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guments 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 virtue is the noblest perfection, and is increased by the most difficult exercise; that it is best to yield up ourselves 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 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 firebrands to light them in the night, that afforded a little light mixed with a great deal of smoke. 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 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 charged the gods with their úntimely, and, in their apprehension, undeserved deaths; but the due sense 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 employed for our offences, prepares us for divine mercy, and is infinitely beneficial to 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 acknowledge 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 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. This presages and accelerates final ruin ; 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, and directs all his disciples in sincerity to accustom themselves to the contemplation and expectation of troubles on earth: it tells them it is 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 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 care a truly pacific sea, knowing that divine providence always guides us to the port of eternal tranquillity. This is the substance of what is amplified in the following treatise. And whilst there are miseries in the world, no discourses are 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.
Matt. xxvi. 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 first scene of Christ's sorrows.
He was now in the near view of his extreme sufferings; the fatal hour approached when he was to die with all the concurrent circumstances of shame and cruelty. His nature was human 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 steadfast 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 complete deliverance from the rage of the 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 recoiled 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 meritorious. As man, the apprehension of it put him into an agony ; but as Mediator, 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 performed as man, that we might voluntarily yield up ourselves to the holiness and equity of his law. Thus from the pattern of our Saviour's deportment, the point of doctrine is this :
The entire resignation of our wills to the disposing will of God, is the indispensable duty of christians under the sharpest afflictions.
In the explication and proof of this point, I shall
III. The reasons to convince us of this duty of resigning of ourselves, and all our interests to God: and then apply it.
I. Consider what is consistent with this voluntary resignation. That will appear in the following particulars.
1. An earnest deprecation of an impending judgment is reconcileable 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 entire exact subjection in all our faculties, even in our internal desires, in the first motions