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break upon us ;
we cannot imagine the rage of Satan to be abated, now that his kingdom haltens to its period, Rev. xii. 12. nor are his instruments grown less cruel, and skilful to destroy, The land, indeed, hath enjoyed a long rest, and this generation is acquainted with little more of martyrdom, than what the histories of former times inform us of: But yet let no man befool himself with a groundless expectation of continuing tranquillity: Augustine thinks that the bloody sweat which over-ran the body of Christ in the garden, fignified the (narp and grievous suffer
ings which in bis mystical body he should afterwards endure ; 6 and indeed it is a truth, that these are also called the remains of
Christ's sufferings, Col. i. 24. His personal sufferings were in is deed compleated at his resurrection, that cup was full to the en brim, to which no drop of sufferings can be added; but his suf
ferings in his mystical body are not yet full; by his personal sufferings he fully fatisfied the wrath of God, but the fufferings of his people have not yet fatisfied the wrath of men : Though millions of precious faints have thed their blood for Christ, whofe fouls are now cryiog under the altar, How long, Lord! how long! get there are many more coming on behind, in the fame path of perfecution, and much Christian blood must yet be shed, before the mystery of God be finished; and notwithlanding this lucid interval, the clouds seem to be returning again after the rain. Thus you see to what grievous sufferings the merciful God hath sometimes called his dearest people.
Now God may be said to call forth his people to suffer, when he fo hedgeth them in by providence, that there is no way to escape suffering, but by finning; whatsoever providence labours with such a dilemma as this, is a plain fignification of God's will to us in that case. We may not now expect extraordinary calls to suffering work, as some of the saints bad of old, Gen. xxii. 2. Acts is. 16. but when our way is so shut up by providence, that we cannot avoid suffering, but by stepping over the hedge of the command, God will have us look upon that exigence as his call to suffer : And if the reasons be demanded, why the Lord, who is so inclined to mercy, doth often hedge in his own people, by his providence, in a suffering path; let us know, that in to doing, he doth both,
1. Illustrate his own glory. And,
2. Promote his people's happiness. First, Hereby the most wise God doth illustrate the glory of his own nam clearing up the righteousness of his ways by the fufferings of his own people : By this the world (hall fee, that how well foever he loves them, he will not indulge or pa.
tropize their fias; if they will be fo disingenuous to abuse bit favours, he will be so jost to make them fuffer for their fins, and by those very sufferings will provide for his own glory, which was by them clouded in the eyes of the world. He hates
So not lia a jot the less, because it is found in his owo people, Amos iii. 2. And though, for the magoifying of his mercy, he will pardon their fins, yet, for the clearing of his righteouf nels, he will take vengeance upon their inventions, Pfal
. xcix. 8.
Moreover, by exposing his people to such grievous suffer ings, he gives a fit opportunity to manifeft the glory of his pow. er in their support, and of his wisdom, in the marvellous ways of their escape and deliverance. It is one of the greatest wor ders in the world, how the church subfills uoder such fierce and frequent assaults as are made upon it by its enemies.
" I will “ corn afide (faid Moses) and see this great fight, why the buh " is not'consumed,” Exod. iii. 3. That Alaming bush was a lively emblem of the oppressed church in Egypt; the cracklinge Aames noted the heat of their perfecution, the remaining the bush uncoolumed in the flames, figoified the wonderful power of God in their preservation : No people are so privileg ed, so protected, fo delivered, as the people of God.' Much less opposition than hath been made against the church, halb ka overturned, and utterly destroyed, the mighty mogarchies of a the world.
- Sic Medus ademit
do That, in its turn, fell by Rome at last.' And no less admirable is the wisdom of God, in frustrating and defeating the most deep, and desperate de ligos of hell 2: gainst his poor people. Now, you may see the most wise God going beyond a malicious and subtle devil, overturning in : moment the deep laid desigos, and contrivances of many years, and that at the very birth and point of execution, Efth. vi
. I. foaring the wicked in the works of their own hands; making their own tongues to fall upon them; working out such mar
* Claudian, lib, 3. in laudes Stillicones.
re De CL
Hellous falvations with his own hand, as fills them with altoDishment aod wonder. Pfal. cxxvi. 7.
" When the Lord tora. " ed back the captivity of Zion, we were like them that " dreamed."
Secondly, As God provides for his own glory, by the suffer. ings and troubles of his people; so he advanceth their happi. pess, and greatly promotes their interest thereby.
For, Firt, These troubles are ordered as so many occasions and means to mortify the corruptions that are in their hearts; there are rank weeds springing up in the best soil, which need such winter weather to rot them : And, certainly, if we reckon bumility, heavenly-mindedness, contempt of the world, and longiog delires after heaven, to be the real interest and advantage of the church; then it is evident, nothing so much promotes their intereft, as a fuffering coudition doch: Adversity kills those corruptions which prosperity bred.
Secondly, By these trials their sincerity is cleared, to the joy and satisfaction of their own hearts; many a doubt and fear, which had long entangled and perplexed them, is removed and answered. When adversity hath given them proof, and trial of their own hearts, one sharp trial wherein God helps us to be faithful, will do more to satisfy our fears, and resolve our doubts, than all the sermons that ever we heard in our lives could do.
Thirdly, These sufferings and trials of the church, are ordained to free it of abundance of hypocrites, which were its reproach, as well as burden, Amos ix. 9, 10. AMiction is a fora nace to separate the dross from the more pure and noble gold. Multitudes of hypocrites, like flies in a hot summer, are genc. rated by the church's prosperity ; but this wioter weather kills them : Many gaudy professors grow within the inclosure of the church, like beautiful flowers in the field, where they stand, during its peace and prosperity, in the pride and bravery of their gifts and professions ; but the wind passeth over them, and they are gone, and their places fhall koow them no more ; to allude to that in Psalm cii. 16. Thuoder and lightning is Very terrible weather, but exceeding useful to purify and cleanse the air.
Fourthly, The church's sufferings are ordered and fanctified, to endear them to each other. Times of common suffering, are times of reconciliation, and greater endearments among the people of God; never more endeared, than when most perfecuted ; Dever more united, than when most scattered, Mal. îi. Vol. VII.
17. “ Then they that feared the Lord, ipake often one to allo" ther.” Certainly there is something in our fellowship in the fame fufferings, that is endearing and engaging; but there is much more in the discoveries that perfecution makes of the fio. cerity of our hearts, which, it may be, was before entertained with jealousy; and there is get more than all this in the reproofs of the rod, whereby they are humbled for their pride, wantonnels, and bitterness of their spirits to each other, and made to cry, in the sense of these transgreffions, as Pfal. Ixx. 8. “ Remember cot against us former iniquities.”
Lastly, By these troubles and distrefies, they are awakened to their duties, and taught to pray more frequently, fpiritually
, and fervently. Ah! what drowsiness and formality is apt to creep in upon the best hearts, in the time of prosperity; but when the storm rises, and the sea grows turbulent and raging, Dow they cry, as the disciples to Chrift, Lord, fave us, perish. They say music is sweetest upon the waters ; I am fure the sweetest melody of prayer is upon the deep waters of affic tion : For these, among many other righteous, wife, and holy ends, the Lord permits and orders the perfecutions and distres. fes of his people.
с н А Р. III. Shews, that it is usual with God to premonish his people of ap
proaching trials and sufferings ; with some account of the man: ner how, and the reafon wby he so forewarns them.
S Paul had many clear premonitions and fore-notices of the
sufferings that should befal him at Jerusalem, that he might Dot be surprized by them when they came ; so it is usual with God (though not in such an immediate and extraordinary a manner) to admonish the world, and especially his own people
, of great trials and sufferings before-hand. Amos iii. 7. « “ the Lord will do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets uito “ his servants the prophets.”
Thus, when he was about to bring the flood upon the world, he gave one hundred and twenty years warning of it before it came, Gen. vi. 3. and when he was to destroy Sodom, he faith, Gen. xviii. 17. “ Shall I hide from Abraham the thing " that I do ?” And the like discovery he made about the fame judgment to Lot, Gen. xix. 12, 13, 14.
So when the captivi ty of the Jews was nigh at hand, the people had many
warnings of it; God forewarned them both ministerially and providentially; he warded them by the prophets, Ezek. iii. 17.,
Hear the word of my mouth, and give them warning from
me” And when the time drew nigh to execute the judge ment determioed upon Jerusalem, and the temple, how plainly did Chrilt foretel them of it ? Luke xix. 43, 44.
66 Thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee " round, and keep thee ia on every side, and shall lay thee e" ven with the ground, and thy children within thee.”
And when the storm was just ready to fall, * their own historian tells us, a voice was heard in the temple, saying, Migremus hinc, Let us go hence. " Which voice + Tacitus also men. tions in his annals, affirming it to be more than a human
voice, telling them God was departing, and that it was ac. companied with a rushing noise, as of persons going out. * These were extraordinary warnings.' The like signs have, been given to divers other nations, by dreadful eclipses of the heavenly bodies, portentous comets, earthquakes, and other sigos, of judgment.
Now, though we have no ground to expect such extraordiDary wardings, yet we have the most apparent and certain signs of approaching calamities ; after which, if they surprize us, the fault must lie in our own iDexcusable negligence; for we have a landing role to govero ourlelves in this matter, and that is this ; " When the same sips are found in one nation, which have • brought down the wrath of God upon another nation, it is. (an evident sign of judgment at the door; for God is unchange• able, just, and holy, and will not favour that in one people, • which he hath punished in another, nor bless that in one age,
which he hath cursed in another. Upon this very ground it was, that the apostle warned the Corinthians, by the example of the Israelites, whose fios had ruined them in the wilderness, i Cor. x. 6. “ Now these things were our examples, to the in
tent we should not lust after evil things, as they also ľusted.” As if he should say, Look upon those dead bodies which are, as it were, cast up upon the same scripture-shore for a wardiog to you : Follow oot the fame course, lest you meet in the same curse; if you tread the fame paths, expect the same punishment. God is as righteous now, as he was then; he hates, and will punish sio in you, as much as he did in them.
* Josephus de bello Jud. lib. 7. cap. 2
+ Audita major humana vox excedere Deos, fimul ingens motus fxcedentium, Tacitus, lib. 21.