Page images

This care and tenderness over his afflicted, is eminently disco. vered in three particulars. į (1.) In not expofing them to, 'till he hath prepared thera for, their trials, Luke xxiv. 49, “ Tarry ye at Jerusalem, until o ye be endued with power from on high.” He gives them sometimes eminent discoveries of his love immediately before, and as a preparative to their fufferings, in the strength whereof they are carried through all.

(2.) Or if not fo, then he intermixeth supporting comfort with their troubles; as you fometimes see the sun shine out while the rain falls. It was fo with Paul, Acts xxvii, 23 “ This night (and it was a fad night indeed) there stood by me “ the angel of the Lord, whose I am."

(3.) In taking off the affliction, when they can bear it no longer, 1 Cor. x. 13. “ He makes a way to escape, that they

may be able to bear it," Pfal. cxxv. 3. The rod is taken off, “ when the righteous is even ready to put forth his hand to “ iniquity.” It is a Jewish proverb, When the bricks are doubled, then comes Moles. And it is a Chriftian's experience, When the spirit is ready to fail, then comes Jefus, according to that promise, Ifa. lvii. 16


1. How unlike am I to God, in the afflicting A reflektion of his people? The Lord is pitiful when he fer perfecutors. fmites them ; but I have been .cruel: he is

kind to them, when most fevere; but the beft of my kindnesses to them, may fitly enough be called feverity: God (mites them in love; I have smitten them in hatred. Ah! what have I done? God hath used me as his hand, Pfal. xvii. 14. or as his rod, to afflict them, Jer. x. 7. but his end and mine have widely differed in that action, Isa. x. 7. I am but the fcullion, or rather the whisp to scour and cleanse the vessels of glory; and when I have done that dirty work; those bright fouls shall be set up in heaven, and I caft into the fire. If he shall have judgment without mercy, that thewed no mercy, how can I expect mercy from the Lord, whose people I have persecuted mercilefly for his sake?

2. Is the Lord's wheat thus threshed on A reflection for the

floor of afflictions : what then thall I think such asmeet with

of my condition, who prosper and am let ano afliétion.

lone in the way of lin? Surely, the Lord looks on me as on a weed, and not as his.corn ; and it is too probable, that I am rather reserved for burning, than for threshing. Some there are whom God loves not so well as to spend

a rod upon them, but faith, “Let them alone,” Hof. iv. 17 but miserable is their condition, notwithstanding their impunity! For what is the interpretation but this: I will come to a reckoning with them altogether in hell. Lord, how much better is thy afflicting mercy, than thy sparing feverity! Better is the condition of an afflicted child, than of a rejected bastard, Heb. xii. 7. Oh, let me rather feel thy rod now, as the rod of a loving Father, than feel tby wrath hereafter, as the wrath of an omnipotent avenger

3. Well then, despond not, O my soul! A reflettion for
Thou hearest the husbandman loves his corn, an aftlisted faint.
though he thresheth it; and, surely, the Lord
loves thee not the lefs, becaufe he afflicts thee fo much. If af-
fliction, then, be the way to heaven, bleffed be God for af.
fiction! The threshing-ftrokes of God have come thick upon
me; by which I may see what a tough and stubborn heart I
have: if one stroke would have done the work, he would not
have lifted up his hand the second time. I have not had a
stroke more than I had need of, Pet. i. 6. and by this means
he will purge my fins : bleffed be God for that ! 'the damned
have infinitely more and harder strakes than I, and yet their finz
fall never be separated by their fufferings, Ah'fin ! cursed
fin! I am so much out of love with thee, that I am willing to
endure more than all this, to be well rid of thee: all this I fuf-
fer for thy fake; but the time is coming when I shall be rid.
of fin and suffering together : mean while I am under my own
father's hand: smite me he may, but hate me he cannot.

The POE M.
HE facred records tell us, heretofore

God had an altar on a threshing-floor,
Where threshing instruments devoted were
To facred service; so you find them here.
I now would teach the thresher, to beat forth
A notion from his threshold, much more worth
Than all his corn; and make him understand
That foul-instructing engine in his hand,
With fewer strokes, and lighter will you beat
The oats and barley, than the ftubborn wheat,
Which' will require and endure more blows
Than freer grain. Thus deals the Lord by those
Whom he afflicts; he doth not use to ftrike
Offending children with his rod alike;
But on the able t shoulders doth impose

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


The keaviest burthens, and the less on those-
Of weaker grace: he shews himself a God
Of judgments in his handling of the rod.
God hath a rate-book by him, wherein he
Keeps just accounts how rich his people be ;
What faith, experience, patience, more or less
Each one pofsefleth, and doth them assess
According to their stock. Such as have not
A martyr's faith, shall have no martyr's lot.
The kinds, degrees, and the continuance
Of all their fuff'rings, to a circumstance
Prescribed are by him, who wisely sways
The world, and more than's right on no man lays,
Be man or devil the apothecary,
God's the physician : who can then miscarry
In such a hand? He never did or will
Suffer the least addition to his bill.
Nor measure, nor yet mercy he observes
In threshing Babylon; for the deserves
His heaviest strokes; and in his floor she must
Be beaten shortly with his fail to dust.
But Sion's God, in measure, will debate ;
His children he may smite, but cannot hate ;
He beats them, true, to make their chaff to fly,
That they, like purged golden grains, may lie
In one fair heap, with those bless'd souls that here
Once in like manner thresh'd and winnow'd were,



Upon the winnowing of Corn.
The fan doth cause light chaff to fly away,
So Mall the ungodly in God's winnowing-day.

THEN the corn is threshed out in the floor where it lies

mingled with empty ears, and worthless chaff, the husbandman carries it out altogether into fome open place ; where, having fpread lis sheet for the preservation of the grain, he'exposes it all to the wind; the good, by reason of its folidity, remains upon the sheet, but the chaff, being light and empty, is partly carried quite away by the wind, and all the rest feparated from the good grain into a distinct heap, which is carried away, either to the fire, or dung-hill, as a worthless hing,


M ,


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


EN have their winnowing-days, and God hath his,

a day to separate the chaff from the wheat, the godly from the ungodly, who fhall be held up to the wind; but only the wicked thall be driven away by it. Such a day God hath in this world, wherein he winnows his wheat, and separates the chaff. There is a double fanning or winnowing of men here in this world; one is doctrinally, in which sense I understand that scripture, Matth. iii. 12. fpoken of Christ, when he was entering upon his ministerial work: “ His fan is in his hand; “ and he shall thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat “ into the garner ; but he will burn up the chaff with un" quenchable fire." The preaching of the gofpet, is as a fan in Christ's hand: and it is as much as if John had thus told the Jews, that though there were many hypocritical ones among them, that had now a place and name among the people of God, and gloried in their church-privileges ; yet there is a purging blaft of truth coming, which shall make them fly out of the church, as chaff out of the floor. Thus Christ winnows or fans the world doétrinally: The other is judicially, by bringing fore and grievous trials and sufferings upon the churches, for this very end, that those which are but chaff, (i.e.) empty and vain profeskors, may by such winds as these be separated from his people.

The church increases two ways, and by two diverse means ; extenhvely, in breadth and numbers; and intensively, in vigour and power ; peace and profperity cause the first, safferings and adversity the last : And well may a day of perfecution be called a winnowing day, for then are the people of God toffed to purpose, as corn in the fieve, though nothing but chaff be lost thereby. Of such a winnowing day the prophet speaks, Amos ix.9, 10. " I will lift the house of Israel among all nati

ons, like as corn is fifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least “ grain fall upon the eartht; all the finners of my people shall

; * die.” (q. d.) I will cause great agitationsand toffings'among you, by the hands of the Affyrians and Babylonians, into whole countries you shall be dispersed and scattered; yet I will so govern those your disperfions by my providence, that not one good grain, one upright soul, shall eternally perish, but the finners of my people, the refuse ftuff, that fhall perifh.

To the same purpose speaks another prophet, Zeph. ii. 1, 2. « Gather your selves togecher, (or as some ready fan yourselves, “ yea, fan yourfelves, before the decree bring forth, and the

day pafs as the chaff." He doth not mean that the time thall

[ocr errors]


pals as the chaff, but there is a day of affliction and distret's coming, in which the wicked shall pass as the chaff before the wind; and yet, notwithstanding all these winnowings upon earth, miuch' chaff will still abide among the corn ; therefore God hath appointed another day for the winnowing of the world, even the day of judgment; in reference to which it is said, Pfalm i. 4. 5. " The ungodly are not so, but are like the

, « chaff which the wind drives away; therefore the ungodly de shall not stand in judgment, nor linners in the congregation “ of the righteous;” (i.e.) God hath a day wherein he will Gft the world, like corn in a lieve, and then the wicked shall appear to be but chaff, which God will eternally separate from his wheat. I will not ftrain the fimilitude, but fairly display it in these seven particulars.

1. The chaff and wheat grow together in the same field, and upon the same root and stalk. In this, wicked men are like chaff, who not only associate with the people of God, but of tettiines spring up with them in the same family, and from the same root, or immediate parents, Mal. i. 2. “Was not Esau « Jacob's brother P” Yet the one was wheat, the other "chaff. Instances of this are infinite.

2. The husbandman would never endute the husks, chaff, and dry stalks to remain in the field; if it were not for the good corn's fake, he would quickly set fire to it, but that the corn is among it, which he highly prizeth: And, be assured, God would never suffer the wicked to abide long in this world, were it not for his own elect that are dispersed among them : Except the Lord had such a remnant dispersed in the world, he would quickly set fire to the four quarters, and make it like Sodom, Ifa. i. 9.

3. The chaff is a very worthlefs thing, the husbandman cares not what becomes of it'; and of as little worth are wicked men, Prov. x. 20. “The heart of the wicked is little worth.” The heart is the principal part of the man, and yet that's but chaff, no worth in it; his hands, his cloaths, &c. are worth fome: what, but his heart is worth nothing.

4. Though chaff in itself be nothing worth, yet it is of some use to the corn while it is standing in the field; the stalk bears up the ear, and the chaff covers the grain, and defends it from the injury of the weather. Thus God makes wicked men of ufe to his people, in outward fociety; they help to fupport and protect them in this world, Rev. xii. 16. “The earth help" ed the woman,” (1.c.) worldly men for carnal ends helped the church, when a flood of perfecution was poured out. The

« PreviousContinue »