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your own time and measure, even though you ask them in fincerity with the prayer of faith. There may be reasons for with-holding them, and yet you may be accepted in your prayers. An infinitely wise God knows best what is for your good, and he only hath 'a right to determine in what part of his own service; where and how long he shall employ you. Trust in God, therefore, in this refpect, implies a careful attention to the tenor of the promises with regard to temporal mercies, and not to look for, or even, if possible, desire what he hath not promised to beltow.
If I am not mistaken, we shall find it of moment, upon this subject, to observe, both what he hath not and what he hath certainly promised. He has no where promised that his own people shall be the richest or the greatest on earth ; but he hath certainly promised to bless their provision, and assured them that a little that a just man hath, shall be better than the riches of many wicked. He has not promised that they shall be free from suffering; but he hath certainly promised to support them by his own presence under their distress. Ifa. xliii. 2. “ When thou
pásleft through the waters, I will be with thee; and " through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when " thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burnt ; “ neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” The truth is, he hath promised that “ all things shall work together " for their good.” In one word, they have indeed all mercies promised, only they themselves are not in a condition, at present, to judge what they may use with safety, and what not. As the heir of an opulent estate, though he is proprietor of all, yet is laid under restraint while in infancy and non-age, because he would soon ruin himself if it were committed to his own management; so the believer, though an heir of God, and joint heir with Christ, yet till he is meet for the inheritance, he must be at his Maker's and Redeemer's disposal. Take in, therefore, only this limitation, and then fee his extensive charter. 1 Cor. iii. 21. “ For all things are yours; whether Paul, " or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, " or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and
ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." What then is the duty of a child of God? It is to breathe after more and more submission to the divine will, and to annex this re, servation to every petition of a temporal nature, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done. And oh! my bre- . thren, how happy the person who hath seen the weakness of human judgment; who waits the intimation of God's will, before he will suffer his desires to falten with eagerness on any earthly comfort, and who endeavors to keep himself free from perplexity, by an humble and submissive reliance on the all-sufficiency of God!
I obferved in entering on this part of the subject, that spiritual consolation, or sensible joy in God, is to be confidered as a promise of the same class, which muft, there. fore, be asked with submission, and is dispensed according to the good pleasure of a gracious but fovereign God. I am sensible, as has been formerly observed, with another view, that some degree of comfort necessarily follows from a believer's relation to God, but many pious persons feem to desire and to expect sensible comfort in a higher meafure than God fees it meet to give them, or, than is proper for them in the present state. It is with spiritual prof. perity as with temporal, every one cannot bear it. There. fore, it is our duty still to be sensible that we have much more comfort and peace than we deserve, and as we desire and strive for greater degrees of it, to accompany these defires with much humility and resignation to the will of God.
I proceed now to the last thing proposed, which was to make a practical application of this subject for your instruction and direction.
1. From what has been said, you may see what judgment you ought to form of inward suggestions, and strong or particular impressions upon your minds. There are fome extremely prone to interpret a text of fcripture, sud. denly suggested to their minds, or any strong impression · made on then, as an immediate message from God, to be dire&ly applied to themselves : Others, in opposition to this, as enthusiastical and visionary, seem to give up eve. ry expectation of being able to say with the Plalmist, " I bless the Lord who hath given me counfel, my reins “ also instruct nie in the night season.” I beg, therefore, that you may observe, that the suggestion of a passage of fcripture, of itself gives no title to the immediate application of it, because the great deceiver may undoubtedly suggest scripture, as we find he could reason from it in our Saviour's temptation. We are, in every such case, to consider the tenor of it, if it be a promise or encouragement, that is, how and in what manner it may be safely applied. If any thing happens to be suggested that expressly suits our present condition, either by setting home the obligation of duty, with particular evidence upon the conscience, or pointing out the grounds of comfort, it ought to be thankfully acknowledged as from the spirit of God. For example, if a person under the power of a spirit of bondage, and fear of divine wrath, hath suggested to him any of the extensive gracious assurances of mercy to the chief of sinners, it is his duty to lay hold of it. is dire&tly suited to his condition, and would be the very thing that a wise and judicious pastor would recommend to him for his relief. He may therefore, without hesitation, bless God for it, if it is brought with power and efficacy upon his heart. In the same manner, if a person under trouble hath suggested to him any of the promises of support under it, surely he ought, in the discharge of his duty, firmly to rely on the accomplishment of that part
of the word of God. But in the reflex examination of a person's character or state, to apply the sudden suggestion of a promise or privilege, perhaps of a conditional nature, is certainly both sinful and dangerous. Sinful, because without warrant; and dangerous, because leading to de. lusion.
2. From what hath been said, you may see what it is that we ought to seek for with the greatest earnestness, and may hope to obtain with the greatest confidence. Recollect, I beseech you, the order in which I have men. tioned the promises of God as the objects of truft and reliance. First of all the promises of salvation, deliverance from the guilt of sin, and a right to everlasting life; next
whatever is necessary to the preservation and improvement of the spiritual life; and then in the third place, proper accommodation and suitable provision in our passage through the present world. They are here ranked according to their value in themselves, and the value which we fhould put upon them: Let us, therefore, take care that we never violate this order, which is necessary, not only because of their comparative value, but because of their mutual influence one upon another. It is in vain for us to expect to attain to the habit or practice of holiness, till we are united to God by faith in Jesus Christ. All the promises of the gospel are ratified in him. All the divine fulness is treasured up in him. Every divine gift is dispensed by him. Therefore, he says John xv. 4. “ Abide “in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit " of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye,
except ye abide in me.” And the apostle Paul, Gal. ii. 20, “ I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live;
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I “ now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of “God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
In the same manner nothing can be more prepofterons than to fix our affections upon temporal mercies, or our attention upon the promises that relate to them, so as to lose view of our interest in God's favor, and the progress of our fanctification. All the temporal promises in scripture are made to the children of God as such, and for carrying on the purposes of his grace in them.--Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. There is no promile in the whole volume of inspiration to the wicked and impenitent. “ There is no peace, faith my
God, to the wicked.” He will either rebuke them in his wrath and chasten them in his hot displeasure, or give them up to a cursed, hardening, stupifying prosperity, than which, no state on earth, is more to be dreaded.Christian ! never suffer an anxiety about your outward ftate to supplant or go before, or even to be separated from a concern, that you may not be found wanting when weighed in the balance of the fanctuary.
3. Let me beseech you to adore the wisdom, justice and mercy of God, in the order he hath established, according to the different nature of the promises. That which is of molt, nay, properly speaking, of unspeakable value, and radically contains all the rest, is placed first in order, and offered in the most free and gracious manner, without money and without price. Salvation is preached to the chief of finners, and a Saviour held forth as able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him. Many uses might be made of this, but the single use I intend to make of it, at prelent, as connected with the duty of trust, is to silence the complaints of envy and impatience. How prone are many to look with an evil eye upon the more extensive possessions and greater apparent outward comfort which others enjoy? Does it not astonish you to think how much unbelief and ingratitude there is in those repining thoughts ? Meanness of rank, and poverty of state, are no hinderance at all to an interest in Christ, and a right to everlasting life. Nay, the gospel is preached to the poor.-Many a Lazarus has been carried by the angels to Abrahain's bolom, while the rich and luxurious have lifted up their eyes in torments. Will you, can you, dare you then complain? Will you envy the man of the world, his stately palace-his elegant furniture, and his sumptuous fare? What is the amplest portion in the present life compared with the sure mercies of David? What child of God would exchange with any wicked man a prison for a palace, or a scaffold for a throne ?
I beseech you to add to all this, that, even with regard to present peace or comfort, there is no comparison between a good man and a bad. “A man's life doth not " consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses.” This is a truth not only often repeated in the sacred oracles, but written in the clearest and most legible characters in the history of Providence. Nay, even independently of virtue or religion itself, every human calamity, whether arising from sickness, reproach, contention, fear, or ungratified defire, rages with greater violence in the higher, than in the lower stations of life. A vain and conceited monarch once sent to alk at an heathen oracle,