Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

is, in Christians, a new cause for fearing future evil : a cause peculiar to themselves, and which far exceeds all the evils that have been mentioned. It is that which the apostle paints forth, 1 Cor. x. where he says, “ Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.”—So slippery is the way, and so powerful is the adversary, who is armed with our own powers for weapons, (that is, with the powerful lusts of the flesh, and all corrupt affections) and attended by all the infinite forces of the world, its delights and its pleasures on the right hand, and with all the bitter and perverse wills of men on the left; and all this, in addition to those thousands of ways of injuring, seducing, and destroying, in which he is such an adept. Hence, we so live, that we cannot be a moment sure of the good that is before us.

Cyprian, mentioning many things of this kind in his Epistle concerning Mortality, says, that death is to be desired as a quick remedy for getting clear of all these evils. And, truly, where the men who really labour in mind under all these infinite evils, have a good conscience, we see them wishing to be dissolved, that they might thus be delivered at once from all those evils under which they now are, (as we set it forth in our preceding VIEW,) and from those that are liable to fall upon them, (as we are now describing them.) And these are indeed two most just reasons for wishing for death : wherein, there is not only a desiring of death, but a despising of all evils, and a desire not to be afflicted with the least. That is, where the Lord is pleased to grant any man a feeling of these evils ! Hence, if we feel them, it is the gift of God!

Indeed, what true Christian would not even wish to die, and not to be left to see his wretchedness, when he sees and feels, even in his best state, that he is in many sins and continual danger of running into more, yea, of running into them daily, and thus acting without intermission againt the most sweet will of his most sweet Father ? It was with this indignation against himself that Paul was burning, when he complained, that he could not do the good which he would, but did the evil

7

1

which he would not: and it was that which caused him to exclaim, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God (saith he) through Jesus Christ,” &c. That Christian has very

little love for God his Father, who does not prefer the evil of death to this evil of sinning. For God has ordained the evil of death, that 'it might put an end to the evil of sin, and might be the gate unto life and righteousness.--Concerning which hereafter.

VIEW III.

OF PAST EVIL; OR THAT WHICH IS BEHIND US.

In this view, above all others, that sweet mercy of God our Father shines forth, which is able to comfort us in all our straits and distresses. For, no one can feel the hand of God with him more sensibly, than by taking a view of the years of his past life. The blessed Augustine saith, “If a man were to have the choice, either of dying or living over again his past life, he would prefer death, when he reviewed all those perils and evils which he had so narrowly, and with so much sorrow, escaped.' And that remark is most true, if it be rightly weighed and considered.- For, under this view, the man is brought to see, how many things he did and suffered, and how often ; without any previous thought or care of his own, nay, without, or even contrary to, hiswishes; and concerning which things, he was so far from having any consideration before they took place, or while they were going on, that, after all was accomplished, he was compelled to wonder within himself, and to say by constraint, How did all these things come to pass, concerning which I had not a thought, or which are contrary to all

that I expected !- So that, this proverb is truth, ' Man proposes, but God disposes !'. That is, he brings about the opposite, or effects the contrary, to that which men propose. Hence, under this one view, we cannot deny, that all our life and actions have been governed, not by our own prudence, but by

[ocr errors]

as

the wonderful power, wisdom, and goodness of God. Here we perceive how often God was with us, when we neither 'saw nor felt him: and with what truth it is that Peter has said, “ He careth for us,” 1 Epist. v.

Hence, if there were neither books nor vocal communication, yet, our own life conducted safely through so many evils and perils, if duly considered, would furnish us with an abundant proof of the all-present and all-sweet goodness of God, which had all along, contrary to our knowledge or feeling, carried us as in its bosom: as Moses saith, Deut. xxxii. The Lord kept him, the apple of his eye, and led him about and instructed him, and bore him on his shoulders.'

And it was from this view that all those exhortations were given us in the Psalms, “I remember the days of old; I meditate in all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands,” Ps. cxliii. “ I will remember thy wonders of old,”. Ps. lxxvii. “I remembered thy judgments of old, O Lord, and comforted myself,” Ps. cxix. These and the like meditations are all directed to make us know, that, if we see that God was with us at a time when we little thought it, and when he did not appear to us to be present, we are not to doubt that he is now present, though he may seem to be far from us. For if he saved us in many great times of need without our knowing it, he will not forsake us in times of less trouble, though he may seem to forsake us : as Isaiah saith, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee,” Isaiah liv.

And, add to all this who was it that preserved us: through so many nights when asleep? Who was it that always protected us when we were labouring, giving ourselves to amusements, and engaged in all those innumerable things wherein we had no care for ourselves ? Or how much is there of our time wherein we took care of ourselves ? Hence' we see, that the whole care of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, was with God only, and that there is not a moment to be found, when we were left to the care of ourselves. And, moreover, God does all this, that he may instruct us in the knowledge

of his goodness, and that we may be brought to see the vast difference there is between his care and ours. Hence it is, that he suffers us to be attacked with some slight disease, or' other evil, and carries himself as though he cared not for us, (though there is no time wherein he does not care for us,) and yet, suffers not all the evils that surround us to fall upon us at once, but tries us only as dearest children, whether or not we will trust ourselves to that care of his which has followed us all our life through, and be convinced of the vanity and impotency of our own care to protect ourselves. For what do we, or what can we do throughout our whole life towards protecting ourselves, when we cannot help ourselves against the least pain in one of our limbs?

Why then are we so distressed and anxious about any one small evil that may come upon us? Why do we not leave the whole care to him, when our whole life is a testimony, that we have hitherto been brought through, and saved from, so many evils by him, without having any thing whatever to do with it ourselves ?

To know these things, I say, is to know the works of God and to meditate in his works, and to be comforted by that meditation under all adversities. And they that know not these things, will come under that declaration of Ps. xxviii.“ Because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them and not build them up." For those who will not trust the care of themselves to God under any one trouble, are ungrateful for all his care that has been over them throughout their whole lives.

VIEW IV.

OF THE EVILS FROM BENEATH.,

In all the evils that we have hitherto considered, (and which are those to which we are subject;) we have seen, that the goodness of God is so great and so present with us, that, of all those 'evils with which we are in this

life surrounded and wholly incarcerated, scarcely any fall upon us, and those, not of continual duration; and that, every single evil that may be present with us, and under which we may be troubled, is but a monitor of the great blessing with which God honours us, in not permitting us to be overwhelmed at once with that multitude of evils in the midst of which we live. - What a miracle would it be, if a man were to have an infinite number of blows aimed at him, and should only be struck by one! Yea, it would be a signal mark of protecting grace if he were to escape any? But, to escape nearly all, is a miracle !

The first, then, of those evils that are beneath us is death; the next, is hell.-If we consider the various and awful deaths of many other sinners, we shall af once see, how far we are, through the divine goodness, from meeting with our deserts. How many have been strangled, staked, drowned, or beheaded, who perhaps had committed far less síns than we have ! Christ, therefore, would set their death and misery before our eyes, that we may thereby see what we deserve.-“ Šo, when some told him (Luke xiii.) of the Galilæans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices,” he answered,“ Suppose ye that these Galilæans were sinners above all the Galilæans, because they suffered such things ! I tell you, nay ; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all. likewise perish.” For we cannot think that a less punishment is due unto us who have committed the same, or perhaps greater, sins. The justice and truth of God will not be made to lie, or to be unjust on our account: he has determined to “ render unto every man according to his works.”

And, how many thousands are there now in hell and eternal damnation, who never committed a thousandth part of the sins that we have? How many 'virgins and youths are now there, whom we are accustomed to call

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinua »