CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: HOW THE LORD SUSTAINS US IN VARIOUS STATES OF LIFE
- Another great privilege is but the Lord teaches his how to carry themselves and keep their integrity in all estates of life.
- Perseverance in Prosperity:
- As first, in peace and prosperity, when a man has riches, honor, health, friends, delights, and pleasures. This is a slippery estate in which no man of himself can stand, and therefore is an occasion of falling to most men. But God teaches his to stand in this slippery place.
- First, when he causes the doctrine of contentment, sobriety, and the contempt of this world to be taught, then he draws their are hearts inwardly to attend onto it, believe it, love and practice. Besides this, God causes them oft to set before their eyes the daily changes of all things under the Sun. And by the oft and deep consideration of these things as they observe them, their lusts are appalled, and pride of life is greatly abated. Psalm 102:22.
- So that by these means, the Lord so frames his, that they desire no more, no longer than their heavenly father sees expedient: to use these outward things, as if they use them not; and yet so to use them as that they may be helps to themselves and others in the way of godliness.
- All which is not so to be understood as if every believer had this grace, but that God has bequeathed, and does offer this to all, though only they have it, which do esteem it and seek for it, and faith at God’s hands.
- Perseverance in Afflictions
- So likewise in regard of afflictions, the prerogative of God’s children is great. First, he holds many tribulations from them, which otherwise by their sins they do pluck upon themselves. Psalm 32:10-11. This must needs be so, because afflictions spring from sin, and therefore where sin is greater or lesser, the afflictions will be proportional.
- The truth of it — that they may be free from many troubles — is plain, because so many do fill themselves with inward troubles of mind and conscience, by giving place to their unbridled affections, which breed many perturbations, and by taking license to themselves in things which are not seemly. They bring also many outward troubles upon themselves by their sins, as shame, poverty, diseases, evil children, etc. All which may often be avoided by the grace of God, if sin were taken heed of and resisted, and if by labor in watchfulness the unruly heart were subdued.
- Whereby the way, we may observe how unwise they do, who shun the sincere practice of religion, that they may be freed from troubles, when religion does free a man from so many.
- God Delivers His From Many Troubles
- As the faithful are freed wholly from troubles, so when they are [troubles], God delivers them out of many, when as the wicked remain in theirs. Proverbs 11:8. Examples both of the Church in general and of the faithful in particular are sufficiently known to all that know anything in the Scripture. All which are recorded, not to show only that the faithful have been delivered out of trouble (for that were no singular thing, but common for the wicked) but that they are delivered in the fatherly love of God: as appears by the means which they used, as prayer, fasting, etc. This the wicked have never, but always the godly.
- Objection: The Fathers had particular promises to them for their deliverance, but so have not we.
- Answer: In the main and chiefest things, God has spoken is plainly and fully to us as to them. We may always assure ourselves that God has a most tender and fatherly care over us, and that he will show the same in the time of our need, either by delivering us if he sees it good and expedient, or else by giving us that grace which shall be sufficient for us. The not teaching or not believing of this doctrine causes much uncheerfulness and discontentment in our troubles, as grudging against God, unlawful shifting, carnal fears, etc. Whereas, if it were otherwise, much heavenly comfort might be reaped in our lives, which now is wanting.
- When it pleases the Lord to lay any afflictions upon his, they may assure themselves it is for their good. Which persuasion if it be settled, and the contrary power of carnal reason checked and suppressed, we have wisdom to look for afflictions daily, and be ready to receive from God thankfully meekly — this wisdom must be sought for from God. James 1:5-6.
To Receive Comfort in Afflictions
Now, if we would take by afflictions, we must first receive that word with full assent, which is found in Romans 8:28, all things work for the best to those who love God. And then consider seriously how great reason there is, that we should yield up ourselves, our wills, and that we have unto God’s will, and think that good for us which God thinks good. For God’s sends afflictions to his children
- First, that they may have experience of his love in delivering them.
- Second, that they may have proof of their faith and patience.
- Third, that they may not be condemned with the world.
- Fourth, that they may be purged from their sinful dross.
- Fifth, to wean them from this world. If these things be known and believed by us, we shall find to our exceeding comfort. And though sometimes in trial we may seem to be neglected or forgotten, yet we shall see at length that it is nothing so.
- Objection: If afflictions shall turn to our good, then we need to take no further thought about them.
- Answer: The promise does not warrant us to be careless. For we behave ourselves willfully, blockishly, or foolishly in afflictions, they will turn to our great heard vexation. But if we mingle that Scripture with faith, it will cause us to receive all crosses from God as sent in love; not murmuring, but thankfully patiently but also with examination of ourselves, if so be that any sin is brought evil upon us, and then we shall have proof of God’s grace in us, experience of his favor towards us, preservation from many sins, increase of humiliation thankfulness, preparation for the bearing of greater, with some comfort at least in the end, and hope in the midst, which shall not make us ashamed. When we find not this doctrine savory and sweet to us, nor the use of it in our afflictions, let us not charge or challenge the Lord, but consider what we have lost by unbelief.