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Then the devil leaveth him, and behold angels came and ministered unto him.—Mat. IV. 11.
IN these words you have the issue and close of Christ’s temptations. The issue is double:—(1.) In respect of the adversary; (2.) In respect of Christ himself.
I. In respect of the adversary: then the devil leaveth him.
II. In respect of Christ himself: behold angels came and ministered unto him.
I shall consider in both the history and the observations.
First, The history of it, as it properly belongeth to Christ: and there—
1. Of the first branch, the recess of Satan: ‘Then the devil leaveth him.’
[1.] It was necessary to be known that Christ had power to chase away the devil at his pleasure; that, as he was an instance of temptations, so he might be to us a pattern of victory and conquest. If Satan had continued tempting, this would have been obscured, which would have been an infringement of comfort to us. The devil being overcome by Christ, he may be also overcome by us Christians: 1 John v. 18, ‘He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not.’ That is, he useth all care and diligence to keep himself pure, that the devil draw him not into the sin unto death, and those deliberate, scandalous sins which lead to it. Christ having overcome Satan, in our name and nature, showeth us the way how to fight against him and overcome him.
[2.] Christ had a work to do in the valley, and therefore was not always to be detained by temptations in the wilderness. The Spirit, that led him thither to be tempted, led him back again into Galilee to preach the gospel: Luke iv. 14, ‘Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.’ All things are timed and ordered by God, and he limiteth Satan how far and how long he shall tempt.
[3.] In Luke it is said, chap. iv. 13, ‘He departed from him, ἄχρι καιροῦ, for a season.’ He never tempted him again in this solemn way hand to hand; but either abusing the simplicity of his own disciple: Mat. xvi. 22, 23, ‘Then Peter took him, and began to 324rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee. But he turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me Satan! thou art an offence unto me;’ or else by his instruments, laying plots to take away his life; as often, but especially in his passion: Luke xxii. 53, ‘This is your hour, and the power of darkness.’ So John xiv. 30, ‘The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.’ Satan shall join with the Jews to destroy me, but they shall find nothing to lay to my charge; nor, indeed, have they power to do me any hurt, but that, in obedience to my Father’s will, I mean voluntarily to lay down my life for sinners. So he had a permitted power over him, and was the prime instrumental cause of his sufferings; set aside his voluntary condescension to be a ransom for sinners, Satan had not any power over him, or challenge against him. Well, then, though he lost his victory, he retained his malice.
2. The second branch, the access of the good angels: ‘And behold the angels came and ministered to him.’ There observe three things:
[1.] The note of attention: behold. The Holy Ghost would excite our minds, and have us mark this: the angels are always at hand to serve Christ, but now they come to him in some singular manner some notable appearance there was of them, probably in a visible form and shape; and so they presented themselves before the Lord to minister to him, as the devil set himself before him to molest and vex him. As Christ’s humiliation and human nature was to be manifested by the devil’s coming to him and tempting assaults, so the honour of his divine nature by the ministry of angels, lest his temptations should seem to derogate from his glory. When we read the story of his temptations, how he was tempted in all parts like us, we might seem to take scandal, as if he were a mere man; therefore his humiliation is counterbalanced with the special honour done to him: he was tempted as man, but, as God, ministered unto by angels.
[2.] Why they came not before the devil was departed? I answer:—
(1.) Partly to show that Christ had no help but his own when he grappled with Satan. When the temptations were ended, then the good angels came, lest the victory should seem to be gotten by their help and assistance. They were admitted to the triumph, but they were not admitted to the fight: they were not spectators only in the conflict (for the battle was certainly fought before God and angels), but partners in the triumph: they went away to give place to the combat, but they came visibly to congratulate the conqueror after the battle was fought and the victory gotten. Our Lord would alone foil the devil, and, when that was done, the angels came and ministered unto him.
(2.) Partly to show us that the going of the one is the coming of the other. When the devil is gone, the angels come. Certainly it is true on the contrary: 1 Sam. xvi. 14, ‘The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him;’ and it is true in this sense, if we entertain the temptation, we banish the good angels from us: there is no place for the good angels till the tempter be repulsed.
[3.] Why now, and to what end, was this ministry?
(1.) To put honour on the Redeemer, who is the head and lord of the angels: Eph. i. 20, 21, ‘He hath set him at his own right hand 325in the heavenly places, far above all principalities and powers, &c., and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.’ So 1 Pet. iii. 22, ‘Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels, and authorities, and powers, being made subject to him.’ Christ, not only as God, but as mediator, hath all of them subject to him: Heb. i. 6, ‘And unto the Son he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him.’ They, as subjects and servants, are bound to obey him. Therefore, on all occasions they attend on Christ; at his birth: Luke ii. 13, 14, ‘A multitude of the heavenly host praised God, saying, Glory be to God on high, on earth peace, good will towards men.’ Now, in his temptations, ‘The angels came and ministered unto him.’ At his passion: Luke xxii. 43, ‘There appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.’ At his resurrection, ‘An angel rolled away the stone from the grave,’ and attested the truth of it, Mat. xxviii. 2. At his ascension, the angels declared the manner of his going to heaven, and return to judgment, Acts i. 10, 11. So now they come to attend Christ, as subjects on their prince, to tender their service and homage to him, and receive his commands.
(2.) For his consolation, inward and outward.
First, Inward, as messengers sent from God; and so their coming was a token of God’s special love and favour to him, and care over him. The devil had mentioned in one of his temptations, ‘He shall give his angels charge over thee.’ This is a truth, and in due time to be verified; not at Satan’s instance, but when God pleased. Therefore it was a comfort to Christ to have solemn messengers sent from heaven to applaud his triumph.
Secondly, Outward, they were sent to serve him, either to convey him back from the mountain, where Satan had set him, or to bring him food, as they did to Elijah: 1 Kings xix. 5, 6, ‘And as he lay and slept under a juniper-tree, behold then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and behold there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head: and he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.’ Διακονεῖν, the word here used, is often taken in that sense in the New Testament: Mat. viii. 15, ‘She arose and ministered unto them.’ that is, served them at meat. So Mat. xxv. 44, ‘When saw we thee an hungered, &c., and did not minister unto thee?’ The name of deacons is derived hence, as they ‘served tables.’ or provided meat for the poor, Acts vi. 2. So Luke x. 40, ‘My sister hath left me, διακανεῖν, to serve alone.’ meaning, to prepare provisions for the family: so Luke xvii. 8, ‘Gird thyself and serve me.’ that is, at the table: again, Luke xxii. 27, ‘Whether is greater, he that sits at meat, or he that serveth?’ or ministereth. So John xii. 2: ‘They made a supper, and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those that sat at the table with him.’ Thus the angels ministered unto Christ. This sort of ministry agreeth with what was said of his hunger, which was the occasion of Satan’s temptations.
Secondly, The observations. As Christ is a pattern of all those providences which are dispensed to the people of God.
Doct. 1. That the days of God’s people’s conflicts and trials will not always last.326
There are alternative changes and vicissitudes in their condition upon earth; sometimes they are vexed with the coming of the tempter, and then encouraged and cheered by the presence of angels; after storms come days of joy and gladness,—‘the devil departeth, and the angels came and ministered to him:’ So Ps. xxxiv. 19, ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.’ Here is their present conflict and their final conquest. Look on a Christian on his dark side, and there are afflictions, and afflictions many for number and kind; look on his luminous part, and there is the Lord to take care of him, to deliver him; and the deliverance is complete,—‘the Lord delivereth him out of them all.’ God will put an end to their conflict sooner or later; sometimes visibly in this life, or if he doth not deliver them till death, or from death, he will deliver them by death; then he delivereth them from all sin and misery at once, for death is theirs. The reasons are these:—
1. God considereth what will become himself, his pity and fidelity.
. His own pity and mercy: James v. 11, ‘Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.’ God will give an happy end to our conflicts and trials, as he did to Job, that he may be known to be a God pitiful and merciful: Job is set up as a public visible instance and monument of God’s tender mercy. We must not measure our afflictions by the smart, but the end of them; what the merciful God will do at length: the beginning is from Satan, but the end from the Lord. If we look to the beginning, we draw an ill picture of God in our minds, as if he were harsh, severe, and cruel to his creatures, yea, to his best servants; but in the end we find him very tender of his people, and that sense hath made lies of God. At the very time when we think God hath forgotten us, he is ready to hear and to remove the trouble: Ps. xxxi. 22, ‘I said in my haste, I am cut off; nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications.’ The Son of God was hungry, transported and carried to and fro by the devil, from the pinnacle of the temple to a high mountain, tempted by a blasphemous suggestion to fall down and worship the impure spirit; but at length ‘the devil leaveth him, and the angels came and ministered to him.’
[2.] His fidelity, which will not permit him to suffer you to be tempted above measure. We do not stand to the devil’s courtesy, to tempt us as long as he list, but are in the hands of the faithful God: 1 Cor. x. 13, ‘There hath no temptation taken you but what is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.’ What a heap of consolations are there in that one place as—(1.) That temptations are but ordinary and to be looked for: there is no πειρασμὸς, but it is ἀνθρώπινος, incident to human nature; it hath nothing extraordinary in it. If the Son of God in human nature was not exempted, why should we expect a privilege apart to ourselves, not common to others? (2.) That God’s conduct is gentle; he inflicteth nothing and permiteth nothing to be inflicted upon you beyond measure, and above strength; but, as Jacob drove as the little ones were able to bear, so God proportioneth trials to our strength. Before you have final deliverance, 327you shall have present support. (3.) That he will, together with the temptation, give ἔκβασιν, a passage out, a way to escape. And all this is assured to us by his faithfulness; the conflict shall be tolerable when it is at the highest, and the end comfortable. God doth bridle the malice and hatred of Satan and his instruments; he hath taken an obligation upon himself to do so, that he may omit no part of his care towards us. A good man will not overburden his beast.
2. The Lord considereth also our frailty, both with respect to natural and spiritual strength.
[1.] Natural strength. The Psalmist telleth us, that ‘He will not always chide, and keep his anger for ever,’ Ps. ciii. 9. Why? One reason is, that ‘He knoweth our frame, and remembereth we are dust.’ ver. 14. He may express his just displeasure, and correct us for our sins for a while: but he taketh off his punishing hand again, because he knoweth we are soon apt to faint and fail, being but a little enlivened dust, of a weak constitution, not able to endure long troubles and vexations. Job pleadeth, chap. vi. 12, ‘Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh of brass?’ We have not strength to subsist under perpetual troubles, but are soon broken and subdued by them.
[2.] With respect to spiritual strength, the best are subject to great infirmities, which oft betray us to sin, if our vexations be great and long: Ps. cxxv. 3, ‘The rod of the wicked shall not rest on the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put forth their hands to iniquity.’ The oppressions of wicked men shall not be so lasting and durable as that the temptations should be of too great force; this might shake the constancy of the best. He knoweth nothing in divinity that knoweth not that God worketh congruously, and attempereth his providence to our strength, and so will not only give an increase of internal grace, but lessen and abate the outward temptation; that his external government conduceth to the preservation of the saints, as well as his internal, by supporting their spirits with more liberal aids of grace. Therefore God will cause the temptation to cease when it is overpressing. But all must be left to his wisdom and holy methods.
3. With respect to the devil and his instruments, to whose malice he sets bounds, who otherwise would know no measure.
[1.] For the devil, see Rev. ii. 10: ‘Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold! the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days.’ Mark how they are comforted against the persecution coming upon them: Partly because the cause was clearly God’s, for all this trouble was by the instigation of the devil, making use of his instruments;—Eph. ii. 2, he is called ‘the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience:’ Partly because the persecution raised would not be universal—some of you, not all—and those not persecuted unto the death, but only cast into prison: Partly from the end, that they should be tried it was not penal or castigatory, but probatory;—the devil would destroy you, but God would suffer you only to be tried, so that they should come forth like the three children out of the furnace, without singeing of their garments, or like Daniel out of the lions’ den, without a scratch or maim, or as Christ here—the devil got not one jot of 328ground upon him: Partly from the duration, ten days—that is, in prophetical account, ten years, reckoning each day for a year: Num. xiv. 34. It was not long; the saddest afflictions will have an end. All which showeth how God bridleth and moderateth the rage of Satan, and his evil influence.
[2.] For his instruments, God saith, Zech. i. 15, ‘I am very sorely displeased with the heathen that were at ease; for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.’ The instruments of God’s chastisements lay on without mercy, and being of cruel minds and destructive intentions, which are heightened in them by Satan, are severe executioners of God’s wrath; and if God did not restrain them by the invisible chains of his providence, we should never see good day more. Well, then, you see the reasons why the children of God, though they have many troubles and conflicts, yet they are not everlasting troubles.
Use of instruction to the people of God. It teacheth them three lessons—comfort, patience, obedience.
1. Comfort and encouragement to them that are under a gloomy day. This will not always last. He may try you for a while, and you may be under great conflicts, and wants, and difficulties, as he tried the woman of Canaan with discouraging answers; but at last, ‘Woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt,’ Mat. xv. 28. He tried his disciples when he meant to feed the multitude: John vi. 5, 6, ‘Whence shall we buy bread that all these may eat? This he said to prove them, for he himself knew what he would do.’ A poor believer is tried, children increase, trading grows dead in hard times; how shall so many mouths be filled? He promiseth Abraham a numerous posterity, but for a great while he goeth childless. He promiseth David a kingdom, yet for a while he is fain to shift for his life, and skulk up and down in the wilderness. He intended to turn water into wine, but first all the store must be spent. He meaneth to revive the hearts of his contrite ones, but for a while they lie under great doubts and fears. Moses’ hand must be made leprous before it wrought miracles. Jesus loved Lazarus, and meant to recover him, but he must be dead first. But I must not run too far. There will be tedious conflicts and trials, but yet there is hope of deliverance: God is willing and God is able. He is willing, because he is sufficiently inclined to it by the grace and favour that he beareth his people: Ps. cxlix. 4, ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in his people; he will beautify the meek with salvation.’ The Lord loveth their persons, and he loveth their prosperity and happiness: Ps. xxxv. 27, ‘He hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servants.’ He is able either as to wisdom or power. Wisdom: 2 Pet. ii. 7, ‘The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation.’ Many times we know not which way, but God knoweth; he is never at a loss. Then for his power: power hath a twofold notion, of authority and might. He hath authority enough. The sovereign dominion of God is a great prop to our faith. All things in the world are at his disposal to use them for his own glory: Ps. xliv. 4, ‘Command deliverances for Jacob.’ Angels, devils, men, the hearts of the greatest men, are all at his command. He hath might and strength: Dan. iii. 17, ‘Our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us,’ and what then can let?
2. Patience: we must be contented, with the Son of God, to tarry his leisure, and undergo our course of trial, as Christ patiently continued, till enough was done to instruct the Church: Isa. xxviii. 16, ‘He that believeth will not make haste.’ The people of God miscarry in their haste: Ps. xxxi. 22, ‘I said in my haste, I am cut off, but thou heardest the voice of my supplication:’ Ps. cxvi. 11, ‘I said in my haste, All men are liars;’ even Samuel and all the prophets who had assured him of the kingdom. It will come in the best time when it cometh in God’s time, neither too soon nor too late; it will come sooner than your enemies would have it, sooner than second causes seem to promise, sooner than you deserve, soon enough to discover the glory of God to you: Ps. xl. 1, ‘I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.’ God will not fail a waiting soul; his delay is no denial, nor a sign of want of love to you: John xi. 5, ‘Jesus loved Lazarus;’ and yet, ver. 6, ‘When he had heard that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.’ It may come sooner than you expect: Ps. xciv. 18, ‘When I said, My foot slippeth, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.’ David was apt to think all was gone, help would never come more to him, and in that very season God delivered him.
3. Obedience: the son of God submitted to the Holy Spirit while the impure spirit tempted him. If you would look for a ceasing of the conflict, do as he did, carry it humbly, fruitfully, faithfully to God.
[1.] Humble carriage will become you under your conflicts: 1 Pet. v. 6, ‘Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.’ The stubbornness of the child maketh his correction double to what it otherwise would be. The more submissive you are, the more the cross hath its effect; whether you will or no, you must passively submit to God.
[2.] Carry it fruitfully, otherwise you obstruct the kindness of the Lord. He proveth us, that we may be fruitful: John xv. 2, ‘Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.’ The rod hath done its work when it maketh us more holy; then the comfortable days come: Heb. xii. 11, ‘Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.’ Righteousness brings peace along with it, inward and outward. This maketh amends for the trouble. Then God beginneth to take it off.
[3.] Carry it faithfully to God, still opposing sin and Satan; for the more you give way to Satan, the more you are troubled with him, and your misery is increased, not lessened. But if you repel his temptations, he is discouraged: Eph. iv. 27, ‘Neither give place to the devil.’ The devil watcheth for a door to enter and take possession of your hearts, that he may exercise his former tyranny. If he gaineth any ground, he makes fearful havoc in the soul, and weakeneth not only our comfort but our grace. Therefore imitate Christ’s resolution and resistance here. But this will deserve a point by itself. Therefore:330
Doct. 2. When the devil is thoroughly and resolutely resisted, he departeth.
As here, when the adversary was put to the foil, he went his way. Therefore this is often pressed upon us in scripture: James iv. 7, ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you.’ If you resist his suggestions to malice, envy, and strife, he is discouraged; so 1 Pet. v. 9, ‘Whom resist, stedfast in the faith.’ We must not fly nor yield to him in the least, but stoutly and peremptorily resist him in all his temptations. If you stand your ground, Satan falleth. In this spiritual conflict Satan hath only weapons offensive, cunning wiles, and fiery darts, none defensive; a believer hath weapons both offensive and defensive, sword and shield, &c.; therefore our safety lieth in resisting.
About which is to be considered:—
1. What kind of resistance this must be.
2. Arguments to persuade and enforce it.
3. What graces enable us in this resistance.
1. For the kind of resistance.
[1.] It must not be faint and cold. Some kind of resistance may be made by general and common graces; the light of nature will rise up in defiance of many sins, especially at first, before men have sinned away natural light; or else the resistance at least is in some cold way. But it must be earnest and vehement, as against the enemy of God and our souls. Paul’s resistance in his conflicts was with serious dislikes and deep groans: Rom. vii. 9, ‘The good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do;’ and ver. 24, ‘Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ In apparent cases a detestation and vehement indignation is enough,—‘Get thee behind me, Satan!’ in other cases there need strong arguments and considerations, that the temptation may not stick when the tempter is gone, as the smutch remaineth of a candle stuck against a stone wall. When Eve speaketh faintly and coldly, the devil reneweth the assault with the more violence: Gen. iii. 3, ‘Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’ As to the restraint, she speaketh warmly, and with some impatience of resentment, ‘not eat’ ‘nor touch,’ —in the commination too coldly, ‘lest ye die.’ when God had said, ‘ye shall surely die.’ A faint denial is a kind of grant; therefore slight Satan’s assaults with indignation. Though the dog barketh the traveller passeth on. Satan cannot endure contempt. At other times argue for God stoutly; thy soul and eternal concernments are in danger. No worldly concernment ought to go so near to us as that which concerneth our eternal good and the salvation of our souls. What would the devil have from thee but thy soul, and its precious enjoyments, peace of conscience, hope of everlasting life? What doth he bid?—worldly vanities. As the merchant putteth up his wares with indignation when the chapman biddeth an unworthy price.
[2.] It must be a thorough resistance of all sin, ‘take the little foxes,’ dash ‘Babylon’s brats against the stones.’ Lesser sticks set the great ones on fire. The devil cannot hope to prevail for great things presently. At first it is, ‘Hath God said?’ and then, ‘Ye shall not 331surely die.’ The approaches of Satan to the soul are gradual, he asketh a little, it is no great matter. Consider the evil of a temptation is better kept out than gotten out. Many think to stop after they have yielded a little; but when the stone at the top of a hill begins to roll downward, it is hard to stay it, and you cannot say how far you shall go. ‘I’ll yield but once,’ saith a deceived heart; ‘I’ll yield but a little, and never yield again.’ The devil will carry thee further and further, till he hath not left any tenderness in thy conscience. Some that thought to venture but a shilling, by the witchery of gaming have played away all; so some have sinned away all principles of conscience.
[3.] It must not be for a while, but continued; not only to stand out against the first assault, but a long siege. What Satan cannot gain by argument he seeketh to gain by importunity; but ‘resist him, stedfast in the faith,’ as his instrument spake to Joseph, ‘day by day.’ Gen. xxxix. 10. Our thoughts by time are more reconciled to evil. Now we must keep up our zeal to the last. To yield at last is to lose the glory of the conflict. Therefore rate away the importunate suitor, as Christ doth.
2. Arguments to persuade it.
[1.] Because he cannot overcome you without your own consent. The wicked are ‘taken captive by him at his will and pleasure.’ 2 Tim. ii. 26, because they yield themselves to his temptations; like the young man, Prov. vii. 22, ‘He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, and as a fool to the correction of the stocks.’ There is a consent, or, at least, there is not a powerful dissent. Satan’s power lieth not in a constraining efficacy, but persuasive allurement.
[2.] The sweetness of victory will recompense the trouble of resistance. It is much more pleasing to deny a temptation than to yield to it; the pleasure of sin is short-lived, but the pleasure of self-denial is eternal.
[3.] Grace, the more it is tried and exercised, the more it is evidenced to be right and sincere: Rom. v. 3-5, ‘Knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us.’ It is a comfortable thing to know that we are of the truth, and to be able to assure our hearts before God.
[4.] Grace is strengthened when it hath stood out against a trial; as a tree shaken with fierce winds is more fruitful, its roots being loosened. Satan is a loser and you a gainer by temptations wherein you have approved your fidelity to God; as a man holdeth a stick the faster when another seeketh to wrest it out of his hands.
[5.] The more we resist Satan, the greater will our reward be: 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8, ‘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.’ The danger of the battle will increase the joy of the victory, as the dangers of the way make home the sweeter. There will a time come when he that is now a soldier will be a conqueror: Rom. xvi. 20, ‘The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.’332
[6.] Where Satan gets possession, after he seemeth to be cast out, he returneth with the more violence, and tyranniseth the more: Mat. xii. 45, ‘Then goeth he and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in, and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.’
[7.] The Lord’s grace is promised to him that resisteth. God keepeth us from the evil one, but it is by our watchfulness and resistance; his power maketh it effectual. We are to strive against sin and keep ourselves, and God keepeth us by making our keeping effectual.
3. What are the graces that enable us in this resistance? I answer, the three fundamental graces, faith, hope, and love, so the spiritual armour is represented: 1 Thes. v. 8, ‘But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for an helmet the hope of salvation.’
[1.] A strong faith: 1 Pet. v. 9, ‘Whom resist, stedfast in the faith.’ This is, in the general, a sound belief of eternity, or a deep sense of the world to come: when we believe the gospel with an assent so strong as constantly to adhere to the duties prescribed, and to venture all upon the hopes offered therein.
[2.] A fervent love, arising out of the sense of our obligations to God, that we do with all readiness of mind set ourselves to do his will, levelling and directing our actions to his glory. ‘Love is strong as death, and many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it,’ Cant. viii. 6, 7. This love will neither be bribed nor frightened from Christ.
[3.] A lively hope, that doth so long and wait for glory to come, that present things do not greatly move us, either delights: 1 Pet. i. 8, ‘Whom having not seen ye love, in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;’ or the terrors of sense: Rom. viii. 18, ‘For I reckon that the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.’
Doct. 3. That those that come out of eminent conflicts are usually delivered by God in a glorious manner.
Christ was a pattern of this: ‘The devil leaveth him, and behold angels came and ministered unto him.’ When God delivered his people, after a long captivity, he delivered them with glory, and some kind of triumph, when he turned the Egyptian captivity: ‘They borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver and jewels of gold and raiment. And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required; and they spoiled the Egyptians,’ Exod. xii. 35, 36. So, in the Babylonian captivity, Cyrus chargeth his subjects, in the place where the Jews remain, to furnish them with all things necessary for their journey: Ezek. i. 4, ‘And whosoever remaineth in any place, where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, besides the freewill-offering for the house of God, that is in Jerusalem.’ So, in a private instance: Job xlii. 10, 11, ‘And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his 333sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house, and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.’ It is said, ‘The Lord turned the captivity of Job.’ because he had been delivered to Satan’s power till the Lord set him at liberty again, and then all his friends had compassion on him, even those that had despised him before relieved him. So Isa. lxi. 7, ‘For your shame you shall have double, and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion; therefore in their land they shall possess the double, ever lasting joy shall be unto them.’ They should have large and eminent honour, double honour for their shame, such a reparation would God make them for all the troubles and damages they had sustained. So, in an ordinary providence, God raiseth up comforters to his servants after all the injuries done them by Satan’s instruments. And so also in spirituals; the grief and trouble that cometh by temptation is recompensed with more abundant consolation after the conquest and victory; and God delighteth to put special marks of favour upon his people that have been faithful in an hour of trial. Now God doth this:—
1. To show the world the advantage of godliness, and close adhering to him in an hour of temptation: Ps. cxix. 56, ‘This I had, because I kept thy precepts.’ And Ps. lviii. 11, ‘So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous, verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.’
2. To check our diffidence and murmurings under trouble. Within a while and God’s children will see they have no cause to quarrel with God, or repent that they were in trouble. For sometimes God giveth not only a comfortable but a glorious issue. There is nothing lost by waiting on providence; though we abide the blows of Satan for a while, yet abide them; God is, it may be, preparing the greater mercy for you: Isa. xxv. 9, ‘And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’ Afflictions are sharp in their season, but the end is glorious.
Use. Do not always reckon upon temporal felicity, refer that to God, but do as Jesus, who, in his sharp trials, Heb. xii. 2, 3, ‘For the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ There is a sure crown of life: James i. 12, ‘Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.’ That is enough to content a Christian, the eternal reward is sure. In this world he shall receive with persecution an hundred-fold, but in the world to come eternal life: Mark x. 29, 30, ‘There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundred-fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life.’
Doct. 4. That God maketh use of the ministry of angels in supporting and comforting his afflicted servants.334
He did so to Christ, he doth so to the people of Christ. Partly for the defence and comfort of the godly: Ps. xxxiv. 7, ‘The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them;’ Heb. i. 14, ‘Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be the heirs of salvation?’ Their ministry is now invisible, but yet certain. And partly also for the terror of their enemies. When David had said, ‘The Lord hath chosen the hill of Sion to dwell in,’ Ps. lxviii. 16, he adds, ver. 17, ‘The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels;’ implying that no kingdom in the world hath such defence, and such potent and numerous armies as the church hath, and the kingdom of Christ. God hath fixed his residence there, and the angels serve him, and attend upon him; and he will be no less terrible to his foes in Sion, that oppose the gospel, than he showed himself in Sinai, when he gave the law. Where the king is there his attendants are; so where Christ is the courtiers of heaven take up their station. Now Christ is with his church to the end of the world, therefore these thousands of angels are there, ready to be employed by him. Now we may be sure of this ministry.
1. They delight in the preaching of the gospel, and the explication of the mysteries of godliness: 1 Pet. i. 12, ‘Which things the angels desire to look into;’ Eph. iii. 10, ‘To the end that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.’
2. They delight in the holy conversation of the godly, as they are offended with all impurity, filthiness, and ungodliness. If good men be offended at the sins of the wicked, as ‘Lot’s righteous soul was vexed from day to day with their ungodly deeds,’ 2 Pet. ii. 8, much more are these holy spirits, especially when all things are irregularly carried in the worship of God: 1 Cor. xi. 10, ‘For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, because of the angels;’ 1 Tim. v. 21, ‘I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things, without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.’
3. They fight against the devil, and defend the godly in their extreme dangers. When the devil cometh into the church of God, like a wolf into the flock, they oppose and resist him. Therefore there is said to be war in heaven, that is, in the church, between Michael and his angels, and the devil and his angels: Rev. xii. 7, ‘And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels.’ In the highest heaven there is no war. In short, the angels and believers make one church, under one head, Christ; and at length shall both live together in the same place.
Why doth God make use of the ministry of angels? and how far?
1. To manifest unto them the greatness and glory of his work in the recovering mankind, that their delight in the love and wisdom of God may be increased. All holy creatures delight in any manifestation of God, the angels more especially: 1 Pet. i. 12, ‘Which things the angels desire to look into;’ Eph. iii. 11, ‘To the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, may be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.’ Though they themselves be not the parties interested, the spectators, not the guests; yet they 335are delighted in the glory of God, and are kindly affectionated to the salvation of lost men; and that they may have a nearer view of this mystery, God ‘gratifieth them by sending them often to attend upon the dispensation of the gospel, and to assist in it so far as is meet for creatures. They are present in our assemblies: see 1 Cor. xi. 10, 1 Tim. v. 21. They see who is negligent in his office, who hindereth the preaching of the gospel; they observe what is the success of it, and when it obtaineth its effect: Luke xv. 7, ‘There shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.’ They are hereby more excited to praise and glorify God, and are careful to vouchsafe their attendance about the meanest that believe in him: Ps. xci. 11, 12, ‘He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.’
2. To maintain a society and communion between all the parts of the family of God. When God gathered together the things in heaven and in earth, he brought all into subjection and dependence upon one common head, Jesus Christ: Eph. i. 10, ‘That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.’ Men by adoption, angels by transition, are taken into the family of Christ. Now there is some intercourse between the several parts thereof. Our goodness extendeth not to them, but is confined to the saints on earth, in whom should be our delight; yet their help may be useful to us, they being such excellent and glorious creatures; but we are forbidden to invoke them or trust in them. God doth employ them in the affairs of his people. Their help is not the fruit of our trust in them, but their obedience to God; and it is seen in frustrating the endeavours of Satan and his instruments, and other services wherein Christ employeth them. God showed this to Jacob in the vision of the ladder, which stood upon earth, and the top reached to heaven—a figure of the providence of God, especially in and about the gospel: John i. 51, ‘Hereafter you shall see the heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man;’ to carry on the work of the gospel, and to promote the glory and interest of Christ’s kingdom in the world. Thus far in the general we may be confident of.
3. To preserve his people from many dangers and casualties, which fall not within the foresight of man, God employeth ‘the watchers,’ as they are called in the Book of Daniel, chap. iv. 13, 17, for he is tender of his people, and doth all things by proper means. Now the angels having a larger foresight than we, they are appointed to be guardians. This they do according to God’s pleasure, preventing many dangers, which we could by no means foresee. They observe the devil in all his walks, and God useth them to prevent his sudden surprisals of his people, as instances are many.
4. Because they are witnesses of the obedience and fidelity of Christ’s disciples, and, so far as God permitteth, they cannot but assist them in their conflicts. Thus Paul, 1 Cor. iv. 9: ‘We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels and to men.’ Now the angels, that are witnesses to their combats and sufferings, cannot but make report to God: Mat. xviii. 10, ‘Take heed that ye despise not one of 336these little ones, for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.’ The angels which are appointed by God to be their guardians have their continual recourses, and returns to God’s glorious presence. Now, being so high in God’s favour, and having continual access to make their requests and complaints known to him, they will not be silent in the behalf of their fellow-servants, that either the trial may be lessened, or grace sufficient may be given to them.
5. They do not only keep off hurt, but there are many blessings and benefits that we are partakers of by their ministry. As the angel of the Lord delivered Peter out of prison: Acts xii. 7, ‘And behold the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison; and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly; and his chains fell off from his hands,’ &c. But he doth not give thanks to the angel, but to God; ver. 11, ‘Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me,’ &c. He directeth it to God, not to the creature. The angels do us many favours; all the thanks we do them is that we do not offend them by our sins against God; other gratitude they expect not.
6. Their last office is at death and judgment. In death, to convey our souls to Christ: Luke xvi. 22, ‘And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom;’ that so we may enjoy our rest in heaven. In the last day they will gather the bodies of Christ’s redeemed ones from all parts of the world, after they have been resolved into dust, and mingled with the dust of other men, that every saint may have his own body again, wherein he hath obeyed and glorified God: Mat. xxiv. 31, ‘And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.’ That is, from all parts and quarters of the world, that their souls may return to their old beloved habitations, and then both in body and in soul they may be for ever with the Lord.
Use. Now this is a great comfort to the church and people of God, when the powers and principalities on earth are employed against them, to consider what powers and principalities attend upon Christ. We serve such a master as hath authority over the holy angels, to employ them at his pleasure; and in their darkest condition his people feel the benefit of it. As the angel of the Lord appeared to Paul in a dreadful storm: Acts xxvii. 23, 24, ‘There stood by me this night the angel of the Lord, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul,’ &c. So to Christ in his agonies: Luke xxii. 43, ‘There appeared an angel to him from heaven strengthening him.’ So against Satan, the good angels are ready to comfort us, as the evil angels are ready to trouble and tempt us. Let us then look to God, at whose direction they are sent to help and comfort us.
Doct. 5. If God taketh away ordinary helps from us, he can supply us by means extraordinary, as he did Christ’s hunger by the ministry of angels. Therefore till God’s power be wasted there is no room for despair. We must not limit the Holy One of Israel to our ways and means, as they did: Ps. lxxviii. 41, ‘They turned back, and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.’337
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