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But now must this needs be to man an inestimable comfort in all temptation if his faith fail him not: that is, that he may be sure that God is always ready to give him strength against the devil's might and wisdom against the devil's snares.
For, as the prophet saith, "My strength and my praise is our Lord, he hath been my safeguard." And the scripture saith, "Ask wisdom of God and he shall give it thee," in order "that you may espy," as St. Paul saith, "and perceive all the crafts." A great comfort may this be in all kinds of temptation, that God hath so his hand upon him who is willing to stand and will trust in him and call upon him, that he hath made him sure by many faithful promises in holy scripture that either he shall not fall or, if he sometimes through faintness of faith stagger and hap to fall, yet if he call upon God betimes his fall shall be no sore bruising to him. But as the scripture saith, "The just man, though he fall, shall not be bruised, for our Lord holdeth under his hand."
The prophet expresseth a plain comfortable promise of God against all temptations where he saith, "Whoso dwelleth in the help of the highest God, he shall abide in the protection or defence of the God of heaven." Who dwelleth, now, good cousin, in the help of the high God? Surely, he who through a good faith abideth in the trust and confidence of God's help, and neither, for lack of that faith and trust in his help, falleth desperate of all help, nor departeth from the hope of his help to seek himself help (as I told you the other day) from the flesh, the world, or the devil.
Now he then who by fast faith and sure hope dwelleth in God's help, and hangeth always upon that hope, never falling from it, he shall, saith the prophet, ever dwell and abide in God's defence and protection. That is to say, while he faileth not to believe well and hope well, God will never fail in all temptation to defend him. For unto such a faithful well-hoping man the prophet in the same psalm saith further, "With his shoulders shall he shadow thee, and under his feathers shalt thou trust." Lo, here hath every faithful man a sure promise that in the fervent heat of temptation or tribulation—for, as I have said divers times before, each is in such wise incident to the other that the devil useth every tribulation for temptation to bring us to impatience, and thereby to murmur and grudge and blasphemy; and every kind of temptation, to a good man who fighteth against it and will not follow it, is a very painful tribulation. In the fervent heat, I say therefore, of every temptation, God giveth the faithful man who hopeth in him the shadow of his holy shoulders. His shoulders are broad and large enough to cool and refresh the man in that heat, and in every tribulation he putteth them for a defence between. And then what weapon of the devil may give us any deadly wound, while that impenetrable shield of the shoulder of God standeth always between?
Then goeth the verse further, and saith unto such a faithful man, "Thine hope shall be under his feathers." That is, for the good hope thou hast in his help, he will take thee so near him into his protection that, as the hen, to keep her young chickens from the kite, nestled them together under her wings, so from the devil's claws—the ravenous kite of this dark air—will the God of heaven gather the faithful trusting folk near unto his own sides, and set them in surety, very well and warm, under the covering of his heavenly wings. And of this defence and protection, our Saviour spoke himself unto the Jews, as mention is made in the twenty-third chapter of St. Matthew, to whom he said in this wise: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets and stonest unto death them that are sent to thee, how often would I have gathered thee together, as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not."
Here are, cousin Vincent, words of no little comfort unto every Christian man. For by them we may see with what tender affection God of his great goodness longeth to gather us under the protection of his wings, and how often like a loving hen he clucketh home unto him even those chickens of his that wilfully walk abroad into the kite's danger and will not come at his clucking, but ever, the more he clucketh for them, the farther they go from him. And therefore can we not doubt that, if we will follow him and with faithful hope come running to him, he shall in all matter of temptation take us near unto him and set us even under his wing. And then are we safe, if we will tarry there, for against our will no power can pull us thence, nor hurt our souls there. "Set me near unto thee," saith the prophet, "and fight against me whose hand that will." And to show the great safeguard and surety that we shall have while we sit under his heavenly feathers, the prophet saith yet a great deal further, "In velamento alarum tuarum exaltabo." That is, that we shall not only sit in safeguard when we sit by his sweet side under his holy wing, but we shall also under the covering of his heavenly wings with great exultation rejoice.
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