It is not enough to have grace, but this grace must be kept in exercise.  The Christian’s armour is made to be worn; no laying down, or put­ting off our armour, till we have done our warfare, and finished our course.  Our armour and our garment of flesh go off together; then, indeed, will be no need of watch and ward; shield or helmet.  Those military duties and field-graces—as I may call faith, hope, and the rest—shall be honourably discharged. In heaven we shall appear, not in armour, but in robes of glory.  But here these are to be worn night and day; we must walk, work, and sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.  This Paul professeth to endeavour.  ‘Herein do I exercise my­self, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and towardmen,’ Acts 24:16.  Here we have this holy man at his arms, training and exer­cising himself in his postures, like some soldier by himself handling his pike, and inuring himself before the battle.  Now the reason of this is,

First.  Christ commands us to have our armour on, our grace in exercise.  ‘Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning,’ Luke 12:35.  Christ speaks either in a martial phrase, as to soldiers, or in a domestic, as to servants.  If as to soldiers, then let your loins be girded and your lights burning, that is, we should be ready for a march, having our armour on—for the belt goes over all—and our match lighted, ready to give fire at the first alarm of temp­tation.  If as to servants, which seems more natural, then he bids us, as our master that is gone abroad, not through sloth or sleep [to] put off our clothes, and put out our lights; but [to] stand ready to open when he shall come, though at midnight.  It is not fit the Master should stand at the door knocking, and the servant within sleeping.  Indeed there is no duty the Christian hath in charge, but implies this daily exercise: ‘pray’ he must—but how?—‘without ceasing;’ ‘rejoice’—but when?—‘evermore;’ ‘give thanks’ —for what? ‘in everything,’ I Thes. 5:16-18.  The shield of faith, and helmet of hope, we must hold them to the end, I Pet. 1:13.  The sum of all which is, that we should walk in the constant exercise of these duties and graces.  Where the soldier is placed, there he stands, and must neither stir nor sleep till he be brought off.  When Christ comes, that soul shall only have his blessing whom he finds so doing.

Second.  Satan’s advantage is great when grace is not in exercise.  When the devil found Christ so ready to receive his charge, and repel his temptation, he soon had enough.  It is sad ‘he departed for a season,’ Luke 4:13; as if in his shameful retreat he had comforted himself with hopes of surprising Christ unawares, at another season more advantageous to his design; and we find him coming again, in the most likely time indeed to have attained his end, had his enemy been man, and not God.  Now if this bold fiend did thus watch and observe Christ from time to time, doth it not behove thee to look about thee, lest he take thy grace at one time or other napping? what he hath missed now by thy watchfulness, he may gain anon by thy negligence.  Indeed he hopes thou wilt be tired out with continual duty.  Surely, saith Satan, when he sees the Christian up and fervent in duty, this will not hold long.  When he finds him tender of conscience, and scrupulous of occasion to sin, [he saith,] This is but for a while, ere long I shall have him unbend his bow, and unbuckle his armour, and then have at him.  Satan knows what orders thou keepest in thy house and closet, and though he hath not a key to thy heart, yet he can stand in the next room to it, and lightly hear what is whispered there. He hunts the Christian by the scent of his own feet, and if once he doth but smell which way thy heart inclines, he knows how to take the hint; if but one door be unbolted, one work unmanned, one grace off its cárriage, here is advantage enough.

Third.  Because it is so awky a business, and hard a work, to recover the activity once lost, and to revive a duty in disuse.  ‘I have put off my coat,’ saith the spouse, Song 5:3.  She had given way to a lazy dis­temper, was laid upon her bed of sloth, and how hard is it to raise her!  Her Beloved is at the door, beseeching her by all the names of love which might bring her to remembrance the near relation between them; [he crieth], ‘My sister, my love, my dove, open to me,’ and yet she riseth not.  He tells her ‘his locks are filled with the drops of the night,’ yet she stirs not. What is the matter?  Her coat was off, and she is loath to put it on.  She had given way to her sloth, and now she knows not how to shake it off; she could have been glad to have her Beloved’s company, if himself would have opened the door; and he desired as much hers, if she would rise to let him in, and upon these terms they part.  The longer a soul hath neglected a duty, the more ado there is to get it taken up; partly, through shame, the soul having played the truant, now knows not how to look God in the face; and partly, from the difficulty of the work, being double to what another finds that walks in the exercise of his grace.  Here is all out of order.  It requires more time and pains for him to tune his instrument, than for another to play the lesson.  He goes to duty as to a new work, as a scholar that hath not looked on his book some while; his lesson is almost out of his head, whereas another that was even now but conning it over, hath it[iv] [at his finger ends].  Perhaps it is an affliction thou art called to bear, and thy patience [is] unexercised.  Little or no thoughts thou hast had for such a time—while thou wert frisking in a full pasture—and now thou kickest and flingest, even as a bullock unac­customed to the yoke, Jer. 31:18; whereas another goes meekly and patiently under the like cross, because he had been stirring up his patience, and fitting the yoke to his neck.  You know what a confusion there is in a town at some sudden alarm in the dead of the night, the enemy at the gates, and they asleep within.  O what a cry is there heard! One wants his clothes, another his sword, a third knows not what to do for powder.  Thus in a fright they run up and down, which would not be if the enemy did find them upon their guard, orderly waiting for his approach.  Such a hubbub there is in a soul that keeps not his armour on; this piece and that will be to seek when he should use it.

Fourth.  We must keep grace in exercise in re­spect of others our fellow-soldiers.  Paul had this in his eye when he was exercising himself to keep a good conscience, that he might not be a scandal to others.  The cowardice of one may make others run.  The ignorance of one soldier that hath not skill to handle his arms, may do mischief to his fellow-soldiers about him.  Some have shot their friends for their enemies. The unwise walking of one professor makes many others fare the worse.  But say thou dost not fall so far as to become a scandal, yet thou canst not be so helpful to thy fellow‑brethren as thou shouldst.  God commanded the Reubenites and Gadites to go before their brethren ready armed, until the land was conquered.  Thus, Christian, thou art to be helpful to thy fellow-brethren, who have not, it may be, that settlement of peace in their spirit as thyself, not that measure of grace or comfort.  Thou art to help such weak ones, and go before them, as it were, armed for their defence; now if thy grace be not exercised, thou art so far unserviceable to thy weak brother.  Perhaps thou art a master, or a parent, who hast a family under thy wing.  They fare as thou thrivest; if thy heart be in a holy frame, they fare the better in the duties thou performest; if thy heart be dead and down, they are losers by the hand.  So that as the nurse eats the more for the babe’s sake she suckles, so shouldst thou for their sake who are under thy tuition, be more careful to exercise thy own grace, and cherish it.

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