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without end ; and begin to question and expostulate with God upon his present dealing with them, and give themselves up to the full stream of their passion, to be borne by it whithersoever it will carry them, till they sink, and their spirit is overwhelmed by it, as the Psalmist expresses it; it is

is very much to be doubted whether they really believe a divine particular Providence or no.

For how can any man behave himself at such a rate as this, be his afflictions what they will, who is verily persuaded that all comes from God, who knows what is most for his true interest, and is so good as always to intend for the best; and is able effectually to compass whatever he intends; and frequently assures us, that he does not willingly grieve the children of men, only gives them needful correction for their profit, that they may be partakers of still greater degrees of his holiness here, and of his glory above?

It is true, may such a one say, I am at present under circumstances which cause me a great deal of sorrow, and would still more, should I give way to my melancholy thoughts; but why should I do so? why should I not rather bear up against, and stem the dangerous current, since I know that the wisdom and goodness and power of God are on my side, and am assured by Him, who will not, cannot deceive me, that my affliction shall last no longer than upon all accounts it is best for me that it should last, and will certainly end in my greater happiness, unless by my wilful and continued impatience and ill behaviour under it, I hinder its operation?

Such considerations as these made David become

silent, and, in the midst of his greatest troubles, not dare to open his mouth, because it was God's doing m; he resolved to wait his leisure, and attend the issue with all the evenness of spirit that he could, rather than indulge to the extravagancies of a passion which could by no means be justified. And the writer of the psalm before mentioned", after he had given scope enough, and too much to his grief, and then recollected himself, and acknowledged his infirmity in so doing, tells us, that when he had communed with his own heart, and his spirit had made diligent search into the reasons and design, we may suppose, of God's dealing so severely with him, all whose chastisements have a prevailing mixture of kindness in them, and aim at the reformation, not the destruction of a sinner: upon such calmer thoughts as these, he too resolves for the future to take a wiser course, and comfort himself in the remembrance of God's former goodness to him, and which is still the same, and always will be—But I will remember, says he, the years of the right hand of the Most High. Whose way, though it be in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and whose footsteps are not known ; that is, though the track of his providence in afflicting and comforting, in laying low, and raising up, is no more to be traced by any human eye, than the path of a ship when it makes its way through the waters of the deep: yet all is done by Him with great mercy and goodness, and so as will be most conducive to our happiness.

In the 119th psalm David tells us that God's word was his comfort in his affliction, and that it had quickened and revived himo; and St. Paul says, m Psalm xxxix. 9.

n Psalm lxxvii.

o Ver. 50.

the scriptures were written, that through the comfort of them we might have hope P. But now, all the comfort they can give is by representing God as the great disposer of all things, infinitely wise and powerful and good; that he chastens whom he loves, and scourges every son whom he receives : and though no chastening be for the present joyous but grievous, yet afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those that are exercised thereby?; and that he will not tempt or try any man beyond his ability, but will with the temptation find a way to escape, that we may be able to bear itr; and finally, that all things work together for good to those that love Gods.

Now, since the word of God is so plain and full upon this head, as if he would leave no room for doubt in a matter of such great importance, and where there is so much need of a full assurance of faith; he that, notwithstanding all this, will suffer his sorrow and trouble to get the ascendant, not only over his own reason, but over all the arguments too that God himself hath been pleased to make use of as a curb to the excesses of this passion, shews great weakness both of his reason and religion, and will have more than enough of sorrow in the conclusion, and most of it owing to his own ill management.

And this may suffice to shew wherein the irregularity of this passion consists, and how unreasonable and unchristian a thing it is to humour and indulge it so extremely as we are too apt to do; and how highly needful it is to check and restrain it, and keep it within the bounds of moderation. And by what means we may best do this is the subject of our next inquiry.

q Heb. xii. 6. 11.

r i Cor. x. 13.

p Rom. XV. 4. s Rom. viii. 28.

SECT. III. How we may best regulate this passion of sorrow. AND first, we cannot do better than follow the example of the Psalmist mentioned before, and resolve to call to remembrance the years of the righthand of the Most High; that is, to meditate upon the infinite goodness and tender compassion of God, and call to mind the many expressions of it in times past, both to ourselves and others, in the days of our affliction: and which will very much conduce to that comfort in trouble which every one desires.

For God is still and for ever the same all-wise, all-powerful, and good Being, and still takes equal care of mankind; he is still conducting those that will be guided by him to infinite happiness, though the paths are not all equally smooth in which he leads them, nor the heavens every day alike

serene.

When therefore, upon recollection, I find how good and gracious God hath formerly been to myself, and many others that I have known and heard of; how often a short stormy night of trouble has cleared up into a long and bright day of prosperity, and how often, even in the midst of our sorrows, his divine comforts have strangely refreshed our souls; when I think upon this, as I shall see that it is no new thing to meet with crosses and difficulties and afflictions in this my pilgrimage, but that it always was and always will be so, and I must not be so unreasonable as to expect an exemption from the common lot of mankind; so I shall likewise find, even by my own experience, that those uneasy things will have an end, and that sufficient assistance will be ready to carry me through them, and support me under them; that they will prove of great use and benefit to me in the conclusion, and are nothing in comparison, either for number, degree, or duration, with the blessings and comforts God's goodness hath hitherto vouchsafed me, through the whole course of my life t.

And what great reason shall I have upon such thoughts as these to rouse up my sinking spirits, and say with the Psalmist, Why art thou so cast down, O my soul ? and why art thou so disquieted within me ? hope thou in God: for I shall yet again praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God u.

It is a noble saying of Seneca to this purpose; “ What great matter if this or that current of water is stopped and fails, when the fountain from 66 whence it flowed is safe, and can never be ex“ hausted * ?” With God is the well of life, as the Psalmist expresses it, the source of comfort and happiness and joy, which can never be drawn dry; but will for ever flow with blessings, though in different channels, and with some little interruption, and in different degrees of plenty communicated to us, as his wisdom sees will be most convenient for us.

And the comfort that springs from this consideration is not in notion and speculation only, but is

t Ab hac infamia te vindica, ne videatur omnibus plus apud te valere unus dolor, quam hæc tam multa solatia. Sen.

u Psalm xlii. II.

* Quid refert an aqua decurrens intercipiatur atque abeat, si fons ex quo fluxerat salvus est ?

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