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if God take from him that, wherein he placeth his highest felicity: and, therefore, no wonder, if he break out into passionate and intemperate exclamations : as Micah justified his outcries after the children of Dan; Ye have taken away my gods.....and what have I more? and what is this that ye say uto me, What aileth thee? so, exhort a selfish man to patience under any affliction, or loss, or calamity, that God hath brought upon him; alas! his earthly comforts are his gods : they are his all; and he cannot but account it a strange unreasonable. ness, that you should blame him for his passion, when his idols, his gods, and that, wherein he placed his only content and confi. dence, is taken from him. But a truly patient soul puts a lower rate and estimate upon these things: he values them, indeed, as comforts; otherwise, there could be no trial, and so no patience in the loss of them: but he values them not as his chief nor his only good; otherwise, he could have no patience in sustaining the loss of them: let God sequester his estate and reduce him to extreme poverty, scourge his body and lay upon him all the most racking pains and languishing diseases that life can subsist under, snatch away his friends and mow down all his nearest and dearest relations round about him, cut off all his props and worldly dependencies; yet, still, he looks not upon himself as undone : still he hath his God, and his Christ, and his grace left: his treasure is secure; and all the loss, that he sustains, is but in his accessory good things, which he never otherwise received, but with condition and under the burden to part with them freely and quietly whensoever it should please the Great Proprietor of all things to call for them. Patience works a man to a great indifferency to these worldly enjoyments: if God be pleased to spare them, he accepts it with thankfulness; or, if he see good to deprive him of them, he quarrels not at his Father's providence; for, still, God leaves him more than he takes, so long as he leaves him himself: they are but his smaller concernments, that God toucheth him in ; and, what matter of importance is it, if God prune off his excrescencies, when as this tends only to make him more beautiful and more fruitful! God doth but deny him that, wherein he hath learned to deny himself. And,
2. Aş patience works the soul to a self-denying, so it does likewise to a submissive frame and temper.
When it hath brought a man to renounce his own will, it then resolves him into the will of God: it takes him out of his own
hand, and puts him into God's. Here patience finds its footing, in the deepest waters of affliction : upon this ground it stands, and upon this it fixeth : “ It is the will and good pleasure of my Father, that thus and thus it shall be with me; and, therefore, so be it.” Indeed, all religion lies in conforming our wills to the will of God: that there should be but one will between God and us; and that this should be his most wise and righteous will. The Will of his Precept he hath made known unto us by his Word; and to that we ought to submit our wills, by a cheerful performance of what he hath commanded. The Will of his Purpose he makes known unto us by his Providence; and to that we ought to submit, by a quiet bearing of whatsoever he shall see good to inflict. Art thou poor, or despised, or diseased, afflicted by God, or persecuted by men ? set patience on work : and this will lighten thy burden, and ease thee of thy sorrows; by reflecting, That it is the will of God to have it so: yea, and thy will shall run into, and mingle with his ; so that thou shalt suffer willingly whatsoever he shall please to bring upon thee. Indeed, we ought not so to will and affect sufferings, as causelessly to involve ourselves in them: we may abhor them, as they are in themselves considered; and, by all lawful means, seek to secure or free ourselves from them. But, yet, a patient Christian wills them, though not absolutely, yet conditionally : he wills that the will of God should take place, and have its accomplishment. And, indeed, there is great reason he should do so; for he knows that the issue will be to his exceeding great gain and advantage. And, therefore, if the Lord will, he dare not gainsay; but, with a holy meekness, gives in his vote, and surrenders up bis will, as no longer his, but melted and resolved into the will of his Father. It was a most divine and heavenly speech of the Heathen Philosopher Epictetus : “ I will say unto God, Did I ever find fault, or accuse thy government of affairs ? I was sick, because thou wouldest : others also have been sick, but I willingly. I was poor, because thou wouldest ; but therefore joyful in my poverty, since it was thy pleasure. I never was in authority, because thou wouldest not; and thou knowest, that therefore I never desired authority. Did I ever appear before thee with a sad and dejected countenance, as one, that had suffered a repulse, or been defeated of his hopes ? Behold, I am ready to obey whatever thou shalt enjoin: if it be to quit the stage, I go. But, before I leave the world, I render unto thee my most humble thanks, that
thou hast been pleased to admit me into the theatre, to be a spectator and admirer of thy works.”* This was the profession of a Heathen. See the practice of this excellent patience, in some Scripture Examples. When Samuel had delivered to Eli the sad doom, which God had pronounced against his house, It is the Lord, saith that good old man: let him do what seemeth him good: 1 Sam. iii. 18: it is the Lord, whose sovereignty, whose wisdom and goodness are infinite; and, therefore, though his present ways seem dark and obscure to me, I resign up myself wholly unto him: let him do whatsoever seemeth himn good. And so, likewise, David delivers himself up unto God: 2 Sam. xv. 25, 26. If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and shew me the ark and place of his habitation : Byt, if he thus say, I have no delight in thee ; behold, here am 1, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him. And thus, likewise, a far greater than both these, even our Lord Jesus Christ, yields up himself wholly to his Father's will and pleasure: Luke xxii. 42. Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me : nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done. Christ is willing not to have his own will: and so every patient Christian brings his will to this submission; that it is his will, that not his, but God's will should be fulfilled.
That is, therefore, a Third Work of Patience; Self-Resignation to the Will and Disposal of God.
iv. Another work of patience, is, A HOLY ENDEARING OF OUR AFFLICTIONS TO US; when it brings us to account them precious, and to reckon them as choice mercies and favours bestowed upon us.
Patience will make the soul thankful for corrections; esteeming it a token of God's special regard and condescension towards us, that he will vouchsafe to afflict us. We are all prone to think, that God never minds us, but when he is continually
Θελω μπεν τω Θεω Μη τι σοι στο ενεκαλεσα και μη τι εμεμψαμην σε την διοικησιν; Ενοσησα, ότι ηθελησας και οι αλλοι, αλλ' εγω εκων. Πενης εγενόμην σε θελονται, αλλα χαιρων. Ουκ ηρξα, ότι συ εκ ηθελησας" ουδεποτ' επ εθυμήσα αρχης. Μη τι με τετε ένεκα συνοτέρον αδες και μη και προσηλθον σοι πολε φαιδρω το προσωπω, έτοιμο» και τι επίκασσες, και τι σημαινεις ; Nυν με θελεις απελθειν εκ της πανηγυρεως και απειμε χαριν σοι εχω πασας, ότι ηξιωσας με συμπανηγυρισαι σοι, και ειδειν εργα τα σα,
διοικησει οι συμπαρακολgθησαι σοι. Epictetus Arriani, lib. ii. cap. 5. anderen. VOL. IV.
heaping new mercies and enjoyments upon us; and if any cross or calamity befal us, we presently fear, that God hath forgotten us: but patience teacheth a Christian to believe, that, in every affliction, whatsoever it be, God doth most particularly regard our concerns ; that he is as mindful of us, when he chastises, as when he favours us. And, therefore, we should account afflictions as dear a pledge of God's love, as prosperity and indulgence. Nay, indeed, we have as much need of the one, as of the other : for, as we are apt to be too much dejected, if we see none but black and louring days; so we are, on the other side, apt to be puffed up with a continual uninterrupted course of prosperity, to grow wanton and secure, to forget ourselves and the God of all our mercies. And, as weeds grow fastest in a fat and rank soil, so our corruptions grow and thrive, and are ready to overrun our souls, when our outward state and condition is most prosperous and successful : and, therefore, God's love and care of us constrain him sometimes to use severe discipline, to nip those luxuriancies, and to cut us short in our temporal enjoyments; which else, be sees, we should only turn into provision for our lusts. And, did we but seriously consider the great improvements we might make of afflictions and the great advantages we might gain, how they serve for the exercise of our graces, the confirming of our hope, the evidence of our inheritance, the seed of future joys; patience would not only account them tolerable but comfortable, and advance from being patience to be rejoicing and triumph. Therefore the Apostle, speaking of persecuted saints, saith, they took joyfully, the spoiling of their goods ; knowing in themselves, that they bad in heaven a better and an enduring substance : Heb. x. 34. And thus David (as once his Jonathan) tastes honey from the top of the rod : Ps. xxii. 4. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me : not. only God's staff to support him, but even his rod to chastise and correct him, were sweet and comfortable to him.
That is a Fourth Work of Patience, to endear and sweeten Afflictions to us.
v. Another work of patience is, The RECONCILING OF A MAN TO THE INSTRUMENTS OF HIS SUFFERINGS : to make him willing to forgive them himself; and to pray to God for their pardon and forgiveness, who is far more offended by them than we
Thus our Lord Jesus Christ, who is set forth to us in Scripture, as the great example of all grace, but especially of this of patience, pours out his prayers for those who were pouring out his blood : Luke xxiii. 34. Father, forgive thein ; for they know not what they do. ` And his holy martyr, St. Stephen, when his murderers were pelting him with stones, pelts not them with curses and imprecations, as an impatient man would do; but, with Christian meekness, kneels upon that ground to which they were beating him, and prays, that God would not lay that sin to their charge: Acts vii. 60. And, by this one effect of patience, we may easily perceive, that it is a grace very rare to be found in our days: we look upon it as too phlegmatic a piece of Christianity, to pass by an injury unrevenged: we are gro:vn testy and choleric; and, when we apprehend ourselves in the least wronged, if we draw not our swords, yet we draw our tongues, which are full as sharp and trenchant; and shoot out our arrows, even bitter words; and nourish an implacable enmity in our hearts, against all whom we apprehend to have been the causes or occasions of those wrongs and sufferings which we undergo. What doth this argue, but that we look not at God in our sufferings ? we eye not his hand, nor his providence, in bringing them upon us : we consider not, that their malice is overruled by his wisdom; and that he makes use of it, to accomplish his own purposes and designs: and so, while, like dogs, we bite and snarl at the stones that are thrown at us, we do but interpretatively fly at him that casts them; and would even rend him in pieces, were he within our reach and power. Whereas*, a truly patient spirit looks above and beyond the wickedness and malice of men, to the justice and wisdom of God: and this suppresseth the ebullitions of his passions and all attempts of revenge, which else his wrath and corrupt nature would prompt him to take. See a notable instance of this in David, 2 Sam. xvi. 10. when Shimei came out, like a man distracted with rage and passion, and flung dust and curses confusedly into the air together: Let him curse, saith David, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David: he represseth his own and his captain's revenge upon that wretch, and maintaineth the peace and tranquillity of his patience, because he looked beyond the instrument, unto God, who righteously makes use of the wickedness of men for his own ends.