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keep under and bring into subjection, all those carnal lusts and affections, which they have warring in them. And thus of the two first things proposed briefly to be touched upon: We come to the third and last, which is the
Let every one that would fight to purpose in the spiritual war, endeavor to keep under their body of sin, and bring it into subjection. If so be we had no lusts warring in us and against us, there would be no need of such an exhortation; but since we have, a necessity lies upon us to suffer it and attend it, and wo unto us if we do not. We read concerning Moses, Exod. ii. 11, 12. “That when he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren, he slew the Egyptian." There are, if I may term them so, Egyptian lusts within us, which ever and anon smite our souls, which are nearer friends to us than a brother: they are our darlings, our all; whenever therefore we espy these cruel taskmasters, (they would be so,) smiting our spiritual part, we must encounter them, and endeavor to slay them. To animate and encourage us hereto, I shall lay down but two particulars, unto which I shall subjoin two or three words by way of direction, and so conclude.
Motive 1. This combat after a while, you may hope, will not be irksome and tedious, but pleasant and delightful. Sinners that are overcome and led captive by their lusts, they count that captivity their greatest satisfaction, and most pleasant life; they like their service, love their master, and are unwilling to go out free; they think they must change Naomi for Marah, and therefore when called upon hereto, are ready to say with the olive-tree and fig-tree, Judges ix. 9, 11. "Should I leave my fatness, should I forsake my sweetness and good fruit?" should I leave the pleasures that I enjoy in walking in the way of mine heart, and the sight of my own eyes, to mourn, to fast, to live a strict life of mortification? This they cannot tell how to comply with. Well, but give me leave to tell you, as to this warfare, you are under a mistake: You are not called to quit your pleasures, only to change the objects of them, and that every way for your profit and advantage; to leave those that are low and base for them that are high and noble; sensual delights, for spiritual delights, the satisfactions of swine, for those of angels; and therefore if pleasures and delights will charm you, or have any influence upon you, I will assure you, that here in this warfare you may enjoy those that are rational and heavenly; whereas as long as you continue slaves to your lusts, you may enjoy only those that are base and filthy
delights of a beast, yea, of a devil. Believe it, you will find one hour spent in prayer, mourning for sin, and secret communion with God, better than many spent in the service of sin, and those lusts that sinners are wont to indulge themselves in; so that though the beginning of this encountering the body of sin may be hard, it will be easy after a while, and at length very pleasant.
Motive 2. The victory is certain, and also most signal and glorious. This is that which encourages a soldier to be valiant, the hope of victory; and this is the privilege of the Christian soldier, that he shall most certainly have victory. He is not left at uncertainty, to the chance of war, wherein the victory in battle is not always to the strong but a Christian may know and be assured, that he shall overcome and obtain the victory. The issue of the war is revealed, and made known to us by Christ in his word as sin, Satan, death and hell, could not conquer our Lord Jesus Christ, the captain himself, so neither shall any of them be able to conquer his soldiers. A Christian may sometimes be foiled, and seem to be beaten back, but yet he shall recover himself again; though he fall yet he shall rise again: It may be said of him, as of Gad, Gen. xlix. 19. “ Though a troop may overcome him, yet he shall overcome at last." And as this victory is most certain, so it is most signal and glorious; the victory itself is most signal and glorious, and so is the reward of it. The victory itself is so, it is a greater conquest than to be conqueror of the world; for some that have been conquerors of the world, have yet been taken captives by their own lusts and affections, Prov. xvi. 32. "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city:" he that ruleth his spirit is better and more victorious and more glorious. This is the noblest and most signal victory, and the reward also is most signal and glorious, it being no less than a crown, not of silver or gold, but of eternal life; if we through the grace and assistances of the Spirit, do kill and put to death the deeds of the body, we shall live eternally. Rom. viii. 13. Let then the consideration hereof encourage us to our duty. For direction take a few particulars briefly.
Direction 1. Begin with this enemy betimes; crush it in the first motions of it, it is easiest overcoming at the first. Warriors are wont to set upon their enemies, where they find them feeblest; so we should set upon sin before it get head, and if we do, before it get too much hold upon our faculties, or break forth by outward acts, we may more easily subdue it, and hold it under, as a slave and vassal. These lions, we may more easily conquer and tame if we set upon them while they are whelps; whereas if we let them grow up, as in a little time they will, to be savage beasts,
we shall find them very formidable, if not unconquerable. As soon therefore as we find this enemy to rebel, and to begin to war, let us rise up in arms against it, and endeavor by force of the same, to quell it and bring it into subjection.
Direct. 2. Hold no parley with this enemy; it is so treacherous as that we had need awe ourselves with a fear of being ensnared by it, and therefore must avoid all occasions of it. Keep out of the way of its temptations. It is excellent advice, Prov. iv. 14, 15. "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men, avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. This enemy will say to us, as Jael to Sisera, Turn in, turn in to me, fear not; but if we do hearken to its solicitations, it hath a nail to strike into our temples, and be the death of us. It will take us as Joab did Abner by the beard, as if it would embrace us; but if we take no heed, it will smite us under the fifth rib, and shed out our bowels to the earth. It will come and kiss us as Judas did our Saviour, when as with him, it hath been plotting nothing less than the betraying us into our enemies' hand: we must therefore hold no parley with it, nor come any nearer than needs must to any of its quarters. Nor will it be cast upon us in the day of judgment, as a piece of cowardice, thus to retreat from our enemy, but will be reckoned our greatest valor and courage: It is the truest magnanimity and most heroic valor, in our spiritual warfare, to be afraid of the least iniquity. Happy is the man that thus feareth always.
Direct. 3. Cut off all the provisions and supplies of sin; this is the apostle's advice, Rom. xiii. 14. "To make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." If we would ever subdue our lusts, and be the death of them, we must cut off all the provision, which hath a tendency to support them and keep them alive. It is counted excellent policy in war, to leave as little provision as may be in the enemies' way. It is best to burn it, and destroy it, though it be in our own country; if otherwise, it will have a tendency to relieve and support our enemies. Thus must we endeavor to weaken the force of sin, even this way; we must set a guard over our affections, and inferior appetites; lay every thing under bonds, that we are in suspicion will take part with the enemy: Endeavor the utter consumption of whatsoever would be like provision to our lusts, to support them and keep them alive. We must endeavor to starve our lusts; and if we afford them no sustenance, but endeavor to deprive them of every thing of that nature, we may hope that they cannot hold out long, but must surrender, and acknowledge themselves conquered.
Direct. 4. Improve all the weapons that the Christian armor will afford you. This armor consists of several pieces. We have a list of them, Eph. vi, 13, 14. And we must not content our
selves with one or two pieces of this armor, but we must put on the whole armor of God. Especially of all the pieces of armor ; we must see to it, not to forget the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; of this sword, we may truly say as David did of Goliath's, there is none like it. It is a two-edged sword, to cut the nerves and sinews of sin asunder. And pray always: this is not only a part of our Christian armor, but it is that which helps us, by which we are enabled to make a right improvement of all the rest this is necessary all along through the whole of our encounter with the body of sin. We must therefore endeavor to manage this without ceasing, we must be continually lifting up our hearts and eyes to God; and whenever an army of temptations doth assault us, say with Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xx. 12. “O our God, we have no might against this great company that cometh against us, neither know we what to do, but our eyes are unto thee." This is the way to fetch Christ into the field, and battle, for our help, and then we may be sure of defence and protection, yea, of victory and conquest.
Direct. 5. In the combat with sin, aim principally at the general of those enemies: I mean your beloved darling iniquity; plant your main artillery against that, that is the Goliath of these Philistines. A man's darling sin is a captain sin that bears the authority in the soul, and his other sins are under it as soldiers; it saying to one, Go, and it goes, and to another, Come, and it comes; a man's other sins are subservient unto this. This is the sin that is so much tended and waited on: Now if we would keep under those enemies and bring them into subjection, we must endeavor primarily and principally to destroy this principal of them; as it was said to them, 1 Kings xxii. 31. "Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel." So say I, fight neither against small nor great sins comparatively, but against this kingly, this master enemy; bind this strong man, and you will easily take the house. Slay but this champion, and the rest will flee, as we read of the Philistines, 1 Sam. xvii. 51. "When they saw that their champion was dead, they fled."
Direct. 6. When you think you have attained any victory or conquest over sin, take heed of security. Though the enemy may be quiet, yet fear lest he should not be quite routed; therefore be always upon your watch, ready to withstand a fresh assault: Let every day be a day for the training and exercising of all your graces; have them always in battle array: See that they be continually in a military posture, and set an exact guard upon your hearts, that so whenever your affections move or stir unseasonably or disorderly, they may be made to stand, not let to pass, till we know from whence they come, and whither they tend; did we do so, in what excellent order might we have, and keep our souls?
Direct. 7. Do what you do in this combat, not in your own, but in the strength of your great Commander. If ever we would storm and beat down the strong holds that are within us, it must be by the concurrence of divine grace; "the weapons of our warfare are mighty through God," 2 Cor. x. 4. We come to be "more than conquerors through him that loved us," Rom. viii. 37. This enemy will fling us down as fast as we can rise, if we encounter it in our own strength; if therefore we would beat it down, we must say when we encounter it, as David to the Philistine, 1 Sam. xvii. 45. "I come unto thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied." Asa, when he had a vast army of two hundred and fourscore thousand, mighty men of valor, to fight with the Ethiopians, he prays and trusts to God as if he had not one man. 2 Chron. xv. 11. "Help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on thee, and in thy name do we go against this multitude." So must we say when assaulted with sin, Help us O Lord our God, for we have no power against the same, but do rest on thee; God is able to make us stand against sin; "Through him we may do valiantly:" Ps. lx. 12. "He is the Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, mighty in battle," Ps. xxiv. 8. Though the archers may sorely grieve us, and shoot at us, yet he can make our bow to abide in strength, and the arms of our hands may be made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. Gen. xlix. 23, 24.
Direct. 8. In the strength of your great Captain, endeavor to persevere and hold out to the end. The crown is at the end of the warfare, it is not wont to be given till the victory' is gained, the promise is not to him that begins, but to him that overcomes. Our Lord Jesus Christ, our great captain, went forth conquering to conquer; and however we may pretend to be his soldiers, yet we shall never obtain the crown, unless we endeavor in our measure to imitate him in this regard. O then let us all endeavor to be faithful to the death, that so we may receive the crown of life; and it is but a little while, that we have thus to engage and combat with sin! If we are faithful in the service, and hold out, ere long we shall have done fighting, and shall come to triumphing; we shall put off our armor, and put on a victorious crown. The great Lord of hosts, under whose banner we fight, within a little time will remove our quarters, he will draw us off from the army militant here upon earth, to the blessed and triumphant in heaven. Then we shall be out of gunshot, shall never be any more annoyed, molested, or disturbed with the body of sin, but shall be perfectly freed from it, made perfect in holiness, and shall for ever be giving thanks and singing the praises of that God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN.