« AnteriorContinuar »
perplexity of mind, like flaves that tremble at the whip which is held over them; thus many thoufands live under the lath; se terrible is the name ot Death, especially a violent death, that they are not able with patiences to hear it mentioned; which gave the ground of that faying, Praejiat semel, quam semper tnori; it is better to die once, than to be dying always. And surely there is not a more miserable life any poor creature caa live, than such a trembling life as this is. For,
1. Such a bondage as this destroys ail the comfort and pleafare of life; no pleasure can grow or thrive under the shadow of this cursed plant. Nil ei beatum ctli semper aliauis terror impendet, faith Cicero *, all the comforts we possess in this world are embittered by it. It is storied of Democles, a flatterer of Dionyfius the tyrant, that he told him he was the happiest man in the world, having wealth, power, majesty, and abnndance of all things: Dionyfius sets the flatterer in all his own pomp at a table furnished with all daintes, and attended upon as a king, but with a heavy sharp sword hanging by a single horse hair right over his head; this made him quake and tremble, so that he could neither eat nor drink, but desired to be freed from that estate. The design was to convince him how miserable a life they live, who live under the continual terrors of impending death and ruin. It was a sore judgment which God threatened against them in Jcf. v. 6; "A lion out "of the forest shall stay them, and a wolf of the evening "fhall spoil them; a leopard shall watch over their cities, every "one that goeth out thence, shall be torn in pieces." What a miserable life must those people live, who could not stir out of the city, but they presently were seized by lions, wolves, and leopards, that watched over them, and lurked in all the avenues to make them a prey! and yet this is more tolerable than for a man's own fear to watch continually over him.
2. And yet I could wish this were the worst of it, and that our fears destroyed no better comforts than the natural comforts of this life: but, alas, they also destroy our spiritual comforts', which we might have from God's promises, and our own and others experiences, which are incomparably the sweetest pleasures men have in this world: but as no creature-comfort is pleasant, so no promise relishes like itself to him thst lives in this bondage of fear; when the terrors of death are great, the consolations of the Almighty are small.
*' Cicer. Tusc> (^15.
so the written word are found all sorts of resreshing, strengthening, and heart-reviving promises, prepared by the wisdom and care of God for our relief in the days of darkness and trouble; promises of support under the heaviest burdens and pressures, Isa. xli. lo. "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dis"mayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee, yea, I will V help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right-hand of my "righteousness" A promise able to make the most timorous and trembling foul to shout with the joy of men in harvest, or as they that divide the spoil.
There are found the encouraging promises of defence and protection, Isa. xxvii. 2, 3. and Isa. xxxiii. 2. promises that lead us unto the almighty power of God, and put us under the wings of his care in time of danger.
Promises of moderation and mitigation in the day of sharp affliction that we may be able to bear it, Isa. xxvii. 8. 1 Cor. x. 13. Promises of deliverance out of trouble, if the malice of man bring us into trouble, the mercy of God will assuredly bring us out, Plal. xci. 14, 15. and Psal. cxxv. 3. And, which is most comfortable of all the rest, promises to sanctify and bless oar troubles to our good, so that they shall not only cease to be hurtful, but, by virtue of the promise, become exceeds iog beneficial to us, Ifa. xxvii. 9. Rom. viii. 2S.
All these promises are provided by our tender Father for ns, against a day of straits and fears; and because he knew our weakness, and how apt our fears would be to make us suspect our security by them, he harh, for the performance of them, engaged his wisdom, power, care, faithfulness and unchangeableness, 2 Pet. ii. 9. Isa. xxvii. 2, 3. 2 Cor. xvi. 9. 1 Cor. x. 13. Isa. xliii. i, 2. In the midst of such promises so sealed, how chearful and magnanimous should we be in the worst times! and fay as David, Plal. xlix. 5. " Why should I fear in the day '•' of evil?" Let those that have no God to flee to, no promise to rely upon, let them fear in the day of evil, I have no cause to do so. But even from these most comfortable refuges in the promises our own fears beat us; we are so scared that we mind them not, so as to draw encouragement, resolution, and courage from them. Thus theshselds of the mighty arc vilely cast away.
So, for all the choice records of the flints experiences in all former troubles and distresses, God hath, by a singular providence (aiming at our relief in future distresses) preserved them for us; if dagger threaten us, we may turn to the recorded experiences his piC|f le have left us of the strange and mighty influerce of V\% providence upon the hearts of their enemies, to shew them faroar, Gen. xxxi. 29. Pfal. xvi. 46. Jer. xv. 11.
There are also found the aotient rolls and records of the admirable methods of his peoples deliverance, contrived by his infinite and unsearchable wisdom for them, when all their own thoughts have been at a loss, and their understandings posed and staggered, Exod. xv. 6. 2 Chron. xx. 12, 15. 2 Kiugs xix.
There are the recorded experiences of God's unspotted faithfulness, which never failed any foul that durst trust himself la its arms, Micah vi. 4, 5. Jofhua vii. 9.
There are also to be found the records of his tender and most fatherly care for his children, who have been to him as a peculiar treasure in times of danger, Pfal. xl. 17. Deut. xxxii. 10, 11, 12. Ifa. xlix, 16. Job xlix. 16. Job xxxvi. 7. 2 Chron. xvi. y.
.. All these and many more supports and cordials are made ready to our hand, and provided for a day of trouble; but alas! to what purpose, if our own fears so transport us, that «e can neither apply them, nor so much as calmly ponder and consider them.
3. To conclude, by these fears we are deprived of those manifold advantages we might gain by the calm, and composed meditations of our own death, and the change it will make upon us; could we fit down in peace, and meditate in a familiar way upon death: could we look with a composed and wellsettled mind into our own graves, and not be scared and frighted with the thoughts of death, and startle whenever we take it (though but in our thoughts) by the cold hand: To what seriousness would those meditations frame us? And what abundance of evils would they prevent in our converfations? The sprinkling of dust upon new writing prevents many a blot and blur in our books or letters: And could we thus sprinkle the dust of the grave upon our minds, it would prevent many a fin and miscarriage in our words and actions. But there is no profit or advantage redounding to us either from promises, experiences, or death itself, when the soui is discomposed and put into confusiot by its own fears. And thus you see some of those many mischievous effects of your own fears.
C H A f. VI.
Prescribing the rules to cure our sinsul fears, and prevent theft fad and .woful effects of them.
Set!. I. 'VVT E are now come to the most difficult part of the * * work, viz. the cure of the sinful and slavish feir of creatures in times of danger, which if it might, through the blessing of God, be effected, we might live at hearts ease in the midst of all our enemies and troubles, and, like the fun in the fceavens, keep on our steddy course in the darkest and gloomiest day. But before I come to the particular rules, it will be rie*cessary, for the prevention of mistakes, to lay down three oftful cautions about this matter. •'
1 Caution. Understand that none but those that are in Christ are capable to improve the following rules to their advantage< The security of our souls is the greatest argurilent used by Christ to extinguish our fears 6f theni thdt kill the body, Mat. X, 28. But if the foul must unavoidably perish when the body doth, if it must drop into hell before the body be laid in the grave, if he that kills the body doth, by the fame stroke, cut off the soul from all the means and possibilities of mercy and happiness for ever, what can be offered in such a case, to relieve a man against fear and trembling?
2 Caution. Expect not a perfect ctire of your fears In this life, whilst there are enemies and dangers, there will be forrm fears working in the best hearts: If our faith c6uId be perfected, our fears would be perfectly cured; but whilst there is so much weakness in our faith, there will be too much strength in our fears. And for those who are naturally tirhOrOus, who have more of this passion in their constitution than Other men have, and those in whom melancholy is a rooted and chronical disease, it will be hard for them totally to rid themselves of fears arid dejections, though in the use of such helps and mean's as follow, they may be greatly relieved against the tyranny of ihem, *&d enabled to possess their fouls in much more tranquillity and comfort.
3 Caution. Whosoever expects the benefit of the following prescriptions and rules, must not think the reading, or bar - remembring of them will do the work, but he must work them into his heart by believing and fixed meditation, and live in the daily practice of them. It is not our opening of our cafe to a physician, nor his prescriptions and written directions, that wiH cure a man, but he must resolve to take the bitter and nauseous potion, how much soever he loath it; to abstain from hurtful diet, how well soever he loves it, if ever he expect to be a sound and healthful mao. So it is in this cafe also. These things premised, the
1 Rule. The first rule to relieve us against our flavish fears, It seriously to consider, and more thoroughly to study the covenant of grace, •within the bkjsed clasp and bond whereof all believers are. I think the clear understanding of the nature, extent, and stability of the covenant, and of our interest therein, would go a great way in the cure of our sinful and flavish fears.
A covenant is more than a naked promise; in the covenant, God hath graciously consulted our weakness, fears, and doubts, and therefore proceeds with us in the highest way of solemnity, confirming his promises by oath, Heb. vi. 13, 17. and by hissealsj Rom. vi. 11. Putting himself under the most solemn ties and engagements that can be, to his people, that from so firm a ratification of the covenant with us, we might have strong consolation, Heb. vi. 18. He hath so ordered it, that it might afford strong supports, and the most reviving cordials to our faint and timorous spirits, in all the plunges of trouble both from within, and from without. In the covenant God makes over himself to his people, to be unto them a God, Jer. xxxi. 33. Heb. viii. 10. Wherein the Lord bestows himself in all his glorious essential properties upon us, to the end that whatsoever his almighty power, insinite wisdom, and incomprehensible mercy can afford for our protection, support, deliverance, direction, pardon, or refreshment; we might be assured shall be faithfully performed to us in all the straits, fears, and exigencies of our lives. This God expects we should improve by faith, as the most sovereign antidote against all our fears in this world, Ifa. xliii. 1,2." Thus faith the Lord that created thee, "0 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; when thou passest through the waters, I will be "with thee," &c. Ifa. xli. 10. " Fear not, for I am with thee, ** be not dismayed, for I am thy God."
And if thou, reader, be within the bonds of the covenant, thou mayest surely find enough there to quiet thy heart, whatever the matter or ground of thy fears be: If God be thy covenant God, he will be with thee in all thy straits, wants, and troubles, he will never leave, nor forfake thee. From the covenant it was that David encouraged himself against all his troubles, a Sam. xxiii. 5. "Although my house be npl so with God, yet