CHAP.  3.

Three pair of instances confirming the former doctrine; David and Saul, Job and Ahithophel, Luther and Spira.


THE point appears and is further proved by manifest and manifold experience. David having been formerly woefully wasted with great variety and extremity of dangers and distresses, was at last plunged into a most desperate perplexity (1 Sam. xxx, 6), which had been able to have swallowed up into despair the manliest vigour of the greatest spirit upon earth not supported with grace (the like, or a less, caused king Saul to fall upon his own sword, 1 Sam. xxxi, 4); yet he, blessed man, by the power of his spiritual peace, and the beams of God’s pleased face shining upon his soul, did patiently and sweetly comfort himself in the Lord his God, and stood like an impregnable rock, unshaken with the raging assaults of any tempestuous surges. He was at this time hunted by Saul like a partridge in the mountains; cashiered by the princes of the Philistines as a fellow of suspected fidelity; robbed by the Amalekites of his wives, his sons, and his daughters; the town to which he returned for safety was burnt with fire; and, to make his calamity complete and most cutting, even his own men were ready to stone him. Now in this great distress, upon the first apprehension whereof he wept, as the story saith, “until he had no more power to weep,” yet coming to himself, and recollecting his spiritual forces, his heavy heart, ready to sink and fall asunder in his bosom, did fetch, by the hand of faith, comfortably fortified by sense and experience of former favours, such heavenly strength from Jehovah, whom he had made his portion, that thereupon his courage was revived and raised to that height, that he presently pursued his enemies with extraordinary valour and resolution, cut them off and recovered all. “And David,” saith the text, “was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” &c.

What a bitter sea of unmatched miseries did break out upon blessed Job, which with a sudden unexpected violence bearing down that hedge of protection, which God had set about him (the rains purposely let loose by Divine dispensation to Satan’s malice in the meantime), did fearfully overflow him to that height and horror, that he stands [[10]] registered in God’s book as an unparalleled instance of extraordinary sufferings and sorrows, calamities and conflicts, to all succeeding ages, no story being able to afford the like. The natural death of one dear child strikes sometimes so heavy to a man’s heart, that for grief he falls into a consumption; but all Job’s were suddenly taken away at once by a violent stroke. Some petty cross upon his outward state, and cutting off but part of his goods, causes sometimes a covetous worldling to cut his own throat; but Job was robbed of all, so that it is a proverb to this day, “as poor as Job.” Many wives are passionate and peevish in time of prosperity, whose hearts notwithstanding will melt in compassion and kindness over their husbands in any kind of misery; but Job’s wife, though dearly entreated by her most distressed husband even for their children’s sake, the mutual common pledges of sweetest love, yet would not come near him. “My breath,” saith he, “is strange to my wife, though 1 entreated for the children’s sake of mine own body” (Job xix, 17). Satan, 1 confess, is wont to roar and rage fiercely enough about God’s blessed ones, to do them all the mischief he can possibly; but rarely hath he so large a reach and his chain so lengthened as he had against Job. 1 he painful anguish of someone part would not only deprive a man of the pleasure of the world’s monarchy if he had it in possession, but also make him weary of his life. In what a taking then was Job, who from the sole of his foot unto his crown had no part free from sore biles and horribly inflamed ulcers, exasperated and enraged with the stinging smart of Satan’s extremest malice, who had power given him to inflict them. God himself frowns many times, and withdraws the beams of his pleased face from the souls of his servants to their great grief, though for their spiritual good; but seldom cloth he set them up for his mark, hunt them as a fierce lion, set his terrors in array against them, and command the poison of his arrows to drink up their spirit, as Job complains, chap. xix, 13; x, 16; vi, 4.

It is no strange thing, neither should it much move, but only make us walk more watchfully, to hear men of the world and drunken Belials to belch out from their rotten hearts upon the ale-bench such base slanders as these: “These professors, for all their fair shows, are certainly all of them notorious hypocrites. Though they look never so demurely, they are not the men they are taken for,” &c. But to have a man’s nearest, familiar, understanding Christian friends to charge him with hypocrisy, is a most cruel cut to a troubled conscience: and this was Job’s case.

[[11]] Thus as Job was singular in the universality of his afflictions, so there was a singularity of bitterness above ordinary in every particular affliction. And what of all this! And yet for all this, this holy man, by the help of that precious hoard of grace which his heavenly heart had treasured up in the time of prosperity, out of that spiritual strength which lie had gotten into his soul by his former humble acquaintance and conversation with his God, and knowing full well that though all was gone, yet he still possessed Jesus Christ as fully, if not more feelingly, as ever before, he becomes hereupon as rare and admirable a pattern of patience to all posterity, as he was an extraordinary, astonishing spectacle of adversity and woe. Consciousness of his forespent righteous life, which he peruseth chap. xxxi; the clearness of a good conscience, chap. xvi, 19; “Behold my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high;” and his invincible faith, chap. xix, 23, 24, 25, “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen, and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my Redeemer liveth,” &c.; chap. xiii, 15; “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;”—did so strengthen and stay his spirit with a divine might, that he bore valiantly and stood upright under the heaviest weight and greatest variety of extreme afflictions that ever were laid upon any mere man. But now, on the other side, the tithe, nay the ten hundredth part of Job’s troubles, caused graceless Ahithophel to saddle his ass, get himself home, put his household in order, and hang himself. So true is that which the blessed prophet tells us, Jer. xvii, 5-8, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

This impregnable comfort springing from grace and a good conscience, even in evil times, did steel the spirit of blessed Luther with such spiritual stoutness, and so hardened his forehead against a world, nay a horrible hell of most reproachful and raging oppositions, that he became a spectacle, a miracle of rarest Christian fortitude and invincible courage to the whole world and to all posterity. I [[12]] am persuaded, that holy truth of God which he so gloriously professed, and that power of godliness which he so faithfully practised, did infuse into the heart of that man as much unconquerableness of resolution and fearlessness of the face of man, as ever dwelt in any mortal breast since the time of the apostles. Witness among the rest that one extraordinary expression of his incomparable magnanimity, when his friends were earnest and eager upon him not to venture himself among a number of perfidious papists and bloodthirsty tigers, he replied thus: “As touching me,” saith he, “since I am sent for, I am resolved, and certainly determined to enter Worms in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; yea, though I knew there were as many devils to resist me as there are tiles to cover the houses in Worms.” This man of God did upon the two pillars of his heroical heart, courage and patience, most nobly sustain the malice and hatred almost of the whole world. The devil and the pope did concurrently countermine with all their cruelty and cunning against this victorious champion of heaven and mighty underminer of their dark and damned kingdoms. Almost all the princes, priests, and people of Christendom did breed and breathe out nothing but thoughts of indignation and threats of death against him. Millions of lazy and lustful monks, having like so many pestilent locusts of the infernal pit, seized upon the face of Europe with their envenomed swarms, and lying at ease, encloistered in the vilest crimes, gnashed their teeth at him with hellish fury, and like true fiends spat fire in his face; and yet for all this, this holy saint (which I admire more and prize higher than the victories of a thousand Cæsars, or the most renowned valour of the greatest Alexander) having so many incarnate devils continually roaring about him with open mouth, ready every hour, and enraged with implacable thirst to drink up his blood, and swallow him up quick, yet, I say, enjoyed such a triumphant tranquillity of mind and unshaken presence of spirit, that like a mighty son of thunder, by his constant and powerful preaching for the space of nine and twenty years so shook the pillars of popery, that I am persuaded the beast will never stand upon his four legs anymore; and wrote eloquently and excellently almost if not as many volumes as Austin did, that great glory of the Christian world in former times. A petty cross will frequently so emasculate and weaken the elevation of the greatest wit, that his conceit, invention, and style will fall to a far lower strain than ordinary, which contentment and calmness would raise to their highest pitch and possibility. But the terrible earthquake as it were of all Europe, [[13]] and contrary commotions of Christendom, did never a whit disanimate or shake the heart of this heavenly man, fitly honoured by the name of a third Elias.

But now Francis Spira on the other side, having out of his inordinate love to the things of this life woefully wounded

his conscience by that infamous abjuration of the blessed truth which he formerly professed, became a spectacle of such spiritual misery and woe to the whole world, that there is not anything left unto the memory of man more remarkable.

Upon the very first revisal of his recantation, and serious consideration in cold blood what he had done, he acknowledged himself utterly undone and for ever. His spirit suddenly smitten with the dreadful sense of Divine wrath for his apostasy, and split in pieces as it were with so grievous a bruise, fainted fearfully, failed him quite, and fell asunder in his breast like drops of water. Hear some rueful expressions of his desperate state from his own mouth: “Oh that I were gone from hence, that somebody would let out this weary soul! I tell you there was never such a monster as I am; never was man alive a spectacle of such exceeding misery. I now feel God’s heavy wrath, that burns like the torments of hell within me, and afflicts my soul with pangs unutterable. Verily desperation is hell itself. The gnawing worm of unquenchable fire, horror, confusion, and, which is worst of all, desperation itself, continually tortures me. And cow I count my present estate worse than if my soul separated from my body were with Judas, and therefore I desire rather to be there than thus to live in my body. The truth is, never had mortal man such experience of God’s anger and hatred against him as I have. If I could conceive but the least spark of hope in my heart of a better state hereafter, I would not refuse to endure the most heavy wrath of the great God, yea for two thousand years, so that at length I might emerge out of misery.” He professed that his pangs were such as that the damned souls in hell endure not the like misery; that his state was worse than that of Cain or Judas, and therefore desired to die. “Oh that God would let loose his hand from me, and that it were with me now as in times past: I would scorn the threats of the most cruel tyrants, bear torments with invincible resolution, and glory in the outward profession of Christ, till I were choked in the flame and my body turned into ashes.”