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not more heartily suing to be rich in grace, than to improve his graces to the honour and advantage of the Bestower
With an awful and broken heart, doth he make his addresses to that Infinite Majesty; from whose presence he returns with comfort and joy
His soul is constantly fixed there, whither he pours it out. Distraction and distrust are shut out from his closet: and he is so taken up with his devotion, as one that makes it his work to pray. And, when he hath offered up his sacrifices unto God, his faith listens, and looks in at the door of heaven to know how they are taken.
EVERY man shews fair in prosperity ; but the main trial of the Christian is in SUFFERING: any man may steer in a good gale and clear sea; but the mariner's skill will be seen in a tempest.
Herein the Christian goes beyond the Pagan's, not practice only, but admiration. We rejoice in tribulation, saith the Chosen Vessel. Lo here a point transcending all the affectation of Heathenism. Perhaps, some resolute spirit, whether out of a natural fortitude, or out of an ambition of fame or earthly glory, may set a face upon a patient enduring of loss or pain; but never any of those heroic Gentiles durst pretend to a joy in suffering. Hither can Christian courage reach; knowing, that Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed.
Is he bereaved of bis goods and worldly estate ? he comforts himself in the conscience of a better treasure, that can never be lost. Is he afflicted with sickness ? his comfort is, that the inward man is so much more renewed daily, as the outward perisheth. Is he slandered and unjustly disgraced ? his comfort is, that there is a blessing which will more than make him amends. Is he banished ? he knows he is on his way homeward. Is he imprisoned? his spirit cannot be locked in: God and his Angels cannot be locked out. Is he dying? to him to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Is he dead? be rests from his labours, and is crowned with glory. Shortly, he is perfect gold, that comes more pure out of the fire, than it went in; neither had ever been so great a Saint in heaven, if he had not
, passed through the flames of his trial here upon earth.
He knows himself never out of danger; and, therefore, stands ever upon his guard. Neither of his hands is empty: the one holds out the shield of faith ; the other manageth the sword of the Spirit: both of them are employed in his perpetual CONFLICT.
He cannot be weary of resisting; but resolves to die fighting.
He hath a ward for every blow: and, as his eye is quick to discern temptations; so is his hand, and foot, nimble to avoid them.
He cannot be discouraged with either the number or power of his enemies : knowing that his strength is out of himself, in him in whom he can do all things; and that there can be no match to the Almighty
He is careful, not to give advantage to his vigilant adversary; and, therefore, warily avoids the occasions of sin: and if, at any time, he be overtaken with the suddenness or subtlety of temptation, he speedily recovers himself by a serious repentance; and fights so much the harder, because of his foil.
He hates to take quarter of the spiritual powers: nothing less than death can put an end to his quarrel, nor nothing below victory.
He is not so careful to keep his soul within his teeth, as to send it forth well addressed for happiness: as knowing, therefore, the last brunt to be most violent, he rouzeth up his holy fortitude to encounter that king of fear, his last enemy, DEATH.
And now, after a painful sickness and a resolute expectation of the fiercest assault, it falls out with him as in the meeting of the two hostile brothers, Jacob and Esau: instead of grappling, he finds a courteous salutation; for stabs, kisses; for height of enmity, offices of love. Life could never befriend him, so much as death offers to do: that tenders him (perhaps a rough, but) a sure hand, to lead him to glory; and receives a welcome accordingly.
Neither is there any cause to marvel at the change. The Lord of Life hath wrought it; he, having by dying subdued death, hath reconciled it to his own; and hath, as it were, beaten it into these fair terms with all the members of his mystical body: so as, while unto the enemies of God death is still no other than a terrible executioner of divine vengeance, he is to all that are in Christ a plausible and sure convoy unto blessedness.
The Christian therefore, now laid upon his last bed, when this grim messenger comes to fetch him to heaven, looks not so much at his dreadful visage, as at his happy errand: and is willing not to remember what death is in itself, but what it is to us in Christ; by whom it is made so useful and beneficial, that we could not be happy without it.
Here, then, comes in the last act and employment of faith ; for after this brunt passed, there is no more use of faith, but of vision: that heartens the soul in a lively apprehension of that Blessed Sa
viour, who both led him the way of suffering, and is making way for him to everlasting glory: that shews him Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, who, for the joy that was sct before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right-hand of the throne of God: that clings close unto him: and lays unremovable hold upon his person, his merits, his blessedness. Upon the wings of this Faith, is the soul ready to mount up toward that heaven, which is open to receive it; and, in that act of evolation, puts itself into the hands of those blessed angels, who are ready to carry it up to the throne of glory,
SIC, O SIC JUVAT VIVERE, SIC PERIRE!