Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

lives. As the pleasure of sin, so the sufferings of the godly, are but for a season. (Heb. xi. 26.) “Now, for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” (1 Pet. i. 6.) The pleasures and the pains of so short a life, are but like a pleasant or a frightful dream ; how quickly shall we awake, and all is vanished. If we lived as long as they did before the flood, then worldly interest, prosperity, and adversity, would be of greater signification to us, and yet they should seem nothing in comparison of eternity : for where now are all the fleshly pains or pleasures of Adam or Methuselah? Much more are they inconsiderable in so short a life as one of ours. Happy is the man whose sorrows are of no longer continuance than this short and transitory life!

Reas. 2. God's displeasure with his servants is but short, and, therefore, his corrections are but short. (Psalm xxx, 5.) "His anger endureth but for a moment, but in his favour is life.” (Isa. liv. 7, 8.) « For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercy will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.” (Isa. xxvi. 20.) “Come, my people, enter into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee, hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” Thus even in judgment doth he remember mercy, and consumeth us not, because his compassions fail not. (Lam. iii.) “ He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger for ever; for he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust.” (Psalm ciii. 9, 14.) His short corrections are purposely fitted to prepare us for endless consolations.

Reas. 3. Our trial also must be but short, and, therefore, so must be our sorrows. Though God will not have us receive the crown, without the preparation of a conflict and a conquest, yet will he not have our fight and race too long, lest it overmatch our strength, and his grace, and we should be overcome. Though our faith and we must be tried in the fire, yet God will see that the furnace be not over hot, and that we stay no longer, but till our dross be separated from us. (1 Pet. i. 6, 7, 9.) God putteth us not into the fire to consume us, but to refine us, (Psalm cxix. 67, 75,) that when we come out we may say, (Psalm cxxix. 1-3,) " It is good for us that we were afflicted," (Psalm cxis. 71; Isaiah xlix. 13,) and then he will save the afflicted people. (Psalm xviii. 27.)

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Reas. 4. The power of those that afflict God's servants wrongfully, is but short; and therefore, the sorrows of such affliction can be but short; though it be foreign churches of whom I speak, I hope it is to such as take their case to be to them as their own : while they are breathing out threatenings, they are ready to breathe out their guilty souls. If a man in a dropsy or consumption persecute us, we would not be over fearful of him, because we see he is a dying man. And so little is the distance between the death of one man and another, that we may well say, “ All men's lives are in a consumption, and may bear their indignation, as we would do the injuries of a dying man. How short is the day of the power of darkness. Christ calleth it but an hour;“ This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Luke xxii. 53.) How quickly was Herod eaten of worms, and many another cut off in the height of their prosperity, when they have been raging in the heat of persecution. Little thought Ahab that he had been so near his woful day, when he had given order that Micaiah should be fed with the bread and water of affliction, till he returned in peace. What persecutions have the death of a Licinius, a Julian, a queen Mary, &c., shortened ? While they are raging they are dying ; while they are condemning the just, they are going to be condemned by their most just avenger. How quickly will their corpse be laid in dust, and their condemned souls be put under the chains of darkness, till the judgment of the great and dreadful day? (2 Pet. xxiv.) He is not only an unbeliever, but irrational or inconsiderate, that cannot see their end, (Jude 6,) in the greatest of their glory. How easy is it to see these bubbles vanishing, and to foresee the sad and speedy period of all their cruelties and triumphs ?

“ Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung. They which have seen him, shall say, Where is he? He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found ; yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night. The eye also which saw him, shall see him no more, neither shall his place behold him.” (Job xx. 4-9.) Though pride do compass them about as a chain, and violence cover them as a garmient, and they are corrupt, and speak oppression, or calumny, wickedly, they speak loftily, or from on high. Though they set their mouth against the heavens, and

[ocr errors]


their tongue walketh through the earth, yet surely they are set in slippery places. God doth cast them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation as in a moment? They are utterly consumed with terrors; as a dream* from one that awaketh, so, O Lord, in awaking, (or raising up, that is, saith the Chaldee paraphrase, in thy day of judging, or as all the other translations, in civitate tua, in thy kingdom or government,) thou shalt despise their image, that is, show them and all the world how despicable that image of greatness, and power, and felicity was which they were so proud of, If such a bubble + of vain-glory, such an image of felicity, such a dream of power and greatness be all that the church of God hath to be afraid of, it may well be said, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils."! (Isa. ii. 22.) “ For wherein is he to be accounted of.” (Psalm cxlvi. 4.) His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish. And,

Behold the Lord God will help me, who is he that shall condemn me? Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment, the moth shall eat them up.” (Isa. I. 9.) And,“ Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law. Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings, for the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wood, but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.” (Isa. li. 7, 8.) The sorrows which so short-lived power can inflict, can be but short. You read of their victories and persecutions in the news-books one year, and quickly after of their death,

Use. Hence, therefore, you may learn how injudicious they are, that think religion is disparaged by such short and small afflictions of believers, and how unexcusable they are who yield unto temptation, and venture upon sin, and comply with the ungodly, and forsake the truth, through the fear of so short and momentary sorrows, when there is none of them but would endure the prick of a pin, or the scratch of a briar, or the biting of a flea to gain a kingdom, or the opening of a vein, or

* Or as Amyraldus Paraphras., “ Cum olim evigilabunt, præsens eorum felicitas erit instar somnii, quod somno discusso dissipatum est : quin etiam antequam evigilent, in ipsa illa urbe in qua antea florebant vanam istam felicitatis pompam, in qua antea volitabant, reddes contemnendam, tanquam umbram aut imaginem evanescentem ; in qua nihil solidi est.”

† “ Nubecula est cito evanescit," said Athanasius of Julian.

I When Julian's death was told at Antioch, they all cried out, “ Maxime fatue ! ubi sunt vaticinia tua ? Vicit Deus et Christus ejus." Abbas Uspargeus. page 91,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

the griping of a purge to save their lives. Oh ! how deservedly are ungodly men forsaken of God, for how short a pleasure do they forsake him, and the everlasting pleasures. And how short a trouble do they avoid by running into everlasting trouble.

If sin had not first subdued reason, men would never make it a matter of question, whether to escape so small a suffering, they should break the laws of the most righteous God, nor would they once put so short a pain or pleasure into the balance against the endless pain and pleasure. Nor would a temptation bring them to deliberate on a matter, which should be past deliberation with a man that is in his wits. And

yet, alas ! how much do these short concernments prevail through all the world! Unbelievers are short-sighted, they look only or chiefly to things near and present. A lease of this empty world for a few years, yea, an uncertain tenure of it, is preferred before the best security for eternal life. Its present pleasures which they must have, and its present sorrows which they take care to escape. As Christ hath taught us to say about these worldly things, so the devil hath taught them to say about everlasting things, “ Care not for to-morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself; sufficient to the day is the evil thereof." (Matt. vi. 34.) Therefore when the day of their calamity shall come, a despairing conscience will perpetually torment them, and say,

"This is but the sorrow which thou choosest to endure, or the misery which thou wouldest venture on, to escape a present, inconsiderable pain.'

If there be any of you that shall think that present sufferings are considerable things, to be put into the scales against eternity, or that are tempted to murmuring and impatience under such short afflictions, I desire them but to consider, 1. That your suffering will be no longer than your sin. And if it endure but as long, is it any matter of wonder or repining? Can you expect to keep your sickness, and yet to be wholly freed from the pain? Can sin and suffering be perfectly separated ? Do you think to continue ignorant and proud, and selfish, and in so much remaining unbelief, carnality, worldliness, and sloth, and yet never to feel the rod or spur, nor suffer any more than if you had been innocent ? Deceive not yourselves, it will not be. (Gen. iv. 7.) Sin lieth at the door, and be sure at last it will find you out. (Numb. xxxii. 23.) “Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth, much more the ungodly and the sinner." (Prov. xi. 31.) “ Judgment must begin at the house of God, and

[ocr errors]

the righteous are saved with much ado.”, (1 Pet. iv, 17, 18.) God is not reconciled to the sins of any man, and as he will show by his dealings that he is reconciled to their persons, so will he show that he is not reconciled to their sins. If God continue your sufferings any longer than you continue your sin, and if you can truly say, 'I am afflicted though I am innocent,' then your impatience may have some excuse.

2. Your sorrows shall be no longer than you make them necessary, and will you grudge at your own benefit? Or at the trouble of your physic while you continue your disease? It is but “if need be that now for a season ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” (1 Peter i. 6.) And who maketh the need? Is it God or you? Who maketh you dull, and slothful, and sensual ? Who turneth your hearts to earthly things, and deprives you of the sweetness of things spiritual and heavenly? Who maketh you proud, and unbelieving, and uncharitable? Is it he that doth this, that causeth the need of your afflictions, and is to be blamed for the bitterness of them ? but it is your physician that is to be thanked and praised for fitting them so wisely to your cure.

3. Your sorrows shall not be so long as you deserve. It is strange ingratitude, for that man to grudge at a short affliction that is saved from everlasting misery, and confesseth he hath deserved the pains of hell. Confess with thankfulness, that “it is his mercy that you are not consumed and condemned, because his compassions fail not. If God be your portion, hope in him; for the Lord is good to them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that you both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord; it is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth; he sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him; he putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that siniteth him, he is filled full with reproach ; for the Lord will not cast off for ever, but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies. (Lam. iii. 22-33.) All that is come upon us is for our evil deeds, and for our great trespasses, and God hath punished us less than our iniquities. (Ezr. ix. 13.)

4. Your sorrows shall not be so long as the sorrows of the ungodly, nor as those that you must endure, if you will choose sin to escape these present sorrows. Abel's sorrow is not so long as Cain's; nor Peter's or Paul's so long as Judas's. If the

« PreviousContinue »