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care or power, and therefore he committed the keeping of his soul unto him, against the last day; and therefore when all forsook him, he stood to the truth, "because the Lord forsook him not." The reason why men trust in themselves or their friends, is, because they are assured of their care and good-will to help them: but if men did compare the affections of Christ to other succours, they would rather choose to build their hopes and assurances on him. This consideration of the care and power of God, made the three children, at a point, rebel against the edict of an idolatrous king, "Our God is able to deliver us, and he will deliver us. And this made Abraham, at a point, to offer his son i without staggering, because he rested upon the promise and the power of God, who was able to raise him from the dead, from whence, in a sort, he had received him before, namely, from a dead body, and from a barren womb. And this is the ground of all diffidence, that men consider not the power', and the care of God towards them, but conceive of him, as if he had forgotten to be gracious, as if he had cast them out of his sight, as if he had given over his thoughts of them; and that maketh them fear second causes, and seek unto things which cannot profit. And therefore the Lord suffereth second causes to go cross, to fail and disappoint a man, because he loveth to be glorified by our dependence on his all-sufficiency and protection. He suffereth friends to fail, to be off and on,-promises to be uncertain,assurances to vanish,-projections and frames of businesses to be shattered; that men may know how to trust him: for man, being impotent in himself, must needs have something without himself to subsist upon. Now when a man findeth the creatures to be deceitful, and second causes vain, and considereth that God is I Am, a most certain rewarder of those that diligently seek him", then the soul findeth it good to draw near to God", to live under his fidelity, and to cast all its care on him, because he careth for it.
And indeed a right judgement of God will help us to employ our faith in any condition. In wealth, men are apt to trust in their abundance, to stand upon their mountain, and
82 Tim. iv. 16, 17, 18. h Dan. iii. 16, 17. i Heb. xi. 17, 19. k Rom. iv. 20, 21. 1 Jer. xvii. 5, 8. m Heb. xi. 6. n Psalm 1xxiii. 28. • 1 Pet. v. 7.
to say, 'I shall never be moved.'-But now, in this estate, if a man conceive aright of God, that it is he who giveth strength to be rich, and who giveth riches strength to do us good; that he can blast the greatest estate with an imperceptible consumption, and, in the midst of a man's sufficiency, make him be in straits; that he can imbitter all with his sore displeasure, and not suffer the floor nor the wine-press to feed him :-in great wisdom and deep counsels, if a man consider that the counsel of the Lord shall stand, and that he can turn the wisdom of the oracles into foolishness, and catch the wise in their own craftiness:-in great provisions of worldly strength, and human combinations, if he consider that God can take off the wheels, and amaze the phantasies, and dissipate the affections, and melt the spirits, and waylay the enterprises of the hugest hosts of men, that he can arm flies, and lice, and dust, and wind, and stars, and every small unexpected contingency against the strongest opposition; it must needs make him set his rest, and hang his confidences and assurances upon a higher principle.
Again, In poverty and the extremest straits which a man can be in, if he consider that God is a God as well of the valleys as of the hills; that he will be seen in the mount, when his people are under the sword, and upon the altar; that the Lord knoweth the days of the upright, and will satisfy them in the time of famine; that when the young lions famish for hunger, (they which live not by the fruits on the earth, but by their prey; they which can feed. of the dead bodies of those other creatures, whom a famine had devoured,) yet even then he can provide abundantly for his; that when things are marvellous unto us P, then they are easy unto him; that when they are impossible unto us, then they are possible with him; that he can lead in a wilderness', and feed with an unknown and unsuspected bread; that when the light of the sun and the moon shall fail, he can be an everlasting light and glory to his people; that as a Father, so he pittieth; and as a heavenly Father', so he knoweth and can supply all our needs; that when we are without any wisdom to disappoint, or strength to withstand,
P Zech. viii. 6. q Mark x. 27. Psal. cxxxvi. 16. Jer. ii. 6. ii. 10. Deut. viii. 15, 16. • Isai. Ix. 19. t Mat. vi. 32.
the confederacies of men, when they come with chariots of iron, and walls of brass, even then the eyes of the Lord run to and fro ", to show himself valiant in the behalf of those that walk uprightly, that he can then order some accident, produce some engine, discover some way, to extricate and to clear all ;-then will a man learn to be careful, and distracted in nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make his request known unto him who is at hand, and who careth for him.
The like may be said of men's spiritual condition. When men despair, as Cain, that their sin is greater than can be forgiven; the only ground is, because they judge not aright of God in Christ: they look not on him in his gospel, as a God that careth for them; they do not lean upon the staff of his strength. Despair is an affection growing out of the sense of sin and wrath, as it is malum arduum, instans, et ineluctabile,' an evil too heavy to be borne, and yet impossible to be removed. All victory ariseth either out of an inward power of our own, or by the assistance of foreign power, which is more than our own. Now then, when we despair because of sin, this cometh, First, From the consideration of our own disability to break through sin by our own strength; and this is a good despair, which helpeth to drive men unto Christ.
Secondly, It cometh from a mis-conceiving, either of the power or care of those which might assist us. Sometimes from the mis-judging of God's power; for the forgiveness of sins is an act of omnipotency: and therefore when the Lord proclaimeth himself a forgiver of iniquity, transgression, and sin, he introduceth it with his titles of power, "The Lord, the Lord God, gracious and merciful," &c. To pardon malefactors, is a power and royalty which belongeth only unto princes. There is much strength required in bearing burdens; and therefore patience, especially towards sinners, is an act of power; and impatiency, ever a sign of impotency. And therefore the weakest affections are ever most revengeful: children, old men, sick, or indigent persons, are ever most subject to anger, and least able to concoct an injury:
u 2 Chron. xvi. 9. * Phil. iv. 6. y Exod. xxxiv. 6. 2 Πρόοδοποιεῖται γὰρ ἕκαστος πρὸς τὴν ἑκάστου ὀργὴν ὑπὸ τοῦ ὑπάρχοντος πάθους. Arist. Rhet. 1. 2. c. 2.
so that to conceive sin greater than can be forgiven, is to misjudge the omnipotency of God. But, ordinarily, despair proceedeth from the misjudging of God's affection and good will towards men; the soul conceives of him, as of one that hath cast off all care or respect towards it. This is an error touching God's benevolence, and the latitude of his mercy, and height of his thoughts towards sinners. He hath declared himself "willing that all men should be saved ";" he had set forth examples of the compass of his long-suffering; his invitations run in general terms, that no man may dare to pre-occupate damnation, but look unto God as one that careth for his soul. Let a man's sins be never so crimson, and his continuance therein never so obdurate (I speak this for the prevention of despair, not for the encouragement of security or hardness), yet as soon as he is willing to turn, God is willing to save; as soon he hath a heart to attend, God hath a tongue to speak salvation unto him. We see, then, the way to trust in Christ, is to look upon him as 'the bishop of our souls;' as the officer of our peace; as one that careth and provideth for us; as one that hath promised to save to the uttermost, to give supplies of his Spirit and grace in time of need", to give us daily bread and life in abundance, to be with us all always to the end of the world, never to fail us nor forsake us.f
And we may hereby learn our duty one to another, to put on the affections of members, and the mind of Christ, in compassionating, considering, and seeking the good of one another, in bearing one another's burdens, in pleasing not ourselves, but our neighbour for his edification;--for even Christ pleased not himself;-that man cannot live in honour, nor die in comfort, who liveth only to himself, and doth not, by his prayers, compassions, and supplies imitate Christ, and interest himself in the good of his brethren.
Now the ground of all this power, majesty, and mercy of the gospel is here set forth unto us in two words: First, It is the strength of Christ; Secondly, It is sent by God himself: The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Sion.
Here then we may first note, That the gospel is Christ's
2 Pet. iii. 9. John v. 34.
b 1 Tim. i. 16.
d Heb. Col. iii. 12, 13. Ephes.
e Heb. vii. 25.
own power and strength, and the power of God his Father, by whom it is sent abroad. So the apostle calls it, The power of God unto salvation ", and the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; that our faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Therefore, in one place, we are said to be taught of God, and, in another, to be taught of Christ; in one place it is called the gospel of the blessed God',-and, in another, the gospel of Christ ;-to note, that whatsoever things the Father doth in his church, the same the Son doth also ", and that the Father doth not make known his will of mercy but by his Son: that as, in the Son, he did reconcile the world unto himself, so, in the Son, he did reveal himself unto the world.P No man hath seen the Father at any time, but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal him." Christ is both the matter and the author of the gospel. As, in the work of our redemption, he was both the sacrifice, and the priest to offer, and the altar to sanctify it; so, in the dispensation of the gospel, Christ is both the sermon and the preacher, and the power which giveth blessing unto all. He is the sermon ; "We preach Christ crucified," saith the apostle; "we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord." And he is the preacher; “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.He came and preached peace to those afar off, and to those that were nigh." And lastly, He is the power, which enliveneth his own Word;
The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and they that hear, shall live ";" for "as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life," &c. He is the "Lord of your faith ;-we are but the helpers of your joy." is the master in the church ", we are but your servants for Jesus' sake. He is the chief shepherd, the Lord of the sheep; the sheep are his own; we are but his depositaries', entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation; unto us is
h Rom. i. 16. 2 Cor. ii. 4, 5.
* Eph. iv. 20, 21.
1 1 Tim. i. 11.
n John v. 19.
m Rom. xv. 19. • 2 Cor. v. 19. P John i. 18. John xiv. 17. q 1 Cor. i. 23. 2 Cor. iv. 5. Col. i. 28. Heb. xii. 25. Eph. ii. 17. 1 Pet. iii. 19. 3 Joh. v. 25, 26. x. 27, 28. 2 Cor. i. 24. u Joh. xiii. 13, 14. x 2 Cor. iv. 5. y 1 Pet. v. 3, 4. 2 Joh. xxi. 15. a 2 Cor. v. 19. Eph. iii. 2. 2 Tim. i. 14. 1 Pet. iv. 11. 1 Cor. iv. 1. 2 Cor. v. 19, 20.
1 John vi. 45.