True Christianity

A Treatise

On Sincere Repentance, True Faith, The Holy Walk of the True Christian.

By the Venerable

Johann Arndt

General Superintendant of Ecclesiastical Affairs in the Principality of Lüneberg

Originally Translated Into English By Rev. A. W. Boehm, German Chaplain at the Court of St. James, and Published in London, A.D. 1712.

A New American Edition,

Revised, Corrected, and Furnished with Additional Matter From The Original German,


Brought to you by


  • Book 1

  • Book 2

  • Book 3

  • Book 4

  • Contents - Book Two

  • Book II.
  • Preface To The Second Book.

  • Ch 1. The Son Of God
  • Ch 2. The Consolation
  • Ch 3. Our Righteousness Before God
  • Ch 4. Manifold Fruits Of Righteousness
  • Ch 5. The Evidence Of True Christianity
  • Ch 6. But Christ, And He Alone
  • Ch 7. The True Nature Of Repentance
  • Ch 8. God Invites Us To Repentance
  • Ch 9. Showing What Repentance Is
  • Ch 10. Properties Of True Repentance
  • Ch 11. The Fruit Of Conversion
  • Ch 12. Christ Is The Only Way
  • Ch 13. Christ Is The True Book Of Life
  • Ch 14. To Despise The Glory Of The World
  • Ch 15. Overcome The Trials Of The World.
  • Ch 16. Seek And Obtain Favor Through Christ
  • Ch 17. Overcome The Calumnies Of Men
  • Ch 18. Subdue The Lusts Of The Flesh
  • Ch 19. Behold In The Crucified Christ
  • Ch 20. Necessity Of Prayer
  • Ch 21. The Power Of Humility
  • Ch 22. Works Must Be Done In Humility
  • Ch 23. Give All The Honor To God
  • Ch 24. The Noble Virtue Of Love
  • Ch 25. Whether We Truly Love Christ
  • Ch 26. Five Kinds Of Works Of Love
  • Ch 27. Jesus Manifests Himself To The Loving Soul
  • Ch 28. The Highest Good Is Perceived In The Soul
  • Ch 29. How The Loving Soul Considers God
  • Ch 30. How God Manifests Himself To The Loving Soul
  • Ch 31. God Manifests Himself To The Loving Soul As The Infinite Omnipotence
  • Ch 32. How The Loving Soul Knows God
  • Ch 33. How The Loving Soul Considers God
  • Ch 34. A Man Should Seek The Wisdom Of God By Prayer
  • Ch 35. Prayer Is The Sign Of A True Christian
  • Ch 36. The Power Of Prayer
  • Ch 37. God Certainly Hears Our Prayers
  • Ch 38. Aids For Our Infirmities In Prayer
  • Ch 39. A Believing Soul With God
  • Ch 40. Between Faith And The Mercy Of God
  • Ch 41. The Great Benefits Of Praise Offered To God
  • Ch 42. Daily Offer Praises To God
  • Ch 43. To Praise God Is The Highest Of Men
  • Ch 44. Patience Waits For The Promised Glory
  • Ch 45. Patience Under Afflictions
  • Ch 46. Motives To Patience
  • Ch 47. Examples Of Patience
  • Ch 48. Sustain And Confirm Our Patience
  • Ch 49. The Truth Of God Ought To Dispose Us To Patience
  • Ch 50. How Hope Is Tested
  • Ch 51. For Those That Are Weak In Faith
  • Ch 52. Instructions For Those Laboring Under Temptations
  • Ch 53. Consolations For Laboring Under Temptations
  • Ch 54. Comforts Under Secret Temptations
  • Ch 55. Reasons God Delays His Assistance
  • Ch 56. In Seasons Of Trial
  • Ch 57. The Fears Of Death
  • Conclusion Of The Second Book.

  • [pg 157]

    Book II.

    Preface To The Second Book.

    As in nature, my dear Christian reader, the destruction of one thing is the production of another; even so is it in a true Christian life. The old, carnal man must be destroyed and pass away, that so the new spiritual man may be produced in his place. And as our carnal life is directly contrary to the holy life of Christ (which in the preceding Book is sufficiently declared); it is absolutely needful that we renounce this carnal life, before we can attain the spiritual life of Christ, or follow him in those steps which he has been pleased to leave us. Thus, for instance, thou must put an end to thy pride, before thou canst be truly humble; thou must cease from wrath, before thou canst possess the virtue of meekness. And this is the reason why the spiritual Christian's life ought to proceed from true repentance. This is also the design and substance of the preceding Book, as plainly appears both from the order in which the chapters are arranged, and from the Conclusion appended to the whole Book.

    2. Since, however, there will be occasion to treat of the doctrine of repentance in some chapters of this Second Book, I shall now give some account of the whole method into which this Book is digested. As the main design of the First Book was to lay open the nature of Original Sin, and the deadly influence which it has upon all our actions; so it is but fit that the Second Book should begin with Jesus Christ, that everlasting wellspring of man's salvation, in whom alone we find help and a remedy against the destructive poison of Original Sin, and against that flood of calamities and miseries which thence proceeds. All this on man's side, is effected by faith, apprehending that salvation which is merited by Christ. This matter is explained in the first three chapters of this Book. As, however, that faith which leads the soul to this fountain, and draws thence effects so excellent and good, also brings forth living and sound fruits; the next three chapters (IV-VI), are spent in describing the same more at large. But, even as the fruits of righteousness and of the Spirit are to grow up in us and wax strong, so must the fruits of the flesh, in proportion, decay and decrease. And this is the daily, effectual, and unfeigned repentance, wherein a Christian ought constantly to be employed, if ever the flesh be mortified, and the Spirit be restored to dominion. It was, therefore, judged expedient, to give here a clear description of the difference betwixt the flesh and the Spirit, and of the properties of a daily repentance. Here consult Chapters VII-X. But inasmuch as from this habitual repentance, and the mortification of the old man (the life of a true Christian being nothing else but a constant crucifixion of the flesh), the new man is daily to come forth, it is impossible to find a more perfect pattern, than that which our [pg 158] Lord Jesus Christ himself has left us. And for this reason, the life of Christ ought to be a mirror unto us, in which to view ourselves and him; and by beholding him, to embrace the more freely his poverty and reproach, his contempt and sorrow, his cross and passion, his agony and death. And this holy life of Christ is the death of the flesh, and is accompanied with the exercise of prayer, love, and humility. This is set forth at large in Chapters XI-XXV.

    3. Thus are the humility and lowliness of Christ a true ladder of ascension for a penitent soul; by means of which we ascend into the heart of God, as of a loving Father, and calmly repose in his paternal affection. It is the human nature of Christ with which we begin our spiritual life, and rising up higher and higher, arrive at last at his divine nature. It is then that we contemplate in Christ the heart of our Father in heaven. It is then that we behold him as the sublime, the everlasting, essential, and infinite Good; we behold him as the immeasurable omnipotence, as the unfathomable mercy, the unsearchable wisdom, the purest holiness, the unspotted and endless righteousness, the most perfect goodness, the noblest beauty, the most perfect graciousness, and, at last, as the most joyful salvation. These points, as they chiefly make up Christian contemplation, so they are explained in Chapters XXVI-XXXIII. But because no one can ever arrive at this state without prayer, hence the ensuing ten Chapters (XXXIV-XLIII), treat upon the nature of prayer, and the exercise of divine praise. And since this life, grounded on maxims of sound and unfeigned religion, will soon be attended with crosses and tribulations, there follow fifteen Chapters (XLIV-LVIII), wherein are considered the cross of Christians, and the virtue of patience, the practice of which is thereby exceedingly promoted. To all this, something is added of the nature and conquest of those deep spiritual temptations, with which Satan harasses those that adhere to the Lord, and who endeavor to be faithful to the end.

    God grant that we may all be true followers of Christ, not ashamed of his holy life; but follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, and be led at last to the living fountains of waters, where the Lord will wipe away all tears from our eyes! Amen.

    john arndt,
    General Superintendent in the Principality of Lüneburg.
    [pg 159]

    Chapter I.

    Jesus Christ, The Son Of God, Is Given To Us By Our Heavenly Father As Our Help Against The Damnable And Deadly Poison Of Original Sin, And The Pernicious Fruits Thereof, As Well As A Protector Against All The Calamities And Evils Both Of The Body And The Soul.

    With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.Isa. 12:3.

    As our distemper is exceedingly great, mortal, damnable, and out of the power of any creature to remove; therefore it is needful that we should have a remedy proportioned to the disease; a high, a divine, an everlasting, remedy and help, entirely derived from the pure mercy of God. As our original disease was caused by the wrath, hatred, and envy of the devil (Gen. 3:1): so God, in tender compassion, was moved to heal the mortal wound of our sin by his infinite mercy. And as Satan had used his utmost endeavors and subtlety, in order to infect, slay, and condemn us, God was pleased, in his infinite wisdom, to give us his beloved Son, in order to restore us to that life, happiness, and salvation which we had lost. Hence he has made the precious blood of Christ to be the grand restorative of our nature, and the cleanser from all the contagion of sin. He hath given us his quickening flesh, to be our bread of life; his holy wounds, as a sovereign balsam to heal our wounded condition; and his precious death, to be an abolition of our death, both temporal and eternal. 1 John 1:7; Acts 20:28; John 6:32, etc.; Isa. 53:5; 25:8.

    2. But so disabled, so weak, and undone, is fallen man, that he cannot so much as apply this precious medicine even when it is freely offered: so little health, so much weakness is there in him. Nay, we even, by nature, strive against our cure, and reject the remedy which should help us.—Wherefore, O Lord, unless thou shouldst draw me after thee (Cant. 1:4), and, as a faithful physician, administer to me what thou hast ordered, the best prescriptions will avail me nothing. Take me, therefore, entirely into thine own hands, and trust me not to myself. If I be left to myself, the eternal ruin of my soul will be my lot. Therefore “turn thou me, and I shall be turned: heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; for thou art my praise.” Jer. 31:18; 17:14. As long as thou keepest back thy mercy, and hidest thy face from my sorrow, I shall remain in a diseased condition. Ps. 30:3. Whilst thou forbearest to quicken me, I am tied down by the chains of death. Therefore I cry with David, “I am poor and needy; make haste unto me, O God. Thou art my help, and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.” Ps. 70:5.

    3. O blessed Lord! shall not thy mercy be strong enough to raise a [pg 160] sick soul from her languishing illness? a soul that is not able to raise herself? Wilt thou not condescend to come to me, since it is not possible that I should come to thee? Didst thou not love me, even before I had so much as a thought of loving thee again? Thy mercy is so prevailing and so strong, that it has even overcome thyself. Was it not mercy that nailed thee to the cross, and gave thee up to death? What is so strong as to encounter and conquer thee, if it be not the strength of thy own mercy? What has might sufficient to apprehend thee, and to bind and conduct thee to death, but thy love only, wherewith thou hast loved and quickened us, when we were dead in trespasses and sins? Eph. 2:1. For thou wouldst thyself undergo the pangs of death, rather than suffer us to be forever bound over to death and eternal damnation!

    4. Thy mercy, O Lord, has made thee all our own, and put a title to all thy merits into our hands. When thou becamest a tender infant, it was wholly for our sakes, unto whom thou art “born a child.” Isa. 9:6. When thou wast made an offering for our sins, and when thou wast slain as an innocent lamb on the cross, it was to give up thyself unto us, and freely to impart unto us all things beside. O excellent gift of God! a good wholly appropriated to us, even our own peculiar good and treasure!

    (a) Behold! beloved Christian, the wisdom of God! God has by means of this everlasting good made himself our own property, that he might thereby in return make us his own. For having purchased us “with a price,” we are no longer our own, but his who hath bought us. 1 Cor. 6:19, 20. For whosoever receives so excellent a gift, receives also the Giver himself, from whom it proceeds. And again, whosoever possesses any good as his own, he makes it his own to all intents and purposes, and to the best advantage he can. Thus, likewise, is Christ become thy own and proper good. Thou canst apply him in such a manner, as to obtain by him everlasting life and salvation.

    (b) Christ is become the true medicine of thy soul, to restore thee—thy meat and thy drink, to refresh thee—thy fountain of life, to quench thy thirst—thy light, in darkness—thy joy, in sadness—thine advocate, against thy accusers—wisdom, against thy folly—righteousness, against thy sin—sanctification, against thy unworthiness—redemption, against thy bondage—the mercy-seat, against the judgment-seat—the throne of grace, against thy condemnation—thy absolution, against thy fearful sentence—thy peace and rest, against an evil conscience—thy victory, against all thine enemies—thy champion, against all thy persecutors—the bridegroom of thy soul, against all rivals—thy mediator, against the wrath of God—thy propitiation, against all thy trespasses—thy strength, against thy weakness—thy way, against thy wandering—thy truth, against lying and vanity—thy life, against death. He is thy counsel, when thou hast none to advise thee—thy power, in the midst of thine infirmities—thy Everlasting Father, when thou art forsaken and fatherless—thy Prince of Peace, against the adversary—thy ransom, against thy debt—thy crown of glory, against thy reproach—thy teacher, against thy ignorance—thy Judge, against thy oppressor—thy King, to destroy the kingdom of Satan—thine everlasting High Priest, to intercede for thee.

    [pg 161]

    5. (a) Consider now, O Christian, what an excellent gift the Lord Jesus Christ is. Let it be thy daily prayer and supplication to make a true saving use of all those heavenly benefits, and to improve all the offices of Christ to the end for which they are designed. If he be thy Medicine (Matt. 9:12), fear not but thou shalt be healed: since he is thy Bread (John 6:51), thy soul shall be filled. Is he to thee a Fountain of Life (Isai. 12:3), then truly thou shalt thirst no more. Is he to thee a Light (John 8:12), then thou shalt remain no longer in darkness. Is he thy Joy (Luke 2:10), what then shall afflict thee? Is he the Advocate (1 John 2:1) that pleads thy cause, what adversary shall cast thee? Is he thy Truth, who shall deceive thee? Is he thy Way, who shall make thee to err? Is he thy Life (John 14:6), who shall slay thee? Is he thy Wisdom, who shall seduce thee? Is he thy Righteousness, who shall condemn thee? Is he thy Sanctification, who shall reject thee? Is he thy Redemption, who shall imprison thee? 1 Cor. 1:30. Is he thy Peace (Eph. 2:14), who can disturb thee? Is he thy Mercy-Seat (Rom. 3:25), who can arraign thee? Is he thy Throne of Grace (Heb. 4:16), who can give sentence against thee? Is he thy Discharge and Absolution (Colos. 2:14), who then dares impeach thee? Is he the Champion and the Captain of thy Salvation (Heb. 2:10), who shall be able to stand against thee? Is he thy Bridegroom (John 3:29), who then shall snatch thee from him? Is he thy Ransom (1 Tim. 2:6), who will arrest thee? Is he thy Crown of Glory (Heb. 2:7), who then shall reproach thee? Is he thy Master (John 13:13), and Teacher, who then shall correct thee? If he be thy Judge (2 Thess. 1:9), who shall oppress thee? If he be thy Propitiation (1 John 2:2), who shall accuse thee? If he be thy Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), who shall set God against thee? If he be thy Advocate (1 John 2:1), who shall prosecute thee? Is he thy Immanuel (Isai. 7:14), who shall be against thee? Is he thy King (John 12:15), who shall expel thee out of his kingdom? Is he thy High Priest (Heb. 7:25), who can refuse his intercession and sacrifice? Is he thy Saviour (Matt. 1:21), who shall destroy thee?

    (b) How canst thou have a more excellent, a more valuable present? It is a present of greater worth than thou thyself, than all mankind, and all the world besides. It is a present that infinitely surpasses all the sins, miseries, and calamities of the whole world. Christ hereby is all our own, both as to his divine and his human nature. It was by sin we had forfeited the richest of all treasures, the Sovereign Good, even God himself: and it is by Christ, that all is made up again, and God himself given to us as our property. And for this reason, Christ is called Immanuel (Isai. 7:14), (which being interpreted is, God with us), that in him we might have both a God and a Brother.

    6. (a) Consider now, O Christian! what an immense, what an infinite good thou hast in Christ thy Redeemer, and to what spiritual benefits thou art entitled by him. If people were but better acquainted with the sources of this heavenly comfort, then no cross, no affliction, would seem any longer insupportable to them; because Christ would be all in all, and by his presence alleviate the miseries of this life. Christ himself is ours not only as a crucified Christ, but also as he is glorified, together with all the majesty [pg 162] that resides in him. “All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.” 1 Cor. 3:21-23.

    (b) Alas! poor, miserable, accursed, and condemned sinners, that we by nature all are! How came we to be favored and honored with so high and inestimable a gift? For thou, O Lord Jesus, art to us—Jehovah our Righteousness—a Mediator between God and man—our everlasting Priest—the Christ of God—a Lamb without spot—our propitiatory oblation—the fulfilment of the law—the Desire of the patriarchs—the Inspirer of the prophets—the Master of the apostles—the teacher of the evangelists—the light of the confessors—the crown of the martyrs—the Praise of all the saints—the resurrection of the dead—the first-born from the dead—the glory of the blessed—the consolation of the mourners—the righteousness of sinners—the hope of the afflicted—the refuge of the miserable—the entertainer of strangers—the fellow-traveller of pilgrims—the way of them that were mistaken—the help to them who were forsaken—the strength of the weak—the health of the sick—the protector of the simple—the reward of the just—the flaming fire of charity—the Author of faith—the anchor of hope—the flower of humility—the rose of meekness—the root of all the virtues—the exemplar of patience—the enkindler of devotion—the incense of prayer—the tree of health—the fountain of blessedness—the bread of life—the Head of the church—the bridegroom of the soul—the precious pearl—the rock of salvation—the living stone—the heir of all things—the redemption of the world—the triumphant Conqueror of Hell—the Prince of Peace—the mighty lion of Judah—the father of the world to come—the guide to our heavenly country—the sun of righteousness—the morning star—the inextinguishable light of the celestial Jerusalem—the brightness of the everlasting glory—the unspotted mirror—the splendor of the divine majesty—the image of the paternal goodness—the treasure of wisdom—the abyss of eternity—the beginning without beginning—the word upholding all things—the life quickening all things—the light enlightening all things—the truth judging all things—the counsel moderating all things—the rule directing all things—the love sustaining all things—the whole comprehension of all that is good.

    (c) This is the great and infinite gift, which God has so freely bestowed upon mortal men.

    [pg 163]

    Chapter II.

    The Manner In Which The Christian Should Apply And Appropriate To Himself The Consolation Noticed In Chapter I.

    The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.Luke 19:10.

    The first or chief foundation on which the Christian depends, when he derives consolation from the doctrines of the remission of sin, and of the merit of Christ, consists in the universal extent of the divine promises; of which that mentioned above is not the least considerable. For if Christ came to save those that are lost, who can possibly doubt, that he will also seek and save thee, since thou art of the number of the lost. It is also said, that God, “commandeth all men everywhere to repent; because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness.” Acts 17:30, 31. This argument is full of consolation. As if the apostle had said, Christ will judge the world; and therefore God commandeth all to repent, that all may escape the dreadful sentence of eternal damnation. This is confirmed by St. Peter, who tells us, that God “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. All which passages plainly assert the universal grace of God, extending itself to all men.

    2. The second foundation is the divine oath. In order that no room might be left to doubts and scruples in this grand article, God has confirmed the universal promise of grace with an oath. “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he turn from his way and live: none of the sins that he hath committed, shall be mentioned unto him.” Ezek. 33:11, 16. As if he had said, How can I delight in the death of a sinner, who am Life itself? Let but the wicked be converted, and he shall certainly live.—Behold! God desires sinners to be converted! And dost thou doubt, that thou, who art a sinner, art by God solicited to conversion? When the apostle explains this oath, he says, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” 1 Tim. 1:15. But if Christ came into the world with an intent to save sinners, thou art undoubtedly one of the number of those whom he came to save.

    3. In order to show that the Lord will not retain the remembrance of sin, he hath no less than three times engaged his word. First, by the prophet Isaiah, “I, even I,” says he, “am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Isa. 43:25. Secondly, by Jeremiah he hath thus expressed his mind: “This shall be the covenant: I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer. 31:33, 34. And, thirdly, by the prophet Ezekiel, “If the wicked,” says he, “will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him.” Ezek. 18:21, 22. This is the [pg 164] divine act of oblivion, solemnly declared in favor of all returning sinners, without exception.

    4. Now the cause or reason why God promises that he will not remember sin any more, is no other than the all-sufficient satisfaction and reconciliation wrought by Christ. For whatever is entirely paid, yea, over and above paid, should be altogether buried in an everlasting oblivion. Now, God being once perfectly reconciled and satisfied by the most holy and most complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ, he can no longer be angry, nor perpetuate the remembrance of our transgressions.

    5. The same oath is repeated in the prophet Isaiah, “Look unto me,” says the Lord, “and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: I have sworn by myself; the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return.” Isa. 45:22, 23. Which oath, the Epistle to the Hebrews explains in this manner: “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” Heb. 6:17-19. That is, God, by his counsel and promise, having confirmed them with an oath, hath more than sufficiently sealed and established his gracious will; that so none might be discouraged.

    6. The third foundation is the eternal covenant of grace, which consists in the pardon of sin: “This shall be the covenant: I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer. 31:33, 34. And this covenant or testament, because confirmed by the death of Christ, is therefore everlasting. To the same purpose the Lord says by the prophet: “Neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee.” Isa. 54:10. And again, “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” (i. e., Christ). Isa. 55:3. And Moses declares the same: “The Lord thy God is a merciful God: he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.” Deut. 4:31. And again we read: “He will ever be mindful of his covenant.” Ps. 111:5. On which eternal covenant, that we might the more firmly rely, he hath renewed and established it with every one by Holy Baptism, which therefore is called “The answer (or covenant) of a good conscience towards God.” 1 Peter 3:21. For this end, Christ himself was baptized in Jordan, and thereby entered with us into this covenant. Matt. 3:13.

    7. The fourth foundation is the death of Christ, by which the covenant or testament of God was ratified. But if any ask, For whom did he die? St. Paul answers, that “he died for all.” 2 Cor. 5:14, 15. And St. John says, “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2. So John the Baptist said: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. This, the apostle explains in the following comforting manner: “As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18): where a comparison [pg 165] is made betwixt Christ and Adam. As if he had said, “Since the offence of Adam hath been so strong, as to make all men sinners; shall not the righteousness of Christ be far more powerful to make them righteous? If sin hath abounded, shall not grace much more abound?” The same apostle, having occasion to show that the merit of Christ is universal, and extends itself to all, thus reasons: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all.” But if this be true, it also follows, “that God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 2:4-6. On all this Paul remarks, that God, by “Christ hath reconciled all things to himself, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Col. 1:20. And again: “God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” Rom. 8:32. In this number, reckon also thyself, because “God is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34. Since, therefore, Christ died for sinners, thou, who acknowledgest thyself to be one, must necessarily have an interest in his death, and in all the benefits purchased by it.

    8. The fifth foundation is the universal call, grounded upon the universal merit of Christ. The latter was exhibited for the sins of the whole world, and it was proper that it should be preached to all creatures. Matt. 9:13. Now since Christ declares: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 16:15), it follows, that thou also, because thou art a sinner, art called. But called to what? To repentance. And why? That thou mayest obtain remission of sin, through faith. “It behooved,” says the Lord, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in the name of Christ among all nations.” Luke 24:46, 47. And the apostle affirms, that “the gospel was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” Col. 1:23. But to what end did God cause it to be preached? Surely for no other end than that thereby faith might be kindled and established among men, according to that saying of the same apostle: “How shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard?” Rom. 10:14. Whenever, therefore, God calls us to repentance, far be it from us to think that God calls us in vain, or without a real design to save us. Surely God does not deceive us: but in this serious affair he seriously calls upon us, that we may embrace his mercy, and accept the offer of grace. Hence he is also angry with those who make light of his supper, and disdain to come to his feast. Matt. 22:7. Whereas, to those who obey his call, through faith, he hath given his promise, full of heavenly comfort that “whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Nay, he hath graciously promised to preserve the same faith unto the end, even till the salvation of the soul, which is the end of faith, be secured. Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:9.

    9. The sixth foundation is the inward testimony of the divine Spirit in us, who seeks after righteousness, and seals us unto the day of redemption. Rom. 8:16; Eph. 4:30. This Spirit incessantly rouses and awakens the conscience. He reproves without intermission, convinces of sins, and sets them before thine eyes. He summons thee to repentance, calls thee inwardly in thy heart, strives with thee, and [pg 166] leaves nothing untried, in order to keep thee from every sin, and lead to thy conversion. John 16:8. These things thou canst not conceal, though ever so desirous to do it. This witness of Christ in thee, is never silent: and though thou shouldst stop thine ears against him, yet shalt thou be compelled to hear him inwardly. And if thou shouldst desire to reject his summons, yet must thou feel the internal energy of his correction. All this is a convincing, strong, and unquestionable proof, that “God would have thee to be saved.”

    10. The seventh foundation consists of the examples of sinners, whom God, upon their conversion, hath received into favor. Surely “there is none righteous,” of himself, “no, not one.” Rom. 3:10, 23. Not only David, Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:11-13), Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene, and Zaccheus; but all of us are sinners, and come short of the glory of God.” There is none innocent in his sight. Whatever favor God shows to one, the same he offers to all the rest; since he “is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34. We all are saved by grace, without any merit of our own, and all stand in need of a gracious pardon of sin: for, “if thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Ps. 130:3), and if thou enterest into judgment, “in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Ps. 143:2.

    11. The eighth foundation is, that the merit of Christ is not only sufficient, but even more than sufficient for the sins of all men, how numerous, great and heinous soever they may be. Why then shouldst thou exclude thyself, and refuse to share in the benefits of the ransom which Christ paid? Is it not infinitely greater than the sins of the whole world? For as thou art of the race of men, so thou canst apply to thyself that word of the Lord, “The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56): and that of St. Paul, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19): and again, that of St. John, “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2); that is, for all the sins of every man in particular.

    12. A ninth foundation is this, that the merit of Christ is an infinite satisfaction, beyond all number, measure, and end; and it is so on account of the exalted Person that suffered, who is both God and man. Why shouldst thou then limit the extent, number, measure, and bounds of merit so ample, and exclude thyself from it? So great, so high, and so extensive are the power and efficacy of that merit, that it would still prove a sufficient ransom if every man were guilty of the sins of the whole world. Nay, if there were as many worlds drowned in sin, as there are men that live on this earth, yet would the merit of Christ and his righteousness be large enough to cover all their sins. Cast not therefore away a mercy so universal, so full and every way abounding. This surely is that “depth of the sea, into which God hath cast all our sins.” Mic. 7:19. Hence the Psalmist says: “As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy towards them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Ps. 103:11, 12. This is that “eternal redemption which is obtained for us.” Heb. 9:12. The benefit of this complete redemption, is summed up by St. Paul: “It is God that justifieth. [pg 167] Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died,” etc. Rom. 8:33, 34.

    13. The tenth foundation is this, that the obedience of Christ is perfect: because he fulfilled the will and law of his Father in all things, thereby to give satisfaction for all the disobedience which all the men in the world had committed against God's law. For if the sin and transgression of any one man were not expiated by him, then surely, his obedience would not prove perfect, and the disobedience of Adam would be more effectual to condemnation, than the obedience of Christ to justification. This cannot be, since the apostle in plain terms affirms the contrary, in Rom. 5:18. What reason is there then, that any one should exclude himself from this perfect obedience, or be backward to assert his own interest in it? Let us rather consider, that Christ for this very end humbled himself, “and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8), “that he might redeem them that were under the law.” Gal. 4:5. In the number of these, we all surely are comprised. For, as our first parents aspired after and affected the majesty of God, so it behooved Christ, the repairer of our breaches, by a most profound humility, to atone for this heinous offence, and to be “made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13), in order that the blessing might come upon all, who were cursed in Adam.

    14. The eleventh foundation is, that since the royal victory and triumph of Christ surpass all the multitude, weight, and heinousness of sin, together with all the power of death, hell, and Satan, what cause canst thou assign, O sinner, why the same victorious Christ should not triumph over thy sin as well as over all the rest? What! canst thou believe that thy transgressions alone are more powerful than Christ, the omnipotent king? When he shall make all his enemies his footstool (Ps. 110:1), cannot he subdue under him also thy sins? Dost thou think that thy crimes only shall prove too hard for him? God forbid, therefore, that thou shouldest call in question thy interest in so universal a conquest, in so glorious a triumph.

    15. The twelfth foundation is the everlasting priesthood of Christ. Ps. 110:4; Heb. 4:14. He freely grants pardon to all them that ask it; and gives the Holy Spirit to those that earnestly pray for that gift. Nor will he, or can he refuse to any what belongs to his office (Heb. 5:6; 7:17); for he is the Saviour of the world, and the High Priest and Mediator between God and man. 1 Tim. 2:5. If he refuse his office to any one that implores it, he would verily cease to be a Mediator. But so far is he from this, that he freely offers to sinners the benefit of his mediatorial office. “Come unto me,” saith he, “all ye that labor and are heavy laden.” Matt. 11:28. And again: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters” (Isa. 55:1) of life. And does he not by his apostles and messengers, seriously invite us to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20), and at the same time offer us his help and assistance for that end? He seeks the lost sheep (Ezek. 34:16), and receives into favor the Prodigal son as soon as he returns. Luke 15:20. Take heed, therefore, O man, that thou reject not the office of Christ the Mediator, and that thou deprive not thyself of the benefit of a sacerdotal intercessor, every way full of divine consolation and comfort.

    [pg 168]

    Chapter III.

    Our Righteousness Before God, Consists Solely In The Perfect Obedience And Merit Of Christ Jesus, And In The Remission Of Sin Apprehended By Faith.

    As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.Rom. 5:19.

    As a skilful builder, when he is about to raise a lofty structure, takes care to lay first a deep and solid foundation, so the merciful and compassionate God, when he was to erect the high and everlasting palace of our salvation and righteousness, thought fit to lay the foundation thereof, in the depth of his mercy, upon the Person and office of his dear Son Christ Jesus, as on the true rock of salvation. This is the promise recorded by the prophet: “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” Isa. 28:16. This stone was indicated by Christ, when he declared to Peter, that “thereon he would build his church;” a church so firmly and surely sustained, that “the very gates of hell should not prevail against it.” Matt. 16:18.

    2. This was the rock and corner-stone, which was preached by the apostles Peter and Paul. 1 Pet. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:19. This is that marvellous corner-stone celebrated by the Psalmist, and upon which the 118th Psalm is grounded. Upon this foundation, God has been pleased to raise the whole structure of our righteousness, faith, and eternal salvation. But as God, our merciful Heavenly Father, has, on his side, placed the groundwork of our salvation and righteousness in the unsearchable depth of his mercy and everlasting love; nay, even in his beloved Son, and the paternal affection of his own heart; so he wills that on our side also the same be laid in the depth of our heart, and in the centre of our soul; in order that, through the divine light and power of faith alone (and even faith is solely the work of the Divine Spirit), the righteousness of Christ may be apprehended, and without any respect of our own works, whether antecedent or consequent, be freely imputed and appropriated to us. The reasons of this way of proceeding are as follows.

    3. In the first place, that God by this means might cleanse and justify a man from within, and in the inmost centre of his soul: for as man is inwardly corrupted by Satan, and infected in all the interior powers of his soul, so it is but fit that his cure should be wrought from within, and that all the faculties of his soul should be restored to their former integrity and soundness.

    4. Secondly, that our righteousness proceeds from faith only. This faith is wrought by God himself, and it stands entirely in his power (1 Cor. 2:5), being supported by it, and not by any human performance, or hypocritical action of men. Of this latter sort was the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matt. 5:20), who made indeed [pg 169] a show of outward performances, but were little concerned about the reformation of the heart, and the inward recesses of the mind.

    5. Thirdly, that our heart, soul, and spirit, renouncing human power and strength (upon which, through the temptation of the Devil, and the snares of self-love, ambition, and pride, they too much rely), might wholly depend upon Christ alone, and upon his precious merit and satisfaction. For from him alone flow the gracious remission of all our sins, and the whole train of graces consequent on it; Jesus Christ having abundantly satisfied for the sins of the whole world, and reconciled the Father to mankind.

    6. Fourthly, that the righteousness of Christ, by faith, might be made our own. In order to the same end he also by his Word and Spirit begets this faith in our hearts, that thereby we may become actually possessed of this inestimable treasure. For this is the highest, the unspeakable, and inconceivably great consolation, that our righteousness is not the righteousness of a man, nor even of a saint or angel, but of Christ, and of God himself; “It is God that justifieth.” Rom. 8:33. Therefore if the whole world were overflowed with the sins of one man, yet would the righteousness of Christ be still more extensive and overflowing. For verily, he is “the Lord our Righteousness” (Jer. 33:16), and how can sin be more powerful than the Lord Jehovah? Would it be an insufficient satisfaction, thinkest thou, if instead of a penny which thou owest thy creditor, thou shouldest return ten thousand pounds? But such a price, nay, one infinitely greater, is paid with the blood of Christ, which therefore is called by St. Paul, “God's own blood.” Acts 20:28. So great and immense is the righteousness of Christ, conferred on us by faith, that thereby we are not only made righteous, but also righteousness itself. 2 Cor. 5:21. For, as it is not enough that a defiled infant be washed from its uncleanness, but it must also be wrapped up in clean apparel (Ezek. 6:10), so Christ not only cleanses us with his blood, but clothes us also with the garment of salvation, and covers us with the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10): which we have received from the hand of the Lord. This garment is called by the prophet, priestly or holy apparel; by David, “the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 29:2); by St. John, “fine linen clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints” (Rev. 19:8); by the prophet Amos, “rivers of righteousness” (Amos 5:24); by St. Paul, “superabounding grace” (Rom. 5:20); and “exceeding riches of grace.” Eph. 2:7. All these expressions set forth that the righteousness bestowed on a penitent soul, is as great as God himself, and therefore beyond all human comprehension. Though in the state of innocency, our first parents had a complete righteousness in its kind, yet was it not so full and exuberant as that which we have obtained in Christ: for this righteousness and holiness, which we apply to ourselves by faith, is far more excellent than that which Adam would have left us, had he continued in his original innocency. So, too, the humility and obedience of Christ, as it was more perfect, so it was more acceptable to God, than the obedience and innocency of Adam; nay, a thousand such persons as Adam, could not have come up to the perfection of Christ alone. Adam would have transmitted to us indeed an hereditary righteousness, and thereby united us [pg 170] with God; yet it cannot be denied, that our union, established with God in Christ, is much more noble and excellent than that which we should have derived from Adam: for Christ being made man, has in himself so cleansed and exalted human nature, that the primitive state of Adam is not at all to be compared with it. And as Christ retains his human nature to all eternity; so all believers continue in the same united to God; because Christ is wholly ours, and we are wholly his. Whatever purity the human nature hath obtained in general in His Person, is also transferred to the nature of each believer in particular. This will appear in the glorification of our bodies at the last day, when “they shall be fashioned like unto the glorious body of Christ.” Phil. 3:21. Nay, even in this life, it is said in faith: “Behold, thou art fair, my love” (Cant. 1:15); “glorious, not having spot or wrinkle” (Eph. 5:27): “the king's daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold.” Ps. 45:13. In a word, our righteousness in Christ is no less immense than God himself; and if his depth may be found out, so will our righteousness. Whence all creatures, finding nothing that can be reproved in man, must stand as it were astonished, and cry out with admiration: “Who is he that shall accuse or condemn man, whose righteousness is the Son of God himself?” And this is that righteousness of faith on which we rest, as on an eternal rock, and which is a foundation that cannot be shaken. Of this we glory, in this we rejoice in time and in eternity. By this we are conquerors, and triumph over sin, death, the devil, and hell. By this we tread upon the lion and adder, and trample under foot the young lion and the dragon. Ps. 91:13.

    7. Fifthly, an angel (who never died for us) cannot be the foundation of our righteousness, much less any man. The righteousness of man is but weak and inconstant; and if he should fall, “all his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned” (Ezek. 18:24; 33:13), and therefore whatever is built thereon falls soon to the ground and comes to nothing. For this reason, our righteousness must have another foundation; a foundation, namely, which is firm and constant, and not liable to be shattered to pieces, though the “mountains should depart, and the hills be removed.” Isa. 54:10. “An everlasting righteousness must be brought in” (Dan. 9:24), so that “the salvation of the Lord may be forever, and his righteousness be not abolished.” Isa. 51:6. A most excellent, eternal, and sovereign Person, must procure an eternal and infinite good, by an immense and infinite satisfaction offered for us.

    8. The sixth cause why God will have our righteousness to be apprehended by faith, is found in his truth and promise, on which our faith entirely rests, and by which God declared and promised righteousness to Abraham, and to all his faithful seed. Whence St. Paul argues, that “our righteousness must be of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end that the promise might be sure.” Rom. 4: 16. Upon this promise of grace, fulfilled in Christ, has God established our righteousness and salvation, as the same apostle in another place more fully asserts: “Even as Abraham,” says he, “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they [pg 171] which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham: saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed (Gen. 12:3). “So then they which be of faith, are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Gal. 3:6-9. And thus “grace and truth are come by Jesus Christ.” John 1:17.

    9. Seventhly, God has made his grace, and the merit of Christ, the foundation of our righteousness, that Christ alone may have the honor of it. Isa. 45:22-24; 53:11. “In him alone is our help.” Hos. 13:9. He is the beginning, middle, and end of our righteousness and salvation, so that “every mouth may be stopped.” Rom. 3:19. For we are “saved by grace through faith; not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2:8, 9. But if our righteousness were founded on our own works and merits, there would then be no room for grace, nor should we have occasion for mercy or pardon of sin, “for which every one that is godly doth pray.” Ps. 32:6. Moreover, there would be no place for humility, nor for the fear of God; neither would faith and prayer turn to any great account; yea, we should have no need of a Mediator, Redeemer, and Saviour. Christ would have then died in vain; and we should be obliged, both by an external and an internal obedience, perfectly to fulfil the whole law. We should remain under the curse, have fallen from grace, and have lost Christ; as St. Paul expressly testifies in Gal. 5:3, 4. So that the doctrine of justification by works, in the sight of God, is altogether inconsistent with the whole Scripture, both of the Old Testament and the New, and with our holy Christian faith.

    10. In short, our salvation and righteousness are founded entirely upon the eternal grace of God, and the eternal Person and office of Christ; and in Christ alone we are made righteous, holy, alive, blessed, sons and heirs of God. The righteousness of Christ is ours, his goodness ours, his holiness ours; his life ours, his happiness ours, and lastly, the sonship and inheritance of Christ are ours; and so the whole Christ, both according to his divine and his human nature, is ours; (for God gives us the whole Christ for a Saviour, that he with his Person, office, grace, glory, and blessedness, may be wholly appropriated to us). That all this is our own, is our highest consolation, glory, praise, honor, love, joy, and peace before God and all the angels and elect; it is our sublimest wisdom, strength, might, victory, and triumph over sin and death, the devil and hell, the world and all our enemies. For which God be praised to all eternity! Amen.

    [pg 172]

    Chapter IV.

    Showing That Saving Faith In The True Christian Produces Manifold Fruits Of Righteousness, And That These Must Proceed From The Depth Of The Heart; Also, That The Character Of Our Outward Works, Depends, In The Judgment Of God, Upon The State Of The Heart.

    And this I pray, that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ: being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.Phil. 1:9-11.

    The true Christian is not only justified by faith in Christ, but is also made a temple and habitation of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. To this end the good Spirit of God purifies his heart by faith: and it is fit that Christ should live in his temple, together with his love, humility and meekness. 1 Cor. 6:19; Eph. 3:17; Acts 15:9. To this end also thy Redeemer has bestowed upon thee his Holy Spirit, that he might create in thee a new heart, and endue thee with so cheerful and ready a mind, as to do the will of God freely, without any unwillingness or compulsion. Jer. 31:32, 33; Heb. 10:16. This new and holy obedience proceeds not from the law, or any legal commandment; but from a lively faith. Hence, “the law is not made for a righteous man” (1 Tim. 1:9), to compel him to do good; though it is in other respects an excellent rule by which to regulate a Christian's life and manners. For a true and living faith does everything freely and of its own accord: it renews the man, it purifies the heart, it produces fervent love to our neighbor, it hopes and considers such things as are not yet seen. Faith prays, praises, fears, and confesses God. It is also patient, humble, merciful, loving, meek, easy to be reconciled, compassionate, and peaceful. Faith readily forgives offences; hungers and thirsts after righteousness; embraces God with all his grace, and Christ with all his merit; and obtains a complete remission of all sins. Now if any one does not perceive in his heart these fruits of the Spirit, and the indwelling of Christ by faith, let him humbly entreat the Lord, and that with tears and groans, that he may obtain them. I would not be understood, however, as saying that a Christian in this life could attain to perfect and absolute holiness; for even the greatest saints are still sensible of their infirmities; of which the book of Psalms and the Lord's Prayer fully convince us. God therefore requires that our righteousness, by which we are to please him, should be entirely apprehended by faith; and lest we should act the hypocrite he wills that his righteousness should be stamped on our very heart, and on the inmost centre of our souls; and likewise that all the fruits of faith and righteousness should proceed from a living and sound principle seated within the mind. According to this inward and leading principle, [pg 173] God judges all our works, whether they be true and genuine, or false and hypocritical.

    2. Here again, we do not assert that perfection can be found in this present world, but only require that a Christian should walk in newness of life, and approve himself by such works as are cleared from guile and hypocrisy. For it is by no means possible that the fruits of the Spirit enumerated by St. Paul, in Gal. 5:22, 23, should not be found in that man in whom the Spirit of God himself dwells (Gal. 5:22); or that a good tree should not be known by its fruits, though they may not be altogether so perfect and angelic as could be wished, but be stained and often obscured by various frailties and imperfections. Nevertheless, all hypocrisy and insincerity, are utterly to be banished from a regenerate state; nor are the fruits of a Christian to proceed from an empty profession, or a lifeless appearance of things, but possess truth and reality. I do not deny, on the one hand, that the Christian Church may be fitly compared to a hospital crowded with all manner of sick; or to a house inhabited by sinners as well as by saints. I believe also that many, like feeble children, have not yet attained to the ability of walking alone; but that they gradually learn to walk steadily. Hence it is necessary to “bear one another's burdens” (Gal. 6:2), and never rashly to judge or condemn those who by reason of their weakness halt behind. Rom. 14:1. We ought rather to restore in the spirit of meekness those that stumble, and with great tenderness to rectify what is amiss in them. Thus we learn to read our own imperfections in the infirmities of our brother. But on the other hand, Christians ought to labor to make continual advances in the spiritual life. They ought not to continue always in a state of infancy and weakness, how difficult soever it be to conquer the carnal mind that obstructs our growth. They ought to be fervent in the practice of “charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Tim. 1:5); and bear this in perpetual remembrance, that all outward performances are valued by God according to the inward disposition of the heart. If the heart be good, thou mayest then be assured, that whatever thou doest is also good before God: but if the heart be evil, corrupt, and envious, then all thy works are evil and hateful. Such as thou art inwardly, and in thy heart, such art thou accounted to be before God; and such are thy prayers, thy public worship, thy giving of alms, thy receiving the Sacrament, and all thy other performances.

    3. Whosoever therefore is willing to try his own faith and inward condition, should set before his eyes the Ten Commandments (as by Christ himself interpreted) (Matt. 5 and 6), and learn to judge of his actions by his heart. By such an impartial trial, he will clearly perceive whether what he does be acceptable or unacceptable to God, and whether he bring forth the genuine fruits of that inward righteousness which is by faith. Phil. 1:11. For example, thou considerest that thou dost not defile thyself with any external idolatry. Now, in keeping from idols thou doest surely well; but I would have thee farther inquire, whether thou also abhorrest all manner of internal idolatry? Or whether thou hast set up an inward idol in some secret corner of the heart, to which thou payest thy vows? Ezek. [pg 174] 14:3, 4. Examine thyself whether thou art within, what thou professest to be without? See whether thy heart be not set upon the world, upon avarice, and pride? If so, then thou art assuredly guilty of most dangerous idolatry; for the creature has engrossed those noble affections which should be entirely surrendered to the Creator, and dedicated to him alone. Thou assurest us that thou art punctual in saying thy prayers, and in praising God; and that thou dost not neglect to offer up thy thanks for benefits received at his hands; but didst thou ever consider, whether thou cursest in thy heart, whilst thou prayest with thy lips? Whether thou contradictest by thy actions what thou expressest in thy words? If so, thy prayer will prove but a worthless performance, and all thy thanks and praises will be trifling and vain. Thou tellest us how strictly thou keepest the sabbath-day. In this truly thou doest well; but look on the inward frame of thy soul. Dost thou celebrate the true sabbath in thy heart? Dost thou rest from evil thoughts and wicked desires? Is thy heart devoted to God, and freed from noise and clamor, that God himself may work in it? Thou attendest divine service at church; it is well done; but see that thou carry not with thee to church the canker-worm of pride and vanity. This would convert thy service into mere formality, and all thy performances into an empty show. Thou yieldest external obedience to God and to thy superiors; but does that which passes within thy soul agree with this exterior conduct? Is everything done with an upright and willing mind? Dost thou act from a principle of love, or of fear only? If it be fear that constrains thee to an external compliance, then know assuredly that thy obedience is no more than hypocrisy. Thou defilest not thy hands with blood and slaughter, and thinkest thyself free from the crime of murder. But take a view of thy heart: for when the heart burns with wrath and anger, and when this, as a flame, flashes out upon thy face; when thy inward wrath breaks out into reproaches and curses, saying to thy brother, Raca, and Thou fool; then surely thou art become guilty of the judgment, of the council, and of everlasting fire. Matt. 5:22. What therefore will it avail thee that thy hand is unpolluted with blood, whilst thy heart accuses thee of hatred and murder? 1 John 3:15. For within, in the heart, the murderer, the adulterer, the thief, and the liar, are harbored. Here it is that thou must look for the beast, the evil lust, and the root of all malice and mischief: which, if it be not destroyed by serious repentance, by true contrition and conversion, by faith and the blood of Christ, it is impossible that thou shouldest do so much as one work acceptable to God; who judges of all thy actions by the inward temper and disposition of the heart.

    4. Of this Christ himself gives us an example from the commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” saying, “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother.” Matt. 5:21-26. That is, it will not at all avail thee to pray, to sacrifice, to worship God, and to take the Sacrament; yea, all thy actions will be converted into so many sins, because God regards the heart only, and not the outward performance. Hence St. Paul commands us to “lift up holy [pg 175] hands without wrath and doubting.” 1 Tim. 2:8. And St. Peter enjoins married persons to beware of anger, and to dwell together in love and harmony, as heirs together of the grace of life, “that their prayers be not hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7. Nay, the Lord Jesus himself strongly exhorts us to brotherly reconciliation, by the three following arguments. Matt. 5:25, 26.

    (a) The first is, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him;” that is, whilst thou art on this side of eternity: for our life indeed is nothing else but a perpetual motion towards death and the grave. If in this life thou art not freed from the bonds of wrath, thou shalt remain a captive to them, yea, to the devil himself, throughout all eternity.

    (b) The second argument is, “lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge.” It is an awful thing to be summoned to the tribunal of God, and before so tremendous a judgment-seat, to plead our cause against an accusing adversary. Whereas, whatever is pardoned, settled, and forgiven in this life, the same will also be forgiven and eternally pardoned in the next. Whence we may gather how much God regards the love of our neighbor, since he will have it by no means separated from the love of himself; and therefore refuses to admit of our love to him, unless it be linked to that of our neighbor. And why? Because God is Love itself, and loveth man as his own soul.

    (c) The third argument is, “lest thou be cast into prison, whence thou canst not come out till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” It is agreeable to the divine justice, so to deal with us there, as we have dealt with our neighbor here; and “with that measure we have meted withal, to measure to us again.” Luke 6:38. Wherefore if thou refusest to forgive any brother his faults, the judgment of God is this: That in like manner no sin shall be remitted to thee. This will prove a burden heavy indeed. For the man that dies in this bitter, irreconcilable temper, must, in hell, continue a debtor to all eternity, and this without any hope or prospect of ever lessening the debts which he has here contracted.

    5. Thus the Son of God, has by this example, taught us that we must judge of the worth of our outward works, nay, of all our religion, by the inward disposition or principle that sways the heart. But perhaps thou still continuest to flatter thyself, and to say, “I am baptized into Christ; I have the pure word of God; I hear it; I receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper; I also believe and confess all the articles of the Christian faith: wherefore it cannot be, but that my life and actions must be pleasing to God; I am a Christian in truth, and in the right way to be saved.” This, alas! is the general, but false reasoning of many in these days, who regard their outward performances as constituting true righteousness. It might do well enough, if the heart did but agree with their profession: for without this, all is mere trifling, and a dead, hypocritical show. Look therefore into this, and learn to judge of thyself by the inward frame of thy soul. Thou boastest indeed, that thou art a Christian; and an excellent name it is; but dost thou consider, whether thy heart and thy actions agree with a name so sacred? Hast thou received the unction from above, and art thou possessed of the fruits of the Spirit, that demonstrate a Christian? 1 John 2:27. [pg 176] If these be wanting, thou wilt prove in the end but a false and spurious Christian. Thou assertest, further, that thou art baptized; and so indeed thou art! But search the state of thy heart, and inquire whether thou livest in the new birth, in daily repentance, and an unwearied mortification of the old man. See whether thou bringest forth fruit answerable to the baptismal covenant, in which thou art engaged? Thou sayest that thou hast the oracles of God committed to thee, and that thou hearest and readest them: but inspect thy heart, and consider whether the Word be converted into thy life and spirit, as bodily food passes into thy flesh and blood? Whether thou hast lived up to its direction, and expressed the effect of it in thy conduct? If thou contentest thyself with the bare hearing thereof, thou must know that this will never yield eternal salvation, and that thou deceivest thyself in a matter of infinite importance. For this reason has the Lord compared the kingdom of Heaven to leaven, which gradually spreads itself through the whole lump, and converts every part into its own nature; thereby to set forth that powerful influence which the Word ought to have upon our will and affections. Truly, “not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of the Father which is in heaven.” Matt. 7:21. Thou thinkest that thou dost a service when with zeal thou defendest the purity of the doctrine: and truly therein thou doest well. Nevertheless, I would have thee inquire, whether by the purity of the doctrine, and thy defence of it, thou hast also attained a true purity of the heart. Do we not find many rigid defenders of the pure doctrine, who in their lives are the most unclean of men, full of pride, bitterness, and covetousness? Alas, the name of God itself, is made a common shelter for all manner of vices, which screen themselves under the same, with impunity. Thou affirmest that thou often receivest the Lord's Supper. This is right; but search thine own heart. Thou hast often received the flesh and blood of Christ in this Sacrament: why then do the flesh and blood of Adam live and reign in thee? Should not the life of Christ shine forth in thy whole conduct? Should not his love, his humility, and meekness, diffuse themselves through all thy manners? Where is the advantage, if thou receivest Christ in the Sacrament, and deniest him in thy life and actions? Thou sayest, that thou believest and confessest all the articles of the Christian faith. It is well! but have recourse to the touchstone of the heart. That is only a true faith, which unites man with God, and God with man; by which God dwells, lives, and operates in man. If these effects be wanting in thee, thy faith is false, and so far from uniting thee with God, it sets thee at a greater distance from him. This, however, is not to be understood of the faith of weak and feeble Christians, which is often so clouded, as to render it hard to perceive its life and motion. For even a weak faith, though it be like smoking flax, has in it the properties of a strong faith, though it cannot exert itself with equal strength and energy. It heartily cleaves to God, and brings forth fruit amidst all those infirmities with which it struggles. But I would have it understood of faith in general, and of the trial and fruits of it, that, if thou believest in Christ, then Christ must certainly live in thee by faith, or [pg 177] thine will prove but an empty, naked profession. If thou believest that Christ suffered death for thy sins, thou must also die with him to the same (Gal. 2:20), and renounce the world, with all its pride and avarice. Rom. 6:2. If this effect do not follow, then truly thou believest not in Christ. If thou believest that Christ was crucified for the sins of the world, thou must with him be crucified to the same. If thou refusest to comply with this, thou canst not be a living member of Christ, nor be united with him by faith. If thou believest that Christ is risen from the dead, it is thy duty to rise spiritually with him, and firmly adhere to him, thy Head and Saviour. In a word, the birth, cross, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, must, after a spiritual manner, be transacted in thee. And this is the blessed effect of faith, and the influence it has on believing souls. Wherever this effect is wanting, there is nothing but a lifeless image of faith, with which men miserably deceive themselves. So if thou believest in the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit in whom thou believest, must of necessity dwell and reign in thy heart, and enlighten and sanctify it. For, “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Rom. 8:14.

    6. Therefore, dear Christian! let not your religion be confined to bare externals, but see that it proceed from the more inward recesses of a heart endued with a true, living, and active faith, and with an unfeigned, inward, and daily repentance. If you put away from you this inward life, this faith, and this repentance, you strip your religion of all essential goodness, and, instead of a living principle, which ought to be established in the mind, you carry about an empty, insignificant name, which will avail you nothing in that day, wherein God will judge all things according to the inward frame of the heart. But if you are truly affected with a sense of your inward wants and impurities, then flee without delay to the healing fountain of grace! Draw and drink, pray and knock, seek and cry, “Lord, have mercy upon me!” Then your heart shall be cured, your sin covered, and your transgression cancelled.

    Chapter V.

    Showing That The Evidence Of True Christianity Does Not Consist In The Knowledge And The Hearing Of God's Word, But That He Is A Christian, In Whose Life God's Word Is Manifested, And Who Beseeches God In Sincerity That This Word, As A Divine Seed, May Be Quickened In Him, And Bear Fruit.

    The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.Rom. 1:16.

    The way by which we are to arrive at true and substantial wisdom, and become friends of God, is to submit ourselves to the discipline of repentance, and to lead a life conformable to the Word of God. Such a life as this cannot fail to be attended with true illumination of the mind, [pg 178] and an increase of all divine graces; nay, with so close an alliance with God himself, as to make us “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:4. An example of this we have in Enoch, who having “walked with God, was not, for God took him” to himself. Gen. 5:24. To such a holy life as this David aspired with the utmost fervor of spirit, proposing two means by which to obtain it: the first, fervent prayer; and the second, a diligent practice of the word of God. “I cried,” says he, “with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes. I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies.” Ps. 119:145, 146.

    2. These words set forth the difficulties which he encounters who seeks to be a true Christian, and to keep the word of God in holiness of life. For flesh and blood naturally strive against the word of God, and that holiness of life which it requires: and are, besides, inconstant and weak, and prone to yield to the enticements of the world. The devil on all occasions hinders our progress, and opposes our endeavors on every side. This is followed by a multitude of evil examples, and the persecutions which wicked men raise in opposition to those souls that enter upon another course of life. Against obstinate evils, such as these, all the strength of the soul is to be opposed. This we learn from the example of David, who cried unto the Lord with his whole heart, in order that he might better digest the Word, and by leading such a life as that Word requires, continue in the favor of God. This ought also to be our main concern; the favor of God being infinitely preferable to all that the world affords. Whoever pleases God, and is His friend, most effectually secures himself thereby from the malice of all his enemies. Hence serious and fervent prayer is, as I said before, the first step to a holy life. The second means to obtain a holy life, is expressed in the following words of the same Psalm: “I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word. Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.” Ps. 119:147, 148. Here the Psalmist declares the earnest study, love, and affection, which are due to the word of God; as also the time best suited for meditating in it, namely, the morning. The faculties of the mind are then more strong and vigorous than at other times; and are best disposed for searching into divine subjects. The truth of this is at that season most feelingly perceived, when the soul, afflicted by sadness and deep spiritual temptations, “watches for the morning” (Ps. 130:6), and with “waking eyes” (Ps. 77:4), expects help from the Lord. She is then “as a sparrow alone upon the house top,” as a lonely owl in the desert (Ps. 102:6, 7); and “so weary with groaning” (Ps. 6:6), as to be almost ready to expire.

    3. This is that exercise of the cross, or school of affliction, in which all saints are most effectually trained for a happy eternity. Whoever is not inured to this sort of trials, can know but little of God and of his word. In this exercise, all the natural powers of soul and life consume away, that God alone may become our strength and support. By such inward trials as these, the carnal life is likewise more and more weakened, and the quickening power of God and of his word, perceived with the greater effect and experience. And truly, all [pg 179] our efforts ought to centre in this, that the external hearing and reading of the divine word be practically applied to the mind, and improved into Christian experience.

    4. This doctrine, therefore, I would have firmly rooted in thy mind, namely, that not the reading or hearing, but the doing and practising of the word, demonstrates the true Christian. James 1:22. Without this practical improvement, hearing and reading will be of no great advantage. For the word was not committed to us, that it might be read and known only, but that it might be reduced to practice. As a medicine gives no relief to the patient who hears of, or looks upon it, but at the same time refuses to take it; so the word, though a remedy for our diseased nature, can yet cure no man, or restore him from death to life, whilst he refuses to take what the word prescribes. Therefore, in order to this, fervent and constant prayer (according to the example set us by David), will be requisite in order to enable us to conform our life and actions to the divine word. What advantage is it to an artist that he knows an art, if he never practises it? Will not his supine and careless neglect reduce him at length to poverty? And what will it avail us to know the word of God, and not do it? “That servant,” says our Saviour, “which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” Luke 12:47. And St. Peter affirms, that “it had been better for such not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” 2 Peter 2:21. As a father does not own him for a son, who in everything acts in a manner contrary to his will, so not words, but the life and actions, are marks and indications of a child of God, according to that saying of our Saviour: “If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me,—this did not Abraham.—Ye are of your father the devil.” John 8:39, 40, 44. Why should a barren and fruitless tree take up any room in the garden, when it only incumbers the ground on which it grows? It is surely fit for nothing, but to be cast into the fire, as is represented in the parable of the barren fig-tree. Luke 13:6, 7. As it would be foolish to give to a raven the name of a swan, to which it has no resemblance; so if the men of this world should be called by the name of true Christians, whilst so little of a Christian temper appears in their life and manners, I think it would be justly counted egregious folly. It is not by words, but by deeds and actions, that we are to judge of a Christian's state, according to that saying of St. Paul: “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” 1 Cor. 4:20. Such is the condition of most men at this day, that those who make the strongest pretences to the Christian name, do nothing but that which is contrary to the Christian spirit. They are like the people at Rome, concerning whom Laurentius Valla exclaimed when reading these words of our Lord, “Blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers,” etc. (Matt. 5:7-9), Surely either these words are not true, or we are no Christians. Man is corrupted to such a degree, that even not a few brute creatures visibly surpass him in some good quality. The dove excels him in harmlessness (Matt. 10:16); the ant in industry (Prov. 6:6); the stork in [pg 180] a careful provision for her young; the dog in love and fidelity; the ox and the ass in knowledge of their master (Isa. 1:3); the sheep in meekness (Isa. 53:7); the lion in generosity and clemency towards weak animals; the cock in watchfulness; and the serpent in wisdom. On the contrary, man in his natural state exceeds all the beasts in mischief. He is more fierce than a wolf; more crafty than a fox; more vain than a peacock; more voracious than a swine; more pestilent than a viper; fiercer than a bear. Indeed, the Lord Jesus himself terms Herod a fox (Luke 13:32); John the Baptist applies the name of vipers to the Pharisees (Matt. 3:7); and St. Paul that of lion to Nero. 2 Tim. 4:17. Truly, those vices and mischiefs, which go single and unaccompanied in brutes, are oftentimes crowded together in one natural man. So that the human body is very significantly called by the apostle, “the body of sin” (Rom. 6:6), as being full of sins, and infected with all manner of defilements. Not to mention, that there is no creature so bad and pernicious, but that it may be still of some use to men. The foxes and wolves, for instance, with their skins, secure men from the injuries of a rigorous season. But, alas! what good is there to be found in a man abandoned to the conduct of an unregenerate nature? “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5; 8:21); as is more than once expressed in Scripture. He exercises his reason to practise fraud; he wastes his body with pride and lewdness; and is both inwardly and outwardly corrupted, so that all his members are justly called the “instruments” or weapons “of unrighteousness.” Rom. 6:13. Hence it is, that the Sacred Scriptures represent our nature in colors so dark and odious, as may strike terror into every man that reads them. “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace have they not known; there is no fear of God before their eyes.” Rom. 3:10-18; Ps. 14.

    5. Behold here the deplorable image of the natural man! Behold the abomination that is common to us all! And now tell me how a man can see the kingdom of God, unless he be born again from above, or, as St. Paul expresses it, “unless he be renewed in the spirit of his mind: putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness?” Eph. 4:23; Col. 3:10. And the same apostle says, “But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.” Eph. 4:20, 21. Yea, he says, “They that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Gal. 5:24. Alas! if those belong not to Christ, who do not mortify the members of unrighteousness, but live in the pollutions of sin, then they surely must belong to the devil, and cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven, since they do not crucify the flesh. For whosoever desires to please God, must become “a new creature” in Christ [pg 181] (2 Cor. 5:17); “in whom neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Gal. 6:15. Now, since these are the terms on which our eternal welfare depends, let it be our main concern, that we more and more vanquish sin in our mortal bodies, and that we be members, not of Satan, but of Jesus Christ. Let us earnestly endeavor, that the divine Word may gain ground, and bear fruit in our souls. Let us strive to render our lives acceptable to God, so that, being preserved by his grace to the end, we may continue “vessels of mercy, and not of wrath.” Rom. 9:22, 23.

    6. It is for this reason that David so heartily wishes to lead a holy life, conformably to the word of God: “I cried,” says he, “with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord; I will keep thy statutes” (Ps. 119:145): for since our conversion is entirely from above, it follows, that a holy life must be obtained by continual prayer and supplication. “Heal me, O Lord,” says the prophet, “and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.” Jer. 17:14; 31:18. And David says again, “I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies.” Ps. 119:146. Sin and the kingdom of Satan are, indeed, so strong and powerful in man, that it is in vain to attempt their conquest without the divine aid and assistance.

    7. Let us therefore shake off all sloth and negligence, and let us acquit ourselves diligently, in a matter of so great importance. David himself further adds, “I prevented (that is, I came before) the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word. Mine eyes prevent (or, anticipate) the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.” Ps. 119:147, 148. And very appropriate are the words of the prophet on this account: “He wakeneth me morning by morning: he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” Isa. 50:4. With which those of Solomon agree: “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh.” Song 5:2.

    8. In these and the like sentences of Scripture, we may view the fatherly care, and condescending love of our merciful God; since his delight is to be conversant with the sons of men, to speak with them and to instruct them. Hence he appointed his Son to be our heavenly Teacher and Master; of which the Lord Jesus himself gave a visible image when he was found in the temple in the midst of the doctors, and astonished the hearers with “his understanding and answers.” Luke 2:47. This was done by our Saviour, not merely on account of the Jewish temple, which is now destroyed; but rather on account of the Christian Church itself, which is the true and heavenly Jerusalem, taught and instructed by his Word and Spirit. It was also done with reference to the temple of our heart, in which he will teach, comfort, enlighten, and sanctify us. Here he will pray, ask questions, and answer them; and speak in holy thoughts, and devout meditations. And in this the prophetical office of Christ consists. Hence also he replied to his mother in these words: “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my father's business?” (Luke 2:49), meaning that office which was conferred upon him by his Father. This office he now performs at the right hand of God, as our true and only High priest; and upon earth he discharges it by his word; by means of which he also inwardly preaches in our hearts by his [pg 182] Holy Spirit and gracious illumination. Without this, the outward preaching must prove barren and unfruitful, according to the words of the apostle: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” 1 Cor. 3:6, 7.

    Chapter VI.

    The Perfection And Salvation Of Men Depend On Union With Christ By Faith; But To This They Can Contribute Nothing, Whereas They Rather Interfere With The Grace Of God By Their Perverse Will; But Christ, And He Alone, Accomplishes The Work In Us.

    Without me ye can do nothing.John 15:5.

    As man by his apostasy from God, through ambition and self-love, was separated from him, and fell from the perfection in which he was created, so he must of necessity return to his original tranquillity and happiness, by a union with God; in which the whole of human perfection consists. It was therefore necessary, that the Son of God should become man, in order that human nature, being again united to God, might thereby be restored to its primitive integrity and perfection. As the divine and human natures are united in the one Person of Christ, so must we all, through grace, be united to him by faith, as to our eternal and sovereign Good. In this manner it pleased God to rectify the exceeding corruption of our nature by the abounding goodness of his grace. This union is declared by the Son of God himself: “I will betroth thee,” says he, “unto me for ever, in loving kindness and in mercies.” Hos. 2:19. For since our nature is infected and corrupted by sin, which is the greatest of evils, it could not be restored and healed but by God himself, the sovereign Good.

    2. Now as the union of the divine and the human natures in Christ is eternal, and is never to be dissolved, insomuch that even death itself could not break asunder so sacred a bond: so Christ our Head is to be so firmly united with his faithful members, that neither life nor death may ever be able to separate them from him. This is also declared by the prophet Hosea, in the Person of Christ: “I will,” says he, “betroth thee unto me for ever.”

    3. This union by faith, is of the highest necessity, because “our iniquities have separated between us and our God.” Isa. 59:2. And this deplorable state will continue to all eternity, unless Christ dwell in us here by faith. Moreover, we are not able to do the least good, unless Christ himself work it in us. Hence, says the apostle, “Not I, but the grace of God which is with me.” 1 Cor. 15:10. And the Lord himself says: “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5); the truth of which he illustrates by the beautiful parable of the vine and the branches. Whence it naturally follows, that if we are, or do, any good [pg 183] at all, it is altogether to be ascribed to God alone; according to what is said by the prophet: “Thou hast wrought all our works in us” (Isa. 26:12); and by another: “I am like a green fir-tree. From me is thy fruit found.” Hos. 14:8.

    4. O man! consider therefore, what thou art, and what thou canst do. What hast thou been able to contribute to thy restoration and the renovation of thy depraved nature? Surely nothing. As thou couldst not afford any help toward thy bodily birth, nor create thyself; so neither canst thou bring any assistance towards thy new birth or regeneration. Thou canst indeed lose, corrupt, and destroy thyself; but to renew, to restore, to heal, to justify, and to quicken thyself, is a work entirely beyond thy strength. Couldest thou contribute anything that God might become man? No. There is nothing therefore that thou canst arrogate to thyself, or ascribe to thy own ability. Indeed, the more a man attributes to his own will, strength, and ability, the more effectually does he obstruct divine grace, and the renewal of his corrupted nature. Let us therefore wholly renounce our own strength, our own wisdom, our own will, and self-love, that, being thus resigned to God alone, we may suffer his power freely to work in us, so that nothing may, in the least, oppose the will and operations of the Lord.

    5. Until thou art brought to this, O Christian, that thy mind becomes merely passive, and that thou purely sufferest the operation and will of God, it is evident, that God is impeded by thee, so that he cannot unite himself with thy soul; or by true renovation of thy corrupt nature establish his image there. For our own will, self-love, ambition, the opinion of our own wisdom, and whatever we arrogantly claim to ourselves, are so many impediments, why God cannot freely operate in us, and effect his good will. For as a man's own will more and more corrupts and depraves him; so the will of God more and more perfects and restores him.

    6. Hence, it was said by Bonaventura, that “the highest perfection of religion, consists in renouncing our own will.” And by Augustine, “If to love God is the greatest good to man, to love himself must needs be his greatest evil. And, if such is the nature of good, that it diffuses and communicates itself; of necessity self-love must be a great evil, since it engrosses to itself both its own and the goods of others, and will not part with any of them.” Of this even the pagan Seneca himself was not ignorant when he said: “That only is an accession to virtue, which is a denial of thy own will.” And again: “Unless thou departest from thyself, thou canst not approach God, who is above thee.”

    7. Our own will is nothing else but a defection or apostasy from God. Defection verily is easy, smooth, and pleasant; but the recovery from it is bitter, troublesome, and difficult; yea, even beyond all the power of the creature. For man, by his own strength, can neither return, nor in any wise help himself, whether in will or deed. Man's will is captive, and his works are dead. Christ alone is able to help, in the beginning, the progress, and the end. He lays before us two means, the law and the gospel; or repentance and remission of sin. Through the law, in the first place, thou must die with Christ, and by true sorrow and brokenness of heart sacrifice thy own will. Thou must become as nothing [pg 184] in thine own eyes, and resign thyself wholly to Christ. Then grace and forgiveness of sin are conferred through the gospel, and man, that was dead before, is made alive by faith. Whence it appears, that no man can by his own strength convert and quicken himself. For it is absolutely necessary that he hate, deny, and lose himself; that he be displeased with, and die unto, himself; and that his hope be placed entirely in God alone, by whose grace he expects to live.

    8. But even this self-hatred, denial, and mortification, are not the effect of our own will and ability. “It is not,” says St. Paul, “of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Rom. 9:16. It is God therefore alone who operates all this in us by his grace, and by the power of his good Spirit: so that our justification is not derived from any creature whatsoever, but from God alone, whose work and gift it is. For the most dangerous enemy any man has, is himself; insomuch that we have great reason to implore the Lord to deliver us from ourselves and all that we have by nature, and then to bestow that which flows from his grace. By our own strength we are not able to perform the least good, if God, himself, even after conversion, do not graciously operate in us. Who is there that can endue us with love and mercy, but God, who is love itself, and from whom all other graces proceed? Therefore, Christ alone is our help and support, when the help of men cannot avail. But after all, be the condition ever so low to which man has been brought by the fall of Adam, he is now raised again by Christ, and even exalted to a higher degree than he possessed before. But of this more shall be said in Chapter XI.

    Chapter VII.

    Showing That In Order To Understand The True Nature Of Repentance, We Must Necessarily Know The Distinction Between The Old And The New Man; Or, How In Us Adam Must Die, And Christ Live; Or, How In Us The Old Man Must Die, And The New Man Live.

    We know this, that our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.Rom. 6:6.

    In every Christian there is found a twofold man, opposed, like their fruits, to one another. This will more fully appear from the following statement:

    Old man,New man.
    Outward man,Inward man.
    Old birth,New birth.
    Tree of death,Tree of life.
    Evil fruit,Good fruit.
    Old Jerusalem,New Jerusalem.
    Kingdom of the devil,Kingdom of God.
    Seed of the serpent,Seed of God.
    Natural man,Spiritual man.
    Image of the earthly, Image of the heavenly.
    [pg 185]

    The truth of this statement, the Scriptures, as well as experience, abundantly confirm. The former speak largely of the old man and the new, of the inward and outward man. See Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:9; 2 Cor. 4:16. They teach also that the Spirit of God is in us: Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:13. And likewise Christ, Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 13:5. Experience, moreover, demonstrates the same. Hither may also be referred that striving and struggling of the flesh and Spirit, from which even the saints are not free. Rom. 7:23. Likewise there belong here the different fruits of the flesh and Spirit reckoned up by St. Paul. Gal. 5:19-23. This point is therefore clearly stated in Scripture, and too certain to be called in question by any Christian. It is the hinge, as it were, on which all the Scripture moves, and the foundation on which the true knowledge of man depends. Out of the same fountain issue true repentance, or the death of Adam, and the life of Christ in us. For no sooner does Adam die in us, but there perishes with him all that is originally derived from him; the old outward man, the old birth, the flesh, nature, corrupt reason, darkness, the tree of death, evil fruits, sin, death, damnation, the seed of the serpent, the natural man, the earthly image, the old Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Satan. But as long as Adam lives, there also live and reign with him the old man, and the carnal birth, the flesh, nature, corrupt reason, darkness, and the whole train of evils before mentioned, being all comprised under the kingdom of Satan, and subject to damnation, and to the curse everlasting. But if, on the other hand, Christ live in any one, then verily there live and reign with him the new and inward man, the new birth, the Spirit, grace, faith, light, the tree of life, good fruits, righteousness, life, happiness, the seed of God, the spiritual man, the heavenly image, the new Jerusalem, and the kingdom of God. All which proceed from the divine blessing, and tend to eternal salvation. Here is a matter of importance, namely, so to order one's life and conduct, that Christ the new or second Adam, and not the old Adam, may live and reign in us.

    2. Therefore it is necessary for a man to watch, to fast, to pray, fight, and strive; and, as St. Paul expresses it, to examine himself if Christ be in him. 2 Cor. 13:5. He is to work out his salvation with fear and trembling. Phil. 2:12. He is to enter through the strait gate and the narrow way in Christ. Matt. 7:13. That is, man must now hate and deny himself, forsake all (Luke 14:26), and die unto sin. Rom. 6:2. This surely is not to be effected, as the delicate Christians of this age imagine, by any careless and slight application of mind, but by an inward and profound sorrow, contrition, and brokenness of heart, together with groans and tears that cannot be uttered. These inward exercises, and acts of devotion, are most feelingly set forth by David in his Penitential Psalms, which abound with expressions of this nature. Ps. 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143. The apostle calls it a crucifying of the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof. Gal. 5:24. Whoever attains to this state, in him verily Christ lives, and he reciprocally in Christ by faith. Then Christ conquers and reigns in man, whose faith is become “the victory that overcometh the world.” 1 John 5:4.

    [pg 186]

    3. But since the world, which thou art to strive against, is not without thee, but within thee, it follows, that it is also to be conquered not without, but within thee. For what is the world, but “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life?” 1 John 2:16. As these are in thee, so in thee they are to be subdued, that thus thou mayest worthily bear the name and character of a true child of God. “For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4); and if thou overcomest, and gainest the victory over thy great enemy the world, thou art then a child of light (Eph. 5:8), a member of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 5:30), and the temple of the Holy Ghost. 1 Cor. 6:19. Thou art now a good tree (Matt. 12:33), that freely and without constraint, yea, with joy, love, and pleasure, bringeth forth fruit to the glory of God. Matt. 5:16.

    4. But if thou livest in Adam, and Adam reigns in thee, then thou art not a child of God, nor born again of him. For since thou art overcome by the world, and since the prince thereof rules in thee by pride, ambition, and self-love, thou art on this very account to be numbered amongst the children of the devil. John 8:44. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Rom. 8:14. And, on the contrary, as many as are led by Satan, they likewise are his children; yea, they are the very members of Satan, sons of darkness, a habitation of unclean spirits, an accursed Babylon, full of impure and of abominable beasts; as it is represented by the ancient prophets (Isa. 13:21; Rev. 18:2); but particularly by the prophet Ezekiel. He being brought in spirit into the temple at Jerusalem, beheld two remarkable things: one whereof was, “every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about;” and secondly (which was still more detestable), “seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, worshipping these beasts and images, and offering them incense.” Ezek. 8:10, 11.

    5. Behold, O man, a lively representation here given of thy depraved, brutish, and beastly heart! If thou wilt but enter into this temple of thy heart, thou shalt surely find therein vast numbers of foul, detestable creatures, images, and idols, fashioned and represented by all manner of corrupt and impure thoughts in the carnal mind, imagination, and memory. Moreover (and this is the greatest evil of all), though these idols and horrid abominations should be utterly banished from the heart, and this detestable evil, by which man is made the habitation of unclean and pestilential reptiles, should, by all means, be destroyed by repentance, by mortification of the flesh, and by penitential tears and humiliation; yet, instead of doing that, thou lovest these serpents, adorest these vile monsters, and servest and caressest them. Alas! thou but little regardest that Christ is cast out of thy soul by these abominations, and is utterly banished from thy heart; and that by this means thou deprivest thyself of the supreme and eternal Good, losing the Holy Spirit with all his excellent gifts and graces. O miserable man! thou exceedingly grievest when any outward trouble befalls thee, or when thou losest anything in the world that is dear to thee; why then is it, that thou art not at all concerned at the loss even of Christ himself, and at the deplorable state of thy soul and body, which are [pg 187] both become a habitation of malignant spirits!

    6. If these things be seriously pondered and laid to heart, we shall soon understand what Adam and Christ are; and how they live and act in men. To this head we may also refer the following observations. First, In Adam we are all naturally equal, nor is one better than another; since we are all, both as to body and soul, equally polluted and corrupted, so that it is affirmed by St. Paul, not only of Jews and Gentiles, but even of all men in general, that “there is no difference.” Rom. 3:22. Hence it is also true, that in the sight of God, no man is better than the most profligate criminal. For though that perverse temper which is natural to all, does not equally in all break out into works, yet God judges all men by the inward state of the heart, that poisoned fountain of all sin. Nor is there any sin so heinous, which man by nature would not freely commit, were he not strongly restrained by divine grace. For by the bent of our nature we are but too much inclined to pollute ourselves with all manner of wickedness (Jer. 13:23); and if the inclination be not always attended with the external effect itself, it is wholly to be attributed to the grace of God, and not to any strength or prudence of our own. Gen. 20:6. This consideration should excite us to the practice of true humility, and to an unfeigned fear of God; and at the same time restrain us from rashly despising our fellow-creatures, lest, by reflecting on others, we ourselves split upon the dangerous rock of carnal presumption. Secondly, it is proper to observe, that as in Adam we are all equally bad with regard to the corruption of nature; so by Christ we are all made equally just and holy; no man receiving for himself any prerogative of a peculiar righteousness in the sight of God. For since Christ is our perfection, our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11), we, who in Adam are alike, are also alike in Christ. For as in Adam by nature we are all one man and one body, infected with the foul contagion of disobedience and sin, so all true Christians are as one man in Christ, and make up one body, completely purified and sanctified by faith, and the blood of Christ.

    7. This truth is a remedy against spiritual pride, namely, that none should account himself better before God than others, though perhaps adorned with greater gifts, and endowments. For even these are no less bestowed on him of pure grace, than are righteousness and salvation themselves. Upon this principle of pure grace, be careful to keep thy mind constantly fixed. If thou dost so, then this grace shall protect thee against the dangerous snares of pride and arrogance; and as, on the one hand, it will convince thee of thy own misery and poverty in spirit, so, on the other, it will give thee a most lively insight into Christ, and into the exceeding riches of grace, offered through him to all mankind.

    [pg 188]

    Chapter VIII.

    Showing How Graciously God Invites Us To Repentance, And How Necessary It Is That It Should Not Be Delayed.

    Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.Luke 15:10.

    God, who is of infinite mercy, in order that he might the better soften our hard and stony hearts, and turn them from the world, ourselves, and the devil, unto himself (Acts 26:18), has, in his Word, variously represented and set before our eyes man's conversion and repentance.

    2. Among other ways of impressing it on our minds, the two parables of the Lost Sheep and of the Prodigal Son (Luke, chap. 15), are exceedingly affecting, and are so abundant in divine consolation, that it is scarcely possible seriously to think upon them without tears. Therein our Saviour describes three different hearts. Of these the first is, the impenitent heart of a sinner; the second, the contrite heart of a penitent; the third, the heart of God, full of mercy and paternal affection.

    3. The first he describes under the similitude of a degenerate son, wastefully spending his substance and inheritance, and at last reduced to such necessity, as to wish to fill his belly with the husks which the swine did eat. By this figure all mankind in their natural state are shadowed forth; who, as so many degenerate sons, have squandered away the heavenly inheritance by continual riot and wickedness. That is, they have lost their original righteousness, holiness, innocency, and the beautiful image of God, in which they were at first created (Eph. 4:24), and are now by their own fault become the bond-slaves of sin, of the devil, and of death. And to complete their ruin, finding no relief, rest, or comfort, in any human performances and laws (which answer to the husks in the parable) they must of necessity perish with endless famine and misery, unless they speedily have recourse unto the grace of their Heavenly Father.

    4. The second heart, which is that of a repenting sinner, is set forth in these words: “How many hired servants of my Father have bread enough, and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise, and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee; and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” In this account we have a very moving description of true repentance. By the Prodigal's coming to himself, is signified sorrow for sin; that is, when a man, on the one hand, reflects upon his own misery, and considers how, from being a child of God, he is become, as it were, a brute beast (2 Pet. 2:12), an unclean swine, a man void of reason, earthly and sensual; and, on the other, mindful of his divine origin, turns his thoughts entirely upon his Father, repents, acknowledges his offences, and says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee;” and have offended both God and man. [pg 189] This he immediately confirms by a sincere contempt of himself, expressed in these words: “and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” Moreover, faith, which is the other part of repentance, is exhibited to us in his actual arising and returning to his father's house. He assumed confidence to repair to his home, and firmly persuaded himself that his father would receive him, if not as a son, at least as one of his hired servants. “For,” says he, “I am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.” This plainly shows the sure hope he entertained, that his father would yield to his entreaties, and receive him into his favor.

    5. And now I come, thirdly, to draw the character of the paternal heart of God, set forth in the parable.

    I. When the son was yet a great way off, his father saw him. Behold the prevenient mercy of our Heavenly Father, who graciously looks for his prodigal children. Ps. 79:8; Isa. 30:18, 19; Ps. 32:8.

    II. And was moved with compassion. Hereby is represented his mercy waiting to be gracious to us.

    III. And ran and fell on his neck. Here is mercy receiving into favor.

    IV. And kissed him. This exhibits mercy ready to administer consolation to the returning sinner. Micah 7:19; Isa. 66:13.

    V. Bring forth, says he, the best robe, and put it on him (Isa. 61:10). This has relation to Christ, and points out his righteousness, and justifying grace. Rom. 8:33.

    VI. And put a ring on his hand. Hereby is signified the Holy Spirit, the pledge of sonship (Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:5), the seal of intimate favor and union; and it also represents to us the espousing mercy of the Lord.

    VII. And shoes on his feet. This denotes a new and holy walk in Christ, resulting from the Divine power, and the grace of the Holy Spirit; which are the peculiar effects of preserving mercy. 1 Peter 1:5; Ps. 84:11.

    VIII. Bring hither the fatted calf. By this feast is represented the joy of angels, or rejoicing and crowning mercy, described by the holy Psalmist, and the prophet Isaiah. Ps. 63:5; 103:5; Isa. 65:13.

    6. What strong and endearing arguments are here offered by the goodness of God inviting us to sincere repentance! Let us, then, seriously consider some of the main inducements to true repentance, of which seven shall be proposed at present.

    I. The boundless mercy of God.

    II. The kindness of Christ, and his inestimable merit.

    III. The awful threatenings and punishments that are laid before us.

    IV. Death.

    V. The last judgment.

    VI. Hell. And

    VII. Everlasting joy.


    7. “If thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart, and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (for the Lord thy God is a merciful God); he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers, which he sware unto them.” Deut. 4:29-31. What tender affection, as of the heart of a father, have we here presented to us! And how just and reasonable is it, that it should move us to repentance! For how numerous and great soever our [pg 190] sins may be, the mercy of God is still greater, according to the words of the Psalmist: “With the Lord there is mercy; and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Ps. 130:7, 8. And again: “According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” Ps. 51:1. Nor are our sins so filthy and abominable, but God can make them white as snow. “Though your sins,” says the prophet, “be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Isa. 1:18. And the Psalmist says: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Ps. 51:7. Neither are they so various and manifold, but that they are surpassed by the riches of divine grace, according to the apostle: “In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Eph. 1:7. And what we read in Exodus teaches the same: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.” Exod. 34:6, 7. Nor are they so strong and powerful, but God can destroy them, and throw them into the depth of the sea, as he did unto Pharaoh and all his host. “He will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:19. Nor, finally, are they so mortal and pestilential, but God can heal them, as the prophet assures us: “The wicked shall not fall by his wickedness in the day that he turneth from it.” Ezek. 33:12.


    8. How kindly and affectionately Christ Jesus receives sinners, he himself abundantly declares in the Gospel: “They that be whole,” says he, “need not a physician, but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Matt. 9:12, 13. “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10. Of this gracious bounty of Christ towards returning sinners, the prophets have left us many predictions. “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel,” saith Ezekiel, “who have not sought that which was lost: but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd. Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock, in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick.” Ezek. 34:2, 4, 12, 16. And the prophet Isaiah says, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom.” Isai. 40:11. Nor should only the gracious nature of Christ move thee to repentance; but more especially his extreme sorrow, and most innocent blood shed on thine account. For consider within thyself:

    (1.) That he laid down his life, not for heaven or earth, but for thy soul. And wilt thou, by sin and impenitence, wantonly cast away so great and valuable a treasure?

    (2.) Remember, that thou couldest not have been redeemed by any other or less price than the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:19). Why shouldest thou deprive thyself of a ransom so inestimable as the Redeemer has paid for thee?

    (3.) Call to mind, that Christ has [pg 191] redeemed thee from the world, from sin and the devil. And dost thou desire to continue longer in the service of so hard and cruel a master?

    (4.) Be assured, that without unfeigned repentance, the merit of Christ will avail thee nothing; yea, that thou tramplest under foot his blood, and dost “despite unto the Spirit of grace.” Heb. 10:29.

    (5.) Lastly, consider how sharp and cruel were the sufferings which thy Saviour underwent on thy account! How he wept and sorrowed, trembled and feared! Heb. 5:7. How grievously he was wounded for thy transgressions (Isa. 53:5), and, at last, as a worm (Ps. 22:6), and cursed (Gal. 3:13), hung upon a tree! How loudly this mournful scene calls on thee to repent!


    9. “God judgeth the righteous,” saith the Psalmist, “and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword: he hath bent his bow, and made it ready: he hath also prepared for him the instruments of death: he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.” Ps. 7:11-13.

    10. This wrath and revenge, no man will ever be able to escape, as the prophet Amos affirms: “He that escapeth of them shall not be delivered. Though they climb up to heaven, thence I will bring them down: and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them. Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth.” Amos 9:1-3, 8. “Their blood shall be poured out as dust,” saith Zephaniah, 1:17, 18, “and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver, nor their gold, shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy.” Such terrible threatenings as these should lead us to unfeigned repentance; this being the only means by which to prevent impending desolation, and the total destruction of nations and cities; as evidently appears from the example of Nineveh. Jonah 3:5, 10. “At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” Jer. 18:7, 8.

    IV. DEATH.

    11. God has concealed the time of our death from us, that thereby we may be kept in the daily and uninterrupted practice of true repentance, as not knowing which hour may be our last. “The whole life of a man is given him for repentance,” saith St. Bernard. And this repentance is a Christian's daily cross and tribulation. Thus it is said in the Psalms: “I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.” Ps. 38:17; 73:14. God has promised grace to the penitent, but he has not promised to sinners another day in which to repent. “It is appointed unto men once to die; but after this the judgment.” Heb. 9:27. Such as God shall find thee, as such will he judge thee: wherefore, live in such a manner as thou wouldest wish to have done, when thou art dying. Consider seriously in thy mind, where they now are, who but a few years ago wasted [pg 192] their lives with lust and vanity, and freely enjoyed the “good things” of this world? Luke 16:25. They are all gone to their own place, where they wait for the day of judgment. Wherefore, “come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Rev. 18:4.


    12. For after death, there is neither place nor time for repentance. It is in this world that eternal life is either lost or obtained. Those that repent betimes, shall not be condemned in judgment; but the impenitent will hear the awful sentence: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” Matt. 25:41. “Behold, therefore, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor. 6:2), which will be followed by the day of judgment in the other world. “To-day, therefore, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation; lest I swear in my wrath, that ye shall not enter into my rest.” Ps. 95:7, 8, 11; Heb. 3:7, 8, 11. “For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Cor. 5:10. Those, therefore, who here repent, “shall have their sins covered” (Ps. 32:1), and “they shall no more be mentioned unto them,” as the prophet declares. Ezek. 33:16. Lay hold, therefore, on the offer of mercy betimes, know and confess thy sins, O man, that they may be remitted and forgotten.


    13. With this present life, the season of the mercy of God closes. It will then be said: “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things.” Luke 16:25. Thy life is now over. Thou art now dead! Dead to God forever, to whom thou didst refuse to live in time! There is no redemption from hell. Ps. 49:14-20. How can the damned enjoy the goodness of God, to which they were dead whilst they were alive, and to which they will now continue dead to all eternity! Remember, therefore, that now is the only time for mercy, and the hour of visitation to repent; whereas, there the damned so die, as, notwithstanding, always to live; and so live, as yet to die eternally. All the senses will there suffer torment. The sight shall be punished with eternal darkness; the ears shall be filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth; the smell with stench of fire and brimstone; the taste with the bitterness of eternal death; and the feeling with a sense of endless tortures and miseries.


    14. Is it not a very high degree of folly, to prefer a short perishing pleasure to an eternal joy; and a worthless trifle, to the glorious presence of God? Now none shall enter into this, but he who has thoroughly washed himself, and “made white his robes in the blood of the Lamb.” Rev. 3:14. “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” Rev. 22:15. None of those, who, having been here invited to the feast of Christ, yet refused to come, “shall taste of his supper.” Luke 14:24. The highest joy of eternal life, will consist in “seeing God as he is.” 1 John 3:2. To see God, is all in all, and an eternal reward. “Ye shall see me,” says our Lord, “and [pg 193] your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man taketh from you.” John 16:19, 22. This sight of the face of God is the joy of the angels; it is their life, and the invisible food by which they are sustained. Now as this vision of God creates the most exalted joy, so to be banished from it, is to suffer the greatest, the most terrible, and the most severe torment, and eternal misery.

    Chapter IX.

    Showing What Repentance Is, And The Manner In Which The Sinner Truly Repents; Also, How The Goodness Of God Leads Us To Repentance.

    Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.—Joel 2:12, 13.

    The Lord, whose mercy is infinite, by no means seeks our destruction, but rather our life and happiness. He best knows the wretched and deplorable condition into which we are fallen by sin; and he is also desirous to reclaim us from that dangerous state, and to preserve us from everlasting ruin. It is for this reason, that he so earnestly invites the soul to repentance, and engages us to the same by many strong and powerful motives.

    2. Sometimes God is pleased to stir us up by terrible threatenings. “Behold,” says he, “I will bring evil upon this people; because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.” Jer. 6:19. Again, “And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; therefore, will I cast you out of my sight.” Jer. 7:13, 15. This dreadful proclamation of both temporal and eternal calamities, should strike fear and terror into us: for the threatening of God is not an empty voice, nor a sound that vanishes into nothing, but it is accompanied with many terrible effects, and consuming wrath, as will in its time more fully appear, and which we even feel already by sad experience; since miseries and calamities, like a flood, seem to carry all before them. Nay, they will undoubtedly multiply upon us, and exert themselves with the utmost fury and fierceness, except we betimes prevent them by a sincere repentance. Thus the wrath of God shall be poured forth in wars, famines, pestilence, fire, and inundations, till he has at length destroyed our very foundations, as he did once to the city of Jerusalem. Lam. 4:11.

    3. But if the proclamation of wrath and judgment cannot prevail upon us, yet ought God's abounding goodness, attended as it is with so many endearing marks of love, to melt our hearts, and to soften them into true and earnest repentance. For thus hath the Lord spoken by the prophet: “Return, thou backsliding Israel, and [pg 194] I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God.” Jer. 3:12, 13. In these words, God makes a free offer of his grace, entreats and adjures us to return to him again, for he is willing to accept our repentance.

    4. The passages that have been quoted, are a convincing proof that God, by his grace, mercy, patience, and clemency, strongly invites us to true repentance. There are chiefly three things in those scriptures, which deserve a more particular observation: namely, the nature of repentance, or what it is to repent; that is, to turn unto the Lord:—the manner in which repentance is to be wrought out; that is, by fasting, weeping, and mourning:—the motive to engage us in so holy an exercise, which is the paternal goodness of God; for I am merciful.”

    As to the first, we know that to repent, is nothing else but to be led, through the law of God, to acknowledge the natural blindness of our hearts, and that detestable impurity which lurks within. Next, we ought to regard this as the very source whence all other sins proceed, and whereby we depart from God, the supreme and eternal Good, deserving not only various punishments here, but also his everlasting wrath in hell hereafter. All this ought to awaken in us sorrow and distress, not so much by reason of the threatened punishment, as rather on account of the heinousness of the many provocations offered to a merciful Father, who in his very nature is love and kindness. This being done, we may then raise again our souls by virtue of the Gospel, and with a well-grounded faith, rely on the favor of God, and on the sure remission of sin promised in Christ Jesus. This must necessarily be attended with a serious amendment of life, with a constant purification of the heart by faith, with a mortification of all evil desires, and with a sincere abnegation of our own will, so opposite to that of God. In a word, it will be accompanied with a new life acceptable unto God in Christ, and with fruit worthy of repentance; suitably to what God enjoins by the prophet: “Wash ye, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Isaiah 1:16, 18.

    5. But alas! here is the difficulty! These things are much more easily said, than reduced to practice. The reason is, because hardly any will earnestly engage in so weighty a work, or search into the true original cause of the many dreadful disorders that appear in our lives and conduct. Man flatters himself with a confident opinion of his own goodness, and cherishes the affection of the old man. There are few who care to see their hearts in their inward and native depravity; or to be made sensible of that vein of evil nature which runs through all their actions, even the best and most shining. And thus Christ himself, and the grace of God, manifested by him, are wantonly disregarded.

    6. And yet Joel (2:12) requires us to “turn unto God with all our heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” Hereby he intimates that we are turned away from God; have forsaken the fountain of living waters (Jer. 2:13); and are now unable to attain life and happiness again, unless we search our ways,” and return [pg 195] unto him from whom we are gone astray. Lam. 3:40. It is for this purpose that the Prophet charges “backsliding children” to return, with the promise annexed, that the “Lord will heal their backslidings.” Jer. 3:22. For this verily is the will of God, that we should see and confess our misery, in order that he may compassionately heal it.

    7. But since, by nature, we are so blind as to be utterly unable of ourselves sufficiently to discover our own wretchedness; God has been pleased to afford means, with a view to bringing us to a sound knowledge of ourselves. This is done by his holy Word and the Sacraments, which are always accompanied with his grace and Spirit. By these the Father draws, allures, and calls us to himself, as so many lost and wandering sheep. John 6:44. For as a straying sheep cannot of itself return, but must of necessity be sought and brought back to the fold by the shepherd, so we would forever go astray in the wilderness of sin and error, did not God himself carefully seek us; and this the examples of Peter and Paul abundantly confirm. Therefore the prophet says: “Turn thou me, O Lord, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.” Jer. 31:18. “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.” Jer. 17:14. “For it is God,” says the apostle, “which worketh in us, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.” Phil. 2:13.

    8. When, therefore, the Lord graciously awakens us by these means, and invites us to repentance, it is our part, not to withstand his grace and Spirit; (as it is said, “To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts”) (Ps. 95:7, 8); but to confess the sin which he thus reproves in us, and by no means make light of the grace offered to us in the Gospel. Then God will assuredly have mercy upon us, as he himself declares: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isa. 55:7.

    9. Upon this account the work of conversion, though it is entirely a work of God's grace, is yet in one respect ascribed to us; namely, as we give up ourselves to the Lord, and to his operations, and do not wantonly resist his Spirit, despise his grace, and cast it from us; or, as the apostle expresses it, do not put his Word from us, nor stop our ears against it, as did the Jews of old. Acts 13:46; 7:57. On the contrary, when the severity of the law has laid open our spiritual diseases, and we have felt the bitterness thereof; let us avail ourselves of the Gospel as a healing remedy, and suffer our heavenly Physician to restore us to health.

    10. An image of this we have in a straying sheep. If it but hear at a distance the voice of the shepherd, it starts back immediately, and returns to him. And how willingly would the lost sinner follow the voice of his Shepherd, if sin had not so perverted him, as to reduce him lower than the very beasts in stupidity and dulness! Of this indeed the prophet complains: “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Isa. 1:3. “Shall they fall,” asks another prophet, “and not arise? Shall he turn away, and not return? The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle, and [pg 196] the crane, and the swallow, observe the times of their coming: but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.” Jer. 8:4, 7.

    11. We ought, therefore, most fervently to implore the Lord, not to withdraw from us his gracious assistance, without which we must certainly go astray. For since sin and the old Adam constantly abide in our corrupt flesh and blood, we have need of daily, yea, hourly supplies of grace, for repressing the tyranny of sin, and for nourishing the life of God within us. The grace of God is the life of our soul, as the soul is the life of the body. And as the life of the body, without the free enjoyment of the air, must soon be extinct; so the vital flame of the inward life will speedily languish, without a daily supply of grace to support it. For this reason Solomon prayed: “The Lord our God be with us; let him not leave us, nor forsake us; that he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways.” 1 Kings 8:57.

    12. This is a lesson which ought not to be learned in a light and general manner, but by a close and practical application be brought home to every one in particular. Let, therefore, every one look into his own heart and seek its renewal, that so all may be reformed in time. Let us remember that comfortable exhortation, and the promise annexed thereto: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near.” Isa. 55:6. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart, saith the Lord.” Jer. 29:13.

    13. But in order to true repentance, it is not enough to refrain only from gross sins, and foul visible transgressions; but the heart, whence all those evils proceed, is to be changed and purified; that so inward pride, covetousness, and lust, with all sinful affections, may be mortified at last. For whilst the heart is unchanged, unreformed, and unrenewed; that is, whilst our own corrupt temper, our inward malice, wrath, hatred, enmity, revenge, lying, and deceit, are quietly suffered within us; all our boasts of, and pretences to, and formalities in, religion, are but mere show and hypocrisy. God requires no less than a new heart, and “a new creature in Christ Jesus.” 2 Cor. 5:17. No one is so holy, so good, and so thoroughly cleansed, but he will still find something in his own heart to be thrown out, or to be amended and rectified. “As a fountain casteth out her waters, so Jerusalem casteth out her wickedness.” Jer. 6:7. This is the first head, relating to the nature of repentance, of which more has been said in Book I.

    14. Let us now consider, in the second place, the manner of our returning to God: “with all the heart,” says the prophet, “with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” Wretched mortals can weep floods of tears for empty and perishing goods, whilst they stand unmoved at the miserable state of their souls, and at the loss of an eternal and incorruptible inheritance! In this they are altogether unlike David, who, by his example, sets a most shining pattern of sincere and unfeigned repentance before us. See Ps. 6, and Ps. 38. “For the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7), and “trieth the heart and reins.” Ps. 7:9.

    15. What the prophet says of fasting, is to be understood of a general fast enjoined by the prophet to all the people. In such a fast the whole body of a nation were wont to be concerned. [pg 197] They publicly confessed their sins; they deplored and bewailed them; and thus humbling themselves before God, fasted both inwardly and outwardly. And in this order they begged remission of sin, and deprecated the judgments of God gathering over them. Such a general fast and public repentance as this, such sincere conversion, prayer, faith, confession, and supplication, are the most effectual means to appease the wrath of an offended God, and to avert his judgments from whole kingdoms and nations. This plainly appears from the history of the defeat of the other tribes of Israel, by that of Benjamin; in which the former having in two battles lost forty thousand men, all went up and came before the Lord, with weeping and mourning, and there fasted the whole day, from morning to night. Judges 20:26. A similar illustrious example is recorded of the fast of the Ninevites (Jonah 3:5, 10): and of the children of Israel, who, being beaten by the Philistines, kept a fast for seven days together, after Saul and Jonathan were slain in the battle. 1 Chron. 10:12.

    16. Such solemn penitential fasts were also in use in the primitive Church, when the Christians met together, and in any great public calamity humbled themselves before the Lord. Not, surely, to obtain remission of sin by such performances, as so many meritorious acts of devotion; but by a contrite, sober, and humble heart, to deprecate the judgments that were ready to break in upon them. And such fasts might with propriety still be observed.

    17. Fasts such as these, accompanied with true repentance, would prove an impregnable wall and fortification against all our enemies; a sovereign medicine in all pestilential diseases; and a safeguard about all our estates and possessions. An example of this we have in Job, who, whenever his children had spent any day in mirth and feasting, “offered up unto God prayers and sacrifices for them” (Job 1:4, 5); and thus, as it were, fortified his house by prayer against the insults of wicked men and devils.

    18. In great public calamities the Lord looks out for such men as may, like a bulwark, oppose his wrath when ready to make a breach. “I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them, I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God.” Ezek. 22:30, 31. We may also remember, on this occasion, the intercession of Abraham. Gen. 18:23.

    19. Thus the prophet Daniel was a wall of defence when he made confession to God of the sins of all the people. Dan. 9:4, 5, etc. And the prophet Joel, in very moving terms, describes such a penitential fast: “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people; sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, and those that suck the breasts; let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach.” Joel 2:15-17.

    20. Such public fasts ought to be celebrated by the whole multitude, without hypocrisy, with ardent zeal [pg 198] and devotion; for it is the will of God, that every one readily confess his sins. He requires true humility, sincere repentance, and a turning to him with our whole heart. Hence the prophet commands the “heart, and not the garments,” to be rent. The Jews, at the hearing of any sad or terrible evil, were accustomed to rend their clothes, in order to evidence thereby the inward sorrow with which they were affected. This, however, like their fasting, was often a mere formality, and their grief was only pretended. Wherefore, the prophet reproves them, saying, “Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” Isa. 58:5-7.

    21. These words explain the nature of a true fast; which is then only kept, when, on the one hand, we abstain from sin, subdue the wanton lusts of the flesh, and keep the old man, with all his members, under constant restraint and subjection: and, on the other, when we are fervent in works of charity, in the practice of patience and mercy, and of the other virtues springing up from a contrite, sincere, and penitent heart. And it is with regard to these inward acts of humiliation, that the prophet bids us rend our hearts. For as the wounds of the heart must necessarily be very painful; so the grief occasioned by our sins should affect us, as if our very hearts were bruised and crushed. And this “broken spirit,” this “contrite heart,” is that sacrifice which is so highly acceptable to God. Ps. 51:17. Such a heart has, by faith, obtained a due fitness to receive the influence of the grace of God, the consolations of the Holy Spirit, and the merit and blood of Jesus Christ. As a hard and massive stone cannot be penetrated by the oil or water poured upon it, until it be broken to pieces; so the sovereign balm of God's grace and consolation cannot comfort and quicken the heart, except it be first broken and softened into humility, that so by faith it may partake of the merit of Christ. “Not the whole, but the sick, have need of a physician.” Matt. 9: 12. Let no one think that he belongs to Christ, unless he has first “crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts.” Gal. 5:24. The blood of Christ will be of no profit to any except to those who embrace it with a contrite, afflicted, penitent, humble and believing heart.

    22. As for the motives to repentance, which make up the third head, they are thus expressed by the prophet: “Turn unto the Lord, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” Joel 2:12, 13. He lays down in these words, a gradual display of the manifold mercies offered to returning sinners. As if he had said, “If you think it a small thing that I am gracious, then know that I am merciful also: if this be not enough, I am likewise patient and slow to anger: if this will not yet suffice, then I am, moreover, of great kindness. If, after [pg 199] all, you still require something more, then understand, that I easily repent of intended punishments; yea, even when my avenging hand is lifting up, I am ready to let fall the rod, upon your serious repentance.”

    23. First, then, the prophet calls God gracious (Ps. 103:8); that is, ready to be entreated and reconciled. God is easy to be prevailed with, forgives offences, deals not in strict justice and the rigor of the law, according to what we have deserved. And all these marks of mercy should lead us to repentance. There are many admirable promises, all tending to the same end. “If thou afflict them, they will cry unto me, and I will surely hear; for I am gracious.” Ex. 22:23, 27. “Therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you. Thou shalt weep no more; he will be very gracious unto thee, at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.” Isa. 30:18. That is, the Most High is so rich in grace, that he waits for you. In him there is expecting grace, by which he readily receives those that truly return: prevenient grace, expressed by the Psalmist—“Let thy tender mercies speedily prevent (that is, meet, or anticipate) us” (Ps. 79:8): protecting grace, noticed by the same prophet; “He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about” (Ps. 32:10): preserving grace; “Surely,” says David, “mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Ps. 23:6. Of this we have given examples in the preceding chapter. With this agree also the words of Scripture: “With the Lord there is mercy; and with him is plenteous redemption.” Ps. 130:7. Wherefore, let the divine clemency and grace move thee to sincere and unfeigned repentance.

    24. Secondly, the prophet declares that God is merciful. To be merciful, is to be easily moved by the miseries of another, and from the very heart to compassionate his case. This is to be seen in parents, who, not only with unfeigned tenderness love their children, but are at the same time so deeply touched with their misery and weakness, as to be willing even to die for them, if that were possible. Thus David, when he lamented the death of his son Absalom, mournfully exclaimed: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Sam. 18:33. But these bowels of mercy, this ardent, cordial, and tender affection, are infinitely more conspicuous in God himself, who, from an abounding sense of love and kindness, has given up his Son to death, and thereby transcended all the affections of earthly parents. This is declared by the prophet: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Isa. 49:15. And by another, “Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” Jer. 31:20. And again by another, “The Lord thy God is a merciful God; he will not forget the covenant of thy fathers, which he sware unto them.” Deut. 4:31. And David confirms it: “The Lord is merciful and gracious.” Ps. 103:8. And again, calling to mind this mercy, when of three punishments he had it in his power to choose which he pleased, he answered, “Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for [pg 200] his mercies are great.” 2 Sam. 24:14. Would to God that his paternal mercy might also allure us to unfeigned repentance! St. Paul himself refers to this most powerful inducement, when he beseeches us “by the mercies of God, etc.” Rom. 12:1.

    25. The third appellation given to God by the prophet is, that he is patient, or slow to anger. He is not easily moved to wrath; he suffers many provocations offered him, and gives time for repentance and conversion. All which he has abundantly evidenced by many real demonstrations, powerful enough to convince us, that even in God himself, “Love beareth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor. 13:7), even as parents bear with their children. To this purpose says St. Peter, “The Lord is long suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Pet. 3:9. And again, “Account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation.” 2 Pet. 3:15. And Paul wishes, that “the goodness of God may lead us to repentance.” Rom. 2:4. To this long-suffering of God it was entirely due, that he granted the old world a hundred and twenty years in which to repent; bearing all that time with their provocations, and waiting for repentance. Gen. 6:3. And O! how much time hath he given us to repent in, and to work out our salvation! But this divine grace is abused by those who only grow more wanton by mercies, and “turn even the grace of God itself into lasciviousness.” Jude, ver. 4. But by this they only hasten their ruin, and render more grievous the punishment which they deserve. If one, and then another of these many and provoking affronts, with which men offend an omnipotent God, were daily put upon a mere mortal, nothing certainly could be expected but the utmost severity of his resentment. How inconceivably great then must be the patience of God, who not only pardons offences so numerous and so heinous, but also returns all manner of kindness to the offender himself. O! that the inconceivable patience of the Lord might inspire us with a hatred of sin, and lead us all to repentance!

    26. Fourthly, God is represented to be of great kindness; so great indeed, that no sin, how great soever, can surpass it. For as God is essentially and wholly good, so is he desirous to communicate himself wholly to men, provided they be willing to receive and admit him. Yea, by his nature he can be and do nothing but good. He takes a pleasure therein, and “rejoiceth over us to do us good.” Jer. 32:41. His mercy is as great as himself, that is, infinite. It extends to all mankind. “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens.” Ps. 36:5. “As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.” Ps. 103:11. And we read in the Lamentations: “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not: they are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Lam. 3:22. See, therefore, O man! that a goodness so inexpressible be no longer abused, but that it animate thee to sincere repentance.

    27. And lastly, the prophet says of the Lord, It repenteth him of the evil. This is as if he would say: “It is the nature of God, to punish with reluctance; and when he is even constrained thereto, it is not for our destruction, but salvation, that we be not condemned with the world.” 1 Cor. 11:32. He then doth “his strange [pg 201] work” (of punishment), that he may bring to pass his own work (of mercy). Isa. 28:21. Thus he repented of the evil he had designed against Nineveh. Jonah 3:10. And, therefore, “it is good, that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. For the Lord will not cast off for ever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” Lam. 3:26, 31-33. Therefore, repent of thy sins.

    28. For as soon as thou repentest of sin, and supplicatest the Lord in true faith, God will also repent of the punishment he intended to inflict. The words of the Lord to Jonah are very memorable: “Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons?” Jonah 4:9-11. This boundless mercy is still the same even at this day, and will continue so forever to penitent and returning sinners. Go, therefore, O man, and let this overflowing mercy of God lead thee to repentance!

    Chapter X.

    The Four Properties Of True Repentance.

    I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping, because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down. My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass. But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever, and thy remembrance unto all generations.Ps. 102:9, etc.

    In these words four properties of true repentance are enjoined on a sinner. The first is, to account himself unworthy of all the mercies of God. This is contained in these words: “I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping:” that is, There is nothing I can take any more delight in, and I account myself unworthy of any good or delicious fare. This, however pleasing it may be to the palate of others, is not more savory to me than mere ashes.—The same regard to our own unworthiness is thus inculcated by the Lord: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23. And, “If any man come to me, and hate not his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26. Herein is expressed a threefold reference which a true Christian ought to have to his own unworthiness.

    2. (a) First then, he is commanded to deny himself: that is, to die to self-will, to self-love, and self-honor, esteeming himself utterly unworthy of any of the benefits conferred by God on other men; or judging himself not “worthy of the least of all the mercies” of God (Gen. 32:10); and [pg 202] reputing himself the most inconsiderable, not only of all men, but even of all other creatures; after the words of the Psalm: “I am a worm, and no man.” Ps. 22:6. In this manner, for a man to despise himself, is truly to deny himself.

    3. (b) He is commanded, secondly, to hate himself; that is, to condemn in himself whatever is pleasing and acceptable to the flesh; as honor, luxury, revenge, anger, avarice, and whatever else savors of the flesh. He is to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, and to abhor in himself its whole offspring, as the work of the devil himself, tending only to increase and nourish the perverse seed of original depravity. And such self-abhorrence in a sinner, will then of necessity be followed by pleading guilty, and by looking upon himself as one worthy of eternal death.

    4. (c) The third lesson enjoined in these words, consists in taking up the cross, and in following the Lord: that is, that we, not with a morose and discontented, but with a ready mind, bear all manner of sufferings, and deem ourselves worthy, not only of these, but even of far more grievous afflictions. Thus Christ himself, whose example is set before us, “endured the cross, and despised the shame” (Heb. 12:2), thereby teaching us, that in “quietness and confidence shall be our strength.” Isa. 30:15. And all that is comprehended in the imitation of, or following after, Christ.

    5. Upon the whole, these things make it appear, that a soul truly humble and penitent, thinks itself unworthy of all divine benefits, and even of daily food and refreshment. And this accords with the example of Christ himself, who, parched with thirst on the cross, and having vinegar given him mixed with gall, said no more, than, “It is finished.” John 19:30. This was the reason also, that the true penitents under the old law judged themselves entirely unworthy of any good thing. They put sackcloth on their bodies, and sat in ashes. They satisfied their hunger with bread taken from the ashes, and quenched their thirst with water mingled with tears; as a testimony that they did not deserve any cleaner or better food, but merited rather to eat and to drink with their food, the very tears that trickled upon it.

    6. Now the cause of this great self-abasement, was that profound sense with which they were affected, that, on account of their sin, they deserved an eternal curse and condemnation. This consideration lays the returning sinner very low. He deems himself utterly unworthy even of the least of the benefits of God. An illustration of this we have in Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan. When David was raised to the royal dignity, he called to mind the kindness of his friend Jonathan, who formerly had delivered him out of the hand of his father Saul; and commanding search to be made, whether there remained any of Jonathan's family, to whom he might make a suitable return of thanks; he at last found Mephibosheth, a lame and poor man, who, being ordered by David to eat bread at the king's table, bowed himself, and exclaimed: “What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?” 2 Sam. 9:8. This is a pattern, indeed, of a soul truly contrite in spirit and penitent in heart, and, therefore, sensible of both its own unworthiness, and of all the mercies bestowed on it by the Lord. And truly we may, with far greater reason, make use of [pg 203] the same humble speech, whenever the Lord our God vouchsafes to us, as it were, the food of his own table, and in the Holy Supper gives us his body and blood to eat and drink.

    7. In like manner does the Prodigal Son, after his repentance, express his sorrowful mind to his Father: “Father,” says he, “I am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.” Luke 15:19. The woman of Canaan was even content to be called a dog, if she were but permitted to “eat of the crumbs falling from the master's table.” Matt. 15:27. Peter says to the Lord: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8); that is, I am not worthy that thou shouldest have any further converse with me. And the centurion of Capernaum was of the same mind: “Lord,” says he, “I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof.” Matt. 8:8. So also St. Paul professes himself to be “not meet to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9): and declares, that he “counted not his life dear unto him, so that he might finish his course with joy.” Acts 20:24. This inward sense of self-abasement David expresses when he speaks of “eating ashes like bread, and mingling his drink with weeping.” If the heart of a Christian be brought to a sense of this vileness, then it is truly contrite and humble, and fit to be made a living sacrifice unto the Lord. Ps. 51:19.

    8. A second property of true repentance, is, to grieve at nothing so much as at the offences offered to God himself. This is intimated in these words: “Because of thine indignation and thy wrath, for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.” That is, Of all my other miseries and griefs, the greatest and most insupportable, is the sense I have of my having so heinously offended the infinitely good, holy, and righteous God.

    9. Since God is nothing but love, grace, righteousness, goodness, and mercy, yea, the original source of all virtue, He must of necessity be offended with every sin committed by men; since the nature of sin is directly opposite to the nature of God. Thus by injustice, the justice of God is offended, he being justice itself. By lying, the truth of God is offended, he being truth itself. By hatred the love of God is offended, he being love itself. In a word, since God is the perfection of all virtue, goodness, and love, it can be no other than diabolical malice to offend such infinite goodness, such immense love, nay, Love itself. Had he at any time injured us, it might be no such great wonder, if we hated him, and offended him in our turn: but now, that he gives us nothing but what is good—soul, body, and life itself; that he feeds and clothes us; that he heals our body when it is sick; yea, pardons our sins when we pour out to him our souls; is ready to receive us into favor, as often as we return; now that he has given us his only Son with the Holy Spirit, yea, and Himself too, and adopted us into the number of his children: and having done all this for men, to be yet offended, opposed, and hated by them, is a madness, a malice altogether unaccountable and monstrous. Would it not be most wicked and impious to kill him who gave thee life; to beat and wound him, who kindly embraced and cherished thee in his bosom; to insult and affront him, who heaped honors and dignities upon thee; and to disown and reject him, who had chosen thee for his son? But all these, and far greater indignities, thou offerest to thy heavenly Father, [pg 204] to the supreme, the righteous, the holy God, whom angels adore and fear, and whom seraphim worship with the acclamations of “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Isa. 6:3. And thou, who art but dust and ashes, art not afraid to offend him! If a penitent man earnestly calls to mind this monstrous sin, it is impossible but he must be affected with the keenest sorrow of heart, and feel the smart of his wounded conscience to equal and even exceed that of a wounded body. And there is all the reason in the world why it should be so. For hence must necessarily arise a dread and terror, inwardly threatening the conscience with wrath and judgment, and outwardly setting before it the approach of temporal calamities: whence a man, even as Job complains (ch. 6:1, etc.), finds no rest, takes no delight in anything, loathing even his meat and drink. These terrible pangs of conscience are described by David: “Thine arrows,” says he, “stick fast in me: and thy hand presseth me sore.” Ps. 38:2. For as a wound grievously smarts and grows worse whilst the arrow remains fixed in it; so also it is with the conscience, whilst the sting of sin and judgment is not taken away. And these lashes and clamors proceed from nothing but the sentence of divine justice proclaimed in the conscience, and the terrors of hell and death attending it. Therefore, David exclaims, “Thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down:” like one thrown down from a lofty rock into a low valley, who is so bruised and maimed, that not one sound limb remains.

    10. But how terrible soever the fear of the judgments of God may prove to an awakened conscience, yet is there some ground of comfort; since the prophet tells us, that these arrows, these threats, these terrors, are the arrows and terrors of God himself. And it is God, who having thereby wounded and broken the heart, heals and restores it again. It is he that killeth, and it is He that maketh alive; He boweth down, and He raiseth again (Ps. 146:8); He bringeth down to the grave, and He bringeth up again. 1 Sam. 2:6.

    11. Whosoever, therefore, accounts and feels nothing to be more bitter and grievous, than to have offended God, the infinite Good, and Love itself; he only has experimentally learned the doctrine of contrition, and laid a firm foundation for sound and genuine godliness. This was one of David's acts of repentance: “Against thee,” says he, “Thee only, have I sinned.” Ps. 51:4. As if he had said, “This is my anguish and sorrow, that I have offended thee.” And Daniel thus expresses himself: “Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us, confusion of face,” because we have offended so righteous a God. Dan. 9:7.

    12. The third property of repentance is contained in these words: “My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.” That is, a heart truly penitent, is deeply sensible of its own weakness. It entirely despairs of its own strength and ability, knowing itself to be as destitute of life and power, as the very shadow; and as empty of spirit and moisture, as the grass that fadeth away. The same is affirmed in another Psalm: “Behold, thou hast made my days as a handbreadth, and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily, every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” Ps. 39:5.

    [pg 205]

    13. O! how noble a step would it be toward the attainment of substantial wisdom, were man but sensible of his own nothingness! Man is nothing, as a shadow is nothing. As a shadow is without life, and without substance of itself, and vanishes at the departure of the sun; so is the condition of man, whenever the Lord withdraws the light of life from him! And it is worthy of observation, that, the nearer the sun is, the less are the shadows observed to be; and on the contrary, the farther the sun removes from us, the larger the shadows appear. The same happens to man: the more of God and his gifts is present with a good man, the less he esteems himself, the less he boasts of himself, and of what he calls his. On the contrary, the farther a man is removed from God, the greater he is in his own eyes; the more he is puffed up with his parts and abilities, the more he extends the bounds of his pride, and the less he knows how to keep within proper compass. Again, as shadows at the setting of the sun are greatest, though then just ready to disappear and vanish away; their greatness being but a forerunner of their approaching end; so it is with the shadows of this world, and the whole train of vain pomps and pleasures. They pass away suddenly when we are most lifted up by them. As the shadows vanish upon the withdrawing of the sun; so when an empty man becomes great in his own eyes, the divine sun sets upon him unexpectedly, and he returns to be nothing, even when he thought to be something. Moreover, as the shadow has no life of itself, but entirely moves with the motion of the sun, upon which it depends: so man of his own nature, is nothing but a body destitute of life and motion; and it is God alone who is able to put life and motion in it. The shadow of a tall and goodly tree moves not, except as the tree itself is moved; so man only liveth and moveth in God (Acts 17:28), of whom he is a shadow and reflected image. The hour of death will at length fully declare, that man's “days on the earth are as a shadow” (1 Chron. 29:15; Job 8:9), as a vain shew or image (Ps. 39:5); nay, as grass which grows up, but soon withereth when it is mown down: so fades our life away immediately, when it is cut down by the fatal scythe of death. Ps. 102:3, 11; Ps. 103:15. Lo! thus are our days consumed like smoke, and we are “gone like the shadow when it declineth.” Ps. 109:23.

    14. Now when a man by true humility is thoroughly persuaded of all this, and is convinced that he is nothing in the sight of God but a lifeless shadow, then, verily, his repentance is unfeigned, and his heart right before the Lord. And as it is appointed unto all men once to undergo a natural death, so ought all daily to die unto sin, that they may live unto God, and depart happily out of this mortal life, when all the shadows disappear. This daily dying to the world, as it is the best exercise, so it is also the best preparation for the hour of death; and if we earnestly practise the former, we shall then be fitted for undergoing the latter. That which we most frequently practise, becomes most perfect to us.

    15. The fourth property of true repentance, is union with God, implied in these words: But thou, O Lord, shalt endure forever, and thy remembrance unto all generations. As if the prophet had said: “Though I am persuaded, that I am a perishing shadow, and wither like grass (Ps. 102:11), yet I am no less certain, that in thee I shall abide for ever; for thou thyself art eternal.” [pg 206] As by sin a man is divorced from God, so by true conversion, he is again united to him. Even as the Person of Christ is indivisible, and as the eternal Deity united the human nature in Christ Jesus with itself in so firm a bond, as is not to be dissolved by death itself (the humanity of Christ remaining in perpetual union with the Divinity, and with the glory therein residing): so, in the work of true conversion to God, penitent and believing souls are so closely and intimately united to God, that neither life nor death can separate them from him (Rom. 8:38): for “he that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17), God betrothing us unto himself forever. Hosea 2:19. In a word, Christ himself is our only Witness; and he is the Book of Life wherein we are plainly taught, that as his human nature abides eternally united with the divine, so all believers shall be eternally united with their Lord and Head, being one spirit with him. Now, as God is eternal, and Christ eternal; so the promises of God in Christ are also eternal and inviolable, he having made with us a covenant of everlasting grace. Ps. 111:5. Therefore, though a true Christian be forsaken of the world; be vexed and tormented by sin, death, hell, and the devil himself; nay, though even his own flesh and heart fail at last, and be wholly consumed, yet is God “the strength of his heart, and his portion for ever.” Ps. 73:26.

    Chapter XI.

    Showing That The Fruit Of Conversion Is The New Creature; Also, That The Christian Is, By Faith, A Lord Over All, And, By Love, A Servant Of All; And, That The Life Of Christ Is A Mirror For Us.

    If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.—2 Cor. 5:17.

    All that are in Christ by faith, are “new creatures;” that is, they are the children of God, are righteous before God, have forgiveness of sin, and the Holy Ghost; they are partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), are heirs of everlasting life, and are liberated in their consciences from the law, the curse, death, the devil, hell, and damnation. All, whatever appertains to their salvation, is in them begotten of Christ by grace, and is conceived by them through faith; hence, neither time nor place, neither law, nor commandment, nor ceremonies, nor anything whatsoever, can be any hindrance to them. They are made perfect in Christ, who is now become a vital principle in them, and they have in him the accomplishment of the law through faith. Rom. 10:4.

    2. Thence the name of a Christian is a higher and more excellent name than all the names in the world. It is a greater name than is to be found in palaces and courts, a name above all posts of greatness, above the whole [pg 207] world, with all that it contains. But, on the other hand, the name of a Christian is also the lowest name of all the names in the world, without exception. Thus, in the same degree, faith exalts a Christian above all; love brings down a Christian under all. This thou wilt then best understand, when thou seriously considerest the holy life of Christ; which is the brightest mirror both of love, and of all other virtues. See Phil. 2:5-8.

    3. Behold how Christ made himself the servant of all! how humble was he in heart! how meek in spirit! how kind and gracious in words! how benevolent in his behavior! how merciful towards the poor! how compassionate towards the distressed! how patient towards his slanderers! how calm in his answers! how merciful towards sinners! Whom did he ever despise? whom did he ever revile, being reviled? How condescending was he to the very meanest! how ready to show acts of grace to all, without distinction! how heartily did he seek the salvation of all men, praying for his very enemies and murderers! Luke 23:34. How did he bear our sickness, sorrows, reproaches, stripes, wounds, and punishments! And indeed, what else is the life of Christ, but a most accomplished pattern of love, humility, patience, and all other virtues whatsoever! This we ought to look into, and to reflect upon it in our hearts; but especially when we are alone. This is better than all the high boasts of knowledge, and all the art and wisdom of the world. This life of Christ is like a seal (Cant. 8:6) to be stamped upon our hearts, and leave there the impression of his image, life, love, humility, patience, cross, reproach, and death. This would prove a true celestial light to our hearts, and a powerful means both to renew us in the inner man, and to transform us more and more into the divine image. Now as Christ was under all men, yea, under all creatures, in his state of humiliation in this world; but is now in his state of exaltation, a Lord over all: so a Christian is, with reference to his faith, a lord over all, nothing being excepted but God; but with regard to his life and conduct, a servant of servants, being under all persons and things.

    Chapter XII.

    Showing That Christ Is The Only Way And End Of True Godliness; And That Man Goes Astray, When God Does Not Guide And Direct Him.

    Teach me thy way, O Lord: I will walk in thy truth; unite my heart to fear thy name.—Ps. 86:11.

    This way is Christ. He says, “I am the way.” John 14:6. But thou wilt here ask, How am I to come to him? The answer is: By faith. For faith unites us with Christ; love binds us fast; and hope upholds and sustains us while we walk in this way; that is, in the life of Christ. Yet at the same time, faith, hope, and love, all proceed from Christ himself, and [pg 208] are his work in us. All these graces flow from him, and return to him. This way goes out from him, and leads back to him again.

    2. Faith apprehends the Person of Christ, and his office; Love follows Christ in his life and conversation; Hope seizes on the glory that is hereafter to be revealed in Christ. Faith must have no other Christ, no other Redeemer, no other Saviour, no other Mediator and Way to life, but Jesus Christ only. Love sets before itself the one only life of Christ, as the most perfect and shining pattern to which to conform itself. Hope looks up steadfastly to Christ, as the glorious Captain of our salvation, keeping its eye fixed upon his everlasting kingdom above. This, this is the right way; this is the unerring truth, wherein we are to walk; and this is what is meant by having the heart united, to fear the Lord's name.

    3. These three chief virtues are allied again to three other virtues. The alliance of faith, is with humility; of love, with patience; and of hope, with prayer. For he that believeth, humbleth himself; he that loveth, is patient; and he that hopeth, learns to pray, and boldly to approach the throne of grace. O how goodly and beautiful is this way! This is the way of God, the way of salvation, the path to glory, even our great Master's way! And may He himself teach us this way of truth, and inspire us with courage to walk in it! Where this frame of mind is, there the soul is firmly united to the fear of the Lord; and this is that one thing which David desired. Ps. 27:4. Such a one is resolved heartily to follow Christ in his humility and love, meekness and patience, expelling, through the lowliness of Christ, the venom of pride that lurks within. Consider how Christ thy Lord was made for thee a despicable worm (Ps. 22:6), and trampled upon by the basest of men! and by looking to him, learn to restrain thy haughty temper. In a word, let his humility slay thy pride; and do thou suppress the assaults of covetousness, by meditating on the poverty of Christ. Behold, he had not so much as even where to lay his head (Matt. 8:20), and how eager art thou to grasp in possession whatever thy unbounded desires fix themselves upon! Let the spirit of envy die, by the consideration of the overflowing love of Christ. He hath given thee life itself, and thou grudgest thy neighbor even a morsel of bread. Let the thirst for revenge be overcome in thy breast by the meekness of Christ. Behold! he prayed for his enemies (Luke 23:34); and thou dost not even pray for thy friends. His face being buffeted and spit upon by sinners, he quietly endured it; and thou canst hardly endure a severe look, or an unkind word from thy neighbor! Let the enticements to lust and voluptuousness be beaten down, by the agony and pains which thy Lord suffered in his holy body. Behold, and see, whether the sorrows of any man were ever like unto his sorrows! Lam. 1:12. This consideration will prove a check to the wanton lusts of thy flesh, and a curb to thy thirst after worldly pleasure. He wore a crown of thorns; and wouldest thou wear one of gold? He wept for the sins of others; and refusest thou to weep for thine own? He was a man of sorrows; and shouldest thou wish to be a man of pleasure?

    [pg 209]

    Chapter XIII.

    Showing That Jesus Christ Is The True Book Of Life, And That His Poverty Teaches Us To Despise The Glory Of The World.

    Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.—2 Cor. 8:9.

    All who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, are written “in the book of life” (Phil. 4:3), or as the Lord expresses it, “in heaven.” Luke 10:20. This shall be made manifest in that great day, when the Lord will “confess their names before his Father, and before his angels.” Rev. 3:5. But besides this, the Lord Jesus himself is a most complete Book of a truly Christian life: he being, as the word and wisdom of the Father, made man, and come into the world to teach us by his life and death; and by his conduct and conversation, to set a pattern before us for our imitation.

    2. The whole of his life, from his tender infancy to his death, was made up of nothing but a continual series of crosses and afflictions; insomuch that he took hardly any step without the inseparable attendance either of a pressing poverty, or of great contempt, or of most exquisite pains and sufferings: and into these three heads the entire extent of the life of Christ may be fitly resolved.

    3. The poverty which the Lord endured, may be considered again under a threefold aspect. In the first place, he was poor in relation to outward things. This he himself declared: “The foxes,” says he, “have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.” Matt. 8:20.

    4. This indigence in worldly goods was attended by another, which was a poverty of friends. Nothing was more visible in his birth than meanness and poverty. He was born at Bethlehem, the least among the cities of Judah, and of a mother that was destitute of all wealth and worldly greatness. Luke 2:4, 7. Nor did he ever court the favor and friendship of the great and wealthy of this world. It is true, that Lazarus of Bethany was his friend, the Evangelist taking particular notice, that the Lord loved him, and thought him worthy of the title of his friend (John 11:3, 5, 11, 36); but this friendship was not founded on any worldly advantage which the Lord expected from him, but on that faith, whereby he was induced to believe, that Jesus was really the true Messiah.

    5. The third degree of the Lord's poverty, was the state of his humiliation, whereby, laying aside the form of God, he humbled himself, and made himself of no reputation. Phil. 2:6, 7. He thereby entered into the depth of our misery. He was wearied in the journeys he undertook, when he “went about doing good” (Acts 10: 38); but particularly, when he healed multitudes of sick and diseased, that continually crowded to him from all parts, and surrounded him often to that degree, that he could not so much as eat bread, and even his very friends thought him beside himself. Mark 3:20, 21. He fulfilled also what was said by the prophet, and is [pg 210] repeated in the Gospel: “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Isa. 53:4; Matt. 8:17); never withdrawing from any hardship or approaching calamity, never shrinking under the burden of poverty, or cruel mockings, or unjust reproaches, or other evils, though they were sharp and numerous. And whereas he might have been served by all the creatures of God, and waited on by legions of angels, yet he dispensed with all this glory, and did not exert that sovereign power which he possessed. He suffered his head to be torn by thorns, his hands to be bound, his sacred body to be scourged, his hands and feet to be nailed to the cross, his side to be pierced with a spear. All this he freely allowed, though it was in his power to prevent it, and with one word to restrain all creatures from inflicting an injury on him.

    6. In a word, for our sakes, he made himself subject to all creatures. He took upon him the form of a servant, that by his lowliness, he might repair our losses, and reinstate us in that sovereign dominion over all the creatures, which we had lost. He rose from the dead again, and gained a perfect conquest at last, thereby to purchase for us an everlasting victory. He suffered himself to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1, 8), hurried about by his malice, tormented by his instruments, the Jews, fastened to the cross by their cruelty; and all this he underwent, in order to rescue mankind from the power of the devil and all his subordinate tools and agents.

    7. Thus the Strongest became weak; the Almighty infirm; the most Glorious, became most despicable; the most Beautiful, most abhorred and hated; the most Exalted, most exposed himself to temptations of all kinds, to sufferings and difficulties, to pains and hardships. Hereby he designed to check and put to shame our sinful tenderness and effeminacy. We are, alas! so tender and delicate that the smallest cross is now complained of as an insufferable burden, and a little trouble and toil undergone for the sake of God and our neighbor, seems a sufficient plea why men should start back into the smooth way, and forsake the Lord; whereas he sends such trials upon men for the purpose of promoting thereby the recovery of their own souls, and the glory of his name.

    8. Thus the Lord laid aside for a while the form of God. But this was not all. He did no less lay aside the use of the divine wisdom which resided in him. His conversation with others was plain and easy; and he behaved himself like a man who had not learned letters, as the Jews expressed it. John 7:15. He did not assume to himself the wonted formalities of a great doctor, or of an acute reasoner and disputer. Neither did he act like men that value themselves on account of their parts, skill, polite learning, and high descent. Nothing was more visible in his life and conduct than that quiet serenity of mind which he enjoyed in the midst of all the storms of the world. This was attended, however, by a divine power, an unaffected holiness of manners, an unfeigned charity, meekness, and humility. He made use of plain and easy terms when he “taught the way of God in truth” (Matt. 22:16); therefore he was despised by the proud Jews as an unlearned man. Thus the eternal wisdom of God, speaking through the prophets of old, was cast aside as folly, and the true light of [pg 211] souls rejected as deception: all which may serve to instruct us not to overvalue ourselves upon our parts and abilities; but to consider that they are not given us for the gratification of pride; and to employ them solely for advancing the glory of God, and the good of our fellow-creatures.

    9. This simplicity of our Lord was manifested herein also, that he made no display of his glory and majesty. So great was his condescension, that he freely conversed with sinners. He did eat and drink with them; and this for no other reason, but to complete thereby the great work for which he was sent, which was, to “seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10. It was on this account that he was so grievously defamed with a multitude of odious names by his enemies, who called him “a gluttonous man, a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34): and at another time, they exclaimed against him as a Samaritan, that had a devil. John 8:48. And, at last, he suffered them to crucify him between two malefactors, as if he were the greatest criminal, whereas he then bore our transgressions.

    10. Now he might have gained a greater repute than John himself, who, according to the Lord's own testimony, was a “burning and a shining light.” John 5:35. But he readily renounced any such honor, thereby to give a check to all superficial pretenders to piety, who are too apt to value themselves on account of an outward show of religion: though those that busy themselves so much about form and appearance, may have but little of the life and power of God within them.

    11. In short, the Lord forsook all that is lofty and grand in the world. He was a king, and yet would be subject to kings and magistrates, nay, to Joseph and his mother, though they were so mean and indigent. “He went down with them to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.” Luke 2:51. He was Lord over all, and yet when he came into the world, “He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Matt. 20:28), clothing himself in the attire of poverty and meanness. He was the great and wise Prophet, and chose disciples of the lowest rank, plain and simple people. And when it was in his power to behave himself as a Lord and Master in the small company of his followers, yet did he even there divest himself of that right, being “among them as one that serveth.” Luke 22:27. He assumed no lordlike air over them, but chose rather to be a master in life and doctrine, than to have any other distinguishing character of grandeur and pre-eminence. Thus when he taught the duty of obedience, he showed at the same time a pattern of obedience in his own conduct. When he endeavored to instil into his disciples a sense of humility, of patience, of subjection to their superiors, and of other Christian virtues; he practised them first himself, that so his own example might have the greater influence upon the lives of others. Being Head and Master, he thought it becoming his character to be chief also in bearing affronts, reproaches, injuries, poverty, misery, and in performing the most humble services, even such as that of washing his disciples' feet. John 13:5. Thus he proved a Master, Head, and Teacher, not in doctrine only; but in life, in example, and practice.

    12. Alas! how great is our folly! Our Head despised worldly honor, [pg 212] and lo! we are in pursuit of it. He submitted to crosses and trials, and we shrink back at the sight of them. He became obedient unto death; and we seek liberty, so that we may follow our own will. But this does not agree with the example which the Lord has set before us, nor with the spiritual maxims contained in the Book of Life, which he has left us for imitation.

    13. Consider, therefore, O man, whether the way wherein thou walkest agrees with that excellent way wherein thy Lord and Master walked himself. If thou despisest the narrow way of Jesus, and followest the way of the world, then know certainly that thy way, though smooth and pleasing for a while, will end in utter destruction at last! And thus the first part of Christ's life of sorrow and poverty has been described.

    Chapter XIV.

    Showing How Christ, By The Shame And Contempt Which He Endured, And By His Self-Denial, Teaches Us To Despise The Honor And Glory Of The World.

    He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.Isa. 53:3.

    The second head of the life of poverty of Christ, is the contempt which he endured from the world. After thou hast read over and seriously considered the lesson of poverty exhibited by the Lord, take also a view of the deep and unaffected humility, which was so eminently seen in his whole life and conduct. Never did he catch at the applause of men; never was he actuated by ambition, or any thirst after temporal honor and greatness: on the contrary, whenever men offered to bestow honors and praises upon him, he refused them, both by word and by deed: never did he accept of any honor from men; nay, not even when “they would take him by force to make him a king.” John 6:15. On the other hand, with what inexpressible humility did he bear all the insults, the reproaches, and calumnies with which his enemies loaded him? He was execrated as a Samaritan, and his miracles were maliciously ascribed to the power of Beelzebub. John 8:48; Matt. 12:24. The sound doctrine which he brought down from heaven, was denounced as blasphemy; and he who taught it, was everywhere insulted by foul and uncharitable censures, and such base lies and slanders as the malice of men could contrive. He was betrayed and sold; he was denied and buffeted; he was spit upon and crowned with thorns; he was derided and scourged; he was smitten, and sentenced to death; he was rejected, and condemned to undergo the ignominious “death of the cross.” Phil. 2:8. He was forsaken by God and men; and, in fine, being stripped of all, was executed in the midst of scandalous malefactors, hanging on the tree like one accursed. Gal. 3:13. He was made the common gazing-stock of all his enemies, and derided by all. [pg 213] His prayers were turned into ridicule; his garments were parted by lot; and at the approach of the very pangs of death, he had nothing wherewith to refresh himself but vinegar mingled with gall. Matt. 27:34. At last, when all was finished, he expired on the cross, amid the reproaches, hatred, and indignation of the world; his body was pierced with a spear, and he made his grave with the wicked. John 19:34; Isa. 53:9. Nay, his enemies continued to fume with rage and malice, even now when he had given up the ghost; and called him a deceiver. Matt. 27:63. Being risen at last from the dead, and triumphing over his enemies; they boldly denied the truth of his resurrection. Thus was the Lord, in the beginning, progress, and end of his ever-blessed life, “despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”

    2. In the course of our Lord's life, there is not only displayed to us the abounding treasure of redemption gained by Christ; but it is also most clearly demonstrated, that in this scene of suffering, he is our great teacher and master, our prophet and shepherd, our instructor, light, and constant monitor; that also we, by looking unto him, may learn to despise earthly pomp and greatness; and by closely adhering to him, like true members to their head, “grow up into him in all things” (Ephes. 4:15), being rendered conformable unto his life, “and rooted and grounded in his love.” Ephes. 3:17.

    3. But when our lives are contrary to the life of him who is designed to be our Head; when in our actions, words, and endeavors, we do not entirely aim at God's glory, but our own; it is more than evident, that Christ does not live in us, but rather the prince of this world. It is then plain, that we have not yet learned to love Christ, and that we are not yet loose from the various ties of this world; for “whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4); and so of course is not overcome by it. Nor does such a one any longer love the world; for “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15); and consequently, that of Christ must be absent likewise. For the whole life of Christ teaches us how to die unto the world. Consider then the beginning, together with the progress and conclusion of his life, and remember the profound humility with which he bore the contempt and reproaches of all those that love the world.

    [pg 214]

    Chapter XV.

    Showing How We Should, Through Christ, Bear And Overcome The Trials And Contempt Of The World.

    Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.Heb. 12:3.

    It is a most moving complaint uttered by the Messiah: “I became a reproach unto them; when they looked upon me, they shaked their heads. Help me, O Lord my God; O save me according to thy mercy; that they may know that this is thy hand; that thou Lord hast done it. Let them curse, but bless thou; when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice. Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame; and let them cover themselves with their own confusion as with a mantle. I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude. For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.” Ps. 109:25-31.

    2. This pathetic complaint of the Lord our Redeemer, every Christian ought to represent to himself as a mirror, in which to behold the life of Christ under the cross, together with that of all the saints in general. This way of the cross has been copiously set forth in the Book of Psalms, in order to render it the more familiar to us, and to teach us betimes, that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22. Such a consideration gives present ease and comfort under the contempt and reproaches incident to the true followers of Christ, and accustoms them to a conformity to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29): which as it is one of the greatest honors our Master bestows on his disciples; so it is by the world abhorred and loathed, just as a healing medicine is by a distempered and delicate palate. This conformity is, however, the grand duty of a Christian, inuring him to bear his Master's reproach (Heb. 13:13) and abject image in time, that he may also hereafter bear his glorious image in eternity. Phil. 3:21.

    3. Now, as the 109th Psalm above-mentioned, contains a prayer of Christ poured out in the midst of his sufferings; so it mentions, in the latter part, three kinds of trouble more particularly, with which the Lord found himself oppressed.

    4. In the first place, the Lord complaineth of a vehement anxiety of heart, declared in this manner: “I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” Ver. 22. Behold, what complaints this holy, this eminent Person is reduced to! And what is the reason of them? Surely, to acquaint us in the most affectionate terms, with all that he hath suffered for our sake. He says, “I am poor;” and lo! thou toilest to get estates, to hoard up riches; and yet when thou hast them, thou art still poor and discontented in the possession of them. He says, “I am needy;” and thou, O man, art entirely bent upon thy ease, prosperity, and fulness of bread! He [pg 215] complains, “my heart is wounded within me;” how unreasonable is it then, O man! that thou shouldest desire to be humored and gratified in all thy vain and carnal propensities! Now, if nothing will awaken in thee a love of the cross of Christ, let at least the consideration of the sacredness of the afflicted Person, infinitely exalted above thee, work thee into a ready compliance with his life. Such a consideration will give thee ease and patience under any grief that may attend thee, and make thee relish better those pure and untainted pleasures which will succeed the cross. Therefore, think with thyself in this manner: “I am now put to trouble and anxiety of heart; but the same befell also my Lord and Master, whose very soul was surrounded with sorrows so heavy and acute, with pains so great, that nothing of what I shall ever undergo can equal them.” However, the Lord, after his sufferings, entered into everlasting joy; after contempt, into never-fading glory; through death into life; and through hell into heaven. And thus will it be with the sincere followers of the Lord, to whom their crosses will prove but as so many advances to a more excellent glory, and their affliction will be the avenue to everlasting bliss and happiness.

    5. The Lord continues his complaint thus: “I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust. My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.” Ps. 109:23, 24. A most expressive description of the common frailty of human nature! What is a shadow, but a mere nothing, an empty lifeless appearance? To such an abject lowliness, to such an inconceivable degree of humiliation, the Lord suffered himself to be reduced whilst he dwelt among us! He who is life and light itself, and the bottomless fountain of life and happiness, is exposed to labor and infirmities; and should not men hereby learn so much humility at least, as to think themselves far more emphatically as shadows, or as nothing, than the Lord of life himself? At the same time, it is to be remembered that the Lord here refers to his state of humiliation alone, for, in his own glory he is our Lord and our life. He says, “I am tossed up and down as the locust.” The Lord had no settled habitation upon earth, as men of the world have. He was in a constant pilgrimage towards that kingdom which cannot be moved. For this reason he is said to have only dwelt or tabernacled among us (John 1:14), and is here compared to a locust, which having no abiding place, is fearful, and tossed to and fro with every wind. Nahum 3:17; Exod. 10:19. And even in this our blessed Saviour has left us a pattern, to walk as he walked; and since we have no continuing city here, to seek one to come, which “hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Heb. 11:10. What is farther added of the weakness of his knees, and the failing of his flesh, abundantly appeared about the time of his passion, when his “strength was dried up like a potsherd” (Ps. 22:15); and this may be a monitor to us under bodily diseases and infirmities. Should we complain of a fit of sickness, when the Lord of life pined away into weakness, and languished in misery? What matters it, how languid, weak, and neglected our body be, if our soul and spiritual life be but vigorous and sound? The soul ought to “eat that which is good, and delight itself in spiritual fatness” (Isa. 55:2), that so it may grow “strong in the [pg 216] Lord, and in the power of his might.” Ephes. 6:10.

    6. Thirdly, the Lord complains of the great contempt he underwent in this world, in order to stop us in our pursuit after vain honor, pride, and self-esteem. “I became,” says he, “a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads.” What indignity is there like unto this! But the Anointed of the Lord endured it all for no other end, than to rescue mankind from eternal scorn and infamy; for man having become a scorner and hater of God, Christ was designed to make atonement for so heinous a sin, by the extreme contempt which he willingly endured. However, as the Lord by his humble submission to the contempt of the world, has laid a mighty obligation on all Christians to be his followers therein; so the considerations here annexed, may be of use for supporting a man under sufferings of that nature.

    7. First consider, that in bearing the contempt of the world, thou bearest no less than the very image of Christ, and followest him who is thy Head and Master. Rom. 8:17.

    8. (2) To be contemned and disrespectfully used by the world, is of great efficacy for improving thyself in true humility; a virtue which finds favor with God. “For God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5.

    9. (3) Thy suffering of reproaches for the sake of truth, is an evidence that thou art ranked with that cloud of witnesses, who in all ages have been made “as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things,” and so continue to be esteemed “unto this day.” 1 Cor. 4:13.

    10. (4) Remember that those that are come out “of great tribulation, shall be before the throne of God” at last (Rev. 7:14), and be there “confessed before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8; 1 Cor. 4:5.

    11. (5) Of what consequence is it how contemptuously the world uses thee, since thou art not to rise in the last day (as many shall), “to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2), (the Lord having redeemed thee from that), but to honor and glory!

    12. (6) Remember that God does not withhold his grace from thee in this world. When the world frowns, God favors. When men withdraw their kindness, then God confers his mercy. For this purpose the Psalmist prays: “Help me, O Lord my God: O save me according to thy mercy; that they may know that this is thy hand, and that thou, Lord, hast done it.” Ps. 109:26, 27. That is to say: As the Lord removed at last his Son from the cross, from all the labors of his soul, from all the insults of his enemies, and crowned him with glory in heaven; so will he deal with thee also, if thou continuest faithful in bearing the cross, and all the injuries of a profane world. All shall see and shall know, that it is the Lord's hand that hath done it.

    13. (7) It was God himself who suffered his beloved Son to be thus contemned, reproached, and reviled, according to the words of the Psalm: “Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.” Ps. 69:7. Remember, therefore, that the same God, who gave a bitter cup to his dear Son, hath also allotted thee thy trials, to humble thee, and to know what is in thy heart.

    14. (8) Be sure that the Lord will change all the undeserved reproaches thrown upon thee, into so many blessings, [pg 217] and in his own time pour shame and confusion upon the scoffers. This is expressed in the following verse: “Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice.” Ps. 109:28. Nay, if the wicked curse ever so much, yet “shall the curse causeless never come” (Prov. 26:2), as plainly appears from Balaam's attempt, who could not “curse, whom God had not cursed.” Numb. 23:8. Whereas, whosoever feareth the Lord, it shall go well with him at the last, and he shall find favor in the day of his death. The same blessing is bestowed on Abraham, and on all those that walk in the steps of his faith: “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” Gen. 12:3. And in another place we have this encouragement: “Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.” Isa. 51:7. And our Redeemer himself hath declared: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you.” Matt. 5:11. And his apostle says: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” 1 Pet. 4:14.

    15. (9) The Lord goes on in the aforesaid Psalm: “I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.” Ps. 109:30. Christ now returns thanks to his heavenly Father for the very crosses and reproaches that were allotted him. This is the temper of every sincere Christian. He is thankful in the midst of afflictions and reproaches, particularly when he looks on the hand of that kind Father who entails all this upon him, but who also delivers him. And truly, the Lord never inflicts a judgment on any soul, but he affords at the same time sufficient reason for thanking and blessing him for that affliction. Thus is gratitude the happy product of crosses and trials. And this consideration is fit to sweeten the duty of resignation to the will of God. He that for the love of Christ readily submits to the contempt of a vain world, shall be honored by God again, both in this world and in the world to come. There is a time, wherein the Lord “raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.” Ps. 113:7. Surely, it argues an excellent spirit, when a man for Christ's sake bears the insults of the wicked, and maintains an unshaken calmness of mind, in the midst of all the calumnies of the world. This is “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price.” 1 Pet. 3:4.

    16. (10) The Psalm concludes, “For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.” Ps. 109:31. Here is comfort sufficient to make a Christian bear up against the hardships and reproaches he is exposed to in his warfare. It is never said that the Lord will stand at the right hand of the violent and great ones, of the oppressors and persecutors; but he will stand at the right hand of the poor, who being destitute of the arm or support of men, flee to the Lord alone for help and refuge, as to the sole object of their faith and trust. Those are “remembered, when he maketh inquisition for blood” (Ps. 9:12); and those are the afflicted, or the humble, “whose cry the Lord doth not forget.” Tertullian tells us, “We are then absolved by God, when the world condemns us.” For though “the wicked [pg 218] watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him; yet will the Lord not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.” Ps. 37:32, 33. Thus will the Lord attend thee, O man! with a wonderful deliverance, and afford thee reason enough to extol his name among many, for his marvellous kindness. David himself “had fainted, unless he had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait, therefore, on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Ps. 27:13, 14. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart: and then shall every man have praise of God.” 1 Cor. 4:5.

    Chapter XVI.

    Showing How Christians Are To Seek And Obtain Favor And Glory Through Christ, In Heaven.

    Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise, etc.Ps. 109:1, etc

    This is a prayer of the eternal Son of God. The purport or substance of this prayer, may be more fully expressed in this manner:

    “My Heavenly Father! thou knowest that in this world I have not sought my own glory, but the glory of thy holy name, and the salvation of all men: and therefore am I so bitterly persecuted, blasphemed, contemned, and vilified. Nevertheless, this is my comfort, that thou art my Father, and that I am thy only begotten Son: lo! this is my glory, in heaven with thee. And this my glory wilt thou in due time manifest and bring to light; that by thy glorifying of me, the world may see who it is whom they have blasphemed and persecuted.” John 12:28.

    2. Hence we are to learn, that such have the greatest glory and praise in heaven, who in this world are the most persecuted for righteousness' sake. This we may gather from the example of our Lord himself. From him, the true Book of Life, we may learn true wisdom. But that we may the better understand that his example and holy life are our Book of Life, let us carefully observe the following considerations: (1) Christ never sought upon earth his own glory in anything, but accounted it sufficient for him, that God alone was his glory. So let us, in like manner, reject the empty glory and praises of this world, in whatever we do; endeavoring only that God be glorified in us, saying, “Ah, Lord God! give us also such a heart, even the heart of Christ thy Son, that we may have our glory in Thee alone, and not in ourselves; that we may have our glory in heaven, and not upon earth.”

    3. (2) It was the highest glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, that he was the only begotten Son of God. And for this reason did the world persecute, vilify, and blaspheme him. Here let [pg 219] our prayer be like this: “Grant us also, Holy Father, that we may count it our greatest glory and joy, that we are thy children; that so we may also obtain the eternal enjoyment of thy love and promise, and may, by virtue of our adoption, come to possess in thee an everlasting inheritance. Remind us, also, that if the world hate, envy, reproach, and persecute us, it has done the same to thy dear and holy child Jesus.”

    4. (3) It is the glory of the Lord Jesus, that he wrought so many divine works, that he went about continually doing the most wondrous acts of grace and beneficence to mankind: and that he did this from pure love only, and from the highest compassion for the miseries of fallen nature; although he received nothing but hatred and most heinous ingratitude in return. “Grant us, blessed God, grateful and faithful hearts, so that we may be always ready to do good to as many as we possibly can; and that we may never be deterred from acts of charity, by the unthankfulness of the world, ascribing not to ourselves, but to thy name only, the glory of all that we do.”

    5. (4) It is the highest glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, that out of pure love, he laid down his life for us; that he purchased us with his own blood; that he was obedient to the Father, even unto death; that with the greatest meekness he endured the vilest reproach; and with the utmost patience, bore the pains of the cross. “O God, our glory, help us, that we may also overcome our enemy with love; that we may subdue our flesh with godly obedience; bear the reproach of the world with the meekness and long suffering of Christ; obtain the victory through patience; and being thus made strong in the Lord, be more than conquerors through him that loved us!”

    6. (5) The highest glory of the blessed Jesus, is his exaltation to the right hand of God, and the name given him, which is “above every name; that, at the name of Jesus, every knee, both in heaven and in earth, should bow, and all tongues confess him to be their Lord.” Phil. 2:9-11. “Help, O gracious God! that we may esteem it our highest glory to be made conformable to our ever-blessed Head and Saviour; that so when he shall hereafter appear in power and majesty, we also may appear with him in glory, after we have here endured the contempt of the world, and continued faithful to the end, when every man shall have praise of God.” 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 4:17.

    7. (6) The glory of Christ the Lord is, that he is the only Head of his Church in general, and of every member thereof in particular; a glorious King of his people; and an everlasting High priest, making intercession for us. “Help us with thy grace, O God most gracious, that we may evermore account it our greatest glory, that we are members of thy Son, and subjects of his kingdom, and that we may enjoy all the privileges and benefits purchased by his high-priestly intercession, sacrifice, and benediction.”

    8. (7) Another branch of the glory of Christ is, that God has most wonderfully displayed and magnified his name throughout the whole world: and has (in opposition to all his enemies, blasphemers, and persecutors, who would not own him to be the Son of God), in the most public and solemn manner attested his cause, declared him to be his Son by mighty signs and wonders, and established faith in [pg 220] his name amongst many nations and languages. Notwithstanding that God held his peace for a while, and vailed the glory of his Son under the mystery of the cross; yet did it break forth the more gloriously like the sun. For, “out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence.” For though God, who is our glory, may seem now and then to be silent, and to hold his peace when we are insulted and persecuted; yet is there nothing more certain, than that after the short hour of probation, he will no longer keep silence, but with a high hand deliver us from the reproach which we suffered, and “remove his stroke away from us,” that we may rejoice in his salvation. Ps. 39:10. However, “it doth not yet appear what we shall then be.” 1 John 3:2.

    9. The conclusion of the whole is this: It is God alone who is to be our glory; it is not the world, nor wealth, nor honor, nor greatness, nor the arm of flesh, that I may call my glory; but God, and only God, is my glory! Wherefore, “let not the wise man glory in his wisdom” (as it is written), “neither let the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord.” Jer. 9:23, 24; 1 Cor. 1:31.

    Chapter XVII.

    Showing How We May Through Christ, And After The Example Of All The Saints, Overcome The Calumnies Of Men.

    Mine enemies reproach me all the day, and they that are mad against me are sworn against me.Ps. 102:8.

    Among the many crosses and troubles of a Christian, a false and slanderous tongue is none of the least, as we may evidently see, from the example of Christ himself, whom the Pharisees, with their envenomed tongues, both in his life and at his death, did most maliciously sting.

    2. Herein the Lord left a pattern of patience to every Christian, who must not think to escape, since the great Master himself was wounded by malicious tongues. The more conformable any one is to Christ, and the more zealously he follows Christ's steps, the more is he also insulted by false and deceitful tongues. This plainly appears from the example of holy David, who was tormented by slanderers, as he himself complains in the following Psalms: 3, 4, 10, 12, 15, 31, 50, 52, 55, 58, 64, 69, 102, 120, and 140. Indeed, there is no one of the prophets of old who did not have these deadly arrows shot against him by murderous tongues; for “their tongue is an arrow shot out: he speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait.” Jer. 9:8. All honest hearts ought, therefore, to beware of back-biters. As he that toucheth a man infected with leprosy, or any infectious distemper, must expect to be [pg 221] so infected; so he that gives ear to lying tongues, too often catches the same distemper.

    3. Now, since a Christian is forbidden to retort evil for evil (Rom. 12:17; Matt 5:39), (this agreeing in no wise with the Christian faith); there is no other counsel left, but that by a conscience void of offence, he derives his comfort from those divine oracles with which the Lord has furnished him for that purpose.

    4. (1) Let thy first comfort be the example of Christ and of all the saints. It fares no worse with us in this respect, than with Christ our Head, and with all that have ever been most dear to him. Nothing of this kind has befallen us, which has not been before in all ages undergone by his followers. And since the examples of others have generally a strong influence on our lives, and readily suggest themselves to our remembrance in time of trouble; we ought, therefore, to improve all those instances into an encouragement to bear our treatment with patience, for the sake of the joy that usually springs up from the reproach of the cross. Look then upon the Prince of thy salvation, look upon the lives of all the saints of old, those who have been the greatest lights in their generation. Consider the example of Moses, who esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt (Heb. 11:26), and who, by reason of the continual contradictions he underwent, is said to have been a man meek, or afflicted, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth. Numb. 12:3. And what shall we say of David? He was truly, in his time, the very mark, as it were, at which all the false tongues in the land shot their murderous arrows. “Mine enemies,” said he, “revile me all the day long: and they that are mad against me, are sworn together against me.” Ps. 102:8. They affronted him daily with the reproach of his misery, turning him, as it were, into a proverb, and offering him the most heinous indignity that can be offered to a man. What shall we say of Job? How was he upbraided by his friends, and grieved with their tongues! And how fell Daniel, that holy prophet, into an open sepulchre, yea, into a den of lions! Yet how powerfully did the Lord rescue Moses, Job, and Daniel! All these are gone before thee, and their examples, if duly considered, will excite in thee a spirit of holy emulation, and draw thee into the same way of the cross by which they entered into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22. Behold, thy Lord Jesus goeth before thee, pursued with the curses and revilings of the Pharisees! There goeth Moses before, and the faction of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, following behind, with execrations in their mouths, and stones in their hands, to rid themselves of him! Numb. 16. There is David in sore trials, and Shimei behind, cursing his king! 2 Sam. 16:5. And there are the apostles of our Lord, and an unbelieving multitude behind, stopping their ears, and running madly upon them.

    5. (2) It is not enough, however, slightly and superficially to reflect on the example of the saints; but we must learn also to be followers of them, when we are tried as they were, and in every tribulation copy after their meekness and patience. How shall meekness appear, or how shall patience be exercised, if thou be not contradicted; or if there be none [pg 222] to deride, slander, or vilify thee? Thou must, therefore, patiently take up thy cross with them, and meekly follow the Lord Christ in his steps. Thou art called to suffer with thy Saviour, and not to avenge thyself, not to return evil for evil, not to revile again being reviled, not to threaten being slandered, but quietly to commit thy cause “to him that judgeth righteously.” 1 Pet. 2:23. Evil tongues must give an account in the day of judgment of every idle word which they have spoken. Matt. 12:36. And this will at the last day prove a burden heavy enough. Leave all, therefore, to the Lord, to do as he pleaseth, who will not fail to do right. Recompense and vengeance belong to him alone. Deut. 32:35. Fix thine eye on the Lord Jesus: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth.” Isa. 53:7.

    6. (3) From the examples of the saints, we are, in the next place, to learn a sovereign remedy, which they made use of against the venom of evil tongues. This is prayer. They prayed, and so they were healed and comforted. When they were bitterly cursed by their adversaries, they sent up only their cry to God, saying: “Let them curse; but bless thou.” Ps. 109:28; Luke 6:28. Consider the whole Book of Psalms throughout. How did David defend himself with prayer, as with a wall of iron, against false tongues! They are all foolish marksmen, who bend their bow against the innocent; and draw the sword to slay such as are of a right conversation: for their lies and slanders shall return at last upon their own heads, and shall enter into their own bowels; as it is written: “Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.” Ps. 37:15. All this can be obtained by prayer. Whenever any one prays earnestly against an evil speaker or a liar, it is as if he wrestled and fought with him; even as David wrestled with Goliath (1 Sam. 17:48, 49), or as Moses contended with the Egyptian sorcerers. Ex. 7:12. Here two spirits fight with each other; that is, the prayer of faith proceeding from the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth; and the spirit of lies proceeding from the devil, the father of lies. But all these devilish serpents of the Egyptians shall eventually be subdued, and, as it were, swallowed up by the divine rod of Moses; that is, by prayer.

    7. (4) Another remedy against the poison of a wicked tongue, is the frequent reading and meditating upon the Word of God. This is an excellent means of consolation and refreshment, whenever a soul is insulted and pursued by enemies. An upright heart hunted by men of falsehood and malice, is like a hart, whose thirst increases by being hunted; and as this pants after the water brooks (Ps. 42:1), so must a soul in affliction long after the cooling streams of the divine Word, and thirst for the living waters of grace, thereby to be quickened and refreshed. For by this word of grace the Lord revives a drooping soul, speaking to her in a kind and gracious manner. “Blessed are ye,” says our Master, “when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely. Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” [pg 223] Matt. 5:11, 12. In this saying of our Lord, there is a threefold ground of comfort. 1. Blessed are ye. 2. Rejoice. 3. Great is your reward. Who would not be willing, for the sake of so great and endless a good, to endure here reproach and persecution for a short period? Yea, who would not even rejoice, since he is made by this means a partaker of Christ's sufferings, in order, “that when the glory of Christ shall be revealed,” he may also partake with his Lord in that joy? “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” 1 Pet. 4:13, 14. Remember also, that “it is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth;” that he “sit alone and keep silence,” when he hath anything laid upon him to bear; yea, that he “put his mouth in the dust,” and wait in hope; and that he “give his cheek to him that smiteth him,” when he is “filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever.” Lam. 3:27-31.

    8. (5) Thou art further to learn, that such calumny is a hellish storm, which soon rises, and soon blows over. As a traveller is not disheartened at any tempestuous weather he is liable to meet with upon the road, but provides himself the more against it: so let the spiritual pilgrim never be cast down by storms and tempests; but let him go on in hope, and continue faithful to the end of his journey. This has been uniformly the state of the true church. “O thou afflicted,” says the prophet, “tossed with tempest, and not comforted!” Isaiah 54:11. Is it a “strange” thing that has happened unto thee? 1 Pet. 4:12. What is more common to a traveller, than to be overtaken by foul and stormy weather? A persevering diligence will, notwithstanding, bring him home at last. The world makes every one a gazing-stock, that looks with concern upon the vain follies of men, and drops a serious word in favor of virtue. What is to-day the fate of one good Christian, may to-morrow be the fate of another, according as the humor of the world works, which allows no one to pass uncensured that is not in league with it. The best method a Christian can adopt in all these storms, is to be quiet under them, and to keep his mind free from anger and bitterness. He that considers every hard word to be a stain on his character, which ought to be wiped off, will by so doing only render things worse. Hence it remains, that the most effectual way to stop the fury of slanderous tongues, is to yield to it for the present, and patiently wait till time itself shall set things in a better light. He that will dispute every thing at the sword's point, as it were, is like a man that is stung by a bee, and being thereby put in a passion, runs headlong upon the whole hive in order to be revenged, by turning it upside down. Had he not better have borne it, than feel the smart which must attend an attempt so rash? The fire of malicious tongues burns the more fiercely when we seek to quench it by too hasty efforts. An evil tongue is like that serpent called the Hydra, which, as some tell us, brought forth seven other heads when, in order to destroy it, you cut off one. Thus a wicked tongue is so far from being restrained by contradiction, that it spreads the farther by it, and broaches seven lies instead of one. Whereas he that is deaf to popular rumors, and is not easily alarmed at every little noise, will not only better repel the darts of wicked tongues, but enjoy also an unshaken tranquillity [pg 224] both of soul and body. This is a truly noble method to overcome the worst of our enemies. He that rejects this heroic meekness of soul, sets himself entirely out of God's protection, and whilst he eagerly endeavors to save his name and reputation, must be the more harassed by the perpetual alarms of malignant tongues.

    9. (6) Besides this, there are some other particular reasons, why the Lord permits his children to be persecuted by virulent tongues. When David in his sore troubles was cursed by Shimei, he said no more than, “Let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him.” 2 Sam. 16:11. And what other reason can be assigned for this, but that the Lord hereby seeks to preserve his children from exalting themselves above measure, on account of such eminent gifts as have been conferred upon them; and that they may at the same time improve themselves in the practice of mutual love, mildness, and humility? What is said by David of Shimei, namely, that he was bidden to curse his king, is expressed by Job in more general terms: “He poureth contempt upon princes.” Job 12:21. Now, who is able to fathom all the mysterious depths of divine judgments? The carnal mind by no means likes to be reviled, insulted, or undervalued. Pride and self-love so naturally adhere to us, that they taint all our works and actions. Every one loves to be extolled, and to be made much of, to be esteemed and admired. Alas! it is this natural self-love, which having once led man astray, now propagates nothing but error and folly in the world. It was this self-love that ruined both Lucifer and Adam, and stripped them of the divine love and life with which they were once adorned. In order that we may obtain the victory over this spirit of self-love, and with a view to facilitate this conquest, the Lord thinks, as it were, with himself: “I will permit a lying tongue to assail thee, as I formerly permitted Satan to harass my servants Job and Paul, for their greater humiliation. This slandering tongue shall be thy devil, thy scourge, thy plague, to buffet thee (2 Cor. 12:7), and help to beat down that proud heart, that haughty look, that aspiring temper, which, without this curb, would at last carry all before it.” Thus the Lord leaves nothing untried to accustom the soul to that excellent spirit of humility, and to restrain the spirit of self-love, by which men become allies to Lucifer, who, endeavoring to have a will of his own, opposite to that of his Maker, entirely lost his principality, and that original state in which he was at first created. Jude, ver. 6.

    10. (7) Therefore as the Lord is faithful on his side, so he seeks to convert the venom of impious tongues thrown upon his children, into a precious medicine, by which to heal that self-love which is fostered within, and which engenders abundance of other spiritual diseases in the mind. When the world meditates evil against them, then God brings good out of the evil. As out of a certain poisonous serpent an antidote is prepared against poison itself, so God overrules the worst of counsels, and makes them turn to the greatest good to his children. Thus “all things work together for good to them that love God.” Rom. 8:28. They are taught thereby to practise one of the noblest of the works of charity, which is, to “bless their enemies, and to pray for them who despitefully use them.” Matt. 5:44. He that has thus far gained the conquest over corrupt nature, so as to pray heartily for [pg 225] his enemies, is almost arrived at the sublimest degree of true evangelical charity, which alone is able to soften our stubborn hearts into the mild and compassionate heart of Christ, who has also set us a blessed pattern to follow: “Father!” said he, “forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. For wherever true love is rooted in a soul, it will most certainly produce a tender commiseration towards enemies; who, as the Christian knows, whilst they hate men, render themselves entirely unfit for any communion with God and Christ, and give up their hearts to the devil, that great hater of souls. And this should influence every Christian to commiserate such evil men, who are not of God, but of their father the devil; and lest they should forever sink into the jaws of Satan, the Lord commands his people to pray for them, with this motive annexed to the command: “That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5:45. What has been said of the overruling power of God, whereby he converts the venom of lying tongues into a healing medicine, will more fully appear from the following instances. Joseph would never have been exalted to the dignity of ruler over the land of Egypt, had he not fallen under the malicious lashes of a wanton tongue, and thereby been condemned to prison. Gen. 39:17; 41:40. Had Moses not been persecuted by the violent accusations of his enemies, and obliged to flee from the face of Pharaoh (Exod. 2:15), he had never seen the Lord in the bush, after having led Jethro's flock to Horeb. Exod. 3:2. The spiteful tongue of Doeg the Edomite, and of other enemies of David (1 Sam. 22:9; Ps. 52), drew many a noble Psalm from the latter. Thus Doeg's poisonous tongue was David's medicine. The same overruling wisdom of God appeared for Daniel, when, by the virulence of his accusers, he was cast into the den of lions, but was most triumphantly exalted again by divine Providence, for many good and noble ends; his enemies themselves being made to lay the foundation of his greatness. Dan. 6. Mordecai had the same experience. His ruin was devised by the murderous tongue of Haman (Esther 3:6); but the Lord returned his wickedness upon his own head, and his bloody machinations only hastened the destruction of their contriver. Esther 7:10. Therefore, “commit thy way unto the Lord: trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” Ps. 37:5, 6. Only endeavor to be in constant union with the Lord thy God, and to love him with all thy heart, and then he will direct thy steps. For “when a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Prov. 16:7. If the world be permitted to stain thy reputation here, and to detract from thy honor, what matters it, provided the Lord dignify thee with a crown of glory hereafter? It is he that will deliver and honor thee at last (Ps. 91:15); and it is he that will give thee both grace here, and glory hereafter. Ps. 84:11.

    11. (8) Another comfort in trials of this nature, may be drawn from the control which the Lord exercises over the hearts of all men. It is he that “looks upon all the inhabitants of the earth, from the place of his habitation.” He “fashioneth their hearts; he considereth all their works” (Ps. 33:14, 15); and he “will [pg 226] not deliver thee unto the will of thine enemies.” Ps. 41:2. A man is often transported with rage and malice to such a degree, that he would bear down all that comes in his way; but a little while after, you will find that the man is altogether cooled; his heat is allayed, and he is reduced to such a moderation of temper, as if he were become quite another man. Nay, how often do we see that a bad man, designing nothing but spite and malice, is stopped in the midst of his passionate pursuit, and, as it were, obliged not only to drop his wicked design, but also to bestow tokens of favor upon the person whom he was about to affront. This is an operation peculiar to the wisdom of God, who, by his secret power, often renders abortive the most malicious projects conceived against his children. Thus the Lord came to Laban, when incensed against Jacob, and commanded him to “speak not to him; either good or bad.” Gen. 31:24. And Esau, who bore his brother no good will, when he came within sight of him, must needs run and meet him, embrace him, fall on his neck, kiss him, and receive him with the most endearing expressions of love and kindness. Gen. 33:4.

    12. (9) Lastly, it is the nature of a malignant tongue, to swell high suddenly, and by rage and fury to gain universal applause and admiration; but its downfall is as sudden as its rise. Calumny is like a fire, the flame of which mounts up to the very sky; but the want of fuel will soon make it go down again. The reason is, because God, who is the everlasting Truth, hates a spirit of lies, and cannot endure it. And this is also the reason, why those that have raised their greatness on no other foundation than lying and self-conceit, may indeed dazzle the eyes of others for a season; but when they flatter themselves as fixed in an unshaken condition, then generally their ruin is ready at hand, and the Lord's judgment destroys all. Then “the lying lips are put to silence, which spoke grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous” (Ps. 31:18); a text which plainly shows, that pride and disdain of others, are wont to accompany a slandering and lying tongue. But “woe unto thee that dealest treacherously; when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee.” Isa. 33:1. “For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.” Ps. 125:3. Though a treacherous man may go on in quest of more honor and greatness; yet shall “evil hunt the violent man at last, and overthrow him.” Ps. 140:11.

    Sundry consolatory passages, selected from the Psalms, for those who are assailed by the reproaches of enemies.

    13. Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Ps. 3:3, 7.—O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing (lying)? But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call unto him. Ps. 4:2, 3.

    14. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.—There is no faithfulness in their mouth; their [pg 227] inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue. Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels.—But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield. Ps. 5:6, 9, 10, 11, 12.

    15. Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly. Ps. 6:10.

    16. O Lord, my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me: lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.—Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate. Ps. 7:1, 2, 14, 15, 16.

    17. Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me under the shadow of thy wings, from the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about. Ps. 17:8, 9.

    18. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.—In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God; he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even unto his ears. Ps. 18:3, 6.

    19. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.—For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.—Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.—For false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord. Ps. 27:1, 2, 3, 5, 11, 12, 13, 14.

    20. But I trusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God. My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.—Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.—Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. Ps. 31:14, 15, 18, 19, 20.

    21. Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the Lord chase them. Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the Lord persecute them. Ps. 35:5, 6.

    22. Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.—The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming. The wicked have [pg 228] drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.—The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him. The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.—I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found. Ps. 37:1, 2, 12, 13, 14, 15, 32, 33, 35, 36.

    23. But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Then I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.—For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me. Ps. 38:13, 14, 17.

    24. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred.—I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.—For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. Ps. 39:2, 9, 12.

    25. Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee. Ps. 55:22, 23.

    26. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me; for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth. My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth. They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations. For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: let thy glory be above all the earth. Ps. 57:1-11.

    27. Preserve my life from fear of the enemy; who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words; that they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.—But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded. So shall they make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: all that see them shall flee away. Ps. 64:1, 3, 4, 7, 8.

    28. Mine enemies speak against me; and they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together, saying, God hath forsaken him; persecute and take him; for there is none to deliver him.—I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when [pg 229] I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.—Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side. Ps. 71:10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21.

    29. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. Ps. 121:1-8.

    30. Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man; which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war. They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent: adders' poison is under their lips. Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings. The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the way side; they have set nets for me. I said unto the Lord, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O Lord. O God, the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle. Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them. Let burning coals fall upon them; let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again. Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth: evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him. I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor. Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence. Ps. 140:1-13.

    31. I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living. Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about: for thou shalt deal bountifully with me. Ps. 142:1-7.

    [pg 230]

    Chapter XVIII.

    Showing How The Sorrows And Pains Of Christ Should Teach Us To Subdue The Lusts Of The Flesh.

    My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.Matt. 26:38.

    The third branch of the cross of Christ consists in the unspeakable sorrow and sufferings which began at his very birth. For as his most holy human soul was filled with the light of divine knowledge and wisdom, by virtue of the personal union of his two natures, he saw all that he should experience in the future, as if it were already present; and thus his soul was, from the beginning, filled with the deepest sorrow, and suffered inward pain. He foresaw his future inconceivable and inexpressible agony of soul, and his unspeakable bodily pains. For the more delicate, pure, and innocent, the human nature in Christ was, the greater were the pain and anguish that affected him. Of this those sorrows and spiritual torments, that are wont to work upon the inmost soul, are a sufficient proof. For inasmuch as the constitution of the soul, by reason of its immortality, exceeds that of the body in worth and delicacy; so also her pains exceed those of the body in depth and acuteness. For this reason the Lord never rejoiced upon his own account, and with reference only to himself; but it was when he saw that his Heavenly Father was known and worshipped, and his divine works manifested unto the world. Hence “he rejoiced in spirit” at the return of the seventy disciples. Luke 10:21.

    2. Since all those things, which he was to suffer, from his own people and countrymen, were known to him, he could not but be highly afflicted and in constant sorrow; and this was also still more the case, the more nearly he approached the time appointed for his passion. This he himself testifies, saying, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” Luke 12:50. And the time of this baptism being come, he says, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38): intimating thereby the excessive and unutterable grief and anguish of spirit, that forced from him that sweat, which “was as it were great drops of blood.” Luke 22:44. And what pains he suffered besides, in his tender and sensible body, no tongue can sufficiently declare. First, because sin is an infinite and inexpressible evil. For, its full punishment and atonement could not but cause torment so exquisite, that to a mere man it had been altogether insupportable.

    3. The second reason of this exquisite grief was, because he bore the sins of the world: not merely those sins which from the beginning of the world had been committed, but those also which men should become guilty of through all ages, down to the very end of the world. And, therefore, such as are the number and malignity of all sins, of all men, through all generations; such also were the pain and sorrow endured by the Lord. For [pg 231] which cause he prayed in Gethsemane, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Matt. 26:39.

    4. Thirdly, the sufferings of Christ were heightened by that perfect love which he bore to his heavenly Father. The greater our love is, the greater is also the grief occasioned by what interferes with it: as on the contrary, the less it is, the less are we troubled by that which thwarts it. Since, therefore, Christ loved his heavenly Father with most exalted and consummate love, his affliction must needs have been the more grievous, on account of the heinousness of sin, with which fallen men so shamefully insulted so beloved a Father. Hence the sins of the whole world, with the pains he endured for them, did not so much affect him, as the sorrow he felt on account of the indignity offered to a God, who, in his very nature, is love itself. And it was upon account of this love of the Father (which deserved all the returns of love the creature was able to make), that Christ sustained most exquisite pains, and a most ignominious death; in order that by a satisfaction proportionable to the offence, he might regain for wretched mortals that love and favor of God which they had forfeited by their offences.

    5. In the fourth place, the suffering of Christ was endured on account of his perfect love to mankind. For as he died for all, and bore the sins of all, so also was he exceedingly desirous to see the object of his death accomplished, which is the salvation of all men. Hence the unbelief and impenitence of men, which hindered this love from taking effect upon sinners, caused him most grievous and bitter torments: but especially was he pained that they threw away their souls when he desired to save them. Not to mention the cruel hatred and envy, wrath and blasphemy, by which some were hurried on, even to trample on that blood which was designed to redeem them. He himself says, “Reproach hath broken my heart” (Ps. 69:20); lamenting not so much his own, as the condition of them who reproached him in so heinous a manner.

    6. Fifthly: another circumstance which pierced the very heart of our Lord, was his being forsaken of God, notwithstanding he was the Son of God himself. For though it is true that God could not forsake him, who himself was God, and did not cease to be God even when he hung on the cross, when he expired, and when he was buried; yet does he complain of being forsaken by him. Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46. But this lamentable complaint the Lord poured out, in order to show that God withdrew from him, as a man, the support of his comfort, hiding himself for a while in this dark hour. He manifests also, by this exclamation, the extreme misery in which he then was.

    7. The sixth aggravation of the anguish of Christ, was on account of his Person, for he was very God. Whence it is plain, that all the reproaches and blasphemies uttered against him were an infinite evil, as being directed against the entire Person of Christ, who was true God and man; and so he endured, both as God and man, the revilings of his enemies in his whole Person. All this left a most exquisite impression of sorrow upon his soul.

    8. And, in the seventh place, who is able sufficiently to explain what pains the Lord suffered in his most innocent, most holy, most tender, and delicate body? Or who can doubt that a body [pg 232] most innocent, most delicate, most noble, most pure, conceived by the Holy Ghost, personally united with the divine nature, filled with the Spirit of God, and with all the fulness of the Godhead; I say, who can doubt that such a body should not feel most grievous and bitter pains, when smitten, scourged, wounded, pierced, crucified, and put to death? No words are sufficiently expressive to set forth the pain and acuteness thereof. What is all our affliction, if compared with this suffering of the Lord? We, as sinners, have justly deserved eternal death and damnation; and yet even the smallest cross is too heavy a burden for tender Christians, who do what they can to shake it off, though it is designed as wholesome medicine, to procure the health of the soul. Surely, he who is a sincere lover of Christ, can wish no other condition, of life, but such as comes up nearest to the original of the blessed life of Christ. 1 Peter 2:21. This conformity of our lives to the life of Christ we ought to account our greatest gain and dignity in this world. Let the true lover of Christ rejoice in this, that he has been thought worthy to suffer with Christ, his Head and Saviour.

    9. Since, then, affliction is to be the companion of a Christian in his way to heaven, or, to use the apostle's phrase, since he must, “through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22); what cause can we assign why we should not willingly walk in the same path? For we know that the Son of God himself travelled this way before us, and by his holy example sanctified it, not having “entered into his glory but by sufferings.” Luke 24:26. And since, notwithstanding all the insults of the enemy, he entered into glory at last; we may also assure ourselves, that our affliction, which is but for a moment, shall be followed in the end by an everlasting weight of glory and happiness. 2 Cor. 4:17.

    10. In fine, as the Lord did not spare himself, but devoted himself entirely to the service of others, undergoing all from no other impulse than fervent love and charity; so this love, of our Redeemer should awaken love in our souls, and never should we grow faint and weary under any affliction whatever.

    Chapter XIX.

    Showing How We Should Behold In The Crucified Christ, As In The Book Of Life, Both Our Sins, And Also The Displeasure, The Love, Justice, And Wisdom Of God.

    And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back side.Rev. 5:1.

    Christ crucified is set before our eyes as a Book of Life, whence we may learn the sacred wisdom of God, which is in him eminently displayed. For the whole Scripture, the Law and all the prophets, are completely fulfilled in him by his most perfect obedience, wherein he was [pg 233] faithful even unto death, and suffered the most cruel torments for the sins of the world. And this perfect internal and external obedience and suffering, is that Book of Life written within and without. Rev. 5:1.

    2. In the first place, the Crucified Jesus presents us with a deplorable sight of our sins, both as to their number and heinousness. By the lamentable complaint into which he burst forth, he manifested that inward anguish of soul, which he suffered for the hidden and secret sins of our hearts. In his wounded and mangled body, bleeding on the cross, he leads us to behold and read, as in a book, the malignity of those sins which we have committed by all our members, in having yielded them up to the government of lust.

    3. Besides this, the devout soul may behold in Christ Crucified, the justice of God in judging sinners. There was no other means by which to remove both our sin and the punishment attending it, than this high atonement made by the Lord himself. And hence we may learn that God is so far from letting any sin go unpunished, that he will rather deliver up his most beloved Son unto death than connive at the transgression of a sinner. Rom. 4:25.

    4. Hence the soul may, further, contemplate the infinite love and condescending mercy of the Heavenly Father, most wonderfully displayed in our Crucified Saviour. Rather than that we should forever perish in our wretched state, and be subject to eternal death and damnation, he would have his own Son make satisfaction for us; which we ourselves, yea, and all the other creatures besides, had never been able to perform.

    5. The contemplation of Christ Crucified will, in the next place, lead us to a sight of the most gracious will, providence and fatherly care of God, as it respects the recovery of lost mankind. No opposition was so great, no difficulty so stubborn and obstinate, which he did not conquer by his beloved Son, the author of our salvation. That we might inherit everlasting joy, he left nothing untried, nor did he spare even his own Son.

    6. In the same Book of Life (the Crucified Jesus), appears also the infinite wisdom of God, namely, in finding out a means of salvation, such as could never have entered into the thoughts of any creature whatever, and which, at the same time, revealed both the justice and the mercy of God. For the work of our salvation was so wisely ordered, that by manifesting the infinite mercy of God, his justice was not at all infringed; as, on the other hand, Christ by his death has so atoned for sin, that in satisfying the claims of strict justice, his infinite mercy is rendered more bright and conspicuous. And as by eating of the forbidden tree, the first Adam (Gen. 3:1), brought us under the curse; so God in his marvellous wisdom has, by the tree of the cross, taken away the curse, and restored his blessing. 1 Peter 2:24. Yea, by the unsearchable counsel of the divine wisdom, it is so brought about, that through the death of Christ, all things detained under the power of death are restored to life, death itself being destroyed at last. 1 Cor. 15:26. By his pains and torments is purchased for us eternal pleasure in heaven; by his griefs and sorrows are gained joys celestial without end. And by this wonderful work of God, though foolish in the eye of the world, he hath confounded the wisdom of the wise; and by the foolishness of God (1 Cor. [pg 234] 1:25), he has manifested a wisdom altogether unfathomable to men.

    7. In Christ Crucified farther appears the brightest and fairest pattern of patience and meekness that was ever seen. So far was he from revenging the injuries done him, that he made intercession to his Father for his revilers, yea, even laid down his life for the sins of those who put him to death.

    8. The believer discovers, moreover, in Christ the most astonishing humility, wherein he was so eminent, that he readily underwent the most ignominious death of the cross. Thus are the death and passion of Christ become to a faithful soul, redemption from hell, an avenue into paradise, a complete reconciliation with God, a victory over the devil, that great enemy of souls; a full satisfaction for sins, and in one word, an entire recovery of that original righteousness which had been lost.

    9. By all this, it sufficiently appears to a Christian soul, that Christ Crucified is indeed a Book of Life, teaching nothing but the eternal and infallible truths of God. Let us then silently sit down at the feet of our Crucified Lord, who, as the great Teacher of souls, and Book of Life, will not neglect to instil into an humble heart, the lesson of a living faith, and of a holy life consequent on it; provided we desire to be not dead, but living members of his body, and to be so controlled and influenced both by his life and his death, as to produce abundant living fruits.

    Chapter XX.

    Of The Power And Necessity Of Prayer, In These Holy Contemplations.

    I will seek him whom my soul loveth.Song of Sol. 3:2.

    Since the living knowledge of God and of Christ crucified, is not to be attained, unless we keep our eye constantly fixed upon the innocent and holy life of Jesus Christ our Lord; and since we cannot arrive at this elevation of mind, but by devout, humble, believing and earnest prayer; it is, therefore, highly necessary to make some further inquiry into the nature of prayer. It consists not so much in an utterance of words, as in a meditation or intercourse of the believing heart with God, and in a lifting up of the soul, and of all her faculties and powers, to our Heavenly Father. Ps. 19:14; 25:1. As it is impossible to find God without prayer, so prayer is a means for seeking and finding him. Matt. 7:7, 8.

    2. And as it falls under a threefold denomination, it being either oral, internal, or supernatural (according to St. Paul: “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also;” 1 Cor. 14:15); so we shall now consider each of these in order.

    3. Oral prayer is an humble address to God, and an external exercise, which conducts the soul to the internal duty of prayer, and leads man into the interior recesses of his own heart; [pg 235] especially if the words uttered be digested in faith, and if, by attentive application, they be well pondered and considered. This often proves a means of elevating the spirit and soul so near unto God, as to enjoy with faith a truly filial intercourse with Him, our heavenly Father.

    4. Internal prayer is offered up without intermission, in faith, spirit, and mind, according to the words of our Saviour: “The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4: 23); also those of David: “Let the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord.” Ps. 19:14. And again: “I commune with mine own heart, and my spirit made diligent search.” Ps. 77:6. Hereby, says St. Paul (speaking of the Spirit of adoption), we cry, Abba, Father. Rom. 8:15. By this internal prayer, we are led on gradually to that which is supernatural; which, according to Tauler, “consists in a true union with God by faith; when our created spirit dissolves, as it were, and sinks away in the uncreated Spirit of God. It is then that all is transacted in a moment, which in words or deeds has been done by all the saints from the beginning of the world.” For this reason this supernatural prayer is unspeakably more excellent than that which is chiefly external; for therein the soul is by true faith so replenished with the divine love, that it can think of nothing else but of God only. Or if another thought should enter inadvertently into the heart, it proves but an occasion of trouble and sorrow; and the soul cannot be at ease till the intruding thought has again vanished. A soul that has once arrived at this happy state gives but little or no employment to the tongue: it is silent before the Lord: it panteth and thirsteth after God (Ps. 42:1, 2): it longeth, yea, even fainteth for him (Ps. 63:1; 84:2). It loves him only; it rests in him alone, not at all minding the world, nor worldly affairs. Whence it is still more and more filled with an experimental knowledge of God, and with such love and joy as no tongue is able to utter. Whatever the soul then perceives, is beyond all possibility of being expressed in words. If one should ask a soul under these contemplations: What dost thou perceive? the answer would be: A good that is above all good. What seest thou? A perfection of beauty, transcending all other beauty. What feelest thou? A joy surpassing all joys. What dost thou taste? The inexpressible delight of love. Nay, such a one would tell you that all the words that possibly could be framed, were but a shadow, and came infinitely short of the inward delight which was experienced. This is the voice of the eternal Word; this His speech to a loving soul; according to that saying of the Lord: “He that loveth me—I will manifest myself unto him.” John 14:21. Whatever is felt here, whatever is seen here, is above nature. Here voices are heard, and words perceived that are termed words of the understanding and the mind.

    5. This is the school in which the soul learns to know God aright, and, as it were, to taste him. Ps. 34:8. Whilst she knows him, she loves him: and whilst she loves him, she longs for the full enjoyment of him. This is the true sign of love, to desire wholly to possess the beloved object, to be intimately united with, and altogether transformed into it.

    6. This the soul now and then perceives in a glance, which lasts but for a moment, and then vanishes again; [pg 236] but it puts the soul upon fervent desires, to recover, if possible, that beam of heavenly joy which darted upon her, and to regain this divine taste, which so lovingly moved her. And she desires all this, in order to be more intimately united to her beloved. From this affectionate desire spring up both internal and oral prayer; the soul being fully convinced that these heavenly pleasures and visitations are to be attained only by prayer. And in all this, the wonderful wisdom of God appears, by which everything is managed in the most perfect order.

    7. Thus none is permitted to attain unto mental prayer, but he who begins with that which is oral; and none can have an access to the supernatural prayer, or to a union with the highest and most delightful Good, but by mental prayer. But this highest can only be known by an experimental perception, not expressible by words.

    8. And this is the cause why God so strictly, so frequently, and so earnestly enjoins prayer (Ps. 50:14); because it is a sacred pledge and bond, by which God draws us up to himself; and by elevating us into his immediate presence, detains us there a while, and unites us with himself, who is the source of all that is good. And thus we are always reminded of him; without this gracious order, we would think less frequently on him, and would not share in the gifts of his mercy.

    9. If, therefore, thou desirest that thy prayer be acceptable to God, see that thou perform it not with a divided, but with a whole and entire heart. But this is not to be attained, except by frequent exercise and continual and unwearied application. Without this, thou canst not reap the fruits of prayer. On the contrary, as often as thou givest attendance to any external work, take care that thou set not thy heart wholly upon it. If thou eatest and drinkest, or attendest to any other outward affair incident to this life, see that thou bestow not thyself, that is, thy whole heart, upon it. For thy heart is to rest entirely in God alone, and closely to adhere to him by internal prayer. The more thou offerest up thyself to God by this prayer, the more will the divine light display itself in thy mind. And again, the more the knowledge of God is enlarged, the more delightful will be thy sense and perception of the highest good; the more ardent also and affectionate will be thy love to the Lord; and in fine, the more capable wilt thou be of enjoying him. The soul thus disposed will in a supernatural manner taste of a happiness so high and transcendent as infinitely to exceed all the language and expressions of men.

    10. Of this threefold prayer, Jesus Christ himself has furnished us with a bright and perfect pattern, whence we may learn the nature and method of it, if we but attentively consider his manner of praying. We find that he often continued whole days and nights in prayer to God. Luke 6:12. He prayed with a fervency that made him triumph in prayer, and rejoice in spirit. Luke 10:21. He has, therefore, both by example and words, taught us the method of praying; and leaving us a pattern to follow, has commanded us to watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation. Matt. 6:9. He also most frequently recommends to us the duty of prayer (Matt. 26:41); thereby testifying that nothing was more pleasing, nothing more acceptable to him than our prayer; he having enjoined it for no other reason than to show [pg 237] us how entirely he loved us, and how desirous he was that by prayer we should partake of the highest and most precious good.

    11. Lest, however, we should allege that so noble an effect as that which results from a due performance of prayer was not attainable by us, the Lord did not think it enough to say: “Ask,” but he has encouraged us also with a promise annexed: “And ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:24. He moreover excites us to pray by his own example, for amid his sufferings he prayed for us, as the Evangelist records: “For being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:44.

    12. Set, therefore, this mirror of prayer before thine eyes, and study to persevere therein. Whenever thou feelest thyself faint and weak in prayer, then seriously advert to thy Lord Jesus Christ, who prayed not for himself, or upon his own account, but for thee and upon thy account, and thus sanctified thy prayer and blessed it, and added life and efficacy to it. Him, therefore, behold, who, though he was true God, and consequently in actual possession of all things, yet as man, obtained for thee of his Heavenly Father, all things by prayer. And hence as his whole life was a continual and uninterrupted prayer, and a perpetual longing to do the will of God: so he finished it with praying upon the cross. Luke 23:46.

    13. If then thy Lord and Saviour prayed so fervently upon thy account, and was heard; surely he will not suffer thy prayers to be poured forth in vain. Did he procure all things for thee by prayer? And thinkest thou that thou canst obtain the least blessing without it? Thou knowest that without divine grace, light, and knowledge, and, in fine, without faith, not one can be saved; but it is no less plain that these and all other graces can be obtained by prayer alone. It is the Lord whom thou must entreat by fervent prayer, so as to obtain from him faith, love, hope, humility, patience, the Holy Spirit, together with the whole train of Christian virtues, which he is both able and willing to give, as well as to strengthen in thy soul. It is He alone that createth them in the heart. But as he that hath them not, cannot give them, so the Lord, whose gift they are, will not give them without being asked.

    14. If then thou art truly desirous of pouring out thy soul before the Lord in fervency of spirit, there is not a more ready and effectual means of doing this than with the eyes of thy mind to behold the mirror of the most meek and humble life of Christ: to keep thy eyes attentively fixed upon the poverty, the reproach and contempt, the griefs and sorrows, and the most ignominious death of thy blessed Redeemer. Into this Book of Prayer, if thou diligently look, thy heart and mind will become inflamed with most affectionate and ardent desires. And though the devil and the flesh will not cease to assault thee with temptations on all hands, yet, by means of prayer, they shall be subdued at last.

    15. Nor is the duty of prayer only stirred up and revived by the contemplation of Christ crucified, but the heart is also cleansed thereby. Without this purification of the heart by faith (Acts 15:9), our prayers will prove altogether ineffectual in the sight of God: whereas, after a sincere application to the Lord by prayer, the Spirit of God is wont to visit the heart [pg 238] with his gracious presence, as he descended upon the apostles, even then, when they were with one accord praying at Pentecost. Acts 2:1.

    16. With reference to the temptations that are wont to attend the duty of prayer, thou must behave thyself under them as the Lord himself did. In the midst of the agony which he suffered on the mount of Olives, “he prayed the more earnestly.” Luke 22:44. Thus thy prayer shall prove at last the victory over all thy enemies. By prayer the Lord manifests himself unto his people. By prayer we learn to practise true humility; for by prayer the highest is united to the lowest; the most High God to the most humble heart. And this humility is the very channel through which abundance of divine grace is infused into the soul. The more this grace humbles man, the more grace itself gets rooted in the soul. And again, the more a soul is enriched with grace, the more she improves in humility.

    17. The most considerable temptation and obstruction in prayer seems to be when God withdraws the grace of a fervent and lively devotion. And yet it is in this case that we ought the more to stir ourselves up to prayer and supplication. It is true, a prayer poured forth in a spirit of power and fervency must needs be acceptable to God; yet that which climbs up to the throne of grace in affliction, temptation, spiritual dryness, and brokenness of soul, is still more pleasing in his sight. For as the heart of a father is sooner softened into paternal tenderness, by the trembling words of a sick and languishing child, than by the strong voice of one in perfect health; so is the secret affliction, and feeble effort of a soul affected with a sense of her weakness in faith, of her poverty in spirit, and of her want of spiritual life and comfort, far more acceptable to our infinitely good God than the more vigorous petition of a soul elevated by a sense of faith and divine consolation. Only hold out patiently in these spiritual straits, and be assured that the Lord, in his own time, will certainly “restore unto thee the joy of his salvation.” Ps. 51:12.

    Chapter XXI.

    Of The Power Of The Noble Virtue Of Humility.

    Be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.—1 Pet. 5:5, 6.

    Without true humility all prayer is in vain. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Book from which this noble virtue is best learned; as he is, indeed, a perfect mirror to us of all the virtues and graces. Look on his life, and thou wilt find it made up of nothing but love and humility. Look on his doctrine, and thou wilt discern it to be absolute wisdom and truth; a doctrine consisting not in words, but in a living power; and in very deed itself.

    2. Now, in order that we might [pg 239] perfectly learn how to practise this virtue of humility, he taught it not only by words, but also by deeds and by his holy example, forasmuch as he humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross. Phil. 2:8. Behold, then, O Christian, how this gracious virtue has its foundation, and its highest and most excellent ground, not in any angel, not in any apostle or eminent saint, but in Jesus Christ himself. And therefore he saith: “Learn of me” (Matt. 11:29), which is as if he had said: “Look ye upon me how I abase myself under all, who yet am above all. Behold, as much higher as my majesty is, so much lower is my humility: and so much dearer should this virtue be to you, as I your Lord and your God have described and delineated it in my whole life.” Observe, he saith, “Learn of me.” But what? Not to do mighty wonders, not to work signs and miracles, or show any great work of creation, but to be meek and lowly. “And if I did not teach you this with mine own example,” saith the meek Lamb of God, “ye would not believe that this virtue is so high and so noble.”

    3. The humble Jesus chose to exemplify this as his concluding work: after his last supper, he took a towel and girded himself, and then “washed his disciples' feet;” that so he might by such example implant this virtue in all that should be ever called by his name, and might most sensibly imprint it on the heart of every one to whom this Gospel should come. Wherefore he also saith: “Know ye what I have done to you?” John 13:4, 5, 12. “Do ye indeed consider what it is that I have done? Will ye remember this that I have now done to you? Will ye be ready to serve one another in the same manner? And will ye humble yourselves one to the other, and submit gladly even to the meanest offices of charity? O learn of me, by what you have at this time seen me do: for I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Whosoever then shall forget my humility, the same shall forget a principal part both of my doctrine and my example, and shall never find rest unto his soul. Therefore let this my example be a rule for your whole lives, and let my life evermore be set before your eyes as a representation of humility.”

    4. And now let us show that without humility all prayer to God is utterly vain. Humility is a bright light in the heart, in which there is at once discovered to us our own nothingness, and the high majesty and overflowing goodness of God. Hence the more any man knows himself, the more he must needs come to the knowledge of his own nothingness. For when a man sees his own emptiness, and learns that he is destitute in himself of everything that is good, he begins to pray the more earnestly for the grace and mercy of God. He pants after, and betakes himself to God, as to the origin and fountain of all good things; desiring to know him aright, to praise him, and to honor him as he should. This desire being thus begotten in him, he pours out his heart by himself, and says, “When shall I come and appear before God?” In this humility he looks at God's majesty and greatness, as also at his superabundant love and grace. And hereupon the streams of grace flow down into such a faithful, humble soul, by prayer. And divine grace being thus communicated to the thirsty soul, there is hereby begotten in it a spirit of prayer, which ceases not to ascend [pg 240] in holy aspirations, and to bring down the blessings of peace and righteousness. Through such grace of God there is a descent of the Holy Spirit into the soul, whose influences thereby grow continually stronger and stronger: and the “love of God” is by this means “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 5:5), which is given to us through the prayer of humility. For when the believing soul, conscious of her own vileness, reflects upon the humiliation of the Son of God, and beholds him humbling himself so as not only to put off the form of God, that he might appear in that of man, but even to suffer the greatest of evils in this vile form, for the vilest of his creatures; by this reflection and consideration, he is not only made humble, but hence, also, in this his humility, there springs up a most noble flame of love to God, which burns more and more day by day. And in this divine flame of love, the soul, being attracted by faith to God, is hence made to love all men in God, and in Christ; as calling to mind the exceeding great love of the Godhead towards mankind; and particularly how her Heavenly Father has in Christ loved her, and called her to the participation of his goodness. When thus the soul is drawn to God, and included in his love, the consequence is this, that as to all those who are beloved by God, the soul also cannot but love in like manner as God loveth them.

    5. Hence it follows, that if any good befall our neighbor, charity will rejoice; but if any evil happen to him, it will sorrow. And the humble and the charitable person, behaving himself courteously and lovingly towards his neighbor on all occasions, does not rashly judge him, if he behold his misery; much less does he behave himself haughtily and superciliously towards him, or treat him with contempt. 1 Cor. 13:4. For the soul that is truly humble, can never so put off the sense of her own misery and vileness, as to despise another, or to esteem herself better than any; for she remembers the mire out of which she herself has been delivered. And while she stands, she knows well enough that she does not stand by her own strength, but solely by the help of divine grace.

    6. Humble charity judges itself in the first place, examines itself before all, and influences us to condemn ourselves rather than others: and a neighbor's calamity will cause the soul to descend into herself, and deplore herself before God. In another's fall, the lowly and loving soul reads her own defaults, her own sins and transgressions, her own calamity and misery.

    7. Moreover, by humility a man is confirmed in the knowledge of God, and established in hope. Having a consciousness of his own ignorance, blindness, and folly, in divine matters, he gives thanks to God for the revelation of his word, and imprints it more diligently on his heart. But considering also, that as he has no knowledge of God and divine things in himself, so likewise all his own abilities are nothing before God: he is hence established in a godly hope, placing his confidence in nothing but God only.

    8. Another fruit of humility is, that it renders a man acceptable to others, even in the very outward course of his life. For it avoids contentions and quarrels, and composes the whole man to gentleness and benignity. Yea, a man is conformed by means of it even to Christ himself, who says in one of [pg 241] the Psalms: “But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.” Ps. 38:13, 14. Such a faithful and humble man as this is a living member of Christ, in whom Christ liveth.

    9. Besides, humility brings with it true inward peace of the mind; so that he who is the possessor of it can by no miseries and calamities whatever be unduly distressed or disquieted, but may with St. Paul say: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Romans 8:35. And he is mindful always of that saying: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” 2 Cor. 12:9.

    10. True humility also begets silence. He who is endued therewith, as he is sensible of his own ignorance and foolishness, will beware of speaking a great deal, or of being over-forward to teach others.

    11. In short, it is impossible to enumerate how many spiritual benefits and fruits, how many heavenly treasures of virtues and graces, are comprehended in, and flow from, this most noble virtue; so that it may deservedly be regarded as a spiritual treasury. It is, therefore, not without reason, that the Son of God, our light, life, salvation, and treasure, would have us to learn it even of himself. O that this holy wish of our Lord might be fulfilled by all Christians; and that they would with all diligence learn from Him this most excellent virtue!

    12. If it be asked, What is the means for acquiring this virtue, and by what way may one arrive at so great a treasure, which abounds so richly in the gifts of celestial grace? I answer, that there are two: first, ardent and devout prayer; and secondly, constant meditation on Christ crucified. Let us look earnestly to the passion and death of Christ, and let us meditate on it, as on a holy Book of life, till this root of the Christian virtues, with all which accompany it, grow up day by day in our hearts, as in a fruitful and well-cultivated soul.

    Chapter XXII.

    All The Works Of A True Christian Must Be Done In Humility, Or They Will, Otherwise, Become An Abomination And Idolatry.

    That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.Luke 16:15.

    All works that are a well-pleasing and acceptable sacrifice to God, can proceed from true faith alone; this will not fail to beget Christian humility in the heart. The effect of this will be meekly to acknowledge that with regard to any good that may be found in us, it is wholly and solely to be ascribed to the grace of God: “Not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Cor. 15:10. He who does not do this, commits two sins: the first is, apostasy from God, by turning himself from God towards himself, that is, from the Supreme Being, towards that which is in itself nothing. The second is sacrilege, by taking to himself that honor which is [pg 242] due to none but God; to whom, and not to man, everything that may be called good belongs. He, therefore, that doeth not all things in humility, steals from God the glory due to him. For when God says: “I will not give my glory to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8); he shows that all glory and praise are due to him alone.

    2. If, therefore, any man applaud himself, either for knowing or doing anything, verily that man takes to himself the glory which is due to God only, and is thereby an idolater of himself. For this reason, ambition is abominable idolatry: and self-love, and self-esteem, are no less than having another God before him whose name is Jehovah. For this very reason also, the devil seeks to be honored and worshipped in the world.

    3. Such a vainglorious devil, covetous of honor and worship from the world, every proud and arrogant person, by thinking highly of himself, cherishes in his heart. If thou be wise, see that thou break down and destroy this idol, which is set up in thy heart. Many persons are so holy that they will not even look upon any outward images, lest they should happen to be defiled by them; not observing, at the same time, that great idol which they carry about with them in their hearts, and by which they are to such a degree defiled as to become an abomination before God. For all that is most highly esteemed by men (through self-love and ambition) is an abomination before God. Whence all who seek only their own honor, or power, or ascribe aught to themselves as their own, are idolaters. Thus the whole world lieth in idolatry; and every house has its living idols.

    4. That idolatry which defiles thee, proceeds from within, even from the heart. To whatsoever thy heart inclines, in whatsoever it acquiesces and rests, and unto whatsoever it cleaves by love and inclination, whether it be good fortune, wealth, honor, power, or long life; that very thing immediately becomes an idol, and has seduced thee into the sin of idolatry. Idolatry is not any outward pollution; but that which is internal, spiritual, and springing up within. It is so that God considers it; He judges all things according to the heart; and it is so only that he looks, trying the hearts and reins (Ps. 7:9), and judging of all things according to the faith or unbelief there found by him. Whence Christ has also plainly told thee, “Where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also” (Matt. 6:21); that is, thy God, thy rest, thy peace, thy trust will be there; and there will be thy paradise, yea, there will heaven and all things be to thee. Observe closely what that object is on which thy heart loves to dwell, for it is surely thy God, whatever its nature may be. If thy heart cleave fast to God only, then is He thy God, and blessed art thou: according as it is written: “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.” Ps. 144:15. And again, “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desire of thy heart.” Ps. 37: 4. But if thy mind cleave to the world, then the world is thy God. And so of the rest.

    5. It hence appears that there are really in the world no other idols but such as the heart of man makes for him. The devil himself is called “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), because the ungodly follow him, do his deeds, love darkness, and take pleasure in the works of the devil. And thus men make a god even of Satan.

    [pg 243]

    6. Idols of wood are easily avoided, but take heed of the idols of gold. See that thou be not ensnared by these. It is no hard matter to keep from dead idols; but take heed that thou worship not living ones, and especially thyself. As soon as thou ascribest honor, skill, or power to thyself, thou settest up thyself in the place of God. This idolatry is properly struck at by God, when he says that he “will not give his glory to another.” Isa. 42:8. For whatsoever is, or is called by the name of honor and glory, is due to none but him, who is the Most High, and the most Holy One, and the sovereign and everlasting Good. Whosoever, therefore, thou art, that wouldest not make an idol of thyself, nor pollute thy works with the foulest of abominations before God, learn hence, not to ascribe to thyself honor, or glory, or praise; knowing that it is true humility to shun honor, and to account one's self unworthy of all glory. When thou shalt do this, and shalt have mortified all ambition and self-esteem, then thou shalt be known to be dead to the world indeed. From this springs up the new man, in whom is found the most noble life of Christ; which life, he himself has described as being meekness and lowliness of heart. Matt. 11:29. He, on the contrary, is still carnal, and lives after the flesh, according to the old birth, who would be honored and greatly esteemed: because it is the nature of the carnal man to endeavor to be, or to be accounted above all others. But if any man seek to be accounted nothing of, he has a heart truly spiritual and Christian. But alas! where shall we now find the true Christians, that is, such as are willing to be slighted, and to be reputed as nothing? For, as hath been said before, it is the property of the true followers of Christ, to deny themselves, to hate themselves, to despise themselves, and to renounce all that is theirs, for his sake. Matt. 10:38; Luke 9:23. Such are indeed genuine Christians.

    7. If any one should here ask of me, What then is a Christian to do, if it please God so to honor him as to give him grace and glory before the world (Ps. 84:11), as in the case of Daniel: and, since God has appointed certain distinctions among men, several orders, states, and offices; and has for that end variously distributed his gifts among them, What is the duty of a Christian, if he be advanced to some post of dignity? I answer, If this be thy lot, then render all the honor which is conferred upon thee to God again; and ascribe nothing to thyself which is the right of another, or take that to be thine which is God's only.

    8. As soon, therefore, as any honor is given thee, see that, being mindful of thy low estate, thou transfer it all to God, and keep nothing thereof to thyself. If thou neglectest to do this, and shouldest be induced to attribute anything to thyself, it is certain that thou must thereby lose divine grace, while, with a sacrilegious impiety, thou invadest that which of right belongs to God. So if thou excel others in spiritual or natural gifts, in wisdom or skill, wealth or dignity, be watchful not to take this honor to thyself; yea, let it be thy joy and delight to offer all up to God again, from a most deep and intimate devotion of thy heart. This thou wilt not fail to do, and to give that glory to Him which is due, when thou shalt glory in nothing but in Him only, according to the words of the Prophet: “Let not the wise [pg 244] man glory in his wisdom; neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Jer. 9:23, 24.

    Chapter XXIII.

    A Man Who Does Not Perceive His Own Emptiness, And Does Not Give All The Honor To God, Commits The Greatest Of Sins, And Falls Like Satan.

    Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.Ps. 39:5.

    To the end that man may acknowledge his own vanity, he is compared by the Psalmist (Ps. 39; 144:4), to a shadow; and again in another place (Ps. 90:5), to a dream. Now what is a shadow? It is a lifeless resemblance of that thing on which it depends; and has in itself neither substance nor life, but is nothing. In like manner, man of himself has neither substance, life, strength, nor indeed any ability whatsoever; but depends on God, even as a shadow on the body, or as light on the sun.

    2. Whosoever, therefore, so forgets himself as not to depend on God, who alone is all in all, “thinking himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” Gal. 6:3. He falls from the true eternal and Sovereign Being into his own nothingness; from the unchangeable Good into vanity; from truth itself into a lie.

    3. This is not only the greatest of sins, but of punishments also. For the more man turns from God to himself, the more he approaches extreme misery and calamity. And man by this means, even by turning himself away from God, towards his own faculties and powers, in truth punishes thereby the very sin which he commits. He is then accounted to turn himself away from God, and to forsake “the rock of his salvation” (Deut. 32:15), whenever he ascribes to himself any degree of power or strength, art or skill, wisdom, or honor, or merit, so as to be willing to be thought somebody, and to be much accounted of; when, in very deed, all these in no wise belong to man, or to any creature, but to God only. Every creature is but a mere shadow, and of itself merely nothing; even so as the life, substance, faculty, wisdom, powers, and strength which it seems to have, are not properly its own, but are God's only.

    4. Wherefore, as soon as a man ascribes all or any of these to himself, he becomes guilty of apostasy from God. Nor indeed was the devil's apostasy aught else, but the not abiding within the bounds, duties, and properties of a creature, which has all its life, substance, and ability in God, and ought to hold the same from him, as the shadow does with respect to the [pg 245] body and the motion thereof. For any one, therefore, to ascribe those things to himself which are God's; or to challenge to himself honor, glory, wisdom, or esteem (forasmuch as none of these suit a creature, but are all to be transferred to God alone, to whom they really appertain), is properly to fall like Satan. Hence God permitted him to fall, not sustaining him any longer with his grace, which was by him disowned. The same thing must befall all men who, through pride and ambition, presume to arrogate to themselves any of those things which are God's. They are not upheld by the grace of God, who arrogantly turn themselves away from God, affecting to be as God. God alone being All in all, and moreover being the only Good, or the one Good, and the all-Good essentially; it would be most unreasonable for any creature to claim to itself aught of that which is good. Hence our blessed Lord saith, “There is none good but one, that is God” (Matt. 19:17); meaning, that he is the essential Good, and he alone is all that is good. This property of God, our Saviour was not willing to take unto himself in his state of humiliation, forasmuch as he was then held to be no more than a mere man; that thus, by his most bright example, he might instruct us that man ought not to ascribe to himself the things which are God's.

    5. When man does otherwise, he commits the greatest of all sins, and, aiming at divinity, stains himself thereby with a most nefarious sacrilege, being turned from God to himself. And as many as are in this condition, seek help, counsel, and comfort, not from God only, as they ought, but from creatures, and sometimes even from the devil himself. But what greater madness, or what worse blindness is there, than to expect good from evil, life from death, blessedness from the damned, help from the helpless, blessedness from the accursed, and light from darkness? Whereas, on the other hand, it is the highest wisdom to look for good from the source of all good, to seek life from the fountain of life, to expect blessedness from the spring of salvation, and to go for help to him who can do all things, and “with whom nothing is impossible.” Luke 1:37.

    Chapter XXIV.

    Of The Noble Virtue Of Love, And Of Its Power, Soundness, And Purity.

    He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.—1 John 4:8.

    Love, says St. Paul, is the greatest of all virtues, and without it all gifts are unprofitable (1 Cor. 13:13); therefore he admonishes us, saying, “Let all your things be done with charity.” 1 Cor. 16:14. Accordingly we are to pray with charity, as our Lord says: “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother.” Matt. 5:23, 24. And in the Lord's Prayer, our forgiving our neighbor's debts, or trespasses, is strictly [pg 246] joined to God's forgiving ours. Matt. 6:12, 14, 15.

    2. Love is, however, so singular a virtue, that a man may mistake therein as easily as in anything else. Therefore nothing ought to be looked upon with a more suspicious eye than love; for there is nothing which can so powerfully incline, force, or restrain, and so thoroughly penetrate the mind, as love. Therefore, if love be not ruled by the true light, the Holy Ghost, it precipitates the soul into a thousand calamities.

    3. And this I do not say with respect to the love of evil; for this, as a diabolical thing, is by all Christians to be avoided; but I speak of that love which is betwixt God, and man, and his neighbor. Love, when not regulated by divine wisdom, can easily be deceived, misled, and thrust out of its due order, so as not to reach the true end. Many think they have the love of God in their souls, and yet have the love of the world, or their own love, nay, it may be the love of Satan.

    4. Take an instance of this fact: any one that loves the Lord God only for the sake of temporal things, that he may be preserved by him from temporal misfortunes, loves himself more than God, and prefers his own welfare before God. This is called inordinate love. He ought to love God more than himself, nay, love him above all things; and all things, both good and evil days, he ought to love for the sake of God.

    5. But when man prefers himself to the love of God, he surely makes himself God, by loving himself more than God; and whilst he loves not God as God, for his sake, but merely for his own private interest, he has a false and deceitful love. He that has such a love, loves all things for his own sake, for the profit and honor which he reaps from them. He loves also holy men, nay, the very word of God, for this reason only, that it may afford him a show and name of holiness, but not for the sake of that excellent Good which lies hid therein.

    6. And because such a love is impure, it brings forth impure fruits, which are self-interest, self-honor, self-lust; all which are carnal and earthly, not heavenly and spiritual fruits. Thus many love great skill and learning, that they may be preferred to others, and may rule over them; not from a principle of love to God and their neighbor, but from a love to themselves, thinking thereby to gain great honors and preferments.

    7. There are others also who love God that he may spare them, and not punish them for their sins in dreadful severity; nay, that he may be bountiful to them in this present time; but this, alas! is a very weak love. For these love God for their own profit, and not for his own sake, or not by reason of his being the most excellent and highest Good.

    8. Others love God that he may bestow upon them many gifts in understanding and wisdom, whereby they might gain a great reputation.

    9. Some also love virtue, not for the sake of virtue itself, but that they may obtain a great name, and be looked upon as brave, virtuous men, and men famous for their honesty and piety. All this is not true love, for it tends not to the right end.

    10. There is often also love betwixt some persons uniting themselves by a love of their own, which increases in them so much that they are pleased with everything done by him whom they love. For love always follows its beloved, and cleaves wholly unto him. And thereby one is often involved [pg 247] and drawn aside into evil; or even the lover himself allures his beloved to it, because he knows that so it pleases him; and by this false and deceitful love he is hindered from prayer and all other Christian virtues.

    11. Therefore it is highly necessary that our love should be guided and ruled by the Holy Spirit, and by our meditations on the whole life of Christ and his holy sufferings, out of which nothing but pure love shines forth. He loved God purely, above all things, and not himself. He loved man with a pure, undefiled love, and not himself. He did and spake nothing for his own sake, but all for ours. Whatsoever he did and spoke was for our benefit; he was not profited by it, but we were. All his pains and labors, nay; his greatest torments and afflictions, were not too hard or heavy for him, that we might be benefited and saved thereby; nay, his very cross was joy unto him, that he might fulfil the will of God his Father.

    12. That is a pure, undefiled love for which nothing is too difficult, which complains of nothing, nay, which spares not itself, but gives itself for the beloved's sake, even unto death. Whatsoever crosses and sufferings God sends, this love regards as good. It sees that it is the holy will of God, and therefore it would rather suffer much more for the same, and is very well contented with everything that God willeth; for it knows that God orders all things right and well.

    13. And as love unites itself to the beloved, it learns also his manners, follows him for his love's sake, and does that which is well-pleasing unto him: so he that loves Christ rightly learns of him his manner of life and his virtues, for he knows it is well-pleasing unto him. He conforms himself to his image, and remains all his life under the yoke and cross of Christ, even as Christ, during his whole life, bore the cross of poverty, contempt, and pains. And although no man in this frail state can attain unto perfect love, yet every Christian is to labor, that his love be not false, but as pure as possible, according to what St. Paul says, “Love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” 1 Tim. 1:5.

    14. This pure love, derived from Christ and the Holy Ghost, works in man every good thing, and is never idle. It is its joy to do good, for it can do nothing else; even as the Lord God says, “I will rejoice over them to do them good.” Jer. 32:41. Why? Because God is love itself, which can do nothing else but that which it is in its own being. And this is a sign of pure and true love. For this love does not say, “I am not obliged to do this or that;” but where it has no law, there it is a law unto itself, only that it may do much good; for otherwise love would not continue to be love.

    15. Hence it is plain why God Almighty is never weary of doing good; and why he is that infinite Good which never ceases to be. He is everlasting love, which cannot desist from doing good, or else he would cease to be love. Therefore, even when he punishes and chastises, he draws all good out of evil, directing it to a good end, even to our salvation.

    16. This pure love of God causes us to pray aright. For as a friend has his friend at his disposal in all things, so also such a lover of God is a friend of God, and obtains from him that for which he prays. Therefore, because Lazarus's sister knew the Lord Jesus to be not only a friend, but also the Son of God, she said, “I know that [pg 248] even now whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (John 11:22); and because Mary loved Jesus, she was heard by the Lord, and he restored her brother unto her. Of such a love as obtains from God all things, holy David saith, “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Ps. 37:4.

    17. But in order that thou mayest have a characteristic mark of this love, observe these four properties of true love. 1. Love submits itself to the will of the beloved. 2. True love abandons all friendship which is contrary to its beloved. 3. One friend reveals his heart unto the other. 4. A true lover endeavors to be made conformable to his beloved, in his manners, and in all his life. Is the beloved poor, the lover will be poor with him. Is the beloved despised, the lover also bears his contempt. Is he sick, the lover is sick too. Thus love makes an equality between them, so that they have the same prosperity and adversity. For there must be such a communion between the lover and the beloved, as that each of them shall be made partaker of the other's good as well as ill. This, then, is not only a communion, but a union or uniting of two minds like each other, and of two hearts which are alike.

    18. After such a manner our Lord Jesus Christ is become our Friend. For, 1. His love submitted itself to the will of man, and was obedient unto the cross: nay, for the sake of man he submitted his will to every one, even to his enemies. 2. He neglected all other friendship that he could have had in the world; nay, he even forgot himself, and spared not his own body and life for our sakes. 3. He revealed in his Gospel, his heart unto us; therefore he says, “Henceforth I call you not servants; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you.” John 15:15. 4. He was made alike unto us in all things, sin only excepted. Phil. 2:7. He became poor as we are, and mortal even as we.

    19. If now we will be his true lovers, we must also do all these things. And seeing he was made like unto us in all things, and in all our misery, why would not we strive to be made like unto Him? If we thus love him, we shall obtain from him all things by prayer, according to his saying, “Unto him that loveth me, I will manifest myself.” John 14:21. O what a friendly and delightful manifestation in the heart is there, when we experience heavenly joy, wisdom, and understanding! Here is the only right way to acquire understanding and wisdom, which are so highly praised by king Solomon in the Proverbs.

    20. We are, therefore, naturally led to the conclusion, that genuine prayer cannot be offered without love.

    [pg 249]

    Chapter XXV.

    Sundry Signs By Which We May Ascertain Whether We Truly Love Christ.

    If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.—1 John 2:15.

    The first mark that the love of Christ is in us, is the avoiding of the love of the world. When thou considerest Christ in his holy poverty, how he was so entirely empty of love to temporal things, his love will also actuate thee to learn that thou art to put off the love of the world and to despise it; so that thou wilt desire nothing here but thy Lord Jesus Christ, and wilt not put thy confidence in any creature, or earthly assistance.

    2. Secondly, thou wilt willingly bear reproach and contempt from the world, for the sake of Christ's holy reproach; nay, with St. Paul, thou wilt account it thy glory, and rejoice in it. Eph. 3:13. Nor wilt thou be much troubled when the world makes no great account of thee; for such was thy Lord's and Redeemer's life in this world. This shall be thy full satisfaction, that Christ is thy honor, renown, glory, light, strength, power, and victory, wisdom, and skill. For to follow Christ is the highest wisdom.

    3. Thirdly, seeing that Christ in his holy body and soul has suffered pain and sorrow unto death, thou also, for his love's sake, wilt not only with patience, but even with joy, suffer sorrow, persecution, distress, and affliction, nay, torment and pain unto death.

    4. And, fourthly, as Christ had comfort and joy in no man nor in any creature, but only in God, according to what is said in Psalm 22, so thou also wilt bear it patiently when all worldly comfort leaves thee. For thou knowest that at last God will make thee joyful with his everlasting comfort, of which St. Paul gives us an admirable account (2 Cor. 6:4, etc.): “Let us approve ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

    5. Fifthly, thou shalt esteem the cross of Christ as the highest good, beyond all the treasures of the world. If it were not so, Christ would not have taught thee so, and put it before thine eyes with his own life and example. Thou mayest easily believe that the Son of God would not mislead thee by his example, but conduct thee to the highest wisdom, and to the highest heavenly joys, although the way is strait and narrow. But thou seest that he himself walked in this narrow path. And because there are few that follow him, he [pg 250] says, “Few there be that find it.” Matt. 7:14. For it is not an easy thing to conquer self, to deny self, to die unto self, and to renounce the world and all that we have. This is the narrow way, and few there be that find it.

    6. The sixth mark of the love of Christ is, never to have the beloved Jesus out of our thoughts; but to set him always before us by faith, and to consider the works of his love.

    7. As for instance: I. His incarnation, in which, as in a Book of Life, we see chiefly a twofold benefit: 1. That he thereby fills us with his love. And, 2. That he makes us sure of our eternal salvation and happiness. O what inexpressible love is this, that God was made man and like man, that he might make men like unto God! O the greatness of love! He took upon him the form of a servant (Phil. 2:6-8) that he might make us kings, and adorn us with royal crowns. O the greatness of love, that God, incomprehensible and invisible, should be made palpable and visible! Who is able to fathom the deep abyss of this love! O what great, unutterable wisdom, that out of the great evil of sin, thou, O Lord, hast brought forth such an infinite good, discovering thereby the deep abyss of thy love! O the great comfort it is to me to know that thy human birth is my divine birth, and a fountain of salvation against the deep well of sin!

    8. II. His holy doctrine, wherein are found eternal wisdom, truth, light, life and salvation; and his holy life, whereby he has shown us the manner, and the way, how to live a truly Christian and godly life. For the pattern of his holy life is the most wonderful light, which will not let us walk in darkness.

    9. III. The mystery of the innocent death of Christ, in which there are seven particulars to be considered. 1. The fulfilling of the justice of God, and of the divine sentence. 2. The satisfaction for all our sins. 3. Our reconciliation with God; for we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Rom. 5:10. 4. The manifestation of the superabundant love of God through the death of our Redeemer. 5. The eternal truth of God, that he has given us his Son, and thereby testified himself to be truly our Father. 6. The victory over all enemies. 7. The acquiring and purchase of eternal salvation and life.

    10. IV. His resurrection, which gives us a firm assurance of the resurrection of our bodies, and also of that spiritual resurrection, wherein, through the grace of God, and the power of the life of Christ, we, having been spiritually dead, become spiritually alive in Christ. Rom. 6:4.

    11. V. His ascension, which is a consummation of our eternal redemption, righteousness, and salvation.

    12. These five works of the love of Christ are the true Christian school wherein we are to study, never letting them depart from our thoughts.

    [pg 251]

    Chapter XXVI.

    Five Kinds Of Works Of Love, In Which The Grace And Goodness Of God Are Especially Revealed.

    The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.Ps. 87:2.

    There are chiefly five arguments of the love of God. 1. Christ's incarnation. 2. His suffering. 3. God's indwelling in us. 4. God's love shining forth out of the creatures. 5. His amiableness in his own Being, therein surpassing all created things.

    2. I. Where love is, there is union; for it is the nature of love that it unites itself with the beloved. Now, as God loved man so mightily, it could not be otherwise but that he must unite himself again unto man after his fall, and out of pure love and mercy become a man. Ah! “What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him!” Psalm 8:4. The soul of man is so beloved of God, that as Christ is God and man, having united himself with human nature, with our body and soul: so also God loves our soul so much that he desires to pour himself wholly into the same, if it were perfectly purified, and man did not resist him. For there is infinite love in God, which is unutterable. This is, then, one of the greatest demonstrations of the love of God, that God is made man, and has showed himself a true lover of men, having taken upon him what is human that he might give us what is divine. He is become a Son of man, that he may make us children of God. He came down to us upon earth, that he might lift us up into heaven. O what a noble exchange! and all for this end, that we in him might be loved of God. It is as if God did call from heaven, saying: “O ye men, behold my beloved Son! Him I have suffered to become man, that he might be a living example and witness of my deep love to you; that he might bring you all with himself to me, and ye all might be made my children and heirs!” Therefore the Lord always calls himself in the Gospel the Son of Man, out of an intimate love to us. We seldom read that he calls himself the Son of God, but always the Son of Man, from an affectionate humility and love.

    3. II. Although his holy incarnation is a very great argument of his love to us, yet his holy suffering and dying for our sins are a still greater one. For “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. “In this was manifested the love of God towards us (saith St. John), that God sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:9, 10. This is the highest love. Our God, according to his incomprehensible omnipotence, could have found out other means by which to redeem us; as the Lord Jesus Christ himself prayed for it in his agony, saying: “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.” Mark 14:36. But then it would not have been the highest love shown to us. In order that God might bestow the highest love upon us, and that we might not be able to say, “God has something [pg 252] which he loves too dearly to give it to us;” he has given us his dear Son, and not only given him, but given him also to be the propitiation for our sins. Therefore he could not have showed us greater love. Therein God commandeth his love towards us. Rom. 5:8. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Rom. 8:32. Hath he given us that which is the greatest, he will surely give us that also which is less. In the eternal life all that is God's shall be ours. “He that overcometh shall inherit all things.” Rev. 21:7.

    4. III. Further, God shows his love to us, by his dwelling among us, and in us. O what a great comfort is this, that God has sanctified our heart, and dedicated it to be his dwelling-place. Formerly, in the Old Testament, when the tabernacle and sanctuary were finished, Moses was commanded to consecrate, to sanctify, and to sprinkle it with the blood of the sacrifice; for “almost all things were by the law purged with blood.” Heb. 9:22. And thereupon the glory of God came from heaven, and filled the tabernacle (Exod. 40:34); so also, after Christ died for our sins, and after we are sanctified through his blood, God comes to us and makes his abode with us.

    5. Whom we love, with him we delight to be. God loves mankind tenderly; therefore he delights to be with them, and to have his habitation among them. “I the Lord dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isa. 57:15. And again, with whom we delight to be, him we tenderly love. God delights to be with men; therefore he loves men tenderly, according to the Psalm: “In the saints on earth, and in the excellent, is all my delight.” Ps. 16:3. This assurance that God loves us and is with us, ought to comfort us in all our calamities, in poverty, in sickness, in persecution, and in contempt. What (sayest thou), doth he love them whom he suffers to come under so many crosses? I answer, Yes, that he may through the cross make them glorious. As their sufferings here abound, so also shall their consolations abound there. 2 Cor. 1:5. The greater afflictions are on earth, the greater joy and glory are in heaven. 2 Cor. 4:17.

    6. And this is the reason why God makes many people sorrowful; namely, that he may dwell in their hearts; for he delights to dwell nowhere more than in a poor and contrite spirit. Ps. 34:19; Isa. 66:2. God fills us here with his grace, that he may fill us hereafter with his glory, even as he fills and illuminates the heavenly Jerusalem. Rev. 21:23.

    7. IV. The love of God shines forth also out of the creatures. When St. Paul would desire for his Ephesians the best, the highest, and the most glorious thing, he wishes that they might know the love of God, and be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the same. Eph. 3:18. He means to say so much, that the love of God is higher than heaven, deeper than the sea, broader than the earth, longer than it is from east to west, according to Psalm 103:11.

    12. In a word, heaven and earth are full of the love of God: for all that God hath created, be it visible or invisible, he hath created for this end, that his inexpressible goodness and [pg 253] love might therein be manifested. And, therefore, he hath given to man both inward and outward senses, that thereby he might perceive the goodness and love of God. For all that man can apprehend by his understanding, thoughts, mind, and reason, as well as what he apprehends with his outward senses, altogether bears witness to the love of God. All that man hath, is a testimony of the love of God; yea, all creatures, visible and invisible, are, as it were, so many messengers of God, declaring unto us his love; and he speaks to us through them, saying, “Behold the heaven and earth, and all creatures! I have created all out of love to man.” And whenever we perceive the pleasantness of the creatures, we perceive the goodness of God; so that both with our inward and outward senses we can taste and see that the Lord is good, according to the words of the 34th Psalm, ver. 8.

    8. The sun speaks to us by its light and warmth, as if it said: “Look upon me, the greatest and the brightest creature among all visible things: He must be great that made me.” Ps. 19:1, etc. But not only through beautiful creatures doth God speak to us, but also through the most despicable worm, as if God did say: “Lo, thou art beholden to me thy Creator, that I, who could have made thee a worm, have, out of mercy, made thee a man.” Here remember him who said: “I am a worm, and no man.” Ps. 22:6. Thus God speaks unto man through all the creatures, declares his love to him, and invites, leads, and draws us unto himself. This is that wisdom of God which in all places uttereth “her voice in the streets,” which “rejoiceth in the habitable part of the earth, and whose delights are with the sons of men.” Prov. 1:20; 8:31.

    9. Indeed, if we consider the matter aright, we are encompassed by the love of God, even as we are all inclosed under heaven, seeing that “in God we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts 17:28. Man can go nowhere, but the love and goodness of God follow after him, and call him through all the creatures, nay, through his own heart and conscience, saying: “Whither wilt thou go, beloved child? Whither shalt thou flee from my presence? If thou ascendest up into heaven, I am there. If thou makest thy bed in hell, behold I am there. If thou takest the wings of the morning, and dwellest in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall my hand lead thee, and my right hand shall hold thee.” Ps. 139:7, etc. Therefore, come unto me, and acknowledge my love and grace, with which I meet thee in every creature. Hast thou sinned, grace abounds with me; hast thou left me, my love and mercy have not yet rejected thee, but are continually hastening after thee, have been calling to thee, and, as a wandering sheep, have sought after thee. And if thou believest not these many testimonies of all the creatures, believe the testimony of my dear Son, how I have loved the world in him. John 3:16. “Thou canst nowhere find rest for thy soul except here; turn which way thou wilt, thou must and canst only rest in my love and grace.” O how blessed is the heart which understands that heaven and earth are full of the love of God, and that he has as many witnesses of his love as there are creatures! But the greatest and highest witness of all is the Son of God.

    10. V. We know also the love of God, from the amiableness of his own [pg 254] being. From the visions of the prophets, and the Revelation of St. John, we can observe that God Almighty is so lovely and beautiful, as infinitely to transcend all the beauty and loveliness of the world. He is the beauty of all things beautiful, and the loveliness of all things lovely, the life of all the living. He is all. An ancient father has said: “God is so lovely and beautiful, that if a man were in a fiery furnace, and saw the beauty and glory of Him but for a moment, the greatest torment would be changed into the greatest joy;” as it happened to St. Stephen, when he saw the glory of God, and said: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:56. God is so lovely and beautiful, that if a man saw him for a thousand years together, it would seem to him but one hour. For in beholding the loveliness and glory of God, all time is swallowed up; so that the more any one sees God, the more he desires to see him; the more he loves God, the more he will love; and the more he praises God, the more will he praise him; according to the words of Xystus, an ancient teacher: “Devout souls can never be satiated with the love and praise of God.” Hence, although the holy angels have seen God from the beginning of their creation, they have not yet seen him enough; and although they have praised him from the beginning, they have not yet praised him enough: for “God is more to be praised, than all praise can express; and more lovely, than the love of all the creatures can reach.” God is infinite in his beauty, loveliness, and glory; therefore no creature can love him enough. God is so amiable, that the more one loves him, the more one desires to love him. He is so to be praised that the end of his praises cannot be attained; so lovely to be looked upon, that looking upon him never makes us weary; so comfortable to be heard, that he never can be heard enough. Tauler says, “If one might taste but a drop of the perfect love of God, all the joys and pleasures of this world would be changed to us into the greatest bitterness.” The saints have endured the greatest torments for the sake of the love of God, and have given up their lives; and if they had a thousand bodies, they would hazard them all, that they might keep the love of God; as the Psalmist says, “Thy loving kindness is better than life; therefore my lips shall praise thee.” Ps. 63:3. God is so high, so noble, and so pure a Good, that the more any one knows him, the more he loves him. He is so tender and perfect a sweetness, that the more one tastes of him, the sweeter he becomes; and the more one loves him, the more his loveliness increases. Blessed is the soul which is filled with the love of God. He will be conscious in his soul of such amiableness as cannot be found in time among creatures.

    11. Behold now, ye children of men, how deceived ye are by the love of the world. What is it which any man can obtain by the love of temporal things, but sorrow, trouble, loss of time, unprofitable words (of which an account must be given), wranglings, fightings, and a burdened conscience? Surely all the children of men shall one day sorely repent that they have so much loved the world, and the things therein: according to the warning given us by St. John, saying, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust [pg 255] of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:15, etc. Therefore every man ought to mourn all the days of his life that he ever loved anything more than God only. If God pours into thy heart his love, so that thou lovest him above all things, then he has given thee the best thing he hath, even Himself.

    Chapter XXVII.

    Showing How The Lord Jesus Manifests Himself To The Loving Soul As The Highest Love And The Highest Good.

    To him that loveth me, I will manifest myself.John 14:21.

    If thou duly considerest Christ crucified thou wilt see nothing in him but pure, perfect, and unutterable love, and he will show thee his heart, and say, “Behold, in this heart there is no deceit and no lie (Isaiah 53:9), but the highest faithfulness and truth are there. Incline thy head unto me, and rest upon my heart; open thy mouth, and drink out of my wounds the sweetest love, which out of the heart of my Father springs up and flows through me.”

    2. When thou shalt have tasted this love, thou wilt forget and despise, for its sake, all the world, and be desirous of nothing else but of this love. Thou wilt say to thy Lord, “O Lord, give me nothing more than the sweetness of thy love; nay, if thou wouldst give me the whole world, I would desire nothing else but thee and thy love.”

    3. O happy is the soul which feels this love! for in that soul Christ is truly known, and manifested to be nothing else but pure love, and to be the love of the souls of men. These words state a most happy experience; for that Christ is the love of our soul he clearly shows by his spiritual coming and delightful refreshing of the soul; and when the soul tastes but a drop thereof it is filled with joys. For infinite love is so great that our hearts cannot comprehend it. This the holy martyr Ignatius owned, who always used to call the Lord Jesus, his Love, and said: My Love is crucified.

    4. In this love of Christ all our works ought to be done (1 Cor. 16:14); and then they proceed from Christ out of true faith, and are well-pleasing to God, whether we eat, or drink, or sleep, or perform the duties of our calling. All that comes forth of a believing love is made pleasant to God and men; for it is done and wrought in God. John 3:21.

    5. Although this love of Christ is the highest good in heaven and upon earth (for all good things are contained therein), yet is God so willing and ready to bestow it upon us, that he hath sent, even his dear Son, into this misery, to make us partakers in him of this inexpressible treasure, through [pg 256] faith. And he is much more ready to give us this precious good than we are to receive it.

    6. This love, “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 5:5), when felt in us, affords us more joy than all the world can give. And if all creatures were present, a believing and loving soul would part with them, yea, not so much as look upon them, because of the superabundant sweetness of the love of God. And if all creatures should begin to speak, the voice of the love of God would be stronger and more delightful than the voice of all the creatures. For this love binds and unites the mind unto Christ, and replenishes it with all good. This precious good is indeed known, seen, and tasted in the spirit, but no words can express it. All words are much too weak to set forth even the shadow thereof; and no man's tongue can reach that precious and lovely good of which the spirit of man is sensible. Therefore also St. Paul says, that he heard in paradise words that were “unspeakable.” 2 Cor. 12:4.

    7. And when this precious good withdraws from the soul, there is then greater sorrow than if all the world had been lost. Then the soul calls and cries, “O thou delightful love, I have scarcely tasted of thee; why dost thou forsake me? My soul is as a child that is weaned of his mother Ps. 131:2. Oh, thy loving-kindness is better than life! (Ps. 63:3); let me taste thereof. My soul thirsteth for thee (Ps. 42:2) only, and nothing else can satisfy me, or make me joyful.”

    This holy love causes also, that without it the whole life is imbittered to a believing and loving soul, and is accounted as death and misery. Yea, for the sake of this love, man desires to die, to put off the earthly tabernacle, and to be at home, and present with the Lord, according to the words of St. Paul. 2 Cor. 5:8.

    Chapter XXVIII.

    Showing How The Highest Good Is Perceived And Tasted In The Soul.

    O taste and see that the Lord is good.Ps. 34:8.

    God is an eternal, perfect, infinite, substantial, communicative Good, full of love and joy; and therefore he desires to be known in living faith, in spirit, and in truth. This cannot however be, except a man really taste and feel in his heart the goodness, sweetness, loving-kindness, and comfort of God.

    2. If this were to be performed there must needs be in man something conformable to God, and capable of knowing him, that so we might be made partakers of the highest good. Now this is the soul of man: into the soul God was willing to pour forth his goodness, yea, to dwell there, and to manifest and make known himself more and more.

    3. But since man has lost this sovereign good by sin, and the devil has obtained a habitation in, and possession [pg 257] of, him; working in man all his own works, as pride, covetousness, lust, anger, envy; man, therefore, “through the faith of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12), must be turned again from the world unto God, from Satan unto Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18), and Satan with his works must be driven out and be utterly dispossessed. As long as Satan works in man, God works not in him; His works are hindered, so that the soul cannot taste that God is good. Indeed, the reason why there are so few that know God aright is, that in the greatest number of men the works of darkness and of Satan have the ascendency. The most part adhere to the world, to the creatures, and to themselves.

    4. But they who will rightly know and taste the Lord's goodness, must be joined unto him, and be one spirit with him. 1 Cor. 6:17. And the more this is done the more does God manifest himself in the believing, loving soul; the more the heart is turned from the world unto God, the more God is united to the soul. All love to the world and to the creature must be turned out, if the love of God ever enter in. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15. Where God finds a soul empty of the world, he fills it with heaven, with himself, and with all his goodness. The more the heart is emptied of love to the world, the more God fills it with his light and comfort. “Therefore,” as an ancient father says, “in an empty, still, and quiet soul, it can be better felt than expressed what God is.”

    5. If then a man would really know that God is good, even the highest Good, he must taste his goodness in his heart. The Scripture testifies thereof outwardly, but the heart must feel it inwardly, and must taste the living word. It must “taste the good word of God and the powers of the world to come.” Heb. 6:5. Thou canst never better understand that God is kind and loving, than when thou feelest his comfort. None can better teach thee that God is a Being full of joy than God himself, when he rejoices in thee. And so it is also with all other things of God. If he do not perform, and himself work all in thee, thou wilt never come to a living knowledge of him. “To know God without God, is impossible,” says St. Augustine. Therefore, that man will never be able to know rightly what God is, unto whom God does not make known and manifest himself. But when a heart feels the living word of God, then it knows and understands that God is all, all-good, and the true, perfect, eternal Good, and better than all for which any heart can wish or desire.

    6. When this is known and tasted in the soul, according to the words of Psalm 63:3, “Lord, thy loving-kindness is better than life;” then the soul begins to scorn the world with its joys and pleasures. She has in God satisfaction, even full satisfaction, and, in short, all. For the world, with all that is in it, is made up only of individual things, which are imperfect and inconstant; but God is the true, perfect, universal, and eternal unchangeable Good.

    7. For this reason David says, “Whom have I in heaven but thee, O Lord? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Ps. 73:25. This is the language of a soul which has tasted the perfect good, from which all love to the world and creatures is removed, and which has no pleasure nor delight in the world and in earthly things, but in God alone, the highest [pg 258] Good. And this is the true, sensible, and experimental knowledge of God, nay, the true love of God above all things, which is felt and tasted in the heart; for when God is rightly known, he is loved, praised, and honored above all things.

    8. Now, if we have the eternal, perfect good, wherein there is all good, and which alone is all, why should we love that which is imperfect? For where the true, perfect good is known, there it is also beloved above all imperfect things, that is, above all creatures whatsoever.

    9. Thus the living knowledge of God expels the love of the world; and thus man begins to despise the world, with all the vanities thereof, saying, with King Solomon, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity;” nay, all under the sun “is vexation of spirit.” Eccles. 1:2, 14. Thus love to the world is abolished in the heart, and there remains only love to God, and to the eternal good which abideth for ever.

    Chapter XXIX.

    Showing How The Loving Soul Considers God In His Benefits As The Most Liberal Bountifulness.

    In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.—1 John 4:9, 10.

    All that God does with reference to man, be it benefits or punishments, he does to this end, that man, who is turned away from him, may be turned to him again.

    2. But man is foolish and brutish, like the beasts (Ps. 32:9), and does not understand the reason for which God bestows upon him so great benefits, namely, that thereby he might be invited and encouraged to love God: nor does he, on the other hand, consider why God punishes him, namely, that he may turn himself unto God.

    3. Let us consider, first, bodily and temporal benefits, and then those that are spiritual and eternal.

    4. I. God has created nothing, either visible or invisible, which may not be serviceable to man. The invisible creatures which minister to us, are the holy angels (Heb. 1:14), whose wisdom, strength, diligence, and watchfulness over us, are declared and praised in many places of Scripture; so that even many angels wait upon one man: witness the history of the patriarch Jacob and the prophet Elisha. Gen. 32:1, 2; 2 Kings 6:17. Because many evil spirits lie in wait for one man, seeking to destroy him; therefore also many holy watchers are ordered by God for his defence. That there is joy also in the presence of the angels, over our repentance and prayers, the Lord teaches us. Luke 15:10. This benefit, because it is bestowed upon us after an invisible manner, many people little consider; but a wise man, who considers not only the visible world, but the [pg 259] invisible also, understands well, that in the invisible world, wherein God dwelleth, there is much greater glory, and there are much greater numbers or hosts, and greater principalities and dominions (Col. 1:16) than in this visible world. And as God makes his own ministers and princes defend and watch over us, it is plain that this is an exceedingly great benefit; even as that is to be accounted an honor and favor, when a prince appoints his own ministers to conduct and defend one that is to travel through a wilderness or through a hostile country.

    5. Look upon the firmament, and consider how God has appointed it for thy service. Behold the wondrous course of the sun and moon. Why do they run so incessantly, day and night, and rest not so much as for one moment? Gen. 1:16; Ps. 19:6. Are they not diligent and industrious servants of man? For God hath no need of their service; he wants not their operations nor their light; it is for man that they were created. The sun serves thee as an unwearied servant, which every morning rises early, and carries before thee the beautiful light, and puts thee in remembrance of the eternal light, which is Christ, and his divine word; this shall be the light of thy soul, that thou mayest walk as a child of the light. The moon and the night cover thee with a shadow, bringing rest unto thee, and teaching thee to abide and to dwell under the shadow of the Most High. Ps. 91:1. The moon, like an unwearied handmaid, conducts water to fertilize the earth. Nay, there is not a star which does not shine, and has not received some blessing for the benefit of man.

    6. Behold the air and the winds, how clear they make the firmament, dispelling the clouds; or they gather them together and cause them to pour forth afterwards upon the earth. It is very wonderful that God “bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them.” Job 26:8. The air bears and sustains the clouds, those moist vapors which are afterwards resolved into small drops of water. Job 36:27. Thunder, lightnings, and hail (Job 37:3), must lead us to acknowledge the power of God, to pray to him, and to thank him when he has preserved us in a terrible tempest. Ps. 18:8, 13, 14.

    7. Behold the various winds which govern navigation; so that where a wind blows, there the ship is driven, and sails on her way as a bird flies through the air. Thus all places of the world can be found out, and all the secrets thereof discovered, that nothing may be kept hid of what God hath created for the benefit of man.

    8. Behold the various kinds of fish in the sea. Gen. 1:20, 21; Ps. 104:25. They have their appointed times and seasons, in which they, as it were, rise out of the depths and present themselves, crowded together as the corn in the field, as if they would say, Now we are in season, now is the time of harvest for the sea; gather therefore, O ye men! And so it is with the birds also; when their time is come, they fly together in great multitudes, and show themselves to mankind.

    9. Behold the earth, that great storehouse of food and treasury of God. It furnishes forth meat and drink, medicine and clothing, houses and abodes, and all the various metals. Each month produces its flowers, which present themselves to our notice, as if they would say, Here we are; we bring our gifts, and present them to [pg 260] you, as good as we received them from our Creator. Nay, even the forest, which is the habitation of roving beasts, God hath put under man, and made him to have dominion over them. And were we to attempt to enumerate all the temporal benefits of God, we should find it impossible to number only them that are in one particular country. There is no fruit, but it is a benefit of God; and let man enumerate them, one by one, if he be able. Should not we learn from this to know our good and bountiful God? Ps. 65:10, 11. If a great potentate were to subject to thee his whole kingdom, and all his dominions, nobles, and powerful men, nay, all his subjects, and were to command them to guard, defend, preserve, clothe, cure, and feed thee, and to take care that thou want nothing at all, wouldest thou not love him and account him a loving, bountiful lord? How then oughtest thou to love the Lord thy God, who has reserved nothing for himself, but appointed for thy service all that is in heaven, or comes from heaven, and all that is upon earth. He needs no creatures for himself, and has excepted nothing from thy service, neither in all the hosts of holy angels, nor in any of his creatures under the stars. If we but desire it, they are ready to serve us; nay, hell itself must serve us by bringing upon us fear and terror, that we may not sin; and by punishing and tormenting our enemies and all the wicked, more than man can desire.

    10. II. Let us, upon this ladder of the creatures, ascend unto God our Creator, and consider his spiritual benefits. Has not the Holy Trinity, each Person in particular, bestowed upon man great grace and beneficence? The Father has given us his own Son, and “how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Rom. 8:32. Has not God the Son given us himself, and all he is, and all he has? “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8. Is not the Holy Ghost within us, illuminating, purifying, teaching, comforting, and adorning our souls with his gifts? He “beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Rom. 8:16.

    11. In a word, God's mercy pours forth itself entirely upon us, and omits nothing whereby men could be moved to love God. The benefits God bestows upon us, are so many messengers which he sends for inviting us to come and to enjoy his love. If thou shouldest ask the Scriptures, the angels, all the prophets and all the saints of God, nay, all creatures besides, “From whence come you?” they would answer, “We are the messengers of the mercy of God; we carry fire and flames, that the heart of man, which is cold and incrusted, as it were, with ice, might be warmed again by the love of God.” Yet all these numbers of flaming messengers of God are not able to warm the dead, cold, and frozen heart. This, therefore, is the greatest wonder the devil can effect, that he makes a human heart so cold, that warmth cannot be raised therein, by so many flames of the love of God.

    12. Therefore, hearken, thou human heart, and consider where thy Creator has placed thee: namely, in the middle of so many fiery benefits, where the glorious angels surround thee with their flaming love, and where there are so many creatures and messengers of God, all proclaiming his love unto thee. Wherein now has God Almighty transgressed against thee? Whereby [pg 261] has he deserved, that thou shouldst not, or canst not, love and praise him? If what he has done for thee be too little, behold, he offers to do still more. He will create for thee a new heaven and a new earth, and will build a new, glorious, heavenly city, which his glory will lighten; nay, he will illuminate thee with his own light and glory. Rev. 21:10, etc. Could a young woman be so cold, as not to love a fair and youthful bridegroom, whose beauty and goodness were praised day and night, nay, who had delivered her from death, and adorned her with the fairest ornaments? Therefore know, thou human soul, how cold the devil has made thee, since thou canst not be at all warmed by the love of God.

    13. And since God has implanted love in all human hearts, tell me, if thy love could be bought of thee, to whom wouldest thou sell it rather than to the Lord thy God? But thinkest thou, that God has not bought of thee thy love dear enough, and has not paid for it a price sufficient? Hath He not given thee his dear Son for it, and Heaven and Earth besides? All that thou expectest to gain for thy love from the world, is as nothing, in comparison with what God has given thee, and what He further has prepared for them that love him. 1 Cor. 2:9; Isa. 64:4. The world, perhaps, gives thee a handful of honor and riches, accompanied with many troubles, and yet thou lovest it! Why dost thou not rather love God, the everlasting Good? But if thy love is not to be bought or sold, but rather will bestow itself freely upon that which thou likest best, what can love find that is to be esteemed more than the supreme, eternal, and most glorious Good? Everything we love, is our beauty and ornament: and if thou lovest God, thou shalt make him thereby thy beauty and thy ornament. And since that is lovely which is beautiful, nothing can ever make thee more lovely and comely, than the love of God in thy soul.

    14. And lastly, it is but just and reasonable, that we should love him “who first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. Take account of all the benefits of God, and sum them up; so shalt thou find that all creatures are full of the love of God. This love follows and surrounds thee everywhere, so that thou canst not be rid of it, nor hide thyself from it. It is too powerful and overcometh thee; thou must enjoy it whether thou wilt or not, unless thou wouldest live no more.

    15. Now we know that brutes love those by whom they are loved; wouldest thou be worse than a brute, hating thy Benefactor, in whose love thou livest and movest, standest and walkest, sleepest and wakest? But as a thing that is to be kindled, must be held to the fire till it take the flame: so also art thou to expose thy heart to the fire of the love of God, till it be kindled and inflamed therein, which is effected by continual contemplations of the benefits of God. As formerly the priests were commanded to kindle the sacrifices by the holy fire (Lev. 6:12), so must the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ, kindle the sacrifice of thine heart, by the fire of his Holy Spirit. And this holy fire of his love was burning toward us from eternity; for He loved us before the foundation of the world. Since that, it has gloriously shown forth itself in the Lord's incarnation and birth; and chiefly in his sufferings and death, whereby He has bestowed upon us the highest love; and this fire of his [pg 262] flaming love to us will not be extinguished to all eternity. Near this fire continue thou with thy cold heart, that thou mayest he kindled with, and united to, the love of Christ.

    Chapter XXX.

    Showing How God Manifests Himself To The Loving Soul, As The Supreme Beauty.

    O Lord my God, thou art very great: thou art clothed with honor and majesty; who coverest thyself with light as with a garment.Ps. 104:1, 2.

    As nothing is more lovely to a loving soul than Christ, and no good higher or more precious than God himself; so there is also nothing more beautiful in the sight of such a one than God. That soul looks upon God as the highest beauty, with which nothing in heaven and earth is to be compared; so that all the holy angels cannot sufficiently praise to all eternity this beauty of God. If all the holy angels in their lustre, and all the elect in their glory, were put together, it would nevertheless appear, that all their beauty and splendor proceed from God, who is the eternal glory and beauty; and that they are derived from the everlasting, infinite light and brightness. For as God is all good, and the highest good, so He is also all beauty, ornament, and glory.

    2. And when a man beholds in spirit the glory of God, he forgets all the creatures, nay, the beauty of all the angels also; and mourns over nothing so much, as that he has offended this great Good with his wickedness, and this infinite eternal beauty and brightness with his impurity.

    3. But because the Son of God, the brightness of his glory (Heb. 1:3), is become man, He hath made men partakers of his divine nature, and of his comeliness (2 Pet. 1:4), so that all who are in Christ by faith, are comely and glorious before God. Ps. 16:3. He remembers our defects and filthiness no more; for although his eyes see, yet the brightness of his glory, and the love of Christ cover them. Eph. 5:27.

    4. The wise heathen Plato, considering the beauty of the creatures, of the luminaries, of the firmament, of the flowers in the fields, of the metals and animals, has by his reason drawn the conclusion, that God must of necessity be an eternal Being, beautiful above all things, because the beauty of all the creatures must be comprehended or concentrated in Him. But we say from the word of God, and the holy Evangelist St. John: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know, that when He shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2); that we then, being perfectly renewed after the likeness of God, shall really be an image, like unto God, through which his beauty, brightness, and glory will shine; but out of Jesus Christ our Lord, in the highest brightness and beauty of all. For in him is all fulness; [pg 263] and so it has pleased the Father that “in him should all fulness dwell” (Col. 1:19); and that “in him should be gathered together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth” (Eph. 1:10); which no finite creature can comprehend.

    5. Therefore angels and men shall admire the brightness and beauty of Christ, especially the chosen children of God, “whose vile bodies shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” Phil. 3:21. And this is what Daniel says, “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.” Dan. 12:3. And as the 104th Psalm, ver. 2, says of God, “Thou coverest thyself with light,” so our covering or garment will also be nothing else but light and brightness.

    Chapter XXXI.

    Showing How God Manifests Himself To The Loving Soul As The Infinite Omnipotence.

    O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?Ps. 89:8.

    The love of God wills, that a loving soul should do good to all men, and be profitable both to foes and friends; not for the sake of its own profit and honor, but only for the sake of the love of God, which, as it were, moves his omnipotence to draw nigh unto us; which also, from its infinite treasure, gives us all we have, to the end that we should give again from love what the love of God has given us out of the treasury of his omnipotence.

    2. Therefore, O man, be careful that thou appropriate nothing to thyself, but restore all to the omnipotence of God, who himself is all that thou hast and art. No creature can either give to, or take away from, thee; it is only the omnipotence of God which can do it. Nor can any creature comfort thee; the love of God alone can do it.

    3. In this love, the loving soul sees the fulness of God's incomprehensible omnipotence, which comprehends in itself heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land, but cannot be comprehended by any thing. For the whole world is to the omnipotence of God “as a drop of a bucket, and as the small dust of the balance.” Isa. 40:15.

    4. And out of this fulness of God's omnipotence, all the powers of angels, men, and all other creatures, proceed. It sustains the firmament of Heaven. The motions of the sea and the powers of the earth proceed from it; so that heaven and earth are full of God, full of the divine power and operation, full of the Spirit of the Lord. The power of God, which is the might of his love, comprehends, incloses, and replenishes all things, but is comprehended by none. Ps. 139:2, etc.

    5. As high as God is over all things, so deeply also is he in all things, and all things are in him, according to St. Paul, who says, “Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things” (Rom. 11:36); and again, “Who is above [pg 264] all, and through all, and in you all.” Eph. 4:6.

    6. Since God is so great and over all things, nothing surely can be equal to him; and he that will be so, makes himself a god, commits the greatest sin, and falls into the pit of perdition. And since God is all, all that is without him must be as nothing. Therefore from God's omnipotence, man learns to know his own nothingness, and to fear God, who delights in them only that “humble themselves under his mighty hand.” 1 Peter 5:6.

    7. Now as great and high as God is in his omnipotence, even so low is he made by his love. Behold our Lord Jesus Christ, the living Son, the powerful arm of God, by whom were all things created, and by whom all things consist (1 Col. 1:16, 17); how deeply has he descended by his love, and how lowly and humble has he made himself among all creatures!

    8. Therefore, even as we cannot fathom, much less express in words, the omnipotence of God; so neither can we fathom with our thoughts the humility and lowliness of Christ. Nevertheless, as deep as is his descent, so high is also his ascent far above all heavens. Eph. 4:10. Unto him be honor and praise to all eternity. Amen.

    O God! O Jesus! O blessed Spirit! Thou unchangeable mind! Thou inextinguishable light! Thou Peace which cannot be disturbed! Thou indivisible unity! Thou infallible truth! Thou ineffable bounty! Thou immeasurable might! Thou infinite wisdom! Thou incomprehensible Goodness! Thou omnipresent eternity! Thou Life of all the living! Do Thou enlighten me, do Thou sanctify me, do Thou quicken me!

    Chapter XXXII.

    Showing How The Loving Soul Knows God As The Highest Righteousness And Holiness.

    Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep.Ps. 36:6.

    All who love God acknowledge him to be the highest and most holy righteousness, which pervades all, and is over all. This in God is his most holy will; in angels holy obedience; in man, the testimony of his conscience; in all creatures, it is the order of nature, whereby God has ordered all things in number, weight, and measure. All that is done against this order, is contrary to God and nature.

    2. All sins, therefore, in the world, are committed against God's righteousness, and the sinner thereby offends all creatures, even all the angels in heaven, and his own conscience, and sets them in hostility against himself. For when God is offended and provoked to anger, all creatures are also offended and made angry; so, too, when God is reconciled, all creatures are reconciled also, and rejoice over such a man. Hence St. Paul says, [pg 265] that all things are reconciled by Christ, whether they be “things in earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:20): and this, because God is reconciled through him. Therefore the Lord says, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Luke 15:10. The angels rejoice for man's own sake.

    3. But if God be not reconciled to man, all creatures, angels, and nature itself, execute vengeance upon him. Hence come the dreadful judgments of God: and it is impossible to avert such vengeance and judgments. “Thou art to be feared, O God; and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still.” Ps. 76:7, 8. Thus may we see in the plagues of Egypt how all creatures executed vengeance upon the wicked.

    4. From the most holy righteousness of God, when offended, proceeds also the curse; as Moses, the man of God, witnesses, when he speaks of the transgression of the divine law. Deut. 27:15, etc.

    5. It is a curse when the justice of God executes such vengeance, that the cursed cannot enjoy any good, either from God or the creature, but is made an “abhorring unto all flesh.” Isa. 66:24. “A curse is a liableness and condemnation unto eternal misery.” Therefore a curse is terrible and dreadful unto all creatures, so that they cannot endure it. And this is the highest vengeance of the justice of God.

    6. From the most holy righteousness of God proceed also those wonderful, unsearchable, secret, dreadful judgments, whereof David says, “Thy judgments are a great deep” (Ps. 36:7); and St. Paul, “How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Rom. 11:33.

    7. When, therefore, we consider them, we see therein the righteousness of God, of which the man of God, Moses, says, “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense,” saith the Lord. “If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people! for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land and to his people.” Deut. 32:35, 41, 43.

    8. In these words, Moses declares the vengeance of God upon all the wicked, who resist the righteousness of God. Against them God will whet his glittering sword; that is, his dreadful sentence and judgment, at which the earth feareth, and is still. Ps. 76:8. And him, upon whom God executes his vengeance and judgment, all the world cannot save; according to the words of the Psalm: “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself. Lift up thyself, thou Judge of the earth; render a reward to the proud.” Ps. 94:1, 2. Here we read that although the Lord God is a gracious, loving, kind, merciful, long-suffering God, to all them that fear him, he is nevertheless a just judge, according to his righteousness, of all the wicked that transgress against his righteousness.

    9. He, therefore, sets before us in his word, not only instances of his grace and mercy, but also of his justice and vengeance; such as those of the deluge, Sodom and Gomorrah, Pharaoh in Egypt, and in the Red Sea; Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; [pg 266] Saul, Ahithophel, Ahab, Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Sennacherib; and in the New Testament, Herod, and many more; in every one of whom, we may see the wonderful judgment and vengeance of God. Therefore he is called, a God of vengeance, “unto whom vengeance belongeth,” because he is the most holy, and the most righteous God; nay, righteousness itself. Therefore, the saints (Rev. 6:10) appeal to the justice of God with a loud voice, saying: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”

    10. Such judgments of God are executed daily, but are rightly understood only by believing and holy souls, according to the words of the Psalm: “With thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.” Ps. 91:8. This saying is not to be understood according to carnal passions and affections, but it is to be considered spiritually; for it imports that we are to give unto the Lord our God, the praise of his righteousness; and to say, “Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments” (Ps. 119:137); and “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” Ps. 145:17. Thus holy and believing souls delight to see the wonderful judgments of God; yet not according to the flesh, so as to rejoice over the destruction and perdition of the wicked (which would proceed from self-revenge); but, according to the spirit, they take delight, that is, they acknowledge and praise the righteousness of God, who fulfilleth his word, and is a righteous God. And at the same time, they lament and weep over the perdition of the wicked, even as our Saviour wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41); and as David wept over Absalom. 2 Sam. 18:33.

    11. So, then, we are here to have a twofold respect, namely, to God and to men. If we look upon the destruction of men, we are justly to be sorrowful; but if we look upon God, we are to praise his justice, for he doeth wrong unto none. Ps. 92:15.

    Chapter XXXIII.

    Showing How The Loving Soul Considers God As The Eternal Wisdom.

    Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.Acts 15:18.

    God ordains, governs, moves, and regulates all things according to his unsearchable wisdom, as it is written (Isa. 45:4-12): “I have even called thee by thy name; I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me.—I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.—Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? Thus saith the [pg 267] Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.”

    2. This is a powerful testimony concerning the eternal wisdom, and the wondrous, incomprehensible government of Almighty God, which may be first observed in this, that he has called every one of us by his name, and has surnamed us, though we did not know him, and were not yet in being. This our name by which God calleth us, is our faith, our outward calling, and our whole course of life. There we are inclosed in, or surrounded with, God's eternal wisdom and providence, as it respects our whole life, its beginning, middle, and end (Ps. 139:16), or as to our going out and coming in. Ps. 121:8. “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names” (Ps. 147:4); that is, he gives them their courses, powers, and operations. How much more doth he so in reference to men! God forms the light and creates darkness. He makes peace, and creates evil; that is, as to the evil of punishment, the just reward of sin; this he creates and permits; nay, he calls the sword, and causes an alarm of war to be heard. Jer. 49:2.

    3. In a word, he ordains all things wisely. He sees and hears all things before, according to the words of the Psalmist: “Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?” Ps. 94:8-10.

    4. Here king David teaches us that God has laid a mirror of his omniscience and eternal wisdom into man, into the hearing ear, and seeing eye, those two wonderful powers of the human body.

    5. It is extremely offensive to a man, to hear and see anything unjust or unreasonable; how much more to God, who has an all-seeing eye and an all-hearing ear, must men's ingratitude be offensive; he having ordained all things by his wisdom, in order to be serviceable unto men. He has made the sun by his wisdom to give light, not unto itself, but to us; the water affords drink, not to itself, but unto us; the earth brings forth fruits, not for itself but for us; the fire warms, not for itself, but for us; the air gives breath, not to itself, but to us; the bread feeds, not itself, but us; the herbs do not heal themselves, but us.

    6. The eternal wisdom of God has planted so many powers in the creatures, and has so wisely distributed them, that they are, as it were, so many hands through which the wisdom and goodness of God divide these treasures among us, according to the words of Job: “Who knoweth not in all these, that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:9, 10. And “Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee” (Ver. 7); that “with God is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding. Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.” Ver. 13, 14. “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, [pg 268] and hangeth the earth upon nothing. He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them.” Job 26:7, 8.

    7. Since then the Lord our God ordaineth all things by his wisdom, he ordaineth all our crosses; and therefore we are not to murmur, but to praise his wisdom, and to learn patience; for things cannot proceed otherwise than as they are ordained by God. But not only the things that befall us in particular, are the most wise order of God; but also all great national plagues, famine, pestilence, wars, and revolutions of states. And although we may think that these are nothing but confusion, perdition, and destruction, yet there reigns the wisest order of God. This we may gather from the histories of Holy Writ, where famine, wars, pestilence, desolations of the kingdoms of the world, the destruction of the Jewish kingdom, and of empires, the Babylonian Captivity, and many similar events, are described. “I know,” saith Solomon (Eccles. 3:14), “that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.”

    8. And again, “Consider the work of God; for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?” Eccles. 7:13.

    9. If we consider it aright, we must own that God could not have ordered things more wisely. So we may say also, with reference to the persecutions of the saints, both in the Old and New Testament; to our Lord Jesus Christ; the holy Gospel; the holy martyrs; and all other things. In our sight, these all seem to be absurd, and foolish, and yet they are the highest wisdom of God.

    10. As then we are to give unto God the praise of righteousness, in all his wonderful judgments; so we are also to give unto him the praise of wisdom, in all the wonderful changes of the world, and in all our crosses and sufferings; knowing that he can direct all evils to a good end, and out of evil derive good: so that in all things, how confused soever they may appear unto us, there shineth forth his wisdom, even as his righteousness doth in all his judgments.

    11. But the loving soul sees the wisdom of God especially in the restoration and redemption of the human race, and in the renovation of the soul and the faculties thereof. For so it pleased the wisdom of God, that the corrupt image of God in man, should be renewed by the divine substantial image of God, that is, by Christ. After man had lost by sin that blessed wisdom, that glorious light of his intellect, by which he knew God aright, and so had fallen into the utmost blindness, nay, into eternal darkness, wherein he must have dwelt forever; the Son of God, who is the eternal wisdom of the Father, became man, and a light of life unto men (John 1:4), that he might bring back those that had gone astray; that he might teach the ignorant; call to himself the sinners; and rekindle in them the light of the knowledge of God by faith and the Holy Ghost; nay, that he might unite himself to the soul of man, and might shine forth therein.

    12. Secondly: after the will of man was entirely turned away from God, perverted, and wholly changed into disobedience, striving against God in all things; the Son of God was made man, that he might be unto us a pattern of perfect obedience; that he might heal our evil will; implant his [pg 269] good will in our hearts; renew our will through the Holy Ghost; and make us partakers of his holy obedience by faith; according to those words of Scripture (Gal. 3:14), “That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith;” nay, that he might unite himself to us, and live in us, that so our will also might be made conformable unto God.

    13. Thirdly: because the affections of our hearts, and all our faculties, were in contrariety to God, and “every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts, was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5); the Son of God, who is love itself, became man, that he might give us a heart wholly new; that he might plant therein the love of God, and sincere humility and meekness; that he might take from us the old carnal heart, and unite himself with us, that so we might be made of one heart, mind, and spirit with him; all which are the fruits of his most holy incarnation wrought in us.

    14. And this is the highest wisdom of God, that by his dear Son, He thus reneweth man. For as God has created man by his wisdom, after his perfect image; so He hath also, by his dear Son, who is eternal wisdom, and who was made man, created man anew, and regenerated him to a new image of God, wherein his wisdom, glory, and righteousness should shine forth forever. It is in this chiefly that the image of God consists.

    15. Thus the corrupt image of God in man, is renewed by the substantial image of God, which is Christ.

    Chapter XXXIV.

    Showing How A Man Should Seek The Wisdom Of God By Prayer; Containing Also A Useful Treatise On Prayer, Wherein The Reader Is Taught How The Heart Is To Be Moved Unto Prayer, And Brought Into A Quiet Sabbath, So That Prayer May Be Wrought In Us By The Lord; The Whole Being Set Forth In Twelve Sections.

    Section I.

    All That We Have Lost In Adam We Recover Fully And Completely In Christ.

    In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.Col. 2:3.

    In the beginning God formed man out of the dust of the earth, and breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living and immortal soul, adorned with perfect wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and blessedness, after the image of his Creator. For where there is divine wisdom, there is blessedness; and where there is blessedness there is divine wisdom. Man, therefore, wanted nothing in Paradise to make him completely happy. But when, being seduced by the temptation of the serpent, he turned away from God, and fell into sin, then was this divine image in man effaced, and he became subject to the devil, to death, and to misery. For as soon as this divine image was defaced in him by sin, he could discover [pg 270] nothing in himself but misery, blindness, and the curse.

    2. But in order that Adam, that is, all men in Adam, might not utterly perish, God himself was made man; that is, he was pleased to send his Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a virgin. The Son of God has, by his holy life and doctrine, as by a pattern, shown us again the way of wisdom and salvation in which we are to walk. For he has not only delivered us from our sins by his most bitter death, but has moreover given us a commandment, that “we should walk, even as he also walked.” 1 John 2:6.

    3. We are, therefore, begotten again by him, through faith, to be the sons of God; nay, we are made sons of God in and with his own Son. For “as he is, so are we also in this world.” 1 John 4:17.

    4. In this Son “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.” For whatsoever was lost in Adam, is perfectly to be found in Christ. Rom. 5:18, 19.

    5. If we would, in this life, have a foretaste of these great and glorious treasures, it must be obtained by prayer, diligent searching, and continual knocking. For no man can have admission into the kingdom of God, unless he walk in the new birth, and seek it earnestly of God. No man can be delivered from the power of sin and the devil, unless he repent, and offer up his prayers in the name of Christ. For though Christ has purchased for us all good things, yet without faith no man can be partaker of them; in and by faith he must also pray, seek, and knock. In a word, it is by prayer only that we can obtain those “good and perfect gifts which come down from above, from the Father of lights.” James 1:17.


    O Eternal God and Father, teach me, I beseech thee, by thy Holy Spirit, that even as I have lost all by dying in Adam, so I may recover all by being made alive again in Christ. Grant that I may daily die to myself, by continual mortification and repentance, and devote and give myself up entirely to thee; that so all the good things which I have lost may be restored to me, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Section II.

    The Evils That Follow The Neglect Of Prayer.

    Ye have not, because ye ask not.James 4:2.

    1. The neglect of prayer is a violation of the commandments of Christ, who commands us to “pray without ceasing” (Matt. 7:7; Luke 18:1), not for His sake, for he well knows what we stand in need of (Matt. 6:32); but for our own, that we may have a portion of the treasures and inheritance of God. He that lives in the neglect of prayer is a breaker of the first and second commandments, even as to blaspheme God is to bring voluntary destruction upon himself.

    2. He that neglects the duty of prayer is a despiser of the promises annexed to the performance of that duty. “Call upon me, and I will deliver thee” (Ps. 50:15); “Ask, and ye shall receive” (John 16:24); for he thereby represents God as unmindful of his promises, or as not able to fulfil them.

    3. By the neglect of prayer, our faith, which is the great treasure and foundation of the inward man, by degrees [pg 271] decays and perishes. For not by the arm or power of flesh, but by faith in Christ, can we conquer sin, death, and the devil. 1 John 5:4. Prayer is the nourishment of faith; and this is that wisdom and eternal life which we must seek for by diligent prayer.

    4. The Lord Jesus departs from them that despise prayer; so that they are blinded and walk in darkness, knowing neither themselves nor God, but are strangers to his will. They shut the kingdom of heaven against themselves; and, being destitute of light to know the will of God, they fall into many dangers and temptations, and sometimes into despair: whereas, on the contrary, where there are the Holy Spirit and faith, there the world is overcome.

    5. He that neglects prayer enters into a state of carnal security, and every kind of iniquity. Such a man is not sensible how deeply he is engaged in sin; but rushes into all the avenues of destruction which lie open to receive him. The good things of this world which God has given him, such as health and riches, he regards as things that come by chance, or are secured by his own labor; and upon that account he has no gratitude to his Creator and Benefactor.

    6. As man, since his fall, is exposed to continual dangers, both of body and soul, so is he particularly in danger from the devil, evil spirits, and wicked men, who, like the devil, are continually plotting the destruction of the righteous. Whosoever, therefore, neglects prayer, will be, in the midst of these temptations, like a ship tost in a storm, without help or hopes of escape.

    7. Such a one also leads a most unhappy life; he is in continual difficulties and fears, being perplexed, doubtful, and uneasy about the success of his affairs. His head and hands are full of business; yet he sees but little fruit of his labors, and even that little is in the end unblessed. Therefore, though the Scripture says that “the wicked may be seen in great power,” yet it adds, “they pass away, and are not.” Ps. 37:35, 36. They are “like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” Ps. 1:4. On the other hand, they that seek unto God by prayer “shall flourish like a palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” Ps. 92:12. And “though many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Ps. 34:19), yet the wicked undergo more pain and trouble to go to hell than the righteous do to obtain heaven.


    Most merciful and compassionate Father, thou knowest that man renders himself miserable by his own negligence and sloth, whilst he transgresses thy commands, and neglects the duty of prayer, contemning and slighting thy most certain and faithful promises. But because thou lovest thy creatures, and art not willing that any should perish, therefore it is that thou dost so earnestly invite us to the exercise of prayer. Give me grace to lay this continually to heart, that I may be able to offer up my prayers aright, through thy Son Jesus Christ, and be delivered from the punishments and miseries due to the despisers of that holy duty. Amen.

    Section III.

    The Benefits Of Continual Prayer.

    Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.John 16:24.

    1. Man, since his fall, is become slothful and inactive in everything that is [pg 272] good. He, therefore, that would escape this unhappy state, and the destruction that will certainly attend it, must stir himself up by prayer; and by holy meditation conquer his aversion to divine things, and devoutly consider with himself the advantages of prayer. Let him reflect, that he thereby praises, honors, and adores the eternal, living, and true God; that he does not worship any strange God; but offers up his most earnest supplications to the only one and true God, whose commands, like an obedient child, he ought to obey, and show forth the praises of his Creator, Father, and Saviour.

    2. He that prays does not despise the promises of God, but testifies by his prayers that he sets a just value upon them, acknowledging that God is true, and that he neither can nor will lie.

    3. Prayer is the life of faith, causing it to flourish and prosper like a tree by the river side, and faith is the root of all that is good in us. Faith is our power, our spiritual consolation, our strength against all our enemies and temptations, yea, faith is our “victory that overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4); and consequently everything else that opposes and hinders us in our spiritual warfare.

    4. By prayer, we receive the Holy Spirit. Luke 11:13; Zech. 12:10. By prayer, we make room for the Holy Spirit to work and exert his power in us, and by this means to come and make his abode with us. John 14:23. By prayer, we obtain the true light and knowledge of God, so as perfectly to understand his will; and, by prayer, we abide in his kingdom, and are partakers of the blessings of heaven.

    5. By prayer, we shake off carnal security, resist sin, and, by vanquishing flesh and blood, “fight the good fight, and hold faith and a good conscience.” 1 Tim. 1:19; 6:12.

    6. By prayer, we oppose temptations, dangers, afflictions, the devil, and wicked men. For prayer is a strong tower of defence against our enemies, and the holy fortress to which we must have recourse (Eph. 6:18; Prov. 18:10; Ps. 31:3); and though the devil and wicked men raise the greatest opposition, yet “all things work together for good to them that love God.” Rom. 8:28.

    7. Lastly, he that continually watches unto prayer may always thankfully rejoice in the Holy Ghost; according to the doctrine of St. Paul, “Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18. For the comfortable addresses made to God, the eternal King, by prayer, are an effectual remedy against sorrow, trouble, misery, and affliction; and produce joy, peace, and tranquillity in the hearts of the faithful; and when our prayers are right, we are assured that all our righteous designs shall prosper in our hands “whilst we cast our care upon God.” 1 Pet. 5:7. “The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing.” Phil. 4:5, 6. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.” Ps. 37:5. For all solicitude arises from a distrust of God, which naturally proceeds from the neglect of prayer. On the contrary, faith and prayer give us confidence towards God, and are the proper antidote against all anxiety and trouble of mind.


    Help me, O Lord my God, that I may continually call to mind, that it is for my own sake that thou invitest and urgest me to the exercise of prayer. [pg 273] Do thou rouse me, and I shall arise; awaken thou me, and I shall awake, and follow Christ alone. Amen.

    Section IV.

    The True Christian Chooses The Narrow Way In Christ, Rather Than The Broad Way In Adam.

    We glory in tribulations.Rom. 5:3.

    1. The Scripture teaches us that when Adam was placed in Paradise, God showed him the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and forbade him to eat of it (Gen. 2:9, 17); so that Adam was thus placed between time and eternity. Life and death, light and darkness (Deut. 30:15), were set before him, that he might qualify himself for eternal glory in the narrow way. Our case is just the same. For since the fall of Adam, Christ comes to us, and endeavors to draw us from the broad way in Adam, to the narrow way, which is himself; and this he does gently and without violence, resolving to force no man either to his salvation or his condemnation. He shows us the way by his prevenient grace, which is bestowed on all men without exception. Christ now says, “Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction; and many there be that go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt. 7:13, 14.

    2. Here we plainly see two paths set before us: the one is the way of the world, in which many walk, because they continue in Adam, and refuse Christ; the other is the way of God, in which few walk, because they prefer the broad way in Adam. Many are the difficulties which attend both these paths. If you conform yourself to the world, you will meet with many troubles and vexations; and, not being established in the truth of God, your lot finally is eternal damnation. But if you enter into the way of God through Christ, and persevere in prayer, you must expect to suffer with Christ, from the opposition of this evil world: but, at the same time, your heart shall be constantly filled with the refreshing consolations of the Spirit of truth, and in the end, you shall obtain everlasting life. 2 Tim. 2:11, 12; 3:12.

    3. He that prays, fights against the devil and his own corrupt nature; overcomes himself, the devil, and all the enemies of his salvation; and shall at last with Christ, the Captain of his salvation (Heb. 2:10), enter into everlasting rest.

    4. But he that lives in the neglect of prayer, makes no progress in the conquest of his spiritual enemies; but is a miserable slave of the world, and shall at last, with the prince of darkness, be condemned to everlasting misery.

    5. It is better to fight now, and to enter triumphantly into everlasting glory, than not to fight, and yet endure many afflictions, and at last be doomed to everlasting destruction.


    Oh that men would but consider these things! They would then loathe and despise this present world; would hate and deny themselves, and would follow Christ alone, in the narrow way of the cross. That we may, therefore, seriously lay these things to heart; that we may renounce the old Adam within us, and put on the new man, Christ Jesus: and at last, through the narrow way, enter into everlasting life, may God of his infinite mercy grant, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    [pg 274]

    Section V.

    Considerations Which Should Move The Heart To Commune With God In Prayer.

    Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?—Jer. 23:23.

    1. It is of great use to us, to have before us certain heads which may serve as encouragements to the exercise of earnest prayer, which is that worship in spirit and in truth, which God requires of all his servants.

    2. I. First, then, we must consider that “God knows what things we have need of, before we ask him.” Matt. 6:8.

    3. II. That God draws, invites, and encourages us to the exercise of prayer, and assuredly promises that he will hear our prayers. Ps. 50:15.

    4. III. That God is no respecter of persons, but has an equal regard for all mankind. Acts 10:34.

    5. IV. That he is as sinful who presumes to pray upon the opinion of his own righteousness, merit, and holiness, as he that is afraid to pray out of a sense of his own sins and unworthiness. Luke 18:11, 14.

    6. V. That God is not confined to any certain place, where only we ought to worship him; but that he is everywhere to be found, and is always “nigh to them that call upon him.” John 4:21, 22; Ps. 145:18.

    7. VI. That God is, in his own eternity, unchangeable, and not confined to any certain time; but is always attentive to the prayers of his servants. 1 Thess. 5:17.

    8. VII. That God anticipates our prayers, and gives us both natural and supernatural blessings, which yet, without prayer, nobody can truly enjoy.

    9. These considerations will renew and awaken every soul that shall duly attend to them (Eph. 5:14): they will cleanse them from darkness and error; establish them on the foundation of truth; elevate them towards God; and inflame them with a lively devotion. For from them flow the following lessons:

    10. I. That God commands and encourages us to pray, not for His own sake, as if He were ignorant of our wants, but for our sakes, that being quickened by prayer we might know and acknowledge them ourselves.

    11. II. That God does not stand in need of any minute declarations of our necessities, but knows, even before we ask him, what things we have need of. Isa. 65:24; Ps. 139:2.

    12. III. That God, who never slumbereth nor sleepeth, needs not to be awakened by our cries, fastings, and watchings; but that these exercises are profitable for man, to awaken and rouse him from the sleep of sin. Ps. 33:18; 34:15.

    13. IV. That God is a thousand times more ready to give, than man is to receive. Jer. 32:41.

    14. V. That the goodness and mercy of God towards mankind are infinite (Ps. 103:12), but that the negligence and sloth of men in praying, seeking, and knocking, are excessive. Matt. 7:7.

    15. VI. That God is impartial and just in all his works, and is by no means the cause of our blindness, infirmities, ignorance, or miseries; but that wretched man himself is in fault, by neglecting to pray or to seek. Deut. 32:4; Ps. 92:15.

    16. VII. That the true worshipper may at all times and in all places, offer up his prayers in spirit and in truth to God the Father, through Christ, provided he do not hinder himself. John 4:21, 23; Luke 18:1, etc.

    [pg 275]

    17. VIII. That whosoever neglects prayer, deprives himself of the blessed opportunities of speaking to God. Ps. 19:14. Thus the sinner inflicts punishment on himself.

    18. IX. That the diligent worshipper doeth good to himself; not of himself but by the prevenient grace of God, which is freely given to all men without exception.

    19. Let him that is unacquainted with the preceding heads of meditation, know that he is still far from Christ, and has tasted but little of the truth. He who knows them, and believes them not, is guilty of a very great sin; and, lastly, he that believes them and yet is inactive, and does not stir up himself to the practice of them, but, on the other hand, lives on from day to day, in a state of doubt and indifference, is a great sinner, and shall be beaten with many more stripes than he who knew not his Lord's will, and therefore did it not. Luke 12:47. Let the one last mentioned look carefully to himself, that he may be seriously converted, and not perish in his sins.


    O Lord, and merciful Father, awaken me by thy Holy Spirit, that I may not only know those things, but may practise them by a lively faith, and become a true worshipper in spirit and in truth. Amen.

    Section VI.

    The Omniscient God Knows What We Stand In Need Of, Before We Ask Him.

    Thou understandest my thought afar off.Ps. 139:2.

    1. The truth of these words is confirmed by our blessed Saviour: “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matt. 6:8); and by David: “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear?” (Ps. 94:9); and by St. Paul: “He is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb. 4:12. For our God is not as man, who stands in need of a long account of our necessities. All the possible successions of time are in his sight but as one single moment, in which all things, both past and to come, are beheld as actually present. Therefore, he numbered the hairs of our heads before we were born, and understands all our thoughts before we pray. In a word, all things are naked and open in his sight. Heb. 4: 13. These and similar meditations may be of use, for the encouragement of those who begin the exercise of prayer; so that they may always have certain sentences of Scripture ready at hand, upon which they may meditate, and which they may apply to themselves, by comprising the sense of them in a short prayer. This will be easily understood by those that are exercised herein.

    2. A man that walks abroad in an open spacious field, and in a clear day, finds himself encompassed with light; which light, if it were spiritual, instead of being natural, would even penetrate the spirit itself. Just so are all creatures, visible and invisible, in the sight of God. He discerns and comprehends all things, and nothing can be hidden from him. “The darkness hideth not from him; but the night shineth as the day.” Ps. 139:12. He himself is the all-seeing eye, to whom all things are as clear as a mote in transparent crystal would be to our bodily eyes.

    3. This consideration is of great use to the inexperienced, in order to purge their hearts from the thick clouds of darkness and error, and to quicken them in prayer; by which, when truly [pg 276] roused and awakened, we discover many great and noble truths that had hitherto been hidden from our eyes. Many are apt to think, that God knows and sees no more than they themselves do; which is the effect of egregious blindness and ignorance, and will merit a proportionable punishment. Ps. 7:9.


    Almighty and everlasting God and Father, the Searcher of hearts, and the Judge of all our secret thoughts, who seest, knowest, and hearest all our designs and purposes before they are brought to pass! Behold, I appear before thee, to confess my necessities, not with any design to awaken thee by my cries, as if thou wert ignorant of me, or of my concerns; but to stir up myself to know and consider, that thou knowest all my necessities, and that the very hairs of my head are numbered by thee. Assist me, Holy Father, that I may truly know and consider these things, that my soul may joyfully submit to thy good pleasure, and that I may wait upon thee in true resignation and obedience. Amen.

    Section VII.

    That God Invites And Engages All Men To The Exercise Of Prayer, And Promises To Hear Their Petitions.

    Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.Joel 2:32.

    1. These words ought to be carefully considered; for it is not sufficient to believe that God knows all things; we must also remember that God commands us to pray, and promises to hear us. Thus, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” John 16:23. “Everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” Matt. 7:8. “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Luke 18:1. “If any one lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” James 1:5. “If we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” 1 John 5:14. “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Matt. 21:22. In all these places, both a command and a promise are expressed; which must needs make an impression upon every man that has not a heart of stone; and he that does not believe them, is in a desperate state, and deserves not the name of a man. But if these things are true, and acknowledged to be so, why do we not believe them? Why do we not pray? Why are not our prayers heard? Why do we not receive the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit? Verily, because we do not pray with faith, nor wait upon God with constancy and patience. For the property of true faith is to submit ourselves to God, in a quiet and peaceful resignation of mind; but he that wavers, is unfaithful and inconstant, and makes his own prayers void. Moreover, he denies the truth and power of God, making him either unable or unwilling to supply our wants. Both these are signs of a perverse spirit.

    2. On the other hand, faith gives quietness to the soul, and makes it capable of divine grace. God requires nothing from man but that he should be quiet, and rest from all his works, and especially from himself. The spirit and mind of man are like waters, upon which the Spirit of God is perpetually moving. Gen. 1:2. So soon as our spirit is quiet, and at rest from the impetuous motions of worldly [pg 277] thoughts, then God rests upon it, and speaks forth the word of his power into such quiet and still waters; and the moment of this divine influx is of more value than the whole world. Still waters are easily warmed by the sun, but violent and rapid streams seldom or never. Unbelief sacrilegiously robs God of his honor, destroying the very names of faith and truth. This changes the Christian into a heathen and atheist, and, unless repented of, will lead to his everlasting destruction.


    O Eternal, faithful, and righteous God, who canst not lie; I know that thou dost graciously invite, encourage, and impel all men, for their own infinite advantage, to pray unto thee; and dost offer thy grace and mercy equally to them all, without distinction or partiality. Grant, I beseech thee, Holy Father, that I may seriously lay these things to heart, and attain a true, firm, and upright faith, and not be deaf to the invitations of thy infinite mercy; but may constantly and cheerfully submit myself to thee, and expect with patience thy light within my soul. Amen.

    Section VIII.

    God Is No Respecter Of Persons, But Has An Impartial Love For All His Creatures.

    The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.Ps. 145:9.

    1. I am now indeed convinced (some one may say), that God knows my necessities better than I can discover them to him; that he has commanded prayer, and promised to hear it: but I am not yet fully satisfied, whether I in particular am not excluded from the benefit of these promises?—Come, then, and let us now show that God is no respecter of persons, in opposition to those blind guides, who, by their false interpretations of some places of Holy Scripture, particularly Rom. 9:13, Mal. 1:2, and the like, have endeavored to prove that God has an aversion to some particular persons, and a partial fondness for others; contrary to the plain and indisputable testimonies of Holy Scripture, which we ought firmly to fix in our minds, that we may not be perverted by the false glosses of unreasonable men.

    “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Acts 10:34, 35.

    “The Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward. He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.” Deut. 10:17, 18.

    “God accepteth no man's person.” Gal. 2:6.

    “There is no respect of persons with God.” Col. 3:25.

    “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.—As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness.—None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him.” Ezek. 33:11, 12, 16.

    “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a [pg 278] pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” 1 Tim. 1:15, 16.

    “God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 2:4.

    “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Pet. 3:9.

    These and such testimonies of Scripture ought to be deeply imprinted on our minds, that every one may know, that all men are equally dear to God; that all men were created by him according to his image, and redeemed by Jesus Christ. Moreover, God has sworn by himself, that he desires not the death of a sinner. Hence God assists us all by his prevenient grace, not waiting till we are worthy to receive it. He comes to us, before we come to him; he knew us, before we knew him; he loveth us, before we love him; he loved us while we were yet his enemies. Rom. 5:10. He, therefore, is blind and impious, who dares assert that God does not love all men alike. Such a one scorns the God of heaven, accuses him of injustice, and makes him a respecter of persons.

    2. But when it is said that God loved Jacob, and hated Esau (Rom. 9:13), such language is not to be understood of them personally, or as indicating only hatred, but refers to the exclusion from the inheritance in the land of promise—not to a hatred which refuses salvation, but to the refusal of temporal blessings. And though we are all sinners, yet God has a greater regard for those that love him than for those that continue in their sins and blindness, neither acknowledging God for their Father, nor bringing forth the fruits of repentance. God takes no pleasure in the wickedness of these men; but rather desires that all should be saved. And whereas it is said that “he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will he hardeneth” (Rom. 9:18); we must know that he hardeneth none but those who by their unbelief and impenitence have hardened themselves. These, indeed, he does at length, with reluctance, leave to themselves; and being thus forsaken, they naturally fall into a state of entire obduracy. And whereas it is said, that “it is not of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16); it is plain that God doth elect and anticipate us by his grace, and not we ourselves, and that he is the Author and Giver of all our graces; so that whatsoever good we do, is owing to him, and not to ourselves.

    3. This is the true interpretation of those places, which some perverse minds have interpreted, as if God had decreed to damn a great part of mankind (as the poets feigned of Saturn, who hated and devoured his own children). This is a doctrine that tends directly to subvert our faith, and to precipitate men into despair, or into a rude, lawless and Epicurean mode of life, as appears by woful experience. From all which snares, and deceits of the devil, may the Lord deliver us! Amen.


    O Eternal and most righteous God, who acceptest not the persons of men; but art so just in thy dispensations towards us all, as to anticipate us with thy grace and favor, not waiting till we are already worthy, but bestowing thy prevenient grace to make us so; teach me, by thy Holy Spirit, gratefully to acknowledge thy boundless mercy towards us. Let thy light arise [pg 279] in my heart, that I may not, with the wicked world, disown that grace which thou hast already bestowed upon me, which is that treasure hidden in the field, the earnest of the inheritance of the saints; but may diligently search after it, find it, taste it, and enjoy it. Amen.

    Section IX.

    Showing That It Is Equally Sinful To Pray To God Upon The Presumption Of Our Own Merit, And To Forbear On Account Of Our Unworthiness.

    Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.Luke 15:21.

    1. He that prays upon the presumption of his own holiness and piety, walketh not in the direct and plain path of the children of God; but turns to the right hand, outruns his Saviour, and, like a sacrilegious robber, deprives him of the honor due unto him (since He alone is our righteousness, our holiness, and our sanctification, 1 Cor. 1:30), and depends entirely upon his own unprofitable works; not acknowledging the merit of Christ alone, but depending upon human righteousness, and believing that God hears our prayers, not for the sake of Jesus Christ, but for the sake of man's good works. But this is directly contrary to Scripture. “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?—But with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.” Ps. 130:3, 7. A man may as well say, that the operation of his eyes causes the light of the sun, as that his own righteousness is the cause of his receiving the grace of God. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Elias, &c., were all saved by grace; all joining in that petition, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, &c.” Ps. 143:2.

    2. He, on the other hand, that neglects to pray from a sense of his manifold transgressions, judging himself upon that account unworthy to speak to God, turns to the left hand, and sinks in his own misery and unworthiness, affronting the Son of God, and (without repentance) running into despair; whilst he thinks that the passion and death of Christ are not sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world. Against this temptation, let us call to mind, that “where sin abounded, there grace did much more abound.” Rom. 5:20. For our misery appeals to the mercy of God, our weakness to his power, our unworthiness to his majesty, our unrighteousness to his righteousness.

    “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Tim. 1:15.

    “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” Ezek. 33:11.

    “There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 8:1.

    “As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness.” Ezek. 18:21; 33:12.

    “For this (the remission of sins) shall every one that is godly pray.” Ps. 32:6.

    “Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself over wise.” Eccles. 7:16.

    “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.

    “Righteousness shall look down from heaven.” Ps. 85:11.

    3. If I resolve not to pray till I [pg 280] know myself to be worthy, I shall certainly never do it at all. And if I should not desire God to bestow upon me his grace and favor, till by my own strength I became just and holy, I should never obtain anything. Alas, poor man, what canst thou bestow upon him who standeth not in need of thy gifts? Rom. 11:35. Or what canst thou obtain by the workings of thy corrupt nature, which, however specious in thine own eyes, are of no value in the sight of God? Rom. 3:24. Verily, nothing at all. Away, then, with all those who glory in their own righteousness, and pretend to justify themselves; yea, let all creatures keep silence before God. Thine own worthiness will here avail thee nothing, and thine unworthiness shall do thee no harm; for the Lord Jesus Christ, thy Saviour, is he that “forgiveth thy unrighteousness, and covereth all thy sin.” Ps. 32:1. But rather conclude with thyself, that as a drop of water is swallowed up in the sea, so are all thy transgressions in the boundless and incomprehensible mercies of Jesus Christ.


    O Merciful and compassionate Father! who teachest me in thy holy word how I ought, in thy Son Jesus Christ, to walk in the narrow way, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left; that I may neither fall through a vain presumption of my own piety, nor be cast into despair by the gloomy prospect of my guilt, and so die in my sins; grant that I may seriously consider that neither my good works can merit, nor my sins hinder, the grace of Christ, my Redeemer; that so I may continue firm and steadfast amidst all my temptations; that I may neither be misled by the evil spirit of presumption and spiritual pride that walketh at noonday, nor be afraid of the destroying angel of despair that walketh in darkness; but that, having conquered the weakness of my nature, I may continue steadfast in the faith, filled with spiritual joy and consolation. Let thy grace, blessed Lord Jesus, begin, carry on, and perfect this good work in me. Amen.

    Section X.

    The True Worshipper Ought Not To Seek After God In Any Particular Place; For He Finds Him Everywhere In Spirit And In Truth.

    The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.John 4:21, 23.

    1. Where shall we find God? Jer. 23:23. Must we look for him in consecrated temples? Must we seek him in the ends of the earth? Must we search for him in the stars, or at Jerusalem, or upon the top of Mount Tabor? No! but “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23) seek and find him. We are, indeed, sometimes forced to the fatigue of long journeys, in order to make our complaints, and beg the protection of the princes of this world; but God is everywhere; “He filleth heaven and earth” (Jer. 23:24), and is nearer to all creatures than they are to themselves. “He is above all, and through all, and in us all.” Eph. 4:6. The utmost dimensions of space, and even the boundless extent of eternity, appear to him as but a single point. Ps. 139:7. As a man that walks at noonday, in an open field, is environed with light, whether he discern it or be blind, so are all creatures surrounded with the presence of God. These are the waters [pg 281] upon which the Spirit of God moves, penetrating through all beings and all spirits, though ever so pure and glorious. God is always near to us, though many are not so to him, having no more perception of the communications of his presence than a blind man has of the light, which he sees not, though surrounded by it. God never turns away from us; but we, being turned away from him, fall into that degree of blindness, as to say, that God has withdrawn himself from us, and is become unkind to us; whereas, the change is only in ourselves, and in our own hearts, by which we are tempted to charge God foolishly. Thus the sinner, by turning away from God, becomes his own tormentor; whilst God continues unchangeably just and good in all his works (Ps. 145:8); however often man, being blinded and turned away from God, may represent him as an angry, unjust, and unmerciful being.

    2. Hence, then, we may gather the genuine sense of those passages of Scripture, which say that “the kingdom of God is within us,” and not without us (Luke 17:21), and that we have nothing to do with “them that are without.” 1 Cor. 5:12. These, without all dispute, are not to be understood of any external place, but of the spirit or inward man, according to the faith. To confine the kingdom of God to any certain place, is antichristian, even as our blessed Lord has told us that men will say, “Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there.” Matt. 24:23. But if any place could save or condemn a man, then Lucifer himself could never have become a devil in heaven; nor would Adam ever have sinned in paradise. So if any place would condemn a man, then should no man living be saved; since this whole world lieth in darkness, and all the inhabitants thereof are under the dominion of the devil, who is the prince of it. John 12:31. He therefore that has faith, though with Jonah he were in the depths of the sea, yet would be in the kingdom of God; and he that has it not, though he were in the church, heard sermons, and would join in acts of communion, yet in the sight of God he is without, and has no part in, or title to, the kingdom of God.


    O Lord Jesus Christ, who art the only way, light, and gate of heaven, I praise thee from the bottom of my heart, that by this meditation, thou teachest me how I am in thee, and thou in me, in whatsoever place I am; how thou, my true and only High Priest, art with me, and deliverest me from my sins, whensoever I lift up my heart to thee. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Teach me, O Lord, always to acknowledge this, and not after the manner of this ungrateful world, to undervalue or despise this hidden treasure; but that I may in true faith seek, find, taste, and enjoy it. Amen.

    Section XI.

    The Worshipper Is Not Restricted To Certain Times Of Prayer, But May At Any Hour Address God In Prayer, Provided That He Does Not Hinder Himself.

    In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee.—Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.Isa. 49:8; 55:6. Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.—2 Cor. 6:2.

    1. From what has been already said concerning the place, and what we are now observing further upon that head, [pg 282] it is plain, that he is truly happy who is in the kingdom of God. The reason of this is, because he has the treasure within him, wheresoever he is; and that he, who, through unbelief, is not in the kingdom of God, is truly a stranger and foreigner, however he may with other Christians, hear sermons and receive the Sacrament. The place will neither save us nor condemn us; that can be done by nothing but faith or unbelief existing in the heart and spirit of man. The true Christian, in whatever place he lives, as he has the Spirit of Christ within him, so he has, by consequence, a principle of grace, pardon, and remission of sins; for Christ is in him. I speak not this to discourage the external exercise of preaching; but for the comfort of all sincere souls under necessities, sickness, or in strange lands; when they are assured that they are truly in Christ, that Christ is in them, and that they are not “without” but “within.” This should also alarm the sinner, who, though living among Christians, yet, in the sight of God is excluded. For every unbeliever cuts himself off from the body of Christ, and from the most valuable privileges of his communion; so that a wicked man, under the agonies of sickness, would receive no benefit by having the Holy Sacrament, though the priest, or even the pope himself stood by him; or by being brought and laid in the midst of the church. But if a man has within him a true and living faith, it could do him no harm, though he should die in a heathen country, or on the sea, without the comfort of the Holy Sacrament, or a priest; because Jesus Christ, the true High Priest, is in him, and even the kingdom of God, as our blessed Lord abundantly testifies John 4:21; Luke 17:21; Matt. 24:23. How blind then and miserable are those men who seek for blessedness from man, confining it to a certain place, and look to external things. This, however, is the case with many thousands who thus lose the internal treasure. Externals are but means, which though not to be despised, yet are not to be valued as the end itself, to which they are intended to lead. Christ is the great treasure of man, who can bestow himself without the use of means, where they cannot be had. We come together in the church, that with one accord we may exhort and admonish one another in the divine Presence, call upon God to avert public evils and calamities, and exercise one another in divine matters, that so we, who are otherwise totally blind in spiritual things, being excited by these means, may at length understand and see that God is not contained “in the heaven of heavens” (1 Kings 8:27), nor confined to any place; being, as Job witnesseth, “high as heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.” Job 11:8, 9.

    2. What we have observed of place, may be also applied to time, to which the eternal and unchangeable God is by no means confined, so as not to be always at liberty to hear our prayers. Great men and princes of this world are not always to be spoken with, and frequently refuse admittance to their petitioners; being engaged either by the necessities or diversions of life. But our God cannot be thus separated from his creatures; at one view, He sees, and hears, and considers all things that are done upon the earth, and “understandeth our thoughts afar off.” Ps. 139:2. He numbereth “the very hairs of our heads” (Matt. 10:30); and “a thousand years in his sight [pg 283] are but as one day.” Ps. 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:8. God is not capable of alteration or change; is confined to no time, limited by no place, always ready to hear and to help us; yea, he is continually “standing at the door, and knocking, that we may open to him.” Rev. 3:20. So that he is always ready, but we are not. Whereas if we would constantly and without ceasing wait for Him, we should never fail to receive a ready answer to all our prayers.

    3. But alas! the concerns of this lower world have so great an influence upon our minds, distracting our thoughts, and withholding us from devout retirement, that we must endeavor to purify our minds from all thoughts of the creature, according to a devout writer, who advises us, “to lay aside all thoughts of this or that thing, time or place, and bring all the powers of our souls into profound repose.” And in this sabbath or rest of the soul, in this quiet cessation from the cares and labors of corrupt nature, when we pray, God descends with his living word, and the soul of man perceives and tastes the truth and love of God; of which, before this patient preparation, it was wholly ignorant and insensible. So that the soul cannot forbear crying out in the words: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth!” (Exod. 34:6.) “Now, I find thy prevenient grace helping my infirmities, and assisting me to pray as I ought.” Then thou wilt be amazed at the blindness of thy own heart, which gave thee so imperfect a notion of God, as to believe that God was to be persuaded with external ceremonies, and clamorous prayers, and that he stood in need of a long relation of thy wants and necessities; whereas He sees to the very bottom of thy soul, and “understandeth all thy thoughts afar off.”


    Almighty, eternal, and most merciful God and Father! Thy goodness and truth are higher than the heavens, deeper than the sea, wider than the earth; all places are to Thee the same, and in thy sight all times are alike. Thou art above all places and all times, and yet dost penetrate and fill all things. Thou art nearer to me than I am to myself; thou anticipatest me with thy grace, and embracest me with thy mercy, which, through my blindness and misery, I could neither know nor hope for. Grant, that by thy Holy Spirit, I may seriously lay these things to heart, and for the future, look up to thee as my merciful Father, who knowest all things, and art present at all times, and in all places, that I may no more presume to judge of Thee by any natural blindness, and no more persuade myself that Thou art to be awakened, or prevailed upon by my crying; that thou needest any long discourses of mine, or requirest any certain time for prayer. But give me grace to consider, that the true worshipper may have access to Thee at all times, and in all places, and that thy goodness is always and everywhere present with us; but that no man can enjoy it, or taste of thy sweetness, unless he be first awakened and encouraged by Thee to engage in devout prayer. That I may worthily and effectually perform this, give me thy Holy Spirit, who may work in me to will and to do according to thy good pleasure. Amen.

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    Section XII.

    The Considerations Stated Above, Not Only Dispose The Heart To True Prayer, But Also Furnish Various Useful Lessons.

    It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.Isa. 65:24.

    1. The first lesson which we learn is, that God has not commanded us to pray for his own sake, for he knoweth all things; but that we, being excited by these means, may be led to understand that he does know all things. God has so tender a concern for us, that he seems not to know anything, till we reflect within ourselves, that he does indeed know it. Hence it comes to pass, that when men do not diligently pray, they seem to think that God does not know. And, on the contrary, when we exercise ourselves in prayer, we soon learn that God knoweth all our necessities, and hath numbered the very hairs of our heads before we were born. These are thoughts that cannot enter into the hearts of those who despise the duty of prayer.

    2. Secondly. We need not apply to God, as we do to one another, with a long account of our wants: all that we have to do is, daily to exercise ourselves in prayer, so that the inner man may enter into the kingdom of God.

    3. Thirdly. God is (as Dr. Tauler says) a thousand times more ready to give, than we are to receive, through prayer and hope.

    4. Fourthly. God stands in no need of any external ceremonies of ours, our watchings, fastings, or cryings, to awaken him, who “neither slumbereth nor sleepeth.” Ps. 121:4. He not only foreknows our desires and prayers, but even our existence (Jer. 1:5); yet, on the other hand, the dulness and stupidity of men may by these exercises be excited, encouraged, and instructed to consider and understand the tender mercies of God towards all mankind.

    5. Fifthly. Hence we discover the goodness, truth, and loving-kindness of God towards all men; and, on the other hand, the blindness and unbelief, the stupidity and unspeakable dulness of mankind towards God, who have so great a contempt of the mercies of God, and are so backward in their prayers and endeavors to obtain his grace.

    6. Sixthly. God is righteous in all his works; and so far from his being the author of our miseries, blindness, and ignorance, we are indeed the cause of it ourselves; whilst, in contempt of his commands, we neglect to implore his mercies, and beg the blessings which he has promised to bestow on all that ask him. This is sufficient to vindicate the justice and impartiality of God in all his dealings towards us, and to lay the blame of all our sins and punishments upon ourselves, who are indeed the authors of both.

    7. Seventhly. God is not confined to any certain time and place, but desires to be worshipped at all times, and in all places, in spirit and in truth.

    8. These observations will rectify many mistakes, and open a man's eyes to discover things, of which he would otherwise have been ignorant. But though it is a shameful thing for a Christian to be ignorant of these matters, yet it is much more so to know, and not to reduce them to practice.


    Awaken us, O God, that we may watch; draw us to Thee, and we will run in the true way, which conducts to the kingdom of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    [pg 285]

    Chapter XXXV.

    Prayer Is The Sign Of A True Christian, That Is, Of One Who Is Anointed Of The Lord.

    Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy.Ps. 86:1.

    These words give us an admirable account of the grounds and reasons of prayer; that it is quickened by affliction and a sense of misery, and is a mark of a true Christian.

    2. I. For, first, every Christian is anointed and baptized with the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20), who, when he is not resisted nor grieved, but obeyed, is continually groaning (Rom. 8:26) in the heart of man, raising and exalting the devout soul from earth to heaven. For as spirituous liquor extracts the strength and virtue of the herbs and flowers on which it is poured; so man, who is the flower of God, planted by the Lord himself, “a plant in the house of God” (Isa. 61:3; Ps. 92:13), must receive the preparation of the Holy Spirit, that his odor and sweet smell may therewith ascend up to God. Whosoever will faithfully attend to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and not resist his operations, will soon be convinced of the truth of these observations; he will perceive a devout sigh springing up from his heart, and breaking forth into these or the like words: “Great God, Holy Father, have mercy upon me!” As myrrh, frankincense, or other sweet perfumes, by being thrown upon burning coals, send forth a smoke and delicious fragrance, which they would not do without the help of fire; so whenever the fire of the Holy Spirit touches our hearts, and He is not hindered, there immediately arises a most fragrant perfume of sighs and prayers. And these are “golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.” Rev. 5:8. Whence it appears, that devout sighs and prayers are the truest sign or indication of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man.

    3. II. The soul of man is also called the temple or habitation of the Holy Ghost; and what is more likely to be heard there, than the prayers of its divine Inhabitant, who is emphatically called, “The Spirit of grace and of supplication”? Zech. 12:10. Hence prayer, when it proceeds from the very bottom of the heart, is a certain sign of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I do not here refer to the prayers of hypocrites, of whom God speaketh by the mouth of his prophet, saying: “This people draw near me with their mouth, but have removed their heart far from me” (Isa. 29:13); but the true prayer, which is of the operation of the Holy Spirit, arises from the depth of the soul; and is like plentiful springs of water, for which the more deeply you dig, the higher you may raise them. Christ is the pure and beautiful fountain of salvation. Let every one, therefore, that thirsteth, come and drink. Isa. 55:1. His spring is very deep, namely, his eternal Divinity. “He that believeth on him, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38); that is, prayers and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

    [pg 286]

    4. III. This is confirmed by the office of the Holy Spirit, which is, “to teach and to comfort” (John 16:7-13), neither of which he can do, unless He speaks; and that He cannot do, unless He have a church and a temple to speak in. This temple is the heart of man; and his language consists of the devout aspirations of the souls in which He operates; he has a secret and heavenly voice, which our heart hears, for he beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,—whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Rom. 8:15, 16. Man cannot receive comfort, unless his heart, by being broken and contrite, be made capable of consolation. Ps. 51:17. This is a very significant figure taken from human bodies. For when the arm, or any other part, is broken, or bruised by some accident, what pleasure the broken and bruised part feels when soothed with some healing ointment! How does it assuage the throbbing pains of the limb, and, as it were, lull it into soft repose! So when the heart is wounded with affliction and sorrow, is broken and bruised with a lively sense of its misery, then the Holy Spirit shows himself truly a Comforter, shedding forth the oil of heavenly consolation into our afflicted breasts. For “he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Ps. 147:3. “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.” Jer. 17:14.

    5. IV. Hence then we may learn the advantage of afflictions, and the benefit of the cross. Our blessed Lord has told us, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Matt. 9:12. Come, therefore, thou divine Physician of souls; for we all have need of thee! “Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy” (Ps. 86:1),—poor in righteousness and true holiness. So great is the poverty of man, that unless he be covered with the mercy of God, and clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Isa. 61:10), he must appear with shame and nakedness before the judgment of God and all his holy angels; and in this respect, man is by nature reduced so very low, that there is not a more indigent creature in the world. We may here apply that which was spoken to the church of Laodicea, “Thou knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Rev. 3:17.

    6. Moreover, the misery of which the Psalmist complains, is the effect of poverty. He that is poor, may easily be conceived to be miserable. He certainly is so, who is forsaken by all, has none to help him, wanders about, having neither house nor home, nor a place where to lay his head. And now, what state can we conceive to be more wretched, than that of a man by nature? He has no place where to rest himself, and knows not whither to fly for refuge! “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” 1 Cor. 15:19. Let us then acknowledge our poverty and spiritual misery in this life; we shall then receive the instructions and consolations of the Holy Spirit. He will teach us in our poverty, to sigh earnestly after the riches of divine grace and mercy; and in our spiritual misery and banishment, to lift up our eyes to God that dwelleth in the heavens. For our blessed Lord has assured us, that “in his Father's house are many mansions” (John 14:2); and the Psalmist, that “when our fathers and [pg 287] mothers forsake us, the Lord will take us up.” Ps. 27:10. Come then, ye that are in want and banishment, think upon your heavenly country. Ye that are poor, naked, and destitute, remember that the righteousness of Christ is your clothing, and the garment of salvation (Isa. 61:10); therefore, take ye care to preserve this clothing, “lest ye walk naked, and men see your shame.” Rev. 16:15.

    Chapter XXXVI.

    On The Benefits And Power Of Prayer, And On Its True Ground Or Foundation.

    Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.Heb. 4:16.

    “Hear my voice according to thy lovingkindness, O Lord” (Ps. 119:149), saith David; pointing out thereby the foundation of our prayer, namely, the grace of God; and this is conveyed to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is “full of grace and truth,” and of whose fulness we ought all to receive. John 1:14, 16. For this reason he is also called the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4:16; Rom. 3:25), upon which the eye of faith in prayer ought continually to be fixed, according to the example of the children of Israel, who always offered up their prayers with their faces towards the mercy-seat. For in his name, and for his sake alone it is, that God has promised to hear our prayers (John 16:23); and thus even the holy prophets of old prayed: “O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, for the Lord's sake.” Dan. 9:17.

    2. I. First, the benefit of our prayers is well expressed by holy David in the latter part of the above-mentioned verse (Ps. 119:149): “Quicken me according to thy judgments.” For life proceeds from the grace of God. But what is our life without divine grace? Therefore says the holy Psalmist, “Thy lovingkindness is better than life.” Ps. 63:4. This quickening virtue is also derived to us through Christ Jesus. It was for this purpose that he took our flesh and blood, that by the quickening virtue of his body, we also might be quickened. And this we receive only by the means of prayer, which draws down a quickening power into our souls, to heal all our spiritual infirmities; like that which flowed from His body whilst on earth, to cure and heal the diseases and distempers of all those that touched him. Luke 6:19. Thus when we are afflicted and sorrowful, and can lay hold on Jesus Christ by the prayer of faith, we immediately find, as it were, new life and vigor flowing into our souls from that inexhaustible fountain of divine grace. This may be attested by the experience of many languishing and afflicted souls.

    3. Whence we may learn: 1. That an afflicted soul cannot be refreshed [pg 288] or comforted without prayer; as appears from the example of Christ, in the history of his passion (Matt. 26:39), who has himself also for that reason given us a form of prayer. Matt. 6:9, etc. And we have, indeed, great reason to be thankful to God, who has given us prayer to be as an universal remedy to all afflicted souls. 2. Where the prophet says, “Hear me according to thy lovingkindness” (Ps. 119:149), he shows us that prayer is the proper means of obtaining mercy and the graces of the Holy Spirit, such as the increase of faith, charity, patience, the knowledge of God, devotion, inward peace and joy. These are such gifts, such graces, such heavenly treasures, as are better than heaven and earth. Moreover, hence we obtain strength and victory against the world, the devil, and all our enemies; which spiritual strength consists only in prayer. That was the power by which David and all the saints conquered their enemies, as appears by the example of Moses, Elias, Jehoshaphat, and others, who always prevailed by faith and prayer. 3. Every man has need of prayer in respect to his office, condition, and employment, in which no man can act either prudently or successfully without prayer. We are, indeed, in this miserable world, like people sailing amidst rocks and quicksands, and exposed to innumerable dangers; for which reason we ought the more fervently to implore the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit.

    4. II. Therefore, holy David adds, “They draw nigh that follow after mischief; they are far from thy law.” Ps. 119:150. And this is a proper season for prayer. For what the devil cannot do himself, he leaves to be accomplished by wicked men, who are as so many executioners of his malice, and who make it their continual employment to disturb and injure good men. From these no man is secure; but here the most effectual help is prayer. Thus, “I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” Ps. 18:2. “Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee; let me not be ashamed; let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed; but let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.” Ps. 25:1-3.

    5. But it ought to be carefully noticed that David says, his enemies are far from the law of God. These are all they that persecute others, forsaking the word of God, and being far from his fear; whence it follows, that as they are far from God, so God is far from them, and nothing but destruction hangs over their heads. On the other hand, the faithful, pious, and devout soul approaches God through prayer.

    6. When, therefore, we are daily lifting up our hearts to God, and learn to converse with him, we approach continually nearer and nearer to him, and by degrees, forgetting this lower world, from earthly we become heavenly and spiritual; like Moses, whose face, when he had conversed forty days and forty nights with God, shone like the sun. Exod. 34:29. For as we easily learn the customs and manners of those with whom we converse, and are not so well pleased with any company as that to which we are accustomed, so by continual and daily prayer, we grow daily more and more acquainted with the manners and language of our heavenly country, and are more and more inflamed with divine [pg 289] love. Moreover, prayer is a preservative against sins, temptations, and all kinds of evils; according to that saying of Christ: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” Matt. 26:41. But if even then anything befall us, we know that it is by the immediate permission of God; and from it with all due submission and resignation to his will, we may lawfully pray to be delivered.

    7. III. David proceeds: “Thou art near, O Lord: and all thy commandments are truth.” Ps. 119:151. Here he assures us, that the second and the third foundation of prayer, are the presence and the truth of God.

    8. How great soever our calamities may be, there is no one consideration that gives us so much ease and comfort, as that of the presence of God with us: according to that Scripture: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God.” Isa. 41:10. In consideration of his presence, we may with assurance call upon him in all places, and upon all occasions. For though our Saviour tells us, “Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:6): yet we are to consider, that these words were spoken against the hypocrites of those times, who, from a vain ostentation, used to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the street; but they are by no means binding on any man to pray in any one particular place.

    9. We read of the patriarch Isaac (Gen. 24:63), that he went out at the eventide into the field to meditate. And it is plain (Luke 6:12), that our blessed Lord went alone “into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” We may, therefore, in all places, and at any time, pray to God; but more especially when we are alone, and not disturbed by the conversation of others. Let us continually stir ourselves up to this divine conversation with God, remembering the words of the Psalmist, “Thou art near, O Lord.” Now if this be true, as it most certainly is, we cannot do better than to be often conversing with him; according to that Scripture, “Call ye upon him while he is near.” Isa. 55:6. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him.” Ps. 145:18.

    10. IV. So, too, the veracity of God is a strong obligation upon us to pray, because we know, 1. That he has commanded it; “Call upon me.” Ps. 50:15. 2. That he has promised to hear us; “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isa. 65:24. 3. That he has not only promised to hear, but has actually heard the prayers of the faithful. This is plain, from the examples of Moses, David, Samuel, Joshua, and of Cornelius in the Acts, whose “prayers and alms ascended up for a memorial before God.” Acts 10:4.

    11. Many other examples are to be found in the Holy Scriptures. And that thou mayest not think that, because thou art not such a one as Moses, David, Elias, or Joshua, therefore thou shalt not be heard as easily as they were, thou art to consider that they all were men “subject to like passions as we are.” James 5:17.

    12. Who was Cornelius? Acts, ch. 10. He was a heathen. Who was Manasseh? 2 Chron. 33:12, 13. A most grievous sinner. Yet God has promised that he will hear the miserable. [pg 290] Ps. 34:7. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” And “He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.” Ps. 102:17. “The expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.” Ps. 9:18. The cases just mentioned illustrate these promises.

    13. V. But as the Psalmist adds: “Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old, that thou hast founded them for ever” (Ps. 119:152), this consideration exceedingly encourages our prayers and strengthens our faith, and is another immovable foundation of prayer. The word and promise of God are built upon an eternal foundation, being nothing else but God himself and his Son Jesus Christ; in him the Word of God, and the salvation of man were founded “before the foundation of the world.” Eph. 1:4. Whatsoever is built upon an eternal basis, no temporal thing can overturn. It is this that St. Paul had in his eye when he tells us that neither height, nor depth, nor things present, nor things to come, nor angels, nor principalities shall be able to separate us from the love of God. Rom. 8:38.

    14. And what greater consolation can we wish? Or who can refrain from rejoicing, when he considers that our faith and prayer are founded upon that which is eternal? Hence it is said, “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa. 28:16); or, as St. Peter explains it, “shall not be confounded” (1 Peter 2:6): and St. Paul, “Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11); and again, “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” 2 Tim. 2:19.

    15. Against this foundation even the gates of hell shall not prevail. Matt. 16:18. This, in short, is the foundation of our salvation, our faith and blessedness, which is more secure than heaven and earth.

    16. For prayer is a conversation with God—a key of heaven—a free access to God—a familiarity with God—an opener of his mysteries—a spiritual banquet—a heavenly enjoyment—a nurse of virtues—a conqueror of vices—a medicine of the soul—a remedy against infirmities—an antidote against sin—a pillar of the world—a seed of blessing—an increase of faith—a support of hope—a parent of charity—a path of righteousness—a preserver of constancy—an ornament of holiness—a fire of devotion—a light of knowledge—a repository of wisdom—the strength of the soul—a remedy against faint-heartedness—a foundation of peace—the joy of the heart—a jubilee of the soul—a faithful companion in this earthly pilgrimage—the shield of a Christian soldier—a rule of humility—a forerunner of honor—a nurse of patience—a guardian of obedience—a fountain of quietness—the conquest of devils—a comfort of the sorrowful—a triumph of the just—the joy of the saints—a helper of the oppressed—the ease of the afflicted—the rest of the weary—an ornament of the conscience—an advancement of graces—an acceptable sacrifice—an encourager of mutual goodwill—the refreshment of this miserable life—the sweetening of death—a foretaste of the heavenly life—the earnest desire of everlasting salvation.

    [pg 291]

    Chapter XXXVII.

    Reasons Why God Certainly Hears Our Prayers.

    Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee; for thou wilt answer me.Ps. 86:5-7.

    Thus saith the prophet Jeremiah, “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” Lam. 3:22-24.

    2. In these words the Holy Spirit gives us strong consolation in our afflictions, drawn from the goodness and lovingkindness of God; without which we should immediately be consumed. As in the natural world light and darkness, by the appointment of God, alternately succeed each other, so do light and darkness, joy and sorrow, in the spiritual world. Hence there is a necessity that the light should spring up after darkness, and joy after sorrow, in the souls of the righteous. Ps. 97:11. For both our life and our well-being depend entirely upon the loving-kindness of God: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts 17:28. He is the never-failing fountain and spring of life and happiness. His works testify this, for by the effects we judge of the cause. Since, therefore, God is the Maker and Creator of all things that have life, it follows that He is Life itself; and as He is the original of all that is good, it follows, that He himself is the Supreme Good and Love itself. For this reason He is called the Living God, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16); not only from his essence, as being an original, necessary Being, but also from the effects which he produces; because he giveth and preserveth breath, and life, and motion to all things. Acts 17:25; Ps. 104:27. “Thou (O Belshazzar), hast praised the gods of silver and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified.” Dan. 5:23. “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Jer. 2:13. “The Lord is thy life, and the length of thy days.” Deut. 30:20. “The Lord is the strength of my life.” Ps. 27:1. Whence it follows, that God is in effect the life of every living creature, and produces and preserves life in all, according to the words of St. Paul, “Of him, and through him, and to him are all things: to whom be glory for ever.” Amen. Rom. 11:36. “Christ is all in all.” Col. 3:11.

    3. Now though all creatures derive their life from God, yet man has received it from his Maker in a more eminent degree; for as he is endowed with a rational soul, it follows that he enjoys a more noble life than the rest of the creatures. The life of angels again is more noble and glorious than [pg 292] that of men, because the glory and majesty of God manifest themselves more illustriously in them. Hence also, angels are described in 2 Thess. 1:7, as “mighty,” because they are not subject to vanity and change like man. But the most noble life is that of Jesus Christ our Lord, because he is God and Life itself; according to St. John, “This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20); that is, He is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. (Nicene Creed.)

    4. And as God is the fountain and principle of life, so he is also of all good. For he is the supreme and eternal GOOD, and whatsoever bears the marks and characters of good, is derived from this original. Thus, every creature has received a small portion of the divine goodness, by which it bears witness of its Maker, and in some manner calls upon man to do the same. Thus the vine speaks to us, “Consider, O man, that the sweetness of my juice, with which I cheer thy heart (Ps. 104:15), is the gift of my Maker.” And so the bread: “That virtue, O man, by which I satisfy thy hunger, is bestowed on me by my Creator and thine.” This is the meaning of that saying of St. Augustine: “That God has, as it were, shed some drops of his divine goodness upon all the creatures, that they might thereby contribute to the happiness of man.” And the Psalmist says: “Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.” Ps. 65:11.

    5. That which, in nature, we call the goodness of God, is, by the Scriptures, called the grace of God; this bearing relation to the soul, and that to the body. And as God has, by a thousand ways, discovered his goodness in the great Book of nature, so he has, in innumerable instances, discovered his grace and mercy in the Book of his word, all which are completed in Christ, who is the great centre of all the treasures of divine goodness and love that are distributed in heaven and earth.

    6. Now, as it is the nature of every good being to be communicative, and otherwise it ceases to be good (for who can tell what is good, unless it thus discover itself?); so no man could know whether God were good and gracious unless he had communicated his grace and goodness to others. Who could have known the inestimable benefits of Christ as a Saviour, if he had not so abundantly manifested his love towards us?

    7. But why was God pleased to manifest his goodness, grace, and mercy to mankind? It was for this reason: that we might believe in him, love him above all things, and call upon him in all our troubles; and he was pleased to make this manifestation of himself, that it might be, as it were, the first incentive to kindle the flames of devotion in our hearts. For how should we call on him of whom we have not heard? Rom. 10:14. As Almighty God discovered himself to Moses, when he passed by, and he, upon the sense of his goodness, grace, and mercy, immediately began to pray (Exod. 34:8, 9), so has He, in like manner, manifested himself to us, and made all his goodness pass before us, that we also might learn to praise him.

    8. But you will say, How has God manifested himself to me? If he would show himself to me, as he did to Moses, why should I not praise him as he did? To which I answer: This is done in Christ Jesus, in whom he manifested all his goodness after a [pg 293] visible manner. “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. And did we but seriously consider all that our blessed Saviour has done for us, we should, doubtless, exclaim: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and in truth.”

    10. And thus we see in what sense the type, which may be discerned in this narrative of Moses, was fulfilled by the incarnation of Christ. For God, descending from heaven in him, was pleased to make his glory pass before us.

    11. When Paul and Barnabas wrought great miracles at Athens, the heathens cried out, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” Acts 14:11. This was their judgment of the matter; but we may in a very proper sense say, that all the goodness and grace of God did, by Christ, come down to us upon earth, in order that we might thereby be drawn to God, and that the spirit of faith and prayer might be bestowed on us. For by prayer only we obtain the grace and favor of God.

    12. Let us now produce some reasons which may convince us, that God hears our prayers.

    13. And first, such is the power of prayer and entreaty, that they often pacify and prevail upon, not only the compassionate and kind, but even morose and harsh tempers; of which we have an instance in the case of the widow, who by her continual prayers, prevailed even upon that unjust judge, who neither feared God, nor regarded man. Luke 18:4, 5. For prayer, as it proceeds from the spirit, and is, as it were, the strength of the soul, has a marvellous power and influence upon the minds of others, so as to be able to soften and mould them into any form of benevolence. Now as God is not a harsh Being, but merciful in the highest degree, the most sincere love, the most perfect patience, the most generous compassion, the most ardent love itself, and in a word, the most absolute perfection; so he cannot but be tenderly moved by the ardent and devout prayers of his servants. Were it otherwise, it would follow, that God is not supremely good, loving, and merciful. Now, as true as it is that he is all this; so true it is that he is easy to be entreated by devout and humble prayer.

    14. Tauler says: “God is moved with so vehement a love towards us, as if his divinity itself depended on us, and his only aim and design were, to discover to us the abyss of his divinity, and the fulness of his essence and nature; so that all may belong to us, even as it belongs to him.” And again, “We were created, and are called and invited to things immeasurably great, and eternal; wherefore God is exceedingly displeased with us, when we prefer the empty and trifling vanities of the world before him, who is ready, not only to bestow all things else, but even Himself upon us.” Again, “So great is the love of God towards us, that he will deny us nothing: yea, he anticipates our prayers, meets us (as it were) half-way, and courts our friendship, being a thousand times more ready to give, than we are to receive.”

    15. The second argument is found in the truth and promise of God. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee.” Ps. 50:15. “Thou, Lord, art good and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” Ps. 86:5. The Lord, [pg 294] we see, is good; and if this be not sufficient, he is also ready to forgive; and if this do not satisfy us, he is also plenteous in mercy. But to whom? Even to all those that call upon him. Hence, it is said, “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them.” Ps. 145:18, 19; Isa. 65:24; John 16:23; Matt. 7:7, 8. Ask, but rest not there; seek also; neither think this sufficient, but knock. “For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” “What things soever ye desire, when you pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24. Compare this with Luke 11:9. And that God will keep his promise, is as certain, as that he really is what he, in his holy word, has declared himself to be. And that he may hear us, and pour his abundant goodness upon us, he has commanded us to pray often, to pray earnestly, and without ceasing. Luke 18:1; 1 Thess. 5:17.

    16. A third argument for our prayer, is God's paternal tenderness, which is thus illustrated. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?—If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” Luke 11:11, 13. And is not God this Father, “of whom the whole family in heaven and in earth is named”? (Eph. 3:15) whom St. Paul calls, “The Father of mercies, and God of all comfort?” 2 Cor. 1:3. Shall man then be merciful, and shall God, that created that merciful heart, be unmerciful? Shall he that gave to parents such tender affection, be without compassion himself? Why should God call himself a Father, if he be not of a paternal disposition? So that, in short, we must conclude, either that God is unjustly styled our Father, or else he will hear the prayers of his children that call upon him. Hence, it is said, “Thou, O Lord, art our Father.” Isa. 63:16. And, “I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” Jer. 31:9. But if the affections of a mother be so great, that she cannot but have “compassion on the son of her womb” (Isa. 49:15), why should we think God so void of mercy? Why should we question God's compassions toward us, if we approach him with penitent and contrite hearts? How do the mother's bowels yearn over her beloved son, when she sees him laboring under any dangerous disease? So the Almighty God says of himself: “Therefore, my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” Jer. 31:20.

    17. A fourth argument is, the intercession of Christ. With what ardent prayer did he, in the time of his humiliation upon earth, recommend his Church to his Father, and intercede for all believers!

    18. Thus, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name, those whom thou hast given me; that they may be one, as we are. Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, [pg 295] may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:11, 17, 15, 20, 24, 26. Nor did he pray so for us only upon earth; for even now he continues his intercessions for us at the right hand of God. “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God;—let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:14, 16; 7:26; 9:11; Rom. 8:34.

    19. A fifth argument is, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who “beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16), and this witness in our hearts cannot deceive us. For if this testimony be in us of a truth, we shall have a demonstrative evidence that we are God's children, and that he hears us in Christ when we pray unto him.

    20. Sixthly, because God and Christ are with us, and dwell in us by faith, how can we suppose that God will not hear our sighs and groans? “Thou understandest my thought afar off. There is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.” Ps. 139:2, 4. Think not, therefore, that God is separated from thee by any distance of place, that may hinder thy prayers from coming to him, “for he is in thee, and thou in him.” Acts 17:28; John 17:23. Since, therefore, he lives and works in thee, why should he not hear thy prayers? “Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee?” Ps. 38:10. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight.” Ps. 19:14.

    21. Seventhly, because the Holy Spirit, who is truly God, is also the Spirit of prayer, and himself maketh intercession in us with sighs and groanings unutterable. Zech. 12:10; Rom. 8:26. Why then shouldest thou imagine that God will not see, hear, and regard that which he himself works in thee? Therefore it is impossible that even the feeblest sigh proceeding from the Holy Spirit in us, and tending towards God, can be lost or come to nought. For as it proceeds from God, so it goes to him; and whatsoever is in him cannot perish. The deeds are wrought in God, and will be made manifest. John 3:21.

    22. Eighthly, God is not forgetful like men, as “a book of remembrance is written before him, for them that fear the Lord, and that think upon his name” (Mal. 3:16): so that he cannot be forgetful of our prayers. God cannot forget that which is good, nor will he call the sins of the penitent to remembrance. So mighty and so abundant is the grace of God, that he blots out our sins, and calls not our transgressions to mind. But the good which he himself has wrought in us, he can never forget; for then he must forget himself and his own works. It is therefore impossible that God should disregard those prayers which his own Holy Spirit works in us; any more than he can forget his word, or be unmindful of his promise. “Since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still,” saith God by the prophet. Jer. 31:20. And again, “Thou tellest my wanderings; put thou my tears into thy bottle.” Ps. 56:8. So he assures us that “He will ever be mindful of his covenant.” Ps. 111:5. And what is this covenant? Nothing else but the remission of our sins, confirmed to us by the death of Christ, and sealed by his Holy Spirit. Eph. 1:13.

    23. And now, perhaps, thou wilt say, If these things are so, how comes [pg 296] it to pass that God does not hear and grant my petitions? I have often prayed, and called, and sighed, and all to no purpose.

    24. Thus much, indeed, must be granted, that many a man prays a great while for that which he does not obtain; and thence we judge that his prayers are not heard. What then becomes of these our reasons for believing that prayer will assuredly be heard? This is a very great trial, and has given much disturbance to many sincere and well-disposed souls.

    25. But here we must observe, that the certainty of God's hearing our prayers, is incontestably proved by the arguments already produced, which are built upon an immovable foundation; whence it appears, that God does as certainly hear our prayers, as He is (1.) merciful, and a lover of mankind. (2.) As he is true in all his promises, yea, eternal truth itself. (3.) As he has a fatherly tenderness for us. (4.) As Jesus Christ is our mediator. (5.) As God and Christ dwell in us; which are all truths so certain and evident, that no believing heart ought to question them.

    26. But we complain that God does not presently give us what we ask for, and, therefore, that our prayers are not heard. For this two reasons may be given: 1. That God hears our prayers, regarding more our happiness than our desires. 2. That he reserves to himself the liberty of bestowing the blessings which we ask, either upon our bodies or our souls, as he shall think most proper. Thus, perhaps, we ask of God some temporal blessings, who seeing them to be unfit for us, gives us spiritual ones; by which means we not only receive what we prayed for, but so much the more, as the good of the soul is to be preferred to that of the body. For as the soul is much more noble than the body, and spiritual blessings are more excellent than earthly; so much better is it for us, that God should give us his eternal and spiritual blessings rather than those transitory and fading enjoyments in which we are generally most delighted. He hears our prayers, not always with respect to our bodies, but to our souls; which is of far greater importance. If it should please God to visit you with some bodily disease, and you pray for health, doubt not; your prayers will be heard, and you shall certainly enjoy, if not the health of your body, yet the health of your soul, which is much to be preferred. Every man in his sound senses must think so. What advantage would it be to have the body in health, but a sinful, distempered soul, liable to eternal death? When it is well with the soul, a man may say with David, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” Ps. 73:25, 26. And with the suffering Job, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Job 19:25. And from Him the soul may derive life. Therefore David, comparing spiritual blessings with earthly, tells us: “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” Ps. 119:72.

    27. But, perhaps, you will say that you pray for both; the health of your soul as well as of your body; and for spiritual blessings, as well as temporal. To this the Lord himself answers thee, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:9); which was the reply given to St. Paul, though he had desired to be answered in his own [pg 297] way. And thus it appears, that God always hears our prayers, if not with regard to our bodies, yet certainly to our souls.

    28. Besides, God has reserved to himself the liberty of accomplishing our desires either in this world, or the next, as he shall deem most proper. Wherefore if thou dost not receive the blessings for which thou prayest, consider that it is not good for thee to enjoy them here, but that the answer to thy prayers is reserved for the other life, which is more noble and durable, and more capable of pure enjoyments than this. There the Lord will bestow on thee a thousandfold, for all that He seemed to deny thee here. As He cannot forget our prayers, so He cannot fail to answer them graciously; if not in this life, yet certainly in that which is to come. As many prayers as thou offerest up here, so many blessings shalt thou receive hereafter; for then “we shall reap if we faint not.” Gal. 6:9. Then will the Lord say to the believing soul, “Behold thy prayer which thou offeredst to me. See, here is that for which thou didst pray, and a thousand times more than thou didst desire.” And for this time of retribution we must patiently wait.

    29. That man would be a very foolish husbandman, who would expect to reap as soon as he had sown; and who, when he had done this, would cry out with tears, that he had sown much seed, but could see no sign of harvest. Thou fool! wait till the season of harvest arrives, and then thou shalt receive the fruits of thy labor with a blessed increase. These are the complaints which many people make: “I have prayed,” says one, “so often; I have so often sighed from the bottom of my soul; but I see no prospect of being heard, so that all my prayers, and sighs, and tears, are in vain.” Ah, impatient soul! Thou hast scarcely sowed, and dost thou already talk of harvest? Wait for the precious harvest of eternal life, and thou shalt reap an abundant crop of glory! “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Gal. 6:7. There thou shalt gather with joy the fruit of the numerous prayers, which, as so many precious seeds, thou hast sown in tears. Psalm 126:5. This is the word and promise of God, which shall certainly be fulfilled, either here or in the other world. Thus, when thou art taking thy last sad farewell of a dying child, husband, wife, or friend, thou must consider that this is the season in which the bodies of thy friends, and thine own also, are, as it were, to be sown and committed to the earth; but that the harvest of the resurrection is at hand, when “the angels, the reapers, shall gather the sheaves, and put them into barns.” Matt. 13:30, 39. There we shall find that our prayers, sighs, and tears were not lost, but only sent beforehand, to be received again with usury, finding all things in God that ever our souls could conceive or desire. So the promises of God, and the arguments produced to sustain them, shall stand firm and unshaken in Christ Jesus, to be eternally fulfilled to all believing souls, to their everlasting joy and salvation, for which we shall render eternal thanks and praises to God.

    [pg 298]

    Chapter XXXVIII.

    Seven Helps Or Aids For Our Infirmities In Prayer.

    Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.Rom. 8:26, 27.

    Since our prayers are, alas! very weak and imperfect, let us see what assistance God has given us in his holy word, in order to help us in that duty.

    2. The first help is our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 1 John 2:2. He is our advocate, and pleads our cause before God, when we are hardly able to express what we want. He is therefore called the Logos, or the eternal Word of the Father, because God by him has discovered his will to us; as He is also called the Mediator, because He pleads our cause before God. A type of Him we have in Moses, the mediator of the Old Testament; to whom the people, flying from the face of God in Mount Sinai, said, “Speak thou with us” (Exod. 20:19). And when Moses complained that he was slow of speech, and of a slow tongue, when he was commanded to appear before Pharaoh; God tells him, “Aaron, thy brother, can speak well. He shall be to thee instead of a mouth.” Exod. 4:10, 14, 16. So we also, when we should pray, are dull and slow of speech, and therefore we must fly to Christ, our heavenly Aaron, who is to us instead of a mouth. The same thing is expressed to us by the mercy-seat. Exod. 25:17, 21. Therefore Christ commands us to pray in his name (John 16:23), who is our eternal High Priest, having an everlasting priesthood (Heb. 7:16), interceding for us (Rom. 8:34), “in whom we have boldness, and access with confidence by the faith of him.” Eph. 3:12.

    3. The second help is God the Holy Ghost. “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of supplication.” Zech. 12:10. This spirit is given us as a testimony of the divine grace, and of our adoption. Hence St. John says, “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” 1 John 4:13. And St. Paul, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Rom. 8:15, 16. He was also typified by the anointing of the priests under the law. Exod. 28:41; 29:7. Thus God has anointed us with the Spirit of Christ (1 John 2:20); that we should offer to him daily the fruit of our lips. Ps. 69:30, 31; Heb. 13:15. This Spirit of God is the author of all those devout aspirations which we meet with, such as: “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do.” Dan. 9:19.

    4. The third help to strengthen us in prayer, is found in the promises of God. “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee.” Ps. 50:15. “He shall call upon me, and I will answer [pg 299] him.” Ps. 91:15. See also Ps. 145:19; Luke 11:11, 13, and 18. “Before they call, I will hear.” Isa. 60:24. “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers.” Ps. 34:16. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” Joel 2:32. “Ask, seek, knock.” Matt. 7:7. “The Lord is rich (in mercy, Eph. 2:4) to all that call upon him.” Rom. 10:12. See also Luke 11:11-13; 18:6, 7.

    5. The fourth help in prayer, is the remembrance of the saints, whose prayers God has heard. Look at the examples of the ancients, and be strengthened. And, indeed, we must needs be so, when we seasonably call to mind instances of God's providence and divine assistance. Upon this foundation all the prophets of old built their prayers. Thus, when God was angry with Israel for the sin of the golden calf, and said to Moses: “Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them” (Ex. 32:10); “then Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,” as the Psalmist expresses it (Ps. 106:23), putting God in mind of his former mercies, saying, “Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt, with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did he bring them out to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people, etc. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” Exod. 32:11-14.

    6. David had recourse to the same remedy in almost all his Psalms; putting God in mind, as it were, of his former mercies, goodness, and faithfulness. So Ps. 25:6, “Remember thy tender mercies.” Ps. 77:5, etc., “I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times,” etc. Ps. 85:1-6, “Lord, thou hast been favorable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people; thou hast covered all their sin. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath; thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease. Wilt thou be angry with us forever? Wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again; that thy people may rejoice in thee?”

    7. How admirably does the prophet Isaiah use the same form of supplication (chap. 63:10-16), putting God in mind of his former mercies, and opening, as it were, by this key, the immense treasures of his compassion. “Where is he that brought them up out of the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his Holy Spirit within him? That led them by the right hand of Moses, with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name? That led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble? As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name. Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory; where is thy zeal, and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels, and of thy mercies towards me? Are they restrained? Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel [pg 300] acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.”

    8. This prayer of the prophet is founded upon these arguments: (1.) Because the love of God is eternal, therefore it will not be withheld from me. (2.) I acknowledge myself to be a sinner but, at the same time, I remember that thy grace has been extended to sinners who repented. “Remember not the sins of my youth.” Ps. 25:7. (3.) My sins have been very great, but let thy mercy also be great. (4.) Remember that I am the work of thine own hands. “Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again? Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” Job 10:9, 12.

    9. The fifth comfort in prayer is, the tender love of God to mankind, and his promises to help the afflicted. “Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.” Ps. 25:18. Again, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” Ps. 34:6. Thus we are assured that God does not despise the miseries of the distressed, although proud men may do it. For God judges not as corrupt man judges; he has not eyes of flesh, nor doth he see as man seeth. Job 10:4. And as it generally happens among us, that the more need a man has of friends, the fewer he finds; so, on the other hand, God has a more tender and particular regard for him that is destitute and afflicted. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Ps. 34:18. “Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.” Ps. 10:14. And, indeed, such are the proper objects of divine mercy. To enhance the comfort and certainty of these promises, the Psalmist mentions various classes of the afflicted; so that none who are in distress may despair: “The Lord executeth judgment for the oppressed; which giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners; the Lord openeth the eyes of the blind; the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down; the Lord loveth the righteous; the Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widows.” Ps. 146:7-9. To this may be referred what the prophet Isaiah says, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word.” Isa. 66:2. And “The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.” Ps. 9:18. And “He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.” Ps. 102:17.

    10. The sixth help is, the consideration of God's unspeakable compassion. He puts a better construction upon our prayers than we intended, and understands our necessities more perfectly than we can express them. He makes merciful allowance for our infirmities in prayer; according to the words of Abraham, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak.” Gen. 18:30. Hence St. Paul says, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation.” 2 Cor. 1:3. Compare this with Ps. 103:8. By virtue of this compassion of God, none of our prayers are in vain. God keeps an exact account of all our sighs and tears (Ps. 56:8), for the sake of those tears which Christ our blessed Saviour shed, who, in the days of his flesh, offered [pg 301] up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears. Heb. 5:7.

    11. The seventh help in prayer, is the remembrance of the covenant of grace, which God has made with us. “This shall be the covenant,” etc. Jer. 31:33. And, “The covenant of my peace shall not be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee.” Isa. 54:10. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come! I will make an everlasting covenant with you.” Isa. 55:1, 3. In this covenant of grace the assurance that our prayers shall be heard is contained. “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” Isa. 55:6.

    12. What we have said upon this head, is most happily exemplified in the prayer of Daniel. “O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments.—And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day.” (Here is the putting God in mind of his former mercies.) “Hear, O our God, the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake.” (This is pleading the name and merits of Jesus the Messiah.) “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do.” (These are the groans of the Holy Spirit.) “O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations” (in regard of his promise); “because for our sins, and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.” (Here is a confession of sin, and an acknowledgment of misery.) “For we do not present our supplications before thee, for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies” (this is an acknowledgment of man's unworthiness, and of God's mercy, which is followed with a remembrance of the covenant); “For thy city and thy people are called by thy name.” Dan. 9:4, 15, 17, 18, 19, 16.

    Chapter XXXIX.

    The Conversation Of A Believing Soul With God.

    Wilt thou be angry with us forever? Wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation.Ps. 85:5-7.

    These words contain the familiar discourse of the devout and faithful soul with God. Who would venture to talk so freely to an offended prince? But so indulgent is God to a believing soul, that he gives liberty to come freely and without restraint into his presence. As soon as the believer enters, God asks, “What is thy desire? come near, and be not afraid.” This is represented to us in the case of Bathsheba (1 Kings 1:16), going [pg 302] into the presence-chamber of king David, and making her petition. Upon which, the king sware unto her with an oath. So also in that of Esther, whom, so soon as she came into his presence, the king touched with his golden sceptre. Est. 5:1.

    2. It is held to be an act of singular grace and favor, if a king vouchsafe to talk familiarly with his subjects. It was upon this account that the Roman emperor Titus was called The delight of mankind, for his gracious treatment of all who were near him, filled them with joy. But how much greater favor and happiness is it, that God, the Lord of lords, and King of kings (whom the Psalmist calls, “The most high and terrible Lord, a great King over all the earth”), (Ps. 47:2), should not only talk with miserable men, who, as Abraham says, “are but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27); but should even converse kindly with rebellious sinners, who are at enmity with him through sin. Isa. 59:2. So that when a Christian considers, on the one hand, the greatness and majesty of God; and the impurity, corruption, misery, and vileness of human nature on the other hand, he cannot but cry out with David, “What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” Ps. 8:4. The most righteous man living must acknowledge himself to be unworthy to converse with God. This was the sentiment of the devout Abraham, who therefore excuses his presuming to intercede with God for the Sodomites, saying, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak” (Gen. 18:30, 32): and yet every time that Abraham speaks, God vouchsafes to answer. And as he is the father of “them which are of faith” (Gal. 3:7), he gives us a notable example of the devout soul's conversation with God.

    3. It is therefore a most certain and undoubted truth, that whensoever the faithful soul calls upon God by prayer, he never fails to answer by the divine consolations of his Spirit. An instance of this we have, where the Psalmist calls upon God in these words: “Lord, thou hast been favorable unto thy land. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people; thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger. Wilt thou not revive us again? Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation. I will hear what God the Lord will speak.” Ps. 85:1, etc. The answer he received in his heart; therefore he says: “His salvation is nigh them that fear him.” Ver. 9. And as he here prays, that he may hear what the Lord God will say concerning him; God answers him, “Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee.” Ps. 50:7. The afflicted soul prays, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger.” Ps. 6:1. To which God answers, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” Ps. 103:8. The soul says, “Whither shall I flee from thy presence?” Ps. 139:7. To which the Lord answers, “Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28. The soul says, “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh, to direct his steps.” Jer. 10:23. To which it is answered, “I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way in which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye.” Ps. 32:8. The believing soul prays, “Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth.” Ps. 86:11. To which the Lord answers, “I am the way, the truth, and [pg 303] the life” (John 14:6); the way, if thou wouldest not wander; the truth, if thou wouldest not be deceived; the life, if thou wouldest avoid eternal death. The believing soul complains, “There is no soundness in my flesh, because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones, because of my sin. My wounds stink and are corrupt, because of my foolishness.” Ps. 38:3, 5. To which it is answered, “The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isa. 53:5. The devout soul says, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed: save me, and I shall be saved.” Jer. 17:14. It is answered, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” Ps. 103:3. The soul complains, and cries out: I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea. To which God answers by the prophet Isaiah, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins.” Isa. 43:25; 44:22. The soul cries out, Alas! I am a grievous sinner. And Jesus Christ answers, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Matt. 9:13. The soul prays, “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.” Ps. 25:7. To which God answers, “If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him.” Ezek. 18:21, 22. The soul cries out, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Ps. 51:3. To which God answers, “Though your sins be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isa. 1:18. “Lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Ps. 143:2. To which it is answered, “God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned.” John 3:17, 18. The soul prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Ps. 51:10. To which it is answered, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.” Ezek. 36:26, 27. The soul says, “I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.” Ps. 38:6. To which it is answered, “The Lord hath sent me to comfort all that mourn.” Isa. 61:2. It is said, “Look upon mine affliction and my pain.” Ps. 25:18. And it is answered, “To him will I look, that is poor, and of a contrite spirit.” Isa. 66:2. “Thou tellest my wanderings.” Ps. 56:8. To which the Lord answers, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matt. 10:30. The soul cries out, “When shall I come and appear before God?” Ps. 42:2. To which is answered, “Where I am, there shall also my servant be.” John 12:26. The soul complains, “How long, O Lord, wilt thou forget me? forever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” Ps. 13:1, 2. To which is answered, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee.” Isa. 54:7, 8. Compare thy present suffering with God's eternal grace. Wait for the promise, which, though late, will surely be fulfilled at last. Hab. 2:3. The soul says, “Thou art my God; be not far from me; for [pg 304] trouble is near; for there is none to help.” Ps. 22:10, 11. To which it is answered, “I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.” Ps. 91:15. The soul prays, “Lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” Ps. 13:3. To which it is answered, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.” Hosea, 13: 14. The soul says, “I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ.” Phil. 1:23. To which Christ answers, “To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43.

    4. In a word, the Holy Scripture is nothing else but a conversation of the devout soul with God. Whenever the soul raises itself to God, and spreads its misery and complaints before him, then God answers it by some internal comfort, or by the words and promises of the Holy Scriptures.

    Chapter XL.

    A Conversation Between Faith And The Mercy Of God.

    Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.Ps. 85:10.

    The goodness of God comes forth to meet us, and gives merciful answers to the prayers of faith; “for mercy shall compass us about.” Ps. 32:10. It calls to us: “Return, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God.” Jer. 3:12, 13. To which faith answers, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” Ps. 51:1. Mercy calls, “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37. Faith answers, “Draw me; we will run after thee.” Cant. 1:4. Mercy says, “The Lord hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to comfort all that mourn.” Isa. 61:1, 2. Faith answers out of Psalm 51:12: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit.” Mercy says, out of Isaiah 43:25 and 44:22, “I have blotted out as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins.” Faith answers out of Psalm 25:18, “Look upon mine affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins.” Mercy comforts us and says, out of Psalm 103:13, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” To which faith answers, out of Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O Lord, thou art our Father.” Mercy says, “Come unto me.” Matt. 11:28. Faith answers, “Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.” Ps. 25:1. Mercy says, “Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord.” Jer. 3:1. Faith answers, “I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him: Father, I have [pg 305] sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.” Luke 15:18, 19. Mercy says, “This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” Luke 15:24. To which faith answers, “I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.” Ps. 13:5. Mercy proclaims, out of Isaiah 55:1, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.” To which faith answers, “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” Ps. 42:1, 2. Mercy says, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” Ps. 103:3. Faith exclaims, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant.” Ps. 143:2. Mercy says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6. Faith answers, “Shew me thy way, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me.” Ps. 25:4, 5. Mercy promises, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave: I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” Hosea 13:14. Faith answers, “He that is our God, is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.” Ps. 68:20. Mercy says, “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” John 11:25. To which faith answers, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Job 19:25, 26. Mercy says, “Fear thou not; behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.” Isa. 41:10; 49:16. “Thou art mine; neither shall any man pluck thee out of my hand.” John 10:28. To which faith answers, “Into thine hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Ps. 31:5.

    Chapter XLI.

    The Great Benefits, And The Great Efficacy Of Praise Offered To God.

    In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I commune with mine own heart.Ps. 77:2.

    This passage is an excellent rule of life, teaching every man how to conduct himself under the cross. As the word of God is the rule of our life in prosperity, according to the Psalmist: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye” (Ps. 32:8); and “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Ps. 73:24): yea, moreover, as the word of God ought to be the rule of our faith, as the Psalmist tells us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105): and “Hold [pg 306] up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not” (Ps. 17:5)—so also ought it to be our rule and direction in bearing the cross, as David teaches us, saying, “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;” that is, I will look up to God, who has laid this cross upon me, and beg of him comfort and assistance in the day of my trouble.

    2. Hence may every Christian learn, when he is in affliction, not to fix his thoughts too much upon the immediate causes or instruments of his sufferings; but to lift up his heart to God; to apply to himself the divine promises; to pray and sing praises to his God: and these are the true and certain consolations of an afflicted soul. David says, “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord.” As a mind oppressed with grief eases itself by communicating its troubles to a faithful friend, so is our afflicted spirit refreshed and comforted when we offer prayer and thanksgiving to God. Thus David “called to remembrance his song in the night, and communed with his own heart” (Ps. 77:6); that is, when it was night he longed earnestly for the morning, that he might rise and comfort his weary soul by prayers and thanksgiving unto God his Comforter: in the mean time, he communed with his own heart, and poured out his soul in secret; and God, who saw and heard in secret, who understood even the most secret sighs and breathings of his dejected spirit, comforted, strengthened, and refreshed him.

    3. Amongst other things that may be learned from this beautiful passage of the Psalmist, this is one, that the singing of holy hymns and praises to God, proceeding from a truly devout soul, are attended with great advantages and spiritual blessings.

    4. The truth of this appears, 1. From nature itself. 2. From the efficacy of prayer. 3. From the examples found in the Old Testament. 4. From the examples in the New. 5. From the examples of holy men in both, who were by this means filled with the Holy Ghost. 6. From the nature and properties of the Psalms. 7. From the frequent use of the blessed Psalms among the ancients, whenever they were under any adversity. All these considerations prove that there is a great virtue or efficacy in psalms and hymns of praise. By this I would not be understood to mean nothing but bare words and empty sounds, void of faith and devotion; but rather such a vigorous faith, such an ardent devotion, as may break forth into holy hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in the heart unto the Lord. Let us briefly describe this subject.

    5. As to the first, namely, the book of the world, or nature, it is clear that the praise of God is the great end of the whole creation. That this is the grand employment of the angelical choirs, appears from many passages in the Revelation of St. John, as also from Isaiah 6:3 and the 148th Psalm; which, inviting all creatures to praise God, for whose glory they were created, begins with the angels (ver. 2), “Praise ye him, all his angels; praise ye him, all his hosts.” From the angelical he descends to the sidereal world, saying, “Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.” To which may be referred the words of Job (chap. 38:7): “When the morning stars sang together.” Thence he descends to the sea, calling on the waters, and all the numerous inhabitants of the waters, to praise the God that made them. Thence [pg 307] looking up to the regions of the air, he calls to “the fire and hail, snow and vapor, stormy wind fulfilling his word.” Thence he passes to the earth: “mountains and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars.” Thence to the living creatures: “beasts, and all cattle; creeping things and flying fowl.” Thence to men, beginning with the rulers of the world: “kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth. Both young men and maidens, old men and children, praise the name of the Lord.” And lastly, to the church of God, “his saints, a people near unto him—praise ye the Lord.”

    6. The second argument was the efficacy of the prayer of faith. This is attested by the word of God, the examples of holy men, and daily experience. For we are assured by all the promises of God, that not one devout prayer, not one sigh or tear, comes from us in vain. “Put thou my tears into thy bottle.” Ps. 6:9; 56:8. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Ps. 126:5. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.” Ps. 145:18. Nothing, indeed, in this world can be successful without prayer; forasmuch as every good and every perfect gift cometh down from God, and must be asked of him. Without constant prayer a man can neither live nor die in peace. Now, as the offering of praise to God is nothing else but the prayer of a devout soul overflowing with divine joy, in which holy men of God have celebrated and conveyed to posterity the mercies and wonders of God their Creator; it is plain that the singing of praises to God is an act of devotion, full of spiritual comfort and advantage.

    7. Thirdly, this is confirmed by many examples found in the Old Testament. Exod. 15; Deut. 32; 1 Sam. 2; Isa. 12; 26; 38; 64; Jon. 2; Hab. 3; and the whole Book of Psalms.

    8. Fourthly, this is confirmed by the examples of the New Testament; especially those two divine hymns of Mary and Zacharias (Luke 1:46, 68), of which the Christian Church has appointed one to be sung in the morning, and the other in the evening, as a morning and evening sacrifice unto God; thereby instructing us, that singing psalms and praises unto God ought to begin and end the day. Such, too, is the exhortation of the Psalmist, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High: to shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.” Ps. 92:1, 2. But why such lovingkindness “in the morning”? Because “it is new every morning.” Lam. 3:23. And why such “faithfulness every night”? Because “the Lord, that neither slumbereth nor sleepeth,” is our guardian by night. Ps. 121:3. To this we may add what we are told by St. Matthew (chap. 26: 30), that Jesus Christ himself at his last Supper, sung a hymn with his disciples. And St. Paul says to the Ephesians (chap. 5:18, 19), “Be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always, etc.” And again: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Col. 3:16, 17. And St. James says, “Is any among [pg 308] you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” James 5:13.

    9. Fifthly, by the praises offered to God by the holy men of the Old Testament and the New, who were filled with the Holy Ghost. Of this we have two instances. First, when Samuel had anointed Saul to be king, he gave him a sign, saying, “Thou shalt meet a company of prophets with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy. And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.” 1 Sam. 10:5, 6. The second is, when Saul had sent messengers to take David, they met several companies of prophets, and both they and Saul himself began to prophesy. 1 Sam. 19:19-24. Similar to this is that which we read concerning Elisha (2 Kings 3:15), that when the minstrel began to play, that holy man prophesied.

    10. In the Old Testament there were several kinds of divine music; some of trumpets, some of psalteries and harps, some of cymbals, and other kinds of musical instruments. From this some imagine that the Songs of Degrees, as some of the Psalms are called, took their names. For they did not sing all the Psalms to the same instrument, but adapted their instruments to their subject, whether it were cheerful or sorrowful. All these various kinds of music with which, under the Old Testament, they sang praises unto God, being a part of the external ceremonial service, have now ceased; and our spirit, soul, mind, and mouth are become the trumpet, psaltery, harp, and cymbal of God. To which St. Paul alludes, when he says, “Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Col. 3:16. By which expression we are by no means forbidden, either in public or private, to praise God with voices or instruments of music; but it requires that all this be done with true devotion, in the spirit, and from the heart, lest religion should be thought to consist in empty sounds and the external pomp of divine service. For the New Testament, see, for example, Acts 4:24-31.

    11. Sixthly, the nature and properties of the Psalms prove the same thing. Some of them are supplicatory, others consolatory; some penitential, others doctrinal; and, lastly, others prophetical: from which variety of style and intention the devout soul may reap a correspondent variety of comforts and benefits.

    12. Seventhly, we are instructed by the examples of Moses and David that songs of praise were used upon different occasions. As (1) Against enemies. These may be called prayers for protection. Such is Psalm 68, which the man of God sang when he was advancing against his enemies: “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered.” Some think that Psalm 91 was composed by David in the time of that great pestilence, which, in the space of three days, swept away 70,000 men. 2 Sam. 24:15. And I doubt not that many a man has been protected in national calamities by a proper use of this Psalm. (2) In time of victory over enemies. These we may call Psalms of victory. Thus David, when he had gained six victories, composed the 18th Psalm, as may be gathered from 2 Sam. 22: 1. So Jehoshaphat marched against the Moabites with singers going before him, who were to bless and praise the Lord with a loud voice; [pg 309] and he conquered. 2 Chron. 20:21, etc. (3) In great calamities. Thus we read (1 Sam. 21:13) that David, when he changed his behavior before Achish, composed the 34th Psalm, as appears by the title. So he sang Psalm 3, when he fled from Absalom. So when the apostles, in great difficulties, prayed in the words of the 2d Psalm, “the place was shaken where they were assembled together.” Acts 4:31. And these are Psalms of mourning or lamentation. (4) There are also eucharistical Psalms. So David sung the 105th Psalm before the ark of the covenant. 1 Chron. 17:16. (5) There are complaining Psalms, as the 102d appears to be by the inscription; also some against calumniators, as the 4th, 7th, 52d; also against diseases, as the 30th.

    13. Thus much concerning the efficacy and admirable benefits of divine hymns and thanksgivings. Whence it appears that it is the duty of a Christian to praise God as well as to pray to him every day. For (1), it being the constant employment of the holy angels to bless and praise God, when the Church on earth does the same, there arises thence a divine and heavenly communion betwixt the Church on earth and the Church in heaven; fulfilling, in some measure, that petition of the Lord's prayer, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matt. 6:10. Come, then, ye devout souls, and when ye retire into your closets to pour out your souls before God in secret, remember also to praise him with a Psalm of thanksgiving. (2) Moreover, it would be quite proper, and becoming a Christian, to accustom children, from their infancy, to sing psalms and praises unto God, according to the Psalmist, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because of thine enemies” (Ps. 8:2): the advantage of which, is expressed in the following words—“that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” (3) We are encouraged to this duty by God's gracious acceptance of it, and delight in it; upon which account the Psalmist calls upon him, saying, “Thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Ps. 22:3. (4) Experience itself teaches us that by divine hymns we kindle flames of devotion in our souls, and receive rich returns of spiritual joy, lively comfort, solid peace, and rest in God.

    Chapter XLII.

    The Reasons For Which We Ought Daily To Offer Praises To God.

    Praise ye the Lord, O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. Ps. 106:1; 107:1; 118:1.

    Thus saith the devout David, “Seven times a day do I praise thee, because of thy righteous judgments” (Ps. 119:164); that is, many times in a day do I sing praises in honor of thy holy name. By this he teaches us, that a man cannot spend his time better than by retiring at least once a day into his closet, and praising God in secret. Yea, though [pg 310] his hands be employed in labor and business, yet may he, in the quiet stillness of his heart, offer up his praises unto God wheresoever he is. For the prayer of a true Christian is not confined to any certain time or place, since he worships “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23); and the Spirit is not circumscribed by any limits of time or place. To which also relates the admonition of St. Paul, when he commands us “to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16); that being, indeed, the fittest place wherein God may be praised.

    2. But as we are by nature dull and inactive in the discharge of this duty, therefore God has given us, in his Word, certain helps to quicken us.

    3. The first of these is his own command. He made us, his servants and creatures, for his own glory, as we ourselves appoint servants to manage business for us. He, therefore, who does not daily praise God, was created by him in vain, and cannot be his servant. Hence we are commanded, over and over again, in Holy Scripture, above all things, to praise God. Thus, “Praise ye the Lord. Praise him, O ye servants of the Lord.” Ps. 113:1. “O give thanks unto the Lord.” Ps. 118:1. “Thou shalt glorify me.” Ps. 50:15. This is an argument to us, that the chief part of our religious worship, our chief service in this world, and our happiness in the next, consist in the exercise of praise and thanksgiving; upon which account we ought to esteem it our greatest happiness and most honorable employment. So the holy Psalmist says, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.” Ps. 63:4. And again, “Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Ps. 37:4. O how truly happy, then, and blessed is he who is come to such perfection of divine worship as to delight in the Lord, and to be continually offering praises and thanks! “He shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.” Ps. 65:5. If we think it an honorable thing to be employed in the service of any earthly prince, how much more ought a man to rejoice when he considers that he may be admitted to the service of the Lord of lords, and King of kings, being, in his own nature, no better than dust and ashes, and a poor sinner! This single consideration ought to be of sufficient weight to encourage him to praise God daily.

    4. Secondly, the advantages that a man derives from this exercise, is another argument. For since God has no need of our praises, and is neither the better nor the worse for our obedience or neglect; and since the most acceptable praise which we can offer him is, at best, but the fruit of “unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5), as the prophet Isaiah speaks, it follows that the advantage redounds only to ourselves, as being the means of drawing down upon us the favor and blessings of heaven: a thankful heart being the proper receptacle of divine grace. This, in short, is that which brings God down into our souls, and makes us truly the living temples of the Holy Ghost; and where God is, there is the fulness of divine blessing. Moreover, by the daily exercise of thanksgiving, we keep up communion with the blessed choirs of triumphant saints and angels in heaven. They are incessantly singing the praises of God above; whilst we below, by the same exercise, are conquering, by degrees, [pg 311] the enemies of our salvation (Ps. 18:29), till at length, by a constant practice of this divine duty, we are filled with an immovable assurance that we are united to God, and that we shall be for ever happy with him in heaven, according to the promise of our blessed Lord, “Where I am, there shall also my servant be.” John 12:26. And now, would to God that wretched man would so lay these considerations to heart, and so sincerely endeavor to practise them, that every soul might become, in truth, a house of prayer!

    5. Thirdly, we are encouraged to the daily practice of thanksgiving, from the consideration of the compassion, the lovingkindness, and everlasting goodness of God. This is an argument continually inculcated in the Book of Psalms, to teach us that the chief and fundamental reason why we ought continually to bless and praise God, is, because he is good and gracious, and “his mercy endureth for ever.” No heart of man can conceive, nor tongue express, the height and depth of that love which disposes the great and mighty God to show himself thus loving and merciful to wretched mankind, who are dust and ashes, laden with iniquities, and ungrateful to God; and that he not only continues his wonted mercies to them, notwithstanding their repeated provocations; but is also perpetually dispensing fresh showers of blessings upon the whole rebellious race. And this is what every man must needs experience in himself. Look into thine own soul, whosoever thou art; what canst thou find there but misery and sin? Yet God continues merciful and long-suffering, is slow to anger, and not willing to punish thee as thy sins have deserved. This is a degree of mercy which, as thy own heart must confess, no man living does or can exercise towards his brethren. We cannot so long forbear to punish those that have offended us; and when we punish, mercy seldom pleads for the criminal, till we are satiated with vengeance; whereas the rod of God is often lifted up, but his mercy averts the impending stroke, and rescues the sinner from punishment. So that every man must confess that the punishments of heaven are not only less than we deserve, but are always qualified with a double portion of mercy. Whence it follows, that God is essentially and truly love, which every man daily experiences in himself.

    6. Read the Holy Scriptures and see how tenderly, yea, how affectionately God vouchsafes to deal with mankind, so that no father or mother upon earth can be more indulgent to their darling child. Thus, “Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore, my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” Jer. 31:20.

    7. God not only bestows his favors plentifully both on our souls and bodies, but also does it with so much tenderness and good will, that, as he himself says, “He rejoices over us to do us good” (Jer. 32:41); as if he were glad to find men willing to be happy in the blessed manifestations of his love; which is, indeed, the truest demonstration that it is sincere. Were not God thus merciful, our very being would soon be at an end, which nothing but his infinite mercy can sustain; yea, “His lovingkindness is better than life itself” (Ps. 63:3), which “compasseth us about” (Ps. 32:10), [pg 312] as tender mothers embrace their helpless infants.

    8. The same goodness of God discovers itself in all his creatures; in which, as in a glass, we may contemplate the wonderful riches of divine mercy: “The earth is full of the riches of God.” Ps. 104:24. For whose sake was all that is good, both in heaven and earth, created? Not for Him certainly, who is Himself all-sufficient, and stands not in need of any creature. The sun, moon, and stars serve not to enlighten him; the fire, the air, the earth, and water do him no service, but us. And when he “fills our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17), it is his goodness that we taste, it is his bounty that feeds and nourishes us. He it is that gives us healthy and sound bodies, which are more valuable to us than an empire. If it should please God to turn the water into blood, as he did in Egypt (Exod. 7:20), we could not, with all our boasted treasure, purchase one single drop to relieve our greatest necessities. Or should he, as he did once (Exod. 10:22), cover the earth with thick darkness, no prince upon earth could, with all his riches, purchase one single gleam of light. Or what would all the world signify to him that should but for one moment be deprived of the benefit of the air? All these are very great blessings of God, but because they are common, few are so sensible of them as to be thankful for them. Reflect, moreover, on the mercies of redemption and sanctification, in which the goodness and grace of God so transcendently appear, that eternity itself would be too short to praise and magnify these blessings as we ought. To redeem a lost world is much more glorious than to create it at first; and to regenerate a man by a spiritual new birth, more wondrous than at first to produce him by a natural birth. Lastly, whosoever will carefully consider the works and providence of God, may read the plain characters of his mercy and love in every part of the creation.

    9. Dull, ungrateful creatures that we are, how apt are we to forget our benefactor, and despise the hand that blesses us! God is thus led in mere mercy to use the rod of discipline, and to take away our worldly comforts from us, in order thereby to reduce us to a sober sense of ourselves, and of our dependence on him, to whom all our thanks are due. Thus God speaks by the prophet Hosea, “She did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and her gold: therefore will I return, and take them from her.” Hosea 2:8. So that the cross is, as it were, the light by which we see and discover the true value of divine blessings, and who it is that bestows them. For ingratitude is the greatest degree of blindness, and the highest affront against God. And since the whole world is full of the glory of God, much more ought the heart of man to be full of it.

    10. Indeed the excellency of the divine love discovers itself chiefly in this, that he bestows his favors even upon rebels and enemies. “For he maketh his sun to rise, and sendeth his rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matt. 5:45.

    11. The goodness and mercy of God herein appear still more illustrious, that though we continue ungrateful, and our hearts “cast forth wickedness as a fountain casteth forth her waters” (Jer. 6:7), yet he still strives to conquer our ingratitude by his goodness, and does not take his mercy from us; [pg 313] as the Psalmist says, “His mercy endureth forever.” Ps. 136:1. So that as the heart of man is, as it were, an abyss of iniquity (Jer. 17:9), so God is an abyss of mercy, an ever-flowing fountain of goodness, so much superior in kind, as well as in degree, to that of any created being, that he doeth nothing but good, and receives nothing in return but evil; which the uncreated and infinite Good alone could do or suffer. And when, provoked by our wickedness, he seems sometimes to lay aside his mercy, and “in anger to shut up his tender mercies” (Ps. 77:10), yet even that is nothing but paternal resentment, not tending to destruction, but so tempered with compassion, that mercy triumphs over judgment. So, “If his children forsake my law, I will visit their transgressions with the rod: nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him.” Ps. 89:30-33. And, “In wrath remember mercy.” Hab. 3:2. So, too, we read, “He doth not afflict willingly the children of men.” Lam. 3:33. For punishment is, as it were, contrary to his nature and essential goodness. For though the Scriptures often speak of God's being angry, yet such expressions are used, after the manner of men, only in compliance with the weakness of human capacities. Yea, God is never angry with his faithful servants; but only with wicked and obstinate sinners; and when he corrects the former in mercy, he punishes the latter in his wrath; for “the wrath of God abideth on them.” John 3:36. Hence David prays, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger.” Ps. 6:1. As if he had said, “Lord, chasten me with mercy, as a tender father corrects his beloved child.” Wherefore, it is as impossible that the mercy and goodness of God should fail or cease towards mankind (though he sometimes afflicts us), as that the sun should actually be extinguished by a cloud, or the vast ocean be absorbed by a sponge. “For his mercy endureth forever.” Ps. 136:1. And this is the reason of God's reconciliation and forgiveness, not once or twice, but as often as the sinner begins to repent and sue for mercy. This mercy does not last for a few hours, or a few days only, but forever; so that the entire nature and essence of God, infinite as it is, is nothing else but love. No sooner does the sinner sincerely pray for pardon, but the merciful God freely bestows it, yea, he is more willing and ready to pardon, than we to ask it.

    12. Now if God pours his blessings upon us so plentifully in this life, that we taste and enjoy them by all our senses; how much more fully shall we be convinced, in the other world, by most blessed experience, that his mercy endureth forever? If we receive so many mercies from him now in this vale of sin and misery, as that “in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), how much more glorious will his mercy appear hereafter, when we shall be cleansed from all sin, and rendered capable of the purest enjoyments?

    13. Fourthly, the praises of God have been the special employment of all holy men. Most of the prophets of the Old Testament composed holy hymns, to the praise and honor of God. Thus did Moses (Exod. 15; Deut. 32), Hannah (1 Sam. 2), Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20), Hezekiah (Isa. 38), and Jeremiah (Lam. 3). David was, however, the most eminent, who is so fervent in the praise of God, as to say, that “His praise shall continually be in his mouth.” Ps. 34:1. In the New Testament, the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:46-55), and Zacharias (Luke 1:68-79); [pg 314] also St. Paul and St. Peter, in many places of their Epistles. These examples sufficiently show that they believed acts of thanksgiving and praise to be the most noble services which we can possibly perform in this valley of misery. And, therefore, if we are desirous to be partakers with the saints in glory, it is necessary that we should imitate their examples in praising and magnifying God.

    14. Fifthly, all creatures invite us to praise God. Thus David speaks to them all, “Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion.” Ps. 103:22. And, indeed, every creature, in its way, gives glory to its Creator; for he has stamped such illustrious characters of his glory and goodness on them all, that they cannot conceal them. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Ps. 19:1. And Job says, “Where wast thou, when the morning stars sang together?” Chap. 38:4, 7. For even the sun, the moon, and all the host of heaven, when they give their light, bear witness at the same time to the majesty and goodness of Him that made them. The earth praises God when it is fruitful and flourishing. The herbs and flowers, by their fragrance, beauty, and variety of colors, show forth the might and wisdom of their Maker. The birds with their songs; the trees with their fruits; the sea with its inhabitants (Ps. 104:25); in short, all the creatures in their several places, praise the God that made them, whilst they fulfil his will, and answer the end for which they were created. Ps. 148:1, etc. And not only so, but they call upon mankind, by the virtues and powers which God has implanted in them, as witnesses of his wisdom and goodness, to praise and glorify God. Whatever way we turn our eyes, we see so many marks of divine goodness, that one would think that nature was nothing but one great history of the glory of its Maker. But forasmuch as God has been more gracious and bountiful unto man than to any other of his creatures, mankind are certainly obliged to furnish larger and more frequent returns of gratitude than they.

    15. Sixthly, we must know, that when we have done all that we can to set forth the greatness and majesty of God, the best and most devout of men must fall short of the dignity of a subject, which no tongue, either of men or angels, can worthily express. For “Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? who can show forth all his praise?” Ps. 106:2. The most exalted praises of holy men are more properly acts of admiration and wonder, than attempts to express to the full the infinite love and majesty of God. They have the will, but not the ability, to praise God in adequate terms. Thus holy David in many Psalms stirs up his soul, and all the powers thereof, to praise his God with thanksgiving. So Moses, “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation. He is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.” Exod. 15:2. Observe, he calls God his strength; and were not that strength with us, in us, and above us, we should quickly be turned into dust, and vanish like a shadow. Therefore it is said: “Every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” Ps. 39:5. Moses also calls God his salvation; for he is our righteousness against sin; our strength against infirmities; our refuge in persecution; our joy in sadness; and lastly our life in death.

    [pg 315]

    16. And now, what is there in heaven or in earth that may be compared unto our God, with whom is such abundant salvation; who, by his power, sustains the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein (Isa. 40:12); who is so holy that all the angels adore him (Isa. 6:3), so “fearful in praises” (Exod. 15:11) that the heaven, the earth, and all that is under the earth, bow and tremble? He is so praiseworthy that all his works ought to be had in honor, and every creature ought to praise his Maker: so wise, so powerful, as to create all things out of nothing; to bring light out of darkness; righteousness out of sin; and life out of death. Should we now pass to the great work of our redemption, who can express it? He suffers his only Son to become man, that we might become the children of God. He suffers all pain as man, that we might enjoy everlasting felicity; he took upon him the form of a servant, that we might be partakers of his heavenly kingdom; lastly, he underwent death for us, that we, through him, might have life eternal. Such works, such love, who can worthily celebrate? Where is he that can explain how the infinite God, “whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain” (1 Kings 8:27), can yet dwell in us, and we in him? Or how he made our immortal souls, and will receive them to himself after their separation from the body? Or how he shall raise our dead bodies from the dust of the earth unto eternal life? It is, indeed, wonderful and strange, that that which is “mortal should put on immortality.” 1 Cor. 15:53. Wherefore, praise the Lord, O my soul.

    17. If any man, then, desires to answer the end of his creation, and not to be thought the only ingrate among all the works of God; if he desires to walk worthy of his Christian calling, and after death to be partaker with the saints of light and everlasting glory, let his soul praise the Lord, and let him beseech God that He would never suffer his soul to be unmindful or negligent of this duty. And those things which we cannot sufficiently praise in this world shall be worthily celebrated in the next, when “that which is in part shall be done away. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.” 1 Cor. 13:10, 12. Which may God grant, for Jesus Christ's sake.

    Chapter XLIII.

    To Praise God Is The Highest And Most Honorable Employment Of Men.

    It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord—upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound. For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this. Ps. 92:1-6.

    There are six Psalms which have been distinguished by the name of Golden Songs, namely, 16, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, to show us that the praise of God and prayer are the spiritual and heavenly treasure of a believing [pg 316] heart. And that this is the greatest honor man is capable of, appears hence. (1.) That a cheerful confidence in God is that which procures the soul the greatest liberty of access to him. Hence it is said, “Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” Ps. 96:6. And that this freedom of access is the highest honor of man, the very angels themselves confess, who glory in that exalted privilege. “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God.” Luke 1:19.

    2. The giving praise to God is a great honor and treasure of man, because (2) thereby we become like the angels in heaven. Therefore our blessed Saviour, pointing out the future glory of men, says, “They shall be as the angels of God.” Matt. 22:30; Luke 20:36. This, though it is ultimately to be understood of the purity and other perfections of their glorified bodies in another life; in which respect we shall not only be like the angels, but also be conformed to the glorified body of our Lord Jesus Christ (according to Phil. 3:21, and 1 John 3:2, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”)—yet even as no man can be like him in the other world, that has not been conformed to him in this; that is to say, that has not believed in him, imitated his holy life, followed him in his meekness and humility, and, in a word, perfectly clothed himself with the image of the patient, humble, afflicted and crucified Jesus, that he may be like him in his glorious, exalted, and perfect state in the other world; so also shall no man be like the angels in heaven, that has not endeavored to conform himself to their examples on earth. There is then no instance in which we can better imitate them here, than by offering up devout and incessant prayers and praises to God; for this is the employment of the holy angels. Isa. 6:3; Ps. 103:20. Whosoever then does this, imitates those blessed spirits, and maintains fellowship with them. Hence it follows, that to be continually celebrating the praises of God is the noblest and most honorable employment that man is capable of. And this may be done at any time, and in any place by a devout soul, praising from the ground of the heart. It is thence that the true praises of God proceed, according to that expression, “singing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord.” Col. 3:16.

    3. That singing praises to God is the greatest glory and highest honor that a man can receive, appears (3) hence; that by this a man becomes, as it were, the harp or instrument on which the Holy Spirit is perpetually sounding forth the praises of God. Of this we have a very beautiful representation, where the Evangelist saw a great multitude clothed in white, and following the Lamb of God; and “he heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps.” Rev. 14:2. This was also indicated under the Old Testament by that admirable variety of musical instruments mentioned by David in Ps. 150. All these instruments express nothing else but the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, by which the name, the praise, the honor, the wisdom, the mercies, and wonderful works of God were to be published to the world; which instruments are now laid aside to make room for the divine harmony of spiritual music, even that of praise and thanksgiving to God. For what the musical instrument is to man, that [pg 317] the soul of man is to the Spirit of God, being attuned and rendered harmonious by the hand that holds it. Thus it is said, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast ordained strength.” Ps. 8:2. But what greater glory can the heart, mouth, or soul of man desire and enjoy, than to be as so many organs or musical instruments of the Spirit of God? This is what David means, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2); and the apostle, “Be ye filled with the Spirit: speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Eph. 5:18, 19.

    4. That the praising of God is a man's greatest privilege, and most valuable treasure, appears (4) hence: because in that exercise is contained the greatest spiritual joy. Hence it is said, “Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands.” Ps. 92:4. And as in this divine joy consists the greatest part of the happiness of eternal life, and the kingdom of God within us, which we are told, “is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17); so whoever desires a foretaste of the happiness of that blessed state, may obtain it by the daily exercise of praise and thanksgiving. This, when it proceeds from a sincere heart, gives life and divine joy both to the soul and body; as we are told in Ps. 63, and Ps. 84. What is Paradise itself, but pure joy and unmixed pleasures; where “we taste and see that the Lord is good”? Ps. 34:8. And what is eternal life, but the abundance of this joy, “and pleasures at God's right hand for evermore”? Ps. 16:11.

    5. The greatness and excellency of this duty appears (5) hence: that by it we are led to the contemplation of all the wonderful works of God, whence such rays of divine light and wisdom dart upon the soul, as scatter and dissipate the clouds of error and darkness in which men are naturally involved. Thus saith the Psalmist, “O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this.” Ps. 92:5, 6. And St. Paul, “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” 1 Cor. 2:10. Therefore, the more a man knows of God, the more he praises him; and the more he praises him, the more he increases in the knowledge of him. For the higher any one rises in the praises of God, so much the more deeply he descends into the contemplation of his nature and providence. I do not mean the presumptuous inquiries of some curious searchers into forbidden mysteries, but those riches of the divine wisdom which God often discovers to the soul that loves and praises him, and which strike her dumb by the excess of glory and sublime manifestations of Himself. If the queen of Sheba was so astonished at the riches and magnificence of Solomon's court, as to break out in these words, “Thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom” (1 Kings 10:7, 8), how much more should the devout soul be swallowed up in rapture and astonishment, at those revelations of divine light and glory which God frequently vouchsafes to them that love and praise him, causing them to cry out with David, “O, Lord, how great are thy works! and [pg 318] thy thoughts are very deep”! Ps. 92:5. And again, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.” Ps. 25:14. And again, “Thou shalt make me to know wisdom in the hidden part.” Ps. 51:6. Therefore, as the queen of Sheba says, “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom;” so those that continually praise God, are the servants of God, standing continually about his table, believing in spirit the divine wisdom, and hearkening to the word of God. This is the never-failing fountain of true wisdom, which one of the ancient fathers treats of, calling it “the deep ocean of divine wisdom.” But sublime and glorious as it is, “a brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.” In a word, the more closely a man approaches God by praise and thanksgiving, the clearer manifestations has he of the riches and treasures of the divine wisdom; which at the same time are hidden, and as it were locked up from those that are without understanding in the ways of God.

    6. We may conclude that praising God is the highest honor, the most exalted privilege, and greatest benefit to man; because (6) by this man gains the victory over all his enemies, both Satan and men. See Psalm 8:2; 18:3, etc.; 118:5-15. We have a plain instance of this in the case of Jehoshaphat, who, with one divine hymn, routed a vast army of his enemies without loss of blood; as we find, 2 Chron. 20:21, 22. Such songs of victory are frequently to be met with in the Psalms: as Psalms, 18; 46; 47; 76, etc.

    Chapter XLIV.

    Of Patience, Which Triumphantly Endures The Cross, And Waits For The Promised Glory.

    Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.Heb. 10:36.

    True Christian patience is that virtue by which, in all afflictions that cannot, by ordinary means, be avoided, we resign ourselves to the divine will, and submit entirely to it; choosing rather to suffer the greatest evils, than murmur against God, or let go our dependence on him.

    2. The first reason or ground of this virtue is, the counsel and gracious will of God, by which we are appointed to sufferings and afflictions; according to Rom. 8:29: “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” As, therefore, God appointed his own beloved Son to the sufferings of the cross, that thereby he might bring him to glory; so also has he appointed all the true members of Christ to bear the cross, without which they cannot be his body. Eph. 5:30. To each of these he has marked, measured, and, as it were, weighed out, his [pg 319] exact portion of affliction, which cannot be escaped, much less shaken off by impatience; but may be alleviated by obedience and humble submission, and overcome by the power of Jesus Christ.

    3. The second reason why we ought to be patient is the approaching consummation of all things; at which time, as our blessed Lord has told us, “iniquity shall abound, and love shall wax cold.” Matt. 24:12. The consequence of this must be that sincere Christians will be exposed to various afflictions, crosses, injuries, and sundry kinds of death; for “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Tim. 3:12. Christ assures us that the righteous must expect tribulations and persecutions for the testimony of a good conscience. John 15:20; 16:1. And the whole Revelation of St. John testifies that Antichrist shall persecute the Church of God till the last coming of the Lord; then the conflict will at last end, and the dragon and false prophets be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Do not, therefore, deceive thyself with golden dreams of felicity, but possess thy soul in patience, and strengthen thyself against the approaching calamities.

    4. Thirdly, the hope of the restitution of all things, and the expectation of everlasting happiness, is another argument to support our patience. For as “the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain” (James 5:7), comforting himself under all his toils with the hopes of a plentiful harvest, so should Christians also learn to “possess their souls in patience” (Luke 21:19), and to persuade themselves that the great and universal harvest of the long-expected day of the Lord shall repair all our losses, and give to every one of us the fruit of our labors. For as the husbandman by no means reckons his seed lost, though it is for a while buried in the earth, but only sows it there in hopes of a harvest, so when Providence is pleased to take from us our lives, our friends, our estates, or honor, we must not look upon them as lost, but be assured that they are sown in hope of the great day of harvest, when we shall reap abundantly, “if we faint not.” Gal. 6:9. So also afflictions are compared to seed-time: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Ps. 126:5, 6.

    5. Fourthly, another support of patience is the coming of Jesus Christ; when all our sorrows shall be done away, yea, be turned into joy (John 16:20), and the just judgment of God shall fall upon our enemies; and then “shall every man have praise of God.” 1 Cor. 4:5. And this day is at hand: “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” James 5:8. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” Rom. 12:19. The time of the cross is short, but the glory that follows it will be eternal. And that day of deliverance cannot be far off.

    6. The fifth support of patience is the truth and faithfulness of God; by the consideration of which “we ought to stablish our hearts,” as St. James says, so that they may not waver. James 5:8. For as we tie a tender tree to a post, that it may not be broken by the winds; and as we cast anchor in a storm, to hold the ship, that it may not be driven by the tempest; [pg 320] so ought we to apply our faint and weak hearts to the firm pillar of God's word, and hold the ship of our souls by the anchor of hope, that it sink not. Heb. 6:19. For how many and great promises of divine assistance have we in the Holy Scriptures! How many instances of strange deliverances have we daily before our eyes! And what variety of methods has God to deliver us! How many has he preserved in pestilence and famine (2 Kings 6:25; 7:16), and delivered from the peril of the sword! 2 Chron. 20:22; 14:12. For God can turn the hearts of enemies to unity and peace, or disappoint the designs of the adversary, as appears in the history of the blessed Jesus: “for,” says the angel, “they are dead which sought the young child's life.” Matt. 2:20. God can also convert an adversary, as he did St. Paul. Acts 9: 3, etc. How often does he disappoint the bloody intentions of wicked men! Saul had a design upon the life of David, and thought he was so penned in that he could not escape; but God recalls him by the message of a new incursion of the Philistines into his country. 1 Sam. 23:27. And the chief priests having sent their officers to lay hold on the blessed Jesus, the latter were so affected by our Lord's discourses, that they could not find in their hearts to touch him. John 7:44. Sometimes God smites the enemies of his servants with blindness, as in the cases of Elisha (2 Kings 6:18) and of Lot. Gen. 19:11. Consider, too, the innumerable legions of angels that guarded the Christians of old time, and miraculously preserved them from imminent dangers, as in the case of St. Peter. Acts 5:19; 12:7-11. And how often was St. Paul wonderfully preserved, and the designs laid against his life discovered! Acts 23:16. At length, by a temporal death, God puts an end to the miseries of his servants.

    7. Sixthly, how glorious shall the recompense of past afflictions be to the faithful in the other world, which they would not exchange for all the pleasures and glories of this! Rom. 8:18. “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:4. And in Rev. 21:4 and Isa. 25:8, it is said, that “God shall wipe away all tears from the eyes of” his saints. But how shall he wipe away the tears of those that never sincerely wept?

    8. Seventhly, we must set before our eyes the examples of holy men, as Abel, Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Job, and especially the man of God, Moses; who, as the Holy Scripture witnesses, was “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Num. 12:3. The people were sometimes murmuring against him, sometimes chiding him, and sometimes threatening to stone him; but he broke their stubborn hearts by his meekness and patience, pacifying them with gentle words, praying to God for them, and entreating rather to be blotted out of the book of life, than that they should be cut off in His displeasure. Exod. 32:32. So also Elijah, having been most cruelly persecuted, yet obtained rain from God for his ungrateful country. 1 Kings 18:45. Micaiah, before the kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat, was struck by the false prophets, and cast into prison, only for dealing sincerely with the king, and giving him a salutary warning. 1 Kings 22:24; 2 Chron. 18:23. Why should I mention Isaiah, sawn asunder as a reward for his faithful services, or Jeremiah, bitterly persecuted by his countrymen (Jer. 15:10), [pg 321] or Daniel, cast into the den of lions (Dan. 6:6), or John the Baptist beheaded (Matt. 14:10), or St. Paul, and all the afflictions which he endured (2 Cor. 11:23, etc.), or the sufferings and trials of the rest of the Apostles, and all the holy martyrs? See Heb. 11:35, etc. Should you inquire of all these, by what way they entered into heaven, they will all with one voice answer: By the way of the cross and tribulation. Acts 14:22. Neither did Christ himself enter by any other way. So says St. Peter, “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” 1 Pet. 2:21, 23. So great was the patience of our blessed Redeemer, that though the sun hid its head at the time of his passion, being unwilling to witness indignities so great; though the earth trembled, and the rocks rent (Luke 23:44; Matt. 27:51); yet he, still hanging upon the cross, murmured not against his enemies, nor by either word or gesture discovered the least impatience; but on the other hand, prayed for his enemies, that they might be saved by that blood which they so unjustly shed. Now if this be the lot of the children of God, that he chasteneth every one whom he loveth and receiveth, it follows that we must either suffer, or quit our title to be the sons of God. Heb. 12:6-8. If our heavenly Father spared not his own Son, though he was without sin, but chastened him with the rod of affliction; canst thou, who art an adopted son, and polluted with innumerable sins, expect to escape it? Moreover, if God bear so patiently with our provocations, how much more patient ought we to be, when we are punished for our good, with a view to our amendment! “Let us rather rejoice,” as St. Peter exhorts us (1 Epistle 4:13), “inasmuch as we are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, we may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

    9. Eighthly, we shall bear our afflictions patiently, when we consider that Christ Jesus has sanctified and blessed our crosses by his own, and has taken away the sting of affliction, and made it to us the instrument of blessing, life, and glory. For as the sufferings of Christ ended in glory, so will the sufferings of every Christian be turned into everlasting joy.

    10. Ninthly, behold the glorious reward of those that bore their cross with patience. Though many of the holy martyrs were most barbarously treated, most inhumanly punished, and cruelly put to death, some thrown to wild beasts, some boiled in oil, others in melted lead; yet there is no man so impious or foolish, as to say, that he had not rather be in their condition now, than that of their murderers. Who would not now prefer the condition of the poor Lazarus, to that of the rich man? Luke 16:25. But if thou wouldest obtain the glory of the saints, thou must also bear the same crosses, and bear them with the same patience. To this we must refer those words of our blessed Saviour: “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil of you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven.” Matt. 5:11, 12. As also those in Rom. 8:17, 18, “If we suffer with Christ, we shall also be glorified with him.” And again, “I reckon that the sufferings [pg 322] of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

    11. Tenthly, let the deep compassion of God be a support to our patience, who can no more forget us, than a mother can forget her sucking child. Isa. 49:15. He says, that “his bowels are troubled for Ephraim, and that he will have mercy upon him.” Jer. 31:20. Hence also he is said to be “faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able” (1 Cor. 10:13); not chastening us for our hurt, but that we may obtain everlasting life, “and not be condemned with the world.” 1 Cor. 11:32. For, if the cross be nothing but a token of God's favor, wouldest thou rather choose the pleasures and dainties of the rich man here, and have his punishment hereafter, than enter into eternal life by the way of the cross, and wear a crown of glory?

    12. All that has been said on this head, is admirably explained in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 12:1-11) as follows: “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness, unto them which are exercised thereby.”

    Chapter XLV.

    Divine Consolation Produces Patience Under Afflictions.

    Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.James 1:12.

    Even as God has provided healing remedies for the body in external nature; so has he also for the soul in his holy Word. And as in this valley of misery and tears, no man can be perfectly free from crosses, afflictions, and troubles; so nothing can be more seasonable than to collect certain [pg 323] heads out of the word of God, by a proper application of which we may find help and comfort in the hour of temptation.

    2. The first comfort is the consideration of the divine providence, which lays the burden upon us. “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” 1 Sam. 2:6. “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” Job 1:21. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father.” Matt. 10:29. “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil.” Isa. 45:7. “Happy is the man whom God correcteth; therefore, despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: for he maketh sore, and bindeth up; he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” Job 5:17, 18. It is, therefore, foolish to be angry with those whom God makes the instruments of our correction. “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.” Lam. 3:39, 40. This is the design of God, that we should repent and turn from our sins, and not murmur against him that afflicts us.

    3. The second head of comfort is to consider the end and design of our cross, namely, that God sends it, not out of wrath, but from pure love to our souls. How dangerous it is to a man's soul to be always prosperous and at ease, we may learn not only from the case of “the rich man” (Luke 16:25), but also from the example of our first parents, whose happiness in paradise being greater than they could bear, they were, by the temptations of Satan, seduced from their obedience and dependence upon God. Gen. 3. And every day furnishes us with fresh instances of the danger of such a state. Now, though God, in strict justice, might have condemned man to everlasting punishment, yet he chose rather to have pity on him, and devised means for recovering his lost happiness; and one of these is the cross, or affliction. For this cause he drove him out of paradise, that in the “sweat of his face he should eat bread” (Gen. 3:19), to the intent that, by sufferings, he might be brought to repentance; and this is his constant method even to this day. Though we offend him by innumerable sins, yet, in his abundant mercy, he leaves nothing undone, no means untried, that may lead to our conversion and amendment. And this is the reason why Providence appoints every particular man his cross, that we may all be kept in true penitence and the fear of God unto eternal life. Hence it is that God is said to correct those whom he loves, that they may not be condemned with the world. Prov. 3:11, 12; 13:24; Heb. 12:6; 1 Cor. 11:32.

    4. The third argument is sin itself, by considering whether thou hast not deserved thy punishments. If thou hast (which thou canst not deny), then it is agreeable to the divine justice that thou shouldest suffer. Now, a temporal suffering, attended with the divine mercy and comfort, is certainly more desirable than an eternal one, without hopes of comfort or expectation of redemption. Call to mind the rich man, in vain crying out: “Father Abraham, have mercy on me” (Luke 16:24), and assure thyself that it will be no small comfort to consider that God has changed the eternal punishment [pg 324] threatened to our sins into a temporal correction that can be endured.

    5. Fourthly, when thou art afflicted, consider how much Christ suffered for thy sake! Think upon his poverty, “who had not where to lay his head!” Matt. 8:20. Remember the indignities which he underwent, such as no man ever did or will endure: being “despised and rejected of men” (Isa. 53:3, 4); yea, “a worm, and no man.” Ps. 22:6. Moreover, as he took upon him the miseries, pains, and diseases of all the world, hence it was that he underwent such bitter sufferings, such dreadful torments, that even the sun and moon were darkened at the sight, the earth quaked, and the rocks rent; all which, though for the sake of his most cruel enemies, he bore with a love so inexpressibly pure, with a meekness and patience so sincere, that “as a lamb, he opened not his mouth.” Moreover, though we provoke him every day by innumerable transgressions, yet he continues, and will still continue faithful, and ready to receive us to his favor upon our repentance (Jer. 3:9); yea, and if the ransom he has already paid were not sufficient, he would lay down his life again for our sakes. Therefore, he bears patiently with us, and waits day and night to be gracious. For so strong, so ardent, is his love towards us, that it cannot be quenched by any sins, any ingratitude of ours, if we but sincerely repent of them. His love is higher than heaven, deeper than the sea, and exceeding even our most exalted thoughts and expressions. But there is one thing necessary on our part, and that is, repentance. Therefore, he calls upon all without distinction, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28. And, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together!” Matt. 23:37. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” John 7:37. By these words of Holy Scripture, he continually invites every one to come to him that stands in need of mercy. How then canst thou imagine that He will forsake thee in the time of trouble, who endured so many and great miseries for thy sake! It is for this that God calls himself our Father. Now we know that a father is more compassionate and tender than a master: so that he would not have us dread him, but love him as a dutiful child does an indulgent father. When, therefore, any affliction befalls thee, receive it cheerfully, and remember that thy Father sends it to thee for good, and kiss the rod, and the hand that holds it. Consider the compassion of God as thy greatest security, the firm foundation of all thy hopes; firmly believing that thy heavenly Father will lay no more upon thee than he knows to be absolutely necessary for the salvation of thy soul.

    6. Fifthly, we must call to mind the consolatory promise of our blessed Saviour, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” John 16:20. As a little seed is multiplied into a number of grains, so one affliction shall produce a large increase of spiritual joy and glory. “They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Ps. 126:5, 6. If God should promise to convert every pebble about thy house into a precious stone, thou wouldest quickly make a [pg 325] large collection, and highly value them. The case of crosses and afflictions is just the same. Learn to love them, yea, court them, knowing that God will assuredly convert them into treasures of blessings, and spiritual joys; according to the words: “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Rom. 8:18.

    7. The sixth ground of comfort is found in the examples of the saints, none of whom were without their cross. Ask them one by one, and they will answer you, “Through much tribulation we entered into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22. Ask the elders in the Revelation, “Who are these?” and they will tell you, “These are they which came out of great tribulation.” Rev. 7:14. Inquire of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David, Daniel, Elias, Job, and all the Prophets and Apostles; they will tell you that they drank deep of the bitter cup of affliction, which was to them “the cup of salvation.” Ps. 116:13. If we consider only the holy martyrs, whose tortures and sufferings were terrible and affrighting, we shall find that nothing could seduce them from Christ. And what comparison is there between their crosses and our light afflictions, who “have not yet resisted unto blood”! Heb. 12:4. We cannot bear a trivial injury, or an affronting expression for Christ's sake, for whom the blessed martyrs underwent the most ignominious deaths. One was beheaded, another roasted alive, a third crucified; some were drowned, some stoned, others hanged, others struck through with darts, others forced to walk barefooted upon red-hot plates of iron; the love of Christ so swallowing up all sense of pain, that they cried out that “they were walking upon roses.”

    8. The seventh source of comfort is, the presence of God with us under the cross. God has nowhere declared that he dwells with the merry, but rather with the afflicted and sorrowful. “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isa. 57:15. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.—When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Isa. 41:10; 43:2. “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.” Ps. 91:14. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Ps. 34:18. It was the comforting presence of God that enabled the holy martyrs to bear up so boldly under the torments that were laid upon them, and to disregard their tormentors, as did particularly St. Laurence and St. Vincent, the latter of whom, walking upon burning coals, told them, “he was walking upon fragrant roses.” Babylas, the martyr, desired that the chain with which he was bound might be buried with him, that he might not be deprived of so great an ornament. Ignatius wished to be a grain of wheat, and to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that he might become clean [pg 326] bread unto his Saviour. These are such instances of courage and joyfulness as utterly exceed the powers of nature, and are only owing to the influences of that heavenly Comforter who supported St. Stephen, and made his face shine before the council as it had been the face of an angel. Acts 6:15. And in this sense is that saying of the Psalmist verified, “Thy comforts delight my soul.” Ps. 94:19.

    Chapter XLVI.

    Motives To Patience; And, The Benefits Of The Cross.

    Be patient, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.James 5:7.

    Patience is that virtue by which we behave ourselves quietly before God under any cross or tribulation, committing ourselves and all our concerns, whether temporal or eternal, without any reserve, to be governed and disposed of by the all-wise providence of God, entirely resigning all to his will: to the practice of which the following arguments strongly persuade us.

    2. First, because every cross and calamity of life, as sword, famine, pestilence, and other punishments, proceed from God. Nothing happens in this world at random or by chance, though, by the permission of Providence, many evils are inflicted on us by the devil and his instruments. For thus saith the Lord: “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.” Isa. 45:7. And “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” 1 Sam. 2:6. What canst thou reply to all this? Wilt thou be impatient, and fight against God?

    3. Secondly, we must remember that our punishments are less than we deserve. Our sins are always greater than our punishments, and our sufferings less than our offences. Thou canst not but own that the mercies thou hast enjoyed, from thy youth up unto this day, are more and greater than the punishments thou hast suffered. Why then shouldest thou not, with profound submission, receive cheerfully the corrections which he inflicts for thy benefit, to save thee from destruction?

    4. Thirdly, if we have in many ways provoked God, and deserved punishment, we must acknowledge with the prophet Daniel, that he is righteous in all that is brought upon us. Dan. 9:7. Is it unreasonable that God should punish thy sins, either in this world or the next? And if this be allowed, why dost thou not submit to the divine chastisements without murmuring or repining? For it is better to be punished now than hereafter, as St. Paul tells us: “When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned [pg 327] with the world.” 1 Cor. 11:32. Whosoever, therefore, is impatient, and murmurs against God, accuses him of injustice, and calls his righteousness in question; and yet “the Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” Ps. 145:17. “Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments.” Ps. 119:137.

    5. Fourthly, doth it not discover a stubborn and untractable temper, to fly in the face of God, who has so long borne with, and still continues to bear with thee patiently, as St. Paul says, speaking of the goodness, patience, and long-suffering of God, by which he endeavors to draw us to repentance? See Rom. 2:4; 9:23; 11:33.

    6. Fifthly, set before thine eyes the patience of thy Saviour. He who was spotless innocence and purity itself, though he could have destroyed his enemies in a moment, yet bore their utmost cruelties with patience, and prayed for his enemies. How much more reason then have we to be patient, who have deserved the greatest punishment, even eternal punishment. As Jacob served seven years for Rachel (Gen. 29:18), so Christ, for our sakes, submitted to the greatest miseries of life, for three and thirty years. And should we refuse to suffer a short affliction for his sake? Consider the patience of all the saints, as Joseph, and Moses, who offered to lay down his life for his people. Exod. 32:32. So David says, “If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it (the ark) and his habitation; but if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.” 2 Sam. 15:25. Consider also the cases of Job, and the holy Apostles and Martyrs.

    7. Sixthly, the remembrance of God's great mercies should move us to patience. For, first of all, thou art assured, that by Christ thou art reconciled unto God, and that therefore no man can rob thee of this transcendent mercy, though the whole world should league together against thee: “for the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him.” Ps. 103:17. What then can separate us from the love of God? Rom. 8:38, 39. Moreover, thou art redeemed by Christ unto everlasting life; a privilege which no creature can take from thee. Now, if the case be so, that the love of God and thy eternal salvation are firmly secured to thee; it will surely be easy for thee to despise the threats and assaults of external enemies and persecutors, and, like the blessed martyrs of old, to be wholly regardless of what man can do unto thee.

    8. The seventh support of patience is found in the truth and promise of God. “Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy on you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isa. 30:18. See also Ps. 25:3; Lam. 3:25. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.” Jam. 1:12.

    9. Eighthly, we ought to submit to anything for the sake of the glory of God. Thus the three men in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:16, etc.); Daniel in the lions' den; Joseph in prison; David in banishment; all gave glory to God by their patient suffering.

    10. Ninthly, for the sake of our own advantage. For, first, we learn many great and useful lessons under the discipline of the cross. “Patience worketh [pg 328] experience” (Rom. 5:4), saith St. Paul. Secondly, patience breaks the violence of our sufferings; upon which account our blessed Lord promises rest to those that bear his yoke. Matt. 11:29. On the other hand, impatience disquiets the soul, adds grief to our trouble, and a sting to our wounds, and sometimes casts us into destruction both of body and soul; an instance of which we have in the Israelites, who, being impatient, and murmuring against God, were destroyed by fiery serpents in the wilderness. Num. 21:6.

    11. Tenth, great is the reward of patience. So Job, having been despoiled of all his goods, was rewarded with a double portion. Job 42:10. For, “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.” Matt. 5:5. And, by consequence, cursed are the impatient, for they shall be disinherited.

    12. Eleventh, patience is a virtue of unspeakable advantage to all orders of men. In the Church it is a virtue which enables men to bear the opposition, contempt, and persecution to which they may be exposed by the conscientious discharge of their duty. In the State it is a useful virtue, enabling men to bear with patience the odium and reproach that generally attends public stations. For history informs us, that impatience, and a desire of revenge, have been the ruin of many flourishing states and kingdoms. As to the concerns of private families, how necessary patience is there, may be learned from everyone's experience, particularly from those that have entered into the marriage-state; in which respect, these words of Solomon are applicable, “He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty.” Prov. 16:32.

    13. Twelfth, consider that Christ has taken out the sting of our afflictions, so that they cannot hurt us with regard to our eternal happiness; for by his cross and passion he has made an atonement for our sins, and has taken away those punishments that were due to them. If then our cross be sanctified by the cross of Christ, and is to us a remedy against all our spiritual diseases, it follows that the cross itself is a help to salvation; which made the Apostle say, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” Rom. 8:28.

    14. Lastly, consider how light thy afflictions are when compared with “the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Rom. 8:18. Upon which account the love of God is still more illustrious, in that he is pleased to afflict us in this world. For the duration of a temporal affliction, if compared to eternity, is but for a moment; on the other hand, the joy that it produces lasts to eternity. Hence we ought to wish and pray for afflictions in this world, that we may have rest in the other. Therefore, St. Peter says: “Though now for a season ye are in heaviness;—yet ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” 1 Pet. 1:6, 8.


    15. The cross is the strait and narrow way leading to life,—a rod of divine correction, to awaken us from the sleep of sin and death,—the morning star that ushers in the sun of consolation,—a token of divine favor, like the rainbow. It brings us to a conformity with Christ,—strips us of the armor of darkness, and clothes us with the armor of light. It is a plant of life,—a cup of salvation,—a trial of faith,—the edification of our neighbor,—the parent of love,—a companion of [pg 329] hope,—a forerunner of grace,—a medicine of the soul,—a preservative against sin,—a destroyer of the carnal life,—a cherisher of the spiritual life,—a change of the earthly mind,—a forsaking of the world,—an increase of heavenly gifts,—a conqueror of pride,—a nurse of humility,—a teacher of patience,—a renewer of the spirit,—a strengthener of virtue,—a discipline of the body,—an enlivener of the mind,—a parent of wisdom,—a teacher of meekness,—an encourager of prayer,—a mistress of patience,—a guardian of chastity,—the peace of the conscience,—a source of inward joys,—a glittering jewel of the faithful,—the crown of the martyrs,—the glory of the elect.

    Chapter XLVII.

    Sentences, And Examples Of Patience And Consolation.

    We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.Acts 14:22.

    As the life of a Christian consists of crosses and afflictions, through which he must enter into the kingdom of God; so he must arm himself with patience, and beg it earnestly of God. We must not think that we are born for pastime and diversion, but for many afflictions and trials of patience. And here we will consider three several arguments. The first shall contain some select sentences and testimonies of Scripture. The second, examples. And the third, encouragements.

    I. Some Sentences And Testimonies Of Scripture.

    2. Patience submits itself with meekness, quietness, and humility, to the cross; receiving all kinds of afflictions, calamities, and persecutions, whether bodily or spiritual, as the cross and yoke of Christ. By this we follow our blessed Saviour, not murmuring against God, but acknowledging in faith, that God is reconciled to us through Christ, and comforting ourselves under the severest trials, with the hopes of deliverance. This is also called meekness towards them that injure and persecute us, leaving the avenging of our quarrel to God; not upon a principle of reason or worldly policy, but arising from the grace of God, as the fruit and effect of true faith.

    3. The parts of this description are—1. Obedience. 2. Imitation. 3. Not to murmur. 4. To consider God as reconciled to us through Christ. 5. To lessen our afflictions by hope. 6. To behave ourselves with meekness towards our persecutors. 7. Not to exercise revenge. And so it contains in it faith, hope, charity, humility, meekness, and obedience.

    4. These virtues are to be practised and exercised by all the disciples of Christ, who are purchased for heaven and eternal life: for against such the devil, that great dragon and old serpent (Rev. 12:7-9), yea, and the [pg 330] whole world, are fighting continually. Hence it is said, “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Rev. 12:17. To this also may be referred the following: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it” (Matt. 16:24, 25): that is, Whosoever shall refuse to bear the cross for Christ's sake, and shall flee from it, shall lose his soul.

    5. “Ye shall be hated of all men, for my name's sake.” Mark 13:13. This is indeed a heavy cross, to be hated of all men; but as it is for Christ's sake, this affords great consolation.

    6. Concerning religious persecutions, our blessed Saviour prophesies, “They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.—In your patience possess ye your souls.” Luke 21:12, 19.

    7. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 15:18, 19, 20.

    8. “They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doeth God service.” John 16:2.

    9. When St. Paul had been stoned at Lystra, but encouraged by the discourses of the disciples, “he confirmed the souls of the disciples,—exhorting them to continue in the faith: and that we must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22.

    10. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” 2 Cor. 4:8.

    11. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. If a man strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” 2 Tim. 2:3, 5, 12. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.” 2 Tim. 3:12.

    12. “Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” Heb. 10: 36.

    13. “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For, consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Heb. 12:1-3.

    14. “Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith might be found much more precious than of gold that perisheth.” 1 Peter 1:6, 7.

    15. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Rev. 3:10. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Rev. 2:10.

    [pg 331]

    II. Examples Of Patience.

    16. Abraham suffered many things from the Chaldeans, Canaanites, and Egyptians. “Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran. And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on. And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.” Acts 7:4-6. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles. For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Heb. 11:8, 9. “He delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” 2 Peter 2:7, 9. Isaac refused not to be offered up for a burnt sacrifice. Gen. 22:9. Jacob also had a great share of suffering. He fled from his brother Esau, passing over Jordan with his staff. Gen. 32:10. “By his strength he had power with God; yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed; he wept and made supplication unto him.” Hosea 12:3, 4. He saith unto Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil.” Gen. 47:9. “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord.” Jam. 5:11. Moses was meek, and afflicted above all the men that were upon the face of the earth. Numb. 12:3. He “chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Heb. 11:25. How many afflictions did David suffer, who was a type of Christ! “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust; save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me.” Ps. 7:1. “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble.” Ps. 10:17. Solomon's motto was, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before (the) honor (that is, of the next world) is humility.” Prov. 15:33. What patience had not the three men in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:21), and the holy Apostles and Martyrs! The patience of Christ exceeds all these examples. 1. Because he was most obedient upon the cross. 2. Because he murmured not against God. 3. Because he held fast his confidence in God, and called him his God, though forsaken by him. Matt. 27:46. 4. Because he heartily prayed for his enemies; and revenged not himself when it was in his power.

    III. Consolations.

    17. “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:4. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30. In these words there is a fivefold consolation. 1. That the afflicted may come to Christ. 2. May be refreshed. 3. May take up his yoke. 4. May find rest unto their souls. 5. That his yoke is easy. For when it is borne for Christ's sake, it is not burdensome, but refreshing. Hence St. Paul saith, “We glory in tribulations; knowing that tribulation worketh [pg 332] patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope, and hope maketh not ashamed: because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” Rom. 5:3, 4, 5. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1:12. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”“All things work together for good to them that love God.” Rom. 8:35, 28. “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:23. “I have fought a good fight.” 2 Tim. 4:7.

    Chapter XLVIII.

    There Is No Affliction For Which God Has Not Provided Appropriate Consolation. The Consolation Which He Affords Is Always Greater Than Our Misery; This Consideration Should Sustain And Confirm Our Patience.

    The holy Apostle St. Paul, when meditating upon the tender mercies and compassions of our Heavenly Father to all afflicted and contrite sinners, breaks out into these words, full of the praise of God: Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ—knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. 2 Cor. 1:3-7.

    2. In these words, so full of grace, the holy Apostle gives thanks to God for heavenly consolation; which is indeed the only remedy against all the troubles and adversities that oppress us in this life; teaching, at the same time, that no adversity befalls us, how great soever, but God supports us under it by his divine comfort, which is more abundant than our sufferings. This he confirms by seven weighty arguments, which he repeats in regular order.

    3. The first is, because God is the Father of mercies, which is the most cheering appellation that can be conceived: for he shows himself a Father, not only in name, but in sincerity and truth to all afflicted souls. Consider what are the properties of a father; for they all belong to God our Heavenly Father. It is the part of a father, 1. To love his children. 2. To take care of them. 3. To feed them. 4. To defend them. 5. To correct and instruct them. 6. To pity their infirmities. 7. To be tender of them. 8. To give them an inheritance. If a man will but thoroughly consider these particulars, he must acknowledge that the very name of a father carries in it such a treasure of comfort, as abundantly outweighs all the miseries of human life. And to illustrate this [pg 333] yet more perfectly, St. Paul, by a most significant epithet, calls him, the Father of mercies; that is, the eternal fountain of all that tenderness and affection that is diffused through the hearts of so many thousands of fathers. Hence it follows, that no cross can befall the children of God so great, as is the comfort that arises from the Father of mercies.

    4. The second argument is contained in this expression, the God of all comfort; that is, he overflows with eternal and infinite comforts. For as God is the eternal, infinite, and chief Good; and on the other hand, our crosses are finite and temporal; what can proceed from that eternal and chief Good, but perpetual comfort, not only equal, but superior to our greatest affliction? For as our miseries are finite, and the consolations of God are infinite, it clearly follows that the latter must be superior to the former.

    5. The third argument is, the example of St. Paul, and all the saints. “God,” saith he, “comforteth us in all our tribulation.” If we but read the histories of holy men of former times, and compare their trials and afflictions with the divine consolations wherewith they were supported under them, we shall easily perceive that our afflictions are but light in comparison with their torments; and that no cross can befall us so great, as to exceed those divine comforts and supports which the holy martyrs enjoyed. Who will presume to compare his crosses with those of Job? Who can say he has been afflicted like Jeremiah (Jer. 20:7, etc.)? or tried like David? Ps. 88. And what is our cross compared with that of Christ? or are our sufferings, compared with the torments of the holy martyrs? Their examples, as they were the children of God, our Heavenly Father has set before our eyes, to teach us, 1. That the cross is the sanctuary of the true Christian. 2. His heavenly and spiritual glory. 3. His victory over the world and the devil. 4. His preparation for the kingdom of heaven. 5. That without the cross no man can enter into the kingdom of God. 6. That the cross is the image of Christ. 7. That it is an exalted and sublime mystery, in which lies hid the highest wisdom of God. But flesh and blood cannot comprehend this, neither taste the heavenly manna hidden in the word of God, except by the cross. Hence, the divine comforts are greater than any human sufferings.

    6. The fourth is expressed in these words, “That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Now, how did God comfort the apostles? And how do they comfort us again? Certainly, by the gracious promises in his holy Word. Hence it is said, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.” Rom. 15:4. Now, whosoever reads the Word of God as he ought, must needs observe how kindly God vouchsafes to treat with us, what abundance of grace, what spiritual and eternal blessings he promises to bestow upon us; so that we must needs confess that such comfort outweighs all the sufferings of human life. For though it is said of this troublesome world, “that all the sons of Adam, from the day of their birth, find it full of trouble and unquietness, fear, anger, and strife;” yet, if to this state of trouble and misery we oppose the glories of the eternal kingdom [pg 334] (2 Cor. 4:17), it will appear that the joys of the next life, promised in the Word of God, are vastly superior to the miseries of this. It is, indeed, true, that sin is a very great and dreadful evil, daily encompassing us about, and involving us in innumerable miseries. Yet, if we but call to mind, that Christ is our righteousness, it will thence follow that the burden of sin which lies upon us is much less than our spiritual consolation which is in Christ Jesus. For greater is the righteousness which is in Christ than the sin which is in us. In short, the Word of God so abounds and overflows with heavenly consolations, that the heart of man is too narrow to receive them. It is like the poor widow's pot of oil (2 Kings 4:6), which, by the blessing of Elisha, produced more oil than there were vessels to receive. Yea, it often happens that a word of Holy Scripture can comfort a man more than the whole world, yea, than the devil himself can distress him. “The river of God is full of water,” saith David (Ps. 65:9), so full that no man can empty it. Therefore, God calls himself “The fountain of living waters.” Jer. 2:13. And so in Ps. 36:9, “With thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light.” Who, then, can think that the fountain of sin and death more abounds with affliction than the fountain of life with comforts?

    7. The fifth ground of comfort is that the apostle calls the cross of the faithful, “the sufferings of Christ.” And that 1. Because all the faithful are the spiritual members of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, as the head feels all the pains of every member of the body, by a certain sympathy arising from its union with them; so Christ, who is our Head, feels all the crosses and sufferings of every member. 2. Because Christ dwells in his faithful servants, and is vitally united to them; therefore, also, he suffers in his members, sharing in all their sufferings, banishments, and persecutions, as he witnessed by a voice from heaven, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Acts 9:4. 3. Because we are born anew of Christ, and he is our “everlasting Father.” Isa. 9:6. Now we know, that the heart of a father has a very tender sense of the sufferings of his child. Therefore, the sufferings of all believers are the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. And if it be so, canst thou think any affliction so great that it cannot be made easy and tolerable by this consideration, that Christ is thy Head, and thou art his member; that he is united to thee, dwells in thee, and suffers in thee, regarding all thy sufferings as his own; that he is thy Father, and feels in himself all the crosses, pains, and afflictions that are laid upon thee?

    8. The sixth ground of consolation, the Apostle deduces from Jesus Christ, the spring and foundation of all comfort, in these words: “Our consolation aboundeth by Christ.” As sin is the fountain of all misery; so is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the spring and fountain of all joy and comfort. Now as the power of Christ is greater than the power of sin; so is the comfort that proceedeth from him greater and more powerful than any misery that can arise from sin; according to the words of St. Paul, “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.” Rom. 5:20. “For it pleased the Father, that in Christ should all fulness dwell.” Col. 1:19. Him, therefore, the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 61:1) describes as sent from God to comfort all that mourn. Whence it follows, that the comforts [pg 335] flowing from Christ, are greater than any crosses and sorrows which we endure.

    9. The seventh comfort which the Apostle mentions, is the glory of Christ: hence he says, “As ye are partakers of his sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.” This glory we know to be so great, that he is glorious, not only with respect to his own Person, in a manner incommunicable to his body, which is the Church; but also that he, as the Head of the Church, was exalted to glory for that very end, that all the members of his body might be partakers with him. Hence St. Paul calls him, “The head of the church which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Ephes. 1:22, 23. And now, what calamity, what cross, what affliction can be so bitter, as not to be sweetened by the consolation arising from such future glory? Wherefore St. Paul does not “reckon the sufferings of this present time to be worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Rom. 8:18.

    10. It now remains that we speak of the five means, by which we may be partakers of these comforts.

    11. The first is, true repentance and knowledge of sin. Without this, the soul is not capable of comfort; according to that saying of Christ, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Matt. 9:12. On the other hand, a soul that has a true sense of sin, understands that sin has cast it into so many miseries and calamities, and therefore murmurs not against God, but abhors itself and its own iniquities (Lam. 3:39); and confesses that God is just in all that he has brought upon it. For as sin, like a general contagion, has infected the whole mass of mankind; so also the sentence of misery and affliction in this moral state, has passed upon all, for that all have sinned. And whoever, like the prophet Daniel (Dan. 9:7, 16), confesses his sin, shall find consolation descending upon him from heaven like an angel, as in the case of Daniel, ch. 9:21.

    12. The second means, is faith, which hangs upon Jesus Christ, as the infant upon the mother's bosom. It rests entirely in the paternal affection of the God of all consolation. It holds fast by Jesus Christ, as Jacob did by the angel, saying, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Gen. 32:26. It is faith which in Christ Jesus overcometh sin, death, the world, the devil, and all misery. For “all things are possible to him that believeth.” Mark 9:23. And he that believeth shall see the glory of God. John 11:40.

    13. The third means, is prayer, which is a conversation with God. As it is a relief and a refreshment to an afflicted soul, to communicate its sorrows and troubles to a faithful friend: so are our hearts refreshed and comforted, by conversing with God in prayer. “When I cried, thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.” Psalm 138:3. Prayer offered up in the name of Jesus Christ, is like Jacob's ladder (Gen. 28:12), on which the soul ascends from earth to heaven; as soon as the prayer ascends, an angel, that is, divine consolation, descends upon it. Thus it was in the agony of our blessed Lord; for when he prayed more earnestly, lo! an angel descended from heaven to strengthen him. Luke 22:43. And we may assure ourselves, that whensoever we pray according to His will, we shall be strengthened according to His promise.

    14. The fourth means of obtaining [pg 336] divine consolation is, praising God, which is always attended with comfort and spiritual joy. He that is daily employed in the praises of God, lives the life of an angel; for they, we know, continually “behold the face of the Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10), and sing his praises. This is their highest joy, this is the bread of angels. Whence it appears, that praising and glorifying God must afford the most exalted joy and comfort to a devout soul. Hence David says, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” Psalm 34:1, 2. In this place David joins the praise of God and spiritual joy together; teaching us thereby, that the one is the fruit of the other, because they are most intimately connected.

    15. The last sure and certain means of receiving divine consolation, is a diligent reading, hearing, and meditating on the Word of God. “For whatsoever things were written, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Rom. 15:4.

    16. From the Word of God as the true fountain of consolation, are to be drawn all the above-mentioned arguments and grounds of comfort; namely, joy and quiet of mind under all kinds of crosses and afflictions. Hence also we must learn how these comforts are to be obtained, namely, by true repentance, a living faith, ardent prayer, and continually praising God.

    Chapter XLIX.

    The Truth Of God And The Certainty Of His Promises, Ought To Dispose Us To Patience.

    I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord thy God?Micah 7:7-10.

    We read in the prophet Jeremiah (chap. 9:4, etc.), that before the Babylonish captivity and the destruction of the temple, besides the idolatry that brought that desolation upon them, treachery, lying, falsehood, hatred, and envy prevailed to a high degree; and that charity was quite cold and dead amongst them. For wheresoever these abominations prevail, there, it is plain, God is not; and that he has forsaken not only the city or the kingdom, but also the hearts of those that dwell there; and when God forsakes us, destruction quickly finds us. So says the prophet (Jer. 9:4-8): “Take ye heed every one of his neighbor, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will walk with slanders. They weary themselves to commit iniquity. Their [pg 337] tongue is as an arrow shot out, it speaketh deceit; one speaketh peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait.”

    2. Here we may see the wretched state of Jerusalem, and what flagrant iniquities they were which hastened its ruin. Treachery and iniquity did so abound, that there was neither truth nor honesty left among the people. Their only aim was to cheat and defraud one another; and their hearts being thus set upon iniquity, they brought on themselves ruin and destruction.

    3. Something similar to this, is the complaint of the prophet Micah: “Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage; there is no cluster to eat; my soul desired the first ripe fruit. The good man is perished out of the earth; and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood. They do evil with both hands earnestly. Trust ye not in a friend.” Micah 7:1, 2, 3, 5. When a people or nation are come to this pass, they are industriously digging a pit, into which they design to rush boldly, and with their eyes open. Would to God this were not the case in our own times! We, too, deeply share in their guilt, and we must expect to share in their punishments. For our destruction is of ourselves. O that we could at last awake, renounce our past errors, put off our carnal minds that are at enmity against God, and love the truth and peace. If we do not so, we are condemned already, and cannot receive help.

    4. But in order that upright and good men may not be too much discouraged in this sad and dangerous state of things, we must consider by what means the holy men of old supported themselves in such a state of universal corruption. The prophet Micah (Micah 7:7, etc.), pointing out, as it were, with his finger the fountain of true consolation, says, “Therefore I will look unto the Lord: I will wait for the God of my salvation!” That is his first comfort. The second is, “My God will hear me.” The third is, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy. When I fall, I shall arise.” The fourth is, “When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” The fifth is, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me.” The sixth is, “He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” The seventh is, “Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her.”

    5. First, he says, “I will look unto the Lord: I will wait for the God of my salvation.” In these words is contained the doctrine of faith and hope, which are, as it were, the two watchful, never-sleeping eyes of the soul, by which it constantly looks towards God in the greatest dangers and necessities; the greater the calamity, the stronger ought to be our faith, the more vigorous our hope. Then it is that we should call to mind the words which we repeat at the beginning of the Apostles' Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;” that is, I believe that there is no misery or calamity so great, but God can and will deliver me out of it. Let us learn, therefore, to turn away our eyes from temporal suffering, not regarding it, but God “who worketh salvation in the midst of the earth” (Ps. 74:12), and who alone [pg 338] can and will deliver us according to Psalm 123: “Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us; for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.”

    6. Moreover, as it is the way of God to help us, not at the time appointed by us, but in his own due time; so it is not enough for us to say, “I will look unto the Lord;” but we must add, “and wait for the God of my salvation.” For faith, hope, and patience, have an entire relation to, and mutual dependence upon each other; as we may see in Psalm 27; in the beginning of which, David, looking up to God, says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” He concludes his prayer with these words: “I believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Ps. 27:1, 14. So Psalm 130:5, 6: “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait; and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning.” “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Habak. 2:3. But if the sorrowing soul shall say: “Alas, I have waited a great while!” let her know that it is necessary it should be so, in order that her faith, hope, and patience, may be tried and approved in the sight of God. We never please God more, than when with patience and humility we wait for the accomplishment of his promises, and receive with submission all his determinations concerning us.—Everything has a certain beginning; so has everything an appointed end; and whosoever does not wait for that, labors in vain. As the grain is exposed to all the vicissitudes of wind and weather, before it comes to maturity, and, whenever it becomes ripe, is the sweeter and better upon that account: so is it with the cross. He that bears it with patience, and waits for the end of it, shall reap “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” Heb. 12:11. For St. Paul affirms, “that hope maketh not ashamed” (Rom. 5:5); for when it is founded upon divine grace, as upon a firm rock, it continues immovable in adversity. Hence it is said, “Let none that wait on thee be ashamed.” Psalm 25:3. “They looked unto him and were lightened; and their faces were not ashamed.” Ps. 34:5. “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed.” Ps. 31:1. “The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.” Ps. 9:18.

    7. The second consolation is, that God will certainly hear our prayers: “The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.” Ps. 6:8, 9. “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” Ps. 18:6. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The eyes of the Lord are [pg 339] upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” Ps. 34:6, 15. “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.” Ps. 91:14, 15. “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea.” Ps. 65:2, 5. But if thou shalt say in thine heart, “All these were men eminent for holiness, faith, and dependence upon God; but as for me, I am not worthy to be compared with them,” I answer, out of Rom. 3:23—“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” but are heard and accepted through grace, by repentance and faith. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them.” Ps. 145:18, 19. “He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for the generations to come.” Ps. 102:17, 18.

    8. The third consolation is contained in these words: “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy! when I fall, I shall arise.” Though the world, according to the perverse spirit that governs it, rejoice at the sufferings of good men (John 16:20), yet shall they at last be confounded, and the righteous be comforted. Hence we are told, “The Lord will not cast off forever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” Lam. 3:31, 32, 33. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Cor. 10:13. The same God that laid the burden on you, will in due time take it off, comfort you, and deliver you from death. “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.” Ps. 30:11. “The Lord upholdeth all that fall; and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.” Psalm 145:14. “In a little wrath, I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.” Isa. 54:8. “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning.” Lam. 3:22, 23.

    9. The fourth consolation is contained in these words: “When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” By darkness, he means a state of affliction; which is darkness, indeed, wherein a man can neither see nor be seen by his friends with the least glimpse of worldly comfort. The sufferer sits in the very region of shame and sorrow, the valley of the shadow of death, exposed to the violence and assaults of evil spirits and wicked men. But dark and dismal as it is, the Lord himself will enlighten it; the light of whose countenance shines most of all in the dismal darkness of worldly affliction. There he appears to comfort the disconsolate, and cheer, with the brightness of his presence, the desolate and desponding soul. Thus it is said, “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” [pg 340] Ps. 97:11. “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness; he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.” Ps. 112:4.

    10. The fifth consolation is this: “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me.” Let the afflicted person think on this, and remember that though from those that afflict him he may have deserved better usage; yet from the hand of God, he has deserved a great deal worse. Whatever befalls us, is by the permission of God. Upon this account, the evils that we suffer from wicked men, are called in this verse, “the indignation of the Lord.” Blessed is he that beareth this affliction with patience, and receiveth it no otherwise than as coming from God himself. “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law; that thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked.” Ps. 94:12, 13. “It is good for a man that he sit alone and keep silence, because he hath borne the yoke upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him; he is filled full with reproach.” Lam. 3:27-30. This was truly the case of David, who might properly say, “I will bear the anger of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” For thus he speaks, when he commanded Zadok to carry back the ark of God. “If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it and his habitation. But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.” 2 Sam. 15:25, 26. And when Shimei cursed him, he humbly acknowledges the appointment and permission of God, saying, “Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him.” 2 Sam. 16:11. “Fret not (therefore) thyself because of evil-doers. Put thy trust in God.” Psalm 37:1, 5.

    11. The sixth consolation is, “He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” This is a figure of speech taken from the condition of a man that has long lain in darkness, and been as a dead man out of mind; or of one taken out of a dark and deep prison into the light and open air. For as these, having been long confined to darkness and misery, are exceedingly refreshed with the cheerful light of the sun and the splendor of the heavens; so after the patient bearing of the cross, the light of God's countenance breaks forth, and the beams of divine consolation strike powerfully upon the soul, filling it with glory and joy unspeakable. Ps. 50:2. Did not Joseph thus break through the shades of darkness and misery, like the bright sun out of a cloud? Gen. 41:38. And did not God bring king David out of the region of misery into a state of joy and happiness? So also at the resurrection of the dead shall our bodies be brought out of their dark prisons, and we shall rejoice in the everlasting light and glory of God.

    12. The seventh consolation is, “Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her.” This is the proper punishment of wicked men who rejoice at the affliction of others, that they shall be covered with confusion. The time will certainly come, when the mockers shall be struck with unavoidable shame, and shall be convinced by [pg 341] their own consciences, of the wrong which they have done to others. This was Shimei's case, who could not but blush and be confounded in the presence of David and Solomon. 2 Sam. 19:19; 1 Kings 2:44. “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you: and to you who are troubled, rest.” 2 Thess. 1:6, 7. “I rejoiced not at the destruction of him that hated me, nor lifted up myself when evil found him. Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin, by wishing a curse to his soul.” Job 31:29, 30. “Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust.” Matt. 5:44, 45.

    Chapter L.

    Showing How Hope Is Tested In Seasons Of Adversity; It Maketh Not Ashamed.

    Thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.Isa. 49:23.

    As faith is nothing else but a fixed and steady assurance by which the devout Christian depends perfectly and entirely on the favor and mercy of God promised in Christ Jesus (Heb. 11:1), so hope is a continued and patient waiting for the accomplishment of that promise which is the object of faith, and is nothing else but a patient, constant, and persevering faith.

    2. Of this hope St. Paul says, that it “maketh not ashamed” (Rom. 5:5): being, as well as faith itself, founded upon a firm, immovable, and eternal basis. And this is God himself, who never faileth those that wait for him; and for the same reason, the peace, joy, rest, glory, and confidence imparted by hope are eternal. On this foundation, he who hopes stands fixed and secure amidst all the crosses and calamities of life; and though the rains descend, the floods come, and the boisterous winds blow upon him, he is fearless and unmoved, knowing that “his house is built upon a rock.” Matt. 7:25.

    3. And as hope is built upon an immovable foundation, and the things of this world are fleeting and uncertain; therefore its rest, its joy, its entire dependence, are in God alone, despising the riches, pleasures, honors, and glories of the world. “They that trust in the Lord, shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people.” Ps. 125:1, 2.

    4. On the other hand, they whose hopes are founded on the transitory riches, honors, and pleasures of this world, are perpetually exposed to all the fears, cares, and calamities of life; [pg 342] lie at the mercy of every blast of inconstant fortune, by which they are tossed to and fro; and depend upon the uncertain will of the world for every quiet moment they enjoy.

    5. This can never be learned but under the discipline of the cross. For such is the nature of affliction, that it searches and discovers the inmost recesses of the soul; and shows us whether the hope that is in us be true or false. By this touchstone, we often find that our hopes have not been so much fixed upon God himself, as upon the favors and blessings he bestows; that we have built upon the sand, and idolized the creature, instead of worshipping the Creator. For so great is the blindness of our nature, that we often rest in the creatures, instead of raising our minds from them to the Creator, as he designed. For with this intent God bestows on man so many and great blessings, that by the gifts he may be drawn to the Giver; and learn to know, love, fear, reverence, and hope in God alone. But so great is the corruption of our nature, that we are not disposed to serve God for nought; and we worship him not for his own sake, but for the sake of what he bestows.

    6. Upon this account, it is necessary that God should sometimes visit us with crosses and afflictions, and deprive us of his good things which we have abused; that so we may learn to praise, and glorify, and depend on him alone. Nay, we sometimes proceed so far, as to trust in ourselves, and entirely depend on our own power and abilities; then it is that God in mere mercy interposes; and, that we may not grow too proud, breaks us in pieces, humbles, and confounds us, and so empties us of ourselves, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God. This we cannot be, without being first emptied of all that arrogance, pride, and self-conceit, which stand in perfect opposition to the grace of God.

    7. Hence hope is a militant virtue, fighting against all that confidence in ourselves, all that self-exaltation upon the score of our own gifts, merit, righteousness, prosperity, honors, and riches, in which the natural man places all his confidence. The business of hope is to oppose and conquer all these delusions of the devil, and to seek rest and peace in God alone.

    8. Hence it follows, that hope, like faith and charity, has God only for its object. Whosoever aims at any other mark, or places his hope on any other being, is destitute of any well-founded hope. As all created beings when out of God are nothing; it follows that the hope reposed in them is also nothing. So then, these three virtues, faith, hope, and charity, are in the highest sense spiritual, admitting of no earthly mixture, but are fixed entirely on God, who is their eternal and invisible basis. To this refers that passage of St. Paul, “Hope that is seen, is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” Rom. 8:24. Whosoever, therefore, places his hope upon anything that is visible, has not the invisible God for his support, but rests upon a shadow; and when the visible world, which is his basis, shall sink into nothing, by consequence his hope, that was built upon it, must sink and perish with it.

    9. Consider this, O man, and by carefully comparing time with eternity, persuade thyself to entertain a true and saving hope, and to be led into a state of firm and lasting peace. Eternity is unchangeable, ever constant, always the same; but time is nothing but change and revolution. [pg 343] The brightest day declines and ends in darkness, weeks are swallowed up in months, and months in years; the opening spring and fruitful summer sink, by degrees, into a desolate winter; and not only so, but all the elementary bodies are in a state of change, always shifting from one appearance to another; not to mention the continual motions of the heavens. So that this world cannot be the region of rest. For whatsoever is subject to time, is continually passing, and vanishing; in a word, “All is vanity” (Eccles. 1:2), and we shall never rest but in eternity. And though all men, both good and bad, long for peace and tranquillity; yet they, and they only, shall find it, who have learned to lose and resign themselves in Christ, the eternal rest of the soul. And this is not so much the work of labor and study, as of quietness and hope. Isa. 30:15.

    10. Moreover, the Christian's hope must be tried, not only by the loss of temporal things, but also by the withholding of the communications of divine grace and favor (as commonly happens in great temptations); that seeing ourselves deprived even of those most excellent and spiritual blessings, on which we depend, our hope may arrive at the highest pitch of purity and sincerity, and rest on God alone. In such a case “we must hope, even against hope” (Rom. 4:18), as we read that Abraham did. Here a man must, with his blessed Redeemer, be deserted and forsaken, not only by man, but by God himself. And this is properly “to be conformed to the image of the Son of God.” Rom. 8:29. This is the truest test or probation of the Christian's hope.

    11. For, whereas, in other afflictions, our patience, humility, devotion, and charity, are principally exercised; in these spiritual trials of the conscience, our hope is eminently proved and tried, whether it be sincere or not. In this probation, though a man be perfectly despoiled of all his grace, yet shall he at last triumph in that “hope which maketh not ashamed.” And though the soul that is thus tried, be sometimes ready to fall into impatience, murmuring, blasphemy, or the like; yet there remains, as it were, some gentle breath of hope, arising from the ground of the heart, by the power of the divine Spirit, which contradicts and opposes those unholy suggestions. When this combat is over, all his transgressions are forgiven, and his sins are covered and he himself is like “a brand plucked out of the fire” (Zech. 3:2); “or like a piece of an ear taken out of the mouth of the lion.” Amos 3:12. Now this impatience being involuntary, and being opposed with sighs and groans unutterable, is by no means to be called despair; considering withal, that this is the sharpest conflict, the severest trial of the Christian's hope; and these are the “unutterable groanings” which St. Paul mentions. Rom. 8:26.

    12. They that undergo these trials, are the greatest saints, and are nearer to God than those who repose all their hope and confidence in themselves. The pride of such men, in vainly arrogating any perfections to themselves, makes them in the highest degree blasphemers against God; whereas the disciples of the cross are his dearest children, as we may see in the examples of Job and David: for by being thus stripped of themselves, they are purified as gold in the refiner's fire; and being thus cleansed from all their dross of pride and vainglory, they shine in the glory of the divine image, [pg 344] like a beautiful jewel set in the purest gold; so that nothing remains of which the proud man can boast.

    13. By such trials as these, a man is taught to put his trust in nothing but in God alone. For when affliction has taken everything else from us, God alone cannot be taken from us. Yea, affliction is so far from separating us from God, that it rather brings us to God, restoring us to God, and God to us. It is hope, therefore, that preserves us in calamities, so that we are not consumed, and, therefore, it “maketh us not ashamed.” Rom. 5:5. But as the soul came out from God, so must she return thither again, void of all love of the creatures; and when a man passes out of himself and all the creatures, whither can he go, or where can he rest, but in the hands of his God, who comprehendeth and upholdeth the world, and all that is therein? Isaiah 40:12. Whosoever, therefore, bids farewell to the world, and is divested of all love of himself and the creatures, having his heart fixed on no earthly thing, but being perfectly free and at liberty, resigning himself and all his concerns into the hands of God, and being content under every dispensation of providence—he may be truly said to rest in God. But those who are entangled in the love of themselves and the creatures, being slaves to their own wills, resting in them, and not submitting to the will of God, must perish in the end.

    Chapter LI.

    Comfort For Those That Are Weak In Faith.

    A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.Isaiah 42:3.

    In this verse the holy prophet comforts those that are weak in faith by two beautiful similitudes, excellently adapted to the purpose. For as a bruised reed (to which he first alludes) must be handled very gently, lest it be entirely broken to pieces; and as the smoking flax, when once it has taken fire, must be continually encouraged by a gentle breath, for fear of blowing it out; so our blessed Redeemer, who knows our infirmities, treats us with great gentleness, reviving from time to time the spark of faith within us, with the soft and gentle breath of his Spirit, that we may not be discouraged by our manifold infirmities, but be enlivened and strengthened under them. Isaiah 57:15. And because this weakness of faith is a very grievous temptation, to which all Christians are more or less exposed; therefore has the Holy Spirit, in the Word of God, furnished us with very strong consolations against it, which ought to be deeply rooted in our mind, that we may have them in readiness, and apply them with success in the sad hour of temptation.

    2. (1) We must carefully remember, that faith is not of ourselves, but is the gift and work of God; “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him.” John [pg 345] 6:29, 44. “Who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” Ephes. 1:19. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephes. 2:8. “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Heb. 12:1, 2. “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.” Rom. 5:5. “We have the first fruits of the Spirit, which helpeth our infirmities.” Rom. 8:23, 26. Now, since faith is the work of God, and not our own, it follows, that it is not in our power to have it in such measures and proportions as we please. And whereas he has promised to save us by faith, it follows, that he knows how strong our faith ought to be, for the obtaining that great end, and will strengthen it accordingly. Therefore this was the answer of God to St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” 2 Cor. 12:9. “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” John 3:27.

    3. (2) Whilst we are in this life, we must not expect to arrive at the highest pitch of perfection. This God permits, with a design to cure that natural pride and vanity of spirit to which the best of us are subject, by the daily sense of our great and manifold infirmities. To this we may refer the words addressed by St. Paul to the Philippians, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that, for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:12. As if he had said, “Though I am not yet so strong in faith, as to be able to apprehend him as I ought, yet I am apprehended in him; that is, I am in Christ Jesus by faith.” Let us, considering these things, bear patiently the infirmities of our nature, till we can attain to perfection.

    4. (3) God does not despise or reject our weak faith, but cherishes, strengthens, and improves it, and at last crowns it with a blessed conclusion. In this sense we are to understand and apply those golden passages that follow: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.” Isaiah 43:3. “Thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat.” Isaiah 25:4. “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; behold, your God will come and save you.” Isaiah 35:3, 4. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength.” Isaiah 40:29. “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” Isaiah 50:4. “I revive the spirit of the humble, and the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15. “The Lord hath sent me to preach good tidings unto the meek, to bind up the brokenhearted,” and to comfort all that mourn. Isaiah 61:1. In this sense we may understand that passage in Exod. 34:26. “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk;” that is, thou shalt not grieve the tender, weak faith of a babe in Christ. A strong and vigorous faith can bear anything, can pass through the flames of fire, and the floods of water; but a young, tender faith, must be softly and gently treated, like a bruised reed, which is in continual danger of being broken to [pg 346] pieces. “I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.” Jer. 31:25. They that labor under the weakness of faith, are the poor in spirit, to whom the blessing is promised, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Matt. 5:3. They that feel the weakness of their faith, are sick in spirit: and to them must be applied for their consolation, that passage in St. Matthew, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Matt. 9:12. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” Rom. 14:1. “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak.” 1 Cor. 9:22. “I will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick.” Ezek. 34:16. “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37. On these promises, full of divine consolation, let all who are weak in faith entirely depend, and satisfy themselves that God is faithful and true (Psalm 33:4), and will not fail in his promises. To this head also we refer the instances of those that have been weak in faith. Such was the man (Mark 9:23, 24), who, when our Lord said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth;” answered with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” The nobleman. John 4:47. The disciples in the ship. Matt. 8:24. St. Peter sinking in the sea, when our Lord stretched out his hand and supported him. Matt. 14:31. Therefore, says St. Paul, “Comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient towards all men.” 1 Thess. 5:14.

    5. (4) God has, indeed, the greatest concern for those that are weak in faith. Our Lord himself tells us, “They that be (strong and) whole need not a physician, but they that are sick (and weak).” Matt. 9:12. The shepherd leaves his ninety and nine sheep in the wilderness, and goes seeking that which was lost, until he find it (Luke 15:4); and as tender mothers show the most attention to their weak and sickly children; so does our Heavenly Father to those that are weak in faith.

    6. (5) But if thou say in thy heart that thou perceivest scarcely a grain of faith in thyself, then I would ask, Dost thou sincerely desire to have faith? If thou dost, all is well; fear not. For since it is God that worketh in us “to will,” it follows, that whosoever finds in himself that good will and desire, finds in himself the work of God. Hence let him be encouraged and assured that he who has given us the will, will also give us the power to do. Phil. 1:6; 2:13.

    7. (6) God is so compassionate to devout prayers and desires, that he never disappoints the hopes of those that trust in him. “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.” Ps. 10:17; 9:18. Wherefore, thy faith is as great as thy desire of obtaining it. “For God trieth the hearts and reins.” Ps. 7:9. “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him.” Ps. 91:14.

    8. (7) It is therefore better to glory in the weakness, than in the strength of our faith. For it is the will of God concerning us, that we fall not into spiritual pride. “My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Cor. 12:9. Let this be thy comfort when thou laborest under weakness of faith.

    9. (8) Faith, though it be ever so weak, is still faith. For our salvation [pg 347] depends not upon the worthiness of our faith, whether it be strong or weak, but upon Jesus Christ, on whom it lays hold. As, therefore, a precious jewel may be held by the hands of a little infant as well as of a strong man, so a weak faith may as well lay hold on the merits of Christ Jesus (the true Christian's only hope and treasure), as that which is much stronger, and by consequence, both be capable of the same righteousness and blessedness. And as the apple of the eye, small and delicate as it is, can perceive not only the light and splendor of the meridian sun, but even the sun itself, though so many times larger than the earth, so does the eye of faith, though weak and infirm, perceive and feel the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2), the Lord Jesus Christ, with all the bright rays of his spiritual gifts and graces.

    10. (9) Such is the nature of faith, that it is sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker; and sometimes the light thereof seems to be darkness. This has been attested by the examples of almost all the saints, particularly David, and Abraham, who is called “the father of the faithful” (Rom. 4:11; Gal. 3:7); and yet (Gen. 12:11) he was afraid that the Egyptians would put him to death on account of Sarah, his wife, and this, too, after he had received the promise. Moses also, at the water of Meribah, betrayed a want of faith. Numb. 20:10-13; Exod. 17:7. David's faith was sometimes so strong as to raise him, as it were, up to heaven; and then again so weak as to leave him to sink, as it were, into hell, and make him complain to God that “he was cut off from before His eyes.” Ps. 31:23. Whence it follows, that we must not conclude because a man's faith is weak, that therefore he has none at all; or that they who are contending against the weakness of faith, are therefore forsaken by God. We know that fire is often hidden under ashes, though neither light nor heat appear; we know that the trees are alive, though in winter they are stripped of their leaves: so we may in like manner conclude, that those people may have faith towards God, in whom we do not at all times discern signs or tokens of it. For the Spirit of the Lord is like the wind, that bloweth when and whither it pleases. John 3:8.

    11. (10) He that complains of the weakness of his faith, shows plainly, that faith is striving and struggling within him, and a striving faith is a true faith; for there is a continual struggle in every man between faith and unbelief. He is perpetually assaulted by temptations to unbelief, so that his life is one continued combat; and he is obliged to be as watchful, as though he were in the midst of drawn swords, and expected every moment to be cut in pieces. Here is the trial of the Christian's faith; here is the exercise of his patience, to unite his earthly heart with Christ; to make the barren soil of his soul fit to receive the heavenly seed; to make the darkness of corrupt nature capable of the divine light. The flesh is continually inclining to the broad way of the world, and endeavoring to tyrannize over the spirit; the darkness is no sooner scattered, than it endeavors to recover its ground, and spread itself again over the face of the soul. This is what all the saints have confessed and lamented, and it is a most certain token of the presence of true faith. On the other hand, where there is no faith at all, there is no cause found for [pg 348] striving. Here let the languishing soul call to mind that comfortable assurance given us, that “God will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it.” 1 Cor. 10:13. “God giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” Isa. 40:29.

    12. (11) Let us be assured, that whensoever, in our greatest infirmities, we can but think upon Jesus Christ, he will be with us, and dwell in us by faith. Thus it is said, “In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.” Exod. 20:24. For we cannot so much as think upon God, without his special presence and assistance. Moreover, being engrafted into Christ, as branches into the living vine (John 15:1, etc.), we truly live in him, and draw life and nourishment from him. “Our life,” and the strength of our faith, are “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3); and the Holy Spirit witnesseth the same in our hearts, by the joy, peace, and comfort, which he produces there. Rom. 8:16. As in the Old Testament, there was no Prophet who heard not God speaking in him; so under the Gospel, there is no Christian but hears Christ speaking in him, and, from time to time tastes the unction of the Holy Spirit. And so strong is this union of our faith with Christ, that all the power of death and hell cannot dissolve it; because Christ, who is the life and root of our faith, is immortal. Though thou hast not always so lively a perception of this in thy heart, yet “greater is he that is in thee, than he that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4.

    13. (12) When we are weak in faith, let us look up unto Christ Jesus our Redeemer, and merciful High Priest, who offered up himself for us on the cross, and is praying that our faith may be strengthened; as he did for St. Peter, “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32); to whom also he stretched out his almighty and saving hand, when he thought himself sinking into the sea. Matt. 14:31. And he saith, “Holy Father, keep them through thine own name; neither pray I for these alone, (the Apostles), but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” John 17:11, 20. So also we are told, “We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Heb. 2:17; 4:15; Rom. 8:34. This intercession ought to be our comfort when our faith is weak and languishing; from whence we should, by a lively and steadfast faith, expect a blessing.

    14. (13) Our next support is, the divine mercy, which is inexpressibly great, as infinite as God himself. Of this let no man despair. This mercy of his anticipates us, waits for us, supports us, and endures forever. And this he never denies to any one. Come then, ye that complain of the weakness of your faith, cast yourselves into the protecting arms of divine love, which will never leave you nor forsake you.

    15. (14) God, who has wrought the beginning of faith in us, has graciously promised, that he will “perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6); that he will “stablish, strengthen, settle us” (1 Pet. 5:10); and that we shall be “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, [pg 349] receiving the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.” 1 Pet. 1:5, 9. This is the end that God proposed to our faith, when he first gave us the beginning of it. Faith being, therefore, the operation and work of God, must be perfected by its divine Author. For this cause the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 12:2) calls the blessed Jesus, not only the Author, but also, the Finisher of our faith. And Christ himself tells us: “No man shall pluck my sheep out of my hand.” John 10:28.

    16. (15) To this end he has given us various means whereby our faith may be strengthened and preserved, namely, the Word, the Sacraments, and prayer. “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5), said the disciples. “Lord, help thou mine unbelief.” Mark 9:24. Moreover, God has promised “his Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” Luke 11:13. “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities.” Rom. 5:5; 8:26. In a word, this is the end and design of Christianity, that we may grow and be perfected in faith.

    17. (16) Lastly. Our faith is founded on God's eternal love to us, “Whom he did predestinate, them he also justified.” Rom. 8:30. But we are justified by faith alone in Christ Jesus. Rom. 3:28. “God hath chosen us to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.” 2 Thess. 2:13. Come then, comfort thyself with these promises; sink not under the weakness of thy faith! When thy faith seems to be at its lowest ebb, then is thy Saviour nearer to thee than thou thinkest. This was the case with the disciples; when they looked upon themselves as lost in the tempest, then Christ was at hand to save them. Matt. 8:24-26. Let us also be persuaded, that our Redeemer and Saviour is never so near us, as when we think ourselves in most danger.

    Chapter LII.

    Comforting Instructions For Those That Are Laboring Under Great Temptations In Spirit.

    I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.Isa. 48:10.

    It is an undoubted truth that all spiritual sorrow proceeds from God. For “the Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” 1 Sam. 2:6, 7. By the “grave” in this place, is meant such a state of spiritual afflictions as, like the grave, is void of all light and comfort. The soul that is thrust down into this prison, looks upon itself as dying and pining away; as hated, despised, and persecuted by every creature of God. In this disconsolate state, the poor man cries out with holy David, “My soul refused to be comforted.” Ps. 77:2. And well it might, when both the Scripture and God himself were withholden from him. This is that “grave” into which God brings the soul. Here it finds no [pg 350] comfort but in silence and resignation, in those unutterable sighs and groans which proceed from the ground of the heart; for so great is its distress, that it cannot so much as think upon God, or the promises contained in his holy Word. Faith grows weak, hope languishes, and the whole man is feeble, withered like grass (Ps. 38:8, 9; 102:3), and ready to perish, were he not inwardly supported by the secret Word and power of God.

    2. In this grave or shadow of death, we find our Lord Jesus Christ, when “his soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death; and in his agony his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood.” Matt. 26:38; Luke 22:44. In this state a man undergoes greater afflictions than in death itself. Yea, here a man wishes for death, and longs to find a grave where he may rest from his unspeakable labors and sufferings. Job. 7:15. Thus we find Job repeatedly wishing for death. And our blessed Lord himself, under the agonies of death, cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” Matt. 27:46. He complains that he was forsaken of God, though He was continually present with him, and preserved him under all his trouble. But now, what can be more wonderful than that Christ himself should complain for want of comfort, considering his intimate union with God? For he was both God and man. Yet God had so withdrawn his consolations from him, that his human nature was left desolate and comfortless. Now if the blessed Jesus, who was united to the eternal Godhead and anointed with the heavenly oil of gladness, endured a conflict so bitter, surely sinful man has no reason to wonder, when he is brought under the same fiery trial, as if some strange thing had happened unto him. 1 Pet. 4:12.

    3. We suffer nothing but what our blessed Master suffered before us; and certainly nothing is more reasonable than that the members should suffer with the Head.

    4. This, therefore, is a kind of trial whether thou art truly a member of Christ, and a partaker of his sufferings. Rev. 1:9. Such seems to have been Hezekiah's case when he complained—“Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove.” Isa. 38:14. And Job's—“I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not.” Job 7:3; 30:20. And so again, “If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.” Job 9:16. Such were the complaints of holy David (Ps. 6; 13; 38; 88). In these scriptures we may see how wonderfully all the saints and servants of God have been purified in this furnace of affliction. This was the ground of that warmth of feeling which we meet with in the words of Job and the holy Psalmist. Sometimes they are so much bereft of hope, that they could not think it possible that God should ever show mercy to them; at other times, they are full of hope and confidence, and believe that “their Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25), as Job expresses it. Yet the carnal man has no understanding of such sufferings, or of the complaints arising from them. This we find by the example of Job's friends, who, not understanding what was the true state of his distressed and afflicted soul, reproved him as one that had lost patience, and that charged God foolishly. When a man is come into this state, he falls into such a degree of unbelief that he is [pg 351] not conscious of the least trace of faith remaining in his soul. All the powers of faith being, as it were, collected in the centre of the soul, seem to the man to be lost; though they still operate in secret, and breathe in sighs and groanings unutterable. This absence of faith is a kind of torture to the soul. Therefore the man cannot believe that God will be merciful to him, but cries out, “O how willingly would I believe, if it would but please God to give me the power!” And in the height of this conflict, the Scriptures themselves afford him no comfort. This is that crisis of the soul when God, by humbling us, shows us how unworthy and vile we are in ourselves; yea, that of ourselves we are nothing, but that all our sufficiency is of God; so that thence we may learn not to trust in ourselves. Nevertheless, the poor soul occasionally perceives some distant gleams of light breaking through the thick darkness, which administer comfort and support, and preserve it from desperation.

    5. Now, though it may happen that a man in the bitterness of his soul grows impatient, and is tempted to fret against God, yet let him remember that God is merciful. He knows whereof we are made; he sees the struggle of our souls under the fiery trial, when he sets his hand to cleanse us from our impurities. In a word, the most holy and best beloved children of God, are they that have passed through this furnace of affliction; as we may see by the examples of Job (Job 42:2, etc.), of David, and Jeremiah. Jer. 20:12, etc. These learned faith in the school, and under the discipline of the cross; whilst the delicate Christian who flees from the cross, and expects to learn it amidst the enjoyments of the world, will find himself miserably deceived in the end. But further,

    6. (2) Let us call to mind that noble saying of Jeremiah, “The Lord will not cast off forever; but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” Lam. 3:30, 31, 33. Whence them mayest learn, that though the Lord suffer thee to be afflicted for a season, yet he will not cast thee off forever. Perhaps, however, thou wilt say, that the evil thoughts with which thou art troubled, are not from God, but from Satan. Now, though it cannot be denied that they are suggested to us by Satan; yet it is also true, that Satan can do nothing but by God's permission. In this case, look unto Jesus, whom our heavenly Father suffered to be tempted by the same adversary. The fiery darts (Eph. 6:16) which the Evil One cast at our blessed Saviour, came indeed from him, and not from God; but it was God that gave him permission to assault as he did. And though our blessed Lord bore all this, yet he still continued to be the dearly beloved Son of God, nor could the tempter with all his art and power do him the least harm. Matt. 4:1, etc. Hear this, O afflicted soul, and believe that thou also shalt be safe and unhurt amid all the fiery darts of the wicked one. Remember the case of Job, when, by God's permission, the devil so afflicted him internally and externally, that he cursed the day of his birth; yet was God still with him, and we find him thus expressing himself to God: “These things hast thou hid in thine heart: I know that this is with thee.” Job 10:13.

    7. Having thus discovered the origin [pg 352] of this spiritual affliction, let us next inquire into the reasons why God sends it upon us.

    8. First, then, it is certain that the true inward taste of the Word of God, is accompanied with unspeakable joy, peace, and comfort, vastly surpassing any enjoyments of this life. This is the true joy of our souls, a foretaste of eternal life, arising from the true and living knowledge of Christ Jesus; by which we discover the heart of God full of the most tender compassions, and an ardent and eternal love towards lost mankind. Now, so corrupt and perverse is human nature, that it is too apt to be exalted above measure, by the abundance of these divine manifestations, and to make them occasions of spiritual pride; and the man who is thus visited and comforted from above, will be apt to think highly of himself, to overvalue his sanctity, and to think meanly of the rest of the world, who are strangers to these consolations; and thus, forsaking the fountain of living waters, whence all the streams of blessing flow, and to which, with all humility, they ought to be ascribed; the man grows vain and arrogant, and sets himself up in the place of God. This perverseness of soul, as it is directly contrary to true penitence, and to the appointed way of salvation, so it is very hateful to God. This causes him to withdraw his consolations from us, and to hide himself in thick darkness; so that though we call and cry, and search ever so diligently, we shall not be able to find Him. This is a deplorable state, when we are hanging, as it were, between heaven and hell, oppressed and afflicted on every side, not knowing whither to fly for relief or comfort; having no certain evidence whether we believe or not, whether we hope or not, whether God be angry with us or not, whether we are in a state of life or of death. This is that darkness and desolation which we find described in Psalm 88; of which the Psalmist speaks also in Ps. 31:22. “I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes. Nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.”

    9. Now, although nothing is more bitter to us than to be so long deprived of the comforts of the divine presence; yet even this deprivation itself is more profitable to the soul, than all the enjoyments and glories of the world. By this, as by a fiery trial, we are taught humility, repentance, contempt of the world, and the true value of all its favors and enjoyments; that these are dangerous, transitory, and perishing, and can give no solid comfort to the distressed soul. And though the soul in this state is encompassed with perplexities and fears, so that it can hardly lift up itself to God, yet there is left a kind of deep and secret sorrow, venting itself in holy sighs, and devout aspirations towards God, and a longing for his favor. Hence we may learn how great a good God is to the soul, and that no true, solid, or constant peace can be found except in Him. This cannot be learned any where but in this school of temptation; in which alone the truest knowledge is to be acquired. And whosoever is unacquainted with this, knows not God and Christ as they ought to be known.

    10. And would to God, that for his glory, and our own unspeakable advantage, we would readily submit to this visitation, which is designed for the trial of our faith, even as gold in the furnace is tried! Then we should quickly reap the amazing benefits of [pg 353] such a cleansing. For the faithful soul that can hold out, and not faint under it, comes forth glorious as gold out of the fire, cleansed from all its dross; so that neither fire, nor water, nor the cross, nor death, nor Satan, can hurt it. Such a one will learn how to behave himself ever afterwards with patience and humility, both in prosperity and adversity; not to sink under the cross; not to be presumptuous in prosperity; not to depend upon himself, or be puffed up with his own fancied perfections; but to look up steadfastly to God, the everlasting fountain and giver of all goodness; and to embrace every dispensation of Providence, whether sweet or bitter, as his only happiness; and, in every state or condition of soul or body, to rejoice in God alone.

    11. Secondly, whensoever it shall please God to cast any of us, his creatures, into this trying furnace, it will be much more consistent and profitable for us to pray for patience under it, than for deliverance from it. For when once the fire of temptation has purged away the dross of our iniquities, our pride, luxury, covetousness, and envy, it will be much easier for us to endure afterwards other fiery trials, by having our own will swallowed up in the will and good pleasure of God. But when from an excessive indulgence of the infirmities of our corrupt nature, we endeavor to avoid this fiery trial, it often happens that before we can receive any benefit from it, we are contriving to make our escape. So that if God did not often keep us under the trial against our will, we should fly from it, without considering whether we were sufficiently purified, according to the will of God and the necessities of our corrupt nature: like children, who, if their parents or physicians did not prevent, would throw away that bitter cup which alone can cure their disorders. But God knows our case, and what is proper for us, better than we ourselves; and therefore he has appointed certain measures of affliction, to which he confines the soul, till he sees it proper to release her. So that we ought not so much to pray for deliverance from temptations, as for patience under them.

    12. Thirdly, our deliverance is so certain, that we have not the least reason to doubt of it; for “though the Lord cause grief, yet will he have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies.” Lam. 3:32. This is the promise of God, who is truth itself, and it therefore ought diligently to be weighed and considered by us. It is much better to know and digest some few comfortable passages of Scripture, or even only one of this kind, than to burden our memory with a great many without true spiritual relish. For when a man has by a lively faith digested one, he will easily understand and digest all the rest; and he that can derive comfort from one text, will thereby learn to do the same by all the rest. It will be very useful to repeat frequently, with lively affection, the 88th Psalm, where thou wilt see the state of thy soul described. There thou wilt find that there have been others in the world before thee, who have been tried and afflicted as thou art, and yet have afterwards been delivered and comforted of God, as we find in Psalm 89, where the holy man, rejoicing in the divine comfort, begins, as in a rapture, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever.” Be thou confident, therefore, and believe that God will also in due time comfort thee with the same consolation. [pg 354] For the Evil spirit, who always delights to afflict the souls of men, has, from the beginning of the world, made it his business to gall and wound them with his fiery darts. As in a tempestuous sea one wave is continually rolling upon another, so do the various temptations of Satan pursue the afflicted soul; sometimes oppressing it with fearful and melancholy thoughts; at others, with impatience, unbelief, blasphemous and wicked thoughts. The terrors and miseries of such a soul are sometimes so great, that no creature can give it comfort; yea, those very things which give joy and delight to others, are to such a man, not only joyless, but burdensome. The whole world is to him but one bitter cross; yea, even God himself appears dreadful to him. Thus Job bitterly complains (chap. 7:13, etc.); and the agony is increased by the sting of his own conscience, which terrifies him with this dreadful sentence, “There is no help for thee in thy God.” Ps. 3:2.

    13. Against these wiles of the devil there is no better remedy than to endeavor to strengthen thyself after the examples of Job, David, and other holy men. (1) By bearing thy affliction as long as it shall please God; and waiting patiently till the clouds of darkness be driven away. Isa. 54: 11. “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” Micah 7:9. Where God afflicteth, it is in no man's power to comfort. “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” 1 Sam. 2:6.

    14. (2) We must, in this case, stop our ears against the opinions of the world, and, with Job, disregard the accusations of our friends, the terrors of the devil, who is the enemy of all peace and comfort, the reflections of our own hearts, the stings of our own consciences, and all the objections of flesh and blood. For, “if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart” (1 John 3:20), yea, than all the world, or the devil himself. Rather call to mind what God himself has promised to such afflicted souls. “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit.” Isa. 66:2. “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Isa. 48:10.

    15. (3) Consider also the examples of holy men. Did not they suffer as thou dost, and were they not at last delivered? Does not David complain, “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever?” Ps. 13:1. And did God forsake him in his troubles? No; for he adds, “I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation!” Ver. 5. He complains, “Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” Ps. 77:9. But did God leave him in this extremity? No, certainly, for after his deliverance he adds, “I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” Ver. 10. Thus when God discovered himself in terrors to Jeremiah, he prays, “Be not a terror unto me!” (Jer. 17:17), but immediately adds, “Thou art my hope in the day of evil.” Did not Jesus Christ himself cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Ps. 22:1. But was he forsaken of God? No; for he adds, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren” (Ps. 22:22): and “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” Ps. 118:17.

    16. Thou also, after this example of thy Saviour, must be content to drink [pg 355] the wine mingled with gall and myrrh (Matt. 27:34), that thou mayest hereafter sit down with him at his royal supper in the kingdom of heaven. Isa. 65:13. Learn, therefore, to bear his reproach (Heb. 13:13); and thou shalt be a partaker of his glory. Learn to be conformed to Christ crucified, that thou mayest be conformed to Christ glorified. Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:21.

    Chapter LIII.

    Consolations For Those Who Labor Under Great Spiritual Temptations.

    When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.Isa. 41:17.

    In these words, the Holy Spirit comforts all those that are broken in heart, miserable, tempted, and thirsting after God; by whom they look upon themselves as forsaken and rejected, so that they cry out, “My soul is full of troubles; and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.” Ps. 88:3. For the sake of such as these, I shall touch upon some few heads, by way of comfort and advice under these spiritual temptations.

    2. (1) We are to remember, that no kinds of spiritual temptations, melancholy thoughts, terrors of soul, and stings of conscience, can happen to us without the particular permission and gracious will of God our heavenly Father, notwithstanding all the malice and fury of the Evil Spirit. For God has expressly told us in his Word, that the devil has not the least power over any creature; nor can he hurt even a hair of our heads. Matt. 10:30. All creatures are in the hand of God, and not in the power of the devil. Heb. 1: 3. Much less has he any power over man, unless by the permission of God, for a certain season, as in the case of the Gergesenes (Matt. 8:32), and Job. Job 1:12.

    3. Now, if he has no power of himself over a hair of our heads, or the least part of our bodies; much less can he of himself afflict, disquiet, or torment our souls. Hence David says, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” Ps. 34:7. And Zechariah, “I, the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about.” Zech. 2:5. So David prays, “Keep me as the apple of the eye.” Ps. 17:8. And he acknowledges God to be the author of all the heavy trials of his spirit: “Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves.” Ps. 88:6, 7. So likewise, “Thou which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.” Ps. 71:20. Agreeable to which is the song of Hannah, “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” 1 Sam. 2:6. For as the Son of God [pg 356] himself descended first into hell, before he ascended up into heaven; so likewise must the true members of his body experience the same, in the following manner. When a man's conscience is so awakened and enlightened by the Lord, as to feel in himself the strength of sin, the sting of death, the curse of the law, and the fiery darts of the devil; then is his wretched soul so oppressed with grief and horror, that with David (Ps. 77:3), it refuses to be comforted, and looks upon itself as rejected and persecuted by every creature of God. The man who is in this state, does not enjoy the least glimpse of comfort, believing that he deserves it not; he struggles with despair, he contends with hell, and has already a taste of its agony. This is the sting of hell, yea, hell itself, full of terror and amazement, darkness and despair. He that suffers this, is not indeed corporeally, but spiritually, and in his soul, brought down into hell; so that with his blessed Saviour at the mount of Olives, he is in an agony, is very heavy and sorrowful, even unto death. Luke 22:44.

    4. But you will say, Is it not strange, that God should suffer his believing children, who have been baptized into Christ, who through him obtained remission of their sins, being justified through faith, and redeemed to eternal life—to be thus miserably tempted and afflicted by the devil, oppressed with dreadful thoughts, and to undergo this spiritual martyrdom? In answer to this, we must consider, that it is not our business to inquire into the secret reasons of God's ways, but to rest satisfied with what he has told us, namely, that all these kinds of affliction proceed from him. Now we may rest assured, that whatsoever comes from him, promotes our spiritual welfare, according to what we are told, that “all things work together for good, to them that love God.” Rom. 8:28. There are, however, some reasons revealed, why God suffers his beloved children to fall into temptations so bitter.

    5. The first may be to bring us to a true sense of the strength of sin, which is the sting of death (1 Cor. 15:56); of the curse of the law; of the wrath and justice of God; and of the cruel tyranny of Satan. These hang together, as it were, in a chain, as Hezekiah complains (Isaiah 38:14), when he chattered as a crane or a swallow, and mourned as a dove.

    6. Secondly, That we may have worthy conceptions of the value and greatness of our blessed Saviour's passion, and of all the merits of our redemption; and hence learn that by the agony of his own soul, he has delivered us from the punishments of hell. Ps. 22:2.

    7. Thirdly, That we may be conformed to the image of Christ. Rom. 8:29.

    8. Fourthly, That we may learn to taste the efficacy of God's Holy Word, and the comforts that flow from it. Thus we are told, “by vexation (or temptation) only we shall understand the report” (or word). Isa. 28:19.

    9. Fifthly, That we may learn to exercise faith, hope, charity, humility, and patience, that so “the trial of our faith may be found much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire.” 1 Pet. 1:7.

    10. Sixthly, That we may afterwards have a more lively perception of the divine comforts, even as St. Paul says, “As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” 2 Cor. 1:5.

    11. Seventhly, That we may obtain [pg 357] greater degrees of glory in the life to come, according to Rom. 8:17: “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

    12. Though we even did not know that God intended these particular advantages by our sufferings; yet we ought to be satisfied with this one consideration, that our sufferings are ordered by the will of God. For if “the very hairs of our head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30), how much more care, may we suppose, will God take of our souls, that the devil may not precipitate us into despair? Hence we may further learn, not to expect deliverance from any but God himself, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has overcome the world and the devil. John 12:31; 16:11. He, therefore, that labors under temptation, must fly unto Jesus Christ; and from him alone expect that help, comfort, and peace, which nothing in this world can give him.

    13. (2) These trials are not to be looked upon as tokens of God's anger, but rather of his infinite mercy, since he is hereby fitting us to be partakers with them who have through many temptations entered into glory. Such was David, who complains, “The sorrows of death compassed me.” Psalm 18:4. And the whole 88th Psalm is full of lamentations of the pains and agony which he underwent in his soul. This, too, was the prophet Jeremiah's case, when he wished that his mother's womb had been his grave (Jer. 20:17); that he had never seen the light, that so he might have avoided his many bitter sufferings. Thus it was with Job, when he cried out: “O that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together. For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea.” Job 6:2, 3. And “My soul chooseth strangling, and death, rather than my life.” Job 7:15. Thus St. Paul was buffeted by “the messenger of Satan.” 2 Cor. 12:7. Nor, lastly, did the Son of God himself, escape severe trials, when his holy body trembled, and his soul was exceeding sorrowful (Matt. 26:38), and when he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matt. 27:46.

    14. From these examples we may learn that we are not the only persons who have been so severely tempted; but that saints and servants of God before us have been visited in the same manner. And as God forsook not them in their extreme agony, so we may assure ourselves that he will in his own time deliver us, as well as them. This is an argument full of consolation. As bodily diseases and persecutions are marks of the divine favor, since by them God endeavors to make us conformable to his Son (and on that account we ought to bear them with patience), so it is a much greater token of the divine favor, and of the glory that shall follow it, when he sends affliction on our souls, as well as on our bodies, and by a variety of crosses brings us to an entire conformity, both in body and soul, to Christ our Head. For as the body of the blessed Jesus, at the time of his passion, was overwhelmed with all kinds of pains, and sufferings, and his soul was full of anguish, distress, and sorrow: so must his spiritual body, in all its true and living members, be made partaker of the same sufferings, whether internal or external, so that the whole spiritual body, as well as the Head, may contribute, each member in its proportion, to fill up the measure of sufferings. This is what St. Paul means, “I fill up that which [pg 358] is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh” (Col. 1:24): so that every living member of Christ must expect to bear his share of Christ's cross, in order to perfect that which is yet lacking in such sufferings. It ought, therefore, to make us rejoice in affliction, when we consider that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Rom. 8:18. We should, when these spiritual storms blow hard upon us, bear with patience the paternal chastisement of God (Micah 7:9), expect his help, not faint in prayer, but think thus with ourselves: This is a season of sufferings; but when wrath has passed away, it will end in joy unspeakable and full of glory. Isa. 54:7, 8.

    15. (3) We must support ourselves under this internal conflict, with the comforting promises of Jesus Christ, that in due time we shall conquer if we hold out and faint not. Gal. 6:9. Thus he tells us, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” John 14:30. And, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. For as all the host of Israel triumphed in the person of David, when he slew Goliath, and routed the Philistines (1 Sam. 17:51); so the victory of our Lord is the victory of all true believers. Hence we are told, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” Rev. 12:10, 11. Whenever, therefore, thou findest thyself assaulted by the fiery darts of the Evil One, and thy soul is afflicted with such suggestions as these: “Thou art damned;—thou art undone;—God hath forsaken thee;—thou art mine;—it is in vain for thee to hope, believe, or pray any longer,” then take courage, and answer boldly: “O thou enemy of mankind, thou hast no power to condemn me. God hath not appointed thee to be my judge; but the faithful shall judge the world, and thee, at the last great day” (1 Cor. 6:3), yea, prince of this world, thou art judged already by the Son of God. John 16:11.

    16. (4) As the nature of this spirit of blasphemy is such, that a Christian is forced to undergo it sorely against his will, and does all that in him lies to resist and oppose it; hence let him comfort himself, when he is tempted with the thought, that God will never lay it to his charge; since it is not he that acts, but the devil; for the soul is passive, and may, therefore, be assured that such thoughts shall never be imputed for sin. As people in a besieged town, cannot hinder the enemy from throwing fire into the town, though they may do what they can to quench it, and prevent its spreading; and as Hezekiah (Isa. 36:11) could not hinder the blasphemy of Rabshakeh; so we cannot hinder the devil from shooting his envenomed arrows at us. All that we have to do is, to bear it with penitential sorrow, and to take all the care we can, not to suffer our thoughts to vent themselves in blasphemous words; but, on the other hand, having set a guard upon our tongues, we should endeavor so to stifle these murmurings, that they break not out into a flame, as we read of Jeremiah. (Lam. 3:28.) Moreover, forasmuch as thou art assaulted against thy will, it is plain, that thou hast yet a living and struggling faith.

    [pg 359]

    17. (5) We ought to be comforted, if we find but one single aspiration of our hearts towards God, or any devout affection springing up in our souls by the reading of any text of Holy Scripture. For this is that spark of faith and divine grace, which, like the smoking of flax, God will not quench, but preserve it in its weakest state, when it seems to be almost dead. Isa. 42:3. One devout aspiration such as this, is a certain sign that the Holy Spirit is still present with us, though in a manner almost undiscernible in the deepest ground and centre of the soul. For as the body is not looked upon as dead, whilst there is the least breath or pulse remaining; so we must believe that the Spirit of God, and faith, are not yet entirely gone, if only a feeble prayer and a word of God remain; for then the soul retains a spiritual and internal life, and is not entirely dead. And the soul ought to be content with the smallest spark of this inward light and life, till the Spirit of joy and liberty return to him, and comfort him with all the consolations of God. Let us suppose a man in such a case, that he can neither pray, nor even think a good thought; and that this inability is matter of the greatest grief to him; the anguish of such a soul, because it cannot pray, is in itself a true and effectual prayer. These are the unutterable sighs and groanings which St. Paul mentions. Rom. 8:26. And to this belongs what the prophet says, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” Isa. 41:17.

    18. (6) Be the temptations and afflictions of the heart ever so great, yet the Scripture assures us that it is the habitation of God, and not of the devil. That Satan has no possession of it, appears from the furious assaults he makes upon the afflicted soul, by which he endeavors to subdue it; but “greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4. “Fear thou not, for I am with thee.” Isa. 41:10. Therefore, though this trial of the soul is the greatest affliction that can possibly befall it in this life, yet, forasmuch as we are assured that God will look unto those that are of contrite hearts, and will dwell with them (Isa. 57:15), that he sent the blessed Jesus from heaven to comfort the afflicted, and to preach glad tidings to the distressed (Isa. 61:2); and that He himself invites weary souls to come unto him (Matt. 11:28), therefore let no man despair when he finds himself plunged into this furnace of affliction. These are they whom God commanded his prophet to comfort: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not.” Isa. 35:3, 4. And God tells us that “his strength is made perfect in weakness;” which induced St. Paul to say, “When I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Cor. 12:10. Yea, the grace of God is so far from forsaking a man, even when he is buffeted (2 Cor. 12:7) by Satan: that it was at that time particularly, that God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” 2 Cor. 12:7-9.

    19. (7) There is not so much as one instance to be produced, of any man forsaken of God under this spiritual conflict; but, on the contrary, He has always restored his servants, “whom he has thus chosen in the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10), to the same and to higher degrees of grace, than those whence they thought they had fallen. This ought to be matter of [pg 360] great comfort to us, and persuade us that when the hour of trial is ended, the season of joy and redemption will quickly follow. “Happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty. For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole. He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.” Job 5:17-19; Micah 7:9. Let no man, therefore, faint under tribulation, but bear “the indignation of the Lord” for a little while (Ps. 112:4; 97:11), till the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2) arise upon him again with healing and consolation in his wings, for “light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart!”

    20. (8) Tauler reckons these spiritual afflictions and trials among the singular gifts and favors of God, speaking thus of them: “In these great temptations, God deprives a man of all that he has given him, forcing him to descend into himself and see his own poverty and weakness; and also trying him, to discover how he will behave himself in this desolate state. And this is done when a man is forsaken; so that he knows nothing of God, his grace, his comforts, or the gifts which he once bestowed upon him; but which are now taken away, and concealed from his eyes, so that he knows not whither to fly or which way to turn. When a man is once brought into this state, there is nothing better for him than cheerfully and willingly to submit himself to the order and decree of God. It was, indeed, a great thing in the holy martyrs to lay down their lives for God; but they were so abundantly strengthened by the comforts of his Holy Spirit, that the most exquisite torments were to them but trifling and contemptible, and death itself had lost its terrors. But to have God hide his face, and deprive us of his grace and comfort, is a martyrdom much greater than theirs. This occurs when all the sins, all the infirmities and temptations, which a man has long ago conquered, assault him afresh, with greater violence than when he was the servant of sin. In this case, the best way is to suffer with patience, and to be entirely resigned to the all-wise providence of God.” Such sufferers as these, Tauler calls “spiritual martyrs,” from the bitter trials they undergo whilst deprived of the light of God's countenance, and the comfortable influences of his Spirit, which are so severe that they know not which way to turn for relief; and when they see and consider the gifts and graces bestowed upon others, they fall into bitter dejection of spirit, reckoning that it is their own fault that they are thus barren and destitute of spiritual joy. And though they take ever so much pains, they still seem to labor in vain; for they find their dryness and hardness of heart still increasing upon them; so that at last, being quite void of comfort, and having lost all patience, they fall into a secret distrust of God's mercy, and believe that he is offended with everything they do. At length they submit in patience, until God may make a change; for they themselves are utterly helpless. This is that which brings them to a conformity, not only with the saints, but with Christ, whose whole life was nothing but affliction. These spiritual martyrs, though in the sight of the world they are of all men most miserable, and seem to be forsaken and cast off by God; yet are, in truth, the richest [pg 361] towards God. In their own opinion they are, indeed, at the same time, the most unfaithful to him; though in reality they have the firmest faith, and most ardent zeal for his honor and service, and upon that account undergo these heavy sufferings. From this faith and love towards God (of which they themselves are ignorant), it arises, that they are tormented with divers temptations to which they will not consent, so that even death itself would not be so bitter to them, as the anguish they feel upon that account. They labor with their utmost strength to amend their lives, and practise every Christian virtue; and when they find their labor to be in vain, they relapse into the old sense of their infirmities, attended with the most exquisite pain of mind. All this, they suffer from a principle of love towards God; esteeming themselves the worst of all men, though they are most precious in the sight of God.

    21. No wiser counsel can be given to these than that, with humble patience and resignation they bear the troubles which they cannot help, and which are but aggravated by impatience. After this dark night of unspeakable affliction, the Sun of righteousness shall arise, refreshing and filling their hearts with inexpressible light and glory.

    Chapter LIV.

    Comforts Under Secret And Spiritual Temptations Of The Devil.

    Behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.Luke 22:31, 32.

    How great and implacable the enmity of the devil is to all mankind, we are abundantly informed, not only by Scripture (as 1 Pet. 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Eph. 6:12, and Rev. 12:12, “Woe to the earth, and to the sea, for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time;” and from the history of Job), but also more particularly by daily experience, and the many grievous and dangerous temptations with which he assaults the souls of good men in their spiritual warfare. At one time he assaults our faith, at another time our Christian calling, and then interrupts and disturbs us in the exercise of our devotions; all which is clearly expressed in the history of our Lord's temptation. Matt. 4:3, etc. Hence we may learn that no man is safe from his temptations. For if he spared not Christ our Head, how can sinful men expect to escape him? For which reason our Lord himself advises us, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” Matt. 26:41.

    2. Among the various temptations with which the devil afflicts the soul, this is one, namely, the tormenting a man with blasphemous, profane, impure, and troublesome thoughts, so as [pg 362] to sink him deep into melancholy and wretchedness. And these abominable suggestions are so crafty, sudden, and violent, that they will not give a man a moment's rest. Upon this account St. Paul calls them, “the fiery darts of the wicked one.” Eph. 6:16. As a public enemy is perpetually casting fire into a besieged town; so the devil is continually vexing such souls with his hellish suggestions. And as the wounds of an envenomed arrow are most exquisitely painful; so the wounds caused by the fiery darts of Satan, are far more sharp and intolerable than the severest bodily sufferings. Wherefore we shall here present some select heads of comfort against these secret and internal temptations, all drawn from the Word of God. First, as to the words prefixed to this chapter, it is plain that they were uttered by our blessed Saviour, with the utmost tenderness, and most ardent compassion. Whence we may gather, that the being afflicted with these temptations, is no mark of God's displeasure, much less that he designs to destroy us thereby, and deliver us up into the hands of the enemy. On the contrary, such a temptation is nothing but a chastising rod, whereby God intends to humble a man, and to draw him to Himself. This appears from the example of St. Peter, whose confidence and self-conceit opened a door to the most grievous temptation, and to the sin which followed. And St. Paul tells us of himself, “Lest I should be exalted (saith he) above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me. 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.” 2 Cor. 12:7-9. From which words we may learn three things: 1. That St. Paul, and all others that are exercised with these trials, are humbled thereby. 2. That all those sufferings come upon us by the counsel of God. 3. That the utmost fury of the devil against a man who is so tempted, cannot exclude him from God's favor, which is expressed in these words, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

    3. The second ground of comfort is contained in these words: “Satan hath desired you.” From these words we may learn, that though the devil is always desirous and ready to cast his fiery darts at us, yet has he no power without the particular leave and permission of God; who never gives him more than a limited permission, beyond which he cannot go. To this belongs that place of St. Paul, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” 1 Cor. 10:13. To which we may add the example of Job, against whom the devil dared not attempt anything, till he had first obtained leave of God; and even that clogged with a limitation. See chap. 1:12.

    4. The third consolation arises from these words of our Lord: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” In what manner, and with what affection the blessed Jesus prayed for us to his Heavenly Father, we are told in John (chapter 17), namely, that He would be pleased to keep his faithful servants from the evil of the world; that he would dwell in them, and they in him; and that of those whom he had received of his Father, he might lose none. This prayer, were it but heartily applied to the distressed soul, would support it with a divine courage so as to abide in Christ by faith, not doubting but that Christ in her, by the [pg 363] same faith, would conquer and triumph over all her enemies.

    5. The fourth comfort may be drawn from John 17:21, where our blessed Lord prays for us, and begs of his heavenly Father, that we may abide in Christ, and Christ in us. And St. John tells us, that “greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4. Christ dwells in every believing soul by faith; and all the assaults of the devil cannot dispossess this illustrious guest. And as Christ himself, in whom God himself, that is, all “the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily” and personally (Col. 2:9), was tempted by Satan, thou must not, therefore, think that Christ is not in thee, because thou thyself art likewise tempted. And if Christ be in thee of a truth, thou needest not fear what the devil can do unto thee: for Christ will certainly defend the place of his own residence, against all opposers. Moreover, thou hast within thee the Holy Spirit, who “helpeth thine infirmities, and maketh intercession for thee with groanings that cannot be uttered.” Rom. 8:26. Whensoever thou findest these within thee, thou mayest assure thyself, that the Holy Spirit dwelleth in thee, and he will not forsake thee, as our blessed Lord assures us: “The Father shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” John 14:16. Lastly, God has promised, that he will dwell in the humble and contrite heart: “I dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit.” Isa. 57:15; 66:2. And such, undoubtedly, are all those who are tormented with these temptations of Satan.

    6. The fifth ground of comfort, is contained in our Saviour's promise: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” O divine comfort! as if our Lord had said: “Your infirmities shall never be so great, but that there shall be some sparks of faith left. Yea, though you feel in yourselves no comfort, and, on that account, are apt to think your faith quite extinct, yet will I never suffer the smoking flax to be entirely quenched.” Isa. 42:3. But, now, if you ask, How shall I know this? I answer, 1. By the earnest longing of your soul after faith. For, to desire and pray for faith above all other things, arises from a living spark of remaining faith. 2. By your resistance of temptation, which is a certain token of the presence of faith; and this resistance and opposition appear plainly in this, that all these wicked and blasphemous thoughts arise in your soul sorely against your will, and that you bear them with more pain, than you would any external violence offered to your body. Now whatsoever a man suffers of this kind against his will, is resisted by faith, and shall never be imputed to him as sin; for nothing but a voluntary violation of the divine law, makes a man sinful in the sight of God. If Adam had not yielded to the suggestions of Satan, he had not had sin; but as soon as he submitted his will to that of the tempter, he fell into the transgression. Whence it follows, that it cannot be sin, which is not attended with the consent of the will. A besieged city cannot hinder the enemy from throwing fire into it, but the inhabitants must endeavor to prevent it from spreading, and burning the town to ashes. So we cannot avoid the fiery darts of the devil, with which he delights to afflict the heart; but as we do not consent to them, but rather resist, they must at last be quenched, and can do us no harm. By such tokens as these we may discover, that [pg 364] our faith, however weak, is not extinct.

    7. Being once assured of this, we may likewise certainly depend upon victory; and this opens to us a sixth fountain of comfort. To this, therefore, refers that comfortable saying of our Saviour: “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” John 14:30. “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Whatsoever Christ did, he did for our sakes; that he himself, with all his benefits and merits, might be entirely ours. Since, therefore, he has conquered Satan, it follows that he has conquered him not only for himself, but for us also: his conquest is ours. All this was prefigured in the contest between David and Goliath. 1 Sam. 17:8, 9, 50-53. The conditions were, that if Goliath overcame David, the people of Israel should be the servants of the Philistines; but if David overcame Goliath, the Philistines should serve Israel. Now, even as David's victory was counted as the victory of all Israel, so the victory of Christ avails as the victory of all believers. Hence St. Paul says: “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Eph. 6:10. And, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 15:57.

    8. Seventhly, we ought to be comforted by the examples of the saints, who have also been cruelly tempted. Of these our blessed Saviour speaks, saying, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” By these words, our Saviour plainly sends us to be instructed by the examples of our brethren, who have been tempted and persecuted by the devil in like manner with us. Hence St. Peter says: “Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” 1 Peter 5:9.

    9. Lastly, we ought to be comforted by the example of Jesus Christ himself. Matt. 4:1, etc. Over him, though he was the beloved Son of God, the devil had so much power, as to hurry him from place to place, and use him with so much insolence, that it is wonderful the Son of God should suffer it from that rebellious, apostate spirit. But this was the condition of the humble Jesus, who emptied himself of all his glory and majesty, that he might be tempted as man, and be made like unto his brethren.

    [pg 365]

    Chapter LV.

    The Reasons For Which God Sometimes Delays His Comfort And Assistance.

    For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.Hab. 2:3, 4.

    In these words the Holy Spirit comforts us, under the delays of Divine assistance: for so we are apt to call (1) those very methods by which God hastens to help and save us. He has, in his unsearchable wisdom, appointed to every man his cross in weight and measure. He delivers it out to him in meet proportions, sending one affliction after another, till the measure of his sufferings be accomplished; that so, by a gradual conquest, he may at last obtain a complete victory. This dealing of God with us, we are apt to call his delaying to help us; not considering that this is the quickest method of accomplishing the measure of our sufferings, and completing our victory. That which to us seems to be delay, is in the sight of God, making haste to help us.

    2. Now he that is refractory and impatient under the cross, has no peace in his soul. For as patience renders the soul easy and quiet, so impatience makes it restless and uneasy. Thus our Lord tells us, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matt. 11:29. And, whereas, the prophet adds, that “the just shall live by his faith;” this relates to the promises of divine grace and assistance, which we lay hold on by faith. And from this consolation the soul derives life and joy; as Hezekiah says: “O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit.” Isa. 38:16. On the other hand, unbelief produces impatience; impatience, disquiet; disquiet, despair; and despair, everlasting death. So that we may most truly say, that “the just lives by faith;” that is, by the grace of God, which he patiently expects and waits for.

    3. (2) Solomon tells us: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Eccles. 3:1. Whence we may learn, that crosses and afflictions come not by chance; but that every season of affliction is appointed to us by God. Wherefore, in our troubles let us lift up our eyes unto Him, in whose hand are our happiness and misery, our riches and poverty, our life and death; yea, and every moment of our afflictions. This is illustrated in the case of Joseph, whom, for thirteen years together, God visited with remarkable afflictions (Gen. 37:36; 41:1): “until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him,” as the Psalmist tells us. Ps. 105:19. By his example we may learn how useful and necessary it is for us that God should sometimes delay his help. For when he was sold, he was seventeen years old; and when, by the hand of God he was brought out of prison, he was thirty; and the bearing of his [pg 366] cross all that season, was the very thing that qualified him for the glorious advancement that followed. In that honorable post he continued eighty years; whence we may observe, that his thirteen years of suffering, were recompensed with many years of glory and honor: for he lived a hundred and ten years. Therefore let the devout Christian that suffers imprisonment or any kind of persecution for the testimony of a good conscience, or shame, or sickness, call to mind the wonderful providence of God to Joseph, and satisfy himself that the all-wise God, who has appointed his season of affliction, has likewise determined the set time of his deliverance. For as a skilful builder knows well by what time his laborers will have finished their task, so has God measured out the weight and duration of every man's cross, and appointed the season of his deliverance. As soon as that comes, the light of divine grace will immediately break forth, and will comfort the afflicted soul.

    4. (3) As God has determined the number of our crosses; so He has been pleased to conceal from us the time of our deliverance, satisfying us with that declaration of our blessed Lord, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” Acts 1:7. Agreeably to this are the words of God, who when he had threatened the children of Israel with the Babylonish captivity, adds, “Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?” Deut. 32:34. Thence we may learn, with what great and unsearchable wisdom God governs and corrects the children of men. To this also may be referred that saying of St. Paul: “God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” Acts 17:26. In these words we are instructed, that not only the period of every man's life, but even the place and manner of it, are appointed by God. And this general determination of time and place, includes in it the crosses and afflictions appointed to every person.

    5. (4) And as God has appointed the period, time, and place, of the sufferings of his servants; so has He also of the persecutions and oppressions of the wicked. When these have for a season been breathing out oppressions and slaughter, then that God to whom vengeance belongeth, awaketh and riseth to judgment; according to Deut. 32:35: “To me belongeth vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them, make haste.” This is abundantly confirmed by the examples of heretics and tyrants that have most grievously persecuted the church of God; and when the devil has raged long enough, and his time is expired, then has the divine vengeance so confounded him and all his accomplices, that the whole world has been amazed and astonished at the righteous judgments of God. “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold the Judge standeth before the door.” Jas. 5:8, 9.

    [pg 367]

    Chapter LVI.

    Showing That In Seasons Of Trial The Consideration Of The Exalted Patience Of Christ, And Of The Future And Eternal Glory, Will Alleviate The Burden Of The Cross.

    Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?Luke 24:26.

    The eternal Son of God, by his most holy incarnation, took upon him all the miseries and calamities of mankind: and this not of compulsion and necessity, but of pure love, that by his example he might teach us patience, and enable us to bear the cross, and overcome the calamities of this mortal life. As he was to become man, so he willingly subjected himself to all those miseries to which man is exposed; and as he came down from heaven for the sake of all, so he took upon him the infirmities of all; so that from the moment of his birth, to the hour of his death, he was, as the prophet truly expresses it, “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Isa. 53:3. There was no calamity incident to human nature, which he did not suffer, and, particularly, extreme poverty. He says of himself, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Matt. 8:20. In the discharge of his office, he underwent the most bitter persecutions, being exposed to hatred, calumnies, and reproaches. In his last days he submitted to the most ignominious sufferings, so that, as the prophet expresses it, “We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isa. 53:4. His transcendent love met with the highest ingratitude, his illustrious miracles were rewarded with revilings, and his heavenly doctrines with calumnies and lies. And since our blessed Lord suffered all this, why shall we expect to be exempted from sufferings and injuries?

    2. Thus the blessed Jesus, by his example, has shown us the true and only path to heaven. 1 Pet. 2:21. Let us therefore tread in his steps, and learn to imitate him in all the different scenes of his most holy and afflicted life. He went before, that we might in holy patience follow him. Whence we may learn, how far they are from the true and right way, who never regard this blessed pattern, but refuse to follow it. If men will still walk on in darkness and shut their eyes against this light, how great must their darkness be! The blessed Jesus himself calls to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12.

    3. All the sufferings of true Christians in this life, are not worthy to be compared with the eternal glories reserved for them in the world to come; for their temporal afflictions are but for a moment, but their glorious reward shall endure forever. 2 Cor. 4:17, 18. An everlasting possession is well worth contending for. Couldest thou but for a moment behold what eternal glories they enjoy, who in this life were exposed to all torments and sufferings, thou wouldest cheerfully submit to them all, and take up thy cross with joy; thinking all things [pg 368] but as dross, that thou mightest win Christ and be a partaker of his glory.

    4. Lift up, therefore, the eyes of thy mind to heaven, and view, with St. John, that vast company clothed in white garments, and following the Lamb, concerning whom this account is given to the inquiring Evangelist: “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple.” Rev. 7:14, 15. Such are the proper meditations for devout souls. Thus we read of Moses, “By faith, Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect to the recompense of the reward.” Heb. 11:24-26.

    5. Hence we learn that the saints in all ages have esteemed the reproach of the cross of Christ as their greatest treasure. And we may depend upon it, that no man can be admitted to the joys of the next world, who has not fought manfully under the banner of the cross in this world. How can we imagine that those blessed spirits will own us to be of their company in heaven, if we did not bring with us the sign of the cross? They would not know us, and we would be strangers among them. “He that overcometh,” saith the Lord, “the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life.” Rev. 3:5. And what does St. Paul say? “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Tim. 4:7, 8.

    Chapter LVII.

    Consolations Against The Fears Of Death.

    Christ hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.—2 Tim. 1:10.

    This sentence is full of divine comfort against the fears of temporal death. For if “Christ hath abolished death,” why should we fear it? And if “life and immortality be brought to light,” why should we not rejoice to pass through the gates of death, to take possession of them? But since there is no man so holy, but that at some time or other he is afraid of death, I shall here subjoin the chief heads of consolation, which I shall divide into two parts. The first contains those consolations which arise from Christ's sufferings and death, and the fruits of them. The second, those that arise from the consideration of the vanity of the world. Each of these parts shall comprehend seven arguments of comfort.

    [pg 369]

    2. I. The first and most powerful remedy against the fear of death, is the most holy and innocent death of Jesus Christ, by which he destroyed the power of death. The power of death consists in the continual dread, anxiety, terror, and trembling that arise from the thought of the severe judgment that is to follow. With this the soul is oftentimes so afflicted, that it is, as it were, continually dying, yet cannot die. This is the power of death, yea, is even the second and eternal death: and this terrible state the devil makes yet more dreadful by his suggestions. Upon this account he is said “to have the power of death” (Heb. 2:14); that is, to terrify and torment the conscience with hellish fears and terrors. This was David's case, as he complains, “My heart is sore pained within me; and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.” Ps. 55:4. So again, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.” Ps. 18:3, 4. Now the blessed Jesus has taken away this power of death, changing it into a calm sleep, a blessed rest of soul and body. When the soul is at rest, the body sleeps peacefully, so that the peace of the soul gives peace also to the body. Hence every true and faithful Christian may be properly said not to taste of death; according to that promise of our blessed Lord, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death.” John 8:51.

    3. The second ground of comfort is, the resurrection of our bodies. For Christ has so far destroyed the power of death, that it not only cannot torment our souls, but cannot even keep our bodies perpetually. As the power of Christ's death in us protects us from tasting the bitterness of it; so, by the power of his resurrection, our mortal bodies shall also be raised again to a glorious immortality.

    4. For (1), the foundation of our resurrection is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as he himself says, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” John 14:19. “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” John 11:25. “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Job 19:25. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Cor. 15:21, 22.

    5. (2) This is also founded upon God's veracity. “Thy dead men shall live.” Isa. 26:19. “Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O my people.” Ezek. 37:5, 12. “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Dan. 12:2. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:25, 28, 29. “And I saw the dead, both small and great, stand before God.” Rev. 20:12.

    6. (3) It is also founded upon the [pg 370] omnipotence and glory of Jesus Christ. As in the resurrection of Lazarus, he was glorified, when he cried out, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43); so will he also, in the last great day, manifest his power and glory, by showing himself to be the Lord of the dead and living. Rom. 14:9. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death; O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” Hosea 13:14.

    7. (4) The divine justice is also engaged for the confirmation of this truth. As it has received fulfilment in that sentence, “Thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17); so also must it be fulfilled in our resurrection after a complete satisfaction for sin. For when sin itself is at an end, the wages of sin ought to have an end likewise. This is strictly agreeable to the justice of God.

    8. (5) This is also further confirmed to us by the examples of those who have been already raised from death unto life. Such was the case of the widow's son (1 Kings 17:22); the Shunammite's son (2 Kings 4:35-37); the dead body that was raised by touching the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:21); the daughter of Jairus (Matt. 9:25); the widow's son at Nain (Luke 7:15); Lazarus (John 11:43); and Tabitha (Acts 9:41).

    9. (6) Christ hath redeemed both soul and body to everlasting life.

    10. (7) The beautiful parables derived from nature, as the grain of wheat, in John 12:24, claim attention. The apostle says: “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die,” etc. 1 Cor. 15:36, etc. Upon this account, burying-places are, in the German tongue, called God's fields (Gottesacker).

    11. A third comfort against the fears of death is, the fruit of Christ's resurrection; that is, that eternal, incorruptible, and immortal state purchased for us by Jesus Christ. For as by the transgression of the first Adam, all his posterity were made subject to death; so by the obedience of the second, all are restored to life and immortality. Upon which account it is said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Rev. 21:5. This renovation consists in an entire freedom from sin, misery, and death, and is a state of righteousness, joy, and eternal life. For this cause it is also called Paradise: “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Ps. 16:11. If it be Paradise, it follows, that no grief, pain, sorrow, or sighing: no hunger, thirst, cold, heat, or any other evil, can enter there. These all belong to this transitory life, but that eternal life is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away;” as we are told by St. Peter. (1 Peter 1:4.) This is, indeed, the glorious fruit of Christ's resurrection: for by Christ all things are renewed and restored; corruption is changed into incorruption; that which was transitory, into that which is eternal; our filthiness, into spotless purity; our grief, into joy; our sorrows, into triumphs; our sins, into righteousness; the divine anger into mercy; the curse into blessings; our poverty into riches; our diseases into health; our contempt into honor; our reproach into glory; our disquiet into everlasting rest; our miseries into pleasures; our death into life. Now death is the entrance into this blessed state: so that temporal death is the gate to everlasting life, and all these joys.

    12. The fourth consolation against the fear of death, is prayer. So we [pg 371] read of the Son of God, that “being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly.” Luke 22:44. And “in the days of his flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.” Heb. 5:7. Indeed, the prayers of dying people are strong and earnest; they proceed from the bottom of the heart, ascend through the clouds, and reach the ears of the Almighty. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.” Ps. 145:18. “I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.” Ps. 91:15. “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isa. 41:10.

    13. The fifth consolation is, the glorification of our bodies. “Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working, whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.” Phil. 3:20, 21. What greater glory can we conceive, than that our bodies shall be, like the glorified body of Jesus Christ? He showed us his glorified body upon Mount Tabor (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2, 3), that he might inflame us with a desire of the same glory. Oh! what a glorious temple of God shall our body then be! Of this, the royal and priestly garments under the law, were but a faint shadow and resemblance.

    14. The sixth is, the presence of the holy angels, who carry our departing souls into Abraham's bosom. Our soul enters into the regions of eternal glory, and joins the society of blessed spirits. This is what is meant by “Abraham's bosom.” Luke 16:22. That rest of the soul consists entirely in a freedom from the fears and terrors of death. So “Return unto thy rest, O my soul. For the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee: for thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” Ps. 116:7-9. For then the soul, being delivered from the yoke of the flesh, will rejoice like a prisoner rescued from long captivity.

    15. The seventh comfort is, the eternal duration of our future glory. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, or any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Rev. 7:16, 17. “My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.” Isa. 32:18. And “I will extend peace to her like a river. And as one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” Isa. 66:12, 13. “My servants shall eat, and drink, and rejoice.” Isa. 65:13. Such eating and drinking, are to be understood of their exalted pleasure, arising from their vision of God, “Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face.” 1 Cor. 13:12. “We shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2. “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Ps. 17:15. O happy day, when we shall see God face to face! How ardently did holy David long for it, saying, “When shall I come and appear before God?” Ps. 42:2.

    16. In short, the joy of eternal life [pg 372] will consist: 1. In the beatific vision of the face of God. 2. In the presence of Christ our Redeemer, in all his glory and majesty: “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me.” John 17:24. 3. In the most exalted enjoyments of all the gifts, graces, and pleasures of the Holy Ghost, “the fountain of life.” Ps. 36:9. 4. In the society of all the Elect, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isa. 35:10.

    17. II. Thus much for those consolations that arise from the nature, offices, and promises of the blessed Jesus. I come now to consider those that may be drawn from the consideration of the vanity of the world. Of these there are also seven.

    18. First, this life, how great and glorious soever it may appear to some, is made up of misery and sorrow. 1 Cor. 15:31. Every day steals away a part of our life, and as our years increase, our life decreases; so that every moment of our time is divided betwixt life and death. How many and various diseases are there, which, like slow poisons, waste and consume our bodies! How are we tormented with sorrow, broken with labors, and distracted with care! So that the wise man truly pronounced that “the day of death is better than the day of one's birth.” Eccles. 7:1. “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? Are not his days also like the days of a hireling? As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as a hireling looketh for the reward of his work: so am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.” Job 7:1-3. “Man that is born of a woman, is of few days and full of trouble.” Job 14:1. But a holy and happy death puts an end to all these miseries.

    19. Secondly, we are exposed to many and very grievous sins, from which nothing can deliver us but a happy death. Thus St. Paul complains, “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Rom. 7:23, 24. What is life but a continued course of sin? So that it was a prayer of one of the ancients, “Lord, let me die, that I may cease from sin.” And if the whole creation is travailing in pain, and waiting to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21, 22), how much more ought we to sigh after it? How full the world is of offences and stumbling-blocks, which we are continually obliged to see and suffer, whether we will or not! And these offences will so increase in the last days, that the souls of the righteous shall be vexed like righteous Lot's in Sodom. 2 Pet. 2:8. “I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun; and behold, the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore, I praised the dead which are already dead, more than the living which are yet alive.” Eccles. 4:1, 2. How many pestilent errors in matters of faith; how many heresies, superstitions, false [pg 373] prophets and false Christs there are, so that, if it were possible, even the elect might be deceived! Matt. 24:24. Upon this account God takes his faithful people out of all these dangers and troubles. How many dreadful mischiefs, and mournful events, how many wars, butcheries, plagues, and famines occur! Such, and so great, are they, that indeed no Christian would wish to see or endure them.

    20. Thirdly, all must die without distinction. “Death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Rom. 5:12. Since so many holy and excellent men, so many Patriarchs, Prophets, and so many other righteous men are dead, who would not willingly follow them? “Take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4), said the prophet Elijah. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Heb. 9:27. “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.” Isa. 40:6, 7. “I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” Ps. 39:12.

    21. Fourthly, no man dies by chance; but God is the Lord of life, and he has appointed the bounds of its duration. “His days are determined, the number of his months are with thee.” Job 14:5. “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.” Ps. 90:3. “In thy book all my members were written.” Ps. 139:16. “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matt. 10:30. “God is thy life, and the length of thy days.” Deut. 30:20.

    22. Fifthly, “To die is gain.” Phil. 1:21. We gain more than we lose by dying; righteousness, instead of sin; glory, for misery; heavenly riches, for earthly; instead of the short-lived friendships and relations of this world, we gain an eternal fellowship and union with the saints in heaven; instead of this mortal, diseased, and frail body, we gain a heavenly and glorious one; we change banishment for our own country; misery, for peace; and this world for heaven. In short, what is there in this world, that we cannot have infinitely better in the next? If thou seekest riches, honors, or glory; with friends, pleasures, peace, or enjoyments, all these thou shalt enjoy in a far higher degree in the next world.

    23. Sixthly, Man would be the most miserable creature in the world, if he were obliged to abide in it forever. “If in this life only,” saith St. Paul, “we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” 1 Cor. 15:19. It follows, therefore, that we are designed for a better world. So that, in truth, it is a very affecting instance of divine mercy to take us out of this valley of tears, and translate us to a better place. “The righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.” Isa. 57:1, 2. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” Rev. 14:13.

    24. Seventhly, since we cannot with these bodily and sinful eyes behold the glory of God, nor enter with these mortal bodies into the “new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13); let us cheerfully put off this earthly tabernacle, that we may be clothed with a heavenly and spiritual body. 1 Cor. 15:44. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither [pg 374] doth corruption inherit incorruption.” 1 Cor. 15:50. Great, therefore, is the mercy of God, who exchanges these filthy rags for a shining garment, in which we may celebrate the eternal marriage; a beautiful, festive garment, fit to be worn in the everlasting rest; a priestly robe, with which we may enter into the very holy of holies.

    Conclusion Of The Second Book.

    At the close of this Book, I desire to submit one or two points to the consideration of the Christian reader.

    In writing these Books I have had no other object in view than that, in connection with our pure religion and confession of faith, as set forth in the Church of the Augsburg Confession, and repeated in the Formula of Concord (which I publicly and sincerely adopt, and in accordance with which I desire these writings of mine to be understood), purity and holiness of the life might be promoted. For purity of doctrine is of no benefit, when it is not adorned by a holy life. We ought to guard the purity of doctrine with watchful eyes, but sustain holiness of life with even greater earnestness. Of what advantage are great skill and learning without godliness? It is much better, in the eyes of God, to train up a devout man, than to make a learned man of him. There are many who teach the doctrine of Christ with great zeal, but there are few who in their practice conform to his life. As to this point the Christian reader is referred to the Preface of the First Book, and to the Conclusion of the Fourth Book.

    2. If any one should allege that I have treated too diffusely of the doctrine of Christian faith, I beg to give the following answer: Our evil life is also very extensive—the evils under which we labor are very serious—our redemption is a great work—and our crosses are manifold. But let any one who desires greater brevity, read the several chapters in the First, Second, and Third Books, which treat of Repentance, Faith, Love, Humility, Meekness, Patience, and the Cross, and he will find the whole Christian life described without prolixity. Nevertheless, if thou wilt read the whole work, thou wilt be abundantly rewarded for the time and labor which thou hast thus expended.