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you would be loath to have them at the rate that they must pay for them. O there is a day of reckoning coming; a day wherein all the nobles and brave gallants in the world, must be brought to the bar, and give an account how they have improved and employed all the favours that God has conferred upon them; therefore envy them not. Is it madness and folly in a great favourite at court, to envy those who feast themselves with the scraps that come from the prince's table? O then what madness and folly is it, that the favourites of heaven should envy the men of the world, who at best do but feed upon the scraps that come from God's table! Spirituals are the choice meat; temporals are but the scraps. Temporals are the bones; spirituals are the marrow. Is it below a man to envy the dogs, because of the bones! And is it not much more below a Christian to envy others for temporals, when himself enjoys spirituals?
6. Be not troubled for the want of lesser gifts.
It is to me a sad thing to see gracious souls, that have some comfortable satisfaction in their own hearts that the Lord has given Christ and grace to them, go up and down whining and weeping, because they have not health, or wealth, or child, or trade, when the Lord has bestowed upon them such choice, spiritual blessings, the least of which will outweigh all temporal blessings. Well, Christians, remember this, you act below your spiritual birth, your holy calling, when you suffer your hearts to be troubled and perplexed for the want of temporal things. Can you read special love in these? Does your happiness lie in the enjoyment of them? Are not the angels happy without them? Was not Lazarus more happy then Dives? Yes. O then let not the want of those things trouble thee, the enjoyment of which can never make thee happy. Should the child that is proclaimed heir of a crown, be troubled for want of a rattle? And why then should a Christian that is heir apparent to a heavenly crown, be troubled upon the want of worldly toys?
Jerome tells us of one Didymus, a godly preacher, who was blind, Alexander a godly man, coming to him, asked him, whether he was not sore troubled and afflicted for want of his sight? 'O yes,' said Didymus, 'it is a great affliction and trouble to me.' Then Alexander chid him,. saying, 'Has God given you the excellency of an angel, of an apostle; and are you troubled for that which rats, and mice, and brute beasts have?'
It is great folly, it is double iniquity, for a Christian to be troubled for the want of those things which God ordinarily bestows upon the worst of men. O the mercies that a Christian has in hand, O the mercies that a Christian has in the promises, O the mercies that a Christian has in hope, are so many, so precious, and so glorious, that they should bear up his head and heart from fainting and sinking under all outward wants.
There goes a story among scholars of iEsop's deceiving Mercury; he, having promised him one part of his nuts, keeps all the meat to himself, and gives the other the shells. Ah Christians, God has given you the meat, but the world, the shells ., why then should you be troubled for want of the shells, when God has given you the kernel?
7. If the Lord has given his people the best gifts, O then let them not leave that, God who has bestowed such choice and noble favours on them.
Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished 0 ye heavens at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord; why? for my people have committed two evils, they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, Jet. ii. 11—13. This was that which aggravated the Israelites' sin, that they forsook that God who had conferred upon them many rich and royal favours, Psalm cv, cvi. But O then what madness and folly is it in you, that you should forsake that God who has done such mighty things for your souls? I may say to keep you close to God, as Saul said to his servants to keep them close to him; Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about them, Hear now, ye Benjamites, will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands and captains of hundreds? 1 Sam. xxii. 7. Ah Christians, can the world give you spiritual life? Can the world give you peace of conscience, pardon of sin, the favour of God, the hopes of glory? No, O then never leave nor forsake that God who
has given you all these royal favours, which none can give nor take, but himself. He who forsakes God, forsakes his own mercies ; he forsakes his life, his joy, his crown, his all in all. No evil to be compared to this, of forsaking the greatest good. It makes a man's life a very hell. Such shall be written in the dust, Jer. xvii. 13.
8. Be not impatient nor froward, when God shall take away some lesser mercies from you.
Has God given you the best and the greatest gifts that your souls can beg, or himself can give; and will you be froward or impatient when he shall come to take away lesser mercies? What, wilt thou be an impatient soul, when God comes and writes death upon such an ordinary mercy, and keeps back the sentence of death upon such and such more desirable mercies? Verily, this is the way to provoke God to strip thee naked of thy choicest ornaments, and to put thee in chains; or else to turn thee grazing among the beasts of the fields, as he did Nebuchadnezzar. God gives the best, and takes away the worst; he gives the greatest, and takes away the least; the sense of which made Job bless God, when stripped of all. If a man should give you a pearl, and take away a pin; if he should give you a bag of gold, and take away a bag of counters; would it not be madness in you to be impatient and froward? Does God take away a pin? and has he not given you a pearl for it? He has given thee a pound, O Christian, for every penny that he has taken from thee; therefore be not froward, nor impatient. Remember, Christians, how many there are in the world, who sit sighing and mourning under the want of those very favours that you enjoy. Why does the living man complain? What, out of the grate, and complain? What, out of hell, and complain? This is man's sin, and God's wonder.
But now some poor sinners may say, ' Here is good news for saints ; but what is this to us all this while?' Why I will tell you. I have something to say for the comfort and encouragement of poor sinners. Ah sinners, Christ is willing to bestow the best gifts upon the worst sinners. Take one text for all; it is a sweet one, and full to the point in hand; Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwellamong them, Psal. lxviii. 18. Christ has received gifts, as a steward, from the hand of the Father, to dispense them among men, yea, among the rebellious, the worst of men. If there be here at this time any rebellious sinner, a rebellious sabbath-breaker, or rebellious drunkard, or rebellious curser, let such rebellious sinners know, that Christ has received gifts even for the rebellious. That the Lord God might dwell amongst them; that is, that the Lord God might have sweet fellowship and communion with them. Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me, Rev. iii. 20. Behold I stand at the door and knock. 'I who have heaven to give, and peace to give, and pardon to give, and grace to give, and myself to give; I who have tried gold to enrich you, and white raiment to clothe you, and eye-salve to anoint you, I stand at the door and knock; if any man will open the door, let him be never so guilty, never so filthy, never so unworthy, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me.' Lord, at whose door dost thou stand knocking? Is it at the rich man's door? or at the righteous man's door? or at the humbled man's door? or at the weary and heavy laden man's door? or at the mourner's door? or at the qualified or prepared man's door? 'No,' says Christ,' it is at none of these doors.' At whose then, O blessed Lord? At the lukewarm Laodicean's door; at their door who are neither hot nor cold, who are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked? 'These,' says Christ, ' are the worst of the worst; and yet if anyof these wretches, these monsters of mankind, will open the door, I will come in, and sup with him, and he with me.' v I have read a remarkable story of a great rebel, who had raised a mighty party against a Roman emperor. The emperor upon this, being much provoked and stirred in spirit, made a proclamation, that whosoever brought in the rebel dead or alive, should have a great sum of money. The rebel hearing this, comes and presents himself unto the emperor, and demanded of him the sum of money. Whereupon the emperor reasons thus, 'If I should now cut him off, the world would say, I did it to save my money;' and so he pardoned him, and gave him the great
sum of money, notwithstanding all his former rebellion. O shall a heathen emperor act thus to a rebel that was in arms against him? and will not God do as much for poor rebellious sinners? Surely he will. What, though thou hast been in arms against God, and mustered up all the strength and force thou couldst, even all the members of thy body and all the faculties of thy soul, against God, and Christ, and holiness? Yet know that the King of Israel is a merciful King; he is a God of pardons; he delights to make his grace glorious; and therefore is very willing to shew mercy to the greatest rebels, to the worst of singers; witness Martasseh, Mary Magdalene, the thief, Paul, and others. The greatness of man's sins does but set off the riches of free grace. Sins are debts, and God can as easily blot out a debt of many thousands, as he can a lesser debt; therefore let not the greatest rebel despair, but believe; and he shall find, that where sin hath abounded, there grace shall much more abound.
And thus much for this observation; we shall now proceed to the next words.
ON THE IMPROVEMENT OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS.
I Will first open the words.
That I should preach; that is, declare good news, or the glad tidings of salvation that are brought by Jesus Christ to sinners. The Greek word in the new testament answers to a Hebrew word in the old testament, both signifying good news, glad tidings, or a joyful message.
That I should preach among the Gentiles. The word that is here rendered Gentiles, is sometimes used generally for all men or all nations; so it is used in Mat. xxv. 32; Mat. xxviii. 19. Sometimes this Greek word is used more especially for the people of the Jews; John xi. 48, 52; Acts x. 22. And sometimes it is used for the Gentiles, distinguished from the Jews, Mat. vi. 32. By the Gentiles here you are to understand those poor heathens who were without God in the world, who never had heard of Christ, or of those unsearchable riches that are in him; as