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DIRECTION IV. – Under sore trouble and distress, labour to exercise a strong and lively faith.
It was a noble and heroic resolution in that holy man Job, under his singular trials, Job xiii. 15, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him," q.d. Let my strokes be never so sore and heavy, yet I will not let go my hold of his words and promises, I will not raze these foundations of my hope. It was in this way the psalmist kept himself from sinking under his heavy burdens, Ps. xxvii. 13, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Consider but a little the noble influence that faith hath to strengthen and support the soul under sore trials.
1. Faith holds to the great gospel promises of salvation in and through Jesus Christ, and so secures the soul's main interest through eternity; which is enough to make the soul easy in every lot.
2. Faith views God in Christ at the helm in the greatest storm, and so it endures, as seeing him who is invisible, Heb. xi. 27.
3. Faith casts the soul's anchor upon the rock of ages, and stays itself on God and the faithful promises; whereby the soul is eased and disburdened of its fears and melancholy apprehensions, Ps. xciv. 22; Isa. l. 10.
4. Faith brings new strength and auxiliary supplies of grace from heaven, when the former supply is exhausted and spent; whereof David had the sweet experience, Ps. xxvii. 13. As God plants and actuates grace in the soul, so he is pleased to come in with seasonable supplies and reinforcements to the weak and decayed graces of his people, answerable to their present exigencies and pressures; and thus he doth, from time to time, feed the believer's lamp with fresh oil, giving more faith, more love, more hope, and more desires; and hereby he gives power to the faint, and strengthens the things which remain when ready to die.
5. Faith keeps the soul from sinking under heavy trials, by bringing in former experiences of the power, mercy, and faithfulness of God to the afflicted soul. Hereby was the psalmist supported in distress, Ps. xiii. 6; lxxxvii. 4. "O," saith faith, "Remember what God hath done both for thy outward and inward man; he hath not only delivered thy body when in trouble, but he hath done great things for thy soul; he hath brought thee out of a state of black nature, entered into a covenant-relation with thee, made his goodness pass before thee; he hath helped thee to pray, and many times hath heard thy prayers and thy tears. Hath he not formerly brought thee out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and put a new song in thy mouth, and made thee to resolve never to give way to such unbelieving doubts and fears again? And now unbecoming is it for thee now to sink in trouble?"
6. Faith supports the soul, by giving it a pleasant view and prospect of a happy outgate from all trouble; when it shall be admitted to see and dwell with Christ hereafter. Thus was Job supported in his great distress, Job xix. 25, 26, 29, "For I know that my Redeemer liveth; and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold," &c. Abelieving view of the soul's meeting with its Redeemer, and receiving a crown of glory from him at last, is an excellent support to a Christian under the heaviest affliction; and so it was to Paul, 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
7. Faith gives great support, by the encouraging representations it makes of Christ, and of his present concern for the believer while under affliction. As for instance, 1. Faith represents Christ to a believer under trial, as sympathizing with him under his distress, feeling his pain, hearing his groans, bearing his burdens, and ready to relieve him in his own appointed time, which it well becometh him to wait for. 2. Faith represents Christ as putting in his Almighty arm under the believer's head, and conveying invisible strength to support and hold him up under his greatest pressures. 3. Faith represents Christ as pleading the afflicted believer's cause with God, and answering all the charges of the law, the challenges of conscience, and accusations of Satan against him. 4. Faith represents Christ as standing by the furnace as a refiner where his gold is melting; carefully overseeing the trials of his people, that they may work for their good; and ready to bring them out thereof, when they are sufficiently purified from their dross. 5. Faith represents Christ as smiling on his people under the cross, whispering peace into their ears, and saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant."