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"Words To Win Souls"
by SERMON VIII
On the tribulation that all who are true Christians will be subjected:
HOME > Library > Books > "Words To Win Souls: Twelve Sermons, Preached 1620 - 1650 by Eminent Divines of the Church of England," editor T. Millington (1851 Edition)
Words To Win Souls:
Twelve Sermons, Preached 1620 - 1650
by Eminent Divines of the Church of England
Revise and Abridged from a very scarce Collection
by the Rev. Thos. S. Millington (editor)
Edited & Updated by HAIL & FIRE 2009
"The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd." Eccles, 12:11
"He that winneth souls is wise.” Prov.11:30
THE PERFECTION OF PATIENCE;
"Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:4
In the second verse of this chapter, the Apostle persuades the distressed servants of God to bear their afflictions cheerfully: My brethren, saith he, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations. This exhortation he presses in the third verse by showing the gracious effects of temptations when God sanctifies them: knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. Yea, but if this be all the fruit of our afflictions and temptations, that we shall be made patient, what great matter is that? What great advantage cometh by patience? It is but a dull grace, it is merely passive. The Apostle answers this objection in the text, and tells them that it is, notwithstanding, such a grace as is necessary to the being and perfection of a Christian. Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
I shall speak something for the explication of the terms and phrases used here, and then come to elect such points as shall offer themselves to us from them.
First: I will show you what is meant by patience.
Secondly: What is meant by letting patience have her perfect work.
Thirdly: What is meant by this, that, doing of this, ye shall be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Patience, in a word, it is a grace or fruit of God's Spirit, whereby the heart of a believer willingly submits itself to the will of God in all afflictions and changes in this life.
I say it is a work, or fruit, of God's Spirit. He is called the God of patience; and long-suffering, which is the same thing as patience, is said to be a fruit of the Spirit.
And the effect of this patience is to make a man submit himself willingly to God in afflictions. I say willingly, for there is a submission that is by force - when God subjects a man to himself, not by a gracious and sweet inclining of the will, but by a powerful subduing of the person.
Now, when I say there is such a willing submission to God in afflictions, the meaning is thus - that there may be in a believer, in a child of God, an inclination of the will, a natural desire to be freed from afflictions; yet, nevertheless, there is in him that willingness to suffer, which is able to subdue every other longing.
In every renewed soul there is a principle of nature and a principle of grace: there is a desire that arises from nature and that tends to the conservation of a man's being, and to the conservation of a man in all the comforts and contentment of his being. This is and may be, in a child of God, but then it is overswayed by grace, which makes a man now resign up this will of his to God's hand, to be content - against his own natural desires - to be disposed of according to God's will. This we may see in our Lord and Savior: Father, saith he, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Here is a desire to continue, not only in his natural being, but to continue in the comfort of nature and life - and this is a lawful and good desire, for these affections are the works of God upon the soul of man. The will of man moves naturally by these affections: these desires are the fruits of nature and so, the works of God in nature, and therefore, in themselves not to be blamed. But now that which keeps them within compass is an overruling work of grace, whereby the creature is made to acknowledge his distance from the Creator and that subjection he owes to God as the Sovereign Lord of nature and of all creatures. And in this sense our Savior, Christ, does check his natural desires: If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt, saith he. So here is a work of grace ordering and over-ruling nature. And this is the kind of willingness we mean - such a willingness as, in the issue and close, rests in God's will.
The object of this patience is: affliction and the changes of this life. Affliction is, properly, anything that is grievous to a man's sense, anything that crosses a man's will. There are some things that are indeed afflictions, but not to this or that person, because he is not sensible of them, or because he is not carried away by any desires against them. But when a man is crossed in his will, that is an affliction to him, and that is an object for patience. When a man that hath tasted the sweetness of prosperity is suddenly cast down into the depths of poverty and distress, as was Job's case, this is especially an object for patience. Ye have heard of the patience of Job.
But how did Job's patience appear in the afflictions and changes of his life? In this: that notwithstanding he had felt the sweetness of a prosperous estate and the comfort of friends, yea, and the comfort of God's favor shining upon his heart, and many other particular mercies, yet when God turned his hand and took away the comforts of his life, the society of his friends, the comfortable expressions of his own love to his soul, and threatened the taking away even of life itself, Job could now, in this case, resolve to rest in the determination and appointment and will of God. Here now is patience.
Thus briefly you have heard what the duty is to which the Apostle exhorts. It is patience: that is, a willing resignation of ourselves to God's appointment in the changes of our life.
But now that is not enough. The Apostle contents not himself to say, Have patience, but, Let patience have her perfect work. He would have them grow in patience; to grow from one degree to another; to abound in patience (as the Apostle speaks of hope and joy); that they might not only have patience, but have it brought to perfection, which is called all long suffering; that there might not be the least defect, that they might have a measure of patience proportionable to the measure of trials – that, as God suffered the measure of their trials to increase upon them, so they might have more and more patience to answer those trials and to support the heart when the greatest weight should be laid upon the soul to press it down. And the word here translated ‘patience,’ signifies ‘to bear up a man, to support him under a burden,’ that he be not pressed down by it. So he would have them have such a measure of patience as might bear up the soul in the greatest pressures, that though they were afflicted, they might not be broken in their afflictions. Thus you have the duty opened. Let patience have her perfect work.
The reason is, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. That you may be entire. Some understand it thus, that you may be entire in respect of every grace, in respect of all gracious habits; that you may have one grace as well as another; that as you have knowledge and faith, so you may have patience too, which is a necessary grace for a Christian, as well as for any other.
Others, by ‘entireness and wanting nothing,’ think that the Apostle meant this: that they might have that which could supply comfort to their souls in all their wants. A man is then said to want nothing when he is content and satisfied with that estate wherein he is, as if he had all things. So David, when Ziklag was burnt, his wives carried away captive, his soldiers beginning to mutiny and to threaten him, yet he seemed in these troubles to want nothing, when he could comfort himself in the Lord his God. Godliness is great gain; but how? With contentment; that is, there is such a sufficiency with contentment of heart, as if a man had all the things he wants. So then, here is the point, that you may be entire in respect of all gracious habits necessary to the being of a Christian: that you may have that inward store and supply of comfort that may support your hearts in all outward wants. Thus you have the meaning of the words.
The parts of the text are two: an exhortation to duty and an argument to enforce that exhortation. The duty whereto we are exhorted is that we should be perfect in patience. Let patience have her perfect work. The argument whereby we are persuaded to this duty is that we may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing: that we may have all that is necessary to a Christian.
We may observe two conclusions hence, which we will follow at this time. The first is this: that patience is necessary to the perfection of a Christian; or a Christian is not perfect without patience. The second is this: that every Christian should strive for the perfection of patience; he must labor to attain the highest degree and perfection in patience. These two conclusions we will handle separately in the explication and proof, and join them together in the application and use.
For the first then, that a Christian is not perfect without patience. Our Savior, exhorting his disciples to patience because they should meet with many enemies and injuries in the world, concludes thus, Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. What perfection does he speak of here? Such a perfection, such a work of grace, as might enable them to carry themselves as became them in the midst of those many enemies and oppositions they should meet withal.
There is a twofold perfection of a Christian: there is a perfection of parts, and a perfection of degrees. A child is a perfect man in respect of parts, but not in respect of degrees; because it is not yet come to that measure of strength and stature which a man hath.
Now there is a necessity that there should be a perfection of parts, for this is but the making up of all those graces which are necessary to a Christian and without which he cannot obey God, nor walk according to the rule. And patience is one of those parts - one of those habits of grace with which every renewed soul is endowed and without which a man is not truly sanctified. St. Peter saith, Add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. Thus, patience is one of those necessary graces which make a man to be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But it is more than this. It is a means for preserving and keeping alive other graces in the soul: this is its perfect work. Patience is as the wall of the soul, whereby those riches and treasures of grace that it possesses are defended from a battery of temptations, and from the fiery darts of the enemy. In your patience possess ye your souls. The soul, which is the seat and subject of grace, cannot itself be kept without patience.
For once let impatience into the soul and you let in all sin with it. Impatience is a destroying of all grace, a pulling down of the wall. Nay, what is all sin but a species of impatience? What is pride but the impatience of humility? What is uncleanness but the impatience of chastity? What is covetousness but the impatience of abstinence? Every sin begins in impatience; so you see that, for the very preserving of the soul - the subject of grace, and of grace - the treasure of the soul, it is necessary that we should have patience.
Again, it will plainly appear that a Christian cannot be perfect without patience, because he cannot do his work without it. He cannot do the works of religion, the task that God lays on him, without patience. Look, in what measure patience is defective, in that same measure he halts in his duty and in the very acts of religion he goes about.
Take any one duty of religion that you can name and see whether a man can do it without patience. Suppose it be prayer. How can a man go on in the duty of prayer without patience? Sometimes God delays the grant of a man's petition: now will he sink and give over in discouragement if he has not patience to support the soul.
The Canaanite woman, when she came to Christ and spoke unto him and he did not answer a word, had so much patience as to speak the second time to him, and then he answered her, yet not favorably: but her patience held her to the third trial and at the last she received her desire. Had she not been patient to go on with her request and to repeat her prayer, she would have lost her petition. The Apostle Paul saith, For this thing I besought the Lord thrice. He would have given over at the first seeking of the Lord, if he had not had patience to uphold him to the second and third petition - to the renewing of his suit twice, yea, thrice.
Come from praying to hearing the Word preached. How can a man hear the Word profitably without patience? Therefore, those who are like the good ground are said to hear the Word and to bring fruit with patience: and it is the commendation of the church at Philadelphia, Thou hast kept the word of my patience. There is need of patience if we would profit by the Word.
For first, if a man will obey the Word, he shall be sure to have many set against him in the world. He had need of patience then, or else he will leave the rule of the Word because of the reproaches of the world. Again, there are many secret corruptions in his own heart that will be shown him in the preaching of the Word, which a man cannot abide to hear of; but he will be vexing and fretting and discontented at it (as we see in Ahab and divers others), unless he have patience to keep him from raging against the preacher and the Word preached to him. You have need of patience, that you may bear the reproofs and exhortations of the Word. Therefore saith the Apostle James, Receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls. There is no engrafting the Word in the heart, except those forms of impatience, those hindrances to the growth of the Word, be taken away.
But, further, the whole life of a Christian is a continual exercise of patience; and a man, though he begin in the Spirit, yet he will without doubt end in the flesh, if he have not patience to persevere in well-doing. Therefore, saith the Apostle, ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. You have need of patience, because, between the time of the making of the promise and the time of its accomplishment to the soul, there is often a great distance; and you must wait after you have obeyed the Word, and not expect the promise to follow immediately. You must run with patience the race set before you; looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Our Lord himself had not perfected the work of our redemption if he had wanted patience; neither can we finish our course of Christianity, wherein we must follow Christ, except we have patience added to other graces. You see then, a Christian cannot be perfect without patience. This is the first point.
The second point is, that it is the duty of a Christian to strive to bring patience to the uttermost perfection; to make this the effort of his life, that patience may have her perfect work - that there may be no defect in it. The Apostle prays for the Colossians, that they may be strengthened with all might unto all patience and long-suffering. And our Savior speaks expressly concerning patience, in that place where he tells his disciples, Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. This then is the duty of a Christian to aim at perfection, as in other graces, so especially in this grace of patience.
First, because a Christian is to follow the best pattern. The best patterns are propounded in the Scripture and God does not propound patterns and examples in vain: but as he gives us rules and precepts to tell us what we should do, so he gives us patterns and examples to direct us in the degree and manner of doing. Therefore we have God set as a pattern of patience, Be ye followers of God as dear children. Wherein? In all those examples wherein you have a rule; for the examples of God and Christ and the saints bind men no further than there is a rule in the word. There are many things in which we cannot follow God, but the patience of God is expressly set forth as a pattern for us. In that glorious proclamation of him in Exodus, among other of his attributes he is set out to be a God long-suffering and patient: and saith St. Peter, God, that he might show his long-suffering and patience bore with the world. God hath borne with this ungodly world many ages, many thousand years already; and yet bears still with the world. The most holy God, that perfectly hateth wickedness, yet shows his patience in bearing with the ungodly; the mighty God, that is able to destroy the earth and the heaven with the breath of his mouth, even as by a word he made them, this mighty God bears with weak rebellious men; he suffers all their sin and hardness of heart and contemptuous boldness, that his patience and forbearance may appear. So then you have God for an example.
And Christ for an example too, and for this very end are you predestinated - that you may be conformed to the image of his Son. Wherein? In all imitable and necessary graces and this, his patience, among the rest. See the patience of Christ: in his carriage towards his Father, how he bore the displeasure of God with submission; and in his carriage toward men, when he might have commanded fire from heaven upon his enemies, how he bore with them and rebuked his disciples, saying, Ye know not what manner of Spirit ye are of. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
Again you have the example of the servants of God. Take, my brethren, saith St. James, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction and of patience. The prophets suffered long and endured the frowns of the world and the rage of princes: they endured a thousand miseries and all to discharge their duty. Again, you have heard of the patience of Job and what end the Lord made with him, and this was written for our example, to teach us to be as patient as he was.
Again, as it is necessary for a Christian to strive for the perfection of patience in the degrees of it, because of the conformity that should be between him and those examples of God, of Christ, and of the saints; between God the Father, and believers his children; between Christ the head and believers his members; so also it is necessary in respect of the trials whereunto a Christian may be put; you have need to strive that you may be perfect in patience, because you know not what trials you shall be put to, what times you are reserved to. Every man must expect troubles and afflictions, which are called tribulations, and you know what tribulum was - an iron ball that was full of spikes round about, so that wheresoever it was cast it did stick: an instrument used in war. Tribulations are unavoidable: they will fall and stick - you cannot escape them on any side, by any turning to the right hand or to the left. It is the will of God that through many tribulations we should enter into the kingdom of heaven and whosoever will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution.
Now, beloved, is this so, that this is a statute in heaven, decreed and ordained by God, and one that, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, will not be reversed, that every man must pass to heaven through much tribulation and affliction upon earth? Then it concerns everyone to be armed and prepared with such a measure of patience as may support him in such afflictions. You know not what afflictions you may have, what particular trials God may put you to. How miserable is the case of that man who, when he is in the midst of the pikes, has to seek for his armor: yet he is no worse than the man who, when he is in the midst of trials, disturbed and distracted with vexation of spirit, has then to seek for patience. What foolish, disorderly speeches proceed from men in the time of affliction! We may see it in David: So foolish was I, and ignorant, saith he, I was even as a beast before thee. What foolish, senseless, brutish speeches, unreasonable absurd passages, proceed from men in these times of trouble, if they have not got to themselves beforehand this grace and are not fitted in time to a Christian carriage by patience.
Thus you see the necessity of patience for the perfection of a Christian and of the perfection of patience for the ornament of a Christian. We come now to make use of both these together.
First, it serves for the just reproof of Christians that are careful for other parts and acts of religion and are not so seriously mindful of this duty of patience as they should be, but are so far from striving for patience that they seem rather to strive for impatience, that makes their crosses more heavy and their afflictions more bitter than they would be. Indeed we make God's cup (that of itself is grievous enough to nature and to sense) far more bitter that else it would be, by putting into it our own ingredients, that are inbred in our own earthly minds, in our own passions and pride and self-will.
Far from perfecting patience in themselves, men take divers ways whereby they wholly destroy patience. I will enumerate some of them, that you may be warned against them.
The first is, by aggravating of their afflictions, exaggerating them by all the several circumstances they can possibly invent. All their eloquence is used in expressing the grievousness of that cross and affliction that is upon them. They that in the times of mercy would scarcely even drop a word of thankfulness and acknowledgment of God's goodness to them, now they can pour out floods of sentences in expression of God's bitter and heavy dealing with them in such afflictions and crosses and distresses that befall them. As the Church speaks in Lamentations: Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like my sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me? The like is, ordinarily, in the mouths of those that are in trouble. Is there any affliction like mine? Who is so wronged in name and credit as I am? Who suffers such pain of body or such heaviness of heart as I do? Never any man hath endured so many injuries by friends and enemies, and all sorts of people, as I have. As if all the afflictions in the world, the waves and billows of trouble, were met together upon one person. This is the language whereby men aggravate their afflictions and increase impatience in themselves.
Another way whereby they do this is, by giving free vent to their passions. Passions are like a wild horse: if they have not reins put upon them, if they be not pulled in, they will fly out to all excess. If once we give our passions vent, there is no stopping of them. David, we see, checks himself - he has a curb to bridle his passions. Why are thou cast down, oh my soul? But otherwise, when men give the reins to their passion and do not stop their course, but think they have reason for it, they break out into all exorbitancy. Jonah, when the Lord challenged him for his anger: Doest thou well to be angry? - Aye, saith he, I do well to be angry. So David, though, as we have seen, able to check himself sometimes, yet breaks out for the loss of his son. Oh, Absalom, my son! Would God I had died for thee, oh Absalom, my son, my son! What hurt was done to David? What wrong had he that he should take on thus? His son was taken from him, but it was that son Absalom, who, if he had lived, would have killed his father: and yet he carries on as if the father could not live because the son that sought his death was taken from him. Such unreasonable passions, such causeless distempers oftentimes are in the souls of men, that they mistake God's ways and that very way in which he intends and does them good they complain of it as if it were their utter undoing.
Again, another way whereby men increase their impatience and distemper is, when they will not give way to consolation, refusing to be comforted: they will not only be exceeding vehement and intent upon their passions, but besides, stop all passages and inlets against comfort. This was Jacob's fault concerning the death of Joseph; when he hears that Joseph is dead, not only his heart sinks within him but he rends his garment and covers himself with sackcloth, and carries on so, that when his sons and children rise up to comfort him he will not be comforted. Why? Because Joseph is not and I will go to the grave to Joseph. Nothing would comfort Jacob, but he would go down to the grave to Joseph by all means. What an extravagance was this! He only heard that Joseph was missing, he heard but a present sound of fear and he was carried away with that. Joseph was yet alive and if Jacob had gone down to the grave to seek him, he had not found him there. So it is with us; the very apprehension and fear that we entertain are as bad or worse to us than the things themselves could be. The more we think on them, the more we multiply our fears and evils, because we will not receive counsel or comfort.
Again, a fourth thing whereby men increase impatience in themselves and aggravate their sorrows is this: they are apt to look only upon their present afflictions and not upon the mercies they enjoy, as if they had but one eye to behold all objects with and so, could only look upon one thing at a time. This was Haman's case when he was vexed that Mordecai did not do him reverence, all his wealth and his honors could do him little good. He had much wealth and the glory of his house was increased, he had the favor of the king and every worldly advantage he could desire, yet all this availeth me nothing, saith he, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate. He looks only on this particular that vexed and grieved him and not upon the rest. So it is with us. If there be but one particular affliction upon us, we fix our eyes upon that. Like a fly that flies about the glass and can stick nowhere till she come to some crack; or as a gnat, that cometh about the body of a beast, that will be sure to rest on the galled part, or on some sore or other: so it is with these disquieted thoughts of men, that are of no other use but to further Satan's ends to weaken their faith and discourage their own hearts; men stick on the gall, on the sore, of any affliction and there they will rest. It is true, they argue, God has offered us such and such opportunities, but what is this? This and that particular affliction is upon me and I can think of nothing else. This it is that increases impatience, when a man will not look on the mercies he receiveth, but only on that that he lacks.
Again, a fifth course that men take to aggravate their sorrows and increase impatience in themselves is this: they look upon the instrument of their sorrows and afflictions, but never look up to God that rules and overrules these things. Men look upon such a person, such an event that brings them into trouble, and no more. You see how David was disquieted at this: if it had been an enemy that had reproached him, then he could have borne it; but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide and mine acquaintance: we took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company. This troubled him; by this he multiplied his sorrows, looking on the instrument, but when he looked to God he found quiet and resignation: then, saith he, I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it. There is no quiet in the heart when a man looks upon man; nor till he looks to God, that orders all things by his wisdom and counsel.
Lastly, men aggravate their sorrows and increase their impatience by another course they take: that is, when they look on their sorrows and afflictions only and not upon the benefit of affliction. They look only upon that which flesh would avoid and not upon that which, if they were spiritual and wise, they would desire. No chastening, saith the Apostle, for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Now men look upon that only which is grievous in affliction; upon the smart of it, but not upon the profit, the quiet fruit of righteousness that cometh thereby. As if a man, when he hath a corroding plaster put to a sore, should cry and complain of the smart it causes him and take no notice of the healing that cometh by it and the cure that follows. Men complain thus of God, as if he grudged them the comfort of their lives, as if he intended to rob them of all conveniences, and to make them utterly miserable, to begin a hell with them on earth; because they never look how God, by this means, fits them for heaven, purging out corruption and strengthening grace in them: We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Men look too often upon the affliction, not upon their freedom from condemnation, to which God intends to lead them by that means.
So much for that. I come now to a second use. Let the doctrine and admonition contained in the text stir us up, every one, in the presence of God, to set ourselves upon this task of Christianity: to labor for patience that we may be perfect Christians. Let patience have her perfect work.
But all the question is, how a man may get it. As there are two sorts of afflictions in a man's life, so patience hath two offices.
One affliction is those present evils that a man undergoes and suffers. Patience is to support him in the miseries and calamities of this present life.
Another sort of trial is, when the good that a man expects is delayed and is not presently granted. Patience is necessary in this case also.
I will show you how a man may set patience to work in both these cases and so conclude.
First, for the present calamities of a man's life, whether it be sickness of body or sorrow and distress of mind; whether it arise from the loss of friends, leaving a man destitute of all joys and helps, like a pelican in the wilderness; or from inward dejection, spiritual desertion, when he seems to be in a cloud, under the frowns of God. The way to get patience under all such afflictions is this: to consider that there is no change in your life, no condition whatsoever that you are called unto, but it is ordered by God. Set your soul to work now to give God his glory in that particular change of your life.
Give God the glory of his absolute sovereignty. Acknowledge him an absolute, independent Lord that does what he will among his creatures. His will is the rule of all his actions upon the creatures here below and uncontrolled, unquestionable. It is high arrogance and presumption and pride of spirit for the creature to contest with his Creator concerning his actions on earth. I must give God the glory of his sovereignty and acknowledge that he has power and right to rule all the families of the earth, and why not mine as well as another? Why not my person as well as another's? Why not to order all the change of my life as well as another man's? That which Benhadad spoke proudly to Ahab, Thy silver and thy gold, thy wives and thy children, and thy house and thy city are mine: that may God say truly and by right to you. All that you have and all that you are are his; therefore give him that glory that Job did in the change of his life: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. The Lord that gave has a right to take what he will. There is nothing that will keep the creature in his due place but the consideration of God's absolute sovereignty. It was this that meekened the spirit of Eli, when that heavy message was brought to him that there should come such misery upon his house that whosoever heard it both his ears should tingle. Well, said he, It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth good to him. It is the Lord; and it becomes not servants to stand and contend with their lord. So David, when the priests offered him their service to go along with him to the field from Absalom, saith he, If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord he will bring me again and show me both it and his habitation: but if he thus say, I have no delight in thee, behold, here I am; let him do to me as seemeth good unto him. David considered that he was under the hands of an absolute Lord, and this it was that humbled him and armed him beforehand with patience and submission. Let him do to me as seems good unto him.
And as you must give God the glory of his sovereignty, so also of his wisdom. Know that God orders all his ways with wisdom and counsel: he knoweth what is good for his children. You are content, when you are sick, that the physician should diet  you, because you account him wise and one that has skill in that course. If God diet you for the purging out of some corruption and for the curing of some spiritual disease in your soul, submit to God in this case; be willing to resign yourself up to be ordered by him. A man that hath a gangrene or such other dangerous disease in his body submits to the surgeon in his course, though it be the cutting and sawing off of a limb, though it be never so painful and the loss never so great, yet he is, for the saving of his life, willing to have that taken away. God is a wise God, that knows what estate is best for you not only when trials are better than comforts, but when one kind of trial is better than another. It may be it is better to exercise one with poverty, another with disgrace, another with spiritual trouble, another with restraint of liberty. God knows which particular trial is necessary to cure that disease and which this that is in your soul. The Heavenly Physician will bring that upon you as a spiritual prescription and a heavenly course that he takes, in infinite wisdom, to cure you.
And in all this give him, moreover, the glory of his mercy. Believe that mercy is still the motive and intention of God, even in those changes of your life that seem most grievous to you. What have you lost but you might have lost a great deal more? What do you suffer but you might suffer a great deal more? As Alcibiades, when he was told that one had stolen half his plate: I have cause, saith he, rather to be thankful that he took no more, than troubled that he took so much. I am sure it is true of God in this case. What has God taken from you? Some part of your estate, some friend, some comfort of your life, someone or other particular comfort? Could he not have done more? Has he afflicted you in your body? He might have afflicted you in your soul; and a wounded spirit who can bear! Has he afflicted you in some one member of your body? He might have cast both body and soul into hell. There is not a trial upon you but God could have made it heavier: let that make you submit, therefore, with a more meek heart and willing spirit to God, as a merciful God.
The Church appears as an example of this, in the second chapter of Lamentations: It is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed. The Jews were in great affliction when the Babylonians came upon them and they were driven from the house of God, and from their own houses: but yet, it was of God's mercy that they were not destroyed wholly. So the prophet Jeremiah tells Baruch, in the Captivity: Seekest thou great things for thyself? Thy life will I give unto thee for a prey. Baruch was wondrously disquieted. He complained that the Lord had added grief to his sorrow. What grief was that? That he must go to Egypt and after, to Babylon. Well, saith the prophet, your case is not so heavy as you seem to make it. You shall have your life for a prey in all places wheresoever you go. God might have taken away life and all, but your life shall you have; therefore be content with so much. So I say to you, when great afflictions come upon you - they might have been greater; therefore give God the glory of his mercy in all things.
Remember, moreover, that the cause of all your sorrows is in yourself. It is sin that deservedly draws on all the afflictions of this life. Consider, you have fallen by your own sin under God's displeasure; therefore, whatsoever affliction befalls you, your sin has deserved that at the hands of God. The Lord now deals with you as a just God and though not in the extremity of rigor, yet doubtless there is a righteous proceeding in it; as the Church confesses: Righteousness belongeth to thee, O Lord. Though the Church was then in great affliction, yet she confessed there was righteousness in her visitation.
It is profitable to consider this, and not only to say, with the thief on the cross, We receive the due reward of our deeds, but to confess that we suffer not so much as our sins deserve. Our sins deserve far greater punishment at the hands of God than he, in this life, inflicts on us. We see that a change of punishment, a less for a greater, is ever esteemed a mercy. When a malefactor deserves to be put to death, he is not only content to be burnt in the hand, but esteems it a mercy to be so dismissed. So it is with us: whatsoever affliction God lays upon you, you may conclude, I have deserved greater. Saith the Church, Wherefore doth a living man complain; a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search and try our ways and turn again to the Lord. So let this be the main business of your life in this case. Rather think to yourself how you might get the favor of God, than to be eased of such a trouble. Let a man look to sin in all this.
Lastly, consider the gracious and comfortable fruit of affliction that is borne with patience. Patience lessens the judgment which impatience would but increase. A struggling child is the more punished. A man in a fever, the more he struggles and strives, the more he increases his pain; and the more patiently a man yields himself in the hands of God, the more, by God's mercy, he finds ease and mitigation of the affliction. God will take off the affliction when once he hath perfected patience by it; for this is God's aim, in all the trials he lays on men, to perfect patience in them. Therefore the issue will be good: there will be, for the present, the more ease to the heart and afterwards a gracious issue and deliverance from trouble when you are exercised by patience.
But beside those afflictions of our life, in which there seems to be something of positive evil, grievous to nature and sense, there is a suffering which arises from mercies delayed and from that hope deferred which maketh the heart sick. It is an affliction to a man to be kept and delayed in the expectation of that good he has not and which, if he seem to catch at it, is drawn from him further and further. Many men have sent up their prayers earnestly to God, yet the thing they ask is not granted to this day. Many a man has waited long and sought the Lord, yet he has not obtained that which his soul desired. How shall a man come to exercise patience in such a case as this?
In such cases, when God delays, know that God's delays are not denials. Though God defer the thing, he may and will certainly grant it at length, if it be for your good. What does he expect of you? To wait with patience. This is an act of faith. He that believeth shall not make haste. Whatsoever God has promised in the Word and you have a warrant to believe - wait for it.
And God's delays are not only not denials, but they are a mean which he uses for improving his favors. God increases and commends the excellencies of his mercies by delay. He recompenses our expectation and waiting for his favors by putting greater sweetness into them when they come. God increases the comfort according to the delay, as in Isaiah 61, where, comforting the distressed church in the time of calamity, he promises, for your shame ye shall have double. Double what? Double comfort after their trials. Our light affliction (saith the Apostle), which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. This is the issue: a weight of glory, for light afflictions; an eternal weight of glory, for momentary, passing troubles. As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ. This is the course of God, if we will only yield ourselves with patience to his will.
Remember also that God's delays are never long. At the longest they are but for a short time. What if he delay a year! What if twenty, thirty, forty years! What if the whole life of a man! This is no great delay. Compare this time of your waiting for mercy (I mean for any special mercy, as relief from poverty, or pain of body, or distress of mind, for, even at the worst, we are still surrounded in this world with mercies innumerable) - compare this time of your waiting for mercy with the time to come, in which you shall enjoy the perfection of this and every other bounty. Compare the time of your suffering with eternity. What proportion is there between them? A moment to eternity! If the life of a man should extend to an hundred, a thousand years, yet that is but a moment, yea even as a point that has no parts, compared with eternity. A thousand years past, a thousand years to come, they are but as yesterday with God. Take the eternity past and the eternity to come and put the life of a man between these two, and it will be but as a point too small to be accounted of.
Stretch out the duty of patience, then. Have you waited a week? Wait a month, a year, seven years, seventy years, nay, seventy ages, all the ages of the world, if that were possible. All these are but a moment to eternity.
And where is the man that has waited so long, but God, that his servants may not faint in their expectation, either supports them with other comforts, or else gives them that which they desire before their hearts faint? Know therefore, that it is no such great matter for a man to wait upon God, for it is but for a short time; and reflect, in the time of your waiting upon this, that when you are fittest for mercy it shall come; and when it comes it shall come with an abundant weight and sweetness, such as shall countervail all thy expectation and longing.
Patience must be exercised by faith; it must be strengthened by hope, and at length perfected by self-denial. We have need of patience; we cannot be perfect or acceptable to God without it; we cannot wait for his promises, nor receive them at the last without it: it is the offspring of faith and hope, which are but barren trees except they bear this fruit. Then, brethren, in all conditions and circumstances of your life, get patience, exercise patience, perfect patience. Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
 diet: prescribe a diet for the cure of a disease (H&F)
"By your patience you will gain your souls.” Luk 21:19
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