« PreviousContinue »
“ (Jeroboam) that he was a mighty man of valour, and that he was « industrious, made him ruler over all the charge of the house of « Joseph, 1 Kings xi. 28. And this was the man that rent the kingdom from his son, even ten tribes from the house of David.
3. Let designs be projected with the greatest prudence, and committed to the management of the fittest instruments; all is nothing as to success, without the concurrence of health, strength, favourable winds, fecurity from the hands of enemies, and perils of the deep. If any of these be wanting, the design miscarries, and all our projects fail. How often are hopeful and thriving undertakings frustrated by the failure of any one of these requisites ? « Go to now, ye that fay, “ to-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and remain there " a year, and buy and sell, and get gan; whereas ye know not “ what shall be on the morrow: for wliat is your life? It is even a “ vapour that appears for a little while, and then vanisheth away," Jam. iv. 13, 14. How soon are the purposes of men's hearts broken off, and their thoughts perilh in one day? They think to fend or go to such a place, and there enrich themselves, and return prosperous ; but sometimes death, sometimes captivity, sometimes cross winds, dah all their hopes.
4. Proper seasons must be observed, elfe all success and expectation of increase is loft. “ There is (faith Solomon) a feason for every “ thing, and a time to every purpose under the sun,” Ecclef. ii. 1. This being taken, gives facility and speedy dispatch to a business; and therefore he gives this reafon, why man miscarries fo frequently, and is disappointed in his enterprizes because he knows not the time; Ecclef. ix. 11. He comes (as one faith) when the bird is flown.” It is a wife and weighty proverb with the Greeks, "That there is much <time in a short opportunity :" That is, a man hitting the feafon of a buliness, may do more in a day, than, losing it, he may be able to do in a year. This is of a special consideration in all human affairs, and is the very hinge upon which success turns : So that to come before, is to pluck apples before they are ripe ; and to come after it, is to seek them when they are failen and perished.
5. Lastly, In getting wealth the leaks of our estates must be stopped : else we do but put it into a bag with holes, as the prophet's phrafe is in Hag. i 9. If a man lose as much one way as he gets anoiher, there can be no increase. Hence it is, that many are kept los and poor all their days : If one delign prospers, yet another miscarries; or, if all succeed well abroad, yet there is a secret consumption of it home, by prodigality, rict, luxury, or a secret curse upon it, which the scripture calis God's blowing upon it, Hag. i. 3. If therefore by any of these ways our gains moulder away, we do but disquiet ourfelves in vain, and labour in the fire for very vanity. Thus you fee what things are requifite to the advancement of an eftate upon a prudential account.
Now let us particularly observe what a dependence there is upon Providence in all these things; and then it will be clear that our good is not in our hand, nor success at our beck, but it is the Lord that gives us power to get wealth. For,
As to the moulding and projecting of a design, we may fay, both of the prudent merchant and ingenious seaman, what the prophet doth of the husbandman, Ifa. xxviii. 10. « It is his God that in« structs him to discretion, and teacheth him.” There is, indeed, a fpirit in man, “ But it is the inspiration of the Almighty that giveth i understanding,” Job xxxii. 8. The faculty is man's, but the light of wisdom, whether natural or fpiritual, is God's : and the natural faculty is of itself no more capable of directing us in our affairs, without his teaching, than the dial is to inform us of hours without the sun's shining upon it. And because men are so dull in apprehending, and backward in acknowledging it, but will lean to their own underftandings, thence it is that prudent designs are so often blafted, and weaker ones succeeded.
And no less doth Providence manifest itself in directing to, and prospering the means and inftruments employed in our business : it is of the Lord that they prove ingenious, active and faithful servants to us; that your factors abroad
not malefactors to you; that every design is not ruined by the negligence, ignorance, or treachery of them that manage it. If God qualify men to be fit instruments to serve you, and then providentially direct you to them, his hand is thankfully to be owned in both. It was no small mercy to Abraham, that he had so discreet, pious, and faithful a servant to manage even his weightiest affairs fo prudently and prosperously for him. Laban, Pharaoh, and Jethro, never fo prospered, as when Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, had the charge of their business. Laban ingenuously acknowledged, “That he had learned by experience that the Lord had blessed “ him for Jacob's sake,” Gen. xxx. 27. A heathen you
see is more ingenuous in owning the mercy of God to him in this case, than many professed Christians are, who facrifice all to their own net, and burn incenle to their drag, i. e. idolize the means and instruments of their profperity, and fee nothing of God in it.
And then as to the preservation of those that go down into the sea, to do our business in the great waters; who can but acknowledge this to be the peculiar work of God? Doth not daily experience shew how often poor seamen are cut off in the prosecution of our defigns, sometimes by fickness, fometimes by storms, and sometimes by enemies, to whom they become a prey? If they escape all these, yet how often do they lie wind-bound, or hindered by cross accidents, till the proper season be over, and the design loft ? Certainly, if providence shall so far favour men, as to prevent all these; command winds fit for their purpose, restrain enemies, preserve life, and carry them fafely and seafonably to their ports, it deserves a thankful acknowledgment; and those that do not acknowledge providence, do difoblige it.
Lastly, Who is it that stops the leaks in your estates, prevents the wafting of your substance, and secures to you what you poíTess? Is it not the Lord ? How many fair estates moulder away insensibly, and come to nothing ! Certainly, as there is a secret blessing in fonie families, so that themselves can scarce give ariy account how they are provided for, so there is a secret blaft and confumption upon others, which brings poverty upon them like an armed nan. And this is the true sense of that fcripture, Hag. i. 6. “ Ye have fown much, and “ bring in littie. Ye eat, but ye have not enough: ye drink, but are « not filled with drink: ye clothe you, but are not warm ; and he « that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes;' or, as in the Hebrew, a bag piercea, or bored through ; what goes in at one end, goes out at another, and so all labour is loft ; nothing stays with them to do thein good. So that it is an undeniable truth, that prosperity and success are not to be ascribed to our abilities, but to the blessing of God upon our lawful endeavours.
1. Inference. And if so, how are they juftly reprovable, that wholly depend upon means in the neglect of providence; that never eye God, nor acknowledge him in any of their ways? This is a very great evil, and highly provoking to the Lord: it is the fruit and discovery of the natural Atheism of the hearts of men. How confident are men of succefs and prosperity, when second causes lie for it, and smile upon them? And, on the contrary, how dejected and heartless when they seem to lic cross to their hopes ? O how few consider and believe that great truth, Eccl. ix. 1. “That the righteous, and the " wife, and their works are in the hand of God !" To be in the hand of God, noteth both their subjection to his power, and to his directive providence. Whether your works be in your hand, or put out of your hand, they always are in God's hand to prosper or fruftrate them at his pleasure.
Foolish man decreeth events without the leave of Providence : as if he were absolute lord of his own actions, and their success. Indeed, you may then speak of success, when you have atked God's leave ; Job xxii. 28. - Acquaint thyself with God, then thalt thou decree a « thing, and it shall be c!tablished.” But your confidence in the means, whilft Gou is neglected, will surely be followed either with a difappointment or a curfe. For what is this but to labour without God, yea, to labour against God? For so do all they that give the glory of God to the creature ; that let the instrumental and fubordinate in the place of the principal efficient cause. It is juit with Gou to deny you your comfort in those things wherein you rob him of his glory.
2. Inference. How vain and unreasonable are the proud boasts of men, in the n'dlt of their fucceffes and prosperity! If God be the foie author of it, and it is not in your power, nor the might of your
hand, that hath gotten you this wealth ; why do you glory in it, aş if it were the effect and fruit of your own prudence and industry? How soon do the spirits of men rise with their estates? How haughtily do they look ? How proudly do they fpeak? What a fenlible change of temper doth this small change of condition work? it is an exceeding hard thing to keep down the heart when providence exalteth a man's estate. Magnæ fælicitatis eft, a felicitate non vinci, faith Austin, It is a great felicity not to be overcome by felicity. That man is surely rich
graces suffer no ecliple by his riches. It is as hard to be prosperous and humble, as to be aflicted and cheerful. But to keep down thy heart in times of success and prosperity, I will offer thee, reader, a few humbling considerations about this matter.
1. And the first is this : Though providence do succeed and profper thy earthly designs, yet this is no argument at all of the love of God to thy soul : thou mayest be the object of his hatred and, wrath for all this. No man knows either love or hatred by all that is bea fore him, Eccl. ix. 1. How weak an evidence for heaven must that be, which millions now in hell have had in a greater measure than you have? The least draciom of grace is a better pledge of happiness, than the greatest fum of gold and silver that ever lay in any man's treasury. Externals distinguisli not internals; you cannot so much as guess what a ran's spiritual estate is, by the view of his temporal. Ilhmael was a very great man, the head of a princely family, but, for all that, excluded from the covenant, and all its spiritual blessings, Gen. xvii. 20, 21,
He that reads the lxxiii. Psalın, and the xxi. of Job, will plainly see how wretched a case that man is in, who hath no better evidence for the love of God than this amounts to.
2. Be not proud of outward prosperity and success; for providences are very changeable in these things, yea, it daily rings the changes all the world over. Many a greater estate than yours, and every way as well, yea, far better secured to the
eye of reason, hath he icattered in a moinent. It is the saying of a philosopher, speaking of the estates of merchants and seamen, Non amo falicitatem e funibus pendentein; I like not that happiness that hangs upon ropes. I need not here cite hijtories to confirm this truth : there is none of can abundantly confirm it to yourselves, if you will but recollect those instances and examples which have fallen within your time and remembrance. It is a poor happiness that may leave a man more miserable to-morrow, than he that never arrived to what you have, can be.
3. Pride not yourselves in your success ; för as providences are very changeable, to the change seems very nigh to you, when your heart is thus lifted up, efpecially if you be luch, to whose eternal happiness God hath any special regard : to be fure he will pull down that proud heart, and quickly order humbling provilences to that end: " He “ looketh upon every one that is proud, to abase him," Job xl. 11. The heart of good Hezekiah was tickled with vain-glory, and he must needs inęw the king of Babylon's servants all his treasures, and pre
cious things; and at that time came the prophet Isaiah to him with a fad message from the Lord, that all these treasures, in which he had gloried, must be carried to Babylon, Isa. xxxix. If you hope comfortably to enjoy the good of providence, provoke it not by such vain oftentations. It is an ingenious note, even of an heachen,
Tu quoque fac timeas, et qua tibi læta videntur,
Dum loqueris, fieri tristia polé, puta. Ovid. Exercise fear in prosperity, and think with thyself, when thy heart is most affected with it, that whilst the boast is in thy lips, the scene may alter, and thy happiness be turned into sorrow. Whilst that proud boast was in the mouth of Nebuchadnezzar, the voice from heaven told him, “ His kingdom was departed from him, Dan. iv. 30, 31. Pride fhews, that prosperity, which feeds it, to be at its vertical point.
3. Inference. If success in business be from the Lord, then certainly the true way to prosperity is to commend our affairs to God by prayer. He takes the true way to thrive, that engages God's blelfing upon bis endeavours. « Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust o also in him, and he shall bring it to pals,” Pfal. xxxvii. 4. It is a vile thing for any man to grudge that time that is spent in prayer, as so much time loft in his business. But having preffed this point before, I shall add no more here. 4. Inference
. Doth all success and prosperity depend upon, and come from God? Then let it be faithfully employed to his glory. " If it be of him, and through him,"then there is all the reason in the world it should « be to him," Rom. xi. 36. You do but give him of his own, as David speaks : “ All this store cometh of thine hand, " and is thine own,” ; Chron. xxix. 16. He never intended your estates for the gratifying of your lusts, but to give you a larger capacity thereby of honouring him in the use of them. O consider, when God hath prospered your estates abroad, and you return successfully home, how you have an opportunity of honouring God, and evidenceing your sense of his goodness to you, by relieving the poor with a liberal and cheerful charity ; by encouraging the gospel, and making them partakers of your good things, who labour for your fouls, and dispense better things to you than you can return to them. I would not here be mis-interpreted, as though I pleaded my own interest, under a pretence of pleading God's; no ! God forbid; I am well satisfied with a capacity of doing any good, how little foever I receive ; nor can many of you reap the fruit of my labours : but I would not leave you ignorant, or regardless of so great and plain a duty as this is : you are bound to this retribution, by a plain and positive precept, Gal. vi. 6. « Let him that is taught in the word, com“ municate to him that teacheth, in all good things." You are obliged to do it, proportionably to the success God gives you in your trade, 1 Cor. xvi. 2. And when you have so done, not to think it