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2. The inward kingdom of heaven, which is set up in the hearts of all that repent and believe the gospel, is no other than “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Every babe in Christ knows we are made partakers of these, the very hour that we believe in Jesus. But these are on!y the first fruits of his Spirit; the harvest is not yet. Although these blessings are inconceivably great, yet we trust to see greater than these. We trust to love the Lord our God, not only as we do now, with a weak though sincere affection, but “ with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength.” We look for power to " rejoice evermore, to pray without ceasing, and in every thing to give thanks;" knowing, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us."
3. We expect to be " made perfect in love;" in that which casts out all painful fear, and all desire but that of glorifying him we love, and of loving and serving him more and more. We look for such an increase in the experimental knowledge and love of God our Saviour, as will enable us always “ to walk in the light as he is in the light." We believe the whole mind will be in us, 66 which was also in Christ Jesus ;" that we shall love every man, so as to be ready to lay down our life for his sake; so as, by this love, to be freed from anger, and pride, and from every unkind affection. We expect to be “cleansed from all our idols," "from all filthiness," whether “of flesh or spirit;" to be “saved from all our uncleannesses,” inward or outward; to be purified “as he is pure.
4. We trust in his promise, who cannot lie, that the time will surely come, when, in every word and work, we shall do his blessed will on earth, as it is done in heaven; when all our conversation shall be seasoned with salt, all meet to minister grace to the hearers; when, whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, it shall be done to the glory of God; when all our words and deeds shall be " in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God even to God] the Father, through him."
5. Now this is the grand device of Satan, to destroy the first work of God in the soul, or at least to hinder its increase, by our expectation of that greater work. It is therefore my present design, first, to point out the several ways whereby he endeavours this: and, secondly, to observe how we may retort these fiery darts of the wicked one; how we may rise the higher, by what he intends for an occasion of our falling.
I. 1. I am, first, to poiat out the several ways whereby Satan endeavours to destroy the first work of God in the soul, or at least to hinder its increase, by our expectation of that greater work. And, 1. He endeavours to damp our joy in the Lord, by the consideration of our own vileness, sinfulness, unworthiness; added to this, that there must be a far greater change than is yet, or we cannot see the Lord. If we knew we must remain as we are, even to the day of our death, we might possibly draw a kind of comfort, poor as it was, from that necessity. But as we know we need not remain in this state, as we are assured there is a greater change to come, and that unless sin be all done away in this life, we cannot see God in glory,—that subtle adversary often damps the joy we should otherwise feel in what we have already attained, by a perverse representation of what we have not attained, and the absolute necessity of attaining it. So that we cannot rejoice in what we have, because there is more which we have not. We cannot rightly taste the goodness of God, who hath done so great things for us, because there
are so much greater things, which, as yet, he hath not done. Likewise, the deeper conviction God works in us of our present unholiness, and the more vehement desire we feel in our heart of the entire holmess he hath promised, the more are we tempted to thin's lightly of the present gifts of God, and to undervalue what we have already received, because of what we have not received.
2. If he can prevail thus far, if he can damp our joy, he will soon attack our peace also. He will suggest, “ Are you fit to sec God ? He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. How then can you flatter yourself, so as to imagine he behoids you with approbation ! God is holy: you are unholy. What communion hath light with darkness ? How is it possible that you, unclean as you are, should be in a state of acceptance with God! You see indeed the mark, the prize of your high calling; but do you not see it is afar off? How can you presume then to think that all your sins are already blotted out ? How can this be, until you are brought nearer to God, until you bear more resemblance to him ?" Thus will he endeavour not only to shake your peace, but even to overturn the very foundation of it; to bring you back, by insensible degrees, to the point from whence you set out first, even to seek for justification by works, or by your own righteousness, to make soinething in you the ground of your acceptance, or, at least, necessarily previous to it.
3. Or, if we hold fast, “ Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, even Jesus Christ ;” and, I am "justified freely by God's grace, through the redemption which is in Jesus;" yet he will not cease to urge, " But the tree is known by its fruits : and have you the fruits of justification ? Is that. mind in you which was in Christ Jesus ? Are you dead unto sin, and alive unto righteousness? Are you made conformable to the death of Christ, and do you know the power of his resurrection ?" And then, coinparing the small fruits we feel in our souls with the fulness of the proinises, we shall be ready to conclude, Surely God hath not said that my sins are forgiven me! Surely I have not received the remission of my sins; for what lot have I among them that are sanctified ?
4. More especially in the time of sickness and pain, he will press this with all his might: “ Is it not the word of Him that cannot lie, · Without holiness no man shall see the Lord ? But you are not holy; you know it well; you know holiness is the till image of God; and how far is this above, out of your sight? You cannot attain unto it. Therefore all your labour has been in vain. All these things you have suffered in vain. You have spent your strength for vought. You are yet in your sins, and must therefore perish at the last.” And thus, if
your eye be not steadily fixed on Him who hath borne all your sins, he will bring you again under that “ fear of death," whereby you was so long “sub ject unto bondage," and, by this means, in pair, if not wholly destroy your peace, as well as joy in the Lord.
5. But his masterpiece of subtlety is still behind. Not content to strike at your peace and joy, he will carry his attempts farther yet: he will level his assault against your righteousness also. He will endeavour to shake, yea, if it be possible, to destroy, the holiness you have already received, by your very expectation of recciving more, of attaining all the image of God.
6. The manner wherein he attempts this, may partly appear from what has been already observed, For, first, by striking at our joy in the Lord, he strikes likewise at our holiness : seeing joy in the Holy Ghost is a precious means of promoting every holy temper; a choice instrument of God, whereby he carries on much of his work in a believe, ing soul. And it is a considerable help, not only to inward, but also to outward holiness. It strengthens our hands to go on in the work of faith, and in the labour of love ; manfully to " fight the good fight of faith, and to lay hold on eternal life.” It is peculiarly designed of God to be a balance both against inward and outward sufferings; to “ lift up the hands that hang down, and confirm the feeble knees.” Consequently, whatever damps our joy in the Lord, proportionably obstructs our holiness. And therefore, so far as Satan shakes our joy, he hinders our holiness also.
7. The same effect will ensue, if he can, by any means, either destroy or shake our peace. For the peace of God is another precious means of advancing ihe image of God in us. There is scarce a greater help to holiness than tuis, a continual tranquillity of spirit, the evenness of a mind stayed upon God, a calm repose in the blood of Jesus. And without this, it is scarce possible to “ grow
," and in the vital “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” For all fear (unless the tender, filial fear) freezes and benumbs the soul. It binds
all the springs of spiritual life, and stops all motion of the heart towards God. And doubt, as it were, bemires the soul, so that it sticks fast in the deep clay. Therefore, in the same proportion as either of these prevail, our growth in holiness is hindered.
8. At the same time that our wise adversary endeavours to make our conviction of the necessity of perfect love an occasion of shaking our peace by doubts and fears, he endcavoirs to weaken, if not destroy, our faith. Indeed these are inseparably connected, so that they must stand or fall together. Sc long as faith subsists, we remain in peace; our heart stands fast, while it believes in the Lord. But if we let go our faith, our filial confidence in a loving, pardoning God, our peace is at an end, the very foundation on which it stood being overthrown. And this is the only founuation of holiness, as well as of peace; consequently, whatever strikes at this, strikes at the very root of all holiness : for without this faith, without an abiding sense that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me, without a continuing conviction that God for Christ's sake is merciful to me a sinner, it is impossible that I should love God: “We love hiin, because he first loved us;" and in proportion to the strength and clearness of our conviction that he liath loved us, and accepted us in his Son. And unless we love God, it is not possible that we should love our neighbour as ourselves; nor, consequently, that we should have any right affections, either towards God, or towards
It evidently follows, that whatever weakens our faith, must, in the same degree, obstruct our holiness. And this is not only the most effectual, but also the most compendious way of destroying all holiness. Seeing it does not affect any one Christian temper, any single grace or fruit of the Spirit, but, so far as it succeeds, tears up the very root of the whole work of God.
9. No marvel, therefore, that the ruler of the darkness of this world should here put forth all his strength, And so we find by experience.
For it is far easier to conceive, than it is to express, the unspeakable violence wherewith this temptation is frequently urged on them who hunger and thirst after righteousness. When they see in a strong and clear light, on the one hand, the desperate wickedness of their own hearts, on the other hand, the unspotted holiness to which they are called in Christ Jesus ; on the one hand, the depth of their own corruption, of their total alienation from God, on the other, the height of the glory of God, that image of the Holy One, wherein they are to be renewed; there is, many times, no spirit left in them; they could almost cry out, With God this is impossible! They are ready to give up both faith and hope ; to cast away that very confidence, whereby they are to overcome all things, through Christ strengthening them; whereby, “after they have done the will of God," they are to “receive the promise.”
10. And if they “ hold fast the beginning of their confidence stead fast unto the end,” they shall undoubtedly receive the promise of God, reaching through both time and eternity. But here is another snare laid for our feet : while we earnestly pant for that part of the promise which is to be accomplished here," for the glorious liberty of the children of God," we may be led unawares from the consideration of the glory which shall hereafter be revealed. Our eye may be insensibly turned aside from that crown, which the righteous Judge hath promised to give at that day, “ to all that love his appearing ;" and we may be drawn away from the view of that incorruptible inheritance which is reserved in heaven for us. But this also would be a loss to our souls, and an obstruction to our holiness. For to walk in the continual sight of our goal, is a needful help in our running the race that is set before
This it was, the having “respect unto the recompense of the reward,” which, of old time, encouraged Moses, rather "to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. Nay, it is expressly said of a greater than he, thať •' for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, and despised the shame,” till he “ sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Whence we may easily infer, how much more needful for us is the view of that joy set before us, that we may endure whatever cruss the wisdom of God lays upon us, and press on through holiness to glory.
11. But while we are reaching to this, as well as to that glorious liberty which is preparatory to it, we may be in danger of falling into another snare of the devil, wherein he labours to entangle the children of God. We may take too much thought for to morrow, so as to neglect the improvement of to day. We may so expect perfect love, as not to use that which is already shed abroad in our hearts. There have not been wanting instances of those who have greatly suffered hereby. They were so taken up with what they were to receive hereafter, as utterly to neglect what they had already received. In expectation of having five talents more, they buried their one talent in the earth. At least, they did not improve it as they might have done, to the glory of God, and the good of their own souls.
12. Thus does the subtle adversary of God and man endeavour to make void the counsel of God, by dividing the gospel against itself, and making one part of it overthrow the other; while the first work of
God in the soul is destroyed by the expectation of his perfect work. We have seen several of the ways wherein he attempts this, by cutting off, as it were, the springs of holiness. But this he likewise does more directly, by making that blessed hope an occasion of unholy tempers.
13. Thus, whenever our heart is eagerly athirst for all the great and precious promises ; when we pant after the fulness of God, as the hart after the water brook ; when our soul breaketh out in fervent desire, “Why are his chariot wheels so long a coming ?”—he will not neglect the opportunity of tempting us to murmur against God. He will use all his wisdom, and all his strength, if haply in an unguarded hour we inay be influenced to repine at our Lord for thus delaying his coming. At least, he will labour to excite some degree of fretfulness, or impatience; and, perhaps, of envy at those whom we believe to have already attained the prize of our high calling. He well knows, that by giving way to any of these tempers, we are pulling down the very thing we would build up. By thus following after perfect holiness, we become more unholy than before. Yea, there is great danger that our last state should be worse than the first ; like them of whom the apostle speaks in those dreadful words, “It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, having known it, to turn from the holy comniandment delivered to them.”
14. And from hence he hopes to reap another advantage, even to bring up an evil report of the good wày. He is sensible, how few are able to distinguish (and too many are not willing so to do) between the accidental abuse, and the natural tendency, of a doctrine. These, therefore, will be continually blend together, with regard to the doctrine of Christian perfection; in order to prejudice the minds of unwary men against the glorious promises of God. And how frequently, how generally, I had almost said how universally, has he prevailed herein ! For who is there that observes any of these accidental ill effects of this doctrine, and does not immediately conclude, this is its natural tendency; and does not readily cry out, “See, these are the fruits (ineaning the natural, necessary fruits) of such doctrine ?" Not so : they are fruits which may accidentally spring from the abuse of a great and precious truth : but the abuse of this, or any other scriptural doctrine, does by no means destroy its use. Neither can the unfaithfulness of man, perverting his right way, make the promise of God of no effect. No: let God be true, and every man a liar. The word of the Lord, it shall stand. “Faithful is he that hath promised: he also will do it." Let us not then be “ removed from the hope of the gospel.” Rather let us observe, which was the second thing proposed, How we may retort these fiery darts of the wicked one : how we may rise the higher by what he intends for an occasion of our falling.
II. 1. And, first, Does Satan endeavour to damp your joy in the Lord, by the consideration of your sinfulness; added to this, that without entire, universal holiness, no man can see the Lord ? You may cast back this dart upon his own head, while, through the grace of God, the more you feel of your own vileness, the more you rejoice in confident hope, that all this shall be done away. While you hold fast this hope, every evil temper you feel, though you hate it with a perfect hatred, may be a means, not of lessening your humble joy, but rather of increasing it. “ This and this,” you may say,
“shall likewise perish from the