The Privy Key of Heaven

(A Discourse of Closet Prayer)

by Thomas Brooks, published during
the awful plague of London in 1665.

Twenty special lessons which you are to learn by the rod

"The Lord's voice cries unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall hear your name: hear the rod, and him who has appointed it." Micah 6:9

The second thing I am to do, is to show you those special lessons that you are to learn by the rod, or if you please, by the raging pestilence which is now in England. Now they are these,

(1.) The first lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is, to know what the particular message or errand is, which the rod has to deliver to you in the day of your distress and trouble. Your first work is to do as David did, in 2 Sam 21:1. He humbly inquires of the Lord to know the particular reason why he sent a famine among them. You must do as Job does: Job 10:2, "Show me, O Lord, why you contend with me." Job would sincerely know the reason of the controversy between God and him. One well observes on the text, "that Job was very desirous to know whether God afflicted him for sin or for trial—not to satisfy his curiosity—but his conscience." Elihu's counsel to Job must here take place: Job 34:31-32, "Surely it is fit to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more. That which I see not, teach me; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more." Job it seems was yet in the dark as to the particular cause or reason why the Lord had so grievously afflicted him; and therefore he is very importunate with God that he would graciously point out the sin for which he had so sorely smitten him. Your proceedings, says Job, to my understanding seem to be very strange and severe. I am more afflicted than others, and yet I do not know wherein I have sinned more than others; why I should be so condemned; why you are so hot against me, and why you have multiplied so many unheard of miseries against me; and why you have so greatly subjected me to the saddest and sourest censures of others—as if I were the worst of sinners and the basest of hypocrites. I know not; and therefore, O Lord! I humbly desire that you would not deal with me according to your absolute power—but let me know the true grounds and causes of all my heavy sorrows and miseries.

And so he is at it again, in that Job 13:23, "How many are my iniquities and sins! make me to know my transgression and my sin." My plagues, O Lord! are unparalleled; if my sins are such, let me know it, says Job. My calamities transcend the calamities of all others; if my sins do so, let them not be hidden from my eyes, O Lord! My load, O Lord! is heavier than others; and therefore if my sins are greater than others, let me see them, let me understand them. Infirmities and weaknesses, I confess, do hang upon me; they are inherent in me, and they do too often issue and flow from me. But as for enormities or wickednesses, neither my censorious friends, nor yet my worst enemies, no, nor yet my own conscience, will ever be able to make any just or clear proof against me. O Lord! I have many spots upon me—but if there are any upon me which are not the spots of your people, let me see them, let me know them, that I may abhor myself, and justify you, and that I may say my friends are righteous in their censures, and I have done wickedly before the Lord.

Sometimes afflictions are sent only for trial and instruction, and not at all for sin. This is evident in the case of Job, and in the case of the blind man, whose afflictions, though they were very great and grievous—yet were they not for sin but for trial, John 9:1, et seq.

Now, though this is true—yet it must be granted that commonly sin is the meritorious cause, the procuring cause, of all afflictions, Mic 1:5-10, Amos 2:4-6. Sin ordinarily is the original foundation of all our troubles and chastisements: "If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging; but I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness." Psalm 89:30-33. "Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me," declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty." Jeremiah 2:19. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Amos 3:2

Question. But what course must we take? what means must we use, to find out that particular sin, for which God corrects us, or which has brought the rod upon us?

Answer 1. Observe what that sin is—which your conscience does most upbraid you with, and check you for. Conscience is God's preacher in the bosom, Gen 42:21; Gen 50:15-17. Now, observe what that particular sin is, which conscience does most sharply and roundly correct and chastise you for; for it is ten to one—but that is the sin which has brought the rod upon you. The voice of conscience, and the voice of the rod, do usually echo one to another. It is very rare to find a difference between the language of conscience and the language of the rod. Conscience is God's deputy, God's spy, God's secretary, God's viceroy; and therefore do not despise the voice of conscience, do not turn off conscience, as Felix turned off Paul, Acts 24:25. If the secret cry of conscience is, "Oh, this is for your pride, or this is for your lust, or this is for your self-love, or this is for your earthliness, or this is for your carnalness, or this is for your hypocrisy, or this is for your formality, etc.," it will be your wisdom to apply to the secret cry of conscience. But,

Answer 2. Secondly, Seriously observe what that sin is—which your soul would have spared above all, which your soul is most unwilling to leave, and bid an everlasting farewell to. Observe what your right hand sin, your bosom sin, your constitutional sin, your complexion sin, is; for it is a hundred to one but that God has sent the rod for the subduing of that very sin, Mic 6:6-7; Esther 5:13. Commonly by the rod God points at the mortifying of that particular sin to which the heart stands most strongly inclined. But,

Answer 3. Thirdly, Observe what that sin is, which does most maim and mar your confidence and boldness in all your addresses and approaches to God. 1 John 3:20-21; for doubtless that is the sin which God would subdue and bring under by the rod. But,

Answer 4. Fourthly, Observe what the affliction, what the pain, what the disease, what the punishment is—which you are under; for sometimes a person may run and read his sin in his very punishment. Judg 1:7, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them." Now shall Adonibezek, a heathen prince, run and read his sin in his punishment; and shall not a Christian much more? Shall not grace do as much as blind human nature? Look, as a man may sometimes guess at the disease of the patient, by the prudent observing of the physician's bill; so may he sometimes guess at the particular sin that God would have destroyed, by the punishment which is inflicted. God usually, sooner or later, meets with men, and pays them home in their own coin.

Is the judgment shame? Then the sin was pride, Hos 2:8-9. Is the judgment poverty, famine? Then the sin was abuse of abundance. Is the judgment oppression? Then the sin was unmercifulness. Is the judgment loss of children? Then the sin was inordinate love to them. Eli and David were too indulgent to their children; and therefore they were punished in them and by them. Is the judgment sickness or lack of health? Then the sin was either the abuse of health, or the non-improvement of health. Is the judgment a famine of the word? Then the sin was slighting and loathing of the word. Is the judgment war? Then the sin was abuse of peace. Is the judgment a blind, carnal, profane, formal, selfish, superstitious clergy? Then the sin has been slighting, neglecting, undervaluing, and despising an able, knowing, zealous, spiritual, and powerful ministry. Is the judgment a worshiping of God in a lazy, dry, dull, dead, formal, customary way, according to the inventions and traditions of men? Then the sin has been men's not worshiping of God in spirit and in truth, and with that zeal, spirit, life, warmth, and fervency as he requires, John 4:23-24; Rom 12:11. Is the judgment the breaking of the communion of God's people, and scattering of them into holes and corners, as it was in Ahab's, and Jezebel's, and Gideon's days? Judg 6:1-5. Then doubtless the sin has been a slighting, undervaluing, neglecting, or forsaking of Christian communion, or else a non-improvement of Christian communion. But,

Answer 5. Fifthly, Observe whether you have not been very faulty towards others, in the very things which you now suffer yourselves. Do others wrong you in your names, estates, relations, callings, dealings, etc.? Lay your hands upon your hearts, and ask them whether you have never wronged others, as others now wrong you, Isa 33:1; Rev 13:10; James 2:10; Gen 50:15-17. Do others rashly judge you, and bitterly censure you, and falsely accuse you, and unjustly condemn you? If they do, reflect upon your former behavior towards others. And if you must plead guilty, throw the first stone at yourselves, and say with Adonibezek, "As I have done, so God has requited me." Let every lash of God upon you, put you in mind of your deportment towards others, when God has given them gall and wormwood to drink, Matt 7:1-2. But,

Answer 6. Sixthly, Observe what that sin is—which you cannot endure should be touched, or reproved, or spoken against. Prov 1:25,30; Prov 12:1; Prov 17:10; Prov 9:8; Prov 15:12. Ah! how proud, how impatient, how passionate, how mad are many—when you come to touch their right-eye sin. When you come to touch them in the tender part, oh! then they fume, and swell, and rage, and carry on like men and women out of their wits; as you may see in the scribes and pharisees, who were so angry and mad with Christ that they sought his death; and all because he was still a-pointing at the toads in their bosoms; namely, pride, vainglory, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness. Oh! they could not endure that the sharp razor of reproof should come near their sorest part.

Certainly that Christian must be under a very high distemper, who cannot but smite a righteous man with reproach for smiting him with a reproof. Though gracious reproofs are choice remedy—yet few stomachs can bear them. Most Christians are for lenitives, few are for corrosives. David was glad of a healing reproof—but there are but few Davids alive, Psalm 141:5. Who is angry with the physician for prescribing a bitter medicine? And yet, ah! how angry are many Christians when they come to fall under holy reproofs, especially if there is any of that sharpness and cuttingness in them, which the apostle exhorts to in that Titus 1:13. Now, doubtless, the voice of the rod is this, 'Soul! take heed of that sin which you cannot endure should be touched. Labor mightily with God to get that particular sin mortified, which you cannot endure should be reproved." But,

Answer 7. Seventhly, Observe what sin that is—which most hinders you from living upon precious promises, and from improving of precious promises, and from treasuring up of precious promises, and from appropriating of precious promises to your own soul, Psalm 50:16-17. And it is very probable that, for the subduing of that particular sin, the Lord has visited you with his fatherly rod. But,

Answer 8. Eighthly, Observe what sin that is—which did most sting and terrify you in an evil day, as when you past been under some loathsome disease or tormenting pain, Gen 42:21; be it stone, gout, or burning fever, or when you have been in some imminent danger, or when you have had a sentence of death upon you, and there has been but a short step between you and eternity. Doubtless that sin, which has lain as a heavy load upon your conscience in the days of your former distress—that is the sin which God would have conquered and brought under by his present rod. But,

Answer 9. Ninthly, Observe what particular sin is—which does most hinder you in holy duties and services, and which does most interrupt you in your communion with God. Inquire what particular sin that is, which your heart is most apt to run after, when you are on the mount of holy duties, Ezek 33:31. While the disciples were healing diseases and casting out demons, the proud white devil was a-stirring in their own souls, as is evident by that gentle rebuke which our Savior gives them in Luke 10:20, "Don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you." There is no pious duty which a Christian performs—but one white devil or another—one lust or another—will be still dogging and following of him to that duty. There is no public duty, there is no family duty, there is no private duty which a Christian performs—but either that white devil pride, or that white devil hypocrisy, or that white devil vainglory, or else some one or another white devil will follow the soul, near at heel to it. Now, mark what that particular sin is that most haunts your soul when you are in pious duties and services; and it perhaps that is the very sin which God would have subdued by the rod. But,

Answer 10. Tenthly, Observe what sin that is—which the rest of your corruptions are most serviceable to, and which they most attend upon. Mark what sin that is, which all other sins do most bow the knee to. Mark that sin which has a commanding power over all other sins; which says to one 'Go' and he goes, and to another 'Come' and he comes. Mark what sin that is, which is still uppermost, and which all other sins do most serve. You know when a man has a great wound in his body, all the ill humours will run there. Observe what sin that is, which all the ill humours of the soul do most run after; for it is very likely that that is the very sin that God would have brought under by the rod. But,

Answer 11. Eleventhly, Observe what that sin is—which your hearts are most apt to hide and cloak, and cover over with the most specious and fair pretenses. Saul had a covetous desire, and he covers it over with the fair pretenses that the people would have it so; and that what was spared, was for sacrifice to God, 1 Sam 15:20-21. Caesar's favor was the great darling in Pilate's eyes—but he covers all over with washing his hands, Matt 27:24. The scribes and pharisees were exceeding covetous—but their long prayers, as a cloak, must cover all, Matt 23. Judas also was a man of the same mind and mettle with them: "Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and kept the money bag, and stole what was put therein. Matt 26:8-9; John 12:5-6. Judas, as Tertullian thinks, was pretty honest until he carried the bag; but no sooner was he in office—but he puts conscience out of office—but all must be covered over with a cloak of charity. Observe what sin that is, which you are most apt to cast the silk or the satin mantle over; and it is ten to one but that is the sin that God would have brought under by the rod. But,

Answer 12. Twelfthly and lastly, Observe what that sin is—which you are most easily overcome by. Samson was easily overcome by Delilah; when all the world besides could make no conquest upon him. The apostle bids us "lay aside the sin that does so easily besets us," Heb 12:1. There are some sins that find more easy approaches to us, and more easy acceptance with us, and accordingly they do more easily captivate us. Observe what that sin is, which you do most readily and easily open the door to; and doubtless that is the sin that God would have mortified and subdued by the rod.

(2.) The second lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—deeply to judge yourselves and greatly to humble your souls, for those particular sins which have brought the rod upon you. Thus David did in that 2 Sam 24:10,17. When you have found out the Achan which has brought the rod upon you, stone him to death! and lie humble and low under the rod, and then the Almighty will be graciously pacified and sweetly reconciled unto you.

(3.) The third lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—to view the rod on every side. If there are briars on one side of the rod, there is rosemary on the other side of the rod; if there be wormwood and gall at one end of the rod, there is sweet honey at the other end of the rod—as there was at the top of Jonathan's rod, 1 Sam 14:43.

If we should come into a painter's shop, and see a picture half drawn, it might trouble us and startle us, if it did not fright us and amaze us; but yet, when the picture is perfected, completed, and finished—it may prove a very beauteous, lovely, breath-taking piece. The application is easy. Look! as every judgment, every affliction, every rod, has its black, dark side; so every judgment, every affliction, has its bright side too. Now, it is the wisdom of a Christian to look on the bright side of the rod, as well as it is his work to look on the dark side of the rod. When a Christian looks upon the dark side of the cloud, he should be humbled and abased; but when he looks upon the bright side of the cloud, he should be comforted and cheered, James 5:11. He who is still a-looking on the briary side of the rod, will be very apt to fret and faint under the rod; but he who looks on the rosemary side of the rod, as well as the briary side of the rod—he will bear up patiently, gallantly, and cheerfully under the rod. The voice of the rod is, "Look on both sides, look on both sides!" But,

(4.) The fourth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—to look on the rod in conjunction with the HAND which holds it. Thus Hezekiah did, 2 Kings 20:16-19; thus Aaron did, Lev 10:1-3; thus Eli did, 1 Sam 3:11-19; thus David did, Psalm 39:9; thus Job did, Job 1:20-22; yes, and thus Jesus did, John 18:11, "Shall I not drink the cup that my Father has given me to drink?" Though the cup was a bitter cup, a bloody cup—yet seeing it was put into his hand by his Father, he drinks it off, with a "Father, I thank you." The rod in itself brings nothing but pain to the child; but the rod in the hand of a Father brings nothing but love, kindness, and sweetness. Rev 3:19, "Whom he loves, he chastens." You should never look upon the rod of affliction, but as it is in the hand of your heavenly Father, and then you will kiss it, rather than murmur under it! But,

(5.) The fifth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is to cleave and cling close to God under the rod. Oh how does the child cling and hang upon his father when he takes up the rod. Let such a child-like spirit be found in you, when the Father of spirits takes up the rod. When the rod was upon David's back, oh how does he cleave to God, even as the wife cleaves to her husband; "My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." Psalm 63:8. So when Job was under the rod, oh how does he cling about God! Job 13:15, "Though he slays me—yet will I trust in him." Job will hang upon a killing God; so the church in that Psalm 80:15-18, etc.; so those hundred forty and four thousand who had their fathers' names written in their foreheads, Rev 14:1-6. O friends! you never show so much child-like love, nor so much child-like sincerity, nor so much child-like integrity—as you show when, under the smarting rod, you are found clinging close to the Lord, and hanging upon the Lord by an exercise of grace.

When Antisthenes held up his staff, as if he intended to beat one of his scholars out of his school, the scholar told him "that he might strike him if he pleased—but he would never find a staff of so hard wood as should ever be able to beat him away." When no staff, no rod, no affliction, can drive us from Christ—it is a sure argument that we have profited much in the school of Christ. But,

(6.) The sixth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—to PREPARE to meet the Lord while the rod is in his hand: Amos 4:12, "Therefore thus will I do unto you, O Israel: and because I will do this unto you—prepare to meet your God, O Israel." Now there is a TWOFOLD PREPARATION.

[1.] The first is a negative preparation: and this lies in taking heed of sinning against light and conscience; for those sins which are against a clear light and an awakened conscience, are most wounding, devastating, terrifying, and damning.

[2.] Secondly, There is a positive preparation: and that consists in repentance and returning to the Lord, and in abasing and humbling yourselves before the Almighty, 2 Chron 7:14. As there is no running from God, so there is no contending with God; for what is the chaff to the whirlwind, or the stubble to a consuming fire? and therefore the voice of the rod is, "Prepare to meet the Lord in a way of faith and repentance; prepare to meet the Lord in an exercise of grace; prepare to meet the Lord with prayers, and tears, and strong cries." But,

(7.) The seventh lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—to acknowledge God's sovereign power and authority over the rod—to break it, or burn it, or take it off, or lay it on--as He pleases., Mic 6:13, Deut 28:58-61. "See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand." Deuteronomy 32:39. All diseases and sicknesses are under the command of God; they are all his sergeants, his servants, to execute his pleasure.

"When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering." Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him." The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." Matthew 8:5-10. But wherein did the greatness of the centurion's faith appear? Why, in this very acknowledgment, that all diseases were to Christ as servants, and that they were as much under the command of Jesus Christ, as any servant is under the command of his master. When Christ bids diseases—'go and afflict such a man,' they go; 'go and torment such a man,' they go; 'go and kill such a man,' they go. When He calls them off--they come off at His call. Dear friends, it is a very great point of faith to believe these five things.

[1.] First, That God is the author of all the diseases, maladies, and sicknesses that are in the world; and that he sets them on and calls them off at his own good will and pleasure: Amos 3:6, "When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?" He speaks of the evil of punishment, and not of the evil of sin. It was a mad principle among the Manichees, who referred all calamities to the devil for their author, as if there could be evil in the city, and the Lord have no hand in it.

[2.] Secondly, It is a great point of faith to believe that all diseases and sicknesses are limited by God, in respect of PLACES. God sent diseases of all sorts into Egypt—but he forbade them Goshen, Exod 8:20-23; Exod 9:23-26. Ponder seriously upon these scriptures. God's shooting his arrows into one town and not into another, into one city and not into another, into one kingdom and not into another, into one family and not into another—does sufficiently evidence that all diseases and sicknesses are limited by the Holy One of Israel in respect of places.

[3.] Thirdly, It is a very great point of faith to believe that all sicknesses and diseases are limited by God in respect of PERSONS. That they are so, is evident in that Psalm 91:3-8; Isa 65:12. But who lives in the faith of this truth? Sometimes in the same house one is infected, and the other is not; sometimes in the same bed the one is smitten, and the other is not; sometimes at the same table the one is taken away, and the other is left, etc.; and this does Soundly evidence and witness that all sicknesses and diseases are limited by God in respect of persons as well as in respect of places. But,

[4.] Fourthly, It is a great point of faith to believe that all diseases and sicknesses are limited by God in respect of the DEGREES to which they shall arise. That God that sets bounds to the raging sea, and that says unto it, "Thus far shall you go, and no farther," that God sets bounds to all raging diseases and sicknesses, and says unto them, Thus far you shall go, and no farther. He sets bounds to the fever; he says to it, Go and scorch and burn up such a body so much, and no more; and to the disease, Go and devastate such a body so much, and no more; and to the raging pestilence, Go and weaken such a body so much, and no more; and to the stone, Go and torment such a body so much, and no more. But,

[5.] Fifthly, It is a very great point of faith to believe that all diseases and sicknesses are limited by God as to their CONTINUANCE. God says to one disease, Go, hang upon such a man so many years; to another, Go, hang upon such a man but a few years; and to another, Go, hang upon such a man but a year; and to another, Go, hang upon such a man but a few months; and to another, Go, hang upon such a man but a few weeks; and to another, go, hang upon such a man but a few days; and to another, go, hang upon such a man but a few hours, etc. And accordingly it comes to pass. But,

(8.) The eighth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—to get more weaned and more mortified affections to all worldly comforts, contentments, and enjoyments. [Gal 5:24; 1 Cor 7:29-81; Eccles 1:2; Prov 23:5; Jer 45:4-5] A man never comes to experience so much of the emptiness, the nothingness, the uselessness, the vanity, the mutability, the impotency, the insufficiency, and the uncertainty of all worldly comforts and enjoyments—as when he comes to fall under the rod. The constant cry of the rod is, "Be dead to the profits, pleasures, honors, and applauses of the world; be dead to relations, be dead to friends, be dead to everything below a living Jesus!" But,

(9.) The ninth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence is—to get assurance of greater and better things than any this world does afford, Heb 10:33-34. That saying is as true as it is old, namely, that the assurance of an eternal life is the life of this temporal life. But having spoke so much of this particular in my treatise on assurance, which is now in your hands, I shall satisfy myself with this hint at present. But,

(10.) The tenth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—not to despise the rod. Heb 12:5, "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord." The Greek word which is translated despise, signifies the littling of a thing. Oh! do not little the rod, do not lessen it, do not slight it, do not make a tush at it, do not set light by it, do not say, 'I will not regard it!' He who does, shows himself more of Stoic, than a Christian. Now, because there is such a desperate aptness and proneness in many to make light of the rod, it will be your wisdom seriously to lay to heart these four particulars:

[1.] First, That it is the DIRECT hand of God, Amos 3:6; Deut 28:58-61, and therefore not to be despised. It is a sad and sinful thing to despise the indirect hand of God; but it is more sad and sinful to despise the direct hand of God. But,

[2.] Secondly, It is a MIGHTY hand of God: 1 Pet 5:6, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." Certainly that heart must be mightily wicked, which dares despise the mighty hand of God, Amos 4:10; Ezra 38:22-23.

[3.] Thirdly, It is an ANGRY hand of God, and therefore do not despise it: Psalm 90:7, "For we are consumed by your anger, and by your wrath are we troubled." Psalm 90:11, "Who knows the power of your anger? even according to your fear, so is your wrath." Shall devils tremble under his angry hand? yes, shall they roar as the sea under his wrathful hand, (as the Greek word signifies in James 2:19,) and will you presume to despise his angry hand? The Lord forbid, Num 16:46; Ezra 33:27-29; Deut 29:22-25. But,

[4.] Fourthly and lastly, Consider that it is a HOLY hand, it is a JUST and RIGHTEOUS hand, it is a FAITHFUL hand of God; and therefore do not despise it; Jer 29:17-19; Lev 26:25; Jer 14:12-16; Psalm 119:75, "I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, or righteousness, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me." Psalm 119:137, "Righteous are you, O Lord, and upright are your judgments." Certainly none but unholy people will be so impudent as to despise God's holy hand. Well,

(11.) The eleventh lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is— not to be discouraged under the rod, Jer 27:13; 2 Sam 24:10,17; Heb 12:5, "Nor faint when you are rebuked of him."

First, It is a rod in a Father's hand; and therefore do not faint under it.

Secondly, God will do much good by the rod, and therefore do not faint under the rod.

Thirdly, You could not have been without the rod; and therefore do not faint under the rod.

Fourthly, The rod which is now upon you, is not according to the greatness of God's anger, nor according to the greatness of his power, nor according to the strictness of his justice, nor according to the demerits of your sins, nor according to the malicious desires of Satan, nor according to the designs, plots, and contrivances of wicked and unreasonable men, nor according to the extensiveness of your fears—for you have feared worse things than you feel—nor according to that sharp rod which has been upon the primitive saints, nor according to that sharp rod which many thousands of the precious sons and daughters of Zion are under in other parts of the world. Therefore do not faint under the rod, do not be discouraged under the rod.

Fifthly, by fainting under the rod, you will gratify Satan, reproach religion, render yourselves unserviceable, and make work for future repentance; and therefore do not faint under the rod. But,

(12.) The twelfth lesson that you are to learn under the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—humbly to kiss the rod, and patiently and quietly to lie under the rod, until the Lord shall either give you a gracious, or a glorious, deliverance from it. [2 Chron 32:25-26; Lev 26:40-42; Mic 7:9; Lam 3:30] What is the rod, and what is the raging pestilence, compared to the horrors of conscience, and to the flames of hell, or to an everlasting separation from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power? 2 Thess 1:8-9. And therefore put your mouths in the dust, and be silent before the Lord. He who has deserved a hanging, if he escapes with a whipping, has no cause to murmur or complain. We who have deserved a damning—have little cause to murmur or complain of a whipping, yes, though it should be with a pestilential rod. But,

(13.) The thirteenth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—highly, fully, freely, and signally to justify the Lord, and to think well of the Lord, and to speak well of the Lord under the rod. To that purpose, consult these scriptures, Psalm 119:75,137; Neh 9:33; Ezra 9:13; Lam 1:3,5,7-8,10; Lam 4:15,18; Dan 9:12,14; 2 Kings 20:16-19; Jer 12:1-2; Psalm 119:17-22; Psalm 22:1-3; Psalm 97:2. But,

(14.) The fourteenth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—personal reformation. When the rod smarts, and the pestilence rages—God expects that every man should smite upon his thigh, and turn from the evil of his doings. 2 Chron 7:13-14, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land;" that is, "I will remove the judgments that are upon the land, and I will confer upon my reforming people all those favors and blessings that they stand in need of." Consult these scriptures, Ezra 10:14,19; 2 Chron 30:8-9; and 2 Chron 29:8,10,15-16. But,

(15.) The fifteenth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—to make God your habitation, your shelter, your refuge. Ponder seriously upon those scriptures, Psalm 91:2,9-10; Psalm 90:1; Psalm 71:3; Psalm 57:1. They dwell most safely, most securely, most nobly, who dwell in God, who live under the shadow of the Almighty, and who every day lodge their souls in the bosom of eternal loves. But,

(16.) The sixteenth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or the raging pestilence, is—to set up God as the great object of your fear: Psalm 119:119-120; Isa 8:7-8,13-14, compared. When the judgments of God are either threatened or executed, feared or felt—it highly concerns us to lift up God as the main object of our fear. We should fear that hand which lays on the rod—more than the rod itself! Job 13:11; Jer 36:24. When God takes up the rod, when he draws his sword, and when he shoots his pestilential arrows among us—oh how highly does it concern us to fear before him with a child-like fear, with a reverential fear, with a fear which fortifies the heart against sin, and with a fear which fits the soul for duty, and which draws, yes, drives the soul to duty. But.

(17.) The seventeenth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—to expect God's singular presence with you, and his admirable protection over you. Consult these scriptures, Isa 43:2; Dan 3:24-25; Gen 39:39-40; Psalm 23:4-5; Psalm 91; Isa 63:9; Isa 26:20-21; Ezek 9:4,6. God is above his people and beneath them, Deut 33:25-27. He is under them and over them, Song 2:6. He is before them and behind them, Isa 52:12, and Isa 58:8. He is on the right hand of his people, and he is on the left hand of his people, Psalm 16:8; Psalm 121:5; Psalm 118:15-16; Exod 14:22,29. God is round about his people, Psalm 34:7; Psalm 125:2. And God is in the midst of his people, Zech 2:5; Psalm 46:5; Psalm 12:6. Oh, the safety, the security of the poor people of God—for God is above his people and beneath them, he is under them and over them, he is before them and behind them, he is in the front and in the rear, and he is round about them and in the midst of them. But,

(18.) The eighteenth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—to live every day in a fresh, choice, and frequent exercise of grace. Consult these scriptures, Psalm 91:2-4; Jer 39:17-18; Mic 7:7-9; Psalm 40:1-2; Hab 2:1-4; Jer 30:21. That man who lives daily in an exercise of grace—that man lives every day in heaven on this side heaven, whatever affliction or judgment he is under.

(19.) The nineteenth lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—to quicken up your hearts to seek the Lord by extraordinary ways and means, namely, by fasting and prayer. Consult these scriptures, Num 16:46, seq.; Psalm 106:23,29-30; Isa 22:2-5,12-13; Jon 3:5, seq.; 2 Chron 12:2-7; 1 Kings 21:21, seq.; Joel 2:12-17. But,

(20.) The twentieth, and so the last, lesson that you are to learn by the rod, or by the raging pestilence, is—to prepare for death; it is to be in actual readiness to die. Ah, friends! every ache, every pain, every disease—is one of death's warning pieces. There is not a headache, not a toothache, not a fever, not a grief, not a fall, not a wrench, not a plague-sore—but is a divine warning to man to prepare to die. It is a solemn work to die; and therefore we had need prepare to die. It is a work that is to be done but once; and therefore we had need prepare to do that work well, which is to be done but once.

In this world we hear often, and pray often, and read often, and meditate often, and eat often, and drink often, and that which is worst, we sin often; but we must die but once, Job 14:14; Heb 9:27. Death will try all our graces, and all our experiences, and all our evidences, and all our comforts, and all our attainments, and all our enjoyments; and therefore we had need to prepare to die. Though there is nothing more certain than death—yet there is nothing more uncertain than:

(1.) the time when we shall die;

(2.) the place where we shall die;

(3.) the manner how we shall die.

As whether we shall die a sudden death, or a lingering death, or a violent death; or whether we shall fall by the sword abroad, or by famine or pestilence at home; or whether we shall fall by this disease or that illness; and therefore we had need be always in an actual readiness to die. No man shall die the sooner—but much the easier and the better, for preparing to die; and therefore let us always have our loins girt and our lamps burning. As death leaves us—so judgment will find us! Therefore we have very great cause to secure our saving interest in Christ, a changed nature, and a pardon in our bosoms, that so we might have nothing to do but to die. Except we prepare to die, all other preparations will do us no good. In a word—death is a change, a great change; it is the last change until the resurrection; it is lasting, yes, an everlasting change; for it puts a man into an eternal condition of happiness or misery; it is a universal change; all people must pass under this flaming sword. That statute law, "Dust you are—and unto dust you shall return," will sooner or later take hold on all mortals, Gen 3:18; and therefore it highly concerns us to prepare for death.

And thus I have shown you these lessons which you are to learn by the rod. The Lord grant that your souls may fall under those fresh, those choice, those full, and those constant influences and communications of his Holy Spirit, as may enable you to take out those twenty lessons that I have laid open before you. I confess the epistle is large—but do but consider your own conditions, and the present dispensations under which we are cast—and then I suppose you will not call it by the name of a tedious epistle.