Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

I will not be afraid, though ten thousands of the people set themselves against me round about, says David ; and lest you think him singular, in the 46th Psalm it is the joint voice of the whole church of God: We will not fear, though the earth be removed and though the moun. lains be carried into the midst of the sea ; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God; the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High, God is in the midst of her ; she shall not be moved. This is the way to be immoveable in the midst of troubles, as a rock amidst the waves. When God is in the midst of a kingdom or city, he makes it firm as mount Sion, that cannot be removed. When he is in the midst of the soul, though calamities throng about it on all hands and roar like the billows of the sea, yet there is a constant calm within, such a peace as the world can neither give not take away. On the other side, what is it but want of lodging God in the soul, and that in his stead the world is in the midst of men's hearts, that makes them shake like the leaves of trees at every blast of danger? Wbat a shame is it, seeing natural men, by the strength of nature and by help of moral precepts, have attained such, undaunted resolution and courage against outward changes, that yet they who would pass for Christians, are so soft and fainting, and so sensible of the smallest alterations! The advantage that we have in this regard is infinite. What is the best ground-work of a philosopher's constancy, but as moving sands in comparison of the rock that we may build upon ? But the truth is, that either we make no provision of faith for times of trial, or, if we have any, we neither know the worth nor the use of it, but lay it by as a dead unprofitable thing, when we should most use and exercise it. Notwithstanding all our frequenting of God's house and our - plausible profession, is it not 100 true, that the most of us either do not at all furnish ourselves with those spiritual arms that are so, needful in the militant life of a Christian, or we learn not how to handle them, and are not in readiness for service? --as was the case of that improvident soldier, Dir. No. VIII.

G

whom bis commander found mending some piece of his armor, when they were to give battle. It were not amiss, before afflictions overtake us, to try and train the mind somewhat by supposing the very worst and hardest of them; to say, What if the waves and billows of adversity were swelled and flowing in upon me? could I then believe? God hath said, I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, with a heap of negations ; In no wise, I will not. He hath said, When thou passest through the fire and through the water, I will be with thee. These I know, and can discourse of them; but could I repose and rest upon them in the day of trial ? Put your souls to it. Is there any thing or person that you esteem and love exceedingly ?-say, What if I should lose this? Is there some evil that is naturally more contrary and terrible to you than many others ? Spare not to present that to the imagination too, and labor to make faith master of it before-band, in case it should befal.you; and if the first thought of it scare you, look upon it the oftener, till the visage of it become familiar to you, that you start and scare no more at it. Nor is there any danger in these thoughts. Troubles cannot be brought the nearer by our thus thinking on them, but you may be both safer and stronger by breathing and exercising of your faith in supposed cases. But if you be so tender spirited, that you cannot look upon calamities so much as in thought or fancy, how would you be able for a real encounter ? No, surely. But the soul that hath made God his stay, can do both. See it in that notable resolution of the prophet, Hab. iii, 17 : Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shull be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; and in that saying of David, Psal. xxiii, 4; Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. You see how faith is as cork to his soul, keeping it from sinking in the deeps of afflictions. Yea, that big word which one says of bis

[ocr errors]

morally just man, is true of the believer; “ Though the very fabric of the world were falling about him, yet would he stand upright and undaunted in the midst of its ruins.”

In this confidence, considered in itself, we may observe, 1, the object of it, The loving-kindness of the Lord ; 2, the manner or way by which

he expects to enjoy it, The Lord will command it ; 3, the time, In the day.

1. The object; his loving-kindness. He says not, The Lord will command my return to the house of God, or, will accomplish my deliverance from the heavy oppression and sharp reproaches of the enemy, which would have answered more particularly and expressly to his present griefs, but, will command his loving-kindness. And the reason of his thus expressing himself, I conceive to be two-fold. First, in the assurance of is, is necessarily comprised the certainty of all other good things. This special favor and benignity of the Lord, doth engage bis power and wisdom, both which you know are infinite, to the procurement of every thing truly good for those whom he so favors. Therefore it is, that David chooses rather to name the streams of particular mercies in this their living source and fountain, than to specify them severally. Nor is it only thus more compendious, but the expression is fuller too, which are the two great advantages of speech. And this I take to be the other reason-a man may enjoy great deliverances and many positive benefits from the hand of God, and yet have no share in his loving-kindness. How frequently doth God heap riches, and honor, and health on those he hates, and the common gifts of the mind too, wisdom and learning, yea, the common gifts of his own Spirit, and give a fair and long day of external prosperity to those on whom be never vouchsafed the least glance of his favorable countenance! Yea, on the contrary, he gives all those specious gifts to them with a secret curse. As he gave a king in wrath to his people, so he often gives kingdoms in his wrath to kings. Therefore David looks higher than the very kingdom which God promised him and gave thim, when he speaks of his loving-kindness. In a word, he resolves to solace himself with the assurance of this, though Le was stripped of all other comforts, and to quiet his soul berein, till deliverance should come; and when it should come, and whatsoever mercies with it, to receive them as fruits and effects of this loving-kindness ; not prizing them so much for themselves, as for the impressions of that love which is upon them. And it is that image and superscription that both engages and moves him most to pay bis tribute of praise. And truly this is every where David's temper. His frequent distresses and wants never excite him so much to desire any particular comfort in the creature, as to entreat the presence and favor of God him: self. His saddest times are when, to his sense, this favor is eclipsed. In my prosperity I said, I shall not be mooed. And what was bis adversity that made him of another mind? Thou didst hide thy fuce, and I was troubled. This verifies his position in that same psalm, In thy favor is life. Thus, in the 63rd psalm, at the beginning, My soul thirsteth for thee, in a dry land where no water is; not for water where there is none, but, for thee, where no water is. Therefore he adds in verse 3, Thy loving-kindness is better than life. And all that be truly wise are of this: 1

mind, and will subscribe to his choice. Let them enjoy this loving-kindness and prize it, because, whatever befals them, their happiness and joy is above the reach of all calamities. Let them be derided and reproached abroad, yet still this inward persuasion makes then glad and contented; as a rich man said, though the people hated and taunted him, yet wheu he came home and looked upon bis chests, " Egomet mihi plaudo domi.” With how much better reason do believers bear out external injuries ! Wbat inward contentment is theirs, when they consider themselves as truly enriched with the favor of God! And as this makes them contemn the contempts that the world puts upon them, so likewise it breeds in them a neglect and disdain of those poor

trifles that the world admires. The sum of tbeir desires is, as the cynic's was of the sun-shine, that the rays of the love of God may sbine constantly upon them. The favorable aspect and large. proffers of kings and princes,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

would be unwelcome to them, if they should stand betwixt them and the sight of that Sun. And truly they bave reason. What are the highest things the world affords? What are great honors and great estates, but great cares and griefs well dressed and colored over with a show of pleasure, that promise contentment and perform nothing but vexation? That they are not satisfying, is evident; for the obtaining of much of them doth but stretch the appetite, and teach men to desire more. They are not solid neither. Will not the pains of a gout, of a stranguary, or some such malady, to say nothing of the worst, the pains of a guilty conscience, blast all these delights? What relish finds a man in large revenues and stately buildings, in high preferments and honorable titles, when either his body or bis mind is in anguish? And besides the emptiness of all these things, you know they want one main point, continuance. But the loving-kindness of God hath all requisites to make the soul happy. O satisfy us early with thy goodness or mercy, says Moses, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days, Psal. xc, 14. There is fulness in that for the vastest desires of the soul-satisfy us; there is solid contentment that begets true joy and gladness; and there is permanency-all our days. It is the only comfort of this life, and the assurance of a better. This were a large subject to insist on, but certainly the naming of his loving-kindness should beget in each heart a high esteem of it, an ardent desire after it. And if it do so with you, then know, that it is only to be found in the way of holiness. He is a holy God, and can love nothing that is altogether unlike himself. There must always be some similitude and conformity of nature to ground kindness and friendship upon, and to maintain it. That saying is true, “Similarity of principles and tastes is the foundation of friendship.” What gross self-flattery is it, to think that God's loving-kindness can be towards you, while you are in love with sin, which be so perfectly bates ! How can the profane swearer, or voluptuous person, or the oppressor and covetous, or the close lypocrite, worse than any of them, rest upon the loving-kindness of the Lord in the day of troubles ? No, surely; but the terror of his

« EelmineJätka »