Reason Third. The Christian’s safety lies in resisting. All the armour here provided is to defend the Christian fighting, none to secure him flying. Stand, and the day is ours. Fly, or yield, and all is lost. Great captains, to make their soldiers more resolute, do sometimes cut off all hope of a safe retreat to them that run away. Thus the Norman conqueror, as soon as his men were set on English shore, sent away his ships in their sight, that they might resolve to fight or die. God takes away all thought of safety to the coward; not a piece to be found for the back in all God’s armoury. Stand, and the bullets light all on your armour; flee, and they enter into your hearts. It is a terrible place, Heb. 10:38, ‘The just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.’ He that stands to it believingly comes off with his life; but he that recoils, and runs from his colours, as the Greek word imports, God will have no pleasure in him, except it be in the just execution of his wrath on him. And doth he not make a sad change, that from fighting against Satan, engageth God as an enemy against him? There is comfort in striving against sin and Satan, though to blood, but none to lie sweating under the fiery indignation of a revenging God. What Satan lays on, God can take off; but who can ease, if God lays on? What man would not rather die in the field fighting for his prince, than on a scaffold by the axe, for cowardice or treachery?
Reason Fourth. The enemy we have to do withal, is such as is only to be dealt with by resisting. God is an enemy that is overcome by yielding; the devil only by force of arms.
- He is a cowardly enemy.Though he sets a bold face on it by tempting, he carries a fearful heart in his breast. The work is naught he goes about; and, as a thief is afraid of every light he sees, or noise he hears, in the house he would rob; so Satan is discouraged where he finds the soul waking, and in any posture to oppose him. He fears thee, Christian, more than thou needest him; ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know,’ Acts 19:15; that is, I know them to my shame, they have both put me to flight, and if ye were such as they, I should fear you also. Believe it, soul, he trembles at thy faith. Put it forth in prayer to call for help to heaven against him, and exert it vigorously by rejecting the motions he makes, and thou shalt see him run. Did soldiers in a castle know that their enemies besieging them were in a distracted condition, and would certainly upon their sallying out, break up, and flee away, what metal and courage would this fill them withal? The Spirit of God—who knows well enough how squares go in the devil’s camp—sends this intelligence unto every soul that is beleaguered by temptations, ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,’ James 4:7. He cannot hurt us without our leave. The devil is not so good a drawer; but, when he finds it comes not—the soul yields not—his heart then fails him, at least for the present, as in Christ’s combat, it is said he ‘departed from him for a season.’ When the devil continues long the same suit, it is to be feared [that] that person, though he hath not fully promised him, yet hath not given him a peremptory denial. He is a suitor, that listens for something to drop from the creature that may encourage him to prosecute his motion. No way to be rid of him but to shut the door upon him, and deny all discourse with him; which prompts to the second character.
- He is an encroaching enemy, and therefore to be resisted.‘Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,’ saith the apostle, ‘neither give place to the devil,’ Eph. 4:26,27. As soldiers, by cowardly leaving some outwork they are set to defend, give place to their enemy, who enters the same, and from thence doth more easily shoot into the city than he could before. Thus [by] yielding in one temptation we let the devil into our trench, and give him a fair advantage to do us the more mischief. The angry man while he is raging and raving, thinks, may be, no more, but to ease his passion by disgorging it in some bitter keen words, but alas while his fury and wrath is sallying out at the portal of his lips, the devil finding the door open, enters and hurries him farther than he dreamt of. We have not to do with a Hannibal —who, though a great swordsman, yet wanted the art of following and improving the advantages his victories gave him—but with a cunning devil that will easily lose no ground he gets. Our best way, therefore, is to give him no hand-hold, not so much as to come near the door where sin dwells, lest we be hooked in. If we mean not to be burned, let us not walk upon the coals of temptation;—if not to be tanned, let us not stand where the sun lies. They surely forget what an insinuating wriggling nature this serpent hath, that dare yield to him in something, and make us believe they will not in another—who will sit in the company of drunkards, frequent the places where the sin is committed, and yet pretend they mean not to be such?—that will prostitute their eyes to unchaste objects, and yet be chaste?—that will lend their ears to any corrupt doctrine of the times, and yet be sound in the faith? This is a strong delusion that such are under. If a man hath not power enough to resist Satan in the less, what reason hath he to think he shall in the greater. Thou hast not grace, it seems, to keep thee from throwing thyself into the whirl of temptation, and dost thou think that, when in it, thou shalt bear up against the stream of it? One would think it is easier when in the ship, to keep from falling overboard, than when in the sea, to get safely into the ship again.
- He is an accusing enemy.And truly folly is in that man’s name, who knows what a tell-tale the devil is, and yet will, by yielding to his temptation, put an errand into his mouth, with which he may accuse him to God. Some foolishly report that witches cannot hurt till they receive an alms. But I am sure, so long as thou showest no kindness to the devil, he cannot hurt thee, because he cannot accuse thee. Take up therefore holy Job’s resolution, ‘My righteousness I hold fast,…my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live,’ Job 27:6. It is never sad indeed with the soul till the barking is within doors. Conscience, not the devil, is the bloodhound that pulls down the creature. O let not that reproach thee, and thou art well enough.