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CHAPTER - BY WHAT NATURAL MEANS OR WAYS TROUBLE AND ADVERSITY MAY BE QUALIFIED, EASED, AND OVERCOME.
First and foremost, no man ought to meddle with other men’s matters, which appertain nothing unto him, nor to cast himself into peril and danger without any need. For that were as much as to tempt God, and were clean contrary to the examples both of our Savior Christ, and also of the holy apostles; which by the commandment of Christ did sometime flee and avoid perils and dangers. (Matthew 10 <401001> ) But a man cannot always honestly and conveniently avoid them.
Therefore, for the second point, like as a waterman will never let out his sail so far, but that he may soon pull it in again; even so every man, as long as all things stand well and upright with him, let him foresee and prepare in time for the contrary.
For the which cause the Lord did tell his disciples of his cross, death, and passion before, that they, seeing him suffer anguish and sorrow, might the less quail and shrink at it. In like manner did he also declare before unto them, that they must be persecuted and suffer trouble, that they might look for it, and be the more hardy, bold, and strong in persecution, whensoever it should happen. (Matthew 16 <401601> 20 Mark 8 <410801> 10 Luke 9:18 ) Thirdly, a great weight and substance of the matter dependeth and hangeth upon this point, that a man conceive a right judgment and opinion of all things that happen and chance. For every thing appeareth so unto us, even as we in our thoughts and minds do fancy, imagine, and conceive it.
If a man esteem worldly goods for a light thing, as they ought in very deed to be esteemed, then can he forbear the same with the less grief and pain.
Contrariwise, if he make a god of them, and esteem them highly, then he trembleth, quaketh, and taketh on unmeasurably, when he is spoiled and deprived of them.
In like manner in other things, a man oft-times fancieth and imagineth in himself, that he can abide and suffer no manner of misfortune; when as if it were well considered, that present evil, which he so feared, should soon seem but a trifle and no misfortune, but rather a blessing or a good turn.
For it is a wonder and a singular miracle of God, that among such infinite and innumerable perils as the world and Satan have ready prepared, and even bent over us, we are not utterly headlong overwhelmed, and suddenly destroyed of them all. (1 Peter 5 <600501> ) And yet God sendeth and mixeth always some goodness and comfort between.
As, thou hast peradventure a sickly and diseased body, but yet thy mind and heart is sound and strong. Or thou art vexed and cumbered in thy mind, yet hast thou an whole and a sound body. Or peradventure thou art robbed, spoiled, and deprived of thy temporal and worldly goods, and other transitory pleasures; yet thou hast many and divers christian virtues and singular gifts of grace; where is a thousand times more felicity than in all health, beauty, strength, riches, friendship, wife, children, honor, dignity, or power; for this is not written in vain: “O Lord, the earth is full of thy goodness.” (Psalm 104:1) Here should an heart and mind that is vexed and cumbered cease and leave off from the consideration of the present misery and affliction, and call to remembrance what other benefits of God do yet remain, or what other we have had, or at least what are yet to come and to happen to all faithful Christians. And therefore there is an old common proverb, good to be remembered: “In adversity remember prosperity; and again, in prosperity think upon adversity.”
Again, oft-times many a loss and mischance weareth lightly away again, and is soon remedied another way. As, if some special friend of thine be taken from thee by death, thou mayest happen upon another as good for him, or else some other benefits may happen unto thee for that loss within a while.
The length and process of time doth mitigate, ease, assuage, and lighten all manner of smart, pain, and grief, if the mind be a while used unto it, and somewhat exercised and waxen hard in it. Yet such as be wise ought not to tarry, till smart and grief wear and fret away of itself, but to prevent the time by such means as we have hitherto taught, and hereafter shall follow.
Fourthly, ordinary means are not to be contemned, despised, nor refused.
Like as a ship-master being upon the water, and foreseeing a tempest to be at hand, calleth upon God’s aid and help; and yet for all that he hath also a sure eye to the stern, to rule that as handsomely and cunningly as he can. (Acts 27 <442701> ) Even so in all manner of necessities and perils it is lawful, and men ought also to use all manner of honest and convenient means; as physic and medicines in sickness; labor and travail with the sweat of our brows in poverty; the power and authority of the magistrate in wrong, injury, debate, and dissension; battle array against the enemies of our country, and such like: so that no man build nor trust in any manner of thing, saving in the very living God only, which can help, deliver, and remedy all things, without any middle or mean, if there were none at hand. (Genesis 4 <010401> . Matthew 9 <400901> , 1 Samuel 10 <091001> ) Fifthly, when a man waiteth, tendeth upon, and serveth his honest craft, science, vocation, or office, whereunto God hath called him, and studieth to execute, perform, and follow it diligently, as he ought to do, it driveth away many evil and vain fancies from a troubled mind, that is cumbered with any grief or affliction.
Sixthly, like as weak, tender, and diseased eyes are refreshed and quickened with green and fresh pleasant colors; even so cumbered and troubled minds are wonderfully refreshed, revived, and restored to strength through seemly, honest, and measurable mirth and pastime; as through hearing of instruments of music, by walking abroad, by altering and changing of the air, and by going out of such places as be obscure and dark into such as be very lightsome.
First, in declaring thy grief and disease unto thy friend, and opening thy whole heart, and pouring out thy whole mind before him, thou findest a singular easement in thy mind thereby. And again, a true and a faithful friend, through his pity and bemoaning of thee, helpeth thee, as it were, to bear thy burden; and although he can take away no part of the substance of thy sorrow, yet his good heart and will and friendly words are a groat comfort unto thee.
CHAPTER - THE BEST AND SUREST SUCCOUR AND COMFORT IN ADVERSITY RESTETH ONLY IN THE MIGHT, POWER, WILL, AND GOODNESS OF GOD.
Now will I open and declare, that God both can, may, and will help and succor sufficiently for Christ’s sake, in respect of whom he promiseth us all manner of help, aid, and comfort, and performeth it. And I will also show by what means, and in what measure he worketh the same.
God seeth and looketh upon us, how we stick and wrestle in peril and danger, and he knoweth best of all how and when to remedy, help, and deliver us, that his glory and our wealth may be most furthered. And he is not one that only knoweth all things, but he is also almighty, and can work and bring to pass all things. And if our affliction and adversity wax and increase from day to day, the longer the worse; yet is God always a thousand times mightier and stronger than it.
But so mighty cannot God be, but he is as gracious and merciful also, and hath a greater lust and desire to show and declare his true heart and. love toward us, than we can wish or desire. And although he seemeth in our sight to take utterly away all manner of light of his grace out of our eyes, yet he remaineth gracious and favorable toward us privily, and as it were in secret; and certainly he will not forsake us, give us over, nor suffer us to stick and continue in such heaviness and danger.
And it is not our good works, merits, and deserts that move him thereunto, but the infinite and endless merit and desert of Jesus Christ, which hath purchased unto us through his bitter death and passion remission of our sins, the heavenly gifts of the Holy Ghost, and mitigation or easement of all our troubles and adversities.
And it is not possible that any man that taketh hold of Christ and hath him, can be oppressed or overthrown either of sin, the devil, the world, or of all the creatures in heaven and earth; but shall continue and remain for ever under the wing and defense of God. (Romans 8 <450801> , Psalm 34 <193401> , Proverbs 24 <202401> ) Furthermore, Almighty God, being pacified and reconciled with mankind through Jesus Christ, hath promised both, unto the children of Israel, and to all that be in any distress and vexation, through his ministers, evermore from time to time, help, succor, and comfort. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite and broken heart, and will help them that have sorrowful and humble minds.” (Psalm 34 <193401> ) “He desireth me, and hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him. I am by him and with him in his trouble; I will bring him out, and set him in honor,” etc. (Psalm 91 <199101> ) O, how comfortable a thing, and what an high honor is it, to have such a mighty and so faithful a fellowcompanion, which will so lovingly stand by us and aid us!
Now as for the time, God will help in due and convenient, season, and we must suffer him to take his time and leisure. For like as God seeth the trouble and affliction of his church, how it is vexed, even so hath he appointed a just time, how long he will suffer the wicked to take their pleasure, and how far they shall go and attempt. And when that is expired, no longer nor further can they go. As the captivity of Babylon was appointed to continue seventy years, and then to cease.
Yea, when the sorrow and heaviness is at the highest, and every one of us thinketh that God hath utterly forsaken us, then is God most ready to help us, and his aid is most nigh unto us. Yea, and to speak certainly as the truth is, God comforteth us continually in the midst of all our trouble and heaviness, and is never from us. (Psalm 46 <194601> , Matthew 28 <402801> , John 14 <431401> ) For the faithful man hath in his heart the Spirit of God, the fountain and spring of the heavenly water, of the which he is evermore moistened, revived, and refreshed, to his singular comfort. (John 4 <430401> ) And the more that our sorrow and adversity augmenteth and increaseth, the greater aid and assistance shall we find and perceive. “God will not suffer you to be tempted above your strength, but together with your temptation he will make a way out, that ye shall be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10 <461001> , 2 Peter 2 <610201> ) By these words doth Paul teach very comfortably, that God will not tempt, test, nor assay us harder nor sorer than we may away with, and be able to bear. “As the afflictions of Christ are plentiful and abundant in us, even so is the consolation through Christ also plentiful and abundant.” (2 Corinthians 1 <470101> ) For example: the holy apostles were so strengthened, that they rejoiced that they might suffer any thing for Christ’s sake. (Acts 4 <440401> ) And at this present day God sendeth more comfort than all devils and all the world are able to send heaviness, sorrow, and discomfort.
Like as a captain in war giveth his soldiers that are under him a great courage, by speaking manfully and comfortably unto them; even so God will have his comfortable word daily to be published and proclaimed abroad, to the intent to encourage his soldiers that fight under his banner.
And yet he is not so satisfied, that we should be encouraged with bare and simple words, but he himself is present by us with his Spirit; which Spirit, as a sure warrant and an earnest-penny, certifieth and assureth our hearts of the grace, favor, and aid of God. (Matthew 28 <402801> , Romans 8 <450801> ) And thus he comforteth and maketh our hearts rejoice unfeignedly, and giveth us wisdom, boldness, and strength to skirmish and fight against all manner of enemies, as well ghostly as bodily.
Although in winter the trees seem and appear not only unfruitful, but also utterly dead, yet the sun with his coming, when the winter hath taken her leave, doth so mollify, resolve, and warm both the earth itself and the trees, that they bud out again, wax green, and bring forth fruit: even so, when the faithful are esteemed and seem as though they were deprived and destitute of all help, and utterly forsaken, yet doth the heavenly Spirit of God lighten, warm, and strengthen their hearts to all goodness.
Like as the young infant is not able to go of himself for very tenderness and lack of strength, but must be sustained, holden up, and led with the hand of the nurse; and like as a sick woman, weakened with much and long sickness, is not able to go one step, but some whole and strong woman must take her under the arm, guide, and lead her, that she may go with them; even so are we not able to go of ourselves.
There is some kind of sorrow and martyrdom, that we tremble and quake for fear when we do but hear of it, much less were we able to suffer and to bear it; but God with his mighty hand and present power strengtheneth, sustaineth, and preserveth us. The Spirit succoureth and helpeth our weakness and infirmities. (Romans 8 <450801> ) And if the devil through his spirit doth drive and move the people, that they are ready and willing to all wickedness and abomination, though it cost them their lives; why should not God, through his Spirit, make us as lusty and willing to all goodness, whatsoever sorrow or affliction we suffer?
Sometime God mitigateth and easeth the punishments, that we may the more easily overcome them. The captain giveth sometime his soldiers liberty to take their rest, ease, and pastime, that they may somewhat refresh themselves, and afterward fight the more manly and freshly: even so our spiritual Captain granteth oft-times unto his Christians a certain recreation, ease, and rest, whereby they may refresh and revive themselves, that they may afterward handle themselves the more valiantly in their spiritual affairs.
And sometime he dischargeth us utterly of all manner of trouble and unquietness, and restoreth all our losses and hindrances again, and delivereth us, to our singular preeminence, praise, and commendation, and keepeth and sayeth us from all manner of misery and unquietness in time to come. And to perform this thing, God useth not only his Spirit, but also other means; as the angels, the stars, the elements, beasts, men, and all manner of creatures.
Like as a man of war hath a lust and a courage to fight, having divers valiant servants about him, which will suffer him to take no wrong; even so the holy angels do compass us about and defend us, that in all manner of affliction and adversity we are bold, and able to stand and continue valiantly. (Psalm 34 <193401> , Kings 19 <111901> , Joshua 5 <060501> ) Heliseus said to his boy, “Be not afraid; for they that are with us are more than they that are with them,” etc. (2 Kings 6 <120601> ) The Red Sea and the flood of Jordan withdrew themselves, that the children of Israel might go over dry, and never wet their feet. (Exodus 14 <021401> , Joshua 3 <060301> ) The sun and moon stood still for Joshua’s pleasure, and never moved until such time as he had slain the five kings. (Joshua 10 <061001> ) Helias was wonderfully fed of the ravens. (1 Kings 17 <111701> ) Through the hand of a woman the Israelites were delivered from a terrible and cruel host of their enemies. And commonly God comforteth and delivereth man through other men. (Esther 7:8 , Esther 9 <170901> , Judith 13) And specially this is a comfortable thing, that all faithful and holy Christians upon earth have fellowship and participation together in all manner of things, both good and bad, as well one as other; and therefore whensoever I suffer any smart, pain, or sorrow, both Christ and all true Christians suffer with me. For the Lord saith not, “They were hungry and thirsty,” etc., but he saith, “I was hungry, and I was thirsty.” (Isaiah 58 <235801> , Matthew 25 <402501> ) And furthermore, the whole congregation of Christ doth help me to bear my burden. For they that are the members of one body take care and sorrow one for another: if the sole of the foot be hurt, doth it not grieve the whole body? (Galatians 6 <480601> ) Now St Paul calleth all christian men one body, and also one bread and one cup. (1 Corinthians 10 <461001> ) And therefore all other faithful Christians have compassion, and are heavy and sorrowful for me; and whatsoever is light unto them, is also light unto me.
Take a manifest example by the godly prophet Jeremiah, which complained so sore, and was in such distress, when he had no other cause, but that the Jews, his countrymen, were so evil handled and vexed.
CHAPTER - EXAMPLES OF THE HELP AND AID OF GOD.
To this end and purpose ought we to consider and to call unto mind the examples both of the Old and New Testament. If God had ever forsaken his faithful elect in their trouble and need, then might we have a just and lawful excuse to mistrust him: but forasmuch as none that ever sought upon God was forsaken of him (Psalm 37 <193701> ), ought not that to comfort and strengthen us, that he will also mercifully stand by us in all our need and necessity?
The godly man Noe with his sons and his sons’ wives, were preserved of God through an ark or a ship, when as the whole world beside were destroyed with the sin-flood. Now if we with Noe believe in the blessed Seed, so shall we also with him be reputed for virtuous and good before God, and so be preserved as he was. (Genesis 3 <010301> ) Lot was also delivered from the plague and punishment of the Sodomites. (Genesis 19 <011901> ) Jacob was fain to flee from his brother Esau, and to suffer great wrong and injury of his father-in-law Laban; and yet he was nevertheless blessed and preserved of God. (Genesis 32 <013201> ) Joseph being sold of his brethren, and because he would not commit filthiness and abomination with his master’s wife, was cast into prison; but God delivered him, and exalted him to high honor. (Genesis 38 <013801> , 39 <013901> , 41 <014101> ) King Pharao threatened Moyses very sore, and the children of Israel also themselves would have stoned him to death; but God preserved him under his protection. (Exodus 14 <021401> , 17 <011701> ) Unto the children of Israel God gave water out of a hard rock of stone, and bread from heaven, and quails and other necessary things for the comfort of their necessity, wonderfully in the wilderness. (Numbers 20 <042001> , Exodus 16 <021601> , 17 <011701> ) How graciously did God preserve king David and Ezechias in their trouble and necessity, and also the prophets Ezechiel and Daniel among the heathen; and likewise defended he Judas Machabeus, with other at that time. (1 Samuel 19 <091901> , 1 Samuel 24 <092401> , 1 Samuel 26 <092901> , 1 Samuel 28 <092801> , 2 Chronicles 32 <123201> , Daniel 6 <270601> , 1 Mac. 2) Forty men had made a solemn vow, neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul; but God did not suffer it to come to pass. (Acts 23 <442301> ) These and other like examples are written for this purpose, that we should give like judgment, and have like opinion of other like examples, which are not expressed.
Beside this, it is also evident, and hath been marked, that some time such as have been the most timorous, weak, and fearful, afterward being strengthened in faith through the might and power of God, have suffered martyrdom, banishment, and death most willingly and joyfully; and also have comforted boldly such as have suffered with them, even against the nature and disposition of the flesh of man. (Acts 4 <440401> , 5 <440501> , Romans 8 <450801> , 2 Corinthians 4 <470401> , Psalm 44 <194401> ) Yea, there is never one of us all, but have oft felt and proved the help, protection, and aid of God. For who can make his boast that he himself did help any thing at all to the matter, when he was formed in his mother’s womb? Of the which matter read David. “Who hath kept us hitherto while we have been asleep?” (Psalm 127:1) Who hath sorrowed and taken care for us, when we have labored or taken our pastime, or else done some other thing, and never took thought the least moment for ourselves? It may well happen that God may sometime suffer us to swim, but he will never suffer us to sink or to drown.
To be short: if there were not so many examples before our eyes, if we would but look a little backward, and consider how we have passed and avoided the time that is past, which surely hath been always full of great perils and dangers; whether we will or will not, we shall be compelled to confess and grant, that the merciful goodness of God hath borne us in his bosom, and hath preserved us from divers dangerous perils, over and above all that ever we could think, imagine, or devise.
Now if God hath thus holpen and delivered us many and divers ways, without any labor or study of ourselves, yea, without, any manner of care or sorrow of our parts, when as we neither knew nor thought that he was present with us; we must needs be very obstinate, dull, and mad, if we do not from henceforth, in any manner of trouble or necessity, cast our sorrow upon him, and suffer him to care for us; but we in such case (oh shame!) begin to doubt and fear lest he hath already forsaken us, or will from henceforth give us over. (Psalm 4 <190401> , Matthew 6 <400601> , Luke 12 <421201> , Peter 5 <600501> ) Item, if God of his natural love, beneficialness, and free liberality giveth here in this transitory life health, strength, riches, wealth, friendship, power, authority, honor, and such like, even unto the wicked and ungodly; why should not we determine and conclude upon the same, that he will deal and distribute a thousand times higher and greater benefits unto the godly and right faithful Christians, although they neither see nor receive those gifts at that present instant?
Besides this, the Lord also comforteth us: “If God take care for the fowls of the air and the flowers of the field, and provideth nourishment and clothing for them; truly he will deal as faithfully with us men, which excel many ways the fowls of the air and grass of the field.” (Luke 12 <421201> , Matthew 6 <400601> , 10 <401001> )