« VorigeDoorgaan »
both, quite above the reach, and beyond the ken of reafon, Ifa. lv. 8. And,
2. The confident dictates of reafon are frequently confuted by experience all the world over; it is every day made a liar, and the frights it puts us into, proved to be vain and groundlefs, Ifa. li. 13.
Nothing can be better for us, than to refign up our rea fon to faith, to fee all things through the promises, and trust God over all events.
Rule 12. To conclude, exalt the fear of God in your hearts, and let it gain the afcendant over all your other fears.
This is the prefcription in my text for the cure of all our flavish fears, and indeed all the formentioned rules for the curę of fiaful fears run into this, and are reducible to it. For,
1. Doth the knowledge and application of the covenant of grace cure our fears? The fear of God is both a part of that covenant, and an evidence of our intereft in it, Jer. xxxii. 40.
2. Doth finful fear plunge men into fuch diftreffes of confcience? Why, the fear of God will preferve your ways clean and pure, Pfal. xix. 9. and fo those mischiefs will be pre: vented.
3. Doth forefight and provifion for evil days prevent diftracting fears when they come? Nothing like the fear of God enables us to fuch a previfion and provifion for them, Heb. xi. 7.
4. Do we relieve ourselves against fear by committing all to God? Surely it is the fear of God that drives us to him as our only afylum and fure refuge, Mal. iii. 16. They feared God, and thought upon his name, (i. e.) they meditated on his name, which was their refuge, his attributes their chambers of rest.
5. Muft our affections to the world be mortified before our fears can be fubdued? This is the inftrument of mortification, Neh. v. 15.
6. Do the worthy examples of those that are gone before us, tend to the cure of our cowardice and fears? Why the fear of God will provoke in you an holy felf-jealousy, left you fail of the grace they manifefted, and come fhort of those excellent patterns, Heb. xii. 15.
7. Is the affurance of intereft in God, and the pardon of fin fuch an excellent antidote against flavish fear? Why, he that walks in the fear of God, fhall walk in the comforts of the Holy Ghoft alfo, Acts ix. 31.
8. Is integrity of heart and way fuch a fountain of courage in evil times? Know, reader, no grace promotes this integrity
and uprightness more than the fear of God doth, Prov. xvi. 6. Prov. xxiii. 17.
9. Do the reviving of past experiences fupprefs finful fears? No doubt this was the fubject which the fear of God put them upon, for mutual encouragement, Mal. iii. 16.
10. Are the providences of God in this world fuch cordials' against fear? The fear of God is the very character and mark of those persons over whom his providence hall watch in the difficulteft times, Ecclef. viii. 12.
11. Doth our trusting in our own reafon, and making it' our rule and meafure, breed fo many fears? Why, the fear of God will take men off from fuch felf confidence, and bring them to trust the faithful God with all doubtful iffues, and events, as the very scope of my text fully manifefts. Fear not their fear their fear, moving by the direction of carnal reafon, drove them not to God, but to the Affyrian for help." Follow not you their example in this. But how fhall they help it? Why, fanctify the Lord of Hofts, and make him your fear.
CHA P. VII.
Anfwering the most material pleas for flavish fears, and diffolving the common objections against courage and conftancy of mind in times of danger.
HE pleas and excufes for our cowardly faintnefs in the
Tday of trouble are endlefs, and fo would his talk be
that thould undertake particularly to anfwer them all. It is but the cutting off an Hydra's head, when one is gone, ten more start up; what is most material I will here take into confideration. When good men (for with fuch I am dealing in this chapter) fee a formidable face and appearance of sharp and bloody times approaching them, they begin to tremble, their hearts faint, and their hands hang down with unbecoming defpondency, and pufilanimity; their thoughts are so distracted, their reafon and faith fo clouded by their fears, that their temptations are thereby exceedingly ftrengthened upon them, and their principles and profeffions brought under the derifion and contempt of their enemies; and if their brethren, to whom God hath given more courage and conftancy, and who difcern the mifchief like to enfue from their uncomely carriage, admonish
and advise them of it: they have abundance of pleas and defences for their fears, yea, when they reafon the point of fuffering in their own thoughts, and the matter is debated (as in fuch times it is common) betwixt faith and fear, O what endlefs work do their fears put upon their faith, to folve all the buts and ifs which their fears will object or fuppofe.
Some of the principal of them I think it worth while here to confider, and endeavour to fatisfy, that, if poffible, I may prevail with all gracious perfons to be more magnanimous. And first, of all,
Plea 1. Sufferings for Chrift are frange things to the Chriftians of this age, we have had the happy lot to fall into milder times than the primitive Chriftians did, or thofe that struggled in our own land in the beginning of reformation; and therefore we may be excufed for our fears, by reafon of our own unacquaintedness with fufferings in our times.
Anfwer 1. One fault is but a bad excufe for another, why are fufferings fuch ftrangers to you? Why did you not cast upen them in the days of peace, and reckon that fuch days must come ? Did you not covenant with Chrift to follow him whitherfoever he should go, to take up your crefs, and follow him? And did not the word plainly tell you, that "All that will live godly in "Chrift Jefus, must suffer perfecution," 2 Tim. iii. 12. “And "that we must through much tribulation enter into the king"dom of God," Acts xiv. 22. Did we fall afleep in quiet and profperous days, and dream of halcyon days all our time on earth? That the mountain of our profperity ftood strong, and we fhould never be moved? That we should die in our neft, and multiply our days as the fand; Babylon's children indeed dream fo, Rev. xviii. 7. but the children of Sion fhould be better inftructed. Alas! how foon may the brightest day be overcaft? The weather is not fo variable, as the ftate of the church in this world is; now a calm, Acts ix. 31. and then a storm, Acts xii. 1, 2. You could not but know what contingent and vari, able things all things on earth are; why then did you delude yourfelves with fuch fond dreams? But as a learned man rightly obferves, Mundus fenefcens patitur. phantafias. The older the world grows, the more drowzy and doting it still grows, and these are the days in which the wife as well as the foolish virgins flumber. Sure it is but a bad plea, after fo many warnings from the word, and from the rod to fay, I did nor think of fuch times, I dreamed not of them.
2. Or if you fay, though you have converfed with death and fufferings by fpeculation, yet you lived not in fuch times where in you might fee (as other fufferers did) the encouraging faith, patience and zeal of others fet before your eyes in a lively pattern and example. Sufferings were not only familiarized to them by frequency, but facilitated alfo by the daily examples of thofe that went before them.
But think you indeed that nothing but encouragement and advantage to followers, arofe from the trials of thofe that went before? Alas, there were fometimes the greatest damps and difcouragements imaginable; the zeal of those that followed have often been inflamed by the faintings of those that were tried before them. In the feventh perfecution under Decius, anno 250,, there were standing before the tribunal, certain of the warriors or knights, viz. Ammon, Zenon, Ptolemeus, Ingennus, and a certain aged man called Theophilus, who all standing by as fpectators when a certain Chriftian was examined, and there feeing him for fear, ready to decline, and fall away, did almoft burft for forrow within themselves: they made figns to him with their hands, and all geftures of the body to be conftant; this being noted by all the standers by, they were ready to lay hold upon them; but they preventing the matter, preffed up of their own accord, before the bench of the judge, profeffing themselves to be Chriftians, infomuch that both the prefident and the benchers were all astonished, and the Christians which were judged, the more encouraged. Such damping spectacles the Chriftians of former ages had frequently fet before
And it was no small trial to fome of them, to hear the faint. ings and abnegation of thofe that went before them, pleaded a gainst their conftancy; as in the time of Valens, it was urged by the perfecutors; thofe that came to their trial before you, have acknowleged their errors, begged our pardon, and returned to us: and why will you ftand it out fo obftinately? But the Christians aufwered, Nos hac potiffimum ratione viriliter ftabimus, For this very reafon we will stand to it the more manfully, to repair their scandal, by our greater courage for Chrift. Thefe were the helps and advantages they often had in thofe days, therefore lay not fo much ftrefs upon that; their courage undoubtedly flowed from an higher fpring and better principle, than the company they fuffered with.
3. And if precedents and experiences of others to break the ice before you, be fo great an advantage, furely we that live in VOL. IV.
thefe latter times have the most and best helps of that nature that ever any people in the world had. You have all their examples recorded for your encouragement, and therefore think it not frange concerning the fiery trial, as tho' fome ftrange thing had happened to you, as the apoftle speaks, 1 Pet. iv. 12. This plea is weighed, and no, great weight found in it.
Plea 2. But my nature is foft and tender, my conftitution more weak and fubject to the impreffions of fear than others: fome that have robuft bodies, and hardy ftout minds, may better grapple with fuch difficulties than I can, who by constitu tion and education, am altogether unfit to grapple with those torments, that I have not patience enough to hear related; my heart faints and dies within me, if I do but read, or hear of the barbarous ufages of the martyrs, and therefore I may well be excused for my fears and faint-heartedness, when the cafe is like to be my own.
Anfwer 1. It is a great mistake to think that the mere strength of natural conftitution, can carry any one through fuch fufferings for Chrift, or that natural tenderness and weakness di vinely affifted, cannot bear the heaviest burden that ever God laid upon the shoulders of any fufferer for Chrift. Our fuffering and bearing abilities are not from nature, but from grace. We find men of ftrong bodies and refolute daring minds, have fainted in the time of trial. Dr. Pendleton, in our own ftory, was a man of a robust and massy body, and a resolute daring mind; yet when he came to the trial, he utterly fainted and fell off. On the other fide, what poor feeble bodies have fuf. tained the greatest torments, and out of weaknefs been made ftrong! Heb. xi. 34. The virgin Eulalia of Emerita in Portugal, was young and tender, but twelve years old, and with much indulgence and tenderness brought up in an honourable family, being a perfon of confiderable quality; yet how courageously did the fuftain the most cruel torments for Chrift! When the judge fawned upon her with this tempting language, "Why "wilt thou kill thyself, so young a flower, and so near those "honourable marriages and great dowries thou mightest en"joy?" Inftead of returning a retracting or double answer, Eulalia threw down the idol, and fpurned abroad with her feet the heap of incenfe prepared for the centers; and when the executioner came to her, the entertained him with this language: "Go to, thou hangman, burn, cut, mangle thou thefe earthly members; it is an eafy matter to break a brittle
Acts and Mon. V. 1. p. 120,