- 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.