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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, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of righteousness, which God hath promised to them that love him." James 1. 12. 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 affictions that are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 2 Cor. 4.
V. The infinite wisdom of God orders all things in the 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 unto him, What dost thou? But there is an inseparable connexion between his wisdom and his will; he is “ the King eternal,” and “ the only wise God,” I Tim. 1. as the apostle joins those divine titles. In this the excellence of the divine liberty shines, that it is always regulated by infinite wisdom : “ he works all things according to the counsel of his will :” Eph. 1. 11. this is spoken aecording to haman 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 those things are most complete that are the product of our deliberate reasonings and deep contrivance; “so his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment.”. Deut. 32. 4. Whenever 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 he were defeetive in regulating the affairs of this lower world; but “ he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." Isa. 28. 29. In the creation this regular and beautiful world was formed out of darkness and confusion: and his providence, that is now mysterious and veiled to us, will bring into glorious order and sweet agreement, those things in their final resolution, that now seem so perplexed to our apprehensions. It was a confounding reproach from God to Joh, " who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge ?” Job 32. 2. 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 knowledge ? therefore have I uttered that I understood not, things too wonderful for me, which I knew not; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes :" Job 42. 3, 6. more particularly,
1. All things are so wisely ordered, that God shall be glorified in the erent; and it is the noblest disposition of a christian, to prefer the advancement of his glory, before all the comforts of this life, and life itself. 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? Father, save me from this hour.” John 12. 27. 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 complete form of prayer 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 joyfully 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, whoever 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, “ my father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth, forasmuch 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 no 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 illustrated 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. It is like Samson's riddle to the Philistines, 66 out of the 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 to them that love God.” Rom. 8. 28. 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 mixed 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. 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 prophetic 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 father's tender eye and care; therefore it is said in his history, that they perfidiously “ sold him, but God sent him." He that attentively reads the journies of the Israelites through the wilderness to Canaan, cannot but wonder 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 conductor, they had never entered into the land of promise : but following the pillar that directed their march, though they seemed lost in their intricate wanderings, yet they obtained the joyful possession of it. This was a type of the saints' passage through a troublesome 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, all the days of his vain life, which he spendeth as a shadow?” Eccles. 6. 12. That which is desired 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. It is 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 ourselves more happy by the divine disposal of things, than if we had obtained our dearest wishes, and most ardent prayers. 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 ourselves 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 knowledge and affection are equally superlative, in whom there is united the wisdom of 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.
(1.) By way of reproof for our unsubmissive behaviour in afflictions, our uncompliance with the divine disposals. Some are in a secret discontent at God's afflicting providence; and this raiseth the memory of former mercies, and takes away the relish of present mereies; 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 to implore his clemency. “ The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve, the timorous 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 of his sins, and his heart fretteth against the Lord as the inflicter of them." Prov, 19. 3. 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