And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
~ 2 Samuel 12:13
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
~ Isaiah 55:6-7
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
~ Romans 12:9
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
~ Ephesians 4:25-29
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
~ Titus 2:11-14
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
~ Matthew 3:8
A Treatise Of the Saints’ War against the Devil: Wherein a Discovery is made of that grand Enemy of God and his People, in his Policies, Power, Seat of his Empire, Wickedness, and Chief Design He Hath Against the Sayings. A Magazine Opened, From Whence the Christian is Furnished with Spiritual Arms for the Battle, Helped on With his Armour, and Taught the Use of his Weapon: Together with the Happy Issue of the Whole War, by William Gurnall. The following is an excerpt from his work.
(The Christian’s life here is a continual wrestling with sin and Satan.)
Doctrine. The Christian’s life is a continual wrestling. He is, as Jeremiah said of himself, born ‘a man of strife.’ Or what the prophet (said) to Asa, may be said to every Christian; ‘From hence thou shalt have wars:’ from thy spiritual birth to thy natural death; from the hour when thou first didst set thy face to heaven, till thou shalt set thy foot in heaven. Israel’s march out of Egypt was, in gospel-sense, our taking the field against sin and Satan; and when had they peace?—not till they lodged their colours in Canaan. No condition wherein the Christian is, here below, is quiet. Is it prosperity or adversity? here is work for both hands, to keep pride and security down in the one, faith and patience up in the other; no place which the Christian can call privileged ground. Lot in Sodom wrestled with the wicked inhabitants thereof; his righteous soul being vexed with their unclean conversation. And how fares he at Zoar? Do not his own daughters bring a spark of Sodom’s fire into his own bed, whereby he is inflamed with lust? Some have thought if they were but in such a family, under such a ministry, out of such occasions, O then they should never be tempted as now they are! I confess change of air is a great help to weak nature, and these forenamed as vantage-ground against Satan; but thinkest thou to fly from Satan’s presence thus? No, though thou shouldst take the wings of the morning he would fly after thee; these may make him change his method in tempting, but not lay down his designs; so long as his old friend is alive within, he will be knocking at thy door without. No duty can be performed without wrestling. The Christian needs his sword as much as his trowel. He wrestles with a body of flesh; (and) this to the Christian in duty is as the beast to the traveller, he cannot go his journey without it, and (has) much ado to go with it. If the flesh be kept high and lusty, then it is wanton and will not obey; if low, then it is weak and soon tires. Thus the Christian rids but little ground, because he must go his weak body’s pace. He wrestles with a body of sin as well as of flesh; this mutters and murmurs when the soul is taking up any duty, so that he cannot do what he would. As Paul said, I would have come once and again, but Satan hindered me. I would have prayed, may the Christian say, at such a time, and meditated on the word I heard, the mercies I received at another (time), but this enemy hindered. It is true indeed, grace sways the sceptre in such a soul; yet, as school-boys taking their time when the master is abroad, do shut him out, and for a while lord it in misrule, though they are whipped for it afterwards, thus the unregenerate part takes advantage when grace is not on its watch to disturb its government, and shut it out from duty. Though this at last makes the soul more severe in mortifying, yet it costs some scuffle before it can recover its throne; and when it cannot shut from duty, yet is the Christian woefully yoked with it in duty. It cannot do what it doth as it would. Many a letter in its copy doth this enemy spoil, while he jogs him with impertinent thoughts. When the Christian is a praying, then Satan and the flesh are a prating; he cries, and they louder to put him out or drown his cry. Thus we see the Christian is assailed on every side by his enemy; and how can it be other, when the seeds of war are laid deep in the natures of both, which can never be rooted up till the devil cease to be a devil, sin to be sin, and the saint to be a saint? Though wolves may snarl at one another, yet are soon quiet again, because the quarrel is not in their nature; but the wolf and the lamb can never be made friends. Sin will lust against grace, and grace draw upon sin, whenever they meet.
(Reproof to such as are not true wrestlers.)
First. This may reprove such as wrestle; but against whom? against God, not against sin and Satan. These are bold men indeed, who dare try a fall with the Almighty; yet such there are, and a woe (is) pronounced against them, Isa. 45:9 ‘Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker.’ It is easy to tell which of these will be worsted. What can he do but break his shins that dasheth them against a rock? A goodly battle there is like to be, when thorns contest with fire, and stubble with flame. But where live those giants that dare enter the list with the great God? What are their names, that we may know them, and brand them for creatures above all other unworthy to live? Take heed, O thou who askest, that the wretched man whom thou seekest so to defy, be not found in thy own clothes itself. Judas was the traitor, though he would not answer to his name, but put it off with a ‘Master, is it I?’ And so mayest thou be the fighter against God. The heart is deceitful. Even holy David, for all his anger, was so hot against the rich man, that took away the poor man’s ewe-lamb, that he bound it with an oath, (that) the man should not live who had done it, yet proves at last to be himself the man, as the prophet told him, II Sam. 12. Now there are two ways wherein men wrestle against God. 1. When they wrestle against his Spirit, 2. When they wrestle against his providence.
1. When the wrestle against his Spirit. We read of the Spirit striving against the creature, ‘My spirit shall not always strive with man,’ Gen. 6:3, where the striving is not in anger and wrath to destroy them —that God could do without any stir or scuffle—but a loving strife and contest with man. The old world was running with such a career headlong into their ruin, (that) he sends his Spirit to interpose, and by his counsels and reproofs to offer, as it were, to stop them and reclaim them; as if one seeing another ready to offer violence on himself, should strive to get the knife out of his hand, with which he would do the mischief; or one that hath a purse of gold in his hand to give, should follow another by all manner of entreaties, striving with him to accept and take it. Such a kind of strife is this of the Spirit’s with men. They are the lusts of men—those bloody instruments of death, with which sinners are mischieving themselves — that the Holy Spirit strives by his sweet counsels and entreaties to get out of our hands. They are Christ’s grace and eternal life (that) he strives to make us accept at the hands of God’s mercy; and for repulsing the Spirit thus striving with them, sinners are justly counted fighters against God. ‘Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost,’ Acts 7:51. Now there is a twofold striving of the Spirit, and so of our wrestling against it.
(1.) The Spirit strives in his messengers with sinners. They coming on his errand, and not their own, he voucheth the faithful counsels, reproofs, and exhortations which they give us as his own act. (What) Noah, that preacher of righteousness, said to the old world is called the preaching of the Spirit, I Peter 3:19. The pains that Moses, Aaron, and other servants of God took in instructing Israel, is called the instruction of the Spirit, Neh. 9:20; so that when the word, which God’s ministers bring in his name, is rejected, the faithful counsels they give are thrown at sinners’ heels and made light of; then do they strive with the Spirit, and wrestle against Christ as really, as if he visibly in his own person had been in the pulpit, and preached the same sermon to them. When God comes to reckon with sinners, it will prove so. Then God will rub up your memories, and mind you of his striving with you, and your unkind resisting him. They, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, shall know here hath been a prophet among them, Eze. 2:5. Now men soon forget whom and what they hear. Ask them what was pressed upon their consciences in such a sermon. They have forgot. What were the precious truths laid out in another? —and they are lost. And well were it for them if their memories were no better in another world; it would ease their torments more than a little. But then they shall know they had a prophet among them, and what a price they had with them in their hands, though it was in fools’ keeping. They shall know what he was, and what he said, though a thousand years past, as fresh as if it were done but last night. The more zealous and compassionate, the more painful and powerful he was in his place, the greater shall their sin be found, to break from such holy violence offered to do them good. Surely God will have something for their sweat, yea, lives of his servants which were worn out in striving with such rebellious ones. May be yet, sinners, your firmament is clear, no cloud to be seen that portends a storm; but know, as you use to say, winter does not rot in the clouds; you shall have it at last. Every threatening which your faithful ministers have denounced against you out of the Word, God is bound to make good. He confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers, Isa. 44:26, and that in judgment against sinners, confirming the threatenings, as well as in mercy performing the promises, which they declare as the portion of his children. But it will be time enough to ask such on a sick-bed, or a dying hour, whether the words of the Lord delivered by their faithful preachers have not taken hold of them. Some have confessed with horror (that) they have; as the Jews—‘Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, so hath he dealt with us,’ Zech. 1:6.
(2.) The Spirit strives with men more immediately, when he makes his inward approaches to the consciences of men, debating in their own bosoms the case with them. One while he shows them their sins in their bloody colours, and whither they shall surely bring them, if not looked to timely, which he doth so convincingly, that the creature smells sometimes the very fire and brimstone about him, and is at present in a temporary hell; another while he falls a parleying and treating with them, making gracious overtures to the sinner, if he will return at his reproof, presents the grace of the gospel, and opens a door of hope for his recovery, yea, falls a wooing and beseeching of him to throw down his rebellious arms, and come to Christ for life, whose heart is in a present disposition to receive and embrace the first motion the returning sinner makes for mercy. Now when the Spirit of God follows the sinner from place to place, and time to time, suggesting such motions, and renewing his old suit, and the creature shall fling out of the Spirit’s hands, thus striving with him, (the thing being unaccomplished), as far from renouncing his lusts, or taking any liking to Christ as ever. This is to resist the Spirit to his face, and it carries so much malignity in it, that even where it hath not been final, poor humbled souls (so) over-set with the horror of it, that they could not for a long time be persuaded but that it was the unpardonable sin. Take heed therefore, sinners, how you use the Spirit when he comes knocking at the door of your hearts. Open at his knock, and he will be your guest; you shall have his sweet company. Repulse him, and you have not a promise he will knock again. And if once he leave striving with thee, unhappy man, thou art lost for ever; thou liest like a ship cast up by the waves upon some high rock, where the tide (will) never come to fetch it off. Thou mayest come to the Word, converse with other ordinances, but in vain. It
is the Spirit in them, which is both tide and wind, to set the soul afloat, and carry it on, or else it lies like a ship on dry ground which stirs not.
2. We wrestle against God when we wrestle with is providence; and that in two ways.
(1.) When we are discontented with his providential disposure of us. God’s carving for us doth not please us so, but that we are objecting against his dealings towards us, at least muttering something with the fool in our hearts, which God hears as lightly as man our words. God counts then we begin to quarrel with him, when we do not acquiesce in, and say amen to his providence, whatever it is. He calls it a contending with the Almighty, Job 40:2, yea, a reproving of God. And he is a bold man sure that dare find fault with God, and article against heaven. God challengeth him, whoever he is, that doth this, to answer it at his peril. ‘He that reproveth God, let him answer it,’ ver. 2 of the chapter forementioned. It was high time for Job to have done, when he hears what a sense God puts upon those unwary words which dropped from him in the anguish of his spirit and paroxysm of his sufferings. Contend with the Almighty? Reprove God? Good man, how blank he is, and cries out, I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Let God but pardon what is past, and he shall hear such language no more. O, sirs, Take heed of this wrestling above all other. Contention is uncomfortable, with whomsoever it is we fall out—Neighbours or friends, wife or husband, children or servants, but worst of all with God. If God cannot please thee, but thy heart riseth against him, what hopes are there of thy pleasing him, who will take nothing kindly from that man who is angry with him? And how can love to God be preserved in a discontented heart, that is always muttering against him? Love cannot think any evil of God, nor endure to hear any speak evil of him, but it must take God’s part, as Jonathan David’s, when Saul spake basely of him; and when it cannot be heard, will like him arise and be gone. When afflicted, love can allow thee to groan, but not to grumble. If thou wilt ease thy encumbered spirit into God’s bosom by prayer, and humbly wrestle with God on thy knees, love is for thee, and will help thee to the best arguments thou canst use to God; but if thou wilt vent thy distempered passions, and show a mutinous spirit against God, this stabs it to the heart.
(2.) We wrestle against providence, when incorrigible under the various dispensations of God toward us. Providence has a voice if we had an ear.
Mercies should draw, afflictions drive. Now when neither fair means nor foul do is good, but we are impenitent under both; this is to wrestle against God with both hands. Either of these have their peculiar aggravations: one is against love, and so disingenuous; the other is against the smart of his rod, and therein we slight his anger, and are cruel to ourselves in kicking against the pricks. Mercy should make us ashamed, wrath afraid to sin. He that is not ashamed, has not the spirit of a man. He that is not afraid when smitten, is worse than the beast who stands in awe of whip and spur. Sometimes mercy, especially these outward mercies, which have a pleasing relish to the carnal part in a Christian, hath proved a snare to the best of men, but then affliction useth to recover them. But when affliction makes men worse, and they harden themselves against God, to sin more and more while the rod is on them; what is like to reclaim them? Few are made better by prosperity, whom afflictions make worse. He that will sin, though he goes in pain, will much more, if that once be gone. But take heed of this contesting with God. There is nothing got by scuffling with God, but blows, or worse. If he say he will afflict thee no more, it is even the worst he can say; it is as much as if he should say he will be in thy debt till another world, and there pay thee altogether. But if he means thee mercy, thou shalt hear from him in some sharper affliction than ever. He hath wedges that can rive thee, wert thou a more knotty piece than thou art. Are there yet the treasures of wickedness, and the scant measure that is abominable? saith god to Israel. What! incorrigible, though the Lord’s voice crieth unto the city, Micah 6:9, bidding you hear the rod, and him that hath appointed it? See what course God resolves on. Therefore will I make thee sick in smiting of thee, ver. 13. As if he had said, My other physic, I see, was too weak, it did not work or turn your stomach, but I will prepare a potion that shall make you sick at heart.
Second. It reproves those who seem to wrestle against sin, but not according to the word of command that Christ gives.