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approves the skill of a pilot, and a soldier's valour must be tried in battle. To dance upon the rising wave, where there is no danger, is rather matter of entertainment, than any trial of skill; so that nothing but real adversity will pass for a proper proof of christian fortitude. The tree which hath its root well and deeply fixed in the earth, will not give way to the utmost fury of the winds; a tight vessel will bear the assaults of the waves without leaking; and when corn is threshed, you may observe the true grain untouched by any blasts of wind, whilst the chaff is dispersed and carried off by it. Thus the apostle St. Paul hath told us, that, after having suffered shipwreck, been beaten with rods, and endured many sore calamities, he was rather amended then depressed by all of them ; and the more he was afflicted, the surer was the proof which he gave of his virtues : “ There was given (saith he) to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me; and he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Whensoever, therefore, any epidemical distemper rages, or any weakness or sickness oppresses us, this we are to consider as the season and occasion of making our virtue perfect, and of crowning our faith, if it be found strong enough to abide the test. For thus we find it written :
For thus we find it written : “ The furnace
proveth the potter's vessel ; so doth the trial of affliction
prove the righteous.” This, then, is the great difference between us and others who know not God; that they are full of complaints and murmurs in their affliction; whereas no degrees of it can ever allay our sterling faith and virtue; but instead of impairing will improve and strengthen them. Even the distemper which at present lies so hard upon us, and is so truly terrible in its dreadful symptoms; such as the sinking of our strength, grievous inflammations, which prey upon the very substance of the parts affected by them ; convulsions of the stomach ; a fiery redness of the eyes; mortifications, and thence amputations of the limbs ; even all this, I say, though so singularly grievous and formidable to human nature, assists in strengthening and confirming the christian's faith. And indeed what an instance is it of bravery and heroic courage, to encounter undauntedly so many assaults of death and destruction; to stand firm and unmoved amidst the ruins of mankind; and to bear up with vigour and spirit, when others, who have no hope in God, sink and despair under the heavy burden? We should embrace with all cheerfulness the favourable juncture which presents us with such an happy occasion of signalizing our faith and patience ; and of going to Christ, through the narrow way which leads to him.
8. Some, it must be confessed, have reason to be afraid of dying; but there are such as are not
entitled to the privilege of regeneration by water and the Spirit, and so are obnoxious to the damnation of hell ; such, as have no claim to the benefits of the cross of Christ, or to his saving passion ; such, as a present death shall consign to a future; such, as a departure out of this world shall deliver over to the unspeakable torment of everlasting burnings in another ; finally, such as shall be gainers by a longer continuance upon earth; gainers at least of a reprieve from those unutterable sorrows which await them at their exit hence. Wherefore, as the present mortality carries all the worst effects of the most dreadful plague along with it to Jews and heathens, and in general to all the enemies of our Lord and Saviour; so the faithful servants of God should consider it as introductory to an advantageous removal for them: So that when we acknowledge death to be dealt out in common to the righteous and the wicked, we would not be understood to mean that there is really no difference nor distinction between their several fates; inasmuch as the righteous are called off to a place of refreshment, whilst the wicked are hurried to their proper punishment; the former enter the sooner upon a state of security, as the latter anticipate a part of their final doom. therefore, my brethren, much out in our reckoning of this whole matter; we discern not in it the gracious purposes of providence, nor the advan
tages designed to us in this dispensation. Whereas we might observe, that by the shock of this calamity, and by the dread of sharing in it, the lukewarm are spirited, the negligent are awakened, the slothful are roused, apostates hasten their return to the church they have forsaken, heathens are induced to come into it, fresh and numerous forces are listed into the service, who will behave ('tis hoped) with the greater courage and contempt of death as having entered upon it in a time when death was most likely to be their portion.
9. Nor is it, my brethren, a circumstance of small account in the case before us, that the distemper, which appears to us in other respects with such a frightful visage, serves as a proper test of our obedience, and as a proof and trial of our several dispositions ; whether, for instance, they who are yet untouched by it, have charity enough in them to attend upon the infected; or relations bear a true affection to each other ; or masters have any due compassion for the distresses of their dying servants; and whether the furious and raging will abate of their fierceness; or the extortioner soften his hand; or the proud and haughty drop their arrogant pretensions. Even though the present mortality should in no other respect contribute to our advantage, it would, however, in this single point be very serviceable to us, that it hath taught us to desire martyrdom, by arming us against the fears of death ; so that
each funeral solemnity, is indeed to us a trial of our skill, and an exercise of our virtue; it forti. fies our minds, and prepares us for the honour of a martyr's crown, by enabling us to despise the King of Terrors.
10. To all this, perhaps, it may be by some objected, that this is the particular which most afflicts them in the present distress : “ They had “ devoted themselves with all the strength and
power of their minds to suffer for the name of “ Christ, and were prepared, at all adventures, “ to make a solemn confession of his faith; and
then, it may be, the distemper unhappily steps 6 in between them and their purposes, prevents “ the effect of them by a sudden stroke, and so
deprives them of the honour they had promised “ themselves of laying down their lives in the “ cause of Christ and of his gospel.” Now to this I reply in the first place, that martyrdom is a thing not always in their power, as coming of grace, and being the gift of God; that therefore they cannot say they have lost what 'tis possible they would never have so behaved as to have deserved receiving. Besides, there is a very great difference between the case of those whose minds are prepared for martyrdom, but want the opportunity; and of those who have the opportunity, but want the mind for it. God will judge us by the dispositions wherein he finds us at his summons; he hath expressly assured us, saying :