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170 Shield of Faith, the only security against Robbers. ed, he fears us not at all. Therefore he that had skill hath said, “ Above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith
shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”* (i)
'Tis good also that we desire of the King a convoy, yea, that he will go with us himself. This made David rejoice when in the Valley of the Shadow of Death ; and Moses was rather for dying where he stood than to go one step without his God.t my brother, if he will but go along with us, what need we be afraid of ten thousand that shall set themselves against us ? but without him the proud helpers fall under the slain. (k) I, for my part, have been in the fray before now ;
and though, through the goodness of Him that is best, I am, as you see, alive, yet I cannot boast of my manhood. Glad shall I be if I meet with no more such brunts ; though I fear we are not got beyond all danger. However, since the lion and the bear have not as yet devoured me, I hope God will also deliver us from the next uncircumcised Philistine.
'Poor Little-faith ! hast been among the thieves ?
Over ten thousand, else scarce over three.'
(i) Young converts often view temptations, confliets and persecutions, in a very different light than experienced believers do. Warm with zeal, and full of confidence, which they imagine to be wholly genuine, and knowing comparatively little of their own hearts, or the nature of the Christian conflict, they resemble new recruits, who are apt to boast what great things they will do : but the old disciple though much stronger in faith, and possessing habitually more vigour of holy affection, knows himself too well to boast, and speaks with modesty of the past, and diffidence of the future; like the veteran soldier, of approved valour, who has often been in actual service. They, who have boasted before hand what they would do and suffer, rather than deny the faith, have generally either proved apostates, or been taught their weakness by painful experience. And when a real believer bas thus fallen, the recollection of past boastings adds to his remorse and terror ; and Satan will attempt to drive him to despair: 'so that, indeed, 'no man can tell what in such a combat attends us, but he that has been in the battle himself.'—Even they, who were most remarkable for strength of faith, have often been overcome in the hour of temptation ; and, when guilt got within them, they found it no easy matter to recover their hope and comfort : how then can the weak in faith be expected to overcome in such circunstances ? The accommodation of the passages from Job to this conflict, seems merely intended to imply, that the assaults of Satan on these occasions, are more terrible than any thing in the visible creation can be : and that every possible advantage will be needful in order to withstand in the evil day.
(k) Instead of saying, “though all men deny thee, yet will not I," it behoves us to use all means of grace diligently ; and to be instant in prayer, that the Lord himself may protect us by his power, and animate us by his presence : and then only shall we be enabled to overcome both the fear of man, and the temptations of the devil.
The Pilgrims taken in Flatterer's Net. 171 So they went on, and Ignorance followed. They went then till they came at a place where they saw a Way put itself into their way, and seemed withal to lie as straight as the Way which they should go ; and here they knew not which of the two to take, for both seemed straight before them : therefore here they stood still to consider. And as they were thinking about the way, behold a man of black flesh, but covered with a very light robe, came to them, and asked them why they stood there? They answered they were a going to the Celestial City, but knew not which of these ways to take. Follow me,' said the man, it is thither that I am going.? So they followed him in the Way that but now came into the road, which by degrees turved, and turned them so froin the City that they desired to go to, that in little time their faces were turned
from it :--yet they followed him. But by and by, before they were aware, he led them both within the compass of a net, in which they were both so entanyled, that they knew not what to do; and with that the white robe fell off the black mau's back :-then. they saw where they were. Wherefore there they lay crying some time, for they could not get themselves out.
Then said Christian to his fellow, Now do I see myself in an error. Did not the Shepherds bid us beware of the Flatterers ? As is the saying of the wise man, so we have found it this day, “A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.”
Hope. They also gave us a note of directions about tlie way, for our more sure finding thereof; but therein we have also forgotten to read, and have not kept ourselves from "the paths of the destroyer.” Here David was wiser than we; for saith he, "concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.”+ Thus they lay bewailing themselves in the net. At last they espied a Shining One coming towards them with a whip of small cord in his hand. When he was come to the place where they were, he asked them whence they came, and what they did there ? They told him that they were poor Pilgrims going to Zion, but were led out of their way ly a black man clothed in white, who bid us, said they, follow him, for he was going thither too. Then said he with a whip, It is Flatterer, “ a false apostle, that hath transformed himself into an angel of light." | So he reut the net, and let the
Cor. xi. 13, 14. Dan. xi. 32.
Prov. xxix. 5.
† Psa, xii. 4.
172 Shining One delivers and chastises the Pilgrims. men out. Then said he to them, Follow me, that I may
set you in your way again :-so he led them back to the way which they had left to follow the Flatterer. Then he asked them, saying, Where did you lie the last night? They said, with the Shepherds upon the Delectable Mountains. He asked them then if they had not of them Shepherds a note of direction for the way > They answered, Yes. But did you, said he, when you were at a stand, pluck out and read your note ? They answered, No. He asked them, Why? They said, They forgot. He asked moreover, If the Shepherds did not bid them beware of the Flatterer? They answered, Yes ; but we did not imagine, said they, that this fine-spoken man had been he.*
Then I saw in my dream that he commanded them to lie down ;t which when they did, he chastised them sore, to teach them the good way, wherein they should walk :1 and as he chastised them, he said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent."$ This done he bids them go on their way, and take good heed to the other directions of the Shepherds. So they thanked bim for all his kindness, and went softly along the right way.
'Come hither, you that walk along the way,
They're scourg'd to boot : let this your caution be.' ()
(1) This Way, which seemed as straight as the right Way, and in entering on which there was no Stile to climb over, must denote some very plausible and gradual deviation from the simplicity of the gospel, in doctrine or practice. Peculiar circumstances may require the believer to act ; while so much can be said in support of different measures, as to make him besitate : and if he merely consider the subject in his own mind, or consult with his friends, without carefully examining the Scripture, and praying for divine direction ; he will very probably be secluceel into the wrong path : and, if he listen to the Flatterer, he will certaiuly be misled. But what is meant by the Flatterer ?-It cannot reasonably be supposer!, that the author meant to state that the Pilgrims hearkened to such as preach justification by the works of the law; or flatter men's self-complacency by harangues on the dignity of human nature, and the unbiassed freedom of the will, the suficiency of reason in matters of religion, or the goodness of the heart: for experienced Christians cannot be thus imposed on. And gross antinoniianism can never greatly attract the attention of those, who have been in Doubting-Castle for turning aside into By-path-ineadow.-But the human mind is always accessible to flattery, in one furin or other; and there have in every age been teachers and professed Christians, who have soothed men into a good opinion of their state on insufficient grounds; or fed their spiritual pride by expressing too favourable thoughts of their attainments, which is often mistaken for a very loving spirit. This directly tends
One coming to meet the Pilgrims.
175 Now after a while they perceived, afar off, one coming softly and alone all along the highway to meet them. Then said Christian to his fellow, Yonder is a man with his back towards Zion, and he is coming to meet us. to induce unwatchfulness, and an unadvised way of deciding in difficult cases: and thus men are imperceptibly led to consult their own inclination, ease, or interest, instead of the will and glory of God. In the mean time, such Aatterers commend their prudence, in allowing themselves a little rest ; persuade them that they are entitled to distinction, and ex. empted from general rules ; insinuate, that they are too well acquainted with Satan's den vices to be deceived ; and in short seem to make their opinion the standard of right and wrong. Some excellent men, from a natural easiness of temper, united with spiritual love and genuine candour, thus undesignedly too much soothe their brethren : but the Flatterer is a black man in a white robe ;' a designing hypocrite, who with plausibility, fluency of speech, talents, eloquence, or polite accomplishments, and very evangelical views of religion, “serves not our Lord Jesus Christ, but his own belly ; and by good words and Pair speeches deceives the hearts of the simple.” Such a man will not shock serious minds by gross antinomianism : but he will insist disproportionately and indiscriminately on privileges, promises, and consolatory topics ; and thus put his auditors into good humour with themselves, and consequently with him, in order to obtain advantages, not so easily acquired by other means. There are many other flatterers : but this description, coming far more in the way of evangelical professors than any other, seems emphatically to be intended. Satan aims to lull men into a fatal security, wholly or in part; flattere rs of every kind are his principal agents; and a smooth undistinguishing gospel, and want of plaindealing in private, has immense influence in this respect. Too often, it is to be feared, the preacher uses flattery in the pulpit and the parlour, and is reciprocally flattered or rewarded : and what wonder is it, if ungodly men take up the business as a lucrative trak, and serve their own selfish purposes, by quitting uneasy consciences into a false ptace, misleading unwary souls, entangling incautious believers in a net, and this bringing a scandal on the gospel ? “Satan is transformed into an angel of light, and his ministers into ministers of righteousness ;" and if this were the case in the apostles' days, in the midst of terrible persecutions ; it may well be expected, that the same attempts will be made at other times.-Among persons not much acquainted with the gospel, a different method seduction will be employed ; in some places by vain philosophy or pharisnical self-rigl: teousness, in others by enthusiastic imaginations or dreams of siniless perfection : but among established Christians, some plausible scheme, flattering men as wise and strong in Christ, and as knowing their liberty and privileges, must be adoptad ; such as were propagated among the Corinthians, or those professed Christians whom Jarnes, Peter, and Jude skeeessively addressed. In the present state of religious profession, a more important caution, I apprehend, cannot be given by the united voice of all those ministers, whom the Shepherus represent, than this, 'Beware of the Flaturer ;' of all teachers who wdress the self-refence of the human heart, and thus render men forgetful of 'taking hed to their way according to the word of God.' For if men overlook the precepts of Scripture and forsake practical distinguishing preachers; to follow such as bolster np drie biopes in an unse riptural manner; they will either be fatally decived, or drawn out of the path oferuth ar.d duty, taken in the net of error, and entangled among injurious connectiulis and with perpkxing difficulies. They will indeed at length be wr:dev ived as to these fine-spoken men, but not till they searaciy know what to do or what will become of them. For when the Lord plucks their feet out of the net, he will brombie them in the dust for their sin and fully; and make them thankful to be delivervel, though with severe rebukes and correttions.
174 The vain Reasonings of Atheist.
Hope. I see him ; let us take heed to ourselves now, lest he should prove a Flatterer also.
So he drew nearer and nearer, and at last came up to them. His name was Atheist; and he asked them, “Whither they were going ??
Chr. We are going to the Mount Zion. Then Atheist fell into a very great laughter. Chr. What is the meaning of your laughter ? Ath. I laugh to see what ignorant persons you are, to take upon you so tedious a journey ; and yet are like to have nothing but your travel for your pains.
Chr. Why, man? do you think we shall not be received:
Ath. Received ! there is no such place as you dream of in all this world.
Chr. But there is in the world to come.
Ath. When I was at home, in mine own country, I heard as you now affirm, and from that hearing went out to see, and have been seeking this city this twenty years, but find no more of it than I did the first day I set out.*
Chr. We have both heard and believe that there is such a place to be found.
Ath. Had not I when at home believed, I had not come thus far to scek; but finding none, (and yet I should had there been such a place to be found, for I have gone to seek it further than you ;) I am going back again, and will seek to refresh myself, with the things that I then cast away for hopes of that which I now see is not:
Then said Christian to Hopeful his fellow, Is it true which this man hath said ?
Hope. Take heed, he is one of the Flatterers : remember what it hath cost us once already for our hearkening to such kind of fellows. What! no Mount Zion ? Did we not see from the Delectable Mountains the Gate of the City ? Also, are we not now to walk by faith ?t Let us go on, said Hopefal, lest the man with the whip overtake us again. You should have taught me that lesson which I will round you in the ears withal : “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction, that causeth to err from the words of knowledge;"\ I say, my brother, cease to hear him, and let us believe to the sa ving of the soul.
Chr. My brother, I did not put the question to thee for that I doubted of the truth of your belief myself, but to prove
* 2 Cor, v. 7. | Prov. xix. 27, Heb. x. 39.
* Eceles. X. 13. Jer, vi. 15.