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CHA P. XXVIII.
Storms make discov'ry of the pilo'ts skill:
common person can guide the ship; the pilot may then lie au wn, and take his reft; but in great storms, and stress of weather, or when near the dangerous fhore, then the most skilful pilot is put to it; then he thews the utmost of his art and fkill, and yet sometimes all is too little. They are (as the scripture speaks) at their wits end, know not what to do more; but are forced to commit all to the
mercy of God, and the feas:
APPLICATION. In the storms and tempests of affliction and trouble, there are the most evident and full discoveries of the wisdom and power of our God: it is indeed continually active for his people in all conditions, Isa. xxvii. 3. “ Lest any hurt it, I will keep it night '" and day.” Psal. cxxi. 4. “ He that keepeth Ifrael neither 56 flumbereth nor fleepeth.” His people's dangers are without intermiflion, therefore his preservations are fo too. But now, when they come into the Strait of affliction, and deadly dangers, which threacen like rocks on every side; now the wisdom of their God rides triumphantly and visibly upon the waves of that stormy sea: and this infinite wisdom is then especially discovered in these particulars :
1. In leaving them still somewhat in the lieu and room of those comforts that they are deprived of; fo that they see God doth exchange their comforts, and that for the better; and this
; fupports them. So John xiv. 1, 2, 3. Christ's bodily presence is removed, but the Spirit was sent in the roon, of it, which was better.
2. In doubling their strength, as he doubles their burdens. It is observed that the faints have many times very strong and sweet consolation, a little before their greatest trials : and this is so ordinary, that commonly when they have had their extraordinary confolations from God, they have then looked for fome eminent trial. The Lord appeared to Abraham, and sealed the covenant to him, and then put him upon
great trial of his faith. So the disciples, Luke xxiv. 49. it was comVOL. VI.
manded them that they “ should tarry in Jerusalem, till they “ were endowed with power from on high.” The Lord knew what a hard providence they were like to have, and what great oppositions and difficulties they must encounter, in publishing the everlasting gospel to the world ; and therefore first prepares and endows them with power from on high, viz. with eminent measures of the gifts and graces of the Spirit ; as faith, pati. ence, felf-denial, 6e. So Paul had farft his revelations, then his buffetings.
3. In coming in fo opportunely in the time of their great distress, with relief and comfort, 1 Pet. iv. 14. “ Then the
Spirit of glory and of God refteth on them.” As that martyr eried out to his friend Austin, at the very stake, He is come, he is come.
4. In appointing and ordering the several kinds of afflicti. ons to several faints; and alloting to every one, that very af fliction, and no other, which is most faitable to his condition: wbich afflictions, like fo many potions of phyfies are prepared for that very malignant humour that predominates molt in them. Peter's fin was felf-confidence, God permits him to fall by denying Chrift; which doubtless was fanctified to his good in that particular. Hezekiah's fin was vain-glory, therefore spoilers are fent to take away his treafures.
s. In the duration of their troubles, tlrey shall not ly always upon them, Psalm cxxv. 3. Our God is a God of judge ment, Ifa. xxx. 18. Knows the due time of removing it, and is therein punctual to a day, Rev. it. 10.
REFLECTION. If the wisdom of God do thus triumph, and glorify itself in the distresses of the faints, then why thould I fear in the day of evil ? Pfalm xlix. 4. Why doth my heart faint at the forefight and apprehension of approaching trouble ? Fear none of those things that thou fhalt suífer, O my soul ; if thy God will thus be with thee in the fire and water, thou canst not perish. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, yet let me fear no evil, whilst my God is thus with ine. Creatures cannot do what they please, his wisdom limits and over-rules them all, to gracious and sweet ends. If my God caft me into the furnace, to melt and try me, yet I shall not be consumed there; for he will fit by the furnace himfelf all the while I ani in it, and curiously pry into it, observing when it hath done its work, and then will presently withdraw the fire. O my soul, bless and adore this God of wisdom! pho himself will see the
ordering of all thine afflictions, and not trust it in the hands of men or angels.
The PO E M.
If Christ will lit at th' helm to guide and steer:
CHA P. XXIX.
Things in the bottom are unseen : no eye
in the bottom thereof. We use to say, proverbially, of a thing that is irrecoverably lost, it is as good it were caft into the sea. What lies there, lies obscure from all eyes, but the
eye of God.
APPLICATION. Thus are the judgments of God, and the ways of his providence, profound and un searchable, Pfal. xxxvi. 6. “ Thy righ" teousness is like the great mountains, thy judgments are a
great deep;" (i.e.) his providences are secret, obfcure, and unfathomable ; but even then, and in those providences, his righteousness stands up like the great mountains, visible and apparent to every eye. Though the faints cannot see the one, yet they can clearly discern the other, Jer. xii. #. Jeremiah was at a stand ; fo was Job in the like cafe, Job xii. 7. So was Asaph,
. Pfal. lxxiij. and Habbakuk, chap. i. 3. These wheels of providence are dreadful for their height, Ezek. i. 18. There be deep mysteries of providence, as well as of faith. It may be faid of some of them, as of Paul's epistles, That they are hard to be understood, darknels and clouds are round about the throne of God: no man can say what will be the particular issue and event of some of his dispensations. Luther seemed to hear God say to him, when he was importunate to know his n.ind in fome particular providence, Deus fum non fequax : I am a God not to be traced. Some providences, like Hebrew letters must be read backward, Pfal. xcii. 7. Some providences pofe men of the greatest parts and graces. “ His way is in the sea, his “ paths in the great waters, and his foot-steps are not known," Psal. Ixxvii. 19. Who can trace foot-fteps in the bottom of the fea ? “ The angels,” Ezek. i. “ have their hands under their “ wings.” The hand is either, Symbolum roboris, The symbol of strength ; or instrumentatum operationis, The inftrument of action: where these hands are put forth, they work effectually, yea, but very secretly, they are hid under their wings. There be some of God's works that are such secrets, as that they may not be enquired into; they are to be believed and adored, but not pryed into, Rom. xi. 33. Others that may be enquired af, ter, but yet are so profound, that few can understand them, Psal. cxi. 2. “ The works of the Lord are great, sought out of « all those that have pleasure therein.” When we come to hea. ven, then all those mysteries, as well in the works as in the word of God, will lie oper to our view.
REFLECTION. O then, why is my heart difquieted, because it cannot sometimes discern the way of the Lord, and see the connection and dependance on his providential dispensations? Why art thou so perplexed, O my soul, at the confufions and disorders that are in the world! I know that goodness and wisdom sits at the stern ; and though the vefsel of the church be toffed and distrefsed in storms of trouble, yet it shall not perish: Is it not enough for me, that God hath condefcended so far, for my fatisfaction, as to shew me plainly the ultimate and general issue of all these mysterious providences, Eph. i. 22. Rom. viii, 28. unless I be able to take the height of every particular, fhall I presunie to call the God of heaven to account? Must he render a reason of his ways, and give an account of his matters to such a worm as I am ? Be silent (O my soul) before the Lord, subscribe to his wisdom, and submit to his will, whatfoever he doth. However it be, yet God is good to Israel; the event will manifest it to be all over a design of love. I know not how to reconcile them to each other, or many of them
to the promise ; yet are they all harmonious betwixt themfelves, and the certain means of accomplishing the promises. O what a favour is this, that in the midst of the greatest con. fusions in the world, God hath given such abundant security to his people, that it shall be well with them ? Amos ix. 8. Ecclef. viii. 12.
Are all thy draughts of providence ? So full
CH A P. XXX.
Millions of men are funk into the main ;
OB SE R V A TIO N.
sands have made their graves in it. What numbers of men have been ingulfed together in sea-fights, or storms, or inundations, whereby whole towns have been swallowed up! certainly the dead which are there, are innumerable.
APPLICATION. But though the sea has received fo many thousand bodies of men into its devouring throat, yet it is not the absolute lord,