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in the bottomless pit, together with the devil and his angels. And consequently, whatsoever falls short of this, is truly a great mercy; and so far from being ground of quarrelling, that the greatest sufferer on this side hell, hath just cause to admire God's clemency in dealing more favourably with bim than he hath deserved.
5thly Compare thy case with others that have been or presently are in distress. Do not say there is none so hardly dealt with as thou art, for thiou knowest not the affliction of others. Consider duly the trials of that eminent saint Job, in all the circumstances thereof, and see if you can say, that your sorrow is ever so great as his sorrow was. Again, compare your case with that of the damned in hell, who lie and fry in endless and ceaseless flames, so that they have no rest day nor night, but the smoke of their torment ascends for ever: and think what a blessing it is, that you are yet in a state of salvation, and not delivered over to these everlasting burnings, which were the due demerits of your sins, and to which you might long ago have been justly condenined, had it not been for the patience and long suffering of Almighty God, waiting to be gracious to guilty sinners. When you consider these things, instead of being dissatisfied with the divine dispensations, you have cause to bless God, that matters are not worse with you; and that you are kept out of bell to this day, where thousands no more guilty than you, are presently roaring in desperation.
Unto these considerations I shall subjoin some few helps or advices in order to the attaining of patience under sore troubles. 1. Labour to get pardon of sin and peace with God secured to thy soul, and this will enable you to bear the heaviest cross with patience. Hence it was that Luther cried, “Smite, Lord, as thou wilt, I take all in good part, seeing my sins are pardoned; O pardon of sin is the crowning blessing, therefore I will bear any thing, I will swallow up quarrel.. ling into admiring; I welcome the pruning knife, see
ing there is no fear of the bloody axe to fell me down."
2. Labour to see God's hand in thy affliction. Do not, like the dog, snarl at the stone, but look up to the hand that throws it. And surely a view of the hand of a holy God may serve to calm all the boisterous waves of thy corruption, so did it with David, Psalm xxxix. 9. “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it." When he looked to the instruments and second causes of his afflictions, his heart waxed hot, and the fire of his inward passion began to burn and break out; but when he once espied God's hand and seal to the warrant for his correction, he became silent, and patiently submitted to the divine will.
3. Get a humble and self-denied frame of spirit, that you may have low thoughts of yourself, and of all your attainments whatsoever. A proud man cannot ihink of submitting to the divine will, but will break before he bow. Hence we see a vast difference be. twixt a proud Pharoah and an humble Eli, under the rod: the one says, who is the Lord, that I should obey him? but the other saith, it is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.
4. Get love to Jesus Christ. Love is an enduring principle, i Cor. xiii. 7. it endureth all things. It makes the soul, like the kindly child, draw nearer to Christ, the more it is beaten.
5. Interpret God's ways and dealings with you always in the best sense. And, Lastly, Be earnest in prayer, that God may conquer your rebellious will, and subdue these mutinous risings of heart within you a, gainst himself.
Direct. VI. Beware of cnvying wicked men, when
you see them in health and prosperity. TH THE Psalmist, when he was chastened, every morn
ing, and in great adversity, was liable to this,
evil, Psal. Ixxiii. 3. “I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Corrupt nature 'doth strongly incline us to this sinful disposition, especially in the day of sore affliction; for “ the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy," Jam. iv. 5. But did we rightly consider the state of wicked men, we would see greater ground to pity than envy them in the most prosperous condition; Why? " the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” Prov. i. 32. It makes them forget God, and turn hardened and secure in sin, which hastens their ruin. Who would envy a malefactor's going up a ladder and being mounted above the rest of the people, when it is only for a little, and in order to his being turned over and hanged? This is just the case of wicked men, who are mounted up high in prosperity; for it is so, only that they may be cast down deeper into destruction. Observe that word, Psal. xxxvii. 1, 2. “ Fret not thyself because of evil.doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity; for they shall soon be cut down like grass,” &c. And that word, Psalm xcii. 7. “When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever." It would be a brutish thing to envy an ox of his high and sweet pas :re, when he is only thereby.fitted for the day of slaughter. Who would have envied the beasts of old, the garlands and ribbons with which the heathens adorned them, when they went to be sacri. ficed ? These external ornaments of health, wealth, pleasures and preferments, wherewith wicked men are endowed; cannot make their bitter state happy, nor change their natures to the better. Whatever appearance these things make in the eyes of the world, they are but like a noisome dunghill, covered with scarlet, as vile and loathsome in God's sight as ever. How quickly is the beauty of earthly things blasted ! " The triumphing of the wicked is short, Job xx. 5.. They live in pleasures on the earth for a while; but God sets them in slippery places, from whence they soon slide
into perpetual pain and anguish. They have a short time of mirth, but they shall have an eternity of mourning. The longer their prosperity is, their sins are the greater, and their sufferings will be more grievous. But, О believer, it is in mercy to thee, that God doth hedge up the way with thorns, that thou mayest not find thy paths; whilst he turns the wicked loose, and suffers them to stray and wander whither they will, to their eternal, ruin.' God takes this method with thee to make thee meet for an inheritance, and prepare you for a crown of glory; but he takes a contrary way with the wicked, to fit them for destruction: therefore you ought not to be fretful under his hand, but thankful. We read of Queen Elizabeth, when she was in prison, how she envied the poor milk maid that was passing by, and would have thought herself happy to have been in her condition: But, had that afflicted princess known the glorious reign of forty-four years she was soon to enter upon, she would not have repined at the happiness of so mean a person. But, O afflicted believer, it is not a glorious reign for a set number of years, that is provided for thee; it is even a reign with glorious Christ thy Redeemer, for ever and ever: And hast thou any ground to be discontented or envious ?
Direct. VII. Guard against repining complaints and
discontented murmurinys against the providence of
ed with these that walk after their own lusts, Jude ver. 16. I know the people of God are liable to murmuring and impatience also under affliction ; but there is a great difference betwixt them and the wicked, I will have occasion lo speak of believers murmurings afterwards, when I come to speak of their case in particular; but here I shall handle the sin of murmur
ing in general, and as it appears mainly in the unregenerate, under beavy affliction.
This sin of murmuring is the froth of impatience, and scum of discontent; it is first cherished by repining thoughts, and then vented by unsuitable complaints and expostulations, taxing the administration of providlence, as if God dealt too hard with us. thoughts are audible with God, yea, as loud in his ears, as words are in ours; but it is yet worse, when repining thoughts are not crushed, but suffered to break out into words tending to the dishonour of God.
Quest. But is it altogether unlawful to complain of affliction whatever be our case ?
Ans. Humble complaints are not murmurings, nor sinful in themselves: otherwise there would be no room for prayer, and for spreading out our distressed case before the Lord. We find God's children making complaints in affliction, but then they do not complain of God, but to God, with a humble inquiry into the cause and meaning of his dispensations, and laying all the blame upon themselves, as did Job, chap. x. 1, 2. “I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul, I will say unto God, do not condemn me, shew me where fore thou contendest with me." Thus the blessed Son of God himself did in his distress, when he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But there we may observe, he complains to God, not of God; he hath not a hard word or thought of God, but expresseth a holy confidence in God, My God, my God! he hath two words of faith for one word of fear. He humbly inquires into the cause of the dispensation, and desires to bring his will to God, not that God should bring down bis will to him: If it be possible ( says he ) let this cup pass; however, glorify thy name, provide for tby own glory, and do with me what thou pleasest. In this matter our Lord doth set himself as an example of patience to us, teaching us to beware of impatient murmuring and quarrelling with