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such; and he is glad of respect done to others, still looking homeward, where there is no prejudging one another at all, but perfect unevying and unenvied glory. Glory here is to be shunned rather than pursued; and, if it will follow, yet is it less to be regarded than thy shadow. Oh! how light and vanishing is it, and even things more solid than it; the fashion of this world passeth away".
Ver. 11. Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving
Not slothful in business. These condensed rules have much in them, and this is very needful, for often a listless indisposed weariness overtakes even good men ; seeing so little to be done to any purpose, they are almost ready to give over all ; yet they ought to bestir themselves, and apply to diligence in their place, not unduly stickling and busy in things improper, but inclosing thy diligence within thy sphere. Suffer it not to stand, but keep it there in motion : as to thy worldly affairs, be so diligent as to give them good dispatch, when thou art about them, but have thy heart as little in them, as much disengaged as may be ; yet, so acquitting them wisely, they shall trouble thee the less, when thou art in higher and better employments. As to thyself, be often examining thy heart and ways, striving constantly against sin; though little sensible advantage be gained, yet if thou yield, it will be worse. If it prevail so much amidst all thy opposition, what would it do if thou shouldst sit still! Use all holy means, how fruitless soever they seem for the present, and wait on God. We have toiled all night, said Simon, and taken nothing® ; and yet at his command, essaying again, they took more at once, than if, after their ordinary way, they had been taking all night. So as to others, give not up because thou seest no present success, but, in thy place, admonish, exhort and rebuke, with all meekness and patience. Doth di Cor. vii. 31.
e Luke v. 5.
God wait on sinners, and wilt not thou wait a little for others ?
Fervent in spirit. Beware of a fretful impatience; that is a sickly distempered heat, as that of a fever, that makes a man unfit for work ; and men commonly in this break away from their business: but much healthful natural heat makes a man strong, and able to endure labour, and continue in it. This is the thing here recommended. To be so hot and fervent in spirit is a great advantage; it is the very strength of the soul in all employments : much love to God, and desire of his glory; this is the heat that will not weary, will cheerfully go through all discouragements ; many waters will not quench it. This fervour of spirit, wrought by the Spirit of God, doth clearly difference itself from that inordinate heat of our spirits, which may sometimes either act alone, or mingle itself with the other in the best causes and affairs. That holy fervour is composed and regular in working, runs not headily to unadvised or disorderly ways; it is a sweet delighful heat, not painful and vexing as the other; it carries on to duty, and is not disturbed about events.
Serving the Lord.] Some copies have it, serving the time; which though it may bear a fair construction, of taking present occasions of good, and being useful in our generation, and accommodating ourselves in all lawful things to times and persons, for their good, as our Apostle became all things to all, to win some; yet, this kind of expression not being found elsewhere in Scripture, and the most copies having it as we read it, and some mistake of letters in transcribers seeming to have occasioned it, it is much rather to be. taken as in our version.
But, out of all question, some do follow that mise taken reading in its worst sense ; instead of serving the Lord, serving the times : and this some even in evil ways; others, in ways that are good ; yet following upon trust, and complying, though unwillingly, because the times carry things so ; but where times change to the worse, these men are discovered ;
for still they serve their master, the times, and their own advantage in them; which way soever that goes, they follow: so that their following the better side, in better times, is but accidental.
But this serving the Lord is more even and lasting: serving him still in all times, doing all for him, having no aim but his glory ; such a heart cannot be diverted from its course by any counterblast of times.
Would you be stedfast in times of approaching trial, seek hearts acquainted with God, and fixed on him ; for others will be shaken; but such will follow him through all hazards, and fear no ill while he is with them.
Ver. 12. Rejoicing in hope.] Oh! this we seldom do. When are our hearts as transported with the blessed hope of our inheritance ? this would make us what follows,
Patient in tribulation.] People would hear much of this, of preparing for suffering : there may be a distemper in desiring to hear and speak so much of that. What though trials be coming, as it is likely they are, we should account too much of ourselves, and this present world, to dwell expressly on that subject. We see the Apostles do not so, though they lived and wrote in times of other sort of persecution than we have yet seen ; and they, to whom the Apostle here writes, lived where it was most violent and potent, and yet they spend not all on this: some brief words of it, interspersed with the discourse, thrown as it were into a parenthesis ; but still the main is, the doctrine of faith and rules of holiness ; and these are indeed the great furniture for all sufferings: I know no other. To see much the excel, lency and worth of Jesus Christ, the riches of our hope in him ; to have these in our view, much in our hearts and in our mouths; these drown all the little fears of present things. See how, in passing, our Apostle speaks, as it were in a slighting way, of all sufferings for him: I have cast it up, says he; and Į reckon that the sufferings of this present time (of this now) are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Again, the other thing is the rules of holiness; these powerfully enable for suffering any thing, rather than unholiness: the sickness of the soul, these corrupt humours of sin, make it crazy, that it can endure no blasts of air ; but when it is purged and free from these, and in communion with God in his ways, then it is healthful and strong; and so is able to endure any thing. The mortifying of our affections to the world, that is it that enables for suffering. Whither reaches the cruelty of man, but to thy goods or body? And what makes any faint, but an over-esteem of these, by which they are filled with desires to preserve, and fears to lose them ? Now, when the heart is disengaged from these, and hath taken up in God, is rich and content in him, it stands not much to the courtesy of any; let them take the rest ; it suffers with joy the spoiling of goods, having in Heaven a more enduring substance'. And for the utmost, killing them, they look on it as the highest favour; it is to them but the making a hole for them in their prison-wall to get out at. Therefore, I say, there is nothing doth so fit for all encounters, as to be much instructed in that which is the substance of Christianity, hearts purified, and lives holily and spiritually regulated. In a word, much study of Christ, and much study of thyself, for ought I know, are the wisest and strongest preparatives for all possible sufferings.
How sweetly can the soul retire into him, and repose in him, in the greatest storms.
I know nothing that can much dismay him that can believe and That you see is added,
Continuing instant in prayer.] If afraid of fainting, yea, if at the point of fainting, this revives the soul, draws in no less than the strength of God to support it: and what then can surcharge it? Thy access to him all the enemies in the world
f Heb. X. 34. & Nempe tenens quod amo, nihil, illum amplexus, timebo.
pray . cannot hinder; the closest prison shuts not out thy God; yea, rather it shuts out other things and companies, that thou mayest have the more leisure for him, and the sweeter converse with him. Oh! acquaint yourselves with this exercise of prayer, and by it with God, that if days of trouble come, you may know whither to go, and what way; and if you know this way, whatever befals you, you are not much to be bemoaned.