The Bible and its Consolation in our Time of Sorrow

Written by, James Buchanan (1804-1870)
Edited for thought and sense

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Mourners in Zion, be comforted!

If yours is a life of sorrow, yours also is a religion of hope. If the book of Providence seems to you to be “written within and without,” like Ezekiel’s roll, in characters of “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (Ezekiel 2:10), the Bible is filled with consolation and peace. And the more stormy your passage through this world, the more awful God’s judgments, the more severe and confounding your trials and sorrows may be, the more should that blessed book be endeared to your hearts—of which every true disciple will say with the afflicted Psalmist, “This is my comfort in my affliction” (Psalms 119:50).

It is not one of the least benefits of severe affliction that it shatters our confidence in every other object of reliance, breaks up our hopes from every other quarter, and leads us in simplicity to search the Word of God for comfort.

The grand peculiarity of the Bible, as a book of consolation, is that it seeks not to cast our sufferings into the shade, but rather sets them before us in all their variety and magnitude. It teaches us to find consolation in the midst of acknowledged sorrow and causes light to arise out of the deepest darkness—“That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we were appointed thereunto” (1 Thessalonians  3:3). In many respects, it gives a more gloomy view of human life than we are often willing to entertain. It represents affliction as “ordained” for us and “appointed” so that it cannot be escaped. It tells us that our future life will be checkered with trials, even as the past has been. It gives no assurance of respite from suffering, so long as we are in this world: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). And when it traces these afflictive events to their causes; when it represents suffering as the fruit and the wages of sin; when it charges us with guilt and affirms that we have provoked the Lord to anger; when it leads us to regard our sorrows as connected with our characters and inflicted by a righteous Governor and Judge; and when, carrying our eye beyond this world altogether, it points to an eternal state of retribution, where sorrows infinitely more severe and judgments infinitely more confounding await impenitent and unforgiven guilt—it does present such a view of our present condition and future prospects as may well fill us with awe and alarm. Yet still it is the “book of consolation”; still it contains the elements of peace, the seed of hope, the wellspring of eternal joy.

It is out of the very darkness of our present state and our eternal prospects that the brightness of that dawn appears that shall issue in everlasting day; the golden rays of divine light and love appear in the midst of that thick cloud; the cup of bitterness is sweetened by an infusion of mercy—so that the Christian can be “joyful in the midst of tribulation,” and “greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, he is in heaviness through manifold temptations” (1 Peter 1:6). “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: James Buchanan (1804-1870): Church of Scotland minister and theologian; a prolific and popular writer with a reputation as an earnest, eloquent, and powerful preacher in the Free Church of Scotland. Best known for The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit and The Doctrine of Justification; born in Paisley, Scotland.

WEEP WITH THEM THAT WEEP

Taken, edited, and adapted from, “A Discourse Occasioned by the Burning of a Theatre in the City of Richmond Virginia, December 26, 1811.” Delivered in the Third Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, on the eighth day of January, 1812, at the request of the Virginia Students attached to the Medical Class, in the University of Pennsylvania.
Given by, Archibald Alexandre, DD

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“Weep with them that weep”
 –Romans 12:15

ONE leading difference between the system of ethics prescribed by the Stoics, and that inculcated by Christianity is, that whilst the former aims at eradicating the passions, the latter endeavors to regulate them, and direct them into their proper channels. The attempt of the first is as impracticable as is undesirable; the object of the last, is, by divine aid, in a good degree attainable, and in it consists much of the dignity, perfection, and happiness of man.

The great Author of our being has implanted the principle of sympathy deeply in human nature; and has made the susceptibility of feeling the sorrows of another, as extensive as the race of man. It is common to the untutored savage, and to the man of refinement and education: and traces of it are even discovered in the animal creation; many species of which appear to be strongly excited, as often as any great evil threatens, or befalls, any of their own kind.

This principle of sympathy, whilst it indicates the unity of our species, seems to form a mysterious bond of connection between all its members.

The spectacle of suffering humanity, however great a stranger the object of distress may be, will always excite our sensibility, unless the feelings be blunted by vicious indulgence, restrained by prejudice, or extinguished by the long prevalence of malignant passions. Simply considered, it is not of a moral nature; it is, however, friendly to virtue, and intimately mingles itself with the most benevolent and pious affections of the human heart: and the want of it always argues a high degree of moral depravity. Refined and cultivated, as it may be by education, it has a great share in forming the character which is termed amiable and interesting. But like other original principles of our nature, it is liable to abuse and excess: and the evils thence resulting to human happiness, are not few nor inconsiderable. Instead of being the ally of virtue, and prompter of benevolence, it may become the most successful auxiliary of vice. In fact, a morbid sensibility has, with many in this age, usurped the place, and claimed the honor, due to moral principle and religion. Genuine pity, and compassion for objects of real distress, have been perverted, and almost extinguished, in a multitude of persons, by the artificial excitement of a set of spurious feelings, produced by the contemplation of scenes of fictitious distress; which tend to no valuable end, and are sought only for the momentary gratification of the possessor. But, however sympathy may be abused, there is a legitimate and proper exercise of it, to which we are not only prompted by nature, but directed by reason, and exhorted by religion.

There are occasions, when not to “weep with them that weep,” would be rebellion against every principle which ought to govern us, as well as against those which commonly do influence men. If the sufferings of an enemy may be such as to affect us—if we are excited to weep at the woes of a stranger—what must our feelings be, when we recognize, in the cry of unutterable anguish, the well-known voice of an acquaintance, a friend, a brother, or a sister? Such a cry of distress, from the capital of our native state, has recently pierced our ears, and filled our hearts with grief. The sons of Virginia, resident in this place, are to-day called upon to mourn, and to mingle their sympathetic tears with those of the whole state.

A calamity, as great and distressing, as it was sudden and unexpected, has fallen upon her! A calamity, which in its circumstances of real woe and great distress, has scarcely a parallel in history! In most occurrences which pierce the soul with anguish, there are some alleviating considerations which sooth the aching heart, and mitigate the pangs of grief. But here there are none! Every fresh recital, every additional circumstance, only serves to increase the horror of the scene, and more deeply to interest our feeling. Had her honorable men and valuable citizens fallen in the field of battle, like those of a sister state, bravely resisting the enemies of their country, and covered with honorable wounds, however bereaving and distressing the dispensation, still there would have existed some ground of consolation. Had her respected matrons and fair daughters been swept off by the desolating pestilence, however melancholy the scene, yet still there would have been some warning, and some opportunity of preparing for the event. The last words, and the last looks of tenderness and affection, would have left a pleasing impression upon the memory: and at least, surviving friends would have enjoyed the satisfaction of beholding the bodies of their beloved relatives entire and unmangled; and of gazing upon their well know features undeformed with burns and bruises. But even this meagre consolation was wanting. In the midst of health —in the moment of mirth and exhilaration, in the full flow of earthly joy, perfectly thoughtless of futurity, and unsuspicious of any danger, more than a hundred respectable citizens, are overwhelmed in one promiscuous ruin! Neither genius, learning, power, wealth, youth, beauty, nor accomplishments, avail anything to rescue their unfortunate possessors from destruction. Almost as rapid as the fall of lightning from heaven, Death, in his most frightful and resistless form, rushes on them!

O! The dismal scene of horror, of misery, and of death, which here presents itself to our view! —But to portray this shocking scene is neither practicable nor desirable. Permit me, then, to drop the curtain over the catastrophe of this dismal tragedy!

The impression which this awful occurrence has already made on your minds is indelible. You need no highly wrought description to make it deeper. The lapse of time can never obliterate it. The wound in the feelings of some here present, will never be completely healed, on this side the grave! The mere circumstance, that these unfortunate sufferers were creatures of our species, would have been sufficient to awaken all our tender sympathies; and much more, to know that they were our countrymen, who had been accustomed to breathe the same air and tread the same soil, and had been nurtured and educated in the same institutions with ourselves. But the ties by which most of you, my young countrymen, who have consecrated this day to sorrow, are connected with the unfortunate sufferers and disconsolate mourners of Richmond, are of a much more intimate and tender nature. To many of you, this sad catalogue of death, presented the names of much esteemed friends and intimate acquaintances; to some, of beloved relatives; and alas! To one or more, the first intelligence of their misfortune, was conveyed by the distressing sight of the endeared name of a sister! It is not surprising therefore, that you feel sensibly on this occasion: Nature constrains you to weep, and Religion approves it. Tears are becoming, even in the manly countenance, when distresses like these pass in review before our eyes, and approach so near to our bosoms.

But if this disastrous occurrence, by the mere recital, has produced such poignant anguish here, what must have been the feelings of those on the spot, who were both witnesses and partakers of the calamity! Our conceptions, as well as our words, are here altogether inadequate; and we are therefore incapable of fully sympathizing with their sufferings. But if we could, the scene is such as to revolt all our feelings. The idea of such distress is, to the mind of sensibility, intolerable. Here then let us pause, and not attempt to enter more minutely into the melancholy detail of the events of that dreadful night.

“Boast not thyself, O man, of tomorrow!” See what a day—an hour, may bring forth! Behold a flourishing city, from the height of exultation and prosperity, cast down into the deepest abyss of grief and misery! The voice of mirth and joy are exchanged for the voice of wailing, lamentation, and woe, in all her dwellings! Lately, she appeared arrayed in the robes of gaiety and splendor, but now she sits disconsolate, in the sable garments of sorrow! Her face, recently animated with hope, and brightened with joy, is now distorted with anguish, and defiled with weeping! As a widow she sits solitary, and those who should comfort her, are removed from her sight. Have pity upon her, you her friends! Have pity upon her, for the hand of God hath touched her!

The king of terrors, when personified, is commonly represented as going forth with his destructive weapon cutting down old and young, male and female, rich and poor, the honorable and obscure, with a promiscuous sweep; but in the present instance, the ruthless tyrant, seems to have made a discrimination, in the selection of his prey. Wealth, talents, youth, and beauty, were, in this instance, the objects of his fatal shafts.

Was there ever before an unfortunate city which had equal cause of grief and lamentation, on this account! O Richmond! How art thou fallen! Who will not drop a tear over thy misfortunes? Thy glory, thy pride, and thy beauty, are brought down to the dust, and the dark cloud of sorrow has overshadowed thee, and turned thy day into night!

But that which should excite our sensibility to the utmost, and wind up all our sympathetic feelings to the highest pitch, is, that the greater part were young ladies, in the very prime and bloom of life ! About one half the names in the whole catalogue are of persons of this description. O, who can think, without exquisite anguish, of so many gay and blooming virgins, decorated with the charms of beauty, and accomplished by the refinements of art, delicate and tender to excess, and accustomed only to caresses and endearments, perishing by a death so cruel, and by torments so excruciating! Who can describe the chasm which has been made in numerous respectable families; and the agony which has been, and is still endured?

Tell us, ye bereaved mothers, (if words can express it,) the pangs which have rent your breaking hearts, since you beheld the scorched, bruised, and disfigured bodies of your once beautiful daughters. ““In Rama,” of old, “a voice of lamentation and weeping and great mourning was heard: Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted because they are not:” And now of late, a cry of anguish equally as bitter has proceeded from Richmond! O how many inconsolable Rachel’s are there this day, who weep for their children, and refuse to be comforted! The hoary head of the indulgent father too, must now come down with sorrow to the grave! Perhaps, the last prop and solace of his declining years, as well as the darling of his heart, is for ever gone from his sight!

The helpless widow, and the orphaned children also, lift up their deploring hands, and their streaming eyes to heaven, expressing thereby, feelings of grief and agony, to which all words are inadequate.

And, why need I attempt to describe the poignant pangs of the disappointed lover, (the day of whose nuptials might perhaps have been fixed,) when he beholds the beauty which he so much idolized, transformed into a frightful and deformed skeleton!

But the shock of this awful stroke is not only felt in the city of Richmond, and its immediate vicinity, but in distant and remote parts of the state. Several of the young ladies who unfortunately perished in the flames, resided at a distance, where they had numerous, respectable, and affectionate connections, through all the ramifications of which, this occurrence will diffuse the most heart-felt sorrow!

With some, perhaps, it was the first visit of any length which they ever made from their father’s house. O, fatal visit! Methinks, I see the fond mother taking the last leave of her beloved daughter, little suspecting that it was the last! Or, shall I fancy, that some unaccountable foreboding seizes her mind, and oppresses her heart, as the object of her fond hopes and anxious fears is carried from her sight!

But, who shall attempt to imagine what her situation and feelings are, when the day arrives which should bring a letter from her affectionate child? A letter comes “tis true; but what horror chills the blood, when it is seen not to be inscribed in the well-known hand of the dear girl; and is addressed to the father instead of the mother. Methinks I see his veteran hand tremble, whilst he breaks the ominous seal! And the countenance which had remained unmoved, whilst death was braved at the cannon’s mouth, now turns pale as ashes, whilst he reads the few incoherent sentences, by which he is made to realize more than ever the gloomiest hour had painted on his imagination!

Distressed family! What on earth can give you comfort? This world can never afford another taste of joy to you. All its most flattering scenes and fascinating appearances must henceforth be considered as deceitful and illusive. But one resource remains.—Religion is the only cure for griefs like these: But even piety itself may for a while swell the torrent of distress. “O!” says the pious mother, “why did I ever consent to let her go out of my sight; what sin and folly have I been guilty of, to commit her to the gaieties and dissipation of the metropolis! My poor girl is forever gone; but I am to blame for her premature and awful death; O could she have been permitted to die a natural death at home; or any kind of death, whilst engaged in serious and pious exercises, I would have been contented! But O! To be burnt alive! —To die in the theatre! To be snatched in a moment from time to eternity! To be hurried instantly from thoughtless gaiety to the bar of God! The idea is too dreadful! What soul can endure it! Gracious Heaven! Send relief to a heart bursting with grief!”

This may be said, to be in part, a fancied case. But O! The reality, in this calamity, goes far beyond the powers of imagination.

These last remarks were suggested by the recollection of a modest and amiable young lady, whom I happened to see, when on a visit to Virginia last summer, in company with a pious mother, at a solemn religious meeting, where she appeared to be deeply interested and to enter very devotionally into the exercises of the day: but alas! In looking over this melancholy list (if I mistake not) I find her name enrolled. She perished in the flames on the fatal twenty-sixth of December!

It may perhaps be expected by some of my hearers, that I should enter into some discussion, relative to the nature and moral tendency of theatrical exhibitions. But various considerations influence me to waive this discussion for the present. However, I feel it to be incumbent on me, without intending to censure those who think differently, or expecting to make any considerable impression on a public excessively devoted to these amusements, to give my public testimony against them, as being, notwithstanding the partial good which may result from them, on the whole. They are UNFRIENDLY TO PIETY, UNFRIENDLY TO MORALITY, UNFRIENDLY TO HEALTH, UNFRIENDLY TO DOMESTIC HAPPINESS, AND UNFRIENDLY TO TRUE DELICACY AND GENUINE REFINEMENT.—And sure I am, that allowing all to this institution, which its warmest advocates claim for it, it will not, in a thousand years repair to the community, the loss of which it has, in this instance been, unfortunately the occasion.

One other observation, I am constrained to make upon this subject, and that is,—that those of the inhabitants of this place, and other places in our country, who do not even suspend their attendance on public amusements, in consequence of the alarming dispensation which has occurred, for a single day, clearly evince a destitution of a tender and amiable sympathy with their suffering fellow citizens; and also discover a state of society, the most alarming to the reflecting mind, which can easily be conceived. If there be a moral conclusion clearly deducible from the records of history, it is, that such an infatuated devotion to pleasure, in the midst of threatening judgments, and public calamities, is a certain indication of a people being ripe for ruin, and a sure forerunner of it. As for you, my young friends, I hope that you will fully evince the sincerity of your grief, and the depth of the impression made on your minds by this awful dispensation, by acting up fully to the spirit of that ordinance of the common council of the capital of your native state, which prohibits all public amusements for the space of four months from its date, and that during this period at least, you will religiously abstain from every species of public amusement, and more especially from an attendance at the theatre. While your native state mourns with such bitter anguish, it is no time for you to be seen in the scenes of gaiety and dissipation. But I hope you do not need this caution.

I will now bring this discourse to a conclusion, by making a few general reflections, which seem to be suggested by the occasion, and which may assist us in making the proper improvement of this distressing visitation of Almighty God.

  1. How vain and precarious are all earthly possessions and enjoyments! How uncertain is life itself! How near are we often to death when unconscious of any danger! How soon may the most flourishing families be desolated and almost extinguished! Of how little real value are those things, for the acquisition of which mankind toil with such indefatigable industry! How soon is the most princely fortune dissipated, or the owner snatched away from its possession, before the period allotted for its enjoyment, has arrived. Whilst infatuated mortals are flattering themselves with the prospect of long and uninterrupted pleasure, and like the rich man mentioned in the gospel, saying, “Soul, take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry, for thou hast much goods laid up for many years;” God, in his holy providence says ” Thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee. And then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?”

What empty bubbles also, are the honors of office, the dignity of power, the éclat of talents, the fame of conquest, and the applause of the world! What a fading flower is beauty, and its attendant graces and accomplishments! And how strikingly is this exemplified in the melancholy scene which we have been this day contemplating! To receive the full impression of this truth, you must cast your eyes on that long and mournful procession, which slowly ascends the Capitol Hill. You must draw near and inspect the contents of those huge coffins which contain all the earthly remains of once celebrated beauty.—But ah! Instead of the brilliant eye, the fair complexion, the winning smile, and the indescribable charm of countenance, you now behold ghastly skulls, mangled limbs, bones and ashes, indiscriminate; so that neither age, nor sex, nor color any longer can be recognized. Let then the pride of beauty cease, and the vain flatterer’s incense too. And what shall we say of the pleasures of the senses, of the gratifications of appetite, of the indulgence of the passions, of the entertainments of fancy, and of the feast of intellect? Hear the answer of an oracle, whose responses are never vague and ambiguous: “Surely, every man walks in a vain show.” —”Verily, every man, at his best state, is altogether vanity.” —”Surely, they are disquieted in vain: They heap up riches and know not who shall gather them.” They make trial of “mirth and pleasure,” and behold the end is found to be “vanity.” —”I said of laughter it is mad, and of mirth what doeth it?” They give their hearts to “madness and folly,” and the fruit is “vexation of spirit.” The young man rejoices, and his heart cheers him in the days of his youth, and he walks in the ways of his heart and the sight of his eyes, but considers not that for all these things God will bring him into judgment. Even in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.” “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity. But the conclusion of the whole matter is. To fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man; For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it he good or whether it he evil.

  1. How cold, how dark, and comfortless, is the system of infidelity, to persons overwhelmed with calamity, and suffering under the pressure of heavy affliction! The idea of obscuring and extinguishing the pleasing and necessary light of revelation, was never first entertained by the sons of adversity. This scheme was never intended, nor calculated to tranquilize the perturbations, and sooth the agonies, of a soul rent with anguish. What consolation does it offer to the bereaved parent, to the disconsolate widow, to the destitute orphan, and to indigent and diseased old age? What relief to the alarmed and struggling sinner, held fast in the grasp of death? To such it presents no brighter prospect than the blackness of despair.

The following narrative may be depended on, as substantially correct: “In a populous town on this continent, a gentleman of some learning and talents, distinguished himself by his zeal for infidelity; and he was unhappily but too successful in poisoning the minds of many young persons with his libertine principles. In the number of his proselytes was a young lawyer, of good education and promising talents, who appeared confidently to adopt these new opinions, without entering, however, into any careful or impartial investigation of the subject; but relying implicitly on the plausible representations and confident assertions of his friend, who assured him in the most positive terms, that Christianity was a fable and religion a dream. This last mentioned gentleman being seized with a mortal fit of illness, his young disciple hastened to his chamber, and accosted him in the following manner: “Dear sir, I have been led by your advice and influence to adopt a system which I am anxious to see proved in this honest hour and trying situation, to which you are come; tell me, I conjure you by our friendship, plainly and candidly; are you satisfied? Do your sentiments afford you peace and comfort in the near prospect of death?” The sick gentleman, much agitated, and casting a look of horrid consternation on his young friend, exclaimed, “all is darkness and uncertainty,” and in a few minutes expired. The scene left too deep an impression on the mind of the young lawyer ever to be erased. He renounced the tenets of infidelity from that moment, and began to make himself acquainted with the sacred scriptures, which he found to contain the true secret of a peaceful death, as well as a happy immortality.”

Indeed, so conscious are the abettors of infidel principles, that they are badly qualified to administer consolation to the distressed and dying, that they seldom apply them for the comfort of their friends in these circumstances; and what is worst of all, they often fail the infidel himself, when he most needs their support; as witness Voltaire, Diderot, and a host of inferior names. I have, indeed, read somewhere, of an instance of one of these modern philosophers attempting to console his dying wife, by preaching to her the doctrine, that death was an eternal sleep; but the good lady being better instructed, and entertaining better hopes, rejected the miserable comfort with pious indignation.

Infidelity was the product of pride and licentiousness combined. Its object was to break down the restraints of conscience, to separate remorse from crime, and to banish fear from the guilty. It never ought to be considered as an evidence of superior understanding or information; for it has been repeatedly proved that the balance of genius, learning and worth, were greatly on the side of revelation. And every young man should repel every solicitation to embrace this deadly system, with horror and indignation. For skepticism, once admitted into the soul, may not be so easily cast out, even when we desire it, and stand in need of better consolations.

  1. What an invaluable gift to suffering humanity is the Christian religion! It is true, it does not remove our earthly afflictions; but it mitigates and sanctifies them. It does not make this world a satisfying portion; but it brings a better world into view. If it strips earthly objects of their fictitious and bewitching charms, it is to prevent our being deceived and seduced by them. If it forbids pleasure, it is to put us in possession of happiness. If it requires self-denial, it compensates a hundred fold for the pain occasioned, by the peace of conscience, and joy of self-conquest which it inspires. The tears of repentance which it commands, it converts into streams of consolation. It turns our heaviest afflictions to our advantage; and our greatest losses become our richest gain. It prepares us for exertion and for suffering —teaches us how to live and how to die.

It is this divine religion which sweetens the coarse fare, and softens the hard bed of poverty: which sooths the anguish of the heart broken with sorrow, and fills up the chasm produced in the mind by the bereavement of beloved friends: —which binds up and heals those wounds in the spirit which no other remedy can reach. Yes; Religion, despised and neglected as it is, is after all, the only sure refuge of the afflicted, and solace of the wretched. It is that alone, which can smooth the rugged path that leads down to the valley of the shadow of death: and which often sheds a cheering light on that gloomy vale of tears. But it does more: —It discovers to us the glory, and brings us to the possession of those happy regions where there are no more sighs and tears; —where no sad tidings overwhelm the soul; —where no storms blow —no destructive fires burn —no sickness wastes —no sounds of horrid war disturb the eternal peace: There is the rest which remains for the people of God; —there dwells the society which is completely blessed: There the glorious Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, having himself ‘endured the cross, despising the shame,’ now sits highly exalted on his throne of majesty, resplendent with all the glories of Deity, which beam through his face and diffuse happiness among unnumbered millions.

But, in order to enjoy the consolations of religion, we must practice its precepts; and m order to practice its precepts, we must experience its power. True religion is not a form, but a living principle within; not a name, but an active, energetic influence, which governs the whole man, and directs his views and exertions to the noblest objects.

Finally, permit me to conclude this discourse, by considering the dispensation which has occasioned our meeting here this day, in the light of a solemn warning. Yes, my hearers, if ever the warning trumpet of a righteous Providence sounded loudly in our ears, it doth this day. The voice of this dispensation is truly alarming. Let no weak notions, of accident and second, causes, keep you from observing the frowns of heaven, which lower over us. Think not that these were ‘sinners above all who dwell in this land, because they suffered such things.’ I tell you nay: But except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’

Often, since the ominous and fatal handwriting on the wall caused the proud kind of Babylon to shake with terror in the midst of his profane mirth and riot, has the awful transition from the gay scenes of dissipation, to the gloomy shades of death, been made in the period of a single night! Often, have the votaries of pleasure been hurried from the festive board, the merry dance, the opera and play; and what is still more dreadful, from scenes of riot and debauchery, into eternity, to answer for their deeds, before the tremendous bar of God. Receive the warning then, and suffer the word of exhortation. The views and impressions produced by this deplorable occurrence, however painful at the present, may be precious in their effects, and should not be suffered to pass off without originating such resolutions and purposes, as shall become the foundation of a new course of life. You may never in the whole period of your lives, find a season so favorable, to shake off the undue influence of the world, and to part with every darling lust and besetting sin. My last advice, therefore, is, become real Christians. Make religion a personal concern, and to it without delay. “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” And may the God of all grace crown the exercises of this day with his blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Archibald Alexander (April 17, 1772 – October 22, 1851) was an American Presbyterian theologian and professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary. He served for 9 years as the President of Hampden–Sydney College in Virginia and for 27 years as Princeton Theological Seminary’s first principal from 1812 to 1840.

By the time he was 21 Alexander was a preacher of the Presbyterian Church. He was appointed the president of Hampden–Sydney College, where he served from 1797 to 1806 and from there he was called to the Third Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. The Princeton Theological Seminary was established at Princeton, New Jersey in 1812 and Alexander was appointed its first professor, inaugurated on August 12, 1812. In 1824, he helped to found the Chi Phi Society along with Robert Baird and Charles Hodge. In 1843, he returned to Washington College to deliver an alumni address, which was one of his many publications.

Samuel Miller became the second professor at the seminary and for 37 years Alexander and Miller were considered together as pillars of the Presbyterian Church in maintaining its doctrines. Charles Hodge, a famous student and successor of Alexander, named his son Archibald Alexander Hodge after his mentor.

How the evil of affliction works to the good of the godly.

Taken and adapted from, “A Divine Cordial”
Written by, Thomas Watson.

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“We know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – ROMANS 8:28.

CHRISTIAN READER,

There are two things, which I have always looked upon as difficult. The one is, to make the wicked sad; the other is, to make the godly joyful. Dejection in the godly arises from a double spring; either because their inward comforts are darkened, or their outward comforts are disturbed. To cure both these troubles, I have put forth this ensuing piece, hoping, by the blessing of God, it will buoy up their desponding hearts, and make them look with a more pleasant aspect. I would prescribe them to take, now and then, a little of this Cordial; ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD. To know that nothing hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort; but to be assured that ALL things which fall out shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings, that showers of affliction water the withering root of their grace and make it flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over.

IF the whole Scripture be the feast of the soul, as Ambrose said, then Romans 8 may be a dish at that feast, and with its sweet variety may very much refresh and animate the hearts of God’s people. In the preceding verses the apostle had been wading through the great doctrines of justification and adoption, mysteries so arduous and profound, that without the help and conduct of the Spirit, he might soon have waded beyond his depth. In this verse the apostle touches upon that pleasant string of consolation, “WE KNOW THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD, TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD.” Not a word but is weighty; therefore I shall gather up every filing of this gold, that nothing be lost.

In the text there are three general branches.

First, a glorious privilege. All things work for good.
Second, the persons interested in this privilege. They are doubly specified. They are lovers of God, they are called.

Third, the origin and spring of this effectual calling, set down in these words, “according to his purpose.”

First, the glorious privilege. Here are two things to be considered.

1. The certainty of the privilege — “We know.”
2. The excellency of the privilege — “All things work together for good.”

1. The certainty of the privilege: “We know.”

It is not a matter wavering or doubtful. The apostle does not say, We hope, or conjecture, but it is like an article in our creed, We KNOW that all things work for good. Hence observe that the truths of the gospel are evident and infallible.

A Christian may come not merely to a vague opinion, but to a certainty of what he holds. As axioms and aphorisms are evident to reason, so the truths of religion are evident to faith. “We know,” says the apostle. Though a Christian has not a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel, yet he has a certain knowledge. “We see through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13: 12), therefore we have not perfection of knowledge; but “we behold with open face” (2 Cor. 3: 18), therefore we have certainty. The Spirit of God imprints heavenly truths upon the heart, as with the point of a diamond. A Christian may know infallibly that there is an evil in sin, and a beauty in holiness. He may know that he is in the state of grace. “We know that we have passed from death to life” (I John 3:14).

He may know that he shall go to heaven. “We know that if our earthly tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1). The Lord does not leave His people at uncertainties in matters of salvation. The apostle says, We know. We have arrived at a holy confidence. We have both the Spirit of God, and our own experience, setting seal to it.

Let us then not rest in skepticism or doubts, but labor to come to a certainty in the things of religion. As that martyr-woman said. “I cannot dispute for Christ, but I can burn for Christ.” God knows whether we may be called forth to be witnesses to His truth; therefore it concerns us to be well grounded and confirmed in it. If we are doubting Christians, we shall be wavering Christians. Whence is apostasy, but from incredulity? Men first question the truth, and then fall from the truth. Oh, beg the Spirit of God, not only to anoint you, but to seal you (2 Cor. 1: 22).

2. The excellency of the privilege, “All things work together for good.”

This is as Jacob’s staff in the hand of faith, with which we may walk cheerfully to the mount of God. What will satisfy or make us content, if this will not? All things work together for good. This expression “work together” refers to medicine. Several poisonous ingredients put together, being tempered by the skill of the apothecary, make a sovereign medicine, and work together for the good of the patient. So all God’s providences being divinely tempered and sanctified, do work together for the best to the saints. He who loves God and is called according to His purpose, may rest assured that everything in the world shall be for his good. This is a Christian’s cordial, which may warm him — make him like Jonathan who, when he had tasted the honey at the end of the rod, “his eyes were enlightened” (1 Sam. 14:27). Why should a Christian destroy himself? Why should he kill himself with care, when all things shall sweetly concur, yea, conspire for his good? The result of the text is this. ALL THE VARIOUS DEALINGS OF GOD WITH HIS CHILDREN, DO BY A SPECIAL PROVIDENCE TURN TO THEIR GOOD. “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant (Psalm 25:10). If every path has mercy in it, then it works for good.

It is one heart-quieting consideration in all the afflictions that befall us, that God has a special hand in them: “The Almighty hath afflicted me” (Ruth 1:21). Instruments can no more stir till God gives them a commission, than the axe can cut of itself without a hand. Job eyed God in his affliction: therefore, as Augustine observes, he does not say, “The Lord gave, and the devil took away,” but, “The Lord hath taken away.” Whoever brings an affliction to us, it is God that sends it.

Another heart-quieting consideration is, that afflictions work for good. “Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans, for their good” (Jer. 24:5). Judah’s captivity in Babylon was for their good. “It is good for me that l have been afflicted” (Psalm 119:71). This text, like Moses’ tree cast into the bitter waters of affliction, may make them sweet and wholesome to drink. Afflictions to the godly are medicinal. Out of the most poisonous drugs God extracts our salvation. Afflictions are as needful as ordinances (1 Peter 1:6). No vessel can be made of gold without fire; so it is impossible that we should be made vessels of honor, unless we are melted and refined in the furnace of affliction. “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth” (Psalm 25:10). As the painter intermixes bright colors with dark shadows; so the wise God mixes mercy with judgment. Those afflictive providences which seem to be prejudicial, are beneficial. Let us take some instances in Scripture.

Joseph’s brethren throw him into a pit; afterwards they sell him; then he is cast into prison; yet all this did work for his good. His abasement made way for his advancement, he was made the second man in the kingdom. “Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 1:20). Jacob wrestled with the angel, and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint. This was sad; but God turned it to good, for there he saw God’s face, and there the Lord blessed him. “Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, for 1 have seen God face to face” (Gen. 32:30). Who would not be willing to have a bone out of joint, so that he might have a sight of God?

King Manasseh was bound in chains. This was sad to see — a crown of gold changed into fetters; but it wrought for his good, for, “When he was in affliction he besought the Lord, and humbled himself greatly, and the Lord was entreated of him” (2 Chron. 33:11, 12). He was more beholden to his iron chain, than to his golden crown; the one made him proud, the other made him humble.

Job was a spectacle of misery; he lost all that ever he had he abounded only in boils and ulcers. This was sad; but it wrought for his good, his grace was proved and improved. God gave a testimony from heaven of his integrity, and did compensate his loss by giving him twice as much as ever he had before (Job 42:10).

Paul was smitten with blindness. This was uncomfortable, but it turned to his good. God did by that blindness make way for the light of grace to shine into his soul; it was the beginning of a happy conversion (Acts 9:6).

As the hard frosts in winter bring on the flowers in the spring, as the night ushers in the morning-star: so the evils of affliction produce much good to those that love God. But we are ready to question the truth of this, and say, as Mary did to the angel, “How can this be?”

Therefore I shall show you several ways how affliction works for good.

(1). Affliction is our preacher and tutor? “Hear ye the rod” (Micah 6: 9). Luther said that he could never rightly understand some of the Psalms, till he was in affliction. Affliction teaches what sin is. In the word preached, we hear what a dreadful thing sin is, that it is both defiling and damning, but we fear it no more than a painted lion; therefore God lets loose affliction, and then we feel sin bitter in the fruit of it. A sick-bed often teaches more than a sermon. We can best see the ugly visage of sin in the glass of affliction. Affliction teaches us to know ourselves. In prosperity we are for the most part strangers to ourselves. God makes us know affliction, that we may better know ourselves. We see that corruption in our hearts in the time of affliction, which we would not believe was there. Water in the glass looks clear, but set it on the fire, and the scum boils up. In prosperity, a man seems to be humble and thankful, the water looks clear; but set this man a little on the fire of affliction, and the scum boils up — much impatience and unbelief appear. “Oh,” says a Christian, “I never thought I had such a bad heart, as now I see I have; I never thought my corruptions had been so strong, and my graces so weak.”

(2). Afflictions work for good, as they are the means of making the heart more upright. In prosperity the heart is apt to be divided (Hosea 10:2). The heart cleaves partly to God, and partly to the world. It is like a needle between two loadstones; God draws, and the world draws. Now God takes away the world, that the heart may cleave more to Him in sincerity. Correction is a setting the heart right and straight. As we sometimes hold a crooked rod over the fire to straighten it; so God holds us over the fire of affliction to make us more straight and upright. Oh, how good it is, when sin has bent the soul awry from God, that affliction should straighten it again!

(3). Afflictions work for good, as they conform us to Christ. God’s rod is a pencil to draw Christ’s image more lively upon us. It is good that there should be symmetry and proportion between the Head and the members. Would we be parts of Christ’s mystical body, and not like Him? His life, as Calvin says, was a series of sufferings, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53: 3). He wept, and bled. Was His head crowned with thorns, and do we think to be crowned with roses? It is good to be like Christ, though it be by sufferings. Jesus Christ drank a bitter cup, it made Him sweat drops of blood to think of it; and, though it be true He drank the poison in the cup (the wrath of God) yet there is some wormwood in the cup left, which the saints must drink: only here is the difference between Christ’s sufferings and ours; His were satisfactory, ours are only castigatory.

(4). Afflictions work for good to the godly, as they are destructive to sin. Sin is the mother, affliction is the daughter; the daughter helps to destroy the mother. Sin is like the tree that breeds the worm, and affliction is like the worm that eats the tree. There is much corruption in the best heart; affliction does by degrees work it out, as the fire works out the dross from the gold, “This is all the fruit, to take away his sin” (Isa. 27:9). What if we have more of the rough file, if we have less rust! Afflictions carry away nothing but the dross of sin. If a physician should say to a patient, “Your body is ill, and full of bad diseases, which must be cleared out, or you die; but I will prescribe prescription which, though it may make you sick, yet it will carry away the dregs of your disease, and save your life”; would not this be for the good of the patient? Afflictions are the medicine which God uses to carry off our spiritual diseases; they cure the excessive gas of pride, the fever of lust, the dropsy of covetousness. Do they not then work for good?

(5). Afflictions work for good, as they are the means of loosening our hearts from the world. When you dig away the earth from the root of a tree, it is to loosen the tree from the earth; so God digs away our earthly comforts to loosen our hearts from the earth. A thorn grows up with every flower. God would have the world hang as a loose tooth which, being twitched away does not much trouble us. Is it not good to be weaned? The oldest saints need it. Why does the Lord break the conduit-pipe, but that we may go to Him, in whom are “all our fresh springs” (Psalm 87:7).

(6). Afflictions work for good, as they make way for comfort. “In the valley of Achor is a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15). Achor signifies trouble. God sweetens outward pain with inward peace. “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16: 20). Here is the water turned into wine. After a bitter pill, God gives sugar. Paul had his prison-songs. God’s rod has honey at the end of it. The saints in affliction have had such sweet raptures of joy, that they thought themselves in the borders of the heavenly Canaan.

(7). Afflictions work for good, as they are a magnifying of us. “What is man, that thou should magnify him, and that thou should visit him every morning?” (Job 7: 17). God does by affliction magnify us three ways.

(1st.) in that He will condescend so low as to take notice of us. It is an honor that God will mind dust and ashes. It is a magnifying of us, that God thinks us worthy to be smitten. God’s not striking is a slighting: “Why should ye be stricken anymore?” (Isaiah 1:5). If you will go on in sin, take your course, sin yourselves into hell.

(2nd.) Afflictions also magnify us, as they are ensigns of glory, signs of sonship. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons” (Heb. 12:7). Every print of the rod is a badge of honour.

(3rd.) Afflictions tend to the magnifying of the saints, as they make them renowned in the world. Soldiers have never been so admired for their victories, as the saints have been for their sufferings. The zeal and constancy of the martyrs in their trials have rendered them famous to posterity. How eminent was Job for his patience! God leaves his name upon record: “Ye have heard of the patience of Job” (James 5:11). Job the sufferer was more renowned than Alexander the conqueror.

(8.) Afflictions work for good, as they are the means of making us happy. “Happy is the man whom God corrects” (Job 5:17). What politician or moralist ever placed happiness in the cross? Job does. “Happy is the man whom God corrects.”

It may be said, How do afflictions make us happy? We reply that, being sanctified, they bring us nearer to God. The moon in the full is furthest off from the sun: so are many further off from God in the full-moon of prosperity; afflictions bring them nearer to God. The magnet of mercy does not draw us so near to God as the cords of affliction. When Absalom set Joab’s corn on fire, then he came running to Absalom (2 Sam. 14:30). When God sets our worldly comforts on fire, then we run to Him, and make our peace with Him. When the prodigal was pinched with want, then he returned home to his father (Luke 15:13). When the dove could not find any rest for the sole of her foot, then she flew to the ark. When God brings a deluge of affliction upon us, then we fly to the ark of Christ. Thus affliction makes us happy, in bringing us nearer to God. Faith can make use of the waters of affliction, to swim faster to Christ.

(9). Afflictions work for good, as they put to silence the wicked. How ready are they to speak evil and calumniate the godly, that they serve God only for self-interest. Therefore God will have His people endure sufferings for religion, that He may put a padlock on the lying lips of wicked men. When the atheists of the world see that God has a people, who serve Him not for a livery, but for love, this stops their mouths. The devil accused Job of hypocrisy, that he was a mercenary man, all his religion was made up of ends of gold and silver. “Doth Job serve God for nothing? Hast not thou made a hedge about him?” Etc. “Well,” says God, “put forth thy hand, touch his estate” (Job 1:9). The devil had no sooner received a commission, but he falls a breaking down Job’s hedge; but still Job worships God (Job. 1:20), and professes his faith in Him. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job. 13:15). This silenced the devil himself. How it strikes a damp into wicked men, when they see that the godly will keep close to God in a suffering condition, and that, when they lose all, they yet will hold fast their integrity.

(10). Afflictions work for good, as they make way for glory (2 Cor. 4:17). Not that they merit glory, but they prepare for it. As ploughing prepares the earth for a crop, so afflictions prepare and make us meet for glory. The painter lays his gold upon dark colors, so God first lays the dark colors of affliction, and then He lays the golden color of glory. The vessel is first seasoned before wine is poured into it: the vessels of mercy are first seasoned with affliction, and then the wine of glory is poured in. Thus we see afflictions are not prejudicial, but beneficial, to the saints. We should not so much look at the evil of affliction, as the good; not so much at the dark side of the cloud, as the light. The worst that God does to His children is to whip them to heaven.

Why we cannot and should not come to a conclusion about the cause of an affliction.

Written by Samuel Rutherford.
Edited for thought and sense by Michael Pursley.

It is a part of tenderness of conscience in the regenerate, to be too applicatory of the law and of wrath: “I am afflicted above all others, therefore God is angry with me, and I am cast off by God.”

There be some rules to be observed in affliction:

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We are not either to over-argue or to under-argue, neither to faint nor despise. Conscience is too quick-sighted after illumination, and too dull-sighted before.

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The reasons why we argue from afflictions to God’s hatred are…

A.     There is a conscience of a conscience in the believer; that is, even in an enlightened conscience, there is some ill conscience to deem ill of God. “For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes.” (Psalm 31:22.) This is a hasty conscience; as we say, Such a one is a hasty man, and soon saddled, easily provoked to anger. This is a conscience soon provoked to anger.

B.     We have not that love and charity to God, that we have to some friend. We have such a love to some dear friend, that all his blacks are white; his seeming injuries to us do not provoke us. We say, I can believe no evil of such a man; and we over-shoot ourselves in an over-charge and surfeit of charity, which proceedeth from an over-plus and dominion of love, to a creature. We are in the other extremity to God and Jesus Christ. Sense of affliction cooleth our love, and we cannot extend charity so far to our Lord, as when we see he dealeth hardly with us, to keep the other ear without prejudice, free from the report that affliction, and the sense of affliction, maketh.

C.     The flesh joineth with affliction against God: affliction whispereth wrath, justice, sin, and the flesh saith, That is very true; for flesh hateth God, and so, must slander his dispensation. Ahab could not but slander Micaiah: “He never prophesieth good (saith he) to me.” Is not God’s truth good? Surely, every word of prophecy is like gold seven times tried. The reason of the slander is given by himself—“I hate him.” The other extremity is, that we under-argue in affliction; as

[1.] we say, It is not the Lord. The Philistines doubted whether God had sent the emerods on them, for keeping the ark captive, or if chance had done it. It is grace to father the cross right.

[2.] We look seldom spiritually on the cross: a carnal eye upon a cross is a plague. “God’s anger set him on fire round about, and he knew it not; and it burned him, and he laid it not to heart.” (Isa. 42:25.) It is strange, that God’s fire should burn a man, and yet, he neither seeth nor feeleth fire. Why? There is something of God in the cross, that the carnal eye cannot see.

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rutherfordMeet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600 – 30 March 1661) was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor, theologian and author, and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.

Rutherford was educated at Jedburgh Grammar School and Edinburgh University, where he became Regent of Humanity (Professor of Latin) in 1623. In 1627 he was settled as minister of Anwoth in Kirkcudbrightshire,Galloway, where it was said of him ‘he was always praying, always,preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying’, and from where he was banished to Aberdeen for nonconformity, ‘being very powerful on the side of the Reformed faith and of God living’, there in Aberdeen, ‘his writing desk’, was said to be, ‘perhaps the most effective and widely resounding pulpit then in Christendom’. His patron in Galloway was John Gordon, 1st Viscount of Kenmure. On the re-establishment of Presbyterianism in 1638 he was made Professor of Divinity at St. Andrews.

Rutherford was chosen as one of the four main Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly of Divines in London taking part in in formulating the Westminster Confession of Faith completed in 1647, and after his return to Scotland he became Rector of St. Mary’s College at St. Andrews in 1651. Rutherford was a staunch Protester during the controversy in the Scottish Presbyterian church between the Resolutioners and Protesters in the 1650s, and at the Restoration of Charles II his Lex Rex was burnt by the hand of the common hangman, and the “Drunken Parliament” deprived him of all his offices and voted that he not be permitted to die in the college.

His epitaph on his tombstone concluded ‘Acquainted with Immanuel’s song’.

Rutherford’s has been described as ‘Prince of Letter writers’ and C. H. Spurgeon described Rutherford’s letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men, continuing in an 1891 review of Rutherford’s (posthumously published Letters (1664) ‘when we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men’. Andrew Thomson, a Scottish minister, in a 19th-century biography observed ‘the letters flash upon the reader with original thoughts and abound in lofty feeling clothed in the radiant garb of imagination in which there is everything of poetry but the form. Individual sentences that supplied the germ-thought of some of the most beautiful spiritual in modern poetry’ continuing ‘a bundle of myrrh whose ointment and perfume would revive and gladden the hearts of many generations, each letter full of hope and yet of heartbreak, full of tender pathos of the here and the hereafter.’  Rutherford was also known for other spiritual and devotional works, such as Christ Dying and drawing Sinners to Himself, “The Trial and Triumph of Faith”.

The Mischief of Sin, Part Six. The Great Practical Works of Grace

Written by Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686), edited for thought, sense and space by Michael Pursley

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“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

                                        ― A.W. Tozer

THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF THE GREAT AND PRACTICAL WORKS OF GRACE

1. GRACE RAISES HIS AIMS AND ASPIRATIONS.

He does not look at things which are seen, 2 Corinthians 4:18. His eye is above the stars. He aims at enjoying God. When a clumsy country bumpkin goes to the court, he is greatly taken with the mirthful pictures and paintings—but when a member of the king’s private council passes by those things, he looks at them as scarcely worthy of his notice. His business is with the king. So a carnal mind is greatly taken with the things of the world—but a saint passes by these mirthful things with a holy contempt—his business is with God! 1 John 1:3, “Our communion is with the Father and His Son Jesus.” A Christian of the right breed, aspires after the things within the veil; his ambition is for the favor of God. He looks no lower than a crown; he is in the altitudes and trades among the angels!

2. GRACE RAISES A MAN’S REPUTATION. IT EMBALMS HIS NAME.

1 Samuel 18:30, “David’s name became very famous,” or, as the original carries it, “It was precious.” Hebrews 11:2, “By faith the elders obtained a good report.” How renowned were the godly patriarchs for their sanctity! Moses for his self-denial, Job for his patience, Phineas for his zeal! What a fresh perfume their names send forth to this day! A good name is a saint’s heir. It lives when he is dead.

3. GRACE RAISES A MAN’S WORTH.

Proverbs 12:26, “The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor.” As the flower of the roses in spring, as the fat of the peace offering, as the precious stones upon Aaron’s breastplate, so is a saint in God’s eye. Besides the shining luster of the gold, it has an eternal worth and is of great price and eternal value. So grace not only makes a man’s name shine—it puts a real worth into him. “He is more excellent than his neighbor.” A heart full of love to God, is precious. It is God’s delight, Isaiah 62:4; it is the apple of His eye; it is His jewel; it is His garden of spices; it is His lesser heaven where He dwells. Isaiah 57:17, “I dwell with him that is of a humble spirit.”

4. GRACE RAISES A MAN’S PRIVILEGE.

It advances him into the heavenly kindred. By it he is born of God, 1 John 3:1. He is a prince in all lands, Psalm 45:16 (though in this world he is like a prince in disguise). He is higher than the kings of the earth, Psalm 89:27. He is allied to angels!

In short, grace lifts a man up where Christ is, far above all heavens. And grace raises a nation as well as a person. Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation.”

ADMONITION 1:  If sin brings a man low, see what an imprudent choice they make—who commit sin to avoid trouble.

Gods_GraceJob 36:21, “Take heed, regard not inquity; for this have you chosen rather than affliction.” This was a false charge against Job—but many may be charged with such folly. They choose iniquity rather than affliction. To avoid poverty, they will lie and deceive. What imprudence is this, when sin draws such dark shadows after it—and entails misery upon all its heirs and successors. By committing sin to avoid trouble, we meet with greater trouble. Origen, to save himself from suffering, sprinkled incense before the idol. Later, preparing to preach, he opened his Bible and accidentally fell upon that text in Psalm 50:16, “But to the wicked God says, what have you to do to declare My statutes, or that you should take My covenant in your mouth?” At the sight of this Scripture, he fell into a passion of weeping—and was so stricken with grief and consternation that he was not able to speak a word to the people but came down from the pulpit. Spria sinned against his conscience to save his life and estate; he chose iniquity rather than affliction—but what a hell he felt in his conscience. He professed that he envied Cain and Judas, thinking their condition to be more desirable. His sin brought him low.

Oh, what unparalleled folly is it to choose sin, rather than affliction. Affliction is like a tear in a coat; sin is like a tear in the flesh. He who, to save himself from trouble, commits sin—is like one who, to save his coat, lets his flesh be torn. Affliction has a promise made to it, 2 Samuel 22:28—but there is no promise made to sin, Proverbs 10:29.

Surely, then, those do badly, who choose sin rather than suffering; who, to avoid a lesser evil, choose a greater evil; who, to avoid the stinging of a gnat—run into the teeth of a lion!

ADMONITION 2:  If God brings His own people low for sin (Israel was brought low), then how low will He bring the wicked!

David was in the deep waters, and Jonah went down to the bottom of the sea. Jeremiah was in the deep dungeon. Then what a deep gulf of misery shall swallow up the reprobate part of the world?  God’s people do not allow themselves in sin, Romans 7:15. They tremble at it. They hate it—yet they suffer. If they who blush at their failings are brought low, what will become of those who boast of their scandals? “If this is done to the green tree, what shall be done to the dry?” If the godly lie among the pots, Psalm 68:13, the wicked shall lie among the devils. “If judgment begins at the house of God, what shall be the end of those who don’t obey the gospel?” 1 Peter 4:17. If God mingles His people’s cup with wormwood—He will mingle the sinner’s cup with fire and brimstone! Psalm 11:6. If God threshes the wheat—He will burn the chaff! If the Lord afflicts those He loves—how severe will He be against those He hates! They shall feel the second death! Revelation 21:8.

ADMONITION 3:   If sin brings a person low—then let us fear to come near sin.

It will either bring us into affliction—or worse. Its foul face may offend—but its breath kills! Sin is the Apollyon, the man-devourer. Oh, that we were as wise for our souls—as we are for our bodies! How afraid are we of that food which we know will bring the gout or stone, or will make our fever return. Sin is feverish food which will put conscience into a shaking fit—and shall we not be afraid to touch this forbidden fruit? Genesis 39:9, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” When the Empress Eudoxia threatened to banish Chrysostom, he said, “Tell her I fear nothing but sin!” It was a saying of Anselm, “If hell were on one side and sin were on the other, I would rather leap into hell than willingly commit sin.”

Love will be apt to grow wanton, if it is not poised with holy fear. No better curb or antidote against sin—than the fear of God. If we could see hell-fire in every sin—it would make us fear to commit it! The fiercest creatures dread fire. When Moses’ rod was turned into a serpent, he was afraid and fled from it. Sin will prove to be a stinging serpent. Oh, fly from it! Most people are like the leviathin—a creature devoid of fear, Job 41:33. They play upon the hole of the asp. Sinners never fear hell—until they feel hell! Nothing will convince them—but fire and brimstone!

EXHORTATION 1: If sin brings a person low—then when we are brought low under God’s afflicting hand, let us behave wisely and as befits Christians.

I shall show: What we must not do when we are brought low. When our condition is low—let not our passions be high. Murmuring against God is not the way to get out of trouble—but rather to go lower into trouble. What does the child get by struggling—but more blows? Oh, do not lisp out a murmuring word against God! Murmuring is the scum which boils off from a discontented heart. Psalm 39:9, “I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!” David’s ear was open to hear the voice of the rod—but his mouth was not open in complaining. Christian, who should you complain of—but yourself! Your own sin has brought you low.

EXHORTATION 2: When we are brought low in affliction—let us search for the sin which is the cause of our trouble.

Job 10:2, “Show me why you contend with me.” “Lord, what is that sin which has provoked You to bring me low?” Lamentations 3:40, “Let us search and try our ways.” As the people of Israel searched the cause when they were beaten in battle—and at last found out the Achan who troubled them, and stoned him to death, Joshua 7:18. Just so, let us search out that Achan which has troubled us.

Perhaps our sin was censorious. We have been ready to judge and slander others—and now we lie under an evil tongue and have false reports raised on us. Perhaps our sin was pride and God has sent poverty as a thorn to humble us. Perhaps our sin was being remiss in holy duties. We had forgotten our first love and were ready to fall into slumbering fits—and God has sent a sharp cross to awaken us out of our security. We may oftentimes read our sin, in our punishment. Oh, let us search the Achan and say as Job, chapter 34:32, “I have done iniquity—I will do so no more!”

EXHORTATION 3: When we are brought low in affliction—let us justify God.

God is just not only when He punishes the guilty—but when He afflicts the righteous. Let us take heed of entertaining hard thoughts of God, as if He had dealt too severely with us and had put too much wormwood in our cup. No, let us vindicate God and say as the Emperor Mauritius, when he saw five of his sons slain before his eyes by Phocas, “Righteous are You, Oh, Lord, in all Your ways.” Let us speak well of God. If we have ever so much affliction—yet we never have one drop of injustice. Psalm 97:2, “Clouds and darkness are round about Him, righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.”

EXHORTATION 4: When we are brought low in affliction—let us bring ourselves low in humiliation.

1 Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” When we are in the valley of tears—we must be in the valley of humility. Lamentations 3:19, “Remembering the wormwood and the gall, my soul has them continually in remembrance—and is humbled in me.” If our condition is low—then it is time to have our hearts lie low.

EXHORTATION 5: When we are brought low in affliction—let us be on our knees in prayer.

Psalm 130:1, “Out of the depths have I cried to You, Oh, Lord.” Psalm 79:8, “Let Your tenderhearted mercies quickly meet our needs, for we are brought low to the dust.” Jacob never prayed so fervently as when he was in fear of his life. He oiled the key of prayer with tears! Hosea 12:4, “He wept and made supplication.” One reason why God lets us be brought low—is to heighten the spirit of prayer.

But what should we pray for in affliction? Let us pray that all our hell may be here in this world. As Pilate said concerning Christ, Luke 23:22, “I will chastise Him and let Him go,” so pray that God, when He does chastise us, will let us go—that He will free us from hell and damnation. Let us pray for the sanctification of affliction—rather than the removal of it. Pray that the rod of affliction may be a divine pencil to draw God’s image more lively upon our souls! Hebrews 12:10. Pray that affliction may be a furnace to refine us—not consume us! Pray that if God does correct us, it may not be in anger, Psalm 6:1, that we may taste the honey of His love at the end of the rod of affliction. Let it be our prayer that God will lay no more upon us, than He will enable us to bear, 1 Corinthians 10:13—and that if the burden is heavier, our shoulders may be stronger.

EXHORTATION 6: When we are brought low in affliction—let our faith be high.

Let us believe that God intends us no harm. Though He casts us into the deep, He will not drown us. Believe that He is still a Father. He afflicts us in as much mercy—as He gives Christ to us. By His rod of discipline, He fits us for the inheritance, Colossians 1:12. Oh, let this star of faith appear in the dark night of affliction. Jonah’s faith was never more in heaven than when he lay in the belly of hell, Jonah 2:4.

Thomas Watson, 16712318235896_ae5d3a0dd0_m

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author.

He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686

The Mischief of Sin, Part Three.

Thomas Watson

THE WAYS in which sin brings a man low…

1. Sin brings a man low—in God’s esteem.

article-1017492-011433B400000578-892_468x366The sinner sets a high price upon himself, Proverbs 26:16—but God has low thoughts of him—and looks upon him with a despicable eye. Daniel 11:21, “The next to come to power will be a despicable man.” Who was this spoken of? It was Antiochus Epiphanes. He was a king, and his name signifies “illustrious,” and by some he was worshiped. Yet in God’s account he was a despicable person. The Psalmist speaking of the wicked says, “All alike have become corrupt,” Psalm 14:3. In the Hebrew, it is “they are become stinking.”

That you may see how low a sinner is fallen in God’s account, the Lord compares him to dross, Psalm 119:119; to chaff, Psalm 1:4; to a pot boiling with scum, Ezekiel 24:6; to a dog, 2 Peter 2:22, which under the Law was unclean; to a serpent, Matthew 23:33, which is a cursed creature. Nay, he is worse than a serpent, for the poison of a serpent is what God has put into it—but a wicked man has that which the devil has put into him! Acts 5:3, “Why has Satan filled your heart?”

A sinner has a high opinion of himself. But if he knew how loathsome and disfigured he was in God’s eye—he would abhor himself in the dust!

2. Sin brings a man low in his intellectual parts.

Sin has ruined the rational part. Darkness is upon the face of this deep. Since the Fall, the lamp of reason burns dim. 1 Corinthians 13:9, “We know but in part.” There are many knots in nature, which are not easy to untie. Why should the Nile overflow in summer when, by the course of nature, waters are lowest? Why should the loadstone rather draw iron than gold—which is a more noble metal? “Where is the path to the origin of light? Where is the home of the east wind? Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning?” Job 38:24-25. “How do the bones grow in the womb?” Ecclesiastes 11:5. Many of these are mysteries which we do not understand. The key of knowledge is lost in the tree of knowledge.

We are especially enveloped with ignorance in sacred matters. “The sword is upon our right eye,” Zachariah 11:16. What a little of the sea will a nutshell hold? How little of God will our intellect contain? Job 11:7, “Can you find out the Almighty unto perfection?” Who can fully unriddle the mystery of the Trinity or fathom the mystery of the the divine and human natures of Christ? And alas, as to the plan of salvation, and heart-transforming knowledge—we are totally blinded—until God’s Spirit lights our lamp! 1 Corinthians 2:14.

3. Sin brings a man low in affliction.

That is the meaning of Psalm 107:39, “They were brought low for their iniquity.” Adam’s sin brought him low; it banished him out of paradise. 2 Chronicles 28:18, “In those days, God cut Israel short.” Sin makes God cut a people short in their spiritual and civil liberties. Sin is the womb of sorrow—and the grave of comfort! Sin turns the body into a hospital. It causes fevers, ulcers, and cancers.

Sin buries the name, melts the estate, pulls away near relations like limbs from our body. Sin is the trojan horse out of which a whole troop of afflictions comes. Sin drowned the old world—and burnt Sodom. Sin made Zion sit in Babylon. Lamentations 1:8, “Jerusalem bath grievously sinned, therefore she is removed.” Sin shut up God’s affections. Lamentations 2:21, “You have killed and not pitied.” Israel sinned and did not repent—and God killed and did not pity. Sin is the great humbler. Did not David’s sin bring him low? Psalm 38:3, “There is no rest in my bones because of my sin.” Did not Manasseh’s sin bring him low? It changed his royal crown into fetters, 2 Chronicles 33:11. For sin, God turned great King Nebuchadnezzar into an animal, “He ate grass like a cow—and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws!” Daniel 4:33.

Sin is like the Egyptian reed—too feeble to support us—but sharp enough to wound us. Jeremiah 2:16, “Egyptians have utterly destroyed Israel’s glory and power.” The Egyptians were not a warlike but a womanish people, imbecilic and weak, yet these were too hard for Israel and made a spoil of her. Verse 17: “Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God?” Is it not your sin, which has brought you low?

Nay, sin not only brings us low—but it embitters affliction. Sin puts teeth into the affliction. Guilt makes affliction heavy. A little water is heavy in a lead vessel—and a little affliction is heavy in a guilty conscience.

4. Sin brings one low in melancholy.

This is a black humor seated chiefly in the mind. Some have dreadful and dismal forebodings. Melancholy clothes the mind in sable. It puts a Christian out of tune, so that he is not fit for prayer or praise. Lute strings will not sound when wet, nor can one under the power of melancholy make melody in his heart to the Lord, Ephesians 5:19. When the mind is troubled, it is unfit to go about work.

Melancholy disturbs reason—and weakens faith. Satan works much on this temper. It is the bath of the devil. He bathes himself with delight in such a person. Through the black spectacles of melancholy, everything appears black. When a Christian looks upon sin, he says, “This Leviathan will devour me!” When lie looks upon ordinances, these will serve to increase his guilt. When he looks upon affliction, his gulf will swallow him up! Melancholy creates fears in the mind. It excites jealousies and imprisons. I may allude to Psalm 53:5, “They were overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread.”

5. Sin brings a man low in spiritual plagues.

It brings many a one to a seared conscience—and to spiritual lethargy. Isaiah 29:10: “The Lord has poured out upon you the spirit of a deep sleep—and has closed your eyes.” Men are brought low indeed when the sound of Aaron’s bell will not awaken them. No sermon will stir them. They are like the blacksmith’s dog—which can lie and fast sleep near the anvil when all the sparks fly about. Conscience is in a lethargy. Once a man’s speech is gone and his feeling lost—he draws on apace to death. So when the checks of conscience cease and a man is sensible neither of sin nor wrath—you may ring out the death bell. He is past hope of recovery. Thus some are brought low, even to a reprobate sense. This is the threshold of damnation.

6. Sin brings a man low in temptation.

Paul began to be proud—and he had a messenger of Satan to buffet him, 2 Corinthians 12:7. Some think it was a visible apparition of Satan tempting him to sin. Others, that the devil was now assaulting Paul’s faith, making him believe he was a hypocrite. Satan laid the bomb of temptation—to blow up the fort of his grace! And this temptation was so sore that he called it “a thorn in the flesh.” It put him to much anguish. Such temptations, the godly often fall into. They are tempted to question the truth of the promises—or the truth of their own graces. Sometimes they are tempted to blasphemy, sometimes to self-murder. Thus, they are brought low; they are almost gone and ready to give consent. The devil nibbles at their heel—but God wards off the blow from their head.

7. Sin brings one low in desertion.

This is a deep abyss indeed. Psalm 88:6, “You have laid me in the lowest pit.” Desertion is a short hell. Song of Solomon 5:6, “My beloved has withdrawn himself and was gone.” Christ knocked—but the spouse was loath to rise off her bed of sloth and open to Him immediately. When the devil finds a person sleeping—he enters. But when Christ finds him sleeping—He is gone. And if this Sun of righteousness withdraws His golden beams from the soul, darkness follows.

Desertion is the arrow of God shot into the soul. Job 6:4, “For the Almighty has struck me down with his arrows. He has sent his poisoned arrows deep within my spirit. All God’s terrors are arrayed against me.” The Scythians, in their wars, used to dip their arrows in the gall of asps that their venomous poison might torture the enemy all the more. So the Lord shot His poisoned arrows of desertion at Job, under the wounds whereof his spirit lay bleeding.

God is called a light and a fire in Scripture. The deserted soul feels the fire—but does not see the light. So dreadful is this that the most tormenting pains—are but a pleasure, compared to it. All the delights under the sun, will administer no comfort in this condition. Worldly things can no more relieve a troubled mind—than a silk stocking can ease a broken leg. Psalm 88:15, “I have suffered your terrors and am in despair.” Luther, in desertion, was close to dying. “He had no color seen in his face, nor was heard to speak—but his body seemed dead,” as one wrote in a letter to Melancthon.

8. Sin brings many low in despair.

This is a gulf which none but reprobates fall into. Jeremiah 18:11, “You said, there is no hope.” Despair is a devouring of salvation. It is a millstone tied about the soul—which sinks it in perdition. Despair looks on God not as a Father—but as a judge. It refuses the remedy. Other sins need Christ; despair rejects Him. It closes the orifice of Christ’s wounds—so that no blood will come out to heal. This is the voice of despair, “My sin is greater than the mercy of God can pardon!” It makes the wound broader than the plaster.

Despair is a God-affronting sin. It is sacrilege; it robs God of His crown jewels—His power, goodness, and truth. How Satan triumphs to see the honor of God’s attributes laid in the dust, by despair! Despair casts away the anchor of hope—and then the soul must sink. What will a ship do in a storm without an anchor? Despair locks men up in impenitency. I have read of one Hubertus who died despairing. He made his will after this manner, “I yield my goods to the King, my body to the grave, my soul to the devil.” Isaiah 38:18, “They that go down into the pit, cannot hope for Your truth.” They who go down into this pit of despair cannot hope for the truth of God’s promise. And this despair grows at last, into horror and raving.

9. Without repentance, sin brings a man into the bottomless pit

—and then he is brought low indeed! Sin draws hell at its heels. Psalm 9:7, “The wicked shall be turned into hell.” Not to speak of the punishment of loss, which divines think is the worst part of hell: the being separated from the beatific sight of God, “in whose presence is fullness of joy,” Psalm 16:11. The punishment of sense is bad enough. The wrath will come upon sinners to the uttermost, 1 Thessalonians 2:16.

 

Thomas Watson, 16712318235896_ae5d3a0dd0_m

 

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author.

He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.

Out of dark afflictions comes a spiritual light… Thoughts on Affliction From John Bunyan

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The school of the cross is the school of light…

…it discovers the world’s vanity, baseness, and wickedness, and lets us see more of God’s mind. Out of dark afflictions comes a spiritual light. In times of affliction, we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God.

Doth not God oft times even take occasion, by the hardest of things that come upon us, to visit our souls with the comforts of his Spirit, to lead us into the glory of his word and to cause us to savor that love that he has had for us even from before the world began till now? A nest of bees and honey did Samson find even in the belly of that lion that roared upon him. And is all this no good; or can we do without such holy appointments of God? Let these things be considered by us, and let us learn like Christians to kiss the rod, and love it.

The lamps of Gideon were discovered, when his soldiers’ pitchers were broken: if our pitchers are broken for the Lord and his gospel’s sake, those lamps will then be discovered that before lay hid and unseen.

People that live high and in idleness bring diseases upon the body; and they that live in all fulness of gospel ordinances, and are not exercised with trials, grow gross, are diseased and full of bad humors in their souls. The righteous are apt to be like well-fed children, too wanton, if God should not appoint them some fasting-days.The Lord useth his flail of tribulation to separate the chaff from the wheat.

Observe Paul: he died daily, he was always delivered unto death, he despaired of life. And this is the way to be prepared for any calamity. When a man thinks he has only to prepare for an assault by footmen, how shall he contend with horses; or if he looks no further than to horses, what will he do at the swellings of Jordan?

Oh, when every providence of God unto thee is like the messengers of Job, and the last to bring more heavy tidings than all that went before him; when life, estate, wife, children, body and soul, and all at once, seem to be struck at by heaven and earth, here are hard lessons—now to behave myself even as a weaned child: now to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Our afflictions work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Our afflictions do it, not only because there is laid up a reward for the afflicted according to the measure of affliction, but because afflictions, and so every service of God, make the heart more deep, more experimental, more knowing and profound, and so, more able to hold, to contain, and bear more.

Let Christians beware that they set not times for God, lest all men see their folly. “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power;” yea, I say again, take heed lest, for thy setting of God a seven-day’s time, he set thee so many as seven times seven.

God’s time is the time, the best time, because it is the time appointed by him for the proof and trial of our graces, and that in which so much of the rage of the enemy and of the power of God’s mercy, may the better be discovered unto us. “I the Lord do hasten it in his time;” not before, though we were the signet upon his hand.

Afflictions are governed by God, both as to time, number, nature, and measure. In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: “He stayeth his rough wind in the day of his east wind.” Our times, therefore, and our conditions in these times, are in the hand of God, yea, and so are our souls and bodies, to be kept and preserved from the evil while the rod of God is upon us.

Ease and release from persecution and affliction come not by chance, or by the good moods and gentle dispositions of men; but the Lord doth hold them back from sin, the Lord restraineth them. 2 Chron. 18:31.

“And he stayed yet other seven days.” It is not God’s way with his people to show them all their troubles at once, but first he shows them a part: first, forty days, after that, seven other days, and yet again, seven days more; that coming upon them by piecemeal, they may the better be able to travel through them. When Israel was in affliction in Egypt, they knew not the trial which would meet them at the Red sea. Again, when they had gone through that, they little thought that yet for forty years they must be tempted and proved in the wilderness.

“And Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked;” the failing again of his expected comforter caused him to be up and doing. Probably he had not as yet uncovered the ark, that is, to look round about him, if the dove, by returning, had pleased his humor; but she failing, he stirs up himself.

Thus it should also be with the Christian now. Doth the dove forbear to come to thee with a leaf in her bill as before? Let not this make thee sullen and mistrustful, but uncover the ark and look; and by looking, thou shalt see a further testimony of what thou receivest by the first manifestations. “He looked, and behold the earth was dry.”

God doth not let us see the hills for our help before we have first of all seen them drowned. Look not to them, therefore, while the water is at the rising; but if they begin to cease their raging, if they begin to fall, and with that the tops of the mountains be seen, you may look upon them with comfort; they are tokens of God’s deliverance. Gen. 8.

It was requisite that the hills, Gen. 7:19, should be covered, that Noah might not have confidence in them; but surely this dispensation of God was a heart-shaking providence to Noah and them that were with him; for here indeed was his faith tried, there was no hill left in all the world; now were his carnal helpers gone, there was none shut up or left. Now therefore, if they could rejoice, it must be only in the power of God.

Noah was to have respect in his deliverance not only to himself and family, but to the good of all the world. Men’s spirits are too narrow for the mind of God, when their chief end, or their only design in their enjoying this or the other mercy, is for the sake of their own selves only. It cannot be according to God, that such desires should be encouraged. “None of us liveth unto himself;” why, then, should we desire life only for ourselves?

The church cries out thus: “God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us.” Why? “That thy way may be known upon earth, and thy saving health among all nations.” So David: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit; then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”

So then, we must not desire to come out of trials and afflictions alone or by ourselves, but that in our deliverance the salvation of many may be concerned.

In every affliction and persecution, the devil’s design is to impair Christ’s kingdom; wherefore, no marvel that God designs in our deliverance the impairing and lessening the kingdom of sin and Satan. Wherefore, O thou church of God, which art now upon the waves of affliction and temptation, when thou comest out of the furnace, if thou come out at the bidding of God, there shall come out with thee the fowl, the beast, and abundance of creeping things. Gen. 8:17. “O Judah, he hath set a harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people.”