When enemies are prevailing, and the way of truth is evil spoken of, many faint, and many turn aside, and do not plead for truth, nor stand up for the interest of Christ, in their hour and power of darkness: many are overcome with base fear, and either side with the workers of iniquity, or are not valiant for the truth, but being faint-hearted, turn back. Now the thoughts of this may put some who desire to stand fast, and to own him and his cause in a day of trial, to enquire how they shall make use of Christ, who is the truth, so as to be enabled to stand in the day of temptation, and keep fast by truth when it is loaded with reproaches, and buried under an heap of obloquy. For satisfaction to this question, I shall shortly point out those directions which, if followed, may prove helpful to keep the soul from fainting, misbelieving, doubting, quarrelling at the Lord's dispensations, and from yielding to the temptations in such a day.
1. The believer should live in the conviction of his hazard through the sleight of Satan, the strength of temptation, the wickedness and treachery of the heart, the evil example of others, and the want of sanctified courage, zeal, and resolution; and this will keep the soul humble, and far from boasting of its own strength, which was Peter's fault.
2. They should live in the faith and persuasion of this, that it is Christ alone who is the truth, who can help them to stand for truth in a day of temptation; and that all their former purposes, vows, resolutions, solemn professions, and the like, will prove but weak cables to hold them fast in a day of a storm; and that only the rock of ages must save them; and their being a leeward of him, and partaking of his warm and safe protection, will do their business. That all their stock of grace and knowledge, and that confirmed with resolutions and sincere purposes, will help but little in that day; and that new influences of grace and truth, from the fountain, that is full of grace and truth, will only prove establishing to the soul, and confirm it in the truth in that day.
3. Therefore they should eye Christ in his offices, particularly as the great prophet who can teach as never man taught; so teach as to make the soul receive the doctrine, and to hold it fast -- to receive it in love, and lay it up in the heart as a rich and enriching treasure.
4. They should eye him in his relations unto his people, as their head, husband, brother, leader, commander, captain, &c.; for those give ground of approaching unto him with confidence in the day of darkness and mists, for light and direction, and for strength and courage in the day of temptation; and give ground of hope of help in that day of trial and difficulty.
5. They should eye and act faith upon the promises of assistance and through-bearing, in the day of calamity; such as those -- Isa. xliii.2, |When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.| And Isaiah xli.13, |For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, fear not, I will help thee.| And particularly they would eye the promises of light in the day of darkness, Isaiah lviii.8, 10; lx.20.2 Sam. xxii.29.
6. They should look on Christ as an exalted conqueror, now risen and glorified; as a victorious captain that hath fought and overcome, that they, as his followers, may be made partakers of his victory and conquest, and so reap the fruit of his resurrection and ascension, in their establishment in the truth, when it is borne down and questioned, yea, and condemned by men. He abode steadfast and immoveable in the midst of all the storms that blew in his face; and as he came to bear witness to the truth, so did he faithfully and zealously avow truth, even to the death; and in death got the victory of the arch liar and deceiver. Now the believer should eye this, for the strengthening of his faith and hope of victory also, through him; and therefore would wait patiently for his help, and not make haste; for they who believe make not haste, Isaiah xxviii.16, knowing that he is true and faithful, and will not disappoint his followers that trust in him. And moreover it would be of advantage to them in this case, to eye that gracious and comfortable word, John xiv.19, |because I live, ye shall live also;| and so by faith conclude, that seeing Christ now liveth as a conqueror over darkness, untruth, reproaches, calumnies, and opposition of liars, yea, of the father of lies, they through him shall also live, and ride out that storm; and this will give much courage to the soul to endure temptation, and to wait in patience for an outgate.
7. They should study much, and suck at the grand promise of his coming again, and of finally dispelling all clouds, and of fully clearing up his glorious truths, that are now covered over with obloquy, and buried under reproaches; and this will encourage the soul to stand to truth in the midst of opposition, believing, that at length, truth, how much soever opposed now, shall be victorious.
8. They should be single in their dependence on him, for strength and through-bearing, in that day of trial -- not leaning to their own understanding, but acknowledging him in all their ways, Prov. iii.8; and when they see no hope of outgate in the world, nor appearance of the clearing up of the day, they would comfort themselves, and encourage themselves in the Lord, as David did in a great strait, 1 Sam. xx.6.
9. Upon the forementioned grounds they would cast all the care of their through-bearing on him, who careth for them, 1 Pet. v.7 -- rolling all their difficulties on him -- consulting only with him and his word, and not with flesh and blood; and so they would commit their ways to him, who disposeth of all things as he seeth good; forbearing to limit the Holy One of Israel, or to quarrel with him for any thing he doth; and patiently wait for his outgate and delivery.
10. It were good, in this time of trial, to be remembering the worth of truth, and entertaining high thoughts of the smallest piece of truth that is questioned, for his sake, who is the truth; that a sight of the glorious worth thereof, may make them account the less of all they can lose in the defence and maintenance thereof.
11. So were it good at this time, when truths come to be questioned, to be lying near to the truth, for light, and to be keeping fast, what he by his Spirit cleareth up to be truth, though the light should not be so full as to dispel all objections. This were to depend upon him for light, with singleness of heart; and in godly simplicity and sincerity to follow his direction and torch, though it should not shine so bright as they could wish.
A few words of caution will be useful here also; as,
1. The believer, though taking this course, would not think to be altogether free of fear of stepping aside, in less or in more. God may think good to let much of this abide, to the end he may be kept watchful, tender, and diligent; for fear maketh the soul circumspect and watchful; and this is a good preservative from defection.
2. Nor would the believer think, that hereby he shall be kept altogether free of fainting. The heart, now and then, through fear and misbelief, may fall into a fit of fainting, and think all is gone; and yet he may carry poor souls through, and make his strength perfect in their wickedness, 2 Cor. xii.9; that when they are supported and carried through the temptation, they may sing praise to him, and not ascribe any thing to themselves -- remembering how often they were fainting, and almost giving over the cause as desperate and hopeless.
3. They would not think it strange, if, in the time of their wrestling with difficulties, the Lord hide his face from them, and give not them that joyful access unto him in prayer, that sometimes they have met with; for the Lord may see it fit to put them to this point of trial among the rest, to see if the love of his glory and truth will keep them standing, when they want the encouragement that might be expected in that way; and if pure conscience to the command and authority of God, will keep from siding with an evil way, when the soul is destitute of all sensible encouragement, both from within and from without.
4. In all this business believers should carry singly with an eye to God's glory; and should not be acted with self-ends, or drawn by carnal and selfish motives. They should not desire stability and through-bearing to be seen of men, or to gain applause and praise of men; lest God be provoked to leave them to themselves, and they at length come off with discredit, as did Peter. Therefore they should strive against these carnal motions of the heart, and labour for spirituality, singleness of heart, and truth in the inward parts, which the Lord desireth, Psalm li.6.