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to the faithful, that he will assist them in tribulations, they experience to be true, when they patiently stand supported by his power, which they certainly could not by their own strength. Patience, therefore, affords a proof to the saints, that God will really give the assistance he hath promised in every time of need. This also confirms their hope; for it would be too much ingratitude not to rely on the truth of God for the future, which they have hitherto experienced to be constant and certain. We see now what a series of benefits we derive from the cross. For subverting the opinion which we have falsely preconceived of our own strength, and detecting our hypocrisy with which we are enamoured, it expels pernicious and carnal confidence: when we are thus humbled, it teaches us to rely upon God alone, which keeps us from sinking under afflictions. And victory is followed by hope; inasmuch as the Lord, by the performance of his promises, hath established his truth for the future. Though these were the only reasons that could be given, they are sufficient to shew the necessity of the discipline of the cross. For it is no small advantage to be divested of a blind self-love, that we may be fully conscious of our imbecility; to be affected with a sense of our imbecility, that we may learn to be diffident of ourselves; to be diffident of ourselves, that we may transfer our confidence to God; to depend with unreserved confidence on God, that, relying on his assistance, we may persevere unconquered to the end; to stand in his grace, that he may know his veracity in his promises; to experience the certainty of his promises, that our hope may thereby be strengthened.
IV. The Lord hath also another end in afflicting his children; to try their patience and teach them obedience. Not, indeed, that they can perform any other obedience to him than that which he hath given them; but he is pleased in this manner, by clear evidences, to exhibit and testify the graces which he hath conferred on his saints, that they may not be concealed in inactivity within them. Therefore in giving an open manifestation of the strength and constancy in suffering, with which he hath furnished his servants, he is said to try their patience. Hence these expressions, that “God did tempt Abraham,” and prove his piety from the circumstance of his not refusing to sacrifice his own and only son. (a) Wherefore Peter states, that our faith is tried by tribulations, just as gold is tried by fire in a furnace. (6) Now who can say that it is not necessary for this most excellent gift of patience, which a believer has received from his God, to be brought forward into use, that it may be ascertained and manifested? For otherwise men will never esteem it as it deserves. But if God himself acts justly, when, to prevent the virtues which he hath conferred on the faithful from being concealed in obscurity and remaining useless and perishing, he furnishes an occasion for exciting them; there is the best of reasons for the afflictions of the saints, without which they would have no patience. By the cross they are also, I say, instructed to obedience; because they are thus taught to live, not according to their own inclination, but according to the will of God. If every thing succeeded with "them according to their wishes, they would not know what it is to follow God. And Seneca mentions that this was an ancient proverb, when they would exhort any one to bear adversity with patience, “ Follow God.” This implied, that man submitted to the yoke of God, only when he resigned himself to his corrections. Now, if it is most reasonable that we should prove ourselves in all things obedient to our heavenly Father, we certainly ought not to deny him the use of every possible method to accustom us to practise this obedience.
V. Yet we do not perceive how necessary this obedience is to us, unless we at the same time reflect on the great wantonness of our flesh to shake off the divine yoke, as soon as we have been treated with a little tenderness and indulgence. The case is exactly the same as with refractory horses, which after having been pampered for some days in idleness grow fierce and untameable, and regard not the rider, to whose management they previously submitted. And we are perpetual examples of what God complains of in the people of Israel; when we are “waxen fat,” and are " covered with fatness,” (c) we kick against him who hath cherished and supported us. The beneficence of God ought to have allured us to the consideration and love of his goodness: but since such is our ingratitude, that
(a) Gen. xxii. 1, 12.
(6) 1 Peter i. 7.
(c) Deut. xxxii. 15.
we are rather constantly corrupted by his indulgence, it is highly necessary for us to be restrained by some discipline from breaking out into such petulance. Therefore, that we may not be made haughty by an excessive abundance of wealth, that we may not become proud on being distinguished with honours, that we may not be rendered insolent by being inflated with other advantages, mental, corporeal, or external, the Lord himself, as he foresees will be expedient, by the remedy of the cross, opposes, restrains, and subdues the haughtiness of our Aesh; and that by various methods, adapted to promote the benefit of each individual. For we are not all equally afflicted with the same diseases, or all in need of an equally severe method of cure. Hence we see different persons exercised with different kinds of crosses. But whilst the heavenly Physician, consulting the health of all his patients, practises a milder treatment towards some, and cures others with rougher remedies; yet he leaves no one completely exempted, because he knows we are all diseased, without the exception of a single individual.
VI. Moreover it is necessary that our most merciful Father should not only prevent our infirmity for the future, but also frequently correct our past offences, to preserve us in a course of legitimate obedience to himself. Wherefore in every affliction we ought immediately to recollect the course of our past life. In reviewing it, we shall certainly find that we have committed what was deserving of such chastisement. Nevertheless the exhortation to patience must not be principally founded on a consciousness of sin. For the Scripture furnishes a far better consideration, when it informs us, that in adversity “we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (d) Therefore even in the bitterness of tribulations it becomes us to acknowledge the clemency and benignity of our Father towards us; since even then he ceases not to promote our salvation. For he afflicts, not to ruin or destroy us, but rather to deliver us from the condemnation of the world. This idea will lead us to what the Scripture inculcates in another place: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord,
neither be weary of his correction; for whom the Lord loveth he correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” (e) When we recognise the rod of a father, is it not our duty rather to shew ourselves obedient and docile children, than contumaciously to imitate desperate men, who have been hardened in their transgressions? God loses us, unless he recals us after our defections from him; so that the apostle correctly remarks, “ If ye be without chastisement, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” (f) We are extremely perverse, therefore, if we cannot bear with him, while he declares his benevolence to wards us, and his great concern for our salvation. The Scripture points out this difference between believers and unbelievers; the latter, as the slaves of an inveterate and incurable iniquity, are only rendered more wicked and obstinate by correction; the former, like ingenuous children, are led to a salutary repentance. You have to choose now in which number you would prefer to stand. But having treated of this subject elsewhere, I shall conclude, contenting myself with having thus briefly touched on it here.
VII. But it is a source of peculiar consolation when we suffer persecution for righteousness' sake.” (s) For we ought then to reflect how greatly we are honoured by God, when he thus distinguishes us with the peculiar characteristio of his service. I call it persecution for righteousness' sake, not only when we suffer in defence of the Gospel, but also when we are molested in the vindication of any just cause. Whether, therefore, in asserting the truth of God in opposition to the falsehoods of Satan, or in undertaking the protection of good and innocent men against the injuries of the wicked, it be necessary for us to incur the resentment and hatred of the world, by which our lives, our fortunes, or our reputation, may be endangered; let it not be grievous or irksome to us thus far to employ ourselves in the service of God; nor let us imagine ourselves to be miserable in those respects in which he hath with his own mouth pronounced us blessed. It is true, that poverty, considered in itself, is misery; and the same may be said of exile, contempt, imprisonment, ignominy: finally,
death is of all calamities the last and worst. But with the favour of our God, they are all conducive to our happiness. Let us therefore be content with the testimony of Christ, rather than with the false opinion of the flesh. Thus we shall rejoice, like the apostles, whenever he shall “count us worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (h) For if, being innocent and conscious of our own integrity, we are stripped of our property by the villany of the wicked, we are reduced to poverty indeed among men, but we thereby obtain an increase of true riches with God in heaven; if we are banished from our country, we are more intimately received into the family of God; if we meet with vexation and contempt, we are so much the more firmly rooted in Christ; if we are stigmatized with reproach and ignominy, we are so much the more exalted in the kingdom of God; if we are massacred, it opens an entrance for us into a life of blessedness. We ought to be ashamed of setting a lower estimation on things to which the Lord hath attached such a great value, than on the shadowy and evanescent pleasures of the present life.
VIII. Since the Scripture therefore, by these and similar instructions, affords abundant consolation under all the ignominy and calamity which we sustain in the defence of righteousness, we are chargeable with extreme ingratitude if we do not receive them from the hand of the Lord with cheerful resignation: especially since this is the species of affliction, or the cross, most peculiar to the faithful, by which Christ will be glorified in us; according to the declaration of Peter. (i) And contumelious treatment being to ingenuous minds more intolerable than a hundred deaths, Paul expressly apprises us, that not only persecutions but reproaches await us “because we trust in the living God.” (k) As in another place he directs us by his example to go through “evil report and good report.” (1) Nor are we required to exercise such a cheerfulness as to banish all sense of bitterness and sorrow; the saints could discover no patience under the cross, unless they were tormented with sorrow and harassed with grief. If there were no hardship in poverty, no agony in diseases, no distress in ignominy, no hor