skip to primary navigation skip to content
<453>

A CHRISTIANS Conflicts and Conquests. OR, A DISCOURSE Concerning

  • The Devil's active Enmity and continual Hostility against Man.
  • The Warfare of a Christian life.
  • The Certainty of Success and Victory in this Spiritual Warfare.
  • The Evil and Horridness of Magical Arts and Rites, Diabolical Contracts, &c.

Siracides Cap. 2. 1.

Τέκνον, εἰ προσέρχῃ δουλεύειν Κυρίῳ, ἑτοίμασον τὴν ψυχὴν σου εἰς πειρασμόν.

*[1] Cap. 36. 1.

Τῷ φοβουμὴνῳ Κύριον οὐκ ἀπαντήσει κακὸν, ἀλλ' ἐν πειρασμῷ καὶ πάλιν ἐξελεῖται.

Cyprianus De Zelo & Livore.

Excubandum est, Fratres dilectissimi, atque omnibus viribus elaborandum, ut inimico sævienti, & jacula sua in omnes corporis partes, quibus percuti & vulnerari possumus, dirigenti, sollicitâ & plenâ vigilantiâ repugnemus—Quamobrem contra omnes Diaboli vel fallaces insidias vel apertas minas stare debet instructus animus & armatus, tam paratus semper ad repugnandum quàm est ad impugnandum semper paratus inimicus.

<455>

A
CHRISTIANS
Conflicts and Conquests

Represented in a Discourse upon James 4. 7.

Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

Chap. I.

The Introduction, Summarily treating of the perpetual Enmity between God, the Principle of Good, & the Principle of Evil, the Devil: as also between Whatsoever is from God & That which is from the Devil. That Wicked men by destroying what there is from God within them, and devesting themselves of all that which hath any alliance to God or true Goodness, and transforming themselves into the Diabolical image, fit themselves for correspondence and converse with the Devil. The Fears and Horrors which infest both the Apostate Spirits and Wicked men. The weakness of the Devil's kingdom; Christ's success against it.

IT Hath been an antient Tradition received by the Gentile Philosophers, That there are Two main Principles that spend and spread their influence through the whole Universe: The one they call'd The Principle of Good, the other they call'd The Principle of Evil: <456> and that these Two maintain a continual contest and enmity the one with the other. The Principle of Goodness, which is nothing else but God himself, who derived himself in clear and lovely stamps and impressions of Beauty and Goodness through the whole Creation, endeavours still to assimilate and unite it to himself. And on the other side The Principle of Evil, the Prince of darkness, having once stained the Original beauty and glory of the Divine workmanship, is continually striving to mold and shape it more and more into his own likeness. And as there is such a perpetual and active Enmity between God and the Evil Spirit: so whatsoever is from God is perpetually opposing and warring against that which arises from the Devil. The Divine Goodness hath put enmity between whatsoever is born of him or flowes forth from it self, and the Seed of the Serpent. As at the beginning he divided between the Night and the Day, between Light and Darkness, so that they can never intermingle or comply one with another, or be reconciled one to the other: so neither can those Beams of Divine light and love which descend from God upon the Souls of men be ever reconciled to those foul and filthy Mists of Sin and Darkness which ascend out of the bottomless pit of Hell and Death. That Spirit is not from God, who is the Father of lights and in whom there is no darkness, as the Apostle speaks, which endeavours to compound with Hell, and to accommodate between God and the Devil. God himself hath set the bounds to darkness and the shadow of death. Divine Truth and Goodness cannot contract themselves with any thing that is from Hell, or espouse themselves to any Brat of darkness: as it was set forth in the Emblem under the Old Law, where none of the Holy seed <457> might marry with the people of any strange God. Though that Rule, Touch not, tast not, handle not, be abolished in the Symbolical rites, yet it hath an immutable Mystery in it not subject to the laws or changes of Time.

He that will entertain any correspondence with the Devil, or receive upon his Soul his Image or the number of his name, must first devest and strip himself of all that which hath any alliance to God or true Goodness within him: He must transform his Mind into the true likeness and similitude of those foul Fiends of darkness, and abandon all relation to the Highest and Supremest Good. And yet though some men endeavour to doe this, and to smother all those Impressions of Light and Reason which God hath folded up in every mans Being, and destroy all that which is from God within them, that so they may reconcile themselves to Sin and Hell; yet can they never make any just peace with them: There is no peace to the wicked, but they are like the troubled Sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. Those Evil spirits are alwaies turbulent and restless; and though they maintain continually a War with God and his kingdom, yet are they alwaies making disquietings and disturbances in their own kingdom; and the more they contest with God and are deprived of him, the more full are they of horror and tumultuous commotions within. Nothing can stand firm and sure, nothing can have any true and quiet establishment, that hath not the Everlasting arms of true Goodness under it to support it. And as those that deliver over themselves most to the Devil's pleasure, and devote themselves to his service, cannot doe it without a secret inward Antipathy against him or dreadful thoughts of him: so neither can those impure spirits <458> stand before the Divine glory; but being filled with trembling and horror continually endeavour to hide themselves from it, and flee away before it as the Darkness flies away before the Light. And according as God hath in any Places in any Ages of the world made any manifestations of himself to men, so have those Evil spirits been vanquished, and forced to quit their former Territories; as is especially very observable in the ceasing of all the Græcian Oracles soon after the Gospel was promulged in those parts, when those desolate spirits with horrid and dismal groans resigned up their habitations, as Plutarch hath recorded of them.

Our Saviour hath found by good experience, how weak a thing the Devil's kingdome is, when he spoiled all the Principalities and Powers of darkness, and made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in (or, by) it, that is, his Crosse, as the Apostle speaks: and if we will resolutely follow the Captain of our salvation, and fight under his banner, as good souldiers of Jesus Christ, we have full security given us for the same successe; Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

Chap. II.

The First observable, That the Devil is continually busie with us. The Devil consider'd under a double notion. 1. As an Apostate Spirit which fell from God. The great danger of the Devil's activity, not onely when he presents himself in some corporeal shape, but when he is unseen and appears not. The weakness and folly of those who are afraid of him onely when he appears embodyed. That the Good Spirit of God is active <459> for the Good of Souls. How regardless men are of the gentle motions of the Divine Spirit; and how unwatchfull and secure under the Suggestions of the Evil Spirit. How we may discover the Devil in his Stratagems, and under his several disguises and appearances.

[2]IN these words [Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you] we shall take notice First of what is evidently implied, viz. That the Devil is continually busy with us. This may be considered under a double notion.

1. By the Devil we are to understand that Apostate Spirit which fell from God, and is always designing to hale down others from God also. The old Dragon (mentioned in the Revelation) with his tail drew down the third part of the Stars of heaven and cast them to the Earth. As true Goodness is not content to be happy alone; so neither can Sin and Wickedness be content to be miserable alone. The Evil Spirit told God himself what his imployment was, viz.[3] To goe to and fro in the earth, and to walk up and down in it: he is always walking up and down through dry places (where no Divine influences fall to water it) as our Saviour speaks, seeking rest, though always restlesse. The Philosophy of the Antients hath observed That every man that comes into this world hath a good and an evil Genius attending upon him. It were perhaps a vain curiosity to inquire whether the number of Evil spirits exceed the number of Men: but this is too too certain, that we never want the secret and latent attendance of them. The Devil is not onely a word or a name made to affright and scare timorous men with; neither are we then onely in danger of him, when he presents himself to us in some Corporeal form: it is nothing else but a superstitious weakness to be afraid of <460> him onely then when he appears embodyed, and to neglect that unseen and insensible influence which his continual converse with us as an unbodyed spirit may have upon us. Those Evil spirits are not yet cast out of the world into outer darkness, though it be prepared for them: the bottomless pit hath not yet shut its mouth upon them. They fell from God not so much by a Local descent, as by a Mental apostasy and dissimilitude to God: and they are now in libera custodia, having all this habitable world for their Rendezvous, and are stiled by the Apostle[4] Spiritual wickednesses in high places. Wheresoever there are any in a disposition to sin against God, wheresoever there are any capable of a Temptation or Diabolical impression, here and there are they. A man needs not dig into the chambers of death, or search among the shadows of darknesse to find them; he needs not goe down into hell to seek them, or use any Magical charms to raise them up from thence: No, those wicked and impure spirits are always wandring up and down amongst us, seeking whom they may devour. As there is a Good Spirit conversant in the world, inviting and alluring men to Vertue and Goodness; so there is an Evil spirit, perpetually tempting and inticeing men to Sin and Vice. Uncloathed and unbodyed natures may converse with us by secret illapses, while we are not aware of them. I doubt not but there are many more Divine impressions made upon the Minds of men, both Good and Bad, from the Good Spirit of God, then are ordinarily observed; there are many soft and silent impulses, gentle motions, like our Saviour's putting in his hand by the hole of the door, as it is in the Canticles,[5] solliciting and exciting men to Religion and Holiness; which they many times regard not, and take little notice of.

<461>

There are such secret messages often brought from Heaven to the Souls of men by an unknown and unseen hand, as the Psalmist speaks; Once, yea twice have I heard it, that power belongeth unto God. And as there are such divine irradiations sliding into the Souls of men from God: so there are no question many & frequent suggestions to the Fancies and Imaginations of men arising from the Evil Spirit; and a watchfull observer of his own heart and life shall often hear the voice of Wisdome & the voice of Folly speaking to him: he that hath his eyes opened, may see both the visions of God falling upon him, and discern the false and foolish fires of Satan that would draw away his mind from God. This is our unhappiness, that the Devil is so near us and we see him not; he is conversant with us, and yet we are not aware of him. Those are the most desperate designs & likeliest to take effect, that are carried on by an unseen and unappearing enemy: and if we will provide our selves against the Devil, who never misseth any opportunity that lies in his way to tempt us, nor is ever failing in any plot, we must then have our Senses exercised to discern both good and evil; we must get our Minds awakened with clear and evident Principles of Light; we must get our Judgments and Consciences well informed with sober and practical Truth, such as tends to make us most like to God, and to reconcile our natures more perfectly to Divine goodness. Then shall we know and discover that Apostate Spirit in all his Stratagems whereby he seeks to bereave us of our happiness: we shall know him as well when he cloaths himself like an Angel of light, as when he appears in his own nakedness and deformity. It is observed by some, That God never suffered the Devil to assume any humane shape, but with some Character whereby his Body might be distinguished from <462> the true Body of a man: and surely the Devil cannot so exactly counterfeit an Angel of light, but that by a discerning mind he may be distinguished from him; as they say a Beggar can never act a Prince so cunningly, but that his behaviour sometime sliding into the course way and principles of his Education, will betray the meannesse of his pedigree to one of a true noble extraction. A bare Imitation will always fall short of the Copy from whence it is taken; and though Sin and Errour may take up the mantle of Truth and cloath themselves with it, yet he that is inwardly acquainted with Truth, and an ingenuous lover and pursuer of it, will be able to find out the Imposture, he will be able to see through the vail into the naked deformity of them.

Chap. III.

2. Of the activity of the Devil consider'd as a Spirit of Apostasy and as a Degenerate nature in men. That the Devil is not onely the name of one Particular thing, but a Nature. The Difference between the Devil and Wicked men is rather the Difference of a Name then of Natures. The Kingdome and Tyranny of the Devil and Hell is chiefly within, in the Qualities and Dispositions of mens Minds. Men are apt to quarrell with the Devil in the name and notion, and defy him with their Tongues, while they entertain him in their Hearts, and comply with all that which the Devil is. The vanity of their pretended Love to God, and Hatred of the Devil. That there is nothing Better then God himself, for which we should love him; and to love him for his own Beauty and Excellency is the best way of loving <463> him. That there is nothing worse then Sin it self, for which we should hate it; and to hate it for its own deformity is the truest way of hating it. How Hell and Misery arises from within men. Why Wicked men are so insensible of their Misery in this life.

2. WHen we say, The Devil is continually busy with us, I mean not onely some Apostate spirit as one particular Being, but that spirit of Apostasy which is lodged in all mens natures; and this may seem particularly to be aimed at in this place, if we observe the context: as the Scripture speaks of Christ not onely as a Particular person, but as a Divine Principle in holy Souls.

Indeed the Devil is not onely the name of one particular thing, but a nature: He is not so much one particular Being designed to torment Wicked men in the world to come, as a hellish and diabolical nature seated in the minds of men. He is not onely one Apostate Spirit fallen down from heaven out of the lap of Blessedness; but also a Spirit of Apostasy, a degenerate and depraved nature. Could the Devil change his foul and impure nature, he would neither be a Devil nor miserable: and so long as any man carries about him a sinfull and corrupt nature, he can neither be in perfect favour with God, nor blessed. Wickedness is the Form and Entelech of all the wicked spirits: it is the difference of a name rather then any proper difference of natures that is between the Devil and Wicked men. Wheresoever we see Malice, Revenge, Pride, Envy, Hatred, Self-will and Self-love, we may say Here, and There is that Evil spirit. This indeed is that Venenum Serpentis, the poyson and sting too of that Diabolical nature. As the Kingdome of Heaven is not so much without men as <464> within, as our Saviour tells us: so the Tyranny of the Devil and Hell is not so much in some External things, as in the Qualities and Dispositions of mens Minds. And as the enjoying of God and conversing with him consists not so much in a change of place, as in the participation of the Divine nature, and in our assimilation unto God: so our conversing with the Devil is not so much by a mutual local presence, as by an imitation of a wicked and sinful nature derived upon mens own Souls. Therefore the Jews were wont to stile that Original pravity that is lodged in mens spirits. מלאך המות the Angel of death and fiend of darkness. Those filthy Lusts and Corruptions which men foment and entertain in their Minds, they are the noisome Vapours that ascend out of the bottomless pit; they are the thick Mists and fogs of Hellish darkness arising in their Souls, as a Preface and Introduction of Hell and Death within. Where we find Uncleanness, Intemperance, Covetousness, or any such impure or unhallowed behaviour, we may say, Here Satan's throne is.

This sinfull and corrupt nature being the true issue of Hell it self, is continually dragging down mens Souls thither. All Sin and Wickedness in man's Spirit hath the Central force and Energy of Hell in it, and is perpetually pressing down towards it as towards its own place. There needs no Fatal necessity or Astral impulses to tumble wicked men down forcibly into Hell: No, for Sin it self, hastned by the mighty weight of its own nature, carries them down thither with the most swift and headlong motion. As they say of true Holiness and Christianity, Christi sacrina pennas habet, Christ's burden, which is nothing else but true Godliness, is a winged thing, and bravely bears it self upwards upon its own wings soaring aloft towards God: so we may <465> say of all Impiety, Diaboli sarcina pondus habet; the Devilish nature is alwaies within the Central attractions of Hell, and its own weight instigates and accelerates its motion thither. He that allows himself in any sin, or useth an unnatural dalliance with any vice, does nothing else in reality then entertain an incubus Dæmon; he prostitutes a wanton Soul, and forceth it to commit lewdness with the Devil himself. Sin is nothing better then a Brat of darkness and deformitie; it hath no other extraction or pedigree then may be derived from those unclean spirits that are nestled in Hell. All men in reality converse either with God or with the Devil, and walk in the Confines either of Heaven or of Hell: They have their fellowship either with the Father and the Son, as S. John speaks; or else with the Apostate and evil Angels.

I know these Expressions will seem to some very harsh and unwelcome: But I would beseech them to consider what they will call that spirit of Malice and Envy, that spirit of Pride, Ambition, Vain-glory, Covetousness, Injustice, Uncleanness, &c. that commonly reigns so much, and acts so violently in the Minds and Lives of men. Let us speak the truth, and call things by their own Names; let us not flatter our selves, or paint our filthy sores: so much as there is of Sin in any man, so much there is of the old man, so much there is of the Diabolical nature. Why do we defie the Devil so much with our Tongues, while we entertain him in our Hearts? But indeed men do but quarrel with him in the name and notion of him, while yet their Hearts can readily comply with all that which the Devil is: that Antipathy which is ordinarily expressed against him, like those natural Antipathies which the Philosophers speak of, being nothing else but Occult qualities, <466> or Natural instincts, which as they arise not from any principle of Reason or Understanding, so neither are they guided or governed by it. As mens Love to God is ordinarily nothing else but the mere tendencie of their Natures to something that hath the notion or name of God put upon it, without any clear or distinct apprehensions of him; so their Hatred of the Devil is commonly nothing else but an inward displicency of nature against something entitled by the Devil's name. Or else at best, Corrupt minds do nothing else but fashion out a God and a Devil, a Heaven and a Hell, to themselves, by the power of their own Fancies: and so they are to them nothing else but their own Creatures, sustained and supported by the force of their own Imaginations which first raised them. And as they commonly make a God like to themselves, such a one as they can best comply with and love; so they make a Devil most unlike to themselves, which may be any thing but what they themselves are, that so they may most freely spend their Anger and Hatred upon him: just as they say of some of the Ethiopians, who use to paint the Devil white, because they themselves are black. This is a strange merry kind of Madness, whereby men sportingly bereave themselves of the Supremest Good, and insure themselves as much as may be to Hell and Misery: They may thus cheat themselves for awhile, but the Eternal foundation of the Divine Being is immutable and unchangeable. God is but One, and his Name One, as the *[6] Prophet speaks, (howsoever the several Fancies of men may shape him out diversly;) and where we find Wisdome, Justice, Loveliness, Goodness, Love and Glory, in their highest elevations and most unbounded dimensions, That is He: and where we find any true participations of these, there is a true Communicati <467> on of God; and a defection from these is the Essence of Sin and the Foundation of Hell.

Now if this be rightly considered, I hope there will an Argument strong enough appear from the Thing it self, to enforce S. James his Exhortation, Resist the Devil: endeavour to mortifie and crucifie the Old man with all the corrupt lusts and affections of the Flesh.

We never so truly hate Sin, as when we hate it for its own Ugliness and deformity: as we never love God so truly, as when we love him for his own beauty and excellency. If we calculate aright, as we shall find nothing Better then God himself, for which we should love him; so neither shall we find any thing Worse then Sin it self, for which we should hate it. Our assimilation to God and conformity to him, instates us in a firm possession of true Happiness, which is nothing else but God himself, who is all Being and Blessedness; and our dissimilitude to God and Apostasy from him, involves us in our own Miserie, and sets us at the greatest enmity to what our unsatiable desires most of all crave for, which is the enjoyment of True and Satisfying Good. Sins are those fiery Snakes which will eternally lash and torment all damned spirits. Every mans Hell arises from the bottom of his own Soul; as those stinking Mists and tempestuous Exhalations that infest the Earth, have their first original from the Earth it self. Those streams of fire and brimstone ordained for the torment of all damned spirits, are rather the exsudations of their own filthy and corrupt nature then any external thing. Hell is not so much induced, as educed out of mens filthy Lusts and Passions. I will not here dispute what external Appendixes there may be of Heaven or Hell; but methinks I no where find a more Graphical description of the true Properties and Operations <468> of them, though under other names, then in those Characters of the Flesh and Spirit, in Galat. 5. ver. 19, 20, 21, 22, 23. Eternal death is begotten and brought forth out of the wombe of lust, and is little else but Sin consummated and in its full growth, as S. James intimates chap. 1.

Would wicked men dwell a little more at home, and descend into the bottome of their own Hearts, they should soon find Hell opening her mouth wide upon them, and those secret fires of inward fury and displeasure breaking out upon them, which might fully inform them of the estate of true Misery, as being a short anticipation of it. But in this life wicked men for the most part elude their own Misery for a time, and seek to avoid the dreadfull sentence of their own Consciences, by a tergiversation and flying from themselves into a converse with other things, Ut nemo in sese tentat descendere; else they would soon find their own home too hot for them. But while mens Minds are perpetually rambling all the world over in a pursuit of worldly designes, they are unacquainted with the affairs of their own Souls; and know not how deeply a Self-converse and reflection upon their own prodigious deformities would pierce their Souls with anguish: how vastly would they swell with Fury, Rage, Horrour, Consternation and whatsoever is contrary to that ineffable Light and Love and Peace which is in Heaven, in natures fully reconciled and united to true Goodness? As true Goodness cannot borrow Beauty from any external thing to recommend it self to the Minds and Affections of Good men, seeing it self is the very Idea and true life of all Beauty and Perfection, the source of Bliss and Peace to all that partake of her: so neither can Sin and Wickedness to an enlightned Soul appear more <469> Ugly, loathsome and hatefull, in any other shape then its own.

Chap. IV.

The Second Observable, viz. The Warfare of a Christian life. True Religion consists not in a mere passive capacity and sluggish kind of doing nothing, nor in a melancholy sitting still or slothfull waiting, &c. but it consists in inward life and power, vigour and activity. A discovery of the dulness and erroneousness of that Hypothesis, viz. That Good men are wholy Passive, and unable at any time to move without some External impetus, some impression and impulse from without upon them: or, That all Motions in Religion are from an External Principle. Of the Quality and Nature of the true Spiritual Warfare, and of the Manner and Method of it. That it is transacted upon the inner Stage of mens Souls, and managed without Noise or pompous Observation; and without any hindrance or prejudice to the most peaceful, sedate and composed temper of a religious Soul. This further illustrated from the consideration of the false and pretended Zeal for God and his Kingdome against the Devil; which though it be impetuous, and makes a great noise and a fair shew in the world, is yet both impotent and ineffectual.

[7]FRom these words, Resist the Devil, we may take notice of the Warfare of a Christian life, of that Active life and valour which Good men express in this world. A true Christian spirit is masculine and generous; it is no such poor, sluggish, pusillanimous thing as some men <470> fansie it to be, but active and noble. We fight not, saith the Apostle, against flesh and bloud, but against principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places. True Religion does not consist in a mere Passive capacity, in a sluggish kind of doing nothing, that so God himself might doe all; but it consists in life & power within: therefore it is called by the Apostle,[8] The spirit of power, of love, & of a sound mind; it's called the law of the spirit of life, strongly enabling Good men against the law of Sin and Death. True Wisdome, as the Wise man hath well stiled it, is the unspotted mirrour of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty; neither can any defiled thing enter into it: it goes in and out in the strength of God himself; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. Every thing as it partakes more of God, and comes nearer to him, so it becomes more active and lively, as making the nearer approaches to the Fountain of life and virtue. A Good man doth not only then move, when there is some powerfull impression and impulse upon him; but he hath a Spring of perpetual motion within. When God restores men to a new and divine life, he doth not make them like so many dead Instruments, stringing and fitting them, which yet are able to yield no sound of themselves; but he puts a living Harmony within them. That is but a Mechanical religion which moves no longer then some External weights and Impulses are upon it, whether those be (I think I may safely say) from some Worldly thing or from God himself, while he acts upon men from without them, and not from within them. It is not a Melancholy kind of sitting still, and sloathfull waiting, that speaks men enlivened by the Spirit and power of God. It is not Religion to stifle and smother those Active <471> powers and principles which are within us, or to dry up the Fountain of inward life and virtue. How say some amongst us, That there is no resurrection from the dead? no spirit or life within; but all our motions in Religion are merely from some assisting Form without? Good men do not walk up and down the world merely like Ghosts and Shadows, or like dead Bodies assumed by some Spirit, which are taken up and laid down again by him at his pleasure: But they are indeed living men, by a real participation from him who is indeed a quickning Spirit. Were our Religion so much a Thing without us as some men would seem to fansy it, were we so dead and liveless as that we could never move but from an External impetus; as our Religion could never indeed be called Ours, so neither could we ever have the inward sense of that Bliss and Peace which goes along with it; but must be like so many heavy loggs or dul pieces of Earth in Heaven and Happiness. That is a very earthly and flat Spirit in Religion which sinks like the lees to the bottome; or rather it is like that Terra damnata which the Chymists speak of, having no vigour, life or activity left in it, is truly dead to God, and is reprobate to any thing of Heaven. We know the Pedigree of those Exhalations that arise no higher then a mere external force from the Sun's heat weigheth them up, to be but base and earthly; and therefore having no natural warmth or energy within themselves imparted to them, they sink down again to the Earth from whence they came. The Spirit which is from Heaven is alwaies, out of an in-bred Nobleness which bears it up, carried upwards again towards Heaven from whence it came, powerfully resisting all things that would deprive it of God or hinder it from returning to its Original: it is alwaies <472> moving upwards in an even and steady way towards God from whence it came, leaving the dark Regions of Hell and Death under it: it resists Hell and Darkness by assimilating and conforming it self to God; it resists Darkness in the armour of light; it resists Death and destruction by the power of Divine love. It must be something of Heaven in the Minds of men, which must resist the Devil and Hell.

We do not alwaies resist the Devil then when we bid defiance to him, or when we declame most zealously against him; neither does our Resisting and Opposing of Sin and Wickedness consist in the violence of some Feminine passions which may sometimes be raised by the power of Fancy in the Minds of men against it: But it consists rather in a mature and sedate resolution against it in our own Souls, arising from a clear judgment of the foul and hatefull nature of Sin it self, and him who is the Patron of it; in a constant and serious endeavour of setling the government of our own Souls, and establishing the principality of Grace and Peace within our selves. There is a pompous and popular kind of tumult in the world, which sometimes goes for Zeal to God and his kingdome against the Devil; whenas mens own Pride and Passions disguise themselves under the notions of a Religious fervencie. Some men think themselves the greatest Champions for God and his Cause, when they can take the greatest liberty to quarrel with every thing abroad, and without themselves, which is not shaped according to the mould of their own Opinions, their own Self-will, Humour and Interest: Whereas indeed this Spiritual warfare is not so much maintained against a forrein enemy, as against those domestick rebellions that are within: neither is it then carried on most successfully, when men make the greatest <473> noise and most of all raise the dust. That impetuous violence and tempestuousness with which men are acted in pretensions of Religion arises ordinarily, I doubt, from unquiet and disturbed Minds within: whereas it is indeed the inward conflicts and commotions, sin and vice, and not a holy zeal for God, which discompose the Minds of men. Sin, where it is entertained, will indeed breed disturbance, and break the peace of a mans own spirit; but a true resisting and opposing of it is the restoring of the Soul to its just Consistency, Freedome and Serenity again. As God's kingdome is set up, so the Devil's kingdome may be pulled down, without the noise of axes and hammers. We may then attain to the greatest atchievements against the gates of Hell and Death, when we most of all possesse our own Souls in patience, & collect our Minds into the most peacefull, composed and united temper. The motions of true Practical Religion are most like that of the Heavens, which though most swift, is yet most silent. As Grace and true Religion is no lazy or sluggish thing, but in perpetual motion; so all the motions of it are soft and gentle: While it acts most powerfully within, it also acts most peacefully. The kingdome of heaven comes not with observation, that men may say, Loe here, or Loe there; it is not with the devouring fire coming after it, or a whirlwind going before it. This fight and contest with Sin and Satan is not to be known by the ratling of the Chariots, or the sound of an alarm: it is indeed alone transacted upon the inner stage of mens souls and spirits; and is rather a pacifying and quieting of all those riots and tumults raised there by Sin and Satan; it is rather a reconciling the minds of men to Truth, Justice and Holiness; it is a captivating and subjecting all our Powers and Faculties to God and true Good <474> ness, through the effectual working of a divine Love and Humility: and this Ressistance is always attended with Victory, and Triumph waits upon this Fight; which is the Third and last Observation we shall make upon these Words.

CHAP. V.

The Third Observable, viz. The Certainty of Success and victory to all those that resist the Devil. This grounded upon 1. The Weakness of the Devil and Sin consider'd in themselves. 2. God's powerfull assisting all faithful Christians in this warfare. The Devil may allure and tempt, but cannot prevail, except men consent and yield to his suggestions. The Devil's strength lies in mens treachery and falseness to their own Souls. Sin is strong, because men oppose it weakly. The Errour of the Manichees about a Principium mali defended by men in their lives and practices. Of God's readiness to assist Christians in their spiritual Conflicts, his Compassionate regards and the more special respects of his Providence towards them in such occasions. The Conclusion, discovering the Evil and Horridness of Magick, Diabolical Contracts, &c.

[9]THe Certainty of Successe to all those that resist the Devil; Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. He cannot stand, when opposed in the strength of God, he will fall down as swift as lightning; he cannot bear the glory of God shining in the Souls of men. Here it is no more but Stand, and Conquer; Resist, and Vanquish.

<475>

[10] For First of all, The Devil and Sin in themselves considered are but weak and impotent; they cannot prevail over that Soul which yields not to them: the Evil spirit then onely prevails over us, when we our selves consent to his suggestions; all his strength lies in our treachery and falseness to our own Souls. Though those wicked spirits be perpetually so near us, yet they cannot bow or bend our Wills: there is a place of defence in the Souls of men into which they cannot enter: they may stand at a distance, allure and intice them; but they cannot prevail over them, except they wilfully and shamefully deliver over their strength into the Enemies hand. It is indeed nothing else but Hell it self in the Souls of men that gives the Devil such free entertainment there: the Wills of men stamped with a Diabolicall form, and bearing the Devil's image and inscription upon them, declare his right over them. Men are therefore so much captivated by him because they voluntarily take his yoke upon them. Could we, or would we, resist Sin and Satan, they could not hurt us. Every thing is weak and impotent according to the distance it stands from God who is the onely Fountain of life and power: and therefore it was well resolved by the Philosopher, πᾶσα κακία διὰ ἀδυναμίας συμβαίνει, Sin in it self is a weak and impotent thing, and proceeds from weakness; it consists not properly in any native power and strength which it hath within it self, but in an impotency, and privation of all true Being and Perfection; and therefore wheresoever any thing of God appears, it will destroy it. He that is born of God, shall overcome the World, the Devil and Sin; for the seed of God remaineth in him.

Let us endeavour to get our Minds enlightned with Divine Truth, clear and Practical Truth, let us earnest <476> ly endeavour after a true participation of the divine nature; and then shall we find Hell and Death to flee alway before us. Let us not impute the fruits of our own sluggishness to the power of the Evil spirit without, or to God's neglecting of us: Say not, Who shall stand against those mighty Giants? No; arme thy self with the mind of Christ, a fixt resolution to serve the will and pleasure of the Almighty; and then fear not what Sin and Hell can doe against thee. Open thy windows, thou Sluggard, and let in the beams of Divine light that are there waiting upon thee till thou awake out of thy Slothfulness; then shalt thou find the shadows of the night dispell'd and scattered, and the warm beams of Light and Love enfolding of thee, which the higher they arise upon the Horizon of thy Soul, the more fully they will display their native strength and beauty upon thee, transforming thee more & more from darkness to light, from the similitude of Satan into a participation of the Divine image. The Devil is not to be kept off from us by setting any Spell about us, or driven away from us by any Magical charms. We need not goe and beat the air to drive away those Evil spirits from about us, as Herodotus reports the Caunians once to have beaten out the strange Gods from amongst them: but let us turn within our selves, and beat down that Pride and Passion, those Holds of Satan there, which are therefore strong, because we oppose them weakly. Sin is nothing else but a degeneration from true Goodness, conceived by a dark and cloudy Understanding, and brought forth by a corrupt Will; it hath no consistency in it self, or foundation of its own to support it. What the Jews have observed of Errour is true of all Sin, שקר אין לו רגלים, Mendacium non habet pedes, it hath no feet, no Basis of its own to subsist <477> and rest it self upon. Let us withdraw our Will and Affections from it, and it will soon fall into nothing. It was the fond Errour of the Manichees, That there was some solid Principium mali, which having an Eternal existence of its own, had also a mighty and uncontrollable power from within it self, whereby it could forcibly enter and penetrate into the Souls of men; and seating it self there, by some hidden influences irresistablie incline and inforce them to evil: which Errour I wish were as well confuted by the lives and practices of men, as it hath been by the Writings both of Fathers and Philosophers. But it's too apparent that men maintain that Lie by a compliance with the Diabolical powers: We ourselves uphold that kingdome of darkness, which else would tumble down and slide into that nothing from whence it came. All Truth and Goodness are of an Eternal nature, they are One, and Unchangeable, subsisting upon the strength of Omnipotency: But all Sin and Vice is our own creature; we onely give life to them which indeed are our death, and would soon wither and fade away did we substract our concurrence from them.

[11]Secondly, We have a further Ground for our expectation of Victory in all contests with Sin and Satan, from the powerful assistance of God himself, who is never wanting to those that seek after him, and never fails those that engage in his quarrels. While we strive against Sin, we may safely expect that the Divinity it self will strive with us, and derive that strength and power into us that shall at last make us more then Conquerors. God hath not forsaken the earth: but as his Almighty essence runs through all things, sustaining and upholding the frame of the whole Universe; so more especially does it bear up in its Almighty armes those <478> things that are more nearly related to himself, always cherishing them with his own Goodness. Wheresoever God beholds any breathings after himself, he gives life to them, as those which are his own breath in them. As he who projects wickedness, shall be sure to find Satan standing at his right hand ready to assist him in it: so he that pursues after God and Holiness, shall find God nearer to him then he is to himself, in the free and liberal communications of himself to him. He that goes out in God's battels, fighting under our Saviour's banner, may look upwards, and opening his eyes may see the mountains full of horses and chariots of fire round about him. God hath not so much delight in the death and destruction of men, as to see them strugling and contending for life, and himself stand by as a looker on. No, but with the most tender and fatherly compassions his bowels yern over them, and his Almighty arme is stretched forth for them; and in his strength they shall prevail: they shall be born up, as upon Eagles wings; they shall walk in the might of his strength who is able to save, and not faint. Where there is any serious and sober Resolution against Sin, any reall motion towards God, there is the blessing of Heaven in it; he that planted it, will also water it, and make it to bud and blossome and bring forth fruit.

Wherefore to shut up this Discourse by way of Application, Let us make use of this as a further Argument to enforce the Apostles Exhortation upon our selves, Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, and, as the Psalmist speaks of his Enemies, so let us say of our spiritual Enemies, They compass me about, they compass me in on every side; but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. Let us set our selves with <479> all our might to mortify the old man, & to crucify all the affections of the Flesh: Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us, and run with patience the race that is set before us; Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who is set down at the right hand of the throne of God, as a great and mighty Conquerour, who will declare the perfection of his own power in our weakness, if we lay hold of his strength. Though we are not able to change our own natures, or to rise above the source of our Animall and Selfish Beings, by our own power; yet let us endeavour to subdue all those External vices of Luxury and Wantonnesse, of Injustice, Revenge and the like; let us withdraw the fewel of Pride, Malice, Vain-glory and whatsoever else holds us in captivity to Hell, and with confidence apply our selves to him who is an Almighty Saviour; and when he joyns his Almighty strength with us, we need not fear any thing: He shall tread down Satan under our feet, and we shall one day tread upon the Lion and Adder, the young Lion and the Dragon shall we trample under our feet: we shall break the Serpent's head, though he may bruise our heel. Though God may suffer him so far to serve his own rage and the hellish malice of such as are in league with him, as to pull down with violence our earthly Tabernacles; yet while we so suffer by him, we are conquerors over him.

I should now conclude all, and leave you with this General application, but that the present Occasion hath drawn it down for me to a particular case. Did we not live in a world of professed wickedness, wherein so many mens Sins goe in open view before them to judgement, it might be thought needless to perswade men to resist the Devil, when he appears in his own colours to make merchandise of them, and comes in a formal way to bar <480> gain with them for their Souls; that which humane nature (however enthrall'd to Sin and Satan in a more mysterious way) abhors, and none admit but those who are quite degenerated from humane kind. That which I shall further adde, shall be by way of Caution onely to suggest two things which are the forerunners to such Diabolical contracts, and put temptations into the hands of the Tempter.

1. Those Hellish passions of Malice, Envy and Revenge, which are the black Form and Image of the Devil himself; these when they are once ripened, fit men for the most Formal converse with the Devil that may be: That nature cannot easily abhorr him, which is so perfectly conformed to him.

2ly. The use of any Arts, Rites or Ceremonies not understood, of which we can give no Rational or Divine account; this indeed is nothing else but a kind of Magick which the Devil himself owns, and gives life to, though he may not be corporeally present, or require presently any further Covenant from the users of them. The Devil no question is present to all his own Rites and Ceremonies, though men discern him not; and may upon the use of them secretly produce those Effects which may gain credit to them. Among these Rites we may reckon Insignificant forms of words, with their several modes and manner of pronunciation, Astrological arts, and whatsoever else pretends to any strange Effects which we cannot with good reason either ascribe to God or Nature. As God will onely be convers'd withall in a way of Light and Understanding; so the Devil loves to be convers'd with in a way of Darkness and Obscurity.

The End.

[1] Cap. 33. in Edit. Vulg. Lat. &c.

[2] 1.

[3] Job 1. 7.

[4] Ephes. 6.

[5] ch 5.

[6] Zech. 14.

[7] 2.

[8] 2 Tim. 1. Rom. 8.

[9] 3.

[10] 1.

[11] 2.

Cite as: John Smith, ‘A Christians Conflicts and Conquests’, from Select Discourses (1660), pp. 453-480, http://www.cambridge-platonism.divinity.cam.ac.uk/view/texts/diplomatic/Smith1660J-excerpt010, accessed 2020-10-21.