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disposals ! Poor wretches ! can we be so forsaken of our reason, as to think our power and wisdom greater than our Maker's ? Are we yet to be taught how ignorant and weak we are, how silly in our choices, how apt to be deceived with false appearances, how shamefully out in our conduct, and almost always disappointed of our hopes ? How unreasonable therefore is it to be dissatisfied with the allotments of Providence, which are always for the best ; and never at quiet, because things are not managed just as our ignorance would have them? We should rather make it our earnest prayer to God, that he would not leave us to ourselves, nor comply with any of our desires, how importunate soever, any further than he, in his infinite wisdom, sees will be most for our true interest and benefit; and close all our addresses to him, relating to our circumstances here below, with the most entire resignation of ourselves to his all-wise and good conduct, and say, with our blessed Lord, Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Besides, what will all our murmurings and repinings and restless strivings signify? truly, nothing, but to make our condition much worse than otherwise it would be, and render life a continual and most uncomfortable perplexity. For can we think that God will be directed by us in his government of the world, and change our own, or others' circumstances according to our fond wishes and desires ? Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth, (as it follows in the verse of which my text is the beginning;) but shall the clay say to him that fashioned it, What makest thou ? After all our uneasiness and discontent, God's pleasure, not ours, shall be accomplished ; and it is happy for us that it shall be so; and therefore nothing more foolish and unreasonable than to be continually disquieting ourselves about things that are so utterly out of our power, and which too are infinitely better managed than they would be if they were in it.
In the next place, to be impatient under troubles and afflictions betrays a very disingenuous temper, and likewise a great deal of folly.
The afflictions which God sees fit to bring upon us,—of which only we now speak, for those we bring upon ourselves, as was hinted before, have a different consideration,—the afflictions which God sees fit to bring upon us, are designed either as corrections or trials; kind chastisements for our faults, or opportunities of exercising and improving our virtues; and both, in order to the increase of our future happiness. Many places of scripture there are to this purpose, which every diligent reader must have taken notice of; one of which only I shall mention, that of the apostle to the Hebrews, ch. xii. 5, &c. My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him : for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence : shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live ? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for
our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous : nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby.
Now this excellent reasoning shews us how kind and good, and of what happy consequence, all the methods of God's discipline are, how sharp soever at the present, if we will but suffer them to take effect; and therefore ought to be received, not only with reverence and entire submission, but even with thankfulness and joy.
But then, if this be true, what can be more blameworthy than to behave ourselves with the same impatience, and restless strugglings and outcries and complaints under God's salutary dispensations, as we would do under the cruel hands of a barbarous villain or merciless executioner ? If it is the rod of correction that makes us smart, and which is managed by a Parent infinitely wise and good, and beyond all expression tender of our welfare, and who never strikes but when our best interest requires it of him; are we so fond of our evil, destructive courses, as not to endure any thing that would cure us of them ? or do we think ourselves above such methods of reformation ? or do we believe God is mistaken, and takes wrong measures with us, such as will not answer his end ?
And if the affliction is designed to rouse and exercise some sleeping virtues, to engage us in an honourable combat with our passions, and render us bright examples to the world of faith and patience, and perfect us through sufferings; shall we refuse so great a grace, so high an honour, as indeed
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this is, and fret and fume, and lose all temper, as if intolerably oppressed, and used inhumanly? What shameful behaviour is this! How does it betray a most vile and abject spirit, infinitely below the character of a Christian !
Nor is there less of folly in it; for is not correction better than ruin? Is not a short and light affliction here more tolerable than the never-dying flames of hell ? and is it not even less than nothing too when in comparison with that eternal weight of glory which shall hereafter crown our patience under it? Besides, will impatience mend the matter? shall we get the better of God by striving with him, and oblige him to a more agreeable treatment of us? Alas! poor, impotent creatures as we are, we must submit, whether we will or no! Had we not therefore better do it with a becoming ease and decency, and humble resignation, and, as we have been taught to do, both by the doctrine and example of the meek, suffering Jesus! If we thus behave ourselves, our troubles will not only be highly advantageous to us, by effecting the great good work for which they were sent, but become every day more and more easy to be borne, through those supports and comforts which we shall find God's providence will send us, and that beyond our expectation. Whereas impatience, and a sturdy resistance, will only serve to make them much sharper than otherwise they would be, and turn that into pure, unallayed misery, which, were we but quiet and resigned, would prove the greatest blessing of our lives.
In the last place, it is the greatest baseness and folly to strive with our Maker, as it signifies our being stubborn and refractory to the conduct of his divine Spirit, and the guidance of his ministers in things relating to his service and our own eternal salvation. For, in short, it is to resolve to be wicked without control, that we may be miserable without remedy. It is to refuse to be conducted to heaven, for the sake of the pleasures of a brute; and to choose a future hell, rather than undergo the present little uneasiness of denying the solicitations of a lust. So vile and foolish is an obstinate sinner, and like the beasts that perish.
III. I shall now very briefly shew the miserable consequence of thus striving with our Maker, and so conclude. Woe unto him, says the text, that striveth with his Maker!
And, first, as it signifies disobedience to his commands. For who can imagine but that a Governor so wise, and so powerful, and so just as God is, will in due time assert his authority, and secure his laws and his government from contempt, by the condign punishment of those who have been so hardy as to resist and rebel against him, and made no account of the plainest and most express declarations of his will. And when the Almighty shall proceed to do justice, who can withstand him, or hope to avoid the stroke, but must sink under the weight of it for ever! and that he will at length thus proceed to judgment, and render to every man according to his works, the holy scriptures so frequently assure us, and every Christian pretends so firmly to believe, that there is no need of saying any thing further to prove it. And therefore, let no man feed himself with ridiculous fancies of never being called to account for his disobedience to God, as if he was too great and too happy a Being to take notice of and