Unbelief is my worst enemy, and most disturbs my mental
quiet; and no wonder it so harasses me, when it attacks the very
faithfulness of God, and concludes so harshly of his unerring providence.
Now, my gratitude cannot be silent at this your so surprising, surpassing
kindness. A few months ago, matters wore a different aspectóbut I deserved
worse; yet then hope would not give up its claim to your care, faith would
not give up its interest in your promise, in your love; and both are
satisfied with your goodness. You have bestowed the very same mercy, though
in another way than I sought it. Then I thought that no way was as good as
mineóbut now I find that your way is best; for as your thoughts are higher
than ours, so is your way better than our way. This favor which I sought
from you with submission, let it come with your blessing; not signifying
your displeasureóbut sealing your love; not only filling somewhat my cupóbut
fulfilling your promise. And as it may moderately feed my condition, so let
it feast my spiritual part; and not prove like Israel's flesh, that while
they thought to satisfy their lust, suffocated them outright; nor like their
granted request, which was attended with leanness sent into their soul.
In the common affairs of life, I cannot look into
myself; I cannot look about, to praise princes, or the sons of men;
but I must look up, and adore you as only and alone in all. Dare I
henceforth sin, who am so many ways hedged about from it? shall not your
holiness dissuade me from sinning, your power persuade, your majesty deter,
mercy overcome, your love allure, and your kindness bend me to obedience?
How shall I praise you, O you hearer of prayers, and answerer of petitions!
Let my lips praise you; let my life praise you; my meditations praise you;
yes, let all my actions praise you.
But how shall I behave under your kindness? It is harder
to be godly in prosperity than in adversity. When God spares, it is that his
long-suffering may lead us to repentance; and when he punishes, it is that
we may return to him; for it is a heavy charge, when he has cause to
complain against those to whom he has been a Father. In an afflicted state
humility best befits us, because we are laid on the dust; and where but
there should we be humbler? In an exalted state we should still be humble,
for Heaven can dash us from the highest eminence to the lowest condition of
life. And as an afflicted state is not confirmed on us, that we may have
hope; so a prosperous condition is not confirmed that we may fear. "Before
honor is humility, and a haughty spirit before a fall;" therefore we should
always follow humility, and flee pride. As humility lifts us out of the
lowest condition, so it keeps us in the highest. Nor is there any state of
life but is attended with so many humbling circumstances, that no discerning
soul has reason to be proud, considering that it is more disgrace to fall
from a high station into a low, than never to have risen, and consequently
never fall. He who loses his prince's favor suffers more, than he who never
had it: and those that fall from high preferments, or lose their honorary
posts, may expect to have all eyes upon them, and every tongue to dwell on
them and their misfortunes.
Such, then, is our condition below, that we are always in
dangeróboth from without and from within. Troubles may attack us without;
or, if free from these, pride may swell within; and the last is worse than
the first. Then, contentment with our present condition; resignation to God
with respect to unseen contingencies; hope in his mercy; confidence in his
faithfulness; and an eye fixed on the world to comeóis our only wisdom in
this world which is passing away.