"Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod" or,
"The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes"
by Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.
"I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for
You are the one who has done this!" Psalm 39:9
I shall now address myself to answer those OBJECTIONS, and to remove those impediments which hinder poor souls from being silent and mute under the afflicting hand of God.
Objection 1. Sir! did I but know that I were afflicted in love, I would hold my peace under my affliction, I would sit mute before the Lord; but oh! how shall I come to understand that these strokes are the strokes of love, that these wounds are the wounds of a friend? I answer:
1. First, If your heart be drawn more out to the Lord by your afflictions, then the afflictions are in love. If they are so sanctified as that they draw out your soul to love the Lord more, and to fear the Lord more, and to please the Lord more, and to cleave to the Lord more, and to wait on the Lord more, and to walk with the Lord more—then they are in love. Oh, then they are the wounds of a friend indeed! It is reported of the lioness, that she leaves her young whelps until they have almost killed themselves with roaring and yelling, and then at the last gasp, when they have almost spent themselves, she relieves them, and by this means they become more courageous; and so if the afflictions which are upon us do increase our courage, strengthen our patience, raise our faith, inflame our love, and enliven our hopes, certainly they are in love, and all our wounds are the wounds of a friend. But
2. Secondly, If you are more careful and studious how to glorify God in the affliction, and how to be kept from sinning under the affliction, than how to yet out of the affliction, then certainly your affliction is in love, Dan. 3. and 5:16,17, Heb. 11. Where God smites in love, there the soul makes it his study how to glorify God, and how to lift up God, and how to be a light and an honor to God. The daily language of such a soul under the rod is this—Lord! stand by me that I sin not, uphold me that I sin not, strengthen me that I sin not, John 7:7-10. He who will not sin to repair and make up his losses, though be knew assuredly that the committing of such a sin would make up all again, he may conclude that his affliction is in love.
I have read of a nobleman whose son and heir was supposed to be bewitched, and being advised to go to some wizard, as they are called, to have some help for his son, that he might be unwitched again, he answered, Oh, by no means, I had rather the witch should have my son than the devil. His son should suffer rather than he would sin him out of his sufferings. He who will not break the hedge of a fair command to avoid the foul way of some heavy affliction, may well conclude that his affliction is in love. Christians! what do you say, when you are in the mount; do you thus bespeak the Lord?—'Lord! take care of your glory, and let me rather sink in my affliction than sin under my affliction.' If this be the bent and frame of your heart, it is certain the affliction that is upon you is in love. The primitive times afforded many such brave spirits, though this age affords but few.
3. Thirdly, If you enjoy the special presence of God with your spirits in your affliction, then your affliction is in love, Psalm 23:4-6. Isaiah 43:2, 'When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you—when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burnt, neither shall the flames kindle upon you.' Have you a special presence of God with your spirit, strengthening of that, quieting of that, stilling of that, satisfying of that, cheering and comforting of that? Psalm 94:19, 'In the multitude of my thoughts,'—that is, of my troubled, intricate, ensnared, intertwined and perplexed thoughts—'your comforts delight my soul.' Here is a presence of God with his soul, here are comforts and delights that reach the soul, here is a cordial to strengthen the spirit.
When all things went cross with Andronicus, the old emperor of Constantinople, he took a Psalter into his hand, and opening the same, he lighted upon Psalm 68:14, 'When the Almighty scattered kings, they shall be white as snow in Salmon;' which scripture was a mighty comfort and refreshment to his spirit. Now you are to remember that Salmon signifies shady and dark; so was this mount, by the reason of many lofty fair-spread trees that were near it—but made lightsome by snow that covered it. So that to be white as snow in Salmon, is to have joy in affliction, light in darkness, mercy in misery, etc. And thus God was to the psalmist in the midst of his greatest afflictions—as snow in Salmon. When Paul would wish his dear son Timothy the best mercy in all the world, the greatest mercy in all the world, the most comprehensive mercy in all the world, a mercy that carries the virtue, value, and sweetness of all mercies in it, he wishes the presence of God with his spirit—2 Tim. 4:22, 'The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit', in point of honor, in point of profit and pleasure, in point of safety and security, and in point of comfort and joy. It is the greatest blessing and happiness in this world to have the presence of God with our spirits, especially in times of trials—2 Cor. 4:16, 'For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.' By the 'outward man,' you are to understand not merely our bodies—but our persons, estates, and outward conditions in this world; and by the 'inward man,' you are to understand our souls, our spiritual estate. Now, when the inward man gains new strength by every new trouble, when as troubles, pressures, afflictions, and tribulations are increased—a Christian's inward strength is increased also, when his afflictions are in love. When the presence of God is with our inward man, cheering, comforting, encouraging, strengthening, and renewing of that, we may safely conclude that all these trials, though they are ever so sharp and acute, yet they are in love.
I have read of a company of poor Christians that were banished into some remote parts, and one standing by, seeing them pass along, said that it was a very sad condition those poor people were in, to be thus exiled from the society of men, and to be made companions with the beasts of the field. True, said another, it were a sad condition indeed if they were carried to a place where they should not find their God; but let them be of good cheer, God goes along with them, and will exhibit the comforts of his presence wherever they go. The presence of God with the spirits of his people—is a breast of comfort that can never be drawn dry; it is an everlasting spring that will never fail, Heb. 13:5, 6. Well! Christian, you are under many great troubles, many sore trials—but tell me, does God give unto your soul such cordials, such supports, such comforts, and such refreshments, that the world knows not of? Oh! then, certainly your affliction is in love.
4. Fourthly, If by your affliction you are made more conformable to Christ in his virtues, there certainly your afflictions are in love. Many are conformable to Christ in their sufferings, who are not made conformable to Christ in his virtues by their sufferings; many are in poverty, neglect, shame, contempt, reproach, etc., like Christ was—who yet by these are not made more like Christ in his meekness, humbleness, heavenliness, holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, fruitfulness, goodness, contentedness, patience, submission, subjection. Oh! but if in these things you are made more like Christ, without question, your afflictions are in love. If by afflictions the soul be led to show forth the virtues of Christ, then certainly those afflictions are in love; for they never have such an operation but where they are set on by a hand of love.
When God strikes as an enemy, then all those strokes do but make a man more an enemy to God, as you see in Pharaoh and others; but when the strokes of God are the strokes of love, oh! then they do but bring the soul nearer Christ, and transform the soul more and more into the likeness of Christ, Isaiah 26:8-10. Jer. 6:3, Amos 6:1. If by your afflictions you are made more holy, humble, heavenly, etc., they are in love. Every afflicted Christian should strive to be honored with that eulogy of Salvian—an excellent disciple of a singular master. But,
5. Fifthly, If by outward afflictions your soul is brought more under the inward teachings of God, doubtless your afflictions are love, Job 34:31, 32. Psalm 94:12, 'Blessed is the man whom you chasten O Lord, and teach out of your law.' All the chastening in the world, without divine teaching, will never make a man blessed; that man who finds correction attended with instruction, and lashing with lessoning—is a happy man. If God, by the affliction that is upon you, shall teach you how to loathe sin more, how to trample upon the world more, and how to walk with God more—your afflictions are in love. If God shall teach you by afflictions how to die to sin more, and how to die to your relations more, and how to die to your self-interest more—your afflictions are in love. If God shall teach you by afflictions how to live to Christ more, how to lift up Christ more, and how to long for Christ more—your afflictions are in love. If God shall teach you by afflictions to get assurance of a better life, and to be still in a gracious readiness and preparedness for the day of your death—your afflictions are in love. If God shall teach you by afflictions how to mind heaven more, how to live in heaven more, and how to fit for heaven more—your afflictions are in love. If God by afflictions shall teach your proud heart how to lie more low, and your hard heart how to grow more tender, and your censorious heart how to grow more charitable, and your carnal heart how to grow more spiritual, and your froward heart how to grow more quiet—your afflictions are in love. When God teaches your thoughts as well as your brains, your heart as well as your head, these lessons, or any of these lessons—your afflictions are in love.
Pambo, an illiterate dunce, as the historian terms him, was a-learning that one lesson, 'I said I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue,' nineteen years, and yet had not learned it. Ah! it is to be feared that there are many who have been in the school of affliction above this nineteen years, and yet have not learned any beneficial lesson all this while. Surely their afflictions are not in love—but in wrath. Where God loves, he afflicts in love, and wherever God afflicts in love, there he will, sooner or later, teach such souls such lessons as shall do them good to all eternity. But,
(6.) Sixthly, If God suits your burdens to your backs, your trials to your strength, according to that golden promise, 1 Cor. 10:13, your afflictions are in love. 'There has no temptation taken you—but such as is common to man—but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.' When God's strokes and a Christian's strength are suited one to another—all is in love, Isaiah 27:8, Jer. 30:11, 46:28. Let the load be ever so heavy that God lays on, if he puts under his everlasting arms—all is in love, Gen. 49:23, 24. As Egypt had many venomous creatures, so it had many antidotes against them. When God shall lay antidotes into the soul against all the afflictions which befall a Christian—then they are all in love. It is no matter how heavy the burden is, if God gives a shoulder to bear it—all is in love; it is no matter how bitter the cup is, if God gives courage to drink it off; it is no matter how hot the furnace is, if God gives power to walk in the midst of it—all is in love.
(7.) Seventhly, If you are willing to lie in the furnace until your dross be consumed; if you are willing that the plaster should lie on, though it smart, until the cure be wrought; if you are willing that the medicine should work, though it makes you sick, until the humors be expelled; all is in love, Job 23:10, Micah 7:9. Cain, and Saul, and Pharaoh, were all for the removing away of the stroke, the affliction; they cry not out, 'Our sins are greater than we are able to bear'—but they cry out, 'Our punishment is greater than we are able to bear;' they do not cry out, 'Lord, take away our sins,' but 'Lord, remove the stroke of your hand.' Oh! But when an affliction comes in love upon a soul, the language of that soul is this—Lord, remove the cause rather than the effect, the sin rather than the punishment, my corruption rather than my affliction! Lord! what will it avail me to have the sore skinned cover, if the corrupt matter still remains inside? there is no evil, Lord, to the evil of sin; and therefore deliver me rather from the evil of sin than the evil of suffering. I know, Lord, that affliction cannot be so displeasing to me as sin is dishonorable and displeasing to you; and therefore, Lord, let me see an end of my sin, though in this world I should never see an end of my sorrows; oh, let me see an end of my corruptions, though I should never see an end of my corrections; Lord, I had rather have a cure for my heart than a cure for my head; I had rather be made whole and sound within than without; I had rather have a healthy soul than a healthy body; a pure inside than a beautiful outside. If this be the settled frame and temper of your spirit, certainly your afflictions are in love.
There was one who, being under extremely great pains and torments in his body, occasioned by many sore diseases which were upon him, cried out, Had I all the world I would give it for ease, and yet for all the world I would not have ease until the cure be wrought. Sure his afflictions were in love. The first request, the great request, and the last request of a soul afflicted in love, is, "A cure, Lord! a cure, Lord! a cure, Lord! of this wretched heart, and this sinful life, and all will be well, all will be well."
(8.) Eighthly and lastly, If you live a life of faith, while in your afflictions—then your afflictions are in love. Now, what is it to live by faith in affliction—but to live in the exercising of faith upon those precious promises that are made over to an afflicted condition? God has promised to be with his people in their afflictions, Isaiah 43:2, 3; he has promised to support them under their affliction, Isaiah 41:10; he has promised to deliver his people out of their afflictions, Psalm 50:15; he has promised to purge away his people's sins by affliction, Isaiah 1:25; he has promised to make his people more partakers of his holiness by affliction, Heb. 12:10; he has promised to make affliction an inlet to a more full and sweet enjoyment of himself, Hos. 2:14; he has promised that he will never leave nor forsake his people in their afflictions, Heb. 13:5, 6; he has promised that all their afflictions shall work for their good, Zech. 13:9; Rom. 8:28. Now if your faith is drawn forth to feed upon these promises, if these be heavenly manna to your faith, and your soul lives upon them, and sucks strength and sweetness from them, under all the trials and troubles that are upon you—then your afflictions are in love.
A bee can suck honey out of a flower, which a fly cannot. If your faith can extract comfort and sweetness in your distresses, out of the breasts of precious promises, and gather one contrary out of another, honey out of the rock, Deut. 32:13, your afflictions are in love. The promises are full breasts, and God delights that faith should draw them; they are the food of faith, and the very soul of faith; they are an everlasting spring that can never be drawn dry; they are an inexhaustible treasure that can never be exhausted; they are the garden of paradise, and full of such choice flowers that will never fade—but be always fresh, sweet, green and flourishing. And if, in the day of affliction, they prove thus to your soul—your afflictions are in love.
Sertorius paid what he promised, with mere words—but God does not so. Men many times eat their words—but God will never eat his; all his promises in Christ are yes and in him amen, 1 Cor. 1:20. Has he spoken it, and shall it not come to pass? If in all your troubles your heart is drawn forth to act faith upon the promises—your troubles are from love. And thus much by way of answer to the first objection.
Objection 2. Oh—but, sir! the Lord has smitten me in my nearest and dearest comforts and contentments—so how then can I hold my peace? God has taken away a husband, a wife, a child, an only child, a bosom-friend, and how then can I be silent? To this I answer,
(1.) First, If God did not strike you in that comfort which was near and dear unto you—it would not amount to an affliction. That is not worthy the name of an affliction that does not strike at some bosom mercy; that trouble is no trouble that does not touch some choice contentment; that storm is no storm that only blows on the leaves—but never hurts the fruit; that thrust is no thrust that only touches the clothes—but never reaches the skin; that cut is no cut that only cuts the hat—but never touches the head; neither is that affliction any affliction that only reaches some remote enjoyment—but never reaches a Joseph, a Benjamin, etc.
(2.) Secondly, The best mercy is not too good for the best God. The best of the best is not good enough for him who is goodness itself; the best child, the best friend, the best jewel in all your crown must be readily resigned to your best God. There is no mercy, no enjoyment, no contentment worthy of God—but the best. The milk of mercy is for others—the cream of mercy is due to God. The choicest, the fairest, and the sweetest flowers are fittest for the bosom of God; if he will take the best flower in all the garden, and plant it in a better soil—have you any cause to murmur? Will you not remain silent before the Lord? Mal. 1:13, 14.
(3.) Thirdly, Your near and dear mercies were first the Lord's before they were yours—and always the Lord's more than they were yours. When God gives a mercy, he does not relinquish his own right in that mercy— 1 Chron. 29:14, 'Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your own hand.' The sweet of mercy is yours—but the sovereign right to dispose of your mercies is the Lord's. Whatever you are, you owe to him who made you; and whatever you have, you owe to him who redeemed you. You say it is but just and reasonable that men should do with their own as they please; and is it not just and reasonable that God, who is Lord paramount, should do with his own as he pleases? Do you believe that the great God may do in heaven what he pleases? and on the seas what he pleases? and in the nations and kingdoms of the world what he pleases? and in your heart what he pleases? And do you not believe that God may do in your house what he pleases, and do with your mercies what he pleases?
Job 9:12, 'Behold, he takes away', or he snatches away, it may be a husband, a wife, a child, an estate, 'who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, what are you doing?' Who dares cavil against God? Who dares question that God who is unquestionable, that sovereign Lord who is uncontrollable, and who may do with his own whatever he pleases? Dan. 4:35, 'All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: What have you done?' Where is the prince, the peasant, the master, the servant, the husband, the wife, the father, the child, that dares say to God, 'What have you done?' Isaiah 14:9.
In matters of arithmetical accounts, set one against ten, ten against a hundred, a hundred against a thousand, a thousand against ten thousand, although there be great odds, yet there is some comparison; but if a man could set down an infinite number, then there could be no comparison at all, because the one is infinite, the other finite. So set all the princes and powers of the earth in opposition to God, they shall never be able to withstand him. It was once the saying of Pompey, that with one stamp of his foot he could raise all Italy in arms; but let the great God but stamp with his foot, and he can raise all the world in arms, to own him, to contend for him, or to revenge any affronts that are put upon him by any; and therefore who shall say unto him, 'What have you done?'
Water is stronger than earth, fire stronger than water, angels stronger than men, and God stronger than them all; and therefore who shall say unto God, 'What have you done?' when he takes their nearest and their dearest mercies from them? But,
(4.) Fourthly, It may be, that you have not made any IMPROVEMENT on your near and dear mercies, while you had them. You have been taken up with your mercies—but your heart has not been taken up in the improvement of them. There are many who are very much taken up with their mercies, who make no conscience of improving their mercies. Have your near and dear mercies been a star to lead you to Christ? Have they been a cloud by day, and a pillar of light by night, to lead you towards the heavenly Canaan? Have they been a Jacob's ladder to your soul? Have you by them been provoked to give up yourself to God as a living sacrifice? Rom. 12:1. Have you improved your near and dear mercies to the inflaming of your love to God, to the strengthening of your confidence in God, to the raising of your communion with God, and to the engaging of your heart to a more close and circumspect walking before God? etc. If you have not thus improved them—you have more cause to be mute than to murmur; to be silent than to be impatient; to be upset with yourself than to be upset with your God.
Children and fools use many things—but improve nothing. Such children and fools are most men; they are much taken up with their mercies—but they make no improvement of their mercies; and therefore no wonder if God strips them of their mercies. The candle of mercy is set up not to play by—but to work by.
Pliny speaks of one Cressinus, who improved a little piece of ground to a far greater advantage than his neighbors could a greater quantity of land. Thereupon he was accused of witchcraft; but he, to defend himself, brought into the court his working tools, and said, 'these are my witchcrafts, O you Romans! These working tools are all the witchcraft that I know of!' When the people heard this plea, with one consent they acquitted him, and declared him not guilty; and so his little piece of ground was secured to him.
There is no way to secure your mercies but by improving of them; there is nothing that provokes God to strip you of your mercies like the non-improvement of them—Mat. 25:28-31, 'Take therefore the one talent from him, and give it unto him who has ten talents.' By some stroke or other, God will take away the mercy that is not improved. If your slothfulness has put God upon passing a sentence of death upon the dearest mercy—thank yourself—and remain silent before the Lord!
(5.) Fifthly, God has given you many examples of dear mercies being removed from those who are eminently pious. How much more, then, should you be mute, where God has made many others examples to you! Did not God smite Aaron in his dear and near enjoyments, Lev. 10:1, 2 and does he not remain silent? Did not God smite David in his Absalom, and Abraham in his Sarah, and Job in his sons, daughters, estate, and body, and Jonah in his gourd? Are you more beloved than these godly ones? No! Have you more grace than these? No! Have you done more for divine glory than these? No! Are you richer in spiritual experiences than these? No! Have you attained to higher enjoyments than these? No! Have you been more serviceable in your generation than these? No! Have you been more exemplary in your life and conversation than these? etc. No! Then why should you murmur and fret at that which has been the common lot of the dearest saints?
Though God has smitten you in this or that near and dear enjoyment, it is your wisdom to remain silent before the Lord, for that God that has taken away one—might have taken away all. Justice writes a sentence of death upon all Job's mercies at once, and yet he holds his peace; and will not you hold yours, though God has cropped the fairest flower in all your garden?
So when our hearts begin to storm and complain when God smites us in this near mercy and in that dear enjoyment, oh let us lay the law of silence upon our hearts! let us charge our souls to be quiet! for that God that has taken away one child, might have taken away every child; and he who has taken away one friend, might have taken away every friend; and he who has taken away a part of your estate, might have taken away your whole estate—therefore remain silent before the Lord; let who will murmur—yet you be mute.
(6.) Sixthly, It may be your sins have been much about your near and dear enjoyments. It may be you have over-loved them, and over-prized them, and over-much delighted yourself in them. It may be they have often had your heart, when they should have had but your hand. It may be that care, that concern, that confidence, that joy which should have been expended upon more noble objects, has been expended upon them. Your heart, O Christian! is Christ's bed of spices, and it may be you have bedded your mercies with you, when Christ has been made to lie outside! Luke 2:7. You have had room for them—when you have had none for him! They have had the best—when the worst have been counted good enough for Christ!
It is said of Reuben, that he went up to his father's bed, Gen. 49:4. Ah! how often has one creature comfort and sometimes another, been put in between Christ and your souls! how often have your dear enjoyments gone up to Christ's bed!
It is said of the Babylonians, that they came in to Aholah and Aholibah's bed of love, Ezek. 23:17; may it not be said of your near and dear mercies, that they have come into Christ's bed of love, your hearts; they being that bed wherein Christ delights to rest and repose himself? Cant. 3:7. Now, if you take a husband, a child, a friend—into that room in your soul which only belongs to God—he will either embitter it, remove it, or be the death of it. If once the love of a wife runs out more to a servant than to her husband, the husband will remove that servant; though otherwise he was a servant worth gold.
The sweetest comforts of this life, they are but like treasures of snow; now do but take a handful of snow, and crush it in your hands, and it will melt away presently; but if you let it lie upon the ground, it will continue for some time. And so it is with the contentments of this world; if you grasp them in your hands and lay them too near your hearts, they will quickly melt and vanish away; but if you will not hold them too fast in your hands, nor lay them too close to your hearts, they will abide the longer with you.
There are those who love their mercies into their graves—who hug their mercies to death—who kiss them until they kill them! Many a man has slain his mercies, by setting too great a value upon them! Many a man has sunk his ship of mercy, by overloading it. Over-loved mercies are seldom long lived— Ezek. 24:21, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary—the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword.' The way to lose your mercies is to indulge them; the way to destroy them is to fix your minds and hearts upon them. You may write bitterness and death upon that mercy first—which has first taken away your heart from God. Now, if God has stripped you of that very mercy with which you have often committed spiritual adultery and idolatry—have you any cause to murmur? Have you not rather cause to remain silent before the Lord, and to be mute before the Lord? Christians! Your hearts are Christ's royal throne, and in this throne Christ will be chief, as Pharaoh said to Joseph, Gen. 12:40; he will endure no competitor. If you attempt to enthrone the creature, be it ever so near and dear unto you—Christ will dethrone it! He will destroy it! He will quickly lay them in a bed of dust—who shall aspire to his royal throne! But,
(7.) Seventhly, You have no cause to murmur because of the loss of such near and dear enjoyments, considering those more noble and spiritual mercies and favors that you still enjoy. Grant that Joseph is not, and Benjamin is not, Gen. 42:36. Yet Jesus is! He is yesterday, and today, and the same forever, Heb. 13:8; your union and communion with Christ remains still; the immortal seed abides in you still, 1 John 3:9; the Sun of righteousness shines upon you still; you are in favor with God still, and you are under the anointings of the Spirit still, and under the influences of heaven still, etc. So why then should you mutter—and not rather remain silent before the Lord?
I have read of one Didymus, a godly preacher, who was blind; Alexander, a godly man, once asked him, whether he was not sorely troubled and afflicted for lack of his sight? Oh yes! said Didymus, it is a great affliction and grief unto me! Then Alexander chid him, saying, Has God given you an excellency above an angel—and are you troubled for that which rats and mice and brute beasts have? Ah, Christians! has God blessed you with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places? Eph. 1:3, 4. Has the Lord given you himself for a portion? Has he given you his Son for your redemption, and his Spirit for your instruction—and will you murmur? Has he given his grace to adorn you, his promises to comfort you, his ordinances to better you, and the hopes of heaven to encourage you; and will you mutter?
Paulinus Nolanus, when his city was taken from him, prayed thus—'Lord! said he, let me not be troubled at the loss of my gold, silver, honor, etc., for you are all, and much more than all these unto me!' In the absence of all your sweetest enjoyments, Christ will be all in all unto you, Col. 3:11. My jewels are my husband, said Phocion's wife. My ornaments are my two sons, said the mother of the Gracchi. My treasures are my friends, said Constantius. And so may a Christian under his greatest losses say—Christ is my richest jewels, my chief treasures, my best ornaments, my sweetest delights. What all these things are to a carnal heart, a worldly heart—that and more—is Christ to me!
(8.) Eighthly, If God, by smiting you in your nearest and dearest enjoyments, shall put you upon a more thorough smiting and mortifying of your dearest sins—you have no cause to murmur. God cures David of adultery by killing his endeared child. There is some Delilah, some darling, some beloved sin or other—that a Christian's calling, condition, constitution, or temptations—leads him to play with, and to hug in his own bosom, Psalm 18:23, Heb. 12:1. As in a plot of ground that lies untilled, among the great variety of weeds there is usually some master-weed, which is more plenteous and more repulsive than all the rest. And as it is in the body of man, that although in some degree or other, more or less, there is a mixture of all the four elements, not any of them wholly lacking, yet there is some one of them predominant that gives the denomination, in which regard some are said to be of a sanguine, some of a phlegmatic, some of a choleric, and some of a melancholic constitution.
So it is also in the souls of men—though there be a general mixture and medley of all evil and corrupt qualities, yet there is some one sin which is usually paramount, which, like the prince of devils, is most powerful and prevalent, which sways and manifests itself more eminently and evidently than any other of them do. And as in every man's body there is a seed and principle of death, yet in some there is a proneness to one kind of disease more than another that may hasten death. So, though the root of sin and bitterness has spread itself over all, yet every man has his inclination to one kind of sin rather than another, and this may be called a man's besetting sin, his bosom sin, his darling sin. Now, it is one of the hardest works in this world to subdue and bring under control, this bosom sin! Oh! the prayers, the tears, the sighs, the sobs, the groans, the gripes that it will cost a Christian before he subdues this darling sin!
Look upon a rabbit's skin, how well it comes off until it comes to the head—but then what hauling and pulling is there before you can remove it! So it is in the mortifying, in the crucifying of sin; a man may easily subdue and mortify such and such sins—but when it comes to the head-sin, to the master-sin, to the bosom-sin, oh! what tugging and pulling is there! what striving and struggling is there to get off that sin, to get down that sin! Now, if the Lord, by smiting you in some near and dear enjoyment, shall draw out your heart to fall upon smiting of your master-sin, and shall so sanctify the affliction, as to make it issue in the mortification of your bosom corruption, what eminent cause will you have rather to bless him, than to sit down and murmur against him! And doubtless if you are dear to God, God will, by striking your dearest mercy, put you upon striking at your darling sin; and therefore do not murmur, even when God touches the apple of your eye!
(9.) Ninthly, consider That the Lord has many ways to make up the loss of a near and dear mercy to you. He can make up your loss in something else that may be better for you, and he will certainly make up your loss, either in kind or in worth, Matt. 19:27-30. He took from David an Absalom, and he gave him a Solomon; he took from him a Michal, and gave him a wise Abigail. He took from Job seven sons and three daughters, and afterwards he gives him seven more sons and three more daughters. He took from Job a fair estate, and at last doubled it to him. He removed the bodily presence of Christ from his disciples—but gave them more abundantly of his spiritual presence, which was far the greater and the sweeter mercy. If Moses is taken away—a Joshua shall be raised in his place. If David is gathered to his fathers—a Solomon shall succeed him in his throne. If John the Baptist is cast into prison, rather than the pulpit shall stand empty, a greater than John, even Christ himself will begin to preach!
He who lives upon God in the loss of creature comforts, shall find all made up in the God of comforts; he shall be able to say, Though my child is not, my friend is not, my spouse is not—yet my God lives, and 'blessed be my rock,' Psalm 89:26. Though this mercy is not, and that mercy is not, yet covenant-mercies, yet 'the sure mercies of David' continue, 2 Sam. 23:5; these bed and board with me, these will go to the grave and to glory with me.
I have read of a godly man, who, living near a philosopher, did often persuade him to become a Christian. Oh! but, said the philosopher, I must, or may lose all for Christ. To which the godly man replied, if you lose anything for Christ, he will be sure to repay it a hundred-fold. Yes—but, said the philosopher, will you be bound for Christ, that if he does not pay me, you will? Yes, that I will, said the godly man. So the philosopher became a Christian, and the godly man entered into a written bond for performance of covenants. Some time after it happened that the philosopher fell sick on his deathbed, and, holding the bond in his hand, sent for the party engaged, to whom he gave up the bond, and said, Christ has paid all, there is nothing for you to pay, take your bond, and cancel it.
Christ will allow none of his children to suffer a loss; he has all, and he will make up all to them. In the close, Christ will pay the reckoning. No man shall ever have cause to say that he has been a loser by Christ. And, therefore, you have much cause to be mute, you have no cause to murmur, though God has snatched the fairest and the sweetest flower out of your bosom.
(10.) Tenthly, How can you tell but that which you call a near and dear mercy, if it had been continued longer to you, might have proved the greatest cross, the greatest calamity and misery, which you ever had? Our mercies, like choice wines, many times turn into vinegar. Our fairest hopes are often blasted. That very mercy which we once have said should be a staff to support us—has proved a sword to pierce us. How often have our most flourishing mercies withered in our hands, and our bosom contentments been turned into gall and wormwood! If God had continued the life of David's child to him, it would have been but a living monument of his sin and shame; and all that knew the child would have pointed at him, 'Yonder goes David's bastard child!'—and so would have kept David's wound still a-bleeding, 2 Sam. 12:16.
Many parents have sought the lives of their children with tears—who have lived afterwards to see them take such wicked courses and come to such dismal ends—as have brought their grey head with sorrow to their graves! It had been ten thousand times a greater mercy to many parents to have buried their children as soon as they were born, than to see them come to such unhappy ends as they often do.
Well! Christian, it may be the Lord has taken from you such a hopeful son, or such a dear daughter, and you say—How can I hold my peace? But hark, Christian, hark! Would not every sin which they had committed against your gracious God caused a new throe in your soul? Would not every temptation which they had fallen before been as a dagger at your heart? Would not every affliction that should have befallen them been as a knife at your throat? What are those pains, and pangs, and throes of child-birth, compared to those after pains, pangs, and throes that might have been brought upon you by the sins and sufferings of your children? Well! Christians, remain silent before the Lord, for you do not know what thorns in your eyes, what goads in your sides, nor what spears in your hearts—such near and dear mercies might have proved had they been longer continued.
(11.) Eleventhly, You can not tell how bad your heart might have proved under the enjoyment of those near and dear mercies, which now you have lost. Israel was very bad while they were in the wilderness—but they were much worse when they came to possess Canaan, that land of desires. Man's sin is apt to rise with outward prosperity. In the winter, men gird their clothes close about them—but in the summer they let them hang loose. In the winter of adversity, many a Christian girds his heart close to God, to Christ, to gospel, to godliness, to ordinances, to duties, etc., who in the summer of mercy hangs loose from all.
I have read of a pine tree, that, if the bark be pulled off, it will last a long time; but if the bark remains long on the tree—it rots the tree. Ah! how bad, how rotten, how base, would many have proved, had God not pulled off their bark of health, wealth, friendship! etc. Near and dear relations, they stick as close to us as the bark of a tree sticks to the tree, and if God should not pull off this bark, how apt should we be to rot and corrupt ourselves; therefore God is glad to bark us, and peel us, and strip us naked and bare of our dearest enjoyments and sweetest contentments, that so our souls, like the pine tree, may prosper and thrive the better.
Who can seriously consider of this, and not be silent, even then when God takes a jewel out of his bosom? Heap all the sweetest contentments and most desirable enjoyments of this world upon a man, they will not make him a Christian; heap them upon a Christian, they will not make him a better Christian. Many a Christian has been made worse by the good things of this world; but where is the Christian that has been bettered by them? Therefore be quiet when God strips you of them!
(12.) Twelfthly, and lastly, Get your heart more affected with spiritual losses—and then your soul will be less afflicted with those temporal losses that you mourn under. Have you lost nothing of that presence of God—that once you had in your heart? Have you lost none of those warnings, meltings, quickenings, and cheerings—which once you had? Have you lost nothing of your communion with God, nor of the joys of the Spirit, nor of that peace of conscience—which once you enjoyed? Have you lost none of that ground which once you had gained upon sin, Satan, and the world? Have you lost nothing of that holy vigor and heavenly heat—which once you had in your heart? If you have not, which would be a miracle, a wonder; why do you complain of this or that temporal loss? For what is this, but to complain of the loss of your purse, when your God is safe? If you are a loser in spirituals, why do you not rather complain that you have lost your God—than that you have lost your gold; and that you have lost your Christ—than that you have lost your husband; and that you have lost your child, and that you are damnified in spirituals—than that you are damnified in temporals? Do you mourn over the body, which the soul has left? mourn rather over the soul that God has forsaken, as Samuel did for Saul, says one. 1 Sam. 15:14, seq.
I have read of Honorius, a Roman emperor, who was simple and childish enough; when one told him Rome was lost, he was exceedingly grieved, and cried out, 'Alas! alas!' for he supposed that it was his hen which he had nicknamed Rome—which hen he exceedingly loved. But when it was told him, that it was his imperial city of Rome, which was besieged, and taken, and all the citizens plundered, and made a prey to the crude enraged soldiers—then his spirits were revived that his loss was not so great as he imagined.
Now, what is the loss of a husband, a wife, a child, a friend—to the loss of God, Christ, the Spirit—or the least measure of grace or communion with God? etc. I say, What are all such losses—but the loss of a hen—compared to the loss of Rome? And yet so simple and childish are many Christians, that they are more affected and afflicted with the loss of this and that poor temporal enjoyment—than they are with the loss of their most spiritual attainments! Ah, Christians! be but more affected with spiritual losses, and you will be more quiet and silent under temporal losses! Let the loss of Rome trouble you more—and then the loss of your hen will not trouble you at all. Let these things suffice for an answer to the second objection!
Objection 3. Oh—but my afflictions, my troubles have been LONG upon me! and how then can I hold my peace? Were they but of yesterday, I would be quiet; but they are of a long continuance; and therefore how can I be silent? To this I answer,
(1.) First, You cannot date your afflictions from the first day of your pollution. You have been polluted from the womb—but you have not been afflicted from the womb, Psalm 51:5. Many have been the days, the years, since you was born in sin—but few have been the days, the years, that you have experienced sorrow. You cannot easily number the days of your sinning—but you can easily number the days of your sufferings. You cannot number your days of mercy—but you can easily number your days of calamity. You cannot number your days of health—but you can easily count your days of sickness.
(2.) Secondly, Your afflictions are not so long as the afflictions of other saints. COMPARE your winter nights and other saints' winter nights together; your storms and troubles and other saints' storms and troubles together; your losses and other saints' losses together; your miseries and other saints' miseries together. Your afflictions are but as a moment—they are but as yesterday compared with the afflictions of other saints, whose whole lives have been made up of sorrows and sufferings—as the life of Christ was. Many a man's life has been nothing but a lingering death—Job 21:25, 'And another dies in the bitterness of his soul, and never eats with pleasure.' There are those that have never a good day all their days—who have not a day of rest among all their days of trouble; nor a day of health among all their days of sickness; nor a day of gladness among all their days of sadness; nor a day of strength among all their days of weakness; nor a day of honor among all their days of reproach; whose whole life is one continued winter's night, who every day drink gall and wormwood, who lie down sighing, who rise groaning, and who spend their days in complaining, 'No sorrow like our sorrow, no sufferings like our sufferings!' Some there be who have always tears in their eyes, sorrows in their hearts, rods on their backs, and crosses in their hands—but it is not so with you! Therefore be silent.
(3.) Thirdly, The longer your affliction has been, the sweeter will heaven be to you at last. The longer the Israelites had been in the wilderness, the sweeter was Canaan to them at last; the longer the storm, the sweeter the calm; the longer the winter nights, the sweeter the summer days. Long afflictions will much set off the glory of heaven. The harbor is most sweet and desirable to those who have been long tossed upon the seas; so will heaven be to those who have been long in a sea of trouble. The new wine of Christ's kingdom is most sweet to those that have been long a-drinking of gall and vinegar, Luke 22:18. The crown of glory will be most delightful to those who have been long in combating with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The longer our journey is—the sweeter will be our end; and the longer our passage is—the sweeter will our haven be. The higher the mountain—the gladder we shall be when we are got to the top of it. The longer the heir is kept from his inheritance—the more delight he will have when he comes to possess it.
(4.) Fourthly, They are not long—but short—if compared to that eternity of glory that is reserved for the saints, 2 Cor. 4:16-18. If you turn to the words, you shall find for affliction, glory; for light afflictions, a weight of glory; and for short momentary afflictions, eternal glory. There will quickly be an end of your sadness—but there will never be an end of your happiness. There will soon be an end of your calamity and misery—but there will never be an end of your felicity and glory. The kingdoms of this world are not lasting, much less are they everlasting; they have all their final years—but the kingdom of heaven is an everlasting kingdom; of that there is no end. There are seven sorts of crowns that were in use among the Roman victors—but they were all fading and perishing; but the crown of glory that at last God will set upon the heads of his saints, shall continue as long as God himself continues. Who can look upon those eternal mansions that are above, and those everlasting pleasures that be at God's right hand, and say that his affliction is long? Well, Christian, let your affliction be ever so long, yet one hour's being in the bosom of Christ will make you forget both the length and strength of all your afflictions!
(5.) Fifthly, The longer you have been afflicted—the more in spiritual experiences you have been enriched. 2 Cor. 1:5, 'For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us—so our consolation also abounds by Christ.' The lower the ebb—the higher the tide; the more pain—the more gain; the more afflicted—the more comforted; the lower we are cast down—the higher we shall be raised. Of all Christians, none so rich in spiritual experiences—as those that have been long in the school of affliction. Oh! the blessed stories that such call tell of the power of God supporting them, of the wisdom of God directing them, of the favor of God comforting them, of the presence of God assisting them. Oh! the love-tokens, the love-letters, the bracelets, the jewels which they are able to produce, since they have been in the furnace of affliction.
Oh! the sin that long afflictions have discovered and mortified. Oh! the temptations that long afflictions have prevented and vanquished. You shall as soon number the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea, as you shall number up the heavenly experiences of such Christians that have been long under afflictions. The afflicted Christian's heart is fullest of spiritual treasure. Though he may be poor in the world, yet he is rich in faith and holy experiences, James 2:5; and what are all the riches of this world to spiritual experiences? One spiritual experience is more worth than a world, and upon a dying bed and before a judgment-seat, every man will be of this opinion.
The men of this world will with much quietness and calmness of spirit bear much, and suffer much, and suffer long, when they find their sufferings to add to their revenues; and shall nature do more than grace? It is the common voice of nature, 'Who will show us any good' Psalm 4:6; how shall we come to be great, and high, and rich in the world? We care not what we suffer, nor how long we suffer—so we may but add house to house, heap to heap, bag to bag, and land to land, Isa 5:8. Oh how much more then should Christians be quiet and calm under all their afflictions, though they are never so long, considering that they do but add jewels to a Christian's crown; they do but add to his spiritual experiences. The long afflicted Christian has the fullest and the greatest trade; and in the day of account, will be found the richest man.
(6.) Sixthly, Long afflictions sometimes are but preparations to long-lived mercies. Joseph's thirteen years' imprisonment was but a preparative to eighty years, reigning like a king; David's seven years' banishment was but a preparative to forty years' reigning in much honor and glory; Job's long afflictions were but preparatives to more long-lived mercies, as you may see in that last of Job; and those sad and sore trials that the Jews have been under, for above these sixteen hundred years, are to prepare them for those matchless mercies, and those endless glories, in some sense, that God in the latter days will crown them with "O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children's peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. Isaiah 54:11-14.
Though they have been long afflicted and tossed, yet they shall at last upon glorious foundations be established; God will not only raise them out of their distressed estate wherein now they are—but he will advance them to a most eminent and glorious condition in this world; they shall he very glorious, and outshine all the world in spiritual excellencies and outward dignities—Isaiah 60:14, 16, 'The sons also of those who afflicted you shall come bending unto you, and all those who despised you shall bow themselves down at the soles of your feet—and they shall call you, the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through you, I will make you an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.'
Ah, Christians! do not mutter nor murmur under your long afflictions, for you do not know but that by these long afflictions God may prepare and fit you for such favors and blessings that may never have end. By long afflictions God many times prepares his people for temporal, spiritual, and eternal mercies. If God by long afflictions makes more room in your soul for himself, his Son, his Spirit, his word; if by long afflictions he shall crucify your heart more to the world and to your relations, and frame and fashion your soul more for celestial enjoyments; have you any cause to murmur? Surely not! But,
(7) Seventhly, The longer a saint is afflicted on earth—the more glorious he shall shine in heaven. The more affliction here—the more glory hereafter. This truth may be thus made out:
[1.] First, The more gracious souls are afflicted, the more their graces are exercised and increased, Heb. 12:10, Rom. 5:3-5. Now, the more grace here, the more glory hereafter; the higher in grace, the higher in glory. Grace differs nothing from glory but in name—grace is glory in the bud, and glory is grace at the full. Glory is nothing but the perfection of grace. Heavenly happiness is nothing but the perfection of holiness. Grace is glory in the seed—and glory is grace in the flower. Grace is glory militant—and glory is grace triumphant. Grace and glory differ in degree—not kind. Now, it is most certain that the more gracious souls are afflicted—the more their graces are exercised; and the more grace is exercised—the more it is increased, as I have sufficiently demonstrated in this treatise already. But,
[2.] Secondly, The longer a gracious soul is afflicted, the more his pious duties will be multiplied. Psalm 109:4, 'In return for my friendship they accuse me; but I give myself unto prayer;' or as the Hebrew reads it, 'But I am prayer,' or 'a man of prayer.' In times of afflictions a Christian is all prayer; he is never so much a man of prayer, a man given up to prayer—as in times of affliction. A Christian is never so frequent, so fervent, so abundant in the work of the Lord, as when he is afflicted. 'Lord! in trouble have they visited you, they poured out prayer when your chastening was upon them.' Now, they do not only pray—but they pour out prayer; they were freely, largely, and abundantly in prayer when the rod was upon them. Look! as men plentifully pour out water for the quenching of a fire, so did they plentifully pour out their prayers before the Lord. And as affliction puts a man upon being much in prayer, so it puts him upon other duties of religion answerably. Now, this is most certain, that though God will reward no man for his works, yet he will reward every man according to his works—1 Cor. 15:58, 'Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord!' 2 Cor. 9:6, 'But this I say, he who sows sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall reap bountifully;' or he who sows in benedictions or blessings shall reap in benedictions, as it runs in the original.
It is an excellent observation of Calvin upon God's rewarding the Rechabites' obedience, Jer. 35:19; God, says he, often recompenses the shadows and seeming-appearance of virtue, to show what delight he takes in the ample rewards he has reserved for true and sincere piety. Now, if the longer a Christian is afflicted, the more his pious services will be multiplied, and the more they are multiplied, the more his glory at last will be increased—then the longer a saint is afflicted on earth, the more glory he shall have when he comes to heaven. But,
[3.] Thirdly, The longer any saint is afflicted, the more into the image and likeness of Christ he will be transformed. It is one of God's great designs and ends in afflicting of his people, to make them more conformable to his Son; and God will not lose his end. Men often lose theirs—but God never has nor will lose his; and experience tells us that God does every day, by afflictions, accomplish his end upon his people. The longer they are afflicted, the more they are made conformable to Christ in meekness, lowliness, spiritualness, heavenliness, in faith, love, self-denial, pity, compassion, etc. Now certainly, the more like to Christ, the more beloved of Christ. The more a Christian is like to Christ, the more he is the delight of Christ; and the more like to Christ on earth, the nearer the soul shall sit to Christ in heaven. Nothing makes a man more conformable to Christ than afflictions.
Many would wear the crown with Christ, that do not care for bearing the cross with Christ. But,
(8.) Eighthly, Impatience will but lengthen out the day of the sorrows. Every impatient act adds one link more to the chain; every act of frowardness adds one lash more to those that have already been laid out; every act of muttering will but add stroke to stroke, and sting to sting; every act of murmuring will but add burden to burden, and storm to storm. The most compendious way to lengthen out your long afflictions is to fret, and vex, and murmur under them. As you would see a speedy end of your long afflictions, sit mute and silent under them.
(9.) Ninthly, God's time is the best time; mercy is never nearer. Salvation is at hand, deliverance is at the door, when a man's heart is brought into such a frame as to be freely willing that God should time his mercy and time his deliverance for him, Acts 27:13-44. The physician's time is the best time for the patient to have ease. The impatient patient cries out to his physician, Oh! sir, a little ease, a little refreshment! Oh the pains, the tortures, that I am under! Oh, sir, I think every hour two, and every two ten, until comfort comes, until refreshment comes! But the prudent physician has turned the hour-glass, and is resolved that this medicine shall work so long, though his patient frets, flings, roars, tears. So, when we are under afflictions, we are apt to cry out, How long, Lord, shall it be before ease comes, before deliverance comes? Oh the tortures, oh the torments, that we are under! Lord, a little refreshment! Oh how long are these nights! oh how tedious are these days! But God has turned our glass, and he will not hearken to our cry until our glass be out. After all our fretting and flinging, we must wait his time, who knows best when to deliver us, and how to deliver us, out of all our troubles, and who will not stay a moment when the glass is out that he has turned. But,
(10.) Tenthly, and lastly, They shall last no longer than there is need, and then they shall work for your good. It is with souls as it is with bodies; some bodies are more easily and more suddenly cured than others are, and so are some souls. God will not allow the plaster to lie one day, no—not one hour, no—not a moment, longer than there is need. Some flesh heals quickly; proud flesh is long a-healing. By affliction God quickly heals some—but others are long a-healing—1 Pet. 1:6, 'If need be, you are in heaviness, through manifold trials,' or through various afflictions. The burden shall lie no longer upon you than needs must; your pain shall endure no longer than needs must; your illness shall make you no longer sick than needs must, etc. Your heavenly Father is a physician, as wise as he is loving. When your heart begins to grow high—he sees there is need of some heavy affliction to bring it low; when your heart grows cold—he sees there is need of some fiery affliction to heat it and warm it; when your heart grows dull and dead—he sees there is need of some sharp affliction to enliven and quicken it. And as your afflictions shall continue no longer than there is need, so they shall last no longer than they shall work for your good. If all along they shall work for your good, you have no cause to complain that your afflictions are long. That they shall thus work, I have fully proved in the former part of this book. And thus much for answer to the third objection.
Objection 4. I would be mute and silent under my afflictions—but my afflictions daily MULTIPLY and increase upon me; like the waves of the sea, they come rolling over the neck of one another, etc.; and how then can I hold my peace? How can I lay my hand upon my mouth, when the sorrows of my heart are daily increased? To this I answer thus:
(1.) First, Your afflictions are not so many as your sins, Psalm 51:12. Your sins are as the stars of heaven, and as the sand upon the sea, that cannot be numbered. There are three things that no Christian can number—
1. his sins;
2. divine favors;
3. the joys and pleasures which are at Christ's right hand.
But there is no Christian so poor an accountant—but that he may quickly sum up the number of his troubles and afflictions in this world. Your sins, O Christian, are like the Syrians that filled the country—but your afflictions are like the two little flocks of goats which grazed before them, 1 Kings 20:27; therefore remain silent before the Lord.
(2) Secondly, If such should not be mute and silent under their afflictions, whose afflictions are increased and multiplied upon them, there are none in the world who will be found mute and silent under their afflictions—for certainly there are none who do not find the waters of affliction to grow daily upon them. If this be not so, what means the bleating of the sheep, and the lowing of the oxen? 1 Sam. 15:14. What means the daily sighs, groans, and complaints of Christians, if their troubles, like the waters in Ezekiel's sanctuary, be not still increasing upon them? Ezek. 47:1, 20. Every day brings us tidings of new straits, new troubles, new crosses, new losses, new trials, etc.
(3.) Thirdly, Your afflictions are not so many as God MIGHT have exercised you with. God could as easily exercise you with ten as with two, and with a hundred as with ten, and with a thousand as with a hundred. Let your afflictions be ever so many—yet they are not so many as they might have been, had God either consulted with your sins, with your deserts, or with his own justice. There is no comparison between those afflictions which God has inflicted upon you, and those that he might have inflicted. You have not one burden of a thousand that God could have laid on—but he would not; therefore remain silent before the Lord.
(4.) Fourthly, Your afflictions are not so many as your mercies, no, they are not to be named in the day wherein your mercies are spoken of. What are your crosses to your comforts, your miseries to your mercies, your days of sickness to your days of health, your days of weakness to the days of strength, your days of scarcity to your days of plenty? And this is that the wise man would have us seriously to consider—Eccles. 7:14, 'In the day of adversity consider,'—but what must we consider? —'that God has set the one over against the other.' As God has set winter and summer, night and day, fair weather and foul, one over against another; so let us set our present mercies over against our present troubles, and we shall presently find that our mercies exceed our troubles, that they mightily over-balance our present afflictions; therefore let us be silent, let us lay our hands upon our mouths.
(5.) Fifthly, If you cast up a just and righteous account, you will find that they are not so many as the afflictions which have befallen other saints. Have you reckoned up the afflictions which befell Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Asaph, Haman, the prophets and apostles? If you have, you will say that your afflictions are no afflictions, compared to those which have befallen them. Their lives were filled up with sorrows and sufferings—but so are not yours; therefore kiss the rod and be silent. It may be, If you look upon your relations, your friends, your neighbors, you may find many whose afflictions for number and weight do much outweigh yours; therefore be silent, murmur not, hold your peace.
(6.) Sixthly, You have not so many afflictions as attended our Lord Jesus; whose whole life, from the cradle to the cross, was nothing but a life of sufferings. Osorius, writing of the sufferings of Christ, says, That the crown of thorns bored his head with seventy-two wounds. Many seventy-two afflictions did Christ meet with while he was in this world. None can be ignorant of this who have but read the New Testament. He is called 'a man of sorrows;' his whole life was filled up with sorrows. When he was but a little past thirty years of age, sorrows, pains, troubles, oppositions, persecutions, had so worn him, that the Jews judged him to be towards fifty years old, John 8:57. A man were as good compare the number of his bosom friends with the stars of heaven, as compare his afflictions and the afflictions of Christ together.
(7.) Seventhly, Muttering and murmuring will but add to the number. When the child is under the rod, his crying and fretting does but add lash to lash, blow to blow; but of this, enough before.
(8.) Eighthly, and lastly, Though afflictions are many, yet they are not so many as the joys, the pleasures, the delights that are at Christ's right hand. As the pleasures of heaven are matchless and endless, so they, are numberless. Augustine, speaking concerning what we can say of heaven, says that it is but a little drop of the sea, and a little spark of the great furnace. Those good things of eternal life are so many, that they exceed number; so great, that they exceed measure; so precious, that they are above all estimation. Neither Christ nor heaven can be hyperbolised. For every affliction, many thousand joys and delights will attend the saints in a glorified estate. What will that life be, or rather what will not that life be, says one, speaking of heaven, since all good is in such a life; voices and music which time cannot ravish away; fragrances which are never dissipated; a feast which is never consumed; a blessing which eternity bestows—but eternity shall never see at an end. And let this suffice for answer to this fourth objection.
Objection 5. My afflictions are very GREAT, how then can I hold my peace? Though they were many, yet if they were not great, I would be mute—but alas! they are very great. Oh! how can I be silent under them? How can I now lay my hand upon my mouth?
Answer (1.) To this I answer, Though your afflictions are great, yet they are not so great as your sins, yourself being judge; therefore remain silent before the Lord—Ezra 9:13, 'And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespasses, seeing that you our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve.' Those who were under the sense and guilt of great sins—have cause to be silent under their greatest sufferings. Nearer complain that your afflictions are great—until you can say that your sins are not great. It is but justice that great afflictions should attend great sins; therefore be quiet. Your sins are like great rocks and mighty mountains—but your afflictions are not so great; therefore lay your hand upon your mouth. The remembrance of great sins should cool and calm a man's spirit under his greatest troubles; and if the sense of your great sins will not stop your mouth and silence your heart, I know not what will.
(2.) Secondly, It may be your afflictions are not great, if you look upon them with Scripture spectacles, 1 Peter 5:10. Carnal reason many times looks upon molehills as mountains, and scratches upon the hand as stabs at the heart; we make elephants of flies, and of little pigmies we frame giants. Carnal reason often looks upon troubles through false glasses. As there are some glasses that will make great things seem little, so there are others that will make little things seem great, and it may be that you look upon your afflictions through one of them, Isa 54:7, 8. Look upon your afflictions in the glass of the word; look upon them in a Scripture dress, and then they will be found to be but little. He who shall look into a gospel glass, shall be able to say, "Heavy afflictions are light, long afflictions are short, bitter afflictions are sweet, and great afflictions are little." It is good to make a judgment of your afflictions by a gospel light and by a gospel rule. "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Artemon, an engineer, was afraid of his own shadow. Men that look not upon their afflictions in a Scripture dress, will be afraid even of the shadow of trouble, they will cry out, 'No affliction to our affliction, no burden to our burden, no cross to our cross, no loss to our loss!' But one look into a gospel glass would make them change their tune. The lion is not always so great nor so terrible as he is painted; neither are our troubles always so great as we imagine them to be. When Hagar's bottle of water was spent, she sat down and fell a-weeping, as if she had been utterly undone, Gen. 21:17-19; her provision and her patience, her bottle and her hope were both out together. But her affliction was not so great as she imagined, for there was a well of water near, though for a time she saw it not. So many Christians, they eye the empty bottle, the affliction, the burden that is at present upon them, and then they fall a-weeping, a-whining, a-complaining, a-repining, a-murmuring, as if they were utterly undone! And yet a well of water, a well of comfort, a well of refreshment, a well of deliverance is near—and their case is no way so sad, nor so bad as they imagine it to be.
(3.) Thirdly, The greater your afflictions are, the nearer is deliverance to you. When these waters rise high then salvation comes upon the wings; when your troubles are very great, then mercy will ride post to deliver you. Deut. 32:36, 'For the Lord will judge his people and have compassion on his servants when he sees their strength is gone.' Israel of old, and England of late years, has often experienced this truth. Wine was nearest, when the water-pots were filled with water up to the brim, John 2:1-11; so oftentimes mercy is nearest, deliverance is nearest, when our afflictions are at the highest. When a Christian is brim-full of troubles, then the wine of consolation is at hand; therefore hold your peace, murmur not—but sit silent before the Lord.
(4.) Fourthly, Your afflictions are not great, if compared to the glory that shall be revealed, 2 Cor. 4:16-18—Rom. 8:18, 'For I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us—or upon us.' The apostle, upon casting up of his accounts, concludes that all the pains, chains, troubles, trials, and torments which they meet with in this world, was not to be put in the balance with the glory of heaven. As the globe of the earth, which the mathematicians account is many thousands of miles in compass, yet being compared unto the greatness of the starry sky's circumference, is but a small point; so the troubles, afflictions, and sorrows of this life, in comparison with eternal happiness and blessedness, are to be reputed as nothing; they are but as the point of a pin—compared to the starry heavens.
Those who have heard most of the glory of heaven, have not heard one quarter of that which the saints shall find there; that glory is inconceivable and inexpressible! Augustine relates, that the very same day wherein Jerome died, he was in his study, and had got pen, ink, and paper, to write something, of the glory of heaven to Jerome; and suddenly he saw a light breaking into his study, and a sweet smell that came unto him, and this voice he thought he heard—O Augustine! what are you doing? Do you think to put the sea into a little vessel? When the heavens shall cease from their continual motion, then shall you be able to understand what the glory of heaven is—and not before!
Nicephorus speaks of one Agbarus, a great man, that hearing so much of Christ's fame, by reason of the miracles he wrought, sent a painter to take his picture, and that the painter when he came was not able to do it, because of that radiance and divine splendor which sat on Christ s face. Such is the splendor, the brightness, the glory, the happiness, and blessedness—which is reserved for the saints in heaven—that had I all the tongues of men on earth, and all the excellencies of the angels in heaven—yet I would not be able to conceive, nor to express that vision of glory to you! It is best to be hastening there, that we may feel and enjoy that which we shall never be able to declare!
(5.) Fifthly, Your afflictions are not great, if compared with the afflictions and torments of many of the damned, who when they were it this world, never sinned at so high a rate as you have done! Doubtless there are many now in hell, who never sinned against such clear light as you have done, nor against such special love as you have done, nor against such choice means as you have done, nor against such precious mercies as you have done, nor against such singular remedies as you have done. Certainly there are many now a-roaring in everlasting burnings, who never sinned against such deep convictions of conscience as you have done, nor against such close and strong reasonings of the Spirit as you have done, nor against such free offers of mercy and rich tenders of grace as you have done, nor against such sweet wooings and multiplied entreaties of a bleeding dying Savior as you have done; therefore remain silent before the Lord. What are your afflictions, your torments—to the torments of the damned, whose torments are numberless, bottomless, remediless, and endless! Whose pains are without intermission of mitigation; who have weeping served for the first course, and gnashing of teeth for the second course, and the gnawing worm for the third course, and intolerable pain for the fourth course! Yet the pain of the body is but the body of pain; the very soul of sorrow and pain is the soul's sorrow and pain. The everlasting alienation and separation from God is served for the fifth course!
Ah, Christian! how can you seriously think on these things and not lay your hand upon your mouth—even when you are under the greatest sufferings? Your sins have been far greater than many of those who are now in hell, and your 'great' afflictions are but a flea-bite compared to theirs! Therefore hush your murmuring, and be silent before the Lord!
(6.) Sixthly and lastly, If your afflictions are so great; then what madness and folly will it be for you to make them greater by murmuring! Every act of murmuring will but add load unto load, and burden to burden. The Israelites under great afflictions fell a-murmuring, and their murmuring proved their utter ruin, as you may see in that Num. 14. Murmuring will but put God upon heating the furnace seven times hotter; therefore remain silent before the Lord! 1 Cor. 10:1l. But of this I have spoken sufficiently already.
Object. 6. Oh! but MY afflictions are greater than other men's afflictions are; and how then can I be silent? Oh! there is no affliction like my affliction! How can I not murmur? I answer,
(1.) First, It may be your sins are greater than other men's sins, Jer. 3:6-12. If you have sinned against more light, more love, more mercies, more experiences, more promises, than others—no wonder if your afflictions are greater than others! If this be your case, you have more cause to be mute than to murmur; and certainly, if you do but seriously look into the black book of your conscience, you will find greater sins there than any you can charge upon any person or people on earth! If you should not, I think you would justly incur the censure which that sour philosopher passed upon grammarians, that is—that they were better acquainted with the evils of Ulysses than with their own. Never complain that your afflictions are greater than others', except you can evidence that your sins are lesser than others.
(2.) Secondly, It may be you are under some present mental distemper, which disenables you to make a right judgment of the different dealings of God with yourself and others. When the mind is distempered, and the brain troubled, many things seem to be that are not; and then little things seem very great. Oh! the strange passions, the strange imaginations, the strange conclusions, that attend a distempered judgment! I have read of a foolish emperor, who, to show the greatness of his city, made show of many spiders.
When the mind is disturbed, men many times say they know not that, and do they know not what. It may be, when these clouds are blown over, and your mind cleared, and your judgment settled, you will be of another opinion. The supplicant woman appealed from drunken king Philip—to sober king Philip. It is good to appeal from a distempered mind to a clear composed mind, for that is the way to make a righteous judgement of all the righteous dispensations of God, both towards ourselves and towards others.
(3.) Thirdly, It may be that the Lord sees that it is very needful that your afflictions should be greater than others. It may be your heart is harder than other men's hearts, and prouder and stouter than other men's hearts, it may be your heart is more impure than others, and more carnal than others, or else more selfish and more worldly than others, or else more deceitful and more hypocritical than others, or else more cold and careless than others, or more formal and lukewarm than others. Now, if this is your case, certainly God sees it very necessary, for the breaking of your hard heart, and the humbling of your proud heart, and the cleansing of your foul heart, and the spiritualizing of your carnal heart, etc., that your afflictions should be greater than others; and therefore do not murmur.
Where the disease is strong, the remedy must be strong—else the cure will never be wrought. God is a wise physician, and he would never give strong medicine if a weaker one could effect the cure, Jer. 30:11, and 46:28; Isaiah 27:8. The more rusty the nail is, the oftener we put it into the fire to purify it; and the more crooked it is, the more blows and the harder blows we give to straighten it. You have been long a-gathering rust; and therefore, if God deal thus with you, you have no cause to complain.
(4.) Fourthly, Though your afflictions are greater than this and that particular man's afflictions, yet doubtless there are many thousands in the world whose afflictions are greater than yours. Can you seriously consider the sore calamities and miseries that the devouring sword has brought upon many thousand Christians in foreign parts—and say that your afflictions are greater than theirs? Surely not! Pliny, in his Natural History, writes that the nature of the basilisk is to kill all trees and shrubs it breathes upon, and to scorch and burn all herbs and grass it passes over. Such are the dismal effects of war. The sword knows no difference between the godly and the ungodly, between the innocent and the guilty, between young and old, between bond and free, between male and female, between the precious and the vile, between the prince and the subject, between the nobleman and the beggar. The sword eats the flesh and drinks the blood of all sorts of people, without putting any difference between one or the other. The poor Christians in Poland, Denmark, Germany, and several other parts, have found it so; many of their wounds are not healed to this day. Who can retain in his fresh and bleeding memory the dreadful work that the sword of war has made in this nation, and not say, Surely many thousands have been greater sufferers than myself; they have resisted unto blood—but so have not I, Heb. 12:4. But,
(5.) Fifthly, As your afflictions are greater than other men's—so it may be your MERCIES are greater than other men's mercies; and if so, you have no cause to complain—but to remain silent before the Lord. As Job's afflictions were greater than other men's, so his mercies were greater than other men's; and Job wisely sets one against another, and then lays his hand upon his mouth, Job 1:21, 22. It may be you have had more health than others, and more strength than others, and more prosperity than others, and more smiling providences than others, and more good days than others, and more sweet and comfortable relations than others; and if this be your case, you have much cause to be mute, you have no cause to murmur. If now your winter nights are longer than others, remember your summer days have formerly been longer than others; and therefore remain silent before the Lord. But,
(6.) Sixthly and lastly, By great afflictions the Lord may greaten your graces, and greaten your name and fame in the world, James 5:10, 11. By Job's great afflictions, God did greaten his faith, and greaten his patience, and greaten his integrity, and greaten his wisdom and knowledge, and greaten his experience, and greaten his name and fame in the world—as you all know who have but read his book. Bonds and afflictions waited on Paul in every city, Acts 20:23, 2 Cor. 11; his afflictions and sufferings were very great—but by them the Lord greatened his spirit, his zeal, his courage, his confidence, his resolution, and his name and fame, both among sinners and saints. Certainly, if you are dear to Christ, he will greaten you in spirituals—by all the great afflictions which are upon you; he will raise your faith, and inflame your love, and quicken your hope, and brighten your zeal, and perfect your patience, and perfume your name, and make it like a precious ointment, 'like a precious ointment poured forth', Prov. 22:1, Eccles. 7:1; so that good men shall say, and bad men shall say, 'Lo, here is a Christian indeed! Here is a man more worth than the gold of Ophir!' Therefore, remain silent before the Lord, though your afflictions are greater than others.
Object. 7. I would be silent—but my outward affliction is attended with sore TEMPTATIONS; God has not only outwardly afflicted me—but Satan is let loose to buffet me; and therefore how can I be silent? how can I hold my peace, now I am fallen under manifold temptations? To this I answer:
(1.) First, No man is the less loved by God, because he is tempted. No! Those whom God loves best—are usually tempted most, Eph. 6:12. Witness David, Job, Joshua, Peter, Paul, yes, Christ himself—who, as he was beloved above all others, so he was tempted above all others! He was tempted to question his Sonship; he was tempted to the worst idolatry, even to worship the devil himself; to the greatest infidelity, to distrust his Father's providence, and to use unlawful means for necessary supplies; and to self-murder, 'Cast yourself down,' etc.
Those who were once glorious on earth, and are now triumphing in heaven—have been severely tempted and assaulted by Satan. It is as natural and common for the choicest saints to be tempted—as it is for the sun to shine, the bird to fly, the fire to burn. The eagle complains not of her wings, nor the peacock of her train of feathers, nor the nightingale of her voice—because these are natural to them. No more should saints of their temptations, because they are natural to them. Our whole life, says Augustine, is nothing but a temptation; the best men have been the worst tempted; therefore, remain silent before the Lord.
(2.) Secondly, Temptations which are resisted and bewailed—will never hurt you, nor harm you. Distasteful temptations seldom or never prevail. So long as the soul distastes them and the will remains firmly averse against them—they can do no hurt. So long as the language of the soul is, 'Get behind me, Satan!' Mat. 16:23, the soul is safe. It is not Satan tempting—but my assenting; it is not his enticing—but my yielding; which undoes me. Temptations may be troubles to my mind—but they are not sins upon my soul—while I am in arms against them. If your heart trembles and your flesh quakes when Satan tempts—your condition is safe enough. If Satan's temptations are your greatest afflictions—his temptations shall never conquer you nor harm you. Therefore, if this be your case, remain silent before the Lord.
(3.) Thirdly, Temptations are rather hopeful evidences that your estate is good, that you are dear to God, and that it shall go well with you forever, than otherwise. God had but one Son without corruption—but he had none without temptation, Heb. 2:17, 18. Pirates make the fiercest assaults upon those vessels which are most richly laden; so does Satan upon those souls that are most richly laden with the treasures of grace, with the riches of glory. Pirates let empty vessels pass and repass, without assaulting them; so does Satan let souls that are empty of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, of grace, pass and repass without tempting or assaulting of them. When nothing will satisfy the soul—but a full departure out of Egypt, from the bondage and slavery of sin, and that the soul is firmly resolved upon a march for Canaan; then Satan, Pharaoh-like, will furiously pursue after the soul with horses and chariots, that is—with a whole army of temptations Exod. 14:9.
Well! a tempted soul when it is worst with him, may safely argue thus—"If God were not my friend, Satan would not be so much my enemy; if there were not something of God within me, Satan would never make such attempts to storm me; if the love of God were not set upon me, Satan would never shoot so many fiery darts to wound me; if the heart of God were not towards me, the hand of Satan would not be so strong against me." When Beza was tempted, he made this answer, "Whatever I was, Satan, I am now 'in Christ a new creature', and that is it which troubles you; now I see that you envy me the grace of my Savior."
Satan's malice to tempt, is no sufficient ground for a Christian to dispute God's love and acceptance upon. If it were, there is no saint on earth that would quietly possess divine favor a week, a day, an hour. The jailer is quiet, when his prisoner is in bolts—but if he has escaped, then he pursues him with haste and furry. You knew how to apply it. Men do not hate the picture of a toad; the wolf does not pounce upon a painted sheep; no more does Satan much disturb those he has in chains! Therefore remain silent before the Lord, though you are inwardly tempted, as well as outwardly afflicted.
(4.) Fourthly, While Satan is tempting of you, Christ in the court of glory is interceding for you—Luke 22:31, 32, 'And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he no sift you as wheat—but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not!' Satan would gladly have been shaking of him up and down, as wheat is shaken in a sieve; but Christ's intercession frustrates Satan's designed temptations. Whenever Satan stands at our elbow to tempt us—Christ stands at his Father's to intercede for us! "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them!" Hebrews 7:25.
Some think that Christ intercedes only by virtue of his merits; others think that it is done only with his mouth; probably it may be done both ways. Is it likely, that that mouth which pled for us on earth, (John 17) should be altogether silent for us in heaven? Christ is a person of highest honor; he is the greatest favorite in the court of heaven; he always stands between us and danger. If there be any evil plotted or designed against us by Satan, the great accuser of the brethren—Christ foresees it, and by his intercession prevents it. When Satan puts in his pleas and commences suit upon suit against us, Christ still undertakes our cause; he answers all his pleas, and non-suits Satan at every turn; and in despite of hell he preserves us in divine favor.
When Satan pleads, 'Lord! here are such and such sins that your children have committed! and here are such and such duties which they have omitted! and here are such and such mercies which they have not improved! and here are such and such ordinances which they have slighted! and here are such and such motions of the Spirit which they have quenched!' Divine justice answers, 'All this is true—but Christ has appeared on their behalf; he has pleaded their cause; be has fully and fairly answered whatever has been objected and given complete satisfaction to the utmost farthing! So there is no accusation nor condemnation which can stand in force against them!' "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us!" Romans 8:33-34
Christ's intercession should be the soul's anchor-hold in time of temptation. In the day of your temptation you need not be overly troubled or disturbed—but in peace and patience possess your own soul; considering what a friend you have in the court of glory, and how he is most active for you—when Satan is most busy in tempting of you.
(5.) Fifthly and lastly, All temptations that the saints meet with, shall work much for their good; they shall be much for their gain. The profit and advantage that will redound to tempted souls by all their temptations is very great, Rom. viii 28, Lam. 1:12. Now this will appear to be a most certain truth, by an induction of particulars thus:
[1.] First, By temptations God multiples and increases his children's spiritual experiences, the increase of which is better than the increase of gold. In the school of temptation, God gives his children the greatest experience of his power supporting them, of his word comforting of them, of his mercy warming of them, of his wisdom counseling of them, of his faithfulness joying of them, and of his grace strengthening of them—2 Cor. 12:9, 'My grace shall be sufficient for you.' Paul never experienced so deeply what almighty power was, what the everlasting arms of mercy were, and what infinite grace and goodness was—as when he was under the buffetings of Satan.
[2.] Secondly, All their temptations shall be medicinal; their temptations shall be happy preventions of great abominations—2 Cor. 12:7, 'Lest I should be exalted, lest I should be exalted.' It is twice in that one verse; he begins with it, and he ends with it. If he had not been buffeted, he might have been more proud in his own conceit than he was before in his ecstasy. Ah, tempted souls! you say you are nothing, very nothing—but had it not been for the school of temptation, you might have been stark nothing before this time! You say you are sick, you are even sick to death. Why, your sickness had before this time killed you, had not temptations been medicinals to you. You are bad under temptations; but doubtless you would have been much worse had not God made temptation medicinal to you.
[3.] Thirdly, Temptation shall much promote the exercise of grace. As the spring in the watch sets all the wheels a-going, and as Solomon's virtuous woman set all her maidens to work—so temptation sets faith to work, and love on work, and repentance to work, and hope to work, and holy fear to work, and godly sorrow to work! As the wind sets the mill to work—so the wind of temptations sets the graces of the saints a-going. Now faith runs to Christ, now it hugs a promise, now it pleads the blood of Christ, now it looks to the recompense of reward, now it takes the sword of the Spirit! Now love cleaves to Christ, now love hangs upon Christ, now love will fight it out to the death for Christ! Now hope flies to the horns of the sanctuary, now hope puts on her helmet, now hope casts her anchor upon that which is within the veil! Grace is never more active, than when a Christian is most tempted.
Satan made a bow of Job's wife; and shot a temptation by her at Job, thinking to have shot him to the heart—'Curse God, and die!' But the activity of Job's graces was a breastplate which made him temptation-proof. The devil, tempting Bonaventure, told him he was a reprobate, and therefore persuaded him to drink in the present pleasures of this life; for, said he, you are excluded from the future joys with God in heaven. Bonaventure's graces being active, he answered, No! Not so, Satan—if I must not enjoy God after this life, let me enjoy him as much as I can in this life.
[4.] Fourthly, By temptations the Lord will make you the more serviceable and useful to others. None so fit and able to relieve tempted souls, to sympathize with tempted souls, to support tempted souls, to counsel tempted souls, to pity tempted souls, to nourish tempted souls, to bear with tempted souls, and to comfort tempted souls—as those who have been in the school of temptations! "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
By temptations God trains up his servants, and fits and capacitates them to support and shelter their fellow-brethren. One tempted Christian, says Luther, is more profitable and useful to other Christians than a hundred—I may add, than a thousand—who have not known the depths of Satan—who have not been in the school of temptation. He who is a master of arts in the school of temptation has learned an art to comfort, to support, and gently to handle tempted and distressed souls, infinitely beyond what all human arts can reach unto. No doctor to him that has been a doctor in the school of temptation; all other doctors are but illiterate dunces compared to him.
[5.] Fifthly, It is an honor to the saints to be tempted, and in the outcome to have an honorable conquest over over the tempter. It was a great honor to David that he should be put to fight hand to hand with Goliath, and in the outcome to overcome him, 1 Sam. 17; but it was far greater honor to Job and Paul, that they should be put to combat in the open field with Satan himself, and in the end to gain a famous conquest over him, as they did, Job 1; 2 Cor. 12:7-10. It was a very great honor to David's three mighty men, that in jeopardy of their lives they broke through the army of the Philistines, to bring water to David out of the well of Bethlehem, and did effect it in spite of all the strength and power of their enemies, though it were to the extremest hazard of their blood and lives, 2 Sam. 23:13-18; but it is a far greater honor to the saints to be furnished with a spirit of strength, courage, and valor, to break through an army of temptations, and in the end to triumph over them! Rom. 8:13-18. And yet this honor have all the saints—1 Cor. 10:13, 'But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.' Rom. 16:20, 'And the God of peace shall tread Satan under your feet shortly.' 1 John 2:14, 'I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.' 1 John 5:18, 'We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin'—nor does he sin as other men do—delightfully, greedily, customarily, resolvedly, impenitently, etc. 'But he who is begotten of God keeps himself, and the evil one cannot harm him.'
The glorious victory that the people of God had over Pharaoh and his great army, Exod. 14, was a figure of the glorious victory that the saints shall obtain over Satan and his instruments, which is clear from Rev. 15:3, where we have the song of Moses and of the Lamb. But why the song of Moses and of the Lamb—but to hint this to us, that the overthrow of Pharaoh was a figure of the overthrow of Satan? And the triumphal song of Moses was a figure of that song which the saints shall sing for their overthrow of Satan. As certainly as Israel overcame Pharaoh, so certainly shall every true Israelite overcome Satan. The Romans were beaten in many minor skirmishes, but never were overcome in a set war; in the long run they overcame all their enemies. Though a Christian may lie beaten by Satan in some particular skirmishes, yet at the long run he is sure of an honorable conquest. God puts a great deal of honor upon a poor soul when he brings him into the open field to fight it out with Satan. By fighting, he overcomes, he gains the victory, he triumphs over Satan, and leads captivity captive. Augustine gives this reason why God permitted Adam at first to be tempted, that is—that he might have had the more glory in resisting and withstanding Satan's temptation. It is the glory of a Christian to be made strong to resist, and to have his resistance crowned with a happy conquest.
[6.] Sixthly, By temptations the Lord will make his people more frequent and more abundant in the work of prayer. Every temptation proves a strong alarm to prayer. When Paul was in the school of temptation, he prayed thrice, that is, often, 1 Cor. 12:8, 9. Days of temptation—are days of great supplication. Christians usually pray most—when they are tempted most. They are most busy with God—when Satan is most busy with them. A Christian is most upon his knees—when Satan stands most at his elbow.
Augustine was a man much tempted—and a man much in prayer. Holy prayer, says he, is a shelter to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to the devil.
Luther was a man under manifold temptations, and a man much in prayer. He is said to have spent three hours every day in prayer. He used to say that prayer was the best book in his study.
Chrysostom was much in the school of temptation, and delighted much in prayer. Oh! says he, it is more bitter than death to be spoiled of prayer, and hereupon, as he observes, Daniel chose rather to run the hazard of his life than to lose his prayer. But,
[7.] Seventhly, By temptations the Lord will make his people more and more conformable to the image of his Son. Christ was much tempted, he was often in the school of temptation; and the more a Christian is tempted, the more into the likeness of Christ he will be transformed. Of all men in the world, tempted souls do most resemble Christ to the life, in meekness, lowliness, holiness, heavenliness, etc. The image of Christ is most fairly stamped upon tempted souls. Tempted souls are much in looking up to Jesus—and every gracious look upon Christ changes the soul more and more into the image of Christ. Tempted souls experience much of the succouring of Christ, and the more they experience the sweet of the succourings of Christ—the more they grow up into the likeness of Christ. Temptations are the tools by which the Father does more and more carve, form, and fashion his precious saints into the similitude and likeness of his dearest Son.
[8.] Eighthly and lastly, take many things in one; by temptations, God makes sin more hateful, and the world less delightful, and relations less hurtful. By temptations, God discovers to us our own weakness and the creature's insufficiency in the hour of temptation to help us or support us. By temptations, God will brighten our Christian armor, and make us stand more upon our Christian watch, and keep us closer to a succouring Christ. By temptations, the Lord will make his ordinances to be more highly prized, and heaven to be more earnestly desired. Now seeing that temptations shall work so eminently for the saints' good, why should not Christians be mute and silent? why should they not hold their peace, and lay their hands upon their mouths, though their afflictions are attended with great temptations?