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finite and everlasting contempt and deformity; for it is thought by some that an enemy to God will not appear at the general doom in a human shape, as sin will deform them, and make them not unlike evil angels; and, if so, it is not without a meaning that the wicked are called “serpents," which is Satan's name, and was once the shape that he assumed: nor is it without a meaning that the saints shall appear as the angels of God in heaven,” Matt. xxii. 30. Pray how did Prodigalis go on after this happy deliverance; did the old Attorney attack him again?
Cushi. There is no fear of that; Satan will never give up tempting long together. Prodigalis found it as his blessed Lord and master did in his days: “And when the devil had ended all the temptation he departed from him for a season,” Luke'iv. 13; that he might return again at a more seasonable opportunity. Prodigalis walked some time very comfortably, and enjoyed much sweetness in his soul, from the rich mercy of his Lord; who not only brought him to repentance at first, but still delivered him out of his troubles and difficulties, and kindly sealed the pardon of his manifold infirmities home upon his conscience. This comfortable gale continued some few weeks with Prodigalis, and he expected it would continue to the end of his voyage; but, instead of that, it began gradually to abate as before, at which he was much grieved. The Bible, which had afforded him such sweet discoveries and comfort, seemed to conceal its wonders; the light shined not on it as usual; therefore David's petition, “Shew me wonders in thy law,” was very seasonable to him. He found himself much straitened in prayer also, not having that freedom
of access with confidence as formerly, and therefore little delighted in it. These things are very trying to a poor soul that has been brought into tender favour, and indulged with sweet communion, with the Lord; the poor soul is like "a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child,” Psalm cxxxi. 2.
Ahimaaz. I know what that is--my soul has had a sad experience of it: to be debarred the heavenly freedom-to find divine comfort suspended—to go mourning under the sensible frowns of the best of fathers, is one of the sorest afflictions that a new-born soul can labour under.
Cushi. It really is; but Prodigalis did not stay here; for he found the word of God preached had no effect upon him; it neither gave him reproof nor comfort; he appeared in one of the worst of frames-cold, stupid, and insensible; and in this state he continued many days, until reading the Bible became a burden, and prayer a task; he went about his devotions like a galled horse to the collar, or a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; his service was mercenary, being performed with reluctance; and so he continued until his soul was shut up in legal bondage. What to make of this trial he knew 'not; it was a frame that he had never before experienced. In process of time he began to give way to a peevish, fretful temper, for which his conscience often smote him, as it cast a gloomy shade upon the glorious religion of Jesus Christ: besides, he had made a great stir in religious matters, which had brought the eyes of many upon him; some watched for his halting, and some for his persevering; those that watched for his halting could
make his anger appear by cruel mockings; while those that loved him were grieved, for they saw that his soul was not healthy, because his countenance was not comely. When peace reigns in the conscience God is the health of the countenance, Psa. xlii. 5.
This dark, cold, and lifeless frame, brought on a fit of unbelief, to which he so much yielded as at times to give up prayer, which was adding sin to sin; and when some of his associates came to him for spiritual conversation and instruction he withdrew, and, like Jeremiah, determined to speak no more in the name of the Lord, Jer. xx. 9. This was doubling his transgression; and at last he neglected the sanctuary service, and began to draw wretched conclusions concerning his state, even giving way to doubts and fears, and consequently to murmuring and complaining. Now was the time for Satan to work again; accordingly he entered another action against him, and brought him to the court of common pleas, where he attempted to appeal even to the divine oracles. The plaintiff shewed that a child of God could not sin: “He that is born of God sinneth not,” 1 John v. 18. Therefore Prodigalis was not one of them, for he sinned in heart, in thought, and in word; and was guilty of the sins of omission and commission, yea, of the sin of rebellion also, both in heart and in lip.
Then the plaintiff asked if he could use the common pleas of bible saints. Canst thou say, with Hezekiah, “I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight," 2 Kings xx. 3. Has thy heart been perfect? has it not been altogether perverse and froward? and have not thy lips muttered perverseness, and thy tongue used deceit? yea, and thou hast even fled from the work of God! And canst thou plead like Jeremiah“ As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee?" Jer. xvii. 16. Thou art so far from being able to use such pleas as these, that thou hast run from the work, and by thy peevish temper hast cast a slur upon it. Canst thou say,
- Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for the offices thereof?” Neh. xiii. 14. Nay, said the plaintiff, thou hast been at times so far from this, that thou hast secretly wished that thou never hadst opened thy mouth at all. The plaintiff further shewed that Prodigalis had been at times so hot upon religion as to neglect secular business, instead of being a prudent man, and guiding his affairs with discretion, Psalm cxii. 5: therefore could never use the common plea of Job, “If the land cry against me, or that the furrows thereof complain, let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley,” Job xxxi. 38, 40.
Ahimaaz. O what a malicious plaintiff-what a subtle attorney-and what a keen accuser, that old serpent is! with what diligence does he watch for his opportunities to tempt poor thoughtless mortals! It seems to be his whole study and anxiety; as the Saviour intimated to Peter, when he said, “ Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat; but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not,” Luke xxii. 31.
Cushi. To dishonour God-oppose his gospel disturb his saints--and ruin sinners, is his whole employ: however, all his accusations could not sink Prodigalis into despair, for he had a good hope at the bottom, which is " an anchor of the soul both sure and stedfast,” Heb. vi. 19. Prodigalis was persecuted by Satan, but not in despair; he was cast down, but not destroyed, 2 Cor. iv. 9. Indeed, at last he made a very good use of Satan's accusations; for, as Satan accused him of various sins, Prodigalis began to confess them to God as fast as the devil brought them forth. This is making the best of a bad matter, and outshooting the enemy with his own bow. . The accuser, finding Prodigalis at this work, soon ceased his accusations, and began to dispute with him about his sonship. The plaintiff shewed that the saints of God in the days of old could work miracles, and cast out devils; but Prodigalis was so far from that power that he could not deliver himself from a temptation, much less work miracles. The poor soul on a sudden began to find the word of God flow in upon his mind, and he opened his mouth against his accuser in the following manner:
The defendant sheweth that many have wrought miracles who will never be saved; "for many will say in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and done many wonderful works?" unto whom the Saviour will say, “ I never knew you.” The Egyptian magicians wrought miracles, and yet were not the children of God. Devils
may work miracles, or lying wonders, and be devils still. Many workers of miracles the Saviour will refuse in the great day; but a pardoned sinner, a believer in his name, he will never disown. The defendant shewed, moreover, that the devil wanted the Saviour to satisfy him of his being the Son of God,