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grief upon us, but that he still leaves us the relief and pleasure of weeping, the privilege and free vent of
He never turns children of Abraham into stones ; but whensoever he strikes, not only permits, but also commands us to feel the smart. And indeed, how could we evidence to the world a due sense of the favours and smiles of God, if we should not droop under his frowns ? For to be asleep with Jonas, while a tempest is rattling about our ears, is not submission, but stupidity. Nay, let me add this further, that there cannot be a more dreadful sign of a man left to himself, and hardened by God, than to be unconcerned in the midst of his afflictions. For he who is so, certainly incurs these two great and fatal evils.
1. That he robs God of that honour which he particularly designs to himself by that afflicting dispensation ; for God requires that men should fear him for his judgments, as well as love him for his mercies ; and regard the strokes, as well as the other operations of his hands. Besides, that this insensible frame of spirit clearly frustrates another great end of these severities; which is antecedently to fright and deter men from sin. For he who does not feel God when he strikes, will hardly fear him when he threatens.
2. Such a person, by such an insensibility, renders every affliction befalling him utterly useless to all spiritual purposes whatsoever. For his heart, like an anvil, by bearing many strokes, and feeling none, grows so much the harder by every blow. Afflictions are some of God's extraordinary ways of reclaiming sinners; but can have no effect where they can imprint no sense. He that can overcome
and digest his physic like his daily food, is not like to be purged or cured by it. In like manner, when God takes in hand the cure of an overgrown sinner, and to that purpose applies the corrosive of some afflicting providence, whether of poverty, banishment, or disgrace, to eat away his proud, dead flesh, and so to restore him sound ; if this man now can lightly pass over, outface, and wear off the sense of these severe applications, let him never expect any medicinal healing virtue from them; but conclude with himself, that, being too sturdy to feel God's rod, he is certainly too bad to be mended by it.
Let this therefore be fixed upon in the first place, that the submission here spoken of in the text is not a stupid indolence or insensibility under such calamities as God shall be pleased to bring upon us. Nor,
Secondly, does this submission lay any restraint upon us, from praying against any calamity, either actually inflicted upon us, or as yet but approaching towards us. For to pray against such things is not only lawful, but indeed our duty; forasmuch as God has commanded us to pray: and prayer ought to contain, not only a petition of things good and suitable, but also a deprecation of whatsoever is evil or noxious to us, as an integral part of it. For though possibly God may have designed to bring the evil we pray against upon us; yet, till providence has decided this to be the will of God by the event, we are (as much as in us lies) to prevent it by our prayers.
And the reason is, because though God's secret will and purpose be the rule of his own actions, yet his revealed will ought to be the sole director of ours,
And God has wrote this in large characters upon every heart, that we ought to preserve our being from whatsoever may annoy it, by all lawful means; and surely there is none more lawful or approved by God than prayer. We have an eminent instance of this in David, in 2 Sam. xii. who though he had received a special revelation from God himself, that his child should die, yet ceased not for a while to fast and pray, and importune God, that it might live: but when God took away the child, then presently he rose up, and turned his mourning for that into a submission to the hand that took it from him.
In this case therefore, we are not to inquire into the counsels of God, what he intends to do; it being impossible that they should be a rule for us to steer our course by, forasmuch as they are hidden and concealed from us; and it is implied in the very essence and nature of a rule, that it should be known. From whence it follows, that till we know that it is God's will to bring an affliction upon us, we are not bound to suppose it to be his will ; and consequently both may and ought to pray against it: it being no ways inconsistent for the same heart to have a spirit of supplication to pray against an affliction before it comes, and yet a spirit of submission to endure it when it comes.
Thirdly and lastly. To advance yet higher, this submission is not such a thing as excludes all endeavour to prevent or remove an affliction. That we may lawfully pray against it, has been already proved; and it is certain that we may (within our compass) lawfully engage our endeavours against whatsoever we may engage our prayers: prayer
being a duty of that nature, that neither in the accounts of God or man will it pass for serious, but as it is seconded with proportionable action. He who is visited with sickness may solicitously use all direct means for his recovery; and he who has lost his estate may vigorously endeavour to regain it from the spoiler's hand; and he who has been defamed may use all imaginable industry to clear his reputation: and yet, for all this, never in the least transgress the bounds of submission prescribed him by God, in any of these visitations. For God seldom delivers men but by the mediation of their own endeavours, where these endeavours may be used. But patience has its sufficient scope and proper sphere of shewing itself, even where the powers of action cease.
And that man who does the utmost to rid himself from any pressure which the laws of God and nature allow him to do, and when he finds the evil too big for him to master, humbly and quietly sits down under it, has fulfilled all the measures of a pious submission. For God casts no man under such circumstances as shall make idleness and pusillanimity his duty; but bids every man, upon the arrest of any sad calamity, up and be doing, for the removal of it; though perhaps after he has done all, his lot may be to lie down and suffer under it.
And thus I have done with the negative part; and shewn, what the submission, spoken of in the text, is not; as namely, that it is not any such thing as ought to restrain us, either from entertaining a tender sense of, or from using our prayers and (what is more) our endeavours against any disaster or calamity inflicted by the hand of Providence upon us.
Come we now, in the next place, to shew positively what this submission is, and wherein it does consist.
And in order to this, we are to observe, first in general, that it is a quiet composure of the whole man under any cross or mischievous accident befalling him, either in his person, interest, or any of his concerns whatsoever. And since every man is a compound of several parts and faculties, both of body and soul, which are all respectively to bear their share in this present affair, we will therefore trace the nature of this submission severally and distinctly through them all. And,
(1.) For the understanding : there is required a submission of that to God, by a perfect approbation of the justice and equality of all his proceedings with us.
And as the understanding is the governing and first moving principle of a man's whole behaviour; so is it a matter both of the greatest difficulty, and importance too, rightly to state and settle the apprehensions and resentments of it: it being to the other faculties of the soul like the foreman of a jury to his fellows, all are apt to follow its verdict.
And therefore our submission must begin here; it must move upon this great wheel ; for in vain do we expect that the other parts of the soul should keep the peace, while the understanding mutinies and rebels. To prevent which, we must endeavour by all means to possess it with a full persuasion of the infinite reasonableness of all God's transactings with his creature, though the particular reason of them does not always appear. It being but suitable to the majesty of Heaven, to exact our submission without assigning any other reason for it but his