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Christ may withdraw his comforting presence, yet he never withdraws his supporting presence from them.
Besides, Jesus Christ does so withdraw from a christian as he does draw withal by his Spirit. He seemed to withdraw from the Canaanitish woman, but he did draw her to him by his Spirit. When he withdraws in Cant. v. from his spouse, he leaves myrrh upon the ringles of the door. And so when he withdraws from a christian, he leaves his myrrh upon the ringles of the heart: the heart cannot be quiet, cannot rest, takes no contentment without him, he does draw the soul to him, while he seems to withdraw from the soul.
What a man would not lose for all the world, that, you will say, is worthy of praise and thankfulness. Now take a gracious soul, a godly man when he is most deserted, forsaken, left, as it were ; and he says, Now mercy is gone, now Christ is gone: ask him but this question: If Christ be gone, as you say, why do not you renounce Christ, and renounce all his ways ? He will tell you, Oh, no, I dare not renounce him for all the world. But if he be quite gone, why do not you turn drunkard; why do not you turn swearer: and why do not you cast off all duties? that I dare not: I have yet something left, that I would not lose for all the world. Is there not then matter of praise and thanksgiving in this condition ? Surely there is, even in this condition also. But
you will say: Suppose that a man be oppressed with sad temptations, black and dark temptations; God does not only withdraw, but Satan draws near, heavy, and dreadful temptations press in upon him : is it the will of God the Father, that he should be thankful in this condition also ? Yes; for is it not matter of praise, think ye, and thankfulyour enemy is overcome before
you strike a stroke? you shall be more than conquerors: write, your enemy overcome before you fight. “Be of good comfort,” says Christ, “I have overcome the world,” John xvi. 33; and so the god of the world, Satan, your enemy, is overcome before you do strike a stroke.
Besides, is it not matter of praise and thanksgiving, that Satan can tempt you no more than your own Father gives him leave to do? “ Simon, Simon, (says Christ,) Satan hath desired thee, that he may winnow thee as wheat,” Luke
xxiii. 31. Mark the words, “ He hath desired :” he was fain to ask leave first, he could not winnow Peter until he had leave. And he could not winnow Job until he had leave; he hath not power to tempt you further than your own Father gives him leave.
Again, is it not matter of praise and thanksgiving, that nothing hath befallen you but what hath befallen the best of God's children, the greatest saints ? Men say sometimes, Oh, never any one's condition like to mine, never any affliction like to mine. The most godly men have been most sorely tempted. In the Old Testament, David, a man after God's own heart, it is said of him, “The devil stood up, and moved him to number the people,” i Chron. xxi. 1. What a report did God give of Job, and you know his winnowing and his continuance. In the New Testament, two famous apostles, Paul and Peter. “ Peter, Satan hath desired to winnow thee :” Paul, “a messenger Satan, sent to buffet him.” And our Lord Jesus Christ himself, “ in all things tempted, that he might succour those that are tempted,” Heb. ii. 18. Oh, beloved, how gracious will Jesus Christ be to tempted ones, that came from heaven on purpose to be gracious to them.
Further, is it not matter of praise and thanksgiving, that you have always one for to run unto, to succour you, to relieve you in your temptations ? A brazen serpent up, against you be stung. Paul therefore, in Rom. vii., having said, Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?” in the next words says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ.” When Satan is tempting, Christ is praying, interceding.
66 Satan hath desired to winnow thee, (says he,) but I have prayed,” Luke xxii. 31.
You cannot pray: truly sometimes we pray most, when we pray least, for Christ prays for us.
Again, is it not matter of praise and thanksgiving, that ye have such an estate that these thieves can never rob you
of? A christian is a traveller; the thief meets him, and takes his money that he hath about him; but he hath an inheritance of land at home, which the thief cannot take away from him. . And Satan by his temptations possibly may rob you of these comforts that are about you, but you have an inheritance
and estate, christian, in heaven, that shall never be taken away, that
you shall never be robbed of. I will conclude thus, is it not matter of praise and thanksgiving, that by this mud you shall be more cleansed. Beloved, this is Christ's way: he suffers men to be tempted, that they may be freed from more temptations, and he suffers this dirt to be cast upon them, that they may be the more cleansed. “ Simon, Simon, (says our Saviour, Satan hath desired to winnow thee as wheat.” How so? Satan “goes up
and down like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." True, that is his intent in his temptations; Satan's intent in the temptation, is not to winnow, that is Christ's intent. Satan's intent in the temptation is to devour, but Jesus Christ's intent in all those temptations is to winnow. And who more knowing, who more gracious, who more humble, who more thankful than those that have been most assaulted with a temptation ? Pray observe what is said in 2 Cor. xii. 7. Says Paul, “ Lest I should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger Satan, (so it may be read, without of, the messenger Satan,) to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure," again. See how that goes before and follows: it begins the verse and ends the verse : - Lest I should be exalted above measure," at the beginning of the verse; “ Lest I should be exalted above measure," at the latter end of the
As if now, that these temptations were special preservations against spiritual pride; it is set down twice, “ Lest I should be exalted above measure ;" again and again. Spiritual pride indeed is very dangerous. It was Mr. Fox's speech, As I get good by my sins, so I get hurt by my graces : in regard of that spiritual pride he was guilty of upon the receipt of them. By temptation God uses to keep men humble. The Hebrew word for lees, the lees of wine, comes from the root that signifies, to keep, because the wines are kept by the lees. And so God is pleased to keep men humble by these temptations ; in these lees, and in these dregs, God keeps men's graces. Temptations do you no hurt, until ye yield to them. The greater the temptation, and the more your flesh does tremble at it, the greater the affliction, but the lesser the sin. Temptation is the soul's rape; it may
deflower your soul, offer violence to your soul: it cannot take away your innocency. Now, is it not a great mercy to be kept innocent and chaste unto Jesus Christ? Austin hath a notable speech: If ye praise God under good things, ye are paid your debt; if ye praise God under evil, ye have made God your debtor. The truth is, we can never pay our debt to God, neither are we able to make God our debtor; but God is pleased to call himself so: when men praise him under temptations, and under persecutions, and under desertions, God is pleased to call himself our debtor. Surely therefore, it is good for a christian to bless God, and to praise God in every thing; in all things to be thankful; in affliction, in persecution, in desertion, under temptation. This is the will of God our Father, that we should be thankful to him in every thing, in every condition. And if so, then what great cause have we to be very
thankful to God in these times. Had the Lord let in the enemy upon you, ye should have been thankful : had ye been plundered of all your estates, ye must have been thankful: had ye lien at the mercy of the merciless enemy crying for quarter; yet you must have been thankful : how much more now? Had ye been emptied of all ye must have been thankful. Oh, shall we not be thankful then unto God now, that hath given us such deliverance, and such victories as these ?
You will say unto me; what special thing is there that we should be thankful unto God for in these times?
Hath the Lord done such great things for England, and art thou only a stranger in Israel? Did ever England hear of such a year as this last year hath been? Can any records tell us of such a year? May I not say, stand out, О all ye ancient records from your dust, and tell us from the first day of England's birth, did ever England see such a year as this hath been, wherein the power and mercy, and free grace of God hath rode in triumph throughout the kingdom ?
Yet that I may not he wanting to you, to your question : look I pray into Psalm cvii. 1, 2., ye shall find it written : “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures for ever : let the redeemed of the Lord say so; whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy." See who are to say so: “let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.” Be
loved ye know that not long since we were in captivity : I mean a spiritual captivity : we sat down by the waters side, and said, How shall we do to sing a christian song? The Lord hath redeemed us, he hath redeemed us out of the hand of our enemies. And if the Lord hath not redeemed you out of the hand of your enemy: do not say so: but if he have, let the redeemed of the Lord say so.
Besides, Is it not worth our thankfulness, that we have had so many days of thanksgiving together? A day of fasting and prayer, is a sweet day; a thanksgiving day sweeter, if I may make compare: for in a day of fasting and prayer, we deal with the anger and wrath and displeasure of God: in a day of thanksgiving with the love of God, and the mercy of God. In a day of fasting and prayer, we exercise grief: but in a day of thanksgiving, we exercise joy and love; in a day of fasting and prayer, your eye is upon your sins; in a day of thanksgiving, upon your graces, to be thankful for them. As the fish swims upon the top of the water when the sun shines, which in a storm lay at the bottom : and wood, and sticks tumbled
and down, and those were seen. So in a day of thanksgiving, there ye see and take notice of your own graces, to be thankful for them. In a day of fasting and prayer, sometimes, ye are so humbled for sin committed, as the sense of your justification is quite shattered : but in the day of thanksgiving, your assurance for heaven is sealed : they are sweet days. And, beloved, you have had many of them of late; and surely this is worth our praise.
But give me leave a little to enumerate: for enumeration is one kind of argument: hath not the Lord from heaven owned his own cause in the hands of his servants, our brethren in the field ? Hath not the Lord heard your prayers ? Hath not the Lord opened many mines of precious truths that ye never knew before ? Hath not the Lord delivered you from the hand of a savage enemy?
Those that lay among the pots, brought forth with doves' wings : victory after victory; one treading upon the heel of another, overtaking one another? Does be not daily load you with his benefits? I cannot say as David in Psalm ix. 1., “ I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart : I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.” The former part, “ I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart,” you will say, but the latter