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extended) excellency in favour, (all seas calm on the top, and fordable at the bottom to him) when man is expressed in that word, which Isaac used to Jacob, in his abundant blessing, Be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee": and then, in this height, this height of virtue and merit, of wealth and treasure, of command and power, of favour and acclamation, is thrown down into the pit of misery, and submitted to all afflictions, what man can hope to be exempted? Man carries the spawn and seeds and eggs of affliction in his own flesh, and his own thoughts make haste to hatch them, and to bring them up. We make all our worms snakes, all our snakes vipers, all our vipers dragons, by our murmuring. And so have you this generality of affliction, considered in this name of exaltation Gheber.
Now, in our third consideration of this extent of affliction, in that this person, this prophet Jeremy, (for, of him literally we understand these words, Ego vir, I am the man) is thus submitted to these extraordinary afflictions, we see first, that no man is so necessary to God, as that God cannot come to his ends, without that man; God can lack, and leave out any man in his service. If Christ had revealed to his apostles, before he called them to be apostles, or qualified them for that service, that he had a purpose to subdue and convert the whole world, by the labour and the means of twelve men, would it ever have fallen or entered into their imaginations, that any of them, should have been any of those twelve? Men of low rank, and estimation, men disfurnished, not only of all helps of learning, but of all experience in civil or in ecclesiastical affairs? And as Christ infused new abilities into these men that had none, so can he effect his purposes without them, who think they have all. And therefore, when he had chosen his twelve apostles, and had endowed and qualified them for that service, when in their sight some of his disciples forsook him, because he preached duros sermones, doctrines hard to flesh and blood, Christ was not afraid to say to the twelve, Numquid et vos vultis abire, Will ye also go away? He says it to the twelve; and he does not say, Will any of you, but will you, you twelve, all, go away? I can do my work, without you. And therefore let no man go about to promove or advance 15 John vi. 67.
14 Gen. xxvii. 29.
his own fancies, his own singularities, his own schismatical opinions, because he hath done God service before, because he hath possessed himself of the love of that congregation, because no man's preaching is so acceptable there, as his, and that the church cannot be without him; for, no man hath made God beholden to him, so far, as that he should be afraid to offend him. So also let no man be disheartened nor discouraged, if he have brought a good conscience, and faithful labour to the service of God. Let him not think his wages the worse paid, if God do mingle bodily sickness, temporal losses, personal disgraces, with his labours; let him not think that God should not do thus to them that wear out themselves in his service; for the best part of our wages is adversity, because that gives us a true fast, and a right value of our prosperity. Jeremy had it; the best of his rank must.
In his example, we have thus much more, that no man is excused of subsequent afflictions, by precedent, nor of falling into more, by having borne some already. Elias reckoned too hastily, when he told God, Satis est, Now it is enough, Lord take away my life; God had more to lay upon him. A last year's fever prevents not this, nor a sickness in the fall, another in the spring. Men are not as such copses, as being felled now, stand safe from the axe for a dozen years after; but our afflictions are as beggars, they tell others, and send more after them; sickness does but usher in poverty, and poverty contempt, and contempt dejection of spirit, and a broken spirit who can bear? No man may refuse a privy seal, because he hath lent before. And, though afflictions be not of God's revenue, (for, afflictions are not real services to God) yet they are of his subsidies, and he hath additional glory out of our afflictions; and, the more, the more. Jeremy had been scornfully and despitefully put in the stocks by Pashur, before; he had been imprisoned in the king's house, before 18; he had been put in the dungeon, and almost starved in the mire, before 19; and yet he was reserved to this further calamity. Affliction is truly a part of our patrimony, of our portion. If, as the prodigal did, we waste our portion, (that is, make no use of our former affliction) it is not the least part of God's bounty
16 1 Kings xix. 4.
18 Jer. xxxii. 2.
17 Jer. xx. 2.
and liberality towards us, if he give us a new stock, a new feeling of new calamities, that we may be better improved by them, than by the former; Jeremy's former afflictions were but preparatives for more; no more are ours.
And, in his example, we have this one note more, that when the hand of God had been upon him, he declared, he published God's hand-writing: not only to his own conscience, by acknowledging that all these afflictions were for his sins, but by acknowledging to the world, that God had laid such and such afflictions upon him. There is not a nearer step to obduration, nor a worse defrauding of God of his glory, than to be loth to let the world know, what God hath laid upon us. Say to yourselves, These afflictions are for my sins, and say to one another, Ego vir, I am the man whom God hath thus and thus afflicted. For, as executions in criminal justice, are done as much for example of others, as for punishment of delinquents, so would God fain proceed that cheap way, to make those afflictions which he lays upon thee, serve another too; as they will, if thou be content to glorify God, in letting others know, how he hath afflicted thee. Shut we up this first branch of this first part (the extent and universality of afflictions) which we have considered first in the nature of the case, (we have all contributed to the afflictions of Christ, and therefore must all fulfil his sufferings in our flesh) and then secondly, in this name of exaltation, Gheber, (man, in the highest consideration of man, is the subject of affliction) and lastly, in the person of Jeremy, in whom we have made our use of those three observations; first, that no man is so necessary to God, as that God cannot be without him, then, that no man is excused of future calamities, by former, and lastly, that he whom God hath exercised with afflictions, is bound to glorify God in the declaration thereof; shut we up this branch, with that story of St. Ambrose, who, in a journey from Milan to Rome, passing some time in the evening with his host, and hearing him brag that he had never had any cross in his life, St. Ambrose presently removed from thence to another house, with that protestation, that either that man was very unthankful to God, that would not take knowledge of his corrections, or that God's measure was by this time full, and he would surely, and soundly, and suddenly pour down all together.
And so we pass to our other branch of this first part, from the extent and generality of afflictions, to the weight and vehemence of them, expressed in three heavy circumstances, that they are his, the Lord's, that they are from his rod, that they are from the rod of his wrath: I am the man, that have seen afflictions, by the rod of his mouth.
First, they are aggravated in that they are Ejus, his, the Lord's. It is ordinary in the Scriptures, that when the Holy Ghost would express a superlative, or the highest degree of anything, to express it, by adding to it, the name of God. So, in many places, fortitudo Domini, and timor Domini, The power of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord, do not import that power which is in the Lord, nor that fear which is to be conceived by us of the Lord, but the power of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord denote the greatest power, and the greatest fear that can be conceived. As in particular, when Saul and his company were in such a dead sleep, as that David could enter in upon them, and take his spear, and his pot of water from under his head, this is there called sopor Domini, the sleep of the Lord was upon him20, the heaviest, the deadliest sleep that could be imagined. So may these afflictions in our text be conceived to be exalted to a superlative height, by this addition, that they, and the rod, and the wrath, are said to be his, the Lord's. But this cannot well be the sense, nor the direct proceeding, and purpose of the Holy Ghost, in this place, because where the addition of the name of God constitutes a superlative, that name is evidently and literally expressed in that place, as fortitudo Dei, sopor Dei, and the rest; but here, the name of God is only by implication, by illation, by consequence; all necessary, but yet but illation, but implication, but consequence. For, there is no name of God in this verse; but, because in the last verse of the former chapter, the Lord is expressly named, and the Lord's anger, and then, this which is the first verse of this chapter, and connected to that, refers these afflictions, and rods, and wrath to him, (the rod of his wrath) it must necessarily be to him who was last spoken of, the Lord, they are ejus, his, and therefore heavy.
Then is an affliction properly God's affliction, when thou in thy
20 1 Sam, xxvi. 12.
conscience canst impute it to none but God. When thou disorderest thy body with a surfeit, nature will submit to sickness; when thou wearest out thyself with licentiousness, the sin itself will induce infirmities; when thou transgressest any law of the state, the justice of the state will lay hold upon thee. And for the afflictions that fall upon thee in these cases, thou art able to say to thyself, that they would have fallen upon thee, though there had been no God, or though God had had no rod about him, no anger in him; thou knowest in particular, why, and by whose, or by what means, these afflictions light upon thee. But when thou shalt have thy conscience clear towards such and such men, and yet those men shall go about to oppress thee, when thou labourest uprightly in thy calling, and yet doeth not prosper, when thou studiest the Scriptures, hearkenest to sermons, observest Sabbaths, desirest conferences, and yet receivest no satisfaction, but still remainest under the torture of scruples and anxieties, when thou art in St. Paul's case, Nihili consciusa1, that thou knowest nothing by thyself, and yet canst not give thyself peace, though all afflictions upon God's children, be from him, yet, take knowledge that this is from him, more entirely, and more immediately, and that God remembers something in thee, that thou hast forgot; and, as that fit of an ague, or that pang of the gout, which may take thee to-day, is not necessarily occasioned by that which thou hast eaten to-day, but may be the effect of some former disorder, so the affliction which lights upon thee in thine age, may be inflicted for the sins of thy youth. Thy affliction is his, the Lord's; and the Lord is infinite, and comprehends all at once, and ever finds something in thee to correct, something that thou hast done, or something that thou wouldest have done, if the blesssing of that correction had not restrained thee. And therefore, when thou canst not pitch thy affliction upon any particular sin, yet make not thyself so just, as that thou make God unjust, whose judgments may be unsearchable, but they cannot be unjust 22.
21 1 Cor. iv. 4. [This quotation is valuable as deciding the sense in which the words, I know nothing of myself, were understood. See vol. ii., page 574, note", which, however, was written in ignorance of the existence of this direct testimony.-ED.]