« Prev Rule IX. Next »

Rule IX.

The ninth rule — Take heed of undue expressions concerning God and his ways in distress.

Take heed, in doubts, distresses, and perplexities, of hard thoughts of God, hasty unweighed expressions concerning him or his ways, or of secret resolves that it were as good give over waiting as continue in the state wherein you are, seeing your condition is remediless.

On three occasions are such thoughts and resolves apt to befall the’ minds of men; which sometimes break forth into unwarrantable expressions concerning God himself and his ways —

5711. In deep perplexities of mind, by reason of some pressing terror from the Lord.

2. On the long wearisome continuance of some tempting distress; and hereof we have many examples, some whereof shall be mentioned.

3. In spiritual disappointments, through the strength of lust or temptation. When a person hath, it may be, recovered himself, through grace, from a perplexing sense of the guilt of some sin, or it may be from a course, shorter or longer, lesser or greater, of backsliding and negligent walking with God, and therein goes on cheerfully for a season in the course of his obedience; if this person, through the power of temptation, subtilty of lusts, neglect of watchfulness, by one means or other, is surprised in the sins or ways that he had relinquished, or is turned aside from the vigour of that course wherein he was engaged, he may be exposed not only to great despondencies, but also be overtaken with secret resolves to give over contending, seeing it is to no more purpose, nay, to no purpose, and that God regards him not at all.

Take an instance or two in each kind:—

The first we have in Job, in the extremity of his trials and terrors from the Lord. See, among other places, chap. x. 3: “Is it,” saith he to God, “good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress, that thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands?” All! poor worms, with whom have we to do? “Who shall say unto a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly? And will ye speak to Him who respecteth not the person of princes, nor regardeth them more than the poorest in the earth?” And see what conclusions from such thoughts as these he doth infer: chap. xiv. 16, 17, “Thou numberest my steps: dost thou not watch over my sin? My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity.” He chargeth God to be his enemy, one that watched for all opportunities and advantages against him, that seemed to be glad at his halting, and take care that none of his sins should be missing when he intended to deal with him. Had this indeed been the case with him, he had perished unto eternity, as elsewhere he acknowledged.

Of the other we have an instance in the church: Lam. iii. 18, “I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord.” Present grace in spiritual strength and future expectation of mercy are all gone. And what is got by this? Secret hard thoughts of God himself are hereby ingenerated: as verse 8, “When I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer;” verse 44, “Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.” These things are grievous unto God to bear, and no way useful to the soul in its condition; yea, they more and more unfit it for every duty that may lie in a tendency to its relief and deliverance.

572So was it with Jonah: chap. ii. 4, “I said, I am east out of thy sight;” — “All is lost and gone with me; as good give over as contend; I do but labour in vain. Perish I must, as one cast out of the sight of God.” The like complaints fell also from Heman in his distress, Ps. lxxxviii.

The general who heard one of his soldiers cry out, upon a fresh onset of the enemy, “Now we are undone, now we are ruined,” called him a traitor, and told him it was not so whilst he could wield his sword. It is not for every private soldier on every danger to make judgment of the battle; that is the work of the general. Jesus Christ is “the captain of our salvation;” he hath undertaken the leading and conduct of our souls through all our difficulties. Our duty is to fight and contend; his work is to take care of the event, and to him it is to be committed.

That, then, you make a due use of this rule, keep always in your minds these two considerations —

1. That it is not for you to take the judgment of Christ out of his hand, and to be passing sentence upon your own souls. Judgment as to the state and condition of men is committed unto Christ, and to him it is to be left. This we were directed unto in our first rule, and it is of special use in the case under consideration. Self-judging in reference unto sin and the demerit of it is our duty. The judging of our state and condition in relation unto the remedy provided is the office and work of Jesus Christ, with whom it is to be left.

2. Consider that hard thoughts of what God will do with you, and harsh desponding sentences pronounced against yourselves, will insensibly alienate your hearts from God. It may be when men’s perplexities are at the height, and the most sad expressions are as it were wrested from them, they yet think they must justify God, and that they do so accordingly. But yet such thoughts as those mentioned are very apt to infect the mind with other inclinations: for after a while they will prevail with the soul to look on God as an enemy, as one that hath no delight in it; and what will be the consequence thereof is easily discernible. None will continue to love long where they expect no returns. Suffer not, then, your minds to be tainted with such thoughts; and let not God be dishonoured by any such expressions as reflect on that infinite grace and compassion which he is exercising towards you.

« Prev Rule IX. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection