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the Instructions given us by God's Ministers in public, by good Persons and good Books in private ; the Freedom, which we and all around us have of worshipping our Maker, according to our Consciences.
Let us recollect, at the fame Time, the Security of our Persons and Properties from Oppression in all other Respects, as well as this : that the whole Exercise of civil Authority over us, is legal and mild ; that no one will or can barm us, if we are Followers of that which is good'. Let us compare our own Condition in these Particulars, with that of the Multitudes elfewhere, indeed of most Men throughout the Earth, who sit in Darkness, and Bondage, temporal, and spiritual. Yet even they have Cause to praise God. For the most deficient in worldly Advantages have many Consolations, if they will attend to them properly : the most ignorant shall be accountable only in Proportion to their Means of Knowledge ; and the most faulty shall be judged with every
due Allowance to the Propensities of their Nature, and the Prejudices of their Education. But how much more liberal is our Share of
i Pet. iii. 13.
whatever pertains unto Life and Godliness k: and what Pleasure should we take in paying suitable Acknowledgements! Blessed are they that dwell in thy House : they will be alway praising thee!
But besides being thankful to God alway, we ought,
II. To be thankful to him for all Things.
That the Gift of Life, taking the Whole of it together, is justly a Ground of Thankfgiving, we cannot question, without questioning also the Goodness of the Giver. Yet whether we are indeed thankful, and to what Degree, for the Sum total of it united, we should do well to examine ourselves. But the Apostle expressly enjoins us to be so for each Part separately. Be it ever so afflictive, we have deserved much worse : and therefore ought to bless our merciful Father, that the Blow came no sooner, that it was no heavier, that it was repeated no oftener. But then, besides, the same Apostle hath told us, that all Things work together for Good to them who love God". We are extremely prone to think otherwise, when any unpleasing Occurrence 2 Pet. i. 3. | Pf. lxxxiv. 4.
m Rom. viii. 28.
befalls us ; and to say with good old Jacob, All these Things are against me". But as he found most unexpectedly, that the Grievances, which he bemoaned, were the very Instruments of his Happiness throughout the Remainder of his Days : fo have very many since, and so very possibly may we, experience the like unforeseen Connection.
I have shewn you, in speaking on the Subjects related to this, from what Evils our Sufferings or Disadvantages often preserve us, what Benefit: they often procure us.
Indeed we frequently acknowledge, that to such or such a Misfortune or Disappointment we are indebted for our Escape from destructive Dangers, or our Attainment of most desirable Blessings. But we might discern many more Events of this Nature, would we look for them : and we should believe there are such very commonly, when we cannot see them. It is an Act of Duty owing to him, whose Power and Wisdom can easily bring Good out of Evil: and an Act of Prudence, which we owe to ourselves, as the sure Way of turning every gloomy Appearance into a cheerful one.
n Gen. xlii. 36.
And were our Troubles and Crosses never to end in augmenting our temporal Welfare, yet they may and will, if it be not our own Fault, contribute to a far greater Felicity, our moral and spiritual Improvement. Sometimes we cannot avoid perceiving their medicinal and falutary Tendency: often we might perceive it by the Help of a little serious Confideration : and they may be extremely requisite, when at the Time we perceive it not. For both our outward Dangers and our inward Weaknesses are very commonly unseen by us : whence we imagine ourselves to be in perfect Safety, while we are really in imminent Hazard. But the great Physician of our Souls knows our true and whole State: and it is unspeakable Goodness in' him, to apply the Remedies, be they ever so rough, which our Cafe demands and a due Regimen observed on our Part will render effectual. When a needful, but harsh Operation is prescribed to be performed on us by one of our Fellow-creatures, though we are sensible we must feel from it exquisite Pain, yet we chuse to undergo it, we desire to have it completely gone through without sparing us; and even during the
Smart, we bless the skilful Hand, that inflicts. the Wound. Surely then we should bear as willingly, at least, the Chastenings of the Lord, and neither faint nor murmur when we are rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth, be chafteneth; and scourgeth every Son, whom he receiveth.
The worldly Advantages, that we have wished for in vain, might not only have failed to produce in us a due Sense of Gratitude towards God, which alone would have been heinous Guilt, but might have tempted us to Irregularities, to Pride, to injurious Behaviour, to a ruinous Choice of the good Things of this Life for our Portion; whereas the Uneasinesses and Sorrows, that we groan under, may secure us from vicious Courses, may teach us Humility and Compassion, may raise our Affections above earthly Objects. Before I was afliçted, faith the Psalmist, I went aftray: but now have I kept thy Word. It is good
for me that I have been aflikted, that I might learn thy Statutes P. No Chastening for the present, faith the Apostle, seemeth to be joyous, but grievous : nevertheless, afterwards, it e Heb. xii. 5; 6.
P Pr. cxix. 67, 71.