grace. These men had the faces of lions; no prince, no king, no threat, no terror, no torment could make them yield. They loved not their lives unto the death. They have laughed their enemies in the face, they have triumphed in the flames. None ever showed higher saints than were they in the church in the wilderness. Others talked, these have suffered; others have said, these have done; these have voluntarily taken their lives in their hands, for they loved them not to the death, and have fairly and in cool blood laid them down before the world, God, angels, and men, for the confirming of the truth which they have professed.
That which makes a martyr, is suffering for the word of God after a right manner. And that is when he suffereth not only for righteousness, but for righteousness' sake; not only for truth, but of love to truth; not only for God's word, but according to it, to wit, in that holy, humble, meek manner that the word of God requireth. A man may give his body to be burned for God's truth, and yet be none of God's martyrs. 1 Cor. 13:1-3.
When we see our brethren before us fall to the earth by death, through the violence of the enemies of God, for their holy and Christian profession, we should covet to make good their ground against them, though our turn should be next. We should valiantly do in this matter as is the custom of soldiers in war; take great care that the ground be maintained, and the front kept full and complete.
There are but few when they come to the cross, cry, Welcome, cross! as some of the martyrs did to the stake they were burned at. Therefore, if you meet with the cross in thy journey, in what manner soever it be, be not daunted and say, Alas, what shall I do now? but rather take courage, knowing that by the cross is the way to the kingdom. Can a man believe in Christ, and not be hated by the devil? Can he make a profession of Christ, and that sweetly and convincingly, and the children of Satan hold their tongue? Can darkness agree with light?
THE CHRISTIAN WARFARE.
Departing from iniquity is not a work of an hour, or a day, or a week, or a month, or a year; but it is a work that will last thee thy lifetime, and there is the greatness and difficulty of it. Were it to be done presently, or were the work to be quickly over, how many are there that would be found to have departed from iniquity; but for that it is a work of continuance, and not worth any thing unless men hold out to the end; therefore it is that so few are found actors or overcomers therein. Departing from iniquity, with many, is but like the falling out of two neighbors; they hate one another for a while, and then renew their old friendship again.
But again, since to depart from iniquity is a work of time, of all thy time, no wonder if it dogs thee, and offereth to return upon thee again and again; for sin is mischievous, and seeks nothing less than thy ruin. Wherefore, thou must in the first place take it for granted that thus it will be, and so cry the harder to God for the continuing of his presence and grace upon thee in this blessed work, that as thou hast begun to depart from iniquity, so thou mayest have strength to do it to the last gasp of thy life.
And further, for that departing from iniquity is a kind of warfare with it-for iniquity will hang in thy flesh what it can, and will not be easily kept under-therefore no marvel if thou find it wearisome work, and that the thing that thou wouldst get rid of is so unwilling to let thee depart from it.
And since the work is so weighty, and makes thee to go groaning on, I will for thy help give thee here a few things to consider of: And,
1. Remember that God sees thee, and has his eyes open upon thee, even then when sin and temptation are flying at thee to give them some entertainment. This was the thought that made Joseph depart from sin, when solicited to embrace it by a very powerful argument. Genesis 39:6, 7.
2. Remember that God's wrath burns against it, and that he will surely be revenged on it, and on all that give it entertainment. This made Job afraid to countenance it, and put him upon departing from it: "For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure." Job 31: 23.
3. Remember the mischiefs that it has done to those that have embraced it, and what distress it has brought upon others. This made the whole congregation of Israel tremble to think that any of their brethren should give countenance to it. Joshua 22: 16-18.
4. Remember what Christ hath suffered by it, that he might deliver us from the power of it. This made Paul so heartily depart from it, and wish all Christians to do so as well as he. 2 Cor. 5: 14.
5. Remember that those that are now in hell-fire went thither for that they loved iniquity, and would not depart from it. Psalm 9: 17; 11:6.
6. Remember that a profession is not worth a pin, if they that make it do not depart from iniquity. James 2:16, 17.
7. Remember that thy death-bed will be very uneasy to thee, if thy conscience at that day shall be clogged with the guilt of thy iniquity. Hos. 7: 13, 14.
8. Remember that at the judgment-day Christ will say, Depart from me, to those that have not here departed from their sin and iniquity. Luke 13:27; Matt 25:41.
Lastly, Remember well, and think much upon what a blessed reward the Son of God will give to them at that day, that have joined to their profession of faith in him a holy and blessed conversation.
He that will depart from iniquity must be well fortified with faith and patience and the love of God; for iniquity has its beauty-spots and its advantages attending on it; hence it is compared to a woman, Zech. 5: 7, for it allureth greatly. Therefore I say, he that will depart there-from had need have faith; that being it which will help him to see beyond it, and that will show him more in things that are invisible, than can be found in sin, were it ten thousand times more entangling than it is. 2 Cor. 4:18. He has need of patience also to hold out in this work of departing from iniquity. For indeed, to depart from that is to draw my mind off from that which will follow me with continual solicitations. Samson withstood his Delilah for a while, but she got the mastery of him at the last. Why so? because he wanted patience; he grew angry and was vexed, and could withstand her solicitations no longer. Judges 16: 15-17. Many there be, also, that can well enough be contented to shut sin out of doors for a while; but because sin has much fair speech, therefore it overcomes at last. Prov. 7:21. For sin and iniquity will not be easily said nay. Wherefore, departing from iniquity is a work of length, as long as life shall last. A work, did I say? It is a war, a continual combat; wherefore, he that will adventure to set upon this work, must needs be armed with faith and patience, a daily exercise he will find himself put to by the continual attempts of iniquity to be putting forth itself. Matt. 24: 13; Rev. 3:10.
THE CHRISTIAN ARMOR.
The war that the church makes with antichrist is rather defensive than offensive. A Christian also, if he can but defend his soul in the sincere profession of the true religion, doth what by duty, as to this, he is bound. Wherefore, though the New Testament admits him to put on the whole armor of God, yet the whole and every part thereof is spiritual, and only defensive. True, there is mention made of the sword, but that sword is the word of God-a weapon that hurteth none, none at all but the devil and sin, and those that love it. Indeed, it was made for Christians to defend themselves and their religion with, against hell and the angels of darkness.
OBJECTION. But he that shall use none other than this, must look to come off a loser.
ANSWER. In the judgment of the world this is true, but not in the judgment of them that have skill and a heart to use it. For this armor is not Saul's which David refused, but God's; by which the lives of all those have been secured, that put it on and handled it well. You read of some of David's mighty men of valor, that their faces were as the faces of lions, and that they were as swift of foot as the roes upon the mountains. Why, God's armor makes a man's face look thus; also it makes him that useth it more lively and active than before. God's armor is no burden to the body, nor clog to the mind, but rather a natural, instead of an artificial fortification.
But this armor comes not to any, but out of the King's hand. Christ distributeth his armor to his church. Hence it is said, "It is given to us to suffer for him." It is given to us by himself, and on his behalf.
I saw also, that the Interpreter took him again by the hand and led him into a pleasant place, where was builded a stately palace beautiful to behold; at the sight of which Christian was greatly delighted: he saw also upon the top thereof certain persons walking, who were clothed all in gold.
Then said Christian, "May we go in thither?"
Then the Interpreter took him, and led him up towards the door of the palace; and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in, but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table-side, with a book and his ink-horn before him, to take the name of him that should enter therein; he saw also, that in the doorway stood many men in armor to keep it, being resolved to do to the men that would enter what hurt and mischief they could.
Now was Christian somewhat in a maze; at last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, "Set down my name, sir;" the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet upon his head, and rush towards the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man was not at all discouraged, but fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace; at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying,
"Come in, come in; Eternal glory thou shalt win."
So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they. Then Christian smiled and said, "I think verily I know the meaning of this."
In the description of the Christian armor, we have no provision for the back.
TEMPTATIONS OF SATAN.
Satan, even from himself, besides the working of our own lust, doth do us wonderful injury, and hits our souls with many a fiery dart, that we think comes either from ourselves or from heaven and God himself.
Satan diligently waiteth to come in at the door, if Careless has left it a little ajar.
There is nothing that Satan more desires than to get good men in his sieve to sift them as wheat, that if possible he may leave them nothing but bran; no grace, but the very husk and shell of religion.
So long as we retain the simplicity of the word, we have Satan at the end of the staff; for unless we give way to a doubt about that, about the truth and simplicity of it, he gets no ground upon us. In time of temptation, it is our wisdom and duty to keep close to the word that prohibits and forbids the sin; and not to reason with Satan, of how far our outward and worldly privileges go, especially of those privileges that border upon the temptation, as Eve here did: "We may eat of all but one." By this she goeth to the outside of her liberty, and sees herself upon the brink of the danger. Christ might have told the tempter, when he assaulted him, that he could have made stones bread, and that he could have descended from the pinnacle of the temple, as afterwards he did; but that would have admitted of other questions; wherefore he chooseth to lay aside such needless and unwarrantable reasonings, and resisteth him with a direct word of God, most pertinent to quash the tempter and also to preserve himself in the way. To go to the outside of privileges, especially when tempted of the devil, is often if not always very dangerous and hazardous.
As long as the devil is alive there is danger; and though a strong Christian may lie too hard for, and may overcome him in one thing, he may be too hard for, yea, and may overcome the Christian two for one afterwards. Thus he served David, and thus he served Peter, and thus he in our day has served many more. The strongest are weak, the wisest are fools, when suffered to be sifted as wheat in Satan's sieve; yea, and have often been so proved, to the wounding of their great hearts and the dishonor of religion.
It is usual with the devil in his temptings of poor creatures, to put a good and bad together, that by show of the good the tempted might be drawn to do that which in truth is evil. Thus he served Saul; he spared the best of the herd and flock, under pretence of sacrificing to God, and so transgressed the plain command. But this the apostle said was dangerous, and therefore censureth such as in a state of condemnation. Thus he served Adam; he put the desirableness of sight and a plain transgression of God's law together, that by the loveliness of the one they might the easier be brought to do the other. O, poor Eve, do we wonder at thy folly? Doubtless we had done as bad with half the argument of thy temptation.
Satan by tempting one may chiefly intend the destruction of another. By tempting the wife, he may aim at the destruction of the husband; by tempting the father, he may design the dsstruction of his children; and by tempting the king, he may design the ruin of his subjects, even as in the case of David: "Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number the people." He had a mind to destroy seventy thousand, therefore he tempted David to sin.
I have sent you here enclosed a drop of that honey that I have taken out of the carcass of a lion. I have eaten thereof myself, and am much refreshed thereby. Temptations, when we meet them at first, are as the lion that roared upon Samson; but if we overcome them, the next time we see them we shall find a nest of honey within them.
TEMPTATIONS OF THE WORLD.
If thou wouldst be faithful to do that work that God hath appointed thee to do in this world for his name, then labor always to possess thy heart with a right understanding, both of the things that this world yieldeth, and of the things that shall be hereafter. I am confident that most if not all the miscarriages of the saints and people of God have their rise from deceivable thoughts here. The things of this world appear to us more, and those that are to come less, than they are; and hence it is that many are so hot and eager for things that be in the world, and so cold and heartless for those that be in heaven. Satan is here a mighty artist, and can show us all earthly things in a multiplying-glass; but when we look up to things above, we see them as through sackcloth of hair. But take thou heed; be not ruled by thy sensual appetite that can only savor fleshly things, neither be thou ruled by carnal reason which always darkeneth the things of heaven; but go to the word, and as that says, so judge thou. That tells thee all things under the sun are vanity, nay, worse, vexation of spirit; that tells thee the world is not, even when it doth most appear to be: wilt thou set thine heart upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings, and fly away as an eagle towards heaven. The same may be said for honors, pleasures, and the like; they are poor, low, base things to be entertained by a Christian's heart. The man that hath most of them may in the fulness of his sufficiency be in straits; yea, when he is about to fill his belly with them, God may cast the fury of his wrath upon him; so is every one that layeth up treasure for himself on earth, and is not rich towards God. A horse that is laden with gold and pearls all day, may have a foul stable and a galled back at night. And "woe to him that increaseth that which is not his, and that ladeth himself with thick clay." O man of God, throw this bone to the dogs; suck not at it, there is no marrow there. "Set thy affections on things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God." Colos. 3:1-4.
ENCOURAGEMENTS FOR THE TEMPTED.
Let us cast ourselves upon this love of Christ. No greater encouragement can be given us, than what is in the text, Eph. 3:18,19, and about it. It is great; it is "love that passeth knowledge." Men that are sensible of danger, are glad when they hear of such helps upon which they may boldly venture for escape. Why, such a help and relief the text helpeth trembling and fearful consciences to. Fear and trembling as to misery hereafter, can flow but from what we know, feel, or imagine; but the text speaks of a love that passeth knowledge, consequently of a love that goes beyond all these. Besides, the apostle's conclusion upon this subject plainly makes it manifest, that this meaning which I have put upon the text is the mind of the Holy Ghost. Now "unto him," saith he, "that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." What can be more plain? What can be more full? What can be more suitable to the most desponding spirit in any man? He can do more than thou knowest he will. He can do more than thou thinkest he can. What dost thou think? Why, I think, saith the sinner, that I am cast away. Well, but there are worse thoughts than these; therefore think again. Why, saith the sinner, I think that my sins are as many as all the sins in the world. Indeed this is a very black thought, but there are worse thoughts than this; therefore prithee think again. Why, I think, saith the sinner, that God is not able to pardon all my sins. Aye, now thou hast thought indeed; for this thought makes thee look more like a devil than a man; and yet, because thou art a man and not a devil, see the condescension and boundlessness of the love of thy God. He is able to do above all that we think. Couldst thou, sinner, if thou hadst been allowed, thyself express what thou wouldst have expressed—the greatness of the love thou wantest—with words that could have suited thee better? For it is not said he can do above what we think, meaning our thinking at present, but above all we can think; meaning, above the worst and most soul-dejecting thoughts that we have at any time. Sometimes the dejected have worse thoughts than they have at other times. Well, take them at their worst times, at times when they think, and think, till they think themselves down into the very pangs of hell, yet this word of the grace of God is above them, and shows that he can yet recover and save these miserable people.
And now I am upon this subject, I will a little further walk and travel with these desponding ones, and will put a few words in their mouths for their help against temptations that may come upon them hereafter. For as Satan follows such now with charges and applications of guilt, so he may follow them with interrogatories and appeals; for he can tell how by appeals, as well as by charging of sin, to sink and drown the sinner whose soul he has leave to engage. Suppose, therefore, that some distressed man or woman should after this way be engaged, and Satan should with his interrogatories and appeals be busy with them, to drive them to desperation; the text last mentioned, Eph. 3: 18,19, to say nothing of the subject of our discourse, yields plenty of help for the relief of such a one. Says Satan, Dost thou not know that thou hast horribly sinned? Yes, says the soul, I do. Says Satan, Dost thou not know that thou art one of the vilest in all the pack of professors? Yes, says the soul, I do. Says Satan, Doth not thy conscience tell thee that thou art and hast been more base than any of thy fellows can imagine thee to be? Yes, says the soul, my conscience tells me so. Well, saith Satan, now will I come upon thee with my appeals. Art thou not a graceless wretch? Yes. Hast thou a heart to be sorry for this wickedness? No, not as I should. And albeit, saith Satan, thou prayest sometimes, yet is not thy heart possessed with a belief that God will not regard thee? Yes, says the sinner. Why then, despair, and go hang thyself, saith the devil. And now we are at the end of the thing designed and driven at by Satan. And what shall I now do, saith the sinner? I answer, take up the words of the text against him: Christ loves with a love that "passeth knowledge." And answer him further, saying, Satan, though I cannot think that God loves me, though I cannot think that God will save me, yet I will not yield to thee; for God can do more than I think he can. And whereas thou appealedst unto me, if whether, when I pray, my heart is not possessed with the belief that God will not regard me, that shall not sink me neither; for God can "do abundantly above what I ask or think." Thus this text helpeth where obstructions are put in against our believing, and thereby casting ourselves upon the love of God in Christ for salvation.
And yet this is not all; for the text is yet more full: "He is able to do abundantly more, yea, exceeding abundantly more, or above all that we ask or think." It is a text made up of words picked and packed together by the wisdom of God; picked and packed together on purpose for the succor and relief of the tempted; that they may, when in the midst of their distresses, cast themselves upon, the Lord their God. He can do abundantly more than we ask. O, says the soul, that he would but do so much for me as I could ask him to do: how happy a man should I then be. Why, what wouldst thou ask for, sinner? You may be sure, says the soul, I would ask to be saved from my sins. I would ask for faith in, and love to, Christ; I would ask to be preserved in this evil world, and ask to be glorified with Christ in heaven. He that asketh for all this, doth indeed ask for much, and for more than Satan would have him believe that God is able or willing to bestow upon him. But mark: the text doth not say that God is able to do all that we can ask or think, but that he is able to do above all, yea, abundantly above all, yea, exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. What a text is this! What a God have we! God foresaw the sins of his people, and what work the devil would make with their hearts about them; and therefore, to prevent their ruin by his temptation, he has thus largely, as you see, expressed his love by his word. Let us therefore, as he has bidden us, make this good use of this doctrine of grace, to cast ourselves upon this love of God in the times of distress and temptation.
The bird in the air knows not the notes of the bird in the snare, until she comes thither herself.
When I have been laden with sin, and pestered with several temptations, and in a very sad manner, then have I had the trial of the virtue of Christ's blood, with trial of the virtue of other things; and I have found that when tears would not do, prayers would not do, repentings and all other things could not reach my heart, O then one touch, one drop, one shining of the virtue of THE BLOOD, of that blood that was let out with a spear, it hath in such a blessed manner delivered me, that it hath made me to marvel. O, methinks it hath come with such life, such power, with such irresistible and marvellous glory, that it wipes off all the slurs, silences all the outcries, and quenches all the fiery darts and all the flames of hell-fire, that are begotten by the charges of the law, Satan, and doubtful remembrances of my sinful life.
There are three things that do usually afflict the soul that is earnestly looking after Jesus Christ.
1. Dreadful accusations from Satan. 2. Grievous, defiling, and infectious thoughts. 3. A strange readiness in our nature to fall in with both. By the first, of these, the heart is made continually to tremble. Hence his temptations are compared to the roaring of a lion. For as the lion by roaring killeth the heart of his prey, so doth Satan kill the spirit of those that hearken to him; for when he tempteth, especially by way of accusation, he doth to us as Rabshakeh did to the Jews; he speaks to us in our own language. He speaks our sin at every word; our guilty conscience knows it. He speaks our death at every word; our doubting conscience feels it.
2. Besides this, there do now arise even in the heart such defiling and soul-infectious thoughts, as put the tempted to his wit's end, For now it seems to the soul that the very flood-gates of the flesh are opened, and that to sin there is no stop at all; now the air seems to be covered with darkness, and the man is as if he was changed into the nature of a devil. Now, if ignorance and unbelief prevail, he concludeth that he is a reprobate, made to be taken and destroyed.
3. Now also he feeleth in him a readiness to fall in with every temptation—a readiness, I say, continually present. Romans 7:21. This throws all down. Now despair begins to swallow him up; now he can neither pray, nor read, nor hear, nor meditate on God, but fire and smoke continually burst forth of the heart against him; now sin and great confusion puts forth itself in all. Yea, and the more the sinner desireth to do a duty sincerely, the further off he always finds himself; for by how much the soul struggleth under these distresses, by so much the more doth Satan put forth himself to resist, still infusing more poison, that if possible it might never struggle more, for stragglings are also as poison to Satan.
The fly in the spider's web is an emblem of the soul in such a condition: the fly is entangled in the web; at this the spider shows himself; if the fly stirs again, down comes the spider to her, and claps a foot upon her; if yet the fly makes a noise, then with poisoned mouth the spider lays hold upon her; if the fly struggles still, then he poisons her more and more: what shall the fly do now? Why, she dies, if somebody does not quickly release her. This is the case of the tempted; they are entangled in the web, their feet and wings are entangled; now Satan shows himself; if the soul now struggleth, Satan laboreth to hold it down; if it now shall make a noise, then he bites with blasphemous mouth, more poisonous than the gall of a serpent. If it struggle again, then he poisoneth more and more; insomuch that it must needs at last die in the net, if the man, the Lord Jesus, helps not out. The afflicted conscience understands my words.
Further, though the fly in the web is altogether incapable of looking for relief, yet this awakened, tempted Christian, is not. What must he do, therefore? How should he entertain hopes of life? If he looks to his heart, there is blasphemy; if he looks to his duties, there is sin; if he strives to mourn and lament, perhaps he cannot; unbelief and hardness hinder. Shall this man lie down and despair? No. Shall he trust to his duties? No. Shall he stay from Christ till his heart is better? No. What then? Let him NOW look to Jesus Christ crucified; then shall he see his sins answered for, then shall he see death dying, then shall he see guilt borne by another, and then shall he see the devil overcome. This sight destroys the power of the first temptation, purifies the heart, and inclines the mind to all good things.
Didst thou never learn to outshoot the devil with his own bow, and to cut off his head with his own sword, as David served Goliath, who was a type of Satan?
QUESTION. O how should a poor soul do this? This is rare indeed.
ANSWER. Why, truly thus: Doth Satan tell thee thou prayest but faintly, and with very cold devotion? answer him thus, and say, I am glad you told me, for this will make me trust the more to Christ's prayers, and the less to my own; also I will endeavor henceforward to groan, to sigh, and to be so fervent in my crying at the throne of grace, that I will, if I can, make the heavens rattle again with the mighty groans thereof. And whereas thou sayest that I am so weak in believing, I am glad you remind me of it; I hope it will henceforward stir me up to cry the more heartily to God for strong faith, make me the more restless till I have it. And seeing thou tellest me that I run so softly, and that I shall go near to miss of glory, this also shall be through grace to my advantage, and cause me to press the more earnestly towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. And seeing thou dost tell me that my sins are wondrous great, hereby thou bringest the remembrance of the unsupportable vengeance of God into my mind if I die out of Jesus Christ, and also the necessity of the blood, death, and merits of Christ to help me; I hope it will make me fly the faster and press the harder after an interest in him. And so all along, if he tell thee of thy deadness, dulness, coldness, or unbelief, or the greatness of thy sins, answer him and say, I am glad you told me; I hope it will be a means to make me run faster, seek more earnestly, and be the more restless after Jesus Christ. If thou didst but get this art, so as to outrun him in his own shoes, as I may say, and to make his own darts to pierce himself, then thou mightest also say, Now do Satan's temptations, as well as all other things, work together for my good.
OBJECTION. But I find so many weaknesses in every duty that I perform, as when I pray, when I read, when I hear or attempt any other duty, that it maketh me out of conceit with myself; it maketh me think that my duties are nothing worth.
ANSWER. Thou by this means art taken off from leaning on any thing below Jesus for eternal life. It is likely, if thou wast not sensible of many by-thoughts and wickednesses in thy best performances, thou wouldst go near to be some proud, abominable hypocrite, or a silly, proud, dissembling wretch at the best; such a one as wouldst send thy soul to the devil in a bundle of thy own righteousness.
Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinner? Let the tempted harp upon this string for their help and consolation. The tempted, wherever he dwells, always thinks himself the biggest sinner, one most unworthy of eternal life.
This is Satan's master-argument: Thou art a horrible sinner, a hypocrite, one that has a profane heart, and one that is an utter stranger to a work of grace. I say, this is his maul, his club, his masterpiece; he does with this, as some do by their most enchanting songs, singing them everywhere. I believe there are but few saints in the world that have not had this temptation sounding in their ears. But were they but aware, Satan by all this does but drive them to the gap out at which they should go, and so escape his roaring.
Saith he, Thou art a great sinner, a horrible sinner, a profane-hearted wretch, one that cannot be matched for a vile one in the country.
And all this while Christ says to his ministers, Offer. mercy in the first place to the biggest sinners. So that this temptation drives thee directly into the arms of Jesus Christ.
Was therefore the tempted but aware, he might say, Aye, Satan, so I am, I am a sinner of the biggest size, and therefore have most need of Jesus Christ; yea, because I am such a wretch, therefore Jesus Christ calls me; yea, he calls me first—the first proffer of the gospel is to be made to the Jerusalem sinner. I am he; wherefore stand back, Satan, make way for me, my right is first to come to Jesus Christ.
This now will be like for like. This would foil the devil. This would make him say, I must not deal with this man. thus; for then I put a sword into his hand to cut off my head.
Well, sinner, thou now speakest like a Christian; but say thus in a strong spirit in the hour of temptation, and then thou wilt, to thy commendation and comfort, quit thyself well.
This improving of Christ in dark hours is the life, though the hardest part of our Christianity. We should neither stop at darkness, nor at the raging of our lusts, but go on in a way of venturing and casting the whole of our concerns for the next world at the foot of Jesus Christ. This is the way to make the darkness light, and also to allay the raging of our corruption.
What a brave encouragement is it for one that is come for grace to the throne of grace, to see so great a number already there on their seats, in their robes, with their palms in their hands and their crowns upon their heads, singing of salvation to God and the Lamb!
And I say again—and speak now to the dejected—methinks it would be strange, O thou that art so afraid that the greatness of thy sins will be a bar unto thee, if amongst all this great number of pipers and harpers that are got to glory, thou canst not espy one that, when here, was as vile a sinner as thyself. Look, man; they are there for thee to view them, and for thee to take encouragement to hope, when thou shalt consider what grace and mercy have done for them. Look again, I say, now thou art upon thy knees, and see if some that are among them have not done worse than thou hast done. And yet behold, they are set down; and yet behold, they have crowns on their heads, their harps in their hands, and sing aloud of salvation to their God and the Lamb. Behold, tempted soul; dost thou not yet see what a throne of grace here is, and what multitudes are already arrived thither, to give thanks unto His name that sits thereon, and to the Lamb for ever and ever? And wilt thou hang thy harp upon the willows, and go drooping up and down the world, as if there was no God, no grace, no throne of grace, to apply thyself unto for mercy and grace to help in time of need? Hark; dost thou not hear them what they say? "Worthy," say they, "is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven"—where they are—"and on the earth"—where thou art—"and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are therein, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever."
And this is written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope; and that the drooping ones might come boldly to the throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In general, God was pleased to take this course with me: First, to suffer me to be afflicted with temptations concerning the truths of the gospel, and then reveal them to me; as sometimes I should lie under great guilt for sin, even crushed to the ground therewith; and then the Lord would show me the death of Christ, yea, and so sprinkle my conscience with his blood, that I should find, and that before I was aware, that in that conscience where but just now did reign and rage the law, even there would rest and abide the peace and love of God through Christ.
Thus by the strange and unusual assaults of the tempter, my soul was like a broken vessel driven as with the winds, and tossed, sometimes headlong into despair, sometimes upon the covenant of works, and sometimes to wish that the new covenant and the conditions thereof might, so far forth as I thought myself concerned, be turned another way and changed. But in all these, I was as those that jostle against the rocks; more broken, scattered, and rent. Oh, the unthought of imaginations, frights, fears, and terrors that are effected by a thorough application of guilt yielding to desperation. This is the man that hath his dwelling among the tombs, with the dead—that is always crying out, and cutting himself with stones. But I say, all in vain; desperation will not comfort him, the old covenant will not save him: nay, heaven and earth shall pass away before one jot or tittle of the word and law of grace will fail or be removed. This I saw, this I felt, and under this I groaned. Yet this advantage I got thereby, namely, a further confirmation of the certainty of the way of salvation, and that the Scriptures were the word of God. Oh, I cannot now express what I then saw and felt of the steadfastness of Jesus Christ, the Rock of man's salvation: what was done could not be undone, added to, nor altered.
Often when I have been making towards the promise, John 6:30, I have seen as if the Lord would refuse my soul for ever; I was often as if I had run upon the pikes, and as if the Lord had thrust at me, to keep me from him, as with a flaming sword. Then would I think of Esther, who went to petition the king contrary to the law. I thought also of Benhadad's servants, who went with ropes upon their heads to their enemies for mercy. The woman of Canaan also, that would not be daunted though called a DOG by Christ, and the man that went to borrow bread at midnight, were also great encouragements unto me.
I never saw such heights and depths in grace and love and mercy, as I saw after this temptation. Great sins draw out great grace; and where guilt is most terrible and fierce, there the mercy of God in Christ, when showed to the soul, appears most high and mighty. When Job had passed through his calamity, he had twice as much as he had before. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ our Lord.
If ever Satan and I did strive for any word of God in all my life, it was for this good word of Christ: "Him that cometh to me, I will in nowise cast out;" he at one end, and I at the other. Oh, what work we made. It was for this, in John.6:30, I say, that we did so tug and strive: he pulled, and I pulled; but, God be praised, I overcame him and got sweetness from it.
I prayed to God, in prison, that he would comfort me, and give me strength to do and suffer what he should call me to; yet no comfort appeared, but all continued hid. I was also at this time so really possessed with the thought of death, that oft I was as if on the ladder with a rope about my neck: only this was some encouragement to me: I thought I might now have an opportunity to speak my last words unto a multitude, which I supposed would come to see me die; and thought I, if it must be so, if God will but convert one soul by my last words, I shall not count my life thrown away nor lost.
But yet all the things of God were kept out of my sight, and still the tempter followed me with, But whither must you go when you die? What will become of you? Where will you be found in another world? What evidence have you for heaven and glory, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified? Thus was I tossed for many weeks, and knew not what to do; at last, this consideration fell with weight upon me, That it was for the word and way of God that I was in this condition; wherefore, I was engaged not to flinch a hair's breadth from it.
I thought, also, that God might choose whether he would give me comfort now, or at the hour of death; but I might not therefore choose whether I would hold my profession or no. I was bound, but he was free: yea, it was my duty to stand to his word, whether he would ever look upon me, or save me at the last. Wherefore, thought I, the point being thus, I am for going on and venturing my eternal state with Christ, whether I have comfort here or no: if God doth not come in, thought I, I will leap off the ladder even blindfold into eternity, sink or swim, come heaven come hell. Lord Jesus, if thou wilt catch me, do; if not, I will venture for thy name.
Before I had got thus far out of these my temptations, I did greatly long to see some ancient godly man's experience, who had writ some hundreds of years before I was born; for those who had writ in our days, I thought—but I desire them now to pardon me—that they had writ only that which others felt; or else had, through the strength of their wits and parts, studied to answer such objections as they perceived others were perplexed with, without going themselves down into the deep. Well, after many such longings in my mind, the God in whose hands are all our days and ways, did cast into my hand one day a book of Martin Luther's: it was his Comment on the Galatians; it was also so old that it was ready to fall piece from piece, if I did but turn it over. Now I was pleased much that such an old book had fallen into my hands; the which when I had but a little way perused, I found my condition in his experience so largely and profoundly handled, as if this book had been written out of my heart. This made me marvel; for thus thought I, this man could not know any thing of the state of Christians now, but must needs write and speak the experience of former days.
Besides, he doth most gravely also, in that book, debate of the rise of these temptations, namely, blasphemy, desperation, and the like; showing that the law of Moses, as well as the devil, death, and hell, hath a very great hand therein: the which, at first, was very strange to me; but considering and watching, I found it so indeed. But of particulars here I intend nothing; only this methinks I must let fall before all men, I do prefer this book of Martin Luther upon the Galatians, excepting the Holy Bible, before all the books that ever I have seen, as most fit for a wounded conscience.
XVI. SECURITY OF CHRISTIANS.
Christians, were you awake, here would be matter of wonder to you, to see a man assaulted with all the power of hell, and yet come off a conqueror. Is it not a wonder to see a poor creature, who in himself is weaker than the moth, stand against and overcome all devils, all the world, all his lusts and corruptions? Or if he fall, is it not a wonder to see him, when devils and guilt are upon him, rise again, stand upon his feet again, walk with God again, and persevere after all this in the faith and holiness of the gospel? He that knows himself, wonders; he that knows temptation, wonders; he that knows what falls and guilt mean, wonders: indeed, perseverance is a wonderful thing and is managed by the power of God; for he only "is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy."
He that is saved must, when this world can hold him no longer, have a safe conduct to heaven; for that is the place where they that are saved must to the full enjoy their salvation. Here we are saved by faith and hope of glory; but there we that are saved shall enjoy the end of our faith, and hope, even the salvation of our souls.
But now for a poor creature to be brought thither, this is the life of the point. But how shall I come thither? There are heights and depths to hinder. Rom. 8:38, 39. Suppose the poor Christian is upon a sick-bed, beset with a thousand fears, and ten thousand at the end of that—sick-bed fears, and they are sometimes dreadful ones: fears that are begotten by the review of the sin perhaps of forty years' profession—fears that are begotten by fearful suggestions of the devil, the sight of death and the grave, and it may be of hell itself—fears that are begotten by the withdrawing and silence of God and Christ. But now, out of all these the Lord will save his people; not one sin, nor fear, nor devil shall hinder, nor the grave nor hell disappoint thee. But how must this be? Why, thou must have a safe conduct to heaven. What conduct? A conduct of angels. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them that shall be heirs of salvation?"
These angels therefore are not to fail them that are saved, but must, as commissioned of God, come down from heaven to do this office for them. They must come, I say, and take the care of our souls, to conduct them safely into Abraham's bosom. It is not our meanness in the world, nor our weakness of faith, that shall hinder this; nor shall the loathsomeness of our diseases make these delicate spirits shy of taking this charge upon them. Lazarus the beggar found this a truth—a beggar so despised of the rich glutton that he was not suffered to come within his gate; a beggar full of sores and noisome putrefaction—yet behold, when he dies angels come from heaven to fetch him thither.
True, death-bed temptations are ofttimes the most violent, because then the devil plays his last game with us; he is never to assault us more. Besides, perhaps God suffereth it thus to be that the entering into heaven may be the sweeter, and ring of this salvation the louder. O it is a blessed thing for God to be our God and our guide, even unto death, and then for his angels to conduct us safely to glory. This is saving indeed.
Mercy seems to be asleep when we are sinking; for then we are as if all things were careless of us; but it is but as a lion couchant, it will awake in time for our help.
There are those that have been in the pit, Psa. 40:2, now upon mount Zion, with the harps of God in their hands, and with the song of the Lamb in their mouths.
God hath set a Saviour against sin, a heaven against a hell, light agamst darkness, good against evil, and the breadth and length and depth and height of the grace that is in himself for my good, against all the power and strength and subtlety of every enemy.
Is it not a thing amazing, to see one poor inconsiderable man, in a spirit of faith and patience, overcome all the threatenings, cruelties, afflictions, and sorrows that a whole world can lay upon him? None can quail him, none can crush him, none can bend down his spirit; none can make him forsake what he has received of God, a commandment to hold fast. His holy, harmless, and profitable notions, because they are spiced with grace, yield to him more comfort, joy, and peace; and do kindle in his soul a goodly fire of love to and zeal for God that all the waters of the world shall never be able to quench.
Now, a creation none can destroy but a creator, wherefore, here is comfort. But again, God hath created us in Christ Jesus; that's another thing. The sun is created in the heavens; the stars are created in the heavens; the moon is created in the heavens. Who can reach them, touch them, destroy them, but the Creator? Why, this is the case of the saint, because he has to do with a Creator: he is fastened to Christ, yea, is in him by an act of creation. So that unless Christ and the creation of the Holy Ghost can be destroyed, he is safe that is suffering according to the will of God, and that hath committed the keeping of his soul to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
The strife is now, Who shall be Lord of all: whether Satan the prince of this world, or Christ Jesus the Son of God; or which can lay the best claim to God's elect, he that produces their sins against them, or he that laid down his heart's blood a price of redemption for them. Who then shall condemn, when Christ has died and does also make intercession?
Stand still, angels, and behold how the Father divides his Son a "portion with the great," and how he "divides the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors, and did bear the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." The grace of God and the blood of Christ will, before the end of the world, make brave work among the sons of men. They shall come for a wonderment to God by Christ, and—be saved for a wonderment for Christ's sake." Behold, these shall come from far; and lo, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Sinim."
"What man is he that feareth the Lord?" says David; "him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose."
Now, to be taught of God, what is like it? Yea, what is like being taught in the way that them shalt choose? Thou hast chosen the way to life, God's way; hut perhaps thy ignorance about; it is so great, and those that tempt thee to turn aside are so many and so subtle, that, they seem to outwit thee and confound thee with their guile. Well, but the Lord whom thou fearest will not leave thee to thy ignorance, nor yet to thine enemies' power or subtlety, but will take it upon himself to be thy teacher and thy guide, and that in the way that thou hast chosen. Hear, then, and beliold thy privilege, O thou that fearest the Lord; and—whoever wanders, turns aside, and swerveth from the way of salvation, whoever is benighted and lost in the midst of darkness—thou shalt find the way to heaven and the glory that thou hast chosen.
There is between those that have taken sanctuary in Christ, and the bottomless pit, an invincible and mighty wall of grace and heavenly power, and of the merits of Christ to save to the utmost all and every one that are thus fled to him for safety.
Oh, how my soul did at this time [while in spiritual darkness] prize the preservation that God did set about his people. Ah, how safely did I see them walk whom God had hedged in. Now did those blessed places that spake of God's keeping his people, shine like the sun before me, though not to comfort me, yet to show me the blessed state and heritage of those whom the Lord had blessed. Now I saw that as God had his hand in all the providences and dispensations that overtake his elect, so he had his hand in all the temptations that they had to sin against him; not to animate them in wickedness, but to choose their temptations and troubles for them, and also to leave them for a time to such things only as might not destroy, but humble them—as might not put them beyond, but lay them in the way of the renewing of his mercy. But Oh, what love, what care, what kindness and mercy did I now see, mixing itself with the most severe and dreadful of all God's ways to his people! He would let David, Hezekiah, Solomon, Peter, and others fall; but he would not let them fall into the sin unpardonable, nor into hell for sin. O, thought I, these be the men that God hath loved—these be the men that God, though he chastiseth them, keeps in safety by him, and whom he makes to abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Surely his salvation, his saving, pardoning grace, is nigh them that fear him; that is, to save them out of the hand of their spiritual enemies. The devil and sin and death do always wait even to devour them that fear the Lord; but to deliver them from these, his salvation doth attend them. So, then, if Satan tempts, here is their salvation nigh; if sin by breaking forth beguiles them, here is God's salvation nigh them; yea, if death itself shall suddenly seize upon them, why, here is their God's salvation nigh them.
I have seen that great men's little children must go no whither without their nurses be at hand. If they go abroad, their nurses must go with them; if they go to meals, their nurses must go with them; if they go to bed, their nurses must go with them; yea,—and if they fall asleep, their nurses must stand by them.
O, my brethren, those little ones that fear the Lord are the children of the highest; therefore they shall not walk alone, be at their spiritual meats alone, go to their sick-beds or to their graves alone: the salvation of their God is nigh them, to deliver them from the evil. This is then the glory that dwells in the land of them that fear the Lord.
"He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him." Where now is the man that feareth the Lord? let him hearken to this. "What sayest thou, poor soul? Will this content thee? the Lord fulfil thy desires. O thou that fearest the Lord, what is thy desire? "All my desire," says David, "is all my salvation;" so sayest thou, "All my salvation is all my desire?" Well, the desire of thy soul is granted thee; yea, God himself hath engaged himself even to fulfil this thy desire. "He will fulfil the desires of them that fear him; he will hear their cry, and will save them." O this desire, when it cometh, what "a tree of life" will it be to thee! Thou desirest to be rid of thy present trouble; the Lord shall rid thee out of trouble. Thou desirest to be delivered from temptation; the Lord shall deliver thee out of temptation. Thou desirest to be delivered from thy body of death; and the Lord shall change this thy vile body, that it may be like to his glorious body. Thou desirest to be in the presence of God, and among the angels in heaven; this thy desire also shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt be made equal to the angels. Exod. 6:6; 2 Peter, 2:9; Phil. 3:20, 21; Luke 16:22; 26:35, 36. "Oh, but it is long first." Well, learn first to live upon thy portion in the promise of it, and that will make thy expectation of it sweet. God will fulfil thy desires; God will do it, though it tarry long: Wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry."
XVII. THE PROMISES.
GOD hath strewed all the way from the gate of hell where thou wast, coming sinner, to the gate of heaven whither thou art going, with flowers out of his own garden. Behold how the promises, invitations, calls, and encouragements, like lilies, lie about thee. Take heed thou dost not tread them under foot.
You say you believe the Scriptures to be the word of God. I say, Wert thou ever quickened from a dead state by the power of the Spirit of Christ through the covenant of promise? I tell thee from the Lord, if thou hast been, thou hast felt such a quickening power in the words of Christ, that thou hast been lifted out of the dead condition thou before wert in; and that when thou wast under the guilt of sin, the curse of the law, the power of the devil, and the justice of the great God, thou hast been enabled by the power of God in Christ, revealed to thee by the Spirit through and by the Scripture, to look sin, death, hell, the devil, and the law, and all things that are at enmity with thee, with boldness and comfort in the face, through the blood, death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ, made mention of in the Scriptures.
On this account, O how excellent are the Scriptures to thy soul! O how much virtue dost thou see in such a promise, in such an invitation! They are so large as to say, Christ will in nowise cast me out. My crimson sins shall be as white as snow.
I tell thee, friend, there are some promises through and by which the Lord has helped me to lay hold of Jesus Christ, that I would not have out of the Bible for as much gold and silver as can lie between York and London piled up to the stars; because through them Christ is pleased by his Spirit to convey comfort to my soul. I say, when the law curses, when the devil tempts, when hell-fire flames in my conscience, my sins with the guilt of them tearing of me, then is Christ revealed so sweetly to my poor soul through the promises, that all is forced to fly and leave off to accuse my soul. So also when the world frowns, when the enemies rage and threaten to kill me, then also the precious promises do weigh down all, and comfort the soul against all.
The grace of God and the Spirit of grace are called or compared to a river, to answer those unsatiable desires, and to wash away those mountainous doubts, that attend those who indeed do thirst for that drink. The man that thirsteth with spiritual thirst, fears nothing more than that there is not enough to quench his thirst: all the promises and sayings of God's ministers to such a man, seem but as thimbles instead of bowls: I mean, so long as his thirst and doubts walk hand in hand together. There is not enough in this promise, I find not enough in that promise, to quench the drought of my thirsting soul. He that thirsteth aright, nothing but God can quench his thirst. "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God." Psalm 43:2; 63:1; 143:6. Well, what shall he done for this man? Will his God humor him, and answer his desires? Mark what follows: "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none"—when all the promises seem to be dry, and like clouds that return after the rain—"and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them." Aye, but, Lord, what wilt thou do to quench their thirst? "I will open rivers," saith he, "in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water." Behold, here are rivers and fountains, a pool and springs, and all to quench the thirst of them that thirst for God.
What greater argument to holiness, than to see the scriptures so furnished with promises of grace and salvation by Christ, that a man can hardly cast his eye into the Bible but he espies one or another of them? Who would not live in such a house, or he a servant to such a prince; who, besides his exceeding in good conditions, has gold and silver as common in his palace as stones are by the highway side?
It sometimes so falleth out, that the very promise we have thought could not reach us to comfort us by any means, has at another time swallowed us up with joy unspeakable: Christ the true prophet has the right understanding of the word as an Advocate, has pleaded it before God against Satan; and having overcome him at the common law, he has sent to let us know it by his good Spirit, to our comfort and the confusion of our enemies.
XVIII. CHRISTIAN GRACES.
FAITH! Peter saith, faith, in the very trial of it, is much more precious than gold that perisheth. If so, what is the worth or value that is in the grace itself?
Faith is so great an artist in arguing and reasoning with the soul, that it will bring over the hardest heart that it hath to deal with. It will bring to my remembrance at once, both my vileness against God, and his goodness towards me; it will show me, that though I deserve not to breathe in the air, yet God will have me an heir of glory.
Faith is the mother-grace, the root-grace, the grace that has all others in the bowels of it, and that from which all others flow.
Faith will suck sweetness out of God's rod; but unbelief can find no comfort in his greatest mercies.
Faith makes great burdens light; but unbelief maketh light ones intolerably heavy.
Faith helpeth us when we are down; but unbelief throws us down when we are up.
Unbelief may be called the WHITE DEVIL; for it often-times, in its mischievous doing in the soul, shows as if it was an angel of light; yea, it acteth like a counsellor of heaven.
It is that sin above all others that most suiteth the wisdom of our flesh. The wisdom of our flesh thinks it prudent to question a while, to stand back a while, to hearken to both sides a while; and not to be rash, sudden, or unadvised in too bold a presuming upon Jesus Christ.
There is nothing like faith to help at a pinch; faith dissolves doubts, as the sun drives away the mists. And that you may not be put out, know your time of believing is always. There are times when some graces may be out of use; but there is no time wherein faith can be said to be so. Faith is the eye, the mouth, the hand, and one of these is of use all day long. Faith is to see, to receive, to work, or to eat; and a Christian should be seeing, or receiving, or working, or feeding, all day long. Let it rain, let it blow, let it thunder, let it lighten, a Christian must still believe.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked:" to quench them, though they come from him as kindled with the very fire of hell. None knows, save he that feels it, how burning hot the fiery darts of Satan are; and how, when darted, they kindle upon our flesh and unbelief; neither can any know the power and worth of faith to quench them, but he that hath it and hath power to act it.
There are three things in faith, that directly tend to make a man depart from iniquity.
1. It apprehendeth the truth of the being and great ness of God, and so it aweth the spirit of a man.
2. It apprehendeth the love of this God in Christ, and so it conquereth and overcometh the spirit of a man.
3. It apprehendeth the sweetness and blessedness of the nature of the godhead, and thence persuadeth the soul to desire here communion with him, that it may be holy, and the enjoyment of him when this world is ended, that it may be happy in and by him for ever.
There is a man sows his field with wheat, but as he sows, some is covered with great clods: now, that grows as well as the rest, though it runs not upright as yet; it grows, and yet is kept down. So do thy desires—when one shall remove the clod, the blade will soon point upward I know thy mind; that which keeps thee that thou canst not yet arrive to this, to desire to depart and to be with Christ, is because some strong douht or clod of unbelief as to thy eternal welfare lies hard upon thy desiring spirit. Now let but Jesus Christ remove this clod, and thy desires will quickly start up to be gone.
UPON THE SWALLOW.
This pretty bird, O how she flies and sings! But could she do so if she had not wings? Her wings bespeak my faith, her songs my peace. When I believe and sing, my doubtings cease.
Why, this is the case, thou art bound for heaven, but the way thither is dangerous. It is beset everywhere with evil angels, who would rob thee of thy soul. What now? Why, if thou wouldst go cheerfully on in thy dangerous journey, commit thy treasure, thy soul, to God to keep. And then thou mayest say with comfort, "Well, that care is over. For whatever I meet with in my way thither, my soul is safe enough; the thieves, if they meet me, cannot come at that; I know to whom I have committed my soul, and I am persuaded that he will keep that to my joy and everlasting comfort against the great day."
When a tyrant goes to dispossess a neighboring prince of what is lawfully his own, the men that he employeth at arms to overcome and get the land, fight for half-crowns and the like, and are content with the wages; but the tyrant is for the kingdom, nothing will serve him but the kingdom. This is the case: Men, when they persecute, are for the stuff; but the devil is for the soul, nor will any thing less than that satisfy him. Let him then that is a sufferer, commit the keeping of his soul to God, lest stuff and soul and all be lost at once.
Now, to commit this soul to God, is to carry it to him, to lift it to him upon bended knees, and to pray him for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, to take it into his holy care, and to let it be under his keeping. Also, that he will please to deliver it from all those snares that are laid for it between this and the next world, and that he will see that it be forthcoming, safe and sound, at the great and terrible judgment, notwithstanding so many have engaged themselves against it.