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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 many 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
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
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.
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 ús 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, his wishes; 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