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he feared. So God's children may many times fear, and be brought to see hell, yet having a joyful deliverance at last by these fears, attaining a securer peace than ever.
Secondly, it is exceeding comfort to God's children, and ought to be, to hear and know how that these unspeakable torments, and those grievous pains, which caused Felix to tremble, are now removed from them, that they can hear of them with comfort to their souls.
Thirdly, this doctrine availeth unto God's children also for others, that if we think of these things seriously ourselves, we also strive to imprint them into others by all means (as Jude speaketh), having compassion of some by putting of difference, and other some of fear, pulling them out of the fire. If we did see a madman running into the Thames to drown himself, would we not run to save him? Nay, would we not think it a deed of charity? So all sinners are madmen running to drown themselves, not in a river of water; but in the eternal burning lake of hell-fire for ever. Oh, let us then stay and win as many as is possible, showing them these dangers of many sorrows: and St. James (for our encouragement) telleth us what shall be the issue of reward. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
y Heb. chap. 5. ver. 7.
Secondly, it serveth to show the opposition betwixt the godly and the wicked, wherein they differ, and how far the wicked may proceed, what they are able to attain, where they cannot come. They can never come to lay hold of this mercy, whatsoever else they do. It is then a sure argument unto thee, that thou art freed from hell, and delivered from those many sorrows, if thou canst lay hold of God's mercy, if when thou hast no sense nor feeling, yet thou canst wait for his mercy, who hath hidden his face from Jacob (as the prophet speaketh) if thou canst once settle this assurance, and hang on his mereies, then be cheerful, how miserable soever thou art in thine own eyes.
z James, chap. 5. ver. 19, 20.
For although perhaps you think this a cold comfort to rely and trust upon his mercy, who appeareth to be thine enemy, yet I say, as thou lovest thy life, hold fast a persuasion of his infinite mercies, and rely firmly upon the same; for thus far, be thou sure, the wicked cannot go, he cannot for his life rely upon God's mercies. What although the Lord many times stay long, yet thou hast many promises that he will not forsake for ever. So saith the prophet in the Lamentations, "that his compassions fail not, that though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies." And the Church in Micah, she resolveth to bear the wrath of the Lord for awhile, assuring herself at last to be brought forth unto the light, to see his righteousness. And for conclusion, the Apostle to the Romans, after he hath made a catalogue (as it were) of all the afflictions which befalleth the children of God in this life, at last he showeth that the issue is always joyful: concluding triumphantly over all the sorrows of this life. Nevertheless "in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us; for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." To whom with the Father and his blessed Spirit, be all glory and power, &c., now and evermore. Amen.
Lam. chap. 3. ver. 22., 32.
c Romans, chap. 8. ver. 37, 38.
b Micah, chap. 7. ver. 9.
PSALM. XXXII. VER. 10.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him.
THE prophet David in this verse, you see, singeth both of mercies and judgments; of many sorrows to the wicked, and of infinite mercies to the children of God. All, therefore, must begin betimes to try their estates, whether they be such to whom these mercies, or sorrows belong, whether they be heirs of heaven or of hell; for there is no third esAll creatures must come within the compass of one of these two estates; either to be vessels of honour, or dishonour, mercy, or wrath. All such (I have already told you) who do refuse wholesome instructions, who, though the voice of the ministry, other admonitions, and checks of conscience, do still give them warnings, yet remain obstinate and hard-hearted. Such be mules. To such the prophet threateneth those sorrows, yea many sorrows, so many and so great as the angry justice, stirring up the power of a mighty and infinite God, is able to inflict. Again, those who can be content to forsake dear pleasures for the glory to come, who will cross their affections, subdue their passions, and master their corruptions, striving against sin unto the blood, offering up their bodies a living and acceptable sacrifice unto God: to these he pronounceth mercy, an infinite store of consolation, a compassing with mercy; to these finally (in whatsoever state of seeming misery), a most safe and secure estate, free from those many sorrows, which shall come upon the wicked. These faithful souls, (he telleth them) shall be compassed with mercy, shall be
in a blessed estate, when the wicked (as the apostle to the Thessalonians showeth) shall be punished with everlasting perdition from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. Then shall he be glorified in his saints, and be made marvellous in all them that believe, &c. And as he shall be glorified and made marvellous in his saints; so shall the greatness of his mighty power be marvellous in the destruction of his enemies. Let us, therefore, pray earnestly, and constantly, that it would please God to touch our hearts with a true sense and feeling of our miseries, that we may run unto Him to be compassed with mercy, and take sure hold of the horns of the altar (that immaculate Lamb, his Son Christ Jesus), there to find peace, and be freed from these many sorrows. Hereafter shall be no time, if we labour not hard now. Our blessed Saviour telleth us, the day being omitted, "the night cometh, when no man can work." Again, let us cry, and seek earnestly to be armed with faith, whereby we may be enabled to fly afar off, to fly from ourselves, and beyond all these earthly things, with Moses, to see things which are invisible. The wicked they run on their wicked courses, because they are as blind as beetles, they do not look upon the joys of God's children; a moment of whose joy is worth all their pleasures. Some will not, and some are so blinded that they cannot. For indeed the best of us all, if we have not spiritual eyes, to discern afar off, that faith may (as it were) pierce within the veil, beholding things believed, if we overlook not all these earthly things, beholding in a manner the joys of God's children, the best of us all will quickly faint in our journey, for to behold the wicked, who do spurn and spit in the face of God, who blaspheme, and do nothing but anger God by all means, yet to see them prosper and lack nothing, to have the world at will, to tyrannize over the faithful, when, by the contrary, they must suffer all injuries, all reproaches; they serve God, strive to do all his will, and yet they have a world of afflictions mingled even with their best joys. If we have not spiritual eyes and thoughts to see into the joys
a 2 Thess. chap. 1. ver. 9, 10.
b John, chap. 9. ver. 4.
of God's children, is it any wonder we faint and be astonished? Strong David was so overtaken with the prosperity of the wicked, that after that he had reckoned up their great prosperity by many circumstances, at the last, as it were in admiration, he concludeth, Lo these are the wicked, yet prosper they always, and increase in riches (and not looking upon the joys which remain for God's children) it followeth, certainly, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency; for daily have I been punished, and chastened every morning. These troubles were grievous unto him, until he began to look upon the joys prepared for God's children, until by spiritual eyes he saw a life after this, a recompense of reward to the faithful, and sorrows to the wicked, far beyond all earthly pleasures or pains suffered here, until he went to the sanctuary, the house of God, being there armed with faith to behold things before unseen, then he beholdeth their estates to be most miserable, being attended with horrible destruction. Then he could confess, Thou hast set them in slippery places, and casteth them down into desolation. How suddenly are they destroyed, perished and horribly consumed. And also the whole stream of the 37th Psalm tendeth to this purpose, to show the miserable estate of the wicked, and felicity of the faithful in respect of this their woful estate. David at the first sunk, because he did not consider at first, the exceeding glorious inheritance of God's children. If he sunk, surely without his helps, we must not think to stand.
• Psalm 73. ver. 12.
Therefore must we pray, and strive by all means to have eyes given unto us, such eyes, as may overlook all these earthly things, beholding things to come, that we may have a glimmering glimpse of the infinite glory, the joys whereof may so transport us, that thereby we may despise this vain world, and all the vain pleasures thereof, in respect of that glory to come. And then shall we be so far from envying their estate, that we shall rather pity them, and pray in their miseries. So Job he asketh, "Where
d Ibid. ver. 18.