Sivut kuvina

ders, and is the eternal argument of their praises : never were suffering so grievous, never was issue so glorious. “ For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the majesty on high.” Heb. 12. 2. Now our blessed Saviour hath promised, 6 To him that overcomes, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Rev. 3. 21. Unfainting perseverance in our duty, shall be rewarded with the glory of our Redeemer. And is not the prospect and expectation of this sufficient to confirm our minds, and make us patiently bear the greatest afflictions ?

2dly. The consideration of the suffering saints in all ages, is a powerful persuasive to patience. Thus the apostle James directs christians, “ Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction and of patience.” Jam. 5. 10. And we have great encouragement from hence, if we consider;

(1.) That those who are of most precious account with God, and highly favoured by him, are usually exercised with sharp afAictions. The singularity and greatness of a calamity exasperate the sorrow, when it is apprehended as a sign of extraordinary guilt in the afflicted, and of severe displeasure in God that sends it; but prevent trouble that ariseth from that apprehension, the scripture records the heavy afflictions that happened to God's chosen servants and favourites. Moses, whom God honoured with the most condescending and familiar discoveries of himself, was tried by long afflictions. David, a man after God's own heart, was a long time hurled to and fro by tempestuous persecutions from his unjust and implacable enemies. Isaiah, who was dignified with such heavenly revelations, that his describing the sufferings of Christ seems rather the history of an evangelist, than the vision of a prophet, was sawn asunder.

(2.) Their nature was as frail as ours, their afflictions as cutting and sensible, yet how patiently and courageously did they endure the most cruel sufferings?

(3.) We have the same blessed comforter to assist us as they had, the Holy Spirit. He that is styled the spirit of power, infuseth a holy magnanimity to bear the heaviest sufferings. Now it is the apostle's inference from the history of the saints under the Old Testament, some of whom died martyrs, and others lived martyrs, by their constant and generous suffering various evils for divine truth : “Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us; and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Heb. 12. 1. The metaphorical expression, “a cloud of witnesses,” imports a numerous company, and is by some of the ancients interpreted as an allusion to the benefit we receive from the natural clouds, that refresh the air, and screen us from the scorching heat of the sun. The allusion is too subtile and strained, but the benefit is real; for the admirable examples of their patience and courage are powerful to refresh sorrowful spirits, “We are encompassed with them as a theatre.” There is no kind of affliction, and no part of our duty, whereof there is not presented to us some example for our encouragement and imitation. It is also worthy of observation, that christians have a special obligation, encouragement, and assistance to bear afflictions with cheerful spirits, above the believers of the Old Testament. For under the Mosaic dispensation, outward prosperity, riches, honour, victory, long life, were the open expressions of God's favour, promised by the terms of that covenant, as rewards to obedience. Yet even then, some of the most excellent saints were illustrious examples of patient suffering afflictions. But in the gospel God hath declared, that his design is to train up his children by sufferings, for their future happiness; that “through many tribulations they must enter into the kingdom of God." And we find the truth of this by manifold experience, from the first ages of the christian church. St. John, by revelation, “ beheld a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, that stood before the throne, and before the lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands : and they all came out of great tribulation, and had washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Rev. 7. 9. Now since the cross is an appendix to the gospel, we should with more prepared minds submit to it. Besides, if believers then, who enjoyed only star-light, less clear discoveries of the glorious world to come, were so patient and constant in suffering for the truth; how much more should we be animated in our troubles, to whom the “Sun of Righteousness" appears, revealing life and immortality by the gospel? If they who were partakers of the Holy Spirit in lesser degrees, were supported; should not christians that receive the graces of the Spirit in richer abundance, be more comforted ?

3dly. All creatures obey the will of the Creator ; all the lower rank ; 6 fire and hail, snow and vapours, and stormy winds fulfil his word.” Psal. 148. 8. The sun stood still till Joshua had completed his victory; it started back to confirm the faith of Hezekiah. Nay, sensible creatures will contradict their own natures at God's command. The ravens fed Elijah, and the lions spared Daniel. And creatures of the superior order exactly fulfil his will. “The angels that excel in strength, do his commandments : hearkening to the voice of his word.” Psal. 103. They do not usurp upon his royalty, nor make use of their power to deny subjection to his pleasure. Now if the inferior creatures, who are under less obligations, and cannot understand their duty; if superior creatures that excel us in nobility of nature, and dignity of state, perfectly obey God; should not their example strongly incite us to submit to his will ?

4thly. It is our most glorious perfection, to have our wills united to the divine will. In heaven grace is in its exaltation, the spirits of just men are made perfect by their compliance with the divine will that absolutely governs there. A private will that compounds with God upon sordid capitulations, that excepts against doing or suffering what is distasteful and harsh to the carnal part; how unreasonable, how degenerous and base is it? But when the will is obedient, enlarged, and uniform with God, it is ennobled. If our slow-paced thoughts could conceive things as easily, suddenly, and clearly as the angels do, our minds would be in the highest elevation: * and is it not a more valuable and desirable perfection to will as God does, than to understand as the angels?

Besides, patience has a special eminence above other graces, and advances a christian to the highest honour and perfection that is attainable here. All graces are of the same divine extraction, and have the same general effect upon the soul : they come from God, and produce a godlike temper and disposition : but they are distinguished by their objects and operations : some are heroic, exercised about great things, and produce more noble

* Hic est magnus animus qui se Deo tradidit, Senec:

actions : others are humble, and conversant in meaner things, and their operations are less eminent. As amongst the birds, the eagles fly aloft, and only stoop for a great prey: the bees fly from flower to flower, and extract a little dew, but it is all honey. It is the counsel of St. James to the afflicted, “ let patience have her perfect work,” in bearing alllictions, though heavy and continued, “ that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." A singular perfection and encomium is attributed to patience, in that the trial and exercise of it is the most difficult part of our duty, and without it we can neither obey the commands, nor obtain the promises of the gospel. Patience is the truest fortitude, and draws forth other divine graces in their excellent activity. What the temper is to material weapons that are blunted or broken in the combat without it, patience is to other graces, their strength is derived from it. This was the most glorious perfection of Christ's obedience; “ for it became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Heb. 2. Patience is not only defensive armour, but has noble operations. When our Saviour was nailed to the cross, and was the mark wherein all the poisoned arrows of rage and malice were received, he seemed only to suffer, yet even then performed the most divine exploits, and obtained the most glorious victory; he reconciled God, disarmed the law, subdued satan, broke the gates of hell, destroyed death, and rescued us miserable forlorn captives. Upon this account Chrysostom breaks forth in rapturous expressions, that our Saviour suffering on the cross, was more glorious than in his creating the world. Thus the patience of a christian, which in appearance is only a quiet bearing affliction from God, yet produceth many blessed effects: a believer, while he feels the weight of God's hand, incessantly seeks his face with the most ardent. affections. He doth not murmur against the displeasure of God, but mourns bitterly that he hath deserved it. He surrenders himself to the divine displeasure, which is the purest act of obedience.' He subdues his unruly passions, which is a more noble victory than the achievements of the most celebrated conquerors. It is true, the power of grace is very conspicuous in resisting pleasant temptations, the pernicious attractives of the senses and carnal appetites; but more in the battles of patience, by how

much it is more easy to nature to be content without unnecessary and superficial pleasures, than to endure oppressing and painful evils. I will produce an instance in both kinds, recorded in scripture, for the veneration and imitation of all. The first is that of Joseph, whose unspotted chastity was discovered by rejecting the impure desires of his master's wife. Three powerful tempters joined to draw his consent, solitude, youth, and solicitation ; solitude with its silence, is often more persuasive to the commission of sin than the strongest eloquence; because there being none that sees, takes away the shame of being seen in guilty and foul actions. Youth is violent in its appetites, and needs no entreaties to induce it to gratify them: the sensual fancy reigns, and has such a ravishing power upon the will, that to corrupt nature the temptation is irresistible, and without divine strength, an instance of overcoming it, would be as rare as a phænix in the world. Besides, Joseph was her slave, and was tempted by entreaties mixed with inticements from a superior, that (like a bow that draws strength from its bending) by making a show of subjection acquires a double empire. But he had a reverence of his invisible observer and judge: .“ how shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Now that Joseph in the flower of his age, was not imboldened by, solitude, nor excited by concupiscence, nor poisoned by the breath of the basilisk, was an admirable effect of divine grace. He preserved his sincere and constant innocence, as the sun its undefiled lustre in the midst of all the feculent exhalations that ascend from the earth. • The other instance is Job, whose victorious grace in the comparison, is more glorious than that of Joseph; for as the lapses of those who by terrors and torments violate the law, are less culpable, and more excusable, than of those who by sensual allurements transgress the divine commands, the human nature being capable of such * dolorous impressions as infinitely exceed all the pleasures of sense; and consequently the yielding for fear of vehement pains and extreme evils, is less voluntary than what proceeds from the love of delights ; so proportionably that virtue is more eminent that remains firm, and preserves us in our duty,

[ocr errors][merged small]
« EdellinenJatka »