« PreviousContinue »
* branded with the imputation of the higliest crimes; “nay, my very religion and piety to Almighty God, and my justice, honesty, and fidelity, to men, may be covered with an imputation of the baseít hypocrisy and dishonesty under heaven; and though this, part of my reputation hath been my darling, that I valued the highest of any thing in the world, and consequently a blemish cast upon me in this be-, half, would wound me deeper than any worldly loss; yet a consequence of greater importance would follow upon it, which I value higher than my reputation, viz. the honour of God, the value and esteem of religion would be wounded through this wound; yet if this should befall me, I am in a train and
temper of mind to bear it as I should. Can I be • contented to fit under reproach and infamy with pa
tience and quietness of mind? Can I content iny- self with the secret witness of my own conscience, « attesting my innocence, though the imputations under which I fut are as black as hell? Can I cheerfully make my secret appeal to the searcher of hearts, and please myself with the serenity of his countenance towards me? Though I am clothed with ca- lumnies and reproaches, can I wait his time for vin
dication, and content myself, though the world never know iny innocence, so as my God and my consci-, rence can attest it? If I have not arrived at this
temper and pitch of mind, it should be my labour 'to attain it; for without it, I sink under my re
proaches and infamies : But if I have attained it, then, under the most dark and cloudy form of undeserved reproach and infamy, I enjoy a Gohen within myself, I have a beam of light that follows me in, the blackest night, and I conquer my reproaches by: suffering them.
5. But though this exercise of putting ourselves under notional afflictions, is of singular use to habituate, and fit us for such a temper as becomes such a change, yet this is not all; aflictions are not only
notional notional and posible, but there is fomething more in them; there is a greater probability of them, than to be freed and exempt from theni : they are not only under that degree of things that may be, but they come near to that degree of things that must be; and that in these respects :
**. In respect of our fire and demerits. Although afflictions many times are not principally intended as punishments, but are sent for higher ends, yet it is most certain, that they are deserved to be inflicted as punishments, and are in their owni nature à most ne ceffary consequent of fin. They are not expiatory or satisfactory punishments, but they are most certainly fruits and effects of fin: and worldly crosses and ca lamities do as naturally flow from precedent fins, as the crop doth from the feed that is fown. Now, in as much as every day I commit some sin or other, it is no wonder if I reap the fruits of it in affliction; it is a wonder, rather, that I meet with no more calami. ties and crosses in this world; and it is å mercy if I meet with them only in this world, and not both in this and that which is to come. Wherefore doth a liv., ing man complain, a man for the punishment of his fino Certainly, though there were no devil or wicked meri to inflict punishment upon me; as long as I carry guilt and fin about me, it is no wonder if it raife storms upon ine: and therefore I have no cause to hope for an immunity from trouble, fo long as I have no immunity from fin.
2. In respect of our corruption. We have seen trour bles and afflictions under the former consideration, fub ratione pane, ' under the nature of a punishment;' in this consideration, fub ratione medicine, in the nature of a medicine.' The former shews somewhat of the divine justice to inflict them; the latter much of the divine mercy to apply them. The truth is, our natural corruptions are very many, and very great ; and for the most part they are most disorderly and dangerous when our condition is prosperous : It is indeed
the fuel of our corruptions, pride, and vain-glory, and carnal confidence, and security, and luxury, and in-, temperance, and insolence, and arrogance, and forgetfulness of God, and of ourselves, and of our mortality, and of our duty, and a thousand such kind of vermin, do grow and thrive upon prosperity. God Almighty therefore sends crosses, and afflictions, and troubles, and those to cure, and chase away, and starve thefe:evil beasts. And let any man observe either in himself or others, we are generally the worse for prof. perity, and generally the better under adversity, whatever fects or profeffions we are of; and it is a far, greater difficulty to manage a prosperous glorious condition, than a low or afflicted condition. Many times when I have read in the Scriptures, that affliction is the lot of the righteous, and in the world ye shall have tri, bulation, I have looked upon it not only as the issue of the devil and wicked men's hatred, but also as the wise dispensation of Almighty God to suffer it, for it is for their safety and benefit. Affliction doth in no sort so much endanger a good man to lose his innocence, worth, and virtue, as prosperity, wealth, and honour do: and therefore I have always thought that man the fecureft from afflictions upon this account, that useth his prosperity with the greatest piety, watchfulness, mo, deration, and equality of mind, because such a man keeps a check upon his corruptions, and so stands in lefs need of this phyfic: he is like a man that in his health keeps a good and orderly diet, whereby in pro: bability he stands in less need of a corrective for peccant humours.
3. As God, out of his mercy to good men, sends many times afflictions to cure or allay their corruptions ; fo the devil or evil men will be sure to inflict them out of hatred and envy at their graces. Marvel not if the world bale you, it hated me before it bated you. And it is a great marvel, if any good man efcape afflictions upon this account. For if he be such a one, as being in prosperity fets his heart too much upon it, then the : VOL. 1.
devil and the world endeavour to deprive him of his comfort, to draw him to murmuring and discontent, and using of unlawful means or unworthy compliances to preserve that which he so much loves : or if he be a man that in his prosperity keeps his heart in a right: frame and temper, then the world or the devil being disappointed in that condition, endeavour to shake him with the other extreme, and though in reference to both, there is envy and malice in the devil inflicting, yet there is mercy and wisdom in God permitting it : În reference to the former, for the checking and curing of this growth of lust and corruption; in reference to the latter, for the trial of the sincerity of his graces, as in the cafe of job.
4. Another reason of the necessity of afflictions to good men is, to carry their hearts upwards, and to make them reach after their everlasting hope, and fet a price upon it. The good things of this world, though in our judgment we fet not the like esteem upon them as upon heavenly, yet they have this advantage, that they are present, and therefore affect the sense and the mind more than things that are better at a distance : and therefore we are apt to set up our reft here. And this is the reason that even good men, though they value and prize grace, and the inward favour of God, yet they commonly love the world a little too much, and divide their affections too equally between God and the world ; and therefore study and endeavour such a contemperation, that they may hold both. And hence it is that God, who requires entirely the heart, doth many times make the world bitter to us to make us weary of his rival, that so we may with more entireness and integrity set our hearts upon him, and upon that everlasting hope, and long after it, and fatisfy ourselves with the expectation of it, and make it our trea. fure, and set up our reft upon it, and in it. And these are some of those many reasons that evidence of the neceflity of afflictions. ... 15 6. And now we will come to consider these three
matters : 1. Whät preparations we should use before afflictions overtake us. 2. What should be our exer. cife under it. 3. What should be our frame of mind in case of deliverance from it.
I. And in the first place, of the first of thiese: we havé seen that it is a lot to be expected in this world, we cannot upon any terms promise ourselves an exemption from it ; nay, if we should escape all other temporal calamities, yet fickness and infirmities of body will most infallibly overtake us: they are part of that blackguard that commonly attends death which is the inevitable lot of the living. It concerns us all theres fore to be prepared for that, which must necessarily; fooner or later, be our condition in some kind or other, it may be in many, it may be in all kinds.
í. Therefore the first expedient preparatory to afflictions, is this : in the time of our prosperity it must be our care to walk with as inuch innocence, watchfulness, and circumfpectioil as can be ; for it is a most certain truth, that the malignity, and sting, and venom of affliction is not so much in the things I suffer, as in the sense of my former guilt and fin." No man is in a better condition to bear afflictions than he that hath the cleanest conscience; for as any distemper in any part of the body draws all the mischievous and hurtful humours of the body to that part, so it is a most sure consequent of any manner of affliction; it brings all former fins to remembrance, and calls the thoughts of them together upon such an occasion. When Jos seph's brethren were under a strait in Egypt, under the threatnings and feeming jealoufies of their unknown brother, then comes in the remembrance of their injury to their brother, and it is represented to themi with all the aggravations that can be, “We are verily
guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the
anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we • would not hear: therefore is this distress come upon
ust,' Conscience, that they had before stifled and . . !.
Gen. xlii. 21.