Since Satan comes sometimes as a lion in the persons of bloody persecutors, and labours to scare Christians from the truth with fire and faggot; to defend us against this design, we need to have truth girt about us, so that with a holy resolution we may maintain our profession in the face of death and danger. The second way that truth is assaulted is by force and violence, the devil pierceth the fox’s skin of seducers with the lion’s skin of persecutors. The bloodiest tragedies in the world have been acted on the stage of the church; and the most inhuman massacres and butcheries committed on the harmless sheep of Christ. The first man that was slain in the world was a saint, and he for religion. And as Luther said, Cain will kill Abel unto the end of the world. The fire of persecution can never go out quite, so long as there remains a spark of hatred in the wicked’s bosom on earth, or the devil in hell to blow it up. Therefore there is a second way of having truth girt about the Christian’s loins, as necessary as the other, and that is in the profession of it. Many that could never be beaten from the truth by dint of argument, have been forced from it by the fire of persecution. It is not an orthodox judgment will enable a man to suffer for the truth at the stake. Then that poor Smith, in our English Martyrology, would not have sent such a dastardlike answer to his friend—ready to suffer for that truth which he himself had been a means to instruct him in—that indeed it was the truth, but he could not burn. Truth in the head, without holy courage, makes a man like the sword-fish, which Plutarch saith hath a sword in the head, but no heart to use it. Then a person becomes unconquerable, when from heaven he is endued with a holy boldness to draw forth the sword of the Spirit, and own the naked truth, by a free profession of it in the face of death and danger. This, this is to have our ‘loins girt about with truth.’ So that the note from this second kind of girding with truth is,
Doctrine. That it is the saint’s duty, and should be their care, not only to get an established judgment of the truth, but also to maintain a steadfast profession of the truth. This the apostle presseth: ‘Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering,’ Heb. 10:23. He speaks it in opposition to those who in those hazardous times declined the assemblies of the saints for fear of persecution; he calls it a ‘wavering,’ and he that staggers is next door to apostasy. We must not spread our sails of profession in a calm, and furl them up when the wind riseth. Pergamos is commended, Rev. 2:13, for her bold profession: ‘I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.’ It was a place where Satan sat in the magistrate’s seat, where it was grande satis picaculum mortem mereri, Christianum esse—matter enough to deserve death to be a Christian; yea, some blood was now shed before their eyes, and even in those days they denied not the truth. This God took kindly. It is a strict charge Paul gives Timothy, ‘But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness,’ &c., I Tim. 6:11. While others are proling for the world, lay about thee for spiritual riches, pursue this with as hot a chase as they do the temporal. But what if this trade cannot be peaceably driven; must shop windows be then shut up, profession be laid aside, and he stay to be religious till more favourable times come about? No such matter. He bids him ver. 12, ‘fight the good fight of faith.’ Do not base ly quit thy profession, but lay life and all to stake to keep this; and that he might engage him beyond a retreat, see ver. 13, ‘I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things; and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession, that thou keepest this commandment.’ As if he had said, ‘If ever you will see the face of Christ with comfort at the resurrection —who chose to lose his life, rather than deny or dissemble the truth—stand to it, and flinch not from your colours.’ Augustine in his Confess., lib. 8. ch.2., hath a notable story of one Victorinus, famous in Rome for rhetoric, which he taught the senators. This man in his old age was converted to Christianity, and came to Simplicianus, one eminent at that time for his piety, whispering in his ears softly these words, Ego sum Christianus—I am a Christian; but this holy man answered, non credo, nec deputabo te inter Christianos, nisi in ecclesia Christi te videro—I will not believe it or count thee so, till I see thee among the Christians in the church. At this he laughed, saying, ergone parietes faciunt Christianum?— do then those walls make a Christian? cannot I be except I openly profess it, and let the world know the same? This he said for fear, being yet a young convert though an old man; but a while after, when he was more confirmed in the faith, and seriously considered that if he should continue thus ashamed of Christ, he would be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of his Father and the holy angels, he changed his note, and came to Simplicianus, saying, eamus in ecclesiam, Christianus volo fieri—let us go to the church, I will now in earnest be a Christian. And there though a private profession of his faith might have been accepted, he chose to do it openly, saying, that he had openly professed rhetoric, which was not a matter of salvation, and should he be afraid to own the word of God in the congregation of the faithful? God requires both the religion of the heart and mouth. ‘With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,’ Rom. 10:10. Confession of the mouth without faith in the heart is gross hypocrisy. To pretend faith without profession of the mouth, is both hypocrisy and cowardice.