CHAP.  4.

A first use of the former doctrine, for exhortation to store up heavenly comforts in our hearts. 
Two considerations which press this exhortation upon us.

IF it be so, then, that a heavenly hoard of grace, good conscience, God’s favour, &c., happily treasured up while it is called to-day, bath the sole and sacred property and privilege to hold up our hearts in times of horror, enabling us in the meantime patiently and profitably to master all miseries, pass through all persecutions, conquer all corners, and at length, by the help of God, to pull the very heart, as it were, out of hell; with confidence and triumph to look even death and the devil in the face, and to stand with boldness before the terror of the last day like an immovable rock, when the sons and daughters of confusion, who have slept in harvest and misspent the gracious day of their visitation, shall entreat the mountains and rocks to fall upon them; — I say, it being thus, let every one of us, like sons and daughters of wisdom, in this short summer’s day of our abode upon earth, and in this glorious sun-shine of the gospel and precious seasons of grace, employ all means, improve all opportunities to gather in with all holy greediness and treasure up abundantly much spiritual strength and lasting comfort against the evil day. To which let us be quickened by such considerations as these:‑

1. This wise and happy treasuring up of heavenly hoards and comforts of holiness beforehand, will sweetly mollify and allay the bitterness and smart of that heaviness and sorrow, of those fearful amazements and oppressions of spirit, naturally incident to times of trouble and fear, which ordinarily do very grievously sting and strike through the heart of carnal and secure worldlings with full rage and the very flashes and foretastes of hell. Of all other passions of the soul, sadness and grief grates most upon the vital spirits, dries up soonest the freshest marrow in the bones, and most sensibly sucks out the purest and most refined blood in the heart. All the objects of lightsomeness and joy are drowned in a heavy heart, even as the beauty of a pearl is dissolved in vinegar. Now the only cordial and counter-poison against this damp of light-heartedness and destroyer of life, is the secret sweetness and shining pleasure of that “one pearl of great price” (Matt. xiii, 46), three orient rays whereof are “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. xiv, 17), treasured up in the cabinet of [[15]] a good conscience. The glory, preciousness, and power of which hidden treasure, purchased with the sale of all sin, doth many times shine most fairly upon the soul in the saddest times, inspires for the most part into the hearts of the owners the greatest courage and constancy of spirit, even in the days of adversity and vexation, and enables them to digest and bear without any great wound or passion those crosses and cruelties which would break the back and crush the heart of the stoutest temporizer. Was there not a great deal of difference think you betwixt the heart of Hezekiah, who had walked before God “in truth and with a perfect heart” (Isa. xxxviii, 3) when he heard the news of death from the mouth of the prophet, and the heart of Belshazzar when he saw the handwriting upon the wall? (Dan. v, 5, 6.) Give me a great man who carries away the credit and current of the times, with all bravery and triumph wallows and tumbles himself in the glory and pleasures of the present; throw him from the transitory top of his heaven upon earth upon his last bed, present unto his eye at once the terrible pangs of approaching death, the rageful malice of the powers of hell, the crying wounds of his bleeding conscience, the hideous forms of his innumerable sins, his final farewell with all worldly delights, the pit of fire and brimstone into which he is ready to fall, and I tell you true, I would not endure an hour’s horror of his woeful heart, for his present paradise to the world’s end. But on the other side, let me be the man whom the corruptions of the time confine to obscurity, who mourns in secret for the horrible abominations and crying sins that reign among us, who thinks that day best spent wherein he bath gathered most spiritual strength against that last and sorest combat; and by the mercies of God and humble dependence upon his omnipotent arm, I will look in the face the cruellest concurrence of all those former terrors with confidence and peace.

2. By this spiritual hoarding of comfortable provision against the evil day, we may prevent a great deal of impatience, dependence upon the arm of flesh, base fears, sinkings of heart, unmanly dejections of spirit, desperate resolutions, and many passionate distempers of such raging and distracted nature, which are wont to seize upon and surprise unholy and unprepared hearts when the hand of God is heavy upon them. How bravely and heroically did patient Job bear and break through a matchless variety and extremely of calamities and conflicts, the softest of whose sufferings would have struck full cold to the heart of many a carnalist, and made it to die within him like a stone, as Nabal’s did! One of the least, the loss of his goods, I am [[16]] persuaded would have caused many covetous worldlings to have laid violent hands upon themselves; for instance, Ahithophel, only because the glory of his state wisdom was obscured and overtopped at the council board, saddled his ass, gat him home, put his household in order, and hanged himself. The only cause of his fainting in the day of disgrace and non-acceptation was his false and rotten heart in matters of religion. While the crown sat with security and safety upon David’s head, he walked with him as a companion unto the house of God. But when the wind began to blow a little another way, and upon Absalom’s side, like a true timeserver, he follows the blast, and turns his sails according to the weather; and therefore his hollow heart, having made the arm of flesh his anchor, and a vanishing blaze of honour his chiefest blessedness, shrinks at the very first sight and suspicion of a tempest, and sinks this miserable man into a sea of horror. Now, on the contrary, what was the cause that Job’s heart was not crushed in pieces under the bitter concurrence of such a world of crosses, of which any one severally was sufficient to have made a man extremely miserable? The true reason of his patient resolution amid so many pressures was the spiritual riches he had hoarded up in the time of his happiness; amongst which the divinest and dearest jewel lay nearest unto his heart, as a counterpoison to the venom and sting of the devil’s deadliest malice; 1 mean a sound and strong faith in Jesus Christ, “the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world,” which now began to shine the fairest in the darkest midnight of his miseries, and sweetly to dart out many heavenly sparks of comfort, and such glorious ejaculations as these: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (chap. xiii, 15); and that, chap. xix, 23, et seq., “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever. For I know that my Redeemer liveth,” &c. There were two cutting and cruel circumstances largely insinuated, chap. xxix and xxx, which did keenly sharpen the edge and mightily aggravate the weight of Job’s miseries. The one was this, he had been happy. Now, as that man’s happiness is holden the greatest who hath been in a miserable condition, for he tasteth the double sweet, of remembering his forepast misery and enjoying his present felicity; so, on the contrary, it is accounted the greatest misery to have been happy. The other was that which most nettles a generous nature, he being a man of so great honour and worth, whose rare and incomparable wisdom even the princes and nobles adored, with a secret and silent [[17]] admiration, as appears chap. xxix, 9, 10, was now contemned of the most contemptible. “The children of fools and the children of base men,” that were “viler than the earth,” make him their song and their bye-word (chap. xxx, 13, 9). For when true nobleness and worth is down, and any one of the Lord’s champions dejected, it is ordinary with all those cowardly dispositions, to whom his sincerity was an eye-sore, his power and authority a restraint to their lewdness, the glory of his virtues fuel to their envy, to run as a raven to the fallen sheep to pick out his eyes; I mean (which yet tastes of a truly cowardly and merciless constitution), to wound his very wounds, and to vex his vexations. This was Job’s case.

But what now ministers comfort to Job’s heart against these corrosives? Even consciousness of his graces and integrities, treasured up and exercised in the days of his peace. He reckons up fourteen of them, Job xxxi. From consideration hereof he gathers towards the end this triumphant resolution against the sorest of his sufferings, “I would even crown mine head with the bitterest invective of my greatest adversary.” Whence it is clear, that the two potent pillars of Job’s strong and strange patience, which generations will admire to the world’s end, were a sound faith and the sanctified fruits thereof, prepared and practised in the time of his prosperity.