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4ly, Another principal Piece of this Armour, is the Shield of Faith, which we are therefore chiefly requir'd to put on: Ver. 16. Above all things taking the Shield of Faith, wherewith ye stall he able to quench all the fiery Darts of the Wicked. By Faith here we are to understand a firm Persuasion of the Truth of our Religion, or a stedfast Belief of the Gospel, with all the Promises and Threats contain'd therein. This is here call'd the Shield of Faith, being the principal Defence of a Christian against all the fiery Darts of Satan's Temptations, and likewise the main Weapon wherewith we are to combat the World, and our own Lusts. This will defeat all the Designs of the Devil, and render us invulnerable in our Conflict with him: and St John assures us, that this is the ViBory that overcometh the
the Hebrews ascribes all the Victories and Triumphs of those glorious Heroes, mention'd in the nth Chapter of that Epistle; who, by this irresistible Weapon of Faith, conquer'd the greatest Difficulties, and repel'd the Force of the strongest Temptations: By Faith (faith he) they wrought Righteousness, obtain'd Promises., stopp'd the Mouths of Lions, quench'd the Violence of Fire, escap'd the Edg of the Sword, out of Weakness were made strong, &c. He that truly believes the great and noble Rewards of Vertue, together with the dreadful Punishments that attend all vicious Courses, will be powerfully persuaded to follow the one, and forfake the other-, no poison'd Darts can enter, no Flatteries, Fears, or Frowns can shake the Constancy of a Mind fortify'd witbr this Persuasion; the Shield of Faith will quench all these fiery Darts, and defend us from all Evil.
%ly, Another Piece of Armour that we are to put on, is the Helmet of Salvation, ver. 17. And take the Helmet of Salvation. Now this is interpreted by the Apostle to be, the Hope of Salvation, 1 Thess. 5.8- for as a Helmet preserves the Head from the Violence of a Blow, at least from being wounded or hurt by it, so Hope keeps the Soul from all real Harm, and secures it from the Danger of all As faults. This Hope is elsewhere call'd the Anchor of the Soul, both sure and stedfast, Heb. 6.19. for as an Anchor fastens & Ship, and keeps it from being toss'd and shipwreck'd by the Waves; so the Hope of Salvation fixes the Soul on God in the greatest Storms of the World, and keeps it iron} making shipwreck of Faith and'a good Conscience: it sup-i
World, even our Faith; 1 John 5. 4.
ports potts it under all earthly Troubles and Persecutions, and prepares it for the endless Joys and Happiness of Heaven • , for he that hath this Hope (faith the Apostle) purifies himself, even as he is pure. I John 3. 3.
6ly, The next Piece of the Christian Armour is the Sword of the Spirit, which the Apostle expounds to be the Word of God; ver. 17. A Sword, you know, serves both to defend and to destroy it secures the Person, and wounds the Assailant: in like manner this Sword of the Spirit guards us from Error, and confounds all the Enemies of the Truth. Hence the Author to the Hebrews stiles the Word of God, A two-edged Sword, quick and powerful, dividing asunder be. tween the Joints and the Marrow, the Soul and the Spirit, and is a Discerner of the Thoughts and Intents of the Heart; Chap. 4.11. This Weapon our Saviour made use of in his Conflict with the Devil, baffling all his Temptations out of the Word of God, and .repelling every Assault with It is written: And the fame Weapon we are to use against all the Enemies of Truth, confuting their Errors by the Word of God, and cutting down Heresies and Divisions by this Sword of the Spirit.
Lastly, To all this the Apostle adds Prayer, to compleat the Armour, and to render it successful; ver. 18. Praying always with all Prayer and Supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all Perseverance: 'Tis this gives the Success and Efficacy to all the rest, by calling in the Assistance of Heaven to our Succour, and fortifying our Weakness by the Auxiliaries of Divine Grace. And this he would have done, not only now and then by Fits and Starts, but always, watching thereunto with all Perseverance; lest by neglecting our Watch and our Prayers, the Devil take hold of the Opportunity, and get an Advantage upon us. And therefore our Saviour bids us to watch and pray, lest ye sall into Temptation: and this with all forts of Prayer, viz.. Petition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication in the Spirit, that we may find Grace to help in time of need. Neither are these Prayers to be confin'd to our selves, but to extend to all others, making Supplication for all Saints, among whom' the Apostle wills these Ephefians to put up a Petition for him, viz.. for Knowledg and Boldness in the Delivery of his Message •, ver. 19. And for me, that Utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my Mouth boldly, to make known the Mystery of the Gospel. And the rather, because he was then an Ambassador in Bonds, for preaching the Golpel to i 1: ,*:':• . ; •' - the the Gentiles. And that he might not be discourag'd by hi* Sufferings for them, he would have them to be mindful of him in their Prayers, that he might not be daunted, but speak boldly, as he ought to speak.
This is briefly the Sum of the Epistle for this Day, which contains the Armour that Christians are to be furnish'd withal in their spiritual Warfare with ghostly Enemies. All that remains, is to exhort all Christians to take and put on this Armour, that they may be able to withstand the Evilone, and to stand too in the evil Day. We fee we are all engag'd in a Holy War with the Devil, the World and the Flesh; and that these are all powerful, cunning and dangerous Foes, apt to inveigle, betray and undo us; and therefore it stands us upon to arm our selves as well as we can against them. Our Saviour willeth him that goeth to war, to fit down and consider the Number and Forces of his Enemy, and whether he be able to meet him with a greater or lesser Strength, lest he be foil'd, and miscarry thro his own Inconsideration. And as this is to be done in ordinary Battles, so is it much more to be minded in these spiritual Conflicts where, as the Honour of the Victory, so the Danger of the Defeat is much greater. Let us then manfully set our selves against those Enemies, against whom we have listed our selves, and proclaim'd open War. Our Apostle, we fee, hath furnish'd us with Armour both offensive and defensive, in the Use whereof we may be assur'd of Success, and to come off more than Conquerors thro Christ that loveth us. If we stand our Ground, we are sure to win the Field, and to be crown'd at last with a glorious Victory so we are told by the Captain of our Salvation, Be fuithful unto Death, and I will give thee a Crown of Life r and so St. Paul found by Experience, who having fought the good Fight of Faith, and finished his Course with Patience, had a Crown laid up for him, which God the righteous Judg will give to him, and to all that love and look for his Appearance. 2 Tim. + 7, 8. . ." ''
Wherefore, my Brethren, be strong in the Lord, and
put on the whole Armour of God, viz.. Tie Girdle of Truth,
that ye may know the Truth as it is in Jesus; The Breast'
plate of Righteousness, to guard you from all Iniquity: Have
your Feet Jhod with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace,
that you may run the Paths of God's Commandments:
Take to you-fif Shield of Faith, that will defend you from
all the Darts and Devices of the Devil: Put on the Helmet or Hope of Salvation, to quicken you in the Ways of Vertue; and forget not the Sword of the Spirit, to preserve you from all Vice and Error. To all which add fervent Prayer and Supplication for a Blessing upon all these ; so shall ye be able to withstand in the evil Day, and having done all, to stand.
The G o s p E L for the One and Twentieth Sunday after Trinity.
St. John iv. 46, to the end.
There was a certain Nobleman, whose Son was sick at Capernaum; when he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him, that he would come down and heal his Son, for he was at the point of Death, &c.
TH E Gospel for the Day contains a Relation of a Miracle, wrought on a certain Nobleman's Son, who lay sick at Capernaum, his own City, the Place of his principal Residence, where many of his Miracles were done. The Relation of it begins thus: There was a certain Nobleman, whose Son was sick at Capernaum ; when he heard that Jesus was come there, he went unto him, &c. Where we may observe, that the Report of his Miracles drew Persons of all Ranks and Qualities unto him, Rich and Poor, Honourable and Mean; some of all forts came to see and partake of the Influence of his fanative or healing Power. Here we find a certain Nobleman coming to him, who, as some Translators tell us, was a Royal Officer, viz.. one of Herod the Tetrarch's principal Officers, who was at that time King of the Country of Galilee. And elsewhere we read of Nicodcmm, a Ruler of the Jews,
drawing drawing nigh to him, led by the Fame of his mighty Works. "John 3.1,2.
Tis true indeed, Christ, in the Beginning of his Ministry, call'd only Fishermen and Mechanicks, the meanest and most illiterate Persons, to be his Disciples and Followers; to shew his Doctrine to be purely Divine, without any Mixture of Art, human Power or Policy, to carry it on, of which their great Ignorance and Simplicity could not give the least colour of Suspicion. This is the Sense of St. Paul in these words: Not many Wise, not many Mighty, not many Noble are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the World to confound the wife, and the weak things of the World to confound the mighty; and the base things of the World, and things that are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things that are not, to bring to nought things that are: 1 Cor. 1.16. And by such weak and contemptible Means in the Eyes of Men, the Word of God mightily grew and prevail'd; and being thus spread and confirm'd by Miracles, it drew in Proselytes in all Places, and of all Ranks and Conditions: among the rest, our Nobleman or Courtier in the Text, believ'd and came to him. But what was his Errand? Why, He besought him, that he would come down, and heal his Son; and this he did by reason of the Extremity of his Sickness, for he was at the point of Death: He had before try'd all the Arts of Physick, and the Skill of Physicians, but all in vain ; nothing appear'd in him but Death, which made him to have recourse to our Saviour, beseeching him to effect that Cure on his Son by a Divine Power, which was no otherwise to be done.
Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye fee Signs and Wonders, ye will not believe. Our Saviour perceiv'd, that this Nobleman's Faith depended mainly upon the Report of his Miracles, that 'twas the seeing or hearing of them that brought him to him; and unless he did see some Wonder or other before him, his Faith would grow weak, if not die away. Except ye fee Signs and Wonders, ye will not believe: Where he seems to blame this Nobleman for what he more sharply reprov'd in the Pharisees, who asking a Sign from him, answer'd, An evil and adulterous Generation seeketh after a Sign, and there shall be no Sign given it but the Sign of the Prophet Jonas, &c. Mat. 12.38,39. Where he doth not altogether condemn all asking for a Sign; for it being foretold of the Messias, that he mould come with Miracles, §igns and great Wonders, they might well enough ask a /.'..- * Sign