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you than possibly doubt of his performance? This were a confession, that you know not God: This were to offend against Christ (who is the Lord and Master of all true believers) by a criminal incredulity : This were to be void of all faith, whilst yet you pretend to retain a place in the church, which is the house of faith : Now how very advantageous a removal hence will be to us, Christ himself, who is the captain of our salvation, and our great leader in every thing tending to our benefit, hath plainly shewed us; who, when his disciples were discouraged with the news he had communicated to them of his design to leave them, addressed himself to them in the following manner : “ If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father ;" therein strongly hinting to us, that when our nearest and dearest friends depart this life, we should rather rejoice than mourn for their happy exchange. And St. Paul is plainly of the same opinion, where he saith, • To me to live, is Christ; and to die is gain :" He counted it gain to be disengaged from the various allurements of the world, to continue no longer in a state which made him liable to sin, and exposed him to the assaults of his fleshly lusts; he esteemed it a blessed improvement of his circumstances, to be removed out of the way of pressures and afflictions, out of the jaws of the lion, and the several attacks of his ghostly enemy; and to obey the call of his Saviour Christ, sum
moning him to enter upon the joys of everlasting salvation.
5. Some are hence staggered, that the contagion of this distemper should spread itself amongst our people, as well as amongst the Gentiles ; as if the great end of a christian's faith were his exemption from a share in common calamities, and an undisturbed enjoyment of this world's comforts ; whereas the contrary is indeed his lot, and his pleasures are all in reversion, whilst he is exposed at present to all sorts of sufferings and sorrows. Many expect that we should be excepted out of the general rule, and that the destroying angel should hold his hand, and not involve us in the common destruction ; not considering that every thing in this world is, and must be, common to us with the rest of its inhabitants, as long as we are subject to the law of our common birth, and continue to be clothed with the same flesh and blood. Wherefore, whilst this common receptacle retains and holds us, its privileges and disadvantages must needs extend alike to us, and our bodies must take their fate from the same common incidents, though the condition of our souls admits at the same time of a very great diversity; in which at last, and in which alone, consists the point of difference between christians and other men. So that till “ this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, and the Spirit (which we receive at our baptism] shall have led us to God, we with the rest of mankind must share alike in those common inconveniences, to which the frame of our bodies doth equally expose us. Thus the barrenness of the earth makes all alike partakers in the distresses of a famine; and when a city is taken by storm, all its inhabitants, without distinction, fall into the hands of the enemy. When a continued calm and sunshine withhold the rain from refreshing the ground, all feel the drought without exception; and when a ship is dashed against a rock, the wreck is universal, and all who are embarked in the same bottom suffer it. Thus pains in the limbs, and the rage of fevers, affect us equally with the rest of mankind, whilst we all alike contract the same causes of those several distempers, and carry about with us bodies of the same make and constitution. Besides ; if a christian would impartially consider the terms whereupon he entered into the service of his master, he would find himself obliged by them to a larger measure of labour and travel than the rest of mankind, as having more difficulties than they to encounter from the necessary struggles with his grand adversary the devil. The holy scripture hath foretold this to him, and fore-armed him against it.
6. Thus holy Job, by the loss of his estate, and the death of his children, and the sore affliction of his body, was so far from being conquered, that he came off from the trial
approved and commended: He exemplified the power of his religion by the strength of his patience, when in the height of all his sufferings and sorrows he breathed out his complaints so submissively in the following words : “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither ; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord !” And when his wife would have persuaded him, in the rage and agony of his torment, to have spoken injuriously and dishonourably of God and of his dealings, he replied, “ Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” And therefore we have this testimony of him from God upon record : “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil ?” Good men in all ages have exemplified their patience by thus enduring affliction : The apostles of our Lord learned from him not to murmur at any evils which here befel them, but to undergo with constancy and courage whatever of this kind should be laid upon them; as well remembering that it was one great offence of the Jews against God, to murmur at his providence; for God admonished them in the Book of Numbers, saying; “ And thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die pot.'
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, we must bear afflictions with patience and courage, and must not murmur at them, observing what is written : “ The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” The Holy Ghost hath also spoken to this purpose by the mouth of Moses, saying ; “ The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no."
And again ;
“ The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether you love the Lord
your God with all your heart, and with all
7. Your fear of God, and your affiance in him, should indeed be strong enough to prepare you
for all encounters. Thus the loss of your estate, racking pains and torments in all the limbs of
your body, the melancholy separation of your wife, your children, or your dearest friends from you,
, should rather be considered as rencounters to exercise, than as stumbling-blocks to make you fall; instead of weakening the faith and hope of a christian, they should rather exemplify their power; and a firm dependence on future good, should flatten his sense of any present evil. There can be no victory, without a struggle for it. When he comes off conqueror from that struggle, then, and not otherwise, may he expect his crown. A storm