With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:…
Joshua 1:7), "Be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest" - what? stand in battle against those warlike nations? No, but "that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses My servant commanded thee." It requires more prowess and greatness of spirit to obey God faithfully, than to command an army of men; to be a Christian, than to be a captain. What seems less than for a Christian to pray? yet this cannot be performed aright without a princely spirit; as Jacob is said to behave himself like a prince, when he did but pray; for which he came out of the field God's banneret. Indeed if you call that prayer which a carnal person performs, nothing more poor and dastard-like. Such a one is as great a stranger to this enterprize, as the cowardly soldier is to the exploits of a valiant chieftain. The Christian in prayer comes up close to God, with a humble boldness of faith, and takes hold of Him, wrestles with Him; yea, will not let Him go without a blessing, and all this in the face of his own sins, and Divine justice, which let fly upon him from the fiery mouth of the law; while the other's boldness in prayer is but the child, either of ignorance in his mind, or hardness in his heart; whereby not feeling his sins, and not knowing his danger, he rushes upon duty with a blind confidence, which soon fails when conscience awakes, and gives him the alarm that his sins are upon him, as the Philistines on Samson: alas! then in a fright the poor-spirited wretch throws down his weapon, flies the presence of God with guilty Adam, and dares not look Him in the face. Indeed, there is no duty in a Christian's whole course of walking with God, or acting for God, but is lined with many difficulties, which shoot like enemies through the hedges at the Christian, whilst he is marching towards heaven: so that he is put to dispute every inch of ground as he goes. They are only a few noble-spirited souls, who dare take heaven by force, that are fit for this calling. For the further proof of this point, see some few pieces of service that every Christian engageth in.
1. The Christian is to proclaim and prosecute an irreconcilable war against his bosom sins; those sins which have lain nearest his heart must now be trampled under his feet.
2. The Christian is to walk singularly, not after the world's guise (Romans 12:2).
3. The Christian must keep on his way to heaven in the midst of all the scandals that are cast upon the ways of God, by the apostasy and foul falls of false professors.
4. The Christian must trust in a withdrawing God (Isaiah 50:10). This requires a holy boldness of faith.
5. The believer is to persevere in his Christian course to the end of his life; his work and his life must go off the stage together. This adds weight to every other difficulty of the Christian's calling. We have known many who have gone into the field, and liked the work of a soldier for a battle or two, but soon have had enough, and come running home again; but few can bear it as a constant trade. Many are soon engaged in holy duties, easily persuaded to take up a profession of religion, and as easily persuaded to lay it down; like the new moon, which shines a little in the first part of the night, but is down before half the night be gone; lightsome professors in their youth, whose old age is wrapt up in thick darkness of sin and wickedness. O this persevering is a hard word! this taking up of the cross daily, this praying always, this watching night and day, and never laying aside our clothes and armour; I mean indulging ourselves to remit and unbend in our holy waiting on God, and walking with God; this sends many sorrowful away from Christ; yet this is the saint's duty to make religion his everyday work, without any vacation from one end of the year to the other. These few instances are enough to show what need the Christian hath of resolution.The application follows.
1. This gives us then a reason why there are so many professors and so few Christians indeed; so many go into the field against Satan, and so few come out conquerors; because all have a desire to be happy, but few have courage and resolution to grapple with the difficulties that meet them in their way to happiness.
2. Let us, then, exhort you Christians to labour for this holy resolution and prowess, which is so needful for your Christian profession, that without it you cannot be what you profess. The fearful are in the forlorn of those that march for hell (Revelation 21). The violent and valiant are they which take heaven by force; cowards never won heaven. Say not, thou hast royal blood running in thy veins, and art begotten of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by this heroic spirit, to dare to be holy in spite of men and devils. The eagle tries her young ones by the sun; Christ tries His children by their courage, that dare look on the face of death and danger for His sake (Mark 8:34, 35). Now, Christian, if thou meanest thus courageously to bear up against all opposition, in thy march to heaven as thou shouldst do well to raise thy spirit with such generous and soul-ennobling thoughts, so in an especial manner look thy principles be well fitted, or else thy heart will be unstable; and an unstable heart is weak as water, it cannot excel in courage.Two things are required to fix our principles.
1. An established judgment in the truth of God. He that knows not well what or whom he fights for, may soon be persuaded to change his side, or at least stand neuter. Such may be found that go for professors, that can hardly give an account what they hope for, or whom they hope in; yet Christians they must be thought, though they run before they know their errand; or if they have some principles they go upon, they are so unsettled that every wind blows them down, like loose tiles from the housetop. Blind zeal is soon put to a shameful retreat, while holy resolution, built on fast principles, lifts up its head like a rock in the midst of the waves. "Those that know their God shall be strong and do exploits" (Daniel 11:32).
2. A sincere aim at the right end in our profession. Let a man be never so knowing in the things of Christ, if his aim be not right in his profession, that man's principles will hang very loose; he will not venture much, or far for Christ, no more, no further than he can save his own stake. A hypocrite may show some metal at hand, some courage for a moment in conquering some difficulties, but he will show himself a jade at length. He that hath a false end in his profession, will soon come to an end of his profession, when he is pinched on that toe where his corn is; I mean, called to deny that his naughty heart aimed at all this while; now his heart fails him, he can go no further. O take heed of this wistful eye to our profit, pleasure, honour, or anything beneath Christ and heaven; for they will take away your heart, as the prophet saith of wine and women; that is, our love; and if our love be taken away, there will be nothing left for Christ.
(W. Gurnall, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: