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need of further purging when the humour is carried off. God's actions extend no further than his designs. God does not punish that he may punish, but that he may humble; wherefore, when humility is produced, his punishments proceed no further. God is of too great mercy to triumph over a prostrate soul. There is a resurrection from misery as well as from the grave. It is true, God is said to kill, 1 Sam. ii. 6, but in the next words it is added, that he makes alive. God does not punish as that he may thence receive satisfaction for our sins; for then, as our sin is infinite, so our punishments would be endless. All satisfaction is laid up in Christ, and when we are thoroughly humble for sin, that satisfaction is then actually made ours. No wonder therefore, if God's judgments vanish before that satisfaction; if it removes a temporal judgment, that rescues from an eternal. This is certain, and worth our observation, that God never sends a judgment upon any of his children, but it is for one of these two ends, either to prevent or remove sin. O, says God, here is a poor soul that is hugging and embracing its sin, pleasing itself in its own ruin ; unless sin be embittered to it by some severe affliction, it will never leave it, but perish in it. Here is another ready to sin, in a posture to close with any temptation, going on in the ready road to death. 0, says God, here is another poor creature, that if some sharp judgment does not meet and stop it, it is posting on with a full career to its own perdition. Now God does effect both these works, to wit, the removal and the prevention of sin, by the instrumental help of a thorough humiliation. Consider therefore with thyself, thou that hast lain a long
A SERMON ON JONAH III. 8, 9.
time under any cross or affliction from God, has thy affliction humbled thee? has it weakened thy sin, strengthened thy hands to duty ? If it has not, thou hast cause to fear that God will either continue that judgment that now presses thee, or bring a greater and a sorer evil upon thee. But, on the other hand, if thy affliction has wrought kindly, if it had cleansed off the filth and corruption of thy heart, if it had brought thee to disesteem the world, and value Christ, to look upon sin as a greater evil than death, believe it, God has done his work upon thee, and he will quickly remove either the judgment itself, or the venom and sting of it. Now the showers of repentance are fallen, the clouds of God's wrath are vanishing: and he is coming forth to meet thee as a poor returning prodigal. He looks upon thee as he did once upon Ephraim, Jer. xxxi. 18, 19, 20, I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, &c. therefore my bowels are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord. If thou hast an heart to mourn over thy sin, God has bowels of compassion to yearn and relent over thee. If thou canst in sincerity say, I will sin no more, God is as ready to say, that he will afflict no
Believe it, if thou hast a purpose to return to God, God has mercy to return to thee.
To which God, therefore, be rendered and as
cribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.
MATTHEW v. 3. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom
of heaven. IT is doubtless a great paradox in the general judgment and opinion of the world, that any poverty, of what sort soever, should be desirable: forasmuch as every one desires to enjoy the good things of the world, and thereby to enjoy himself; to the attainment of which, riches are the most acknowledged means. And if these are the prime instrument of enjoyment, poverty surely must be the main opposite to it.
But the gospel, we confess, is a system of paradoxes and absurdities to the maxims of the world; the grand rule which the generality of mankind both live and judge by, being to follow the full bent of their sensuality. And therefore our Saviour begins this his notable and great sermon in the mount, with seven or eight such propositions, as directly oppose and bid defiance to the opinions and practices of the carnal world : and these he ushers in with the commendation of that so much abhorred thing called poverty. And that also such a poverty, as rests not only in the surface of the body, clothing that with rags, or (which is worse) with nothing; but such an one as enters into the very soul, and strips the spirit, leaving that naked, destitute, and forlorn.
In the words we have these two things considerable.
1st, A quality or disposition recommended by our Saviour, which is poverty of spirit.
2dly, The ground and argument upon which it is recommended, namely, that it entitles him who has it to the kingdom of heaven.
And first for the first of these, the thing recommended by our Saviour, viz. poverty in spirit. In the treating of which, I shall,
I. Declare the nature of this poverty of spirit; and,
II. Shew the means by which it is to be obtained.
As for the nature of it, I shall give an account of this,
(1.) Negatively, by shewing what it is not.
(2.) Positively, by shewing what it is, and wherein it does consist.
First of all then, that excellent thing here recommended by our Saviour, is not,
1. A mere outward indigence, and want of all the accommodations of common life. For certain it is, all want, considered merely in itself, and not as sanctified by the Spirit of God to some further use, is a curse, and consequently can of itself make no man blessed; as the poor, here spoken of, are pronounced to be. It is possible that a man may be poor, in point of wealth, but yet abound in sin and vice; and experience shews, that there is not a more unsanctified, wretched, and profane sort of men under heaven, than beggars commonly are; whose manners entitle them to a less portion of happiness in the other world, than they can have in this. Many beg of us for Christ's sake, whom Christ will
never own; as being the very shame and spots of Christianity; persons void of all sense of virtue, all conscience of duty, either to God or man ; swearers, railers, idle, useless drones, and intolerable burdens to society. Nay, and we shall sometimes find poverty in conjunction with such vices as seem to be directly crossed and took away by poverty. For how poor are some, and yet how insolent! what pride lurks under their rags, like a snake under the leaves! Yea, and how luxurious are many! for there is scarce any man in the world, be he never so poor, but some time or other chances upon opportunities of luxury : so that those common expressions, as proud as a beggar, and as drunk as a beggar, are so far from being either false or improper, that they are the most full and significant descriptions of a person possessed with these vices, to the utmost height of them, that can be found out. Many there are who embrace dunghills, the filth and offensiveness of whose lives does exceed them; and who are sordidly and nastily habited, whose clothes are but an emblem of their hearts, and a lively picture of their manners.
Poverty is not always the lot of the righteous, and the true servants of God, who make a conscience of their ways; but sometimes, by the just disposal of Providence, comes to be the inheritance also of the wicked, the unconscionable, and such as would bè rich, if they could, upon any terms whatsoever : but the curse of God has been too hard for them, and put them behindhand in spite of all their gains; so that whatsoever they have got, has insensibly melted, and mouldered to nothing. Their riches have never stayed with them, but made them