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that he can spare no longer ; yet, how loth is he to give them up to severe judgment ! Hof. xi. 8. “ How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? how shali I deliver thee, Ilrael? how shall I make thee as Adorah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim ? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled 'together.” When the Lord hath finners in his arms, ready to give them up to severe judgments, yet he makes a stand, and would be willing. ly prevented before he proceeds to this strange work; for fo he calls his acts of judgment, lsa. xxviü. 21. Acts of mercy are co-natural, moft agreeable and pleafant to God, Mic. vii, 18. “ He delighteth in mercy: but judgment is his strange act, and his strange work."
4. Consider that when at last he fends strokes on us, they are always short of the cause; he exacts not the whole debt that Ginners owe to his justice, as Ezra doth acknowledge, Ezra.ix. 13. « Thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve." The stroke be there is speaking of, was a most heavy judgment ; fearful ruin
and defolation came upon Jerusalem, and the whole of · Judah; the city and temple were burnt to ashes, the
people carried caprive to a strange land, and treated as bond-slaves among the Heathen. Yet, faith the holy man, “Thou halt punished us less than our iniquities deserve.” q.d. It is true we have been carried to Babylon; but, in justice, we might have been sent to hell : our houses were burned, but our bodies might have been burned too: we have been drinking water, but we might have been drinking blood : we have had grie. vous burdens on earth, but we might have been groaning in hell: we were banished from the temple, but we might have been eternally banished from God's prefence We think it a great favour among men, when any punilhment is mitigated, when the sentence of death is changed into banishment, or when banishment is turned into a fine, or a great fine into a sinaller : And will you think that God deals severely or rigoroully with you, when he lays you on a sick-bed, when he might justly have laid you in hell, and poured out all his wrath upon you there? You but taste of the brim of tile cup, when God might cause you to drink of the bottom and dregs thereof.
Have you not cause then to acknowledge God's justice ; nay, even his mercy, too, in his dealings with you, however rough they may seem to be! May you not, with good reason, say, any thing less than hell is a mercy to such an ill deserving creature as I am! If even ahard-hearted Pharaoh, under distress, came the length to own the justice of God, Exod. ix. 27. “ I have sin· ned, the Lord is righteous.” Shall any profeffed Christian fall short of that obstinate Egyptian?
to such an ill's Jay, any thing leresMay yo
DIRECT. II. Labour still to be senGble of God's hand
under heavy Afliction, and beware of stupidity
and unconcernedness under it. IT is a Gin to faint under heavy affliction, but it is a duty to feel it, Heb. xii 5.“ My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuk' ed of him." The apostle there doth caution against two extremes, which every Christian under the rod should be careful to avoid : 1. Despising or making light of affliction. 2. Sinking or defponding under affliction. We are in great hazard of running into the one or the other. As to the first, we may be said to despise the chastening of the Lord, when we do not observe God's hand in our affliction, so as to reform the things whereby he is displeased; or, when we resolve to abide the trial, by the strength of our own resolutions and stoutheartedness, without looking to God for supporting grace; or, when we turn stupid and insensible under the heavy and long continued rod. This despising and flighting of the rod, is not patience, but ftupidity ; it is not Christian magnanimity, but a stoical temper of ben mind, most sinful and provoking to God. We fee how angry God is with finners when his strokes are not felt, 11. xli. 25. “ He hath poured upon him the fury of his anger; and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew it not; and it hath burned him, yet he laid it not to heart," Jer. v. 3. “ Thou haft striken them, but they have not grieved: Thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction; they have made VOL.1
their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return." There is little hope of a scholar's minding his leffon, that is regardless of whipping. It is a dreadful sign to be like Pharaoh, fleeping in our fins, when God is thundering in his wrath. He that will sleep when his house is on fire, or lie still in bed, as if he was not concerned, may assuredly expect to be consumed in its flames. As David could not bear it, when the messengers he sent to the Ammonites out of good will, were affronted and despised; so neither God will endure it, when the messengers he sends to finners are fighted; for he that lights a messenger, affronts his matter. Those who make light of affliction, make light of God that sends it, and make light of fin that procures it.
Puest. “ But when is it that people are suitably concerned under a heavy rod ?”
Anf. When they see God's hand, hear. God's voice, answer his intént, are curious to know his mind, defirous to do those things be requires, and reform those things he is displeased with. Remember every affliction is a messenger from God, and deserves a hearing from you. It comes to thee with such a meflage as Ehud did to Eglon, Judges iii. 20. “ I have an errand from God to thee, O King ;" I have a message from God to thee, O Christian, o finner. Well, lend an ear, and hearken with reverence and attention to this errand; say, “ Speak, Lord, for thy servant heateth, what wouldst thou have me to do?" Believe it, that God speaks as really to you by his rod, as by his word ; therefore he says, hear ye the rod. God spoke as truly by his ten plagues to. Egypt, as he did by his ten pre cepts to Israel. And if the calm voice of the word were more regarded, we should hear less of the tough voice of the rod. As Gideon took briers and thorns of the wilderness, and with them taught the men of Succoth, who would not be taught by fairer means, Judg, viï. 16. So God takes the Tharp prickles of fore affliction, to teach you his statutes, when you will not be taught by softer methods. Beware then of grieving God's Spirit, hy turning stupid, and insensible under Sharp or long continued trials : But the more pains God is at with
you by his rod, hearken the more carefully to his voice, and labour to make the greater proficiency in the school of affliction, where he thinks fit to continue you ; that so you may inherit that blessing, Pf. xciv. 12. • Blessed is the man whom thou chafteueft, O Lord, and teacheft him out of thy law.” .
DIRECT. III. Beware of misconstructing God's deal
ings towards you, and of charging him foolishly.
WE are apt to believe satan's suggestions under heavy trials, and to entertain wrong thoughts of God and his dispensations. Now, these you ought to guard against, as, for instance, 1. Beware of harbouring atheistical thoughts, as if there were no Providence, no wise Go. vernor of this lower world, no distinction between the good and bad ; and that it is to no purpose to be religious, like those mentioned in Mal. iii. 14.." Ye have said, it is. vain to serve God; and what profit is it, that we have kept his ordinance, and walked mournfully before the Lord of hofts ?" Yea, even the Psalmist, when he begins to compare his own sharp trials with the wicked's ease and prosperity, is tempted to think all religion is in vain, and say, Pr. lxxiii. 13,.14." Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence, For all the day long have I been plagued, and chaltened every morning.” But there are nothing but the hellish suggestions of satan, that irreconcileable enemy of God and precious souls, against which we should clofely stop our ears.
2. Beware of charging God in your hearts, with rigour and injustice in his dealings, like those, Ezek.
qual." How highly unjust, and injurious, are such thoughts of him who is the judge of all the earth, and cannot but do right?
3. Beware of thinking that beavy africtions do always speak wrath in God against thee. No, sometimes they speak forth love, and God may be carrying on a lope.design thereby to thy soul, viz. to subdue thy strong G2
lusts, and draw thee nearer unto himself. As for those who think that the smarting rod, and Divine love, cannot dwell together, let them read that passage, Heb. xii. 5,6. “And ye have forgotten the exhortation, which speaketh unto you as unto children, my son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chal. teneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
4. Beware of desponding and distruftful thoughts of God under sharp afflictions. Some are ready to raze the foundation ; quit their interest in God, and the promises; and cast away their hope and confidence, faying, with Gideon, Judg. vi. 13. " Oh, my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this evil befallen us ?” So David was ready to draw a hafty conclusion, Pl. xxxi: 22. “ I said, in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes." But this was the effect of unbelief; for he that believeth will not make haste.
Direct. IV. Under sore Trouble and Distress, labour
to exercise a strong and lively Faith. IT was a noble and heroic resolution in that holy man Job, under his fingular trials, Job xiii. tj. “ Though he say me, yet will I trust in him," g. d. Let my strokes be never so sore and heavy, yet, I will not let go my grips of his words and promises, I will not raze these foundations of my hope. It was this way the Pfalmist kept himself from finking under his heavy burdens, Pl. xxvii. 13. “ I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Consider but a little the noble influence that faith hath to strengthen and support the soul under fore trials..
1. Faith grips to the great gospel-promises of salva. tion in and through Jesus Christ, and fo secures the soul's main interest through eternity; which is enough to make the soui easy in every lot.
2. Faith views God in Christ at the helm in the greatest storm, and so it endures, as seeing him who is invisible, Heb. xi. 27.