« AnteriorContinuar »
Eli, he will give a Samuel : if he will take away Christ's personal presence, he will send the Holy Ghost. And the truth is, he does not so much take away as borrow a mercy ; and he pays it again with usury and advantage : Onesimus goes away like a thief from Philemon, but he returns again with profit to him and others. As for these outward things, they will prove but debts at the great day of judgment : riches now, and gifts now, but debts then: and the less ye have of these outward things, the less ye have to reckon for them. In a bad day, men they say, Oh, that I had less, my reckoning would be less : the less ye have, the less your reckoning will be. The comfort of a man's life, consists not in muchness, but fitness to his heart. If a man have a great farm, and a small stock, it is the only way to break him : it is better to have a farm fit for one's stock, than a great farm. The Lord he sees what our stock of grace is, and accordingly he provides a farm for every one of his children ; and sometimes it is lessened, but the reason is, because the stock of grace is no bigger, they have no more grace to stock it withal. Our gifts, and our parts, and our prosperity, they are so strong sometimes, that God is fain to mingle water therewithal, that we may not be drunk. I appeal to you: are not the saints gainers by all their losses ; are not they strengthened by all their weakness; are not they bettered by all their crosses ? Surely then, in all things they are to be thankful : though their affliction be exceeding long, sharp, and grievous ; yet they are to be thankful in that condition.
But suppose now, that it be persecution that a man is to be exercised with ; and that is bitter : is a christian to be thankful then, even in that condition?
Yes, ye know what the apostle says; “to you it is given, not only to believe, but to suffer,” Phil. i. 29. God's gift is worth our thanks. And says the apostle, “ All shall turn to the furtherance of the gospel,” Phil. i. 22. Is it not a great matter, and worth our praise and thankfulness; that we should be trusted by God to bear witness to his truth? “ For this came I into the world,” says Christ, “ that I might bear witness to the truth," John xviii. 37. It was his design; thereby ye are like to him, and so honour him. When were the churches and people of God more pure than under per
secution ? and is it not a great mercy to be kept pure? The more you suffer for any truth, the more that truth will be spread by you: you die, but the truth lives : your estate dies, and your name dies, and your liberty dies : but your dying estate gives a living testimony unto the truth.
66 When I am lifted up,” says Christ, meaning upon the cross, “I will draw all men after me," John xii. 32. And so shall you do, when you are lift up upon the cross for any truth, ye shall draw all men after that truth that ye are lifted up for. When have ye more communion with Jesus Christ, than when ye suffer most for his truth? Is it not a great mercy for a man to be glorified on this side heaven? Pray look upon that expression which ye have in John xiii. 30, 31; it is said concerning Christ himself, that when Judas went out, having received the sop, Jesus saith, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him, verse 30. Judas “having received the sop, went immediately out, and it was night : therefore when he was gone out, Jesus saith, Now is the Son of man glorified.” Judas went out to betray him, to bring him to the cross, a false brother was gone out. Now is the Son of man glorified, says he, not only because the cross was the way to glory; but the truth is, he was glorified upon the cross, there was a glory there. You may observe it; he did many miracles, and when he had done those miracles, he did not say then, Now is the Son of man glorified. He was transfigured ; and he did not say upon his transfiguration, Now is the Son of man glorified: but now he comes to suffer, now he comes to the cross; Now, says he, is the Son of man glorified. And indeed, now is his love to poor sinners glorified. The apostle says, “He triumphed over all principalities and powers upon the cross," Col. ii. 15; and his love triumphs over all our sins, and our guilt, and our unworthiness: oh, then was free grace and love, when Christ was upon the cross ! Now is the Son of man glorified. And so it shall be with you: when a false brother goes out to persecute you, to betray you, to bring you the cross; you may say so : Now is the servant of the Lord glorified, now is my love to Christ glorified; never more glorified than now. This makes the apostle Peter speak in his 1st Epist. iv. 16: “If any man suffer as a christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf.” It is matter of praise, and
thanksgiving here : says he, at verse 13, “Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings.” Verse 14, ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth on you.” That is, says one upon that place, as Noah's dove hovered over the water, and found no place for to rest her foot upon, until she returned to the ark: so does the Spirit of God, as it were, hover over the souls of men, it wanteth rest: and when it sees a soul that suffers for the truth, there it lights, there it rests, there the Spirit of God and of glory rests. I appeal to you: which will be most comfortable, think ye, at the day of judgment; that ye have been persecuted for the truth, or that ye have been a persecutor of the truth? I know your answer ; when a christian is under persecution, he may lift up his voice, and say, I might have engaged against the truth; ah ! I might have been a persecutor of the truth; but blessed be God it is not so. The apostles went away rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ. Surely therefore, there is matter of praise and thanksgiving, even in this condition also, in this condition a christian should be thankful: it is the will of God our Father we should be thankful here.
But suppose that a man's inward and spiritual condition be overclouded, and God withdraw, and hide his face from a christian : shall he, can he be thankful in this condition? is it his duty to be thankful now?
Yes; for though God do withdraw, though he do hide his face, and not shine upon a christian ; yet it may be light with him. Day may be day though the sun do not shine forth in bright beams. And it
And it may be day light, it may be day upon a christian soul, though there be never a beam shines. We are saved by faith, and not by feeling.
Again, Though Christ doth hide his face, though he doth withdraw his comforting presence, he never withdraws his supporting presence from a christian; sometimes more of that, when least of the other. Christ deals by a christian as God dealt by Christ in his agony, and on the cross: though God withdrew his comforting presence, so as he cried out and said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matt. xxvii. 46, yet he had never more of God's supporting presence: and so it is with a christian. Though
Christ may withdraw his comforting presence, yet he never withdraws his supporting presence from them.
Besides, Jesus Christ does so withdraw from a christian as he does draw withal by his Spirit. He seemed to withdraw from the Canaanitish woman, but he did draw her to him by his Spirit. When he withdraws in Cant. v. from his spouse, he leaves myrrh upon the ringles of the door. And so when he withdraws from a christian, he leaves his myrrh upon the ringles of the heart : the heart cannot be quiet, cannot rest, takes no contentment without him, he does draw the soul to him, while he seems to withdraw from the soul.
What a man would not lose for all the world, that, you will say, is worthy of praise and thankfulness. Now take a gracious soul, a godly man when he is most deserted, forsaken, left, as it were ; and he says, Now mercy is gone, now Christ is gone: ask him but this question: If Christ be gone, as you say, why do not you renounce Christ, and renounce all his ways? He will tell you, Oh, no, I dare not renounce him for all the world. But if he be quite gone, why do not you turn drunkard ; why do not you turn swearer: and why do not you cast off all duties? Oh, no, that I dare not: I have yet something left, that I would not lose for all the world. Is there not then matter of praise and thanksgiving in this condition ? Surely there is, even in this condition also.
But you will say: Suppose that a man be oppressed with sad temptations, black and dark temptations; God does not only withdraw, but Satan draws near, heavy, and dreadful temptations press in upon him : is it the will of God the Father, that he should be thankful in this condition also ? Yes; for is it not matter of praise, think ye, and thankfulyour enemy
strike a stroke? you shall be more than conquerors: write, your enemy overcome before you fight. “Be of good comfort,” says Christ, “I have overcome the world,” John xvi. 33; and so the god of the world, Satan, your enemy, is overcome before you do strike a stroke.
Besides, is it not matter of praise and thanksgiving, that Satan can tempt you no more than your own Father gives him leave to do? •“ Simon, Simon, (says Christ,) Satan hath desired thee, that he may winnow thee as wheat,” Luke
xxiii. 31. Mark the words, “ He hath desired :” he was fain to ask leave first, he could not winnow Peter until he had leave. And he could not winnow Job until he had leave; he hath not power to tempt you further than your own Father gives him leave.
Again, is it not matter of praise and thanksgiving, that nothing hath befallen you but what hath befallen the best of God's children, the greatest saints? Men say sometimes, Oh, never any one's condition like to mine, never any affliction like to mine. The most godly men have been most sorely tempted. In the Old Testament, David, a man after God's own heart, it is said of him, “The devil stood up, and moved him to number the people,” i Chron. xxi. 1. What a report did God give of Job, and you know his winnowing and his continuance. In the New Testament, two famous apostles, Paul and Peter. “ Peter, Satan hath desired to winnow thee :” Paul, “a messenger Satan, sent to buffet him.” And our Lord Jesus Christ himself, “ in all things tempted, that he might succour those that are tempted,” Heb. ii. 18. Oh, beloved, how gracious will Jesus Christ be to tempted ones, that came from heaven on purpose to be gracious to them.
Further, is it not matter of praise and thanksgiving, that you have always one for to run unto, to succour you, to relieve you in your temptations? A brazen serpent up, against you be stung. Paul therefore, in Rom. vii., having said, “ Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?” in the next words says, “ I thank God through Jesus Christ.” When Satan is tempting, Christ is praying, interceding. 6 Satan hath desired to winnow thee, (says he,) but I have prayed,” Luke xxii. 31. You cannot pray: truly sometimes we pray most, when we pray least, for Christ prays for us.
Again, is it not matter of praise and thanksgiving, that ye have such an estate that these thieves can never rob
of? A christian is a traveller; the thief meets him, and takes his money that he hath about him; but he hath an inheritance of land at home, which the thief cannot take away from him. And Satan by his temptations possibly may rob you of these comforts that are about you ; but you have an inheritance