This gives a strong cordial to our fainting faith, in the behalf of the church of Christ. If all the devil’s wits and wiles will not serve him to overcome one single soldier in Christ’s camp, much less shall he ever ruin the whole army.
These are days of great confusions in the Christian world; and the chief fear of a gracious heart is for the ark, lest that should fall into the enemy’s hand, and when this palladium is taken, the city of God (his church) be trod under the feet of pride. I confess Satan seems to get ground daily; he hath strangely wriggled into the bosoms and principles of many, who, by the fame of their profession and zeal, had obtained, in the opinion of others, to be reckoned among the chief of Christ’s worthies in their generation.
…And now, Christian, may be their confidence, together with the distracted state of Christ’s affairs in the world, may discompose thy spirit concerning the issue of these rolling providences that are over our heads; but be still, poor heart, and know that the contest is not between the church and Satan, but between Christ and him; these are the two champions.
Stand now, O ye army of saints, still by faith, to see the all-wise God wrestle with the subtle devil. If you live not to see the period of these great confusions, yet generations after you shall behold the Almighty smite off this Goliath’s head with his own sword, and take this cunning hunter in the toil of his own policies; that faith, which ascribes greatness and wisdom to God, will shrink up Satan’s subtilty into a nigrum nihil, a thing of nothing. Increduli timent diabolum, quusi leonem, qui fide fortes despiciunt quasi vermiculum.—Bern. Unbelief fears Satan as a lion; faith treads on him as a worm. Behold, therefore, thy God at work, and promise thyself, that what he is about will be an excellent piece; none can drive him from his work.
…A pinch may come, when it is as vain to say, Help, O king, as Help, O beggar; man’s wisdom may be levelled with folly, but God is never interrupted. All the plots of hell and commotions on earth, have not so much as shaked God’s hand, to spoil one letter or line that he hath been drawing. The mysteriousness of his providence may hang a curtain before his work, that we cannot see what he is doing; but then ‘when darkness is about him, righteousness is the seat of his throne for ever.’
O where is our faith, sirs? let God be wise, and all men and devils fools. What, though thou seest a Babel more likely to go up, than a Babylon to be pulled down, yet believe God is making his secret approaches, and will clap his ladders on a sudden to the walls thereof. Suppose truth were prisoner with Joseph, and error the courtier, to have its head lift up by the favour of the times, yet dost not remember that the way to truth’s perferment lies through the prison? yea, what though the church were like Jonah in the whale’s belly, swallowed up to the eye of reason, by the fury of men; yet dost not remember the whale had not power to digest the prophet?
O be not too quick to bury the church before she be dead. Stay while Christ tries his skill before you give it over; bring Christ by your prayers to its grave, to speak a resurrection word.
Admirable hath the saints’ faith been in such straits; as Joseph’s, who pawned his bones that God would visit his brethren, willing them to lay him where he believed they should he brought. Jeremiah purchaseth a field of his uncle, and pays down the money for it; and this when the Chaldean army quartered about Jerusalem, ready to take the city, and carry him with the rest into Babylon! and all this by God’s appointment, Jer. 22:6–8, that he might show the Jews by this, how undoubtedly he, in that sad juncture of time, did believe the performance of the promise for their return out of captivity.
Indeed God counts himself exceedingly disparaged in the thoughts of his people, (though at the lowest ebb of his church’s affairs,) if his naked word, and the single bond of his promise, will not be taken as sufficient security to their faith for its deliverance.
William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 75–76.