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forgetfulness, both of its dependance and obnoxiousness to the divine tribunal. It is said of the adherents of antichrist, "That they were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over the plagues, and they repented not to give him glory." Rev. 16. 9. Infinite insolence! Such obstinate souls the prince of darkness possesses as his peculiar dominion; they have more need of conversion than consolation. Besides, by impatience and vexatious fretting, they exasperate their pains, turn the rod into a serpent, vipers into dragons; and God's mighty hand is more heavy by their resistance. Bold expostulations irritate his anger, rather than incline his mercy; the wilful man never wants woe. "With the froward," saith the psalmist, "thou wilt show thyself froward," Psal. 80. or, as it is rendered in the margin wrestle. The strongest sinner is not a match for the Almighty; if his anger excite his power, how easily, "how sudden are they destroyed without remedy? Stubborn impatience under the inflictions of God's righteous providence, is the nearest step to final ruin. Others are so dejected and broken with afflictions, that their continuance in the world it but a living death: every thing entertains their grief, and the best means afforded for their reviving and comfort are ineffectual. Sorrow flows into despair, they lament and languish as if their case were hopeless and remediless. The fountain of this black stream, is a superlative esteem and affection to inferior things: and what is reserved for the blessed Creator? If a temporal loss be the most afflicting evil, it is a sign that God was not valued and loved as the chiefest good. The difficulty of receiving consolation, shows the necessity of their being afflicted: the language of such resolved sorrow is, "They have taken away my gods; and what have I more?" The sole objects of their felicity are removed, and they refuse to be comforted; as if no less sacrifice were due to the remembrance of their loss, but life itself. What a disparagement is this of the divine excellencies? "Are the consolations of God small to us ?" Is not his love able to compensate the loss of a frail, mutable, mortal creature? Cannot he please and satisfy us without the fruition of one earthly comfort? This dejection of spirit is equally undutiful as uncomfortable; our griefs are sometimes as vain and as guilty as our joys; there is a tincture of disobedience in our tears; for we are commanded "to mourn as if we mourned not, for the fashion of
the world passeth away;" and we at once break his law and our own peace. Our disobedience in this is aggravated, as being contrary not only to the authority and sanctity of the Lawgiver, but to his loving-kindness and compassion. Ah, the miserable blindness of human minds! and the more miserable, because voluntary. Who is more deservedly unhappy than one that sits upon the bank of a river, and yet is tormented and dies with thirst? The clear, fresh stream passeth before him, allures and invites him, but he will not stoop to drink; this is the case of those who neglect and refuse the spiritual consolations in the gospel, John 3. 38, 39. that are compared to the flowing rivers of living water, for their cooling, refreshing quality. They meritoriously and actively bring trouble to their souls; their passions are the instruments of their misery. He that is his own executioner, has no excuse of dying; he is justly, because wilfully miserable.
Consider also what a reproach is cast upon christianity, that so many virtuous heathens in great afflictions, were in some measure supported by the precepts of human wisdom; and that christians, to whom there is revealed from heaven, that an eternal state of glory and joy shall be the reward of their patient sufferings, remain utterly disconsolate. I will single out one example. Stilpon the philosopher, when his city was destroyed, with his wife and children, and he escaped alone from the fire, being asked whether he had lost any thing? Replied, "All my treasures are with me," justice, virtue, temperance, prudence, and this inviolable principle, * not to esteem any thing as my proper good, that can be ravished from me: his mind was erect and steadfast under the ruins of his, country. And others upon lower and less generous considerations, have born up in their sufferings. How do such examples upbraid us, that their twilight excels our noonday brightness? If common cordials raised such courageous spirits in them, shall not the waters of life, the divine strong comforts of the gospel, fortify us to bear all sufferings with a valiant resignation to the good will of God? Can the spirit of a man, by rational principles sustain his infirmities, and cannot the spirit of God, the great comforter, support us under all troubles?
* Omnia bona mea mecum sunt. Justitia, virtus, temperantia, prudentia, hoc ipsum nihil boni putare quod eripi possit. Senec. Epist, 9.
What a blot is this to religion? Those who will not be comforted, will not be christians; by the same holy spirit who is styled the comforter, we are the one and the other. If the precious promises of the gospel do not alleviate our sorrows, it is not from infirmity, but from infidelity. It is an incredible miracle, that a person can be in reality a christian, and not capable of consolation; as if eternal life were not purchased by Christ for his people, or the present sufferings were comparable to the future glory; or the possession of it were to be obtained after a thousand years of hard trial: but if it were delayed so long, that sensible duration should sink our spirits; for the misery that passeth with time, is not of moment with respect to the blessedness that is established for ever.
(2.) Let us be excited to transcribe this divine lesson (so full of excellency and difficulty) in our hearts and lives. It is easy in speculation to consent to the reasonabless of this duty, but how hard to practise it, and to bear not too sensibly such evils as are incurable here? A deliberate, universal, constant subjection to God's will, though contrary to our carnal desires and interests, how rarely is it to be found among those who in title and profession are his servants? In active obedience, some will readily perform some particular commands, but withdraw subjection from the rest; they seem to make conscience of the duties of piety, but neglect righteousness; or else are just in their dealings, and careless of devotion. Some are liberal, but irreconcilable; they will give for their honour, but forgive no contempt or injury; and as the dividing living twins destroys them, so the life and sincerity of obedience, that consists in the union and entireness of its parts, is destroyed by dividing our respects to some commands, neglecting the rest. And in "passive obedience," many will submit to lighter and shorter afflictions, but if an evil comes that nearly touches the heart, or that remains long without redress, they become impatient, or so dejected as to neglect their duty. I shall therefore superadd to the former arguments, wherein the necessity, the equity, and the policy of our dutiful resignation to God's providence is clearly set forth, some other motives and directions, that may be useful and effectual for this end.
1st. Look frequently to Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith: the divine wisdom, to reform the world, assumed
the human nature, and expressed in a holy conversation upon earth, a living copy of his precepts, to direct us in the various parts of our duty; and because the exercise of humility, self-denial, and the rest of the suffering graces, is so difficult to our frail and tender nature; he ascended the cross, and instructs us by suffering, to suffer with his affections, leaving us his example, as the best lecture of our duty; his sufferings concern us not only in point of merit, but conformity. We can never enjoy the benefit of his passion, without following his pattern. His example is the rule of the highest perfection, and we are under the greatest obligation to imitate and honour him who is our sovereign and Saviour, to whom we owe our redemption from everlasting misery, and the inheritance of glory. It is the apostle's advice to the afflicted, "to consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that ye be not wearied, and faint in your minds." Heb. 12. 3. The deduction is with greater force to make us humble and patient; if we consider,
(1.) The infinite dignity of his person. He was the eternal and only Son of God, and descended from the throne of his majesty, divested himself of his robes of insupportable light, that concealed and manifested his glory to the angels, Psal. 104. and was obedient to the death of the cross. What are the highest and best of men to him? Were it not extremely unbecoming and undutiful for a subject to refuse obedience to a just law, if the king that made the law should voluntarily observe it, and reserve no other advantage to himself, but the honour of enacting it? Our Saviour did not stand upon the dignity and liberty of his person, being equal with God, and our king, but entirely complied with the law, and shall we complain of its rigour? (2.) The greatness of his sufferings. They were incomparable as to their value, so in their degrees. He endured the equal extremities of infamy and torment, that are so contrary to the inclinations of mankind. He was crowned with a cruel diadem of thorns, scourged, spit upon, derided, crucified: insensible nature, as if capable of understanding and affection, was disordered in its whole frame at his death. The heavens sympathized in eclipses of the sun, in the darkness of the air at mid-day, as midnight, the earth quaked with deep tremblings, and the rocks were rent asunder. And the sufferings of his soul from the incensed justice of God were inconceivably great. What is the worst we suffer,
either immediately from God, or instrumentally from men to his bitter passion? Our sufferings are but superficial shadows of misery, compared to his deep sorrows.
(3.) His sufferings were most undeserved: for he was the holy one of God, his conception without the least taint of sin, his life of strictest purity, and complete obedience to the divine law. We may read the process of our sins, and understand their guilt in his passion. "He was made sin for us," (a sacrifice to atone the divine displeasure) "who knew no sin." As David when guilty of adultery and murder, was fired with disdain at the relation of an incompassionate rich man, killing the single lamb of his poor neighbour, and sparing his own numerous flock; and when the prophet unveiled the parable, and surprised him with that piercing reproach, "Thou art the man!" he presently by that fiction in another, was convinced of his own true guilt, and was extremely afflicted in the sense of it: thus we are apt to conceive indignation against the murderers of our Saviour, the apostate apostle, the malicious priests, the unrighteous judge, the bloody soldiers but conscience (as a true Nathan) may charge us to have been in that wicked conspiracy against the Lord of glory, for our sins condemned and crucified him.
And as our sins were the impulsive cause of his sufferings, so our good is the effect of them. He suffered the death of the cross, that his blood might be our ransom, his ignominy the purchase of our glory, his torments the merit of our blessedness, his death the seed of immortal life to us; but we suffer the just punishment of our own sins.
(4.) His willing obedience, divine patience, and invincible constancy in suffering for us. In his distress, the whole army of heaven were in readiness for his protection and rescue, upon the least signification of his will: "If I prayed to my father, he would send me twelve legions of angels." Nay, he had the springs and keys of the divine power in his hands, and could by a word have destroyed his enemies; but he "freely gave himself for us;" and without resistance, without complaint took up his cross. Now our Saviour, who had the fulness of the spirit, communicates to us the first fruits of it, faith and love, humility and patience, peace and joy, to support us under affliction.
(5.) Consider the excellent reward of his sufferings. He was abased below men, and is advanced above all the angelical or