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Mr. Clark's SERMON PREACHED TO A Society of Young Men.

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Spiritual Fortitude recommended to young Men, In resisting and overcoming the wicked one, by the Word of God abiding in them.

A SERMON PREACH'D At a LECTURE TO A Society of Young Men, In the North-Parish of Danvers, December 15th 1757. And Publish'd at their Request, with some Enlargement.

By Peter Clark, M. A. Pastor of the First Church in Danvers.

Eph. 6.12.

We wrestle not against Flesh and Blood, but against Principalities, against Powers, against the Rulers of the Darkness of this World, against spiritual Wickednesses in High Places.

1 Cor. 16.13.

Watch ye, stand fast in the Faith, quit you like Men, be strong.

BOSTON: Printed and Sold by Edes & Gill, at their Printing-Office in Queen-Street, 1758.

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Spiritual Fortitude recommended to Young Men.

1 JOH. II. 14.

— I have written unto you, young Men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have over­come the wicked one.

IT is observable, that the Apostle John, in the preceeding Verses, addresses his Exhortations and Admonitions to the Christians, to whom he directs this Epistle, under the several Titles or Appellati­ons of Fathers, Young Men, and Little Children; which Titles, or Characters, some understand as respecting the Diversity of the Degrees of Grace, that obtain among Christians, who according to their Standing and Proficiency in the School of Christ, are variously deno­minated, in Allusion to the natural Age; some, Fathers, from their Age and Experience in Christianity, their Wisdom and Knowledge of ancient Things; some, Young Men, [Page 2]from their spiritual Strength, and Fortitude, fitting them for Conflicts with Satan's Temptations, and for obtaining the Victory over them; some, Little Children, from their knowing God as a Father.—Others conceive these Distinctions to refer to the Diversity of the natural Age. And it is generally agreed, that the Words may be aptly accommodated to both Sorts, either to the several Ranks of Christians, differing from each other in Regard of their Growth in Christian Knowledge, and Holiness, as Fathers, young Men and Babes in Christ; or to the Diversity or Distinction of Christians with Respect to their natural Age. And it is without all Doubt, that the Holy Scrip­tures in general (as well as this Epistle) were written for the Use and Benefit of Christians, in common, of what­ever Rank or Age of human Life, old, or young. And there are in the Word of God Counsels, Instructions, and Encouragements, peculiarly adapted to Persons of every Age, particularly to young Men; they are counselled and exhorted to remember their Creator in the Days of their Youth, (Eccl. 12.1.) and caution'd against walking in the Ways of their Heart, and in the Sight of their Eyes. (Chap. 11.9.) Solomon declares it his Design in writing his Proverbs, to give unto the young Man Knowledge and Discretion. (Prov. 1.4.) And the Apostle Paul instructs Titus to give proper Advices to the Aged and Youth; par­ticularly to exhort young Men to be sober-minded. (Tit. 2.6.) There are also Examples of pious young Men set before them for their Encouragement and Imitation. Such was Joseph in Potiphar's Family. (Gen. 39.2,—9.) Such was Josiah King of Judah, who, in the Eighth Year of his Reign, while he was yet young (about the Sixteenth Year of his Age, for he began to reign, when he was Eight Years old) began to seek after the God of David his Father. (2 Chron. 34.1, 3.) Such was Obadiah, who feared the Lord from his Youth, (1 King. 18.12.) and others that might be named. And they were young Men in Age ('tis probable) as well as in Grace, to whom this Address is made by the Apostle, giving them a [Page 3]great Commendation for their spiritual Fortitude, in op­posing and vanquishing Satan, that Wicked one, thro' the Word of God abiding in them. I have written unto you, young Men, because ye are strong; and the Word of God abideth in you, &c.—And they are the young Men of this Flock, whom I propose now to address, agreable to these Words of the Apostle; young Men, who desire to bear and receive the Word of God, and of whom it may be hop'd, that his Word, both written and preached. will abide in them, to strengthen them unto spiritual Conflicts with, and Victory over Satan's Temptations, and thereby furnish them for good Service to God, and their Genera­tion. And happy those young Men, who are not only young in Age, but young Men in Grace, and in Christian Knowledge and Practice, strong Men in Christ; in whom this Character, and Commendation may be verified, Ye are strong to overcome the wicked one, having the Word of God abiding in you.

I shall briefly open the Words, and then apply them for Instruction and Exhortation to our young Men, under some Heads of Doctrine. And,

1. We may take Notice of the Perfection ascrib'd to these Young Men, which is, that they are strong. As old Men are fain'd for Wisdom; With the Antient is Wisdom (Job 12.12.) So young Men, for Strength. The Glory of young Men is their Strength. (Prov. 20.29.) Old Men are therefore fittest for Counsel and Advice, (hence it is noted as an Instance of great Weakness and Indiscretion in Rehoboam, that he forsook the Counsel of the old Men 1 King. 12.13.) as young Men are for Execution by their bodily Strength, which is most eminent in those of that Age. But it is spiritual Strength which is here intended, and the Effects of it are spiritual, in the Conquest of the Wicked one. And those who are young in Grace, are to be commended for this Strength, whereby they are ena­bled to overcome their Lusts, and to resist Temptations.

[Page 4] 2. The Means of this Strength is the Word of God abiding in them. Strength of the Mind, which is here spoken of, lies in strong Reasons, which beget Resolution, whereby the Mind is fortified against all Solicitations to turn aside from the Way of Truth and Righteousness. And the Word of God affords the strongest Reasons, to establish the Heart against Satan's Temptations; taken from the Evil of Sin, the Excellency, Pleasure and Ad­vantage of the Ways of Holiness, the Death of Christ for the Expiation of Sin, the Love and Mercy of God towards repenting Sinners, the awful Judgment to come, the Horrors of Hell, and the Happiness of Heaven, all clearly revealed in the Word of God. And those who have this Word abiding in them, as a Principle of the spiritual Life, deeply rooted in their Hearts, are thereby well furnished with Strength against their spiritual Enemies. The Word of God is the great Weapon of our spiritual Warfare. Eph. 6.17.—The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

3. The main Evidence, or Effect of this spiritual Strength, thro' the Word of God abiding in them, is their Victory over Satan, who is the Wicked One, and all his Lusts and Temptations;—and have overcome the Wicked One. He cannot mean a full and final Conquest; for that is not to be expected till the End of Life. Then (and not before) our Warfare shall be accomplished, and we pass from this militant State to the triumphant; but the Victory was begun at their first Conversion, when they first embraced the Holy Religion of Christ, being enabled by divine Grace to renounce the Devil, and all his Works, and to overcome all the Opposition he could make against their Entrance into the Kingdom of God. And this was a real Victory over that Wicked one, and an Earnest and Pledge of a full and compleat Victory at last.

4. This Description and Commendation he gives of these young Men in Christ, that he might the better en­force the Exhortations to Holiness, which he writes to them in this Epistle. I have written to you, young Men, [Page 5]for ye are strong, &c. And in pressing any Branch of Duty, certainly one of the most effectual Methods to gain our Point, especially with young People, is, to take Notice of and commend the Beginnings and Appearances of it in them, or such Instances of virtuous Goodness, as they have already attain'd unto: this, beside the Reasonable­ness of the Duty exhorted to, will excite a laudable Am­bition to go on, and make good the Commendation given them, in a more eminent Degree.—But I shall endeavour further to explain these several Heads of the Text, in a few Observations from it.

DOCT. I. That it is the Duty, and will be the Commendation, Honour, and Happiness of young Men, to be strong to overcome the Wicked one.

DOCT. II. The Means of acquiring this Strength is the Word of God, our receiving it into our Hearts, and having it abiding in us.

DOCT. III. That young Men, even such as have experienced the effectual saving Impression of the Word, are to be exhorted, and encouraged to the Duties of Christian Piety, by the Word of God, written or preached. I can speak but briefly to each of these Points.

DOCT. I. That it is the Duty, and will be the Com­mendation, Honour, and Happiness of young Men, to be strong to overcome the Wicked one. Here I shall make a few Remarks in general, for Illustration.

1. By the wicked one is meant the Devil. This is the Character he bears in the Writings of this Apostle. Chap. 3.12. Not as Gain who was of that wicked one, (i. e. the Devil, who was a Murderer from the beginning) and slew his righteous Brother. He had said before, ver. 8. He that committeth Sin, is of the Devil. This he exempli­fies in Cain, who was of that wicked one, the first-born of Satan. So Chap. 5.18. He that is begotten of God, keep­eth himself; and that wicked one toucheth him not. And he is elsewhere in Scripture stiled the wicked one. As in our Saviour's Parable of the Tares, Matth. 13.38. The Tares are the Children of the wicked one, i. e. the Chil­dren [Page 6]of the Devil; so 'tis explain'd in the next Words, ver. 38. The Enemy that sowed them, is the Devil. And in the old Testament we meet with the same Appellation. Psal. 109.6. Set thou a wicked Man over him; and let Satan stand at his right Hand.—Aynsworth translates it, Set in Office the wicked one over him. The Psalm is a prophetick Imprecation against Judas, the Betrayer of our Lord; as appears from the Application of the follow­ing 8th Verse to Judas, in Act. 1.20. And we know, the Devil had full Power given him over Judas, to hurry him on to his unnatural Treason against his Master; and after that, to lay violent Hands on himself. There are many wicked ones among the Children of Men, but the Devil is eminently and emphatically called that wicked one; being himself, the first in Wickedness, and fix'd in Wick­edness and Malice against God, and Holiness. The Devil sinneth from the Beginning. (1 Joh. 3.8.) He was the first Rebel, and Ringleader in Sin and Rebellion against God. 'Twas he that seduced our first Parents to that great Transgression, which has involv'd all Mankind in Sin and Death. And he has made it his Business ever since to draw and entice others to Sin and Wickedness; and is the Father of all Sinners among Men. He that committeth Sin, is of the Devil. (ibid.) Ye are of your Father the Devil (said Christ to the unbelieving Jews) and the Lusts of your Father ye will do. (Joh. 8.44.) He is the Enemy of all Righteousness; and that malici­ous apostate Spirit, that works in all the Children of Diso­bedience. (Eph. 2.2.) He works in the Hearts of all wick­ed People by their Lusts and corrupt Passions, instigating them to evil Practices. Justly therefore may he be stiled the wicked One.

But note here. Tho' he be called the wicked One, in the singular Number, yet we are not to think, that there is but one single wicked Spirit, that goes by the Name of the Devil and Satan, in Scripture; if so, surely, he could not carry on his wicked Designs with Men, all over the World, without having a Sort of Omnipresence [Page 7]ascribed to him. But the Scripture represents their Num­ber to be very great. The Apostle Paul terms them wicked Spirits, in the plural. Eph. 6.12. We wrestle not against Flesh and Blood, but against spiritual Wickednesses (Marg. Wicked Spirits) in high Places. There is an innumerable Company of these apostate Angels, many Legions of them. We read, not only of seven Devils, that were cast out of one Woman (Luk. 8.2.) but of a Legion of Devils, which Christ cast out of one Man. (Mar. 5.9.) "Notwithstanding the great Employment the Devils have among Men, walking to and fro in the Earth, to preserve and enlarge their Empire among the Children of Disobedience, we see they could spare an whole Legion to take Possession of one Man." How vast then must their Number be? And when we read of the Devil or Satan, in the singular Number, it is suppos'd, that the grand Devil is intended, who is called the Prince of Devils. Matt. 12.24. For he is represented as having a Kingdom in Opposition to the Kingdom of God, ver. 26, 28. And there is a vast Number of these apostate Spirits in Confederacy with the Arch-Devil, in the Rebellion against God; who are called the Angels of the Devil. Rev. 12.9. The Dragon was cast out—and his Angels with him. Matt. 25.41.—Everlasting Fire prepared for the Devil and his Angels. And it is suppos'd to have been one of those Angels of Satan, with whom Paul had that Conflict, mentioned 2 Cor. 12.7.—There was given me a Thorn in the Flesh, a Messenger of Satan to buffet one. And since they have all one common Interest, being combined together against God, and Christ, and Holiness, and the Salvation of Men's Souls; therefore whenever any one Angel of Satan assaults any particular Person with his Temptations, the Devil is said to tempt him. And whenever such an Angel of Satan is resisted or overcome, the Devil or the wicked One is said to be overcome, as if he were but one single evil Spirit; because they all hold together in one common Interest, being united in Opposition to the Souls of Men.

[Page 8] 2. The Things implied in overcoming this wicked One are,

1. That this wicked One is an Enemy, the great Enemy of our Souls. All Victory supposes Opposition from an Enemy we have gotten the Mastery of: and the three great Enemies we are called to encounter in this our warfaring State, are the Flesh, the World, and the Devil. But of these, the Devil is the principal; the World and the Flesh are his Auxiliaries; the World sup­plies the Matter of his Temptations. either the Pleasures and Gratifications of Sense, or the Terrors of Sense; the Flesh or carnal Lusts are the traiterous Party in our own Bosom, which are ready to betray us into the Snares of Satan; and by these Means he seeks to circumvent, and ruin us. Wherefore Satan is to be consider'd as our Enemy in a three-fold Respect, either as a Tempter, an Accuser, or a Tormentor.

  • (1.) As a Tempter. Herein he plainly shews his Enmity, that by tempting Men to sin against God and transgress his Laws, he might destroy them in Soul and Body forever. This was his Aim in tempting our first Parents to a Revolt from God: and what Ruin has he thereby bro't on Mankind? And this mali­cious Design he pursues in all his Temptations ever since, whereby he has been seducing the Children of Adam. In this his tempting Work (how plausible soever he appears in his Temptations to deluded Sinners) he goes about as a roaring Lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pet. 5.8.) Hence he has his Name, the Tempter. 1 Thess. 3.5.—
  • (2.) As an Accuser. Having tempted Men to sin, he accuseth them to God, that he may obtain a fuller Pos­session of them, and greater Power over them. So that Imprecation against Judas may be understood, Psal. 109. 6. Set a wicked Man (the wicked One, or the Devil) over him, i. e. Let him be given up to his Power, to hurry him to the Sin of betraying his Master; and then, Let Satan stand at his right Hand, as an Accuser, to his Con­demnation. The Right Hand being the Place in the antient Judicatories where the Accuser stood. Thus this [Page 9]inveterate Adversary manifests his Enmity, not only against wicked Men, who are wholly under his Power, but even against pious and good Men; as he is represented in Zechari­ah's, Vision, as accusing Joshua the High Priest of the Jews. Zech. 3.1. He shewed me Joshua the High Priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his Right Hand to resist him. So he accused Job of Hypo­crisy in serving God with a mercenary Spirit. Job 1.9, 10, 11. Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? &c. Hence he is stiled the Accuser of the Brethren. Rev. 12.10. But they are, for the most Part, false Accusations that he prefers against the People of God: but if they are not altogether groundless, they have an Advocate in Heaven, who effectually pleads for them.—
  • (3.) As a Tormentor. Hence he is said to have the Power of Death. Heb. 2.14.—that thro' Death he might de­stroy him that had the Power of Death, that is, the Devil. He is permitted in the righteous Judgment of God, to have the Power of Death, or of excuting the Curse on those who have given up themselves to the Power of his Temptati­ons. So he that was their Tempter, having succeeded therein, is appointed to be their Tormentor.

—In all these Respects the Devil is the grand Enemy of Mankind; but chiefly as a Tempter: For as an Accuser and Tormentor he could have no Advantage against them, unless he had first play'd his Part successfully as a Tempter; and as such, we are therefore principally concern'd to withstand this Enemy. This invisible Solicitor to Evil is little tho't on by careless Sinners, while they are intent on the Pur­suit of their Lusts and carnal Imaginations; they are not sensible of the Agency of any invisible Spirit, that is busily at work with, or upon them; are sensible of no other Influence they are under, than the Sway of their own natural Appetites and Passions. But if we believe divine Revelation, we are assur'd thence, that there are spiritual Wickednesses (or wicked Spirits) in High Places, which are the Rulers of the Darkness of this World, and work powerfully in all the Children of Disobedience. There [Page 10]are vast Multitudes of these infernal Spirits, busy with Men all over the World, endeavouring to draw, or drive them to Vice and Wickedness, or to divert them from their Duty. And tho' Satan has no immediate Knowledge of the Hearts of Men, nor immediate Access to them, yet he may be able to reach and affect the Powers of their Souls by Means of the corporeal Organs, that Imagination and bodily Spirits and Humours which fall under his Cog­nisance; and being a most subtle Spirit, is able to insinuate himself into their Fancies, which have a great Influence on their Wills and Affections, and thereby excite and in­flame their Lusts and Passions; and by Means of the cor­rupt Imaginations and Passions of Men, he has a great Advantage for enforcing his Baits of Temptation. But whether we are able to account for the Manner of the Devil's tempting Men or no, the Thing itself is real and undoubted, that he has a strong Hand in carrying Men out to all the wicked Acts of their Lives. Some more heinous Sins are more immediately from the Inspiration of Satan, such as the Sin of Judas (Joh. 13.2.) such also as Blasphemy, unnatural Sins, Self-murder, and the like: but in more ordinary. Sins there is more of the Hand of Satan than Men are commonly aware of, and more than even good Men are aware of: When David was stir­red up to the Sin of numbring the People (for a Sin it was in God's Account, and by David's Confession, 1 Chron. 21.7, 8.) we can hardly persuade ourselves, that he was at all sensible of the Agency of Satan in that Affair, or that the Reasons that mov'd him to it, were fetch'd from Hell; but it is affirm'd in the Word of God, 1. Chron. 21.1. And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. He has a greater Advantage against us, because we are so unobservant of him. This wicked one watches all Occasions for carrying on his wicked Designs; he is a vigilant Adversary, therefore we are required to be vigilant in opposing him, 1 Pet. 5.8. Hence are those frequent Cautions against the Wiles and Temptations of this subtle Adversary, 1 Cor. 7.3—Lest Satan tempt you [Page 11]for your Incontinency.—2 Cor. 2.11. Lest Satan should get an Advantage of us.—1 Thess. 3.5.—Lest by some Means the Tempter have tempted you, and our Labour be in vain. 1 Tim. 3.7.—Lest he fall into Reproach, and the Snare of the Devil.—Eph. 4.26.27. Let not the Sun go down on your Wrath: neither give Place to the Devil. Which implies, that the Devil has an Influence in raising and fo­menting wrathful Passions, and by harbouring and indulg­ing them we give Place to him, and give great Advantage to his Temptations. All which Cautions speak our Dan­ger from this Adversary as a Tempter; and as such we are particularly concern'd to withstand him.

And let me add,

2. The wicked one, as a Tempter, doth in a peculiar Manner assault young Men with his Temptations; both young Men in Age, and young Men in Grace. As God calls most earnestly for the youthful Age to be dedicated to, and employed in his Service, Remember thy Creator in the Days of thy Youth.—Mic. 7.1. My Soul desired the first ripe Fruit. So the Devil peculiarly bestirs himself by his Temptations to gain over young Men to his Party and Interest, as hoping for more Service from them, than from any other Age. But if they be also young Men in Christ, they may chiefly expect his Assaults, who have by Conversion entered on the Ways of Religion and Holiness, or who begin to mind Religion in good Earnest, and to set their Faces Zion-wards. These Beginners in Christianity Sa­tan bears a Spite against, and pursues them with his Temp­tations, if possible, to bring them back to his Service again, or otherwise to disturb their Peace and Comfort, and weary them in the Service of God. As Christ, as soon as he was baptiz'd and solemnly consecrated to his Office, and own'd as the Son of God, was tempted by the Devil, Matt. 4.1. And as the Christian Church, in the Vision of John, under the Emblem of a Woman cloathed with the Sun, &c. when being with Child, cried, travailing in Birth, and pained to be delivered, i. e. striving with great Earnestness, Labours and Conflicts in her Ministers, under Persecutions and Suf­ferings, [Page 12]to bring forth Children to God, The Dragon, (i. e. the Devil, that cruel and Blood-thirsty Adversary) stood before the Woman—to devour her Child, as soon as it was born. i. e. (as it may be interpreted) to assault and de­stroy (if possible) her young Convert: so young Christi­ans must expect Encounters from Satan, either by the Frowns or Flatteries of the World, and by the Corrupti­ons and Lusts of their own Hearts, asson as they set out in the Ways of Godliness; and should prepare accordingly, And the Ground of this Enmity of the Devil, against the new-born Christian, we have intimated in the Curse de­nounced against the old Serpent, which involves a Promise in Favour of Mankind, Gen. 3.15. I will put Enmity be­tween thee and the Woman, and between thy Seed and her Seed. Wicked Men, whilst in their Apostacy from God, are in Confederacy with Satan, who is the Head of the apostate World. But by converting Grace, God puts a Principle of Enmity into the Sinner's Heart against the Devil and all his Works; and so breaks off that Confede­racy: And then, no Wonder this malignant Adversary be­gins to show his Enmity against God and Holiness, in pursuing the new Convert with his Temptations and fiery Darts.

2. Another Thing implied in overcoming the wicked One, is a striving against, or resisting this Adversary. All Victory supposes a preceeding Combat or Struggle with an Enemy, and our Victory over Satan is not an imaginary, but a real Thing; and therefore not to be obtain'd but by a vigorous Resistance, and many Times by fore Conflicts. There must be a striving for the Mastery, and fighting in good earnest, and not as beating the Air. (1 Cor. 9.25, 26.) But here, we are not to consider the Devil as an external Foe, or our War with him, as lying abroad, at a Distance from us; but as one that has a mighty Party within us, by whose Means he carries on all his Opposition against our Souls: And the Seat of this War is in our own Souls. For (as we have observed) the Three grand Enemies that fight against us, are the Devil, the World, and the Flesh; [Page 13]and as of these Three, the Devil is the principal, so the most dangerous is the Flesh, or fleshly Lusts of our own Hearts; those Enemies of our own House, those Traiters in our own Bosoms, which are in the Interests of the Devil, and the World; and as they do, of themselves, war against our Souls, 1 Pet. 2.11. Abstain from fleshly Lusts, which war against the Soul—So they often betray us unto the Devil's Snares, and the Power of the World's Temptati­ons. 'Tis by these that the Devil and World prevail a­gainst us. So that the Contest, in Effect, lies between the 'Spirit and the Flesh, as the Apostle has represented it. Gal. 5.17. The Flesh lusleth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the Flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other. Or between an enlighten'd Conscience, and corrupt Lusts and Passions, which have different Interests, and draw several Ways. Conscience is on God's Side, and takes his Part in Behalf of the Soul. Carnal Lusts are on the Devil's Side, and take his Part against the Soul. If we yield to the corrupt Motions and Lusts of our own Hearts, we give Place to the Devil; but if we resist these with Vi­gour and Resolution, we resist the Devil, and put him to Flight: for he can have no Advantage against us, but what we give him by our own corrupt Lusts, in yielding a Com­pliance with his Temptations. 'Tis therefore our Con­cern, to join in heartily with God and Conscience, in oppo­sing the carnal Inclination, and in suppressing and mortify­ing sleshly Lusts. This Method of striving for the Maste­ry over our spiritual Enemies, the Apostle has recommend­ed by his own Example, 1 Cor. 9.26, 27.—So fight I, not as one that beateth the Air; but I keep under my Body (i. e. the corrupt Appetites and Lusts of the Body; and the Body itself, in Subordination to the Soul) and bring it into Sub­jection. And the Flesh being thus subdued, and kept un­der due Government and in Subjection to the Dictates of Reason, and the Rules of Religion, the Devil and the World may tempt in vain. And to maintain this Resistence, we are directed to put on the whole Armour of God, Eph. 6.11. The several Parts whereof are described, ver. 13,—18. [Page 14]The Meaning whereof in general is, that we should be in the daily Use and Exercise of those several Graces, and Means of spiritual Strength, which serve as an Armour to withstand our spiritual Enemies, and to defend our Souls against the malignant Effects of their Assaults: As Faith, Repentance, Self-Denial, Abstinence, the Word of God, and Prayer; to which must be joined constant Watchful­ness, as our Saviour hath directed, Matt. 26.41. Watch and pray, that ye enter not into Temptation.

Hence I proceed to shew.

4. Wherein consists our Victory over the wicked One? or when, or in what Instances may we be said to overcome this Enemy? We have chiefly considered him as an Ene­my to be resisted and overcome, as he is a Tempter; never­theless, he is an Adversary we have also to deal with as an Accuser; and there are many sad Conflicts with him, as such, which both young Converts, and more improved Chri­stians, are exposed to. But the best Way to get the Vic­tory over him as an Accuser, is by Prevention, by repel­ling his Temptations, and maintaining our Innocence and Integrity, notwithstanding all his Assault;; so we shall prevent his Design in feelding Occasion to accuse us to God, or render his Accusations groundless, and then they can do us no Harm. But if we yield to his Temptations, in being thereby drawn to Sin, both the Law of God and our own Confciences will join in with Satan, in accusing and condemning us: In which Case (as it but too often happens) the only Way to overcome this Adversary as an Accuser, is to have Recourse to the Blood of the Lamb. Thus the primitive Christians overcame the Accuser of the Brethren, by the Blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 12.10, 11.) In this Case we must fly to the Patronage of our almighty Advocate Jesus Christ, confessing Guilt, and pleading with God the Propitiation in the Blood of Christ, and his all­sufficient Merit and Righteousness, to which alone we be­take ourselves by Faith, for Justification; and by which all Satan's Accusations are invalidated, to the Believer. And upon this Plea we may stand secure, and boldly make that [Page 15]Challenge, Rom. 8.33.34. Who shall lay any Thing to the Charge of God's Elect? it is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died; yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right Hand of God, who also maketh Intercession for us. So we may come off more than Conquerors, thro' him that loved us. Ver. 27.

But the Enquiry chiefly relates to our Victory over Sa­tan as a Tempter. And then we may be said to overcome the wicked one, when we successfully resist his Tempta­tions, and stand our Ground, so as to defeat his cursed Design thereby, either to draw us to Sin and Wickedness, or to divert us from our Duty. And the Devil being o­vercome, as a Tempter, our Victory over him as an Ac­cuser and Tormentor, follows of Course. And there are Three special Seasons, in which we are called to encounter and overcome this ghostly Adversary; which are so many Instances of our Victory over him.

(1.) At Conversion; when a Sinner by divine Grace breaks thro' all Opposition, from the Devil, the World, and the Flesh, in a resolute turning from Sin to God. The Devil sets himself with all his Power and Craft to oppose and hinder the saving Conversion of a Soul. He raises all his Forces, from the Flesh and the World, in Opposition to it. The Flesh, he knows, is in his Interest, being whol­ly addicted to the Things of Time and Sense, whereby he endeavours to extinguish all spiritual Sensations and Moti­ons of the Soul to God and Holiness and the Things a­bove; for the carnal Mind is Enmity against God, for it is not subject to his Law, Rom. 8.7. And the carnal Mind, Lusts and Imaginations, are the strong Holds of Satan in Men's Spirits; which must be cast down by a superior Pow­er, before they will be captivated to the Obedience of Christ. Hence his Possession of the Hearts of Sinners, and Dominion over them, our Saviour has represented by the Parable of a strong Man armed keeping his Palace, Luk. 11.21, 22. And the worldly Baits of Pleasure, Pro­fit, and Honour, suited to the Three capital Lusts, the Lust of the Flesh, the Lusts of the Eye, and the Pride of [Page 16]Life, are the Armour wherewith the strong Man endea­vours to strengthen his Possession of the Palace (i. e. of the Souls of Men) and does all he can to secure it to himself, and fortify it against the Lord Jesus. The Devil is so mortal an Enemy to the Conversion of Souls, because thereby his Kingdom goes to Ruin, which is founded in Sin and Wickedness. And he has often a great Hand in preventing the saving Efficacy of the Word for Conversion, in many careless Souls, by distracting their Minds with worldly Cares, diverting them from a serious Attention, filling them with vain Fancies and drawing out their Lusts, that he might intercept the saving Profit of the Word; as our Saviour has plainly intimated, Matt. 13.19. When any one heareth the Word of the Kingdom, and understand­eth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his Heart. The Devil is especi­ally very active and busy with Souls under Convictions and Awakenings, either tempting them to Presumption, persuading them that some slight Sorrow for Sin, and a few Words of Confession and Prayer, is enough to intitle them to God's Mercy; and that there is no Need of so much Strictness and Preciseness, but that they may yet safely allow themselves in some carnal Liberties, and after all hope in God's Mercy for Pardon and Salvation: Or else persuading them that they have Time enough for Repen­tance, and that there is no need of so much Haste in the Master; but that they may defer it till, they have tasted the Pleasures of Sin, and bathed themselves in the Delights of the Flesh and the World a little longer, unto a more convenient Season, which they promise themselves with Felix, Act. 24, 25. and thus the Convictions of many prove abortive.—Or discouraging them by representing the Difficulties & Austerities of a religious Life, to restrain them by Fear, or by working on their Shame; suggesting, that they will be laugh'd at by their loose Companions, as hy­pocritical and precise.—Or if all this will not answer his Purpose, but their Convictions are too powerful to be re­moved by such slighty Methods; then he betakes himself [Page 17]to his terrifying Assaults, and tempts them to despair of God's Mercy, by representing their Sins in such horrid Aggravations, as to leave no Room for Hope; and thus he sets upon them as a roaring Lion, increasing the Horrors of their Consciences, by setting before them the Terrors of the Law, and concealing from them the only Relief or Remedy bro't in by Gospel-Grace, urging upon their Minds the desperate Conclusion, that they are Cast­aways, and abandoned by God; and that it is in vain to use the Means, to pray, or entertain any Hope of Salva­tion. Thus the Devil sets himself to oppose the Conver­sion of a Soul, either by his stubtle Wiles, or fiery Darts. Now, in such a Case, this malicious Adversary may be said to be overcome, when an awaken'd Sinner, under deep Conviction of the Sinfulness and Danger of his State, breaks thro' all Discouragements and Impediments, and with a fixed Resolution gets over all Opposition from within and from without, and with a steady Violence presses into the Kingdom of Heaven. For the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth Violence, and the violent take it by Force. (Matt. 11.12.) When be not only seeks, but strives to enter in at the strait Gale. (Luk. 13.24.) When he puts a kind of Force upon his corrupt Nature; and notwithstanding the Temptations of the World, and the Suggestions of the wicked One, he is resolv'd, upon any Terms, to secure the Salvation of his Soul: When a Sinner, I say, thus reso­lutely breaks thro' all this potent Opposition, to get into the Kingdom of Christ, this is a glorious Victory; he is already a Conqueror; tho' it is by the Power of divine Grace, that he gets this Victory. And to the Honour of this divine Grace it must ultimately be refer'd. 2 Cor. 10.4. The Weapons of our Warfare are—mighty through God, &c. Yet the Victory itself, in the Work of Repen­tance and Conversion, must be the Sinner's own Act, under the Influence of divine Grace. 2 Tim. 2.25, 26.—If God peradventure will give them Repentance, to the acknow­ledging of the Truth; and that they may recover themselves our of the Snare of the Devil, who are taken Captive by [Page 18]him at his Will. When God gives Repentance, the Penitent co-operates with the Grace of God, and recovers himself out of the Snare of the Devil, and so overcomes; and in stead of being any longer a Captive of Satan, triumphs over him.

(2.) Another Instance of this Victory over Satan is, when he is resisted in any particular strong Temptation, wherewith he assaults the Christian. Tho' converting Grace sets the Christian at Liberty in a great Measure from the Power of Satan's Temptations, yet it does not free him from the Assaults of his Temptations. These he must expect, more or less, during his whole Life: but a stedfast Resistance of this malicious Adversary is, in Effect, Victory over him. For a Christian not to yield, not to give Place to the Devil (as the Expression is, Eph. 4.27.) but to stand his Ground, is to overcome: There­fore saith the Apostle, Jam. 4.7.—Resist the Devil, and he will slee from you; he will slee as a baffled Enemy. There is no Medium in this War, between conquering and being conquered. If therefore, when the Tempter seeks by carnal Pleasures or carnal Fears to turn us aside from our Duty, or solicit us to that which is Evil, we tamely yield to his Solicitation, we put the Victory into his Hand, and suffer ourselves to be overcome by him. But if we stand out with Resolution not to yield upon any Terms, we conquer, and put to flight our Enemy.

(3.) The Devilis finally overcome, when a Christian holds out with Constancy in this Warfare, until the finishing of his Course, and suffers not himself to be seduced or di­verted by all the Temptations and Oppositions he meets with, in his Way to the Kingdom of God, from the Devil and the World, but approves himself a faithful Soldier and Follower of Christ unto Death: For to be faithful unto Death, and finally to overcome, are in Effect the same Thing. Rev. 2.10. Be thou faithful unto Death, and I will give thee a Crown of Life. To the same Purpose it follows, ver. 11.—He that overcometh, shall not be hurt of the second Death. Then the Christian Soldier is a com­pleat [Page 19]Conqueror, and receives the Garland of Immortality from the Captain of his Salvation. The Victory over the wicked one, in the two former Respects, the Christian gains in this Life; and this is especially intended in our Text; for the Apostle speaks of a Conquest already obtained: Ye have overcome the wicked one. The final Victory is reserv'd till the Time that he puts off Mortality, and therewith all the Relicts of Corruption. Then Satan, with all his confederate Powers, the Flesh, and the World, shall be entirely vanquish'd, according to that Promise, Rom. 16.20. The God of Peace shall bruise Satan under your Feet shortly. Then the conquering Christian shall be set beyond the Reach of all Assailants for ever. The Tempter has no Place found for him in Heaven.

I add now,

5. There is much spiritual Strength required for get­ting this Victory. As no Victory is to be obtain'd without a preceeding Fight or Struggle, wherein the Strength of the Combatant is tried; so this is an Adversary not to be repell'd or put to Flight by a faint Resistance; but the Exertion of our utmost Strength and Vigour is requisite to that End. For this, these young Men are commended, Ye are strong,—and have overcome the wicked one. Now Strength is two-fold, natural and spiritual. Again, natural Strength is either of the Body or of the Mind. Bodily Strength, tho' a natural Perfection, and the Glory of young Men, who are apt to boast in their Strength, where­by they are are able to worst an Adversary, yet is no great Excellence, nor properly human; many of the brutal Kind are, for Strength, superiour to the strongest Men: Let not, then, the mighty Man glory in his Might. (Jer. 9.23.) There is also the Strength of the Mind and Spirit;—Of the Mind, to comprehend and retain a great Number of Idea's, and to reason with Force and Clearness, upon any Subject. And Strength of the Spirit, to bear up with Alacrity and Vigour under Afflictions and Infirmi­ties. The Spirit of a Man will sustain his Infirmity. (Prov. 18.14.) But if thou saint in the Day of Adver­sity, [Page 20]thy Strength is small. (Chap. 24.10.) And also to encounter Dangers with an undaunted Valour, to face an Enemy in the Field of Battle, with a firm and fearless Resolution. This is martial Strength or Courage, arising from the Heat of Blood and Spirits. And this Kind of Strength, especially if join'd with bodily Strength, is of great Use to the Publick in a Time of War, in those that are called out for its Defence, or engag'd in any military Expedition against an Enemy: And it is much to be commended and encouraged in our young Men, who are chiefly (as Instruments in the Hand of Providence) our Strength and Defence in a Time of War; and who, as the present War continues, may be called forth into the Service of the Publick, against the Enemies of our Land; their Fortitude both of Body and Mind, Courage and Valour join'd with bodily Strength, will be likely to do Honour to themselves, and their Country.—But it is not natural Strength, that is required to combate with, and overcome the wicked Spirit; yea, those that excel in bodily Strength, are often some of the chief Slaves of the Devil, and are easily taken Captive by him at his Will; while many of a weaker Constitution are enabled by divine Grace to stand their Ground, and put him to Flight. But it is spiritual Strength, that is suited to this spiritual War­fare, which consists in a firm Resolution, grounded on the eternal Reasons of Truth and Righteousness, propounded to us in the Word of God. 'Tis the Strength of the inner Man. Hence that Prayer of the Apostle, Eph. 3.16. That he would grant unto you according to the Riches of his Glory, to be strengthened with Might by his Spirit in the inner Man. 'Tis the Strength of Faith, Hope, Love, Joy, Zeal, Patience; which divine Graces are begotten, che­rish'd and invigorated in us by the Word, accompanied by the Spirit of God to our Hearts, and are our Armour of Defence against all the Enemies of our Salvation. The Christian Graces, therefore, are often set forth in Scrip­ture, under the Notion of Armour, adapted to their spiri­tual Warfare; particularly 1 Thess. 5.8.— Puting on [Page 21]the Breast-plate of Faith and Love, and for an Helmet the Hope of Salvation. These Graces in their vital Exercise establish the Soul, as on a firm Rock, against all the Assaults the Devil can make upon it, either by the Allure­ments or Terrors of Sense. This Strength we derive from Christ, by his Spirit, in whom we have both Righte­ousness and Strength, (Isai. 45.24.) and are therefore directed to depend on him alone for Strength in all our spiritual Conflicts; to be strong in the Lord, and in the Power of his Might (Eph. 6.10.) to be strong in the Grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. 2.1.) This Strength is not of ourselves; if left to ourselves, or to the meer Power of Nature, we should every Day be liable to be­come an easy Prey to Satan; but it is put into us by su­pernatural divine Grace. Hence, when Paul was buffetted by a Messenger of Satan, be receiv'd this Answer from the Lord to his Prayer for Help and Deliverance; My Grace is sufficient for thee: for my Strength is made per­fect in Weakness. (2 Cor. 12.9.) Therefore (saith he, Ver. 10.) I take Pleasure in Infirmities, &c. for when I am weak, then am I strong. And the Strength of divine Grace in a weak Believer will enable him to carry the Victory over this mighty Adversury.

And now, what a commendable Thing? What a glori­ous Thing is it, in any Christian, compassed with Infirmities, to be able in the Strength of divine Grace to combat with, and conquer this inveterate Enemy of his Soul, the wicked one? What Glory and Renown do earthly Conquerors think themselves intitled to, who fight but against Flesh and Blood? And what Honours and Applauses are paid them by High and Low, on their gaining any signal Victo­ry? Surely, it is a much more reputable and glorious Thing in the Eye of Heaven, to become a Conqueror in the spiritual War, in fighting against spiritual Wicked­nesses in High Places; as the Perfections and Attainments of the Mind are far more noble and excellent than those of the Body. And it is a great Favour of God. and a great Honour that he puts upon a poor sinful Man, when [Page 22]he is enabled by Strength from above to recover himself out of the Snare, and from under the Power of the Devil, and to grapple with and overcome this ghostly Adversary. This will intitle him to the Approbation of God, to the Euge and Applause of Christ, and of holy Angels, which is an Honour, to which there is nothing comparable on Earth.

And if this spiritual Strength, and Victory obtain­ed by it, be justly reckon'd a commendable Attainment in any others of the Sons of Men, it is much more so in those of the youthful Age, in whom the bodily Appe­tites and Passions are usually most impetuous, and impor­tunate to be gratified, which gives Satan a great Advantage against them. But it will be an Argument of spiritual Fortitude in young Men, highly to their Commendation, to be able to govern their Affections. Appetites, Senses and Passions, and keep them in Subjection to the Rule of Reason and Grace, so as to defeat the Temptations of the wicked one. Young Men are apt to value themselves upon their bodily Strength, when they have thereby been an Over-match for an Antagonist; yet this which seems so glorious, hath no Glory in Comparison of the more ex­cellent Strength, which enables them to struggle with and get the Mastery of spiritual Enemies. For, saith Solomon, He that ruleth his Spirit, is better than he that taketh a City. (Prov. 16.32.) There needs great Strength of Resoluti­on, and a wise Conduct, for a Man to conquer himself and subdue his Will and Passions to the grave Dictates of Rea­son and Conscience. And this is a more honourable and happy Conquest, than that which is obtained over an Ene­my by outward Force, Blood and Slaughter, which is a Stain to Victory itself. And while we keep up the Go­vernment and Command of ourselves, and keep Possession of our own Souls, we frustrate the Attempts of the wick­ed one, and triumph over him; who can have no Power against us as a Tempter, but in and from ourselves. 1 Joh. 5.18.—He keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. Let young Men then see here the Way to true Glory. Shew yourselves Men, by preserving the Dignity [Page 23]of your rational Nature, by suppressing corrupt Affections and Lusts, keeping a watchful Eye, and a strict Hand over that traiterous Party within yourselves, whence your great­est Danger arises in this Warfare; in which your main Contention ought to be for the Dominion of Reason and Grace over carnal Passions and Imaginations, by strictly adhering to the Principles and Precepts of Wisdom and Virtue. And if you prevail in this Contest (which is in itself justifiable and honourable in the Sight of God, and of all wise and good Men) it will redound to your ever­lasting Honour. What an honourable Memorial is left of sacred Record, of Joseph, when a young Man in Poti­phar's Family, in his giving that brave Repulse to the Temptations he was accosted with from his lewd Mistress? How can I do this great Wickedness, and sin against God? (Gen. 39.9.) This was a noble Victory, and 'tis recorded to his Praise thro' all Generations. Tho' your grand Enemy be very powerful and politic, yet by the Grace of Christ you may overcome; and if you stedfastly adhere to his Interest, in his Strength you shall overcome; and the weaker in yourselves, the more glorious will be the Victory obtain'd in the Strength of divine Grace. 'Tis recorded to the Honour of David, that, tho' a Strippling. yet in the Name of the Lord of Hosts he encounter'd and vanquish'd the Philistine Giant, Goliah of Gath, and silenc'd his insolent Boasts and Threats. On which Oc­casion, 'tis tho't, he penn'd the 8th Psalm, in which he thus sings, (Ver. 2.) Out of the Mouth of Babes and Suck­lings hast thou ordained Strength, because of thine Enemies; that thou mightest still the Enemy and the Avenger. And in the Name and Strength of Christ (tho' in yourselves as weak as Babes and Sucklings) you may be as successful in conquering the Goliah of Hell, to the Praise of divine Strength, which is made perfect in Weakness; at the same Time, it will be a great Honour and Happiness God will bestow upon you, in making you victorious over this infer­nal Adversary. By overcoming this wicked one, you will shew forth a superior Strength thro' the Grace of the [Page 24]second Adam, to that which the first Adam with all his Perfections in Paradise was possess'd of or at least put in Exercise, when tempted to the Transgression. Hereby you will in same Measure retrieve the Honour of the human Nature, that was so shamefully forfeited and thrown away by our first Parents yielding to the Temptations of the Devil; hereby you will gain Re-admittance to the Tree of Life, or a blessed Immortality, tho' not in the earthly, yet (which will be infinitely more to your Advantage) in the heavenly Paradise; according to that Promise of Christ, Rev. 2.7. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Pa­radise of God.

Thus much for the first Point of Observation, which I proposed chiefly to insist on, viz. That as it is the Duty of all, so it will be peculiarly the Commendation, Honour and Happiness of young Men, to overcome the wicked one.

I shall now add a Word or two to the remaining Heads of Doctrine.

DOCT. II. The Means of acquiring this Strength is the Word of God; our receiving it into our Hearts, and having it abiding in us.—Ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, &c. Or, because the Word of God abideth in you, ye are made strong to resist and over­come Satan and his Temptations. This spiritual Strength we have from Christ originally, as the principal Author, communicated to us by his Spirit; but the Word of God (viz. in the Gospel-Revelation) is the Means of its Communication. And this Word is a very apt and proper Means of imparting Strength to the Souls of Men, whether for Duties and Services, or for Sufferings and Trials, or for Conflicts with spiritual Enemies; for all which Purposes, we need to be strengthened with Might by the Spirit in the inner Man. But it is Strength for our spiritual Warfare, as the Effect of the indwelling Word, that comes under present Consideration. And the Word of God received and improved by Faith, is the Soul's Strength, whereby it is able to withstand the strongest [Page 25]Assaults of Temptation. It is the Sword of the Spirit, which being wielded by the Hand of Faith, never fails to put to Flight our great Adversary. It was by the same Means, that Christ vanquished the Devil, when tempted by him in the Wilderness; by alledging pertinent Passages of Scripture (which the Devil could not withstand the Force of) It is written, &c. Matth. 4.1, 4, &c. And by the Example of our Lord we are taught and encourag'd to make use of the same Weapon, for repelling the Assaults of this Adversary. But it is the Word of God abiding in us, which is of such Force in our spiritual Conflict. This Word receiv'd and settled as a Principle in the Heart, and constantly improved by Faith and Meditation, will be to the young Man a sovereign Antidote against Satan's Temp­tations. So, we find it recommended by the Psalmist, to the young Man, as the Means of keeping himself pure from the defiling Lusts and Temptations of the World and the Devil. Psal. 119.9. Wherewith shall a young Man cleanse his Way? By taking Heed thereto according to thy Word. When the Word not only floats in the Imagination, or furnishes Matter of Discourse; but sinks down into the Heart, and is laid up, or hid there, as a choice Treasure, It will be an effectual Guard against Sin and Temptation: as the Psalmist goes on to say, Ver. 11. Thy Word have I hid in mine Heart, that I might not sin against thee. If the Word hath Place and abides in our Hearts, prevailing Lusts shall have no Place there; tho' they remain and infest us, they shall be so check'd, and kept under the Power of the Word, that they shall not prevail; and so Satan's Designs shall be more easily deseated: for he assaults us by these Lusts, and hath all his Success from them. Now the Word receiv'd into, and abiding in the Heart, is available to the Purposes of our spiritual Warfare.

(1.) As it is the Means of quickening us to the Life of God and Holiness, and thereby puts spiritual Strength into us. 'Tis the abiding Word, that is the Principle of the new Life. 1 Pet. 1.23. Being born again, not of corruptible Seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God [Page 26]which liveth and abideth for ever. And there is an irre­concileable Opposition between this abiding Seed of Grace, and all Sin. 1 Joh. 3.9. Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit Sin; for his Seed remaineth in him. The Word of God abiding in us, as the Seed or Principle of an holy Life, has a sovereign Efficacy to guard it against every Thing prejudicial to this Life.

(2.) As it maintains this spiritual Life in Vigour. 1 Pet. 2.2. As new-born Babes, desire the sincere Milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby, i. e. increase in spiritual Strength, unto a confirmed State of Grace. The Word of God abiding in us, with Respect to our spiritual War­fare, is the same Thing in Effect with Faith in the Gospel-Revelation. For it is by Faith we receive the Impression of the Word, and it's abiding Influence on the Heart. And it is Faith that is our main Armour, our Shield and Breast-plate in this spiritual War. (Eph. 6.16. & 1 Thess. 5.8.) Yea, it is our Victory over the World, the Flesh and the Devil. (1 Joh. 5.4.) And the holy Dispositions, which correspond to the Impression of the several Parts of the Word received by Faith, do strongly fence the Soul against all Temptations. So I might go on to shew how the several Parts of the Word, Doctrines, Precepts, Promises and Threatnings, contribute to our spiritual Strength.— The Doctrines of the Word exhibit the most potent Rea­sons and Arguments to fortify Resolution for our Conflicts (in which it was observed, the Strength of the Mind con­sists) as they discover to us the Evil of Sin, and the Mise­ry it has involv'd us in, and the Method of our Recovery thro' the Grace and Mercy of God in Jesus Christ; the Faith whereof works by Love, which is of signal Use in our spiritual Warfare, as well as Work and Service; and serves for a Breast-plate to keep the Heart entire for God. 1 Thess. 5.8. Putting on the Breast-plate of Faith and Love. The Doctrine of another Life, of a Judgment to come, a State of everlasting Rewards and Punishments, are fortifying Considerations.—Faith gives Weight and Force to the Commands of the Word, by urging the Au­thority [Page 27]of God upon the Conscience, which strikes Temp­tations dead.—Faith in the Promises works by Hope, of the Favour of God, Pardon and Life everlasting, which Hope is the Christian's Helmet, (1 Thess. 5.8.—And for an Helmet, the Hope of Salvation) which secures the Head, and keeps up firm Resolution under Dangers and Dis­couragements, and opposes the Love and Approbation of God and the eternal Reward, to all the tempting Offers of the Devil and the World—In the Threatnings of the Word, Faith works by Fear of Death and Judgment, the Wrath to come and eternal Damnation; which is a mighty Preservative against the alluring Baits of Satan, and the Affrightments of Sense, whereby he seeks to divert the Christian from his heavenly Course. There are many spiritual Considerations suggested in the Word of God, which tend greatly to confirm the Mind, and are effectual. being applied by Faith, to repel Satan's Assaults, and baffle all his Attempts. Men are first drawn off from the Con­sideration of the grave and serious Truths of the Word, which should establish their Hearts, before a Temptation can have any Force upon them; for its Prevalency begins here. Jam. 1.14. Every Man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own Lusts, &c. But when the Word abideth in us, and our Hearts are stored with the holy Truths of it, we have a spiritual Weapon ready at Hand, to defend our­selves, and repel the Force of all Temptations. Isai. 30.21. Thine Ears shall hear a Word behind thee, saying, This is the Way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the Right Hand, and when ye turn to the Left. But not to insist further on this Head.—Let me speak a Word now to the third and last Observation.

DOCT. 3. That young Men, even such as have expe­rienced the effectual saving Impression of the Word, are to be exhorted and encouraged to the Duties of Christian Piety by the Word of God, written or preached.

Tho' these young Men, address'd in the Text, had the Word of God abiding in them, and had Experience of the powerful Effects of it, tho' they had already overcome [Page 28]the wicked one; yet the Apostle sees meet to write to them, to instruct, exhort, and admonish them.—Partly, be­cause the most improved and establish'd Christians are yet but imperfect, with Regard both to their Work and Warface, and not past all Danger, therefore have Need of frequent Excitations and Cautions from the Word of God. Psal. 19.11.—By them is thy Servant warned. Much more young Men, who are but Novices in this spiritual War. The Apostle suggests, that tho' they had exerted their For­titude in overcoming the Wicked one, in Part, yet they had but enter'd on their Warfare, and must not think they are out of Danger, but must expect and prepare for new As­saults, and nor suffer the Devil to wrest the Victory they had obtain'd, out of their Hands; but pursue it to a final and compleat Conquest. So his commending them for their spiritual Strength, is in Effect exhorting them to the Exercise of it in maintaining their Ground, with Perse­verance, in their future Conflicts; and a cautioning them against fainting under any Trials they might meet with. And so his Aim seems much the same with that of the Apostle Peter in writing his second Epistle, Chap. 3.17.— Beware, lest ye being led away with the Error of the Wicked, fall from your own Stedfastness. They had shewn their Stedfastness in the Faith, by resisting and defeating their great Adversary: after this, it would be a Shame to them, to give Ground, and to fall from their own Stedfastness.—And partly, because the good Impression of the Word once receiv'd is an Encouragement to hope, that the Counsels and Instructions of it will meet with proper Entertainment for the Time to come. I have written unto you, young Men, saith the Apostle. What is it he had written? The Doctrines, Precepts and Admo­nitions, contain'd in this Epistle, especially in the Verses of the Content: as

  • (1.) His Caution against Sin, ver. 1.
  • (2.) Instructions and Directions to convinced Sinners, to look to Jesus as their only Advocate and Propitiation for Sin, ver. 1, 2.
  • (3.) Recommending Obedience to the Gospel, as the great Evidence of the Knowledge and Love [Page 29]of God, ver. 3, 5.
  • (4.) His enforcing his new Com­mandment of Love to the Brethren, ver. 7—10.

And in the following Context, his Caution against the Love of the World, ver. 15, &c. All which are highly necessary to be inculcated on all Ranks of Christians; but may be more peculiarly adapted to those of the youthful Age.—But waving all doctrinal Enlargements on this Observation—

APPLICATION.

I shall apply myself to the main Design of this Dis­course, in addressing our young Men with proper Counsels and Exhortations, agreable to the Mind and Intention of the Apostle in our Text.

I am therefore to speak to you, young Men, in Way of particular Application, what the Apostle has here written unto young Men. And it is with Pleasure I have reflected on it, that it is at your Request I have taken upon me to speak to you in this Manner; and therefore am the more encouraged to speak to you the Word of God in his Name, in Hope that the Word so spoken may abide in you, to strengthen you to overcome the wicked one, who (you are not to doubt) will be very busy to oppose your Entrance upon, and Progress in the Ways of serious Piety, as soon as you begin to look towards the Kingdom of God. And this is the Subject of the first Exhortation I shall ad­dress unto you; and then shall briesly press the other Les­sons of Piety exhibited in the Context.

First, Let me exhort you, young Men, to acquit your­selves as strong Men in Christ, by manfully resisting Lusts and Temptations, so as to overcome the wicked one: Or in the Words of the Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 16.13. Watch ye; stand fast in the Faith, quit you like Men, be strong. Eph. 6.10, 11.—Be strong in the Lord, and in the Power of his Might. Put on the whole Armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the Wiles of the Devil. For your Excitation and Encouragement, let me briefly propose to your Consideration, (1.) This Warfare will admit of no [Page 30]Neutrality. As the Kingdom of Christ is diametrically opposite to that of Satan; so you must, of Necessity, be on Christ's Side, or on Satan's. In this Case, Christ saith, He that is not with me, is against me. (Matt. 12.30.) He will endure no Neuters; his Soul nauseates luke-warm Professors; 'tis not enough, that you don't join with those who are manifestly the Children of the wicked one, in open and gross Wickedness; but you must heartily join in with Christ, and espouse his Interest, in Opposition to the Devil and all his Works; otherwise you will be reput­ed to belong to the Camp of his Enemies. There must be no Peace with Satan. You must either fight or die, overcome or perish. He that overcometh, (saith Christ) shall not be hurt of the second Death. (Rev. 2.11.) And what does this imply, but that all others shall be swallowed up of the second Death? The victorious Christian only is ex­empted.

(2.) Seriously and stedfastly resist, and you shall over­come. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Give a peremptory Denial to his Temptations, and he is defeat­ed. The Devil is a proud Spirit, and cannot bear Con­tradiction or Opposition; therefore where he meets with an obstinate Resistance, he cannot endure it, but will be gone: Only be stedfast in your Resistance, 1 Pet. 5.9. Whom resist, stedfast in the Faith. A faint Resistance does but embolden the Tempter to renew his Onset; but Sted­fastness puts him to Flight; when a Soul is resolved and fix'd in opposing his evil Motions; as it is said of Ruth, that when her Mother-in-Law saw she was stedfastly minded to go with her, she lest speaking unto her. (Ruth 1.18.) The Devil has some Hope of wavering unfix'd Souls; and therefore plies them most strongly with his Temptations. But when a Man is once stedfastly resolv'd in his Mind, not to hearken to him, the Tempter is discouraged. Here then, a resolute and stedfast Resistance is Conquest. It is not so in other Wars, the most valiant Resistance is not al­ways crown'd with Success and Victory; nor is the Battle always to the Strong. But in this spiritual War, a strong [Page 31]and persevering Resistance never fails of Victory. And the Reason is obvious, Satan can only tempt by the Baits of the World and the Lusts of the Flesh; he can't force your Compliance; wherefore to deny your Consent to his Solicitations, is to conquer. So here the Battle is always to the strong; be strong and stedfast in the Fight, resolv­ing never to yield, and you infallibly overcome.

(3.) Consider the mighty Assistants engaged for you. Tho' Satan has a strong Party on his Side, the Men and Things of this World, the Corruptions of our Nature, and the Lusts of the Flesh, the most dangerous of all; yet if we belong to Christ, and have him dwelling in us by his Spirit and Faith, we have One on our Side greater and mightier than all. 1 Joh. 4.4. Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the World, i. e. than the Devil and all his combin'd Forces of the Flesh and the World. Put yourselves under the Protection of this mighty Saviour (to whom all the Legions of Devils are made subject) by a true Faith, and Self-Dedication to him; and you shall be safe in his Hand, and find his promised Grace and Strength suffi­cient for you, to carry you on to Victory and Triumph. And the holy Angels under him are also ready to take your Part, and minister Aid in this holy War; in which, I doubt not, they are more than bare Spectators: For are they not all ministring Spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be Heirs of Salvation? (Heb. 1.14.)

(4.) Consider the glorious Reward promised. Rev. 2.7. To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the Tree of Life— So, ver. 10. Be thou faithful unto Death, and I will give thee a Crown of Life. Eternal Life, the Life of your immortal Souls is at Stake. This is the Prize contended for. O who would not strive with all his Might to win the Prize of a blessed Immortality? Is not this abundant En­couragement? O fight the good Fight of Faith, and lay hold on eternal Life.

It is now a Time of War, at Home and Abroad; and the Judgments of God upon the Land in the present War are very distressing: which should awaken all to great [Page 32]Seriousness, and Reverence of the divine Displeasure; especially you, our young Men, some of whom it is likely may be called forth to this external Warfare with visible potent and malicious Enemies; and if you would be for­tified against all your Fears of other Enemies, set yourselves to encounter and overcome this grand Enemy of your Souls; which you may do by the Grace of God. And if this Enemy be once overcome, you have obtain'd the most glorious Conquest, and you need to fear no other visible Enemies. Satan is God's Enemy, as well as yours. And if you fight against Satan, you are on God's Side, and then be assured that God is on yours. And then you may boldly bid Defiance to all your Enemies, in the Language of the Psalmist, Psal. 128.6. The Lord is on my Side, I will not fear what Man can do unto me. This will embolden your Confidence in God, in the greatest Perils you may be ex­posed to from Flesh and Blood. The Help on your Side is infinitely superior; for if God be with you, and for you, who can be against you? So you may, again in the Words of the Psalmist, bear up yourselves above your Enemies; Psal. 56.4. In God have I put my Trust, I will not fear what Flesh can do unto me. This will inspire true Cou­rage and Magnanimity, when you are called to face an Enemy in the Field of Battle; from a well-governed Persuasion of the favourable Presence of God with you. And you can by no Means more effectually secure the di­vine Presence, than by engaging heartily in this spiritual Conflict with God's great Adversary, the Devil; then you fight in God's Cause, and may rest assured of the Protection of the Almighty. Be excited then and animated to this spiritual War, and press on toward Victory and Triumph with Resolution and Vigour. Now, tho' the sinal Victory is reserv'd 'till hereafter; yet in two Cases, a real Victory may be won in this Life (as you have heard) viz. At first Conversion, and in resisting particular Assaults of Satan.

Let me press these two Instances—

First, Be exhorted to strive for the Victory, by pressing into the Kingdom of Christ with Resolution, thro' all Oppo­sition [Page 33]and Discouragement, by a sound and thoro' Conver­sion. This the Devil opposes with all his Might; but herein he has been overcome, in the Strength of Christ, by the young Men here written to; and in a Dependance on the same Strength, you may and shall get the Victory over him, if you resolvedly set yourselves to turn from all Sin, to God and Christ and Holiness, by a cordial Faith, and Dedication of your selves to the Government of Christ, renouncing the Flesh, the World, and the Devil, with all his Works. You must expect to meet with much Opposi­tion herein, from the Flesh and the World. These are your old Lovers, from which you may find it hard to be divorced. But perhaps, you are not aware, that all your Prejudices against serious Religion which hinder your Con­version, all your Objections against it, all your Pleas for Delays, all your Discouragements arising from the Great­ness of your Sins, Fears of being rejected, and the like, are the Suggestions of the Devil; but it is certain, that if you yield to these Pleas and Objections, when Christ earnestly calls you to Repentance, Faith and Communion with him­self, and as often as you do so, you give the Devil the Victory, you obey the Devil, and disobey Christ; as cer­tainly, as that the Kingdom of Christ, and of Satan, divide the whole World. In Prov. 9. Christ and Satan are bro't in by Solomon as Competitors for the Heart of Man, especially of young Men. Christ under the Character of Wisdom, (ver. 1.) inviting Sinners to the rich En­tertainments of spiritual Blessings which he hath pro­vided for them; for he deals with Men in a Way of Wisdom, by rational Motives and Arguments to engage them to a Compliance with his Calls; and he calls them to nothing but what it is their highest Wisdom to comply with; he calls, Forsake the Foolish and live; and go in the Way of Understanding. (ver. 6.) Satan, on the other Hand, with his Agents and Instruments, under the Character of a foolish Woman, soliciting Passengers that go right on their Way, to turn in, to the Entertainments of forbidden Plea­sures, which he has provided for them. (ver. 13, 15.) For [Page 34]he deals with Sinners in a Way of Falshood and Deceit, deluding and befooling them with false (tho' pleasing) Shews and Appearances, to their utter Undoing. Christ saith, Hearken unto me, O ye Children; for blessed are they that keep my Ways. (Prov. 8.32.) Satan saith, Hearken unto me, O young Man, and thou shalt have Liberty to walk in the Ways of thine Heart, and in the Sight of thine Eyes.—But knowest thou not, that the Dead are there, and her Guests in the Depth of Hell? O how many hopeful young Men, who to Appearance set out in the right Way of Virtue and Piety, have, for want of Wisdom, Caution and Resolution, been decoyed into the Snares of Satan to their final Ruin, and are in vain lamenting, in the Region of Despair, their cursed folly, in hearkning to his Delusions. But now, if in a Sense of the Reasonableness of Christ's Precepts and Invitations, and under deep Con­viction of the important Interests of your immortal Souls, and the Necessity of doing speedily what in you lies to prevent their eternal Ruin, and secure their eternal Wel­fare, you set yourselves in the Strength of divine Grace, to break thro' all this Opposition from Satan and your own corrupt Hearts, and with a steady Zeal and Resolution press into the Kingdom of God, renouncing the Dominion of Sin and Satan, and resolvedly and unfeignedly dedicating yourselves to God and his Service, by Faith in his Son Jesus Christ, in so doing you overcome the wicked one; you have already gotten a signal Victory over Satan, greatly to the Honour and Pleasure of your Redeemer, and glo­rious to yourselves. And I willingly hope, as to a Number of you, at least, the Commendation given the young Men in the Text may be truly applied; that you have been strengthened by the Word and Spirit of Grace, to get the better of the wicked one, by a penitent Return to God thro' Faith in Christ; and as to all of you, that you are setting your Faces with Resolution to seek the Way to the Kingdom of God, the heavenly Zion; so that if not converted, you are in the Way to Conversion: O be per­suaded and encouraged to go on to a thorough Conversion, [Page 35]surmounting all the Difficulties and Impediments your great Adversary casts in your Way; which you may do in the Name and Strength of Christ, who has overcome Sa­tan, and led Captivity captive. Put yourselves over into his Hand, by an humble self-dedicating Faith, and adhere stedfastly to his Interest, as good Soldiers of Christ, fol­lowing the Captain of your Salvation, and he will infallibly give you the Victory. And let this your Conversion be made more evident, to your own and others Satisfaction, by a more solemn and publick Dedication of yourselves to him. Be not ashamed to declare openly for Christ and his Cause, and against Satan and all his Works and Lusts. This will afford Matter of Joy to Heaven, which will re­sound with Applauses and Acclamations upon this Victory over Satan. Our Saviour tells us, there is Joy in Heaven over one Sinner that repenteth. (Luk. 15.7.) All will be well pleased there, God and Christ, and Angels. The holy Angels rejoice at a Sinner's Conversion. (ver. 10.) 'Tis Joy to them to see the Ruin of the Devil's Kingdom, and the Enlargement of the Church and Kingdom of Christ; they rejoice also from a generous Love and Good-will they bear to the Souls of Men.

Secondly, I am now to exhort you to strive for the Mastery, by resisting the particular Temptations of the Devil, wherewith he may assault you, even after your Conversion. And by an effectual Resistance you may get the Victory, yea, many Victories over him in this Life. But here consider, that as the Devil encounters you by the Lusts and Corruptions of your own Hearts, and cannot fasten one Temptation upon you, but as he finds a corrupt Party within yourselves, ready to yield a Compliance with it; so your main Care and Business ought to be to resist and suppress those fleshly Lusts, which war against the Soul (1 Pet. 2.11.) as being the Party which holds with Satan against your immortal Souls. And your effectual Resistance of these corrupt Lusts, is your Victory over Satan; for he is overcome by such Resistance. Here then, you must exert yourselves with Strength and vigorous Resolution in [Page 36]contending for the Dominion of Reason and Conscience, over carnal. Appetites and Passions; and to that End, must exer­cise yourselves in Sobriety and Temperance, Self-denial, Prayer and Watchfulness, striving to keep under the Body, with it's inordinate Affections, bringing it into Subjection to the Law of the Mind, as the Apostle has directed you, 1 Cor. 9.25,—27. But there is also another Way to be recommended, for overcoming Satan's Temptations and the Lusts of your own Hearts, that is, by Flight. Hence are those Counsels and Directions to Christians, Flee Fornica­tion. 1 Cor. 6.18. Flee youthful Lusts. 2 Tim. 2.22. Fly from the Sin you are tempted to, with Abhorrence: hold no Party with Satan, nor debate the Matter, whether you had best yield, or forbear; but be resolute and peremp­tory in giving a Denial. This will put a Stop to Satan's Attempts, and wholly defeat them. Hence we are taught to deny worldly Lusts (2 Tit. 2.12.) to deny their importunate Cravings. And not only to forbear the Gratification of them, but as much as in us lies to extirpate the Lusts themselves. Abstain from fleshly Lusts. (1 Pet. 2.11.) Labour to get rid of these Lusts, to weaken them more and more in the Work of Mortification, which is the great Duty and constant Practice of all real Christians; for they that are Christ's, have crucified the Flesh with the Affections and Lusts. (Gal. 5.24.) The greater Progress you make in your Mortification of these Lusts, the less will be your Danger from Satan's Temptations, and the more compleat will be your Victory over them, Therefore arm yourselves with strong Resolutions to resist Temptations, and mortify Corruptions, and so to defear and vanquish this Enemy of your Souls.

This Conflict with Satan, and Victory over him, is not an airy Notion, but an undoubted Reality (and therefore we are to fight, not as beating the Air) tho' the Evidence of this depends chiefly on divine Revelation. Thence we are assured, there are vast Numbers of apostate wicked Spi­rits, who are irreconcilable Enemies to God and Christ, and all Goodness; and particularly to the Souls of Men, [Page 37]and their Salvation; which is attested by the sad Experience of many poor Souls. And we are therein often warn'd of our Danger from them, and directed to proper Methods for our Security. The Apostle Peter calls upon us to be sober and vigilant; because (saith he) your Adversary the Devil, as a roaring Lion, walketh about; seeking whom he may devour, (1 Pet. 5.8.) Which was not only true of that Age in which the Apostle wrote, but even to this Day. This great Adversary of God and Man is unweariedly active and industrious in the Pursuit of his blood-thirsty Design, going about like a ravenous Beast of Prey, hunting for the precious Life, even the Life of precious immortal Souls. Nothing less will satisfy his Malice. Wherefore, to a­waken your Vigilance and Caution, let me put you upon considering the Nature and Design of this your Adversary.

(1.) As to his Nature, he is an active, malicious, powerful and wicked Spirit, or rather Spirits, in the plural, for (as has been observed) there is an innumerable Com­pany of them: And the Name Devil seems to be a col­lective Term, and applied to the whole Crew. The Apo­stle Paul terms them spiritual Wickednesses, or wicked Spirits, Eph. 6.12. We wrestle not against Flesh and Blood, but against wicked Spirits; which shews our Danger, in that our Enemy is of a spiritual Nature. Were we to con­flict only with Flesh and Blood, with Men like ourselves, bodily Strength, which is most vigorous in young Men, would be of most Service to us; but this Warfare is of a spiritual Nature, and requires spiritual Strength, Wisdom Faith, Sobriety, Watchfulness, Resolution. For the Ene­mies with whom we are to combat, are wicked Spirits; the Devils are Spirits, invisible to us, and wicked Spirits. And our Danger is the greater from our Enemies, because they are unseen, and assault us ere we are aware of them. Satan is ready to take Men at a Disadvantage, when they are off their Guard, when their Spirits are ruffled, in their Company, Business, Enjoyments, when they are least aware of this invisible Foe at Hand; and being a Spirit, he is able to insinuate into your Fancies, bodily Tempers, Affections, [Page 38]Appetites and Passions; and observes which Way all these work, that he might suit his Temptations accordingly, and the more easily obtrude his cursed Baits upon you: which is a Reason, you see, why you should be always upon your Watch, and never give Way to Security.

(2.) Let me put you in Mind of the hellish pernicious Design of this your Adversary in all his Temptations; which is, to prevail with you to sin against God, that he might prevail against you to the Ruin of your precious Souls. Justly therefore is he called the wicked one, it being his great Aim to entice you to Wickedness, and to hinder your Repentance; and then he knows, the smal Issue will be your eternal Damnation. There is this Difference, in Relation to Sin, between the Devil, and Sinners of Mankind. The Devil's End is sinning: but with Men sinning is ordinarily the Means to some other End. While you are pursuing the Imaginations of the earnal Heart, you don't aim at sinning against God, or sin for sinning sake, out of pure Enmity to God and Holiness, which is the right diabolical Temper; but your Aim is at the Pleasures of Sense, the Gratification of the Flesh, or the Possession and Enjoyment of the World, and you would doubtless chuse to have these Desires gratified, if it might be, upon caster Terms, than sinning against God, and wounding your own Consciences. But because your Minds and Hearts are set upon these Things, and carried out with a strong Inclination towards them, and cannot obtain them without Sin, therefore it is that you are prevail'd upon to sin, and break the Law of God. But the Devil has a further Reach, he aims at your Sin and Ruin, and so he has a two-fold Design which is served hereby. The one is against God, to express his malicious Enmity against the blessed God, by bringing you to dishonour him by transgressing his Law. The other is against your own Souls, that by the Baits of worldly Temptations suired to your Lusts, he might bring you into his Snares, and plunge your Souls in Perdition. This he pursues with a blood-thirsty Eagerness in all his Temptations, which should awaken you to [Page 39]a constant Sense of your Danger, and to a vigorous Re­sistance, whenever a Temptation strongly insinuates itself into your Minds and Affections; for remembert, hat nothing less than your precious immortal Souls are the Prize, which the Devil is thereby contending for.

Now that you may be strong in spirit for this spiritual Warfare, let the Word of God dwell and rule in your Hearts. Not only give it a transient Hearing, but let it, in the important Sense and Weight of it, sink into your Hearts, and form within you a correspondent Temper. Let it be digested by Faith and Meditation, that it may be­come proper Nourishment and Strength to your Souls, and produce and strengthen those Christian Principles of Faith, Love and Hope, which in their genuine lively Exercise will be found Armour of Proof against all the Assaults of your spiritual Enemies. Get your Minds and Hearts stored with the holy Counsels, Precepts and Instructions of the Word: which will abundantly furnish you with strong Rea­sons, to oppose to all the subtle Devices and Allurements of the Tempter; that you may have always this Weapon of your Warfare, the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, in a Readiness to repel the Temptations and fiery Darts of the wicked one: And that in Imitation of our blessed Saviour (when tempted by the Devil) you may be able to resist and put to flight this great Adversary, with—It is written. Thus when in Danger of being lifted up with Pride, say, It is written, God resisteth the Proud. (1 Pet. 5.5.) When tempted to murmur under adverse Providences, say, It is written, Neither murmur ye as some of them murmured and were destroyed of the Destroyer. (1 Cor. 10.10.) When tempted to tell a lie, or to speak falsely, say, It is written, All Liars shall have their Part in the Lake that burns with Fire and Brimstone. (Rev. 21, 8.) When tempted to Acts of Injustice, say, It is written, The unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6.9.) When tempted to the Sin of Uncleanness, say, It is written. God reserveth the Unjust to the Day of Judgment, to be punished; but chiefly them that walk after the Flesh, in the [Page 40]Lust of Uncleanness. (2 Pet. 2.9, 10) When tempted to excessive Drinking, say, It is written, Take Heed to your­selves, lest as any Time your Hearts be overcharged with Surfeiting and Drunkenness,—and so that Day come upon you unawares. (Luk. 21.34.) Thus let the Sword of the Spirit be pointed against every Sin that solicits your Affec­tions, and let Faith have the wielding of it; and the Temp­ter must flee before it. Only let me caution you against the prevailing Errors of the Times, whereby the pure Word of God is corrupted, and Satan seeks to blunt the Edge of our Weapon, or to disarm us of our main Strength and Defence. But 'tis Truth which is great and strong: Stand therefore having your Loins girt about with Truth, the Truth as it is in Jesus, according as you have been taught; and beware lest any of you being led away with the Error of the Wicked, fall from your own Stedsastness.

I proceed now, in the Close of all, according to what was propos'd,

Secondly, To press upon you, in a very few Words, the Counsels and Lessons of Piety in the Context of this Chap­ter, which the Apostle wrote to these young Men. Which, tho' of great Use to Christians of every Age, yet are pe­culiarly so to young People; and not impertinent to the main Subject discours'd.

1. You are to observe his Caution against Sin. Ver. I. My little Children, these Things write I unto you, that ye sin not. 'Tis the Scope of the whole Scripture, as well as of this Epistle, to take us off from Sin, and to engage us against it. This therefore ought to be your first and main Concern, to keep yourselves from Sin, from all Sin: in so doing you will most effectually defeat the great De­sign of the wicked one, which is to seduce you to Sin and Wickedness. But by every known wilful Sin you com­mit, you do, as it were, surrender yourselves Captives to the Devil. O then, let little Children, young Men, and all, be exhorted to keep up a Dread of Sin, and keep at the greatest Distance from it.

[Page 41] 2. Under a Sense and Conviction of Sin, you are di­rected to the Advocacy and Propitiation of Christ, in order to Pardon and Reconciliation to God. Ver. 1, 2. If any Man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and he is the Propitiation for our Sins. Forasmuch as there is no Man that sinneth not; and Sins of daily Infirmity will unavoidably attend us in this mortal State; therefore the true and only Method of Relief a­gainst Consciousness of Guilt, is he repointed out to us; which is, repairing to Jesus Christ our great Advocate in Hea­ven, looking by Faith to the Propitiation in his Blood. An Advocate is one who patronises and pleads the Cause of an accused Party, before any Bar of Justice. So Jesus Christ pleads our Cause with his Father, against the Charge of Guilt, against the Accusations of Satan and our own Consciences, in the Virtue of his own Merit, or of that propitiatory Sacrifice he once offered on Earth, to make Reconciliation for Iniquity, and so secures our Peace; that notwithstanding our daily sinful Infirmities, we might yet (our Hearts being, in the main, right with God) main­tain settled Peace and Comfort, in our Walk with God. Or, if it should be your unhappy Lot at any Time (as it may be, and that even contrary to the settled Bent of your Judgments and Resolutions) to be foil'd by your Adversa­ry, and to fall into any more grievous Sin, to the Distress of your Consciences; yet having such a sovereign Remedy provided and offered to you, despair not, but fly to the Pro­tection of your Advocate and Mediator; and with deep Humiliation and Contrition of Soul, and by Faith and Prayer plead with God, the Propitiation in the Blood of Christ, for the Pardon of your Guilt, and the Healing of your Backslidings; but be not discouraged from persisting in your Warfare; but in Dependance on divine Grace and Strength, rise again from your Falls, and renew the Com­bat with fresh Vigour, and with greater Wisdom, Watch­fulness, and Resolution never to yield: and you may be victorious at last; as a General may lose a Battle in some particular Skirmishes, and yet come off Conqueror in the Issue of War.

[Page 42]
"Our utmost Strength! when down, to rise again;
"And not to yield, tho' beaten, all our Praise.
(YOUNG's Night-Thoughts.)

And here, suffer me seriously and earnestly to press it upon you, to improve this great Gospel-Privilege of the Propitiation or Atonement in the Blood of Christ, in order to get into a State of Peace, and Reconciliation with God up­on the Terms of the Gospel. O how much does it con­cern you, who may be called to war with Enemies a­broad, now to get your Peace made with God? And so to get your Feet shod before-hand, with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace (which is directed to as Part of our spiri­tual Armour) by securing an Interest in that Peace which the Gospel publishes and offers to you. This will secure you against all the Chances of War. The Devil will be an Enemy to you, whether you be so to him, or not. And how dreadful will it be, to have God for your Enemy, and the Devil too: And all Creatures in Heaven, Earth and Hell, in Consequence of God's being your Enemy! Till you are reconciled, the Wrath of God abideth on you: And can you bear the Tho't of lying under the Wrath of an eternal God! But O precious immortal Souls! (for as such I speak to you, in treating with you about the Things of your everlasting Peace) precious, because immortal. Of what infinite Importance is that reconciled Favour and Love of an eternal God, to an immortal Soul! This will be your Security and Felicity in Life, in Death, and to Eter­nity. O then, acquaint now thy self with him, and be at Peace, thereby Good shall come unto thee. (Job. 22.21.) Nothing but what is Good, or works for Good, shall be­fall you; this should raise you above the Terrors of your Enemies. Yea, tho' you should fall in Batrie, as good Josiah did, yet you shall die in Peace, as God promised him. (2 Chron. 34.28.) Now, that God is very willing and desirous of entering into Terms of Peace with you, ap­pears from his sending his Son to be a Propitiation, or re­conciling Sacrifice, for our Sins. (1 Joh. 4.10.) And from [Page 43]that moving Language of the Apostle, 2 Cor. 5.20. As tho' God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's Stead, be ye reconciled to God. O let not your Consent be want­ing to the Terms of this Peace, who will be the only Gain­ers by it. Lay aside your Enmity, and submit to the Scep­tre of Grace. Let this be your Aim and Pursuit. And the Peace of God, which passeth all Understanding, shall keep your Hearts and Minds thro' Jesus Christ.

3. The new Commandment of Love is inforced more largely, Ver. 5,—11. This is an excellent Christian Virtue often recommended, in which the true Spirit of Christia­nity is chiefly manifested. It is the Nature and Image of God our heavenly Father; as the contrary, Malice and Uncharitableness, is of the Devil, and therefore to be ab­horred in every Shape, by those who have renounced the Devil and his Works. There is a general Love, to be ex­tended to all Men, in various Instances and Degrees; but a more special Love towards Christian Brethren, and more particularly towards those of your own Society, and with whom you commonly converse. Let this your Love be generous, pure, cordial and undissembled. Let it be not only a Love of common Friendship or Courcesy; but a truly religious Love. Let it be manifested in counselling, exhorting, reproving, and edifying one another in the Ways of Religion; in forbearing and forgiving one another; in praying with and for one another. Thus the true Spirit of Christian Love will operate, and evidence itself.

4. The Caution against immoderate Love of the World, here fitly subjoin'd. Ver. 15. Love not the World, nor the Things of the World, &c. Because the World, and the Things of it, are the common Baits wherewith the Devil seeks to seduce and ensnare the Souls of Men; and young Men are most in Danger of this Snare. While they are set­ting out in the World, and seeking after Settlements and Accommodations in it, they are too apt to suffer their Hearts, by worldly Cares and Business, to be estranged from God, and the serious Concerns of Religion; and thereby give the Adversary great Advantage against them, [Page 44]to lead them astray by many foolish and hurtful Lusts, which without a speedy Recovery by Faith and Repen­tance, will drown them in Destruction and Perdition. (1 Tim. 6.9.) You may, doubtless, lawfully use the World, attend the Business of the World in your several Callings, and enjoy the Comforts of the World: strict Re­ligion allows and requires all this; but all in Subordination to higher and better Things, for which you ought to re­serve the chief Room in your Affections: that Love to the World, and distracting Cares about it, may not divert your Attention from the one Thing needful. Labour therefore to get worldly Love mortify'd. To this End, meditate much on the Death of Christ: one Design whereof was, to deliver you from this present evil World, and that the World might be crucified to you, and you to the World. (Gal. 1.4. & 6.14.) Think much on your own Death, and live in the daily Views of it, as sure and near; when all that is so much admir'd in this World, shall vanish as a Dream. What is it, that makes Death so bitter and dread­ful, but an Heart too strongly attached to this World, and corrupted by the Lusts of it? But the Mortification of world­ly Love carries with it Victory over Satan and Death. Let us learn then, to place our Affections on Objects more no­ble and sublime, more worthy of an immortal Soul. Let us raise our Souls to God and the Things of Heaven, by Faith and Meditation, and spiritual Aspirations. Unto thee, O Lord, (saith David, Psal. 25.1.) do I lift up my Soul. A Spirit of true Devotion lifts up the Soul to God. Let us then hold on a Course of holy Devotion, by daily Pray­er and Praise, and Converse with God in his Word and Or­dinances; which will be an happy Preparation for the Soul's Return to God at Death; that when our Warfare is accom­plished, it may return victorious, and our immortal Spirit being loosened from this Clod of Earth, by a previous Work of Mortification, may, upon the Dissolution of this earthly Tabernacle, mount up to the heavenly Paradise, and eat of the Tree of Life and live for ever.

AMEN.

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