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starting-horse to that whereat it does most startle-What if I should be bereft of such a person, such a thing ? This would make it much more tolerable when thou art put to it. What if the place where I live, were visited with all at once in some degree, pestilence, and sword, and famine? How should I look on them? Could my mind keep its own place and standing, fixed on God in such a case ? What if I were turned out of my good furniture and warm house, and stripped not only of accessory, but necessary things ; (as here he supposes not only the failing of delicacies, the fig-trees, wine, and olives, but of common necessary food, the fields not yielding meat, and the flocks cut off :) thy little ones crying for bread, and thou hast none for them ? You little know what the tenderest and delicatest among you may be put to. These times have given many real instances, within these kingdoms, of strange changes in the condition of all ranks of persons. Or think, if thou abhorrest that, What if I were smitten with blotches or loathsome sores on my flesh, or if, by any accident, I should lose an arm, or an eye, or both eyes ? What if extreme poverty, and sickness, and forsaking of friends, come all at once ? Could I welcome these, and make up all in God, find riches, and friends, and fulness in Him? Most men, if they would speak truly to such cases, must declare them insufferable:-I were undone if such a thing befel me, or such a comfort were taken from me. Most would cry out, as Micah did, Judg. xvii. 24, Ye have taken away my gods; for so are these things our hearts cleave to and principally delight in. He that worships mammon, his purse is the sensiblest piece of him: he is broke, if fire, or ravage of war, throw him out of his nest, and empty it. He that makes his belly his god, (such they are the Apostle speaks of, Phil. iii. 19.) how could he endure this case the Prophet puts here, the failing of vines, of flocks and herds ?
It were good to add to the supposition of want, somewhat of the reality of it; sometimes to abridge thyself of things thou desirest and lovest, to inure thy appetite to a refusal of what it calls for; to practise somewhat of poverty, to learn to need few things.
It is strange, men should be so foolish as to tie themselves to these things, which have neither satisfying content in them, nor certain abode. And why shouldst thou set thine eyes on things which are not, says Solomon, Prov. xxiii. 5,- a nonens, a fancy? How soon may you be parted! He who is the true God, God alone, how soon can He pull the false gods from you, or you from them !-as in that word, Job xxvi. 8, What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul ? Like that case in the parable, Luke xii. 19. Soul, take thine ease. A strange inference from full barns! That were sufficient provision for a horse, a fit happiness for it; but for a soul, though it were to stay, how gross and base a portion! But it cannot stay neither : This night thy soul shall be required of thee.
The only firm position is this of the Prophet, Yet will I rejoice in the Lord. And such times indeed are fit to give proof of this, to tell thee whether it be so indeed, where thy heart is built. While thy honour, and wealth, and friends, are about thee, it is hard to know whether these props bear thee up, or another, an Invisible supporter ; but when these are plucked away, and thou art destitute round about, then it will
appear if thy strength be in God, if these other things were but flourishes about thee, and thou laidst no weight on them at all. He that leans on these, must fall when these fall, and his hope is cut off, and his trust as a spider's web. He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand. Job viii. 14, 15. They that clasp their hearts about their houses or estates, within a while they are either sadly pulled asunder, or swept away together. - But, Oh! the blessed, the high condition of a soul set on God, untied, independent from all things beside Him, its whole dependence and rest placed on Him alone, sitting loose to all the world, and so not stirred with alterations! Yea, amid the turnings upside-down of human things, if the frame of the
heaven and earth were falling to pieces*, the heart founded on Him who made it, abides unmoved; the everlasting arms are under it, and bear it
up: Do ye believe, my brethren, that there is such a thing, that it is no fancy ? Yea, all is but fancy beside it. Do you believe this? Why, then, is one day after another put off, and this not attained, nor the soul so much as entered or engaged to a serious endeavour after it, looking on all things else, compared to this noble design, as vanity ? How often and how easily are their joys damped, who rejoice in other things, and their hopes broken! What they expected most, soon proves a lie, as the word spoken of the olive, here signifies; as if the labour of it should lie (spem mentita seges,)-a fair vintage or harvest promised, and either withered with drought, or drowned with rain: indeed, it lies at the best! But the soul that places its joy on God, is still fresh and green when all are withered about it. Jer. xvii. 8. Acquaint thyself with Him betimes in ease. It is a sad case, to be making acquaintance with Him, when thou shouldest most make use of His friendship, and find comfort in His love.
Now, this joy in God cannot remain in an impure, unholy soul, no more than Heaven and Hell can mix together. An impure, unholy soul, I call not that which is stained with sin, for no other are under the sun; all must then quit all pretensions to that estate ; but such a one as willingly entertains any sinful lust or way of wickedness. That delight and this are directly opposite. And certainly, the more the soul is refined from all delights of sin, yea, even from sinless delights of sense and of this present world, it hath the more capacity, the . fitter and the larger room, for this pure, heavenly delight.
No language can make a natural man understand what this thing is, to rejoice in God. Oh! it is a mystery. Most men mind poor childish things, laughing and crying in a breath, at trifles ; easily puffed up, and as easily cast down. But even
* Si fractus illabatur orbis.
the children of God are too little acquainted with this their portion. Which of you find this power in the remembrance of God, that it doth overflow and drown all other things, both your wordly joys and wordly sorrows, that you find them not? And thus it would be, if we knew Him. Is He then our Father, and yet we know Him not ?
Although all should fail, yet, rejoice in Him who fails not, who alters not. He is still the same in Himself, and to the sense of the soul that is knit to Him, is then sweetest when the world is bitterest. When other comforts are withdrawn, the loss of them brings this great gain, so much the more of God and His love imparted, to make all up. They that ever found this, could almost wish for things that others are afraid of. If we knew how to improve them, His sharpest visits would be His sweetest: thou wouldest be glad to catch a kiss of His hand while He is beating thee, or pulling away something from thee that thou lovest, and bless Him while He is doing so.
Rejoice in God, although the fig-tree blossom not, &c. Yea, rejoice in these hardest things, as His doing. A heart rejoicing in him, delights in all His will, and is surely provided for the most firm joy in all estates ; for if nothing can come to pass beside, or against, His will, then cannot that soul be vexed which delights in Him, and hath no will but His but follows Him in all times, in all estates, not only when He shines bright on them, but when they are clouded. That flower which follows the sun, doth so even in cloudy days: when it doth not shine forth, yet it follows the hidden course and motion of it. So, the soul that moves after God, keeps that course when He hides His face; is content, yea, is glad at His will in all estates, or conditions, or events. And though. not only all be withered and blasted without, but the face of the soul little better within to sense, no flourishing of graces for the present, yet, it rejoices in Him, and in that everlasting covenant that still holds, ordered in all things and sure, as the sweet singer of Israel sweetly expressés it, 2 Sam. xxv. 5. For
this, says he, is all my salvation, and all my desire, ALTHOUGH He make it not to grow. That is a strange although, and yet is he satisfied even in that.
This joy in God, as my God, the God of my salvation, ought to exercise the soul in the darkest and worst times; and it ought to stick to it, not to let go this confidence, still expecting salvation from Him, and resting on Him for it, though not having those senses and assurances that thou desirest. This, weak believers are easily beaten from, by temptation. But we are to stand to our right in Him, even when we see it not. And when it is said to thee, as in Psalm. iii., that there is no help for thee in God, tell all that say so, they lie: 'He is my God, my glory, and the lifter up of my head, as there he speaks.
Rejoice in Him still as thy God; and, however, rejoice in him as God. I will rejoice in Jehovah, glad that He is God, that His enemies cannot unsettle nor reach His throne, that He rules, and is glorious in all things, that He is self-blessed, and needs nothing. This is the purest and highest kind of rejoicing in Him, and is certainly most distant and most free from alteration, and hath, indeed, most of Heaven in ita
1 Cor. i. 30.
But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us, wisdom,
righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
THE great design of the Gospel, is, to bring men to Jesus Christ; and, next to that, to instruct those who are brought to him, in the clearest knowledge, and to keep them in the fresh remembrance of the privileges and happiness they have in him. This the Apostles; writing to new converts, much