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The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/paul-baynes-brief-directions-unto-a-godly-life-chapter-nineteen/

 

CHAPTER TWENTY: HOW THE DEVIL HINDERS GODLINESS

The rules formally described, if they will be followed, to bring a Christian (though not to perfection in this life) yet to such an estate as he shall find rest for his soul daily, which others shall want.[1] Yet because many dangers will be in the way that may hinder the weak, therefore it will be profitable to know the lets and hindrances which may hold us back from peace with God.  By knowing such things, we may learn how to prevent  them before they come and hurt us; or else how to rise from [from] them when we are fallen; or how to turn into the way when by occasion we are gone out of it.

Now the main and chief hindrance is the Devil, with all his force, subtlety, and malice, which combines with our evil hearts — so far if they are unreformed.  And by means of both, all things in the world, though not in their own nature, but by them made occasions for our falling and offending God.

The Devil Makes Constant Attacks

First, for the properties of Satan and his attempts against us in general, he is a mighty enemy and cruel, for which cause he is called a great red dragon, and the accuser of the brethren, and also subtle and vigilant and malicious. As he is strong, so he besets all people (though he be little observed), most especially Christians–against whom he is openly and resolvedly set against.

He does not only kindle concupiscence that is within us, and our own lusts, setting them on fire to the evil which we are inclined onto; but also baits the outward things with poison, which we deal about[2], that he may dazzle our eyes and cast us from our hold; that is that we may not keep still in the Christian course. Our hearts cannot so soon be ranging (though it be never so little) but he is ready to meet with them, and set them forward in some evil, fastening our affections upon it before we are aware. We cannot be about any outward thing, but he is ready to surface with it, knowing how to use all outward objects against our hearts.

Yet for all this, we ought not to be dismayed; for however much these things affect us, yet by God’s grace they show turn to our good, to make us set more store by God’s protection, and more carefully to keep under his wings. He has not left us unarmed, for his own strength is for our defense and preservation. Colossians 1:11. So that however much we may not presumptuously abuse, yet we may with boldness suit to him [bring a claim to him; ask him] for help. Neither ought we to fear that by our infirmities we shall be shaken off, when as God has made known his will to the contrary. Luke 15:6.

Rather we must remember that we are children of God, and therefore shall not be unnaturally forsaken, or left to themselves in their need and necessity. But we should persuade ourselves that by waiting on God these combats shall rather turn to our further exercise, rather than to our deadly overthrew.[3] Thus depending on God in all evils, we must by experience get wisdom.

In particular, the assaults of Satan are either against or faith, or else against godliness in our life.

Attacks Against Our Faith

            How many having discouragements, he presses down the weak faith of newborn Christians, appears by that which our Savior said to Peter. Luke 22:31.

Sometimes he terrifies them with their own wants, ignorance, infirmity, and unworthiness. Some with shame for fearful falls, which seems to them they are unlikely to avoid. For these, he brings to their remembrance such good servants of God as have fallen in a similar manner. [The Devil] causes them [the weak Christians] to fear, but for [despite] all their care, they shall never hold out of their faith and holy course of life on to the end. But either by affliction, or other provocation, they shall be turned back. By all these means he laborers instantly deprive them of all hope and confidence, that they may conclude resolved that they have no faith.

How to Respond to An Attack Against Faith

For the resisting of these assaults, they must grow better acquainted with the nature and properties of God’s promises. They must know how true, unchangeable, and perpetual, the promises are — even as God is himself. They must prize the promises above all other things, and send up earnest prayers to God daily, and often, for this faith to be rooted in them. They must give daily attendance upon the ministry of the Word, ready also to receive help privately from those who are experienced, [and] meditate on God’s promises, such as are: Matthew 7:7, 9:20; Luke 22:31.

Now, when by God’s blessing upon their diligence, they have received stay or rest for their souls, they must beware that they are not carried to the other extreme of presumption – unwarranted trust without any good ground upon the promises. By this sly trick, Satan has prevailed against many, and by that means brings them to desperate and dangerous falls.

Hindering Faith

But if he cannot prevail so far by his suggestions and temptations, to bring us to utter unbelief, nor yet to presumption, yet he will labor to hinder us, that we shall never be rooted established faith. We shall not feel the sweetness of it by possessing it daily, in which kind he does so far prevail with most, even of the faithful themselves, but they are oftentimes discouraged as they have scarcely any great use of faith and respect that which they might have.

Which deceit of our adversary we must wisely espy and labor to arm ourselves against. Psalm 22:4-5, Psalm 27:1, Psalm, Job 13:15. We  must take heed our hearts be not stolen away with worldly things, we must preserve and cherish a high estimation of the Gospel. We must deny all worldly wisdom, that we may be wise and keep our faith as we would our life[4].
How The Devil Hinders Godliness

The like malice does Satan show in hindering believers from godliness of life. For as he labors to keep the unregenerate altogether from practicing godliness, that is, by keeping in them in a heart are accustomed to evil that it cannot submit itself to the will of God in one thing as well as another, by holding them in presumption, by keeping them from serious consideration of their estate and actions, by dissuading them from counting godly life blessed. And finally, by snaring them in dangerous opinions, sotish [drunken] ignorance; or else in hollw, loose, and willful minds. So does he prevailed so far even with God’s people as to hinder them from proceeding in godliness and that chiefly by these means.

1. By keeping them in want of some good things, without which they cannot consistently proceed in a godly life.

2. By pressing them with some evil.

3. By unsettling through occasion of things lawful.

Deprivations

Of the first kind, there are three main elements to the hindrance:

First when Christians are withheld from a constant course godliness.

When they fall from their first estate, or first love.

When they lack sufficient ministry.

Live by Rule

Of the first sort, but are many which think it not meet [not necessary, not fitting] to tie themselves to any direction of leading their life. They are content with some general care and good intentions.  While for a season some keep good order, little by little they fall slightly; this through custom rather than with delight and comfort; all because their heart go not with their actions constantly, neither do they regard or look to their consciences in one thing as in another, that they might be kept in peace.

The remedy against this is faithfully to endeavor every day to be well-settled according to the rules formally mentioned. We must especially labor by faith even to feed upon the promises which God has made for the preservation and protection of this children.

Hearty prayer must often be used and watchfulness against our special infirmities. It must be continual, together with often and due consideration what precious treasure this kind of life is. And if to negligence we do fall, we must not lie still in hardness of heart, but return to him as our father, and he will heal us. And though we cannot presently have that confidence but sometimes we have had, let us return though with some shame and standing afar off, as the Israelites did. Exodus 33:8-10.

Leaving our First Love

The second special let arising from want is the leaving of our first love. For at our first conversion, the exceeding love of God in Christ shed abroad in our hearts, so as it makes ourselves admire, this constrains us to love him again most fervently and dearly[5]. His Word and ministers [he loves, together] with all are brothers, both sensibly and heartedly. And this Scriptures call our “first love.” Revelations 2:4.

Now when this shall wax cold through dullness, slothfulness, and forgetfulness, it must needs be a heinous thing in the sight of God, who looks that our works should be more at the last than first, as our knowledge is more, and our experience greater. Revelation 2:21.

Yet this comes so often to pass both in ministers and people, to their great shame, who otherwise they keep some course of serving God (Revelation 2:2) which they show by weariness, or leastwise [taking] little pleasure in the public ministry, neglect of private prayer, conference, mutual exhortation, untowardness in good works, abating of their love to the brethern, embracing the world, entertaining of ill-companionship, with heart burning against the ministers that tell them the truth. By these and suchlike signs, many do show how much they have lost their first love, whereby they give great occasion of discouragement to the weak and of lamenting to the best.

This was foretold by her Savior Christ (Matthew 24:12), where also he showed how hard it is to keep and harder still to recover our first love.

Thirdly, we must admonish all sound-hearted Christians to look heedfully and carefully and to nourish and preserve the first spark of grace kindled in them, against all that they come in the way quench and put out the flame. But although the work be hard, yet we have the commandment of God for our warrant, and his promise for our encouragement. Therefore, ought we not to faint or slack for any impediment, but set our hearts daily to count it our greatest work to keep our first love.

A Failure of Ministers

The third lack of this kind is the want of an ordinary sound ministry of the Word of God, whereby the way to salvation and godliness is plainly and in good order with love and diligence taught so oft in the weekweek, as people can conveniently attend upon the same. This is the light of the world, and the sun which warms all creatures of the earth with its influence. So that whose which enjoy it not must needs be as the shadowed places, which either bring forth nothing, or that which is sour and unsavory.

How the devil has labored all ages and nations to hinder the passage of this cost may easily be perceived, if we persue well be Acts of the Apostles and other histories of the Church. How he does prevail, our own eyes and ears can witness.

The remedy therefore is for such as want, to relieve themselves with it, where they may with most convenience enjoy it, and to sue earnestly that they may live under it [a godly ministry]. (Which should be more generally granted of God, if by fervent prayers and other Christian endeavors it were sought for). When they do enjoy it, then they must they prize it above all that they have or ever can it joy of this world; for those which esteem lightly of it, must hear with the Scripture speaks of them. Matthew 8:11-12, Amos 8:11-12.

Conclusion

These are the chief lets that men have by wants. Whereunto may be added those troubles which some good Christians have through fear of their own wants, but without any cause. For remedy whereof (that they be not swallowed up deadly heaviness) they must take onto them godly boldness to consider that there is great cause of rejoicing, even in that which they are heavy, that is, in their fear, care, hungry and thirsty. Proverbs 28:14, Matthew 5:3. And therefore they are rather to be thankful for what they have, than utterly to be discouraged for that they want. Of small beginnings come great proceedings; of one little spark a mighty flame; and tall oaks were sometimes but small acorns.

He has well begun that has in truth begun; and he has much, who sees he lacks much.

 

[1] The former rules will, if followed, produce a godly, although not perfect life. The degree of godliness will be beyond that of believers who fail to use appropriate means to walk in the Spirit.

[2] He poisons those very things which we contact in our daily lives.

[3] Even when we fall into sin, God will help us to rise and so gain greater wisdom and godliness.

[4] We must use as many efforts to keep our faith as we would to keep our lives.

[5] Baynes alludes to two separate passages in this sentence. First:

1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Romans 5:1–5 (AV)

Second,

 

14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 2 Corinthians 5:14 (AV)

 

This second passage was noted by John Owen as a great means of grace:

 

There is no man who keeps the word of the patience of Christ but is full of this soul-pressing consideration. It dwells on his heart and spirit; and the love of Christ constrains him so to keep his heart and ways, 2 Cor. 5:14.

 

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 145.