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of it. David (as was hinted before) intermixes strains of hope, not that faint and common hope of possibility or probability, that after stormy days it may be better with him, but a certain hope that shall never make ashamed ; such a hope as springs from faith, yea, in effect, is one with it. Faith rests upon the goodness and truth of Him who hath promised, and Hope, raising itself upon faith so established, stands up and looks out to the future accomplishment of the promise. Therefore the Apostle calls Faith, the substance of things hoped for, ÚTOOTLOLS and the evidence of things not seen. Heb. xi. 1. Of all other hope it is true, Spes est nomen boni incerii : It is the name of uncertain good. But this can say, The Lord will command his loving kindness.
The Lord will command. What a sudden change is here ! Would
think this were the same man that was even now almost overwhelmed? Thus faith always conquers, though seldom, or never, without a hard conflict; not only assaulted by troubles without, but, which is worse, by incredulity within ; nor assaulted only, but many times brought under; yet does it not succumb and give over, knowing that even after many foils, yet, in the end it shall overcoine.
His confidence you may consider, first, oppositely, and then, positively, or simply in itself. Oppositely both to his present trouble, and to his complaints, wherein this trouble is expressed ; and that is fitly implied, though it be not in the original.
Though the multitude and weight of Job's afflictions did force out of him some bitter words, and made him look back upon the day of his birth, and curse it; yet, faith recovers him from his distemper, and makes him look forward with joy, even as far as to the blessed day of his resurrection: I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth : and though after my skin, worms destroy this body; yet, in my flesh shall I see God. Job xix. 25. The former words of impatience he spake indeed, but he adheres to these, and wishes that they were written with an
iron pën, and engraven to abide for ever: Therefore hear of him again in Scripture, as a righteous and patient mån, but of these words of his impatience, not a word. In the lxxviith Psalm, what sad expostulations are those the Psalmist uses, Will He be favourable no more ? Is His mercy cléan gone for ever ? Doth His promise fail for evermore ? Hath God forgotten to be gracious ? Hath He in änger shut up his tender mercies ? But see how he corrects them, ver. 10. Then I said, this is my infirmity, but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. Thus Jonah (ch. ii. ver. 3, 4.) speaks in a strain much like this; but there it was literally true, that God had cast him into the deep: And here, deep calls unto deep, yet, in the midst of those deeps, faith is not drowned; you see it lifts up its head above water: Yet the Lord will command, &c. Yea, though it takes particular notice of God's hand in the affliction, yet, it goes not to another hand for comfort: it is Thy waves and Thy billows, yet, that same God whose waves are like to destroy me, will ere long command His loving-kindness to shine ироп те. .
So Job xiii. 15. Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. A wonderful expression of faith! He says not, Though He afflict me sore, but, Though He slay me; not, Though evil men or Satán should do it, but, Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. What troubled mind can imagine any thing harder against itself, than this ?
1. Learn then, to check those excessive doubts and fears, by some such resolute word as this. Turn the promise, first upon thyself, and then upon God. Consider that He hath promised life eternal to believers, and then say, Though I saw His hand as it were lifted up to destroy me, yet, from that very hand will I expect salvation ; for I have His word engaged for it, that if I believe, I shall be saved. I do not say, that a soul under temptation can assure itself, that God is already reconciled to it; and herein possibly lies oftentimes the mistake ; for this reflex act of assurance, though it be our duty to seek after it, is itself rather a gift and reward than a
duty. But the direct and proper act of faith, is of perpetual úse and necessity, and then most when there is least sense of assurance. And it is no other than a recumbency or reliance, a rolling over of the soul upon free mercy. That which breeds us much perplexity, is, that we would invert God's order.
If I knew, say some, that the promise belonged to me, and that Christ were a Saviour to me, I could believe. That is to say, I would first see, and then believe. But the true method is just contrary. I had fainted, says David, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord. He believed it first, and saw it afterwards. And in this same Psalm, labouring to still his disquieted soul by elevating it above his troubles to look upon his God, he says to it, Hope in Him now, and, ere it be long, thou shalt praise Him for the help of His countenance, even while His countenance is withheld. And thus faith ought to triumph over spiritual fears and difficulties.
2. How incongruous is it, that outward dangers or trials should over-match it! Will you trust God, upon His word, for salvation and eternal happiness, and be diffident for the safety and needful blessings of this temporal life, which life, in comparison, is but for a moment, and the best things of it but dross ? Consider that you dishonour faith exceedingly, and degenerate from the believing saints of former ages. Indeed, the promises of this life and that which concerns it, though godliness hath them, yet, they are not so absolute, nor are they so absolutely needful for you. But considering the wisdom ånd love of your Heavenly Father, learn to compose your minds by it.
I will not be afraid, though ten thousands of the people set themselves against me round about, says David. Psal. iii. 6. And lest you think him singular, in the xlvith Psalm, it is the joint voice of the whole Church of God: We will not fear, though the earth be removed, and the mountains be cast into the midst of the sea ; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled ; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. There is a river, the sireams whereof make glad the city of God: the holy place of the tabernacle of the most high God is in the midst of her ; she shall not be moved. That is the way to be immoveable in the midst of troubles, as a rock amidst the waves.
When God is in the midst of a kingdom or city, He makes it firm as Mount Sion, that cannot be removed. When He is in the midst of the soul, though calamities throng about it on all hands, and roar like the billows of the sea, yet, there is a constant calm within, such a peace as the world can neither give nor take away. On the other side, what is it but want of lodging God in the soul, and that in His stead the world is in the midst of men's hearts, that makes them shake like the leaves of trees at every blast of danger ? What a shame is it, seeing natural men, by the strength of nature, and by help of moral precepts, have attained such undaunted resolution and courage against outward changes, that yet, they who would pass for Christians, are so soft and fainting, and so sensible of the smallest alterations ! The advantage that we have in this regard is infinite. What is the best ground-work of a philosopher's constancy, but as moving sands in comparison of the Rock that we may build upon ? But the truth is, that either we make no provision of faith for times of trial, or, if any we have, we neither know the worth nor the use of it, but lay it by, as a dead unprofitable thing, when we should most use and exercise it. Notwithstanding all our frequenting of God's house, and our plausible profession, is it not too true, that the most of us either do not at all furnish ourselves with those spiritual arms that are so needful in the militant life of a Christian, or we learn not how to handle them, and are not in readiness for service? As was the case of that improvident soldier, whom his commander found mending some piece of his armour, when they were to give battle. It were not amiss, before afflictions overtake us, to try and train the mind somewhat by supposing the very worst and hardest of them; to say, What if the waves and billows of adversity were swelled and flowing in upon me: could I then believe ? God hath said, I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, with a
heap of negations : In no wise, I will not. He hath said, When thou passest through the fire and through the water, I will be with thee. These I know, and can discourse of them ; but could I repose and rest upon them in the day of trial ? Put your souls to it. Is there any thing or person that you esteem and love exceedingly ? Say, What if I should lose this? Is there some evil that is naturally more contrary and terrible to you than many others ? Spare not to present that to the imagination too, and labour to make faith master of it beforehand in case it should befal you; and if the first thought of it scare you, look upon it the oftener, till the visage of it become familiar to you, that you start and scare no more at it. Nor is there any danger in these thoughts. Troubles cannot be brought the nearer by our thus thinking on them ; but you may be both safer and stronger by breathing and exercising of your faith in supposed cases. But if you be so tender spirited, that you cannot look upon calamities so much as in thought or fancy, how would you be able for a real encounter ? No, surely. But the soul that hath made God his stay, can do both. See it in that notable resolution of the Prophet, Hab. iii. 17: Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls : yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength. And in that of David, Psal. xxiii. 4: Yea, says he, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. You see how faith is as cork to his soul, keeping it from sinking in the deeps of afflictions. Yea, that big word which one says of his morally just man, is true of the believer: Si fractus illabatur orbisThough the very fabric of the world were falling about him, yet would he stand upright and undaunied in the midst of its ruins.
In this confidence, considered in itself, we may observe,