Imágenes de páginas

And here I shall give you several rules, some of which shall be Cautionary, and some Directive. 1st. For Cautionary Rules,

( 1st) The first shall be this: If thou wouldst glorify God by thy "sufferings, beware that thou dost not rashly and unwarrantably precipitate thyself into them.

By those sufferings, wherein thou thyself canst have no comfort, God can have no glory. Now consider what small ground for comfort thou canst have, when thou thou needlessly bringest afflictions upon thyself; and entanglest thyself in those troubles, which either piety or prudence would have taught thee to avoid. These sparks will fly about thee fast enough of themselves: thou needest not blow the coals: but, if thou dost, and art burnt by them, thou hast nothing to complain of, but thine own folly; nor to comfort thee, but that it was thine own choice arid resoluteness.

There be Two things, that make sufferings rash and unwarrantable.

When thou sufferest, what thou hast deserved. When thou sufferest, what thou mightest have avoided. [1st] Thou rashly and unwarrantably plungest thyself into troubles, when thou sufferest what thy vices have deserved.

How many such wretched creatures are there, who have no other hope nor plea for future happiness, but that they are extremely miserable here! and yet all their sufferings are nothing ulse, but the just revenge that their own lusts and vices take upon them. It is an old maxim, Non pama, sed causa facit martyrem : " Not the punishment, but the cause makes a martyr.'.' It is not so much what we suffer, as wherefore, by which God is glorified. What saith the Apostle, 1 Pet. iv. 1.4, 15? If ye be reproached for the name Christ, happy are ye.....on their part, he is evil spoken of; but, on your part, he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer, or as a busy-body in other men's matters: for, thus to suffer, is a dishonour to the name of God, and to the profession of the Christian Religion. Hast thou, by an idle and dissolute life, brought thyself to want and poverty? or, by intemperance and luxury, exhausted thy body, and dishonoured it with diseases as noisome as they are painful? or, by enormous and flagitious crimes, exposed thyself to the censure and penalty of the law? what comfort canst thou take in this suffering, the shame and infamy of which will be a sad accruement to the affliction? Never think that such sufferings can bring any honour to God, when the cauie of them was the dishonouring of him. In these, thou art not his, but only the Devil's, confessor and martyr.

[2dly] Thou rashly and unwarrantably castest thyself into trouble, when thou sufferest what thou mightest lawfully have avoided.

Be the cause never so good and glorious, yet if we suffer for it needlessly, we can have but little comfort, and God but little glory by such sufferings. It was a strange frenzy in the Circumcellions, a sect of heretical Christians in St. Austin's time, who ambitiously affected martyrdom when there was no persecution: and would forcibly compel others to lay violent hands on them; or, if they failed of that, would lay violent hands upon themselves; glorying in this, as martyrdom and suffering for the sake and testimony of Jesus. And, before these, the Montanists also were very fond and eager of suffering: who, though they did not invite and court it, yet thought it a base and carnal cowardice to use any means to escape it; yea, even ithat, which our Saviour Christ hath prescribed, Mat. x- 23. When they persecute you in one city, flee ye into another: and therefore Terfulhan, misled by that erroneous spirit, hath writ, ten a whole treatise against flight in persecution. This is a ,strong kind of supererogation, when men shall undergo more for Christ's sake, than he hiniself is willing to have them. These are not his martyrs, but martyrs to their own vain-glory, and sacrifice themselves to their own fancies and selfcwill. And so, again, whosoever he be, that chooseth the greater suffering, rather than the less; as death before imprisonment, or imprisonment before a small mulct; let his cause be what it will, though really as glorious and excellent as he himself conceits it; yet he suffers rashly for it; and, when he comes to present himself before God, all scourged, and maimed, and famished, and bloody, expecting to receive the crown of glory, he may possibly receive no other guerdon, but that cutting reproof, Who hath required these things at your hands f As it is not true courage and fortitude Jo rush headlong into dangers,' when we have no call nor warrant to engage us; so neither is it any true Christian valour jto affect dangers and sufferings: we ought not to seek them out, and challenge the combat: it is enough, if we cannot escape them without sordid and sinful courses, bravely to bear their shock, and sustain their onset. That Christian doth sufficiently discharge his duty, who is first careful to avoid dangers; but, if he cannot do this, without making use of unlawful shifts, denying the faith and betraying his own conscience, sutlers them without shrinking: but those, who wilfully expose themselves to sufferings, either by doing what they need not, or by not avoiding what they may, let them not think that they glorify Cod by such sufferings; tor they suffer not according to his will, but their own: and we may take up the same lamentation concerning them, that David did concerning Abner; DiedAbner as a fool dieth? so surlier these, die these, as a fool suffers and dies, when it was in their own power to prevent those troubles and afflictions, into which they fall, nay into which they precipitate themselves.

But you will say, " How is it then, that the Apostle so highly extols the heroic fortitude of those martyrs of which he tells us, Heb. xi. 35. who, when they were tortured, would not accept of deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection? It seems, by their example, that God may be glorified by a voluntary and arbitrary suffering."

To this I answer, That, if they had refused deliverance offered to them upon conditions that had been righteous and lawful, their refusal of it had been utterly sinful and unlawful, and the Apostle would never have strewed flowers upon their hearses; for they had not been martyrs, but self-murderers: but, if we consult the story to whieh this passage relates, as it is at large described, 2 Mac. vii. which, though it be not Canonical Scripture, yet gives us a good account of the Jewish affairs under the Grecian Empire; we shall find that the Apostle commends their faith and patience, because they would not accept of deliverance upon unworthy and sinful terms: they were indeed offered freedom and safety, yea honour and rewards by Antiochus, if so be they would eat swine's ilesh, and things offered to idols, contrary to the commands of the Law: but, upon such conditions as these, they refused to accept of deliveranee; expecting, as they professed and the Apostle testifies, a better resurrection; and esteeming it infinitely more eligible, to sacrifice their lives for the glory of the true God, than to save their lives by sacrificing to false and idol gods. This instance, therefore, makes nothing in favour of those, who rashly thrust themselves into dangers, when they have neither call nor necessity to encounter them; and, then, either complain, or t^lory, that they are persecuted. This is not to glorify God: for he would have none of his champions come forth to combat, till he himself gives the signal; which he never doth, until his providence brings us into such circumstances, that we must necessarily either sin or suffer, and no way is left open for us to avoid this dilemma. Then, indeed, when we are thus necessitated, if we choose affliction rather than siu, if we take up the cross rather than stumble and fall at it, if we are willing to undergo the sorest temporal evils that can befal us rather than dishonour God and pollute our own consciences, we do sufficiently declare that we are faithful and courageous soldiers of Jesus Christ, the Captain of our Salvation; and, if we thus suffer with him, we shall also be glorified with hfm; as the Apostle speaks, Rom. viii. it.

This is the First Cautionary Rule: If thou wouldest glorify God by thy sufferings, beware that thou dost not rashly and unwarrantably precipitate thyself into them.

(2dly) Another Rule is this: If thou wouldest glorify God under sufferings, beware that thou attempt not to free thyself from them by any unlawful means.

Consider, that God hath thee now in his hands; and, if thou seekest violently to wrest thyself out of them, thou wilt certainly fall into worse. And yet, alas! what is more ordinary in the world than this ?. some renounce the faith, which they formerly owned; yea, and after they have endured many hardships and tribulations for it, fall away only for fear of worse to come: others betake themselves to wicked arts; and, because they are weary of the discipline of God, seek to the Devil to deliver them from it: thus Saul consults a witch, and Ahaziah, Beelzebub the god of Ekron: and, indeed, the whole world is full of such practices; and, by stealing and lying and forswearing, men seek to deliver themselves from the troubles lying upon them; and, so. they can but get free from the chastisements of God, they care not though they fall into the torments of the Devil. Beware, therefore, whenever God brings any affliction upon thee, that thou, use no indirect and unlawful means to escape it. It is better to keep thy trouble with thy God, than to lose tby God with thy trouble. And, know this, that, if thou violatest thy conscience to preserve thy body or thy estate, the wound, which thou makes! there, will be far more insupportable than any temporal affliction that can befal thee: he, that buys off punishment with sin, makes a most sad and miserable exchange of a temporal for an eternal torment. Beware, therefore, how you thus traffic with the Devil: say unto him, when he presents thee ^jth any such unlawful means to rid thee of thy sorrows and sufferings, " No: I am now under the hand of God, and his corrections are infinitely better than thy relief. I will never destroy my soul, to deliver my body; nor run into hell, to get out of prison; nor wound my soul, to cure my body; nor re-? nounce my God and faith, to keep my estate and goods; nor burn in eternal flames, to escape a stake and faggot. Far be such a thought for ever from me. My God is able to deliver me; and he also will deliver me: but, if not, I will not, to save a poor vile wretched carcase, ruin my precious and immortal soul." Certainly, whosoever thinks to save himself from troubles and afflictions by any sinful means, is as foolish as that mariner, who, to lighten his vessel in a storm and save it from shipwreck, should tear up the very planks of it, and cast them into the sea.

(3dly) Beware that your sufferings and afflictions do not exasperate your spirits, and embitter your hearts against God; that the more he smites you, the more you should revolt from him. » By so doing, possibly the plague may be removed; but, certainly, the curse will be redoubled: and God may take away a judgment in more wrath and displeasure, than ever he first inflicted it: Isa. i. 5. Why should ye be stricken any more ? ye will revolt more and more. It oftentimes so falls out, that they, who are incorrigible under punishments, sin themselves into impunity. But, believe it, this is the most desperate course ye can' take: for, if temporal judgments harden us in sin, God may remove them as ineffectual; but then, assuredly, he will break us with eternal. It was a most cursed speech of that impious king, 2 Kings vi. 33. This evil is of the Lord: why should I wait upon the Lord any longer? If God command not deliverance at our prefixed time, we are apt to grow enraged at our sufferings, and to revenge ourselves upon the Almighty by our sin's: we read of Ahaz, 2 Chron. xxviii. 22. that, in the time of his distress, he did trespass yet more against the Lord; and God sets a brand upon him for it, and makes him a notorious emphatical sinner for it: This is that king Ahaz. Beware, therefore, when God afflicts you, that you suffer not your hearts to rise in any mutinous thoughts or passions against him. How much gall and wormwood soever be mingled in the cup which your Father gives you to drink, let it not embitter your hearts: and, though he may mark you out, for afflictions; yet beware that you give no provocation to set his black niark upon you, for obstinacy and rebellion. Certainly, such sufferings as leave

« AnteriorContinuar »