The Argument with which he urgeth the Exhortation.
‘That ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand,’ Eph. 6:13.
We come to the argument with which the apostle urgeth the exhortation, and that is double. FIRST. The first hath respect to the hour of battle—‘that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day.’ SECOND. The second to the happy issue of the war, which will crown the Christian thus armed, and that is certain victory—‘and having done all, to stand.’
First Argument—This hath respect to the Hour of Battle. ‘That ye may be able to withstand in the evil day.’
But what is this evil day? Some take this evil day to comprehend the whole life of a Christian here below in this vale of tears, and then the argument runs thus:—Take to yourselves the whole armour of God, that you may be able to persevere to the end of your life, which you will find, as it were, one continued day of trouble and trial. Thus Jacob draws a black line over his whole life—‘few and evil have the days of the years of my life been,’ Gen. 47:9. What day shines so fair that overcasts not before night, yea, in which the Christian meets not with some shower or other, enough to deserve the name of an evil day? Every day hath its portion, yea, proportion. Sufficient is the evil of the day; we need not borrow and take up sorrows upon use of the morrow, to make up our present load. As we read of ‘daily bread,’ so [also] of a ‘daily’ cross, Luke 9:23, which we are bid to take, not to make. We need not make crosses for ourselves, as we are prone to do; God in his providence will provide one for us, and we are bid to take it up, but we hear nothing of laying it down, till cross and we lie down together. Our troubles and our lives are coetaneous; [they] live and die together here.
When joy comes, sorrow is at its heel—staff and rod go together. Job himself, that good man, whose prosperity the devil so grudged, and set forth in all his bravery and pomp, Job 1:10, as if his sun had no shadow, hear what account he gives of this his most flourishing time, ‘I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet;’ Job 3:26. There were some troubles that broke his rest; when his bed was, to thinking, as soft as heart could wish, even then this good man tosses and tumbles from one side to the other, and is not quiet. If one should have come to Job and blessed him with his happy condition, and said, ‘Surely, Job, thou couldst be content with what thou hast for thy portion, if thou mightest have all this settled on thee and thy heirs after thee;’ he would have said, as once Luther, ‘that God should not put him off with these.’ Such is the saints’ state in this bottom, that their very life here, and all the pompous entertainments of it, are their cross, because they detain them from their crown. We need nothing to make our life an evil day, more than our absence from our chief good, which cannot be recompensed by the world, nor enjoyed with it. Only this goodness there is in this evil, that it is short. Our life is but an ‘evil day,’ it will not last long. And sure it was mercy that God hath abridged so much of the term of man’s life in these last days—days wherein so much of Christ and heaven are discovered, that it would have put the saints’ patience hard to it, to have known so much of the upper world’s glory, and then be kept so long from it, as the fathers in the first age were. O comfort one another, Christians, with this: Though your life be evil with troubles, yet it is short—a few steps, and we are out of the rain. There is a great difference between a saint in regard of the evils he meets with, and the wicked, just as between two travellers riding contrary ways—both taken in the rain and wet—but of whom one rides from the rain, and so is soon out of the shower, but the other rides into the rainy corner—the farther he goes, the worse he is. The saint meets with troubles as well as the wicked, but he is soon out of the shower—when death comes he has fair weather; but the wicked, the farther he goes the worse—what he meets with here is but a few drops, the great storm is the last. The pouring out of God’s wrath shall be in hell, where all the deeps of horror are opened, both from above of God’s righteous fury, and from beneath of their own accusing and tormenting consciences.
Others take the phrase in a more restricted sense, to denote those particular seasons of our life wherein more especially we meet with afflictions and sufferings. Beza reads it tempore adverso—in the time of our adversity. Though our whole life be evil, if compared with heaven’s blissful state; our clearest day, night, to that glorious morning; yet one part of our life, compared with another, may be called good, and the other evil. We have our vicissitudes here. The providences of God to his saints here, while on this low bottom of earth, are mixed and parti-coloured, as was signified by the ‘speckled’ horses, Zech. 1:8, in Zechariah’s vision—red and white, peace and war, joy and sorrow, checker our days. Earth is a middle place betwixt heaven and hell, and so is our state here; it partakes of both. We go up hill and down, till we get to our journey’s end, yea, we find the deepest slough nearest our Father’s house—death, I mean—into which all the other troubles of our life fall, as streams into some great river, and with which they all end, and are swallowed up. This being the comprehensive evil, I conceive it is meant here, being made remarkable by a double article, that day, that evil day; not excluding those other days of tribulation which intervene. These are but so many petty deaths, every one snatching away a piece of our lives with them, or like pages sent before to usher in this king of terrors that comes behind.
The phrase being opened, let us consider the strength of this first argument, with which the apostle reinforceth his exhortation of taking to ourselves the whole armour of God, and that consists in three weighty circumstances.
First. The nature and quality of this day of affliction, it is an evil day. Second. The unavoidableness of this evil day of affliction implied in the form of speech, ‘that you may withstand in the evil day.’ He shuts out all hope of escaping; as if he had said, You have no way to withstand, please not yourselves with thoughts of shunning battle, the evil day must come, be you armed or not armed. Third. The necessity of this armour, to withstand. As we cannot run from it, so [we cannot] bear up before it, and oppose the force which will be made against us, except clad with armour. These would afford several points, but for brevity we shall lay them together in one conclusion.