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though it be tried by fire, may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the Revelation of Jesus Christ.”. (Ver.7.) There may be an allusion to this, in that well-known passage of the fourth chapter : (although it primarily relates to quite another thing, as has been already observed :) “ Tbink it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you : but rejoice that ye are partakers of the sufferings of Christ; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may likewise rejoice with exceeding great joy." (Ver. 12, &c.)
2. Hence we learn, that the first and great end of God's permitting the temptations which bring heaviness on bis children, is the Trial of their Faith, which is tried by these, even as gold by the fire. Now we know, gold tried in the fire is purificd thereby; is separated from its dross. And so is faith in the fire of temptation; the more it is tried, tha more it is purified ;-yea, and not only purified, but also strengthened, confirmed, increased abundantly, by so many more proofs of the wisdom and power, the love and faithfulness of God. This, then,--to increase our faith,-is one gracious end of God's permitting those manifold temptations.
3. They serve to try, to purify, to confirm, and increase tbat Jiving Hope also, whereunto “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath begotten us again of his abundant mercy." Iudeed our hope cannot but increase, in the same proportion with our faith. On this foundation it stands : believing in his name, living by faith in the Son of God, we hope for, we have a confident expectation of, the glory which shall be revealed; and, consequently, whatever strengthens our faith, increases our hope also. At the same time it increases our Joy in the Lord, which cannot but attend an hope full of immortality, In this view the Apostle exhorts believers in the other chapter; “ Rejoice, that ye are partakers of the sufferings of Christ.” On this very account, “happy are you ; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon yon:
And hereby ye are enabled, even in the midst of sufferings, to “ rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.'
4. They rejoice the more, because the trials, which increase their faith and hope, increase their Love also; both their gratitude to God for all his mercies, and their good will to all mankind. Accordingly, the more deeply sensible they are of the lovingkindness of God their Saviour', the more is their heart inflamed with love to Him who“ first loved 6s." The clearer and stronger evidence they have of the glory that shall be revealed, the more do they love Him who hath purchased it for them, and “given them the earnest (thereof] in their hearts.” And this, the increase of their love, is another end of the temptations permitted to come upon them.
5. Yet another is, their advance in Holiness; holiness of heart, and holiness of conversation ;—the latter naturally resulting from the former; for a good tree will bring forth good fruit. And all inward holiness is the immediate fruit of the faith that worketh by love. By this the blessed Spirit purifies the heart from pride, self-will, passion; from lore of the world, from foolish and hurtful desires, from vile and vain affections. Beside that, sanctified afflictions have, through the grace of God, an immediate and direct tendency to holiness. Through the operation of his Spirit, they humble, more and more, and abase the soul before God. They calm and meeken our turbulent spirit, tame the fierceness of our nature, soften our obstinacy and self-will, crucify us to the world, and bring us to expect all our strength from, and to seek all our happiness in God.
6, And all these terminate in that great end, that our faith hope, love, and holiness, “ may be found (if it doth not yet appear) unto praise, [from God himself,) and honour, (from men and angels,] and glory," assigned by the great Judge, to all that have endured unto the end. And this will be assigned in that awful day to every man, “ according to his works; according to the work which God had wrought in his heart, and the outward works which he has wrought for God; and likewise according to what he had suffered : so that all these trials are unspeakable gain. So many ways do these “light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!”
7. Add to this, the advantage which others may receive, by secing our behaviour under affliction. We find by experience, example frequently makes a deeper impression upon us than precept. And what examples have a stronger influence, not only on those who are partakers of like precious faith, but even on them who have not known God, than that of a soul calm and screne in the midst of storms; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing ; meekly accepting whatever is the will of God, howerer grierous it may be to nature; saying, in sickness and pain, “ The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"-in loss or want, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord !"
V. l. I am to conclude with some Inferences. And, first, how wide is the difference between Darkness of soul, and Heaviness ; which, nevertheless, are so generally confounded with each other, even by experienced Christians ! Darkness, or the Wilderness-state, implies a total loss of joy in the Holy Ghost: heaviness does not; in the midst of this we may “ rejoice with joy unspeakable.” They that are in darkness have lost the peace of God: they that are in heaviness have not; so far from it, that at the very time “peace,” as well as “grace,” may“ be multiplied ” unto them. In the former, the love of God is waxed cold, if it be not utterly extinguished; in the latter it retains its full force; or, rather, increases daily. In these, faith itself, if not totally lost, is, however, grievously decayed : their evidence and conviction of things not seen, particularly of the pardoning love of God, is not so clear or strong as in time past; and their trust in him is proportionably weakened : Those, though they see him not, yet have a clear, unshaken confidence in God, and an abiding evidence of that love, whereby all their sins are blotted out. So that as long as we can distinguish faith from unbelief, hope from despair, peace from war, the love of God from the love of the world, we may infallibly distinguish heaviness from darkness !
2. We may learn from hence, secondly, that there may be need of heaviness, but there can be no need of darkness. There may be need of our being in “ heaviness for a season, in order to the ends above recited ; at least, in this sense, as it is a natural result of those “ manifold temptations,” which are needful to try and increase our faith, to confirm and enlarge our hope, to purify our heart from all unholy tempers, and to perfect us in love. And, by consequence, they are needful in order to brighten our crown, and add to our eternal weight of glory. But we cannot say, that darkness is needful in order to any of these ends. It is no way conducive to them : the loss of faith, hope, love, is surely neither conducive to holiness, nor to the increase of that reward in heaven, which will be in proportion to our holiness on earth.
3. From the Apostle's manner of speaking we may gather, thirdly, that even heaviness is not always needful. “ Now, for a season, if need be:” so it is not needful for all persons ; nor for any person at all times. God is able, he has both power and wisdom, to work, when he pleases, the same work of grace in any soul, by other means. And in some instances, he does so; hc causes those, whom it pleaseth him, to go on
from strength to strength, cren till they "perfect holiness in his fear,” with scarce any heaviness at all; as having an absolute power over the heart of man, and moring all the springs of it at his pleasure. But these cases are rare : God generally se'es good to try "acceptable men in the furnace of affliction.' So that manifold temptations and heaviness, nuore or less, are usually the portion of his dearest children.
4. He ought, therefore, lastly; to watch and pray, and we our utmost endeavors to avoid falling into darkness. But we need not be solicitous how to avoid, so much is how wimprove by lcariness. Our great care should be, so to behare ourselves under it, so to wait upon the Lord therein, that it may fuily apsiver ail the design of his love, in permitting it to come upon 115; that it may be a means of jucreasing our faithi, of confirming our hope, of perfecting us in all boliness. Whenever it comes, let us have an eye to these gracious ends for which it is permitted, and use all diligence, that we may not “make void the counsel of God against ourselves." carnestis work together with liim, loy the grace which lie is continually giving iis, in “purifying ourselves from all pollution, both of test and spirit,” and daily growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, till we are received into his erers lasting kingdom!
“ And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let
him deny himself, and take up his cross duily, and follow me.” Luke ix. 23.
1. It has been frequently imagined, that the direction here given related chiefly, if not wholly, to the Apostles; at least, to the Christians of the first ages, or those in a state of persecution. But this is a grievous mistake: for although our blessed Lord is here directing bis discourse more immediately to his Apostles, and those other disciples who attended him in the days of his flesh; yet, in them he speaks to us, and to all mankind, without any exception or limitation. The very reason of the thing puts it beyond dispute, that the duty which is here enjoined is not peculiar to them, or to thic Christians of the early ages. It no more regards any particular order of men, or particular time, than any particular country. No: it is of the most universal vature, respecting all times, and all persons, yea, and all things; not meats and drinks only, and things pertaining to the senses. The meaning is, “If any man,” of whatever rank, station, circumstances, in any nation, in any age of the world, “ will” effectually “come after me, let him deny himself” in all things; let him “take up his cross,” of whatever kind; yea, and that “ daily; and follow
2. The denying oursclvcs, and the taking up our cross, in the full extent of the expression, is not a thing of small concern: It is not expedient only, as are some of the circumstantials of religion; but it is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming or continuing his disciples. It is absolutely necessary, in the very nature of the thing, to our coming after him, and following him; insomuch that, as far as we do not practise it, we are not his disciples. li' we do