perplexity of mind, like flaves that tremble at the whip which is held over them; thus many thousands live under the lash; fo terrible is the name of Death, especially a violent death, that they are not able with patience to hear it mentioned; which gave the ground of that faying, Praeftat femel, quam femper mori; it is better to die once, than to be dying always. And furely there is not a more miferable life any poor creature can live, than fuch a trembling life as this is. For,

1. Such a bondage as this deftroys all the comfort and pleafure of life; no pleasure can grow or thrive under the shadow of this curfed plant. Nil ei beatum cui femper aliquis terror impendet, faith Cicero, all the comforts we poffefs in this world are embittered by it. It is storied of Democles, a flatterer of Dionyfius the tyrant, that he told him he was the hap pieft man in the world, having wealth, power, majesty, and abundance of all things: Dionyfius fets the flatterer in all his own pomp at a table furnished with all daintes, and attended upon as a king, but with a heavy sharp sword hanging by a fingle horfe hair right over his head; this made him quake and tremble, fo that he could neither eat nor drink, but defired to be freed from that estate. The defign was to convince him How miferable a life they live, who live under the continual terrors of impending death and ruin. It was a fore judgment which God threatened against them in Jcr. v. 6. “A lion out "of the foreft fhall flay them, and a wolf of the evening "shall spoil them; a leopard fhall watch over their cities, every "one that goeth out thence, fhall be torn in pieces." What a miferable life must those people live, who could not flir out of the city, but they prefently were feized by lions, wolves, and leopards, that watched over them, and lurked in all the avenues to make them a prey! and yet this is more tolerable than for a man's own fear to watch continually over him.


2. And yet I could with this were the worst of it, and that our fears destroyed no better comforts than the natural comforts of this life but, alas, they alfo destroy our spiritual comforts, which we might have from God's promifes, and our own and others experiences, which are incomparably the fweeteft pleafures men have in this world: but as no creature comfort is pleafant, fo no promife relishes like itfelf to him that lives in this bondage of fear; when the terrors of death are great, the confolations of the Almighty are fmall.

* Cicer. Tufc. Q. 15.

fn the written word are found all forts of refreshing, strength. ening, and heart-reviving promifes, prepared by the wildom and care of God for our relief in the days of darkness and trouble; promises of fupport under the heaviest burdens and preffures, Ifa. xli. 10. "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dif "mayed, for I am thy God; I will ftrengthen thee, yea, I will "help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right-hand of my "righteousness" A promise able to make the most timorous and trembling foul to fhout with the joy of men in harvest, or as they that divide the spoil.

There are found the encouraging promifes of defence and protection, Ifa. xxvii. 2, 3. and Isa. xxxiii. 2. promises that lead us unto the almighty power of God, and put us under the wings of his care in time of danger.

Promises of moderation and mitigation in the day of fharp affliction that we may be able to bear it, Ifa, xxvii. 8. 1 Cor. x. 13. Promises of deliverance out of trouble, if the malice of man bring us into trouble, the mercy of God will affuredly bring us out, Pfal. xci. 14, 15. and Pfal. cxxv. 3. And, which is noft comfortable of all the reft, promifes to fanctify and blefs our troubles to our good, fo that they fhall not only cease to be hurtful, but, by virtue of the promise, become exceed, ing beneficial to us, Ifa. xxvii. 9. Rom. viii. 28.

All these promifes are provided by our tender Father for us, against a day of ftraits and fears; and because he knew our weakness, and how apt our fears would be to make us fufpect our fecurity by them, he hath, for the performance of them, engaged his wifdom, power, care, faithfulness and unchangeableness, 2 Pet. ii. 9. Ifa. xxvii. 2, 3. 2 Cor. xvi. 9. 1 Cor. x. 13. Ifa. xliii. 1, 2. In the midst of fuch promifes fo fealed, how chearful and magnanimous should we be in the worst times! and fay as David, Pfal. xlix. 5. "Why fhould I fear in the day "of evil?" Let thofe that have no God to flee to, no promise to rely upon, let them fear in the day of evil, I have no caufe to do fo. But even from these most comfortable refuges in the promifes our own fears beat us; we are so scared that we mind them not, fo as to draw encouragement, refolution, and courage from them. Thus the fhields of the mighty are vilely caft away.

So, for all the choice records of the faints experiences in all former troubles and diftreffes, God hath, by a fingular providence (aiming at our relief in future diftreffes) preferved them for us; if danger threaten us, we may turn to the recorded experiences his people have left us of the ftrange and mighty influerce of

his providence upon the hearts of their enemies, to fhew them favour, Gen. xxxi. 29. Psal. xvi. 46. Jer. xv. 11.

There are alfo found the antient rolls and records of the admirable methods of his peoples deliverance, contrived by his infinite and unfearchable wisdom for them, when all their own thoughts have been at a lofs, and their understandings posed and staggered, Exod. xv. 6. 2 Chron. xx. 12, 15. 2 Kings xix. 3, 7.

There are the recorded experiences of God's unfpotted faithfulness, which never failed any foul that durft truft himself in its arms, Micah vi. 4, 5. Joshua vii. 9.

There are also to be found the records of his tender and moft fatherly care for his children, who have been to him as a pecoliar treafure in times of danger, Pfal. xl. 17. Deut. xxxii. 10, 11, 12. Ifa. xlix, 16. Job xlix. 16. Job xxxvi. 7. 2 Chron.

xvi. 9.

All thefe and many more fupports and cordials are made ready to our hand, and provided for a day of trouble; but alas! to what purpose, if our own fears fo tranfport us, that we can neither apply them, nor fo much as calmly ponder and confider them.

3. To conclude, by these fears we are deprived of those manifold advantages we might gain by the calm, and composed meditations of our own death, and the change it will make upon us; could we fit down in peace, and meditate in a famili ar way upon death: could we look with a compofed and wellfettled mind into our own graves, and not be scared and frighted with the thoughts of death, and startle whenever we take it (though but in our thoughts) by the cold hand: To what feriousness would thofe meditations frame us? And what abundance of evils would they prevent in our conversations? The fprinkling of duft upon new writing prevents many a blot and blur in our books or letters: And could we thus fprinkle the duft of the grave upon our minds, it would prevent many a fin and miscarriage in our words and actions. But there is no profit or advantage redounding to us either from promifes, experiences, or death itself, when the foul is difcomposed and put into confufio by its own fears. And thus you fee some of thofe many mischievous effects of your own fears.


Preferibing the rules to cure our finful fears, and prevent these fad and woful effects of them.

Sect. I. WE are now come to the most difficult part of the

work, viz. the cure of the finful and flavish fear

of creatures in times of danger, which if it might, through the bleffing of God, be effected, we might live at hearts ease in the midst of all our enemies and troubles, and, like the fun in the heavens, keep on our steddy course in the darkest and gloomiest day. But before I come to the particular rules, it will be neceffary, for the prevention of miftakes, to lay down three ofe ful cautions about this matter.

1 Caution. Understand that none but thofe that are in Chrift are capable to improve the following rules to their advantage. The fecurity of our fouls is the greatest argument used by Christ to extinguish our fears of them that kill the body, Mat. x. 28. But if the foul muft unavoidably perifh when the body doth, if it must drop into hell before the body be laid in the grave, if he that kills the body doth, by the fame ftroke, cut off the foul from all the means and poffibilities of mercy and happiness for ever, what can be offered in fuch a cafe, to relieve a man against fear and trembling?

2 Caution. Expect not a perfect care of your fears in this life, whilft there are enemies and dangers, there will be fome fears working in the best hearts: If our faith could be perfected, our fears would be perfectly cured; but whilft there is fo much weakness in our faith, there will be too much strength in our fears. And for thofe who are naturally timorous, who have more of this paffion in their conftitution than other men have, and those in whom melancholy is a rooted and chronical disease, it will be hard for them totally to rid themselves of fears and dejections, though in the use of such helps and means as follow, they may be greatly relieved against the tyranny of them, and enabled to poffefs their fouls in much more tranquil lity and comfort.

3 Caution. Whofoever expects the benefit of the following prescriptions and rules, must not think the reading, or bar remembring of them will do the work, but he muft work them into his heart by believing and fixed meditation, and live in the daily practice of them. It is not our opening of our cafe to a phyfician, nor his prefcriptions and written directions, that will

cure a man, but he must refolve to take the bitter and naufeous potion, how much foever he loath it; to abftain from hurtful diet, how well foever he loves it, if ever he expect to be a found and healthful man. So it is in this cafe alfo. Thefe things premifed, the

1 Rule. The firft rule to relieve us against our flavish feats, Is feriously to confider, and more thoroughly to study the covenant of grace, within the bleffed clafp and bond whereof all believers are. I think the clear understanding of the nature, extent, and ftability of the covenant, and of our intereft therein, would go a great way in the cure of our finful and flavifh fears.

A covenant is more than a naked promife; in the covenant, God hath graciously confulted our weakness, fears, and doubts, and therefore proceeds with us in the higheft way of folemnity, confirming his promises by oath, Heb. vi. 13, 17. and by his feals, Rom. vi. 11. Putting himself under the moft folemn ties and engagements that can be, to his people, that from fo firm a ratification of the covenant with us, we might have strong confolation, Heb. vi. 18. He hath fo ordered it, that it might af ford ftrong fupports, and the most reviving cordials to our faint and timorous fpirits, in all the plunges of trouble both from within, and from without. In the covenant God makes over himself to his people, to be unto them a God, Jer. xxxi. 33. Heb. viii. 10. Wherein the Lord beftows himself in all his glorious effential properties upon us, to the end that whatfoever his almighty power, infinite wisdom, and incomprehenfible mercy can afford for our protection, fupport, deliverance, direction, pardon, or refreshment; we might be affured fhall be faithfully performed to us in all the ftraits, fears, and exigencies of our lives. This God expects we should improve by faith, as the most sovereign antidote against all our fears in this world, Ifa. xliii. 1, 2. “Thus faith the Lord that created thee, "O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Ifrael; fear not, for I "have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou 66 art mine; when thou passest through the waters, I will be "with thee," &c. Ifa. xli. 10. "Fear not, for I am with thee, "be not difmayed, for I am thy God."

And if thou, reader, be within the bonds of the covenant, thou mayeft furely find enough there to quiet thy heart, whatever the matter or ground of thy fears be: If God be thy covenant God, he will be with thee in all thy ftraits, wants, and troubles, he will never leave, nor forfake thee. From the coveBant it was that David encouraged himself against all his troubles, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. Although my house be not fo with God, yet

« VorigeDoorgaan »