« AnteriorContinuar »
stines; and sometimes he makes the intended evil prove a real blesling; as in the case of Joseph, in whose history we have one of the most beautiful draughts of Providence that is any where to be seen, and dune with that union of majesty and simplicity, which so remarkably distinguishes the facred writings. The whole hundred and twenty-fourth Pfalm is a celebration of divine power, and a hymn of praise for divine protection. If it had not been the Lord, who • was on our side, now may Israel say; if it had not • been the Lord, who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelined us, the stream
had gone over our soul : then the proud waters • had gone over our foul. Blessed be the Lord, who . hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul • is escaped as a bird out of the faare of the fowlers : the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our . help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.'
I shall only add, on this head, that a serious perfon, when thinking or speaking of deliverance from danger, will always consider sin as the greatest danger : he will reflect, with the highest pleasure, on the instances in which God has enabled him to discharge his duty with constancy. Let me beg of you to remember, with what courage and resolution the young persons, Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego spoke to King Nebuchadnezzar, and resisted the threatenings of that powerful prince. It is worth while to observe, that they and Daniel seem, in that
perilous time, to have given themselves much to the exercise of prayer. Thus, running into the name of God as a strong tower, they obtained fecurity, while other very eminent perfons, by trusting in themselves, or boasting of their own strength, fell before temptations of a very trifting kind, as Abraham and Isaac in denying their wives, and the Apostle Peter in denying his Master.
2. The security of the righteous consists in the promise of strength and support in the time of trial. Although God preserves his people from many dangers, yet he has no where promised them deliverance from all. On the contrary, we are told, that all • that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer per• secution; and that through much tribulation we • must enter into the kingdom of God.' Yet, even in these circumstances, they are safe, because God is with them in their afflictions; his rod and his staff powerfully supports them. Need I tell you, that here, in a particular manner, the text is exemplified: The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. Under a smarting rod, what can a child of God do, but enter into his secret chambers, and supplicate the assistance and presence of his reconciled Father? and has he not promised to grant it? Isa. 'xliii. 1. But now, thus • faith the Lord, that created thee, O Jacob! and " he that formed thee, O Israel ! fear not; for I have
redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; • thou art mine.' And has he not many times, in fact, granted it? The three children walking at liberty in the midst of the fire with the Son of God,
as their companion, was but one instance of what has many times happened in every age. Who would not rather be in the place of Paul and Silas, singing praises to God in their chains, than be the master of the world, with all the danger and anxieties of a throne? Let me here make an observation, which I think is warranted both by scripture and experience, that just as in point of duty, fo alfo in point of suffering, the security and comfort of the people of God depends upon their running into, and, if I may so express it, keeping within the bounds of their strong tower. If they keep close to God, no suffering will disconcert them; no enemy will terrify them: but, if they neglect this, they may be unhinged by a very flight trial. I hinted before, felf-dependence will make men fall before a very trifling temptation : but dependence on divine strength will make them fuprior to the greatest. In the very fame manner, it hath been often feen, that perfons, who have lost their temper, or lost their courage, in sufferings of no extraordinary kind, when more severely tried have behaved infinitely better, and being constrained to flee to God for protection, have found such benefit from it, that they have Nept in peace and comfort in a loathsome prison, have gone with an undaunted step to an ignominious fcaffold, nay, and embraced, with joy and transport, a halter or a stake.
3. In the last place, The righteous is safe under the divine protection, as they are fure of deliverance in the end, and complete victory over all sufferings of every kind. Thus it is said, Pfal. xxxiv. 17. to the ead, “The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and
• delivereth them out of all their troubles. The • Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, cand saveth such as be of a contrite fpirit. Many • are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord • delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his • bones, not one of them is broken. Evil shall say • the wicked, and they that hate the righteous shall be defolate. The Lord redeemeth the soul of his
fervants; and none of them that trust in him shall • be defolate.' There is a great beauty in this last passage, which is lost or concealed in our transation; it lies in the opposition between the 19 and 21 verses. The 19 verse runs thus, “Many are the • afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord deliver
eth him out of them all.' In opposition to this, it is faid, in the 21 verse, as it should be translated, • One evil shall nay the wicked; and they that hate • the righteous shall be defolate. This probably points at the great distinguishing security of good men, that their salvation is safe in the keeping of God, and quite beyond the reach of their most implacable enemies. Whatever straitening circumstances they may be reduced to, they have treasures in heaven, · which neither moth nor rust can corrupt, nor i thief break through and steal.' They may be driven from their habitations, or banished from their country; they may resemble those of whom we read, Heb xi. 36, 37, 38. And others had trials of cruel * mockings, and scourgings; yea moreover of bonds • and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were • fawn asunder, were tempted, were Nain with the * sword; they wandered about in sheep skins, and
goat skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented, • (of whom the world was not worthy;) they wandered in defarts, and in mountains, and in dens,
and caves of the earth;' but they cannot be banished from the kingdom of heaven. No tyrant can fut the gates of paradise against them; for they have been opened by him, who openeth, and no man • fhutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.' E have often read with admiration, both in the inspired writings and ecclefiaftical history, the patience and constancy of the martyrs. How edifying is it to obferve, that by witnessing a good confession, together with the gracious influence of the spirit of God, they have become superior to the fear of death, and have been enabled to despise or pity the weakness of persecuting rage? Sometimes we may clearly fee, the unrighteous judges torn in pieces, with the fury of infernal passions, vainly endeavouring to wreck their malice, by newly invented tortures, and the happy prisoners, as it were, already beyond their reach, while by faith and hope they are firmly afsured of an inheritance incorruptible and undefil• ed, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven • above.'
Having thus considered the nature of the good man's security, I am now to consider the absolute certainty of it.-On this I fhall be very short, it rests upon the divine perfection, the divine promise, and the experience of the saints. 1. The divine perfection. Is there any thing too hard for the Almighiy? Is he not the Lord of nature ? And are not all things obedient to his will? The great enemy of fouls, and