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I am resolved, by the grace of God, to improve every affliction God lays upon me, as an earnest or token of his affection towards me.

EVERY thing that flows from God to his servants, coming under the notion of talents, to be improved for himself, I am sure afflictions, as well as other mercies, must needs be reckoned amongst those talents God is pleased to vouchsafe. Indeed it is a talent, without which I should be apt to forget the improvement of all the rest; and which, if well improved, itself will ‘work out for me a far more 217exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’210210   Cor. iv. 17. It is the non-improvement of an affliction that makes it a curse; whereas, if improved, it is as great a blessing as any God is pleased to scatter amongst the children of men. And therefore it is, that God most frequently entrusteth this precious talent with his own peculiar people: ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for, your iniquities.’211211   Amos, iii. 2. Those that God knows the best, with them will he entrust the most, if not of other talents, yet he sure of this, which is so useful and necessary to bring us to the knowledge of ourselves and our Creator, that without it we should he apt to forget both.

It is this that shows us the folly and pride of presumption, as well as the vanity and emptiness of all worldly enjoyments; and deters us from incensing and provoking him, from whom all our happiness as well as our afflictions flow. Let, therefore, what crosses or calamities soever befal me, I am still resolved to bear them all, not only with a patient resignation to the divine will, but even to comfort and rejoice myself in them, as the greatest blessings. For instance, am I seized with pain and sickness? I shall look upon it as a message from God, sent on purpose to put me in mind of death, and to convince me of the necessity of being always prepared for it by a good life, which a state of uninterrupted health is apt to make us unmindful of. Do I sustain any losses or crosses? The true use of this is, to make me sensible of the fickleness and inconstancy of this world’s blessings, 218which we can no sooner cast our eye upon, but they immediately ‘take to themselves wings, and fly away from us.’ And so, all other afflictions God sees fit to lay upon me, may in like manner be, some way or other, improved for my happiness.

But, besides the particular improvements of particular chastisements, the general improvement of all is the increasing of my love and affection to that God, who brings these afflictions upon me. For how runs the mittimus, whereby he is pleased to send me to the dungeon of afflictions? ‘Deliver such a one to Satan to be buffeted’ in the flesh: ‘that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.’212212   1 Cor. v. 5. By this it appears, that the furnace of afflictions, which God is pleased at any time to throw me into, is not heated at the fire of his wrath, but at the flames of his affection to me. The consideration whereof, as it should more inflame my love to him, so shall it likewise engage me to express a greater degree of gratitude towards him, when he singles me out, not only to suffer from him, but for him too. For this is an honour indeed peculiar to the saints of God, which if he should be pleased ever to prefer me to, I shall look upon it as upon other afflictions, to be improved for his glory, the good of others, and the everlasting comfort of my own soul.

Thus have I reckoned up the talents God hath, or may put into my hands, to be improved for his glory. May the same divine being that entrusteth me with them, and inspired me with these good resolutions concerning them, enable me, by 219his grace, to make a due use of them, and carefully to put in practice what I have thus religiously resolved upon.

There are some other mercies, which might be set down in the catalogue of talents, as the graces and motions of God’s Holy Spirit, and the use of his holy ordinances, under the ministry of the gospel; but these being included and insisted on, under several of the foregoing heads, will not require a distinct consideration.

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