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engage him, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield, with all the dreadful weapons of destruction, with legions of temptations and snares, and a mighty force to crush me into ruin; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, who once threw thee down from heaven like lightning, and completed his conquest over thee upon the cross; and by his aid I shall not fail of victory.
Such a faith as this, as it will overcome the world, so will it overcome the god of it too; and all the principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of it, that are employed against us. But then we must be constantly upon our watch and our guard, and put on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand in the evil day; and having overcome all, to standi.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth and sincerity; which will make you resist your great enemy in earnest, with life and spirit, as those that have indeed a desire to conquer. And have on the breastplate of righteousness, a conscience void of offence both towards God and man: for nothing makes a man so brave as innocence and virtue, and nothing so fainthearted and timorous as guilt; as Solomon long ago could observe, Prov. xxviii. 1, The wicked flee when no man pursueth : but the righteous are bold as a lion. And let your feet be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, be prepared with patience to go through all hardships in your spiritual conflict, to tread boldly and confidently in the most rough and thorny ways,
h 1 Sam. xvii. 45.
i Ephes. vi. 11, &c.
and to break through the traps of what kind soever, that shall be laid to ensnare you; and fight the good fight, not with rage and fury, but with calmness of mind, and a sedate resolution, which is the truest courage, and best becomes the quiet, peaceful temper of the gospel; and is most agreeable to the example that our great general hath set us, who conquered hell and death, though with undaunted bravery, yet not with the fierceness and roar of a lion, but the meekness and stillness of a lamb.
Above all taking the shield of faith, in the promises of God and our Saviour, and the certainty of eternal rewards and punishments in another world, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. For what can be of force sufficient to affright a man from the ways of sincere religion, and duty to the blessed Jesus, who attends to the exceeding great reward he hath promised to crown it with in the kingdom of light and glory? And what can prevail with any one to walk in the ways of sin, that considers whither they tend, even to outer darkness and despair in hell, where shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth for ever? And take the helmet of salvation: that is, repose your confidence in the meritorious efficacy of your Redeemer's sufferings, who has overcome the powers of darkness, and will secure all those from falling into the hands of the destroyer, who fight courageously, and put their trust in his help. This hope will cover your heads in the day of battle, and inspirit you with true Christian fortitude, and make you able to maintain your ground: but then, you must likewise take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; be diligent in the study of the
holy scriptures, whereby ye shall grow wise to salvation, and be able to detect the hellish stratagems of your infernal enemy; and be ready to repel his more open assaults as our divine Champion did in the wilderness, with Thus and thus it is written: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou servek. The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord'. For what shall it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? and what shall a man give in exchange for his soul TM? Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels". Such home thrusts as these will make the fiend fly from you with terror and shame and disappointment; and render you more than conquerors through Christ that strengtheneth you: and whose aid you must always call for by fervent prayer, and watch thereunto with all perseverance; (which was our Lord's advice to his apostles in the garden of his agony, Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation °;) for of yourselves ye can do nothing, and all your sufficiency is of God.
This is that whole armour of God which will render us invulnerable in our spiritual warfare; and this will be our support too in all other troubles and afflictions, that are of God's sending, and we do not foolishly and wickedly bring upon ourselves. And then, we may count it all joy that we have fallen into divers temptations P, when the trial of our faith hath wrought patience, and patience ex
k Matt. iv. IO. n Matt. xxv. 41.
1 Rom. vi. 23.
• Matt. xxvi. 41,
m Mark viii. 36, 37.
P James i. 2.
perience, and experience hope, that maketh not ashamed 9.
And should we lose our lives for our dear Lord, rather than prove false and rebellious to him, that death would be our gain; and eternal life, in joy unspeakable and full of glory, shall compensate the loss of that which scarce deserves the name of life, it is so short, so uncertain, and so full of trouble.
Though we must expect therefore to be exercised with temptations, with troubles and afflictions in the faithful service of our Lord, (and the more we expect them, the better able shall we be to behave ourselves well under them when they come,) and though sometimes it will be necessary for us to resist even unto blood, yet let us not be dismayed, for if God be for us, who can be against us? And he that with a true Christian courage and resolution maintains his post, and looks up to Jesus for help, shall either be supported under all his trials, and carried safely through them; or else, as his Lord did, he shall conquer by dying, and be made perfect by those very sufferings which seemed to crush him to pieces. Therefore, says our Lord, fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer, but be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. And in Matt. v. 10, &c. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.
q Rom. v. 3, 4, 5. r Matt. x. 39; 1 Pet. i. 8.
BRAGGE, VOL. III.
s Rev. ii. 10.
This doctrine of rejoicing under sufferings, I know, is looked upon by the world as unpracticable nonsense, and is one of the atheistic objections against our holy religion; and were we all body, and our duration confined to this world, and did our chief happiness arise from the gratifications of sense, there would be something in it: and to preach patience and silence to a swine under the knife would not be more ridiculous, than to talk to such a sensitive man as this of resignation and acquiescence, much less of joy, under what is painful and afflictive to his
But if we have reason, and a soul that is immortal, and expect a future endless state in a spiritual world, in which we shall be for ever happy or miserable, according to our behaviour here, and the temper and disposition of our souls in this first life; then whatever tends to that our chief happiness, and will prevent eternal misery, however sharp and pungent it may be to flesh and blood, ought to be borne, not with patience and resignation only, but with cheerfulness and joy ".
And nothing does more sensibly demonstrate the excellency of our holy religion, nor do more honour to the divine Author of it, than for those that profess it thus nobly to bear up under the pressures of affliction. It shews there is something very extraordinary in it, that raises the soul thus above the world; and fills the heart and mouth with praise and adoration and love of that very Being who takes
u Hoc incolumi; non tantum siccos oculos tuos esse, sed etiam lætos oportet.
Calamitates in remedium cessere; et levioribus incommodis graviora sanata sunt. Seneca.