« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
had rather be Christ's servants than their own masters. So they are described : “ For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord : I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts ; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Heb. viii. 10:) and,“ For he said, Surely they are my people ; children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.” (Isai. Ixiii. 8.) They will not lie: they will not pretend one thing and prac. tise another ; but will live up to their profession : and, however they may aceidentally, through the frailty of nature or the surprise of temptation, stumble or step aside, yet the principle and prevailing bent of their souls is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.
These are they whom our text calls the “ people of God," and it is of them I speak when I say,
I. That their present state is usually a state of labour and suffering.
It may seem strange, at the first mentioning, that the people of God, his property, bis favourites, his affectionate and obedient servants, should be exposed to any thing that was disagreeable and painful. One would think that a child of God might pass through the world, and no person dare lift a hand or move a tongue against him; that everything should be made to contribute to his convenience and pleasure; and, in short, that he should pass from one paradise on earth to another paradise in heaven. In this manner you think you should provide for those you love ; and you are ready to think that God should do the same for his children and servants : at least, if you cannot prove
that he ought, you wish that he would deal so ten. derly and bountifully with his people. But my present business is not to listen to what you may fancy: ought to be the situation of the people of God in this world, but to tell you what it really is; and that, too, by the permission and appointment of the only wise God, their assured friend and fa. ther : and I believe no one will deny but that many are the afflictions of the righteous, arising from Bodily Infirmities, Worldly Disappointments, Spiritual-Conflicts, and Laborious Services.-Ą word or two on each : and a word or two is enough; for why should we spend much time on the gloomy part of the scene? Now it is over, her sufferings are all ended, and she is entered into rest; and we will make all the haste we can to follow her. Let me only just mention the sources of her former trouble, because, though she is safe over Jordan, we are yet in the wilderness, and may have many of those distressing trials to go through from which she is so happily delivered.
I say, then, the people of God may suffer much, 1. From bodily infirmities.
Physicians have reckoned up a surprising number of diseases to which the human body is liable; and yet, in all probability, the one half hath not been told. - How should it, when the least defect in any one of the almost imperceptible and innumerable tubes and fibres would give rise to some new disorder?. But, passing these, only think a moment on the more common diseases with which we are daily conversant. . Go to one house: there you see a person bound hand and foot in the gout, totally incapable of exercise or enjoyment. Go to an
other: there you see a person sweating, trem! ling, groaning, under the exquisite, the almost agonizing tortures of the stone: perpetually changing places and postures, to try for a moment's ease. Here you meet a poor emaciated object, a mere animated skeleton, that hath been for months wasting in a consumption: there lies another, bursting in a dropsy, or almost strangled with an asthma. Tired with fruitless attempts to get a little relief all the day, they rejoice in the approach of night, and say, My bed shall.comfort me: but, alas, there too they are filled with tossings to and fro to the dawning of the day :” so that in the morning they say, Would God it were evening; and in the evening, Would God it were morning. And the few that escape those acute diseases, find the common infirmities of old age more than they can well bear. Who can wonder, then, that such “ groan, being burthened,” and long to be “unclothed," or rather“ clothed upon with their house which is from heaven."
2. Worldly business and disappointments.
Sometimes their situation in life is such as requires great and constant application : they have this thing, and that thing, and a thousand things, to do ; and one engagement follows another so quickly, that they have hardly time for religion or refreshment. . This hath been the grief and burthen of many of the Lord's people; and you may often hear them, when their spirits are quite exhausted with continual bustling, cry, “O that I had wings like a dove! then would I fly away, and be, at rest. It is tiresome enough to be in such a perpetual hurry when matters go on prosperously, and every
thing succeeds to their wishes: but very often they “ toil all night, and catch nothing"-work hard to no purpose: with great expense and trouble rear a gourd, and, just as they are beginning to enjoy its grateful shade, a worm eats the root, and it withers in a night: “ riches make to themselves wings, and fly away:" friends drop off; the world grows ill-natured ; and those from whom they had the greatest expectations, prove broken reeds.
I do not say that these troubles, or those under the former head, are peculiar to the people of God; all things come alike to all; good and bad, all have their infirmities, burries, and disappointments. But this I may ventúre to say, that the people of God are more exposed than any others to the
to the world's censures and ill-will. The experience of so many ages hath now made it an axiom in Christianity, that “ all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution.” Drunkenness, uncleanness, profaneness any, the most flagrant immorality shall pass unchecked ;but let a man appear a public advocate for Christ, and scruple to conform to the world in all the fashionable follies and vices of the times, and he is almost sure to be pointed at, sneered at, struck at, and loaded with all the infamy, pains, and penalties, which their malice can invent, and their power indict. But, without the scourge of persecution, there are troubles enough felt, or feared, to make the people of God weary of the world, and join heartily in the exclamation of the Psalmist : “ Woe js me, that I sojourn in Mesech, and dwell in the tents of Kedar!”.
3. Spiritual conflicts,
And these are troubles which the world knows nothing of. They see a person in full health, and easy circumstances, and wonder what can make him unhappy. If he attempt to tell them of a “ law in his members warring against the law of his mind,” or “ the plague of his own heart," or " the fiery darts of the wicked one;" it is all whims, and nonsense, which, thank God! they were never troubled with. So they may talk, in the blindness and gaiety of their hearts. But, Christians, you can witness, from experience, to the reality and bitterness of such inward conflicts; and that no outward calamity-not the greatest loss you ever met with in business, not the death of the nearest and dearest friend you had in the world, not the most painful disorder of body-the worst of them all, was nothing to the anguish you felt when the Lord wrote bitter things against you, and made you to possess the iniquities of your youth. The Christian life is often called a warfare; and the
professors of religion, if they would approve themselves “good soldiers of Jesus Christ,” must “endure hardness." Their strength and courage will be often tried ; “ for we wrestle not only with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in higb places.” They had need be always sober and vigilant; for “ their adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, continually goeth about seeking whom he may devour," He hath devices, which no Christian should be ignorant of; and fiery darts, against which nothing but the shield of faith, and the breast-plate of righteous. ness, can defend. And his assaults are so fierce and frequent, that they are obliged, as it were, to