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How One Born a Slave To Sin May Be Translated Into The Kingdom of Christ 1/2

How One Born a Slave To Sin May Be Translated Into The Kingdom of Christ 1/2

           Question.  But possibly thou wilt say, How may I, that am a home-born slave to sin, yea, who have lived so many years under his cursed rule, get out of his dominion and power, and be translated into the kingdom of Christ?

           Answer.  The difficulty of this great work lies not in prevailing with Christ to receive thee for his subject, who refuseth none that in truth of heart de­sire to come under his shadow.  It doth not stand with his design to reject any such.  Do physicians use to chide their patients away? lawyers their clients? or generals discourage those who fall off from the enemy and come to their side? surely no.  When David was in the field, it is said, ‘Every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them,’ I Sam. 22:2.  And so will Christ be to every one that is truly discontented with Satan’s government, and upon an inward dislike thereof repairs to him.  But the main business will be to take thee off from thy engagements to thy lusts and Satan; till which be done, Christ will not own thee as a subject, but look on thee as a spy.  It fares with sin­ners as with servants.  There may be fallings out be­tween them and their masters, and high words pass between them, that you would think they would take up their pack and be gone in all haste; but the fray is soon over, and by next morning all is forgot, and their servants are as hard at their work as ever.  O how oft are sinners taking their leave of their lusts, and giving warning to their old masters, [that] will repent and re­form, and what not; but in a few days they have re­pented of their repentance, and deformed their de­formings, which shows they were drunk with some passion when they thought or spake this, and no won­der they reverse all when they come to their true tem­per. Now because Satan has many policies by which he useth to keep his hold of sinners, I shall discover some of them, which if thou canst withstand, it will be no hard matter to bring thee out of his power and rule.

Policies of Satan which must be withstood if we would escape from his rule.

           First.  Satan doth his utmost, that sinners may not have any serious thoughts of the miserable state they are in, while under his rule; or hear anything from others which might the least unsettle their minds from his service.  Consideration, he knows, is the first step to repentance.  He that doth not con­sider his ways what they are, and whither they lead him, is not like to change them in haste.  Israel stir­red not, while [until] Moses came and had some dis­course with them about their woeful slavery, and the gracious thoughts of God towards them; and then they began to desire to be gone.  Pharaoh soon be­thought him what consequence might follow upon this, and cunningly labours to prevent by doubling their task: ‘Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the Lord.  Go therefore now, and work,’ Ex. 5:17, 18.  As if he had said, ‘Have you so much spare time to think of gadding into the wilderness, and have you your seditious conventicles, Moses and you, to lay your plots together?  I will break the knot: give them more work; scatter them all over the land to gather straw, that they may not meet to entice one another’s hearts from my service.’  Thus Satan is very jealous of the sinner, afraid that every Christian that speaks to him, or ordinance he hears, should inveigle him.  By his good-will he should come at neither, no, nor have a thought of heaven or hell from one end of the week to the other; and that he may have as few as may be, he keeps him full-handed with work.  The sinner grinds, and he is filling the hopper, that the mill may not stand still.  He is with the sinner as soon as he wakes, and fills his wretched heart with some wicked thoughts, which as a morning draught may keep him from the infection of any sa­vour of good that may be breathed on him by others in the daytime.  All the day long he watched him, as the master would do his man that he fears will run away.  and at night he like a careful jailor locks him up again in his chamber with more bolts and fetters upon him, not suffering him to sleep as he lies on his bed till he hath done some mischief.  Ah, poor wretch!  Was ever slave so looked to?  As long as the devil can keep thee thus, thou art his own sure enough.  The prodigal came to himself, before he came to his father.  He considered with himself what a starving condition he was in, his husks were poor meat, and yet he had not enough of them neither, and how easily he might mend his commons, if he had but grace to go home and humble himself to his father.  Now and not till now he goes.  Resolve thus, poor sinner, to sit down and consider what thy state is, and what it might be, if thou wouldst but change the bondage of Satan for the sweet government of Jesus Christ.  First ask thy soul whether the devil can, after thou hast worn out thy miserable life here in this drudgery, prefer thee to a happy state in the other world, or so much as secure thee from a state of torment and woe?  If he cannot, whether there not be one Jesus Christ who is able and willing to do it? and if so, whether it be not bloody cruelty to thy precious soul to stay any longer under the shadow of this bramble, when thou mayest make so blessed a change?  A few of these thought abidingly laid home to thy soul, may—God striking in with them—shake the foundations of the devil’s prison, and make thee haste as fast from him, as one out of a house on fire about his ears.

      Second.  Satan hath his instruments to oppose the messengers and overtures which God sends by them to bring the sinner out of Satan’s rule.  When Moses comes to deliver Israel out of Egyptian bond­age, up start Jannes and Jambres to resist him.  When Paul preacheth to the deputy, the devil hath his chap­lain at court to hinder him—Elymas, one that was full of all subtlety and mischief.  Some or other, to be sure, he will find, when God is parleying with a sin­ner, and persuading him to come over to Christ, that shall labour to clog the work.  Either carnal friends —these he sends to plead his cause; or old com­panions in wickedness—these bestir them; one while [by] labouring to jeer him out of his new way, or, if that take not, by turning their old love into bitter wrath against him for playing the apostate and leaving him so.  Or if yet he will not be stopped in his way, then he hath his daubing preachers, still like Job’s messengers the last the worst, who with their soul-flattering, or rather murdering doctrine, shall go about to heal his wound ‘slightly.’  Now as ever you desire to get out of Satan’s bondage, have a care of all these; harden thyself against the entreaties of carnal friends and relations.  Resolve, that if thy children should hang about thy knees to keep thee from Christ, thou wilt throw them away; [resolve], if thy father and mother should lie prostrate at thy foot, rather than not go to Christ, to go over their very backs to him.  Never can we part with their love upon such advantageous terms as these.  And for thy breth­ren in iniquity, I hope thou dost not mean to stay while [i.e. until] thou hast their good-will; then even ask the devil’s also.  Heaven is but little worth if thou hast not a heart to despise a little shame, and bear a few frumps from profane Ishmaels for thy hopes of it.  Let them spit on thy face, Christ will wipe it off; let them laugh, so thou winnest.  If they follow not thy example before they die, the shame will be their own; God himself shall spit it on their face before men and angels, and then kick them into hell.  And lastly, escape but the snare of those flatterers, who use their tongues only to lick sinners’ consciences whole with their soothing doctrine, and thou art fair for a Christ; ask not counsel of them; they may go about to give you ease, with which they sow up thy wounds, must be ripped open, or thou diest for it.

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Application of This Doctrine ‘That The Soul In a State of Sin In Under The Rule of Satan’

Application of This Doctrine, ‘That The Soul In a State of Sin In Under The Rule of Satan.’

See here the deplored condition of every one in a state of sin.  He is under the rule of Satan and gov­ernment of hell.  What tongue can utter, what heart can conceive the misery of this state?  It was a dismal day which Christ foretold, Matt 24, when the ‘abom­ination of desolation’ should be seen standing in the holy place; then, saith Christ, let him that is in Judea flee into the mountains.  But what was that to this? they were but men, though abominable, these devils. They did but stand in the material temple, and defile and deface that: but these display their banners in the souls of men, pollute that throne which is more glorious than the material heaven itself, made for God alone to sit in.  They exercised their cruelties at furthest on the bodies of men, killing and torturing them; here the precious souls of men are destroyed. When David would curse to purpose the enemies of God, he prays that Satan may be at their right hand. It is strange that sinners should no more tremble at this, who, should they see but their swine, or a beast bewitched and possessed of the devil, run headlong into the sea, would cry out as half undone: and is not one soul more worth than all these?  What a plague is it to have Satan possess thy heart and spirit, hur­rying thee in the fury of thy lusts to perdition?  O poor man! what a sad change thou hast made?  Thou who wouldst not sit under the meek and peaceful gov­ernment of God, thy rightful Lord, art paid for thy rebellion against him, in the cruelty of this tyrant, who writes all his laws in the blood of his subjects. And why will you sit any longer, O sinners, under the shadow of this bramble, from whom you can expect nothing but eternal fire to come at last and devour you?  Behold, Christ is in the field, sent of God to recover his right and your liberty.  His royal standard is pitched in the gospel, and proclamation made, that if any poor sinners, weary of the devil’s government, and heavy laden with the miserable chains of his spir­itual bondage, so as these irons of his sins enter into his very soul to afflict it with the sense of them—shall thus come and repair to Christ—he shall have pro­tection from God’s justice, the devil’s wrath and sin’s dominion; in a word, he shall have rest, and that glorious, Matt. 11:28.

           Usually when a people have been ground with the oppression of some bloody tyrant, they are apt enough to long for a change, and to listen to any overture that gives them hope of liberty, though reached by the hand of a stranger, who may prove as bad as the other, yet bondage is so grievous, that people desire to change, as sick men their beds, though they find little ease thereby.  Why then should deliverance be unwelcome to you sinners? —deliverance brought, not by a stranger whom you need fear what his design is upon you, but [by] near kinsman in blood, who cannot mean you ill, but he must first hate his own flesh; and whoever did that? To be sure not he, who though he took part of our flesh, that he might have the right of being our Redeemer, yet would have no kindred with us in the sinfulness of our nature, Heb. 2:14, 15.  And it is sin that is cruel, yea, to our own flesh.  What can you expect from him but pure mercy, who is himself pure?  They are ‘the mercies of the wicked which are cruel,’ Prov. 12:10.  Believe it, sirs, Christ counts it his honour, that he is a king of a willing people, and not of slaves.  He comes to make you free, not to bring you into bondage, to make you kings, not vassals. None give Christ an evil word, but those who never were his subjects.  Inquire but of those who have tried both Satan’s service and Christ’s, they are best able to resolve you what they are.  You see when a soul comes over from Satan’s quarters unto Christ, and has but once the experience of that sweetness which is in his service, there is no getting him back to his old drudgery; as they say of those who come out of the north, which is cold and poor, they like the warm south so well, they seldom or never go back more. What more dreadful to a gracious soul, than to be delivered into the hands of Satan? or fall under the power of his lusts?  It would choose rather to leap in­to a burning furnace, than be commanded by them. This is the great request a child of God makes, that he would rather whip him in his house, than turn him out of it to become a prey to Satan.

           O sinners, did you know—which you cannot till you come over to Christ, and embrace him as your Lord and Saviour—what the privileges of Christ’s ser­vants are, and what gentle usage saints have at Christ’s hands, you would say these are the only hap­py men in the world which stand continually before him.  His laws are writ, not with his subjects’ blood, as Satan’s are, but with his own.  All his commands are acts of grace, it is a favour to be employed about them.  To you it is given to believe, yea, to suffer, Php. 1:29.  Such an honour the saint esteems it to do anything he commands, that they count God rewards them for one piece of service, if he enables them for another.  ‘This I had,’ saith David, ‘because I kept thy precepts,’ Ps. 119:56; what was the great reward he got?  ‘I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law,’ ver. 55; then follows, ‘This I had.’  He got more strength and skill to keep the law for the future, by his obedience past, and was not well paid, think you, for his pains?  There is ‘fruit’ even in ‘holiness,’ the Christian hath in hand, which he eats while he is at work, that may stay his stomach until his full reward comes, which is ‘eternal life,’ Rom. 6:22.  Jesus Christ is a prince that loves to see his people thrive and grow rich under his govern­ment.  This is he whom sinners are afraid of, that when he sets open their prison, and bids them come forth, they choose rather to bore their ears to the devil’s post, than enjoy this blessed liberty.  It is no wonder that some of the saints have, indeed, ‘when tortured, not accepted deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection,’ Heb. 11:35.  But what a riddle is this, that forlorn souls bound with the chains of their lusts, and the irresistible decree of God for their damnation, if they believe not on the Lord Jesus, should, as they are driving to execution, refuse deliverance!  This may set heaven and earth on won­dering.  Surely, dying in their sins, they cannot hope for a better resurrection than they have a death.  I am afraid rather, that they do not firmly believe they shall have any resurrection, and then no wonder they make so light of Christ’s offer, who think themselves safe, when once earthed in this burrow of the grave. But let sinners know, it is not the grave can hold them, when the day of assize comes, and the Judge calls for the prisoners to the bar.  The grave was never intended to be a sanctuary to defend sinners from the hand of justice, but a close prison to secure them against the day of trial, that they may be forthcoming. Then sinners shall be digged out of their burrows, and dragged out of their holes, to answer their contempt of Christ and his grace.  O how will you be astonished to see him become your judge, whom you now refuse to be your king! to hear that gospel witness against you for your damnation, which at the same time shall acquit others for their salvation!  What think you to do, sinners, in that day?  Wilt thou cry and scream for mercy at Christ’s hands?  Alas, when the sentence is passed, thy face will immediately be covered; condemned prisoners are not allowed to speak: tears then are unprofitable, when no place left for re­pentance, either in Christ’s heart or [in] thine own. Or meanest thou to apply thyself to thy old lord, in whose service thou hast undone thy soul, and cry to him, as she to Ahab, Help, O king!  Alas! thine eye shall see him in the same condemnation with thyself. Hadst thou not better now renounce the devil’s rule, while thou mayest be received into Christ’s govern­ment?—pour out thy tears and cry now for mercy and grace when they are to be had, than to save them for another world to no purpose?

Souls In a State Of Sin Are Subject to Satan’s Rules

Sin In a State Of Sin Are Subject to Satan’s Rules.

           Doctrine First. Every soul in a state of sin is under the rule of Satan; under which point these two things must be inquired.  First. The reason why sin is set out by darkness.  Second. How every one in such a state appears to be under the devil’s rule.

           First. [The reason why sin is set out by darkness.]

  1. Sin may be called darkness, because the spring and common cause of sin in man is darkness. The external cause [is] Satan, who is the great promoter of it; he is a cursed spirit, held in chains of darkness.  The internal is the blindness and darkness of the soul.  We may say when anyone sins, he doth he knows not what, as Christ said of his murderers. Did the creature know the true worth of the soul which he now sells for a song, the glorious amiable nature of God and his holy ways, the matchless love of God in Christ, the poisonful nature of sin, and all these, not by a sudden beam darted into the window at a sermon, and gone again like a flash of lightning, but by an abiding light, it would spoil the devil’s market.  Poor creatures would not readily take this toad into their bosom.  Sin goes in a disguise, and so is welcome.
  2. It is darkness, because it brings darkness into the soul, and that naturally and judicially.

           (1.) Sin bring darkness into the soul naturally.  There is a noxious quality in sin offensive to the un­derstanding, which is to the soul what the eye and palate are to the body; it discerns of things, and dis­tinguisheth true from false, as the eye white from black; it trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meats. Now as there are some things bad for the sight, and others bad for the palate, vitiating it, so that it shall not know sweet from bitter; so here sin besots the creature and makes it injudicious, that he, who could see such a practice absurd and base in others before, when once he hath drunk off this enchanting cup himself—as one that hath foredone his understand­ing—is mad of it himself, not able to see the evil of it, or use his reason against it.  Thus Saul, before he had debauched his conscience, thinks the witch worthy of death; but after he had trodden his conscience hard with other foul sins, goes to ask counsel of one himself.

           (2.) Sin brings darkness into the soul judicially.  Such have been threatened, whose ear God hath been trying to open and instruct, and have run out of God’s school into the devil’s, by rebelling against light, that they shall ‘die without knowledge,’ Job. 36:10, 12.  What! should the candle burn waste, when the creature hath more mind to play than work?

  1. Sin may be called darkness, because it runs into darkness. Impostors bring in their damnable heresies privily, like those who sell bad ware.  Loath to come to the market, where the standard tries all, [they] put it off in secret.  So in moral wickedness, sinners like beasts go out in the night for their prey, loath to be seen, afraid to come where they should be found out.  Nothing more terrible to sinners than [the] light of truth, because their deeds are evil, John 3:19.  Felix was so nettled with what Paul spake, that he could not sit out the sermon, but flings away in haste, and adjourns the hearing of Paul till a con­venient season, but he could never find one.  The sun is not more troublesome in hot countries, than truth is to those who sit under the powerful preaching of it; and therefore as those seldom come abroad in the heat of the day, and when they must, have their de­vices over their heads to screen them from the sun, so sinners shun as much as may be the preaching of the Word; but if they must go, to keep in with their relations, or for other carnal advantages, they, if pos­sible, will keep off the power of truth, either by sleeping the sermon away, or prating it away with any foolish imagination which Satan sends to bear them company and chat with them at such a time; or by choosing such a cool preacher to sit under, whose toothless discourse shall rather flatter than trouble, rather tickle their fancy than prick their consciences, and then their sore eyes can look upon the light. They love truth flourishing, who do not love it when it is confuting. They dare handle and look on the sword with delight when in a rich scabbard, who would run away to see it drawn.
  2. Sin may be called darkness for its uncom­fortable­ness,and that in a threefold respect.

           (1.) Darkness is uncomfortable, as it shuts out of all employment.  What could the Egyptians do under the plague of darkness but sit still? and this to an active spirit is trouble enough.  Thus in a state of sin man is an unserviceable creature, he can do his God no service acceptably, spoils everything he takes in hand; like one running up and down in a shop when the windows are shut, he doth nothing right.  It may be writ on the grave of every sinner, who lives and dies in that state, ‘Here lies the man that never did God an hour’s work in all his life.’

           (2.) Darkness is uncomfortable in point of enjoy­ment.  Be there never such rare pictures in the room, if dark, who the better?  A soul in a state of sin may possess much, but he enjoys nothing; this is a sore evil, and little thought of.  One thought of its state of enmity to God, would drop bitterness into every cup; all he hath smells of hellfire; and a man at a rich feast would enjoy it sure but little, if he smelt fire, ready to burn his house and himself in it.

           (3.) Darkness is uncomfortable, as it fills with terrors.  Fears in the night are most dreadful; a state of sin is a state of fear.  Men that owe much, have no quiet, but when they are asleep, and not then neither, the cares and fears of the day sink so deep, as makes their rest troublesome and unquiet in the night.  The wicked hath no peace, but when his conscience sleeps, and that sleeps but brokenly, awaking often with sick fits of terror; when he hath most prosperity, he is scared like a flock of birds in a corn-field, at every piece going off.  He eats in fear, and drinks in fear; when afflicted, he expects worse behind, and knows not what this cloud may spread to, and where it may lay him, whether in hell or not, he knows not, and therefore trembles, as one in the dark, not knowing but his next step may be into the pit. Sin may be called darkness, because it leads to utter darkness.Utter darkness is darkness to the ut­most.  Sin in its full height, and wrath in its full heat together; both universal, both eternal.  Here is some mixture, peace and trouble, pain and ease; sin and thoughts of repenting, sin and hopes of pardon; there the fire of wrath shall burn without slacking, and sin run parallel with torment; hell-birds are no changelings, their torment makes them sin, and their sin feeds their torment, both unquenchable, one being fuel to another.

          Second. Let us see how it appears, that such as are under a state of sin, are under the rule of Satan.  Sinners are called the children of the devil, I Jon 3:10; and who rules the child, but the father?  They are slaves; who rules the slave, but the master?  They are the very mansion-house of the devil; where hath a man command, but in his own house?  ‘I will return into my house,’ Matt. 12:44.  As if the devil had said, I have walked among the saints of God, to and fro, knocking at this door and that, and none will bid me welcome, I can find no rest; well, I know where I may be bold, I will even go to my own house, and there I am sure to rule the roost without control: and when he comes, he finds it empty, swept and garnished, that is all ready for his entertainment.  Servants make the house trim and handsome against their master comes home, especially when he brings guests with him, as here the devil brings seven more.

           Look to the sinner, there is nothing he is or hath, but the devil hath dominion over it; he rules the whole man, their minds blinding them.  All the sinner’s apprehensions of things are shaped by Satan; he looks on sin with the devil’s spectacles, he reads the word with the devil’s comment, he sees nothing in its native colours, but is under a continual delusion. The very wisdom of a wicked man is said to be devilish, James 3:15,  or devil-like, be­cause taught by the devil, and also such as the devil’s is, wise only to do evil.  He commands their wills, though not to force them, yet effectually to draw them.  His work, saith Christ, ye will do.  You are re­solved on your way, the devil hath got your hearts, and him you will obey; and therefore when Christ comes to recover his throne, he finds the soul in an uproar, as Ephesus at Paul’s sermon, crying him down, and Diana up.  ‘We will not have this man to reign over us;’ ‘what is the Almighty that we should serve him?’  He rules over all their members; they are called weapons of unrighteousness, all at the devil’s service, as all the arms of a kingdom, to defend the prince against any that shall invade—the head to plot, the hand to act, the feet swift to carry the body up and down about his service; he rules over all he hath. Let God come in a poor member, and beseech him to lend him a penny, or bestow a morsel to refresh his craving bowels, and the covetous wretch his hand of charity is withered, and he cannot stretch it forth; but let Satan call, and his purse flies open and heart also. Nabal, that could not spare a few fragments for David and his followers, this churl could make a feast like a prince, to satiate his lust of gluttony and drunken­ness.  He commands their time; when God calls to duty, to pray, to hear, no time all the week to be spared for that; but if the sinner hears there is a merry-meeting, a knot of good fellows at the ale­house, all is thrown aside to wait on his lord and mas­ter.  Calling left at six and sevens; yea, wife and chil­dren crying, may be starving; while the wretch is pour­ing out their very blood, in wasting their livelihood, at the foot of his lust.  The sinner is ‘in bond of ini­quity,’ and being bound he must obey.  He is said to go after his lust, as the fool to the stocks, Prov. 7:22. The pinioned male­factor can as soon untie his own arms and legs, and so run from his keeper, as he from his lusts.  They are ‘servants,’ and their members ‘ins­truments of sin;’ even as the workman takes up his axe and it resists not, so doth Satan dispose of them, except God saith nay.

The Place Where Satan Rules

         

  Second. [Satan’s empire is confined to place.]  The place where the devil rules is in this world, that is, here below, not in heaven.  He is the ruler of this lower world, not of the heavenly.  The highest the devil can go is the air; [he is] called the prince there­of, as being the utmost marches of his empire; he hath nothing to do with the upper world.  Heaven fears no devil, and therefore its gates stand always open.  Never durst this fiend look into that holy place since he was first expelled, but [he] rangeth to and fro here below as a vagabond creature, excommunicated the presence of God, doing what mischief he can to saints on their way to heaven.  But is not this matter of great joy, that Satan hath no power there, where the saints’ lies?  What hast thou, Christian, which thou needest value, that is not there?  Thy Christ is there, and if thou lovest him, thy heart also, which lives in the bosom of its Beloved.  Thy friends and kindred in Christ are there, or expected, with whom thou shalt have a merry meeting in thy Father’s house, notwithstanding the snare on Tabor, the plots of Satan which lie in the way.  O friends, get a title to that kingdom, and you are above the flight of this kite.  This made Job a happy man indeed, who, when the devil had plundered him to his skin, and worried him almost out of that too, could then even vouch Christ, in the face of death and devils, to be his Redeemer; whom he should with those eyes, that now stood full with brinish tears, behold, and that for himself as his own portion.  It is sad with him indeed, who is robbed of all he is worth at once; but this can never be said of a saint.  The devil took away Job’s purse, as I may say, which put him into some straits, but he had a God in heaven that put him into stock again.  Some spending-money thou hast at present in thy purse, in the activity of thy faith, the evidence of thy sonship, and comfort flowing from the same, en­largement in duty and the like.  These Satan may for a time disturb, yea, deprive thee of, but he cannot come to the rolls, to blot thy name out of the book of life; he cannot null thy faith, make void thy relation, dry up thy comfort in the spring, though [he may] dam up the stream; nor [can he] hinder thee a happy issue of thy whole war with sin, though [he may] worst thee in a private skirmish; these all are kept in heaven, among God’s own crown-jewels, who is said to keep us by his ‘power through faith unto salvation.’

[The subjects over which Satan rules.]

           Third. [The subjects of Satan’s empire are stinted.]  The third boundary of the devil’s prin­cipality is in regard of his subjects, and they are des­cribed here to be the darkness of this world, that is, such who are in darkness.  This word is used some­times to express the desolate condition of a creature in some great distress, ‘He that walketh in darkness, and hath no light,’ Isa. 50:10; sometimes to express the nature of all sin; so, Eph. 5:11, sin is called the ‘works of darkness;’ sometimes the particular sin of ignor­ance; [and is] often is set out by the darkness of the night, blindness of the eye.  All these I conceive may be meant, but chiefly the latter; for though Satan makes a foul stir in the soul that is in the darkness of sorrow, whether it be from outward crosses or inward desertions; yet if the creature be not in the darkness of sin at the same time, though he may disturb his peace as an enemy, yet [he] cannot be said to rule as a prince.  Sin only sets Satan in the throne.  So that I shall take the words in the two latter interpreta­tions.  First. [I take them] for the darkness of sin in general.  Second. For the darkness of ignorance in special.  And the sense will be, that the devil’s rule is over those that are in a state of sin and ignorance, not over those who are sinful or ignorant.  [Were it] so, he would take hold of saints as well as others; but [it is] over those who are in a state of sin, which is set out by the abstract, ‘rulers of the darkness,’ the more to express the fullness of the sin and ignorance that possesseth Satan’s slaves.  The notes [or Doctrines] will be two.  First. Every soul in a state of sin is under the rule of Satan.  Second. Ignorance above other sins enslaves a soul to Satan; and therefore all sins are set out by that which chiefly expresseth this, namely, darkness.

Against The Rulers of The Darkness of This World – The Time When Satan Rules

   These words contain the third branch in the des­cription of our great enemy the devil; and they hold forth the proper seat of his empire, with a threefold boundary.  He is not ‘Lord over all’—that is the in­communicable title of God—but a ruler of the dark­ness of this world,where the time, place, and subjects of his empire are stinted.  First. The time when this prince hath his rule—in this world, that is, now, not hereafter.  Second. The place where he rules—in this world, that is, here below, not in heaven.  Third. The subjects or persons whom he rules, not all in this lower world neither; they are wrapped up in these words—the darkness of this world.

[The time when Satan rules.]

           First. [Satan’s empire is bounded by time.]  The time when he rules is in this world; that is, now, not hereafter.  This word world may be taken in the text for that little spot of time which, like an inconsiderable parenthesis, is clapped in on either side with vast eternity, called sometimes the present world, Titus 2.12.  On this stage of time this mock king acts the part of a prince; but when Christ comes to take down his scaffold at the end of this world, then he shall be degraded, his crown taken off, his sword broke over his head, and he hissed off with scorn and shame; yea, of a prince, become a close prisoner in hell.  No more, then, shall he infest the saints, no, nor rule the wicked, but he with them, and they with him, shall lie under the immediate execution of God’s wrath.  For this very end Christ hath his patent and commission, which he will not give up, till ‘he shall have put down all rule,’ I Cor. 15:24.  Then, and not till then, will he deliver up his economical kingdom to his Father, ‘when he shall have put down all rule;’ ‘for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet,’ ver. 25.  Satan is cast already, his doom is past upon him, as Adam’s was upon his first sin, but full execution is stayed till the end of the world.  The devil knows it; it is an article in his creed, which made him trembling ask Christ why he came to torment him before his time.

           Use First. This brings ill news to the wicked.  Your princes cannot long sit in his throne.  Sinners at present have a merry time of it, if it would hold; they rejoice, while Christ’s disciples weep and mourn; they rustle in their silks, while the saint goes in his rags. Princes are not more careful to oblige their courtiers with pensions and preferments, than the devil is to gratify his followers.  He hath his rewards also: ‘All this will I give thee.’  ‘Am not I able to promote thee?’ saith Balak to Balaam.  Oh, it is strange—and yet not strange, considering the degeneracy of man’s nature—to see how Satan carries sinners after him with this golden hook.  Let him but present such a bait as honour, pelf, or pleasure, and their hearts skip after it, as a dog would after a crust.  He makes them sin for a morsel of bread.  Oh the naughty heart of man loves the wages of unrighteousness, which the devil promiseth, so dearly, that it fears not the dreadful wages which the great God threatens.  As sometimes see a spaniel so greedy of a bone, that he will leap into the very river for it, if you throw it thither, and by the time he comes with much ado thither, it is sunk, and he gets nothing but a mouthful of water for his pains—thus sinners will [go] after their desired pleasures, honours, and profits, swim­ming through the very threatenings of the Word to them.  And sometimes they lose even what they gaped for there.  Thus God kept Balaam, as Balak told him, ‘from honour,’ Num. 24:11.  But however they speed here, they are sure to lose themselves everlastingly without repentance.  They that are resolved they will have these things, are the men that will fall into the devil’s snare, and are led into those foolish and hurtful lusts, which will drown them in destruction and perdition, I Tim. 6:9.  O poor sinners! were it not wis­dom, before you truck+ with the devil, to inquire what title he can give you to these goodly vanities? will he settle them as a free estate upon you? can he secure your bargain, and keep you from suits of law? or is he able to put two lives into the purchase, that when you die, you may not be left destitute in another world?  Alas, poor wretches! you shall ere long see what a cheat he hath put  on you, from whom you are like to have nought but caveat emptor —let the buyer look to that; yea, this great prince that is so brag to tell what he will give you, must down himself; and a sad prince must needs make a sad court.  O what howling will there then be of Satan and his vassals together!  O but, saith the sinner, the pleasures and honour sin and Satan offer are present, and that which Christ promiseth we must stay for.  This, indeed, that which takes most.  Demas, saith Paul, forsook me, ‘having loved this present world,’ II Tim. 4:10.  It is present, indeed, sinners, for you can­not say it will be yours the next moment.  Your pres­ent felicity is going, and the saints’, though future, is coming, never to go; and who, for a gulp of pottage and sensual enjoyments at present, would part with a reversion of such a kingdom?  Except thou art of his mind, who thought he had nothing but what he had swallowed down his throat, [thou wouldst not].

This Cicero could say was more fit to be writ on an ox’s grave than [on] a man’s.  Vile wretch, that think­est it is not better to deal with God for time, than [with] the devil for ready pay.  Tertullian wonders at the folly of the Roman’s ambition, who would endure all manner of hardship in field and fight, for no other thing but to obtain at last the honour to be consul, which he calls  ‘a joy that flies away at the year’s end.’  But O! what desperate madness is it of sinners then, not to endure a little hardship here, but [to] entail on themselves the eternal wrath of God here­after, for the short feast and running banquet their lusts entertain them here withal; which often is not gaudium unius horœ—a joy that lasts an hour.

           Use Second. Let this encourage thee, O Chris­tian, in thy conflict with Satan—the skirmish may be sharp, but it cannot be long.  Let him tempt thee, and his wicked instruments trounce  thee, it is but a little while, and thou shalt be rid of both their evil neigh­bourhoods.  The cloud while it drops is rolling over thy head, and then comes fair weather, an eternal sunshine of glory.  Canst thou not watch with Christ one hour or two? keep the field a few days?  If thou yield thou art undone for ever.  Persevere but while [until] the battle is over, and thine enemy shall never rally more.  Bid faith look through the key-hole of the promise, and tell thee what it sees there laid up for him that overcomes; bid it listen and tell thee whether it cannot hear the shout of those crowned saints, as of those that are dividing the spoil, and receiving the reward of all their services and sufferings here on earth.  And dost thou stand on the other side afraid to wet thy foot with those sufferings and temp­tations, which, like a little plash of water, run between thee and glory?

 

Application: of Character of The Assailants or Enemies With Whom The Christian Is to Wrestle 2/2

  

Consider 2.  [It is a limited power.]  Satan’s power is limited, and that two ways—he cannot do what he will, and he shall not do what he can.

           (1.) He cannot do what he will.  His desires are boundless, they walk not only to and fro here below, but in heaven itself, where he is pulling down his once fellow-angels, knocking down the carved work of that glorious temple, as with axes and hammers, yea, unthroning God and setting himself in his place.

(a) This fool saith in his heart, ‘There is no God;’ but he cannot do this, nor many other things, which his cankered malice stirs him up to wish; he is but a creature, and so hath the length of his tedder, to which he is staked, and cannot exceed.  And if God be safe, then thou also, for thy life ‘is hid with Christ in God.’  ‘If I live,’ saith Christ, ‘ye shall live also.’  You are engraven on the table of his heart; if he plucks one away, he must the other also.  (b) Again, as he cannot hurt the being of God, so he cannot pry into the bosom of God.  He knows not man’s, much less the thoughts of God.  The astrologers nor their master could bring back Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  As men have their closets for their own privacy, where none can enter in but with their key; so God keeps the heart as his withdrawing room, shut to all besides himself; and therefore when he takes upon him to foretell events, if God teach him not his lesson, nor second causes help him, he is beside his book.  So to save his credit [he] delivers them dubiously, that his text may bear a gloss suitable to the effect whatever it is.  And when he is bold to tell the state of a person, there is no weight to be laid on his judgement.  Job was an hypocrite in his mouth, but God proved him a liar.  (c) Again, he cannot hinder those purposes and counsels of God he knows.  He knew Christ was to come in the flesh, and did his worst, but could not hinder his landing, though there were many devices in his heart, yet the counsel of the Lord concerning him did stand, yea, was delivered by the midwifery of Sa­tan suggesting , and his instruments executing his lust as they thought, but fulfilling God’s counsel against themselves.  (d) Satan cannot ravish thy will.  He can­not command thee to sin against thy will, he can motum agere—make the soul go faster, that is on its way, as the wind carries the tide with more swiftness; but he cannot turn the stream of the heart contrary to its own course and tendency.

           (2.) Satan’s power is so limited that he cannot do what he can.  God lets out so much of his wrath as shall praise him, and be as a stream to set his purpose of love to his saints on work, and then lets down the flood-gate by restraining the residue thereof.  God ever takes him off before he can finish his work on a saint.  He can, if God suffers him, rob the Christian of much of his joy, and disturb his peace by his cun­ning insinuations, but he is under command; he stands, like a dog, by the table, while the saints sit at his sweet feast of comfort, but dares not stir to roam off their cheer; his Master’s eye is on him.  The want of this consideration loseth God his praise, and us our comfort—God having locked up our comfort in the performance of our duty.  Did the Christian con­sider what Satan’s power is, and who dams it up, this would always be a song of praise in his mouth.  Hath Satan power to rob and burn, kill and slay, torment the body, distress the mind? whom may I thank that I am in any of these out of his hands?  Doth Satan love me better than Job? or am I out of sight, or beside his walk?  Is his courage cooled or his wrath appeased, that I escaped so well?  No, none of these. His wrath is not against one, but all the saints; his eye is on thee, and his arm can reach thee; his spirit is not cowed, nor his stomach stayed with those mil­lions he hath devoured, but [is] keen as ever; yea, sharper, because now he sees God ready to take away, and the end of the world drawing on so fast.  It is thy God alone whom thou art beholden to for all this; his eye keepeth thee.  when Satan finds this good man asleep, then he finds our God awake; therefore thou art not consumed, because he changeth not.  Did his eye slumber or wander for one moment, there would need no other flood to drown thee, yea, the whole world, that what would come out of this dragon’s mouth.

           Consider 3. [It is a ministerial power.]  Satan’s power is ministerial, appointed by God for the service and benefit of the saints.  It is true, as it is said of the proud Assyrian, ‘he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so,’ Isa. 10:7; but it is in his heart to des­troy those he tempts.  But no matter what he thinks; as Luther comforted himself, when told what had passed at the diet at Nuremberg against the Protes­tants, that ‘it was decreed one way there, but other­wise in heaven;’ so for the saints’ comfort, the thoughts which God thinks to them are peace, while Satan’s are to ruin their graces, and destruction to their souls.  And his counsel shall stand in spite of the devil.  The very mittimus which God makes, when he commits any of his saints to the devil’s prison, runs thus: ‘Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus,’ I Cor. 5:5; so that tempted saints may say, ‘We had perished if we had not perished to our own thinking.’  This leviathan, while he thinks to swallow them up, is but sent of God (as the whale to Jonah) to waft them safe to land.  ‘Some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white,’ Dan. 11:35.  This God intends when he lets his children fall into temptation.  As we do with our linen, the spots they get at our feasts, are taken out by washing, rub­bing, and laying them out to bleach.  The saints’ spots are most got in peace, plenty, and prosperity, and they never recover their whiteness to such a degree as when they come from under Satan’s scouring.  We do too little, not to fear Satan; we should comfort ourselves with the usefulness and sub­serviency of his temptations to our good.  All things are yours who are Christ’s.  He hath given life to be yours, hath given death also.  He that hath given heaven for your inheritance—Paul and Cephas, his ministers and ordinances to help you thither—hath given the world with all the afflictions of it, yea, the prince of it too, with all his wrath and power, in order to the same end.  This, indeed, is love and wisdom in a riddle, but you who have the Spirit of Christ can unfold it.

Application: of Character of The Assailants or Enemies With Whom The Christian Is to Wrestle 1/2

           Use First.  Let this, O man, make the plumes of thy pride fall, whoever thou art that gloriest in thy power.  Hadst thou more than thou or any of the sons of Adam ever had, yet what were all that to the power of these angels?  Is it the strength of thy body thou gloriest in?  Alas, what is the strength of frail flesh, to the force of their spiritual nature?  Thou art no more to these, than a child to a giant, a worm to a man: they could tear up the mountains, and hurl the world into a confusion, if God would but suffer them.  Is it the strength of thy parts above others? Dost thou not see what fools he makes of the wisest among men? winding them about as a sophist would do an idiot, making them believe light is dark, bitter is sweet, and sweet bitter.  Were not the strength of his parts admirable, could he make a rational crea­ture, as man is, so absurdly throw away his scarlet, and embrace dung?  I mean, part with God and the glorious happiness he hath with him, in hope to mend himself by embracing sin.  Yet this he did when man had his best wits about him in innocency.  Is it the power of place and dignity got by war-like achievement?  Grant thou wert able to subdue na­tions, and give laws to the whole world, yet even then, without grace from above, thou wouldst be his slave.  And he himself, for all this his power, is a cursed spirit, the most miserable of all God’s crea­tures, and the more as he hath so much power to do mischief.  Had the devil lost all his angelical abilities when he fell, he had gained by his loss.  Therefore tremble, O man, at any power thou hast, except thou usest it for God.  Art [thou] strong in body; who hath thy strength? God, or thy lusts?  Some are strong to drink, strong to sin; thy bands shall therefore be stronger, Isa. 28:22.  Hast thou power, by thy place, to do God and his church service, but no heart to lay it out for them, but rather against them?  Thou and the devil shall be tried at the same bar.  It seems thou meanest to go to hell for something, thou wilt carry thy full lading thither.  No greater plague can befall a man, than power without grace.  Such great ones in the world, while here, make a brave show, like chief commanders and field-officers at the head of their regiments—the common soldiers are poor creatures to them; but when the army is beaten, and all taken prisoners, then they fling off their scarf and feather, and would be glad to pass for the meanest in the army.  Happy would devils be, [happy would] princes and great ones in the world be, if then they could appear in the habit of some poor sneaks to receive their sentence as such; but then their titles and dignity, and riches, shall be read, not for their honour, but further shame and damnation.

           Use Second.  It shows the folly of those that think it is such an easy matter to get to heaven.  If the devil be so mighty, and heaven’s way so full of them, then sure it will cost hot water before we dis­play our banners upon the walls of that new Jerusa­lem.  Yet it is plain that many think otherwise by the provision they make for their march.  If you should see a man walking forth without a cloak, or with a very thin one, you will say, ‘Surely he fears no foul weather;’ or one riding a long journey alone and with­out arms, you will conclude he expects no thieves on the road.  All, if you ask them, will tell you they are on the way to heaven; but how few care for the com­pany of the saints? as if they needed not their fellow­ship in their journey!  Most go naked, without so much as anything like armour, [and] have not enough to gain the name of professors at large; others, it may be, will show you some vain flighty hopes on the mercy of God, without any scripture bottom for the same, and with these content themselves, which will, like a rusty unsound pistol, fly in their own face when they come to use it; and is it any wrong to say [that] they meet with many rooks and cheaters in their dealing, who, should they not look to themselves, would soon undo them.  And are there none that thou needest fear will put a cheat on thy soul, and bereave thee of thy crown of glory if they can?  Thou art blinder than the prophet’s servant, if thou seest not more devils encompassing thee, than he saw men about Samaria.  Thy worldly trade they will not hin­der, nay, may be [will] help thee to sinful tricks in that, to hinder thee in this; but if once thou resolvest to seek out for Christ and his grace, they will oppose thee to thy face.  They are under an oath, as Paul’s enemies were, to take away the life of thy soul if they can; desperate creatures themselves, who know their doom is irrecoverable, and sell their own lives they will as dear as they can.  Now what folly is it to betray thy soul into their hands, when Christ stands by to be thy convoy?  Out of him thou art a lost creature; thou canst not defend thyself alone against Satan, nor with Satan against God.  Close with Christ, and thou art delivered from one of thy enemies, and him the most formidable, God, I mean; yea, he is become thy friend, who will stick close to thee in thy conflict with the other.

           Use Third.  To the saints; be not ye dismayed at this report which the Scripture makes of Satan’s power.  Let them fear him who fear not God.  What are these mountains of power and pride, before thee, O Christian, who servest a God that can make a worm thrash a mountain?  The greatest hurt he can do thee, is by nourishing this false fear of him in thy bosom.  It is observed, Bernard saith, of some beasts in the forest, [that] though they are too hard for the lion in fight, yet [they] tremble when he roars.  Thus the Christian, when he comes to the pinch indeed, is able through Christ to trample Satan under his feet, yet before the conflict, stands trembling at the thought of him.  Labour therefore to get a right un­derstanding of Satan’s power, and then this lion will not appear so fierce, as you paint him in your melan­choly fancy.  Three considerations will relieve you when at any time you are beset with the fears of his power.

           Consider 1.  It is a derived power.  He hath it not in himself, but by patent from another, and that no other but God.  All powers are of him, whether on earth or in hell.  (1.) This truth subscribed in faith, would first secure thee, Christian, that Satan’s power shall never hurt thee.  Would thy Father give him a sword to mischief thee his child?  ‘I have created the smith,’ saith God, ‘that bloweth the coals,’ ‘I have created the waster to destroy,’ and therefore he as­sures them that no weapon formed against them shall prosper,’ Isa. 54:16, 17.  If God provides his enemies’ arms, they shall, I warrant you, be such as will do them little service.  When Pilate thought to scare Christ, with what he could do towards the saving or taking away of his life, he replies, that he could do nothing ‘except it were given him from above,’ John 19:11, as if he had said, ‘Do your worst, I know who sealed your commission.’  (2.) This considered, would meeken and quiet the soul, when troubled by Satan within, or his instruments without.  It is Satan buffets, man persecutes me, but it is God who gives them both power.  The Lord, saith David, bids him curse.  The Lord, saith Job, hath given, and the Lord hath taken.  This kept the king’s peace in both their bosoms.  O Christian, Look not on the jailor that whips thee; may be he is cruel, but read the warrant, [see] who wrote that, and at the bottom thou shalt find thy Father’s hand.