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when the resolution and full bent of the heart is against sin; when the soul strives with all its might against sin; by sighs and groans, by prayers and tears; and yet out of weakness is forced to fall back into sin, because there is not spiritual strength enough to overcome. Now though involuntary relapses must humble us, yet they must never discourage nor reject us, for God will freely and readily pardon them in course. Voluntary relapses are, when the soul longs and loves to return to the flesh-pots of Egypt; when it is a pleasure and a pastime to a man to return to his old courses. Such voluntary relapses speak out the man blind, hardened, and ripened for ruin.
Rem. 6. Consider that there is no such power or infinite virtue in the greatest horror or sorrow the soul can be under for sin, nor in the sweetest or choicest discoveries of God's grace and love to the soul, as for ever to fence and secure the soul from relapsing into the same sin. Grace is but a created habit that may be prevailed against by the secret, subtle, and strong workings of sin in our hearts. And those discoveries that God makes of his love, beauty, and glory to the soul, do not always abide in their freshness and power upon the heart, but by degrees they fade and wear off, and then the soul may return again to folly; as we see in Peter, who after he had a glorious testimony from Christ's own mouth of his blessedness and happiness, labours to prevent Christ from going up to Jerusalem to suffer, out of bare slavish fears, that he and his fellows could not be secure, if his master should be brought to suffer. And again, after this, Christ had him up into the mount, and there shewed him his beauty and glory, to strengthen him against the hour of temptation that was coming upon him; and yet soon after he had the honour and happiness of seeing the glory of the Lord which most of his disciples had not, he basely and most shamefully denies the Lord of glory, thinking by that means to provide for his own safety. And yet again, after Christ had broken his heart with a look of love for his most unlovely dealings, and bade them that were first acquainted with his resurrection, to go and tell Peter that he was risen; I say, after all this, slavish fears prevail upon him, and he basely dissembles, and plays the Jew with the Jews, and the Gentile with the Gentiles, to the seducing of Barnabas. Gal. ii. 11—13.
Yet by way of caution know, it is very rare that God leaves his beloved ones frequently to relapse into one and the same gross sin; for the law of nature is in arms against gross sins, as well as the law of grace; so that a gracious soul cannot, dares not, will not frequently return to gross folly. And God has made even his dearest ones dearly smart for their relapses, as may be seen by his dealings with Sampson, Jehoshaphat, and Peter. Ah, Lord, what a hard heart has that man, who can see thee stripping and whipping thy dearest ones for their relapses, and yet make nothing of returning to folly!
The eighth device that Satan has to keep souls in a sad and questioning condition, is by persuading them that their estate is not good, their hearts are not upright, their graces are not sound, because they are so followed, vexed, and tormented with temptations. It is his method, first to weary and vex the soul with temptations, and then to tempt the soul, that surely it is not beloved, because it is so much tempted. And by this stratagem he keeps many precious souls in a sad, doubting, and mourning temper many years, as many of the precious sons of Sion have found by woful experience.
Now the remedies against this device, are these: Rem. 1. The first remedy is, solemnly to consider that those who have been best and most beloved, have been most tempted by Satan. Though Satan can never rob a Christian of his crown, yet such is his malice, that he will therefore tempt, that he may spoil him of his comforts. Such is his enmity to the Father, that the nearer and dearer any child is to him, the more will Satan trouble him, and vex him with temptations. Christ himself was most near and most dear, most innocent and most excellent, and yet none so much tempted as Christ. David was dearly beloved, and yet by Satan tempted to number the people. Job was highly praised by God himself, and yet much tempted; witness those sad things that fell from his mouth, wheabe was wet to the skin. Peter was much prized by Christ; witness that choice testimony that Christ gave of his faith and happiness, and his shewinghim his glory in the mount, and that eye of pity that he cast upon him after his fearful fall; and yet he was tempted by Satan: And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, Luke xxii. 31, 32. Paul had the honour of being exalted as high as heaven, and of seeing that glory that could not be expressed; and yet he was no sooner stepped out of heaven, than he is buffeted by Satan, lest he should be exalted above measure. If these who were so really, so gloriously, so eminently beloved of God; if these who have lived in heaven, and set their feet upon the stars, have been tempted, let no saints judge themselves not beloved, because they are tempted. It is as natural for saints to be tempted, who are dearly beloved, as it is for the sun to shine or a bird to sing. The eagle complains not of her wings, nor the peacock of his train, nor the nightingale of her voice, because these are natural to them; no more should saints of their temptations, because they are natural to them. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, Ephes. vi. 12.
Rem. 2. Consider that all the temptations that befal the saints, shall be sanctified to them by a hand of love. O the choice experiences that the saints get of the power of God supporting them; of the wisdom of God directing them so to handle their spiritual weapons, their graces, as not only to resist but to overcome; of the mercy and goodness of the Lord pardoning and succouring them. And therefore says Paul, lest I should be exalted, I received the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure, 2 Cor. xii. 7. Twice in that verse he begins with it and ends with it. If he had not been buffeted, who knows how his heart would have swelled I He might have been carried higher in conceit, than he was before in his extacy. Temptation is God's school, wh rein he gives his people the clearest and sweetest discoveries of his love; a school, wherein God teaches his people to be more fre
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quent and fervent in duty; when Paul was buffeted, then he prayed thrice, frequently and fervently; a school, wherein God teaches his people to be more tender, meek, and compassionate to other poor, tempted souls, than ever; a school, wherein God teaches his people to see a greater evil in sin than ever, and a greater emptiness in the creature than ever, and a greater need of Christ and free grace than ever; a school, wherein God will teach his people that all temptations are but his goldsmiths, by which he will try and refine, and make his people more bright and glorious. The issue of all temptations shall be to the good of the saints; as you may see by the temptations that Adam and Eve, and Christ and David, and Job and Peter, and Paul met with. Those hands of power and love that bring light out of darkness, good out of evil, sweet out of bitter, life out of death, heaven out of hell, will bringmuch sweet and good to his people, out of all the temptations that come upon them.
Rem. 3. Wisely consider that no temptations hurt or harm the saints, so long as they are resisted by them, and prove the greatest afflictions that can befall them. It is not Satan's tempting, but your assenting; not his enticing, but your yielding, that make temptations hurtful to your souls. If the soul, when it is tempted, resists the temptation, and says with Christ, Get thee behind me Satan; and with that young convert, 'I am not the man that I was;' or as Luther counsels all men to answer all temptations with these words, 'I am a Christian;' if a man's temptation be his greatest affliction, then is the temptation no sin upon his soul, though it be a trouble upon his mind. When a soul can look the Lord in the face, and say, ' O Lord, I have many outward troubles upon me; I have lost such and such a near mercy, and such and such a desirable mercy; and yet thou that knowest the heart, knowest that all my crosses and losses do not make so many wounds in my soul, nor fetch so many sighs from my heart nor tears from my eyes, as those temptations do that Satan follows my soul with;' when it is thus with the soul, then temptations are only the soul's trouble; they are not the soul's sin.
Satan is a malicious and envious enemy; as his names
are, so is he. His names are all names of enmity; the Accuser, the Tempter, the Destroyer, the Devourer, the Envious Man. And this malice and envy of his he shews, sometimes by tempting men to such sins as are quite contrary to the temperature of their bodies, as he did Vespasian and Julian, men of sweet and excellent natures, to be most bloody murderers. And sometimes he shews his malice by tempting men to such things as shall bring them no honour or profit; to blasphemy and atheism, the thoughts and first motions whereof, cause the heart and flesh to tremble. And sometimes he shews his malice by tempting them to those sins which they have not found their natures prone to, and which they abhor in others. Now if the soul resists these, and complains of these, and groans and mourns under these, and looks up to the Lord Jesus to be delivered from these, then shall they not be put down to the soul's account, but to Satan's, who shall be so much the more tormented, by how much the more the saints have been by him maliciously tempted.
Make present and peremptory resistance against Satan's temptations; bid defiance to the temptations at first sight. It is safe to resist, it is dangerous to dispute. Eve lost herself and her posterity, by falling into lists of dispute, when she should have resisted, and stood upon terms of defiance with Satan. He that would stand in the hour of temptation, must plead with Christ, It is written. He that would triumph over temptation, must plead still, It is written. Satan is bold and impudent, and if you are not peremptory in your resistance, he will give you fresh onsets. It is your greatest honour and your highest wisdom, peremptorily to withstand the beginning of a temptation, for an after-remedy comes often too late. Katherine Bretterge once, after a great conflict with Satan, said, ' Reason not with me, I am but a weak woman. If thou hast any thing to say, say it to my Christ, he is my advocate, my strength, and my Redeemer; and he shall plead for me.' Men must not seek to resist Satan's craft with craft, but by open defiance. He shoots with Satan in his own bow, who thinks by disputing and reasoning to put him off. As soon as a temptation shews its face, say to the temptation, as Ephraim to his idols, ' Get you