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the Lord with thy substance" (Prov. iii. 9). You may provide for your families in the fair, lawful way of God's providence (1 Tim. V. 8); also you may be helpful to others (Eph. iv. 28); for, if you so do, you are not the wicked of the earth, but those that use this world, but hope to enjoy better things.
USE II.-Let us be contented, though we be kept low and mean in the world. God's people are not the children of this world ; better things are reserved for them in the world to come ; and therefore, if we have food and raiment, and that but of the coarsest, let us be content: “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content" (1 Tim. vi. 8). Jesus Christ gave thanks for five barley loaves and two fishes (Mark vi. 41). The wicked are characterized to be of the earth : God's children are from above as to their original, and thither they tend as to their scope and end; and, if we have anything by the way, we have no cause to complain : “ I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims” (1 Peter ii. 11). What would a man care for in a journey, but a bait or a little refreshing? If we seek after more, it is inordinate affection, and must be mortified, not satisfied : “ Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth” (Col. iii. 5). Evil inclinations bend us to the earth and earthly things; those splendid nothings, riches, pleasures, honours, these hinder us from nobler things; yea, they increase our difficulties about the things that are necessary for us by the way : “Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Heb. xiii. 5); implying, that, whilst we indulge carnal desires, it is hard to trust God with daily supports, for daily protection and daily maintenance : but always distract ourselves with fruitless cares and thoughts about the things of this life. And also we may say, “ The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." There. fore let us not desire more than God alloweth ; a little, with God's blessing, is enough to supply our necessities as to wants, and to give us protec. tion against dangers ; as the Apostle subjoineth God's undertaking, and the saints' confidence thereupon, by way of cure; if we believe God's promises, and have the spirits of his saints, this is enough to us.
USE III.-Let us not envy the prosperity of the wicked.
1. They are the wicked of the earth, here they flourish. As nettles will more easily grow than choicer plants, the soil bringeth them forth of its own accord; so do wicked men thrive here: but you need not envy them; not only our hopes are much better than their possessions, but our present condition is much better (Psalm xvii. 14): their possessions are not to be compared with our hopes; what is a more plentiful table, to the everlasting fruition of God ? the pomp of the world, to the seeing God face to face? vain glory, to everlasting glory? bonour here, to the glory that shall be upon us at Christ's appearing? their momentary pleasures, which pass away suddenly as a dream, to the everlasting pleasure you shall enjoy in the sight of God? Nay, for the present you have communion with God, and the sense of his favour, how poor and afflicted soever your outward condition be: “ There be many that say, Who will show us any good ? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased ” (Psalm iv. 6, 7). Carnal men rejoice in sensual, earthly good things, not in the favour of God; and mark, this joy is proposed with a supposition of increase, and at the time of this increase, when the carnalist doth enjoy the greatest affluence of worldly blessings, take them at their best, when they have the most lively sense of these things, yet a Christian hath more cause of rejoicing : “ Thou hast put gladness in my heart," here is matter and ground of rejoicing. They drink of the cistern, you of the fountain (Jer. xii. 12); they rejoice not in God, but his gifts; and not the best gifts, but the common sort, riches, pleasures, and honours; and these, not as the effects of God's bounty, but as happening to them in the ordinary course of second causes : “ Who will show us any good ?" But you rejoice in God, in his best gifts, his love and grace. And then, here is the author of this joy, “ Thou hast put gladness :" this joy is allowed by God, and wrought by him: “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink ; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. xiv. 17): it is stirred up by his Spirit, and their joy is neither God's al. lowance nor God's work. And then, here is the subject and seat of this joy; not tickle the senses, but delight the heart : “ Thou hast put gladness in my heart." And then, here is the measure ; it is more joy, it is more pure and sublime, of a stronger efficacy, which not only overcometh the sense of present infelicities, but the fear of death, Hell, and judgment to come : that " we might have strong consolation” (Heb. vi. 18). But wicked men dance about the brink of Hell, have their secret gripes ; and will you envy them, as if your condition were not much better? When God hath given you the feast, will you be troubled that they have the scraps and fragments of his bounty?
2. In regard of the uncertainty of their condition: “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity; for they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb” (Psalm xxxvii. 1,2). Though they seem to be in a very prosperous condition for the present, as grass while it is standing is very green; yet they are soon cut down ty the scythe of Providence, then pre. sently fadeth, and is carried away from the place where it grew. You think Providence doth not deal righteously, because the unworthy are exalted and the worthy depressed. Do but tarry a while, and you will have no cause to complain, or to grow weary of godliness, or to cry up a confederacy with evil men; they are never nearer their own ruin than when they come to the height of their exaltation, as the sun declineth presently when he cometh to the highest point of the zenith. Who would envy those that climb up a ladder for execution? or are carried to the top of a rock, that they may be thrown down from thence to be broken in pieces ? “ Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction” (Psalm lxxiii. 18).
Note II.—That the wicked of the earth are as dross. They are so in these respects :
1. As to external show. They seem to be a part of the substance or metal; but indeed they are but the filth of the metal, which is wont to be consumed with fire, that the metal may be purged. This is fitly applied to the degenerate members of the visible church, that have only a show of the purity of religion, but are corrupt in faith and manners, ungodly and unrighteous. There are disciples in show and disciples in deed (John viji. 31); some that live, and some only that have a name to live, but indeed are dead. There is a Jew outwardly and inwardly, of the letter and of the spirit (Rom. ii. 28, 29); there are branches in Christ by an external visible union, that bring forth no fruit (John xv. 2). Some are Christians in name, by external visible communion, others by real implantation into Christ. It concerneth us to see whether we be dross or metal, living members of Christ's mystical body, or only equivocally called Christians, because of some loose profession of Christ's name.
2. Dross is intermingled with purer metal, and maketh one mass with it. The wicked and the godly live together in the visible church; they are never totally severed till the great day of separation or general judgment, when the sheep and the goats are put apart, some on Christ's right hand, and some on his left. Here in the world, as in the finest metal, there is some dross, and in the same field there is chaff and corn (Matt. xiii. 29). We should not leave the flour for the chaff, but leave the chaff that we may be pure grain.
3. In God's esteem they are refuse, drossy, worthless things : “ Thus saith the Lord God, Because ye are all become dross" (Ezek. xxii. 19), poor, unprofitable creatures. The church and people of God, because of their excellency, are compared to gold and silver; so “ the seven golden candlesticks” (Rev. ii. 1). As gold is the most precious metal, so is the church much esteemed by God, called God's jewels (Mal. iii. 17); as a diamond among a heap of pebbles, God's jewels, “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. xi. 38), his “ peculiar people” (Titus ii. 14). God maketh no such reckoning of wicked men: dross is cast away as good for nothing; and all the wicked of the earth are but as dross to so much good metal. But all his saints are much set by, as the filings of silver and gold are precious. What a difference is there between the judgment of God and the judgment of the world! The men of the world esteem the saints to be “the off-scouring of all things” (1 Cor. iv. 13), as the sweeping of the city, to be cast forth to the dung-hill; whereas themselves are so in. deed in God's account; but “ reprobate silver” (Jer. vi. 30), or rather dross, which is the refuse of gold and silver. Therefore their contempt is not to be regarded, how great soever they be: though potentates high in honour and place ; yet, if ungodly and wicked, God reckons them to be vile persons (Dan. xi. 21), dross, worthless souls. Men are not valued by God for their secular interests, but moral qualifications. The potentates of the earth are not valued as his princely, but holy ones : “ The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour" (Prov. xii. 26). God puts the highest price upon them; they are coin and medal, who bear his own image.
4. They are consumed in trial, as dross consumeth in the fining and trying of metals ; solid metal endureth, but the dross is consumed; which holdeth true of wicked men in two respects. First, their seeming good. ness is lost, and the difference is seen between them and those that are sincere; sound and searching judgments discover hypocrites, as the lightness of a building is seen in a storm: “ The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it” (Matt. vii 27). So God, in the metaphor of the text, is often said to melt and try his people (Jer. ix. 7), to discover the dross from pure gold. Hirelings will soon prove changelings, when God trieth them to purpose. Secondly, their imaginary felicity vanisheth into smoke; they perish, the meanest as well as the greatest. Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross, they are consumed in the fire of God's wrath, and destroyed : “ As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there and melt you" (Ezek, xxii, 20). But of this by-and-by.
USE.—Let us see what we are, real members of Christ's mystical body, yea or no. The wicked of the earth are as dross, and the godly are the finest sort of metals. To move you to consider what you are,
1. Ordinarily the visible church is so mixed, that the generality thereof is unsound : “ Two parts thereof shall be cut off and die, &c.; and I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried” (Zech. xii. 8). There is but one part in three sound, and it were well the proportion were found everywhere; and therefore we had need to consider who shall be saved and found faithful: “ Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved ? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke xii. 23, 24). We had need be the more earnest, because the most miscarry.
2. The trials will be searching ; we must pass through the fire, and then what will become of the dross? “ The hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. ii. 10). And, alas ! are we able to brook “ the fiery trial ?” (1 Peter xii. 10.) Few professors will be able to abide, when we are to part with the sweetness of our earthly comforts; yea, and, it may be, life itself, which maketh us capable to enjoy them. It is no strange thing that it should happen to us (1 Peter iv. 12); it is as usual as violent storms at sea, or tempestuous weather in winter; when God is upon reckoning with his people, such things may be expected.
3. The best of us will be found but dross, if God should deal with us in extremity; so much of corruption cleaveth to us, and so many hidden lusts do we cherish and indulge, that would soon become a root of apostasy, if God did not hold a hand of grace over us. But God will not be extreme : “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isa. xlviii. 10); that is, not so thoroughly : silver is not refined till all the dross be consumed and wrought out of it; and, when should we see good day, if God should so refine us?
4. They are not reckoned to dross, but metal, that walk answerable to their profession and obligations to God, as becometh his peculiar people to do; they are not satisfied with common mercies. A man may have the world at will, and yet be a castaway; they must have something peculiar and distinguishing: “Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name” (Psalm cxix. 132); things that can never be given in anger. They do not rest in common grace : “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation” (Heb. vi. 9); those good moods in hypocrites and temporaries. Nor content themselves with a common conversation : “Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (1 Cor. iii. 3.) “Wherein they think it strange, that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot” (1 Peter iv. 4); “ If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matt. v. 46.) You should do something rare and singular, not in an ordinary loose rate,
NOTE III.-That it is God's business in Heaven to put away the wicked as dross, to sever them from the purer metal.
1st, God hath many ways and means to do it :1. Partly, by his judgments he doth it more and more: “Whose fan is VOL. II.
in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner ; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. iii. 12). As the chaff from the corn, so dross from metal : “ When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughter of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning" (Isa. iv. 4); that is, by the judgment executed upon the evil among them: “ And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me” (Ezek. xx. 38). This God doth by destroying, wasting judgments.
2. Partly, by the censures of the church : “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (1 Cor. v. 13). And partly, by the stroke of the civil magistrates and their punishments : " Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness” (Prov. xxv. 4, 5). Thus doth God do it now; but he will fully and finally do it at the last judgment, when there shall be a perfect separation of them, and all the wicked shall be cast away as refuse : “Before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matt. xxv. 32, 33); there is a congregation, and then a segregation, never to meet more, nor be mingled more. Now God doth it in part, but then more fully.
2ndly, The reasons :
1. God doth so, lest the silver itself should be turned into dross. We are apt to corrupt one another, natural corruption within meeting with examples without: “ Wo is me, for I am undone ; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isa. vi. 5); as a man that hath the matter of a disease prepared, coming into infectious company, is soon infected. God's choicest people have much dross in them; therefore the Lord needeth to purge out their dross. The purest church is apt to contract pollution and to degenerate, and the choice plants of the covenant-stocks to run wild, were it not for these dispensations,
2. That impunity may not harden the wicked and encourage others. God suffereth it as long as he judgeth it expedient: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. viii. 11); “ The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands” (Psalm ix. 16). Men sin the more freely and securely when a judgment doth not presently overtake them, when sinners go on without any mark of God's vengeance; but God will in every age clear his providence, by bringing judgments upon wicked men.
3. The nearer they are to God, the more hateful their provocations are, and more severely punished : “ You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos üü. 2). For their sins, the valley of vision is brought to barrenness. They sin against the clearest light, the dearest love, the highest engagements to the contrary; and therefore, when they are mingled among his people as dross with the silver, God putteth them away.
L'SE I.-Is to inform us that God in his judicial proceedings will distinguish; he will divide the dross from the other metal, that he may destroy