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This I would advise to be done, not only in things we can more easily suffer, but those we think would prove hardest and most indigestible, to inure thy heart to them; not to be, as some, so tenderfancied, that they dare not so much as think of some things, the death of a dear friend, or husband, or wife, or child, that is oftener to be viewed rather than any other event: Bring thy mind to it, as a starting horse to that whereat it does most startle at. What if I should be bereft of such a person, such a thing; this would make it much more tolerable when thou art put to it. What if the place where I live were visited with all at once in some degree, pestilence, and sword, and famine? How would I look on them? Could my mind keep its own place and stance, fixed on God in such a case? What if I were turned out of my good furniture and warm house, and stript not only of accessory but necessary things; as here he supposes, not only the failing of delicacies, the fig-trees, wine and olives, but of common necessary food : the fields not yielding meat, and the flocks cut off ; thy little ones crying for bread, and thou hast none for them: you little know what the tenderest and delicatest among you may be put to. These times have given many real instances within these kingdoms, of strange changes in the condition of all ranks of persons : Or, think if that thou abhorrest that, what if I were sinitten with blotches or loathsome sores on my flesh; or if by any accident I should lose an arm, or an eye, or both eyes? What if extreme poverty, and sickness, and forsaking of friends, come all at once? Could I welcome these, and make up all in God, find riches, and friends, and fulness in him? Most men, if they would speak truly to such cases, must declare them insufferable. I were undone if such a thing befel me, or such a comfort were taken from me, most would cry out, as Micha did', They have taken away my gods,
&c. for so are these things our hearts cleave to, and principally delight in. He that worships mammon, his purse is the sensiblest piece of him; he is broke, if fire, or ravage of war, throw him out of his nest, and empty it. He that makes his belly his god, (such they are the apostle speaks ot) how could he endure this case the prophet puts here, the failing of vines, of flocks and herds ?
It were good to add to the supposition of want somewhat of the reality of it; sometime to abridge thyself of things thou desirest and lovest; to inure thy appetite to a refusal of what it calls for; to practise somewhat of poverty; to learn to need few things, &c.
It is strange men should be so foolish as to tie themselves to these things, that have neither satisfying content in them, nor certain abode. And why shouldst thou set thy heart on things which are not, says Solomon, a non-ens, a fancy? How soon may you be parted ? he that is the true God, God alone, how soon can he pull these false gods from you, or you from themi as in that word, What is the hope of the hypocrite that he hath gained, when God takes away his soul ? Like that case in the parable"; Soul, take thine ease ; A strange inference from full barns! That was sufficient provision for a horse, a fit happiness for him: But for a soul, though it were to stay, how gross and base a portion ! but it cannot stay neither, This night thy soul shall be required of thee, &c.
The only firm position is this of the prophet, Yet will I rejoice in the Lord. And such times indeed are fit to give proof of this; to tell thee, whether it be so indeed, where thy heart is built. While thy honour and wealth, and friends are about thee, it is hard to know whether these props bear thee up, or another invisible supporter ; but when these are plucked away, and thou art destitute round about, then it will appear, if thy strength be in 8 Job. xxvii. 8.
h Luke xii. 19. VOL. III.
God, if these other things were but flourishes about thee, and thou laidst no weight on them at all; he that leans on these, must fall when these fall, and his hope is cut off, and his trust as a spider's web. He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand, &c: They that clasp their hearts about their houses or estates, within a while they are either sadly pulled asunder, or swept away together.
“But, Oh! the blessed, the high condition of a soul set
on God, untied, independent from all things beside him ; its whole dependence and rest placed on him alone, sitting loose to all the world, and so not stirred with alterations : Yea, the turnings upside-down of human things, if the frame of the heaven and earth were falling to pieces *, the heart founded on him that made it abides unmoved, the everlasting arms are under it, and bear it up.
Do ye believe, my brethren, that there is such a thing, that it is no fancy? Yea, all is but fancy beside it. Do you believe? Why then is one day after another put off, and this not attained, nor the soul so much as entered or engaged to a serious endeavour after it, looking on all things else, compared to this noble design, as vanity? How often and easily are their joys damped, that rejoice in other things, their hopes broken, and what they expected most, soon proves a lie? As the word spoken of the olive here signifies, as if the labour of it should lie t, a fair vintage or harvest promised, and either withered with drought, or drowned with rain ; indeed it lies at the best. But the soul that places its joy on God, is still fresh and green, when all are withered about itk; Acquaint thyself with him betimes in ease. It is a sad case, to be making acquaintance with him, when thou shouldest
i Job. viii. 14, 15. * Si fractus illabatur orbis. + Spem mentita seges.
k Jer. xvii. 6, 7.
most make use of his friendship, and find comfort in his love.
Now, this joy in God cannot remain in an impure unholy soul, no more than heaven and hell can mix together. An impure unholy soul I call not that which is stained with sin, for no other are under the sun, all must then quit all pretensions to that estate; but such an one as willingly entertains in
“sinful lust or way of wickedness, that delight and this are directly opposite. And certainly the more the soul is refined from all delights of sin, yea, even from sinless delights of sense and of this present world, it hath the more capacity, the fitter and the larger room for this pure heavenly delight.
No language can make a natural inan understand what this thing is, to rejoice in God: Oh! it is a mystery. Most mind poor childish things, laughing and crying at a breath at trifles, easily puffed up, and as easily cast down. But even the children of God are too little acquainted with this their portion. Which of you find this power in the remembrance of God, that it doth overflow, and drown all other things, both your worldly joys and worldly sorrows, that you find them not? And thus it would be, if we knew him. Is he then our Father, and yet we know him not?
Although all fail, yet rejoice in him that fails not, that alters not: He is still the same in himself, and to the sense of the soul that is knit to him; then sweetest, when the world is bitterest: When other comforts are withdrawn, the loss of them brings this great gain, so much the more of God, and his love imparted, to make all up. They that ever found this, could almost wish for things that others are afraid of. If we knew how to improve them, his sharpest visits would be his sweetest; thou wouldest be glad to catch a kiss of his hand, while he is beating thee, or pulling away something from thee, that thou lovest, and bless him while he is doing so.
Rejoice in God, although the fig-tree blossom not, &c. yea, rejoice in these hardest things, as his doing. A heart rejoicing in him, delights in all his will, and is surely provided for the most firm joy in all'estates: For if nothing can come to pass beside or against his will, then cannot that soul be vexed that delights in him, and hath no will but his, but follows him in all times, in all estates; not only when he shines bright on them, but when they are clouded. That flower that follows the sun, doth so even in cloudy days; when it doth not shine forth, yet it follows the hidden course and motion of it : So the soul that moves after God, keeps that course when he hides his face, . is content, yea, is glad at his will in all estates, or conditions, or events. And though not only all be withered and blasted without, but the face of the soul little better within to sense, no flourishing of graces for the present, yet rejoices in him, and in that everlasting covenant that still holds, ordered in all things and sure, as the sweet singer of Israel sweetly expresses it", For this, says he, is all my salvation, and all my desire, ALTHOUGH he make it not to grow : That is a strange although, and yet is he satisfied even in that.
This joy in God, as my God, the God of my salvation, ought to exercise the soul in the darkest and worst times, and ought to stick to it, not to let go this confidence; still expecting salvation from him, and resting on him for it, though not having these senses and assurances that thou desirest. This weak believers are easily beaten from by temptation; but we are to stand to our right in him, even when we see it not: And when it is said to thee, as Psal. iii. that there is no help for thee in God, tell all that say so, they lie, He is my God, my glory, and the lifter up of my head, as here he speaks.
Rejoice in him still as thy God; and, however, rejoice in him as God. I will rejoice in Jehovah,
k 2 Sam. xxv. 5.