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efficacy, what an excellency in the religion of Jesus ! “Here is the patience of the saints !" This bring us,
PART II. To specify some cases in which the patience of the faints is to be rendered ILLUSTRIous and STRIKING.
We shall mention three. The first concerns PROVOCATION; the fecond AFFLICTION; the third DELAY: here patience is neceffary; and here we are to behold its triumphs. : First, it is to be displayed in bearing PROVOCATION. " It muft needs be that offences will come.” Our opinions, reputations, connections, offices, businesses, render us widely vulnerable. The characters of men are various ; their pursuits and their interests perpetu. ally clash. Some try us by their ignorance, fome by their folly, some by their perverseness, fome by their malice. There are to be found persons made up of every thing disagreeable and mischievous; born only to vex, a burden to themselves, and a torment to all around them. Here is an opportunity for the triumph of patience; here is a theatre on which a man may exhibit his character, and appear à fretful, waspish reptile, or a placid, pardoning God. We are very fusceptive of irritation ; anger is eloquent; revenge is fweet. But to stand calm and collected ; to suspend the blow, which passion was urgent to strike ; to drive the reasons of clemency as far as they will go; to bring forward fairly in view the circumstances of mitigation; to distinguish between surprise and deliberation, infirmity and crime; or if an infliction be deemed neceffary, to leave God to be both the judge and the executioner-This a christian should labor after.
His peace requires it. People love to fting the pal
fionate. They who are easily provoked, commit their repose to the keeping of their enemies ; they lie down at their feet, and invite them to strikė. The man of temper places himself beyond vexatious interruption and insult. “ He that hath no rule over his own spir“ it, is like a city that is broken down and without “ walls,” into which enter over the ruins, toads, ferpents, vagrants, thieves, enemies ; while the man, who in patience pofsefses his foul, has the compiand of himfelf, places a defence all around him, and forbids the entrance of such unwelcome company to offend or discompofe.
His wisdom requires it." He that is slow to anger " is of great understanding; but he that is hafty of “ spirit exalteth folly.” “ Anger refteth in the bosom s of fools.” Wisdom gives us large, various, comprehensive failing round views of things; the very exercise operates as a diversion, affords the mind time to cool, and furnishes numberless circumstances tending to soften severity. Such is the meekness of wisdom. Thus candour is the offspring of knowledge.
His dignity requires it. “ It is the glory of a man “ to pass by a tranfgreffion.” “Be not overcome of "evil, but overcome evil with good.” The man provoked to revenge, is conquered, and loses the glory of the struggle ; while he who forbears, comes off a victor, crowned with no common laurels ; for, “he " that is slow to anger is better than the mighty : and “ he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.”. A flood affails a rock, and rolls off, unable to make an impression ; while straws and boughs are borne off in triumph, carried down the stream, “ driven with " the wind, and tossed.”
It is also required by examples the most worthy of our imitation. What provocations had Joseph receiv. ed from his brethren! but he scarcely mentions the crime, so eager is he to announce the pardon ; " and * he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold in" to Egypt : now therefore be not grieved, nor angry “ with yourselves that ye fold me hither ; for God did " send me before you to preserve life.” “ Hear David: " they rewarded me evil for good, to the spoiling of my
foul. But as for me, when they were fick my ““ clothing was fackcloth : I humbled my soul with
fasting, and my prayer returned into my own bof"om. I behaved myself as though he had been my “ friend or brother : I bowed down heavily, as one " that mourneth for his mother !". View Stephen, dying under a fhower of stones; he more than pardons ; he prays; he is more concerned for his enemies, than for himself ; in praying for himself, he ftood; in praying for his enemies, he kneeled : he kneeled and said, “Lord lay not this fin to their “ charge.” A greater than Joseph, a greater than David, a greater than Stephen, is here. He endured every kind of insult; but " when he was reviled, he “ reviled not again : when he suffered, he threatened “not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth “ righteously.” Go to the foot of the cross, and be. hold him suffering for us, “leaving us an example “ that we should follow his steps.” Every thing confpired to render the provocation heinous ; the nature of the offence, the meanness and obligations of the offenders, the righteousness of his cause, the grandeur of his person ; all these seemed to call for vengeance.
The creatures are eager to punish. Peter drew his sword. The sun resolved to shine on such criminals no longer. The rocks asked leave to crush them., The earth trembles under the sinful load. The very dead cannot remain in their graves. He suffers them all to testify their sympathy, but forbids their revenge; and left the Judge of all should pour forth his fury, he instantly cries, “ Father, forgive them, for they “ know not what they do." “ Here is the patience “of” a God.
Secondly, Patience is to be displayed in SUFFERI NE AFFLICTION. “ Man is born to trouble, as the sparks “ fly upward;" and so far are the saints from being exempted, that we are informed “many are the af. flictions of the righteous.” But we shall not def. cribe them ; we have only to enquire after the temper with which they are to be bore.
It is not necessary to be insensible ; there is no virtue in bearing what we do not feel ; grace takes away the heart of stone, and patience does not bring it back. You may desire deliverance; but these desires will not be rath, insisting, unconditional ; but always closed with“ nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
You may employ means to obtain freedom; but these means will be lawful ones. A suffering christian may see several ways of release, but he seeks only God's way. “ He who confined me shall bring me forth ; “ here will I stand still to see the salvation of the Lord, “ which he will shew me.” He would rather endure the greatest calamity, than commit the least sin; and while the affliction remains, there is no rebellious carriage, no foaming expressions, no hard thoughts of God, no charging him foolishly. He calmly acquiesces in a condition, of the disadvantages of which he is fully sensible. His patience keeps him in the medium between presumption and despair ; between despising “ the chastening of the Lord, and fainting when “ rebuked of him ;" between feeling too little and too much. Here then is another field, in which patience may gather glory. Affliction comes to exercise and illustrate our patience.
“ The trial of your faith “ worketh patience ;" and it does so in consequence of the divine blessing, and by the natural operation of things; for use makes perfect, the yoke is rendered easy by being worn, and those parts of the body which are most in action, are the most strong and solid. And therefore you are not to excuse improper dispo. sitions under amiction, by saying, "it was so trying, “ who could help it :” this is to justify impatience, by the very means which God employs on purpose to make you patient. Be assured the fault is not in the condition, but in the temper. Labour therefore to display this grace in whatever ftate you are, and how. ever afflicted you may be. Impatience turns the rod into a scorpion. Till you wipe your eyes from this suffusion of tears, you cannot see what God is doing ; and while the noisy paflions are so clamorous, his ad. dress cannot be heard. Suppose you were lying on a bed of pain, or walking in the field under fome heavy affliction ; fuppose you were alone there, and heard a voice which you knew to be the voice of God—“Do
not imagine your case is fingular; there has been “ forrow like unto thy sorrow. Take the prophets, “who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an