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with detestation. So did our Saviour in a case not unlike it; Get thee behind me, Satan. Wherefore, if any such thoughts are suggested, or seem to arise in your minds, know assuredly that they are no less immediately from the devil, than if he personally stood before you, and visibly appeared unto you; if he did so, there is none but would arm yourselves with an utter defiance of what he should offer unto you. It is no less necessary on this occasion, when you may feel him, though you may see him not. Suffer not his fiery darts to abide one moment with you; entertain no parly or dispute about them; reject them with indignation, and strengthen your rejection of them with some pertinent testimony of Scripture, as our Saviour did. If a man have a grenado or fire-ball cast into his clothes by his enemy, he doth not consider whether it will burn or no, but immediately shakes it off from him. Deal no otherwise with these fiery darts, lest by their abode with you they inflame your imagination unto greater disturbance.
(2.) In case they utterly depart not upon this endeavour for their exclusion and casting out, return immediately without farther dispute unto your own experience. When the devil hath asked you the question, if you answer him, you will be insnared; but if thereon you ask yourselves the question, and apply yourselves unto your own experience for an answer unto it, you will frustrate all his designs.
There are arguments to be taken, as was said, from the light of nature, and reason in its proper exercise, sufficient to defeat all objections of that kind. But these are not our proper weapons in case of our own temptation, which alone is now under consideration. It requires longer and more sedate reasonings than such a state will admit of; nor is it a sanctified medium for our relief.
It is what is suited unto suggestions on the occasion of our meditations that we inquire after. In them we are not to argue on such principles, but to take the shield of faith to quench these fiery darts. And if on such occasions Satan can divert us into long disputes about the being of God, he hath his end, by carrying us off from the meditation on him which we did design, and after a while he will prevail to make it a common road and trade, that no sooner shall we begin
to think of God, but immediately we must dispute about his being.
Therefore the way in this case for him who is really a believer, is to retreat immediately unto his own experience, which will pour shame and contempt on the suggestions of Satan. There is no believer, who hath knowledge and time to exercise the wisdom of faith in the consideration of himself and of God's dealings with him, but hath a witness in himself of his eternal power and godhead, as also of all those other perfections of his nature which he is pleased to manifest and glorify by Jesus Christ. Wherefore, on this suggestion of Satan, that there is no God, he will be able to say, that he might better tell me that I do not live nor breathe, that I am not fed by my meat, nor warmed by my clothes, that I know not myself nor any thing else; for I have spiritual sense and experience of the contrary : like him of old, who when a cunning sophister would prove unto him by syllogisms that there was no such thing as motion, he gave no answer unto his arguments, but rose up and walked. How often, will he say, have I bad experience of the power and presence of God in prayer; as though I had not only heard of him by the hearing of ear, but also seen him by the seeing of the eye? How often hath he put forth his power and grace in me by his Spirit and his word with an uncontrollable evidence of his being, goodness, love, and grace? How often hath he refreshed my conscience with the sense of the pardon of sin, speaking that peace unto my soul, which all the world could not communicate unto me? In how many afflictions, dangers, troubles, hath he been a present help and relief? what sensible emanations of life and power from him have I obtained in meditation on his grace and glory? As he who had been blind, answered the Pharisees unto their insnaring and captious questions; be it what it will, One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.' Whatever, saith such a soul, be in this temptation of Satan, one thing I know full well, that whereas I was dead, I am alive, whereas I was blind, now I see, and that by the effect of diyine power.'
This shield of faith, managed in the hand of experience, will quench the fiery darts of Satan; and he will fall under à double defeat. 1. His temptations will be repelled by the proper way of resistance, whereon he will not only desist in his attempt, but even fly from you. “Resist the devil,' saith the apostle, and he will fly from you.' He will not only depart and cease to trouble you, but will depart as one defeated and confounded. And it is for want of this resistance lively made use of, that many hang so long in the briars of this temptation. 2. Recalling the experiences we have had of God, will lead us unto the exercise of all kind of graces, which is the greatest disappointment of our adversary.
2. In thoughts of the divine being and existence, we are apt to be at a loss, to be as it were overwhelmed in our minds, because the object is too great and glorious for us to contemplate on. Eternity and immensity, every thing under the notion of infinite, take off the mind from its distinct actings, and reduce it as it were unto nothing. Hereon in some, not able to abide in the strict reasons of things, vain and foolish imaginations are apt to arise, and inquiries how can these things be, which we cannot comprehend ? Others are utterly at a loss, and turn away their thoughts from them, as they would do their eyes from the bright beams of the sun. Two things are advisable in this case.
1. That we betake ourselves unto a holy admiration of what we cannot comprehend. In these things we cannot see God and live; nay, in life eternal itself, they are not absolutely to be comprehended, only what is infinite can fully comprehend what is so. Here they are the objects of faith and worship: in them we may find rest and satisfaction, when inquiries and reasonings will disquiet us, and it may be overwhelm us. Infinite glory forbids us any near approach but only by faith. The soul thereby bowing down itself unto God's adorable greatness, and incomprehensible perfections, finding ourselves to be nothing and God to be all, will give us rest and peace in these things; Rom. xi. 33-36. We have but unsteady thoughts of the greatness of the world, and all the nations and inhabitants of it; yet are both it and these but as the dust of the balance, and the drop of the bucket, as vanity, as nothing,' compared with God: what then can our thoughts concerning him issue in, but holy admiration ?
2. In case we are brought unto å loss and disorder in our minds, on the contemplation of any one infinite property of God, it is good to divert our thoughts unto the effects of it, such as whereof we have, or may have, experience ; for what is too great or high for us in itself, is made suitable to our understandings in its effects. So the invisible things of God, are known in and by the things that are seen.' And there is indeed no property of the divine nature, but we may have an experience of it as unto some of its effects in and upon ourselves. These we may consider, and in the streams taste of the fountain which we cannot approach. By them we may be led unto a holy admiration of what is in itself infinite, immense, incomprehensible. I cannot comprehend the immensity of God's nature; it may be I cannot understand the nature of immensity ; yet if I find by experience, and do strongly believe, that he is always present wherever I am, I have the faith of it, and satisfaction in it.
Secondly, With thoughts of the Divin e Being, those of his omnipresence and omniscience ought continually to accompany us. We cannot take one step in a walk before him, unless we remember that always and in all places he is present with us; that the frame of our hearts and our inward thoughts are continually in his view no less than our outward actions. And as we ought to be perpetually under an awe of, and in the fear of, God in these apprehensions, so there are some seasons wherein our minds ought to be in the actual conception and thoughts of them, without which we shall not be preserved in our duty.
1. The first season of this nature, is when times, places, with other occasions of temptation, and consequently of sinning, do come and meet. With some, company doth constitute such a season; and with some, secrecy
with portunity do the same. There are those who are ready with a careless boldness to put themselves on such societies as they do know have been temptations unto them and occasions of sin ; every such entrance into any society or company, unto them who know how it hath formerly succeeded, is their actual sin, and it is just with God to leave them to all the evil consequents that do ensue. Others also do either choose, or are frequently cast on, such societies; and no sooner are they engaged in them, but they forget all re
gard unto God, and give themselves up not only unto vanity, but unto various sorts of excess. David knew the evil and danger of such occasions; and gives us an account of his behaviour in them, Psal. xxxix. 1-3. I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep. my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence; I held my peace, even from good, and my sorrow was stirred: my heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue. As for their evil words and ways he would have no communication with them. And as unto good discourse, he judged it unseasonable to cast pearl before swine.' He was therefore silent as unto that also, though it was a grief and trouble to him. But this occasioned in him afterward those excellent meditations which he expresseth in the following verses. In the entrance of these occasions, if men would remember the presence of God with them in these places, with the holy severity of the eye that is upon them, it would put an awe upon their spirits, and imbitter those jollities, whose relish is given them by temptation and sin. He doth neither walk humbly nor circumspectly, who being unnecessarily cast on the society of men, wicked or profane (on such occasions wherein the ordinary sort of men give more than ordinary liberty unto corrupt communication or excess in
any kind), doth not in his entrance of them call to mind the presence and all-seeing eye of God, and at his departure from them, consider whether his deportment hath been such as became that presence, and his being under that eye. But, alas! pretences of business and necessary occasions, engagement of trade, carnal relations, and the common course of communication in the world, with a supposition that all sorts of society are allowed for diversion, have cast out the remembrance of God from the minds of most, even then when men cannot be preserved from sin without it.
This hath sullied the beauty of gospel conversation amongst the most, and left in very few any prevalent evidence of being spiritually minded.
Wherefore, as unto them who either by their voluntary choice or necessity of their occasions, do enter and engage promiscuously into all societies and companies, let them