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by Satan." And I doubt not but he is in the right. For it was an ancient opinion of the Jews, that many diseases are without natural causes inflicted on men by evil angels. Nor is it any wonder that Satan should have such a power, by God's permission, over the bodies of the best of men, to him that reads the history of Job, the most perfect man of his age, Job ii. 6, 7. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold he is in thy hand, but save his life. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils, from the sole of his foot unto his crown. But there is a text also in the New Testament that plainly warrants this exposition. We read, Luke xiii. 11. of a woman, who had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years together, an extraordinary infirmity, whereby her body was doubled, and so bowed together, that in all that time she could in no wise lift up herself.
That this was a supernatural affliction is plain from the words of our Saviour, ver. 16. And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond? Here we have a bodily infirmity continuing upon a daughter of Abraham for eighteen years together, and this infirmity attributed to the power (permitted him by God) of Satan. And my text tells us of one of the most excellent sons of Abraham, continually vexed with a bodily infirmity, and that the messenger of Satan. The good woman was in her infirmity bound by Satan for eighteen years: St. Paul in his infirmity was buffeted by Satan (as it is very probable) to the end of his life.
And so much for the explanation of my text;
wherein I have been of necessity so large, that I have little time left me for the handling of the useful observations that may be drawn from it. But indeed such a text thoroughly opened, yields of itself profitable matter enough to entertain the intelligent hearer, that knows how to improve it. Yet for the help of the weaker sort, give me leave to point out some observations that naturally flow from the text thus explained.
Observ. 1. The best of men, those that excel in the gifts and graces of God, are liable to the worst of vices, viz. pride.
Mr. Calvin's note on my text is very apposite; "Let us diligently consider who it is that here speaks. A man that had conquered infinite "dangers, torments, and other evils; that had triumphed over all the enemies of Christ; that had "shook off the fear of death; and lastly, had re"nounced the world; and yet this man had not as
yet wholly subdued his inclinations to pride: nay, "he was still engaged in so doubtful a combat with "it, that he could not conquer without being him"self beaten and buffeted $." Pride, as it was the first sin of man, so it is his last too; and is therefore not unfitly called by one indusium animæ, the vice that sticks most closely to us, and the last we shall put off and bé rid of.
Other vices are found only in evil actions, but this ariseth out of our best works. Nay, this sin ofttimes springs out of its contrary virtue, and a man is apt to be proud of his own humility; and the humble man, as soon as he knows his own humility, is in danger of losing it.
• Consideremus diligenter quis hic loquatur, &c.
When a man hath arrived to the top of all virtue, he is not out of all danger of this vice; nay, he is then in most danger of it. "It is a rare thing to excel many, and to despise nonet." It is a hard matter for a man to be cried up for an eminent saint, and an excellent person, and not to let in through his ears into his soul the infection of pride and vanity. Few men have such steady heads as to be able to stand upon the spires and pinnacles of glory without giddiness.
It was the sin of pride, as divines generally believe, that ruined a multitude of the angelic host. Those once most glorious spirits, walking upon the battlements of heaven, grew dizzy with their own greatness, and fell down into a state of utter darkness and extreme misery. Upon whose fall one observes, that pride is a vice highly descended, and commonly entailed on the most highborn and excellent minds; because it was first born in heaven, and conceived in the womb of an angel's mind. Let us therefore (being taught by these examples) so war with all other lusts and vices, as to bend our chiefest force against this sin of pride; and when we have done our best, we shall find the conquest difficult enough.
But are the best of saints, the most excellent persons, only subject to this worst of vices? No, certainly; for pride is nothing else but an overweening opinion of a man's own excellence; and such an opinion they may and often do entertain who have no real excellence in themselves. The beggar may
t Rarum est multis præeminere et neminem despicere.
dream that he is a king, and the fool may entertain himself in his paradise, though it be a mere creature of his own foolish fancy. Yea there are some, who are proud by a kind of creation, that is, proud of nothing. But how intolerable, how utterly inexcusable, is this kind of pride! That such a man as St. Paul, the great thaumaturgus or wonder-worker, the most learned and laborious of all the apostles, the doctor of the Gentiles, the man of the highest revelations, the guest of paradise and of the third heaven, in both which he was entertained with the discovery of unutterable mysteries; that such a man as this should be tempted to pride is not so wonderful, though in him pride would have been a grievous sin. How insufferable then is their pride, who come infinitely short of any such excellencies, and yet are actually as proud as St. Paul was only in danger to be! What a prodigy of pride is he, that thinks himself to be something (yea and μéyas Tis, some great one too) when he is nothing! as St. Paul expresseth it, Gal. vi. 3.
If it would have been a fault in that great apostle to have been lifted up in his own conceit, though advanced by God to so very high a perfection of science and sanctity; what a crime is it in us to be exalted by self-opinion, who indeed creep in the dust, and have so little or nothing, either of intellectual or moral endowments, to pride ourselves in, who know so little, and practise much less!
What a sad sight is it to behold a young novice, having read a dry system in theology, and attained to some remembrance of the common objections and solutions therein, strutting as if he had already
reached the very top of that lofty and sublime science, and were become the most consummate and complete divine!
But how much more lamentable an object is the ignorant and illiterate mechanic; who, because his memory serves him to quote a great many texts of Scripture, and that by chapter and verse, (though the sense of the tenth part of them at least he is far from understanding,) and to repeat after a sorry fashion some sermons he hath heard, thinks himself wiser than those very teachers to whom he owes all his little scraps and fragments of knowledge, and sufficiently qualified for a critic, and judge of sermons and orthodoxy; and consequently undertakes to be a teacher himself, and perhaps sets up for the master of a new sect, and prefers his own small wisdom before the wisdom of the whole church wherein he lives, and dares tax the most deliberate and advised sanctions and constitutions of the learned and holy Fathers of it, of imprudence and folly, yea and impiety too! I am sick of these men; and therefore beseeching God to give them a righter understanding of themselves, I leave them, and proceed to my second observation.
Observ. 2. Pride is so dangerous a disease and vice of the soul, that God thinks fit to prevent or cure it in his servants, by the sharpest and severest remedies.
St. Paul shall have a thorn in his flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, rather than be lifted up above measure: that he might not fall into the Devil's sin, God permits him to fall under the Devil's scourge; and he that could by his apostolic authority deliver up others, is himself in a manner delivered