« PreviousContinue »
break upon us; we cannot imagine the rage of Satan to be a1 bated, now that his kingdom haltens to its period, Rev. xii. 12.
por are his instruments growu 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 his stories of former times ioform 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 E of Christ in the garden, signified the sharp and grievous suffer
ings which in his mystical body he should afterwards endure ;
and indeed it is a truth, that these are also called the remains of 1Christ's sufferings, Col. i. 24. His perfonal sufferings were in, his deed compleated at his resurrection, that cup was tull to the er brim, to which no drop of sufferings can be added; but his fuf
ferings in his mystical body are aot yet full; by his personal sufferings he fully fatisfied the wrath of God, but the fufferings of
his people have not yet satisfied the wrath of men : Though en millions of precious saints have shed their blood for Christ,
whose souls are now cryiog under the altar, How long, Lord! p how long! get there are many more coming on behind, in the
fame path of perfecution, and much Christian blood must yet ji be shed, before the mystery of God be finished; and notwith- standing this lucid interval, the clouds seem to be returning
again after the rain. Thus you see to what grievous sufferings has the merciful God hath sometimes called his dearest people.
Now God may be said to call forth his people to suffer, when ni he fo hedgeth them in by providence, that there is no way to
escape suffering, but by finning; whatsoever providence labours i with such a dilemma as this, is a plain signification of God's
will to us in that case. We may not now expect extraordinary. calls to suffering work, as some of the saints had of old, Gen. xxii. 2. Acts ix. 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 oflen hedge in his owo people, by his providence, in a suffering path; let us koow, that is lo 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 sim , clearing up the righteousness of his ways by the sufferings of his own people : By this the world thall see, that how well foever he loves them, he will not indulge or pa.
the bo noted the heat oppressed chur That faming why the
tropize their fios; if they will be so difiogenuous to abuse his pelous lal va favours, he will be so joft to make them suffer for their fins, and by those very sufferings' will provide for his own glory,
e back which was by them clouded in the eyes of the world. He hates not lin a jot the less, because it is found in his owo people, candy, Amos iii. 2. And though, for the magoifying of his mercy, Fanders he will pardon their fins, get, for the clearing of his righteous. E and g ness, he will take vengeance upon their inventions, Plal. , Fir xcix. 8.
beans Moreover, by exposing his people to such grievous suffer fat are ra. ings, he gives a fit opportunity to manifest the glory of his pow. water er in their support, and of his wisdom, in the marvellous ways fality, of their escape and deliverance. It is one of the greatest wor“ pgg deli ders io the world, how the church subans uoder such fierce and I the chur frequent assaults as are made upon it by its enemies. “ I will rar interes • corn aside (faid Moses) aod see this great fighi, why the bush corrup “ is not consumed,” Exod. iii. 3. That Aaming bush was a secondly, lively emblem of the oppressed church in Egypt; the crackling larisfa& Aames noted the heat of their persecution, the remaioing of fact had the bush uncoolumed in the flames, sigoified the wonderful pered. power of God in their preservation : No people are so privilegtheir own ed, so protected, fo delivered, as the people of God. Much lächful. less opposition than hath been made against the church, hath jobts, th overturned, and utterly destroyed, the mighty monarchies of pould do the world.
Sic Medus ademit
"Then Persia suok by Macedonia prest,
• That, in its turn, fell by Rome at last.' And no less admirable is the wisdom of God, in frustrating these a and defeating the most deep, and desperate deligos of hell a felade gainst his poor people. Now, you may see the most wile God in territ going beyond a malicious and fubtle devil, overturning in het moment the deep laid deligos, and cootrivances of many years, I courth! .and that at the very birth and point of execution, Elth. Pl. l. rudear foaring the wicked in the works of their own hands; makiaz their owo tongues to fall upon them ; working out luch mare
* Claudian, lib, 3. in laudes Stillicones.
Hellous salvations with his own hand, as fills them with altonishment and wonder. Plal. cxxvi. y. " When the Lord tara. "ed back the captivity of Zion, we were like them that
Secondly, As God provides for his own glory, by the fuffer. ings and troubles of his people; so he advanceth their happi.
Dess, and greatly promotes their interest thereby. i 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-mindedoess, contempt of the world, and longing delires after heaven, to be the real interest and advantage of the church ; then it is evident, gothing so much promotes their intereft, as a suffering condition 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 apd fear, which had long entangled and perplexed them, is removed and answered. When adversity hath given them proof, aod 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, 16. Affliction is a fur. nace to separate the dross from the more pure and poble gold. Multitudes of hypocrites, like flies in a hot fummer, are gencó rated by the church's prosperity ; but this wioter weather kills them : Many gaudy professors grow withio the inclosore of the church, like beautiful Aowers in the field, where they stand, during its peace aod prosperity, in the pride and bravery of their gifts and professions ; but the wiad passeth over them, and they are gone, and their places shall koow them no more ; to allude to that in Psalm ciii. 16. Thunder 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 eodear them to each other. Times of common suffering, are times of reconciliation, and greater endearments among the people of God; never more endeared, thao when most perfe. cuted; never more united, than when most scattered, Mal. ii. VOL. VII,
27. “ Then they that feared the Lord, ipake often one to anotas
“ther.” Certainly there is something in our fellowship in cheie ' fame sufferings, that is endearing and engaging; but there is the much more in the discoveries that perfecution makes of the 110 2: cerity of our hearts, which, it asay be, was before entertained d with jealousy ; and there is get more than all this in the roch proofs of the rod, whereby they are humbled for their pride, no wantonness, and bitterness of their fpirits to each other, and 200 made to cry, in the sense of these transgressions, as Pfal. Ixx. 6. La « Remember not against us former iniquities."
Lastly, By these troubles and distresses, they are awakened the their duties, and taught to pray more frequently, fpiritually, the and fervently. Ah! what drowsiness and formality is apt uit dins creep in upon the best hearts, in the time of prosperity; balioica when the storm rises, and the sea grows turbulent and raging.com dow they cry, as the disciples to Christ, Lord, fave us, wie perish. They say music is sweetest upon the waters ; I am for king the sweetest melody of prayer is upon the deep waters of affic tion : For these, among many other righteous, wise, and house juu ends, the Lord permits and orders the perfecutions and diled to ses of his people.
CH A P. III." Shews, that it is usual with God to premonis his people of • proaching trials and sufferings; with some account of the main
ner how, and the reafon why he fo forewarns them.
A S Paul had many clear premonitions and fore-notices of the
sufferings that should befal him at Jerufalem, that he might nos, Dot be surprized by them when they came ; so it is usual with the God (though not in such an immediate and extraordinary a ma 16 Der) to admonish the world, and especially his owo people, " great trials and sufferings before-hand. Amos iii. 7 " Surei di " the Lord will do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets uit si “ his servants the prophets."
Thus, when he was about to bring the flood upon the world for he gave one hundred and twenty years warning of it before Il mez came, Gen. vi. 3. and when he was to destroy Sodom, ke 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 capria ty of the Jews was nigh at hand, the people had mapy fore.
the worde warned themed them to
The best Work in the worst Times. 309 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 judg.
mear determioed upon Jerusalem, and the temple, how plainly adid Christ foretel them of it! Luke xix. 43, 44. “ 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 histopriad tells us, a voice was heard in the temple, saying, Migre..
mus hinc, Let us go hence. " Which voice + Tacitus also menstions in his annals, affirmiog 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 ligos have, 1. 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 warpings, yet we have the most apparent and certaio 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 fame fios 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 unchangeable, just, and holy, and will not favour that in one people, ' which he hath pupilhed 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 fins had ruined them in the wilderness, i Cor. x. 6. “ Now these things were our examples, to the in“ tept we should not lust after evil things, as they also susted.” As if he should say, Look upon those dead bodies which are, as it were, cast up upon the same scripture-thore for a wardiog to you : Follow not the fame course, lest you meet in the same curfe; if you tread the fame paths, expect the same punihment. God is as righteous now, as he was then; he hates, and will punish sin in you, as much as he did in them.
* Jofephus de bello Jud. lib. 7. cap. 2. .
t Audita major humana vox excedere Deos, fiul ingens motus excedentium. Tacitus, lib. 21.