« ForrigeFortsæt »
whom we had great expectations; they may turn their backs upon us, and assist us no more; those who employed us will do it no longer, and they who traded with us, will do it no more ; so we lose our business, and our acquaintance cast us out of their favour, and will have nothing more to do with us. · This will prove a distressing trial, and considered in itself is a very great evil; but it shall do us i no harm, if we follow that which is good. If under this trial we steadily trust in God, being resolutely determined, at all events, to go forward in the good way. The Lord may permit us to be tried for a time, but he will certainly appear for us, and we shall see he hath the hearts of all men in his hand, and can turn them which way soever he will. He will raise us up friends where we could not have thought of it, and send us help from a quarter from which we least of all expected it: The Psalmist had experienced this, when he said, “When my father and mother forsook me, the Lord took care of me:" And we shall find, as our dependence upon an arm of flesh is cut off, we shall trust in him, of whom it is said, “The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; and the cattle upon a thousand hills, are all his property, and at his disposal :" We shall see the truth of this word, “ The Lord careth for the righteous.” Many there are, on every side; who are unspeakable gainers by religion, even in a temporal way; the word of the Lord hath been made good to them, “When a man's ways please God, he maketh his enemies to be at peace with him." * The Lord hath wonderfully appeared for them, in a great variety of ways. Religion has taught them industry, frugality, and prudence, in the common affairs of life, and they daily find, that “ the blessing of the Lord is in the house of the righteous.” And the men of the world, seeing them determined to pursue the things which make for their present and everlasting peace, will give up all opposition, and they will live in peace with their neighbours.
The disciples of Christ may be variously tried by wicked men, and likewise by the prince of darkness, who as a roaring lion, is going about seeking whom he may devour. As it is the grand design of sätan to counteract the gracious designs of the blessed God towards his creatures, he will, no doubt, do all in his power to rob us of that heavenly treasure, which the Lord hath mercifully bestowed upon us; and if he fail in this, he will perplex and distress us in as high a degree as he can: And nu temptation, considered in itself, can be said to be joyous, but grievous, we are obliged to say that this is also a great and sore evil; but it shall do us no harm, while we fols low that which is good. We may rest assured, that satán can proceed no farther than God will give him leave; and we may be equally assured, that in suffering the devil to tempt and try us, he can never intend that we should be overcome by any temptation whatsoever ; The word of God will shew us what course to take, at such a time as this ; " Brethren," saith the apostle, “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, that you may be able to stand in the evil day;"? and in the strength of God,“ resist the devil, and he shall fly from you.” And again : "With every temptations God will make a way for your escape, that ye may be made able to bear it."
The temptations of satan are of two sorts : L. He will try to perplex us and rob'us of our peace, by raising painful doubts and distressing fears in our minds, respecting the being and attributes of God, especially about his wisdom, goodness, mer cy, and love; respecting the truth of divine revelation, or some particular truth; respecting the reality of religion, and he will call in question our experience, whether it be real or only imaginary; he will tempt us to doubt concerning our perseverance in the ways of God; and an endless' variety of other things. 2. Satan will tempt us by representing sin; and more especially the sin which we were naturally inclined to, and most delighted in; the sin, which before we enjoyed the grace of God, did the most easily beset us, in as pleasing a light as possible, so that we may see something agreeable in it And he will work upon the remaining depravity of our nature; exciting desires in the misid after those evils which he will set before us. But be his temptations what they may, our gracious God intends us no evil by them, any more than our Lord intended his disciples, when he permitred that violent storm to come upon them, when they were crossing the lake. They had their Lord with them, but he was asleep. When they saw their danger, they went and awoke him, saying, “Lord, save us, we perish !” Jesus came upon deck, he rebuked the ' wind, and there was a great calm. Had not this tempest come upon them, our Lord Inight, have slept on and taken his rest, till they had got safe to the opposite shore: but seeing the danger they were in, and all humàniaid failing, they cried to him for help: he granted their request, and they had such an astonishing display of his power and goodness, as they would not have had, if this tempest had not befallen them. They were filled with wonder, and well they might, when they saiv with their own eyes, the wind and the waves obey the voice
of their Master. He had only to say, “ Peace, be still," and all was calm at once.
How may this account illustrate the designs of God, in permitting temptation to befál his children ! Perhaps we have our Lord with us, but seeing no immediatè danger, we are become so slack in prayer, that we have suffered him to fall asleep But he permits some heavy trial to befal us, we see our danger, we begin to sink, all human help fails, we plainly see that none but God can deliver us ; wè cry mightily to him in prayer, he mercifully and powerfully interposes, and delivers us out of our distress: He appears for us in the time of our extremity, we evidently see his hand, and thankfully acknowledge his goodness: We have now such a visible display of his power, mercy and love, as we could not have had, if this trial had not coine upon us. By this means then, our confidence in God is increased, so is our gratitude and love to him; We feel ourselves under greater obligations than ever, to give up ourselves to God, and are greatly quickened and comforted; and are more resolved than before, to be wholly the Lord's. Thus may every temptation work together for our present and ever: lasting good.
We may also meet with distressing trials from the hand of the Lord himself. Providence may for a time appear to frown upon us ; we may meet with losses and crosses, and may
be brought into very great straits and difficulties : And none of these things are in themselves desirable, nor can be looked upon as good; but they shall do us no harm; the hand of out heavenly Father is in them, and he is always infinitely wise and gracious. Perhaps we have been too much at ease in Sion; it may be the sun of prosperity shone bright upon us, and we thought our mountain stood strong: Our minds, perhaps, began to cleave too close to the dust of the earth, and we were too easy and too happy, in the enjoyment of temporal good things: pur situation in life was agreeable, our circumstances easy and comfortable, and we were happy in our relations, but did not live for eternity as we ought. But the Lord sent a blast upon our delightful prospects; some heavy loss in trade, some great disappointment in business, a near relation was under some heavy affliction, or it may be a beloved child, or even the desire of our eyes, was taken away by the hand of our God. We were ready to sink in these deep waters, but were ebliged to have recourse to our gracious God, who alone could help us: Accordingly, he being very pitiful, and of tender Mercy, supports and preserves us from fainting in this day of adversity, and shews us, at the same time, why he thus con tended with us. We see the vanity and emptiness, as well as the uncertainty of all created good, as we never did before; and are made more fully sensible, we must be wholly dependent upon God, even for temporal, as well as spiritual blessings; there is nothing, whatsoever, that can contribute to our happiness, which we can keep one moment longer than God will give us leaves whether we will or not, he can withdraw it from ys in a thousand different ways, which we could neither foresee nor prevent; therefore it is our wisdom to receive all our good th ngs from God, to deyote them all to him, to enjoy him in all his gifts and blessings, and ever to remember, he who freely gave, has a right to take away, when and as he will.
It makes no ingonsiderable part of our happiness, while in the present world, to see and acknowledge the hand of God, in all the dispensations of his providence: And whatsoever proves a means in his hand of making us more sensible of this, it certainly will be an everlasting blessing. If then the Lord, by means of losses, crosses, and afflictions, does us this unspeakable good, we shall have abundant reason to praise him in the end. Perhaps many of these painful trials would not "have come upon us, had we but improved the blessings of God as we ought; had we not set up an idol of riches in our heart, or placed a wife or child too much where our God ought to have reigned, we might have had these favours, continued to us; but seeing this, our gracious God, in great mercy, took these hindrances of our soul's salvation out of the way, that we might live nearer to him than ever we have done.
But the Lord may see it good to afflict us in our own persons, he may exercise us with violent pain or pining sickness, and we may be brought within sight of the grave, and to the brink of the eternal world. Pain and sickness, we well know, are the sad fruits: of sin, and are very grievous to flesh and blood; yet no real harm has befallen us, if we are following that which is good. We call this affliction by its proper name, when we say it is an evil, yea, and a great and sore evil; for so it surely is in itself, and would prove so to us, was not the permissive hand of a kind and gracious God in it: but as he never did, so he never can vary from his grand design, in all his dealings with those who walk in his way: He always intends his own eternal glory, and our present and eternal good; and when he permits deeply distressing afflictions to belal us, he hath the same design stiil.
Having been blest with long continued ease and health, perhaps we began to think, * It is likely that I may live many
years in this world, I must therefore be diligent in business and prudent in the management of all my 'temporal affairs; I must provide for old age, and lay up in store for the time to come; I.know not what I, or those who are dependent upon me, may stand in need of: It becomes me to be careful, thatneither myself, nor those I ought to provide for, may want any thing needful, or convenient. My children are growing up to the state of men and women, and I shall be called
upon to dispose of them in marriage, or to settle them in trade, and therefore I must provide for all these things.". But alas! affliction overtakes us before we are aware, and death itself
appears in sight; all this foolish reasoning forsakes us at once, and we see ourselves upon the brink of eternity ; we awake, and our pleasing dreams vanish away; we see in such 'a manner as words cannot express, the astonishing uncertainty of life, and every thing belonging thereto, we see the amazing littleness of all sublunary good: But 01 of what inestimable value does spiritual and eternal things appear! How do we stand astonished at our own folly, in setting such an high value upon those perishing things, in making so false an estimate-of their worth! We justly wonder at that stupidity which had taken hold of our minds, and wonder why it was, that with the word of God in our hand, we could be so far deceived. We stand between the two worlds, and have a view of both, and O how inconceivably glorious, 'great, and important the one, and how inexpressibly little, vain, and trilling the other! On the one hand, all is reality, all is solid, substantial, everlasting good; on the other hand, all is mere shadow, emptiness, and vanity.. O how important, and how inexpressibly valuable, does true religion now appear!: Phis is beyond all comparison, " the one thing needful." An interest in Christ, a right and a title to heaven, appears what they really are at all times, worthy of our highest regard ; and the grace of God is now such a treasure, as we have no name to fix upon it sufficiently expressive of its real worth.
If the Lord should see good to raise us up from this bed of sickness, and suffer - uş to continue a little longer in this world, we shall have learned those useful lessons in the school of affliction, which we never could have learned so well, had we continued to enjoy uninterrupted health and strength, and which we never can forget the longest day we have to live. We have had such a sight and sense of the value of spiritual and eternal things, as we shall never lose: And in short, we shall be everlasting gainers by this affliction. But if the Lord shall call us out of time into eternity, the affliction