III. What are the comforts which we may oppose to our affliction?

There are some comforts under afflictions which are peculiar to the church, whilst there are others that are common both to the church and philosophy. The first, in connection with the ninth and tenth, which we shall now present are peculiar to the church, whilst the rest are common both to it, and philosophy; and yet whilst it may be said that they are common, it is only as it respects the outward appearance, and not as it regards the matter, or substance of the thing spoken of. These comforts we shall present in the following order

1. Remission of sin. TInS is the first in order and lies at the bottom of all the rest: because if we have no assurance of the forgiveness of sin, and reconciliation with God, all the other comforts are of no account; for we should then always be in doubt whether the promise of grace belongs to us or not. But if thus comfort be well grounded and fixed, all the others will naturally follow; for if God be our father, we may rest assured that he will not only not send any tIming that will be an injury to us, but he will also defend us against all the evils of this life. " If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31.) The reason of all this is, that where the cause is taken away thie effect is also removed. Therefore where sin is taken away, punishments and death are also done away with.

2. The will and providence of God, or the necessity of obeying God both in adversity and prosperity, because he wills and directs all things. The reason of this consequence of obedience is not only because we are not able to resist him, but more especially,
1. Because he is our Father.

2. Because he is deserving of this obedience from us to such an extent, that we ought to be willing to endure the greatest evils for his sake. 3. Because the evils which he sends are fatherly chastisements. This comfort quiets the mind, inasmuch as it assures us that it is our heavenly Father's will that we should suffer these things. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." " The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 13:15; 1:21.) Philosophers tell us that we ought to endure patiently what we cannot alter and avoid. They establish a fatal necessity, and then count it foolish to resist it. But in their calamities they do not submit themselves to God, nor acknowledge his displeasure, nor endure adversity with the design of obeying God; but because they cannot avoid these things. This is miserable comfort.

3. The excellency of virtue, or obedience to God, which is true virtue, on account of which the mind should not be cast down under the cross. The temporal blessings which God confers upon mis are great benefits; but obedience, faith, hope, &c., are far greater. Therefore it becomes us not to prefer less benefits to those which are greater, nor to cast away the greater for the sake of redeeming the loss of those which are less. "he that loveth father, or mother, more than me, is not worthy of me." "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it." (Matt. 10:37; 16:25.) Philosophers make much account of the dignity of virtue, but it is with poor grace, inasmuch as they themselves are destitute of true virtue.

4. A good conscience, which exists only in the godly, who know that God is at peace with them by, and for the sake of Christ, the mediator. Now, if God be favorable to us, we cannot but enjoy tranquillity of mind. Philosophers, however, do not comfort their followers in this manner; for when they are afflicted they ask, Why doth not good fortune, or prosperity, follow a good conscience? And hence they complain and murmur, as Cato and others have done.

5. The final causes, or ends, which are--1. The glory of God, which is apparent in our deliverance. 2. Our salvation. "We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." 3. The conversion of others, together with the enlargement of the church. The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus, that thus others might be converted, and confirmed in the faith. Philosophers tell us, it is a good end, when any one suffers for the purpose of saving his country, and obtaining everlasting glory and renown. But in the mean time, miserable men! they are led to ask, What will these things profit us when we die?

6. A comparison of events. It is better to be chastened of the Lord for a short season, than to live in the greatest abundance, and at last be driven from God, and be cast into everlasting destruction. Philosophers, comparing evils with each other, find but little good arising from this comparison, whilst they are ignorant of the chief good, to obtain which we ought to be willing to suffer all the varied ills of life.

7. The hope of recompense, or of reward, in this and in another life. "Great is your reward in heaven." (Matt. 5:12.) We know that there are other blessings in reversion for us, with which the afflictions of this life are not to be compared. And even in this life the godly enjoy greater blessings than other men; for they have peace with God, and all other spiritual gifts. Temporal blessings, even though they are small as far as it respects the righteous, yet they are profitable to them. "There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters," &c., "but he shall receive an hundred-fold now in this time, and in the world to come eternal life." "A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked." "We glory in tribulations." (Mark 10:29, 23. Ps. 37:16. Rom. 5:3.) The hope of reward may administer some little comfort to philosophers in light afflictions, but not in those which are grievous; because they think it better to be without this reward than to endure great sufferings for the sake of obtaining it; and also because they regard it as uncertain, small, and transient.

8. The example of Christ and of his saints. "The servant is not above his Lord." (Matt. 10:24.) God also desires that we should be conformed to the image of his Son. We then follow Christ in reproach, and glory. Gratitude requires this; because Christ died for our salvation. Holy martyrs have suffered, nor did they perish under their afflictions. We ought not to ask for ourselves a better lot than theirs, since we are not better than they, but much worse. They have suffered and have been delivered by God. Let us therefore look for a similar event, because the love of God towards his people is unchangeable. " So persecuted they the prophets, which were before you." "Resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." (Matt. 5:12. 1 Pet. 5:9.)

9. The presence and help of God in our afflictions. God is present with us, by his Spirit, strengthening and comforting us under the cross. He does not permit us to be tempted above that which we are able to bear; and also, with every temptation, opens a way of escape, and always proportions our afflictions to our strength, that we may not be overcome. "We have the first fruits of the Spirit." "I will be with him in trouble." "He shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever." "If a man love me, my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." "I will not leave you comfortless." " Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." (Rom. 8:23. Ps. 91:15. John 14:13; 23:18. Is. 49:15.)

10. Complete and final deliverance, is the crowning point of all the rest. The first is the chief comfort, and foundation of all the others; this is the perfection and consummation of all. For as there are degrees of punishment, so there are also degrees of deliverance. The first degree is in this life, where we have the beginning of eternal life. The second is in temporal death, when the soul is carried into Abraham's bosom. The third will be in the resurrection of the dead, and their glorification, when we shall be perfectly happy, both in body and soul. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." (Rev. 21:4.)