« AnteriorContinuar »
tered and ridiculed, and dangerous errors are daily recommended to the world, with all the plausible turn that may be, and the enemies of truth and virtue are very busy and industrious to destroy both, and, God knows, prevail too much ; let us all stand fast in the good principles our excellent church hath taught us, and put on the whole armour of God; adding daily to our faith virtue ; to virtue knowledge ; to knowledge temperance ; to temperance brotherly kindness ; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in us, and abound, we shall neither be unfruitful nor corrupted and misled in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ 8; but having our fruit unto holiness the end shall be everlasting life, through the same blessed Jesus, our only Lord and Saviour. To whom &c.
8 2 Pet. i. 5, &c.
OF STRIVING WITH OUR MAKER.
ISAIAH xlv. 9.
Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!
F we duly consider the life of man since the fall, we shall find it to be one continued struggle; strife and contention, of one sort or other, run quite throughout it, and render the state of sinful nature, too truly, a state of war.
In our common intercourse with one another, what continual animosities and quarrelings, injuries and affronts, oppression and violence, slanders and false reports, disobedience in families, impatience of all sorts of government, rebellion in states and kingdoms, schisms in the church, fraud and injustice in the way of trade and business, and the like: so that a constant guard is needful, and as constant contending and striving to keep things in tolerable order, and prevent the greatest mischiefs.
In the great and most momentous affair of religion, upon which our whole happiness depends, what a domestic war do we find within our own breasts! the inclinations of the body violently drawing one way, and reason and conscience striving against them, and urging the quite contrary; the great destroyer coming in to the assistance of the
BRAGGE, VOL. IV.
body, with legions of temptations and snares, and vile suggestions, and the good Spirit of God aiding and strengthening the soul with pious motions and holy thoughts; reinforcing reason with grace, supplying divine arguments against sin, and exciting to an actual attention to them, and rousing conscience to a quick and wakeful sense of what is so dishonourable to God, so unbecoming the dignity of our own nature, and so exceeding base and vile; that we may vigorously resist what in the conclusion will certainly prove our ruin. In such a case as this—and such is the case of every man that lives— what a mighty struggle is there within us to secure our duty and our happiness ! how doubtful is the fight between reason and sense! the battle sometimes inclining this way, sometimes that : how difficult do we find it to subdue our headstrong passions, and irregular appetites, and evil inclinations; to resist and overcome the tempter; and bring down every thing that exalts itself against the government of Jesus Christ ! Happy are they, happy beyond expression, who are successful in this spiritual conflict ; and are so wise as vigorously to join forces with the Lord of hosts! But woe be to him who is of a party with the enemy, and striveth with his Maker! Yet this we are all, God knows, too much inclined to do; and notwithstanding all his divine assistance, such is the pravity of fallen human nature, it is with much ado that even the best of us prevail. So strangely are we swayed by flesh and sense, that victory is never dearer bought than when the world is vanquished by religion ; and it is a victory that is but seldom gained.
And what is the reason of it? Why, no other but this—and it is a strange one that though our all depends upon it, yet so very few of us do heartily desire and endeavour to overcome; and instead of courageously contending with the enemy, we basely betray ourselves to him, and turn against that infinitely good Being who would save and deliver us from him. It is true, if God be for us, who can be against us? all the infernal powers will be as nothing in their attempts upon those whom he is pleased to support with his Almighty arm; but then we must not refuse his help, and resist, instead of being guided and directed by him; for then he leaves us, and we are ruined. And the very thought of his withdrawing his aid from us in this hazardous conflict should make us tremble, and importunately beg his presence and assistance for his mercy's sake. For if it is so difficult for us to conquer, even with his help, what should we do without it? And how much misery is treasured up for him who adds God to the number of his enemies, and wages war with his Maker, who is his best and truest friend! Woe unto him, says the prophet in the text, that striveth with his Maker!
In discoursing upon which words I shall do three things :
I. First, I shall shew what it is to strive with our Maker.
II. Secondly, the extreme vileness and folly of so doing. And,
III. Thirdly, how miserable the consequence will be: Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!
I. First, we will consider what it is to strive with our Maker. And in general it is to resist his will, and oppose ourselves to his government; to contend and struggle against the dispensations of his providence: or, in other words, it is to refuse to do what he commands; to repine and murmur at the circumstances he thinks fit to place us in; to be impatient under the troubles he is pleased to lay upon us; and to be stubborn and refractory to the conduct of his Spirit, and the checks of our own consciences within us, and the guidance of his ministers without; whom he hath appointed to watch over and direct us for our eternal good.
So that, first, whoever disregards the obligations religion lays upon him, and lives in direct opposition to them, minding nothing but the gratification of the desires of the body and of sense, without any care to please and obey his Maker; this man does in effect declare, that he is resolved to be no longer under God's government, but will set up for himself, and do nothing but what is good in his own eyes; and that his Maker shall have nothing at all to do with him.
God requires him to live soberly and righteously, and has given him, with the greatest wisdom and goodness, particular rules and directions, according to which he should square and govern his actions ; but for all this, he hearkens to the allurements of flesh and blood; what these prompt to, he eagerly pursues, and discards all thoughts of God and his duty to him, and becomes a lawless libertine. Now this is evidently to live in open rebellion against our Maker, and, as absolute and independent beings, to bid defiance to the God of heaven; and, with Pharaoh, to say with scorn, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice a ?
Secondly, to repine and murmur at the condition
a Exod. v. 2.