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2. Patience will prevent hasty and rash conclusions, either from present troubles, or from the suspension of desired good. We are prone to make a hasty judgment of things from present appearances; against which patience will fortify. We are too ready to charge God foolishly; to call in question the truth of his promises, 'if he do not accomplish them in our way and time; or to suspect his mercy and goodness, because of the trials which are made our lot: like the desponding psalmist, Psal. lxxvii. 7—9. "Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath he forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies In opposition to this, patience disposes to rest in God's certain declarations of his favour to the upright; and to suppress any such hasty surmises to the dishonour of God; as the same psalmist did in ver. 10. "This is my infirmity." Or, we may be apt in dark hours to entertain some hard thoughts of religion, when it exposes to suffering, and the recompences of it are considered as out of sight and future: but patience will fix us in this reckoning, "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us ;" and that the recompencea in prospect are worth waiting and suffering for too. If we are ready to despond of success, when we think of the strength or subtlety of our enemies, the variety of our work, and our own weakness, patience will suppress every misgiving thought, and embolden us to conclude, that "he who hath delivered, and doth deliver, will yet deliverthat he will "•keep us from falling, and fulfil in us the whole good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power," if we endeavour sincerely to finish well.
3. Patience will fortify against any unlawful methods for accomplishing our deliverance or desires. It is natural to all under burthens, to cast about how they may help themselves, or to consult proper means to obtain what they wish for. Now, it is the work of patience to restrain from any sinful expedient which may seem to promise relief: ** He that believeth, shall not make haste," Isa. xxviii. 16. The patient man resolves rather to bear any trouble, than go out of God's way to ease himself he will reckon it the samd thing to have no way at all, as to have no lawful way of deliverance from his affliction. When the Philistines were coming against Saul with a formidable army, and his own people were much discouraged and afraid, he would not wait for deliverance in God's time and way, but he went himself, and "offered a burnt-offering," 1 Sam. xiii. 9- This was his impatience; and though he promised himself much from it, yet it cost him dear. If he had patiently staid a little longer, God would have "established his kingdom upon Israel for ever." But for this hasty step, God deprived both him and his family, ver. 13, 14. Patience will not suffer a man to apply to any doubtful course, much less to venture upon any known sin, to precipitate, his release or satisfaction.
4. Patience disposes a man to go on in the way of his duty, whatever discouragement may arise from the pressure of his troubles, or the deferring of his hopes. This is the most essential part of patience, to persevere in our proper work and our Christian course, whatever weights and burthens attend us, whatever it may cost us, and though the success and benefit of our endeavours do not immediately ensue. The impatient in such a case are apt to be "faint and weary in their minds," to become remiss in their work, and tired out of their waiting-frame by sharp and continued trials, if not wholly to give up in despondency. But "the righteous shall hold on his way," Job xvii. 9- This is what the apostle exhorts us to, Heb. xii. 1. to "run with patience the race that is set before us," whatever difficulties it is attended with, and for as long time as our Master, who has appointed it, sees meet to continue us in it.
These things may be sufficient to represent the general nature of patience. We shall have occasion to be more particular in the consideration of the second general head proposed, namely,
II. To shew the need and occasion which a Christian has for the exercise of patience. The apostle affirms of those to whom he wrote, that they had need of patience: and whatever might be singular in their case, there is enough in the common case of all Christians, or, for ought they know, may 'be so, to make the same declaration to hold true of them all.
A Christian has need of patience, as well as of the other
graces of the spirit, in his way to heaven. This is one branch of the character of every heir of glory, as much as faith, or love, or any other part of the new nature. It is a part of the image of God in his saints. He is styled “the God of patience,” Rom. xv. 5. He is long-suffering, and exercises much forbearance. Though his perfect blessedness admits not properly of his suffering any prejudice, yet he receives many affronts from sinful creatures, and notwithstanding them suspends the execution of his anger, and therein shews, as it were, a power over himself, as Moses elegantly expressess it in his prayer, Numb. xiv. 17, 18. “Let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The Lord is long-suffering, and of great mercy,” &c. As if he had said, Yet give another instance how thou canst restrain thy just anger, by sparing again this provoking people. Now, there must be some resemblance of our heavenly Father in all his children, in this as well as other representations of him : they must properly exercise a power over themselves to restrain their passions, and keep possession of their souls, under the various providences of God. Hence patience is reckoned up as a branch of the godlike nature in us, 2 Pet. i. 6. ; and long-suffering is one of the fruits of the spirit, Gal. v. 22. and what all the elect of God are pressed to put on, Col. iii. 12. Christians have need of patience, in common with the rest of their fellow-creatures. All have some exercises of patience in this life, and Christians share in the common lot. They are no more exempted than others from the vanity and uncertainty of the present state. Pains and diseases, loss of friends, ingratitude, disappointments in their affairs, and all the various troubles to which man is born, fall to the lot of good and bad promiscuously. In these things “there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked,” Eccles. ix. 2. And they must, as well as others, frequently continue expectants for a long time of many outward comforts and benefits they desire; and, therefore, they have need of patience as well as others; and God would have them to be examples to the rest of the world, in the exercise of patience under the same circumstances with them. Besides this, Christians, as such, have more need of patience than others; and the greater advances they make in the Christian life, still so much the more occasion they have for it:
they often meet with peculiar exercises upon the score of their goodness, sufferings of one kind or other for the sake of Christ and a good conscience. Such is the temper of the world, that it seldom fails to hold true in some degree, that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution," 2 Tim. iii. 12. The church is seldom long without open persecution; and when it enjoys, what may comparatively he called rest, yet the numher of those who are really religious is so disproportionate to the had, that they generally meet with some ungrateful distinction from those among whom they live: they can hardly escape reproach, if they are treated no worse. Now, all such things are trials of patience. And "their disposition toward the promised blessedness, makes the deferring of that a trial peculiar to them." Earthly minds are strangers to any exercise of patience in this case: if they might, they would live here always. But a Christian has fixed his portion in God, and he expects not his full happiness in him till he arrives at heaven, and therefore he prefers that world to this. And the higher advances he has made in knowledge, and faith, and meetness, and assurance, so much the more will the deferring of his blessedness be a trial of his patience.
Those Christians who have exercised much patience already, yet still have need of it to the end of their lives. It is the scope of the text, as I observed at the beginning, to admonish those who were partakers of this grace, and had given instances of it, that still they had need of it: they had yet need of more patience, and room to acquit themselves better in farther trials.
But that which I would a little more particularly insist upon is, the consideration which the apostle intimates, upon account of which they had need of patience: That af ter ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. This gives us a lively representation how necessary this grace is, in several views we may take of it.
1. A Christian has need of patience, to persist in doing the will of God, even in his ordinary course. The certain and known duty of a Christian in his way to heaven, independent of those particular circumstances which are made the lot of some, calls for a good measure of patience to do it well; for there is some difficulty and exercise in a Christian course in the best state of things that this world will admit. Hence a "patient continuance in well-doing," is a character requisite to every Christian, Rom. ii. J.
Many of the constant duties of the Christian life, are unavoidably a weariness to the flesh. Prayer, and reading, and hearing, cannot be performed without pains; and patience is needful for that reason.
Indwelling sin is frequently making opposition, so that "when we would do good, evil is present with us," Rom. vii. 21. This often occasions an uneasy struggle.
We must act contrary to the practice of the generality in many instances of duty. . When the world is at the best, this is the case. If we would approve ourselves to God and a good conscience, we must, in some things, be content to swim against the stream, to be singular and "not conformed to the world," Rom. xii. 2. but rather, by a contrary practice, with Noah, "to condemn the world," Heb. xi. 7- This calls for patience.
In many cases, we must proceed in the performance of duty, when we cannot discern the success of past endeavours. We must still go on striving after the mortification of sin, though it may appear to us as strong as ever; and persist in the use of means for the good of others under our care and influence, though they have hitherto been unsuccessful. This is a very considerable trial of Christian patience; the chariot-wheels are very apt to drive heavily in such circumstances.
And in the advances of age, when natural strength and spirits abate, many branches of duty are necessarily more tedious and wearisome, as almost every action of life is, and yet they must not be given over.
2. A Christian hath need of patience to persist in bearing the will of God, and in doing his duty under it, when his course is peculiarly imbittered. For instance,
To bear the shock of sudden and unexpected trials, which are apt to overset a man at once, and to produce hasty thoughts and unadvised words, both of God and man: "I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eye," Psal. xxxi. 22. "1 said in my haste, All men are liars," Psal. cxvi. 11. To suppress a tumult, and keep the mind in frame upon such an occasion, is a very great attainment. The patience of Job was remarkable upon this account.