by Thomas Brooks
2 Cor. 2:11
In the fifth verse, the apostle shows, that the incestuous person had by his incest sadded those precious souls that God would not have sadded.1 Souls that walk sinfully are Hazaels to the godly (2 Kings 8:12-15), and draw many sighs and tears from them. Jeremiah weeps in secret for Judah's sins (Jer. 9:1); and Paul cannot speak of the belly-gods with dry eyes (Phil. 3:18, 19). And Lot's righteous soul was burdened, vexed and racked by the filthy Sodomites (2 Peter 2:7, 8). Every sinful Sodomite was a Hazael to his eyes a Hadad-rimmon to his heart (Zech. 12:11). Gracious souls use to mourn for other men's sins as well as their own, and for their souls and sins who make a mock of sin, and a jest of damning their own souls. Guilt or grief is all that gracious souls get by communion with vain souls (Ps. 119:136, 158).
In the 6th verse, he shows that the punishment that was inflicted upon the incestuous person was sufficient, and therefore they should not refuse to receive him who had repented and sorrowed for his former faults and follies. It is not for the honor of Christ, the credit of the gospel, nor the good of souls, for professors to be like those bloody wretches that burnt some that recanted at the stake, saying, 'That they would send them into another world whiles they were in a good mind.'
In the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th verses, the apostle stirs up the church to forgive him, to comfort him, and to confirm their love towards him, lest he should be 'swallowed up with overmuch sorrow,' Satan going about to mix the detestable darnel (Matt. 13:25) of desperation with the godly sorrow of a pure penitent heart. It was a sweet saying of Jerome, 'Let a man grieve for his sin, and then joy for his grief.' That sorrow for sin that keeps the soul from looking towards the mercy-seat, and that keeps Christ and the soul asunder, or that shall render the soul unfit for the communion of saints, is a sinful sorrow.
In the 11th verse, he lays down another reason to work them to show pity and mercy to the penitent sinner, that was mourning and groaning under his sin and misery; i.e. lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. A little for the opening of the words.
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us; lest Satan overreach us. The word in the Greek signifieth to have more than belongs to one. The comparison is taken from the greedy merchant, that seeketh and taketh opportunities to beguile and deceive others. Satan is that wily merchant, that devoureth, not widows' houses, but most men's souls.
'We are not ignorant of Satan's devices,' or plots, or machinations, or stratagems. He is but a titular Christian that hath not personal experience of Satan's stratagems, his set and composed machinations, his artificially moulded methods, his plots, darts, depths, whereby he outwitted our first parents, and fits us a pennyworth still, as he sees reason.
The main observation that I shall draw from these words is this:
That Satan hath his several devices to deceive, entangle, and undo the souls of men. I shall—
1. Prove the point.
2. Show you his several devices.
3. Show the remedies against his devices.
4. Show how it comes to pass that he hath so many several devices to deceive, entangle, and undo the souls of men.
5. Lay down some propositions concerning Satan's devices.
THE PROOF OF THE POINT
For the proof of the point, take these few Scriptures: (Eph. 6:11), 'Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil: The Greek word that is here rendered 'wiles,' is a notable emphatical word.
(1) It signifies such snares as are laid behind one, such treacheries as come upon one's back at unawares. It notes the methods or waylayings of that old subtle serpent, who, like Dan's adder 'in the path,' biteth the heels of passengers, and thereby transfuseth his venom to the head and heart (Gen. 49: 17). The word signifies an ambushment or stratagem of war, whereby the enemy sets upon a man at unawares.
(2) It signifies such snares as are set to catch one in one's road. A man walks in his road, and thinks not of it; on the sudden he is catched by thieves, or falls into a pit, &c.
(3) It signifies such as are purposely, artificially,2 and craftily set for the taking the prey at the greatest advantage that can be. The Greek signifies properly a waylaying, circumvention, or going about, as they do which seek after their prey. Julian,3 by his craft, drew more from the faith than all his persecuting predecessors could do by their cruelty. So doth Satan more hurt in his sheep's skin than by roaring like a lion.
Take one scripture more for the proof of the point, and that is in 2 Tim. 2:26, 'And that they might recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.' The Greek word that is here rendered 'recover themselves,' signifies to awaken themselves. The apostle alludeth to one that is asleep or drunk, who is to be awakened and restored to his senses; and the Greek word that is here rendered 'taken captive,' signifies to be taken alive. The word is properly a warlike word, and signifies to be taken alive, as soldiers are taken alive in the wars, or as birds are taken alive and ensnared in the fowler's net. Satan hath snares for the wise and snares for the simple; snares for hypocrites, and snares for the upright; snares for generous souls, and snares for timorous souls; snares for the rich, and snares for the poor; snares for the aged, and snares for youth. Happy are those souls that are not taken and held in the snares that he hath laid!
Take one proof more, and then I will proceed to the opening of the point, and that is in Rev. 2:24. 'But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak, I will put upon you no other burden but to hold fast till I come.' These poor souls called their opinions the depths of God, when indeed they were the depths of Satan. You call your opinions depths, and so they are, but they are such depths as Satan hath brought out of hell. They are the whisperings and hissings of that serpent, not the inspirations of God.
SATAN'S DEVICES TO DRAW THE SOUL TO SIN
Now, the second thing that I am to show you is, his several devices; and herein I shall first show you the several devices that he hath to draw the soul to sin. I shall instance in these twelve, which may bespeak our most serious consideration.
DEVICE 1. To present the bait and hide the hook; to present the golden cup, and hide the poison; to present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit that may flow in upon the soul by yielding to sin, and by hiding from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow the committing of sin. By this device he took our first parents: 'And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil' (Gen. 3:4-5). Your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods! Here is the bait, the sweet, the pleasure, the profit. Oh, but he hides the hook,—the shame, the wrath, and the loss that would certainly follow! 4
There is an opening of the eyes of the mind to contemplation and joy, and there is an opening of the eyes of the body to shame and confusion. He promiseth them the former, but intends the latter, and so cheats them—giving them an apple in exchange for a paradise, as he deals by thousands now-a-days. Satan with ease puts fallacies upon us by his golden baits, and then he leads us and leaves us in a fool's paradise. He promises the soul honour, pleasure, profit, but pays the soul with the greatest contempt, shame, and loss that can be. By a golden bait he laboured to catch Christ (Matt. 4:8-9). He shows him the beauty and the bravery of a bewitching world, which doubtless would have taken many a carnal heart; but here the devil's fire fell upon wet tinder, and therefore took not. These tempting objects did not at all win upon his affections, nor dazzle his eyes, though many have eternally died of the wound of the eye, and fallen for ever by this vile strumpet the world, who, by laying forth her two fair breasts of profit and pleasure, hath wounded their souls, and cast them down into utter perdition.5 She hath, by the glistening of her pomp and preferment, slain millions; as the serpent Scytale, which, when she cannot overtake the fleeing passengers, doth, with her beautiful colours, astonish and amaze them, so that they have no power to pass away till she have stung them to death. Adversity hath slain her thousands, but prosperity her ten thousands.
Remedy (1). First, Keep at the greatest distance from sin, and from playing with the golden bait that Satan holds forth to catch you; for this you have (Rom. 12:9), 'Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good.' When we meet with anything extremely evil and contrary to us, nature abhors it, and retires as far as it can from it. The Greek word that is there rendered 'abhor,' is very significant; it signifies to hate it as hell itself, to hate it with horror.
Anselm used to say, 'That if he should see the shame of sin on the one hand, and the pains of hell on the other, and must of necessity choose one, he would rather be thrust into hell without sin, than to go into heaven with sin,' so great was his hatred and detestation of sin. It is our wisest and our safest course to stand at the farthest distance from sin; not to go near the house of the harlot, but to fly from all appearance of evil (Prov. 5:8, 1 Thess. 5:22). The best course to prevent falling into the pit is to keep at the greatest distance; he that will be so bold as to attempt to dance upon the brink of the pit, may find by woeful experience that it is a righteous thing with God that he should fall into the pit. Joseph keeps at a distance from sin, and from playing with Satan's golden baits, and stands. David draws near, and plays with the bait, and falls, and swallows bait and hook with a witness.6 David comes near the snare, and is taken in it, to the breaking of his bones, the wounding of his conscience, and the loss of his God.7
Sin is a plague, yea, the greatest and most infectious plague in the world; and yet, ah! how few are there that tremble at it, that keep at a distance from it! (1 Cor. 5:6): 'Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?' As soon as one sin had seized upon Adam's heart, all sin entered into his soul and overspread it. How hath Adam's one sin spread over all mankind! (Rom. 5:12): 'Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.' Ah, how doth the father's sin infect the child, the husband's infect the wife, the master's the servant! The sin that is in one man's heart is able to infect a whole world, it is of such a spreading and infectious nature.
The story of the Italian, who first made his enemy deny God, and then stabbed him, and so at once murdered both body and soul, declares the perfect malignity of sin; and oh! that what hath been spoken upon this head may prevail with you, to stand at a distance from sin!
Remedy (2). To consider, That sin is but a bitter sweet. That seeming sweet that is in sin will quickly vanish, and lasting shame, sorrow, horror, and terror will come in the room thereof: 'Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue; though he spare it, and forsake it not, but keep it still within his mouth; yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him' (Job 20:12-14). Forbidden profits and pleasures are most pleasing to vain men, who count madness mirth. Many long to be meddling with the murdering morsels of sin, which nourish not, but rend and consume the belly, the soul that receives them. Many eat that on earth that they digest in hell. Sin's murdering morsels will deceive those that devour them. Adam's apple was a bitter sweet; Esau's mess was a bitter sweet; the Israelites' quails a bitter sweet; Jonathan's honey a bitter sweet; and Adonijah's dainties a bitter sweet. After the meal is ended, then comes the reckoning. Men must not think to dance and dine with the devil, and then to sup with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; to feed upon the poison of asps, and yet that the viper's tongue should not slay them.8
When the asp stings a man, it doth first tickle him so as it makes him laugh, till the poison, by little and little, gets to the heart, and then it pains him more than ever it delighted him. So doth sin; it may please a little at first, but it will pain the soul with a witness at last; yea, if there were the least real delight in sin, there could be no perfect hell, where men shall most perfectly be tormented with their sin.
Remedy (3). Solemnly to consider, That sin will usher in the greatest and the saddest losses that can be upon our souls. It will usher in the loss of that divine favour that is better than life, and the loss of that joy that is unspeakable and full of glory, and the loss of that peace that passeth understanding, and the loss of those divine influences by which the soul hath been refreshed, quickened, raised, strengthened, and gladded, and the loss of many outward desirable mercies, which otherwise the soul might have enjoyed.9
It was a sound and savoury reply of an English captain at the loss of Calais, when a proud Frenchman scornfully demanded, When will you fetch Calais again, replied, When your sins shall weigh down ours. Ah, England! my constant prayer for thee is, that thou mayest not sin away thy mercies into their hands that cannot call mercy mercy, and that would joy in nothing more than to see thy sorrow and misery, and to see that hand to make thee naked, that hath clothed thee with much mercy and glory.
Remedy (4). Seriously to consider, That sin is of a very deceitful and bewitching nature.10 Sin is from the greatest deceiver, it is a child of his own begetting, it is the ground of all the deceit in the world, and it is in its own nature exceeding deceitful. 'But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.' Heb. 3:13. It will kiss the soul, and pretend fair to the soul, and yet betray the soul for ever. It will with Delilah smile upon us, that it may betray us into the hands of the devil, as she did Samson into the hands of the Philistines. Sin gives Satan a power over us, and an advantage to accuse us and to lay claim to us, as those that wear his badge; it is of a very bewitching nature; it bewitches the soul, where it is upon the throne, that the soul cannot leave it, though it perish eternally by it.11 Sin so bewitches the soul, that it makes the soul call evil good, and good evil; bitter sweet and sweet bitter, light darkness and darkness light; and a soul thus bewitched with sin will stand it out to the death, at the sword's point with God; let God strike and wound, and cut to the very bone, yet the bewitched soul cares not, fears not, but will still hold on in a course of wickedness, as you may see in Pharaoh, Balaam, and Judas. Tell the bewitched soul that sin is a viper that will certainly kill when it is not killed, that sin often kills secretly, insensibly, eternally, yet the bewitched soul cannot, and will not, cease from sin.
When the physicians told Theotimus that except he did abstain from drunkenness and uncleanness he would lose his eyes, his heart was so bewitched to his sins, that he answered, 'Then farewell, sweet light'; he had rather lose his eyes than leave his sin. So a man bewitched with sin had rather lose God, Christ, heaven, and his own soul than part with his sin. Oh, therefore, forever take heed of playing with or nibbling at Satan's golden baits.
DEVICE 2. By painting sin with virtue's colours. Satan knows that if he should present sin in its own nature and dress, the soul would rather fly from it than yield to it; and therefore he presents it unto us, not in its own proper colors, but painted and gilded over with the name and show of virtue, that we may the more easily be overcome by it, and take the more pleasure in committing of it. Pride, he presents to the soul under the name and notion of neatness and cleanliness, and covetousness (which the apostle condemns for idolatry) to be but good husbandry;12 and drunkenness to be good fellowship, and riotousness under the name and notion of liberality, and wantonness as a trick of youth.
Remedy (1). Consider, That sin is never a whit the less filthy, vile, and abominable, by its being coloured and painted with virtue's colours. A poisonous pill is never a whit the less poisonous because it is gilded over with gold; nor a wolf is never a whit the less a wolf because he hath put on a sheep's skin; nor the devil is never a whit the less a devil because he appears sometimes like an angel of light. So neither is sin any whit the less filthy and abominable by its being painted over with virtue's colours.
Remedy (2). That the more sin is painted forth under the colour of virtue, the more dangerous it is to the souls of men. This we see evident in these days, by those very many souls that are turned out of the way that is holy—and in which their souls have had sweet and glorious communion with God—into ways of highest vanity and folly, by Satan's neat colouring over of sin, and painting forth vice under the name and colour of virtue. This is so notoriously known that I need but name it. The most dangerous vermin is too often to be found under the fairest and sweetest flowers, the fairest glove is often drawn upon the foulest hand, and the richest robes are often put upon the filthiest bodies. So are the fairest and sweetest names upon the greatest and the most horrible vices and errors that be in the world. Ah! that we had not too many sad proofs of this amongst us!
Remedy (3). To look on sin with that eye [with] which within a few hours we shall see it. Ah. souls! when you shall lie upon a dying bed, and stand before a judgment-seat, sin shall be unmasked, and its dress and robes shall then be taken off, and then it shall appear more vile, filthy, and terrible than hell itself; then, that which formerly appeared most sweet will appear most bitter, and that which appeared most beautiful will appear most ugly, and that which appeared most delightful will then appear most dreadful to the soul.13 Ah, the shame, the pain, the gall, the bitterness, the horror, the hell that the sight of sin, when, its dress is taken off, will raise in poor souls! Sin will surely prove evil and bitter to the soul when its robes are taken off. A man may have the stone who feels no fit of it. Conscience will work at last, though for the present one may feel no fit of accusation. Laban showed himself at parting.
Sin will be bitterness in the latter end, when it shall appear to the soul in its own filthy nature. The devil deals with men as the panther doth with beasts; he hides his deformed head till his sweet scent hath drawn them into his danger. Till we have sinned, Satan is a parasite; when we have sinned, he is a tyrant.14 O souls! the day is at hand when the devil will pull off the paint and garnish that he hath put upon sin, and present that monster, sin, in such a monstrous shape to your souls, that will cause your thoughts to be troubled, your countenance to be changed, the joints of your loins to be loosed, and your knees to be dashed one against another, and your hearts to be so terrified, that you will be ready, with Ahithophel and Judas,15 to strangle and hang your bodies on earth, and your souls in hell, if the Lord hath not more mercy on you than he had on them. Oh! therefore, look upon sin now as you must look upon it to all eternity, and as God, conscience, and Satan will present it to you another day!
Remedy (4). Seriously to consider, That even those very sins that Satan paints, and puts new names and colours upon, cost the best blood, the noblest blood, the life-blood, the heart-blood of the Lord Jesus.16 That Christ should come from the eternal bosom of his Father to a region of sorrow and death; that God should be manifested in the flesh, the Creator made a creature; that he that was clothed with glory should be wrapped with rags of flesh; he that filled heaven and earth with his glory should be cradled in a manger; that the power of God should fly from weak man, the God of Israel into Egypt; that the God of the law should be subject to the law, the God of the circumcision circumcised, the God that made the heavens working at Joseph's homely trade; that he that binds the devils in chains should be tempted; that he, whose is the world, and the fullness thereof, should hunger and thirst; that the God of strength should be weary, the Judge of all flesh condemned, the God of life put to death; that he that is one with his Father should cry out of misery, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' (Matt. 27:46); that he that had the keys of hell and death at his girdle should lie imprisoned in the sepulchre of another, having in his lifetime nowhere to lay his head, nor after death to lay his body; that that head, before which the angels do cast down their crowns, should be crowned with thorns, and those eyes, purer than the sun, put out by the darkness of death; those ears, which hear nothing but hallelujahs of saints and angels, to hear the blasphemies of the multitude; that face, that was fairer than the sons of men, to be spit on by those beastly wretched Jews; that mouth and tongue, that spoke as never man spake, accused for blasphemy; those hands, that freely swayed the sceptre of heaven, nailed to the cross; those feet, 'like unto fine brass,' nailed to the cross for man's sins; each sense annoyed: his feeling or touching, with a spear and nails; his smell, with stinking flavour, being crucified about Golgotha, the place of skulls; his taste, with vinegar and gall; his hearing, with reproaches, and sight of his mother and disciples bemoaning him; his soul, comfortless and forsaken; and all this for those very sins that Satan paints and puts fine colours upon! Oh! how should the consideration of this stir up the soul against it, and work the soul to fly from it, and to use all holy means whereby sin may be subdued and destroyed!17
After Julius Caesar was murdered, Antonius brought forth his coat, all bloody and cut, and laid it before the people, saying, 'Look, here you have the emperor's coat thus bloody and torn': whereupon the people were presently in an uproar, and cried out to slay those murderers; and they took their tables and stools that were in the place, and set them on fire, and ran to the houses of them that had slain Caesar, and burnt them. So that when we consider that sin hath slain our Lord Jesus, ah, how should it provoke our hearts to be revenged on sin, that hath murdered the Lord of glory, and hath done that mischief that all the devils in hell could never have done?18
It was good counsel one gave, 'Never let go out of your minds the thoughts of a crucified Christ.'19 Let these be meat and drink unto you; let them be your sweetness and consolation, your honey and your desire, your reading and your meditation, your life, death, and resurrection.
DEVICE 3. By extenuating and lessening of sin. Ah! saith Satan, it is but a little pride, a little worldliness, a little uncleanness, a little drunkenness, etc. As Lot said of Zoar, 'It is but a little one, and my soul shall live' (Gen. 19:20). Alas! saith Satan, it is but a very little sin that you stick so at. You may commit it without any danger to your soul. It is but a little one; you may commit it, and yet your soul shall live.
Remedy (1). First, Solemnly consider, That those sins which we are apt to account small, have brought upon men the greatest wrath of God, as the eating of an apple, gathering a few sticks on the Sabbath day, and touching of the ark. Oh! the dreadful wrath that these sins brought down upon the heads and hearts of men!20 The least sin is contrary to the law of God, the nature of God, the being of God, and the glory of God; and therefore it is often punished severely by God; and do not we see daily the vengeance of the Almighty falling upon the bodies, names, states, families, and souls of men, for those sins that are but little ones in their eyes? Surely if we are not utterly left of God, and blinded by Satan, we cannot but see it. Oh! therefore, when Satan says it is but a little one, do thou say, Oh! but those sins that thou callest little, are such as will cause God to rain hell out of heaven upon sinners as he did upon the Sodomites.
Remedy (2). Seriously to consider, That the giving way to a less sin makes way for the committing of a greater. He that, to avoid a greater sin, will yield to a lesser, ten thousand to one but God in justice will leave that soul to fall into a greater. If we commit one sin to avoid another, it is just we should avoid neither, we having not law nor power in our own hands to keep off sin as we please; and we, by yielding to the lesser, do tempt the tempter to tempt us to the greater. Sin is of an encroaching nature; it creeps on the soul by degrees, step by step, till it hath the soul to the very height of sin.21 David gives way to his wandering eye, and this led him to those foul sins that caused God to break his bones, and to turn his day into night, and to leave his soul in great darkness. Jacob and Peter, and other saints, have found this true by woeful experience, that the yielding to a lesser sin hath been the ushering in of a greater. The little thief will open the door, and make way for the greater, and the little wedge knocked in will make way for the greater. Satan will first draw thee to sit with the drunkard, and then to sip with the drunkard, and then at last to be drunk with the drunkard. He will first draw thee to be unclean in thy thoughts, and then to be unclean in thy looks, and then to be unclean in thy words, and at last to be unclean in thy practices. He will first draw thee to look upon the golden wedge, and then to like the golden wedge, and then to handle the golden wedge, and then at last by wicked ways to gain the golden wedge, though thou runnest the hazard of losing God and thy soul for ever; as you may see in Gehazi, Achan, and Judas, and many in these our days. Sin is never at a stand (Ps. 1:1), first ungodly, then sinners, then scorners. Here they go on from sin to sin, till they come to the top of sin, viz. to sit in the seat of scorners, or as it is in the Septuagint—to affect the honour of the chair of pestilence. Austin,22 writing upon John, tells a story of a certain man, that was of an opinion that the devil did make the fly, and not God. Saith one to him, If the devil made flies, then the devil made worms, and God did not make them, for they are living creatures as well as flies. True, said he, the devil did make worms. But, said the other, if the devil did make worms, then he made birds, beasts, and man. He granted all. Thus, saith Austin, by denying God in the fly, became to deny God in man, and to deny the whole creation.23
By all this we see, that the yielding to lesser sins, draws the soul to the committing of greater.24 Ah! how many in these days have fallen, first to have low thoughts of Scripture and ordinances, and then to slight Scripture and ordinances, and then to make a nose of wax of Scripture and ordinances, and then to cast off Scripture and ordinances, and then at last to advance and lift up themselves, and their Christ-dishonuoring and soul-damning opinions, above Scripture and ordinances. Sin gains upon man's soul by insensible degrees (Eccles. 10:13): 'The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talking is mischievous madness.' Corruption in the heart, when it breaks forth, is like a breach in the sea, which begins in a narrow passage, till it eat through, and cast down all before it. The debates of the soul are quick, and soon ended, and that may be done in a moment that may undo a man for ever. When a man hath begun to sin, he knows not where, or when, or how he shall make a stop of sin. Usually the soul goes on from evil to evil, from folly to folly, till it be ripe for eternal misery. Men usually grow from being naught to be very naught, and from very naught to be stark naught, and then God sets them at nought for ever.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this third device that Satan hath to draw the soul to sin, is solemnly to consider, That it is sad to stand with God for a trifle. Dives would not give a crumb, therefore he should not receive a drop (Luke 16:21). It is the greatest folly in the world to adventure the going to hell for a small matter. 'I tasted but a little honey,' said Jonathan, 'and I must die' (1 Sam. 14:29). It is a most unkind and unfaithful thing to break with God for a little. Little sins carry with them but little temptations to sin, and then a man shows most viciousness and unkindness, when he sins on a little temptation. It is devilish to sin without a temptation; it is little less than devilish to sin on a little occasion. The less the temptation is to sin, the greater is that sin.25 Saul's sin in not staying for Samuel, was not so much in the matter, but it was much in the malice of it; for though Samuel had not come at all, yet Saul should not have offered sacrifice; but this cost him dear, his soul and kingdom.
It is the greatest unkindness that can be showed to a friend, to adventure the complaining, bleeding, and grieving of his soul upon a light and a slight occasion. So it is the greatest unkindness that can be showed to God, Christ, and the Spirit, for a soul to put God upon complaining, Christ upon bleeding, and the Spirit upon grieving, by yielding to little sins. Therefore, when Satan says it is but a little one, do thou answer, that oftentimes there is the greatest unkindness showed to God's glorious majesty, in the acting of the least folly, and therefore thou wilt not displease thy best and greatest friend, by yielding to his greatest enemy.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan, is seriously to consider, That there is great danger, yea, many times most danger, in the smallest sins. 'A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump (I Cor. 5:6). If the serpent wind in his head, he will draw in his whole body after. Greater sins do sooner startle the soul, and awaken and rouse up the soul to repentance, than lesser sins do. Little sins often slide into the soul, and breed, and work secretly and undiscernibly in the soul. Then they come to be so strong, as to trample upon the soul, and to cut the throat of the soul. There is oftentimes greatest danger to our bodies in the least diseases that hang upon us, because we are apt to make light of them, and to neglect the timely use of means for removing of them, till they are grown so strong that they prove mortal to us. So there is most danger often in the least sins. We are apt to take no notice of them, and to neglect those heavenly helps whereby they should be weakened and destroyed, till they are grown to that strength, that we are ready to cry out, the medicine is too weak for the disease; I would pray, and I would hear, but I am afraid that sin is grown up by degrees to such a head, that I shall never be able to prevail over it; but as I have begun to fall, so I shall utterly fall before it, and at last perish in it, unless the power and free grace of Christ doth act gloriously, beyond my present apprehension and expectation. The viper is killed by the little young ones that are nourished and cherished in her belly: so are many men eternally killed and betrayed by the little sins, as they call them, that are nourished in their own bosoms.26
I know not, saith one, whether the maintenance of the least sin be not worse than the commission of the greatest: for this may be of frailty, that argues obstinacy, A little hole in the ship sinks it; a small breach in a sea-bank carries away all before it; a little stab at the heart kills a man; and a little sin, without a great deal of mercy, will damn a man.27
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan, is solemnly to consider, That other saints have chosen to suffer the worst of torments, rather than they would commit the least sin, i.e. such as the world accounts.28 So as you may see in Daniel and his companions, that would rather choose to burn, and be cast to the lions, than they would bow to the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When this peccadillo, in the world's account, and a hot fiery furnace stood in competition, that they must either fall into sin, or be cast into the fiery furnace, such was their tenderness of the honour and glory of God, and their hatred and indignation against sin, that they would rather burn than sin; they knew that it was far better to burn for their not sinning, than that God and conscience should raise a hell, a fire in their bosoms for sin.29
I have read of that noble servant of God, Marcus Arethusius, minister of a church in the time of Constantine, who in Constantine's time had been the cause of overthrowing an idol's temple; afterwards, when Julian came to be emperor, he would force the people of that place to build it up again. They were ready to do it, but he refused; whereupon those that were his own people, to whom he preached, took him, and stripped him of all his clothes, and abused his naked body, and gave it up to the children, to lance it with their pen-knives, and then caused him to be put in a basket, and anointed his naked body with honey, and set him in the sun, to be stung with wasps. And all this cruelty they showed, because he would not do anything towards the building up of this idol temple; nay, they came to this, that if he would do but the least towards it, if he would give but a halfpenny to it, they would save him. But he refused all, though the giving of a halfpenny might have saved his life; and in doing this, he did but live up to that principle that most Christians talk of, and all profess, but few come up to, viz., that we must choose rather to suffer the worst of torments that men and devils can invent and inflict, than to commit the least sin whereby God should be dishonoured, our consciences wounded, religion reproached, and our own souls endangered.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That the soul is never able to stand under the guilt and weight of the least sin, when God shall set it home upon the soul. The least sin will press and sink the stoutest sinner as low as hell, when God shall open the eyes of a sinner, and make him see the horrid filthiness and abominable vileness that is in sin. What so little, base, and vile creatures as lice or gnats, and yet by these little poor creatures, God so plagued stout-hearted Pharaoh, and all Egypt, that, fainting under it, they were forced to cry out, 'This is the finger of God'' (Exod. 8:16; 10:19). When little creatures, yea, the least creatures, shall be armed with a power from God, they shall press and sink down the greatest, proudest, and stoutest tyrants that breathe.30 So when God shall cast a sword into the hand of a little sin, and arm it against the soul, the soul will faint and fall under it. Some, who have but projected adultery, without any actual acting it; and others, having found a trifle, and made no conscience to restore it, knowing, by the light of natural conscience, that they did not do as they would be done by; and others, that have had some unworthy thought of God, have been so frightened, amazed, and terrified for those sins, which are small in men's account, that they have wished they had never been; that they could take no delight in any earthly comfort, that they have been put to their wits' end, ready to make away themselves, wishing themselves annihilated.31
William Perkins mentions a good man, but very poor, who, being ready to starve, stole a lamb, and being about to eat it with his poor children, and as his manner was afore meat, to crave a blessing, durst not do it, but fell into a great perplexity of conscience, and acknowledged his fault to the owner, promising payment if ever he should be able.
Remedy (7). The seventh remedy against this device is, solemnly to consider, That there is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest affliction; and this appears as clear as the sun, by the severe dealing of God the Father with his beloved Son, who let all the vials of his fiercest wrath upon him, and that for the least sin as well as for the greatest.
'The wages of sin is death' (Rom. 6:23); of sin indefinitely, whether great or small.32 Oh! how should this make us tremble, as much at the least spark of lust as at hell itself; considering that God the Father would not spare his bosom Son, no, not for the least sin, but would make him drink the dregs of his wrath!
And so much for the remedies that may fence and preserve our souls from being drawn to sin by this third device of Satan.
DEVICE 4. By presenting to the soul the best men's sins, and by hiding from the soul their virtues; by showing the soul their sins, and by hiding from the soul their sorrows and repentance: as by setting before the soul the adultery of David, the pride of Hezekiah, the impatience of Job, the drunkenness of Noah, the blasphemy of Peter, etc., and by hiding from the soul the tears, the sighs, the groans, the meltings, the humblings, and repentings of these precious souls.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That the Spirit of the Lord hath been as careful to note the saints' rising by repentance out of sin, as he hath to note their falling into sins. David falls fearfully, but by repentance he rises sweetly: 'Blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin; for I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow; deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation.' It is true, Hezekiah's heart was lifted up under the abundance of mercy that God had cast in upon him; and it is as true that Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon him, nor upon Jerusalem, in the days of Hezekiah. It is true, Job curses the day of his birth, and it is as true that he rises by repentance: 'Behold, I am vile,' saith he; 'what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer; yea twice, but I will proceed no further. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes' (Job 40, 4, 5, 42:5-6).33 Peter falls dreadfully, but rises by repentance sweetly; a look of love from Christ melts him into tears. He knew that repentance was the key to the kingdom of grace. As once his faith was so great that he leapt, as it were, into a sea of waters to come to Christ; so now his repentance was so great that he leapt, as it were, into a sea of tears, for that he had gone from Christ. Some say that, after his sad fall, he was ever and anon weeping, and that his face was even furrowed with continual tears. He had no sooner took in poison but he vomited it up again, ere it got to the vitals; he had no sooner handled this serpent but he turned it into a rod to scourge his soul with remorse for sinning against such clear light, and strong love, and sweet discoveries of the heart of Christ to him.34
Clement notes that Peter so repented, that all his life after, every night when he heard the cock crow, he would fall upon his knees, and, weeping bitterly, would beg pardon of his sin. Ah, souls, you can easily sin as the saints, but can you repent with the saints? Many can sin with David and Peter, that cannot repent with David and Peter, and so must perish forever.
Theodosius the emperor, pressing that he might receive the Lord's supper, excuses his own foul act by David's doing the like; to which Ambrose replies, Thou hast followed David transgressing, follow David repenting, and then think thou of the table of the Lord.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That these saints did not make a trade of sin. They fell once or twice, and rose by repentance, that they might keep the closer to Christ forever. They fell accidentally, occasionally, and with much reluctancy;35 and thou sinnest presumptuously, obstinately, readily, delightfully, and customarily. Thou hast, by thy making a trade of sin, contracted upon thy soul a kind of cursed necessity of sinning, that thou canst as well cease to be, or cease to live, as thou canst cease to sin. Sin is, by custom, become as another nature to thee, which thou canst not, which thou wilt not lay aside, though thou knowest that if thou dost not lay sin aside, God will lay thy soul aside for ever; though thou knowest that if sin and thy soul do not part, Christ and thy soul can never meet. If thou wilt make a trade of sin, and cry out, Did not David sin thus, and Noah sin thus, and Peter sin thus? No! their hearts turned aside to folly one day, but thy heart turns aside to folly every day (2 Peter 2:14, Prov. 4:16); and when they were fallen, they rise by repentance, and by the actings of faith upon a crucified Christ;36 but thou fallest, and hast no strength nor will to rise, but wallowest in sin, and wilt eternally die in thy sins, unless the Lord be the more merciful to thy soul. Dost thou think, O soul, this is good reasoning? Such a one tasted poison but once, and yet narrowly escaped; but I do daily drink poison, yet I shall escape. Yet such is the mad reasoning of vain souls. David and Peter sinned once foully and fearfully; they tasted poison but once, and were sick to death; but I taste it daily, and yet shall not taste of eternal death. Remember, O souls! that the day is at hand when self-flatterers will be found self-deceivers, yea, self-murderers.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider. That though God doth not, nor never will, disinherit his people for their sins, yet he hath severely punished his people for their sins. David sins, and God breaks his bones for his sin: 'Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice' (Ps. 51:8). 'And because thou hast done this, the sword shall never depart from thy house, to the day of thy death' (2 Sam. 12:10). Though God will not utterly take from them his loving-kindness, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail, nor break his covenant, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his mouth, yet will he 'visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes' (Ps. 89:30, 35). The Scripture abounds with instances of this kind. This is so known a truth among all that know anything of truth, that to cite more scriptures to prove it would be to light a candle to see the sun at noon.37
The Jews have a proverb, 'That there is no punishment comes upon Israel in which there is not one ounce of the golden calf'; meaning that that was so great a sin, as that in every plague God remembered it; that it had an influence into every trouble that befell them. Every man's heart may say to him in his sufferings, as the heart of Apollodorus in the kettle, 'I have been the cause of this.' God is most angry when he shows no anger. God keep me from this mercy; this kind of mercy is worse than all other kind of misery.
One writing to a dead friend hath this expression: 'I account it a part of unhappiness not to know adversity; I judge you to be miserable, because you have not been miserable.'38 It is mercy that our affliction is not execution, but a correction.39 He that hath deserved hanging, may be glad if he escape with a whipping. God's corrections are our instructions, his lashes our lessons, his scourges our schoolmasters, his chastisements our advertisements;40 and to note this, both the Hebrews and the Greeks express chastening and teaching by one and the same word (Musar, Paideia 41), because the latter is the true end of the former, according to that in the proverb, 'Smart makes wit, and vexation gives understanding.' Whence Luther fitly calls affliction 'The Christian man's divinity.' So saith Job (Chap. 33:14-19), 'God speaketh once, yea, twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that he may withdraw man from his purpose and hide pride from man. He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.' When Satan shall tell thee of other men's sins to draw thee to sin, do thou then think of the same men's sufferings to keep thee from sin. Lay thy hand upon thy heart, and say, O my soul if thou sinnest with David, thou must suffer with David.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That there are but two main ends of God's recording of the falls of his saints.
And the one is, to keep those from fainting, sinking, and despair, under the burden of their sins, who fall through weakness and infirmity.
And the other is, that their falls may be as landmarks to warn others that stand, to take heed lest they fall. It never entered into the heart of God to record his children's sins, that others might be encouraged to sin, but that others might look to their standings, and hang the faster upon the skirts of Christ, and avoid all occasions and temptations that may occasion the soul to fall, as others have fallen, when they have been left by Christ. The Lord hath made their sins as landmarks, to warn his people to take heed how they come near those sands and rocks, those snares and baits, that have been fatal to the choicest treasures, to wit, the joy, peace, comfort, and glorious enjoyments of the bravest spirits and noblest souls that ever sailed through the ocean of this sinful troublesome world; as you may see in David, job, and Peter. There is nothing in the world that can so notoriously cross the grand end of God's recording of the sins of his saints, than for any from thence to take encouragement to sin; and wherever you find such a soul, you may write him Christless, graceless, a soul cast off by God, a soul that Satan hath by the hand, and the eternal God knows whither he will lead him.42
DEVICE 5. To present God to the soul as one made up all of mercy. Oh! saith Satan, you need not make such a matter of sin, you need not be so fearful of sin, not so unwilling to sin; for God is a God of mercy, a God full of mercy, a God that delights in mercy, a God that is ready to show mercy, a God that is never weary of showing mercy, a God more prone to pardon his people than to punish his people; and therefore he will not take advantage against the soul; and why then, saith Satan, should you make such a matter of sin?
Remedy (1). The first remedy is, seriously to consider, That it is the sorest judgment in the world to be left to sin upon any pretence whatsoever. O unhappy man! when God leaveth thee to thyself, and doth not resist thee in thy sins.43 Woe, woe to him at whose sins God doth wink. When God lets the way to hell be a smooth and pleasant way, that is hell on this side hell, and a dreadful sign of God's indignation against a man; a token of his rejection, and that God doth not intend good unto him. That is a sad word, 'Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone' (Hosea 4:17); he will be uncounsellable and incorrigible; he hath made a match with mischief, he shall have his bellyful of it; he falls with open eyes; let him fall at his own peril. And that is a terrible saying, 'So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lusts, and they walked in their own counsels' (Ps. 81:12). A soul given up to sin is a soul ripe for hell, a soul posting to destruction. Ah Lord! this mercy I humbly beg, that whatever thou givest me up to, thou wilt not give me up to the ways of my own heart; if thou wilt give me up to be afflicted, or tempted, or reproached, I will patiently sit down, and say, It is the Lord; let him do with me what seems good in his own eyes. Do anything with me, lay what burden thou wilt upon me, so thou dost not give me up to the ways of my own heart.44
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That God is as just as he is merciful. As the Scriptures speak him out to be a very merciful God, so they speak him out to be a very just God. Witness his casting the angels out of heaven (2 Peter 2:4) and his binding them in chains of darkness45 till the judgment of the great day; and witness his turning Adam out of Paradise, his drowning of the old world, and his raining hell out of heaven upon Sodom; and witness all the crosses, losses, sicknesses, and diseases, that be in the world; and witness Tophet, that was prepared of old; witness his 'treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath, unto the revelation of the just judgments of God'; but above all, witness the pouring forth of all his wrath upon his bosom Son, when he did bear the sins of his people, and cried out, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' (Matt. 27:46).
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That sins against mercy will bring the greatest and sorest judgments upon men's heads and hearts. Mercy is Alpha, Justice is Omega. David, speaking of these attributes, placeth mercy in the foreward, and justice in the rearward, saying, 'My song shall be of mercy and judgment' (Ps. 101:1). When mercy is despised, then justice takes the throne.46 God is like a prince, that sends not his army against rebels before he hath sent his pardon, and proclaimed it by a herald of arms: he first hangs out the white flag of mercy; if this wins men in, they are happy forever; but if they stand out, then God will put forth his red flag of justice and judgment: if the one is despised, the other shall be felt with a witness.47
See this in the Israelites. He loved them and chose them when they were in their blood, and most unlovely. He multiplied them, not by means, but by miracle: from seventy souls they grew in few years to six hundred thousand; the more they were oppressed, the more they prospered, like camomile, the more you tread it, the more you spread it; or to a palm-tree, the more it is pressed, the further it spreadeth: or to fire, the more it is raked, the more it burneth. Their mercies came in upon them like Job's messengers, one upon the neck of the other: He put off their sackcloth, and girded them with gladness, and 'compassed them about with songs of deliverance'; he 'carried them on the wings of eagles'; he kept them 'as the apple of his eye,' &c.48 But they, abusing his mercy, became the greatest objects of his wrath. As I know not the man that can reckon up their mercies, so I know not the man that can sum up the miseries that are come upon them for their sins. For as our Savior prophesied concerning Jerusalem, 'that a stone should not be left upon a stone,' so it was fulfilled forty years after his ascension, by Vespasian the emperor and his son Titus, who, having besieged Jerusalem, the Jews were oppressed with a grievous famine, in which their food was old shoes, leather, old hay, and the dung of beasts. There died, partly of the sword and partly of the famine, eleven hundred thousand of the poorer sort; two thousand in one night were embowelled; six thousand were burned in a porch of the temple; the whole city was sacked and burned, and laid level to the ground; and ninety-seven thousand taken captives, and applied to base and miserable service, as Eusebius and Josephus saith.49 And to this day, in all parts of the world, are they not the off-scouring of the world? None less beloved, and none more abhorred, than they.50
And so Capernaum, that was lifted up to heaven, was threatened to be thrown down to hell. No souls fall so low into hell, if they fall, as those souls that by a hand of mercy are lifted up nearest to heaven. You slight souls that are so apt to abuse mercy, consider this, that in the gospel days, the plagues that God inflicts upon the despisers and abusers of mercy are usually spiritual plagues; as blindness of mind, hardness of heart, benumbedness of conscience, which are ten thousand times worse than the worst of outward plagues that can befall you. And therefore, though you may escape temporal judgments, yet you shall not escape spiritual judgments: 'How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?' (Heb. 2:3) saith the apostle. Oh! therefore, whenever Satan shall present God to the soul as one made up all of mercy, that he may draw thee to do wickedly, say unto him, that sins against mercy will bring upon the soul the greatest misery; and therefore whatever becomes of thee, thou wilt not sin against mercy.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan, is seriously to consider, That though God's general mercy be over all his works, yet his special mercy is confined to those that are divinely qualified.51 So in Exodus 34: 6-7: 'And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.' Exodus 20:6, 'And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.' Ps. 25:10, 'All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.' Ps. 32:10, 'Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.' Ps. 33:18, 'Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy.' Ps. 103:11, 'For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.' Ver. 17, 'But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him.' When Satan attempts to draw thee to sin by presenting God as a God all made up of mercy, oh then reply, that though God's general mercy extend to all the works of his hand, yet his special mercy is confined to them that are divinely qualified, to them that love him and keep his commandments, to them that trust in him, that by hope hang upon him, and that fear him; and that thou must be such a one here, or else thou canst never be happy hereafter: thou must partake of his special mercy, or else eternally perish in everlasting misery, notwithstanding God's general mercy.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That those that were once glorious on earth, and are now triumphing in heaven, did look upon the mercy of God as the most powerful argument to preserve them from sin, and to fence their souls against sin, and not as an encouragement to sin. Ps. 26:3-5: 'For thy loving-kindness is before mine eyes, and I have walked in thy truth: I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers, and will not sit with the wicked.' So Joseph strengthens himself against sin from the remembrance of mercy: 'How then can I,' saith he, 'do this great wickedness, and sin against God?' (Gen. 39:9). He had his eye fixed upon mercy, and therefore sin could not enter, though the irons entered into his soul; his soul being taken with mercy, was not moved with his mistress's impudence. Satan knocked oft at the door, but the sight of mercy would not suffer him to answer or open. Joseph, like a pearl in a puddle, keeps his virtue still.52 So Paul: 'Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?' (Rom. 6:1-2). There is nothing in the world that renders a man more unlike to a saint, and more like to Satan, than to argue from mercy to sinful liberty; from divine goodness to licentiousness. This is the devil's logic, and in whomsoever you find it, you may write, 'This soul is lost.' A man may as truly say, the sea burns, or fire cools, as that free grace and mercy should make a truly gracious soul to do wickedly. So the same apostle: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service' (Rom. 12:1). So John: 'These things I write unto you, that ye sin not' (1 John 2:1-2). What was it that he wrote? He wrote: 'That we might have fellowship with the Father and his Son; and that the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin; and that if we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins; and that if we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.' These choice favours and mercies the apostle holds forth as the choicest means to preserve the soul from sin, and to keep at the greatest distance from sin; and if this will not do it, you may write the man void of Christ and grace, and undone for ever.
DEVICE 6. By persuading the soul that the work of repentance is an easy work, and that therefore the soul need not make such a matter of sin. Why! Suppose you do sin, saith Satan, it is no such difficult thing to return, and confess, and be sorrowful, and beg pardon, and cry, 'Lord, have mercy upon me!' and if you do but this, God will cut the score,53 and pardon your sins, and save your souls.
By this device Satan draws many a soul to sin, and makes many millions of souls servants or rather slaves to sin.
Remedy (1). The first remedy is, seriously to consider, That repentance is a mighty work, a difficult work, a work that is above our power. There is no power below that power that raised Christ from the dead, and that made the world, that can break the heart of a sinner or turn the heart of a sinner. Thou art as well able to melt adamant, as to melt thine own heart; to turn a flint into flesh, as to turn thine own heart to the Lord; to raise the dead and to make a world, as to repent. Repentance is a flower that grows not in nature's garden. 'Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil' (Jer. 13:23). Repentance is a gift that comes down from above.54 Men are not born with repentance in their hearts, as they are born with tongues in their mouths: (Acts 5.31): 'Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.' So in 2 Tim. 2:25: 'In meekness instructing them that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.' It is not in the power of any mortal to repent at pleasure.55 Some ignorant deluded souls vainly conceit that these five words, 'Lord! have mercy upon me,' are efficacious to send them to heaven; but as many are undone by buying a counterfeit jewel, so many are in hell by mistake of their repentance. Many rest in their repentance, though it may be but the shadow of repentance, which caused one to say, 'Repentance damneth more than sin.'
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider of the nature of true repentance. Repentance is some other thing than what vain men conceive.56
Repentance is sometimes taken, in a more strict and narrow sense, for godly sorrow; sometimes repentance is taken, in a large sense, for amendment of life. Repentance hath in it three things, viz. :
The act, subject, terms.
(1) The formal act of repentance is a changing and converting. It is often set forth in Scripture by turning. 'Turn thou me, and I shall be turned,' saith Ephraim; 'after that I was turned, I repented,' saith he (Jer. 31:18-19). It is a turning from darkness to light.
(2) The subject changed and converted is the whole man; it is both the sinner's heart and life: first his heart, then his life; first his person, then his practice and conversation. 'Wash you, make you clean,' there is the change of their persons; 'Put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well' (Is. 1:16-17); there is the change of their practices. So 'Cast away,' saith Ezekiel, 'all your transgressions whereby you have transgressed;' there is the change of the life; 'and make you a new heart and a new spirit' (Eze. 18:31); there is the change of the heart.
(3) The terms of this change and conversion, from which and to which both heart and life must be changed; from sin to God. The heart must be changed from the state and power of sin, the life from the acts of sin, but both unto God; the heart to be under his power in a state of grace, the life to be under his rule in all new obedience; as the apostle speaks, 'To open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God' (Acts 26:18). So the prophet Isaiah saith, 'Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord' (55:7).
Thus much of the nature of evangelical repentance. Now, souls, tell me whether it be such an easy thing to repent, as Satan doth suggest. Besides what hath been spoken, I desire that you will take notice, that repentance doth include turning from the most darling sin. Ephraim shall say, 'What have I to do any more with idols?' (Hosea 14. 8). Yea, it is a turning from an sin to God (Ezek. 18:30): 'Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.' Herod turned from many, but turned not from his Herodias, which was his ruin. Judas turned from all visible wickedness, yet he would not cast out that golden devil covetousness, and therefore was cast into the hottest place in hell. He that turns not from every sin, turns not aright from anyone sin. Every sin strikes at the honour of God, the being of God, the glory of God, the heart of Christ, the joy of the Spirit, and the peace of a man's conscience; and therefore a soul truly penitent strikes at all, hates all, conflicts with all, and will labour to draw strength from a crucified Christ to crucify all. A true penitent knows neither father nor mother, neither right eye nor right hand, but will pluck out the one and cut off the other. Saul spared but one Agag, and that cost him his soul and his kingdom (1 Sam. 15:9). Besides, repentance is not only a turning from all sin, but also a turning to all good; to a love of all good, to a prizing of all good, and to a following after all good (Ezek. 18:21): 'But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die;' that is, only negative righteousness and holiness is no righteousness nor holiness.57 David fulfilled all the will of God, and had respect unto all his commandments, and so had Zacharias and Elizabeth. It is not enough that the tree bears not ill fruit; but it must bring forth good fruit, else it must be 'cut down and cast into the fire' (Luke 13:7). So it is not enough that you are not thus and thus wicked, but you must be thus and thus gracious and good, else divine justice will put the axe of divine vengeance to the root of your souls, and cut you off for ever. 'Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewed down and cast into the fire' (Matt. 3:10). Besides, repentance doth include a sensibleness of sin's sinfulness, how opposite and contrary it is to the blessed God. God is light, sin is darkness; God is life, sin is death; God is heaven, sin is hell; God is beauty, sin is deformity.
Also true repentance includes a sensibleness of sin's mischievousness; how it cast angels out of heaven, and Adam out of paradise; how it laid the first corner stone in hell, and brought in all the curses, crosses, and miseries, that be in the world; and how it makes men liable to all temporal, spiritual and eternal wrath; how it hath made men Godless, Christless, hopeless and heavenless.
Further, true repentance doth include sorrow for sin, contrition of heart. It breaks the heart with sighs, and sobs, and groans, for that a loving God and Father is by sin offended, a blessed Saviour afresh crucified, and the sweet Comforter, the Spirit, grieved and vexed.
Again, repentance doth include, not only a loathing of sin, but also a loathing of ourselves for sin. As a man doth not only loathe poison, but he loathes the very dish or vessel that hath the smell of the poison; so a true penitent doth not only loathe his sin, but he loathes himself, the vessel that smells of it; so Ezek. 20:43: 'And there shall ye remember your ways and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.' True repentance will work your hearts, not only to loathe your sins, but to loathe yourselves.58
Again, true repentance doth not only work a man to loathe himself for his sins, but it makes him ashamed of his sin also: 'What fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?' saith the apostle (Rom. 6:21). So Ezekiel: 'And thou shalt be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God' (Rom 16:63). When a penitent soul sees his sins pardoned, the anger of God pacified, the divine justice satisfied, then he sits down and blushes, as the Hebrew hath it, as one ashamed. Yea, true repentance doth work a man to cross his sinful self, and to walk contrary to sinful self, to take a holy revenge upon sin, as you may see in Paul, the jailor, Mary Magdalene, and Manasseh. This the apostle shows in 2 Cor. 7:10-11: 'For godly sorrow worketh repentance never to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold the self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge.' 59 Now souls, sum up all these things together, and tell me whether it would be such an easy thing to repent as Satan would make the soul to believe, and I am confident your heart will answer that it is as hard a thing to repent as it is to make a world, or raise the dead.
I shall conclude this second remedy with a worthy saying of a precious holy man: 'Repentance,' saith he, 'strips us stark naked of all the garments of the old Adam, and leaves not so much as a shirt behind.' In this rotten building it leaves not a stone upon a stone. As the flood drowned Noah's own friends and servants, so must the flood of repenting tears drown our sweetest and most profitable sins.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is seriously to consider, That repentance is a continued act. The word repent implies the continuation of it.60 True repentance inclines a man's heart to perform God's statutes always, even unto the end. A true penitent must go on from faith to faith, from strength to strength; he must never stand still nor turn back. Repentance is a grace, and must have its daily operation as well as other graces. True repentance is a continued spring, where the waters of godly sorrow are always flowing: 'My sin is ever before me' (Ps. 51:3). A true penitent is often casting his eyes back to the days of his former vanity, and this makes him morning and evening to 'water his couch with his tears.' 'Remember not against me the sins of my youth,' saith one blessed penitent; and 'I was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious,' saith another penitent.61 Repentance is a continued act of turning, a repentance never to be repented of, a turning never to turn again to folly. A true penitent hath ever something within him to turn from; he can never get near enough to God; no, not so near him as once he was; and therefore he is still turning and turning that he may get nearer and nearer to him, that is his chiefest good and his only happiness, optimum maximum, the best and the greatest. They are every day a-crying out, 'O wretched men that we are, who shall deliver us from this body of death!' (Rom. 7:24). They are still sensible of sin, and still conflicting with sin, and still sorrowing for sin, and still loathing of themselves for sin.
Repentance is no transient act, but a continued act of the soul. And tell me, O tempted soul, whether it be such an easy thing as Satan would make thee believe, to be every day a-turning more and more from sin, and a-turning nearer and nearer to God, thy choicest blessedness. A true penitent can as easily content himself with one act of faith, or one act of love, as he can content himself with one act of repentance.
A Jewish Rabbi, pressing the practice of repentance upon his disciples, and exhorting them to be sure to repent the day before they died, one of them replied, that the day of any man's death was very uncertain. 'Repent, therefore, every day,' said the Rabbi, 'and then you shall be sure to repent the day before you die.' You are wise, and know how to apply it to your own advantage.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is solemnly to consider, That if the work of repentance were such an easy work as Satan would make it to be, then certainly so many would not lie roaring and crying out of wrath and eternal ruin under the horrors and terrors of conscience, for not repenting; yea, doubtless, so many millions would not go to hell for not repenting, if it were such an easy thing to repent.62 Ah, do not poor souls under horror of conscience cry out and say, Were all this world a lump of gold, and in our hand to dispose of, we would give it for the least drachm of true repentance! and wilt thou say it is an easy thing to repent? When a poor sinner, whose conscience is awakened, shall judge the exchange of all the world for the least drachm of repentance to be the happiest exchange that ever sinner made, tell me, O soul, is it good going to hell? Is it good dwelling with the devouring fire, with everlasting burnings? Is it good to be for ever separated from the blessed and glorious presence of God, and saints, and to be for ever shut out from those good things of eternal life, which are so many, that they exceed number; so great, that they exceed measure; so precious, that they exceed all estimation? We know it is the greatest misery that can befall the sons of men; and would they not prevent this by repentance, if it were such an easy thing to repent as Satan would have it? Well, then, do not run the hazard of losing God, Christ, heaven, and thy soul forever, by hearkening to this device of Satan, viz., that it is an easy thing to repent. If it be so easy, why, then, do wicked men's hearts so rise against them that press the doctrine of repentance in the sweetest way, and by the strongest and the choicest arguments that the Scripture doth afford? And why do they kill two at once: the faithful labourer's name and their own souls, by their wicked words and actings, because they are put upon repenting, which Satan tells them is so easy a thing? Surely, were repentance so easy, wicked men would not be so much enraged when that doctrine is, by evangelical considerations, pressed upon them.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is seriously to consider, That to repent of sin is as great a work of grace as not to sin.63 By our sinful falls the powers of the soul are weakened, the strength of grace is decayed, our evidences for heaven are blotted, fears and doubts in the soul are raised (will God once more pardon this scarlet sin, and show mercy to this wretched soul?), and corruptions in the heart are more advantaged and confirmed: and the conscience of a man after falls is the more enraged or the more benumbed. Now for a soul, notwithstanding all this, to repent of his falls, this shows that it is as great a work of grace to repent of sin as it is not to sin. Repentance is the vomit of the soul: and of all physic, none so difficult and hard as it is to vomit. The same means that tends to preserve the soul from sin, the same means works the soul to rise by repentance when it is fallen into sin. We know the mercy and loving-kindness of God is one special means to keep the soul from sin; as David spake, 'Thy loving-kindness is always before mine eyes, and I have walked in thy truth, and I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers, and will not sit with the wicked' (Ps. 26:3-5). So by the same means the soul is raised by repentance out of sin, as you may see in Mary Magdalene, who loved much, and wept much, because much was forgiven her (Luke 7:37-39). So those in Hosea: 'Come, let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us, in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight (or before his face)' (Hos. 6:1-2); as the Hebrew hath it, 'in his favour'. Confidence in God's mercy and love, that he would heal them, and bind up their wounds, and revive their dejected spirits, and cause them to live in his favour, was that which did work their hearts to repent and return unto him.
I might further show you this truth in many other particulars, but this may suffice: only remember this in the general, that there is as much of the power of God, and love of God, and faith in God, and fear of God, and care to please God, zeal for the glory of God (2 Cor. 7:11) requisite to work a man to repent of sin, as there is to keep a man from sin; by which you may easily judge, that to repent of sin is as great a work as not to sin. And now tell me, O soul, is it an easy thing not to sin? We know then certainly it is not an easy thing to repent of sin.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That he that now tempts thee to sin upon this account, that repentance is easy, will, ere long, to work thee to despair, and for ever to break the neck of thy soul, present repentance as the difficultest and hardest work in the world; and to this purpose he will set thy sins in order before thee, and make them to say, 'are thine, and we must follow thee.'64 Now, Satan will help to work the soul to look up, and see God angry; and to look inward, and to see conscience accusing and condemning; and to look downwards, and see hell's mouth open to receive the impenitent soul: and all this to render the work of repentance impossible to the soul. What, saith Satan, dost thou think that that is easy which the whole power of grace cannot conquer while we are in this world? Is it easy, saith Satan, to turn from some outward act of sin to which thou hast been addicted? Dost thou not remember that thou hast often complained against such and such particular sins, and resolved to leave them? and yet, to this hour, thou hast not, thou canst not? What will it then be to turn from every sin? Yea, to mortify and cut off those sins, those darling lusts, that are as joints and members, that be as right hands and right eyes? Hast thou not loved thy sins above thy Saviour? Hast thou not preferred earth before heaven? Hast thou not all along neglected the means of grace? and despised the offers of grace? and vexed the Spirit of grace? There would be no end, if I should set before thee the infinite evils that thou hast committed, and the innumerable good services that thou hast omitted, and the frequent checks of thy own conscience that thou hast contemned; and therefore thou mayest well conclude that thou canst never repent, that thou shalt never repent. Now, saith Satan, do but a little consider thy numberless sins, and the greatness of thy sins, the foulness of thy sins, the heinousness of thy sins, the circumstances of thy sins, and thou shalt easily see that those sins that thou thoughtest to be but motes, are indeed mountains; and is it not now in vain to repent of them? Surely, saith Satan, if thou shouldest seek repentance and grace with tears, as Esau, thou shalt not find it; thy glass is out,65 thy sun is set, the door of mercy is shut, the golden sceptre is taken in, and now thou that hast despised mercy, shalt be for ever destroyed by justice. For such a wretch as thou art to attempt repentance is to attempt a thing impossible. It is impossible that thou, that in all thy life couldst never conquer one sin, shouldst master such a numberless number of sins; which are so near, so dear, so necessary, and so profitable to thee, that have so long bedded and boarded with thee, that have been old acquaintance and companions with thee. Hast thou not often purposed, promised, vowed, and resolved to enter upon the practice of repentance, but to this day couldst never attain it? Surely it is in vain to strive against the stream, where it is so impossible to overcome; thou art lost and cast forever; to hell thou must, to hell thou shalt. Ah, souls! he that now tempts you to sin, by suggesting to you the easiness of repentance, will at last work you to despair, and present repentance as the hardest work in all the world, and a work as far above man as heaven is above hell, as light is above darkness. Oh that you were wise, to break off your sins by timely repentance.66
DEVICE 7. By making the soul bold to venture upon the occasions of sin. Saith Satan, You may walk by the harlot's door though you won't go into the harlot's bed; you may sit and sup with the drunkard, though you won't be drunk with the drunkard; you may look upon jezebel's beauty, and you may play and toy with Delilah, though you do not commit wickedness with the one or the other; you may with Achan handle the golden wedge, though you do not steal the golden wedge.
Remedy (1). The first remedy is, solemnly to dwell upon those scriptures that do expressly command us to avoid the occasions of sin, and the least appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22): 'Abstain from all appearance of evil.' Whatsoever is heterodox, unsound and unsavoury, shun it, as you would do a serpent in your way, or poison in your meat.67
Theodosius tare the Arian's arguments presented to him in writing, because he found them repugnant to the Scriptures; and Augustine retracted even ironies only, because they had the appearance of lying.
When God had commanded the Jews to abstain from swine's flesh, they would not so much as name it, but in their common talk would call a sow another thing. To abstain from all appearance of evil, is to do nothing wherein sin appears, or which hath a shadow of sin. Bernard glosseth finely, 'Whatever is of evil show, or of ill report, that he may neither wound conscience nor credit.' We must shun and be shy of the very show and shadow of sin, if either we tender68 our credit abroad, or our comfort at home.
It was good counsel that Livia gave her husband Augustus: 'It behoveth thee not only not to do wrong, but not to seem to do so': so Jude 23, 'And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.' It is a phrase taken from legal uncleanness, which was contracted by touching the houses, the vessels, the garments, of unclean persons.69 Under the law, men might not touch a menstruous cloth, nor would God accept of a spotted peace-offering. So we must not only hate and avoid gross sins, but everything that may carry a savor or suspicion of sin; we must abhor the very signs and tokens of sin. So in Prov. 5:8. 'Remove thy way far from her. and come not nigh the door of her house.' He that would not be burnt, must dread the fire; he that would not hear the bell, must not meddle with the rope.70 To venture upon the occasion of sin, and then to pray, 'Lead us not into temptation.' is all one as to thrust thy finger into the fire, and then to pray that it might not be burnt. So, in Prov.4:14-15, you have another command: 'Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men: avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.' This triple gradation of Solomon showeth with a great emphasis, how necessary it is for men to flee from all appearance of sin, as the seaman shuns sands and shelves, and as men shun those that have the plague-sores running upon them. As weeds do endanger the corn, as bad humors do endanger the blood, or as an infected house doth endanger the neighborhood; so doth the company of the bad endanger those that are good. Entireness71 with wicked consorts is one of the strongest chains of hell, and binds us to a participation of both sin and punishment.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That ordinarily there is no conquest over sin, without the soul turning from the occasion of sin. It is impossible for that man to get the conquest of sin, that plays and sports with the occasions of sin. God will not remove the temptation, except you turn from the occasion. It is a just and righteous thing with God, that he should fall into the pit, that will adventure to dance upon the brink of the pit, and that he should be a slave to sin, that win not flee from the occasions of sin. As long as there is fuel in our hearts for a temptation, we cannot be secure. He that hath gunpowder about him had need keep far enough off from sparkles. To rush upon the occasions of sin is both to tempt ourselves, and to tempt Satan to tempt our souls. It is very rare that any soul plays with the occasions of sin, but that soul is ensnared by sin.72 It is seldom that God keeps that soul from the acts of sin, that win not keep off from the occasions of sin. He that adventures upon the occasions of sin is as he that would quench the fire with oil, which is a fuel to maintain it, and increase it. Ah, souls, often remember how frequently you have been overcome by sin, when you have boldly gone upon the occasions of sin; look back, souls, to the day of your vanity, wherein you have been as easily conquered as tempted, vanquished as assaulted, when you have played with the occasions of sin. As you would for the future be kept from the acting of sin, and be made victorious over sin, oh! flee from the occasions of sin.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That other precious saints, that were once glorious on earth, and are now triumphing in heaven, have turned from the occasion of sin, as hell itself; as you may see in Joseph (Gen. 39:10), 'And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.'73 Joseph was famous for all the four cardinal virtues, if ever any were. In this one temptation you may see his fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence, in that he shuns the occasion: for he would not so much as be with her. And that a man is indeed, that he is in a temptation, which is but a tap to give vent to corruption. The Nazarite might not only not drink wine, but not taste a grape, or the husk of a grape. The leper was to shave his hair, and pare his nails. The devil counts a fit occasion half a conquest, for he knows that corrupt nature hath a seed-plot for all sin, which being drawn forth and watered by some sinful occasion, is soon set a-work to the producing of death and destruction. God will not remove the temptation, till we remove the occasion. A bird whiles aloft is safe, but she comes not near the snare without danger. The shunning the occasions of sin renders a man most like the best of men. A soul eminently gracious dares not come near the train, though he be far off the blow. So Job 31:1, 'I have made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?'74 I set a watch at the entrance of my senses, that my soul might not by them be infected or endangered. The eye is the window of the soul, and if that should be always open, the soul might smart for it. A man may not look intently upon that, that he may not love entirely. The disciples were set a-gog, by beholding the beauty of the temple. It is best and safest to have the eye always fixed upon the highest and noblest objects: as the mariner's eye is fixed upon the star, when their hand is on the stern. So David, when he was himself, he shuns the occasion of sin (Ps. 26:4-5): 'I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers; I have hated the congregation of evil doers, and will not sit with the wicked.'
Stories speak of some that could not sleep when they thought of the trophies of other worthies that went before them. The highest and choicest examples are to some, and should be to all, very quickening and provoking; and oh that the examples of those worthy saints, David, Joseph, and Job, might prevail with all your souls to shun and avoid the occasions of sin! Every one should strive to be like to them in grace, that they desire to be equal with in glory. He that shooteth at the sun, though he be far short, will shoot higher than he that aimeth at a shrub. It is best, and it speaks out much of Christ within, to eye the highest and the worthiest examples.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That the avoiding the occasions of sin, is an evidence of grace, and that which lifts up a man above most other men in the world.75 That a man is indeed, which he is in temptation; and when sinful occasions do present themselves before the soul, this speaks out both the truth and the strength of grace; when with Lot, a man can be chaste in Sodom, and with Timothy can live temperate in Asia, among the luxurious Ephesians; and with Job can walk uprightly in the land of Oz, where the people were profane in their lives, and superstitious in their worship; and with Daniel be holy in Babylon; and with Abraham righteous in Chaldea; and with Nehemiah, zealous in Damasco, etc. Many a wicked man is big and full of corruption, but shows it not for want of occasion; but that man is surely good, who in his course will not be bad, though tempted by occasions. A Christless soul is so far from refusing occasions when they come in his way, that he looks and longs after them, and rather than he will go without them he will buy them, not only with love or money, but also with the loss of his soul. Nothing but grace can fence a man against the occasions of sin, when he is strongly tempted thereunto. Therefore, as you would cherish a precious evidence in your own bosoms of the truth and strength of your graces, shun all sinful occasions.
2. 'Artificially'. Here used with the sense of 'by the use of artifice or trick'.
3. Julian the Apostate. Roman Emperor in the 4th Century. shortly after Constantine.
4. So to reduce Dr. Rowland Taylor, martyr, they promised him not only his pardon, but a bishopric. Acts & Mon., Foxe.
5. This world at least shall be burnt for a witch, saith one. Many are miserable by loving hurtful things, but they are more miserable by having them. Augustine in Ps. 16. Men had need pray with Bernard, Grant us, Lord, that we may so partake of temporal felicity, that we may not lose eternal.
6. 'with a witness'—used in the sense of 'And no mistake!'
7. It was a divine saying of a heathen, 'That if there were no God to punish him, no devil to torment him, no hell to burn him, no man to see him, yet would he not sin for the ugliness and filthiness of sin, and the grief of his own conscience' (Seneca).
8. When the golden bait is set forth to catch us, we must say as Demosthenesa the orator did of the beautiful Lais, when he was asked an excessive sum of money to behold her, 'I will not buy repentance so dear'; I am not so ill a merchant as to sell eternals for temporals. If intemperance could afford more pleasure than temperance Heliogabalus should have been more happy than Adam in paradise (Plutarch).
9. 2 Chron. 15:3,4; Ps. 51:12; Is. 59:8; Jer. 5:2 & 17:18.
10. In Sardis there grew an herb, called Appium Sardis, that would make a man He laughing when he was deadly sick; such is the operation of sin.
11. Which occasioned Chrysostom to say when Eudoxia the empress threatened him, 'Go tell her, "Nil nisi peccatum timeo," I fear nothing but sin.'
12. 'Thrift', 'economy'.
13. Tacitus speaks of Tiberius, that when his sons did appear in their own colors, they did so terrify and torment him that he protested to the Senate that be suffered daily.
14, Satan, that now allures thee to sin, will ere long make thee to see that peccatum est decidium, sin is a murdering of God; and this will make thee murder two at once, thy Body and thy body, unless the Lord in mercy holds thy hands.
15. 2 Sam. 17:23, and Matt. 27:5.
16. Una guttula plus valet quam coelum et terra; i.e. one little drop (speaking of the blood of Christ) is more worth than heaven and earth (Luther).
17. One of the Rabbins, when he read what bitter torments the Menias should suffer when he came into the world, cried out, Veniat Messias et ego non videam, i.e. Let the Messias come, but let not me see him! Dionysius being in Egypt at the time of Christ's suffering, and seeing an eclipse of the sun, and knowing it to be contrary to nature, cried out, Aut Deus naturoe patitur, aut mundi machina dissolvitur, Either the God of nature suffers, or the frame of the world will be dissolved.
18. It is an excellent saying of Bernard,Quanto pro nobis vilior, tanto nobis charior. The more vile Christ made himself for us, the more dear he ought to be to us.
19. Nolo vivere sinevulnere cum te video vulneratum. (O my God!) as long as I see thy wounds, I will never live without wounds, said Bonaventura.
20. Draco, the rigid lawgiver, being asked why, when sins were not equal, he appointed death to all, answered, he knew that all sins were not equal but he knew the least deserved death. So, though the sins of men be not all equal, yet the least of them deserves eternal death.
21. Ps. 137:9, 'Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.' Hugo's gloss is pious, Sir nihil in te Babylonicum, Let there be nothing in thee of Babylon; not only the grown men, but the little ones must be dashed against the stones; not only great sin, but little sin, must be killed, or they will kill the soul for ever.
22. Austin—a shortened form of Augustine.
23. An Italian having found his enemy at advantage, promised him if he would deny his faith, he would save his life. He, to eave his life, denied his faith, which having done, he stabbed him, rejoicing that by this he had at one time taken revenge both on body and soul.
24. A young man being long tempted to kill his father or lie with his mother, or be drunk, he thought to yield to the lesser! viz. to be drunk that he might be rid of the greater; but when he was drunk, he did doth kill his father, and lie with his mother.
25. It was a vexation to king Lysimachus that his staying to drink one small draught of water lost him his kingdom; and so it will eternally vex some souls at last that for one little sin, compared with great transgressions, they have lost God, heaven, and their soul, for ever. (Plutarch.)
26. Ceaser was stabbed with bodkins, Pope Adrian was choked with a gnat. A scorpion is little, yet able to sting a lion to death. A mouse is but little, let killeth an elephant, if he gets up into his trunk. The leopard being great, is poisoned with a head of garlic. The smallest errors prove many times most dangerous. It is as much treason to coin pence as bigger pieces.
27. One little miscarriage doth, in the eyes of the world, overshadow all a Christian's graces, as one cloud doth sometimes overshadow the whole body of the sun.
28. It is better to die with hunger, than to eat that which is offered to idols (Augustine).
29. Many heathens would rather die than cozen or cheat one another, so faithful were they one to another. Will not these rise in judgement against many professors in these days, who make nothing of over-reaching one another?
30. The tyrant Maximinus, who had set forth his proclamation engraven in brass for the utter abolishing of Christ and his religion, was eaten of lice.
31. One drop of an evil conscience swallows up the whole sea of worldly joy. How great a pain, not to be borne, comes from the prick of this small thorn, said one.
32. Death is the heir of the least sin; the best wages that the least sin gives his soldiers is, death of all sorts. In a strict sense, there is no sin little, because no little God to sin against.
33. Tertullian saith that he was (nulli rei natus nisi paenitentiae) born for no other purpose but to repent.
34. Luther confesses that, before his conversion, he met not with a more displeasing word in all his study of divinity than repent, but afterward he took delight in the word.
35. The saints cannot sin with a whole will, but, as it were, with a half will, an unwillingness; not with a full consent, but with a dissenting consent.
36. Though sin do (habitare) dwell in the regenerate, al Austin notes, yet it doth not (regnare) reign over the regenerate; they rise by repentance.
37. Josephus reports that, not long after the Jews had crucified Christ on the cross, so many of them were condemned to be crucified, that there were not places enough for crosses, nor crosses enough for the bodies that were to be hung thereon.
38. Qui non est cruciatus non est Christianus, saith Luther, There is not a Christian that carries not his cross.
39. Ps. 94:12; Prov. 3:12-13, 16; Obad. 6, 13; Is. 9:1, et seq.
41. Provo 3:11; and Heb. 12:5, 7, 8, 11.
42. I have known a good man, saith Bernard, who, when he heard of any that had committed some notorious sin, he was wont to say with himself, 'Ille hodie et ego cras,' he fell today, so may I tomorrow.
43. Humanum est peccare, diabolicum perseverare, et angelicum resurgere (Augustine); i.e. It is a human thing to fall into sin, a devilish to persevere therein, and an angelical (or supernatural) to rise from it.
44. A me, me salva Domine; Deliver me, O Lord, from that evil man myself (Augustine).
45. God hanged them up in gibbets, as it were, that others might hear and fear, and do no more so wickedly.
46. Quanto gradus altior, tanto casus gravior; the higher we are in dignity, the more grievous is our fall and misery.
47. Deus tardus est ad iram, sed tarditatem gravitate paenos compensat: God is slow to anger, but he recompenseth his slowness with grievousness of punishment. If we abuse mercy to serve our lust, then, in Salvian's phrase, God will rain hell out of heaven, rather than not visit for such sins
48. Ps. 32:7; Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:10.
49. Vespasian brake into their city at Kedron, where they took Christ, on the same feast day that Christ was taken; he whipped them where they whipped Christ; he sold twenty Jews for a penny, as they sold Christ for thirty pence.
50. Men are therefore worse, because they ought to be better; and shall be deeper in hell because heaven was offered unto them; but they would not. Good turns aggravate unkindnesees, and men's offences are increased by their obligations.
51. Augustus, in his solemn feasts, gave trifles to some, but gold to others that his heart was most set upon. So God, by a hand of general mercy, gives these—poor trifles outward blessings, to those that he least loves; but his gold, his special mercy, is only towards those that his heart is most let upon.
52. The stone called Pontaurus, is of that virtue, that it preserves him that carries it from taking any hurt by poison. The mercy of God in Christ to our souls Is the moat precious stone or pearl in the world, to prevent us from being poisoned with sin.
53. To cut the score—to forgive a debt.
54. Fallen man hath lost the command of himself, and the command of the creatures. And certainly he that cannot command himself cannot repent of himself.
55. It was a vain brag of king Cyrus, that caused it to be written upon his tombstone, I could do all things'; so could Paul too, but it was 'through Christ, which strengthened him.'
56. The Hebrew word for repentance signifies to return, implying a going back from what a man had done. It notes a turning or converting from one thing to another, from sin to God. The Greeks have two words by which they express the nature of repentance, one signifies to be careful, anxious, solicitous, after a thing is done; the other word denotes afterwit, or after-wisdom, the mind's recovering of wisdom, or growing wiser after our folly. True repentance is a thorough change both of the mind and manners. Repentance for sin is nothing worth without repentance from sin. If thou repentest with a contradiction, saith Tertullian, God will pardon thee with a contradiction; if thou repentest and yet continuest in thy sin, God will pardon thee, and yet send thee to hell; there is a pardon with a contradiction. Negative goodness serves no man's turn to save him from the axe.
57. It is said of Ithacus, that the hatred of the Priscillian heresy was all the virtue that he had. The evil servant did not riot out his talent (Matt. 25:18). Those reprobates (Matt. 25:41-45), robbed not the saints, but relieved them not; for this they must eternally perish.
58. True repentance is a sorrowing for sin, as it is an offence to God and against God. This both comes from God, and drives a man to God, as it did the church in the Canticles, and the prodigal.
59. So much the more God hath been displeased with the blackness of sin, the more will he be pleased with the blushing of the sinner (Bernard). They that do not bum now in zeal against sin must ere long burn in hell for sin.
60. Anselm in his Meditations confesseth, that all his life was either damnable for sin committed, or unprofitable for good omitted; and at last concludes, 'Oh, what then remains but in our whole life to lament the aim of our whole life.'
61. Ps. 6:6, 25:7; 1 Tim. 1:13.
62. If thou be backward in the thoughts of repentance, be forward in the thoughts of hell, the flames whereof only the streams of the penitent eye can extinguish (Tertullian). Oh, how shalt thou tear and rend thyself! how shalt thou lament fruitless repenting! What wilt thou say? Woe is me, that I have not cast off the burden of sin; woe is me, that I have not washed away my spots, but am now pierced with mine iniquities; now have I lost the surpassing joy of angels! (Basil).
preserved from a disease than to be cured of the disease.
64. Bede tells of a certain great man that was admonished in his sickness to repent, who answered that he would not repent yet; for if he should recover, his companions would laugh at him; but, growing more and more sick, his friends pressed him again to repent, bur then he told them it was too late, for now, said he! I am judged and condemned.
As one Lamachus, a commander, said to one of his soldiers that was brought before him for a misbehavior, who pleaded he would do so no more: 'No man must offend twice in war' so God will not suffer men often to neglect the day of grace.
65. That is to say, the sand has run through the hour-glass.
66. Repentance is a work that must be timely done, or utterly undone for ever.
67. Epiphanius saith that in the old law, when any dead body was carried by any house, they were enjoined to shut their doors and windows.
68. To tender—to care for; to have a regard to.
69. Socrates the ecclesiastical historian, not the philosopher, speaks of two young men that flung away their belts, when, being in an idol's temple, the lustrating water fell upon them, detesting, saith the historian, the garment spotted by the flesh.
70. One said, As oft I have been among vain men, I returned home less a man than I was before.
72. The fable saith, that the butterfly asked the owl how she should deal with the fire which had singed her wings, who counseled her not to behold so much as its smoke.
73. There are stories of heathens that would not look upon beauties, lest they should be ensnared. Democritus plucked out his own eyes to avoid the danger of uncleanness.
74. 'I cut a covenant.' In making covenants, it was a custom among the Jews to cut some beast or other in pieces, and to walk between the pieces, to signify that they desired God to destroy them that should break the covenant.
75. Plutarch saith of Demosthenes, that he was excellent at praising the worthy acts of his ancestors, but not so at imitating them. Oh that this were not applicable to the professors in our times!
Taken from Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices
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