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This care and tenderness over his afilicted, is eminently difco. vered in three particulars. i (1.) In not exposing them to, 'till he hath prepared thera for, their trials, Luke xxiv. 49, “ Tarry ye at Jerusalem, until "ye be endued with power from on high.” He gives them sometimes eminent discoveries of his love immediately before, and as a preparative to their fufferings, in the strength whereof they are carried through all.
(2.) Or if not fo, then he intermixeth supporting comfort with their troubles; as you sometimes fee the sun fhine out while the rain falls. It was fo with Paul, Acts xxvii, 23
This night and it was a fad night indeed) there ftood by me “ the angel of the Lord, whose I am."
(3.) In taking off the affliction, when they can bear it no longer, 1 Cor. x. 13. “ He makes a way to escape, that they “ may be able to bear it,” Psal. cxxv. 3. The rod is taken off, " when the righteous is even ready to put forth his hand to “ iniquity." It is a Jewish proverb, When the bricks are doubled, then comes Mofes. And it is a Christian's experience, When the spirit is ready to fail, then comes Jesus, according tQ that promise, Isa. Ivii. 16
1. How unlike am I to God, in the afflicting A reflection of his people? The Lord is pitiful when he for perfecutors. fmites them; but I have been cruel: he is
kind to them, when most severe; but the best of my kindnesses to them, may fitly enough be called feverity; God (mites them in love; I have smitten them in hatred. Ah! what have I done? God hath used me as his hand, Pfal. xvii. 14. or as his rod, to afflict them, Jer. x. 7. but his end and mine have widely differed in that action, Ifa. x. 7. I am but the fcullion, or rather the whisp to scour and cleanfe the vefsels of glory; and when I have done that dirty work; those bright fouls shall be set up in heaven, and I cast into the fire. If he shall have judgment without mercy, that thewed no mercy, how can I expect mercy from the Lord, whose people I have persecuted mercilesly for his fake?
2. Is the Lord's wheat thus threshed on A reflection for the floor of afflictions : what then shall I think such asmeet with no afli&tion.
of my condition, who prosper and am let a
lone in the way of fin? Surely, the Lord looks on me as on a weed, and not as his.corn ; and it is too probable, that I am rather reserved for burning, than for threshing. Some there are whom God loves not so well as to spend a rod upon them, but faith, “Let them alone,” Hof. iv. 176 but miserable is their condition, notwithstanding their impunity! For what is the interpretation but this : I will come to a reckoning with them altogether in hell. Lord, how much better is thy afflicting mercy, than thy sparing severity! Better is the condition of an afflicted child, than of a rejected bastard, Heb. xii. 7. Oh, let me rather feel thy rod now, as the rod of a loving Father, than feel tby wrath hereafter, as the wrath of an omnipotent avenger 1 3. Well then, defpond not, O my soul !
ifoul! A reflettion for Thou heareft the husbandman loves his corn, an aflisted faint. though he thresheth it; and, surely, the Lord. loves thee not the less, becaufe he afflicts thee fo much. If affliction, then, be the way to heaven, blessed be God for af. fiction! The threshing-strokes of God have come thick upon me; by which I may see what a tough and stubborn heart I have: if one stroke would have done the work, he would not have lifted up his hand the second time. I have not had a stroke more than I had need of, Pet. i. 6. and by this means he will purge my fins : bleffed be God for that! 'the damned have infinitely more and harder strokes than I, and yet their fin fhall never be feparated by their fufferings, Ah fin! cursed fin! I am so much out of love with thee, that I am willing to endure more than all this, to be well rid of thee : all this I suffer for thy fake; but the time is coming when I fhall be rid . of fin and fuffering together : mean while I am under my own father's hand: smite me he may, but hate me he cannot.
The PO E M.
God had an altar on a threshing-floor,
The heaviest burthens, and the less on those.
CHA P. XX. .
Upon the winnowing of Corn.
mingled with empty ears, and worthless chaff, the husbandman carries it out altogether into fome open place ; where, having fpread his fheet for the preservation of the grain, he'exposes it all to the wind; the good, by reason of its folidity, remains upon the sheet, but the chaff, being light and empty, is partly carried quite away by the wind, and all the rest feparated from the good grain into a distinct heap, which is carried away, either to the fire, or dung-hill, as a worthless thing,
a day to separate the chaff from the wheat, the godly from the ungodly, who thall be held up to the wind; but only the wicked shall be driven away by it. Such a day God hath in this world, wherein he winnows his wheat, and separates the chaff. There is a double fanning or winnowing of men here in this world; one is doétrinally, in which sense I understand that scripture, Matth. iii. 12. fpoken of Christ, when he was entering upon his ministerial work: “ His fan is in his hand; “ and he hall thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat « into the garner ; but he will burn
the chaff with un" quenchable fire.” The preaching of the gospel, is as a fan in Christ's hand : and it is as much as if John had thus told the Jews, that though there were many hypocritical ones among them, that had now a place and name among the people of God, and gloried in their church-privileges; yet there is a purging blaft of truth coming, which fall make them fly out of the church, as chaff out of the floor. Thus Chrift winnows or farks the world doctrinally: The other is judicially, by bringing fore and grievous trials and sufferings upon the churches, for this very end, that those which are but chaff, (i.c.) empty and vain profeffors, may by such winds as these be separated from his people.
The church increases two ways, and by two diverse means ; extenhvely, in breadth and numbers; and intensively, in vigour and power ; peace and profperity cause the first, fafferings and adverkty the last : And well may a day of perfecution be called a winnowing day, for then are the people of God toffed to purpose, as corn in the fieve, though nothing but chaff be lost thereby. Of such a winnowing-day the prophet speaks, Amos ix.9, 10. “ I will lift the house of Israel among all nati
ons, like as corn is fifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least “ grain fall upon the earth; all the finners of my people shall « die.” (q. d.} I will cause great agitationsand coffings'among you, by the hands of the Affyrians and Babylonians, into whose countries you shall be dispersed and scattered; yet I will fogovern those your disperfions by my providence, that not one good grain, one upright soul, shall eternally perish, but the finners of my people, the refuse stuff, that fhall perifh.
To the same purpose speaks another prophet, Zeph. ii. 1, 2. “ Gather yourselves together, (or as some read) fan yourselves,
yea, fan yourselves, before the decree bring forth, and the day pass as the chaff.” He doth not mean that the time shall pass as the chaff, but there is a day of affliction and distrets coming, in which the wicked shall pass as the chaff before the wind; and yet, notwithstanding all these winnowings upon earth, much chaff will still abide among the corn ; therefore God hath appointed another day for the winnowing of the world, even the day of judgment; in reference to which it is faid, Pfalm i. 4, 5: “ The ungodly are not so, but are like the « chaff which the wind drives away; therefore the ungodly de shall not stand in judgment, nor linners in the congregation “ of the righteous ; i.e.) God hath a day wherein he will Gft the world, like corn in a lieve, and then the wicked shall appear to be but chaff, which God will eternally separate from his wheat. I will not strain the fimilitude, but fairly display it in these seven particulars.
1. The chaff and wheat grow together in the same field, and upon the same root and stalk. In this, wicked men are like chaff, who not only associate with the people of God, but of tentiines spring up with them in the same family, and from the same root, or immediate parents, Mal. i. 2. “ Was not Efau « Jacob's brother p" Yet the one was wheat, the other chaff. Instances of this are infinite.
2. The husbandman would never endure the husks, chaff, and dry stalks to remain in the field; if it were not for the good corn's fake, he would quickly set fire to it, but that the corn is among it, which he highly prizeth: And, be alfared, God vould never suffer the wicked to abide long in this world, were it not for his own elect that are dispersed among them : Exçıpt the Lord had such a remnant dispersed in the world, he would quickly set fire to the four quarters, and make it like Sodom, Isa. i. 9.
3. The chaff is a very worthlefs thing, the husbandman carès not what becomes of it'; and of as little worth are wicked men, Prov. X. 20. “ The heart of the wicked is little worth.” The heart is the principal part of the man, and yet that's but chaff, No worth in it; his hands, his cloaths, doc. are worth some What, but his heart is worth nothing.
4. Though chaff in itself be nothing worth, yet it is of some use to the corn while it is standing in the field ; the stalk bears up the ear, and the chaff covers the grain, and defends it from the injury of the weather. Thus God makes wicked men of ufe to his people, in outward fociety; they help to fupport and protect them in this world, Rev. xii. 10. “The earth help" ed the woman," (i.e.) worldly men for carnal ends helped che church, when a flood of persecution was poured out. The