« AnteriorContinuar »
THE FAITH AND PATIENCE OF THE SAINTS; OR, THE
RIGHTEOUS CAUSE OPPRESSED.
PART I. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of
God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them
that obey not the Gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly
and the sinner appear?-1 Peter, iv, 17, 18. So long as the world lived by sense, and discourses of natural reason, as they were abated with human infirmities, and not at all heightened by the Spirit and divine revelations; so long men took their accounts of good and bad by their being prosperous or unfortunate: and amongst the basest and most ignorant of men, that only was accounted honest which was profitable; and he only wise, that was rich; and those men beloved of God, who received from him all that might satisfy their lust, their ambition, of their revenge.
Fatis accede, Deisque,
Ut distant, ut flamma mari, sic utile recto *. But because God sent wise men into the world, and they were treated rudely by the world, 'and exercised with evil accidents, and this seemed so great a discouragement to virtue, that even these wise men were more troubled to reconcile virtue and misery, than to reconcile their affections to the suffering; God was pleased to enlighten their reason with a little beam of faith, or else heightened their reason by wiser principles than those of vulgar understandings, and taught them in the clear glass of faith, or the dim perspective of philosophy, to look beyond the cloud, and there to spy that there stood glories behind their curtain, to which they could not come but by passing through the cloud, and being wet with the dew of heaven and the waters of afflic
* Lucan. Phars. 8. 186. Oudend.
tion. And according as the world grew more enlightened by faith, so it grew more dark with mourning and sorrows. God sometimes sent a light of fire, and a pillar of a cloud, and the brightness of an angel, and the lustre of a star, and the sacrament of a rainbow, to guide his people through their portion of sorrows, and to lead them through troubles to rest: but as the Sun of Righteousness approached towards the chambers of the east, and sent the harbingers of light peeping through the curtains of the night, and leading on the day of faith and brightest revelation; so God sent de grees of trouble upon wise and good men, that now, in the same degree in the which the world lives by faith, and not by sense, in the same degree they might be able to live in virtue even while she lived in trouble, and not reject so great a beauty, because she goes in mourning, and hath a black cloud of cyprus drawn before her face. Literally thus: God first entertained their services, and allured and prompted on the infirmities of the infant-world by temporal prosperity; but by degrees changed his method ; and, as men grew stronger in the knowledge of God, and the expectations of heaven, so they grew weaker in their fortunes, more afflicted in their bodies, more abated in their expectations, more subject to their enemies, and were to endure the contradiction of sinners, and the immission of the sharpnesses of Providence and divine economy.
First, Adam was placed in a garden of health and pleasure, from which when he fell, he was only tied to enter into the covenant of natural sorrows, which he and all his posterity till the flood ran through: but in all that period they had the whole wealth of the earth before them; they needed not fight for empires, or places for their cattle to graze in; they lived long, and felt no want, no slavery, no tyranny, no war; and the evils that happened, were single, personal, and natural; and no violences were then done, but they were like those things which the law calls 'rare contingencies;' for which as the law can now take no care and make no provisions, so then there was no law, but men lived free, and rich, and long, and they exercised no virtues but natural, and knew no felicity but natural: and so long their prosperity was just as was their virtue, because it was a natural instrument towards all that which they knew of happi
ness. But this public easiness and quiet, the world turned into sin ; and unless God did compel men to do themselves good, they would undo themselves: and then God broke in upon theń with a flood, and destroyed that generation, that he might begin the government of the world upon a new stock, and bind virtue upon men's spirits by new bands, endeared to them by new hopes and fears.
Then God made new laws, and gave to princes the power of the sword, and men might be punished to death in certain cases, and man's life was shortened, and slavery was brought into the world and the state of servants: and then war began, and evils multiplied upon the face of the earth; in which it is naturally certain that they that are most violent and injurious, prevailed upon the weaker and more innocent; and every tyranny that began from Nimrod to this day, and every usurper, was a peculiar argument to shew that God began to teach the world virtue by suffering; and that therefore he suffered tyrannies and usurpations to be in the world, and to be prosperous, and the rights of men to be snatched away from the owners, that the world might be established in potent and settled governments, and the sufferers be taught all the passive virtues of the soul. For so God brings good out of evil, turning tyranny into the benefits of government, and violence into virtue, and sufferings into rewards. And this was the second change of the world : personal miseries were brought in upon Adam and his posterity, as a punishment of sin in the first period; and in the second, public evils were brought in by tyrants and usurpers, and God suffered them as the first elements of virtue, men being just newly put to school to infant sufferings. But all this was not much.
Christ's line was not yet drawn forth; it began not to appear in what family the King of sufferings should descend, till Abraham's time; and therefore, till then there were no greater sufferings than what I have now reckoned. But when Abraham's family was chosen from among the many nations, and began to belong to God by a special right, and he was designed to be the father of the Messias ; then God found out a new way to try him, even with a sound affliction, commanding him to offer his beloved Isaac: but this was accepted, and being intended by Abraham, was not intended by God: for this was a type of Christ, and therefore was also
but a type of sufferings. And excepting the sufferings of the old periods, and the sufferings of nature, and accident, we see no change made for a long time after; but God having established a law in Abraham's family, did build it upon promises of health, and peace, and victory, and plenty, and riches; and so long as they did not prevaricate the law of their God, so long they were prosperous: but God kept a remnant of Canaanites in the land, like a rod held over them, to vex or to chastise them into obedience, in which while they persevered, nothing could hurt them; and that saying of David needs no other sense but the letter of its own expression, “I have been young, and now am old; and yet I never saw the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread.” The godly generally were prosperous, and a good cause seldom had an ill end, and a good man never died an ill death,-till the law had spent a great part of its time, and it descended towards its declension and period. But, that the great Prince of sufferings might not appear upon his stage of tragedies without some forerunners of sorrow, God was pleased to choose out some good men, and honour them, by making them to become little images of suffering. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah, were martyrs of the law; but these were single deaths: Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, were thrown into a burning furnace, and Daniel into a den of lions, and Susanna was accused for adultery; but these were but little arrests of the prosperity of the godly. As the time drew nearer that Christ should be manifest, so the sufferings grew bigger and more numerous : and Antiochus raised up a sharp persecution in the time of the Maccabees, in which, many passed through the red sea of blood into the bosom of Abraham; and then Christ came. And that was the third period in which the changed method of God's providence was perfected : for Christ was to do his great work by sufferings, and by sufferings was to enter into blessedness; and by his passion he was made Prince of the catholic church, and as our head was, so must the members be. God made the same covenant with us that he did with his most holy Son, and Christ obtained no better conditions for us than for himself; that was not to be looked for; “ The servant must not be above his master; it is well if he be as his master: if the world persecuted him, they will also persecute us:" and
“from the days of John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force;" not the violent doers, but the sufferers of violence:' for though the old law was established in the promises of temporal prosperity; yet the Gospel is founded in temporal adversity; it is directly a covenant of sufferings and sorrows; for now “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” That is the sense and design of the text; and I intend it as a direct antimony to the common persuasions of tyrannous, carnal, and vicious men, who reckon nothing good but what is prosperous : for though that proposition had many degrees of truth in the beginning of the law, yet the case is now al. tered, God hath established its contradictory; and now every good man must look for persecution, and every good cause must expect to thrive by the sufferings and patience of holy persons: and, as men do well, and suffer evil, so they are dear to God; and whom he loves most, he afflicts most, and does this with a design of the greatest mercy in the world.
1. Then, the state of the Gospel is a state of sufferings, not of temporal prosperities. This was foretold by the prophets: “A fountain shall go out of the house of the Lord, ‘et irrigabit torrentem spinarum' (so it is in the Vulgar Latin), and it shall water the torrent of thornsy,” that is, the state or time of the Gospel, which, like a torrent, shall carry all the world before it, and, like a torrent, shall be fullest in ill weather; and by its banks shall grow nothing but thorns and briers, sharp afflictions, temporal infelicities, and persecution. This sense of the words is more fully explained in the book of the prophet Isaiah. “Upon the ground of my people shall thorns and briers come up; how much more in all the houses of the city of rejoicinga? Which prophecy is the same in the style of the prophets, that my text is in the style of the Apo i stles. The house of God shall be watered with the dew of heaven, and there shall spring up briers in it: 'Judgment must begin there;' but how much more in the houses of the city of rejoicing ?' how much more amongst them that are at ease in Sion,' that serve their desires, that satisfy their appetites, that are given over to their own heart's lust, that so serve themselves, that they never serve God, that dwell in the city of rejoicing?' They are like Dives, whose portion was
y Joel, iii. 10.
2 xxxii, 13.