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than when the subject, like the present one, is soothing and agreeable. And therefore, that this word of truth may be rightly divided, it will be necessary
I. In the first place, To inquire who the persons are to whom the exhortation may properly be addressed.
It is certain, that as there are privileges peculiar to sanctified believers, so there are many duties enjoined in Scripture, which the impenitent and unbelieving are incapable of performing; and, I apprehend, there is no duty whatsoever that lies farther beyond their reach, than the exercise of trust and hope in God; for every part of his word denounces wrath against them so long as they persist in their rebellion and enmity. “God is angry with the wicked every day. He hath bent his bow, and made it ready; he hath also prepared for bim the instruments of death.” And therefore, to persons of this
” character, a previous exhortation is necessary. I must a
I address you in the words of Eliphaz to Job, “ Acquaint now thyself with God, and be at peace, and hereby good shall come unto you.” At present my text doth not speak to you at all. If you look back to the foregoing part of this epistle, you will see the persons described whom the Apostle had in his eye. He doth not write to all promiscuously, but “ to the elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Christ." He writes to those " who are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” He addresseth his exhortation to believers in Christ Jesus, who loved him though unseen," having tasted of his grace; whom he distinguished by the honourable appellations of “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." These are the objects of God's
paternal care; and they only are qualified to cast their care upon him.
I speak not thus to drive any, even the worst of you, away from God, or to discourage your application to him when trouble overtakes you. A time of distress is a very proper season for seeking acquaintance with God. His rod hath a voice as well as his word, and both speak the same language, “ Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" All I affirm is, that you cannot cast your care upon
God till your acquaintance with him be begun; and by telling you, that the saints are possessed of privileges which at present do not belong to you, my sole aim is, “to provoke you to jealousy," as Paul expresseth it, and to make you ambitious to cast in your lot with “these excellent ones in the earth,” that ye also may partake of their joy. “ This is the command of God,” and the first in order under the gospel-dispensation, “ that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ: and it is only in consequence of our obedience to this command, that we obtain an interest in the blessings he hath purchased. Christ is that unspeakable, comprehensive gift, in which all other gifts are virtually included. It is our thankful acceptance of the Mediator of the covenant, that both mani. fests our claim to the promises of the covenant, and qualifies us to perform the duties it requires. From this account of the persons who are invited to cast their care upon God, we shall with greater ease and certainty discover,
II. The nature and extent of the duty itself; which is the second thing I proposed to illustrate.
It differs entirely in its nature from that carelessness and insensibility which the bulk of mankind too generally indulge. Many indeed enjoy a fatal tranquillity, having no concern at all about their eternal interests.
Their inquiries are abundantly anxious with regard to the things of a present life; saying, “ What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed ?" But they were never brought in good earnest to ask the infinitely more interesting question, “ What shall we do to be saved ?" Or if at any time a serious thonght, tending to this inquiry, force itself upon their minds, they immediately encounter it with the presumptuous hope of the divine mercy, and endeavour to persuade themselves, by some fallacious reasonings, that it may be well with them at last, though they go on in their trepasses. Now the faith of such persons is not only dead in itself, but likewise poisonous and killing to their sonls. They are perishing, and will not believe it, till the unquenchable fire awaken them from their security, and put it out of their power to deceive them. selves any longer. We must not cast our work upon God, and presume that he will save us in the way of sloth and carnal indulgence: on the contrary, we are commanded - to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." It is only “ in well-doing" that we can regularly “commit the keeping of our souls to God," as the Apostle hath taught us in the close of the preced. ing chapter. We are exhorted to cast our care upon him, not that we may enjoy the base rest of the sluggard, “ who desiretb and hath nothing, because his hands refuse to labour;" but that, having got our hearts enlarged, and freed from a load that pressed them down, we may quicken our pace, and run with greater alacrity in the way of God's commandments.
The character of the persons to whom this exhortation is addressed, doth likewise serve to limit the extent of the duty. It is not every sort of care that we are invited or permitted to cast apon God, but only the care
of those things which the Christian dare avow in the presence of his Father, and humbly ask of him by prayer and supplication. We read, (Matth. xviii. at the beginning) that the disciples of our Lord came to him in a body, inquiring which of them should be a greatest in the kingdom of heaven." This was a vain, self-interest. ed anxiety, to which our Lord gave a sharp and sudden check, by telling them in plain terms, that till they should lay aside that ambitious care, they were not fit to possess the lowest place in his kingdom. “He called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily, 1 say unto you, that except ye be con
, verted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” We have an account of another very careful man, (Luke xii. 16.-20.) where his picture is drawn with inimitable strength. He is represented in a masing posture, thinking within himself, and saying, “ What shall I do?” The question betrays the greatest uneasiness and perplexity. A poor starving beggar, who had not a morsel of bread, nor knew where to find it, could have said nothing more expressive of distrust and anxiety. And what do you really think ail. ed this man? Did he want bread? Quite the contrary; he had got too much: his barns were not large enough to contain the product of his ground: “I have no room," said be," where to bestow my fruits.” And it was this that made him cry out, “ What shall I do?" If you desire any further information concerning him, you will find it at verse 20. “ But God said unto bim, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose sball those things be which thou hast provided ?" It would appear, that bis situation with respect to an heir was similar to what Solomon describes, (Eccles. iv. 8.) “ There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, le
hath neither child nor brother; yet there is no end of all his labour," &c. But whatever became of bis fruits, we know that his fully proved a lasting estate, for it continues to be the inheritance of many at this day. I believe there are numbers among ourselves, whose minds are continually on the rack, so that they cannot sleep with laying schemes about the merest trifles in the world. In this age of gaiety and frivolous ostentation, I make no doubt, that the superfluities of dress, furniture, equipage, and the like, employ the thoughts of the rich (or of people of fashion, whether they be rich or not) as anxiously, as the clothing that is necessary to cover their nakedness employs the thoughts of the poor and destitute. It is the care of some to overtop their neighbours; it is the care of others to overreach at gaming; and indeed the mind of a gamester must be in perpetual suspense and agitation. Surely I need not tell you, that it would be impious to cast such cares upon God. We are not at liberty to choose at random wbatsoever is agreeable to fancy or appetite; and, when our passions are inflamed, and our hearts overcharged with disquieting cares, attempt to roll these over upon God, We must first examine the object of our desire, whether it be good in itself, and fit for us; whether it be consistent with and subservient to our spiritual interest: and if, upon inquiry, it shall appear that these qualifications are wanting, we must peither cast the care of it upon God, nor keep it to ourselves, but throw it away altogether; praying, that our folly may be forgiven, our diseased affections healed, and led forth to other objects more worthy of our pursuit. This being laid down, then, as a fundamental principle, that the object of our desire must be lawful and good, the practice of the duty which my text recommends may be considered as including the following particulars,