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finite store of all mercy. Mercy shall compass them, in whatsoever estate ; yea, though they should walk even through the valley of the shadow of death, yet even here also shall his mercy show itself for their salvation. His love to them shall be even then as a strong target to shield the whole body from destruction ; he will be their buckler, and their exceeding great reward. And yet more than all this, that which seemeth to be the very overthrow of his children, that, as a wonder of his mercy, he converteth unto their most good; in life and death is he advantage unto them, this is an infinite mercy. When the devil desired to winnow the apostle Peter, then the help and mercy of our God interposeth itself. “ But I have prayed for thee (saith our blessed Saviour) that thy faith fail not." Did he only pray for Peter? No verily, but for all the rest of the children of God also. So St. Paule also in his infirmity and prick in the flesh desired some ease ; but there was no remedy. We must needs suffer awhile; the time of deliverance was not yet come. But yet he saith, courage Paul, thou shalt not be overwhelmed, although thou beest troubled; this thy greatest sorrow shall I convert by mine exceeding mercy to thy greatest good; thou shalt see my great mercy even in this cross, to keep thee humble and low, lest thou shouldst be exalted through the abundance of my favour, and be lifted up out of measure.
Yea also God's mercy cometh betwixt death and us; it is the gate of our felicity to bring us unto heaven, it endeth all our cares and sorrows. The sum of all briefly is, that we may consider the excellency of our estates, to be the children of God, it is an advantage unto us against all miseries whatsoever ; Christ he shall be advantage unto us. We see, therefore, mercy shall not be showed unto all, there is a sort of men that, let the Lord preach what he will, and give what warning he will, yet they will receive no instruction, they will still continue mules, but unto such the Lord will show no mercy, if they continue thus. For although the Lord find a man miserable, yet he never leaveth him miserable. Therefore, if we be mules, it is a sign of no mercy as yet belonging to us; the Lord as yet he hath not found us, we remaining thus have no portion in him. But here may some man demand. What? How shall I be as. sured that I enjoy this mercy ? I tell thee how. Look if thou find a change in thy soul and body, in all the powers and faculties thereof, look if thou beest now more ready and cheerful in the serving of God than formerly thou wert in serving of the devil. Look if thou hast repented thee of all thy sins to thy remembrance without exception, if thou hast craved pardon for those thou canst not remember, if from henceforth thou resolvest, and to thy power
b Luke, chap. 22. ver. 31, 32.
° 2 Cor. chap. 12. ver. 8.
strivest against all sin, unto the blood resisting. If thou, for the glory to come, canst forego thy dear pleasures, endeavouring finally to love God, and keep all his commandments to thy power; then assure thyself of mercy; this mercy then doth and shall compass thee. A great many set all upon the venture of mercy. God, say they, is merciful, although we be sinners, yet we hope well, that he will not be so severe as those preachers make us believe. But let such remember what Moses in the name of God telleth unto all such rebels. If any “whend he heareth the words of this curse, bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst, the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.” But dost thou find this mercy work by newness of life, and repentance ? Then settle thyself in the persuasion of this mercy ; it is good. Yet, by the contrary, if thou findest not these, and the like fruits of mercy, thou mayest well doubt of thy persuasion, it is but counterfeit ; for, as I said before, although the Lord find us miserable, yet is it most certain that he never leaveth us so, but with his mercy he enableth us to bring forth the fruits of mercy. If we dream of mercy without a warrant, what do we else, but set up an idol in our hearts instead of mercy, and how dangerous it is to set up an idol in our hearts, you may all know, that it is the highway to destruction. Therefore if we would be assured of mercy, we must try what effects mercy hath wrought in the heart, what effects of holiness, what unfeigned deeds of mercy.
d Deut. chap. 29, ver. 19.
Neither do I here oppose, or thrust any from mercy. Only I show that of necessity the tree being good it will bring forth good fruits also.
Now, to come to the matter in hand and the next opposition betwixt the godly and the wicked, we must know, that every wicked man is not here meant which committeth sin. But he is a wicked man, who unto all his other sins addeth impenitency, not trusting in the promises of mercy. And my reason is, because there is no sin so great, but there is mercy for it, if we repent. Yea if it were the sin against the Holy Ghost, yet were it pardonable, if it were possible to repent us of the same; because there is no comparison betwixt our sins (how great soever) and his infinite mercies. For when we want mercy it is our own fault, who are ignorant, and will not lay hold on the promises, nor trust in them. Only he then who will not trust in God, nor rely upon the promises, he is here said to be a wicked man, to him many sorrows. First, because if we will trust an earthly prince upon his word, how much more reasonable is it, I pray you, that we should trust God upon his free promises ? Not to trust God is to give him the lie. “ Hee (saith St. John) who believeth not God hath made him a liar." And Psalm 2, it is written, “ Blessed' are all those who trust him,” if his wrath once burn, if Christ be never so angry, yet if we trust in him, there is no other voice to salute us, but, “Come ye blessed of my Father.” “Come unto me all ye that are weary and laden, and I will ease you.” A
€ 1 John, chap. 5. ver. 10.
f Psalm 2. ver. 12.
blessed thing it is then to rest upon Christ. Sos he is said to be blessed who trusteth in the Lord. And", the special property of a blessed man is said to be an heart trusting in God; he is described that he doth not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful. But above all this is his chief praise, that his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he doth meditate day and night, he hath an heart to search, believe, and trust in the promises. To this agreeth that of Jeremy “ Blessed be the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” The ground then of all blessedness is to have an heart to trust in God, to anchor assuredly upon him in all tempests whatsoever.
The use hereof is comfort to God's children, that God in mercy looketh for nothing at their hands, for nothing in us good or bad, save an heart to trust in his promises, laying hold on life freely offered unto us without any kind of condition on our part, but accept and lay hold. So that I may truly say, this trusting in God is the strong fortress of a Christian, which maketh him still trust, and drawing nearer and nearer, lay so much the faster hold
the promises, the more he is beaten back. This trusting in God is even our shield which keepeth off the blows of God.
But, may some man say, how shall I know when I am worthy enough to trust ? I tell thee, God respecteth nothing of ours in this act, because his mercy is the object of our trust. As, therefore, he himself is wonderful, so are also his mercies in the pardoning of sinners. So the prophet David prayeth, “ Showi thy marvellous mercies, thou that art the Saviour of them that trust in thee." Where he, for the object of this trust, calleth them marvellous mercies, as indeed they are. The point then is, that we must all of us examine whether or not we have a heart to trust God, if we dare trust him. The apostle to Timothy is a fit pattern for us. Look if thou canst say with him, “ It know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” We must thus trust constantly with the apostle, not only for our final deliverance, but also for all other mercies, we see the grounds of consolation, whereupon the apostle's comfort is settled, is this his trusting in God, which he anchoreth upon, and so must we.
& Prov. chap. 16. ver. 20.
b Psalm 1. ver. 1.
This trusting in God must be our only stay.
Neither may any now object that our sureties, whom we put in trust, are insufficient. For I say, that how miserable soever we now appear, yet are we in a safer and better estate than was Adam in his innocency. He indeed had a more inherent sanctity than we by nature.
But now we will not change estates with Adam, for all that he had, we know he was put in trust with it himself, he was his own keeper, and so what came of it, we see he quickly lost it all. But for us, it is our exceeding comfort that we are not our own, but Christ's, we are sheep of his fold, are in his custody, have put him in trust with our life and all. And here we rest. We see here then, what is our stay, even this putting of God in trust freely with all. For if wise fathers upon earth, being about to make sure their lands and estates, choose others, whom they put in trust with all, yea sometimes they put one in trust, why may not we also put our God in trust; if mortal men trust mortal men, why should not we rather put Christ in trust? How full of infidelity are we, if then we dare not trust God. But to those who believe Christ is our trust, with whom our life is hid (as the apostle to the Colossians speaketh), and putting him in trust for our life and salvation to come, and that eternal inheritance we expect in the heavens, we now also dare and do put him in trust for all these momentaine and earthly things. The apostle Peter groundeth also the certainty of our salvation upon a trust, even' a lively hope in the abundant mercies of our God. This lively hope he maketh to be unto him the full assurance of that inheritance immortal, which fadeth not away, but is undefiled, and reserved in the heavens. But, may some say, what is this
1 1 Pet. chap. 1. ver. 3, 4.