PART 2-The Gracious Issue God Puts to Satan’s Temptations

  1. Satan’s aim is to weaken the saint’s faith on God, and cool his love to God, but [he is] befooled in both.

             (1.) God turns their temptations, yea, their falls to the further establishment of their faith, which, like the tree, stands stronger for its shaking; or like the giant Anteus, who, in his wrestling with Hercules, is feigned to get strength by every fall to the ground. False faith, indeed, once foiled, seldom comes on again; but true faith riseth and fights more valiantly, as we see in Peter and other Scripture examples.  Temptation to faith, is like fire to gold, I Pet. 1:7.  The fire doth not only discover which is true gold, but makes the true gold more pure; it comes out, may be, less in bulk and weight, because severed from that soil and dross which embased it, but more in value and worth.  When Satan is bound up, and the Christian walks under the shines of divine favour, and [the] en­couragement of divine assistance, his faith may ap­pear great, if compared with another under the withdrawings of God and buffetings of Satan, but this is not equal judging.  As if to try who is the bigger of two men, we should measure one naked, and the other over his clothes; or in comparing two pieces of gold, [we] weighed one with the dross and dirt it contracts in the purse, with the purged from these in the fire.  Faith before temptation hath much hetero­geneal stuff that cleaves to it, and goes for faith; but when temptation comes these are discovered.  Now the Christian feels corruption stir, which lay as dead before; now a cloud comes between the soul and the sweet face of God—the sense of which latter, and the little sense of the other bore up his faith before—but these bladders [being] pricked, he comes now to learn the true stroke in this heavenly art of swimming on the promise, having nothing else to bear him up but that.  And a little of this carries more of the precious nature of faith in it, than all the other; yea, is, like Gideon’s handful of men, stronger when all these accessories to faith are sent away, than when they were present.  And here is all the devil gets; in­stead of destroying his faith which he aims at, he is the occasion of the refining of it, and thereby adding to its strength.

             (2.) The love of tempted saints is enkindled to Christ by their temptations, and foils in their tempta­tions.  Possibly in the fit there may seem a damp up­on their love, as when water is first sprinkled upon the fire, but when the conflict is a little over, and the Christian comes to himself, his love to Christ will break out like a vehement flame.  (a) The shame and sorrow which a gracious soul must needs feel in his bosom for his sinful miscarriage while under the temptation, will provoke him to express his love to Christ above others; as is sweetly set forth in the spouse, who, when the cold fit of her distemper was off, and the temptation over, bestirs her to purpose; her lazy sickness is turned to love-sickness; she finds it as hard now to sit, as she did before to rise; she can rest in no place out of her Beloved’s sight, but runs and asks every one she meets for him.  And whence came all this vehemency of her zeal?  All occasioned by her undutiful carriage to her husband; she parted so unkindly with him, that bethinking what she had done, away she goes to make her peace. 

 If sins com­mitted in unregeneracy have such a force upon a gracious soul, that the thought of them, though pardoned, will still break and melt the heart into sorrow (as we see in Magdalene), and prick on to show zeal for God above others (as in Paul), how much more will the sins of a saint, who, after sweet acquaintance with Jesus Christ, lifts up the heel against that bosom where he hath lain, affect, yea, dissolve the heart as into so many drops of water, and that sorrow provoke him to serve God at a higher rate than others?  No child so dutiful in all the family as he who is returned from his rebellion.  (b) Again, as his own shame, so the experience which such a one hath of Christ’s love above all others will increase his love.  Christ’s love is to fuel ours; as it gives its being, so it affords growth.  It is both mother and nurse to our love.  The more Christ puts forth his love, the more heat our love gets; and next to Christ’s dying love, none greater than his succouring love in temptation.  The mother never hath such advantage to show her affection to her child as when in distress, sick, poor or imprisoned; so neither hath Christ to his children as when tempted, yea, worsted by temptation.  When his children lie in Satan’s prison, bleeding under the wounds of their consciences, this is the season he takes to give an experiment of his tender heart in pitying, his faithfulness in praying for them, his mindfulness in sending succour to them, yea, his dear love in visiting them by his comforting Spirit.  Now when the soul hath got off some great temptation, and reads the whole history thereof together (wherein he finds what his own weakness was to resist Satan, nay his unfaithfulness in complying with Satan, which might have provoked Christ to leave him to the fury of Satan), now to see both his folly pardoned and ruin graciously prevented, and that by no other hand but Christ’s coming unto his rescue (as Abishai to David, when that giant thought to have slain him, II Sam. 21.)  This must needs ex­ceedingly endear Christ to the soul.  At the reading of such records the Christian cannot but inquire —Ahasuerus concerning Mordecai, who by discovering a treason had saved the king’s life—What honour hath been done to his sweet Saviour for all this?  And thus Jesus Christ, whom Satan thought to bring out of the soul’s favour and liking, comes in the end to sit higher and surer in the saint’s affections than ever.



PART 1-The Gracious Issue God Puts to Satan’s Temptations


  Third Particular.  Satan, in tempting the saint to sin, labours to make a breech between God and the soul.  He hates both, and therefore labours to di­vide these dear friends.  If I can, thinks he, get such a one to sin, God will be angry, and when angry he will whip his child soundly; this will be some sport; and when God is correcting the saint, he will be questioning the love of God to him, and cool in his love to God.  So though I should not keep him from heaven at last, yet he shall have little joy thither in the way.  In this case God and the soul will be like man and wife fallen out, who neither of them look kindly one upon another.  Now see how God befools Satan in both these.

  1. God useth his saints’ temptations, as his method by which he advanceth the communications of his love unto them.  The devil thought he had got the goal when he got Adam to eat the forbidden fruit; he thought now he had man in the same predicament with himself, as unlikely ever to see the face of God, as those apostate spirits.  But, alas! this was by God intended to usher in that great gospel-plot of saving man by Christ, who (as soon as this prologue of man’s fall is done) is brought upon the stage in that grand promise of the gospel made to Adam, and, at God’s command, undertakes the charge of recovering lost man out of Satan’s clutches, and reinstating him in his primitive glory, with an access of more than ever man had at first, so that the meanest lily in Christ’s field exceeds Adam in all his native royalty. And as Satan sped in his first temptation, so he is still on the losing hand.  What got he by all his pains upon Job, but to let that holy man know at last how dearly God loved him?  When he foiled Peter so shamefully, do we not find Christ owning Peter with as much love as ever?  Peter must be the only disciple to whom by name the joyful news of the resurrection is sent.  ‘Go tell my disciples and Peter;’ as if Christ had said, Be sure let his sad heart be comforted with this news, that he may know I am friends with him for all his late cowardice.

             But doth not this seem to countenance sin, and make Christians heedless whether they fall into temp­tation or no?  If God do thus show his love to the saints after their falls and foils, why should we be so shy of sin, which ends so well at last?  Two things will prevent the danger of such an inference.

             (1.) We must distinguish between a soul who is foiled through his own infirmity, and his enemies’ subtlety and power over-matching him; and another thorough a false heart doth voluntarily prostrate him­self to the lust of Satan,  Though a general will show little pity to a soldier that should traitorously throw down his arms, and run to the enemy, yet if another in fighting receives a wound and be worsted, it will be no dishonour for him to express his pity and love, no, though he should send him out of the field in his own coach, lay him in his own bed, and appoint him his own chirurgeon.  God doth not encourage wickedness in his saints, but pities weakness.  Even when the saints fall into a sin, in its nature presumptuous, they do not commit it so presumptuously as others; there is a part true to God in their bosoms, though over-voted.  Moses spake unadvisedly, but the devil had his instruments to provoke him, quite against the good man’s temper.  David numbers the people, but see how the devil dogged and hunted him, till at last he got the better: ‘Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel,’ I Chr. 21:1.  How bravely did Job repel Satan’s darts!  No wonder if in such a shower someone should get between the joints of his armour!  And for Peter, we know—good  man!—with what a loyal heart, yea, zealous, he went into the field, though when the enemy appeared his heart failed him. 

  (2.) Consider but the way how God communicates his love after his saints’ falls, not in sinning, or for sinning, but in mourning and humbling their souls for their sins.  Indeed did God smile on them while acting sinfully, this might strengthen their sin, as wine in a fever would the disease; but when the fit is off, the venom of the disease spent, and breathed out in a kindly humiliation, now the creature lies low.  God’s wine of comfort is a cordial to the drooping spirit, not fuel for sin.  When David was led into temptation first, he must be clad in sackcloth and mourning, and then God takes it off, and puts on the garment of joy and praise, I Chr. 21:10, 15.  Job, though he expressed so much courage and patience, yet, bewraying some infirmities after he was baited long by so many fresh dogs, men and devils, he must cry Peccavi [I have sinned], and abhor himself in dust and ashes, before God will take him into his arms, Job 42:6.  And the same way God takes with all his chil­dren.  Now to his saints in such a posture, God may with safety to his honour and their good, give a larger draught of love than ordinary.  Their fears and sor­rows which their sin hath cost them, will serve in­stead of water to dash this strong wine of joy, and take away its headiness, that it neither fume up into pride, nor occasion them to reel backward into apostasy.         

 But why doth God now communicate his love? (a) From his own pitiful nature; ‘You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and full of tender mercy.’  God loves not to rake in bleeding wounds; he knows a mourning soul is subject to be discouraged.  A frown or an angry look from God, whom the saint so dearly loves, must needs go near the heart, therefore God declares himself at hand to revive such, Isa. 57:15.  And if he gives the reason: ‘For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me,’ ver. 16.  Whose spirit is there meant?  Not [that] of the presumptuous sinner; he goes on, and never blunks; but of the contrite and humble ones.  As the father observes the disposition of his children; one commits a fault and goes on rebelliously, despising his father’s anger; another, when offending him, lays it to heart, refus­eth to eat, gets into some corner to lament the displeasure of his father; the father sees it, and his bowels yearn toward him.  Indeed should he not put his child out of fear by discovering his love, the spirit of such a one would fail.  It is not possible there should be a long breach between such a father and such a son, the one relenting over his sin, the other over his mourning son.  (b) God doth thus, to pour the greater shame upon Satan, who is the great makebate  between God and the soul.  How is the man ashamed that hath stirred up variance between husband and wife, father and son, to see the breach made up, and all set themselves against him!  It went ill on Christ’s side when Herod and Pilate were made friends; and can it go well with Satan to see all well between God and his children?  If Esther be in favour, Haman her enemy shall have his face covered.  Indeed, this cov­ers Satan’s face with shame, to see a poor saint, even now his prisoner, whom he had leave to rob and plunder, tempt and disquiet, now sitting in the sun­shine of God’s love, while he like a ravening lion takes on for the loss of his prey   


How Satan is Prevented In All

             Second Particular.  Satan by tempting one saint hath a mischievous design against others, either by encouraging then to sin by the example of such a one, or discouraging them in their holy course by the scandal he hath given; but God here befools him.

  1. By making the miscarriages of such, a seasonable caveat to others to look to their standing. Dost thou see a meek Moses provoked to anger; what watch and ward hast thou need keep over thy unruly heart!  Though loud winds do some hurt by blowing down here a loose tile, and there a turret, which was falling before—yet the common good sur­mounts the private damage of some few, these being a broom in God’s hands to sweep and cleanse the air. So, though some that are wicked are by God’s righteous judgement for the same hardened into further abominations by the saints’ falls, yet the good which sincere souls receive by having their formality and security in a further degree purged, doth abundantly countervail the other, who are but sent a little faster, whither they were going before.
  2. God makes his saints’ falls an argument for comfort to distressed consciences.  This hath been, and is as a feather—when the passage seems so stopped that no comfort can be got down otherwise —to drop a little hope into the soul, to keep the creature alive from falling into utter despair.  Some have been revived with this, when next door to hell in their own fears.  David’s sin was great, yet [he] found mercy.  Peter fell foully, yet [is] now in heav­en.  Why sittest thou here, O my soul, under the hatches of despair?  Up and call upon thy God for mercy, who hath pardoned the same to others.      

 3. God hath a design in suffering Satan to trounce some of his saints by temptation, to train them up in a fitness to succour their fellow-brethren in the like condition.  He sends them hither to school —where they are under Satan’s ferula and lash—that his cruel hand over them may make them study the Word and their own hearts, by which they get experience of Satan’s policies till at last they commence masters in this art of comforting tempted souls.  It is an art by itself, to speak a word in season to the weary soul.  It is not serving out an apprenticeship to human arts [that] will furnish a man for this.  Great doctors have proved very dunces here, knowing no more how to handle a wounded conscience than a rustic the chirurgeon’s instrument in dissecting the body when an anatomy lecture is to be read.  It is not the knowledge of the Scripture—though a man were as well acquainted with it, as the apothecary with his pots and glasses in his shop, and able to go directly to any promise on a sudden—[that] will suffice.  No, not grace itself, except exercised with these buffetings and soul conflicts.  Christ himself we find trained up at this school.  ‘He wakeneth mine ear, to hear as the learned,’ Isa. 50:4.  Even as the tutor calls up his pupil to read to him.  And what is the lecture which is read to Christ, that he may have the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to the weary souls?  ‘The Lord hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned I away back; I gave my back to the smiters,’ &c., ver. 5, 6.  His sufferings (which were all along mingled with temptations), were the lecture from which Christ came out so learned, to resolve and comfort distressed souls.  So that the devil had better let Christ alone, yea, and his saints also, who do him but the greater disservice in comforting others.  None will handle poor souls so gently as those who remember the smart of their own heart sorrows.  None [are] so skilful in applying the comforts of the Word to wounded consciences, as those who have lain bleeding themselves; such know the symptoms of soul-troubles, and feel others’ pains in their own bosoms, which some that know the Scriptures, for lack of experience do not, and therefore are like a novice physician, who perhaps can tell you every plant in the herbal, yet wanting the practical part, when a patient comes, knows not well how to make use of his skill.  The saints’ experiences help him to a sovereign treacle made of the scorpion’s own flesh—which they through Christ have slain—and that hath a virtue above all other to expel the venom of Satan’s temptations from the heart.

How God Doth Outwit The Devil In His Tempting of Saints to Sin

How God doth outwit the devil in his tempting of saints to sin.

             Question.  But how doth God defeat Satan, and outwit his wiles in tempting his saints?

             Answer.  This God doth by accomplishing his own gracious ends for the good and comfort of his people out of those temptations from which Satan designs their ruin.  This is the noblest kind of conquest, to beat back the devil’s weapon to the wounding of his own head, yea, to cut it off with the devil’s own sword.  Thus God sets the devil to catch the devil, and lays, as it were, his own counsels under Satan’s wings, and makes him hatch them.  Thus the patriarchs helped to fulfil Joseph’s dream, while they were thinking to rid their hands of him.  To instance in a few particulars,

[The ends Satan propounds.]

             First Particular.  Satan by his temptations aims at the defiling of the Christian’s conscience, and disfiguring that beautiful face of God’s image which is engraven with holiness in the Christian’s bosom; he is an unclean spirit himself, and would have them such that he might glory in their shame; but God outwits him, for he turneth the temptations of Satan to sin, to purging them from sin; they are the black soap with which God washes his saints white.           

  1. God useth the temptations of Satan to one sin, as a preventive against another; so Paul’s thorn in the flesh to prevent his pride.  God sends Satan to as­sault Paul on that side where he is strong, that in the meantime he may fortify him where he is weak.  Thus Satan is befooled, as sometimes we see an army sit­ting down before a town, where it wastes its strength to no purpose, and in the meantime gives the enemy an advantage to recruit; and all this by the counsel of some Hushai, that is a secret friend to the contrary side.  God, who is the saint’s true friend, sits in the devil’s council, and overrules proceedings there to the saint’s advantage.  He suffers the devil to annoy the Christian with temptations to blasphemy, atheism, and with these, together with the troubles of spirit they produce, the soul is driven to duty, is humbled in the sense of these horrid apparitions in its imagina­tion, and secured from abundance of formality and pride, which otherwise God saw invading him.  As in a family, some business falls out, which keeps the master up later than ordinary, and by this the thief, who that night intended to rob him, is disappointed. Had not such a soul had his spirit of prayer and diligence kept awake by those afflicting temptations, it is likely that Satan might have come as a seducer, and taken him napping in security.          
  2. God purgeth out the very sin Satan tempts to, even by his tempting.  Peter never had such a con­quest over his self-confidence, never such an establishment of his faith as after his soul-fall in the high-priest’s hall.  He that was so well persuaded of himself before, as to say, ‘Though all were offended with Christ, yet would not he,’ how modest and humble was he in a few days become, when he durst not say he loved Christ more than his fellow-brethren, to whom before he had preferred himself! John 21:15. What an undaunted confessor of Christ and his gos­pel doth he prove before councils and rulers, who even now was dashed out of countenance by a silly maid, and all this the product of Satan’s temptation sanctified unto him!  Indeed a saint hath a discovery by his fall, what is the prevailing corruption in him, so that the temptation doth but stir the humour, which the soul having found out, hath the greater advantage to evacuate, by applying those means, and using those ingredients which do purge that malady  with a choice.  Now the soul sure will call all out against this destroyer?  Paul had not taken such pains to buffet his body, had he not found Satan knocking at that door.          
  1. God useth these temptations for the advancing the whole work of grace in the heart.  One spot occasions the whole garment to be washed.  David overcome with one sin, renews his repentance for all, Ps. 51.  A good husband when he seeth it rain at one place, sends for the workman to look over all the house.  This indeed differenceth a sincere heart from an hypocrite, whose repentance is partial, soft in one plot, and hard in another.  Judas cries out of his treason, but not a word of his thievery and hypocrisy. The hole was no wider in his conscience than where the bullet went in; whereas true sorrow for one, breaks the heart into shivers for others also.


PART 2-Satan Shall Never Vanquish a Soul Armed With True Grace

Second Reason.  The second reason is taken from the wisdom of God, who as he undertakes the ordering of the Christian’s way to heaven, Ps. 37:24, so especially this business of Satan’s temptations.  We find Christ was not led of the evil spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, but of the Holy Spirit, Matt. 4:1.  Satan tempts not when he will, but when God pleaseth, and the same Holy Spirit which led Christ into the field, led him off with victory.  And therefore we find him marching in the power of his Spirit, after he had repulsed Satan, into Galilee, Luke 4:14.  When Satan tempts a saint, he is but God’s messenger, II Cor. 12:7.  ‘There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.’  So our translation.  But rather as Beza, who will have it in [the nominative case, the messenger Satan, implying that he was sent of God to Paul; and indeed the er­rand he came about was too good and gracious to be his own, lest I should be exalted above measure.  The devil never meant to do Paul such a good office, but God sends him to Paul, as David sent Uriah with let­ters to Joab; neither knew the contents of their message. 

 The devil and his instruments, both are God’s instruments, therefore the wicked are called his sword, his axe; now let God alone to wield the one and handle the other.  He is but a bungler that hurts and hackles his own legs with his own axe; which God should do, if his children should be the worse for Satan’s temptations.  Let the devil choose his way, God is for him at every weapon.  If he will try it by force of arms, and assault the saints by persecution, as the Lord of hosts he will oppose him.  If by policy and subtilty, he is ready there also.  The devil and his whole council are but fools to God.  Nay, their wis­dom, foolishness, cunning, and art, commend everything but sin.  The more artificial the watch, the picture, &c., the better; but the more wit and art in sin, the worse, because it is employed against an all-wise God, that cannot be outwitted, and therefore in the end but pay the workmen in greater damnation. ‘The foolishness of God is wiser than men;’ yea, than the wisdom of men and devils, that is, the means and instruments which God opposeth Satan withal.  What weaker than a sermon?  Who sillier than the saints in the account of the wise world?  Yet God is wiser in a weak sermon, than Satan in his deep plots, wherein the state heads of a whole conclave of profound cardinals are knocked together—wiser in his simple ones, than Satan in his Ahithophels and Sanballats. And truly God chooseth on purpose to defeat the pol­icies of hell and earth by these, that he may put such to greater shame, I Cor. 1:21.  How is the great scholar ashamed to be baffled by a plain countryman’s argu­ment?  Thus God calls forth Job to wrestle with Satan and his seconds—for such his three friends showed themselves in taking the devil’s part—and sure he is not able to hold up the cudgels against the fencing-master, who is beaten by one of the scholars.  God sits laughing while hell and earth sit plotting, Ps. 2:4; ‘He disappointeth the devices of the crafty,’ Job 5:12, he breaketh their studied thoughts and plots, as the words import, in one moment pulling down the labours of many years’ policy.  Indeed as great men keep wild beasts for game and sport, as the fox, the boar, &c., so doth God Satan and his instruments, to manifest his wisdom in the taking of them.  It is observed, that the very hunting of some beasts af­fords not only pleasure to the hunter, but also more sweetness to the eater.  Indeed God, by displaying of his wisdom in the pursuit of the saint’s enemies, doth superadd a sweet relish to their deliverance at last. He brake the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gave him to be meat to his people.  After he had hunted Pharaoh out of all his forms and burrows, now he breaks the very brains of all his plots, and serves him up to his people, with the garnishment of his wisdom and power about.


The Certainty of Standing Against All His Wiles If We Be Thus Armed

[The certainty of standing against all his wiles if we be thus armed.]

             The second branch of the apostle’s argument follows, to excite them the more vigorously to their arms; and that is from the possibility yea, certainty of standing against this subtle enemy, if thus armed, ‘That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.’  So that this gives the apostle’s argument its due temperament; for he meant not to scare them in­to a cowardly flight, or sullen despair of victory, when he tells them that their enemy is so subtle and politic, but to excite them to a vigorous resistance, from the assured hope of strength to stand in battle, and victoriously after it; which two I perceive are comprehended in that phrase, standing against the wiles of Satan.  Sometimes to stand implies a fighting posture, ver. 14.  sometimes a conquering posture: ‘I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth,’ Job 19:25.  That earth which was the field where all the bloody battles were fought betwixt him and Satan, on it shall he stand, when not an enemy shall dare to show his head.  So that taking both these in, the observation is—

[Satan shall never vanquish a soul armed with true grace.]

 Doctrine.  Satan with all his wits and wiles, shall never vanquish a soul armed with true grace; nay, he that hath this armour of God on shall vanquish him.  Look into the Word; you shall not find a saint but hath been in the list with him, sifted and winnowed more or less by this enemy, yet at last we find them all coming off with an honourable victory: as in David, Job, Peter, Paul, who were the hardest put to it of any upon record; and lest some should attribute their victory to the strength of their inherent grace above other of their weaker brethren, you have the glory of their victories appropriated to God, in whom the weak are as strong as the strongest.  We shall give a double reason of this truth, why the Christian who seems to be so overmatched, is yet so unconquerable, II Cor. 12:9; James 5:11.

             First Reason.  The curse that lies upon Satan and his cause.  God’s curse blasts wherever it comes.  The Canaanites with their neighbour nations were bread for Israel, though people famous for war; and why?  They were cursed nations.  The Egyptians [were] a politic people; let us deal wisely, say they; yet being cursed of God, this lay like a thorn at their heart, and at last was their ruin.  Yea, let the Israelites themselves, who carry the badge of God’s covenant on their flesh, by their sins once become the people of God’s curse, and they are trampled like dirt under the Assyrian’s feet.  This made Balak beg so hard for a curse upon Israel.  Now there is an irrevocable curse cleaves to Satan from Gen. 3:14, 15, ‘And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed,’ &c., which place, though partly meant of the literal serpent, yet chiefly of the devil and the wicked—his spiritual serpentine brood—as appears by the enmity pronounced against the serpent’s seed and the woman’s, Gen. 3:15, which clearly holds forth the feud between Christ with his seed, against the devil and his.  Now there are two things in that curse which may comfort the saints.  1. The curse prostrates Satan under their feet: Upon thy belly shalt thou go; which is no more than is elsewhere promised, that God will subdue Satan under our feet.  Now this prostrate condition of Satan assures believers that the devil shall never lift his head, that is, his wily policy, higher than the saint’s heel.  He may make thee limp, but cannot bereave thee of thy life; and this bruise which he give thee shall be rewarded with the breaking of his own head, that is, the utter ruin of him and his cause.  2. His food is here limited and appointed.  Satan will not devour whom he will.  The dust is his food; which seems to restrain his power to the wicked, who are of the earth earthy, mere dust; but for those who are of a heavenly extraction, their graces are reserved for Christ’s food, Song. 7:13, and their soul’s are surely not a morsel for the devil’s tooth.

PART 4 – Directions Tending to Entrench and Fortify the Christian Against the Assaults of Satan, as a Troub­ler and Accuser


 Question.  But what counsel would you give me, saith the distressed soul, who cannot fasten on my former comforts, nor dare to vouch those evidences which once I thought true?  I find indeed there have been some treaties of old between God and my soul; some hopes I have had, but these are now so defaced and interlined with backslidings, repentances, and falls again, that now I question all my evidences, whether true or counterfeit; what should one in this case do?

             Answer First.  Renew thy repentance, as if thou hadst never repented.  Put forth fresh acts of faith, as if thou hadst never believed.  This seriously done, will stop Satan’s mouth with an unexpected answer. Let him object against thy former actions as hypocritical; what can he say against thy present repenting and believing? which, if true, sets thee beyond his shot.  It will be harder for Satan to disprove the present workings of God’s gracious Spirit, whilst the impression thereof are fresh, than to pick a hole in thy old deeds and evidences.  Acts are transient, and as wicked men look at sins committed many years since as little or none, by reason of that breadth of time which interposeth; so the Christian upon the same account stands at great disadvantage, to take the true aspect of those acts of grace, which so long ago passed between God and him, though sometimes even these are of great use.  As God can make a sinner possess the sins of his youth, as if they were newly acted, to his terror in his old age, so God can present the comforts and evidences which of old the saint received, with those very thoughts he had then of them, as if they were fresh and new.

             Answer Second.  And therefore, if yet he haunts thee with the fears of thy spiritual estate, ply thee to the throne of grace, and beg a new copy of thy old evidence, which thou hast lost.  The original is in the pardon office in heaven, whereof Christ is master, [and] if thou beest a saint, thy name is upon record in that court.  Make thy moan to God, hear what news from heaven, rather than listen to the tales which are brought by thine enemy from hell.  Did such reason less with Satan, and pray over their fears more to God, they might sooner be resolved.  Can you expect truth from a liar, and comfort from an enemy?  Did he ever prophesy well of believers?  Was not Job the devil’s hypocrite, whom God vouched for a non-such in holiness, and proved him so at last?  If he knew thou wert a saint, would he tell thee so?  If an hypocrite, he would be as loath thou shouldst know it. Turn thy back therefore on him, and go to thy God; fear not, but sooner or later he will give his hand to thy certificate.  But look thou dost not rashly pass a censure on thyself, because a satisfactory answer is not presently sent at thy desire; the messenger may stay long, and bring good news at last.

             Answer Third.  Shun battle with thine enemy while [until] thou art in a fitter posture, and that thou mayest draw into thy trenches, and make an honourable retreat into those fastnesses and strengths which Christ hath provided for his sick and wounded soldiers.  Now there are two places of advantage into which deserted souls may retire—the name of God, and the absolute promises of the gos­pel.  These I may call the fair havens, which are then chiefly of use, when the storm is so great that the ship cannot live at sea.  O, saith Satan, dost thou hope to see God?  None but the pure in heart shall be blessed with that vision.  Thinkest thou to have comfort?  That is the portion of the mourners in spirit.  Now, soul, though thou canst not say in the hurry of temptation [that] thou art the pure and the mourner in spirit, yet then say thou believest God is able to work these in thee; yea, hath promised such a mercy to poor sinners; it is his covenant [that] he will give a new heart, a clean heart, a soft heart; and here I wait, knowing, as there was nothing in the creature to move the great God to make such promises, so there can be nothing in the creature to hinder the Almighty his performance of them, where and when he pleaseth.  This act of faith, accompanied with a longing desire after that grace thou canst not yet find, and an attendance on the means, though it will not fully satisfy all thy doubts, may be, yet will keep thy head above water, that thou despairest not; and such a shore thou needest in this case, or the house falls.       

Answer Fourth.  If yet Satan dogs thee, call in help, and keep not the devil’s counsel.  The very strength of some temptations lies in the concealing of them, and the very revealing of them to some faithful friend, like the opening and pricking of some impost­hume, gives the soul present ease.  Satan knows this too well; and therefore, as some thieves, when they come to rob a house, either gag them in it, or hold a pistol to their breast, frightening them with death, if they cry or speak; thus Satan, that he may more freely rifle the soul of its peace and comfort, overawes it so, that it dares not disclose his temptation.  O, saith Satan, if thy brethren or friends know such a thing by thee, they will cast thee off; others will hoot at thee.  Thus many a poor soul hath been kept long in its pangs by biting them in.  Thou losest, Christian, a double help by keeping the devil’s secret —the counsel and prayers of thy fellow-brethren.  And what an invaluable loss is this!

Living Out A Never Ending Love Story With My Master & Redeemer!

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