Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
~ Ephesians 6:16
After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
~ Genesis 15:1
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
~ Psalm 56:3-4
In God will I praise his word: in the LORD will I praise his word. In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
~ Psalm 56:10-11
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
~ Proverbs 18:10
Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:24
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
~ Hebrews 6:17-18
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
~1 Peter 5:8-9
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
~ 1 John 5:4-5
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
~ James 4:7
Satan’s Darts and the Shield of Faith, and Other Remedies, by William Gouge. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “The Whole Armour of God”.
§. 81. Of Satan’s darts here meant.
Some take afflictions to be meant by darts.
Answer. There is another proper peece of armor to defend us from the hurt of them, namely, The preparation of the Gospel of Peace.
Other take all sinnes and all proocations to sinne, to be heere meant.
Answ. This must needs be too generall: for thus should the severall peeces of Armour, and their distinct uses be confounded. The Brestplate of Righteousnesse is the proper fence against such temptations.
I take the darts here spoken of to be those several and sundry temptations which the Devil useth to draw us to doubt of that helpe wee have in GOD, and to despaire: for oft he casteth sundry thoughts of despaire into us, that he might shut out all hope in God, and so draw into perdition. Thus afflictions, so farre forth as the Devil useth them as meanes to disquiet and vexe the soule, may be here understood: and likewise all sinnes and provocations to sinne, as they tend hereunto. These temptations were they light and fasten, pierce deepe. Satan let store of these flie against Job, they fell on him as thicke as haile-stones: despaire was it which Satan sought to bring Job unto by depriving him of his cattell, goods, children, & all that he had: by striking his body all over with sore botches & boiles. The contradicting speeches of Job’s wife and friends (the instruments of Satan herein) tended to this. These darts also he let flie at David, as appeareth by the many complaints of David: yea, he flung some of these at Christ in the wildernesse, in thee garden, and on the crosse. No darts so wound the body, as these wound the soule where they fasten.
§. 82. Of the vertue of faith against Satan’s darts.
2 These darts are onely kept off by faith: for faith alone giveth us assurance of God’s love: by it wee so rest and repose our selves on the favour of God in Christ, as nothing can make us doubt of it, or separate us from it. Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him, saith Job. Reade Psal. 3. & 91. & Rom. 8. 38, 39. The stronger our faith is, the better are we fenced against these temptations: the weaker our faith is, the deeper doe they pierce: yea if they prevaile against us, it is because we want this shield, or at least have let it fall, and so for the time want the use of it. Therefore Saint Peter exhorteth to be stedfast in the faith, while wee resist the Devil; as if he had said, Looke to your shield, keepe it safe, hold it out manfully against all the darts of the Devil.
§. 83. Of Satan’s fiery darts.
3 They who by these darts understand afflictions, say, they are called fierie, because afflictions are greevous to the flesh; they who understand sins, because as fire they kindle one another and so increase.
Answ. But there is an higher matter here meant; for the metaphor is taken from malicious mischievous enemies who poison the heads of darts, and arrowes, & bullets which they shoot at men: these poisoned things being of a fiery nature, if they pierce into a man’s flesh, lie burning, and tormenting the body, and continue to inflame it more and more, till they have soaked out the very life of a man, if in time they be not cured. Thus the forenamed temptations of Satan, tending to doubt and despaire, (if they fasten) vexe, grieve and torment the soule, burning and festring therein, till they bring a man to utter destruction, if the fire and heat of them bee not slaked and taken away. It must needs bee great burning, great anguish and vexation that made David cry out and say, O Lord rebuke me not in thy wrath, &c. My bones are vexed: my soule is also sore vexed, &c. I fainted in my mourning, & I am in trouble, mine eye, my soule and my belly are consumed with griefe, &c. I roared all the day.d Much more bitter exclamations did Job send forth, and yet what men were these? what excellent Worthies of the Lord? If the fiery venome, and burning poison of Satan’s darts so tormented such men, men of admirable faith, how doe they torment men of weake faith, yea men of no faith? Judas was so tormented therby, that his life was an unsupportable burden unto him, he could not endure it, but made away himselfe, as many other have done in all ages.
§. 84. Of the vertue of faith against Satan’s fiery darts.
4 The onely meanes to coole this scorching heare, & to asswage this burning, is the blood of Christ: and faith onely is the meanes to apply the efficacy of Christ’s blood to our soules: by faith therefore, and by nothing else, may these fiery darts be quenched. As balsom, & such other medicinable oyles which Chirurgiōs have for that purpose, being applied to that part of man’s body which is in flamed with the forenamed poisonous weapons, asswage the heate, drive out the poison, and cure the flesh: so faith, which applieth the vertue of Christ’s Sacrifice to a perplexed and troubled soule, dispelleth the inward anguish thereof, pacifieth and quieteth it, and so cureth the wounds thereof. The faith of David did thus cheere up and refresh his soule after it had been perplexed; in which respect he saith unto his soule, Why art thou cast downe and unquiet? Wait on God, &c. thus againe, and againe he cheereth up his soule: this also drew the fiery poison out of Job’s soule, as that speech implieth, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.
§. 85. Of stirring against despaire.
Are temptations to despaire, piercing darts? fiery darts? Keepe them off as much as possibly may be. As we feare to drinke poison, let us feare to despaire. It will be a fiery burning poison in our soule, that wil yeeld us no rest; as we see in such as are overcome thereby. Let us not dare to yeeld unto it; but though God should seeme to be so angry with us as to kill us, yet with Job, to trust in him. For this end we must suffer faith to have the upper place in us, even above sence and reason too. And for this end looke unto God, and duly weigh both what he promiseth, and why hee maketh such gracious promises to us: and looke not to our selves and our own deservings, but rather know that God’s mercy is as an ocean in comparison of the drops of our sinnes: they that despaire, little consider how much greater God’s goodnesse is, then their sinne.
§. 85. Of the need and benefit of faith.
In how wretched a condition doe they live, who are destitute of faith! they lie open to all the fiery, burning, tormenting temptations of the Devil; they have no meanes to prevent them, none to quench them when they are wounded in conscience. This fire must needs either stupifie all their spirituall sences, dry up all the life of the soule, and take away all feeling: or else torment them intollerably without all hope of redresse, as Caine, Saul, Judas, and such like were tormented. It were much better for a man not to bee, then not to beleeve.
What an admirable vertue is faith? what vertue hath it in it selfe? What benefit doth it bring unto us? What Christian souldier (that is wise, and feareth these fiery darts,) dares enter into the battaile without this balsom? The maine and principall ende, for which the Apostle here setteth downe these benefits of faith, that which especially he aymeth at, is, to commend unto us this precious gift, so as it may be a strong motive to urge all the forenamed points concerning faith, whereof wee have spoken before, and to stirre us up diligently to labour and use all the meanes we can, First to know what true faith is, Secondly, to get it, Thirdly, to prove it, Fourthly, to preserve and increase it, Fiftly, well and wisely to use it.
§. 86. Of spirituall recovery.
Behold here a sure ground of much comfort and great encouragement, even to such as are weake, and by reason of their weakenesse, or else through the violence of some temptation, have let fall their shield, so as Satan’s fiery darts have touched their conscience, and pierced their soule. Let them not thereupon utterly despaire, and yeeld themselves over to Satan’s power, but know that yet their faith may stand them in steed, that yet there is a further use of it, not onely as a shield to keepe off, but as balsome to drawe out the fire, to quench it, and cure the wound.a The word which the Apostle here useth, implieth (as wee have shewed) a recovering, resuming, and taking up againe our shield. Let not therefore our faintings, failings, and spirituall wounds put us out of all hope, as if death and destruction, without all remedy and recovery, must needes follow thereupon: But rather let us with all speed have recourse to God’s promises, and to Christ Iesus the true heire of them, and so renew our faith, as Peter renewed his, when he looked upon Christ.
§. 87. Of Satan’s assaulting our faith.
The last point yet remaineth, which is, to discover the manifold wiles which the Devil useth against this heavenly gift, and to shew how they may bee avoyded. We have heard before how he laboureth to spoile us of the Girdle of Truth, Brestplate of Righteousnesse, and Shooes of Patience; but his best wit and greatest force is bent against the Shield of faith. The first assault made against Eve, was in regard of her faith, Hath God indeede said, &c: so against Christ, (If thou bee the Sonne of God, &c.) Herein did he oft tempt the Israelites, yea & Moses also in the wildernesse. This was it for which he desired to winnow Peter; and for which Paul feared lest hee had tempted the Thessalonians. Lamentable experience sheweth how mightily hee prevaileth by this temptation: in time of persecution he bringeth men hereby to renounce their profession: and hereby at all times he bringeth many to the very pit of despaire.
That which hath been before delivered concerning the excellency, necessity, use and benefit of faith, declareth the reason, why the Devil so assaulteth it: for hee, being our Adversary walking about, and seeking whom to devoure, espieth that faith is it which especially preserveth us safe from being devoured; that this is the victory which overcommeth both himselfe and his chiefe agent and instrument thel world; and therefore with all might and maine endeavoureth to spoile us of this shield. It is therefore needfull we should know what are his wyles, and how they may be avoyded.
His sundry kindes of wyles may be drawne to two heads, namely those wherby he laboureth either to keep men from faith, or else to wrest faith from them. I will in order discover some of the principall in both kinds, which are these.
§. 88. Answer to Satan’s Suggestion, that it is presumption to beleeve.
1. Suggest. First, it is altogether impossible to attaine unto any such gift as faith is. Secondly, can any man be assured that Christ is his? Thirdly, whosoever hath any such conceit, presumeth. Fourthly, to inforce this temptation the further, he also suggesteth, that the ground of faith (God’s word) is uncertaine. And fiftly, though that Scripture were the certain Word of God, yet the Ministery of it by man, is too weake a meanes to worke so great a worke as faith is thought to be this Suggestion hath prevailed much with Papists.
Answ. First, that which hath been before delivered concerning the getting of faith, sheweth that this is a lying Suggestion. Secondly, it hath been expresly proved that a man may know he hath faith. Thirdly, the differences betwixt faith and presumption shew, that assurance of faith is no presumption.
1 faith driveth a man out of himselfe: because the beleever can find no ground of confidence in himselfe, therefore hee casteth himselfe wholly upon Christ.
Presumption findeth something in the man himselfe to make him boast.
2 faith resteth on a sure ground, which is God’s Word, that both commandeth us to beleeve, and promiseth to performe that which we doe beleeve.
Presumption relyeth onely on a man’s surmize and meere conjecture.
3 faith is joyned with the use of the means: both of those meanes whereby it was first bred, and also of those which God hath appointed for the nourishing of it.
Presumption not onely carelesly neglecteth, but arrogantly contemneth all meanes.
4 faith is wrought by degrees: first by knowledge, then by griefe, after by desire, as we heard before.
Presumption is a sudden apprehension of the mind.
5 faith maketh a man worke out his salvation with an holy jealousie, yea with feare and trembling: oft calling upon God, and depending on him.
Presumption is over-bold.
6 faith maketh a man depart from all iniquity, and keepe a cleere conscience.
Presumption is accompanied with much pollution, at least inward.
7 faith is most sure in time of tryall, then is the strength of it most manifested.
Presumption like a Bragadocha then maketh greatest florish when there is least danger.
8 faith continueth unto the end, and never falleth away.
Presumption is subject to decay totally and finally.
4 Of the certainty of God’s word we shal after speak:
5 For man’s Ministery it is God’s ordinance; & thence it hath that mighty power to worke faith: for God who at first brought light out of darkenesse, can by weake meanes worke great matters: Besides, we have this treasure in earthly vessels, that the excellency of that power might be of God, and not of us.
§. 89. Answer to Satan’s suggestion of the difficulty of getting faith.
2 Suggest. If it be not impossible to get faith, yet it is so difficult and hard a matter, that not one of a thousand who seeke it, obtaine it. Herein Satan prevaileth with idle, slothfull persons, who in all things which they should enterprise, pretend more dangers and difficulties then needes, of purpose to find a pretence to their idlenesse.
Answer. Though it bee hard to the carnall carelesse man, yet (as Solomon saith of knowledge, Pro. 14. 6.) faith is easie to him that will beleeve; not that it is simply in man’s power, but that God’s Spirit so openeth his understanding in the mysteries of godlinesse, so worketh on his hard and stony heart, making the one capable, and the other pliable, as thereby the man is brought like softened waxe easily to receive the impression of God’s seale. Though man in himselfe be dead in sin, yet God’s word is as powerfull to quicken him, as Christ’s was to raise Lazarus. Indeed many seeke, and find not, aske, and have not: but why?d Saint Iames giveth one reason, They aske, and seeke amisse. They seeke faith in themselves, and from themselves: they seeke it by carnall and fleshly devices: they seeke it by their own wit and reason. Saint Paul rendreth another reason, The God of this world hath blinded their minds, that the glorious light of the Gospell should not shine unto them. Because they oppose against God’s truth so farre as it is made knowne unto them, or wittingly winke at it, or turne from it, God giveth them over in just judgement to the power of Satan, who blindeth their minds. But if we repaire to the Author who giveth faith, and to the spring whence it floweth; if we rightly use the right meanes of attaining it, and waite at the doore of Wisedome till shee open unto us, undoubtedly we shall find faith and not misse of it.
§. 90. Answer to Satan’s suggestion of the small need and use of faith.
3 Suggest. faith is a needlesse thing. This conceit the Devil putteth into the mind of two sorts of people: first of proud Pharisaicall justiciaries, who trust to their owne righteousnesse: these thinke that the brestplate of righteousnesse is armour enough: Secondly, of secure, carnall Gospellers, who imagine that a good hope (as they call it) is sufficient, there needeth not assurance of faith.
Answer. God maketh and ordaineth nothing in vaine: as for the proud justiciary, let him first know, that righteousnes severed from faith, is no righteousnesse: though righteousnesse joyned with faith be of good use, yet severed from faith, it is of no use at all. Secondly, that the Brestplate of righteousnesse, which the best men Ever in this World had, was full of crackes and holes, full of many defects and imperfections, through which Satan would soone have wounded them even to death, if they had not had this shield.
As for the secure Protestant, if ever hee feele the fire of Satan’s darts, he will find that all the assurance which possibly he can attaine unto, is little enough. That poore man which said; I beleeve, Lord help my unbeliefe: And the Disciples which said, Lord increase our faith, saw that a good hope was not enough.
As a preservative against this poysonous temptation, wee must labour for all the assurance of faith that wee can.