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hath there wrought in you. Truth of grace, saith the divine Apostle, will make good the certainty of your election.
Not to instance in the rest of that heavenly combination, do but single out the first and the last, faith and charity.
For Faith, how clear is that of our Saviour, He, that believeth in him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but hath passed from death to life! John v. 24. Lo, what access can danger have into heaven? All the peril is in the way now the believer is already passed into life. This is the grace, by which Christ dwells in our hearts; Eph. iii. 17. and whereby we have communion with Christ, and an assured testimony of and from him: for, He, that believeth in the Son of God, hath the witness in himself; 1 John v. 10. And what witness is that? This is the record, that God hath given us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. He, that hath the Son, hath life; vv. 11, 12. O happy and sure connection! Eternal life, first: this life eternal is in and by Christ Jesus: this Jesus is ours by faith: this faith witnesseth to our souls our assurance of life eternal.
Charity is the last: which comprehends our love both to God and man: for, from the reflection of God's love to us, there ariseth a love from us to God again. The beloved disciple can say, We love him, because he loved us first; 1 John iv. 19. and from both these resulteth our love to our brethren. Behold, so full an evidence, that the Apostle tells us, expressly, that we know we are passed from death to life, because we love the brethren; 1 John iii. 14. For the love of the Father is inseparable from the love of the Son: He, that loveth him that begets, loves him that is begotten of him; 1 John v. 1.
Now then, my son, deal unpartially with thine own heart. Ask of it seriously, as in the presence of the Searcher of all Hearts, whether thou dost not find in thyself these unfailing evidences of thine election. Art thou not effectually, though not perfectly, called out of the world and corrupt nature? Dost thou not inwardly abhor thy former sinful ways? Dost thou not think of what thou wert with detestation? Dost thou not heartily desire and endeavour to be in all things approved to God, and conformed to thy Saviour? Dost thou not gladly cast thyself upon the Lord Jesus, and depend upon his free all-sufficiency for pardon and salvation? Dost thou not love that Infinite Goodness, who hath been so rich in mercies to thee? Dost thou not love and bless those gleams of goodness, which he hath cast upon his Saints on earth? In plain terms, dost thou not love a good man, because he is good? Comfort thyself in the Lord, my son: let no fainting qualms of fear and distrust possess thy soul: Faithful is he, that hath called thee, who will also preserve thy whole spirit, and soul, and body blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; 1 Thess. v. 24, 23.
COMFORTS AGAINST TEMPTATIONS:
Christ himself assaulted.—Our trial is for our good.
THOU art haunted with Temptations: that, which the enemy sees he cannot do by force or fraud, he seeks to effect by importunity :
Can this seem strange to thee, when thou seest the Son of God in the wilderness, forty days and forty nights, under the hand of the Tempter? He, that durst thus set upon the Captain of our Salvation, (Heb. ii. 10.) God blessed for ever, how shall he spare frail flesh and blood? Why should that Saviour of thine, thinkest thou, suffer himself to be tempted, if not to bear thee out in all thy temptations? The keys of the bottomless pit are in his hands: he could have shut up that Presumptuous Spirit under chains of darkness, so as he could have come no nearer to him than hell; but he would let him loose, and permit him to do his worst, purposely, that we might not think much to be tempted, and that he might foil that great enemy for us.
Canst thou think, that he, who now sits at the right-hand of majesty, commanding all the powers of heaven, earth, hell, could not easily keep off that Malignant Spirit from assailing thee? Canst thou think him less merciful, than mighty? Would he die to save thee? and will he turn that ban-dog of hell loose upon thee to worry thee?
Dost thou not pray daily to thy Father in Heaven, that he would not lead thee into temptation? If thou knowest thou hast to do with a God that heareth prayers, O thou of little faith, why fearest thou? Lo, he, that was led by his own Divine Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of that Evil Spirit, bids thee pray to the Father, that he would not lead thee into temptation; as implying, that thou couldst not go into temptation, unless he lead thee; and, while he that is thy Father leads thee, how canst thou miscarry?
Let no man, when he is tempted, say, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil; neither tempteth he any man; James i. 13. God tempteth thee not, my son: yet know, that, being his, thou couldst not be tempted without him; both permitting and ordering that temptation, to his own glory, and thy good. That grace, which thy God hath given thee, he will have thus exercised, thus manifested. So we have known some indulgent father, who, being assured of the skill and valour of his dear son, puts
him upon tiltings, and barriers, and public duels; and looks on with contentment, as well knowing, that he will come off with honour. How had we known the admirable continency of good Joseph, if he had not been strongly solicited by a wanton mistress? How had we known David's valour, if the Philistines had not had a giantly challenger to encounter him? How had we known the invincible piety of the three children, if there had not been a furnace to try them? or, of Daniel, if there had been no lions to accompany him? Be confident thy glory shall be according to the proportion of thy trial: neither couldst thou ever be so happy, if thou hadst not been beholding to temptations.
The powerful assistance of God's Spirit; and the example of St.
"How often," thou sayest "have I beaten off these wicked suggestions: yet still, they turn upon me again, as if denials invited them; as if they meant to tire me, with their continual solicitations; as if I must yield and be over-laid, though not with their force, yet with their frequence?"
Know, my son, that thou hast to do with spiritual wickednesses; Eph. vi. 12 whose nature is therefore as unweariable, as their malice unsatisfiable. Thou hast a spirit of thine own; and, besides, God hath given thee of his so he looks thou shouldst, through the power of his gracious assistance, match the importunity of that Evil Spirit, with an indefatigable resistance: Be strong, therefore, in the Lord, and in the power of his might; and put on the whole armour of God, that thou mayest be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand; Eph. vi. 10, 11, 13.
Look upon a stronger champion than thyself, the blessed Apostle thou shalt find him in thine own condition: see the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him; 2 Cor. xii. 7: and he did it to purpose: how soundly was that Chosen Vessel buffeted on both sides, and how often! Thrice, he besought the Lord that it might depart from him; but, even yet, it would not be: the temptation holds; only a comfort shall countervail it; My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness; v. 9.
It is not so much to be considered, how hard thou art laid at, as how strongly thou art upheld. How many, with the blessed martyr Theodorus, have, upon racks and gibbets, found their consolations stronger than their pains! While, therefore, the goodness of thy God sustains and supplies thee with abundance of spiritual vigour and refreshment answerable to the worst of thine assaults, what cause hast thou to complain of suffering?
The advice is high and heroical, which the Apostle James gives to his compatriots: My brethren, count it all joy, when ye fall into
divers temptations; James i. 2. Let those temptations be rather trials by afflictions, than suggestions of sin: yet, even those, overcome, yield no small cause of triumph; for, by them, is our faith no less tried, and the trying of our faith worketh patience, and the perfect work of patience is a blessed entireness of grace. The number of enemies adds to the praise of the victory, to overcome single temptations, is commendable; but, to subdue troops of temptations, is glorious.
The restraint of our spiritual enemies; and their overmatching by the power of God.
"ALAS," thou sayest, "I am overlaid, not with multitudes only, but with power. In all challenges of duels, there is wont to be respect had to the equality, both of the combatants and weapons: but, woe is me, how am I overmatched! For me, I am a weak wretch and we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers; against the rulers of the darkness of this world; against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places; Eph. vi. 12. Behold the Amorite, whose height is like the height of the cedars, and their strength as the strength of oaks; Amos ii. 9. What are we, but poor pismires, in the valley, to these men of measures? Who can stand before these sons of Anak?"
I did not advise thee, my son, to be strong in thyself: alas, we are all made up of weakness! one of those powers of darkness were able to subdue a whole world of men: but, to be strong in the Lord, whose lowest angel is able to vanquish a whole hell of devils; and, in the power of his might, who commandeth the most furious of those infernal spirits to their chains. Woe were to us, if we were left to our own hands: there were no way with us, but foiling and death. But, our help is in the name of the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth; Ps. cxxiv. 8. The Lord is our strength and our shield; xxviii. 7. He is our rock and our salvation: he is our defence; so as we shall not be moved; Ixii. 2, 6. It is he, that hath girded us with strength unto battle; and that subdueth those, that rise up against us; xviii. 39.
Take courage, therefore, to thyself, man: there cannot be so much difference betwixt thee and those hellish powers, as there is betwixt them and the Almighty their force is finite; and limited by his omnipotence. How fain dost thou think Jannes and Jambres, the great magicians of Egypt, by the conjoined powers of hell, would have made but a louse, in an affront to Moses! yet they could not. How earnestly was that legion of devils fain to beg but for leave to prevail over a few Gaderene-swine! How strong therefore soever they seem to thee; yet, to him, they are so mere weakness, that they cannot so much as move without him. Who can fear a bear or a lion, when he sees them chained to their stake?
Even children can behold them baited, when they see their restraint.
Look not upon thyself, therefore: look not upon them: but look up to that over-ruling hand of the Almighty, who ordinates all their motions to his own holy purposes; and, even out of their malice, raises glory to himself, and advantage to his servant.
The advantage that is made to us by our temptations and foils. "IT is a woeful advantage," thou sayest, "that I have made of temptations: for, alas, I have been shamefully foiled by them: and, what by their subtlety, and what by their violence, have been miscarried into a grievous sin against my God; and lie down in a just confusion of face, to have been so miserably vanquished."
Hadst thou wanted tears, my son, for thine offence, I should willingly have lent thee some. It is indeed a heavy case, that thou hast given thy deadly enemy this cause to triumph over thee, and hast thus provoked thy God. Be thou thoroughly humbled under the conscience of thy sin; and be not too sudden, in snatching a pardon out of the hand, which thou hast offended: be humbled; but, after thou hast made thy peace with God by a serious repentance, be not disheartened with thy failings.
Neither do I fear to tell thee of an advantage to be made, not of thy temptations only, but even of thy sin. What art thou other than a gainer, if, having been beaten down to thy knees, thou hast, in a holy indignation, risen up and fought so much the more valiantly? A wound received doth but whet the edge of true fortitude: many a one had never been victorious, if he had not seen himself bleed first. Look where thou wilt, upon all the Saints of God: mark, if thou canst see any one of them without his scars. Oh, the fearful gashes, that we have seen in the noblest of God's champions upon earth; whose courage had never been raised so high, if it had not been out of the sense of some former discomfitures! As some well spirited wrestler therefore, be not so much troubled with thy fall, as zealous to repay it with a more successful grappling.
We know, saith the blessed Apostle, that all things work together for good, to them that love God; Rom. viii. 28. all things, yea, even those that are worse than nothing, their very sins. The Corinthians offended in their silent connivance at the incestuous person: the Apostle's reproof produceth their sorrow: what was the issue? For, behold, this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you; yea, what clearing of yourselves; yea, what indignation; yea, what fear; yea, what vehement desire; yea, what zeal; yea, what revenge! 2 Cor. vii. 11. Lo, what a marvellous advantage is here made of one offence! What hath