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From the preceding propofitions we may draw the following conclufions.
COROL. 1. Trials, of the fevereft kind, are no mark of God's difpleasure, nor any proof that we are under his wrath and curfe. Adam in his state of innocence was tried. The best of God's fervants have gone through heavy Trials. Our Lord was tempted in all points as we are, but without fin, Heb. iv. 15. My fon, defpife not the chaftening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction. For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the fon in whom he delighteth, Prov. iii. 11, 12.
COROL. 2. The appetites and paffions implanted in our conftitution, are l not the corruption of our nature, but means of our Trial.
And therefore we fhall be freed from them, when that is over. I Cor. vi. 13. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats- but God fhall deftroy both it and them xv. 44. It is fown an animal body, it is raised a fpiritual body.
COROL. 3. Whatever Trials may be the occafion of fin, may much more be the occafion of virtue and holiness. Temptation may occafion fin, but is not the cause or reason of it. For, feeing no temptation can ever make it reasonable to fin, every temptation, if the finer choofeth, may be rejected as unreasonable. On the other hand, temptation is naturally an opportunity of exerting our virtue, and of gaining an honorable and glorious victory. Diftrefles and wants may fill our hearts with folicitude, and tempt us to murmur against God, but they have a tendency, being duly confidered, to lead us to faith in him, and a humble patient submis fion to his will, the most perfect part of a worthy character. Wealth, honor, and power, may prove incentives to pride, luxury, and oppreffion; but they may, and ought to be motives to gratitude, and means of greater usefulness. Our appetites and paffions may feduce to intemperance and debauchery; but they may be the occafion of practifing the moft laudable self-government and fobriety. And fo of all the reft. Rom. v. 3. We glory in tribulations; knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, that hope which maketh not afbamed, or that fhall never be disappointed. James i. 2. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing, that the Trial of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing to qualify you for the kingdom
COROL. 4. In a State of Trial natural evil hath a tendency to promote moral good. For under any defects of happiness, virtue may be exercifed and increase. Hence it follows, (1) That this life, notwithstanding the afflictions which attend it, is a day of falvation, or a proper, and valuable opportunity of attaining eternal life. (2.) That the quantity of virtue in this prefent world is not to be measured, by the joy it giveth the poffeffor, or the good it doth to others, but by the circumstances of Trial under which it acteth and fubfifteth. For although all holinefs, by the will of God, will fooner or later be crowned with joy; and always actually brings forth good works, in proportion to the agent's power and opportunities; yet two agents, of equal virtue, may be fo differently fituated in the creation, that the virtue of the one fhall produce a thoufand times less comfort to its felf, and benefit to others, than the virtue of the other. Or, the fame virtue which, in this life, brings forth but
one degree of joy and usefulness, in another world, may bring forth a thousand degrees.
This ftands upon two principles. 1. That holiness and happiness are effentially different, and connected only by the will of God. Hence it is, in fact, that many perfons, truly virtuous and pious, have yet no comfort of their virtue. 2. The proper act of a moral agent ftands in the will and choice alone, not in the external effect produced by it. And therefore the will, or choice, may be compleatly holy, where yet the outward act is hindered by contrary circumftances. Upon these grounds one may venture to affirm, that the virtue of Lazarus, which under all his pains and poverty in our earth, brought forth but a small degree of joy and usefulness, might, in Abraham's bofom, be equal to the virtue of an Angel in heaven, which actually brought forth ten thousand degrees. For as a cubical foot of our groffer air might poffibly expand, and fill a cubical furlong in the higher and thiner region of pure Ether; so that virtue, which can fubfift under the loads and clogs of our temptations and difficulties, though its present fruits are but fmall, may dilate and blaze out into a glory, magnificence, and fplendor, equal to that of the holiest Angels. This the Apoftle Peter intimates, 1 Pet. i. 7. The tried faith of perfecuted Saints will be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jefus Christ.
COROL. 5. This world is not a State of enjoyment. He that made it, and Man in it, made it for Trial. We muft not therefore dream of a continued course of ease, peace, and prosperity, but must expect to meet with Trials.
COROL. 6. It is no matter in what temporal circumstances we are, if we do but acquit ourselves well and faithfully in the fight of God. Job, under all his calamities, was not a worse man, or less the care and delight of heaven. He was then like gold in the furnace, under the difcipline of Divine Wisdom and Love, in order to his being purified into a condition more illuftrious and excellent. You are in plenty and profperity. What then? This is but an inftance of your Trial, and your real happiness must be measured by the effects they have upon your mind. If profperity disposes to thankfulness and good works, it is happy; but if it feduceth you to forget God, and to indulge irregular appetites, it is hurtful and pernicious. On the other hand, you are in affliction, want, trouble, pain. What then? This is not your fixed condition; it is only one inftance of a temporary Trial, which fhortly will be at an end. your afflictions work in you greater contempt of the world, self-denial, faith, fubmiffion, heavenly-mindedness, &c. your condition is happy, and your afflictions are really better for you than any other State you may fondly with for. But obferve, this is to be understood of afflictions brought upon us by Providence; and will not justify us in bringing them upon ourselves by any faulty criminal conduct. It is nevertheless our duty, by all lawful means, to procure the conveniences and comforts of life.
CHA P. VIII.
Further Reflections on a STATE of TRIAL.
**T is of the laft importance to have right notions of life, as a I State of Trial. For thus the whole scene, otherwise confused and
unaccountable, will appear in a juft and rational light. Thus we fhall be convinced, that our being is given us upon the most reasonable and advantageous terms, for the highest and most excellent ends; and fhall clearly understand what we have to do for the improvement and exaltation of it, free from the vain imaginations and purfuits, hopes and fears, joys and anxieties, which distract the minds of the unthinking and ignorant. What I have further to advance upon this point, is comprized in the following propofitions.
I. It is a matter of great difficulty to adjust our Trials and fuccors, fo as not to overpower our faculties by either, but leave us in the free use of
II. God alone hath wisdom fufficient to appoint and adjuft our Trials. Because he alone understands perfectly how to adapt them to the nature of our minds, and to the defigns of his goodness. Whereas we know but little of the nature of our fpirits, and therefore are not able to proportion temptations to our powers, nor helps and affiftances to our temptations. We are not acquainted with the work we have to do in the future world, nor the feveral forts of beings, with whom we may hereafter be concerned, in the way of fellowship or enmity; and therefore are by no means capable of judging, what fort or degree of Trials are proper to give us fuitable qualifications. For this reafon, it is plainly our duty \ and wisdom, humbly and patiently to fubmit to the Trials God is pleafed to allot, and to behave well and faithfully under them; without cenfuring, or quarelling with his difpofals, which is foolish and impious. But though our understandings in this cafe are very defective, yet I conceive there are some general principles of which we may be, in a good measure, certain. As,
III. The bias of Evil in our Trials ought to be strong in proportion to the degree of virtue required of us. For the degree of virtue is to be meafured by the degree of temptation which it refifts. That virtue is but in a low degree, which can overcome but a small temptation. That virtue is in a higher, which can overcome a ftronger temptation. And that virtue is in the highest degree, which is fuperior to all tempta
IV. The degree of Virtue, God expects from us, is to be proportioned to the eminent ftations to which we are to be exalted in his kingdom. Or, we fhall be exalted in proportion to the Virtue we have attained. Mat. xix. 28. Luke xix. 16, 17, 18, 19.
V. Our Trial feems to be appointed for a State of Confirmation and therefore the virtue we are to attain must be such as will fecure our perfeverance in it; which confirmation and perfeverance must ftand, not
upon our being forcibly conftrained to be virtuous, which is a contradiction, but upon the habits we have attained, or the fetled good dispofitions of our minds. And it seems to be the great end of our Trial in this world, that we may attain to fuch a degree of fanctity, experienced in a variety of Trials, as in God's wifdom appears to be of that genuine fort, which fhall eventually perfevere, and abide to all eternity. Of which matter our Lord fpeaketh in this wife, Luke xvi. 10, 11, 12. He that is faithful in that which is leaft, is faithful alfo in much; and he that is unjust in the leaft, is unjust also in much. If ye therefore have been unfaithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, i. e. that which may at any uncertain time be taken from you, and therefore, for the fake of which it is not worth your while to do a wrong or wicked thing, who shall give you that which is your own*? what you are to poffefs for ever, or which you are never to be deprived of. This plainly fhews, that we are qualified for honors and trufts in heaven, no otherwife than by our prefent faithfulness, or the real good qualities of our minds; and that we are now tried in a little, that we may be faithful in much.
VI. The Judge of all the Earth hath certainly ballanced our Trials with the greatest exactnefs and equity, that temptation may not be too violent for our weakness, and yet ftrong enough to put our virtue to its proper proof. Fleshly lufts war againft the foul, but are conquered effectually by temperance, or keeping our bodies in fubjection. The world allures our minds, but the world of glory is open to full view, to draw our regards thither. If the devil and his angels are permitted to practise his malice in perverting mankind, God hath fent forth a holy and powerful Spirit to illuminate, fanctify, ftrengthen, and comfort; and hath ordered his Angels, in great numbers, to be miniftering Spirits to the Heirs of Salvation. We may affure ourselves, that we are upon a fair, and even favorable, Trial; for, if we do not neglect our advantages, the means of fecuring our virtue, if we chufe to be virtuous, do far furpass the occafion of vice and fin; and in all our conflicts more are with us, than are against us; God is with us.
VII. Our Condition is well adapted to the purposes of moral Improvement. If we confider life as a State of Enjoyment, all is in confusion and diforder, and we are easily mifled into the most foul and fatal errors; but if we take life as a Trial, for the exercise of our virtue, in order to our future advancement, then every part of it will appear to be properly appointed. We have every day opportunities of fhewing our fincere regards to God, by giving him the preference to the many appetites and objects which court our affections, and come in competition with him. We
Nimium vobis Romana propago
Vifa potens, fuperi, propria [perpetua] hæc fi dona fuiffent.
Nihilne effe proprium [perpetuum] cuiquam?
Ter. Andr. A&t. iv. Scen. 3. lin.
Omne quod habemus, aut mutuum eft, aut proprium.
Donat. in locum.
We have opportunities enough to learn what is fufficient for us to know. And the obfcurities and difficulties in the way of truth, are not defigned to debar us from it, but to exercise our integrity in our fearches after it, and profeffion of it. All the calamities of life, pains of body, infirmities, feducements, loffes, &c. are occafions of purifying our hearts, by fobriety, humility, repentance, felf-denial, patience, &c. And for social virtues, we cannot fuppofe ourselves in any fituation, where we fhould have more occafions, or more preffing motives to exercise every fpecies of benevolence towards our fellow-creatures. And if our love to men must surmount both self-love, that deceitful principle in ourselves, and ingratitude, that ugly vice in others, hereby we are obliged to exercise, in the most generous, difinterested, and godlike manner, a virtue of the first rank, and the most neceffary to preferment in God's creation. For he is the fiteft for bufinefs and truft, under the univerfal Father, who moft of all participates of his kind difpofitions and good-will towards the whole universe of beings.
VIII. Different perfons, as they have different capacities, advantages, and opportunities, and are in different circumftances, conditions, and fituations, are under different Trials. Mat. xxv. 15. Luke xii. 47, 48.
IX. God allots to every particular perfon his Trial. He gives our capacities and opportunities, affigns our circumftances and outward condition, and measures our afflictions and comforts. Therefore whatever our Trials may be, this fhould calm our uneafy minds, that they are meted out to us, by the fame wife Hand, which created and governs univerfal Nature.
X. Every one will be judged, and receive reward or punishment according to the circumftances of his own particular Trial; and all things relating to it, all advantages and difadvantages, will be weighed in the exacteft ballance, and determined accordingly. Luke xii. 47, 48. That fervant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many ftripes. But he, that was in different circumstances, and knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few ftripes, Here observe, that God fully understands the degrees of the guilt, or virtue of particular persons, but we do not, and therefore should be cautious in judging.
XI. There are degrees of Trial; or temptation may be more or lefs intense. The sufferings of the flesh may be raised to such an height of anguish and terror, or its paffions fo inflamed, as to suspend the use of thought and reason.
XII. God can raife or fink our Trial as he pleafes. When he fees fit, he can give a calm and quiet State; and when he pleaseth can raise storms about us, and heat the furnace of temptation feven times more than it was wont to be heated. Job, in his Trial by profperity, acquited himfelf well; and under great pains and poverty, he fined not, nor charged God foolishly. But at length, through the unkind ufage of his friends, and perhaps fome other concuring circumftances, his Trial began to be fo hard, that he opened his mouth, and curfed his day. Whenever the Almighty pleafeth he can permit a Trial that will shake the strongest faith. Therefore,
XIII. No good refolutions or difpofitions, no degrees of fpiritual ftrength to