The seducer is another enemy the Christian hath to cope with, and no less dangerous than the other: nay, in this respect, far more formidablethe persecutor can kill only the body, but the seducer comes to poison the soul. Better to be slain outright by his sword, than to be taken alive, as the apostle phraseth it, in this snare of the devil, which these whom he sends forth abirding for souls privily lay, even where they are oft least suspected. When Paul fell into the mouth of the persecutor, he could yet glory, and rejoice that he had escaped the latter: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, II Tim. 4:7, 8. See how this holy man triumphs and flourisheth his colours, as if the field were fought and the day won; whereas, good man, he was now going to lay his head on the block under the hand of bloody Neros headsman, as you may perceive, I am now ready to be offered up, ver. 6, alluding to the kind of death, it is like, he was shortly to undergo. But you will possibly say, What great cause had he then to cry victoria victory, when his affairs were in such a desperate and deplored condition? Yes, this made him triumph, he had kept the faith; and that was a thousand times more joy and comfort to him than the laying down his life was trouble. If he had left the faith by cowardice, or chopped it away for any false doctrine, he had lost his soul by losing of that; but having kept the faith, he knew that he did but part with his life to receive a better at Gods hands than was taken from him by mans. The locusts mentioned, Rev. 9which Mr. Mede takes to be the Saracens, who were so great a scourge and plague to the Roman world, newly Christianizedwe find they had tails like unto scorpions, and their were stings in their tails, ver. 10: which the learned writer fore-named interprets to be the cursed Mahometan doctrine with which they poisoned the souls of the people wherever their conquering sword came.
It seems, though the sword of war in the hand of a barbarous bloody enemy be a heavy judgment to a people, yet the propagation of cursed errors is a greater. This is the sting in the tail of that judgment. I do not doubt but many that were godly might fall by the sword of that enemy in such a general calamity, but only those that were not among God's sealed ones felt the sting in their tail by being poisoned with their cursed imposture; and therefore they alone are said to be hurt by them, ver. 4. We may be cut off by an enemys sword and not be hurt; but we cannot drink in their false doctrine, and say so. Now, the word of God is the sword whereby the Spirit enables the saints to defend themselves against this enemy; yea, to rout and ruin this subtle band of Satan. We read of Apollos, Acts 18:28, that he mightily convinced the Jews. He did, as it were, knock them down with the weight of his reasoning. And out of what armoury fetched he the sword with which he so prevailed? See ver. 28. Showing by the Scripturesnot their cabala that Jesus was Christ; and therefore he is said to be 'mighty in the Scriptures, ver. 24, a mighty man of valour, and so expert, through his excellent knowledge in them, that the erroneous Jews could no more stand before him holding this sword in his hand, than a child with a wooden dagger can against a giant formidably armed with killing weapons.
When Paul warns Timothy to stand upon his defence carefully against seducers, which snapped so many everywhere, he can devise no better counsel how he might keep out of their hands, than by sending him to the Scriptures, and bidding him shut himself up within these, as in a town of war. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, II Tim. 3:14; and in the next verse he opens himself, and shows what lesson he means that he had learned, by telling him, that from a child he had known the holy Scriptures, which were able to make him wise unto salvation; and by consequence, wiser than all his enemies, if he stuck close to them. Other arms we may load ourselves with, by tumbling over many authors; but he that hath this sword, and hath been but taught of the Spirit the use of this weapon, is provided well enough to meet the stoutest champions for error the devil hath on his side, in an encounter. With this, poor women have been able to disarm great doctors of their studied arguments, ruffling all their art and logic with one plain place of Scripture, as she who brained Abimelech, that great commander, by tumbling a piece of millstone on his head. Out of this armoury came those weapons Paul tells us are so mighty through God, casting down imaginations, or reasonings, 8T(4Fµ@×H 6"2"4D@Ø