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OF THE SPIRITUAL AND MOST PRECIOUS PEARL.
PREFACE THE FIRST PART OF THIS BOOK.
CHAPTER -That all trouble and affliction cometh from God CHAPTER -That trouble, and affliction, and adversity, are sent unto us of God, even for the punishment of our sins CHAPTER -All manner of troubles and afflictions, whatsoever they be, are always much less and lighter than are our sins CHAPTER -All manner of afflictions are sent and come from God, of a loving and fatherly mind toward us CHAPTER -That only God for Christ’s sake, and that of very mere love and favor, doth correct and punish us CHAPTER -Similitudes and comparisons declaring how and after what manner God doth plague and chasten us of very love, mercy, and favor towards us CHAPTER -Trouble and afflictions do serve to prove and to try us withal CHAPTER -Trouble and afflictions do help and further us to the knowledge of ourselves, and of God also, and specially to wisdom CHAPTER -Trouble and afflictions do help and further us to the right knowledge of our sins, and to perfect sorrow and repentance for them CHAPTER -Trouble, affliction, and adversity, do help and further us to the exercising and increasing of our faith CHAPTER -Trouble and adversity giveth us occasion to pray unto God, and to laud and praise him CHAPTER -Trouble and adversity do further us to virtue and godliness CHAPTER -Sorrow and affliction do help and further us toward the fear and love of God CHAPTER -Trouble and affliction is good and profitable to teach men patience, meekness, and lowliness CHAPTER -Trouble and adversity is good to teach men .pity, compassion, and patience towards other CHAPTER -Trouble and adversity maketh men hard and strong, and teacheth them soberness and temperancy CHAPTER -Trouble and adversity teacheth men to contemn, despise, and defy the world, and to be diligent and fervent in all godliness and virtue CHAPTER -Trouble and adversity is also an occasion and help of much transitory quietness and commodity in this world CHAPTER -Trouble and adversity is a furtherance to eternal life CHAPTER -How and in what respect trouble and adversity can be so profitable and of such virtue, seeing that the unfaithful do wax more obstinate and perverse through trouble and affliction CHAPTER -Fellow-companions in trouble and adversity THE SECOND PART OF THIS BOOK.
CHAPTER -By what natural means or ways trouble and adversity may be qualified, eased, and overcome CHAPTER -The best and surest succor and comfort in adversity resteth only in the might, power, will, and goodness of God CHAPTER -Examples of the help and aid of God THE THIRD AND LAST PART OF THIS BOOK.
CHAPTER -We must direct our faith, hope, and confidence towards God CHAPTER -Of prayer in trouble and adversity CHAPTER -Repentance and amendment of life in trouble and adversity is necessary CHAPTER -Christian and godly persuasions and examples out of the word of God to move men unto patience in affliction and adversity CHAPTER -Examples and causes, taken out of natural things, and of heathen men, whereby a man may be moved to patience in adversity CHAPTER -By what means patience may be obtained and gotten, and once had how it may be kept and increased CHAPTER -The fruit, profit, and commodity of patience, as well corporal as spiritual THE PREFACE.
If they be worthy praise, who for a zeal and desire that they have to do their neighbors good, do write and put in print such things as by experience they have proved, or by hearsay of grave and trusty men they have learned, or by reading of good and ancient authors they have understanded, to be a salve or medicine to a man’s body, or to a part or member of the same; how much more deserve they thank and praise, that teach us a true comfort, salve, and medicine of the soul, spirit, and mind!
The which spirit and mind, the more precious it is than the body, the more dangerous be his sores and sickness, and the more thankworth the cure thereof.
But an unquiet mind, yea, to a most whole body, maketh health unpleasant, and death to be wished; and an unsatiable mind with desire of more maketh riches poverty, and health a sickness, strength an infirmity, beauty a deformity, and wealth beggary; when, by comparing his felicity with a better, it leeseth the grace and joy of that it hath, and feeleth the smart of that it hath not.
Now then, sith to amend this in wealth, and to take away sorrow and grief even thence, where in very deed is no apparent cause of grief, through our weakness, is no less than the work of a very great master of physic, and deserveth much commendation; what is he worthy, that can ease true grief indeed, and make health where a very sore resteth? I mean, that can ease a man set in affliction, take away grief from him that is persecuted, loose the prisoner yet in bonds, remove adversity in adversity, or make grievous sickness not to be felt, and extreme beggary to be rejoiced at.
Divers learned men heretofore, by reasons grounded of man’s knowledge, wrote and invented great comfort against all kind of griefs; and so among the gentiles’ and philosophers’ books be books of comfort.
But whosoever followeth but worldly and man’s reason to teach comfort to the troubled mind, he can give but a counterfeit medicine; as the surgeon doth, which colorably healeth, or the physician which giveth medicines that do but astonish the sore place, and so deceive the patient.
But the true healing of grief and sorrow they had not, for they lacked the ground; they lacked that, that should heal the sore at the bone first, that is, true faith in Christ and his holy word. All medicines of the soul, which be laid on the sores thereof, not having that cleanser with them, be but overhealers: they do not take away the rankling within; and many times, under color of hasty healing, they bring forth proud flesh in the sore, as evil or worse than that which was first corrupt. This man, whosoever he be, that was the first author of this book, goeth the right way to work: he bringeth his ground from God’s word; he taketh with him the oil and wine of the Samaritan; he carrieth the hurt man from thence where he lay hurt, and bringeth him to his right host, where, no doubt, he may be cured, if he will apply himself thereto.
It is read in histories, that the manner among the old Egyptians or Assyrians was, when any were sick, to lay him abroad, that every man that passed by might tell, if he had been vexed with such like sickness, what thing that was that did cure and heal him, and so they might use it to the patient. And by this means it is thought, that the science of physic was first found out: so that it may appear that this readiness for to teach another that thing, wherein a man feeleth ease of grief, is not only Christian, but also natural.
In our great trouble, which of late did happen unto us, as all the world doth know, when it pleased God for a time to attempt us with his scourge, and to prove if we loved him, in reading this book we did find great comfort, and an inward and godly working power, much relieving the grief of our mind. The which thing now calling to remembrance, we do think it our duty not to be more unnatural than the old Egyptians were; but rather, as the office of a Christian is, to be ready to help all men by all ways possible that we can, and specially those that be afflicted.
And hereupon we have required him, of whom we had the copy of this book, to set it forth in print, that not only we, or one or two more, but all that be afflicted, may take profit and consolation, if they will; yea, and they that be not afflicted, may either see what they should have done in their trouble, or what hereafter they ought to do, if any like happeneth unto them; knowing certainly, that such is the uncertainty of the world and all human things, that no man standeth so sure, but the tempest of affliction and adversity may overtake him, and, if the grace of God do not singularly help him, cast him down, and make him fall.
Wherefore it is most necessary always to have in readiness such godly meditations and medicines, as may pacify God’s wrath beginning to kindle, and defend in part the bitterness of affliction, whereof this book is very plenteous and full. Fare you well. [In the Peterborough copy is added: From our house at Somersetplace, the 6 day of May. Anno 1550.] A Spiritual and Most Precious Pearl, Teaching All Men to Love and Embrace the Cross as a Most Sweet and Necessary Thing Unto the Soul; What Comfort is to be Taken Thereof; Where and How Both Consolation and Aid in All Manner of Afflictions is to be Sought; and Again How All Men Should Behave Themselves Therein, According to the Word of God.
CHAPTER - THAT ALL TROUBLE AND AFFLICTION COMETH FROM GOD.
I Call all that trouble and affliction, whatsoever is reputed to be contrary to the desire and appetite of man’s nature; as the unquiet suggestions of the flesh, the temptations of the devil, sickness of body, a wicked and forward mate in matrimony, to have disobedient children, unkind and unthankful friends, loss of goods, to be deprived of any old liberty or privilege, loss or blemish of name and fame, the malice and displeasure of men, hunger, dearth, pestilence, war, imprisonment, and death. And in this register do I put all kinds of crosses and afflictions, whether they be bodily or ghostly, our own or our friends’, private and singular, or universal and general, privy and secret, or open and manifest, deserved or undeserved.
In all such things, I say every Christian man ought first of all to consider the very root, ground, and beginning, after this wise: that all things, whatsoever God sendeth, we ought to take and receive them patiently.
For this is once true, that God is our Creator and Maker, and we his workmanship; he is our King, our Lord, and Father; and like as it is not seeming that the pot should murmur against the pot-maker, (Isaiah 45:64 , Jeremiah 18) even so is it much less convenient that we should murmur and grudge against God’s will and judgment. And although trouble and affliction riseth and springeth oftentimes by the wickedness of enemies, and through the instigation of the devil, or else by some other means; yet ought we never to imagine that it cometh by fortune or chance, without the permission, sufferance, determination, and will of God, but by and with the foreknowledge, providence, and appointment of God. Ezekiel 28 <262801> , Job 1 <180101> , Matthew 10 <401001> .
And to speak properly concerning safeguard, it is all one, so that we tempt not God, whether we live in poverty or in riches, in the fire or in the water, among our enemies or among our friends, seeing that God seeth, knoweth, disposeth, and ruleth all things, as withesseth the first book of the Kings 2:1 “The Lord bringeth to death, and restoreth again unto life; bringeth into the grave, and raiseth up again; putteth down, and exalteth also.” And Job also testifieth in his misery: “The Lord hath given it, and the Lord hath taken it again.” And Christ saith: “There falleth not a sparrow upon the earth without your Father’s will; yea, the hairs of your head are all numbered.” Luke 12 <421201> .
Seeing then that all our troubles and afflictions come from God, we ought to humble and submit our hearts and minds unto the obedience of God, and to suffer him to work with us according unto his most holy will and pleasure. Wherefore, whensoever unseasonable weather shall hurt and perish the corn and fruit of the earth, or when a wicked man shall misreport us, or raise up any slander of us, why should we murmur and grudge against the elements, or go about to revenge us of our enemies?
For if we lift not up our minds, and consider that God layeth his hand upon us, and that it is he that striketh us, we are even like unto dogs, and no better, which, if a man do cast a stone at them, will bite the stone, without any respect who did cast the stone.
And again, no man ought to be unwilling or discontent to render again that talent or pledge that was committed to him only to reserve and keep.
Matthew 25 <402501> . It is that God, that giveth us life, health of body, strength, wife, children, friends, riches, honor, power, authority, peace, rest, and quietness for a time, so long as pleaseth him. Now if the same God will take again some of these firings, or all, he taketh nothing but his own, and even that which we did owe unto him. For the which cause, to murmur against his will, and to strive against his judgment, it cannot be but a heinous and grievous sin.
CHAPTER - THAT TROUBLE AND AFFLICTION AND ADVERSITY ARE SENT UNTO US OF GOD EVEN FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF OUR SINS.
Now what thing moveth or causeth God to send home unto us and visit us with affliction, trouble, and vexation? Concerning this point, mark this well. Whatsoever any man hath merited and deserved, that ought he to bear, and to suffer willingly and gladly.
Let every man appose and examine himself, whether he hath not deserved to be correct and chastened of God, if it be not for any special thing at the present instant, yet for other sins committed at other times? Now will our Lord God, in all manner of punishments and visitations, declare the order of his righteousness, and his heavy wrath and indignation against sin and wickedness (Romans 5:6 , Numbers 14 <041401> , Nahum 1 <340101> ); for he saith in the second commandment, “I, the Lord, which am thy God, am a jealous and earnest God, and I will visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, even until the third and fourth generation, if they hate and contemn me.” And in the fifth book of Moses are all the plagues rehearsed, one after another, which shall be poured out upon the wicked and ungodly. And in Luke, chapter 13 <421301> , it is said thus: “If ye do not amend, ye shall all perish.” And that we may perceive even before our eyes evidently, how that punishment and plagues are the due reward unto sin, God tempereth and frameth the punishment even like unto the sin, so that they do both agree together as well in form and likeness, as in proportion and quality.
As for an example: like as David defiled Urias’ wife, even so were his wives defiled unto him again. He caused Urias to be slain and destroyed, and therefore did his son destroy his own brother again, and stirred a sedition and uproar, and hunted and drove his father out of his kingdom; so that no man can sufficiently express the great misery and punishment, that David and his people suffered, for the shameful wickedness and abomination that he had committed. 2 Samuel 13 <101301> ,14 <101401> ,15 <101501> ,16 <101601> ,17 <101701> ,18 <101801> ,19 <101901> ,20 <102001> .
Now consider and weigh, as it were in a true balance, the righteousness which God requireth of us on the. one side, and again, the whole trade of our life on the other side. If the generation of mankind had been conformable unto the law of God, and had not swerved from the same, it had been altogether thoroughly happy and blessed evermore, and should never have rotted and dried away like the fruit and flowers of the field.
But it swerved and fell away at the first, even from the beginning. Our first parents and progenitors did neglect and despise God’s commandments; and so we through their fall are corrupt and infected, our reason, senses, and understanding blinded, and our will poisoned. We feel and find in us wicked lusts and affections; we seek in the world lust and pleasure, even against the holy word of God. And like as if an ass were trimmed and decked in a lion’s skin, and would needs be a lion, yet his long ears, being always upwards, should easily descry and bewray him; even so if we adorn, garnish, and set forth ourselves with certain glorious, beautiful works never so much, so that no man can say but that we are utterly innocent and inculpable in divers and many points; yet, notwithstanding, we have filthy, unclean, and wicked hearts, full of security and neglect of God, altogether given to the love of ourselves, and to all manner of dissoluteness.
Now therefore, if we be assaulted and visited with sickness, poverty, war, sedition, we ought not to ascribe these things, one to the magistrate, another to the preacher and minister of God’s word, or to the faith and religion itself, and the third to the elements and stars, or to God in heaven himself, as though any of these were the occasion of such plagues.
Like as no man ought to accuse and blame the physician, as though he were the only occasion of the corrupt humors within the body, notwithstanding that he hath brought and driven them out, that a man may evidently see and perceive them; but the misbehavior and intemperate diet of the man himself is the very right occasion, and the only root thereof: even so we ought not to ascribe any blame or fault unto God, if he send unto us heaviness, pain, and trouble, but to think that it is a medicine and remedy meet for our sins, and every man to ascribe the very cause and occasion thereof unto himself and his own sins, and to refer the blame to nothing else.
And this example did the holy men, our godly forefathers, in old times show, declare, and leave unto us, ascribing always the cause and occasion of the cross, and of such heavy afflictions as did happen in their time, even unto their own sins. As Daniel saith, chapter 9 <270901> “By reason of our sins, and of the wickedness of our fathers, is Jerusalem and thy people destroyed, even of those that dwell about us.”
For the which cause we ought rather to lament and bewail, yea, and to cry out, Alas! alas! out, out upon our sins and wickedness! than either upon any infirmity, sickness, or upon any other affliction or tribulation, which we suffer by reason of our sins.
For if we should wail and be heavy without reason or measure, when God doth nothing but executeth justice and righteousness upon his enemies, what were it else but to mislike the righteousness of God, and even to love that thing which God hateth? And what is this else, but only the very righteousness and goodness of God, when he punisheth, martyreth, and utterly subdneth and destroyeth in us, here in this world, his and our greatest enemies, that is to say, our sins?
Therefore, to sorrow and mourn without measure in the midst of affliction and trouble, is nothing else but to show thyself a friend unto sin, which is thine and God’s highest enemy. Wherefore we should rather laud God, and highly rejoice, not specially because of the misery and affliction, but in the righteous and gracious will of God: righteous, I say, because he punisheth sin; and again, gracious and merciful, forasmuch as he doth punish it much more easily than we have justly deserved.
CHAPTER - ALL MANNER OF TROUBLES AND AFFLICTIONS, WHATSOEVER THEY BE, ARE ALWAYS MUCH LESS AND LIGHTER THAN ARE OUR SINS, Whensoever a man doth give a small and light punishment unto him that hath deserved much greater, it is reason that he receive and take it patiently: as one that hath slain and murdered a man, if he be but beaten and whipped out of a city or town, he taketh it in good part, because he knoweth well enough that he hath deserved to be hanged.
The holy woman Judith thinketh, that all these transitory punishments are much less, and far inferior unto our sins and wickednesses. (Jud. 8.)
Wherefore, if thou suffer poverty, sickness, or any other adversity, consider and think with thyself after this manner: Well, thy manifold sins have deserved a thousand times more grievous punishment, more heavy sickness, more horrible war, and more intolerable imprisonment.
And if all the miseries of the world should come together upon one heap unto thee, yet thou hast deserved much worse; for thou hast well deserved the full power and tyranny of the devil and eternal damnation, which notwithstanding God hath kept and taken from thee of his mere mercy, only for Jesus Christ’s sake. Item, he that hath received always good and prosperous things, ought not to marvel and wonder, if sometime he receive also some misfortune and adversity. Even the children of the world can say, that there is never a good hour, but hath also deserved an evil.
Now so merciful is God, that he suffereth no man upon earth unrewarded with one benefit or other: as well before trouble as after, yea, and also in the very time thereof, he giveth him many high and excellent gifts and benefits, as well bodily as ghostly, corporal as spiritual.
As for his benefits before trouble and affliction, we have a notable example set before our eyes in Job, which saith (chapter 2 <180201> ): “Seeing we have received much goodness of God, why should we not be content also to receive the evil?”
Likewise Pliny the second, being an heathen man, as he would comfort a friend of his, whose dear spouse and wife was departed out of the world, among other things he wrote after this manner: “This ought to be a singular comfort unto thee, that thou hast had and enjoyed such a precious jewel so long a time. For forty-four years did she live with thee, and there was never any strife, brawling, nor contention between you, nor never one of you once displeased the other. Yea, but now thou wilt say, so much the more loath and unwilling am I to forbear and to be without her, seeing I lived so long a time so quietly with her. For we forget soon such pleasures and commodities as we have proved and tasted but a little time only. But to answer to this, take thou heed that thou be not found unthankful, if thou wilt only weigh and consider what thou hast lost, and not remember how long thou didst enjoy her.” f38 And again, in the very time and midst of affliction and tribulation, God giveth us grace to consider other good and prosperous things, which we have and enjoy still, that through the remembrance and consideration of them our smart and pain may be eased, mollified, and mitigated.
As for an example: thou art a weak, impotent, and a diseased man in thy body; but yet hath God given thee reasonable and convenient goods and possessions to sustain thee with; or else, if thou hast scarceness and lack of goods and riches, yet thou hast no lack of bodily health.
Now if we will not set and weigh the one against the other, then are we like unto little children, which, if any man happen a little to disturb or hinder their play or game, or to take any manner of thing from them, they will by and by cast away all the rest also, and will fall on weeping. Even so were it possible enough for us to do likewise, whensoever any misfortune should happen unto us, to wax angry and displeased; and to have no manner of lust nor desire to use nor to enjoy that good that still remaineth and is left behind.
Be it in case that thou wert deprived of all manner of bodily comfort: yet in thy breast and heart thou hast the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which hath redeemed thee out of hell and damnation, that was due unto time; in respect of the which damnation all plagues upon earth are to be esteemed as one little drop of water against the whole sea. (Romans 5 <450501> Corinthians 5 <460501> , Colossians 1 <510101> , 1 Peter 3 <600301> , Hebrews 9 <580901> , etc.)
Besides this, also through faith thou feelest a confidence and assurance of everlasting and eternal joy. As St. Paul doth write of the same, saying: “I suppose the afflictions of this world are not worthy of the glory that shall be revealed unto us.” (Romans 8 <450801> ) An example have we set before our eyes in the prodigal and desperate son, which did so humble and submit himself, that he desired no more to be taken for a son, but to be put to labor as a day-laborer and an hired servant, so that he might but only remain in his father’s house. (Luke 15 <421501> ) Even so, whatsoever God sendeth ought we to take patiently, so that we may but only dwell in the house of God in heaven with him everlastingly.
Now if any man should think thus, ‘God doth not punish others, which have committed much more heinous sins, with so great and grievous plagues and diseases as he doth us;’ that were unreverently and unchristianly imagined of God. For what if thou thyself be more wicked than any other? But be it so, that others do live more wickedly and licentiously than thou, what wettest thou how God doth punish them? The greatest and most grievous pains and punishments are the inward sorrows and secret punishments of the mind, which are not seen with the outward eye.
And although they have no special sorrow nor singular grief that appeareth unto thee, and thou knowest not what God meaneth thereby, yet oughtest thou, as a child unto the father, to give unto him honor, laud, and praise, that he disposeth all things with such wisdom and in such order.
And when he seeth time, he will reward and consider all such things as have been wrought and committed heretofore against his most right and just laws, according as they have deserved.
CHAPTER - ALL MANNER OF AFFLICTIONS ARE SENT AND COME FROM GOD OF A LOVING AND FATHERLY MIND TOWARD US.
It is not sufficient for us to know, that all manner of affliction cometh by the permission and sufferance of God of his just judgment by reason of our sins. For in extreme temptations, and in great necessities, these are the first thoughts and imaginations that come into our minds: Forasmuch as I have grievously offended God with my sins, therefore is he displeased with me, and now become mine enemy, and hath cast his favor from me.
And if we prevent not, and shift away such fantasies and imaginations in time, they will make us to fly from God, to forsake him, and to abhor and grudge against him; as Saul did, which imagined and fully persuaded himself that God punished him of hatred and displeasure against him: and therefore Saul’s heart turned from God, and forsook him and so he began to hate and abhor him, as a cruel tyrant. (1 Samuel 28 <092801> ) Wherefore unto such points and articles as are taught heretofore, this admonition doth also appertain: we ought to receive with high thankfulness whatsoever God of a fatherly and loving mind, and not of any indignation towards us, sendeth unto us, whether it be to the flesh pleasant or grievous. The Lord God visiteth us with temporal and transitory misery, even for the very careful and fatherly heart that he beareth toward us, and not of any hatred or indignation against us. (Job 5 <180501> , Hosea 6 <280601> , 1 Peter 4 <600401> , Hebrews 12 <581201> , Revelation 3 <660301> ) For God is reconciled and at one with all Christian men through his Son, and loveth them even from the very ground of his heart.
For the which cause, howsoever or by what manner of mean it be that God punisheth and correcteth us, he doth it not because he hateth us, as though he would utterly refuse and cast us away; but of very pity and compassion, only to receive us as his children; to keep and preserve us, to exercise and practice us, to humble and to bring us down, and to stir and prick us forward; that prayer, faith, the fear of God, obedience, and other virtues, may wax and increase in us, to his honor and our salvation.
Testimonies for this have we, first: “As truly as I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but that he turn and live.” (Ezekiel 18 <261801> ) Here now doth God swear, that he doth punish, not to destroy, but to allure, reduce, and bring us unto penance.
Item: “Whom the Lord loveth, him doth he chasten, and yet notwithstanding he hath pleasure in him, as a father in his child.” (Proverbs 3 <200301> ) This is an evident testimony, that affliction, trouble, and vexation, axe no tokens of the wrath and displeasure of God, but rather sure tokens of his grace, mercy, and favor, whereby God assureth us of his merciful will and fatherly heart toward us.
Item: “We know that unto such as love God, all things serve to the best.” (Romans 8 <450801> ) And again: “We are corrected and punished of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11 <461101> ) All this mayest thou also mark in the whole story of Job throughout.
Likewise Joseph was sold of his brethren, and delivered unto the heathen, of very malice and envy, by the provocation and suggestion of the devil.
But the most faithful God turned it to the profit and wealth, both of the house of Israel, and also of the whole kingdom of Egypt: for so did Joseph himself interpret it. (Genesis 37 <013701> , 55 <015501> .)
Again, the church of Christ, that is to say, the Christian congregation, which is Christ’s spouse, must suffer vexation and affliction here upon earth.
But forasmuch as God loveth this his spouse of his Son, namely, the congregation of the faithful, and mindeth to comfort her, and to be most beneficial unto her; therefore, like as he hath raised up Christ her bridegroom, head, and king, from death, even so will he also deliver her from all affliction, and give her a joyful victory of all such things as do oppress her. But it is the infirmity and fault of our weak eyes, that we cannot espy the merciful and loving goodness of God in and under the rod and scourge.
Whensoever we are visited with affliction and misery, it is our duty indeed, first to acknowledge and remember our sins, and again to consider the yoke and bands of the devil for sin; but we ought not to judge and imagine of such affliction according to the purpose and will of the devil, as he, of a malicious and a mischievous mind that he beareth us, mindeth toward us, which seeketh continually nothing else but the utter destruction and confusion of all mankind; but rather we ought to esteem and consider of all such troubles and afflictions, according as God meaneth, and so receive them, which of his mere goodness turneth them to our wealth and profit, working and finishing thereby our perfect salvation.
And wheresoever the heart cannot conceive this comfort, that God correcteth and punisheth for very merciful favor and love towards us, there of necessity must the temptation and grief be much the greater, and the party at length fall to utter desperation.
CHAPTER - THAT ONLY GOD FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, AND THAT OF VERY MERCY, LOVE, AND FAVOR, DOTH CORRECT AND PUNISH US, The very right and only cause of the merciful and fatherly will of God towards us have we in the only merits of Jesus Christ, unto whom we ought to lift up our hearts toward heaven, and to behold and consider him with our minds continually, after this manner.
Our sins and misdeeds deserve hunger, death, war, pestilence, and all manner of plagues. Now hath Christ ransomed and made full satisfaction for all the sins that we have committed. (Isaiah 53 <235301> ; John 1 <430101> , 3 <430301> ; Romans 5 <450501> , 6 <450601> ,8 <450801> ; Ephesians 2 <490201> ; Colossians 1 <510101> ,2 <510201> ; 1 Peter 3 <600301> ; 1 John 4 <620401> ; Hebrews 9 <580901> ; etc.) He hath redeemed, paid, discharged, and made harmless unto us all our misdeeds with his bitter death, victories, and resurrection, and hath satisfied his Father’s righteousness, as St Paul doth testify very comfortably, saying: “Jesus is become and made unto us our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1 <460101> ) So then now, if afflictions hurt us only by reason of our sins, and our sins be satisfied and discharged through the death and passion of Jesus, then must it needs follow, that all our afflictions also are likewise harmless unto us, and cannot hurt us.
Yea, Christ, with and through his passion and affliction, hath blessed and sanctified all manner of afflictions, that they all should serve and redound unto all faithful Christians for their greatest wealth, by the ordinance and provision of God, their heavenly Father. He is the true physician, which after he perceived that affliction did fear us, took upon himself to suffer all manner of trouble, yea, the most grievous sorrows and extremities, because he would set and appoint a certain measure and end unto our sorrows, and also bless and sanctify, yea, and also make pleasant and delectable very death itself unto us.
Oh! if we could feel, behold, and consider the heart and mind of Christ, when he did willingly hang upon the cross, and suffered himself so cruelly and painfully to be tormented and punished, for no other cause, but that he might utterly take away the whole strength of all our sins, sorrow, and death, and destroy hell, that none of them should hurt us; and again, that he tasted and drank of the cup before us, that we being sick and weak might the rather drink and taste of it after him, forasmuch as no evil mishappened unto him thereof, but immediately rose up again from death:
Oh! if the knowledge and remembrance of this might remain in our hearts upright, and shine continually before us: then should we never sink or faint, nor yet despair of the mercy and goodness of God, although we should labor in never so dangerous and grievous battle, and though we ourselves should taste and feel the due punishment that our sins have deserved: then should we be able to stand stiffly against the gates of hell; and all manner of sorrow, heaviness, temptation, fear, and misfortune, should thereby be utterly consumed and swallowed up.
And even this is the highest and most special comfort that ever was heard or read of from the beginning of the world. He is only alone sufficient, if we consider him and take hold of him as we should do, to plant and graft such a mind in us, that we shall not only not sorrow nor be heavy, but also triumph and rejoice in and of our misery and affliction; as Paul triumpheth excellently and highly, where he saith, “If God hath not spared his only Son, but hath given him up for us all, how should he not give us all things with him?” (Romans 8 <450801> ) What make we then with our vain fearfulness, care, sorrow, and heaviness? Wherefore, if we will be right Christians, we must with all thankfulness set forth, extol, and magnify this excellent, infinite, and heavenly grace and benefit of God, and the high and singular comfort which we have by Christ.
For all they that lack the knowledge of the benefit that we have by Christ, and refuse this excellent and high treasure, whether they be Jews or Heathens, Mahometans or Popish, they cannot be able to give any true, perfect, or wholesome comfort, either to themselves or to any other, in any manner of fear or doubt of the conscience, or in any other affliction and necessity.
So long as they are quiet and safe, and neither feel nor consider the pain of death nor any other grief or necessity, they may well live securely and boldly without any manner of fear: but when the evil hour once cometh, that the weather changeth a little, that either through the revelation and opening of the law they feel and perceive the wrath of God over them, or else through the manifest and evident tokens and preaching of the just punishment and vengeance of God, and through the present taste of some plague, they are suddenly taken and stricken with fear, as then doth all their wisdom, counsel, and policy, wherewith to withstand any such evil, utterly fail them, and suddenly deceive them.
Then flee they from God, and cannot tell whither to run, nor where to hide themselves. And how small soever their temptation or plague is, their heart is dashed, and as sore afraid, as Moses saith, of the noise of a leaf, as of a thunder-clap. (Leviticus 26 <032601> ; Proverbs 28 <202801> ) And with such manner persons the whole trade of their former life, with all their labor, travail, and affiance in their superstitious serving of God, and in their hard and strait life, is utterly lost and spent in vain.
Yea, what comfort soever they have sought, beside Christ, it is all nothing else but an augmentation of their sorrowful fear, and a training of them towards desperation. So that, without and besides the Lord Jesus, there is no manner of comfort, aid, nor succor at all to be looked for. (Acts 4 <440401> ; Philippians 3 <500301> ) CHAPTER - SIMILITUDES AND COMPARISONS, DECLARING HOW AND AFTER WHAT MANNER GOD DOTH PLAGUE AND CHASTEN US OF VERY LOVE, MERCY, AND FAVOR TOWARDS US.
When as Almighty God, for the merits of his Son, not of any ireful mind or displeasure, but of a good will and loving heart towards us, doth correct and punish us, he may be compared and likened unto a father, a mother, a master, a physician, an husbandman, a goldsmith, and such like, after this sense: like as the natural father first teacheth his dear beloved child, and afterward giveth him warning and monition, and then correcteth him at last; even so the eternal God assayeth all manner of ways with us, which are well grown and old in years, but young and tender in faith.
First, he teacheth us his will through the preaching of his word, and giveth us warning. Now if so be that we will not follow him, then he beateth and jerketh us a little with a rod, as sometime with poverty, sometime with sickness and diseases, or with other afflictions, which should be named and esteemed as nothing else but children’s rods, or the wands of correction.
Now if such a rod or wand will not help nor do any good, then taketh the father a whip or a stick. As in case his son waxeth stubborn, and will spend his money and thrift wantonly and riotously at the tippling-house with evil company, then cometh the father and pulleth him out by the hair of his head, bindeth his hands and feet, and beateth him till his bones crack, and sendeth him into prison, or banisheth him out of the country: even so, when we wax obstinate and stubborn, and care in manner neither for words nor for stripes, then sendeth God unto us more heavy and universal plagues, as pestilence, dearth, sedition, uproar, casualty of fire, murder, war, loss of victory, that, being taken of our enemies, we are led away prisoners and captives, etc.
All this he doth to fear and to tame us, and as it were with violence to drive and to force us unto repentance and amendment of our lives. Now truth it is, that it is against the father’s will to strike his child; he would much rather do him all the good that ever he could. But through long sufferance and over-much cherishing the children wax rude, and forget all nurture. Therefore doth he punish them; but yet, in the midst of all his anger and punishment, his fatherly heart breaketh out.
In case that he putteth his son away from him for some grievous fault, yet he sendeth him not away altogether comfortless, but giveth him some garments and some comfortable words, and so sendeth him from him, not to remain for evermore in banishment, but when he is once a little humbled, meekened, and amended, to turn home again. And this is only the father’s mind, to turn and keep from his son all such things as might hurt and destroy him, and never mindeth to cast away or utterly to forsake his child.
Even so certainly, when God sendeth misery and affliction upon our necks, there lieth hidden under that rod a fatherly heart and affection. For the peculiar and natural property of God is to be loving and friendly, to heal, to help, and to do good to his children, mankind. f41 Adam and Eve, when they were put into paradise, were they not plenteously endued with all good things? But they could not order nor use them rightly, as none of us all can (Genesis 3 <010301> ); but as soon as we have all things at pleasure, and lack nothing that we could desire, then forthwith wax we both negligent and slothful.
And therefore God sendeth us evil, that he may do us good: and yet in the midst of all affliction and punishment he sendeth some mitigation, comfort, and succor. And we may take example by our foresaid first parents, Adam and Eve: when as God was fully determined upon the very point to exclude and banish them out of paradise, first he clothed them against the frost and violence of the weather; and he comforted them also with the promise of the blessed Seed (Genesis <010301> ), which maketh all manner of affliction not only easy and harmless, but also wholesome and profitable unto us.
And this same nature doth the immutable God never change, but keepeth it continually; he will not utterly forsake us, but only suffer us a little to smart for the sins that we have committed, and so preserve us from sin afterward, that we run not into the danger of eternal pain.
Furthermore, be it in case, that the father hath two sons, whereof the one behaveth himself wickedly, and yet his father punisheth or correcteth him nothing at all, the other for the least fault that he doth is taken up and corrected by and by: what thing else is the cause of this, but that the father hath no hope of amendment at all of the one, and therefore mindeth to put him clearly from his heritage, and to give him no part thereof? For the heritage pertaineth wholly unto that son that is chastened and corrected.
And yet the same poor son that is thus chastened, thinketh in his mind that his brother is much more happy than he, forasmuch as he is never beaten nor stricken. And therefore he sighs and mourneth by himself, and thinketh thus: Well, my brother doth what he will against my father’s will, and without his leave, and yet my father giveth him not one foul word; he suffereth him to take his pleasure, and to run where he will; and towards me he sheweth not so much as a good look, but is ever in my top, if I do but look awry, etc.
Here now mayest thou mark the foolishness and ignorance of the child, which hath respect only unto the present grief, and never remembereth nor considereth what is reserved and kept in store for him. Even such thoughts and imaginations have Christian men and women also, when as they suffer much tribulation, and see on the other side how prosperously it goeth with the wicked and ungodly sort; whereas they ought rather to comfort themselves with the remembrance of the heritage that is reserved for them in heaven, which appertaineth unto them, as good and virtuous children.
As for the other, that hop and spring, make merry, and take their pleasure now for a while, they shall be deprived of the heritage everlastingly, as strangers, and shall have no part thereof.
And this proveth St. Paul, where he saith, “My son, fear not when thou art corrected of the Lord, but receive his punishment thankfully, and with a good will; for whomsoever the Lord loveth, him doth he chastise and punish, and scourgeth every child that he receiveth. Now if ye be partakers of correction, then doth God offer and show himself unto you as a father. And if all those that be children be corrected, and ye without correction, are ye not then bastards, and not children?” (Hebrews 12 <581201> ) In these words doth St. Paul evidently compare and liken the punishment of the Lord unto the correction of a natural father.
And whom should not these words make to tremble and quake, where as he saith those are bastards, and not right and lawful children, which are not punished? And again, whom should not this thing rejoice and comfort, where as he saith they that are punished are children?
Wherefore, although the Almighty Lord sheweth himself displeased with us, it is nothing else but a displeasure of a most kind and loving father, which seeketh not our destruction and undoing, but only our reformation, amendment, and wealth. Give over thyself, therefore, patiently unto the will of God, thy faithful father. Rejoice in the correction of the Lord, forasmuch as thou art sure and certain thereby, that he beareth a gracious and a fatherly heart, mind, and will towards thee.
Furthermore, God is also in this behalf compared to a mother. The mother feedeth and nourisheth the child; and all the good she can do unto it, that doth she, even of a tender and motherly heart: and yet, through the frowardness and unruliness of the child, is she sometimes so moved and provoked, that she is angry with it, chideth it, rebuketh it. and beateth it..
Now as little as the mother denieth, forsaketh, or giveth over the child, though she be angry with it and displease it, even as little doth God forsake or give over us in our need and necessity, misery and affliction, though he seem never so much to be displeased with us. Scripture for this have we: “If a mother can forget her child, then may I also forget thee, saith the Lord: but if she should forget her child, yet will I not forget thee.” (Isaiah 49 <234901> ) There is never a schoolmaster, nor handycraftsman, which taketh any scholar or apprentice unto him to teach, but he will make these conditions with him expressly: that the lad shall not be self-willed nor stubborn, nor follow his own brain and mind, but with all possible diligence shall mark and take heed unto that which the master teacheth him; and if he will be negligent, or play the truant, and not give himself unto his business as he ought to do, if he, being his master, should beat and punish him therefore, that he be content to take it patiently and with a good will. Now the master doth not correct and punish his scholar or servant for any intent to hurt him, or for any malice or evil will towards him, but; only that he should learn better afterward, be more diligent, and take better heed. Even so likewise Christ receiveth no scholar or disciple unto him, but he maketh conditions with him most necessary for every Christian man, which are expressed in Matthew 16 <401601> .
The word of God ought to be the only rule, whereby we should be ordered: but we had rather to follow our own head and our own brain, by the means whereof ofttimes we go awry, and miss the right way; and therefore the heavenly schoolmaster knappeth us on the fingers, till we apprehend and learn his will more perfectly.
Likewise, the physician or surgeon must cut away and burn out the rotten and dead flesh with his iron and instrument, that the whole body be not infected and poisoned, and so perish: even so doth God sometimes plague our bodies sharply and grievously, that our souls may be preserved and healed. And how deep soever God thrusteth his iron into our flesh and bodies, he doth it only to remedy and to heal us; and if it be so that he kill us, then will he bring us to the right life. The physician, in making of his triakle, occupieth serpents and adders and such like poison, to drive out one poison with another: even so God, in afflicting and correcting of us, occupieth and useth the devil and wicked people, but yet all to do us good withal.
As long as the physician hath any hope of the recovery of his patient, he assayeth all manner of means and medicines with him, as well sour and sharp, as sweet and pleasant; but as soon as ever he beginneth to doubt of his recovery, he suffereth him to have and to take all manner of things whatsoever the patient himself desireth. Even so the heavenly Physician, as long as he taketh us Christians for his, and hath any hope to recover or to heal us, he restraineth us from our will, and will not always suffer us to have what we most desire; but as soon as he hath no more hope of us, and giveth us over, then he suffereth us for a time to have and enjoy all our own will and pleasure. This similitude and comparison is taken out of the fifth chapter of Job (Job 5 <180501> ): “If the Lord God doth wound, then doth his hand heal again,” etc.
Furthermore, when a horse-breaker giveth unto a lusty fresh young horse too much of the bridle, he is wild and wanton, and goeth not well as he should do, and by chance in a slippery and sliding place he might fall headlong over and over: even so, if our Creator and Maker should suffer us overmuch, and give us too large liberty, we should soon wax wild, and proud thereof; and it might happen that we should undo and destroy ourselves; therefore he giveth us a sharp bit in our mouths, and helpeth us to bridle and to tame our flesh, that the noble and precious soul perish not.
Again, like as the carter or poor man jerketh his horses with the whip, and striketh them sharply when they will not draw nor go forward, and yet favoreth and spareth them also, that he may enjoy them the longer; even so God striketh and whippeth us, when we do not right as we should do, and yet nevertheless spareth us, and will not make utterly an end of us.
Like as the poor shepherd also, when his foolish sheep stray abroad in the wild wilderness among the wolves, driveth them from strange ways into the right way, and hunteth them into their sure sheepfold, where they may be in safe-guard; even so we likewise, forasmuch as we mix ourselves ofttimes among the worldlings, and have fellowship with those that are enemies unto our Christian and true religion, therefore God cometh unto us, and driveth us with sorrow and repentance from them, that we should not be destroyed and perish together with them.
The herdman will suffer such calves as are appointed shortly to the slaughter, to run and spring about; in the pasture at pleasure; and again, such as are reserved to labor are kept and used under the yoke: even so Almighty God doth suffer and permit unto those ungodly persons, whose destruction is at hand, to have all pleasure and lust upon earth, and to fulfill and accomplish their pleasures and desires; but the godly, whom he will use to his honor and glory, those keepeth he under the yoke, and restraineth them from the pleasant lusts of the world.
A wise and skillful husbandman doth not cast nor sow his seed in a field or ground that is not broken, ploughed, and tilled as it ought to be, but he spanneth his oxen, and goeth to the field, and casteth up the earth with his ploughshare, and so tilleth and harroweth it; and then first of all he soweth it, that if any rain fall, the seed may be saved, driven into the earth, and take hold and wax therein. Even such an husbandman is God, and we are his tillage. (1 Corinthians 3 <460301> ) And he bestoweth not his Spirit and truth upon such as are wild, and past all fear of God.
Moreover, like as the gardener hedgeth his garden round about, and fenceth it with thorns and briers, that no beasts nor noisome cattle hurt it; even so God defendeth, keepeth, and preserveth us from evil company, and from all manner of sin, through thorns and briers, that is to say, through the cross and afflictions, as Hosea saith, (chapter 2 <280201> ): “I will beset their ways with thorns, and their footpaths will I hedge.”
If the gardener cut off the knobs and the crooked boughs from the trees in his garden, and loppeth them a little, yet as long as the roots remain, the trees are never the worse, but wax nevertheless, and bring forth fruit: even so doth God lop and hew the crabby old Adam with the cross, not to the intent to hurt or harm us, but to keep us in awe, and to teach us godly manners. And surely, as long as the root of faith remaineth with us, though we be spoiled and destitute of all riches, and of all manner of worldly and bodily comfort, yet shall we bring forth good fruits to the high honor and glory of God’s holy name. (John 15 <431501> ) Christian men without the cross are like unto grapes, which hang upon the vines, and have the fruition of the open air, and remain still upon the stock unfruitful, and no man is the better for them.
Wherefore the heavenly vine-man bringeth the Christians unto the winepress, where they are beaten, pressed, stamped, and broken, not to their destruction, but that they may be delivered from the corruption and infection of worldly lusts, and may bring forth sweet wine, and bear pleasant fruits.
The goldsmith casteth a lump of gold into the oven and into the fire, not to consume it away with the fire, but to purge it from the corruption that is in it, and that all that hangeth about it, and is no gold, should be burnt away with the fire, and consumed unto ashes: even so is God the goldsmith, the world the oven, affliction the fire, the faithful Christians the gold, and the filth and corruption is sin. Now will God purge and make clean those that belong unto him from all manner of blots, blemishes, and corruption, and make them glorious and beautiful unto him.
The free-mason heweth the hard stones, and heweth off here one piece, and there another, till the stones be fit and apt for the place where he will lay them: even so God, the heavenly free-mason, buildeth a Christian church, and he frameth and polisheth us, which are the costly and precious stones, with the cross and affliction, that all abomination and wickedness, which do not agree unto this glorious building, might be removed and taken out of the way. (1 Peter 2 <600201> ) Again, as the dyer bleacheth, or the laundress washeth, beateth, lumpeth, and clappeth the foul, unclean, and defiled clothes, that they may so be white, pure, and clean; even so doth God some time handle and deal with us, to make us pure and clean. (Daniel 11 <271101> ) CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND AFFLICTIONS DO SERVE TO PROVE AND TO TRY US WITHAL Trouble and afflictions do prove, try, instruct, confirm, and strengthen the faith, provoke and stir up prayer, drive and force us to amendment of life, to the fear of God, to meekness, to patience, to constancy, to gentleness, to soberness and temperance, and to all manner of virtues; and are the occasion of exceeding much good, as well transitory as eternal, in this world as in the world to come. By affliction and trouble will God prove and assay, mark and spy, how deep thy heart hath entered with God, how much thy faith is able to suffer and to bear, whether thou canst forsake both thyself and all other creatures in the world for his sake.
In sum, to be short, he will try how thou wilt behave thyself, when he taketh utterly from thee and out of thy sight that wherein thou most delightest and hast any pleasure upon earth. God knoweth well enough before, how thou wilt take it and behave thyself; but he will show and declare to thyself and to other also, what is in thee: for oft-times people do so extol a man, and make such boast of him, to be the wisest, most circumspect, manly, and honest man in a country; but when the time of trial cometh, there appeareth no such thing in him, as was thought and looked for.
When a great tempest ariseth in the sea, then doth it appear whether the shipmaster be cunning in ruling the stern or no. Again, those are the most honest and most chaste matrons, which being sore tempted, assaulted, and provoked unto wickedness, do nevertheless keep their spouse-faith towards their husbands undefiled. Even so can no man know nor prove perfectly, how the Christian church keepeth her spouse-faith and fidelity towards her spouse and bridegroom Jesus Christ, until such time as antichrist assaulteth and tempteth her with false doctrine, tyranny, and persecution.
Such trees as have strong and deep roots and sufficient natural sap, can no violent heat of the sun hurt nor harm; but such as are felled and cut down, are soon dried up with the heat of the sun, like as the grass also that is mown down doth soon wither: even so likewise such faithful persons as are rooted in Christ Jesus, cannot troubles nor afflictions hurt, they grow and wax green notwithstanding; but the unfaithful do betray themselves, and show what they are, as soon as they see any heat of trouble or persecution coming. With one flail are both the stalks and ears of the corn beaten, and also the corn itself threshed and purged out: even so with one manner of trouble and affliction are the faithful purged and provoked to pray unto God, and to laud and magnify him, and the unfaithful also to murmur and curse; and so are they both tried, proved, and known.
When the corn is threshed, the kernel lieth mixed among the chaff, and afterward are they dissevered asunder with the fan or windle: even so the people in the church do first hear the preaching of God’s word; now some stumble, repine, and are offended at it, and other are not offended, and yet they dwell together one with another; but when they are fanned or windled, and when the wind of trouble and affliction beginneth once a little to blow, then is it easy to sunder and to know the one from the other, the faithful from the unfaithful.
Art thou pure corn? What needest thou then to fear either the flail or the wind? In the threshing and in the wind thou shalt be delivered and sundered from the chaff, and shalt be made more pure than thou wast before. Let them fear that are chaff, which are not able to abide the wind, but must be blown away, and so cast out for ever.
A rotten and an old weak house standeth awhile for a time; but as soon as a wind cometh and bloweth, it appeareth unto all men, how feeble the foundation and stay of it was. Even so are there such Christian men without ground or foundation, which so long as all things go well and prosper with them, they are good Christians; but in the time of trouble and persecution their dissimulation is known and breaketh out. “As gold is tried in the oven, wherein it is molten; even so hath God tried and purged them.” Now if thou be gold, what needest thou to fear the fire, which doth more profit than hinder or hurt thee?
To this purpose doth this true proverb serve: “In need doth a man try which be his friends.”
Examples: Almighty God did tempt and prove Abraham, and bade him offer up and kill his only son (Genesis 22 <012201> ): then was Abraham in a great distress, perplexity, and heaviness; he had rather have lost all his goods and possessions, and all that ever he had upon earth, than he should slay his dear son. But yet, though it were against nature, and an intolerable thing, yet he carried his son forth three days’ journey to kill him with his own hands; he overcame his flesh by faith, and would be obedient unto God. Then said God unto him: “Now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only dear son for my sake.”
And Moses saith: “Remember all the ways, through the which the Lord thy God hath led and guided thee these forty years in the wilderness, because he would chasten and prove thee, that it might appear and be known what was within thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no.” (Deuteronomy 8 <050801> ) Set Pharaoh and David together the one against the other, two notable kings: Pharaoh persevereth and continueth obstinately, stubbornly, and perversely in his wicked purpose, notwithstanding the manifold plagues that did fall and lighten upon him. (Exodus 7 <020701> , 8 <020801> , 9 <020901> ) Contrariwise, how soon did David give over and break out with all meekness, submission, patience, and acknowledging of his whoredom, when as he fled from Absalom, Shimei rebuking and reviling him most shamefully! (2 Samuel 16 <101601> ) Job was stricken with many grievous sores, that there was nothing sound or whole in him, from the sole of his foot to the top of his head; not that he had deserved such heavy punishment more than other men, but that God would declare to all the world his patience and faithfulness. But his wife did then show her weak faith and wicked corrupt nature. (Job 2 <180201> ) Who was more faithful and more fervent than Peter? and yet he denied and forsook Christ before a simple woman. (Matthew 26 <402601> ) Who ought not therefore to fear himself, except he hath before in the trial been found faithful, steadfast, and constant?
In like manner, daily experience teacheth us to know the faithful and unfaithful asunder in persecution and affliction. There are some that cleave to the gospel for a time; but when they see they cannot attain that they sought and looked for, then they forsake it, and fall from it again, yea, and in the time of temptation they fall to blaspheming of the holy gospel: but the godly, which have it fixed in their hearts, stand steadfastly by God both in life and death.
CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND AFFLICTION DO HELP AND FURTHER US TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF OURSELVES, AND OF GOD ALSO, AND SPECIALLY TO WISDOM.
Besides this, it is a profitable and a good thing for a man to know himself well.
Felicity and prosperity blindeth a man; but when he is under the cross he beginneth to mark the frailness of his body, the uncertainty of his life, the feebleness of his understanding, the infirmity and weakness of man’s strength and power.
He shall spy and perceive how far he is entered in the way of virtue, how the matter standeth between God and him, whether he be a champion of God or of the devil: for a man thinketh himself oft-times to be well grounded and stablished, but in the time of temptation he feeleth how lightly and easily he is tossed and turned of every blast of the wind.
Item, by affliction and misfortune God will put thee in remembrance, how many thousand perils are yet hanging over thy head, which should lighten and fall upon thee, if he did not keep and preserve thee from them. And the same God saith thus unto thee: ‘The wicked enemy with an innumerable and infinite heap of all evils and mischiefs doth assault thee, and lay watch for to subdue thee, and to swallow thee up; but I have appointed him his bounds, over the which he cannot pass.’
The longer thou art under the cross, the better mayest thou learn all the virtues and goodness of God; as his just judgment and strait justice, whereby he sheweth his wrath and displeasure against the wicked and ungodly, and sendeth upon their necks terrible plagues; and the obstinate and unrepentant he condemneth everlastingly.
Item, his immutable truth, whereby he doth faithfully perform all his promises, and bringeth to pass all his threatenings.
Item, his exceeding mercy and free grace, whereby he preventeth all evil towards us, and will not suffer us to be caught and oppressed with any misfortune.
Item, his eternal and everlasting providence, whereby, like a father, he taketh charge and care over us, and governeth all things most wisely. (1 Peter 5 <600501> ) Item, his glory, magnificence, and lauds for the foresaid virtues, which do shine most clearly in affliction and adversity; for the which cause St.
Bernard writeth thus: “Whereby do we know that he that dwelleth above is among us here beneath? Forsooth by this, that we do stick in trouble and afflictions. For who could be able to sustain, bear, and abide them without God?” f42 A man hath need at all times of wisdom, circumspection, prudence, and soberness. Like as prosperity shutteth and blindeth the eyes of men, even so doth adversity and trouble open them.
Like as the salve that remedieth the disease of the eyes doth first bite and grieve the eyes, and maketh them to water, but yet afterward the eyesight is clearer and more sharp than it was; even so trouble and affliction doth grieve and vex men wonderfully at the first, but afterward it helpeth and lighteneth the eyes of the mind, that it is afterward more reasonable, wise, and circumspect.
For trouble bringeth experience, and experience bringeth wisdom. The rod and punishment do bring wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 34 <213401> , Proverbs 29 <202901> ) And of this did these proverbs first spring up: “The more plentiful land, the more foolish and wicked people;” and again: “Adversity causeth men to look well and far about them;” item: “There is no man wise, but with his hurt and loss;” item, “That man may well learn to swim, which hath the water at his mouth.” David saith: “O Lord, how good and profitable is it unto me, that thou hast chastened and humbled me, that I might learn thy righteousness and thy commandments!” (Psalm 119:1) CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND AFFLICTIONS DO HELP AND FURTHER US TO THE RIGHT KNOWLEDGE OF OUR SINS, AND TO PERFECT SORROW AND REPENTANCE FOR THEM.
God requireth that the knowledge of our poisoned and corrupt nature and of the wrath of God should wax and increase in us, whereby we might conceive a hearty sorrow and repentance for our sins, and so daily amend and wax better. Now truth it is, that in our hearts naturally sticketh a rough secureness and retchlessness, whereby we do little regard and esteem the inward filthiness of our hearts; and specially, when we feel no manner of taste of the cross and affliction, we do not consider the miserable wretchedness of our sins, nor the just judgment of God, and the terrible punishment due for the same.
But when the hand of God doth humble and pluck down some special persons or a whole congregation, then remember we the greatness and heaviness of sin, that God’s wrath and indignation is not so sore without some special and most just causes.
And then break we out into such words as these: “O Lord, we have deserved these plagues a thousand ways. O good and most just God, thou rewardest the misdeeds and transgressions of the fathers in the children, if they follow their fathers’ steps, even unto the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 20 <022001> , 34 <023401> ; Numbers 14 <041401> ; Deuteronomy 5 <050501> ) Like as the hard copper and tin do melt in the fire, even so in trouble and affliction the hard, rough, and stubborn hearts do melt and fall to misliking and loathing their sins.
A trespasser doth then first of all perceive his faults rightly, when he is brought unto the judgment to be punished, and is adjudged and condemned unto death. And for this cause doth God use such rough and hard means with us. And both the common and general, and also the particular and special, plagues and adversities may well be called a part of God’s law, and, as it were, God’s preaching, which testify and declare unto us, that God is heavily displeased against all manner of wickedness and abomination that reigneth in the world; that all men should humble and submit themselves unto God, bewail and lament their sins unto him with a sorrowful and a right penitent heart, and desire his grace and mercy.
For an example: Joseph’s brethren in Egypt did then first of all spy their wickedness committed against their brother, when as very need and necessity did vex them in a strange country. (Genesis 42 <014201> ) When as the Lord did send into the wilderness among the Israelites venomous serpents, which did bite them and set them on fire; then came they first to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, forasmuch as we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee.” (Numbers 21 <042101> ) When the pestilence did rage, then said David unto the Lord, “Behold, it is I that have sinned; what have these sheep done?” (1 Chronicles 21 <132101> ) Now, therefore, if it be so, that knowledge of the sin, and an hearty displeasure against it, be profitable and necessary, then can we not well forbear trouble and adversity.
CHAPTER - TROUBLE, AFFLICTION, AND ADVERSITY, DO HELP AND FURTHER US TO THE EXERCISING AND INCREASING OF OUR FAITH.
That our faith is proved and tried through the Cross and through adversity, it is declared before. And now shall it be evidently proved, that our faith is then first right stablished, exercised, and augmented, when adversity cometh. The very true Christian faith is grounded only upon the grace, mercy, power, and help of God through Christ. Which thing cannot be right comprehended with vain thoughts, imaginations, and speculations; but God cometh upon the miserable sinners with heaps of miseries.
And why? forsooth it is done for this purpose, that they should utterly neglect and despise all manner of counsel and comfort of man; that they should be plucked from all manner of trust in the policies and powers of the world; and that they should utterly despair of all help in any creature: and in the stead of that, they should set and fix their hearts and minds only in God, and that nothing at all should else remain in them, but only unspeakable sighing unto God, proceeding out of a true faith, in whose help and mercy only altogether consisteth.
Testimonies of scripture: Moses witnesseth that God suffered the Israelites to be diversely vexed, and to be brought into great distress, and yet preserved them wonderfully, for this cause, that when they should come into the land of promise, they should not say: “Mine own power, and the strength of mine own hands, were able to bring this to pass; but thou shouldest think upon the Lord thy God: for he it is which giveth thee such power, whereby thou art able to perform and bring any thing to pass.” (Deuteronomy 8 <050801> ) And so did God deal afterward with the children of Israel, which of their own brain and wisdom sought help, succor, and maintenance at the king of the Assyrians, and at the king of Egypt, which were the very same that afterward did besiege them, slay them, and carry them away prisoners.
And so after that they felt and proved that there was none that could succor and help them, but only the Lord, unto whom they yielded and gave over themselves at length; as, I looked for no other but that I should die. (Jeremiah 10 <241001> ; Hosea 2 <280201> , Hosea 4 <280401> , Hosea 6 <280601> ) But it was done for this purpose, that we “should not put any trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth up the dead again.” (2 Corinthians 1 <470101> ) Item: Whatsoever stirreth up and exerciseth our faith, of that ought we not to be afraid, but rather to rejoice in it. When we live in idleness, in all lust and pleasure, the devil snappeth us up, and so blindeth us in our weakness, that we think God doth not regard us, and all things in the world to happen without any working or foresight of God. But as well in special as in general adversities, there is greater matter and occasion to practice and to exercise the faith.
God suffereth thee to fall into poverty, or thy most dear friends to be taken from thee by death, or some other disquietness to happen unto thee.
As then hast thou great occasion to awake and to practice thy faith; and first to call to remembrance the promises of God, contained in his word, and then to call upon him for his grace and assistance, and so to resist and withstand all manner of natural doubtfulness and despair, that hangeth in thy flesh, how grievous soever the necessity seem to be, and howsoever any man doth imagine that God hath withdrawn his face from thee, and will not help thee at all.
In like manner, in all common necessities and general, this is the right exercise of faith, and the most holy service of God, that we first consider and weigh earnestly all manner of perils and assaults of the church and of the commonwealth; and after that, that we pray unto God with a constant and a lively faith, that he will deliver and preserve the church from false doctrine, superstition, and hypocrisy, and that he will graciously rule and govern it: and that he will also preserve the commonwealth in good order and quietness, and will grant wholesome air and seasonable weather, and will also restrain and let the wild and dissolute behavior and conversation of the common sort of people; and will grant, maintain, and preserve a Christian discipline, behavior, and honesty, whereby his holy and godly name may be lauded and magnified, his kingdom augmented, increased, and confirmed, and the kingdom of the devil subverted and confounded.
And remember this also: whensoever thou considerest thy adversity, forget not to desire of God hope and trust for comfort, aid, and succor; and look that thou strive and fight mightily and manfully against all manner of mistrust, and put away all manner of despair, how grievously soever thy adversity and sorrow doth increase; and thus is thy faith well rightly practiced and exercised.
An example from holy Job was taken all that ever any man might take any comfort in, wife, children, goods, and friends; and one trouble, sorrow, and heavy message came still in another’s neck, and he had not one drop of blood in his body, that was not consumed and wasted. And he sat in the sight of all the world, was their laughing-stock, and so exercised and practiced his faith, and gave over himself only and wholly unto God. (Job 1 <180101> , Job 2 <180201> , Job 3 <180301> ) Unto Abraham was promised a seed, which should be in multitude as the sand of the sea, and as the stars of the sky (Genesis 12 <011201> , 18 <011801> ; Ecclesiastes 44 <214401> ); and yet was his wife barren and unfruitful, and he also waxen old and aged, that after the judgment of natural reason it was not possible that that promise should be fulfilled and come to pass, by the means whereof Abraham did exercise, try, and practice his faith.
And thus did Joseph, David, Daniel, all patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, as well in the common and general adversities of the church, as in their own private and peculiar afflictions, exercise and practice their faith; and this was their highest God’s service, wherewith they honored and served God. (2 Samuel 15 <101501> ; Daniel 3 <270301> , 6 <270601> ) Wherefore in our time also God giveth us great and marvelous occasion, through trouble and adversity, to awake, stir up, and to exercise our faith.
And by such exercise is the faith increased and confirmed; yea, and shineth more brightly, and is made more beautiful and glorious. For whatsoever a man hath proved and tried himself, that believeth he afterward the more steadfastly. Now he that is a Christian man or woman proveth and feeleth in deed, that in the midst of his sorrow and affliction he is ruled, defended, comforted, and preserved of God. For hope cannot be confounded.
And therefore the Christian and the faithful man, through trouble and adversity, is made more bold and hearty, and concludeth with himself, more than ever he did before, that God hath a special regard and consideration of those that are in trouble and misery, and will graciously help and deliver them out.
Like as one that hath sailed oft upon the sea, and proved and escaped great and dangerous tempests, and hath been sore tossed with the fearful waves, is afterward the more bold and hardy to go unto the sea, forasmuch as he hath ever escaped well, and hath had good fortune before; even so a Christian man, whom the cross hath oft assaulted and exercised, forasmuch as he hath always found comfort, aid, and help of God, afterward he trusteth God, the longer the more, though the same affliction and adversity come again unto him, that he had before.
And to this purpose hear and mark two especial and notable examples; one out of the Old, and another out of the New Testament. David, when he prepared himself to fight against the valiant giant Goliah, said these words: “The Lord, which hath delivered me from a lion and from a bear, shall deliver me also from this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17 <101701> ) And again, Paul saith: “God hath delivered us from so great a death, and delivereth us daily, and we hope that he will deliver us from henceforth also.” (2 Corinthians 1 <470101> ) And to the same purpose doth this also appertain, to consider, that the cross assureth those that bear it in the Lord, of the grace and favor of God, whereby they know certainly, that they are of the number of the elect, and the children of God; forasmuch as he looketh upon them fatherly, to reform and to correct them. (Job 5 <180501> ; Hosea 6 <280601> ; Proverbs 3 <200301> ; Tobit 12:1; 1 Peter 4 <600401> ; Hebrews 12 <581201> ; Revelation 3 <660301> ) For why thus it is written: “Yea, all those that ever did please God have been proved and tried by many and divers troubles, and have been found constant and steadfast in faith.” Item: “All those that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution and affliction.” (2 Timothy 3 <550301> ; Ecclesiastes 2 <210201> ; Psalm 33 <193301> ) CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND ADVERSITY GIVETH US OCCASION TO PRAY UNTO GOD, AND TO LAUD AND PRAISE HIM.
Every Christian man knoweth this, that it is necessary and profitable for him to pray and to call upon God most fervently and devoutly. Now when a man liveth in all prosperity, then he prayeth very little, or very slenderly and coldly; he hath no great affection or mind upon it.
But sorrow, heaviness, and adversity, kindleth the mind and setteth it on fire; driveth, chaseth, and hunteth it unto God, and compelleth it to call upon God fervently and earnestly: for at such time we feel and perceive well, that we can do nothing of ourselves, and what great need we have of God, that he will vouchsafe to govern, aid, and defend us.
Like as the water, as long as it floweth and runneth over the even, plain, wide, and broad fields, it breaketh not out by no violence, but disperseth and spreadeth itself abroad every where alike; but when it is gathered together by cunning and science, and conveyed into a narrow room, as into a pipe or conduit, then it springeth or spouteth out on high: even so the mind of man, as long as it is quiet, idle, and without sorrow or trouble, it walketh and wandereth abroad at large and at liberty; but when it is brought in, restrained, and driven to a strait and a narrow issue through trouble and adversity, it breaketh out aloft to God in heaven with an earnest, hearty, and fervent prayer for grace, aid, and comfort. (Ecclesiastes 35 <213501> ; Acts 10 <441001> ) Whereupon there is a common proverb sprung: “Need and necessity teacheth men to pray.” “O Lord, when trouble and adversity is at hand, then do men seek thee: when thou chastenest and punishest them, then call they upon thee lamentably.” (Isaiah 26 <232601> ) Examples: When the children of Israel heard of the coming of their enemies, the Philistines, they were afraid, and said unto Samuel, “Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he may help us out of the hands of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7 <090701> ) Manasses, which all the days of his life was a very bloodhound and tyrant, was bound with chains, and led away into Babylon. And when he was in extreme anguish and necessity, he made his humble prayer and supplication before the Lord his God; and God heard his humble prayer, and brought him again to Jerusalem. (2 Kings 21:1; 2 <122101> Chronicles 33: <133301> ) When there arose a great tempest upon the sea, insomuch that the ship was overwhelmed with the waves, and Christ slept, then the disciples hasted unto him, and waked him up, saying, “Lord, help us, for we perish.” (Matthew 8 <400801> ; Mark 4 <410401> ) The example of the heathen woman doth teach thee how the Lord prolongeth and deferreth his aid and help some time for the nonce, that we should be kindled up to cry the more fervently, and to continue importunately in earnest prayer.
St. Austin writeth thus: “They that are godly are oppressed and vexed in the church or congregation for this purpose, that when they are pressed they should cry, and when they cry, that they should be heard, and when they are heard, that they should laud and praise God.” f45 And like as the cross and adversity doth further and prick us forward unto the first part of prayer, which is to desire and crave of God; even so doth it also further and provoke us all unto the second part of prayer, which is to laud God, and to give him thanks.
The almighty power, wisdom, righteousness, mercy, and truth of God, these high and excellent godly virtues, worthy of all laud and honor, do appear in the cross, affliction, and adversity of Christian men, when God visiteth miserable sinners, comforteth those that are in distress and misery, helpeth and delivereth them out of all manner of necessity.
At these things do all Christian people wonder and marvel highly, and therefore break they out to magnify, praise, and extol God with unspeakable lauds and praises. “We have such a treasure in earthly vessels, that the power that lieth above, and hath the victory, might appear to be of God, and not of us,” (2 Corinthians 4 <470401> ): that is to say, we are weak and miserable vessels, that God’s honor and glory should be furthered, and not ours.
For an example take the story of Daniel, chapter 3 <270301> ; how the imprisonment and captivity of the Jews did serve wonderfully to the glory and praise of God. Our Savior Christ sheweth the cause, why the man was blind from his very nativity and birth, namely, that the works of God should appear and be made manifest in him. (John 9 <430901> ) Moreover, all the prophets, apostles, and elect of God, by whom God wrought wonderful and marvelous things, were contenmed and despised, yea, and sometimes slain and murdered, that all men might spy and perceive, that their faith and working, which did not shrink, but continued upright, was a work of God, and no power of man; and, therefore, that God must be lauded and praised above all. (Psalm 44 <194401> ; Acts 4: <440401> , 5 <440501> ; Romans 8 <450801> ; 2 Corinthians 4: <470401> ; 1 Mac. 2; 2 Mac. 6,7) CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND ADVERSITY DO FURTHER US IN VIRTUE AND GODLINESS, The cross and tribulation do banish and dry away the former sins, and hinder and resist those that are to come hereafter, and help to plant, exercise, and increase all manner of virtues, that the ungodly may be provoked and furthered to repentance, and amendment, and reformation of their lives; and the godly to further virtue and godliness. For what affliction soever the flesh doth suffer, it grieveth it very sore; it would rather be merry, at rest, and quiet.
Now every one that hath any reason, knoweth this right well, that he through his own lusts and behavior bringeth much adversity and affliction upon his own neck; and therefore, in consideration of that, he beginneth to beware, and to take heed afterward of all inordinate and dissolute living, as the cause, ground, and occasion of all misery and sorrow, that besides this present affliction he be not plagued also eternally. Which I will declare and prove, first with similitudes; secondarily, with testimonies of the holy scripture; and, thirdly, by familiar examples.
A water that is continually standing, how clear soever it seem, yet it is corrupt and naught; but that water which hath his continual course, the more it rusheth and struggleth over the stones and sands, the more lively, fresh, and better it is: even so a godly man, in the absence of the cross, is sluggish, dull, and litherly; but through the cross and affliction he is quickened and exercised, and increased in all goodness. The rusty and cankered iron through the file is made bright and smooth: even so the old rusty Adam hath need of trouble and adversity to the and purge him from the cankered rust of sin.
A knife, though it be never so smooth, if it be not used, it waxeth rusty, and the same rust fretteth it and marreth it; but the more it is occupied, though it be somewhat worn thereby, yet it is the more bright: even so, although some person hath a good nature and inclination, if he be not occupied and exercised with trouble and adversity, he waxeth rusty, cankered, and rotten; but through the cross and tribulation, though the rust have worn somewhat off him, being a man and weak, yet he shall thereby be made more bright, clear, and beautiful again.
The seed that is cast into the field must suffer the wind, rain, snow, frost, and all manner of tempests, and yet it waxeth and bringeth forth fruit: even so the spiritual seed, which is the word of God, being received of a devout and fervent heart, is not destroyed through trouble, but bringeth forth right good and profitable fruit. A walnut-tree, the more it is beaten, the better it is, and not the worse: even so man, through many stripes and much adversity, turneth from ill, and waxeth good.
For the thick and hard skin of a horse or an ass, is nothing better than a very sharp whip, to jerk him with: even so, for our stubborn and haughty flesh there is nothing more fit and profitable than much sorrow and vexation, whereby it may be stirred and pricked forward. Cloth must be oft beaten and brushed; whereupon there is a proverb: “Thus must woollen cloth be used, that there breed no moths in it.” Even so shall spiritual moths and worms, wickedness, sin, and abomination, have the less power to breed in us, if we be well brushed and beaten in time with affliction and adversity.
The flesh that cometh fresh out of the shambles unsalted, waxeth soon unsavory, and worms breed in it, but the salt with his sharpness keepeth it sweet from corruption: even so doth God cast and sprinkle salt upon us, through divers temptations and afflictions, that they may bite and season us, that we corrupt not, nor perish in sin.
That body that is always idle, and never moveth nor hath no exercise, is easily subject unto sickness and infirmities; but those bodies that have their exercise and labor, are more lusty and sound, and can better continue: even so the soul that is well exercised and occupied with trouble and affliction, hath occasion and cause to be beautiful, sound, and clear.
It is a very true saying, the sharper that the lye is, the cleaner taketh it away all manner of filth: even so our corrupt and poisoned nature had need of a sharp and a biting medicine. The greater and sharper the trouble and adversity is, the more filth and inconvenience it biteth away. For a raw and weak stomach, which is of a naughty digestion, bitter wormwood is very good and wholesome: even so for the weak and feeble soul is bitter trouble and affliction very wholesome and necessary.
Remember this proverb: “After the sick man hath recovered his sore, he liveth worse than ever he did before.”
And therefore sickness is more necessary for him, that he wax not worse, and live not more wickedly.
Now will I allege scripture. God threateneth to send a plague sevenfold greater, if any man will not amend at the lighter and easier punishment that he sent first. Whereby the Lord himself declareth, through Moses, that trouble and adversity should teach us an alteration and amendment of our lives. (Leviticus 26 <032601> ) “Strokes and wounds do purge and cleanse out evil and corruption, and stripes purify the inward parts of man.” (Proverbs 20 <202001> ) “No manner of chastening for the present time seemeth to be joyous, but heavy and grievous; but afterward it bringeth a quiet fruit of righteousness unto those that are exercised therein.” (Hebrews 12 <581201> ) “He that suffereth in the flesh ceaseth from sin, that from henceforth the time that is remnant in the flesh, he may live not after the lusts of men, but after the will of God.” (1 Peter 4 <600401> ; Romans 6 <450601> ) And this shall examples make more manifest. Under Joshua had the children of Israel many battles, and were driven to fight against their enemies; and they did never fall nor swerve from the Lord, until afterward that they came unto rest, and had all things plenty. Joshua 1 <060101> ; Judges 2 <070201> .
The prophet Jonas, being in the whale’s belly, remembered his sins, altered himself, turned, and was obedient unto God. (Jonah 2 <320201> ) The lost and desperate son did then first of all run home again unto his father, when he saw and felt his misery and poverty. (Luke 15 <421501> ) Mark the daily experience. We imagine oft-times thus with ourselves: “Oh, if I were once whole and restored again, I would surely behave and order myself well as I ought to do, and would help and serve every man.
Oh, if I were rich, I would gladly distribute unto the poor people faithfully.” But as soon as we come out of the danger in deed, we have clean forgotten altogether.
As long as we have no manner of need, no man can hinder nor restrain our wickedness.
For an example, imagine two sundry houses, whereof in the one is celebrate and kept a marriage, where there is mirth, joy, and good cheer; and in the other is one sick on his dead-bed. In the bride-house, where is dancing, is used all manner of lightness and dissoluteness, gross and filthy words, bawdy songs and ballads, shameless behavior and manners, and wanton and light apparel. One leapeth and winceth like a horse, another stampeth like an ass, the third drinketh himself drunk, and the fourth doeth nothing that honest is; so that a man might say the people were become very brute beasts. But by him that lieth on his dead-bed is all still, not a word spoken but honest and seemly. All things are done sadly, demurely, and discreetly.
And at that time not only the men, but also the women and children, and all that are in the house, are godly occupied: they pray, they comfort, and break out into such words as these: “What is man? How transitory and vain are all things that we have here upon earth! but in the life to come it shall be far otherwise.” (Ecclesiastes 14 <211401> ; Job 4 <180401> , Job 10 <181001> , Job 34 <183401> ; Psalm 78 <197801> , Psalm 90 <199001> , Psalm 103:1, Psalm 146:1; Isaiah 40 <234001> ) Again, from the marriage or bride-house goeth many one home heavy and sad, vexed in his mind, and disdainful that he is not so happy and fortunate as other be; and suddenly is ravished with the beauty of some wife or maiden that he saw at the dancing, which hath wounded and stricken him to the heart. And when he cometh home, he looketh sourly on his wife, he is forward toward his children, and testy against all the household, so that no man can please him.
But he that goeth home from the mourning-house, thinketh himself well blessed and happy, that he himself lieth not in any such extreme necessity.
If he hath had any sickness or vexation in time past, now he is able to bear it the more easily and patiently, when he compareth it to the grievous and intolerable pain of the man that lieth in pangs of death. By reason whereof he is the more patient, gentle, and friendly toward his wife, children, and his whole household; yea, he taketh occasion thereby to reform and amend his evil life.
CHAPTER - SORROW AND AFFLICTION DO HELP AND FURTHER US TOWARD THE FEAR AND LOVE OF GOD.
Trouble and affliction do engender the fear of God in them which suffer it, and in other likewise which do hear and know of it; so that many take example and instruction thereby, and afterward attempt not any thing timorously and rashly against the will and pleasure of God. For he is lawfully to be feared and dreaded, which can bring and lay upon us all manner of plagues, and also hath just cause and right toward us so to do. (Matthew 10:1) Now we, being feeble and weak, are in no wise able to resist and withstand the strong and mighty God. No; we are not able to withstand or put off the least ill day of an ague; yea, we cannot choose but suffer the least and most contemptuous and feeble creatures to plague and disquiet us, as lice, fleas, flies, and such like vermin, which did master and overcome the mighty puissant king of Egypt. (Exodus 7 <020701> , 8 <020801> , 9 <020901> , 10 <021001> ; 2 Mac. 9; Acts 12 <441201> ) It is a very true proverb, “A burnt hand dreadeth the fire.” For in the same sense and meaning spake Moses unto the fearful people: “God is come to tempt and prove you, that the fear of him may be before your eyes, to consider and remember that ye sin not.” (Exodus 20 <022001> ; Deuteronomy 8 <050801> and 13 <051301> ; Judges 2 <070201> and 3 <070301> ) As for an example: the more the Lord did exercise and hunt about David, the more diligently did he look upon the Lord, and feared him. 2 Samuel 15 <101501> . And not only David, but others also, when they saw and perceived their misery and wretchedness, they took occasion thereby to fear God more than they did before; and specially when they saw afterward how God punished David’s manslaughter and whoredom with sedition, uproar, murder, and with loss of much people. (2 Samuel 11 <101101> , 13 <101301> , 14 <101401> , 15 <101501> , 16 <101601> ; etc.)
Holy scripture setteth before our eyes divers like terrible examples, that we should not esteem the fear of God for a light thing, but should be afraid of all manner of wickedness, sin, and abomination.
When a trespasser is led out to be headed, hanged, burnt, or otherwise to be punished, others that see him do learn to fear and to beware of that thing which brought him to his last end: even so when God sendeth any plague, either upon some special person, or else upon some whole community, all other ought so to consider the same, as though they themselves were in the place of the afflicted person, as though his trouble and sorrow were their own, that they may the rather fear God, and take heed that they fall not into like vengeance of God. And in very deed, as well the good and faithful, as the wicked and unfaithful, have cause to fear. (Proverbs 11 <201101> ) For the faithful can consider thereby, that these transitory plagues are tokens and evident testimonies of the eternal punishments that are to come, which are a thousand times more grievous, and never have end. (1 Peter 4 <600401> ) Therefore both their own and other men’s afflictions and sorrows do give them occasion enough to redress and forsake that thing, whereby all men do bring eternal plagues upon their necks.
The wicked and unfaithful, if they be not utterly obstinate and perverse, but have any use of reason at all, do also begin to fear God, and to think thus with themselves: If God visiteth, scourgeth, and assaulteth with trouble and vexation the good and faithful, which are nothing so wicked as we, how shall it then go with us, which have deserved ten, yea, twenty times more grievous punishment than they? Jeremiah 25 <242501> , Jeremiah 49 <244901> ; Ezekiel 9 <260901> ; Proverbs 10 <201001> , 11 <201101> ; 1 Peter 4 <600401> ) “Mark and behold. I begin to plague the city where unto my name is given: think ye then that ye shall escape free and unpunished? ye shall not go quit and free.” (Jeremiah 25 <242501> ) “If this be done in the green wood, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23 <422301> ) “It is time that judgment begin at the house of God. Seeing then it beginneth first with us, what an end shall they have which believe not the gospel of God!” (1 Peter 4 <600401> ) An innocent dog, that hath not offended, is beaten before the lion; that the lion, when he knoweth that he hath angered and displeased his master, should be put in the more fear. St. Gregory writeth thus: “If God striketh those so sore whom he favoreth, how sharply and sore will he strike them which he favoreth not!”
The crucified and afflicted Christians do love God the more fervently, forasmuch as in the midst of the cross they feel the sweet comfort that cometh from their heavenly Father, of whose merciful will they cannot doubt nor mistrust.
A dog that is of a good nature, if his master strike him, yet he loveth his master notwithstanding, and fawneth again upon him. A good child, although it be beaten, yet it loveth the father or mother nevertheless, and desireth to have their favor again: even in like manner are the true Christians minded toward their heavenly Father; but such children as be wicked, and of an evil disposition, when they be a little scourged, they run away from their fathers, and murmur against them.
CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND AFFLICTION IS GOOD AND PROFITABLE TO TEACH MEN PATIENCE, MEEKNESS, AND LOWLINESS.
Pride is a dangerous thing, whereof cometh no manner of good. Now felicity and prosperity, all at pleasure, engendereth pride and contempt of other people; but the cross and affliction engendereth meekness and lowliness, that a man is not too proud in his own conceit, but is content that other be esteemed as well as he, confessing himself to have need of their help and counsel.
Like as men use to clip and to cut shorter the feathers of birds or other fowls, when they begin to fly too high or too far from them; even so doth God diminish our riches, possessions, estimation, honor, authority, and power, that we should not pass our bounds, and glory too much of such gifts. Like as the body, when it is wearied and consumed with labor and travail, desireth ease and rest, that it may lie still; even so the soul, being laden and oppressed with trouble and affliction, is brought to a narrow issue, and then it hasteth after rest and quietness, and nothing vexeth it less than pride.
Nebuchadnezzar did glory of his power, victorious acts, and costly buildings, and was wonderfully proud of them; but after his fall and adversity he learned to ascribe all laud, honor, and glory unto God. (Daniel 4 <270401> ) Paul confesseth that a buffet was given him of the messenger of Satan, that he should not glory out of measure in the abundance of revelations. (2 Corinthians 12 <471201> ) Experience itself teacheth, that when rich, famous, notable, and proud men are robbed and spoiled of their goods, they are afterward more humble, meek, and gentle; for then they perceive the uncertainty and unstableness of temporal and transitory things, and so learn, the longer they live, the less to trust themselves.
A piece of iron or of silver stricken or beaten with a hammer waxeth broader, thinner, smoother, and softer: even so the stony and hard hearts of men, through heaviness and adversity, are made more buxom and pliant, that a man may wind them, as a man might say, even round about his finger.
A curst wild colt hath a snaffle put in his mouth, that he bite not him that handleth him: even so the snaffle of the cross and adversity doth let and hinder us, being forward, furious, and full of spite, malice and vengeance, that we commit the less wickedness, abomination, and uncharitableness in our lives.
For an example: the furious raging king Manasses was meek, still, and tame enough, after that he was once bound, taken prisoner, and led away captive. (2 Kings 21 <122101> ; 2 Chronicles 33 <143301> ) Paul before Damascus was stricken down as a raging and raving wolf; but he rose up again a meek lamb. (Acts 9 <440901> ) CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND ADVERSITY IS GOOD TO TEACH MEN PITY, COMPASSION, AND PATIENCE TOWARDS OTHER, To have pity and compassion of people that are in misery and distress, is a Christian and a necessary virtue; but he that never felt temptation, adversity, or affliction himself, can have but little pity and compassion of other. One sick man can tell the lack and necessity of another, one poor man likewise of another; and also one that is in misery and affliction himself, knoweth the better the grief of another that is in like case.
As for an example: why and for what cause can our high priest Christ have such pity and compassion upon us miserable wretches, that we dare be bold to come unto him cheerfully without fear, and to look for succor, help, and comfort at his hands? Forsooth, even for this cause and by this means, as saith St. Paul, that he was also tempted, and suffered most bitter pain and grief himself. (Hebrews 2 <580201> ) And very experience doth teach even the self-same thing also. For whosoever hath once lien sick in a spital-house himself, can have the more compassion of other that are in like case afterward, and is ever after the more ready and prompt to help those that be in such case.
The noble and precious virtue called patience hath no place to put her head in the time of prosperity. When a man hath been a long season healthful and without any manner of sickness, he cannot take sickness by and by so patiently as he ought to do: and likewise he that never felt any affliction or adversity, whensoever any happen unto him, he is sore vexed with impatientness.
But adversity teacheth men patience, and practiceth them therein. First, when a man seeth that all goeth backward and against him, and that it will be no better, but rather worse and worse; what doth he, but of this necessity maketh a virtue, and so is content, and at a point, howsoever it goeth with him?
Secondarily, when a man is continually used to trouble and affliction, this same use and custom maketh it light and easy unto him, especially considering that God will also help, aid, and comfort him. Paul saith, “Trouble or affliction bringeth patience, and patience bringeth experience,” etc. (Romans 5 <450501> ) The desperate and lost son learned such patience in his misery and affliction, that he said to his father, “Take nor use me not from henceforth as a son, but as an hired servant. I desire no more, but that I may remain in thy house.” (Luke 15 <421501> ) Even so ought we also to suffer all things willingly and patiently, whatsoever they be, so that God will not banish and put us out of his house.
Unto that noble heathen man Socrates did his curst and shrewd wife serve for this use and purpose, that he, learning patience at home, might the better suffer, and the more patiently bear the people that he had to do with abroad.
CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND ADVERSITY MAKETH MEN HARD AND STRONG, AND TEACHETH THEM SOBERNESS AND TEMPERANCY An ox getteth himself harder hoofs upon rough stubble, and crabbed ground, and is able to draw and to labor better, than if he were fed in rank pasture. Those children that are nursed by fremde men’s fires, are for the most part more hard and strong than they which are daintily brought up in all excess, and wantonness, and superfluity, in their own fathers’ houses. Even so the wits and minds of men, through pleasure and abundance, wax tender and weak, and effeminate and wild; but being restrained through some painful necessity and affliction, they wax harder, stronger, and more manly and sober. For an example: the dear holy apostles, the more persecution and affliction they had, the more bold, strong, and constant were they, as the Acts of the Apostles do testify throughout.
Paul saith, “I am content, and think myself well in infirmities, in rebukes, in persecutions, in anguishes for Christ’s sake; for when I am in such weakness, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12 <471201> ) The physician, when he perceiveth that his patient will eat over-much, and will wax too fat, he measureth and restraineth him, and by breaking somewhat from him, he restoreth him to his health again, and so saveth him: even so, when we do shamefully misuse wine, corn, bread, and drink, and other gifts and creatures of God, to maintain drunkenness, surfeiting, excess, and riot, then doth God punish us with hunger, dearth, penury, and with other plagues, that we should learn thereby to be temperate, and to keep measure, and to use his benefits thankfully. It is said, the hour of punishment and of correction maketh us to forget all manner of pleasure and lust (Ecclesiastes 11 <211101> ): as David soon forgot his lusty pleasures and wantonness utterly, when Absalom drove him out of his kingdom. (2 Samuel 13 <101301> ; etc.)
CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND ADVERSITY TEACHETH MEN TO CONTEMN, DESPISE, AND DEFY THE WORLD, AND TO BE DILIGENT AND FERVENT IN ALL GODLINESS AND VIRTUE, The cross and adversity taketh from us the love of the world, and driveth away all manner of dangerous and delicious lusts and pleasures of this transitory life. We would fain be rich, but God giveth us poverty; we desire health of body, but God giveth us sickness; and so nurtureth and nurseth us in misery and with affliction, that we can no more tell what a delicious and tender pleasant life in this world meaneth; and thus begin we to contemn and loathe all transitory things, and to desire another, better, more precious, and an eternal life, where all manner of misery shall have an end.
He that taketh a journey in hand, and goeth into a strange country, when he cometh into a pleasant town, where he meeteth merry company and good companions, peradventure he spendeth away the time, and tarrieth too long among them, and so forgetteth his household and things at home.
Even so, when these transitory things, as riches, health, beauty, much profit, honor, and dignity happen unto us, if we will once gape upon them and delight so much in them, that we do the less regard and esteem the heavenly life, then will God make the way rough and crabbed unto us here in this life, that we should not take and esteem this transitory life in this world for our right natural country, towards the which we take our journey.
For example: the children of Israel had little lust to sing and to play upon any pleasant instruments, when they sat as prisoners by the rivers in Babylon. (Psalm 137 <190101> ) And this may a man see and prove now-a-days by those that are in any dangerous sickness, or in any hard prison, or in any anguish and misery, who before were too fond upon eating, drinking, gallant apparel, dancing, toying, playing, and gaming, or upon such like worldly felicity. For the cross and its heaviness wipe away and lick off all such things as clean, as the hot sun licketh and melteth away the snow.
Furthermore, they that be poor and in distress and heaviness, are always readier to forsake this world, and are more desirous to depart hence to God, than those that have riches, health, and felicity at pleasure. And therefore St. Austin, in his book De Symbolo, writeth thus: “Behold, how God hath replenished and filled the world with so many afflictions, and so much troublesome adversity. It is bitter, and yet it is loved; it is ruinous, and ready to fall, and yet it is inhabited. O thou, my dear darling world, what should we do, if thou wert sweet, stable, and permanent, seeing we do thus now? O thou foul and unclean world, if thou art bitter, and yet deceivest and beguilest us, whom wouldest thou not deceive and beguile, if thou weft sweet?” f49 And the cross doth not only drive and set us forward to all manner of virtue, and putteth us in mind of all godliness, but it quickeneth and kindleth also a diligence and fervency in us, to proceed and go forward in all goodness lustily, stoutly, earnestly, manfully, and not litherly or faintly.
Like as a man sometime must spur his horse, although he be a good and quick horse, that he may go and run the faster and speedier; even so we cannot go forward in our vocation and calling so speedily nor so well as we ought to do, except we be pricked forward with sharp spurs and scourges. When the master striketh his slothful, dull, and sleepy servant, then he laboureth the more diligently, and is more profitable unto him: even so we all, for the most part of us, have the nature of such slothful and sluggish servants, which will do nothing well, except we be driven by compulsion, and even whipped and beaten unto it.
Although those be evil servants, which will do nothing unless a man be ever upon their bones with a cudgel, yea, and then will do nothing well either; yet notwithstanding must a man never cease driving and forcing of them, until such time as they begin to amend and to serve willingly and with a good heart: even so, although no compelled service, that is violently wrung out of a man, doth please God, yet the continual inuring and exercising in goodness may make it at length so pleasant and delectable unto us, that we shall have delight therein.
CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND ADVERSITY IS ALSO AN OCCASION AND HELP OF MUCH TRANSITORY QUIETNESS AND COMMODITY IN THIS WORLD.
Hitherto have we taught of the spiritual profit of adversity, whereby the soul of man is endued and garnished with wisdom and all kinds of virtue: now let us see what transitory commodities do oft accompany or follow after trouble and adversity. Such as dwell in valleys and in deep and low habitations, are not lightly hurt by any lightning: even so that state of life that is low and mean keepeth and maintaineth itself most sure and with least danger against all manner of storms.
Like as precious and costly spices and odors do smell and savor best, when they are bruised, broken, or set on fire; even so the praise and commendation of virtue, through continual use and exercise and through adversity, is spread wide abroad, and made manifest and known everywhere.
For an example: What an excellent and singular honor, renown, praise, and commendation was it unto Abraham at length, that he went out of his natural country into banishment, and there suffered great trouble and much adversity! The children of Israel were sore kept under and oppressed in Egypt; but they were led out and set free again with such glory and renown, as never was heard nor read the like.
The banishment of Ulysses for the space of ten years, was an occasion unto him to exercise and practice his wisdom and other virtues in the mean time; so that he obtained thereby an immortal name among all the heathen.
And to speak after the common practice and experience, there is no exceeding joy or triumph, but some sorrow or heaviness goeth before it.
He that hath kept his bed a long time, and lain sick a great season, afterward when he is recovered, health is a more precious treasure unto him, than ever it was before that he felt what sickness was; and also such as mourned and were sorry for his sickness, do receive an infinite joy and an exceeding rejoicing at his restoring unto health again.
Even so doth God deprive us for a time of riches, wealth, prosperity, our natural country, bodily health, and such other transitory benefits, for this purpose, that when he giveth them again unto us, we may the more rejoice and be the gladder of them.
An example have we of the lost sheep and of the lost and desperate son; for the which there was such joy at the finding of them again, as never had been, if they had not been lost; whereas before there was never thought nor sorrow taken for them. (Matthew 18 <401801> ; Luke 15 <421501> ) Now in case we never find nor have restored unto us again here in this world that thing which we have lost, yet our conscience is both quiet and also joyful in God: which quietness and joy far exceedeth all the pleasures of the whole world.
In summa, to be short, after trouble and adversity followeth all manner of goodness and felicity: first, forasmuch as God here in this world doth plentifully and richly reward and recompense godliness, patience, and godly constancy; secondarily, forasmuch as this is the nature and property of God, to throw down, that he may raise up again, and to bring unto death’s door, that he may restore unto life again. (Deuteronomy 32 <053201> ; Samuel 2 <090201> ; Psalm 112:1 Wisd. 16) Roses, which are the most pleasant flowers, do spring and wax out of thorns: even so of hard and great travail springeth the most pleasant fruit.
For example: Joseph was hated of his brethren, and sold of them into a strange and foreign country; which banishment of his turned to his great honor, wealth, and profit, forasmuch as he was lord and governor over the whole kingdom of Egypt. The more the great tyrant Pharaoh went about to oppress and rid the children of Israel out of his land, the more did they prosper and increase to an infinite number. (Exodus 1 <020101> ) The devil left nothing unto the godly man Job, but deprived and spoiled him of all that he had; but the Lord restored him all again double, even in this world. (Job 1 <180101> , 42 <420101> ) He that marketh and considereth well, shall perceive that some time a man, being of no reputation at home where he is known, is banished away, and cometh to other people, which do highly esteem him, and make much of him, yea, and highly honor him; so that oft-times a man’s adversity hath turned to his singular commodity and wealth. (Matthew 13 <401301> ; Mark 6 <410601> ; Luke 4 <420101> ; John 4 <430101> ) CHAPTER - TROUBLE AND ADVERSITY IS A FURTHERANCE TO ETERNAL LIFE.
The trouble and adversity of the godly do give an exceeding great testimony unto them of immortality, of a general judgment, and also of an everlasting life. For it is impossible that the best creatures only should be ordained and created to all sorrow and travail, and the most wicked and ungodly to escape and remain unpunished. It were directly against the righteousness of God.
Now it is evident, that here upon earth appeareth no difference between Paul and Nero, having respect to the reward of them both; yea, the most godly and virtuous have most commonly worse luck and least reward.
And again, the cross way is pointed to be the very right way unto eternal life. (Psalm 44 <194401> ; Romans 8 <450801> ; 2 Corinthians 4 <470401> ) Like as the corn is first threshed, fanned, and rid from the chaff, and then laid up and reserved in the barn; even so Christian men upon earth are beaten, mishandled, evil entreated; whereby they are purged of many wild and light manners, and so are brought into the everlasting barn of the kingdom of heaven.
Like as no man can triumph or be crowned, except he hath foughten and warred manfully (1 Corinthians 9 <460901> ; 2 Timothy 2 <550201> ); which cannot be without great danger, labor, and travail; even so can no man attain to the crown of eternal life, except he hath first suffered much trouble, sorrow, and adversity. (2 Timothy 4 <550401> ; 1 Peter 5 <600501> ; James 1 <590101> ; Revelation 2 <660201> , 3 <660301> ) The man that is sick must receive the purgation and medicine, how sour or bitter soever it be, that lie may the sooner recover his health again, and not die: even so, when we suffer the hand of God to rule and order us, being content and patient therewith, although it smarteth and grieveth us, yet it shall profit and help us to everlasting health and soundness.
Testimonies and witness of scripture to prove this: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5 <400501> ) “Narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life.” (Matthew 7 <400701> ) “Blessed are they that weep here, for they shall laugh; but woe unto you that be rich,” etc. (Luke 6 <420601> ) “We must enter into the kingdom of God through much trouble and affliction.” (Acts 14 <441401> ) “If we be children, then are we heirs, namely, the heirs of God and fellow-heirs of Christ; so that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together with him.” (Romans 8 <450801> ) By these words doth Paul evidently declare, that he that will reign with Christ must also run through the fire with him. “When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11 <461101> ) CHAPTER - HOW AND IN WHAT RESPECT TROUBLE AND ADVERSITY CAN BE SO PROFITABLE AND OF SUCH VIRTUE, SEEING THAT THE UNFAITHFUL DO WAX MORE OBSTINATE AND PERVERSE THROUGH TROUBLE AND AFFLICTION.
Hitherto have we entreated of the corporal and spiritual, temporal and eternal profit and commodity, which Christian men receive by the cross, trouble, and adversity. Which is not to be taken after this sense, as though the cross or adversity of itself, and of her own nature, could bring and work such high commodities; for then should Pharaoh and other wicked persons, in their trouble and adversity, have been converted and so saved also. But the Spirit of God resteth secretly, and lieth hidden in the faithful under the shadow and back of the cross, and purgeth, re-formeth, comforteth, and strengtheneth them, and worketh all these foresaid commodities in them.
Now like as the holy scripture attributeth a certain reward unto our good works, which works notwithstanding, it is not we that work them, but the Lord, which useth us as instruments of his; even so is the cross an instrument of God, whereby he subdueth our flesh, keepeth us in the school of correction, and forceth us, as it were by violence, from evil to goodness. (Philippians 2 <500201> ; 2 Corinthians 1 <470101> ) Now, wheresoever the Holy Ghost will take his resting-place, for the most part he sendeth before his purveyors and forerunners, which are sorrow and affliction, trouble and adversity; that they may vex, cumber, humble, meeken, and utterly overthrow and bring down the heart of man, whereby the Holy Ghost may find the more place, and so work all goodness therein.
And therefore whatsoever is hitherto spoken, specially of the spiritual commodities of the cross and adversity, it is and so remaineth all truth; so that it be understood of the faithful and godly, which are endued with the Spirit of God, to whom all things turn to their comfort and salvation.
And now, on the contrary part, for the better understanding of the matter, I will declare and show what the cross worketh in the unfaithful and ungodly, which lack the Spirit of God. The unfaithful do ascribe their prosperity and felicity to their own wisdom, working, and policy, and not to God; and their misfortune and adversity they ascribe to blind fortune, as though fortune had a certain power to work of herself, without the working of God.
Take Sennacherib, the Nord and ruler of the Assyrians, for an example; which by the sufferance of God brought the whole world in manner in subjection; which thing he ascribed to his own power and policy, and not to God; for he did both hate and blaspheme the very true God of Israel.
But shortly after did God send an angel, which slew in one night an hundred fourscore and five thousand of his men. And here would he not confess that it was God that did it; but peradventure he thought that it was fortune, mischance, or some other thing that was the occasion. For if he had knowledged this punishment to have come and been of God, he would not afterward have worshipped and done his devotion in the idolaters’ temple of the false god and idol Nisroch, as he did. In like manner, when any misfortune happeneth to the ungodly, they put all the fault only in the next middle or mean, that they fantasy themselves; or else very wickedly they ascribe it unto all those that are not of their faith and sect.
As for example: when as it rained not for the space of three years and six months in the time of Achab the king of Israel, the king imputed the cause unto the godly prophet Hellas. (1 Kings 18 <111801> ) Likewise in our time, when any tempest hurteth the corn, wine, and other fruits of the earth, many there are that cry, This may we thank this new learning for, and this new-fangled faith, etc.: as though they themselves were so holy, that God durst not or ought not to punish them. It can be none but the poor sheep that disturbeth the water, that the wolf cannot drink: whereas, indeed, the poor sheep cometh but only to the brink, and at the very brink of the river drinketh.
Yea, even they also which have some taste of the gospel, cannot well bear adversity patiently, nor confess themselves guilty; but would fain shift the fault from themselves, and would lay it either upon the rulers or the preachers, or else upon some other thing.
And although their sins be an exceeding heap, and that God would fain drive them to repentance by punishing and chastising of them; yet cannot they consider the heavy burden of their sin, nor spy the clear day of the righteousness of God, which can suffer no sin unpunished.
And, therefore, forasmuch as they will not take this small and light punishment thankfully, but would go free, and have no manner of plague at all, if they might choose; for that cause doth God send unto them afterward plagues and painful punishments by heaps; so that it happeneth unto them as it did unto the ass, whose skin being put over a drum or a tabor, as he wished and desired, was beaten and stricken more than ever it was before, as AEsop saith in his fables.
And forasmuch as through incredulity and lack of faith, which is the mother of all blasphemies and abomination, they will not consider nor call to remembrance, who it is that hath laid his hand upon them; or else, knowing that it is the hand of God, yet will not take it in good worth, nor amend no otherwise but as sour ale in summer; by this means they become like unto desperate children, which will neither turn and amend with threatening, nor yet with beating.
And therefore the scripture testifieth very well, that one sharp word of reproach doth more good to him that hath understanding, than an hundred stripes to a fool. (Proverbs 17 <201701> ) As for example: the longer and the sharper that God punished Pharaoh, the more obstinately did he swerve and decline from him. The wicked and ungodly do not only take no manner of occasion to reform and amend their lives by their cross and sorrow, but also they pour out all manner of impatientness, bitterness, and spiteful poison against the righteousness of God, saying their cross is greater than their transgression, and that they have wrong and are punished too sore.
As for an example of this, we have one of the thieves hanging upon the cross with Christ, which blasphemed Christ very spitefully, saying, “If thou beest Christ, help both thyself and us.” (Luke 23 <422301> ) By the which words he declareth, that he judgeth himself even as worthy of help, as Christ the Son of God; even as though God must forget all his righteousness, and help by and by every blasphemous wretch, and look through the fingers upon the wicked world: which is one of the greatest blasphemies unto God that can be.
When they have tumbled and weltered in their misery, (for God will not help them, because they have no trust nor confidence in him,) and have sought help by creatures both in heaven and earth, and found none; then beginneth their cross and adversity to open their eyes so wide, that they must needs spy and acknowledge the wrath and hand of God over them.
And then doth this outward cross and sorrow even kindle in them an inward trembling and doubtfullness, out of the which springeth the highest desperation; insomuch that they cry out to the devil to help them, if God will not. (1 Samuel 28 <092801> ) For although they be brought to the knowledge of their sin, and also to sorrow and repentance for the same through the cross, as Cain and Judas also were, yet have they no trust nor confidence that the same sin shall be taken from them and forgiven them, but rave and rage and give themselves over to the devil, and so depart wretchedly out of this world. (Genesis 4 <010401> ; Matthew 27 <402701> ) Of whose destruction yet and confusion these commodities do ensue: first, that they must of force cease any longer to make any disturbance by the wicked example of their life in the church and regiment of God; secondarily, that they which remain alive after them may learn by their terrible example to repent and amend by times.
So that by this that we have hitherto declared, every Christian man may know in his trouble and adversity, whether he be a martyr of God or of the devil, and what great profit and singular commodity all those that are God’s martyrs do receive by the means of their cross, trouble, and martyrdom.
CHAPTER - FELLOW-COMPANIONS IN TROUBLE AND ADVERSITY, Why should any man show and behave him impatiently in suffering the thing, which he can by no policy, counsel, nor lawful mean avoid, alter, turn, remedy, or amend? He that is wise maketh of such a necessity, as can by no remedy be avoided, a very ,virtue.
Now trouble and adversity doth so happen unto man, that he cannot help nor avoid it, though he would never so fain. Man must needs suffer trouble and adversity upon earth; there is no remedy.
And again, why should any man without measure becumber himself about that thing which is common unto all men, or to the most part, and not to him alone? By natural reason, that burden is lighter which many do bear together.
Now is the life of man a very miserable and lamentable thing. When another man prospereth, so that all things go well with him, yet it fareth with him even as with a bloom or a flower in the field, which flourisheth for a while, and is pleasant and delectable to look upon; within a little while after it drieth up and fadeth away.
As long as we are upon earth, we are, as it were, in a camp or a siege, where we must ever be skirmishing and fighting, and know neither who shall break out and give the onset against us, nor where, nor how, nor when. Sometime a man is attacked and assaulted in his body, in his goods, in his name and fame. Sometime happen unto him common mischances, as dearth, pestilence, war, which sometime continue very long, so that he may well say, no misfortune cometh alone, but bringeth one or other companion with it.
If not at that present, yet hereafter it may; and there is no misfortune so great, but may happen and light upon any of us all. At least ways we must all look for death, as it was said long ago unto our first parents. (Genesis 3 <010301> ) To rehearse examples it were but folly and superfluous, forasmuch as there is no man but may lawfully complain of one thing or other; and although some things happen after our minds, yet it is not without some sour sauce.
And specially at this present, how are all Christian realms compassed with sorrows, troubles, and miseries on every side! Look but upon our own country: there is neither good nor bad, godly nor ungodly, but hath one cross or other.
And although some there be that can shift for a while, and can make provision for themselves for a time by craft, subtilty, and dissimulation, or by some falsehood in fellowship, as they call it; yet they bring themselves at length into the highest danger, confusion, and shame, both in this world and in the world to come.
And seeing that all the troubles and adversities in this world are a thousand times lighter and easier, yea, nothing in the respect of the eternal unquenchable fire, which is prepared and already kindled for the unfaithful and wicked enemies of God; all faithful and godly persons ought to bear and suffer their transitory afflictions and adversities the more patiently, willingly, and thankfully, considering and remembering all the dear beloved friends of God, which were wonderfully vexed and plagued of their enemies. (Romans 8 <450801> Corinthians 4 <460401> , 5 <460501> ; Matthew 25 <402501> ; Isaiah 30 <233001> ) Abraham of the Chaldees, Lot of the Sodomites, Isaac of Ismael, Jacob of Esau, Moyses of his people, David of Saul, and of his own son. As for Job, he had not one drop of blood in his body unconsumed. (Genesis 12 <011201> , 19 <011901> , 32 <013201> , 33 <013301> ; Numbers 20 <042001> ; 1 Samuel 15 <091501> ; Job 2 <180201> ) John Baptist, the holiest that ever was naturally born of a woman, was without any manner of form or order of law, right, or reason, beheaded in the prison, as though God had known nothing at all of him. (Matthew 14 <401401> ; Mark 6 <410601> ) We have many thousand fellow-martyrs and companions of our misery and adversity, in respect of whose imprisonment, racking, chains, fire, wild beasts, and other means wherewith they are tormented, all that we suffer is but a wind or a pastime.
But specially this is to be considered above all other in our trouble and adversity, that we have Jesus Christ for a fellow and companion with us therein, which suffered upon earth in his body all manner of smart and pain. (Isaiah 53 <235301> ; Matthew 27 <402701> ; Mark 15 <411501> ) Now is not the servant above the master. What reason were it that the natural Son of God, being utterly innocent, should be so cruelly entreated and mishandled; and we which are his children, not by nature, but by adoption and election, and in all points guilty, should escape quit and free? (Matthew 10 <401001> ; John 1 <430101> ; Romans 8 <450801> ; 1 Corinthians 5 <460501> ) Therefore now, whosoever is ashamed of the cross, and aggrieved therewith, the same is ashamed and aggrieved to have Christ for his fellow and companion, and therefore shall the Lord Jesus Christ be ashamed of him again at the latter day. (Galatians 4 <480401> ; Ephesians 1 <490101> )