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Complete Works of Thomas Manton, D.D. Vol. VIII.
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SERMON CXXXIII.

Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me.—Ver. 122.

IN this verse we may observe a petition—(1.) Metaphorically expressed; (2.) Literally explained.

In the former branch we have—(1.) The notion by which the help he expecteth from God is expressed: it is that of a surety, be surety for thy servant. (2.) The end and fruit of that help, or the terms on ‘which he expecteth it, for good.

In the literal explanation we have—(1.) The matter of the petition, let them not oppress me. (2.) An argument insinuated from the quality and disposition of his enemies, the proud.

First, From the metaphorical notion, ‘Be surety for thy servant,’ we may observe this doctrine—

Doct. In deep distress we have leave and encouragement to desire God to interpose for his people’s relief.

1. I shall open the notion of a surety.

2. Show why we have leave and encouragement to desire God to interpose.

First, For the notion of a surety. Symmachus, ἀναδέξαι μὲ εἰς ἀγαθὸν, receive me into thy protection for good. Septuagint, ἐκδέξαι τε δοῦλόν σου, suscipe servum tuum. It is a phrase taken from men when they are sureties for a debtor, to take him out of the hands of a cruel creditor who is ready to cast him into prison. And thus the prophet speaketh to God when he was in extreme danger, and could think of no help but God’s.

1. It implieth the danger imminent; when a sergeant hath attached a man, and he is ready to go to prison, and there is no means for him to escape, unless somebody be his surety to answer all the challenges and demands of the law. In this sense Hezekiah used it: Isa. xxxviii. 14, ‘I am oppressed; undertake for me.’ He spake it when he was summoned to the grave, to pay the debt we all owe to nature: I am like a poor debtor called to pay my debt speedily; therefore, Lord, be my pledge, deliver me out of this danger. So doth David here, when the proud were cruelly set upon his destruction. We are driven to God alone, and beat to the throne of grace by our miseries; yea, God lets the affairs of his people run on to loss and ruin, till we be in the condition of a debtor going to prison; he reserveth himself for such occasions till brought nigh to utter ruin, and all other inferior reliefs fail. And we must be content it should be so; for there is no use of a surety till we are attached. Imminent danger giveth notice that the Lord is coming.

2. That this distress and misery cometh as a debt respecting God’s laws and the higher court, where all things are decreed and sentenced before they are executed in the world, so it is a debt that must be paid, and distress is God’s arrest. God is compared to a creditor, Luke vii. 41; therefore the miseries of God’s people are expressed by chains, stocks, prisons, fetters, words that relate to a judicial proceeding. To chains: Lam. iii. 7, ‘He hath made my chain heavy.’ To stocks: Job xiii. 27, ‘Thou puttest my feet into the stocks.’ To a prison: Ps. cxlii. 7, ‘Bring my soul out of prison.’ To fetters: Job xxxvi. 8, ‘And if they be bound in fetters, and holden in cords of afflictions.’ To a debt that must be paid, so is sin considered with respect to its punishment, Mat. vi. 12; Luke xi. 4, ‘Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.’ God puts the bond in suit, the instruments are but as sergeants and officers to demand of us satisfaction for breach of covenant with God. They think not so, neither doth their evil heart mean so; but so it is in God’s purpose. When you are in trouble God hath committed you to prison, and there is no coming out without submission and humiliation, urging the satisfaction of Christ. You are sent thither by God’s authority, and there is no getting out without his leave.

3. That the party is insolvent and undone unless some course be taken to satisfy the creditor; he cannot help himself by his own wisdom and strength out of the danger. The debtor in the Gospel had nought to pay, Mat. xviii. 25. Why else should we look after a surety: Job xvii. 3, ‘Put me in a surety with thee: who is he that will strike hands with me?’ Man is not able to stand alone under the weight of his afflictions; it is a burden too heavy for us to bear. We have no might, 2 Chron. xx. 12. God’s people are often brought into such a case. When the principal is not solvendo, the surety answereth. We are weak, but he is strong; we are not able to subsist. They exceed us in carnal advantages; if force be to be resisted by force, they will easily overcome us, unless another that is stronger than we undertake for us.

4. That the surety taketh upon him the debt of the principal person, and is to be responsible for it. God hath taken our obligation upon himself, to pay our debts, to oppose himself against all our wrongs. He will take our cause as his own: Ps. ix. 4, ‘For thou hast maintained my right and my cause;’ and in his own time and manner will show it to the world, and justify us against our enemies. Oh! how should our hearts rejoice in this, that he will be the party responsible, make our cause his own, and be liable to the suit as a debtor is to the creditor!; He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye, Zech. ii. 8; ‘He that despiseth you, despiseth me;’ ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?’ Acts ix. 4; and Isa. lxiii. 8, ‘And he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie; so he was their saviour.’

5. God is a sufficient surety. Here we may consider two things—the satisfaction of Christ, and the power of God’s providence; in respect of both, which he is a pledge and surety every way sufficient for our comfort, safety, and deliverance.

[1.] I would not leave out Christ’s satisfaction, though it lie not so full in this text; for as God hath a hand in all our sufferings, and all our affairs are determined in a higher court, this satisfaction is necessary to answer the controversy and quarrel of God’s justice against us. Thus Christ the second person is ἐμφατικῶς, our surety: Heb. vii. 22, ‘Christ is the surety of a better testament.’ There is a double sort of surety—by way of caution and satisfaction, as sureties in case of debt and sureties for good behaviour; the one for what is past, the other for what is to come. The example of the one we have in Paul for Onesimus, Philem. 18, ‘If he hath wronged or owed thee ought, put it upon my account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, and I will repay it.’ An example of the other we have in Judah for Benjamin: Gen. xliii. 9, ‘I will be surety for him; at mine hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever.’ In both these respects Christ is a surety; he is our surety as a surety undertaketh for another to pay his debt; and he is our surety as he hath undertaken that his redeemed ones shall keep God’s laws, be carried safe to heaven. Of his suretyship by way of caution we. speak now. Though Theodoret understand that in the text, Undertake for me that I shall keep thy laws; but it is more proper to consider the speech as it referreth to the payment of our debt by virtue of this suretyship. Solomon hath assured us, Prov. xi. 15, that he that is surety for another shall smart for it, or be broken and bruised. The same word is used concerning Christ, Isa. liii. 10. He was our surety, and was bruised and broken, suffered what we should have suffered. We have a right to appear to God’s justice, but1212Qu. ‘to appeal to God’s justice, that’?—ED. our surety having made a full satisfaction for us, God will not exact the debt twice—of the surety and the principal. When the ram was taken Isaac was let go: Job xxxiii. 24, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom.’ Well, then, as our punishment is a due debt to God’s justice, the Lord Christ undertaketh or is become a surety for us; not only our advocate to plead our cause, but our surety to pay our debt; from a judge become a party, and bound to pay what we owe: Isa. liii. 4, ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs.’

[2.] The power of God’s providence. If God undertake for us, his bail is sufficient; none of our enemies can resist his almighty power, surely he is able to deal with our enemies: Isa. xxiii. 4, ‘Who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle?’ They are matter to feed the fire, not to quench it. He rescueth us just as going to prison. If he, put himself a pledge between us and our enemies, he will defeat all their oppositions and machinations against us, and stand between us and danger, as an able bail or surety doth between the creditor and poor debtor. Well, then, suretyship, as it noteth our necessity, so God’s engagement, and his ability and faithfulness to do what he undertaketh. We must set God against the enemies: Isa. li. 13, ‘And forgettest the Lord thy maker, who hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth; and hast feared continually every day, because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy; and where is the fury of the oppressor?’ Dan. iii. 17, ‘Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.’ We have the Almighty to be oar saviour and protector, why are you afraid of a man? God against man is great odds, if we had faith to see it: man is mortal, God is immortal; man is a poor weak creature, but God is almighty; what is he not able to do for us? Surely he will not leave his friends in the lurch; his power is such that he is able to keep us safe and sound.

Secondly, The reasons why we have leave and encouragement to desire God to interpose.

1. From God’s covenant, where in the general there is a mutual engaging to be each other’s. In our several capacities we engage to stand by God and own his cause, and God is engaged to stand by us. We make over ourselves, bodies, souls, interests, all to God. God, quantus quantus est, as great as he is, is all ours; therefore, if he be ours, we may pray him to appear for us, and own us in our distress and trouble. Our friend is a friend in distress. A gracious heart, by virtue of this mutual and interchangeable indenture, appears for God, and taketh his cause, though never so hated, as its own: ‘The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me,’ Ps. vi. 9. We are his witnesses, Isa. xliii. 10. Surely it is too high a word for the creature; but God taketh our cause as his, is surety for us; by virtue of the general tenor of the covenant he is our God, jure venit in auxilium nostrum, his covenant engageth him to undertake for us. More particularly God undertaketh to defend and maintain his people; as to be a rewarder, so to be a defender: Gen. xv. 1, ‘I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.’ And Ps. lxxxiv. 11, ‘For the Lord is a sun and a shield.’ This defence is sometimes expressed, with respect to the violence of assaults in the world, by the notion of a shield. So, with respect to the process of the law, by the notion of a surety; Isa. lii. 3, we have the term of a redeemer. So that we have leave to pray him to fulfil his covenant engagement.

2. God’s affection is such that he will refuse no office that may be for his people’s comfort. We are often dissuaded from suretyship, especially for strangers, by the wise man, with great vehemency and in stance: Prov. vi. 1, 2, ‘My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, thou art snared with the words of thy mouth;’ Prov. xi. 15, ‘He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it;’ Prov. xvii. 18, ‘A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend;’ Prov. xx. 16, ‘Take his garment that is surety for a stranger;’ Prov. xxii. 26, 27, ‘Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts: if thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take the bed from under thee?’ and in other places. Our pity is stirred towards a man that is like to be undone and ruined; therefore there is such dissuading from suretyship. And hath not God a greater pity over the afflictions of his people? He pities the afflictions of them that suffer most justly, yea, far below their desert: Judges x. 16, ‘His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel;’ 2 Kings xiv. 26, ‘For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter; for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel.’ How much more will he pity them that are unjustly oppressed of men! Acts vii. 34, ‘I have seen the afflictions of my people which is in Egypt, and have heard their groanings, and am come down to deliver them.’ His bowels worketh; God loveth his people better than they love themselves. fide-jube, Domme, pro servo.

3. Our relation to him: I am thy servant, and I know thou art a good master; and he is our sovereign Lord, and therefore hath under taken to provide for us: the master was to be the servant’s patronus. God hath found us work, and he will find us defence. This the argument of the text, ‘Be surety for thy servant.’ We are employed in his work, engaged in his cause. If a rich man set a poor man at work, as to dig such a ditch, if he be afterwards troubled for it, the rich man is concerned to bear him out: Ps. cxvi. 16, ‘O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid.’ Whilst we are engaged about our master’s business, and in his work, he is engaged to protect us, and bear us out in it.

4. Our very running to him, and committing ourselves into his hands, is an engaging God: Ps. lxxxvi. 2, ‘Preserve my soul, for I am holy, O thou my God; save thy servant that trusteth in thee;’ Ps. x. 14, ‘The poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.’ Employ God, and find him work; he will not fail to do what he is intrusted with: Ps. lvii. 1, ‘Be merciful unto me, God, be merciful unto me, for my soul trusteth in thee; yea, in the shadow of thy wing will I make my refuge, until these calamities be over-past.’ God taketh it well that we should make bold with him in this kind, and tell him how we trust him, and expect relief from him. Nothing is so dishonourable to God, nor vexatious to us, as the disappointment of trust. An ingenuous man will not fail his friend that doth trust and rely upon him, much less will a faithful God fail those that look to him, and depend upon him for help.

Use. Advice to us what we should do in our deep distresses and troubles; when able to do nothing for ourselves, God will be surety, that is, make our cause his own.

1. As your matters depend in a higher court, and with respect to your own guilt and sin, which hath cast you into these troubles, acknowledge your debt, but look upon Christ as your surety, who gave himself a ransom for us. The controversy between God and us must be taken up by submission on our parts, for God is an enemy that cannot be overcome, but must be reconciled. The way is not to persist in the contest, and stand it out, but beg terms of peace for Christ’s sake: 2 Chron. vi. 38, 39, ‘If they return to thee with all their heart and with all their soul, then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling-place, their prayers and supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee;’ Job v. 8, ‘I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause.’

2. As your danger lieth with men, acknowledge your impotency. but consider who is your surety, and will take your part against the instruments that have had a hand in your trouble.

[1.] God, who hath such a pity over his suffering servants, is ready ever to do them good: Ps. xxxv. 1, ‘Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me; fight against them that fight against me.’ He is in such full relation, and so fast bound to them, that they may not be weary and impatient and swallowed up of despair, he will interpose. God seeth our sufferings, heareth our groans, suffereth together with us, and is afflicted in all our afflictions. Believe it assuredly that he will take the matter into his own hand, and be the party responsible: Ps. cxl. 12, ‘I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.’ Woe be to them that would not have God for their party, joined in the cause of the afflicted. God hath given assurance of his protection not by words only, but by deeds: Prov. xxii. 23, ‘The Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.’ He hath passed his word, and he will do it: Prov. xxiii. 11, ‘For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.’ It is his title, Isa. li. 22, ‘Thus saith thy Lord, the Lord and thy God, that pleadeth the cause of his people;’ not by a verbal or local, but a real and active plea: Ezek. xxxviii. 22, ‘And I will plead against him with pestilence, and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and the people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hail stones, fire and brimstone.’ And Isa. l. 8, ‘He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together; who is mine adversary? let him come near to me;’ that is, let him join issue with me, commence his suit in law. We should be confident upon God’s undertaking: Jer. l. 34, ‘Their redeemer is strong, the Lord of hosts is his name; he shall thoroughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land.’ It is a great ease in affliction to commit our cause unto God, and put our affairs into his hand.

[2.] God, who hath such power; we need not fear any opposite if God be our surety: Ps. xxvii. 1, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’ Ps. xlvi. 1, 2, ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;’ a resolution to adhere to God and his truth whatever cometh. If they be mighty, God is mightier; if they be crafty, God is wiser. It is a great crime to fear men so as not to trust in God; it is a great sin to fear men so as not to fear God. When we comply with them in things displeasing to God, this is to set men above God.

Secondly, We come to the limitation, end, or fruit of this suretyship, ‘For good.’ There are three expositions of this clause, as noting the end, the cause, the event. (1.) Undertake for me, ut sim bonus et justus; so Rabbi Arama on the place, Be surety for me that I may be good. Theodoret expounds it, Undertake that I shall make good my resolution of keeping thy law. He that enjoineth, under taketh. Though we have precepts and promises, without God’s undertaking we shall never be able to perform our duty. (2.) ‘In good,’ so some read it. God would not take his part in an evil cause. To commend a wrong cause to God’s protection is to provoke him to hasten our punishment, to make us serve under our oppressors. But when we have a good cause and a good conscience, he will own us. We cannot expect he should maintain us and bear us out in the devil’s service, wherein we have entangled ourselves by our own sin. (3.) ‘For good;’ so it is often rendered: Ps. lxxxvi. 17, ‘Show me a token for good;’ Jer. xiv. 11, ‘Pray not for this people for good.’ So Neh. xiii. 31, ‘Remember me, O my God, for good.’ So here, ‘Be surety for thy servant for good.’

Doct. We should only desire the interposing of God’s providence so as may be for good to us.

I shall first give you the reasons, and then give you some rules concerning this good here mentioned.

Reason 1. Because then we pray according to God’s undertaking: Ps. xxxiv. 10, ‘But they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing;’ they may want food, want raiment, want many things, but they shall want no good thing: Ps. lxxxiv. 11, ‘No good thing will he withhold.’ He may keep us low and bare, withhold many temporal mercies from us, feed us from hand to mouth, and short commons may be sweet and wholesome, and deny to give us larger revenues and in comes. If they were good for us, we should have them. God with holds these things so as our need and good doth require: Jer. xxiv. 5, ‘Whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.’ Their captivity was for good.

Reason 2. Because then we pray according to the new nature; old nature would have ease, the new nature would have grace; the flesh would be pleased, but the spirit would be profited; and God hears not the voice of the flesh, but the spirit in prayer: Rom. viii. 27, ‘He that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.’

Let me give you some rules.

1. This good is not always the good of the flesh, not always the good of prosperity. Sometimes the good of prosperity may be good: Prov. xxiv. 25, ‘But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.’ A good blessing shall come upon them that plead God’s cause against the wicked. There is the blessing of prosperity-good and adversity-good. All good is more or less, so as it cometh near or less near the chiefest good; therefore that is good that tendeth to make us spiritually better, more like to God, and capable of communion with him. Lam. iii. 27, ‘It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.’ That is good which conduceth to our everlasting good.

2. God knoweth what is better for us1313Qu. ‘what is good for us better’?—ED. than we do ourselves. Wo ask a knife wherewith to cut ourselves. It would be the greatest misery if God should always carve out our condition according to our own fancy; we would soon pray ourselves into a snare if our will were the rule of our prayers, and ask that which would be cruelty in God to grant. I will give you an instance in Lot, Gen. xix. 17, 18, ‘Make haste, escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed: I cannot, saith he, escape to the mountain, behold now this city is near, it is but a little one, and my soul shall live.’ Lot presenteth his own fancy to God’s counsel and choice for him: this little place was in the plain; he was persuaded the shower of brimstone would overtake him before he got thither. Often it is thus with us; though God should command and we obey, we lift up our will above his, and doat upon our own fancies, and will prescribe to God, think it is better to live by sense than by faith. This mountain was the weaker border of the plain.1414There seems to be a misprint in this sentence.—ED. Now this was weakness in Lot surely. God, that had taken him out of Sodom by the hand of his angels, stricken the Sodomites with blindness, which was an instance of God’s great power and goodness to him. Now compare the 17th and 18th verses with the 30th verse, ‘And Lot went out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, he and his two daughters with him, for he feared to dwell in Zoar; and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.’ Mark here, when God biddeth him go to the mountain, then he goeth to Zoar; when God gave him leave to tarry in Zoar, then he goes and dwells in the mountain: he was afraid in Zoar, when he saw the horrible desolation of all the country about it. Now see the ill success of his own choice, and how badly we provide for ourselves: a little time will show us our sin and folly: his abode in the mountain drew him to incest. Another instance: Hosea xiii. 11, ‘I gave them a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.’ God may let things succeed with us to our hurt: ‘If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us;’ 1 John v. 14. God is a God of wisdom, he knoweth certainly what will be good for us. He is a God of bowels, and loveth us dearly, and will certainly cast all things for the best; therefore God is to be judge both for time and kind of our deliverance, otherwise we may meet with wrath in every condition, whether we want or have our will; but if we refer it to him, we shall never want what is best for us. The shepherd must choose our pastures, whether lean or fat, bare or full grounds. The child is not to be governed by his fancy, but the father’s discretion; nor the sick man by his own fancy, but the physician’s skill: our will is not the chief reason of all things.

3. That which is not good may be good, and though for the present we see it not, yet we shall see it; though not good in its nature, it may be good in its fruit: Rom. viii. 28, ‘We know that all things shall work together for good to them that love God;’ a little faith and a little patience will discover it. As poisonous ingredients in a medicine, take them singly, and they are destructive; but as tempered with other things by the hands of a skilful physician, so they are whole some and useful: Heb. xii. 11, ‘No affliction for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous.’ The rod is a sour thing for the present, but wait a little, this bitter root may yield sweet fruit: God can so over rule it in his providence. So Ps. cxix. 71, ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.’ Ask a man under the cross, Is it good to feel the lashes of God’s correcting hand? No; but when he hath been exercised, and found lust mortified, the world crucified, and gotten evidences of God’s favour, then it is good that I have been afflicted.

4. This good is not to be determined by feeling, but by faith: Ps. lxxiii. 1, ‘Yet God is good to Israel, and to such as are of a clean heart.’ God is good to his people, however he seem to deal hardly with them: sense judgeth it ill, but faith saith it is good; it seeth a great deal of love in pain and smart. There is such a difference between faith and sense as there was between Elisha and his servant, 2 Kings vi. 15, 16; the servant saw the host of the enemies, but he did not see the fiery chariots and horsemen that were for his help; Elisha saw both. So believers see not only the bitterness that is in God’s chastenings, but the sweet fruits in the issue. Faith can look at the pride and power of wicked men as a vain thing, when they are in the height of their power and greatness: Job v. 3, ‘I have seen the foolish taking root, but suddenly I cursed his habitation;’ that is, prophetically, not passionately; foretelling evil, not wishing it. When they were taking root, as themselves and other worldly men thought, I judged him unhappy, foretold his end and destruction. There is much of the spirit of prophecy in faith. When others applaud, make little gods of them, he looketh through all their beauty, riches and honour: Ps. xcii. 7, ‘When the wicked spring as the grass, and all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever.’ Grass will wither and dry up of its own accord, especially when there is a worm at the root. Their very prosperity, as it ferments their lusts, and hardeneth their hearts, is a means to draw on their destruction: Ps. xxxix. 5, ‘Man in his best estate is vanity.’ Then, when they seem to have all things under their feet, who could harm them? so that none dare open the mouth, move the wing, or peep; yet God can easily blast and whip them with an unseen scourge.

5. Good is of several sorts, temporal, spiritual, eternal.

[1.] Temporal good. Cross accidents conduce to that: Gen. l. 20, ‘Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good; to bring to pass as it is this day, and to save much people alive.’ The Egyptians and themselves had wanted a preserver if Joseph had not been sold and sent into Egypt. If a man were to go to sea in a voyage upon which his heart was much set, but the ship is gone before he cometh, but after he heareth that all that were in the ship are drowned, then he would say, This disappointment was for good. As Crassus’ rival in the Parthian war was intercepted and cut off by the craft of the barbarians, had no reason to stomach his being refused. Many of us have cause to say, Periissem nisi periissem—we had suffered more if we had suffered less. In the story of Joseph there is a not able scheme and draught of providence. He is cast into a pit, thence drawn forth and sold to the Ishmaelites, by them sold into Egypt, and sold again. What doth God mean to do with poor Joseph? He is tempted to adultery; refusing the temptation, he is falsely accused, kept for a long time in ward and duress. Ail this is against him; who would have thought that in the issue this should be turned to his good? that the prison had been the way to preferment, and that by the pit he should come to the palace of the king of Egypt, and exchange his parti-coloured coat for a royal robe? Thus in temporal things we get by our losses, and God chooseth better for us than we could have chosen for ourselves. Let God alone to his undertaking, and he will manage our affairs better than we looked for.

[2.] Good spiritual: Heb. xii. 10, ‘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.’ What do we call profit? The good things of this world, and the great mammon which so many worship? No; some better thing, some spiritual and divine benefit, a participation of God’s holiness. Then we profit when we grow in grace and are more god-like, when we are more concerned as a soul than a body. It is a good exchange to part with outward comforts for inward holiness. If God take away our peace, and give us peace of conscience, we have no cause to complain. If our outward wants be recompensed with the abundance of inward grace, 1 Cor. iv. 10, and we have less of the world that we may have the more of God, and be kept poor that we may be rich in faith, James ii. 5, 6; if we have a healthy soul in a sickly body, as Gains had, 3 John 2; if an aching head maketh way for a better heart,—doth not God deal graciously and lovingly with us?

[3.] Our eternal good. Heaven will make amends for all that we endure here. This mainly is intended in Rom. viii. 28, ‘All things shall work together for good to them that love God.’ And then in the 29th and 30th verses, he presently bringeth in the golden chain, 4 Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, he justified; and those whom he justified, them he also glorified.’ So 2 Cor. iv. 17, ‘This light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;’ it shall either hasten or secure our glorious estate. A man may lose ground by a temptation, his external good may be weakened, his soul suffereth loss; but this warneth him of his weakness, and quickeneth him to stand upon his watch, and to look up more to Christ for strength against it. Or he may be cut off, and perish in the affliction; but then his glorious estate cometh in possession.

6. That may be good for the glory of God which doth not conduce to our personal benefit; and the glory of God is our great interest, John xi. 27, 28, ‘Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour, Father, glorify thy name. Then there came a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ There was the innocent inclination of his human nature, ‘Father, save me from this hour;’ and the overruling sense of his duty, or the obligation of his office, ‘But for this cause came I to this hour.’ We are often tossed and tumbled between inclinations of nature and conscience of duty; but in a gracious heart it prevaileth above the desire of our own comfort and satisfaction: the soul is cast for any course that God shall see fittest for his glory. Nature would be rid of trouble, but grace submitteth all interests to God’s honour; that should be dearer to us than anything else; were it not selfishness and want of zeal, that would be our greatest interest.


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