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is some lasting grievance, so the consideration of this as the remedy should be habitually kept up. There are other considerations besides this, that we must entertain, so that we cannot always have it expressly in our mind: but we must lay it down for a rooted principle, according to which we are to manage the crook, and keep the heart in a disposition, whereby it may slip into our minds, as occasion requires, expressly.
(2.) Occasionally exercised in it. Whenever we begin to feel the smart of the crook, we should fetch in this remedy: when the yoke begins to gall the neck, there should be an application of this spiritual ointment. And however often the former comes in on us, it will be our wisdom to fetch in the latter as the proper remedy: the oftener it is used, it will more easily come to hand, and also be the more effectual.
Lastly, A considering it for the end for which it is proposed to us, viz. to bring to a dutiful carriage under it. Men's corruption will cause them to enter on this consideration: and as is the principle, so will the end and effect of it be corrupt, 2 Kings vi. 33. But we must enter on, and use it for a good end, if we would have good of it, taking it as a practical consideration for regulating our conduct under the crook.
II. How is it to be understood to be a proper means to bring one to carry rightly under the crook.
1. Negatively, Not as if it were sufficient of itself, and as it stands alone, to produce that effect. But, 2. Positively, As it is used in faith, in the faith of the gospel: that is to say, a sinner's bare considering the crook in his lot as the work of God, without any saving relation to him, will never be a way to carry rightly under it: but having believed in Jesus Christ, and so taking God for his God, the considering of the crook as the work of God, his God, is the proper means to bring him to that desirable temper and behaviour. Many hearers mistake here. When they hear such and such law-considerations proposed for bringing them to duty, they presently imagine, that, by the mere force of them, they may gain the point. And many preachers too, who, forgetting Christ and the gospel, pretend, by the force of reason, to make men Christians: the eyes of both being held, that they do not see the corruption of men's nature, which is such as sets the true cure above the force of reason; all that they are sensible of being some ill habits, which they think may be shaken off by a vigorous application of their rational faculties. To clear this matter, consider,
First, Is it rational to think to set fallen man, with his corrupted nature, to work the same way with innocent Adam? That is to set
beggars on a level with the rich, lame men on a journey with them that have limbs. Innocent Adam had a stock of gracious abilities, whereby he might have, by the force of moral considerations, brought himself to perform duty aright. But where is that with us? 2 Cor. iii. 5. Whatever force be in them to a soul endued with spiritual life, what force is in them to raise the dead, such as we are? Eph. ii. 1.
Secondly, The scripture is very plain on this head, shewing the indispensable necessity of faith, Heb. xi. and that such as unites to Christ, John xv. 5. "Without me," i. e. separate from me, “ye can do nothing;" no not with all the moral considerations ye can use. How were the ten commandments given on mount Sinai? Not bare exactions of duty, but fronted with the gospel, to be believed in the first place; "I am the Lord thy God," &c. And so Solomon, whom many do regard rather as a moral philosopher, than an inspired writer leading to Christ, fronts his writings, in the beginning of the Proverbs, with most express gospel. And must we have it expressly repeated in our Bibles with every moral precept, or else shut our eyes, and take these precepts without it? This is the effect of our natural enmity to Christ. If we loved him more, we would see him more in every page, and in every command, receiving the law at his mouth.
Thirdly, Do but consider what it is to carry rightly under the crook in the lot; what humiliation of soul, self-denial, and absolute resignation to the will of God, must be in it; what love to God it must proceed from; how regard to his glory must influence it as the chief end thereof; and try and see, if it is not impossible for you to reach it without that faith aforementioned. I know a Christian may reach it without full assurance: but still, according to the measure of their persuasion that God is their God, so will their attainments in it be; these keep equal pace. O what kind of hearts do they imagine themselves to have, that think they can for a moment empty them of the creature, farther than they can fill them with a God, as their God, in its room and stead! No doubt men may, from the force of moral considerations, work themselves to a behaviour under the crook, externally right, such as many Pagans had; but a Christian disposition of spirit under it will never be reached without that faith in God.
OBJECTION. Then it is saints only that are capable of the improvement of that consideration. ANSW. Yea, indeed it is so, as to that and all other moral considerations, for true Christian ends; and that amounts to no more, than that directions for walking rightly are only for the living, that have the use of their limbs: and therefore that we may improve it, set yourselves to believe in the first place.
III. I shall confirm that it is a proper mean to bring one to carry rightly under it. This will appear, if ye consider these four things.
1. It is of great use to divert from the considering and dwelling on these things about the crook, which serve to irritate our corruption. Such are the frustrating of our wills and wishes; the satisfaction we would have in matters going according to our mind; the instruments of the crook, how injurious they are to us, how unreasonable, how obstinate, &c. The dwelling on these considerations is but the blowing of the fire within; but to turn our eyes to it as the work of God, would be a cure by way of diversion, 2 Sam. vi. 9, 10; and such diversion of the thoughts is not only lawful, but expedient and
2. It has a moral aptitude for producing the good effect. Though our cure is not compassed by the mere force of reason; yet it is carried on, not by a brutal movement, but in a rational way, Eph. V. 14. This consideration has a moral efficacy on our reason, is fit to awe us into submission, and ministers much argument for it, moving to carry christianly under our crook.
3. It hath a divine appointment for that end, which is to be believed, Prov. iii. 6. so the text. The creature in itself is an inefficacious and moveless thing, a mere vanity, Acts xvii. 28. What makes any thing a means fit for an end, without the faith of this, is to make a god of the creature; therefore it is to be used in a dependence on God, according to that word of appointment, 1 Tim. iv. 4, 5. And every thing is fit for the end for which God has appointed it. This consideration is appointed for that end; and therefore is a fit means for it.
Lastly, The Spirit may be expected to work by it, and does work by it in them that believe, and look to him for it, forasmach as it is a mean of his own appointment. Papists, Legalists, and all superstitious persons, devise various means of sanctification, seeming to have, or really having a moral fitness for the same but they are quite ineffectual, because, like Abana and Pharpar, they want a word of divine appointment for curing us of our leprosy therefore the Spirit works not by them, since they are none of his own tools, but devised of their hearts. And since the means of divine appointment are ineffectual without the Spirit, these can never be effectual. But this consideration having a divine appointment, the Spirit works by it.
Use. Then take this direction for your carrying right under the crook in your lot. Inure yourselves to consider it as the work of God. And for helping you to improve it, so as it may be effectual, I offer these advices.
1. Consider it as the work of your God in Christ. This is the way to sprinkle it with gospel-grace, and so to make it tolerable, Psal. xxii. 1, 2, 3. The discerning of a Father's hand in the crook will take out much of the bitterness of it, and sugar the pill to you. For this cause it will be necessary, (1.) Solemnly to take God for your God under your crook, Psal. cxlii. 4, 5. (2.) In all your encounters with it, resolutely to believe and claim your interest in him, 1 Sam. xxx. 6.
2. Enlarge the consideration with a view of the divine relations to you, and the divine attributes. Consider it, being the work of your God, the work of your Father, elder Brother, Head, Husband, &c. who therefore surely consults your good. Consider his holiness and justice, shewing he wrongs you not; his mercy and goodness, that it is not worse; his sovereignty, that may silence you; his infinite wisdom and love, that may satisfy you in it.
3. Consider what a work of his it is; how it is a convincing work, for bringing sin to remembrance; a correcting work, to chastize you for your follies; a preventing work, to hedge you up from courses of sin ye would otherwise be apt to run into; a trying work, to discover your state, your graces and corruptions; a weaning work, to wean you from the world, and fit you for heaven.
Lastly, In all your considerations of it in this manner, look upward for the Spirit to render them effectual, 1 Cor. iii. 6. Thus may ye carry christianly under it till God even it either here or in heaven.
PROVERBS Xvi. 19.
Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
COULD men once be brought to believe, that it is better to have their minds brought to ply with the crook in their lot, than to force even the crook to their mind, they would then be in a fair way to bring their matters in that case to a good account. Here then the divine decision in that case, "Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud." In which words,
First, There is a comparison instituted, and that between two parties, and two points wherein they vastly differ.
1st. The parties are the lowly and the proud, who differ like heaven and the centre of the earth; the proud are ay climbing up, and
soaring aloft; the lowly are content to creep on the ground, if that is the will of God: let us view them more particularly as the text represents them.
(1.) On the one hand is the lowly. Here there is a line reading, and a marginal, both from the Holy Spirit, and they differ only in a letter. The former is the afflicted or poor, that are low in their condition; those that have a notable crook in their lot through affliction laid on them, whereby their condition is lowered in the world. The other is the lowly or meek humble ones, who are low in their spirit as well as their condition, and so have their mind brought down to their lot. Both together make the character of this lowly party.
(2.) On the other hand is the proud, the gay and high-minded ones. It is supposed here, that they are crossed too, and have crooks in their lot; for dividing the spoil is the consequent of a victory, and a victory presupposes a battle.
2d. The points wherein these parties are supposed to differ, viz. being of a humble spirit, and dividing the spoil.
Afflicted and lowly ones may sometimes get their condition changed, may be raised up on high, and divide the spoil, as Hannah, Job, &c. The proud may be sometimes thrown down and crushed, as Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, &c. But that is not the question, whether it is better to be raised up with the lowly, or thrown down with the proud. There would be no difficulty in determining that. But the question is, whether it is better to be of a low and humble spirit, in low circumstances, with afflicted humble ones, or to divide the spoil, and get one's will, with the proud? If men would speak the native sentiments of their hearts, that question would be determined in a contradiction to the text. The points then here compared, and set one against the other, are these,
(1.) On the one hand, to be of a humble spirit with afflicted lowly Hebrew, to be of low spirit; for the word primarily denotes lowness in situation or state. So the point here proposed is to be with or in the state of afflicted lowly ones, having the spirit brought down to that low lot, the lowness of the spirit, balancing the lowness of one's condition.
(2.) On the other hand, to divide the spoil with the proud. The point here proposed is, to be with or in the state of the proud, having their lot by main force brought to their mind; as those who, taking themselves to be injured, fight it out with the enemy, overcome and divide the spoil according to their will.
2. The decision made, wherein the former is preferred to the latter, Better it is, &c. If these two parties were set before us, it were