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of the unworthy, are cast off by the great. It was, doubtless, one cause why Christ afterward forbade the Devil even to confess the truth, because his mouth was a slander. But chiefly doth he this, for a better colour of his temptation. He gilds over this false metal with Scripture, that it may pass current. Even now is Satan transformed into an Angel of Light; and will seem godly, for a mischief. If hypocrites make a fair shew to deceive with a glorious lustre of holiness, we see whence they borrowed it.
How many thousand souls are betrayed by the abuse of that word, whose use is sovereign and saving! No devil is so dangerous, as the religious devil. If good meat turn to the nourishment, not of nature, but of the disease, we may not forbear to feed; but endeavour to purge the body of those evil humours, which cause the stomach to work against itself. O God, thou, that hast given us light, give us clear and sound eyes, that we may take comfort of that light thou hast given us. Thy word is holy, make our hearts so; and then shall they find that word not more true, than cordial. Let not this divine table of thine be made a snare to our souls.
What can be a better act, than to speak Scripture? It were a wonder, if Satan should do a good thing well. He cites Scripture then, but with mutilation and distortion : it comes not out of his mouth, but maimed and perverted : one piece is left, all misapplied. Those, that wrest or mangle Scripture for their own turn, it is easy to see from what school they come. Let us take the word from the author, not from the usurper. David would not doubt to eat that sheep, which he pulled out of the mouth of the bear or lion.
He shall give his angels charge over thee : Oh comfortable assurance of our protection! God's children never go unattended. Like unto great princes, we walk ever in the midst of our guard; though invisible, yet true, careful, powerful. What creatures are so glorious as the angels of heaven? yet their Maker - hath set them to serve us. Our adoption makes us at once great and safe. We may be contemptible and ignominious in the eyes of the world; but the angels of God observe us the while, and scorn not to wait upon us in our homeliest occasions. The sun or the light may we keep out of our houses, the air we cannot; much less these spirits, that are more simple and immaterial. No walls, no bolts can sever them from our sides : they accompany us in dungeons; they go with us into our exile. How can we either fear danger or complain of solitariness, while we have so inseparable, so glorious companions ?
Is our Saviour distasted with Scripture, because Satan mislays it in his dish? Doth he not rather snatch this sword out of that impure hand, and beat Satan with the weapon which he abuseth? It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
The Scripture is one, as that God whose it is. Where it carries an appearance of difficulty or inconvenience, it needs no light to clear it, but that, which it hath in itself. All doubts, that may arise from it, are fully answered by collation.
It is true, that God hath taken this care, and given this charge, of his own : he will have them kept, not in their sins : they may trust him ; they may not tempt him : he meant to encourage their faith ; not their presumption. To cast ourselves upon any immediate Providence when means fail not, is to disobey, instead of believing God. We may challenge God on his word; we may not strain him beyond it: we may make account of what he promised; we may not subject his promises to unjust examinations; and where no need is, make trial of his power, justice, mercy, by devices of our own.
All the devils in hell could not elude the force of this divine answer: and now Satan sees how vainly he tempteth Christ to tempt God.
Yet again, for all this, do I see him setting upon the Son of God. Satan is not foiled, when he is resisted. Neither Diffidence nor Presumption can fasten upon Christ. He shall be tried with Honour. As some expert fencer, that challenges at all weapons, so doth his great enemy. In vain shall we plead our skill in some, if we fail in any. It must be our wisdom, to be prepared for all kind of assaults; as those, that hold towns and forts, do not only defend themselves from incursions, but from the cannon and the pioneer.
Still, doth that subtle Serpent traverse bis ground, for an advantage. The temple is not high enough for his next temptation; he therefore carries up Christ to the top of an exceeding high mountain. All enemies in pitched fields strive for the benefit of the hill, or river, or wind, or sun. That, which his servant Balak did by his instigation, himself doth now immediately ; change places, in hope of prevailing. If the obscure country will not move us, he tries what the court can do ; if not our home, the tavern ; if not the field, our closet. As no place is left free by his malice, so no place must be made prejudicial by our carelessness; and, as we should always watch over ourselves, so then most, when the opportunity carries cause of suspicion.
Wherefore is Christ carried up so high, but for prospect? If the kingdoms of the earth and their glory were only to be presented to his imagination, the valley would have served'; if to the outward sense, no bill could suffice. Circular bodies, though small, cannot be seen at once. This shew was made to both : divers kingdoms, lying round about Judea, were represented to the eye; the glory of them, to the imagination. Satan meant the eye could tempt the fancy, no less than the fancy could tempt the will. How many thousand souls have died of the wound of the eye! If we do not let in sin at the window of the eye or the door of the ear, it cannot enter into our hearts.
If there be any pomp, majesty, pleasure, bravery, in the world, where should it be, but in the courts of princes; whom God hath made his images, his deputies, on earth? There are soft raiment, sumptuous feasts, rich jewels, honourable attendance, glorious triumphs, royal state : these, Satan lays out to the
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fairest shew. But oh the craft of that Old Serpent! Many a care attends greatness. No crown is without thorns. High seats are never but uneasy. All those infinite discontentments, which are the shadow of earthly sovereignty, he hides out of the way : nothing may be seen, but what may both please and allure. Satan is still and ever like himself. If temptations might be but turned about and shewn on both sides, the kingdom of darkness would not be so populous. Now, whensoever the Tempter sets upon any poor soul, all sting of conscience, wrath, judgment, torment is concealed, as if they were not: nothing may appear to the eye but pleasure, profit, and a seeming happiness in the enjoying our desires. Those other woeful objects are reserved for the farewell of sin; that our misery may be seen and felt at once. When we are once sure, Satan is a tyrant; till then, he is a parasite. There can be no safety, if we do not view as well the back as the face of temptations.
But oh presumption and impudence, that hell itself may be ashamed of! The Devil dares say to Christ, All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. That beggarly spi. rit, that hath not an inch of earth, can offer the whole world to the Maker, to the Owner, of it. The slave of God would be adored of his Creator. How can we hope he should be sparing of false boasts and of unreasonable promises unto us, when he dares offer kingdoms to Him, by whom kings reign?
Temptations on the right hand are most dangerous. How many, that have been hardened with fear, have melted with honour? There is no doubt of that soul, that will not bite at the golden hook.
False liars and vainglorious boasters see the top of their pedigree; if I may not rather say, that Satan doth borrow the use of their tongues for a time : whereas, faithful is he that hath promised, who will also do it. Fidelity, and truth, is the issue of heaven.
If idolatry were not a dear sin to Satan, he would not be so importunate to compass it. It is miserable to see how he draws the world insensibly into this sin, which they profess to detest. Those, that would rather hazard the furnace, than worship gold in a statue, yet do adore it in the stamp, and find no fault with themselves. If our hearts be drawn to stoop unto an over-high respect of any creature, we are idolaters. O God, it is no marvel, if thy jealousy be kindled at the admission of any of thine own works, into a competition of honour with their Creator.
Never did our Saviour say, dvoid, Satan, till now. It is a just indignation, that is conceived at the motion of a rivalry with God. Neither yet did Christ exercise his divine power in this command, but, by the necessary force of Scripture, drives away that impure Tempter; It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. The rest of our Saviour's answers were more full and direct, than that they could admit of a reply ; but this was so flat and absolute, that it utterly daunted the courage of Satan, and put him to a shameful Aight, and made him for the time weary of his trade.
The way to be rid of the troublesome solicitations of that Wicked One, is continued resistance. He, that forcibly drove the Tempter from himself, takes him off from us, and will not abide his assaults perpetual. It is our exercise and trial, that he intends; not our confusion.
Matthew iv. Mark i. Luke iv.
SIMON CALLED. As the sun, in his first rising, draws all eyes to it; so did this Sun of Righteousness, when he first shone forth into the world. His miraculous cures drew patients; his divine doctrine drew auditors : both together drew the admiring multitude, by troops, after him. And why do we not still follow thee, O Saviour, through deserts and mountains, over land and seas, that we may be both healed and taught? It was thy word, that, when thou wert lift up, thou wouldst draw all men unto thee: behold, thou art lift up long since, both to the tree of shame, and to the throne of heavenly glory ; Draw us, and we shall run after thee. Thy word is still the same, though proclaimed by men ; thy virtue is still the same, though exercised upon the spirits of men.. Oh give us to hunger after both, that by both our souls may be satisfied.
I see the people, not only following Christ, but pressing upon him: even very unmannerliness finds here, both excuse and acceptation. They did not keep their distances, in an awe to the Majesty of the Speaker, while they were ravished with the power of the speech; yet did not our Saviour check their unreverent thronging, but rather encourages their forwardness. We cannot offend thee, O God, with the importunity of our desires. It likes thee well, that the Kingdom of Heaven should suffer violence. Our slackness doth ever displease thee; never, our vehemency.
The throng of auditors forced Christ to leave the shore, and to make Peter's ship his pulpit. Never were there such nets cast out of that fisher-boat before. While he was upon the land, hc healed the sick bodies by his touch; now that he was upon the sea, he cured the sick souls by his doctrine ; and is purposely severed from the multitude, that he may unite them to him. He, that inade both sea and land, causeth both of them to conspire to the opportunities of doing good.
Simon was busy washing his nets. Even those nets, that caught nothing, must be washed, no less than if they had sped well. The night's toil doth not excuse his day's work. Little did Simon think of leaving those nets, which he so carefully washed; and now Christ interrupts him, with the favour and blessing of his gracious presence. Labour in our calling, how homely soever, makes us capable of divine benediction.
The honest fisherman, when he saw the people flock after Christ, and heard him speak with such power, could not but con
ceive a general and confused apprehension of some excellent worth in such a teacher; and therefore is glad to honour his ship with such a guest; and is first Christ's host by sea, ere he is his disciple by land. An humble and serviceable entertainment of a Prophet of God, was a good foundation of his future honour. He, that would so easily lend Christ his hand and his ship, was likely soon after to bestow bimself upon his Saviour.
Simon hath no sooner done this service to Christ, than Christ is preparing for his reward. When the sermon is ended, the shiproom shall be paid for abundantly ; neither shall the host expect any other paymaster than himself; Launch forth into the deep, and let down your nets to make a draught. That ship, which lent Christ an opportunity of catching men upon the shore, shall be requited with a plentiful draught of fish in the deep.
It had been as easy for our Saviour, to have brought the fish to Peter's ship, close to the shore; yet, as chusing rather to have the ship carried to the shoal of fish, he bids Launch forth into the deep. In his miracles, he loves ever to meet nature in her bounds; and when she hath done her best, to supply the rest by his overruling power. The same power therefore, that could have caused the fishes to leap upon dry land, or to leave themselves forsaken of the waters upon the sands of the lake, will rather find them in a place natural to their abiding; Launch out into the deep.
Rather in a desire to gratify and obey his guest, than to pleasure himself, will Simon bestow one cast of his net. Had Christ enjoined him a harder task, he had not refused ; yet not without an allegation of the unlikelihood of success, Master, we have travailed all night, and caught nothing ; yet at thy word, I will let down the net. The night was the fittest time, for the hopes of their trade. Not unjustly, might Simon misdoubt his speed by day, when he had worn out the night in unprofitable labour. Sometimes, God crosseth the fairest of our expectations; and gives a blessing to those times and means, whereof we despair. That pains cannot be cast away, which we resolve to lose for Christ.
O God, how many do I see casting out their nets in the great lake of the world, which, in the whole night of their life, bare caught nothing? They conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he, that eateth of their eggs dieth; and that, which is trodden upon, breaketh out into a serpent. Their webs shall be no garments; neither shall they cover themselves with their labour's. O ye sons of men, how long will ye love vanity, and follow after lies?
Yet if we have thus vainly mis-spent the time of our darkness, let us, at the command of Christ, cast out our new-washen nets : our humble and penitent obedience shall come home laden with blessings. And when they had so done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes, so that their net brake.
What a difference there is, betwixt our own voluntary acts and those that are done upon command ; not more in the grounds of them, than in the issue ! those are ofttimes fruitless; these, ever