THE BUILDER’S ARMOUR; OR, THE WORK AND WARFARE OF SPIRITUAL BUILDERS.
This sermon was preached at Stirling, on Sunday, June 30, 1748, alter the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper there.
[Note: The date listed in the text is obviously incorrect—Monday June 31, 1748.]
“For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.” Nehemiah 4:18.
These that have been solemnly giving up themselves to God in Christ, as his friends and followers, have a twofold work lying upon their hand, which they ought to be daily employed in, through the grace and strength of the Lord Jesus Christ; one is a building which they are concerned to have carried on, “Building up themselves in their most holy faith,” (Jude 20); another is, a battle, which they are concerned to fight under the banner of the Captain of salvation “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses,” (1 Tim. 6:12). Somewhat relating both to this building and this battle is represented here to us.
In the words which have just now read, we have an account how the Jews in Nehemiah’s time carried on the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, that were gone to ruin, as you see: “And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity therein the province, are in great affliction and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and the gates thereof are burnt with fire,” (Neh. 1:3). And “Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burnt with fire; come and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God, whichwas upon me, as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me; and they said, Let us rise up and build; so they strengthened their hands for this good work,” (Neh. 2:17-18). Their work behooved to be carried on with a warfare against surrounding enemies: see chap. ii. 10, “When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly, that there was come a man to seek: the welfare of the children of Israel.” And “But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, be was wroth, and took great indignation and mocked the Jews; and he spake before his brethren, and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will theymake an end in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burnt? Now, Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall evenbreak down their stone-wall,” (Neh. 4:1-3). “So we built the wall, and all the wall was joined together, unto the halfthereof; for the people had a mind to wait. But it came to pass, that when Sanballat and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites and Ashdodites, heard that the wall of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, and conspired all of them together, to come and fight against it and hinder it,” (Neh. 4:6-8). And, “And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them and cause the work to cease. Therefore set I in the lower places: behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows:” (Neh. 4:11, 13). They were obliged to be ready for the building and the battle both at once; “Every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon:” (v.17). “For” says the text, “the builders, every one had his sword girded upon his side, and so builded.”
Now, the manner wherein they carried on that work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, in the literal sense, when they were ruinous, was typical of the way and manner wherein the spiritual building is to be carried on, whether it relate to the work of grace in the hearts of particular believers, or the work of reformation in the church. There is no repairing of that work, when ruinous, without opposition from enemies without and within, filled with the fury of earth and hell against the work; therefore, builders must be ready for fighting; every builder must have his sword girded by his side, and so build. The observation I deduce from the text is the following:—
Doctrine: “That spiritual builders need to be spiritual soldiers.”
As we have the spiritual banquet and the spiritual battle joined together; “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love,” (Song 2:4); his banner for war: So here, we have the building and the battle put together; the trowel in the one hand, as it were, and the sword in the other. God’s people are called both to work and war at once. It is true, God is the worker of all their work in and for them; and as for the war, the battle is the Lord’s: but, as this is the greatest encouragement to work out the work of our salvation with fear and trembling; because it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do: so it is the greatest encouragement imaginable to building work, that Christ is the Master-builder, who alone builds the temple, and shall bear the glory; so also to warfare, that he is the Captain of salvation, that fights for us, in whom we are to be strong. Therefore it is in the name and strength of this great Builder and glorious Captain, that spiritual builders must be spiritual soldiers.
The method we propose, for handling this subject, is the following:—
I. We would speak a little of the spiritual builders.
II. Concerning the spiritual soldiers.
III. Offer some reasons why spiritual builders need also to be spiritual soldiers, still ready for war.
IV. Deduce some inferences for the application.
I. We would speak a little concerning the spiritual builders. And here I would offer the following account of them.
1. Every spiritual builder is one that is acquaint with the great Master-builder, and has come to learn the trade with him; he has, in a manner, bound himself apprentice to learn this art of building up himself in his most holy faith, even from him who is the chiefBuilder, that is, God: “For every house is built by some man, but he that built all things is God,” (Heb. 3:4); and all that are taught this art are taught of God; “It is written in the prophets, they shall be all taught of God,” (John 6:45). The spiritual builder, then, is one that has heard and learned of the Father. They are such as have either served, or are still serving their apprenticeship to this great Master of the work, and seeking to be more and more taught of him.
2. The spiritual builder is somewhat acquaint with the preparation of fit and proper materials for the building, such as are spoken of; not wood, hay, and stubble, and trash; but gold, silver, and precious stones; such as the golden graces of the Spirit, the silver promises of the covenant, and the precious stones, the precious blessings of the everlasting gospel, (1 Cor. 3:12). There is no building without materials of that sort; and the builders with these materials are not only ministers, who are superior in office, and yet under-builders, when compared with the great Master-builder, Christ; but private Christians are inferior builders; for, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is,” (1 Cor. 3:13); what sort of materials he builds withal.
3. The spiritual builder is himself a part of the building: “We are labourers together with God,” says the apostle: “Ye are God’s building,” (1 Cor. 3:9). “To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house,” (1 Pet. 2:4-5), called, “An habitation of God, through the Spirit,” (Eph. 2:22).
4. The spiritual builder is concerned to have the rubbish removed; the old building overturned, in order to the new work he has on hand, (Isa. 40:3-4). Such preparation we read of; “Go through, go through the gates, prepare you the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway, gather out the stones, lift up a standard for the people,” (Isa. 62:10). Men must be unbottomed from the covenant of works, and all hope of life by the law, in order to their new building upon the new-covenant ground. Hence,
5. The spiritual builder is concerned to dig deep, that he and his building may stand the firmer; to dig deep by conviction and humiliation into his sinful and miserable state, deep into his wants and plagues, and into a sense of the wrath of God, ready to pursue him for his sin; otherwise he has no due sense of his need of Christ, and salvation through him; therefore the builder seeks and earnestly entreats the Spirit to come by his convincing work, (John 16:8); and make him dig deep into the heart, that is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, (Jer. 17:9). The building is heart-work; the heart-evils must be discovered, and the builder must be concerned to dig deep, that he may build high; I mean, to be deeply humbled under the mighty hand of God, that he may be exalted in due time. The lower the foundation, the stronger will be the superstructure. Hence,
6. The spiritual builder is one that is in a spiritual manner concerned about and occupied in laying a good foundation, and having himself built upon it. The only foundation is Christ; for, “Another foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ,” (2 Cor. 3:11). Christ is the foundation that God has already laid: “Thus saith the Lord God, behold I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste,” (Isa. 28:16, compared with Rom. 9:33; 10:1, and 1 Pet. 2:6-8). Therefore the builder’s work or business is not to do anything that was never done, or to lay a foundation that was never before laid; but to believe and assent to what God has done, and appropriate that foundation to himself that God has laid for him, who has laid our help upon One that is mighty. He is occupied in laying his help where God has laid it; he builds upon no other foundation but Christ, as he is the way, the truth, and the life: and so he is the foundation in all respects; personally, as the way; doctrinally, as the truth; and efficaciously, as he is the life; he is the foundation in his person, as the way; in his doctrine, as the truth; and in his Spirit, as the life.
Question: What is to be done in laying the foundation?
Answer: Nay, rather you may ask, What is to be undone? What is a man to do for Christ? Indeed, to be undone is the thing to be done: for this is a self-outing, self-emptying work. He that lays a foundation needs not raise a scaffold for working; nay, as I said, he digs down, for the foundation is not laid upon any part of the building; and all must be leveled to the ground: before a new foundation is laid; even so, he that lays Christ to the foundation of all his faith, hope, and comfort, needs not, yea, must not, build a scaffold of his own works and righteousness. The foundation is not laid upon any part of the building; on the contrary, all must be pulled down; yea, all must be counted loss and dung for Christ: “What things were gain to me, these I counted loss for Christ; yea, and I count all things but loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 3:7-8).
7. The spiritual builder is one who, having thus laid the good foundation, and himself upon it, studies to make daily progress upon that foundation, by adding one stone to another, one grace to another, (2 Pet. 1:5-7); and joining them all close to, and upon, the foundation, and close to one another; cementing them all together as with mortar, and gradually advancing and growing in grace, and the knowledge of Christ. See, to this purpose: “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” And, “In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth into an holy temple in the Lord,” (Eph. 2:20-21). And “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him; rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye havebeen taught,” (Col. 2:7; see Jude 20). This progressive work includes a cleaving more close to the foundation, and living by faith upon Christ, and so going from strength to strength, from faith to faith. It includes a closer union and a closer association of the members of Christ, as lively stones joined together in Christ and in the truth, all “holding the head, from which all the body, by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God,” (Col. 2:19). To unite in a way, not holding the head, is to carry on a vain building in the air, separate from the foundation; an imaginary work.
8. The spiritual builder carries on his work according to the right rule; he has his line and plummet, and acts according to the strictest regularity, and by the most exact square. What is the rule? Even the word of God, the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, are the only rule: “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,” (Isa. 8:20). “They have Hosea and the prophets; let them hear them,” (Luke 16:29). “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be upon them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God,” (Gal. 6:16). There are some builders at this day, who make other things their rule; some make ministers their rule; right or wrong they will follow them, saying, God forgive our teachers, if they mislead us; we know no better. But, as the holy man Rutherford says, “If our light (speaking of ministers in his day), if the minister’s light be all your scripture, the Lord pity you; I would not give a farthing for your faith; for our light (says he) sits many times door-neighbour with the fat world; and the world poisons light.” Some make the Spirit their rule; particularly such as fall into the quakerish enthusiastical way. It is a delusive work, wherein the Spirit, who is the ruler, is put in place of the word of God, which is the rule: Hence some make motions, feelings, impressions, influences, the rule of judging that the work with them is a right work, and the rule of judging that the witnessing work of the day, among our hands, is a wrong work, which is at best a setting the Spirit of God against the word of God. No wonder than a delusive influence may be thus abused; for men may be under a divine influence, and yet under a delusion, when they make that influence their rule. Job’s friends were under a divine influence in what they spoke; but they made that their rule of judging that Job was a hypocrite, and so were under a delusion, which God afterwards discovered. Some, again, make the word their rule, and a good, sufficient, excellent rule, but not the only rule; thus they speak and write, who savor of a deistical spirit, making the light of nature and reason a rule, as well as the light of the word. But the true spiritual builder makes the word his only rule. But I proceed to,
II. The next thing proposed, viz. To give some account of the spiritual soldier. It is said, “Every builder had his sword girded by his side:” every builder here was a soldier; and to be a soldier, in a spiritual sense,
1. Supposes the person has enlisted with the Captain of salvation, Christ Jesus, and is acquaint[ed] with him. You are not soldiers, nor can you possibly be reckoned such, who have not taken on, or come to Christ, both as the Master-builder, to build with you, and for you, and, as the Lord, mighty in battle, to fight for you.
2. The spiritual builder is one who is brought to the field of battle, which is just the field where they build; the place of building is the place of battle. The soldier no sooner begins to build, but he must begin to fight the good fight of faith.
3. The spiritual builder is one who has put on the whole armor of God, spoken of, (Eph. 6:11-18); that is, the various graces of the Spirit, that are so many weapons of war against the devil, the world, and the flesh. But,
4. The spiritual warrior is one who dares not trustto the received grace of God, but to the God of grace; he does not depend upon the armor of God, but upon the God of armor; being strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might; strong in the grace that is in Christ Jeans.
But I shall speak a little of the spiritual warrior as here represented and exemplified in the text: where you may observe, 1. The weapon they are said to have, namely, the sword. 2. Their readiness to make use of it while building; “every builder had his sword girded by his side, and so blinded.”
1st, The weapon mentioned is the sword; and the sword of the spiritual warrior is no other, than that you read of: “The sword of the Spirit which is the word of God,” (Eph. 6:17). I think it is remarkable, it is not the Spirit himself that is the sword, but his word is the sword. As the Word is the only rule for building, so the same word is the only rule for fighting. As the Spirit is the ruler, not the rule; so the Spirit is the fighter, not the weapon. We are to try the spirits by the word, not the word by the Spirit and his motions or influences; these are various and changeable, enduring but a little while; but “The word of the Lord endureth for ever.” Indeed, the Spirit makes the Word plain and powerful, and then the Word makes the Spirit and his work plain and evident to be his. True and false spirits are to be tried by the Word: this is the sword that the Captain himself girds withal; “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty,” (Ps. 45:3): and thus girded, he goes forth conquering and to conquer. This also is the sword wherewith his soldiers are girded.
The Word may be compared to a sword on many accounts. The sword is a sharp weapon: so is the word compared to a sharp two-edged sword: “The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow,” (Heb. 4:12). A sword is both a defensive and offensive weapon; so is the word for defending against Satan’s assaults, and making the enemy fly; with this Christ defeats the devil, saying, “It is written.” A sword is a bright, glittering weapon: the word of God is like a clear glancing sword; it is “A light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn,” (2 Pet. 1:15). A sword must be good proven metal; so, “The word of the Lord is a tried word,” (Ps. 18:30). The words of the Lord are pure worth; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times, (Ps. 12:6). A sword must be drawn out of the scabbard ere it do execution, and pointed towards the enemy, to push at him; so the word must be opened by the Spirit, otherwise it is a sealed book, a sword not drawn. The sword of the Spirit must be drawn by the Spirit, and applied; then will his arrows be sharp in the hearts of the king’s enemies, whereby the people fall under him, (Ps. 45:5). In a word, a sword must be managed by a fit hand; and the hand must have strength to play and push with the sword: even so the word in the hand of faith must be managed by the strength of Jehovah, by the power of the Spirit; otherwise our leviathan lusts will laugh at the shaking of our spear; we must be kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.
But as the word is fitly comparable to a sword, so, it is called the sword of the Spirit fitly; for, 1. It is the Spirit that made the sword: the word is indicted by him; for, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2. It is the Spirit that burnishes and brightens the sword, making it clear, to be a light to our feet, and a lamp to our paths. 3. It is the Spirit that points the sword, and makes the Word sharper than a two-edged sword. 4. It is the Spirit that draws the sword, and that wields and manages it whenever it does any execution, and makes it powerful; “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, with the Lord.” 5. It is the Spirit that puts the sword, the Word, into our mouths and hearts; How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity, and scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you,” (Prov. 1:22-23). “My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy month, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the month of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever,” (Isa. 59:21). 6. It is the Spirit that makes the sword of the Word to be spirit and life; “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life,” (John 6:63). It is the Spirit that turns grace in the Word to grace in the heart, by making the spirit and life; for “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” (2 Cor. 6:3). Here, then, is the sword of the Spirit, the weapon of the spiritual builder. But now,
2ndly, Here is their readiness to make use of it while building, “Every man had his sword girded by his side, and so builded;” where four things may be observed.
1. Every worker here is a warrior; every builder had a sword, none are exempted from the war, that were engaged in the work of building; so in the spiritual warfare every one that puts his hand to the building, must put his hand to the sword, and resolve to fight upon the wall that he builds, to fight the good fight of faith.
2. Observe, that every builder had his sword, his own sword; even so in the spiritual warfare, every true builder has his sword, making the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, his own sword. They take to them this armor of God, as David said, “Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever,” ((Psalm 119:111). They take the word that Christ gives them, “I have given them thy word,” (John 17:14). Here we may say, the spiritual mason’s word is the sword; “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” and every builder that intends to have the pillars of the temple he builds upon to be called JACHIN and BOAR, stability and strength, he has the word of promise, that he uses as his own: “Remember, Lord, the word on which thou hast caused me to hope,” Hence,
3. Every builder had his sword girded by his side, girded and bound, that it might not be lost; so every spiritual warrior has the sword of the word applied, cleaving, to him as a girdle, and he binding it, as it were, to his side, to his heart; “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee,” by yielding to the enemy, when I have this sword to resist him.
4. Observe, “Every builder had his sword girded by his side (or his loins, as in the margin), and so builded.”
Here, again, are several things instructive, with reference to the spiritual builder and soldier both. Why, here is the closest application of the sword, “Every one had his sword girded by his loins, his sword by his side; “so the word must he closely applied; hence, says the apostle, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you,” (Col. 3:16). Here istheir prudence, girding up the sword, that it might not hinder them in their work: we are not to make such use of the word asto hinder our work, but to lay it up in our hearts, so as to practice it in our lives. And again, here is their diligence in their present work; when they were not just at war fighting, they were at work building. God gives his people sometimes a little breathing and interval of rest from the pitched battle, like the silence that was in heaven about half an hour, (Rev. 8:1); but when they are not just fighting with the foe, they are called to be building at the wall. Finally, here is their readiness for the war, as well as diligence in their work, not knowing how soon they might be assaulted; “Every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.” Thus in building we should be ready for battle; still armed, still watching, still wearing the sword of the Spirit, ready to draw upon the enemy, and lash the foe that would hinder the building of the wall, and interrupt our progress in the work of God. So much for a short account of the spiritual soldier, from this text.
III. We proposed, in the third place, to offer some reasons, why the spiritual builder needs to be a spiritual soldier. Why,
1. Because this spiritual building has many enemies, and is very grievous to enemies; it is opposed by all the power of earth and hell; “The heathen rage against it, and the people imagine a vain thing; the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers of church and state take counsel together against the Lord and his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords from us,” (Ps. 2:1-3). The upbuilding of any soul in the most holy faith is the eye-sore of hell; and the building up of the wall of Jerusalem, or any attempt to repair the ruins of the church, in the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, is grievous and tormenting to them that dwell upon the earth. Thus the building of the wall of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s days; see how grievous and vexing it was to enemies, that Nehemiah was come to put hand to this work: Read, “When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly, that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel,” (Neh. 2:10) That work which is exceeding gladdening to the godly, the well-wishers of Jerusalem, and the rebuilding the desolations thereof, is exceeding grievous to the enemy; as the building goes up, the enemies go mad; therefore, every builder needs to be a soldier, ready for war.
2. Because the enemy is very powerful and politic; very strong and subtile, very wicked and malicious, full of hatred and indignation against the building and builders: see how they covered themselves in Nehemiah’s time, when he set about the work: “But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? Will ye rebel against the king?” (Neh. 2:19). They that were builders of the wall were charged as enemies to the government, derided and laughed to scorn, (4:1-3; 7-8 & 11). Their opposers were also subtile and politic; how they practiced by craft, seeking to do Nehemiah a mischief, (Neh. 6:2); how they practiced by rumors and false reports, (Neh. 6:6-10); and also by false and feigned prophecies, (Neh. 6:12-14). When enemies are so many, so powerful and politic, so wicked and malicious, surely the builders have need every one of a sword girded by his side.
3. Spiritual builders need to be ready for war, because they build in an enemy’s country, as long as they are about this building work on earth. As on earth Christ rules in the midst of his enemies, so his faithful servants and people build in the midst of their enemies. This earthly region is the devil’s walk, where he is going to and fro, and walking up and down, (Job 1:7). While they build in such a place, where they are surrounded with the devil, and instruments of the devil; yea, not only with the wickedness of the wicked and unregenerate world, but the remaining wickedness of the godly, alas! what need have builders to be still ready armed.
4. The spiritual builders need to have their sword girded on their side, and so to build, because they build in the enemy’s eye, in the enemy’s sight and presence; he that covers a table for his people in the presence of their enemies, calls them also to build and bear witness for him in the presence of their foes; for which they are looked upon as signs and wonders; but as they expect that he will not be ashamed of them at the last day, so they are not ashamed of him before the world of men and devils, nor ashamed of their building work. See how boldly Nehemiah sets about the work in the face of his enemies, that laughed him to scorn: “Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven he will prosper us, therefore we his servants will arise and build; but you have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem,” (Neh. 2:20). However, their building in the enemy’s presence makes the enemy rage the more, and therefore they need to be ready armed when they build.
6. Spiritual builders need to be spiritual soldiers, ready for war, because the enemy is ready to break down the building as fast as we can build it up, unless we be still ready, with our sword girded by our side, to resist them. Satan stands at our right hand, ready to resist us in the work of God, and is always watching to overthrow the building of grace; therefore we need to be always on our guard, watching and ready, “Looking to ourselves, that we lose not what we have gained,” (2 John, 8); “Holding fast what we have, that no man take our crown,” (Rev. 3:11).
6. Every builder should have his sword girded by his side, and so build, because every builder has the enemy as near and close by his side as he can have his sword girded by it; enemies without and within, enemies within the house, within the heart, within the building, within the wall, as well as without. Nehemiah had even the nobles of Judah with him that kept a correspondence with the enemies. As we wrestle not only with flesh and blood, but also with principalities and powers, &c.; so we have enemies within, that keep correspondence with enemies without, and need therefore to be still, ready, still armed, for fighting with a sword; offensive to attack the enemy, and defensive, to defend themselves, and defend the building. So much shall suffice for the reasons of the doctrine.
IV. The Fourth head proposed is, To make application of the subject. If it be so, that spiritual builders need to be spiritual soldiers and warriors, with their sword girded by their side, and so building, hence see,
1. That the exercise of true religion is no idle business; it is both a building and a fighting. Though believers are not now under a covenant of works, to work for life, or do, and live, that covenant is perfectly fulfilled for them by their glorious head; yet under the covenant of grace, and under the influence of the grace of the covenant, there is a work of faith and labor of love they are called to, (1 Thess. 1:3); and it is such a work and labor as may take up all their time, and allow no time for an idle hour. They have work for both their hands, as here in the context it is said of the builders, in respect of their throng of work and war at once that “Every one with one hand wrought at the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.”
2. Hence see that Christians have little need to be cowards; nay, they ought to be courageous. They have a twofold trade upon their hand, particularly when they live to see the desolations of Zion; they have a work and a warfare to accomplish, a building and a battle; and their warfare is never accomplished till the building be completed. As long as there is stone of the building to lay, there will be a stir and mighty combination to oppose it, and to make the work cease: therefore they that put their hand to the building work little need to be of a cowardly disposition. We find cowards are cursed that go not forth to the work and to the war when the enemy comes in like a flood, and the Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standard against them, and calls his people to come under his standard: “Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord; curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty,” (Judges 5:23). God calls every inhabitant of Zion to be a builder when it is ruinous, and every builder to have a sword girded by his side; yea, he cursesevery loiterer that puts not his hand heartily to the work, and every faint-hearted coward that dares not draw his sword against the enemy; “Cursed be he that doth the work of the Lord deceitfully (or negligently, as in the margin); and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood,” (Jer. 48:10). Manyof this generation do not know or consider what heavy curses they are drawing upon their own heads, for their carelessness in the work, and cowardice in the war they should be engaged in. Again,
3. Hence see, since true Israelites, or the true born children of Zion, when the walls thereof are ruinous, are still building at the wall, or battling with the enemy, then they cannot be true born children of Zion, who profess only to build up themselves in faith and holiness, but reckon they have no concern to build up the walls of Jerusalem; they profess they should be occupied about a personal reformation, but to appear for public reformation is what they look upon as none of their business. What shall we think of these that pretend now-a-days to beconverts, and yet are converted to a hatred of church reformation; and whose conversion is a screen to cover, and mask to hide, all the public defections and corruptions of the time, as if there were no need of any testimony or witnessing work against them? Alas! though some who have testified against such corruptions, and hellish and dreadful conversions, are charged with blasphemy, as if they were appearing against the work of the Holy Ghost, yet may not that charge be justly retorted? For what blasphemy against the Holy Ghost were it to ascribe that work to him, whereby so many persons are converted to perjury and covenant breaking with the great God; converted to apostasy from, and opposition to the most solemn obligations to God that ever church or nation were under. To call this work of the Spirit of God is one of the greatest affronts done to the Holy Ghost imaginable; it looks like doing despite to the Spirit of God, to make him the author of that work, that leads people to have a despite at the glorious work of reformation he wrought for us, and at all that witness for it; or if they pretend to pray for them, it is I am well informed, asif they would prayfor the enemies of God and his glory. These that are converted to open apostasy, it is easy to see that they are not God’s converts, but the devil’s.
4. Hence see, since spiritual builders must be spiritual soldiers, with their sword girded by their side; then here is one reason why the spiritual building of the work of grace in the heart, or of the work of reformation in the church, goes slowly on; why, the opposition is great, and indeed builders, whether they be in a more private or public station, must lay their account with opposition from all quarters under heaven. The Christian who puts to his hand to build up himself in the most holy faith, and to build up the walls of Jerusalem, by joining in an honest witnessing work, he may layhis account with reproach, calumny, hatred, persecution, and ill treatment, in the world. If people intend to side with the times, and fall in with the way of the world, the world cannot hate them; but if they will testify against a wicked world, or a corrupt church, then they may expect the world’s fury, such as Christ himself met with: “The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil,” (John 7:7). Christ was the chief Builder, and he built by bearing witness to the truth, and testifying against the evil of the world, and the corruptions of the Jewish church; but he was hated for his pains, and not only hated, but persecuted to death. All that have been builders under him, they have been hated and reproached also. Elijah was builder, but he is called a troubler of Israel; Jeremiah, a man of contention; Paul, a mover of sedition; the apostles, a set of men that turned the world upside down; the builders here, in the text, were represented as rebels against the government, “Will you rebel against the king?” So, if any in our day put hand to building work, they will be reckoned enemies to church, and state, and schismatics; but, though departing from corruptions and corruptors in a church be a commanded duty, yet Satan always labors to put odious names upon realduty, and to bury the truth of God under the rubbish of vile reproach and strange, aspersions. However, the opposition from enemies by violence and deceit, is one of the reasons why the building goes on slowly, and meets with many interruptions.
5. If spiritual builders must be soldiers, with their sword girded by their side, then we are not to think strange, if building times should be troublous times; it is said, “The wall shall be built, even in troublous times,” (Dan. 9:25). God carries on his work even in such times, because it is most suitable to his name, as a present help in time of trouble; because it is most surprising to his friends, and confounding to his enemies; also, because it is most for the glory of his name, his wisdom, power, mercy, and truth; and because the building then appears the more to be the Lord’s work, when opposed by earth and hell; and because the building appears more remarkable and conspicuous. He gets the praise of his work that carried on in troublous times; and he gives his people occasion both to sing of mercy and judgment: and when, the wall is built, even in troublous times, when it is least expected, he thus encourages the faith of his people, in the worst of times, that they may trust in him, at all times. Let none be discouraged from building for fear of trouble, and troublous times; for then, says the Lord, the wall shall be built.
6. Hence we may, learn, that it is not strange if reforming times be also contending times. Whenever any begin to repair the wall that is ruinous, then they begin to contend for the faith, and to be valiant for the truth, and set themselves against the devil and the world, and to face their fury. When Christ appeared to lay the foundation of the New Testament church, he says, Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword,” (Matt. 10:34). He came not to send peace on earth, but a sword; and to set men at variance one with another. Though his work was to preach peace, and purchase peace, and give peace, yet, meeting with the malice of men and devils, his work occasioned war, dispeace, and disturbance; therefore, he warns his people not to be offended at confessions and contentions that his coming would occasion. When he appears in his providence to repair or rebuild his house, it must be necessarily occasion such variances as our Lord speaks of: hence the carnal world blames the builder of the wall for all dispeace and disorder that then falls out. Some will say, O such a set of men that profess so and so for reformation, they have raised up much division and contention! Whil yet it is only the devil and his instruments opposing the work among their hands. The building cannot be essayed, but a battle must be expected; and the more beautiful the building is designed, the more bloody the battle may be looked for. Indeed, we have not yet resisted unto blood, and know not but bloody times may be coming. It is a common distich,
Sanguine fundata est ecclesia, sanguine crevit
Sanguine succrevit, sanguine finis erit.
That is to say, “The church of Christ is founded upon blood, built up with blood, rebuilt and repaired with blood, and finished with blood.” “A bloody husband hast thou been to me,” said Zipporah to Moses; a bloody bride hath the church been to Christ: what with the blood of Christ, the blood of enemies, the blood of martyrs, she is become red in her apparel, like her glorious Head and Husband.
7. Hence see, that it is an honorable work and employment that our Lord calls all his followers to, namely, to be builders under him, and both to work his work and to wear his sword at the same time; to be workers and warriors for God; every honorable worker will work with the King’s sword at their side, “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This is the honor of all the saints that are helped to be faithful to their sovereign King Jesus, to work at his building, and fight his battles. It is not below the nobles of the earth to be employed in building and fighting for God. David, though a king, says, “I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob,” (Ps. 132:4-5). You see how much it was in his heart to build a house for the Lord, (2 Sam. 7:2); and how he was approved therein, (vv. 5-17); but many reckon it a dishonorable work to build God’s temple, in a spiritual sense, or to fall a-building the ruined walls of his church, and especially the nobles in our day; how like are they to the nobles of Judah in the days of Nehemiah! for it is said of them speaking of the names and order of them that built the wall, and particularly of the Tekoites, that they repaired, but their nobles put not their necks to the work of the Lord, , (Neh. 3:5). And we are told, how secret intelligence past between the enemies and the nobles of Judah; instead of building, they kept correspondence with the enemies of the work, (Neh. 6:17). Alas! how is this exemplified in the nobles of our land. Instead of putting hand to repair a ruined work of reformation, how are they rather confederate with the enemies of it! But, as it did not discourage Nehemiah, that the nobles were none of the builders, the work went on for all that; so it should not be discouraging to them who aim at the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall, that they have not the countenance of nobles and gentry. God stirred up the nobles of this land indeed to reformation-work, a hundred years ago; but though now they should lie by, yet God can carry on his work without them: it is an encouraging word you have, “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack: the Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee to whom the reproach of it was a burden,” (Zeph. 3:12 and 16-18). The work is honorable, though these that are both devout and honorable should be stirred up against it, (as Acts 13:50). The warfare is honorable, though Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek, yea, and the children of Lot with them, should be confederate against it, (Ps. 83:5-8).
8. Hence see the mark and character of the true and faithful children of Zion, when the concerns of Zion call for it, they are every one builders, and every builder has his sword girded by his side, and so builds. There is a twofold building and battling they are called to, and concerned in; the one is habitual, and the other occasional.
(1.) The habitual daily building they are employed in, is their building up themselves in their most holy faith, by endeavoring to be more and more rooted and built up in Christ; and this building is also still carried on with sword in hand; for they must fight every bit of ground on which they build, having not only flesh and blood, but principalities and powers to wrestle against. This building and battle is personal and habitual; continual work and warfare, that all true Israelites are engaged in.
(2.) The occasional building and battle they are concerned in, is at certain times and periods, wherein the enemy rages furiously and ruins the walls of the building; and especially when Zion is in adversity, and Jerusalem in ruins: when the carved work of the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the church is broken down, as with hammers and axes, then are all true believers called to be builders, or burden-bearers, (Neh. 4:10), and to be soldiers or helpers in the holy war; if not by handling their arms, as warriors, yet by holding them as servants, as it is said, some held the spears, the shields, the bows, and the habergeons; every one, according to his station, associating with these that are engaged in the building and the battle, and contributing to their assistance in the work and warfare, (Neh. 4:16). They may be said to bear arms really, that bearwitness faithfully and honestly, in a day of defection and apostasy, when a testimony for God, and against error and corruption, is on the field.
As this is the mark and character, then, of all the true and faithful children of Zion, that they are engaged in this twofold work and warfare; so there is this peculiar[ity] in their conduct therein, that they have no confidence in themselves, nor in their works; their whole confidence is in the Lord, without whom they can neither build nor fight to any purpose or advantage: they know, that “unless the Lord build the city, the builders build in vain;” and that it is Christ himself that must build the temple, and bear the glory: they know also, that unless the Lord fight for them, they can do nothing but fall or fly before the enemy; for “The battle is the Lord’s.” Therefore, when they go to work, their language is, with David, “I will go in the strength of the Lord; I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only,” (Ps. 71:16); and when they go forth to war, they dare not trust in their sword or bow; but their language is with David, when going forth against Goliath, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou but defied,” (1 Sam. 17:45). You may try if you have the mark and character of the true and faithful children of Zion.
9. Hence see both matter of conviction to enemies, and comfort to the friends of Zion. On the one hand, this doctrine speaks conviction to enemies: if all the true and faithful children of Zion are spiritual builders, and spiritual soldiers, then it may reach conviction to these that profess to be true Israelites, true Christians, and yet know nothing of this work, of being builders with sword in hand; but, instead of being builders, are destroyers of the work who, instead of being up-builders of the wall of Jerusalem, are down-breakers thereof. Well, sirs, but Jerusalem will prove a burdensome stone to such, (Zech. 12:2-3). It speaks conviction to those who have been builders, but now are deserters of the work, of whom God says; “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own way,” (Prov. 14:14). “I hate the work of them that turn aside,” (Ps. 101:3) and “As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity; but peace shall be upon Israel,” (Ps. 125.5). It speaks conviction and terror to these that are traitors, who betray the builders; perhaps the society we are concerned in, have had such in our bosom, that now have gone out from us, because they were not of us,1 but they that betray the cause of Christ, betray Christ himself, and will make but a poor hand of it in the issue. It speaks conviction to these that profess to build, but without a sword, and would be builders but not soldiers; but in vain do they think to obtain the kingdom of heaven, without taking it by violence; nay, “It suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” Will they ever raise buildings that will reach up to heaven, and yet lay by their sword, lay by their Bible, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God? There is no fighting against the devil and his instruments, but by the Word of truth, the gospel weapons of warfare, that are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. The Deists of our day, who allow not the scriptures to be the only rule of faith and practice, the only sword of the Spirit, they are not church-builders; they may be church-rulers, but are truly church-ruiners; Christ will fight against them with the sword of his mouth, (Rev. 2:16), for they are against the Word of the Lord, and the Word of the Lord is against them. Again, it speaks conviction and terror to these that profess to be soldiers, and yet are not builders; but as none can be spiritual builders who are not spiritual soldiers, so none can be spiritual soldiers who are not builders; yet some profess to be soldiers; they pretend to take the sword of the Word in their hand, and gird it by their side, and the sword of power and church authority, but, instead of building, they draw the sword against the builders, instead of drawing it against the enemies.2 This is the case, when church judicatories abuse the authority of Christ in his Word given to his church, by drawing that sword in his name, against his friends, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word, your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified; but he shall appear to your glory, and they shall be ashamed,” (Isa. 66:5). But to all such enemies to the building of the walls of Jerusalem, and opposers of the work and oppressors of the builders, may be applied these words you have: “I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou wast not aware, thou art found and also caught, because thou hast striven against the Lord,” (Jer. 50:24). “Thus saith the Lord, The children of Israel and the children of Judah were oppressed together, and all that took them captives held them fast, they refused to let them go; their Redeemer is strong, the Lord of hosts is his name, he shall thoroughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land, and disquiet to the inhabitants of Babylon,” (vv. 33-34).
But, on the other hand, this doctrine speaks comfort to the true friends of Zion, and true builders therein, with their sword girded by their side. As there is a heavy curse denounced against these that will not work the Lord’s work, nor fight his battles, (Jer. 48:10); so there are blessings that God has promised to be upon the head of builders: “Consider now from this day and upward, that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid. From this day will I bless you,” (Hag. 2:18-19). Whenever a man begins honestly to build, upon the foundation Jesus Christ, were it from this day, then saith the Lord, “From this day will I bless you.” Blessings are also pronounced upon the head of these that gird their sword by their side and so build; and upon honest fighters of the good fight of faith, for “To them is laid up a crown of righteousness.” The fair-fighters shall be conquerors, and the conquerors shall be crowned, “Be faithful to the death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” Every fair stroke you give your lusts and spiritual enemies with the sword of the Spirit drawn against them is a token, that, though like God, a troop may overcome you, yet you shall overcome at the last. And how many blessings are heaped upon the heads of overcomes, you may see by the epilogue of every epistle to the seven churches of Asia, recorded in Revelation 2 and 3. Here is encouragement both to the work and to the war.
10. And lastly, Hence see the duty of all the people of God, who desire to be blessed and favored of him, and to show themselves his friends and followers at this day, namely, to imitate the builders here in a spiritual way, that every builder have his sword girded by his side, and so build. You ought all to be thus employed. But many here are not yet in a spiritual state, capable for being spiritual builders, and spiritual soldiers, yet in a state of nature, strangers to the state of grace, and union to Christ. Therefore, I would first tender an exhortation to you, and then offer a few advices.
In the first place, I would exhort you to come to Christ, the sure foundation, that you may be capable to be builders upon it; and to come to him as the Captain of salvation, and enlist with him, that you may be capable to fightunder his banner. While you are out of Christ, you are but destroying yourselves, instead of building up yourselves in the most holy faith, fighting against God, instead of fighting the good fight of faith. O come, sirs, come to Christ, and do not remain enemies to God and to your own salvation! A whole Trinity calls you to be reconciled to God; the Father says, Come, “It is his commandment, that you believe, in the name of his Son,” the Son says, Come; “Whosoever will, let him come,” the Holy Ghost says, Come, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come.” Your circumstances say, Come; you are guilty, O come and get righteousness; you are weak, O come and get strength; your wants say, Come, come and get them all supplied; your heart plagues say, Come and get healing; death says, Come, that the stingof death may be taken away; judgment says, Come, that you may be able to stand in judgment; eternity says, Come, that you may be happy to all eternity. Come and build upon the sure foundation; come and fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life. But now,
In the second place, I would offer a few advices to you, who, having come to God in Christ, would desire to be honest builders and faithful soldiers, in a spiritual sense.
(1.) I would advise you to be students of the times, the proper time for building and fighting, that you may apply yourselves to the duty of the times. Though these duties are called for at all times, yet there are some special times, wherein we ought to be employed, in a special manner. It is given as the character of the sons of Issachar, that they “were men that bad understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do,” (1 Chron. 12:32). The want of this seems to be what our Lord reproves: “Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matt. 16:3). Intimating that they who are wholly ignorant of the signs of the times are hypocrites; they have skill and knowledge in things that are natural, but are willfully ignorant of spiritual things, not knowing, in their day, the things that belong to their peace; such hypocrisy is like to end in apostasy, for they that do not know or consider the times, and the duty of the time, are in the utmost danger of being taken in the snare of the time, like these spoken of, “For man also knoweth not his time; as fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon him,” (Eccl. 9:12). This is one of the reasons why our time just now abounds with such hypocrites and apostates, that are caught in the snares of the times, not knowing or considering, that if ever there was a time for building or fighting, these times we live in are building times, and fighting times, and proper times for working and witnessing. But, alas! the hypocritical generation we live among have been, for more than half century of years, saying, with the people mentioned: “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built,” (Hag. 1:2) to whom the Lord says, “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now, therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways,” (vv. 4-5). So say I, consider your ways, and consider the times.
(2.) A second advice I offer is, to consider likewise, the case of the walls of Jerusalem, where you are called to build: see if the call and, command of God do not concern you in a spiritual way, as it concerned Israel of old, “Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still, remember the Lord afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind,” (Jer. 51:50). How applicable is this call to our times, wherein the sword of the Lord is drawn, and wherein he has opened his armory, and brought forth the weapons of his indignation, in the heaviest of spiritual judgments, worse than sword, famine, and pestilence, even the sword of God’s wrath in awful delusions of Satan, transforming himself into an angel of light, and putting on the mask of religion and holiness! This sword of the Lord has killed many souls that seemed to be alive; it has killed their zeal for God and his cause, killed their concern for public church reformation, and for the rebuilding of the ruined walls of our Jerusalem: but, you that have escaped the- sword of dreadful delusion, sent to punish a generation of apostates, that refuse to remember their solemn covenant with God, stand not still, haste to fly out of Babylon: if the body, with which you have been formerly incorporate, be become a Babylon in a spiritual and scriptural sense, a Babylon for defection, apostasy, and corruption; a Babylon for persecution of, and opposition to, the covenanted doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of Christ’s house: “Remember the Lord afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind;” while you mind the Lord, mind Jerusalem, and the ruinous walls thereof; you that have escaped the sword that is destroying reformation-work, and is busy killing the witnesses for it: if you truly remember the Lord, Jerusalem will come to your mind. Let them deceive and delude themselves who will, that pretend to remember the Lord, and yet forget Jerusalem and her ruinous walls; yet you that are honest builders, when you remember the Lord, it is not possible but Jerusalem will come into your mind: the more ruinous it is, the more will you remember it, so as to take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof, till the Lord arise, and have mercy on Zion; for he has promised to appear in his glory and build up Zion. And happy are they that through grace are honest workers with him.
(3.) Another advice I give is, beware of flying when God is calling you to fight, as well as to build. “Should such a man as I fly?” said Nehemiah, (6:11). When Sanballat was practicing by craft, by false reports, and by false prophesies, to terrify him and to fright him from his work; no, says he; “Should such a man as I fly?” Enemies are still at work to hinder the spiritual building, either by violence or deceit; but as the Lord has promised to redeem the soul of his people from deceit and violence, (Ps. 72:14); so they are not to be frightened from the work by the lies, calumnies, false prophets, or false reports and reproaches, that enemies raise against them; for God promises to take their part; “Their Redeemer is strong, the Lord of hosts is his name; he shall thoroughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land, and disquiet to the inhabitants of Babylon,” (Jer. 50:34) by whom his people were oppressed, (v. 33). And see what he says to the enemies: “Was not Israel a derision unto thee?” (Jer. 48:27). And what says he of enemies, “We have heard the pride of Moab, (he is exceeding proud) his loftiness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart. I know his wrath, saith the Lord; it shall not be so; his lies shall not effect it,” (vv. 29-30).
(4.) I would advise you further, to beware of corresponding with the enemies of the work, whether in a secret or open way. It contributed much to weaken the hands of Nehemiah, and the builders with him, that secret intelligence passed between the enemies and the nobles of Judah, while many letters passed between Tobiah and them, (Neh. 6:17). When Israel was called to go out of Babylon, and betake themselves to the building work, they were called also to touch no unclean thing, (Isa. 52:11). This call the apostle adapts to his times [saying], “Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you,” (2 Cor. 6:17). It is dangerous to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; it is dangerous to strengthen the hands of the enemies, and weaken the hand of the builders: see how God observes this; “I have seen in the prophets at Jerusalem an horrible thing, they strengthen the hands of evil doers,” (Jer. 23:14). These indeed were false prophets, mockers of the true prophets, as we see from verse 33, and downwards of that chapter. But if a true saint should be so far left, as to correspond with and strengthen the hands of the enemies, God’s fatherly wrath will go forth against him: though he cannot, being a child of God, become a child of wrath, yet he may be a child under wrath. You have a remarkable instance of this in good Jehoshaphat, “And Jehu the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldst thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord,” (2 Chron. 19:2). It is next to impossible to have fellowship with some societies, and not be involved in the common guilt with them, and exposed to the judgments that are coming upon them. If Lot had not obeyed the command of hasting out of Sodom he had perished in the fire. If Noah had not, at God’s command, made the ark, and run into it, he had perished in the water with the rest of the world. If we partake with wicked enemies in their sins, we may expect to partake with them in their judgments, (See Rev. 18:4; Eph. 5:6-7).
(5.) A fifth advice I would give you is, Know your great assistant, both in the work and in the war, namely, the Spirit of God; “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, (by whom the temple was to be rebuilt), Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts,” (Zech. 4:6). Whatever mountains of difficulty were in the way, yet by this great assistant the work was to be carried on and completed: “Who art thou, O great mountain, before Zerubbabel? Thou shalt become a plain; and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it,” (v. 33). Christ is our Zerubbabel; it is he, “even he shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory,” (Zech. 6:13). And spiritual builders are to know, that it, is not by power, nor by might, but by his Spirit the work is to be carried on. Therefore, know your great assistant, the Spirit of Christ, and endeavor to be well acquaint with, and to depend upon his assistance. It is taken for granted, that all true believers, or spiritual builders, know and are acquaint with him, though the rest of the world are not. He is called, “The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth in you, and shall be in you,” (John 14:17). It is here taken for granted; therefore I may say to you, believers, ye know him, and his inhabitation in you. How do I know that, say you? Why, he is in you as a well of water, springing up to everlasting life: this is the water that Christ gives, (John 4:14); yea, the well itself is in you: and how do you know a spring-well, but by the bubbling up of the water? Even so, you know him by his gracious operations, particularly by his testifying work; “He shall testify of me,” says Christ: by his glorifying work; “He shall glorify me,” or show my glory. You may know him by his awakening work; for which you pray, saying, “Awake, O north wind; and come thou south, blow upon my garden.” You may know him by his quickening and strengthening work; quickening you to pray, or pour out your hearts before God; and strengthening you to wrestle with God for the blessing; and to wrestle against sin, as in an agony sometimes. You may know him by his humbling, sanctifying, sealing, and comforting work “After ye believed, yes were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise.” Thus you may know him by his assisting work. O know your assistant, in the spiritual work and war. Pray for the Spirit; and depend upon his assistance, without whom you can do nothing.
(6.) I would advise you further, Let the Word of God: and not the Spirit, be your only rule for the building, and sword for battle; for, “The sword of the Spirit is the word of God,” (Eph. 6:17). And the Word of God is the only rule to direct us, how we, may glorify God, by building up ourselves in the most holy faith: “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Let not, therefore, the feelings and motions of the Spirit be your rule, or your sword; the sword of the Spirit is not the Spirit himself, but the Word of God. The law and testimony of God; the revelation of his will, in the scriptures; and the doctrine of his grace, in the gospel; these are the weapons of our warfare, mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strongholds. The gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation, (2 Cor. 10:5 Rom. 1:16). In pure believing, spiritual building, and fighting the good fight of faith, the true Spirit of Christ makes the soul build upon nothing else but the Word, and so to build its faith and hope upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head cornerstone, (Eph. 2:20). Faith may be confirmed afterwards by the feeling and sealing of the Spirit, as I formerly said, “After ye believed ye were sealed;” but in nothing does the power of the Spirit more exert itself, in the day of believing, than in bringing the soul to be denied to all internal feelings, and to reject all other grounds of faith, than what are laid down in the word. So many and dangerous are the delusive operations of evil spirits on the hearts of men, at this day, that we need to be fenced against the enthusiasm that prevails, and to ground our faith allenarly [solely or only] upon God’s Word. “Faith cometh by hearing,” and not by feeling; it comes by hearing what the Spirit saith unto the churches, and not by feeling what he works upon the heart: though he works there, yet true heart-work brings the Word to the heart, and the heart to the Word. The false quakerish spirit leads people to a Christ within them, in their hearts; in whom feeling, they rejoice with a joy unwarrantable, and full of delusion but the true Spirit of Christ leads the hearts wherein he works, to a Christ without them in the Word; “In whom believing, they rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory,” (1 Pet. 1:8). Therefore I say again, true heart-work brings the Word to the heart, and the heart to the Word: and true spiritual builders and fighters stand upon that Word, as the ground upon which they build and fight; and they build by that Word as their rule, and fight with that Word as their sword: “The sword of the: Spirit is the word of God.”
(7.) I would advise you again, that you beware of everything that may endanger the spiritual work and spiritual warfare. Here I will lay before you some things very dangerous, which you should beware of.
1. It is to mistake a sleeping enemy for a slain one, or a sleeping lust for a slain or mortified one; for dangerous if sin be not mortified by the Spirit, the sleeping lust, the sleeping enemy, when awake, may soon mar and hinder the building. Again,
2. It is dangerous to sleep upon the wall where you build, to give way to spiritual sloth. Let a man be never so well armed, yet if he be asleep, or in a sound nap upon the bed of sloth, he is an easy prey to the enemy; therefore, “Watch and pray, that ye eater lot into temptation.”
3. It is dangerous to watch but one half hour, and think you may sleep safely the other half. The Philistines are upon you, if ye let down your watch, though you be never so strict and spiritual for a little while. Again,
4. It is dangerous to dally with the enemy, and give any little bit of ground to him. A half look towards a distant idol may bring on a broad look, and a broad look may renew an old acquaintance with the lust that was subdued, and “lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin,” (James 1:14-15).
5. It is dangerous to consult with flesh and blood, or to be conducted in your work and warfare by the rule of carnal policy; this made the chief priests and Pharisees consult the death and destruction of the great Master builder, “What do we? this man doth, many miracles; if we let him alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation,” (John 11:47-48). The measures they thought would raise and preserve them, did ruin them and their established church too. Carnal politicians, instead of being up-builders of the church, are down-breakers of it; destroyers of the building, and the builders too; they pull down their house about their ears, and leave it desolate, as these rulers in the Jewish church did.
6. It is dangerous, in your spiritual building and spiritual work that concerns your soul, to give God no more service than what you think is his due, and what you allow him at his set times of devotion, whether secret or social; if he get not many a stolen look between hands, the devil and the world will steal away your heart from him. It is dangerous, whatever duty is over, to think then your heart is at liberty to turn where it pleases; it needs to be bridled with many a look to heaven, by ejaculatory prayer in company, and in the interval of duty; otherwise, when you return to duty, you may find it a difficult matter to bring back your heart to your work, from the mountains where it has been wandering. Again,
7. It is dangerous to keep no guard upon the back of a victory, no watch upon the back of a manifestation; whereas the greatest danger may be upon the back of the greatest victory, or the sweetest manifestation; for Satan, if he can, will seek to throw you down from the pinnacle of the temple.
8. In a word, it is dangerous to yield to the enemy in any the least point of truth; for, by tempting you to pull out any small pinnings of the building, he aims at the loosing and dissolving the whole fabric. If we love the Lord our God with all our heart, we will regard everything and all things whatsoever he has commanded. Some are reckoned too nice and scrupulous that will not yield in some small matters; but we see the best of God’s servants in scripture, and the most eminent builders, have been such as the world would call the most nice and scrupulous. What think, you of Moses, that would not part with a hoof? What think you of Mordecai that would not yield in the bow of a knee? Of Daniel that would not yield even in the shutting of a window? And of Paul, who would not yield for an hour? He would not give place to the false apostles no not for an hour. If the Word of God be our rule, we will regard everything that has his authority stamped upon it, however small the world may reckon it. Some pretend a great regard for what they call fundamental points, but as to other things, such as the discipline and government of the church, they can easily dispense with these, however much the honor of God be concerned therein; though yet they would be very ill-pleased to want the least compliment of their worldly honor and dignity, or the smallest penny, of their worldly gain and commodity. Though some things may be called fundamentals intrinsically, as absolutely necessary to salvation; yet the smallest matters of revealed truth are also fundamental authoritatively, and as necessary to be regarded, by virtue of the divine authority as the former. Baptism, for example, is not absolutely necessary to salvation; this we assert against the Church of Rome; yet the contempt and neglect of it, when it can be obtained, is damnable because of God’s authority interposed. To disregard and despise the smallest matters in religion, which are necessary to be received and maintained, if not for themselves, yet for the authority of God speaking in the scriptures, bring as certain a curse and condemnation, as ignorance and error do in matters that are in themselves more essential and substantial. Will it ever justify the apostates of our day that they say they still cleave to these things of God that are of greatest concern to salvation, while they know how much his glory is concerned in other things, and that the contempt of his authority in the smallest things is damnable? Our Lord says, “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matt. 5:19). If men will call any of these things of God small things, yet what will this distinction avail them? Will they ever be absolved for their regard to the greatest, when condemned for their neglect and contempt of the smallest things of God? True builders are directed; “Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done for the house of the God of heaven; for, why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?” (Ezra 7:23)
(8.) The last advice I offer is, Never attempt to build without your sword; let every builder have his sword girded by his side, and so build. As there is no fighting, so there is no building to any advantage, without the sword of the Spirit; therefore take it to you, (Eph. 6:16-17). He who enjoins you to take the shield of faith, says also, “Take the sword of the Spirit.” Christ is our armory and magazine for military provision; and this piece of armor among the rest he has to give, and wills you to take. He gives you his sword, his Word, (John 17:14). Therefore take what he gives, he gives you his word of grace and promise, even great and precious promises, and every promise believed is a sword drawn against the enemy, and matter fit for building with. Search the scriptures, and hide the Word in your heart, and thus gird the sword by your side. He gives you his Word, saying, Take this sword of mine; it is better for you than the sword of Goliath; there is none like it. You may build with this sword, and build to purpose; you may fight with this sword, and fight to advantage. Satan flies before you, and enemies may be driven away with it. This is the victory whereby we overcome the world, even our faith of this word; all the saints overcome by the blood of the Lamb; and by the word of their testimony, (Rev. 12:11). Never go about any part of yourbuilding work without your sword; never pray without your sword; you may wrestle with God himself with the word of promise in your hand, in your heart; and while you wrestle with God, pleading his promise, and prevail, then you win the day against the enemy. Thus shall you be furnished for your daily work and war, your daily building and battle; and, O sirs, may this text be spiritually verified in all the communicants in Stirling. “The builders every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.”
It is probable Mr. Thomas Nairn is the person our Author here has his eye upon; he having about five months before this (via., Feb. 3rd, 1743) given in his dissent and secession from the Associate Presbytery, in regard he had espoused Anti-government principles, which he has likewise since relinquished. If the reader inclines to see this affair laid open, he may consult “Answers by the Associate Presbytery to his reasons of dissent.” (Return to reading)
This was remarkably verified in the prosecution raised against the Associate Brethren, and carried on by the respective Church judicatories with so much keenness, when Venters and Propagators of pernicious errors were either passed by or inadequately censured. (Return to reading)