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sently scattered. David had a blessed experiment of this in his distress : “I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because thou didst it.” Psal. 39. 8. Such an awful apprehension he had of God, as transcendently superior to him, and unaccountable for his proceedings. When any impatient thoughts arise, we should presently chain them up, for there are folly and fury in them: what am I, that my sullen spirit should dispute against the orders of heaven ? that my passions should resist the will of the highest Lord ? that my desires should depose him from his throne? For thus by implication and consequence they do, who are vexed 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 ourselves.
II. The righteousness of God in all his ways, if duly considered, will compose the afflicted spirit to quiet and 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 attainted 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 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 are a great deep.” Psal. 36. 6. 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 sis lence 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 murmuring, saith the afflicted church) “ because I have sinned against him.” Mic. 7. 9. As disobedience in our inclinations and actions, is a tacit reflection upon the equity of his 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 enlightened and terrible tribunal, and challenge him for any unrighteous proceedings? “ Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins ?” Lam. 3. 39. Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I will not offend any more. That which 1 know not, teach thou me; and if I have done iniquity, I will do no more. Job. 34. 31, 32. Besides, all the punishments of men here, are with merciful allavs, 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 ruins, and the unhappy people that escaped the fury of the Chaldeans, were the captives and triumphs of their enemies; yet in that unparalleled affliction she acknowledges, “ it is the Lord's mercies that we are not" utterly and totally “consumed Lam. 3. 22. ;" and lays her mouth in the dust, a posture of the lowest abasement. And holy Ezra reflecting upon that dreadful calamity, acknowledgeth their punishment was beneath their desert, as their deliverance was above their expectation : " and for 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.” Ezra 9. 13. 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 only patiently submit, 66 but humbly accept the punishment of our iniquity, as far less than what is deserved." Levit. 26. 41. If the sentence of death against a malefactor be exchanged for banishment, or banishment be remitted for a short confinement, is there not incomparably more cause to be thankful for what is pardoned, than to complain for 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.
III. His power is immense and uncontrolable, 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 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 stubbornness 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. “ Woe be to him that strives with his Maker.” Isa. 45. 9. This is to be like a restive horse or mule, without understanding, that Alings 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 apostle's direction, “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and he shall exalt you.” 1 Pet. 5. 6. 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, it is the right disposition that prepares us for mercy, and is the certain way of exaltation ; for then God obtains his end. The humble prostrating ourselves 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 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 much more be in subjection to the father of spirits, and live ?” Heb. 12. 9. Unsubmission induces a deadly guilt upon the rebellious.
IV. His paternal love in sending afflictions, is a sufficient ar, gument 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 steadfastly 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 :” Heb. 12. 6. and the other that is joined with it is, “Whom the Lord loves, he chasteneth.”
The rule is general :
(1.) 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 ? Aflictions 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 annexed 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 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 submissive 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?"
(2.) 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 their happiness, though to the destruction of the flesh. The soul is of incomparably more worth than the body, as the bright orient 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, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?” Rom. 8. 32. 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 love and bounty, and most for their comfort. He that gives grace and glory,the most real testimonies of his love, certainly withholds no good thing from them. I shall produce one convincing instance of this. St. Paul, who by an incomparable privilege was rapt up to the celestial 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 equalled the seraphims, those pure everlasting flames, and was expressed in the invariable tenor 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 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 abundance of revelation, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, and the messenger of satan to buffet me.”
.” 2 Cor. 13. 7. That the afflictions of the saints proceed from God's love, will be evident, by considering,
First. His gracious design in sending them.
Secondly. His compassionate providence over them, and his assisting power afforded to his people in their troubles.
Thirdly. The happy issue of 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. Heb. 12. 10. The expression is high and emphatical, “ his 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.
For the prevention or cure of sin, which is an evil incomparably worse in its nature, and terrible consequents in this and the next world, than all the mere afflicting temporal evils. Sin defiles and debaseth the soul, which is the proper excellency of