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that hath raised the storm, which the Lord would have us to search out, and throw overboard without delay.
Quest. But, how shall we discover and find out the particular sin for which God afflicts us with sickness and distress?
Ans. Ist. Study the Lord's word, and the chastisements there recorded, which he hath inflicted upon people for their sins, and inquire if you be guilty of the like. Observe what hath been God's mind to his people, and what sin he bath pointed out to them, when they have been brought under such a rod, and so you may learn his mind to you, Rom. xv. 4. “ For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning."
2dly, Consider what is the sin which conscience doth most of all accuse thee for, in thy most serious and solitary hours. Conscience is God's deputy, and thy bosom monitor, whose voice perhaps thou hast little regarded in the day of thy health; wherefore God hath sent a sharper messenger to second the voice of conscience. Hear now the voice of the rod, for it is the same with the voice of conscience. In the day of prosperity, carpal profits and pleasures make such a noise, that the voice of conscience could not be heard ; wherefore God hath brought on thee the silent night of adversity, that his deputy may obtain audience. Well then, give ear; what saith conscience now? May you not hear it saying, as Reuben to his brethren in distress, spake I not to you in the day of health, do not commit such a sin, and do not delay repenting for such a sin, but you would not hear: O man, let concience get a hearing at last, as it got with the patriarchs when they were brought to distress in Egypt, and made them confess their sin in selling of Joseph, Gen. xliii. 21. “ We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear. Therefore is this distress come upon us.”
3dly, Consider what are these evils that others have observed in you, whether they be friends or foes. Hearken to what a Christian friend noticeth in you, either when speaking to you, or to others about you; “ Let the righteous smite me, (saith David) and it shall be a kindness.” Yea, do not disregard what even enemies say of you. As David got good by the malicious reproaches of Shimei in the day of his affliction, so may you in the time of distress; for sometimes malice itself will speak truth. Enemies are sharp-sighted to spy out our faults, and so may, through the divine blessing, prove monitors to us, both with respect to sin and duty.
4thly, Consider the nature and circumstances of thy distress. Ofttimes the affliction is so suitable to the transgression, that we may clearly read our sin written on the forehead of our punishment, as in the case of Adonibezek, and many others. And also you may be helped to find it out by the Lord's timing of the rod to you: Was it sent when you was under much formality in duty? or when you was eagerly pursuing the things of the world? or when you was under the power of some prevailing lust or other? Then the rod comes to reprove you, and awake you to see the evil thereof.
5thly, Consider what is the sin that hath been formerly most affrighting to thy thoughts, and perplexing to thy conscience, when thou hast been in the immediate view of death and a tribunal. It is very likely (if thou hast not truly repented of it) that is the sin which God now intends to awake thee to see the evil of, that thou mayest sincerely mourn for and turn from it, looking to God in Christ for pardon and mercy.
Object. Ah! (saith one) it is my lot to ly under a dumb and silent rod, I do not understand its language, I cannot bear its voice, I cannot find out the sin that is pointed at by it: what course shall I take?
Ans. 1. Be deeply humbled under this trial, and bewail thy case before the Lord; for it very much ag. gravates the affliction of God's people, when they know not the language of it: Hence was it that Job lamented so heavily, that his way was hid, and he knew not the reason of God's contending with him, Job iii. 23.
2. A believer's case may be sometimes so dark, that it requires a great deal of spiritual art and wisdom to enable him to hear the voice of the rod, and understand its language. Hence it is said, “ He is a man of wisdom that seeth God's name upon it.” Micah vi. 9. Now, this wisdom must only come from above. Therefore,
3. Go to God, and earnestly beg for this wisdom, that you may know his mind, and the meaning of the rod. Do as Rebekah, when the children struggled in her womb, she went to inquire of the Lord, saying, “ Why am I thus?" Gen. xxv. 22. Cry to God to give you this spirit, to teach and enlighten you to see sin in its evil, and the particular evils you are guilty of. This was Job's course in his affliction; " Shew me (says he) wherefore thou contendest with me. That which I see not, teach thou me. Make me to know my transgression and my sin.” There is no better way
for a prisoner to know the reason of his confinement, than to ask the magistrate that committed him. God is a wise agent, and can give the best account of his own actions.
4. If thou canst not find out the particular sin for which God afflicts thee, then labour to repent of every known sin, and cry for pardon of every unknown and forgotten sin also. Do that out of wisdom, which Herod did out of malice, who, because he could not find out the babe Jesus, killed all the children of Bethlehem, that he might be sure to kill Jesus among them. Let us seek the uiter ruin and death of all our sins, that we may be sure to destroy that sin for which God afflicts us.
5. Study to exercise a strong faith, and a humble submission, while God keeps you under the silent rod. Believe firmly, that God is most just, though you know not for what he contends. And, however long he thinks fit to make you walk in the dark, resolve humbly to wait on him, and commit yourself to him, who has many times guided the blind in the way they knew not.
nnunni Direct. III. When any fit of sickness attacks you,
think seriously upon death, and make diligent prepa
rations for it. I
Do not mean that any man may delay the work of
preparation for death, till sickness cometh: No, no, this should be the great and uptaking business of every man in the time of his health and strength. But sickness and diseases being the harbingers of death, and messengers sent fronı God to warn us of its coming; every man is thereby called to renew the work of preparing for death with all earnestness and application. God's voice by every fit of sickness, is that in Deut. xxxii. 29. “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end.” God knows our folly, and readiness to forget this great work in the day of health ; and therefore in his mercy he sends sickness and affliction, to teach us so to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to this piece of heavenly wisdom, of making preparation for death.
And here I shall drop, 1st, Some motives to press it. 2dly, Advices for the doing it right.
1. For motives, consider these things.
1st, Consider God's mercy and patience towards you, in giving you so many warnings, and so many years, to prepare for death: and in sending his messengers and warnings so gently and gradually to excite you to this work: when many younger and stronger than you are hurried into eternity, and little or no time given them to think where they are going. Have you not been spared many years in the midst of dangers, when you have seen that bold archer death, shooting his arrows, and killing thousands of your neighbours and
friends round about you? Sometimes the arrow hath glanced over your head, and slain some great man, your superior : Sometimes it hath lighted at your feet, and cut off a child or servant, your inferior. Sometimes it hath gone by on your left hand, and killed your ene, my; at other times it hath passed on your right hand, and killed your near relations. So that
you friends and foes, superiors and inferiors, relations and strangers dropping down head round about you; and all this for a long tract of time, to give you warning to prepare for death. O let the goodness and forbearance of God towards you lead you to repentance, and persuade you to flee speedily to Christ for refuge, and protection from wrath.
2dly, Consider how terrible death will be, if it meets you in an unprepared state, in a Christless and impeni. tent condition.
What a fearful change will it bring upon you? A change from earth to hell, from hope to despair, from pleasure to pain, from comforts to terrors: a change from the offers of grace to the revelation of wrath; a change from probabilities to utter impossibilities of salvation. Death will cut of all your hopes and expectations of mercy for ever, Job xxvii. 3. There is no coming back to amend what hath been done amiss here, and there is no work nor device in the grave wbether
you go. As the tree falls, so will it lie, through all eternity.
II. I come to give some advices, in order to the right preparation for death. Ist, Set about self-examination work. Inquire if you be in Christ or not; if you be yet far off from God, or if you be brought near by the blood of Christ. And see that you be impartial in this search, and willing to find out the truth in this important question. Be not foolishly tender of yourself, and apt to believe that you are safe, when it is not so; for this way thousands do ruin themselves, But le content to know the worst of your case, and thoroughly to understand your soul's danger that you may be moved to take the right way to escape ii,