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** fubftance, but the inward mind thou shalt not hurt." And when one joint was pulled from another, the faid, "Behold what a "pleasure it is for them, oh Christ! that remember thy tri"umphant victories, to attain unto thofe high dignities." So that our conftitutional strength is not to be made the measure of our paffive fortitude: God can make the feeblest and ten derest persons stand, when strong bodies, and blustering, reso, lute, and daring minds faint and fall.
2. Are our bodies fo weak, and hearts fo tender, that we can bear no sufferings for Chrift? Then we are no way fit to be his followers. Chriftianity is a warfare, and Christians must endure hardships, 2 Tim. ii. 3. Delicacy and tenderness is as odd a fight in a Christian, as it is in a foldier; and we cannot be Chrift's difciples, except we deliberate the terms, and having confidered well what it is like to coft us, do refolve, in the ftrength of God, to run the hazard of all with him and for him. It is in vain to talk of a religion that we think not worthy the suffering and enduring any great matter for.
3. And if indeed, reader, thy conflitution be fo delicate and tender, that thou art not able to bear the thoughts of torments for Chrift, how is it that thou art not more terrified with the torments of hell, which all they that deny Chrift on earth must feel and bear eternally? Oh, what is the wrath of man, in comparison with the wrath of God! but as the bite of a flea to the rendings of a lion. This is the confideration propounded by Chrift in Matth. x. 28. "Fear not them who kill the "body, but are not able to kill the foul; but rather fear him "who is able to deftroy both foul and body in hell." The infinite and unsupportable wrath of the great and terrible God, fhould make our fouls fhrink and shake at the thoughts of it, rather than the sufferings of the Resh, which are but for a mo
4. Know that the wifdom and tenderness of thy Father, will proportion the burden thou must bear to thy back that muft bear it; he will debate in meafure, and not overload thy feeble fhoulders: thou fhalt find thofe things eaty in trial, that now feem infupportable in the terrible profpect; a way of escape or fupport will certainly be opened, that thou mayest be able to bear it.
Plea 3. But others plead the fad experiences they have had of their own feebleness and weakness in former trials and exercifes of an inferior nature, in which their faith and patience bath failed them: and how can they imagine they fhall ever be
able to ftand in the fiercest and moft fiery trial? If we have run with the footmen, and they have wearied us in the land o peace, how fhall we then contend with horses in the swelling of Jordan, Jer. xii. 5.
Answer 1. We are ftrong or weak in all our trials, be they great or small, according to the affifting grace we receive from above; if he leave us in a common and light trial to our own ftrength, it will be our over-match, and if he affift us in great and extraordinary trials, we shall be more than conquerors. At one time Abraham could offer up his only fon to God with his own hand; at another time he is fo afraid of his life, that he acts very unfuitably to the character of a believer, and was fhamefully rebuked for it by Abimelech. At one time David could fay, Though an hoft encamp against me, I will not fear; at another time he feigns himself mad, and acted beneath himself, both as a man, and as a man enriched with fo much faith and experience. At one time Peter is afraid to be interrogated by a maid; at another time he could boldly confront the whole council, and own Chrift and his truths to their faces. In extraordinary trials we may warrantably expect extraordinary affiftances, and by them we shall be carried through the greatest, how often foever we have failed in smaller trials.
2. The defign and end of God's giving us experience of our own weakness in leffer troubles, is not to difcourage and daunt us against we come to greater, (which is the ufe Satan here makes of it), but to take us off from felf-confidence and selfdependence; to make us see our own weakness, that we may more heartly and humbly betake ourselves to him in the way of faith and fervent fupplication.
Plea 4. But fome will object that they cannot help their fears and tremblings when any danger appears; because fear is the disease, at least the fad effect and fymptom of disease, with which God hath wounded them; a deep and fixed melancholy hath fo far prevailed, that the leaft trouble overcomes them; if any fad afflictive providence befal, or but threaten them, their fears presently rife, and their hearts fink, fleep departs, thoughts tumultuate, the blood boils, and the whole frame of nature is put into diforder. If therefore the Lord fhould permit fuch great and dreadful trials to befal them, they can think of nothing Jefs than dying by the hand of their own fears, before the hand of any enemy touch them; or, which is a thousand times worse, be driven by their own fears into the net of temptation, even to eny the Lord that bought them.
Anfwer. This I know is the fad cafe of many gracious per
fons, and I have reason to pity thofe that are thus exercised: O it is a heavy ftroke, a difmal ftate, a deep wound indeed: but yet the wildom of God hath ordered this affliction upon his people for gracious ends and uses; hereby they are made the more tender and watchful, circumfpect and careful in their ways, that they may fhun and escape as many occafions of trouble as they can, being fo unable to grapple with them. I fay not but there are higher and nobler motives that make them circumfpect and tender, but yet the prefervation of our own quietnefs is ufeful in its place, and it is a mercy if that or any thing elfe be fanctified to prevent fin, and promote care of duty. This is your clog to keep you from ftraying.
2. And when you shall be called forth to greater trials, that which you now call your fnare, may be your advantage, and that in divers respects.
1. These very distempers of body and mind ferve to imbitter the comforts and pleasures of this world to you, and make life itself lefs defirable to you than it is to others; they much wean your hearts from, and make life more burdenfome to you than it is to others, who enjoy more of the pleasure and sweetness of it than you can do. I have often thought this to be one defign and end of providence, in permitting fuch diftempers to seize fo many gracious perfons as labour under them, and providence knows how to make use of this effect to fingular purpose and advantage to you, when a call to fuffering fhall come; this may have its place and use, under higher and more fpiritual confiderations, to facilitate death, and make your feparation from this world the more easy to you*; for though it be a more noble and raifed act of faith and felf-denial to offer up to God our lives, when they are made most pleasant and defirable to us upon natural accounts, yet it is not fo eafy to part with them as it is when God hath first imbittered them to us. Your lives are of little value to you now, because of this burdenfome clog you muft draw after you, but if you should increase your burden by fo horrid an addition of guilt, as the denying Chrift, or his known truths would do, you would not know what to do with fuch a life; it would certainly lie upon your hands as a burthen. God knows how to use these things in the way of his providence to your great advantage.
2. Art thou a poor melancholy and timorous perfon? Cer
* It was common with the marytrs, to sweeten death to themfelves, by reckoning what infirmities it would cure them of, one of his blindnefs, another of his lameness, &c.
tainly if thou be gracious as well as timorous, this will dri thee nearer to God; and the greater thy dangers are, the mo frequent and fervent will thy addreffes to him be: thou feele the need of everlasting arms underneath thee to bear thee up ui der, and to carry thee thro' fmaller troubles, that other perfon make nothing of, much more in fuch deep trials, that pu the ftrongest Chriftians to the utmost of their faith and pati
And, 3dly, What if the Lord will make an advantage out of your weakness, difplay more evidently his own power in your fupport? you know what the apoftle faith, 1 Cor. xii. 9, 10. "And he said unto me, my grace is fufficient for thee; for my * ftrength is made perfect in weakness: moft gladly therefore
will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Chrift may "reft upon me-for when I am weak then am I ftrong." If his infirmities might ferve as a foil to fet off the grace of God with a more bright and sparkling luftre, he would rejoice in his in. firmities, and so fhould you: Well then, let not this difcourage you, the infirmity of nature you complain of may make death the lefs terrible; it ferved to that purpose to bleffed Bafil, (as you heard before) when his enemy threatened to tear out his liver, he thought it a kindness to have that liver torn out, that had given him so much trouble. It may drive thee nearer to God and minister a fit opportunity for the display of his grace in the time of need.
Plea 5. But what if God fhould hide his face from my foul in the day of my ftraits and troubles, and not only fo, but per mit Satan to buffet me with his horrid temptations and injecti ons, and fo I should fail like the fhip in which Paul failed, be twixt these two boisterous feas; what can I fufpect lefs than a #hipwreck of my foul, body, and all the comforts of both, in this world, and in that to come?
Answer 1. So far as the fears of fuch à mifery awaken you to pray for the prevention of it, it may be ferviceable to your fouls, but when it only works distraction and defpondency of mind, it is your fin and Satan's faare. The prophet Jeremy made a good ute of fuch a fuppofed evil by way of deprecation, Jer. xvii. 17. "Be not a terror unto me, thou art my hope in the day of evil." q. d. in the evil day I have no place of retreat or refuge, but thy love and favour; Lord, that is all I have to depend on, and relieve myself by: I comfort myself against trouble with this con fidence, that if men be cruel, yet thou wilt be kind; if they frown, thou wilt fmile; if the world caft me out, thou wilt take me in; but if thou shouldest be a terror to me instead of a comforter, if
they afflict my body, and thou affright my foul with thy frown's too; what a deplorable condition fhall I be in then! Improve it to such an end as he did, to secure the favour of God, and it will do you no harm.
2. It is not ufual for God to estrange himself from his people in trouble, nor to frown upon them when men do. The common evidence of believers ftands ready to atteft and seal this truth, that Christians never find more kindness from God, than when they feel most cruelty from men for his fake; confult the whole cloud of witaeffes, and you will find they have still found the undoubted verity of that tried word, in 1 Pet. iv. 14. That, "the Spirit of glory, and of God, refteth upon fufferers." The expreffion feems to allude to the dove that Noah fent forth out of the ark, which flew over the watry world, but could not rest herself any where till fhe returned to the ark. So the Spirit of God is called here the fpirit of glory, from his effects and fruits, viz. his chearing, fealing, and reviving influences which make men glory and triumph in the most afflicted state. The Spirit of God feems, like that dove, to hover up and down, to flee hither and thither, over this perfon and that, but refteth not fo long upon any, as thofe that fuffer for righteoufnefs fake; there he commonly takes up his abode and refidence.
3. And what if it fhould fall out in fome refpect according to your fears, that heaven and earth fhould be both clouded toge. ther? Yet it will not be long before the pleafant light will spring up to you again, Pfal. cxii. 4. "Unto the upright there arifeth "light in the darkness." You fhall have his fupporting presence 'till the Comforter do come. When Mr. Glover came within fight of the stake, he fuddenly cries out, Oh Austin ! he is come ! be is come!
Plea 6. Oh! but what if my trial fhould be long, and the fiege of temptations tedious? Then I am perfuaded I am loft; I am no way able to continue. long in a prison, or in tortures for Chrift, I have no ftrength to endure a long frege, my patience is too fhort to hold out from month to month, and from year to year as many have done. Oh! I dread the thoughts of long continued trials, I tremble to think what must be the iffue.
Anfwer 1. Cannot you diftruft your own ftrength, and ability, but you must also limit God's? What if you have but a small stock of patience? Cannot the Lord strengthen you with all might in the inner-man, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness, according to his glorious power, Col. I. 11. And is it not his promife to confirm you to the end? Cor. i. 3.