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we enjoy convenient houses, goods, lands, and revenues; or the necessary means God hath appointed for our spiritual good; we seek rest in these enjoyments. Whether we are in an afflicted or prosperous state, it is apparent we exceedingly make the creature our rest. Do we not desire creature-enjoyments more violently, when we want them, than we desire God himself? Do we not delight more in the possession of them, than in the enjoyment of God? And if we lose them, doth it not trouble us more than our loss of God? Is it not enough that they are refreshing helps in our way to heaven, but they must also be made our heaven itself? Christian Reader, I would as willingly make thee sensible of this sin as of any sin in the world, if I could tell how to do it; for the Lord's greatest quarrel with us is in this point. In order to this, I most earnestly beseecha thee to consider,—the reasonableness of present afflictions,--and the unreasonableness of resting in present enjoyments ;-as also of our unwillingness to die, that we may possess eternal rest.
§ 2. (I.) To show the reasonableness of present afflictions, consider,—they are the way to rest; they keep us froin mistaking our rest; and from losing our way to it-they quicken our pace towards it;—they chiefly incommode our flesh ;-and under them God's people have often the sweetest foretastes of their rest.
\ 3. (1) Consider, that labour and trouble are the common way to rest, both in the course of nature and grace. Can there possibly be rest without weariness? Do you not travel and toil first, and rest after? The day for labour is first, and then follows the night for rest. Why should we desire the course of grace to be perverted, any more than the course of nature? It is an established decree, that we must thro' much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.(w) And that if we suffer, we shall also reign with Christ.(a)
(2) Acts xiv. 22.
(1) 2 Tim. ii. 12.
And what are we, that God's statutes should be reversed for our pleasure? - § 4. (2) Afflictions are exceeding useful to us to keep us froin mistaking our rest. A Christian's motion towards heaven is voluntary; and not constrained. Those means therefore are most profitable, which help his understanding and will. The most dangerous mistake of our souls is, to take the creature for God, and earth for heaven. What warm, affectionate, eager thoughts, have we of the world, till afflictions cool and moderate them! Afflictions speak convincingly, and will be heard when preachers cannot. Many a poor Christian is sometimes bending his thoughts to wealth, or flesh-pleasing, or applause, and so loses his relish of Christ, and the joy above; till God break in upon his riches, or children, or conscience, or health, and break down his mountain which he thought so strong: and then, when he lieth in Manasseh's fetters, or is fastened to his bed with pining sickness, the world is nothing, and heaven is something. If our dear Lord did not put these thorns under our head, we should sleep out our lives, and lose our glory.
5. (3) Afflictions are also God's most effectual means to keep us from losing our way to our rest. Without this hedge of thorns on the right hand and left, we should hardly keep the way to heaven. If there be but one gap open, how ready are we to find it, and turn out at it! When we grow wanton, or worldly, or proud, how doth sickness or other affliction reduce us! Every Christian, as well as Luther, may call affliction one of the best schoolmasters; and with David may say, Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept thy word.(y) Many thousand recovered sinners may cry, “0 healthful sickness! O comfortable sorrows! O gainful losses! O enriching poverty! O blessed day that ever I was afflicted !” Not only the green pastures, and still waters, but the rod and staff, they comfort us.
(y) Psalm cxix. 67.
Though the Word and Spirit do the main work, yet uffering so unbolts the door of the heart, that the vord hath easier entrance.
9 6. (4) Afflictions likewise serve to quicken our jace in the way to our rest. It were well, if mere ove would prevail with us, and that we were rather Irawn to heaven, than driven. But seeing our learts are so bad, that mercy will not do it; it is better to be put on with the sharpest scourge, than oiter like the foolish virgins, till the door is shut. O what a difference is there betwixt our prayers in health and in sickness! betwixt our repentings in prosperity and adversity! Alas, if we did not sometime feel the spur, what a slow pace would most of is hold toward heaven. Since our vile natures require t, why should we be unwilling that God should do 18 good by sharp means? Judge, Christian, whether hou dost not go more watchfully and speedily in the way to heaven, in thy sufferings, than in thy more pleasing and prosperous state.
§ 7. Consider further, it is but the flesh that is Chiefly troubled and grieved by afflictions. In most of our sufferings the soul is free, unless we ourselves wilfully afflict it. “ Why then, O my soul, dost thou side with this flesh, and complain, as it complaineth? It should be thy work to keep it under, and bring it into subjection; and if God do it for thee, shouldest thou be discontented? Hath not the pleasing of it been the cause of almost all thy spiritual Sorrows? Why then may not the displeasing of it further thy joy? Must not. Paul and Silas sing, because their feet are in the stocks ?—Their spirits Were not imprisoned. Ah, unworthy soul! is this ny thanks to God for preferring thee so far before thy body? When it is rotting in the grave, thou nalt be a companion of the perfected spirits of the just; in the mean time, hast thou not consolation hich the flesh know's not of? Murmur not then at od's dealings with thy body; if it were for want love to thee, he would not have dealt so by al
his saints. Never expect thy flesh should truly expound the meaning of the rod. It will call love, hatred ; and say, God is destroying, when he is saving. It is the suffering party, and therefore not fit to be the judge.”-Could we once believe God, and judge of his dealings by his word, and by their usefulness to our souls, and reference to our rest, and could we stop our ears against all the clamours of the flesh, then we should have a truer judgment of our afflictions.
§ 8. (6) Once more consider, God seldom gives his people so sweet a foretaste of their future rest, as in their deep afflictions. He keeps his most precious cordials for the time of our greatest faintings and dangers. He gives them when he knows they are needed, and will be valued; and when he is sure to be thanked for them, and his people rejoiced by them. Especially when our sufferings are more directly for his cause, then he seldom fails to sweeten the bitter cup. The martyrs have possessed the highest joys. When did Christ preach such comforts to his disciples, as when their hearts were sorrowful at his departure? When did he appear among them, and say, Peace be unto you, but when they were shut up for fear of the Jews? When did Stephen see heaven opened, but when he was giving up his life for the testimony of Jesus? Is not that our best state wherein we have most of God? Why else do we desire to come to heaven? If we look for a heaven of fleshly delights, we shall find ourselves mistaken. Conclude then, that affliction is not so bad a state for a saint in his way to rest. Are we wiser than God? Doth he not know what is good for us as well as we? or is he not as careful of our good as we are of our own? Woe to us, if he were not much more so; and if he did not love us better, than we love either him or ourselves !
$ 9. (7) Say not, “I could bear any other affliction but this.” If God had afflicted thee where thou canst bear it, thy idol would neither have been dis
covered nor removed. Neither say, “ If God would deliver me out of it, I could be content to bear it.” Is it nothing that he hath promised, it shall work for thy good? Is it not enough that thou art sure to be delivered at death? Nor let it be said, " If my affliction did not disable me from my duty, Í could bear it.” It doth not disable thee for that duty which tendeth to thy own personal benefit, but is the greatest quickening help thou canst expect. As for thy duty to others, it is not thy duty when God disables thee. Perhaps thou wilt say, “ The godly are my afflictions; if it were ungodly men, I could easily bear it.” Whoever is the instrument, the affliction is from God, and the deserving cause thyself; and is it not better to look more to God than thyself? Didst thou not know that the best men are still sinful in part? Do not plead, “ If I had but that consolation, which you say God reserveth for suffering times, I should suffer more contentedly; but I do not perceive any such thing." The more you suffer for righteousness' sake, the more of this blessing you may expect; and the more you suffer for your own evil doing, the longer it will be before that sweetness comes. Are not the comforts you desire neglected or resisted ? Have your afflictions wrought kindly with you, and fitted you for comfort? It is not mere suffering that prepares you for comtort, but the success and fruit of suffering upon your
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. 10. (II.) To show the unreasonableness of rest-