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was once zealous and fervent, laborious and diligent, serious and watchful, whose love was flaming, his defires after God and Chrift vigorous, his faith strong, his mortification to the present world remarkable, and his mind, difcourfe and converfation favouring of a better, and fhewing an evident tendency to it: How fervently would he pray? How diligently hear? How exactly walk? But alas! how fad a change is there now vifible in him? How cold and formal, fecure and indifferent, carnal and earthly is the man become? And where would these things iffue, did not God reclaim him by fome awakening affliction, which fufficiently proves its neceffity and usefulnefs. Before I was afflicted, fays David, I went aftray; but now have I kept thy word.
In ease and profperity faints themselves are too apt to go backward, and fuffer decays; abate of their watchfulness against fin, and diligence in duty, and fo of their advances towards heaven; and instead thereof, to indulge the flesh, pursue the world, and fink in a great measure into the temper of it. And in this cafe, what need is there of fome fore affliction to bring them back to themselves and God, and repair the disorders they were running into?
By these we all are led to remember from whence we are fallen, and excited to repent and do our first works, to strengthen the things that remain that are ready to die; and fo our ruin is prevented, and we are reduced to a better frame.
A house will gather duft and foil, and fo needs to be cleanfed: and corruption is as apt to grow
even in faints themfelves, to purge away which, affliction is neceffary.
The troubles wherewith God fees fit to vifit his people, have a tendency to this, by discovering corruption, and withdrawing the feuel that fed it, and putting us upon earnest prayer for the Spirit's aid, to mortify and fubdue it. And thus, though no chaftening is for the prefent joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness, unto them that are exercised thereby, Heb. xii. 11.
If God has put us among his children, this character fpeaks our need of affliction. For,
(1.) Children in a family are prone to grow proud and vain, rebellious and stubborn, and stand in need of correction to keep them in their places, and hold them to their duty: and the children of God have equal need of affliction to keep them in fubjection to him, and to reduce them from their wandrings. And when it works kindly, this will be their language. Hofea vi. 1. Come and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and he will beal us, be bath fmitten, and he will bind us up. Surely it is meet to be faid unto God, I have born chaftisement, I will not offend any more. That which I fee not, teach thou me, and if I have done iniquity, I will do fo no more. Thus, to yield to God, is a temper very becoming his children; to bring them to which, it is often neceffary they should first be melted down in the furnace of affliction,
(2.) Children have many things to learn, in which they need to be inftructed: And the children of God have equal need to be inftructed by
him; and in order to it, he brings them into the fchool of affliction.
Here he fenfibly acquaints thèm with the vanity and emptiness of all this world to help to wean them from it, and fhews them, they are never to find their reft in it, and that it is in vain there to expect it.
This leffon they need an affliction to fet home, as being fo apt to fay in profperity, It is good to be here. But with an afflicted faint, the world has loft its charms, and appears, as indeed it is, full of vanity and vexation, a place where he cannot live always, and does not defire it; looking upon their cafe as miferable who have nothing to expect or enjoy beyond it. In this fchool God teaches them the evil of fin, that has let in so much misery upon the world, and is the procuring cause of all they fuffer, and the worth of an intereft in Chrift, and a title to heaven; and how much they are concerned to make sure of both, as nothing else can ftand them in ftead, and keep them from fainting and perishing in their affliction. Upon fuch accounts David cries out, Blefed is the man whom thou chafteneft, O Lord, and teaches him out of thy law, Pfalm xciv. 12.
5. The Word of God tends to the comfort of his people in affliction, as acquainting them, that though for wife ends God brings them under the rod, he confiders their frame, and remembers that they are but dust, and will not increase the tryal, either as to degree, or continuance, beyond what he will enable them to bear.
In measure will he debate with them; he ftayeth his rough wind in the day of his eaft wind, Ifa. xxvii. 8.
6. Lastly, It is greatly reviving to learn from the word, that under times of affliction God has chofen to let out his love more freely to his people, than at other feafons. And who would not be reconciled to the rod, to know and tafte more of his promise to the church, Hofea ii. 14. Iwill allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and Speak comfortably unto her?
Thus the word of God is a store-house of comfort to his people, under their various afflictions. while they live.
2. It is fitted to delight them when they are called to die and to do this, as teaching them two things, viz.
(1.) That as dying God will be with them.
(1.) They are taught from the word, that as dying God will be with them. In this he goes farther in his declaration to his people, than Ruth did to Naomi, her mother. Ruth, when entreated by her to go back, answered, whither thou goeft, I will go; and where thou lodgeft, I will lodge: thy people fhall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou dieft, will I die, and there will I be buried: The Lord do fo to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. If nothing in life can do it, death will separate the dearest friends among mankind. But God having guided his people even unto death, will not then take leave of them, not when flesh and heart are failing them, but as he lives ftill, he will be with them still.
Though father and mother, physicians and friends forfake God's people as going off the stage
of the world, and they are left alone as to any of thefe, they are not altogether alone; for the Father is with them. He thus befpeaks every one of his children, Ifa. xliii. 2. When thou palest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they fhall not overflow thee. And this does not only extend to them under all the evils they meet with whilst in the world, but when going out of it. Thus the Pfalmift encourageth himself in God, yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.
(2.) They are taught from the word, that after death they fhall be with God, that he having guided them by his counsel fo far, will afterwards receive them to glory. When their earthly tabernacle is diffolved, they have a building of God, an houfe not made with hands, where they fhall dwell in that prefence of his, where there is fulnefs of joy, and at whose right-hand are pleasures for evermore.
There is one thing more under the doctrinal part, viz.
V. The nature of the delight or confolation derived from the word. And
1. The delight or confolation derived from the word is truly divine, and the confolation of God.
It has the word of God for its ground, and the Spirit of God for its author. It comes from heaven, is the beginning of it, and leads to it; and it is no wonder then that it carrries the foul with fa much triumph through all the trials it may meet, with upon the way. When God puts gladness VOL. II. L into