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would be ready, and the Lord make me ready for fufferings; but few can fay, I am ready, my heart is prepared and fitted for such a work: yet this example thews us it is attainable: and what a blefsed thing it is to attain it, the following particulars will abundantly convince us.
Fir/, Readiness for sufferings will bring the heart of a Christian to an holy rest and tranquillity, in a suffering hour, and prevent that anxiety, perturbation, and distraction of mind, which puts the link ing weight into afflictions. The more cares, fears, and troubles we have before our sufferings come, the more calm, quiet, and composed we are like to be when our sufferings are come indeed. It is admirable to conlider with what peace and patience Job entertained his troubles, which, considering the kinds, degrees, and manner in which they befel him, one would think they thould at least have startled and amazed him, and put his soul (as gracious and inortified as it was) into great disorder and confufion; but you find the contrary : never did the patience of a man triuinph at that rate over adversity; he worships God, owns his hand, and resigns himself up to his pleasure, Job i. 20, 21, And whence was this? Surely had his troubles come by way of surprize, he could never have carried it at that rate ; but in the days of his peace and prosperity he had prepared for such a day as this, Job iii. 25, 26. “ I was not in safety, neither « had I restyet trouble came; the thing that I feared (faith he) « is come upon me. He laid it to heart before it came, and therefore it neither distracted, nor brake the heart when it came. In like manner the prophet Habakkuk stood upon his watch-tower, i. e. he made his observations by the word upon the probable events of providence, whereby he got a clear foresight of those troublesome days that were at hand; which though it made him tremble in himself, yet it gave him rest in the day of evil, Hab. iii. 16, 17, 18. There is a twofold rest in the day of evil, viz.
1. A rest of deliverance.
2. A rest of contentation. It is a fingular mercy to find rest in a man's own fpirit; to enjoy inward peace, and tranquillity
when there is no rest without; and the way to obtain this, is to foresee, count upon, and make due preparation for troublous times before-hand : evils that come by way of surprizal, are not only amazing, but very frequently
destructive evils; it is a sad aggravation to feel a misery, before we fear it; those calamities that find men fecure, do usually leave them defperate; the enemy that comes upon our backs hath a great advantage to ruin us, yet this is the common case of the world. « For man knoweth « not his time, but as the fishes are taken in an evil net, and as the « birds that are caught in the snare ; lo are the fons of men snared « in an evil time, when it falleth on them suddenly,” Eccl. ix. 12. Thus perished the old world ; there was but one Noah provided for the flood, and he only, with his family, was preserved in it: all the
, VOL. VI.
reft were eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, until the flood came and swept them all away, Matth. xxiv. 38. Men will not use their foreseeing faculties ; but because it is all quiet to-day, they conclude it Ihall be so to-morrow.
Those that are at rest
in their habitation,
and have got a safe pillow under their heads, are apt to fall asleep in security, and dream pleasantly of continued rest and peace; and loth they are to interrupt their sensual pleasure with melancholy thoughts of changes and sufferings.
Philosophers tell us, that immediately before an earthquake the air is very quiet and serene; and before the great rain falls, the wind is usually fill : were the aspect of second causes much more favourable and encouraging than it is; yet there is cause enough, for all that are wise in heart, to fear and tremble, under the confideration of that national guilt which is treasured up, and will certainly produce distress and trouble.
O Christians! look out for days of visitation ; prepare for a storm, and provide you an ark, an hiding-place in Christ, and the promises, as ever you expect rest, and peace in your own spirits, when the earth shall be full of tumults, uproars, and desolations.
Secondly, Our preparation for sufferings is an excellent argument? of the honesty and sincerity of our hearts, in the matters of religion: he that makes account of sufferings, and is daily at work with his own heart, mortifying its corruptions, weaning its worldly affections, exciting and making ready its suffering-graces, resolving in the strength of God, to take his lot with Christ, wherever, and howsoever it shall it fall; this is the man that hath deliberately clofed with Christ upon
bis own terms, and is like to be the durable and victorious Chriftian.
As for hypocrites, (Christ's summer friends) they have either their exceptions against the severities of religion, and study to secure to themselves a retreat from danger, or else they rush inconfiderately into the profession of Christ, never debating the terms which he proposes to all that will follow him, Mark viii. 34. The necessity of a rational and well-advised cloture with Christ upon suffering and selfdenying terms, is by himself fully set forth in that excellent parable, Luke xiv. 25, 26, 27, 28. There was a great multitude that followed him at that time ; Christ began to grow in request among them ; they flocked from all parts to see and hear him; but he forefaw, that if once a sharp trial Mould befal them, it would quickly thin, and diminish that great multitude, and reduce them like Gideon's hoft, into a little handful: and therefore he resolves to deal candidly and plainly with them; he propounds his terms, and fets down his conditions, which every one of them must subscribe, that will follow him; the sum of which is this, “ Let him deny himself, take up his « cross and follow me.” And to evince the rationality of these terms, he argues, from the most common and obvious practices of men in their civil affairs : no man, that exerciseth reason, will begin to build
an bouse, and lay a large foundation, when he is not provided with
way, and hast thus deliberately closed with him; if thou hast as well bethought thyself of bearing his cross, as of wearing his crown; thou halt then a fair evidence of the uprightness of thy heart, than which, the world affords not a sweeter comfort.
Thirdly, The advantage of preparation for sufferings lies in this that it prevents, and cuts off the scandal and offence of the cross, with respect both to ourselves, and others.
First, It prevents our own offence at sufferings; and by Christ's own testimony, that foul is blefred, that is not offended in him, Matth. xi. 6. Among the multitudes of professors, few are found that are no way offended at suffering for Christ; they expected much peace, honour, and prosperity in the ways of religion, but finding their expectations frultrated, and their carnal interest rather exposed, than fecured by their profellion of Christ, they go back like those John vi. 66. and walk no more with him. And it is very remarka. ble, that Christ dates the offence that men shall take at him, from the first appearance of suffering, Matth. xxiv. 8, 9. « All these are “ the beginnings of sorrows, and then shall many be offended.” SorTows and apostacies commence together.
But, reader, if thou be one that makes it thy business to foresee,
and prepare for an evil day, thou wilt have as good thoughts of Chrift, and his ways at the lowest ebb, as ever thou hadít in the greatest flourish, and time of prosperity. “Great peace (faith the « Plaiinist) have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend " them.” . happy soul! whom no troubles, reproaches, or sufferings, are able to offend! thou mayest meet with prisons, death, banishments, yea, but none of these things Thall offend, or stumble thee, but thou thalt peaceably and safely pass over them, because they are no more than thou expecteft, and provideft for.
Secondly, And by this means thou wilt also prevent the offence and scandals of others at the ways of religion. It a fad, and dangerous thing to be an occasion of stumbling, either to the weak, or to the wicked. “ Woe to the world because of offences, for it must needs “ be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence “ cometh,” Mattb. xviii. 7. The apostacies and finful compliances of ungrounded professors, and weak Christians, in times of temptation, are the woeful occasions of prejudicing others against religion, and lhiedding the blood of souls. Ah! it were much better never to be in the ways of profeflion, than to be there only as a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to others: but all this mischief will be prevented, by thy serious expectation of, and provision for the evil day.
Fourthly, A fourth excellency of preparation for sufferings lies in this, that it hath a tendency to convince and awaken the drowly world. O! if the Lord's people would but engage in this work in earnest, and live as people that are providing for a storm, and resolve, in the strength of God, to run all hazards and hardships for Christ, I am persuaded it would be of more use, to startle, and convince the world, than all the sermons that ever they heard: for here is that which dalhes and cuts the throat of all our labours. We preach up self-denial, and contempt of life, and liberty for Christ: now though they hear us preach the neceffity, and excellency of these things, and hear you profess them as your principles; yet when they look upon the lives of professors in times of danger, and find no proportion betwixt profeflion and practice;
when they Tee us cling to the world, and are as loth to give it up as others; when they oblerve prisons and sufferings affright and terrify us as much as those that make no profesion; when they fee us start, like hares, at every found, and that we live not loose from the world, as men prepared to let it go and give it up for Chrift: why then they conclude that we dare not truft our own principles, when it comes to the push. And how can they be persuaded to believe that which they think we ourselves do not really believe, although we perfuade
them to believe it? My friends, the world hath eyes to see what you can do, as well as ears to hear what you can tay, and as long as they see you do no more than others, you may talk
your hearts out ere they will believe your way is better than others,
But now when perfecution ariseth, did they see you providing yourselves for it, and putting on your harness to enter the lifts, carry your dearest enjoyments in your hands, and put on the shoe of preparation, to fellow the Lord tiirough the roughest ways of sufferings; this would convince
to purpose, and preach the excellency of Christ, the vanity of the creature, the rationality and certainty of Christian principles, in a more intelligible and rouzing dialect to them, than all our cheap and eafy commendations of them did. And hence it is that Noah was said to condemn the world, Heb. xi. 7. “ By faith “ Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet," i. e. of the deluge that was coming, though no appearance of it yet, the heavens being as clear as ever ; yet believing the threatening, “ He was movred with fear." The fear of God, an effect of his faith in the word of God, moved (i. e.) impelled him to his duty; set him about his preparation work to provide an ark, and this was it by which he condemned the world, left them excuseless. For they not only beard of an approaching flood by his ministry, but now saw he himself believe ed what he preached, by his daily preparations against it came. consider this, how much it would tend to the world's conviction now they will see that you are in good earnest, and that there is a reality in godliness: this will induce them to search into the matter more than ever, and remove those prejudices they have taken up against the good ways of God, as if they were but phantasms and conceits,
5. In the next place, this foresight and preparation must needs be an excellent thing, because the Spirit of God every where sets an honourable character upon it, and always mentions such persons with fome fingular commendation and respect. These unly were wise men in the judgment of God, and all the rest (wha: great politicians soever they are famed to be among men) are accounted fools, Prov, xxi. 3. Ecclef. ii. 14. “ The wile man's eyes are in his head ; that is, be is a fore-seeing man; “ but the fool goes on, and is punished :" Rushes on without confideration, fufpecting no danger that he at present fees not, and so smarts for his folly. Beloved, there are signs of the times, as well as of the weather, Mat. xvi. 3. You may see the clouds of judgment gathering, before the storm falls upon you. And this is the meaning of Zepb. ii. 1, 2. “ Gather yourlelves together, “ before the decree bring forth, and the day pass as the chaff.” Where there is a conception of judgment there will be a birth, unless the reformations and prayers of the saints cause it to miscarry, But it requires wisdom to discern this; they must be men of much observation that can descry it at a great distance ; yet this may be done by considering what God hath done in like cafes in former ages, when nations have been guilty of the same fins as now they are: For God is as just now as then, and hates sin as much as ever he did; and partly by attending to things present, to what fulness and maturity the fins of a nation are grown, Joel iii. 16. or what beginnings of