And now for two or three objections:-
1. Object. But may we not fly in a time of persecution? Your pressing upon us, that persecution is ordered and managed by God, makes us afraid to fly.
Answ. First, having regard to what was said afore about a call to suffer; thou mayest do in this even as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly: if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Any thing but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled (Exo 2:15), Moses stood (Heb 11:27). David fled (1 Sam 19:12), David stood (24:8). Jeremiah fled (Jer 37:11,12), Jeremiah stood (38:17). Christ withdrew himself (Luke 9:10), Christ stood (John 18:1-8). Paul fled (2 Cor 11:33), Paul stood (Acts 20:22,23).
There are therefore few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly. I should be loath to impose upon any man in these things; only, if thou fliest, take two or three cautions with thee:-
(1.) Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God's providence, and the escape countenanced by God's Word (Matt 10:23).
(2.) When thou art fled, do as much good as thou canst in all quarters where thou comest, for therefore the door was opened to thee, and thou bid to make thy escape (Acts 8:1-5).
(3.) Do not think thyself secure when thou art fled; it was providence that opened the door, and the Word that did bid thee escape: but whither, and wherefore, that thou knowest not yet. Uriah the prophet fled into Egypt, because there dwelt men that were to take him, that he might be brought again to Jerusalem to die there (Jer 26:21).
(4.) Shouldest thou fly from where thou art, and be taken in another place; the most that can be made of it-thy taking the opportunity to fly, as was propounded at first-can be but this, thou wast willing to commit thyself to God in the way of his providence, as other good men have done, and thy being now apprehended has made thy call clear to suffer here or there, the which before thou wert in the dark about.
(5.) If, therefore, when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life and thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God's rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God's hand.
(6.) But fly not, in flying, from religion; fly not, in flying, for the sake of a trade; fly not, in flying, that thou mayest have ease for the flesh: this is wicked, and will yield neither peace nor profit to thy soul; neither now, nor at death, nor at the day of judgment.
2. Object. But if I fly, some will blame me: what must I do now?
Answ. And so many others if thou standest; fly not, therefore, as was said afore, out of a slavish fear; stand not, of a bravado. Do what thou dost in the fear of God, guiding thyself by his Word and providence; and as for this or that man's judgment, refer thy case to the judgment of God.
3. Object. But if I be taken and suffer, my cause is like to be clothed with scandals, slanders, reproaches, and all manner of false, and evil speakings; what must I do?
Answ. Saul charged David with rebellion (1 Sam 22:8,13). Amos was charged with conspiring against the king (Amos 7:10). Daniel was charged with despising the king; and so also were the three children (Dan 6:13; 3:12). Jesus Christ himself was accused of perverting the nation, of forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and of saying that himself was Christ a king (Luke 23:2). These things therefore have been. But,
(1.) Canst thou, after a due examination of thyself, say that as to these things thou art innocent and clear? I say, will thy conscience justify thee here? Hast thou made it thy business to give unto God the things that are God's, and unto Caesar the things that are his, according as God has commanded? If so, matter not what men shall say, nor with what lies and reproaches they slander thee, but for these things count thyself happy. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you - and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely (lying) for my sake (saith Christ). Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matt 5:11,12). Comfort thyself therefore in the innocency of thy soul, and say, I am counted a rebel, and yet am loyal; I am counted a deceiver, and yet am true (1 Sam 24:8-12, 2 Cor 6:8). Also refer thy cause to the day of judgment; for if thou canst rejoice at the thoughts that thou shalt be cleared of all slanders and evil speakings then, that will bear up thy heart as to what thou mayest suffer now. The answer of a good conscience will carry a man through hell to heaven. Count these slanders part of thy sufferings, and those for which God will give thee a reward, because thou art innocent, and for that they are laid upon thee for thy profession's sake. But if thou be guilty, look to thyself; I am no comforter of such.
[THIRD, THE GOOD EFFECT OF COMMITTING THE SOUL TO GOD'S KEEPING.]
I come now to speak to the third and last part of the text, namely, of the good effect that will certainly follow to those that, after a due manner, shall take the advice afore given. "Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator."
Two things from the last clause of the text lie yet before us. And they are they by which will be shown what good effect will follow to those that suffer according to the will of God, and that commit their souls to his keeping. 1. Such will find him to themselves a Creator. 2. They will find him a faithful Creator. "Let them commit the keeping of their souls to him, as unto a faithful Creator."
In this phrase, a Faithful Creator, behold the wisdom of the Holy Ghost, how fitly and to the purpose he speaketh. King is a great title, and God is sometimes called a King; but he is not set forth by this title here, but by the title of a Creator; for it is not always in the power of a king to succour and relieve his subjects, that are suffering for his crown and dignity. Father is a sweet title-a title that carrieth in it an intimation of a great deal of bowels and compassion, and God is often set forth also by this title in the holy Scriptures. But so he is not here, but rather as a Creator. For a father, a compassionate father, cannot always help, succour, or relieve his children, though he knows they are under affliction! Oh! but a Creator can. Wherefore, I say, he is set forth here under the title of Creator.
FIRST, A Creator! nothing can die under a Creator's hands. A Creator can sustain all. A Creator can, as a Creator, do what he pleases. "The Lord, the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary" (Isa 40:28).
The cause of God, for which his people suffer, had been dead and buried a thousand years ago, had it not been in the hand of a Creator. The people that have stood by his cause had been out of both as to persons, name, and remembrance, had they not been in the hand of a Creator. Who could have hoped, when Israel was going in, even into the mouth of the Red Sea, that ever his cause, or that people, should have revived again. A huge host of the Egyptians were behind them, and nothing but death before and on every hand of them; but they lived, they flourished, they outlived their enemies, for they were in the hand of a Creator.
Who could have hoped that Israel should have returned again from the land, from the hand, and from under the tyranny of the king of Babylon? They could not deliver themselves from going thither, they could not preserve themselves from being diminished when they came there, their power was gone, they were in captivity, their distance from home was far, their enemies possessed their land, their city of defence was ruined, and their houses burned down to the ground; and yet they came home again: there is nothing impossible to a Creator.
Who could have thought that the three children could have lived in a fiery furnace? that Daniel could have been safe among the lions? that Jonah could have come home to his country, when he was in the whale's belly? or that our Lord should have risen again from the dead? But what is impossible to a Creator?
This, therefore, is a rare consideration for those to let their hearts be acquainted with that suffer according to the will of God, and that have committed the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing. They have a Creator to maintain and uphold their cause, a Creator to oppose its opposers. And hence it is said, all that burden themselves with Jerusalem "shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it" (Zech 12:3).
SECOND, A Creator! A Creator can not only support a dying cause, but also fainting spirits. For as he fainteth not, nor is weary, so "he giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength" (Isa 40:29). He is the God of the spirits of all flesh, and has the life of the spirit of his people in his own hand. Spirits have their being from him; he is the Father of spirits. Spirits are made strong by him, nor can any crush that spirit that God the Creator will uphold.
Is it not a thing amazing to see one poor inconsiderable man, in a spirit of faith and patience, overcome all the threatenings, cruelties, afflictions, and sorrows, that a whole world can lay upon him? None can quail him, none can crush him, none can bend down his spirit. None can make him to forsake what he has received of God-a commandment to hold fast. His holy, harmless, and profitable notions, because they are spiced with grace, yield to him more comfort, joy, and peace, and do kindle in his soul so goodly a fire of love to, and zeal for God, that all the waters of the world shall never be able to quench.
Ay, say some, that is because his is headstrong, obstinate, and one that will hear no reason. No, say I, but it is because his spirit is in the hand, under the conduct and preservation, of a Creator. A Creator can make spirits, uphold spirits, and make one spirit stronger to stand, than are all the spirits of the world to cast down. To stand, I say, in a way of patient enduring in well-doing, against all that hell can do to suppress.
THIRD, A Creator! A Creator can bring down the spirits that oppose, and make them weak and unstable as water. The Lord, the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, nor is weary; there is no searching of his understanding. He gives power to the faint, and to those that have no might, he increaseth strength; now mark, even the young shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. A Creator can dash the spirits of the enemies with fear. God can put them in fear, and make them know that they are men and not God, and that their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the enemy came to take Jesus Christ, their spirits fainted, their hearts died in them; they went backwards, and fell to the ground. They had hard work to strengthen their spirits to a sufficiency of boldness and courage, though they brought halberts, and staves, and swords, and weapons with them, to take a naked man (John 18:3-7).
And although this is that which is not so visible to the world as some other things are, yet I believe that God treads down the spirits of men in a day when they afflict his people, oftener than we are aware of, or than they are willing to confess. How was the hostile spirit of Esau trod down of God, when he came out to meet his poor naked brother, with no less than four hundred armed men? He fainted before his brother, and instead of killing, kissed him (Gen 33:4). How was the bloody spirit of Saul trod down, when David met him at the mouth of the cave, and also at the hill Hachilah (1 Sam 24; 26)? God is a Creator, and as a Creator, is a spirit maker, a spirit reviver, a spirit destroyer; he can destroy body and soul in hell (Luke 12:5).
FOURTH, A Creator! As a Creator, he is over all arts, inventions, and crafts of men that are set on work to destroy God's people, whether they be soldiers, excellent orators, or any other whatsoever; we will single out one-the smith, that roaring fellow, who with his coals and his bellows makes a continual noise. "I have created the smith," said God, "that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy" (Isa 54:16). The smith, what is he? I answer, an idol maker, a promoter of false worship, and one that makes instruments of cruelty, therewith to help to suppress the true [worship] (Isa 41:7; 44:12; 46:6).
"I have created the smith," saith God, "that bloweth the coals in the fire." The idol inventor, the idol maker, the supporter of idol worship, he is my creature, saith God, to teach that he has power to reach him, and to command his sword to approach him at his pleasure, notwithstanding his roaring with his bellows, and his coals in the fire. So then, he cannot do what he will in the fire, nor with his idol when he has made it; the instrument, also that he makes for the defence of his idol, and for the suppressing of God's true worship, shall not do the thing for the which it is designed by him. And so the very next verse saith: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord" (Isa 54:17). And the text saith moreover, I have created the waster to destroy. The waster, what is that? Why, the smith makes an idol, and God has made the rust; the smith makes a sword, and God has made the rust. The rust eats them up, the moth shall eat them up, the fire shall devour them. "The wicked," saith the Psalmist, "have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken" (Psa 37:14,15).
All this can God do, because he is a Creator, and none but God can do it. Wherefore by this peculiar title of Creator, the apostle prepareth support for suffering saints, and also shows what a good conclusion is like to be made with them that suffer for righteousness' sake, according to his will; and that commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
FIFTH, A Creator! A Creator can make such provision for a suffering people, in all respects, as shall answer all their wants. Have they lost their peace with the world? Have they no more peace with this world? Why, a Creator can make, create peace, can create peace, peace; peace with God, and peace with his conscience; and that is better than all the peace that can be found elsewhere in the world (Isa 57:19). Have they lost a good frame of heart? Do they want a right frame of spirit? Why, though this is to be had no where in the world, yet a Creator can help them to it (Psa 51:10). Have they lost their spiritual defence? Do they lie too open to their spiritual foes? Why, this a Creator can help. "And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence." (Isa 4:5)
This is the work of the Spirit; for though the Spirit itself be uncreated, yet all the holy works of it in the heart are verily works of creation. Our new man is a creation; our graces are a creation; our joys and comforts are a creation[45a] (2 Cor 5:17,18; Eph 4:24; Isa 65:17-19). Now a creation none can destroy but a Creator; wherefore here is comfort. But again, God hath created us in Christ Jesus; that is another thing. The sun is created in the heavens; the stars are created in the heavens; the moon is created in the heavens. Who can reach them, touch them, destroy them, but the Creator? Why, this is the case of the saint; because he has to do with a Creator, he is fastened to Christ; yea, is in him by an act of creation (Eph 2:10), so that unless Christ and the creation of the Holy Ghost can be destroyed, he is safe that is suffering according to the will of God, and that hath committed the keeping of his soul to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
And this I would have you consider moreover; the man that suffereth according to the will of God, committeth not such a soul to this Creator as dwells in carnal men-a naked soul, a graceless soul, a soul that has nothing in it but sin; but he commits a converted soul, a regenerate soul, a soul adorned, beautified, and sanctified, with the jewels, and bracelets, earrings, and perfumes of the blessed Spirit of grace.
And I say again, this is the work of a Creator, and a Creator can maintain it in its gallantry[45b], and he will do so, but he will put forth acts of creating power for it every day.
SIXTH, A Creator! He that can create can turn and alter any thing, to what himself would have it. He that made "the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning" (Amos 5:8), he can "make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water" (Isa 41:18). Our most afflicted and desolate conditions, he can make as a little haven unto us; he can make us sing in the wilderness, and can give us our vineyards from thence (Hosea 2:14,15). He can make Paul sing in the stocks, and good Rowland Taylor dance as he goeth to the burning stake. Jails, and mocks, and scourgings, and flouts and imprisonments, and hunger, and nakedness, and peril, and sword, and dens, and caves, and rocks, and mountains, God can so sweeten with the honey of his Word, and make so famous for situation by the glory of his presence, and so rich and fruitful by the communications of the Holy Ghost, and so easy by the spreading of his feathers over us, that we shall not be able to say, that in all the world a more commodious place, or comfortable condition, can be found. Some have know this, and have been rather ready to covet to be here, than to shun and fly from it, as a most unsavoury condition.
All these things, I say, God doth as a Creator. He hath created antipathies, and he can make antipathies close, and have favour one for another. The lion and the calf, the wolf and the lamb, the little boy and the cockatrice's den he can reconcile, and make to be at agreement. So, sufferings and the saint; the prison and the saint; losses, crosses, and afflictions, and the saint: he can make to lie down sweetly together.
SEVENTH, A Creator! A Creator can make up all that thou hast or shalt lose for the sake of thy profession by the hands of the children of men, be they friends, relations, a world, life, or what you can conceive of.
1. Hast thou lost thy friend for the sake of thy profession? Is the whole world set against thee for thy love to God, to Christ, his cause, and righteousness? Why, a Creator can make up all. Here, therefore, is the advantage that he hath that suffereth for righteousness' sake. Jonathan, the very son of bloody Saul, when David had lost the help of all his own relations, he must fall in with him, stick to him, and love him as he loved his own soul (1 Sam 18:1-3). Obadiah, Ahab's steward, when the saints were driven even under ground by the rage of Jezebel the queen, he is appointed of God to feed them in caves and holes of the earth (1 Kings 18:13). Yea, the very raven complied with the will of a Creator to bring the prophet bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh at night (17:6). When Jeremiah the prophet was rejected of all, yea, the church that then was, could not help him; he was cast into the dungeon, and sunk to a great depth there in the mire. God the Creator, who ruleth the spirits of all men, stirred up the heart of Ebed-melech the Ethiopian both to petition for his liberty, and to put him out of the dungeon by the help of thirty men (Jer 38:7-13). These now, as Christ says, were both fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and as a loving wife or child (Matt 19:29).
2. Hast thou, for the sake of thy faith and profession thereof, lost thy part in the world? Why, a Creator can make thee houses as he did for the midwives of Egypt (Exo 1:20,21), and can build thee a sure house as he did for David his servant, who ventured all for the love that they had to the fear of God and his way (2 Sam 7). David was thrust out of Saul's house, and driven from his own, and God opened the heart of Achisch the king of Gath to receive him, and to give him Ziklag. David, when under the tyranny of Saul, knew not what to do with his father and his mother, who were persecuted for his sake, but a Creator inclined the heart of the king of Moab to receive them to house and harbour (1 Sam 27:5; 22:3,4).
3. Is thy life at stake-is that like to go for thy profession, for thy harmless profession of the gospel? Why, God the Creator is Lord of life, and to God the Lord belong the issues from death. So then, he can, if he will, hold thy breath in thy nostrils, in spite of all the world; or if he shall suffer them to take away this for his glory, he can give thee another ten times as good for thy comfort. "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal" (John 12:25).
4. Is thy body to be disfigured, dismembered, starved, hanged, or burned for the faith and profession of the gospel? Why, a Creator can either prevent it, or, suffering it, can restore it the very same to thee again, with great and manifold advantage. He that made thee to be now what thou art, can make thee to be what thou never yet wast. It doth not yet appear what we shall be, further than only by general words (1 John 3:2; Phil 3:21).
EIGHTH, A Creator! Peter sets him before us here as a Creator, because he would have us live upon him as such; as well as upon his grace, love, and mercy. In Job's day this was bewailed, that none or but a few said, "Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?" (Job 35:10).
Creator, as was hinted before, is one of God's peculiar titles. It is not given to him above five or six times in all the Book of God; and usually, when given him, it is either to show his greatness, or else to convince us that of duty we ought to depend upon him; and not to faint, if he be on our side, for or under any adversity, according as we are bidden in the text: "Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful creator." Shall God display his glory before us under the character and title of a Creator, and shall we yet fear man? Shall he do this to us when we are under a suffering condition, and that on purpose that we might commit our souls to him in well-doing, and be quiet, and shall we take no notice of this? "Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth?" &c. (Isa 51:12,13).
Had God concealed himself, as to his being a Creator, yet since he presenteth himself unto us by his Word under so many excellent titles as are given to no other God besides, methinks it should make us bold in our God; but when, for our relief, he shall add to all other that he verily is a Creator, this should make us rest in hope indeed.
Every nation will have confidence for their own gods, though but gods that are made with hands-though but the work of the smith and carpenter; and shall not we trust in the name of the Lord our God, who is not only a God, but a Creator and former of all things (Micah 4:5), consequently, the only living and true God, and one that alone can sustain us? We therefore are to be greatly blamed if we overlook the ground, such ground of support and comfort as presenteth itself unto us under the title of a Creator; but then most of all, if, when we have heard, believed, and known that our God is such, we shall yet be afraid of a man that shall die, and forget the Lord our maker. We, I say, have heard, seen, known, and believed, that our God is the Creator. The heavens declare his glory, and the firmament showeth his handy-work, and thus he has showed unto us "his eternal power and Godhead" (Rom 1:20).
Behold, then, thou fearful worm, Jacob, the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars; behold the earth, the sea, the air, the fire, and vapours. Behold, all living things, from leviathan and behemoth to the least that creepeth in the earth and waters. Yea, behold thyself, thy soul, thy body, thy fashion, thy building, and consider; thy God hath made even all these things, and hath given to thee this being; yea, and all this also he made of that which doth not appear (Heb 11:1-3). This is that which thou art called to the consideration of by Peter, in the text; when he letteth fall from his apostolical meditation that thy God is the Creator, and commandeth that thou, in thy suffering for him according to his will, shouldest commit the keeping of thy soul to him as unto a faithful Creator.
He that has the art thus to do, and that can do it in his straits, shall never be trodden down. His God, his faith; his faith, his God, are able to make him stand. For such a man will thus conclude, that since the Creator of all is with him, what but creatures are there to be against him? So, then, what is the axe, that it should boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or the saw, that it should magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against him that lifteth it up; or as if the staff should lift up itself as if it were not wood (Isa 10:15). Read also Isaiah 40:12-31, and then speak, if God as Creator is not a sure confidence to all the ends of the earth that trust in, and wait upon him. As Creator, he hath formed and upholdeth all things; yea, his hands have formed the crooked serpent, wherefore he also is at his bay (Job 26:13). And thou hast made the dragon in the sea; and therefore it follows that he can cut and wound him (Isa 51:9), and give him for meat to the fowls, and to the beasts inheriting the wilderness (Psa 74:13,14), if he will seek to swallow up and destroy the church and people of God (Eze 29:3,4).
NINTH, A Creator is God! the God unto whom they that suffer according to his will are to commit the keeping of their souls-the Creator. And doth he take charge of them as a Creator? Then this should teach us to be far off from being dismayed, as the heathens are, at his tokens; for our God, the Lord, is the true God, the living God, the King of eternity (Jer 10:1,2,10). We should tremblingly glory and rejoice when we see him in the world, though upon those that are the most terrible of his dispensations. God the Creator will sometimes mount himself and ride through the earth in such majesty and glory, that he will make all to stand in the tent doors to behold him. O how he rode in his chariots of salvation when he went to save his people out of the land of Egypt! How he shook the nations! Then "his glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet. He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting." Then said the prophet, "I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?" (Hab 3:3-8).
So David: "The earth shook and trembled," said he; "the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils" (Psa 18:7-15).
These are glorious things, though shaking dispensations. God is worthy to be seen in his dispensations as well as in his Word, though the nations tremble at his presence. "Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down," saith the prophet, "that the mountains might flow down at thy presence!" (Isa 64:1). We know God, and he is our God, our own God; of whom or of what should we be afraid? (Psa 46). When God roars out of Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, when the heavens and the earth do shake, the Lord shall be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel (Joel 3:16).
Every man stayeth up, or letteth his spirit fail, according to what he knoweth concerning the nature of a thing. He that knows the sea, knows the waves will toss themselves: he that knows a lion, will not much wonder to see his paw, or to hear the voice of his roaring. And shall we that know our God be stricken with a panic fear, when he cometh out of his holy place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity? We should stand like those that are next to angels, and tell the blind world who it is that is thus mounted upon his steed, and that hath the clouds for the dust of his feet, and that thus rideth upon the wings of the wind: we should say unto them, "This God is our God for ever and ever, and he shall be our guide even unto death."
Our God! the Creator! He can turn men to destruction, and say, Return, ye children of men. When our God shows himself, it is worth the while to see the sight, though it costs us all that we have to behold it. Some men will bless and admire every rascally juggler that can but make again that which they only seem to mar, or do something that seems to outgo reason; yea, though they make thunderings and noise in the place where they are, as though the devil himself were there. Shall saints, then, like slaves, be afraid of their God, the Creator; of their own God, when he rendeth the heavens, and comes down? When God comes into the world to do great things, he must come like himself-like him that is a Creator: wherefore the heavens and the earth must move at his presence, to signify that they acknowledge him as such, and pay him that homage that is due to him as their God and great Creator.
We that are Christians have been trained up by his Son in his school this many a day, and have been told what a God our Father is, what an arm he has, and with what a voice he can thunder; how he can deck himself with majesty and excellency, and array himself with beauty and glory; how he can cast abroad the rage of his wrath, and behold every one that is proud, and abase him (Job 40:9-11). Have we not talked of what he did at the Red Sea, and in the land of Ham many years ago, and have we forgot him now? Have we not vaunted and boasted of our God both in church, pulpit, and books; and spake to the praise of them that, instead of stones, attempted to drive antichrist out of the world with their lives and their blood; and are we afraid of our God? He was God, a Creator, then; and is he not God now? and will he not be as good to us as to them that have gone before us? or would we limit him to appear in such ways as only smile upon our flesh; and have him stay, and not show himself in his heart-shaking dispensations until we are dead and gone? What if we must go now to heaven, and what if he is thus come down to fetch us to himself? If we have been wise as serpents, and innocent as doves-if we can say, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor against Caesar, have we offended anything at all, of what should we be afraid? Let heaven and earth come together, I dare say they will not hurt us.
Our Lord Jesus, when dilating upon some of the great and necessary works of our Creator, puts check beforehand to all uncomely fears; to such fears as become not the faith and profession of a Christian. "Brother," saith he, "shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." What follows? (verse 28), "Fear them not"; and again, in verse 31, "Fear ye not" (Matt 10:21,22).
So again (Matt 24): "Nation shall rise against nation - there shall be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, &c. They shall deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you.-Many shall be offended, and shall betray one another.-And many false prophets shall arise, and deceive many." And yet for all this we are bid not to be afraid, for all these things, with all other are ordered, limited, enlarged and straitened, bounded and butted by the will, and hand, and power of that God unto whom Peter bids us commit the keeping of our souls, as unto a faithful Creator (verse 7-11; Mark 13:5-9). To wait for God in the way of his judgments doth well become a Christian.
To believe he loves us when he shows himself terrible to us, is also very much becoming of us. Wherefore has he given us grace? Is it that we should live by sense? Wherefore has he sometimes visited us? Is it that our hearts might be estranged from him, and that we still should love the world? And I say again, wherefore has he so plainly told us of his greatness, and of what he can do? Is it not that we might be still when the world is disturbed; and that we might hope for good things to come out of such providences that, to sense, look as if themselves would eat up and devour all?
Let us wait upon God, walk with God, believe in God, and commit ourselves, our soul, our body, to God, to be kept. Yea, let us be content to be at the disposal of God, and rejoice to see him act according to all his wondrous works. For this is a posture highly becoming them that say of God he is their Father, and that have committed the keeping of their souls to him as unto a Creator. A comely thing it is for the soul that feareth God, to love and reverence him in all his appearances. We should be like the spaniel dog, even lie at the foot of our God, as he at the foot of his master; yea, and should be glad, could we but see his face, though he treads us down with his feet.
Ay, says one son, so I could, if I thought this high God would regard me, and take notice of my laying of my soul at his foot, while I suffer for his Word and truth in the world. Why, do but see now how the Holy Ghost, for our help, doth hedge up that way in at which unbelief would come, that there might, as to this, be no room left for doubting. For as he calleth the God unto whom we are bid to commit the keeping of our soul, a Creator, so he saith that he is A CREATOR THAT IS FAITHFUL. "Let them commit the keeping of their souls unto him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator"-a Creator that will concern himself with the soul committed to his trust, and that will be faithful to it, according to all that he has promised.
This, therefore, of God's faithfulness being added to his might and power, is in itself a ground of great support to those that have in a way of well-doing committed themselves, their souls, to him to keep. A Creator; what is it that a Creator cannot do? A faithful Creator; what is it that one that is faithful will not do, that is, when he is engaged? And now he is engaged, because thou hast committed thy soul to him to keep, and because he has bid thee do so. Let them commit the keeping of their soul to him, as unto a faithful Creator. I have sometimes seen an unfaithful man engaged, when a thing has been committed to him to keep. A man that is a thief, a cheater, a defrauder, will yet be faithful to him that will commit a charge to him to keep. And the reason is, because, though he can steal, cheat, defraud, without being taken notice of; yet he must be seen and known, if he be false in that which is committed to him to keep. I know the comparison is odious, yet such have been made by a holier mouth than mine, and as the case may be, they may be aptest of all to illustrate that which a man is about to explain. Hark what the unjust judge saith, says the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 18).
To commit thy soul to God is to trust him with it; to commit thy soul to God is to engage him to look to it. And if he should not be faithful now, he will not be so in any case. For himself has bidden thee do it; he has also promised to keep it, as has been already showed in the former part of this discourse. Besides, he is here said to be faithful-to be a faithful Creator. He challenges this of faithfulness to himself alone: "Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar" (Rom 3:4). This, therefore, doth still help to encourage them that would be faithful to him, to commit the keeping of our soul to him. A faithful man will encourage one much; how much more should the faithfulness of God encourage us?
Here, therefore, we have a closing word indeed; a word to wrap up the text with that is as full of good as the sun is of light. What can be fitter spoken? What can be added? What now is wanting to the help of him that has committed his soul to God to keep it while he is suffering according to his will in the world? He is engaged, as I said, by that act; thou hast committed thy soul to him to keep; he is engaged by his own Word; he has bidden thee commit thy soul to him to keep. He is engaged by his declaring of himself to be faithful; for that has encouraged thee to commit thy soul to him to keep. Besides, he has promised to do it; he has sworn to do it.
"For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, (as thou must do,) he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the great: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High-priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec" (Heb 6:13-20).
Thus you see what ground we have who suffer according to the will of God, and that have committed the keeping of our souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. Here, therefore, I might make a stop and conclude as to this advice; but now we are in, we will proceed a little further, and will fall upon three or four more particulars.
First, then, He will be faithful to us in this: He will keep us from those allurements of the world that a suffering saint is subject to. They that suffer have other kinds of temptations upon this account than other Christians have. The liberty of others, while they are in bonds, is a temptation to them. The peace of others, while they are in trouble, is a temptation to them. The enjoyments of others, while their houses are empty and their goods taken away, while their own water is sold unto them, and while they are buying their own wood, is a great temptation to them (Lam 5:4). And this temptation, were it not that we have to do with a God that is faithful, would assuredly be a great snare unto them. But "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted," as to this, "above that ye are able" (1 Cor 10:13).
Nay, a suffering man has not only these things lying before him as a temptation, but perhaps the wife of the bosom lies at him, saying, O do not cast thyself away; if thou takest this course, what shall I do? Thou has said thou lovest me; now make it manifest by granting this my small request. Do not still remain in thine integrity. Next to this come the children, all which are like to come to poverty, to beggary, to be undone for want of wherewithal to feed, and clothe, and provide for them for time to come. Now also come kindred, and relations, and acquaintance; some chide, some cry, some argue, some threaten, some promise, some flatter, and some do all, to befool him for so unadvised an act as to cast away himself, and to bring his wife and children to beggary for such a thing as religion. These are sore temptations.
Next to those come the terrors of men, the gripes of the laws, the shadow of death, and no man can tell what. All which are sufficient to pull a man from the gates of life, were he there, if the faithful Creator stands not to him. "But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."-"But God is faithful." It saith not, that thou art: but "God is faithful"-to his Son, to whom he has given thee; to his promise, the which he has given thee; to his cause, to which he has called thee; and to thy soul, the which thou hast committed to his trust, and the which he also has taken the charge of, as he is a faithful Creator.
"And will not suffer thee to be tempted." How, not tempted? No; not above what thou art able. He that tempts thee doth not at all consider thy strength, so as to stop when he sees thou art weak; he would have thee overthrown, for therefore it is that he tempteth thee. But God will not suffer that, because he is faithful, and because thou hast committed the keeping of thy soul unto him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
"Not tempted above that ye are able." He saith not, above that ye are well able. Indeed, thy strength shall be proportioned to the temptation, but thou mayest have none over and above to spare; thou shalt not have a bigger load than God will give thee shoulders to bear. Christ did bear his burden, but it made him cry out, and sweat as it were great drops of blood, to carry it. Bear thy burden thou shalt, and not be destroyed by it; but perhaps thou mayest sometimes roar under it by reason of the disquietness of thy heart. "But he will with the temptation make a way of escape." "With the temptation," not without it; thou must be tempted, and must escape too. "With the temptation." As sure as Satan is licensed, so sure he is limited; and when Satan has ended all the temptation, he shall depart from thee (Luke 4:13). "He will with the temptation"-by such a managing of it as shall beak its own neck. God can admit Satan to tempt, and make the Christian wise to manage the temptation for his own escape.
"Make a way." It may be thou seest no way of escape. It may be there is no way-no way in all the world, to escape. Well; but God can make a way. When Israel was hemmed in at the Red Sea, there was as then no way-no way in all the world, to escape. O! but God made a way, and a pathway too, and that through the mighty waters (Exo 15:8,16; Psa 106:9; 78:13). He will make a way with the temptation, or "will with the temptation make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." These are the words of the Holy Ghost, who is God; and they are spoken, yea, committed to record for this very purpose, that those that are under affliction might commit the keeping of their soul to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. That is the first.
Second, He will also be faithful to us as to this: He will give us a competent measure of wisdom, that in our suffering condition we may in all things be made able to manage our state with discretion. We are perhaps weak of natural abilities, parts of utterance, or the like; and our adversaries are learned, eloquent, and ripe of parts. Thou hast the disadvantage on thy side, and they have what the world can afford to encourage them; thou art weak of spirit, they are bold and strong. The great and the mighty are with thy enemies, but on thy side there is no comforter (Eccl 4:1).
Why now here is, as to this, and to what else can it be objected, the faithfulness of God engaged. First, in a general promise; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee (Heb 13:5,6). Secondly, we have an invitation to come to this faithful God for wisdom to assist and help. For after he had said, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations - and let patience have her perfect work"; he adds, "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him" (James 1:2-5). Here is more than an invitation, here is a promise-it shall be given him; and all to show us what a faithful Creator we have committed our souls unto. Doth any lack wisdom to know how to carry it in a time of trial: let them ask it of God-of the God that is wisdom itself; let him ask it of God, the liberal giver, who giveth to all men all that they have, and upbraideth not for their unworthiness.
Nor doth the Holy Ghost stop here, but enlarges himself in a more particular way to those that suffer according to the text, saying, "But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak" (Matt 10:19).
I have often been amazed in my mind at this text, for how could Jesus Christ have said such a word if he had not been able to perform it? This text, therefore, declares him to be God. It is also a proof of faithfulness to those that suffer for him.
For it is as if he should say, Try me and trust me; if I stand not by you in a day of distress, never believe me more;-you, suffering according to the will of God, and committing your souls to him in well-doing; "I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist," for so he has it in Luke 21:15. Here is no consideration of what capacity the people might be of, that were to be persecuted; but what matters what they are? if fools, it is no matter; if wise, it helpeth nothing. A mouth and wisdom is to be given; that of itself shall do. And this is according to that other scripture mentioned afore, where it saith, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn" (Isa 54:17). Although it may happen in this, as in the former temptation, the devil and his agents may give the saints, in their pleading for the truth, their bellies full both of cross answers, equivocations, sophistications, wrong glosses and erroneous interpretations; but truth shall prevail, shall turn the scale, and bear away the victory.
Third, He will also be faithful to us in this: we shall not want spiritual support to help us to bear up under our particular parts of suffering. I do not say that thou shalt be comforted all the while; but I say he will be to thee so faithful as to comfort thee under those thodes, gusts, blasts, or battering storms that beat against thy wall (Isa 32:2).
Look then what present degrees or aggravating appearances are in thy afflictions; to such a degree shalt thou at times be supported. For as surely as ever the Spirit of God moved Samson at times in the camp of Dan, when he lay against the Philistines; so will the Spirit of God move in and upon thee to comfort and to strengthen thee, whilst thou sufferest for his name in the world. As our afflictions abound for Christ, so shall our consolations abound by him (2 Cor 1:5). I have observed that God lays this, that he useth to comfort his people in a time of sufferings, as an aggravation of sin upon them that did use to shuck and shrink under sufferings. "I," saith he, "even I, am he that comforteth you; who art thou that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die" (Isa 51:12)?
"God," says the wise man, "hath set the one over against the other," the day of adversity and the day of prosperity, "to the end that man should find nothing after him" to complain of (Eccl 7:14). For as certainly as there is a time to mourn, so certainly there is a time to rejoice: set, I say, for them that suffer for God's cause according to God's will (Eccl 3:4).
There are several degrees of suffering for righteousness; there is the scourge of the tongue, the ruin of an estate, the loss of liberty, a jail, a gibbet, a stake, a dagger. Now, answerable to these are the comforts of the Holy Ghost prepared, like to like, part proportioned to part, only the consolations are said to abound (2 Cor 1).
But the lighter the sufferings are, the more difficult it is to judge of the comforts of the Spirit of God, for it is common for a man to be comfortable under sufferings when he suffereth but little, and knows also that his enemy can touch his flesh, his estate, or the like, but little: I say, it is common for such a man to be comfortable in his sufferings, from the consideration that his enemies can touch him no further. And this may be the joy of the flesh-the result of reason, and may be very much, if not altogether, without a mixture of the joy of the Holy Ghost therewith. The more deep, therefore, and the more dreadful the sufferings are, the more clearly are seen the comforts of the Spirit, when a man has comfort where the flesh is dead, stirreth not, and can do nothing. When a man can be comfortable at the loss of all-when he is under the sentence of death, or at the place of execution-when a man's cause, a man's conscience, the promise, and the Holy Ghost, have all one comfortable voice, and do all, together with their trumpets, make one sound in the soul; then the comforts are good, of the right kinds, of God and his Spirit.
I told you before that there are several degrees of sufferings; wherefore it is not to be expected that he that suffers but little should partake of the comforts that are prepared for them that suffer much. He that has only the scourge of the tongue, knows not what are the comforts that are prepared for him that meets with the scourge of the whip. And how should a man know what manner of comforts the Holy Ghost doth use to give at the jail and the gibbet, when himself, for righteousness, never was there?
But whether this or the other Christian knows it, God has his consolations for his suffering people; and those, too, such as are proportioned to the nature or degree of their sufferings; the which shall assuredly be made appear to them that shall after a godly manner stick to his truth, and trust him with their souls. Joseph was cast into prison; but God was with him. John was banished into the isle called Patmos, for the Word of God; but what revelations of God had he there! even such as he was a stranger to all his life before: this, therefore, is to be well heeded. For it is a demonstration of the faithfulness of God to those that, suffering according to his will, do commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
Fourth, He will also be faithful to us in this: He will not let the sharpness, nor keenness, nor venom of the arrows of the enemies of his people, reach so far as to destroy both body and soul at once; but he will preserve them, when what can be done is done, to his eternal kingdom and glory, is a marvellous thing; but it must be so, because God has called them to it. Therefore, after Peter had told them that the devil their adversary sought to devour them, and had bidden them resist him, steadfast in the faith, he saith, "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal [kingdom and] glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (1 Peter 5:10).
The truth is, persecution of the godly was, of God, never intended for their destruction, but for their glory, and to make them shine the more when they are beyond this valley of the shadow of death. Indeed, we ofttimes, when we are persecuted, do feel the terrors of our adversaries in our minds. But it is not because they can shoot them thither, nor because they of themselves have power to reach so far, but we, like fools, by our ignorance and unbelief, do admit them thither.
No suffering, nor inflicter of suffering, can reach the peace of the sufferer without his own consent. This is provision of God's making; yea, and if through our folly their terror is admitted to touch us, yet since we are not our own, but are bought with a price, we are not so at our own dispose, but that God will have the butting and bounding of their rage, as also a power to uphold and support our spirits. When I said my foot slipped, thy mercy, O Lord, help me up. And the reason why, by God's ordinance, the spirit is not to be touched in suffering, is, because that is it that is to sustain the infirmity of the sufferer; therefore God will have the spirit of his servants kept sound, and in good health (Prov 18:14; Isa 57:16).
The room, therefore, and the ground that the enemy has to play upon, is the body and outward substance of the people of God, but the spirit is reserved, for the reason hinted before, and also that it might be capable of maintaining of communion with God. And how else could they obey that command that bids them rejoice in tribulation, and glorify God in the fires? as it is (Rom 12; Isa 24:15).
But, I say, if they have not power to touch, much less to destroy body and soul for ever. The body is God's, and he gives that to them to destroy; the spirit is God's, and he keeps that to himself, to show that he has both power to do with us what he pleases, and that he will recover our body also out of their hand; for if the spirit lives, so must the body, when men have done what they can therewith. This is the argument of our Lord Jesus Christ himself (Luke 20:37,38). Therefore the faithfulness of God not only is, but also will be seen, by them that dare trust him, till the next world, to his glory and their eternal comfort.
We will now conclude with a short word by way of USE. You see how I have opened the text, and what hath naturally followed thereupon; from the whole of which may be gathered:-
Use First, That the people of God are a suffering people-a people subject to trouble for their faith and profession. The reason is, besides what hath been said already, because the power of truth is in their hearts, and shows itself in their lives-a thing which the devil and the world can by no means abide. He that is born after the flesh persecuteth him that is born after the Spirit (Gal 4:29). For they cannot agree in religion; the godly are so devout and the other are so profane, that they cannot do. Not but that God's people, as they are commanded, are willing to let them alone; but the other they cannot bear that they should serve God as they have said (Matt 15:14), and hence ariseth persecution. The world also would have the religion of the godly to be counted false-a thing that the others can by no means endure, but will stand by and maintain, yet in all peaceable manner, their own ways before them, whatever it costs.
The Christian and the carnal professor are like those two harlots that you read of in the book of Kings, who strove for the living child, whose it should be, whose contest could not be decided until it came to the sword of the king (1 Kings 3). O, but when the sword was drawn, under a show as if the living child must now be cut in two, then the true mother was known from the false; for her bowels yearned upon her son (verse 26,27). The world, what show soever they have for religion, and however they urge it, that the truth is with them, have no yearning of bowels for it. Let it be neither mine nor thine, said she, but divide it; but the woman whose the living child was, had not a heart to say so. Religion may lie and die in a ditch for all those that are given to their sins; nor doth their zeal appear, except when they are gripping of the godly for his faith towards God. Bowels, yearning of bowels over God's condemned religion, is only found in the souls of those who own God has made it.
Use Second, Is it so? Are God's people a suffering people? Then this should inform them that will be religious, to prepare themselves for what is like to attend them for their religion. To prepare, I say, not with carnal weapons, but with the graces of the Spirit of God; that will help them with meekness and patience to endure. Sit down then, I say, and count up the cost, before for religion thou engagest too far; lest thou take upon thee to meddle with that which thou wilt not know what to do with in the end (Prov 25:8; Luke 14:25-30).
Many there be that are faulty here; they have taken upon them to profess, not considering what they have taken in hand may cost them. Wherefore, when troubles come indeed, then they start and cry. This they like not, because they looked not for it; and if this be the way to heaven, let who will go on in it for them. Thus they take offence, and leave Christ's cause and people to shift for themselves in the world (Matt 13:20,21).
Use Third, But let God's people think never the worse of religion, because of the coarse entertainment it meeteth with in the world. It is better to choose God and affliction than the world, and sin, and carnal peace. It is necessary that we should suffer, because that we have sinned. And if God will have us suffer a little while here for his Word, instead of suffering for our sins in hell, let us be content, and count it a mercy with thankfulness.
"The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction: they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath" (Job 21:30). How kindly, therefore, doth God deal with us, when he chooses to afflict us but for a little, that with everlasting kindness he may have mercy upon us (Isa 54:7,8). And "it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing" (1 Peter 3:17).
Use Fourth, Look not, therefore, upon the sufferings of God's people for their religion, to be tokens of God's great anger. It is, to be sure, as our heavenly Father orders it, rather a token of his love; for suffering for the gospel, and for the sincere profession of it, is indeed a dignity put upon us-a dignity that all men are not counted worthy of. Count it, therefore, a favour that God has bestowed upon thee his truth, and graces to enable thee to profess it, though thou be made to suffer for it (Acts 5:41). Thou mightest have been a sufferer for thy sins in hell, but thou art not; but contrariwise art, perhaps, suffering for conscience to God; this is a dignity. For that thou dost thus by virtue of a heavenly gift, on the behalf of Christ, for the gospel's sake, and according to the will of God. This is a dignity that a persecutor shall not be counted worthy of, until he first convert to Christ (Phil 1:29).
Use Fifth, Take thy affliction with meekness and patience, though thou endurest grief wrongfully. "For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully" (1 Peter 2:19). Lay thy hand, then, upon thy mouth, and speak not a word of ill against him that doth thee wrong; leave thy cause and thy enemy to God; yea, rather pray that his sin may not be laid to his charge; wherefore, as I said before, now show thyself a good man, by loving, pitying, praying for, and by doing good, as thou art commanded, to them that despitefully use thee (Matt 5:44). I know thy flesh will be apt to huff, and to be angry, and to wish, would thou mightest revenge thyself. But this is base, carnal, sensual, devilish; cast, therefore, such thoughts from thee, as thoughts that are not fit for a Christian's breast, and betake thee to those weapons that are not carnal. For the artillery of a Christian is the Word, faith, and prayer; and in our patience we must possess our souls (2 Cor 10:5; Luke 21:16-19).
Use Sixth, Be much in the consideration of the all-sufficiency of thy Father, whose cause thou hast espoused, whose Word thou hast chosen for thy heritage, and whose paths thou delightest to walk in. I say, be much in considering how all the world is sustained by him, and that all life and breath is in his hand, to continue or diminish as he pleases. Think with thyself also how able he is to rescue thee from all affliction, or to uphold thee in it with a quiet mind. Go to him continually, as to a fountain of life that is open for the supply of the needy. Remember also, if he comes not at thy call, and comforteth thee not so soon as thou desirest, it is not of want of love or compassion to thy soul, but to try thy graces, and to show to the fallen angels that thou wilt serve God for nought, rather than give out. Also, if it seemeth to thee, as if God took no care of thee to help thee, but that he hath rather turned thee over to the ungodly; count this also as a sign that he delights to see thee hold fast his name, though thou art laid under the greatest of disadvantages. "If the scourge slay suddenly, [that is more than it hath done to thee,] he will laugh at the trial of the innocent" (Job 9:23).
It is a great delight to our God to see his people hold fast their integrity, and not to deny his name, when under such cloudy dispensations and discouraging circumstances. And considerations that thy thus doing is pleasing in his sight through Christ, will be a support unto thee. God sees thee, though thou canst not now see him, and he observeth now thy way, though darkness is round about him; and when he hath tried thee, thou shalt come forth like gold.
Use Seventh, Take heed of setting of thyself a bound and period to thy sufferings, unless that period be the grave. Say not to thy afflicters, Hitherto, and no further, and here shall your proud waves be stayed. I say, take heed of doing thus, for fear God should let them go beyond thee. For a man is not prepared to suffer, further than he thinketh the enemy may be permitted to go. Hence Christ sets their bounds at the loss of life, and no nearer. So then, so far as they go beyond thee, so far they will find thee unprovided, and so not fortified for a reception of their onset with that Christian gallantry which becomes thee. Observe Paul; he died daily, he was always delivered unto death, he despaired of life; and this is the way to be prepared for any calamity. When a man thinks he has only to prepare for an assault by footmen, how shall he contend with horses? Or if he looks no further than to horses, what will he do at the swellings of Jordan (Jer 12:5)? Wherefore, set thine enemies no bounds: say not, They shall not pursue me to the death; have the sentence of death in thyself. For though they may but tick and toy with thee at first, their sword may reach thy heart-blood at last. The cat at play with the mouse is sometimes a fit emblem of the way of the wicked with the children of God. Wherefore, as I said, be always dying; die daily: he that is not only ready to be bound, but to die, is fit to encounter any amazement.
Use Eighth, If thine enemies would, or do, put thee under a cloud, if they wrap thee up in a bear's skin, and then set the dogs upon thee, marvel not at the matter; this was Joseph's, David's, Christ's, Stephen's portion, only be thou innocent; say nothing, do nothing that should render thee faulty; yea, say and do always that that should render thee a good neighbour, a good Christian, and a faithful subject. This is the way to help thee to make with boldness thy appeals to God; this is the way to embolden thy face against the faces of thine enemies; this is the way to keep thy conscience quiet and peaceable within thee; and this is the way to provoke God to appear for thy rescue, or to revenge thy blood when thou art gone.
And do this because it is thy duty-we must fear God and honour the king-and because this is the way to make the rock of thy enemies hard: few men have that boldness as to say, This I do against you, because you profess Christ. When they persecuted the Lord himself, they said to him, "For a good work we stone thee not" (John 10:33). Religion that is pure is a hot thing, and it usually burns the fingers of those that fight against it; wherefore it is not common for men to oppose religion under its own naked complexion: wherefore the Jews sought to fasten other matters upon Christ to kill him for them; though the great spite they had against him was for his doctrine and miracles. It was for envy to that that they set themselves against him, and that made them invent to charge him with rebellion and treason (Matt 27:18; Luke 23:2).
Use Ninth, Wherefore it becomes all godly men to study to be quiet, to mind their own business, and as much as in them lies, to be at peace with all men; to owe no man any thing but love. Pray, therefore, for all that are in authority; pray for the peace of the country in which thou dwellest; keep company with holy, and quiet, and peaceable men. Seek by all good ways the promotion of godliness, put up injuries, be good to the poor, do good against evil, be patient towards all men; for "these things are good and profitable unto men" (Titus 3:8).
Be not inclining to injure men behind their backs, speak evil of no man, reproach not the governor nor his actions, as he is set over thee; all his ways are God's, either for thy help or the trial of thy graces. Wherefore he needs thy prayers, not thy revilings; thy peaceable deportment, and not a troublesome life. I know that none of these things can save thee from being devoured by the mouth of the sons of Belial (1 Kings 21:12,13). Only, what I say is duty, is profitable, is commendable, is necessary; and that which will, when the devil has done his worst, render thee lovely to thy friends, terrible to thine enemies, serviceable in thy place as a Christian, and will crown the remembrance of thy name, to them that survive thee, with a blessing; "The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot" (Prov 10:7).
Use Tenth, I will conclude, then, with a word to those professors, if there be any such, that are of an unquiet and troublesome spirit. Friends, I may say to you, as our Lord said once to his disciples, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." To wish the destruction of your enemies doth not become you. If ye be born to, and are called, that you may inherit a blessing, pray be free of your blessing: "Bless, and curse not." If you believe that the God whom you serve is supreme governor, and is also wise enough to manage affairs in the world for his church, pray keep fingers off, and refrain from doing evil. If the counsel of Gamaliel was good when given to the enemies of God's people, why not fit to be given to Christians themselves? Therefore refrain from these men, and let them alone. If the work that these men do is that which God will promote and set up for ever, then you cannot disannul it; if not, God has appointed the time of its fall.
A Christian! and of a troublesome spirit; for-shame, forbear; show, out of a good conversation, thy works, with meekness of wisdom; and here let me present thee with three or four things.
1. Consider, That though Cain was a very murderer, yet God forbade any man's meddling with him, under a penalty of revenging his so doing upon his own head sevenfold. "And the Lord said unto him, Therefore, whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold" (Gen 4:15). But why not meddle with Cain, since he was a murderer? The reason is, because he persecuted his brother for righteousness' sake, and so espoused a quarrel against God; for he that persecutes another for righteousness' sake sets himself against God, fights against God, and seeks to overthrow him. Now, such an one the Christian must let alone and stand off from, that God may have his full blow at him in his time. Wherefore he saith to his saints, and to all that are forward to revenge themselves, Give place, stand back, let me come, leave such an one to be handled by me. "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom 12:19). Wherefore the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should slay him. You must not, indeed, you must not avenge yourselves of your enemies. Yea, though it was lawful once so to do, it is not lawful now. Ye have heard that it hath been said to them of old time, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy; but I say, said our Lord, Love them, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them that hate you (Matt 5:43,44).
2. Consider, Revenge is of the flesh,-I mean this our revenge of ourselves; and it proceeds from anger, wrath, impatience under the cross, unwillingness to suffer, from too much love to carnal ease, to estates, to enjoyments, to relations, and the like. It also flows from a fearful, cowardly spirit; there is nothing of greatness in it, except it be greatness of untowardness. I know there may, for all this, be pretences to justice, to righteousness, to the liberty of the gospel, the suppressing of wickedness, and the promoting of holiness; but these can be but pretences, or, at best, but the fruits of a preposterous zeal. For since, as has been often said in this treatise, the Lord hath forbidden us to do so, it cannot be imagined that he should yet animate any to such a thing by the Holy Ghost and the effects of the graces thereof. Let them, then, if any such be, that are thus minded, be counted the narrow-spirited, carnal, fleshly, angry, waspish-spirited professors-the professors that know more of the Jewish than of the Christian religion, and that love rather to countenance the motions, passions, and gross motions of and angry mind, that with meekness to comply with the will of a heavenly Father. Thou art bid to be like unto him, and also thou art showed wherein (Matt 5:45-48).
There is a man hates God, blasphemes his name, despises his being; yea, says there is no God. And yet the God that he carrieth it thus towards doth give him his breakfast, dinner, and supper; clothes him well, and when night comes, has him to bed, gives him good rest, blesses his field, his corn, his cattle, his children, and raises him to high estate.  Yea, and this our God doth not only once or twice, but until these transgressors become old; his patience is thus extended, years after years, that we might learn of him to do well.
3. Consider, A professor! and unquiet and troublesome, discontented, and seeking to be revenged of thy persecutors; where is, or what kind of grace hast thou got? I dare say, they, even these in which thou thus actest, are none of the graces of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law; but wrath, strife, seditions, traitors, and inventors of evil things are reckoned with the worst of sins, and sinners, and are plainly called the works of the flesh (Rom 1:29-31; 2 Tim 3:3,4; Gal 5:19-21).
But I say, where is thy love to thine enemy? where is thy joy under the cross? where is thy peace when thine anger has put thee upon being unquiet? Where is thy long-suffering? for, as thou actest, not ought but thy waspishness can be seen. Where, also, is thy sweet, meek, and gentle spirit? and is goodness seen in thy seeking the life or the damage of thy enemy? Away, away; thy graces, if thou hast any, are by these, thy passions, so jostled up into corners, and so pent for want of room and liberty to show themselves, that, by the Word of God, thou canst not be known to be of the right kind, what a noise soever thou makest.
A Christian, when he sees trouble coming upon him, should not fly in the face of the instrument that brings it, but in the face of the cause of its coming. Now the cause is thyself, thy base self, thy sinful self, and thy unworthy carriages towards God under all the mercy, patience, and long-suffering that God has bestowed upon thee, and exercised towards thee. Here thou mayest quarrel and be revenged, and spare not, so thou take vengeance in a right way, and then thou wilt do so when thou takest it by godly sorrow (2 Cor 7:10,11).
A Christian, then, should bewail his own doings, his own unworthy doings, by which he has provoked God to bring a cloud upon him, and to cover him with it in anger. A Christian should say, This is my wickedness, when a persecutor touches him; yea, he should say it, and then shut up his mouth, and bear the indignation of the Lord, because he has sinned against him. "Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart" (Jer 4:18).
4. Consider, What conviction of thy goodness can the actions that flow from such a spirit give unto observers? None at all; yea, a spirit of unquietness under sufferings, and that seeketh to be revenged of those that do, for thy faith and the profession thereof, persecute thee, is so far off of giving conviction to beholders that thou art right, that it plainly tells them that thou art wrong. Even Julian the apostate, when he had cast away whatever he could of Christ, had this remaining with him-that a Christian ought to take with patience what affliction fell upon him for his Master's sake; and would hit them in the teeth with an unbecoming behavior, that complained or that sought redress of them that had abused them for their faith and godly profession. What will men say if you shrink and winch, and take your sufferings unquietly, but that if you yourselves were uppermost, you would persecute also? Much more have they ground to say so, when you will fight lying on your backs. Be quiet, then, and if thine enemy strike thee on one check, turn to him the other; and if he also revile and curse thee, down upon thy knees and pray for him. This is the way to convince thy observers that thou art a godly man. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, was one of those things that convinced the centurion that Jesus was a righteous man; for he stood by the cross to watch and see how Jesus carried it in these his sufferings, as well as to see execution done (Matt 27:54; Luke 23:34-47).
5. Consider, A professor, unquiet and turbulent under sufferings, and seeking his own revenge, cannot be a victor over what he should, nor a keeper of God's commandments.
(1.) How can he be a victor over himself that is led up and down by the nose by his own passions? There is no man a Christian victor but he that conquers himself, but he that beats down and keeps under this body, his lusts, his passions, in the first place. Is he that is led away with divers lusts a victor? Is he that is a servant to corruption a victor? And if he that is captivated by his anger, wrath, passion, discontent, prejudice, &c., be not led away by them, I am under a mistake. So then, to quarrel with superiors, or with any that are troublesome to thee for thy faith and thy profession, bespeaks thee over-mastered and captive, rather than a master and a conqueror.
(2.) The same may be said upon the second head. He keepeth not the commandments of God; for those teach him other things, as I have also showed. The great gospel commands terminate in self-denial; but if self-revenge is self-denial, I am besides the Book. Christ, in the book of the Revelation, sets him that keeps the commandments of God a great way off from him that taketh and smiteth with the sword: "He that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints" (Rev 13:10). That is, in that they forbear to do thus, and quietly suffer under those that thus take it and afflict the godly with it. Again, "Here is the patience of the saints, here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (14:12). A patient continuing in well-doing; and if suffering for righteousness be well-doing, then a patient continuing in that, as in other things, is the way to keep God's commandments (Rom 2:7).
So that, I say, he keepeth not God's commandments that is angry with his enemies, and that seeks to be revenged of him that doth him ill. You know the subject I am upon. "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (James 1:20). Wherefore, professors, beware, and take heed to your spirits, and see that you let not out yourselves under your sufferings in such extravagancies of spirit against your enemies as is no way seemly nor convenient.
6. Consider, Men that are unquiet and discontented, and that seek revenge upon them that persecute them for their profession, do, by so doing, also put themselves upon the brink of those ruins that others are further from. These men are like the fly that cannot let the candle alone until she hath burned herself in the flame. Magistrates and men in power have fortified themselves from being attacked with turbulent and unruly spirits by many and wholesome laws. And, indeed, should they not do so, one or other, perhaps, would be quickly tempted to seek to disturb them in the due exercise of their authority. Now the angry man, he is the fly that must be tripping and running himself upon the point of these laws; his angry spirit puts him upon quarrelling with his superiors, and his quarrelling brings him, by words spoke in heat, within the reach of the net, and that, with the help of a few more, brings his neck to the halter. Nor is this, whatever men think, but by the just judgment of God. "Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation" (Rom 13:2; Esth 2:21-23). Wherefore, let the angry man take heed; let the discontented man take heed. He that has a profession, and has not grace to know, in this matter, to manage it, is like to bring his profession to shame. Wherefore, I say, let such take heed; and the graces afore mentioned, and the due exercise of them, are they and that which can keep us out of all such dangers.
7. Consider, And what comfort can such a man have who has, by his discontent and unruly carriages, brought himself, in this manner, to his end; he has brought himself to shame, his profession to shame, his friends to shame, and his name to contempt and scorn. Bad men rejoice at his fall; good men cannot own him, weak men stumble at him; besides, his cause will not bear him out; his heart will be clogged with guilt; innocency and boldness will take wings and fly from him. Though he talketh of religion upon the stage or ladder, that will blush to hear its name mentioned by them that suffer for evil-doing. Wherefore, my brethren, my friends, my enemies, and all men, what religion, profession, or opinion soever you hold, fear God, honour the king, and do that duty to both which is required of you by the Word and law of Christ, and then, to say no more, you shall not suffer by the power for evil-doing.
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43. "Quail"; to overpower. Well might the abettors of Antichrist wonder at the Christian's support under the most cruel tortures. While "looking unto Jesus" and the bright visions of eternal glory, like Stephen, he can pray of his enemies, and tranquilly fall asleep while undergoing the most frightful sufferings.-Ed.
44. "A naked man"; unarmed, or defenceless.
"Had I but serv'd my God with half the zeal I serv'd my king, he would not in mine age Have left me naked to mine enemies." Shakespeare's Wolsey.-Ed.
45a. How impossible is it for a natural man to understand this new creation-a new heart, a new birth. How different is regeneration to water-baptism. How awful the delusion to be mistaken in this, the foundation of all hope of a blessed immortality. "Create in me a clean heart, O God!" How consoling the fact: "Now a creation none can destroy but a Creator!" and "changes not, therefore we are not consumed."-Ed.[45a]
45b. "Gallantry"; splendour of appearance, grandeur, nobleness.-Ed.[45b]
46. "O happie he who doth possesse
Christ for his fellow-prisoner, who doth gladde
With heavenly sunbeames jails that are most sad."
Written on the prison walls of the Tower of London by William Prynne.-Ed.
47. "Sore temptations" poor Bunyan found them. When dragged from his home to prison, he speaks of his poor blind daughter in language of impassioned solicitude: "Poor child, thought I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion in this world! Thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure the wind shall blow upon thee! Oh! the hardships I thought my blind one might go under would break my heart to pieces."-"The parting with my wife and poor children hath oft been to me in this place as the pulling my flesh from my bones."-Grace Abounding, 327, 328.-Ed.
48. "Thodes"; whirlwinds. This word does not occur in any English dictionary or glossary. It gave me much trouble, and a walk of seven miles, to discover its meaning. It is the Saxon for noise, whirlwind, turbulence. This provincial word was probably derived from some Saxon tribe that settled in Bedfordshire.-Ed.
49. "To shuck"; to shake violently-from which is the noun, "a pea-shuck," the shell from which peas have been shaken.-Ed.
50. How correct, but how dismal a picture is here drawn of the persecutor! God has wise and holy ends in protecting and prolonging the lives even of very wicked men. "Slay them not, lest my people forget; scatter them by thy power." Compare Ecclessiastes 8:10. Pity the persecutor-pray for him; but if he repent not, stand off; "God will have his full blow at him in his time," and crush him down into misery and despair.-Ed.
51. Like a multitude of passages in Bunyan's writings, this passage is exceedingly striking. It illustrates our Lord's words in Matthew 5:44,45: "Love your enemies - that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven."-Ed.
52. "Stage"; upon which many a Nonconformist stood with his head in the pillory. "Ladder" to the gallows, upon which victims suffered death by hanging.-Ed.