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and joy, where the full anointings of thy Spirit shall be poured
out on all thy people, and thou wilt no more hide thy face from
any of them.* ! “This, Lord, is thy salvation for which I am waitingt; and whilst I feel the desires of my soul drawn out after it, I will never despair of obtaining it. Continue and increase those desires, and at length satisfy and exceed them all, through the riches of thy grace in Christ Jesus! Amen.”
The Christian struggling under great and heavy Afflictions.
Here it is advised, (1.) That Afflictions should be expected, §. 1. (2) That the righteous Hand of God should be acknowledged in them, when they come, §. 2. (3.) That they should be borne with Patience, Ş. 3. (4.) That the Divine Conduct in them should be cordially approved, §. 4. (5.) That Thankfulness should be maintained in the midst of Trials, 5.5. (6.) That the Design of Afflictions should be diligently enquired into, and all proper Assistance taken in discovering it, §. 6. (7.) That when it is discovered, it should humbly be complied with and answered, §. 7. A Prayer suited to such a Case.
§. 1. SINCE man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upwards ; and Adam has entailed on all his race the sad inheritance of calamity in their way to death, it will certainly be prudent and necessary, that we should all expect to meet with trials and afflictions; and that you, reader, whoever you are, should be endeavouring to gird on your armour, and put yourself into a posture to encounter those trials, which will fall to your lot, as a man, and a christian. Prepare yourself to receive afflictions and to endure them, in a manner agreeable to both those characters. In this view, when you see others under the burden, consider how possible it is, that you may be called out to the very same difficulties, or to others equal to them. Put your soul, as in the place of theirs. Think, how you could endure the load, under which they lie; and endeavour at once to comfort them, and to strengthen your own heart; or rather pray that God would do it. And observing how liable mortal life is to such sorrows, moderate your expectations from it; raise your thoughts above it; and form your schemes of happiness, only for that world, where they cannot be disappointed: in the mean time, blessing God, that your prosperity
* Ezek. xxxix. 29. + Gen. xlix. 18. f Job v. 7.
is lengthened out thus far, and ascribing it to his special providence, that you continue so long unwounded, when so many showers of arrows are flying around you, and so many are falling by them, on the right-hand and on the left. §. 2. When at length your turn comes, as it certainly will, from the first hour in which an affliction seizes you, realize to yourself the hand of God in it, and lose not the view of him in any second cause, which may have proved the immediate occasion. Let it be your first care, to humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he may eralt you in due time.*. Own that he is just in all that is brought upon yout, and that in all these things, he punishes you less than your iniquities deservet. Compose yourself to bear his hand with patience, to glorify his name by a submission to his will, and to fall in with the gracious design of this visitation, as well as to wait the issue of it quietly, whatsoever the event may be. §. 3. Now that patience may have its perfect works, reflect frequently, and deeply, upon your own meanness and sinfulness. Consider how often every mercy has been forfeited, and every judgment deserved. And consider too, how long the patience of God hath borne with you, and how wonderfully it is still exerted towards you ; and indeed not only his patience, but his bounty too. Afflicted as you are, (for I speak to you now as actually under the pressure) look round and survey your remaining mercies, and be gratefully sensible of them. Make the supposition of their being removed : what if God should stretch out his hand against you, and add poverty to pain, or pain to poverty, or the loss of friends to both ; or the death of surviving friends to that of those whom you are now mourning over; would not the wound be more grievous Adore his goodness, that this is not the case ; and take heed, lest your unthankfulness should provoke him to multiply your sorrows. Consider also the need you have of discipline; how wholesome it may prove to your souls, and what merciful designs our heavenly Father has, in all the corrections he sends upon his children. §. 4. Nay, I will add, that in consequence of all these considerations it may well be expected, not only that you should submit to your afflictions as what you cannot avoid, but that you should swectly acquiesce in them, and approve them; that you should not only justify but glorify God in sending them ; that you should glorify him with your heart, and with your lips too. Think not praise unsuitable on such an occasion; nor think that praise alone to be suitable, which takes its rise from remaining comforts; but know that it is your duty not only to be thankful in your afflictions, but to be thankful ol account of them. §. 5. God himself has said, in every thing give thanks”; and he has taught his servants to say, Kea, also we glory in tribulation f. And most certain it is, that to true believers they are instances of divine, mercy; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receivetht, with peculiar and distinguished endearment. View your present afflictions in this light, as chastisements of love ; and then let your own heart say, whether love does not demand praise. Think with yourself, “It is thus that God is making me conformable to his own Son; it is thus that he is training me up for complete glory. Thus he kills my corruptions; thus he strengthens my graces; thus he is wisely contriving to bring me nearer to himself, and to ripen me for the honours of his heavenly kingdom. It is, if need be, that I am in heavinessS; and he surely knows what that need is, better than I can pretend to teach him ; and knows what peculiar propriety there is in this affliction, to answer my present necessity, and do me that peculiar good which he is graciously intending me by it. This tribulation shall work patience, and patience experience, and experience a more assured hope ; even a hope which shall wnot make ashamed, while the love of God is shed abroad in my heartí, and shines through my affliction, like the sun through a gentle descending cloud, darting in light upon the shade, and mingling fruitfulness with weeping.” §. 6. Let it be then your earnest care, while you thus look on your affliction, whatever it may be, as coming from the hand of God, to improve it to the purposes for which it was sent. And that you may so improve it, let it be your first concern to know what those purposes are. Summon up all the attention of your soul, to hear the rod, and him who hath appointed it "s; and pray earnestly that you may understand its voice. Examine your life, your words, and your heart; and pray, that God would so guide your enquiries, that you may return unto the Lord that smiteth you”. To assist you in this, call in the help of pious friends, and particularly of your ministers: intreat, not only their prayers, but their advices too, as to the probable design of providence: and encourage them freely to tell you any thing which occurs to their minds upon this head. And if such an occasion should lead them to touch upon some of the imperfections of your character and conduct, look upon it as a great token of their friendship, and take it not only patiently, but thankfully. It does but ill become a christian, at any time to resent reproofs and admonitions ; and least of all does it become him, when the rebukes of his heavenly Father are upon him. He ought rather to seek admonitions, at such a time as this, and voluntarily offer his wounds to be searched by a faithful and skilful hand.
* 1 Pet. v. 6. + Neh. ix. 33. 1 Fzra ix. 13. § James i. 4.
*1 thes. v. 18. Rom. v. 3. t Heb. xii. 6. 51 Pet. i. 6. |Rom. v. 3, 4, 5. TI Mic. vi. 9. ** Isai. ix. 13. WOL. I. 3 F
§. 7. And when by one means or another you have got a ray of light to direct you in the meaning and language of such dispensations, take heed that you do not, in any degree, harden yourself against God, and walk contrary to him*. Obstinate reluctance to the apprehended design of any providential stroke is inexpressibly provoking to him. Set yourself therefore to an immediate reformation of whatever you discover amiss; and labour to learn the general lessons of greater submission to God's will, of a more calm indifference to the world, and of a closer attachment to divine converse, and to the views of an approaching invisible state. And whatever particular proportion or correspondence you may observe, between this or that circumstance in your affliction, and your former transgressions, be especially careful to act according to that more peculiar and express voice of the rod. Then you may perhaps have speedy and remarkable reason to say, that it hath been good for you that you have been afflictedf; and with a multitude of others, may learn to number the times of your sharpest trials, among the sweetest and the most exalted moments of your life. For this purpose, let prayer be your frequent employment; and let such sentiments as these, if not in the very same terms, be often and affectionately poured out before God.
An humble Address to God, under the Pressures of heavy
"O THOU supreme, yet all-righteous and gracious governor of the whole universe! Mean and inconsiderable as this little province of thy spacious empire may appear, thou dost not disregard the earth and its inhabitants; but attendest to its concerns with the most condescending and gracious regards.
• Lev. xxv'i. 27. f Psal. cxix. 71.
Thou reignest, and I rejoice in it, as it is indeed matter of universal joyo. I believe thy universal providence and care; and I firmly believe thy wise, holy, and kind interposition in every thing which relates to me, and to the circumstances of my abode in this world. I would look through all inferior causes unto thee, whose eyes are upon all thy creatures; to thee, who formest light, and createst darkness, who makest peace, and createst evilt; to thee, Lord, who at thy pleasure canst exchange the one for the other, canst turn the brightest noon into midnight, and the darkest midnight into noon. “O thou wise and merciful governor of the world! I have often said, Thy will be done: and now, thy will is painful to me. But shall I upon that account unsay what I have so often said : God forbid! I come rather to lay myself down at thy feet, and to declare my full and free submission to all thy sacred pleasure. O Lord, thou art just and righteous in all ! I acknowledge, in thy venerable and awful presence, that I have deserved this, and ten thousand times moret; I acknowledge, that it is of thy mercy that I am not utterly consumed", and that any the least degree of comfort yet remains. O Lord, I most readily confess that the sins of one day of my life have merited all these chastisements; and that every day of my life hath been more or less sinful. Smite, therefore, O thou righteous judge' and I will still adore thee, that instead of the scourge, thou hast not given a commission to the sword, to do all the dreadful work of justice, and to pour out my blood in thy presence. “But shall I speak unto thee only as my judge o O Lord, thou hast taught me a tender name; thou condescendest to call thyself my father, and to speak of correction as the effects of thy love. O welcome, welcome, those afflictions, which are the tokens of thy parental affection, the marks of my adoption into thy family' Thou knowest what discipline I need. Thou seest, O Lord, that bundle of folly, which there is in the heart of thy poor froward and thoughtless child; and knowest what rods, and what strokes, are needful to drive it away. I would therefore be in humble subjection to the Father of spirits, who chasteneth me for my profit; would be in subjection to him, and live ||. I would bear thy strokes, not merely because I cannot resist them, but because I love and trust in thee. I would sweetly acquiesce and rest in thy will, as well as stoop to it; and would say, Good is the word of the Lord's; and I desire that not only my lips, but
* Psal. xcvii. 1. + Isai. xlv. 7. 1 Fzra ix. 13. § Lani. iii. 22. | Heb. xii. 9, 10. * 2 Kings xx. 19.