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4. It was a victory over the most subtle enemy, that is not conquerable by any stratagems of human wit.
5. It was a victory over the most malicious enemy, that sought more than the subversion of men's temporal peace, and by afflicting the body intended the hurting of the soul.
6. It was a conquest of him that had long possession, and one way or other kept in bondage the prisoners that justice had subjected to his rage.
7. It was a victory exceeding honorable to Christ, whose very messengers, by his name alone, could make the powers of hell submit. He that refused to be made a king, as having not a kingdom of this world, (John xviii. 36.) and that had not a place to lay his head on; (Matt. viii. 20;) commanded him that had presumed to tempt him with all the kingdoms and the glory of the world! (Matt. iv. 8, 9;) and that not only by the bare word of his mouth, but by the word of his meanest, most despised messengers; which made the people stand amazed, saying, what manner of man is this?
8. It was a victory tending to the successes of the gospel, to convince the unbelieving world, and so to enlarge the kingdom of Christ, and to save the people's souls.
9. And also from so great a work it was no small honor that accrued to the instruments: an honor which, in its proper place, they might lawfully regard.
10. And all this was aggravated by the congruency of the mercy to the low, despised condition of the instruments, (and of Christ himself,) when they were destitute of all common advantages and means, for the carrying on of so great and necessary a work, surpassing all the strength of flesh: how seasonable was it that the Omnipotency of heaven should then appear for them, and thus engage itself for their success. So that in all this you may easily see that here was abundant matter for a rational, warrantable joy to the disciples.
II. But where then was their fault? And what was that joy which Christ forbad them? Answer. Having already told you in general, I shall tell you more particularly. 1. They looked too much at the matter of dominion over the subjected and ejected devils and relish
ed most delightfully the external part. As the Jews looked for a Messiah that should come in grandeur, and bring the nations under his dominion; so the disciples that had yet too much of these conceits began to be lifted up with the expectation of some earthly glory, when they saw the powers of hell submit, and Christ thus begin with the manifestation of his omnipotency. But the great end of these miracles they too much overlooked: they too much left out of their rejoicings the appearances of God, the advantages of faith, the promotion of the spiritual kingdom of Christ, and the greater mercies of the gospel, as to themselves and others.
2. They took too great a share of honor to themselves, being more affected to see what great things they were made the instruments to accomplish, than what honor did thereby accrue to God and benefit to man; and thus, while they arrogate too much to themselves, and withal too much overlook those higher, greater mercies, to which all their miracles were but means, they deservedly fall under Christ's re. proof; and he is employed in the cure of their diseased joys, by amputation of the superfluities, and rectifying the irregularities, and supplying the defects, lest Satan should take possession of their souls, by carnality, selfishness, and pride, when they thought they had conquered him, by dispossessing him of men's bodies.
III. By this you may understand what joy it is that Christ alloweth and commandeth them.
1. As to themselves, to kill their pride, and to increase their kindly joy and thankfulness, and to advance their estimation of the riches of the gospel, and rectify their judgment of the work and kingdom of their Lord, he calls them to mind that higher mercy, which is worthy of their greatest joy. An interest in heaven is another kind of mercy than healing the sick, or casting out devils here on earth.
2. In reference to his honor, he would have them first look at the greatest of his gifts, and not forget the glory which he finally intends them, while they are taken up with these wonders in the way; for his greatest honor ariseth from his greatest mercies.
3. As to the degrees of their rejoicing, he would not have them give the greater share to the lesser mercy, but to rejoice so much more in their heavenly interest, as that all other joy should be as
none in comparison of it: so that this "Rejoice not in this," &c. is as much as if he had said, 'Let your rejoicing in this power over the devils be as nothing in comparision of your rejoicing that your names are written in heaven.' Just as he forbiddeth care and labor for these earthly things, when he saith, "Care not what ye shall eat," &c.; (Matt. vi. 25;) "Labor not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you." (John vi. 27.) Our care and labor for earthly things must be nothing, in comparison of the care and labor we are at for heaven and so our joy, in the greatest of these outward mercies, should be as nothing, in comparison of our joy in higher things.
4. As to the nature and order of the thing, he alloweth them no joy in this, or any temporal or created thing whatsoever, but as it proceedeth from God, and tendeth to him as our ultimate end. We must not rejoice in our victories over Satan, or any other enemy, for itself, and as our end, but as it is a means to the glory of God and men's salvation. In all which, it is evident that Christ doth but regulate and advance their joy, and calleth them first to rejoice in that which is their end and all, and animateth all their lower mercies; he then alloweth and requireth them to rejoice, even in this, which he seemed to forbid them to rejoice in, viz., that the devils were subject to them, so they do it in due subordination to its end.
The only difficulty in the preceptive part of the text is, what is meant here by the "writing of their names in heaven." In a word, the meaning is, that they are "fellow citizens of the saints, and of the household of God;" and having a room among the saints on earth, have a title to the celestial glory. As in some well-ordered cities there were rolls kept of the names of all the citizens, or freemen, as distinct from all the inferior, more servile, sort of subjects; and as muster-rolls are kept of the listed soldiers of the army, so all that are saints are enrolled citizens of heaven, that is, are the heirs of the heavenly felicity.
We are decreed to this state before the foundations of the world; we are redeemed to it by the death of Christ; but we are not actually entered into it till we are sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and heartily engaged to God the Father, Son, and Spirit, in the holy cove
The doctrine of the text is contained in this proposition-To have our names written in heaven is the greatest mercy, and first, and chiefly, and only for itself to be rejoiced in; which so puts the estimate on all inferior mercies, that further than they refer to this they are not to be the matter of our joy.
Though we had seen the devils subjected to our ministration, departing from the possessed when we command them in the name of Christ, and the bodies of the afflicted miraculously relieved; yet all this were not, comparatively, to be rejoiced in, nor as separated from our title to the heavenly glory.
When I have, first, given you the reasons of the prohibition-" Rejoice not in this," and then of the command-" But rather rejoice," &c. you may, by fuller satisfaction about the sense and truth of the proposition, be better prepared for the further application.
I. "Rejoice not," though the devils themselves were subject to you, further than as this refers to heaven; 1. because all these common mercies may possibly consist with the present misery of the persons that receive them. A man may be the slave of the devil, as to his soul, when he is casting him out of another man's body. He may be conquered by his own concupiscence, that hath triumphed over many an enemy. These times have showed it, to our grief, that heresy, and pride, and ambition, and self-conceit, may conquer those that have been famous for their conquests. He may be a slave to himself that is the master of another.
And what I say of the instance in my text, you may, upon a parity or superiority of reason, all along give me leave to apply to the great occasion of the day, it being a matter of much greater glory to conquer infernal powers than mortal enemies, and to have the devils subject to us than men. To be such a conqueror of men or devils is no sure proof of the pardon of sin, the favor of God, and saving of your souls. Alas! how many, called valiant, are the basest cowards in the warfare that their everlasting life dependeth on? How many that are renowned for their victories by men, are wretches despised and abhorred by the Lord? What Christian so poor and despicable in the world that would change his state with a Catiline or Sejanus, yea, with a Cæsar or Alexander, if he might? Could you
see the inside of a glittering gallant, or an adored prince, that is a stranger to the life of faith, what a sad disparity would you see? The vermin of the most filthy lusts continually crawling in the soul, while the body is set out by the most exquisite ornaments that pride can invent, and their purses can procure, for the increasing of their esteem in the eyes of such as judge of souls by the color and cover of the bodies. To see the same man sumptuously feasted, attended, honored, magnified by men, and at the same time dead in sin, unacquainted with the life and comforts of believers, and under the curse and condemnation of the law of God, would tell you that such a wretch is far from the state in which a reasonable man is allowed to rejoice. There are not more naked leprous souls in the world, than some that are covered with a silken, laced, painted case: nor any more poor and sordid, than such as abound with earthly riches. And for such a one to rejoice is as unseemly as for a man to glory that his gangrened foot hath a handsome shoe or that his diseased, pained flesh doth suffer in the fashion; or that his wounds and ulcers are searched with a silver instrument. God seeth the rotteness and filth that is within these painted sepulchres, and therefore judgeth not of them as the ignorant spectator, that seeth no further than the smoothed, polished, gilded outside. And therefore we find his language of such to differ so much from the language of the world. He calls those poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked, and foolish, and mad, and dead, and cursed, that perhaps hear nothing lower from the world. than honorable, worshipful, rich, and wise; and men are admiring them, while God is loathing them and men are applauding them, while God condemneth them. And hence it is that the servants of the Lord do lament the case of those that worldlings count most happy. What Paul speaks of those "whose God is their belly, whose glory is their shame, and who mind earthly things," he doth it weeping; (Phil. iii. 18, 19;) when a frantic sensualist would have derided his compassionate tears, and bid him keep them for himself.
2. Rejoice not in these outward common things comparatively, or for themselves, because they are not only consistent with most deplorable misery, but also are the strong and ordinary means of making men miserable, and fixing them in it, and increasing it. Many