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God's providence in our affliction; which many times we are guilty of, either when we harbour harsh thoughts of God's dealings, or break forth into rash and unadvised speeches; when we charge God foolishly, and com, plain either of too much severity, as Ezek. xviii. 2, 25. or of too long delay, as Isa. xlix. 14. or when our complaints are mixed with unbelief and distrust, as Psal. İxxviii. 19. or when we complain more of our punishment than we do of our sin, and nothing will satisfy us but deliverance from trouble.
Now, to deter you from these murmurings and complaints in trouble, I shall lay before you the following considerations, 1st, They who deserve worst, do commonly complain and murmur most, and are most ready to ihink they are hardly dealt with. The unthankful Israelites were still murmuring. Ambitious Absalom was discontented. Bloody Haman, in midst cf all his greatness, cries out, What doth all this avail me? But humble Jacob saith, he was not worthy of the least of all the mercies and truth which God had shewed him. And holy Job blesses God, and patiently submits, when he took froin him, as well as when he
2dly, Murmuring is a sin that God takes special notice of, and looks on it as an injury and an affront done immediately against himself, :Numb. xiv. 27. “I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.” He that gives ear to the groans of his own spirit, doth also hear the grumblings of thine, and will reckon with thee for theni.
3dly, It can no ways benefit or relieve us in distressi I may say of sinful complaining (as Christ of sinful care) which of you, by complaining, can add one cubit to his stature? What ease or relief can you get by contending with God? Nay, instead of easing you of your burden, it will make it the heavier; as a child, the more he struggles with his parents, he is the more beaten. The Israelites were once within eleven days journey of Canaan; but by their murmurings they provoked
God to lead them forty years march in the wilderness before they could reach it.
4thly, Whatever be your distress, there is no just ground for complaints, whilst thou hast thy life for a prey. Remember that word of the afflicted church, Lam. iii. 39. “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins ? A man living, a man upon the earth, a man out of hell hath no cause to complain, whatever be his affliction. For let him compare his sin and punishment together, he will find there is no proportion; sin is a transgression against the infinite God; punishment is but an affliction upon the finite creature : sin strikes at the very being of God; but punishment only at the comfort of the creature. So that whatever your punishment be, you have more cause to give thanks than to complain, and to say with Ezra, thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve: It might have been a thousand times worse, if strict justice had been the rule: It is of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed. 5thly, When you murmur
under sickness, you quarrel with the messenger of that sovereign God, who gave you your lives, and can take them again when he thinks fit: and we know messengers ought not to be maltreated or abused, whatever be their commission, and far less when they are sent upon a good design. Now if you consider the design of this messenger and his errand to you, instead of fretting and quarrelling at his coming, you ought rather to bless God that sends such a suitable barbinger and forerunner to tell you that death is approaching, and that he vouchsafes to take so much pains on you, to wean you from the world and make you willing to be gone, by long continued trouble; when he might have seized you in a violent manner, and driven you away by main force, without using any means to obtain your consent. Have not many, wbo were most unwilling to die, at the beginning of a sickness, been brought, by the increase and continuance of it, to be well satisfied to leave the world, and long to be with Christ ! And was not this for their advantage ?
6thly, Consider the great evil and sinfulness of impatient murmuring, complaints, and quarrellings under affliction.
1. Murmuring hath in it much unbelief and disa trust of God, Psal. cvi. 24, 25. “ They believed not his word, but murmured in their tents." They could not believe that the wilderness was the way to Canaan, that God would provide and furnish a table for them there, and relieve them in all their straits. So it is with us in trouble; we quarrel with God's providence, because we do not believe his promises; we do not believe that this can be consistent with love, or can work for good in the end.
2. It bath in it unthankfulness. While we complain of one affliction, we overlook a thousand mercies. The Israelites murmured so for what they had not, that they unthankfully forgot all they had. Whereas à thankful person is so far from fretiing that God doth not give him every thing, that he wonders that God should give him any thing. “I am less than the least of all thy mercies," said Jacob, “ We are perplexed, said Paul, but not in despair ; we have God to go to, which is matter of praise.” But the murmurer unthankfully overlooks all his present, and forgets all his former mercies; and gives not God thanks for any thing. Because God removes his comforts, his health, strength, and ease for a time; all the years he formerly enjoyed them, though most undeservedly, are quite buried in oblivion.
3. It implies much pride and self-conceit. He that complains of God's dealings, secretly applauds his own deservings. Only by pride comes contention. When men have a conceit of themselves, they pick quarrels with God's providence, being apt to think they deserve better treatment at his hands; whereas the humble soul is sensible he deserves nothing but
wrath, and therefore lays his hand on his mouth when the Lord afflicts him.
4. It involves men in rebellion against God. When God strikes men for sin, murmurers fly in his face and kick against his strokes, like bullocks unaccustomed to the yoke. They in some respect resemble that desperate apostate Julian, of whom it is written, that he shot up his darts against heaven, when he was in distress. They fulfil that word, Prov. xix, 3. “ The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteih against the Lord.” The repining heart boils with rage against God and his dispensations, like those wicked Jews when hungry and hardly bestead, Isa. viii. 21. “They shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward."
5. It imports much impenitency and unbumbleness of sin; and that we have seen little of the intrinsic evil of sin ; and of our ill deservings for it. Can we truly believe that our sins deserve hell-fire, and yet impatiently repine at sickness and lesser strokes upon our bodies?
6. It includes much atheism and blasphemy against God ond his infinite perfections, in several respects;
(1.) By our impatient murmurings, we either virtu. ally deny that things here below are governed by God's providence; or else,
(2.) We tax bis providence with unrighteousness in the management thereof; as if God did withhold from us what is due, or infliot on us what we have not deserved. Oh, what atheism is this! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right ? May be not upon the justest ground, answer every murmur, as Matth. xx. 13. - Friend, I do thee no wrong."
(3.) We in effect grasp at the sovereignty, and usurp the throne of the most high God, and would have the disposal of things in our bands : yea, we presume to summon God to our bay to give account of bis admi. nistrations, when we take upon us to quarrel any of his dispensations. Alas, we little remember the woe that is pronounced against so doing, Isa. xlv. 9. “ Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker; shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?"
(4.) We on the matter take sin's part against God, we either justify it, or extenuate its evil, and allege by our murmurings, that God is unrighteous to punish such small sins with such heavy afflictions.
(5.) We virtually question God's power to reach us a greater blow, when we enter the lists with God, and contend with our Maker: is it not in effect to say, we know how to reduce him to our terms, or make our party good against him ?
(6.) We disparage his wisdom, and take upon us to be his counsellors, as if we could instruct him better in the management of affairs, and teach him what is fit to be done with his creatures. Hear what the Lord saith, Job xi. 2. “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty, instruct him ?. He that reproveth God, let him answer it.” Murmuring is a reproving of God, and a charging him will ill conduct, saying in effect with Absalom, " There is none that takes care to order men's affairs; that I were king of the world! then should things be better ordered than now they are.” So blasphemous is the language of our impatient murmurings. Let us therefore be ashamed of them, and abhor ourselves in dust and ashes for our foolishness in censuring the actions of the only wise God.. Shall a poor ignorant passenger, that understands not the use of the compass, be
angry that the skilful pilot will not steer the vessel according to his pleasure?
(7.) We hereby slight and undervalue the riches of divine goodness, of which we have formerly shared, and do still partake: Like foolish and peevish children, if they cannot have their will, or get some thing they want, do presently throw away the things which they have, saying, with unthankful Haman, “ All this avail eth me nothing."