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more liable to be tempted into idleness, as thinking their work is to no purpose: when the well-furnished person doth long to be exercising his wisdom and virtue in profitable well-doing.
- How by Faith to overcome Unmercifulness to the Needy.
IV. THE fourth sin of Sodom, and of prosperity, mentioned Ezek. xvi. 49. is, They did not "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." Against which at the present I shall give you but these brief directions.
Direct. 1. Love God your Creator and Redeemer, and then you will love the poorest of your brethren for his sake. And love will easily persuade you to do them good.
Direct. 2. Labour most diligently to cure your inordinate self love, which maketh men care little for any but themselves, and such as are useful to themselves: and when once you love your neighbours as yourselves, it will be as easy to persuade you to do good to them as to yourselves, and more easy to dissuade you from hurting them than yourselves: (because sensuality tempteth you more strongly to hurt yourselves, than any thing doth to hurt them).
Direct. 3. Overvalue not the things of the world; and then you will not make a great matter of parting with them, for another's good.
Direct. 4. Do as you would be done by: and ask your ́selves how you would be judged of and used, if you were in their condition yourselves.
Direct. 5. Set the life of Christ and his apostles before you and remember what a delight it was to them to do good and at how much dearer a rate Christ shewed mercy to you and others, than he requireth you to shew mercy at
Direct. 6. Read over Christ's precepts of charity and mercy, that a thing so frequently urged on you, may not be senselessly despised by you.
Direct. 7. Remember that mercy is a duty applauded by all the world: as human interest requireth it; so human
nature approveth it in all. Good and bad, even all the world do love the merciful: or if the partial interest of some proud and covetous persons (as the popish clergy for instance), do call for cruelty against those that are not of their mind, and for their profit; yet this goeth so much against the stream of the common interest, and the light of human nature, that mankind will still abhor their cruelty, though they may affright a few that are near them from uttering their detestation. All men speak well of a merciful man, and ill of the unmerciful.
Direct. 8. Believe Christ's promises which he hath made to the merciful, so fully and frequently in Scripture: as in Matt. v. 7. Luke vi. 36. Prov. xi. 17. Psal. xxxvii. 26, &c. And believe his threatenings against the unmerciful, that they shall find no mercy; Prov. xii. 10. James ii. 13. And remember how Christ hath described the last judgment, as passing upon this reckoning; Matt. xxv.
Direct. 9. Live not in fleshly sensuality yourselves: for else your flesh will devour all; and if you have hundreds and thousands a year, will leave you but little or nothing to do good with.
Direct. 10. Engage yourselves (not by rash vows, but by resolution and practice) in a stated way of doing good, and take not only such occasions as fall out unexpectedly. Set apart a convenient proportion of your estates, as God doth bless you; and let not needless occasions divert it, and defraud the poor, and you of the benefit.
Direct. 11. Remember still that nothing is absolutely your own, but God who lendeth it you hath the true propriety, and will certainly call you to an account. And ask yourselves daily, How shall I wish at the day of reckoning, that I had expended and used all my estate? and do accordingly.
Direct. 12. Forget not what need you stand in daily of the mercy of God; and what need you will shortly be in, when your health and wealth will fail you. And how earnestly then you will cry to God for mercy, mercy! "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard;" Prov. xxi. 13.
Direct. 13. Hearken not to an unbelieving heart, which will tell you that you may want yourselves, and therefore would restrain you from well-doing. If God be to be trusted
with your souls, he is to be trusted with your bodies. God trieth whether indeed you take him for your God, by trying whether you can trust him. If you deal with him as with a bankrupt, or a deceitful man, whom you will trust no further than you have a present pawn or security, in case he should deceive you; you blaspheme him, instead of taking him for your God.
Direct. 14. Let your greatest mercy be shewed in the greatest things; and let the good of men's souls be your end even in your mercy to their bodies. And therefore do all in such a manner as tendeth most to promote the highest end. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
How to live by Faith in Adversity.
IF I should give you distinct directions, for the several cases of poverty, wrongs, persecutions, unkindnesses, contempt, sickness, &c. it would swell this treatise yet bigger than I intended. I shall therefore take up with this general advice.
Direct. 1. In all adversity remember the evil of sin, which is the cause, and the holiness and justice of God which is exercised;' and then the hatred of sin, and the love of God's holiness and justice will make you quietly submit. You will then say, when repentance is serious, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him;" Micah vii. 9. And, "why doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” Lam. iii. 39. "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again unto the Lord; for he hath smitten, and he will heal," &c.; ver. 40, 41.
Object. But doth not Job's case tell us, that some afflictions are only for trial, and not for sin?'
Answ. No; it only telleth us that the reason why Job is chosen out at that time, to suffer more than other men, is not because he was worse than others, or as bad; but for his trial and good. But, 1. Affliction as it is now existent in the world upon mankind, is the fruit of Adam's sin at
first, and contained in the peremptory unremitted sentence. 2. And this general state of suffering-mankind, is now in the hand and power of Christ, who sometimes indeed doth let out more on the best than upon others, and that especially for their trial and good; but usually some sins of their own also have a hand in them, and procure the evil, though his mercy turn it to their benefit.
Direct. 2. Deal closely and faithfully with your hearts and lives in a suffering time,' and rest not till your consciences are well assured that no special provocation is the cause, or else do testify that you have truly repented, and resolved against it.
Otherwise you may lengthen your distress, if you leave that thorn in your sore which causeth it: or else God may change it into a worse; or may give you over to impeni tency, which is worst of all: or at least, you will want that assured peace with God, and solid peace of conscience, which must be your support and comfort in affliction; and so will sink under it, as unable to bear it.
Direct. 3. Remember that the sanctifying fruit of adversity is first and more to be looked after, than either the comfort or the deliverance.' And therefore that all men, no nor all Christians, must not use the same method, in the same affliction, when as their spiritual cases differ.
A clear conscience, and one that hath walked faithfully with God, and fruitfully in the world, and kept himself from his iniquity, may bend most of his thoughts to the comforting promises, and happy end. But one man hath been bold with wilful sin, and his work must be first, to renew repentance, and see that there be no root of bitterness left behind, and to set upon true reformation of life, and reparation of the hurt which he hath done.
Another is grown into love with the world, and hath let out his heart to pleasant thoughts and hopes of prosperity, and alienated his thoughts more than before from God. This man must first perceive his error, and hear God's voice which calleth him home, and see the characters of vanity and vexation written on the face of that which he overloved; and then think of comfort when he hath got a cure.
Another is grown dull and careless of his soul, and hath lost much of his sense of things eternal, and is cold in love,
and cold in prayer, and liveth as if he were grown weary God, and weary of well-doing. His work must be to feel the smart of God's displeasure, so far as to awaken him to repentance, and set him again with former seriousness, upon his duty and when he mendeth his pace, he may desire to be eased of the rod and spur. But to give unseasonable cordials to any of these, is but to frustrate the affliction, and to hurt them, and prepare for worse. Nay, and when they are comforted in season, it must be with due caution: "Go thy way, and sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." It is pernicious unskilfulness in those comforters of the afflicted, who have the same customary words of comfort for all; and by their improper cordials unseasonably applied, delude poor souls, and hinder that necessary repentance which God by so sharp a means doth call them to.
Direct. 4. Remember that your part in affliction is to do your duty, and to get the benefit of it: but to remove it is God's part:' Therefore be you careful about that part which is your own, and then make no question but God will do his part. Let it be your first question therefore, 'What is it that I am obliged to in this condition? What is the special duty of one in this sickness, this poverty, imprisonment, restraint, contempt, or slander, which I undergo?' Be careful daily to do that duty, and then never fear the issue of your suffering: nothing can go amiss to him that is found in the way of his duty.
And let it be your next question, ' What spiritual good may be got by this affliction? May not my repentance be renewed? My self-denial, humility, contempt of the world, patience, and confidence on God, be exercised and increased by it? And is not this the end of my heavenly Father? Is not his rod an act of love and kindness to me? Doth he not offer me by it all this good?'
And let your next question be, Have I yet got that good which God doth offer me? Have I any considerable benefit to shew, which I have received by this affliction since it came? If not, why should you desire it to be taken away? Play not the hypocrite in speaking that good of an afflicting God, which you do not seriously believe: If you believe that God is wiser than you, to know what is