Christians, were you awake, here would be matter of wonder to you, to see a man assaulted with all the power of hell, and yet come off a conqueror. Is it not a wonder to see a poor creature, who in himself is weaker than the moth, stand against and overcome all devils, all the world, all his lusts and corruptions? Or if he fall, is it not a wonder to see him, when devils and guilt are upon him, rise again, stand upon his feet again, walk with God again, and persevere after all this in the faith and holiness of the gospel? He that knows himself, wonders; he that knows temptation, wonders; he that knows what falls and guilt mean, wonders: indeed, perseverance is a wonderful thing and is managed by the power of God; for he only |is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy.|
He that is saved must, when this world can hold him no longer, have a safe conduct to heaven; for that is the place where they that are saved must to the full enjoy their salvation. Here we are saved by faith and hope of glory; but there we that are saved shall enjoy the end of our faith, and hope, even the salvation of our souls.
But now for a poor creature to be brought thither, this is the life of the point. But how shall I come thither? There are heights and depths to hinder. Rom.8:38, 39. Suppose the poor Christian is upon a sick-bed, beset with a thousand fears, and ten thousand at the end of that -- sick-bed fears, and they are sometimes dreadful ones: fears that are begotten by the review of the sin perhaps of forty years' profession -- fears that are begotten by fearful suggestions of the devil, the sight of death and the grave, and it may be of hell itself -- fears that are begotten by the withdrawing and silence of God and Christ. But now, out of all these the Lord will save his people; not one sin, nor fear, nor devil shall hinder, nor the grave nor hell disappoint thee. But how must this be? Why, thou must have a safe conduct to heaven. What conduct? A conduct of angels. |Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them that shall be heirs of salvation?|
These angels therefore are not to fail them that are saved, but must, as commissioned of God, come down from heaven to do this office for them. They must come, I say, and take the care of our souls, to conduct them safely into Abraham's bosom. It is not our meanness in the world, nor our weakness of faith, that shall hinder this; nor shall the loathsomeness of our diseases make these delicate spirits shy of taking this charge upon them. Lazarus the beggar found this a truth -- a beggar so despised of the rich glutton that he was not suffered to come within his gate; a beggar full of sores and noisome putrefaction -- yet behold, when he dies angels come from heaven to fetch him thither.
True, death-bed temptations are ofttimes the most violent, because then the devil plays his last game with us; he is never to assault us more. Besides, perhaps God suffereth it thus to be that the entering into heaven may be the sweeter, and ring of this salvation the louder. O it is a blessed thing for God to be our God and our guide, even unto death, and then for his angels to conduct us safely to glory. This is saving indeed.
Mercy seems to be asleep when we are sinking; for then we are as if all things were careless of us; but it is but as a lion couchant, it will awake in time for our help.
There are those that have been in the pit, Psa.40:2, now upon mount Zion, with the harps of God in their hands, and with the song of the Lamb in their mouths.
God hath set a Saviour against sin, a heaven against a hell, light agamst darkness, good against evil, and the breadth and length and depth and height of the grace that is in himself for my good, against all the power and strength and subtlety of every enemy.
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 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 a goodly fire of love to and zeal for God that all the waters of the world shall never be able to quench.
Now, a creation none can destroy but a creator, wherefore, here is comfort. But again, God hath created us in Christ Jesus; that's 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. 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.
The strife is now, Who shall be Lord of all: whether Satan the prince of this world, or Christ Jesus the Son of God; or which can lay the best claim to God's elect, he that produces their sins against them, or he that laid down his heart's blood a price of redemption for them. Who then shall condemn, when Christ has died and does also make intercession?
Stand still, angels, and behold how the Father divides his Son a |portion with the great,| and how he |divides the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors, and did bear the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.| The grace of God and the blood of Christ will, before the end of the world, make brave work among the sons of men. They shall come for a wonderment to God by Christ, and -- be saved for a wonderment for Christ's sake.| Behold, these shall come from far; and lo, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Sinim.|
|What man is he that feareth the Lord?| says David; |him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.|
Now, to be taught of God, what is like it? Yea, what is like being taught in the way that them shalt choose? Thou hast chosen the way to life, God's way; hut perhaps thy ignorance about; it is so great, and those that tempt thee to turn aside are so many and so subtle, that, they seem to outwit thee and confound thee with their guile. Well, but the Lord whom thou fearest will not leave thee to thy ignorance, nor yet to thine enemies' power or subtlety, but will take it upon himself to be thy teacher and thy guide, and that in the way that thou hast chosen. Hear, then, and beliold thy privilege, O thou that fearest the Lord; and -- whoever wanders, turns aside, and swerveth from the way of salvation, whoever is benighted and lost in the midst of darkness -- thou shalt find the way to heaven and the glory that thou hast chosen.
There is between those that have taken sanctuary in Christ, and the bottomless pit, an invincible and mighty wall of grace and heavenly power, and of the merits of Christ to save to the utmost all and every one that are thus fled to him for safety.
Oh, how my soul did at this time [while in spiritual darkness] prize the preservation that God did set about his people. Ah, how safely did I see them walk whom God had hedged in. Now did those blessed places that spake of God's keeping his people, shine like the sun before me, though not to comfort me, yet to show me the blessed state and heritage of those whom the Lord had blessed. Now I saw that as God had his hand in all the providences and dispensations that overtake his elect, so he had his hand in all the temptations that they had to sin against him; not to animate them in wickedness, but to choose their temptations and troubles for them, and also to leave them for a time to such things only as might not destroy, but humble them -- as might not put them beyond, but lay them in the way of the renewing of his mercy. But Oh, what love, what care, what kindness and mercy did I now see, mixing itself with the most severe and dreadful of all God's ways to his people! He would let David, Hezekiah, Solomon, Peter, and others fall; but he would not let them fall into the sin unpardonable, nor into hell for sin. O, thought I, these be the men that God hath loved -- these be the men that God, though he chastiseth them, keeps in safety by him, and whom he makes to abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Surely his salvation, his saving, pardoning grace, is nigh them that fear him; that is, to save them out of the hand of their spiritual enemies. The devil and sin and death do always wait even to devour them that fear the Lord; but to deliver them from these, his salvation doth attend them. So, then, if Satan tempts, here is their salvation nigh; if sin by breaking forth beguiles them, here is God's salvation nigh them; yea, if death itself shall suddenly seize upon them, why, here is their God's salvation nigh them.
I have seen that great men's little children must go no whither without their nurses be at hand. If they go abroad, their nurses must go with them; if they go to meals, their nurses must go with them; if they go to bed, their nurses must go with them; yea, -- and if they fall asleep, their nurses must stand by them.
O, my brethren, those little ones that fear the Lord are the children of the highest; therefore they shall not walk alone, be at their spiritual meats alone, go to their sick-beds or to their graves alone: the salvation of their God is nigh them, to deliver them from the evil. This is then the glory that dwells in the land of them that fear the Lord.
|He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him.| Where now is the man that feareth the Lord? let him hearken to this. |What sayest thou, poor soul? Will this content thee? the Lord fulfil thy desires. O thou that fearest the Lord, what is thy desire? |All my desire,| says David, |is all my salvation;| so sayest thou, |All my salvation is all my desire?| Well, the desire of thy soul is granted thee; yea, God himself hath engaged himself even to fulfil this thy desire. |He will fulfil the desires of them that fear him; he will hear their cry, and will save them.| O this desire, when it cometh, what |a tree of life| will it be to thee! Thou desirest to be rid of thy present trouble; the Lord shall rid thee out of trouble. Thou desirest to be delivered from temptation; the Lord shall deliver thee out of temptation. Thou desirest to be delivered from thy body of death; and the Lord shall change this thy vile body, that it may be like to his glorious body. Thou desirest to be in the presence of God, and among the angels in heaven; this thy desire also shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt be made equal to the angels. Exod.6:6; 2 Peter, 2:9; Phil.3:20, 21; Luke 16:22; 26:35, 36. |Oh, but it is long first.| Well, learn first to live upon thy portion in the promise of it, and that will make thy expectation of it sweet. God will fulfil thy desires; God will do it, though it tarry long: Wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry.|