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The Third Petition in the Lord’s Prayer

‘Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.’ Matt 6: 10.

We come next to the third petition, ‘Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

This petition consists of two parts: the matter, ‘Doing God’s will;’ and the manner, ‘As it is in heaven.’

What is meant by the will of God?

There is a twofold will. (1) Voluntas decreti, God’s secret will, or ‘the will of his decree’. We pray not that God’s secret will may be done by us. This secret will cannot be known, it is locked up in God’s own breast, and neither man nor angel has a key to open it. (2) Voluntas revelata, God’s ‘revealed will.’ This will is written in the book of Scripture, which is a declaration of God’s will, and discovers what he would have us do in order to our salvation.

What do we pray for in these words, ‘Thy will be done?’

We pray for two things; 1: For active obedience; that we may do God’s will actively in what he commands. 2. For passive obedience; that we may submit to God’s will patiently in what he inflicts.

We pray that we may do God’s will actively, subscribe to all his commands, believe in Jesus, which is the cardinal grace, and lead holy lives. So Augustine, upon this petition, Nobis a Deo precamur obedientiam; we pray that we may actively obey God’s will. This is the sum of all religion, the two tables epitomised, the doing God’s will. ‘Thy will be done.’ We must know his will before we can do it; knowledge is the eye which must direct the foot of obedience. At Athens there was an altar set up, ‘To the unknown God.’ Acts 17: 23. It is as bad to offer the blind to God as the dead. Knowledge is the pillar of fire to give light to practice; but though knowledge is requisite, yet the knowledge of God’s will is not enough without doing it. If one had a system of divinity in his head; if he had ‘all knowledge,’ yet, if obedience were wanting, his knowledge were lame, and would not carry him to heaven. 1 Cor 13: 2. Knowing God’s will may make a man admired, but it is doing it that makes him blessed. Knowing God’s will without doing it, will not crown us with happiness.

[1] The bare knowledge of God’s will is inefficacious, it does not better the heart. Knowledge alone is like a winter-sun, which has no heat or influence; it does not warm the affections, or purify the conscience. Judas was a great luminary, he knew God’s will, but he was a traitor.

[2] Knowing without doing God’s will, will make the case worse. It will heat hell the hotter. ‘That servant which knew his Lord’s will,’ and did it not, ’shall be beaten with many stripes.’ Luke 12: 47. Many a man’s knowledge is a torch to light him to hell. Thou who hast knowledge of God’s will but does not do it, wherein does thou excel a hypocrite? Nay, wherein does thou excel the devil, who transforms himself into an angel of light? It is improper to call such Christians, who are knowers of God’s will but not doers of it. It is improper to call him a tradesman who never wrought in his trade; so to call him a Christian, who never wrought in the trade of religion. Let us not rest in knowing God’s will. Let it not be said of us, as Plutarch speaks of the Grecians, ‘They knew what was just, but did it not.’ Let us set upon the doing God’s will. ‘Thy will be done.’

Why is the doing God’s will requisite?

(1) Out of equity. God may justly claim a right to our obedience. He is our founder, and we have our being from him; and it is but just that we should do his will at whose word we were created. God is our benefactor. It is but just that, if he gives us our allowance, we should give him our allegiance.

(2) The great design of God in the word is to make us doers of his will. [1] All God’s royal edicts and precepts are to bring us to be doers of his will. What needed God to have been at the pains to give us the copy of his law, and write it out with his own finger but for this end? The word of God is not only a rule of knowledge, but of duty. ‘This day the Lord thy God has commanded thee to do these statutes; thou shalt therefore keep and do them. ’ Deut 26: 16. If you tell your children what is your mind, it is not only that they may know your will, but do it. God gives us his word, as a master gives his scholar a copy, to write after it; he gives it as his will and testament, that we should be the executors to see it performed. [2] The end of all God’s promises is to draw us to do his will. The promises are loadstones to obedience. ‘A blessing if ye obey;’ as a father gives his son money to bribe him to obedience. Deut 11: 27. ‘If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to do all his commandments, the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth; blessed shalt thou be in the city and in the field.’ Deut 28: 1, 3. The promises are a royal charter settled upon obedience. [3] The minatory part of the word, the threatening of God, stand as the angel with a flaming sword to deter us from sin, and make us doers of God’s will. ‘A curse if ye will not obey.’ Deut 11: 28. ‘God shall wound the hairy scalp of such an one as goes on still in his trespasses.’ Psa 68: 21. These threatening often take hold of men in this life; they are made examples, and hung up in chains to scare others from disobedience. [4] All God’s providence are to make us doers of his will. As he makes use of all the seasons of the year for harvest, so all his various providence are to bring on the harvest of obedience. [5] Afflictions are said to be sent us to make us do God’s will. ‘When he [Manasseh] was in affliction, he besought the Lord, and humbled himself greatly.’ 2 Chron 33: 12. The rod has this voice, ‘Be doers of God’s will.’ Affliction is called a furnace. The furnace melts the metal, and then it is cast into a new mould. God’s furnace is to melt us and mould us into obedience. [6] God’s mercies are to make us do his will. ‘I beseech you by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.’ Rom 12: 1. Body is by synecdoche put for the whole man; if the soul should not be presented to God as well as the body, it could not be a reasonable service; therefore the apostle says, ‘I beseech you by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.’ Mercies are the strongest obligations to duty. ‘I drew them with cords of a man;’ that is, with golden cords of my mercy. Hos 11: 4. In a word, all that is written in the law or gospel tends to this, that we should be doers of God’s will. ‘Thy will be done.’

(3) By doing the will of God, we evidence sincerity. As Christ said in another sense, ‘The works that I do, bear witness of me.’ John 10: 25. It is not all our golden words, if we could speak like angels, but our works, our doing of God’s will which bears witness of our sincerity. We judge not the health of a man’s body by his high colour, but by the pulse of the arm, where the blood chiefly stirs; so a Christian’s soundness is not to be judged by his profession; but the estimate of a Christian is to be taken by his obediential acting, his doing the will of God. This is the best certificate and testimonial to show for heaven.

(4) Doing God’s will propagates the gospel. It is the diamond that sparkles in religion. Others cannot see what faith is in the heart, but when they see we do God’s will on earth, it makes them have a venerable opinion of religion, and become proselytes to it. Julian, in one of his epistles, writing to Arsatius, says, ‘that the Christian religion did much flourish, by the sanctity and obedience of them that professed it.’

(5) By doing God’s will, we show our love to Christ. ‘He that has my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.’ John 14: 21. What greater love to Christ than to do his will, though it cross our own? Every one would be thought to love Christ; but, how shall it be known but by this? — Do you do his will on earth? Neque principem veneramur, si odio ejus leges habemus [We do not honour the ruler if we hate his laws]. Isidore. It is a vain thing for a man to say he loves Christ’s person, when he slights his commands. Not to do God’s will on earth is a great evil.

It is sinful. We go against our prayers; we pray, fiat voluntas tua, thy will be done, and yet we do not obey his will; we confute our own prayer. We go against our vow in baptism; we have vowed to fight under the Lord’s banner, to obey his sceptre, and this vow we have often renewed in the Lord’s supper; if we do not God’s will on earth, we are forsworn, and God will indict us for perjury.

Not to do God’s will on earth is foolish; because there is no standing out against God. If we do not obey him, we cannot resist him. ‘Are we stronger than he?’ 1 Cor 10: 22. ‘Hast thou an arm like God?’ Job 40: 9. Canst thou measure arms with him? To oppose God, is as if a child should fight with an archangel; as if a heap of briers should put themselves into a battalion against the flame. Not to do God’s will is foolish; because, if we do it not, we do the devil’s will. Is it not folly to gratify an enemy — to do his will who seeks our ruin?

But are any so wicked as to do the devil’s will?

Yes! ‘Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.’ John 8: 44. When a man tells a lie, does he not do the devil’s will? ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?’ Acts 5: 3.

Not to do God’s will is dangerous. It brings a spiritual Praemunire. If God’s will be not done by us, he will have his will upon us; if we obey not his will in commanding, we shall obey it in perishing. ‘The Lord Jesus shall be revealed with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that obey not the gospel.’ 2 Thess 1: 7, 8. Either we must do his will, or suffer it.

(6) To do God’s will is for our benefit. It promotes our own self-interest. As if a king commands a subject to dig in a mine of gold, and gives him all the gold he had digged. God bids us do his will, and that is for our good. ‘And now, Israeli what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to keep the commandments of the Lord, which I command thee this day for thy good?’ Deut 10: 13. It is God’s will that we should repent, and this is for our good; for repentance ushers in remission. ‘Repent, that your sins may be blotted out.’ Acts 3: 19. It is God’s will that we should believe; and why is it, but that we should be crowned with salvation? ‘He that believeth, shall be saved.’ Mark 16: 16. What God wills, is not so much our duty, as our privilege; he bids us obey his voice, and it is greatly for our good. ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God.’ Jer 7: 23. I will not only give you my angels to be your guard, but myself to be your portion; my spirit shall be yours to sanctify you; my love shall be yours to comfort you; my mercy shall be yours to save you; ‘I will be your God.’

(7) To do God’s will is our honour. A person thinks it an honour to have a king speak to him to do a thing. The angels count it their highest honour in heaven to do God’s will. Servire Deo regnare est, to serve God is to reign. Non onerant nos, sed ornant [They do not burden us but adorn us]. Salvian. How cheerfully did the rowers row the barge that carried Caesar! To be employed in this barge was an honour: to be employed in doing God’s will is insigne honoris, the highest ensign of honour that a mortal creature is capable of. Christ’s precepts do not burden us, but adorn us.

(8) To do God’s will on earth makes us like Christ, and akin to him. It makes us like Christ. Is it not our prayer that we may be like Christ Jesus Christ did his Father’s will. ‘I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.’ John 6: 38. As God the Father and Christ have but one essence, so but one will. Christ’s will was melted into his Father’s. ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me.’ John 4: 34. By doing God’s will on earth, we resemble Christ, nay, we are akin to him and are of the blood royal of heaven. Alexander called himself cousin to the gods; but what honour is it to be akin to Christ! ‘Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.’ Matt 12: 50. Did king Solomon rise off his throne to meet his mother and set her on a throne by him? 1 Kings 2: 19. Such honour will Christ bestow on such as are doers of God’s will; he will salute them as his kindred, and set them on a glorious throne in the amphitheatre of heaven.

(9) Doing God’s will on earth brings peace in life and death. [1] In life. ‘In keeping them [thy precepts] there is great reward,’ not only after keeping them, but in keeping them. Psa 19: 11. When we walk closely with God in obedience, there is a secret joy let into the soul and how swiftly and cheerfully do the wheels of the soul move when they are oiled with the oil of gladness! [2] Peace in death. When Hezekiah thought he was about to die, what gave him comfort? That he had done the will of God. ‘Remember O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and have done that which is good in thy sight.’ Isa 38: 3. It was Augustus’s wish that he might have an easy death, without much pain. If anything make our pillow easy at death, it will be that we have endeavoured to do God’s will on earth. Did you ever hear any cry out on their death-bed, that they have done God’s will too much? No! Has it not been, that they have done his will no more, that they came so short in their obedience? Doing God’s will, will be both your comfort and your crown.

(10) If we are not doers of God’s will, we shall be looked upon as condemners of his will. Let God say what he will, yet men will go on in sin, which is to condemn God. ‘Wherefore does the wicked condemn God?’ Psa 10: 13. To condemn God is worse than to rebel. The tribes of Israel rebelled against Rehoboam, because he made their yoke heavier. 1 Kings 12: 16. But to condemn God is worse: it is to slight him; it is to put a scorn upon him, and affront him to his face; and an affront will make him draw his sword.

In what manner are we to do God ’s will, that we may find acceptance?

The manner of doing God’s will is the chief thing. The schoolmen say well, Modus rei cadit sub precepto, ‘the manner of a thing is as well required as the thing itself.’ If a man build a house, and the owner likes it not, and it be not according to his mind, he thinks all his charges lost; so if we do not God’s will in the right manner, it is not accepted. We must not only do what he appoints, but as he appoints. Here lies the very life-blood of religion. It is a great question, therefore, ‘In what manner are we to do God’s will that we may find acceptance?’

(I) We do God’s will acceptably when we do duties spiritually. ‘We worship God in the spirit.’ Phil 3: 3. To serve God spiritually, is to do duties ab interno principio, from an inward principle. The Pharisees were very exact about the external part of God’s worship. How zealous were they in the outward observation of the Sabbath, even charging Christ with the breach of it! But all this was outward obedience only: there was nothing of spirituality in it. We do God’s will acceptably when we serve him from a renewed principle of grace. A crab tree may bear as well as a good apple tree, but it is not so good fruit as the other, because it does not come from so sweet a root; so an unregenerate person may do as much external obedience as a child of God: he may pray as much, hear as much, but his obedience is harsh and sour, because it does not come from the sweet and pleasant root of grace. The inward principle of obedience is faith; therefore it is called ‘the obedience of faith.’ Rom 16: 26. But why must this silver thread of faith run through the whole work of obedience? Because faith looks at Christ in every duty, it touches the hem of his garment; and through Christ, both the person and the offering are accepted. Eph 1: 6.

(2) We do God’s will acceptably when we prefer his will before all others. If God wills one thing, and man wills the contrary, we are not to obey man’s will, but God’s. ‘Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.’ Acts 4: 19. God says, ‘Thou shalt not make a graven image.’ King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image to be worshipped; but the three children, or rather champions, resolved God’s will should prevail, and they would obey him, though with the loss of their lives. ‘Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.’ Dan 3: 18.

(3) We do God’s will acceptably when we do it as it is done in heaven, that is, as the angels do it. To do God’s will as the angels similitudinem notat, non aequalitatem [marks our likeness to them, not our equality with them]. Brugensis. It denotes this much, that we are to resemble them, and make them our pattern. Though we cannot equal the angels in doing God’s will, yet we must imitate them; a child cannot write so well as the copy, yet he imitates it.

[1] We do God’s will as the angels in heaven when we do it regularly, sine deflexu [without wavering]; when we go according to the divine institutions, not decrees of councils, or traditions of men. Angels do nothing but what is commanded; they are not for ceremonies. As there are statute laws in the land which bind, so the Scripture is God’s statute law, which we must exactly observe. As the watch is set by the dial, so our obedience is right when it goes by the sun-dial of the word. If obedience has not the word for its rule, it is not doing God’s will, but our own; it is will-worship. The Lord would have Moses make the tabernacle according to the pattern. Exod 25: 40. If Moses had left out anything or added anything to it, it would have been very provoking. To mix anything of our own devising in God’s worship, is to go beside, yea, contrary to the pattern. His worship is the apple of his eye, that which he is the most tender of; and there is nothing he has more showed his displeasure against than corrupting his worship. How severely did he punish Nadab and Abihu for offering up strange fire, that is, such fire as God has not sanctified on the altar! Lev 10: 2. Whatever is not divinely appointed, is offering up strange fire. There is in many a strange itch after superstition: they love a gaudy religion, and are more for the pomp of worship than the purity; which cannot be pleasing to God. As if God were not wise enough to appoint the manner how he will be served, man will be so bold as to prescribe for him. To thrust human inventions into sacred things, is doing our will, not God’s; and he will say, quis quaesivit haec? ‘Who has required this at your hand?’ Isa 1: 12. We do God’s will as it is done in heaven when we do it regularly, when we reverence his institutions, and the mode of worship, which have the stamp of divine authority upon them.

[2] We do God’s will as it is done by the angels in heaven when we do it entirely, sine mutilatione [with nothing cut away]; when we do all God’s will. The angels in heaven do all that God commands; they leave nothing of his will undone. ‘Ye his angels that do his commandments.’ Psa 103: 20. If God sends an angel to the virgin Mary, he goes on God’s errand, if he gives his angels a charge to minister for the saints, they obey. Heb 1: 14. It cannot stand with angelic obedience, to leave the least iota of God’s will unfulfilled. It is to do God’s will as the angels when we do all his will, quicquid propter Deum fit aequaliter fit [whatever is done for God’s sake is done uniformly]. This was God’s charge to Israel. ‘Remember and do all my commandments.’ Numb 15: 40, It is said of David, ‘I have found David, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.’ (Gr. all my wills.) Acts 13: 22. Every command has the same authority; and if we do God’s will uprightly, we do it uniformly; we obey every part and branch of his will; we join first and second table. Surely we owe to God our Father, what the Papists say we owe to our mother, the church, unlimited obedience. We must incline to every command, as the needle moves the way which the loadstone draws.

Many do God’s will by halves, they pick and choose in religion: in some they comply with God’s will, but not in others; like a lame horse, which sets some of its feet on the ground, but favours one. He who is to play upon a lute, must strike upon every string, or he spoils all the music. God’s commandments may be compared to a ten-stringed lute; we must obey his will in every command, strike upon every string, or we can make no good melody in religion. The badger has one foot shorter than the other, so hypocrites are shorter in some duties than others. Some will pray, but not give alms; some hear the word, but not forgive their enemies; others receive the sacrament, but not make restitution. How can they be holy who are not just? Hypocrites profess fair, but when it comes to sacrificing the Isaac, crucifying the beloved sin, or parting with some of their estate for Christ, they pause and say, as Naaman, ‘In this thing, the Lord pardon thy servant.’ 2 Kings 5: 18. This is far from doing God’s will as the angels do. God likes not such as do his will by halves. If your servant should do some of your work which you set him about, but not all, how would you like it?

But who is able to do all God’s will?

Though we cannot do all his will legally, we may evangelically; which is: (1) When we mourn that we can do God’s will no better; when we fail we weep. Rom 7: 24. (2) When it is the desire of our soul to do God’s whole will, ‘O that my ways were directed to keep thy precepts.’ Psa 119: 5. What a child of God wants in strength, he makes up in desire, in magnis voluisse sat est [in great matters it is enough to have had the will]. (3) When we endeavour quoad conatum [as far as we are able] to do the whole will of God. When a father bids his child lift a burden, and the child is not able, but tries, and does his best, the father accepts it as if he had done it; so to do our best, is to do God’s will evangelically. He takes it in good part; though it be not to satisfaction, it is to acceptation.

[3] We do God’s will as it is done in heaven by the angels when we do it sincerely, sine fuco [without pretence]. To do God’s will sincerely lies in two things, first, to do God’s will out of a pure respect to his command. Abraham’s sacrificing Isaac was contrary to flesh and blood. To sacrifice the son of his love, the son of the promise, and by no other hand but the father’s own, was hard service; but, because God commanded it, and out of pure respect to the command, Abraham obeyed. This is to do God’s will aright, when though we feel no present joy or comfort in duty, yet, because God commands we obey. Not comfort, but the command is the ground of duty. Thus the angels do God’s will in heaven. His command is the weight that sets the wheels of their obedience going. Secondly, to do God’s will sincerely, is to do it with a pure eye to his glory. The Pharisees did the will of God giving alms; but that which was a dead fly in the ointment, was that they did not aim at his glory, but vain glory; they blew a trumpet. Jehu did the will of God in destroying the Baal-worshippers, and God commended him for it; but because he aimed more at setting himself in the kingdom, than at the glory of God, God looked upon it as no better than murder, and said he would avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu. Hos 1: 4. Let us look to our ends in obedience; though we shoot short, let us take a right aim. We may do God’s will, and yet not with a perfect heart. ‘Amaziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.’ 2 Chron 25: 2. The action was right for the matter, but his aim was not right; and the action which wants good aim, wants a good issue. He does God’s will rightly that does it uprightly, whose end is to honour God and lift up his name in the world. A gracious soul makes God his centre. As Joab, when he had taken Rabbah, sent for King David, that he might have the glory of the victory, so when a gracious soul has done any duty, it desires that the glory of all may be given to God. 2 Sam 12: 27, 28. ‘That God in all things may be glorified.’ 1 Pet 4: 11. It is to do God’s will as the angels, when we not only advance his glory, but design his glory. The angels are said to cast their crowns before the throne. Rev 4: 10. Crowns are signs of the greatest honour, but these the angels lay at the Lord’s feet, to show they ascribe the glory of all they do to him.

[4] We do God’s will as it is done in heaven by the angels when we do it willingly, sine murmuratione [without complaint]. The angels love to be employed in God’s service. It is their heaven to serve God. They willingly descend from heaven to earth, when they bring messages from God, and glad tidings to the church. Heaven being a place of much joy, the angels would not leave it a minute were it not that they take such infinite delight in doing God’s will. We resemble the angels when we do God’s will willingly. ‘And thou Solomon, my son, serve [the Lord] with a willing mind.’ 1 Chron 28: 9. God’s people are called a willing people (Heb. a people of willingnesses); they give God a freewill offering; though they cannot serve him perfectly, they serve him willingly. Psa 110: 3. A hypocrite is able facere bonum [to do good], yet not velle [desire it], he has no delight in duty; he does it rather out of fear of hell than love to God. When he does God’s will it is against his own. Virtus nolentium nulla est [There is no virtue in the unwilling]. Cain brought his sacrifice, but grudgingly; his worship was rather a task than an offering, rather penance than a sacrifice; he did God’s will, but against his own. We must be carried upon the wings of delight in every duty. Israel were to blow the trumpets when they offered burnt offerings. Num 10: 10. This was to show their joy and cheerfulness in serving God. We must read and hear the word with delight. ‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.’ Jer 15: 16. A pious soul goes to the word as to a feast, or as one would go with delight to hear music. Sleidan reports that the Protestants of France had a church which they called paradise, because, when they were in the house of God, they thought themselves in paradise. The saints flock as doves to the windows of God’s house. ‘Who are these that fly as the doves to their windows?’ Isa 60: 8. Not that a truly regenerate person is always in the same cheerful temper of obedience; he may sometimes find an indisposition and weariness of soul, but his weariness is his burden; he is weary of his weariness; he prays, weeps, uses all means to regain the alacrity and freedom in God’s service that he was wont to have. To do God’s will acceptably is to do it willingly. Delight in duty is better than duty itself. The musician is not commended for playing long, but well; it is not how much we do, but how much we love. ‘O, how love I thy law!’ Psa 119: 97. Love is as musk among linen, that perfumes it; it perfumes obedience, and makes it go up to heaven as incense. It is doing God’s will as the angels in heaven do. They are ravished with delight while praising God; they are said to have harps in their hands, to signify their cheerfulness in God’s service. Rev 15: 2.

[5] We do God’s will as the angels in heaven when we do it fervently, sine remissione [without slackness]. ‘Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;’ a metaphor taken from water when it seethes and boils over; so our affections should boil over in zeal and fervour. Rom 12: 11. The angels serve God with such fervour and intenseness that they are called seraphim, from a Hebrew word which signifies to burn, to show they are all on fire; they burn in love and zeal in doing God’s will. Psa 104: 4. Grace turns a saint into a seraphim. Aaron must put burning coals to the incense. Lev 16: 12. Incense was a type of prayer, burning coals of zeal, to show that the fire of zeal must be put to the incense of prayer. Formality starves duty. Is it like the angels to serve God dully and coldly? Duty without fervour is as a sacrifice without fire. We should ascend to heaven in a fiery chariot of devotion.

[6] We do God’s will as the angels in heaven when we give him the best in every service. ‘Out of all your gifts, ye shall offer all the best thereof.’ Numb 18: 29. ‘In the holy place shalt thou cause the strong wine to be poured unto the Lord for a drink offering.’ Numb 28: 7. The Jews might not offer to the Lord wine that was small or mixed, but the strong wine, to imply that we must offer to God the best, the strongest of our affections. If the spouse had a cup more juicy and spiced, Christ should drink of that. ‘I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.’ Cant 8: 2. Thus the angels in heaven do God’s will; they serve him in the best manner; they give him their seraphic high stringed praises; so he who loves God, gives him the cream of his obedience. God challenged the fat of all the sacrifice as his due. Lev 3: 16. Hypocrites care not what services they bring to God; they think to put him off with anything; they put no cost in their duties. ‘Cain brought of the fruit of the ground.’ Gen 4: 3. The Holy Ghost took notice of Abel’s offering that it was costly. He ‘brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof.’ Gen 4: 4. When he speaks of Cain’s offering, he says only, ‘He brought of the fruit of the ground.’ We do God’s will aright when we offer pinguia [fat things], dedicate to him the best. Domitian would not have his image carved in wood or iron, but in gold. God will have the best we have — golden services.

[7] We do God’s will as the angels in heaven when we do it readily and swiftly. The angels do not dispute or reason the case, but soon as they have their charge and commission from God, they immediately obey. To show how ready they are to execute God’s will, the cherubim, representing angels, are described with wings. ‘The man Gabriel (that was an angel) being caused to fly swiftly.’ Dan 9: 21. Thus should we do God’s will as the angels. Soon as ever God speaks the word we should be ambitious to obey. Alas! how long is it sometimes ere we can get leave of our hearts to go to a duty! Christ went more readily ad crucem [to the cross], than we to the throne of grace. How many disputes and excuses have we! Is this to do God’s will as the angels in heaven do it? O let us shake off this backwardness to duty, as Paul shook off the viper. Nescit tarda molimina Spiritus Sancti gratia [The grace of the Holy Spirit knows nothing of sluggish efforts. ‘Behold two women, and the wind was in their wings.’ Zech 5: 9. Wings are swift, but wind in the wings is great swiftness; such readiness should be in our obedience. Soon as Christ commanded Peter to let down his net, he let it down, and you know what success he had. Luke 5: 4. It was prophesied of such as were brought home to Christ, ‘As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me.’ Psa 18: 44.

[8] We do God’s will as the angels in heaven when we do it constantly. The angels are never weary of doing God’s will; they serve him day and night. Rev 7: 15. Thus we should imitate them. ‘Blessed [is] he that does righteousness at all times.’ Psa 106: 3. Constancy crowns obedience. Non coepisse, sed perfecisse, virtutis est [The righteousness consists not in beginning but in completing the work]. Cyprian. Our obedience must be like the fire of the altar, which was continually kept burning. Lev 6: 13. Hypocrites soon give over doing God’s will. They are like chrysolite, which is of a golden colour in the morning, very bright to look upon, but towards evening grows dull and loses its splendour. We should continue doing God’s will, because of the great loss that will befall us if we do it not. There will be a loss of honour. ‘That no man take thy crown;’ implying, if the church of Philadelphia left off her obedience, she would lose her crown that is, her honour and reputation. Rev 3: 2: Apostasy creates infamy. Judas came from an apostle to be a traitor, which was a dishonour. If we give over our obedience, it is a loss of all that has been already done; as if one should work in silver, and then pick out all the stitches. All a man’s prayers are lost, all the Sabbaths he has kept are lost; he unravels all his good works. ‘All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned.’ Ezek 18: 24. He undoes all he has done; as if one drew a curious picture with the pencil, and then came with his sponge and wiped it out again. A loss of the soul and happiness. We were in a fair way for heaven, but left off doing God’s will, missed the excellent glory, and are plunged deeper in damnation. ‘It had been better not to have known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment.’ 2 Pet 2: 21. Therefore let us continue in doing God’s will. Constancy sets the crown upon the head of obedience.

Use 1. For instruction.

(1) See hence our impotence. We have no innate power to do God’s will. What need to pray, ‘Thy will be done,’ if we have power of ourselves to do it? I wonder freewillers pray this petition.

(2) If we are to do God’s will on earth as it is done by the angels in heaven, see the folly of those who go by a wrong pattern. They do as most of their neighbours do: if they talk vain on the Sabbath, if now and then they swear an oath, it is the custom of their neighbours to do so; but we are to do God’s will, as the angels in heaven. We must make the angels our patterns, and not our neighbours. If our neighbours do the devil’s will, shall we do so too? If our neighbours go to hell, shall we go thither too for company?

(3) See here that which may make us long to be in heaven, where we shall do God’s will perfectly, as the angels do. Alas! how defective are we in our obedience here! How far we fall short! We cannot write a copy of holiness without blotting. Our holy things are blemished like the moon, which, when it shines brightest, has a dark spot in it; but in heaven we shall do God’s will perfectly, as the angels in glory.

Use 2. For reproof.

(1) It reproves such as do not God’s will. They have a knowledge of God’s will, but though they know it, they do it not. They know what God would have them avoid. They know they should not swear. ‘Swear not at all.’ Matt 5: 34. ‘Because of swearing the land mourneth.’ Jer 23: 10. Yet, though they pray ‘hallowed be thy name,’ they profane it by shooting oaths like chain bullets against heaven. They know they should abstain from fornication and uncleanness, yet they cannot but bite at the devil’s hook, if he bait it with flesh. Jude 7.

They know what God would have them practice, but they ‘Leave undone those things which they ought to have done.’ They know it is the will of God they should be true in their promises, just in their dealings, good in their relations; but they do it not. They know they should read the Scriptures, consult with God’s oracles: but the Bible, like rusty armour, is hung up, and seldom used; they look softener upon a pack of cards than upon a Bible. They know their houses should be palestrae pietatis, nurseries of piety, yet they have no religion in them; they do not perfume their houses with prayer. What hypocrites are they who kneel down in the church, and lift up their eyes to heaven and say, ‘Thy will be done,’ and yet have no care at all to do God’s will! What is this but to hang out a flag of defiance against heaven! Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.

(2) It reproves those who do not God’s will in a right acceptable manner. They do not God’s will entirely. They will obey him in some things, but not in others; as if a servant should do some of your work you set him about, but not all. Jehu destroyed the idolatry of Baal, but let the golden calves of Jeroboam stand. 2 Kings 10: 28, 29. Some will observe the duties of the second table, but not the first. Others make a high profession, as if their tongues had been touched with a coal from God’s altar, but live idly, and out of a calling; of whom the apostle thus complains: ‘We hear there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all.’ 2 Thess 3: 11. Living by faith, and living in a calling, must go together. It is an evil thing not to do all God’s will.

They do not God’s will ardently, nor cheerfully. They put not coals to the incense; they bring their sacrifice, but not their heart. This is far from doing God’s will as the angels. How can God like us to serve him as if we served him not? How can he mind our duties, when we ourselves do not mind them?

Use 3. For examination.

Let us examine all our actions whether they are according to God’s will. The will of God is the rule and standard: it is the sun- dial by which we must regulate all our actions. He is no good workman that does not work by rule; so he can be no Christian who goes not according to the rule of God’s will. Let us examine our actions whether they do quadrare [square with], agree to the will of God. Are our speeches according to his will? Are our words savoury, being seasoned with grace? Is our apparel according to God’s will? ‘In like manner that women adorn themselves in modest apparel,’ not wanton and garish, to invite comers. 1 Tim 2: 9. Is our diet according to God’s will? Do we hold the golden bridle of temperance, and only take so much as may rather satisfy nature than surfeit it? Too much oil chokes the lamp. Is our whole carriage and behaviour according to God’s will? Are we patterns of prudence and piety? Do we keep up the credit of religion, and shine as lights in the world? We pray, ‘Thy will be done as it is in heaven.’ Are we like our pattern? Would the angels do this if they were on earth? Would Jesus Christ do this? It is to Christianise, this is to be saints of degrees; when we live our prayer, and our actions are the counterpart of God’s will.

Use 4. For exhortation.

Let us be doers of the will of God, ‘Thy will be done.’ It is our wisdom to do God’s will. ‘Keep and do [these statutes], for this is your wisdom.’ Deut 4: 6. Further, it is our safety. Has not misery always attended the doing our own will, and happiness the doing of God’s will?

(1) Misery has always attended the doing our own will. Our first parents left God’s will to fulfil their own, in eating the forbidden fruit; and what came of it? The apple had a bitter core in it; they purchased a curse for themselves and all their posterity. King Saul left God’s will to do his own; he spared Agog and the best of the sheep, and what was the issue, but the loss of his kingdom?

(2) Happiness has always attended the doing God’s will. Joseph obeyed God’s will, in refusing the embrace of his mistress; and was not this his preferment? God raised him to be the second man in the kingdom. Daniel did God’s will contrary to the king’s decree; he bowed his knee in prayer to God, and did not God make all Persia bow their knees to Daniel?

(3) The way to have our will is to do God’s will. Would we have a blessing in our estate? Let us do God’s will. ‘If thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, to do all his commandments, the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.’ Deut 28: 1, 3. This is the way to have a good harvest. Would we have a blessing in our souls? Let us do God’s will. ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God:’ I will entail myself upon you, as an everlasting portion; my grace shall be yours to sanctify you, my mercy shall be yours to save you. Jer 7: 23. You see you lose nothing by doing God’s will; it is the way to have your own will. Let God have his will in being obeyed, and you shall have your will in being saved.

How shall we do God’s will aright?

(1) Get sound knowledge. We must know his will before we can do it; knowledge is the eye to direct the foot of obedience. The Papists make ignorance the mother of devotion; but Christ makes ignorance the mother of error. ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ Matt 22: 29. We must know God’s will before we can do it aright. Affection without knowledge, is like a horse full of mettle, but his eyes are out.

(2) If we would do God’s will aright, let us labour for self denial. Unless we deny our own will, we shall never do God’s will. His will and ours are like the wind and tide when they are contrary. He wills one thing, we will another; he calls us to be crucified to the world, by nature we love the world; he calls us to forgive our enemies, by nature we bear malice in our hearts. His will and ours are contrary, and till we can cross our own will, we shall never fulfil his.

(3) Let us get humble hearts. Pride is the spring of disobedience. ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?’ Exod 5: 2. A proud man thinks it below him to stoop to God’s will. Be humble. The humble son says, Lord what wilt thou have me to do?’ He puts, as it were, a blank paper into God hand; and bids him write what he will, and he will subscribe to it.

(4) Beg grace and strength of God to do his will. ‘Teach me to do thy will:’ as if David had said, Lord, I need not be taught to do my own will, I can do it fast enough, but teach me to do thy will. Psa 143: 10. And that which may add wings to prayer, is God’s gracious promise, ‘I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.’ Ezek 36: 27. If the loadstone draw the iron, it is not hard for the iron to move: if God’s Spirit enable, it will not be hard, but rather delightful to do God’s will.

II. We pray that we may have grace to submit to God’s will patiently in what he inflicts. The text is to be understood as well of suffering God’s will as of doing it; so Maldonet, and the most judicious interpreters. A good Christian, when under any disastrous providence, should lie quietly at God’s feet, and say, ‘Thy will be done.’

What is patient submission to God’s will not?

There is something that looks like patience which is not: as when a man bears a thing because he cannot help it; he takes affliction as his fate and destiny, therefore he endures quietly what he cannot avoid: this is necessity rather than patience.

What accompanies patient submissions to God’s will?

(1) A Christian may be deeply sensible of affliction, and yet patiently submit to God’s will. We ought not to be Stoics, insensible and unconcerned with God’s dealings; like the sons of Deucalion, who, as the poets say, were begotten of a stone. Christ was sensible when he sweat great drops of blood, but there was submission to God’s will. ‘Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ Matt 26: 39. We are bid to humble ourselves under God’s hand, which we cannot do unless we are sensible of it. 1 Pet 5: 6.

(2) A Christian may weep under an affliction, and yet patiently submit to God’s will. God allows tears: it is a sin to be ‘without natural affection.’ Rom. 1: 31. Grace makes the heart tender; strangulat inclusis dolor [grief which is held in chokes the heart]; weeping gives vent to sorrow; expletur lacrimis dolor [grief is poured out in tears]. Joseph wept over his dead father; Job, when he had much ill news brought him at once, rent his mantle, as an expression of grief, but did not tear his hair in anger. Worldly grief, however, must not be immoderate; a vein may bleed too much; the water rises too high when it overflows the banks.

(3) A Christian may complain in his affliction, and yet be submissive to God’s will. ‘I cried unto the Lord with my voice, I poured out my complaint before him.’ Psa 142: 1, 2. We may, when under oppression, tell God how it is with us, and desire him to write down our injuries. Shall not the child complain to his father when he is wronged? Holy complaint may agree with patient submission to God’s will; but though we may complain to God, we must not complain of God.

What is inconsistent with patient submission to God’s will?

(1) Discontent with providence. Discontent has a mixture of grief and anger in it, and both these must needs raise a storm of passion in the soul. When God has touched the apple of our eye, and smitten us in that we loved, we are touchy and sullen, and he has not a good look from us. ‘Why art thou wrath?’ like a sullen bird that is angry, and beats herself against the cage. Gen 4: 6.

(2) Murmuring cannot stand with submission to God’s will. Murmuring is the height of impatience, it is a kind of mutiny in the soul against God. ‘The people spake against God.’ Numb 21: 5. When a cloud of sorrow is gathered in the soul, and it not only drops in tears, but out of it come hailstones, murmuring words against God, this is far from patient submission to his will. When water is hot the scum boils up; when the heart is heated with anger against God, then murmuring boils up. Murmuring springs, [1] From pride. Men think they have deserved better at God’s hand; and, when they begin to swell, they spit poison. [2] From distrust. Men believe not that God can make a treacle of poison, bring good out of all their troubles, therefore they murmur. ‘They believed not his word, but murmured.’ Psa 106: 24, 25. Men murmur at God’s providence because they distrust his promises. God has much ado to bear this sin. Numb 14: 27. It is far from submission to God’s will.

(3) Discomposedness of spirit cannot agree with quiet submission to God’s will; as when a man says, I am so encompassed with trouble that I know not how to get out; head and heart are so taken up, that I am not fit to pray. When the strings of a lute are snarled, the lute can make no good music; so when a Christian’s spirits are perplexed and disturbed, he cannot make melody in his heart to the Lord. To be under discomposure of mind, is as when an army is routed, one runs this way and another that, all is in disorder; so when a Christian is in a hurry of mind, his thoughts run up and down distracted, as if he were undone, which cannot consist with patient submission to God’s will.

(4) Self apology cannot agree with submission to God’s will, when, instead of being humbled under God’s hand, a person justifies himself. A proud sinner stands upon his own defence, and is ready to accuse God of unrighteousness, which is, as if we should tax the sun with darkness. This is far from submission to God’s will. God smote Jonah’s gourd, and he stood upon his own vindication. ‘I do well to be angry, even unto death.’ Jonah 4: 9. What! to be angry with God, and to justify this! ‘I do well to be angry!’ This was strange to come from a prophet, and was far from the prayer Christ taught us, ‘Thy will be done.’

What is patient submission to God’s will?

It is a gracious frame of soul, whereby a Christian is content to be at God’s disposal, and acquiesces in his wisdom. ‘It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.’ 1 Sam 3: 18. ‘The will of the Lord be done.’ Acts 21: 14. That I may further illustrate this, I shall show you wherein this submission to the will of God lies. It lies chiefly in three things:

(1) In acknowledging God’s hand; seeing God in the affliction. ‘Affliction comes not forth of the dust;’ it comes not by chance. Job 5: 6. Job eyed God in all that befell him. ‘The Lord has taken away.’ Job 1: 21. He complains not of the Chaldeans, or the influence of the planets: he looks beyond second causes, he sees God in the affliction. ‘The Lord has taken away.’ There can be no submission to God’s will till there be an acknowledging of God’s hand.

(2) Patient submission to God’s will lies in justifying God. ‘O my God, I cry but thou hearest not,’ thou turnest a deaf ear to me in my affliction. Psa 22: 2. ‘But thou art holy;’ ver 3. God is holy and just, not only when he punishes the wicked, but when he afflicts the righteous. Though he put wormwood in our cup, yet we vindicate him, and proclaim his righteousness. When Mauricius, the emperor, saw his son slain before his eyes, he exclaimed, Justus es, Domine, ‘Righteous art thou, O Lord, in all thy ways.’ We justify God, and confess he punishes us less than we deserve. Ezra 9: 13.

(3) Patient submission to God’s will lies in accepting the punishment. ‘And they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity.’ Rev 26: 41. Accepting the punishment, is taking all that God does in good part. He who accepts of the punishment says, ‘God is the rod of the Lord;’ he kisses the rod, yea, blesses God that he would use such a merciful severity, and rather afflict him than lose him.

Patient submission to God’s will in affliction shows a great deal of wisdom and piety. The skill of a pilot is most discerned in a storm, so a Christian’s grace in the storm of affliction. Submission to God’s will is most requisite for us while we live in this lower region. In heaven there will be no more need of patience than there is need of the starlight when the sun shines. In heaven there will be all joy, and what need of patience then? It requires no patience to wear a crown of gold; but while we live here in a valley of tears, patient submission to God’s will is much needed. ‘Ye have need of patience.’ Heb 10: 36.

The Lord sometimes lays heavy affliction upon us. ‘Thy hand presseth me sore.’ Psa 38: 2. The word in the original for ‘afflicted’ signifies to be ‘melted.’ God sometimes melts his people in a furnace. He sometimes lays divers afflictions upon us. ‘He multiplieth my wounds.’ Job 9: 17. God shoots divers sorts of arrows.

(1) Sometimes God afflicts with poverty. The widow had nothing left her save a pot of oil. 2 Kings 4: 2. Poverty is a great temptation. To have an estate reduced almost to nothing, is hard to flesh and blood. ‘Call me not Naomi, but Mara; I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty.’ Ruth 1: 20, 21. This exposes to contempt. When the prodigal was poor, his brother was ashamed to own him. ‘This thy son;’ he said not, this my brother, but this thy son; he scorned to call him brother. Luke 15: 30. When the deer is shot and bleeds, the rest of the herd push it away, so when God shoots the arrow of poverty at one, others are ready to push him away. When Terence was grown poor, his friend Scipio cast him off. The poets feign that the muses, Jupiter’s daughters, had no suitors, because they wanted a dowry.

(2) God sometimes afflicts with reproach. Such as have the light of grace shining in them may be eclipsed in their name. The primitive Christians were reproached as if they were guilty of incest, says Tertullian. Luther was called a trumpeter of rebellion. David calls reproach heart-breaking. Psa 69: 20. God often lets his dear saints be exercised with this. Dirt may be cast upon a pearl, and those names may be blotted which are written in the book of life. Sincerity shields from hell, but not from slander.

(3) God sometimes afflicts with the loss of dear relations. ‘Son of man behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke.’ Ezek 24: 16. This is like pulling away a limb from the body. He takes away a holy child: Jacob’s life was bound up in Benjamin. Gen 44: 30. That which is worse than the loss of children is, when they are continued as living crosses; where the parents expected honey, there to have wormwood. What greater cut to a godly parent than a child who disclaims his father’s God? A corrosive applied to the body may do well, but a bad child is a corrosive to the heart. Such an undutiful son had David, who conspired treason, and would not only have taken away his father’s crown, but his life.

(4) God sometimes afflicts with infirmity of body. Sickness takes away the comfort of life, and makes one in deaths oft.

God tries his people with various afflictions, so that there is need of patience to submit to his will. He who has divers bullets shot at him needs armour; so when divers afflictions assault, we need patience as proof armour. He sometimes lets the affliction continue long. Psa 74: 9. As with diseases, some are chronic, that linger and hang about the body several years together; so it is with affliction, the Lord is pleased to exercise many of his precious ones with chronic affliction, such as lies upon them a long time. In all these cases we need patience and submissiveness of spirit to God’s will.

Use 1. For reproof. It reproves such as have not yet learned this part of the Lord’s prayer: ‘Thy will be done;’ they have only said it, but not learned it. If things be not according to their mind, if the wind of Providence crosses the tide of their will, they are discontented and querulous. Where is now submission of will to God? To be displeased with God if things do not please us, is this to lie at God’s feet, and acquiesce in his will? It is a very bad temper of spirit, and God may justly punish us by letting us have our will. Rachel cried, ‘Give me children, or else I die.’ Gen 30: 1. God let her have a child, but it cost her her life. Gen 35: 18. Israel was not content with manna, but they must have quails, and God punished them by letting them have their will. ‘There went forth a wind from the Lord and brought quails; and while the flesh was yet between their teeth, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against them, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.’ Numb 11: 31, 33. They had better been without their quails than had such sour sauce to them. Many have importunately desired the life of a child, and could not bring their will to God’s to be content to part with it; and the Lord has punished them by letting them have their will; for the child has lived and been a burden to them. Seeing their wills crossed God their child shall cross them.

Use 2. For exhortation. Let us be exhorted, whatever troubles God exercises us with, aequo animo ferre [to bear with a calm mind], to resign up our wills to him, and say, ‘Thy will be done.’ Which is fittest, that God should bring his will to ours, or we bring our wills to his? Say as Eli, ‘It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good;’ and as David, ‘Behold, here am I; let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.’ 1 Sam 3: 18. 2 Samuel 15: 26. It was the saying of Harpulas, Placet mihi quod Regi placet, ‘That pleases me which pleases the king;’ so should we say, that which pleases God pleases us. ‘Thy will be done.’ Some have not yet learned this art of submission to God; and truly he who wants patience in affliction is like a soldier in battle who wants armour.

When do we not submit to God ’s will in affliction as we ought?

(1) When we have hard thoughts of him, and our hearts begin to swell against hum.

(2) When we are so troubled at our present affliction that we are unfit for duty. We can mourn as doves, but not pray or praise God. We are so discomposed that we are not fit to hearken to any good counsel. ‘They hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit.’ Exod 6: 9. Israel was so full of grief under their burdens, that they minded not what Moses said, though he came with a message from God to them; ‘They hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit.’

(3) We do not submit as we ought to God’s will when we labour to break loose from affliction by indirect means. Many, to rid themselves out of trouble, run themselves into sin. When God has bound them with the cords of affliction, they go to the devil to loosen their bands. Better it is to stay in affliction than to sin ourselves out of it. O let us learn to stoop to God’s will in all afflictive providence.

But how shall we bring ourselves, in all occurrences of providence, patiently to acquiesce in God’s will, and say, ‘Thy will be done’?

The means for a quiet resignation to God’s will in affliction are:

[1] Judicious consideration. ‘In the day of adversity consider.’ Eccl 7: 14. When any thing burdens us, or runs cross to our desires, did we but sit down and consider, and weigh things in the balance of judgement, it would much quiet our minds, and subject our wills to God. Consideration would be as David’s harp, to charm down the evil spirit of frowardness and discontent.

But what should we consider?

That which should make us submit to God in affliction, and say, ‘Thy will be done,’ is:

(1) To consider that the present state of life is subject to afflictions, as a seaman’s life is subject to storms; ferre quam sortem omnes patiuntur nemo recusat [no one escapes bearing the lot which all suffer]. ‘Man is born unto trouble;’ he is heir apparent to it; he comes into the world with a cry, and goes out with a groan. Job 5: 7. Ea lege nati sumus [On that condition are we born]. The world is a place where much wormwood grows. ‘He has filled me with bitterness (Heb with bitternesses); he has made me drunken with wormwood.’ Lam 3: 15. Troubles arise like sparks out of a furnace. Afflictions are some of the thorns which the earth after the curse brings forth. We may as well think to stop the chariot of the sun when it is in its swift motion, as put a stop to trouble. The consideration of a life exposed to eclipses and sufferings should make us say with patience, ‘Thy will be done.’ Shall a mariner be angry that he meets with a storm at sea?

(2) Consider that God has a special hand in the disposal of all occurrences. Job eyed God in his affliction. ‘The Lord has taken away;’ chap 1: 21. He did not complain of the Sabeans, or the influences of the planets; he looked beyond all second causes; he saw God in the affliction, and that made him cheerfully submit; he said, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Christ looked beyond Judas and Pilate to God’s determinate counsel in delivering him up to be crucified, which made him say, ‘Father, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ Acts 4: 27, 28, Matt 26: 39. It is vain to quarrel with instruments: wicked men are but a rod in God’s hand. ‘O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger.’ Isa 10: 5. Whoever brings an affliction, God sends it. The consideration of this should make us say, ‘Thy will be done;’ for what God does he sees a reason for. We read of a wheel within a wheel. Ezek 1: 16. The outward wheel, which turns all, is providence; the wheel within this wheel is God’s decree; this believed, would rock the heart quiet. Shall we mutiny at that which God does? We may as well quarrel with the works of creation as with the works of providence.

(3) Consider that there is a necessity for affliction. ‘If need be, ye are in heaviness.’ 1 Pet 1: 6. It is needful some things be kept in brine. Afflictions are needful upon several accounts.

[1] To keep us humble. Often there is no other way to have the heart low but by being brought low. When Manasseh ‘was in affliction, he humbled himself greatly.’ 2 Chron 33: 12. Corrections are corrosives to eat out the proud flesh. ‘Remembering my misery, the wormwood and the gall, my soul is humbled in me.’ Lam 3: 19, 20.

[2] It is necessary that there should be affliction; for if God did not sometimes bring us into affliction, how could his power be seen in bringing us out? Had not Israel been in the Egyptian furnace, God had lost his glory in their deliverance.

[3] If there were no affliction, then many parts of Scripture could not be fulfilled. God has promised to help us to bear affliction. Psa 37: 24, 39. How could we experience his supporting us in trouble, if we did not sometimes meet with it? God has promised to give us joy in affliction. John 16: 20. How could we taste this honey of joy if we were not sometimes in affliction? Again, he has promised to wipe away tears from our eyes. Isa 25: 8. How could he wipe away our tears in heaven if we never shed any? So that, in several respects, there is an absolute necessity that we should meet with affliction; and shall not we quietly submit, and say, ‘Lord, I see there is a necessity for it?’ ‘Thy will be done!’

(4) Consider that whatever we feel is what we have brought upon ourselves; we have put a rod into God’s hand to chastise us. Christian, God lays thy cross on thee; but it is of thy own making. If a man’s field be full of tares, it is what he has sown in it: if thou reapest a bitter crop of affliction, it is what thou thyself hast sown. The cords that pinch thee are of thy own twisting; meme adsum qui feci [it is myself here who made them]. If children will eat green fruit, they may thank themselves if they are sick; and if we eat the forbidden fruit, no wonder we feel it gripe. Sin is the Trojan horse that lands an army of afflictions upon us. ‘A voice publisheth affliction:’ ‘Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness.’ ,Jer 4: 15, 18. If we by sin run ourselves into arrears with God, no wonder if he set affliction as a sergeant on our back to arrest us. This should make us patiently submit to God in affliction, and say, ‘Thy will be done.’ We have no cause to complain of God; it is nothing but what our sins have merited. ‘Hast not thou procured this unto thyself?’ Jer 2: 17. The cross, though it be of God’s laying, is of our making. Say, then, as Micah (chap 7: 9), ‘I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.’

(5) Consider that God is about to prove and try us. ‘Thou, O God, hast tried us as silver is tried, thou laidst affliction upon our loins.’ Psa 66: 10, 11. If there were no affliction, how could God have an opportunity to try men? Hypocrites can serve in a pleasure boat: they can serve God in prosperity; but when we can keep close to him in times of danger, when we can trust him in darkness, and love him when we have no smile, and say, ‘Thy will be done,’ that is the trial of sincerity! God is only trying us; and what hurt is there in that? What is gold the worse for being tried?

(6) Consider that in all our crosses God has kindness for us. As there was no night so dark but Israel had a pillar of fire to give light, so there is no condition so cloudy but we may see that which gives light of comfort. David could sing of mercy and judgement. Psa 101: 1. It should make our wills cheerfully submit to God’s, to consider that in every path of providence we may see a footstep of kindness.

There is kindness in affliction when God seems most unkind.

[1] There is kindness in that there is love in it. God’s rod and his love may stand together. ‘Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.’ Heb 12: 6. As when Abraham lifted up his hand to sacrifice, Isaac loved him; so when God afflicts his people, and seems to sacrifice their outward comforts, he loves them. The husband man loves his vine when he cuts it and makes it bleed; and shall not we submit to God? Shall we quarrel with that which has kindness in it, which comes in love? The surgeon binds the patient, and lances him, but no wise man will quarrel with him, because it is in order to a cure.

[2] There is kindness in affliction, in that God deals with us as children. ‘If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.’ Heb 12: 7. God has one Son without sin, but no son without stripes. Affliction is a badge of adoption; it is Dei sigillum, says Tertullian, it is God’s seal by which he marks us for his own. When Munster, that holy man, lay sick, his friends asked him how he did? He pointed to his sores, saying, Hae sunt gemmae Dei, these are the jewels with which God decks his children. Shall not we then say, ‘Thy will be done’? Lord, there is kindness in the cross, thou uses us as children. The rod of discipline is to fit us for the inheritance.

[3] In kindness God in all our afflictions has left us a promise; so that in the most cloudy providence the promise appears as the rainbow in the cloud. Then we have God’s promise to be with us. ‘I will be with him in trouble.’ Psa 91: 15. It cannot be ill with that man with whom God is; I will be with him, to support, sanctify, and sweeten every affliction. I had rather be in prison and have God’s presence, than be in a palace without it.

We have the promise that he will not lay more upon us than he will enable us to bear. 1 Cor 10: 13. He will not try us beyond our strength; either he will make the yoke lighter, or our faith stronger. Should not this make us submit our wills to his, when afflictions have so much kindness in them? In all our trials he has left us promises, which are like manna in the wilderness.

[4] It is great kindness that all troubles that befall us shall be for our profit. ‘He for our profit.’ Heb 12: 10.

What profit is in affliction?

Afflictions are disciplinary, they teach us. They are, Schola crucis, Schola lucis [the school of the cross, the school of light]. Many psalms have the inscription, Maschil, a psalm giving instruction; so affliction has the inscription Maschil upon it, an affliction giving instruction. ‘Hear ye the rod.’ Micah 6: 9. Luther says he could never rightly understand some of the psalms till he was in affliction. Gideon ‘took thorns of the wilderness, and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.’ Judges 8: 16. God by the thorns and briers of affliction teaches us.

Affliction shows us more of our own hearts. Water in a glass vial looks clear; but set it on the fire, and the scum boils up; so when God sets us upon the fire, corruption boils up which we did not discern before. Sharp afflictions are to the soul as a soaking rain to the houses; we know not that there are holes in the house till the shower comes, but then we see it drop down here and there; so we do not know what unfortified lusts are in the soul till the storm of affliction comes; then we find unbelief, impatience, carnal fear, dropping down in many places. Affliction is a sacred collyrium [eye-salve], it clears our eye-sight: the rod gives wisdom.

Affliction brings those sins to remembrance which we had buried in the grave of forgetfulness. Joseph’s brethren, for twenty years together, were not at all troubled for their sin in selling their brother; but when they came into Egypt, and began to be in straits, their sin came to their remembrance, and their hearts smote them. ‘They said one to another, we are verily guilty concerning our brother. ’ Gen 42: 21. When a man is in distress his sin comes fresh into his mind; conscience makes a rehearsal-sermon of all the evils which have passed in his life; his expense of precious time, his Sabbath-breaking, his slighting of the word, come to remembrance, and he goes out with Peter and weeps bitterly. Thus the rod gives wisdom, shows the hidden evil of the heart, and brings former sins to remembrance.

There is profit in affliction, as it quickens the spirit of prayer; premuntur justi ut pressi clament [the righteous are afflicted that in their affliction they may pray]. Jonah was asleep in the ship, but at prayer in the whale’s belly. Perhaps in a time of health and prosperity we prayed in a cold and formal manner, we put no coals to the incense, we scarcely minded our own prayers, and how should God mind them? God sends some cross or other to make us stir up ourselves to take hold of him. When Jacob was in fear of his life by his brother, he wrestled with God, and wept in prayer, and would not leave him till he blessed him. Hos 12: 4. It is with many of God’s children as with those who formerly had the sweating sickness in this land, it was a sleepy disease, if they slept they died; therefore, to keep them waking, they were smitten with rosemary branches; so the Lord uses affliction as a rosemary branch to keep us from sleeping, and to awaken a spirit of prayer. ‘They poured out a prayer, when thy chastening was upon them;’ now their prayer pierced the heavens. Isa 26: 16. In times of trouble we pray feelingly, and we never pray so fervently as when we pray feelingly; and is not this for our profit?

Affliction is for our profit, as it is a means to purge out our sins. ‘By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged.’ Isa 27: 9. Affliction is God’s physic to expel the noxious humour, it cures the imposthume of pride, the fever of lust; and is not this for our profit? Affliction is God’s file to fetch off our rust, his flail to thresh off our husks. The water of affliction is not to drown us, but to wash off our spots.

To be under the black rod is profitable, in that hereby we grow more serious, and are more careful to clear our evidences for heaven. In times of prosperity, when the rock poured out rivers of oil, we were careless in getting, at least clearing, our title to glory. Job 29: 6. Had many no better evidences for their land than they have for their salvation, they were in an ill case; but when an hour of trouble comes, we begin to look after our spiritual evidences, and see how things stand between God and our souls; and is it not for our profit to see our interest in Christ more clear than ever?

Affliction is for our profit, as it is a means to take us more off from the world. The world often proves not only a spider’s web, but a cockatrice egg. Pernicious worldly things are great enchantments, they are retinacula spei [the tether of hope]. Tertullian. They hinder us in our passage to heaven. If a clock be overwound, it stands still; so, when the heart is wound up too much to the world, it stands still to heavenly things. Affliction sounds a retreat to call us off the immoderate pursuit of earthly things. When things are frozen and congealed together, the only way to separate them is by fire; so, when the heart and the world are congealed together, God has no better way to separate them than by the fire of affliction.

Affliction is for our profit, as it is a refiner. It works us up to further degrees of sanctity. ‘He for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.’ Heb 12: 10. The vessels of mercy are the brighter for scouring. As you pour water on your linen when you would whiten it, so God pours the waters of affliction upon us to whiten our souls. The leaves of the fig-tree and root are bitter, but the fruit is sweet; so afflictions are in themselves bitter, but they bring forth the sweet fruits of righteousness. Heb 12: 11. This should make us submit to God and say, ‘Thy will be done.’

[5] There is kindness in affliction, in that there is no condition so bad but it might be worse. When it is dusk, it might be darker. God does not make our cross so heavy as he might: he does not stir up all his anger. Psa 78: 38. He does not put so many nails in our yoke, so much wormwood in our cup, as he night. Does God chastise thy body? He might torture thy conscience. Does he cut thee short? He might cut thee off. The Lord might make our chains heavier. Is it a burning fever? It might have been the burning lake. Does God use the pruning knife to lop thee? He might bring his axe to hew thee down. ‘The waters were up to the ankles.’ Do the waters of affliction come up to the ankles? God might make them rise higher; nay, he might drown thee in the waters. God uses the rod when he might use the scorpion.

[6] There is kindness in affliction, in that your case is not so bad as others, who are always upon the rack, and spend their years with sighing. Psa 31: 10. Have you a gentle fit of the ague? Others cry out of the stone and strangulation. Do you bear the wrath of men? Others bear the wrath of God. You have but a single trial: others have them twisted together. God shoots but one arrow at you, he shoots a shower of arrows at others. Is there not kindness in all this? We are apt to say, never any suffered as we! Was it not worse with Lazarus, who was so full of sores that the dogs took pity on him, and licked his sores? Nay, was it not worse with Christ, who lived poor and died cursed? May not this cause us to say, ‘Thy will be done’? It is in kindness that God deals not so severely with us as with others.

[7] There is kindness in affliction, in that, if we belong to God, it is all the hell we shall have. Some have two hells: they suffer in their body and conscience, which is one hell, and another hell to come is unquenchable fire. Judas had two hells, but a child of God has but one. Lazarus had all his hell here; he was full of sores, but had a convoy of angels to carry him to heaven when he died. Say, then, Lo! if this be the worst I shall have, if this be all my hell, I will patiently acquiesce: ‘Thy will be done.’

[8] There is kindness in that God gives gracious supports in affliction. If he strikes with one hand, he supports with the other. ‘Underneath are the everlasting arms.’ Deut 33: 27. There is not the least trial, but if God would desert us, and not assist us with his grace, we should sink under it; as the frown of a great man, the fear of reproach. Peter was frighted at the voice of a maid. Matt 26: 69. Oh, therefore, what mercy is it to have Christ strengthen us, and as it were, bear the heaviest part of the cross with us! One said, I have no ravishing joys in my sickness, but I bless God I have sweet supports; and should not this cause submission to God’s will, and make us say, ‘Lo! if thou art so kind as to bear us up in affliction, that we do not faint, put us into what wine press thou pleases: ‘Thy will be done’?

[9] There is kindness in affliction in that it is preventive. God, by this stroke of his, would prevent some sin. Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ was to prevent his being lifted up in pride. 2 Cor 12: 7. Affliction is sometimes sent for the punishing of sin, at other times for its prevention. Prosperity exposes to much evil: it is hard to carry a full cup without spilling, and a full estate without sinning. God’s people know not how much they are beholden to their affliction; they might have fallen into some scandal, had not God set a hedge of thorns in their way to stop them. What kindness is this! God lets us fall into sufferings to prevent falling into snares; say then, Lord, do as it seems good in thy sight, ‘Thy will be done.’

God by affliction would prevent damnation. We are corrected in the world, ‘that we should not be condemned with the world.’ 1 Cor 11: 32. A man, by falling into briers, is saved from falling into the river; so God lets us fall into the briers of affliction that we may not be drowned in perdition. It is a great favour when a less punishment is inflicted to prevent a greater. Is it not clemency in the judge, when he lays some light penalty on the prisoner, and saves his life? So it is when God lays upon us light affliction, and saves us from wrath to come. As Pilate said, ‘I will chastise him, and let him go;’ so God chastises his children and lets them go, frees them from eternal torment. Luke 23: 16. What is the drop of sorrow the godly taste, to that sea of wrath the wicked shall be drinking to all eternity? oh! what kindness is here! Should it not make us say, ‘Thy will be done’?

[10] There is kindness in that God mixes his providence. In anger he remembers mercy. Hab 3: 2. Not all pure gall, but some honey mixed with it. Asher’s shoes were iron and brass, but his foot was dipped in oil. Deut 33: 24, 25. Affliction is the shoe of brass, but God causes the foot to be dipped in oil. As the painter mixes with his dark shadows bright colours, so the wise God mingles the dark and bright colours, crosses and blessings. The body is afflicted, but within is peace of conscience. Joseph was sold into Egypt, and put into prison; there was the dark side of the cloud. Job lost all that ever he had, his skin was clothed with boils and ulcers; here was a sad providence. But God gave a testimony from heaven of Job’s integrity, and afterwards doubled his estate. ‘The Lord gave Job twice as much;’ here was the goodness of God towards Job. Job 42: 10. God cheques his works of providence, and shall not we submit and say, Lord, if thou art so kind, mixing so many bright colours with my dark condition, ‘Thy will be done.’

[11] There is kindness in affliction in that God moderates his stroke. ‘I will correct thee in measure.’ Jer 30: 11. God in the day of his east wind will stay his rough wind. Isa 27: 8. The physician that understands the crisis and temper of the patient will not give too strong physic for the body, nor will he give one drachm or scruple too much: so God knows our frame, he will not over-afflict; he will not stretch the strings of the viol too hard, lest they break. And, is there no kindness in all this? Should not this work our hearts to submission? Lord, if thou uses so much gentleness, and correctest in measure, ‘Thy will be done.’

[12] There is kindness in affliction in that God often sweetens it with divine consolation. ‘Who comforteth us in all our tribulation.’ 2 Cor 1: 4. After a bitter potion he gives a lump of sugar. God comforts in affliction. (1) Partly by his word. ‘This is my comfort in my affliction, for thy word has quickened me.’ Psa 119: 50. The promises of the word are a shop of cordials. (2) God comforts by his Spirit. Philip, land grave of Jesse, said that in his troubles, Se divinas martyrum consolationes sensisse, he felt the divine consolations of the martyrs. David had his pilgrimage-songs, and Paul his prison-songs. Psa 119: 54; Acts 16: 25. Thus God candies our wormwood with sugar, and makes us gather grapes off thorns. Some of the saints have such ravishing joys in affliction, that they had rather endure their sufferings than want their comforts. Oh, how much kindness there is in the cross! In the belly of this lion is a honeycomb. Should it not make us cheerfully submit to God’s will, when he lines the yoke with comfort, and gives us honey at the end of the rod?

[13] There is kindness in affliction in that God curtails and shortens it; he will not let it lie on too long. ‘I will not contend for ever, for the spirit should fail before me.’ Isa 57: 16. God will give his people a writ of ease and proclaim a year of jubilee; the wicked may slough upon the backs of the saints, but God will cut their traces. Psa 129: 3, 4. The goldsmith will not let his gold lie any longer in the furnace than till it be purified. The wicked must drink a sea of wrath, but the godly have only a cup of affliction, and God will say, ‘Let this cup pass away.’ Isa 51: 17. Affliction may be compared to frost, that will break, and spring-flowers will come on. ‘Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’ Isa 35: 10. Affliction has a sting, but withal a wing: sorrow shall fly away. This land-flood shall be dried up. If there be so much kindness in the cross, and God will cause a cessation of trouble, say then, fiat voluntas tua, ‘Thy will be done.’

[14] There is kindness in affliction in that it is a means to make us happy. ‘Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth.’ Job 5: 17. It seems strange to flesh and blood that affliction should make us happy. When Moses saw the bush burning and not consumed, he said ‘I will turn aside and see this great sight.’ Exod 3: 3. So here is a strange sight, a man afflicted, and yet happy. The world counts them happy who can escape affliction, but happy is the man whom God correcteth.

How do afflictions contribute to our happiness?

As they are a means of bringing us nearer to God. The loadstone of prosperity does not draw us so near to God as the cords of affliction. When the prodigal was pinched with want, he said, ‘I will arise, and go to my father.’ Luke 15: 18. As the deluge brought the dove to the ark, the floods of sorrow make us hasten to Christ.

Afflictions make us happy, as they are safe guides to glory. The storm drives the ship into the harbour. Blessed storm that drives the soul into the heavenly harbour. Is it not better to go through affliction to glory, than through pleasure to misery? Not that afflictions merit glory, but they prepare us for it. No cross ever merited but that which Christ endured. Think, O Christian, what affliction leads to! it leads to paradise, where are rivers of pleasure always running. Should not this make us cheerfully submit to God’s will, and say, Lord, if there be so much kindness in affliction, if all thou does is to make us happy, ‘Thy will be done.’

(7) Consider that it is God’s ordinary course to keep his people to a bitter diet-drink, and exercise them with great trials. Affliction is the beaten road in which all the saints have gone. The lively stones in the spiritual building have been all hewn and polished. Christ’s lily has grown among the thorns. ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.’ 2 Tim 3: 12. It is too much for a Christian to have two heavens: it is more than Christ had. It has been ever the lot of saints to encounter sore trials. It was of the prophets, ‘Take, my brethren, the prophets for an example of suffering affliction.’ James 5: 10. It was of the apostles: for Peter was crucified with his head downwards. James was beheaded by Herod, John was banished into the isle of Patmos, the apostle Thomas was thrust through with a spear, Matthias (who was chosen apostle in Judas’s room) was stoned to death, and Luke, the evangelist, was hanged on an olive-tree. Those saints, of whom the world was not worthy, passed under the rod. Heb 11: 38. Christ’s kingdom is regnum crucis [the kingdom of the cross]. Those whom God intends to save from hell, he does not save from the cross. The consideration of this should quiet our minds in affliction, and make us say, ‘Thy will be done.’ Do we think God will alter his course of providence for us? Why should we look for exemption from trouble more than others? Why should we think to tread only upon roses and violets, when prophets and apostles have marched through briars to heaven?

(8) Consider that what God has already done for thee, Christian, should make thee content to suffer anything at his hand, and say, ‘Thy will be done.’

[1] He has adopted thee for his child. David thought it no small honour to be the king’s son-in-law. 1 Sam 18: 18. What an honour is it to derive thy pedigree from heaven, to be born of God! Why then art thou troubled, and murmurest at every slight cross? As Jonadab said to Amnon, ‘Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean?’ 2 Samuel 13: 4. Why art thou, who art son or daughter to the king of heaven, troubled at these petty things? What! the king’s son, and look lean! Let it quiet thy spirit and bring thy will to God’s, that he has dignified thee with honour, he has made thee his son and heir, and will entail a kingdom on thee.

[2] God has given thee Christ. Christ is communis thesaurus, a magazine or storehouse of all heavenly treasure; a pearl of price to enrich, a tree of life to quicken; he is the quintessence of all blessings. Why then art thou discontented at thy worldly crosses? They cannot be so bitter as Christ is sweet. As Seneca said once to Polybius, ‘Why dost thou complain of hard fortune, salvo Caesare [while it is well with Caesar]? Is not Caesar thy friend?’ So, is not Christ thy friend? He can never be poor who has a mine of gold in his field; nor he who has the unsearchable riches of Christ. Say then, ‘Lord, Thy will be done;’ though I have my cross, yet I have Christ with it. The cross may make me weep, but Christ wipes off all tears. Rev 7:17.

[3] God has given thee grace. Grace is the rich embroidery and workmanship of the Holy Ghost; it is the sacred unction. 1 John 2: 27. The graces are a chain of pearl to adorn, and beds of spices which make a sweet odour to God. Grace is a distinguishing blessing; Christ gave Judas his purse, but not his Spirit. May not this quiet the heart in affliction, and make it say, ‘Thy will be done’? Lord, thou hast given me that jewel which thou bestowest only on the elect; grace is the seal of thy love, it is both food and cordial, it is an earnest of glory.

(9) Consider that when God intends the greatest mercy to any of his people, he brings them low in affliction. He seems to go quite cross to sense and reason, for when he intends to raise us highest, he brings us lowest. As Moses’ hand, before it wrought miracles, was leprous; and Sarah’s womb, before it brought forth the son of promise, was barren. God brings us low before he raiseth us, as water is at the lowest ebb before there is a spring-tide.

This is true in a temporal sense. When God would bring Israel to Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, he first led them through a sea and a wilderness. When he intended to advance Joseph to be the second man in the kingdom, he cast him first into prison, and the iron entered into his soul. Psa 105: 18. He usually lets it be darkest before the morning-star of deliverance appears.

It is true in a spiritual sense. When God intends to raise a soul to spiritual comfort, he first lays it low in desertion. Isa 12: 1. As the painter lays his dark colour first, and then lays his gold colour on it, so God first lays the soul in the dark of desertion, and then his golden colour of joy and consolation. Should not this make us cheerfully submit, and say, ‘Thy will be done’? Perhaps now God afflicts me, he is about to raise me, he intends me a greater mercy than I am aware of.

(10) Consider the excellency of this frame of soul, to lie at God’s feet and say, ‘Thy will be done.’

A soul that is melted into God’s will shows variety of grace. As the holy ointment was made up of several aromatic spices, myrrh, cinnamon, and cassia, so this sweet temper of soul, submission to God’s will in affliction has in it a mixture of several graces. Exod 30: 23. In particular, it is compounded of three graces, faith, love, humility. [1] Faith. Faith believes God does all in mercy, that affliction is to mortify some sin, or exercise some grace; that God corrects in love and faithfulness. Psa 119: 75. The belief of this causes submission of will to God. [2] Love. Love thinks no evil. 1 Cor 13: 5. It takes all God does in the best sense, it has good thoughts of God, and causes submission. Let the righteous God smite me, says love, it shall be a kindness; yea, it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head. [3] Humility. The humble soul looks on its sins, and how much he has provoked God; he says not his afflictions are great, but his sins are great; he lies low at God’s feet and says, ‘I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.’ Micah 7: 9. Thus a submissive frame of heart is full of grace; it is compounded of several graces. God is pleased to see so many graces at once sweetly exercised; he says of such a Christian, as David of Goliath’s sword, ‘None like that, give it me.’ 1 Sam 21: 9.

He who puts his fiat et placet [so be it; agreed] to God’s will, and says, ‘Thy will be done,’ shows not only variety of grace, but strength of grace. It argues much strength in the body to be able to endure hard weather, yet not to be altered by it; so to endure hard trials, yet not faint or fret, shows more than ordinary strength of grace. You that can say you have brought your wills to God’s — God’s will and yours agree, as the copy and the original — let me assure you, you have outstripped many Christians who perhaps shine in a higher sphere of knowledge than you. To be content to be at God’s disposal, to be anything that God will have us, shows a noble, heroic soul. It is reported of the eagle that it is not like other fowls, which, when they are hungry, make a noise, as the ravens cry for food, but it is never heard to make a noise, though it wants meat, because of the nobleness and greatness of its spirit; it is above other birds, and has a spirit suitable to its nature: so it is a proof of great magnitude of spirit, that whatsoever cross providence befall a Christian, he does not cry and whine as others, but is silent, and lies quietly at God’s feet. There is much strength of grace in such a soul, nay, the height of grace. When grace is crowning, it is not so much to say, ‘Lord, thy will be done;’ but when grace is conflicting, and meets with crosses and trials, then to say, ‘Thy will be done,’ is a glorious thing indeed, and prepares for the garland of honour.

(11) Consider that persons are usually better in adversity than prosperity; therefore stoop to God’s will. A prosperous condition is not always so safe. True it is more pleasing to the palate, and every one desires to get on the warm side of the hedge, where the sun of prosperity shines, but it is not always best; in a prosperous state there is more burden, plus oneris. Many look at the shining and glittering of prosperity, but not at the burden.

[1] There is the burden of care. Therefore God calls riches ‘cares.’ Luke 8: 14. A rose has its prickles, so have riches. We think them happy that flourish in their silks and cloth of gold, but we see not the troubles and cares that attend them. A shoe may have silver lace on it, yet pinch the foot. Many a man that goes to his day-labour, lives a more contented life than he that has his thousands per annum. Disquieting care is the malus genius, the evil spirit that haunts the rich man. When his chests are full of gold, his heart is full of care how to increase, or how to secure what he has gotten. He is sometimes full of care to whom he shall leave it. A large estate, like a long, trailing garment, is often more troublesome than useful.

[2] In a prosperous estate there is the burden of account. Such as are in high places, have a far greater account to give to God than others. ‘Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.’ Luke 12: 48. The more golden talents any are entrusted with, the more they have to answer for; the more their revenues, the more their reckonings. God will say, I gave you a great estate, what have you done with it? How have you employed it for my glory? I have read of Philip, king of Spain, that when he was about to die, said, ‘O that I had never been a king! O that I had lived a private, solitary life! Here is all the fruit of my kingdom, it has made my accounts heavier!’ So, then, may not this quiet our hearts in a low, adverse condition, and make us say, ‘Lord, thy will be done!’ as thou hast given me a less portion of worldly things, so I have a less burden of care, and a less burden of account.

[3] A prosperous condition has plus periculi, more danger in it. Such as are on the top of the pinnacle of honour, are in more danger of falling; they are subject to many temptations; their table is often a snare. Heliogabalus made ponds of sweet water to bathe in; millions are drowned in the sweet waters of pleasure. A great sail overturns the vessel: how many, by having too great sails of prosperity, have had their souls overturned! It must be a strong head that bears heady wine; he had need have much wisdom and grace that knows how to bear a high condition. It is hard to carry a full cup without spilling, and a full estate without sinning. Augur feared if he were full, he should deny God and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Prov 30: 9. Prosperity breeds pride. The children of Korah were in a higher estate than the rest of the Levites: they were employed in the tabernacle about the most holy things of all; they had the first lot; but as they were lifted up above others of the Levites in honour, so in pride. Numb 4: 4; Josh 21: 10; Numb 16: 3. When the tide rises higher in the Themes, the boat rises higher; so, when the tide of an estate rises higher, many men’s hearts rise higher in pride. Prosperity breeds security. Samson fell asleep in Delilah’s lap, so do men in the lap of ease and plenty. The world’s golden sands are quicksands. ‘How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!’ Luke 18: 24. The consideration of this should make us submit to God in adversity, and say, ‘Thy will be done.’ God sees what is best for us. If we have less estate, we are in less danger; if we want the honours of others, so we want their temptations.

(12) Consider that, having our wills melted into God’s is a good sign that the present affliction is sanctified. Affliction is sanctified when it attains the end for which it was sent. The end why God sends affliction, is to calm the spirit, to subdue the will, and bring it to God’s will; when this is done, affliction has attained the end for which it came; it is sanctified, and it will not be long ere it be removed. When the sore is healed, the smarting plaister is taken off.

(13) Consider how unworthy it is of a Christian to be froward and unsubmissive, and not bring his will to God’s.

[1] It is below the spirit of a Christian. The spirit of a Christian is dovelike, meek, and sedate, willing to be at God’s disposal. ‘Not my will, but thine be done.’ Luke 22: 42. A Christian spirit is not fretful, but humble; not craving, but contented. See the picture of a Christian spirit in Paul. ‘I know how to be abased, and how to abound.’ Phil 4: 12. He could be either higher or lower, as God saw good; he could sail with any wind of providence, either a prosperous or boisterous gale; his will was melted into God’s. To be of a cross spirit that cannot submit to God, is unworthy of the spirit of a Christian; it is like the bird that, because it is pent up and cannot fly in the open air, beats itself against the cage.

[2] A froward unsubmissive frame that cannot submit to God’s will, is unworthy of a Christian’s profession. He professes to live by faith, yet repines at his condition. Faith lives not by bread alone; it feeds on promises, it makes future glory present; it sees all in God. When the fig-tree does not blossom, faith can joy in the God of its salvation. Hab 3: 17, 18. To be troubled at our present estate, because low and mean, shows weak faith. Surely that is a weak faith, or no faith, which must have crutches to support it. Oh, be ashamed to call thyself believer, if thou canst not trust God, and acquiesce in his will, in the deficiency of outward comforts.

[3] To be of a froward unsubmissive spirit, that cannot surrender its will unto God, is unworthy of the high dignities God has put upon a Christian. He is a rich heir; he is exalted above all creatures that ever God made except the angels; yea, in some sense, as his nature is joined in a hypostatic union to the divine nature, he is above the angels. Oh! then, how is he below his dignity, for want of a few earthly comforts, to be froward, and ready to quarrel with the Deity! Is it not unworthy of a king’s son, because he may not pluck such a flower, to be discontented and rebel against his royal father? A Christian is espoused to Jesus Christ. What! to be married to Christ, yet froward and unsubmissive! Hast not thou enough in him? as Elkanah said to Hannah, ‘Am not I better than ten sons?’ 1 Sam 1: 8. Is not Christ better than a thousand worldly comforts? Omnia bona in summo bono [All good things in the highest good]. It is a disparagement to Christ, that his spouse should be froward when she is matched to the crown of heaven.

[4] To be of a froward unsubmissive spirit is unsuitable to the prayers of a Christian. He prays, ‘Thy will be done.’ It is the will of God he should meet with such troubles, whether sickness, loss of estate, crosses in children, God has decreed and ordered it; why then is there not submission? Why are we discontented at that for which we pray? It is a saying of Latimer, speaking of Peter, who denied his Master, that he forgot the prayer, ‘Hallowed be thy name.’ So, we often forget our prayers, nay, contradict them, when we pray ‘Thy will be done.’ Now, if in submissiveness to God be so unworthy of a Christian, should we not labour to bring our wills to God’s, and say, Lord, let me not disparage religion, let me do nothing unworthy of a Christian?

(14) Consider that frowardness or in submissiveness of will to God, is very sinful.

[1] It is sinful in its nature. To murmur when God crosses our will, shows much ungodliness. The apostle Jude speaks of ungodly ones; and that we may better know who these are, he sets a mark upon them: ‘These are murmurers;’ ver 15, 16. Some think they are not so ungodly as others, because they do not swear, nor get drunk, but they may be ungodly in murmuring. There are not only ungodly drunkards, but ungodly murmurers: nay, this is the height of ungodliness, it is rebellion. Korah and his company murmured against God, and see how the Lord interpreted it. ‘Bring Aaron’s rod to be kept for a token against the rebels.’ Num 17: 10. To be a murmurer, and a rebel, is, in God’s account, all one. ‘This is the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel strove with the Lord.’ Num 20: 13. How did they strive with God? They murmured at his providence; ver 3. What! wilt thou be a rebel against God? It is a shame for a servant to strive with his master, but what is it for a creature to strive with its Maker.

[2] To quarrel with God’s providence, and be unsubmissive to his will, is sinful in the spring and cause; it arises from pride. It was Satan’s temptation, ‘ye shall be as gods.’ Gen 3: 5. A proud person makes a god of himself, he disdains to have his will crossed; he thinks himself better than others, therefore he finds fault with God’s wisdom, that he is not above others.

[3] Quarrelsomeness or in submissiveness to God’s will, is sinful in the concomitants of it.

It is joined with sinful risings of the heart. Evil thoughts arise. We think hardly of God, as if he had done us wrong, or, as if we had deserved better at his hands. Passions begin to rise; the heart secretly frets against God. Jonah was crossed in his will, and passion began to boil in him. ‘He was very angry.’ Jonah 4: 1. Jonah’s spirit, as well as the sea, wrought and was tempestuous. Insubmissiveness of will is joined with unthankfulness. Because in some one thing we are afflicted, we forget all the mercies we have. We deal with God just as the widow of Sarepta did with the prophet; the prophet Elijah had been a means to keep her alive in the famine, but as soon as her child died she quarrelled with the prophet, ‘O thou man of God, art thou come to slay my son?’ 1 Kings 17: 18. So, we can be content to receive blessings at the hand of God; but soon as in the least thing he crosses us in our will, we grow touchy, and are ready in a passion to fly out against him.

[4] Frowardness and in submissiveness to God’s will is evil in the effects. It unfits for duty. It is bad sailing in a storm, and it is ill praying when the heart is stormy and unquiet; it is well if such prayers do not suffer shipwreck. In submissiveness of spirit, sometimes unfits for the use of reason. Jonah was discontented because he had not his will; God withered the gourd, and his heart fretted against him; and in the midst of his passion, he spake no better than nonsense and blasphemy. ‘I do well to be angry, even unto death.’ Jonah 4: 9. Surely he did not know well what he said. What! to be angry with God and die for anger! He speaks as if he had lost the use of his reason. Thus in submissiveness of will is sinful in its nature, causes concomitants and effects. Should not this martyr our wills, and bring them to God in everything, making us say, ‘Thy will be done?’

(15) Consider that in submissiveness to God’s will is very imprudent: we get nothing by it, it does not ease us of our burden, but rather makes it heavier. The more the child struggles with the parent, the more it is beaten; so, when we struggle with God, and will not submit to his will, we get nothing but more blows. Instead of having the cords of affliction loosened, we make God tie them tighter. Let us then submit, and say, ‘Lord, thy will be done.’ Why should I spin out my own trouble by impatience, and make my cross heavier? What got Israel by their frowardness? They were within eleven days’ journey of Canaan, and fell into murmuring, and God led them a march of forty years longer in the wilderness.

(16) Consider that being unsubmissive to God’s will in affliction, lays a man open to many temptations. Where the heart frets against God by discontent, there is good fishing for Satan in those troubled waters. He usually puts discontented persons upon indirect means. Job’s wife fretted (so far was she from holy submission) and she presently put her husband upon cursing God. ‘Curse God, and die.’ Job 2: 9. What is the reason why some have turned witches, and given themselves to the devil, but out of envy and discontent, because they have not had their will! Others being under a temptation of poverty, and not having their wills in living at such a high rate as others, have laid violent hands upon themselves. Oh, the temptations that men of discontented spirits are exposed to! Here, says Satan, is good fishing for me.

(17) Consider how far in submissiveness of spirit is from that temper of soul which God requires in affliction! He would have us in patience possess our souls. Luke 21: 19, The Greek word for patience signifies to bear up under a burden without fainting or fretting; but is frowardness in affliction, and quarrelling with God’s will, Christian patience? God would have us rejoice in affliction. ‘Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations:’ that is, afflictions; count it joy, be as birds that sing in winter. James 1: 2. ‘Having received the word in much affliction, with joy.’ 1 Thess 1: 6. Paul could leap in his fetters, and sing in the stocks. Acts 16: 25. How far is a discontented soul from this frame! He is far from rejoicing in affliction that has not learned to submit.

(18) Consider what is it that makes the difference between a godly man and an ungodly man in affliction, but this, that the godly man submits to God’s will, the ungodly man will not submit. A wicked man frets and fumes, and is like a wild bull in a net. In affliction he blasphemes God. ‘Men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God.’ Rev 16: 9. Put a stone in the fire, and it flies in your face; so stony hearts fly in God’s face. The more a stuff that is rotten is rubbed, the more it frets and tears. When God afflicts the sinner, he tears himself in anger, but a godly man is sweetly submissive to his will. His language is, ‘Shall not I drink the cup which my Father has given me?’ Spices when bruised, send out a sweet fragrant smell; so, when God bruises his saints, they send out the sweet perfume of patience. Servulus, a holy man, was long afflicted with the palsy, yet his ordinary speech was Laudatur Deus, let God be praised. Oh, let us say, ‘Thy will be done;’ let us bear that patiently which God inflicts justly, or how do we show our grace? What difference is there between us and the wicked in affliction?

(19) Consider that not to submit to God’s providential will, is highly provoking to him. Can we anger him more than by quarrelling with him, and not let him have his will? Kings do not love to have their wills opposed, though they may be unjust. How ill does God take it, when we will be disputing against his righteous will? It is a sin which he cannot bear. ‘How long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur against me?’ Numb 14: 27. May not God justly say, How long shall I bear with this wicked person, who, when anything falls out cross, murmurs against me? ‘Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you;’ ver 28. God swears against a murmurer, ‘As I live;’ and what will he do as he lives? ‘Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness;’ ver 29. You see how provoking a discontented quarrelsome spirit is to God; it may cost men their lives, nay, their souls. God sent fiery serpents among the people for their murmuring. 1 Cor 10: 10. He may send worse than fiery serpents, he may send hell fire.

(20) Consider how much God bears at our hand, and shall not we be content to bear something at his hand? It would tire the patience of angels to bear with us one day. ‘The Lord is long suffering to us-ward.’ 2 Pet 3: 9. How often we offend in our eye by envious impure glances, and in our tongues by rash censuring, but God passes by many injuries, and bears with us! Should the Lord punish us every time we offend, he might draw his sword every day. Shall he bear so much at our hands, and can we bear with nothing at his hand? Shall he be patient with us, and we impatient with him? Shall he be meek, and we murmur? Shall he endure our sins, and shall not we endure his strokes? Oh, let us say, ‘Thy will be done.’ Lord, thou hast been the greatest sufferer, thou hast borne more from me than I can from thee.

(21) Consider that submitting our wills to God in affliction disappoints Satan of his hope, and quite spoils his design. The devil’s end is in all our afflictions to make us sin. The reason why Satan smote Job in his body and estate was to perplex his mind, and put him into a passion; he hoped that Job would have been discontented, and in a fit of anger, not only have cursed his birthday, but cursed his God. But Job, lying at God’s feet, and blessing him in affliction, disappointed Satan of his hope, and quite spoiled his plot. Had Job murmured, he had pleased Satan; had he fallen into a heat, and sparks of his anger had flown about, the devil had warmed himself at the fire of Job’s passion; but Job quietly submitted, and blessed God. Thus Satan’s design was frustrated, and he missed his intent. The devil has often deceived us; the best way to deceive him is by quiet submission to God in all things, saying, ‘Thy will be done.’

(22) Consider that to the godly the nature of affliction is quite changed. To a wicked man it is a curse, the rod is turned into a serpent; affliction to him is but an effect of God’s displeasure, the beginning of sorrow, but the nature of affliction is quite changed to a believer; it is by divine chemistry turned into a blessing; it is like poison corrected, which becomes a medicine; it is a love token, a badge of adoption, a preparation for glory. Should not this make us say, ‘Thy will be done’? The poison of the affliction is gone; it is not hurtful, but healing. This has made the saints not only patient in affliction, but send forth thankfulness. When bells have been cast into the fire, they afterwards make a sweeter sound; so the godly, after they have been cast into the fire of affliction, sound forth God’s praise. ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted.’ Psa 119: 71. ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Job 1: 21.

(23) Consider how many good things we receive from God, and shall we not be content to receive some evil? ‘Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’ Job 2: 10. In the Hebrew, shall we receive good from God, and not evil? This may make us say, ‘Thy will be done.’ How many blessings have we received at the hand of God’s bounty? We have been bemiracled with mercy. What sparing, preventing, delivering mercy have we had! The honeycomb of mercy has continually dropped upon us. His mercies ‘are new every morning.’ Lam 3: 23. Mercy comes in as constantly as the tide; nay, how many tides of mercies do we see in one day. We never feed, but mercy carves every bit to us; we never drink but in the golden cup of mercy; we never go abroad, but mercy sets a guard of angels about us; we never lie down in bed, but mercy draws the curtains of protection close about us. Shall we receive so many good things at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? Our mercies far outweigh our afflictions; for one affliction we have a thousand mercies. O then, let us submit to God, and say, ‘Thy will be done.’ The sea of God’s mercy should swallow up a few drops of affliction.

(24) Consider that the conformity of our wills to God in affliction brings much honour to the gospel. An unsubmissive Christian reproaches religion, as if it were not able to subdue an unruly spirit. It is weak physic which cannot purge out ill humours; and sure it is a weak gospel if it cannot master our discontent, and martyr our wills. In submissiveness is a reproach, but a cheerful resignation of our will to God sets a crown of honour upon the head of religion, it shows the power of the gospel, which can charm down the passions, and melt the will into God’s will; therefore in Scripture, submissive patience is brought in as an adorning grace. ‘Here is the patience of the saints.’ Rev 14: 12.

(25) Consider the example of our Lord Jesus, how flexible and submissive was he to his Father! He who taught us this prayer, ‘Thy will be done,’ had learned it himself. Christ’s will was perfectly tuned to his Father’s will; it was the will of his Father that he should die for our sins, and he ‘endured the cross.’ Heb 12: 2. It was a painful, shameful, cursed death; he suffered the very pains of hell equivalently, yet he willingly submitted. ‘He opened not his mouth:’ he opened his side when the blood ran out, but he opened not his mouth in repining; his will was resolved into the will of his Father. Isa 53: 7. ‘The cup which my Father has given me shall I not drink it?’ John 18: 11. Now, the more our wills are subject to God’s will in affliction, the nearer we come to Christ our pattern. Is it not our prayer that we may be like Christ? By holy submission we imitate him; his will was melted into his Father’s will.

(26) Consider that to submit our wills to God, is the way to have our own will. Every one would be glad to have his will. The way to have our will is to resign it. God deals with us as we do with froward children, while we fret and quarrel, he will give us nothing, but when we are submissive, and say, ‘Thy will be done,’ he carves out mercy to us. The way to have our will is to submit to his. David brought his will to God’s. ‘Here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.’ 2 Samuel 15: 26. After he resigned his will he had his will. God brought him back to the ark and settled him again on his throne. 2 Samuel 19. Many a parent who has had a dear child sick, when he could bring his will to part with it, has had his child restored. Nothing is lost by referring our will to God, the Lord takes it kindly from us, and it is the only way to have our will.

(27) Consider that we may the more cheerfully surrender our souls to God when we die, when we have surrendered our will to God while we live. Our blessed Saviour had all along submitted his will to God. There was but one will between God the Father and Christ. Christ in his lifetime having given up his will to his Father, at death cheerfully gave up his soul to him. ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ Luke 23: 46. You that resign up your wills to God, may at the hour of death comfortably bequeath your souls to him.

[2] The second means to bring our will to God in affliction is, to study his will.

(1) It is a sovereign will. He has a supreme right and dominion over his creatures, to dispose of them as he pleases. A man may do with his own as he lists. ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?’ Matt 20: 15. A man may cut his own timber as he will. God’s sovereignty may cause submission; he may do with us as he sees good. He is not accountable to any creature for what he does. ‘He giveth not account of any of his matters.’ Job 33: 13. Who shall call God to account? Who is higher than the highest? Eccl 5: 8. What man or angel dare summon God to his bar? ‘He giveth not account of any of his matters.’ God will take an account of our carriage towards him, but he will give no account of his carriage towards us. He has an absolute jurisdiction over us, the remembrance of which, as a sovereign will, to do with us what he pleases, may silence all discontents, and charm down all unruly passions. We are not to dispute, but to submit.

(2) God’s will is wise. He knows what is conducive to the good of his people, therefore submit. ‘The Lord is a God of judgement,’ that is, he is able to judge what is best for us; therefore rest in his wisdom and acquiesce in his will. Isa 30: 18. We rest in the wisdom of a physician; we are content he should scarify and let blood, because he injudicious, and knows what is most conducive to our health. If the pilot be skilful, the passenger says, ‘Let him alone; he knows best how to steer the ship.’ Shall we not rest in God’s wisdom? Did we but study how wisely he steers all occurrences, and how he often brings us to heaven by a cross wind, it would much quiet our spirits, and make us say, ‘Thy will be done.’ God’s will is guided by wisdom. Should he sometimes let us have our will, we should undo ourselves; did he let us carve for ourselves, we should choose the worst piece. Lot chose Sodom because it was well watered, and was as the garden of the Lord, but God rained fire upon it out of heaven. Gen 13: 10; Gen 19: 24.

(3) God’s will is just. ‘Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?’ Gen 18: 25. God’s will is regula et mensura [rule and measure], it is the rule of justice. The wills of men are corrupt, therefore unfit to give law; but God’s will is a holy and unerring will, which may cause submission. Psa 97: 2. God may cross, but he cannot wrong us; severe he may be, not unjust; therefore we must strike sail, and say, ‘Thy will be done.’

(4) God’s will is good and gracious. It promotes our interest: if it be his will to afflict us, he shall make us say at last, it was good for us that we were afflicted. His flail shall only thresh off our husks. That which is against our will shall not be against our profit. Let us study what a good will God’s is, and we shall say, fiat voluntas, ‘Thy will be done.’

(5) God’s will is irresistible. We may oppose it, but we cannot hinder it. The rising wave cannot stop the ship when it is in full sail, so the rising up of our will against God cannot stop the execution of his will. ‘Who has resisted his will?’ Rom 9: 19. Who can stay the chariot of the sun in its full career? Who can hinder the progress of God’s will? Therefore it is in vain to contest with God; his will shall take place: there is no way to overcome him but by lying at his feet.

[3] The means of submission to God in affliction is, to get a gracious heart. All the rules and helps in the world will do but little good till grace is infused. The bowl must have a good bias, or it will not run according to our desire; so till God put a new bias of grace into the soul, which inclines the will, it never submits to him. Grace renews the will, and it must be renewed before it be subdued. Grace teaches self-denial, and we can never submit our will till we deny it.

[4] A fourth means is to labour to have our covenant interest cleared, to know that God is our God. ‘This God is our God.’ Psa 48: 14. He whose faith flourishes in assurance, that can say God is his, will say, ‘Thy will be done.’ A wicked man may say, ‘God has laid this affliction upon me, and I cannot help it;’ but a believer says, ‘My God has done it, and I will submit.’ He who can call God his, knows God loves him as he loves Christ, and designs his salvation; therefore he will, with Paul, take pleasure in reproaches. 2 Cor 12: 10. In every adverse providence yield to God, as the wax to the impression of the seal.

[5] Another means to submission to God in affliction is, to get a humble spirit. A proud man will never stoop to God; he will rather break than bend; but when the heart is humble, the will is pliable. What a vast difference was there between Pharaoh and Eli! Pharaoh cried out, ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?’ Exod 5: 2. But Eli said, ‘It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.’ 1 Sam 3: 18. See the difference between a heart that is swelled with pride, and that which is ballasted with humility! Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Eli, ‘It is the Lord.’ A humble soul has a deep sense of sin, he sees how he has provoked God, he wonders he is not in hell; therefore, whatever God inflicts, he knows it is less than his iniquities deserve, which makes him say, ‘Lord, thy will be done.’ O, get into a humble posture. The will is never flexible till the heart is humble.

[6] Another means is to get your hearts loosened from things below. Be crucified to the world. Whence children’s frowardness but when you take away their playthings? When we love the things of the world, and God takes them away from us, we grow froward and unsubmissive to his will. Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd; and when God smote it, he grew froward, and because God had killed his gourd, he said, Kill me too. Jonah 4: 8. He who is a lover of the world, can never pray this prayer heartily: ‘Thy will be done;’ his heart boils with anger against God; and when the world is gone, his patience is gone too. Get mortified affections to these sublunary things.

[7] A further means for submission to God’s will is to get some good persuasion that your sin is pardoned. Feri, Domine, feri, quia peccate mea condonata sunt: Lord, smite where thou wilt,’ said Luther, ‘because my sins are pardoned.’ Pardon of sin is a crowning blessing. Has God forgiven my sin? I will bear anything; I will not murmur but admire; I will not complain of the burden of affliction, but bless God for removing the burden of sin. The pardoned soul says this prayer heartily, ‘Thy will be done.’ Lord, use thy pruning- knife, so long as thou wilt not come with thy bloody axe to hew me down.

[8] Another means is, if we would have our wills submit to God, not to look so much on the dark side of the cloud as the light side; that is, let us not look so much on the smart of affliction as the good. It is bad to pore all on the smart, as it is bad for sore eyes to look too much on the fire; but we should look on the good of affliction. Samson not only looked on the lion’s carcass, but on the honeycomb within it. ‘He turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was honey in the carcass.’ Judges 14: 8. Affliction is the frightful lion, but see what honey there is in it. It humbles, purifies, fills us with the consolations of God; there is honey in the belly of the lion. Could we but look upon the benefit of affliction, stubbornness would be turned into submissiveness, and we should say, ‘Thy will be done.’

[9] As a further means, let us pray to God that he would calm our spirits and conquer our wills. It is no easy thing to submit to God in affliction. There will be risings of the heart; therefore let us pray that what God inflicts righteously, we may bear patiently. Prayer is the best spell or charm against impatience. It does to the heart what Christ did to the sea when it was tempestuous, he rebuked the wind, and there was a great calm. So, when passions are up, and the will is apt to mutiny against God, prayer makes a gracious calm in the soul. Prayer does to the heart what sponge does to the cannon: when hot, it cools it.

[10] Another means, if we would submit to God’s will in affliction, is to put a good interpretation upon God’s dealings, and take all he does in the best sense. We are apt to misconstrue God’s dealings, and put a bad interpretation upon them, as Israel did. ‘Why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die there?’ Numb 20: 4. God has brought affliction upon us, we say, because he hates us, and intends to destroy us; and such hard thoughts of God cause sullenness and stubbornness. Oh, let us make a fair and candid interpretation of providence. Does God afflict us? Say, perhaps he intends us mercy in this: he will try us whether we will love him in afflictions; he is about to mortify some sin, or exercise some grace; he smites the body that he may save the soul. Could we put such a good meaning upon God’s dealings, we should say, ‘Thy will be done.’ ‘Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head.’ Psa 141: 5.

[11] The last means, if you would submit to God in affliction, is to believe that the present condition is best for you. We are not competent judges. We fancy it is best to have ease and plenty, and have the rock pour out rivers of oil; but God sees affliction to be best. He sees our souls thrive best upon the bare common. The fall of the leaf is the spring of our grace. Could we believe that condition to be best which God carves out to us, the quarrel would soon be at an end, and we should sit down satisfied with what he does, and say, ‘Thy will be done.’

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