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ment thus to weep. We read often of David's tears,
which was no stain to his valour. That cloud that hangs over us, which the frequent vapours of our sins have made, except it dissolve and fall down again in these sweet showers of godly tears, is cer tainly reserved to be the matter of a dreadful storm. Be instant every one in secret for the averting of this wrath, and let us now again unite the cries of our hearts for this purpose to our compassionate God, in the name and mediation of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
JOB XXXIV. 31, 32.
Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more.
That which I see not, teach thou me: If I have done iniquity, I will do no more.
THE great sin, and the great misery of man is, the forgetting of God, and the great end and use of his works and of his word is, to teach us the right remembrance and consideration of him, in all estates. These words do particularly instruct us in the application of our thoughts towards him in the time of affliction. The shortness and the various signification of the words used in the original, gives occasion to some other readings, and another sense of them. But this we have in our translation, being not only very profitable, but very congruous, both to the words of the primitive text, and to the contexture of the discourse; I shall keep to it, without dividing your thoughts by the mentioning of any other. Neither will I lead you so far about, as to speak of the great dispute of this book, and the question about it which is held. He that speaks here, though the youngest of the company, yet, as a wise and calm spirited man, closes all with a discourse of excellent temper, and full of grave useful instructions, amongst which this is one.
Surely it is meet to be said, or spoke, to God] This
speaking to God, though it may be vocal, yet it is not necessarily nor chiefly so, but is always mainly, and may often be, only mental; without this, the words of the mouth, how well chosen, and well exprest soever they be, are to God of no account or signification at all. But if the heart speak, even when there is not a word in the mouth, it is that he hearkens to, and regards that speech, though made by a voice that none hears but he, and is a language that none understands but he.
But it is a rare unfrequented thing, this communing of the heart with God, speaking its thoughts to him concerning itself, and concerning him, and his dealing with it, and the purposes and intentions it hath towards him; which is the speech here recommended, and is that divine exercise of meditation and soliloquy of the soul with itself, and with God, hearkening what the Lord God speaks to us, within us, and our hearts echoing and resounding his words, as Ps. xxvii. 8, 9. and opening to him our thoughts of them, and of ourselves. Though they stand open, and he sees them all, even when we tell him not of them, yet because he loves us, he loves to hear them of our own speaking; let me hear thy voice, for it is sweet: as a father delights in the little stammering lisping language of his beloved child. And if the reflex affection of children be in us, we will love also to speak with our father, and to tell him all our mind, and to be of ten with him in the entertainments of our secret thoughts.
But the most of men are little within; either they wear out their hours in vain discourse with others, or possibly vainer discourses with themselves; even those that are not of the worst sort, and possibly that have their times of secret prayer, yet do not so delight to think of God and to speak with him, as they do to be conversant in other affairs, and companies, and discourses, in which there is a great deal of froth and emptiness. Men think, by talking of many
things, to be refreshed, and yet when they have done, find that it is nothing; and that they had much better have been alone, or have said nothing. Our thoughts and speeches in most things run to waste, yea are defiled, as water spilt on the ground, is both lost, cannot be gathered up again, and it is polluted, mingled with dust. But no word spoke to God, from the serious sense of a holy heart, is lost; he receives it, and returns it into our bosom with advantage: a soul that delights to speak to him, will find that he also delights to speak to it. And this communication certainly is the sweetest and happiest choice, to speak little with men, and much with God. One short word, such as this here, spoke to God, in a darted thought, eases the heart more when it is afflicted, than the largest discourses and complainings to the greatest and powerfulest of men, or the kindest and most friendly. It gives not only_ease but joy, to say to God, I have sinned, yet I am thine; or as here, I have borne chastisement, I will no more offend. The time of affliction is peculiarly a time of speaking to God, and such speech as this is peculiariy befitting such a time. And this is one great recommendation of affliction, that it is a time of wiser and more sober thoughts, a time of the returning of the mind inwards and upwards. A high place, fulness and pleasure draws the mind more outwards; great light and white colours disgregate the sight of the eye, and the very thoughts of the mind too. And men find that the night is a fitter season for deep thoughts. It is better, says Solomon, to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting: Those blacks made the mind more serious. It is a rare thing to find much retirement unto God, much humility and brokenness of spirit, true purity and spirituality of heart in the affluence and great prosperities of the world. It is no easy thing to carry a very full cup even, and to digest well the fatness of a great estate, and great place. They are not to be envied
that have them; even though they be of the better sort of men, it is a thousand to one but that they shall be losers by the gains and advancements of this world; suffering proportionably great abatements of their best advantages, by their prosperity. The generality of men, while they are at ease, do securely neglect God, and little mind either to speak to him, or to hear him speak to them. God complains thus of his own people. I spoke to them in their prosperity, and they would not hear. The noises of coach-wheels, of their pleasures, and of their great affairs, so fill their ears, that the still voice, wherein God is, cannot be heard; I will bring her into the wilderness, and there I will speak to her heart, says God of his church. There the heart is more at quiet to hear God, and to speak to him, and is disposed to speak in the stile here prescribed, humbly and repentingly.
I have borne chastisement] The speaking this unto God under affliction signifies, that our affliction is from his hand, and to the acknowledgment of this truth, the very natural consciences of men do incline them. Though trouble be the general lot of mankind, yet it doth not come on him by an improvidential fatality, Though man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, Job. v. Yet it comes not out of the dust. It is no less true, and in itself no less clear, that all the good we enjoy, and all the evil we suffer comes from the same hand; but we are naturally more sensible of evil than of good, and therefore do more readily reflect upon the original and causes of it. Our distresses lead us unto the notice of the righteous God inflicting them, and our own unrighteous ways procuring them, and provoking him so to do, and therefore it is meet to speak in this submissive humble language to him. It is by all means necessary to speak to him, he is the party we have to deal withal, or to speak to, even in those afflictions, whereof men are the intervenient visible causes. They are in
deed but instrumental causes, the rod and staff in his hand that smites us; therefore our business is with him, in whose supreme hand alone the mitigations and increases, the continuance, and the ending of our troubles lie. Who gave Jacob to the spoil and Israel to the robbers? Did not the Lord against whom we have sinned? So Lam. i. 14. The yoke of my transgressions is bound on by his hand. Therefore it is altogether necessary in all afflictions to speak to him. And as it is necessary to speak to him, it is meet to speak thus to him, I have borne chastisement, I will no more offend. These words have in them the true composure of real repentance, humble submission, and holy resolution. I have born chastisement, that is, "I have justly born it, and do heartily submit to it: I bear it justly, and take it well: Lord I acquit thee, and accuse myself." This language becomes the most innocent person in the world in their suffering. Job knew it well, and did often acknowledge it in his preceding speeches. Though sometimes, in the heat of dispute, and oppostion to the uncharitable, and unjust imputations of his friends, he seems to overstrain the assertion of his own integrity, (which Elihu here corrects) you know he cries put, I have sinned against thee, what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of man? Job vii. And chap. ix. If I wash myself with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own cloaths shall abhor me.
Vain foolish persons fret, and foam at the miscarriage of a cause they apprehend to be righteous, but this is a great vanity and inconsiderate temerity in not observing, the great and apparent unrighteousness in the persons managing it. But though both the cause and the persons were just to the greatest height imaginable amongst men, yet still were it meet to speak thus unto God in the
b Heb, xii. 6.