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Which (as I showed you) although it be but a short word of few syllables, yet it comprehendeth all manner of mercies, that are possible to be imagined, both in this life, and in that to come, being freed from all evils, and kept for the abundance of all mercies, even all which so wonderful and so loving a God, is able to give unto thee.
O consider, if this be no small mercy to be thus compassed, when the wicked shall have many sorrows, with infinite and unspeakable torments; when the Lord shall like a mighty giant so often break, bruise and tear them in pieces every moment, yet as it were healing them again, that his wrath may but increase upon them with more fury than ever.
But it may be, that thou reply, I am fearful and weak, and full of infirmities, I cannot go and find these assurances of God's mercies in myself, nor that I am thus compassed with mercy. Yet, I say, fear not, what thou wantest thou shalt have. Only wait, trusting in him, and remember what the Lord answered St. Paul, Myd power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, although thou canst not see how this work is wrought, yet trust thou in God; he hath said it is so; others have found it so; and thou at the length, if thou be patient, shalt also find the same.
In the meantime, seeing thou art not altogether overthrown of the devil, but hast some power to resist, assure thyself, that this mercy of thy God doth compass thee; and think this a marvellous mercy, that thy God is thus a shield to keep thee. Nay, what speak I of this mercy ? It is further amplified for the comfort of God's children by the prophet. "Yet, therefore, will the Lord wait, that he may have mercy upon you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have compassion upon you." Here is a marvellous and wonderful mercy, that the Lord will attend and wait upon his children, being near to help in their greatest miseries, like unto one watching an opportunity or fit time, when to do his friend a kindness. So that now we need not to fear his absence, if we trust in him, for behold he waiteth but to have a fit time to show mercies unto his
d 2 Cor. chap. 12. ver. 9.
Isa. chap. 30. ver. 18.
children. As a most bountiful King, accounting it greatly to his honour to reward such richly, who trust and rely only in him.
From hence I proceeded to show to whom this mercy belongeth, even only unto such who forsaking and going out of themselves, when there appeareth no sense of love or mercy, could yet, wholly forsaking themselves, by faith lay hold upon Christ, casting and fastening the anchor of their hope within the vail, even in the Holy of holies, so relying upon him; from whence I grounded this point of doctrine, That only he was a wicked man, not he who did sin and live like unto other wicked men: but he who unto all his other sins addeth impenitency, refusing to trust in God, or lay hold of the free promises of mercy in Christ. For the Lord, of all other sins, taketh this for a most heinous offence, not to trust in him; the reason whereof is, because this trusting in God is that plaister which the Lord useth, and hath appointed to cure and bind up our chiefest sores, and heal them. No marvel then, when this sovereign balm of Gilead is gone, that then our diseases and wounds prove deadly.
The use whereof I told you was to examine ourselves, whether or not we had hearts to trust in God, to rely upon his promises, and then howsoever we be clothed with many imperfections, yet such might assure themselves that they were no wicked men. Again to the godly, that howsoever now they were full of sorrow, sowing their seed in tears, yet not to be discouraged, but to look upon the end, which should be joyful, not being so much turmoiled with the present state of things.
Now to proceed in my text, now read. The prophet having a little before denounced God's judgments unto the wicked; who because they do seldom profit by the same (howsoever they are made inexcusable thereby), leaving them, therefore, going on now in this eleventh verse, in comforting those who indeed are most ready to make use of his instructions and all God's mercies. Who because in the former verse he showed were compassed with God's mercies, he now wakeneth up in this verse, with a double alarum,
Be glad, rejoice; adding yet again a third charge to awaken them thoroughly. Be joyful (or as it is in the original) shout for joy all ye that are upright of heart.
Surely the Holy Ghost well knew here the dulness of our hearts, and that it is not an easy thing to rejoice here in this valley of tears, when to awaken us thoroughly to this rejoicing he soundeth thrice the alarum, with a shout at last. For God's children, howsoever they are assured, and know, and look for a day wherein all tears shall be wiped from their eyes, whereby they shall be freed from all miseries, being received into infinite joys, yet being hereto encountered with all the enemies of their salvation, the world, the flesh, and the devil (their greatest enemies being within themselves), their feeling and sense of God's love many times being removed, and those comforts which they expect long delayed; it is not, I say, so easy a thing (as some think it) to rejoice. Yet what must they do? Still they must trust in God; feed upon the promises, and the fidelity of the promiser in patience. And then at length for all their sorrows, they shall have abundance of joy in the midst thereof; "mercy shall compass them." And howsoever the wicked think the life of God's children full of heaviness, and uncomfortable, yet indeed their life, of all other, is most cheerful, wherein they ought to rejoice. Which point the prophet here groundeth as an infallible doctrine. That it is the privilege and sole property of the children of God, who trust in him alone, not only to have the only true joy, but also the abundance and height of joy, rejoicing in the midst of afflictions, and therefore he willeth them to rejoice, and rejoice again and again. Wherein we may perceive that he directly crosseth the common opinion, that the life of Christianity is such a tedious task, and uncomfortable life full of sorrows, a narrow way, with a number of other imputations of the like sort; by the contrary proving, that none can truly rejoice, but he who is a godly man, who is compassed with mercy, who hath obtained peace of conscience by a quietus est from heaven, viz., a free discharge and acquittance of all former debts; this man only hath true joy and sound cause of rejoicing, so that he
now triumpheth over all afflictions. This St. Paul in the 5th of the Romans well proveth. Who, although he begin the Epistle with terror in the first and second chapters, yet having in the third and fourth chapters brought us from ourselves, without any merit in us, to rely wholly by faith. on Christ; in the beginning of the fifth chapter he saith, so then being justified by faith, that is, without any merits. or worthiness in ourselves, having by faith apprehended and laid hold of Christ and his righteousness. I confess there is a marvellous strife in this action, when the strong man is to be cast out, he rageth, and keepeth much ado, when these passions and desires of ours must be subdued by faith: yet what of all this? So much the more should we strive to overcome, looking upon this which ensueth. And what is that? Being justified (saith the Apostle) by faith, we have peace towards God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Howsoever before we were tossed in piteous storms, and were afraid that we should make a final shipwreck of our salvation (as commonly God's children do when they part from this world) howsoever now, whilst the devil is to be thrust out, and the strong man dispossessed, there is much ado and much strife within a man, yet when a stronger than he cometh, having bound him, there is such peace with God as passeth all understanding. So, what followeth this our strife, we have peace, even a marvellous peace in Christ. O how should this peace be desired, which being once settled, there followeth abundance of joy. But what more? Here is a further matter. After this peace (saith he) through Christ is once settled, there is matter of abundance of joy. "By whom we have access through faith into this grace.' So that faith, having once apprehended Christ, whereupon his peace is settled, then is there unto the faithful soul granted this third thing, even an access through Christ with boldness unto the throne of grace. And then (mark the degrees)" wherein we stand, and rejoice under the hope of the glory of God."
Behold how, now in the fourth place, it is (saith he) even this free access by faith, whereby we stand, grounded on the former peace and apprehension of Christ, after which
(saith he) we come to rejoice under the hope of the glory of God. Behold, I say, how now in the fourth place, cometh this rejoicing under the hope of the glory of God. Here is matter of true joy, for now hope, being thus grounded, casteth her anchor within the vail, into the Holy of holies, there laying so sure hold upon Christ, that neither height nor depth, principalities, nor powers, things present, nor things to come, is able to make it finally loose that hold again. Then, I say, in this, there is again and again rejoice. Yet our apostle mounteth higher, and as the most exceeding excellency of Christian joy, he saith, "Neither do we so only, but also we rejoice in tribulations." Here is both the wonder and the excellency of the joy, to rejoice in trouble. This joy no wicked man can have, nor yet any true access unto God, because they are strangers unto him, and therefore have no acquaintance or familiarity with God. But his children not only rejoice under the hope of the glory, but also in tribulations, and crosses. But the joy of the wicked, although it make a fair show for a while, yet is it quickly gone, being builded upon a false foundation. For this peace and rejoicing, which we speak of, and which the prophet and apostle mentioneth, none can attain unto, but he who hath cast (by hoping and trusting in God) his anchor in heaven, within the Holy of holies, those can and do rejoice this true and great joy, even in tribulations. For as wood and timber do serve to augment the flame, so these tribulations and crosses unto them are but the fuel to increase the flame of their joy, considering what wonderful experiences of God's love they have by their continual deliverances, and hope of the glory to come, as St. James telleth us," Blessed' is the man who endureth temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life." Therefore let us remember in any fiery trial, what the Lord's intention is therein; for he never bestoweth any grace upon any of his children, but at one time or other he putteth it to a sound trial.
In such extremities, therefore, we must not be dismayed,
James, chap. 1. ver. 12.