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Flavel Vol 6


Page 138. AN EXPOSITION OF THE ASSEMBLY’S CATECHISM. With Practical Inferences from each Question: As it was carried on in the Lord’s Days Exercises in Dartmouth, in the first Year of Liberty, 1688.

posted 5 Jul 2014, 09:53 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 5 Jul 2014, 09:54 ]



AN EXPOSITION OF THE ASSEMBLY’S CATECHISM.

With Practical Inferences from each Question:

As it was carried on in the Lord’s Days Exercises in Dartmouth, in the first Year of Liberty, 1688.

THE PREFACE.

THAT catechising is an ordinance of God, few will doubt, when they consider the apostles did first lay the fundamentals of religion; Heb. vi. 1. And “fed babes with milk, teaching them the first principles of the oracles of God,” Heb. v. 12. and questionless taught them in that manner, which was most suitable to the capacity of the learners, which may be well supposed to be by plain and short questions, and suitable answers thereunto; and therefore this hath been a constant practice in the church of God; and the primitive church had a particular person appropriated thereunto, whom they called Catechist.

And so all well-governed, and wisely-managed churches, have still maintained and used it, as knowing the necessity and usefulness thereof; for the younger sort to inform them in the principles of that religion wherein to they were baptized; and for the establishment of the adult and more aged therein.

Hence have issued those little composures of all the fundamental doctrines of faith and practice so handled (which we call Catechisms) in the churches; and particularly in ours, whereof there are many and divers, whose authors have well deserved for their endeavours to inform and edify the people thereby.

But among them all, none excel this little Catechism of the Assembly for orthodoxy, fulness, and method.

And because the answers therein are some of them pretty large, and treat of the most profound mysteries of our religion; therefore several persons have bestowed their good and laudable pains, some in descanting more largely, and proving by scriptural reasons the particulars: one has shown the harmony thereof with the articles and homilies of the church of England (designed, I suppose, to remove the prejudice which some have taken against it:) others have parted the [[139]] questions and answers into several little ones, under each, to make them more intelligible to younger ones, and more easy to be remembered.

Among whom, worthy, orthodox, and excellent Mr. John Flavel may be ranked, who among other of his many most profitable labours, applied himself to the chewing of this bread of life, or crumbling it into smaller pieces, for the convenience of children, and, indeed, of all; wherein (as in all his other works) he hath shewn himself a workman, that needs not to be ashamed.

There needs no other recommendation to this posthumous piece, but the worthy author’s name; he was removed before he had completely finished it; he had prepared his questions and answers upon the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer; but lived not to propose them in the public congregation. God then translated him into his kingdom of glory above, while he was so industriously endeavouring to promote the kingdom of grace below.

The other five remaining questions and answers (to complete the work) were done by a ruder hand; as may be easily discerned by any observant reader, who will find himself transferred from a plain, clear, and delightful stile, method, and manner, into more rough, disorderly, and unpleasant ones; for, who indeed could equal this di vine labourer? Not the completer; who would account himself to have made very great attainments in divinity and usefulness, if he were left but a few furlongs behind him.

Let the reader use and peruse this piece, and he will see cause to bless God for the author.

VALE.

TO THE READER.

THE Divine Providence having unexpectedly cast my lot, for a few days, in Dartmouth, where that blessed man of God, Mr. John Flavel, did for many years honour Christ, and was honoured by him; I have been favoured with a sight of that most judicious ex plication of the Assembly’s Catechism, which is emitted herewith.

Being desired to testify my respect to the worthy author, by pre facing this excellent labour of his with a few lines; I can truly say, (as sometimes Beza of Calvin,) Now Mr. Favel is dead, life will be less sweet, and death less bitter to me.

My heart bleeds to look on this desolate place, and not to see him, that, whilst living, was the glory of it.

Rut neither the author, nor his writings, stand in need of the commendation of others, much less of mine.

Firs works, already published, have made his name precious in both Englands; and it will be so, as long as the earth shall endure.

There are some considerations which may cause the reader to [[140]] expect (and he will not find himself disappointed therein) that which is extrordinary in this little manuel; for the author’s heart was very much engaged in doing this service for Christ, in thus feeding his lambs. And he did himself design the publication of what is here committed to the press; and was very desirous (with an holy submission to the will of God) to have perfected this work before his decease; but had strange intimations that he should finish his course before that could be done.

When he did, viva voce, deliver his meditations, there were many enlargements, and lively passages, which are not here inserted; never the less, here is as much as he thought needful for public view, not being willing that his book should he voluminous.o

In his last catechetical exercise, concerning Hallowing the name qf God, he was exceedingly enlarged; but he must himself go into the kingdom of glory, when he intended to have discoursed on that petition, Thy kingdom come.

He also began some meditations on the joys of heaven; but before he had an opportunity to express what had been in his heart, the Lord Jesus said unto him, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” And thus doth it happen many times to the eminent and holy servants of God.

Another consideration, recommending what comes herewith, is, that it was amongst Mr. Flavel’s last works. The (εκοδια ρηματα) last sayings of wise and great men have been esteemed oraculous; and the Scripture puts an emphasis on the last words of David, the sweet singer of Israel, 2 Sam. xxiii. 1. Not that those were the last words that ever David spake, only they were written not long before his death, when he was come near heaven.

So was what is now put into the reader’s hand, written by Mr. Flavel not long before his translation to the world of souls, where the spirits of just men are made perfect.

There was a more than ordinary presence of God with him to his last; and in his last day, not the last sermon that he preached (which was June 21, 1691.) he did more than once surprize his hearers with an intimation, that that might be the last time he should speak to them in the name of the Lord. And was not then the secret of the Lord with him?

Dartmouth will know, and Devonshire will know, that there has been a prophet among them.

And now my soul bleeds to look on the dear flock of God, which are as sheep without a shepherd. The Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, have compassion on them, and give them a shepherd like to his blessed servant Flavel, who did for many years feed them with knowledge, and with understanding.

Dartmouth, March 21st, 1692.

INCREASE MATHER.

Page 120. A SERMON Preached for the FUNERAL of that Excellent and Religious GENTLEMAN, JOHN UPTON, OF LUPTON, ESQ. 2 CHRON. xxxv. 24, 25. His servants therefore tool- him out of that chariot, and put him in, the second chariot that he had; and they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died, and was buried in one of the sepulchres of his fathers: and all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. And, Jeremiah lamented for Josiah, and all the singing-men and the singing-women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and behold they are written in the lamentations.

posted 5 Jul 2014, 07:01 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 5 Jul 2014, 07:02 ]



A SERMON Preached for the FUNERAL of that Excellent and Religious GENTLEMAN, JOHN UPTON, OF LUPTON, ESQ.

2 CHRON. xxxv. 24, 25.

His servants therefore tool- him out of that chariot, and put him in, the second chariot that he had; and they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died, and was buried in one of the sepulchres of his fathers: and all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. And, Jeremiah lamented for Josiah, and all the singing-men and the singing-women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and behold they are written in the lamentations.

IN this context we have the history of the pious life, and tragical death of good king Josiah. The history of his life gives us an account of both what he was, and what he did. As to his personal endowments and qualifications, they were singular and eximious, as appears by the fourfold character by which he is described in the context: For,

First, He espoused the interest of religion betimes, even in his youth; 1 Chron. xxxiv. ver. 3. “For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father:” And that under the great disadvantage of an ill education, such a morning promised a glorious day.

Secondly, He hated all corrupt mixtures in the worship of God, and was answerably zealous for reformation: “And in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves,” &c. as knowing well he and his people might expect no more of God’s blessing on the ordinances, than there was of his presence in them; and no more his presence can rationally be expected, than there is of his own order and institution.

Thirdly, He was of a very tender and impressive heart, mourning for public sins and dangers; 1 Chron. xxxiv. 26, 27. “Because thy heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof; and humblest thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes and weep before me,” &c. He was not so intent upon his own pleasures, (though in the sprightly-vigour of youth) nor on the [[121]] Weighty concerns of the kingdom, as to forget the interest of God, and the greater concerns of his glory.

Fourthly, He was exceeding careful to propagate the interest of religion, and spread it far and wide among his people. Though he could not infuse the inward principle, (that was the work of God) yet he did enjoin the external practice of it upon all his subjects, which was his part and duty: 1 Chron. xxxiv. 83. “He made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the Lord their God. And all his days they departed not from following the God of their fathers.”

But yet good Josiah had his mistakes and failings. The best of men are but men at best: he was too rash and hasty in resolving, and too stiff and obstinate when resolved; and this was the occasion of his ruin. The case was thus:

Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, was at that time making war upon Charchemisb, a place that belonged to him, but was taken from him by the king of Assyria; so the war of Necho was a just war; and Judah lying between him and Charchemish, and being at peace with Judah, he requests leave of Josiah to march his army peaceably through his country to the seat of war: Josiah takes an alarm from this message, and arms against him. Hereupon Necho sent ambassa dors to Josiah, chap. xxxv. ver. 21. saying, “What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war: For God commanded me to make haste; forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not.”

Expositors conceive Necho had this discovery of the mind of God, from the prophet Jeremiah, Per oracidum non scriptum,sed viva voce editum: [1] even by word of mouth. If so, no doubt Jeremiah also dissuaded Josiah from going out against him: however, this is clear, Josiah did not consult the mind of God about that expedition as he ought, and was too hasty and resolute therein; chap. xxxv. 22. “Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him,” &c. By this means this excellent man came to a tragical end, and that in the very flower of his days. He dies in that unhappy expedition, from which he would not be diverted; is brought home to Jerusalem in the second chariot: dies, and is buried in the sepulchre of his fathers, to the universal sorrow of all good men in Israel, as you read in the text; wherein we have these two parts to consider;

I. The nature and quality of the lamentation.

II. The cause and grounds of it.

1. For the lamentation here made, it was extraordinary; never such cries heard before in Israel at any funeral, whether we consider it either,

[[122]]

1. Extensively,

2. Intensively, or,

3. Protensively.

1. Extensively, All Judah and Jerusalem, that is, city and country mourned that day; not every individual, but all that had any sense of the worth of the man, the good that he did, or the evils that followed upon his removal. No doubt the priests of Baal, their abettors and associates, secretly rejoiced at his fall; but all good men mourned. But among all the mourners, one is only specified by name, and that is Jeremiah the prophet, in whom all the faithful ministers of God were included. To them he was a true and faithful friend; and in him they lost a father, and a famous instrument of reformation.

2. Consider it, Intensively, as to the degree of the sorrow, it was a bitter lamentation: so pungent, intense, and deep, that the mourning of the Jews for Christ, at the time of their conversion to him, is compared to this mourning for Josiah, Zech. xii. 11. “In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.” This Hadadrimmon was a little town in the valley of Megiddon, near the place of this fatal battle, whose inhabitants receiving the first tidings of the fall of Josiah, made the town ring with doleful cries and lamentations.

3. Consider it Protensively, in its continuance and duration, it was “made an ordinance in Israel;” and accordingly “the singing-men and singing-women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day;” i. e. Whenever any solemn funeral or public calamity was solemnized in Israel, those persons that were skilful in lamentations, brought in the story of Josiah’s death, as the burden of that doleful song or funeral elegy.

II. Let us consider the cause and ground of this lamentation, which certainly was great and weighty enough to justify that sorrow, as great and bitter as it was: for in him they lost a faithful, public, useful, zealous, and tender-hearted instrument, whose life had been eminently useful to the church of God, and whose death opened the gap to all the following calamities upon Judah.

Now, considering Josiah here, especially in his religious capacity, as so faithful, industrious, and useful an instrument for the church of God, rather than in his political capacity as a king, the note from it will be this,

Doct. That faithful, active, and public-spirited men in the church of God should not be laid in their graves without great lamentations.

When Jacob was buried, a man famous for religion, a great and sore lamentation was made for him, Gen. l. 10. And when Aaron died all the house of Israel mourned for him thirty days, Numb. xx. 29. When Stephen the proto-martyr died, devout men carried him to his grave with great lamentations, Acts viii. 2. and indeed for any good man to be laid in his grave without lamentation, is lamentable. The living saints have ever paid this respect and honour to dead saints [[123]] as men sensible of their worth, and how great a loss the world sustains by their removal.

I know the departed souls of saints have no concernment in these things, yet respect is due to their very bodies, as the temples wherein God hath been served and honoured, as they are related to Christ, who will one day put great glory and honour upon them.

In the explication and confirmation of this point, I will shew you,

1. Negatively, On what account the death of good men is not to be lamented.

2. Positively, On what account tears and lamentations are due to them, with the grounds and reasons thereof.

1. Negatively, There is not a tear or sigh due to the death of any good man, upon the account of any real loss or detriment that he sustains thereby. No, in this case all tears are restrained, all sorrow prohibited by the principles and rules of Christianity, I Thess. iv. 13, 14. Religion differences the sorrows, as well as the joys of its professors, from the common joys and sorrows of the world. Dead saints are better where they are, than where they were; to be with Christ is far better: death to them is gain and infinite advantage, Phil. i. 21, 23. This world is the worst place that ever God designed his people to live in; for if a state of perfect holiness and purity be better than a state of temptation and corruption; if a state of rest and peace, be better than a state of labour and sorrow; if it be better to be triumphing above than sighing and groaning beneath; then it is better for departed Christians to be where they are, than where they were. And could they now communicate their minds to us by words, as they lately did, they would say to us as Christ said, Luke xxiii. 28. “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” Or, as he spake to his disciples under their sad resentments of his departure, John xiv. 28. “If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I go to the Father.” So then no tears of sorrow are due to them, or becoming us, upon the account of any real loss or detriment they receive by death.

2. Positively. Rut the true grounds and causes of our lamentation, are upon divers other weighty accounts; as,

1 Reason. First, Because so much of the Spirit of God as dwelt in them, when amongst us, is now recalled and gathered up from this lower world. Those precious graces which they exercised among us, in prayer, conference, and other beneficial duties, are now gone with them to heaven.

The church had the benefit of them during their abode with men, but now no more, except only what the remembrance of their holy words and instructive examples (whereby they still speak to us, though dead) may afford unto us.

There are choice effusions of the Spirit at the time of our sanctification, of which the church reapeth the benefit whilst we live; but all these arc recalled at our dissolution, and thenceforth we can be no [[124]] farther useful in this lower world: for as the soul is the subject in which these precious graces inhere, so they accompany and go along with the soul into glory.

Now, as it is a real loss to a company when any merchant with draws a great stock he had running in trade, out of the bank; so certainly it is a great loss to the church of God, when the precious gifts and graces of the Spirit, dwelling in the saints, are drawn out by death; so as the church can have no farther benefit by them, their prayers for us, and with us, are now ended; Abraham knoweth us not, and Israel is ignorant of us.

2 Reason. Secondly, The death of the saints deserves a bitter lamentation, because thereby a breach is made, a gap opened, to let in the judgments of God upon the remnant that is left. It is said of Moses, Psal. cvi. 23. “Therefore he said, that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, lest he should destroy them.’” A metaphor from a besieged city, when a breach is made in the walls, and an enemy ready to enter; but some champion stands in the breach to defend the city. Such a champion was Moses, who by his constant and fervent prayers, put a stop to the inundation of God’s judgments against Israel. And such another was Lot, Gen. xix. 22. whose prayers for that wicked place he lived in bound up the hand of judgment, insomuch as the Lord told him, I can do nothing till thou art gone. But when the Lord by death removes such men, he thereby makes a way to his anger, as the expression is, Psal. lxxviii. 50. Hence the death of eminent saints, especially when many are taken away at or near the same time, hath been ever looked upon as a direful omen, and dreadful presage of ensuing judgments, and that not without good scripture-authority, Isa. lvii. 1. “The righteous perish, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.”

Thus Methuselah, whose very name signified a flood cometh, died the year before the flood: Augustine, a little before the sacking of Hyppo: Paraeus, a little before the taking of Hydelberg: And Luther, before the wars broke out in Germany. Death, as a pioneer, clears the way to a troop of miseries following after. This, there fore, is a just and weighty ground of our lamentations for the death of useful and godly men.

3 Reason. Thirdly, The beauty and ornaments of the places they lived in, are defaced and removed by their death; they look not like themselves, when the godly are removed out of them: for as wicked men are the spots and blemishes, so good men are the beauty and ornaments of their country. A good man was wont to say of Mr. Barrington, of Barrington-hall, in Essex—Methinks the town is not at home when Mr. Barrington is out of town. How desolate and dismal doth a family look (whatever other ornaments be about it) when the religious governor of it is gone! Take away good men from their [[125]] families and country; and what are they but like a vineyard when the vintage is past? as the prophet speaks, Mic. vii. 1.

4 Reason. Fourthly, The death of good men deserves a bitter la mentation, because thereby the passage of the gospel, and propagation of religion, is obstructed in the places from whence they are removed. Of how great use in a country may one zealous, public-spirited man be? Hundreds may have cause to bless God for such a man. It was the apostle’s desire to the Thcssalonians, “to pray that the word of the Lord may have its free course, that it might run and be glorified,” 2 Thess. hi. 1. The removal of such a person as naturally took care for the souls of those that were about him, to provide food for them, is no small loss, nor lightly to be passed over.

5 Reason. Fifthly, The consideration of the time in which good men die aggravates the loss, and justly incenses the sorrow of them that remain, and that upon a threefold account (1.) That it falls out in the declining state of religion, when the spirit and power of godliness is so much weakened and impoverished. This is like the loss of good blood in a consumptive body, which must bring it very low. (.2.) That it falls out also in a time when the numbers of the godly are so much thinned and lessened, not when the church’s children say in her ears, the place is too strait, give place that we may dwell: but when they are every where lamenting the paucity of good men, as the psalmist did, l’sal. xii. 1. “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth, for the righteous fail from among the children of men.” At a time when they are bewailing themselves in the language of the prophet, Micah vii. 1. “\\ oe is me, for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desireth the first ripe fruit.” Alluding to a hungry man that goes into a vineyard to refresh his spirits with the fruit thereof; but, alas! there is not one pleasant bunch to be found, none but sour grapes to increase his hunger, and set his teeth on edge (3.) And that which more aggravates the loss is this; when it falls in a time wherein the spring and succession of good men is obstructed. In this case death, like a storm of wind, overturns the fairest, pleasantest, and most fruitful trees in the orchard, when there is no nursery from whence others may be taken to plant in their rooms.

6. Reason. Lastly, There is just cause to lament the removal of public and pious men, when we consider what influence our sins and provocations have had upon those judgments and calamities: our unworthiness of them, unthankfulness for them, and non-improve ments of such mercies have bereaved us of them. I look upon every good man, as a good book, lent by its owner for another to read, and transcribe the excellent notions and golden passages that are in it for his own benefit, that they may return with him when the owner shall call for the book again: Hut in case this excellent book shall be thrown into a corner, and no use made of it, it justly provokes the owner to take it away in displeasure.

[[126]] Thus you see upon what account our sorrows for the death of good men are restrained, and upon what accounts and reasons they are a due debt to the death of eminent and useful instruments for God. What remains, is the application of this point. And,

1. Use. First, The point before us justly reproves three sorts of men.

1. The worst of men, such as secretly rejoice, and are inwardly glad at the removal of such men; they took no delight in them while they lived, and are glad they are rid of them when they are dead. Those that persecuted and hated them when alive, may be presumed to be pleased and gratified with their death. But, alas! poor creatures, they know not what they do! The innocent preserve the island. “Except the Lord of hosts (saith the prophet) had left us a small remnant, we had been as Sodom, we had been like unto Gomorrah,” Isa. i. 9. It is a proverb among the very Jews, Sine supplicationibus non staret mundus: The world stands by the prayers of the godly. Let the world think what they will of them. I tell you these men are a screen, a partition wall, betwixt them and destruction.

2. It reproves the insensibleness of good men, who are apt too slightly to pass over such tremendous strokes of God: For this it was that God reproved his own people, Isa. lvii. 1. No man layeth it to heart. Where the want of affection is charged upon the want of consideration, none considering their worth, their use, or the consequences of their fall. Such rebukes of God do certainly call for a deeper sense and sorrow, than is found in most men.

3. It reproves the very best of men, who though they do bewail and lament the loss of such men, yet they do not lament it in the due manner. They lament it one to another, saying, Alas! alas, such a worthy is fallen, such an eminent instrument in the church or state is dead; but they do not lament it in prayer to the Lord, they mourn not over the matter to him, as David did, Psal. xii. 1. “Crying, Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth.” Help, Lord, the remnant that is left; help, Lord, to repair the breach made by their death; let the God of the spirits of all flesh raise up a man to fill the room, and supply the want. Alas, how insignificant are the lamentations of most men upon this account.

Use 2. Secondly, This point invites us all this day to bewail the stroke of God that is upon us. I could wish that he that looks upon this text and then upon the countenace of this assembly, might be able to discern the agreeableness of the one to the other, on such a sad and solemn occasion.

O let all that love Zion lament, this day, the fall of one of her true friends and lovers. I know funeral panegyrics are apt to be suspected of flattery; but as I want a rhetorical tongue for such a work, so if I had it, it should never be saleable for so bad a use and purpose. I am sure, by sending the generality that die to heaven, many are confirmed in the way to hell: Nor can I but think of that serious [[127]] line in Chrysostom, ‘What a poor comfort is it to he praised, where ‘a man is not; and to he tormented where he is:’ “But yet the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.” Psal. cii. 6. Expect nothing from me on this occasion, but what may be spoken with the greatest assurance of truth, and that intended for the benefit and imitation of all that hear it. Some may think it a strain too high, to compare a private person with such a glorious king as Josiah was; but if Christ compared and preferred the very grass of the field to Solomon in all his glory, I know no reason why we may not com pare and parallel the precious graces of a private person with a royal saint; especially since the comparison is made in the religious, not in the civil capacity.

I am sure the graces, and gracious performances of David, Hezekiah, and Josiah, with all the other dignified saints, were intended and propounded as patterns for our imitation; and no doubt but private Christians may measure by their pattern. Beside, it is abundantly more safe to relate the virtues of the saints when they are dead, than whilst they were alive; for now there is no danger of provoking pride and vain-glory in them that are praised, but much hope of provoking a holy emulation and imitation in them that hear them.

Well then, Absit invidia verbis: Suffer me this day to erect a pillar, to perpetuate the memory of this deceased worthy; to pay the tribute of my tears due to that mournful hearse; and to engage you to imitate those excellencies of his, which I shall, with equal truth and modesty, display this day; that we also may be duly affected with the rebuke of God upon us, and mourn over it before him.

If, when an eminent commander in any army falls, the whole army is affected with, and concerned at his death:

The mourning drum, the lance and ensigns trail’d,

The robes of honour all in sables vail’d.

Let it not be thought much, Christians should express their sense and sorrow in sighs and tears, for so useful and worthy a man as God hath this day removed from among us; whose character I shall give you in the following imitable particulars.

1. That worthy man, whose fall we lament this day, was seasoned with religion in his youth, by God’s blessing upon his pious education; In this he had the advantage of Josiah. His progenitors were men of piety, and himself a child of many prayers: and as Monica said of her son Austin, it was not likely that a child of so many prayers should perish. How importunately did they request the fervent prayers of their pious friends for him, in the time of his education? Nor was it in vain, for they were manifestly answered in him: He soon dis covered that probity and piety, in his youth, which justly raised great expectations from him in his riper years.

2. Nor did he frustrate those hopes; for as soon as ever God had fixed him a proper sphere of activity (I mean a family of his own) those graces that were iu him shone forth to the comfort and benefit of [[128]] all that were about him: Joshua’s pious resolution was his; “As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

He kept up the worship of God in his closet, as well as in his family: And truly, if religion languish in the closet, it will quickly die in the family. His house was a temple consecrated to God; there the morn ing and evening sacrifices of prayers and praises were offered up: He called his children and servants to those duties, not reckoning that time lost to him which was spent for God. The Lord had endowed him with an excellent spirit of prayer himself. I have sometimes accidentally heard him praying in his family, with such solidity of judgment, pertinency of expressions, and holy warmth of affection, that hath at once edified, refreshed, and reproved me in hearing him.

He constantly read the scriptures in course before prayer, and oft-times with a commentary upon them, for his own and his family’s edification.

The Lord’s day he sanctified, not only in more public attendance on the ordinances, but in the duties of reading, repeating, singing, and catechising all his children and servants about him: And all this before he allowed himself or them any bodily refreshments, lest the edge of their affections should be blunted in duty, by the clogging of nature with creature-repasts. And thus did he, as Job, continually: to this course he was severe and constant; no incident occasions, how great or many soever, could divert him from it.

3. Neither was his holy zeal and Christian care limited and circumscribed within his own family, but was extended to the souls of all in his neighbourhood, who desired helps and means in the way of salvation.

His house was seldom without a godly minister in it; and loth he was to eat his pleasant morsels alone. It was the ioy of his heart to see his house filled on this account: How many witnesses to the truth of this are here this day! Like another Joseph, he provided food for your souls; he loved, honoured, received, and encouraged the ministers of the gospel in their deepest sufferings; gave them opportunities of service, when some durst not own them, and others violently persecuted them.

4. When God called him to public employments in the common wealth, he neither purchased, nor abused that trust; but with a true English, rather a Christian, zeal and courage, he dedicated himself to the service of God and his country; cheerfully quitting all domes tic concerns, spent his estate, time, and pains, to heal the breaches of England. I know not a man, whose zeal for the common good would have carried him nearer to the example of that noble Roman, who, when a chasm was made by an earthquake, and the oracle had declared, that it could never be closed, except something of value was thrown into it, cast in himself to close it.

I could truly have said, had there been conveniency and opportunity for it, when he was laid in his grave. ‘Here lies a man that [[129]] never betrayed nor deserted the public, for any private interest of his own.’

5. He was a man that came as near Josiah in tenderness of heart, as ever I had the happiness to be acquainted with. The church’s troubles were his troubles; they all met in him as lines in a centre; he even lived and died with the interest of religion: And of him I will say, as the apostle said of Timothy, Phil. ii. 20, 21. “I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state, for all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” Naturally, in this place, is not opposed to spiritually, hut to artificially. Many can artificially act the part of a zealot, when their own interest lies in it; but he naturally, and therefore, freely, cheerfully, and constantly.

6. But though these excellencies were in him, he had his nœvi, blemishes, and imperfections. Elias was a man of like passions and weaknesses of spirit. All these I doubt not but God hath covered, and he is now perfectly freed from them all.

There is now no passion left within him to be stirred by temptation; no despondencies and sinkings of spirit under dismal aspects of providence. His graces are perfected, and his corruptions finally eradicated.

7. To conclude; He was a man of great afflictions, as well as tender affections. And as the Lord greatly honoured him in the course of active, obedience, so he greatly proved and tried him in a course of passive obedience. He not only gave the cross in his coat, but bare it upon his shoudlers: For besides those troubles which were properly sympathetica!, he had his idio pathetical sufferings also, and that both from the hands of men, and from the hand of God. His piety made and marked him for an object of persecution; the archers shot at him, and sorely grieved him; he and his family were hunted with a net: The Lord lay it not to their charge; Et hinc illce lachrymw. The sad effects thereof I chose rather at this time to pass over with a sigh, than in this place to commemorate.

And as the hand of man was upon him, so the hand of his God also: first lopping off all the pleasant branches that sprang from him, and that one after another, when come to the endearing age, open ing and disclosing the bud; and, as the complement and issue of all, breaking his constitutional strength with a long languishing disease, which at last extinguished this bright lamp, and hath left his family and neighbourhood In darkness and sorrow. His poor heart was the anvil on which many hammers o! affliction had been a long time beat ing; and no wonder it appeared relaxed and tumified when it was inspected, having endured so many successive strokes of sorrow.

And now what the Lord spake of Israel, in Jer. xi. 16. is fulfilled upon this worthy person: “The Lord called thy name a green olive tree, fair and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he [[130]] hath kindled a fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.”

Use 3. Thirdly, I shall wind up the whole in several seasonable and necessary counsels; some more general, others more particular, and some most particularly and especially.

First, Counsel to all in general to awaken themselves, and recover a due sense of such sore rebukes of God as this is. When Saul fell, “David lamented it, saying, The beauty of Israel was slain on thy high places.”

God hath this day stript off an ornament from this country. Such dispensations of Providence speak indignations coming on: It requires almost an age to breed and furnish a man with due qualifications for the service of the church and commonwealth. England doth not so abound with pious, zealous, and faithful gentlemen at this time, but that it may sensibly feel the loss of such a man.

Secondly, More particularly, let the ministers of Christ lament his fall, as Jeremiah did the fall of Josiah in the text. He was a true friend to Christ’s faithful ministers, and had them in honour for their work’s sake. It is true, he hath no more need of us, he is now wiser than his teachers; but we greatly need him, and men of his spirit, in such a dull degenerate age as we live in.

Thirdly, And most particularly, I shall apply and close all with a few words of counsel to the dear and now desolate relict of this wor thy person, whose sad lot it is this day, to overlive the mercies and comforts she once enjoyed in him.

Madam, God hath this day covered you with sables, written bitter things against you, broken you with breach upon breach. Your sorrows need not to be excited, but regulated. It is my trouble that I cannot discharge my duty to the memory of your dear husband, without exasperating your griefs, which, alas, were too acute before; but rods have their voices; “Blessed is the man whom God correcteth, and teacheth him out of his law.” Hear you the rod, and who hath appointed it; and, oh! that your soul may this day take in these necessary counsels and cautions, without which your afflictions cannot be sanctified to the advantage of your soul! And,

1. Learn from hence the vanity of the creature, the emptiness, and nothingness of the best things here below. How hath God made your best comforts on earth to shrink up and vanish into nothing? How do your fancies varnish and gild over these empty bubbles? What great expectations are we apt to raise from them? How apt to fall asleep in the bosoms or laps of earthly enjoyments, and say with Job, “I shall die in my nest, and multiply my days as the sand?” When lo, in a moment, the projects and expectations of many years are overturned. O what a difference will you find betwixt hope founded in Christ, comforts drawn out of the promises, and the flattering comforts and vain hopes founded in the creature, whose breath is in its nostrils?

It is time for you, and for us all, to wean off from this vain world; [[131]] mortify your fancies and affections to it, and place them where they shall not be capable of disappointment.

2. Guard carefully, I beseech you, against those temptations which probably may accomplish this affliction. It may be Satan will suggest to your heart, what he once put into their lips; Mai. hi. 14. “What profit is it that we have kept his ordinances, and walked mournfully before him?” Where is the fruit of prayer? “What good have I seen of fasting? What hath religion availed? Do not prayerless and ungodly families thrive and prosper? Beware of this. Madam, I doubt not but you will acknowledge, there have been sins and provocations within your walls, yea, within your heart, for which God may as justly and severely judge your house as he did Eli’s. Remember the rewards of religion are not in this world; and should we speak thus, we shall offend against the generation of his children. All we must expect from religion, is to save our souls by it.

3. Call not the love of God into question to yourself, or yours, because of these severe strokes of God upon you and them: You know Josiah was dear to God, yet lie died in the prime of his days, by a violent hand, remote from his own home, and was brought home in the second chariot to Jerusalem; a spectacle of far greater sorrow than your dear husband was; and yet, notwithstanding all these sad circumstances of his death, the promise of his God was punctually performed to him, that he should die in peace, and not behold the evil that was to come. “There is a vanity (saith Solomon) which “is done upon the earth, that there be just men unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked: Again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous,” Eccl. viii. 14. But then remember, that it is but in the earth; here, or no where, God must chastise his children.

4. See that you maintain that holy course of religious exercises in your family, and in your closet, wherein he walked so exemplarily before you. Let religion live, though he be dead; and convince the world, I pray you, that it was God’s influence, and not your husband’s only, which was the spring and principle of this holy course.

5. Strive not with your Maker, nor fret against the Lord under this irksome and painful dispensation: Remember, there is a woe hanging over this sin; Isa. xlv. 9, 10. Woe to him that striveth with his Maker. There is a twofold striving of men with God, one lawful and commendable; when we strive with him upon the knee of importunity in prayer; thus Jacob wrestled with God, and prevailed, Hos. xii. 4. The other is highly sinful and dangerous, when we presume to censure, or accuse any of his works, as defective in wisdom or goodness. He that reproveth God, let him answer it, i. e. At his peril be it. This sinful striving with God is twofold; either vocal or mental.

1. Vocal. When men, in bold blasphemous language, arraign the VOL. VI.  [[132]] wisdom, power, goodness, or faithfulness of the Lord, at the bar of their own reason; and there condemn them, setting their mouths against the heavens, Ps. lxxiii. 8, 9. This is the sin of the wicked, yea, of the first-born sons of wickedness.

2. Mental. In inward frets, murmurs, repinings against God; Prov. xix. 3. “The foolishness of man perverts his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord.” The heart may cry out impatiently against God, when the tongue is silent: And if the frets and murmurs of the heart be (as indeed they are) interpretatively no better than a striving with our Maker; then this sin would be found more common among good men in the paroxisms of affliction than we imagine. It will be necessary therefore, for your sake, and for the sakes of many more in a like state of affliction with you, to stay a while on this head, and consider these following queries.

Quay I. How far may we enquire of God, expostulate, and com plain in times of affliction, without sin?

Query II. Wherein lies the sinfulness and danger of exceeding these bounds?

Query III. What considerations are most proper and powerful to restrain the afflicted soul from this sinful excess?

Query 1. How far may we enquire of God, expostulate with him; and complain to him in times of affliction, without sin?

Sol. 1. We may humbly enquire into the causes and reasons of God’s displeasure against us, not to seek matter for our justification, but direction in the work of our humiliation: so David enquired about the three years famine, and the Lord informed him, for whose sake, and for what sin it was, 2 Sam. xxi. 1. And thus Job addressed to him in the day of his affliction, Job x. 2. Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me; i. e. convince me, what special sin it is, for which lam thus afflicted. This is so far from being our sin, that it is both our duty, and the excellency of our spirits: it is a child-like temper, willing to know, that we may be particularly humbled for that sin, and for ever the more careful to shun it. “That which I see not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do so no more,” Job xxxiv. 32. Thus far we are safe.

2. We may plead by prayer, and put him in mind of his mercies, relations, and promises, in order to the change of his providential dispensations towards us: “We may say to him under the smartest rod, as the church did, Doubtless thou art our Father,” Psalm lxxiv. 20. Have respect to the covenant; or as Jacob, Gen. xxxii. 9, 12. “Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good.”

3. We may complain to God under our sufferings, and spread them before him in all their circumstances and aggravations, as Job, Heman, Asaph, Hezekiah and David did. He allows his children to complain to him, but not of him: “I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble,” Psal. cxlii. 2. To whom [[133]] should a child make his complaint, but to his father? So far we are safe.

4. We may submissively pray for the removal of his hand from us, and entreat, that his anger may cease, and that he will turn again and heal us and our families, and not draw forth his anger for ever. So did David, Psal. xxxix. 10. “Remove thy stroke away from me; I am consumed by the blow of thine hand;” q. d. Ah, Lord, I am not able to endure another stroke. All this while, we are safe, within the bounds of our duty. But then,

Query 2. Wherein lies our sin and danger, in exceeding these bounds? I answer,

Sol When forgetting God’s sovereignty, and the desert of our iniquities, we arrogantly censure his affecting, or permitting providences, as if they had no conducency to his own glory, or our good. This is both sinful and dangerous: For,

1. This is a proud exalting of our own reason and understanding above the infinite wisdom of God. God hath made our reason a

judge and arbiter in matters within its own sphere and province: but when it comes to summon God to its bar, and article against heaven, it is an insufferable arrogancy; and we do it at our own peril. God will have all men know, that he is an unaccountable being, Job xxxiii. 13. Yea, he will have us to know, that the “foolishness of God is wiser than men,” I Cor. i. 25. That is, that those very works of God, which man’s proud reason adventures to censure as not so wise a method as their own would be, hath more wisdom in them, than all the deep-laid designs of the greatest politicians in the world. And it is strange that men should dare to attempt such a wickedness as this, after God hath so severely punished it in the fallen angels.

2. It is no less than a spurning at the sovereignty of God, from whose pleasure we derive our beings, and all our mercies, Rev, iv. 11. In these quarrellings at providence, and frets at divine appointments, we invade his throne, and controul his sovereign pleasure: How monstrous were it to hear a child quarrelling with his father, that he was not so and so figured; or the clay to chide the potter for moulding it as it is?

3. It is destructive to our inward peace and tranquillity of mind, which is part of the punishment of this sin: and a smart stripe, a sore rebuke it is from the hand of God upon us.

Contention is uncomfortable, though but with a neighbour, worse with a near relation; but a quarrel with God is destructive to all comfort in the world. Afflictions may disturb a good man’s peace; but a mutinous spirit against God, destroys and stabs it at the very heart. What is the sin and torment of the devils, but their rage against the Lord, and swelling against the methods of his grace? “He seeketh rest, but findeth none,” Mat. xii. 43. The peace of our spirit is a choice mercy, and might be maintained amidst all our [[134]] affictions, were but our interest in his promises, and the true level of his providences cleared to us.

4. It is irrational, and highly unjust, to give the cause, and quarrel at the effects. God hath righteously and inseparably linked penal with moral evils; sin and sorrow, by the laws of heaven are tacked and linked together; he that doth evil, shall feel evil, Gen. iv. 7. We adventure upon sin, and then fret at affliction, Prov. xix. 3. “The foolishness of man perverts his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord.” Is this becoming a reasonable creature? Doth not every man reap as he soweth? Can the seed of sin bring forth a crop of peace and comfort? “Why doth the living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” Lam. iii. 39. Search your hearts, and search your houses, and you will quickly find that all your afflictions in this world, were they ten thousand times more, and heavier than they are, do not come near to the desert of one sin. All sorrows, losses, afflictions on this side hell, are quite below the value of sin, the meritorious and provoking cause of them all.

5. It is foolish and vain, to strive against God, and contest perversely with him. Can our discontents relieve us? [2] Or our murmurs ease us? Will they turn God out of his way? No, He is in one mind, and who can turn him aside? Job xxiii. 13. The wheels of providence go straight forward, and turn not when they go, Ezek. i. 17. We may bring them over us to crush us, by standing thus in their way; but cannot turn them out of their way.

“If they still walk contrary to me, then will I walk contrary to you, and punish you yet seven times for your sins,” Lev. xxiii. 14. Or I will walk in the rashness of mine anger, [3] smiting you without moderation, as men do in their rage and fury. This is all we shall get by fretting against God. Never expect relief under, or release from the yoke God hath laid on your necks, till you be brought to accept the punishment of your iniquities, Lev. xxvi. 41.

6. It is a sin full of odious ingratitude towards your God: Which appears (1.) In murmuring because it is so bad, when we should be admiring that it is no worse. Are there not millions in hell that never sinned at higher rates than you have done? Is this affliction as bad as hell! Hath God pardoned you and saved you, and yet doth he deserve to be thus requited by you? (2.) In murmuring that our condition is so bad, when we may every day see others in a far worse case, who are equal with us by nature, and we are equal with them in guilt and provocation. If we speak of outward afflictions, certainly others would be glad to exchange conditions with us, and account themselves happy in our circumstances. Consider the description given of those persons, Job xxx. 3, 4, 5. And how little they differ in the manner [[135]] of life from brute beasts: And if we speak of inward troubles, com pare your own with those of Heman, and Asaph, in Ps. lxxvii. and lxxxviii. and if both together, and that in an intense degree, consider Job vii. 4. and you will soon find your condition full of sparing mercy: Those excellent persons that were so much above you in grace, were yet plunged so much deeper than you into afflictions. And is it not then vile ingratitude in you, thus to mutiny and charge your God foolishly? (3.) But especially here lies our ingratitude, in quarrelling and censuring those providences, whose very end and errand is our eternal good; Heb. xii. 10. “But he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”

7. It is a sin that deprives us of the fruits and benefits of our afflictions: A tumultuous raging spirit reaps no good by the rod. The fruits of affliction are called the peaceable fruits, Heb. xii. 11. because they are always gathered and reaped down by the afflicted soul in a quiet and peaceful temper: Anima sedendo, & quiescendo fit sapiens. Blossoms and flowers open not in the boisterous storms of winter, but in the mild and gentle spring.

Well then, be convinced of the sin and danger of a discontented spirit under the hand of God, and instead of mourning over lost relations, now mourn for the loss of patience, the want of submission, and for the pride and arrogancy of your own reason, that presumes to correct the works of the Almighty; and say to God, as Joseph did to his father, when he wittingly crossed his hands in blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, Not so, my father. This is not fit.

Query 3. But how may these evils be prevented ore ured, and the tempestuous soul calmed under the rod? How shall all strifes betwixt God and his people be ended, and the soul made quiet at his feet?

Reply. This blessed frame of spirit may in a great degree and measure be attained in the use of the following directions: I say, in their use and application, not by the prescription or simple know ledge of them. And,

Rule 1. The first rule or direction is this: Study well the glorious sovereignty of God over you, and awe your hearts with the same consideration of it. From his mere pleasure, you, and all that is yours, proceeded; on his pleasure you depend, and into that good pleasure of his will, your wills therefore ought to be resolved: “Whatever the Lord pleased, that he did, in heaven and in earth, in the sea, and in all deep places,” Psal. cxxv. 6. Man and man stand on equal ground; and if our reason be not satisfied about the equity of men’s dealings with us, we may ask who did it, and demand the reasons why he did it; but when we have to do with God, we must not dispute his pleasure. Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth; but let not the clay dispute with the potter. Now the sovereignty of God is gloriously displayed in his decrees, laws, and providences. (1.) In his decrees, appointing the creatures to their ends, whether to be vessels of mercy, or of wrath, Rom. ix. 18, 19, 20. In [[136]] this case there must be no disputing with God. (2.) In his laws, appointing the work and duty of the creature, as also the rewards and punishments; Jam. iv. 12. “There is one Lawgiver, that is able to save and to destroy.” In this case his sovereignty immediately and indispensably binds the conscience of man, and no human authority can dissolve that obligation: Nor must we snuff at the severest command. (3.) The glorious sovereignty of God is displayed in his providential administrations, appointing every man to that station and condition in which he is in this world; whether it be high or low, prosperous, or afflicted: Ps. lxxv. 6. “I said to the fools, deal not foolishly, &c. for promotion cometh not from the east, nor the west, but God is Judge; he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” Let not them that are at the top of the world be lifted up; nor those that are at the bottom be dejected; for God casts every man’s lot, and changeth their condition at his pleasure; a word of his mouth plucks down the lofty, and exalts the lowly; he woundeth, and his hands make whole. Hence it becomes the .afflicted to be still, and know that he is God, Psal. xlvi. 10. to put his mouth in the dust, and quietly to wait for his salvation: All our fretting and struggling cannot shake off the yoke which he hath put upon us; but a meek and quiet submission to his will, and compliance with his designs, is the best expedient to procure our freedom. There is not one circumstance of trouble befals you without his order; nor can you expect deliverance but by order from him.

Rule 2. Study the transcendent evil of sin, and what the demerit of the least sin that ever you committed is. This will becalm your tempestuous spirits, and at once work them into contentment with your present state, and admiration that it is no worse, Lam. iii. 22, 39, 40.

Consider, thou querulous and discontented soul, that the wages of sin is death, Rom. vi. ult. that tribulation, anguish, and wrath, are due by law, to every soul of man that doth evil; that so often as we have sinned, so often have we deserved hell: and shall we then charge God with severity, for scourging us with the rods of gentle, fatherly, chastisements? Is this hell? Dare’you say the severest afflic tion that ever was upon you, is above the demerit of your sin?

It is true, indeed, the Lord tells Jerusalem, that she had “received of his hand double for all her sins,” Isa. xl. 2. But that is not the language of strict justice, but of compassions rolled together. There is not a gracious soul in all the world but will readily subscribe Ezra’s confession, that God hath afflicted it less than its iniquities deserve, Ezra ix. 13. Oh! if once we measure our afflictions by our sins, we shall admire they are so few, so mild and gentle as they are!

Rule 3. Consider what a difference there is betwixt the saints meeting with afflictions, and their parting with them. You meet them with trembling and astonishment, but you shall part with them with praise and thanksgiving; blessing God for the manifold blessings they have instrumentality conveyed to your souls. It is good for me, saith [[137]] David, that I have been afflicted. By these things sin is prevented, discovered, and mortified, the ensnaring world embittered, and the rest to come sweetened.

Many other excellent rules may be added: try these, and the blessing of the Spirit accompany them.

To conclude; be not swallowed up of sorrows for what you have lost; but balance all the troubles of this life with the hopes of the next. Your dear children are gone, your sweet husband is gone; but to consider who took them, and whither. It is said of Enoch, Gen. v. 24. “He walked with God, and was not, for God took him.’’ Mr. Upton is not, and yet he is: he is not with men,—he is with God: he ceases not to he, though he ceases to breathe: he is taken away, but God took him: he is better where he is than where he was: though he be not in your bosom, he is in Christ’s.

Imitate his zeal, plain-heartedness, diligence in duties, and you shall shortly meet him again, and never part any more; 1 Thess. iv. 15, 16, 17, 18. “For this we say by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain to the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” Did you but know the deep emphasis of these words, ever with the Lord; I doubt not, but you would find comfort enough in them for yourself, and a great overplus for the Comforting of others.



[1] Jerom. a Lapide. Just, Mart.

[2] When a patient struggles under the physician’s hand he receives a smarter touch.

[3] XXXX temere ambulabo, i. e. I will walk rashly.


Page 83. THE BALM OF THE COVENANT APPLIED TO THE BLEEDING WOUNDS AFFLICTED SAINTS. TO WHICH IS ADDED, A SERMON preached for the Funeral of that excellent and religious Gentleman, JOHN UPTON, of LUPTON, ESQ. To the Virtuous and Much Honoured Madam, URSULA UPTON, of LUPTON in DEVON.

posted 5 Jul 2014, 05:42 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 5 Jul 2014, 05:43 ]



THE BALM OF THE COVENANT APPLIED TO THE BLEEDING WOUNDS AFFLICTED SAINTS. TO WHICH IS ADDED, A SERMON preached for the Funeral of that excellent and religious Gentleman, JOHN UPTON, of LUPTON, ESQ.

To the Virtuous and Much Honoured Madam, URSULA UPTON, of LUPTON in DEVON.

MADAM,

IF I find it an hard task to write on such a doleful subject, it can not be imagined but your part must be abundantly harder, who feel over and over what is here written. Could I tell how to administer counsels and comforts to you, without exasperating jour sorrows, I would certainly take that way; but seeing the one (in this case) can not be done without the other, it is our duty to submit to the method Providence hath prescribed to us.

The design of the ensuing discourse, is to evince the truth of what seems a very great paradox to most men, namely, that the afflictions of the saints can do them no hurt, and that the wisdom of men and angels cannot lay one circumstance of their condition (how uneasy so ever it seems to be) better, or more to their advantage than God hath laid it. I attempt not by a flourish of rhetoric to persuade you against the demonstrations you can fetch from sense and feeling to the contrary, hut to overthrow the false reasonings of flesh and sense, by the allowed rules of Scripture, and sure principles of religion.

And methinks you, and every Christian, should gladly entertain [[84]] that comfortable conclusion, when you shall find the foundation of it as strong, as the influences thereof are sweet and comfortable.

Certainly, Madam, the intent of the Redeemer’s undertaking was not to purchase for his people riches, ease, and pleasures on earth; but to mortify their lusts, heal their natures, and spiritualize their affections; and thereby to fit them for the eternal fruition of God. Upon this supposition the truth of this conclusion (how strange soever it seems) is firmly built.

It was not without divine direction, that the subject of the ensuing discourse was as pertinently, as seasonably, recommended to me Do your dear husband, in the day of your sorrows for your only son. He took, I hope, his portion of comfort out of it before he died, and it is now left as a spring of comfort to you, who then mourned with him, and now for him.

Heavy pressures call for strong support, and fainting seasons for rich cordials. Your burden is indeed heavy: yet I must say it is much our own fault our burdens are so heavy as “we feel them to be; for according to the measure of our delight in, and expectation from the creature, is our sorrow and disappointment when we part from it. The highest tides are always followed with the lowest ebbs. We find temperance and patience knit together in the same -precept, and intemperance and impatience as inseparably connected in our own experience. It may be we did not suspect ourselves of any sinful excess in the time of their enjoyment; but it now appears the creature was gotten deeper into our hearts than we imagined, by the pain we feel at parting: Did we not lean too hard upon it, there would not be such shakings as we feel when it is slipt from us.

But, Madam, it is high time to recall your thoughts, and hound your sorrows, which the following considerations would greatly assist you in.

1. That is the very ground and reason of our excessive sorrows for the loss of earthly comforts r Is it not this, That they are perishing and transitory? That is, that you find them to be as God made them. And can we expect that God should alter the laws of nature to please and humour us? It is as natural to our relations to die, as it is for flowers to wither, or the moon to wane.

2. That there is no such necessary connection betwixt these things and our comfort, that whenever God removes the one, he must needs remove the other with it. Christ and comfort are indeed so united, hut nothing beside him is or can be so. I hope you will shortly experience the truth of this conclusion, by the comfort God will give you in the absence of those comforts you have lost. Can you not now have as free access to God as before”? Yea, do not these very afflictions send you oftener into his presence? And if God meet you in those duties, (as in days of distress he uses to meet his people,) then it will be evident to you that your joy and comfort lives, though your husband and children be laid in their graves.

[[85]] 3. That the removing of your earthly comforts hinders not but that you may still pursue the great end and business of your life, and carry on all your designs for heaven as successfully as ever. Indeed, Madam, had we been sent into this world to raise estates; contract relations, and then sit down in the midst of them as our portion, then our design had been utterly dashed and disappointed; but you know this is not your main end, or great business upon earth, but to honour God by an holy fruitful life here, and make ready for the full enjoyment of him hereafter. And what hinders but you may as prosperously manage and carry on this your design as ever? You do not think the traveller is disabled for his journey, because he hath fewer clogs and hinderances than before. I think few Christians find much furtherance heavenward by their multiplicity of engagements or enjoyments in this world. Your cares and fears about these things, will now lie in a narrower compass than they did before, and thereby you may have your thoughts more about you, to attend the great concerns of God’s glory, and your own salvation.

4. But above all, you will certainly find your relief and consolation to lie in the everlasting covenant of God. Thence it was, that David fetched his support under a much heavier burden and smarter rod than yours: For your relations were such as gave you comfort in their lives, and left you many grounds of hope in their deaths; but his were taken away in their sins. But though the grounds of his sorrow (blessed be God) are not yours, yet I hope the grounds of his comfort in the text are fully yours.

I confess, I have prepared these things in too much haste and dis traction of thoughts, which in this juncture was unavoidable; nor have I bestowed much of art or language upon them: And if I had, they would have been never the more effectual to your relief for that. But such as they are, I humbly present them to you with my hearty prayers, that God would make them a sovereign balm, by the blessing of his Spirit on them, to your wounded spirit, and to all other godly families groaning under the like strokes of God with you, and remain,

MADAM,

Your most Faithful

Sympathizing Friend and Servant,

JOHN FLAVEL,


Page 86. 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.

posted 5 Jul 2014, 02:44 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 5 Jul 2014, 05:40 ]



2 SAM. xxiii. 5. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.

THESE are part of David’s last words. The last words of dying saints, but especially of dying prophets, are ponderous, memorable, and extraordinarily remarkable; and such are these acknowledged to be, by all expositors. It is a golden sentence, a divine oracle, fit to be the last words of every dying saint, as well as of David.

They are called his last words, not simply and absolutely, as though he breathed them forth with his last breath; (for he spake many things afterwards) but either they are the last he spoke as a prophet, by Divine inspiration, or because he had them often in his mouth, to his last and dying day. They were his epicedium, his sweet swan-like song, in which his soul found singular refreshment, and strong support, amidst the manifold afflictions of his life, and against the fears of his approaching death.

The whole chapter is designed for a coronis or honourable close of the life of David, and gives us an account both of the worthy expressions that dropped from him, and of the renowned worthies that were employed by him. But all the heroic achievements recorded to the honour of their memories, in the following part of the chapter, are trivial and inglorious things, compared with this one divine sentence recorded in my text; in which we have two things to con sider, viz.

1. The preface, which is exceeding solemn.

2. The speech itself, which is exceeding weighty.

1. In the preface, we have both the instrumental and principal efficient cause of this divine sentence distinctly set down, ver. 1. and the efficient, or author of it, ver. 2.

The instrument or organ of its conveyance to us, was David; de  scribed by his descent or lineage, the son of Jesse; by his eminent station, the man that was raised up on high; even to the top and culminating point of civil and spiritual dignity and honour, both as a king, and as a prophet; by his divine unction, the anointed of the God of Jacob; and lastly, by the flowing sweetnees of his spirit and stile, in the divine psalms that were penned by him, whence he here gets the title of the sweet psalmist of Israel; the pleasant one, in the psalms of Israel, as some read it.

The principal efficient cause of this excellent passage, is here like wise noted, and all to commend it the more to our special observation and acceptance: “The Spirit of God spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” This stamps my text expressly with divine authority. The Spirit of God spake by David, he was not the author, [[87]] but only the scribe of it. Thus the ensuing discourse is prefaced. Let us next see,

2. The matter or speech itself, wherein we shall find the maxims and general rules of government prescribed, and the felicity of such a government elegantly described. “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” Princes being in God’s place, must exalt the righteousness of God, in the government of men; and when they do so, they shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds, &c. What halcyon days shall that happy people see, whose lot is cast into such times and places! All this is typically spoken of David, and those pious princes who succeeded him; hut mystically and eminently points at Christ, who was to rise out of David’s seed, Rom. i. 3. and to sit upon his throne, Acts ii. 30. So that in this he was raised on high to an eminency of glory and dignity indeed: he was so in his ordinary natural seed; a royal race, deriving itself from him, and sitting upon his throne in a lineal succession, till the Babylonish captivity, which was about four hundred and thirty years. And after that, the Jews had governors of his line, at least rightful heirs to that crown, till the promised Messiah came. But that which was the top of David’s honour, the most sparkling jewel in his crown, was this, that the Lord Jesus was to descend from him, according to the flesh, in whom all the glorious characters before given should not only be exactly answered, but abundantly exceeded. And thus you find the natural line of the Messiah is drawn down by Matthew, from David to the virgin Mary, Matth. i. And his legal line by Luke, from David to Joseph, his supposed father, Luke ii. 23.

Now, though the illustrious marks and characters of such a righteous, serene, and happy government, did not fully agree to his day, nor would do so in the reigns of his ordinary natural successors, his day was not without many clouds both of sin and trouble; yet such a blessed day he foresaw and rejoiced in, when Christ, the extraordinary seed of David, should arise, and set up his kingdom in the world, and with the expectation hereof, he greatly cheers and encourages himself: Although my house be not so with God, yet hath he made “with me an everlasting covenant,” &c. In which words four things are eminently remarkable.

1. Here is a sad concession of domestic evils.

2. A singular relief, from God’s covenant with him.

3. The glorious properties of this covenant displayed.

4. The high esteem and dear regard his house had unto it.

1. Here is David’s sad and mournful concession of the evils of his house, both moral and penal. “Although my house be not so with God,” i. e. neither so holy, nor so happy as this description of a righteous and flourishing government imports; alas! it answers not to it: For though he was eminent for godliness himself, and had solemnly dedicated his house to God, Psal. xxx. as soon as it was built, [[88]] yea, though he piously resolved to walk in the midst of it with a per, feet heart, and not to suffer an immortal person within his walls; yet great miscarriages were found even in David’s house and person, which God chastised him for, by a thick succession of sharp and sore afflictions, Psal. ci. 2, 8, 4, 5, 0, 7. Tamar was defiled by her brother Amnon, 2 Sam. xiii. 18. Amnon was barbarously murdered thereupon, by the advice of Absalom, 2 Sam. xiii. 28. Absalom un naturally rebels against his father David, and drives him out of the royal city, and perishes in that rebellion, 2 Sam. xv. 1. then Adonijah, another darling-son, grasps at the crown settled by David upon Solomon, and perishes for that his usurpation, 1 Kings ii. 25. O what a heap of mischiefs and calamities did this good man live to see within his own walls, besides the many foreign troubles that came from other hands! How many flourishing branches did God lop off from him, and that in their sins too? So that his day was a day of clouds, even from the morning unto the evening of it: Psal. cxxxii. 1. “Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions.” Well might he say, “his house was not so with God.” Hut what then, doth he faint and despond under these manifold calamities? Doth he refuse to be comforted, because his children are gone, and all things involved in trouble? No, but you find,

2. He relieves himself by the covenant God had made with him: “Yet hath he made with me a covenant.” He looks to Christ, “There is more in the covenant than this my house before God,” as the Chaldee turns it. [1] This little word yet, wraps up a great and sovereign cordial in it. Though Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah be gone, and gone with many smarting aggravations too; “yet hath he made with me a covenant,” yet I have this sheet-anchor left to se cure me. God’s covenant with me, in relation to Christ, this under props and shores up my heart.

This covenant was, without controversy, a gospel-covenant. It was David’s gospel: For ah his salvation and all his desire were in it; which could never be, except Christ had been in it, who is the salva tion of all the ends of the earth, and the desire of all nations.

It is true, it was a more obscure and imperfect edition of the covenant of faith; yet clearer than those that were made before it; it came not up to the fulness and clearness of the discoveries made by Jeremy and Ezekiel: But yet in this covenant with David, God revealed more of Christ than had been ever revealed before; for the light of Christ, like that of the morning, increased still more and more, till it came to a perfect day. It is worthy our observation, how God made a gradual discovery of Christ from Adam, down along to the New Testament times. It was revealed to Adam, that he should be the seed of the woman, but not of what nation, till Abraham’s time; nor of what tribe, till Jacob; nor of what sex and family, till David; [[89]] nor that he should be born of a virgin, till Isaiah; nor in what town, till Micah. The first revelation of this covenant with David, was by Nathan the prophet; 2 Sam. vii. 12, 13, 14. afterwards enlarged and confirmed, Psal. lxxxix. By it he knew much of Christ, and wrote much of him. He spake of his person, Psalm xlv. 6, 11. Psalm viii. 4, 5, 6. of his offices, both prophetical, Psal. xl. 8, 9,10. priestly, Psal. ex. 4. and kingly, Psal. ii. 6. of his incarnation, Psalm viii. 5. of his death on the cross, Psal. xxii. 16, 17. of his burial, Psal. xvi. 8, 9, 10. resurrection, Psal. ii. 7. and triumphant ascension, Psalm, lxviii. 18. there was the sum of the gospel discovered, though in dark and typical terms and forms of expression; but if out of this covenant as obscure as its revelation was, David fetched such strong sup port and consolation amidst such a heap of troubles, then the argument is good a fortiori: What support and comfort may we not draw thence, who live under the most full and perfect display of it, in all its riches and glory; enough hath been said to prove it a gospel-covenant; but if any doubt should remain of that, it will be fully removed, by considering,

3. The eximious properties and characters of the covenant, as we find them placed in the text; and they are three, viz.

(1.) Everlasting.

(2.) Ordered in all things, and

(3.) Sure.

(1.) It is an everlasting covenant, or a perpetual covenant, a covenant of eternity, [2] not in the most strict, proper, and absolute sense: For that is the incommunicable property of God himself, who neither hath beginning nor end; but the meaning is, that the benefits and mercies of the covenant are durable and endless to the people of God: For Christ being the principal matter and substance of the covenant, there must be in it an everlasting righteousness, as it is called, Dan. ix. 24. everlasting kindness. Isa. liv. 8. everlasting forgiveness, Jer. xxxi. 34. and in consequence to all these, everlasting consolation, Isa. Ii. 11. in all which the riches and bounty of free grace shine forth in their greatest glory and splendor.

(2.) It is a covenant ordered in all things, or orderly prepared, dis posed, and set, as the word imports. [3] Every thing being here dis posed and placed in the most comely order, both persons and things here keep their proper place: God the Father keeps the place of the most wise contriver and bountiful donor of the invaluable mercies of the covenant: and Christ keeps the proper place both of the purchaser and surety of the covenant; and all the mercies in it; and believers keep their place, as the unworthy receivers of all the gratuitous mercies and rich benefits thereof, and the most obliged creatures in [[90]] all the world to free grace, saying, although my house, yea, although my heart and my soul be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant. And as persons, so things, all things in this covenant stand in the most exquisite order, and exact correspondence to each other. O it is a ravishing sight to behold the habitude and respect of the mercies in the covenant, to the sins and wants of all that are in it! Here are found full and suitable supplies to the wants of all God’s people. Here you may see pardon in the covenant, for guilt in the soul; Joy in the covenant, for sorrow in the heart; strength in the covenant, for all defects and weaknesses in the creature; stability in the covenant for the mutability in the creature. Never did the wisdom of God shine forth more in any contrivance in the world, (except that of Christ, the surety and principal matter of the covenant) than it doth in the orderly dispose of all things in their beautiful order, and comely proportions in this covenant of grace.

(3.) It is a sure covenant, or a covenant safely laid up and kept, as the word imports; [4] and upon this account the mercies of it are called, “The sure mercies of David,” Isa. lv. 3. And so Psal. lxxxix. 28. speaking of this very covenant, God saith, “My covenant shall stand fast with him;” there shall be no vacillancy, nor shaking in this covenant: and ver. 34. “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” Every thing is as its foundation is. Now, God’s covenant being founded in his unchange able counsel and purpose, wherein there can be no lubricity, and Christ being the surety of it, it must needs be, as the text calls it, a sure covenant, wherein the faithfulness of God is as illustriously dis played, as his bounty and wisdom are in the two properties of it. And such a covenant as this, so everlastingly, aptly disposed, and sure, must needs deserve that precious respect and high esteem from every believing soul, which David here doth pay it in.

4. The singular and high valuation he had of it, when he saith, “This is all my salvation, and all my desire,” or as some translate [5] “all my delight, or pleasure;” i. e. here I find all repaired with an infinite overplus, that I have lost in the creature: Here is a life in death, fulness in wants, security in dangers, peace in troubles. It is all my salvation; for it leaves nothing in hazard that is essential to my happiness; and all my desire for it repairs whatever I have lost, or can loose: It is so full and complete a covenant, that it leaves nothing to be desired out of it. O it is a full fountain! Here I repose my weary soul with full satisfaction, and feed my hungry desires with sweetest delights: so that my very soul is at rest and ease in the bosom of this blessed covenant. Thus you have the parts and sense of the text. The notes from it are three.

Observation I. That God’s covenant people may be exercised with many sharp afflictions in their persons and families, Eccl. ix. 9.

[[91]] Even David’s house was the house of mourning; “Although my house be not so with God, though he make it not to grow.” All sorts of outward afflictions are incident to all sorts of men, “All things (saith Solomon) come alike to all: There is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the clean, and unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not.” The providences seem one and the same, though the subject on whom they fall be vastly different. Estates and children, health and liberty will still be like themselves, vanishing comforts, whoever be the owners of them. No man’s spiritual estate can be known by the view of his temporal estate. A godly family cannot be a miserable, but it may be a mournful family. Religion secures us from the wrath, but it does not secure us from the rod of God. The Lord hath chosen another way of expressing his love to his people, than by temporal and external things: Therefore all things come alike to all. The covenant excludes the curse, but includes the cross, “ If his children forsake my law, &c. then will I visit their iniquity with the rod, and their sin with stripes: nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take away.”

Nor indeed would it be the privilege of God’s covenanted people, to he exempt from the rod; a mark of bastardy can be no man’s felicity, Heb. xii. 8. to go without the chastising discipline of the rod, were to go without the needful instructions and blessed fruits that accompany and result from the rod, Psalm xciv. 152.

Let us not therefore say as those irreligious persons did in Mai. iii. 14. “It is in vain to serve God, and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinances, and walked monrnfully before him?” Surely none serve him in vain but those that serve him vainly. Godliness cannot secure you from affliction, but it can and will secure you front hell, and sanctify your afflictions to help you to heaven. But I stay not here.

Observation 2. A declining family is a sore stroke from the hand of God, and so to be acknowledged wherever it falls.

It was a growing sorrow to David, that his house did not grow; and he eyed the hand of God in it, He made it not to grow, as he speaks in the text. He felt as many deaths as he had dead children. It is God that builds and destroys families; heenlargeth and strait-eneth them again. A family may decline two ways, viz. either,

1. By the death: or,

2. By the degeneracy of its offspring.

1. By their death, when God lops off the hopeful springing branches thereof; especially the last and only prop of it, in whom not only all the care and love, but all the hope and expectation of the parents is contracted and bound up. For,

The hearts of tender parents are usually bound up in the life of an only son.[6] As a man’s wife is hut himself divided, so his children [[92]] are but himself multiplied: and when all love and delight, hope and expectation, is reduced to one, the affection is strong, and that makes the affliction so too. If it were not an unparalleled grief among ad earthly griefs and sorrows, the Spirit of God would never have chosen and singled it out from among all other sorrows, to illustrate sorrow for sin by it, yea, sorrows for that special sin of piercing Christ, as he doth, Zech. xii. 10. “They shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for him, as one that mourneth for an only son.” How naked are those walls, and how unfurnished is that house, where the children (its best ornaments) are taken down and removed by death? It is natural to all men to desire the continuance of their names and families on the earth; and therefore when God cuts off their expectations in that kind, they look upon them selves as dry trees, or as the withering stalks in the fields, when the flowers are fallen off, and blown away from them.

2. Or, which is yet much worse, a family may decline by the degeneracy of its offspring. When the piety, probity, and virtues of ancestors descend not with their lands to their posterity, here the true line of honour is cut off, and the glory of a family dies, though its children live; the family is ruined, though there be a numerous offspring. Surely it were better mourn for ten dead children, than for one such living child.

How many such wretched families can England shew this day! ‘How hath Atheism and debauchery ruined and subverted many great and once famous families.’ O it were better the arms of those families had been reversed, and their hands alienated, yea, better had it been a succession had failed, and that their names had been blotted out, than that Satan should rule by profaneness in the places where God was once so seriously and sweetly worshipped.

Whensoever therefore God shall either of these ways subvert a family, it becomes them that are concerned in the stroke, not only to own and acknowledge the hand of God in it, but to search their hearts and houses to find out the sins which have so provoked him; yet not so as to fall into an unbecoming despondency of spirit, but withal to relieve themselves, as David here doth, from the covenant of God; “Yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant.” Which brings us to the third and principal point I shall insist on,

Observ. 3. That the everlasting, well-ordered, and sure covenant of grace, affords everlasting, cell-ordered, and sure relief to all that are within the bonds of if, how many or how great soever their personal or domestic trials and afflictions are.

This point will be cleared to your understandings, and prepared for your use, by clearing and opening three propositions, which orderly take up the sum and substance of it, viz.

Proposition 1. That the minds of men, yea, the best men, are weak and feeble things under the heavy pressures of affliction, and will reel and sink under than, except they be strongly relieved and under propped.

[[93]] A bowing wall doth not more need a strong shore or buttress, than the mind of a man needs a strong support and stay from heaven, when the weight of affliction makes it incline and lean all one way, “Unless the law had been my delights, I should then have perished in my affliction,” Psal. cxix. 92. q. d. What shift other men make to stand the shock of their afflictions, I know not; but this I know, that if God had not seasonably sent me the relief of a promise, I had certainly gone away in a faint fit of despondency. O how season ably did God administer the cordials of his word to my drooping, sinking soul!

This weakness in the mind to support the burdens of affliction, proceeds from a double cause, viz.

1. From the sinking weight of the affliction.

2. From the irregular and inordinate workings of the thoughts of it.

1. From the sinking weight that is in affliction, especially in some sorts of afflictions: they are heavy pressures, ponderous burdens in themselves. So Job speaks, “O that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea, therefore my words are swallowed up,” Job vi. 2, 3, 4. q. d. If all the sand that lies upon all the shores in the world, were shovelled up into one heap, and cast into one scale, and my sorrows into the other, my grief would weigh it all up. How heavy are the hearts of the afflicted! what unsupportable sorrows do they feel and groan under, especially when God smites them in the dearest and nearest concerns they have in the world.

2. But especially the reelings and staggerings of the mind, are occasioned by the inordinate and irregular workings of its own thoughts. Were it but possible to keep the mind in a serene, sedate, and ordinate frame, our burdens would be comparatively light to what we now feel them to be; but the falling of the thoughts into confusions, and great distractions, spoils all. Upon this account it is, that afflictions are compared to a stupifying doze, which casts the soul into amazement, Psal. lx. 3. “Thou hast shewed thy people hard things, thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.” Afflictions are called the wine of astonishment, from their effects upon the mind: for under a great and sudden stroke of God, it is like a watch wound up above its due height, so that for a time it stands still, neither grace nor reason move at all: and when it begins to move again, O how confused and irregular are its motions! it is full of murmurs, disputes, and quarrels: these aggravate both our sin and misery. It is our own thoughts which take the arrow of God shot at us, (which did but stick before in our clothes, and was never in tended to hurt us, but only to warn us.) and thrust it into our very hearts.

For thoughts as well as poniards, can pierce and wound the hearts [[94]] of men, Luke ii. 35. “A sword shall pierce through thine own soul;” i. e. Thy thoughts shall pierce thee. They can shake the whole fabric of the body, and loose the best compacted and strongly jointed parts of the body: Dan. v. 6. “His thoughts troubled him, and the joints of his loins were loosed.” And thus a man’s own mind be comes a rack of torment to him; a misery which no creature, except men and devils, are subjected to. O how many bodies have been destroyed by the passions of the soul! they cut through it, as a keen knife through a narrow sheath, “Worldly sorrow works death,” 2 Cor. vii. 10.

Proposition 2. The merciful God, in condescension to the weak ness of his people, hath provided the best supports and reliefs for the feeble and afflicted spirits.

“In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul,” Psal. xciv. 17. Carnal men seek their relief un der trouble, from carnal things; when one creature forsakes them, they retreat to another which is yet left them, till they are beaten out of all, and then their hearts fail, having no acquaintance with God, or special interest in him: for the creatures will quickly spend all that allowance of comfort they have to spend upon us. Some try what relief the rules of philosophy can yield them, supposing a neat sentence of Seneca may be as good a remedy as a text of David or Paul; but, alas! it will not do: submission from fatal necessity will never ease the afflicted mind, as Christian resignation will do. It is not the eradicating, but regulating of the affections, that composes a bur dened and distracted soul. One word of God will signify more to our peace than all the famed and admired precepts of men.

To neglect God, and seek relief from the creature, is to forsake the fountain of living waters, and go to the broken cisterns which can hold no water, Jer. ii. 13. The best creature is but a cistern, not a fountain; and our dependence upon it makes it a broken cistern, strikes a hole through the bottom of it, so that it can hold no water. “I, even I (saith God) am he that comforteth you,” Isa. lvii. 12. The same hand that wounds you, must heal you, or you can never be healed. Our compassionate Saviour, to assuage our sorrows, hath promised he will not leave us comfortless, John xiv. 18. Our God will not contend for ever, lest the spirit fail before him, Isa. lvii. 16. He knew how ineffectual all other comforts and comforters would be, even physicians of no value, and therefore hath graciously prepared comforts for his distressed ones, that will reach their end.

Proposition 3. God hath gathered all the materials and principles of our relief into the covenant of grace, and expects that we betake ourselves unto it, in times of distress, as to our sure, sufficient and only remedy..

As all the rivers run into the sea, and there is the congregation of all the waters; so all the promises and comforts of the gospel are gathered into the covenant of grace, and there is the congregation of [[95]] all the sweet streams of refreshment that are dispersed throughout the scriptures. The covenant is the store-house of promises, the shop of cordials and rare elixirs., to revive us in all our faintings; though, alas! most men know no more what are their virtues, or where to find them, than an illiterate rustic put into an apothecary’s-shop.

What was the cordial God prepared to revive the hearts of his poor captives groaning under hard and grievous bondage, both in Egypt and in Babylon? Was it not his covenant with Abraham? And why did he give it the solemn confirmation by an oath, but that it might yield to him and all his believing seed, strong consolation, Heb. vi. 17, 18. the very spirit of joy amidst all their sorrows.

And what was the relief God gave to the believing eunuchs that kept his sabbaths, took hold of his covenant, and chose the things in which he delighted? “To them (saith he) will I give in mine house, and within my walls, a place, and a name better than that of sons or of daughters,’“ Isa. lvi. 4, 5. Though they were deprived of those comforts other men have in their posterity, yet he would not have them look upon themselves as dry trees; a covenant-interest would answer all, and recompense abundantly the want of children, or any other earthly comfort.

Certainly, therefore, David was at the right door of relief and comfort, when he repairs to the covenant, as here in the text, “Yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant.“ There, or no where else, the relief of God’s afflicted is to be found.

Now, to make any thing become a complete and perfect relief to an afflicted spirit, these three properties must concur and meet in it, else it can never effectually relieve any man.

I. It must be able to remove all the causes and grounds of troubles.

II. It must be able to do so at all times.

III. It must be capable of a good personal security to us.

For if it only divert our troubles, (as creature-comforts use to do,) and do not remove the ground and cause of our trouble, it is but an anodyne, not a cure or remedy. And if it can remove the very ground and cause of our troubles for a time, but not for ever, then it is but a temporary relief: our troubles may return again, and we left in as bad case as we were before. And if it be in itself, able to remove all the causes and grounds of our trouble, and that at all times, but not capable of a personal security to us, or our well established interest in it, all signifies nothing to our relief.

But open your eyes and behold, O ye afflicted saints, all these properties of a complete relief meeting together in the covenant, as it is displayed in the text. Here is a covenant able to remove all the grounds and causes of your trouble; for it is ORDERED in all things; or aptly disposed by the wisdom and contrivance of God, to answer every cause and ground of trouble and sorrow in our hearts. It is able to do this at all times; as well in our day, as in David’s or [[96]] Abraham’s day: for it is an everlasting covenant; its virtue and efficacy is» not decayed by time. And, lastly, is is capable of a good personal security or assurance to all God’s afflicted people; for it is a sure covenant. The concurrence of these three properties in the covenant makes it a complete relief, and perfect remedy, to which nothing is wanting in the kind and nature of a remedy. These three glorious properties of the covenant are my proper province to open and con firm, for your support and comfort in this day of trouble.

I. That the covenant of grace is able to remove all the causes and grounds of a believer’s trouble, be they never so great or many. This I doubt not will be convincingly evidenced and demonstrated by the following arguments, or undeniable reasons.

Argument I. Whatsoever disarms afflictions of the only sting whereby they wound us, must needs be a complete relief and remedy to the afflicted soul.

But so doth the covenant of grace, it disarms afflictions of the only sting by which they wound us.

Therefore the covenant of grace must needs be a complete relief and remedy to the afflicted soul.

The sting of all afflictions is the guilt of sin; when God smites, conscience usually smites too: and this is it that causes all that pain and anguish in the afflicted. It is plainly so in the example of the widow of Zarephath, 1 Kings xvii. 18. when her son, her only son, and probably her only child, died, how did that stroke of God revive guilt in her conscience, and made the affliction piercing and intolerable! As appears by her passionate expostulation with Elijah, who then sojourned in her house: “What have I to do with thee, O man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?” q. d. What injury have I done thee? Didst thou come hither to observe my sins, and pray down this judgment upon my child for them? The death of her son revived her guilt, and so it generally doth, even in the most holy men.

When Job looked upon his wasted body under afflictions, every wrinkle he saw upon it, seemed to him like a witness rising up to testify against him. “Thou hast filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me; and my leanness rising up in me, beareth witness to my face,” Job xvi. 8.

Affliction is like a hue and cry after sin in the ears of conscience, and this is the envenomed poisonous sting of affliction: pluck out this, and the afflicted man is presently eased, though the matter of the affliction still abide with him, and lie upon him. He is afflicted still, but not cast down by affliction; the anguish and burden is gone, though the matter of trouble remain.

This is plain both in scripture, and in experience. Suitable here unto is that strange, but sweet expression, “The inhabitants shall not say I am sick, the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquities,” Isa. xxxiii. 21, It is not to be imagined these people [[97]] had found such a fortunate island, or happy climate, where no disease could touch or invade their bodies; no, sickness will find out the bodies of the best men, wherever they live; wherever sin hath been, sickness and death will follow it. Heaven is the only privileged place from these miseries: but the meaning is, though they be sick, they shall not feel the pains and burdens of sickness, “they shall not say they are sick:” And why so? because their iniquities are forgiven; plainly confirming what was before asserted, that the anguish of an affliction is gone as soon as ever the sting of guilt is pluckt out. And hence, pardoning of the soul, and healing of the body, are put together as conjugate mercies; “Bless the Lord, O my soul, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy diseases,” Psal. ciii. 1, 3. When the soul is at ease, the pains of the body are next to nothing: Sickness can cloud all natural joys, but not the joy of a pardon.

Nay, which is yet more; pluck out but the sting of sin, and there is no horror in death, the king of terrors, and worst of all outward evils. See how the pardoned believer triumphs over it: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin,” 1 Cor. xv. 55. They are words of defiance, as men use to deride and scorn a boasting, insulting enemy, when they see him cast upon his back, and his sword broken over his head. [7]

Where arc your boasts and menaces now? O death, thou hast lost thy sting and terror together. Thus the pardoned believer, with an holy gallantry of spirit, derides and contemns his disarmed enemy death. So then it is manifest, that whatever plucks out the poisonous sting of affliction, must needs be an effectual remedy and cure to the afflicted person.

But this the covenant of grace doth; it reveals and applies gospel-remission to them that are within the blessed bond of it. “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,” Jer. xxxi. 33, 34. [8] Behold here a gracious, full, and irrecoverable par don! I will forgive, or be propitiously merciful, as that word imports; pointing plainly to Christ our propitiation, our sins are forgiven us for his name’s sake. And a pardon as, full as it is free; iniquity and sin, smaller and greater, are here forgiven; for God, in the remission of his people’s sins, having respect to the propitiating blood of Christ, he pardons all as well as some; that blood deserving and purchasing the most full and complete pardons for his people, 1 John i. 7. “The blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin.”

And this covenant-pardon is as firm, as it is free and full. So run the expressions in the grant, I Kill remember their sin no more: Or in [[98]] the apostle’s works, Heb. viii. 12. Οι μημνεσω ετι in, I will not remember them again: That is, not so remember, as to impute them, or condemn my pardoned ones for them: For the pardoned persons come no more into condemnation, Job v. 24. Their sins are cast into the depths of the sea, Mic. vii. 19. Sooner shall the East and the West, the two opposite points of heaven, meet, than the pardoned soul and its sins meet again in condemnation, Psal. ciii. 12.

Now, the case standing thus with all God’s covenant people, all their sins being graciously, fully, and irrevocably forgiven them, how convincingly and sweetly doth this conclusion follow, that the covenant is a complete remedy to all afflicted believers? As nothing can befal us before Christ and pardon be ours, which is sufficient to raise us, so nothing can befal us afterwards, which should deject and sink us. This is the first benefit afflicted believers receive from the covenant, and this alone is enough to heal all our sorrows.

Arg. II. As the covenant of grace disarms all the afflictions of believers of the only sting by which they wound them: so it alters the very nature and property of their afflictions, and turns them from a curse into a blessing to them: And in so doing, it becomes more than a remedy, even a choice benefit and advantage to them.

All afflictions in their own nature, are a part of the curse; they are the consequence and punishments of sin; they work naturally against our good: Hut when once they are taken into the covenant, their nature and property is altered. As waters in their subterranean passages, meeting some virtuous mineral in their course, are thereby impregnated, and endowed with a rare healing property to the body; so afflictions passing through the covenant, receive from it a healing virtue to our souls. They are, in themselves, sour and harsh, as wild hedge-fruits; but being ingrafted into this stock, they yield the pleasant fruits of righteousness. “If his children break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I visit their iniquity with the rod, and their sins with stripes: Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take away, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” Psal. lxxxix. 30, 31. Here you may see all the rods of affliction put into the covenant, as Aaron’s rod was into the ark. And hence two things necessarily follow.

(1.) That such afflictions can do the children of God no hurt. They may affright, but cannot hurt them: We may meet them with fear, but shall part from them with joy: An unsanctified rod never did any man good, and a sanctified rod never did any man hurt: Ho may afflict our bodies with sickness, deny, or cut off our comfort in children, impoverish our estates, let loose persecutors upon us; but in all this he really doth us no hurt, as he speaks in Jer. xxv. 6. No more hurl than a skilful surgeon doth in saving his patient’s life, by cutting off a mortified, gangrened member: No more hurt than frost and snow do the earth in killing the rank weeds that exhausted the sap and strength of it, and preparing and mellowing it to produce [[99]] a fruitful crop of corn. By these he recalls our minds from vanity, weans our fond and ensnaring affections from the world, discovers and mortifies those lusts which gentler methods and essays could not do: And is this for our hurt?

I confess God’s thoughts and ours often differ upon this case. We measure the good and evil of providences, by their respect to the ease and pleasure of our flesh, but God sees this is the way to cast our spirits into a dead formality, and in removing them, he doth but deprive us of the occasions and instruments of spiritual mis chiefs and miseries, in which certainly he doth us no hurt.

(2.) But that is not all. Afflictions once put into the covenant, must promote the good of the saints; they are beneficial, as well as harmless things. “We know (saith the apostle) that all things work together for good to them that love God.” This promise is the compass which sets the course, and directs the motions of all the afflictions of the people of God; and no ship at sea obeys the rudder so exactly, as the troubles of the righteous do the direction of this promise. Possibly we cannot discern this at present, but rather pre judge the works of God, and say all these things are against us; but hereafter we shall see, and with joy acknowledge them to be the happy instruments of our salvation.

How often hath affliction sent the people of God to their knees, with such language as this, ‘O my God, how vain and sensual hath this heart of mine been under prosperity! How did the love of the creature, like a sluice, cut in the bank of a river, draw away the stream of my affections from thee! I had gotten a soft pillow of creature-comforts under my head, and I easily fell asleep, and dreamed of nothing but rest and pleasure, in a state of absence from thee; but now thy rod hath awakened me, and reduced me to a right sense of my condition. I was negligent or dead-hearted in the course of my duty, but now I can pray more fervently, feelingly, and frequently, than before. O it was good for me that I have been afflicted. O, saith God, how well was this rod bestowed, which hath done my poor child so much good; now I have more of his heart, and more of his time and company than ever; now I hear the voice, and see the gracious workings of the spirit of my child after me again, as in the days of his first love.’ The sum of all this you may see in the ingenuous meltings of Ephraim under a sanctified rod, Jer. xxxi. 19, 20. and the sounding of the bowels of mercy over him. ‘Ephraim mourns at God’s feet, and God falls upon Ephraim’s neck. I have been as a beast, saith Ephraim: Thou art a dear son, a pleasant child, saith God. My bowels are troubled and pained for sin, saith Ephraim: And my bowels are troubled for thee, and my compassions rolled together, saith God, O blessed fruits of sanctified rods! such precious effects as these rich ly repay you for all the pain and anguish you feel.’ And thus as the wound of a scorpion is healed by applying its own oil, so the evil of   [[100]] affliction is cured by the sanctified fruits that it produced], when it is once put into the covenant.

Arg. III. The covenant doth not only alter the nature and property of the saints ^afflictions, but it also orderly disposes, and aptly places them in the frame of providence, among the other means and instruments of our salvation; so that a council of angels could never place them, or the least circumstance belonging to them, more aptly and advantageously than it hath done. The knowledge of this must needs quiet and fully relieve the afflicted soul: And who can doubt it that believes it to be a covenant ordered in all things, as the text speaks? Here all things, yea, the most minute circumstances that befal you, are reduced to their proper class and place of service; so exactly ordered, that all the wisdom of men and angels know not how to mend or alter any thing to your advantage.

If a small pin be taken out of the frame of a watch, and placed any where else, the motion is either presently stopped, or made irregular. And as Galen observes of the curious fabric of an human body, that if the greatest naturalists should study an hundred years to find out a more commodious situation, or configuration of any part thereof, it could never be done. It is so here: No man can come after God and say, this or that had been better placed or timed than it is, if this affliction had been spared, and such an enjoyment stood in the room of it, it had been better. All God’s providences are the results and issues of his infinite wisdom: For “he works all things according to the counsel of his own will,” Eph. i. 11. The wheels, i. e. the motions and revolutions of providence are full of eyes, Ezek. i. 18. They are well advised and judicious motions, Noncceco impetu volvuntur rota; they run not at random. The most regular and excellent working must needs follow the most deep and perfect counsel, Isa. xxviii. 29. “ He is deep in counsel, and excellent in working.”

Now, every affliction that befals God’s covenanted people, being placed by the most wise and infinite counsel of God in that very order, time, and manner in which they befal them, this very affliction, and not that, at this very time, and not at another, (it being always a time of need, 1 Pet. i. 6.) and ushered in by such forerunning occasions and circumstances: it must follow, that they all take the proper places, and come exactly at the fittest seasons; and if one of them were wanting, something would be defective in the frame of your happiness. As they now stand, they work together for your good, which displaced, they would not do.

It is said, Jer. xviii. 11. “Behold, I frame evil, and I devise a device.” It is spoken of the contrivance and frame of afflictions, as the proper works of God. The project of it is laid for his glory and the eternal good of his people. It turns to their salvation, Phil. i. 19. But O how fain would we have this of that affliction screwed out of the frame of providence, conceiving it would be far better out [[101]] than in! O if God had spared my child, or my health, it had been better for me than now it is. But this is no other than a presumptuous correcting and controlling of the wisdom of God, and so he interprets it, Job xl. 2. “He that reproveth God, let him answer it.” God hath put every affliction upon your persons, estates, relations, just where you find and feel it; and that whole frame he hath put into the covenant, in the virtue whereof it works for your salvation; and therefore let all disputings and reasonings, all murmurs and discontents cease; nothing can be better for you, than as God hath laid it; and this, one would think, should heal and quiet all. You yourselves would mar all, by presuming to mend any thing. “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor, hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” Isa. xl. 13, 14. Well then, be satisfied it is best as it is; and nothing can be so advantageous to you, as God’s projects and contrivance, which you are so uneasy under, and dissatisfied about.

Arg. IV. As the covenant sorts and ranks all your troubles into their proper classes and places of service, so it secures the special, gracious presence of God with you in the deepest plunges of distress that can befall you; which presence is a full relief of all your troubles, or else nothing in the world is or can be so.

The very heathens thought themselves well secured against all evils and dangers, if they had their petty household-gods with them in their journeys: but the great God of heaven and earth hath engaged to be with his people, in all their afflictions and distresses. As a ten der father sits up himself with his sick child, and will not leave him to the care of a servant only; so God thinks it not enough to leave his children to the tutelage and charge of angels, but will be with them himself, and that in a special and peculiar way: so run the express words of the covenant, Jer. xxxii. 40. “I will not turn away from them to do them good, but I will put my fear into their hearts; and they shall not depart from me.” Here he undertakes for both parts, himself and them. I will not, and they shall not.

Here is the saints security for the gracious presence of God with them, a presence which dispels all the clouds of affliction and sorrow, as the sun scatters the morning mists. The God of all consolation is with you, O poor dejected believers, and will not such a presence turn the darkness into light round about you? There is a threefold presence of God with his creatures.

1. Essential, which is common and necessary to all.

2. Gracious, which is peculiar to some on earth.

3. Glorious, which is the felicity of heaven.

The first is not the privilege here secured; for it is necessary to all, good and bad: In him we all live, and move, and have our being. The vilest men on earth, yea, the beasts of the field, and the very devils [[102]] in hell, are always in this presence of God, but it is their torment, rather than their privilege. The last is proper to the glorified saints and angels. Such a presence embodied saints cannot now bear; but it is his special gracious presence which is made over and secured to them in the covenant of grace; and this presence of God is manifested to them two ways.

1. Internally, by the Spirit.

2. Externally, by Providence.

1. Internally, by the Spirit of grace dwelling and acting in them, this is a choice privilege to them in the day of affliction: for hereby they are instructed and taught the meaning of the rod, Psal. xciv. 12. “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, and teachest him out of thy law.” O it is a blessed thing to be taught so many les  sons by the rod, as the Spirit teacheth them! Surely they reckon it an abundant recompense of all that they suffer. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes,” Psal. cxix. 71. Yea, he refreshes as well as teaches, and no cordials revive like his. “In the multitude of the thoughts I had within me, thy comforts delight my soul,” Psal. xciv. 19.

Yea, by the presence and blessing of his Spirit, our afflictions are sanctified to subdue and purge out our corruptions. “By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit to takeaway sin,” Isa. xxvii. 9- Now, if a man be instructed in the ends and designs of the rod, refreshed and comforted under every stripe of the rod, and have his sins mortified and purged by the sanctification of the Spirit upon his afflictions; then both the burdensomeness and bitterness of his afflictions are removed, and healed by the internal presence of the Spirit of God with his afflicted ones.

2. Besides this, God is providentially present with his people, in all their troubles, in a more external way; ordering all the circumstances of their troubles to their advantage. He orders the degree and ex  tent of our afflictions, still leaving us some mercies and comforts to support and refresh us, when others are cut off. In measure doth he debate with his covenanted people, staying the rough wind in the day of the east-wind, Isa. xxvii. 8. He might justly smite all our outward comforts at once, so that affliction should not rise up the second time: for what comfort soever hath been abused by sin, is thereby forfeited into the hand of judgment. But the Lord knows our inability to sustain such strokes, and therefore proportions them to our strength. We have some living relations to minister comfort to us when mourning over our dead: He makes not a full end of all at once. Yea, and his providence supports our frail bodies, enabling them to endure the shocks and storms of so many afflictions, without ruin. Surely there is as much of the care of Providence manifested in this, as thereis in preserving poor crazy leaking barks,and weather- beaten vessels at sea, when the waves not only cover them, but break into them, and they are ready to founder in the midst of them.

[[103]] O what a singular mercy is the gracious presence of God with men! even the special presence of that God, “who is above all, and through all, and in you all,” as the apostle speaks, Eph. iv. 6. Above all, in majesty and dominion; through all, in his most efficacious providence; and in you all, by his grace and Spirit. As he is above all, so he is able to command any mercy you want, with a word of his mouth; as he is through all, so he must be intimately acquainted with all your wants, straits, and fears; and as he is in you all, so he is engaged for your support and supply, as you are the dear members of Christ’s mystical body

Objection. But methinks I hear Gideon’s objection rolled into the way of this sovereign consolation: “If God be with us, why is all this evil befallen us?”

Solution. All what? If it had been all this rebellion and rage against God, all this apostasy and revolting more and more, all this contumacy and hardness of heart under the rod; then it had been a weighty and stumbling objection indeed: but to say, If God be with us, why are all these chastening corrections and temporal crosses be fallen us? why doth he smite our bodies, children or estates? is an objection no way fit to be urged by any that are acquainted with the scriptures, or the nature and tenor of the covenant of grace. Is afflicting and forsaking all one with you? must God needs hate, be cause he scourgeth you? I question whether Satan himself hath impudence enough to set such a note or comment upon Heb. xii. 6. “For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

No, no, Christian, it is not a chastening rod, but the denying of such a favour, and suffering men to sin with impunity, and go on prosperously in the way of their own hearts, that speaks a rejected man, as the next words, ver. 7. inform you. As he never loved you the better for your prosperity, so you may be confident he loves you never the less for your adversity: and will not this close and heal the wounds made by affliction? What, not such a promise as this, I will he with him in trouble, Psal. xci. 15. Will not such a presence revive thee? What then can do it! Hoses reckoned that a wilderness with God, was better than a Canaan without him, “If thy presence go not with me, (saith he) then carry us not hence,” Exod. xxxiii. 15. And if there be the spirit of a Christian in thee, and God should give thee thine own choice, thou wouldst rather chuse to be in the midst of all these afflictions with thy God, than back again in all thy prosperity, and among thy children and former comforts, without him.

Arg. V. As this covenant assures you of God’s gracious and special presence, so it fully secures all the essentials and substantial of your happiness, against all hazards and contingencies; in which security lies your full relief and complete remedy against all your troubles for the loss of other things.

There be two sorts of things belonging to all God’s people, vis.

[[104]] 

1. Essentials.

2. Accidentals.

1. They have some tilings which are essential to their happiness; such are the loving-kindness of God, the pardon of sin, union with Christ, and eternal salvation. And they have other things which are accidentals, that come and go, live and die, without affecting or altering their happiness; such are health, estates, children, and all sorts of relations and earthly comforts. These are to our happi ness, as leaves are to the tree, which fade and fall away without endangering the tree; but the other as the vital sap, without which it withers and dies at the very root. Now if it can be made out that the covenant fully secures the former; then it will strongly follow, that it therein abundantly relieves us under all our sorrows for the latter: And that it doth so, will evidently appear by reviewing the covenant, wherein you shall find all these substantial and essential mercies of believers, fully secured against all hazards and contingencies whatsoever.

There the loving-kindness of God is secured to their souls, what ever afflictions he lays upon their bodies, “Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not take away,” Psal. lxxxix. 33. And their par don is as safe as the favour of God is; it is safely locked up in that promise, “I will remember their sins no more,” Jer. xxxi. 34. Yea, heaven, together with our perseverance in the way to it, are both put out of hazard by that invaluable promise, “They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand,” John x. 28.

Thus are all the essentials of a believer’s happiness secured in the covenant; and these being safe, the loss of other enjoyments should not much affect or wound them, because if he enjoy them, they add nothing to his happiness; and if he lose them, he is still happy in God without them. And this unriddles that enigmatical expression of the apostle, 2 Cor. vi. 10. “As having nothing, yet possessing all things:” i. e. the substraction of all external things cannot make us miserable, who have Christ for our portion, and all our happiness entire in him.

If a man travelling on the road, fall into the hands of thieves, who rob him of a few shillings, why this doth not much affect him; for though he has lost his spending money, yet his stock is safe at home, and his estate secure, which will yield him more. Or if a man has been at court, and there obtained a pardon for his life, or a grant of a thousand pound per annum, and returning home should chance to lose his gloves, or his handkerchief, sure if the man be in his wits, he will not take on or mourn for the loss of these-trifles, whilst the par don or grant is safe. Surely these things are not worth the mentioning.

It is true, the loss of outward and earthly things are to a believer real trials, yet they are but seeming losses: and therefore they are ex pressed in the apostle’s phrase, with a tanquam, sicut: “As chastened, [[105]] and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,” 2 Cor. vi. 9- And if your losses be but as it were losses, your sorrows should be but as it were sorrows: much like a physic-sickness, which we do not call a proper sickness, but as it were a sickness because it conduceth to the health, and not to the hurt of the person; as all God’s medicinal afflictions on his people also do.

Indeed, if the stroke of God were at our souls, to cut them off from Christ and heaven, to raise our names out of the covenant, or revoke the pardon of sin; then we had cause enough to justify the extremity of sorrow; cause enough to weep out our eyes, and break our hearts for such a dismal blow as that would be. But blessed be God you stand out of the way of such strokes as these; let God strike round about you, or lay his hand upon any other comforts you possess, he will never smite you in these essential things, which is certainly enough to allay and relieve all your other sorrows.

My name is blotted out of the earth, but still it is written in heaven. God hath taken my only son from me, but he hath given his only Son for me, and to me. He hath broken off my hopes and expectations as to this world, but my hopes of heaven are fixed sure and immoveable for ever. My house and heart are both in confusion and great disorder, but I have still an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure. I cannot say my son liveth, but I can still say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth. The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth; but the word of the Lord abideth for ever,” Isa. xl. 8.

Arg. VI. As God strikes none of the substantial mercies of his covenant people, so when he doth smite their external accidental com forts, the covenant of grace assures them, that even those strokes are the strokes of love, and not wrath; the wounds of a friend, and not of an enemy; which is another singular relief to the afflicted soul.

The most frightful thing in any affliction, is the mark or character of God’s wrath which it seems to bear: take away that, and the affliction is nothing. “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure,” Psal. vi. 1. He doth not de precate the rebukes, but the anger of God; not his chastening, but his hot displeasure. God’s anger is much more terrible than his rebuking, and his hot displeasure than his chastening. Therefore he intreats, that whatever God did to him in the way of affliction, he would do nothing in the way of wrath; and then he could bear any thing from him. A mark of Divine anger engraven upon any affliction, makes that affliction dreadful to a gracious soul.

But if a man be well satisfied, that whatever anguish there be, yet there is no anger, but that the rod is in the hand of love: O how it eases the soul and lightens the burden! Now this desirable point is abundantly cleared in the covenant; where we find a clear consist ence, yea, a necessary connection betwixt the love and the rod of [[106]] God, Psal. lxxxix. 31. and Heb. xii. 6. Nay, so rare are the afflictions of the saints from being marks of his wrath, that they are the fruits and evidences of his fatherly love.

Two men walking through the streets, see a company of boys fighting, one of them steps forth, and singles out one of those boys, and carries him home to correct him; which of the two, think you, is that child’s father? The case standing thus with all God’s people, surely there is no reason for their despondencies whatever their afflictions be.

Arg, VII. Lastly, The covenant doth not only discover the consistence and connection betwixt the love and the rod of God, but it also gives full satisfaction to the saints, that whatsoever contemporary mercy they are deprived of, which was within the bond of the cove nant when they enjoyed it, is not lost, but shall certainly be restored to them again with a rich improvement, and that they shall enjoy it again to all eternity.

What a rare model or platform of consolatory arguments hath the apostle laid down to antidote our immoderate sorrows, for the death of our dear relatives which died interested in Christ and the covenant! 1 Thes. iv. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. “I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep,” they are not dead, but asleep. Sleep is but a parenthesis to the labours and travels of this life; and it is but a partial privation, not of the habit, but acts of reason, to which, upon awaking, the soul returns again. Just such a thing is that which in believers is commonly called death. And we do not use to bewail our friends because they are fallen asleep: and therefore it no way becomes us to sorrow as those that have no hope, nor to look upon them as lost; for as he strongly argueth and concludeth (ver. 14.) their restoration to their bodies, yea, and to our enjoyment again, is fully secured both to them and us by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The influence of his resurrection is by the prophet Isaiah compared to the morning-dew, Isa. xxvi. 19. to shew that what virtue there is in the morning-dew, to cause the languishing plants of the earth to revive and flourish, that and much more there is in the resurrection of Christ, to revive and quicken the dead bodies of these saints; their bodies shall be restored by virtue of the warm animating dew or influence of his resurrection.

Objection. But the marvellous change which the resurrection makes upon glorified bodies, and the long separation of many ages betwixt us and them, seems to make it impossible for us to know them, as those that were once related to us upon earth; and, if so, then that comfort which resulted from them, as in relation to us, is perished with them at death.

Solution. Whatever change the resurrection shall make on their bodies, and the length of time betwixt our parting with them on earth, and meeting them again in heaven shall be; neither the one nor the [[107]] other seem sufficient to destroy the grounds of our hope, that we shall know them to be the very persons that were once so dear to us upon earth. There may remain some lineament or property of individuation, whereby the acute glorified eye may possibly discover who they were; or if not, yet none can doubt but it may be discovered to us by revelation from God; and that one way or other it will be discovered, is highly probable, because nothing will be denied to that perfect state which may contribute to, or complete the joy and happiness thereof, as we cannot but think this knowledge will do. If Adam knew Eve to be flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, in the state of innocence; and if the apostles knew Moses and Elias upon the mount, yea, if Dives in hell knew Abraham and Lazarus in heaven; sure we may well allow that knowledge to the glorified saints in heaven, which we find in the state of innocence, or in the sinful state on earth, or in the state of the damned in hell.

And if so, then the covenanted parents shall be able to say in that day, this was our child for whom we prayed and travailed again, till Christ was formed in him; this is he whom we educated for God, and trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: and now we see the fruit of our prayers, counsels, catechisings; a child of so many prayers perished not. And the covenanted child shall say, this was my pious Father, who took such care for my soul; and this my tender mother, who, like another Monica, was zealously concerned for my eternal happiness. These are they that sowed so many prayers, which God gave them not time to reap the fruits of on earth, but now they shall reap the fruit and comfort of them for ever. O joyful meeting in the kingdom of God! The joy of such a meeting abundantly recompenses for all the tears and groans of a dolorous parting.

Now, put all this together, and value the arguments produced to make good the first thing propounded, namely, the sufficiency of the covenant to relieve and remedy all the sorrows and losses of believers, be they never so many, or so great: this cannot be doubted, since it hath been proved, that it disarms all their afflictions of the only sting by which they wound; alters the very nature and property of their afflictions, turning them from curses into blessings; ranks and disposes them into their proper class and place of service, so as the counsel of men and angels could never lay them better to our advantage; engages the gracious and special presence of God with you in all your troubles; secures all your essential and substantial mercies from all hazards and contingencies; discovers a consistency, yea, a connection betwixt the rod and the love of God; and assures you, that whatever temporal mercy you ever enjoyed, in and by virtue of the covenant, shall be re stored to you again with an admirable improvement, and singular ad vantage. It is by all this, I say, abundantly proved, that the covenant is a sovereign and effectual remedy to all the sorrows of God’s [[108]] people; and that it was no hyperbole in David’s encomium, when he called it his salvation, and all his desire. But then, as I hinted before,

II. It must be able to do these things at all times, and in all ages, or else it will be but a temporary relief to some only and not to all. Now, that the covenant hath this ability in all ages, and is as able to relieve us now, as it was to relieve David in his day fully appears by the epithet given it in the text, it is an EVERLASTING COVE NANT. “Yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant.”

Time is the measure of other things; but everlastingness is the measure of the covenant. When the Lord espouseth a people to himself in covenant, “he betrothes them to himself for ever,” Hos. ii. 19. And from that day forward they may say on good grounds, “This God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even unto death,” as it is in Psal. xlviii. 14. Nothing in nature is so firmly established as the covenant is. Hills and mountains shall sooner start from their basis and centre, and fly like wandering atoms up and down in the air, than this covenant shall start from its sure and steadfast foundation, Isa. liv. 10.

The causes and reasons of the immutability of the new covenant, are,

1. The unchangeable purpose of God, which is a sure and stead fast foundation, 2 Tim. hi. 29. “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his.” The first act of God’s love to the creature, is that by which he chooseth such a one to be his, and is therefore called the foundation of God, as being that on which he lays the superstructure of all other mercies. And this stands sure, there can be no vacillancy or slipperiness in such a foundation; for he knows who are his; he knows them as his creatures, and as his new creatures in covenant with him; as his by election, and his by covenant-transaction and compact. The purpose of his grace before time, gave being to the covenant of grace in time, and is the foundation of it.

2. The free grace of God in Christ, is that which gives immuta bility to this covenant. It is not built upon works, but grace: “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace: to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed,” Rom. iv. 16. This covenant is not founded as the first was, upon the variable and incon stant obedience of man, but upon grace, which is a steady and firm foundation of it.

3. The suretiship of Christ gives everlasting stability to this covenant, Heb. vii. 22. “He was made [9] the surety of a better testaineiit,” or covenant: For διαθηκη signifies both; he struck hands, or engaged himself for the whole covenant, and every condition in it, and that both on God’s part and ours; to undergo all our punishments, to pay all our debts, and to work in us all that God required [[109]] of us in the covenant of grace: And all this under the penalty that lay upon us to have undergone. And this not as other sureties, who enter into one and the same bond with the principal, so that the creditor may come upon which he will: hut he lays all upon Christ, and relies wholly upon him for satisfaction, knowing he was able to perform it; and so under the type of God’s covenant with David, Christ is brought in, Psal. lxxxix. 19. “Thou spakest in vision to thy holy One, and saidst, I have laid help on one who is mighty:” q. d. I know thy ability, my Son, thou art able to pay me, and therefore I lay all upon thee.

It follows strongly from what hath been said, that the virtue of the covenant decays not by time as other things do, but is at this day, and will be to the end of the world, as potent and efficacious a relief to all God’s people, as ever it was to David, or any of the believers of the first ages.

And if so, certainly nothing can be more strongly supporting, or sweetly relieving in such a changeable world than this, He hath made with me an everlasting covenant. What David speaks of the natural heavens will be found true, of things overspread and covered by them, Psal. cii. 26, 27. “They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: and all of them shall wax old like a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” The creature was, and is not; but my covenant God is the same; his name is I am, and his covenant is the same that ever it was; which is the second property or ingredient of this complete remedy to the saints afflictions. The covenant hath not only all power, virtue, and efficacy in itself to relieve a distressed Christian, but it hath it in all ages, as well for one as for another. The third and last follows, namely,

III. That it is a sure covenant. So David stiles it in my text. The certainty of the covenant is the glory of the covenant, and the com fort of all that are in it. The certainty of it in itself is past all doubt, by what hath been said before. It is certain God did make such an everlasting covenant with his people in Christ, and it must remain an eternal truth, that such a covenant there is betwixt God and them. It is as impossible that this everlasting covenant should not be made with them, as it is impossible for God to lie, Heb. vi. 18. If he might make himself not to have covenanted everlastingly with them when once he had so covenanted, such a supposition would destroy the foundation of all faith and certainty, and overthrow the apostle’s con sequence on which the faith and comfort of believers is built. Nor is it an infringement of the Almighty power, to say, God himself cannot do that which implies a plain contradiction, as factum infectum reddere, to make that which was done, not to be done.

But of this there is no doubt; it is a sure covenant in itself. That which makes to my purpose here, is to prove it capable of personal security and certainty to us. David had, and all the federates, as [[110]] well as he, may have a subjective or personal certainty also. He speaks categorically and positively in the text. “Yet hath he made [with me] an everlasting covenant.”

Objection. If it be said, he might have a personal certainty of it, be cause it was revealed to him in an extraordinary way by the prophet Nathan, 2 Sam. vii. 12, 13, 11. and extraordinaria non current in exemplum, this was a peculiar favour, which we may not expect.

Solution. I reply, and why may not we know it with as full a certainty to whom God is pleased to make it known in his ordinary way? Think you his word and Spirit cannot ratify it as fully and firmly to our souls, as Nathan’s discovery of it did to David’s soul? God give me but such a seal of it in his ordinary method and way of confirmation, and I will desire no more of him in this world for my relief and comfort, whatever afflictions it shall please him to lay upon me.

And thus you see all the properties of a complete remedy in the covenant, and of it every believer may say, “This is all my salvation, and all my desire, though he make not my house to grow.” And now what hinders, but that all God’s afflicted should say from henceforth, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee,” Psal. cxvi. 7. I have all the desires of my heart in the covenant of God, though he take away the desire of mine eyes upon earth with his stroke. In this covenant my soul is at rest, and my very heart is centred. No affliction can be great enough to make the consolations of the Almighty seem small in mine eyes. Worldly sorrows may swallow up worldly comforts, but no sorrows upon earth can swallow up the consolations of the covenant.

I know many Christians droop and are dejected under the rod, not withstanding such sovereign cordials are prepared for them in the covenant; but this is not for want of efficacy in the covenant, but for want of faith to clear their interest, and draw forth the virtue of it to their relief. Some are ignorant of their privileges, and others diffident about their interest. It is with many of God’s children, as it is with our children in their infancy, they know not their father, nor the inheritance they are born unto.

That which remains, is the improvement of this truth to our actual comfort and relief in the day of trouble. And this I shall assist you in, as God shall assist me, by way of,

1. Information.

2. Exhortation.

3. Examination, and

4. Consolation.

USE I. For information, in three corollaries.

Corollary 1. By what hath been discoursed from this text, it ap pears, That God governs the spiritual part of the world by faith, and not by sense. He will have them live upon his covenant and promises, and fetch their relief and comfort thence, under all their sorrows and distresses in this life.

God never intended temporal things for his people’s portion, [[111]] therefore from them they must not expect their relief in times of trouble. He will have us read his love to us by things within us, not by things without us. He hath other ways of expressing his love to his people, than by the smiles of his providence upon them. How-would earthly things be overvalued and idolized, if besides their conveniency to our bodies, they should be the marks and evidences of God’s love to our souls! A Christian is to value himself as the merchant, or the husbandman doth. The merchant values himself by his bills and goods abroad, not by the ready cash that lies by him. And the husbandmen by his deeds and leases, and so many acres of corn he hath in the ground, and knows he hath a good estate, though sometimes he be not able to command twenty shillings. Christian, thy estate also lies in good promises, and new-covenant-securities, whether thou hast more or less of earthly comforts in thy hands.

Every creature feeds according to its nature; the same plant af fords food to several sorts of creatures: The bee feeds upon the flower, the sheep upon the branch, the bird upon the seed, and the swine upon the root. One cannot live upon what the other doth. So it is here: A Christian can feed upon the promises, and make a sweet meal upon the covenant, which the carnal mind cannot relish. “The life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God;” saith the apostle, Gal. ii. 21.

This is that mysterious and excellent life of faith, and the test of true Christianity, to relieve ourselves by our hopes of things to come, against present evils; to balance the sorrows and losses of this life, with the promises and expectations of the next. Thus did the renowned believers of the first age; whenever they felt a pang or qualm upon their hearts, under their trials and sorrows from the world, they would presently run to their cordial, the promises, and, by faith, from thence would refresh and invigorate their souls with new life and power. “We faint not, whilst we look not at the things which arc seen, for they are temporal; but at the things which are not seen, “ for they are eternal,” 2 Cor. iv. 16, 17, 18. And truly so must we also, when our hearts are faint within us in days of affliction, or our spirits will fail, and we shall go away in a faint fit of despondency.

Corol. 2. Learn hence the sovereign efficacy of the word, and what a choke privilege it is to have these lively oracles of God in our hands, in a day of distress and trouble.

It is no ordinary mercy to be born in a land of bibles and ministers; to have these choice supports and reliefs at hand, in all our fainting hours. “This is my comfort in my affliction, for thy word hath quickened me,” Psal. cxix. 50. It was no small mercy gained by the reformation, that it put the oracles of God into our hands. It affords us many cordials for the support of our souls. For this, among other great and excellent uses, the scriptures were written, “That we, through patience, and comfort of the scriptures, might have [[112]] hope,” Rom. xv. 4. In other parts of the world, it is a sealed book; bless God it is not so to you. All creature-comforts have a double defect, they are neither suitable nor durable; but the word is so. Compare the arguments that have been urged from the cove nant with such as these. It is in vain to trouble ourselves about what we cannot help: We are not alone in trouble, others have their losses and afflictions as well as we. Alas! what dry and ineffectual com forts are these! they penetrate not the heart, as pardon of sin, peace with God, and sanctification of troubles to our salvation do.

And no less is the mercy of an able New-testament ministry, to open, apply, and inculcate the consolation of the scriptures, to be esteemed. It is no common favour to the afflicted soul, to have with or near him an “Interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto him his uprightness,” Job xxxiii. 23. O England, prize and im prove these mercies, and provoke not thy God to bereave thee of them.

lean find no such settlement made of the gospel and ministry upon any place or people, but that God may remove both upon their abuse of them; and if he do, sad will the case of such a people be, especially when a day of distress and trouble shall be upon them. It is sad to be in a storm at sea, without a compass or pilot to direct and advise the distressed passengers. Much so is the case of the afflicted, when deprived of the word and ministry.

Let it therefore be your care to hide the word in your hearts, and get the teachings of the Spirit; that whatever changes of providence be upon the world, you may have the light and comfort of the scriptures to direct and cheer your souls. Sanctification is the writing of God’s law in your hearts; and what is written there is secure and safe. The word within you is more secure, sweet, and effectual, than the word without you. Jerom saith of Nepotianus, that by long and assiduous meditation of the scriptures, his breast was at last become the library of Christ. O that the breast of every Christian were so too.

Corol. 3. How sad and deplorably miserable is their condition, who have no title to, nor comfort from the covenant of God, when a day of affliction and great distress is upon them!

Unrelieved miseries are the most intolerable miseries. To be over-weighed with troubles on earth, and want support and comfort from heaven, is a dismal state indeed; yet this is the case of multitudes in the world. If a believer be in trouble, his God bears his burden for him, yea, he bears up him and his burden too; but he that hath no covenant-interest in God, must say as it is, Jer. x. 19. “This is my affliction, and I alone must bear it.”

There are but two ways they can take for relief, either to divert their trouble by that which will inflame them, or rest their burdened spirits upon that which will fail them. To run to the tavern or ale-house, instead of the closet, is to quench the fire by pouring on [[113]] oil: and to run from one creature which is smitten and withered, to another which still continues with us, is to lean upon a broken reed, which not only deceives us, but wounds and pierceth us. What a miserable plight was Saul in, and how doleful was his cry and com plaint to Samuel, 1 Sam. xxviii. 15. “I am sore distressed, for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more.” Heaven and earth forsook him at once.

Reader, if this be thy case, I advise thee to rest no longer in so miserable a condition. Thy very distress seems by an happy necessity to put thee upon God, and drive thee to him for refuge; and it seems to be the very aim and design of God in blasting all thy earthly com forts, to necessitate thee to come to him, which thou wouldst never be persuaded to do, whilst thou hadst any creature-prop to stay and rest upon. And think not that thou shalt be rejected, because thou art brought by a plain necessity to him; come sincerely, and thou shalt not be upbraided because a necessity threw thee upon him.

Use II. Seeing then that the covenant of God is the great relief and support of all his afflicted people, let the afflicted soul go to this blessed: covenant; study and apply it in all distresses. It is in itself a sovereign cordial, able to revive a gracious spirit at the lowest ebb; but then it must be studied and applied, or it will never give forth its consolations to our refreshment. Extreme sorrows are apt to deafen our ears to all voices of comfort. The loud cries of affliction too often drown the sweet still voice of spiritual consolation; but either here or no where our redress is to be found. Why seek we the living among the dead? Comfort from things that cannot yield it? The covenant can discover two things which are able to pacify the most discomposed heart, viz.

1. The good

of affliction.

2. The end.

2. The end 1. It will discover to us the good of affliction, and so rectify our mistaken judgments about it. God is not undoing but consulting our interest and happiness in all these dispensations. It will satisfy us, that in all these things he doth no more than what we ourselves allow and approve in other cases. It is not merely from his pleasure, but for our profit, that these breaches are made upon our families and com forts, Heb. xii. 10. Who blames the mariner for casting the goods over-board to save ship and life in a storm? or the surgeon for lancing, yea, or cutting off a leg or arm to preserve the life of his patient? or soldiers for burning or beating down the suburbs to save the city in a siege? And why must God only be censured, for cutting off “those things from us which he knows will hazard us in the day of temptation?” He sees the less we have of entanglement, the more prompt ness and fitness we shall have to go through the trials that arc coming upon us; and that all the comforts he cuts off from our bodies are for the profit and advantage of our souls.

[[114]] 2. Here you gain a sight not only of the good of affliction, but also of the comfortable end and issue of affliction. This cloudy and stormy morning will wind up in a serene and pleasant evening. There is a vast difference betwixt our meeting with afflictions, and our parting from them. “You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord.” O get but Job’s spirit under affliction, and you may see as happy an end of them as he did.

Had Naomi seen the end of the Lord in taking away her husband, and starving her out of Moab, she would not have changed her name, or said the Lord had dealt bitterly with her, in grafting her daughter by that providence into that noble line, out of which the Saviour of the world was to rise; and could you but see that good in order to which all this train of troubles is laid, you would not murmur or despond as you do.

Objection 1. O but this is a grievous stroke; God hath smitten me in the apple of mine eye, and written bitter things against me. No SORROW is like my sorrow; it is a mourning for an only son; I have lost all in one.

Solution 1. You can never lose all in one, except that one be Christ; and he being your’s in covenant can never be lost. But your meaning is, you have lost all of that kind in one, no more sons to build up your house, and continue your name.

2. But yet religion will not allow you to say that your dead children are a lost generation. Præmittuntur, non amittuntur; They are sent before, but not lost. For they are a covenant-seed, by you dedicated to the Lord: They were children of many prayers; a great stock of prayers was laid up for them; in them also you, and all that knew them, discerned a teachable spirit, pious inclinations, and con science of secret duties, some good things toward the Lord God of Israel, as was said of young Abijah, 1 Kings xiv. 13. So that you parted from them upon easier terms than good David parted from his Amnon, Absalom, or Adonijah, who died in their sins and open rebellions. There was a sting in his troubles which you feel not; and if he comforted himself, notwithstanding, in the covenant of his God, in this respect you may much more.

Object. 2. O but my son was cut off in the very bud, just when the fruits of education were ready to disclose and open.

Sol. Let not that consideration so incense your sorrows; God knows the fittest time both to give and to take our comforts; and seeing you have good grounds to hope your child died interested in the covenant of God, you have the less reason to insist upon that afflicting circumstance of an immature death. He that dies in Christ hath lived long enough both for himself and us. That mariner hath sailed long enough that hath gained his port; and that soldier fought long enough that hath won the victory; and that child lived long enough that hath won heaven, how early soever he died.

[[115]] Beside, the sooner he died, the less sin he hath committed, and the less misery he saw and felt in this wretched world, which we are left to behold and feel. And it is hut a vanity to imagine that the parting pull with him would have been easier, if the enjoyment of him had been longer: For the long enjoyment of desirable comforts doth not use to weaken, but abundantly to strengthen and fasten the tics of affection.

Submit your reason therefore, as is meet, to the wisdom of God, who certainly chose the fittest season for this affliction.

O but,——No more buts and objections, I beseech you. Enough hath been offered from the covenant of your God, to silence all your objections, and to give you the ease and pleasure of a resigned will. And what arc all your huts and objections, but a spurning at Divine Sovereignty, and the thrusting in the affliction deeper into your own hearts, which are wounded but, too deep already?

1. persuade you not to put off, but to regulate natural affections: To be without them would deservedly rank us among the worst of heathens: but rightly to bound and manage them, would set you among the best of Christians.

I cannot imagine what ease or advantage holy [10] Basil gained by such a particular and heart-piercing account as he gave of a like affliction with this; nor to what purpose it can be to you, to recal and recount those things which only incense and aggravate your troubles: Doubtless, your better way were to turn your thoughts from such subjects as these; to your God in covenant, as David in the text did, and to recount the many great and inestimable mercies that are secured to you therein; which death shall never smite, or cut off from you, as it doth your other enjoyments.

Quest. But yet unless we can in some measure clear our covenant-interest, all these excellent cordials prepared, will signify no more to our relief, than water spilt upon the ground: Help us therefore to do that, or else all that hath been said is in vain? How may a person discern his covenant-right and interest.

Answ. This indeed is worthy of all consideration, and deserves a serious answer, forasmuch as it is fundamental to your comfort, and all actual refreshment in times of trouble; and will bring us to the next use, which is for trial of our covenant-interest.

USE III. The great question to be decided, is, whether God be our covenant-God, and we his people? A question of the most solemn nature, and such as requires awful attention.

We cannot expect satisfaction in this matter by such an extraordinary way as David had it, but we may know it by, First, Our covenant-engagements.

[[116]] Secondly, Our covenant impressions. Thirdly, Our covenant-conversations. First, By our covenant-engagements, or dedications of ourselves to God; sometimes called our joining ourselves to the Lord, Zech. ii. 11. our yielding ourselves to him, Rom. vi. 19. our giving ourselves to him, 2 Cor. viii. 5. The soul that freely and deliberately consents to take or choose the Lord to be his God, may warrantably conclude the Lord hath taken or chosen him: for our choice of God is but the result of his choice of us, John xv. 16. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” i. e. you could never have chosen me, but in consequence to, and by virtue of my first choice of you.

Well then, let it be seriously considered, whether you have duly consented to take the Lord for your God, and Christ for your Redeemer. This includes two things in it.

1. Your relinquishing of all things inconsistent with him.

2. Your acceptation of all that promotes the glory and enjoyment of him.

1. Your relinquishing of all things that are inconsistent with an interest in him. Except we let these go, God cannot be our God, nor Christ our Redeemer. The things to be relinquished for Christ are, in short, both our sinful, and our righteous self. Sinful-self must be disclaimed and renounced: For we cannot be the servants of sin, and the servants of Christ too, Rom. vi. 14, 18. And righteous-self must be renounced also, or we can have no part or interest in his righteousness, Rom. x. 8. These are two difficult points of self-denial, to part with every beloved lust, and to give up our own righteousness. Thousands choose rather to be damned for ever, than to do either of these.

2. Your acceptance and embracing of all things that promote his glory, and further the enjoyment of him. As all the painful ways of duty, hearing, praying, meditating, and all this with the intention of the inner-man, and offering up of the soul to God, in these duties; and the more painful ways of suffering for God, and enduring all losses, reproaches, torments, and death for him, if his glory requires it, and you may be thereunto called. All this is included in your choosing God to be your God. And upon our understanding and free consent, and sealing to these articles, we have right to call him our God. Matth. xxi. 24. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” Now, have you considered the terms of the covenant, weighed and balanced all the conveniences and inconveniences of godliness, and then deter mined for Christ and holiness, let the cost be what it will; then you have chosen him aright for your God. Many think they have chosen God for their God, that never understood or deliberated these terms. But non consentit, qui nan sentit: He that neither knows nor ponders them, is not capable of giving a due consent.

Secondly, We may discern our covenant-interest, in the covenant [[117]] impressions that are made upon our souls. All God’s covenant-people have a double mark or impression made upon them, viz.

1. Upon their minds.

2. Upon their hearts.

1. Upon their minds, in a more spiritual and efficacious know ledge of God, Jer. xxxi. 33. “They shall all know me, from the greatest of them, even to the least of them.” This knowledge is said to be given, not acquired by mere strength of natural abilities and human aids; and given as in the face of Christ, not by the foot steps of the creatures only, as he speaks, 2 Cor. iv. 6. It is the choice teaching of the anointing, 1 John ii. 27. A knowledge springing from inward experience and spiritual sense; as we know the sweetness of honey by tasting, better than by all the descriptions and reports that can he made of it.

2. Upon their hearts, in that gracious tenderness and meltings of it for sin, or the discoveries of free-grace in the pardon of it. So you read in Ezck. xxxvi. 26. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”

It is as easy to melt the obdurate rocks into sweet syrup, as it is to melt the natural heart into a penitential and tender melting for sin; but now there is a principle or habit of tenderness implanted in the soul, whereby it is disposed and inclined to relent and thaw ingenuously upon any just occasion.

Thirdly, Our covenant-interest may be evinced in and by our covenant-conversations. All the knowledge which is communicated to our minds, and all the tenderness given to our hearts, do respect and tend to this: Ezek. xxxvi. 27. “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.” Habits and principles are for action and practice: Grace in the heart is for obedience and holiness of life.

It is true, that as our graces are imperfect, so is our obedience also. Perfect working is not to be expected from imperfect creatures. God’s own covenanted-people do often grieve him, and provoke him to bring them under the rod of affliction; but those their infirmities break not the bond of the covenant, Psal. lxxxix. 30, 31, 32. Care and watchfulness ordinarily go before them, conflicts and resistance accompany them, and shame, grief, and renewed care, usually follow them, 2 Cor. vii. 11. By these things (which deserves a more co pious discourse than my present design can allow) we may be helped to clear our interest in the covenant of grace: And that being done, it should be out of the power of all the afflictions in the world to sink your spirits. Let me therefore in the last place add,

USE IV. A word of consolation to your dejected and drooping hearts, upon this sad and mournful occasion. Why are you so troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Methinks there hath been so much of support and comfort already discovered to you [[118]] in this blessed covenant, that could your faith but once fix Upon it, and realize and apply it, I might lay down my pen at this period, and say, The work is done, there needs no more; but knowing how obstinate deep sorrows are, and how difficult a task the comforting of an afflicted mind is, I will, for a close, superadd a few considerations more, to all that hath been urged and argued before.

Consideration\. Consider how small and trivial the comforts, whose loss you bewail, are in comparison with Jesus Christ, who is still your own, under the bond of a sure covenant. A son, an only and promising son, is a great thing, when he stands in comparison with other creature-comforts, but surely he will seem a small thing, and next to nothing, when set by, or compared with Jesus Christ. Behold the Father, Son, and Spirit! Pardon and eternal salvation are this clay presented in the covenant of grace before your souls, as your own. “God, even our own God, shall bless,” Psal. lxvii. 6. When you feel your hearts wounded with such a thought as this, I cannot embrace my children in my arms, they are now out of my reach; then bless and admire God, that the arms of your faith can embrace so great, so glorious a Saviour, and that you can say, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.”

Consid. II. Consider what evil days are coming on, and what a mercy it is to your dead, that God hath taken them away from the evil to come, Isa. lvii. 1, 2. There are two sorts of evils to come, viz. Evils of sin, and evils of sufferings; and it is no small favour to be set out of the way of both. The grave is the hiding-place where God secures some from the dangers of both.

We are apt to promise ourselves times of tranquillity, and then it cuts us to think that our dear ones shall not partake with us in that felicity: But if we wisely consider the sins or the signs of the times, we have more cause to rejoice that God hath set them out of harm’s way.

All things seem to conspire and work towards a day of great temptation and tribulation. Now as Christ told his disciples, who were so dejected, because he was to leave them, John xiv. 28. “If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father:” So truly you would much better express and manifest your love to your children, in your satisfaction in the will and appointment of God, in taking them into rest and safety, than in your dejections and sorrows for their removal. Surely they are better where they are, than where they were, whom God hath housed in heaven out of the storm and tempest. And could your deaf friends that are with Christ, have any more intercourse with this world, and see your tears, and hear your sighs for them, they would say to you, as Christ did to those that followed him wailing and mourning, Weep not for us, but for yourselves, and such as remain in the world with’ you, to see and feel the calamities that are coming on it.

Consid. III. Consider how near you are to that blessed state [[119]] yourselves, where God shall he all in all, and you shall feel no want of any creature-comfort, 1 Cor. xv. 28.

Creature-comforts arc only accommodated comforts to this animal life we now live, but shortly there will be no need of them: for God will be all in all: That is, all the saints shall be abundantly satisfied in and with God alone. As there is water enough in one sea to fill all the rivers, lakes, and springs in the world: And light enough in one sun to enlighten all the inhabitants of the world: So there is enough in one God eternally to fill and satisfy all the blessed souls in heaven, without the addition of any creature-comfort. God is complete satisfaction to all the saints in the absence (I cannot say want) of wives and children, meats and drinks, estates and sensitive pleasures; There will be no more need of these things, than of candles at noon-day. You shall be as the angels of God, who have no concernment for relations.

Your fulness of years, infirmities of body, and I hope, I may add, your improvements in grace, speak you not far short of this blessed state: And though you may seem to need these comforts in the way, your God shall supply all your wants.

Consid. IV. To conclude, Whatsoever your troubles, wants, fears, or dangers are, or may be in your passage to this blessed state, the covenant of grace is your security, and by virtue thereof your troubles shall open and divide, as Jordan did, to give you a safe passage into your eternal rest.

Look, as when the Israelites came near the land of promise, there was a swelling Jordan betwixt it and them, which seemed to forbid their farther passage and progress; but is is said, Josh. iii. 17. “The priests that bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, stood firm on the ground in the midst of Jordan; and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.” Just so it is here: The covenant of grace stands on firm ground, in the midst of all the deep waters of tribulation you are to pass through, to secure unto you a safe passage through them all. Rejoice, therefore, and triumph in the fulness and firmness of this blessed covenant, and whatsoever affliction your God shall please to lay upon you, or whatsoever comfort he shall please to remove from you, still comfort and encourage yourselves, as David here doth. “Yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: For this is all my salvation, and and all my desire; although he make it not to grow.”



[1] Plus est juam here dotnus mea ante Dcum. Jon.

[2] XXXX διαθηκη αιωνεος;. i.e. A covenant of age. ΧΧΧΧ ortlinavit, disposuit, aptarit.

[3] XXXX διαθηκη αιωνεος;. i.e. A covenant of age. ΧΧΧΧ ortlinavit, disposuit, aptarit.

[4] A XXXX custodivit, servavit.

[5] XXXX

[6] Omnis in ascanio stat chari cura parentis. Virgil.

[7] Where is now thy threats? See there thy fury laid. Ovid.

[8] XXXX ιλεως εσομαι, It respects the propitiatory expiation of sin by Christ, who is therefore called ιασμος, and ιλασηριον. l John ii. 2. and Rom. iii. 25.

[9] Εγτυος, from εγτυαω which signifies to strike hands, εν γυιοις.

[10] I once had a son (said he), who was a young man, my only successor, the solace of my age, the glory of his kind, the prop of my family, arrived to the endearing age.


Page 76. Chap. XV. Containing another use of the point, by way of exhortation, persuading all the people of God, whilst the Lord respites, and graciously delays their trials, to answer the end of God therein, and prepare themselves for greater trials; where several motives are propounded to excite to the duty.

posted 5 Jul 2014, 02:42 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 5 Jul 2014, 02:43 ]



CHAP. XV.

Containing another use of the point, by way of exhortation, persuading all the people of God, whilst the Lord respites, and graciously delays their trials, to answer the end of God therein, and prepare themselves for greater trials; where several motives are propounded to excite to the duty.

UP then from your beds of sloth, awake from your security, O ye saints, get upon your watch-towers, tremble in yourselves, that ye may rest in the day of evil, Hab. ii. 1, 3, 16. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand in the evil day, and when you have done all, to stand,” Eph. vi. 11. O let it never be said of your dwellings, as it is said of the tabernacles of the wicked, Job xxi. 9. “Their houses are safe from fear.”

Augustus hearing of one that was deeply in debt, who yet slept heartily, sent for his pillow, supposing there was some strange virtue in that pillow. I wonder what pillow ye have gotten, O ye drowsy saints, that you can sleep so quietly upon it, now that all things about [[76]]  you are conspiring trouble, and threatening danger. Can you sleep like Jonah, when seas of wrath are tumbling and roaring round about you, and threaten to entomb you and all your enjoyments? Behold, “The stork in the heavens knows her appointed time,” Jer. vii. 8. and hath not God made you reiser than the fords of the air, Job xxxv. 11. It may be the sound of some present judgment may a little startle you, like a sudden clap of thunder in the air; but how soon doth sloth and security prevail, and overcome you again. They say poison by being habituated, may be made innocent: We are so used to, or rather hardened under calamities, that nothing moves or effectually awakens us. Lord, what will the end of these things be? Wilt thou surprise thy people at unawares? Shall thy judgments find them se cure, and leave them desperate? O that God would persuade you “to gather yourselves together, yea, to gather together,” (not in an un lawful and seditious way, but in the way of duty,) “before the decree bring forth, and the day pass as the chaff,” Zeph. ii. 1, 2. O prepare to meet your God, Amos iv. 12. Prepare your faith, love, courage, &c. before God call you to the exercise of them.

And to excite you to this duty, besides all the forementioned benefits of a prepared spirit, consider these following particulars by way of motive.

1. Motive. The many calls which God hath given you to this work. The Lord hath uttered his voice, and called from heaven unto you; will you be deaf to his calls? He hath called upon you, (1.) By the word: God would have it cry to you first, because he would give the first honour to his word. He hath given all his prophets one mouth, Luke i. 70. and they have warned you faithfully. (2.) By the rod: this also hath a loud voice, Mic. vi. 9. Psal. ii. 5. Men of understanding will hear this voice; and those that will not hear it shall be lashed by it even till they are sick with smiting, verse 13. (3.) By prodigious and portentous signs in the heavens and earth, such as no age can parallel, these have a loud voice to all that regard the works of the Lord, or the operations of his hands. Eusebius calls them God’s sermons to the world.[1] O that we were wise to consider what God’s ends are in these things! one observes, ‘That as they are the plainest and most obvious to sense, so they are commonly the last sermons which God intends to preach to nations, before he inflicts his punishment on them, if they repent not.’ O let not God, speaking in ordinary and extraordinary ways to you, still speak in vain.

Your preparations for sufferings, is the most probable means of preventing your fall and ruin by those sufferings.

2. Motive. Sufferings prove fatal and destructive to some; but it is to secure and careless ones; Such as are diligent and faithful in the use of God’s means, are secured from the danger. Christ lays our [[77]] constancy and perseverance very much upon our forecasting the worst that may fall out, Luke xiv. 28. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand,” Eph. vi. He that hath first severed Christ in his thoughts from all worldly advantages, and puts the case thus to his own soul, O my soul, canst thou embrace or love a naked Christ? Canst thou be content to be impoverished, imprisoned, and suffer the loss of all for him? He is most likely to cleave faithfully to him, when the case is really presented to him indeed. And can it seem a light thing in your eyes, to be enabled to stand in such an evil day? If you fall away from Christ, then all you have wrought is lost, Ezek. xxxiii. 13. Gideon’s one bastard destroyed all his seventy sons. This act renders all former actions and professions vain. If you fall, you shall thereby be brought into a more perfect bondage to the devil than ever, Mat. xii. 23. Yea, ordinarily, apostates are judicially given up to be persecutors, Hos. v. 12. 1 Tim. i. 20. and are seldom or never recovered again by grace, Heb. vi. 4, 6. They that lick up their vomit, seldom cast it up any more. It is a fall within a little as low as the unpardonable sin, whence never any rise again. In some cases the judge will not allow the offender his book. And is it not then a choice and desirable mercy to escape and prevent such a fall as this? O good souls, ply your preparation-work close then; prepare, or you perish.

3. Motive. This will best answer the grace of God, in affording you such choice helps and advantages as you have enjoyed. How long have you enjoyed the free liberty of the gospel, shining in its lustre among you? This sun, which to some other nations hath not risen, and to divers on whom it hath shined, yet it is but as a winter’s sun, remote, and its beams but feeble; but you have lived, as it were, un der the line, it hath been over your heads, and shed its richest influences upon you. Yea, God’s ministers, who are not only appointed to be a watchmen, Ezek. iii. 16. but trumpeters to discover danger, Num. x. 8. These have faithfully warned you of a day of trouble, and given you their best assistance to make you ready for it. And is not their joy, yea, life, bound up in your stability in such a day of trial? Doth not every one call upon vou in the words of the apostle, Phil, iv. 1. “Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved, and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” Will it not cut them to the very heart, if after all their spending labours among you, they still leave you unready? enemies still to the cross of Christ, impossible to be reconciled and persuaded to suffering-work for Christ.

I remember I have read of the Athenian Codrus, who being in formed by the oracle, that the people whose king should be slain in battle should be conquerors: he thereupon disrobed himself, and in a disguise went into the enemies quarters, that he might steal a death to make his people victorious.

Oh! how glad would your ministers be, if you might conquer and [[78]] overcome in the day of temptation, whatever become of their lives and liberties! Yea, and if they be offered zip upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, they can rejoice, and joy with you all. Such is their zeal and longing after your security and welfare. But if still you remain an unready people, and do become a prey to temptation, Oh how inexcusable will you be!

4. Motive. Remember how ready the Lord Jesus was to suffer the hardest and vilest things for you. He had a bitter cup put into his hands to drink for you, into which the wrath both of God and man was squeezed out. Never had man such sufferings to undergo as Christ, [2] whether you consider, (1.) The dignity of his person, who was in the form of God, and might have stood upon his peerage and and equality with him; he is the sparkling diamond of heaven, Acts vii. 56. the darling of the Fathers soul, Isa. xlii. 1. glorious as the only begotten of the Father, John i. 14. yea, glory itself, Jam. ii. 1. yea, the very brightness of glory, Heb. i. 8. He is the delicice Christiani orbis, fairer than the sons of men; And for him to be so debased, be low so many thousands of his own creatures, become a worm, and no man; this was a wonderful humiliation. It was Jeremiah’s lamenta tion, that such aswere brought upin scarlet, embraced dunghills; that princes were hanged up by the hands, and the faces of elders were not reverenced: But what was that to the humiliation of the Lord of glory? Or, (2.) That he suffered in the prime and flower of his years; when full of life and sense, and more capable of exquisite sense of pain than others: for he was optime complexionatus, [3] of a singular constitution; and all the while he hanged on the tree, his sense of pain not at all blunted or decayed, Mark xv. 37, 39. Or, (3.) The manner of his death. It was the death of the cross, which was a rack to Christ: for in reference to the distention of his members upon the cross is that spoken, Ps. xxii. 17. “I may tell all my bones.” Or, (4.) That all this while God hid his face from him. When Stephen suffered, he saw the heavens opened. The martyrs were many of them ravished and transported with extasies of joy in their sufferings; but Christ in the dark. He suffered in his soul as well as in his body; and the sufferings of his soul were the very soul of his sufferings. It was the Father’s wrath that lay so heavy on him, as to put him into such an agony, that an instance was never given of the like nature: for he sweat θρουβοι, great drops, or dodders of blood, which fell from his body to the ground, Luke xxii. 44. “It amazed him, and made him very heavy;” see Mark xiv. 33. yea, sorrowful even to “death,” Mat. xxvi. 38.

And yet, as bitter as the cup was, he freely and willingly drank it up, John xviii. 11. prepared himself to be offered up a sacrifice, Psal. xl. 6, 7. “gave his back to the smiters,” Isa. 1. 6. yea, longed exceedingly for the time till it came, Luke xii. 50.

[[79]] Now, if Christ so cheerfully prepared and addressed himself to such sufferings as these for you, should you not prepare yourselves to en counter any difficulty or hardships for him? O my brethren, doth not this seem a just and fair inference to you, from the sufferings of Christ for you? 1 Pet. iv. 1. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.”

Oh, trifle no longer, feed not yourselves with fancies and ground less presumptions of immunity and peace, but foresee difficulties, and fit yourselves to bear them.



[1] τα τοθ κηρυγ ματα. Euseb. hist. lib. iii. cap. 8.

[2] Dotor Christi fuit major omnibus doloribus. Aquin.

[3] Aquinas.


Page 79. Chap. XVI. Containing the last use of the point, by way of support and comfort to poor trembling sends, who do take pains to make themselves ready for sufferings; but yet finding such strength in Satan’s temptations, and their own corruptions, fear that all their labour is vain, and that they shall faint, and utterly apostatize, when their troubles and trials come to an height.

posted 5 Jul 2014, 02:39 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 5 Jul 2014, 02:40 ]



CHAP. XVI.

Containing the last use of the point, by way of support and comfort to poor trembling sends, who do take pains to make themselves ready for sufferings; but yet finding such strength in Satan’s temptations, and their own corruptions, fear that all their labour is vain, and that they shall faint, and utterly apostatize, when their troubles and trials come to an height.

IN the last place, if it be such a blessed thing to be ready for bonds, or death for Christ, this may minister much comfort to such souls, who though they cannot say as Paul here did, that they are ready; yet are at work daily upon their own hearts to make them ready, and strive, in the use of all means, to conquer those corruptions that hinder it, and improve those graces in which it mainly consisteth. O poor soul, whatever present unreadiness or indisposition thou findest, and complainest of in thine heart, yet thy condition is safe.

Objection. Oh! but I cannot be satisfied in that: I fear I shall be over-home by temptations when they come to an height. I have such experience of the deceits and treacherousness of my own heart, that it seems impossible to me to do as these blessed souls did, when I come to the like trials.

Solution. It is well thou suspectest thine own heart, and tremblest in thyself; this fear will keep thee waking, while others are securely sleeping. It was a good saying of a reverend minister, Mr. A. H. now with God, ‘He that fears to flinch, shall never flinch for fear.’ It is true, seeming grace may be totally lost, Luke vii. 18. Heb. vi. 4, 5. 2 Pet. ii. 20. It is granted also, that the sin of believers deserve that God should forsake them, and that he may suffer grace in them to be sadly abated, and they may fall before a temptation, as Peter, and all the disciples did: but that thou shalt never he separated from Christ, or fall totus a toto, in to-tum, utterly away from God, thou mayest be abundantly satisfied, upon these five or six grounds.

1. From God's eternal electing love, wherewithal gracious souls ar« beloved and embraced, be their graces never so weak, or their [[80]] corruptions never so strong. This is immutable, Heb. vi. 18. and hence it is said, Mark xiii. 22. “They shall deceive (if it were possible) the very elect.” Now, this immutable purpose of God, is not founded upon any mutable ground or reason in thee, Rom. ix. 11. Yea, when he, Rom. viii. 29. elected thee, he saw what thou wouldst be, and yet that hindered him not.

2. From the covenant of grace, in the bosom of which thou art wrapped up: this is all thy salvation, and all thy hope; it will afford thee abundant satisfaction, if thou do but weigh particularly these three things about it. 1. That the Author of this covenant is not a fickle creature, but a faithful God, with whom there is not yea and nay; with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning; whose gifts and callings are without repentance; so that once within this blessed covenant, and in it for ever. 2. That God hath established the covenant with you in the blood of Christ; therefore the sacramental cap, is called “the cup of the New Testament in his blood,” Luke xxii. 20. The everlasting merit and efficacy whereof gives the soul of a believer the highest satisfaction imaginable. Lastly, Add to this, that in this covenant God hath undertaken for us, as well as for himself: so that what is a condition in one scripture, is the matter of a promise in another, Jer. xxxii. 40.

3. From that strict and intimate union that is betwixt Christ and thee. And hence it is impossible thou shouldst be lost. For, 1. Thy union with his person brings interest in his properties along with it. Whatever he is, or hath, it is for thee: his eye of knowledge, arm of power, bowels of pity, it is all for thee.

.2. This union with his person, secures thy feeble graces from perishing, John iv. 14. Thy graces have an everlasting spring. Whilst there is sap in this root, it will ascend into the branches.

3. It implies thy perseverance, because by this union thou becomest an integral part of Christ’s body, which would be mutilated and defective, should thou be cut off and lost.

4. From the prevalent intercession of Jesus Christ in the heavens, for all his saints, in all their trials here on earth. From hence the apostle infers the certainty of our perseverance, Rom. viii. 34. and a pregnant instance of it you have in Peter’s case, Luke xxii. 32. So Heb. vii. 25. speaks fully to the case. To strengthen this, consider, 1. Who it is that intercedes: It is Christ, whose person is most dear and ingratiated with the Father, John xi. 42. 2. What he intercedes for: Surely for nothing but what is most suitable to his Father’s will. The will of Christ’s and his Father’s do not clash, John xvi. 26, 27. yea, what he prays for, he prays not for gratis, or asks upon any dishonourable terms to the justice of his Father; but they are all mercies purchased and paid for; and therefore fear not the failing of your graces.

5. From the Spirit of Christ which dwelleth and abideth in thee, and hath begun his saving work upon thee. I say, saving, for else it [[81]] would afford no argument. His common works on hypocrites come to nothing, but in thee they cannot fail. For, 1. His honour is pledged and engaged to perfect it. That reproach of the foolish builder shall never lie upon him, that he began to build, but could not finish. Besides, this would make void all that the Father and the Son have done for thee; both their works are complete and perfect in their kinds, and the Spirit is the last efficient in order of working. 2. Besides, the grace he hath already wrought in thee, may give thee yet further and fuller assurance of its preservation, inasmuch as it hath the nature of a seed, pledge, and earnest of the whole, Rom. viii. 23. 2 Cor. i. 22. So that it cannot fail.

C. From those multitudes of assertory, promissory, and compara tive scriptures, the rich veins whereof run through the book of God, as so many streams to refresh thy soul. Of assertory scriptures, see John vi. 39. John x. 28. 1 John ii. 19. Of promissory scriptures, see Isa. liv. 10. Jer. xxxiv. 40. 1 Cor. i. 8, Sec. Of comparative scriptures, see Psal. i. 3. Psal. cxxv. 1 John iv. 14, Sec. The principal scope of all which is to shew the indefectible nature of true grace in the saints.

And now, how should this refresh thy drooping soul, make thee gird up the loins of thy mind, since thou dost “not run as one uncertain, neither lightest as one that beats the air,” 1 Cor. ix. 26. but art so secured from total apostasy, as thou seest thou art by all these things. O bless ye the Lord.

Obj. 2. But the Lord seems to be departed from my soul; God is afar off from me, and troubles are near. I seem to be in such a case as Saul was when the Philistines made war upon him, and God was departed from him; and therefore I shall fall.

Sol. Not so; for there are two sorts of Divine desertions; the one is absolute, when the Lord utterly forsakes his creatures, so that they shall never behold his face more: The other is limited and respective, and so he forsook his own Son, and often does his own elect: and of this kind, some are only cautioned, to prevent sin; some are merely probational, to try grace; and others castigatory, to chastise our negligence and carelessness. Now, though I have not a word of comfort to speak in the case of total and absolute desertions; yet of the latter (which doubtless is thy case) much may be said by way of support, be it of which of the three sorts it will, or in what degree it will. For, 1. This hath been the case of many precious souls, Psal. xxii. 1, 2. Psal. lxxvii. 2. Psal. lxxxviii. 9. Job xiii. 24, 25, 26. This was poor Mr. Glover’s case, as you will find in his story, and it continued till he came within sight of the stake; therefore no new or strange thing hath happened unto you.

2. The Lord by this will advantage thee for perseverance, not only as they are cautioned against sin, but as they make thee hold Christ the faster, and prize his presence at an higher rate, when he shall please graciously to manifest himself to thee again, Cant. iii. 4.

[[82]] 3. This shall not abide for ever: it is but a little cloud, and will blow over. It is but for a moment, and that moment’s darkness ushers in everlasting light, Isa. liv. 7.

Yea, lastly, The light of God’s countenance shall not only be re stored certainly, but it shall be restored seasonably; when the dark ness is greatest, thy troubles at the highest, and thy hopes lowest. He is a God of judgment, and knows how to time his own mercies, Psal. cxxxviii. 3.

Obj. 3. But I am a weak woman, or a young person, how shall I be able to confess Christ before rulers, and look great ones in the face?

Sol. Christ delights to make his power known in such, 2 Cor. xii. 9. for he affects not social glory.

2. “Thou shalt be holden up, for God is able to make thee stand,” Rom. xiv. 4. Thou that art sensible of thine own infirmity, mayest run to that promise.

3. Such poor weak creatures shall endure when stronger (if self-confident) fall, Isa. xl. 30, 31. “Even the youths shall faint, and be weary, and the young men utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint.”

Youths, and young men, are bold, daring, and confident persons, that trust to their own strength; to whom such as wait upon the Lord stand here opposed; they shall faint, but these shall renew their strength.

Art thou one that waitest and dependest upon an all-sufficient God, in the sense of thine own weakness? This promise then is for thee.

4. You may furnish yourselves at pleasure, with examples of the mighty power of God resting upon such as you are, out of our own martyrology.

Thomas Drowry the poor blind boy, Fox, vol. 3. p. 703. What a presence of spirit was with him, when examined by the Chancellor!

Eulalia, a virgin of about 12 years of age, see how she acted above those years, yea, above the power of nature. Fox, vol. 1. p. 120. Tender women, yea, children, act above themselves, when assisted by a strong God.

And thus you have some help offered you by a weak hand, in your present and most important work.

The Lord carry home all with power upon your hearts, that if God call you to suffer for him, you may say as Paul did, “I am now ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which God the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but to them also which love his appearing,” 2 Tim. iv. 6, 7, .8. And as you expect so to finish your course with joy; be [[83]] diligent in the use of all means, to prepare and make yourselves ready to follow the call of God, whether it be to bonds, or to death, for the name of the Lord Jesus.


Page 72. Chap. XIV. Containing the first use of the point by way of conviction, discovering the unreadiness of multitudes of professors for suffering-world.

posted 4 Jul 2014, 15:41 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 4 Jul 2014, 15:42 ]



CHAP. XIV.

Containing the first use of the point by way of conviction, discovering the unreadiness of multitudes of professors for suffering-world.

YOU have seen, by all that hath been spoken, what the necessary pre-requisites unto a suffering condition are; and what manner of persons you must be, (both for habitual and actual readiness), if ever you honour Christ by bonds, or death for him. And I doubt not but your judgments and consciences yield to the evident necessity of these things, wherein I have placed the Christian’s readiness. But, alas! where shall we find among the throngs and crowds of professors, any considerable numbers thus qualified and prepared? To suffer for Christ is a gift that few have received. We are fallen into the dregs of time. O how little of primitive zeal and simplicity re mains among the professors of this age! latter times have produced a sort of professors of another stamp and spirit. These have the light, but they had the love: these see more, but they did and suffered more. How many that are no ornament to religion, do adorn themselves with the name of it!

Now, according to this account given of a ready Christian, divers professing persons will be convicted of their unreadiness and stability to manage suffering-work: As first,

1. The politic and hypocritical professors, whose hearts were never set right at first, and therefore cannot be steadfast when trials come, Psal. lxxviii. 8. Their hearts were never sound in God’s statutes, and therefore no wonder if they be not only a shame to, but ashamed of their profession, Psalm cxix. 80. Never wonder if you see that profession which began in hypocrisy, to end in apostasy. These want their habitual readiness for sufferings, and so cannot drink of that cup: Needs must they fall when tried; and when they fall, they fall dreadfully, and often irrecoverably; for they neither have the seed if God in them, nor any promise of God made to them.

And are there not many such to be found in every place? For, (1.) How difficult is it to persuade many of you to any duty that hath loss or hazard attending on it? Doth not the sincere heart stand inclinable and disposed to all the known will of God? Psalm cxix. 6. Do Christians use to enquire more what is cheap, easy, and safe for them, or what is their duty? Gal. i. 16. Speak conscience, for to thee do I appeal; art thou not conscious of some reserves limitations, and exceptions? Doth not the man, like Naaman, desire the Lord to excuse and pardon him in this or that thing? 2 Kings v. 17. [[73]] And thinkest thou that this is consistent with sincere obedience, which excepts no duty, nor quarrels with any command, because they all flow equally from the sovereignty of God, Jain. ii. 11. and so doth what it doth intuitu voluntatis, upon the sight of God’s will. Say conscience, are there not great strugglings, disputes, and contests betwixt thee and fleshly interests in such cases? And art thou not frequently over-borne? O search your hearts in this particular.

Yea, secondly, I appeal to you, whether there be not many among you that choose sin rather than affliction? This is always the hypocrites option and choice: He judges sufferings the greatest evils, and so orders himself in his election. It was merely to avoid persecution that those hypocrites, Gal. vi. 12. constrained others to be circumcised only to gratify the Jews; that so by a sinful compliance with them, the offence of the cross might cease. If Paul would have done so, he might have avoided it too, but he durst not whatever he suffered, Gal. v. 11. O this is a shrewd sign of a false heart, Job xxxvi. 21. And the contrary disposition is always found in the up right heart, Heb. xi. 25.

Nay, are there not some that have, and others that are ready to throw up their professions, when they see into what difficulties it involves them? Whilst they could live upon the profession of truth, they entertained it; but when truth comes to live upon them, they thrust it out, and cry, away with this profession, it will beggar and undo us: They then repent of their forwardness, and secretly wish they had never engaged in it. O examine whether your hearts be not thus turned back, and your steps declined. If so, it is manifest you are hypocritical professors, and that it was some outward self-respect at first engaged you in your profession, but can never enable you to hold out when difficult days come. I say it is manifest by this departure from your profession, that some outward self-respect at first allured you to it. As now, when I behold the artificial motions of the wheels in a watch, and see how regularly the needle marks the journal-hours of the sun upon the flat of the quadrant, and see nothing that moves or guides it; it would cause admiration if I had never seen it before, or did not understand the cause and motion; but when I look upon the other side, and there find wheels, resorts, and counterpoises, and a spring that causes all those motions, I cease to wonder. Certainly some lust or other was the spring of all thy religious motions; stop or take off that, and motion ceases: And if it be so, this scab of hypocrisy will at last break out into that botch of apostasy. Thou canst never hold out long under trials, Matt. xiii. 21. Oh how many such sad sights may we live to see as trials come! Difficult times are coming on, 2 Tim. iii. 1. And woe to such then as want sincerity at the bottom of their profession.

2. And as these have no habitual readiness for sufferings, and, consequently, must be ruined by them, so there are others that may [[74]] be truly godly, and have the root of the matter in them, who arc yet far from an actual readiness, and so continuing, are like to be a reproach to religion when their trial comes: for it is not a little grace in the sleepy habit that will secure you from falling scandalously by the hand of temptation: and although that seed of God which is in you will recover you again, and prevent total and final apostasy, yet, Oh, consider what a sad thing it is to enter into, and be conquered by temptation, to be led away in triumph by the tempter, and made a reproach to Christ. O it is a sad consideration to think how many there be amongst the people of God, that discover little or no actual preparations for sufferings: As first,

1. Upon how many of the saints is the spirit of slumber poured out? Even the wise, as well as foolish, seem now to be asleep. There is a twofold spiritual sleep, the first is total, upon wicked men: and it is one of God’s sorest and dreadfullest strokes upon their souls, Isa. xxix. 10. [1] The Hebrew word there is the same with that which is used of Adam, when God cast him into that deep sleep whilst he took out his rib. And in 2 Tim. ii. 26. it signifies such a sleep as that which is occasioned by drunkenness; out of such a sleep doth the Lord awaken all that are saved, and they never fall into it any more. The other is partial, Cant v. 2. and is incident to the people of God, Matth. xxv. 5. This is nothing else but the torpor or sluggishness of Spirit which seizeth upon the saints; and never did it prevail, I fear, among them more than now. For where is their activity for God? Where is he that stirreth up himself to take hold of God? Isa. lxiv. 7. Where is there such a generation as that, Psal. xxiv. 6. We pray, confer, and hear, for the most part, but, as men speak, be twixt sleeping and waking. Where can you find, except here and there one, that hath a quick and lively sense of God’s indignation upon him, or that trembles at his judgments? Is not that the very case of the most which God describes, Isa. xlii. ult.

2. How many are seized by a private and worldly Spirit, every man turning to his own house, and eagerly pursuing the world? Hab. i. 9. Jer. xlv. 4, 5. Oh I how are we intangled in the wilderness? How doth the world eat up our time, and eat out our zeal, cowardize and soften our spirits, and render us utterly unfit for the yoke and burden of Christ? You that see so much beauty, and taste so much sweetness in the creature, you will have an hard task when called to deny it: You are not yet prepared to drink of the cup, or take up the cross of Christ.

3. How many poor Christians are of a low and timorous Spirit, ready to tremble at the shaking of a leaf? Ah poor hearts 1 how un fit are you for bonds or death! This passion of fear that so predominates in you, is the very passion which Satan assaults, and lays siege to in the hour of temptation, as was before noted: And commonly [[75]] it is occasioned (where it flows not from the natural constitution) from an excessive love to the world, or some guilt upon the spirit. Itis true, the Lord can so assist weak faith, and so subdue strong fears, as that you may be enabled to stand the shock when it comes: (For, as I noted formerly, our strength lies not in any thing inherent in us, but we are strong or weak, according to the divine presence and assistances that we enjoy) but yet if you labour not to mortify this evil, and stir not up yourselves in the use of all appointed means, to rouse your zeal and courage for God, I know no warrant you have to expect such assistances.

Lastly, How many poor Christians among us are to this day dark and cloudy in their evidences for heaven? Had they walked closely with God, being laborious in the disquisition and search of their own hearts, they had long since obtained a clearness and satisfaction about the state of their own hearts: Hut as the case stands with them, how unfit are they for bonds or death. Oh! it is a sad case, when inward and outward troubles meet together, as you may see, Gen. xlii. 21, 22. when there shall be fightings without, and fears within: When such a pang as that, Lam. iii. 17, 18. shall come over thy heart, what wilt thou do?

By all that hath been said, it appears that the most of professors are in a very unready posture for sufferings; so that as troubles come to an height, we are like to see many sad spectacles: Many offences will come; religion is like to be wounded in the house of its friends. Oh! what a day of mercy have we enjoyed? What helps and choice advantages, above any precedent age, and yet unready? How sad and inexcusable is this?


[1] XXXX. Ανανηψωσιν.


Page 67. Chap. XIII. Wherein is shewed the necessity of going out of ourselves, even when our habitual and actual preparations are at the greatest height; and depending as constantly and entirely upon the Spirit, who is Lord οf all gracious influences, as if we had done nothing: Together with the means of working the heart to such a frame.

posted 4 Jul 2014, 15:37 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 4 Jul 2014, 15:40 ]



CHAP. XIII.

Wherein is shewed the necessity of going out of ourselves, even when our habitual and actual preparations are at the greatest height; and depending as constantly and entirely upon the Spirit, who is Lord οf all gracious influences, as if we had done nothing: Together with the means of working the heart to such a frame.

ΤHUS you have seen your habitual and actual readiness for sufferings, and blessed is the soul that gives diligence to this work: But now lest all that I have said and you have wrought, should be in vain; I must let you know, that all this will not secure you, unless you can, by humility, faith, and self-denial, go out of yourselves to Christ, and live upon him daily for supply of grace, as much as if you had none of all this furniture and provision for sufferings. I confess grace is a very beautiful and lovely creature, and it is hard for a man to look upon his own graces, and not doat upon them. But yet know, that if you had all these excellent preparations that have been mentioned, yea, and all angelical perfections superadded, yet are you not complete without this dependence upon Christ, Col. ii. 10. Whenever you go forth to suffer for Christ, you should say at the head of all your excellent graces, duties, and preparations, as Jehoshaphat did, when at the head of a puissant and mighty army, 2 Chron. xx. 12. “O Lord, I have no might nor strength, but my eyes are unto thee.” This is one thing in which Paul excelled, and was a special part of his readiness. See 1 Cor. xv. 10. [[68]] What a poor creature is the eminentεst saint, left to him self in an hour of trial? the hop, the ivy, and the woodbine, are taught by nature to cling about stronger props and supporters: What they do by nature, we should do by grace.

The necessity and great advantage of this will appear upon divers considerations.

Consid. 1. The Christian’s own imbecility and insufficiency, even in the strength and height of all his acquirements and preparations; what are you, to grapple with such an adversary? Certainly you are no match for him that conquered Adam hand to hand in his state of integrity. It is not your inherent strength that enables you to stand, but what you receive and daily derive from Jesus Christ, John xv. 5. “Without me, or never so little separated from me, ye can do nothing; all your sufficiency is of God,” 2 Cor. iii. 5. Upon this very consideration it was, that the apostle exhorts the Ephesians “to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” i. e. not to depend upon their own stock and furniture; but Divine assistances and daily communications; “For we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but principalities and powers,” Eph. vi. 10, 12. In his own strength shall no man prevail.

Consid. 2. It is the great design of God in the gospel to exalt his Son, and to have all glory attributed and ascribed to him, “That in all things he might have the pre-eminence,” Col. i. 18. That Christ “might be all in all,” Col. iii. 11. Hence no saint must have a self-sufficiency, or be trusted with a stock as Adam was, but Christ being filled with all the fulness of God, and made the πρωτον δεχτικον, or first receptacle of all grace; “For it pleased the Father, that in him all fulness should dwell;” all the saints are therefore to go to him for supplies, and of his fulness to receive, John i. 16. This fulness being a ministerial fulness, like that of the sun, or of a fountain, intended to supply all our wants. And hence it is that faith, a self-emptying and denying grace, is appointed to be the instrument of fetching our supplies from Christ. All must be derived from him, that all the praise and glory may be ascribed to him, Phil. iv. 14. And this is a most wise and congruous ordination of God, for hereby not only are his people the better secured, but by this also the reproach that lay upon Christ is rolled away. He was reproach ed on earth, as barren, empty, weak; “Can any good come out of Nazareth? He was looked upon as a Root springing out of a dry ground,” but by this shall his reproach be wiped away: So that unless you will go about to cross the great design of God, in the exaltation of his Christ, you must go out of yourselves, and humbly and constantly rely upon supplies from Christ and his grace to help in the times of need.

Consid. 3. A Christian is constantly to depend upon Christ, not withstanding all his own preparations and inherent qualifications: be cause the activity even of inherent grace depends upon him. [[69]] Inherent grace is beholden to exciting and assisting grace for all it is en abled to do. You cannot act a grace without his Spirit, 1 Cor. xv. 10. 2 Cor. iii. 5. John xv. 5. It may be said of grace in us, as it was of the land of Canaan, Deut. xi. 10, 11, 12. “ It is not as the land of Egypt, whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: hut a land of hills and vallies, drinking water of the rain of heaven; a land which the Lord thy God careth for: his eyes are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year.” As the life and fragrancy of vegetables depend on the influences of heaven, so do our graces upon Christ. And hence he is called, (1.) A root, Isa. xi. 10. (2.) An head, Col. i. 18. (3.) A sun, Mai. iv. 2. (4.) A fountain, Zech. xiii. 1. All which comparisons do fully carry this truth in them.

Consul. 4. Lastly, In this life of dependence lies your security; and indeed this is the great difference betwixt the two covenants. In the first, Adam’s stock was in his own hands, and so his security or misery depended upon the unconstrained choice of his own mutable and self-determining will. But now in the new covenant, all arc to go to Christ, to depend upon him for supplies, and are so secured against all destructive dangers, Jude 1; 1 Pet. i. 5. Should you go forth in your own strength against a temptation, either your grace would fail, and you fall in the conflict; or if you obtain any victory over it by your own strength, yet it is a thousand to one but your pride would conquer you, when you had conquered it: Like him that slew an elephant, but was himself slain by the fall of that elephant which he slew. But now, by this way, as God hath secured you against the dangers without; so also the frame and constitution of this new covenant is such as prevents the danger arising from our own pride too. Not Ego et Deus mens: I and my God did this; as was once said by a profane mouth; “but self is abased, and the Lord lifted up in his own strength,” 1 Cor. v. 7. And thus I have briefly evinced the necessity of this daily dependence.

But next it concerns you to know what this dependence we speak of is: this also I shall briefly open to you, laying down somewhat negatively, and somewhat positively about it.

1. Negatively. It is not to deny the grace wrought in us by the Spirit; this were both injustice and ingratitude; we may know our own graces so as_ to be thankful for them, though not so as to be proud of them, 1 Cor. xv. 10.

2. Neg. It is not a lazy excuse from our duty: you do not depend, but rather dishonour Christ, by so doing; you must not say, because Christ must do all, therefore I must do nothing: but rather work out your salvation, because it is he that worketh both to will and to do, Phil. ii. 12, 13. These are not opposed, but subordinated.

But then positively, it lies in three things.

1. Positively. In seeing and acknowledging the infinite sufficiency [[70]] and fulness that is in Christ: to acknowledge him to be all in all: not only by way of impetration procuring all, Heb. ix. 12. but also by way of application, bringing home to the soul all the blessings purchased by his blood, and settling us in the possession of it, John xiv. 3. And so from first to last to eye him as the author and finisher of our faith.

2. Posit. In seeing the necessary dependence that all our graces have upon him. So that as you see the stream depending on the fountain, the beam upon the sun, the branch upon the root, the build ing upon the foundation, even so do our graces upon Christ: on him they live, and cut off from him they die. “Our life is hid with Christ in God,” Col. iii. 3. When you see this, and also see that all your activity, and striving, is but as the hoisting up of the sails, in order to the motion of the ship, which can do nothing till there come a gale; when you look upon your grace as a creature that must be upheld, fed, acted, and preserved by Christ, Col. ii. 19. then you arc prepared for this act of dependence: As for instance, you can never depend upon Christ for the acting of that grace of hope, until you see Christ to be the prop and foundation of it, and that it depends upon him, as upon its cause, 1 Pet. i. 3. as upon its object, Heb. vi. 19. and as upon its foundation and ground work, Col. i. 27.

You can never depend upon Christ for your joy and comfort, until you see what a necessary dependence this also hath upon him, Phil. iii. 3. and that, both as to its being and acting, John xvi. 22.

You can never depend upon him, for strength in any duty, until you see how your duties depend upon Christ, not only for the strength by which they are performed, John xv. 4, 5. but also for acceptation when they are performed, 1 Pet. ii. 5. It were easy to instance in any other grace.

(3.) It lies in [1] looking off from your own grace whenever you are put upon the acting of it, (I mean in regard of any dependence upon it) and looking by an eye of faith for acceptation to Christ, Heb. xii. 2. To the putting forth of which act of dependance upon Christ, holy ejaculations in our own on-sets upon duty, or those quick and vigorous liftings up of our souls to God that way, are of special use, it being a duty fitted for the purpose, when there is no room for set and solemn prayer. And thus briefly of its nature.

And to urge you to this duty, I shall offer these seven considera tions: which, oh, that they might prevail upon your hearts, and make you for ever to clasp and cling about Christ more than ever you have done.

Consideration 1. You have little reason to rely upon the strength of your own graces, for you may be easily deceived in that matter, and think you have much more grace than you have. How often are the common gifts of the Spirit mistaken for his special graces! the sixth chapter to the Hebrews is able to make a man tremble in this thing.

[[71]] Consid. 2. Suppose you have much grace, yet have you not strong corruptions, and may you not meet with strong temptations also? He that hath less of other graces than you, may have more humility and self-denial than you, and so may stand when you fall. Great enlargements are often attended with great temptations of pride, &c.

Consid. 3. Whatever measures of grace you have arrived at, yet all is not able to secure you from falling, if God withhold or withdraw his aids and influences. Abraham had more faith than you, and yet he fell into a sin contrary to that very grace wherein he so excelled others, Gen. xx. 2. Job had more patience than you; which of you could behave yourselves as he did, had you been in the like circumstances as he was? chap. i. 2. he is renowned for it in the scripture, James vi. 11. yet he fell into that sin which is contrary to this grace also, chap. iii. Moses had more meekness than you: “Now the man Moses was the meekest man upon the earth.” If you be but re proved, and that justly for your faults, how waspish are you? Yet see how this grace failed even in him, in an eminent trial of it, Numb. xi. 13, 14, 15. Adam was much more advantaged in this respect than you, being made upright, and no corruption inherent in him, yet he fell; the angels more again, yet they fell. Oh when will you learn the vanity of self-dependence.

Consid. 4. Nothing more provoketh the Lord to withdraw his Spirit, and let you fall, than this sin of self-confidence doth, Luke xiv. 29, 30, 31. God will teach you by sad experience your own weakness, and what frail and vain things you be, if you will learn it by no other means.

Consid. 5. If God permit you to fall, (as doubtless he will, if you be self-conceited,) then the more eminent you have been, or are for grace, the more will the name of God be reproached by your fall. This will furnish the triumphs of the uncircumcised, and the lamentations of your brethren, and make them say, “How are the mighty fallen!” What dismal consequents will attend your fall.

Consid. 6. Have you not sad experience of your own weakness from day to day in your lesser trials? Have you not said in some smaller conflicts, as David once did, “My feet had well nigh slipt.” O me-thinks this should teach you to look more to God, and less to self. “If you have run with footmen, and they have wearied you in the land of peace, think sadly how you should contend with horses in the swellings of Jordan.” Do not you sec that you are but feathers in the wind of temptation? Consult your former experiences, and they will tell you what weaklings you are.

Consid. 7. Lastly, Hath Christ given you more grace than others, then how much more hath he obliged you to honour him thereby? And is this your requital of his love! What! to take the crown from his head, and put it upon your own! Certainly a greater in jury cannot be done to Christ than this.

Well then, by all this be persuaded to cease from yourselves, yea, [[72]] from your religious selves; and to all your other preparations, add this as a choice one; if you do these things, you shall never fall. And thus you see the complete Christian in his equipage for sufferings.



[1] Αφορςντες εις τον της ωισεωσ αρχηγον. Looking off to the author of our faith.


Page 65. Chap. XII. Sheweth that a choice part of our preparation and readiness for sufferings consists in the improvement of our praying abilities, and keeping close with God in that heavenly and excellent duty in days of suffering; wherein also is opened the nuture and means of its improvement.

posted 4 Jul 2014, 15:34 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 4 Jul 2014, 15:35 ]



CHAP. XII.

Sheweth that a choice part of our preparation and readiness for sufferings consists in the improvement of our praying abilities, and keeping close with God in that heavenly and excellent duty in days of suffering; wherein also is opened the nuture and means of its improvement.

PRAYER is said to be amongst duties, as faith is amongst the graces. Doubtless it is of special use and service at all times to a Christian: But yet in suffering days it is of more than ordinary use and necessity, Heb. iv. 16. James v. 13. And therefore it is reckoned among those choice pieces of armour which suffering saints are to put on, Eph. vi. 18. I will here briefly discover the necessity of it, and then shew you that a Christian may improve himself to an excellent degree in it; and, lastly, prescribe some means for an improvement.

The necessity of it to a suffering saint will demonstratively appear, if you consider,

1. That this duty is the outlet of troubles, and the best way the poor Christian hath to ease his heart when surcharged with sorrow. Griefs are eased by groans. Such evaporations disburden and cool the heart, as the opening of a vein in some cases doth. Oh the sensible ease that comes in this way! When grief in the mind, like vapours in the air, are condensed into black clouds that overspread the soul, and darken that beautiful light that once shone there, then prayer, like the sun dispels and scatters them, 1 Sam. i. 18. Many a saint, by prayer, hath sucked the breast of a promise, and then fell asleep by [[65]] Divine contentment in the bosom of God. A time may come when thy heart is ready to break with trouble, and not a friend to whom thou canst open and ease it, and then blessed be God for prayer, Micah vii. 5, 6, 7. That which sinks others is, that when troubles fill and overwhelm their hearts, they try what reason, merry company, or outward comforts can do: But, alas! this is to palliate a cure, it returns again with the more violence: But prayer gives sensible relief, Psal. cii. title, Psal. lxii. 8. For, (1.) This opens and gives a vent to troubles, Jer. xx. 12. (2.) It gives our troubles a diversion, and so a cure, Psal. v. 1. and the last verse compared. Yea, (3.) By praying over them they are not only diverted, but sanctified, and so cease to be distracting, or destroying troubles.

2. As it gives a vent to our troubles, so an in-let to unspeakable comforts and consolations. See a pregnant instance of this, Acts xvi. 25. For, (1.) Hereby they obtain gracious answers from the Lord concerning their troubles, 2 Cor. xii. 9. In this also they meet the gracious smiles of God, which swallow up their troubles, Psal. lxxxv. 8. And, lastly, hereby they prevail with God to open a seasonable and effectual door out of all their troubles, Psal. xxxiv. 4, 6.

3. Prayer begets and maintains holy courage and magnanimity in evil times. When all things about you tend to discouragement, it is your being with Jesus that makes you bold, Acts iv. 13. He that uses to be before a great God, will not be afraid to look such little things as men are in the face. The woman clothed with the sun, bad the moon under her feet. And what need you have of courage in evil times, hath been already shewed.

4. This is a duty you may perform at any time, or in any condition: No adversary can cut you off from it. It cannot be said so of many other duties. None can hinder the intercourse betwixt heaven and your souls: You may perform it in a prison, Acts xvi. 25. in a banished condition, Psal. Ixi. 2. And so is fitted for a suffering condition.

Lastly, You must strive to excel in this, forasmuch as no grace within, or service without, can thrive without it. God hath ordained the whole work of grace to grow up to perfection this way, Judg. xix. 20. He will have all mercies fetched out this way, Ezek. xxxvi. 37. Jer. xxix. II, 12, 18. All that comes from God to you, or to you from God, must come in this channel. Be convinced then of the need you have to improve yourselves herein, as ever you hope to stand in the evil day.

But how are these praying abilities capable of improvement in the people of God?

Praying abilities are either external and common, or else internal and special. The external and common ability is nothing else but that dexterity and skill men get to express themselves to God in prayer. Thus many can put their meaning into apt and decent expressions, [[66]] to which the Spirit sometimes adds his common touches upon the affections. And this hypocrites rest on, and glory in. Or else they are special and internal, whereby men are enabled to pour out their souls to God in a gracious manner. And this may be considered either in the habit or the act. The habit is given by the Spirit, when the principles of grace are first infused into the soul, Zech. xii. 10. Acts ix. 11. By being sanctified we are made near, and by acting those principles in prayer we are said to draw near, Psal. x. 17. Now in our actual drawing near to God, the Spirit hath the chief and principal hand: And his assistance therein is threefold.

1. He excites the heart to the duty; it is he that whispers to the soul to draw nigh to God, Psalm xxvii. 8.

2. He suggests the matter of our prayers, and furnishes us with the materials, Rom. viii. 26. guiding us as to the matter, not only to what is lawful, but also to what is expedient for us.

3. He stirreth up suitable affections in prayer, Rom. viii. 26. And hence those groans and tears, those gaspings and vehement annihilation. But notwithstanding all our abilities, both habitual and actual, be from the Spirit, and not from ourselves, yet are they capable of improvement by us: For though in respect of acquirement, there be a great difference betwixt natural and supernatural habits, yet their improvement is in the same way and manner; and this improvement may be made divers ways: For,

First, Though you have the Spirit, and can pray, yet you may learn to pray more humbly than before; Though you rise no higher as to words, yet you may learn to lay yourselves lower before the Lord, as Abraham and Ezra did, Gen xviii. 27. Ezra ix. 6.

Secondly, You may learn to pray with more sincerity than formerly: Ah! there is much hypocrisy and formality in our prayers, much of custom, &c. Now you may learn to pour out more cordial prayers. See Psal. xvii. 1. Psal. cxix. 10.

Thirdly, You may learn to pray with move zeal and earnestness than before: Some saints have excelled and been remarkable for this, Han. ix. 19. Hosea xii. 4. James v. 16.

Fourthly, With more assiduity and readiness at all times for it, Eph. vi. 18. Praying always, with all prayer. Hence Christ gives that commendation to the church, Cant. iv. 11. “Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honey-comb.” The honey-comb often drops, but always hangs full of drops ready to fall.

Fifthly, You may learn to pray with more faith: Oh the qualms of unbelief that go over our hearts in a duty; faith is the soul of prayer, and according to the faith God finds in them, he accepts and values them. Now in all these things you may improve your selves abundantly.

1. By being more frequent in the duty, Job xxii. 21. “Acquaint thyself with the Almighty;” in the Hebrew it is, accustom [[67]] thyself: Those that have been excellent have also been abundant in it, Psal. xv. 17.

2. By taking heed that you grieve not the Spirit, on whose influences and assistances you so entirely depend: Even as much as a ship doth upon the gales of wind for its motion.

3. By honouring the Spirit which enables you to pray, and that especially two ways; (1.) By dependence on him; go not forth in your own strength to the duty, trust not to your own promptness, or preparations. (2.) By returning, and with thankfulness ascribing the praise of all to him; be humble under all enlargements: say, Not I, but grace.

4. By searching your own hearts, and examining your necessities and wants, when you draw nigh to God; this will be a fountain of matter, and give you a deep resentment of the worth of mercies prayed for.

5. Lastly, By looking more at the exercise of graces, and less at the discovery of parts; by labouring for impressions more, and pumping for expressions less. And thus I have briefly shewed you how to furnish yourselves with this needful qualification also.


Page 58. Chap. XI. Wherein is opened the singular advantage that suffering saints have by their skill and insights into the methods and mysteries of Satan’s temptations: some of those wiles of Satan opened, and rules for the avoiding of the danger briefly prescribed.

posted 4 Jul 2014, 15:31 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 4 Jul 2014, 15:33 ]



CHAP. XI.

Wherein is opened the singular advantage that suffering saints have by their skill and insights into the methods and mysteries of Satan’s temptations: some of those wiles of Satan opened, and rules for the avoiding of the danger briefly prescribed.

THE hazards and dangers of Christians in times of persecution, arise not so much from their sufferings, as from the [[59]] temptations that always attend, and are by Satan planted upon their sufferings: for the most part, sufferings and temptations go together, Heb. xi. 37. And therefore it behoves such as are, or expect to be called to sufferings, to dive into the mysteries of temptations, and be well acquainted with the enemy’s designs upon them. So was Paul, and so he supposes all others to be that engage in the same cause: “We are not ignorant of his devices,” 2 Cor. ii. 11. There is a manifold advantage redounding to suffering saints thereby.

1. He that is well acquainted with the methods of temptation, will be better able to descry the first approaches and beginnings of it, and a temptation discovered, is more than half conquered. It is a special artifice of Satan to shuffle in his temptations as undiscernibly as may be into the soul; for he knows, that “in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird,” Prov. i. 17. And therefore he ordinarily makes a suffering season to be a tempting season; because sufferings, like fire to iron, make it impressive and operable, they do ordinarily put the soul into an hurry and distraction, and so gives him an advantage to tempt the soul with less suspicion and greater success. Put now, a skilful Christian that is acquainted with his wiles, will discern when he begins to enter into temptation; as Christ’s expression is, Luke xxii. 40. And so check the temptation in its first rise when it is weakest, and most easily broken. Doubtless one reason why so many fall by temptation is, because it is got within them, and hath prevailed far before it be discovered to be a temptation.

2. He that is well acquainted with Satan’s methods of tempting, will not only discern it sooner than another; but also knows his work and duty, and how to manage the conflict with it, which is a great matter. There are many poor souls that labour under strong temptations, and know not what to do: They go up and down complaining from Christian to Christian, whilst the judicious Christian plies to the throne of grace with strong cries, see 2 Cor. xii. 8. keeps up his watch, Luke xxii. 46. countermines the temptation, by assaulting that corruption, by endeavours of mortification, which Satan assaults by temptation, 1 Cor. ix. 27.

3. Lastly, To name no more; he that is best acquainted with the mystery of temptation, and can maintain his ground against it, he shall be the preserving Christian under persecutions, and the victorious Christian over them. Here lies the main design of Satan, in raising persecution against the saints. It is not so much their blood that he thirsteth after, as their fall by temptation: and all persecutions are designed by him to introduce his temptations. These work upon our fear, and fear drives us into his trains and snares, Prov. xxix. 25. The devil’s work in raising persecution, is but as the fowler’s work in beating the bush in the night, when the net is spread to take the birds, which he can affright out of their coverts. He that understands that, is not easily moved by the strongest opposition, from his place and [[60]] duty; and so is like to prove the most constant and invincible Christian in times of persecution.

Oh! then, how necessary is it, that since all persecutions are in tended as means to promote temptation, and that skill and insight into these designs of Satan so advantages as to frustrate his designs in both? I say, how necessary is it that you should be all instructed wherein the strength of temptation lies; as also how to resist those strong and dangerous temptations, which your sufferings only are intended to usher in, and make way for?

It will not be unseasonable or impertinent, then, in this chapter, to shew you, First, Wherein the force and efficacy of temptation lieth; Secondly, What you are to do, when in a suffering hour such temptation shall assault you. And first,

Quest. Wherein doth the efficacy and power of temptation lie?

Sol. I answer, It lies principally in three things.

I. In the kind and nature of the temptation.

II. In the craft and policy of Satan in managing it.

III. In that secret correspondency that Satan hath with our cor ruptions.

I. It lies in the kind and nature of the temptation itself; for it is most certain, that all temptations are not alike forcible and danger ous. Some are ordinarily more successful than others; and such are these that follow.

1. Strange and unusual temptations, I mean not such as none have been troubled with before us; for there is not a dart in Satan’s quiver, but hath been let fly at the breasts of other saints, before it was levelled at ours, 1 Cor. x. 13. But by strange and unusual, I mean such as the people of God are but rarely troubled with, and possibly we were never exercised with before. These are the more dangerous, because they daunt and amaze the soul, and ordinarily beget despondency, even as some strange disease would do that we know not what to make of, nor can learn that others have been sick of.

2. Mark them for most dangerous temptations, that are adapted and suited to your proper sin, or evil constitution: For certainly that is the most dangerous crisis of temptation when it tries a man there. Now, if he be not truly gracious, he falls by the root irrecoverably, Luke xxii. 5, 6. Or if sincere, yet without special assistance, and extraordinary vigilance, he falls scandalously, 2 Sam. xi. 2. compared with 1 Sam. xvi. 12.

8. When it is a spiritual temptation, which rises undiscernibly out of the Christian’s duties. This is the less suspected, because temptations usually come from the strength and liveliness of corruptions; but this, from the slaughter and conquests we make of them. Duties, and enlargements in them, which are the poison of other lusts, prove the food and fuel of this, 1 Cor. iv. 7, 8. And how much the more [[61]] Covert and close any temptation is, by so much the more dangerous it is.

II. The strength and efficacy of temptation lies much in the skill and policy of Satan in the management of it: And hence they are called wiles, methods and devices, 2 Cor. ii. 11. Eph. vi. 11. and himself an old serpent, Rev. xii. 9. And among the rest of his deep and desperate stratagems these following are remarkable.

1. In employing such instruments to manage his temptations as are least suspected, and have the greatest influence. A Teacher, Gal. ii. 14. A wife, Gen iii. 6. Job ii. 9. Friends, Acts xxi. 13. The devil knows it is a bad business, and therefore must make the best of it; Paul’s sorest trial was by his dearest friends.

2. In the orderly disposition and ranging of his temptations, begin ning with little things first, and then by degrees working over to greater. His first motions are commonly most modest, Gen. iii. 1. Should he discover the depth of his design at first, it would startle the soul, and make it reply as Hazaei, “Am I a clog that I should do thus?” It is far easier to gain his end by parts, than putting for all at once.

3. In endeavouring to engage the soul upon his own ground. I mean to tempt him from his station and duty where God sets, and expects to find him. He knows while you are with God, God is with you, 2 Chron. xv. 2. Whilst a man abides there, he abides with God, 1 Cor. vii. 24. Whilst he is there, the promise is a good breast-work to keep off all his darts: And therefore, as fishers, when they have spread their nets in the river, beat the fishes out of their coverts and caverns; so doth Satan.

4. In not presenting the temptation, till the soul be prepared to receive it. He loves to strike when the iron is hot. He first lets their troubles come to an height, brings them to the prison, gibbet, or fire, and then offers them deliverance, Heb. xi. 33, 37.

5. In tiring our souls with a long continuance of temptations. What he cannot win by a sudden storm he hopes to gain by a tedious siege. Forty days together he assaulted the Captain of our salvation, Mark i. 13. And truly it is a wonder the soul yields not at last, that hath been tried long, Psal. cxxv. 3. “When the rod of the wicked lies long upon the back of the righteous, it is much if he put not forth his hand to iniquity.”

6. In falling most violently upon them, when they are lowest and most prostrate in their spirits and comforts: So he assaulted Job with a temptation, to curse God and die, when he sat in that deplorable state upon the dunghill, Job ii. S, 9. He loves to fall upon us, as Simeon and Levi did upon the Shechemites, when we are sore and wounded: And therefore ordinarily you find times of divine discretions to be times of diabolical temptations. So that, look, as the wild beasts of the desert come out of their dens in the night, and then roar after their prey.

[[62]] Psal. civ. 20. so doth Satan, when the soul seems to he benighted and lost in the darkness of spiritual troubles.

And this is the second thing wherein the efficacy and strength of temptation lies.

III. Lastly, It lies in that secret correspondency Satan holds with our bosom enemies. Were it not for this domestic traitor, he could not surprize us so easily: As you see in Christ; he could do nothing he-cause he found nothing to fasten a temptation on. He was like a chrystal glass filled with pure fountain water: So that though he should have been agitated and shaken never so much by temptation, yet no filthy sediment could appear; but now we have an enemy within that holds intelligence with Satan without; and this would prove a devil to us, if there were no other devil to tempt us, Jam. i. 14, 15. It is a fountain of temptation in itself. Matt. xv. 19- and the chief instrument by which Satan doth all his tempting work, 2 Pet. i. 4.

Our several passions and affections are the handles of his temptations. Every thing, saith Epictetus, hath δυο λαβας, two handles to take it by. Our affections are the handles of our souls. The temptation of self-confidence and pride takes hold of a daring and for ward disposition, the temptation of apostasy upon a timorous disposition, &c. These inbred lusts go over to the enemy in the day of battle, and fight against the soul, 1 Pet. ii. 11. This is a more dangerous enemy than the devil. It is true they both work against us, but with a double difference. Satan works externally and objectively; but lust internally and physically, i. e. quoad materale, as it is capable of physical efficiency. “Sin wrought in me all manner of concupiscence,” Rom. vii. 8. Yea, it is a subtle enemy that doth his business politicly, Rom. vii. 11 Sin deceived me; it betrays with a kiss, strangles with a silken halter, Heb. ii. 12. Eph. vii. 22. These be his agents sitting at the council-table in our own breasts, and there carrying on his designs effectually: Yea, it is the restless and perpetual enemy, no ridding your hands of him. Satan is sometimes put to flight by resistance, Jam. iv. 7. and sometimes ceases his temptations, Luke iv. 13. But when he ceaseth to tempt and inject, this ceaseth not to irritate and solicit; where we are, it will be; it is our sad lot to be tied to it, and perpetually assaulted by it, Rom. vii. 24. We may say of it as Hannibal said of Marcellus, that it is never quiet, whether a conqueror, or conquered; yea, it is a potent enemy too, it hauls men away to the commission of sin, Jam. i. 14. it seizeth the magazine of the soul, and delivers up the arms, I mean the members, to be οπλα αοικιας, weapons of unrighteousness.

Thus you see wherein the efficacy and power of temptation consists. And it mightily concerns you that are, or expect to be suffer ers for Christ, to be acquainted with these things, and know where the strength of your enemy lies.

But how shall the suffering saint so manage himself in a suffering [[63]] hour, as not to be captivated by temptations? This brings me upon the second thing I promised; viz. to prescribe some rules for the escaping or conquering of those temptations that are incidental to a suffering state. And first,

1. Rule. Labour to cut off the advantages of temptations before they come. It is our inordinate love to life, estate, liberty, and ease, that gives the temptations so much strength upon us. Do not over value them, and you will more easily part from them, Rev. xii. 11. O mortify self-love, and creature-love; let your heart be loosened and weaned from them, and then the temptation hath lost its strength.

2. Rule. Secure to yourselves an interest in the heavenly glory. When once you clearly sec your propriety in the kingdom above, you will set the lighter and lower by all things on earth. That is a pregnant text to this purpose, Heb. x. 34. It is our darkness and un certainties about those that make us cling so fast to these.

3. Rule. Settle this principle in your heart as that which you will never depart from, that it is better for you to fall into any suffering, than into the least sin, Heb. xi. 24, 25. This all will acknowledge, but how few practise it! Oh that you would practically understand and receive it! Suffering is but a respective, external, and temporal evil; but sin is an universal, internal, and everlasting evil.

4. Rule. Believe that God hath cursed and blasted all the ways of sin, that they shall never be a shelter to any soul that flies for refuge to them, Mark viii. 35. Prov. xiii. 15. The way of transgressors is a hard and difficult way. There is no security in the way of iniquity. He that runs from suffering to sin, runs from the seeming to the real danger; from the painted to the living lion.

5. Rule. Live up to this principle that there is no policy like sincerity and godly simplicity. This will preserve and secure you when carnal wisdom will expose and betray you. Psal. xxv. 2. Job ii. 3. Sinful policy never thrives with saints.

6. Rule. Consider sadly what the consequence of yielding up your selves to temptations will be: The name of God will be dreadfully reproached, 2 Sam. xii. 14. A fatal stumbling-block is laid before the blind world, 1 Sam. ii. 36. The hearts of many upright ones made sad, Psal. xxv. 3. The fall of a professor is as when a standard-bearer fainteth; and a dreadful wound it will be to thine own con science, 2 Cor. ii. 7. Mat. xxv. 76. One hour’s sleep of security may keep you many days and nights waking upon the rack of horror.

7. Rule. Never engage a temptation in your own strength, but go forth against it trembling in yourselves, and relying on Divine aids and assistances, Eph. vi. 10. What! are you to grapple with spirits, to enter the lists with principalities and powers? Or what is your strength that you should hope?

8. Rule. Let the days of your temptation be days of strong cries and supplications. Thus did Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 8. Psal. cix. 4. Your best posture to wrestle with temptation, is upon your knees.

[[64]] 9. Rule. Dwell upon the consideration of those choice encouragements God hath laid up in the world for such a time. As, (1.) Though he give Satan leave to tempt you, yet you are still in his hand to preserve you, Deut. xxxiii. 3. John x. 28. (2.) That whilst Sa tan is sifting and trying you on earth, Christ is interceding for you in heaven, Luke xxii. 31, 32. (3.) That an eternal reward is laid up for those that overcome, Luke xxii. 28, 29. Rev. xxi. 7, 8. And now is this reward to be won or lost.

Lastly, Be content till God open a door out of your temptations, 1 Cor. x. 13. The time of the promise will come, Acts vii. 17. Wait for it, though it tarry, and seem to be deferred; in the end it will speak, and not lie, Hab. ii. 3. There was a secret door in the ark, though it could not be seen whilst the waters prevailed: And so there is in all your temptations, though at present it be not discernible by you.

And thus have I brought you one step nearer to Paul’s blessed frame. O give diligence to make yourselves ready for sufferings.

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