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enough to compare past events with present, and so to read his own case in other men's. For in things of this nature examples are the best arguments, and precedents the strongest persuasives: and therefore St. James, in his last chapter, having several times pressed this grand duty of patience, seals his exhortation with this argument, in verse 11, Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord. And such an end and issue did God put to Job's calamity, that we find his prosperity returning, or rather with a full tide flowing
upon him, in a more than treble increase: nay, and we read of his losses made up to him, even in kind; besides the peculiar advantage accruing to his condition from the circumstance of his restitution, that by thus immediately passing from one extreme to another, the very neighbourhood of his sufferings gave him so much a quicker and livelier taste of his returning felicity. And then for David, who so quietly endured the rage and contumelies of Shimei, did he not presently see a merciful turn of Providence restoring him to a more established royalty than ever he was master of before ; and bringing that base tongue to lick the dust under his feet, that a few days before had so foully thrown dirt in his face?
Could we but trust God to do our business for us, to assert our cause, and to vindicate our innocence, we should find that he would not only answer, but also outdo our hopes; we should find that our sorrows would prove our harvest, and our sowing in tears make us reap sevenfold in joy.
Men are apt to think both themselves and others miserable, because they pronounce and pass judg
ment hastily, from the present sense of a grievance, without expecting its issue; which usually converts the sighs and lamentations of a pious mourner into the triumphal songs of a joyful conqueror; and having led God's chosen ones through a Red sea and an howling wilderness, plants them at length, safe and free, in all the wealth and affluence of a promised Canaan. No person, that ever heartily submitted to the rough dealings of Providence, could upbraid it with unkindness at the last; but has still found the same hands more bountiful in rewarding, than ever they had been severe in striking.
The ways of patience may at first indeed appear rugged and frightful, full of terror and discouragement; but it is the end (we know) that still crowns the work, and the issue and conclusion, from whence all things take their estimate. A welcome reception at our journey's end is a sufficient recompence for all the fatigue and tediousness of the way: and the scripture tells us, that as soon as a woman in child-bed is delivered, all the pangs and travails of her labour presently vanish, and are swallowed up in the joy, that a man is born into the world. True wisdom, in taking the worth and value of things, never terminates in the present state of them, but casts its eye chiefly upon the future. And therefore, as no man can be accounted truly happy, even as to the things of this world, till his death ; so neither can any one pass for truly miserable, (and that even upon a temporal account,) till he has finished his course here ; for every thing is well or ill, as it ends : and this let every afflicted person cause his meditations chiefly to dwell upon, still directing his observations to the final issue of God's
dealing with such as have signalized their patience, by suffering his sharpest rebukes with all the stillness and composure, constancy and firmness, of a pious, humble, and well-resolved submission.
Now these six things in God being seriously thought upon; namely, his irresistible power; his absolute, unaccountable sovereignty; his infinite, unerring wisdom ; his boundless goodness and benignity; his exact and inviolable justice ; and lastly, his gracious way of treating all patient and humble sufferers, are so many mighty and irrefragable arguments to enforce this great duty of submission upon us, as the most rational thing imaginable : and that upon the account of three great and noble qualities constantly attending on and naturally resulting from it, as it stands related to and grounded upon those six foregoing considerations. And these are, 1. The necessity; 2. The prudence; and 3. The decency of such a submission; all which jointly and severally prove and demonstrate the high and transcendent reasonableness of it. I shall speak something of each of them, and so close up all. And,
1. For its necessity. It is most certain, from what has been discoursed, that in this, as in all other cases, God will have his will; and how should it be otherwise, when nothing can withstand it ? Submit we must to the calamity inflicted on us, unless we could be too wise or too strong for him that inflicts it; for other ways of escape there can be none, but either by wisdom to contrive, or by force to wrest ourselves out of God's hand: but he that does the former must outwit omniscience; and he that does the latter must overpower omnipotence.
But all such counsels are vain, and ridiculously impossible; for there is no contending with Heaven, no wrestling with God, but by prayer.
We know what a weak, pitiful thing a subject is, if contending with his earthly prince; but much more so, opposing himself to the almighty King of kings, before whom the powers of the whole earth are as nothing, and all the empires and kingdoms of the world but as so many bubbles before the fury of the wind. He who carries his breath in his nostrils surely should be careful to carry a pious and a discreet tongue in his mouth. Who (says the prophet Isaiah, speaking of the dreadful power of God) would set briers and thorns against him in battle? he would go through them, he would burn them together; Isaiah xxvii. 4.
Briers indeed may be sharp and troublesome, but not to the fire that feels them not, but in a moment devours and consumes them. In like manner men may snarl, and word it high against Providence; but we have already observed what silly, senseless things such verbal assaults are against the Creator and Governor of the universe, and to what little purpose we spend our breath against him who gave it, and can take it away when he pleases. Expostulations and invectives may perhaps affect and move a weak man like ourselves, but they are lost before they can get to heaven; they cannot reach, and much less pierce those glorious mansions. Words of rage and impatience can hurt none but him that speaks them, especially when they are shot at God : and therefore, as the same prophet says again, in chap. xlv. 9, Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth,
and then possibly they may strike one another in pieces. But a potsherd is a very unfit thing to run against a brasen wall, or to dash itself upon the
rock of ages.
All affronts put upon God by such a refractory, contumelious behaviour as we have been speaking of, are to be reckoned amongst the absurdities, as well as the impieties of our actions ; such as reason itself would decry, should religion be silent. Things so full of paradox and brutish irrationality, that, could great sins be fit to be laughed at, they were fitter to be run down with scoff and sarcasm, than to be thought worthy of a serious confutation : but though it is not for us to laugh at them, we may be sure that God does.
In fine, this we may rest satisfied of, that whensoever God's hand is upon us, we must either yield a voluntary, or be forced to a violent submission. If our stubbornness is such, that we will not bend, it is certain that our weakness is also such, that we must needs break. If God's message will not win upon Pharaoh, his plagues shall compel him; and therefore when he sent Moses to him, he put a rod into his hand, as well as a word into his mouth. When God fully purposes to afflict a man, he is like a bird in a net, the more he strives and flutters, the more he is entangled; for the supreme Judge of all things is resolved to go through with his great work of judgment, and to make all obstinate, sturdy sinners know, that he has power to constrain, where his goodness will not persuade.
2. The second qualification of the submission here spoken of, which also is a farther argument to enforce. it, is the great prudence, as well as the ne