By Thomas Brooks, (1608 - 1680)
SATAN'S DEVICES TO KEEP SAINTS IN A SAD, DOUBTING,
QUESTIONING & UNCOMFORTABLE CONDITION
Though Satan can never rob a believer of his crown, yet such is his malice and envy, that he will leave no stone unturned, no means unattempted, to rob them of their comfort and peace—to make their life a burden and a hell unto them, to cause them to spend their days in sorrow and mourning, in sighing and complaining, in doubting and questioning. 'Surely,' he says, 'we have no interest in Christ; our graces are not true, our hopes are the hopes of hypocrites; our confidence is our presumption, our enjoyments are our delusions.'
Blessed John Bradford (the martyr) in one of his epistles, says thus, 'O Lord, sometime methinks I feel it so with me—as if there were no difference between my heart and the wicked. I have a blind mind as they, a stout, stubborn, rebellious hard heart as they,' and so he goes on.
I shall show you this in some particulars:
DEVICE 1.The first device that Satan has to keep souls in a sad, doubting, and questioning condition, and so making their life a hell, is, By causing them to be still poring and musing upon sin, to mind their sins more than their Savior; yes, so to mind their sins as to forget, yes, to neglect their Savior; that, as the Psalmist speaks, 'The Lord is not in all their thoughts' (Psalm 10:4). Their eyes are so fixed upon their disease, that they cannot see the remedy, though it be near; and they do so muse upon their debts, that they have neither mind nor heart to think of their Surety. A Christian should wear Christ in his bosom as a flower of delight, for he is a whole paradise of delight. He who minds not Christ more than his sin, can never be thankful and fruitful as he should.
Remedy (1). The first remedy is for weak believers to consider,That though Jesus Christ has not freed them from the presence of sin, yet he has freed them from the damnatory power of sin. It is most true that sin and grace were never born together, neither shall sin and grace die together; yet while a believer breathes in this world, they must live together, they must keep house together. Christ in this life will not free any believer from the presence of any one sin, though he does free every believer from the damning power of every sin. 'There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh—but after the Spirit' (Rom. 8:1). The law cannot condemn a believer, for Christ has fulfilled it for him; divine justice cannot condemn him, for that Christ has satisfied; his sins cannot condemn him, for they in the blood of Christ are pardoned; and his own conscience, upon righteous grounds, cannot condemn him, because Christ, that is greater than his conscience, has acquitted him.
My sins hurt me not, if they like me not. Sin is like that wild fig-tree, or ivy in the wall; cut off stump, body, bough, and branches, yet some strings or other will sprout out again, until the wall be plucked down.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider,That though Jesus Christ has not freed you from the molesting and vexing power of sin, yet he has freed you from the reign and dominion of sin. You say that sin does so molest and vex you, that you can not think of God, nor go to God, nor speak with God.* Oh! but remember it is one thing for sin to molest and vex you, and another thing for sin to reign and have dominion over you. 'For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law—but under grace' (Rom. 6:14). Sin may rebel—but it shall never reign in a saint. It fares with sin in the regenerate as with those beasts that Daniel speaks of, 'that had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season' (Dan. 7:12). The primitive Christians chose rather to be thrown to lions without, than left to lusts within.
Now sin reigns in the soul, when the soul willingly and readily obeys it, and submits to its commands, as subjects do actively obey and embrace the commands of their prince. The commands of a king are readily embraced and obeyed by his subjects—but the commands of a tyrant are embraced and obeyed unwillingly. All the service that is done to a tyrant, is out of violence, and not out of loving obedience. A free and willing subjection to the commands of sin speaks out the soul to be under the reign and dominion of sin; but from this plague, this hell, Christ frees all believers. It is a sign that sin has not gained your consent—but committed a rape upon your souls, when you cry out to God. If the ravished virgin under the law cried out—she was guiltless (Deut. 22:27); so when sin plays the tyrant over the soul, and the soul cries out, it is guiltless; those sins shall not be charged upon the soul.
Sin cannot say of a believer as the centurion said of his servants, 'I bid one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to another, Do this, and he does it' (Matt. 8:9). No! the heart of a saint rises against the commands of sin; and when sin would carry his soul to the devil, he hates his sin, and cries out for justice. Lord! says the believing soul, sin plays the tyrant, the devil in me; it would have me to do that which wars against your holiness as well as against my happiness; against your honor and glory, as my comfort and peace; therefore do me justice, O righteous judge of heaven and earth, and let this tyrant sin die for it! "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is,Constantly to keep one eye upon the promises of remission of sin, as well as the other eye upon the inward operations of sin. This is the most certain truth, that God graciously pardons those sins to his people—that he will not in this life fully subdue in his people. Paul prays thrice (that is, often), to be delivered from the thorn in the flesh. All he can get is 'My grace is sufficient for you' (2 Cor. 12:9); I will graciously pardon that to you—which I will not conquer in you, says God. 'And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me, and whereby they have transgressed against me. I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember your sins (Jer. 33:8, Is. 43:25).
Ah! you lamenting souls, who spend your days in sighing and groaning under the sense and burden of your sins, why do you deal so unkindly with God, and so injuriously with your own souls, as not to cast an eye upon those precious promises of remission of sin which may bear up and refresh your spirits in the darkest night, and under the heaviest burden of sin?
Is. 44:2; Micah 7:18, 19; Col. 2:13, 14. The promises of God are a precious book; every leaf drops myrrh and mercy. Though the weak Christian cannot open, read, and apply them, Christ can and will apply them to their souls. 'I, I am he, blotting out your transgressions' today and tomorrow (the Hebrew denotes a continued act of God).
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is,To look upon all your sins as charged upon the account of Christ, as debts which the Lord Jesus has fully satisfied; and indeed, were there but one farthing of that debt unpaid that Christ was engaged to satisfy, it would not have stood with the unspotted justice of God to have let him come into heaven and sit down at his own right hand. But all our debts, by his death, being discharged, we are freed, and he is exalted to sit down at the right hand of his Father, which is the top of his glory, and the greatest pledge of our felicity: 'For he has made him to be sin for us that knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,' said the apostle (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ was the greatest of sinners by imputation and reputation.
All our sins were made to meet upon Christ, as that evangelical prophet has it: 'He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6).
In law, we know that all the debts of the wife are charged upon the husband. Says the wife to one and to another, If I owe you anything, go to my husband. So may a believer say to the law, and to the justice of God, If I owe you anything, go to my Christ, who has undertaken for me. I must not sit down discouraged, under the apprehension of those debts, which Christ, to the utmost farthing, has fully satisfied. Would it not argue much weakness, I had almost said much madness, for a debtor to sit down discouraged upon his looking over those debts that his surety has readily, freely, and fully satisfied? The sense of his great love should engage a man forever to love and honor his surety, and to bless that hand that has paid the debt, and cancelled the books. But to sit down discouraged when the debt is satisfied, is a sin which bespeaks repentance.
Christ has the greatest worth and wealth in him. As the worth and value of many pieces of silver is in one piece of gold, so all the excellencies scattered abroad in the creatures are united in Christ. All the whole volume of perfections which are spread through heaven and earth are epitomized in him.
Christ has cleared all reckoning between God and us. You remember the scapegoat. Upon his head all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, were confessed and put, and the goat did bear upon him all their iniquities (Lev. 16:21). Why! the Lord Jesus is that blessed scapegoat, upon whom all our sins were laid, and who alone has carried 'our sins away into the land of forgetfulness, where they shall never be remembered more.'
Christ is the channel of grace from God. A believer, under the guilt of his sin, may look the Lord in the face, and sweetly plead thus with him: It is true, Lord, I owed you much—but your Son was my ransom, my redemption. His blood was the price; he was my surety and undertook to answer for my sins; I know you must be satisfied, and Christ has satisfied you to the utmost farthing: not for himself, for what sins had he of his own? but for me; they were my debts that he satisfied for; be pleased to look over the book, and you shall find that it is crossed by your own hand upon this very account, that Christ has suffered and satisfied for them.
The bloods of Abel, for so the Hebrew has it, as if the blood of one Abel had so many tongues as drops, cried for vengeance against sin; but the blood of Christ cries louder for the pardon of sin!
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider,Of the reasons why the Lord is pleased to have his people exercised, troubled, and vexed with the operations of sinful corruption; and they are these: partly to keep them humble and low in their own eyes; and partly to put them upon the use of all divine helps, whereby sin may be subdued and mortified; and partly, that they may live upon Christ for the perfecting the work of sanctification; and partly, to wean them from things below, and to make them heart-sick of their absence from Christ, and to maintain in them affections of compassion towards others who are subject to the same infirmities with them; and that they may distinguish between a state of grace and a state of glory, and that heaven may be more sweet to them when finally arrived there.
Now does the Lord upon these weighty reasons allow his people to be exercised and molested with the operations of sinful corruptions? Oh then, let no believer speak, write, or conclude bitter things against his own soul and comforts, because sin so troubles and vexes his righteous soul. But he should lay his hand upon his mouth and be silent, because the Lord will have it so, upon such weighty grounds as the soul is not able to withstand.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider,That believers must repent for their being discouraged by their sins. Their being discouraged by their sins will cost them many a prayer, many a tear, and many a groan; and that because their discouragements under sin flow from ignorance and unbelief. It springs from their ignorance of the richness, freeness, fullness, and everlastingness of God's love; and from their ignorance of the power, glory, sufficiency, and efficacy of the death and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ; and from their ignorance of the worth, glory, fullness, largeness, and completeness of the righteousness of Jesus Christ; and from their ignorance of that real, close, spiritual, glorious, and inseparable union which exists between Christ and their precious souls. Ah! did precious souls know and believe the truth of these things as they should, they would not sit down dejected and overwhelmed under the sense and operation of sin.
God never gave a believer a new heart that it should always lie a-bleeding, and that it should always be rent and torn in pieces with discouragements.
DEVICE 2. By working them to make false definitions of their graces.
Satan knows, that as false definitions of sin wrong the soul one way, so false definitions of grace wrong the soul another way.
Oh how does Satan labor with might and main to work men to make false definitions of FAITH! Some he works to define faith too high, as that it is a full assurance of the love of God to a man's soul in particular, or a full persuasion of the pardon and remission of a man's own sins in particular. Says Satan, What do you talk of faith? Faith is an assurance of the love of God, and of the pardon of sin; and this you have not; you know you are far off from this; therefore you have no faith. And by drawing men to make such a false definition of faith, he keeps them in a sad, doubting, and questioning condition, and makes them spend their days in sorrow and sighing, so that tears are their drink, and sorrow is their food, and sighing is their work all the day long.
The philosophers say there are eight degrees of. Now, if a man should define heat only by the highest degree, then all other degrees will be ruled out from being heat. So if men shall define faith only by the highest degrees, by assurance of the love of God, and of the pardon of his sins in particular, what will become of lesser degrees of faith?
If a man should define a man to be a living man, only by the highest and strongest demonstrations of life, as laughing, leaping, running, working, and walking; would not many thousands who groan under internal and external weaknesses, and who cannot laugh, nor leap, nor run, nor work, nor walk—be found dead men by such a definition, that yet we know to be alive? It is so here, and you know how to apply it.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That there may be true faith, yes, great measures of faith, where there is no assurance. The Canaanite woman in the Gospel had strong faith, yet no assurance that we read of. 'These things have I written unto you,' says John, 'who believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life' (1 John 5:13). In these words you see that they did believe, and had eternal life, in respect of the purpose and promise of God, and in respect of the seeds and beginnings of it in their souls, and in respect of Christ their head, who sits in heaven as a public person, representing all his chosen ones, 'Who has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus' (Eph. 2:6); and yet they did not know that they had eternal life.
It is one thing to have a right to heaven, and another thing to know it; it is one thing to be beloved, and another thing for a man to know that he is beloved. It is one thing for God to write a man's name in the book of life, and another thing for God to tell a man that his name is written in the book of life; and to say to him (Luke 10:20), 'Rejoice, because your name is written in heaven.' So Paul: 'In whom you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise' (Eph. 1:13). So Micah: 'Rejoice not against me, O my enemy: for when I shall fall, I shall rise; when I shall sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned' (Micah 7:8, 9). This soul had no assurance, for he sits in darkness, and was under the sad countenance of God; and yet had strong faith, as appears in those words, 'When I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.' He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. So also those in Is. 50:10 had faith, though they had no assurance. And let this suffice for the first answer.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That God in the Scripture defines faith otherwise. God defines faith to be a receiving of Christ—'As many as received him, to them he gave this privilege, to be the sons of God' (John 1:12). 'To as many as believed on his name'—to be a cleaving of the soul unto God, though no joy—but afflictions, attend the soul (Act. 11:23). Yes, the Lord defines faith to be a coming to God in Christ, and often to a resting and staying, rolling of the soul upon Christ. It is safest and sweetest to define as God defines, both vices and graces. This is the only way to settle the soul, and to secure it against the wiles of men and devils, who labor, by false definitions of grace, to keep precious souls in a doubting, staggering, and languishing condition, and so make their lives a burden, a hell, unto them. Matt. 11:23; John 6:37; Heb. 7:25, 26.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider this, That there may be true faith where there is much doubtings. Witness those frequent sayings of Christ to his disciples, 'Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?' (Matt. 6:30, 14:31, 16:8; Luke 12:28). People may be truly believing who nevertheless are sometimes doubting. In the same people that the fore-mentioned scriptures speak of, you may see their faith commended and their doubts condemned, which does necessarily suppose a presence of both.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That assurance is an effect of faith; therefore it cannot be faith. The cause cannot be the effect, nor the root the fruit. As the effect flows from the cause, the fruit from the root, the stream from the fountain, so does assurance flow from faith. This truth I shall make good thus: The assurance of our salvation and pardon of sin does primarily arise from the witness of the Spirit of God that we are the children of God (Eph. 1:13); and the Spirit never witnesses this until we are believers: 'For we are sons by faith in Christ Jesus' (Gal. 4:6). Therefore assurance is not faith—but follows it, as the effect follows the cause.
Again, no man can be assured and persuaded of his salvation until he be united to Christ, until he be ingrafted into Christ; and a man cannot be ingrafted into Christ until he has faith. He must first be ingrafted into Christ by faith before he can have assurance of his salvation; which does clearly evidence, that assurance is not faith—but an effect and fruit of faith.
Again, faith cannot be lost—but assurance may; therefore assurance is not faith. Though assurance is a precious flower in the garden of a saint, and is more infinitely sweet and delightful to the soul than all outward comforts and contentments; yet it is but a flower which is subject to fade, and to lose its freshness and beauty, as saints by sad experience find. Psalm 51:12, 30:6, 7; Cant. 5:6; Is. 8:17.
Again, a man must first have faith before he can have assurance, therefore assurance is not faith. And that a man must first have faith before he can have assurance, is clear by this, a man must first be saved before he can be assured of his salvation; for he cannot be assured of that which is not. And a man must first have a saving faith before he can be saved by faith, for he cannot be saved by that which he has not; therefore a man must first have faith before he can have assurance, and so it soundly follows that assurance is not faith.
There are many thousand precious souls, of whom this world is not worthy, that have the faith of reliance, and yet lack assurance and the effects of it; as high joy, glorious peace, and vehement longings after the coming of Christ.
Says Satan—Do you not see how Providence crosses your prayers, and crosses your desires, your tears, your hopes, your endeavors? Surely if his love were towards you, if his soul did delight and take pleasure in you—he would not deal thus with you. (Psalm 77:7, et seq.; 31:1; 73:2, 23).
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That many things may be cross to our desires, which are not cross to our spiritual and eternal good. Abraham, Jacob, David, Job, Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah, and Paul, met with many things that were contrary to their desires and endeavors, that were not contrary to their good; as all know that have wisely compared their desires and endeavors and God's actings together. Medicine and surgery often works contrary to the patients' desires, when it does not work contrary to their good.
I remember a story of a godly man, who had a great desire to go to France, and as he was going to board the ship, he broke his leg; and it pleased Providence so to order it, that the ship that he should have gone in, was sunk, and not a man saved; and so by breaking a bone his life was saved. Though Providence did work cross to his desire, yet it did not work cross to his good.
Some heretics, not being able to repudiate the preaching and writing of Augustine, sought his destruction, waiting to trap him on the way he was to go. But by God's providence Augustine, missing his way, escaped the danger.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That the hand of God may be against a man, when the love and heart of God is much set upon a man. No man can conclude how the heart of God stands—by his hand in providential dealings. The hand of God was against Ephraim, and yet his love, his heart, was dearly set upon Ephraim: "I have surely heard Ephraim's moaning: 'You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God. After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.' Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him," declares the Lord." Jeremiah 31:18-20 ' (Jer. 31:18-20).*
God's providential hand may be with people, when his heart is set against them. God's providential hand was for a time with Saul, Haman, Asshur, and Jehu—and yet his heart was set against them. 'No man knows love or hatred by all that is before him' (Eccles. 9:1, 2).
God can look sourly, and chide bitterly, and strike heavily—even where and when he loves dearly. The hand of God was very much against Job—and yet his love, his heart, was very much set upon Job, as you may see by comparing chaps. 1 and 2, with 41 and 42. The hand of God was sore against David and Jonah—when his heart was much set upon them. He who shall conclude that the heart of God is against those who his hand is against, will condemn the generation of the just, whom God unjustly would not have condemned.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan, is, to consider, That all the cross providences which befall the saints are for some noble good that God intends to confer upon them. Providence wrought cross to David's desire in taking away the child sinfully begotten—but yet not cross to more noble good; for was it not far better for David to have such a legitimate heir as Solomon was, than that a illegitimate child should wear the crown, and sway the scepter?
Joseph, you know, was sold into a far country by the envy and malice of his brethren, and afterwards imprisoned because he would not be a prisoner to his mistress's lusts; yet all these providences did wonderfully conduce to his advancement, and the preservation of his father's family, which was then the visible church of Christ. It was so handled by a noble hand of providence, that what they sought to injure, they did promote. Joseph was therefore sold by his brethren that he might not be worshiped, and yet he was therefore worshiped because he was sold. Cf. Genesis 37:7, etc.
David was designed to a kingdom—but oh! the straits, troubles, and deaths that he runs through before he feels the weight of his crown! And all this was but in order to the sweetening of his crown, and to the settling of it more firmly and gloriously upon his head.
God did so contrive it that Jonah's offence, and those cross actings of his which attended it, should advantage that end which they seemed most directly to oppose. Jonah he flies to Tarshish, then cast into the sea, then saved by a miracle. Then the mariners, as it is very probable, who cast Jonah into the sea, declared to the Ninevites what had happened; therefore he must be a man sent of God, and that his threatenings must be believed and hearkened to, and therefore they must repent and humble themselves, that the wrath threatened might not be executed.
The motions of divine providence are so dark, so deep, so changeable, that the wisest and noblest believers cannot tell what conclusions to make.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That all the strange, dark, deep, and changeable providences that believers meet with, shall further them in their way to heaven—in their journey to happiness. Divine wisdom and love will so order all things here below, that they shall work for the real, spiritual, and eternal good—of those who love him. All the rugged providences that David met with did contribute to the bringing of him to the throne; and all the rugged providences that Daniel and the 'three children' met with did contribute to their great advancement. So all the rugged providences that believers meet with, they shall all contribute to the lifting up of their souls above all things, below God. As the waters lifted up Noah's ark nearer heaven—and as all the stones that were about Stephen's ears did but knock him the closer to Christ, the corner-stone—so all the strange rugged providences that we meet with, they shall raise us nearer heaven, and knock us nearer to Christ, that precious corner-stone.
DEVICE 4. By suggesting to them that their graces are not true—but counterfeit.
Says Satan—All is not gold which glitters, all is not free grace which you count grace, which you call grace. That which you call faith is but imagination; and that which you call zeal is but a natural heat and passion; and that light you have, it is but common, it is short, to what many have attained to—who are now in hell. Satan does not labor more mightily to persuade hypocrites that their graces are true when they are counterfeit; than he does to persuade precious souls that their graces are counterfeit, when indeed they are true, and such as will abide the touchstone of Christ.
Yet it must be granted that many a fair flower may grow out of a stinking root—and many sweet dispositions and fair actions may be where there is only the corrupt root of nature.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That grace is taken two ways.
[1.] It is taken for the gracious good-will and favor of God, whereby he is pleased of his own free love to accept of some in Christ for his own. This, some call the first grace, because it is the fountain of all other graces, and the spring from whence they flow, and it is therefore called grace, because it makes a man gracious with God—but this is only in God.
[2.] Grace is taken for the gifts of grace, and they are of two sorts, common or special. Some are common to believers and hypocrites, as a gift of knowledge, a gift of prayer, etc. Some are special graces, and they are proper and peculiar to the saints, as faith, humility, meekness, love, patience, etc. (Gal. 5:22, 23).
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, wisely to consider, The differences between renewing grace and restraining grace, between sanctifying and temporary grace; and this I will show you in these ten particulars.
[1.] True grace makes all glorious within and without.'The King's daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold' (Psalm 45:13). True grace makes the understanding glorious, the affections glorious. It casts a general glory upon all the noble parts of the soul: 'The King's daughter is all glorious within.' And as it makes the inside glorious, so it makes the outside glorious: 'Her clothing is of wrought gold.' It makes men look gloriously, and speak gloriously, and walk and act gloriously, so that vain souls shall be forced to say that these are those who have seen Jesus. God brings not a pair of scales to weigh our graces—but a touchstone to try our graces. Purity, preciousness, and holiness is stamped upon all saving graces. Acts 15:9; 2 Peter 4:1; Jude 20.
As grace is a fire to burn up and consume the dross and filth of the soul, so it is an ornament to beautify and adorn the soul. True grace makes all new, the inside new and the outside new: 'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature' (2 Cor. 5:17), but temporary grace does not this. (The Greek signifies 'a new creation': new man, new covenant, new paradise, new Lord, new law, new hearts, and new creatures go together.)
True grace changes the very nature of a man. Moral virtue does only restrain or chain up the outward man, it does not change the whole man. A lion in a cage is a lion still; he is restrained—but not changed, for he retains his lion-like nature still. So temporary graces restrain many men from this and that wickedness—but it does not change and turn their hearts from wickedness. But now true grace, that turns a lion into a lamb, as you may see in Paul (Acts 9), and a notorious strumpet into a blessed and glorious penient, as you may see in Mary Magdalene (Luke 7).
[2.] The objects of true grace are supernatural.True grace is conversant about the choicest and the highest objects, about the most soul-ennobling and soul-greatening objects—as God, Christ, precious promises which are worth more than a world, and a kingdom which cannot be shaken, a crown of glory which does not wither, and heavenly treasures which do not rust. The objects of temporary grace are low and poor, and always within the compass of reason's reach. 2 Cor. 14:18; Prov. 14. A saint has his feet where other men's heads are (Matt 6).
[3.] True grace enables a Christian, when he is himself, to do spiritual actions with real pleasure and delight.To souls truly gracious, Christ's yoke 'is easy, and his burden is light.' 'His commandments are not grievous—but joyous.' 'I delight in the law of God after the inward man,' says Paul. The blessed man is described by this, that he 'delights in the law of the Lord' (Psalm 1:2). To a gracious soul, 'All the ways of the Lord are pleasantness, and his paths are peace (Prov. 3:17)
But to souls that have but temporary grace—but moral virtues, pious services are a toil, not a pleasure; a burden, and not a delight. 'We have fasted before you! Why aren't you impressed? We have done much penance, and you don't even notice it!' (Is. 58:3). 'You have said—What's the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord Almighty that we are sorry for our sins?' (Mal. 3:14). 'You can't wait for the Sabbath day to be over and the religious festivals to end so you can get back to cheating the helpless. You measure out your grain in false measures and weigh it out on dishonest scales.' (Amos 8:5).
[4.] True grace makes a man most careful, and most fearful of his own heart.(Psalm 51:10; 119:36, 80; 86:11). It makes him most studious about his own heart—informing that, examining that, and watching over that. But temporary grace, mere moral virtues, make men more mindful and careful of others, to instruct them and counsel them, and stir up them, and watch over them. This does with open mouth, demonstrate that their graces are not saving—but that they are temporary; and no more than Judas, Demas, and the pharisees had.
[5.] True grace will work a man's heart to love and cleave to the strictest and holiest ways and things of God, for their purity and sanctity, in the face of all dangers and hardships. 'Your word is very pure, therefore your servant loves it (Psalm 119:140). Others love it, and like it, and follow it—for the credit, the honor, the advantage that they get by it; but I love it for the spiritual beauty and purity of it. So the psalmist, 'All this has happened despite our loyalty to you. We have not violated your covenant. Our hearts have not deserted you. We have not strayed from your path. Yet you have crushed us in the desert. You have covered us with darkness and death.' (Psalm 44:17-19). But temporary grace will not bear up the soul against all oppositions and discouragements in the ways of God, as is clear by their apostasy in John 6:60, 66, and by the stony ground hearers falling away (Matt. 13:20, 21).
Grace is a panoply against all trouble, and a paradise of all pleasures.
[6.] True grace will enable a man to step over the world's
crown, to take up Christ's cross; to prefer the cross of Christ above the glory of this world. It enabled Abraham, and Moses, and Daniel, with those other worthies in Heb. 11, to do so.
Godfrey Bouillon, crusader king of Jerusalem, refused to be crowned with a crown of gold, saying, 'That it not fitting for a Christian to wear a crown of gold—where Christ had worn a crown of thorns.' Oh! but temporary grace cannot work the soul to prefer Christ's cross above the world's crown; but when these two meet, a temporary Christian steps over Christ's cross to take up, and keep up, the world's crown. 'Demas has forsaken us to embrace this present world' (2 Tim. 4:10). So the young man in the Gospel had many good things in him; he bid fair for heaven, and came near to heaven; but when Christ set his cross before him, he steps over that to enjoy the world's crown (Matt. 19:19-22). When Christ bid him, 'go and sell all that he had, and give to the poor—he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.' If heaven be to be had upon no other terms, Christ may keep his heaven to himself, he will have none!
There are few are of Jerome's mind, who had rather have Paul's coat with his heavenly graces, than the purple of kings with their kingdoms.
[7.] Sanctifying grace, renewing grace, puts the soul upon spiritual duties, from spiritual and intrinsic motives, as from the sense of divine love—which constrains the soul to wait on God, and to act for God; and the sense of the excellency and sweetness of communion with God, and the choice and precious discoveries that the soul has formerly had of the beauty and glory of God, while it has been in the service of God. The good looks, the good words, the blessed love-letters, the glorious kisses, and the sweet embraces that gracious souls have had from Christ in his service—stimulate and move them to wait upon him in holy duties.
As what I have if offered to you, pleases not you, O Lord, without myself; so the good things we have from you, though they may refresh us, yet they satisfy us not without yourself.
Ah! but restraining grace, temporary grace, puts men upon religious duties only from external motives, as the care of the creature, the eye of the creature, the rewards of the creature, and the keeping up of a name among the creatures, and a thousand such like considerations, as you may see in Saul, Jehu, Judas, Demas, and the scribes and pharisees.
The abbot in Melancthon lived strictly, and walked demurely, and looked humbly, so long as he was but a monk—but when, by his seeming extraordinary sanctity, he got to be abbot, he grew intolerably proud and insolent; and being asked the reason of it, confessed, 'That his former lowly look was but to see if he could find the keys of the abbey.' Such poor, low, vain motives work temporary souls to all the service they do perform.
[8.] Saving grace, renewing grace, will cause a man to follow the Lord fully in the desertion of all sin, and in the observation of all God's precepts.Joshua and Caleb followed the Lord fully. (Num. 14:24). Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous before God, and walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (Luke 1:5, 6). The saints in the Revelation are described by this, that 'they follow the Lamb wherever he goes' (Rev. 14:4).
But restraining grace, temporary grace, cannot enable a man to follow the Lord fully. All that temporary grace can enable a man to do, is to follow the Lord partially, unevenly, and haltingly, as you may see in Jehu, Herod, Judas, and the scribes and pharisees, who paid tithe of 'mint, and anise, and cummin—but omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith' (Matt. 23:23).
True grace works the heart to the hatred of all sin, and to the love of all truth. It works a man to the hatred of those sins that for his blood he cannot conquer, and to loathe those sins that he would give all the world to overcome (Psalm 119:104, 128). So that a soul truly gracious can say, Though there is no one sin mortified and subdued in me, as it should be, and as I would desire; yet every sin is hated and loathed by me. So a soul truly gracious can say, Though I do not obey any one command as I should, and as I would desire, yet every word is sweet, every command of God is precious (Psalm 119:6, 119, 127, 167). I dearly prize and greatly love those commands that I cannot obey; though there be many commands that I cannot in a strict sense fulfill, yet there is no command I would not fulfill, that I do not exceedingly love. 'I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold:' 'My soul has kept your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly' (Psalm 119, 127, 167).
'I had rather go to hell pure from sin, then to heaven polluted with that filth' (Anselm). 'Give what you command, and command what you will' (Augustine).
[9.] True grace leads the soul to rest in Christ, as in his 'summum bonum,' the chief good.It works the soul to center in Christ, as in his highest and ultimate end. 'Where should we go? you have the words of eternal life' (John 6:68). 'My lover is dark and dazzling, better than ten thousand others! I found the one I love. I held on to him and would not let him go!' (Cant. 5:10; 3:4). That wisdom which a believer has from Christ—it leads him to center in the wisdom of Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). And that love the soul has from Christ—it leads the soul to center in the love of Christ. And that righteousness the soul has from Christ, it leads the soul to rest and center in the righteousness of Christ (Phil. 3:9).
Grace is that star that leads to Christ; it is that cloud and pillar of fire that leads the soul to the heavenly Canaan, where Christ sits chief. True grace is a beam of Christ, and where it is, it will naturally lead the soul to rest in Christ. The stream does not more naturally lead to the fountain, nor the effect to the cause—than true grace leads the soul to Christ.
But restraining grace, temporary grace, works the soul to center and rest in things below Christ. Sometimes it works the soul to center in the praises of the creature; sometimes to rest in the rewards of the creature: 'Verily they have their reward,' said Christ (Matt. 6:1, 2): and so in an hundred other things (Zech. 7:5, 6).
[10.] True grace will enable a soul to sit down satisfied and contented with the naked enjoyments of Christ. The enjoyment of Christ without honor will satisfy the soul; the enjoyment of Christ without riches, the enjoyment of Christ without pleasures, and without the smiles of creatures, will content and satisfy the soul. 'It is enough; Joseph is alive' (Gen. 45:28). So says a gracious soul, though honor is not, and riches are not, and health is not, and friends are not—it is enough that Christ is, that he reigns, conquers, and triumphs. Christ is the pot of manna, the cruse of oil, a bottomless ocean of all comfort, contentment, and satisfaction. He who has him lacks nothing: he who lacks him enjoys nothing. 'Having nothing,' says Paul, 'and yet possessing all things' (2 Cor. 6:10). A contented man cannot be a poor man.
Oh! but a man who has but temporary grace—who has but restraining grace, cannot sit down satisfied and contented, under the lack of outward comforts. Christ is good with honors, says such a soul; and Christ is good with riches, and Christ is good with pleasures, and he is good with such and such outward contents. I must have Christ and the world, or else with the young man in the Gospel, in spite of my soul, I shall forsake Christ to follow the world. Ah! how many shining professors are there in the world, who cannot sit down satisfied and contented, under the lack of this or that outward comfort and convenience—but are like bedlams, fretting and vexing, raging and angry—as if there were no God, no heaven, no hell, nor no Christ—to make up all such outward comforts.
But a soul truly gracious can say: In having nothing I have all things, because I have Christ; having therefore all things in him, I seek no other reward, for he is the universal reward. Such a soul can say: Nothing is sweet to me without the enjoyment of Christ in it; honors, nor riches, nor the smiles of creatures, are not sweet to me no farther than I see Christ, and taste Christ in them. The confluence of all outward good, cannot make a heaven of glory in my soul, if Christ, who is the top of my glory, be absent.
As Absalom said, 'What is all this to me so long as I cannot see the king's face?' (2 Sam. 14:32). So says the saved soul: Why do you tell me of this and that outward comfort, when I cannot see the face of him whom my soul loves? Why, honor is not my Christ; riches are not my Christ; the favor of the creature is not my Christ! Let me have Jesus—and let the men of this world take the world, and divide it among themselves! I prize my Christ above all, I would enjoy my Christ above all other things in the world. His presence will make up the absence of all other comforts. His absence will darken and embitter all my comforts—so that my comforts will neither taste like comforts, nor look like comforts, nor warm like comforts—when he who should comfort my soul stands afar off (Lam. 1:16). Christ is all and in all to souls truly gracious (Col. 3:11). We have all things in Christ. Christ is all things to a Christian. If we are sick, Jesus is a physician. If we thirst, Jesus is a fountain. If our sins trouble us, Jesus is our righteousness. If we stand in need of help, Jesus is mighty to save. If we fear death, Jesus is life. If we are in darkness, Jesus is light. If we are weak, Jesus is strength. If we are in poverty, Jesus is plenty. If we desire heaven, Jesus is the way. The soul cannot say, 'this I would have, and that I would have.' But having Jesus, he has all he needs—eminently, perfectly, eternally.
Luther said, he had rather be in hell with Christ than in heaven without him.
'None but Christ! none but Christ!' said Lambert the martyr, lifting up his hands and his flaming fingers!
Augustine upon Psalm 12 brings in rebuking a discontented Christian thus: What is your faith? have I promised you these things? What! were you made a Christian that you should flourish here in this world?
Contentment is the deputy of outward felicity, and supplies the place where it is absent. As the Jews throw the book of Esther to the ground before they read it, because the name of God is not in it, as the Rabbis have observed; so do saints in some sense those mercies wherein they do not read Christ's name, and see Christ's heart.
the truth is, there is as much difference between the conflict which is in
them, and that which is in wicked men, as there is between light and
darkness, between heaven and hell. The devil is a liar, and the father of
lies. The devil's breasts (says Luther) are very fruitful with lies. And the
truth of this I shall evidence to you in the following particulars:
[I.] The whole frame of a believer's soul is against sin.the understanding, the will, and the affections—all the powers and faculties of the soul—are in arms against sin. A covetous man may condemn covetousness, and yet the frame and bent of his heart may be to it. A proud person may condemn pride, and yet the frame of his spirit may be to it. The drunkard may condemn drunkenness, and yet the frame of his spirit may be to it. A man may condemn stealing and lying, and yet the frame of his heart may be to it. 'You who preach a man should not steal—do you steal? You who say a man should not commit adultery—do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols—do you commit sacrilege? You who make your boast of the law—through breaking the law you dishonor God.' (Rom. 2:21-23).
But a saint's will is against sin. 'The evil that I would not do, that I do.' And his affections are against it, 'What I hate, I do' (Rom. 7:19,20).
It was a good saying of Augustine, 'Lord, deliver me from an evil man, myself!' He complains that men do not tame their beasts in their own bosoms.
[2.] A Christian conflicts against sin universally, the least as well as the greatest; the most profitable and the most pleasing sin, as well as against those which are less pleasing and profitable. "I hate every false way." Psalm 119:104. The Hebrew signifies to hate with a deadly and irreconcilable hatred. He will combat with all sin, though he cannot conquer one as he should, and as he desires. He knows that all sin strikes at God's holiness, as well as his own happiness; at God's glory, as well as at his soul's comfort and peace.
The Christian knows that all sin is hateful to God, and that all sinners are traitors to the crown and dignity of the Lord Jesus. He looks upon one sin, and sees that which threw down Noah, the most righteous man in the world; and he looks upon another sin, and sees that which cast down Abraham, the greatest believer in the world; and he looks upon another sin, and sees that which threw down David, the best king in the world. He sees that one sin threw down Samson, the strongest man in the world; another cast down Solomon, the wisest man in the world; and another Moses, the meekest man in the world; and another sin cast down Job, the most patient man in the world. This raises a holy indignation against all sin, so that nothing can satisfy and content his soul, but a destruction of all those lusts and vermin which vex and rack his righteous soul.
It will not suffice a gracious soul to see justice done upon one sin--but he cries out for justice upon all. He would not have some crucified and others spared; but cries out, "Lord, crucify them all, crucify them all!"
Oh! but now the conflict that is in wicked men is partial; they frown upon one sin and smile upon another; they strike at some sins yet stroke others; they thrust some out of doors but keep others close in their bosoms; as you may see in Jehu, Herod, Judas, Simon Magus, and Demas. Wicked men strike at gross sins, such as are not only against the law of God—but against the laws of nature and society—but make nothing of less sins; as vain thoughts, idle words, sinful motions, and petty oaths. They fight against those sins that fight against their honor, profits, and pleasures—but make truce with those which are as dear as right hands and as right eyes to them.
[3.] The conflict that is in a saint, against sin, is maintained by several arguments:by arguments drawn from the love of God, the honor of God, the sweetness and communion with God, and from the spiritual and heavenly blessings and privileges which are conferred upon them by God, and from arguments drawn from the blood of Christ, the glory of Christ, the eye of Christ, the kisses of Christ, and the intercession of Christ, and from arguments drawn from the indwelling of the Spirit, the seal of the Spirit, the witness of the Spirit, the comforts of the Spirit. Though to be kept from sin brings comfort to us; yet we oppose sin from spiritual and heavenly arguments, which brings most glory to God.
Oh! but the conflict that is in wicked men is from low, carnal, and legal arguments, drawn from the eye, ear or hand of the creature, or drawn from shame, hell, and curses of the law (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
[4.] The conflict that is in saints is a constant conflict.Though sin and grace were not born in the heart of a saint together, and though they shall not die together; yet, while a believer lives, they must conflict together. Paul had been fourteen years converted, when he cried out, 'I have a law in my members rebelling against the law of my mind, and leading me captive to the law of sin' (Rom. 7:2, 3).
A Christian lives fighting and dies fighting, he stands fighting and falls fighting, with his spiritual weapons in his hands. It was an excellent saying of Eusebius, 'Our fathers overcame the torrents of the flames, let us overcome the fiery darts of vices.' Consider that the pleasure and sweetness which follows victory over sin, is a thousand times beyond that seeming sweetness that is in sin!
But the conflict that is in wicked men is inconstant: now they fall out with sin, and later they fall in with sin. Now sin is bitter, later it is sweet. Now the sinner turns from his sin, and later he turns to the wallowing in sin, as the swine does to the wallowing in the mire (2 Pet. 2:19, 20). One hour you shall have him praying against sin, as if he feared it more than hell; and the next hour you shall have him pursuing after sin, as if there were no God to punish him, no justice to damn him, no hell to torment him.
[5.] The conflict that is in the saints, is in the same faculties.There is the judgment against the judgment, the mind against the mind, the will against the will, the affections against the affections. That is, the regenerate part against the unregenerate part, in all the parts of the soul.
But now, in wicked men, the conflict is not in the same faculties—but between the conscience and the will. The will of a sinner is bent strongly to such and such sins—but conscience puts in and tells the sinner, God has made me his deputy, he has given me a power to hang, to examine, scourge, judge, and condemn, and if you do such and such wickedness, I shall be your jailor and tormenter. I do not bear the rod nor the sword in vain, says conscience; if you sin, I shall do my office, and then your life will be a hell: and this raises a tumult in the soul.
[6.] The conflict that is in the saints, is a more blessed, successful, and prevailing conflict.A saint, by his conflict with sin, gains ground upon his sin: 'Those who are Christ's,' says the apostle, 'have crucified the world with its affections and lusts' (Gal. 5:24). Christ helps them to lead captivity captive, and to set their feet upon the necks of those lusts which have formerly trampled upon their souls and their comforts. As the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker, and the house of David stronger and stronger, so the Lord, by the discoveries of his love, and by the influences of his Spirit—causes grace, the nobler part of a saint, to grow stronger and stronger, and corruption, like the house of Saul, to grow weaker and weaker.
But sin in a wicked heart gets ground, and grows stronger and stronger, notwithstanding all his conflicts. His heart is more encouraged, emboldened, and hardened in a way of sin, as you may see in the Israelites, Pharaoh, Jehu, and Judas, who doubtless found many strange conflicts, tumults, and mutinies in their souls, when God spoke such bitter things against them, and did such justice upon them (2 Tim. 3:13).
These two, grace and sin, are like two buckets of a well, when one is up, the other is down. When one flourishes the other withers. The more grace thrives in the soul, the more sin dies in the soul.
But remember this by way of caution: Though Christ has given sin its death-wound, yet it will die but a lingering death. As a man that is mortally wounded dies by little by little, so does sin in the heart of a saint. The death of Christ on the cross was a lingering death, so the death of sin in the soul is a lingering death; now it dies a little, and anon it dies a little, as the psalmist speaks, 'Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by your power; and bring them down, O Lord our shield' (Psalm 59:11). He would not have them utterly destroyed—but some relics preserved as a memorial. So God deals in respect of sin; it is wounded and brought down—but not wholly slain. Something is still left to keep us humble, wakeful, and watchful, and that our armor may be still kept on, and our weapons always in our hands.
Mortification of sin is a continued act, it is a daily dying to sin, 'I die daily.' A crucified man will strive and struggle, yet, in the eyes of the law, and in the account of all that see him, he is dead. It is just so with sin.
The best men's souls in this life hang between the flesh and the spirit, as it were, between two loadstones; like the tribe of Manasseh, half on this side of Jordan, in the land of the Amorites, and half on that side, in the Holy Land. Yet, in the final outcome, they shall overcome the flesh, and trample upon the necks of their spiritual enemies. The Romans lost many a battle, and yet in the final outcome, were conquerors in all their wars; it is just so with the saints.
There is no such pleasure, as to have overcome a sinful pleasure. Neither is there any greater conquest, as to overcome a man's corruption.
Says Satan, You know the time was when your heart was much carried out to joying and rejoicing in Christ; you do not forget the time when your heart used to be full of joy and comfort; but now, how are you fallen in your joys and comforts! Therefore, your estate is not good; you do but deceive yourself to think that ever it was good, for surely if it was, your joy and comfort would have continued. And hereupon the soul is apt to take part with Satan, and say—It is even so; I see all is nothing, and I have but deceived my own soul.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That the loss of comfort is a separable adjunct from grace. The soul may be full of holy affections, when it is empty of divine consolations. There may be, and often is, true grace, yes, much grace, where there is not a drop of comfort, nor dram of joy. Comfort is not of the being—but of the well-being, of a Christian. God has not so linked these two choice lovers together—but that they may be put asunder. That wisdom which is from above will never work a man to reason thus: I have no comfort, therefore I have no grace; I have lost that joy that once I had, therefore my condition is not good, and was never good. But it will enable a man to reason thus: Though my comfort is gone, yet the God of my comfort abides; though my joy is lost, yet the seeds of grace remain. The best men's joys are as fragile as glass, bright and brittle, and evermore in danger of breaking. Spiritual joy is a sun that is often clouded. It is like a precious flower—subject to fade and wither. (Psalm 63:1, 2, 8; Is. 50:10; Micah 7:8, 9; Psalm 42:5.)
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That the precious things that you still enjoy are far better than the joys and comforts that you have lost. Your union with Christ, your communion with Christ, your sonship, your saintship, your heirship—which you still enjoy by Christ—are far better than the comforts you have lost by sin. What though your comforts are gone, yet your union and communion with Christ remains (Jer. 31:18, 19, 20). Though your comforts are gone, yet you are a son, though a comfortless son; an heir, though a comfortless heir; a saint, though a comfortless saint. Though the 'bag of silver'—your comforts, are lost; yet the 'box of jewels'—your union with Christ, your communion with Christ, your sonship, your saintship, your heirship, which you still enjoy, is far better than the bag of silver you have lost. Yes, the least of those precious jewels is more worth than all the comforts in the world. Let this be a cordial to comfort you, a star to lead you, and a staff to support you—that your box of jewels are safe, though your bag of silver is lost.
When one objected to Faninus' cheerfulness, compared to Christ's agony and sadness—he answered, 'Christ was sad, that I might be merry; he had my sins, and I have his righteousness.'
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That your condition is no different than what has been the condition of those precious souls whose names were written upon the heart of Christ, and who are now at rest in the bosom of Christ. One day you shall have them praising and rejoicing, the next day a-mourning and a-weeping. One day you shall have them a-singing, 'The Lord is our portion!' The next day a-sighing and expostulating with themselves, 'Why are you cast down, O our souls?' 'Why is our harp turned to mourning? and our organ to the voice of those who weep?' (Psalm 51:12, 30:6, 7; Job 23:6, 8, 9, 30, 31; Lam. 1:16; Matt. 27:46; Psalm 42:5; Lam. 5:15)
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That the causes of joy and comfort are not always the same. Perhaps your former joy and comfort sprang from the witness of the Spirit, he bearing witness to your soul—that your nature was changed, your sins pardoned, your soul reconciled. Now, the Spirit may, upon some special occasion, bear witness to the soul, that the heart of God is dearly set upon him, that he loves him with an everlasting love, and yet the soul may never enjoy such a testimony all the days of his life again. Though the Spirit is a witnessing Spirit, it is not his office every day to witness to believers their interest in God, Christ, heaven. The Spirit does not every day make a feast in the soul; he does not make every day to be a day of weaving the wedding robes.
Or, perhaps your former joy and comfort sprang from the newness and suddenness of the change of your condition. For a man in one hour to have his night turned into day, his darkness turned into light, his bitter into sweet, God's frowns into smiles, his hatred into love, his hell into a heaven—must greatly joy and comfort him. It cannot but make his heart to leap and dance in him, who, in one hour, shall see Satan accusing him, his own heart condemning him, the eternal God frowning upon him, the gates of heaven barred against him, all the creation standing armed, at the least beck of God, to execute vengeance on him, and the mouth of the infernal pit open to receive him. Now, in this hour, for Christ to come to the amazed soul, and to say to it, I have trod the wine-press of my Father's wrath for you; I have laid down my life a ransom for you; by my blood I have satisfied my Father's justice, and pacified his anger, and procured his love for you; by my blood I have purchased the pardon of your sins, your freedom from hell, and your right to heaven! Oh! how wonderfully will this cause the soul to leap for joy!
A pardon given unexpectedly into the hand of a malefactor, when he is on the last step of the ladder, ready to be pushed off, will cause much joy and rejoicing. The newness and suddenness of the change of his condition will cause his heart to leap and rejoice; yet, in process of time, much of his joy will be abated, though his life be as dear to him still as ever it was.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That God will restore and make up the comforts of his people. Though your candle be put out, yet God will light it again, and make it burn more bright than ever. Though your sun for the present be clouded, yet he who rides upon the clouds shall scatter those clouds, and cause the sun to shine and warm your heart as in former days, as the psalmist speaks: 'You who have showed me great and sore troubles, shall quicken me again, and shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side' (Psalm 71:20, 21).
God takes away a little comfort, that he may make room in the soul for a greater degree of comfort. This the prophet Isaiah sweetly shows: 'I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him, and to his mourners' (Isa. 57:18). Bear up sweetly, O precious soul! your storm shall end in a calm, and your dark night in a sunshine day! Your mourning shall be turned into rejoicing, and the waters of consolation shall be sweeter and higher in your soul than ever! The mercy is surely yours—but the time of giving it is the Lord's. Wait but a little, and you shall find the Lord comforting you on every side. See Psalm 126:6, and 42:7, 8.
Says Satan—Your heart is not right with God; surely your estate is not good. You only flatter yourself to think that ever God will eternally own and embrace such a one as you are—who complains against sin, and yet relapses into the same sin; who with tears and groans confesses your sin, and yet always falls into the same sin.
I confess this is a very sad condition for a soul after he has obtained mercy and pity from the Lord, after God has spoken peace and pardon to him, and wiped the tears from his eyes, and set him upon his legs, to return to folly. Ah! how do relapses lay men open to the greatest afflictions and worst temptations! How do they make the wound to bleed afresh! How do they darken and cloud former assurances and evidences for heaven! How do they put a sword into the hand of conscience to cut and slash the soul! They raise such fears, terrors, horrors, and doubts in the soul—that the soul cannot be so frequent in duty as formerly; nor so fervent in duty as formerly; nor so confident in duty as formerly; nor so bold, familiar, and delightful with God in duty as formerly; nor so constant in duty as formerly. They give Satan an advantage; they make the work of repentance more difficult; they make a man's life a burden, and they render death to be very terrible unto the soul.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That there are many scriptures which clearly evidence a possibility of the saints falling into the same sins whereof they have formerly repented. 'I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely: for my anger is turned away from them,' says the Lord by the prophet Hosea (chap. 14:4). So the prophet Jeremiah speaks: 'Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, O backsliding Israel, says the Lord, and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, says the Lord, and I will not keep my anger forever. Turn, O backsliding Israel, says the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion' (Chap. 3:12, 14). So the psalmist: 'They turned back, and dealt unfaithfully with their fathers; they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.' And no wonder, for though their repentance is ever so sincere and sound, yet their graces are but weak, and their mortification of sin is imperfect in this life. Though by grace they are freed from the dominion of sin, and from the damnatory power of every sin, and from the love of all sin, yet grace does not free them from the indwelling of any one sin; and therefore it is possible for a soul to fall again and again into the same sin. If the fire is not wholly put out, who would think it impossible that it should catch and burn again and again?
The sin of backsliding is a soul sin, 'I will heal their backsliding.' You read of no arms for the back though, you do for the bosom. When a soldier bragged too much of a great scar in his forehead, Augustus Caesar asked him if he did not get it as he looked back when he fled.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That God has nowhere engaged himself by any particular promise, that souls converted and united to Christ shall not fall again and again into the same sin after conversion. I cannot find in the whole book of God where he has promised any such strength or power against this or that particular sin, as that the soul should be forever, in this life, put out of a possibility of falling again and again into the same sins. And where God has not a mouth to speak, I must not have a heart to believe. God will graciously pardon those sins to his people, which he will not in this life totally subdue in his people. I have never seen a promise in Scripture, which says that when our sorrow and grief has been so great, or so much, for this or that sin—that then God will preserve us from ever falling into the same sin. The sight of such a promise would be as life from the dead to many a precious soul, who desires nothing more than to keep close to Christ, and fears nothing more than backsliding from Christ.
In some cases the saints have found God better than his word. He promised the children of Israel only the land of Canaan; but besides that he gave them two other kingdoms which he never promised. And to Zacharias he promised to give him his speech at the birth of the child—but besides that he gave him the gift of prophecy.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That the most renowned and now crowned saints have, in the days of their being on earth, relapsed into one and the same sin. Lot was twice overcome with wine; John twice worshiped the angel; Abraham did often deceive, and lay his wife open to adultery to save his own life, which some heathens would not have done. 'And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is your kindness which you shall show unto me; at every place where we shall come, say of me, He is my brother' (Gen. 20:13). David in his wrath was resolved, that he would be the death of Nabal, and all his innocent family; and after this he fell into the foul murder of Uriah.
Though Christ told his disciples that his 'kingdom was not of this world,' yet again, and again, and again, they desired to be high, great, and glorious in this world. Their pride and ambitious desires put them—who were but as so many beggars—upon striving for pre-eminence and greatness in the world, when their Lord and Master told them several times of his sufferings in the world, and of his going out of the world. Jehoshaphat, though a godly man, yet joins with Ahab (2 Chron. 18:1-3, 30, 31); and though he was saved by a miracle, yet soon after, he falls into the same sin, and 'joins himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly' (2 Chron. 20:35-37). Samson is by the Spirit of the Lord numbered among the faithful worthies, yet he fell often into gross immorality. Peter, you know, relapsed often, and so did Jonah. A sheep may often slip into a slough—as well as a swine.
And this happens, that they may see their own inability to stand, or to resist or overcome any temptation or corruption (Jude 14-16), and that they may be taken off from all false confidences, and rest wholly upon God, and only upon God, and always upon God; and for the praise and honor of the power, wisdom, skill, mercy, and goodness of the physician of our souls—who can heal, help, and cure when the disease is most dangerous, when the soul is relapsed, and grows worse and worse, and when others say, 'There is no help for him in his God,' and when his own heart and hopes are dying.
Perhaps the prodigal son, sets out unto us a Christian relapse, for he was a son before, and with his father, and then went away from him, and spent all; and yet he was not quite undone—but returned again. The prodigal saw the compassion of his father the greater, in receiving him after he had run away from him.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That there are relapses into ENORMITIES, and there are relapses into INFIRMITIES. Now it is not usual with God to leave his people frequently to relapse into enormities; for by his Spirit and grace, by his smiles and frowns, by his word and rod—he usually preserves his people from a frequent relapsing into enormities. Yet he does leave his choicest ones frequently to relapse into infirmities (and of his grace he pardons them)—as idle words, passion, and vain thoughts. Though gracious souls strive against these, and complain of these, and weep over these, yet the Lord, to keep them humble, leaves them frequently to relapse into these. These frequent relapses into infirmities shall never be their bane, because they are their burden.
Relapses into enormities are destructive sins. Therefore the Lord is graciously pleased to put under his everlasting arms, and keep his chosen ones from frequent falling into them.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That there are involuntary relapses, and there are voluntary relapses. Involuntary relapses are, when the resolution and full bent of the heart is against sin, when the soul strives with all its might against sin, by sighs and groans, by prayers and tears, and yet out of weakness is forced to fall back into sin, because there is not spiritual strength enough to overcome. Now, though involuntary relapses must humble us, yet they must never discourage us; for God will freely and readily pardon those, in course.
Voluntary relapses are, When the soul longs and loves to 'return to the flesh-pots of Egypt' (Exod. 16:3). When it is a pleasure and a pastime to a man to return to his old courses, such voluntary relapses speak out the man blinded, hardened, and ripened for ruin.
There is a great difference between a sheep which by weakness falls into the mire--and a swine which delights to wallow in the mire; between a woman who is raped, though she fights and cries out--and an alluring adulteress.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That there is no such power, or infinite virtue, in the greatest horror or sorrow the soul can be under for sin, nor in the sweetest or choicest discoveries of God's grace and love to the soul—as forever to fence and secure the soul from relapsing into the same sin. Grace may be prevailed against by the secret, subtle, and strong workings of sin in our hearts. And those discoveries which God makes of his love, beauty and glory to the soul, do not always abide in their freshness and power upon the heart; but by degrees they fade and wear off, and then the soul may return again to folly. We see this in Peter, who, after he had a glorious testimony from Christ's own mouth of his blessedness and happiness, labors to prevent Christ from going up to Jerusalem to suffer, out of slavish fears that he and his fellows could not be secure, if his Master should be brought to suffer (Matt. 16:15-19, 22-24). And again, after this, Christ had him up into the mount, and there showed him his beauty and his glory, to strengthen him against the hour of temptation which was coming upon him; and yet, soon after he had the honor and happiness of seeing the glory of the Lord (which most of his disciples had not), he basely and most shamefully denies the Lord of glory, thinking by that means to provide for his own safety. And yet again, after Christ had broke his heart with a look of love for his most unlovely dealings, and bade those who were first acquainted with his resurrection to 'go and tell Peter that he was risen' (Mark 16:7). I say, after all this, slavish fears prevail upon him, and he basely dissembles, and plays the Jew with the Jews, and the Gentile with the Gentiles, to the seducing of Barnabas (Gal. 2:11-13).
Yet, by way of caution, know, it is very rare that God does leave his beloved ones frequently to relapse into one and the same gross sin; for the law of nature is in arms against gross sins, as well as the law of grace, so that a gracious soul cannot, dares not, will not, frequently return to gross folly. And God has made even his dearest ones dearly smart for their relapses, as may be seen by his dealings with Samson, Jehoshaphat, and Peter. Ah, Lord! what a hard heart has that man, who can see you stripping and whipping your dearest ones for their relapses, and yet making nothing of returning to folly.
It is Satan's method, first to weary and vex your soul with temptations, and then to persuade the soul, that surely it is not loved by God, because it is so much tempted. And by this stratagem he keeps many precious souls in a sad, doubting, and mourning temper many years, as many of the precious sons of Zion have found by woeful experience. He may so tempt as to make a saint weary of his life (Job. 10:1): 'My soul is weary of my life.'
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That those who have been best and most beloved, have been most tempted by Satan. Though Satan can never rob a Christian of his crown, yet such is his malice, that he will therefore tempt, that he may spoil them of their comforts. Such is his enmity to the Father, that the nearer and dearer any child is to him, the more will Satan trouble him, and vex him with temptations. Christ himself was most near and most dear, most innocent and most excellent, and yet none so much tempted as Christ! David was dearly loved by God, and yet by Satan tempted him greatly. Job was highly praised by God himself, and yet much tempted and tried. Peter was much prized by Christ; witness that choice testimony which Christ gave of his faith and happiness, and his showing him his glory in the mount, and that eye of pity that he cast upon him after his fearful fall—and yet tempted by Satan. 'And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail you not' (Luke 22:31, 32).
Pirates do not use to set upon poor empty vessels; and beggars need not fear the thief. Those that have most of God, and are most rich in grace—shall be most assaulted by Satan, who is the greatest and craftiest pirate in the world.
Paul had the honor of being exalted as high as heaven, and of seeing that glory which could not be expressed; and yet he was no sooner stepped out of heaven—but he is buffeted by Satan, 'lest he should be exalted above measure' (2 Cor. 12:2, 7). If these, who were so really, so gloriously, so eminently beloved of God, if these, who have lived in heaven, and set their feet upon the stars, have been tempted, let no saints judge themselves not to be loved by God, because they are tempted. It is as natural for saints to be tempted, who are dearly loved by God, as it is for the sun to shine, or a bird to sing. The eagle complains not of her wings, nor the peacock of his train of feathers, nor the nightingale of her voice—because these are natural to them. No more should saints complain of their temptations, because they are natural to them. 'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood—but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places' (Eph. 6:12).
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That all the temptations that befall the saints shall be sanctified to them by a hand of love. Ah! the choice experiences that the saints get of the power of God supporting them, of the wisdom of God directing them (so to handle their spiritual weapons, their graces, as not only to resist—but to overcome), of the mercy and goodness of the Lord pardoning and succouring of them. And therefore, says Paul, 'I received the messenger of Satan for to buffet me, lest I should be exalted, lest I should be exalted above measure' (2 Cor. 12:7). If he had not been buffeted, who knows how his heart would have swelled; he might have been carried higher in conceit, than before he was in his ecstasy.
Temptation is God's school, wherein he gives his people the clearest and sweetest discoveries of his love; a school wherein God teaches his people to be more frequent and fervent in duty. When Paul was buffeted, then he prayed thrice, that is, frequently and fervently; a school wherein God teaches his people to be more tender, meek, and compassionate to other poor, tempted souls than ever. Temptation is a school wherein God teaches his people to see a greater evil in sin than ever, and a greater emptiness in the creature than ever, and a greater need of Christ and free grace than ever. This is a school wherein God will teach his people that all temptations are but his goldsmiths, by which he will try and refine, and make his people more bright and glorious. The outcome of all temptations shall be to the good of the saints, as you may see by the temptations which Adam and Eve, and Christ and David, and Job and Peter and Paul met with. Those hands of power and love, which bring light out of darkness, good out of evil, sweet out of bitter, life out of death, heaven out of hell—will bring much sweet and good to his people, out of all the temptations which come upon them.
Luther said, there were three things that made a preacher: meditation, prayer and temptation.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, wisely to consider, That no temptations do hurt or harm the saints, so long as they are resisted by them, and prove the greatest afflictions that can befall them. It is not Satan's tempting—but your assenting; not his enticing—but your yielding, which makes temptations hurtful to your soul. If the soul when it is tempted, resists temptation, and says with Christ, 'Get behind me, Satan' (Matt. 16:23); and with that young convert, 'I am not the man I was,' or as Luther counsels all men to answer all temptations with these words, "I am a Christian!"—if a man's temptation is his greatest affliction, then is the temptation no sin upon his soul, though it be a trouble upon his mind. When a soul can look the Lord in the face, and say, 'Ah, Lord! I have many outward troubles upon me, I have lost such and such a near mercy, and such and such desirable mercies; and yet you who knows the heart—you know that all my crosses and losses do not make so many wounds in my soul, nor fetch so many sighs from my heart, or tears from my eyes—as those temptations do, which Satan dogs my soul with! When it is thus with the soul, then temptations are only the soul's trouble, they are not the soul's sin.
Satan is a malicious and envious enemy. As his names are, so is he. His names are all names of enmity—the accuser, the tempter, the destroyer, the devourer, the envious one. And this malice and envy of his he shows sometimes by tempting men to such sins as are quite contrary to the natural dispositions, as he did Vespasian and Julian, men of sweet and excellent natures, to be most bloody murderers.
And sometimes he shows his malice by tempting men to such things as will bring them no honor nor profit. 'Fall down and worship me' (Matt. 4:9). He tempts to blasphemy, and atheism—the thoughts and first motions whereof cause the heart and flesh to tremble. And sometimes he shows his malice by tempting them to those sins which they have not found their natures prone to, and which they abhor in others.
Now, if the soul resists these, and complains of these, and groans and mourns under these, and looks up to the Lord Jesus to be delivered from these—then shall they not be put down to the soul's account—but to Satan's, who shall be so much the more tormented, by how much the more the saints have been by him maliciously tempted.
Sometimes he shows his malice by letting those things abide by the soul as may most vex and plague the soul, as Gregory observes in his leaving of Job's wife, which was not out of his forgetfulness, carelessness, or any love or pity to Job—but to vex and torment him, and to work him to blaspheme God, despair, and die.
Make present and decided resistance against Satan's temptations; bid defiance to the temptation at first sight. It is safe to resist, it is dangerous to dispute. Eve lost herself and her posterity by falling into artifices of dispute, when she should have resisted, and stood upon terms of defiance with Satan. He who would stand in the hour of temptation must plead with Christ, 'It is written.' He who would triumph over temptations must plead still, 'It is written.' Satan is bold and impudent, and if you are not decided in your resistance, he will give you fresh onsets. It is your greatest honor, and your highest wisdom, decidedly to withstand the beginnings of a temptation; for an after-remedy comes often too late.
Catherine Bretterege once, after a great conflict with Satan, said, 'Reason not with me, I am but a weak woman; if you have anything to say, say it to my Christ; he is my advocate, my strength, and my redeemer, and he shall plead for me.'
Men must not seek to resist Satan's craft with craft—but by open defiance. He shoots with Satan in his own bow—who thinks by disputing and reasoning to put him off. As soon as a temptation shows its face, say to the temptation, as Ephraim to his idols, 'Get you hence, what have I any more to do with you?' (Hosea 14:8). Oh! say to the temptation, as David said to the sons of Zeruiah, 'What have I to do with you? You will be too hard for me!' He who does thus resist temptations, shall never be undone by temptations.
Make strong and constant resistance against Satan's temptations. Make resistance against temptations by arguments drawn from the honor of God, the love of God, your union and communion with God; and from the blood of Christ, the death of Christ, the kindness of Christ, the intercession of Christ, and the glory of Christ; and from the voice of the Spirit, the counsel of the Spirit, the comforts of the Spirit, the presence of the Spirit, the seal of the Spirit, the whisperings of the Spirit, the commands of the Spirit, the assistance of the Spirit, the witness of the Spirit; and from the glory of heaven, the excellency of grace, the beauty of holiness, the worth of the soul, and the vileness or bitterness and evil of sin—the least sin being a greater evil than the greatest temptation in the world.
And see that you make constant resistance, as well as strong resistance. Satan will come on with new temptations when old ones are too weak. In a calm prepare for a storm. The tempter is restless, impudent, and subtle; he will suit his temptations to your constitutions and inclinations. Satan loves to sail with the wind. If your knowledge is weak—he will tempt you to error. If your conscience is tender—he will tempt you to scrupulosity and too much preciseness, as to do nothing but hear, pray, and read. If your consciences be wide and large—he will tempt you to carnal security. If you are bold-spirited—he will tempt you to presumption; if timorous, to desperation; if flexible, to inconstancy; if proud and stiff, to gross folly. Therefore still fit for fresh assaults, make one victory a step to another. When you have overcome a temptation, take heed of unbending your bow, and look well to it, that your bow is always bent, and that it remains in strength. When you have overcome one temptation, you must be ready to enter the battle with another.
As distrust in some sense, is the mother of safety; so carnal security is the gate of danger. A man had need to fear this most of all—that he fears not at all. If Satan were always roaring, we would be always a-watching and resisting him. And certainly he who makes strong and constant resistance of Satan's temptations, shall in the end get above his temptations, and for the present is secure enough from being ruined by his temptations.
Luke 4:13, 'And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.' Christ had no rest until he was exactly tried with all sorts of temptations.
For a close of this, remember, that it is dangerous to yield to the least sin—to be rid of the greatest temptation. To take this course were as if a man should think to wash himself clean in ink, or as if a man should exchange a light cross, made of paper, for an iron cross, which is heavy, toilsome, and bloody. The least sin set home upon the conscience, will more wound, vex, and oppress the soul, than all the temptations in the world can. Therefore never yield to the least sin—to be rid of the greatest temptation. I will leave you to make the application.
He who will yield to sin to be rid of temptation, will be so much the more tempted—and the less able to withstand temptations.