- To look that thou measurest not thy grace by thy comfort, lest so thou beest led into a false opinion that thy grace is strong, because thy comforts are so. Satan will be ready to help forward such thought as a fir medium to lift thee up, and slacken thy care in duty for the future. Such discoveries do indeed bear witness to the truth of thy grace, but not to the degree and measure of it. The weak child may be, yea, is, oftener in the lap than the strong.
- Do not so much applaud thyself in thy present comfort, as labour to improve it, for the glory of God. ‘Arise and eat,’ saith the angel to the prophet, ‘because the journey is too great for thee.’ The manifestations of God’s love are to fit us for our work. It is one thing to rejoice in the light of our comfort, and another to go forth in the power of the Spirit comforting us—as giants refreshed with this wine—to run our race of duty and obedience with more strength and alacrity. He shows his pride that spends his time in telling his money merely to see how rich he is; but he his wisdom, that lays out his money and trades with it. The boaster of his comforts will lose what he hath, when he that improves his comforts in a fuller trade of duty shall add more to what he hath.
- Remember thou dependest on God for the continuance of thy comfort. They are not the smiles thou hadst yesterday [that] make thee joyous to-day, any more than the bread thou didst then eat can make thee strong without more. Thou needest new discoveries for new comforts. Let God hide his face, and thou wilt soon lose the sight, and forget the taste, of what thou even now hadst. It is beyond our skill or power to preserve those impressions of joy, and comfortable apprehensions of God’s favour on our spirits, which sometimes we find; as God’s presence brings those, so, when he goes, he carries them away with him, as the setting sun doth the day. We would laugh heartily at him who, when the sun shines in at his window, should think by shutting that to imprison the sunbeams in his chamber; and dost thou now show as much folly, who thinkest, because thou now hast comfort, thou therefore shalt never be in darkness of spirit more? The believer’s comfort is like Israel’s manna. It is not like the ordinary bread and provision we buy at market, and lock up in our cupboards where we can go to it when we will; no, it is rained, as that was, from heaven. Indeed, God provided for them after this sort to humble them: ‘Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee,’ Deut. 8:16. It was not because [it was] such mean food, that God is said to humble them, for it was delicious food, therefore called ‘angels’ food,’ Ps. 78:25, such as if angels did eat, might serve them; but the manner of the dispensing it—from hand to mouth, every day their portion, and no more. Thus God kept the key of their cupboard—they stood to his immediate allowance; and thus God communicates our spiritual comforts for the same end, to humble us. So much for this second sort of spiritual wickedness.
I had thought to have instanced in some others, as hypocrisy, unbelief, formality; but possibly the subject being general, what I have already said may be thought but a digression, and that too long. I shall therefore conclude this branch of spiritual wickedness, in a word to those who are yet in a natural and unsanctified state—which is to stir them up, from what I have said concerning Satan’s assaulting believers with such temptations, to consider seriously how that Satan’s chief design against them also lies in the same sins. It is your seared conscience, blind mind, and dedolent impenitent heart, will be your undoing, if you miscarry finally. Other sins, the devil knows, are preparatory to these, and therefore he draws thee into them to bring thee into these. Two ways they prepare a way to spiritual sins: First. As they naturally dispose the sinner to them; it is the nature of sin to blind the mind, stupify the conscience, harden the heart, as is implied, ‘Lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,’ Heb. 3:13. As the feet of travellers beat the highway hard, so does walking in carnal gross sins the heart. They benumb the conscience, so that in time the sinner loses his feeling, and can carry his lusts in his heart, as bedlams their pins in their very flesh, without pain and remorse. Secondly, As they do provoke God by a judiciary act to give them up to these sins, ‘Give them obstinacy of heart,’ Lam. 3:65, so it is in your margin, ‘thy curse unto them;’ and when the devil hath got sinners at this pass, then he hath them under lock and key. They are the forerunners of damnation. If God leave thy heart hard and unbroken up, it is a sad sign he means not to sow the seed of grace there. O sinners, pray, as he, Acts 8:24, did request Peter for him, that none of these things may come upon you; which that they may not, take heed thou rejectest not the offers he makes to soften thee. God’s hardening is a consequent of, and a punishment for, our hardening our own hearts. It is most true what Prosper saith, ‘A man may lose temporals against his will, but not spirituals.’ God will harden none, damn none, against their will.