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whom we had great expectations; they may turn their backs upon us, and assist us no more; those who employed us will 'do it no longer, and they who traded with us, will do it no more; so we lose our business, and our acquaintance cast us 'out of their favour, and will have nothing more to do with us. This will prove a distressing trial, and considered in itself is a very great evil; but it shall do us rto harm, if we ^Follow that which is good. If under this trial we steadily trust in God, being resolutely determined, at all events, to go forward in the good way. The Lord may. permit us to be tried for a time, but he will certainly appear for us^ and we .shall see he hath the hearts of all men in Jiis hand, and can turn them which way soever he will. He will raise us up 'friends where we could not have thought of it, and send us help from a quarter from which we least of all expected it. The Psalmist had experienced this, when he said, "When my father and mother forsook me, the Lord took care of me:" 'And we shall find, as our dependence upon an arm of flesh is cut otf, we shall trust in him, of whom it is said, "The -earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; and the cattle upon a thousand hills, are all his property, and at his disposal:" We shall see the truth of this word, "The Lord 'careth for the righteous." Many there are, on every side, who are unspeakable gainers by religion, even in a temporal way; the word of the Lord hath been made good to them, "When a man's ways please God, he maketh his enemies to be at peace with him." The Lord hath wonderfully appeared for them, in a great variety of ways. Religion has taught .them industry, frugality, and prudence, in the common affairs of life; and they daily find, that "the blessing of the -Lord is in the house of the righteous." And the men of the .world, seeing them determined to pursue the things which .make for their present and everlasting peace, will give up all .opposition, and they will live in peace with their neigh(bours.
The disciples of Christ may be variously tried by wicked -men, and likewise by the prince of darkness, who as a roaring; lion, is going about seeking whom he may devour. As it is the grand design of satan to counteract the gracious designs of the blessed God towards.his creatures, he will, no doubt, do all in his power to rob us of that heavenly treasure, which the Lord hath mercifully bestowed upon us; and if he fail in this, he will perplex and distress us in as high a degree as he can: And no temptation, considered in itself, can be said to be joyous, but grievous, we are obliged to say that this is also a. great and sore evil; but jt shall do us no harm, vift&e we foU Tow that which is good. We may rest assured, that sataa can proceed no farther than God will give him leave; and we may be equally assured, that in suffering the devil to tempt find try us, he can never intend that we should be overcome by any temptation whatsoever; The word of God will shew us what course to take, at such a time as this; "Brethren,? saith the apostle, "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,, that you may be able to stand in the evil day 5" arid in the strength of God, " resist the devil;- and he shall fljr from you." And 'again: "With every temptation^ God wiU make a way for your.escape, that ye may be made able td bear it." . . ,. - ''.'--:"
The temptations of satan are of two sorts: i. He will try to perplex us and rob'us of our peace* by raising painful doubts and distressing fears in our minds^ respecting the.being and attributes of God, especially, about his wisdom, goodness, mercy, and love; respecting the truth of divine revelation^ 6^ some particular truth; respecting the reality of religion^ and he will call in question our experience, whether it be real of pnly imaginary; he will tempt us to doubt concerning our perseverance in the ways of God; and an endless variety of other things, z.. Satan will tempt us by representing sin; and more especially the sin which we were naturally inclined to, and most delighted in; the sin^ which before.we enjoyed the grace of God^ did the most easily beset us^ in as pleasing a light as possible, so that we may see something agreeable in.iti And, he will work upon the remaining depravity of our nature, exciting desires in the mind after those evils which he will set before us. But be his- temptations what they may,. our gracious God intends us no evil by them, any more than our Lord intended his disciples, when he permitted that violent storm to come upon them, when they were crossing the lake; ' The? had their Lord with them, but he was asleep. W.hen they taw their danger, they went and awoke him, saying, ".Lord, save us, we perish!" Jesus came upon detk, lie rebuked the wind, and there was a great calm. Had not this tempest com* upon them, our Lord, might/ hive slept on arid taken his rest, till they had got safe to the opposite shore: but seeing the danger they were in, and all human.aid failing, they cried tp him for help: he granted their request, and they had such an astonishing display of his power and goodness, as they would not have had,, if this tenipest had not befallen them. They were filled with wonder, and \ve!l they might, when they sa,v \yith their own eyes, the wind, and the waves obey tlie V
of their Master. He had only to say, "Peace, be still,"and 3!! was calm at once.
How may this account illustrate the designs of God, in permitting temptation to befal his children! Perhaps We have our Lord with us, but seeing no immediate danger, we are become so slack in prayer, that we have Suffered him to fall asleep; But he permits some heavy trial to befal us, we see our danger, we begin to sink, all human help fails, we plainly see that none but God can deliver us; We cry mightily to him in prayer, he ^x. mercifully and powerfully interposes, and delivers us out of :
our distress: He appears for us in the time of our extremity, We evidently see his hand, -and thankfully acknowledge his goodness: We have now such a visible display of his power, mercy and love, as we could hot have had^ if this trial had not come upon us. By this means then, bur confidence in God is increased, so is our gratitude and love to him: We feel ourselves under greater'obligations than ever, to givfe up burselves to God, and are greatly cjuickeiied and comforted, and are more-resolved thanbefore, to be wholly the Lord's. Thus may every temptation work together for our present and everlasting good.
. We may also meet with distressing tria4fe ffofli tflfe hand of the Lord himself. Providence may for a time appear to frowrt Upon us; we may meet with losses and crosses, and may .be brought into very great straits and difficulties: And rtohe of these things are in themselves desirable, nor can be locriced upon as good; but they shall do us no harm; the hand of our heavenly Father is in them, and he is always infinitely wisfe and gracious; Perhaps we have been too much at ease in Sion; it may be the sun of prosperity shone bright upon us, and we thought our mountain stood strong: Our minds, perhaps, began to cleave too close to the dust of the earth, and we werte too easy and too happy, in the enjoyment of temporal good things: Qur situation in life was agreeable, our circumstances easy and comfortable, and we were happy hi our relations, but did not live for eternity as We ought. But the Lord sent a blast upon our delightful prospects; some heavy loss in trade, some great disappointment in business, a near relation was under some heavy affliction, or it may be a beloved child, or even the desire of our eyes, was taken away by thehandofour God. We were ready to sink in these deep waters, but werfe ebliged to have recourse to our gracious God, who alone could help us: Accordingly, he being very pitiful, and of tendet mercy, supports and preserves us from fainting in this day of ^; and shews us, at the saths time, why he thus eoi>
tended with us. We see the vanity and emptiness, as well as
the uncertainty of all created good, as we never did before; and are made more fully sensible, we must be wholly dependent upon God, even for temporal, as well as spiritual blessings; there is nothing, whatsoever, that can contribute to our hap. piness, which we can keep one moment longer than God o ive us leave; whether we will or not, he can withdraw it from usin a thousand different ways, which we could neither
foresee nor prevent; therefore it is our wisdom to receive all our good things from God, to devote them all to him, to enjoy
him in all his gifts and blessings, and ever to remember, he Awho freely gave, has a right to take away, when and as he will. , - . :
. It makes no inconsiderable part of our happiness, while in
the present world, to see and acknowledge the hand of God,
in all the dispensations of his providence: And whatsoever proves a means in his hand of making us more sensible of this, it certainly will be an everlasting blessing. If then the Lord, by means of losses, crosses, and afflictions, does us this unspeakable good, we shall have abundant reason to praise him in the end. Perhaps many of these painful trials would not
‘have come upon us, had we but improved the blessings of God
as we ought; had we not set up an idol of riches in our heart, or placed a wife or child too much where our God ought to
have reigned, we might have had these favours continued to
us; but seeing this, our gracious God, in great mercy, took
years in this'world, I must therefore be diligent in businesSf and prudent in the management of all my temporal affairs; I must provide for old age, and'lay up in store for the time tocome; I.know not what I, or those who are dependent upon me, may stand in need of: It becomes me to be-careful, thatneither myself, nor those I ought to provide for, may want any thing needful, or convenient. My children are growing up to the state of men and women,, and I shall -be called ujxm to dispose of them hi marriage, or to settle them m trade, and therefore I mu*t provide for all these things." - But alas! affliction overtakes us before we are aware, and death itself appears in sight; all this foolish reasoning forsakes us at once, and we see ourselves upon the brink of eternity l we awake, and our pleasing dreams vanish away; we see in such a manner as words cannot express, the astonishing uncertainly of life, and every thing belonging thereto, we see the amazing littleness of all sublunary good: But O! of what inestimable value does spiritual and eternal things- appear! How do- we' stand astonished at our own folly, in setting such an high value* upon those perishing- things, in making so false an estimate-of their worth! We justly wonder at that stupidity which had! taken hold of our minds, and wonder Why it was, that withthe word of God in our hand, we could be so far deceived. We stand between the two worlds, and have a view of bothr and O how inconceivably glorious, 'great, and important the one, and how inexpressibly little, vain, and trifling the other! On the one hand, all is reality, all is solid, substantial, everlasting good; -on the other hand, all is mere shadow,- emptiness, and vanity. O how important, and-how inexpressibly valuable, does true religion now appear! This is beyond all comparison, " the one thing needful." An interest in Christ, a right and a title to heaven, appears what they really are at all tim.es, worthy of our highest regaril; and the grace of God is now such a treasure, as we have .no name to fix upon it sufficiently expressive of its real worth. '.- ,
If the Lord should see geod to raise us up from this bed of sickness, and suffer-us to continue a little, longer in this. world, we shall have learned those useful lessons in'the1 school of affliction, which v/e never could have learned so-well, had we continued to enjoy uninterrupted health and strength, and which we never can forget the longest day we havt to live. We have iliad such a sight and sense of the value of spiritual and .eternal things, as we shall isever lose: And in short, we shall be everlasting gainers by this affliction. But If the I^ord shall call us out of time into ettrr/ity, (he a/flictiun