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THE DISTRESSED MEMBERS
JESUS CHRIST, WHERESOEVER:
WHOSE SOULS ARE WOUNDED WITH THE PRESENT SENSE OF THEIR
SINS, OR OF THEIR AFFLICTIONS, OR WITH THE FEARS OF DEATH AND JULGMENT:
The Author humbly recommends this Sovereign Balm, which God hath been pleased to put into his hands for their benefit ; earnestly exhorting them to apply it carefully to their several sores, together with their faithful prayers to God for a blessing upon the use thereof : not doubting, but, through God's mercy, they shall find thereby a sensible ease and comfort to their souls, which shall be helped on by the fervent devotions of the unworthiest servant of God and his Church,
J. H. B. n.
THE BALM OF GILEAD:
COMFORTS FOR THE SICK BED.
The Preface-Aggravation of the Misery of Sickness. What should we do in this vale of tears, but bemoan each others' miseries ? Every man hath his load : and well is he, whose burden is so easy, that he may help his neighbours. Hear me, my son. My age hath waded through a world of sorrows. The Angel, that hath hitherto redeemed my soul from all evil, (Gen. xlviii. 16.) and hath led me within few paces of the shore, offers to lend me his hand to guide thee in this dangerous ford, wherein every error is death. Let us follow birn, with an humble confidence; and be safe, in the view and pity of the woeful miscarriages of others.
Thou art now cast upon the bed of sickness; roaring out all the day long, for the extremity of thy pain, Ps. xxxii
. 3 : measuring the slow hours, not by minutes, but by groans. Thy soul is weary of thy life, (Job x. 1.) through the intolerable anguish of thy spirit; Job vii. 11 :-Of all earthly afflictious, this is the sorest. Job himself, after the sudden and astonishing news of the loss of his goods and children, could yet bear up, and bless the God that gives and takes; Job i. 21: but, when his body was tormented, and was made one boil; now, his patience is retched so far, as to curse (not his God, but) bis nativity ; Job iii. 3. The great king, questioning with his cup-bearer Nehemiah, can say, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick ? Neh. ii. 2: as implying, that the sick man, of all other, hath just cause to be dejected. Worldly crosses are aloof off from us; sickness is in our bosom: those touch ours only; these, ourselves : here the whole man suffers : what could the body feel, without the soul that animates it? How can the soul, which makes the body sensible, choose but be most affected with that pain, whereof it gives sense to the body? Both partners have enough to do to encounter so fierce an enemy. The sharper assault requires the more powerful resistance. Recollect thyself, my son; and call up all the powers of thy soul, to grapple with so violent an enemy.
The freedom of the soul.
Thy body is, by a sore disease, confined to thy bed :-I should be sorry to say, thou thyself wert so. Thy soul, which is thyself, is, I hope, elsewhere. That, however it is content to take a share in thy sufferings, soars above to the heaven of heavens; and is
prostrate before the Throne of Grace, suing for mercy and forgiveness; beholding the face of thy Glorious Mediator interceding for thee.
Woe were to us, if our souls were coffined up in our bosoms, so as they could not stir abroad, nor go any further than they are carried ; like some snail or tortoise, that cannot move out of the shell. Blessed be God, he hath given us active spirits, that can bestir themselves, while our bodies lie still; that can be so quick and nimble in their motions, as that they can pass from earth to heaven, ere our bodies can turn to the other side.
And, how much shall we be wanting to ourselves, if we do not make use of this spiritual agility; sending up these spirits of ours from this dull clay of our bodies to those regions of blessedness, that they may thence fetch comfort to alleviate the sorrows of their heavy partners !
Thus do thou, my son, employ the better part; no pains of the worse can make thee miserable. That spiritual part of thine shall, ere long, be in bliss, while this earthen piece shall lie rotting in the grave. Why shouldst thou not, even now before thy separation, improve all the powers of it to thy present advantage ? Let that still behold the face of thy God in glory, while thy bodily eyes look upon those friends at thy bed-side, which may pity thee, but cannot help thee.
The Author of sickness; and the benefit of it. Thou art pained with sickness :-Consider seriously, whence it is, that thou thus smartest. Afliction cometh not out of the dust ; Job v. 6. Couldst thou but hear the voice of thy disease, as well as thou feelest the stroke of it, it saith loud enough, sm I come up hither without the Lord to torment thee? The Lord hath said to me, Go up against this man, and afflict him ; 2 Kings xviii. 25. Couldst thou see the hand that smites thee, thou couldst not but kiss it.
Why, man, it is thy good God, the Father of all Mercies, that lays these stripes upon thee. He that made thee, he that bought thee at so dear a rate as his own blood, it is he, that chastiseth thee : and canst thou think he will whip thee, but for thy good ? Thou art a father of children, and art acquainted with thine own bowels : didst thou ever take the rod into thy hand, out of a pleasure that thou tookest in smiting that flesh, which is derived from thine own loins ? was it any ease to thee, to make thy child smart and bleed? Didst thou not suffer more, than thou inflictedst ? Couldst thou not rather have been content to have redeemed those his stripes, with thine own? Yet, thou sawest good reason to lay on; and not to spare, for his loud crying and many tears; Prov, xix. 18. and canst say thou hadst not loved him, if thou hadst not been so kindly severe. And, if we, that are evil, know how to give loving and beneficial correction unto our children; how much more shall our Father, which is in heaven, know how to beat us to our advantage! so as we may sing under the rod, with the blessed Psalmist, I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right ; and that, of very faithfulness, thou hast afflicted me ; Ps. cxix, 75.
Might the child be made arbiter of his own chastisement, do we think he would award himself so much as one lash? yet, the wiser parent knows he shall wrong him, if he do not inflict more; as having learned of wise Solomon, Thou shalt beat hin wih the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell; Prov. xxiii. 14. " Love hath his strokes,” saith Ambrose, “which are so much the sweeter, by how much they are the harder set on,"
Dost thou not remember the message, that the two sisters sent to our Saviour; Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest, is sick ? John xi. 3. Were it so, that pain, or sickness, or any other the executioners of Divine Justice should be let loose upon thee to tyrannize over thee at pleasure, on purpose to render thee perfectly miserable, there were just reason for thy utter disheartening: now, they are stinted, and go under commission; neither can they be allowed to have any other limits, than thy own advantage.
Tell me whether thou wouldst rather be good, or be healthful: I know thou wouldst be both; and thinkest thou mayest well be so. Who is so little in his own favour, as to imagine he can be the worse for faring well ? But he, that made thee, looks farther into thee, than thine own eyes can do: he sees thy vigour is turning wanton; and, that if thy body be not sick, thy soul will : if he, therefore, find it fit to take down thy worse part a little for the preventing of a mortal danger to the better, what cause hast thou to complain, yea rather not to be thankful ? When thou hast felt thy body in a distemper of fulness, thou hast gone to sea on purpose to make thyself sick; yet thou knewest that turning of thy head and stomach would be more painful to thee than thy former indisposition: why should not thy all-wise Creator take liberty to cure thee, with an afflictions remedy?
The vicissitudes of health. Thou art now sick:-Wert thou not before, a long time, healthful? Canst thou not be content to take thy turns ? Job ii. 10. If thou hadst not more days of health than hours of sickness, how canst thou think thou hadst cause to repine ? Had the Divine Wisdom thought fit to mitigate thy many days' pain with the ease of one hour, it had been well worthy of thy thanks; but, now that it hath beforehand requited thy few painful hours with years of perfect health, how unthankfully dost thou grudge at the condition!
It was a foul mistake, if thou didst not from all earthly things expect a vicissitude: they cannot have their being, without a change. As well may day be without a succession of night, and life without death, as a mortal body without fits of distemper.
And how much better are these momentary changes, than that last change of a misery unchangeable! It was a woeful word, that Father Abraham said to the damned glutton, Son, remember, that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus evil things; but now he is conforted, and thou art tormented; Luke xvi. 25. O happy stripes, wherewith we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world ! i Cor. xi. 32. O wel. come fevers, that may quit my soul from everlasting burnings !
Sickness belter than sinful health. Thou complainest of sickness :- I have known those, that have bestowed tears upon their too much health ; sadly bemoaning the fear and danger of God's disfavour, for that they ailed nothing and our Bromiard * tells us of a devout man in his time, that be. wailed his continued welfare as no small affliction; whom, soon af. ter, God fitted with pain enough. The poor man joyed in the change; and held his sickness a mercy : neither, indeed, was it otherwise intended, by him, that sent it. Why are we too much dejected with that, which others complain to want? Why should we find that so tedions to us, which others have wished ?
There have been medicinal agues, which the wise physician hath cast his patient into, for the cure of a worse distemper. A secure and lawless health, howerer nature takes it, is the most dangerous indisposition of the soul : if that may be healed by some few bodily pangs, the advantage is unspeakable.
Look upon some vigorous gallant, that, in the height of his spi
# Brom. Sum. V. Infirmitas.