« AnteriorContinua »
making them SEVEN. The FIRST VIEW shall contain the Evils which we may be contemplating—I. Within us-II. Before us—III. - Behind us-IV. From beneath-V. Near us on our left hand-VI. On our right hand-VII, From above.
VIEWS OF EVIL.
THE EVILS WITHIN US. This is a fixed and most certain truth, whether a man believe it or not, That a man can suffer no torture which can be the worst of the evils that are in him. And therefore, there are far more and greater evils in him than he can feel. For, if he should feel all his own evil, he would feel hell, for he has a hell in himself. Do you ask how this can be the Prophet tells you, “ All men are liars,” Ps. cxvi. And again, “Every man living is altogether vanity," Ps. xxxix. And to be a liar and vanity, is to be destitute of truth and reality : and, to be destitute of truth and reality, is to be without God and to be nothing: and to be thus, is to be in hell and damned !
God, therefore, when he chastens us, discovers unto us and lays upon us only a small part of our evils; knowing, that if he should lead a man into a knowledge of his whole evil, he would sink in a moment. But he has given some to taste this also : concerning whom it is said, “ He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up," 1 Sam. ii. Therefore, they speak rightly, who call bodily sufferings certain monitors of the evil within : and the Apostle, Heb. xii. calls them the fatherly, chastisements of God, saying, " he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth: which he does, that, by these rods and small evils, he may drive out those great evils, that we may have no necessity for feeling them : as it is written Proverbs xxii., “ Foolishness is bound in the heart of a
child, but the rod of correction shall drive it out." And do not pious parents grieve more over their children if they be thieves or vicious, than if they be wounded; yea, they themselves chasten and bruise them that they may not be vicious.
What is it then that prevents our real evil from being felt? This, I say, is so ordered of God; that the man may not wholly sink under a sight of all the depths of his evil. For God keeps them hidden, and wills them to be known only by faith, while he gives a taste of them in the evil that is felt. Therefore, “ In the day of evil be mindful of the good :” that is, consider what a good it is not to know all thy evil: be mindful of this good, and thy evil will not so much distress thee. And so again, “in the day of good be mindful of the evil:" that is, whilst thou art free from distress arising from thy real evil, be grateful for this freedom, and be mindful of the real evil: then it will be, that thou wilt the less feel the sensible evil. It is evident, therefore, that man always has in this life, more freedom from distress than distress ; not because the whole evil is not present with him, but because there is not the opinion and feeling of it, through the goodness of God who keeps it hidden.
Hence we see, how dreadfully they treat themselves who are brought to see their true evil, and how careless they are of what they suffer throughout their whole life, so that they feel not the hell within them. And so every one would do, if he felt or truly believed the real evil that is in him :-he would voluntarily seek all external evils, and would find relief in them: and would never feel himself more miserable, than when not surrounded with such evils ; in which state we know many saints to have been: as David was, Ps. vi.
Therefore, the first view is consolatory—for a man to say to himself, O man, thou dost not feel all thy evil : be glad, therefore, and give thanks, that thou art not compelled to feel it: and then, thy present evil, compared with the great and infinite evil that is in thee, will be light : that is, thou mayest say, as some say, • I deserve far worse than this, yea, hell itself! This is, however, easy to be said. but is intolerable to be borne.
But, although this evil lies concealed, yet it produces fruits sufficiently sensible. These are, the dread and trembling of a fearful conscience, whose faith meets with every opposition, while the man knows not, or remains in doubt, whether or not he has God propitious towards him: and these fruits are the more bitter the weaker the faith is. And yet, this weakness when rightly considered, seeing it is spiritual, is far greater than the corporal weakness : which latter it makes to appear very light, when the just comparison is drawn.
Moreover, all that tragedy which the Preacher describes pertains to the internal evil, where he makes so much mention of vanity and affliction of spirit. For, how many purposes do we form in vain! How
of our expectations fall to the ground! How many things do we see and hear that we would not! And even those things which turn out according to our wishes turn out against our wishes also: and therefore, there is nothing right or happy perfectly. And moreover, all these things are by so much the greater, the more exalted a man is in station and rank, for he that is highly exalted must of necessity be agitated with far more and greater tides, billows, and storms, than others who are labouring under the same burdens. So that the 104th Psalm says rightly--that there are in this sea of the world animals weak and strong, small and great innumerable: that is, an infinite variety of trials and temptations : and hence Job vii. calls this life of man a trial or temptation.
And these evils do not the less exist because they are the less felt; but because, by the kind management of God, they become by use and habit less alarming, and our opinion and feeling of them less sensible. : Therefore, those evils more particularly distress us, which we have not, by an acquaintance with them, learnt to disregard. And therefore it is true, that we feel scarcely the thousandth part of our real evil. And hence again it is true, that our evils are rated, and felt or not felt, not according to their reality of existence, but according to our opinion and feeling.
OF FUTURE EVIL: OR, THE EVIL BEFORE US.
It will tend in no small degree to lighten the present evil, whatever it may be, if thou turn thy thoughts to future evils: which are such, so many, and so great, that, to this one consideration, is attributed that greatest of all sensations called fear: which many have defined to be a sensation concerning an evil to come : as the apostle saith, Rom. xi., “ Be not high minded but fear.” This evil is the greater, because, it remains in uncertainty what, or how great, the future evil may be: according to the trite proverb : There is no age exempt from disease:' (which, nevertheless, is but'a trifling and puerile evil as it were :) and so also, no one man is exempt from the evils that befal another : but, whatever one man suffers another may suffer also.
This is proved by all the histories and tragic events of all ages, and by all the complaints of the whole world. The same also is proved by the observations of many--that there are more than three hundred kinds of diseases by which the human body is afflicted. And, if there are so many diseases, how many other different events do you suppose there may be of circumstances, of friends, and also of the mind, which is more especially subjected to all evils, and more particularly the recipient of sorrow and affliction?
And here again the power and sensation of these evils increase in proportion, the higher and more exalted the person is in station. For as, in an exalted station, want, disgrace, and all indignities may happen the more suddenly, seeing that all things hang by a slender thread; so, all things are there to be feared ; like that sword which Dionysius suspended over the head of his guest.
And if any one of these evils happen not, it is to be considered a blessing, and no small consolation under that evil which may be present :-and you may, under
such circumstances, say with Jeremiah, “ It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed.” Lam. iii. For whatever of those evils happens not, it is through the protecting hand of the Most High ; which compasses us about with so much might, (as is exemplified in Job i.) that Satan and all evils are compelled to stand and rage, that they have no power over us.
Hence we see, how sweetly the Lord ought to be loved under the daily evils that come upon us: because, under any one evil, our most loving Father calls upon us to consider, how many evils surround us, and would fall upon us, were it not for his protecting hand : as if he said unto us,
Satan and a whole chaos of evils are ready to rush upon thee, that they may grind thee to powder, but I have set the bounds of the sea, and have said unto it, “ Hitherto shalt thou come but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed,” ' Job xxxviii.
And, supposing that none of these evils should befal thee, (God so willing,) yet death, that greatest and most terrible of all evils, will most surely come; and nothing is more uncertain than the hour when. And death is an evil so great, that we may see many men, who would rather live amidst all the fore-mentioned evils, than have them brought to an end and meet death once. And only look around and see how many meditations, how many books, how many methods, how many remedies there are published to the world, with the design of deterring men from sin by fixing on their minds the memory of this one evil! All these represent the world as contemptible, all sufferings and troubles light, and all afflictions trifling, in comparison of this great, horrible, yet necessary, evil! And there is no one who would not rather undergo every other evil, if he could thereby escape the evil of death. This evil the saints also have feared : and this Christ underwent in the midst of terror and bloody sweat. And therefore, the divine mercy is more careful to comfort the poor and miserable against this, than against any other evil : as we shall see hereafter,
And all these evils are common to all men. But there