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CHRIST AND HIS BRETHREN.
and spiritual truths having God not only as their immediate fountain and spring, but also as their proper and adequate object, there is still somewhat in them that cannot be searched out unto perfection. As he said, “Canst thou by searching find out God ? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection ?” This neither the nature of God nor our condition will admit of. We do at best but “ follow after," that we may in our measure “apprehend that for which we also are apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Phil. iii. 12). And these things are so tempered by Divine wisdom unto the faith and light of believers, and therein unto the uses of their consolation and obedience, that something hereof is plainly exhibited to every spiritual eye; always provided that their search and inquiry be regulated according to the will of God, in a due use of the means; for to this purpose not only the private endeavours of men are required, but the use also of the public ministry, which is ordained of God to lead men gradually into continual further acquaintance with the will of God in the Scriptures.
Christ and his Brethren.
This is a ground of unspeakable consolation unto believers, with supportment in every condition. No unworthiness in them, no misery upon them, shall ever hinder the Lord Christ from owning them, and openly avowing them to be His brethren. He is a brother born for the day of trouble, a Redeemer for the friendless and fatherless. Let their miseries be what they will, He will be ashamed of none but of them who are ashamed of Him and His ways, when persecuted and reproached. A little while will clear up great mistakes. All the world shall see at the last day whom Christ will own; and it will be a great surprisal when men shall hear Him call them brethren whom they hated, and esteemed as the offscouring of all things. He doth it, indeed, already by His word ; but they will not
attend thereunto. But at the last day, they shall both see and hear whether they will or no. And herein, I say, lies the great consolation of believers. The world rejects them, it may be their own relations despise them--they are persecuted, hated, reproached; but the Lord Christ is not ashamed of them. He will not pass by them because they are poor and in rags—it may be reckoned (as He himself was for them) among malefactors. They may see also the wisdom, grace, and love of God in this matter. His great design in the incarnation of His Son was to bring Him into that condition wherein He might naturally care for them as their brother; that He might not be ashamed of them, but be sensible of their wants, their state and condition in all things, and so be always ready and meet to relieve them. Let the world now take its course, and the men thereof do their worst; let Satan rage, and the powers of hell be stirred up against them; let them load them with reproach and scorn, and cover them all over with the filth and dirt of their false imputations ; let them bring them into rags, into dungeons, unto death—Christ comes in the midst of all this confusion and says, Surely these are my brethren, the children of my Father," and He becomes their Saviour. And this is a stable foundation of comfort and supportment in every condition. And are we not taught our duty also herein, namely, not to be ashamed of Him or of His gospel, or of any one that bears His image ? The Lord Christ is now himself in that condition that even the worst of men esteem it an honour to own Him ; but, indeed, they are no less ashamed of Him than they would have been when He was carrying His cross upon His shoulders, or hanging upon the tree; for of everything that He hath in this world they are ashamed
His gospel, His ways, His worship, His Spirit, His saints, they are all of them the objects of their scorn; and in these things it is the Lord Christ may be truly honoured or be despised.
ENTER NOT INTO TEMPTATION.
Enter not into Temptation. [Of Owen's more practical writings, a few paragraphs from the treatise “Of Temptation ” may furnish some idea. It was published in 1658, and was no doubt originally prepared and preached at Oxford. For fervour and solemnity the closing exhortation is worthy of Baxter.]
First, Let him that would not enter into temptation, labour to know his own heart, to be acquainted with his own spirit, his natural frame and temper, his lusts and corruptions, his natural sinful or spiritual weakness, that finding where his weakness lies, he may be careful to keep at a distance from all occasions of sin. Our Saviour tells the disciples, “that they knew not what spirit they were of,” which under a pretence of zeal betrayed them into ambition and desire of revenge. Had they known it, they would have watched over themselves. David tells us, Ps. xviii. 23, that he considered his ways, and“ kept himself from his iniquity,” which he was particularly prone unto.
There are advantages for temptations lying oftentimes in men's natural tempers and constitutions. Some are naturally gentle, facile, easy to be entreated, pliable, which though it be the noblest temper of nature, and the best and choicest ground, when well broken up and fallowed, for grace to grow in, yet, if not watched over, will be a means of innumerable surprisals and entanglements in temptation. Others are earthly, froward, morose, so that envy, malice, selfishness, peevishness, harsh thoughts of others, repinings, lie at the very door of their natures, and they can scarce step out but they are in the snare of one or other of them. Others are passionate and the like. Now, he that would watch that he enter not into temptation, had need be acquainted with his own natural temper, that he may watch over the treacheries that lie in it continually. Take
heed lest you have a Jehu in you, that shall make you drive furiously; or a Jonah in you, that will make you ready to repine; or a David, that will make you hasty in your determinations, as he was often in the warmth and goodness of his natural temper.
He who watches not this thoroughly, who is not exactly skilled in the knowledge of himself, will never be disentangled from one temptation or another all his days.
Again, as men have peculiar natural tempers, which, according as they are attended or managed, prove a great fomes of sin, or advantage to the exercise of grace; so men may have peculiar lusts or corruptions, which either by their natural constitution, or education, and other prejudices, have got deep rooting and strength in them. This also is to be found out by him who would not enter into temptation. Unless he know it, unless his eyes be always on it, unless he observe its actings, motions, advantages, it will be continually entangling and ensnaring of him. Labour, then, to know thine own frame and temper, what spirit thou art of; what associates in thine heart Satan hath, where corruption is strong, where grace is weak; what stronghold lust hath in thy natural constitution and the like. How many have all their comforts blasted and peace disturbed by their natural passion and peevishness! How many are rendered useless in the world by their frowardness and discontent! How many are disquieted even by their own gentleness and facility! Be acquainted then with thine own heart ; though it be deep, search it ; though it be dark, inquire into it; though it give all its distempers other names than what are their due, believe it not. Were not men utter strangers to themselves, did they not give flattering titles to their natural distempers, did they not strive rather to justify, palliate, or excuse the evils of their hearts, that are suited to their natural tempers and constitutions, than to destroy them, and by these means keep themselves off from taking a clear and distinct view of them, it were impossible that they should
all their days hang in the same briers without attempt for deliverance. Uselessness and scandal in professors are branches growing constantly on this root of unacquaintedness with their own frame and temper; and how few are there who will either study them themselves, or bear with those who would acquaint them with them.
Secondly, When thou knowest the state and condition of thy heart as to the particulars mentioned, watch against all such occasions, opportunities, employments, societies, retirements, businesses, as are apt to entangle thy natural temper or provoke thy corruption. It may be there are some ways, some societies, some businesses, that thou never in thy life escapedst them, but sufferedst by them more or less, through their suitableness to entice or provoke thy corruption. It may be thou art in a state and condition of life that ensnares thee day by day, on the account of thy ambition, passion, discontent, or the like ; if thou hast any love to thy soul, it is time for thee to awake, and to deliver thyself as a bird from the evil snare. Peter would not come again in haste to the high priest's hall, nor would David walk again on the top of his house, when he should have been in the high places of the field. But the particulars of this instance are so various, and of such several natures in respect of several persons, that it is impossible to enumerate them. (Prov. iv. 14, 15.) Herein lies no small part of that wisdom which consists in our ordering our conversation aright. Seeing we have so little power over our hearts, when once they meet with suitable
provocations, we are to keep them asunder, as a man would do fire and the combustible parts of the house wherein he dwells.
Thirdly, Be sure to lay in provision in store against the approaching of any temptation. This also belongs to our watchfulness over our hearts. You will say, What provision is intended, and where is it to be laid up? Our hearts, as our Saviour speaks, are our treasury. There we lay up whatever