Page images

rit and the heat of his blood, eagerly pursues his carnal delights; as thinking of no heaven, but the free delectation of his sense: and compare thy present estate with his. Here thou liest, groaning, and sighing, and panting, and shifting thy weary sides, complaining of the heavy pace of thy tedious hours; while he is frolicking with his jocund companions, carousing his large healths, sporting himself with his wanton mistress, and bathing himself in all sensual pleasures and tell me, whether of the two thou thinkest in the happier condition. Surely, if thou be not shrunk into nothing but mere sense, if thou hast not cast off all thoughts of another world, thou shalt pity the misery of that godless jollity; and gratulate to thyself the advantage of thine humble and faithful suffering, as that, which shall at last make thee an abundant amends by yielding thee the peaceable fruit of righteousness; Heb. xii. 11.

SECT. 5.

The greater sufferings of holier men; and the resolutions of hea


THY pain is grievous:-I apprehend it such, and pity thee with all my soul. But let me tell thee it is not such, but that holier men have suffered more.

Dost thou not hear the great precedent of patience crying out from his dunghill, Oh, that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamities laid in the balance together! for now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up. For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirits: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me? Job. vi. 2, 3, 4.

Dost thou not hear the man after God's own heart speak of the voice of his roaring? Ps. xxii. 1. Dost thou not see him, that shrunk not from the bear, the lion, the giant, drenching his bed with his tears? Ps. vi. 6.

Dost thou not hear the Faithful crying out, I am the man, that hath suffered affliction by the rod of his wrath, &c. Surely against me is he turned: he turneth his hand against me all the day. My flesh and skin hath he made old: he hath broken my bones; Lam. iii. 1, 3, 4.

Might I not easily shew thee the Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, the great favourites of heaven, some on the gridirons, others in boiling caldrons; some on the spits, others under the saws; some in the flames, others crashed with the teeth of wild beasts; some on the racks, others in fiery furnaces: most of them in such torments, as, in comparison whereof, thy pains are but sports?

Yea, what speak I of these mortal, and, at the best, sinful men; when thou mayest see the Son of God, the Lord of Life, the King of Glory, God blessed for ever, sweating drops of blood in his dread

ful agony; and mayest hear him cry upon the tree of shame and curse, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Alas, what are we capable to suffer, in proportion of these tortures? Who are we, that we should think much to share with the best of God's Saints; yea, with the dear and eternal Son of his Love, our ever Blessed Redeemer? Had not God found this the way to their heaven, they had not trod so deep in blood: why do we grudge to wet our feet, where they waded?

Yea, if, from these holy ones, thou shalt turn thine eyes to some mere Pagans, let me shew thee the man, whom we are wont to account infamous for voluptuousness, Epicurus, the Philosopher; who, on his dying day, when he lay extremely tormented with the stone in the bladder, and a tearing cholic in his bowels, as it were gasping for life: yet, even then, writing to his Idomenius, can, out of the strength of his resolutions, profess his cheerfulness, and can style even that day blessed. It was the same mouth, that could boast that if he were frying in the brazen bull of Phalaris, he could there find contentment. What should I tell thee of a Mutius Scavola, who, in a glorious revenge, voluntarily burns off his own right-hand; not without the envy and pity of his enemies? or of a Regulus, that, after so high a provocation, offers himself to the worst of the merciless fury of his tormentors? "Why shouldst thou think it strange," saith wise Seneca, "that some men should be well pleased to be scorched, to be wounded, to be racked, to be killed? Frugality is a pain to the riotous: labour is a punishment to the lazy: continence is a misery to the wanton: study is a torture to the slothful. All these things are not, in their own nature, difficult; but we are feeble and false-hearted."

Shall these Pagans attain to this height of magnanimity, out of the bravery of their manly resolutions; and shall we Christians droop and pule under gentler sufferings, while we profess to have moreover the advantage of faith to uphold and cheer us? Poor Heathen souls! they never heard of any gracious engagements of a merciful God to stand by them, and to comfort them: they never had met with those sweet messages from heaven, Call upon me in the day of thy trouble, and thou shalt glorify me; Ps. 1. 15: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; Matt. xi. 28: Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees: Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence: he will come and save you; Is. xxxv. 3, 4. They had not the heart of a Job; to say, I know that my Redeemer liveth; nor the eyes of a Stephen, to pierce the heaven, and to see their Saviour standing at the right-hand of God: but merely tugged it out, in the strength of their natural courage; heightened with a vain-glorious ambition of the fame, which they did believe would survive them whereas, we Christians know that we have a God, the Father of all Mercies, to stand by us; a Redeemer, to deliver us; a Comforter, to strengthen and refresh us; sweet and unfail

able promises, to sustain us; and, at last, a crown of eternal glory, to recompense us.

SECT. 6.

Our sufferings far below our deservings.

THOU art pained with sickness:-Look not at what thou feelest, but at what thou hast deserved to feel. Why doth the living man complain? Man suffereth for his sin; Lam. iii. 39. Alas, the wages of every sin is death; a double death; of body, of soul; temporal, eternal. Any thing below this, is mercy. There is not the least of thy many thousand transgressions, but hath merited the infinite wrath of a just God; and, thereby, more torments, than thou art capable to undergo.

What! dost thou complain of ease? Where thou owedst a thousand talents, thou art bidden to take thy bill, and sit down and write fifty; Luke xvi. 6: wilt thou not magnify the clemency of so favourable a creditor? Surely, were every twig, wherewith thou smartest, a scorpion; and every breath, that thou sendest forth, a flame; this were yet less than thy due. Oh, the infinite goodness of our indulgent Father, that takes up with so gentle a correction!

Tell me, thou nice and delicate patient, if thou canst not bear these stripes, how wilt thou be able to endure those, that are infinitely sorer? Alas, what are these to that hell, which abides for the impatient? There, are exquisite pains, without mitigation; eternal pains, without intermission; which thou canst neither suffer nor avoid. Fear them, while thou grudgest at these. Lay thyself low, under the hand of thy good God; and be thankful for a tolerable misery.

How graciously hath the wisdom of our God thought fit to temper our afflictions; so contriving them, that, if they be sharp, they are not long; and if they be long, they are not over sharp; that our strength might not be over-laid by our trials, either way!

Be content, man: either thy languishment shall be easy, or thy pain soon over. Extreme and everlasting are terms reserved for God's enemies, in the other world. That is truly long, which hath no end that is truly painful, which is not capable of any relaxation. What a short moment is it, that thou must suffer? short, yea nothing, in respect of that eternity, which thou canst either hope for or fear. Smart a while patiently, that thou mayst not be infinitely miserable.

SECT. 7.

The benefit of the exercise of our patience.

THOU Complainest of pain:-What use were there of thy patience, if thou ailest nothing? God never gives virtues, without an in

tent of their exercise. To what purpose were our Christian valour, if we had no enemy to encounter?

Thus long thou hast lain quiet in a secure garrison, where thou hast heard no trumpet but thine own; and hast turned thy drums into a dicing-table; lavishing out thy days in varieties of idle recreations now, God draws thee forth into the field, and shews. thee an enemy: where is thy Christian fortitude, if thou shrink back; and, cowardly wheeling about, chusest rather to make use of thy heels, than of thy hands? Doth this beseem thee, who professest to fight under his colours, who is the great Conqueror of Death and Hell? Is this the way to that happy victory, which shall carry away a crown of glory?

My son, if thou faint in the day of thine adversity, thy strength is but small. Stir up thy holy courage: Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might; Eph. vi. 10. Buckle close with that fierce enemy, wherewith thy God would have thee assaulted: looking up to him, who hath said, and cannot fail to perform it; Be faithful to the death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

SECT. 8.

The necessity of expecting sickness.

THOU art surprised with sickness:-Whose fault is this, but thine own? Who bade thee not to look for so sure a guest ?

The very frame of thy body should have put thee into other thoughts. Dost thou see this living fabric made up, as a clock consisting of so many wheels and gimmers? and couldst thou imagine, that some of them should not be ever out of order? Couldst thou think, that a cottage, not too strongly built, and standing so bleak in the very mouth of the winds, could, for any long time, hold tight and unreaved? Yea, dost thou not rather wonder, that it hath out-stood so many blustering blasts, thus long, utterly unruined? or that the wires of that engine should so long have held pace with time?

It was scarce a patient question, which Job asked, Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh as brass; Job vi. 12. No, alas, Job, thy best metal is but clay; and thine, as all flesh, is grass: the clay mouldereth, and the grass withereth: what do we make account of any thing but misery and fickleness, in this woeful region of change? If we will needs over-reckon our condition, we do but help to aggravate our own wretchedness.

SECT. 9.

God's most tender regard to us in sickness.

THOU art retired to thy sick bed:-Be of good comfort: God was never so near thee, never so tenderly indulgent to thee, as now.

The whole, saith our Saviour, need not the physician; but the sick. Lc, the physician, as being made for the time of necessity, cometh not but where there is need: where need is, he will not fail to come; Ecclus. xxxviii. 1. Our need is motive enough to him, who himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses; Matt. viii. 17. Our health estranges him from us. While thou art his patient, he cannot be kept off from thee. The Lord, saith the Psalmist, will strengthen thee upon the bed of languishing. Thou will make all his bed in his sickness; Ps. xli. 3. Lo, the Heavenly Comforter doth not only visit, but attend thee; and, if thou find thy paliet uneasy, he shall turn and soften it for thy repose.

Canst thou not read God's gracious indulgence, in thine own disposition? Thou art a parent of children: perhaps, thou findest cause to affect one more than another, though all be dear enough; but, if any one of them be cast down with a feverous distemper, now thou art more carefully busy about him than all the rest: how thou pitiest him! how thou pliest him with offers and recipes! with what silent anxiety dost thou watch by his couch! listening for every of his breathings; jealous of every whispering, that might break off his slumber; answering every of his groans, with so many sighs; and, in short, so making of him for the time, that thy greatest darling seems the while neglected in comparison of this more needful charge! How much more shall the Father of Mercies be compassionately intent upon the sufferings of his dear children, according to the proportion of their afflictions!

SECT. 10.

The comfortable end of our sufferings.

THOU art wholly taken up with the extremity of thy pains:-Alas, poor soul, thy purblind eyes see nothing, but what is laid close to thee. It is thy sense, which thou followest; but where is thy faith? Couldst thou look to the end of thy sufferings, thou couldst not but rejoice in tribulations. Let patience have her perfect work, and thou shalt once say, It is well for me that I was afflicted.

Thou mightest be jocund long enough, ere thy jollity could make thee happy: yea, Woe be to them, that laugh here; Luke vi. 25: but, on the contrary, our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding, and eternal weight of glory; 2 Cor. iv. 17. O blessed improvement of a few groans! O glorious issue of a short brunt of sorrow! What do we going for Christians, if we be nothing but mere flesh and blood? And if we be more, we have more cause of joy than complaint: for while our outward man perisheth, our inward man is renewed daily; 2 Cor. iv. 16. Our outward man is but flesh our inward is spirit; infinitely more noble than this living clay, that we carry While our spirit, therefore, gains more than our flesh

about us.

« PreviousContinue »