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and belief hereof put the church upon giving that seasonable caveat to her boasting enemy; who, in the time of God's chastising her for sin, did not a little rejoice at the afflictions of the church, concluding that those afflictions were the forerunner of the church's destruction: “ Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy! When I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” Mic. vii. 8.
Fatherly chastisements and fatherly love do very well consist together. So saith Christ; who, as he is God, knows all things; and who, as he is man, found it in his own experience, that his Father, the God of love, who loves him, (his Son) as he loves himself; yet, when venting his dislike of, and his displeasure against, the sins of the elect, charged on Christ, he handled him so sharply and severely, that the Son of God found a necessity of crying out, in the bitterness of his soul, My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" Matt. xxvii. 46. And yet God was still his God, and his dearly-loving Father, for all that. many as I love,” saith Christ, “I rebuke and chasten,” &c. Rev. iii. 19. Yea, so far are afflictions and tribulations from being tokens of God's being a man's enemy, that indeed, to be exempt and free from them, is an argument that the person is none of God's: “ But if ye be without chastisement, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” Heb. xii.-8.
God's afflictive dispensations are to his own
children the purging pills whereby God, the great and only wise Physician, will purge out of the heart and affections of his children those remains of sin yet abiding in them; and 'as, in nature those pills, or that potion, which are bitterest, and which make the patient sickest, are the best for curing, though they are hardest to be got down; so, in Christianity, those corrections and chastenings, from God's own hand, which are the sorest and sharpest to corrupt nature, are attended with the greatest efficacy to kill indwelling corruption in the believer. “ Before I was afflicted,” said Holy David, “I went astray, but now have I kept thy word,” Psalm cxix. 67. And, in another place, “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right; and that thou, in faithfulness, hast afflicted me,” Psalm cxix. 75. When the darkest and most dismal cloud of affliction and trouble seems to overcast the true believer; and not only to overcast him, but to compass him about, so as there appears no likelihood of his escape; yet, even then, there is a bright side in that cloud, which shines on the believer's inside, to comfort and encourage him in trusting in and relying on God in the way of believing and dependance. “ And not only so, but we glory in tribulation also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us," Rom. v. 3. “ Blessed be God, even the Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God,” 2 Cor. i. .3, 4.
“ Nevertheless, God that comforteth those that are cast down,” &c. 2 Cor. vii. 6.
Seventhly, and lastly, The Lord Jesus Christ, the head and king of all true believers, being pilot, to sit at the helm of all affairs wherein the glory of his Father and the salvation of his elect are concerned, will so steer the course of all second causes in this world, as not one of his believing members shall ever come short of a safe and happy arrival at glory; but shall most infallibly be securely conducted through all storms and hurricanes which can possibly arise to overwhelm and sink the true believer,
Let what times soever God pleases come; let what calamities soever fall out in the land, plague, famine, civil war, foreign invasion, penal laws, bishop's court, devil, world, indwelling sin, let all come upon thee at once, and display the banner of their force, policy, and malice, against thee, to ruin and destroy thee; yet thou, who art a real believer, art safe, being secured under the shadow of the apple tree; and not only safe from any harm which can: come to thee by such storms or enemies, but thou shalt be infallibly assured of safe landing in heaven, and that by virtue of that universal conquest and victory achieved by thy head and king over all
his and thy enemies; and his having gone through all those kind of storms which thou fearest thou shalt meet with, and that as thy representative; and hath shot the gulf of death; and is now actually possessed of thy crown and mansion in the highest heavens, whereto the efficacious virtue and power of thy Redeemer's ascension will in a very short space of time bring thee, to behold and enjoy the great and unspeakable things which he hath purchased for thee, and for all that truly love and long for his appearing. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar, and be troubled; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof,” Psalm xlvi. 1, 2, 3. “ Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High-priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek,” Heb. vi. 20.
From what hath been observed from the latter part of the text, concerning the fruits of the apple tree, which are so sweet to the taste of a true believer, many things might have been spoken, by way of application, both to the comfort and joy of all true-hearted believers, and also to the terror and amazement of all Papists, Quakers, Arminians, &c. who are destitute of the fruit of this apple tree. When spiritual famine from God comes on these graceless, because christless, souls; when they come to be hunger-bitten, and their starved
ye shall be
souls languish away in them, for want of the fruit they now ridicule and scorn; then will that dreadful and killing word take hold of, and be actually fulfilled in them, “ Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Behold my servants shall eat, but hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty ; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but
ye shall be ashamed; behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit,” Isa. Ixy. 13.
This is, and will be, the doom of all those who sit not under the protecting shadow of this apple tree. The fruit of this tree is sweet to none but to those to whom its shadow is delightful.
The shadow and the fruit belong to none but God's elect, even Christ's redeemed ones. Well, therefore, may the believer cry out, and say
with the prophet, “ Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the field shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall: yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation,” Hab. iii. 17, 18. The mediatorial righteousness of God-Man is upon me; and his protecting care and providence are over me, for my covering, to shelter me from the law's curse, from the agonies of a fearful conscience, from the dreadful temptations of satan, and from the deserved wrath of God. Here is my hiding-place in time