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2. By treating his friends with afflictions and trials, he pours contempt on the world, and all its honour, wealth, and ease; shewing to all thereby, that those things which carnal men set their hearts on, are such things as he hath no value for, else he would never dispose of them at the rate he does. Thereby he invites his enemies to repentance, and renders them inexcusable if they be not gained thereby, Rom. ii. 4. And he tries the faith, love, and patience of his own, and thereby lays up for their greater weight of glory, 1 Pet. i. 6, 7.
3. He chooseth the most unlikely instruments and means to accomplish his purposes, that he may stain the pride of all glory, Is. xxiii. 9, that all may be referred to himself as the first cause and last end of all things, which is the reasonable order, 1 Cor. i. 31. Therefore he "put the treasure in earthen vessels," 2 Cor. iv. 7, and for the same reason not in the finest, but the coarsest of the sort.
4. He works by contrary means, that he may shew himself to be above means, and to have them at his beck, and to surprise his people more sweetly with the unlooked-for effect of them. The character of divine power is the more deeply engraven on the effect, that the means of themselves are not of that tendency.
USE 1. Then all that the Lord does is well done. There is nothing amiss in it, Deut. xxxii. 4; in the blackest dispensation there is a line of purity. The smoking oven is joined with a burning lamp, Gen. xv. 17. Compare Isa. lxii. 1. In the whole fabric of providence towards the children of men, there is not one wrong pin, there is nothing awry, but everything lies straight to its end.
2. When ye cannot find out the reason, a becoming reason of some dispensation towards the church or yourselves, yet believe that it is not without a becoming reason, and be satisfied in your minds that it is well done, because the counsellor has done it. When you put a straight stick in the water, it appears to your eyes to be crooked; yet you do not think or believe in your judgment that it is really crooked. That appearance is owing to your eyesight, not to the stick itself, which remains straight. So is it with us oft-times in respect of the dispensations of providence. But let faith correct the errors of sense in this matter, Jer. xii. 1.
3. Wait ye, and the reason of the most mysterious dispensation will appear in a clear light at length. There is a promise for it; John xiii. 7, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." Since the counsellor does nothing without a reason, he will for his own honour satisfy all his friends with it,
and silence his enemies for ever; and thereby he will bountifully reward believing waiters, and confound unbelieving quarrellers of his conduct.
Sixthly, He manageth all with a depth of wisdom. Counsel speaks not only a reasonable management, but a depth of wisdom; for it is to things of the greatest weight and difficulty that counsellors are required; Prov. xx. 5, "Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out." Hereof take the following evidences.
EVIDENCE 1. His compassing a great variety of ends by one and the same means, and all these designed. What a vast variety of ends did he compass by Joseph's being sold into Egypt? Hereby Jacob was tried, the naughtiness of his sons discovered, Joseph himself proved, Jacob's posterity provided for, Christ was typified, way was made for the greatest events under the Old Testament, &c. So some suffer, and the Counsellor designs the good of many thereby; 2 Cor. i. 6, "And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings, which we also suffer; or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation." In men's management there may be happy undesigned hits; but all these are designed by the infinite mind of the Counsellor.
EVID. 2. That no man can fully reach what is in the womb of providence, in the most open and obvious steps of it. He may see this and the other design in it, but still there is something beyond what he sees; Psalm. xcii. 5, “O Lord, how great are thy works; and thy thoughts are very deep." Sober-minded men of learning will own, that they cannot have a full and comprehensive notion of the least insect; they know not but the Creator may have put in it some quality which they cannot discern. And sober-minded Christians will own the same in the most obvious steps of providence; Rom. xi. 33, "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"
EVID. 3. The greatest variety of designs in a dispensation is guarded on every side by the wisdom of the Counsellor, that one shall not overthrow, nor interfere with another. Man's wisdom cannot prevent, that where they have many irons in the fire together, some of them must cool, while others of them are working; but every the least design of the counsellor must take, by his wise management; Isa. xlvi. 10, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." See Joel ii. 7, 8, "They shall run like mighty men, they shall climb the wall like men of war, and they shall march
every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks, neither shall one thrust another, they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded." For the wheels are full of eyes round about.
EVID. 4. His bringing the greatest of things out of the smallest beginnings. O how often does the Counsellor, in the depth of his wisdom, rear up golden pillars on leaden bases, and make the cloud like a man's hand at first, cover the whole face of the heavens ? Thus he manages in the kingdom of nature; for an instance of which, man needs not go without himself; but consider what a minute thing it is from which this body of his, growing to such a bulk, in such comely proportion, with such a variety of organs doth take its rise; Psalm cxxxix. 14, "I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well." In the kingdom of grace; in its beginning in a soul, and in the world, it is as a grain of mustard seed, Matth. xiii. 31. So Psalm lxxii. 16, "There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon, and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth." How low were the beginnings of that kingdom which has now filled the earth? The stone is become a great mountain, filling the earth, Dan. ii. 35.
EVID. 5. His making the most weighty and surprising turns in matters, upon the smallest of events. If we trace the turn the affairs of the church took in Mordecai's days, to the overthrowing of Haman's desperate plot, to the first spring of it; we will find it was a vapour that had got up into Ahasuerus's head that he could not sleep, Esther vi. 1. In the smallest of things God is very great. He that hangs the earth upon nothing, often makes a very minute circumstance to be the hinge on which great things turn; 2 Kings iii. 23.
EVID. 6. His counteracting successfully the united force of devils and men, in all ages, set for the overthrow of his kingdom; Prov. xxi. 30, "There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord." The subjects of Christ's kingdom are weak, and easily beguiled; Satan is most subtle, watchful, and incessant in his acting against them; the war has been carried on by hell against them through all ages; the generality of the world is on Satan's side; often the feet of the saints are almost slipt; yet the church is preserved, not one of Christ's kindly subjects lost. This proclaims aloud the depth of wisdom in her King, Micah iv. 9. See Gen. iii. 15.
EVID. 7. Lastly, His outshooting the devil in his own bow, and
bringing good out of evil, Phil. i. 12. The malice of hell never appeared more, than in the sufferings Christ himself was put to: yet out of these was the salvation of an elect world brought; and these were they that shook the kingdom of Satan to the foundations. The very temptations and falls of the saints are overruled to some advantage, Rom. viii. 28.
USE I. Then whatsoever he doth, is not only well done, but best done, Eccl. iii. 14. If thou art out of Christ, whatever thou meetest with in the providence of God, it is that which for the time is best for the glory of God. If thou art in Christ, whatsoever thou meeetest with, is for the time best for God's honour, and best for thee too. For all is the product of the depth of wisdom. The reason of the difference is, that the believer being in God's covenant, God's honour and his good are joint interests secured by the covenant; unbelievers are not so.
2. The believer may securely trust him to whom he has committed his soul, with the management of all that concerns him; Psalm xxxvii. 5, "Commit thy way unto the Lord: trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass." Our anxiety should be confined to our duty; to be otherwise anxious, as for provision, protection, and the like, is but the fruit of unbelief; Luke xii. 29, "And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind." Since God stands in the relation of a Father, and is infinitely wise, there is complete ground for the security of faith; Matth. vi. 8, "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him."
3. In the case of doubtful events, believe that the Counsellor will do what is best. This is what ye are to believe in such a case; Psalm lxxxv. 12, "The Lord will give that which is good." Here is the rest of faith in cases of a doubtful issue: and here one may securely rest waiting the issue, which the depth of wisdom shall in due time bring forth. Dominus meus omnia, &c.-Luther.
Seventhly, and Lastly, He is the best Counsellor; there is none like him. There are many counsellors, nobody wants some; but his name is Counsellor, as if there were not another; for he is the Counsellor by way of eminency.
Here we shall,
1st, Confirm the truth of this assertion, That Christ is the best Counsellor.
2dly, Shew wherein he counsels sinners.
3dly, How he gives his counsel.
First, To confirm the truth of this assertion, That Christ is the best Counsellor, consider,
1. He is of the Father's choice and nomination for a Counsellor to us; 1 Cor. i. 30, "He is made of God unto us wisdom." When the Father from eternity, pitying fallen man in his ruined state, was thinking on a Counsellor, that might by his wisdom retrieve their sinking affairs, he pitched on Jesus Christ; Psalm lxxxix. 19, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty." The highest angel was too weak for such a burden; but the Son, who was of the cabinet-council of heaven, was the choice; and sinners are referred to him, Matth. xvii. 5.
2. He is the saint's choice in all ages for a Counsellor; who all with one voice say; Psalm lxxiii. 24, 25, "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 for ever." Men are by nature out of themselves, and so will keep the guiding of themselves in their own hands; but as soon as they come to themselves, they renounce their own wisdom, will no more believe their own eyes, but by faith choose him for their Counsellor.
3. He never misseth the point in his counselling, Prov. xxx. 5. "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him." The best of counsellors among men will miss at a time; but infinite wisdom is not liable to mistake. He sees, and sees through all that is past and present, and thoroughly foresees all that is to come. How can he err in his counsel ?
Secondly, Wherein doth Christ counsel sinners ? He counsels them,
1. In their greatest concerns, their concerns for eternity. In these they have least skill; in these a mistaking of their measures is most fatal; so his counsel respects these chiefly. And he counsels them,
(1.) To the way of peace, which they know not, Rev. iii. 18. The gospel is Christ's counsel to sinners; thereby he points them the way to the favour of God, the pardon of their sin, the securing to themselves a right to heaven, and freedom from the wrath and curse of God. He presseth and plies them to take that counsel, with the strongest arguments.
(2.) In the way to peace and happiness, how they being set on it, may keep it till they arrive at perfect happiness, Psalm lxxiii. 24. His clients are in a wilderness while in this world; and he is to be instead of eyes to them there. In every new emergent difficulty, they have access to his counsel, what course to take in such a temptation, dark step, or case.
2. In their lesser concerns, viz. the things of time. He refuses