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your lips too. Think not praise unsuitable on such an occasion; nor think that praise alone to be suitable, which takes its rise from remaining comforts; but know that it is your duty not only to be thankful in your afflictions, but to be thankful on account of them.
§. 5. God himself has said, in every thing give thanks*; and he has taught his servants to say, Yea, also we glory in tribulation. And most certain it is, that to true believers they are instances of divine, mercy; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth‡, with peculiar and distinguished endearment. View your present afflictions in this light, as chastisements of love; and then let your own heart say, whether love does not demand praise. Think with yourself, "It is thus that God is making me conformable to his own Son; it is thus that he is training me up for complete glory. Thus he kills my corruptions; thus he strengthens my graces; thus he is wisely contriving to bring me nearer to himself, and to ripen me for the honours of his heavenly kingdom. It is, if need be, that I am in heaviness§; and he surely knows what that need is, better than I can pretend to teach him; and knows what peculiar propriety there is in this affliction, to answer my present necessity, and do me that peculiar good which he is graciously intending me by it. This tribulation shall work patience, and patience experience, and experience a more assured hope; even a hope which shall not make ashamed, while the love of God is shed abroad in my heart, and shines through my affliction, like the sun through a gentle descending cloud, darting in light upon the shade, and mingling fruitfulness with weeping."
§. 6. Let it be then your earnest care, while you thus look on your affliction, whatever it may be, as coming from the hand of God, to improve it to the purposes for which it was sent. And that you may so improve it, let it be your first concern to know what those purposes are. Summon up all the attention of your soul, to hear the rod, and him who hath appointed it ¶; and pray earnestly that you may understand its voice. Examine your life, your words, and your heart; and pray, that God would so guide your enquiries, that you may return unto the Lord that smiteth you**. To assist you in this, call in the help of pious friends, and particularly of your ministers: intreat, not only their prayers, but their advices too, as to the probable de
§ 1 Pet. i. 6.
* 1 Thes. v. 18.
+ Rom. v. 3.
Heb. xii. 6.
** Isai. ix. 13. 3 F
sign of providence and encourage them freely to tell you any thing which occurs to their minds upon this head. And if such an occasion should lead them to touch upon some of the imperfections of your character and conduct, look upon it as a great token of their friendship, and take it not only patiently, but thankfully. It does but ill become a christian, at any time to resent reproofs and admonitions; and least of all does it become him, when the rebukes of his heavenly Father are upon him. He ought rather to seek admonitions, at such a time as this, and voluntarily offer his wounds to be searched by a faithful and skilful hand.
§. 7. And when by one means or another you have got a ray of light to direct you in the meaning and language of such dispensations, take heed that you do not, in any degree, harden yourself against God, and walk contrary to him*. Obstinate reluctance to the apprehended design of any providential stroke is inexpressibly provoking to him. Set yourself therefore to an immediate reformation of whatever you discover amiss; and labour to learn the general lessons of greater submission to God's will, of a more calm indifference to the world, and of a closer attachment to divine converse, and to the views of an approaching invisible state. And whatever particular proportion or correspondence you may observe, between this or that circumstance in your affliction, and your former transgressions, be especially careful to act according to that more peculiar and express voice of the rod. Then you may perhaps have speedy and remarkable reason to say, that it hath been good for you that you have been afflicted+; and with a multitude of others, may learn to number the times of your sharpest trials, among the sweetest and the most exalted moments of your life. For this purpose, let prayer be your frequent employment; such sentiments as these, if not in the very same terms, and affectionately poured out before God.
An humble Address to God, under the Pressures of heavy Affliction.
"O THOU supreme, yet all-righteous and gracious governor of the whole universe! Mean and inconsiderable as this little province of thy spacious empire may appear, thou dost not disregard the earth and its inhabitants; but attendest to its concerns with the most condescending and gracious regards.
Psal. cxix. 71.
* Lev. xxvi. 27.
Thou reignest, and I rejoice in it, as it is indeed matter of universal joy. I believe thy universal providence and care; and I firmly believe thy wise, holy, and kind interposition in every thing which relates to me, and to the circumstances of my abode in this world. I would look through all inferior causes unto thee, whose eyes are upon all thy creatures; to thee, who formest light, and createst darkness, who makest peace, and createst evilt; to thee, Lord, who at thy pleasure canst exchange the one for the other, canst turn the brightest noon into midnight, and the darkest midnight into noon.
"O thou wise and merciful governor of the world! I have often said, Thy will be done: and now, thy will is painful to me. But shall I upon that account unsay what I have so often said? God forbid! I come rather to lay myself down at thy feet, and to declare my full and free submission to all thy sacred pleasure. O Lord, thou art just and righteous in all! I acknowledge, in thy venerable and awful presence, that I have deserved this, and ten thousand times moret; I acknowledge, that it is of thy mercy that I am not utterly consumeds, and that any the least. degree of comfort yet remains. O Lord, I most readily confess that the sins of one day of my life have merited all these chastisements; and that every day of my life hath been more or less sinful. Smite, therefore, O thou righteous judge! and I will still adore thee, that instead of the scourge, thou hast not given a commission to the sword, to do all the dreadful work of justice, and to pour out my blood in thy presence.
"But shall I speak unto thee only as my judge? O Lord, thou hast taught me a tender name; thou condescendest to call thyself my father, and to speak of correction as the effects of thy love. O welcome, welcome, those afflictions, which are the tokens of thy parental affection, the marks of my adoption into thy family! Thou knowest what discipline I need. Thou seest, O Lord, that bundle of folly, which there is in the heart of thy poor froward and thoughtless child; and knowest what rods, and what strokes, are needful to drive it away. I would therefore be in humble subjection to the Father of spirits, who chasteneth me for my profit; would be in subjection to him, and live ||. I would bear thy strokes, not merely because I cannot resist them, but because I love and trust in thee. I would sweetly acquiesce and rest in thy will, as well as stoop to it; and would say, Good is the word of the Lord¶: and I desire that not only my lips, but
Psal. xcvii. 1. § Lam. iii. 22.
+ Isai. xlv. 7.
Ezra ix. 13.
¶2 Kings xx. 19.
my soul may acquiesce. Yea, Lord, I would praise thee, that thou wilt shew so much regard to me, as to apply such remedies as these to the diseases of my mind, and art thus kindly careful to train me up for glory. I have no objection against being afflicted, against being afflicted in this particular way. The cup which my Father puts into mine hand, shall I not drink it* ? By thine assistance and support I will. Only be pleased, O Lord, to stand by me, and sometimes to grant me a favourable look in the midst of my sufferings! Support my soul, I beseech thee, by thy consolations mingled with my tribulations; and I shall glory in those tribulations, that are thus allayed! It has been the experience of many, who have reflected on afflicted days with pleasure, and have acknowledged that their comforts have swallowed up their sorrows. And after all that thou hast done, are thy mercies restrained+? Is thy hand waxed short‡? or canst thou not still do the same for me?
"If my heart be less tender, less sensible, thou canst cure that disorder, and canst make this affliction the means of curing it. Thus let it be; and at length in thine own due time, and in the way which thou shalt chuse, work out deliverance for me; and shew me thy marvellous loving-kindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them that put their trust in thee§! For I well know, that how dark soever this night of affliction seem, if thou sayest, Let there be light, there shall be light. But I would urge nothing, before the time thy wisdom and goodness shall appoint. I am much more concerned that my afflictions may be sanctified, than that they may be removed. Number me, God, among the happy persons, whom whilst thou chastenest, thou teachest out of thy law! Shew me, I beseech thee, wherefore thou contendest with me¶¶; and purify me by the fire which is só painful to me, while I am passing through it! Dost thou not chasten thy children for this very end, that they may be partakers of thy holiness **! Thou knowest, O God, it is this my soul is breathing after. I am partaker of thy bounty, every day and moment of my life: I am partaker of thy gospel, and I hope in some measure too, a partaker of the grace of it operating on my heart: Oh may it operate more and more, that I may largely partake of thine holiness too; that I may come nearer and nearer in the temper of my mind to thee, O blessed God, the supreme model of perfection! Let my soul be (as it were) melted, though with the intensest heat of the furnace, if I may but
§ Psal. xvii. 7.
John xviii. 11. Psal. xciv. 12.
+ Isai. Ixiii. 15.
Numb. xi. 23. ** Heb. xii. 10.
thereby be made fit for being delivered into the mould of thy gospel, and bearing thy bright and amiable image!
"O Lord, my soul longeth for thee; it crieth out for the living God! In thy presence, and under the support of thy love, I can bear any thing; and am willing to bear it, if I may grow more lovely in thine eyes, and more meet for thy kingdom. The days of my affliction will have an end; the hour will at length come, when thou wilt wipe away all my tearst. Though it tarry, I would wait for it. My foolish heart, in the midst of all its trials, is ready to grow fond of this earth, disappointing and grievous as it is: and graciously, O God, dost thou deal with me, in breaking these bonds that would tie me faster to it. O let my soul be girding itself up, and (as it were) stretching its wings in expectation of that blessed hour, when it shall drop all its sorrows and incumbrances at once, and soar away to expatiate with infinite delight in the regions of liberty, peace, and joy! Amen."
The Christian assisted in examining into his Growth in Grace. The Examination important, §. 1. False Marks of Growth to be avoided, §. 2. True Marks proposed; such as, (1.) Increasing Love to God, §. 3. (2.) Benevolence to Men, §. 4. (3.) Candour of Disposition, §. 5. (4.) Meekness under Injuries, §. 6. (5.) Serenity amidst the Uncertainties of Life, §. 7. (6.) Humility, §. 8. especially as expressed in evangelical Exercises of Mind towards Christ and the Spirit, §. 9. (7.) Zeal for the divine Honour, §. 10. (8.) Ilabitual and cheerful Willingness to exchange Worlds, whenever God shall appoint it,§. 11. Conclusion, §. 12, The Christian breathing after Growth in Grace.
$. 1 1.IF by divine grace you have been born again not of cor
ruptible seed, but of incorruptible§, even by that word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever, not only in the world and the church, but in particular souls in which it is sown; you will, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. And though in the most advanced state of religion on earth, we are but infants, in comparison of what we hope to be, when in the heavenly world, we arrive unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ¶, yet as we have some exercise of a sanctified reason, we shall be soli
Psal. lxxxiv. 2. §1 Pet. i, 23.
+ Rev. xxi. 4.
|| 1 Pet. ii. 2.
Hab. ii. 3.