Page images

much ? In this you are unlike your heavenly Father, that doth good to the just and unjust. Would you change cases with them? Would you change the fruit of your adversity, for the fruit of their prosperity.

Affliction maketh you somewhat more calm, and wise, and sober, and cautelous, and considerate, and preventeth as well as cureth sin. Prosperity makes them (through their abuse) inconsiderate, rash, insensible, foolish, proud, unpersuadable. “And the turning away of the simple slayeth them, and the prosperity of fools destroyeth them;" Prov. i. 32. It is long since Lazarus' sores were healed, and his wants relieved ; and long since Dives' feast was ended. O let me rather be afflicted than rejected; and be a doorkeeper in the house of God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness ; and rather be under the rod, than turned out of doors. Look with a serious faith upon eternity, and then make a great matter of enjoyments or sufferings here if you can. Great joys and sorrows forbid men to complain of the biting of a flea. Thunder-claps drown a whispering voice.

O what unbelief our impatience and disquietness in sufferings do discover! Is this living by faith ; and conversing in another world, and taking God for all, and the world for nothing? What! make such ado of poverty, imprisonment, injuries, disgrace, with heaven and hell before our eyes! The Lord vouchsafe me that condition, in which I shall be nearest to himself, and have most communion with heaven; be it what it will be for the things of earth. These are the desires to which I will stand.

To thank God for the fruit of past afflictions, as the most necessary mercies of our lives (as some of us have daily cause) and at the same time to be impatient under presentafflictions, or inordinately afraid of those to come, is an irrational as well as unbelieving incongruity.

Are we derided, slandered, abused by the ungodly? If we repine that we have enemies and must fight, we repine that we are Christ's soldiers, and that is, that we are Christians. Quomodo potest imperator militum suorum virtutem probare nisi habuerit hostem,' saith Lactantius. Enemies of God do not use to fight professedly against himself, but against his soldiers ; ‘Non qui contra ipsum Deum pugnent, sed contra milites ejus,' inquit idem. If the remnants of goodness had not been a derision among the hea

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

thens themselves, in the more sober sort, a heathen would not have said, “Nondum fælix es, si non te turba deriserit; si beatus vis esse, cogita hoc primum contemnere, et ab aliis contemni.' Sen. Thou art not yet happy, if the rabble deride thee not: if thou wilt be blessed, learn first to contemn this, and to be contemned of others. No body will deride or persecute us in heaven.

5. Improve your talents and opportunities in your callings as believers ; especially you that are governors. God is the original and end of government. The highest are but his ministers; Rom. xiii. 6. This world is but the way unto another. Things seen are for things unseen: and government is to order them to that end: especially by terrifying evil doers, and by promoting holiness in the earth. The moral as well as the natural motion of inferior agents, must proceed from the influence of the superior. The spring and the end of every action truly good, are out of sight. Where these are not discerned, or are ignorantly and maliciously opposed, the action is vitiated, and tendeth to confusion and ruin. God is the end of all holy actions; and carnal self is the end of sin. If God and self are infinitely distinct, you may easily see that the actions materially the same, that are intended to such distant ends, must needs be very distant. Nothing but saving faith and holiness can conquer selfishness in the lowest of the people. But where the flesh hath more plentiful provision, and self is accommodated with the fullest contents of honour and pleasure that the world affords, how difficult a work then is self-denial! And the reign of the flesh is contrary to the reign of Christ. Where the flesh and visible things bear sway, the enemy of Christ bears sway. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to his law, nor can be;" Rom. viii. 7. And how Christ's enemies will receive his laws, and use his messengers, and regard his ways and servants, the most of the

, world have experience to their cost. The interest of the flesh being contrary to Christ's interest, the competition maintaineth a continual conflict. The word of God doth seem to be against them : the faithful ministers that would save them from their sins do seem to wrong them, and deal too boldly, with them. Were it an Elijah, he would be called “The troubler of Israel ;” and meet with an “Hast thou found me, O mine

O mine enemy.” No measure of prudence, know


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ledge, piety, innocency, meekness or self-denial, will serve to appease the wrath and displeasure of this carnal enmity. If it would, the apostles had escaped it; or at least it would not have fallen so furiously upon Christ himself. Nay, these are the oil that increase the flame. And Satan hath still the bellows in his hand: he knoweth that if he can corrupt or win the commander, he can rout the army, and ruin them with the greatest ease.

It hath been Satan's grand design, since the Christian's name was known on earth, to advance the selfish interest of men against the interest of Christ; and to entangle the rulers of the world in some cause, that Christ, and his word and servants cannot favour, and so to make them believe that there is a necessity on them to watch against and subdue the interest of Christ. As if it were necessary that the shore be brought to the boat, and not the boat to the shore: and that the physician be brought to the patient's mind, or else destroyed or used as his enemy. I I am afraid to speak out the terrible words of God in Scripture that are against such persons, lest you should misunderstand me, and think I misapply them. But Christ feareth no man, and hath not spoken his word in vain; and his messengers must be faithful, for he will bear them out; and preventive cautions are easier and safer than reprehensive corrosives. I will but refer you to the texts, that you may peruse them; Matt. xxi. 44. xviii. 3. 6. xxy. 45, 46. Luke xviii. 7. Psal. ii. . Luke xix. 27. Acts ix. 4, 5. 1 Thess. ii. 15, 16. Read them with fear as the words of God. Blessed are those rulers and nations of the earth, that perceive and escape this pernicious snare of the grand deceiver, that with all his subtlety and industry, endeavoureth to breed quarrels, and sow dissensions between them and the universal King.

The more God giveth to the carnal and unwise, the more they think themselves engaged against him; because by his commands he seems to take it from them again, by crossing the flesh, which would use it only to fulfil its lusts. Like a dog that fawneth on you till he have his bone; and then snarleth at you, lest you take it from him; and will fly in your face if you offer to meddle with it. Men readily confess that they have their wealth from God; because it cannot be denied, and because they would use the name of God, as a cover to hide their covetousness, and unlawful ways




getting. But if you judge by their usage of it, and their returns to God; you would think that they believed, that they had nothing at all from God but some injuries; and that all their benefits and good were from themselves. The Turkish and Tartarian emperor will say, that all his grandeur and power is from God; that by making it most divine, he may procure the more revererice and obedience to himself: but when he hath said so for his own interest, he useth the same power against God and his interest, to the banishing of his word and holy worship, and the forbidding the preaching of the Gospel of salvation; and to the cherishing of tyranny, pride and lust. As if God had armed them against himself, and made his officers to be his enemies; and


them power that they might powerfully hinder men's salvation, and made them great, to be great oppressors.

As a believing pastor is a priest that standeth between God and the people, to mediate under the great Mediator ; to receive from God his word and ordinances, and deliver them to the flock; and to offer up supplications in their names to God: So believing governors of civil societies or families, receive from God a power to rule the subjects for their good, and they use it to make the subjects good, that God may be pleased and honoured by all: and the obedience which they require, is such as may be given to God in them. They take power from God to use it for God, and are so much more excellent than the greatest of ambitious, carnal princes, as the pleasing and honouring of God is a more excellent design and work, than the gratifying of fleshly lust, and the advancement of a lump of clay. The kingdoms of the world would all be used as the kingdoms of the Lord, if the everlasting kingdom were well believed. The families of men would be sanctified as churches unto God, if the eternal house not made with hands, were truly taken for their home, and their trade were to lay up a treasure in heaven. In cities and countries, brethren would dwell in holy peace, and all concur in honouring God, if once they were made fellow citizens with the saints, and their burgeship and conversation were in heaven ; Ephes. ii. 19. Phil. iii. 20, 21.

6. Resist temptations as believers. If you live by faith, then fight against the world and flesh by faith. Faith must

be your helmet, and the word of faith must be your shield; (Ephes. vi. 16.) and your victory itself must be by faith ; 1 John v. 4. If satan tell the flesh of the preferment, riches or the pleasures of lust, answer him with a believing foresight of God's judgment, and the life to come. Never look on the baits of sin alone, but still look at once on God and on eternity. As a just judge will hear both parties speak,

a or see their evidences before he will determine: so tell the tempter, that as you have heard what fleshly allurements can say, you will see also what the word of God saith, and take a view of heaven and hell, and then you will answer him.

7. Rejoice as believers. Can faith set open the windows of the soul, and no light of heavenly pleasures enter? Can it peruse


map of the land of promise, or see and taste the bunch of grapes, without any sweetness to the soul ? This is the truest belief of heaven, which maketh men most like those that are in heaven! And what is their character, work and portion, but the joys of heavenly light and love ? Can we believe that we shall live in heaven for ever? Can we believe that very shortly we shall be there, and not rejoice in such believing? I know we commonly say, that the uncertainty of our proper

title is the cause of all our want of joy: but if that were all, if that were the first and greatest cause, and our belief of the promise itself were lively, we should at least set our hearts on heaven as the most delightful and desirable state: and love would work by more eager desires and diligent seekings, till it had reached assurance, and cast out the hindrances of our joy. How much would a mere philosopher rejoice, if he could find out natural evidence of so much as we know by faith! You may perceive what their content in finding it would be, by their exceeding pains in seeking. The unwearied studies by day and night, which many of them used, with the contempt of the riches and greatness of the world, do tell us how glad they would have been to have seen but half so far as we may. If they could but discover more clearly and certainly, the principles, and elements, and forms of beings; the nature of spi

the causes of motion; the nature and cause of light and beat; the order, course and harmony of the universal system of the world ; what joyful acclamations would this

rits ;

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »