The Great Duty OF RESIGNATION TO THE DIVINE WILL IN Afflictions, Enforced from the Example of our Suffering SAVIOUR.

By William Bates, D. D.

Nihil fit visibiliter & sensibiliter, quod non de interiori, invisibili, & intelligibili aula summi Imperatoris, aut jubeatur, aut per­mittatur in ista totius Creaturae amplissima quadam immensa (que) Republica. Aug. lib. tert. de Trin.

LONDON, Printed by J. D. for Brabazon Aylmer, at the three Pigeons over against the Royal-Exchange in Cornhil, 1684.

Gulielmus Batesius, S. S. Theol: Prof: Aetat: 57. Nov: 1682.


THE first Man by Re­bellion against his Maker, lost his In­nocence and Felicity, and conveyed a sad inheritance of Sin and Misery to his Uni­versal Progeny: Ever since it has been esteemed a prin­cipal part of Wisdom to pre­pare the Minds of Men to encounter with innumerable Evils that surround them, [Page] and to preserve a well-order'd, contented state of Soul, when actually under the greatest Afflictions. All the famous Sophy's of the World, the most celebrated Professors of Patience, could not attain to this Skill. Their conso­latory Discourses composed with Wit and Eloquence, are like artificial fruits of Wax, that seem to surpass the pro­ductions of Nature, but can only please the sight, and af­ford no real refreshment to the taste. Or, like Rings of Steel that are joined by the attractive virtue of the Load-stone, that make a Chain [Page] fair to the Eye, but of no strength and use. It was in­excusable Ignorance, their not resolving Temporal Evils to their proper Original, the righteous Providence of God. They erected a blind & foolish Power under the title of For­tune, to preside in this Sphere of mutability; they always Plin. l. 2. c. 7. boast of their playing a Prize with Fortune, and triumph Sed tan­tum cum fortuna se digla­diari mo­mentis omnibus glorian­tur. Lact lib. 3. over a Phantome of their own Fiction. This Conceit was both impious and un­comfortable; impious, to take the Scepter of Government from God's hand, and attri­bute to that foolish Pleasure [Page] of Fortune, what is ordered by his Providence: and un­comfortable, for they fancied their Deity to be blind, with­out discerning between the worthy and unworthy, and in­exorable to the complaints of the injured, and the Prayers of the miserable. The com­mon Topicks from whence they hardned themselves are, That none are exempted in this open state from Afflicting accidents, the common tri­bute of Mankind; that 'tis in vain to struggle with what is irresistible, that Death is the balm and close of all E­vils. And the best of their [Page] moral Arguments for Pati­ence under Sufferings, such as the dignity of the reaso­nable Soul; and that nothing inferior to it should have power, or is worthy to put it into confusion; that Vertue is the noblest Perfection, and is encreas'd by the most difficult Exercise; that 'tis best to yield up our selves to the Di­vine disposal. These Argu­ments are with infinite more advantage propounded in the Sacred Scriptures: and for Christians to attend to the instructions of natural Rea­son, and neglect the Divine Revelations of the Gospel, is [Page] a folly like that of the silly Indians of Mexico, who ha­ving plenty of Wax, the natu­ral work of the Bees; yet [...] made use of Fire brands to light them in the Night that afforded a little Light mixt with a great deal of Smoak. Briefly, they had but waver­ing conjectures of the future State; and the recompences thereof, from whence are de­rived the most powerful Mo­tives of Active and Passive Obedience to the command­ing and disposing Will of God; But in the Scripture are laid down in the clearest manner, and with infallible [Page] assurance, such Principles as are effectual to compose the Mind to patient Suffering, and to meet with valiant Re­solution all the terrible con­trarieties in the way to Hea­ven. It declares, that Sin opened an entrance unto all the current adversities in the World, which are the evi­dent signs of God's displea­sure against it. In anguish we are apt to dispute with Providence, and an imagi­nation of Innocence kindles Discontent: Of this impati­ence, some even of the best Moral Heathens were guil­ty; Titus and Germanicus [Page] charged the Gods with their untimely, and in their appre­hension undeserved Deaths; but the due sence of Sin will humble and quiet the Mind under Sufferings, it directs us to consecrate our Sorrows, to turn the flowing Stream into the Channel of Repen­tance. And thus the Passion of Grief, which, if termina­ted on external Troubles, is barren and unprofitable, it can neither retrieve our lost Comforts, nor remove any oppressing Evil; if it be im­ployed for our offences, pre­pares us for Divine Mercy, and is infinitely beneficial to [Page] us. And thus by curing the Cause of Afflictions, our Guilt that deserves them, we take away the malignity and poison of them. The Word of God assures us, that all the perturbations and discords in the passages of our Lives are ordered by his Wisdom and Will, so that without extinguishing the two eyes of Reason and Faith, we must acknowledg his Providence, and observe his design in all, which is either to excite us when guilty of a careless neg­lect, or remiss performance of our Duty, or to reclaim us from our excursions and de­viations [Page] from the narrow way that leads to Life. Indeed there is nothing more common nor more fatal, than for af­flicted persons to seek by car­nal diversions and contemp­tible comforts to overcome their Melancholy, and the sense of Divine Judgments; and hereby they add new Guilt, and provoke new dis­pleasures. Isa. 22. 12, 13, 14. This presages and accelerates final Ruine; for such whom Afflictions do not reform, are left as incorri­gible.

But above all encourage­ments, the Gospel sets before us the Sufferings of our Re­deemer, [Page] and directs all his Disciples in sincerity to ac­custom themselves to the con­templation and expectation of Troubles on Earth; it tells them 'tis a branch of their Religion, to Suffer with him that they may Reign with him. And what is more rea­sonable, than if our Saviour endured superlative Suffer­ings to purchase Eternal Glory for us, that we should with the same Mind bear lighter Afflictions to prepare us for it? If this Principle be alive and active in our Breasts, that our present Afflictions shall determine [Page] in our future Happiness, when Time shall cease and Eternity succeed; this will encourage us to serve God with our best affections when our days are overcast with Sorrow, as in a bright Prosperity: this will secure our passage through a stormy, tempestuous World, as if it were a truly Pacifick Sea, knowing that Divine Pro­vidence always guides us to the Port of eternal Tranqui­lity. This is the substance of what is amplified in the fol­lowing Treatise. And whilst there are Miseries in the World, no Discourses are [Page] more seasonable and useful than those that lighten our oppressing Sorrows, and that enable us with uniformity and constancy in all the chan­ges of this mortal Life, to pur­sue our eminent End. The Holy Spirit, the great Com­forter apply these Truths to the Hearts of the Afflicted.

William Bates.


PAge 24. l. 1. for as objects are greater, r. appear greater. Page 116. l. 11. for their subtilty, r. stability. Page 120. l. 10. for now Joseph, r. now that Joseph.

THE GREAT DUTY OF Resignation:

Matth. 26. 39.

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this Cup pass from me; Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.

THE Words are our Savi­our's Prayer at his private Passion in the Garden. In Paradise was the first Scene of Man's Sin, and in a Garden the [Page 2] first Scene of Christ's Sorrows.

He was now in the near view of his extream Sufferings; the fatal hour approach'd when he was to die with all the concur­rent circumstances of Shame and Cruelty. His Nature was Hu­mane and Holy, and therefore apprehensive of Misery and the Wrath of God. In this Exigency He fell on his Face, a posture of humble Reverence, and with ear­nestness prayed, saying, O my Father, an expression of his sted­fast Trust in the Love of God: If it be possible, not with respect to his Absolute Power, for by that he could easily have preserved him; but with respect to his So­vereign Pleasure, and Eternal De­cree: Let this Cup pass from me, that implies a compleat Delive­rance from the rage of the [Page 3] Powers of Darkness, and of the perverted World in conjunction with them. He suffered innocent Nature to act as Nature, for he submitted to our Infirmities, but without our Imperfections. Ne­vertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt: His Petition was qualified with an Act of Submission; the desire of his Nature, that recoil'd from such Sufferings, was over­ruled by the resignation of Grace. There was no repugnancy, but a subordination between the Sen­sitive Will and the rational Will, directed by his Mind, that fore­saw the blessed effects of his Suf­ferings, the Glory of God, with the Salvation of lost Mankind. And that just horror, with the strong aver­sion of his Nature from such a terrible Death, renders his wil­lingness more conspicuous and [Page 4] meritorious. As Man, the ap­prehension of it put him into an Agony; but as Mediatour, by a firm resolution and clear choice he submitted to it.

Now, the example of our suf­fering Saviour, lays an obligation on us to transcribe his Copy; his Titles in Scripture declare both his Eminency and Exempla­riness. He is our Head, and our Leader, the Captain of our Salva­tion, whom we are bound to fol­low in taking up our Cross: His Sufferings were designed not only for our Redemption, but for our Instruction and Imitation. What he commands as God, he per­form'd as Man, that we might vo­luntarily yield up our selves to the Holiness and Equity of his Law. Thus from the patern of our Sa­viour's [Page 5] Deportment, the point of Doctrine is this:

The entire resignation of our Wills to the disposing Will of God, is the in­dispensible Duty of Christians under the sharpest Afflictions.

In the explication and proof of this Point, I shall

I. Consider what is consistent with this Resignation.

II. What is implied in it.

III. The Reasons to convince us of this Duty of resigning of our selves, and all our Interests to God; and then apply it.

I will, first, Consider what is 1. consistent with this voluntary Re­signation. [Page 6] That will appear in the following particulars.

First; an earnest deprecation of an impending Judgment, is 1. reconcilable with our Submission to the pleasure of God, declared by the Event. Our Saviour with humility and importunity desired the removing of the Cup of Bit­terness. We must distinguish be­tween God's Law, and his De­cree and Counsel; The Law is the Rule of our Duty, and re­quires an intire exact subjection in all our Faculties, even in our internal Desires, in the first moti­ons of the Will; the least vellei­ty, or rising of the Heart against the Divine Command, is irregular and culpable; for not only the acts of Sin are forbidden in every Command respectively, but all the incitations of Concupiscence, [Page 7] before the deliberate judgment of the Mind, or the actual consent of the Will. But the Decree of God is not the Rule of our Duty, and Secret, till manifested by the event of things. This being pre­mised, the Reasons are evident why we may pray against an Af­fliction that threatens us, without violating our Duty.

First; Because Afflictions are Evils which the Will naturally de­clines, and are not desirable things in themselves. They are not be­neficial and productive of our good by any proper efficacy and operation, but by the over-ruling Providence of God, and the gra­cious assistance of his Spirit. When Aaron's Rod was put into the San­ctuary, and became green and flourishing with Blossoms and Almonds, 'twas not from any in­herent [Page 8] vertue of its own, but from the special influence of the Divine Power; for the other Rods re­mained dead and dry: thus the happy effects of the Afflicting Rod are from Divine Grace.

Secondly; There are proper Temptations that attend the affli­cted State. Many are encom­pass'd in a sad Circle, their Sins procure Afflictions, and their Af­flictions occasion many Sins. In­deed, Tribulation that is sanctified, by a happy gradation worketh Pa­tience; Rom. 5. 3, 4, 5. and Patience, Experience of the Divine Mercy; and Experience, Hope, and Hope maketh not ashamed. But when it meets with a stub­born Spirit, there are fearful descents of Sin: Tribulation excites Impatience, and Impatience causeth Perplexity, and that Despair, and Despair Confusion. The Devil lays [Page 9] his trains in every condition, and sometimes by immoderate Sor­row, sometimes by inordinate Joy, doth mischief to the Soul. And as more perish by Surfeits than Abstinence, yet the Disea­ses that are caused by emptiness, are more dangerous and incurable than those that proceed from ful­ness: So more are ruined by Prosperity than Adversity: But the guilty Passions that ferment and rage in Adversity, are more per­nicious, and more hardly tem­per'd and subdued, than the Luxurious Appetites that are fo­mented and drawn forth by Prosperity. We are directed by our Saviour to pray, that we may not be led into Temptation, and to be delivered from all Evil.

Secondly; a mournful sense of Afflictions sent from God is 2. [Page 10] consistent with a dutiful resigna­tion of our selves to his Will. 'Twas the vain boast of the Phi­losophers, that their Instructions would fortify Men with such magnanimous Principles, and generous Spirits, as with an equal calm tranquillity of Mind to en­counter all the fierce and sorrow­ful Accidents to which they might be exposed here: They speak high against Fortune and Fate, and resolve stubbornly, that no misery, whether Poverty or Disgrace, Torments or Death, should extort from them a con­fession that it was Misery. 'Twas one of their Axioms, That a Nihil a­gis dolor, quamvis sis mole­stus, nun­quam te esse con­fitebor malum. Possido­mus. Wise Man is not subject to the vicissitudes and instability of things here below; That he suffers no conflict of contrary Passi­ons in his Breast; that he is al­ways [Page 11] above in the Talis est sapi­entis ani­mus qua­lis Mun­di status super lu­nam, sem per illic serenum. Seneca. Serene, where no Tempests can disturb, no Eclipse can darken his Mind: But these proud pretensi­ons were empty of reality. In­deed such a perfect exemption from all afflicting Passions is neither possible nor regular in our present state: not possible, for the best Men are not all Spirit, but united to Flesh; and when the Body is under strong pains, the Soul suffers in its sufferings; and while we are thus compounded, the loss of those Comforts that support and sweeten the present Life, must cause Grief. 'Tis easy to utter brave Expressions, and lay down severe Precepts in con­tempt of Evils Magna verba excidunt, cum Mors proprius accessit, cum tortor manum poposcit, possis illi dicere, facile provocabas mala absentia. Seneca. when they are at a distance, but hard to sustain [Page 12] the Spirit under the actual feeling of them; 'tis one thing to discourse of a Battel, and another to be en­gaged in the heat of it. But sup­posing by a Philosophical Charm the Heart were so hardned as to be proof against the most piercing afflictions, such a forced insensi­bility is not regular, but proceeds from the extinction of Humanity and Piety, and that will appear by considering Afflictions in a na­tural or moral respect.

First, in a natural respect, for so they are destructive or oppres­sive 1. Evils, and a pensive feeling of them is suitable to the Law of our Creation: for the Humane Nature is framed with such Senses and Passions, as according to God's intention should be affected suita­bly to the quality of their objects; and if the Soul acts rationally, 'tis [Page 13] moved accordingly. A Saint on Earth is not a Saint in Heaven, raised above all Disasters and Troubles, freed from all hurtful impressions from without, and sorrowful impressions within, but is liable to afflicting evils: And it is becoming his Duty to have his passions pliable to his condition, but without excess; the Eyes must not be drown'd, nor dry, but ten­derly affected.

Secondly; Considered in a mo­ral respect, as they are sent from 2. the high and just Providence of God, it is absolutely necessary there should be an humble re­sentment of his Displeasure. This is a consequent of the for­mer; for if our affections are seared up, that we do not feel the stroke, how shall we regard the hand that smites us? If we are [Page 14] not sensible of Affliction, we are secure in our Sins. Natural Sorrow is introductive of Godly Sorrow. There are two extreams to be avoided by the afflicted, ac­cording to the direction of Solo­mon in the person of Wisdom, and repeated by the Apostle: My Son, despise not thou the chastening of the Heb. 12. 5. Lord, nor faint when thou art rebu­ked of him. Some are discoura­ged and over-born by Afflictions as insupportable: others are stubborn and careless, and never 2 lay them to heart: they never look upward to the original efficient Cause, an Offended God; nor inward to the impulsive deserving Cause, their Sins; but esteem them fortuitous Events that happen in this mutable state, without a design to correct and reform Sinners; or to proceed [Page 15] from a blind necessity, things of course; or meerly regard the se­cond Causes and Instruments of their Troubles: accordingly, when they meet with Calamities, all their care is by a perverse shift to seek for relief onely in Tem­poral Comforts; without serious applying themselves to God, whose end in sending Troubles, is to reclaim us from Sin to Holi­ness, from Earth to Heavens, from the Creatures to himself.

This secret Atheism, like a benumming Opium, stupifies the Conscience; and the insensibility of God's hand inflicting Evils, is as different from Christian Patience and Constancy, as a mortal Le­thargy is from the quiet, soft Sleep of Health: Nothing kindles his Anger more than neglecting it; 'tis equally provoking with [Page 16] the despising of his Love: It is a symptom of a wretched state of Soul; if there proceed no sighs and groans, no signs of grief from the sense of God's displea­sure, it is a sad evidence there is no Spiritual Life. Indolence under the effects of God's Anger, is like the stilness of the Dead Sea, whose Calm is a Curse. The Jews, tho intitled the People of God, are deeply charg'd for this prodigious Madness; O Lord, thou hast struck them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they refused to receive cor­rection: they have made their faces harder than a Rock, they have refused to return. Jer. 5. 3. We have whole Quarries of such obdurate Wretches amongst us; this impenitent disregard of God's hand is a dreadful presage [Page 17] of future and more heavy Judg­ments. Who ever hardned himself against the Lord, and prospered? Do we provoke the Lord to Jealousy, are we stronger than he? The most refractory Sinner he can compel to acknowledg with bitter la­mentations his Wickedness, and weakness, how unable he is to contend with his Judge. But supposing a respite from Punish­ment here, there is an Hell pre­pared for stubborn Sinners, where is Weeping and Wailing for ever. Whom the Rods do not awaken, the Scorpions shall.

Secondly; I shall now proceed to explicate what is included in the resignment of our selves to God in times of Affliction. This will be made evident by conside­ring the leading powers and fa­culties [Page 18] which Grace sanctifies and works in, according to their natu­ral subordination.

The Understanding approves 1. the severest dispensations of Pro­vidence to be good, that is for reasons though sometimes un­searchable, yet always righteous, and for gracious ends to the Saints. When Hezekiah heard the heavy Prophecy, that all his Treasures should be carried to Babylon, and his Royal Progeny should become Slaves there, he said to Isaiah, Good is the Word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. His Isa. 39. 6, 7, 8. sanctified Mind acknowledged it to be a just Correction of his vain Pride, and quietly submitted to it: And as there is a satisfaction of Mind in the rectitude, so in the graciousness of his Proceed­ings. The misapprehension and [Page 19] mis-belief of God's design in af­flicting, causeth Impatience and Murmuring; but when the Mind is convinced, that he afflicts us for our Benefit, that Bodily Diseases are Medicinal Advantages, the remedies of the Soul; that the losses of Earthly Comforts pre­pare us for Divine Enjoyments; that the way which is sowed with Thorns, and watered with Tears, leads to Heaven; the Heart is compliant with the sharpest me­thods of Providence. But these things will be more fully opened under the several heads of Argu­ments to enforce the Duty.

This Resignment principally consists in the consent and subje­ction 2. of the Will to the Orders of Heaven. The Will is an imperi­ous Faculty, naturally impatient of opposition to its Desires, and [Page 20] we pay the highest honour to God in the lowest submission of our Wills to his Appointments. 'Tis true the Will cannot make a direct choice of Evil, nor love Afflictions, but the Holy Spirit by a powerful Operation so dis­poseth it, as to renounce its own inclinations when discordant with the Will of God. And the more humble, ready and entire the Submission is, the more difficult and harsh the denial of our na­tural desire is, the more superna­tural Grace shines and is accep­table. It is the perfection of Holiness to do what God loves, and to love what God does. There is a rare example of this in David's carriage, when under his greatest Affliction: 'twas in his flight from his Son Absalom, who endeavoured to deprive him of [Page 21] his Kingdom and Life. And the 2 Sam. 15. 25. King said unto Zadock the Priest, Carry back the Ark of God into the City: if I shall find favour in his eyes, he will bring me again, and shew me both it and his Habitation; but if he shall say, I have no delight in thee, behold, here I am, let him do to me as seems good unto him. O happy frame! his Spirit was so equally ballanced, That if God would suffer a Rebel that viola­ted the most tender and strict relations of a Son and Subject to a Gracious Father and Sove­reign, the Murtherer of his Bro­ther, and a Parricide in his desires, to usurp his Throne, he humbly submitted to it.

The Duty of Resignation con­sists in the composure of the Af­fections 3. to a just measure and temper, when under the sharpest [Page 22] Discipline. Of the Passions, some are tender and melting, others are fierce and stormy, and if a ponderous oppressing Evil hap­pen, or the loss of that good that was very pleasing, they sometimes join together, as the Clouds at the same time dissolve in Showers, and break forth in Thunder and Lightning. Now when sanctified Reason hath a due Empire over them, and the Soul possesseth it self in Patience, it is a happy effect of Resignation to the Divine disposal. Of this we have an eminent instance in the afflicted Saint forementioned. When David was so wickedly reproached by Shimei, and Abishai fired with Indignation, would presently have taken exemplary revenge, by stopping his Breath for ever: Should this dead Dog [Page 23] Curse my Lord the King? Let me 2 Sam. 16. 9. 10. go over, I pray thee, and take off his Head. How cool and calm was David's Spirit? he felt no aestuations nor tumults within, exprest no outragious complaints, but said, Let him Curse, because the Lord hath said to him, Curse David. There is a twofold excess of the Sorrowful Affections in Trou­bles:

  • I. In the degrees of them.
  • II. In the continuance.

First; In the degrees of them, when they exceed their causes. Afflictive things that deeply wound us, are usually repre­sented by the reflection of Sor­row, with all the heightning Circumstances, the Loss as unva­luable, the Evil as intollerable. [Page 24] As objects are greater than their true proportion when seen through a Mist; so do Evils, apprehended through Grief: and after such a false judgment the Passions take their violent course, and the Spirit sinks under over­whelming heaviness. The Soul is disabled from performing what belongs to it, with respect to the general and particular Calling, and cannot with freedom wait upon God, but neglects its duty and felicity. 'Twas the com­plaint of the afflicted Poet,

Hei mihi quod miseros prudentia pri­ma relinquit.

The first effect of misery is black confusion in the thoughts, that the Mind doth not distinctly consi­der, and apply such things as [Page 25] would be effectual to mitigate, or remove it. Besides, as when the Stream overflows the Channel, it runs foul and turbid: so immo­derate Sorrow often causeth secret Discontent and Anger at the Al­mighty, disquieting and torment­ing risings of heart against his Providence. All things are disor­dered and turbulent in the little and marvelous Monarchy of the Soul. And such seeds of inci­tation are in our corrupt Nature, that in the extremity of Anguish, the furious Passions swell into a Storm, and break the restraints of Reason and Grace. Job in a hot fit expostulates strangely with God, Is it good unto thee that thou Job 10. 3. shouldest oppress? He was a Holy Man, and a Prophet, who in the Paroxism of his Passion curst the Jer. 20. 14. day of his Birth.

[Page 26] Secondly; There is an Excess in the continuance.

Deep Grief doth more arrest the Thoughts upon its object, than the Affection of Joy doth. The Mind is not so easily divert­ed from what afflicts, as from what delights. The main strain of the Soul is towards the mournful Object; and in the midst of Comforts to support the fainting Spirts, there still remains a sad remembrance of that which tor­ments: a swarm of stinging thoughts continually wound and inflame the Breast: no Counsels prevail, but the Soul is resolved in its grief, and always restless with a bitter desire of what is irreco­verable. Thus the Prophet de­scribes the misery of Rachel, weep­ing for her Children, and would not be comforted, because they were not. Jer. 31. 15. [Page 27] As some Venomous Creatures turn all that they eat into Poison: so obstinate Sorrow takes occasi­on from every thing to encrease it self. This consumes the strength, and the Mourner lives only to feel his Misery, and thinks Death too slow for him, that was so precipitate for the person la­mented. Thus by the fixed con­templation of its Trouble, the Soul is distracted from its heaven­ly Original, and from pursuing its blessed End, and indulgeth its Sorrow, as if the loss of a Tem­poral Comfort were utterly un­doing to it. This obstinate grief is inconsistent with a resigned frame of Spirit. Though in great Afflictions, there will be a con­flict of Nature, and it is Wisdom to let Grief breath forth, and have a passage, yet Grace will [Page 28] asswage the Fury, and limit the time, by regarding the Will of God, and by deriving from the Springs of Comfort above some inward refreshings, when the Streams below totally fail.

I shall now propound the Ar­guments that will clearly con­vince us of this Duty of Resig­nation; some of which are powerful to silence all rebelli­ous Arguings, and suppress all the transports of the Passions; others to raise the drooping Spi­rits, and incline the Heart to a calm yielding, and compleat sub­jection to the Divine Will.

The first Argument ariseth from God's Original Supream Right in our Persons, and all things we enjoy. He is the Foun­tain of Being, and produced us out [Page 29] the depth of our native nothing, and made us little lower than the Angels. He is the Author of all our Good, the just and true Pro­prietor of all his Benefits. From hence results his Sovereignty and Dominion over us, which is de­clared in his Law, and the dis­pensations of his Providence. His Law is the Rule of our Lives and Actions, his Governing Provi­dence the Rule of our Sufferings and Passions. There is indispen­sibly due, a free and full Obe­dience to his Commands, and an intire universal Resignation to the Orders of his Providence. The enjoyment of all our Blessings is from his pure Goodness, and rich Bounty, which requires our humble and affectionate Thank­fulness; and his resumption of them should be entertained with [Page 30] a Holy and a Patient Submission. He gives them freely, and may recall them at his Pleasure. In whatsoever instance his Will is declared, we must with Humili­ty and Meekness submit; for he hath an equal Empire in dispo­sing all things that are equally his own, and we are bound by an equal Obedience to acknow­ledg his Dominion. When Eli received the terrible message of the ruine of his Family; the fi­nal excision of it from the dig­nity of the Priesthood, he pati­ently submits: It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. 1 Sam. 3. 17. The meer desire of exemption from his over-ruling Will, is a heinous Sin, and a stubborn un­compliance with it in the issues of things, is direct Rebellion, mixt with ingratitude, obstructive to [Page 31] our present Peace, and future Happiness. If the Afflicted would for a while suspend their Tears and Sighs, and with free Reason consider, that what relation soe­ver they had in their dearest Loss, whether of a Father, a Son, of a Husband or Wife, or any other amiable and passionate terms, yet God hath a nearer right and juster claim in those Persons, being his by the best Titles of Creation and Redemption, it would silence murmurings and impatience, and stop the scope of inordinate Sorrow. Our Pro­priety in them was derived from his Favour, and our Possession was depending on his Will, for his Right in all his Creatures is unalienable. This consideration was the foundation of Job's Pati­ence; [Page 32] when he was stript of all his outward Comforts, how com­posed was he in his Mind! how considerate in his words! he re­flects upon his Native Poverty, Naked came I into the World, and Job 1. 21. naked shall I return thither, and Adores God's Dominion: The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken, blessed be his Name. Add farther, that which by immedi­ate connection follows, the con­sideration of the glorious Maje­sty of God, and our natural mean­ness and unworthiness. The di­stance and disproportion is so vast between him and us, that we are not able to conceive the full and just Idea of his Excellent Greatness: We are fain to assist our Minds in the Thoughts of God by sensible representations; [Page 33] and to express our Conceptions by borrowed terms; His Immen­sity by the Ocean; his Eternity, by the returning of a Circle into it self; his Power, by Thunder; his Majesty by the Sun in its Me­ridian splendours. As the flying Fishes, (Shoals of which are met in sailing to the Indies,) can fly no longer than their Wings remain moist; when those Mem­branes are dry, they cannot move, and are forc'd to dip themselves again in the Sea, that by softening them, they may renew their Flight: Thus when we ascend in our Minds to God, we form no Conceptions but what take their rise from sensible things, which infinitely fall short of his Perfe­ctions. Who can fully understand the transcendent Excellencies of his Nature? Who can describe [Page 34] what is ineffable, and most wor­thy St. Hilla­ry de­clares of himself, Non sibi relictum quic­quam ali­ud a na­tura sua intellige­re, in quo majus of­ficium praestare conditori suo posset quam ut tantum eum esse intellige­ret, quan­tus & in­telligi non potest & potest credi. de Trin. lib. 1. to be ador'd with silent ad­miration and extasy of Mind? He dwells in that Light which is inac­cessible; the Angels, the most com­prehensive Spirits, vail their faces in the presence of his Glory. He is his own Original, but without Be­ginning; alone, but not solitary; one ever Blessed God, yet com­municates his intire Deity to the Son and Spirit; he is not divided in number, nor confused in Unity. He is not compell'd by Necessity, nor chang'd by Liberty, nor measur'd by Time: If we ascend to the first Fountains of all Ages, then his Infinite Understanding comprehended in one clear view, the whole compass, extent and duration of all things. His pow­erful Word made the visible and invisible World, and upholds [Page 35] them. That which was spoken with Flattery, of a Roman Empe­rour, by Seneca, (who as much de­generated from the dignity of a Stoical Philosopher, in licking Nero, as in biting Alexander) is absolutely true of the Sovereign Lord of the World: His Provi­dence Ille est vincu­lum per quod res publica cohaeret: Ille spiri­tus vita­lis, quem tot millia trahunt: nihil ipsa futura nisi onus & praeda si mens illa Im­perii sub trahatur lib. de Clem. is the Band that unites the parts of the Universal Common-Wealth, the Vital Spirit and Ver­tue that sustains all: Without his Eye and Hand, his dispositive Wisdom and Power, the whole frame would disband, and fall into Confusion and Ruine. He is seated upon the Throne of the Universe. Thousand thousands of glorious Spirits minister unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before him, in the quality and humi­lity of his Servants, ready to exe­cute his Commands. He is the [Page 36] Judg of the Living and the Dead, that disposeth of Heaven and Hell for Ever. And what is Man? a little Breathing Dust. He is infinitely above us, and so strangely condescends, in having a tender care of us, that the Psal­mist was swallowed up in Ex­tasy and Amazement at the thoughts of it: Lord, What is Man that thou art mindful of him? or the Son of Man that thou regardest Psal. 8. him? Nay, we are beneath his Anger, as a Worm is not worthy of the indignation of an Angel. Now the more we magnify God, and exalt his Authority in our Judgments, the more our Wills are prepared to yield to him: His Excellency will make us afraid to oppose his Providence. When the Son of God appeared to Saul, in his Glory, and commanded in [Page 37] Person, he presently lets fall his Arms of Defiance; and says, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? His Act. 9. 6. Resignation was absolute; no­thing was so hard to do, nothing so formidable to suffer, but he was ready to accomplish and en­dure in obedience to Christ. The more we debase and vilify our selves, the more easy it will be to bear what God inflicts; Hu­mility disposeth to Submission. Our Passions are not excited at the breaking of an ordinary Glass; but if a Vessel of Christal be broken, it moves us: the low­er esteem we have of our selves, the less we shall be transported for any breach that is made upon us. We read in the History of Job, many heavy Complaints uttered by him of his Sufferings, all the sad Figures of passionate Elo­quence [Page 38] made use of to represent them, and the fruitless Essays of his Friends, that did rather exas­perate than appease his Spirit: And it is very observable, that when the Lord interposed himself to justify the ways of his Providence, he did not charge up­on him the guilt of his Sins that deserved the severest Judgments, but appears in his Glory, and re­minds himof his original nothing. Where wast thou when I laid the Job 38. 4 Foundations of the Earth? declare, if thou hast Understanding. He opens to him some of the Excel­lencies of the Deity in the works of Creation and Providence, and the present effect was, Job adored with humble Reverence the Di­vine Majesty, and acknowledged his own unworthiness. Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I [Page 39] will lay my hand upon my mouth; now mine eyes see thee, I abhor my self, and repent in Dust and Ashes. The thickest smoak by ascending dis­sipates and vanishes. If the trou­bled Soul did ascend to Heaven, and consider that even the worst Evils are either from the operati­on or permission of the Divine Providence, the Cloudy disturb­ing Thoughts and Passions would be presently scattered. David had a blessed experiment of this in his distress: I was dumb, and ope­ned Psal. 39. 8. not my mouth, because thou didst it. Such an awful apprehension he had of God, as transcendently superiour to him, and unaccoun­table for his Proceedings. When any impatient Thoughts arise, we should presently chain them up, for there is Folly and Fury in them; What am I, that my sul­len [Page 40] Spirit should dispute against the Orders of Heaven? that my Passions should resist the Will of of the highest Lord? that my De­sires should depose him from his Throne? For thus by implicati­on and consequence they do, who are vex'd at his Providence. A Holy Soul will tremble at the Thoughts of it. Methinks God speaks to the afflicted and disturb­ed Soul, in the words of the Psalm, Be still, and know that I am God. The actual consideration of his Supremacy will be powerful to lay the growing Storm of Passions. Impatience ariseth from the ignorance of God and our selves.

Secondly; The Righteous­ness of God in all his ways, if duely considered, will compose the Afflicted Spirit to quiet and [Page 41] humble submission. He is never injurious to us when he deprives us of our sweetest and most pre­cious comforts, because we have incurred the forfeiture of all. He is not cruel in laying the heaviest punishments upon us, for we de­serve them. If we were free from actual Sins, yet our depra­ved nature, so repugnant to the pure Law of God, involves us un­der an Obligation to Punishment. If we had not been attained with the guilt of Original Sin, yet the Sins committed in the course of our Lives, make us deeply ob­noxious to Divine Justice: How much more the concurrent guilt of Original and Actual Sins? The acts of Sin are transient and pass away; but the guilt and stain of Sin, and the Conscience of Sin remain, and no less than Eternal [Page 42] Punishment is commensurate to the obliquity. From hence there is the clearest Reason to justify God in all his Proceedings. Righ­teousness establishes his Throne. The Prophet saith, Thy Righteousness is like the great Mountains, thy Judg­ments Psal. 36. 6. are a great Deep. The spe­cial ends of God in severe dispen­sations, are sometimes indiscer­nible, but never unjust; his Righ­teousness is obvious to every eye. The actual consideration of this is powerful to silence the uproar of the Passions, and to make us lie humbly at his Feet under the so­rest Chastisements. I will bear the Indignation of the Lord (without Mic. 7. 9. murmuring, saith the Afflicted Church) because I have sinned against him. As disobedience in our Incli­nations and Actions, is a tacit re­flection upon the equity of his [Page 43] Law, as if the restraints of it were unreasonable; so Impati­ence and fretful Discontent is up­on the equity of his Providence, as if the afflicting dispensations of it were not due to us: And the sense of our Sinfulness, and God's Righteousness, is an excel­lent preventive of it. If thou art in great Afflictions, and feel­est any tumultuous Thoughts, any rebellious Risings within thee, Consider thou art a Sinner, guilty of ten Thousand Provoca­tions, and darest thou appear be­fore his inlightned and terrible Tribunal, and challenge him for any unrighteous Proceedings? Wherefore doth a living Man com­plain, Lam. 3. 39. a Man for the punishment of his Sins? Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I will not offend any more. Job 34. 31, 32. That which I know not, teach thou [Page 44] me; and if I have done Iniquity, I will do no more. Besides, all the Punishments of Men here, are with Merciful allays, not in just proportion to their Guilt. The Church in its calamitous State, described in the most doleful La­mentations of Jeremiah, when the greatest number of the Jews pe­rished by the Sword, or Famine that attended the War, their City and Temple were laid in Ruines, and the unhappy People that es­caped the fury of the Chaldeans, were the Captives and Triumphs of their Enemies; yet in that un­parallell'd Affliction she acknow­ledges, It is the Lord's Mercies that Lam. 3. 22. we are not utterly and totally con­sumed, and lays her Mouth in the Dust, a posture of the lowest abasement. And Holy Ezra re­flecting upon that dreadful Cala­mity, [Page 45] acknowledgeth their Pu­nishment was beneath their de­sert, as their Deliverance was above their expectation: And for Ezra 9. 13. all that is come upon us for our evil deeds and great trespasses, seeing thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and given us such a delive­rance as this. Our Deserts are less than the least of God's Mer­cies, and our Offences greater than the greatest of his Judg­ments. This should make us not onely patiently submit, but humbly accept the punishment of our iniquity, as far less than what is deserved. If Levit. 26. 41. the Sentence of Death against a Malefactor be exchanged for Banishment, or Banishment be remitted for a short Confinement, is there not incomparable more cause to be thankful for what is pardoned, than to complain for [Page 46] what is suffered? What Ingrati­tude is it to be impatient and murmuring for these light Afflicti­ons that are but for a moment, when we deserve an eternal and insup­portable weight of Misery in Hell? It is infinitely more be­coming us and safe, to argue against our irregular Passions, than to tax his Righteous Dispen­sations.

Thirdly; His Power is Im­mense and uncontrollable, and it is a vain attempt to contend with him, as if the Eternal Order of his Decrees could be altered or broken. The Contest between God and the Sinner, is whose Will shall stand. It is his glori­ous work to depress the Proud, and subdue the stubborn refracto­ry Spirits. The Punishment of the first Pride in the Angels, is [Page 47] an Eternal and terrible example of his powerful Justice; and how intolerable a Crime it is, that Heaven could not bear, but pre­sently opened, and the Guilty fell into the bottomless Pit. Now Pride is a seminal Evil, and lies at the root of Stubborness, and impatience under Judgments. Proud Dust is apt to fly in God's Face upon every motion of the Afflicting Passions. And by the resistance of Self-Will he is pro­voked to more Severity. Wo be to him that strives with his Maker. Isa. 45. 9. This is to be like a restive Horse or Mule, without Understanding, that flings and foams when the Burthen is laid upon him, but gets nothing but Blows, without the removal of the Burthen. It is our Duty and Interest to ob­serve the Blessed Apostles directi­on: [Page 48] Humble your selves under the 1 Pet. 5. 6. mighty hand of God, and he shall ex­alt you. There is a passive hum­bling by his irresistible Provi­dence, and an active voluntary humbling, which implies a sub­jection to his Law, and a sub­mission to his Providence: This is infinitely pleasing to him, 'tis the right disposition that pre­pares us for Mercy, and is the certain way of Exaltation; for then God obtains his End. The humble Prostrating our selves at his Feet to receive his Correcti­on, causes his Bowels to relent, and stops his Hand: the seeming humiliation of Ahab procured a respite of those fearful Judgments denounced against his House. It is said of the generosity of the Lion, that he spares his prostrate Adversary. In short, our Salva­tion [Page 49] depends upon our humble demeanour under afflictive Dis­pensations. We have had Fathers of our Flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence, shall we not Heb. 12. 9. much more be in subjection to the Fa­ther of Spirits, and live? Unsub­mission induces a deadly guilt up­on the Rebellious.

Fourthly; His Paternal Love in sending Afflictions is a suffici­ent Argument to win our com­pliance with his Will. The blessed Apostle applying Lenitives to the Afflicted, propounds two Divine Truths, that if seriously thought of, and stedfastly believed, are powerful to mitigate the acerbity of all Sufferings, and support the Spirit in the greatest Agony. The first is, God scourgeth every Son whom he receiveth: And the other that is Heb. 12. 6. [Page 50] joined with it is, Whom the Lord loves he chasteneth.

The Rule is general,

First; All his Sons are under the Discipline of the Rod: and who would be so unhappy as to be exempted from that number for all the prosperity of the World? Afflictions sanctified, are the conspicuous Seal of their Adoption, and Title to Heaven. And who would forfeit the ho­nour of that Adoption, and lose the benefit annext to it, the eter­nal Inheritance, rather than pati­ently bear his Fatherly Chastise­ments? Others that enjoy a perpetual Spring of Pleasure here, are declared Bastards and not Sons: they are indeed within the compass of his Universal Provi­dence, but not of that peculiar [Page 51] care that belongs to his Sacred and Select Progeny. His Corrections are an Argument of his Authority as our Father, and an assurance that we are his Children: this should induce us not only with submiss temper of Soul, but with thankfulness to receive the sharp­est Correction from the hands of our Heavenly Father. This was the reason of our Saviour's meek yielding himself to the violence and cruelty of his Enemies. The Cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

Secondly; Chastisement is the effect of his Paternal Love: He is the Father of our Spirits, and that Divine Relation carries with it a special Love to the Spirits of Men, and in that degree of Emi­nence, as to secure and advance [Page 52] their happiness, though to the de­struction of the Flesh. The Soul is of incomparable more worth than the Body, as the bright Ori­ental Pearl than the mean Shell that contains it: this God most highly values, for this he gave so great a Price, and on it draws his Image. If Temporal Prospe­rity were for our best advantage, how willingly would God be­stow it on us? He that spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, Rom. 8. 32. how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Which words among all that the Holy Ghost hath dictated to the Interpreters of God's Heart to his People, are most expressive of his [...]ove and Bounty▪ and most for their com­fort. He that gives Grace and [...] [...]ost real testimonies [...] certainly withholds [Page 53] no good thing from them. I shall produce one convincing instance of this. St. Paul, who by an in­comparable Priviledg was rapt up to the Coelestial Paradise, and heard ineffable things, yet was tormented by the Angel of Satan, and his earnest repeated Prayer for deliverance, not presently grant­ed. Did not God love that blessed Apostle, whose internal Love to Christ almost equall'd the Sera­phims, those pure everlasting Flames, and was expressed in the invariable tenour of his Life, by such miraculous Actions and Suf­ferings for the propagating and defence of the Faith of Christ, and the Glory of his Name? If we love him because he first loved us, as St. John testifies, certainly he that returned such a superlative Affe­ction to Christ, received the great­est [Page 54] Love from him. Now, if Christ did love Paul, why did he not upon his earnest repeated Prayer, deliver him from his wounding Trouble, whatsoever it was? That Permission was a demonstration of the Love of Christ to him, as it is acknow­ledged by himself; Lest I should be exalted above measure through the 2 Cor. 13. 7. abundance of Revelation, there was given to me a Thorn in the Flesh, and the Messenger of Satan to buffet me. That the Afflictions of the Saints proceed from God's Love, will be evident, by considering,

I. His gracious Design in sending them.

II. His compassionate Pro­vidence over them, and his as­sisting Power afforded to his People in their Troubles.

[Page 55] III. The happy issue out of them.

First; His gracious Design in sending them. God doth not afflict willingly, but if need be, not for his own pleasure, but for our profit, that we may be parta­kers of his Holiness. The expres­sion is high and emphatical, his Heb. 12. 10. Holiness, the brightest Glory of his Nature, the divinest Gift of his Love.

The two principal parts of Ho­liness, are, ceasing from doing Evil, and learning to do well. And Afflictions are ordained and sent as profitable for both these ef­fects.

1. For the prevention or cure of Sin, which is an evil incompa­rably worse in its nature, and terrible consequents in this and [Page 56] the next World, than all meer af­flicting temporal Evils. Sin de­files and debaseth the Soul, which is the proper excellency of Man, and separates from God our su­pream Good. Your Sins have se­parated between you and your God, and have hid his face from you. All Afflictions that can befall us here Isa. 59. 2. in our persons or concernments, the most disgraceful Accidents, the most reproachful contumeli­ous Slanders, the most loath­som contagious Diseases, that cause our dearest Friends to withdraw from us, yet cannot deprive us of Union with God by Faith and Love, nor of the fru­ition of his propitious Presence. Lazarus when covered with Ul­cers, was kissed with the Kisses of his Mouth: But Sin hath this per­nicious effect, it separates from [Page 57] his gracious Presence here, and, if continued in without Repen­tance, will exclude from his Glo­rious Presence for ever. Now Afflictions are Medicinal Appli­cations for the cure of Sin, the Disease and Death of the Soul, and therefore infinitely worse than the sharpest Remedies.

The beginnings and progress of Conversion to God, are usual­ly by sanctified Afflictions. In­deed, considering our folly, and perverse abuse of his Blessings, they are the most congruous means for our Recovery. The Light of God's Law doth not so power­fully convince us of the Evil of Sin till felt in the effects of it. Thy own wickedness shall correct thee, and Jer. 2. 19. thy backslidings shall reprove thee; know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and a bitter, that thou hast forsa­ken [Page 58] the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord of Hosts. The Instructions of the Rod, are more sensible than of the Word; as the feeling of a tormenting Disease, produceth another kind of understanding of it than the reading of its na­ture in Books of Physick: and they make us more attentive to God's Call, and leave a deeper impression upon us. It is Elihu his observation, If Sinners be bound in Fetters, and held in Cords, then he Job 36. 8, 9. shews them their works, and their trans­gressions, that they have exceeded. Affliction clarifies their Sight, makes Sin to be as heinous in the view of Conscience, as in its own foul nature. It follows, He open­eth also the Ear to Discipline, and commandeth that they return from Ver. 10. their iniquity. Gentle Methods [Page 59] were lost upon them, but by Judgments he effectually com­mands, they relent and return to their Duty. And after Conver­sion we need their Discipline, to make us more circumspect and obedient. The Psalmist declares, It is good for me that I have been afflicted. For before he was affli­cted Psal. 119 he went astray: He was reduced from the errour of his ways by his Troubles: And 'twas his experimental observation, I know in faithfulness (from the con­stancy of Love) thou hast afflicted me. Nothing so cools our Zeal to Eternal things, as the Love of the World. Vital heat declines and languishes, as the Peaverish heat is inflamed; and till we feel the vexations, we are allured by the vanities of the World: there­fore God is pleased by such bitter [Page 60] means to make us more Holy and Heavenly. Sometimes he re­moves with Jealousy those ob­jects to which our hearts are so intirely engaged, that the enjoy­ment of them intercepts the as­cending of our Affections to him­self. Besides, he will not suffer us to perish in Prosperity. We are chastened of the Lord for our amendment, that we may not be con­demned 1 Cor. 11. with the unreformed World. And is not this an infallible te­stimony of his Love? David said, Let the Righteous smite me, and it shall Psa. 141. 5. be a kindness; let him reprove me, and it shall be an excellent oil. If he valued the Reprehensions that were not contumelious and inju­rious, not to upbraid but reform him, as a favour and dear ob­ligation, how much more should we the corrections of our Hea­venly [Page 61] Father? And it will be a greater incitement to an humble and grateful acceptance of this Discipline; if we consider what a severe neglect it is, when God suffers the Wicked to lead a Vo­luptuous Life without distur­bance: They are encircled with Riches and Honours, softned with Pleasures, charmed with inticing objects, and thus become hardned in Sin: they are Riotous and Luxurious, and give the Reins to their corrupt, unruly Appetites without controll; the Slaves of Sense, led onely by Principles of Pleasure, and hereby are inexcu­sable, and made ripe for Perditi­on, and reserved for final Ven­geance. Others, though not guil­ty of scandalous enormities, yet are by continual Prosperity, setled upon their Lees, careless and se­cure, [Page 62] neglect the great Salvation, and say in their hearts, It is good to be here; and their Damnation is as certain, though not so visible, as of those who commit gross and open Wickedness. Sad Preteri­tion! In the midst of Pleasures they are truly miserable. They have just reason to be abandoned to Sorrow, being forsaken of the Love of God. The Bramble is not cut, when the Vine is pruned till it bleeds in order to its fruit­fulness: this letting them alone to take their fill of Pleasures, is a heavy presage of final ruine. Heb. 4. 14. When the Patient is desperate, the Physitian lays no restraint upon the Diseased Appetite, but per­mits him to take what he craves.

Besides, the Intention of God is by Affliction to exercise and illustrate their Graces. The most [Page 63] excellent Christian Vertues would be comparatively of lit­tle use without hard Trials. Un­feigned Faith in the Truth and Power of God to accomplish his Promises, Sincere Love to him, humble Self-denial, Perse­vering Patience then appear in their radiancy and vigour. What a blessed advantage is it, by the loss of Temporal Comforts to en­crease in the Graces of the Spirit? they are the truest Riches, the fullest Joy, and the highest ho­nour of a Christian. St. Peter de­clares, the trial of our Faith is much more precious than of Gold 1 Pet. 1. 7. that perisheth; 'tis refined and resplendent by the fire of Af­fliction, and will be found unto Praise, and Honour, and Glory, at the appearing of Christ. It is the advice of St. James, Count [Page 64] it all Joy when ye fall into divers Jam. 1. 2, 3. Temptations. Knowing this, that the trial of your Faith worketh Patience: Though Afflictions simply consi­dered, may be very grievous, yet if we advisedly weigh, and right­ly compare things, even when our sorrowful Passions are moved, our Judgments will esteem them matter of Joy, not onely in ex­pectation of Future Happiness, but as Divine Grace is thereby drawn forth in the most noble Operations. In short, the ulti­mate design of God in afflicting his People, is thereby to bring them to Heaven. Affliction mor­tifies the Lusts of the Flesh, pu­rifies the Spirit, and makes us fit for the Inheritance of the Saints in Light. By persevering Patience in Suffer­ings, they are approved of God, and obtain a Right and Title to [Page 65] the Kingdom of Glory. For ac­cording to the tenor of the Co­venant of Grace, Heaven shall be conferred as a reward to Rev. 22. those that overcome. If there be no Enemy, there will be no Fight; and if no Fight, no Vi­ctory; if no Victory, no Tri­umph; only those who Conquer are Crowned.

The beloved Disciple, with his Brother, though allied to our Saviour by Consanguinity, who expected by special favour to be glorified without a preparatory Trial, yet he tells them, without drinking of his Cup, they could not have a share in his Kingdom, and this should reconcile our Spirits to all our Troubles: for the Apostle declares, who was a competent Judg, having been throughly [Page 66] acquainted with Griefs, and had a Prospect into the Glorious King­dom, Ireckon that the Sufferings of this present Life, are not worthy to be Rom. 8. compared to the Glory that shall be revealed in us.

2. God's Love is discovered in his compassionate Providence over them, and assisting Power afforded to them in their Afflicti­ons: He speaks to the afflicted and disconsolate, My Son, despise Heb. 12. 5. not thou the Chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: To sweeten by that tender expression, the rigour of his Dis­cipline; to signify his dear sym­pathy with their Anguish and Sufferings.

Heavenly Consolation! God himself bears a share in their Sorrows, is afflicted in their Af­flictions: And the effect of this [Page 67] Love is, that he always tempers and moderates their Trials, to their Strength; or increases their Strength in proportion to the Tri­al. His Corrections are delibe­rate Dispensations, that proceed from Judgment, not from Fury, which the Prophet earnestly de­precates. Jer. 8. His Rods are bound up with Mercy, his Faithfulness joins with his Affection, in mo­derating their Sufferings. It is one Clause of the Covenant of Grace, made with Christ, typi­fied by David, If his Children break my Statutes, and keep not my Com­mandments, Psal. 89. 31, 32, 33. then will I visit their transgression with a Rod, to amend, not to destroy them; but my loving Kindness I will not take away from them, nor suffer my Faithfulness to fail. The Apostle assures Belie­vers, That God is faithful, who will [Page 68] not suffer them to be tempted above 1 Cor. 10. 13. what they are able, but will with the Temptation make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it. Our Redeemer in his Agony was relieved by Heavenly Succour, the presence of an Angel with a message of Comfort: St. Paul found it verified by his own Experience, That as the Sufferings 2 Cor. 1. 5. 2 Cor. 12. 9. of Christ abounded in him, so his Con­solations abounded by Christ, and the Divine Power was accomplished, il­lustriously appeared in supporting his weakness. How many have en­joyed Comforts of a more pre­cious nature, and more abundant, in want of Supplies from the World, than in the possession of them? When there is a total Eclipse below, the blessed Com­forter descends with Light, and [Page 69] fills the Soul with Joy, in Belie­ving.

The Historian tells us of a Acin quamvis de mis­sum Et­na nullus frigore ante ver­tit. Solin clear Vein of Water, that springs from Mongibel, (that great Furnace, that always sends forth Smoak or Flames,) yet is so cool, as if it distilled from a Snowy Mountain: thus the Saints in the Fiery Trial, have been often re­freshed with Divine Comforts, and such humble Submissions, and gracious Thanksgivings have proceeded from their Lips, as have been very comfortable to those about them.

Thirdly; The Issue out of all is the most sensible declaration of God's Love to them. The continuance is limited by his tender Love, till they are pre­pared for Mercy. The Prospe­rity of the Wicked is Wine in [Page 70] the beginning, and Lees at the bottom; but the worst and affli­cted state of the Saints is first, and will at length certainly end in Felicity. In the Tragedy of Job, the Devil was the Author, Chal­deans and Sabaeans were the Actors, but the end was from the Lord. We are instructed by the Apostle, That although no Cha­stisement for the present seems to be Heb. 12. 11. joyous, but grievous, nevertheless, af­terward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness, unto them that are exercised thereby. It is an allusion to the Rewards in the Olympick Games, when the persons that overcame in those Exercises, were crowned with Wreaths of Olive Leaves, the Emblem of Peace. Thus Christians who with un­fainting perseverance in their Du­ty, suffer Affliction, shall be re­warded [Page 71] with Holiness in conjun­ction with Peace. This peaceable fruit of Righteousness is not the natural product of Affliction: Grapes do not spring from Thorns, nor Figs from Thistles; neither can it be so properly as­cribed to the afflicted person, as to the powerful Vertue and spe­cial Grace of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies Afflictions, and makes them profitable for effe­cting God's intention by them. And when the afflicted person be­comes more humble, more ho­ly, more weaned from the World, more resigned to the Will of God, this Fruit unto Holiness will compensate all their Pains and Sorrows. And in conjunction with Holiness, there is a Divine Peace, a Joyful calm and quiet­ness of Conscience in the sense of [Page 72] God's favour; his answers of Peace are usually a reward ac­cording to the operations of Grace; His Comforts are dispen­sed, as encouragements to Obe­dience. Besides, when the Sinful Corruptions are purged out, which caused perpetual distur­bance, and our Affections and Actions are correspondent to the Divine Law, there is that clear­ness and serenity of Mind, that rest and ease in the Soul, arising from its just and due subordina­tion unto God, which the disobe­dient, in all their seeming pros­perity, never enjoy. There is no peace, saith my God, to the Wicked. These beginnings of happiness are obtained here, but the perfection of it is in the next Life. Blessed is the Man that endureth Tempta­tion, Jam. 1. 12. for when he is tryed he shall [Page 73] receive the Crown of Righteousness, which God hath promised to them that love him. The richness and value of the Crown of Life is so great, that God, the most wise and just esteemer of things, gave the precious Blood of his Son to pur­chase it for us. It is a Felicity so transcendent in its quality, and stable in its duration, that the Blessed God cannot give us a greater; for what greater good is conceivable than himself? and what more stable enjoyment of it than Eternity? The hope of this makes a Christian Blessed in the midst of the greatest miseries. Our light Afflictions that are but for 2 Cor. 4. a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glo­ry.

Fifthly; The infinite Wisdom of God orders all things in the [Page 74] best manner for his own Glory, and the final good of his People. If he governed by absolute Em­pire, none in Heaven or Earth might say to him, What dost thou? but there is an inseparable conne­ction between his Wisdom and his Will; he is the King Eternal, 1 Tim. 1 and the only Wise God, as the Apostle joins those Divine Titles. In this the excellence of the Di­vine Liberty shines, that 'tis al­ways regulated by Infinite Wis­dom: He works all things ac­cording to the Counsel of his Will: Eph. 1. 11. this is spoken according to hu­mane conceptions, but must be understood in a sense becoming the Perfections of God: for Counsel cannot properly be attri­buted to God, whose Understand­ing is Infinite, and in one view comprehends all things; but as [Page 75] those things are most compleat that are the product of our de­liberate reasonings and deep contrivance; so his work is perfect, for all his ways are Judgment. When Deut. 32. 4. ever we are dissatisfied or displea­sed with his Proceedings, it is from the Error of our Minds, and the Viciousness of our Affections. we presume to correct his Provi­dence, as if it were defective in regulating the affairs of this lower World; but he is wonderful in Coun­sel, and excellent in Working. In the Isa. 28. 29. Creation, this regular and beau­tiful World was formed out of Darkness and Confusion: And his Providence, that is now mi­sterious and vailed to us, will bring into glorious Order and sweet Agreement, those things in their final resolution, that now seem so perplext to our Appre­hensions. [Page 76] 'Twas a confounding reproach from God to Job, Who is Job. 32. 2. this that darkens Counsel by words without knowledg? His passionate exclamations were such, as if the Divine Wisdom had not dispo­sed all the Afflicting circumstances in the series of his Sufferings; and that Holy Man being convinced of his presumptuous Folly, repeats the Charge against himself with tears of Confusion: Who is he that hideth Counsel without Knowledg? Job. 42. 3. 6. therefore have I uttered that I under­stood not, things too wonderful for me, which I knew not; wherefore I abhor my self, and repent in Dust and Ash­es: More particularly,

First; all things are so wisely ordered, that God shall be glo­rified in the event; and it is the noblest disposition of a Christian, to prefer the advancement of his [Page 77] Glory, before all the Comforts of this Life, and Life it self. Our Blessed Saviour in the Fore­thoughts of his Sufferings, was in distress and perturbation of Mind, like the darkening of the Sky before a great Shower: Now is my Soul troubled, what shall I say? John 12. 27. Father, save me from this Hour. But the short conflict of Nature was presently at an end, he wil­lingly yielded up himself to be a Sacrifice to the Divine Honour, and said, Father, glorify thy Name. Moses and Paul, whose admira­ble Zeal, had only a Parallel between themselves in the same degree of Holy heat, desired the Salvation of the Jews before their own, if God might be more glorified by it. This is the first Petition in Order and Dignity, in that compleat form of Prayer [Page 78] composed by our Saviour, as the Rule of all our desires. Thy Name be Hallowed and Glorified in us, and by us. The admirable History of Jephtha's only Daughter, is appli­cable to this purpose; she joifully came forth to meet her Father, returning Victorious and Trium­phant after his War with the Am­monites. Judg. 11 36. He had made a rash Vow, to offer up in Sacrifice to God, who ever should first meet him after his Victory; and upon the sight of his Daughter, was so deeply wounded with Sorrow, that his Triumph was converted into Lamentations: but the Grief was only in the Father; for in that first surprise of such a terrible Sentence to be executed upon her, she did not answer his Tears with Tears, nor Lamentations with Lamentations, but said unto him, [Page 79] My Father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me, ac­cording to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth, for as much as the Lord hath taken Vengeance for thee on thine Enemies. Methinks the admirable Love and Generosity in a young Virgin, to whom her Father's Honour and Exaltation was more dear than her Life, up­braids us for our unwilling sub­mission to those Providential Dis­pensations that are ungrateful to Flesh and Blood, wherein the Glory of God is advanced. If we were called to Martyrdom for his Truth, and our Lives should bleed forth, as Sacrifices on the Altar, or our Bodies be consumed as In­cense on the Censer; it were an un­just and ungrateful complaint, to express passionate reluctancy a­gainst his Providence. If there were [Page 80] other consequences of our present Sufferings, but the glorifying God, we should be content. That is the worthiest end which he pro­poseth to himself, and will ac­complish: His Divine excellen­cies will be illústrated by the wickedness of Men, that at present obscures the Glory of his Govern­ment; his Wisdom, Power, Ho­liness, Mercy and Justice will be acknowledged, admired, and magnified at last.

2. His Wisdom will order all things, even the most afflicting and dolorous, for the good of his People. This is a fearful Paradox to a carnal Mind, that judgeth of Good and Evil, as present things are pleasant or unpleasant to sense, without regard to what is future. 'Tis like Sampson's Riddle to the Philistims, Out of the [Page 81] Devourer came Meat, and out of the Strong came sweetness; But to the Mind that hath spiritual discern­ing, and judgeth of Good and Evil, as things are conducive or destructive to the happiness of the Soul, it is a clear undoubted Truth. We know, saith the Apo­stle with the greatest assurance, that all things work together for good Rom. 8. 28. to them that love God. All things the most adverse to their present desires, are so disposed and over­ruled by his Providence, as if there were a secret intelligence and concert between them, to pro­mote the Happiness of the Saints: thus in mixt Bodies the contra­ry qualities are reduced to such a just measure and temperament by the Wisdom of the Divine Maker, that a sound and health­ful constitution results from them. [Page 82] We have a rare instance of this in the History of Joseph, his envi­ous Brethren were the Instru­ments of his Exaltation: they sold him for a Slave into Egypt to frustrate his Prophetick Dreams, and there, by many admirable turns of Providence, he was ad­vanced to the highest Dignity; and then was verified in him and his Brethren, that his Sheaf arose and stood upright, and their Sheaves stood round, and did obeisance to his Sheaf. God had reserved purposes of greater good for Joseph, than if he had continued under his Fathers tender Eye and Care; therefore 'tis said in his Hi­story, that they perfideously sold him but God sent him. He that attentively reads the Journeys of the Israelites through the Wilder­ness to Canaan, cannot but wonder [Page 83] at the Circuits and indirect moti­ons in their tedious Travel for Forty Years; and when near the Borders of the place, so long and ardently desired, they were often commanded to retreat in the same Line wherein they had advanced to it: had they chose the shortest way, and disobeyed the Divine Conducter, they had never entred into the Land of Promise: but following the Pillar that directed their March, though they seem'd lost in their intricate wandrings, yet they obtained the joyful possession of it. This was a Type of the Saints passage through a troublesom World, to the true rest above, and that they are guided through many cross ways directly to the Kingdom of Hea­ven. Who knows, saith Solomon, what is good for a Man in this Life, Eccles. 6. 12. [Page 84] all the days of his vain Life, which he spendeth as a shadow? That which is desir'd with importunity, as tending to his Happiness, often proves his Woe: Some had not been so wicked, and consequent­ly so miserable, if their Lusts had not been excited by Riches and Power: others had not been secured from destructive Temp­tations, but in a low and afflict­ed state. 'Tis therefore both our Duty and Interest not to pray ab­solutely for any temporal thing; but when our Desires are most passionate, to say with the humi­lity and holiness, the reverence and obedience of our Saviour, Not my Will, but thine be done. We shall find our selves more happy by the Divine disposal of things, than if we had obtained our dear­est Wishes, and most ardent Pray­ers. [Page 85] And when we shall come to the top of the Holy Hill, and look down on the various Cir­cuits of Providence by which we ascended, we shall then under­stand that Wisdom and Love conducted us safely to Felicity; we shall approve and admire all the Divine methods in order to our blessed End. Now the belief of this should compose us to a patient and cheerful resignation of our selves to God's Providence and Pleasure. Who would not accept of the Counsel of a Friend that proceeds from Love, though his Judgment were not so exact as to be relied on? Much more should we thankfully receive the Appointments of God, whose Knowledg and Affection are equally superlative, in whom there is united the Wisdom of [Page 86] a Father's (and the tenderness of a Mother's) Love to his Children. Briefly, as Jonathan by tasting the Honey at the end of his Rod, had his eyes enlightened, so the end of the severest Chastisements will convince them, that the Provi­dence of God was more benign and propitious than they could imagine. His ways are as far above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts, as the Heavens are above the Earth. This Point is applicable to us.

First; by way of Reproof for Vse 1. our unsubmissive behaviour in Af­flictions, our uncompliance with the Divine Disposals. Some are in a secret discontent at God's Afflicting Providence; and this razeth the memory of former Mercies, and takes away the re­lish [Page 87] of present Mercies; as the sweet Showers of Heaven that fall into the Sea are turned into its brackish taste: such neither enjoy God nor themselves. What egre­gious folly and vile ingratitude is this! All we have, is from his most free favour; and shall we peevishly slight his Benefits, be­cause our Desires are not gratified in every respect? Others are mo­ved with Anger and Vexation for the Evils that befal them: as the Red-hot Iron under the blows of the Hammer casts abroad Fiery Sparks; so their stubborn fierce Spirits, when afflicted, break forth in expressions of impatience and displeasure. They count it a base abjectness of Mind, a despicable Pusillanimity to humble them­selves under God's Judgments, and with contrition for their Sins [Page 88] to implore his Clemency. The voice of the Lord maketh the Hinds to calve the timerous and weak creatures: But when the Heavens roar, the Lions Thunder back again. Thus strong and stubborn Sinners, when they feel the effects of God's Anger, are raging and furious in their Passions and Expressions. The foolish Man perverteth his way, his most grievous sufferings are the fruits Prov. 19 3. of his Sins, and his Heart fretteth against the Lord as the inflicter of them. This is a high indignity to God, and an injury to themselves. For a vile Creature, a base guilty Wretch to murmur and storm against God's righteous Judg­ments, argues a Prodigious For­getfulness, both of its dependance and obnoxiousness to the Divine Tribunal. It is said of the adhe­rents of Antichrist, that they were [Page 89] scorched with great heat, and blas­phemed Rev. 16. 9. the name of God, which hath power over the Plagues, and they re­pented not to give him Glory. Infi­nite Insolence! Such obstinate Souls the Prince of Darkness pos­sesses as his peculiar Dominion; they have more need of Conver­sion than Consolation. Besides, by impatience and vexatious fret­ting, they exasperate their pains, turn the Rod into a Serpent, Vi­pers into Dragons; and God's mighty hand is more heavy by their resistance. Bold Expostula­tions irritate his Anger, rather than incline his Mercy; the wil­ful Man never wants Woe. With the froward, saith the Psalmist, thou Psal. 80. wilt shew thy self froward, or, as it is rendred in the Margent, wrestle. The strongest Sinner is not a Match for the Almighty; if his [Page 90] Anger excite his Power, how ea­sily, how suddenly are they destroyed without remedy? Stubborn impati­ence under the inflictions of God's righteous Providence, is the near­est Step to final ruine. Others are so dejected and broken with Afflictions, that their continuance in the World is but a Living Death: every thing entertains their Grief, and the best means afforded for their reviving and comfort are ineffectual. Sorrow flows into Despair, they lament and languish as if their case were hopeless and remediless. The Fountain of this black Stream, is a superlative esteem and affecti­on to inferiour things, and what is reserved for the Blessed Crea­tor? If a temporal Loss be the most afflicting Evil, 'tis a sign that God was not valued and [Page 91] loved as the chiefest Good. The difficulty of receiving Consola­tion, shews the necessity of their being afflicted: the Language of such resolved Sorrow is, They have taken away my Gods, and what have I more? The sole objects of their felicity are removed, and they refuse to be comforted; as if no less Sacrifice were due to the re­membrance of their loss, but Life it self. What a disparagement is this of the Divine Excellencies? Are the consolations of God small to us? Is not his Love able to com­pensate the loss of a frail, muta­ble, mortal Creature? Cannot he please and satisfy us without the fruition of one Earthly Comfort? This dejection of Spirit is equally undutiful as uncomfortable; our Griefs are sometimes as vain and as guilty as our Joys; there is a [Page 92] tincture of Disobedience in our Tears: for we are commanded to mourn as if we mourned not, for the fashion of the World passeth away, and we at once break his Law and our own Peace. Our Disobe­dience in this is aggravated, as be­ing contrary not only to the Au­thority and Sanctity of the Law­giver, but to his Loving-Kind­ness and Compassion. Ah, the miserable blindness of Humane Minds! and the more miserable, because voluntary. Who is more deservedly unhappy than one that sits upon the bank of a River, and yet is Tormented and Dies with Thirst? the clear, fresh Stream passeth before him, allures and invites him, but he will not stoop to drink; this is the case of those who neglect and refuse the Spi­ritual Consolations in the Gospel, [Page 93] that are compared to the flowing Rivers of Living Water, for their John 3, 38, 39, cooling, refreshing quality. They meritoriously and actively bring trouble to their Souls; their Pas­sions are the Instruments of their Misery. He that is his own Exe­cutioner, has no excuse of Dy­ing; he is justly, because wilfully miserable. Consider also what a reproach is cast upon Christi­anity, that so many vertuous Heathens in great Afflictions, were in some measure supported by the Precepts of Humane Wis­dom; and that Christians, to whom there is revealed from Heaven, that an Eternal state of Glory and Joy shall be the reward of their patient Sufferings, remain utter­ly disconsolate. I will single out one example. Stilpon the Philoso­pher, when his City was destroy­with [Page 94] his Wife and Children, and he escap't alone from the Fire, Omnia bona mea mecum sunt. Ju­stitia, Virtus, Tempe­rantia, Pruden­tia, hoc ipsum ni­hil boni put are quod eri­pi possit. Seneca Epist. 9. being asked whether he had lost any thing? replied, All my Trea­sures are with me, Justice, Vertue, Temperance, Prudence, and this inviolable Principle, not to esteem any thing as my proper Good, that can be ravish't from me: his Mind was erect and sted­fast under the Ruins of his Coun­try. And others upon lower and less generous considerations, have born up in their Sufferings. How do such Examples upbraid us, that their Twilight excells our Noon-day Brightness? If com­mon Cordials raised such coura­gious Spirits in them, shall not the Waters of Life, the Divine strong Comforts of the Gospel, fortify us to bear all Sufferings with a valiant Resignation to the [Page 95] good Will of God? Can the Spi­rit of a Man, by rational Princi­ples sustain his Infirmities, and cannot the Spirit of God, the great Comforter, support us under all Troubles? What a blot is this to Religion? Those who will not be comforted, will not be Chri­stians; by the same Holy Spirit who is stiled the Comforter, we are the one and the other. If the precious Promises of the Gospel do not alleviate our Sorrows, 'tis not from Infirmity, but from In­fidelity. 'Tis an incredible Mira­cle, that a person can be in reali­ty a Christian, and not capable of Consolation; as if Eternal Life were not purchased by Christ for his People, or the present Suffer­ings were comparable to the fu­ture Glory? or the possession of it were to be obtained after a [Page 96] years of hard trial: But if it were delayed so long, that sensible duration should not sink our Spi­rits; for the Misery that passeth with Time, is not of moment with respect to the Blessedness that is establish'd for Ever.

Secondly; Let us be excited to transcribe this Divine Lesson Use 2. (so full of excellency and difficul­ty) in our Hearts and Lives. 'Tis easy in Speculation to consent to the reasonableness of this Duty, but how hard to practise it, and to bear not too sensibly such Evils as are incurable here? A delibe­rate, universal, constant subjecti­on to God's Will, though con­trary to our Carnal desires and in­terests, how rarely is it to be found among those who in Title and Profession are his Servants? [Page 97] In Active Obedience, some will readily perform some particular Commands, but withdraw sub­jection from the rest; they seem to make Conscience of the Duties of Piety, but neglect Righteous­ness; or else are just in their Deal­ings, and careless of Devotion. Some are liberal but irreconcila­ble; they will give for their Ho­nour, but forgive no Contempt or Injury; and as the dividing li­ving Twins destroys them, so the Life and Sincerity of Obedi­ence, that consists in the union and intireness of its parts, is destroy­ed by dividing our respects to some commands, neglecting the rest. And in Passive Obedience, many will submit to lighter and shorter afflictions, but if an Evil comes that nearly touches the heart, or that remains long with­out [Page 98] redress, they become impati­ent, or so dejected as to neglect their Duty. I shall therefore superadd to the former Argu­ments, wherein the Necessity, the Equity, and the Policy of our Dutiful Resignation to God's Providence is clearly set forth, some other Motives and Directi­ons, that may be useful and effe­ctual for this end.

First; Look frequently to Je­sus Christ, the Author and finish­er of our Faith: The Divine Wisdom, to reform the World, as­sumed the Humane Nature, and expressed in a Holy Conversati­on upon Earth, a living Copy of his Precepts, to direct us in the various parts of our Duty; and because the exercise of Humility, Self Denial, and the rest of the Suffering Graces, is so difficult to [Page 99] our frail and tender Nature; he ascended the Cross, and instructs us by Suffering to suffer with his Affections, leaving us his Exam­ple, as the best Lecture of our Duty; His Sufferings concern us not only in point of Merit but Conformity. We can never enjoy the benefit of his Passion, with­out following his Patern. His example is the Rule of the high­est Perfection, and we are under the greatest obligation to imitate and honour him who is our Sove­reign and Saviour, to whom we owe our Redemption from ever­lasting Misery, and the Inheri­tance of Glory. 'Tis the Apostle's advice to the afflicted, to consider him that endured such contradiction of Heb. 12. 3. Sinners against himself, that ye be not wearied, and faint in your minds. This deduction is with greater force [Page 100] to make us humble and patient; If we consider,

First; the Infinite Dignity of his Person. He was the Eternal and Onely Son of God, and de­scended from the Throne of his Majesty, divested himself of his Robes of insupportable Light, that concealed and manifested his Glory to the Angels, and was o­bedient to the Death of the Cross: what are the highest and best of Psa. 104 Men to him? Were it not ex­treamly unbecoming and unduti­ful for a Subject to refuse Obedi­ence to a just Law, if the King that made the Law should volun­tarily observe it, and reserve no other advantage to himself, but the honour of enacting it? Our Saviour did not stand upon the dignity and liberty of his Person being equal with God, and our [Page 101] King, but intirely complied with the Law, and shall we complain of its rigour?

Secondly; The Greatness of his Sufferings. They were incom­parable as to their value, so in their degrees. He endured the equal extremities of Infamy and Torment, that are so contrary to the inclinations of Mankind. He was Crowned with a cruel Dia­dem of Thorns, Scourged, Spit upon, Derided, Crucified; In­sensible Nature, as if capable of Understanding and Affection, was disordered in its whole frame at his Death. The Heavens sympa­thized, in Eclipses of the Sun, in the darkness of the Air at Mid­day, as Midnight; the Earth quak't with deep Tremblings, and the Rocks were rent a sunder. And the Sufferings of his Soul from the [Page 102] incensed Justice of God were in­conceivably great. What is the worst we suffer either immediate­ly from God, or instrumentally from Men, to his bitter Passion? Our Sufferings are but superficial shadows of Misery, compared to his deep Sorrows.

Thirdly; His Sufferings were most undeserved: For he was the Holy One of God, his Concepti­on without the least taint of Sin, his Life of strictest Purity, and compleat Obedience to the Di­vine Law. We may read the process of our Sins, and under­stand their Guilt in his Passion. He was made Sin for us, (a Sacri­fice to atone the Divine Displea­sure) who knew no Sin: As David when Guilty of Adultery and Murder, was fired with disdain at the relation of an incompas­sionate [Page 103] Rich Man, killing the single Lamb of his poor Neigh­bour, and sparing his own nu­merous Flock; and when the Prophet unveiled the Parable, and surprised him with that piercing reproach, Thou art the Man! he presently by that Fiction in ano­ther, was convinced of his own true guilt, and was extreamly af­flicted in the sense of it: Thus we are apt to conceive indignation against the Murderers of our Sa­viour, the Apostate Apostle, the Malicious Priest, the Unrighteous Judg, the Bloody Soldiers. But Conscience (as a true Nathan) may charge us to have been in that wicked Conspiracy against the Lord of Glory, for our Sins Condemned and Crucified him.

And as our Sins were the im­pulsive cause of his Sufferings, so [Page 104] our good is the effect of them. He suffered the Death of the Cross, that his Blood might be our Ransom, his Ignominy the purchase of our Glory, his Tor­ments the merit of our Blessed­ness, his Death the Seed of Im­mortal Life to us; but we suffer the just punishment of our own Sins.

Fourthly; His willing Obe­dience, Divine Patience, and in­vincible Constancy in Suffering for us. In his distress, the whole Army of Heaven were in readi­ness for his Protection and Res­cue, upon the least signification of his Will; If I prayed to my Fa­ther, he would send me twelve Legions of Angels. Nay, he had the Springs and Keys of the Divine Power in his hands, and could by a Word have destroyed his [Page 105] Enemies; but he freely gave him­self for us, and without resistance, without complaint took up his Cross. Now our Saviour, who had the fulness of the Spirit, com­municates to us the first Fruits of it, Faith and Love, Humility and Patience, Peace and Joy to sup­port us under Affliction.

Fifthly; Consider the excel­lent reward of his Sufferings. He was abased below Men, and is advanced above all the Angeli­cal Orders, and is the Eternal Ar­gument of their Praises; Never were Sufferings so grievous, never was Issue so glorious. For the Joy Heb. 12. 2. that was set before him, he endured the Cross, despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Ma­jesty on high. Now our Blessed Saviour hath promised, To him Rev. 3. 21. that overcomes, will I grant to sit with [Page 106] me in my Throne, even as I also over­came, and am set down with my Fa­ther in his Throne. Unfainting Per­severance in our Duty shall be rewarded with the Glory of our Redeemer. And is not the pro­spect and expectation of this suf­ficient to confirm our Minds, and make us patiently bear the great­est Afflictions?

Secondly; The Consideration of the Suffering Saints in all Ages, is a powerful perswasive to Pati­ence. Thus the Apostle James di­rects Christians, Take, my Brethren Jam. 5. 10. the Prophets, who have spoken in th [...] Name of the Lord, for an example of suffering Affliction, and of Pati­ence. And we have great encou­ragement from hence, if we con­sider,

1. That those who are of most precious account with God, [Page 107] and highly favoured by him, are usually exercised with sharp Af­flictions. The singularity and greatness of a Calamity exaspe­rates the Sorrow, when it is appre­hended as a sign of extraordinary Guilt in the Afflicted, and of se­vere displeasure in God that sends it; but to prevent Trouble that ariseth from that apprehension, the Scripture records the heavy Afflictions that happened to God's chosen Servants and Favourites. Moses, whom God honoured with the most condescending and familiar Discoveries of himself, was tried by long Afflictions. David, a Man after God's own Heart, was a long time hurled to and fro by Tempestuous Per­secutions from his unjust and im­placable Enemies. Isaiah, who was dignified with such Heaven­ly [Page 108] Revelations, that his describing the Sufferings of Christ seems ra­ther the History of an Evangelist, than the Vision of a Prophet, was sawn asunder.

2. Their Nature was as frail as ours, their Afflictions as cutting and sensible, yet how patiently and couragiously did they endure the most cruel Sufferings?

3. We have the same blessed Comforter to assist us, as they had, the Holy Spirit. He that is stiled the Spirit of Power, infuseth a holy Magnanimity to bear the heaviest Sufferings. Now it is the Apostles Inference from the Hi­story of the Saints under the Old Testament, some of whom died Martyrs, and others lived Mar­tyrs, by their constant and gene­rous suffering various evils for Divine Truth. Wherefore seeing [Page 109] we are compassed about with so great Heb. 12. 1. a Cloud of Witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the Sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with pa­tience the race that is set before us. The Metaphorical Expression, a Cloud of Witnesses, imports a nu­merous Company, and is by some of the Ancients interpreted as an Allusion to the Benefit we receive from the Natural Clouds, that re­fresh the Air, and skreen us from the scorching heat of the Sun. The Allusion is too subtile and strain'd, but the Benefit is real; for the admirable examples of their Patience and Courage are powerful to refresh sorrowful Spirits; We are encompassed with them as a Theatre: There is no kind of Affliction, and no part of our Duty, whereof there is not pre­sented to us some example for our [Page 110] Encouragement and Imitation. It is also worthy of Observation, that Christians have a special Ob­ligation, Encouragement, and Assistance to bear Afflictions with chearful Spirits, above the Belie­vers of the Old Testament. For under the Mosaic Dispensation, outward Prosperity, Riches, Ho­nour, Victory, long Life were the open Expressions of God's Fa­vour, promised by the terms of that Covenant, as Rewards to O­bedience. Yet even then, some of the most excellent Saints were illustrious Examples of patient suffering Afflictions. But in the Gospel God hath declared, that his design is to train up his Chil­dren by Sufferings for their future Happiness, that through many Tribulations they must enter into the Kingdom of God. And we [Page 111] find the truth of this by manifold Experience, from the first Ages of the Christian Church. St. John by Revelation, Beheld a great mul­titude, Rev. 7. 9. which no Man could number, of all Nations, and Kindreds, and People, and Tongues, that stood be­fore the Throne, and before the Lamb, cloathed with white Robes, and Palms in their Hands: And they all came out of great Tribulation, and had washed their Robes, and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb. Now since the Cross is an Appendix to the Gospel, we should with more prepared Minds submit to it. Be­sides, if Believers then, who en­joyed only Star-Light, less clear discoveries of the glorious World to come, were so patient and con­stant in suffering for the Truth; How much more should we be animated in our Troubles, to [Page 112] whom the Sun of Righteousness ap­pears, revealing Life and Immor­tality by the Gospel? If they who were partakers of the Holy Spirit in lesser degrees, were supported; should not Christians that receive the Graces of the Spirit in richer abundance, be more comforted?

Thirdly; All Creatures obey the Will of the Creator: All the lower Rank, Fire and Hail, Snow and Vapours, and stormy Winds ful­fil Psal. 148. 8. his Word. The Sun stood still till Joshua had compleated his Victo­ry, it started back to confirm the Faith of Hezekiah. Nay, sensible Creatures will contradict their own Natures at God's Command. The Ravens fed Elias, and the Lions spared Daniel. And Crea­tures of the Superior Order exact­ly fulfil his Will. The Angels that excel in strength, do his Command­ments: [Page 113] hearkning to the Voice of his Psal. 103. Word. They do not usurp upon his Royalty, nor make use of their Power to deny subjection to his Pleasure. Now if the Inferior Creatures, who are under less Ob­ligations, and cannot understand their Duty; if Superior Creatures that excel us in Nobility of Na­ture, and Dignity of State, per­fectly obey God: should not their example strongly incite us to sub­mit to his Will?

Fourthly; It is our most glori­ous Perfection to have our Wills united to the Divine Will. In Heaven Grace is in its exaltation, the Spirits of just Men are made perfect by their compliance with the Divine Will that absolutely governs there. A private Will that compounds with God upon sordid Capitulations, that excepts [Page 114] against doing or suffering what is distasteful and harsh to the carnal part, How unreasonable, how degenerous and base is it? But when the Will is obedient, en­larged and uniform with God, 'tis enobled. If our slow-paced Thoughts could conceive things as easily, suddenly and clearly as the Angels do, our Minds would be in the highest Elevation: And Hic est magnus animus qui se Deo tra­didit. Senec. is it not a more valuable and de­sirable Perfection to will as God does, than to understand as the Angels?

Besides, Patience has a special eminence above other Graces, and advances a Christian to the high­est Honour and Perfection that is attainable here. All Graces are of the same Divine Extraction, and have the same general effect upon the Soul: They come from [Page 115] God, and produce a God-like Temper and Disposition: But they are distinguish'd by their Objects and Operations; some are Heroick, exercis'd about great things, and produce more noble Actions: others are humble and conversant in meaner things, and their Operations are less eminent. As amongst the Birds, the Eagles fly aloft, and only stoop for a great Prey: The Bees fly from Flower to Flower, and extract a little Dew, but 'tis all Honey. It is the Counsel of St. James to the afflicted, Let Patience have her per­fect Work, in bearing Afflictions though heavy and continued, that you may be perfect, and entire, wanting nothing. A singular Perfection and Encomium is attributed to Patience, in that the trial and ex­ercise of it is the most difficult [Page 116] part of our Duty, and without it we can neither obey the Com­mands, nor obtain the Promises of the Gospel. Patience is the truest Fortitude, and draws forth other Divine Graces in their ex­cellent activity. What the temper is to material Weapons that are blunted or broken in the Com­bate without it, Patience is to o­ther Graces, their stability is deri­ved from it. This was the most glorious perfection of Christ's O­bedience, For it became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all Heb. 2. things, in bringing many Sons to Glo­ry, to make the Captain of their Sal­vation perfect through Sufferings. Pa­tience is not only defensive Ar­mour, but has noble Operations. When our Saviour was nailed to the Cross, and was the Mark wherein all the poisoned Arrows [Page 117] of Rage and Malice were receiv­ed, he seemed only to Suffer, yet even then performed the most divine Exploits, and obtained the most glorious Victory; he recon­ciled God, disarm'd the Law, sub­dued Satan, broke the Gates of Hell, destroyed Death, and res­cued us miserable forlorn Cap­tives. Upon this account Chryso­stom breaks forth in rapturous Ex­pressions, That our Saviour suf­fering on the Cross, was more glorious than in his creating the World. Thus the Patience of a Christian, which in appearance is only a quiet bearing Affliction from God, yet produceth many blessed effects: A Believer, while he feels the weight of God's Hand, uncessantly seeks his Face with the most ardent Affections. He doth not murmur against the Displea­sure [Page 118] of God, but mourns bitterly that he hath deserved it. He sur­renders himself to the Divine Pleasure, which is the purest Act of Obedience. He subdues his unruly Passions, which is a more noble Victory than the Atchieve­ments of the most celebrated Conquerors. 'Tis true, the power of Grace is very conspicuous in resisting pleasant Temptations, the pernicious attractives of the Senses and carnal Appetites; but more in the Battels of Patience, by how much 'tis more easy to Na­ture to be content without unne­cessary and superficial Pleasures, than to endure oppressing and painful Evils. I will produce an instance in both kinds, recorded in Scripture, for the Veneration and Imitation of all. The first is that of Joseph, whose unspotted [Page 119] Chastity was discovered by re­jecting the impure desires of his Master's Wife. Three powerful Tempters join'd to draw his Con­sent, Solitude, Youth, and Solici­tation; Solitude with its Silence, is often more persuasive to the commission of Sin than the strong­est Eloquence; because there be­ing none that sees, takes away the shame of being seen in guil­ty and foul Actions. Youth is violent in its Appetites, and needs no intreaties to induce it to grati­fy them: The Sensual Fancy reigns, and has such a ravishing power upon the Will, that to corrupt Nature the Temptation is irresistible, and without Divine Strength, an instance of overco­ming it, would be as rare as a Phoe­nix in the World. Besides, Joseph was her Slave, and was tempted [Page 120] by intreaties mixt with intice­ments from a Superiour, that (like a Bow that draws Strength from its bending) by making a show of subjection acquires a double Empire. But he had a re­verence of his invisible Observer and Judge: How shall I do this great Wickedness, and sin against God? Now Joseph in the Flower of his Age, was not emboldened by Solitude, nor excited by Concu­piscence, nor poison'd by the breath of the Basilisk, was an ad­mirable effect of Divine Grace. He preserved his sincere and con­stant Innocence, as the Sun its un­defiled lustre in the midst of all the feculent exhalations that as­cend from the Earth.

The other Instance is Job, whose Victorious Grace in the comparison, is more glorious than [Page 121] that of Joseph; for as the lapses of those who by Terrors and Tor­ments violate the Law, are less culpable, and more excusable, than of those who by Sensual Allure­ments transgress the Divine Commands: The Humane Na­ture Mille pia cer non va­gliono un tormento. being capable of such dolo­rous impressions as infinitely ex­ceed all the Pleasures of Sense; and consequently the yielding from fear of vehement pains and extreme evils, is less voluntary than what proceeds from the Love of Delights; so proportionably that Vertue is more eminent that re­mains firm, and preserves us in our Duty, notwithstanding the Batteries of extream Evils, than that which preserves us by flight from the deceitful sensitive good.

The Holy Ghost has given us a particular Narrative of Job's [Page 122] Troubles, and his behaviour un­der them: The loss of a great Estate was but a preparative for worse Calamities; his Ten Chil­dren were all destroyed in a day; his Body was covered with Ul­cers; his Wife, that in this desolate Condition was onely left to al­leviate his Sorrows, unspeakably encreas'd them; yet under this heavy weight of Miseries, he did not express one unbecoming complaint. His Patience exceeded all the Pains of his Body, and Griefs of his Mind. Who loves God so ardently in his Prosperity as he did in his Afflictions? Like Flaming Torches, that reverst, the Flame ascends with more force to Heaven. St. Austin admi­ring his Invincible Temper, says, that Job half dead on the Dunghil, was stronger than Adam, when [Page 123] Immortal in Paradise; for with Indignation he repuls'd his Wife, who was Satan's Instrument to tempt him to Despair and Blas­phemy. How graceful and ami­able a Spectacle is a patient Saint? He attracts the Eye and Heart of God himself. What an honou­rable Testimony proceeded from his Mouth, concerning Job, to vindicate his Sincerity from the malice of the Accuser? Hast thou Job 2. 3. seen my Servant Job, that there is none like him on the Earth? Unparallel'd Saint! who endured such a succession of Tragical Events with humility and submission! The active holiness of his Pros­perous Life, is not recorded with that Note of eminency and admi­ration, as his Patient Sufferings, for which he is universally Crowned with the Praises of [Page 124] the Saints in all Ages. Ye have heard of the Patience of Job! He is a spectacle that draws the regards of all, more famous for his Patience than his Misery. 'Tis the saying of the Platonick Philo­sopher, Take away from the Life of Hercules, the Tyrants he sup­prest, and the fierce Beasts he slew, his Travels and Combats wherein his Courage was exercised and appear'd, and you lessen his Ver­tue, the Hero is lost; He that in the Opinion of the Heathen World deserved a Deity, and is crowned with Stars in Heaven, will not have a spark of Glory on Earth to preserve his Fame alive in Memory. Thus, take away from Job the Chaldean and Sabean Robbers, the shower of Fire that consumed his Estate, the Whirl­wind raised by infernal Spirits, [Page 125] that destroyed his Children, his Diseases, and his cruel Wife, the exercises of his insuperable Pati­ence; and the honourable remem­brance of Job is lost. If the Prince of Darkness had not tried all his Arts and Strength to overcome him, and had not been foiled in his Attempts, his Graces had not been so illustrious. St. Peter de­clares, that the Spirit of Glory, and of God, rests upon Suffering Christians. They are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the Eternal Deity, wherein he displays his Divine Vertue and Glorious Power. In short, God usually conducts his People to the sublimest degrees of Grace and Glory by Suffering; the more they are tryed and re­fined, the brighter their Crown will be.

[Page 126] 5. 'Tis our Felicity quietly to resign our Wills to the Blessed Will of God. Patience, consider­ed as a Moral Vertue, frees us from many Sorrows and Vexati­ons that are supervenient to an Affliction, and are caused meerly from the Distemper, and unquiet disorderly agitations of our own Passions Nature instructs a Dog by licking his Wound to heal it, a lively Emblem of the healing operation of discreet Patience to the Afflicted Spirit. Patience lines the Yoke, and makes it soft­er and more easy to us. Besides, an humble and full Submission to the Will of God, as the Rule of Goodness, brings down the Peace and Joy of Paradise into our Souls. The glorified Saints are raised above all Disasters and Troubles; nothing can disturb [Page 127] the serenity, or stain the purity of their state: From this Princi­ple of Perfection and Felicity, that God's Will is always accom­plished, to which their Wills are intirely subordinate, in obedience to his Authority, and by their proper inclination. As the Wa­ters which in the Creation God transported above the Heavens, are not moved as those here be­low by the furious agitation of the Winds, but as if they were of a Coelestial nature, have the same regular motion with the Heavens. The Angels, whose Zeal for the Honour of God, and Love to the Souls of Men is in­comparable, yet they see the Rebellion of his Subjects, where­by his Glory is obscured, and the final destruction of Rebellious Sinners, without the least dimi­nution [Page 128] of their Felicity, because they always acquiesce in the Di­vine Will, that orders all things for the best end. And so far as our Wills are complying with the Divine Will, we enjoy a tranquil­lity of Mind, which afflictive ac­cidents cannot disquiet. St. Au­stin describes Blessedness to con­sist in the accomplishment of our desires, and in having only regu­lar Desires: Now a Saint whose Will is absolutely resigned to God's Will, has a foretaste of Blessedness here; for whatsoever happens to him here, is from God's Will that approves or per­mits it, and herein he finds satis­faction. What a pure undisturbed Pleasure springs from this Con­sideration, that the Wisdom and Love of God chuseth always what is best for us? This will [Page 129] make us contented in every state, even when our Condition is not correspondent with our natural Desires, our Desires are graci­ously accorded with our Conditi­on. What expensive Industry has been used to procure the fancied Philosopher's Stone, that changes all Metals into Gold, which if ob­tained cannot make us happy? For as the natural heat of the Bo­dy does not proceed from the Cloaths, but from the Body that warms them: We see Persons in the Fit of an Ague shake with cold, tho covered with Furs; So true Felicity doth not proceed from the outward Condition, but from the Temper of the Mind. The Rich often want Content in the confluence of all things, and are often disquieted with the fears of losing their Possessions: But [Page 130] Acquiescence in the Divine Dis­posal always brings satisfaction to the Soul. 'Tis an inviolable Treasure that cannot by the most violent Evils be taken from us.

I shall annex two Considerati­ons more, to shew how our Feli­city is promoted by our patient Sufferings.

First; 'Tis a blessed Assurance of our Election by the most free and unchangeable Love of God. The Apostle tells afflicted Chri­stians, That whom he did foreknow, Rom. 8. 29. he did predestinate to be conformed to the Image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many Brethren. If we suffer with his divine Pati­ence, with his humble and holy Affections, 'tis a clear and certain evidence that we are appointed to reign with him. If we bear the Image of our suffering Saviour in [Page 131] our earthly State, we shall bear his glorious Image in the Heaven­ly. The well-grounded Hope of this is very comfortable in the greatest Afflictions, and will en­courage us to persevere in hum­ble Sufferings. For if his sovereign Pleasure has ordained us to Eter­nal Life, how just is it that we should with an intire and resigned Submission yield up our selves to the conduct of his Wisdom, as to the ways by which we shall ob­tain it?

Secondly; By a Filial Submis­sion to God's Chastisements we have a blessed Testimony of our Adoption. 'Tis the Apostle's com­fortable Inference, If ye endure Chastisements, God dealeth with you as with Sons; that is, if without murmuring or fainting, if with that respect and subjection, that [Page 132] is due to the high and holy Provi­dence of God, then we may be assured of his Paternal Relation to us, and his Rod comforts us, as the strokes of it are an Argument of his care and love to us. From hence proceeds inexpressible and peculiar Consolation to afflicted Christians: The same Affliction as to the matter and circumstan­ces, may be upon humble meek Sufferers, and refractory stubborn Sinners that kick against the pricks, but are distinguished by the inten­tion of God. They are sent to the Humble as Corrections from the wise love of a Father, who dearly regards their Souls; to the Obdurate as Vengeance from the righteous severity of a Judge. Upon the Humble they fall as soft as a Shower of Snow; upon the other as the Storm of fiery Hail [Page 133] upon the Egyptians: and the Issue of them is as different as Heaven and Hell.

Lastly; This sharp Discipline continues but during our Minority here, when we arrive at the state of Perfection we shall not need it: And this Life is but a short transition to the next World. What comparison is there between a few Years and the Volume of E­ternal Ages? 'Tis the Consolato­ry of the Apostle, The time is short, let those that weep be as if they wept not. Within a little while afflicted Saints shall ascend to the Region of Blessedness, and no Cloud of Sorrow, no Shadow of Fear, no Darkness of Anxiety, can reach so high to darken and disturb their Felicity: Weeping can endure but for a Night, and Joy comes in the Morn­ing [Page 134] of the everlasting Day. For a moment have I hid my Face from thee, Isa. 5. but with everlasting kindness will I re­ceive thee, saith the Lord. Death is the last step out of Mortality and Misery. Be ye also patient, stablish Jam. 5. your Hearts, for the coming of the Lord draws nigh.

Secondly; To these Motives I shall add some Directions, for the performance of this hard Duty.

Direct. 1. A stedfast Faith in the Divine Providence and Pro­mises, will compose the Soul to a quiet submission to God's Plea­sure in the sharpest Troubles.

All things are under the inti­mate Inspection, the wise Con­duct, the powerful Influence of his Providence. This is one of [Page 135] those prime, universal rich Truths, from whence so many practical Consequences are derived. By vertue of it, we may infallibly conclude, that all things that come to pass, are disposed in the best season, and best manner, for the best ends. If we were admitted to the Council of State above, and understood the immediate rea­sons of every particular Decree, we could not be more infallibly assur'd of the Wisdom and Good­ness, the Rectitude and Equity of his Dispensations, then by this u­niversal Principle that is applica­ble to all Events, as Light to eve­ry Colour; that what God ap­points is best. That we may feel the blessed influence of it more effectually, let us consider that divine Providence extends to the whole Creation: 'Tis infinite, and [Page 136] over-ruling all things. God is pleased to represent it in Scripture according to the narrowness of our Capacity: As Elisha contract­ed 2 King. 4. himself to the stature of the Shunamites Child, applying his Mouth to his Mouth, and his Hands to his Hands. Thus 'tis said, He rides upon the Heavens, to signify his absolute power in or­dering all the motions of the most high, vast and glorious part of the visible Universe. He telleth the number of the Stars; he calleth them all by their Names. The Stars are the brightest and most active parts of the vast Region above us, and are called the Host of Heaven with respect to their Number and Order. God is their General; and tho they seem innumerable to our Senses, yet the multitude is exactly known to him, and yields [Page 137] ready and entire Obedience to his Pleasure. From whence the Psal­mist infers, Great is the Lord, and of great Power, his Understanding is Psal. 147. 5. infinite.

There is nothing in the lower World exempted from the Em­pire and Activity of God's Provi­dence. He is unmoveable, and moves all; invisible, yet appears in all. The most casual things are not without his Guidance. A 1 Kings 22. 34. Man drew a Bow at a venture, with­out express Aim, but God direct­ed the Arrow through the Joints of Ahab's Armour, that penetrated to the Springs of Life. The mi­nutest and least considerable things are ordered by him. A Sparrow does not fly or fall with­out his Disposal. 'Tis not an Hyperbolical Expression of our Saviour, but an absolute Truth, [Page 138] That all the Hairs of our Head are Mat. 10. numbred, and not one falls to the Ground without his Licence. The voluntary and most indetermin'd causes of things are under his Conduct. The Hearts of Men, even of Kings that are most abso­lute and unconfin'd, are in the Hand of the Lord, he turns them according to his Pleasure; as the streams of Water are by several Trenches conveyed to refresh a Garden by the Skilful Husband­man.

Sin, that is the most disorder­ly thing in the World, is not only within the compass of his Per­mission, but is limited and dispo­sed by his Providence: And such is his Goodness, that he would not permit it, if his Power could not over-rule that Evil, for a Good that preponderates the Evil. And [Page 139] all afflictive Evils, by his own Declaration, are the effects of his just and powerful Providence. Is there any evil in the City, and I have not done it? His Providence is comprehensive and complete: no unforeseen Accidents in the freest and most contingent things, no unvoluntary obstruction in the most necessary things, can break the intireness, or discompose the order of his Providence. The Lord is in Heaven, he doth whatsoever he pleaseth in Heaven and in Earth, in the Sea and all the deep places. How exactly and easily does he manage and over-rule all things? The whole World is his House, and all the successive Generations of Men his Family; some are his Sons, and by voluntary subjection; others his Slaves, and by just con­straint [Page 140] fulfil his Pleasure. 'Twas the saying of a Wise King in­structed by Experience, that the Art of Government, was like the laborious Travel of a Weaver, that requires the attention of the Mind, and the activity of the Body; the Eyes, Hands and Feet are all in exercise: And how often is the contexture of Human Counsels, though woven with great care, yet unexpectedly broke? So many cross Accidents interpose, so many emergencies beyond all prevention start up, that frustrate the Designs and Hopes of the most Potent Ru­lers of this World. But God disposes all things with more facility than one of us can move a grain of Sand: the Government of the World has a less propor­tion to his Infinite Wisdom, and [Page 141] uncontrollable Power, than a grain of Sand hath to the strength of a Man. His Counsel shall al­ways stand; all second Causes depend upon him in their Beings, their agency and influences. No­thing is executed in this visible Kingdom below, but by express Order from his invisible Court; and all Occurrences are made use of for the accomplishing the designs of his Electing Mercy, in the glorification of his Saints. Now all that is comfortable and reviving, is contained in this Principle. If his Providence reaches to the Birds of the Air, and the Lillies of the Field, much more to the Saints, in whom he hath a propriety; and such is his condescending Love, and incon­ceivable benignity, that he stiles himself by the most endearing [Page 142] relation, their God. They are the prime part of his vigilant care. 'Tis St. Austin's affectionate ejacu­lation, O Omnipotent Goodness, that O bone Omnipo­tens, qui sic unum­quemque nostrum tanquam solum cures, & sic omnes tanquam singulos! Aug. Conf. lib. 13. so particularly regardest every one of us, as if the sole objects of thy tender care, and all of us as single persons! The Sun applies its quickening influences for the production and growth of a single Plant as par­ticularly as if there were no other things in the World to receive them; yet at the same time it pas­ses from Sign to Sign in the Hea­vens, changes the Scenes of the Elements, produces new Seasons, and its active and prolifick heat forms and transforms whatsoever is changed in Nature. This is a fit resemblance of the universal and special operations of Divine Pro­vidence; what a strong security doth this give to a Christian in the [Page 143] midst of all Trouble in this cor­rupt and changeable World? How will it clear the mind from those miserable perplexities, and quiet those improvident, precipi­tant Passions that so often afflict the afflicted? Whatever Evils befal the Saints, are with the Knowledg, the Will, and by the efficiency of God, materially considered; and is he defective in Wisdom, Power, or Goodness, that what he does, either might or ought to be better other­wise? Indeed, sometimes the speci­al ends of his Afflicting Providence are in such deep obscurity, that our Line is too short to fathom, and the manner how good shall result from Evil is unknown, but then we may conclude with evi­dence, 'tis for the best. When Caesarius a Primitive Saint was arguing in himself, how that Scrip­ture [Page 144] could be true, that the Earth was founded on the Waters; how the more weighty Element should not sink, and be overwhelmed by the other: he stopt the course of his Thoughts by this reflection, I forgat my self when I said to God, how can this be? and admires that which Dial. 1. he could not comprehend. For in­feriour reasons we often pray, that particular Evils that are near, may be prevented; but if they overtake us, we may be satisfied that they are appointed by his supreme Reason and Everlasting Counsel. As in a Consort of Musick, the parts are not formed when they are sung, but were composed be­fore by the skill of the Musician, and every part assign'd conveni­ent to the Voices of the Persons. Thus the various conditions and passages of our lives were so dis­posed [Page 145] by the Sovereign Wisdom of God from Eternity, and as most fit for us. Whether the Evils proceed more immediately and intirely from his hand, or by the intercurrence of second causes; 'tis equally certain they come by the determinate Counsel and fore­knowledg of God. Our Saviour answers Pilate, Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above. All the afflictive Evils that proceed from the malice of Men, and increase their Guilt and Judgment, are ordered by his Providence, for the Spiritual and Eternal Good of his People; this consideration will prevent much Sin and Trouble that the best Men are liable to in their perturbations and passions. There is nothing more exaspe­rates an afflicted Mind than the [Page 146] apprehension that one unjustly suffers,

Leniter ex merito quicquid patiare fe­rendum est:
—Quae venit indignè poena dolenda venit.

A righteous punishment even Nature consents is to be received with meek submission; but to be patient under unjust Persecutions, not to be provok't by Injuries and Enemies, is one of the hardest things in the World. If by a flash of Lightning, or by a shower of Rain, we are blasted or wet, we endure it patiently; but if one throw Wild-fire or Water on us, we resent the indignity with An­ger and Vexation. Now, if we in our deliberate Thoughts consi­der, that God not only permits, [Page 147] but sends all the Evils we most unworthily suffer from Men, and that he commands our quiet, hum­ble behavior under them, nay, that he will over-rule all so as the issue shall be blessed, what tranquillity and acquiescence will it produce in the sharpest Dispensations of his Providence? But on the contrary, exclude Providence out of the World, and the Mind is involved in Darkness with all its Terrors. Atheism is the Gulf of Impiety and Infelicity. None says, where is God, my Maker, that gives Songs in the Night, that converts Poisons into Remedies, the saddest Evils into means of the best Good, and our Afflictions into Consolations. He that lives without God in the World, if he loseth what he super­latively loves, or falls under an incurable Evil, has no other re­medy [Page 148] but a resolution to endure it as well as he can: And he is extreamly miserable that has no Joy here, nor hopes of it hereaf­ter, nor the encouragement of a happy Issue to bear it patiently.

In conjunction with the belief of God's Providence, our belief of his Promises, that his Truth is unchangeable; for the perfor­mance of them, is requisite to preserve the afflicted Spirit in a calm and submissive state. A pre­sent Evil strikes the imagination and senses in another manner than a future Spiritual Good. Now Faith is the substance of things Heb. 11. 1. hoped for, &c. it makes invisible things to be the greatest realities to the Soul; the steady reliance upon the Divine Attributes enga­ged them to fulfil his Promises, and is of an invincible efficacy [Page 149] to strengthen the Soul in every distress. O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the Man that trusteth in thee. His Psal. 84. uncontrollable power governs all the Orders of Creatures, and the Honour of his Truth is so Sacred, that Heaven and Earth shall pass away without the failing of any good thing promised to his People. Faith assists Patience; as the Blood that is a natural Balsam, flows to the wounded part to heal and conso­lidate it. These Graces are inse­parable, and are recorded with special observation, as the Foun­tains of Courage under Sufferings. Here is the Faith and Patience of the Rev. 13. 10. Saints; and we are directed to follow them who through Faith and Patience have inherited the Promises. Other Graces are engaged in the Christi­an Combate, and strive for Vi­ctory, but Faith and Patience are [Page 150] Crowned. And to support us in great Troubles, a firm affiance in the Divine Promises as belonging to us is of infinite Moment. I will greatly rejoice, and trust in the Lord, Isa. 61. 10. my Soul shall be joiful in my God. The general apprehension of God's Mercy is ineffectual to sup­port us: and to claim a Title in him without a real Evidence, is vain. But a regular Trust, an ap­plicative Faith, in conjunction with our sincere performing the Conditions of the Promises, is to a Christian, like the sacred locks of Sampson's hair, whilst they re­mained, he was invincible; but when cut off, he became weak as other Men. Our Comforts rise and fall according to the stronger or weaker degrees of our Faith: Peter walked firm upon the Waves till he doubted, and then [Page 151] began to sink. One of the sorest and most dangerous Temptations of the Afflicted is, that they are out of God's Favour. The Mourn­ing Veil darkens the Eyes of their minds, that they cannot see his compassionate Countenance, they cannot reconcile his Gracious Promises with his Providential Dispensations; the good things he hath prepared for hereafter, with the Evils he sends here. As Gideon complained to the Angel, If God be with us, how comes all this Evil to us? And the Spirit of Dark­ness takes the advantage of great Troubles to tempt sad Souls to despondency, as if they were ut­terly forsaken of God. If this Temptation prevail, if the Hea­vens be as Brass, and the Earth as Iron, if no Influences descend from above, and there be no Springs be­low, [Page 152] if Divine and Human Com­forts fail, there remains nothing but desperate Sorrow. S. Austin, to repel this Temptation, introduceth Respon­dit tibi Deus, Haeccine est fides tua? haec tibi pro­misi! Ad haec Chri­stianus factus es ut in Se­culo flo­reres? God answering the Afflicted and Discomforted: Is this thy Faith? Did I promise Temporal Prosperity to you? Were you made a Christian for this, that you might flourish in this World? The Faith of our Adopti­on is confirmed by his Correcti­ons. If they are profitable to us, if we are refined, not hardned by the Fiery Trial, we have a clear Testimony of our Interest in him. I will bring them through the Fire, and Zech. 13 they shall be refined as Silver and Gold is tryed; and they shall say the Lord is my God.

Briefly, Let us strengthen our Faith of the glorious State, and our Title to it, and it will make us firm against all the violent Impressions [Page 153] of Adversity; it will produce a joyful exultation even in the affli­cted State. The Christian that with stedfast Faith, and attentive Consideration, looks on the ine­stimable, infinite Felicity, is re­gardless of all things in the World in comparison with it. Sacred Hi­story reports of Saul the Persecu­tor, who was transformed into an Apostle, that a sudden Light from Heaven of that excessive bright­ness encompassed him, that he was struck blind, and saw no Man: This may be easily and justly ap­plied to every sincere Believer in a moral sence; the first effect of the spiritual Light that shines in the Eyes of his Mind, and disco­vers unseen eternal things, is to darken his sight of the things that are temporal: Even the greatest things here are not of such mo­ment [Page 154] as to allure or terrify him from profecuting his blessed End. St. Peter declares of persecuted Christians, That believing they rejoice 1 Pet. 1. 8. with Joy unspeakable and full of Glory. The Martyrs dearly embraced the Cross of Christ, and prized the Thorns of his Crown, more than all the Roses of Pleasure, than all the Diadems of earthly Dignity, in expectation of the blessed Reward. Tertullian wrote to the noble Con­fessors of Christ that were impri­soned in Africa, How willingly would we change our Prosperity with your precious Miseries? If weak na­ture be sensible of your hard Re­straint and Sufferings, take flight by your Thoughts to Paradise. The Persecutors cannot lay Fet­ters Omnia Spiritui patent vagare spiritu, spatiare spiritu. Nihil crus sent it in nervo cum animus in coelo est. Ad Martyr. upon your Spirits, but when [Page 155] you please you may ascend to the Kingdom of God, where you shall reign for ever. In the mean time counterpoise the Darkness, and Straitness, the Loathsomness and Sufferings of your Prison, with the Light and Amplitude, the Riches and Abundance, the Joy and Glo­ry of the Celestial Kingdom, which no Words are significant e­nough or worthy to express. A Nullus iis dolor est de in­cursatio­ne malo­rum prae­sentium, quibus si­ducia est futuro­rum bo­norum: Quid hoc ad Chri­stianos, quid ad Dei Servos? quos Paradisus invitat, quos gratia omnis & copia Regni coelestis expectat? Cypr. cont. Demet. Saint whose Blessedness is in Hea­ven, cannot be made utterly un­happy by Afflictions on Earth. He will serve God with as much Love and as good a Will, when poor, despised, disconsolate, as in a flourishing condition, and with this peculiar satisfaction, that his sincerity is then most evident: For the Service that is without re­spect [Page 156] to a present Sallary, is not base and mercenary for a tempo­ral Interest. Besides, that Obedi­ence is more eminent and accepta­ble that is with Sufferings, and the Reward shall be answerable to our Obedience. One Draught of the River that makes glad the City of God above, can sweeten all the bitterness of the World. In short, the Christians Hope is in the Apostle's Expression, The An­chor of the Soul sure and stedfast, that enters within the Veil, it is fastened in Heaven, confirmed by the fide­lity of God's Promises, and the prevailing Intercession of Christ, and secured us in the midst of all the turbulent Agitations in the wide Sea below. Hope makes us not only patient but joyful in all our Sufferings. A Christian encouraged by the blessed Hope, [Page 157] comes with joy to Death, as the Door that opens to the Kingdom of Glory, and immortal blessed­ness.

Direct. 2. Let God be the su­preme Object of our Esteem and Affections; and whatsoever Evils we sustain, will be made light and easy to us. The Apostle as­sures us, That all things, even the most afflicting, work for the good of Rom. 8. 28. those that love God. That Heavenly Affection is not only the conditi­on that intitles us to that Promise, that by special priviledge makes all the Evils of this World advan­tagious to the Saints, but 'tis the qualification by which 'tis accom­plished. By Love we enjoy God, and Love will make us willing to do or suffer what he pleaseth, that we may have fuller Communion [Page 158] with him. In God all perfections are in transcendent eminence, they are always the same and always new. He gives all things without any diminution of his Treasures: He receives the Praises and Ser­vices of the Angels without any advantage or increase of his Feli­city. By possessing him, all that is amiable and excellent in the Creatures, may be enjoyed in a manner incomparably better than in the Creatures themselves. His infinite Goodness can supply all our wants, satisfy all our desires, allay all our Sorrows, conquer all our Fears. One Beam of his Countenance can revive the Spirit dead in Sorrow, and buried in Despair. The Prophet Jeremy in the Desola­tion of his Countrey, supports himself with his Interest in God. The Lord is my Portion, saith my Soul. Lam. 3. 24. [Page 159] The Expression signifies the Truth and Strength of his affectionate choice of God as his chiefest Good. What Loss can make a Christian poor, whose Treasure is above? What Danger anxious, whose Heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord? What Disaster unhappy, whose Blessedness is in Heaven? What Death can destroy him, whose Life is hid with Christ in God? Deprive him of all the contents of this World, yet by communion with God, Heaven descends to him, or he ascends to Heaven, where God is all in all: The bles­sed Reward is not reserved whol­ly till hereafter. Divine Joy is not deferred till our entrance into the Celestial Kingdom: There 'tis a refined Joy from all mixture of Sorrow, 'tis infinitely increased; there spiritual Joy meets eternal [Page 160] Joy; but it begins here: The gracious Soul has a taste and sight how good the Lord is, as an ear­nest of the fulness of Joy in Hea­ven. Hope brings some Leaves of the Tree of Life to refresh us with their fragrancy; but Love, of its Fruits to strengthen us. As transplanted Fruits, where the Soil is defective, and the Sun less favourable, are not of that Beau­ty and Goodness as in their Origi­nal Countrey; so heavenly Joys in this Life are inferior in their degree to those of the blessed a­bove, but they are very reviving. In the multitude of my Thoughts within Psal. 94. 19. me, thy Comforts delight my Soul. 'Tis the triumphant Exultation of the Prophet, Although the Figtree shall not blossom, neither shall Fruit be in Hab. 3. 17, 18. the Vines, the labour of the Olive shall fail, and the Fields shall yield no Meat, [Page 161] the Flock shall be cut off from the Fold, and there shall be no Herd in the Stalls: Yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my Salvation. He supposeth himself in Extremity, utterly destitute not only of the Refreshments, but Supports of Life; yet he knows how not only to be patient and contented, but joyful in the most forlorn Condition. Joy is an Af­fection proper to the happy State. In the day of Prosperity, rejoice. And in his deepest Affliction he had such a Felicity in the favour of God, that no external want could diminish. The Tree of Life brought forth Fruits for every Month; Our blessed Redeemer typified by it, has Consolations for the most deplorable and deso­late Condition. If he says to the afflicted Soul, I am thy Salvation, [Page 162] and within a little while thou shalt be with me for ever in Glo­ry, it sufficeth. Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. It is the most affectionate counsel of the Apostle. These are not inacces­sible heights of Religion, and points of Perfection, to which none can arrive unless extraor­dinary Saints; but are the experi­mental practice of humble sincere Christians, that say with the Psal­mist, Whom have we in Heaven but thee? and there is none upon Earth we desire besides thee. The guilty principle of vexatious discontents and immoderate griefs, under outward losses and troubles, is a false Judgment; that God with­out the World is not sufficient for our compleat Felicity: Who, un­less a Person distracted and foo­lish, would say that the magnifi­cent [Page 163] Feast of Ahasuerus, that was prepared to shew the Riches and Glory of his Kingdom, was mean and poor, because there was not set before the numerous Guests in Dishes of Gold, Grass and A­corns, the Food of Brutes? 'Tis equal folly to imagine that God, who is an infinite Good, suitable to the spiritual immortal nature of the Soul, and all-sufficient to fill the vast capacity and desires of our angelical Faculties, the Under­standing and Will, by his glorious Perfections; that God, I say, cannot make us happy in his Love, because our lower animal Faculties, our Senses, have not in our Communion with him what is pleasing to their carnal Appetites. The Spouse in the Can­ticles is represented as a Lilly among Thorns, incompassed and opprest [Page 164] with injurious Enemies, yet she breaks forth in triumphant Joy, I am my Beloved's, and he is mine; by an irrevocable donation she gave her Heart to Christ, and recipro­cally he gave himself to her; she despised all inferiour things, and rested in his Love as her sole Feli­city. In short, none are concern­ed to lose the weak light of a Candle at Noon-day, when the Sun pours forth a deluge of Light to illustrate all things; and the Soul that enjoys the propitious Presence of God, is satisfied there­with when lower Comforts fail.

Direct. 3. Let us moderate our Valuations and Affections to things below.

This is a Consequence of the former; for if the Heart be full of God, it will not admit any in­ferior [Page 165] Object to rival him in his Throne. If we consider the vast distance between the Perfections of the Creator, and the faint Re­flections of them in the Creature, our Respects and Love should be accordingly. Reason, Authori­ty, Example, Experience con­vince us that all things below are empty Vanities; it is restless folly to seek for Happiness here, and to borrow the Language of the An­gel, to seek the living among the dead. If our Felicity be from the Light and Warmth of Creatures, how easily is it quenched, and we are in irrecoverable Darkness? When there is exorbitant Love, and dis­solute Joy in the possessing, there will be extreme and desperate Sorrow in losing. One irregular Passion feeds and maintains ano­ther. The Heart is disposed to [Page 166] contrary Extremities, and passes from the Fire to the Frost: The unequal Spirit swells or sinks ac­cording to the outward Conditi­on. It is the wise advice of the A­postle, that we rejoice as if we rejoiced Poenam de adver­sis mundi ille sentit, cui laeti­tia & gloria omnis in mundo est. Cyp. ad Demet. not, and then, we shall weep as if we wept not: Afflictions are intole­rable or light, according to our apprehension of them; an indif­ferency of temper to the things of this World disposeth to Self-deni­al universally, as God is pleased to try us. This was the holy and happy temper of David, Surely I behaved and quieted my self as a Child that is weaned of his Mother, my Soul Psal. 131. is even as a weaned Child; indifferent to manage a Scepter or a Sheep­hook, according to God's Pleasure. If we can deny our selves, we shall humbly yield to God. If we can sincerely say, Not our Wills, we [Page 167] shall readily repeat our Saviour's Submission, But thy Will be done.

Direct. 4. A prudent forecast of possible Evils as future to us, arms us with Patience to sustain them. Since Man was expelled from the terrestrial Paradise, and is below the celestial, he is liable to innumerable afflicting Acci­dents. His condition here is like an open Sea, so voluble and in­constant, so violent and furious: Sometimes the Ships are raised up­on the top of the Waves, as if they sailed in the Air; and sometimes plunged into the Waters and rea­dy to be swallowed up: Such frequent changes happen in our passage to Eternity, and it is mer­cifully ordered so by the Divine Wisdom, that we may so use the World, as not to abuse it, and our [Page 168] selves by over-waluing and af­fecting it. It is a contemplation of Theodoret, that the Sun and Moon, the most glorious Luminaries of Heaven, and so beneficial to the Earth, would be honoured as Dei­ties, if they always appeared with the same invariable tenour of Light: And therefore God wisely disposed of their Motions, that at the revolution of certain Periods, they should suffer an Eclipse, that the ignorant World might be con­vinced they were but parts of Na­ture appointed for the Service of Man, and are not worthy of di­vine Honour. Thus we see, that often the brightest and fullest Prosperity is eclipsed, to convince us by the miserable changes in this World, that the best estate of Man is altogether Vanity, and that these things are utterly insuf­ficient [Page 169] to make us happy, and are not worthy of the chief Regard and Affection of our immortal Souls. To set our Hearts on them is to build on the Sand, and to ex­pose our selves to ruinous Falls by every Storm. A sudden blast overthrows the Fabrick of Fancy, our conceited Happiness in the enjoyment of perishing things. Our greatest Comforts may occa­sion our greatest Afflictions: The Glory of a Family may occasion the Grief of it. Now the considera­tion of the mutable nature of things here below, keeps the Heart loose from them, fortifies us with proper Thoughts to bear Evils that happen, and prevents Dis­appointments, that is an aggrava­ting circumstance of our Trou­bles, and a great vexation to the Mind. The Israelites when trans­ported [Page 170] from the Land of Canaan to Babylon, felt the rigors of their Captivity the more sensibly, in that they were confident in their term and state in that Land, as their permanent Inheritance: to be expelled from so rich a Coun­try wherein they promised them­selves Rest, was a high degree of their Misery.

There is indeed a prevision of Evils that may befal us, that has Torment, that anticipates and exasperates Misery. Fear, that gives the Signal of approaching Evils, often brings more terrour than caution, and like a timerous Centinel by a false Allarm, asto­nishes rather than prepares the Mind to encounter with Danger. Our Saviour strictly forbids such perplexing apprehensions of fu­ture Evils, as most unbecoming [Page 171] Christians, who are under the perpetual Providence of their hea­venly Father. Take no thought for the Morrow, the Morrow shall take Mat. 6. 34 thought for the things of it self. But on the contrary, to be secure in our Prosperity, as if we should always enjoy a favourable course of things, as if our most flourish­ing Comforts did not spring from an earthly Original, and might be suddenly blasted, or easily cut down, is to lay our selves open to surprizing Disorders and Perplex­ities when Evils befal us. 'Tis the wise Counsel of St. Peter to Believers, Think it not strange con­cerning 1 Pet. 4. 12. the fiery Trial, which is to try you, as if some strange thing hap­pened to you: For unexpected Ad­versity falls upon the Soul in its full weight, and suddenly over­throws it. Uncomfortable Acci­dents [Page 172] strike to the Heart, when 'tis not arm'd to receive the Blow: Whereas the remembrance of our frail and fickle State, makes us less troubled in afflictive changes, because prepared for what may happen to us.

Direct. 5. Serious and mourn­ful Reflections upon our Guilt, and what we deserve from divine Justice, is both a Motive and a Means to suppress Impatience and Indig­nation, and to allay inordinate grief in our Sufferings. We are directed by the wise Preacher, In the Day of Adversity consider: It is a proper season to review Consci­ence, to search and try our ways, to take a sad and serious examination of our Lives. If God should ex­act the rigid score of our Debts, and make us as miserable as we [Page 173] are sinful, yet there is the greatest reason to justify him, and accuse our selves; much more when our Punishment is far below our Deserts.

Humility is the Mother of Meekness, they are Graces of the same Complexion and Features. Our Saviour in the order of the Beatitudes, first declared, Blessed are the poor in Spirit, that have a low conceit of themselves, as no­thing in Spirituals, and worse than nothing in Sin; as empty of all that is Holy and Good, and compounded of all Evil: And Blessed are those that mourn, in a sence of their Sins: And then, Blessed are the Meek: And these are very congruously joyned, for Meekness is a Disposition insepa­rable from the other. He that duly considers himself to be a wretched Creature, a worthless [Page 174] Rebel, and is humbly and sor­rowfully affected for his unwor­thiness, his Passions will be sub­dued; and as melted Metal re­ceives any form, so he patiently suffers what God inflicts. A bro­ken Heart is an acceptable Sacrifice to Psal. 51. God, and implies a tender sense of Sin, as the Offence and Dishonour of the holy and gracious God, in allusion to a broken Bone, that has an exquisite sense of any hurt: And it may be extended to signify a Heart that is compliant and submissive to God's Will, in al­lusion to a Horse that is broken, and easily managed by the Reins of the Rider. Contrition for Sin is always joyned with Resig­nation to the chastizing Provi­dence of God.

Besides, Godly Sorrow will [Page 175] lessen natural Sorrow. Sin first deserves our Grief, and the sharp­est accents of our Lamentation should be placed upon it, and the more sensible we are of it, the lighter will Affliction be to us. As the opening a Vein stops by Re­vulsion, a flux of Blood in another part; so the turning the Stream of Sorrow, from Affliction to Sin, is a powerful means to make it cease: There is Health in the bit­terness of Physick, and Joy in the depth of this Sadness. Briefly, Repentance inclines the Heart of God, and opens his tender com­passions to the Afflicted. We have an admirable example of this in the case of afflicted Ephraim; upon his Penitential complaint, the expression of his Grief and shame for his Sin, God graciously an­swers, Is Ephraim my dear Son? Is Jer. 31. 20. [Page 176] he a pleasant Child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my Bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have Mercy on him, saith the Lord. When the relenting Sinner is covered with Tears, the great Comforter descends, and brings healing to the troubled Waters: this advice is more necessary for the Afflicted, because usually the stroaks of Providence are properly a Re­proof and Correction for Sin: the application of a Corrosive, implies, that some corrupt mat­ter is to be discharged; God is provoked by their neglects, and though Love cannot hate, it may be angry, and without renewing their Repentance, and recovering his Favour, their Afflictions are very uncomfortable. 'Tis ex­treamly sad to feel the sting of a [Page 177] guilty Conscience within, and the displeasure of God without. The Burthen is heavy and oppres­sing that is laid upon a wounded Back. It is therefore our best Wis­dom and Duty to search our Hearts and try our Ways, that we may disco­ver what is the procuring cause of our Troubles, and turn unfeignedly to the Lord. This will endear Afflicted Souls to God, and incline him to afford gracious supports to them. It is true, sometimes our Suffer­ings are designed for Trial, espe­cially, when they are for Righte­ousness sake. Counterfeit Coin, though with a fair Stamp and In­scription, is discovered by the Fire; thus meer titular Christians, spe­cious Hypocrites, are made known by Persecutions: but true substan­tial Gold endures the Fire without loss, and the more 'tis tryed, the [Page 178] more 'tis refined. Thus the true Christian, whom neither the gain of the World, nor the loss of Life can remove from the stedfast owning of the Holy Truth, has a clear manifestation of his Sinceri­ty. And it is a peculiar favour and honour, when God calls forth his Servants to the hardest Trials for his Names sake; 'tis the noblest way of Service, a special Confor­mity to the Son of God, more glo­rious than the resembling his power in doing Miracles: In this the Saints here have a capacity of serving God above the Angels; for the obedience of the Angels is al­ways joined with their Happiness, but the obedience of the Saints here, is often attended with Ad­versity, and is more valuable to them upon that account: As a Soldier of Courage and Generosi­ty, [Page 179] when he is chosen from the rest of the Army for some bold Exploit, values the choice of the General, as a signal mark of the esteem of his Valour and Fidelity. To you it is given, not only to believe, but to suffer for Christ's sake. This is just matter of Joy. Innocence with the faithful companion of it, a good Conscience, makes our Sufferings from the rage and vio­lence of Men, to be comfortable. There may be a Feast within the House, when a Storm of Hail rattles upon the Tiles. But it is sometimes so ordered by Divine Providence, that the Evils we suf­fer are of a mixt nature, partly Chastisements, and partly Trials. This was the case of the Believing Hebrews, to whom the Apostle Heb. 12. directs his Counsel; their Persecu­tion was from the unrighteous [Page 180] Pagans for a cause purely Religi­ous, but 'twas permitted by the righteous God, as a punishment for their Sins. And here the Di­vine Wisdom and Goodness is ad­mirable, that the same Affliction is instrumental for the purifying of his Servants from Sin, and the advancement of his glorious Gos­pel. The first and most immedi­ate effect of his Discipline, is the humbling and sanctifying them to prepare them for his Love, by which they are fortified to bear couragiously the worst Evils for his sake.

Direct. 6. Apply the Mind to consider the Blessings we receive, as well as the Evils we endure. Whilst the intence Thoughts are fixt upon the Cross, the Soul is rackt with inward Tortures, but [Page 181] did we turn our Eyes upon our Enjoyments, and the Comforts that are interwoven with our Troubles, it would be a means not only to compose us to Pati­ence but Thankfulness. The A­postle directs us to trust in the Li­ving God, who giveth all things 1 Tim. 6. 17. richly to enjoy. In the poorest and lowest state of Life, we have many Favours and effects of his rich Bounty, and it is the igno­rance of our deservings and of our enjoyments that causeth Discon­tent and Murmuring under our Troubles. Particularly, this Con­sideration will be effectual to re­press the Discontent that is apt to kindle in our Breasts, upon the sight of the different Dispensati­ons of Providence; that some are exempted from the current Ad­versities of the World, and live in [Page 182] ease and pleasure, whilst we are deprived of many outward Com­forts. Suppose a Sick person in extream Poverty, were received by a rich and liberal Lord into his House, and convenient Food, and precious Medicines were provided for him, without his desert or pos­sibility of retribution; Would he be so foolish and insolent, as to complain of unkind and unwor­thy usage, because some others in the Family have a more plenti­ful Table and richer Habit allow­ed them? On the contrary, let us look down to those who are be­low us: How many are poor and miserable in the want of all things needful for the support of Life? How many are under tormenting pains, or in desperate sadness, and have no taste and comfort in their abundance? How many are fal­len [Page 183] into deep Misery, and that ag­gravated by the afflicting Memory of former Happiness? How many are surrounded by their cruel Enemies, and see no refuge, no sanctuary for their escape, but a necessity of perishing? And can we pretend a better title to the Mercies of God than our fellow-Worms? Our Original is from nothing, and our Works are sinful; that we are not so desolately mise­rable as others, when equally Guilty, is from the rich goodness of God, and should make us thankful.

Add further; Let the most af­flicted Saint in the World compare his Condition with that of the most prosperous wicked Persons, and the comparison will be effe­ctual to endear God to him, and [Page 184] quiet his Passions under Suffer­ings.

The good things of this World in their abundance, variety, and excellence, cannot make a Sinner truely happy: the Miseries of this Life in all kinds and degrees, can­not make a good Man utterly miserable; nay they are inestima­bly more happy in their Sufferings than the Wicked in their Prospe­rity. Manna rains from Heaven while they are in the Wilderness, supports and comforts are from the Love of God shed abroad in their Hearts; and their present Afflictions are a Seed of Eternal Joy, qualify and prepare them for the Joy of Heaven. Our Sa­viour, from whose Judgment we receive the true Weights and Mea­sures of things, to regulate our Esteem and Affections, declares [Page 185] his Disciples when under the sharpest Persecutions of the Tongues or Hands of their Ene­mies, under Disgrace, Calum­nies, Tortures and Death, even then he declares them Blessed, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them; & Heaven is such a transcen­dent Blessedness, that the lively hope of it as the reward and end of our Afflictions makes us Blessed here. And the most prosperous Sinners, are by the same infallible Rule, miserable here; for the irre­sistible, irremediable Misery that is ordain'd and prepar'd for them in Hell. They would deceive them­selves with the Paintings of Hap­piness, with an aiery imaginary happiness; whilst the Senses are filled, the Soul is empty; but they shall not long enjoy the ease of their ignorance and security; the [Page 186] World can do no more to make them happy, than if one should compound and temper a draught, and give it to the Poor and Mise­rable, that induces Sleep and plea­sant Dreams for a few hours, but when they awake they are still poor and miserable. Our Savi­our pronounceth a Woe to the rich and full, to those that laugh now, for they shall weep and mourn: their false deceitful felicity will end in real Misery. It is Si duo istae pro­ponantur ridere vis aut flere? Quis est qui re­spondeat nisi ride­re? Sed tantum praevalet invictissi­ma veri­tas ut eli­gat homo sanâmen­te flere, quā men­te aliena­ta ridere. August. Tract. de Epict. S. Austin's Que­stion, Who would not prefer Grief with a sober Mind before the Jol­lity of a Phrenzy? Who would be a merry Mad Man? for he is only happy in his Fancy, and fan­cies himself so, only because he is Distracted; and according to the Rules of true Wisdom, the worst estate of a Saint, when lamenting and languishing under Troubles, [Page 187] is more eligible than the best estate of a Sinner when triumph­ing in Prosperity.

Direct. 7. Lastly; Frequent and fervent Prayer to the Father of Mercies, and God of all Con­solation, is a blessed means to support the Spirit, and make it humble and obedient to the Affli­cting Providence of God. 'Tis Divine Counsel, Is any Afflicted? let him Pray. 'Tis Prayer opens the Heart, and carnal Grief breaths out; Prayer opens Heaven, and Divine Joy flows into the Soul; the King of Glory keeps no State, there is always easie access to his Throne, and his Ears are al­ways open to his humble Sup­pliants. His most gracious Nature inclines him to sustain us in our dejections. We have a powerful [Page 188] Plea from his Compassions to en­courage our Prayers in great Troubles. He will regard the Pray­er of the destitute, and not despise their Prayer. The most glorious Attri­bute of the Spirit, the Comforter, is most useful and beneficial to af­flicted Suppliants; Affliction is the Season, and Prayer the Sphere of his Activity. That our Prayers may prevail, these following Rules must be observed.

1. They must be addressed with an humble trust on the Mercies of God, that incline him to relieve and sustain the afflicted. Thus St. James directs the Afflicted, to ask Jam. 1. 6. in Faith, nothing wavering. We read in Scripture of his Bowels, the light of his Countenance, his melt­ing Eye, the soft, serene, com­passionate Expresses of his most gracious Nature towards his suf­fering [Page 189] People. He doth not esteem himself more honoured with the glorious Titles of our Creator and King, than with the amiable endearing Name of our Father; and with a confidence becom­ing that relation, we are direct­ed by his Divine Son to make our requests to him. 'Tis record­ed Videris obolum porrigere elephanti. Macrob. of Augustus the Emperour, that when one presented a Petition to him in a timerous and shy man­ner, that generous Prince, whose Humanity was equal to his Dig­nity, was moved with displeasure, as if it had been a tacit reproach that he was of an untractable fierce Nature. Thus 'tis a dispa­ragement of God's benignity and clemency, when we pray to him in a diffident manner: He is more pleased in doing of us good, than we can be in receiving it. Indeed, [Page 190] if the Promises of God did not en­courage our Hopes, we should not presume so much of his affe­ction, as to lay the burden of our Cares and Sorrows on his Arms; but Heaven is not fuller of Stars to enlighten the darkness of the Night, than the Scripture is of precious Promises for the refresh­ing the disconsolate. When the Church complained, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath for­gotten me; Isa. 49. 14, 15, 16. What assurance does he give of his most tender and un­changeable Love to her; Can a Woman forget her sucking Child, that she should not have compassion on the Son of her Womb? yea, they may for­get, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands: If he cannot forget him­self, he cannot forget his People. [Page 191] 'Tis his dear Title, God that com­forts 2 Cor. 7. those who are cast down.

Add to this, the interest of the Saints in Jesus Christ, who ever lives to make Intercession for them. None is more tenderly inclined to Mercy, than he that has suffered Misery: And he felt our Sorrows that he might afford re­lief and succour to us. Whilst our Saviour was upon the Earth, and was followed by a multitude of diseased miserable Persons, Vertue went out of him and heal­ed them all: And since his Ascent to Heaven, has he withdrawn that universal Healing Vertue, and left us under irremediable and unmi­tigable Sorrows? Did his compas­sionate Eye regard all that were afflicted, and are we now out of his sight? Then such was his indul­gent Humility, that altho he could [Page 192] have performed the Cure by a Word, yet he readily offered to attend a sick Servant, I will come and heal him; and now he is raised from his humble state on Earth to the Throne of Heaven, does he disdain to extend his merciful Hand for our Relief? No, his Heart and Love is the same in Heaven as upon the Earth. 'Tis true he is exempted from all pas­sionate Frailties, all afflicting Af­fections that are inconsistent with the Felicity and Glory of his King­dom: But he still retains the same solid Love, the same God-like Compassion, the same ready Will to support and deliver his People in Misery. Nay, if the change of his state could have made any in him, it could be no other than what is recorded to the immortal Honour of Vespatian, by one that [Page 193] had experience of his royal Boun­ty: That the raising him to the Imperial Throne made no altera­tion Nec quicquam in te mu­tavit for­tunae am­plitudo, nisi ut prodesse tantun­dem pos­ses & velles. Plin. in his Breast, but that his Power was enlarged equal to his Will of doing Good. Our Savi­our in his exaltation at the right Hand of God, has all Power e­qual to his infinite Love that is suitable to the permanent relation between him and the Saints: He is their Head, and they his Mem­bers: And was there ever such a Miracle, or rather Monster in Na­ture, that the Head the most emi­nent part, the Seat of all the Sen­ses, did not resent a Wound made in the Foot, the lowest and most servile part of the Body? Does it not presently express its real Com­plaints? For the natural union of the parts, communicates the sence of the pain suffered by any to the [Page 194] whole. And such is the spiritual Union, between the divine Head and his Members, that from Hea­ven he rebuk'd the cruel Persecu­tor of the Saints, in language ex­pressing the connexion of Charity between himself and them, Saul, Why persecutest thou me? He does Non di­cit quid sanctos meos, quid servos meos, sed quid me perse­queris? Aug. not say why persecutest thou my Saints, why my Servants, but Why me? Tho he is not capable of any sorrowful sence, yet his Affecti­ons are quick and vigorous to his People. If it were possible that his Joy, wherewith he is infinite­ly blessed, should be increas'd, it would be in the effusions of his Goodness to afflicted Christians. Let us therefore come boldly un­to the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain Mercy, and find Grace to help in time of need. How heavy soever the Calamities are, [Page 195] let them not sink our Spirits into Despair, but raise them to nearer approaches to the God of Conso­lation.

2. The Prayers of the afflicted must be always with submissive deference to the Will and Wisdom of God, as to the manner, the de­grees, and time of his delivering them. Afflictions are not peremp­tory and immutable Dispensati­ons, but conditional for holy and good Ends, and we may humbly pray for their removal. 'Tis no resisting of Providence, to address to the divine Majesty with fre­quent and fervent Requests, that he would please to take his chasti­zing Hand off from us. Upon Da­vid's humble Prayer, the destroy­ing Angel was commanded to cease; in the midst of Judgment Mercy interposed, It is enough. But [Page 196] we are apt to be impatient in our Troubles, and by hasty impetuous desires of Ease and Deliverance, disturb our tranquility, and offend God. As those who are diseased with a Rheumatism, being worse in the Night than the Day, impa­tiently long for the rising Sun to dispel the oppressing Humors, and cheer their Spirits: So in our Affli­ctions we impatiently renew our Requests, Lord, How long? Lord, make haste, not reposing our selves on his Wisdom and Goodness, who will do what is best for us. God is both our Father and Phy­sician, and when the corrupt Hu­mours are purged away, will give Cordials and Restoratives to his afflicted Children. The Prophet tells us, He that believes makes not haste, he doth not by undue means seek to remedy his Evils, nor pas­sionately [Page 197] and unquietly sollicite the accomplishment of the Promi­ses before the season appointed by the divine Decree, for that is to desire that his Mercy should be displayed to the prejudice of his Immutability, but humbly waits God's Pleasure.

3. Let the main desires of the Afflicted be for Divine Grace, (which is never more necessary and useful than in Troubles) that they may glorify God, and obtain their eminent End, the Salvation of their Souls by them. We are of­ten very ardent in our Prayers for trivial things, neglecting the most necessary and important. As if a Prisoner loaden with Irons should passionately intreat, that his Chains should be gilded, not loosed. How many spend their zealous Affecti­ons in praying for temporal things, [Page 198] wherein their Happiness does not consist. One of the reasons why God heaps upon rebellious Sinners the good things of this Life, is to instruct us how despicable they are in his account, things to be thrown away, as he seems to do. And he often refuses the Petitions of his Servants concerning tempo­ral Non au­dit Deus nisi quod dignum ducit suis beneficiis. Arab. things: When Pelopidus inter­ceded with Epaminondas the wise Governor of the Thebans, for the freedom of a base Fellow that for some Crime was committed to Prison, he denied his Request; and presently released him upon the desire of a vile Harlot: And gave this reason, it was a favour not worthy the dignity of Pelopi­das, but suitable to the quality of such a Petitioner.

And sometimes we pray for things dangerous and hurtful to [Page 199] our Souls; and 'tis becoming the Providence and Love of our hea­venly Father to deny our ill-coun­selled desires. Let us therefore be more intent and importunate in our Petitions, that our Afflicti­ons may be sanctified, then remo­ved. We have neither Understan­ding nor Strength, how to order our selves, how to bear and im­prove great Afflictions. St. Paul declares, I have learned in every Con­dition to be content? By the Revela­tion of the Gospel, and the Holy Spirits teaching that all his earthly troubles should end in the heaven­ly glory, he was instructed in that Science of the Saints. We are therefore directed, If any Man want Wisdom, that is, how to ma­nage himself patiently under Af­flictions, let him ask it of God, who Jam. 1. gives to all liberally, and upbraids not. [Page 200] If Afflictions are sore and sudden, it is very hard to compose and support the Spirit. The Passions are Servants of Sense, rather than obedient to Reason, and by their first violent Motions surprize the Mind, and overcome it before it perceives the Assault; he that is not a Master, isa Slave to them. Or suppose no angry Resistance, no impetuous Passions in the affli­cted Breast, yet the Heart bleeds inwardly, and faints away. David had natural courage to encounter a Lion, yet he was so disconsolate in his troubles that he was fain to argue against his Sadness: Why art thou cast down O my Soul, why art thou Psal. 42. disquieted within me? And having raised his drooping Spirits, yet he relapsed to his first Faintness, till by supplies from God he was con­firmed in hope of Deliverance. [Page 201] The Apostle implores the glorious Power of God, That the Colos­sians might be strengthned with all Might, unto all Patience, and Long­suffering Col. 1. with joyfulness. We should sink under heavy Sufferings, or be tired with the length of Miseries, without his immortal Strength. But if the Power of God assist a weak Spirit, it will be finally vi­ctorious over all the Evils of the World. How many Martyrs of the tender Sex, who would natu­rally tremble at a drawn Sword; yet by divine Support despised the Tormentors, and all the Instru­ments of Cruelty. In them was an imitation of that Miracle of di­vine Power, when the three Chil­dren walked in the midst of the flaming Furnace, untouch'd by the Fire. God is stiled the God of Pa­tience and Consolation. It is his sole [Page 202] Prerogative to comfort the afflict­ed. I, even I, am he that comforts you. The Woman in the Gospel that had a bloody Issue, no human Art could afford her aid and relief: And when her Estate was wasted on the Physitians, and her Strength by her Disease, she came to our Saviour, and by touching the Hem of his Garment was presently hea­led. Thus the afflicted Spirit, whom no worldly things are able to support and make joyful, finds everlasting comfort in God. He satisfies the Soul with his Love, and establishes this Persuasion, That all things shall turn for the best to his People. Now by Prayer the divine Power and Favour is enga­ged for our support and delive­rance. How many Psalms of Da­vid begin in Tears, and end in Tri­umph? In his great Exigency, [Page 203] when ready to be swallowed up by his Enemies, he dispatch'd a flying Prayer to Heaven for re­lief; Lord, take bold of Shield, and Buckler, and stand up for my help: And the Almighty appeared in Arms for his Rescue. And he re­counts another blessed experience of the efficacy of Prayer, In the Psal. 138. day when I cryed, thou answered'st me: and strengthenest me with strength in my Soul. The Affliction was still incumbent, but did not over­whelm him: which was a more gracious testimony of God's love, than if it had meerly been taken away. It is said of the distressed, They looked to him and were lightned. It is the Perfection and Propriety Psal. 34. 5. of the Saints in Heaven to see the glorious Face of God without Veil or Shadow; but here some Rayes of his quickning Counte­nance [Page 204] comfort his afflicted Ser­vants, while they lift up their Eyes and Hearts to his Sanctuary, a joy­ful Light breaks forth, that leads them out of the dark Labyrinth of their troubled Thoughts. If the Saints remain disconsolate, it is not for want of Mercy and Power in God to refresh their Sorrows, but from neglecting to improve their Interest in him, and deriving Spiritual Comforts from his ful­ness by humble believing Prayer. When the Disciples were surpri­zed with a Storm in the Sea of Ti­berias, they toil'd with hard labour to save the Ship that was like to be over-whelmed by the Waves: but all in vain, till by their Cries they waked our Saviour who was asleep in the Ship. He lifts up his Head, and the proud Waves presently sink; he speaks a word of Command, [Page 205] and the boisterous Winds are silent; and a great Tempest is changed into a great Calm. This may fitly re­present the afflicted state of a Si non dormiret in te Christus, tempesta­tes istas non pate­reris. Ideo flu­ctuabat Navis quia Christus dormie­bat: Na­vis tua cor tuum. Aug. Christian, their Passions swell in­to a Storm, they are ready to be overwhelm'd with Troubles, but 'tis because Christ sleeps in them; they have his Presence as if they had it not, but earnest constant Prayer will awake him, and his propitious Presence will secure them from Shipwrack, and make their Breasts the true Pacifick Sea, and bring them safely to the Bles­sed Eternal Shore.

Briefly; God teaches us to pro­fit by our Afflictions, and this af­fords matter of Joy and Thanks­giving. The Psalmist declares, Blessed is the Man whom thou chasten­est and instructest out of thy Law. The Divine Teacher gives a right [Page 206] understanding of Sufferings, for what end they are sent, and teach­eth by the voice of the Rod to obey his Word, He instructs us in our Duty with the clearest Con­victions, and infuseth gracious dispositions suitable to his Do­ctrine. He gives directing Light, and a seeing Eye to perceive it; he presents Heavenly Encourage­ments, and prepares the Heart to receive them. Now what Paul speaks of the Cross of Christ, is applicable to the Crosses of the Saints: God forbid that I should glo­ry but in the Cross of Christ, by which the World is crucified to me, and I to it. The Cross of Christ made the Jews and Pagans to despise and reject the Gospel, esteeming it to be gross folly to expect a glo­rious Immortal Life from one who was ignominiously put to [Page 207] Death; yet that was the great Argument of the Apostles trium­phant Joy, because he felt the Vertue of it to unbind the charms of the World, so admired by car­nal Eyes. He looked upon it with the same disaffection and disre­gard, as one that is near expiring: it appeared in his Eyes rather as a loathsom object, than with amia­ble qualities.

And if the Cross of a Christian be the means of internal Mortifi­cation, if thereby this vain decei­ving World be rendered con­temptible to him, and his Affecti­ons are inflamed to things above, he will find cause to glory in Tri­bulation. To conclude this Ar­gument;

There is no Affliction how great soever, though with respect to natural means unremovable [Page 208] and unmitigable, yet if it be san­ctified by Divine Grace, a Christi­an even while he is so afflicted, has more cause of Joy than Grief, more reason to bless God for it than to repine and complain. In every thing give Thanks, for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesus con­cerning 1 Thess. 1. 5. you. He turns Afflictions into Benefits, and our affectionate Praises are due upon that ac­count.


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