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notwithstanding the batteries of extreme 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 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 only left to alleviate his sorrows, unspeakably increased 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 reversed, 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 immortal in paradise; for with indignation he repulsed 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 seen my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth ?" Job 2. 3. Unparalleled 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 adniration, as his patient sufferings, for which he is universally crowned with the praises of 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. It is the say. ing of the Platonic philosopher, take away from the life of Hercules, the tyrants he suppressed, and the fierce beasts he slew, his travels aud combats wherein his courage was exercised and appeared, and you lessen his virtue, 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, 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 virtue and glorious power. In short, God usually conducts his people to the sublimest degrees of grace and glory by suffering; the more they are tried and refined, the brighter their crown will be.
5ly. It is our felicity quietly to resign our wills to the blessed will of God. Patience, considered as a moral virtue, frees us from many sorrows and vexations that are supervenient to an affliction, and are caused merely 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 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 entirely 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 celestial nature, have the same regular motion with the hea
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 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 wil 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 chooseth always what is best for us? This will 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 clothes, but from the body that warms them : we see persons in the fit of an ague shake with cold, though 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 acquiescence in the divine disposal always brings satisfaction to the soul. It is an inviolable treasure that cannot by the most violent evils be taken from us.
I shall annex two considerations more, to show how our felis city is promoted by our patient sufferings.
1. It is 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, he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Rom. 8. 29, If we suffer with his divine patience, with his humble and holy affections, it is a clear and certain evidence that we are appointed to reign with him. If we bear the image of our suffering Saviour in 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 entire and resigned submission yield up ourselves to the conduct of his wisdom, as to the ways by which we shall obtain it ?
2. By a filial submission to God's chastisements, we have a blessed testimony of our adoption. It is 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 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 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? It is 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 : 6 weeping can endure but for a night, and joy comes in the morning" of the everlasting day. “ For a moment have I hid my face from thee, but with everlasting kindness will I receive thee, saith the Lord.” Isa. 5. Death is the last step out of mortality and misery. “Be ye also patient, stablish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draws nigh.” Jam. 5.
To these motives I shall add some directions for the performance of this hard duty.
Direct. 1. A steadfast 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 those prime, universal, rich truths, from whence so many practical consequences are derived. By virtue of it we may infallibly conelude, 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 assured of the wisdom and goodness, the rectitude and equity of his dispensations, than 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 : it is infinite, and overruling all things. God is pleased to represent it in scripture, according to the narrowness of our capacity: as Elisha contracted himself to the stature of the Shunamite's child, applying his mouth to his mouth, and his hands to his hands. 2 Kings 4. Thus it is 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 though they seem innumerable to our senses, yet the multitude is exactly known to him, and yields ready and entire obedience to his pleasure. From whence the psalmist infers, “ Great is the Lord, and of great power, his understanding is infinite." Psal. 147. 5.
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 man drew a bow at a venture,”: Į Kings 22. 34. 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. It is not an hyperbolical expression of our Saviour, but an absolute truth, “ that all the hairs of our head are numbered, and not one falls to the ground without his licence.” Mat. 10. The voluntary and most indetermined causes of things are under his conduct. The hearts of men even of kings that are most aba solute and unconfined, are in the hand of the Lord, he turns them aecording to his pleasure ; as the streams of water are by several trenches conveyed to refresh a garden, by the skilful hus, bandman.