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us clear and sound eyes, that we may take comfort of that light thou hast given us. Thy word is holy, make our hearts so; and then shall they find that word not more true than cordial. Let not this divine table of thine be made a snare to our souls.
What can be a better act than to speak scripture? It were a wonder, if Satan should do a good thing well. He cites scripture then, but with mutilation and distortion; it comes not out of his mouth, but maimed and perverted; one piece is left, all misapplied. Those that wrest or mangle scripture for their own turn, it is easy to see from what school they come. Let us take the word from the author, not from the usurper. David would not doubt to eat that sheep which he pulled out of the mouth of the bear or lion. "He shall give his angels charge over thee." O comfortable assurance of our protection! God's children never go unattended. Like unto great princes, we walk ever in the midst of our guard, though invisible, yet true, careful, powerful. What creatures are so glorious as the angels of heaven? yet their Maker hath set them to serve us. Our adoption makes us at once great and safe. We may be contemptible and ignominious in the eyes of the world but the angels of God observe us the while, and scorn not to wait upon us in our homeliest occasions. The sun or the light may we keep out of our houses, the air we cannot; much less these spirits that are more simple and immaterial. No walls, no bolts can sever them from our sides; thay accompany us in dungeons, they go with us into our exile. How can we either fear danger, or complain of solitariness, while we have so inseparable, so glorious companions?
Is our Saviour distasted with scripture, because Satan mislays it in his dish? doth he not rather snatch this sword out of that impure hand, and beat Satan with the weapon which he abuseth? "It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." The scripture is one, as that God whose it is; where it carries an appearance of difficulty or inconvenience, it needs no light to clear it, but that which it hath in itself. All doubts that may arise from it are fully answered by collation. It is true, that God hath taken this care, and given this charge of his own; he will have them kept, not in their sins; they may trust him, they may not tempt him; he meant to encourage their faith, not their presumption. To
cast ourselves upon any immediate Providence, when means fail not, is to disobey, instead of believing God. We may challenge God on his word, we may not strain him beyond it; we may make account of what he promised, we inay not subject his promises to unjust examinations, and where no need is, make trial of his power, justice, mercy, by devices of our own. All the devils in hell could not elude the force of this divine answer: and now Satan sees how vainly he tempteth Christ to tempt God.
Yet again, for all this, do I see him setting upon the Son of God. Satan is not foiled when he is resisted. Neither diffidence nor presumption can fasten upon Christ; he shall be tried with honour. As some expert fencer that challenges at all weapons, so doth his great enemy. In vain shall we plead our skill in some, if we fail in any. It must be our wisdom to be prepared for all kinds of assaults: as those that hold towns and forts do not only defend themselves from incursions, but from the cannon and the pioneer. Still doth that subtile serpent traverse his ground for an advantage. The temple is not high enough for his next temptation; he therefore carries up Christ to the top of an exceeding high mountain. All enemies, in pitched fields, strive for the benefit of the hill or river, or wind or sun. That which his servant Balak did, by his instigation, himself doth now, immediately, change places, in hope of prevailing. If the obscure country will not move us, he tries us what the court can do: if not our home, the tavern; if not the field, our closet. As no place is left free by his malice, so no place must be made prejudicial by our carelessness and as we should always watch over ourselves, so then most, when the opportunity carries cause of suspicion.
Wherefore is Christ carried up so high, but for prospect? If the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory, were only to be presented to his imagination, the valley would have served; if to the outward sense, no hill could suffice. Circular bodies, though small, cannot be seen at once. This show was made to both; diverse kingdoms lying round about Judea were represented to the eye, the glory of them to the imagination. Satan meant, the eye could tempt the fancy, no less than the fancy could tempt the will. How many thousand souls have died of the wound of the eye? If we do not let in sin at the window of the eye, or the door of the ear, it cannot enter into our hearts.
If there be any pomp, majesty, pleasure, bravery, in the world, where should it be but in the courts of princes, whom God hath made his images, his deputies on earth? there is soft raiment, sumptuous feasts, rich jewels, honourable attendance, glorious triumphs, royal state; these Satan lays out for the fairest shew. But, O the craft of that old serpent! many a care attends greatness, no crown is without thorns, high seats are never but uneasy. All those infinite discontentments, which are the shadow of earthly sovereignty, he hides out of the way; nothing may be seen but what may both please and allure. Satan is still and ever like himself. If temptations might be but turned about, and shewn on both sides, the kingdom of darkness would not be so populous. Now, whensoever the tempter sets upon any poor soul, all sting of conscience, wrath, judgment, torment is concealed, as if they were not: nothing may appear to the eye, but pleasure, profit, and a seeming happiness in the enjoying our desires. Those woeful objects are reserved for the farewell of sin, that our misery may be seen and felt at once. When we are once sure Satan is a tyrant; till then, he is a parasite. There can be no safety, if we do not view as well the back, as the face of temptations.
But, O presumption and impudence, that hell itself may be ashamed of! the devil dare say to Christ, "All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." That beggarly spirit, that hath not an inch of earth, can offer the whole world to the Maker, to the Owner of it: the slave of God would be adored of his Creator. How can we hope he should be sparing of false boasts, and of unreasonable promises unto us, when he dares offer kingdoms to Him by whom kings reign!
Temptations on the right-hand are most dangerous. How many, that have been hardened with fear, have melted with honour! There is no doubt of that soul that will not bite at the golden hook.
False liars, and vain-glorious boasters, see the top of their pedigree; if I may not rather say, that Satan doth borrow the use of their tongues for a time: whereas, faithful is He that hath promised, who will also do it. Fidelity and truth are the issue of heaven.
If idolatry were not a dear sin to Satan, he would not be so importunate to compass it. It is miserable to see how he
draws the world insensibly into this sin, which they profess to detest. Those that would rather hazard the furnace, than worship gold in a statue, yet do adore it in the stamp, and find no fault with themselves. If our hearts be drawn to stoop unto an over high respect of any creature, we are idolaters. O God, it is no marvel, if thy jealousy be kindled at the admission of any of thine own works, into a competition of honour with their Creator!
Never did our Saviour say, "Avoid Satan," till now. is a just indiguation that is conceived at the motion of a rivality with God. Neither yet did Christ exercise his divine power in this command, but, by the necessary force of Scripture, drives away that impure tempter; "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." The rest of our Saviour's answers were more full and direct than that they could admit of a reply; but this was so flat and absolute, that it utterly daunted the courage of Satan, and put him to a shameful flight, and made him for the time weary of his trade.
The way to be rid of the troublesome solicitations of that wicked one is continued resistance. He, that forcibly drove the tempter from himself, takes him off from us, and will not abide his assaults perpetually. It is our exercise and trial that he intends, not our confusion.
As the sun, in his first rising, draws all eyes to it, so did this Sun of righteousness, when he first shone forth into the world. His miraculous cures drew patients, his divine doctrine drew auditors, both together drew the admiring multitude by troops after him. And why do we not still follow thee, O Saviour, through desarts and mountains, over land and seas, that we may be both healed and taught! It was thy word, that, when thou wert lift up, thou wouldst draw all men unto thee. Behold, thou art lift up long since, both to the tree of shame, and to the throne of heavenly glory! "Draw us, and we shall run after thee." Thy word is still the same, though proclaimed by men; thy virtue is still the same, though exercised upon the spirits of men. O give
us to hunger after both, that by both, our souls may be satisfied!
I see the people not only following Christ, but pressing upon him: even very unmannerliness finds here both excuse and acceptation. They did not keep their distances in an awe to the majesty of the Speaker, while they were ravished with the power of the speech; yet did not our Saviour check their unreverend thronging, but rather encourages their forwardness. We cannot offend thee, O God, with the importunity of our desires. It likes thee well, that the kingdom of heaven should suffer violence. Our slackness doth ever displease thee, never our vehemency.
The throng of auditors forced Christ to leave the shore, and to make Peter's ship his pulpit. Never were there such nets cast out of that fisher-boat before. While he was upon the land, he healed the sick bodies by his touch; now, that he was upon the sea, he cured the sick souls by his doctrine; and is purposely severed from the multitude, that he may unite them to him. He, that made both sea and land, causeth both of them to conspire to the opportunities of doing good.
Simon was busy washing his nets. Even those nets that caught nothing must be washed, no less than if they had sped well. The night's toil doth not excuse his day's work. Little did Simon think of leaving those nets which he so carefully washed; and now Christ interrupts him with the favour and blessing of his gracious presence. Labour in our calling, how homely soever, makes us capable of divine benediction. The honest fisherman, when he saw the people flock after Christ, and heard him speak with such power, could not but conceive a general and confused apprehension of some excellent worth in such a teacher, and therefore is glad to honour his ship with such a guest; and is first Christ's host by sea, ere he is his disciple by land. An humble and serviceable entertainment of a prophet of God was a foundation of his future honour. He, that would so easily lend Christ his hand and his ship, was likely, soon after, to bestow himself upon his Saviour.
Simon hath no sooner done this service to Christ, than Christ is preparing for his reward: when the sermon is ended, the ship-room shall be paid for abundantly; neither shall the host expect any other paymaster than himself. "Launch forth into the deep, and let down your nets to make