« PreviousContinue »
of the flesh in all this dissimulation, secretly pleading its own cause?
Objection 4. Oh, says another, it is the godly that afflict, disclaim, censure and slander me, and look upon me with a disdainful eye. If it were ungodly men, I could easily bear it; I look for no better at their hands: but when those that were my delight, are as thorns in my sides, how can I bear it?
Answer 1. Whoever is the instrument, the affliction is from God, and the provoking cause from thyself; and were it not fitter, then, that thou look more to God and thyself?
2. Dost thou not know, that the best men are still sinful in part; and that their hearts are naturally deceitful, and desperately wicked, as well as others? And this being but imperfectly cured, so far as they are fleshly, the fruits of the flesh will appear in them, which are, "strife, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, seditions, heresies, envyings." So far, the best of them is as a brier, and the most upright of them sharper than a thorny hedge. Learn, therefore, to look less to men, and more to God. Perhaps thou hast given that love and confidence to saints, which were due only to God, and then no wonder if he chastise thee by them. If we would use our friends as friends, God would make them our helps and comforts; but when once we make them our gods, by excessive love, delight, and trust, then he suffers them to prove adversaries to us, and to be our accusers and tormentors. I confess it is a pity that saints should suffer from saints; and it is quite contrary to their holy nature, and their Master's laws, who has left them his peace, and made love to be the characteristic of his disciples, and to be the first, and great, and new commandment. I know that there is much difference between them and the world in this respect. But yet, as I said before, they are saints only in part, and therefore Paul and Barnabas may so fall out as to part asunder; and upright Asa may imprison the prophet. Call it persecution, or what you please. And know also that thy own nature is as bad as
theirs; and thou art as likely to be thyself a grief to others.
Objection 5. Oh, if I had but that consolation, which you say God reserves for our suffering times, I would suffer more contentedly; but I do not enjoy any such thing.
Answer 1. The more you suffer for righteousness' sake, the more of this blessing you may expect; and the more you suffer for your own evil doing, the longer you may expect to wait till that sweetness come. When we have by our folly provoked God to chastise us, shall we look that he should immediately fill us with comfort? That were to make affliction to be no affliction.
2. Do you not neglect or overlook the comforts which you desire? God has filled precepts and promises, and other of his providences, with matter of comfort. If you will overlook all these, and make nothing of them, and always pore upon your sufferings, and observe one cross more than a thousand mercies, who makes you uncomfortable but yourselves?
3. Have your afflictions wrought kindly with you, and fitted you for comfort? Have they humbled you, and brought you to a faithful confession and reformation of your beloved sins, and made you set close to the performance of your neglected duties, and weaned your hearts from their former idols, and brought you unfeignedly to take God for your portion and your rest? If this be not done, how can you expect comfort? Should God bind up the sore while it yet festers at the bottom? It is not mere suffering that prepares you for comfort; but the fruit of suffering being produced in your hearts.
REPROVING OUR EXPECTATIONS OF REST ON EARTH.
Use Fifth.-Does this rest remain for us? How great then is our sin and folly, to seek and expect it here? Where shall we find the Christian that deserves not this reproof? Surely we may all cry guilty to this accusation. We know not how to enjoy convenient houses, lands, and revenues, but we seek rest in these enjoyments. We seldom, I fear, have such sweet and heart-contenting thoughts of God and glory, as we have of our earthly delights. Nay, we can scarcely enjoy the necessary means which God has appointed for our spiritual good, but we begin to seek rest in them. This, indeed, we disclaim in words, and God has usually the pre-eminence in our tongues and professions; but it is too apparent by the following symptoms, that it is otherwise in our hearts.
1. Do we not desire these more vehemently when we are without them, than we do the Lord himself? Do we not cry out more sensibly, O my friend, my property, my health, than, O my God? Do we not miss the ministry, and other means of grace, more passionately than we miss our God? Do we not bestir ourselves more to obtain and enjoy these, than we do to recover communion with God?
2. Do we not delight more in the possession of these, than we do in the fruition of God himself? Nay, are not those mercies and duties most pleasant to us, wherein we stand at the greatest distance from God? We can read, and study, and confer, and preach, and hear, day after day, without much weariness, because in these we have to do with instruments and creatures; but in secret prayer and conversing with God immediately, where no creature
interposes, how dull, how heartless, how weary are we!
3. If we lose creatures or means, does it not trouble us more than our loss of God? If we lose but a friend, or health, or property, all the town will hear of it; but we can miss our God, and scarcely bemoan our misery. In order to impress your conscience with the evil of this sin, I would earnestly beseech you to reflect on the following considerations:
I. Consider, it is gross idolatry to make any creature or means our rest. When we would have ali that out of God, which is to be had only in God, what is this but to turn away from him to the creature, and in our hearts to deny him? When we extract more of our comfort and delight from the thoughts of prosperity, and of those mercies which here we have at a distance from God, than from the forethoughts of our everlasting blessedness in him; nay, when the thought of that day when we must come to God, is our greatest trouble, and we would do any thing in the world to escape it, while our enjoyment of creatures, though absent from him, is the very thing our souls desire; when we would rather talk of him, than come to enjoy him, and would rather go many miles to hear a powerful sermon of Christ and heaven, than enter heaven and possess it, -O, what vile idolatry is this! When we dispute against infidels, how earnestly do we contend, that God is the chief good, and the fruition of him our chief happiness! What clear arguments do we bring to evince it! But do we believe it ourselves? If ye yourselves had a wife, a husband, or a son, that had rather be any where than in your company, and is never so happy as when furthest from you, would
ou not take it ill? Why so must our God needs do. For what do we but lay these things in one end of the balance, and God in the other, and foolishly prefer them before him?
II. Consider how you thereby contradict the end of God in giving you these blessings. He gave them to help thee to him, and dost thou take up with them
in his stead? He gave them that they might be comfortable refreshments to thee in thy journey; and wouldst thou now dwell at thy inn, and go no further? Thou dost not only contradict God herein, but thou losest that benefit which thou mightest receive by them, yea, and makest them thy great hurt and hinderance.
III. Consider whether this is not a probable way to cause God either, first, to deny us those mercies which we desire; or, secondly, to take from us those which we enjoy; or, thirdly, to embitter them, or even curse them to us. God is nowhere so jealous as here. It has long been my observation, that when persons have attempted great works, and have just finished them; or have aimed at great things in the world, and have just obtained them; or have lived in much trouble and unsettlement, and have just overcome them, and begin to look with some content upon their condition, and to rest in it, they are usually near to death or ruin. You know the story of the fool in the gospel. When a man once uses this language, “Soul, take thy ease or rest," the next news usually is, "Thou fool, this night, or this month, or this year, shall thy soul be required of thee, and then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?' O, what house is there, where this fool dwelleth not!
IV. Consider if God should suffer thee to take up thy rest on earth, it would be one of the severest plagues and greatest curses that could possibly befal thee. It were better for thee never to have had a day of ease or content in the world, for then weariness might have made thee seek after the true rest. But if he should suffer thee to sit down and rest here, where will thy rest be when this deceives thee?
V. Consider thou seekest rest where it is not to be found, and so wilt lose all thy labour; and if thou proceed in this course, thy soul's eternal rest too. This will appear from the following considerations.
1. Our rest consists in the full attainment of our ultimate end; but that is not to be expected in this Life; therefore, neither is rest to be here expected. Is