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OF

AFFLICTIONS;

THE BEST PREPARATION FOR THEM,

AND IMPROVEMENT OF THEM,

AND OF

OUR DELIVERY OUT OF THEM.

JOB V. 6, 7. ALTHOUGH AFFLICTION COMETH NOT FORTH OF

THE DUST, NEITHER DOTH TROUBLE SPRING OUT

OF THE GROUND: YET MAN IS BORN UNTO TROUBLE, AS THE SPARKS

FLY UPWARD. Job's friends, though in the particular case of Job they were mistaken, yet they were certainly very wise, godly, and observing men ; and many of their sentences were full of excellent and useful truths, and particularly this speech of Eliphaz, which importeth these two useful propositions :

1. That the general state of Man in this World, is a state of trouble and Affliction; and it is so common to him, so incident to all degrees and conditions of mankind, that it seems almost as universal, as that natural propension in the sparks to fly upwards; no person of whatsoever age, sex, condition, degree, quality, profession, but hath a part of this common state of mankind; and although some seem to have a greater portion of it than others, some seem to have greater and longer viciffitudes and intermissions and allays thereof than others, yet none are totally exempt from it; yea, it is rare to find any man, that hath had the ordinary extent of the age of man, but his troubles, crosses, calamities, affictions, have overweighed and exceeded the measure of his comforts and contentments in this life.

2. That

2. That yet those Afflictions and troubles do neither grow up by a certain regular and constant course of nature, as plants and vegetables do out of the ground; neither are they mere accidental and casual, but they are jent, disposed, direEted, and managed by the conduct and guidance of the most wise Providence of Almighty God: and this he proveth in the sequel of the chapter. And as in all things in nature, the most wise God doth nothing at random, or at a venture, so in this part of his providential dispensation towards mankind, he doth exercise the same, with excellent wisdom, and for excellent ends; even for the very good and advantage of mankind in general, and particularly of those very persons that seem most to suffer and be afflicted by them ; sometimes to punish, sometimes to correct, sometimes to prevent, sometimes to heal, sometimes to prepare, sometimes to humble, always to instruct, and teach, and better the children of men,

And indeed, if there were no other end but these that follow, this seeming Marp Providence of Almighty God would be highly justified: namely, first, To keep men humble and disciplinable. Man is a proud, vain creature; and were that humour constantly fed with prosperity and success, it would strangely puff up this vain humour: Afflictions and troubles are the excellent and necessary correctives of it, and prick this swelling impostumation of pride and haughtiness, which would otherwise render men intolerable in themselves and one to another. Secondly, To bring mankind to recognise Almighty God, to seek unto him, to depend upon him ; this is the most natural and special effect of Alictions, “In their Alictions

they will seek me early?!' The rough and stubborn mariners in a storm, will cry every one to his God? Thirdly, To tutor and discipline the children of men in this great lesson, that their happiness lies not in this world, but in a better ; and by this means, even by the crosses and vexations and troubles of this world, illos. v. 15,

2 Jonahi,

and

and by these plain and sensible documents, to carry mankind up to the end of their beings. God knows those few and little comforts of this life, notwithstanding all the troubles and crosses with which they are interlarded, are apt to keep the hearts, even of good men, in too great love of this world. What would become of us, if our whole lives here should be altogether profperous and contenting, without the intermixture of crofles and Afflictions ? But of these things more hereafter.

Now since the state of mankind in this world is for the moił part thus cloudy and stormy, and that ordinarily we can expect it to be no otherwise, there are these considerations which become every wise and good mind to acquaint himself with : 1. What preparation is fit to be made by every man

before they come. 2. How they are to be received, and entertained, and

improved, when they come, and while they are in

cumbcnt. 3. What is the best and safest temper of mind when any

of them are removed.

1. Touching the first of these, namely, preparation before they come; and the best preparatives seem to be these:

1. A right and sound convi&ion, and consideration of this molt certain experimental truth; namely, That no man whatsoever, how good, just, pious, wise foever, can by any means expect to be exempt from them, but must be more or less subject to Afiction, of one kind or other, at one time or another, in one measure or another; for man is certainly born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward. And this certain truth will be evident, if we consider the several kinds of Amiction that are common to mankind : And herein I shall forbear the instances which concern our childhood and youth as such, which yet notwithstanding are subject to Afflictions, that though they feem not such to men of

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riper years, yet are as real and pungent, and deeply and sensibly grievous to them, as those that seem of greater moment to men of riper years: But I thall apply myself to those instances which are more evident, and of which those that have the exercise of their reafon may be more capable.

Adictions seem to be of two kinds: 1. Such as are common calamities, befalling a nation, city, or society, of men: 2. Or more personal, that concern a man in his particular.

1. Touching the former of these, namely, common calamities, such as wars, devastations, famines, pestilences, spreading contagions, epidemical diseases, great conflagrations : experience tells us, and daily lets us fee, that they involve in their extent the generality of men, good and bad, just and unjust, pious and prophane; and although the gracious God is sometimes pleased, for ends best known to himself, strangely to preserve and rescue, as it were, some out of a common calamity, yet it is that which I do not know how any man can promise himself, though otherwise never so pious and just, because I find not that any where under the Evangelical dispensation Gud Almighty hath promised to any person any such immunity; and common experience thews us, that good and bad are oftentimes involved in the effects and extremities of the faine common calamity. And indeed it would be little less than a miracle, and somewhat above the ordinary course of the Almighty's regiment of things, to give particular exception in such cases. If a man receive any such biefling from God, he is bound eminently to acknowedge it as a signal, if not miraculous intervention of the Divine Mercy, but it is not that which a man can reasonably expect ; because, although upon grcat and momentous occasions Almighty God is pleased not only to give out miracles, but even to promise them also, as in the justifying of the truth of the Gospel in the first publication thereof, yet it is not equal for any particular person to suppose, thaç for the preservation of a

particular

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particular interest or concernment, God Almighty should be, as it were, engaged to put forth a miracle, or little less than a miracle; and the reasins hereof are,

1. Because under the Evangelical Di pensation, the rewards of goodness, piety, and obedience, are of another kind, and of greater moment, namely, eternal happiness, and not exemption from temporal calamities. If Almighty God grant such an exemption, it is of bounty and abundance, not of promise. It is true, under the Old Covenant with the people of Israel, their promises were in a great measure of temporal benefits, and the administration of that church, as it was in a great measure typical, so the Divine Administration over them was very usually miraculous, both in their blessings, prefervations, andexemptions: And there was special reason for it; for they were to be a monument to all mankind, and also to future ages, of a special and signal Divine regiment; and consequently the obedient might, upon the account of the Divine promise, expect blessings and deliverances, even in public calamities, that might befall the people in general : But we have no warrant to carry over those promises of temporal benefits and exemptions to the obedience under the Gospel, which as it is founded upon another covenant, so it is furnished with better promises.

2. Because, the best of men in this life, have fins and failings enough to justify the justice of Almighty God, in exposing them to temporal calamities; and yet his mercy, goodness, and bounty, is abundantly magnified in reserving a reward in heaven far beyond the merit of their best obedience and dutifulness; so that though they are exposed to temporal calamities, Almighty God still remains not only a true and faithful, but a liberal and bountiful Lord unto them in their everlasting rewards t. What are light Afflictions, and but for a moment, in comparison to an eternal weight of glory? And the latter is the reward of their obedience under

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2 Cor. iv. 17. Rom. viii. 18.

the

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