Article of the Month
by John Trapp
1. Hearken not to impostors and seducers; they wax worse and worse (and make others to do so too), deceiving and being deceived. By their clever words and pretended humility, Coloss. Ii. 18, these locusts with their women’s faces, insinuate and deceive the hearts of the simple, 2 Tim. Iii. 13; Col. Ii 4; Rev. ix. 8; Rom. Xvi. 18. Thus Sadoleto (a man of a strict life and excellent learning) wrote most eloquent and persuasive letters, “To his most affectionately desired friends,” the senators and commoners of Geneva; wherein he left nothing unsaid whereby he might allure them to return again into the bosom of that whore of Rome. A similar tactic was used while there was any hope for the late famous Queen Elizabeth. Placilla the empress, when Theodosius, senior, desired to confer with Eunomius, dissuaded her husband very earnestly; lest being perverted by his speeches, he might fall into heresy.
2. He that will hold out to the end, must lay a good foundation of humiliation, dig deep enough at first; and cast up all the loose earth, that his house may stand. His repentance must be sincere, universal, constant, such as whereby the heart may be renewed; for the old heart will not hold out the hardships of holiness, when it comes to suffering especially, but will leap out of the fire, as a chestnut that hath not been cracked at the top; and as the stony ground, the seed straightway started up, and as soon withered, because pot well rooted. The good ground is noted to bring forth fruit with patience, or it waits for the fit season. “Leap-Christians” are not much liked, when all of a sudden the notorious and profane become extremely precise and scrupulous. Violent motions are not permanent. Feverish fits breed flushings, blazing comets soon fall, hasty curs bite least, heady horses quickly tire. Not at hand seldom holds out. That trumpet’s sound in the mount was louder and louder; the wind (whereto true grace is compared, John iii) riseth higher and higher. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” Prov. iv. 18. Not like Joshua’s sun that stood still, or Hezekiah’s sun that went backward, but David’s sun that rejoiceth as a giant to run his race, and turneth not again till he hath finished it. The Galatians did run well, but were interrupted; the Ephesians left their first love; the Philippians decayed in their good will to St. Paul, though afterwards their care of him flourished again, Phil. iv. 10. The Corinthians mingled themselves again with fornicators, after they had been washed from their filthiness, 1 Cor. v. 9.
Mr. Bartlet Green, martyr, was converted by Peter Martyr’s lectures in Oxford. Afterwards, being sent to the inns of court, through the continual accompanying of such worldly young gentlemen, he became by little and little a compartner of their fond follies and youthful vanities, as well in his apparel, as also in his banqueting and other superfluous excesses; which he afterwards, being again called by God’s merciful correction, did sore lament and bewail; and being founded on a rock, as he had at first received Christ Jesus the Lord, so he walked in him, and suffered for him. Col. ii. 6.
COUNT THE COST.
3. Before you begin, sit down and count what it will cost to build the tower of godliness; consider what necessity there is to encounter and conquer so many corruptions, crosses, and encumbrances in the way to heaven. Put yourselves oft to those questions of abnegation, and say, Can I deny myself in my worldly wisdom, natural wit, carnal friends, old companions, pleasures, profits, preferments, ease, excellency of learning, in my estate, liberty life, and all? Can I take up my cross and follow Christ through thick and thin, through fire and water, through good report and evil report, resolving (with William Flower, martyr) that the heavens shall as soon fall as I will forsake my profession, or budge in the least degree? And can I say as that other martyr, John Ardely, did to Bonner, If every hair of my head were a man, I would suffer death in the opinion and faith that I am now in? Many will profess to do much for Christ, but nothing it is that they will suffer for him; they come forth as those soldiers with lights and torches to seek him, yea, with bills and staves, as if they would fight for him. But when He says, as to them, Here I am, take up my cross and follow me, they stumble at the cross, and fall backwards.
The king of Navarre told Beza, He would launch no further into the sea than he might be sure to return safe to the haven: though he showed some countenance to religion, yet he would be sure to save himself. Again, many in their low estate could pray, profess, read &c., who in prosperity resemble the moon, which never suffers eclipse but at her full, and that by earth’s interposition. Jonathon followed the chase, and Samson his parents, till they met with honey. A dog follows his master, till he comes by carrion. So many a Demas, Judas, Diotrephes, follows Christ close till taken off by the world; the love of which eats out the heart of grace, as disease consumes the natural; as Pharaoh’s lean kine devoured the fatter. Deny therefore all ungodliness and worldly lusts, you who desire to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, Tit. ii.12.
4. Standest thou by faith? And wouldst thou stand? “Be not high minded, but fear,” Rom. xi. 20. Pride goes before a fall, as it did in the apostate angels, in that man of sin, and in those Illuminati, a pestilent sect in Arragon; who affecting in themselves and their followers a certain angelical purity, fell suddenly to the very counterpoint of justifying bestiality. Apostasy takes root most an end in spiritual pride; which, like a drone in the hive, or moth in fine cloth, is a great waster. All graces tend to humbling, and humility is as Bernard writes, that which keeps all the graces together; it also is both a grace, and a vessel to receive more grace, for “God gives grace to the humble. Be ye therefore clothed with humility,” says Peter. The word there used comes of a root that signifies a knot, because humility ties the knot of the chain of graces, that none of them be lost; as pearls or beads are easily lost where the bracelet is broken. God’s gifts in a proud heart (which makes men secure, uncharitable, idle) sigh under our abuse, and God hearing them groan, gives them the wings of an eagle.
5. Propound to yourselves the best patterns and the highest pitch of perfection; Not resting in any measure of grace acquired, so as to say as those in Zechariah, “Blessed be God, for I am rich,” Zech. xi. 5; but advance forward toward the high prize, as Paul did, Phil. iii. Be as Caesar, who thought there was nothing yet done till all was done. Beginnings are not sought for of Christians, saith St. Jerome; but ends of things. And it is a rule in the civil law, Nothing seems to be done, if anything remains to be done. For that which is but almost done, is not done, at all, saith Basil, and not to go forward is to go backward, saith Bernard. It would have been better for Judas never to have been an apostle, and for Julian never to have been a Christian, because to begin well and not to hold on is but to climb up higher, that he may fall the farther. Let our ladder therefore reach to heaven, as Jacob’s did; let our garments reach down to our feet, as Joseph’s did; let us offer a whole burnt-offering with the very tail also, Exod. xxix. 22. Let the fire from heaven never go out upon the hearth of our hearts, as that fire of the sanctuary. Levit. vi. 12.
Let us not look back with Lot’s wife, nor turn again when we go forward, as those living creatures did not, Ezek. i. 12, but as the Philistines’ kine that drew the ark in a new cart (though milch kine, and had calves at home yet) they held on their way, lowing till they came to Bethshemesh, 1 Sam. vi. 12; so let us amidst so many revilings and discouragements hold on our way to heaven, going and weeping with our faces thitherward, Jer. 1. 4. “The dog to his vomit, and the sow to her mire,” are canonical proverbs such as should make a Christian sick to think on them, 2 Pet. ii. 20. God will spew out all that do not so, as he did the Laodiceans, who said they were rich and wanted nothing. They had false weights of their own, and therefore were grievously cheated with light gold, Rev.iii,14. Whereas St. Paul, who was a fair deal better than the rest of them, was still striving and straining after more, and is therefore called by St. Chrysostom, a greedy insatiable worshipper of God.
Forgetting what is behind, saith he, and reaching forth (as runners do) unto those things that are before, I press toward the mark, I pursue or persecute it (the word signifies) with eagerness of affection. I follow it as one that will not leave, till I have that which I follow; but if I fall, I will rise again to it, and not give up; no more than when I was a persecutor I did, till I had him whom I persecuted. Thus St. Paul, and he adds, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” As who should say, Seem we to ourselves or others never so perfect, or be we never so perfect in comparison of others, yet let us be thus minded, to strive to further perfection. And a little after, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example. For our conversation is in heaven,” &c. Ever after he had been caught up thither, and heard things unspeakable, he became unsatisfiable, till he went there. So was Moses after he had been in the mount, and received the law. He no sooner was come down thence, but he was at it, Exod. xxxiii. 13, “Show me thy way, that I may know thee.” God grants him that request: is he satisfied? no: he must have more yet: God must go along with the people. Well, I will do this thing also that thou has spoken, saith God, ver. 16, 17. Is he content? no: for he said, ver. 17, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory.” God shows it him. Is he well yet? no; God must pardon the sin of his people too, and take them and him for his inheritance, chap.xxxiv. 9. Add this fruit of his favour to the rest, and then Moses hath done, for present at least. The covetous is not so greedy of gain as the godly of grace. He always cries, “Give, give,” and never has, enough. If once you say, “It is enough,” you are undone; if you cease to go forward, you begin to go backward.
JOHN TRAPP (1601-1669) was a schoolmaster at Stratford-on-Avon and vicar of Weston-on-Avon from 1624 until his death. While he wrote a number of smaller works such as “God’s Love Tokens” and “The Righteous Man’s Recompense”, he is remembered most for his striking and pithy commentaries on Scripture, which were finally published in 5 folio volumes — and reissued by R. D. Dickinson last century. Let Spurgeon speak his worth: “His writings remind me of himself: he was a pastor, hence his holy practical remarks; he was the head of a public school, and everywhere we see his profound scholarship; he was for a time amid the guns and drums of a parliamentary garrison, and he gossips and tells queer anecdotes like a man used to soldier life; yet withal, he comments as if he had been nothing else but a commentator all his days.” This extract is from his “Commonplace on Apostasy”.
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