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ning in a race for the prize, wrestling for the mastery, fighting for the victory, &c. As the opposition is great and constant, and the crown and the prize most important; all who engage in it in earnest consider it as the most important work of life, and make it their daily exercise.
2. In this warfare Christians have the same common trials, and they who think themselves most tried meet with nothing singular or strange.
They have the same common trials. It is almost impossible to enumerate even the sources from which their trials flow. Satan's temptations have a chief place, and are the lot of every saint. They have left him, and he hates them. They have gone over to God, and have espoused his cause, which still increases Satan's malice. They have sought saving mercy and actually received it; and this fills him with rage. There is something most distressing to the Christian in Satan's temptations, whether he yields to them or not: it is most distressing to the new nature to be tempted and seduced to sin, or feel the fiery darts of that enemy, though he should resist his temptations: but if he yields to them, and meets with a partial defeat, they bite like a serpent and sting like an adder. The things about which he is tempted are in themselves most important, lie near his heart, and are attended with the most 'serious consequences. Desertion is also a very signal part of the Christian's trial. God hides his face, and he is troubled-and no wonder, for the hiding of God's face deprives him at once of his light and strength: Faith, when exercised, makes the be
liever say "The Lord is my light;" but the deserted soul often walks in darkness and has no light. Like one walking under the cloud of night, he is distressed with fearful apprehensions, knows not whither he goes, and is ready to stumble and fall. This is one of the heaviest parts of the believer's trials, and is often ready to make him faint. Besides, he is always tried by the power and prevalence of sin. Sin prevailing wounds his conscience, and distresses his heart. It makes his bones, like David's, wax old through his roaring all the day long, and his moisture is turned into the drought of summer: with Paul, it makes him cry, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" He also meets with bodily afflictions, which are many, various, and violent. Besides, every saint may lay his account with persecution in its different branches: real enemies and pretended friends will unite in reproaching him; and perhaps he may have even to resist unto blood, striving against sin.
Every adult saint meets with more or less of all these trials, though in very various degrees. Some are taken from the field of battle at the first onset, while others have to continue and bear arms for a much longer period. Some have only to shed tears, while others have to shed their blood. All who are real Christians have some degree of inward fear and outward fighting, and answer to the character of Christ's spouse-a Shulamite or company of two armies.
Putting all these things together, the believer is an object of pity. Satan tempts, sin prevails, God hides, enemies oppose and persecute, the outward man is
distressed; and the poor believer is as much afraid for the future, as he is harassed with the past and the present. Under all these pressures he cries out, Surely my case is singular, and was there ever any sorrow like mine!
After all, he has no trial that is strange or uncommon. All these met in an eminent degree in Job's case. All God's billows and waterspouts fell upon David, and seemed to overwhelm him. Christ had all these in a still more eminent degree, and had vindictive wrath and the curse, which no saint ever experienced.
But still, the tried Christian insists that there is something singular in his case. This arises chiefly from such things as these: he knows his own heart, while he is unacquainted with the heart of every other: he knows but few believers, and only a few of those ingredients which make up their cup: they have not told him their case fully, and there is always something in it which they can tell to none but the Head: their heavy pressures make them incapable of judging with impartiality, and they commonly view their own trials through the prospect of unbelief, which both magnifies, and, like a malignant jaundice, represents them in its own colour.
3. Under these trials believers are liable to the same common discouragements. This text supposes great discouragements, and provides for them. Various are the sources from which these flow. It is disheartening to soldiers when many who have gone before them in the same warfare have fallen, especially if they are sure that they must face the same
dangers, and are exposed to the same snares. The Christian warrior trembles when he reads the history. and falls of others. With the same evil heart of unbelief within, exposed to the same hardships from without, and equally unable to trust the Divine promises, he is greatly afraid and trembles. The temptations of Satan, and the power of unbelief, would be enough of themselves to discourage the strongest believer; but how hard must it be for him, when inward desertion and outward distress are measured out at the same time! These tend to fix guilt upon the soul, and represent God as searching out sin and contending. When Satan and unbelief come to the Christian in this situation they find him pressed down, and their work more than half done. Under such an assemblage of difficulties he greatly feels his own weakness, and is ready to conclude that he can neither perform the least duty, or bear the least trial. No wonder if in such a situation he be discouraged, and cry, I am near to halt; I fear I shall never see the desired haven; I have washed my hands in vain ; I am afflicted, and ready to die from my youth up.
4. While believers are exposed to these trials and discouragements, their common Head interests himself in their support and happiness. He is no unconcerned observer, and his eye is never off them. This is evidently implied in these words, "God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." He knows the precise degree of trial which has been already measured out, and how much more they could bear. He takes the most particular and careful notice of their situation and feelings. God is
interested in the persons of his people. He has bought them; they are adopted into his family, born of his Spirit, and the good work is begun. He is interested in the warfare. It is the war of God against Satan, and he has enlisted the Christian under his banner. He is also interested in the issue of it, that it may be for his glory and praise. His heart and hand are in all the trials which the believer meets with. He either determines or permits them. Every Christian may use the language of Job, "He performeth the thing that is appointed for me." The sufferings of the great Head were determined, and so are those of all the members. Though trials should flow immediately from the malice of Satan, or the opposition of the world, or any other second cause; still God has his hand in them. His heart too is in them. Every trial is comprehended in his great purpose of love, and also in that leading promise, "all things shall work together for good." Very different are the designs of God and the Christian's enemies in the same trial. His enemies intend either to harass, ruin, or devour him; but God expressly designs to try his grace, to exercise and increase it. He designs too to purge from sin, and wean from the world; conform to Christ, and meeten for glory. In this manner did Joseph reason, when comforting his brethren about their former conduct after his father's death, Gen. 1. 20, "As for you ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive."
5. The Lord's people have the same common support and encouragement set before them in his