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than his wealth. Go to a man that has the world at will, and tell him, “ This is not your happiness; you have higher things to look after, and how little will he regard you! But when affliction comes, it speaks convincingly, and will be heard when preachers cannot. What warm, affectionate, eager thoughts have we of the world, till affliction cool them, and moderate them! How few and cold would be our thoughts of heaven,—how little would we care for coming thither, if God would give us rest on earth!

III. Consider that afflictions are a powerful means to keep us from wandering out of the way to our rest. If God had not set a hedge of thorns on the right hand, and another on the left, we would hardly keep the way to heaven. If there be but one gap open without these thorns, how ready are we to find it, and turn out at it! But when we cannot go astray without these thorns pricking us, perhaps we will be content to hold on our way. When we grow fleshly, or wanton, or worldly, or proud, what a powerful means is sickness or other affliction to reduce us! Every Christian as well as Luther, may call affliction one of his best schoolmasters. Many, as well as David, may say by experience, “ Before I was afflicted I went astray ; but now have I kept thy word.When we have prosperity, we grow secure and sinful: then God afflicts us, and, like Israel of old, we cry for mercy,

and purpose reformation. But after we have a little rest, we do evil again, till God take up the rod again, that he may bring us back to his law. And thus prosperity and sinning, suffering and repenting, deliverance and sinning again, do run all in a round.

IV. Consider that afflictions are a powerful means to make us quicken our pace in the way to our rest. They are God's rod and spur. What sluggard will not awake and stir when he feels them? It were well if mere love would prevail with us, and that we were rather drawn to heaven than driven ; but seeing our hearts are so bad that mercy will not do it, it is better that we be quickened by the sharpest scourge, than

that we loiter out our time till the door is shut. O what a difference is there between our prayers in health and in sickness; between our prosperity and our adversity repentings! He that before had not a tear to shed, or a groan to utter, now can sob, and sigh, and weep bitterly. If we did not sometimes smart by affliction, how dead would be the hearts of the best men ! Even innocent Adam is likelier to forget God in a paradise, than Joseph in a prison, or Job upon a dunghill. Solomon fell in the midst of pleasure and prosperity; while wicked Manasseh was recovered in his irons. Dr. Stoughton says, “We are like children's tops, that will go but little longer than they are whipt." Seeing, then, that our own vile natures do thus require it, why should we be unwilling that God should do us good by so sharp a means?

V. Consider that, for the most part, it is only the flesh which is troubled and grieved by affliction. And what reason have we to be so tender of it? In most of our sufferings the soul is free, except so far as we wilfully afflict it ourselves. Suppose thou be pinched by poverty; it is thy flesh only that is pinched. If thou have sicknesses, it is but thy flesh that they assault. If thou die, it is but the flesh that shall rot in the grave. And what if it be broken down? . Is it not our enemy, yea, and the greatest that ever we had ? And are we so fearful lest it be overthrown? Is it not it that has so long clogged our souls, and tied them to earth, and enticed them to forbidden lusts and pleasures, and stolen away our hearts from God? If we behold our food, it entices us to gluttony; if drink, to drunkenness; if apparel, or any thing of worth, to pride. If we look upon beauty, it entices to lust; if upon money or possessions, to covetousness. Alas! for our carnality and unbelief, which are so contradictory to the principles of Christianity! Surely God deals the worse with this flesh, because we so overvalue and idolize it. We make it the greatest part of our care and labour chiefly to provide for it, and to satisfy its desires; but as he has commanded us to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof; so will he follow this rule himself, in his dealings with us; and will not refrain from displeasing the flesh, when it may honour himself or profit our souls. There is, therefore, no likelihood that God's dealings will be more pleasing to the flesh, than that its works will be pleasing to God. Never expect, then, that the flesh should truly expound the meaning of the rod. It will call love, hatred; and say, God is destroying, when he is saving; and murmur, as if he did thee wrong, and used thee hardly, when he is showing thee the greatest mercy.

Lastly, God seldom gives his people so sweet a foretaste of their future rest, as in their deep afflictions. He keeps his most precious cordials for the time of our greatest faintings and dangers. To give them to such as are well, and need them not, would be but to cast them away. The joys of heaven are of unspeakable sweetness; but a man that overflows with earthly delights, is scarcely capable of perceiving their sweetness. You may more easily comfort the most dejected soul, than him that feels not any need of comfort, as being full of other comforts already. Even the best saints seldom taste of the delights of God, pure, spiritual, unmixed joys, in the time of their prosperity, as they do in their deepest troubles. God is not so lavish of his favours as to bestow them unseasonably. Even to his own, will he give them at a fit time, when he knows they are needful, and will be valued; when he is sure to be thanked for them, and his people rejoiced by them. Especially, when our sufferings are more directly for his cause, then he seldom fails of sweetening the bitter cup. Therefore have the martyrs been possessors of the highest joys, and therefore were they in former times so ambitious of martyrdom. I question if Paul and Silas did ever sing more joyfully, than when they were thrust into the inner prison, and when their backs were sore with scourgings, and their feet were made fast in the stocks. When did Stephen see heaven opened, but when he was giving up his life for the testimony of Jesus ? And though we may never be put to the suffering of martyrdom, yet God znows that in our natural sufferings we need support and comfort. Many a Christian that has waited for Christ, like Simeon in the temple, in duty and holiness all his days, yet never finds him in his arms till he is dying, though his love was fixed in his heart before ; and they that wondered that they tasted not of his comforts, have then, when it was needful, received abundance.

But let us hear a little what it is that the flesh can object.

Objection 1. Oh, says one, I could bear any other affliction but this. If God had touched me in any thing else, I could have undergone it patiently; but it is my dearest friend, or child, or wife, or my health that suffers,

Answer. It seems God has hit the right vein, where thy most inflamed distempered blood did lie. It is his constant course to pull down men's idols, and to take away that which is dearer to them than himself. There it is that his jealousy is kindled; and there it is that thy soul is most endangered. If God had taken from thee that which thou canst let go for him, and not that which thou canst not; or had afflicted thee where thou canst bear it, and not where thou canst not, thy idol would neither have been discovered, nor removed. This would neither have been a sufficient trial to thee, nor a cure.

Objection 2. Oh, says another, if God would but deliver me out of it at last, I could be content to bear it: but I have an incurable sickness; or I am likely to live and die in poverty, or disgrace, or the like distress.

Answer 1. Is it nothing that he has promised, it shall “work for thy good ;” and that with the affliction he will “ make a way to escape” that he will be with thee in it, and deliver thee in the fittest manrier and season ?

2. Is it not enough that thou art sure to be delivered at death, and that with so full a deliverance ? Oh, what cursed unbelief does this discover in our hearts that we would be more thankful to be turned back again into the stormy tumultuous sea of the world, than to be safely and speedily landed at our rest, and would be more glad of a few years' inferior mercies at a distance, than to enter immediately upon the eternal inheritance with Christ! Do we call God our chief good, and Heaven our principal happiness? And yet is it no mercy or deliverance to be taken hence, and put into that possession ?

Objection 3. Oh, says another, if my affliction did not disable me for duty, I could bear it; but it makes me useless and utterly unprofitable.

Answer 1. For that duty which tends to thy own personal benefit, it does not disable thee, but it is the greatest quickening help thou couldst expect. Thou usest to complain of coldness, and dulness, and worldliness, and security. If affliction will not help thee against all these, by warning, quickening, rousing thy spirit, I know not what will.

2. As for duty to others, and service to the church, it is not thy duty when God disables thee. He may call thee out of the vineyard in this respect, even before he call thee away by death. If he lay thee in the grave, and put others in thy place to do the service, is this any wrong to thee? or does it become thee to repine at it ? Must God do all the work by thee? Has he not many others as dear to him, and as fit for the employment ? But alas, what deceitfulness is there in our hearts! When we have time, and health, and opportunity to work, then we loiter, and do our Master but very poor service. But when he lays affliction upon us, then we complain that he disables us for his work, and yet perhaps we are still negligent in that part of the work which we can do. So, when we are in health and prosperity, we forget our public duty, and are careless of other men's miseries and wants, and mind almost nothing but ourselves; but when God afflicts us, though he excite us more to duty for ourselves, yet we complain that he disables us for our duty to others. As if all of a sudden we were grown so charitable, that we regard other men's souls far more than our own! But is not the hand

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