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the sellers of oxen and sheep out of the temple with a whip (as is generally thought) made of their own cords; so God never scourgeth us but with a whip made of our
Prov, v. 22. “ His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” If we consider the mighty God as a Lord dispensing grace, then we find be acts sovereignly, and according to his will and pleasure, Mat. xi. 16. “Even so, Father, for it seemed good in thy sight.” But, if we consider him as a judge dispensing judgments, he never doth it without a foregoing cause on the creature's part. God's treasure of mercy is always full and ready to be let out to them that seek it; but his treasure of wrath is empty till men fill it by their sins, Rom. ii. 15. “Thou treasurest up to thya self wrath against the day of wrath,” We do always provide fuel for God's wrath before it kindle and break out upon us.
3dly, Consider further this instance of God's equity, that when there is a cause given, God doch not presently take it, but continues to threaten oft, and warn long, before he executes the sentence of his word; He sends lesser strokes as warnings of greater if we repent not; and he repeats his warnings many times both by his word and providence before he smites. Yes, even when repeated warnings are slighted, he delays a long time and waits to be gracious, Isa. Xxx. 18. And when men's obstinacy and incorrigibleness arrive to such a height that he can spare no longer, yet, how loath is he to give them up to severe judgment ! Hos. xi. 8. “How shall I give thee up Ephraim ? How sball I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine beart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.”. When the Lord hath sinners in his arms, ready to give them up to severe judgments, yet he makes a stand, and would fain be prevented before he proceeds to his strange work : for so he calls bis acts of judgment, Isa. xxvii. 21. Acts of mercy are connatural, most agreeable, and pleasant to God, Mie. vii. 18. “ He delighteth in mercy,” but judgment is his strange act, and his strange work.
: 4thly, Consider, that when at last he sends strokes on us, they are always short of the cause; he exacis not the whole debt that sinners owe to his justice, as Ezra doth acknowledge, Ezra ix. 13. ^ Thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve.” The stroke he there is speaking of, was of a most heavy judg. ment; fearful ruin and desolation came upon Jerusalem, and the whole land of Judah; the city and tensple were burnt to ashes, the people carried captive to a strange land, and treated as bond slaves among the heathen: Yet, saith the holy man, thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, q. d. “ It is true we have been carried to Babylon, but in justice we might have been sent to hell: our houses were burnt, Jut our bodies might have been burnt too: We have been drinking water, but we might have been drinking blood: We have had grievous burdens on earth, but we might have been groaning in hell: We were banished from the temple, but we might have been eternally banished froin God's presence.” We think it a great favour, among men, when any punishment is mitigated, when the sentence of death is changed into banishment, or when banishment is turned into a five, or a great fine is made smaller: And will you think that God deals severely or rigorously with you, when he lays you on a sick-bed, when he might justly have laid you in hell, and poured out all his wrath upon you there!
You but taste of the brim of the cup, when God might cause you drink of the bottom and dregs thereof.
Have you not cause then to acknowledge God's justice, nay neven his mercy too, in his dealings with you, however rough they may seem to be? May you not with good reason, say anything less than hell is a mercy to such an ill-deserving creature as I am ? If even a hard-hearted Pharaoh, under distress, came the length to own the justice of God, Exod. ix. 27. “ I have sin
ned, the Lord is righteous;" shall any professed Christian fall short of that obstinate Egyptian ? Direct. II. Labour still to be sensible of God's hand
under heavy affliction, and beware of stupidity and
unconcernedness under it. IT T is a sin to fáint under heavy affliction, but it is a
duty to feel it, Heb. xii. 5. “ My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him." The apostle there doth caution against two extremes, which every Christian under the rod should be careful to avoid. 1. Despising or making light of affliction. 2. Sinking or desponding under affliction. We are in great hazard of running into the one or the other. As to the first, We may be said to despise the chastening of the Lord, when we do not observe God's band in our affliction, so as to reform the things whereby he is displeased; or when we resolve to abide the trial, by the strength of our own resolutions, and stout-heartedness, without looking to God for supporting grace; or when we turn stupid and insensible under the heavy and long continued rod. This despising and slighting of the rod is not patience, but stupidity; it is not Christian magnanimity, but a stoical temper of mind, most sinful and provoking to God. We see how angry God is with sinners when his strokes are not felt, Isa. xli. 25. “ He hath poured upon him the fury of his anger; and it hath set him o fire round about, yet he knew not; and it hath burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.” Jer. v. 3. “ Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved: thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return." There is little hope of a scholar minding his lesson, that is regardless of whipping. It is a dreadful sign to be like Pharaoh, sleeping in our sins, when God is thundering in his wrath. He that
will sleep when his house is on fire, or lie still in bed as if he was not concerned, may assuredly expect to be consumed in its flames. As David could not bear it, when the messengers he sent to the Ammonites out of good will, were affronted and despised; so neither will God endure it, when the messengers he sends to sinners are slighted; for he that slights a messenger affronts his master. Those who niake light of affliction, make light.of God that sends it, and make light of sin that procures it.
Quest. But, when is it that people are suitably concerned under a heavy rod ? Ans. When they see God's hand, hear God's voice, answer his intent, are curious to know his mind, desirous to do these things he requires, and reform these things he is displeased with. Remember, every affliction is a messenger from God, and deserves a hearing from you. It comes to thee with such a message as Ehud did to Eylon, Judges iii. 20.« I have an errand from God to thee, () king:” I have a message from God to thee, O Christian, O sin
Well, lend an ear and hearken with reverence and attention to this errand; say, " Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. What wouldst thou have me to do ? Believe it, that God speaks as really to you by his rod, as by his word : therefore he says, hear ye the rod. God spake as truly by his ten plagues to Egypt, as he did by his ten precepts to Israel. And if the calm voice of the word were more regarded, we should hear less of the rough voice of the rod. As Gideon took briers, and thorns of the wilderness, and with them taught the men of Succoth, who would not be taught by fairer means, Judg. viii. 16. so God takes the sharp prickles of sore afflictions, to teach you his statutes, when you will not be taught by softer methods. Beware then of grieving God's Spirit, by turning stupid and insensible under sharp or long continued trials: But, the more pains God is at with you by his rod, hearken the more carefully to his voice; and labour to make the greater proficiency in the school of affliction, where he thinks fit to continue you; that so you may inherit that blesa sing, Psal. xciv. 12.' Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law.",
Direct. III. Beware of misconstructing God's dealings
towards you, and of charging him foolishly.
heavy trials, and to cntertain wrong thoughts of God and his dispensations. Now, these you ought to guard against; as for instance, ist, Beware of har bonring atheistical thoughts, as if there were no providence, no wise governor of this lower world, no distinc-, tion betwixt the good and bad; and that it is to no purpose to be religious, like these mentioned in Mali ia 14. “ Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it, that we have kept his ordinance, and walks ed mournfully before the Lord of bosts?". Yea, even the Psalmist, when he begins to compare his own sharp trials with the wicked's case and prosperity, is tempted to think all religion is vain, and say, Psal. Ixxxiii. 13, 14. " Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning." But these are pothing but the hellish suggestions of Satan, that irreconcileable enemy of God and precious. souls, against which we should closely stop our ears.
2dly, Beware of charging God in your hearts with rigour or injustice in his dealing, like these, Ezek. xviii. 25. “ Yet, ye say, the way of the Lord is not equal." How highly unjust and injurious are such thoughts of him, who is the judge of all the earth, and cannot but do right!
3dly, Beware of thinking that heavy afflictions do always speak wrath in God against thee: No, sometimes they speak forth love, and God may be carrying on a love design thereby to thy soul, viz. to subdue, thy strong lusts, and draw thee nearer unto himself;