Page images

door of hope in the valley of Achor, the lively hope of the heavenly Canaan through the resurrection of Christ: and this hope is the finews of the holy war; for as hope makes not ashamed, fo he that hath this hope purifics himself; and, according to the measure of this hope, is the measure of victory.-Sometimes they get a little pull of the cord of love, fo as to get the love of God shed abread upon their heart, and then the love of Christ constrains them; the love of the Captain draws them to the field, where love is the signal for war; Christ's love, I mean:" His banner over me was love,” says the church. His love both leads the van, and fences the rear; and, when the flame of his love to them kindles a flame of love in their hearts to him, then a flaming sword is drawn in the face of the enemy, the banner of love beats down the nations.--Again, they sometimes get a little fpiritual, sense to carry on the spiritual war; for instance, fome. times a little hearing of the voice of Christ, so as to know the powerful found of it among a thousand voices; and then their heart leaps within them, saying, “ It is the voice of my Beloved ; behold, he cometh skipping upon the mountains, and leaping upon the hills.”—Sometimes they get a little light of God in Christ, and then they can endure hardship, as good foldiers of Christ: thus they endure, as seeing him that is invisible ; counting the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.-Sometimes they get a little touch of the hem of Christ's garment by faith ; a little touch of his name, his offices, his blood, his righteousness, or whatever hem it be; virtue comes from him to stop the bloody issue, and stop the enemies motion.-Sometimes they get a little taste that the Lord is gracious; and it is like the taste of Jonathan's honey-comb: the more they taste of the honey of free-grace, the greater is the slaughter they make among the Philistines. Sometimes they get a little smell of the Rose of Sharon, and the Lily of the valley, and it restores their fainting foul: all Christ's garments are faid to smell of aloes, myrrh, and cassia: and the believer may be said to get a sinell of the raiment, a smell of the rose, when Christ is precious to him above all things. And when all these fpiritualfenfesare exercised, then they may be said


to be exercising their arms, making havock among their enemies, and successfully gaining ground upon them.In a word, he gives them sometimes a little breathing in the air of spiritual meditation ; “ My meditation of him shall be sweet :” and when Christ is sweet, fin is bitter, and the battle against it a bitter battle. He gives them here a little, and there a little; and, by little and little, puts out the nations before them.

I have mentioned many particulars; but yet there is no fpeaking of all the littles that believers will experience, during the time of their warfare : only, thus you see how, by little and little, their Captain brings them to the field of battle; and how, by little and little, he carries on the conquest in their hand: it is the Lord their God alone that does it; it is he that conquered their enemies; it is he that helps them to chase the conquered, for it is he that bought their armour; he bought their shield, and sword, and breast-plate, and helmet; and it is he, that as he bought them with his blood, so he puts on their weapons, and girds them with strength for war. It is he that rubs off the rust off their arms, when at any time they are out of use, by blowing up their graces, and giving them ftrength to exercise grace: and it is he that carries on the victory to perfection, by giving power to the faint; and to him that hath no might he encreaseth strength, from time to time, till in death he end the warfare, by driving out all the nations, so as never to be seen again. The Lord thy God, will put out these nations, before thee, by little and little.

VI. The Sixth thing proposed, was, to give the reasons of the doctrine. It might here be asked,

Ift, Why the Lord their God, and he alone, does put out the nations before them? The reason is, because he alone can do it, for he is the Lord; they would never be put out, if he did it not: and he alone will do it, because he is their God; and thus ftands engaged by promise and covenant fo to do : Tbe Lord thy God will put out these nations before thee. But,

2dly, Why will he do it fo gradually, by little and little? Why does he let enemies without and within live


to annoy his people, seeing it is easy for him to destroy them all instantly? Why will he destroy them gradually, by little and little? There is much of infinite wisdom to be observed in this disposure ; and therefore I would offer some particulars for representing the beauty of this method.

1. It is by little and little he puts them out, without destroying them at once, that by them he may prove his people, Judges ii. 22. Some Canaanites were still left remaining, to prove whether they will keep the way of the Lord : these Canaanites were enemies to their peace, enemies to their profession, that fought their bodies overthrow,' and their fouls ruin; and they are left to prove whether they will cleave still to God's command, or whether they will follow the abominations of the wicked. Observe it then, Sirs, we must look to find enemies; outward enemies to the peace of the church, and to the truth of the gospel ; inward enemies to the graces and comforts of the foul : and this combat, thus continued in Israel, serves to prove whether our graces be counterfeit or not; for they only are true Israelites, that are still taking up arms against the devil, the world, and the flesh, and all the nations of the Canaanites. By this then it is evidenced who are true Ifraelites, and who not.

2. It is by little and little that he will put out the nations before Ifrael, that thus they may be still learning to exercise their arms; I mean, that their graces may be exercised, and particularly their militant graces. There are some graces would be for little or no use, if no Canaanites and corruptions were left: the special use of faith, hope, and patience, is for helping the believer to surmount the difficulties that are now in his way. Many other graces there are, that there would be no use for, if all our enemies and corruptions were destroyed at once : triumphant graces, such as love and joy in their perfection, would make a perfect heaven. But there are militant graces, that must be exercised also, while we are on earth, and which there are no use for in heaven: for example, if all wants were supplied fully, there would be no need of poverty of spirit; if all fins were

wholly wholly destroyed, there would be no need of godly forrow; if death were already swallowed up in victory, there would be no need of the desire of death, nor longing for heaven; if vision were already come, there would be no need of faith, as it is a militant grace, fighting its way many times through doubts and fears, and want of fight and sense ; if fruition were come, there would be no need of hope ; if all trouble were at an end, there would be no need of patience. But this shield of faith, and helmet of hope, and other parts of the Christian armour, must be exercised: therefore the nations are not wholly destroyed, but by little and little. Again,

3. It is by little and little they are put out, for the advantage of the militant saints in many respects: as it is fit they should fight, before they triumph ; and that they war as foldiers on earth, before they reign as kings in heaven ; since no man is crowned, except he strive lawfully, 2 Tim. ii. 5. So it tends to enhance heaven, and make them prize and value it more, when it is attained through many difficulties, troubles, and oppofitions : and by this means they come to have sweet conformity to their blessed Captain of salvation, who was made perfect through suffering; and it is their honour to tread his steps, who endured the contradiction of finners against himself, and fought his way. This contributes also to the believer's comfort at the issue of every conflict, as a safe haven is very comfortable to a mari. ner that hath been tost at sea. - This method ferves not only for the believer's comfort, but for his instruction and correction: for his instruction, because thus he learns more and more to be humble and dependent; all boasting is excluded by this means, while he finds his enemies still living, and lively, and strong; for he looks with a hum. ble eye upon himself, knowing his own utter insuffici. ency for grappling with these enemies, and difficulties, and oppositions in his way; and with a dependent eye upon Christ, that his grace may be fufficient for him, and his strength perfected in weakness: thus he glories in his infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon him. And as it is advantageous for their necessary instruction, fo for their necessary correction, when they are sparing


and remiss in using the means, and improving the advantages for driving out the Canaanites, indulging the flesh and the corruptions thereof; as it is said of Israel, Numb. xxxiii. 55. If they would not drive out the inhabitants of the lands, then it should come to pass, that these which they let remain should be pricks in their eyes, and thorns in their sides, to vex them. This is one of the severest ways of chastising them, when, to reprove them for one fin and lust, he lets them fall into the hands of another; and yet, in mercy to the true Israel of God, curing their disease in the issue: as he let Peter fall into a threefold pit among his enemies hands, for curing his self-confidence. One would think, the cure was worse than the disease; but our Lord hath fumetimes very fearful ways of correcting and curing the fouls of his own people.

4. It is by little and little that the Lord.puts out the nations before them, to commend the excellency of the deliverance we have by Christ. Though there be no condemnation to them that are in Chrift; yet, for their humiliation, God suffers their enemies to live among them, and fin to live in them, and oftentimes to afflict them, that they may know the benefit they have by grace, while they make continual recourse to him for help. It is but little we can take up at once, by reason of our want of capacity; therefore he gives one deliverance at this time, and another deliverance at that time, and a third deliverance at another time; and so on from time to time, that we may know how much we are obliged to him.

5. He delivers them by little and little, to shew the greatness of his glory, as the Captain of salvation. He shews the glory of his power, in keeping us, notwithstanding the great danger we are continually in, while the enemy is alive within us, without us, and round about us.

How greatly does his power appear, in preserving the tossed ark amidst all the waves and billows of adversity that dash against it, and in keeping the burning buih froin being consumed? He shews the glory of his triumphant arms, like some famous conquerors in


« PreviousContinue »