« PreviousContinue »
* fübftance, but the inward mind thou shalt not hurt." And when one joint was pulled from another, she said, “Behold what a
pleasure it is for them, oh Christ! that remember thy tri“umphant victories, to attain unto those high dignities." So that our conftitutional strength is not to be made the meafure of our paffive fortitude: God can make the feebleft and tem, derest perfons stand, when strong bodies, and blufteriog, reso, lute, and daring minds faint and fall.
2. Are our bodies so weak, and hearts so tender, that we can bear no sufferings for Chrift? Then we are no way fit to be his followers. Christianity is a warfare, and Christians must endure hardships, 2 Tim. fi. 3. Delicacy and tenderness is as odd a fight in a Christian, as it is in a soldier ; and we caonot be Christ's disciples, except we deliberate the terms, and having confidered well what it is like to cost us, do resolve, in the Arength 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 constitution be so delicate and tender, that thou art not able to bear the thoughts of torments for Christ, how is it that thou art not more terrified with the torments of hell, which all they that deay Chrift on earth mult feel and bear eterbally? 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 Christ in Matth. X. 28. “ Fear not them who kill the " body, but are not able to kill the soul; bat rather fear him ** who is able to destroy both foul aod body io hell." The in: finite and upsupportable wrath of the great and terrible God, fhould make our souls fhriok and fhake at the thoughts of it, rather than the sufferings of the Aesh, which are but for a moment.
4. Know that the wisdom and tenderness of thy Father, will proportion the burden thou must bear to thy back that must bear it ; he will debate in meafure, and not overload thy feeble fhoulders : thou halt find those things ealy in trial, that now seem iofupportable in the terrible prospect; a way of escape or fupport will certainly be opened, that thou inayeft be able to bear it.
Plea 3. But others plead the fad experiences they have had of their owo feebleness and weakness in former trials and exercises of an inferior nature, in which their faith and patience hath failed them: and how can they imagine they fhall ever be
able to stand in the fiercest and most fiery trial? If we have run with the footmen, and they have wearied us in the land of peace, how shall we then contend with horses in the twellings of Jordan, Jer. xii. 5.
Answer 1. We are strong or weak in all our trials, be they great or small, according to the aftfting grace we receive from above; if he leave us in a common and light trial to our own Nrength, it will be our over-match, and if he assist us in great aod extraordipary trials, we shall be more than conquerors. At one time Abraham could offer up his only son to God with his owo hand; at another time he is so afraid of his life, that he acts very.upfuitably to the character of a believer, and was shame, fully rebuked for it by Abimelech. At one time David could say, Thougb an hoft encamp against me, I will not fear; at another time he feigos himfelf mad, and acted beneath himself, both as a man, and as a man enriched with so 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 Christ and his truths to their faces. lo extraordinary trials we may warrantably expect extraordinary afsistances, and by them we shall be carried through the greatest, how often foever we have failed in smaller trials.
2. The desigo and end of God's giving us experience of our own weakness in lesser troubles, is not to discourage and daunt us against we come to greater, (which is the ule Satan here makes of it), but to take us off from self-confidence and selfdependence; to make us fee our own weakoefs, that we may more heartly and humbly betake ourselves to him in the way of faith and fervent füpplication.
Plea 4. But some 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 symptom of disease, with which God hath wounded them; a deep and fixed melancholy hath so far prevailed, that the leaft trouble overcomes them; if 1, any fad affictive providence befal, or but threaten them, their
fears presently rife, and their hearts sink, sleep departs, ihoughts tumultuate, the blood boils, and the whole frame of nature is put into disorder, If therefore, the Lord should permit such great and dreadful trials to befal them, they can think of nothing Jess than dying by the hand of their own fears, before the hand of fany enemy touch them; or, which is a thousand times worse, be driven by their own fears into the get of temptation, even to siçay the Lord that bought them.
Answer. This I know is the fad case of many gracious per:
fons, and I have reason to pity those that are thus exercised :
it is a heavy stroke, a dismal state, a deep wound indeed : but yet the wisdom 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 shun and escape as many occasions of trouble as they can, being fo unable to grapple with them. I say not but there are higher and nobler motives that make them circumspect and tender, but yet the preservation of our own quietness is useful in its place, and it is a mercy if that or a.'y thing else be fanctified to prevent fin, and promote care of duty. This is your clog to keep you from straying.
2. Aod when you shall be called forth to greater trials, that which you now call your inare, may be your advantage, and that in divers respects.
1. These very distempers of body and mind serve to imbitter the comforts and pleasures of this world to you, and make life itself less desirable to you than it is to others; they much wean your hearts from, and make life more burdensome 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 delige and end of providence, in permitting fuch distempers to seize so many gracious persons 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 suffering shall come; this may have its place and use, under higher and more spiritual considerations, to facilitate death, and make your feparation from this world the more easy to you *; for though it be a more poble and raised act of faith and self-denial to offer up to God our lives, when they are made moft pleasant and desirable to us upon patural accounts, yet it is not so easy 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 burdensome clog you must draw after you, but if you should increase your burden by so horrid an addition of guilt, as the denying Christ, or his knowo truths would do, you would not koow what to do with such a life; it would certainly lie upon your hands as a burtheo. God kaows 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 them. felves, by reckoning what infirmities it would cure them of, one of big blindness, another of his lamepels, &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 addresses to him be : tbou feele the need of everlasting arms underneath thee to bear thee up u der, and to carty thee thro' fmaller troubles, that other perfor make nothing of, much more in fuch deep trials, that pu the strongest Christians to the utmost of their faith - and pati «ерсе.
And, 3dły, What if the Lord will make an advantage out of your weakoefs, u display more evidently his own power in your fupport? you know what the apostle faith, 1 Cor. xii. 9, 19. " And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee; for my
strength is made perfect in weakness: moft gladly therefore “ will i glory ia my infirmities, that the power of Christ may “ rett upon me—for when I am weak then am I trong.” Jf his infirmities might serve as a foil to fet off the grace of God with a more bright and sparkliag luftre, he would rejoice in his in. firmities, and so should you : Well then, let not this discourage you, the infirmity of nature you complaio of may make death the less terrible ; it ferved to that purpose to blessed 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 bis grace in the time of need.
Plea 5. But what if God should hide his face from my soul in the day of my ftraits and troubles, and not only fo, but per: mit Satan to buffet me with his horrid temptations and injections, and fo I should fail like the ship in which Paul failed, be twixt these two boisterous seas; what can I fufpcet less than a thipwreck of my soul, body, and all the comforts of both, in this world, and in that to come?
Answer 1. So far as the fears of such à misery awaken you to pray for the prevention of it, it may be ferviceable to your fouls, but when it only works distraction and despondency of mind, it is your lip and Satan's foare. The prophet Jeremy made a good ule of such a supposed evil by way of deprecation, Jer. xvii. 17. " Be not a terror upto 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, thon wilt smile ; if the world casi me out, thou wilt take me ia ; but if thou fhouldert be a terror to me iolead of a comforter, il
Fou go harm.
they afiliat my body, and thou affright my foul with thy frown's too; what a deplorable condition shall I be in theo ! Improve it to fucb ao end as he did, to secure the favour of God, and it will do
2. It is not usual for God to estrange himself from his people in trouble, nor to frowa upon them when men do. The common evidence of believers ftands ready to atteft and feal this truth, that Christiaas never find more kindness from God, than when they feel most cruelty from men for his fake ; consult 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, resteth upon fufferers.” The expression Seems to allode to the dove that Noah fent forth out of the ark, which few over the watry world, but could not rest herself any where till she returned to the ark. So the Spirit of God is called here the spirit of glory, from his effects and fruits, viz. his chearing, sealing, and reviving influences which make mco glory and triumph in the most afflicted state. The Spirit of God seems, like that dove, to hover up and down, to flee bither and tbither, over this perfon and that, but resteth oot fo Jong upon any, as those that fuffer for righteousnefs fake; there he commonly takes up his abode and residence.
3. And what if it should fall out in fome respect according to your fears, that heaven and earth thould be both clouded toge. ther? Yet it will not be long before the pleasant light will spring up to you again, Plal. cxii. 4. “ Uoto the upright there ariseth " light in the darkoels.” You shall have his supporting presence 'till the Comforter do come. When Mr. Glover came withia fight of the stake, he suddenly cries out, Oh Austin ! he is come! be is come!
Plea 6. Oh! but what if my trial should be long, and the fiege of temptations tedious? Then I am persuaded I am loft ; I am no way able to continue. long ia a prison, or in tortures for Christ, I have no strength to endure a long frege, my patience is too short 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 muft be the issue.
Answer 1. Cannot you distrust your own strength, and a. bility, 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 inaer-man, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness, according to his glorious power, Col. i. 11. And is it not his promise to confirm you to the ead? Cor. i. *.