By Thomas Brooks, (1608 - 1680)
SATAN'S DEVICES TO KEEP SOULS FROM HOLY DUTIES, TO HINDER
SOULS IN HOLY SERVICES, AND TO KEEP THEM OFF FROM RELIGIOUS PERFORMANCES
The next thing to be shown is, the several devices that Satan has, as to draw souls to sin, so to keep souls from holy duties, to hinder souls in holy services, and to keep them off from religious performances.
'And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him' (Zech. 3:1).
DEVICE 1. By presenting the WORLD in such a dress, and in such a garb to the soul, as to ensnare the soul, and to win upon the affection of the soul.
He represents the world to them in its beauty and finery, which proves a bewitching sight to a world of men. (It is true, this deceived not Christ, because Satan could find no matter in him for his temptation to work upon.) So that he can no sooner cast out his golden bait—but we are ready to play with it, and to nibble at it; he can no sooner throw out his golden ball—but men are apt to run after it, though they lose God and their souls in the pursuit!
Ah! how many professors in these days have for a time followed hard after God, Christ, and ordinances; until the devil has set before them the world in all its beauty and finery, which has so bewitched their souls that they have grown to have low thoughts of holy things, and then to be cold in their affections to holy things, and then to slight them, and at last, with the young man in the Gospel, to turn their backs upon them. Ah! the time, the thoughts, the hearts, the souls, the duties, the services--which the inordinate love of this wicked world eats up and destroys! Where one thousand are destroyed by the world's frowns--ten thousand are destroyed by the world's smiles! The world, siren-like, sings to us, then sinks us! It kisses us, and betrays us, like Judas! It kisses us and smites us under the fifth rib, like Joab. The honors, splendor, and all the glory of this world, are but sweet poisons, which will much endanger us, if they do not eternally destroy us. Ah! the multitude of souls that have glutted on these sweet baits and died forever!
The inhabitants of Nilus are deaf from the noise of the
waters; so the world makes such a noise in men's ears, that they cannot hear
the things of heaven. The world is like the swallows' dung that put out
Tobias's eyes. The champions could not wring an apple out of Milo's hand by
a strong hand—but a fair maid, by fair means, got it presently.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, to dwell upon the impotency and weakness of all these things here below.They are not able to secure you from the least evil, they are not able to procure you the least desirable good. The crown of gold cannot cure the headache, nor the velvet slipper ease the gout, nor the jewel about the neck take away the pain of the teeth. The frogs of Egypt entered into the rich men's houses of Egypt, as well as the poor. Our daily experience does evidence this, that all the honors and riches that men enjoy, cannot free them from the cholic, the fever, or lesser diseases. No, that which may seem most strange, is that a great deal of wealth cannot keep men from falling into extreme poverty. You shall find seventy kings, with their fingers and toes cut off, glad, like dogs, to lick up crumbs under another king's table; and shortly after, the same king that brought them to this poverty, is reduced to the same poverty and misery (Judg. 1:6). Why then should that be a bar to keep you out of heaven--which cannot give you the least ease on earth?
Nugas the Scythian, despising the rich presents and
ornaments which were sent unto him by the emperor of Constantinople, asked
whether those things could drive away calamities, diseases, or death.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, to dwell upon the vanity of them as well as upon the impotency of all worldly good.This is the sum of Solomon's sermon, 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!' This our first parents found, and therefore named their second son Abel, or 'vanity.' Solomon, who had tried all these things, and could best tell the vanity of them—preaches this sermon over again and again. 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!' It is sad to think how many thousands there are, who can say with the preacher, 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,' no, swear it, and yet follow after these things as if there were no other glory, nor felicity—but what is to be found in these things they call vanity! Such men will sell Christ, heaven, and their souls for a trifle, who call these things vanity—but do not cordially believe them to be vanity—but set their hearts upon them as if they were their crown, the top of their royalty and glory. Oh let your souls dwell upon the vanity of all things here below, until your hearts be so thoroughly convinced and persuaded of the vanity of them, as to trample upon them, and make them a footstool for Christ to get up, and ride in a holy triumph in your hearts!
Oh the imperfection, the ingratitude, the levity the inconstancy, the treachery of those creatures we most servilely bow down to. Ah, did we but weigh man's pain with his payment, his crosses with his mercies, his miseries with his pleasures—we would then see that there is nothing got bargain, and conclude, 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!'
Chrysostom once said, That if he were to preach a sermon to the whole world, gathered together in one congregation, and had some high mountain for his pulpit, from whence he might have a prospect of all the world in his view, and were furnished with a voice of brass, a voice as loud as the trumpets of the archangel, that all the world might hear him, he would choose to preach upon no other text than that in the Psalms, O mortal men,"How long will you love what is worthless and pursue a lie?" (Psalm 4:2).
Tell me, you that say all things under the sun are
vanity, if you do really believe what you say, why do you spend more
thoughts and time on the world, than you do on Christ, heaven and your
immortal souls? Why do you then neglect your duty towards God, to get the
world? Why do you then so eagerly pursue after the world, and are so cold in
your pursuing after God, Christ and holiness? Why then are your hearts so
exceedingly raised, when the world comes in, and smiles upon you; and so
much dejected, and cast down, when the world frowns upon you, and with
Jonah's gourd withers before you?
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, to dwell much upon the uncertainty, the mutability, and inconstancy of all things under the sun.Man himself is but the dream of a dream—but the generation of imagination—but an empty vanity—but the curious picture of nothing—a poor, feeble, dying shadow. All temporals are as transitory as a ruching current, a shadow, a ship, a bird, an arrow, a runner who passes by. 'Why should you set your eyes upon that which is not?' says Solomon (Prov. 23:5). And says the apostle, 'The fashion of this world passes away' (1 Cor. 7:31). This intimates, that there is nothing of any firmness, or solid consistency, in the creature. Heaven alone, has a foundation—earth has none, 'but is hung upon nothing,' as Job speaks (26:7). The apostle commanded Timothy to 'charge rich men that they be not high-minded, nor put their trust in uncertain riches' (1 Tim. 6:17). Riches were never true to any who trusted to them; they have deceived men, as Job's brook did the poor travelers in the summer season (Job. 6:15). They are like bad servants, who ramble about and will never tarry long with one master.
As a bird hops from tree to tree, so do the honors and riches of this world from man to man. Let Job and Nebuchadnezzar testify this truth, who fell from great wealth to great want. No man can promise himself to be wealthy until the end of the day; one storm at sea, one coal of fire, one false friend, one unadvised word, one false witness—may make you a beggar and a prisoner all at once! All the riches and glory of this world is but as smoke and chaff that vanishes; 'As a dream and vision in the night, that tarries not' (Job 20:8). 'Like a hungry one who dreams he is eating, then wakes and is still hungry; and like a thirsty one who dreams he is drinking, then wakes and is still thirsty, longing for water,' as the prophet Isaiah says (Chap. 29:8). Where is the glory of Solomon? the sumptuous buildings of Nebuchadnezzar? the nine hundred chariots of Sisera? the power of Alexander? the authority of Augustus, who commanded the whole world to be taxed? Those that have been the most glorious, in what men generally account glorious and excellent, have had inglorious ends; as Samson for strength, Absalom for favor, Ahithophel for policy, Haman for favor, Asahel for swiftness, Alexander for great conquest and yet poisoned. The same you may see in the four mighty kingdoms, the Chaldean, Persian, Grecian, and Roman: how soon were they gone and forgotten! The most renowned Frederick lost all, and sued to be made but sexton of the church that himself had built. I have read of a poor fisherman, who, while his nets were a-drying, slept upon the rock, and dreamed that he was made a king, on a sudden starts up, and leaping for joy, fell down from the rock, and in the place of his imaginary felicities loses his little portion of pleasures.
Now rich—now poor; now full—now empty; now in favor—anon
out of favor; now honorable—now despised; now health—now sickness; now
strength—now weakness. The pomp of this world John compares to the moon,
which increases and decreases (Rev. 12:1).
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, that the great things of this world are very hurtful and dangerous to the outward and inward man, through the corruptions that are in the hearts of men.Oh, the rest, the peace, the comfort, the contentment—that the things of this world strip many men of! Oh, the fears, the cares, the envy, the malice, the dangers, the mischiefs, that they subject men to! They oftentimes make men carnally confident. The rich man's riches are a strong tower in his imagination. 'I said in my prosperity I should never be moved' (Psalm 30:6). They often swell the heart with pride, and make men forget God, and neglect God, and despise the rock of their salvation. When Jeshurun 'waxed fat, and was grown thick, and covered with fatness, then he forgot God, and forsook God who made him, and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation,' as Moses spoke (Deut. 32:15).
Ah, the time, the thoughts, the energy—which the things of the world consume and spend! Oh, how do they hinder the actings of faith upon God! how do they interrupt our sweet communion with God! how do they abate our love to the people of God! and cool our love to the things of God! and work us to act like those who are most unlike God! Oh, the deadness, the barrenness, which usually attend men under great outward mercies! Oh, the riches of the world chokes the word; that men live under the most soul-searching, and soul-enriching means with lean souls! Though they have full purses, though their chests are full of silver, yet their hearts are empty of grace. In Genesis 13:2, it is said, that 'Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold.' According to the Hebrew, it is 'Abram was very weary;' to show that riches are a heavy burden, and a hindrance many times to heaven, and happiness.
Four good mothers beget four bad daughters: great familiarity begets contempt; truth begets hatred; virtue begets envy; riches begets ignorance (a French proverb).
Polycrates gave a large sum of money to Anacreon, who for two nights afterwards, was so troubled with worry how to keep it, and how to spend it; that he carried the money back to Polycrates, saying that it was not worth the pains which he had already taken for it.
King Henry the Fourth asked the Duke of Alva if he had observed the great eclipse of the sun, which had lately happened. No, said the duke, I have so much to do on earth, that I have no leisure to look up to heaven. Ah, that this were not true of most professors in these days! It is very sad to think, how their hearts and time are so much taken up with earthly things, that they have scarcely any leisure to look up to heaven, or to look after Christ, and the things that belong to their everlasting peace!
Riches, though justly acquired, yet are but like manna; those who gathered less had no lack, and those who gathered more, it was but a trouble and annoyance to them. The world is troublesome, and yet it is loved; what would it be, if it brought true peace? You embrace it, though it be filthy; what would you do if it were beautiful? You cannot keep your hands from the thorns; how earnest would you be then in gathering the flowers? The world may be fitly likened to the serpent Scytale, whereof it is reported, that when she cannot overtake those passing by, she does with her beautiful colors so astonish and amaze them, that they have no power to leave, until she has stung them! Ah, how many thousands are there now on earth, who have found this true by experience, who have spun a lovely rope to strangle themselves, both temporally and eternally, by being bewitched by the beauty and finery of this world!
Sicily is so full of sweet flowers that dogs cannot hunt
there. And what do all the sweet contents of this world—but make us lose the
scent of heaven!
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, that all the felicity of this world is MIXED.Our light is mixed with darkness, our joy with sorrow, our pleasures with pain, our honor with dishonor, our riches with wants. If our minds are spiritual, clear and quick, we may see in the felicity of this world—our wine mixed with water, our honey with gall, our sugar with wormwood, and our roses with prickles. Surely all the things of this world are but bitter sweets. Sorrow attends worldly joy, danger attends worldly safety, loss attends worldly labors, tears attend worldly purposes. As to these things, men's hopes are vain, their sorrow certain, and joy feigned. The apostle calls this world 'a sea of glass,' a sea for the trouble of it, and glass for the brittleness and bitterness of it. (Rev. 4:6, 15:2, 21:18). The honors, profits, pleasures and delights of the world are like the gardens of Adonis, where we can gather nothing but trivial flowers, surrounded with many briars.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, to get better acquaintance and better assurance of more blessed and glorious things.That which raised up their spirits (Heb. 10 and 11) to trample upon all the beauty, finery and glory of the world, was the acquaintance with, 'and assurance of better and more durable things.' You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.' 'They looked for a house which had foundations, whose builder and maker was God.' 'And they looked for another country, even a heavenly one.' 'They saw him who was invisible, and had an eye to the recompense of reward.' And this made them count all the glory and finery of this world, to be too poor and contemptible for them to set their hearts upon! (Heb. 10:34; 11:10, 16 26).
The main reason why men dote upon the world, and damn their souls to get the world, is, because they are not acquainted with a greater glory! Men ate acorns, until they were acquainted with the use of wheat. Ah, were men more acquainted with what union and communion with God means, what it is to have 'a new name, and a new stone, that none knows but he who has it' (Rev. 2:17); did they but taste more of heaven, and live more in heaven, and had more glorious hopes of going to heaven, ah, how easily would they have the world under their feet!
Let heaven be a man's object, and earth will soon be his abject.
It was an excellent saying of Lewis of Bavaria, emperor of Germany, 'Such goods are worth getting and owning—which will not sink or wash away if a shipwreck happens—but will wade and swim out with us.' It is recorded of Lazarus, that after his resurrection from the dead, he was never seen to laugh, his thoughts and affections were so fixed in heaven, though his body was on earth, and therefore he could not but slight temporal things, his heart being so bent and set upon eternals. There are goods for the throne of grace—as God, Christ, the Spirit, adoption, justification, remission of sin, peace with God, and peace with conscience. And there are goods of the footstool—as honors, riches, the favor of creatures, and other comforts and accommodation of this life. Now he who has acquaintance with, and assurance of the goods of the throne, will easily trample upon the goods of the footstool.
Ah that you would make it your business, your work, to mind more, and make sure more to your own souls—the great things of eternity—that will yield you joy in life and peace in death, and a crown of righteousness in the day of Christ's appearing, and that will lift up your souls above all the beauty and finery of this bewitching world, that will raise your feet above other men's heads! When a man comes to be assured of a crown, a scepter and the royal robes, he then begins to have low and contemptible thoughts of those base things which before he highly prized. So will assurance of more great and glorious things, breed in the soul a holy scorn and contempt of all these poor, base things, which the soul before valued above God, Christ and heaven.
When Basil was tempted with money and preferment, said
he, 'Give me money that may last forever, and glory that may eternally
flourish; for the fashion of this world passes away, as the waters of a
river that runs by a city.
Remedy (7). The seventh remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, that true happiness and satisfaction is not to be had in the enjoyment of worldly good.True happiness is too big and too glorious a thing to be found in anything below that glorious God—who is a Christian's summum bonum—his chief good. True happiness lies only in our enjoyment of a suitable good, a pure good, a total good and an eternal good! God alone is such a good—and such a good can only satisfy the soul of man. Philosophers could say, that he was never a truly happy man—who might afterwards become miserable.
The blessed angels, those glittering courtiers, have all felicities and blessedness, and yet have they neither gold, nor silver, nor jewels, nor none of the beauty and finery of this world. Certainly if happiness was to be found in these earthly things, the Lord Jesus, who is the right and royal heir of all things, would have exchanged his cradle for a crown; his birth chamber, a stable, for a royal palace; his poverty for plenty; his despised followers for shining courtiers; and his poor provisions for the choicest delicacies. Certainly happiness lies not in those things which a man may enjoy—and yet be miserable forever. Now a man may be great and graceless with Pharaoh; honorable and damnable with king Saul; rich and miserable with Dives; therefore happiness lies not in these things.
Certainly happiness lies not in those things which cannot comfort a man upon a dying bed. Is it honors, riches or friends—which can comfort you when you come to die? Or is it not rather faith in the blood of Christ, the witness of the Spirit of Christ, the sense and feeling of the love and favor of Christ, and the hopes of eternally reigning with Christ? Can happiness lie in those things which cannot give us health, or strength, or ease, or a good night's rest, or an hour's sleep, or a good stomach? Why, all the honors, riches and delights of this world cannot give these poor things to us, therefore certainly happiness lies not in the enjoyment of them. Gregory the Great used to say, He is poor whose soul is void of grace—not whose coffers are empty of money. The reasonable soul may be busied about other things—but it cannot be filled with them. And surely happiness is not to be found in those things that cannot satisfy the souls of men.
Now none of these things can satisfy the soul of man. 'He
who loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he who loves
abundance with increase; this is also vanity,' said the wise man (Eccles.
5:10). The barren womb, the horseleech's daughter, the grave and hell, will
as soon be satisfied—as the soul of man will by the enjoyment of any worldly
good. Some one thing or another will be forever lacking to that soul, who
has nothing but outward good to live upon. You may as soon fill a bag
with wisdom, a chest with virtue—as the heart of man with anything here
below. A man may have enough of the world to sink him—but he can never have
enough to satisfy him!
Remedy (8). The eighth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider the dignity of the soul.Oh, the soul of man is more worth than a thousand worlds! It is the greatest abasing of it that can be—to let it dote upon a little shining earth, upon a little painted beauty and fading glory—when it is capable of union with Christ, of communion with God, and of enjoying the eternal vision of God.
Seneca could say, 'I am too great, and born to greater things, than that I should be a slave to my body.' Oh! do you say my soul is too great, and born to greater things, than that I should confine it to a heap of perishing earth.
Plutarch tells of Themistocles, that he accounted it not to stand with his state to stoop down to take up the spoils the enemies had scattered in flight; but says to one of his followers, 'You may have these things—for you are not Themistocles'. Oh what a sad thing it is that a heathen should set his feet upon those very things upon which most professors set their hearts, and for the gain of which, with Balaam, many run the hazard of losing their immortal souls forever!
I have been the longer upon the remedies that may help us against this dangerous device of Satan, because he does usually more hurt to the souls of men by this device than he does by all other devices. For a close, I wish, as once Chrysostom did, that that sentence (Eccles. 2:11), 'Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do, and behold all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun,' were engraved on the door-posts into which you enter, on the tables where you sit, on the dishes out of which you eat, on the cups out of which you drink, on the bed-steads where you lie, on the walls of the house where you dwell, on the garments which you wear, on the heads of the horses on which you ride, and on the foreheads of all whom you meet—that your souls may not, by the beauty and finery of the world, be kept off from those holy and heavenly services that may render you blessed while you live, and happy when you die; that you may breathe out your last into his bosom who lives forever, and who will make them happy forever—who prefer Christ's spirituals and eternals above all temporal transitory things.
DEVICE 2.The second device that Satan has to draw the soul from holy duties, and to keep them off from religious services, is, By presenting to them the danger, the losses, and the sufferings which attend the performance of such and such religious services.
By this device Satan kept those who believed on Christ from confessing of Christ: in John 12:42, 'Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.' I would walk in all the ways of God, I would give up myself to the strictest way of holiness—but I am afraid dangers will attend me on the one hand, and losses, and such and such sufferings on the other hand, says many a man. Oh, how should we help ourselves against this temptation and device of Satan!
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is to consider, That all the troubles and afflictions that you meet with in a way of righteousness shall never hurt you, they shall never harm you.'And who is he who shall harm you, if you be followers of that which is good?' says the apostle, that is, none shall harm you (1 Pet. 3:13). Nobody is properly hurt but by himself, and by his own fault.
Natural conscience cannot but do homage to the image of God stamped upon the natures, words, works, and life of the godly; as we may see in the carriage of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius towards Daniel. All afflictions and troubles which attend men in a way of righteousness can never rob them of their treasure, of their jewels. They may rob them of some light slight things, as the flowers or ribbons that be in their hats. Gordius, that blessed martyr, accounted it a loss to him not to suffer many kinds of tortures. He says tortures are but tradings with God for glory. The greater the combat is, the greater is the following reward.
The treasures of a saint are the presence of God, the favor
of God, union and communion with God, the pardon of sin, the joy of the Spirit,
and the peace of conscience. These are jewels which none can give but Christ,
nor none can take away but Christ. Now why should a gracious soul keep off from
a way of holiness because of afflictions, when no afflictions can strip a man of
his heavenly jewels, which are his ornaments and his safety here—and will be his
happiness and glory hereafter? Why should that man be afraid, or troubled for
storms at sea, whose treasures are sure in a friend's hand upon land? Why, a
believer's treasure is always safe in the hands of Christ; his life is safe, his
soul is safe, his grace is safe, his comfort is safe, and his crown is safe in
the hand of Christ. 'I know him in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that
he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him until that day,' says
the apostle (2 Tim. 1:12). The child's most precious things are most secure in
his father's hands; so are our souls, our graces, and our comforts in the hand
of Christ. That was a notable speech of Luther—Let him who died for my soul see
to the salvation of it.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is to consider, That other precious saints who were shining lights on earth, and are now triumphing in heaven, have held on in religious services, notwithstanding all the troubles and dangers that have surrounded them.Nehemiah and Ezra were surrounded with dangers on the left hand and on the right, and yet, in the face of all, they held on building the temple and the wall of Jerusalem. So Daniel, and those precious worthies (Ps 44:19, 20), under the lack of outward encouragements, and in the face of a world of very great discouragements, their souls cleaved to God and his ways. 'Though they were sore broken in the place of dragons, and covered with the shadow of death, yes, though they were all the day long counted as sheep for the slaughter, yet their hearts were not turned back, neither did their steps decline from his ways.' Though bonds and imprisonments did attend Paul and the rest of the apostles in every place, yet they held on in the work and service of the Lord; and why, then, should you degenerate from their worthy examples, which is your duty and your glory to follow? (2 Cor. 6:5, Heb. 11:36).
William Fowler, the martyr said: "Heaven will as soon fail as
I will forsake my profession or budge in the least degree from it." So Sanctus,
being under great torments, cries out, "I am a Christian!" No torments could
work him to decline the service of God. I might produce a cloud of witnesses;
but if these do not assist you to be noble and brave, I am afraid more will not.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That all the troubles and dangers which attend the performance of all holy duties and heavenly services are but temporal and momentary—but the neglect of them may lay you open to all temporal, spiritual, and eternal dangers.'How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?' (Heb. 2:3). He says not, if we reject or renounce so great salvation. No! but if we neglect, or shift off so great salvation, how shall we escape? That is, we cannot by any way, or means, or device in the world, escape. Divine justice will be above us, in spite of our very souls. The doing of such and such heavenly services may lay you open to the frowns of men—but the neglect of them will lay you open to the frowns of God; the doing of them may render you contemptible in the eyes of men—but the neglect of them may render you contemptible in the eyes of God; the doing of them may be the loss of your estate—but the neglect of them may be the loss of God, Christ, heaven, and your soul forever; the doing of them may shut you out from some outward temporal contents, the neglect of them may shut you out from that excellent matchless glory 'which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of men' (Is. 64:4). Remember this, there is no man who breathes, but shall suffer more by neglecting those holy and heavenly services that God commands, commends, and rewards, than he can possibly suffer by doing of them. Francis Xavier counseled John the Third, king of Portugal, to meditate every day a quarter of an hour upon that text, 'What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul!'
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That God knows how to deliver from troubles by troubles, from afflictions by afflictions, from dangers by dangers.God, by lesser troubles and afflictions, does oftentimes deliver his people from greater, so that they shall say, We would have perished—if we had not perished; we would have been undone—if we had not been undone; we would have been in danger—if we had not been in danger. God will so order the afflictions that befall you in the way of righteousness, that your souls shall say—We would not for all the world, foregone with such and such troubles and afflictions; for surely, had not these befallen us, it would have been worse and worse with us. Oh the carnal security, pride, formality, dead-heartedness, lukewarmness, censoriousness, and earthliness, which God has cured us of, by the trouble and dangers that we have met with in the ways and services of the Lord!
I remember a story of a godly man, that, as he was going to
take a ship for France, he broke his leg; and it pleased Providence so to order
it, that the ship that he would have gone in, was sunk at sea, and not a man
saved; so by breaking a bone, his life was saved. So the Lord many times breaks
our bones—but it is in order to the saving of our lives and our souls forever.
He gives us a portion that makes us heart-sick—but it is in order to the making
us perfectly well, and to the purging of us from those ill humors that have made
our heads ache, and God's heart ache, and our souls sick, and heavy to the
death. Oh therefore let no danger or misery hinder you from your duty. 'Had saw
not these things perished, I would not have been safe', said a philosopher when
he saw what great possessions he had lost.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That you shall gain more in the service of God, and by walking in righteous and holy ways, though troubles and afflictions should attend you—than you can possibly suffer, or lose, by your being found in the service of God.'Godliness is great gain' (1 Tim. 6:6). Oh, the joy, the peace, the comfort, the rest—which saints meet with in the ways and service of God! They find that religious services are not empty things—but things in which God is pleased to discover his beauty and glory to their souls. 'My soul thirsts for God,' says David, 'that I might see your beauty and your glory, as I have seen you in your sanctuary' (Psalm 63:2). Oh, the sweet looks, the sweet words, the sweet hints, the sweet joggings, the sweet influences, the sweet love-letters, which gracious souls have from heaven, when they wait upon God in holy and heavenly services, the least of which will darken and outweigh all the finery and glory of this world, and richly recompense the soul for all the troubles, afflictions, and dangers that have attended it in the service of God. Tertullian, in his book to the martyrs, had an apt saying. 'That is right and good merchandise, when something is parted with to gain more.' He applies it to their sufferings, wherein, though the flesh lost something, yet their soul got much more.
Oh, the saints can say under all their troubles and afflictions, that they have food to eat, and drink to drink, that the world knows not of; that they have such incomes, such refreshments, such warmings, that they would not exchange for all the honors, riches, and dainties of this world. Ah, let but a Christian compare his external losses with his spiritual, internal, and eternal gain—and he shall find, that for every penny that he loses in the service of God, he gains a pound; and for every pound that he loses, he gains a hundred; for every hundred lost, he gains a thousand. We lose pins in his service, and find pearls! We lose the favor of the creature, and peace with the creature, and perhaps the comforts and contentments of the creature—and we gain the favor of God, peace of conscience, and the comforts and contentments of a better life. Ah, did the men of this world know the sweet that saints enjoy in afflictions, they would rather choose Manasseh's iron chain—than his golden crown! They would rather be Paul a prisoner, than Paul enrapt up in the third heaven. For 'light afflictions,' they shall have 'a weight of glory!' For a few afflictions, they shall have these joys, pleasures, and contentments, that are as numerous as the stars of heaven, or as the sands of the sea! For momentary afflictions, they shall have an eternal crown of glory. 'It is but winking, and you shall be in heaven presently,' said the martyr. Oh, therefore, let not afflictions or troubles cause you to shun the ways of God, or to leave that service that should be dearer to you than a world, yes, than your very life.
When the noble General Zedislaus had lost his hand in the war, the king sent him a golden hand for it. What we lose in Christ's service he will make up, by giving us some golden mercies. Though the cross be bitter, yet it is but short; a little storm, as one said of Julian's persecution, and an eternal calm follows!
DEVICE 3 By presenting to the soul the difficulty of performing them.
Says Satan, it is so hard and difficult a thing to pray as you should, and to wait on God as you should, and to walk with God as you should, and to be lively, warm, and active in the communion of saints as you should, that you were better ten thousand times to neglect them, than to meddle with them. Doubtless by this device Satan has and does keep off thousands from waiting on God and from giving to him that service that is due to his name.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell more upon the necessity of the service and duty, than on the difficulty that attends the duty.You should reason thus with your souls: O our souls, though such and such services be hard and difficult, yet are they exceeding necessary for the honor of God, and the keeping up his name in the world, and the keeping under of sin, and the strengthening of weak graces, and so the reviving of languishing comforts, and for the keeping clear and bright your blessed evidences, and for the scattering of your fears, and for the raising of your hopes, and for the gladdening the hearts of the righteous, and stopping the mouths of the ungodly, who are ready to take all advantages to blaspheme the name of God, and throw dirt and contempt upon his people and ways. Oh, never leave thinking on the necessity of this and that duty, until your souls be lifted up far above all the difficulties which attend religious duties.
The necessity of doing your duty appears by this, that you
are his servants by a threefold right; you are his servants by right of
creation, and by right of sustenation, and by right of redemption.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That the Lord Jesus will make his services easy to you, by the sweet discovery of himself to your souls, while you are in his service.'You meet him who rejoices and works righteousness,' as the prophet Isaiah says (Is. 64:5). The word in the Hebrew is diversely taken; but most take the word here to signify 'to meet a soul with those affections of love and tenderness as the father of the prodigal met the prodigal with.' God is Pater miserationum, he is all affections; he is swift to show mercy, as he is slow to anger. If meeting with God, who is goodness itself, beauty itself, strength itself, glory itself—will not sweeten his service to your soul, nothing in heaven or earth will.
Jacob's meeting with Rachel, and enjoying of Rachel, made his hard service to be easy and delightful to him; and will not the soul's enjoying of God, and meeting with God, render his service to be much more easy and delightful? Doubtless it will. The Lord will give that sweet assistance by his Spirit and grace, as shall make his service joyous and not grievous, a delight and not a burden, a heaven and not a hell, to believing souls.
The confidence of this divine assistance raised up Nehemiah's spirit far above all those difficulties and discouragements that did attend him in the work and service of the Lord, as you may see in Nehemiah 2:19, 20: 'But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, 'What is this thing that you do? will you rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but you have no right, nor portion, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.' Ah, souls, while you are in the very service of the Lord, you shall find by experience, that the God of heaven will prosper you, and support you, and encourage and strengthen you, and carry you through the hardest service, with the greatest sweetness and cheerfulness which can be. Remember this, that God will suit your strength to your work, and in the hardest service you shall have the choicest assistance.
Luther speaks excellently to Melancthon, who was apt to be
discouraged with doubts and difficulties, and fear from foes, and to cease the
service they had undertaken. 'If the work is not good, why did we ever own it?
If it is good, why should we ever give it up?' Why, should we, who have Christ
the conqueror on our side—fear the conquered world?
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell upon the hard and difficult things that the Lord Jesus has passed through for your temporal, spiritual, and eternal good.Ah, what a sea of blood, of wrath, of sin, of sorrow and misery, did the Lord Jesus wade through for your internal and eternal good! Christ did not plead, 'This cross is too heavy for me to bear; this wrath is too great for me to lie under; this cup of suffering, which has in it all the ingredients of divine wrath, is too bitter for me to sip of—how much more to drink the very dregs of it? No! Christ pleads not the difficulty of the service—but resolutely and bravely wades through all, as the prophet Isaiah shows: 'I gave My back to those who beat Me, and My cheeks to those who tore out My beard. I did not hide My face from scorn and spitting.' (Chap. 50:6).
Christ bears his Father's wrath, the burden of your sins, the malice of Satan, and the rage of the world—and sweetly and triumphantly passes through all. Ah, souls! if this consideration will not raise up your spirits above all the discouragements that you meet with, to own Christ and his service, and to stick and cleave to Christ and his service, I am afraid nothing will. A soul not stirred by this, not raised and lifted up by this, to be resolute and brave in the service of God, notwithstanding all dangers and difficulties—is a soul left by God to much blindness and hardness.
'It is not fit, since the Head was crowned with thorns, that he members should be crowned with rosebuds' says Zanchius.
Godfrey Bouillon, Crusader King of Jerusalem (1099), refused
to be crowned with a crown of gold, saying, 'it was not fitting for a Christian
to wear a crown of gold, where Christ for our salvation had once worn a crown of
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is to consider, That religious duties, holy and heavenly exercises, are only difficult to the worse, to the ignoble, part of a saint.They are not to the noble and better part of a saint—the soul, and the renewed affections of a saint. Holy exercises are a heavenly pleasure and recreation, as the apostle speaks: 'I delight in the law of God, after the inward man' (Rom. 7:22). To the noble part of a saint, Christ's 'yoke is easy, and his burden is light (Matt. 11:30). The Greek signifies that Christ's yoke is a kind, a gracious, a pleasant, a good, and a gainful yoke—as opposed to that which is painful and tedious.
All the commands and ways of Christ (even those who tend to
the pulling out of right eyes and cutting off of right hands) are joyous, and
not grievous, to the noble part of a saint. All the ways and services of Christ
are pleasantness, in the abstract, to the better part of a saint. A saint, so
far as he is renewed, is always best when he sees most of God, when he tastes
most of God, when he is highest in his enjoyments of God, and most warm and
lively in the service of God. Oh, says the noble part of a saint, that it might
be always thus! Oh that my strength were the strength of stones, and my flesh as
brass, that my worse part might be more serviceable to my noble part, that I
might act by an untired power in that service, which is a pleasure, a paradise,
to me. As every flower has its sweet savor, so every good duty carries sweet and
comfort in the performance of it.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That great reward and glorious recompense that attends those who cleave to the service of the Lord in the face of all difficulties and discouragements.Though the work is hard—yet the wages are great. Heaven will make amends for all! Yes, one hour's being in heaven will abundantly recompense you for cleaving to the Lord and his ways in the face of all difficulties. This carried the apostle through the greatest difficulties. He had an eye 'to the recompense of reward.' He looked for 'a house that had foundations, whose builder and maker was God,' and for 'a heavenly country.' Yes, this bore up the spirit of Christ in the face of all difficulties and discouragements: 'Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God' (Heb. 12:2).
Basil speaks of some martyrs who were cast out all night naked in the frigid weather, and were to be burned the next day, how they comforted themselves in this manner: The winter is sharp—but paradise is sweet; here we shiver for cold—but the bosom of Abraham will make amends for all.
Christians who would hold on in the service of the Lord, must look more upon the future crown than upon the present cross; more upon their future glory than their present misery; more upon their encouragements than upon their discouragements. God's very service is wages; his ways are strewed with roses, and paved 'with joy which is unspeakable and full of glory,' and with 'peace which passes understanding.' Some degree of comfort follows every good action, as heat accompanies fire, as beams and warmth issue from the sun: 'Moreover, by them is your servant warned, and in keeping of them there is great reward,' Psalm 19:2. Not only for keeping—but in keeping of them, there is great reward. This is a reward before the reward, a sure reward of well doing; in doing thereof, not only for doing thereof, there is great reward (Psalm 19:11).
The joy, the rest, the refreshing, the comforts, the contents, the smiles—which saints now enjoy in the ways of God, are so precious and glorious in their eyes, that they would not exchange them for ten thousand worlds! Ah! if the gratuities be thus sweet and glorious before pay-day comes, what will be that glory that Christ will crown his saints with, for cleaving to his service in the face of all difficulties; when he shall say to his Father, 'Lo, here am I, and the children whom you have given me' (Is. 8:18). If there be so much to be had in a wilderness, what then shall be had in paradise?
DEVICE 4. By working them to make false inferences from those blessed and glorious things that Christ has done.
As that Jesus Christ has done all for us, therefore there is nothing for us to do but to joy and rejoice. He has perfectly justified us, and fulfilled the law, and satisfied divine justice, and pacified his Father's wrath, and has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us, and in the mean time to intercede for us; and therefore away with praying, and mourning, and hearing. Ah! what a world of professors has Satan drawn in these days from religious services, by working them to make such sad, wild, and strange inferences from the sweet and excellent things that the Lord Jesus has done for his beloved ones.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell as much on those scriptures that show you the duties and services that Christ requires of you, as upon those scriptures that declare to you the precious and glorious things that Christ has done for you.
Tertullian has this expression of the Scriptures: 'I adore the fullness of the Scripture.' Gregory calls the Scripture 'the heart and soul of God'—who would not then dwell in it?
It is a sad and dangerous thing to have two eyes to behold our dignity and privileges, and not one to see our duties and services. I should look with one eye upon the choice and excellent things that Christ has done for me, to raise up my heart to love Christ with the purest love, and to rejoice in Christ with the strongest joy, and to lift up Christ above all, who has made himself to be my all. And I should look with the other eye upon those services and duties that the Scriptures require of those for whom Christ has done such blessed things, as upon that of the apostle: "Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). 'Therefore, my beloved brethren, be you steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord' (1 Cor. 15:58). 'And let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not' (Gal 6:9). And that of the apostle 'Rejoice always' (1 Thess. 5:16), and 'Pray without ceasing' (1 Thess. 5:17). And that in the Philippians: 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling' (2:12); and that, 'This do until I come' (1 Tim. 4:13); and that, 'Let us consider one another, to provoke one another to love, and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is—but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching' (Heb. 10:24, 25).
Now, a soul that would not be drawn away by this device of
Satan, he must not look with a squint eye upon these blessed scriptures, and
abundance more of like import—but he must dwell upon them; he must make these
scriptures to be his chief and his choicest companions, and this will be a happy
means to keep him close to Christ and his service in these times, wherein many
turn their backs upon Christ, under pretense of being interested in the great
glorious things that have been accomplished by Christ. The Jews were much in
turning over the leaves of the Scripture—but they did not weigh the matter of
them (John 5:39): 'You search the Scriptures.'
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That the great and glorious things that Jesus Christ has done, and is doing for us, should be so far from taking us off from religious services and pious performances, that they should be the greatest motives and encouragements to the performance of them that may be, as the Scriptures do abundantly evidence.I will only instance in some, as that, 'That we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life' (1 Peter 2:9, Luke 1:74, 75). Christ has freed you from all your enemies, from the curse of the law, the predominant damnatory power of sin, the wrath of God, the sting of death, and the torments of hell. But what is the end and design of Christ in doing these great and marvelous things for his people? It is not that we should throw off duties of righteousness and holiness—but that their hearts may be the more free and sweet in all holy duties and heavenly services. This I am sure of, that all man's happiness here is his holiness, and his holiness shall hereafter be his happiness. Christ has therefore broke the devil's yoke from off our necks, that his Father might have better service from our hearts.
So the apostle says, 'I will be their God, and they shall be my people.' 'And I will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.' Mark what follows: 'Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.' (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1). And again: 'The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying all ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works' (Titus 2:12-14). Ah, souls! I know no such arguments to work you to a lively and constant performance of all heavenly services, like those who are drawn from the consideration of the great and glorious things that Christ has done for you; and if such arguments will not take you and win upon you, I do think the throwing of hell fire in your faces will never do it!
Talk not of a godly life—but let your life speak. Your
actions in passing pass not away; for every good work is a grain of seed for
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That those precious souls which Jesus Christ has done and suffered as much for as he has for you—have been exceedingly active and lively in all religious services and heavenly performances.He did as much and suffered as much for David as for you, and yet who more in praying and praising God than David? 'Seven times a day will I praise the Lord' (Psalm 119:164). Who more in the studying and meditating on the word than David? 'Your law is my meditation all the day' (Psalm 119:97). The same truth you may run and read in Jacob, Moses, Job, Daniel, and in the rest of the holy prophets and apostles, whom Christ has done as much for as for you. Ah, how have all those worthies abounded in works of righteousness and holiness, to the praise of free grace!
Certainly Satan has got the upper hand of those souls which argue thus—Christ has done such and such glorious things for us, therefore we need not make any care and conscience of doing such and such religious services as men say the Word calls for. If this logic be not from hell, what is? Ah, were the holy prophets and apostles alive to hear such logic come out of the mouths of such as profess themselves to be interested in the great and glorious things that Jesus Christ has done for his chosen ones, how would they blush to look upon such souls! and how would their hearts grieve and break within them to hear the language and to observe the actings of such souls!
The saints' motto in all ages has been 'Laboremus'—let us be doing.
'God loves the runner, not the questioner or disputer', says Luther.
He who talks of heaven—but does not the will of God, is like
him who gazed upon the moon—but fell into the pit.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider this, That those who do not walk in the ways of righteousness and holiness, who not wait upon God in the several duties and services that are commanded by him; cannot have that evidence to their own souls of their righteousness before God, of their fellowship and communion with God, of their blessedness here, and their happiness hereafter, as those souls have, who love and delight in the ways of the Lord, that are always best when they are most in the works and service of the Lord.Certainly it is one thing to judge by our graces, another thing to rest or put our trust in them. There is a great deal of difference between declaring and deserving. As David's daughters were known by their garments of diverse colors, so are God's children by their piety and sanctity. A Christian's emblem should be a house walking towards heaven. High words surely make a man neither holy nor just; but a virtuous life, a circumspect walking, makes him dear to God. A tree that is not fruitful is fit only for the fire. Christianity is not a talking—but a walking with God, who will not be put off with words. If he sees no fruit, he will take up his axe, and then the soul is cut off forever.
'Little children,' says the apostle, 'let no man deceive you: he who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous' (1 John 3:7). 'In this,' says the same apostle, 'the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he who loves not his brother' (ver. 10). 'If you know that he is righteous,' says the same apostle, 'you know that everyone who practices righteousness, is born of him.' "This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' without keeping His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked." 'If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin,' says the same apostle (1 John 2:3-6, and 1:6, 7).
So (James 2:14, 20): 'What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have no works; can faith save him?' that is, it cannot. 'For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.' To look after holy and heavenly works, is the best way to preserve the soul from being deceived and deluded by Satan's delusions, and by sudden flashes of joy and comfort; holy works being a more conscious and constant pledge of the precious Spirit, begetting and maintaining in the soul more solid, pure, clear, strong, and lasting joy. Ah souls! As you would have in yourselves a constant and a blessed evidence of your fellowship with the Father and the Son, and of the truth of grace, and of your future happiness, look that you cleave close to holy services; and that you turn not your backs upon religious duties.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That there are other choice and glorious ends for the saint's performance of religious duties, than for the justifying of their persons before God, or for their satisfying of the law or justice of God, or for the purchasing of the pardon of sin; that is, to testify their justification.'A good tree cannot but bring forth good fruits' (Matt. 7:17), to testify their love to God, and their sincere obedience to the commands of God; to testify their deliverance from spiritual bondage, to evidence the indwelling of the Spirit, to stop the mouths of the worst of men, and to gladden those righteous souls, whom God would not have saddened. These, and abundance of other choice ends there are, why those who have a saving interest in the glorious doings of Christ, should, notwithstanding that, keep close to the holy duties and religious services that are commanded by Christ. And if these considerations will not prevail with you, to wait upon God in holy and heavenly duties, I am afraid if one should rise from the dead, his arguments would not win upon you—but you would hold on in your sins, and neglect his service, though you lost your souls forever.
The end in view moves to action. Keep yourself within compass, and have an eye always to the end of your life and actions.
DEVICE 5. By presenting to them the fewness and poverty of those who walk in the ways of God—who continue in religious practices.
Says Satan, Do not you see that those who walk in such and such religious ways are the poorest, the lowest, and the most despicable people in the world? This took with them in John 7:47-49: 'Then answered the pharisees, Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers, or of the pharisees, believed on him? But these ignorant crowds do, but what do they know about it? A curse is on them anyway!'
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That though they are outwardly poor, yet they are inwardly rich.Though they are poor in temporals, yet they are rich in spirituals. The worth and riches of the saints is inward. 'The King's daughter is all glorious within' (Psalm 45:13). 'Hearken, my beloved brethren, has not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him?' says James 2:5. 'I know your poverty—but you are rich,' says John to the church of Smyrna (Rev. 2:9). What though they have little in possession, yet they have a glorious kingdom in future promise. 'Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's pleasure to give you a kingdom' (Luke 12:32). Though saints have little in hand, yet they have much in hope. You count those happy, in a worldly sense, that have much in future promise, though they have little in possession: and will you count the saints miserable because they have little in hand, little in possession, though they have a glorious kingdom in future promise? I am sure the poorest saint who breathes, will not exchange, were it in his power, that which he has in hope and in future promise, for the possession of as many worlds as there be stars in heaven, or sands in the sea.
'Do not you see,' says Chrysostom, 'the places where
treasures are hid are rough and overgrown with thorns? Do not the naturalists
tell you, that the mountains that are big with gold within, are bare of grass
without? Saints have, as scholars, poor daily fare here, because they must study
hard to go to heaven.'
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That in all ages God has had some who have been great, rich, wise, and honorable—who have chosen his ways, and cleaved to his service in the face of all difficulties.Though not many wise men, yet some wise men; and though not many mighty, yet some mighty have; and though not many noble, yet some noble have. Witness Abraham, and Jacob, and Job, and several kings, and others that the Scriptures speak of. And ah! how many have we among ourselves, whose souls have cleaved to the Lord, and who have swum to his service through the blood of the slain, and who have not counted their lives dear unto them, that they and others might enjoy the holy things of Christ, according to the mind and heart of Christ.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That the spiritual riches of the poorest saints infinitely transcend the temporal riches of all the wicked men in the world; their spiritual riches satisfy them; they can sit down satisfied with the riches of grace that are in Christ, without earthly honors or riches.'He who drinks of that water that I shall give him, shall thirst no more' (John 4:13). Alexander's vast mind inquired if there were any more worlds to conquer.
The riches of poor saints are durable; they will bed and
board with them; they will go to the prison, to a sickbed, to a grave, yes, to
heaven with them. The spiritual riches of poor saints are as wine to cheer them,
and as bread to strengthen them, and as clothes to warm them, and as armor to
protect them. Now, we all know that the riches of this world cannot satisfy the
souls of men—for they are as fading as a flower, or as the owners of them are.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device, is seriously to consider, That though the saints, considered comparatively, are few; though they be 'a little, little flock,' 'a remnant,' 'a garden enclosed,' 'a spring shut up, a fountain sealed'; though they are as 'the summer gleanings'; though they are 'one from a city, and two from a tribe'; though they are but a handful to a houseful, a spark to a flame, a drop to the ocean—yet considered altogether, are an innumerable number that cannot be numbered.As John speaks: 'After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white and held palm branches in their hands.' (Rev. 7:9). So Matthew speaks: 'And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven' (Matt. 8:11). So Paul: 'But you have come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect' (Heb. 12:22).
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That it will be only a short time, before these poor despised saints shall shine brighter than the sun in his glory.It will not be long before you will wish, Oh! that we were now among the poor, mean despised ones, in the day that God comes to make up his jewels! It will not be long before these poor few saints shall be lifted up upon their thrones to judge the multitude, the world, as the apostle speaks: 'Don't you know, that the saints shall judge the world?' (1 Cor. 6:2). And in that day, oh! how will the great and the rich, the learned and the noble, wish that they had lived and spent their days with these few poor contemptible creatures in the service of the Lord! Oh! how will this wicked world curse the day that ever they had such base thoughts of the poor despised saints, and that their poverty became a stumbling-block to keep them off from the ways of sanctity.
John Foxe being once asked whether he knew a certain poor man answered, I remember him well. I tell you I forget lords and ladies to remember such. So will God deal by his poor saints. He will forget the great and mighty ones of the world to remember his few poor despised ones. Though John the Baptist was poor in the world, yet the Holy Spirit calls him the greatest that was born of woman. Ah, poor saints, men that know not your worth, have such low thoughts of you. "My thoughts are completely different from yours," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9
I have read of Ingo, an ancient king of the Draves, who, making a stately feast, appointed his nobles, at that time pagans, to sit in the hall below, and commanded certain poor Christians to be brought up into his presence-chamber, to sit with him at his table, to eat and drink of his kingly cheer; at which many wondering, he said, 'He accounted Christians, though ever so poor, a greater ornament to his table, and more worthy of his company, than the greatest unconverted nobles; for when these might be thrust down to hell, those might be his consorts and fellow-princes in heaven.' You know how to apply it.
Although you see the stars sometimes by their reflections in
a puddle, or in the bottom of a well, yes, in a stinking ditch; yet the stars
have their situation in heaven. So, though you see a godly man in a poor,
miserable, low, despised condition for the things of this world, yet he is fixed
in heaven, in the region of heaven: 'Who has raised us up,' says the apostle,
'and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.' Oh! therefore,
say to your own souls, when they begin to decline in the ways of Zion, because
of the poverty and fewness of those who walk in them, The day is at hand when
those few, poor, despised saints shall shine in glory, when they shall judge
this world, and when all the wicked of this world will wish that they were in
their condition, and would give ten thousand worlds, were it in their power,
that they might but have the honor and happiness to wait upon those whom, for
their poverty and fewness, they have neglected and despised in this world.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That there will come a time, even in this life, in this world—when the reproach and contempt that is now cast upon the ways of God, by reason of the poverty and fewness of those who walk in those ways, shall be quite taken away, by his making them the head—who have days without number been the tail; and by his raising them up to much outward riches, prosperity, and glory—who have been as the outcast because of their poverty and fewness.John, speaking of the glory of the church, the new Jerusalem that came down from heaven (Rev. 21:24), tells us, 'The nations of the earth will walk in its light, and the rulers of the world will come and bring their glory to it.' So the prophet Isaiah: 'I will exchange your bronze for gold, your iron for silver, your wood for bronze, and your stones for iron.' (chap. 60:17). And so the prophet Zechariah speaks (chap. 14:14): 'And the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance.' The Lord has promised that 'the meek shall inherit the earth' (Matt. 5:5); and 'heaven and earth shall pass away, before one jot or one tittle of his word shall pass unfulfilled' (ver. 18). Ah, poor saints! now some thrust sore at you, others look a-squint upon you, others shut the door against you, others turn their backs upon you, and most of men (except it be a few who live much in God, and are filled with the riches of Christ) do either neglect you or despise you because of your poverty; but the day is coming when you shall be lifted up above the ash-heap, when you shall change poverty for riches, your rags for robes, your reproach for a crown of honor, your infamy for glory, even in this world.
These following scriptures do abundantly confirm this truth: Jer. 31:12; Is. 30:23; 62:8, 9; Joel 2:23, 24; Micah 4:6; Amos 9:13, 14; Zech 8:12; Isa. 41:18, 19; 55:13; 66:6, 7; 65:21, 22; 61:4; 60:10 Ezek. 36:10. Only take these two cautions: 1. That in these times the saints' chief comforts, delights, and contents with consist in their more clear, full, and constant enjoyment of God. 2. That they shall have such abundant measure of the Spirit poured out upon them, that their riches and outward glory shall not be snares unto them—but golden steps to a richer living in God.
And this is not all—but God will also mightily increase the number of his chosen ones, multitudes shall be converted to him: 'Who has ever seen or heard of anything as strange as this? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment? But by the time Jerusalems' birth pains begin, the baby will be born; the nation will come forth. They will bring the remnant of your people back from every nation. They will bring them to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord. They will ride on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels' (Isa. 66:8, 20). Does not the Scripture say, that 'the kingdoms of this world must become the kingdoms of our Lord'? (Rev. 11:15). Has not God given to Christ 'the heathen, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession'? (Psalm 2:8). Has not the Lord said, that in 'the last days the mountain of the Lord's house shall be lifted up above the hills, and shall be established in the top of the mountains, and all nations shall flow unto it,' (Isa. 2:2 and 54:14 and 61:9).
Pray, read, and meditate upon Isaiah 60 and 66 and 2:1-5, and there you shall find the multitudes that shall be converted to Christ. And oh! that you would be mighty in believing and in wrestling with God, that he would hasten the day of his glory, that the reproach that is now upon his people and ways may cease!
DEVICE 6. By presenting before them the examples of the greatest part of the world—who walk in the ways of their own hearts, and that make light and slight of the ways of the Lord.
Why, says Satan, do not you see that the great and the rich, the noble and the honorable, the learned and the wise, even the greatest number of men, never trouble themselves about such and such ways—and why then should you be singular and odd? You had better do as the most do. (John 7:48, 49; 1 Cor. 1:26, 28; Micah 7:2-4.)
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, Of those scriptures which are directly opposed to following the sinful examples of men.As that in Exodus, 'You shall not follow a multitude to do evil' (chap. 23:2). The multitude generally are ignorant, and know not the way of the Lord, therefore they speak evil of that they know not. They are envious and maliciously bent against the service and way of God, and therefore they cannot speak well of the ways of God: 'This way is everywhere spoken against,' say they (Acts 28:22). So in Num. 16:21, 'Separate from them, and come out from among them.' So the apostle: 'Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness' (Eph. 5:11). So Solomon: 'Enter not into the way of the wicked; forsake the foolish, and live' (Prov. 4:14 and 9:6). Those who walk with the many—shall perish with the many. Those who do as the most, shall before long suffer with the most. Those who live as the many, must die with the many, and go to hell with the many. The way to hell is broad and well beaten. The way to be undone forever is to do as the most do. 'The multitude' is the weakest and worst argument. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That if you will sin with the multitude, all the angels in heaven and men on earth cannot keep you from suffering with the multitude. If you will be wicked with them, you must unavoidably be miserable with them.Say to your soul, O my soul! if you will sin with the multitude, you must be shut out of heaven with the multitude, you must be cast down to hell with the multitude: 'And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues' (Rev. 18:4). Come out in affection, in action, and in habitation, or else the infection of sin will bring upon you the infliction of punishment. So says the wise man, 'He who walks with wise men shall be wise—but a companion of fools shall be destroyed,' (Prov. 13:20). Multitudes may help you into sin, yes, one may draw you into sin—but it is not multitudes who can help you to escape punishments; as you may see in Moses and Aaron, that were provoked to sin by the multitude—but were shut out of the pleasant land, and fell by a hand of justice as well as others.
Sin and punishment are linked together with chains of
adamant. Of sin we may say, as Isidore does of the serpent, 'So many colors, so
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, The worth and excellency of your immortal soul.Your soul is a jewel more worth than heaven and earth. The loss of your soul is incomparable, irreparable, and irrecoverable. If your soul is lost—all is lost, and you are undone forever. Is it madness and folly in a man to kill himself for company, and is it not greater madness or folly to break the neck of your soul, and to damn it for company? Be suspect of that way wherein you see multitudes to walk; the multitude being a stream that you must row hard against, or you will be carried into that gulf out of which angels cannot deliver you. Is it not better to walk in a straight way alone, than to wander into crooked ways with company? Surely, it is better to go to heaven alone—than to hell with company!
I might add other things—but these may suffice for the present; and I am afraid, if these arguments do not stir you, other arguments will work but little upon you. What wise man would fetch gold out of a fiery crucible; that is, hazard his immortal soul, to gain the world, by following a multitude in those steps that led to the chambers of death and darkness?
DEVICE 7. By casting in a multitude of vain thoughts, while the soul is in seeking of God, or in waiting on God; and by this device he has cooled some men's spirits in heavenly services, and taken off, at least for a time, many precious souls from religious performances.
"I have no heart to hear, nor no heart to pray, nor no delight in reading, nor in the society of the saints. Satan does so dog and follow my soul, and is still a-casting in such a multitude of vain thoughts concerning God, the world, and my own soul, that I even tremble to think of waiting upon God in any religious service. Oh! the vain thoughts that Satan casts in, do so distaste my soul, and so grieve, vex, perplex, and distract my soul, that they even make me weary of holy duties, yes, of my very life. Oh! I cannot be so raised and ravished, so heated and melted, so quickened and enlarged, so comforted and refreshed—as I should be, as I might be, and as I would be in religious services—by reason of that multitude of vain thoughts, which Satan is injecting or casting into my soul. Lord, now how gladly would I serve you, and vain thoughts will not allow me!"
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is,To have your hearts strongly affected with the greatness, holiness, majesty, and glory of that God before whom you stand, and with whom your souls converse in religious services. Oh! let your souls be greatly affected with the presence, purity, and majesty of that God before whom you stand. A man would be afraid of playing with a feather, when he is speaking with a king. Ah! when men have poor, low, light, slight thoughts of God, in their drawing near to God, they tempt the devil to bestir himself, and to cast in a multitude of vain thoughts to disturb and distract the soul in its waiting on God. There is nothing that will contribute so much to the keeping out of vain thoughts, as to look upon God as an omniscient God, an omnipresent God, an omnipotent God, a God full of all glorious perfections, a God whose majesty, purity, and glory will not allow him to behold the least iniquity. The reason why the blessed saints and glorious angels in heaven have not so much as one vain thought is, because they are greatly affected with the greatness, holiness, majesty, purity, and glory of God.
When Pompey could not keep his soldiers in the camp by
persuasion he cast himself down along in the narrow passage which led out of it,
and bade them go if they would—but they must first trample upon their general;
and the thoughts of this overcame them. You are wise, and know how to apply it
to the point in hand.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is,To be faithful in religious services, notwithstanding all those wandering thoughts the soul is troubled with. This will be a sweet help against them: for the soul to be resolute in waiting on God, whether it be troubled with vain thoughts or not; to say, 'Well I will pray still, and hear still, and meditate still, and keep fellowship with the saints still.' Many precious souls can say from experience, that when their souls have been steadfast in their waiting on God, that Satan has left them, and has not been so busy in vexing their souls with vain thoughts. When Satan perceives that all those trifling vain thoughts that he casts into the soul do but vex the soul into greater diligence, carefulness, watchfulness, and steadfastness in holy and heavenly services, and that the soul loses nothing of his zeal, piety, and devotion—but doubles his care, diligence, and earnestness, he often ceases to interpose his trifles and vain thoughts, as he ceased to tempt Christ, when Christ was steadfast in resisting his temptations.
It is a rule in the civil law that nothing seems to be done,
if there remains anything to be done. If once you say, 'it is enough', you are
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider this,That those vain and trifling thoughts that are cast into our souls, when we are waiting upon God in this or that religious service, if they be not cherished and indulged—but abhorred, resisted, and disclaimed; they are not sins upon our souls, though they may be troubles to our minds; they shall not be put upon our accounts, nor keep mercies and blessings from being enjoyed by us. When a soul in uprightness can look God in the face, and say, Lord, when I approach near unto you, there are a world of vain thoughts crowd in upon me, which disturb my soul, and weaken my faith, and lessen my comfort and spiritual strength. Oh, these are my clog, my burden, my torment, my hell! Oh, do justice upon these, free me from these, that I may serve you with more freeness, singleness, spiritualness, and sweetness of spirit. These thoughts may vex that soul—but they shall not harm that soul. nor keep a blessing from that soul. If vain thoughts resisted and lamented could stop the current of mercy, and render a soul unhappy, there would be none on earth that should ever taste of mercy, or be everlastingly happy.
It is not Satan casting in of vain thoughts that can keep
mercy from the soul, or undo the soul—but the lodging and cherishing of vain
thoughts: 'O Jerusalem, how long shall vain thoughts lodge within you?'
(Jer.4:14) Vain thoughts pass through the best hearts; they are lodged and
cherished only in the worst hearts.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider,That watching against sinful thoughts, resisting of sinful thoughts, lamenting and weeping over sinful thoughts, carries with it the sweetest and strongest evidence of the truth and power of grace, and of the sincerity of your hearts, and is the readiest and the surest way to be rid of them (Psalm 139:23). Many low and carnal considerations may cause men to watch their words, their lives, their actions; as hope of gain, or to please friends, or to get a name in the world, and many other such like considerations. Oh! but to watch our thoughts, to weep and lament over them—this must needs be from some noble, spiritual, and internal principle—such as love to God, a holy fear of God, a holy care and delight to please the Lord. Thoughts are the first-born, the blossoms of the soul, the beginning of our strength—whether for good or evil; and they are the greatest evidences for or against a man, that can be.
The schools do well observe, that outward sins are of greater infamy—but inward heart sins are of greater guilt, as we see in the devil's. There is nothing that so speaks out a man to be thoroughly and kindly wrought upon, as his having his thoughts to be 'brought into obedience,' as the apostle speaks, 2 Cor. 10:4, 5. Grace is grown up to a very great height in that soul where it prevails, to the subduing of those vain thoughts that walk up and down in the soul. (Psalm 139:23; Is. 59:7; 66:18; Matt. 9:4; 12:25.)
Well! though you cannot be rid of them, yet make resistance and opposition against the first risings of them. When sinful thoughts arise, then think thus, The Lord takes notice of these thoughts; 'he knows them afar off,' as the Psalmist speaks (Psalm 138:6). He knew Herod's bloody thoughts, and Judas's betraying thoughts, and the Pharisees' cruel and blasphemous thoughts afar off. (Matt. 15:15-18).
Oh! think thus: All these sinful thoughts, they defile and pollute the soul, they deface and spoil much of the inward beauty and glory of the soul. If I commit this or that sin, to which my thoughts incline me, then either I must repent or not repent; if I repent, it will cost me more grief, sorrow, shame, heart-breaking, and soul-bleeding, before my conscience will be quieted, divine justice pacified, my comfort and joy restored, my evidences cleared, and my pardon in the court of conscience sealed—than the imagined profit or seeming sensual pleasure can be worth. 'What fruit had you in those things whereof you are now ashamed' (Rom. 6:21).
Tears, instead of gems, were the ornaments of David's bed when he had sinned; and so they must be yours, or else you must lie down in the bed of sorrow forever.
If I never repent, oh! then my sinful thoughts will be scorpions that will eternally vex me, the rods that will eternally lash me, the thorns that will everlastingly pierce me, the dagger that will be eternally a-stabbing me, the worm that will be forever a-gnawing me! Oh! therefore, watch against them, be constant in resisting them, and in lamenting and weeping over them, and then they shall not hurt you, though they may for a time trouble you. And remember this—he who does this, does more than the most glistering and blustering hypocrite in the world does.
Inward bleeding kills many a man; so will sinful thoughts, if
not repented of.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is,To labor more and more to be filled with the fullness of God, and to be enriched with all spiritual and heavenly things. What is the reason that the angels in heaven have not so much as an idle thought? It is because they are filled with the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19). Take it for an experienced truth, the more the soul is filled with the fullness of God and enriched with spiritual and heavenly things—the less room there is in that soul for vain thoughts. The fuller the vessel is of wine—the less room there is for water. Oh, then, lay up much of God, of Christ, of precious promises, and choice experiences in your hearts—and then you will be less troubled with vain thoughts. 'A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, brings forth good things' (Matt. 12:35).
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is,To keep up holy and spiritual affections; for such as your affections are, such will be your thoughts. 'Oh how I love your law! it is my meditation all the day' (Psalm 119:97). What we love most, we most muse upon. 'When I awake, I am still with you' (Psalm 139:18). That which we much like—we shall much mind. Those who are frequent in their love to God and his law, will be frequent in thinking of God and his law—a child will not forget his mother.
To avoid multiplicity of worldly business. Oh,
let not the world take up your hearts and thoughts. Souls which are torn in
pieces with the cares of the world will be always vexed and tormented with vain
thoughts in all their approaches to God. Vain thoughts will be still crowding in
upon him that lives in a crowd of business. The stars which have least circuit
are nearest the pole; and men that are least perplexed with business are
commonly nearest to God.
2 Tim. 2:4, 'No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer.' This is a comparison which Paul borrows from the custom of the Roman empire, wherein soldiers were forbidden to take up private businesses.
DEVICE 8. By working them to rest in their performances; to rest in prayer, and to rest in hearing, reading, and the communion of saints.
And when Satan has drawn the soul to rest upon the service done, then he will help the soul to reason thus: Why, you had better never pray, as to pray and rest in prayer; you had better never hear, as to hear and rest in hearing; you had better never be in the communion of saints, as to rest in the communion of saints. And by this device he stops many souls in their heavenly race, and takes off poor souls from those services that should be their joy and crown (Is. 58:1-2, Zech. 7:4-6, Matt. 6:2, Rom. 1:7).
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of
Satan is, To dwell much upon the
imperfections and weaknesses which attend your choicest services. Oh
the spots, the blots, the blemishes that are to be seen on the face of our best
duties! When you have done all you can, you have need to close up all with this,
'Oh enter not into judgment with your servant, O Lord' (Psalm 143:2), for the
weaknesses that cleave to my best services. We may all say with the church, 'All
our righteousnesses are as a menstruous cloth' (Is. 64:6). If God should be
strict to mark what is done amiss in our best actions, we are undone! Oh the
water that is mingled with our wine; the dross that cleaves unto our gold! Pride
and high confidence is most apt to creep in upon 'duties well done'.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider The impotence and inability of any of your best services, divinely to comfort, refresh, and bear your souls up from fainting, and sinking in the days of trouble, when darkness is round about you, when God shall say to you, as he did once to the Israelites, 'Go and cry unto the gods that you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your tribulation' (Judges 10:14). So, when God shall say in the day of your troubles, Go to your prayers, to your hearing, and to your fasting, and see if they can help you, if they can support you, if they can deliver you.
If God in that day does but withhold the influence of his
grace, your former services will be but poor cordials to comfort you; and then
you must and will cry out, Oh, 'none but Christ, none but Christ!' Oh my prayers
are not Christ, my hearing is not Christ, my fasting is not Christ. Oh! one
smile of Christ, one glimpse of Christ, one good word from Christ, one nod of
love from Christ in the day of trouble and darkness—will more revive and refresh
the soul than all your former services, in which your souls rested, as if they
were the bosom of Christ, which should be the only center of our souls.
Christ is the crown of crowns, the glory of glories, and the heaven of heavens.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of
Satan is, solemnly to consider, That
good things rested upon will as certainly undo us, and everlastingly destroy
us—as the foulest enormities which can be committed by us. Those
souls that after they have done all, do not look up so high as Christ—and rest,
and center alone in Christ, laying down their services at the footstool of
Christ—must lie down in sorrow; their bread is prepared for them in hell. 'But
watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires.
This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon lie down in great
torment' (Is. 50:11). Is it good to dwell with everlasting burnings, with a
devouring fire? Why then, rest in your duties still? See that you center only in
the bosom of Christ.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell much upon the necessity and excellency of that resting-place which God has provided for you. Above all other resting-places—he himself is your resting-place; his free mercy and love is your resting-place; the pure, glorious, matchless, and spotless righteousness of Christ is your resting-place. Ah! it is sad to think, that most men have forgotten their resting-place, as the Lord complains: 'My people have been as lost sheep, their shepherds have caused them to go astray, and have turned them away to the mountains: they are gone from mountain to hill, and forgotten their resting-place' (Jer. 50:6). So poor souls who do not see the excellency of that resting-place that God has appointed for their souls to lie down in—they wander from mountain to hill, from one duty to another, and here they will rest and there they will rest. But those who see the excellency of that resting-place that God has provided for them, they will say, 'Farewell prayer, farewell hearing, farewell fasting. I will rest no more in you—but now I will rest only in the bosom of Christ, the love of Christ, the righteousness of Christ!'