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2. But there is another extreme: there is a FAINTING under the chastening of the Lord.
Unbelief is the cause of this fainting. It is said concerning Moses, that he endured- he made a stand-he bore up, as seeing him who is invisible. If we look only, as Peter did, at the waves around us, we shall inevitably sink. We shall then, with Job, feel our affliction, and our spirits unable to meet the affliction: or, like Jeremiah, when he sunk in the pit, we shall speak as if we were cut off and deceived: or, like Elijah, our impatience under our dispensation may be such, that we cannot wait till God shall stand forth as our avenger and deliverer; but shall say, Let me die! it is enough: take away my life.
Fainting tends to put a misconstruction on what God is doing. Thus Jacob said, All these things are against me. Thus David said, I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul. We lean to our own understandings: we see but a very little of God's design: unbelief prevails: we say, “ All this is against me! Then pride and peevishness will make us sink, as Jonah did under his dispensation; so that, instead of trusting our Father, we forget his exhortation,
A man, under trials, will sometimes say, “ The affliction lies so heavy on me, that I cannot support it. I wish to die :” that is, you forget the exhortation: you consult your own understanding: you faint under the chastening of the Lord,
But the exhortation is, to take away the two extremes: neither despise the correction of the Lord; nor faint under it, though thou art chastened.
More especially is this exhortation a call on us to examine our state. One stroke may follow another, to rouse a man-to shew him that this is not his rest; that he is seeking repose in the present world, which God has determined he shall not find.
If you are under a dispensation of alarming chastisement, and God is calling for your attention, and awakening you from your slumber, take it up in this way, and say, with Job, 6. Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me: let me know what is that besetting sin, that secret idol, which thou art opposing. Make me to understand thy way; and let me hear thy voice in the particular dispensation under which I stand.”
How strange and absurd to imagine that God would suffer his children to act inconsistently with their Christian profession, without contending with them as a father would with his son, who was taking wicked courses! This contention implies that he is not abandoned. It is as much as if God should say, How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? how shall I make thee as Admah, or 'set thee as Zeboim ?
Such a man is called to examine if there be not a cause; such as there was in the camp of Israel. Every thing went wrong there. Joshua mourned,
that the armies of Israel should fall before the heathen: but he was called to search if there were not a secret evil in the camp, if there were not some wedge of gold, or some Babylonish garment; something that was like a canker, like a plague, a mortal plague in the camp, which must be removed before the chastisement could be taken away.
Let me call on such as have not diligently examined their hearts, on such as have not proceeded with that simplicity, and watchfulness, and integrity, which a Christian ought to exercise -examine whether God is not contending with you: and if you are under a dispensation of purification, enquire whether you meet it with the patient enduring of a child. God hath said ex pressly that he is a father; and that, as a father, he correcteth his children, and useth such discipline and means as may bring them into the right way, conform them to his mind, produce contrition in the heart, and pull down the strong-holds of pride and vain imaginations, and root out the car. nal idolatry which is apt to creep into the heart of every Christian.
Remember, then, the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children. Pray for the increase of faith. This will bring the invisible things of God before you, and shew you the narrow path in which he has been used to lead his children. Give him unlimited confidence, and beseech the Holy
Spirit to enable you to trust God in the darkest night into which he can possibly bring you. Consider past times and experience; and what is recorded in Scripture of those who have been thus led before you.
Consider the remarkable language of Job: Oh, that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! that is, I wish to understand the cause : but, while I would fill my mouth with arguments upon it, yet, says he, behold! I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left-hand where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right-hand, that I cannot see him. What is to be done in such a case ?-give him unlimited confidence; and say, as Job says in the next verse, He knoweth the way that I take : when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold: he is a refiner, that sitteth to purify the sons of Levi; and the end will be, that, though I cannot find out what he is doing as to the particulars, yet I know the end will be, that, when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
Wherefore, says the Apostle, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesseswho have left an express testimony, and have weathered the difficulties they had to meet with; who have borne the burden and heat of the day, have endured and have not fainted-let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily
beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith: he followed the same path; and, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right-hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself-ye have not resisted unto blood, striving against sin, as Jesus did, and his disciples after him. And ye have forgotten the exhortation, which speaketh unto you as unto children; and declares plainly, that the danger is not only despising the chastening of the Lord, but fainting under it, and not recollecting that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. That you
and I may lay these words to heart, may God, of his infinite mercy, grant, through Jesus Christ our Lord.