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they will light on very préty things that have some virtue in them, as they that seek the philosopher's stone. But the believer hath the thing, the secret itself of tranquillity and joy, and this turns all into gold, their iron chains into á crown of gold: While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18.
This is the blessed and safe estate of believers. Who can think they have á sad, heavy life? Oh! it is the only lightsome, sweet, cheerful condition in the world. The rest of men are poor, rolling, unstayed things, every report shaking them, as the leaves of trees are shaken with the wind; yea, lighter than so, as the chaff that the wind drives to and fro at its pleasure. Isa. vii. 2; Psal. i. 4. Would men but reflect and look in upon their own hearts, it is a wonder what vain, childish things the most would find there, glad and sorry at things as light as the toys of children, at which they laugh and cry in a breath. How easily is the heart puffed up with a thing or a word that pleaseth us, bladder-like, swelled with a little air, and it shrinks again in discouragements and fear, upon the touch of a needle's point, which gives that air some vent.
What is the life of the greatest part but å continual tossing betwixt vain hopes and fears ? All their days are spent in these. Oh! how vain a thing is a man even in his best estàté, while he is nothing but himfelf, while his heart is not united and fixed on God, and he is disquieted in vain. How small a thing will do it! He needs no other than his own heart ; it may prove disquietment enough to itself: his thoughts are his tormentors.
I know, some men are, by a stronger understanding and by moral principles, somewhat raised above the vulgar, and speak big of a constancy of mind; but these are but flourishes, an acted bravery. Somewhat there may be that will hold out in some trials, but it will fall far short of this fixedness of faith. Troubles may so multiply, as to drive them at length from their posture, and may come on so thick, with such violent blows, as will smite them out of their artificial guard, disorder all their Seneca and Epictetus, and all their own calm thoughts and high resolves. The approach of death, though they make a good mien, and set the best face on it, or if not, yet, some kind of terror, may seize on their spirits, which they are not able to shift off. But the soul trusting on God, is prepared for all, not only for the calamities of war, pestilence, famine, poverty, or death, but, when in the saddest apprehensions of soul, beyond hope, believes against hope ; even in the darkest night, casts anchor in God, reposes on Him when he sees no light. Is. 1. 10. Yea, though He slay me, says Job, yet will I trust on Him,--not merely, though I die, but, though He slay me: when I see His hand lifted up to destroy me, yet, from that same hand will I look for salvation.
My brethren, my desire is, to stir up in your hearts an ambition after this blessed estate of the godly who fear the Lord, and trust in Him, and so fear no other thing. The common revolutions and changes of the world, and those which in these late times we ourselves have seen, and the likelihood of more and greater coming on, seem dreadful to weak minds. But let these persuade us the more to prize and seek this fixed, unaffrighted station : there is no fixing but here.
Oh! that you would be persuaded to break off from the vile ways of sin, which debase the soul and fill it full of terrors, and to disengage them from the vanities of this world, to take up in God, to live in Him wholly, to cleave to and depend on Him, to esteem nothing beside Him! Excellent was the answer of that holy man to the Emperor, on his first essaying him with large proffers of honour and riches to draw him from Christ: Offer these things (says he) to children, 1 regard them not. Then after he had tried to terrify him with threatening: Threaten (says he) your effeminate courtiers, I fear none of these things.
Seek to have your hearts established on Him by the faith
of eternal life, and then it will be ashamed to distrust Him in any other thing. Yea, truly, you will not much regard, nor be careful for other things how they be. It will be all one, the better and the worse of this moment; the things of it, even the greatest, being both in themselves so little and worthless, and of so short continuance.
Well, choose you ; but, all reckoned and examined, I had rather be the poorest believer than the greatest king on earth. How small a commotion, small in its beginning, may prove the overturning of the greatest kingdom! But the believer is heir to a kingdom that cannot be shaken. The mightiest and most victorious prince, who hath not only lost nothing, but hath been gaining new conquests all his days, is stopt by a small distemper in the middle of his course ; he returns to his dust, and then his vast designs fall to nothing. In that very day his thoughts perish. But the believer, in that very day, is sent to the possession of his crown: that is his coronationday; all his thoughts are accomplished.
How can you affright him ? Bring him word, that his estate is ruined. Yet, my inheritance is safe, says he. “ Your wife, or child, or dear friend, is dead." Yet my Father lives. “ You yourself must die.” Well then, I go home to my Father, and to my inheritance.
For the public troubles of the Church, doubtless, it is both a pious and a generous temper, to be more deeply affected for these than for all our private ones; and to be alive to the common calamities of any people, but especially of God's own people, hath been the character of men near unto Him. Observe the pathetical strains of the prophet's bewailing, when they foretell the desolation even of foreign kingdoms, much more when foretelling that of the Lord's chosen people; they are still mindful of Sion, and mournful for her distresses. See Jer. ix. i, and the whole book of Lamentations. So the Psalmist: If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, &c. Psal. cxxxvii. 5. Pious spirits are always public-spirited, as even brave Heathens were for the commonwealth. So he, in that
of Horace*: Little regarding himself, but much solicitous for the public. Yet even in this, with much compassion, there is a calm in a believer's mind. How these
agree, none can tell, but they who feel it. He finds amidst all hard news, yet still, a fixed heart, trusting, satisfied in this, that deliverance shall come in due time, (Psal. cii. 13.) and that in those judgments that are inflicted, man shall be humbled and God exalted, (Isa. ii. 11; v. 16.) and that in all tumults, and changes, and subversions of states, still, His throne is fixed, and with that the believer's heart likewise. So Psal. xxix. 10: The Lord sitteth upon the flood : yea, the Lord sitteth king for ever. Or, sat in the flood, possibly referring to the general deluge; yet, then, God sat quiet, and still sitteth king for ever. He steered the ark, and still guides His Church through all. So Psalm xlvi., throughout that whole Psalm. In all commotions, the kingdom of Christ shall be spreading and growing, and the close of all shall be full victory on his side; and that is sufficient for the believer.
Of this, a singular example is in Job, who was not daunted with so many ill-hearings, but stood as an unmoved rock amidst the winds and waves : Ille velut rupes immota manebat.
In this condition there is so much sweetness, that if known, a man might suspect himself to be rather selfishly taken with it, than to be purely loving God. Such joy in believing, or at least, such peace, such a serene calmness, is in no other thing in this world. Nothing either without or within a man is to be named with this trusting on His goodness, who is God, and on His faithfulness, who, giving His promise for thy warrant, commands thee to rely on Him. The holy soul still trusts under the darkest apprehensions. If it is suggested that thou art a reprobate, yet, will the soul say, I will see the utmost, and hang by the hold I have, till I feel myself really cast off, and will not willingly fall off. If I must be sepa
* Invenit insomni volventem publica curâ
Fata virúin, casusque urbis, cunctisque timentem,
rated from Him, He shall do it Himself; He shall shake me off while I would cleave to Him. Yea, to the utmost, I will look for mercy, and will hope better : though I found Him shaking me off, yet would I think He will not do it. It is good to seek after all possible assurance, but not to fret at the want of it; for even without those assurances which some Christians hang too much upon, there is in simple trust and reliance on God, and in a desire to walk in His ways, such a fortress of peace, as all the assaults in the world are not able to make a breach in. And to this add that unspeakable delight in walking in His fear, joined with this trust. The noble ambition of pleasing Him, makes one careless of pleasing or displeasing all the world. Besides, the delight in His commandments, in so pure, so just a law, holiness, victory over lusts, and temperance, hath a sweetness in it that presently pays itself, because it is agreeable to His will.
It is the godly man alone, who, by this fixed consideration in God, looks the grim visage of death in the face with an unappalled mind, which damps all the joys, and defeats all the hopes of the most prosperous, proudest, and wisest worldlings. As Archimedes said, when shot, Avocústi ab optima demonstratione, so, it spoils all their figures and fine devices. But to the righteous, there is hope in his death. He goes through it without fear, without Caligula's Quo vadis. Though riches, honours, and all the glories of this world, are with a man, yet, he fears; yea, he fears the more for these, because here they must end. But the good man looks death out of countenance, in the words of David, Though I walk through the valley and shadow of death, yet will I fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Psal. xxiii. 4.