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ing him, himself, il es as they love both thed Atreng
prone to suffer Christ to sleep within them, and so to neglect the lively actings of faith in Chrift; but when the storm of affliction begins to arise, and they are ready to be overwhelmed with distress, then they cry, “ None but Chrift, none but Chrift."
VII. God trysts with fickness and distress, in order both to prove and improve his people's graces, Deut. viii. 2. Rev. ü. 10. Grace is hereby both tried and strengthe ened. 1. Such afflictions do prove both the truth and strength of our graces, as they serve to try if we love God for himself, if we can endure to hold out in serving him, waiting and depending upon him, notwithstanding of discouragements. That faith will suffice for a little affliction, that will not suffice for a great one. Peter had faith enough to come upon the sea at Christ's call; but, as soon as the waves began to swell, his faith began to fail, and his feet to link, till Christ mercifully caught hold of him, saying, “ O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Mat. xiv. 31. Little did Peter think his faith was so weak till now.
2. They tend to improve our graces also, by quickening and strengthening them. They serve as a whetstone to sharpen faith, so as the soul is made to renounce earthly shelters, and to clasp about God, in Chrift, as its only refuge and portion. They excite to repentance and serious mourning for fin; for, like the winter frosts and snows, they make the fallow ground of our hearts more tender. They prompt us to heavenly mindedness, self-denial, and patient waiting on God. Yea, the experience of God's people can atteft it, that grace is never more lively than under affliction. David never found himself better, as to his spiritual state, than when he was perfecuted and hunted as a partridge on the mountains ; and hence he says, Psal. cxix. 17. “ It is good for me that I have been afflicted.”
VIJI. God's aim is, to awake us to redeem time, to prepare for Aitting, and clear up our evidences for heam ven. In time of health, we are apt to trifle away time, loiter in our journey, and forget that we are pilgrims on the earth; wherefore God sends Gickness as his mes. (enger to mind us hereof.
Now it highly concerns us, when fickness attacks us, to consider and meditate upon those ends for which God brings on distress, and pray earnestly that they may be accomplished in us; and so our fickness fhall not be unto death, (spiritual or eternal) but to the glory of God, and the good of our souls.
Direct. II. Let all who are visited with fickness and
distress, search for the Achan in the camp, and enquire diligently what is the ground and cause of God's controversy with them.
IT hath been the practice of God's people, in scripture-times, to enquire into the cause and meaning of God's rods which have been laid upon them. So David, 2 Sam. xxi. When the land of Israel was three years under the stroke of famine, he enquired into the mean. ing of it. So Job is exceedingly defirous to know why God fet him up as a mark for his arrows, Job vii. 20. And hence it is that he makes that petition, Job x. 2. which is most suitable for every man in distress,“ Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me."
I grant, indeed, that God fometimes visits his people with affliction, for the trial and exercise of their grace, and for their spiritual instruction, more than for the correction of their fin. But, fin being the original and foundation of all affliction, it is fafeft, when it is our own case, and most acceptable to God, to look on fin as the procuring caufe. Or, if our fins have not immediately procured the present affliction, yet the best of God's children muitown, that they have at least deferved it. We see the fin of the Corinthians is mentioned as the cause of their fickness, 1 Cor. xi. 30. “ For this caufe many are weak and fickly among you." The Psalmist concludes the very fame thing, Pl. cvii. 17, 18. “ Fools becaufe of their transgrefsions and their iniquities, are af. dicted; their foul abhorreth all manner of meat, and they draw nigh unto the gates of death.". But ordinarily by
fickness the Lord points at some one fin in us more than another; fome Jonah in the ship that hath raised the storm, which the Lord would have us to search out; and throw over-board without delay..
9. But how shall we difcover and find out the particular fin for which God afflicts us with fickness and distress? .. .
· Ant. 1. Study the Lord's word, and the chastifea ments chere recorded, which he hath inflicted upon people for their fins; and enquire if you be guilty of the like. Obferve what hath been God's mind to his people, and what fin he hath pointed out to them when they have been brought under such a rod, and so you may learn his mind to you; Rom. xv. 4. "For what foever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning."
2. Consider what is the fin which conscience doth most of all accuse thee for, in thy most serious and lolitary hours. Conscience is God's deputy, and thy bofom-monitor, whose voice perhaps thou hast little red garded in the day of thy health ; wherefore God hath fent a sharper messenger to fecond the voice of consci. ence. Hear now the voice of the rod, for it is the same with the voice of conscience. In the day of prosperity; carnal profits and pleasures made fuch a noise, that the voice of conscience could not be heard ; wherefore God hath brought on thee the filent night of adversity, that his deputy may obtain audience. Well then, give ear; What faith conscience now? may you not hear it saying, as Reuben to his brethren in distrefs, spake I not to you in the day of health, do not commit such a fin and do not delay repenting for such a Gin, but you would not hear?' O man, let conscience get a hearing at last as it got with the Patriarchs when they were brought to distress in Egypt, and made them confess their lins in selling of Joseph, Gen. xlii. 21. " We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the ana i guilh of his foul, when he befought us, and we would not hear him : therefore is this distress come upon us.".
3. Consider what are those evils that others have oba served in you, whether they be friends or foes ; heara,
ken to what a Christian friend noticeth in you, either when speaking to you, or to others about you, “ Let the righteous smite me,” faith David, “and it shall be a kindness." Yea, do not disregard what even enemies say of you : as David got good by the malicious reproaches of Shimei, in the day of his affliction, so may you in the time of distress; for sometimes malice itself will speak truth. Enemies are sharp-lighted to spy out our faults, and so may, through the divine blessing, prove · monitors to us, both with respect to sin and duty.
4. Consider the nature and circumstances of thy diltress. Oft times the amiction is so suitable to the transgression, that we may clearly read our fin written on the forehead of our punishment, as in the case of Adonibezek, and many others. And also you may be help ed to find it out by the Lord's timing of the rod to you; was it sent when you was under much formality in du. ty':, or when you was eagerly pursuing the things of the world; or when you was under the power of some prevailing lust or other ? then the rod comes to reprove you, and awake you to see the evil thereof.
5. Consider what is the sin that hath been formerly most affrighting to thy thoughts, and perplexing to thy conscience, when thou hast been in the immediate view of death and a tribunal. It is very likely (if thou hast not truly repented of it) that is the lin which God now intends to awake thee to see the evil of, that thou maya est Gncerely mourn for and turn from it, looking to God in Christ, for pardon and mercy.
Objeci. “ Ah! (faith one) it is my lot to lie under a dumb and filent rod, I do not understand its language, I cannot hear its voice, I cannot find out the Gin that is pointed at by it; what course shall I take ?
Anf. 1: Be deeply humbled under this trial, and bewail thy case before the Lord ; for it very much aggravates the affliction to God's people, when they know not the language of it ; hence was it that Job lamented so heavily, that his way was hid, and he knew not the reason of God's contending with him, Job iü. 23.
2. A believer's case may be sometimes so dark, that it requires a good deal of spiritual art and wisdom to e.
nable nable him to hear the voice of the rod, and understand its language. Hence it is said, “ He is a man of wisdom that seeth God's name upon it," Mic. vi. 9. Now, this wisdom must only come from above : Therefore,
3. Go to God, and earnestly beg for this wisdom, that you may know his mind, and the meaning of the tod. Do as Rebekah, when the children struggled in. her womb; she went to enquire of the Lord, saying, " Why am I thus ?” Gen. xxxvv. 22. Cry to God to give you his Spirit to teach and enlighten you to see sin in its evil, and the particular evils you are guilty of. This was Job's course in his affliction; “ Shew me," fays he, “wherefore thou contendest with me. That which I see not teach thou me. Make me to know my transgression and my fin." There is no better way for a prisoner to know the reason of his confinement, than to ask the magistrate that committed him. God is a wise agent, and can give the best account of his own a&tions. .
4. If thou canst not find out the particular sin for which God afflicts thee, then labour to repent of every known fin, and cry for pardon of every unknown and forgotten Gn also. Do that out of wisdom, which Herod did out of malice; who, because he could not find out the babe Jesus, killed all the children of Bethlehem, that he might be sure to kill Jesus among them. Let us seek the utter ruin and death of all our sins, that we may be sure to destroy that sin for which God afflicts us.
5. Study to exercise a strong faith, and a humble submission, while God keeps you under the silent rod. Believe firmly that God is most just, though you know not for what he contends. And, however long he thinks fit to make you walk in the dark, resolve humbly to wait on him, and commit yourself to him, who has many times guided the blind in the way they knew got.