How to prize Mercies

Taken and adapted from, “Correction, instruction: or, The rod and the word”
Written by, Thomas Case in 1653.
Edited for grammer, thought and sense.

preserved

A man could say within himself in solemn reflection, “what need has the Lord Jesus to invest himself with a body of flesh?

Since he is God he knows the infirmities of our nature, in fact, since he is God, doesn’t he know all things? Nay, my brethren, it seems the knowledge which Christ has as God, was different from that knowledge which he had as man. For that knowledge which he had as God, was intuitive; and that knowledge which he had as man, was experimental. Now let me say that experimental knowledge of misery is truly heart-affecting knowledge. Therefore, we find that Christ himself would give his own heart, as Mediator, to find this knowledge of human suffering by his own experience.

And if the Lord Jesus, who was and is mercy itself, would put himself into a suffering condition, that he might the more sweetly and affectionately add to those mercies towards his suffering members; how much more should we do, who are by nature uncharitable and cruel’? Do we not need such practical teachings to work upon our own hearts? 

Certainly we cannot gain an exact sense of the saints’ sufferings by the most meticulous discussion, even if the tongue of men or angels were able to express it. No, nor by all of our scriptural knowledge, even though it is sanctified. No, none of that can compare to one day’s experience in the school of affliction, –especially when God is pleased to be the school-master.

Further, it is by chastisements that God teaches us how to prize our outward mercies and comforts more, –but to dote upon them yet less; to be more thankful for them, –but be yet less ensnared by them. This is indeed a mystery to our natures, a paradox to the world; for naturally we are very prone either to slight, or to oversupply; and yet (sad to consider) we can make a shift to do both at once; we can undervalue our mercies even while we glut ourselves with them, and to despise them even when we are gorging upon them. Witness that word of caution given by Moses and Joshua: When thou hast eaten and art full, take heed thou forget not the Lord thy God, Behold while men fill themselves with the mercies of God, they can neglect the God of their mercies: when God is most liberal in remembering us, we are most ungrateful to forgetting him. Now therefore, in order that we may know how to put a due estimate upon mercies, God often cuts us short, that we may learn to prize them by our want, by which our foolish unthankful hearts are slighted in the enjoyment. Thus the prodigal, who while yet at home, could despise the rich and well-furnished table of his father; when God sent him to school –to the swine-trough, could value the bread that the pigs did eat. How many of my fathers hired servants have bread enough, and to spare! He would have been glad of the reversion of broken meat that was cast into the common basket.

I do not believe David ever slighted the ordinances, but yet he certainly knew so well how to estimate them, as when he was banished from them; then the remembrance of the company of saints, the beauty of the ordinances, and the presence of God, fetched tears from his eyes, and groans from his heart, in his sorrowful exile. Oh, how amiable are the assemblies of the saints, and the ordinances of the Sabbath, when we are deprived of them! In those days the word of the Lord was precious. When was it not precious? It was always precious in the worth of it; but now it was precious for the want of it: prophets and prophecies were precious, because they were rare; so it follows, that there was no open vision.

Yes, our wants will teach us the worth of our mercies. Our liberties and dearest relations, how we take them for granted while we possess them without any fear or restraint? While we have the keeping of our mercies in our own hands, we make but a small reckoning of them. Oh, but let God threaten a divorce by death, or by banishment; let cruel taskmasters be set over us and our comforts, who would measure out to us their own pleasure; let us be locked up for a while, under close imprisonment, and there be kept fasting from our dearest “enjoyments”; then the sight of a friend, (though but through an iron grate), the exchange of a few common civilities with a yoke-fellow under the correction and control of a keeper, how sweet and precious! When months and years of free enjoyments have gone by, and we scarcely sit down to take one serious view of our mercies, seldom spreading them before the Lord in prayer, or sending up one thankful exclamation of praise to God; but pass by his mercies to us as common things, scarce worth the owning; whereas in the house of bondage, in a land of captivity, the lees and dregs of those mercies would be precious, which while the vessel ran full and fresh we could hardly relish; yet in famine, the very gleanings of our comforts are better than the whole vintage we experience in the years of plenty.

And as God teaches us to prize our mercies, so he teaches us to use true moderation in the use of them, so we will not value them to excess. And indeed, it is the inordinate use of outward comforts which doth render us unfit to prize them; we lose our reverence for God’s mercies when they are in excess; excesses do usually render those things nauseous, which were formerly our delicacies: by our excesses in creature enjoyments, reason is drowned in sense, judgment extinguished in appetite, and the affections being blunted by common exercise, even pleasures themselves become a burden.

Now this unhappiness God often cures by the sharp corrosive of affliction; and by very dear hardship he teaches us moderation. Partly by giving us to losses and reverses in life and in our wants, so that whereby that which at first was necessity for God, afterwards grows to be our choice; hence saith the apostle, I have learned to live in want; How? Why God has taught him to live with only a little.

By feeding us sparingly, God reduces and slackens the inordinacy of our appetites. And it is especially true, that God often takes our hearts off of inordinate indulgencies through a condition of suffering. And when he has done that, he then helps us to discover richer and purer satisfactions in Jesus Christ. It is God’s design therefore, that by withdrawing his mercies from the creature, he fixes the soul upon himself; the voice of the rod is, “O taste and see how good the Lord is”; thus, when the soul finally understands, thrusting the creature away with contempt and indignation, it opens itself to God, saying, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee.” Surely it was in the school of affliction that David learned this lesson, even when the wicked prospered, and himself, with the rest of the godly, were plagued all the day long, and chastened every morning.