Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

both, quite above the reach, and beyond the ken of reason, Ifa. lv, 8. And,

2. The confident dictates of reason are frequently confuted by experience all the world over ; it is every day made a liar, and the frights it puts us into, proved to be vain and groundJess, lfa. li. 13.

Nothiog can be better for us, than to refigo up our reafonto faith, to see all things through the promises, and trust God over all events.

Rule 12. To conclude, exalt the fear of God in your hearts, and let it gain the ascendant over all your other fears.

This is the prescription in my text for the cure of all our Navish fears, and indeed all the formentioned rules for the cure of Siaful fears run into this, and are reducible to it. For,

1. Doth the knowledge and application of the covenant of grace cure our fears? The fear of God is both a part of that covenant, and an evidence of our ioterest in it, Jer. xxxii. 40.

2. Doth fioful fear pluoge men in to such distresses of conscience? Why, the fear of God will preserve your ways clean and pure, Pfal. xix. 9. and to those mischiefs will be prevented.

3. Doch föresight and provision for evil days prevent diftracting fears when they come ? No:hing like the fear of God enables us to such a prevision and provision for them, Heb.

xi. 7.

4. Do we relieve ourselves againlt fear by committing all to God ? Surely it is the tear of God that drives us to him as our only asylum and fure refuge, Mal. iii. 16. They feared God, and thought upon his riame, (i.e.) they meditated on his name, which was their refuge, his attributes their chambers of rest. 5.

Must our affections to the world be mortified before our fears can be subdued? This is the infrument of mortification, Neh. v. 15.

6. Do the worthy examples of those that are gone before us, tend to the cure of our cowardice and fears? Why the fear of God will provoke in you ao holy self-jealousy, left you fail of the grace they manifested, and come short of those excellent patterns, Heb. xii. 15.

7. Is the assurance of interest in God, and the pardon of fin such an excellent antidote against flavish fear? Why, he that walks in the fear of God, mall walk in the comforts of the Holy Ghost alfo, Acts ix. 31.

8. Is integrity of heart and way such a fountain of courage in evil times? Know, reader, do grace promotes this integrity

}

and uprightness more than the fear of God doth, Prov. xvi. 6. Prov. xxiii. 17.

9. Do the reviving of past experiences soppress soful fears ? No doubt this was the fubject which the fear of God put them upon, for mutual encouragement, Mal. iii. 16.

10. Are the providences of God in this world fuch cordials against fear? The fear of God is the very character and mark of those persons over whom his provideace shall watch in the difficulteit times, Eccles. viii. 12.

11. Doth our trusting in our own reason, and makjog it' our rule and measure, breed so many fears! Why, the fear of God will take men off from such felf confidence, and bring them to trust the faithful God with all doubtful issues, and events, as the very scope of my text fully manifefts. Fear not their fear : their fear, moviog by the direction of carnal rea. fon, drove them not to God, but to the Assyrian for help. Follow not you their example in this. But how shall they help it? Why, fančtify the Lord of Hofts, and make him your fear.

[blocks in formation]

Answering the most material pleas for flavish fears, and diffolving

the common objections against courage and conftancy of mind in times of danger

TH

HE pleas and excuses for our cowardly faintness in the

day of trouble are endless, and so would his task be that thould undertake particularly to answer them all. It is but the cutting off an Hydra's head, when one is gone, ten more start up; what is most material I will here take into consideration. When good men (for with such I am dealing in this chapter) fee a formidable face and appearance of sharp and bloc'y times approaching them, they begin to tremble, their hearts faint, and their hands hang down with unbecoming despondency, and pusiladimity; their thoughts are fo distracted, their reason and faith fo clouded by their fears, that their temptations are thereby exceedingly strengthened upon them, and their principles and professions brought under the derifion and contempt of their enemies; and if their brethren, to whom God hath given more courage and conftancy, and who discern the mischief like to ensue from their uncomely carriage, admonish

[ocr errors]

and advise them of it: they have abundance of pleas and defences for their fears, yea, when they reason the point of fuf-, fering in their own thoughts, and the matter is debated (as ia such times it is common) betwixt faith and fear, O what endless work do their fears put upon their faith, to solve all the buts and its which their fears will object or suppose.

Some of the principal of them I think it worth while here to consider, and endeavour to fatisfy, that, if possible, I may prevail with all gracious persons to be more magnanimous. And first, of all,

Plea 1. Sufferings for Christ are Nrange things to the ChriNians of this age, we have had the happy lot to fall into milder times than the primitive Christiaas did, or those that struggled in our own land in the begioning of reformation; and there., fore we may be excused for our fears, by reason of our owo uae acquaintedness with sufferings in our times.

Answer 1. One fault is but a bad excuse for another, why are sufferings such strangers to you? Why did you not caft upon them in the days of peace, and reckon that such days must come? Did you not covenant with Christ to follow him whithersoever he should go, to take up your cross, aod follow him ? And did not the word plainly tell you, that “ All that will live godly in “ Christ Jesus, mult suffer perfecution," 2 Tim. iü. 12. “ And “ that we must through much tribulation enter into the king. « dom of God," Acts xiv, 22. Did we fall asleep in quiet aad prosperous days, and dream of halcyon days all our time on earth? That the mountain of our prosperity food strong, and we should never be moved? That we should die in our best, and multiply our days as the fand; Babylon's children indeed dream fo, Rev. xviii. 7. but the children of Sion should be better instructed. Alas! how foon may the brightest day be overcast ? The weather is not so variable, as the state of the church in this world is ; now a calm, Acts ix. 31. and then a storm, Acts xii. 1, 2. You could not but know what contingent and vari; able things all things on earth are; why then did you delude yourselves with such fond dreams! But as a learned man sightly observes, Mundus fenefcens patitur phantafias. The older the world grows, the more drowzy and doting it still grows, and these are the days in which the wise as well as the foolish virgios Number. Sure it is but a bad plea, after so many. warnings from the word, and from the rod to say, I did nor think of such times, I dreamed not of them.

* Gerson

2. Or if you say, though you have conversed with death and fufferiogs by fpeculation, yet you lived not in fuch times wheres in you might see (as other sufferers did) the encouraging faith, patience and zeal of others set before your eyes in a lively pattern and example. Sufferings were not only familiarized to them by frequency, but facilitated also by the daily examples of those that went before them.

But think you indeed that nothing but encouragement and advantage to followers, arose from the trials of those that went before? Alas, there were fometimes the greatest damps and difcouragements imaginable; the zeal of those that followed have often been inflamed by the faintings of those that were tried before them. In the seventh perfecution under Decius, anno 250, , there were standing before the tribuoal, certain of the warriors or koights, vit. Ammon, Zenon, Ptolemeus, Ingennus, and a certain aged man called Theophilus, who all standing by as spectators when a certain Chriftian was examined, and there seeing him for fear, ready to decline, and fall away, did almost burst for forrow within themselves: they made figns to him with their hands, and all gestures of the body to be con• ftant; this being noted by all the standers by, they were ready to lay hold upon them; but they preventing the matter, pressed up of their own accord, before the beach of the judge, profefSing themselves to be Christians, insomuch that both the presi dent and the benchers were all aftonished, and the Christians which were judged, the more encouraged. Such damping spectacles the Christians of former ages had frequently set before them.

And it was no small trial to fome of them, to hear the faint. ings and abnegation of those that went before them, pleaded agalost their constancy; as in the time of Valens, it was urged by the perfecutors ; those that came to their trial before you, bave acknowleged their errors, begged our pardon, and returned to us: and why will you stand it out fo obftioately? But the Christians aufwered, Nos hac potiffimum ratione viriliter ftabimus, For this very reafon we will stand to it the more manfully, to repair their scandal, by our greater courage for Christ. These Were the helps and advantages they often had in those days, therefore lay not so much strels upon that; their courage un. doubtedly flowed from an higher" fpring and better principle, than the company they suffered with

3. And if precedents and experiences of others to break the ice before you, be so great an advantage, surely we that live in VOL. IV.

L":

thefe latter times have the most and best helps of that pature shat ever any people in the world had. You have all their examples recorded for your encouragement, and therefore tbink it not Arange concerning the fiery trial, as tho' fume Arange thing bad happened to you, as the apostle speaks, 1 Pet. iv. 12. This plea is weighed, and no great weight fouod in it.

Plea 2. But my nature is soft and tender, my conftitution more weak and subject to the impressions of fear than others: fome that have robust bodies, and hardy stout winds, may bet ter grapple with such difficulties than I can, who by conftitu. tion and education, am altogether unfit to grapple with those torments, that. I have not paticoce enough to hear related; my heart faints and dies withia me, if I do but read, or hear of the barbarous usages of the martyrs, and therefore I may well be excused for my fears and faint-heartedness, when the case is like to be my own.

Answer 1. It is a great mistake to think that the mere strength of natural constitution, can carry any one through such fof. ferings for Christ, or that patural renderness and weakness die vinely aslifted, cannot bear the heaviest burden that ever God Said upon the shoulders of any fufferer for Christ. Our fuffer. ing and bearing abilities are not from nature, but from grace: We find men of strong bodies and resolute daring minds, bave fainted in the time of trial. Dr. Pendleton, in our own ftory, was a man of a robuft and maffy body, and a resolute daring mind; yet when he came to the trial, he utterly faiated and fell off. On the other side, what poor feeble bodies have ful tained the greatest tormeots, and out of weaknefs been made Froog! Heb. xi. 34. The virgiu Eulalia of Emerita in Portagal, was young and tender, but twelve years old, and with much indulgence and tenderness brought up in an honourable family, being a person of confiderable quality; yet how courageously did she sustain the most cruel torments for Chrift! When the judge fawned upon her with this tempriog language, “Why “ wilt thou kill thyself, so young a flower, and so near thole “ honourable marriages and great dowries thou mightest ep“ joy?” Instead of returning a retracting or double answer, Eulalia threw down the idol, and spurned abroad with her feet the heap of incense prepared for the centers; and when the executioner came to her, she entertained him with this language : * "Go to, thou hangman, burn, cut, mangle thou " Thele carthly members ; it is an easy matter to break a briule

Acts and Mon. V. I. p. I 20%

« AnteriorContinuar »