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is a spectator? wilt thou not shew thy skill, and thy courage, and thy resolution then? Nay, consider: God is not only a spectator, but is deeply concerned in the issue of the combat: his battles thou fightest, his cause thou maintainest; and, if thou art conquered and captivated, he is dishonoured as well as thou endangered: if thou art victorious, God the Father hath the glory of the efficacy of electing grace; Jesus Christ, the Captain of our Salvation, hath the glory of the efficacy of redeeming grace; and the Holy Spirit hath the glory of the efficacy of his sanctifying and strengthening grace; all which are, as it were, engaged and pawned upon thy mortification. Do but, therefore, think with yourselves, when a temptation assaults you, " Now God eyes me, to see how I will behave myself against this temptation: he eyes me, to crown me, if victorious: and shall I be any otherwise but victorious, while God looks on? shall I suffer myself to be foiled in his sight, whose cause I now maintain? No; God himself shall now see, what himself hath given me power and ability to do." Did Christians thus consider the presence and eye of God with and upon them, they would go forth more resolutely unto the work of mortification.
(2) Consider, the eye of Jesus Christ is upon thee, not only to observe, but to relieve thee, and to pity thee: while thou wrestlest, not only against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers here on earth, he in heaven pities thee; his compassions roll towards thee; he hath a fellow-feeling of thy miseries and infirmities.
It is a most comfortable place, Heb. iv. 15. We have not a High Priest, which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. And that other place, Heb. ii. 18. In that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. Oh what abundant comfort may we draw from these two breasts of consolation! Alas ! a poor Christian, whom corruption within disquiets, and temptations without buffet; who is so close beset, as to be at the very point of yielding; let him look upwards, and eye that Christ by faith, who eyes him with compassion. Thou thinkest thyself deserted, and left to break through the hosts of thy spiritual enemies as thou canst; none to own thee, none to stand by thee: yea, Jesus Christ stands by thee: he knows thy weakness: he sees the power of thy lusts: in ajl thy temptations, he is tempted: and he, who knows no corruption in himself, yet feels the stirrings and the strong workings of corruption in the hearts of his; and he will succour and relieve them.
What an encouragement is this! Is there any soul, that would refuse to war against his corruptions under such a Leader and Captain, who gives not only a command to fight, but might to subdue; who not only looks on the agonies and conflicts of his with compassion, but relieves and succours them with power?
That is the First encouraging Consideration: consider yourselves as always in the presence and under the eye of God, to observe, to support you.
2. Consider for your encouragement, the certainty of success in the work of mortification.
This consideration, if duly pondered, is of itself able to outface all difficulties. A Christian's victories have nothing of chance in them: it is not to be ascribed to the fortune of the day, when he prevails: success is chained to his endeavours; and, unless he betray his own soul, and will himself be vanquished, he cannot but conquer. And would you wish a greater advantage, than to have success at your pleasure ?' Victory itself was never yet listed under any but a Christian's command: other conquerors have found it very fickle and unconstant; but, herein is the Christian more than a conqueror, because always sure of conquest, if himself pleaseth. This, indeed, will cost much pains: it will make the heart pant, and the soul run down with sweat: success is certain, but not without your utmost stragglings and earnest endeavours: let not lazy Christians ever think they shall be more than conquerors, while they use only drowsy and yawning desires; and wish that such a lust were weakened, that such a corruption were mortified and subdued, but never rouze up their graces against them: it is no wonder that we see them so often foiled and captivated. Believe it, certainty of success is not entailed upon those weak velleities and effeminate wishes, that are so frequent in the mouths of many: "Oh, that I were freed from the power of such a lust! Oh, that such a temptation might never more assault me! Oh, that I might live as free from sin as the angels do in heaven!" Truly, these are but sleepy and gaping desires, neither strong enough to lift the Old Man up to the cross, nor sharp enough to pierce hjm to the heart: corruption, though it be thus cursed, will live long: if this were all you could do, truly God had called you forth to a very unequal combat, even to deliver you into the hands of your lusts. Hath he bestowed his grace and his Spiritupon you, for this? was it only to make the triumph of your corruptions the more conspicuous, and your defeats the more shameful? was it that you should sit still, and, by a wretched sloth, betray both yourselves and them? No, certainly: they were given you to conquer; and there is no corruption but they would conquer, if you yourselves would. It doth ill become a Christian to whine and shrink at the sight of that numerous host of corruptions, which encamp against him: be but conscious of thy own strength ; nay, rather of the strength of God engaged for thee. Dost thou not see more for thee, than against thee? There is not one of these, but thou mayest look upon as a dead lust, delivered into thy hand for the slaughter; and, if thou sufferest it to escape alive, God may say to thee as Ahab to Benhadad, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a lust that I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for the life of it. Corruption, then, is in your own power: it is delivered up to you, to be mortified: though it be in your hearts to tempt and trouble you, yet it is in your hands to slaughter it.
Consider but Three things,
(1) Corruption, be it never so strong and violent, cannot prevail over you, without first asking and waiting for the consent of your own wills.
All its victories are but precarious and beggarly achievements; gotten rather by insinuation, flattery, and importunity, than by clear force. It must solicit the affections, cozen the understanding, and ask leave of the will, ere it prevail. And, therefore, the Apostle saith, Rom. vi. 13. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; implying, that if they do become instruments to sin, they are voluntarily yielded up unto it. Believe it, there is no force, nor violence offered you: you are not compelled to sin: all, that a temptation can do, is, to persuade you : it cannot constrain you to sin, whether you will or no. When corruption storms most and swells highest, when Satan assaults you fiercest; yet, after all, you are free and at your own dispose, especially if sanctified; and there is no deliberate temptation unto sin, but you may resist it if you will: if you can but find in your hearts to deny a corruption, you do mortify that corruption. Now would you wish to deal with better enemies than these, that must ask us leave, before they can hurt us; that must entreat and petition us to be wounded, to be captivated, to be abused by them? Truly such are our own lusts: as terrible and as dreadful as they seem to us, yet indeed they are the most contemptible, slight, impotent adversaries in the world, were we but true to our own souls. But it is this, that gives corruption all its power: you will sin: you will yield to temptations: you will betray your souls: and then you cry out of the power of lusts; "Oh! their irresistible violence! I cannot stand against them: they will break in upon me: they will prevail: they will be obeyed, and I cannot help it." They will, and thou canst not help it! for shame, O Christian: if thou wiit, thou canst help it. Didst thou ever sin, but that thou wert willing to it? Though there may be some renitency and reluctancy from grace; in respect of which the Apostle tells us, that he did what he would not do; yea, what he hated : Rom. vii. 19. yet there is also a voluntariness in every sin: thou yieldest thyself to it; and givest it leave to wound thy conscience, to ruin thy soul, and thou wilt have it so. This is the strength of corruption: men will be conquered and captivated by it. Never tell me your corruptions are such as you cannot subdue: there is no such corruption : the most prevailing, the most tumultuating may be mortified by you, if you yourselves will. In a temptation, therefore, always think of this: "Why should I.yield? what reason is there? what excuse can I have? I am not yet necessitated: I am not compelled to sin: my provision is not yet all spent: my heart is impregnable, unless I desert or dismantle it. I may, if I will, still stand it out, and be certain of the conquest. Shall I wilfully give up my soul, my darling, to the devourer? Shall I myself open these everlasting gates, at which Satan now knocks indeed, but which he cannot force? I can choose whether this temptation shall ever prevail: an absolute denial, a peremptory No, would, now silence it." Certainly, did you but actually dwell upon this thought in a temptation, it would shame you from gratifying many a corruption that now you do. And, then,
(2) Consider the prevailing nature of grace.
It is from this, that your endeavours after mortification are accompanied with certainty of success. Grace is an immortal seed, that will certainly sprout up and flower into glory: it is a living fountain, that will certainly flow and bubble up into everlasting life: it is a ray of heavenly light, th^t will scatter and triumph over darkness, and wax brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. It is immortal, in a seed; victorious, in a spark; triumphant, in its dawning. It hath a kind of ouinipotency in it. Phil. iv. 13. 1 can do all things, through Christ strengthening me; strengthening me, by his prevailing grace. And no wonder, since it is a particle of the divine nature itself: 2 Pet. i. 4. that ye might be partakers of the divine nature. It is an indelible flourish of the divine essence, which sets the gloss of the divine attributes upon the soul, and makes it of kin to God himself. Yea, take grace when it is at the weakest; when this dawn is clouded, when this spark is twinkling, when this seed seems unspirited; yet, then, it is victorious and triumphant: The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but always mighty through God: 2 Cor. x. 4. What an over-match is this for corruption, to set grace against sin! it is to set God against Satan, heaven against hell, spirit against flesh. Will you desire greater advantage than this? Can you wish for greater encouragement? Oh! how faint-hearted must they needs be, whom certainty of prevailing cannot animate to contend. Who would not fight, that hath such odds?" Am I certain to prevail? Have I that principle in me, which will go forth conquering unto conquer? Will it assuredly crown my soul with victory, and shall I not bring it to the trial? Here is a corruption, which molests me: shall I suffer it to captivate me, while yet I have that divine auxiliary within, which, if brought forth, would certainly overcome it? Nay, I must detain this grace in unrighteousness, I must depress it, I must keep it under by violence, if I do not prevail by it. Nay, if I strive not against my lusts, I must strive against my graces: and, what! shall I take as much pains to commit a sin, as would serve to subdue it?" O Christians! it is the greatest shame in the world, for you to be overcome and worsted: you, who have such an active, victorious principle; a principle, which you yourselves must much wrong and injure, if it doth not always conquer; a principle, which riseth with a natural and spontaneous force and impetus against corruption, and if but owned, if but cherished, nay if not resisted and opposed, will certainly subdue it. What shall we think, when we see such a's you foiled, but that there is treachery within? you conspire against your own grace: you keep it under: you check and curb that, which would, with a sprightly and ethereal impulse, rush upon and beat down the strongest lusts that oppose it.