Imatges de pÓgina

Lastly, When both shall come to be judged, it will appear the one has multiplied the tale of their good works, in bringing their spirit to their lot; the other the tale of their ill works, in bringing their lot to their spirit. We have to do with an omniscient God, in whose eyes every internal action is a work good or bad, to be reckoned for, Rom. ii. 16.

An afflicted lot is painful, but, where it is well managed, it is very fruitful; it exercises the graces of the Spirit in a Christian, which otherwise would lie dormant. But there is never an act of resignation to the will of God under the cross, nor an act of trusting in him for his help, but they will be recorded in Heaven's register as good works, Mal. iii. 16. And these are occasioned by affliction.

On the other hand, there is never a rising of the proud heart against the lot, nor a faithless attempt to bring it to our mind, whether it succeed or not, but it passes for an ill work before God. How then will the tale of such be multiplied by the war in which this spoil is divided!

USE I. Of information. Hence we may learn,

1. It is not always best for folk to get their will. Many there are who cannot be pleased with God's will about them, and they get their own will with a vengeance, Psal. lxxxi. 11, 12.-" Israel would none of me. So I gave them up to their own heart's lust; and they walked in their own counsels." It may be pleasantest and gratefullest for the time, but it is not the safest. Let not people pride themselves in their carrying things that way then by strong hand; let them not triumph on such victory: the after-reckoning will open their eyes.

2. The afflicted crossed party, whose lot is kept low, is so far from being a loser, that he is a gainer thereby, if his spirit is brought down to it. And if he will see his case in the light of God's unerring word, he is in better case than if he had got all carried to his mind. In the one way the vessels of wrath are fitted for destruction, Psal. lxxviii. 29, 30, 31. In the other the vessels of mercy are fitted for glory, and so God disciplines his own, Lam. iii. 27.

3. It is better to yield to providence than to fight it out though we should win. Yielding to the sovereign disposal is both our becoming duty and our greatest interest. Taking that way we act most honourably: for what honour can there be in a creature's disputing his ground with his Creator? And we act most wisely for whatever may be the success of some battles in that case, we may be sure victory will be on Heaven's side in the war, 1 Sam. ii. 9.— "for by strength shall no man prevail."

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Lastly, It is of far greater concern for us to get our spirits brought down than our outward condition raised. But who believes this? All men strive to raise their outward condition; most men never mind the bringing down of their spirits, and few there are who apply themselves to it. And what is that but to be concerned to administer drink to the thirsty sick, but never to mind to seek a cure for them, whereby their thirst may be carried off?

USE II. As you meet with crosses in your lot in the world, let your bent be rather to get your spirit humbled and brought down, than to get the cross removed. I mean not but that ye may use all lawful means for the removal of your cross, in dependence on God; but only that you be more concerned to get your spirit to bow and ply, than to get the crook in your lot evened.

Motive 1. It is far more needful for us to have our spirits humbled under the cross, than to have the cross removed. The removal

of the cross is needful only for the ease of the flesh, the humbling for the profit of our souls, to purify them and bring them into a state of health and cure.

2. The humbling of the spirit will have a mighty good effect on a crossed lot, but the removal of the cross will have none on the unhumbled spirit. The humbling will lighten the cross mightily for the time, Matth. xi. 30. and in due time carry it cleanly off, 1 Pet. v. 6. But the removal of the cross is not a means to humble the unhumbled; though it may prevent irritation, yet the disease still remains.

Lastly, Think with yourselves how dangerous and hopeless a case it is to have the cross removed ere the spirit is humbled; that is to have the means of cure pulled away, and blocked up from us, while the power of the disease is yet unbroken; to be taken off trials ere we have given any good proof of ourselves, and so to be given over of our physician as hopeless, Is. i. 5. Hos. iv. 17.

For direction, Believing the gospel, take God for your God in Christ towards your eternal salvation, and then dwell much on the thoughts of God's greatness and holiness, and of your own sinfulness, so will ye be humbled under the mighty hand of God, and in due time he will lift you up.

1 PETER V. 6.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he exalt you in due time.


In the preceding part of this chapter, the apostle presseth the duties of church-officers towards the people, and then the duty of the people both towards their officers and among themselves, which he winds up in one word, submission. For which causes he recommends humility as the great means to bring all to their respective duties. This is inforced with an argument taken from the different treatment the Lord gives to the proud and the humble; his opposing himself to the one, and shewing favour to the other. Our text is an exhortation drawn from that consideration: and in it we have,

1. The duty we are therefore to study, Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. And herein we may notice,

(1.) The state of those whom it is proposed to, these under the mighty hand of God, whom his hand has humbled, or stated some way low in respect of their circumstances in the world. And by these are, I think, meant, not only such as are under particular signal afflictions, which is the lot of some, but also those, who, by the providence of God, are any manner of way lowered, which is the lot of all. All being in a state of submission or dependence on others, God has made this life a state of trial; and for that cause he has, by his mighty hand, subjected men one to another, as wives, children, servants, to husbands, parents, masters; and these again to their superiors; among whom, again, even the highest depend on those under them, as magistrates and ministers on the people, even the supreme magistrate, being major singulis, minor universis. This state of the world God has made for taking trial of men in their several stations and dependence on others: and therefore, when the time of trial is over, it also comes to an end. "Then cometh the end-when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power," 1 Cor. xv. 24, 25. Mean time, while it lasts, it makes humility necessary to all, to prompt them to the duty they owe their superiors, to whom God's mighty hand has subjected them.

(2.) The duty itself, viz. humiliation of our spirits under humbling circumstances the Lord has placed us in. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Whether it is we are under particular afflictions, which have cast us down from the height we were sometimes in, or whether we

are only inferiors in one or more relations, or whether, which is most common, both these are in our case, we must therein eye the mighty hand of God, as that which placed us there, and is over us there to hold us down in it; and so, with an awful regard thereto, crouch down under it in the temper and disposition of our spirit, suiting our spirits to our lot, and careful of performing the duty of our low sphere.

(3.) A particular spring of this duty therefore we must consider, that those who cannot quietly keep the place assigned them of God, in their afflictions or relations, but still press upward against the mighty hand that is over them, that mighty hand resists them, throwing them down, and often farther down than before; whereas it treats them with grace and favour that compose themselves under it, to a quiet discharge of their duty in their situation; so, eyeing this, we must set ourselves to humble ourselves.

2. The infallible issue of that course, that he may exalt you in due time. The particle that, is not always to be understood finally, as denoting the end or design the agent proposes to himself, but sometimes eventually only, as denoting the event or issue of the action, John ix. 2. 1 John ii. 19. So here, the meaning is not, humble yourselves, on design he may exalt you, but-and it shall issue in his exalting you. Compare James iv. 10.

(1.) Here is a happy event of humiliation of spirit secured, and that is exaltation or lifting up on high by the power of God, that he, &c. Exalting will as surely follow on humiliation of spirit, suitable to the low condition, as the morning follows the night, or the sun riseth after the dawning. And these words are fitted to obviate the objections that the world and our corrupt hearts are apt to make against bringing down the spirit to the low condition.

Object. 1. If we let our spirit fall, we will lie always among folk's feet, and they will trample on us. Answ. No: pride of spirit unsubdued will bring men to lie among the feet of others for ever, Is. lxvi. 24. But humiliation of spirit will bring them undoubtedly out from among their feet, Mal. iv. 2, 3. They that humble themselves now will be exalted for ever; they will be brought out of their low situation and circumstances. Cast ye yourselves even down with your low lot, and assure yourselves ye shall not lie there.

Object. 2. If we do not raise ourselves, none will raise us: and therefore we must see to ourselves to do ourselves right. Answ. That is wrong. Humble ye yourselves in respect of your spirits, and God will raise you up in respect of your lot or low condition; and they that have God engaged for raising them, have no reason to say they have none to do it for them. Bringing down the spirit is our

duty, raising us up is God's work: let us not forfeit the privilege of God's raising us up, by arrogating that work to ourselves, taking it out of his hand.

Object. 3. But surely we will never rise high, if we let our spirits fall. Answ. That is wrong too. God will not only raise the humble ones, but he will lift them up on high; for so the word signifies. They shall be as high at length as ever they were low, were they ever so low; nay, the exaltation will bear proportion to the humiliation. (2.) Here is the date of that happy event, when it will fall out. In due time, or in the season, the proper season for it, Gal. vi. 9.— "In due season we shall reap, if we faint not." We are apt to weary in humbling trying circumstances, and ay we would have up our head, John vii. 6. But Solomon observes, there is a time for every thing when it does best, and the wise will wait it, Eccles. iii. There is a time too for exalting them that humble themselves; God has set it, and it is the due time for the purpose, the time when it does best, even as sowing in the spring, and reaping in the harvest. When that time comes, your exalting shall no longer be put off, and it would come too soon should it come before that time.

DOCTRINE I. The bent of one's heart, in humbling circumstances, should lie towards a suitable humbling of the spirit, as under God's mighty hand placing us in them.

I. Some things supposed in this. It supposeth and bears in it, that,

1. God brings men into humbling circumstances, Ezek. xvii. 24. "And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree."-There is a root of pride in the hearts of all men on earth, that must be mortified ere they can be meet for heaven and therefore no man can miss, in this time of trial, some things that will give a proof, whether he can stoop or no. And God brings them into humbling circumstances for that very end, Deut. viii. 2.-"The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart."

2. These circumstances prove pressing as a weight on the heart, tending to bear it down, Psal. cvii. 12. "Therefore he brought down their heart with labour."-They strike at the grain of the heart, and cross the natural inclination: whence a trial natively ariseth, whether, when God lays on his mighty hand, the man can yield under it or not; and consequently, whether he is meet for heaven or not.

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