« PreviousContinue »
worm, than a proud angel. Adam had more advantage to maintain his station than any of us. But though he was created upright, and had no inherent corruption to endanger him, he fell.
And shall we be self-confident, after such instances of human frailty ? Alas, christian ! how canst thou contend with "principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedness?" "Be not high-minded, but fear.” Consider well the instances of Noah, Lot, David, and Hezekiah, who all fell by temptations; yea, and that when one would think they had never been better provided to resist them. Lot fell after the Lord had thrust him out of Sodom, and his eyes had seen the direful punishment of sin, hell, as it were, rained upon them out of heaven. Noah, in like manner, immediately after God's wonderful and astonishing preservation of him in the ark ; when he saw a world of men and women perish in the foods for their sins. David, after the Lord had settled the kingdom on him, which for sin he rent from Saul, and given him rest in his house. Hezekiah was but just up from a great sickness, wherein the Lord wrought a wonderful salvation for him. Did such men, and at such times, when one would think no temptations should have prevailed, fall? Then "let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."
2. Did Christ stand his ground, and go through with his suffering work, when all that had followed him forsook him ? Then a resolved adherence to God and duty, though left alone, without company or encouragement, is Christlike, and truly excellent. You shall have better company than that which has forsaken you of God. Elijah complains, " They have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." 1 Kings, 19:10. But all this did not discourage him in following the
in the way Lord; still he was very jealous for the Lord God of hosts. Paul complains, " At my first answer no man stood by me, all men forsook me : nevertheless the Lord stood with me.” 2 Tim. 4:16, 17. And as the Lord stood by him, so he stood by his God alone, without any aid or support from men. How great a proof of integrity is this! He that professes Christ for company, will also leave him for company. But to be faithful to God, when forsaken of men; to be a Lot in Sodom ; a Norh in a corrupted generation; oh, how excellent is it! It is sweet to travel over this earth to heaven, in the company of the saints, that are bound thither with us, if we can; but if we can have no company, we must not be discouraged from going on. It is not unlikely that, before you have gone many steps farther, you may have cause to say, "Never less alone, than when alone.”
3. Did the disciples thus forsake Christ, and yet were all recovered at last? Then, though believers are not privileged from backsliding, yet, by the grace of God, they shall be recovered. Though they fall, they shall rise again. Micah, 7:8. The highest flood of natural zeal and resolution may ebb, and be wholly dried up; but saving grace is "a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.” John, 4:14. The purpose of God, the frame and constitution of the new covenant, the meritorious and prevalent intercession of Jesus Christ, give the believer abundant security. "My Father, which gave them me, (saith Christ,) is greater than all: and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” John, 10: 29. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” 2 Tim. 2:19. Every person committed to Christ by the Father, shall be brought by him to the Father, and not one wanting. Among the many glorious promises this is one, "I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” As the fear of God in our hearts pleads in us against sin, so our potent Intercessor in heaven pleads for us with the Father. Upon these grounds we may, as the Apostle, Rom. 8: 34, 35, tri. umph in that full security which God hath given us; and say, What "shall separate us from the love of God ?" Understand it either of God's to us, as Calvin, Beza, and Martyr do; or of our love to God, as Ambrose and Augustine do: it is true in both senses, and a most comfortable truth.
4. Did the sheep fly when the Shepherd was smitten; did such men, and so many forsake Christ in the trial ? Then learn how sad a thing it is for the best of men to be left to their own carnal fears in the day of temptation. This was it that made those good men shrink away so shamefully from Christ in that trial. "The fear of man bringeth a snare." Prov. 29: 25. Oh what work will this unruly passion make, if the fear of God do not overrule it!
Helvidius Priscus, when, for doing what he thought his duty in the senate, he was threatened by Vespasian that he should die, nobly replied, " Did I ever tell you that I was immortal? Do what you will, and I will do what I ought. It is in your power to put me to death unjustly, and in me to die like a Roman." And shall a christian see his steadfastness outdone by a heathen ? Oh think what mischiefs your fears may do yourselves and others. Learn to trust God with your life, liberty, and comforts, in the way of your duty; and do not so magnify his erring creatures, as to be scared, by their threats, from your God and your duty. The politic design of Satan herein, is to affright you out of your coverts, where you are safe, into the net. I will enlarge on this no farther; I have elsewhere laid down fourteen rules for its cure. (See his Saint Indeed.)
5. Learn hence, how much a man may differ from himself, according as the Lord is with him, or with drawn from him. Where is he that does not experience this? Sometimes bold and courageous, despising dangers, bearing down all discouragements in the strength of zeal and love to God; at another time faint, feeble, and discouraged at every thing. Whence is this but from the different administrations of the Spirit, who sometimes imparts more, and sometimes less, of his gracious influence. These very men that fled now, could, when the Spirit was more abundantly shed forth upon them, boldly own Christ before the council, and despise all dangers for his sake. We are strong or weak according to the degrees of assisting grace. So that as you cannot take the just measure of a christian by one act, so neither must they judge of themselves by what they sometimes feel in themselves. But when their spirits are low, and their hearts discouraged, they should rather say to their souls, "Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him;" it is low with me now, but it will be better.
6. Was the sword drawn against the Shepherd, and he left alone to receive its soul-piercing strokes? How should all adore both the justice and the mercy of God so illustriously displayed herein! Here is the triumph of Divine justice, and the highest triumph it ever had, to single forth the chief Shepherd, the man that is God's fellow, and sheathe its sword in his breast for satisfaction.
And no less is the mercy and goodness of God sig. nalized in giving the sword a commission against the man his fellow, rather than against us. Why had he not said, Awake, O sword, against the men that are mine enemies, shed the blood of them that have sinned against me, rather than, Smite the Shepherd, and only. scatter the sheep. Blessed be God, that the dreadful sword was not drawn and brandished against our souls; that God did not bathe it in our blood ; that his fellow was smitten, that his enemies might be spared. Oh what manner of love was this! Blessed be God for Jesus Christ, who received the fatal stroke himself; and hath now so sheathed that sword in its scabbard, that it shall never be drawn any more against those that believe in him.
7. Were the sheep scattered when the Shepherd was smitten ? Learn hence, that the best of men know not their own strength till they come to the trial. Little did these holy men imagine such a cowardly spirit had been in them, till temptation put it to the proof. Let this, therefore, be a caution for ever to the people of God. You resolve never to forsake Christ, you do well; but so did these, and yet they deserted him. You can never know your own strength till temptation has tried it. It is said, Deut. 8:2, that God led the people so many years in the wilderness, to prove them, and to know them, (that is, to make them know) what was in their hearts. Little did they think such unbelief, inurmurings, discontent, and a spirit bent to backslidings, had been in them, until their straits in the wilderness gave them the sad experience.
8. Did the dreadful sword of Divine justice smite the Shepherd, God's own fellow; and at the time when the flock, from whom all its outward comforts arose, were scattered from him? Then learn, that the holiest of men have no reason to repine or despond, though God should at once strip them of all their outward and inward comforts together. God took all comfort from Christ, both outward and inward ; and are you greater than he ? God sometimes takes outward, and leaves inward comfort; sometimes he takes inward, and leaves outward comfort; but the time may come when God may strip you of both. This was the case of Job, a favorite of God, who was blessed with outward and in