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owners do not possess them. Now, the way to possess them ourselves in patience, is thus to commit them to him in confidence; then we only possess them, when he keeps them. They are easily disquieted and shaken in pieces while they are in our hands; but in his hand, they are above the reach of dangers and fears.
Inf. 2. Learn from hence, what is the proper act of faith; it rolls the soul over on God, ventures it in his hand, and rests satisfied concerning it, being there. And there is no way but this, to be quiet within, to be impregnable and immovable in all assaults, and fixed in all changes, believing on free love; therefore be persuaded to resolve in that, not doubting and disputing, whether shall I believe or not? Shall I think he will suffer me to lay my soul upon him to keep? so unworthy, so guilty a soul, were it not presumption ? Oh! what sayest thou? why dost thou thus dishonour him, and disquiet thyself? if thou hast a purpose to walk in any way of wickedness, indeed thou art not for him; yea, thou comest not near him to give him thy soul. But wouldst thou have it delivered from sin, rather than from trouble, yea, rather than from hell; is that the chief safety thou seekest, to be kept from iniquity, from thine iniquity, thy beloved sins ? Dost thou desire to dwell in him, and walk with him ? then, whatsoever is thy guiltiness and unworthiness, come forward, and give him thy soul to keep. If he should seem to refuse it, press it on him; if he stretch not forth his hand, lay it down at his foot, and leave it there, and resolve not to take it back; say, “ Lord thou hast made us those souls; thou callest for them again to be committed to thee: Here is one, It is unworthy; but what soul is not so? Is most unworthy; but therein will the riches of thy grace appear most in receiving it.” And thus leave it with him, and know he will make thee a good ac, count of it. Now, lose goods, or credit, or friends, or life, itself, it imports not; the main concern is sure, if so be thy soul be out of hazard; I suffer these things for the gospel, says the Apostle”, nevertheless I'am not ashamed; why? for I know $ whom I have trusted, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.
2dly. We now proceed to consider the ground of this confidence; which is in these two things in him whom we trust, ability and fidelity. There is much in persuasion of the power of God; though few think they question that; there is in us secret undiscovered unbelief, even in that point; therefore the Lord so often makes mention of it in the prophets". And, in this point, the apostle particularly expresses, I am persuaded that he is able to keep, &c. So this apostle', Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. This is very needful to be considered in regard of the many and great oppositions and dangers, and powerful enemies that seek after our souls, He is able to keep them, for he is stronger than all, and none can pluck them out of his hand, says our Saviour". This the apostle here hath in that word, Creator; if he was able to give them being, sure he is able to keep them from perishing. This relation of a Creator implies likewise a benign propension and good-will to the works of his hands. If he them us at first, when once they were not, forming them of nothing, will he not give us them again, being put into his hand for safety ?
And as he is powerful, he is no less faithful, a faithful Creator, truth itself. Them that believe on him he never deceives nor disappoints. Well might St. Paul say, I know whom I have trusted'. Oh! the advantage of faith. It engages the truth and power of God, his royal word and honour lies upon it, to preserve the soul that faith gives himn in keeping. If he remain able and faithful to perform his word, that soul shall not perish. There be in the words other two grounds of quiet, 6 2 Tim. i. 11, 12. h Isa. 1. 3, &c. Chap. i. 5. * John X. 29.
! 2 Tim. i. 12,
If he gave
ness of spirit in sufferings: 1. It is according to the will of God. The believing soul subjected and levelled to that will, complying with his good pleasure in all, cannot have a more powerful persuasive than this, that all is ordered by his will. This settled in the heart, would settle it much, and make it even in all things, not only to know, but wisely and deeply to consider, that it is thus: that all is measured in heaven, every drachm of thy troubles weighed by that skilful hand, that doth all in weight, number, and measure.
And then, consider him as thy God and Father, who hath taken special charge of thee, and thy soul; thou hast given it to him, and he hath received it.
And, upon this consideration, study to follow his will in all, to have no will but his. This is thy duty and thy wisdom. Nothing is gained by spurning and struggling, but to hurt and vex thyself; but by complying, all is gained, sweet peace; it is the very secret, the mystery of solid peace within, to resign to his will, to be disposed at his pleasure, without the least contrary thought. And thus, as two-faced pictures, those 'sufferings and troubles, and whatsoever else, (while beheld on the ore side, as painful to the flesh), hath an unpleasant visage, yet go about a little, and look upon it as thy Father's will, and then it is smiling, beautiful and lovely. This I would recommend to you not only for temporals, as easier there, but in spiritual things, your comforts and sensible enlargements, to love all he does. It is the sum of christianity, to have thy will crucified, and the will of thy Lord thy only desire; joy or sorrow, sickness or health, life or death, in all, in all, thy will be done.
The other ground is in the first word, reflecting on the foregoing discourse, wherefore; what? seeing your reproaches and sufferings are not endless, yea, they are short, they shall end, quickly end, and end in glory, be not troubled about them, overlook them, the eye of faith will do it; it sees them to be but for a moment. What are they? This is the great cause of our diquietness in present troubles and griefs, we forget their end. We are affected with our condition in this present life, as if it were all
, and it is nothing. Oh! how quickly shall all the enjoyments, and all the sufferings of this life pass away, and be as if they had not been ?
parts of it.
Ver. 1. The elders which are among you I exhort, who am
also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. HE church of Christ being one body, is inte
rested in the condition and carriage of each particular Christian, as a part of it; but more eminently in those who are more eminent and organic
of it. Therefore the apostle, after many excellent directions given to all his Christian brethren to whom he writes, doth most reasonably and fitly add this express exhortation to those who had over. sight and charge of the rest, The elders which are among you, &c.
The words have, .1. A particular definition of the persons exhorted and exhorting. 2. The tenor of the exhortation itself.
The former of these we have in the first verse.
And, 1. The persons exhorted, The elders among you.
Elders here, as often in other places, is a name not of age, but of office; yet the office is named by that age,
which is or ought to be most suitably qualified for it; and that appellation imports, that men though not aged, yet if called to that office, should be noted for such wisdom and gravity of mind and carriage as may give that authority, and command that respect, which is requisite for persons in their calling: not novices, as St. Paul speaks; not as a
light bladder, being easily blown up, as young unstable minds are, but such as young Timothy was in humility and diligence, as the apostle testifies of him", I have none like minded, who will naturally care for your estate; and such as the apostle Paul further exhorts him to beb; Let no man despise thy youth; but be an example of believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in purity.
The name of elders indifferently signifies either their age or their calling; and the name of ruling elders sometimes denotes civil rulers, sometimes pastors of the church; as, amongst the Jews, both offices often met in the same person. Here it appears, that pastors are meant, as the exhortation of feeding the flock evidences; which, though it sometimes signify ruling, and here may comprise it, yet is chiefly by doctrine: and then the title given to Christ in the encouragement added, further confirms the interpretation, The Chief Shepherd.
A due frame of spirit and carriage in the elders, particularly the apostles of the church, is a thing of prime concern for the good of it. It is one of
the heaviest threatenings, when the Lord declares, that he will give a rebellious people such teachers and prophets as they deserved, and indeed desired: If there be a man to prophecy of wine and strong drink, such a one shall be a prophet, says he to that people. And, on the other side, amongst the sweetest promises of mercy, this is not the least, to be furnished with plenty of faithful teachers. Though profane men make no reckoning of it, yet, were it in the hardest times, they who know the Lord will account of it as he doth, a sweet allay of all sufferings and hardship: Though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers'. Oh! how rich a promise is thato; I will give you pastors according to my own heart ! a Phil. ii. 20. 1 Tim. iv. 12. Isa, xxx. 20.
• Jer, iii. 15.
c Micah ii. 11.