Three Helps to Endure the Hour of Temptation
in a Letter from Abraham Cheare to a Church Member
[Editors Note: Abraham Cheare (1626-1668) was the pastor of the Particular Baptist church in Plymouth, Devon, from about 1650 until his death in prison in 1668. He spent most of the years 1661-1668 in various jails for preaching the gospel. This letter is from a posthumous collection of his writings entitled Words in Season from that late Worthy Sufferer and Servant of the Lord Jesus . . . Abraham Cheare. It was published, in London, soon after his death in 1668. His three points for keeping faith are very helpful. Spelling and punctuation have been modernized, and some minor editing has been done to make it more accessible for modern readers.]
Unto one who had acquainted him with the departing of some from their holy Professions.
The early visits of the bright and morning Star, be a light in your dark place, till the day dawn, and the shadows flee away.
Beloved in and of the Lord!
Since my last, I have received yours, wherein you were pleased to remember, and send such a rich token to your poor friend, whom you are please to describe by that merry title of your father; who blesses God for grace and support ministered, by tracking the footsteps of the Father of Spirits in those paths of peace and pleasantness, wherein he is pleased to lead you, and others of his suffering ones, so contrary to the methods and expectation of men, whose breath are in their nostrils, Job 22:29, Psalm 41:8,12,13, unto which I account it no diversion that he is pleased (as you last letter intimates) to keep you in an humble sense of the shortness of self-sufficiency, for bearing you up against the hour of temptation; the very fear of which has already cast down so many stars of their excellency, on whom this inscription is manifestly engraven, as a caution to us, though a by-word to scorners, Lo this is the man that made not God his confidence. Over whom as I have little ground to glory, 1 Corinthians 10:12, Romans 11:18,20, so neither is there just occasion to be greatly offended, Isaiah 2:22, 2 Timothy 4:16,17,18, John 6:66,67, John 16:13,32. Although I find it somewhat difficult to draw the memorial of their slips into a gracious perpetual remembrance, without some mixtures either of wrath or of doubting. I confess it makes me many times tremble to think of the relation in which the Lord has placed me in his house, in which you and others look on me, and expect much from me (as your letter intimates) who am so unsuitable to be a door-keeper there, lest while much weight depends on such a worm, that word be fully justified, Isaiah 22:25, and so of being reared up a monument for a living end, as was his pillar, 2 Samuel 18:18, I prove to be but an heap of infamy, verse 17. But over against those faintings, when they have ran in as a flood, I have hitherto found the Spirit of the Lord lifting up a standard, and displaying a banner in his fear, by which a seasonable rescue has been offered in a time of need. And that by keeping me upon, and now and then succeeding me in some measure in this three-fold work, which I doubt not but you have arrived to a good degree and great boldness in the faith of:
First, That I do not satisfy myself, in any ordinary and slight evidences of an interest in eternal love, but press toward that full assurance of faith founded on the New Covenant, and universally influential on the new creature. I speak not as if I had attained much, but this is with me by the grace of Christ, my soul is so much the more engaged to press after the riches of full assurance of understanding a fellowship in the mystery of God the Father, and of Christ, as I see the days are evil, the glimmering of which in that degree the Father sees good to entrust me withal, have been an unspeakable stay to me against the fears of what man can do to me; and through your prayers, and the help of the Spirit of Jesus, I hope will continue so to be unto that end; the powers of which both to peace against the fears of this day (Romans 8:31-39) and to purging against the filth of it (2 Timothy 2:19, 1 John 3:3) I need not show you, who yourselves are taught it of God, Job 36:22.
Secondly, Another main work which I find of great necessity and advantage, is, the setting up in my soul the dominion of the cross of Christ, in a daily mortification (through spiritual aid and arguments) of the affections and lusts of the flesh, to everything that may, or must suffer loss in the expected fiery trial, whether it be either corruptible things, as silver and gold (any under-Christ enjoyments) or corrupted, corrupting things, as is all the filthiness both of the flesh and of the spirit. The entanglements of one or other of these is the snare which so easily besets most of those who in this day are contriving how much truth they may possibly sell, or at least expel for peace, who seldom treat upon these terms, but Satan makes his market on them, we are not ignorant of his devices; to be therefore mortified by time to these things, is a very great part of our best interest, not only that (in this sense) our sins go beforehand to judgment, that we may not be judged in them, and for them with the world, when the Lord comes out of his place, to punish the inhabitants of the earth, and arises terribly to shake it; but also that our pleasant pictures, costly coverings, and all our delectable things may be so crucified to us, and we to them in the love of them, that it may be no hard thing when the Lord calls for them to glorify him, to say to them “Go away, What profit is there in my blood” If the Lord (his Name, Cause, Testimony) has need of it, what is that between us and him?
Thirdly, I also am brought into an experimental observation how much of moment is the spirit of a sound mind, to have real, substantial, and digested principles, and to be in union with them concerning that cause, for which we are at the point to be thoroughly tried, whether that part of it that concerns worship, or otherwise, to have our faith in such a day as this to be only founded in the wisdom of man (our own or others) short of the power of God, to build another man’s foundation, or boast in another man’s line, of things made ready to our hand, at a time when every man’s work must be tried, and every man must bear his own burden, and give such an account as this is of himself to God; though the structure seem never so stately, and to be founded on the highest resolution, yet will that doom and outcry sooner or later attend it, as did his ax, 2 Kings 6. And indeed (as you observe) backslidings at this time of day are very rarely and hardly repaired (though I trust some will) ere the door be shut, Matthew 25:8-10. To have therefore our rejoicings in our selves, and not in another, Proverbs 5:17, Galatians 6:4, is our great interest; that it may be your sweet portion, is the prayer of him who (being unexpectedly interrupted) having nothing of moment as tidings, rests, yours, as ever.